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Laika the Dog & the First Animals in Space

The Soviet Union stunned the world on Nov. 3, 1957, with the launch of Sputnik 2. On board the small satellite was a little dog, Laika, the first animal to orbit Earth. However, Laika was not the first animal in space. The United States and the U.S.S.R. had been putting animals atop rockets since 1947.

In the early days of rocket science, no one knew what the effects of weightlessness would be. Animals — mainly dogs, monkeys and chimps — were used to test the safety and feasibility of launching a living being into space and bringing it back unharmed.

Since then, animals have continued to play an important role in understanding the impact of microgravity on many biological functions. Astronauts have studied all kinds of animals — wasps, beetles, tortoises, flies, worms, fish, spiders, rabbits, bees, ants, frogs, mice, crickets, rats, newts, snails, urchins, moths, brine shrimp, jellyfish, guinea pigs, butterflies, scorpions and cockroaches.

Sputnik and Muttnik

Laika was a young, mostly-Siberian husky. She was rescued from the streets of Moscow. Soviet scientists assumed that a stray dog would have already learned to endure harsh conditions of hunger and cold temperatures. Laika and two other dogs were trained for space travel by being kept in small cages and learning to eat a nutritious gel that would be their food in space.

The dog’s name was originally Kudryavka, or Little Curly, but she became known internationally as Laika, a Russian word for several breeds of dog similar to a husky. American reporters dubbed her Muttnik as a pun on Sputnik.

Unfortunately, Laika’s trip into space was one-way only. A re-entry strategy could not be worked out in time for the launch. It is unknown exactly how long Laika lived in orbit — perhaps a few hours or a few days — until the power to her life-support system gave out. Sputnik 2 burned up in the upper atmosphere in April 1958.

The first animal astronauts

Although there is no distinct boundary between the atmosphere and space, an imaginary line about 68 miles (110 kilometers) from the surface, called the Karman line, is usually where scientists say Earth’s atmosphere meets outer space.

The first animals to reach space — not counting any bacteria that may have hitched a ride on previous rockets — were fruit flies. On Feb. 20, 1947, the United States put fruit flies aboard captured German V-2 rockets to study radiation exposure at high altitudes. In 3 minutes and 10 seconds, the fruit flies reached a distance of 68 miles.

The first mammal in space was Albert II, a Rhesus monkey. Albert I’s mission had been unsuccessful, but the second Albert reached a distance of 83 miles on June 14, 1949. Albert was anesthetized during flight and implanted with sensors to measure his vital signs. Unfortunately, Albert II died upon impact at re-entry.

While the United States was experimenting with monkeys, the Soviet Union was experimenting with dogs. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Soviet Union had slots for at least 57 dogs. However, because some dogs flew more than once, fewer than 57 actually participated.

The first dogs launched, Tsygan and Dezik, were aboard the R-1 IIIA-1. The dogs reached space on July 22, 1951, but did not orbit. They were the first mammals successfully recovered from spaceflight.

After Laika, the Soviet Union sent two more dogs, Belka and Strelka, into space on Aug. 19, 1960. The animals were the first to actually orbit and return alive.

Ham the chimpanzee after his successful suborbital spaceflight of Jan. 31, 1961.

Ham the chimpanzee after his successful suborbital spaceflight of Jan. 31, 1961.

Credit: NASA

Other members of the first space menagerie include:

  • Gordo, a squirrel monkey, launched 600 miles high on Dec. 13, 1958. He died on splashdown when a flotation device failed.
  • Able, a Rhesus monkey, and Baker, a squirrel monkey, were launched together on May 28, 1959. They flew 300 miles high and returned unharmed. However, Able died during an operation to remove an electrode from under her skin. Baker lived until 1984, dying of kidney failure at age 27.
  • Ham, a chimpanzee trained to perform tasks during spaceflight. Ham, named after the Holloman Aerospace Medical Center, became a celebrity after his flight on Jan. 31, 1961. Ham learned to pull levers to receive banana pellets and avoid electric shocks. He successfully became the first animal to actually interact with a space vessel rather than simply ride in it.
  • On Oct. 18, 1963, French scientists launched the first cat into space. Felix was successfully retrieved after a parachute descent.
  • Two Russian dogs, Veterok and Ugolyok were launched into space on Feb. 22, 1966. They orbited for a record-breaking 22 days. Humans did not surpass the record until 1974.

Animals in other space research

Although the early animal astronauts achieved great fame, many other animals have quietly contributed to the body of scientific knowledge about life in space. As humans have grown more accustomed to space travel, fewer animals make the front-page news. Still, their contribution are important.

Some animals have been sent up as part of experiments designed by students, others by NASA and other countries. By 2004, the space shuttle program had flown over two dozen SpaceLab experimental packages. Nearly all of the experiments were designed with one main purpose in mind: to study the effects of microgravity on the biological functions of earth creatures.

Some of the biological functions that have been studied are (to name just a few): brain states, behavioral performance, cardiovascular status, fluid and electrolyte balance, metabolic state, tissue development, and mating in zero gravity.

Here are some examples of specific experiments:

Nov. 9, 1970: Two bullfrogs were launched on a one-way mission to learn more about space motion sickness.

Some water bears eat microscopic animals, while others consume algae.

Some water bears eat microscopic animals, while others consume algae.

Credit: Daiki Horikawa, NASA Ames

July 28, 1973: Two garden spiders named Arabella and Anita were used to study how orbiting earth would impact spiders’ ability to spin webs. Arabella spun a fairly symmetric web even though the thread thickness varied — something that earthbound spiders don’t experience.

July 10, 1985: Ten newts flew on board the Bion 7. Their front limbs were amputated in order to study regeneration in space to better understand how humans might recover from space injuries.

April 17, 1998: More than 2,000 creatures joined in 16 days of neurological testing alongside the seven-member human crew of the shuttle Columbia.

September 2007: Microscopic creatures commonly known as water bears (tardigrades) survived  a 10-day exposure to open space. The creatures are known to have the ability to withstand extreme conditions, including dehydration, and still recover and reproduce. The animals were dried out and re-hydrated after surviving cosmic rays, a near vacuum, and freezing temperatures.

— Elizabeth Dohrer, SPACE.com Contributor

Source: www.space.com

7 Rare and Exotic Wildlife Species that can be found in India

The thick forests of India host some of the most exotic and rare wildlife species in the world. Here are seven of the most amazing ones. Know all about the rare species, interesting facts about them and where they can be found.

India is a peerless abode of wonderful and exotic animals. The country harbours a charismatic mixture of wildlife species. There are more than 500 wildlife sanctuaries and 100 national parks which give shelter to an enormous number of endangered and wild animals. The country is blessed with diverse and unique creatures although, due to harsh human interference, many of the animals are on the verge of extinction. Not only does man’s actions determine the fate of these animals, but climate change plays a major role in the decline of their existence as well.

The lush green jungles of India harbor many types of species. Below is the list of seven most endangered species that you should see in India before they disappear:

1. Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros

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The Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros, alias Indian Rhinoceros, are listed as one of the vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The animal can be found in India and Nepal, particularly in the foothills of the Himalayas. Poaching of horns is an important reason for the decline in the number of the Indian Rhinoceros. There has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros since 1975, but there is a consistent threat due to an increase in hunting cases. With at least half of the total population, India’s Kaziranga National Park remains the key reserve for this species. More efforts should be undertaken for the conservation of the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros.

Places where Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros can be spotted:

Kaziranga National Park, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary

Do You Know?

  • The white rhino is the largest rhino species and the largest land mammal after the elephant.
  • During the Mughal Era, the rulers used to use Greater One-horned Rhino in fights against elephants as entertainment. The rhinos would often win. Thankfully, this sport is no longer practiced or permitted.

2. Nilgiri Tahr

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The Nilgiri tahr is a threatened mountain ungulate clinging on to the tropical rainforest of the Western Ghats. The endangered species have a stocky coat with a bristly mane, curved horns, and coarse and short fur. Considered as the state animal of Tamil Nadu, the Nilgiri Tahr is facing a major threat in the Western Ghats. Thanks to continuous poaching activities and Eucalyptus cultivation hampering its habitat, the Nilgiri Tahr population is continuously decreasing.

Places where Nilgiri tahr can be spotted:

Eravikulam National Park, Nilgiri Hills, Anaimalai Hills, Periyar National Park, Palni Hills

Do You Know?

As per the current survey, there is a total population of 3,000 Nilgiti Tahr in India, inclusive of smaller species which haven’t been documented in the past.

3. Bengal Tigers

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Considered as the national animal of two major countries – India and Bangladesh, the Bengal tiger is justifiably referred to as the ‘Big Cat.’ Around 70% of the world’s wild tigers live in India. Tigers are fast vanishing due to human interference and poaching cases. The natural habitat of tigers in India – tropical evergreen forests, deciduous forests, mangrove swamps, thorn forests and grass jungles – has almost disappeared outside the reserves. Altogether, there are 48 tiger reserves in India. But one place that has captured the fancy of major wildlife aficionados is the Jim Corbett National Park. There are currently 2,226 tigers left in India.

Places where Royal Bengal Tigers can be spotted:

Tadoba National Park, Ranthambore National Park, Sundarbans National Park, Sariska Tiger Reserve, Jim Corbett National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park

Do You Know?

A tiger roar can be heard more than a mile away

4. Asiatic Lion

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Gujarat in India is home to a large population of Asiatic lion aka the Indian lion or Persian lion. The King of the Jungle reigns supreme in India. As per the facts presented by WWF, the Asiatic lion can be only found in India. The 1,400 sq km Sasan Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat is the last royal refuge of the Asiatic lion. Only 200 or so Asiatic lions exist in the wild.

Places where Asiatic Lion can be spotted:

Gir Forest National Park, Gujarat

Do you Know?

The Asiatic lions are renowned as the second largest feline species in the world, after the tigers.

5. Black Buck

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Blackbucks, the Indian antelopes, are found in abundance in the plains, grasslands and scrubs of India. Activities like hunting, poaching, habitat destruction, overgrazing and inbreeding has led to a drastic downward fluctuation in the blackbuck population. Another reason why the blackbuck population is immensely decreasing is the large-scale conversion of their habitats into agriculture fields and poaching. Other than India, Blackbuck can be found in Nepal and Pakistan.

Places where Black Buck can be spotted:

Velavadar Blackbuck National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park, Kanha National Park, Ranthambore National Park, Corbett National Park, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, Gir National Park and Guindy National Park.

Do You Know?

The Black Buck is the state animal of Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.

6. Lion Tailed Macaque

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Running along the west coast of India, the mountains of Western Ghats are home to a rare species, Lion Tailed Macaque. The Lion Tailed Macaque can be found in the tiny, isolated pockets of the tropical forest in the Western Ghats. With only 2,900 species in zoo and wildlife reserves, the Lion Tailed Macaque is one of the most endangered animals in the world. The silent feature of the macaque and its appearance are its outstanding characteristics. The Lion Tailed Macaque is an old world monkey and is one of the 16 macaque species.

Places where Lion Tailed Macaque can be spotted:

Silent Valley National Park in Kerala, Papanasam part of the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu and Sirsi-Honnavara rainforests of North-Western Ghats in Karnataka.

Do You Know?

The Lion-tailed Macaque is so well adapted to its forest home that it simply cannot adjust to the new habitats being created by human intrusion.

7. Snow Leopard

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Profoundly found in the steep and rocky region of the Himalayas, the snow leopard is the descendant of the wild cat and panther families. Snow leopards have thick, long fur, and their skin color varies from yellowing tan to smoky gray. The Snow leopard can be easily identified by its tail as it is 80-105 cm long. There are 6,000 snow leopards in the world, but its population is gradually declining. With the loss of habitat and widespread hunting, there has been a 20% reduction in snow leopard population over the past 20 years. In addition, snow leopards are illegally hunted in the fur trade for making luxury coats and their bones are sought after for traditional Asian medicine.

Places where Snow Leopard can be spotted:

Hemis National Park, Ladakh; Nanda Devi National Park, Uttarakhand; Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh; Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary, Lahaul Spiti, Himachal Pradesh; Pin Valley National Park, Lahaul Spiti, Himachal Pradesh; Great Himalayan National Park, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh.

Do You Know?

  • Unlike other big cats – like lions and tigers – snow leopards can’t roar.
  • Snow leopard cubs are born blind. They don’t gain sight until they are seven days old.

Mentioned above are some of the most incredible animals that we might never see again until and unless some serious action takes place. These seven species are vital for the maintenance of the ecological balance, as they play a key role in the food cycle. Extinction of these species will ultimately cause a big loss for humans. So let’s act before it’s too late!

Source: www.thebetterindia.com

Turtles as Pets

One of the primary things to know if you want to venture into having a turtle as a pet is that you can’t keep turtles in the little shallow glass bowls like you watched in the movies. To guarantee the best possible well being for your turtles, you should give them sufficient space to move around. One other imperative element is you can’t just place them in a bigger aquarium or a body of water and abandon them there. Turtles should have the capacity to get totally out of the water and get dry.

There are some other factors to appropriately care for your turtles too including UVB lighting, warming the water and lounging spot, water filtration, and diet. I would prefer not to sound like it is unbelievably difficult to deal with turtles and that you have to purchase the majority of this costly stuff. I simply need to ensure that you consider that it is sufficiently important to learn and actualize the best possible cultivation procedures to help your turtles flourish in good health.

About diet, stuffs like cat food, and wieners are not ideal for your turtles. Diet can likewise vary depending on the types of turtles also. It is critical to look into the sort of diet required for the sorts of turtles you choose to keep. Fortunately for you, there are many monetarily arranged turtle diets that are well prepared and formulated in the right proportion to keep your turtle healthy and grow with the best possible development rate.Vitamin D3 is a good combination with calcium and is a guide which helps the assimilation of calcium into your turtles body. Actually in their natural surroundings, turtles produce vitamin D3 through the presence of sunlight while doing their day to day activities.

Presently we should proceed onward to the best possible lighting required for your turtles. Turtles are cold blooded in nature, implying that they can’t manage their body temperature. In their natural habitat, they utilize the sun to lounge and raise their body warm. This is the reason you normally observe turtles sunbathing on a stone on a log. They likewise need to get vitamin D to stay strong and healthy in captivity. Again in the wild, they get all they require from the sun as UVB rays. So you should give your turtles a warmth light and a UVB full range light source. There are currently a group of financially accessible globules that perform both of these functions.

5 Exotic Pets

With regard to exotic pets list, there are literally thousands, even millions of different weird pets and crazy pets to choose from if you are in mammals, reptiles, fish, birds and amphibians. For people who lean towards maintaining exotic plants, knowing unusual pets would best suit not only your lifestyle but which would be your ideal pet too, can be a bit of a challenge. You may not want something too difficult to keep or an animal that needs a very special environment to live in which could prove very costly to set up.

Fortunately, there is a large selection of exotic animals that are not as difficult to care for and five of them are listed below:

A Chinese fire belly Newt

Chinese tritons Belly Fire are semi-creatures -aquatic that boast bright orange belly – Hence their name. They are toxic but very slightly which means they must be handled with care. Therefore, even though they make the animals fascinating, they are not the best choice for young children to keep. They eat small invertebrates and must be kept in an environment where they can be in the water or out of it when they want. The only fascinating thing about these amazing creatures is that they can live a very long, if well cared for – from 10 to 20 years.

A bearded dragon

Native to Australia, the Bearded Dragon is very capable of adapting to many environments, be it a hot desert area or a dry forest. When kept in captivity, they need a safe place to live where the temperature is between 70 and 100 degrees; F and they need UVB light in their tanks. As with most reptiles moisture in their environment must be set at the right level or you may find that they have difficulty in pouring which could result in their discomfort.

You should also keep in mind is that male bearded dragons are incredibly territorial and therefore require careful handling. Males must also be kept in their own individual environment to avoid fighting and confrontation. The good news is that bearded dragons are quite easy to keep as pets.

Tarantulas

This fascinating creature has become a most popular rare pet in recent years. There is still some fear that potential owners, while keeping a tarantula as a pet is often more harmful to the animal than to the owner of the animal. The tarantulas may even die from a short fall, if their abdomen ruptures.

Tarantulas are poisonous, but in most species the toxicity of their venom is similar to a bee or wasp sting. In some cases, a person may have an allergic reaction to spider bites, in much the same way that some respond to bee stings.

There are hundreds of tarantula species, and some are more aggressive than others, so potential homeowners really need to research before buying one. The tarantulas are fascinating, calm, and in most cases, little space.

Cockroaches

Hissing cockards – These insects are perfect for beginners of pet owners! They are very docile and require little maintenance. If they are not “cute and cuddly” pet variety, they are very interesting. They whistle when they are disturbed, and the males whistle while courting a female. Sometimes, for unknown reasons, the entire colony will whistle in unison.

Hissing cockroaches are best kept in a large tank of wood chips. Water and fresh fruits and vegetables are all they require. They are rugged creatures and can live up to five years.

  • An African Pygmy Hedgehog

Adorably searching but rather thorny, the African Hedgehog Pygmy has quickly become a very popular exotic animal to keep as a pet. They are real characters and a lot of fun to have around, although they must be handled with care – sometimes it is worth wearing a pair of gloves because their feathers can be quite strong. The other thing you need to be careful is that your pet hedgehog does not put too much weight because they do like their food which means that if they do not get enough exercise – They may just start wearing too much weight that can lead to other health problems.

Conclusion

There is a large selection of exotic animals around which make wonderful pets. If you suffer from allergies but would like to share your home with an animal everything is not lost because you have the option of keeping fish, reptiles or other exotic species like pet snake and not having to worry about having an Allergic reaction to them. However, before choosing an exotic animal, in order to take care of it properly, you need to learn as much about them as possible so that they remain living happily and healthy in the right kind of environment.