Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) - Nature's Example of Speciation

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Tamaraw in its natural habitat in Mindoro Island; skeleton of a tamaraw at the Museum of Natural History, UPLB Mt Makiling Laguna

The Tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) or Mindoro Dwarf Buffalo is a small hoofed mammal belonging to the family Bovidae. It is endemic to the island of Mindoro in the Philippines and is the only endemic Philippine bovine. It is believed, however, to have once also thrived on the greater island of Luzon. The tamaraw was originally found all over Mindoro, from sea level up to the mountains (2000 meters above sea level), but because of human habitation, hunting, and logging, it is now restricted to only a few remote grassy plains and is now an endangered species.

Contrary to common belief and past classification, the tamaraw is not a subspecies of the local carabao, which is only slightly larger, or the common water buffalo. In contrast to the carabao, it has a number of distinguishing characteristics: it is slightly hairier, has light markings on its face, is not gregarious, and has shorter horns that are somewhat V-shaped. It is the largest native terrestrial mammal in the country.

To me this means that the carabao and tamaraw, though of different lineages, undoubtedly had a common ancestor, shared by other buffaloes found in Asia and in different parts of the world.
In the same manner plants and animal species evolved from common stocks, popularly referred to as missing links, named for the fact that it is rare and extremely difficult to determine where that crossroad of dichotomy lies.

When Charles Darwin found out that finches vary from island to island in the Galapagos group pf islands on the equatorial eastern coast of South America, he was in effect telling to the scientific community of an evolutionary phenomenon called speciation - the formation of species. Because it is a very slow and indeterminate at that, scientists were baffled by the question, "When does a species called a species, and not just a variety or breed?"

What I learned from my professor, the famous Deogracias Villadolid who introduced tilapia in the Philippines in the fifties, is that, when the species in question is capable of interbreeding to make a population, and on the other hand, no longer capable of breeding with its original stock or parent species, or members of its former lineage. Dr Villadolid emphasized that this criterion is more reliable than morphological deviation, ecological distribution notwithstanding.

The tamaraw is no doubt a product of speciation. The island of Mindoro is its original home and still its natural habitat today, the forested areas and near open-canopied glades. Since human habitation and subsequent forest fragmentation its population has drastically declined to a few dozens. This is exactly the same situation the wild buffaloes of bisons of the Prairies face before they are saved from extinction in the last hour.

The tamaraw is a grazer that feeds on grasses and young bamboo shoots although it is known to prefer cogon (Imperata cylindrica) and talahib (Saccharum spontaneum). They are naturally diurnal, feeding during the daytime hours; however, daytime human activities have recently forced select B. mindorensis individuals to be nocturnal to avoid human contact.

The tamaraw is known to live for about 20 years, with an estimated lifespan of about 25. The adult female tamaraw gives birth to one offspring after a gestation period of about 300 days.There is an interbirth interval of two years, although one female has been sighted with three juveniles. The calf stays for 2–4 years with its mother before becoming independent.

Let's help conserve the highly endangered tamaraw, proudly our own endemically.

Credit: Museum of Natural History UPLB, Marlo Rotor for the photo. and Wikipedia

A Song for the Birds

    Song for the Birds in acrylic on canvas by A V Rotor 2011

                                   Song for the Birds
  Painting and Poem by Abercio V Rotor, PhD*
      For Rev Msgr Benjamin F Advincula, PC
Make me an artist to capture this ephemeral sight,
The colors of the rainbow fading into the sunset;
From where you came, to this little stream I imagine,
This bastion of your feathered kind from what it had been.

Make me a teacher that I may understand your language,
Your cheerful songs from your cries, that I may gauge
The difference of knowledge from school, and that of life,
Joy and sorrow, love and care, leisure and strife.

Make me a man, the forgotten child many years ago,
Long lost searching for the truth, from what I know,
That I may be worthy of my role in passing review,
To come down from Mount Olympus to your rescue.   

AVR as conference speaker, Archdiocesan Gathering of Priests in honor of Saint  John MaryVianney, patron of all priests, Archdiocese of Capiz, Roxas City, August 4, 2011

Dead Tree Walking

"I came from Paradise lost, would you walk with me?"

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio

738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class Mon to Fri

Limb of a dead tree resembling a headless
human figure, España, Manila 2007

I am the ghost that walks
from a forest before;
I am the conscience of man
sleeping in its core.

I am the memory

from the distant past;
lost among the throng,
living in the dust.

I came from Paradise lost,

orphaned by the first sin;
the hands that cared for me
can't now be seen.

I long for a heaven, too,

a gift of being good and true,
but if heaven is only for man
I did serve him through.

But I am a ghost now.

Would man join me for a walk
to tell the world the story
of a once mighty oak? ~

Scarecrow – Endangered Folk Art

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Love that scarecrow (banbanti Ilk.).  It is folk art on the farm. In the middle of the field it feigns scary to birds, what with those outstretched arms and that mysterious face hidden beneath a wide brim hat. There it stands tall amid maturing grains, keeping finches or maya birds (Lonchura Malacca jagori and L. m. formosana) at bay.   

Scarecrow in the middle ofa cornfield at harvestime.

Finches are widely distributed in Asia and the Pacific feeding on rice grains, and alternately on weed seeds, but now and then they also steal from the haystack (mandala) and poultry houses. They are recognized for their chestnut colored compact bodies, and sturdy triangular beak designed for grain picking and husking. The scarecrow also guards against the house sparrow, mayan costa (billit China Ilk.), including the loveable turtle dove or bato-bato (Streptopelia bitorquata dursummieri), all grain feeders. 

A scarecrow is usually made of rice hay shaped like a human body wrapped around a T-frame. It is simply dressed up with old shirt and hat.  The idea is to make it look like the farmer that the birds fear.  There is one problem though.  Birds, like the experimental dog of Pavlov (principle of conditional learning), soon  discover the hoax and before the farmer knows it a whole flock of maya is feasting on his ready-to-harvest ricefield.  It is not uncommon to see maya birds bantering around – and even roasting on the scarecrow itself! 

Today the scarecrow is an endangered art.  In its place farmers hang plastic bags, or tie old cassette and video tape along dikes and across the fields.  These create rustling or hissing sound as the wind blows, scaring the birds.  Others use firecrackers and pellet guns. 

At one time I saw a lone scarecrow in the middle of a field. On examining it closely, I found out that it was made of a mannequin dressed the way the fashion world does. It reminded me of the boy who discovered the statue of Venus de Milo in a remote pasture in Greece. On another occasion I saw balloons and styropore balls hanging in poultry and piggery houses, bearing the faces of Jollibee, Power Puff Girls, Batman, Popeye, Mr. Bean and a host of movie and cartoon characters. Interestingly I noticed that the birds were nowhere to be found.

When I told my friend, an entomologist, that these new versions of the scarecrow seem to be effective, he wryly replied, “Maybe there are no more birds left.”  Suddenly I remembered Silent Spring, a prize winning book by Rachel Carson. The birds that herald spring had died of pesticide poisoning.~

Modern scarecrows, though still essentially decoys, seldom take a human shape. On California farmland, highly reflective aluminized PET film ribbons are tied to the plants to create shimmers from the sun. Another approach is automatic noise guns powered by propane gas. One winery in New York uses inflatable tube men or air dancers to scare away birds.

In the United Kingdom, where the use of scarecrows as a protector of crops date from time immemorial, and where dialects were rife, there are a wide range of alternative names such as:
Hodmedod Berkshire
Murmet Devon
Hay-man England
Tattie Bogal Isle of Skye
Tattie bogle

A scarecrow wearing a helmet (Japan)

Bodach-rocais (lit. "old man of the rooks") Scotland
Mommet Somerset
Mawkin Sussex
Bwbach Wales

Alternative names for scarecrows also include these localized versions:
Kaktadua (কাকতাডুয়া) Bengali
Strašák Czech
Hernehirmutis Estonian
Fugleskræmsel Danish
Vogelverschrikker Dutch
Épouvantail French
Vogelscheuche German
Kag-darawa (काग-डरावा) Hindi
Madáríjesztő Hungarian
Fuglahræða Icelandic
Spaventapasseri Italian
Kakashi Japanese
Heo Suabi (허수아비) Korean

Korean scarecrows

Nokku Kuthi Malayalam
Orang-Orang Malaysia
Nuffara Maltese
Bujgaavane (बुजगावणे) Marathi
Matarsack Persian
Tao-tao Philippines
Strach na wróble Polish
Espantalho Portuguese
Pugalo (Пугало) Russian
Espantapájaros Spanish
Fågelskrämma Swedish
Sola Kolla Bommai Tamil
Dishti Bomma Telugu
Bù nhìn Vietnamese
Bebegig Unknown

(Wikipedia; Trudgill, Peter. Sociolinguistics: An Introduction to Language and Society. 
London: Penguin Books, 2000); Photos from Wikipedia, Internet

Friday, June 26, 2015

A GREAT MAN according to Confucius

Evaluate yourself based on these 15 attributes 
Use the Likert Scale: 1 (poor), 2(fair or average), 3 (good), 4 (very good). Examine yourself and score each item accordingly.
Dr Abe V Rotor

K'ung Fu-tze: Kung, the philosopher (551-478 BC)

1. Great Man's attitude toward the world is such that he shows no preferences; but he is prejudiced in favor of justice.

2. Great Man cherishes Excellence; Petty Man his own comfort.

3. Great man cherishes the rules and regulations; Petty Man, special favors.

4. Great Man is conscious only of justice; Petty Man, only of self-interest.

5. Great Man seeks to be slow of speech but quick of action.

6. Great Man is completely at ease; Petty Man is always on edge.

7. Great Man is dignified but not proud; Petty Man is proud but not dignified.

8. Great Man reaches complete understanding of the main issues; Petty Man reaches complete understanding of the minute details.

9. Great Man is sparing in words but prodigal in deeds.

10. Great Man complains about his own inabilities, not about people's ignorance of himself.

11. Great Man's concern is that he may die without a name.

12. Great Man does not accept a man for words alone; he does not reject a suggestion because of the man alone.

13. Great Man calculates in terms of System, not in terms of the earning of a living.

14. Great Man is concerned about System, not about poverty.

15. Great Man studies to improve his doctrine, just as artisans inhabit the market place to ply their trades.

Great Man has three facets. Looked at from a distance he seems stern; at close range he is pleasant; as we listen to his words they are clear-cut.

Divide total score by 15.
1 to 1.5 poor;
1.6 to 2.5 average;
2.6 to 3.5 good (You have the potential to be Great.); and
3.6 to 4 very good (You are indeed Great!)

Acknowledgment: Chinese Proverbs: Words of Wisdom from the Immortal Sages of China, compiled and edited by Kho W and D Kho

Monday with Saint Paul

Dr Abe V Rotor

One Monday I visited Saint Paul with inquiries I never asked before;
Fifteen years I served him, a teacher of this school, keeper of a museum;
Time has changed the world, global is its effect, would St Paul tell me
More of the ways of the world to give life a meaning? So I assumed  

"Tell me where Damascus Road is where you heard God speak;
Tell me how you crossed the Mediteranean in a storm and survived; 
Tell me how you carried the Word amongst unbelievers and Pharisees;
Tell me how you faced death yet keep alive your faith and noble pride.

"Tell me where have the Gentiles you converted and followers gone;
Tell me how you wrote the scriptures that gave the bible a wider view;
Tell me how man can become a saint and a saint to become man; 
Tell me how to reach heaven without striving to be a martyr like you."  

The sun rose high, sending reflection of gray clouds on giant glass panes; 
The pavement is bare, the marble floor a mirage, yet empty as the sea;
High rise the buildings are - towers and spires, proud symbols of power;
In the deep silence: I heard the same words, "Why do you persecute me."  ~

Monday, June 22, 2015

Rock Pool - Miniature Copy of the Sea

Dr Abe V Rotor
Rock Pool by the Sea I, in acrylic by the author 

How can the sea, so deep and vast leave behind an offsping
between two worlds? 
Wonder if Nature is kind, abiding to the laws and values 
of Man as her guardian.
If there was any mistake in God's creation after His rest
on the seventh day.
If perfection is but a long time goal beyond man's time
and imagination. 
Rock Pool by the Sea II, in acrylic by the author

Wonder if creation is a long and painful process called evolution
 in the book of sages;
And change is a continuing process on a crossroad of possibilities,
 chartless and endless;  
Yet in every second or in man's life time, creation goes on and on 
beyond understanding;
And soon the rock pool becomes a sea in itself, a miniature copy
of its magnificence.     


The Dying Pond Atop Mount Pulog, Benguet

The Dying Pond atop Mt Pulog, Benguet.  Author (right) and friend., 1985  

“Death be not proud,” this dreaded fate defied;
In death something rises at its side
As on a dying pond, a swamp in its place
Grows, dying in peace and grace.

And the watery grave dries into grassland
Where roam the roofs and claws in band;
And the winged sweep the air, retreating
On the trees nearby and advancing.

Yes, the trees they come when the wind blows;
They ride on furs, beaks and furs;
A woodland soon rises from the trees’ breath
And hides the pond, the grass, and death.