After discussion with my group-mates (our first proper discussion, actually), I realised that there were some flaws with the organism:
- The organism will not have shelter during summer
- There are no tall plants for cover
- It cannot burrow into the ground as the soil is waterlogged
- It cannot climb into the mountain caves -> no adaptations for climbing
- As it does not have shelter, it would be difficult to protect its young (which are born in the spring-early summer)
Therefore, I changed my organism by basing it on a mountain goat and a reindeer as well as the arctic hare. Although the mountain goat is from the alpine tundra (which has less harsh conditions compared to the arctic one), it still has general adaptations to survive the cold, short summers, lack of water and so on.
Here’s the level of each animal’s influence on my organism:
1) Mountain goat
3) Arctic hare
(That is, I will base my organism mainly on the mountain goat, and combine it with features from the other 2 animals)
Research on the mountain goat:
(Sources: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/mountain-goat/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_goat,http://animal.discovery.com/mammals/mountain-goat/ for picture)
Mountain goats are not true goats—but they are close relatives. They are more properly known as goat-antelopes.
Habitat: North America, from Alaska to the Rocky Mountains.
Diet: plants, grasses, mosses, and other alpine vegetation
Adaptations for climbing
- Cloven hooves with two toes –> spread wide to improve balance
- Rough pads on the bottom of each toe –> provide grip/traction
- Muscular legs –> good jumping ability, can jump nearly 12 feet (3.5 meters) in a single bound
Survival from predators
- Their climbing abilities far surpass many other animals –> predators are unable to climb as high
- Camouflage –> white coat blends in with the mountaintops’ snow
Survival in cold temperatures
- Long, warm coats –> during the more moderate summer season, they shed this coat
Life cycle and Mating
- Lifespan: 12-15 years in the wild, 16-20 years in captivity –> limited by the wearing down of their teeth
- In the spring, a nanny goat gives birth to one kid (sometimes two) after a 6-month gestation period. They can run and climb within hours.
- Kids are mostly weaned within one month. They follow their mothers closely for the first year of life (or until the nanny gives birth again, if this does not occur the next breeding season)
- The kids reach reach sexual maturity at about thirty months (2 1/2 years)
- Nannies undergo synchronized estrus in late October through early December. Both males and females usually mate with multiple individuals.
- After the breeding season is over, males and females move away from each other
- Males (billies) break up into groups of 2-3 individuals
- Nannies form loose-knit nursery groups of up to 50 animals
Research on the reindeer (caribou):
(sources: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/caribou/BuildACaribou.html, http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/animals/creaturefeature/caribou/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reindeer)
Surviving the cold
- Have compact bodies, small tails and short ears –> smaller surface area that is exposed to the cold –> keeps body heat in
- Normal body temperature is set at 40°C
- Their circulatory system is uniquely adapted to northern climate extremes.
- The veins and arteries run close together –> warm blood pumping from the heart keeps the cooler blood in the veins warm
- fine crinkly inner layer
- outer layer of guard hairs –> hollow, traps air to act as insulation, keeps in body heat
- **Guard hairs also help them float in water.
- Muzzle is densely covered with short hairs, including nostrils –> helps to warm the air before it reaches the lungs
- 2 are small “dew claws”
- 2 are large, crescent-shaped toes that support most of their weight
- >> The concave hooves offer stability on soggy ground and crusty snow
- Change from a thick, fleshy shape in summer (to provide extra traction) to become hard and thin in winter (cuts into ice to prevent slipping)
- Long hair between the “toes” covers the pads so the caribou walks only on the horny rim of the hooves –> prevents feet from freezing
Adaptations to find food
- Allows it to sniff out lichen even under as much as 1.5m of snow, which is a key part of its winter diet
- Its four-chambered stomach and complex digestive system allow it to extract all nutrients available from its food
- This allows it to thrive on vegetation that may be low in nutrients but available in large quantities, especially in winter
- Allows it to dig through snow in search of food
- Allows it to paddle through water –> expands the area where it can search for food
Organism (2nd draft)
Habitat: Mountain caves and plains
- Stays in the caves, goes to the plains to look for food
Size: 1m at the shoulder, 1.45-1.55m long
Diet: Winter – Lichen, woody plants, Summer – plants, berries, grass (our group’s producer) etc.
Bio PT organism (goat)
Advantages of this organism over the previous one:
- It has shelter all year round (caves)
- Protects it from predators and the weather
- It has better defence against predators
- Predators are unable to follow it up the mountain
- It can take better care of its young
- Permanent shelter protects young from predators and the weather
- Females stay in groups when taking care of young >> greater chance of spotting predators before they attack
- It has a more efficient way of producing energy in winter
- Group disperses to find food >> decreases competition for food in a concentrated area
- Gains a layer of fat during summer >> acts as an alternative energy source during winter
Credit must really go to my groupmate Xiao Jian, who gave me the idea that my organism should live in the caves as well, and gave me suggestions to solve other minor problems such as the number of young I should have and my lifespan.