Otters: The Animals That Hold Hands

Otters are one of the most loved animals in the entire world. Their cute features and playful manner always has people picking them as their favorite animal. Otters are mammals in the family of Mustelidae. This means that they are related to badgers, ferrets, wolverines, and about 63 other kinds of subfamilies. They are carnivorous animals that feed on invertebrates and fish.

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Otters can range in size with the largest otters weighing up to 90 pounds and the smallest otters weighing as low as 10 pounds. When thinking of an Otter most people pictures the North American River Otter. They have a long narrow body like a ferret, short legs with webbed toes to act as a paddle when swimming, a flattened head to cut through the water like a knife, and thick waterproof fur.

Otters need to live in a community. They constantly interact and work with others of their species to make decisions and work to survive together. When Otters sleep they will interlock arms and create a chain so they do not lose family and friends. Research has found networks of sleeping otters as large as 1,000!

Although Otters have a fun and playful personality, this does not mean you should try and touch them in the wild. In the wild, they are extremely dangerous. Their large sharp teeth used to feed on their prey can also be used for defense against large animals like humans if needed. If you find yourself in contact with an Otter you should keep a distance of at least 25 yards.

One of the coolest things about Otters is how smart they are. On top of creating communities that work together to survive they use tools! Yes, I said tools! They use rocks as a hammer and anvil to break hard-shelled objects open. Then, when they acquire what they are looking for they will store it in a pouch located under their armpit.

Tay-Sachs disease

Tay Sachs Disease is a rare genetic disease in which the absence of a key protein results in the build-up of fatty substances. These fatty substances called gangliosides will become toxic in the body ultimately resulting in death around five years of age. This disease is not curable due to it being a result of a genetic mutation passed down by parents.

Gene Mutation

Tay Sachs is mostly a result of an in-frame deletion of 192 codons in the HEXA gene, located on chromosome 15q23. Although there are other causes of Tay Sachs disease, this seems to be the most common mutation (Gene bank accession number KR710352).

The HEXA gene is responsible for the production of a key enzyme called Beta-Hex0saminadase A. This enzyme, when normally synthesized is found in the lysosomes of nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord. Their function is to break down apart GM2 Gangliosides that accumulate in the cell. Their inability to synthesize these lipids results in the build-up of unmetabolizable and toxic GM2 Gangliosides in lysosomes.

How Is It Passed Down?

Since this disease is a result of a genetic mutation, you are not able to “catch” it from someone that has Tay Sachs. Instead, you must inherit it from your parents, just as you inherit your eye and hair color.

In this case, Tay Sachs is an autosomal recessive gene-disease. This means that both copies on both chromosomes have to have the gene mutation for this disease to be expressed. In other words, both of your parents must have one chromosome that has this mutation for an offspring to obtain this mutation. This also means that there is a 25% chance of inheriting this disease if two parents that are heterozygous for this mutation.

But, you may be asking why the parents that have this mutation do not know? Although it is possible to know you have this mutation if you take a PCR test, there is no other way to tell. People that are heterozygous for this mutation have no disease manifestation and can live their life normally.

So, why is this mutation so prominent? This mutation is thought to be a result of heterozygous evolution and advantageous results. People that are heterozygous for this mutation have an increased immune response to diseases like tuberculosis.

Symptoms

People that experience this disease will be a victim of numerous physical and mental disabilities. The most common include the loss of motor control due to the increase of GM2 Gangliosides building up in nerve cells. This destroys nonreproducible cells that function for motor control that is involuntary and voluntary.

Other symptoms include seizures, loss of vision and hearing, muscle weakness, and paralysis. There are treatments and medication to help combat these symptoms, however. Things such as medication, feeding tubes, physical therapy, and respiratory care can help manage and make these symptoms less frequent.

How Do You Identify Tay Sachs?

There are a few physical signs that may be a result of Tay Sachs. The most common is called Cherry red spots in the eyes. These are circular discolored areas in the posterior portion of the eye that is a result of lipid buildup and nerve damage. Other things such as the inability to lift their head at the proper age can also be signs. Genetic and blood tests can be used to further identify what problems are going on in the body, but it is always important to follow up with a professional.

People that are more likely to have this mutation include descents of:

  • Ashkenazi Jewish
  • French Canadian
  • Pennsylvania Dutch
  • Irish
  • Cajun

Seals: Cute Yet Vicious

Seals, otherwise known as Pinnipeds, are marine mammals that are commonly located on coastlines and cold waters. They can mainly be found in the Arctic and Antarctic waters but, some species can survive in warm waters such as the Mediterranean and Caribbean Monk seals. Other than being admired for their looks and movements, Seals are very well adapted to evade predators and survive extreme environments.

One of the seal’s most known predators is sharks and whales. These aquatic animals are designed to swim fast through the water to viciously attach and catch their prey. So, the Seal had to adapt and become even faster than them. One way this has been done is by evolution moving external structures internally. The ear flaps of the Seal have moved internally and the genitalia of the Seal has adapted retract into the body. This allows the Seal to swim faster by decreasing their drag in the water. Seals also have a very unique dive response. This response makes their heartbeat slow and directs oxygen-rich blood to vital organs such as the brain and heart.

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Seals can grow to be many different sizes based on their species. On average from all species of seals, the weight of a male is about 370 pounds and 6 feet long. Females tend to be a little smaller but, tend to live about 10 years longer.

Seals may seem nice but, they are actually very vicious. They are carnivores that primary diet includes fish. However, there have been documented Seal attach on humans as well as many Seal attach on Seals. So, if you ever see one of these amazing marine creatures, make sure to keep your distance.