When two animals team up, they may form a beneficial partnership called symbiosis. In symbiosis, the two animals provide something, which the other cannot, for each other. It could be food, protection or eliminating parasites. In many cases, neither can survive without the other. This other animal is in a special relationship with your animal teacher. Therefore that animal is also one of your animal teachers.
For example, oxpeckers ride on a rhino’s back. For allowing the oxpecker to eat insects off his back, the rhino gets and early warning system. These two disparate species work together to help each other. They are a unit to be studied as one animal teacher.
In January 2017, two notable orcas died – Granny (also known as J2) and Tilikum. Both lived tragic lives in different ways. Granny, captured and released because of her age, saw the gradual extinction of her pod due to pollution and overfishing. Tilikum, captured as a calf, killed three people arising from his torment at being a performing killer whale. Both animals were the impetus for humans to reconsider the ethics of using animals for entertainment. The result was an ending of orca shows at major marine parks.
Sturgeon are ancient fish who swam in the waters when the dinosaurs first emerged on the earth. Today, these living fossils are considered to be the most primitive of the bony fish. Sturgeon belongs to the Acipenseridae family which has twenty-seven species. Native to the lakes, rivers, and coastlines of Eurasia and North America, these giant fish resemble armored torpedoes. Their distinctive bony plates (hard scutes) stud their back and sides.
One thing that Sturgeons are well-known for are their dramatic leaping out of the water. In his poem, The Song of Hiawatha, Longfellow described this – “saw the sturgeon, Nahma leaping, scattering drops like beads of wampum.” As the largest fish in freshwater, a massive Sturgeon can kill or break the bones of unwary boaters. As to why They leap, nobody knows. Theories range from communicating in their group to Sturgeon simply enjoying doing it.
Known by many names, Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus) is more than an ordinary lizard. With her spiky body and crown of thorns, She resembles a walking nightmare. Her other names – Moloch, Horny Devil, and Thorny Dragon – emphasize her “hellish” nature. The scientist who named Her, Dr. John Grey certainly thought that. He recalled an ancient demon from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, when he gave Thorny Devil, her scientific name. Dr. Grey also cited the Canaanite God Moloch from the Old Testament, who received sacrificed children.
Looks can be deceiving. The only animal that Thorny Devil terrorizes is Ant. She spends her day wandering in the Australian Outback, searching for their nests. When Thorny Devil finds one, She parks Herself next to its edge. Catching one ant at a time with her sticky tongue, She consumes 45 ants a minute (2,500 in an hour). Thorny Devil is the walking nightmare for ants.
A striking sight with her beaded skin of pink and black, Gila Monster blends well into her desert home in Arizona. This sluggish-seeming lizard intently flicks her tongue to detect a tasty mouse. At other times, She adroitly climbs the cactus with her sharp claws to hunt for perching birds. Tasting the air with her forked tongue, Gila Monster finds Desert Rat, and quickly chomps down with her vice-like jaws. Then She swallows her paralyzed victim whole and head first.
Gila Monster with her Brother – Mexican Beaded Lizard – are the only venomous lizards (Helodermatidae) in the world. Because of their venom and forked tongues, Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum) and her Brother (Heloderma horridum ) are distant relatives of snakes. These two lizards are also close relatives to monitor lizards (Varanidae), who possess poisonous saliva, and could be ancestors of snakes. These two beaded lizards have an ancient ancestry, extending back to the mid-Cretaceous.
Animals of the Heart are the animals who want to share their lives with you. Offering their friendship, these animals want to be a part of you. I prefer calling animals who bond with you as “Animals of the Heart.” For me, the terms of “totem,” “power,” and “familiar” are specific to their religious traditions. I know that people use these words interchangeably to mean the same thing. “Animals of the Heart” is a general term that I use to denote the type of animal that people feel a deep connection with.
Animals of the Heart come in all forms. Some of them have been with you since childhood. I have met people who have been happy with Goldfish as their Animal of the Heart because they had them as pets. Meanwhile, other people have been fascinated by unicorns or dragons as children. As adults, they look to these mythical animals for wisdom.
When people were first introduced to Gorillas, they believed that these primates were fiercesome monsters. King Kong symbolized people’s fear of this mammal. Since Gorillas live in the most inaccessible regions of the forests and mountains of Africa, They were the last members of the Great Ape Family to be found. Therefore, ordinary people had no ideas about what real Gorillas were like.
The largest and most powerful of all living Primates, Gorilla is actually peaceful and sociable. His easy-going nature has made it possible for several groups of Gorillas to coexist peacefully in the same region. When a strange Gorilla appears, the eldest Gorilla (Silverback) hoots excitedly, building up to an ear splitting roar. Silverback Gorilla will charge but stops short of touching the intruder. This will usually frighten the other Gorilla away.