As a biologist, I understand how scientists can get interested in trying to study the various parts of nature and animals. I know the excitement of a new discovery as when I was an undergraduate and I discovered how to take a 24 hour lab process down to 12 hours and still keep a high degree of accuracy. I also remember being excited when I discovered evidence for a possible speciation event when I worked on my Master’s degree.
I guess that’s why I appreciate reading reports of other scientists that make new discoveries such the one reported last month on The Elephant’s Sixth Toe. Learning about God’s wonderful design features in His creatures is just fascinating.
That leads me to a new study that was conducted on the feet of rhinos.
Feet bear the weight of any animal and the larger the animal, the more stress is placed upon the feet, especially when walking. Studies of elephants revealed that they actually walk on their tiptoes and large cushion like structure in their feet. Elephants also have large stocky legs to help bear their immense size.
Rhinos on the other hand, have relatively skinny legs compared to the elephant. Instead of walking on their tip toes, they walk on the bottoms of their feet like most animals, but with only three toes.
This has led a group of veterinary scientists from the Royal Veterinary College in London to study the rhinos at Colchester Zoo to learn more about how such small and dainty feet support their nearly 8,000 pounds of weight. They used two adult and one juvenile rhino for their research.
With the help of zookeepers, the vets placed pressure pads on the ground of a narrow passageway used by the rhinos. The pads were filled with thousands of sensors designed to get a detailed image of the amount of weight that was placed throughout each foot. Then they coaxed the rhinos to walk across the pads at a normal gait.
When they analyzed the pressure data, they found that the rhinos placed more of their weight on the insides of their feet, very much like you and I do, whereas elephants place most of their weight on the outside edges of their feet.
One aspect that did surprise them was that the rhinos seemed to exert no more than about 75 pounds per square inch, which also isn’t that much different than adult humans. Exactly how they defer the weight of their bodies so as to exert so little pressure on their feet is still a mystery that the scientists are still trying to decipher.
Such study not only helps them understand how the rhinos live and move, but it will serve to help them understand foot problems observed in captive rhinos around the world.
Additionally, scientists are hoping that the information gleaned from studying the rhino feet may help them develop better ways for mankind to carry heavy loads of cargo from place to place. If they can eventually learn how the rhinos are able to carry such heavy loads on their small feet, it may help them to develop heavy load lifters that could be used in tight places.
There have been so many engineering marvels that have been taken from studying God’s creation and the rhino might render another one in the future. So the next time you see a rhinoceros at the zoo, wildlife park or on television, I hope you see them as another uniquely designed animal that have much to teach us.
Morelle, Rebecca. Rhinos’ feet tested to see how they support heavy loads, BBC News, Jan. 9, 2012.
Wolchover, Natalie, Scientists Uncover How Dainty Rhino Feet Support Huge Bodies, Live Science, Jan. 12, 2012.
Today, the ID (intelligent design) movement is capturing headlines (and igniting controversy) around the world. But in the process, many are coming to think that a credible challenge to the dominant Darwinian naturalism of our time means backing away from a clear stand for the truth of the Bible.
Now creationist heavyweight Jonathan Sarfati, whose Refuting Evolution has the most copies in print of any creation book ever, challenges this mindset head on. In the process, By Design is set to become a classic of the creation movementin the same vein as Dr Sarfatis comprehensive Refuting Compromise, which is arguably the most powerful biblical and scientific defense of straightforward Genesis in existence.