Friday, 4 April 2008

Some furscinating facts.

After my last couple of posts about a furry cat and a doormat, I got to thinking about hairy facts and decided it was time to hit Google, Wikipedia and delve into my vast internal library of biological knowledge to come up with some fun facts about fur, or should I say hair?

So, hair is the furst question - am I going to start annoying people if I keep making hair and fur jokes? Well, I suppose you can always stop reading......no! Don't do that, I'm sorry, I shall try and restrain myself.

Actually, the first question is - is there any difference between hair and fur? After some extensive research here is what I have found:

There is no difference! Well, that was easy. There is no difference, at least in terms of chemical composition, between hair and fur. Despite this, there are many different opinions on the difference.

Here is one: Fur stops growing after a certain length and hair keeps growing until it falls out or is cut. Interestingly, this will depend on the hair follicle. Some follicles have a long growth phase, resulting in long hair, while some follicles have a short growth phase, resulting in short fur. Different follicles also have different cycle times. If the follicle has a short cycle time, the hair or fur will be shed frequently, while those with a long cycle time will be shed less frequently. In Spring, fur/hair is shed more frequently - hence my many dust bunnies, and then in summer hair/fur can enter an inactive phase, resulting in a shorter, summer coat.

Another definition: Fur is shorter and denser and forms a thick coat made up of several layers while hair is longer, coarser and sparser. Well, that definitely makes my cats furry and not hairy, which is as I suspected.

Here is one from diffen.com - All mammals are covered in hair, but all non-mammal hair is fur. This means that humans can't be furry, but I would beg to differ on that, since I have seen examples of men with very furry backs - shudder. It also states that fur is shorter and coarser than hair, but trust me, you don't get any softer than my Willow (and I am talking about her fur, not her mental status!)

Now that we have got that one cleared up, let's move on to some furscinating facts.

The longest human hair - Xie Qiuping, a Chinese woman with hair that is 5.627 m (18 ft 5.54 in). While marvelling at the fact that she and twenty other people could sit on her hair, I noticed another hairy world record - the longest ear hair. This belongs to Radhakant Bajpai of India. It is 13.2 cm (5.19 in) long. He has more hair in his ears than many men have on their heads! I wonder if he would try combing it over if he ever went bald? I tried to find the longest nose hair, but to no avail. The longest eyebrow hair is 3.5 inches, but I suspect one of my brother's could probably beat that! I suddenly feel the need to go and pluck my eyebrows and shave various parts of my body......

Talking of going bald - male pattern baldness. Hair today, gone tomorrow...... It is genetic and is passed down on the X chromosome. To all you guys out there suffering from this affliction - this means that you should blame your mother, not your father, since she gives you your X chromosome. I have to say that comb overs really bug me. Please don't do it! Bald men can be very attractive - Jean Luc Picard can drive my spaceship anytime!

The longest animal hair - or should I say fur? - belongs to the muskox, a very furry animal closely related to goats and sheep, that live in the cold, white North. Their fur is highly prized for its softness, length, and insulative value and the yarn can fetch between $50 and $100 per ounce. Wow, maybe Mr. DBM and I should get into farming muskoxen...... we've always wanted a house, with land and chickens and a few dozen muskoxen......oh dear, I just found out that they tend to die of pneumonia when shaved. So much for that plan!

The polar bear has transparent hair and black skin. I always thought that the transparent hair was supposed to act as a fibre optic tube to transmit the sun down to the base of the hair, where it is absorbed by the black skin. Scientists have since shown that polar bear hairs do not transmit light to the skin - it is all one big fat myth! I am very dissappointed. How can I show my vast intellect by informing people about this fact when it is not true! Damn it, now I have to find another interesting fact about the polar bear to keep the myth of my intellect alive. Ooooh, I just found one. Did you know that some polar bears may actually turn green when kept in warm, humid conditions? This is due to algae that start to grow inside their hair!

The mammal with the densest fur - the sea otter. They have 150 thousand strands of hair per square centimetre (nearly one million per square inch) and are the only sea mammals that use fur rather than blubber for insulation. I haven't actually tried counting Willow's hair, but I am sure she must be pretty close.

This blog would not be complete without a mention of some of our less hairy mammalian relatives. Let's get naked! The first naked mammal that comes to mind has to be the naked mole rat. Incredibly ugly but endlessly fascinating. First of all, it is unique among mammals due to the fact that it is cold blooded. This means that it cannot regulate its own body temperature but relies on the temperature of its surroundings. Since they live in tunnels underground where the temperature does not fluctuate greatly, this seems to work. They have very low metabolic rates, requiring much less oxygen compared to more active and warm-blooded mammals and their skin is insensitive to pain. The most interesting thing about these follicley-challenged creatures is their eusocial behaviour. This type of behaviour is usually associated with the insect world - think bees, ants and termites, and it involves living in a colony with closely related siblings. There is a division of labour with different castes and cooperative caring for the young. In bees, there is a queen bee who lays all the eggs. Most of the offspring are female workers - all sisters - who run the colony. When there is a need for more sperm, a few drones are produced, the sperm is acquired and then it is back to girl power! In naked mole rats, there is also one queen, but she does keep a couple of males around to service her needs. The offspring form the workers who may end up as tunnellers or soldiers or nannies for the young. One last thing before I am done - naked mole rats can live up to 20 years, which is a long time for a relatively small rodent. Apparently, it is because they sleep a lot. Based on that, I should live until I am at least 125, what with all my afternoon naps. I think I may have to adjust my pension plan!

There are, of course, many other naked or nearly naked mammals, the most obvious being all those wonderfully smooth and streamlined aquatic mammals such as dolphins and whales. Then there are the not so smooth or streamlined nearly naked land mammals, such as the hippos and elephants. There are also several breeds of naked dogs and cats, such as the mexican hairless dog and the sphynx cat. I never quite know whether to laugh or cry when I see these poor creatures. I am not sure what the point is in breeding a naked animal which you then have to knit sweaters and coats for or slather up with sunscreen before taking letting them outside!?! I know there is the allergy argument, but since most people are actually allergic to the protein in cat saliva, this may not be valid. Perhaps someone could enlighten me on that one? Thinking about it, I can see one advantage - you will never end up with a cat that looks like a doormat and a $400 vet bill!

I would like to finish this hair raising and furbulous post by saying that an animal's fur belongs on said animal and not on the back of some skinny, rich b#%*h. Having said that, I have always thought that Tess and Willow would make a nice pair of gloves.......

7 comments:

BabyZonely said...

DBM,

This research is first league.
How is it with laser hair removal? Do you happen to know if it is permanent or one has to pay for the treatment all over again?
Thanks!

English Mum said...

Ooh Kim Possible's sidekick, Ron Stoppable, has a naked mole rat as a pet. Sorry, been watching too much Cartoon Network.

Bert is a blue fawn. He has patches of blue hair (ears, stipes down his tail and flecks down his back) and the rest of him is fawn. He has the weirdest blue skin, though. I often think he'd make a nice pair of Uggs. Would go lubly with your cat fur gloves
;0)

Don't Bug Me! said...

BZ - Lazer removal can be permanent, but you need to have 4-6 treatments to kill off all the follicles. It is also expensive -$1200 for the bikini area and $2500 for half a leg! Now, they claim that it is cheaper in the long run, but I figure my shaving routine is way cheaper - once in the Spring to remove the Winter coat and then sporadically throughout the Spring and Summer when needed!

EM - I think that we have seen quite enough of Bert's skin recently - perhaps you could just stick to the cute head shots for a while? I have a pair of purple Uggs - a very generous gift from my brother. Oh no, wait - that's right, they were meant for the lovely M, but they were too small, so I got them!
Not having children or the Disney Channel, I had to look up Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable and, lo and behold, a naked mole rat called Rufus.

Anonymous said...

I was watching the USA version of Cruffs last night, they had a 'naked' dog on there.. it was discusting, but it was breed to go onto ships to hunt the rats, and therefore not carry fleas .... looked very ugly though !!

I though Willow and Tess would make super slippers .... but i'll stick with my Uggs ....

Anonymous said...

And Rufus is quite a smart naked mole rat at that!!!

One question pops to mind - can you give me an example of a furry non-mammal??? The only ones I'm coming up with are spiders and flies, and I think of them as hairy! Maybe bees...uh oh...gotta get my Eddie fix...

J

Don't Bug Me! said...

J - Technically, insects, spiders and other invertebrates are not furry or hairy, they have bristles or setae - made of chitin, not keratin. Despite this, I have found what I would consider to be a pretty furry looking non-mammal, the sea mouse, a polychaete (many hairs) worm, related to other annelids, such as the earthworm and leech. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphrodita_aculeata
Definitely not as cute as my furry friends Willow and Tess.

English mum said...

Ooh I love it when you talk dirty heh. Yes, Bert's 'gynae shot' caused lots of outraged emails!! Cute from now on, I promise x