pachyderm (pakə̇ˌdərm)

When I visited India last year, I was lucky enough to watch a religious procession led by two majestic elephants go past my house*. Elephants, rhinoceroses, and hippopotamuses are often described as pachyderms, referring to their thick skin. Pachyderm contains the Greek roots pachy– meaning thick and –derm meaning skin. My favorite pachyderm is the elephant.

There used to be 350 species of elephants, but today there are only two kinds of elephants left, the Asian elephant and the African elephant. The African elephants are the larger of the two types. Asian elephants typically have small ears and rarely have tusks.

Female elephants live in herds and the oldest female is the matriarch. She leads and guides the herd to food and water. When males become adults, they get kicked out of the herd by the matriarch and either wander about by themselves or join a small group of other males.

Elephants are endangered meaning that they are at risk of dying out. Elephants suffer from habitat loss and ivory poaching. Sadly, people are still poaching elephants for their beautiful ivory tusks, even though it is illegal. Elephants are considered a keystone species which means that they are particularly important to the environment. They make trees fall and then eat them, giving smaller plants a chance to grow. These smaller plants provide food for other animals. If elephants became extinct, that would be a shame because they are such beautiful, intelligent creatures.

I hope you enjoy the pictures in this post; my parents took them during a trip to Zambia and Botswana a few years ago.

*Even though I enjoyed the procession in India, I think that elephants should be allowed to roam wild and be free from human control.

Metamorphosis (metə-morfəsə̇s)

My sister recently received caterpillars for her sixth birthday. The hungry caterpillars arrived in a jar with food, and we were able to observe them as they went through the different stages of their life cycle. A week after they arrived, the caterpillars became chrysalides, and underwent metamorphosis. Ten days later, they emerged as beautiful Painted Lady butterflies. We were in awe as we watched this amazing process occur before our eyes. Metamorphosis contains the Greek roots meta- meaning change and -morph meaning form. The suffix -osis means a process or condition. The roots and the suffix tell us that metamorphosis means “the process of changing form.” Animals that undergo metamorphosis are butterflies, moths, and frogs.