27th December 1998
"You struggled, you screamed,
Your loving tears lead me higher,
Sunethra Kumari Karunaratne
A new dental school was opened in Peradeniya recently. The dental students come there to learn and pass out as dental surgeons.
The old dental school is situated on Augusta Hill. The large building complex of the new school is a gift from the Japanese Government.
When the dental students attend to patients, their professors look on. There is new medical equipment too.
It is a very clean place. The visitors should also help keep the place clean.
The most portrayed person
We are quite used to seeing faces of persons on stamps. Among them are kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers, national heroes, literary and other personalities and many more. Most of them are not among the living when they are portrayed on stamps.
Have you ever thought as to who would be the most portrayed person on stamps? Possibly your guess is right. It's Queen Elizabeth II. She has been the Queen of England and Head of the Commonwealth of Nations for the past 46 years. Thousands of stamps in so many countries have carried her face.
It is interesting to note that even before she ascended the throne on February 6, 1952, she had been portrayed on at least 28 stamps from 11 Commonwealth countries. Newfoundland, the largest Canadian Atlantic province was the first to portray her as a six-year-old princess. That was way back in 1932. New Zealand portrayed her as princess on four occasions between 1943 and 1950. Canada was the only country to portray her as the Duchess of Edinburgh.
The Queen has also been portrayed on stamps of several non-Commonwealth countries including Iran, Ethiopia, Togo, Brazil, Comoro and Bhutan. Iran issued a stamp in 1961 portraying the Shah and the Queen.
The most portrayed person on the stamps of any one country is also the Queen. Within the first 35 years of her reign, the number had topped a thousand (1,017 to be exact).
The first time Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) issued a stamp with the Queen was on June 2, 1953 to mark the coronation. It was a five-cent stamp light green in colour. On April 10, 1954, a 10-cent stamp was issued to mark the royal visit. It carried her portrait on the right with a picture of the royal procession occupying the rest of the space.
All stamps issued in the United Kingdom carry the Queen's face. In fact, the country's name is not printed on the UK stamps, but the Queen's face appearing generally on the top right corner is symbolic that it's a British stamp.
Little vervet monkeys are under threat from all sorts of predators, including snakes, eagles and leopards. So what does a vervet do if it sees a predator? Scream, of course - wouldn't you?
But this is a scream with a difference. The type of screech tells its monkey mates whether the danger is due to a snake sneaking along in the grass, a leopard out on the hunt or an eagle swooping from the sky. So, if you're with some vervet monkeys and they start going ape, look out - they may be trying to tell you something!
As far as communicating goes, bees are the buzz of the insect world. These industrious insects don't talk - instead they just dance! When a bee returns home from a good source of food, she struts her stuff to let the others in on the news. The dance is usually in a figure of eight and, in the middle of these steps, she runs in a straight line and vibrates her body rapidly from side to side. Called the "waggle run", it tells the others how far and in what direction the food lies. These busybodies also use their groovy language to chat about water, pollen and new homes! Un-bee-lievable!
Do horses communicate just by whinnying? Neigh way. According to German teacher Karola Baumann, it's all to do with ear position. For example, one lug forward and one lug back mean our equine mates are ready for fun and a bit of horseplay. And Karola's even come up with a special hat with adjustable ears so that she can engage in horse talk. She says that by pointing both ears forward, she's got loads of horses to come to her, including really shy ones. The only problem with the hat is it makes you look a bit of an ass - just don't let the neighbours see you wearing it!
You know how some of our feathered friends such as parrots and miner birds can copy humans chatting?
Well, Candy the budgie, was a real high flyer, in the language stakes.
He spoke in seven different languages including German, Icelandic and French, and could even tell his human pals to turn on the TV for his fave programmes, Home And Away and Beadle's About! Sadly, the old winged wonder died a natural death two years ago - but this bird brain of Britain will never be forgotten!
There are four things which mammals have in common. They are warm-blooded, they grow hair, their young are born alive and then fed on mother's milk. It therefore came as a great surprise when a strange animal was discovered which grew hair, yet laid eggs like a bird. This animal was found living in Australia.
The first specimen was sent to England in 1798. It had been caught beside a river in eastern Australia. Scientists who examined it found that it had a furry coat like that of an otter, a ducklike beak, and a beaver's tail. It was such a strange-looking animal that some people thought it must be a hoax. It looked just as if a joker had sewn a duck's bill to a mammal's skin.
Further examination showed that, unlike mammals, the specimen had a single rear opening, or cloaca, such as occurs in birds and reptiles. Also, when further captives were studied, it was found that the body temperature was much lower than is normal for mammals, only about 25° centigrade. A soft-shelled, whitish egg was found in one animal.
This curious mixture of mammalian and reptilian characteristics was confirmed when a female was found in her burrow suckling her young on milk. The creature was given the name of the duck-billed platypus. Many scientists believe it forms an evolutionary link between the first reptiles and modern mammals.
How a platypus lives
The platypus is found along the banks of streams and lakes on the eastern side of Australia and Tasmania. It has a unique lifestyle. At dawn and dusk, and on cloudy days, it enters the water in search of food such as shrimps and insect larvae. Under water its eyes and ears are closed by folds of skin. It propels itself through the water with its front feet, and steers with its hind feet and flat tail. The feet have broad webs (platypus means "flat feet") which are good for swimming. The webs can be folded back to uncover the claws for digging.
The flat beak is fleshy and very sensitive, and can detect small water animals such as snails, crustaceans, small fish and frogs, as well as worms.
Rearing the young
The platypus digs its burrow in the river bank. Some burrows can be as long as 10 metres. A pair usually live together. After mating during the Australian springtime, the female leaves the burrow and digs her own tunnel with an oval nest-chamber at the end. She lays two or three eggs there, which take about 10 days to hatch.
The babies lick the milk which oozes from the milk glands on the mother's stomach. There are no teats. Each time the mother leaves the nest to feed, she blocks the entrance with earth to keep out enemies, and to hold in the warmth. The young leave the nest after about four months. The female platypus will mate and conceive again after the birth of her young. However, the fertilized egg will not start to develop until after the babies are past the suckling stage.
Because of the single rear opening the platypus is called a monotreme, meaning "single opening." Monotremes are the most primitive mammals alive today. The platypus is the only mammal to have a poisonous weapon. The male has a sharp spur on each hind leg which can cause a very painful injury.
The platypus is quite rare and is a protected species. One of the chief dangers it has to face is being caught by accident in fishermen's nets, so that it drowns.
The only other monotreme alive today is the spiny anteater, or echidna. There are five different kinds distributed through Australia and New Guinea. All five look similar, and resemble a large hedgehog, with their upper parts covered in long, sharp spines.
Echidnas prefer wooded country with plenty of undergrowth. Like hedgehogs they roam about at night, searching for insects and other small prey by smell, since their eyesight is poor. The echidna uses its strong forelegs and sharp claws to dig its way into the soil. It captures its prey with its long, sticky tongue which it flicks out from its mouth, located at the end of its snout. Its food consists mainly of ants and termites. The echidna is powerful enough to tear open termite hills, and can burrow at a surprising speed. When alarmed, it rolls into a ball. The spines easily ward off any enemies.
The echidna produces a single egg in late summer, but does not build a nest. Instead the egg is passed into a temporary pouch which consists of a fold of skin on the mother's belly. It is not known how the egg enters the pouch. It may fall in by itself, or it may be placed there with the help of the mother's feet or beak. The egg hatches in about 10 days.
The newly hatched baby licks milk from its mother and stays in the pouch for about 10 weeks. By that time the sharp spines have begun to harden. The baby echidna is then left in a safe hiding place which the mother visits regularly in order to feed it. After about a year the youngster will have developed into a fully grown adult.
Living in captivity
Echidnas can live to a great age of up to 50 years. They are also easy to keep in zoos. In contrast, the platypus is not easily kept in captivity, and usually dies. However, one Australian naturalist was successful in breeding it. He built a tunnel and a nest-chamber attached to a swimming pool. The platypuses mated and the female produced two young. One died but the other survived and grew into a healthy adult.
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