The Hindu: Sleep Deep

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HANG OUT: Time to rest.   | Photo Credit: MAIL PIC

Check out these animals as they grab a shut eye. Not all of them need a bed!

“O bed! O bed! delicious bed! That heaven upon earth to the weary head.”

Thomas Hood rhymed in his cautionary tale of Miss Kilmansegg and Her Precious Leg. While she wanted a precious golden leg, we all want our precious golden slumbers. One can live without love, but sleep? Nah… What is life without those forty winks, the short naps, the afternoon siestas, the long deep night sleep and, well, those open dripping-mouthed snoozes. Ah…such comfort. In the first part of this article, we spoke about the REM (rapid eye movement or deep-wave sleep) and non-REM sleep; how humans need to have both while some animals don’t.

You would have seen mammals and birds sleep. Insects, fishes and reptiles too need their brains to rest in some or the other form. The little kankhajura would even risk falling prey to a hungry vagabond crow while he dreams of the multi-legged beauty who preferred to hang out with the Centi-the-senti-pede instead.

A few more snoozing secrets

Saddle up

Horses get most of their sleep while standing. They have a mechanism called “stay apparatus” where their ligaments and tendons allow them to remain upright with ease, even while sleeping. They do occasionally lie down to get REM sleep, but only for short periods. As they are standing, they can just bolt away if a predator attacks, even if they are asleep. No wonder, our wars have been fought and won on horses.

Don’t bat an eyelid 

Standing up and sleeping is fine, but can you beat sleeping upside down? Bats are masters at that. Unlike birds, they can’t take off in flight. They have to fall in it. This is because their wings are not strong enough to alight in flight and their hind legs not sturdy enough to bear their weight in an upright position. The special tendons on their feet let them hand effortlessly while they sleep. They are so effective that even a dead bat can continue to hang!

Power naps 

A study on fire ants showed that they take up to 250 naps a day! Each lasting around a minute. But those are the workers. The queen, of course, takes lazy long naps. The research suggested that queens dream while sleeping and move their antennas while they dream. RAM instead of REM, get it? Rapid Antenna Movement instead of Rapid Eye Movement. They live almost 10 times longer than the worker ants do. And they ask me why I’d like to be a queen!

The animal world is full of sleeping wonders: Our hairy cousins — the great apes like orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos — make mattresses to sleep on. Sea otters occasionally wrap themselves up in seaweed, float on their backs and at times hold each other’s paws so that they don’t drift away while sleeping.

While elephants can do with three hour sleep a day, an edible dormice can sleep for nearly a year! You may like to hibernate like dormice but I am more like a giraffe who sleeps for five minutes at a time, on an average 30 minutes a day. As the quote collector, Terri Guillements says, “I’ve had such bad insomnia the sleep cops have issued a warrant for my rest.”

The writer is an author of fiction and non-fiction books and Ex-Hon. Wildlife Warden, Udaipur

The Hindu: Hit that Snooze Button!

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Hit that SNOOZE button!

The Hindu: More Terrors of the Deep

More terrors of the DEEP

Arefa Tehsin


The ocean depths hold secrets and horrors that can send a shiver down your back. Last month, we mentioned a few and now here are some more.

You must have heard of the Komodo Dragon. I’ve seen one in a zoo and it is a stud! Ask a water creature how terrifying it finds a Komodo Dragon to be and it’ll huff and say, “Hah! It’s nothing but an upmarket lizard!” Most land creatures we find petrifying will make water creatures giggle. In the first part of this article, we spoke about a few terrors of the deep. Let’s take a peek at a few more here.

Goliath tigerfish

The locals who live around the Congo River Basin believe that the evil spirit mbenga enters the river and attacks people. Their imagination is not too far fetched. The monstrous Goliath Tigerfish, that sports 32 razor sharp, dagger-like teeth, and which can grow up to five ft and 70 kgs lives up to its moniker. This fish can attack and tear up small crocodiles and is a formidable killing machine. It is supposed to be one of the hardest game fishes for anglers on planet Earth. Match that.

Gulper Eel

With the body of a snake and massive jaws, the gulper eel is one of the most bizarre looking fishes of the deep. It is also known as the pelican eel and can swallow prey much larger than its size through its pelican-like big mouth. We haven’t been able to study much of its habits as it lives in the great, dark depths of the seas. It doesn’t have man-eating livers, but this sea-serpent-meets-Jaws is enough to give one nightmares.

Goblin Shark

This slow swimming shark, also known as a “living fossil” has a super fast jaw mechanism. Its long snout hides its needle sharp teeth and a jaw that can be thrust forward at a speed three meters per second in a dramatic, heart stopping motion! Once it has caught its yummy morsel of fish, it fits its protruding jaw back under its flat snout. This rare deep-sea creature with a lineage of 125 million years is one jaw dropping fish!


Enjoying life? Bah! Anglerfish has reasons to be cross. It lives in the dark, unfriendly depths of the ocean and beats the most hideous of creatures with its looks. A few of the 200+ kinds of anglerfish live in shallow waters too. Its crescent shaped mouth bear fang-like teeth. It is called an angler because the ladies carry a ‘fishing rod’ like appendage with a luminescent fleshy tip to lure the prey. Wouldn’t you be attracted to light in the fathomless dark? The lady anglerfish’s witchy looks hold unending fascination for the much smaller gent. Latching himself to the body of the lady with his teeth, he slowly dissolves — all of his body but his testes. Now that’s taking “two-bodies, one soul” to another level! A female carries four to five males on her body.

There are enough and more absurd beasts of water that humans know of, and many, many more that still remain to be discovered from the endless depths. They can scare even the brave-hearts out of their skins, not to mention those of us who find even the pimples on our cheeks terrifying.

The writer is an author of fiction and non-fiction books and Ex-Hon. Wildlife Warden, Udaipur