Dr. Lara Durgavich Profile picture
Jul 7, 2017 46 tweets 9 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
And now I present: a thread based on my love of #science, #scicomm, and #animals, and the fact that I'm a huge #nerd:
The other day at the library, I got this book by Ann Tompert for my 2yo (2/?): amazon.com/Just-Little-Bi…
The premise: an elephant and a mouse want to ride a see-saw. #Physics has other ideas, so some other animals come to help. (3/?)
Eventually, mouse is joined by a giraffe, zebra, lion, bear, crocodile, mongoose, monkey, ostrich, and beetle, and the scales tip. (4/?)
So obviously I had to ask: How accurate is this?
Here's what I found. (5/?)
(Full disclosure: I've taken mass estimates from @Wikipedia, not primary sources) 6/?
#Elephant is referred to as "he" in the story. In all species of elephants, males are bigger than females. #sexualdimorphism (7/?)
Male African #elephants weigh up to 15,400 lb, while their Asian counterparts weigh up to 11,000 lb. (8/?)
Based on giraffe, zebra, & lion being at the playground, I'll presume the story happens in Africa. I'll say elephant weighs 12000 lb. (9/?)
Mouse's genus is unknown, so I have randomly selected one from Wikipedia's category 'Rodents of Africa.' (10/?)
Mouse in the book is also male. The typical striped grass mouse (Lemniscomys stratus) weighs up to 68g, or .15 lb. (11/?)
So Elephant weighs roughly 80,000 times as much as Mouse. Like I said, physics is against them. (12/?)
The first animal to come to Mouse's aid is Giraffe, who is female. The average adult female #giraffe weighs 1,825 lb. (13/?)
Next up: #Zebra. Zebra's species and sex are unspecified in the book (and its jaunty orange scarf gives away nothing). (14/?)
Grevy's Zebra (Equus grevyi) is the largest species, weighing up to 990 lb. But the Plains Zebra (Equus quagga) is much more common. (15/?)
The Plains Zebra weighs roughly 400-850 lb (M are about 10% bigger than F). The weight of the jaunty orange scarf is negligible. (16/?)
So if we assume a large male zebra, we now have 2675.15 lb on one side (zebra+giraffe+mouse) &12,000 lb on the other (elephant). 17/?
The next animal to climb on is a #Lion, identified as male. According to Wikipedia, a large male weighs approx. 550 lb. (18/?)
And now a bit of a mystery. The next animal to climb on the seesaw is "Bear." However, there are no extant #bears in Africa. (19/?)
As best I can figure, Bear must be an exchange student. He is identified as male, and is a brown color. (20/?)
Personally, I don't think Bear is a grizzly, a species in which males average 600-900 lb but can weigh up to 1500 lb. (21/?)
He is clearly smaller than Lion and Zebra, so I think he's more likely a North American black bear (not always black!). (22/?)
Grr....#parenting duty calls! Thread will be resumed ASAP. (23/?)
Ok, so the weight of male black bears ranges from approx. 125-550 lb. I'll put this one in the middle of that range, at 325 lb. (24/?)
Mouse & co. now weigh 3550.15 lb vs. Elephant's 12,000 lb. (25/?)
#Crocodile is the next to climb on. Neither sex nor species is specified, but I will assume it is a Nile croc based on its friends. (26/?)
Nile crocs have a huge range of sizes. An average female Nile croc weighs 90-550 lb, while males are typically 330-1540 lb. (27/?)
Some Nile crocs can be significantly larger - up to 2400 lb - but this one appears relatively small. I estimate its weight at 500 lb. (28/?)
Mongoose, by contrast, appears rel. big. Its sex and species are unclear, but the largest mongoose species weighs only 11 lb. (29/?)
So the far side of the see-saw is now at 4061.15 lb. This is not looking promising. (30/?)
Ostrich is the larger of the remaining climbers-on. I don't know if this one is M or F, but size differences are small. (31/?)
An average male common #ostrich weighs about 250 lb, compared to 220 lb for an average female. For our purposes, 250 will do. (32/?)
Ostrich is accompanied by Monkey, identified as female. To me, Monkey looks like a chimp, but she has a tail, so clearly is not. (33/?)
This monkey appears to be at arboreal and does not look like a colobus, so is likely in the Family Cercopithecidae. (34/?)
Correction: SUBfamily CercopitheciNae. (Isn't #taxonomy fun?) 35/?
Most #monkeys in this group have weights ranging from 10-45 lb. Again, to be generous, I will presume this one is at the upper end. (36/?)
And finally we have the "small brown #beetle" that literally tips the scales for our motley crew. (37/?)
Given that there are roughly 400,000 species in the Order Coleoptera, I will not try to guess the specific type. Darwin I am not. (38/?)
However, I feel confident that it is less than .22 lb, the weight of the Goliath beetle. (39/?)
.1 lb seems like a reasonably generous estimate, especially for a "small" beetle. (40/?)
So we now have a grand total of....
Elephant: 12,000 lb.
Mouse & co: 4,356.25 lb.
All of those animals together don't weigh even half as much as an #elephant.
Conclusion: elephants are *really* big! (42/?)
And have we learned anything else from this little exercise? (43/?)
Obviously, children's books about #animals don't (and shouldn't) always have #scicomm as a primary goal. (44/?)
But they can spark curiosity about the natural world and lead to some nifty learning opportunities! (45/?)
Especially those of us who love #science, #scicomm, and #animals, and are huge #nerds. 😜 (46/46)

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