We have good news this Endangered Species Day. After 16 years, Kiazi finally gave birth! Her little ray of hope is more proof that our scientists may have solved a riddle of southern white rhino reproduction. Details here.
The rhinoceros is the 2-largest land mammal, behind the elephant. These stocky, Land Rover-sized vegetarians once numbered over 500,000, but they have been reduced to about 29,000 in recent years, largely due to humans’ appetite for their signature appendage: the horn.
Animals with true horns, which are mostly ruminants like the ram and friends, which is also the classical demon look, have a core of living bone in the center of the horn. The outer layer is composed of thick keratin, but it is the shape of the living bone core that dictates the shape, size and direction of the horns. The living bone core is often much smaller than the keratin component.
The keratin has no nerves and little blood supply. The living bone core has a whole bunch of nerves, an impressive blood supply (it is bone after all) and if you break the horn too close to the skull then you will also have a big whopping hole into the frontal sinus.
This would be at least as painful as breaking one of your bones.
Horns can certainly heal, but they often heal in a not quite right manner. If you haven’t completely fractured off the living bone then the shape template for the new horn will be different. If your character has lost the living bone core, but still retains the germinal layer of cells around the base, then they can develop scurs.
A scur is like a remnant horn growing without a template. They often occur when de-horning hasn’t quite been done right or after trauma. They have an unpredictable shape, can grow in any direction, and are frankly quite annoying.
Rhinos do not have a living bone core in their horn. You can cut off parts of these horns, they’re made of keratin and can be thought of similar to a very fancy finger nail.
But uh, don’t be tempted to do it like the poachers do it, where they cut a straight line including both horns and part of the skull. That is going to be the equivalent of fracturing a true horn at the base and entering a sinus (or nasal cavity in this case). I’m not posting those pictures on here.
But lastly, another anatomical feature we humans sometimes think of as ‘horns’ are antlers.
Antlers are dead bone with no covering when mature. They are shed every year. When they are mature they have no feeling and no blood supply except at the very base. While they are growing they have a good blood supply, but when mature they are inert. Antlers don’t grow bigger as such, they are shed each year and regrow, sometimes into a bigger or more pronged shape, depending on the species.
So take your pick. I don’t know which sort of horns your demon has, but I hope that’s answered your question.
Talking about Australia invasives, I remember hearing something a few years back about deliberately allowing feral camels to remain free in Australia, as they fill a currently unfilled niche of large herbivore, are well adapted to the environment and are apparently helping with maintaining habitats and restricting invasive plants that native animals won't eat. Do you agree with this sentiment or disagree? Are any other recent invasive animals potentially of similar value?
We had plenty of large herbivores, they’re called kangaroos.
Our soils are not as rich as places like Africa, and so our native fauna not as large, but there wasn’t really an empty niche desperately in need of camels (or water buffalo or donkeys, which are the other large feral species in our tropical north).
Camels are well adapted to our deserts, but they damage the environment. They also damage sites of cultural importance to Aboriginal Australians as well as eating and damaging traditional food plants.
There was a camel industry which would catch feral camels for either pet meat or export (because they’re relatively disease free here on this big old island) which I am sure would love to continue having a feral camel population, but honestly it would be better for our environment if they weren’t here.
Interestingly, there was an argument put forth to import to import endangered rhinos to establish a semi-protected semi-feral population much like camels and water buffalo have thrived, but this is another complex ethical issue.