Category Archives: Creatures

When Leopards See Their Own Reflection

Here’s a cool video that shows what happens when a pair of leopards encounter a mirror in the forest, enabling them to see their reflection for the first time.

Harnessing the Power of Spider Silk

spiderA professor at Arizona State University is studying the silk that spiders spin to build their webs. Scientists have discovered that spiders can spin six different kinds of silk. Each kind of silk has different properties. Some kinds of silk are very stretchy, while other kinds are sticky. The most amazing thing is that spider silk is very strong — as strong as steel, in fact.

So why don’t we farm spiders and use their silk to build useful things? Professor Jeff Yarger has the answer:

The reason is that spiders don’t produce silk in large quantities.

“You can put lots of silkworms in a small area and genetically modify them to go from the larval state to a moth in 20-30 days. Spiders take longer. But let’s get to the crux of it—spiders don’t like each other. They eat each other,” he explains.

The scientists came up with an idea to make spider silk without using actual spiders. They altered silkworms to enable them to make spider silk. But there was another problem — the silk spun by silkworms was not as strong as real spider silk. Their next challenge is to use a powerful scanner called a Magnetic Resonance Image machine to look more closely at the altered silkworms in hopes of perfecting artificial spider silk.

via Researchers aim to harness power of spider silk | ASU News.

Mongoose War: Now With More Baby Mongoose Cuteness

This video from BBC Earth depicts a pretty awesome battle between rival tribes of mongooses. An invading pack of mongooses is attempting to wipe out another family of mongooses, who have to flee while carrying their little baby mongooses.

This is an excerpt from a BBC television show called Banded Brothers, which depicts the lives and behaviors of mongooses in the African nation of Uganda.

Original Research on Bees from Eight-Year-Olds

From Gawker comes a cool story about a group of kids in England who did original research on the behavior of bees. The kids set up an experiment with colored lights to see if bees are able to remember the location of food.

Their research was so good it was published in a scientific journal called Biology Letters. Super cool!

The Goliath Birdeater Tarantula

Have you ever heard of a spider that eats birds?

It is called the Goliath Birdeater Tarantula. The Goliath Birdeater Tarantula is a very interesting looking spider. This tarantula is the biggest spider in the world. It can be up to 11 inches! This particular spider is coffee colored. This spider has hairs on its legs that it can flick which are extremely irritating to our skin.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Goliath Birdeater Tarantula lives in a variety of places. This bird-eating spider can be found in South America and Venezuela. This spider can also be found in Brazil and humid tropical forest areas. When keeping this tarantula as a pet it should be maintained at 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

This spider has an interesting way of hunting. The Goliath Birdeater Tarantula bite is really harmless to humans, almost like a wasp sting. This spider takes young birds from their nests, which gives it the name “bird eater”. These spiders only use their bite for self-defense; for hunting they use stealth and strength.

You can clearly see the Goliath Birdeater Tarantula is a very special spider.

What do Sharks Eat? Everything!

We love the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. It has a planetarium, an indoor rain forest, and a wonderful underground aquarium with fish from all over the world.

The living fish exhibits are terrific, but this display really got our attention.
stomach_contentsIt shows the contents of a tiger shark’s stomach. There are turtle shells, a shoe, a license plate, an unopened can of Spam (not that a shark could open a can of Spam if he tried), and even two Barbie dolls!

Most sharks go after food that is easiest to catch, like slow, weak or dying marine animals. Sharks use their teeth to grab and tear their prey, but they don’t chew it up and usually swallow it almost whole. Many species of shark are bottom feeders, meaning they literally scoop up food from the bottom of the ocean. According to Seaworld.org, tiger sharks are the “garbage cans of the sea” because they will eat whatever is available. From the looks of this picture, we’d say that was a good description!

What the Heck is an Owl Pellet?

Our class went on a field trip to our local Science Center. We got to see lots of nature displays, but our favorite was the one about owl pellets. We even got to take some owl pellets home.

Owls are birds of prey, which means they hunt and eat small animals like mice. Owls can’t chew, though. They have to tear their prey into smaller pieces with their beaks and talons (claws) before they swallow them. One part of the owl’s stomach is called the proventriculus, or glandular stomach. That’s the part of the stomach that digests the parts of the prey the owl uses as food. The parts of the prey that the owl can’t digest, like bones, teeth, and fur, stay in the owl’s gizzard, or muscular stomach.

An owl pellet is the compressed (smooshed together) bones, teeth and fur of its prey. The owl regurgitates the pellet. It’s not like throwing up, though. The owl does this regularly, and the pellet just drops out of its beak.

We dissected owl pellets at the science center, and this is what we saw. owl_pellets1 It’s a little fuzzy, but you can see a bone, some teeth, and some fur. A little icky, but definitely interesting. Owls have to eat, too, you know.

Eggs

Eggs

This morning we made eggs for breakfast. We cracked them open and wondered, where did the chicks go?

The eggs you buy in the supermarket are unfertilized. That means a rooster has not fertilized the chicken’s eggs. Without fertilization, an egg will not produce a chick. What you see inside an egg are the yolk (the yellow part) and albumen (the egg white). The yolk and egg white provide nutrition for the chick when it is developing. This is different from the way human babies get nutrition when they’re developing in the womb. Human babies get their nutrition from an umbilical cord attached to their bellies.

That’s how you got your belly button!

Why Are Humans Animals?

Helena and Putto by jeffreymcmanus

Are humans animals? We don’t usually think of ourselves as being similar to dogs, cats or frogs, but to scientists, in many ways we are.

Scientists mostly divide the world of living things into animals and plants. If something gets its energy from sunlight and doesn’t move around on its own, a scientist will usually call that creature a plant. Grass, moss, pumpkins and apple trees are all examples of plants.

If a creature gets its energy from eating other things and it can move around on its own, then scientists call it an animal. Dogs, cats, frogs, fish, dinosaurs, and humans are all examples of animals.

Scientists have names for different kinds of animals depending on which kind of food they like to eat. An animal that eats mostly plants is called an herbivore. Horses and sheep are herbivores. Animals that eat mostly meat are called carnivores. Lions and tigers are carnivores. People are omnivores — we can eat both meat and plants (although some people choose not to). Dogs and pigs, as well as some birds and some fish, are also omnivores.

The Truth About Cavemen

Caveman at Guildford Museum by felinebird

You might have heard stories about cavemen or seen them on television. Some people use the word “caveman” to describe primitive men and women who lived on Earth long ago, used weapons like spears and clubs, and found food by hunting and gathering.

There were primitive people who lived in caves thousands of years ago. But scientists don’t usually use the word “caveman” to describe ancient people. They use more precise terms depending on what kind of early humans they’re talking about. Primitive humans started appearing on Earth long ago — two hundred thousand years ago — and we call these humans homo sapiens. You and I are homo sapiens, too. There are older kinds of human ancestors like the Neanderthals, a kind of early human that lived in Europe thousands of years before homo sapiens appeared.

Neanderthals have since died out. As with dinosaurs, scientists know about them because of fossils: bones and other objects that we dig out of the ground. Scientists who study old things buried in the ground are called paleontologists.

In cartoons and stories you sometimes see cavemen and dinosaurs together. But scientists know that people and dinosaurs never lived on Earth at the same time. The dinosaurs died out long before humans appeared on Earth.