Wednesday, July 20, 2016

LET’S GET WEIRD!

I’m always trying to find something unusual in the animal kingdom to blog about. This is not a difficult task considering how many different creatures inhabit our planet. So this week let’s take a look at the numbers and once we do, let’s point out some wild, weird, and wonderful facts.

First of all, did you know that there are over 6.5 million species on land and 2.2 million in the depths of the ocean? That’s a lot of living things, and some of them are truly strange and unusual.


For instance, the cow. Yes, the ordinary cow that roams in green pastures. Cows are very particular about how they eat. Specifically, cows will align themselves in a north-south direction when the graze. Why? Well, scientists are not sure, but they like to give us answers, and they attribute this activity to the earth’s magnetic field. It is now admitted that many grazers, not just cows, exhibit this same behavior. Um…?


To read more about this unusual phenomenon, visit this site: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7575459.stm


Okay, next fun fact. Did you know that dolphins call each other by name? I didn’t! I think it's interesting that we know they are calling each other by name?  How do we know that? It seems scientists have found that there is a particular whistle attributed to each dolphin. Their specific whistles help them to stay together as a group.

Photo credit: Chicago Zoological Society


To read more about dolphins and how and why they call their dolphin friends, visit this site:



Did you know that tardigrades are extremely durable? They exist all over the Earth and are capable of surviving in temperatures from highs of 300 degrees to lows of -458 degrees. They can even survive in the vacuum of space. What’s more, they can exist without a meal for ten years. Oh, you don’t know what a tardigrade is or what it looks like? Here you go.


To learn more, visit this site, you’ll even see this little microscopic animal walking. It’s quite interesting.


Human males go to great extents and expense to propose marriage to another human. Did you know that the Gentoo and the Adelie penguins propose by offering a pebble to the female of their choice? Well, that's romantic.  It’s not the same sort of rock that humans expect. I guess it’s the thought that counts.


To learn more about this romantic behavior, visit this site:


Here are a few weird facts for you:
  • A group of parrots is called a pandemonium.
  • A group of ravens is called a murder.
  • Polar Bears have black skin.
  • Honeybees can flap their wings over 200 times a second.
  • Bats are good guys. By eating insects that are considered pests, they save the US agriculture industry an estimated three billion dollars a year.


Okay, two last little ditties and they have to do with music.

Fourteen new species of dancing frogs were discovered in 2014.
This is a wonderful video about the dancing frogs of India. I hope you take a few minutes to watch it.


Finally, the only mammal that has been found capable of keeping a beat is the sea lion. For this, we’ll have to watch a video. It’ll be fun! Watch it!


I do hope you enjoy reading this week’s post as much as I did in creating it for you.

Be sure to stop by again next week, and don’t forget to share! Thanks so much.

Jeanne E. Rogers, Author
The Sword of Demelza, The Gift of Sunderland, and
One Hot Mess, a Child’s Environmental Fable
Award Winning Middle-Grade Fantasy, Where Endangered Animal Heroes Roam the Pages!













Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Butterfly


The largest butterfly in the world is endangered. It’s called Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Butterfly. This magnificent butterfly was discovered in the early 1900s by Alfred S. Meeks. Meeks named the butterfly to honor Queen Alexandra, the Danish wife of King Edward VII of England (1841-1910).

Photo Credit: Steve Parish (https://www.steveparish-natureconnect.com.au)

This beautiful butterfly is sexually dimorphic, which means the male is prettier than the female. This is often the case in nature. In the below picture, the female is at the top… brown with spots. The male at the bottom is a bit more glorious.


It is endemic to a small lowland portion of the rainforest in Papua New Guinea. There are a number of so-called ‘birdwing’ butterflies, but the Queen Alexandra’s is the largest, having a wingspan of up to twelve inches.


Not only is the butterfly beautiful, but the caterpillar stage also dons beautiful red spikes on black with a central spike of yellow. The contrast is spectacular. Also, as is usual in nature, this bright coloring serves as a warning to potential predators–don’t eat me, or I’ll make you sick. 


So how does a butterfly become poisonous? Good question. Like many other poisonous creatures, the butterfly becomes toxic just by eating. In the case of Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, their home is lethal. The female of the species lays its egg on the leaf of the pipevine plant, which leaves contain a toxin. The caterpillar hatches from the egg and immediately begins chomping on its home and as a result, becomes poisonous. As it grows, the caterpillar molts, eventually morphing into a pupa then into a butterfly, a toxic butterfly.

Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing is endangered (IUCN*) due to habitat destruction. It is now confined to approximately sixty-two square miles of coastal rainforest in Papua New Guinea. The habitat is being taken for palm oil plantations. It is illegal to trade this butterfly internationally.

Although this video won’t show you the scale of this Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, it is nevertheless beautiful.


So lastly, I thought we might just mention the differences between butterflies and moths. It’s easy to tell them apart. Although both of these groups of insects are members of an order called Lepidoptera, they have significant differences.

A moth’s cocoon is spun silk. It’s a soft little bundle. A butterfly forms a chrysalis. It has a hard exterior. Both are the insect’s temporary home as the undergo a transformation from larvae to caterpillar. The butterfly’s antennae are thin with a thick tip. The moth’s antennae are feathery. Butterflies have colorful wings, and a those of the moth are less dramatic. Another interesting feature is the way they hold their wings. Butterflies tend to fold their wings straight up while moths hold them in a tent-like fashion.


There is always an exception to the rule, and it’s no wonder that the exception lives on the island of Madagascar—the Madagascan Sunset Moth. This moth his beautiful pigmentation. We have learned in past blog posts, and I have also mentioned it above, that sometimes a colorful creature comes with a warning. This particular insect is no different. It is poisonous. Oh, and one more thing about this exceptional moth. It’s diurnal, which means it’s active during the day, and that’s atypical moth behavior.

Photo credit: Biobunch.blogspot.com

Visit the following sites to learn more about Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, and moths.




I hope you enjoyed this week’s post, and I hope that you will come back again next week for a look at another unusual creature.

IUCN = International Union for Conservation of Nature 

Enjoy!

Jeanne E. Rogers, Author
The Sword of Demelza, The Gift of Sunderland, and
One Hot Mess, a Child’s Environmental Fable
Award Winning Middle-Grade Fantasy, Where Endangered Animal Heroes Roam the Pages!















Wednesday, June 29, 2016

DEMONIC FROGS

"You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince"
Author: E.L. James

Yes, I’ve kissed one or two in my time, but the frogs we’re talking about in this post are not kissable.

Poison Dart Frogs are indigenous to Central and South America. They dress in strikingly beautiful colors, but these frogs are not fashionistas for nothing. Their vibrant pigment sends a loud message to possible predators—DON’T EAT ME, OR YOU’LL DIE! However, not all species of poisonous frogs are deadly, and only three of the over one hundred species is dangerous to humans.

Scientists are unsure as to how these frogs become poisonous. It is believed that they develop the toxins from the plant poison carried in the insects they eat. It is interesting to know that when a Poison Dart Frog is raised in captivity and isolated from their natural environment, they never develop poisonous venom.


Red-Eyed Tree Frog
Photo credit: Mario Villalobos


Yellow-banded poison dart frog
Photo credit: Tennessee Aquarium

And one of these small amphibians is called the Demonic Frog (Minyobates steyermarki). The Demonic Frog is, according to the IUCN, critically endangered. Studies are ongoing, but the greatest threat is habitat destruction. It lives in bromeliads that grow in the rain forests of southern Venezuela. Why is this frog’s habitat being destroyed? The mining of gold in that area of the country is the main cause of the destruction of this frog’s habitat. Pollution and fires resulting from that mining are also causing a problem.


Demonic Frog
Photo credit: Karl-Heinz Jungfer

There are more than one hundred different species of poison dart frogs, and they range in length from less than an inch to about two and a half inches. Many of these species of frogs are endangered. It would behoove us to ensure their survival as their toxicity may prove helpful to humans for use in medications. A synthetic version of the toxin from the Golden Poison Frog (see below) has recently been created and found to be a powerful painkiller.

The Golden Poison Dart Frog (Phyllobates terribilis), is one of the most poisonous animals on the planet. 

            
Golden Poison Dart Frog
Photo credit: Camilo Mutis

This particular frog measures about two inches in length, and it has enough poison to kill ten grown men. It is found in a small area of Colombia and the indigenous people of the jungle, the Embera people, have used its toxin on their darts when hunting. Hence, these frogs are sometimes referred to as poisonous dart frogs.

Poison Dart Frogs have only one natural predator, and it’s a snake called Leimadophis epinephelus, or fire-bellied snake, which has developed a resistance to the frogs' poison. 


                                


Here are a few more pictures of these wonderful creatures. They are beautiful to look at.



Blue jeans or strawberry poison dart frog
© hotshotsworldwide/Fotolia



Blue jeans or strawberry poison dart frog
Photo credit: emaze.com


Blue Poison Dart Frog
Photo credit: Elmwood Park Zoo, Norristown, PA




Harlequin poison dart frog
Photo credit: Anyka/Fotolia

I found a wonderfully filmed and informative video. I know you’ll enjoy it




I’ve brought you just a bit of information about these unusual frogs. If you’d like to learn more, visit one or all of the following sites:







Enjoy!

Jeanne E. Rogers, Author
The Sword of Demelza, The Gift of Sunderland, and
One Hot Mess, a Child’s Environmental Fable
Award Winning Middle Grade Fantasy, Where Endangered Animal Heroes Roam the Pages! 

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