Saturday, February 6, 2016

Fresh Sheet – February 6, 2016

In addition to this week’s shipment of beautiful butterflies, our Malaysian vendors have sent us female Deroplatys lobata (Malaysian Dead Leaf Mantis). Look for this mantid on exhibit in the Insect Village.

Penang Butterfly Farm, Malaysia

05 - Attacus atlas (Atlas Moth)
80 - Cethosia cyane (Leopard Lacewing)
45 - Cethosia hypsea (Malay Lacewing)
05 - Euploea mulciber (Striped Blue Crow)
10 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)
30 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
80 - Parthenos sylvia (The Clipper)
26 - Precis almana (Peacock Pansy)
14 - Precis atlites (Gray Pansy)
35 - Vindula dejone (The Cruiser)

Total = 330

“Fresh Sheet” is our weekly shipment report of pupae on display in the emerging window. Visit Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House and meet our newest residents.
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Friday, February 5, 2016

Identifying the Colony

Since the arrival of six naked mole rats to Pacific Science Center from the Philadelphia Zoological Gardens in 1993, we have tried a variety of methods to identify each individual. Perhaps we have finally found a solution!

Taking care of eusocial animals means taking care of an entire group; not just individuals. Twenty-three years ago we primarily focused on the colony health and total number of naked mole rats. Over time we wanted more information and began to collect records on the individual animals.

Mole rats are not easy animals to identify individually. Unlike animals with anatomical features that can be marked and tagged, naked mole rats have internal ears and sensitive tails. A leg band could simply be chewed off.

In 2001, we first attempted to identify individual naked mole rats by implanting microchips. At that time, microchips were much larger than today’s implants. The few individuals whom we did microchip had significant issues with healing and infection after the procedure. Over time, they recovered and eight of those original few are still in our colony. That experience soured us on microchips for a long time.

Our next tactic was significantly lower tech: Sharpie markers. Animal Care used a combination of colors and ink placement on the mole rats’ skin. However, the ink had to be refreshed monthly as the marks easily faded from the animals’ thin and stretchy skin. After five years, we searched for a more permanent method to identify the naked mole rats.

In September 2011, we had the colony tattooed. We were very hopeful about this technique, but unfortunately tattoos were not a magical solution. The mole rats’ skin is so thin that the subcutaneous ink bled and the markings ran together. Furthermore, we had a large number of mole rats that were too young to be tattooed at that time. They have never been marked.

Back to the drawing board and back to the conversation about microchips. In the past 15 years, technology has produced an implantable microchip that is a fraction of the size of the old ones. But we were still cautious.

In October, our veterinarian Dr. Maas implanted microchips in three of the unmarked naked mole rats as a test. Noting their success, we next had a group of 24 chipped. All seem to be thriving.

Recently Dr. Maas completed the multistage chipping of our naked mole rat colony and now the members of the colony can easily be scanned and identified as they are checked for weight and health.

The next time we perform a mole rat health check we won’t have to squint and ask each other, “Was that one dot or two?” The future has arrived!

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Feeding Naked Mole Rats

Have you ever wondered what and how we feed our naked mole rats? Watch Davis and Katie to find out!

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Seattle Sketcher Visits Our Tropical Butterfly House

Seattle locals are familiar with the weekly drawings in the Seattle Times by Gabriel Campanario, The Seattle Sketcher, and founder of the worldwide Urban Sketchers movement. The Life Sciences Department was delighted last week when Gabriel came to sketch in our Tropical Butterfly House for his weekly column.

Like the true journalist that he is, Gabriel spent as much time asking questions and learning about our butterflies, our exhibit, and our staff as he did drawing his surroundings. In the warm quiet of the garden, the artist created this scene in his sketchpad.

To see Gabriel’s final drawing in color go to this week’s column.

Drawing includes the skill of keen observation that most scientists relate to. Closely viewing and reproducing a scene or a subject onto paper is an excellent way to learn about the world and its inhabitants.

Pacific Science Center invites you to bring a sketchpad and pencil on your next visit. Find an inconspicuous spot and enjoy the pleasures of observing and drawing.

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