Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Pacific Science Center has been celebrating All Hallows’ Eve all week long and the Life Sciences department happily joined in the fun. Here are some of the edibles for animals that we’ve created:

Carved mini-pumpkins filled with nutritional dough for our naked mole rats.

Jack o’ lanterns made from persimmons for our tropical butterflies.

A turnip, beet, and kale "Boo-fay."

Stop by today, Friday, October 31st. Staff and volunteers are all in costume and there are sure to be tricks and treats. But if you can’t visits in person, be sure to check out the Naked Mole Rat Cam. There’s always a party going on in their house!

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

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Monday, October 27, 2014

A Molting Tarantula

Last week, one of our Chilean rose tarantulas (Grammostola rosea) molted. This event is one of the most dramatic non-emergencies an Animal Caretaker is apt to encounter. In fact, the process is so stressful looking, it's common to confuse a molting tarantula with a sick or dying one. Often it’s hard not to intervene and 'help'.

Prior to molting, a tarantula builds a silk nest and lies down on her back in the middle of it. She appears to be in her death throes, but then with almost impossible effort, she bursts her way out of the old skin, revealing a velvety, fresh new spider underneath.

The picture above shows our spider, Roslyn, (on the left) immediately after she freed herself of her old skin. She is waiting for her legs to fully expand. Every few minutes she stretches all the legs on one side or the other, probably as she pumps fluids into them to fill out her skin.

For several hours after molting, the spider is totally helpless. Her new exoskeleton needs to expand and harden. Since spiders usually support their full weight on their legs, this is a problem; her legs are too weak to support her body. The tarantula must stay on her back until her legs are strong enough to support her body.

The lighter colored form, on the right, is Roslyn's old skin, lying empty beside her.

In related arachnid news, a newly discovered species of tarantula from the Amazon has been named after a Beatle. Imagine!

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fresh Sheet – October 25, 2014

There are always a lot of orange and black butterflies in our Tropical Butterfly House and it’s not just for Halloween. Have you every wondered why? Drop by and discuss mimicry with a Science Interpreter. The subject is fascinating!

Neotropical Insects NV

40 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
25 - Heraclides thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
20 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
40 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
40 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
20 - Biblis hyperia (Red Rim)
40 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
40 - Eryphanis polyxena (Purple Mort Bleu Owl)
05 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 270

Bioproductores de El Salvador

18 - Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona)
25 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
10 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
25 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
09 - Eurytides phaon (Red-sided Swallowtail)
20 - Eurytides thymbraeus(White-crested Swallowtail)
20 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
20 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
20 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
10 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
20 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
20 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
25 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
08 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
25 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
05 - Siderone nemesis (Red-striped Leafwing)

Total = 305

Grand Total = 575

“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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Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Tale of the Undead Beetles

In the life of Animal Care, we have to deal with the fact that our animals occasionally die. While this is difficult to accept emotionally, it’s usually easy to determine whether an animal is dead or alive. But not always. In the spirit of Halloween, we bring you the "Tale of the Undead Beetles!"

We feed our herbivorous arthropods every other day: checking on their water, removing old food, and looking over the health of the animals in their cages. Some herbivores are more active than others. While we can usually rely on the Darkling beetles and Velvet ants to be moving around their cage, sometimes the cockroaches and Blue death-feigning beetles are remarkably still. This was the case one morning recently, when Animal Caretakers Katie and Lauren were making their rounds. Almost all of the Blue death-feigning beetles (Cryptoglossa verrucosus) were completely motionless. We gave them a nudge to see if they were alive. The beetles fell over, apparently dead.

You can probably guess by the name of these insects that appearances can be deceiving. Unsure of a prognosis, Katie and Lauren collected five visibly dead beetles and placed them off exhibit for observation. The Animal Caretakers weren’t very hopeful. These beetles looked VERY dead.

Two minutes later, one of the beetles was up and walking around the box! Hooray! But the rest were surely dead. Ten minutes later, another one stirred! Hooray, hooray! After about an hour, the most cautious of the beetles finally realized that the danger had passed. It was safe to return to the world of the living. Eventually all of them proved to be very much alive.

Of course, faking death is a defense mechanism for Blue death-feigning beetles. However, when it comes to tricking the people who take care of you, that strategy may not always work in your favor.

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