Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fresh Sheet - June 25, 2009

“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.

London Pupae Supply – June 25, 2009

10- Cethosia cyane (Leopard Lacewing)
10- Charaxes brutus (White-barred Charaxes)
10- Charaxes castor (Giant Charaxes)
30- Charaxes cithaeron (Blue-spotted Charaxes)
5- Charaxes pollux (Black-bordered Charaxes)
5- Charaxes protoclea (Flame-bordered Charaxes)
10- Charaxes varanes (Pearl Charaxes)
30- Graphium angolanus (African White Swallowtail)
10- Graphium antheus (Large Striped Swordtail)
5- Graphium colonna (Black Swordtail)
10- Hypolimnas bolina (Great Egg-fly)
10- Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
5- Papilio constantinus (Constantine's Swallowtail)
30- Papilio dardanus (Mocker Swallowtail)
30- Papilio demodocus (Orchard Swallowtail)
10- Papilio helenus (Red Helen)
30- Papilio nireus (Blue-banded Swallowtail)
10- Papilio polytes (Common Mormon)
5- Salamis anacardii (Clouded Mother of Pearl)
10- Salamis parhassus (Forest Mother of Pearl)
Read more!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fresh Sheet - June 26, 2009

El Salvador - June 24


20- Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
25- Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
10- Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
20- Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
8- Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
12- Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
100- Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
30- Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
30- Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
10- Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
10- Parides photinus (Queen of Hearts)
30- Phoebis philea (Orange Barred Sulfur)
20- Prepona omphale=archeoprepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
10- Tithorea harmonia (Cream-Spotted Clearwing)
Read more!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What's That Stuff?

Some people mistake these things for garbage on the beach. Actually, these rubbery-looking objects are live egg casings of the large, carnivorous Moon Snail (Polinices lewisii).

On a recent tidepool animal collecting trip Pacific Science Center Life Sciences staff brought back a few Moon Snail Collars for our visitors to handle and examine. During the spring and summer, female Moon Snails extrude sheaths of hardened mucus and sand filled with fertilized eggs. Although there are thousands of eggs living in a sand collar, the eggs will never produce young in our tidepool. The excellent filtration system of our Puget Sound Salt Water Tidepool will strain the eggs out of the water before they become viable.

Because clams are a dietary staple of the Moon Snail, this gastropod is unfairly maligned by some clam diggers. The prized butter clams of shell fishers are often too difficult for this snail’s drill.

Because of their size (up to 5 inches with a 12 inch foot) and destructiveness, we don’t collect Moon Snails - just their egg casings. Stop by to see and feel these fascinating organisms. They won’t be around long!

Want to learn more about Moon Snails? Go to
http://www.dfw.state.or.us/mrp/shellfish/other/featured_snails.asp Read more!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Book Review

Pacific Science Center’s Life Sciences staff members are always reading and many of the books we read are science related. Considering that these books may be of interest to other readers, we will blog short reviews of a current book from time to time. Join the discussion! This review is from Life Sciences volunteer, Terry Pagos.

“The Dangerous World of Butterflies”
By Peter Laufer
Hardcover, 288 pages
The Lyons Press
List price: $24.95

I first heard about “The Dangerous World of Butterflies” from an NPR Talk of the Nation podcast last month and immediately put my name on the list at library. It was worth the wait! Peter Laufer is a journalist best known for his books reporting on war and social and political issues. So why did he write a book about butterflies? As Dr. Laufer explains in the book’s introduction, he joked at a book signing that after covering natural disasters, wars, and human cruelty he was ready to write about something to counter the anger and sadness of his previous books – something lighthearted and positive – something like butterflies. From there the adventure begins.

As soon as Dr. Laufer began researching his book, he realized that not all is harmonious in the dangerous world of butterflies. Breeders, smugglers, collectors, farmers, hobbyists, artists, scholars, poachers, researchers, conservationists and criminals all want a piece of the butterfly action. Where some see beauty, others see riches. While some struggle to keep a butterfly species from extinction, others hoard and exterminate them to make their collections more valuable. Dr. Laufer takes us up close and behind the scenes with unforgettable characters – the good guys and the bad guys, the butterfly huggers and butterfly hunters.

Throughout his explorations Dr. Laufer explains the science behind many butterfly phenomena such as migration, wing pigment and even butterfly reproduction in a readable, nontechnical style:
[p. 234] Butterflies copulate. The male grabs the female with appendages known as claspers and then uses his reproductive organ – his oedeagus – to send sperm into his partner’s reproductive system. But the sperm does not immediately fertilize the eggs. She stores it until she locates the foodplant on which her species thrives, and until she locates a spot on the foodplant that she considers prime real estate for her offspring. Once she chooses that ideal place she releases the sperm so the eggs she lays are fertilized. Her larvae feast on the foodplant directly after they emerge from the egg: their home is their dinner.
Yet there is still some mystery in the world of butterflies. Metamorphosis is magic.

For a good summer read, travel with Dr. Peter Laufer through “The Dangerous World of Butterflies.” It may very well influence your next visit to Pacific Science Center's Tropical Butterfly House.

Read more!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fresh Sheet - June 19, 2009

“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.

Costa Rica – June 19, 2009

8- Anartia fatima (Banded Peacock)
9- Anteos chlorinde (White Angled Sulphur)
5- Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
19- Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
13- Caligo eurilochus (Forest Giant Owl)
20- Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
32- Danaus plexippus (The Monarch)
32- Dryadula phaetusa (Banded Orange Heliconian)
19- Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
17- Greta oto (Clearwing)
8- Hamadryas amphinome (Red Cracker)
6- Hamadryas februa (Grey Cracker)
6- Hamadryas feronia (Variable Cracker)
1- Heliconius cydno (Cyno Longwing)
19- Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
36- Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
32- Heliconius ismenius (Tiger Heliconius)
19- Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby Winged Swallowtail)
16- Hypna clytemnestra (Silver Studded Leafwing)
25- Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
9- Nessaea aglaura (Olivewing)
15- Papilio cresphontes (Giant Swallowtail)
5- Papilio polyxenes (Black Swallowtail)
6- Parides arcas (Cattleheart)
4- Prepona omphale (Blue Bellybutton)
1- Siproeta stelenes (Bamboo Page)
6- Tithorea tarricina (Cream Spotted Clearwing)
Read more!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Stick Bug Amnesty

One of the thrills for visitors to Pacific Science Center's Insect Village is the opportunity to handle some of our arthropods. In the past, our United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) permit allowed us to let visitors hold the Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, African Giant Millipedes or Vietnamese Stick Insects in a controlled setting. Unfortunately, the conditions of our USDA permit have changed recently and the Vietnamese Sticks will no longer be available for public handling.

According to Life Sciences Manager, Sarah Moore this is not really bad news from a containment point of view. Vietnamese Stick insects are parthenogenic. This means eggs from females are viable without being fertilized – not an uncommon occurrence in insects. It has been a long held concern of the USDA. What if a Vietnamese Stick dropped an egg into someone’s clothing?

The USDA fears that there are many non-native stick bugs out in public schools, pet stores, and private homes that have the potential to become naturalized and harmful pests. We encourage these owners to retire their colonies. As an incentive, the USDA has given the Life Sciences Department permission to accept any stick bugs from the public. Please contact us at feedback@pacsci.org if you would like to participate in our Stick Bug Amnesty Program.
Read more!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fresh Sheet - June 12, 2009

“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.

June 8, 2009 – El Salvador

12 -Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
25 -Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
25 -Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
25 -Hamadryas amphinome (King Cracker)
10 -Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
14 -Heliconius hortense (Large Postman)
08 -Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
30 -Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
80 -Morpho polyphemus (White Handkerchief)
30 -Myscelia cyaniris (Blue Wave)
30 -Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue)
10 -Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
10 -Papilio torquatus (Torquatus Swallowtail)
10 -Parides photinus (Red-Spotted Cattleheart)
10 -Phoebis philea (Orange-Barred Sulfur)
10 -Prepona omphale=archeoprepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)

June 7, 2009 – Suriname

40 -Anartia amathea (Brown Peacock)
40 -Battus polydamas (Polydamas Swallowtail)
20 -Biblis hyperia (Red Rim)
40 -Caligo memnon (Giant Owl)
40 -Catonephele orites (Grecian Shoemaker)
20 -Colobura dirce (Zebra Mosaic)
40 -Dryas iulia (Julia Butterfly)
20 -Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
15 -Heliconius melpomene (Postman Butterfly)
10 -Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby Spotted Swallowtail)
07 -Heraclides thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
08 -Parides lysander (Lysander Cattleheart)
Read more!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fresh Sheet - June 3, 2009

“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.

Philippines June 3, 2009

9 Graphium agamemnon (Tailed Jay)
8 Ideopsis juventa (Wood Nymph)
100 Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
7 Pachliopta kotzeboea (Pink Rose)
10 Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
10 Papilio palinurus (Banded Peacock)
15 Papilio polytes (Polite swallowtail )
16 Papilio rumanzovia (Crimson Swallowtail)
80 Parthenos sylvia philppensis (Blue Clipper)
Read more!

Tidepool Disaster Averted

Wednesday May 27, Pacific Science Center animal caretaker Dan Warner had five minutes between a staff meeting and lunch time, and decided to check in on our Puget Sound Saltwater Tidepool animals. It turned out to be a smart decision that saved the animals from hours of stress, and might have saved some of their lives.

When Dan checked the tidepool, the water looked "wrong". He didn't see the patterns of ripples that indicate it is being circulated. The animals were oddly motionless. Checking the recirculating water pump, Dan found that it appeared to be barely functioning. Instead of recovering, it failed completely when he tried to restart it.

A replacement pump must stand up to saltwater, and must operate 24/7 without problem. Our old pump was just about perfect, but wouldn't you know, they don't make it any longer. The new pump fits all the criteria, and should last us for many years. The old pump is being sent back to the manufacturer who offered to make repairs so that it can become our backup system in the future.

Facilities Technician Kirk Vanfossen knew as well as Dan did that this was an emergency for the animals involved. He was cleaning the ponds, but dropped his pressure washer and met Dan and Life Sciences Manager Sarah Moore in the tidepool back room within minutes, where it was quickly determined that the pump was no longer operable.

Because they are intertidal, our animals can tolerate more extremes of temperature and water conditions than deep water animals. But the combined stress of being handled, residual chemicals from products that do not rinse off of visitor hands and a broken pump would be too much for them. Without circulation to bring deliver oxygen, filter out contaminants and bring the temperature down, the animals would quickly become stressed and eventually die.

Don Sundgren, Maintanence technician, was able to adapt the system to the new pump, and we started it up.

Once the new pump was in place, we ran it for 24 hours to make sure there were no problems, and to let the water chemistry settle down after slower circulation caused some drag on the natural biological filter. The water was then tested, appeared to be in good condition and the animals were examined and found to be healthy and ready to go.

The healthy, happy tidepool was reopened for visitors to enjoy!

Read more!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June Butterfly of the Month

Prepona omphale

Range: Mexico to Amazon Basin
  • In the wild, Prepona omphale rarely go to the forest floor, even feeding on fruits in the canopy section of the rain forest. However, in our Tropical Butterfly House they are happy to eat at the fruit dishes near the floor.

  • With a unique flight pattern, Prepona omphale's wing muscles are powerful allowing it to make very fast, aggressive swoops when chasing rivals (the male considers nearly anything except female P. omphale to be a "rival") or fleeing danger, yet its normal flight is slow and forceful.

  • Although little is known about their lifespan in the wild, we find Preponas to be one of the healthiest butterflies to keep in captivity. Preponas are unfussy, emerging without complication. Although displaying for visitors, they rarely land on people or fly around faces. Best of all, Preponas almost never try to hitchhike out on people.

  • Preponas have two colors of blue on its wings, one lighter powder blue and one almost cobalt - which is rare. On the underside the wings are camouflaged and sport false eyes. Can you think of other butterflies that have false eyes on the outer sides of their wings?
Read more!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

On the Beach

Taking advantage of the remarkably low tides recently, a group of Science Interpreters, Discovery Corps members and Life Sciences staff visited Discovery Park's North Beach on an extended lunch hour. Discovery Park is Seattle's largest park, has a City Park Marine Reserve, and is a close drive from Pacific Science Center. he purpose of our field trip was observational and educational. Because our Saltwater Tidepool Model features Puget Sound animals, we wanted to see them in their natural habitat. Furthermore, we become better spokespersons for their care and wellbeing and bring added insight to our interpretation. With firsthand knowledge, we can help our visitors practice their tidepooling manners for the next time they visit the beach.
As we carefully stepped along the sandy shore, we observed colonies of aggegating anenome (Anthopleura elegantissima) congregated within a couple of feet of each other. Scientists have studied warring behavior between aggregating anenome colonies of different genetic composition.
Upon closer inspection, Science Interpreter Gail noticed that the anenome tubercules were covered with tiny bits of shell and sand. This debris protects the anenome from sun damage and helps conserve moisture when the animals are exposed at low tide.
We also noticed an abundance of "clam shows," a dimple in the sand that indicates where a clam has withdrawn its siphon. The pressure from our footsteps on the sand set off a lot of "spitting" from the bivalves buried below. Along the lowest edge of the tide line we noticed a long line of exposed geoduck (Panopea abrupta) siphons. We could only imagine how far beneath the sand these giant clams rested - or how large they must be.Unfortunately, we did not see any sea stars or sculpins on this sandy beach. But at the high tide line boulders were covered with seaweed, kelp, mussels, barnacles and more anemones.The exceptional find of the day was ayoung harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) haul out. Observing this protected marine mammal gave us an incentive to learn about their behavior. Our encounter was a reminder that humans are just visitors to the beach. Seashores are homes to many sea creatures, large and small, which all need our respect when visiting their habitat.
Read more!