Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Galinda's Litter

Perceptive visitors have noticed that we had a very pregnant Naked mole-rat in our colony.

Readers of this blog may recall previous stories about our two queens, nick-named Elphaba and Galinda, and the November report of Galinda’s pregnancy. Pacific Science Center’s Animal Care staff was hoping for a small, successful litter but as the due-date approached, it was apparent that the litter would be large.

Sometime between 5pm closing on December 22 and 7am December 23, Galinda delivered twenty baby mole-rats. In a large litter the pups are competing for nutrients before they are born and not all are expected to survive. Certainly this was the case with Galinda’s offspring. Within hours, some of the smallest and weakest individuals died.

The first five days are always critical for mole-rats pups. Because of this, we are hesitant to announce the new litter until after this precarious period. In fact, none of the twenty pups from Galinda’s December 23 litter survived.

Now we wonder - what’s going on? Each queen now has healthy progeny integrated into the colony but both of their most recent litters have failed. We have scheduled a visit from our veternarian, Dr. Maas at Avian and Exotic Animal Hospital and will be taking a closer look at our husbandry protocols. Watch these pages for updates.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Fresh Sheet – December 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.


15 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
50 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
45 - Catonephele orites (Orange-banded shoemaker)
80 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
30 - Heliconius erato(Small Postman)
45 - Heliconius melpomene(Postman)
45 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
10 - Mechanitis polymnia(Polymnia Tigerwing)
25 - Phoebis sennae (Cloudless Sulphur)
05 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Tropical Butterfly House!

The Tropical Butterfly House will be eleven years old on Saturday, December 26, 2009 and in honor of the occasion, the Life Sciences staff is throwing a birthday party. And everyone’s invited!

Once again, a colorful birthday fruit tower will be offered to our fruit eating Lepidoptera. For our human guests, we have a special prize. The first nine visitors to the Tropical Butterfly House on Saturday who mention the PacSciLife Blog will receive a copy of Peterson’s First Guide to Butterflies and Moths. Just mention the name of Pacific Science Center’s Life Sciences blog to the Butterfly House Entrance Guard when you arrive.

As always, Science Interpreters will be on hand to answer your questions about our butterflies, plants and history. Remember, entrance to the Tropical Butterfly House is free with admission to Pacific Science Center. Please join us at the warmest, friendliest place in Seattle on Saturday, December 26 and help us celebrate our eleventh birthday!

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Fresh Sheet December 18, 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.


20 - Cethosia biblis (Red Lacewing)
20 - Danaus chrysippus (Plain Tiger)
20 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
20 - Graphium agamemnon (Tailed Jay)
100 - Hypolimnas bolina (Great Eggfly)
100 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
18 - Pachliopta kotzeboea (Pink Rose)
100 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
87 - Papilio rumanzovia (Crimson Swallowtail)
22 - Parthenos sylvia philppensis (The Clipper)
20 - Papilio polyxenes (Black Swallowtail)

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Behind the emerging window

Visitors to the Tropical Butterfly House often ask how the butterflies get out of the emerging window and into the exhibit. But have you ever wondered how the pupae get pinned up on the boards in the first place? It’s actually more complicated than it appears.

Once or twice a week, Pacific Science Center receives a box of carefully packaged pupae. These shipments come from Costa Rico, El Salvador, Suriname, The Philippines, or our broker in Los Angeles. All of our shipments are noted on our weekly “Fresh Sheet.” As soon as the shipment is delivered to the reception desk, Life Sciences staff gets to work. Color-coded labels are selected, a prepared checklist is assembled, pins, boards, handling trays are readied, and the hot glue guns are plugged in!

Wait! Did I say “hot glue guns?” Yep. Unfortunately, not every pupa arrives with a sufficient amount of silk to pin to the foam boards. We have found that in those instances, a little dab of hot glue on the pin will securely attach the abdomen of the pupae without any ill effects to the butterfly.

Inside the shipping box may be several smaller boxes that are all opened within our sleeve cage. This is a precaution in the event that a pupa in the shipment has been infected with a parasitic wasp. The sleeve cage prevents the tiny flying insects from escaping and contaminating the rest of the exhibit.

Each species is unwrapped from its cotton bedding, counted, and carefully inspected before being placed in a damp towel on a tray and given to a staff member for pinning. Pupae that are not viable or have already emerged are noted on the checklist. If a butterfly is in the process of emerging as it is being unpacked, we carefully place it in a “hospital,” a small cage that gives the butterfly netting to hang from while drying its wings. Pupae that are close to emerging are also placed in the hospital.

The entire process of unpacking and pinning a butterfly shipment can take two to three staff members two to three hours. So the next time you visit the Tropical Butterfly House, take a closer look at our pupae in the emerging window. The assemblage is meticulous and consistent. Yet it is also as lovely as the butterflies themselves. It’s just one more component in the process of maintaining a beautiful butterfly display.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Fresh Sheet - December 11, 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.

Bioproductores de El Salvador

30 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
30 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
40 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
08 - Colobura dirce (Mosaic butterfly)
15 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
15 - Doxocopa laure (Silver Emperor)
10 - Hamadryas glauconome (Glaucous Calico)
10 - Hamadryas guatemalena (Guatemalan Calico)
15 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
15 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
10 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
80 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
10 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
15 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
15 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
10 - Prepona omphale=archeoprepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)

London Pupae Supply of Los Angeles

20 - Athyma perius (Common Sergeant)
10 - Cethosia cyane (Leopard Lacewing
10 - Charaxes candiope (Green-veined Charaxes)
12 - Charaxes castor (Giant Charaxes)
10 - Charaxes cithaeron (Blue-spotted Charexes)
10 - Charaxes protoclea (Flame-bordered Charexes)
09 - Charaxes varanes (Pearl Charexes)
10 - Chilasa clytia (Common Mime)
10 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
02 - Euphaedra neophron (Gold-banded Forester)
11 - Euploea core (Common Crow)
10 - Graphium antheus (Large Striped Swordtail)
41 - Hypolimnas bolina (Great Eggfly)
10 - Ideopsis juventa (Wood Nymph)
10 - Papilio constantinus (Constantines's Swallowtail)
32 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio memnon (Great Mormon)
10 - Papilio polytes (Polite swallowtail)
10 - Papilio rumanzovia (Crimson Swallowtail)
10 - Parthenos sylvia lilacinus (Blue Clipper)
20 - Tirumala limniace (Blue Tiger)
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Darwin's Orchid

This lovely Darwin's orchid (Angraecum sesquipedale) was donated to us by Jenn Purnell, a former Pacific Science Center employee who first came here as a Tropical Butterfly House volunteer. This is no ordinary orchid and its blooming is quite special. Orchids can be quite particular about when and for whom they will flower.

The story behind this orchid's name is interesting as well. The orchid has a very long spur, up to 16 or 17 inches, which holds the nectar. It can only be pollinated by the Darwin's Hawkmoth (Xanthopan morganii praedicta), which has - you guessed it - a proboscis long enough to reach into the spur for the nectar. The process of accessing the nectar releases the flower's pollen and pollinates the plant. Darwin predicted such a moth would be found, based on his experiments hand pollinating the orchid. (Hence, the subspecies nomenclature, praedicta.) The mutualistic relationship between the two species could not have been more clear.

A recent counter theory suggests that the Hawkmoth evolved this proboscis so that it could feed while hovering at a distance from the flower, thus avoiding predatory spiders that live on flowers. In that scenario, the orchid co-evolved after the moth's proboscis, because such a pollinator was available.

Either way, the orchid is gorgeous. Come check it out! It won’t be in bloom long. Though the flower is large, the plant is quite small. It’s in a small green glazed pot at about the center of the east wall near the butterfly feeding station. Imagine your visit as a micro-tropical vacation on a cold day.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Fresh Sheet - December 4, 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.


20 - Cethosia biblis (Red Lacewing)
13 - Danaus chrysippus (Plain Tiger)
20 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
27 - Graphium agamemnon (Tailed Jay)
100 - Hypolimnas bolina (Great Eggfly)
100 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
20 - Pachliopta kotzeboea (Pink Rose)
98 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
04 - Papilio polytes (Polite swallowtail)
27 - Parthenos sylvia philppensis (The Clipper)
08 - Papilio palinurus (Banded Peacock)
50 - Papilio rumanzovia (Crimson Swallowtail)

Costa Rica

06 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
09 - Caligo atreus (Yellow-Edged Giant-Owl)
12 - Caligo eurilochus (Forest Giant Owl)
13 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
18 - Catonephele mexicana (Mexican Catone)
16 - Catonephele orites (Orange-banded shoemaker)
10 - Colobura dirce (Mosaic butterfly)
35 - Danaus plexippus (The Monarch)
21 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
22 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
07 - Hamadryas amphinome (Red Cracker)
01 - Hamadryas glauconome (Glaucous cracker)
15 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
21 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
29 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
31 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
24 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
21 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
09 - Hypna clytemnestra (Silver-studded Leafwing)
05 - Mechanitis polymnia (Polymnia Tigerwing)
35 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
21 - Nessaea aglaura (Aglaura Olivewing)
06 - Opsiphanes tamarindi (Tamarind Owl)
09 - Parides iphidamas (Iphidamas or Transandean Cattleheart)
15 - Siproeta epaphus (Rusty-tipped Page)
27 - Siproeta stelenes (Malachite)
03 - Tithorea tarricina (Cream-Spotted Clearwing)

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