Sunday, January 31, 2010

Costa Rica Entomological Supply

Ever wonder who are the people responsible for producing some of the pupae you see in the Tropical Butterfly House emerging window?

Here is a photo of the staff at Costa Rica Entomological Supply which they sent to us recently.

We always enjoy the connection with people throughout the world who share our interest in butterflies and their habitats. For more information about CRES, their history, their seminars and educational resources go to:

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mystery Solved!

The secret of Room 401 at Pacific Science Center can now be revealed! Growing inside the light emitting casket were food plants; yes, hydroponically cultivated plants for our new exhibit “Facing Mars”, which opens today, January 30.

Answering the questions, “What would you eat on a three year voyage to Mars”, the hydroponic garden is growing soybeans, peppers, tomatoes and peas. Life Sciences’ horticulturists are nuturing the vegetables in a special liquid nutrient, while giving the sprouts the required amount of light to thrive on a space journey without seasons. Could you live on hydroponically grown food?

The hydroponic garden is only one of 28 thought-provoking displays in the “Facing Mars” exhibit. Come explore “Facing Mars.” Let this exhibit trigger your imagination and watch our garden grow!

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Fresh Sheet - January 29, 2010

“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

24 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
19 - Caligo eurilochus (Forest Giant Owl)
15 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
10 - Chlosyne janais (Crimson Patch)
25 - Colobura dirce (Mosaic butterfly)
10 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
36 - Danaus plexippus (The Monarch)
25 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
27 - Eueudes isabella (Isabella’s Longwing)
25 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
20 - Heliconius charitonius(Zebra Longwing)
02 - Heliconius cydno (Cydno Longwing)
25 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
54 - Heliconius hecale(Tiger Longwing)
63 - Heliconius ismenius(Ismenius Longwing)
25 - Heliconius melpomene(Postman)
03 - Heliconius sapho(Sapho Longwing)
10 - Heliconius sara(Sara Longwing)
15 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
22 - Heraclides thoas (Giant Swallowtail)
27 - Hypna clytemnestra(Silver-studded Leafwing)
25 - Mechanitis polymnia(Polymnia Tigerwing)
50 - Morpho peleides(Blue Morpho)
25 - Nessaea aglaura(Aglaura Olivewing)
10 - Papilio cresphontes (Giant Swallowtail)
20 - Papilio polyxenes (Black Swallowtail)
10 - Phoebis philea (Orange Barred Sulfur)
13 - Siproeta stelenes(Malachite)
20 - Tithorea tarricina(Cream-Spotted Clearwing)

Total = 655

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Time to Clean Up

Visitors to Pacific Science Center may notice that there are fewer chambers in our naked mole-rat exhibit then there normally are. We are in the process of an extensive and systematic cleaning process that will last for 18-20 days

Our colony undergoes a “super-clean” about two times a year. Their chambers are cleaned and thoroughly disinfected every day for a three week period.

The purpose of this cleaning process is to remove and kill any harmful bacteria or viruses that can exist and build up in the colony. The naked mole-rats are a bit more crowded at this time, and it means they are less visible to our guests. But in the end, it will lead to better health for all of the members of our mole-rat colony.

Thanks for your patience!

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fresh Sheet – January 23, 2010

“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.

El Salvador

24 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
30 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
30 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
35 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
20 - Heliconius erato(Small Postman)
15 - Heliconius hecale(Tiger Longwing)
10 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
80 - Morpho peleides(Blue Morpho)
10 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
40 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
15 - Papilio pilumnus (Three-tailed Swallowtail)
30 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)


18 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
43 - Biblis hyperia (Red Rim)
23 - Heliconius erato(Small Postman)
23 - Heliconius melpomene(Postman)
40 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
60 - Catonephele orites (Orange-banded shoemaker)
28 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
08 - Mechanitis polymnia(Polymnia Tigerwing)
40 - Phoebis sennae (Cloudless Sulphur)
17 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Read more!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Maizey the Corn Snake

Rest in peace Maizey
1995 – 2010

Maizey entered the world in 1995 and came to Pacific Science Center in 1996 or 97, when he was about the diameter of a pencil and could weave in and out between a handler’s fingers.

He was soon known for his good appetite and his friendly demeanor, and this side of Maizey never changed throughout his entire life. Even in his most recent demonstrations he was described as “fantastic” and “great”.

In addition to helping many visitors and staff overcome their anxiety about snakes, Maizey and his fellow corn snake Zea helped illustrate the genetic variability that controls pigment. Maizey had dark, naturally occurring colors. Zea is a partial albino (amelanistic mutation). The two snakes, viewed side by side, showed how a few genes control skin color, and how variable pigment can be within a species.

Maizey the corn snake died peacefully on Wednesday January 20, shortly after being diagnosed with a fast growing form of cancer. The suspected killer, hemangiosarcoma, is a cancer that is fed by blood vessels. It is highly invasive and fast growing. Perhaps it is best that our memories of Maizey are of a healthy, active, personable snake who seemed to live well right to the end.

Maizey will be missed by all who had the privilege of working with him.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Mystery Continues

Earlier this week we asked readers to guess what was inside the mysterious box in Room 401 of Pacific Science Center. Radioactive coprolite? Indiana Jones’ Ark of the Covenant? A colony of glow worms, perhaps? Nope!

Recently, Life Sciences’ horticulture staff allowed us to peek inside the glowing casket. Here are a few more clues to help solve the puzzle:
• The lights are on for twelve hours and off for twelve hours.
• There are little containers of mush under the lights.
• Staff adds a potion to these containers every day.
• This project will be unveiled on January 30.

Have you figured it out yet?

Read more!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Butterfly Cuisine

You probably won’t find such an artfully composed fruit tray in the deep understory of the rainforest. What you will find is fallen fruits broken open among the leaf litter, half concealed in the shadows.

Look closely and you might see what look like glowing yellow eyes. Come closer, and the eyes might vanish in a sudden movement, to reveal the colorful inner wings of a butterfly. The eye spots are false markings that may frighten away potential predators.

Most butterflies found in the dark understory layer of the rainforest, or close to the trunks of trees in the canopy, sport brownish or grayish outer wings, often with lavish color on the inner wing. The Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides), is a great example, but there are others such as the shoemaker butterflies (Genus – Catonephele) and the Owl butterflies (Genus – Caligo). These species commonly drink the juices of fruits. They can navigate even at low light levels, and remain active into the early evening. Many of them are most comfortable in proximity to trees and rest on tree trunks – or on people who stand still too long.

Move up into the higher reaches of the forest or into a clearing where more sunlight is available and you will see more color. Flowers in all colors of the rainbow attract equally vivid butterflies. These butterflies of the clearings and canopy are often yellow, red or orange, sometimes with bold black markings. They use color to attract or identify mates, and in some cases to advertise their noxious flavor to predators. As you might guess, these butterflies have good color vision and often favor brightly colored flowers. They do not see well when the sun begins to set. They settle onto plants in the late afternoon, often sleeping in large clusters of a single species. Seen in near-darkness, their color markings fade, and their black markings look like the fronds of finely cut leaves. The Longwing butterflies (Genus- Heliconius) and the Swallowtails (Family- Papilionidae) are classic examples of these traits, though other butterflies fall into this group as well. These butterflies dine on nectar and in rare cases, also on pollen. The alcohols in fruit juices would harm them and you will rarely see them at a fruit dish.

Regardless of their light and food needs, many butterflies love water. Rainforest species often patrol riverbeds, which are nice open places to fly. Males of many species settle on damp sand or earth and drink the moisture which is also rich in minerals. Clipper butterflies (Parthenos Sylvia) are especially fond of water and can often be found near pools or ponds.

Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House is not tall enough to replicate the different layers of a rainforest but we do have sunny and shady microhabitats – a layer of flowering trees and vines near the ceiling, water, and open areas similar to the clearings that attract sun loving species.
Next time you visit, look for behaviors and markings that give you clues about the origins of different butterflies. We try to give them enough choices that they can demonstrate their preferences. Read more!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mystery Box

Staff and volunteers have noticed a mysterious black box in Room 401 of Pacific Science Center. Warnings from our horticulturists that people not tamper with this strange crate have only increased our curiosity. What's going on inside this light-emitting this box?

Stay tuned!

Need more clues?  Read more!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Meet the Hissers

Some people might get the impression from this blog that the only animals we have at Pacific Science Center are naked mole-rats and butterflies. Well of course that’s not true! The Life Sciences staff is very proud of the wide variety of animals in our care. In order to alleviate that impression, from time to time we will feature some of our less celebrated inhabitants. Today's featured animal resides in the Insect Village.

Watch Science Interpreter Jim McNamara acquaint us with the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach.

Next time you visit Pacific Science Center stop by and get up close and personal with our Hissers because unlike our butterflies, you can touch them!

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Bees in Winter

You may notice that the observation bee hive located in Pacific Science Center’s Insect Village is much less populated in the winter months. Honeybee populations fluctuate greatly throughout the year, usually peaking in early summer and decreasing with the temperature outside. How do we cope with this problem?

In the wild, honeybees survive the winter by huddling together in the warmest part of the hive. The queen resides in the center of the huddle, and the worker bees surround her. Although most members of the colony will not survive the winter, it is vital that the queen makes it. If she can outlast the winter, the colony can rebuild itself in the spring. The worker bees must shiver and flutter their wings to keep the hive and the queen warm. They constantly rotate from the outside to the inside of the huddle, so that no one bee gets too cold.

Because nectar plants are scarce in the winter, honeybees must live off of the honey they have been producing all year. It is important for a colony to store up enough honey in the warm months to survive during the winter. Bees rarely fly during the winter, not only because there is no food, but because exposure to cold temperatures for an extended time can be deadly.

Our colony has an especially difficult time in the winter. Because the hive is relatively small, it is difficult for the bees to produce enough honey to last through the winter. In order for the colony’s activities to be visible, we sacrifice some of the depth of a normal bee hive. This means that the bees are more exposed to outside temperatures than they would be in a deeper hive, but we believe that seeing the queen and her brood is a valuable experience and it helps our visitors appreciate and understand all bee colonies.

Our animal care team works to keep the colony running through the winter by offering extra sugar foods and manually heating the hive. We also insulate the hive at night, keeping the remaining members of the colony warm through the end of winter.

Will they make it? That is still an unknown. In recent years, we have had to install a new colony each spring. However there is some hope this year. There is still stored honey in the hive, and bees are using the feeder. Our queen bee is still young and robust. If she can last through the winter, and we don’t suffer too many long cold snaps, there is a great hope that her colony will return and thrive as well.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Fresh Sheet - January 8, 2010

“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.

El Salvador

6 - Agraulis vanilla (Gulf Fritllary)
25 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
20 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
25 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
20 - Heliconius erato(Small Postman)
10 - Heliconius hecale(Tiger Longwing)
10 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
100 - Morpho peleides(Blue Morpho)
10 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
07 - Papilio cresphontes (Giant Swallowtail)
25 - Papilio pilumnus (Three-tailed Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
15 - Parides montezuma (Montezuma Cattleheart)
10 - Prepona omphale=archeoprepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
25 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Los Angeles

10 - Ariadne Ariadne (Angled Castor)
10 - Athyma perius (Common Sergeant)
10 - Cethosia cyane (Leopard Lacewing)
10 - Chilasa clytia(Common Mime)
08 - Charaxes violetta (Violet-spotted Emperor)
07 - Chilasa clytia(Common Mime)
10 - Euploea core(Common Crow)
10 - Graphium agamemnon (Tailed Jay)
10 - Graphium antheus(Large Striped Swordtail)
10 - Hypolimnas bolina (Great Eggfly)
06 - Ideopsis juventa(Wood Nymph)
02 - Junonia almanac (Peacock Pansy)
06 - Junonia lemonias (Lemon Pansy)
08 - Kallima inachus(Dead Leaf)
10 - Lexias dirtea (Archduke)
10 - Pachliopta kotzeboea (Pink Rose)
10 - Papilio constantinus (Constantines's Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio demodocus (Orchard Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio helenus (Red Helen)
10 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio nephelus (Yellow Helen)
20 - Papilio nireus (Blue-banded Swallowtail)
17 - Papilio ophidicephalus (Emperor Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio polytes (Polite Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio rumanzovia (Crimson Swallowtail)
10 - Parthenos sylvia lilacinus (Blue Clipper)
10 - Parthenos sylvia philppensis (The Clipper)

Read more!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How to Watch a Sea Urchin

It can be fun to visit Pacific Science Center on a busy day or to watch something thrilling in the Boeing Imax theater.

But there is a whole other experience to be had on a quiet day. There is time to stroll from one exhibit to the next. In the butterfly house, there is time to smell the flowers. At the tide pool there is time to stop and watch the sea urchins. These mostly vegetarian creatures live to amazing ages – some may be as old as 200 years. Isn’t it worth a little time out of our days to check them out?

Like sea stars, urchins are echinoderms, a group of animals with tube feet, a five-sided body plan and a bumpy skeleton, or test, just under their skin. As their name suggests, the sea stars sometimes hog the limelight, but the urchins are well worth a second look.

The first thing you notice about a sea urchin is its long spines. These are hard and rigid, and are used for movement, defense and to snare bits of seaweed, which the urchins eat. But look more closely and you will see little long, flexible strands called tube feet or pedicellarines, moving about between each of the stiff spines. Their tube feet can grab and hold food and can also help the animal cling to surfaces and sense where it is going. If an urchin loses spines or tube feet, it can eventually grow them back, but this takes months and is stressful to the animal. Instead of touching an urchin, hold a finger between its spines and it will move them to softly squeeze your finger.

If you see an urchin against the glass of the tide pool, there is a good chance you can see its mouth, which is on the underside. The mouth is five sided, beak-like, and has the unusual name of Aristotle’s lantern. When an urchin eats, it passes seaweed to the mouth using its tube feet, like a conveyer belt. This is very exciting to watch, if you can accept that it will take a while. If you see an urchin in the process of eating, plan on spending the next half hour watching in fascination.

Urchins do not have a central nervous system. Information from their many spines and tube feet is passed into a net of neurons, which processes information and helps them go toward food and away from danger. Watch an urchin walk. They may walk slowly, but they are a bundle of moving parts as they go, tube feet waving, spines tapping. The urchin probes the area ahead of it with its spines, much as a blind person might use a cane to test the ground. Then the spines and tube feet convey the animal forward. Urchins almost always keep their mouth side against a surface. But they do not have a forward and backward. If they change direction, they do not need to turn and “face” a new way, as we would, but simply start going that way.

Right now, Pacific Science Center’s two urchins are on the move. Normally they have staked out a small territory in the deep end, but in recent weeks they might be found anywhere in the tide pool. Not only that, but they are usually in motion, racing along at nearly an inch per minute! Over time, urchins will excavate small areas in a stone outcropping, which become their homes.

Come take a look, and expect to leave with a better appreciation of a very different life form. Although we encourage you to take your time and watch these animals, the time frame for this process is years, so do not plan on observing it in a single visit. Better yet, check in on the urchins whenever you like. Consider a Pacific Science Center membership plan!

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year's Message

Francisco and Carolina Serrano are Pacific Science Center tropical butterfly vendors at Bioproductores de El Salvador. The Life Sciences Department always looks forward to receiving emails from them. They remind us of our connections with others, and that butterfly farming brings us closer to the efforts of so many who care about preserving wild habitats and small economies.

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

No doubt 2009 has been a challenging year, and we can expect more challenges and adventures in 2010. However, for all the hardships and tight moments, we should also well expect that such circumstances will lead to many improvements and opportunities that in fact might not even have appeared were it not for such developments.

When we think about how much we have gained, not simply from having to focus attention and action much better and more carefully, but also from much good advice, warm support or even "simply" shared thoughts, we sense the need of even greater care to make sure that we do not waste, but rather integrate and hopefully grow with, these inputs and recommendations from so many good hearts and heads. Many have stressed how fortunate and encouraging it is to be in "the butterfly business", with its way of life, that brings together so much idealism and good feelings, as well as growth and even relief on many occasions.

But again, these are very challenging moments in which we will most likely benefit considerably from our sharing of thought and guidance. From this small but ever striving country of El Salvador, we wish you all the many achievements and satisfactions that you all so much deserve in both your professional and personal aspirations.

Francisco & Carolina Serrano
BP / ES, December 29th, 2009

The above photo is of a Morpho polyphemus. As we only get them from El Salvador, you would know that it was raised by Francisco’s folks if you saw one in the Tropical Butterfly House. This butterfly is ghostly or angelic, like the spirit of the new year. Happy New Year to all!

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Fresh Sheet – January 1, 2010

“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

09 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
32 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
21 - Caligo eurilochus (Forest Giant Owl)
14 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
11 - Catonephele mexicana(Mexican Catone)
02 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
07 - Catonephele orites (Orange-banded shoemaker)
02 - Chlosyne janais (Crimson Patch)
09 - Colobura dirce (Mosaic butterfly)
36 - Danaus plexippus (The Monarch)
25 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
17 - Hamadryas amphinome (Red Calico)
10 - Hamadryas feronia (Variable Calico)
11 - Heliconius cydno (Cydno Longwing)
24 - Heliconius hecale(Tiger Longwing)
21 - Heliconius ismenius(Ismenius Longwing)
08 - Heliconius melpomene(Postman)
03 - Heliconius sapho(Sapho Longwing)
21 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
32 - Hypna clytemnestra(Silver-studded Leafwing)
18 - Mechanitis polymnia(Polymnia Tigerwing)
35 - Morpho peleides(Blue Morpho)
20 - Papilio androgeus (Androgeus Swallowtail)
10 - Parides iphidamas(Iphidamas or Transandean Cattleheart)
39 - Siproeta epaphus(Rusty-tipped Page)
11 - Siproeta stelenes(Malachite)

Total = 448 pupae

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