Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What’s on the Shopping List?

At some point in her career, Life Sciences Manager Sarah Moore got used to the phone calls from accounting. “Is your staff eating seafood on Pacific Science Center’s dime?” “Somebody is buying baby cereal and it’s coming out of your budget!” or even “Who on earth eats SPAM®?”

A glance at our weekly shopping list shows what a variety of foods our animals eat.

Pop Quiz! Match each food item to the animal that you think eats it. Answers are below. Disclaimer – some foods have more than one right answer. Go ahead and give it your best guess!

1. Grapes
2. Spam
3. Manila clams
4. Crickets
5. Romaine lettuce
6. Baby cereal
7. Root vegetable peelings
8. Dog food
9. Bananas
10. Bay scallops

A. Cockroaches
B. Sea stars
C. Naked mole-rats
D. Spiders
F. Sea anemones
E. Millipedes
G. Dermestid beetles
H. Velvet ants
J. Butterflies
I. Banana slugs

1=H: The velvet ants suck the juice from grapes. Give yourself a half point if you picked the naked mole-rats. They love to carry them around in their mouths.

2=G: SPAM® is the exclusive diet of the dermestid beetles.

3=B: The clams go to the sea stars and occasionally the larger anemones in the tide pool.

4=D: Crickets are popular with our carnivorous arthropods: The Chilean rose tarantula, black widow spiders, emperor scorpion, centipede, and vinegaroon. Lydia the leopard gecko likes to chow down on them too.

5=I: Banana slugs love to munch on romaine lettuce, but they’re not the only ones. Naked mole-rats, grasshoppers and millipedes will all eat romaine as well. In an emergency, sea urchins can eat romaine instead of sea weed; though it is obviously not something they would have available in the wild!

6=C: Naked mole-rats actually eat a large variety of food, and this includes the baby cereal. We mix it with rodent chow and turned into dough balls, which is a favorite treat in the colony. They also eat apples and kale, as well as rutabagas, jicama and other root crops.

7=A: But the mole-rats say hold the skins please. To prevent any traces of soil, we peel our root veggies and give the outside to the herbivorous arthropods – the cockroaches, blue death feigning beetles, and even the millipedes. This is their main source of nutrition.

8=E: Millipedes don’t just eat veggies though. They have unusually high calcium needs, which we meet by supplementing their veggies with small amounts of dog food.

9=J: If you’ve ever visited our Tropical Butterfly House, you may have noticed the dishes of rotting fruit in there. While most butterflies like to drink nectar from flowers, a few species love to suck up the juice from bananas and other fruits.

10=F: The truth is, most of the animals in our Saltwater Tide Pool like to eat bay scallops. It’s something we offer them every day. It’s the staple food for our sea anemones and it’s always fun to watch them close up around a new piece of scallop.

Some animal caretakers have commented that the unusual veggies and other foods we work with have caused them to experiment with trying new foods at home. Rutabagas are delicious mashed with butter, and jicama is awesome with just about any dip. Anyone have a good recipe for SPAM®?

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