Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fresh Sheet – November 27, 2010

A somewhat smaller - although more wonderful than usual - shipment of pupae awaits your visit this week. Come in from the cold and enjoy our beautiful tropical garden!


15 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
30 - Heraclides thoas (Giant Swallowtail)
50 - Heliconius melpomene(Postman)
50 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
10 - Philaethria dido (Scarce Bamboo Page)
40 - Catonephele orites (Orange-banded shoemaker)
25 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
50 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
30 - Phoebis sennae (Cloudless Sulphur)

Total = 300

“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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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Baby Corn Snake Arrives

He isn’t on exhibit quite yet, but Pacific Science Center’s Life Sciences staff recently welcomed a new corn snake into our program. Our new guy is still a baby by any measure. He weighs just 17 and a half grams – about the size of the mice our older corn snakes eat. He eats a pinkie mouse every two to three days, and is so small we can see the bump from the mouse in his tummy for several hours after.

Our snake was a gift from the Avian and Exotic Veterinary Hospital who kept him as a hatchling and helped him eat his first few meals – sometimes difficult until they get the hang of it.

For such a recent hatchling, our new snake is already showing a desire to get out and see the world. Last weekend, the staff member in charge closed his cage, and doubled back to check that it was secure. Everything looked good. The cage lid was snapped closed, and the extra mesh we had added to keep him from slithering through any crack was tightly in place.

By the next morning when we did our opening rounds to check on him, he wasn’t there. Somehow he had pushed through an air hole in the lid which was still tightly in place. He must have then slithered off the cabinet and gone – where?

Searching for a snake calls for persistence, creativity and delicate touch. You can’t drag a piece of furniture to look behind it – the snake would be crushed if he were underneath. Snakes curl up into surprisingly small spaces, or stretch out long and hide in very narrow cracks. We checked under every cabinet and inside the drawers. We checked behind the wallboards, the file cabinets and even the paperwork. We sifted through the trashcan, looked in all the pockets of our scrub coats and sifted the bedding in all the insects’ cages. No sign of our missing corn snake.

Snakes can climb up surprising distances if they have anything to use for traction. They can also slide into small holes, in some cases the diameter of a pencil. Could he have gone into an air vent? Down the drain? Into the thermostat?

We thought we had checked all the towels. In fact, Sarah was in the room when Brianna carefully unfolded each one, with no sign of a snake. Yet this was where we eventually found him, three days later. One of our snake presenters, Amanda, spotted him when she took a towel out to line a carrier for one of our other snakes!

The little guy was thirsty and drank close to half a teaspoon of water, which is a lot for his size. Then he ate a pinkie and curled up to rest. While he rested, we doubled up his security. The big world may seem exciting to him, but our snake would face many dangers out there, and we want to keep him where he can be safe and well cared for.
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Fresh Sheet – November 19, 2010

They’re baaack! Just in time for the opening of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 1, The Imax Experience", we have 14 cocoons of the ever popular Atlas Moth.


14 - Attacus atlas (Atlas Moth)
09 - Papilio palinurus (Banded Peacock)
50 - Papilio rumanzovia (Crimson Swallowtail)
50 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
80 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
30 - Pachliopta kotzeboea (Pink Rose)
20 - Graphium antheus (Large Striped Swordtail)
38 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
50 - Parthenos sylvia philippensis (The Clipper)
16 - Papilio polytes (Polite Swallowtail)
20 - Cethosia biblis (Red Lacewing)
25 - Hypolimnas bolina (Great Eggfly)

Total = 402

“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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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How We Feed Our Snakes

If you visit the boa constrictor and corn snake cages at Pacific Science Center, you will notice a blank area on each animal’s sign, where we write in their next feeding time. When the time approaches, we inevitably attract some loyal fans, as well as new guests eager to see what will happen. This article will try to give you a sense of what you might expect to see and learn at a snake feeding.

Warning – This following article contains a graphic descriptions of eating whole rats!

The first thing most people notice is how infrequently the snakes eat. Our boa constrictors eat once a week and our corn snakes eat once every 2 weeks. In fact, they could go much longer between meals and occasionally a perfectly healthy snake will refuse food for several feedings in a row. However, we generally see refusal of food as a warning of other possible problems.

There are no known vegetarian snakes; all eat either some kind of animal or eggs or both. We feed our corn snakes mice and our boa constrictors mice or rats. All of our snakes are constrictors, which means they use their bodies to wrap around prey animals and suffocate them.

In captivity, it is wise to feed snakes a prey that has already been killed. Live prey can fight back and injure the snake, sometimes quite badly. Or if the snake is not hungry, the caretaker can be injured while taking out an uneaten –and angry – prey animal.

Note: We do not kill the rats and mice that we offer our snakes. They are shipped to us frozen, after being humanely euthanized.

A snake that has been fed killed prey her entire life may still strike at her food, as it is instinctive for them. This is scary. The snake slams into the food with her mouth open, seizing it and holding it while she constricts. It can take up to several minutes before she relaxes her hold. If our Animal Care staff seems jittery during feeding, it may be because it is very hard not to have a reflexive reaction when this happens.

Because of their unique anatomy, snakes swallow their prey whole. They usually start at the nose of their prey, which allows for a more streamlined swallowing of limbs than starting at the other end. Snake jaws have a unique ability to separate to allow them to open wide enough. They can continue to breathe while swallowing thanks to the placement of the epiglottis on the lower part of the mouth. The snake’s teeth are too pointed and delicate for chewing, but their backward curve helps them to push the food backward. Snakes surround their food with a thick mucous as they swallow. This helps protect their throats from being abraded by they hair and claws of their victim.

Once the snake finishes eating, we give them at least three days off to digest. They are not scheduled for demonstrations and we handle them only when they need cleaning or medical attention. Swallowing food whole is hard work and they need plenty of time to rest afterwards.

If you’d like to see a snake feeding live and in person, come visit us at Pacific Science Center. Snake feedings are generally scheduled for Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday afternoons. But please remember these are live animals and we can’t always guarantee that they will eat as scheduled.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fresh Sheet - November 13, 2010

This week we have 544 more pupae of 33 different species – including the popular African Moon Moth cocoons – hanging in our emerging window. Come in, get warm and watch them emerge!

El Salvador

10 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
10 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
12 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
20 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
07 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
80 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
10 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
30 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
15 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
15 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
10 - Parides montezuma (Montezuma Cattleheart)
10 - Prepona omphale=archeoprepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
15 - Papilio thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
15 - Siderone nemesis (Red-striped Leafwing)
10 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 294


13 - Argema mimosa (African Moon Moth)
10 - Ariadne Ariadne (Angled Castor)
07 - Athyma perius (Common Sergeant)
01 - Catopsilia scylla (Orange Emigrant)
14 - Cethosia cyane (Leopard Lacewing)
15 - Charaxes castor (Giant Charaxes)
10 - Charaxes cithaeron (Blue-spotted Charexes)
20 - Charaxes protoclea (Flame-bordered Charexes)
09 - Euploea core (Common Crow)
40 - Hypolimnas bolina (Great Eggfly)
13 - Papilio constantinus (Constantines's Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio dardanus (Mocker Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio nireus (Blue-banded Swallowtail)
48 - Papilio polytes (Polite Swallowtail)
10 - Parthenos sylvia lilacinus (Blue Clipper)
10 - Tirumala limniace (Blue Tiger)
10 - Tirumala septentrionus (Dark Blue Tiger)

Total = 250

Grand Total = 544

“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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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Please Don’t Touch!

When you come to Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House, you’ll find yourself transported to beautiful and surreal world where butterflies fly freely all around you. Our butterflies are so beautiful and so fearless around people, but as tempting as it is to want to reach out and touch them, we ask our guests: Please don’t touch, chase, or try to attract butterflies. Even our trained Life Sciences staff tries to handle them as little as possible – only when releasing them into the exhibit or removing them from immediate danger. There are many compelling reasons why this is our policy.

In a year, we release about 25,000 butterflies into the Tropical Butterfly House. At any one time, between 500 and 800 of them might be flying around you. It may feel like there are plenty to go around. In fact, we humans outnumber the butterflies in the exhibit. In the same year, we will have over 500,000 people visit the exhibit! That means for every butterfly, there are at least 20 people.

Sure - one person touching one butterfly may do very little harm. A few scales will be rubbed off the wings, or a bit of the oils from our skin might clog the pores of the butterfly’s limbs. But the accumulated damage from 20 people - even the most careful and well meaning - can be significant to these small and fragile creatures.

And you may be very careful and coordinated, but the toddler watching, and modeling on your behavior, may not be.

What does all of this touching mean for a butterfly? Butterflies cannot repair damage to their bodies. If a scale is lost, a new one does not grow in. If the rigid veins in their wings are broken, they will not mend and the butterfly’s ability to fly will be reduced or lost entirely.

Chasing butterflies can also be harmful to them, even if you never catch them. It can lead to their energy stores becoming exhausted with no way to recover those reserves.

Ok – so you are convinced that touching butterflies is harmful. But it is still so tempting! What can you do? Some tips in (no particular order) may help you enjoy your visit without succumbing to the temptation of touching:

• Use the picture guide to learn more about the butterflies - not for lifting the butterflies up! Identify a few species, find out about mimicry or learn how butterflies eat. It’s all in the guide.

• Really observe. Get beyond looking and enjoying. Ask yourself what the butterflies are doing. It doesn’t matter if your answers are the same as someone else’s. For some, getting in the habit of observing can lead to scientific discovery. For others it opens new creative channels. Find out for yourself what there is to see.

• Take pictures. It is another way to get close, and your hands will be too occupied to touch the butterflies.

• Go in with your sweetie and hold hands. This isn’t always an option, but the butterfly house is a great place to be on a cold day with someone you love. More than one marriage proposal has taken place there. Just saying…

Special thanks to hand model Gail Stern Lovelady.
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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fresh Sheet – November 6, 2010

Five hundred, nineteen more reasons to visit the Tropical Butterfly House this week!

Costa Rica

8 - Agraulis vanilla (Gulf Fritllary)
8 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
11 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
18 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
10 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
49 - Danaus plexippus (The Monarch)
41 - Dryadula phaetusa (Banded Orange Heliconian)
22 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
10 - Eueudes isabella (Isabella’s Longwing)
02 - Hamadryas amphinome (Red Calico)
30 - Hamadryas feronia (Variable Calico)
22 - Hamadryas guatemalena (Guatemalan Calico)
03 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
12 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
57 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
12 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
10 - Heliconius sara (Sara Longwing)
39 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
18 - Hypna clytemnestra (Silver-studded Leafwing)
12 - Mechanitis polymnia (Polymnia Tigerwing)
28 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
10 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
30 - Papilio cresphontes (Giant Swallowtail)
17 - Papilio polyxenes (Black Swallowtail)
08 - Phoebis sennae (Cloudless Sulphur)
30 - Siproeta stelenes (Malachite)
02 - Tithorea tarricina (Cream-Spotted Clearwing)

Total = 519

“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.

Read more!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Orb Weavers

Now that Halloween is over, we can take down all the spooky decorations. However, here in the Pacific Northwest there is one seasonal artifact that you shouldn’t take down and you needn’t be scared of at all. Have you noticed the beautiful and elaborate webs of the garden orb weavers? How do they make these webs? And why are there so many of them all of the sudden?

If you’ve spent time outdoors recently, chances are you’ve seen one or more of these active spiders. Garden orb weavers are named after the intricate, circular web they build. There are almost 3,000 different species of orb weavers, found all around the world. In Western Washington, the most common orb weaver that you might see is the garden orb weaver. This species is also common throughout the United States and much of Western Europe.

Although they are relatively common, that doesn’t make them any less fantastic. A giant spider web might be a nuisance when you accidently walk into it face first. But if you can spot it before you break it, take a second to marvel at the architectural design of these tiny creatures.

Many orb weavers build a new web every single day. At nightfall they consume their web, rest for a short while, and then rebuild a new one. This is why we see so many fresh webs every morning.

Garden orb weavers are most visible in the fall, but they are actually around all year. Most of the year they are smaller and harder to see. They are at their largest in early autumn, just before laying their egg sacs which will hatch next spring. It won’t be long before these marvelous webs will disappear for the winter. So enjoy them while they’re here!

Some of the above photographs of orb weaver spiders are in the public domain.

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