Monday, January 31, 2011

Urchins AND Snakes!!

This morning, Life Sciences' Sarah Moore and Brianna Todd appeared on KING 5 TV's "New Day Northwest." In addition to green sea urchins, the live television audience got to visit with Esteban, our boa constrictor. Here's the clip!

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sea Urchins in the Spotlight!

Monday morning (January 31) Life Sciences Manager Sarah Moore and Lead Animal Caretaker Brianna Todd will feature our newest tide pool residents, green sea urchins, on "New Day Northwest." The KING 5 local news show begins at 11AM. Tune in!

Pacific Science Center's segment will discuss these and other delicate animals and how they fit into our fragile ecosystem. Our green sea urchins are a gift from Highline Community College's aquarium at Redondo beach.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fresh Sheet – January 29, 2011

“Sunset from the Mountain” by Paola Vargas Salas, Costa Rica Entomological Supply

Check out this week’s pupae – lots of them – from Costa Rico. Included are lots of “tinies”: Greta oto and Eurema boisduvaliana, whose name is longer than the wingspan of the adult butterfly.

Costa Rico

10 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
10 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
21 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
18 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
41 - Danaus plexippus (The Monarch)
43 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
02 - Eurema boisduvaliana (Boisduval's Yellow)
49 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
37 - Heliconius cydno (Cydno Longwing)
14 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
05 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
54 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
14 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
20 - Heliconius sara (Sara Longwing)
14 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
45 - Hypna clytemnestra (Silver-studded Leafwing)
48 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
02 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
17 - Papilio polyxenes (Black Swallowtail)
47 - Phoebis philea (Orange Barred Sulfur)
55 - Siproeta stelenes (Malachite)
04 - Tithorea tarricina (Cream-Spotted Clearwing)

Total = 570

“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, January 26, 2011

Keeping Score

This is the season when we reflect on our previous year’s accomplishments. For Life Sciences staff, no data are more interesting than pupae statistics. Here for all of you who are as fascinated as we, are the Tropical Butterfly House numbers for 2010!


Shipments received = 73
Number of species received* = 137
Pupae received = 25810
Healthy butterflies released = 20480
Percentage good emergence = 79%
Parasitized pupae = 30

Top Scores

Most pupae received/species: Morpho peleides = 2095
Highest emergence rate*: Siderone nemesis = 96%,
Phoebis sennae = 96%, and Papilio nireus =96%
Lowest emergence rate*: Tithorea harmonia = 46%

*For pupae species with more than 100 specimens total. In 2010 we got 55 additional species in quantities smaller than 100. Some were single shipments; others were a few here and there. Therefore, their emergence rates do not accurately reflect that specie’s performance. For example, if we only got nine of a species and something accidentally caused them to perish, it doesn’t mean that species would not have done well, had they been given a chance.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fresh Sheet – January 22, 2011

Visit the warmest place in town to watch our newest 585 chrysalises transform into butterflies!

El Salvador

10 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
30 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
30 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
30 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
10 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
10 - Dryadula phaetusa (Banded Orange Heliconian)
12 - Hamadryas glauconome (Glaucous Calico)
15 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
20 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
25 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
48 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
15 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
10 - Papilio androgeus (Androgeus Swallowtail)
25 - Prepona omphale=archeoprepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)

Total 315


25 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
40 - Heraclides thoas (Giant Swallowtail)
20 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
07 - Papilio androgeus (Androgeus Swallowtail)
05 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
40 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
40 - Catonephele orites (Orange-banded shoemaker)
21 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
40 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
07 - Phoebis sennae (Cloudless Sulphur)

Total = 270

“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, January 19, 2011

Medicating Mole-Rats

The last months of 2010 and the first of 2011 have been tough ones for the naked mole-rat colony. Despite an aggressive “super clean” in November, both Elphaba and Galinda produced unsuccessful litters. More troubling yet, two individuals in the colony experienced severe health problems in December and January.

As the names “Skinny Guy” and “little Skinny Guy” suggest, these two individuals have been on our watch list for quite a while, due to low weights and symptoms of respiratory problems. Both have been treated in the past, shown signs of improving, but not made long-term gains in health.

Little Skinny Guy’s condition became critical in December. He was brought to the vet, and the decision was made not to attempt another treatment but to euthanize him and use any findings from his necropsy (autopsy for an animal) to benefit the rest of the colony. This decision may have an enormous benefit for the rest of the animals. Little Skinny Guy was found to have symptoms of internal parasites, anaerobic single celled amoebas that were not picked up in fecal samples taken at different times during his life. Weeks later, the bigger Skinny Guy also developed very serious health problems and was euthanized. We do not yet know if there is a connection but it appears probable.

As they share living space, food and, sometimes, cecal pellets, it is likely that many or all in the colony have been exposed to these bacteria. Perhaps the two skinny animals had other underlying problems that made them more vulnerable. If left untreated, will the other animals begin to show the same health problems?

With that in mind, the rest of the colony is now being treated with an antibiotic for two weeks. Giving a daily oral antibiotic to forty naked mole-rats is not a trivial undertaking. Although they rarely bite or otherwise harm their handlers, they can show their dislike of the treatment in other ways. In the wild, naked mole-rats never drink water, so they are not naturally disposed to swallow liquid. Because they have the ability to close their lips behind their teeth, mole-rats can off all access to get medication down their throats. They also like to bite the syringe as it approaches their mouths.

The positive results of this course of antibiotics may be difficult to measure, since none of our mole-rats are currently exhibiting obvious signs of infection or ill health. However, we hope that by using this preventative measure, we will see an overall improvement in colony health and possibly, more babies! Check back for more updates on the colony in a few months

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Estrella's Strange Behavior

Last week, the daily log was filled with comments on Estrella, the boa constrictor’s unusual behavior. She was described as ‘hissing’ ‘aggressive’, and ‘did not want to move’ when her cage was being cleaned. Although she is always the most active, opinionated and responsive of our snakes, Estrella is normally tractable and fun to work with. So her behavior was alarming.

As always, we need to rule out health problems whenever an animal’s behavior changes. If she has no other way to communicate, a snake who does not feel well may react to handling by biting. For this reason, we treat all behavior issues as possible health problems.

Dr. Maas of Avian and Exotic Animal Hospital in Bothell gave Estrella a head-to-tail exam and commented that if there were no complaint, he would have said she was in excellent health. But to be safe, we did some ultrasound and blood work. The results may explain Estrella’s behavior.

She is starting to ovulate.

Boas are seasonal breeders. A drop in nighttime temperatures triggers the females to begin preparing eggs for fertilization, and the males to get ready to mate. Although we did not intentionally change the temperature of their cages, the cold weather has caused the buildings to be cooler. The snake enclosures have a fairly wide temperature range within them, and the cooler areas probably fell below the point that would induce breeding behavior.

Ovulating can bring about marked changes in snake behavior. They often lose interest in food (though Estrella has not) and may be either withdrawn or cranky. But ovulation is not a medical condition. We were instructed to continue handling Estrella so long as she cooperated, which she has been from the minute she went to the vet. Perhaps Estrella just needed someone to understand her!

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What's Behind The Emerging Window

Watch Life Sciences Manager Sarah Moore as she gives us the real "poop" on what goes on inside the Emerging Window!.
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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fresh Sheet – January 8, 2011

Whoop-ee-tie-yie-yay! The first pupae for 2011! Come watch them fly or watch them sleep.

El Salvador

30 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
30 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
30 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
20 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
10 - Dryadula phaetusa (Banded Orange Heliconian)
12 - Doxocopa laure (Silver Emperor)
05 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
30 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
60 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
30 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
15 - Papilio androgeus (Androgeus Swallowtail)
20 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
30 - Prepona omphale=archeoprepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
20 - Siderone nemesis (Red-striped Leafwing)

Total = 352


10 - Athyma perius (Common Sergeant) MALYSIA
40 - Cethosia cyane (Leopard Lacewing) THAILAND
10 - Charaxes brutus (White-barred Charaxes) KENYA
10 - Charaxes castor (Giant Charaxes) KENYA
10 - Charaxes cithaeron (Blue-spotted Charexes) KENYA
10 - Charaxes protoclea (Flame-bordered Charexes) KENYA
10 - Charaxes varanes (Pearl Charexes) KENYA
10 - Euphaedra neophron (Gold-banded Forester) KENYA
30 - Graphium antheus (Large Striped Swordtail) KENYA
10 - Hypolimnas bolina (Great Eggfly) THAILAND
10 - Ideopsis vulgaris (Blue Glassy Tiger) MALAYSIA
10 - Papilio constantinus (Constantines's Swallowtail) KENYA
20 - Papilio nireus (Blue-banded Swallowtail) KENYA
30 - Papilio ophidicephalus (Emperor Swallowtail) KENYA
30 - Papilio polytes (Polite Swallowtail) THAILAND
10 - Phalanta phalantha (Common Leopard) THAILAND
06 - Tirumala limniace (Blue Tiger) THAILAND

Total = 266


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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Butterfly Roosting

The holidays are over. The crowds have gone home. It's cold outside. What better time to visit the warm, quiet Tropical Butterfly House? And this time of year, guests can observe an interesting phenomenon in the late afternoon.

Ever wonder if butterflies sleep? And if they sleep - where? It may seem like a simple question but it is one frequently asked by our younger guests. The answer is "Yes, butterflies typically sleep when the sun goes down and they often sleep in same species groupings.”

Next time you visit the Tropical Butterfly House in the dead of winter, drop by at the end of the day before Pacific Science Center closes. Because the sun sets early this time of year, you should have a good opportunity to see butterflies roosting. Look up high in the treetops and under leaves. Sometimes you'll see mixed species sleeping together but most often a specific species will take over a limb or an entire plant.

For more information and to view a short video about butterfly roosting at the Reiman Gardens of Iowa State University go to

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