Monday, July 29, 2013

Turnip Tale

Like many urban farmers, Life Sciences Manager Sarah Moore has a thriving garden at home. Recently when she discovered a behemoth turnip accidently growing in her greenhouse she thought, “Now who might be interested in a 2.5-kilo turnip?”

While extremely large vegetables are often unpalatable to humans, the naked mole rats could have a great time with the monster tuber. So Sarah brought the giant tuber to work.

Sometimes big root vegetables will have some not-so-nice things hidden inside. So before we placed the turnip in the mole rat compound, we washed it, and dug into the center jack-o-lantern style. We easily determined that the turnip was insect free.

Next we dug a few cavities into the sides, filled them with dough and placed the turnip in one of the chambers. The smell of the dough and turnip immediately awoke the colony. Within minutes, they were feasting.

Here at Pacific Science Center naked mole rats rarely have the opportunity to actually burrow into their vegetables. Every so often it’s nice for them to have some natural enrichment to keep their innate behaviors strong.

Happy eating, guys!

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fresh Sheet – July 27, 2013

We’ve received a bodacious batch of butterflies-to-be this week from the Philippines. Come visit our Tropical Butterfly House to watch beauty flutter-by!


31 - Cethosia biblis (Red Lacewing)
38 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
23 - Graphium agamemnon (Tailed Jay)
40 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)
80 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
09 - Ideopsis juventa (Wood Nymph)
24 - Pachliopta kotzeboea (Pink Rose)
80 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
70 - Papilio palinurus (Banded Peacock)
61 - Papilio rumanzovia (Crimson Swallowtail)
80 - Parthenos sylvia philippensis (The Clipper)

Total = 536

“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!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Rusty Tussock Moths

Here at Pacific Science Center, our Life Sciences staff has quite a bit of experience working with butterflies. One might think that after operating our Tropical Butterfly House for over 14 years butterflies and moths aren’t particularly exciting or novel to us. Not so! Recently, we took part in an occurrence that we rarely get to see: a full life cycle of a moth.

Pacific Science Center’s permits only allow us to deal with the pupa and adult stages of Lepidoptera life cycles. However, such restrictions don’t apply to local fauna. So when Life Sciences Manager Sarah Moore’s family discovered some caterpillars right outside the gates of PSC, Caretaker Chris Russell jumped at the chance to collect them. These caterpillars were the larval stage of the Rusty Tussock moth, Orgyia antiqua.

The caterpillars were quickly installed into an exhibit with leaves similar to the host plant they were munching on outside. They quickly went to work. Before long, the caterpillars had significantly grown in size and some had even started to pupate. Moths are cocoon builders and pretty soon, silky cases were all over the exhibit.

Here’s where things get interesting for this species of moth. While typical Lepidoptera reach adulthood, emerge from a cocoon or chrysalis and fly off to find a mate, the female Rusty Tussock moth has no such option. Her adult form is completely flightless. She just hangs out next to her cocoon, releases some pheromones, and waits for a flying male to find her. Our males and females both emerged, found each other, and soon enough there was a nice little pile of eggs lying next to each female.

The life cycle of this moth is very seasonal. The eggs overwinter and don’t emerge until the following spring. So our short-lived exhibit gave us a chance to see a bit more of a moth life cycle and explore an interesting reproductive strategy. But it won’t be interesting year round. Waiting ten months for eggs to hatch is right up there with watching paint dry on the list of exciting exhibit options.

And while this moth is found locally, it isn’t a native species. The Rusty Tussock moth is native to Europe and somehow made their way out to the Western United States. While not invasive, the caterpillars are sometimes considered a pest for local flora. Removing them from the habitat doesn’t impact wildlife or hurt the environment. Therefore, we are not going to try raising a new generation in captivity. We will simply collect more next year.

For a short while, we can observe a few moths flying on exhibit and some females laying their eggs. And because summertime in the Pacific Northwest includes a variety of interesting arthropods, we’ll soon be featuring some spiders, clown millipedes and other amazing animals that call this area their home. Stop by and check them out!

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fresh Sheet – July 20, 2013

This week’s butterfly pupae shipments contain species from Asia, Africa and South America. Experience the world when you visit our Tropical Butterfly House!

El Salvador

25 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
12 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
25 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
25 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
10 - Colobura dirce (Mosaic butterfly)
10 - Eurytides branchus (Dual-spotted Swallowtail)
10 - Eurytides thymbraeus(White-crested Swallowtail)
10 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
10 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
10 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
20 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
10 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
40 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
25 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
10 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
10 - Papilio garamas (Magnificent Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio pilumnus (Three-tailed Swallowtail)
10 - Parides arcas (Arcas Cattleheart)
20 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 327


07 - Athyma perius (Common Sergeant)
10 - Cethosia biblis (Red Lacewing)
10 - Cethosia cyane (Leopard Lacewing)
09 - Charaxes brutus (White-barred Charaxes)
10 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
10 - Euxanthes wakefieldi (Forest Queen)
10 - Graphium agamemnon (Tailed Jay)
10 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)
20 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
10 - Junonia atlites (Gray Pansy)
10 - Pachliopta kotzeboea (Pink Rose)
10 - Papilio constantinus (Constantines's Swallowtail)
30 - Papilio dardanus (Mocker Swallowtail)
20 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio nireus (Blue-banded Swallowtail)
12 - Papilio palinurus (Banded Peacock)
12 - Papilio polytes (Polite Swallowtail)
09 - Parthenos sylvia lilacinus (Blue Clipper)
11 - Parthenos sylvia philippensis (The Clipper)
10 - Parthenos sylvia violaceae (Violet Clipper)
10 - Troides rhadamantus plateni (Platen’s Birdwing)

Total = 250

Grand Total = 577

“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!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fresh Sheet – July 13, 2013

This week we received a nice, big shipment of pupae soon to fill our Tropical Butterfly House with lots of summer color. Stop by and be dazzled!

Costa Rica
62 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
08 - Caligo atreus (Yellow-Edged Giant-Owl)
29 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
83 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
06 - Hamadryas laodamia (Starry Calico)
12 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
15 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
66 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
24 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
08 - Heliconius sapho (Sapho Longwing)
33 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
18 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
18 - Nessaea aglaura (Aglaura Olivewing)
12 - Papillio anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
47 - Papilio thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)

Total = 441

“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!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Gooey Water Problems

After a recent cleaning of the tide pool, staff observed that rather than looking better, our water appeared cloudier and felt slimier than normal. This is discouraging after investing time and energy into cleaning. An Animal Care staff member observed that while the water looked dirty, the protein skimmer was unusually clean. This immediately suggested a cause for our problems.

With the onset of warm weather, visitors wear more sunscreen and skin care products. Even after people carefully rinse their hands, these products not only impact the water, but they may also harm the animals as products cause the animals to create more protective slime coats. Also, the sunny weather leads to more growth of algae and faster metabolism for the animals. Both of these factors make the water gunkier.

The protein skimmer is a rather mysterious apparatus in the back vat of our tide pool. It helps clean the water, but most of the time we take it for granted and don’t think much about how it works.

Most of the water purifying systems that we use are filters. Some kind of medium is placed in the path of moving water. The medium either physically sifts out stray bits of gunk, or chemically bonds to them, or it is seeded with good bacteria that digest toxins out of the water and turn them into less harmful substances.

The protein skimmer works a little differently. The materials it captures are proteins, dissolved in the water that resists other types of filtration.

If you’ve ever beaten an egg white, you know that proteins in solution tend to form stronger, more lasting bubbles than water alone. The protein skimmer takes advantage of this fact by blowing a stream of minute bubbles through a column of water. The bubbles capture the dissolved protein as the rise up through the water. Once they get to the top, they are trapped in a cup. Over time, of course, they pop. The gooey sludge from the popped bubbles is all the waste protein that was formerly in the water. We clean the cup, and say “goodbye” to the mess.

So, how did the protein skimmer break? Answer – it didn’t, not exactly.

The bubbles in the skimmer are made by something called the Venturi effect. As water is pumped into the protein skimmer, it passes through a narrow area. When it does this, it accelerates and creates a low-pressure area. A tiny air tube set into the water pipe takes advantage of this lower pressure, and air is pulled into the water stream. There the turbulence of the water turns the air into bubbles.

When the tide pool was being cleaned, the protein skimmer was also cleaned. Before it was turned on, the air tube became waterlogged. Some of the salt from the water settled out of solution and became crystals, which partially blocked the tube.

The problem was easily fixed once we found it. We drained the protein skimmer, pinched closed the air tube and restarted it. The low-pressure area was able to pull the water and the salt out of the tube and airflow began again.

Hooray! Geekitude saved the day.

The protein skimmer is hard at work again. It has to make up for lost time, but it is happily collecting protein and making our tide pool water clean.

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Fresh Sheet – July 6, 2013

We have 589 more reasons for you to visit our Tropical Butterfly House this week. Stop in and see your favorites!


5 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
15 - Heraclides thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
50 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
10 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
10 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
25 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
50 - Catonephele orites (Orange-banded Shoemaker)
21 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
05 - Hamadryas feronia (Variable Calico)
15 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
40 - Mechanitis polymnia (Polymnia Tigerwing)
24 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 270

El Salvador

22 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
09 - Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona)
25 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
25 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
16 - Eurytides branchus (Dual-spotted Swallowtail)
15 - Eurytides thymbraeus(White-crested Swallowtail)
07 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
25 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
25 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
45 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
20 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
25 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
10 - Papilio garamas (Magnificent Swallowtail)
25 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 319

Grand Total = 589

“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, July 1, 2013

Vinegaroon Activity

Recently, Animal Care Lead Lauren Bloomenthal noticed a strange phenomenon going on in our Insect Village: The exhibit Vinegaroon was actually doing something!

Not wanting to pass up the opportunity, Lauren grabbed her smartphone and captured this rarely seen activity. Watch this short video and hear possible explanations about what is going on.

Why is that so strange? This Sonoran Desert arachnid is nocturnal and therefore, rarely seen in the wild.

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