Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Lungs?

Many people view Animal Care husbandry as simply a series of housekeeping/critter-feeding chores. And in fact, that is an essential part of our jobs. However, observation of animal behavior is critical to learning how to keep our creatures healthy and happy. Sometimes animal observations are too good to keep to one’s self.

Recently, Life Science Manager Sarah Moore experienced one such observation. Please note the addendum.

Today as I was removing a black widow spider that has passed on, and feeding the ones that were still alive, I noticed the scorpion moving around restlessly in the cage.

On its underside, I saw what looked for all the world like wings – two pale symmetrical structures with many fine plate-like subunits.

I was fairly sure this was the scorpions’ respiratory system, called “book lungs” because they act like lungs and are made of many thin pieces stuck together, like pages in a book. But they were so weird I had second thoughts. Often when something weird is sticking out of the underside of an animal, this means S-E-X. After all, reproductive organs come out to play, and then get stored away again. A lung that stayed out in plain view seems very vulnerable to the elements.

So I double-checked, and I was right the first time! Those things were its book lungs, and they were just as they should be.

Book lungs are a fascinating example of convergent evolution. They appear to have evolved separately in spiders and scorpions as each became terrestrial. Their common ancestor was aquatic, resembled a horseshoe crab, and had book gills, which were a very similar organ for gathering oxygen from water. And like our own lungs, both are a great way to maximize surface area for oxygen exchange in a fairly small body part.

Addendum: As it turned out, I was right to second guess my first guess. The book lungs are more internal. What we were looking at was the scorpion’s pectines. These are a sensory organ that seems to be used by the male to detect pheromones produced by the female. While it is not fully understood it’s pretty clear my second idea was much nearer the mark.

We did our best to snap photos of the scorpion displaying its book lungs pectines. An annotated view of scorpion anatomy can be found here:

The very next day, Animal Care Lead Lauren Bloomenthal caught our Chilean Rose Tarantula showing off her book lungs. Or is there something in the air or is this just another case of the power of observation - as when you buy a red car you suddenly see red cars everywhere?

The next time you visit Pacific Science Center check out the residents in our Insect Village. Let us know what interesting animal behavior you observe.

Read more!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Fresh Sheet – February 23, 2013

Do you like Owls? Then visit our Tropical Butterfly House. We’re having an Owl irruption! Six different species* of Owl pupae arrived this week from Costa Rica. Butterflies are now emerging you-know-where.

Costa Rica

08 - Anartia fatima (Banded Peacock)
10 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
12 - *Caligo atreus (Yellow-Edged Giant-Owl)
15 - *Caligo eurilochus (Forest Giant Owl)
13 - *Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
49 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
07 - *Eryphanis polyxena (Purple Mort Bleu Owl)
16 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
18 - Hamadryas laodamia (Starry Calico)
36 - Heliconius cydno (Cydno Longwing)
28 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
17 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
49 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
36 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
23 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
24 - Heliconius sapho (Sapho Longwing)
40 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
25 - Myscelia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
07 - *Opsiphanes quiteria (Scalloped Owl)
08 - *Opsiphanes tamarindi (Tamarind Owl)
18 - Papillio anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
39 - Papilio thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
06 - Parides iphidamas (Transandean Cattleheart)

Total = 504

“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, February 16, 2013

Fresh Sheet – February 16, 2013

Five hundred, seventy-two more pupae have arrived this week from Suriname and El Salvador. Emerging and preparing for their first flights, they await your visit to our Tropical Butterfly House.


15 - Parides sesostris (Emerald-patched Cattleheart)
10 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
10 - Heraclides thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
25 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
10 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
25 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
15 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
25 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
30 - Catonephele orites (Orange-banded Shoemaker)
20 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
25 - Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona)
25 - Hypna clytemnestra (Silver-studded Leafwing)
25 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
10 - Mechanitis polymnia (Polymnia Tigerwing)

Total = 270

El Salvador

12 - Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona)
30 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
30 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
10 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
20 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
25 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
20 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
60 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
30 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
04 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
08 - Parides arcas (Arcas Cattleheart)
07 - Prepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
21 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)

Total = 302


“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, February 11, 2013

Seattle Bug Safari

Seattle Bug Safari, the wonderful arthropod museum located in Pike Place Market, recently closed their doors. Because of the closure, their fantastic variety of exhibit animals needed to find new homes.

Many of the species exhibited are animals regulated and could only go to permitted owners. Fortunately, Pacific Science Center holds those permits. So last month, Animal Caretakers Sarah, Chris, and Lauren went on an adventure to pick up some new arthropods for Animal Care.

We loaded up on boxes and containers to hold our new friends, hopped on the monorail, and headed down to Pike Place. When we got there, owner Brian Rolf brought us in to look over the selection. We knew we had to fight the “kid in a candy store” syndrome; mainly take creatures that we already exhibit and/or have the space and resources for. With that in mind, we packed up the following:

1 Chilean Rose Tarantula
9 Blue Death-feigning Beetles
4 Diving Beetles
4 Cactus Longhorn Beetles
6 Giant Brazilian Cockroaches
57 Australian Prickly Sticks

Most of the animals joined others of their species on exhibit. Australian Prickly Sticks, a species we have had in the past, are now on display. In addition to the Prickly Stick adults and juveniles on exhibit, we have numerous containers of their eggs hatching in an off-exhibit nursery. The young Prickly Sticks can grow up in the quiet of the back room with lots of blackberry leaves to enjoy. After a few molts, they will be placed on display.

Thanks to Brian and Seattle Bug Safari for some amazing new animals! Watch Brian showing his knowledge and insect handling skills here: Do you recognize some of the arthropods we also have at Pacific Science Center? Come by and visit them!

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Fresh Sheet – February 9, 2013

This week’s shipment of pupae from the Philippines provided an illuminating education in live animal shipping for Life Sciences Manager Sarah Moore. Of course, all ended well for the 466 new pupae now emerging at our Tropical Butterfly House. Come by and see them!


41 - Papilio rumanzovia (Crimson Swallowtail)
19 - Papilio palinurus (Banded Peacock)
80 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
80 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
80 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
25 - Graphium agamemnon (Tailed Jay)
20 - Pachliopta kotzeboea (Pink Rose)
11 - Parthenos sylvia philippensis (The Clipper)
20 - Papilio polytes (Polite Swallowtail)
40 - Cethosia biblis (Red Lacewing)
10 - Ideopsis juventa (Wood Nymph)
40 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)

Total = 466

“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, February 2, 2013

Fresh Sheet – February 2, 2013

This week’s shipment contains three Prepona species: Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button), Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona), and Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona). The second two species are closely related and were named independently by two different people near the same time. Such near-copied names represent a taxonomic faux pas of a kind rarely seen.

El Salvador

06 - Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona)
20 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
10 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
25 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
09 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
05 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
10 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
15 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
50 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
15 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
12 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
10 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
15 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
20 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
10 - Parides montezuma (Montezuma Cattleheart)
10 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
20 - Prepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)

Total = 262


20 - Athyma perius (Common Sergeant)
10 - Attacus atlas (Atlas Moth)
10 - Charaxes brutus (White-barred Charaxes)
10 - Charaxes castor (Giant Charaxes)
20 - Charaxes cithaeron (Blue-spotted Charaxes)
10 - Charaxes lasti (Silver Striped Charaxes)
10 - Charaxes protoclea (Flame-bordered Charexes)
10 - Charaxes varanes (Pearl Charexes)
60 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
10 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)
30 - Papilio constantinus (Constantines's Swallowtail)
20 - Papilio dardanus (Mocker Swallowtail)
30 - Papilio nireus (Blue-banded Swallowtail)
30 - Papilio polytes (Polite Swallowtail)

Total = 280

Grand Total = 542

“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!