Thursday, January 30, 2014

The 12th Naked Mole Rats

Do mole rats choose sides in sporting events?

We don’t know, and we aren’t here to speculate. What we do know is that lead Animal Caretaker Lauren Bloomenthal is a Seattle Seahawks fan. This week she wanted to do something special for our animals to celebrate her favorite team’s journey to the Super Bowl. She requested a blue and green color scheme for the mole rats' habitat.

While shopping, Life Sciences manager Sarah Moore stumbled upon some bags of colorful bedding and a toy loofah football. Perfect for the naked mole rats!

When we add fun touches like team colors or holiday features, we always want to ask ourselves: What's our message? We can show our enthusiasm for a favorite team but we also want our additions to meet the criteria of enriching the animals’ lives or helping us better understand them.

Having chambers with two colors of bedding helped us visualize how quickly the colony moves its bedding from one place to another. As it turns out, they do that pretty quickly. The bedding serves as a substitute for the soil they would excavate in the wild, as well as being used to soften the floor in their sleeping chamber and absorb waste in their latrines. But moving bedding is also exercise and stimulation for the animals.

When Lauren filled the chambers at 9:00 am, each chamber held distinctive patterns of blue bedding or green bedding. By noon, many of the chambers held mixed bedding. By days end, there were bits of green and blue in every chamber including the latrines, which hold our normal buff bedding in the morning.

Staff discussed and rejected some other forms of Seahawk themed enrichment. Sea urchins are well known for holding onto stray bits of shell and seaweed. We could easily coax them into sporting shells painted with the iconic number 12. However, if there is even a little chance of harming the water quality, this cute idea is not worth it.

Enrichment has to meet a need for our animals, or we don’t do it. But if it is safe and we can give ourselves a little enrichment fun at the same time - why not?

Next: Do butterflies have team favorites? Stay tuned to see if the butterflies’ fruit trays turn into football fields!

Read more!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Fresh Sheet – January 25, 2014

This week we have 480 pupae arriving from warm, sunny climes of Costa Rica. Visit our Tropical Butterfly House. It’s the next best thing to being there!

Costa Rica

08 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
12 - Brassolis isthmia (Small-spotted Owl)
04 - Caligo atreus (Yellow-Edged Giant-Owl)
07 - Catonephele numilia (Halloween Butterfly)
36 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
08 - Hamadryas amphinome (Red Calico)
64 - Hamadryas laodamia (Starry Calico)
64 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
53 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
08 - Heliconius hewitsoni
40 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
15 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
07 - Heliconius sapho (Sapho Longwing)
12 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
40 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
43 - Myselia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
07 - Opsiphanes tamarindi (Tamarind Owl)
52 - Papilio thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)

Total = 480

“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, January 18, 2014

Fresh Sheet – January 18, 2014

It’s the 40th Annual Model Railroad Show this weekend at Pacific Science Center but that doesn’t matter to our newly emerged butterflies. They’re on schedule to take flight every weekend in our Tropical Butterfly House. Stop by!

El Salvador

30 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
17 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
06 - Consul electra (Pearly Leafwing)
03 - Doxocopa laure (Silver Emperor)
25 - Heliconius charitonius (Zebra Longwing)
12 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
10 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
25 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
30 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
09 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
10 - Siderone nemesis (Red-striped Leafwing)
05 - Tithorea tarricina (Cream-Spotted Clearwing)

Total = 182


10 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
10 - Heraclides thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
50 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
20 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
50 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
50 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
07 - Hypna clytemnestra (Silver-studded Leafwing)
50 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
23 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 270

Grand Total = 452

“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!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Truth About Animal Care

Earlier this year, we posted a story about our high hopes for the observation beehive. Although the beehive performed brilliantly all summer and well into fall, the population became too low to expect it to carry over into spring. As the Animal Care Department sat down to discuss this, and to think about how to present the saga, a larger story emerged.


An observation beehive is a very long way from the original life of a honeybee, native to southern Europe and North Africa. Bees evolved in warm, dry climates with lots of sunshine. Beekeepers have explored and mastered techniques for maintaining bees in situations vastly different from their natural habitat. But they have also inadvertently exposed them to chemicals and pathogens that did not exist in their place of origin. The price of transporting animals out of their natural habitat is the constant struggle to create a viable alternative.

But what about our other exhibit animals? How does captivity increase or diminish their chances of long, comfortable lives?


The residents of our Tropical Butterfly House come to us as pupae, so they have already lived longer than most butterflies would in the wild. In nature, butterflies produce far more eggs than will live to maturity. Predators, hunger, and disease can reduce the caterpillar population from dozens to just a few pupae. Therefore, few adults live long enough to reproduce. Butterfly farming tilts the odds in favor of the young surviving to adulthood.

Once our butterflies mature and fly around, they face fewer predators or weather hazards than they would in the wild. Sure, there are dangers but our Tropical Butterfly House is pretty safe. Our horticulture team provides ample nectar sources, and there’s fruit for those who prefer it. We choose species that don’t migrate, so their instincts to fly away are not thwarted. Our butterflies do not get to reproduce, but instead they serve as ambassadors for butterflies in the wild. They build good will and interest in preserving wild places for generations of insects to come.


So what about our naked mole rats? Our colony surely has less space than it might in the wild. This is where our Animal Care staff’s commitment to enrichment is critical. Naked mole rats are the most active, dynamic animals we exhibit. Their need to be busy leads to stress related health problems if we don’t challenge them. By constantly changing their surroundings and introducing food in novel ways, we keep them learning and moving. And we entertain our guests and ourselves.

The mole rats show no sign of being bothered by the sounds outside their chambers. They generate a fair amount of their own noise through chewing, and seem oblivious to other sounds. The daily maintenance from Animal Care staff is probably a mild stressor, but remember, not all stress is bad. It keeps animals engaged and busy.

No one knows how long naked mole rats live in the wild, but most sources agree that they live much longer in captivity and if their social needs are met, their quality of life is excellent.


Our boa constrictors are harder to keep active. As they reach their middle years, many snakes naturally become more sedentary, and ours are surely no exception. When you watch a snake presentation at our Live Science Stage, you are participating in an important part of the snake’s wellbeing and care: Exercise. Being handled is one of the best exercises these animals can get.


The axolotls are a sad example of animals whose best chance of survival is in captivity. Introduced species, habitat loss, and human hunting critically endanger their natural relatives.

Axolotls have very specific water quality needs, but once those are met, they need (and want) less enrichment than many animals. Their natural place in the ecosystem is at the top of their food chain, with abundant resources and little novelty. Axolotls show stress very readily, so as long as they are healthy we have a good indication that their quality of life is good.


The tide pool animals live in a much-compressed version of their natural habitat. Our deep and shallow ends do not replicate the diverse ecosystems of Puget Sound. And we don’t have waves! Life in the open water is both more dangerous and more varied than what we can provide. At low tide, shore life is exposed to predation from gulls, crows, eagles, and shore birds pecking and grabbing them. Surely, they can withstand careful fingers!

What our tide pool animals really need is lots of love in the form of caring for their habitat. If our tide pool animals help create the bond that encourages that care, we think that’s a good use of their time.

This article is a long way of explaining that the animals in our care at Pacific Science Center teach us all about the bigger world and hopefully how to maintain it.
Read more!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Fresh Sheet – January 11, 2014

Pacific Science Center and our Tropical Butterfly House are open and ready to greet you with 740 more beautiful butterflies this week from around the world. Come find a species that will both delight and amaze you!


40 - Athyma perius (Common Sergeant)
10 - Catopsilia pyranthe (Mottled Emigrant)
57 - Cethosia cyane (Leopard Lacewing)
03 - Chilasa clytia (Common Mime)
30 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
05 - Euploea phaenareta (Great Crow)
60 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)
60 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
50 - Kallima paralekta (Malayan Leafwing)
08 - Lexias dirtea (Archduke)
35 - Papilio polytes (Polite Swallowtail)
40 - Parthenos sylvia (The Clipper)
10 - Tirumala septentrionis (Dark Blue Tiger)
32 - Vindula dejone (The Cruiser)

Total = 450


10 - Athyma perius (Common Sergeant)
06 - Catopsilia scylla (Orange Emigrant)
04 - Charaxes brutus (White-barred Charaxes)
10 - Charaxes cithaeron (Blue-spotted Charaxes)
05 - Charaxes protoclea (Flame-bordered Charexes)
10 - Charaxes varanes (Pearl Charexes)
05 - Charaxes violetta (Violet-spotted Emperor)
10 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
10 - Graphium agamemnon (Tailed Jay)
10 - Graphium angolanus (Angola White Lady)
10 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)
10 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
10 - Papilio constantinus (Constantines's Swallowtail)
30 - Papilio dardanus (Mocker Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio demodocus (Orchard Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio lowii (Sunset Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio memnon (Great Memnon)
10 - Papilio nireus (Blue-banded Swallowtail)
40 - Papilio polytes (Polite Swallowtail)
20 - Papilio rumanzovia (Crimson Swallowtail)
30 - Parthenos sylvia lilacinus (Blue Clipper)
10 - Parthenos sylvia philippensis (The Clipper)
10 - Troides rhadamantus plateni (Platen’s Birdwing)

Total = 290


“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, January 5, 2014

Congrats Rats!

Naked mole rat lovers around the world are delighted, but not surprised, that naked mole rats are Science magazine’s “2013 Vertebrate of the Year “. In the December 20, 2013 issue, the editors cite current research on naked mole rats’ longevity and apparent immunity to cancer as reasons for this honor.

Visitors to Pacific Science Center and readers of this blog have long been fascinated with these exceptional rodents for their many unique traits such as eusocial living, poikilothermic metabolism, and low oxygen requirements. Oh, and let’s not forget their ability to moonwalk!

Remember, all naked mole rat fans can watch our colony’s antic 24/7 on our two webcams. Just click on this link -

Read more!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Fresh Sheet – January 4, 2014

Pacific Science Center will be closed next week, January 6th – 10th but there will be plenty of butterflies to greet our guests when we reopen. Here’s what’s flying:

El Salvador

20 - Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona)
20 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
10 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
16 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
10 - Consul fabius (Tiger Leafwing)
08 - Eurytides thymbraeus(White-crested Swallowtail)
25 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
10 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
25 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
20 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
04 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
30 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
10 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
12 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
20 - Parides arcas (Arcas Cattleheart)
08 - Siderone nemesis (Red-striped Leafwing)
08 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 256

“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!