Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Little Buddy

Animal Care Volunteer Jess recently submitted this story for our blog.

Every Thursday morning I go through the same morning tasks as an Animal Care volunteer, checking on each of our animals, noting anything that needs that attention of the staff. Lately, my favorite area has been the Insect Village. I look at each exhibit, refilling water dishes as necessary, and affectionately calling everyone “little buddy”.

This morning, though, I had a sad surprise. In the bottom of the giant praying mantis exhibit was a dead mantis. I went to the Lead Animal Caretaker, Lauren, and told her what I had found. She asked if I wanted to take it out, but I didn’t feel comfortable doing it. Despite my limited interaction with them, I always feel sad at the passing of any of our insects.

Imagine my surprise when I heard an excited Lauren calling my name. “Look!” she said. I looked more closely. What I had mistaken for a dead mantis was in fact an exoskeleton that had been molted. We had our very first adult praying mantis! He is quite beautiful. If you visit PSC, you will definitely want to come see him. I don’t think “little buddy” will work anymore so I’ll be calling him just “buddy” from now on!

Volunteers like Jess have memorable experiences every day at Pacific Science Center. If you love science and would love to share your enthusiasm with like-minded people, consider volunteering in our Science Interpretation Program. Training begins in September.

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Fresh Sheet – August 23, 2014

When you come to Pacific Science Center this weekend for Engineer It!, be sure to visit the new arrivals from Malaysia. They’ll be waiting for you.

Penang Butterfly Farm, Malaysia

50 - Catopsilia scylla (Orange Emigrant)
70 - Cethosia cyane (Leopard Lacewing)
40 - Doleschalia bisaltide (Autumn Leaf)
50 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)
50 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
20 - Lexias dirtea (Archduke)
30 - Papilio memnon (Great Memnon)
70 - Parthenos sylvia (The Clipper)
60 - Vindula dejone (The Cruiser)

Totals = 440

“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, August 20, 2014

Goodbye Estrella

We are sad to announce that last week during a routine morning check we found our red-tailed boa constrictor, Estrella, dead in her cage. Her death came as a shock to us all. Up until the end, she showed no signs of slowing down. In fact as recently as Aug 8th, she performed in a show at a Mercer Slough summer camp, doing what she did best – putting on a great show.

Estrella and her clutch mates Esteban and Estella came to Pacific Science Center in 2000 as young snakes. As they grew, each manifested a unique personality that belied the notion that all snakes are essentially interchangeable.

Estrella had always been the pistol, the spark, and the hotshot of our boa constrictor collection. She was the one who always struck at her food. For many years she was deeply and somewhat fearfully respected by generations of the presentation staff. They loved Estrella’s confidence and vigor but were kept on the alert by her moving about, showing her moods, and displaying a big, powerful personality.

When Estrella ate, she would seize the rat out of the tongs, crush it as though it were not dead, and wolf it down with gusto. It was fascinating to watch an animal go from motionless to lightning-quick so rapidly. Estrella clearly showed what extraordinary hunters these snakes can be. Occasionally we would offer Estrella more than one food item. Unlike our other boa constrictors, she would always strike at each one.

But Estrella also had a cranky side. She was known to hiss, show her fangs, and put her handlers on alert when she didn’t like something. On the rare occasions when we took her to the vet for suspected health problems, it was always because of her showing these threatening behaviors. These actions were her way of communicating to us when she felt something was not right.

Estrella always mellowed a bit once we got her feeling better. Then she would put on a fantastic performance and win everyone over with her strength, confidence, and willingness to wrap around the handler’s waist and stay in place for the entire length of a show.

Estrella had a few short illnesses in her fourteen years and Animal Care staff did not see the old crankiness that preceded her death.

We will miss her.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fresh Sheet – August 16, 2014

Have you ever seen a butterfly emerge from a chrysalis? This week you’ll have 340 more chances. Stop by and cheer them on.

Bioproductores de El Salvador

20 - Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona)
25 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
25 - Catonephele numilia (Halloween Butterfly)
15 - Eurytides branchus (Dual-spotted Swallowtail)
20 - Eurytides thymbraeus (White-crested Swallowtail)
20 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
20 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
10 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
10 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
15 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
40 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
10 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
25 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
12 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
08 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
20 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
20 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 340

“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, August 9, 2014

Fresh Sheet - August 9, 2014

This week’s pupae shipment from Costa Rica includes 51 chrysalises of the enigmatic Greta oto (Glasswing). Why does G. oto have transparent wings? Material scientists at Drexel University have studied that very question. Stop by our Tropical Butterfly House and see if you can find these little guys with the invisible wings.

Suministros Entimológicos Costarricenses, SA
Costa Rica

09 - Anartia fatima (Banded Peacock)
31 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
15 - Caligo eurilochus (Forest Giant Owl)
25 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
14 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
03 - Eryphanis polyxena (Purple Mort Bleu Owl)
08 - Eueiudes isabella (Isabella’s Longwing)
51 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
08 - Hamadryas fornax (Orange Calico)
25 - Heliconius cydno (Cydno Longwing)
53 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
05 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
42 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
16 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
40 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
16 - Myscelia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
05 - Opsiphanes tamarindi (Tamarind Owl)
63 - Papilio thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
15 - Parides iphidamas (Transandean Cattleheart)

Total = 444

“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, August 4, 2014

The Quarantine Scene

Last week, we told the story of a mysterious sea star that may have literally fallen out of the sky and into our lives. With continuing bad news about Sea Star Wasting Disorder, Animal Care staff had recently implemented a quarantine protocol for new animals going into our tide pool touch tank. Our recent visitor was a good test for our new procedure.

The original home of our animals, Puget Sound, is cold – from 8 degrees (44˚F) in winter, to 14 degrees (57˚F) in late summer. Naturally, our touch tank animals need cold water to stay healthy. The price of chillers, a machine that cools and recirculates tank water, is expensive. But we realized we could use a small refrigerator and modify it with a thermostat to bring the temperature within the required range for the health of our tide pool animals.

Once we fitted our fridge with containers for the types of animals we would be housing, we created a manifold of air bubblers to keep the animals’ water well oxygenated. Each day we do a 50% water change, using synthetic sea salt mix. By changing out the water, we dilute and over time flush out any pollutants the animals have in their bodies. The frequent, large water changes also mean the tanks never accumulate toxins such as ammonia, and if we remove the water with care, we clean up most of the waste and uneaten food at the same time.

Our quarantine process has worked very well as a temporary life support system, but as a method for preventing Sea Star Wasting Disorder it has one obvious flaw: If any animal other than a sea star is a carrier, it will not show any symptoms. Therefore, there is no obvious way to determine if an animal is safe to be around our stars.

Somewhat arbitrarily, we hold wild-collected animals for 30 days regardless of species, and those transferred from other facilities for a variable amount of time. Anemones are mostly water. Ten days of 50% water change should lead to them trading out most of their native water for new, ‘clean’ synthetic water mix. Other echinoderms, such as urchins, are not thought to be carriers but are quarantined longer than anemones simply because of their closer relationship to the sea stars.

And what about new sea stars? Our intention had been not to introduce any. But when one was brought to us, we determined that 30 days should be enough time to see if symptoms developed. Sadly, we didn’t need even ten days. We do not know if our little star succumbed to wasting disorder, or to the trauma of being removed from the water and attacked by gulls. Our quarantine care could not help it. The star showed lack of motor control, loss of body substance, and eventually its limbs began to deteriorate. At that point, Animal Care gave it a swift and humane end of life.

We are sorry to lose the star, but grateful to volunteer David Ashlin and Animal Caretaker Katie Malmberg for recognizing that this animal was not a resident of our touch tank. And a big “Thank you” to Christopher Russell for developing our quarantine process that lets us prevents problems before they entered our tide pool system.

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Fresh Sheet – August 2, 2014

The first butterflies of the month have arrived and will soon be flying around our Tropical Butterfly House. Some will be welcomed with flowers, some with fruit. Stop by and say, “Hi!”

Neotropical Insects NV

50 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
05 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
05 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
27 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
50 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
30 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
50 - Eryphanis polyxena (Purple Mort Bleu Owl)
13 - Mechanitis polymnia (Polymnia Tigerwing)
40 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 270

Bioproductores de El Salvador

20 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
25 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
25 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
10 - Eurytides branchus (Dual-spotted Swallowtail)
25 - Eurytides thymbraeus(White-crested Swallowtail)
08 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
10 - Heliconius hortense (Mountain Longwing)
15 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
15 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
25 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
10 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
18 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
10 - Parides arcas (Arcas Cattleheart)
15 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
20 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
25 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 301

Grand Total = 571

“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!