Friday, July 24, 2015

Fresh Sheet - July 25, 2015

Your visit to Pacific Science Center’s Grossology exhibit wouldn’t be complete without checking out some animal grossology. Stop by our Tropical Butterfly House and look for some meconium. While you’re there, enjoy the beautiful butterflies as well!

Penang Butterfly Farm, Malaysia

50 - Catopsilia scylla (Orange Emigrant)
60 - Cethosia cyane (Leopard Lacewing)
20 - Cethosia hypsea (Malay Lacewing)
11 - Danaus vulgaris (Blue Glassy Tiger)
30 - Hypolimnas bolina (Blue moon)
50 - Idea leuconoe (Paper Kite)
20 - Papilio memnon (Great Memnon)
70 - Parthenos sylvia (The Clipper)
20 - Precis almana (Peacock Pansy)
20 - Precis atlites (Gray Pansy)
69 - Vindula dejone (The Cruiser)

Total = 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.

Read more!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Butterfly Grossology

A frequent conversation with guests goes something like this:

Sarah: Do you like insects?

Guest: No, not really.

Sarah: Do you like butterflies?

Guest: Yes ... I know they are insects but they are so pretty.

One mission of our Tropical Butterfly House is to act as an ambassador for insect life using a beloved group of insects to encourage examination of our fears related to the Arthropods in general. So it’s great that people love our butterflies. But if you like Grossology, here are some more reasons to love them!

1. Caterpillars make a LOT of frass. Frass – add this to your vocabulary when you want to talk about poop; it is specifically the waste from insects. Entomologists looking for insects in the environment often use frass as a clue, just as trackers use the spoor of larger animals. Different types of termites, beetles, and caterpillars all have unique ways that they deposit their frass, and an expert can tell you what lives there by how it poops. Frass is one reason we do not raise our own caterpillars; raising large numbers of them is a very messy undertaking and requires an environment that can be routinely bleached and hosed down.

2. Pupae don’t poop at all. They store it. So don’t call them poopae. During the weeks that it pupates, the insect is breaking down and metabolizing its old larval body and growing an adult one. Lots of work is going on and lots of waste is being generated, but it will all stay inside the pupa’s skin until it is ready to emerge.

3. Butterflies take a great big poop as soon as they are able! Butterfly waste is called meconium, the same word as the first poop of a newborn baby. It is not made of old, digested food. Instead it is made of the metabolic waste that built up during the process of metamorphosis. Meconium can be colorful and it can stain! We wait until our butterflies have finished expelling their meconium before we let them out into the exhibit, but if you want to see it, come by and look in the emerging window before we clean it.

4. Butterflies like minerals and they are not too picky about the source. In the wild, some butterflies can gather minerals from damp sand, mammal feces, secretions and urine, blood and even roadkill. We do not make these available in the Tropical Butterfly House, so our butterflies make due with moist soil, nectar, and occasionally sweat. After drinking water with dissolved minerals, butterflies excrete the liquid through their anus, keeping the minerals they need and getting rid of ones they have in excess.

For a couple of stories on Red Rain (possibly butterfly meconium) and other fun stuff:

Read more!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fresh Sheet - July 18, 2015

If you're in town for Bite of Seattle this weekend, come stop by the butterfly house and watch our new butterflies from El Salvador on their very first flights. Just please don't mistake our butterfly guides for a "menu."

Bioproductores de El Salvador
El Salvador

10 - Anaea eurypyle (Pointed Leafwing)
10 - Anaea nobilis (Tropical Noble Leafwing)
10 - Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona) [males]
10 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
20 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
15 - Catonephele numilia (Numilia)
10 - Eurytides branchus (Dual-spotted Swallowtail)
15 - Eurytides epidaus (Mexican Kite-Swallowtail)
15 - Eurytides thymbraeus (White-crested Swallowtail)
10 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
10 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
10 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
20 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
20 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
20 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
10 - Papilio garamas (Magnificent Swallowtail)
25 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
10 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona) [males]
10 - Prepona omphale (Blue Belly-Button)
20 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 305

“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 14, 2015

Leopard Gecko on the Mend

When an animal doesn’t eat one time, it rarely is a cause for concern. Maybe they aren’t hungry, or pre-occupied with shedding their skin. But when it becomes a trend then we need to get to the bottom of it. Careful record keeping is necessary to spot these trends and Animal Caretakers recently saw one that clearly required medical attention with Lydia, our nearly 20-year-old leopard gecko.

Lydia loves eating mealworms. She gets 3 juicy mealworms every other day and we always log her appetite after the feeding. When she started skipping multiple meals, we got concerned. We’ve talked with our vet in the past about this behavior, and he’s always been more concerned with her weight than her appetite. She self-regulates to a degree, but this time her weight was starting to drop too. We also noticed some other strange behaviors from Lydia. Her feces were suddenly very large, sandy looking, and had a clear greenish tint. She was moving around a lot more and not sleeping in her usual locations. And Lydia was even observed to be eating sand. All these warning signs together meant that it was time to bring in Dr. Maas.

One of the trickiest things with treating animal health issues is the problem of stress. A vet visit is clearly stressful to an animal that doesn’t understand what is going on and is suddenly getting poked and prodded. Dr. Maas took both a fecal and blood sample during his visit. Lydia responded by shedding her skin, a normal behavior, but also indicative of her high stress levels. Her fecal sample showed that she was parasite free, but the green tinge meant that there was bile in it. There were problems with her GI tract.

Dr. Maas prescribed both an oral antibiotic, Flagyl®, and one administered subcutaneously for Lydia. She was most likely deficient in calcium, and eating the sand because it contained that mineral. Lydia has always eaten mealworms. We began to raise the mealworms with better quality feed and added calcium supplements. Indirectly, by feeding these nutrients to the mealworms we were giving them to the leopard gecko too. And to help out with Lydia's shedding issues, Dr. Maas prescribed lukewarm baths.

When you start medicating a sick animal, it is tough to believe that you’re actually helping it. Lydia seemed so miserable with her oral meds and her injections that we had to remind ourselves that ultimately her added stress was going to be worth it. She shed again in short succession and didn’t eat much of this or her last shed.

Eventually, we started to see improvements. While Lydia’s weight had dropped significantly (likely from all that uneaten shed), her appetite has returned. She is now eating her full amount of food plus a little extra to help her put on weight. Her movement and body positions have returned to what we’re used to seeing of her. Her feces have lost their green tinge.

Lydia is all done with her medication now, which likely means her stress levels have also dropped down. So while we will continue to give her baths, feed her mealworms a high calcium diet, and monitor her closely, we’re very optimistic about her making a full recovery. Come check her out and see her tail get more and more plump!

Read more!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Fresh Sheet- July 11, 2015

Normally, we invite guests to the Tropical Butterfly House for a warm, sunny spot in rainy Seattle. But this summer, it has been far more warm and sunny in Seattle than in some of the tropical homes of our butterflies. This week's pupae come from Costa Rica which has been experiencing a summer full of rain. These butterflies have gotten away from the storms and are ready to fly in our sunny butterfly house.

Read more about the effect of the storms here:

Suministros Entimológicos Costarricenses, SA
Costa Rica

10 - Anartia fatima (Banded Peacock)
06 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona)
07 - Biblis hyperia (Red Rim)
09 - Brassolis isthmia (Small-spotted Owl)
06 - Caligo eurilochus (Forest Giant Owl)
24 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
15 - Catonephele mexicana (Mexican Catone)
36 - Catonephele numilia (Halloween Butterfly)
09 - Eueides isabella (Isabella’s Longwing)
22 - Greta oto (Glasswing)
03 - Hamadryas laodamia (Starry Calico)
14 - Heliconius cydno (Cydno Longwing)
20 - Heliconius doris (DorisLongwing)
14 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
30 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
12 - Heliconius hewitsoni (Hewitson’s Longwing)
14 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
42 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
15 - Heliconius sapho (Sapho Longwing)
08 - Heraclides anchisiades (Ruby-spotted Swallowtail)
01 - Morpho amathonte (Amathonte's Morpho)
31 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
05 - Myscelia cyaniris (Blue Wave Butterfly)
20 - Papilio thoas (Thoas Swallowtail)
09 - Parides arcas (Arcas Cattleheart)
06 - Parides childrenae (Green-celled Cattleheart)
03 - Siproeta epaphus (Rusty-tipped Page)

Total = 391

“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 7, 2015

Underwater Grossology – Part 2

Last week we began our investigation of all things gross in Life Sciences as a tribute to Pacific Science Center’s current exhibit: Grossology – The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body. Continuing our discussion of underwater grossology this week, we present the ubiquitous sea anemone.

Sea anemones, unlike sea cucumbers, don’t have a mouth at one end and an anus at the other. Instead, food goes in and waste comes out the same orifice after being digested in the gastrovascular cavity. Pacific Science Center’s staff often uses this fact as a hook to start conversations.

However, when you actually watch a sea anemone go through the process it is not particularly messy or gross. The anemone’s digestive enzymes are quite powerful and what little undigested material they eject is usually pretty harmless looking.

What can appear fairly unattractive are anemones at low tide, or during our weekly tide pool “backflush.” Because anemones have no internal structure, they lose their normal posture without the support of water, and either sink or hang from their substrate. You may notice that they collapse their tentacles inward, trapping as much water as they can in their body cavity. The water they retain is important to get them through till the waves return. So please don’t poke anemones at low tide. That would be too gross – and very unkind!

Read more!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fresh Sheet – July 4, 2015

Our Tropical Butterfly House just might be cooler than the out-of-doors this week. A total of 617 pupae from Suriname and El Salvador have recently flown into town to emerge for you. Why not stop by and visit a few of your favorite Lepidoptera?

Neotropical Insects NV

05 - Parides sesostris (Emerald-patched Cattleheart)
40 - Battus polydamas (Polydamus Swallowtail)
05 - Heliconius erato (Small Postman)
06 - Heliconius melpomene (Postman)
22 - Heliconius doris (Doris Longwing)
24 - Dryas iulia (Julia Longwing)
70 - Anartia amathea (Scarlet Peacock)
15 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
50 - Eryphanis polyxena (Purple Mort Bleu Owl)
15 - Mechanitis polymnia (Polymnia Tigerwing)
15 - Tithorea harmonia (Harmonia Tigerwing)

Total = 267

Bioproductores de El Salvador
El Salvador

15 - Anea eurypyle (Pointed Leafwing)
15 - Archeoprepona demophoon (Hubner’s Prepona) [males]
25 - Battus belus (Belus Swallowtail)
15 - Caligo memnon (Owl Butterfly)
25 - Eurytides epidaus (Mexican Kite-Swallowtail)
25 - Eurytides thymbraeus (White-crested Swallowtail)
25 - Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing)
10 - Heliconius ismenius (Ismenius Longwing)
15 - Lycorea cleobaea (Large Tiger)
10 - Morpho peleides (Blue Morpho)
20 - Morpho polyphemus (White Morpho)
25 - Myscelia ethusa (Royal Blue Butterfly)
10 - Papilio androgeus (Queen Page)
20 - Papilio erostratus (Dusky Swallowtail)
20 - Papilio garamas (Magnificent Swallowtail)
25 - Papilio torquatus (Band-gapped Swallowtail)
05 - Parides photinus (Queen of Hearts)
20 - Archeoprepona demophon (One-spotted Prepona) [males]
25 - Smyrna blomfildia (Blomfeld's Beauty)

Total = 350

Grand Total = 617

“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!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Underwater Grossology – Part 1

In celebration of our Grossology exhibit, we present to you some of our tide pool animals. This week we’ll discuss the very popular California sea cucumber (Parastichopus californicus).

Normally a sea cucumber cruising around the shallow water and looking classy in red velvet may seem like the farthest thing from disgusting. But look a little deeper – into its gut, in fact, and you will see plenty of fascinating grossology at work.

First is its ability to eviscerate, a behavior common among sea cucumbers. Under great stress such as from a predator, sea cucumbers are able to eject their guts – not just their gut content but also the actual lining of the digestive system – in the direction of the danger as an emergency form of self-defense. The stringy gut material entangles the predator, slowing or stopping it while the cucumber escapes. If this defense works, the animal can then regrow its gut lining, which is taxing to its body but preferable to being eaten.

Please don’t squeeze sea cucumbers. Defensive eviscerating is a last ditch survival behavior that you don’t want to make them do, and you don’t want that stuff on your hands!

California sea cucumbers also eviscerate on an annual cycle, with the gut breaking down in late autumn and regrowing in winter and early spring. During that time they absorb nutrients through the respiratory trees in their anus. These organs, which normally facilitate oxygen exchange, can apparently also uptake nutrients.

Right now our California sea cucumber is not in its regenerative phase, and is eating with its mouth and using its anus to breathe and to defecate. You can see its cute sandy poops scattered around the tide pool. How gross is that?

Read more!