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State Butterfly Crossword

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ACROSS
1.    This butterfly, the ________ Hairstreak, is an official emblem of Wyoming
2.    The state butterfly of Kentucky shares its name with a synonym for "governor"
3.     The state butterfly of Oklahoma is the Black _______ (Hint: it has a tail like that of a bird)
4.    New Hampshire chose the ______ Blue as its representative butterfly.
5.    The Colorado ________ is the emblem of its namesake state.
6.    The Zebra _______ of Tennessee is named for its large wings.
7.    Hawaii's state butterfly is the tropical-sounding __________ .

DOWN
1.    This state butterfly of New York shares its name with a naval commander.
2.    Arkansas' state butterfly is the Diana _________.
3.    The California _______ is named for its canine-like appearance.
4.    Maryland's symbol is the Baltimore _________.
5.    Six states from Alabama to Idaho boast the regal ________ butterfly as their emblem.
6.    Mississipi chose this flavorful-sounding swallowtail as its state butterfly.
7.    The swallowtail representing Tennessee shares its name with a black-and-white striped equine.
8.    The butterfly that symbolizes Delaware, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia is named after an orange jungle cat.
9.    New Mexico's state butterfly is the _____ Hairstreak.
10.  The Mourning _______ butterfly of Montana is named for its dark coloring.

The answers are beneath - no peeking!

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Tide Pooling In California and Oregon

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tidepools.jpgBefore we went to California, we'd never seen a tide pool. We'd been to Galveston, which had a lot of broken glass as well as some seashells. We'd been to Normandy, and seen mussels and sand dollars on the beach. We'd been to Cannes, and played on a beach where we'd seen crabs and gotten shells as souvenirs... but not in tide pools.

During our stay in California, we lived in the Coast Range in the middle of the wine country; to travel anywhere we had to drive through vineyards. If we drove for approximately forty minutes, we got to the shore. But just finding a beach we liked was difficult.

The first time we went beach-hunting, it was evening and growing cold. The wind was blowing, yet even on a not-so-nice day the beach was rather crowded. We had to turn around. Other beaches were either fenced off, private property, or, like one secluded cove of red seaweed, smelled terrible.

Finally, we were driving along the green-spotted, scenic drive Highway 1 and looking for a sign reading "Goat Rock." When we spied the wooden plaque, we turned onto a dirt road (potholes included) and drove for about half a mile. We parked in front of the huge boulder, wondering how the beach had gotten its wacky name. Here was the Rock part, but the Goat's origin was unknown. It could have been named because the explorer who named it saw a goat in the rock (like Stevenson, in "Silverado Squatters," who saw a lion in a rock). Maybe it was because goats used to live on the rock. It's possible that it was because the explorer's pet goat found the rock. Or that the explorer was just crazy about goats. It's hard to tell.

Whatever the reason, we frequently went to Goat Rock. Once, we walked to the beach's "end," the distant rocks with small pools of water in them. We couldn't find any life, however, except for some green, orange, and pink seaweed that looked like the giant kelp washed up on the shore in miniature. Another time, we found some beached bat stars, a species of sea stars (more commonly incorrectly called starfish). I didn't pick one up, but Katrianna dared to.

To see actual tide pool life, however, we swam against the tide of the school groups, going to a beach where no one but ourselves was tide pooling, unlike our Shell Beach experience, where even on a cloudy day a troop of kids were listening to a lecture about the animals found in the pools. Because of Mom's planning, we knew that Salt Point State Park's Gerstle Cove was supposed to be a good place to see tide pools.

It turned out that it was. Once we'd parked, we walked down the path, merging with a paved road that lead down to the cove. The tiny patch of sand was dotted with many cute little crabs scuttling in and out of their holes.

Looking into our first tide pool, a puddle in a rock, we viewed our first sea anemone. Climbing over a few rocks, we saw another tide pool with some hermit crabs, several crabs of various sizes that didn't have the snail shell that characterizes the hermit crabs (like the ones on the beach), a pickle-like sea cucumber, and a sea star.

I was scared by the huge, ugly insects called rock lice that crept around on the rocks. Mom said that they were a natural protection for the tide pools, but that did not make me think more highly of the prehistoric-like creatures, and I continued to scratch, thinking one was catching a ride on me.

We saw fish, sea stars that were purple with white polka-dots, a sea star that was orange, lots of crabs, two sea stars "kissing," a green sea star no bigger than a quarter, and many more anemones. Herring gulls flew about, swooping or perching on rocks. That was our best tide pooling experience -- we saw all of the creatures on the plaque except for the bat stars, which we'd seen at Goat Rock.

When we were on a trip to Oregon, we saw the ending point of the Lewis and Clark expedition, including where they'd climbed to a beach, now called Cannon Beach, to see a beached whale. While we were looking at the fish swimming around in the tide pools, the barnacles clinging to the rocks, and the green seaweed overhanging the pools and snapping pictures, a tide swept up. I ran to safety as quickly as I could and only the edge of my shoe got wet. Mom and Katrianna stood on rocks while the tide drenched them six inches up. At Goat Rock, a sign said to always be careful of berm tides.  Berm tides can be dangerous and even carry people out to sea, but this one preferred soaking people. That was our last tide pooling adventure... and by far the wettest.

Carmine Cochineal: A Large Scale Issue

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cochineal beetles.jpgThe red dye carmine, derived from female cochineal beetles, is one of many "secret ingredients" that make being vegetarian difficult.

For years, carmine was listed on ingredient lists as "artificial coloring." Finally, the Center for Science In the Public Interest (CSPI) asked the US Food and Drug Association (FDA) to require that all products containing cochineal state on the label that it is insect-based and may cause allergic reactions or anaphylactic shock. Of course, the food industries were opposed to printing that on their products. Eventually, the FDA decided to oblige the companies to include the word "carmine" on the label -- but didn't mention the health or vegetarian aspects of the pigment. Restaurants are not required to admit to using the dye unless a customer asks.

Recently, a lady from South Carolina began a petition on Change.org asking Starbucks Coffee to quit using carmine in their products. After the appeal amassed over 6,000 names, Starbucks agreed to switch to the vegan dye lycopene, derived from tomatoes.

To produce carmine, thousands of cochineal beetles are taken to factories, where they are dried by boiling, baking, or exposure to steam or sunlight. 70,000 beetles are killed to make one pound of carmine. The fertilized eggs and female abdomens are then ground up and cooked, to produce more color.

cochineal nat am.jpgSeveral species of scale beetle yield carmine. Historically, the dye was harvested in both the Old World and the New. Aztecs and Incas harvested cochineal beetles, which are found on cacti in Central and South America. To survive in the deserts, the insects secrete a white wax which serves as a sunblock. The Native Americans sometimes used the creatures as currency, and the Aztec emperor Montezuma II levied a tax to be paid in barrels of beetles.

Mediterranean ancients used similar kermes beetles, which lived on red oaks. In fact, the word "crimson" derives from the kermes insects. Jars of them have been found in Neolithic burial sites. In the Middle Ages, silk dyed with kermes was extremely popular among the upper classes. As the dried eggs looked like particles of wheat or sand, they were known as grain, hence the expressions "dyed in the grain" and "full grain."

However, after the Spanish conquest of Mexico, carmine cochineal replaced carmine kermes, which was weaker and more expensive. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, carmine remained in use. According to an article, Beneficial Scale?, in the South Florida Cactus and Succulent Society's magazine, the American colonists were angered by the steep prices of cochineal as well as tea.

The most common artificial crimson dye is Red #40, also called FD & C Red 40 or Allura Red AC, which is derived from petroleum. After the scarlet dye Amaranth, a carcinogen, was banned 1970s, Red #40 replaced it. More currently, Red #3 was proven to cause cancer in rats. Although the FDA has not banned it, its use is decreasing. However, as an unnatural colorant, Red 40 also has potential negative effects, including cancer, allergies, asthma, migraines and other health problems.

Some vegetarians who argue against carmine are deemed advocates of chemical colorants. However, many natural ruby dyes, found in beets, annattos, tomatoes, or paprika, are vegan. Hopefully, many companies will follow Starbucks in switching from cochineal to a healthy alternative.

Animal Groups Word Search

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agwsprev.jpg    If you just can't figure out what a lavish group of tacky pink birds is called,or a pious crowd of crocodilians, then check out this list of Animal Groups (or, if you want the full-size, printer-friendly version, click here). Another game, by both me and my sister, is available at New Moon Magazine. (No peeking beyond this point, as the answers are beneath).

AGansw.jpgNote: The text and images on this post are copyright of Katrianna Elizabeth, 2012, and cannot be used for anything except educational purposes.

Does Shelling Harm Wildlife?

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Shell.jpgRecently, we were walking on the beach just after low tide. Rims of seashells marked where the waves had come. Many of these were fragmented, and the majority had been bleached by the sun. There were some pretty scallops and cockles, and several still-connected bivalve shells. Then, Mom found a beautiful conch. The shell was mottled with shades of brown, edged in red. The spiked tips were pointed and distinct, unlike some of the worn ones we had collected earlier.

conch shell.jpgMom picked it up and held it up to the light. It was inhabited, and we could see the conch's claw. We put it back where an occasional wave would wash over it. The prettiest shells we found had creatures in them. Many were conches, but some of the shells had been claimed by hermit crabs. We didn't take any of the ones that were alive, but we saw other people carelessly collecting them. One lady had two grocery bags filled with large, colorful shells. Although the signs along the boardwalk read "No Live Shelling," several people were ignoring that rule.

hermit crab.jpgOn many beaches, collecting live animals is illegal. For instance, Washington State has banned the taking of any invertebrate, and in most national parks it is illegal to take anything. In addition to wanting the shells, people get them for food and bait, or as pets for their home aquariums. However, even in places where there are no laws preventing this collection, it is a bad idea. Not only does it harm the individual animal, but overharvesting of a species can lead to a decline in its population, making it endangered or even extinct. When this happens, the natural balance is also upset, because the creatures that relied on the animal for food or used the shells as shelter are no longer able to find them.

Buying shells commercially is not environmentally-friendly. Many companies catch live shellfish, which are killed for their meat, their shells, or both. Live sand dollars and sea stars are also captured and sold. Because they are caught in such huge numbers, many rare species are threatened by this practice.

One example is the Queen Conch. Its shells are used as jewelery or decorations and its meat is eaten or used as bait. They were captured so extensively that their numbers declined. Although they are not officially endangered, many Caribbean countries are trying to conserve the conches living near their shores and have agreed not to export them until the populations have stabilized.

The critically endangered Black Abalone is another animal which has been depleted by the meat and shell industry. They were once plentiful along the Pacific coast, from California to Mexico. Its meat was more popular than its small, smooth shell. At the time they were being harvested, there were no rules about protecting an individual species. After the California fishery had run out of one species of abalone, they would switch to another. Withering syndrome, a disease, also decreased the numbers. Today, hunting these mollusks is illegal, although some poaching occurs.

Collecting empty shells at the beach is harmless, except in parks where removing anything is illegal. Just make sure they are empty before you take them!

Butterfly Word Scramble

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Octo-pi (R) Squared

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In Germany, an octopus is given two flags and a ball: it places the ball on whichever side’s flag it thinks will win the upcoming World Cup game. This time, it picked Spain instead of Germany in the semifinals by dropping tokens into square containers.  Paul the octopus was right again.

Octoballsoccer.jpgOctopuses are smarter than you think. They can also be smaller than you’d expect. In an aquarium, an octopus living in its own enclosure was stealing crabs from a neighboring tank, although the scientists could not figure out how. So they gave it a jungle gym of tubes which were coin-size in diameter and discovered the reason. Watch here.

A common trick that octopuses are capable of is opening jars. They press their body against the lid, and grip the sides with their tentacles. The following shows an octopus performing the feat:


So next time you have a hard time opening a jar, ask an octopus to lend a tentacle. 

Passenger Pigeons: A Plight Permitted

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The passenger pigeon was the most common bird in North America. Mile-long flocks numbered into the billions, making farmers view the birds as pests. Explorers were amazed by the multitudes, writing that the flocks took hours to pass overhead and that they were countless. No one expected them to go extinct.

RM lcust3.jpgNo one expected the Rocky Mountain locust, another pest, to go extinct, either. While the passenger pigeons were the second-most common animal in the whole world, these arthropods were the most common. In 1875, a swarm was spotted estimated to be 198,000 square miles -- larger than the entire state of California! That alone would have contained 12 and a half trillion insects, and weighed more than 27 tons!

Yet, less than thirty years after this sighting, the species was extinct. How? These locusts swarmed about for periods, then returned to sandy riverbeds, their natural breeding grounds. When they were in the riverbeds, burrowing under to lay their eggs, they were endangered by farmers plowing the ground above them to plant crops. Records state that farmers brought up thousands of egg cases while tilling their fields. Their egg cases discovered and their breeding grounds destroyed, these insects eventually went extinct. The last locust in the wild was found in Canada in 1902. North America is the only settled continent without a major species of locust.

Like the locusts, the passenger pigeons also vanished. In 1914, the last passenger pigeon, Martha (named after Martha Washington), died, and, unlike the ivory billed woodpecker, which is critically endangered today when it had been believed extinct for years, no other passenger pigeon has ever been found.

There are many causes for this entirely preventable extinction. For sport, hunters went out and slaughtered thousands of them. Shockingly, people killed passenger pigeons in many cruel ways. Some hunters caught a bird, sewed its eyes shut using a needle and thread, and tied it to a stool. As the bird attempted to land, it would flutter its wings, thus attracting the attention of other birds flying overhead. When the flocks landed near the blind bird, the other birds were trapped in nets and the hunters would crush them. Secondly, trees where pigeons made their nests were set on fire, and the smoke drove the birds from their nests. Another means of capturing these birds was to feed them grain soaked in alcohol, which made them easier to catch.

Loss of habitat and introduced diseases were also factors in their disappearance, as was the fact that they were eaten extensively in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In 1805, in New York City, a pair of pigeons could be bought for two cents. As a result, some slaves and servants never tasted any meat but pigeon. Even when there was only one large flock (of 250,000 birds) left, the hunters, who knew what was happening, did not spare it.

After people realized -- and cared -- that the birds were going extinct in the wild, there was no way to reintroduce them. Flocks of passenger pigeons could only mate if gathered in large numbers; there were not enough pigeons left to make even one of the enormous flocks. For the same reason, captive breeding centers also failed. Mourning doves are the closest relatives of the passenger pigeons. Scientists may someday use them to clone the passenger pigeon. This is similar to how scientists are trying to bring the quagga, which was similar to the zebra, back from extinction.

qgga.jpgThe quagga's face and neck looked like a zebra's, but the stripes faded along the back to a plain brown. Because of these unusual markings, it was hunted for its skin. It was also valued for its meat and, like the locusts and the pigeons, farmers thought of it as a nuisance. Now, people regret that they killed off this harmless horse, and are trying to breed horses that look more and more like the quagga once was.

It is important to remember the past so that we do not repeat it. Yet any kind of reintroduction, for any species, will not change the fact that their dying out was a disaster that could have been easily avoided... and wasn't.

Laudable Lepidoptera

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Although they have several differences, moths and butterflies are surprisingly similar.

For instance, they both belong to the order Lepidoptera. They both have wings. They both have antennae. They both have bodies smaller than their wings.

But they do have differences. Butterflies have long antennae without hairs, whereas moths have furry ones. Butterflies prefer to be outside in the day. Moths are nocturnal, which is why they often appear at night. And moths have fat and slender bodies, but butterflies have long, slender ones.

See if you can solve these "Moth or Butterfly?" Puzzles using the clues:

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Tool Use in Animals: From Otters to Octopuses

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Everyone’s heard of chimpanzees using relatively sophisticated tools to perform everyday tasks, like to eat their food or to hunt. But other animals, like elephants, octopuses, and even some species of fish also use tools to perform common actions. Here are twenty such silly animal anecdotes.

In Depth Measure
Gorillas and orangutans have been observed using sticks to measure the depth of bodies of water. And when an orangutan saw local humans spear fishing, he was spotted using a stick to catch fish from a net.

“Checkmate!”
Rooks are more than just a chess piece. They are large, raven like birds which, as in Aesop’s fable, can drop stones into a narrow glass of water to reach the worm floating inside.

Good Neighbors
According to the elephants, Robert Frost was wrong when he asserted that fences make good neighbors. They have been known to take huge stones, carry them to an electrical fence, and drop it down! That either breaks the fence or cuts off the electricity. Elephants also use branches as fly-swatters or back-scratchers.

Can Openers
Sea otters have been observed using stones to dislodge their prey. Once they have caught it and are again floating on the surface they also use stones to crack the shells of their dinner.

Stepstools Honey badgers, which live in Africa and parts of Asia, can use logs as tools. One was seen rolling a log through an underground cave. It then climbed on top of the log to reach a kingfisher fledgling trapped in the roots coming through the cave’s ceiling.

Modified Toy Common bottlenose dolphins blow bubbles, which they form into rings and play with, using their noses and bodies to keep the ring from floating to the surface. That’s a fun kind of tool to use!

Betty In an experiment with “Betty,” a laboratory crow, scientists laid an assortment of wires, some straight and some with hooked ends, in her cage. Then, they put a basket-shaped metal piece in a narrow glass for Betty to pull up. The scientists did not expect what the crow did: she picked a straight wire, bent it into a hook, and used it to hoist the basket out of the glass.

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Handmade Pocketknives Captive capuchin monkeys were given a flint stone and a closed box containing fruits. The capuchins broke the rock into sharp shards which they used to cut into the box.

Built-in Water Guns Archer fish live in freshwater ponds, where they can surprise unsuspecting insects by squirting jets of water at crickets and other small insects sitting on leaves above the water. Their lower jaws have evolved to become larger to help them do this impressive feat.

Getting Into A Scrape
Do you remember how much it hurts when you fall on concrete and graze your knee? When I learned to inline skate, I had to wear elbow and knee pads. Similarly, when dolphins forage for food on the ocean floor, they wear nose pads! They tear off pieces of sponge which they wrap around their noses to prevent getting scraped.

Ostrich Eggs Egyptian vultures use small rocks to crack the thick shells of ostrich eggs. Vultures that have never seen other birds using that technique are still able to manipulate the stone to get inside the egg, proving that it is a genetic trait and not learned.

Fishing for Insects
A common practice in the animal world, using a stick to draw hard-to-reach insects from their homes, is not only for chimpanzees. Although the primates have perfected the art of termite-fishing, chewing the stick’s end so that it splits into paintbrush-like bristles, Green jays and brown-headed nuthatches also probe into tree bark to extract the insects lurking within. Woodpecker finches, which live on the Galapagos Islands, have short tongues. They make up for the lack by using sticks, twigs, or even cactus spines in the same manner.

Coconut Housing Veined octopuses have been seen picking up empty coconut shells, carrying them around, and then hiding inside. Although there is debate about whether this really qualifies as tool use, it is advanced cephalopod behavior.


Monkey Missile White-headed capuchins use tools to defend themselves. They can use sticks to hit snakes either in self-defense or to reclaim their stolen baby. But a human observer got the most absurd treatment. The capuchin picked up a much smaller squirrel monkey and hurled it at the human!

Cracking Up Waiting at a traffic light on a Japanese university campus, carrion crows watched cars run over their freshly-picked walnuts. A tragedy? No. The lights changed and the cars halted. The crows walked across the road, eating the exposed meat of the nuts. The cars were cracking the nuts! Similar behavior has been observed in American crows. (To find out more, see PBS’ article.)

Oyster Drive Like the crows with their walnut-dropping habits, seagulls drop live, unshelled oysters onto roads so that passing cars will crack them open. They drop so many that driving along waterway roads is sometimes hazardous!

Underwater Discovery
In a recent experiment, captive stingrays were found using water as a tool in a manner similar to that of the archerfish. Scientists gave the stingray a tube, which was sealed on one end, containing some food. The stingray used jets of water to move the food through the tube towards them.

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Well Diggers Despite their not having hands, elephants use their trunks as a tool. Elephants dig holes to drink water, but after they’re done they don’t leave the hole to evaporate. Instead, they use a special technique to keep it from drying out! They rip bark from a tree, chew it into a ball, drop the ball into the hole and cover the hole with sand. The elephants remember where their well is so that they can go get free refills whenever they like.

A Heron’s Bait Green herons, which live throughout North and Central America, drop insects, food, or other small things into the water to attract fish. Hooded crows behave similarly.

Stopping the Hole
American badgers are carnivores who eat prairie dogs, some kinds of ground squirrel and other burrowing creatures, which live in underground tunnels. The badgers have developed a technique to catch them: they use stones and other objects as corks to stop the burrows’ exits. The hunted animal will have no emergency escape route, enabling the badger to catch it.

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This page is a archive of recent entries in the Invertebrates category.

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