Saturday, April 29, 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Mantis Shrimp: Beauty AND the Beast!

I just learned about one of the most fascinating creatures I've ever heard of. While meeting readers of my books at FanX by Salt Lake Comic Con, a reader told me about the Mantis Shrimp. I had to go home and research this amazing animal. My conclusion is that this crustacean is both a Beauty and the Beast.

First: The Mantis Shrimp is beautiful, especially the Peacock Mantis Shrimp:

Second: Their vision is spectacular! They have 16 cones in their eyes. Humans only have 3 - red, green, and blue. Humans can only see derivatives of those three colors because those are the only cones in our eyes. The animal with the next most cones are butterflies - with five. Mantis Shrimp have 16! They can detect ten times more color than humans, including ultraviolet light! 

So, they're beautiful and can see an unimaginably beautiful color spectrum.

But ...

They are also extremely deadly.

Mantis Shrimp have powerful club-like appendages that fold beneath its body, which makes it look like a preying mantis. These clubs have the ability to strike at the speed of a .22 caliber bullet (50 times faster than a blink of an eye). A blow from these easily strikes through the shell of a crab or mollusk. (There are many videos online of the Mantis Shrimp beating up other animals. So many that I couldn't decide which to post.)

The speed of a blow could also break through glass. Many aquariums do not hold Mantis Shrimp because they will devour other animals in a tank, and because the tank itself won't be able to contain it. 

Think about that. Oh, and they are quick swimmers and are very territorial.

Beauty and the Beast, indeed.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Scorpions: They Glow In The Dark!

Scorpions glow in the dark! How did I not know this until recently? Check out these awesome pics of scorpions glowing in the dark:

It's called being bioluminescent.  When UV light is shined on a scorpion it glows! Scorpions are the most active just after sunset, which the only time when UV light is more prevalent in the sky than the colors we can see.  They also only have one light detecting pigment in their eyes, which is tuned to only blue-green.  But otherwise, there are no confirmed scientific theories for why scorpions are bioluminescent - which is fascinating!  

One theory is that they glow under UV light, to turn the dim UV light into a color that they can see. Another theory is that it's part of their evolution that either helps with them luring prey, or to help other animals avoid them. Yet another theory is that production of the two chemicals that glow are just a coincidence. So no one really knows - but it's amazing!

And what's even more fascinating is that scorpions are not the only bioluminescent creature on this planet. But that's a topic for another day....

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Endangered Animal Highlight: Musk Ox

Quiz: Which of these is from Star Wars, and which is an endangered species?

The answer is that the one that looks from a movie (right) is a Bantha from Star Wars, whereas the one that looks like a real animal (left) is the Musk Ox.  The Musk Ox is an endangered species.

They are accustomed to extremely cold temperatures. Warmer summers in their natural habitat - which include Canada, Greenland, and parts of Alaska - could take a toll on its population. Though they closely resemble a buffalo, their actually ore closely related to sheep and goats. Their closest relative is actually the Takin, which is a goat-antelope that lives in the Himalayas. 

Sadly, the Musk Ox has become an endangered species, with its world-wide population estimated at 125,000 as of 1995. That population has likely decreased, with estimates being around 80,000 now. A major threat is hunting, which has been controlled in some regions.  Musk Ox hides, horns, and bones have been used to make things.

Here are some interesting facts:
  • The muskox and the caribou are the only two arctic hoofed mammals that survived the end of the Pleistocene Era (10,000 years ago).
  • Their hooves are so strong that they can break through the solid ice in the Arctic to get to the water below.
  • They are herbivores. But because plants are normally only available for a short time in their Arctic region, they have to paw through the snow to find plants.
  • They are herd animals, and groups of 2-3 dozen of them will often be led by a single female. When the herd is threatened, they form a tight circle in group defense.
  • Calves are born directly into the snow during April after an 8 month gestation period. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Happy 2017: Year of the ....

Rooster! 2017 is the year of the ROOSTER! Are you thinking that's not interesting? Wrong. There are some amazing facts about roosters that make them very interesting.

  • A rooster is simply an adult male chicken. (Adult females are hens.)
  • Roosters can fly - but because they're so heavy, they can only go about 200 feet.
  • Roosters have bad senses of smell and taste, but are great at hearing.
  • There is evidence of roosters having been on farms for about 5000 years!
  • You can find roosters on every continent except Antarctica.
  • For chickens in general, a study in 2003 concluded that there were over 24 billion chickens in the world - which outnumbered the amount of humans by 3 to 1.
  • The ancient Greeks believed that even lions were afraid of roosters, as evidenced by several of Aesops Fables such as "The Lion and the Elephant."
  • It's long been believed that roosters have 5 virtues: literary, military prowess, courageous, benevolent, and trustworthy. Actually.... I think that believes is for people born during the year of the rooster, and not to roosters themselves...
Why did the Rooster cross the road? ....

... To prove he wasn't a chicken!