Monday, September 21, 2015

Amazing Animal Videos: Octopuses

When researching animals for my first novel, Acea and the Animal Kingdom, one of my favorite animals to research was the octopus. Here some just some of the amazing facts about octopuses that I uncovered:

  • Octopuses are considered the most intelligent of all invertebrates.  To test this - the next time you visit an aquarium, ask them about the attempts the octopus will make to try to escape. Every one that I've visited has said they constantly have to change the way they feed an octopus and play with it, because it will figure out ways to escape from it!
  • They can solve problems, such as unscrewing a lid to get prey from a container. Perhaps this is another example of the first fact, but either way - if you're trying to hide from an octopus, don't hide in a container with a lid in it.
  • Octopuses have three hearts - two pump blood through each of the two gills, while the third pumps blood through the body.
  • Octopuses are venomous, but only the small blue-ringed octopuses are known to be deadly to humans.
  • Octopuses have four pairs of arms.
  • An octopus can lose an arm to escape a predator's grasp and re-grow it later with no permanent damage.
  • This is my favorite: Octopuses can fit through anything that their beak can. This is because their beak is the only bone/hard part of their body.
Now for some cool videos!

Can you spot the octopus in this picture? Click through to watch an amazing video to see where it's hiding:

This octopus is an escape artist: (click for video)

Think that was impressive? This popular video shows an octopus escaping from an even smaller hole:

Last one - here's the amazing Indonesian Mimic Octopus: (click for video)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Amazing Animal Fact: Parthenogenesis

Today's blog entry is the first to not specifically discuss a specific animal.  Rather, it's an extremely unique phenomenon that some animals can experience called parthenogenesis.

What is parthenogenesis? It's a form of asexual reproduction in which offspring develop from unfertilized eggs without any male contribution.  Think of it as a "virgin birth" that has been observed to occur in some insects, fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles, and snakes. It's rare, and biologically amazing.

The most recent example of parthenogenesis occurred with a captive female yellow-bellied water snake at the Missouri Department of Conservation's Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center. For as unique of a phenomenon as parthenogenesis is, this water snake has done it twice! The first time in 2014 where two snakes were born, and again this year. Sadly, this year's offspring did not survive.  It will be interesting to see if the 2014 offspring exhibit the same ability for parthenogenesis (if the offspring were female).

Prior to this water snake's ability for repetitive parthenogenesis being exhibited, the only other snake known to do so is the Brahminy blind snake.

So, here's the real question: As cool as this is, do we really want to know that snakes can reproduce asexually? Ah!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Amazing Animal Facts: Grasshoppers

It's that time of year again where grasshoppers are coming out. I've certainly got my fair share in my backyard. So it's left me wandering - what are some interesting facts about these little guys? Here are just a few:

  • They can leap 20 times the length of its own body!
  • Tucked under their wings are membranes that vibrate in response to sound waves, meaning their ears are on their abdomen!
  • Grasshoppers existed long before dinosaurs! Fossil records show they first existed during the Carboniferous period more than 300 million years ago!
  • Grasshoppers eat about half its own body weight in plants per day, meaning a swarm will devour crops.
  • Grasshoppers and locusts are the same thing.
  • Their musical "stridulating" will sing your children to bed.

Okay, I made that last one up - darn!