Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Nature's Indestructible Animal: Tardigrade

The Tardigrade: Ain't it cute?

Yes, this is a real animal. In fact, it is nature's most indestructible animal! Only the eventual death of the sun may be enough to wipe out the Tardigrade.

But first, what is the Tardigrade? 

Also known as water bears, the Tardigrade are water-dwelling, eight-legged micro-animals. When fully grown, they are about .02 inches long. Each foot has 4 to 8 claws each. The mouth has small stylets, which are used to piece plant cells, algae, or small invertebrates on which they feed. (Glad they don't eat humans!)

They have been found everywhere - from mountaintops to the deep sea and mud volcanoes, and from tropical rain forests to the extreme temperatures of the Antarctic. Which leads to the question...

How are Tardigrades indestructible?

They can survive 30 years without food.

They can live in volcanoes and withstand the intense pressures of the deep ocean.

They can survive from -328 to +300 degrees Fahrenheit!

They can even endure the deep vacuum of space. Researches even believe they could survive an asteroid impact, like the one believed to spell the doom of dinosaurs. In fact, scientists estimate that Tardigrades have been around for 600 million years! 

Yes, but HOW can all of this be possible?

Tardigrades of indestructible due to something called Cryptobiosis, which literally means "hidden life." Cryptobiosis is a form of suspended animation in which organisms can go on living even as they look dead. So when times get tough, Tardigrades play dead. They hunch up into little dried husks and more or less shut down, which drops their metabolisms to 0.01% of their usual rate. The Waterbear enters cryptobiosis by contracting its body into something called a tun, whereby it loses more than 95% of its free and stored water; essentially, it dehydrates itself. In this state, the Waterbear creates different proteins and sugars that help protect its cells. Once these cell protectants are synthesized, the Tardigrade reduces, and at times suspends, its metabolism. When conditions improve within the environment, the Tardigrade activates its metabolism once again, aided by hydration from water intake. It, essentially reanimates itself. 

So. Amazing.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Eel vs. Alien

Quiz: What animal has a second jaw inside of their mouth to eat its prey? Sound like something from a movie? ....

If you immediately thought of the Alien from Ridley Scott's Alien movies, you're not too far off.  The Alien was inspired by this real animal with two jaws!

The answer is the Eel! Seriously, eels have rear-facing jagged teeth with their front jaw so that prey don't escape. The second jaw then comes out, bites the prey, and pulls it down the eels throat!!! This is so cool!

Some pics:

Here's a fantastic video by the Smithsonian Channel showing this in action:

Monday, August 5, 2019

Game: Find the Poison Dart Frogs!

I recently visited The Living Planet Aquarium in Utah, and absolutely loved it! There's so much about that place which I'd love to write about later.

But for now - let's play a game!!!

Did you know Poison Dart Frogs are often called the most poisonous animal in the world? Specifically the Golden Poison Dart Frog has enough poison on its skin to kill 10 grown men. Wow. I will not be buying one of these as a pet.

Here's The Game:

Below are 6 pics of the poison dart tank at the aquarium. They each have a different frog somewhere in them. Can you find each frog? Some are easier to spot, and some require zooming into the pic.

The lesson learned is that the world's most poisonous animal can barely be seen without specifically looking out for them. How are humans still alive on this planet?!

Good luck! (Answers are even farther below.)

Pic #1:
Hint: It's green and striped

Pic #2:
Hint: It's not green

Pic #3:
Hint: There are two of them in this pic.

Pic #4:
Hint: This is the hardest one to find! Zoom in. It's green and striped.

Pic #5:
Hint: No hint for this one - you can do it! :-)

Pic #6:
Hint: Before you've even spotted it, it's spotted you!

Get Them All? Here are the Answers (in order):

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Video of the Day: Huge Anaconda Crossing the Road

Why'd the huge anaconda cross the flooded road? 
Because it ate everything in its path.

Check this video out! ...

Sunday, March 3, 2019


My family and I went to the new Butterfly Exhibit at Thanksgiving Point and loved it! But what caught me by surprise was how many different species of tarantulas were also on display - 11 to be exact. Here are the photos of those tarantulas I took, and a little fact about each one.

By the way, I think tarantulas are fascinating, even though they do creep me out like most people. When I was writing Acea and the Animal Kingdom, I watched hours of tarantula videos when researching for my king tarantula in the book. If you haven't read my first novel yet, you can check it out on Amazon here.

Goliath Bird Eating Tarantula:

The LARGEST arachnid on the planet. I learned that this guy is just an infant and still has alot of growing left to do. They don't always eat birds, but they will. Think about that.

Gooty Sapphire Tarantula:

Not the best picture - this guy was trying hard to hide in a corner. But these tarantulas are called "sapphire" for a reason - their legs end up becoming a very brilliant blue-sapphire color. Not only are they known as one of the most beautiful species, but they are extremely poisonous. Just one bite will leave a human in intense pain for about a week.

Arizona Blond Tarantula:

See it? Hiding behind the Delicate Arch... This guy was sharing a tank with some scorpions. It's a burrowing spider, as you can tell from it hiding in this picture. Like most species, they are nocturnal predators.

Togo Starburst Tarantula

This one is hiding in its burrow - in the upper left. It looks like some kind of horror movie scene, right? This species is native to West Africa. It's also called the Ornamental Baboon Tarantula.  They have very thick hind legs, leading some to think they are apart of the baboon spider species, even though they are not.

Brazilian Whiteknee Tarantula

These are among the larger species, and get up to full size quickly. Females are larger than males, with leg-spans of  up to 8.5 inches. They are commonly kept as pets. As you can guess, they're native to Brazil.

Mexican Redknee Tarantula

Check this thing out! Females have a large lifespan - up to 30 years! The males have a lifespan of 5 years. They dwell in Mexico along primarily the coastal areas near the Pacific Ocean. Females spend most of their lives in their burrows.

Greenbottle Blue Tarantula

This was my favorite one to see - look at it perched on top of its kingdom! It's hard to tell from the lighting, but their body is a fierce blue, with a starkly-orange abdomen. It's among the most dramatically-covered tarantulas. Native to Venezuela. In captivity, it's common for their webs to cover the entire container.

Trinidad Chevron Tarantula
I put this video up because it was active! They're native to Trinidad (located in the Caribbean). It's venom is actually part of a a toxin that provides therapeutic help for patients suffering a stroke. Crazy, right?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy 2019, the Year of the Pig!

Happy New Year!

Chinese Year of the Pig

I sincerely hope everyone has a great 2019. Let's kick start it with some interesting facts about Pigs!

Pigs are smart! You may think they're lazy, but research shows that their cognitive abilities are better than dogs and 3-year old kids! They're actually considered one of the more sophisticated animals - all that laying around must be because their philosophizing. 

Pigs don't "eat like pigs" - they actually enjoy eating slowly and savoring their meal. 

Pigs actually are clean! Really? Well, research shows that if given sufficient living space, pigs will keep the area clean that they lay and sleep on. They keep their toilets far from their living and feeding areas. Mind. Blown.

Pigs are very social - they are known to have at least 20 different vocalizations. They form close bonds with each other and like to sleep close to each other as well. They hate to be alone.

Pigs have great memories - they can remember things for several years.

Pigs' sense of smell is incredible - if you think just dogs have great senses of smell, you're forgetting about pigs. Their snouts have the highest density of tactile receptors (so, more dense than a dog's nose). Their sense of smell is about 20,000 times more sensitive than a human's sense of smell. You wouldn't guess it from the way a pig smells, right?