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Monday, November 24, 2008

Chameleons: amazing tongue hunting animal

  • A chameleon’s tongue is twice the length of its body
  • The chameleon's tongue extends faster than the human eye can follow, at around 26 body lengths per second.
  • Chameleon's tongue hits the prey in about 30 thousandths of a second
  • Even a small chameleon is capable of eating a large locust or mantis
  • All chameleon species are able to change their skin color.
  • Chameleons are mostly oviparous, some being ovoviviparous.
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Iguania
Family: Chamaeleonidae

More than 160 species of Chameleons are known, arranged in nine genera. The main distribution of Chameleons is in Africa and Madagascar, and other tropical regions, although some species are also found in parts of southern Europe, southern India and Sri Lanka. There are introduced, feral populations of veiled and Jackson's chameleons in Hawaii and isolated pockets of feral Jackson's chameleons have been reported in California and Florida. Chameleons inhabit all kinds of tropical and mountain rain forests, savannas and sometimes semi-deserts and steppes. They are mostly arboreal and are often found in trees or occasionally on smaller bushes. Some smaller species live on the ground under foliage.

The chameleon's tongue's tip is a bulbous ball of muscle, and as it hits its prey, it rapidly forms a small suction cup. Once the tongue sticks to the prey, it is drawn quickly back into the chameleon’s mouth, where the chameleon's strong jaws crush it. Chameleon's eyes are the most distinctive among the reptiles. The upper and lower eyelids are joined, with only a pinhole large enough for the pupil to see through. The eyes can rotate and focus separately to observe two different objects simultaneously, giving them a full 360-degree arc of vision around their body. When prey is located, both eyes can be focused in the same direction, giving sharp stereoscopic vision and depth perception. They have very good eyesight for reptiles, letting them see small insects from a relatively great (5-10cm) distance.

Different chameleon species are able to change into different colors which can include pink, blue, red, orange, green, black, brown and yellow. Chameleons are naturally colored for their surroundings as a camouflage. Chameleons change their color in response to light exposure and ambient temperature, as well as to express their mood (not for camouflage, as is commonly believed). Emotions and attraction of a mate can induce the color changes seen in a chameleon. The color changes also play a part in communication.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sharks: made to hunt predators

  • Sharks have been around for about 400 million years - long before dinosaurs even existed.
  • Sharks apparently are the only animals that never get sick. They are immune to every type of disease including cancer.
  • Sharks have the most powerful jaws on the planet.
  • Sharks never run out of teeth. If one is lost, another spins forward from the rows and rows of backup teeth.
  • A shark may use over 20,000 teeth during its life.
  • A sharks skeleton is made of cartilage, allowing greater flexibility.
  • The most harmless sharks tend to be the largest, such as the Basking Shark, the Whale Shark and the Megamouth Shark.
  • Two-thirds of a Sharks brain is dedicated to the sense of smell.
  • Shark skin is made of denticles instead of ordinary fish scales.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Subclass: Elasmobranchii
Superorder: Selachimorpha

Sharks (superorder Selachimorpha) are a type of fish with a full cartilaginous skeleton and a highly streamlined body. They respire with the use of five to seven gill slits. Sharks have a covering of dermal denticles that protect their skin from damage and parasites and improve fluid dynamics; they also have replaceable teeth. Sharks range in size from the small dwarf lanternshark, Etmopterus perryi, a deep sea species of only 17 centimeters (7 in) in length, to the whale shark, Rhincodon typus, the largest fish, which grows to a length of approximately 12 metres (39 ft) and which feeds only on plankton, squid, and small fish through filter feeding.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lobsters: Incredible animal body

  • It takes a lobster about seven years to grow to be one pound.
  • Lobster blood is a clear fluid. When the animal is boiled, the blood turns to an opaque whitish gel. It has no discernible flavor and is perfectly safe to eat.
  • Lobsters can regenerate legs, claws, and antennae.
  • Lobsters molt (shed their shells) to grow.
  • Lobster larva will molt about six times while still in the egg.
  • Lobsters exhibit 'handedness'. Some lobsters will have the crusher claw on the right side while others will have it on the left.
  • Lobsters may come in a variety of colors besides the usual blue-green, including blue, yellow, red, and white. ome even come in two colors, having half of their shell one color and the other half a totally different color. Of these only the white ones (true albinos) don't turn red when cooked.
  • The nervous system of a lobster is decentralized and has been likened to that of a grasshopper.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Infraorder: Astacidea
Family: Nephropidae

Lobsters are invertebrates, members of the Class Crustacea of the Phylum Arthropoda. This class includes animals without backbones and with hard shells like crab, shrimp, crayfish, water fleas and wood lice. A male lobster is called a cock and a female a hen or chicken (when she weighs about 1 pound). Lobsters are sexed by examining the first set of appendages behind the walkers. The male (gonopeds) are bony while the same appendages on the female are feathery. In both cases, you have to look closely because sometimes they are folded up tightly under the body. With a little practice, you can also tell by looking at the tail. On females the tail is relatively broad compared to the male's to accommodate the egg mass.

There are two kinds of lobsters, the "true" lobster (also called American lobster) and the spiny lobster. The true lobster has claws on the first four legs, lacking in the spiny lobster. The spiny lobster has a pair of horns above the eyes, lacking in the true lobster. Spiny lobsters also have two large cream-colored spots on the top of the second segment of the tail. Lobsters regenerate, in fact they can amputate their own claws and legs (autotomy) to escape danger. The term 'amputate' can be in the passive sense as well. I've seen a lobster spontaneously drop a claw for no apparent reason. The lobster's body has 19 parts, each covered by a section of the shell. The shell is thin and soft where the parts join, so lobsters can bend their body and move about. Lobsters breathe through gills located beneath the shell on both sides of their thorax (center part). Lobsters eyes are compound eyes, consisting of hundreds of lenses joined together on the ends of pair of jointed organs called stalks. The four small antennae on the front of their heads are used to "smell" their food or chemicals in the water. The tiny sensory hairs along their legs are used to "taste" their food. Lobsters keep their antennae and eye stalks moving constantly to search for food and to watch for enemies.

True lobsters have two very powerful claws. One claw is sharp and used for cutting, the other is bony and used for crushing. Lobsters that have their heavy ("crusher") claw on the right are considered "right-handed" and the others are "left-handed". Some lobsters are ambidextrous, they usually favor the claw that is the largest. Lobsters can lose claws, legs, eyes and antennae through accident or self-defense, but are able to regenerate them. Lobsters often fight with other lobsters for territory. If another lobster seizes their claw, they may drop their claw to escape. Sometimes, the more aggressive lobster will tear the claw of the opponent off. A lobster with a claw missing is called a cull It takes about 3 to 4 molt cycles for the claw to grow back to full size. Lobsters have a sophisticated nervous system that allows it to sense actions that will cause it harm and feel pain. Lobsters don't have an autonomic nervous system that puts it into a state of shock when it is harmed. For this reason, they will feel pain until their nervous system is completely destroyed. After they are released from the mother's swimmerettes and hatch, the larva will float freely in the water column and molt several more times before taking the form that we recognize as a lobster. At this point they may be only 1/4" in length.

Before they shed the old shell, they will form a thin one underneath. Growing lobsters secrete enzymes that soften the shell and connective shell joints. The shell spilts up the back and the creature backs out leaving it behind...including the membrane that covered the eyes. They will increase their size by about 20% at every molt. By the time a lobster is of legal size, it will have molted about 20-25 times, averaging 4-5 molts a year. After a molt the animal is vulnerable because the new shell is very soft. It will hide among the rocks on the bottom for 6-8 weeks until its shell hardens enough to offer some protection. They often eat their old shell which will replenish the lost calcium and speed up the hardening of the new shell. A young, immature lobster (first 5-7 years) will molt about 25 times a year. An adult male lobster molts twice a year and an adult female lobster once a year, usually in the summer. When lobsters get older, they will molt only once every 3-4 years. The only way to gauge the exact age of a lobster would be by their shell. However, since lobsters shed their shells so often, it is impossible to determine their age. Knowledge of body size at age makes scientists believe that lobsters can attain a maximum age of 100 years. The normal life span is about 15 years. Lobsters can grow to be 3 feet long in overall body length.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dragonfly: amazing insect predator

  • Dragonflies are one of the fastest insects, flying 50 to 60 mph.
  • Dragonfly eyes contain up to 30,000 individual lenses. Human eyes only have one.
  • Dragonflies only flap their wings at about 30 beats per second (bps) compared to a bee’s 300 bps.
  • Dragonflies have two sets of wings. They don’t have to beat their wings in unison like other insects do. Their front wings can be going up while their backs ones are going down.
  • Although 80% of the brain is devoted to sight, dragonflies are not able to register detail well.
  • Excellent and strong fliers, dragonfly can loop-the-loop, hover, and fly backwards.
  • There are nearly 2500 different species of dragonflies.
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Odonata
Suborder: Epiprocta
Infraorder: Anisoptera

Dragonflies have been around 300 million years. One prehistoric fossil had a wingspan of 2 1/2 feet! Today, the largest dragonfly is found in Costa Rica. It has a wingspan of 7 1/2 inches. Below you’ll find more interesting facts about dragonflies.

Female dragonfly lay eggs sometimes as many 100,000 at a time. Dragonflies typically eat mosquitoes, and other small insects like flies, bees, ants and butterflies. They are therefore valued as predators, since they help control populations of harmful insects. Dragonflies are usually found around lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands because their larvae, known as "nymphs", are aquatic. While underwater they eat mosquito nymphs, tiny fish, and pollywogs. When they have matured to airborne insects, they catch mosquitoes and gnats in mid-air before devouring them. Surprisingly, dragonflies will spend only a very short part of their life span as actual dragonflies. They will live as nymphs for up to four years, shedding their skin up to fifteen times, yet when they finally mature into adults, the dragonfly stage, they will survive only a few months.

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