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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Goose: Amazing migratory birds

  • The first bird domesticated by man was the goose.
  • The original and classic foie gras is made from goose liver.
  • Geese are entirely herbivorous, consuming plant material exclusively.
  • Migratory geese flight range 2 – 3 thousand miles.
  • Resident geese flight range: 100 –200 miles to find food, water, and safety.
  • Geese will find a new mate if mate dies or is killed.
  • The Geese eggs in a nest are called a "clutch", avegaring 5 per nest.
  • In the event the clutch is lost to a predator, the goose will lay a new clutch.
  • Baby geese are called "goslings".
  • Natural predators of geese are foxes, raccoons, owls and snapping turtles
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Superorder: Galloanserae
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Subfamily: Anserinae
Tribe: Anserini

The most familiar and widespread goose in North America, the Canada Goose, can be found all across the continent, from the tundra in Canada to the Gulf Coast. Many populations are resident in urban and suburban areas, and often come into conflict with people. In appearance, a “resident” Canada goose is identical to a migrant. The only differences between a resident and migrant are that the resident breeds in the United States and does not migrate. The “acid test” to determine residency is the presence of nests and goslings in the contiguous United States during the spring breeding season. In the wild, the birds can eat nearly all plant species and parts, including aquatic, but especially enjoy grasses, clovers, sedges, grain, and berries.
Generally the term foie gras is used for goose liver, although it is also used to refer to duck liver. Goose liver is considered superior by most people.

Mother goose lays 1 egg approximately 1_ days apart until full clutch is obtained. Mother goose waits until all eggs are laid before she begins to sit on nest to incubate eggs. Incubation time: 28 – 30 days. Undeveloped eggs (still fluid) will sink or float vertically with the wider portion of the egg pointing down. All geese eggs in a single clutch hatch on approximately the same day.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Spiders: amazing hunters and nature balancer

  • The sex organ on a male spider is located at the end of one of its legs.
  • Male spiders are usually smaller than female spiders.
  • Most spiders are very nearsighted.
  • Webs get dirty and torn, so lots of spiders make a new one every day.
  • Spiders have as many as 8 eyes, but some spiders have only 6 eyes and several spiders have fewer or even none.
  • Fear of spiders is called Arachnophobia.
  • Most spiders have fangs, through which venom is ejected.
  • Spiders are invertebrates, which means they don't have backbones.
  • Spiders are not insects. Insects have three body parts and six legs.
  • Spiders have eight legs and two body parts, the abdomen and the thorax.
  • Spiders have silk spinning glands called spinnerets, at the tip of their abdomen.
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Chelicerata
Class: Arachnida
Order: Araneae

Spiders are air-breathing chelicerate arthropods that have two body segments, eight legs, and no chewing mouth parts. About 40,000 species have been identified. In spiders' bodies the usual arthropod segments are fused into two tagmata, the cephalothorax and abdomen, joined by a small, cylindrical pedicel. These small creatures help plants reproduce by pollinating them. They also help recycle dead trees and animals back into the earth. They are also a vital source of food for birds, fish, and small mammals. Without invertebrates, like spiders and insects, many other living things would not survive.

The silk of a spider is mainly composed of a protein very similar to that used in insect silk. It is initially a liquid, and hardens not by exposure to air but as a result of being drawn out, which changes the internal structure of the protein. Most spiders have four pairs of eyes on the top-front area of the cephalothorax, arranged in patterns that vary from one family to another. The pair at the front are of the type called pigment-cup ocelli ("little eyes"), which in most arthropods are only capable of detecting the direction from which light is coming, using the shadow cast by the walls of the cup. However the main eyes at the front of spiders' heads are pigment-cup ocelli that are capable of forming images.

The largest spider is the South American tarantula, as big as a dinner plate and heavy as a stick of butter. The smallest is the Comb-footed spider, smaller than the head of a pin. The smallest, dwarf spiders of the subfamily Erigoninae, are less than 1 mm (about .05 inches) in body length. Cooked tarantula spiders are considered a delicacy in Cambodia, and by the Piaroa Indians of southern Venezuela – provided the highly irritant hairs, the spiders' main defense system, are removed first. Spider venoms may be a less polluting alternative to conventional pesticides as they are deadly to insects but the great majority are harmless to vertebrates. Australian funnel web spiders are a promising source as most of the world's insect pests have had no opportunity to develop any immunity to their venom, and funnel web spiders thrive in captivity and are easy to "milk". It may be possible to target specific pests by engineering genes for the production of spider toxins into viruses that infect species such as cotton bollworms. Possible medical uses for spider venoms are being investigated, for the treatment of cardiac arrhythmia, Alzheimer's disease, strokes, and erectile dysfunction.

Arachnophobia is a specific phobia, an abnormal fear of spiders or anything reminiscent of spiders, such as webs or spider-like shapes. It may be an exaggerated form of an instinctive response that helped early humans to survive, or perhaps a cultural phenomenon that is most common in predominantly European societies.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Armadillos: Great body structure for medical research

  • The scientific name of the nine banded armadillo is Dasypus novemcinctus. Dasypus is from the Greek word for rabbit, novem is from the Latin word for nine and cinctus is from the Latin word for a band.
  • The word armadillo is Spanish for "little armored one."
  • Armadillos spend about 80% of their lives sleeping.
  • Armadillos are not blind, but they do have poor eyesight.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the nine-banded armadillo can not roll itself into a ball to escape predators!! Only one of the twenty-odd varieties of armadillos — the three-banded armadillo (Tolypeutes tricinctus) — is able to roll up.
  • Nine-banded armadillos always give birth to four identical young — the only mammal known to do so.
  • Armadillos are used in leprosy research because their body temperatures are low enough for them to contract the most virulent form of the disease.
  • Armadillos like to swim, and they are very good at it.
  • Armadillo teeth have no enamel.
  • Like most insect eating mammals, armadillos have a very long, sticky tongue to slurp up bugs as quickly as possible.
  • Armadillos have a very low metabolic rate, which means they don’t produce much body heat.
  • One way that armadillos conserve energy is through reta mirabila (Latin for “miraculous net”) — a system of veins and arteries in their legs.
  • Baby armadillos have soft shells, like human fingernails.
  • In many parts of the world, including the United States, you might find armadillo meat on the menu.
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Superorder: Xenarthra
Order: Cingulata

Armadillos are small placental mammals, known for having a leathery armor shell. The other types are covered with too many bony plates to allow them to curl up. Other armadillos have to rely on their armored shells for defense while they scuttle away through thick, thorny brush or dig themselves a hole to hide in. They also do not have a very strong immune system, making them an ideal model for many types of medical research.

“Virgin births” Armadillos are a result of the female’s ability to delay implantation of the fertilized egg during times of stress. This reproductive tactic is one reason why the armadillos are so good at colonizing new areas (such as the United States). Armadillos have a strong dog paddle, and can even go quite a distance underwater, walking along the bottom of streams and ponds. They can hold their breath for four to six minutes at a time. When they need to cross larger bodies of water, they swim across. Because their heavy shell makes it hard for them to float, they gulp air into their intestines to make them more buoyant. The ability to cross streams and rivers has helped armadillos expand their home range. Armadillos also have very few teeth — just several peg-like molars. Since they primarily eat insects, they don’t have to do a lot of heavy chewing, making big, strong teeth a waste of energy to grow. They also are equipped with strong claws to tear open ant nests. Their cousins, the anteaters, have very similar tongues and claws.

Armadillos are not good at living in cold areas, because they can’t keep warm very well! Armadillos don’t have a lot of body fat, so they must forage for food on a daily basis. Just a few cold days in a row can be deadly to an armadillo. Despite this fact, armadillos are steadily moving north. Hot blood going out through arteries is cooled by cold blood coming in through veins, and vice versa. This means that not much heat actually goes out into the legs, keeping it in the body. This also means they will get frostbitten very easily, since they have no way to warm their extremities through blood flow. Marine mammals, like whales, use a similar net of veins and arteries to stop the loss of body heat through the fins.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Crickets: cute body structure

  • The ears of a cricket are located on the front legs, just below the knee.
  • While crickets have wings, the majority of them do not fly.
  • Spiders, some wasps, ground beetles, birds, small rodents and lizards are cricket predators.
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Orthoptera
Suborder: Ensifera
Superfamily: Grylloidea
Family: Gryllidae

Crickets have long antennae and hind legs adapted for jumping; organs for hearing are located on their front legs. Solitary by day, crickets remain in crevices, under rocks, or in shallow burrows dug in the soil, emerging at night to feed on plants.
Crickets are omnivores and scavengers feeding on organic materials, as well as decaying plant material, fungi, and some seedling plants. Crickets also have been known to eat their own dead when there is no other source of food available. If left unchecked in houses, especially in large numbers, they will cause damage to clothing and other fabrics. They also have been known to feed on other insects, as in the smaller ones that live among ants.

Crickets do not rub their hind legs together to chirp. The left forewing of the male has a thick rib (a modified vein) which bears 50 to 300 ridges. The chirp (which only male crickets can do) is generated by raising their left forewing to a 45 degree angle and rubbing it against the upper hind edge of the right forewing, which has a thick scraper (Berenbaum 1995). This sound producing action is called "stridulation" and the song is species-specific. There are four types of cricket song: The calling song attracts females and repels other males, and is fairly loud. The courting song is used when a female cricket is near, and is a very quiet song. An aggressive song is triggered by chemoreceptors on the antennae that detect the near presence of another male cricket and a copulatory song is produced for a brief period after successful deposition of sperm on the female's eggs.

The Cricket wings are often too small to be of any use and lie useless across the back. Most get about by jumping from place to place, and through time, have developed legs
that are built for jumping at great heights when put in comparison to their size. Crickets vary in size from specie to specie, with most being in the range of ½” to 1”. One species that appears to clean up after ants in the ant’s own house is smaller than ¼’. The common house cricket is usually on the smaller end, most often not being much over the ½” range. As their name suggests, these are most commonly found around and inside houses.

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