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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Butterflies: fascinating butterfly facts and trivia

  • The original name for the butterfly was 'flutterby'!
  • Butterflies range in size from a tiny 1/8 inch to a huge almost 12 inches.
  • Butterflies cannot fly if their body temperature is less than 86 degrees.
  • The Brimstone butterfly (Gonepterix rhamni) has the longest lifetime of the adult butterflies: 9-10 months.
  • The caterpillars of some Snout Moths (Pyralididae) live in or on water-plants.
  • Many butterflies can taste with their feet to find out whether the leaf they sit on is good to lay eggs on to be their caterpillars' food or not.
  • People eat insects – called "Entomophagy"(people eating bugs), many bugs are both protein-rich and good sources of vitamins, minerals and fats.
  • Butterflies and insects have their skeletons on the outside of their bodies, called the exoskeleton (related to crabs and lobsters), keeping water inside their body to keep them from drying out.
  • Female butterflies usually are bigger and live longer than male butterflies.
  • A butterfly has compound eyes: each eye is made up of about 6,000 tiny parts called lenses, which let in light.
  • The female moth produces a scent that a male moth can smell a mile away.
  • Butterflies can’t hear, but they can feel vibrations.
  • Butterflies don't have mouths that allow them to bite or chew.
  • A caterpillar grows to about 27,000 times the size it was when it first emerged from its egg
  • The wings of butterflies and moths are actually transparent.
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera

A butterfly is an insect of the order Lepidoptera. Like all Lepidoptera, butterflies are notable for their unusual life cycle with a larval caterpillar stage, an inactive pupal stage, and a spectacular metamorphosis into a familiar and colourful winged adult form.

Butterflies are characterized by their scale-covered wings. The coloration of butterfly wings is created by minute scales. These scales are pigmented with melanins that give them blacks and browns, but blues, greens, reds and iridescence are usually created not by pigments but the microstructure of the scales. This structural coloration is the result of coherent scattering of light by the photonic crystal nature of the scales.

Both butterflies and moths belong to the order lepidoptera, a Greek which means scale wing.The iridescent scales, which overlap like shingles on a roof, give the wings the colors that we see. Contrary to popular belief, many butterflies can be held gently by the wings without harming the butterfly. Of course, some are more fragile than others, and are easily damaged if not handled very gently. Butterflies along with most moths have a long straw like structure called a proboscis which they use to drink nectar and juices. When not in use, the proboscis remains coiled like a garden hose.

Studies on the reflection and scattering of light by the scales on wings of swallowtail butterflies led to the innovation of more efficient light-emitting diodes. Researches on the wing structure of Birdwing (of Palawan, Philippines) butterflies led to new wide wingspan kite and aircraft designs. The structural coloration of butterflies is inspiring nanotechnology research to produce paints that do not use toxic pigments and in the development of new display technologies. Furthermore, the discoloration and health of butterflies in butterfly farms, is now being studied for use as indicators of air quality in several cities.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hercules Beetle: strongest of all

  • Hercules beetles, also called rhinoceros and unicorn beetles, are among the largest beetles in the world.
  • Pound for pound, Hercules beetles are the strongest animal in the world. Some can lift as much as 850 times their own weight.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Coleoptera
Family: Scarabaeidae
Subfamily: Dynastinae
Genus: Dynastes
Species: D. hercules

The male, about five inches (13 cm) long, is one of the largest insects known. Females often have a greater body length but are not as long overall. Males have black heads and a set of forewings that can be shades of green, brown or black, while females are entirely brownish black. A large horn projecting from its upper thorax (chest) and a smaller one from its head resemble pincers. They are mainly found in tropical rainforests in Central and South America, but live as far north as Mexico as well as on some Caribbean islands.

Hercules beetles have a total life cycle of about a year and a half. They live underground as larvae for ten to 16 months, but only live for three to four months as adults.
Adult Hercules Beetles feed on sweet fruits, tree sap, and decaying plant matter. Larvae develop in or around rotten logs and eat decaying wood. Hercules beetles are vulnerable in the wild due to destruction of forests and collection for the pet trade. They are also vulnerable as their natural range is very limited.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mouse: adaptable intelligent animal

  • The typical laboratory mouse runs 2.5 miles per night on its treadmill.
  • A rat can walk longer on desert than a camel without drinking water.
  • Mice have tails that are as long as their bodies.
  • Mice see best in dim light. Their eyesight is weak, but their other senses are acute.
  • Mice have teeth that never stop growing. Mice teeth can grow up to 5 inches a year.
  • Mice squeak at very high frequencies, often above the range of human hearing.
  • Mice can jump down 12 feet without injury; they also have a 12-inch vertical jump.
  • Mice explore their territory daily, showing no aversion to new objects (neophobia).
  • The female mouse ovulates every other day.
  • A baby mouse is called a pinky, or a kitten. A female is called a doe. A male is called a buck
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Superfamily: Muroidea
Family: Muridae
Subfamily: Murinae
Genus: Mus

The word "mouse" and the word muscle are related. Muscle stems from musculus meaning small mouse - possibly because of a similarity in shape The word "mouse" is a cognate of Sanskrit mus meaning 'to steal,' which is also cognate with mys in Old Greek and mus in Latin. Mice range in size from 11 to 21 cm (4 to 8 inches) long (including a long tail). They weigh from .25 to 2 oz (7.1 to 57 g). The coat color ranges from white to brown to gray. Most mice have a pointed snout with long whiskers, round ears, and thin tails. Many mice scurry along the ground, but some can hop or jump.

Mice are common experimental animals in biology and psychology primarily because they are mammals, mice also share a high degree of homology with humans. They are the most commonly used mammalian model organism, more common than rats. The mouse genome has been sequenced, and virtually all mouse genes have human homologs. There are other reasons for why mice are used in laboratory research. Mice are small, inexpensive, easily maintained, and can reproduce quickly. Several generations of mice can be observed in a relatively short period of time. Mice are generally very docile if raised from birth and given sufficient human contact. However, certain strains have been known to be quite temperamental. Mice (and rats) have the same organs in the same places, just different proportions.

Mice live for one to two years. They can start having babies at 6-8 weeks old and have 5-10 in each litter (pregnancy lasts 3 weeks). Babies are born hairless with their eyes closed. One mother mouse can produce over 100 babies a year.

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