Here’s a great old illustration! The big indentations on the top/sides of the head are areas where muscles attach in from the neck. These are what give animals like the hyena such amazing crushing jaw strength! The flattened bone in the middle of these muscles groups is referred to as the “sagittal crest!”
While many people think of bugs, insects and spiders as simple, uncaring monsters, some actually have a very high amount of parental care! A female spider will fertilize the eggs with sperm stored from a previous encounter with a male spider and then often times, weave a specialized web egg sac for them to be housed in.
Other spiders, like wolf spiders, will carry the young on her abdomen! If you squish the spider, their babies may escape and be off on their own a bit more prematurely. Some spiders species have moms that may take care of them for a while as they grow, feeding them from her mouth, or cutting open prey for them to feed on. For other spiders, while they are growing up, the baby spiders will help with web maintenance in some cases, too, while they are provisioned by their mother.
Then, just like human teenagers, the young will suck the mother dry of all resources and leave her for dead.
Behold! The social feather duster! A relative of Bispira brunnea, which has more of an orange/tan coloration, this grouping of feather dusters (Sabellastarte spectabilis) is absolutely gorgeous!
When I ran a salt water aquarium, these were some of my favorite guys to have in there. But what are they? Coral?
Nope, as with most biology, the answer is much grosser: it’s a worm. Encasing itself in a thin cuticle, this worm extends long, feathery appendages out to capture food. If you or something else touches the fan part of the worm, it can retract it almostinstantaneouslyinto its body cavity!
Interestingly, we are not so different from this worm, as their blood often runs red like ours, owing to hemoglobin, the same iron-based protein we have! This is what is responsible for the coloration in the protrusions in the giant tube worm (Riftia pachyptila) as well, give it its characteristic “lipstick” look.
Tubeworms: Spirographis Spallanzani
Paul Flanderky, from Brehms Tierleben (Brehm’s animal life) first volume, under the direction of Alfred Edmund Brehm, Leipzig & Vienna, 1918.
Great illustration of tube worms, see my next post for more on social feather dusters!
How do jellyfish reproduce?
First things first: jellyfish are both sexual and asexual, so how they reproduce can be very tricky and depend on the chosen route taken!
People also don’t realize that jellyfish have an asexual “polyp” stage in which they are sessile (immobile). Eventually, that polyp elongates and divides eventually releasing a huge amount of ephyrae (baby jellyfish) in the water, these develop into the medusa of the jellyfish that are most known.
Some jellyfish skip this stage entirely and can reproduce through fission.
When sexually reproducing, the jellyfish will release huge amounts of eggs and sperm into the water and essentially work in an analogous way to wind-pollination on land (or more accurately, we are analogous to the water, as they came first! [joke intended]) where they essentially are relying on random chance for egg and sperm to meet.
tl;dr: Jellyfish are weird.
majorcupcake asked: Have you gotten a surge of followers since you were up voted to oblivion on the mountain goat post?
Haha, I wish! I have gotten about twenty or so extra followers since yesterday, though, which already blows my mind!
It’s great to see that people actually seem to want more biological facts crammed down their throats!
I’m very okay with that.
As a bonus for your question, here’s a photo of a very content urban rabbit that I found in a park a week ago!
The above photo of “The World’s Most Badass Ladybug” was posted on Reddit, which I found as a great way to open the door for some great biological conversation!
While this bug may be in for an unexpectedly high (and probably fatal) ride, many insects do, in fact, travel quite high!
There is a billion-bug byway in the sky above your head, and you may not even know it! Some insects have been found as high as 19,000 feet! That’s higher than some private planes are allowed to fly, due to a need for pressurization!
Why do insects fly this high? The same reason you and I do: transportation! It’s possible that they even join the mile high club, just like humans, while airborne, but it’s probably a bit more difficult. Even spiders may throw out a piece of web to catch the breeze. Dispersion in the wind is a common tactic for many organisms to travel huge distances, which is how many pests for agriculture are spread! Tiny little bugs can travel much farther on a steady windstream than they could on foot.
Falling isn’t a problem for a little insect, as their surface area to body weight ratio is huge, allowing them to remain unscathed from falls that would kill a human easily.
Some estimates have put the number of sky-bound insects at over 3 billion a month over places like England in the summer! Other places have been estimated as high as 6 billion!
Let’s have some fun: if a ladybug weighs approximately 0.02 grams, and we assume most bugs weigh around the same, on average, that means that, over a month, there is 0.02 x 3,000,000,000 grams of bugs in the sky over a large city. This comes out to 60,000 kg (132,000 lbs) of insect biomass in the city air, about the same weight as a Bowhead whale.
This number may be large, but it is not surprising, especially when you consider that the total number of insects on Earth have been estimated by famed biologists such as E. O. Wilson as ten quintillion. That’s 10,000,000,000,000,000,000, or, scientifically speaking: a metric shit-ton.
How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Alright, let’s break this one down:
A common woodchuck (Marmota monax) is known to displace approximately 1 cubic meter of dirt in the construction of its burrow. If a woodchuck could chuck wood, instead of dirt, this would be equivalent to the weight of the dirt, so approximately 710 lbs of wood.
If a foot of dry, untreated pine 2x4” lumber weighs about 1.5 lbs, this equates to a woodchuck being able to chuck around 473 feet of 2”x4” lumber, or about 78 six-foot planks.
…this is vascular xylem right? Tell me my 9th grade AP biology class didn’t fail me.
Yes, this is the vascular system of the plant, but more than just the xylem! This may also contain the phloem system, which provides nutrients for the plant tissues!
The xylem system is for the conduction of water (though it can transport some nutrients, too) while the phloem system transports dissolved sugars to the cells of the plant, along with other nutrients such as nitrate (NO3-).
Vascular systems like these allow plants to draw up water/nutrients from their roots into the very top of their bodies. How does this work? Several methods! Think of how a straw works: you suck the liquid up the straw. What you’re doing is applying negative pressure to the top of the system, which draws liquid up. The liquid itself is cohesive (bonds to itself) and thus draws up more liquid behind it as it is sucked upward.
This system is driven by something called “water potential,” usually designated by a greek psi (ψ). The more negative the water potential, the more it “wants” water. If you compare a gradient (plant versus air, for example) you can tell where the water will move. Dry air is the “thirstiest” and has the lowest ψ value, thus, water is usually drawn constantly through the plant from the roots up through the leaves! Additionally, the roots of the plant can provide pressure, too!
Root pressure can be created if there are solutes within the plant, as this drives osmosis of water into the roots, which creates pressure in the xylem, assisting the transpiration of water from the air interface!
The reason this skeletal like pattern remains in the leaves is due to higher concentrations of lignin (a strong carbon structural molecule that is what makes wood woody) in the tracheid xylem cells. The more easily decomposed cells will rot away, leaving the tougher skeletal lignin frame.
Here’s a short video that I shot recently that shows a very competent juvenile American Robin (Turdus migratorius) feeding in a mulberry tree (Morus rubra)!
If you’re wondering, you can tell a juvenile robin from an adult by the lack of a solid red chest coloration. The males and females look very similar in adulthood, so don’t be fooled if you think only the males have the coloration! Juveniles will have a mottled breast, speckled with browns.
As for the mulberry, this is a great tree that we’ve seen give respite to many urban birds! Our surveying group theorizes that mulberries may operate as hubs of activity for birds and other animals and contributes to high species diversity within the urban landscape. Also, they’re delicious for humans, too!
Mulberries are a “multiple fruit,” and actually not a berry! Multiple fruits are created when several flowers, each of which produces a fruit, coalesce into a single fruit. One very large example of this phenomenon is the pineapple!
I received lots of questions and comments about this picture recently after it was posted on Reddit. What is it? Is it a type of clam? Is it alive?
In actuality, the truth is much stranger.
This animal, the piure (Pyura chilensis), isn’t closely related to clams. It’s not closely related to sea urchins. It’s not closely related to sponges, either.
It’s closely related to us.
This is a tunicate, or more accurately a sea squirt, which shares a closer common ancestor with the animals we descended from. It’s in the same phylum as humans are, Chordata. Vertebrates are simply a subphylum of this taxonomy.
Isn’t life great?
Could you describe the picture? Is this a single specimen and is the “stone” just a shell or something?
The “stone” part is analagous to a shell, as it protects the organism, but it’s actually a compound that is made up of “tunicin.”
Similar to how plants use cellulose to protect and increase the integrity of their tissues, tunicates use tunicin, a similar sugar, to strengthen their mantles.
The mantles will have a few openings in it for their siphons. One siphon leads to the mouth while another is for waste and other secretions, but I may be wrong about that.
The heart, gut, intestines and reproductive organs are usually located under the mouthparts and atrium and are attached to the sea floor, since the animal is completely sessile. It’s a good way for minimizing danger!
This may, in fact, show a few different animals, as many tunicates do live in tight little groups like that.
Here’s a video that I shot and put together as a short stock footage documentary for a trip to the Bronx Zoo. This video was graciously featured by Project Noah, which everyone should check out!
As a bonus, the video even features a short photographer’s cameo by famed corvid biologist Dr. Kevin McGowan of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology! I was lucky enough to block most of his photographs and cause him only mild irritation through the length of the trip.
Beavers are cute little guys, aren’t they? They are known to fell aspen trees, which they then strip down for the nutritious protein (chlorophyll!) that is within the bark.
What is more interesting, I feel, are the teeth! Lots of people are saying the teeth are fake or rotten, but that is simply not the truth! Beavers and nutria and many rodents have orange or reddish teeth, but that is completely natural! What that is, similar to us, is the protective coating on their teeth. Humans use calcium to protect their teeth and layers of enamel, which produces a white/greyish protective coating.
Beavers use enamel, too, but they also sequester iron compounds (typically in the form of ferric oxide, Fe2O3, which lends the same reddish coloration to rust) in their teeth to make them even stronger! Remember, beavers are chewing trees which are extremely tough! What’s even tougher for beavers is that many plants sequester compounds that make themselves extremely inedible such as silicon dioxide or create what is known as raphides (sharp calcium oxalate crystals). Could you imagine chewing a mouthful of sand and razor blades?!
Your teeth would wear down too! A beaver’s are so well adapted that they keep growing indefinitely, so they must wear down their teeth as they would eventually develop long-toothed problems if they didn’t!