Posts Tagged ‘BWOM’

by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Big Word of the Month: Prehensile

January 21st, 2014

If you’ve been to a Meet the Keeper program at Lemurs, you may have heard someone ask if the Red Ruffed Lemurs have “thumbs” or “fingers” on the ends of their tails. The answer is “no”; the little bit of naked tail that sticks out in varying lengths from the normally furry tails of our lemurs is a by-product of over grooming. The Red Ruffed lemurs will occasionally groom their tail tips by licking, chewing or rubbing at them with their fingers and subsequently, have removed tufts of fur from the ends. The naked bit of tail can bend and curl just like the rest of their tails, but it isn’t prehensile.

So what exactly is “prehensile”?

It’s defined as an appendage or organ found on a vertebrate animal that has the ability to grasp or hold.

Though the definition seems simple enough,  it’s not always so black and white. Think about the tail of a Virginia Opossum or the lips on a rhino or donkey. They have the ability to grasp or manipulate objects, but can’t really hang on tightly. In those cases, the appendage is considered “semi-prehensile.”

 

Here are some examples of prehensile appendages in the animal world: new world monkey tail (like Spider Monkeys), octopus arms, chameleon feet, prehensile-tailed porcupine tails, Giraffe tongues, primates with a thumb have prehensile hands and sygnathidae tails.

Photo Credit: ARKive.org
Photo Credit (Prehensile tailed porcupine): The Creature Teachers, Littleton, Mass.
Lycus the Lemur is our photo.

Here are a few more “semi-prehensile” appendages: elephant trunk tip, camel lips and snake tails.

Photo Credit (elephant): ARKive.org
Photo Credit (camel): ImageShack user “poojambasaurus”
The grumpy baby Northern pinesnake is our photo

 

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by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Big Word of the Month: Flehmen Response

December 23rd, 2012
Zebra Flehmen

The Funny Face

Lion Face

The Stinky Face

Llama Flehmen

Impressing the Ladies

Chummix Flehmen

Testing the Air

 

Whatever you call it, if you have a pet cat at home (especially if it’s a male) you’ve likely seen this face before. It goes by many variations of the same name: Flehmen Response, Flehmen Position, Flehmen Reaction, or simply Flehming. Flehmen (pronounced: FLAY-men) Responses are used by a wide variety of  hoofstock (ungulates) and many cats (felids). Males and females, adults and babies, all exhibit this silly facial expression.

The silly look on the animal’s face helps to activate an organ that allows him or her to sense chemicals in the air; specifically pheromones. Pheromones are a chemical signal that passes useful social information to another animal of the same specie. The organ used is called the Vomeronasal organ (also called the Jacobson’s Organ). This organ is located in the nasal cavity of many animals, including fetal humans. It is the organ used by snakes and water turtles as their primary sense of smell, but in most other animals it is used in more of a secondary or social fashion. More animals use a Vomeronasal Organ to detect pheromones than those that display the Flehmen Response, like lemurs, salamanders, lizards, dogs and pigs.

The lip curl or grimace directs the inhaled air toward the Vomeronasal Organ, allowing it to pick up the chemicals in the air and let the animal know important information about what they’re smelling. Information like whether there’s a female nearby who’s looking to mate or simply to get a more complete understanding of a new smell they’re being introduced to. Lightning, the donkey, often exhibits Flehmen Response to new smells and Chummix, the Boer goat, does it after smelling his urine (it’s a male goat thing…).

 

Join the conversation:

  1. We just talked about this, when I got this response from Lightning because he smelled my Chapstick. Very fun.

    Posted by Ranger Ro
  2. Amazing things here. I’m very glad to see your article.
    Thank you so much and I’m having a look ahead to touch you.

    Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

    Posted by web page

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by , Director
I've been at the Museum sooooo long - longer than many of our interns have been alive. I do a little bit of everything as part of my job: care for the animals, work with the keepers and other staff, spend time with guests. Lucky me!
I spend a lot of time behind-the-scenes, or here after hours, but if you really want to see me, you'll have to sign-up for a behind-the-scenes program.

Big Word of the Month: Farrier

June 13th, 2011

Our Farrier was in last week to check on Lightning‘s hooves. A farrier is someone who specializes in the care of the hooves of horses, donkeys, and other equines. They make sure  hooves are trimmed evenly and are healthy. Farriers also can shoe a horse or donkey if needed. Good hoof care helps to prevent abscesses in the foot. Abscesses (a collection or pocket of pus or infection in an area) can occur when a small particular of sand of stone gets where it shouldn’t.

Ron, the farrier, and Lightning

Ron comes about every six weeks to check out Lightning’s hooves. He brings his specialized tool set. (think of a manicure set for people, but MUCH BIGGER)

Join the conversation:

  1. Lightning looks like he is enjoying his manicure…is this because of all the keeper handling and enrichment?

    Posted by DJ
  2. Director Comment :

    Lightning usually does pretty well for his pedicures DJ. I think it is mostly because he is used to having his hooves picked daily by the keepers, as well as what you mention.

    Posted by Sherry Samuels

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by , Director
I've been at the Museum sooooo long - longer than many of our interns have been alive. I do a little bit of everything as part of my job: care for the animals, work with the keepers and other staff, spend time with guests. Lucky me!
I spend a lot of time behind-the-scenes, or here after hours, but if you really want to see me, you'll have to sign-up for a behind-the-scenes program.

Big Word of the Month: Myrmecophily

June 9th, 2011

Uli, our Butterfly House Director, after reading Rachael’s last post, sent along this information:

Myrmecophily: literally “ant-love” (as opposed to Myrmecophobia: the fear of ants).

The term is applied to mutually beneficial associations between ants and other organisms such as plants, arthropods, and fungi.

An example of a “butterfly-ant love” affair is the Malaysian Hairstreak (Anthene emolus) that selects plants hosting aggressive Weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) to lay eggs so that the ants can protect the growing caterpillar against other predators, but also transport the little caterpillars around to the host plant for feeding. In return, the ants milk the ‘honeydew’ that the caterpillars secrete. Many other species in that particular butterfly family (Lycaenids) associate with ants, mimicking their pheromones and cohabitate in their nests.

 Pretty cool!

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  1. Myr as in mermaid, me as in meh, co as in coffee, phily as in Philly.

    Mer-meh-cof-Philly

    Posted by Beck

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by , Keeper
Although a native tarheel, I came to the museum from Texas, where I taught Biology courses at a small college. In graduate school I studied the behavior and ecology of marine organisms (mostly crabs, lobsters and sea turtles).
You can find me in the Animal Department Monday-Thursday. Fridays I work for the Department of Innovation and Learning all day.

Big Word of the Month: Fimicolous

July 12th, 2010

My wife Sandy, also a lover of big science words, passed along this month’s feature. Fimicolous is an adjective formed from Latin roots that mean “to inhabit dung” and is used to describe organisms that live in, on, and with animal waste. As animal keepers we spend a lot of time dealing with poop and you might be amazed at all the living things that utilize poop.

dung beetle

Two dung beetles battle for ownership of a dung ball

Perhaps most famous are the dung beetles, a group of scarab beetles that use animal waste as a food source and a brooding chamber for larva. We frequently find dung beetles in the Farmyard in piles of poop produced by Max the steer. Keeper Kent loves to radio the butterfly house staff to tell them to come pick up new beetles for their collection! The actions of dung beetles help break up piles of waste and speeds their decomposition into nutrients.

The folks at NC State’s Cooperative Extension Service produced this great diagram(click on it to enlarge) that shows how different types of dung beetles use a cow patty. I especially liked that they included a “crust” layer, it shows a true understanding of poop! In column I on the left you see burrowers living under the poop. In column II another species makes shallow burrows. Column III on the right side shows a “rolling” species that takes a ball of dung and rolls it away to use it elsewhere.

Cow patty as habitat for dung beetles.

Another big fan of animal poop is a group of insects commonly called blow flies (or bottle flies). The adults in this group mostly feed on nectar and pollen but there eggs are usually laid in animal waste or on rotting dead animals. The larva hatch from the eggs and develop while utilizing the dung or dead tissue as a food source

Just the other day I was surprised to see a honey bees feeding on a particularly tasty pile of bear poop. Our bears eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and some of that food makes it through the bear without being fully digested. Although, it seems gross to us, uneaten food is not usually left behind in nature and many species have evolved to take advantage of this food source.

Bon appetit!

Join the conversation:

  1. Director Comment :

    What a great word Larry!

    I often find earthworms in bear poop when we scoop it up from the exhibit.

    Posted by Sherry Samuels
  2. Keeper Comment :

    Makes me think of the coffee that comes from beans that have made their way through a civet’s digestive tract. It’s supposed to be the most expensive coffee in the world! ha!

    Posted by Kristen Pormann
  3. I could spend hours watching dung beetles roll away their balls of cow pie!

    Posted by Ranger Greg
  4. Keeper Comment :

    Ranger Greg, that does not surprise me. Have you seen the movie Microcosmos? It has a great dung beetle sequence.

    Posted by Larry Boles
  5. The Big Word of the Month is Fimicolous and I think it is really a Big word to even read, this information is really good one for reading and it has interesting things to read also.

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by , Keeper
Although a native tarheel, I came to the museum from Texas, where I taught Biology courses at a small college. In graduate school I studied the behavior and ecology of marine organisms (mostly crabs, lobsters and sea turtles).
You can find me in the Animal Department Monday-Thursday. Fridays I work for the Department of Innovation and Learning all day.

Big Word of the Month: Cyanobacteria

June 16th, 2010

The warmer temperatures of summer stimulate the growth of an ancient life form in our local waters. Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, have been pumping oxygen into the environment for billions of years. Their buried remains contributed to the formation of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. Cyanobacteria live in almost every ecosystem in the world as well as living in symbiotic relationships with fungi to form lichens. You can find them in the ocean, in salty lakes, in freshwater lakes and stream, and even living on the fur of sloths!

Filaments of cyanobacteria in the bear pool.

Here at the museum we are beginning to some blue-green algae in some of our aquatic ecosystems. The picture at right shows some filaments of algae in the bear pool just below the waterfall. If you click on the picture to get a larger view, you might be able to see  some tadpoles. The lower pool or moat nearest the viewing area doesn’t receive sunlight so it rarely has much algae of any type.

In areas with excessive nutrient pollution (like streams near golf courses or hog farms), blue-green algae can grow rapidly in “blooms” and cause environmental problems. Biologists and health department staff usually monitor streams and lakes in the summer to check for algal blooms that might lead to unsafe drinking water or swimming conditions.

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by , Keeper
Although a native tarheel, I came to the museum from Texas, where I taught Biology courses at a small college. In graduate school I studied the behavior and ecology of marine organisms (mostly crabs, lobsters and sea turtles).
You can find me in the Animal Department Monday-Thursday. Fridays I work for the Department of Innovation and Learning all day.

Big Word of the Month: Marsupial

May 20th, 2010

The next time you are strolling through Carolina Wildlife and pass Sonny and Cher opossum, stop to appreciate what a rare beast you are viewing. Pshaw! you protest, it seems you can’t drive 2 miles in North Carolina without seeing a deceased opossum by the road.

Sonny and Cher in the playpen

Although very numerous as individuals, the Virginia opossum is a taxonomic rarity. Didelphis virginiana is in fact the only species of marsupial that exists north of the Rio Grande river. Originally found in the Southeast only, the opossum was spread by humans to the west and north during the early 20th century.

Mammals are usually divided into three groups: the monotremes (the egg laying mammals), the marsupials (pouch bearing mammals), and the placentals (mammals with internal development).  The marsupials get their name from their distinctive pouch called a marsupium. In contrast to placental mammals, marsupial babies are born underdeveloped (4-5 weeks of age)  and must crawl from the opening of the birth canal up and into the pouch where they attach to a nipple and continue to grow. As the offspring develop they may venture out of the pouch for short periods as they become more independent.

The distribution of the three groups of Mammals is an interesting study in biogeography. Why do you think marsupials are the dominant group of mammals in Australia while placentals are the dominate mammalian fauna on every other continent? Why would there be over 100 marsupial species in South America, about a dozen in Central America, and only one in North America north of the Mexican border?

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by , Keeper
Although a native tarheel, I came to the museum from Texas, where I taught Biology courses at a small college. In graduate school I studied the behavior and ecology of marine organisms (mostly crabs, lobsters and sea turtles).
You can find me in the Animal Department Monday-Thursday. Fridays I work for the Department of Innovation and Learning all day.

Big Word of the Month: El Niño , Southern Oscillation

March 5th, 2010

A question to ponder: Why would the temperature of the ocean water off the coast of South America cause a woman in Chicago to re-consider her purchase of soybeans?

For this month’s episode of Big Word of the Month, I want to discuss my favorite oceanic/atmoshpheric phenomenon (you have one too, right!) . Climate scientists use the term El Niño , Southern Oscillation to describe the complex relationship between the patterns of atmospheric pressure over the Pacific Ocean and the ocean circulation patterns off the western coast of South America. Because that phrase is such a mouthful, people use the abbreviation ENSO to save time.

The short and simple version of ENSO is that in most years weather patterns over the Pacific lead the coastal waters of South America to relatively cool. This common situation is referred to as a La Niña condition. Every few years though, the Southern Oscillation shifts back towards the western Pacific and the coastal water of South America warm slightly. If the warming exceeds about 1 degree Farhenheit, the event is described as a El Niño event.

This small change has very large global impacts. The map below shows you how moisture and temperature patterns change around the globe during an El Niño period.

Fig. 1 Winter Impacts from El Niño conditions(image from Wikicommons)

As you can see, an El Niño event leads to wetter and cooler winter in the Southeastern United States and warmer conditions in the Northwest US and Canada. So based on the extra snow here at the Museum and the poor ski conditions at the Olympics in Vancouver, you might not be surprised to learn that this year is a strong El Niño year. Ocean temperatures off South America have been above normal since last fall and are expected to stay that way through early spring.

Back to our question: Why would a woman in Chicago, interested in buying soybeans, be influenced by the temperature of the sea water off the coast of South America? Put your guess in the comments section below. I’ll post the answer in a few days if no one gets it right.

Read more about ENSO at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center

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  1. Keeper Comment :

    The answer to the question is that the woman in Chicago is a futures trader. Soybeans are one of the world’s man sources of protein. Small fish like anchovies caught off the coast of South America are another big protein source. When an El Nino event occurs, the fishery landings go way down. That makes soybeans more valuable and the prices go up. So if you are a soybean futures trader, you watch El Nino forecasts very closely.

    Posted by Larry Boles

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by , Keeper
Although a native tarheel, I came to the museum from Texas, where I taught Biology courses at a small college. In graduate school I studied the behavior and ecology of marine organisms (mostly crabs, lobsters and sea turtles).
You can find me in the Animal Department Monday-Thursday. Fridays I work for the Department of Innovation and Learning all day.

Big Word of the Month: Evaporative Cooling

February 3rd, 2010


The big talk around the museum lately has been the weather for obvious reasons! Being cold got me thinking about the physics of heat loss, so for this month’s BWOM post I thought I would talk about evaporative cooling. When water changes from one state to another energy is either released or absorbed; as water moves from solid -> liquid ->gas energy input is required at each transition.
You might think of evaporative cooling as an issue for the summer time. Our sweat glands release moisture onto our skin’s surface, which then evaporates and takes away heat energy. This process can be life saving in the summer but threatens our survival in the winter. Even though we don’t feel like we are sweating, our skin is still releasing some water. Any exposed skin is chilled not only by the cold air but also by the evaporation of water. We also lose heat as we breathe cold air in and out of our lungs. The moist linings of our respiratory tract are an effective evaporative cooling mechanism just like our skin.
Of course, if you get really wet then you might be in big trouble. Heat from your body will be sucked away as the water evaporates from your clothing and you could quickly enter hypothermia. As our body temperature drops, our brain acts to save itself and shuts down blood flow to our extremities. As our fingertips, toes, ears, and nose lose blood flow they can become so cold that we experience frostbite.
Stay dry and warm out there and enjoy the winter weather as much as possible!

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by , Keeper
Although a native tarheel, I came to the museum from Texas, where I taught Biology courses at a small college. In graduate school I studied the behavior and ecology of marine organisms (mostly crabs, lobsters and sea turtles).
You can find me in the Animal Department Monday-Thursday. Fridays I work for the Department of Innovation and Learning all day.

Big Word of the Month: Imprinting

January 13th, 2010

The big word of the month should be procrastination since I’m a little late with this post! Instead I’m inspired to talk about the process of imprinting since Sherry alluded to it in her post about our new bear.
In animal species with extended parental care, offspring usually learn to recognize their parents very soon after birth (the process sometimes begins even before birth). This process, called imprinting, varies from species to species but usually includes learning a combination of sight, smell and sound associated with the parents. Experiments conducted in the earlier 20th century with birds demonstrated that newly hatched chicks often imprinted on whatever object they first encountered in the nest, regardless of its similarity to a parent. The following short video by aYouTube contributor juancarlosboada summarizes the work done by Konrad Lorenz on the subject of imprinting. In 1973, he shared a Nobel Prize with two other researchers for their work on animal behavior. YouTube Preview Image

So what does all this have to do with Yona the new bear at the museum? In her post, Sherry mentioned that Yona was more interested in her human caretakers than other bears. Given her small size when she was rescued, she has likely partially imprinted on her human caregiver and therefore is not a good candidate for release into the wild. A full grown black bear that has no fear of humans and might even be attracted to them would likely end up having dangerous interactions with humans in the future.

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  1. Several years ago, I saw a special on tv featuring a flock of geese that had bonded with a family. So funny watching them fly in a V-formation right behind their station wagon.

    Posted by Wendy A

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