Animals

Dolphins Sleep with One Eye Open

dolphin.jpgDolphins and whales often sleep with one eye open in order to avoid being eaten by sharks. The ability to stay partially conscious also allows them to continue to get air while sleeping.

How dolphins handle this is to put one half of their brain to sleep, while the other half is still conscious and functioning.  They then alternate which side is sleeping periodically. They stay in this state for approximately eight hours a day.  Doing this allows them to be conscious enough to control their breathing and periodically swim to the surface and get air, while still giving their brain the rest it needs.

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Animals

In Switzerland it’s Against the Law to Own a Single Guinea Pig

guinea piggoo.jpgSwitzerland has strict animal rights legislation that ensures “social rights” for certain pets, this means that certain animals which are classed as sociable creatures must be accompanied by at least one other of the same species when purchased at a pet store.

Guinea pigs are covered by this legislation, when buying a guinea pig you must also buy a companion of the same species for it to socialise with. This legislation is still valid if one of the pair happens to outlive the other, as such “Rent-A-Guinea Pig” services have become available in Switzerland, where when one of the pair dies, a substitute companion can be rented to ensure that the social life of the Guinea pig remains in tact for the rest of his life. The rented Guinea pig can then be returned to the owner.

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Animals

Why are Flamingos Pink?

FlamingosFlamingos are one of the most iconic creatures in the animal kingdom, easily identified by their bright pink plumage. However when Flamingos were first brought to zoos from the wild, the keepers were dismayed to find they lost their bright pink colour and turned a grey/white shade.

It turns out the secret to the flamingo’s pink feathers comes from their diet. In the wild flamingos eat algae and invertebrates that contain things called carotenoids. Carotenoids contain pigments which dissolve in the flamingos fats and are then deposited in the growing feathers of the flamingo giving them their colour. If this is removed from the diet of the flamingo then the colour will be lost and feathers come through as their natural grey colour.

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Animals Planet Earth

The Misinformed Mongoose Invasion of Hawaii

145359In Hawaii in the 1800’s the sugar industry was facing problems from the growing rat population which was eating through their sugar plantations and costing them a lot of money. In order to try and control the rat population, a predator was introduced to the islands, in 1833 Mongooses, which are originally native to India, were let loose in the fields of Hawaii to end the rat threat to the agriculture.

However this decision seemed to be incredibly misinformed, rats are a nocturnal animal which means they are only active at night and spend the days hidden away in nests, however the Mongoose is diurnal, which means they only hunt in the daytime and nest at night so the two animals would never encounter each other!

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Animals Planet Earth

What is The Schmidt Sting Pain Index?

Angry-HornetIt is called the Schmidt Pain Index and is the work of Justin O. Schmidt, who has been stung by 78 types of venomous insect and documented his experiences.

The stings are ranked from 0, which is quite harmless, to a 4 which is excruciatingly painful. Alongside the numerical rating of the stings, Schmidt also writes a sentence or two about his experience, for example the Bullet Ant, rated the highest on the scale, features the following sentence: “Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail grinding into your heel.”

The Bullet Ant is rated highest on the pain index, as it is not only excruciatingly painful but the pain can remain just as intense for up to 5 hours after being stung and can remain for up to 24 hours.

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Animals

Ants Can Fall from Any Height Without Dying

AntTerminal Velocity is a phrase used to describe the maximum constant speed that a falling object can reach before it cannot accelerate any further. This happens when the air resistance pushing the object up becomes equal to the force of gravity pulling the object down. The terminal velocity of a human being is 120mph, as such, should you manage to reach this speed while falling and hit the ground you would most likely end up in a bad way.

However, an ant is so light that should you choose to throw one off the top of a skyscraper and it reached its terminal velocity, it would only be travelling at 3.9mph, due to its size and weight the air resistance acting against the ant is so strong that gravity cannot physically pull it down to earth any faster. Due to the slow speed and the ant’s strong exoskeleton which braces it for impact, they do not suffer any damage from falling at any height and the impact would have been the same as if it had fallen a few centimetres.

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Animals

There is a Species of Ant that has a Door for a Head

Door Head AntAnts are one of the oldest species of insect on Earth and inhabit almost every landmass today. It is an interesting fact that the total biomass of all the ants on the earth is roughly equal to the biomass of all the humans, how can this be when they are so tiny? Simple, there are around 1.5 million ants on the planet for every human and over 12,000 different species, for every single acre of land in the rainforest there are estimated to be 3.5 million ants.

One of the more interesting species of ant are the Cephalotes ants, more fondly known as the door-headed ants. These ants make their nests in holes in trees formed by wood boring beetles, however there are other ants and insects that also want to live inside these nests or even eat the ants, that’s why they need a door to keep other nosy insects out. The ants don’t use a block of wood like we do, they use their own heads.

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Animals

There is a Species of Jellyfish that is Biologically Immortal

JellyfishJellyfish are very bizarre, they have no eyes, no heart, no brain and are very simple organisms. They are similar to bacteria in that they do not “think” but more react to stimuli in order to escape or feed. In nature, there is one Jellyfish that is weirder than all the rest and that is called  Turritopsis Dohrnii or more commonly dubbed “The Immortal Jellyfish”.

Whilst the Jellyfish itself may be quite a simple organism, its life cycle is not. In the development of a full adult jellyfish, the organism goes through several very distinct and different phases in its life. The Jellyfish life starts, as with ours, with a sperm and an egg, once the egg has been fertilized and has developed, the jellyfish hatch as Planula Larva and swim out on their own. These are tiny oval shaped organisms with small hairs called cilia which help propel them through the water. This stage of life is fairly short-lived and after a few days the Planula Larva drops to the bottom of the ocean floor and attaches itself to the rock and transforms
into what is called a Polyp.

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History

A Chemist Accidentally Discovered Purple When Looking for a Cure for Malaria

porfuraPurple dye originally came from the mucus glands of a snail. The discovery of the dye is often attributed to the mythological Greek God; Heracles, or rather his dog, who was eating snails off the coast of the Levant and returned with a mouth stained a deep purple colour. From a biological point of view the snails use the purple mucus as a defence mechanism to spray predators and make their escape, they also use it to catch their own prey and protect their eggs.

The colour purple was incredibly rare at the time, it is unlikely that those who discovered the snails had ever seen another purple plant, animal or living thing, as such the colour was vastly sought after. However it was a very slow and costly process to create dye from the mucus produced from the snail, it required over 12,000 of the shellfish to extract just 1.5 grams of the dye, enough to colour a handkerchief. Purple quickly became incredibly valuable and even worth more than gold, by 300 BC a pound of purple dye was worth 3 times a bakers annual wage.

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Planet Earth

Some Plants Use Wasps as Their Own Personal Bodyguards

venus-fly-trapWe don’t often allocate intelligence to plant life, and the majority believe that they just sit in one spot and get on with growing and they have no methods to defend themselves against anything that might want to eat them. However this isn’t true, many different plants have various methods of self-defence and interesting techniques to stop being devoured, with some of them being rather clever.

Many plants have direct defences to combat insects and animals that might want to eat them, for example some plants, such as roses, grow thorns or prickles. These thorns are very sharp and act as the “teeth” of the plant to ward off predators. A hungry herbivore won’t want to eat them if they are going to get hurt in the process!

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