Nest building — it’s not just for the birds!

Like their fine feathered friends, fishes build nests too. Check out these fish who nest with the best of them!

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Hoping to attract the ladies, male cichlid (Lamprologus callipterus) industriously hoard empty snail shells in Africa’s Lake Tanganyika. Bigger is better, as females prefer to release their eggs in large shells collected by large males.

 

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Three-spined sticklebacks males spend hours moving around mouthfuls of sand and collecting mouthfuls of algae. Sticky mucus (complete with an antibacterial protein called spiggin3) secreted from the males’ kidneys glues together the gathered algae to form hobbit hole-like nests—sometimes, sticklebacks with an eye for design add a red accent at the nest’s entrance to catch a female’s attention.
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Bluehead chub do some heavy lifting of their own, moving thousands of rocks to nest-building sites in freshwater streams. As the rocks start to pile up, females take notice and deposit their eggs into the safety of the rocky mounds. Chub nests are popular places—more than 30 other species of fishes also spawn in their boulder homes!

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Perhaps most elegant and artistic of all fish nests is that of a pufferfish from the Tetraodontidae family. These meter-wide underwater crop circles are crafted by a single male no larger than your hand. Days of vigorous tail shimmying, pectoral fin flipping, and an eye for symmetry produces a sandy castle fit for a fish queen.

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Written by Natalie Sopinka and illustrated by Bethann Garramon Merkle.

Natalie Sopinka recently finished her PhD at the University of British Columbia studying what happens to salmon babies when their mom is stressed […]

By |February 25th, 2015|Backbones|1 Comment

Attention! Attention! Taxonomy Pun Contest!

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In honor of our great appreciation for those who love to order, classify, categorize, group, arrange, grade and rank (and just in time for Taxonomist Appreciation Day), Buzz Hoot Roar is proud to announce its second annual pun contest.

Here’s how it works:

1. Tweet us your best taxonomy-related pun by Friday, February 27.

2. We’ll select our five favorites.

3. Winners will receive: their puns illustrated on Buzz Hoot Roar’s blog, a set of printed greeting cards to share with the taxonomists in their lives, and a BHR super-soft T-shirt.

Let the witticisms begin!

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By |February 18th, 2015|Contests, Other Science|2 Comments

Sinister Sniffles: Animals with Malevolent Mucus

Welcome to winter’s icy dread: Everywhere we look, people are miserably shuffling about, constantly sniffing back a runny nose. While the sneezing soul crammed next to you on the bus might seem adversarial toward your good health, the world is full of critters that have truly weaponized their gooey secretions. This winter, we’re jealous of these four:

1. Hagfish: These primitive, worm-like fish, with their scaleless bodies and poor eyesight, seem like easy prey for predatory fish.

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But hagfish, when threatened, release a thick slime from glands running along their sides.

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This slime quickly expands in seawater to several gallons’ worth of slippery, translucent grossness. The booger cloud clogs the gills of attackers, promptly persuading them to cough out their hagfish meal.

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2. Boxfish: When harassed, these little reef fish excrete a soapy mucus from their skin, which disperses widely into the water.

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It is loaded with pahutoxin, a potent, lethal poison that targets enemies’ gills, destroying red blood cells.

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Aquarium-residing boxfish, hours after a chance poisonous release, are commonly discovered as a lone, oblivious survivor surrounded by scores of dead tankmates.

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3. Velvet worms: These weird, plushy invertebrates are slow, but they capture their food in an amazing fashion.

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Velvet worms have two glands near their mouths that […]

By |February 11th, 2015|Backbones, Bugs, No Backbones|2 Comments

Bearded Wonders

Hipsters of the animal world, these creatures’ beards boast form and function.

Harvester ants, the original bearded ladies, have long goatees (called psammophores) they use for scooping up otherwise slippery sand and seeds. Their lovely chin locks can increase their carrying capacity up to 200 percent.

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Male goats, purveyors of the first goatees, urinate on their beards to appear sexier to hot-to-trot females.

male_goatWalruses. No, they don’t want to sell you any Quaker Oats or diabetes supplies. Walruses just want to use their mustaches (made of hairs called vibrissae) to snarfle around the ocean floor, looking for mussels and clams to eat.

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Although they don’t look bearded, Geoffroyi’s marmosets use their Chairman Mao-like hairdos to let the ladies know they are the sexiest game in town. It works for the marmoset, but did it work for Mao?

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Bearded dragons not only use their beards to signal sexiness but also for psychological warfare. Flashing the extra face shows that they could fight if they wanted to.

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By Roar and David Eichenberger.

David Eichenberger is an illustrator/muralist from Raleigh, North Carolina.  He currently works at the Autism Society of North Carolina as an art specialist. You can see his most current projects on his Instagram feed, @troubleberger or follow him on twitter at @dmeichenberger. His website is davideichenberger.carbonmade.com

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By |January 28th, 2015|Backbones|0 Comments

Keepin’ It Glassy: How Some Animals Turn to Glass to Survive

Thirsty? Why not turn yourself to glass until you can get a drink? That’s what a tiny fly called the sleeping chironomid does.

As babies passing their days in the super-dry areas of Africa, sleeping chironomids live in little huts they make for themselves out of dirt and slobber.

The problem with living in a puddle in a super-dry place is that puddles don’t last too long. Everybody dries up.

If we dried up, our cells would collapse and would be irrevocably damaged. Nobody could bring us back to life. If we lose just 14 percent of our bodies’ water, we croak. Remember all those leathery people they find in the desert sometimes? That’s people for you.

To keep their cells from the fate of humans, sleeping chironomids first make a whole bunch of sugar called trehalose, which takes the place of water in their cells.

 

 

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Other animals, like sea monkeys and the ever-indestructible tardigrades, do it, too!

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Check our facts!

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/iub.463/full

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0014008#pone-0014008-g005

http://jeb.biologists.org/content/211/18/2899

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18070104

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By Roar and Chris Hedstrom.

Chris Hedstrom is a entomologist in Corvallis, OR studying biological control for the Oregon Department of Agriculture. He’s also an illustrator and photographer. Check out new drawings, photos and writing as they appear at chedstrom.tumblr.com or oregonbeatsheet.wordpress.com.

By |January 14th, 2015|Uncategorized|2 Comments

The secret extra animals in your food

Yes, you CAN have your peanut butter and some roaches, too! In the United States, it’s legal to get served a little extra protein in your PB&J. Even vegetarians get a little extra meat, whether they want it or not.

Here are some of the FDA’s regulations regarding acceptable levels of insect parts in food. Most of these regulations were made for “aesthetic” purposes only:

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Peanut butter: You can have up to 30 insect parts or 1 rodent hair per 100 grams.

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Chocolate: If you want that Hershey bar, go for it, and get yourself up to 60 insect fragments or a big, fat rodent hair in every 100 grams.

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Canned fruit juice: Have yourself a nice glass of orange juice—with up to one maggot for FREE!

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Cornmeal: If you want to go whole-hog, may we suggest some cornmeal? You can get up to one whole insect per 50 grams and up to 1 piece of rodent doo doo per 50 grams (on average) and be juuuust fine. Tamales and hushpuppies for everyone!

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Fish: Because we like oozy things, we’d love to see the stuff we’re allowed to eat on fish. With red fish and ocean perch, we can have copepods “accompanied by pus pockets,” and for blue fin and other freshwater herring, we can have up to 60 parasitic cysts per 100 fish.

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Hops: How about a beer? With an average of more than 2,500 aphids […]

Lessons from the Schoolyard: Why Do Dogs Hump?

Sometimes you just need a good hump. If you’re a dog. We’re talking about dogs here. Why do dogs hump even when they’re not gettin’ it on? Check out the top five reasons:

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1. Play date!

By six weeks old, male and female puppies already start with those sexy pelvic thrusts as a normal, healthy part of play. Later in life, it could help dogs get attention from their buddies. Most research shows that mounting in play is one way that dogs win friends and influence doggies. It’s like saying, “Let’s be friends. Like me! Like me!” Keep this in mind for the playground, kids!

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2. Arousal and excitement

Fist pump? How about air hump? Sometimes dogs get excited about going in the car or playing at the park. Dogs. Get. Excited. Like cheering when your team scores a touchdown, a hump here or there could easily pop out during times of excitement.

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3. Nervous nancies

For dogs, mounting is a well-known displacement behavior, associated with emotional conflict or anxiety. If a new person or dog drops by the house, a nervous Nancy could quickly become a nervous humper.

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Some kids suck their thumbs to calm down; dogs don’t have thumbs, so some may get in the habit of mounting, say, a pillow, while winding down for the night. Who are you to judge?

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5. Who’s the boss?

Many folks think dog mounting is about dominance. Why not? It looks and feels all […]

By |December 3rd, 2014|Backbones|3 Comments

Take 5: Notes of Greatness from the 2014 ESA Conference

Hoot traveled to Portland, Oregon last week for the Entomology 2014 conference, and had a blast! Here’s some of what she learned:

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1. Twitter takes taxonomy to the next level. Tweeps tweet life around them in places where taxonomists can’t always go. Just ask Morgan Jackson @BioInFocus.

 

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2. In fact, there are all kinds of reasons scientists should use Twitter and other social media—to find collaborators, help fight off imposter syndrome, share a really cool story about a centipede…  Such great insight from Derek Hennen (@derekhennen)

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3. People are seriously taking a sofa safari across the U.S.A.! We’re tuning in, as the Bug Chicks (Kristie Reddick, M.S., and Jessica Honaker, M.S.) trek through some of our own backyards. Awesome photos and stories on their blog, http://thebugchicks.com/blog/. Follow them on Twitter too (@thebugchicks)

 

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4. Phil Torres is more than just a fancy TV personality! He’s a social media whiz who really knows his science. Check out his work on TheRevScience and Al Jazeera America.

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5. Yes, bug art is a thing. Some of it is beautiful, some of it is fun, and some of it just tells us what’s up. Take, for example, Chris Hedstrom (@OregonBeatSheet), Katie McKissack (@beatricebiology), Esabelle Ryngin (@wowowosh), Carly Tribull (@cmtribull), Alexander Westrich, and Ainsley Seago (@americanbeetles).

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For more awesome science on social media, be sure to follow Gwen Pearson (@bug_gwen), Marianne Alleyne (@cotesia1), Cameron Webb (@mozziebites), Leslie Allee, and Scott Meers(@ABBugCounter). […]

By |November 26th, 2014|Bugs, News|0 Comments

A Good Nose Isn’t That Hard to Find

Ever since the dawn of time — give or take a few millennia — humans and dogs have been best buds. People liked dogs, with their scary barks and teeth when needed. And their great noses. Dogs thought, “Why not, as long as they feed and pet us?”
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Ever since the dawn of technology, researchers have gazed past the dog’s eager eyes and sensitive nose and thought, “Meh. I can build something better than that!” The race was on for a “biomimetic olfactory microsystem” to replace the dog.
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Mash-ups of mechanisms and organisms abounded. An army lab rigged a tube with a wire that blood-loving bugs would dance on and signal if they smelled the enemy.  The cone-nosed bugs lacked judgment.
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Plants take less maintenance than dogs. What about a super fern that would turn white if it detected a bomb? Sure enough. A transgenic plant could detect TNT. It took the torpid topiary between 24 and 48 hours to turn pale.

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The Germans figured the turkey vulture, with perhaps the most advanced smell of any raptor, could replace the earthbound dog.
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Sherlock didn’t like to fly when he was searching. He waddled like a duck. He would bolt and hide.
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Reconsider the humble dog. The one researchers looked at and said, “Sorry, I’m just not that into you.” More fun than a machine and usually less expensive. Check. Can signal the […]

Happy Halloween! Lesser-Known Vampires of the Animal World

Forget Dracula—these Nosferatus of the animal world would make our blood curdle if they didn’t seem so impossible.

Vampire finch: Somehow, the thought of adorable birds hanging around drinking blood is just about the eeriest thing ever. The sharp-beaked ground finch in the Galapagos has the annoying and creepy habit of pecking at other birds until they bleed and then sipping their blood.

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Vampire bats: Yes, yes. We all know about these sharp-teethed exsanguinators. But did we know that if the vampire bat Desmodus rotundus goes for two nights without a blood meal, it will starve to death? They need to consume at least 50 percent of their body weight in blood each night and will vomit blood into their less-fed friends’ mouths to keep them alive. We’ll keep company with fruit bats instead, thank you.

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Vampire squirrels: Okay, this is local legend, but folks say the little-understood Bornean tufted ground squirrel (Rheithrosciurus macrotis), known to us as Mr. Bushytail Deluxe, attacks larger animals, severs their jugulars, and scarfs down their innards. Go get ‘em, Bushytail Deluxe!

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Vampire spiders: The vampire spider (Evarcha culicivora) wants to drink your blood—but only if it’s in the belly of a mosquito. The small East African jumping spider looks for blood-fed mosquitoes to slurp down as its favorite meal.

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Dracula ants: Hmmm. What would make a delicious and nutritious meal for a hungry ant queen? How about her own children’s blood? When dracula ant (in the […]

By |October 29th, 2014|Backbones, Bugs|2 Comments