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|0 Comments

Buzz Hoot Roar shirts! Finally!

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Super soft tri-blend shirt in kelly green, featuring Heather Copley’s* adorable Squirrel Chat illustration.

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*That’s the artist, Heather, on the right!

By |October 15th, 2014|Shirts|0 Comments

It’s Our Birthday!

This time last year, we were just opening our wee little eyes to the Great World of Blogging. In honor of our birthday, we’d like to share with you this totally unscientific list of our top 3 favorite, mostly official baby animal names. Do you have any more favorites?

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Also in honor of our birthday, we printed limited-edition BHR squirrel talk T-shirts. They’re green! They’re for sale! And, if you’re interested in drawing for us for a super-soft T-shirt with a squirrel on it, now’s your chance! Email us and let us know!

Special thanks to Matt Shipman and Julia Ellis, who give great birthday presents.

Illlustrated by Julia Rice, an educator, designer and artist based in Raleigh, North Carolina. She develops and directs design education programs for young people at the Design Lab at the College of Design at NC State University, has a master’s in art therapy and counseling, and likes to tell funny stories. Whether she’s making things or making things happen, you can see what she’s up to at http://thedotank.tumblr.com/. Follow her on Twitter @IamTheDoTank

By |October 8th, 2014|Backbones, Bugs|1 Comment

The Horrors of Your Backyard: Squirrel Warbles

It’s that time of year again. Time when squirrels come lumbering up to our windows minding their own business with their bellies looking like Quasi Modo had a baby with the Elephant Man.

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Our squirrels have warbles.

In parts of the United States, about one in four squirrels has warbles.

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Here’s what warbles are:
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Here’s what they really are:
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Check our facts!
By roar.
By |September 24th, 2014|Backbones, Bugs|3 Comments

Dinosaurs Wore Party Hats!

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Little-known fact: Some dinosaurs wore hats.* And one group of duck-billed dinosaur had the best hats of all.

This hat (henceforth, we’ll call it a crest, for scientific accuracy) was not just any fancy accoutrement. Not at all. This crest contained the dinosaur’s nasal passages. That’s right; the dinosaurs breathed through a hollow crest on their head.

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As an example, let’s take a look at the Parasaurolophus, who had the longest nasal passages of any animal ever, except for a large wooly mammoth.
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Here’s how air makes its way from nose to lungs:

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That is over four meters from nostril to lung.

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Different shapes, colors, sizes and lengths of nasal passages: Why the variety?
 
These crests form the basis of communication.


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*Not real hats, of course. Through evolution, the bones of their face extended, shrank and otherwise rearranged so a totally awesome crest grew on top of their heads.

By Terry “Bucky” Gates, a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and NC State University. He spends his time researching a wide variety of topics but one of his favorites is the crazy crests and spikes on dinosaurs and other animals. Follow him on Twitter, @terryagates, LinkedIn, and his series of Cretaceous Cold Case blogs.

Illustrated by Talcott Starr […]

By |September 17th, 2014|Backbones|0 Comments

Ant-Man’s Retinue: Ants That Have What it Takes to Fight Supervillains

In 2015, Hollywood plans to roll out a movie based on Ant-Man – a superhero who can shrink himself to the size of an insect and use a “cybernetic helmet” to communicate with ants.

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There’s been a lot of talk about who should play Ant-Man (Paul Rudd!), but what about the ants? After all, it takes a special kind of arthropod to fight supervillains.

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Consider these species that have what it takes to thwart evildoers.

Contender 1:

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Contender 2:

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Contender 3:Wang_UPDATED-2-argentine-ant-sheet

Guard your script, Paul Rudd!

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Thanks to Lauren Rugani.

Check our facts!

http://www.pnas.org/content/103/34/12787.abstract

http://www.jstor.org/stable/1445486

http://www.pnas.org/content/99/9/6075.short

*Note: The Maricopa harvester ant’s sting is so poisonous that as little as .01 milligrams per kilogram would probably kill a grown man.

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Written by Matt Shipman

Matt Shipman (@shiplives) is a public information officer at North Carolina State University and a freelance science writer. He also writes the Communication Breakdown blog, which focuses on science communication. He lives near Raleigh, in a house full of humans.

Illustrated by Christina Wang

Christina Wang is an aspiring law-student who has no “objection” to making bad puns. She’s a student by day, artist by night, and nerd all the time. She lives in Southern California with her turtle and fish. Follow her on tumblr atplanetbob.tumblr.com

By |September 10th, 2014|Bugs|2 Comments

Buzz Hoot Roar News: Check out Our Art Exhibition!

Get off your computers, folks! Buzz Hoot Roar has its first real-live exhibition! Some of our amazing artists’ work spans the walls at Raleigh, North Carolina’s Cameron Village Regional Library through the month of September!
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With this show, we’re getting the SciArt word out in hard copy to bibliophiles, lonely people looking for dates, four year olds, and the rest of the Cameron Village Library crowd. 

You may remember such greats as Heather Copley’s decoding squirrel talk
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Neil McCoy’s showcasing weird star seekers in Animals in Spaaaaace
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Julia Rice’s examination of Belly Button Biodiversity

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Robin Anders’ look into how birds navigate the Great Migrate

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Artist in Residence Christine Fleming’s explaining What’s the Difference between commonly confused animals . . .

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and demonstrating jumping spiders’ Sexy Spider Dance

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Jaime Van Wart’s telling us why we just want to Squeeze It! 

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and James Hutson’s showing us how charming fireflies can be (and why some of them light up!)

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Thanks to all who share their talents with us. If you’re in town, go check it out!

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By |August 28th, 2014|News|0 Comments

Stop with the Death Metal! You’re Not a Woodpecker!

Okay, people. No matter how much they’re shreddin’ it onstage, we know head banging is bad for us. But whether it’s from contact sports, car accidents, or clumsiness, head injury diagnoses seem to be on the rise (at least in the U.S.).

Woodbanger_1In addition to a killer skull shape that protects their brains, woodpeckers have beaks to beat the beat. These birds can slam their skulls into trees with an impact of about 1000g (that’s 1,000 times the force of gravity). Plus, some species hammer away for HOURS at a rate of up to 300 beats per second.

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Here’s what they have going on that we need:

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When it comes to cutting-edge, built-in safety measures, our heads just haven’t kept up. That’s why we say, until you expand your ribs and fix your eyeballs in place and develop a cushiony middleskull: Popping a wheelie? Pop on a helmet.

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Written by Roar. Illustrated by Joshua Röpke from Austin, TX, who draws and does lettering with pens and sometimes brushes. He especially enjoys nature, DIY electronics, and succinct third-person synopses. For more birds and junk, check out:  www.jropke.com

Special thanks to Jordan Lite, who knows about head banging.

Check our facts!

N. Lee et al. Hierarchical multiscale structure-property relationships of the red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpescarolinus) beak. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. Published May 7, 2014. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2014.0274. http://rsif.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/11/96/20140274#

S-H. Yoon and S. Park. A mechanical analysis of woodpecker drumming and its application to shock-absorbing systems.Bioinspiration & Biomimetics. Vol. […]

By |August 20th, 2014|Backbones|3 Comments

Why Are We Afraid of Spiders?

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We don’t like all those legs and their creepily erratic ways of running around2. But why? Spiders don’t try to hurt us on purpose, and almost no spiders could hurt us if they tried.3 In contrast, our fear of spiders maybe hurting us has led to everything from minor freakouts to major birth defects.4,5

It turns out that we might not be able to help ourselves. Like Lady Gaga, some of us were born this way.

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Plus, people with fraidy cat family members are more likely to be fraidy cats themselves, whether or not the fraidy cats grew up together.6

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But evolution and heritability aren’t the whole story.

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Nature and Nurture: Still BFFs!

*Spiderzillas don’t actually exist. We made them up because spiders don’t care about us and they never want to bite us in the face unless we’re being obnoxious and bothering them with our faces, but you’d probably want to bite them in the face if they were bothering you like that, too. Well, maybe not bite them in the face. You’d probably rather take a shoe to them. But you get the idea.

By Roar and Chris Buddle. Illustrated by Christine Fleming, Buzz Hoot Roar’s Artist in Residence. Follow Christine at @might_could and check out more of her work here.

Chris Buddle is a Professor at McGill University, in Montreal Canada. Chris does research on spiders, including recent work on arachnids living in the Arctic (yup, spiders live up there, too!). He’s been working with spiders for almost two decades and has never been bitten. […]

Japanese Beetles Are Shiny, Green Party Animals

Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) have been a big part of the U.S. spring and summer scene since the year Albert Einstein presented his Theory of General Relativity. (That was in 1916.)

These brilliant green insects emerge between late May and early June and spend the next six weeks eating, mating, eating, laying eggs … and eating.

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The eating part can be a problem. Adult Japanese beetles eat the leaves and flowers of more than 300 plant species2, but they seem to have a particular fondness for ornamental plants beloved by homeowners – like roses.

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When these insects chew on leaves, these leaves  release “don’t eat me” chemicals to ward off leaf eaters. But Japanese beetles take one whiff and consider them an “all friends welcome” invite.  It doesn’t take long for a hearty plant to be completely stripped of its leaves and blooms.

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Their flowers’ “don’t eat me” chemicals cause temporary beetle paralysis that lasts 12-16 hours. Somehow, Japanese beetles prefer them anyway, and will do the ole eat-and-freeze until they trundle off to better food.

What’s a gardener to do?
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Written by Buzz and regular contributor Matt Shipman

Matt Shipman (@shiplives) is a public information officer at North Carolina State University and a freelance science writer. He also writes the Communication Breakdown blog, which focuses on science communication. He lives near Raleigh, in a house full of humans.

Illustrated by Catherine Kehoe Arnold

Art by Catherine Kehoe Arnold. Catherine is a multi-disciplinary designer with a serious passion for craft and beauty. Generating inventive and creative design solutions are my areas of expertise. In […]

By |August 6th, 2014|Bugs|2 Comments