Holiday Reruns: Five Conversation Starters for the Thanksgiving Table

Tongue-tied with Uncle Tommy? Sick of Aunt Sally’s prattle? Try some of these BHR-approved conversation starters to get things going this Thanksgiving.

1. “My little heart goes pitter pat just being surrounded by all of you loved ones. Speaking of hearts, did you know smaller animals’ hearts beat faster than larger animals? Well, they do.



2. “It sounds like that investment banking career is really taking off for you, Mike. Oh, me? I just took up omphaloskepsis.”


3. “No, I’m not being creepy about your baby, Janet. I’m expressing a natural evolutionary urge to protect him.”squeezeit_05_03
4. “Oh, look at the moon! It’ll look even smaller tomorrow night. How do I know? I just know.”
5. “It’s natural to share, Jerry. But you gotta work for it. So no, you’re not getting any of my pecan pie.”
Image credits: 1. Neil McCoy, 2. Julia Rice. 3. Jaime Van Wart 4. Christina Wang 5. Chris Trlica
By |November 26th, 2013|Backbones, Bugs, Other Science|1 Comment

We Got the Beat

Metabolism! The stuff our body does to keep us rolling down the road! Powered by our hearts!



Some scientists say all animals have a fixed number of heart beats before we die (955,787,040, to be exact).



While not always true, metabolism (and heart rate) generally correlates with lifespan. Animals with slow beats live longer. Be still, our hearts—or at least slow down!


Check our facts: 


Heart Rate Sources:
The Complete Dinosaur
The Cardio Research Web Project
Electrocardiographic studies of the three-toed sloth, Bradypus variegatus
Squirrel = Super Soldier? WIRED Online
Cheetah Facts

Illustrations by Hoot and Brad Berkner, a master craftsman of multimedia. Check out more of his work at http://www.bradberkner.com/ and follow him on Twitter @bberkner.
By |November 22nd, 2013|Backbones|7 Comments

Why Some Ants Dress in Drag

So if you’re the weak guy in a class of bullies, can you still get lucky? Some males of the ant species Cardiocondyla obscurior say,


They have some advice for you.

In C. obscurior nests,


To avoid getting stomped on by the larger males and still mate with future queens, these Steve Urkles mimic the scent of fertile female ants.


Beefy bullies get all hot and bothered by their brothers dressed in drag, and instead of attacking these should-be rivals, they try to mate with them.


Meanwhile, our ant Ru Pauls are hooking up with the actual females.BHR_Transgender_Ants2_last_01

Not only are these wimps getting lucky; so are their offspring. Dressing in drag is one way scrawny guys push their genes into future generations.   BHR_Transgender_Ants_last_01


Brad Maurer is a stream restoration engineer at The Nature Conservancy. He likes his job, but still regrets dropping out of art school. He’s currently working on a book of insect cartoon characters.

By |November 20th, 2013|Bugs|1 Comment

Vocabulary Friday: Gibbous

No, not the fuzzy ape. That’s gibbon.


Gibbous is when the moon is fuller than half-full.


So we know the moon’s phases result from the relationship between the position of the moon, the earth, and the sun, which always shines on half of the moon, just like it always shines on half the earth.


Think of it this way:


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 at planetbob.tumblr.com

By |November 15th, 2013|Other Science|2 Comments

How Boxer Crabs Anemone an Enemy

boxer_crabs_illustration_CMT-smCheck our facts!



Chris Trlica is a writer, researcher, and gardener with a home in North Carolina. By day he sleeps, by night he wanders the city, occasionally prodding droplets of liquid metal with electrodes, and by eternal twilight he dreams of asteroid mining, pizzas and/or curries, and a vast gardened campus of sinister tilapia, mist-veiled queen anne outposts, and unfathomably cliquish precocious teenage mentats consumed with games that make baseball and hide-and-seek look like breathe-the-breath.

By |November 13th, 2013|No Backbones|1 Comment

Vocabulary Friday: Omphaloskepsis

Omphaloskepsis is the act of contemplating one’s own navel.


We should all do it!



Because our belly buttons are packed with life! With an average of 67 different types of bacteria living in each one of our belly buttons, each one of us has a unique microbial fingerprint.



That’s omphaloskepsis for you. Time to look on down and start omphaloskepsisizing (not a real word) about the personal jungle you carry with you.




Check our facts!

1. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/324/5931/1190.short




Julia Rice is 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 |November 8th, 2013|Backbones, Other Science|5 Comments

We’re Going to Squeeze It

According to Neal Singer’s awesome book “The Wonders of Nuclear Fusion,”


That’s what we thought was happening inside us when we saw baby otters…


…or animal best friends…


. . . or anything to do with red pandas or sloths.


Then we found out that, whether from a need to protect or happy overload, cuteness arouses aggressive responses in people.


Check our facts!





Jaime Van Wart is a graphic designer and illustrator based in Raleigh, North Carolina. She works full-time as a User Experience Designer with IBM and freelances part-time under the studio name Ketchup and Mustard. See her work here and follow her on Twitter @saucebomb.

By |November 6th, 2013|Backbones|2 Comments