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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|4 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 (@talcotts), […]

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