Posts Tagged 'Meet the Animals'

Science at home: Cockroach courtship

by Treloar Bower, Curator of Education

Madagascar hissing cockroach (this one's a female). Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Madagascar hissing cockroach (this one's a female). Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Our animal caretaker has been away for the holidays, so I, along with a couple other members of the staff, am caring for the museum’s critters (professionally known as our living collections). In one tank we have some juvenile cockroaches, some of which are Madagascar Hissing Roaches. When I feed them, they receive a slice of vegetable such as zucchini or squash. I also spritz their tank with water to keep the humidity up inside of it. Recently I had to dig around in the substrate of the tank to find the old piece of vegetable before dropping in a fresh slice. My finger bumped into one the hissing roaches and it chirped at me! I’ve heard these roaches hiss before – it’s pretty impressive – but never have I heard a chirp. I gave the little guy a rub on his back and was rewarded with lots of chirping, just like a bird.

I thought that was pretty cool so I shared my chirping roach story with my co-workers. Jason’s response: “change your perfume!” Turns out, male hissing roaches woo females with song – I’m being courted by a cockroach!

Research performed at the University of Paris XI-Orsay and the University of Exeter in Penryn, England, determined that these male hissing roaches create vibrations in the air and through the ground that act as “sweet nothings” for female hissing roaches. The chirps and whistles are actually very complex and sound almost bird-like. For the most impressive whistle, the hissing roach male can use two voices at the same time!

The male hissing roach songs are created not by the rubbing of body parts against one another (like most insects do) but by “squirting air out of specialized holes in their abdomens.” This use of air to produce song makes the male hissing roaches more like mammals and birds in their courting ritual. As for a male hissing roach that doesn’t chirp? It doesn’t get the ladies!

Come meet our Romeo Roach at this Saturday’s Meet the Animals program, January 9, from 11 am to 2 pm.

Meet Slinky!

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator, and Michelle Brannon, Slinky Wrangler

This is me (Slinky) and my friend Toby, the K-12 Education Coordinator at the Museum

Slinky the snake is our Museum’s wonderful ambassador, semi-official mascot, and headliner of our live animal collection. You can meet Slinky and our other animals (including Sergey the Russian tortoise, Josie the rat, and some really neat insects) this Saturday from 11 am to 2 pm during our Meet the Animals program. Michelle Brannon takes care of Slinky and our other animals, and she offered to translate a blog post from Slinky to the world. So, here goes!

My name is Slinky. I’m a ball python, and my species is native to parts of Africa. I’ve never actually been to Africa, but I hear it’s a pretty neat place. I was born in captivity, which means that ever since I hatched out of my egg, I’ve been handled by people. I’ve learned that people are super nice and I love to meet new ones all the time! If I haven’t met you before, there’s a problem. You absolutely MUST come visit me! I used to live in Discovery Science Center, but I’ve moved with them to the Fort Collins Museum building in Old Town Fort Collins. I have this really big new house that is just perfect for me! It would be great if you could come check it out sometime. My favorite place is under the big log in the middle, so look for me there if I’m not out on the floor meeting you face to face.

As for what I’ve been up to lately, I’ve been supervising and entertaining the field trip groups that come to visit the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center, digesting my latest rat, and planning this blog. It’s been on my mind for a while now, let me tell you. I tried to type it myself, but I got a tail cramp. I’m learning how to type by using Twitter, but this blog is a bit longer than 140 characters. My human friends are helping me out this time around. Can you get carpel tunnel in your tail? I’ll have to ask my vet on my next visit.

Oh, my Twitter account! You guys really should check that out. I normally update it once or twice a week (I’m a little slow, not having any hands). I like to talk about upcoming events at the Museum, and share amazing facts about my favorite subject, snakes. If you want to know exactly what’s going on around here, you need to follow me. You’ll also get some random musings from inside the tank, which we all know is pretty dang cool. How many of you can say you know exactly what a snake is thinking when he’s thinking it? Share the love, becoming a Slinky follower! There’s a link at the bottom of this blog that will direct you to my Twitter page.

That’s about it for me. I would love to write more blogs, so if you liked this one, leave me a comment here, or send me a message on my Twitter page. Ask me questions, or just give me topics to discuss. I’m really getting into this internet thing, so if you ask, I’ll answer! Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you around my tank soon!

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/SlinkyWorld

Animal magnetism

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is currently playing host to a young Great White shark for the fifth time in the last few years. The young 5’3″ female is swimming in the Aquarium’s million-gallon Outer Bay tank, which holds a number of deep ocean-going marine species, including the ocean sunfish and the giant Pacific bluefin tuna (check out the live webcam to watch the Great White and her neighbors in action!). The previous four Great Whites were successfully released back into the wild after they became too large to remain in captivity.

I can hardly imagine the thrill of seeing such an amazing creature up close and personal, and I’ll tell you, if I could I’d get out to Monterey myself, just for the experience. The opportunity to see and learn about live animals, in person, is invaluable for all ages. “Authentic, first-hand encounters with animals have a power to inspire that eclipses any other interpretive technique I’ve seen,” according to Jim Covel, Director of Interpretive Programs at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “These encounters can alter the sensationalized images of wildlife—be they sharks, snakes, spiders or others—and help us to grasp the true nature of these creatures.”

Though far more humble, you can experience some “animal magnetism” for yourself at the Museum tomorrow, and the 2nd Saturday of each month, during our “Meet the Animals” program. You can go face-to-face and hands-on with Slinky, our wonderful ball python, Sergey, the Russian tortoise, and our other insect, reptile, and amphibian friends. Drop by any time between 11 am and 2 pm. See you there!

Slinky and a young friend

Slinky and a young friend

Scat, cat!

by Treloar Bower, Curator of Education

scat

Not five feet from my front door, my mom and I spotted this nice pile of scat one recent morning. My family and I live just west of Windsor. The Poudre River is a few miles to the east of their house. The landscape is mostly scrubby fields dotted between the manicured and well-watered lawns of several housing areas. The neighborhood itself is hopping with cottontail rabbits. Out for a walk with my dog last night, I counted eight rabbits. That’s a great buffet just waiting for a carnivore right there.

One carnivore, the bobcat, will eat “anything that moves,” but it’s generally believed that they prefer cottontails. After consulting a scat field guide (not to mention viewing the little hairs impacted in the scat), I think the scat we found is from a bobcat. Given the choice of prey all around the area, it makes a lot of sense.

I love the fact that at some point one night, while my family slept, a bobcat walked right by the front door. If not for the deposit that bobcat left, we would never have known. We spend so much time viewing “deposits” left by people (buildings, roads, billboards) on the landscape that we forget about all the ways animals leave signs of their passing, too. Fur and feathers; tracks and scratch-marks; nests and egg shells; burrows and of course scat … it’s all there for us to see! We may not get to observe the animals that actually left those things but how wondrous that we can see the evidence of their presence if we just keep our eyes open.

Every second Saturday of month (and this one is coming right up), the Museum hosts two programs: Meet the Animals and Tracks, Scat and Fur. At Meet the Animals, our visitors can interact with some of the animals from our living collections. At Tracks, Scat and Fur, visitors can see the tracks and scat of many of the mammals of our region, and kids can make their own track “field guide” to take home. It’s a great way for people to learn how to “match the evidence” with the “culprit,” if you will!


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