Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Feast

A friend of a friend is in the process of creating a nature documentary and shared this footage today. I felt it was too mesmerizing not to pass along....Enjoy!

The Feast from visualmondo on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

3 species

Northern Stargazer:
This fish lives at least 120 feet deep under the Eastern shores near New York and North Carolina. The Northern Stargazer has a flat head with it's face on top staring upwards hence it's name. It buries itself into the sand to camouflage itself with only their face being visible at the top to ambush their prey. It has electrical organs that transmit a shock to immobilize it's prey which is usually small fish. They an grow to at least 22 inches in length. When they lay eggs, they lay them at the bottom of the bay and float to the surface after they have been released. At the surface, they hatch into larvae and swim to the bottom where they become adults.

The Tardigrade (Water Bear) is a micro animal that can survive almost every atmosphere and condition. It's said that their superpower is immortality. They can survive extreme heat up to 302 degrees and freezing cold down to -328 degrees. They can survive in outer space, and live without food or water for a century. They also survive through ionizing radiation up to 570,000 roentgens as well as gamma, ultraviolet, and solar radiation. High salinity and lack of oxygen are also environments they can survive. They are found everywhere from under volcanoes, mountain tops, rainforests, Antartica, etc. 

Water Boatman:
The Water Boatman (Singing Penis Bug) is an aquatic insect and is considered the loudest animal in the world. Despite it's small size, it produces sounds up to 100 decibels, as loud as an orchestra. Because they live on the bottom of slow rivers and ponds, their sounds can be heard through the water. The sound is actually produced by it's penis that rubs up against the grooves of it's abdomen in a process called stridulation. It has a long flattened body about 15 milliliters long. They are non-predatory and mainly eat aquatic plants and algae. They spit an enzyme through their mouth onto their food to break it down then drink the liquified food. Said to have over 500 species around the world.

3 species & a system

Sierra's 3 Species


A lot of information that is passed between plants is by certain toxins that are released into the air, like the smell of fresh cut grass. But a lot of this information is passed underground by symbiotic relationships between plants and soil fungus. The soil fungus that we most often see comes in the form of mushroom after sexual reproduction between fungi. The real fungus is like a carpet elongated cells that are spread throughout the ground. The trees give the fungi sugar and the fungi help collect water and nutrients for the tree. As the fungi connect to one tree, other trees connect to that same fungi making a sort of power cord between the two. Then when one tree is under distress is sends out signals that travel through the fungi and into the next tree, allowing it to prepare for the same distress. But the big question is, is the fungi not in control of the signals being passed through it or does it give out the information in order to protect its host? Image result for soil fungus

Certain organisms on land and in the sea are able to glow using chemical reactions in their bodies called chemiluminescence. This glowing is called bioluminescence. One creature in particular that has this ability is plankton. Bioluminescent phytoplankton is found in all the world's oceans with Dinoflagellates being the most common. When being disturbed or attacked Dinoflagellates will begin to light up and flash. This flashing is meant to attract predators to come and scare off the other organism that is hurting the plankton. Bioluminescent Plankton washed on shore

Half of the world’s population is infected with a parasite called Toxoplasma. Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that is usually found in the guts of cats. The eggs of the parasite attach to rats which get eaten by cats. The parasite between that time period creates cysts in the rat's body including its brain. Toxoplasma keeps the rats in healthy conditions in order to be eaten by cats.  In recent studies done by Oxford students they were able to prove the parasite alters the minds of the rats but testing how they react to cat urine. Rats without the parasite steer clear from the smell of cat urine but the rats who are infected like to hang around the urine and seem to come back to that location multiple times. After seeing this research scientists were able to link Toxoplasma with patients with schizophrenia. It was shown that not only do both toxoplasma and schizophrenia affect cells that surround and support neurons but both are affected with the  antipsychotic drug, haloperidol. Going back to the rat experiment, when the infected rats were given haloperidol the fear of cat urine returned. This shows the antipsychotic drugs have the same result on toxoplasma as pyrimethamine which is a medications specifically created to eliminate toxoplasma. The cool thing is, toxoplasma aren’t the only parasite to control the minds of their host in order to complete their lifecycle; Dicrocoelium dendriticum infects ants and forces them to hang out on the tops of grass blades in order for them to be easily eaten by grazing animals, Euhaplorchis californiensis causes fish to jump and create motion on the top of the water so that birds have an easier time eating them, Hairworms have praying mantis jump into pools of water which allows them to crawl out of the mantises body and swim away. Image result for Toxoplasma gondii

Sick video of hairworm inside of mantis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuFA48ZInOc

3 Species

Pink Fairy Armadillo

Also known as the Chlamyphorus truncatus, the Pink Fairy Armadilla is an omnivorous mammal residing in the grasslands and plains of central Argentina. Their life cycle is around 5 to 10 years long and they are typically between 3.5 to 4.5 inches. Like other armadillos, they live a solitary lifestyle for much of their life and only give birth to one child at a time. Currently, due to farming and hunting in the area, they are listed as threatened. Most prominently, they have a hard shell, large front claws, and a shielded head. This allows them to bury themselvse in a matter of seconds in order to escape predators or find prey. Often they will burrow next to their primary food source--ants. Once underground they are able to use their front claws to move similar to as if they were swimming. Most of their life is spent underground.

Dumbo Octopus
  • Live just above or on the seafloor (3000 - 4000ft)
  • Able to swallow prey whole due to radula-type opening
  • Semi-translucent body
  • Internal shell made from cartilage
  • Some have spines/suckers on their (8) tentacles
  • Typically around 8 to 12 inches long
  • Eat many of the pods or worms found by ocean vents
  • Females can lay egg continuously
    • Males inject sperm through protuberance in one of their tentacles
    • Female can utilize sperm at almost any time
  • Move by flapping Dumbo ear-like fins, expanding and contracting webbing between tentacles, or by shooting water through their funnel suddenly
    • Can be used at the same time or separately
    • Can also crawl on their tentacles
  • Can survive intense pressure and cold temperatures

Thorny Dragon
  • Moloch Horridus
  • Omnivore
  • Typically 6 to 9 inches
  • Lives 12-20 years
  • Solitary
  • Eats ants, termites
  • Has spiky skin and water channels throughout body
  • Lives in Australia
  • Blends well into surrounding desert
  • Between cone shaped spikes, little channels form to enable the thorny devil to easily collect water
    • These channels eventually lead to the mouth
  • Change from a paler to darker color as they cool down from the hot desert temperatures
  • Pretend head at the back of the neck to distract predators
  • Primarily gathers food/water and other resources at night

Nervous System
I chose the nervous system because I am incredibly interested about the ways in which cells communicate. Both through chemical and physical reactions, I believe the ways in which we communicate in our everyday lives could be improved through the same methods our body uses for this system.

3 Species

Darwin's Bark Spider

"Darwin's bark spider or "Caerostris darwini"  is an orb-weaver spider that produces one of the largest known orb webs, spinning webs 140 to 4,340 sq in, with anchor lines spanning up to 25 meters. Its silk is the toughest biological material ever studied, over ten times tougher than a similarly-sized piece of Kevlar.T he species was named after the naturalist Charles Darwin, with the description being prepared precisely 150 years after the publication of The Origin Of Species."

In summary, Darwins Bark Spider produces a natural material at a very high and quantitative rate that could be used for many material based products. Their silk could be used for clothing, military, police force and even household items. These spiders were discovered in Madagascar but can be inhabited in just about every environment. Making these spiders a viable species capable of changing everyday material with their astonishing webs. 

(ALL QUOTES) Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin%27s_bark_spider 

Image result for darwins bark spiderImage result for darwins bark spider

Thresher Shark

"The thresher shark is most notable because of its long upper caudal (tail) fin which may account for half the shark's total length. The thresher shark eats small fish, and will sometimes tap the water with its tail to herd schools of fish into tight spots, making them easier to eat. They can also use their tails to stun their prey with a good smack. Thresher sharks are usually 10-15 feet long, and can grow up to 20 feet long but their caudal fin accounts for usually most of its length."

I think these sharks are incredibly eye pleasing and also very interesting. They use their very unique structure to their advantage in catching prey and moving swiftly and effectively. I think these movements could be studied more and could be addressed into human society. You could design bikes or similar movement devices to move swiftly and fast on sidewalks/roads/hallways. I was thinking a bike with a higher back end that uses sway movement rather than pedals, meaning less energy spent and a more aesthetic form of movement.

(ALL QUOTES) Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thresher_shark
Image result for thresher shark


"The Fungiidae are a family of Cnidaria, often known as mushroom corals. The family contains thirteen genera. They range from corals to colonial species. Some genera such as Cycloseris and Fungia are solitary organisms, Polyphyllia consists of a single organism with multiple mouths, and Ctenactis and Herpolitha might be considered as solitary organisms with multiple mouths or a colony of individuals, each with its separate mouth. Similar phenomena has been observed in dioecious plants."

I think these coral are amazing, not only do they appear "Bleached" or dead but they are viable asset to most of its surrounding creatures and wild life. Since they are a reef based coral they perform photosynthesis which grows food for it's partners that use their food for their own development which helps the growth of their respective ecosystems. They home small shrimps, barnacles and worms. It's amazing how they move and migrate to new habitats, basically these fungi inflate and deflate their tissue making their journey a very slow and precise adventure. They start their life attached to a hard surface on their stalks and when they mature naturally detach from their stalks and live unattached from their original stalks and reproduce. These fungi reproduce by asexual production usually and one unique thing about their reproduction specifically calls for the "daughter colony" when the parent fungi skeleton loses calcium in high rates and deflates. These results in youth attaching to the parent and living independently on the parents stalks until eventually removing from the parents stalk.

(ALL QUOTES) Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fungiidae
Image result for fungiidae

3 species

Fennec Fox
Fennec foxes are the smallest species of fox and they live in the Sahara desert and other parts of Africa. These foxes have adapted to the harsh conditions of the desert in many ways. They have thick long hair to keep them cool in the sun, but warm during the cooler desert nights. This hair also covers the paws so that they don't get burnt by the hot sand. They also have very big ears, with the Fennec Fox being only about 10 to 16 inches tall about 6 of that is the length of their ears. Their big ears help them stay cool by radiating heat.
Image result for fennec fox

Jerboas are small rodents that lives in North Africa and Asia. There are 33 species of Jerboas 6 are considered pygmy, and my personal favorite is the Long-eared Jerboa (pictured below). Jerboas get around by jumping, which their legs have adapted to. Their hind legs are 4 times as long as their front legs, their long tails help with balance. They are about a size of a fist and can jump several feet in any direction. One more fun fact about Jerboas is the fact that they don't drink water, they get all of their water from the foods they eat.

Image result for long eared jerboa

Titanoboas are an extinct species of snake. They lived about 58 million years ago, and are the largest species of snake ever found. This snake was about 40 feet long, weighed more than a ton, and at the snake's thickest part of it's body, the snake was about 3 feet in diameter. This snake looked similar to today's boa constrictor but behaved more like today's water anacondas. To compare the size, boa's can get up to 14 feet and weigh 100 pounds, anaconda's can get past 20 feet and 500 pounds.

Image result for titanoboa

Species and System

Vampire Squid

Vampire Squid are deep ocean cephalopods that live 2,000-3,000 feet under the sea. Vampire Squid are cool because of their defense mechanism. As a deep sea cephalopod, they don’t have ink sacs, so instead, Vampire Squid have long arms that have large webbing between them. When threatened, the Vampire Squid pulls all of its arms around itself like a cloak. There are also spines that look scary that stick out when the squid inverts itself, although they are not actually harmful. The Vampire Squid moves with the help of the fins on its mantle that rapidly flap to propel it.

Slime Mold

The slime mold isn’t actually mold, making its name a misnomer. Slime mold is actually kind of tricky to classify because it’s kind of weird. It might have been named slime mold because it was originally put into the fungi kingdom, until scientists decided it belonged more so in the Protista category. There are different types of slime molds, but the traditional slime molds are Plasmodial slime molds, which are single cell amoeba flagellates that combine into one big mass called plasmodia, in which spores are produced from. People got really confused about slime molds because they can move. Single slime molds are called slugs. They can move and search for food, and when they find a source of nutrition, they can communicate this to other slugs, which come together into the plasmodial congregation.   

Kangaroo Mouse

The Kangaroo Mouse is a rodent that lives in desert biomes, specifically in the west/southwest United States. Kangaroo mice aren’t only cool because of their jumping abilities(saltatory locomotion), but also because of their adaptations to desert life. Kangaroo rats only sweat through their feet pads, and have a cooling method in their nasal passages that are also designed to collect water vapor to minimize water loss. The rodent also has an adaptation that is common in xerocoles, which is an abnormally long loop of Henle, which is the part of the kidney where water loss is controlled. The Kangaroo Mouse has another method for water collection, which is accomplished by extracting water from seeds during digestion. This makes it so the mouse rarely actually ever has to drink water.

I chose the immune system for research because I am currently sick with a cold. The human immune system is a very large and complex system with lots of layers. The first line of defense is the skin and outer membranes like mucous. Inside the body at a micro level there are all kinds of different cells that all have different roles in keeping the body healthy. The adaptive immune system is a really important subsystem, based on the trait of targeting invaders, killing invaders, and remembering what the invaders are so that if the invaders come back, they are immediately targeted again.

I got to capture a lot of what I saw in the zoo. So I created a video with all my shots. What I enjoyed observing the most were the animals and the environment in the conservatory. I'd have to say the conservatory and the Japanese garden was my favorite to experience. They did a really good job at making those places diverse, big enough, and easy to access. The one thing I realized was how a lot of the facilities were empty. One thing I actually would have changed for the zoo was to make the amusement park smaller. I felt like that was a large chunk of land that wasn't being used efficiently. Especially since nothing was even open. Maybe it's more lively during the summer. I'm not too sure. I wish there were more variety of different animals, but I know it's hard to house animals. Especially for a zoo that is nonprofit. Besides that, I enjoyed my time there. ​


Termite den + Office building

Termite dens look otherworldly, but they maintain internal constant temperatures. While the temperature outside fluctuates in the 30s to highs over 100, the inside of a termite den holds steady at a comfortable (to a termite) 87 degrees.
Mick Pearce, architect of Eastgate Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe, studied the cooling chimneys and tunnels of termite dens. He applied his findings to the 333,000 square-foot Eastgate Centre, which uses 90 percent less energy to heat and cool than traditional buildings. The building has large chimneys that naturally draw in cool air at night to lower the temperature of the floor slabs, just like termite dens. During the day, these slabs retain the coolness, greatly reducing the need for supplemental air conditioning.

Shinkansen Bullet Train
High speed trains can be very loud.  Japan limits their acceptable noise-pollution level, which can be particularly high when the trains emerge from tunnels. As they drive through, air pressure builds up in waves and, when the nose emerges, can produce a shotgun-like thunderclap heard for a quarter mile. Eiji Nakatsu, a bird-watching engineer at the Japanese rail company JR-West, in the 1990s took inspiration from the kingfisher, a fish-eating fowl that creates barely a ripple when it darts into water in search of a meal. The train’s redesigned nose — a 50-foot-long steel kingfisher beak — reduced power and allowed for faster speeds. 

North American porcupine 

Each of their 30,000 quills (which are actually stiff hair) comes with a layer of microscopic, backward-pointing barbs. Up to 800 barbs line the 4-mm stretch nearest the tip.

Using natural quills and synthetic polyurethane quills, MIT researchers dissected the physical forces involved in the penetration/removal of quills into/from pig skin and chicken muscle. The barbs concentrate force along the edges. A quill only needs half the force of an 18-gauge hypodermic needle to pierce skin. Once the quill is pulled backwards, the barbs flare out, snagging tissue fibers. Barbs render a quill four times harder to pull out once they’re embedded.

Some ideas for medical devices: hypodermic needles that penetrate easily (i.e. less painfully) and resist buckling, wound dressings with tiny barbed needles that hold tight onto skin, and barbed staples to hold surgical incisions shut. 

3 Species and a System

Baobab Ecosystem- The Tree of Life
The baobab tree is present in savannas of Africa and Australia. They have been known to stay alive for up to 3,000 years and are a variety of succulent enabling them to store water. They flower and have fruit. The fruit is nutrient-rich and fascinatingly enough will dry on the stem and stay there instead of dropping. This makes an easy harvest for people seeking its powder. This fruit contains vitamin C and is packed with antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, and iron.  Their leaves (high protein, beta-carotene and iron) are noted to be edible by humans as well as the fruit seeds (containing protein and fat). Many humans use them for shelter, bus stops, and even a jail. Baobab trees can create their own ecosystem as they are so large. Creatures such as baboons eat their fruit. Bees and other insects make the tree their home, feeding birds that nest among their branches such as red winged starlings and buffalo weavers. Other birds hole out homes in the trunks. Bush babies and fruit bats drink their nectar and spread their pollen. Elephants will take down and eat a whole tree.
Other human uses are that the pollen can be made into glue. “Fiber from the bark can be used to make rope, baskets, cloth, musical instrument strings, and waterproof hats” (http://www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_baobab.html).

Ratus Ratus
Animaldiversity.org says that ratus ratus are found on coastal areas in large numbers because they are often carried from place to place through human seafaring. They are incredible climbers and are often found living high up in multistory buildings. Science.jrank.org says that they have amazing physical abilities. They are incredible swimmers- they can swim for half a mile and tread water for up to three days. They can fall from up to five stories up unharmed. Because of their hinged spines, they can fit into small areas full grown such as a hole the size of a quarter. They have excellent hearing, though their eyesight is nothing special. What is special about their eyesight is that as they are exploring an area, they remember what they have seen so when they find an option for food they replay the “tape” in their head to see if there was any potential imminent danger (is it safe to stop and eat this?), as well as to remember if there were any better food options behind them. They see in black and white and the vision is quite blurry (cited from a video I saw some years ago). For more on their eyesight visit the Rat Cam: http://www.ratbehavior.org/RatCam.htm
About their teeth: They generally have 16 teeth with incisors that are always growing. These incisors are harder than the rest and the rats must have ways of grinding them down else they grow too long and curl. Rats can chew through concrete. Their jaws exert up to 12 tons of force per square inch.
On that note- when in a colony, rats rarely fight among one another. They are very social creatures and when in a colony (in the wild this can consist of an underground network of burrows hidden among rocks and roots) their social hierarchy is well established and rarely threatened or challenged.
Animal-borne diseases (zoonoses) are carried on them. Many humans are afraid of rats because of this. Such things are carried on their fur, through parasites on top of their fur, and through their saliva. Rat control is maintained in many cities. However, it can be difficult to be effective as rats are afraid of anything new and won’t outright be foolish enough to indulge in poison. They’ll even avoid something new to their surroundings- like a park bench for example. “Super rats” have even developed resistance to anticoagulants and adaptations in such places that have been hindered by nuclear bombs. Many of these are proven to be healthy and thriving without genetic mutations.
One of my rats is a patchwork rat. Her hair grows in full some places, then grows and is lost in some places. This should happen throughout her lifetime. I’ve tried to look up how this occurs but have not found any good resources yet. Since their spines are on a hinge as well, I was thinking it would be awesome to have some sort of coat that can grow follicles and lose them during the changing of the seasons. The hinge would come in somehow too… But it is also fire resistant like the starch-covered grass roots of the savannas. Maybe it could also reserve water using baobab adaptations.  

Scoby: Symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. These are mushroom-shaped patties holding an incredible microbial colony. They are also called the mother, not unlike the mother of a jar of apple cider vinegar. A scoby is used to ferment tea into kombucha. “The kombucha culture is a collection of yeast and bacteria encased in cellulose. It’s generally shaped like a large pancake and is slippery and flexible when touched. Kombucha is a living, growing organism and is actually quite similar to cultures that activate yogurt and transform cabbage into sauerkraut” (http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-kombucha). Yeasts are one-cell fungi that contain vitamins, minerals, proteins and sterols.

Fiddlehead Fern and Ferns in General- a Rule of Thirds
Among my close friends I am fortunate to have a number of good cooks. A friend of mine introduced me to fiddlehead ferns this past spring, when she served me a celebratory meal as I was departing for the summertime. Thus- my first experience eating ferns. I was curious as to why they were edible (and delicious!), compared to the thick mosquito-infested maze of my grandmothers’ backyard I “hide-and-seeked” among during childhood.  
The fiddlehead is named due to their resemblance to the neck of a violin. (http://wildwoodsurvival.com/survival/food/edibleplants/ostrichfern/index.html)
Wildernesscollege.com provided a great introductory page to combing them from the wild. It sounds like they are just about normal ferns- plucked as they are small and have not unfurled yet. Varieties of Lady fern, Ostricth fern, shield fern, and Bracken fern are edible. Springtime, naturally, is their primary harvest period. Cooking them thoroughly is essential, as before they are cooked fiddleheads contain thiaminase (a vitamin B depleting enzyme). My friend made them with some cream and we put them over pasta. Wildernesscollege.com also recommends frying them up with some butter as an easy way to taste test the fiddlehead fern.
http://ollopage.com/herbal/health-benefits-of-edible-ferns.html states that “…they have high-quality plant-nutrition profile that consists of health nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins, and omega-6, omega-3, essential fatty acids”.
Ferns are ancient plants. The species has been tracked by scientists to exist from about 350 million years ago… which means they predate even dinosaurs. (https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/resources/1103-what-is-a-fern). A full fern has three major parts- 1. The Rhizome at the bottom which can come up out of the ground and sprout numerous fronds like we are used to around here. They can also grow as trunks and can grow creeping along the ground or up a tree. 2. The Frond of a fern are the leaves. These photosynthesize as well as reproduce. 3. On the back of the frond is the reproductive Sporangia that groups together. The sporangia are colorful casing in varieties of blacks browns and oranges. The fronds that have these are considered fertile fronds, and when the casings open they release spores.