Saturday, June 11, 2011

Why Moths Fly Into Candle Flames.

If you ever sit outside on a summer’s night after a barbecue and watch the havoc around a light as moths and midges bash off the hot illumination and ask why they do that! Worse again, watch as a moth appears to commit suicide as it carriers into a burning candle flame and inflicts a painful and certain death upon itself.
There is an explanation for this and it has to do with the insect navigation.  The compound eyes of an insect contain lots of optical tubes radiating out from the centre of the eye. The insect uses the light from the sky as part of its navigation. Light hits specialised eye cones at an angle of 30 degrees and the insect uses this light to travel in a straight line. 
Our six legged friends have been around for millions of years and artificial light has only been around for around 50,000 years. When a moth sees an artificial light it throws its navigation out of sync causing it to fly around the flame in a spiral till the circle gets tighter and then in the case of a candle woof he goes up in flames!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

We All Started Life Looking Like A Fish

Fact. If you look at an embryo of a fish, lizard, bird, horse or man you will notice how similar we all are to each other.  As the embryo develops, so do our differences and similarities.  A fish develops gills which it will use to breath.   For mammals our inner ear develops from the same components as the gill to make our ear including the canal, incus and staples.  Birds have similar three chambered ears as mammals where as reptiles use their lower jaw to hear.  As we develop and become mammals, fish become fish, birds became birds and reptiles became reptiles.We all have so much in common, a spine and four limbs and a head to name a few.

If you look at skeletons of birds you will find they have 5 fingers as part each of their two wings same goes for bats, horses have five fingers except they are formed differently and are elongated into a hoof, all mammals,  birds and reptiles have four limbs as do whales and dolphins.
Our heads are an enlarged vertebra which protects our brain; our fingernails are made of the same substance as fish and reptile scales. The same substance (keratin) makes feathers on birds’ horns on rhino and hair on our heads.

We share a lot of our genes with insects, worms, fleas, spiders and vegetables the only difference is that they are sequenced differently and when activated they build different traits.  In theory we could by turning on the right DNA sequence produce humans with wings and beaks, tusks or scales or humans with gills and webbed feet, long necks like giraffes and with the trunk of an elephant 
In 65 million years  little mouse like creatures (our ancestors) thrived due to the demise of dinosaurs  and were responsible  through  evolution for humans, whales, dogs, cats, apes and cows to name a few. 
360 million years ago mammals, including dinosaurs (reptiles) evolved from amphibians and migrated onto land as it was probably safer to lay its eggs on Terra Firma than in the water, if we go back millions and millions of years earlier again fish evolved from shrimp like creatures then shrimp like creatures from tiny plankton all the way back to little microbes and singular cell organisms.

So what does it all mean!  Not much to most of us, but thanks to human knowledge of our genetic past which is a history book of our existence contained in our own DNA, it can help us understand more about our bodies, help create new better medicine for the prevention of disease which  improves quality and length of life.
For me it just makes the natural world that bit more fascinating

For further reading, this book is great - Your Inner Fish by Neil Shuban 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bees With High Milage

It is estimated that the average honey bee will fly a total of about 500 miles (800 kilometers) in its lifetime.
The life span of your average bee is 4-6 weeks though Queens have been known to live as long as 4 years.
The average worker bee makes about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in their short existence.That dribble of honey on the side of the jar could be the complete life's work of a half dozen of honey bees.So lick it off in their honor so their lives and hard work won't have been in vein!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Recipe To Make Mice From Dirty Under-Pants

Spontaneous generations is where animals just appear with out of nowhere, these theories were popular right up to the end of the 19th century, for example rats just appearing where there is corn or maggots just appearing where there is rotting meat.  Frogs, worms and salamanders all came from mud and rotting food. There were recipes for creating mice, one of which was to wrap cheese and bread in rags, leave them in a dark corner for several weeks and wholla!! you have mice. Another great recipe for mice was dirty underwear and wheat grain mixed in a bucket and left in the open for 21 days.

Recipe for bees, kill a young bull bury it up-right with its horns sticking out of the ground and after a month or so a swarm of bees will fly out of the corpse.  All great stuff really.

It was thought that barnacle geese came from a barnacle called a goose barnacle which is a shell shellfish. 
16th century scientist Van Helmount had a recipe for scorpions by placing basil between two bricks and left in sunlight for three weeks then ..... Scorpions.

Luckily biologists and micro biologists through science came to the rescue and were able to prove that mice came from mice, scorpions from scorpions and bees came from bees and so on and so forth.  Something we all take for granted today.

There are creationists who believe in the bible quite literary and believe that the world was created only 7000 years ago and all the animals just appeared on the sixth day of creation. There is a huge multimillion dollar museum in Petersburg USA which proposes that humans and dinosaurs lived in harmony side by side (like the Flintstones).  The dinosaurs including T-Rex were in fact vegetarians who according to the creationist used their sharp flesh ripping teeth to crack coconuts and crush water melons. “Those crazy guys”.

Check this guy out it all makes perfect sence. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blue Whales in Relation to Cars!!

Blue whales are enormous creatures as we all know with a heart the size of a Volks Wagon beetle and weighing 600kg . Their tongue weighs 2.7 tonnes roughly the same as my truck. Its mouth is large enough to fit 90 tonnes of water.  They travel at speeds of five to eight miles an hour the same speed as an old lady in a Nissisn Micra , and can accelerate to over 20 miles an hour which is the same as an old lady in a Nissan Micra who is going to be late for mass. They are the loudest animal in the world emitting groans and moans that travel up to 1000 miles away. Their calorific intake in a single day is equivalent to a bus load of American tourists after stopping at a Mac Donald’s for a snack before dinner, 1.5 million calories.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"You Cant Escape Bugs They Are Everywhere!"

For every one human on this planet it is estimated that there are 1 billion insects, that’s not including spiders. Through our lifetime we accidently consume many spiders, insect legs and other parts in the very food we eat. They are everywhere and just because you can’t see them do not mean they are not there. On your face right now there are tiny arachnids (spider family) eating debris from your skin.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

“Dogs Only See In Black And White”

Myth. Dogs have similar eye sight to humans except they are red green vision is poor .Dogs vision responds best to blue and yellow. Green to a dog looks like a shade of grey as a result dogs can distinguish many more shades of grey than humans.So a red football in on a green lawn is hard for a dog to see.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

“If You Put Alcohol On A Scorpion It Will Sting Itself To Death”.

Myth “If you put alcohol on a scorpion it will sting itself to death”.  One main reason for this is they are immune to their own venom so it would be pointless for them to do this. 

 I am so sure of this I once showed a friend who swore by this myth by putting a drop of whiskey on my own scorpion, on his tail and head. The scorpion just sat there wondering “hey what hell is going on!”  He did have a severe hangover next morning.

The other myth is that if you make a ring of fire around a scorpion it will commit suicide. You could be forgiven for thinking this as the scorpion goes into a fit this is caused by a metabolism malfunctioning as the body over heats, which can give the appearance of it stinging itself to death? 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

“Camels store water in their hump”.

 Myth “Camels store water in their hump”.  The hump of a camel is made up of a stored fatty tissue.  Rather than storing fat throughout their body insulating them and keeping them warm it is concentrated in the hump (2 humps in the case of the Bactrian camel).

Camels have very clever ways of saving water.  For a start they can drink vast quantities of liquid, over twenty gallons at a time. Their urine is a thick syrupy liquid which cuts which on water loss. Thicker blood similar to that of fish and reptiles prevents de-hydration. Water from food is also retained and their thick coats repel the sun’s rays.
So now you know why a camel has the hump!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

“Earwigs Crawl Into Ears And Lay Eggs”.

 Myth “Earwigs crawl into ears and lay eggs”.  As a child my big phobia was earwigs, around August each yea they were everywhere, and as we lived in the country there were extra earwigs, sometimes even under my pillow!  The legend was that they would burrow into your ear and lay their eggs.  I was afraid they would get into my brain!  Now that I am a big hairy man I know this not to be true.

Although an earwig could possibly enter your ear and lay eggs it is extremely unlikely as they have no attraction to ears. 

The good news is that they cannot reach your brain as there is a thick bone in your inner ear which prevents access.Hurray!!

“As Blind As A Bat”.

Myth “As blind as a bat”. There are 1,100 species of bat on our planet and none of them are blind, although their eyes are small and not very efficient they are still none the less functional. They can make out shapes and colours and they  also operate their body clock letting them know whether it dusk or dawn, They rely on their echo location to maneuver and hunt as it is much more efficient and more highly developed than their sight .

"You Can Tell A Dogs Health By How Warm And Dry, Or Wet And Cold Its Nose Is".

Myth- “You can tell a dogs health by how warm and dry, or wet and cold its nose is”. A dog’s nose is wet because it is covered in a mucus which makes it feel cold but sometimes it can be dry, for example when it wakes up after a nap, because the nose is dry it feels warmer, but this does not mean it has a temperature or fever. The best way to find out is to stick a thermometer up its butt! Or bring it to your Vet.

“Camels Store Water In Their Hump”.

Myth-“Camels Store Water In Their Hump”.  The hump of a camel is made up of a stored fatty tissue.  Rather than storing fat throughout their body insulating them thus keeping them warm it is concentrated in the hump (2 humps in the case of the Bactrian camel).

Camels have very clever ways of saving water.  For a start they can drink vast quantities of liquid, over twenty gallons at a time. Their urine is a thick syrupy liquid which cuts down on water loss. Thicker blood similar to that of fish and reptiles prevents de-hydration. Water from food is also retained and their thick coats repel the sun’s rays.

So now you know why a camel has the hump!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

“Chameleons Change Colour To Blend In With Their Surroundings”.

 Myth -“Chameleons change colour to blend in with their surroundings”.   Changing colour for chameleons is a form of communication. This they can do quite quickly, some showing blues, yellows, browns, reds and pinks to name but a few.  They also make interesting patterns. They have specialized cells under the top layer of transparent skin called chromatiophores which allow the pigment to change causing the effect of colour change.

Usually dark colours signal aggression or bad health.  Bright colours are for signalling courtship or in females signalling that she is carrying eggs.

I have kept and witnessed chameleons in the wild and have learned just by looking at the different shades of colour how my own chameleons are feeling. I had a pet male chameleon once who became very unhappy. It was puzzling me for a while till I found out there were high amounts of carbon monoxide in his room.  Luckily I found out in time, after a week he was back to a normal happy green self.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Myth “The Myth about a Woman who woke up to find a Snake Measuring Her”.

The most recited myth is about the woman who had a pet python which had not eaten for weeks.  In fairness there the story is constant everyone has their own adaptation of it but the premise is the same.

It starts off like this there was this woman in America/Dublin or my friend’s aunt, a friend of my mother and so on....... Well she had this snake which would not eat for her, one night she woke up to find the snake stretched out beside her in the bed it was her full body length.  Needless to say she got a fierce fright and hoped out of the bed.

The next morning she brought her python to her vet explaining about the snake not eating and what had happened that night. The vet got a terrible shock and said “thank god you brought him in do you know how lucky you are, the snake was fasting to make room for you as his next meal”.  “The reason he was stretched out beside you was that he was measuring you to make sure you would fit”. With this the vet put down the snake.

It is of course an urban legend.  If a snake is hungry it hunts and eats. It will never look at a mouse and think "aah no must not stuff myself better leave room for a rabbit!"  As for measuring its potential victim where would a snake get a ruler. As a rule if a snake tries to swallow an item of prey which is too long it will regurgitate and go look for something smaller.

As for eating humans snakes are not programmed to sense us as food though there may be rare exceptions to this. More than likely there is a reason for this to happen,  it could be that the person was in contact with animals the snake perceives as food such as a rat, rabbit or deer.  This has happened to me on a number of occasions when handling rodents where a snake will latch onto my hand or arm and try to swallow it, they usually let go once they realise the mistake they have made.

What would happen if you threw a Cat off a really tall building?

Did you ever wonder what height you could drop a cat from without it using up its nine lives! I know I have, so now I’m going to save you all the trouble and cruelty, “So put the cat down and I’ll tell you”.

Studies done by two New York vets in 1987 found that cats who had fallen from heights of 2 to 33 stories had a 90% chance of survival,  whereas moggys that had fallen greater than seven stories, had less serious injuries. The reason for this were the cats who had fallen from 7 stories stiffened up before impact causing their legs to be to absorb shock less effectively on impact. This resulted in greater damage, whereas cats falling from greater heights tend to loosen their muscles as they fell and absorbed the shock more effectively.

If a human fell from a plane they would reach twice the speed of a moggy at around 200kmph and land on two legs, then splat!  Whereas a cat flung from a plane would travel at a velocity of around 100kph thanks to its lower mass and spreading the impact over the four legs, thus having a higher chance of survival.

We will be following up soon with, what would happen if you put a puppy in a blender!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

"Cockroaches will be the only creatures to survive on the planet after a nuclear holocaust".

Myth Cockroaches will be the only creatures to survive on the planet after a nuclear holocaust. While they can survive ten times the amount of radiation that a human can, a wimpy little fruit fly can take over ten times the amount of radiation as a cockroach and a parasitic wasp can survive an exposure of over 28 times the amount of a cockroach.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Beware of the Deadly Daddy-long-legs!

In my line of work I often hear this -  Myth"Did you know that Daddy-longlegs are one of the most deadliest,  poisonous spiders in the world, but they can't kill you cause they have no fangs"
This is partially true since Daddy Longlegs have no fangs, whats more they don't even have venom glands to produce venom,they are not even classed as spiders but do belong to the arachnid family.
Thats a Mad Fact.