Sunday, June 15, 2014

Did you know ...

By Michelle Lee
BWL Art Direct and Resident Bio-Geek

Following up my summer reading list, I wanted to take a moment and share some fun biological facts with you.  Some are interesting, some kinda gross, and a few are in the category of what the heck?  You have been warned.

Those that are on the BWL Facebook Group might have seen a couple of these already ...

There are going to be a lot of links provided in this post to fact based sites.  To make reading the post the most enjoyable, stop and click the links where provided.

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Fun Fact 1: You know that long 'kee-eeeee-arr' sound that a Bald Eagle's make in commercials?

Like this one ...

That sound that has become an almost iconic Bald Eagle sound ... isn't actually an Eagle.  Bald Eagles have a weaker, whistling or thrilling call.

So if it isn't a Bald Eagle, just what are you hearing?  It's a hawk of some kind, normally a Red-tailed Hawk.

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Fun Fact 2: The chemistry of fireworks

What makes fireworks so breathtaking is the various different colors they come in.  What makes those color possible is the different color certain elements produce.

"Sodium produces yellow/gold colors. Barium creates green, copper compounds produce blue, strontium salts give you red and titanium metals give you silver colored sparks.

Other commonly used chemicals are carbon which provides the fuel, oxidizers which produce oxygen for burning, magnesium which increases the overall brilliance and brightness, antimony that gives you a "glitter" effect and calcium which deepens the colors." ~ Science Is Awesome

For more information on the colors and what element they are created from check out:

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Fun Fact 3: Lobsters

That's right, the lobsters that we consider a food of the rich (which used to be considered trash food, or food for the poor, and there were laws about how often someone could feed them to their servants - little tid-bit for you history buffs) have a 1 in 2 million chance of a mutation that gives them blue pigmentation. 

It is a mutation that causes an overly large amount of a specific protein that combines with the red carotenoid molecule, turning the lobster blue.

for information on Toby, a blue lobster that found a home at the National Aquarium in Washington DC.

Other color variation are:
Orange at 1 in 10 million odds
Yellow at 1 in 30 million odds
Orange and Black calico at 1 in 30 million
Split color varieties at 1 in 50 million 
White at 1 in 100 million odds

For you history buffs, check out the history of the Lobster 

For more information on the biology of a lobster

As if that wasn't enough to blow your mind about lobsters, how about this?


It is believed that this occurs when the egg is first fertilized.  Often times, the lobster will show characteristics of both genders.

It's believed that odds of a lobster being two-toned are about 1 in 50 million, maybe even 1 in 100 million.

Links for more info:

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Fun Fact 4: Two-Gender Animals

As mentioned in the fact about the two-toned lobsters, some animals can show characteristics of both genders.  Now I am not talking true hermaphrodites.  I am looking at something else called Bilateral Gynomorphs - where an animal is literally half male and half female.

What is believed to happen is that two embryos, with unique DNA, fused together and developed as a single fetus, resulting in an individual with two sets of DNA in a single body; sometimes the two embryos are the same sex/gender, and other time ones is male and one is female - which is what results in such breathtaking color/morphological contrasts - such as these butterflies.

This phenomeon has been seen in animals such as the lobsters mentioned before, insects such as butterflies, and also in birds such as this cardinal.

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Fun Fact 5:  Placobdelloides jaegerskioeldi

What the heck is that?  It's the elusive Hippo Leech.

There is actually a leech that is found in the last 10 cm of the rectum of hippos.  Yep, you read that right.  There is a butthole leech for hippos.  Ever wonder why they are in such a bad mood?  LOL  Well wonder no more.

While it is the dream of many field biologists to discover a new species, I am just not sure I could enjoy that claim to fame.

Parasite of the Day: Hippo leech

Hippo Leech Revisited

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If you enjoyed this post, stay tuned for more bio fun facts to come.

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