Creature Feature: Valley Carpenter Bee

The Valley Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa varipunctata) is the largest species of bee in California, and they are not messing around. They are huge! The females, which are completely black and very dramatic looking, can get up to just over an inch long, and the

Creature Feature: Torpedo Ray

The weapons that submarines fire at one another in the movies we have all seen are called torpedos, but where did the naval weapon get its name? It came from a genus of Rays (relatives of sharks) that have the stunning ability to produce electrical shocks that subdue their prey or discourage their predators, the…

Creature Feature: Band-tailed Pigeon

The Band-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas faciata) is a native to California, and is the largest extant member of the dove family in North America. It is the closest relative to the now extinct Passenger Pigeon, which was the largest pigeon in North America, period. Band-tailed Pigeons breed across much of western North America, and at high…

Scholar Holler: Preston Wilson, Ph.D.

Preston Wilson is an Associate Professor in the Acoustics and Dynamic Systems & Control program of the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Texas in Austin. A native of Texas he received his Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of Texas in Austin and then a PhD in Mechanical Engineering…

Creature Feature: Pitohui

You don’t really hear about venomous birds very often. Venomous snakes and spiders, sure, but not birds. That is because there is no species of bird that makes its own poison. However, that has not stopped a few species from highjacking the poisons made by other creatures and using them for their own defense. The…

Creature Feature: Megamouth Shark

In 1976, a large shark got entangled in the sea anchor of the US Navy ship AFB-14 off the coast of Hawaii. When it was finally brought to the surface and examined, the 4.6 meter long shark was found to be a completely unknown species. Dark brown above and white below, it had a huge…

Creature Feature: Hagfish

Hagfish, which is a group of organisms that make up the class Myxini which has about 70 extant species, are vertebrates that have a skull, but no jaws. They are strange and illuminating and wonderful organisms. They are strange for a list of reasons so long it would take a book to fully explain them…

Creature Feature: Butterflies of the Sea

There are butterflies floating in the oceans all around the world. Usually only about a centimeter long, these beautiful, tiny creatures are actually snails that live their whole lives as plankton in the currents near the ocean’s surface. Sea Butterflies (Suborder: Thecosomata) are members of the group Pteropoda, which means flying foot. They have this…