Sunday Sketch: Llama Ovulation

Humans ovulate once a month during a normal hormonal cycle, regardless of how much action (or not) we get.  Llamas, however, have a much more efficient system. Did you know that male llamas can induce ovulation in females by copulating with them? This means that females llamas only ovulate when they’ve actually had sex! While…

Sunday Sketch: Budgie Attraction

Looking for something to impress that special someone with this Valentine’s Day? Female budgies prefer males who successfully solve puzzle boxes. Talk about smart mate choice! Fact and sketch contributed by Amelia Munson Chen, J., Zou, Y., Sun, Y., & Cate, C. T. (2019). Problem-solving males become more attractive to female budgerigars. Science, 363 (6423),…

Sunday Sketch: Burying Beetle Parents

Burying beetles (subfamily Nicrophorinae) are some of the best parents in the insect world! Both the males and females carefully tend to the carcass on which they lay their eggs, spreading antibacterial secretions and enzymes to maintain the carrion’s condition. These “brood balls” decompose at far slower rates than normal carcasses, provide an easy-to-digest food for…

Sunday Sketch: Aphid Piggyback Rides

Recent research has found that much to the apparent dismay of adult aphids, young aphids jump on the backs of larger aphids to escape danger. Researchers proposed that this may be due to their small size. Traveling on the uneven ground terrain makes them more susceptible to predation, so hitching a ride on a larger…

Sunday Sketch: Swallowtail Caterpillar

Swallowtail caterpillars are masters of mimicry and masquerade. While most swallowtails look convincingly like bird droppings at earlier instars (developmental stages), older caterpillars often develop a snakelike appearance to scare away predators. Their intimidating eyespots work in tandem with defensive behaviors (thorax inflation, rearing up, scent gland eversion) to create a compelling mimicry! Who knew…

Sunday Sketch: Sleep to Prevent Late-Night Cravings

Hummingbirds have high metabolic energy requirements, needing to eat 2-3x their own body weight in flower nectar and tiny insects each day. Unable to forage at night, but needing to maintain those demanding energy requirements, hummingbirds conserve energy by going into torpor. This physiological adaptation is a daily version of seasonal hibernation, and is a deep…

Sunday Sketch: Yeti Crab

The abominable snowman has been found hanging out at the bottom of the ocean in the Antarctic! The Yeti crab (Kiwa hirsuta) was discovered in 2005 as a new genus and new species that hangs out near hydrothermal vents of the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge. Named for their very hairy claws, scientists speculate that these blind decapods…

Sunday Sketch: Christmas Tree Worm

Oh Christmas tree (worm), oh Christmas tree (worm), how functional are your branches! Christmas tree worms (Spirobranchus giganteus), found throughout the tropical waters in the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean, are segmented worms that inhabit coral reefs. They use their colored, spiral fans (that give them their festive name) for feeding and respiration. When threatened, they can…

Sunday Sketch: Firefly squid

As we light the last night of the Hanukkah menorah tomorrow, we look to the animal world to see some of their cool lights. The firefly squid (Watasenia scintillans) produces tiny flashes of light from hundreds of tiny organs on its body.  Sketch and fact contributed by Amelia Munson Source: Tsuji, F. I. (1985). ATP-dependent bioluminescence…

Sunday Sketch: Highland cattle

Did you know that Highland cattle have established dominance hierarchies? The strong relationships between these cattle were associated with low aggressive tension, which could help explain their increased reproductive performance! Sketch contributed by Maggie Creamer Source:  Reinhardt, C., Reinhardt, A., & Reinhardt, V. (1986). Social behaviour and reproductive performance in semi-wild Scottish Highland cattle. Applied Animal…