Sunday Sketch: The Narwhal

Unlike mythical unicorns, the narwhal (Monodon monoceros) is real and most closely related to beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas)! However, that is not a horn on their head but a tooth that males (and some females) have. The functions of the narwhal tooth are still being researched, but it is suggested that it can be used…

Sunday Sketch: Blue Jays and Ants

Do blue jays use ants as deodorant? It was once hypothesized that blue jays (and other jay species) would use the formic acid from ants to clean their feathers of parasites or as a form of chemosignalling. However, a study in Chemoecology tested this hypothesis by providing jays with ants with or without formic acid. Turns out…

Sunday Sketch: Opalescent Weevil

Insects come in many beautiful shapes, sizes, and colors – and Pachyrynchus argus, a weevil found in Australia, is gorgeous inside and out! Its iridescent patches are as structurally unique as they are lovely to look at. Whereas most insects only appear glittery in direct sunlight (due to the mirrorlike layers in their exoskeleton), P. argus’ showy shine…

Sunday Sketch: Right-Handed Sharks

Climate change alters many aspects of the ocean ecosystem, including how fish grow and develop. Recent research found that raising Port Jackson shark eggs (Heterodontus portusjacksoni) in warmer temperatures (based on those projected for end-of-century) led to increased mortality and, in those that survived, increased right-handedness!  Sketch and fact contributed by Karli Chudeau Vila Pouca, C.,…

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…