Giant Panda Facts!

So…I love pandas, and we are going to provide some panda facts to you today.  Some of these facts may be common knowledge to you, but some may not.

The common name of pandas is Giant Panda.  The scientific name is Ailuropoda melanoleuca. 

The wild pandas only live in China, specifically in the woods of the mountainous areas.

Pandas are omnivores, but their main food source is bamboo. (I bet you knew that one!)

Wild pandas live around 20 years, but those in captivity usually have a longer lifespan.

Female pandas are only fertile 2 to 3 days a year.

It’s pretty common for pandas in captivity to give birth to twins.

Adult pandas usually weigh 200 to 300 pounds.

Pandas can be a symbol of peace to the Chinese.

Pandas sort of grew thumbs.  Evolution at its best, right? It’s actually a modified wrist bone.  This aides in eating bamboo.

When panda cubs are born, the black spots around their eyes are round but they turn more teardrop shaped as the pandas get older.

 

Hope you enjoyed these facts!  More to come later on. 🙂

The Memories of Cats and Dogs

We all love our family pet. They are more than part of our households, and are more like members of our families. But how much does our lovely Fido or Boots remember? We all know they can remember some as they know who we are, can remember tricks, or even where they go for walks or where the food bowls are.

First off, about 75% of dogs aren’t actually pets and don’t live inside. This changes what is useful for the dog to remember, as scavenging is the most important memory for any wild dog. When it comes to food, dogs have excellent memory, as it’s their basic survival that is involved. So when teaching a pet using food as an incentive, dogs normally store that trick into their long-term memory as it supplied food. Though, some of this is also genetic as dogs that have formed long-term bonds with humans can then pass those traits down to the next generation.

In a study published in the journal Current Biology in 2016, some dogs displayed episodic memories, which are considered autobiographical and part of the who, what, when, where details rather than self awareness which has never been proven that dogs have. Through a series of tests, dogs sometimes could perform memory tasks, but the longer waiting time seemed to decline.

Cats are like dogs in their food memory. Cats have excellent memory when it comes to hunting, as much as dogs have when considering scavenging. Both of these traits apply to their genetic evolution and helped the animal survive throughout history.

According to a study released in the journal Behavioral Processes, cats have an excellent short-term memory when food is involved. A 2008 study released in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science showed cats were also good with spatial memory. Interestingly enough, older cats had a harder time remembering than younger cats, hinting at age played an important role in cat’s memory. Though cats did show to that once something was out of sight, they would rapidly lose interest or memory, though which of these is uncertain.

 

 

New Giant Virus

A new giant virus was discovered at an Austrian wastewater treatment plant. The giant virus is a type of Mimivirus, and four new species which are being called the Klosneuviruses were discovered in 2003. Giant viruses are huge viruses and can grow up to 500 nanometers. The average virus is only a few dozen nanometers in size, making this one a giant among it’s kind.

This giant virus has some interesting characteristics with more complicated genetics than it’s smaller cousin viruses. Strangely enough, this giant virus has picked up bits of genomes from its hosts and incorporated it into it’s own genetic code. This makes it the Frankenstein of the virus world, hacking off bits and pieces of it’s host, and using it according for it’s own survival. One of the new giant viruses discovered even carries it’s own ribonucleic acids, which can decipher genetic codes for 19 out of the natural 20 amino acids. This was reported in the journal Science by scientists led by Tanja Woyke of the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute.

They discovered the giant viruses on accident while combing through the genetic sequences of the wastewater treatment plant in an attempt to understand bacteria that helps convert ammonia to nitrate during the treatment process. The researchers then compared these newfound giant viruses to other mimiviruses trying to establish the genetic linage. The study found that the Klosneuviruses were a patchwork of different genetic information, most of it which had been picked up from its hosts throughout it’s genetic lifetime. This suggest that these viruses came from much smaller viruses and overtime evolved.

But on good news, these giant viruses infect single celled microorganisms, protists, which live at the wastewater treatment plant. Other Giant viruses have also been located in marine environments, or in pond sludge. Scientists believe there are many more out there still left to be discovered.

 

 

 

 

Were Jellyfish the First Creatures?

Scientists are attempting to find the oldest creature in the world, and they believe they have landed on a double winner. The jellyfish and the sponge are both contenders with most leaning towards the sponge being the oldest creature on the planet because of the sponge’s simple body in comparison with other life forms. However, a new detailed study of genetic analysis has found that the beautiful predator, a comb jelly evolved first before the sponge.

This debate started in 2008, which led into researchers beginning to find evidence that the sponge was no longer considered to be the oldest living animal but the comb jelly instead. The latest study which came out in March in the journal Current Biology, showed a genetic dataset stated the sponge is still the clear winner. Genetic researchers are trying to discover why the discrepancies between so many leading research beliefs and findings.

Because scientists are studying genes as a basis, some of these genes can be misrepresented for scientific research. The earlier an animal emerged as a life form on the planet, the more likely this animal was likely to be a new species. Because of this fact many different species shared many genes, and had a few different genetic make-ups that would make it hard to narrow down the genetic parent gene of the creature.

A good example of this is when looking at the genetic history of crocodiles. Among these crocodiles, 74% of these creatures shared more genes with turtles than birds, though birds are a close sister animal to the crocodile. This is important when noting that genes share both founding genetic material with sponges and comb jellies, as one or two strong opinionated genes can sway the opinion of the genetic line, leading some to believe combs and others to believe sponges. This mystery may never be solved because of inadequate data and the simple fact that diversification happened so quickly.

 

 

 

Puffins

One of Britain’s most iconic birds is now on the endangered list. The Atlantic Puffin has now joined many other animals on the threat of extinction, and one can only hope this cute penguin like seabird can survive and flourish. The Puffin is an adorable seabird with tight black feathers, a large white belly, and a parrot shaped head.

The Royal Society for the Protection of birds referred to the creature as comical, which seems to be the general consensus among those who know these dainty birds.  These birds are often to referred to as clowns in reference to their multi colored beak. The Puffin brings the endangered bird list to a total of 8.

These seabirds live in Iceland, Norway, Greenland, and Newfoundland, along with many rocky islands. Puffins breed on the islands, building their nests on top of rocks in large breeding colonies. Iceland is home to 60% of these breeding sites. They build beautiful nests lined with feathers or grass to give it warmth. The breeding pair takes turns incubating the single egg until it hatches. Puffins normally reunite with its preferred partner each year at the same spot their previous nest had been built.

Beyond breeding, the Atlantic Puffin gets its name from the Atlantic where it spends most of its time. This seabird is quite adept at swimming, using its wide feet as paddles. Underwater, these birds use their wings to guide them in the direction they want to go, and can dive up to 200 feet, though they are usually only underwater for 20 to 30 seconds at a time. In the air the Puffin can reach speeds of 55 mph by flapping their wings sometimes up to 400 times per minute.

The Puffin is endangered for several reasons as they have many different threats in their daily existence. Oil spills are a natural threat to any bird along with pollution, but that’s not the biggest threat to their livelihoods. Puffins prefer to eat fishes such as herrings, hakes, capelin, and sand lance. Their food sources are becoming rare to find, which has caused a dramatic drop in the Puffin population.