Animals Biodiversity Ecology 

Megabiota, Largest Life, Vital to Biosphere

By Mackenzie Myers @kenzwrites Large organisms such as whales, elephants, and redwoods are often featured in awe-inspiring nature documentaries, but they’re more than just oohs and ahs. Their existence or extinction could make or break the planet as we know it.  Megabiota—the largest plants and animals—are more likely than smaller organisms to go extinct as a result of climate change. And the rest of us could be in big trouble if they do, according to a recent study.  The charisma conundrum Think of successful conservation campaigns. Which animals are deemed…

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toxoplasma Animals Biology Health 

Toxoplasma Infection Makes Mice More Brave

By Mackenzie Myers, @kenzwrites Quiet as a mouse. Timid as a mouse. When’s the last time you heard a mouse described as brave?  The scientific community has already established that a parasite carried by cats and their feces, Toxoplasma gondii, causes infected mice to lose their fear of feline predators. But a new study from researchers at the University of Geneva and the University of Toronto points to a decrease in anxiety that may be less specific than previously thought, giving mice a one-size-fits-all fearlessness.  What is Toxoplasmosis? T. gondii,…

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The water bear or moss piglet is a tiny invertebrate that's been around on Earth for more than half a billion years. This is a giant model at the AMNH's "Life at the Limits" exhibit. Photo courtesy of Eden, Janine, and Jim(CC BY 2.0) Animals Biology Climate Change Environment 

Even the Resilient Tardigrade Has an Achilles Heel

By Shelby Nilsen (@shellbeegrace) Climate change is already affecting many habitats and ecosystems. As a result, scientists are working to understand how the rising temperatures we face might affect extant animals—that is, those species that are still surviving—including tardigrades, some of the toughest organisms around, which are well known for their ability to adapt to extreme environments.  In the face of certain environmental cues, tardigrades enter cryptobiosis, a state in which all metabolic processes stop until the organism’s surroundings become favorable again. This remarkable survival tactic allows tardigrades to withstand…

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SuperbOwl: Image credit: Alexas_Fotos via Pixabay Animals Citizen Science SciStarter Blog 

Five Ways to Prepare for SuperbOwl Sunday

By Bob Hirshon @BobHirshon Sunday, February 2 is the most exciting day of the year for owl-lovers all over the world: SuperbOwl Sunday! This is the day when the ornithologically-inclined brave the elements to admire owls near them, photograph owls and/or, for some reason, stay indoors and watch football. No matter who you’re hooting for this Super Bowl Sunday, you can celebrate SuperbOwls and citizen science. Get started with the projects we’ve spotlighted, below. Cheer for science…like 49ers cheerleader Kelly! Cognitive neuroscientist and San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush Cheerleader Kelly…

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Animal Adaptations: Science with Sophie Animals Biodiversity Ecology Education Science and Art Science Videos 

Urban Animal Adaptations, the Musical

Adaptations! How do animals adapt to live in human cities? Which animal sings the best? Watch them audition for survival and try an experiment with ping pong balls and tongs! This video is brought to you by our very good friend Sophia Shrand, creator and star of the educational science comedy series Science with Sophie. In this episode, we learn how different animal adaptations help them survive and thrive in city environments. We also learn how many different animals Sophie can portray (a lot). Finally, the experiment is fun for…

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Caterpillars Count Animals Citizen Science SciStarter Blog 

Caterpillars Count

From big to small, we all count. Even caterpillars.  Caterpillars are important Caterpillars are familiar to us. When a butterfly flutters past you, you know that it was once a caterpillar. Now it’s time to count the caterpillars and arthropods (creatures, like insects, with segmented bodies) that you see to help scientists understand how their populations are changing. You can get started today with the Caterpillars Count! project. Even though this project doesn’t just focus on caterpillars, who can resist a good alliteration?  In 2015, Dr. Allen Hurlbert of North…

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Animals SciStarter Blog 

Manatee Chat: Uncovering Manatee Secrets

It has long been believed that the manatee is a solitary animal with a very simple communication system that primarily serves one purpose: to keep mom and a calf in contact. However, in recent years, these assumptions have been questioned, based on new research indicating that manatees may not be that solitary after all and that their communication system might be more complex than we previously realized.  Manatees clearly cannot compete with other marine mammals in terms of vocal complexity—such as dolphins, for example—yet we still know surprisingly little about…

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Animals Citizen Science Ecology SciStarter Blog 

Citizen Science in Nebraska is Bigger Than You Think

by Megan Ray Nichols (@nicholsrmegan) In Nebraska, scientists working for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission are increasingly relying on casual researchers and citizen scientists to better understand three creatures in particular: spotted skunks, salamanders, and regal fritillary butterflies. Why? The populations of these species have either declined or are in jeopardy, and scientists want to get a current population count. Let’s take a closer look at these three Nebraskan citizen science projects and what researchers hope to learn from data collected by citizen scientists. Nebraska is a big state.…

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