Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Poison Ivy 101

A few years ago, Mr. Nature Geek wrote a post about the "Do-Nothing-Killer," poison ivy. With spring having finally sprung and baby poison ivy leaves beginning to grow, this week I thought I would share two videos about this vilified plant to help you avoid this plant's famous itch.

First off, an introduction to poison ivy. Why does poison ivy make us itch? How do you treat a poison ivy rash? Can someone truly be immune? Why should poison ivy be allowed to grow in natural areas? Find out! 

**Warning: this video contains graphic images of poison ivy rashes and blisters**

Now that you know a bit more about poison ivy, how can you avoid it? The best way is to learn how to identify it, which isn't always as easy as it seems. 

Poison ivy may be tricky in all its shapes, sizes in forms which can make it hard to avoid, but the plant is still worth keeping around for the benefits it provides wildlife. So this spring, be on the lookout with your new identification knowledge and stay rash-free!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Courtship of Geekus naturus

In past blog entries, I've talked about all sorts of different animal mating rituals and systems. I've talked about how animals win each other over in one way or another, females kicking butt, and even some rather intimate details on animal sex. But today, I want to talk about the rather courtship of the species Geekus naturus.

Geekus naturus is a monogamous species, who sought out a potential mate that could demonstrate measurable geekery and humorous wit. In order to find this mate, she searched among a population of Geekus biologica. There, she came across this fine specimen:

This individual impressed the Geekus naturus with his geeky knowledge, humor, and of course other qualities such as ability to forage for food...
Here we see him collecting Rangia cuneata (wedge clams) to present to the Geekus naturus 
in order to win her affections and aid in her research in 2003.

perform impressive non-aggressive physical displays...

wrestle alligators...
(You tell that lizard he's not an alligator. We didn't want to hurt his feelings)

and demonstrate nurturing, fatherly qualities.

After a long courtship, this specimen, dubbed Geekus naturus v. mr. banded the Geekus naturus (v. the), solidifying their monogamous relationship.

On April 12, Geekus naturus v. mr. and Geekus naturus v. the shall proclaim their devotion to each other in front of a gathering of others of their species and live geekily ever after. 

See you after the honeymoon!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Joshua Tree National Park Revisited


Two years ago this week, Mr. Nature Geek and I visited Joshua Tree National Park. We had an amazing experience there, some of which I blogged about here. While we were there, I not only took lots of photos and videos for myself, but I also created a video for my Master's thesis on the birds of Joshua Tree and how they cope with life in the desert. And this week, I want to share that video with all of you! Enjoy!



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Feathers: Form Fits Function

Last week, I wrote about how to improve the lives of your pets through enrichment. I showed examples with the animals where I work, but I never introduced you to my own pets! I have two pets, a male and female cockatiel.


This is Peanut, my little man:

And Tucker, my "lemon chicken" girl:

Right now, Tucker is in what I call a "super molt," something she goes through about twice a year. In the wild, birds replace their feathers twice a year: once in the spring, and again in the fall. This not only keeps them looking fresh and sexy for the ladies (or gents in the case of polyandrous birds), but also ensures that their feathers are in tip-top shape for flying. Birds in captivity, like wild birds, will lose and occasional feather here and there, but also go through periods where they molt large amounts of feathers at a time. During Tucker's super molts, she can sit preening (cleaning her feathers) for 30 seconds on the couch and this happens:
My house becomes littered with feathers, rolling across the floor like little tumblefluffs. But no matter how many super molts I've been through, I never get tired of seeing all the different shapes and forms Tucker's feathers come in. Birds' feathers are an amazing testament to form fits function, with each feather uniquely sculpted to fit a specific purpose.

Remiges
Peanut wanted to contribute to this post too, so his feather is showcased at the left. Remiges are the flight feathers on the wings; the classic quill feather. These feathers are stiff and strong and are inserted directly into bone instead of skin like most feathers, and so are able to push hard against the air in order to achieve flight. In actuality, all a bird's feathers have a role in flight, but if a bird loses too many remiges, it will be rendered flightless. The narrow side of the central shaft is the leading edge of the wing. Because of this, we can tell this feather came from Peanut's left wing. 





Retricies
Not as stiff as remiges, retricies are a bird's tail feathers and are also inserted straight into bone, in this case the last tailbone called the pygostyle. These feathers are responsible for steering in flight. A bird also steers with its wings, true, but holding its wings perfectly still, a bird can make a slightest twitch of its tail to turn. They can also spread their tail feathers to slow their flight, or tuck them in nice and neat when performing a swift dive. The feather on the left is one of Tucker's central tail feathers, as can be told by its perfect symmetry. Feathers from the left or right side of her tail look slightly different, like the beautifully patterned one on the right. Using the same guidelines as with the remiges, can you tell which side of the tail this feather came from?

Coverts
No covert operation here, just feathers whose job are to protect the flight feathers on the wings and tail. This feather is one of my favorite of Tucker's, a tail covert, aka "buttvert." Just look at the cup to fit her little feathered butt, people. And it's so fluffy I'M GONNA DIE. Nobody likes a cold rear end, and birds are no exception. All that fluff at the base of both the retrices and their coverts makes for a nice, warm, fluffy behind.




Contour Feathers
The majority of feathers you see on a bird are contour feathers, whose function is to not only keep the bird warm, but to give it its aerodynamic shape. The colors of the contour feathers also perform roles in attracting the opposite sex and camouflage. Most contour feathers have a slight curve, lending their shape to the overall curve of the bird. But look at the contour feather on the right. This feather is thin, perfectly flat, and almost rectangular. It's a wingpit feather! This feather is perfectly shaped to fit tightly up against Tucker's body beneath her wings. The last thing you'd want as a bird (besides a cold butt) is feathers that get in the way of your wingbeats. These feathers perfectly fit that need, protecting her body, while not getting in the way.

Other specialized feathers
There are all sorts of other little specialized feathers to be found on a bird's body, like tiny filoplumes...
which can be found at the base of almost every contour feather and are sensitive to air movement and vibrations. This allows a bird to feel the place of every feather on their body, and know when one is the slightest bit out of place and needs attention.

There's bristles:
which look like tiny whiskers between Tucker's eyes and beak but are special feathers stripped down to their central barb. Bristles like Tucker's help keep dirt, insects, and other foreign things out of her eyes and nostrils. Bristles on some birds, like nighthawks, help them to sense when insects are near their mouths when feeding. And on birds of prey and vultures, bristles mixed in with the contour feathers can help keep blood and gore off of the contour feathers.

And finally since we're talking about cockatiels, we have to mention the fabulous crest feathers:

For some feathers, their form is their function. That is to say that some feathers are fabulously shaped for the sake of being fabulous. For a cockatiel's crest, not only can they attract attention, but they are incredibly expressive, like little birdy eyebrows. You can even literally see Tucker thinking, as her crest goes up and down as she's really puzzling over how to steal food off of my plate. However, crest feathers are probably the most awkward thing to happen as they loosen during a super molt.
Poor, poor, unicorn Peanut.

Tucker's super molt is slowing down, meaning there are less feathers being dispersed all over my house. But whenever I pick one up, I can look at its shape and tell exactly where on Tucker's body the feather came from, thanks to nature's excellent design of form fitting function. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Keeping Captive Animals Wild through Enrichment

Those who know me personally are always hearing of my crazy, humorous, and sometimes disgusting exploits as the animal curator at Briar Bush Nature Center. And many tell me I should share these stories on this blog. Today, I thought I would give you a short behind-the-scenes look at just one aspect of what it means to care for a collection of captive animals, and how you can do the same at home for your pets.

The animals we have at Briar Bush are mostly surrendered pets, with a few non-releasable wildlife species, such as Henry the opossum, whom you met last month. No matter what the species of animal, from the wildest owl to the tamest rat, all captive animals need to exercise both their bodies and their brains, because a life in captivity is not as engaging as a life in the wild. In the wild animals spend their time looking for food, defending their territories, and engaging with others of their species. In captivity, food is always in the same bowl, the territory is established, and not all pets have someone around all day to interact with, human or otherwise. When we stimulate the brains of our beloved animals, it is called enrichment

What does enrichment look like? Many of you already have enrichment for your pets: that Kong for your dog, the catnip mouse for your cat, and even that plant in your fish tank all enrich their lives. The best forms of enrichment mimic some sort of behavior that is natural for that animal in the wild. Cats like to hunt, so we give them toys to pounce on. Parrots use their beaks to manipulate objects for food, so we give them complex toys. (For great enrichment ideas for parrots, check out Bird Geek Michele's blog http://foragingforparrots.com/Female rats like to make nests, so we give them cozy places to hide and things to shred.
Sisters Spot and Starr, enjoying their cozy hammock. 
They like to stuff it with shredded newspaper I provide to give it that extra homey touch.

At Briar Bush, a lot of the enrichment I provide centers around the natural behavior of foraging, or looking for food. Instead of just placing a plate or bowl in front of them, I trigger their natural instincts to find their own food. Enrichment for a leopard tortoise named Torti looks like this:
video
A pesticide-free lawn on which to dine! As an added bonus, Torti is receiving much-needed vitamin D and UVB from the natural sunlight as she grazes. And as an added bonus to the homeowner, she provides a mowing and fertilization service!

Enrichment for a turkey vulture named Ralph looks like this:
I call it RATBALL.

Ratball works off of a vulture's natural tendency to stick its head and beak inside of things in order to get food. What you may not know about vultures is that they are extremely intelligent. You've gotta keep uping your game to keep a vulture occupied! 
Ratball version 1.0 was just a mouse placed inside the ball. 
    Child's play (or rather chick's play). 
Version 2.0: a large rat that I had to really work to stuff inside the ball. 
    Apparently it wasn't work to remove it. 
Version 3.0: A rat burrito-wrapped inside a piece of bed sheet.
    Silly human, just pull the rat out of the end of the burrito.
Version 4.0 (seen above): Tie the rat inside of the sheet like a little drawstring purse inside the ball.
    Now we're getting somewhere! 
video

This one took Ralph a while to figure out, but eventually he used his powerful beak to just rip a hole right through the sheet to extract the rat, much like he would rip open a carcass in the wild. Today I am up to Ratball version 6.0, in which the bed sheet has been replaced with a much tougher washcloth.

And enrichment for a pair of red-eared sliders looks like this:
video
Yes, enrichment for the turtles meant death for the goldfish, but red-eared sliders don't eat turtle pellets in the wild, they eat living things. And whenever these two are fed live prey, they move faster and are more active than I ever see them at any other time. Suddenly their days go from boring and mundane to exciting and purposeful. That reptilian brain kicks in to hyper drive and they love every minute of it. Well maybe the male slider a little less, as he didn't catch a single one of the 8 fish. Pellets are more his speed.

Providing enrichment for the animals under my care at work and for your animals at home isn't just entertaining for us humans, but it's a matter of physical and mental health for our furry, scaly, feathery, slippery, and exoskeletony friends. And as you've seen with the case of Ralph the turkey vulture, providing enrichment can be a challenge for your brain as well! This week put your brain to the test to challenge your pets at home with some enrichment. Don't forget to share the video of your enrichment on my Facebook page...the internet loves cute animal videos.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Everything in (Not So) Moderation

This week the Food and Drug Administration proposed changes to nutrition labels on food for the first time in 20 years. The changes, they say, would give a more realistic idea of what we are stuffing in our mouths. What?! Three Oreos is TOTALLY a realistic serving size! Said no one ever. I have long chuckled at serving sizes. I am not an over-eater for the most part (except when it comes to popcorn), but calling a can of soup or a 20 oz. soda two servings each is rather ridiculous. I'm all for the revisions, though I think I might suffer from a heart attack from seeing what I'm actually eating, regardless of how much sodium is in it. This week, let's look at some serving sizes and nutrition content in the animal kingdom, shall we?


If you were a blue whale, this is what your daily intake of krill would look like. Krill are tiny crustaceans that are capable of planking on a fingertip like this:
A blue whale consumes 4 tons of these little buggers a day, which is enough to fill a dumpster. Pretty cool to think that one of the largest animals in the world subsists on one of the smallest animals in the world.


"Leche de Foca" translates to seal milk, and in this case, Northern fur seal milk, specifically. Young fur seal pups need to drink milk like any other mammal in order to grow, but their mothers spend a lot of time hunting, and not a lot of time nursing. As a result, the pups have to get a lot of nutrients in a very short time. A female fur seal's milk is 46% fat, which is comparable to heavy whipping cream (36% fat). Sure makes our whole milk of 3.25% look not so bad, doesn't it?


As you may recall from a previous blog, short-tailed shrews have some of the highest metabolisms in the animal kingdom. While it may sound good to be able to eat whatever you want (even seal milk) and still stay slim and trim, consider that they can starve to death in just a manner of hours. Because of their high rate of calorie use, a short-tailed shrew consumes between one to three times their own body weight a day. If we were to look at this from a human perspective, it would mean that the average 180 pound man would need to consume 180 to 540 pounds of food a day, or roughly somewhere between this...

and this....
every day. 
Our refrigerators would have to be a whole heck of a lot bigger.

These are just three of the nutrition labels you'd expect to see under the new Food and Drug Administration's revisions that reflect accurate and realistic serving sizes and nutrition content. Hey FDA, speaking of revised serving sizes, here's what I'd suggest for my own popcorn serving size, ok?
That should just about do it. 



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Braiiiiiiins

For reasons beyond my geeky comprehension, zombies are kind of the thing right now. There's The Walking Dead, Zombieland, World War Z, I am Legend, and my personal favorite, Plants vs. Zombies.
"Get ready to soil your plants"
Seriously. Addicting. Game.

I may not understand the fascination with zombies, but at least it's better than emo vampires. No matter what form you see a zombie in, from cartoonish to gory, they all want the same thing: your brain. In the natural world, there exist real instances of organisms that target the brains of other living things, turning them into mindless minions to do their bidding. So get out your crossbows and wall-nuts and prepare for some true biological warfare.

Toxoplasmosis: Fear No Death
Toxoplasmosis is a protozoan parasite that infects most species of birds and mammals, including humans. In humans, Toxoplasmosis affects the brain by causing schizophrenia and behavioral changes. However in mice, the changes are even more creepy. Mice infected with Toxoplasmosis lose their fear of cats. What's more, they actually become attracted to the smell of cat urine. Despite the variety of hosts for Toxoplasmosis, it can only sexually reproduce in the guts of cats. By changing the behavior of mice to make them attracted to cats, Toxoplasmosis is essentially guaranteeing a front-door delivery to the stomach of a cat where it can successfully reproduce. Even worse, the affects on a mouse's brain appear to possibly be permanent, even if a mouse is cured of the infection.

Euphalorchis californiensis: No "Safety Dance" Here
Euhaplorchis californiensis (let's call it EP for short, shall we?) is not a protozoan like Toxoplasmosis, but rather a worm. A worm with an agenda. This worm must pass through three hosts in order to complete its life cycle. In the warm refuge of a bird's gut, the worm produces its eggs, which are passed out in the droppings of the bird. Those that are lucky enough to land in water are gobbled up by unsuspecting horn snails. Now inside the horn snail, the eggs hatch
This EP larva just wants to hug your brain
(if you are a killifish that is).
into young larva, which decide to take up residence for a while, rendering the snail sterile in the meantime. Eventually the larva figures it should grow up and make something of its life, and leaves its gastropod home. The larva finds its next home: a California killifish. It enters in through the fish's gills and makes its way up to the brain, where it forms a cyst and directs the fish to swim close to the water's surface, wiggling, convulsing, and jerking in order to attract the attention of a
hungry shorebird. California killifish infected by EP are up to 30 times more likely to be eaten than healthy fish. Once inside the gut of the bird, the worm larva finally matures and lays its eggs, and the life cycle is complete.

Lancet Liver Fluke: Werewolf-Zombie Ants
The lancet liver fluke's story is similar to that of fellow worm EP; there are three hosts, one of which is a snail, and another host must be eaten in order to complete the cycle. The eggs of the lancet liver fluke come from the dung of a cow or sheep, which are consumed by a land snail. Eggs hatch in snail, hang out for a while, and are excreted (told you it was familiar). This time the next host is an ant, that becomes infected when making a meal out of snail slime. However the ant doesn't just go and find its way to a cow and do some sort of shimmy to get eaten. Instead, in a cool of the night, the ant in its zombie-like state makes its way to the top of a blade of grass, clamps on with its jaw...and waits. After all, cows eat grass, not ants. 
Photo courtesy of http://bugtracks.wordpress.com/2011/07/17/mind-control/

But there is an interesting, werewolf-like twist to this tale. If the ant is not eaten immediately, it returns to life as usual with the rest of its uninfected colony come morning. It only lives its double life as cow bait at night. Once the fateful night comes, the lancet liver fluke can complete its life cycle in the belly of the cow or sheep.

Human zombies have a pretty sweet deal compared to the real versions you find in nature. With humans, you become a zombie, then you live out the rest of your zombie life munching on the brains of the slow, stupid, and unarmed...well, until someone hacks your head off with a machete anyway. For the victims of parasites, however, their zombie-like form is a mere transitional state to a gruesome death beyond their control. No brain munching, no scaring teenagers making out in cars, no dancing with Michael Jackson. If reading about these parasites has taught me one thing about surviving the zombie apocalypse, I think it's this: look out for snails.




Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Oh, possum!

Little Henry with Patti, Briar Bush's
business manager
Back in October 2013 at the nature center where I work, we acquired a young opossum from a wildlife rehabilitator to use in our educational programs. Henry, as we named him, was found in his mother's pouch along with his seven siblings when she was hit by a car. Although the mother did not survive, all of the babies did. Two of the siblings, however, had an infection commonly called "crispy ear." Crispy ear is a bacterial necrosis that causes the infected areas to fall off, typically affecting the ears, toes, and tail. Henry's sibling was able to be treated and released along with the six other brothers and sisters, but poor Henry lost all but one of his toes at the knuckle and the tip of his tail before his infection cleared. An opossum that cannot climb to escape predators is doomed to death, and so Henry was deemed non-releasable and came to live at Briar Bush. In the four months that I have been using Henry in programs, I have come across many "myth-conceptions" about opossums that I thought I would take the opportunity to clear up today. So let's get right to it!

Their full name is Virginia opossum
Though many of us call them "possums," the full name is opossum. Opossums belong to the largest family of marsupials (mammals with pouches) in the world, Didelphidae, of which there are 95 species. The Virginia opossum is the only marsupial found in all of North America, so consider yourself fortunate if you see one! Our local opossum is also one of the most variable-sized mammals in existence: males can range from 1.7 to 14 pounds and females from 11 ounces to 8.2 pounds when fully grown. 

Opossums can be cute...really!
Not only can opossums be cute, but they can be ridiculously cute. Allow me to demonstrate here...
Henry says "HI!"

and here...
As you can tell, Henry is quite photogenic...
when I can actually get him to stop moving for one picosecond.

And just to prove it's not just the babies that can be cute, here...
He's smiling because he's warming your heart.

Opossums only play tough guys on TV (and in your yard)
When most people come to me with stories about their opossum encounters, it usually involves this kind of depiction:
...which is understandably terrifying.

Opossums do have the most teeth out of any land mammal in North America, 50 in all (we have 32 by comparison), which they will not hesitate to bear when startled. Even Henry gapes when I wake him up suddenly or spook him when he has his head under some leaves, looking for a tasty treat of dead worms. But opossums are all bluff; they are undeserving of their nasty and aggressive reputations. Opossums are also amazingly resistant to rabies, another myth that has landed this species into a lot of trouble when they are killed out of suspicions of being rabid. In fact when push comes to shove, opossums resort to playing dead rather than going on the offensive, which brings me to my next myth...

Opossums can't snap out of "playing possum"
In the movie Over the Hedge, there is a scene in which Ozzie the opossum plays dead in order to fool the humans. Once he discovers that an exterminator has some more invasive plans in mind, Ozzie immediately recovers and scampers to safety. In reality, not only can opossums not choose when to play dead (it is an involuntary response to extreme fear) but their bodies go into such a state of
shock that it can take up to four hours for them to recover. They do put on quite the show, however; mouth open, drooling, stiff-bodied, they even produce a foul-smelling liquid from their anus that makes them smell like a rotting carcass. There are only two problems with this clever defense. First, playing 'possum in response to a car is highly ineffective and does result in a number of opossum deaths. Also, if a predator comes along that doesn't mind eating dead animals, say a bald eagle, I can't imagine the opossum will fare well here either.



Opossums can do lots of things with their tails, but hanging is not one of them
Opossums' tails are perhaps their most distinguishing feature, and the reason that many people shudder at the thought of opossums and their rat-like appearances. But an opossum's tail is an incredible tool, helping them to balance when walking on narrow branches, acting as a fifth leg when reaching for a distant object in the trees, and even carrying plant material to make nests with. However, opossums are not capable of hanging upside down from their tails. When you see a photo like this on the internet...
the featured opossums are not hanging by choice, but rather because they are attempting to save themselves from a nasty fall (or my guess is that it was staged to result in a "cute" photo opportunity) and only have a short amount of time to recover before the strength in their tails give out.

Opossums are incredible, amazing, misunderstood animals
Opossums are called ugly, nasty, and vicious, but I hope that you have now seen a different side to these marvelous marsupials. Even if you still shudder at the sight of an opossum, you can still secretly think they're pretty cool in their own right and respect their role as a scavenger and clean up crew in the animal kingdom. It's ok, I won't tell. And Henry won't either...he's too busy looking for dead worms to eat.




Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Let's Get it On

Today's post is not safe for the kiddies. Kids, go work on your Valentines for school while Mom and Dad read stories that remind them about how you came to be and maybe want to work on giving you a brother or sister.

In case you were not aware from the bombardment of Hallmark, chocolate, and jewelry-related advertisements going on for the past few weeks, Valentine's Day is this Friday. No matter whether February 14 makes you wear pink, watch romantic movies and shoot cartoon hearts out of your eyes or if it makes you want to shoot things into your eyes, Valentine's Day is a great excuse to talk about sex in the animal kingdom. No matter how adventurous and kinky you may think your sex life is (or want it to be), some of these stories from the animal kingdom make humans look downright boring.

Alright guys, let's get this out of the way right now. The average human penis is 6". And no, by some amazing coincidence every man reading this blog doesn't just happen to be bigger. Well except for maybe you. Well hello there... The following animals have a penis bigger than yours:
Banana Slug
9 inches


Pig
15 inches

This Argentine Lake Duck
16 inches
(the average for the species is 7.8 inches, so still bigger than a human's)

Giraffe
3 feet

African Elephant
5 feet...and it's prehensile
(no, that elephant does not have one leg smaller than the other)

Right Whale
10 feet

But hey, at least your penis is still bigger than a gorilla's:
2 inches

But the biggest penis in the animal kingdom in relation to body size belongs to the humble barnacle. Its penis is over 8 times its own body length! If the human male were that well-endowed, his member would be longer than a school bus.

Seed beetle: Sex as the fountain of youth
Hugh Hefner was a seed beetle in a former life.
When the male seed beetle mates with the female, he inseminates her with chemicals that either make her die younger or live longer. Sometimes the compounds increase the number of eggs laid by a female, and mated females tend to live longer, but in some cases, the compounds are toxic to the female. However males that tend to reproduce late on in life will inject females with more beneficial compounds, in essence extending her lifespan, than males that tend to reproduce early in life. By doing so, the late-breeding males ensure that females will live longer, and hence be around to bear them more offspring, maximizing the number of times their genes are passed down the generations.

Pigs: A twisted relationship
Boars have a corkscrew penis and sows have a spiraled vagina.  This helps to prevent cross breeding in the wild; it’s like a key in a specific key hole. Pigs also ejaculate huge amounts of semen, over a pint each time, which is enough to nearly fill a wine bottle. (You just think of that when you're having your Valentine's drink. You're welcome.)  The last push of semen is thick like tapioca pudding to seal in the previous ejaculate and ensure that the female is fertilized with his sperm and not a competitor's.  
A human ejaculates 1-2 teaspoons of semen each ejaculation, and a right whale 5 gallons per each ejaculation, by the way.

Brown trout: faking it
When solicited by a less than ideal amorous male, female brown trout fake orgasms to encourage male to ejaculate prematurely, duping him into thinking he has successfully mated and go on his merry way to brag to his friends. The female then leaves to go and find a better male with which to do the real thing.

Tidarren spiders: Dude, drop your penis and RUN!
A male Tidarren spider with his
oh so manly pedipalps.
Male spider sex organs are called pedipalps and look like legs or mouthparts. In Tidarren spiders, each of their two pedipalps make up 10% of their weight. That would be like the average male having 18 pound testicles. Each. Male Tidarren spiders may have big equipment, but they are only 1% the size of the females, who would very much like to make a meal out of these potato chip
A tiny male doing his best not to be eaten
during his booty call.
boys. 
Before mating, males voluntarily twist off one pedipalp (he secures it in silk and then turns in circles while pushing on it with his legs) in order to run faster from the hungry female and out compete males with both pedipalps in tact. Males with just one pedipalp run 44% faster and for 63% longer than those with two. It's thought to be easier for these males to run because they are lighter and it's easier to move when pedipalp is not in the way. You try running with 36 pounds of testicles in your pants.



See guys? Bigger is not always better after all. So no matter how you celebrate Valentine's Day, I'm glad that you took some time out to be a voyeur on my blog. I hope I left you satisfied, because it was certainly good for me.