Science fun facts
Send your fun fact ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll research as needed and post them here. Please include your name (as you'd like it to appear) and city, state and/or country. Submissions may be edited. Thank you to our contributors!
The EEB fun facts page was in the news! See the Ann Arbor News article.
Watch Bald Eagles in their nest and eaglets hatching in spring!
The Decorah Bald Eagles video project began when the first camera was installed in 2009.The eagle’s next is about 80 feet high, six feet across, five feet deep and weighs close to 1,367 pounds. The eagles built the nest in 2007. Their previous nest nearby fell when a windstorm broke one of the supporting branches.
The story of the Bald Eagle is a happy one. This bird of prey found in North America is the national bird and symbol for the United States of America. In the late 1900s, the Bald Eagle was headed toward local extinction in the continental U.S. even as it was thriving in large areas of Alaska and Canada. Populations recovered and stabilized prompting their removal from the U.S. federal government’s list of endangered species and placement on the list of threatened species in July 1995. The Bald Eagle was removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in the continental U.S. in June 2007.
You can read more about the Decorah Bald Eagles on the website underneath the live video link.
Idea submitted by Dennis Drobeck, Lab/Classroom Services Supervisor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan
Porpoising penguins and plenty more!
Did you ever want to know more about the waddling, flightless seabirds who appear to be dressed to the nines in handsome tuxedos? According to about.com, penguins are some of the most recognizable and beloved birds in the world, and they are also some of the most unique. Here are some fun penguin facts from about.com and amazing photos from Kevin Bakker, University of Michigan research lab technician in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
While swimming, penguins will leap above the surface of the water, a practice called porpoising. This coats their plumage with tiny bubbles that reduce friction, allowing them to swim as fast as 20 miles per hour (32 kph).
Penguins are found only in the Southern Hemisphere. While most people associate penguins with Antarctica, they are much more widespread and penguin populations can also be found in South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
There are 18 species of penguin in the world. While some species are thriving, 13 of them have declining populations.
The light front and dark back of classic penguin plumage is called countershading and it provides superb camouflage from above and below to protect penguins in the water.
The emperor penguin is the largest of the penguin species and can weigh up to 90 pounds. The fairy penguin is the smallest and weighs only 2 pounds.
Penguins are social birds that form breeding colonies numbering in the tens of thousands. They may use the same nesting grounds for thousands of years, and colonies can number in the millions.
Penguins have many natural predators depending on their habitat, including leopard seals, sea lions, orcas, snakes, sharks and foxes. Artificial threats are also a problem for penguins, including oil spills and other pollution, global warming that changes the distribution of food sources and illegal poaching and egg harvesting.
Photo captions: (from top)1. Porpoising penguins 2. Midnight march of the penguins with Kevin Bakker 3. A well-worn trail 4. Hatchlings 5. Emperor penguin with the Swedish Icebreaker Oden.
Kevin Bakker took these photos while on research cruises to collect water samples around Antarctica, including one cruise around the Antarctic Peninsula. Amazing! Thanks Kevin!
We're not saying those mushrooms growing in your yard are your second cousins once removed, but ... fungi are closer than you think!
Here's some dinner conversation for tonight, you can start with something like this, "Hey Dad, did you know you are more closely related to that mushroom on your plate than that mushroom is to that piece of broccoli?!" If he doesn't get too mad, you can go on to explain.
Although traditionally studied by botanists, fungi are actually more closely related to animals (like you!) than plants. Animals and fungi are sister kingdoms of a “supergroup” called Opisthokonta. Shared characteristics of most Opisthokonta are cells that move, powered by a single tail (sperm in animals and the zoospores found in several primitive, aquatic fungi), flattened compartments inside their cells (known as mitochondrion organelles), and they eat other organisms for their energy (this is called heterotrophic nutrition).
However, a big difference between fungi and animals is how they get nutrients from their food source. Fungi grow inside their food, from which they are separated by a cell wall, and secrete enzymes across the cell wall to digest food externally and then import pre-digested food. Animals, on the other hand, lack cell walls and engulf their food whole and digest it internally. (Picture you chowing down a piece of pepperoni pizza -- with or without mushrooms!)
Plants use photosynthesis to make their own food using energy harvested from light (also known as autotrophic nutrition). For more information on the characteristics of fungi and their phylogenetic position see the Tree of Life website.
A swimming spore video (QuickTime file)
With thanks to Tim James, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, University of Michigan; assistant curator, U-M Herbarium
Bats are the only mammals that can fly. Not only that, did you know that some bats walk too? Of the 1,100 bat species known today, the lesser short-tailed bat and the American common vampire bat (the only mammals that feed entirely on blood!) are the only two known to walk on the ground. Watch a video of the lesser short-tailed bats walk, climb and hunt.
The recent discovery of fossils of an extinct walking bat in northwestern Queensland, Australia, suggests that today's lesser short-tailed bats descended from 20-million-year-old Australian relatives.
Read more from National Geographic News
Chimp plans stone attacks on zoo visitors
A male chimpanzee in a Swedish zoo planned hundreds of stone-throwing attacks on zoo visitors, according to researchers. Keepers at Furuvik Zoo discovered that the chimp collected and stored stones that he would later launch toward onlookers. (No one was injured.) Also, the chimp learned to recognize how and when parts of his concrete enclosure could be pulled apart to make further projectiles.
The findings were reported in the journal Current Biology. There has been scant evidence in previous research that animals can plan ahead. Crucial to the study is the fact that Santino, a chimpanzee at the zoo in the city north of Stockholm, collected the stones in a calm state, before the zoo opened in the morning. He threw the stones hours later in an "agitated" state – displaying his dominance to zoo visitors.
This suggests that Santino was anticipating a future mental state – an ability that has been difficult to definitively prove in animals, according to Mathias Osvath, a cognitive scientist from Lund University in Sweden and author of the new research. Read more at BBC News.