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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Roadrunners' built-in goggles

Greater Roadrunner
Roadrunners often run through some pretty dirty and dusty environments.  Plus, they usually bash their prey repeatedly against something hard to soften it up before eating it. Both activities raise a lot of dust/debris.

So Roadrunners (sometimes called chaparrals) have thin, transparent membranes for the eyes, which they can lower to protect their eyes - sort of like goggles. They can also be used to keep eyes from drying out when the day gets unusually hot.
Greater Roadrunner

The coloring of a hummingbird comes mostly from the density of its feathers and the angle of the sun, not from pigment. These things determine how light is reflected off the feathers, displaying a certain color - or not. That's why a Ruby-throated Hummingbird's throat ("gorget") may appear ruby-red sometimes, and sometimes black.

As it moves around the coloring will change. But don't expect it to move around frequently. A hummingbird spends as much as 80% of its time simply sitting on a perch, surveying the landscape.
Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

An adhesive modeled after Geckos

However you feel about Geckos, you have to admire their ability to cling to anything. Scientists at UMass-Amherst did too. Inspired by Geckos, they developed an adhesive that sticks things to most smooth surfaces, holds up to 700 pounds, and can be easily removed (residue-free) and reused.

It's a pad about the size of a note card, called "Geckskin". It has both rigid and flexible components, and can easily be removed from surfaces such as glass, wood, drywall, various plastics, and metal. No trace is left and it can be reused.
Not long ago, I told readers of  "Crape Murder" - the damage that can be done by severely cutting limbs off healthy Crape Myrtles. This needless practice happens every spring, for no reason at all except that it creates busy-work for the  "cutter".

Well I've been watching Crape Myrtles all over north Texas. Out of the ones that were left alone, not one died that I know of.  However, about a third of the Crape Myrtles that were severely "topped", died.  In the worst case, 40% of them died at one institutional site, and the owner is now on the hook to pay for a bunch of new plants.
I'm really dumbfounded. Please tell me why this practice continues, and what the reasoning behind it is !!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Nature's perfect design; hummingbird beak

A hummingbird's long, needle-shaped beak evolved over millions of years; it matches perfectly with the shape of flowers. It's a symbiotic relationship. Hummingbirds want the nectar from the flowers - the flowers want to be pollinated so they can reproduce. The birds extend their long, flexible tongues deeper into the flower than any other bird in north Texas.

Their tongues are actually about a third longer than their beaks, so they can get at nectar other birds can't reach. The nectar is brought to the birds' mouths via lapping and capillary action, similar to a dog.  Not by sucking.

Another thing; their beaks are soft and pliable, as opposed to being tiny swords.

Toads don't cause warts. That's just an old wife's tale that mommas told us so we'd keep our hands out of the mud.  Actually, toads are good to have around in one respect. A single one eats thousands of insects in just one season.  If you have a "toad house" make sure it's placed in the shade.

can't we all just get along?