A fun and educational live animal zoology presentation available for parties, schools, camps, scouts and special events in the Los Angeles, California area. We specialize in reptiles, amphibians, arthropods and other misunderstood but friendly critters.

This Ancient Creature Shows How the Turtle Got Its Shell

turtle

By Rachel Nuwer on Smithsonian.com

The 240-million-year-old “grandfather turtle” may be part of the evolutionary bridge between lizards and shelled reptiles

Turtles are pretty mellow creatures, but they excel at causing strife among paleontologists. Researchers have long been left guessing as to how soft-backed animals somehow transitioned into the shell-carrying creatures we know so well today. Now, they have finally found fossils that help fill in the details of this critical evolutionary period.

The fossils, discovered in an ancient lakebed in Germany, belong to a newly named species called Pappochelys, Greek for “grandfather turtle.” Estimated to be about 240 million years old—putting it smack dab in the middle of the Triassic period—Pappochelys seems to hit the evolutionary sweet spot between older suspected turtle ancestors and more recent and established family members.

Rainer R. Schoch from the Natural History Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, and Hans-Dieter Sues at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., gleaned knowledge about Pappochelys by studying an assortment of 18 fossil specimens, plus one skull. As they report today in Nature, the living animal would have been about 8 inches long from nose to tail, roughly the same size as a modern-day box turtle.

Pappochelys looked quite different than the turtles and tortoises of today, however. The animal had no shell, but it did have what appear to be the makings of one. Its ribs are broad and sturdy, and they fan out from the spine, a physiological set-up that the researchers suspect evolved not only for protection but also as a “bone ballast”—a way for the animal, which was likely aquatic or semiaquatic, to better control its buoyancy. That wasn’t the only hint of what would eventually become turtles’ trademark feature: Pappochelys also has a line of hard, almost shell-like bones along its belly.

Read the entire article on the Smithsonian Magazine website

These ‘silver’ ants use special hairs to survive the harshest desert heat

silver-ant

Published in the Washington Post by Elahe Izadi

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Saharan silver ants don’t have an easy life, even by ant standards. In order to avoid predators, they have to look for food during the hottest time of the day — when desert surface temperatures can reach 158 degrees Fahrenheit.

That’s almost too hot to live. The ants perish if their internal temperature goes higher than just 128.48 degrees Fahrenheit. But these little guys have developed an ingenious method for keeping themselves cool: It’s all about the hair, basically.

Researchers discovered that the unique structure and organization of the ants’ hair allow the creatures to control a wide range of the solar spectrum and keep cool. They published their findings Thursday in the journal Science.

To the naked human eye, these ants can resemble droplets of mercury as they scamper across the desert sand, said Nanfang Yu, assistant professor of applied physics at Columbia Engineering.

Read article on the Washington Post website

Rare zoo birth: 3 shades of Gray’s monitor lizard

monitor

Posted by Ken Stone in Life on MyNewsLA.com

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Reptile specialists said Monday they successfully hatched three Gray’s monitor lizards at the Los Angeles Zoo, which has occurred at only one other zoo in the Western hemisphere.

Births of the species have been rare in captivity. The Dallas Zoo was able to hatch a Gray’s monitor in 1994, but the lizard died soon afterward.
Gray’s monitor lizards had long been considered extinct in the wild until some were discovered in 1975 on islands in the Philippines.

The species is considered one of the largest lizards in Asia, as the reptiles can grow to be 6 feet long and 20 pounds. The tree-dwelling, olive-green lizards usually dine on fruit and invertebrates.

Read full article on MyNewsLA.com

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Mysterious clumps of earthworms appear on Texas road after flooding

earthworms

Published in The Independent by Kiran Moodley

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In an occurrence similar to trees cocooned in spider webs in post-flooding Pakistan, or the dreaded happening of “spider rain”, mysterious balls of hundreds of earthworms have appeared at Texan park.

Following record rainfall in May and damaging floods that left hundreds homeless, staff at Texas’ Eisenhower State Park noticed the bizarre phenomenon of clumps of worms lined up along the centre of a road running through the park.

Over 30 piles of the worms were left scattered on the tarmac, leaving staff puzzled as to worms’ behavior, as well as why the balls were mainly located in the middle of the road and not elsewhere.

Read full article on The Independent

Tiniest frog ever, just 0.4 inches long, stuns researchers in Brazilian rainforest

Tiny Brazil Frog

Published on Fox News Latino

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Researchers in Brazil have come across seven new species of colorful, miniature frogs deep in the country’s rain forest.

The frogs, part of the genus Brachycephalus, rarely exceed one centimeter (0.4 inches) in length and are believed to be some of the world’s smallest terrestrial vertebrates.

They come in an array of jellybean-like array of bright colors, with their showy hues meant as a warning to predators of the neurotoxins in the frogs’ skin.

Given their tiny size and the fact that they live in isolated mountain regions – making it hard to traverse to other areas – interbreeding is common and have aided in the evolution of completely separate species from the frogs a mountaintop over.

Read entire article on Fox News Latino

Spider venom may hold chemical keys to new painkillers

blackwidow

(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Ralph Boulton)

(Reuters) – Scientists who analyzed countless chemicals in spider venom say they have identified seven compounds that block a key step in the body’s ability to pass pain signals to the brain.

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Part of the search for new pain killing drugs has focused on the world’s 45,000 species of spiders, many of which kill their prey with venoms that contain hundreds and even thousands of protein molecules, some of which block nerve activity.

Read entire article on Reuters

Athens Scientist Aaron Dossey Is Filling Bellies with Bugs

dossey

Aaron Dossey thinks crickets could provide life-sustaining protein to malnourished children in developing countries.

By Allison Floyd

Read complete article on Flagpole Magazine

Edible insect products go on sale in Dutch supermarket chain

bbc

posted on the BBC News website – Nov 1, 2014

A supermarket chain in the Netherlands is launching a new range of products made from edible insects.

While in parts of Africa, Asia and Central America, a diet including insects is not unusual, in Europe it is still rare.

Anna Holligan reports from the Dutch city of Groningen.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-29865959

Kathy’s Critters Ad by Evans and Rogers

Kathy’s Critters Ad by Evans and Rogers

Evans and Rogers, Vaudeville actors, recorded a radio ad for Kathy’s Critters. They have a radio show on CRN Talk Radio at 8pm (PT) Sunday evenings. http://www.evansandrogers.com

 

Kathy’s Critters at the Police Expo Sep 13, 2014

Kathy’s Critters at the Police Expo Sep 13, 2014

Kathy’s Critters will once again be presenting our critters at the

Police Expo on September 13, 2014

at the

Hanson Dam Aquatic Center

11798 Foothill Blvd.,

Lake View Terrace, CA 91342

Learn how insects are used in crime solving.

Time: 10:00am to 2:00pm

More Info