Fucking birds.

I fucking hate birds.

There. I said it.

Birds fucking suck.

Everything about them is terrible.

I could just end the post there but I’ll go into why I don’t like birds.

My dad had a great joke. “What’s the black stuff in bird shit? Shit. What’s the white stuff in bird shit? Shit.” Truth is that the white stuff in bird shit is a uric acid because they don’t have a bladder.

When I lived in my hometown, I just had my car cleaned and in less than 6 hours, I had 9 splotches of bird shit on my car. Stupid ass seagulls.

They’re what’s left over from dinosaurs. Instead of T-Rexes, we have birds. Despite what we learned in elementary school, birds are reptiles. Or at least, shared a common ancestor with reptiles. Feathers are just modified scales. Archaeopteryx is thought to be one of the first birds. They found Archaeopteryx right after Origin of Species came out. Everyone argued that the feathered dinosaurs weren’t real dinosaurs but were just birds or the “protofeather” was decomposition. Sure. Maybe that could be true.

What about the fact that a lot of the skeletons look like dinosaur skeletons? Well yeah they look similar but that doesn’t mean shit.

Theropod dinosaurs have a wishbone (furcular if you wanna sound fancy).

Lungs?! How the fuck are you gonna get a lung from a dinosaur? Get back to me when you get a time machine.

It is thought that some dinosaurs had air sacs similar to birds.

Hearts?! See above.

In 2000, a scan of the chest cavity of a Thescelosaurus found a four-chambered heart like birds and mammals. Wishful thinking.

Crocodilians and birds have four chambered hearts unlike other reptiles. Rather than trying to figure it out based on dinosaurs themselves, it would be easier to use the modern animals to attempt to figure it out.

Some fossils have been found to sleep like modern birds! As one of my professors stated, “behavior is impossible to fossilize.”

“True birds” first started appearing around the Cretaceous period (~100 million years ago).

While this could be indicative some relationship, personally, I find this to be pretty weak evidence.

Using protein sequencing and molecular comparison of some soft tissue of a T. rex, there is a closer relationship between T. rexes and birds than alligators.

TL;DR – Birds suck.

This is gonna be part one of… I dunno. More.

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The Black Widow

I’m gonna preface this with, I’m not afraid of spiders. I’m cautious of spiders but not afraid. So let’s paint this beautiful picture.

BASED ON A REAL LIFE EVENT:

I was with the love of my life and his mother, trying to get his surfboard out of the shed. I was not aware how afraid he was of black widows. Armed with a bottle of insect killer, he attempted to get rid of two of them. After he sprayed one that was dangling and it fell, he stomped on it. Amused, I said, “Ya know, the venom goes through shoes, right?”

The look of absolute horror on his face was worth it but I couldn’t contain my laughter so he knew it wasn’t true.

So. Here’s what’s funny about this specifically. Most black widows give what’s called a dry bite. No venom is used. They *can* choose if and how much they want to inject. The venom is a neurotoxin that has its own name, latrotoxin. It’s actually pretty hard to get the spider to bite you. Poking the spider repeatedly, according to a study, resulted in them hiding, playing dead or flinging silk at the finger. Basically, you have to squeeze them to get them to bite you.

Females are the ones that typically cause problems when they bite. They have larger venom glands compared to males.

If bitten, in humans, localized pain happens about 5 to 10 minutes post bite. Sweating and goosebumps will happen. The pain may spread. Adrenaline increases blood pressure and pulse. The bites are rarely fatal unless you’re young or old or in someway sick.

Latrodectus is the genus that contains the black widow. There are 31 flavors. In the United States, there are four of them.

So. Black widows are known for eating their mates after mating. Well. It seems like that’s not entirely true in every species and every time.

Why would sexual cannibalism be a thing?

Well, some of the theories are:

  • If another male sees a male in the web, he’s not going to attempt to mate with the female.
  • Provides nutrition for the female to produce as many baby spiders as possible.
  • The chance of finding another female to mate with is slim so he has fulfilled his life goal and should be snubbed out because he has no value anymore. Females store the sperm and typically only need to mate once.

According to recent research on Micaria sociabilis, the males are eating the females. This is linked to size and when the male was born. If the female was born in the spring and a summer male happens to approach, he will most likely eat her. This may happen because the female has a lower reproductive potential (as in not producing enough offspring or produce any offspring at all) or prey is limited. The summer males are known to be bigger and more aggressive. This is happening before mating.

There was another theory that suggested the cannibalism happens on accident sometimes. Because of sexual dimorphism. If the male is too small, he may send vibrations down the web that signal prey item rather than hey. hey hey. let’s make some babies.

TL;DR Don’t squeeze the black widows.

Until next time~

References

Size Matters – http://www.pri.org/stories/2013-05-06/size-matters-black-widow-spider-sexual-cannibalism

The Evolution of Sexual Cannibalism – http://ib.berkeley.edu/courses/ib160/past_papers/suttle.html

Wikipedia of course.

I’m so lame.

Sorry for my silence lately.

I have a list of excuses but I’m just gonna get into it now.

I’m gonna switch gears a little bit and talk about the narwhal.

Monodon monoceros

So. These whales are related to the beluga (Monodontidae fam).

Interesting facts about these two whales, their neck vertebrae are not fused like many other cetaceans. This allows more neck mobility. Interesting fact about the narwhal specifically? They have a damn unicorn horn! (Giant tooth… whatever.)

The horn is useless when the ice freezes over. (They suffocate which makes me question how in the hell does that happen?!) Logic to this – they dive 4900 feet (1900 m) for 25 minutes for prey that lives on or near the sea ice. Sea ice floats and moves. A current can move this ice and…

BAM

Trapped Narwhal. *

*This is based on a minutely educated guess.

Narwhals don’t have a dorsal fin – easier to get under that sea ice. Males have no “sweep back” on their tail flukes which reduces the drag from the unicorn horn.

Speaking of the unicorn horn. Let’s look at some stats.

  • Double tusked males – 1 in 500.
  • Females with a tusk – 15%
  • Double tusked female – 1.
    • Yes. One in recorded history.

Why do they have the horn?

That’s a topic that’s highly debated. Dr. Martin Nweeia says it’s a giant sensory organ. Essentially, water travels through canals in the tooth and transmits to the fifth cranial nerve. In his study, he compared prepared samples and live narwhals. He looked at their diet, histology, gene expression and neurophysiology. While analyzing the gene expression, they used bottlenose dolphin, striped dolphin and human genes as a comparison because narwhals hadn’t been sequenced. Ya know. Instead of sequencing it themselves. (-sips tea.-) The argument for bottlenose dolphin and striped dolphins was taxonomy reasons. According to current accepted taxonomy, Monodontidae (belugas) and Phocoenidae (porpoises) share a common ancestor. Yes. Delphinidae does branch off before their split but it would make more sense to use Phocoenidae.

When they used the live narwhals, they corralled them over to shallow water and hooked them up to EEGs.

So. What is wrong with this?

Being subjected to testing could explain the heart rate increase. (How often does your heart rate increase at the doctors?)

What about the females? If it was giving vital information about the environment, wouldn’t the females also have it more than 15% of the time?

As Kristin Laidre, marine biologist from University of Washington points out, “The narwhal tusk is a tooth, and teeth are sensitive.”

I’m of the belief that the tusk is the result of sexual selection (like the peacock tail). Yes. There is some horn jousting but that’s not the only use for it.

Hopefully, I won’t suck and post more.

I leave you with the best thing about narwhals.

References:

Sensory ability in the narwhal tooth organ system – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ar.22886/full

Narwhal’s Trademark Tusk Acts Like a Sensor, Scientist Says – http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140318-narwhal-tusk-tooth-anatomy-ocean-animal-science/

Narwhal – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narwhal

The Fucking Right Whale

People who know me in real life know I’m obsessed with marine mammals. To the point of having a tattoo of a dolphin (not like a basic chick though. It’s totally unique… quit judging me.)

One of my least favorites is the right whale. So named as they were the right whale to hunt. Large, slow, float when killed… etc…

They come in three flavors; North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), North Pacific right whale (Eubalaena japonica) and Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis).

They’re baleen whales (mysticete if you want to sound fancy). They have dark skin and lighter undersides. (Countershading.)

They develop callosites (clusters of rough skin that accumulates whale lice) that “look like facial hair”.

So outside of whaling, the major causes of death are ship strikes and entanglement. They get hit by boats so often that’s how aerial and boat surveys identify individuals. Callosites and strike marks. So, of course, we have to help them!

The wonderful marine biologists tried to help. These whales tend to stay close to the coast. They migrate from the Arctic down to the tip of Florida. While they’re migrating, they don’t eat. This is particularly fucking awful because they get entangled and starve to death slowly. The reason they don’t eat more is because their favored prey (copepods) are in the Arctic. To reduce ship strikes, they started using a “warning” tone to warn the whales. When this happens, they go positively buoyant right under the surface and do not move which didn’t help with the strikes. So current strike reduction methods are having larger ships reducing their speed to 10 knots in known migration area.

As mentioned before, the whalers targeted these whales because they float when they die. Their shit also floats. (I found this out in an environmental physiology lecture.)

I’m sure there is more I can add but right this minute, I’m drawing a blank. Blame it on lack of sleep.

This is an introduction of sorts.

I figure I should tell you who I am and what this is all about.

I’m a fountain of useless knowledge, most of it is about random things. Since I was a child, I’ve always loved marine mammals.

I graduated from UNCW with a B.A. in Biology with a minor in Psychology. I was in school for six-ish years. The reason behind this was I was academically dismissed, thanks to not taking care of my mental health. Because of this, I had to take a bunch of classes to get my GPA up, which has contributed to the useless knowledge I have. One of the only ways I could retain information was to get annoyed about something and go on epic rants. One of my best friends got me through by listening to these rants (thank youuuu!)

In one of my classes, I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful (read: terrible, awful) person who goes by the name Liduen Kvaedhi. She was my note taker study buddy in our Invertebrate Zoology class. We had come up with an idea about having a YouTube channel that would spotlight an animal and why they’re assholes.

With encouragement from my dad, I decided to actually start this as a blog as Liduen moved away from me and we still haven’t gotten our lab coats.

Hopefully this will be entertaining and somewhat educational.

Thank you for taking the time to read this~