Hiss and Tell: All About Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

Ever wanted to know more about the animals we have here at the museum? Grab a snack, and take a deep dive into the world of Madagascar hissing cockroaches from the comfort of your own home!

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are, you guessed it, native to Madagascar! Like all cockroaches, Madagascar hissing cockroaches (or “hissers” as they are sometimes called) are scavengers, which means they eat just about anything they come across. In the wilds of Madagascar, they mostly eat dead plant matter, from fallen leaves to rotten wood and decaying fruit. Here at the museum, they’re fed a scrumptious mixture of fruits and vegetables, and for a protein-boosting treat, their favorite: dog kibble!

Madagascar hissing cockroaches (right) live peacefully alongside giant cave cockroach adults (lower left) and nymphs (upper left) at the museum.

Unlike many species of cockroach, Madagascar hissing cockroaches are wingless. Instead of being able to fly away from predators, they have to rely on running and hiding. But what happens when this isn’t enough to keep them away from danger? That’s where the hissing comes in!

When threatened, these cockroaches make a loud hissing noise, like that of an angry cat or snake, that makes them sound much bigger and scarier than they actually are. Their strategy hinges on their would-be-predator becoming scared or surprised by this sudden noise—while cats and snakes hiss as a warning of an incoming attack, hissing cockroaches are otherwise defenseless, and have to make a run for it as soon as they get an opening.

But hissing cockroaches don’t just hiss to defend themselves. Amazingly, they actually have a number of distinct hisses they use to communicate different things to each other. Both male, female, and juvenile cockroaches will hiss defensively and in alarm, but there are two other hisses that only males use: the male-to-female courtship hiss, and the male-to-male dominance hiss.

Male Madagascar hissing cockroach at the museum, with visible “horns” on the dark-colored pronotum above the head.

While these cockroach’s bark may be worse than their bite, they can still pack a punch, at least when it comes to fighting other cockroaches. Speaking of dominance battles, male hissing cockroaches will often fight amongst themselves to establish a social hierarchy, and figure out who gets the best spot on the log or the best food.

But dominance displays between male cockroaches go beyond simple hissing. Male hissers can be differentiated by females from their “horns”, distinctive twin bumps on their pronotum (that’s the shield-like segment on the back of their head). They use these horns much like rams do—by headbutting other males in a display of strength. The male hissing cockroach will attempt to “bulldoze” under his opponent, knocking him off of his perch. However, the funniest part of a Madagascar hissing cockroach dominance battle is definitely the pre-fight posturing. In an attempt to intimidate the other male and end the contest before it begins, the cockroaches will wiggle their butts aggressively at each other. So scary!

Female hissing cockroaches, on the other hand, keep to themselves much more than the males, and will only hiss when they feel threatened. Unlike most species of cockroaches, Madagascar hissing cockroaches are ovoviviparous, which means that their young develop inside of eggs that stay within the mother’s body for the duration of their development. This differs from mammalian pregnancy because there is no direct placental link between the young cockroaches and their mother, but the end result is quite similar: Madagascar hissing cockroaches give live birth to their young, never actually laying their eggs before they hatch. They can give birth to anywhere between 15-40 baby cockroaches at a time!

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are unique in the insect world in a lot of ways, and it’s hard to decide which of their crazy adaptations is the strangest. But there’s one question we still haven’t explored: how do they make those loud hissing sounds? While most insects that make noise do so by rubbing parts of their body together, Madagascar hissing cockroaches actually use their spiracles (the cockroach equivalent of lungs). By pushing air out of the spiracles lining the side of their abdomen, they create audible vibrations in the air, making noise in basically the same way that we humans do when we talk!

Next time you’re in the museum, be sure to check out the Madagascar hissing cockroaches and say hello. While they may look quite different from you and I, we have more in common with them than you might expect!

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Biology Everywhere

Biology Everywhere

“I’m not good at science.”

“It’s too complicated.”

“I’m not smart enough.”

When Dr. Melanie Peffer encountered these attitudes teaching biology, she wanted to understand what makes the subject so scary. “I think that science is traditionally presented as so dry and abstract, people think that it is,” says Dr. Peffer. “So many students’ experience with biology is just memorizing terms, and if they have trouble doing that, then they think they can’t do it.”

Dr. Peffer’s new book, Biology Everywhere—which she will be virtually signing during a Fort Collins Museum of Discovery Facebook Live on February 19—seeks to reverse that belief. “I was inspired by that attitude of ‘never had a teacher who could teach me’,” says Dr. Peffer. Changing her approach, Dr. Peffer focuses on application rather than tossing terms at her students. Protein Biochemistry, for example, may seem really intimidating, but it’s not when you think about it in terms of cooking bacon. How it changes color, shape and size are all observable biological facts.

Biology intersects with life in so many beautiful ways. One of the most important finds of neuroscience was influenced by art. Nobel Peace Prize winner Santiago Ramón y Cajal love of drawing led to him to sketch neurons, and from those works of art we learned that nerve cells were independent cells that communicate through a network of synapses.

“It was a lot of fun to write the book. I took a lot of my inspiration from my son. Kids can give us a perspective on things that we forget.” Whether that means explaining what an exoskeleton is while walking past the crabs at the supermarket or exploring the anatomy of a honey locust pod at the park, Dr. Peffer is always excited to find biology in everyday life.

“A lot of people feel like they can’t do science,” says Dr. Peffer, “but I believe everyone can. It’s simply a matter of making it accessible.”


To order a copy of Biology Everywhere, please visit The Museum Store. Make sure to ask a question in the comment box when ordering and Dr. Peffer will answer it live!

To attend to the book signing, please join us on Facebook Live Friday, February 19 at 5:30 p.m.

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Animal Love Languages

Animal Love Languages

Love is in the air, and humans aren’t the only romantics in the world. Today we’re looking at the courtship rituals of the animal kingdom!

Do you know what your love language is? Is it words of affirmation like a sweet letter, quality time like a romantic night in, receiving gifts of flowers and jewelry, acts of service, or physical touch like a hug or a cuddle? Humans have different ways of showing affection, and so do animals. But instead of things like poetry, romantic getaways, and chocolates, animals have their own unique love languages. Which animal love language do you relate the most with?

The Singer
Much like the romantic poet, some animals like to shout their love from the rooftops. Frogs, birds, crickets, and even whales use their songs to attract mates, constantly trying to out-do their competition with the loudest and most attractive voice. Frogs even have regional dialects – members of the same species may have different croaks if they have originated from different places where their local songs are slightly different. And in places where there are several different species of frogs all singing at once – like in Florida, where the invasive Cuban tree frog has been introduced into the territory of native American green tree frogs – the frogs will purposefully alter their croaks to differentiate between species and avoid confusion.

The Dancer
But maybe you’re more of a visual person. There are plenty of animals whose main courtship rituals involve elaborate dances and displays of beautiful fur and feathers. But some animals forget the flashy outfits and just focus on their moves. Hirtodrosophila mycetophaga is a species of australian fly which performs mating displays on shelf mushrooms. The males wave their wings around and perform a dance – but only on lighter-colored fungi, as these mushrooms act as a better backdrop for their performances. On darker fungi, they blend in too well, and females pass them by!

The Show-off
Not to be outdone, some animals go all in, with song, dance and color! Take the peacock spider: while you may be familiar with this small jumping spider’s namesake and its colorful plumage, this arachnid goes a step further and incorporates sound and movement into its mating display.

While displaying their brightly-colored abdomen, they wave their legs in an elaborate dance and create deep rumbling vibrations while they perform. The males who put the most effort into their displays, including both the dancing and vibrating, are more likely to get the girl.

The Collector
Some animals speak the love language of gift-giving. Native to New Guinea and Australia, bowerbirds build elaborate ‘bowers’ from nature to attract mates. First, the male Bowerbird gathers sticks and arranges them into an upright structure, often in the shape of an arch or an avenue. Then, he populates his bower with brightly-colored objects. These can be shells, flowers, even pieces of plastic and metal that he finds. Some bowerbirds even have favorite colors, and will collect only pieces that fit into their preferred color scheme! When she’s ready to find a mate, the female bowerbird tours the bowers of all the local males, and chooses the bird with the best crib to be her mate.

The True Romantic
But maybe you’re a real classical romantic. You want long walks on the beach, hand-holding, and slow-dancing. Don’t worry. Not everything is about flashy displays. Some animals like to take it slow, and build up deep bonds with their mates. Seahorses have an elaborate courtship process, with each step of the ritual being repeated again and again, often over the course of days. First, they meet and change colors, brightening in turns at each other. Then they grab hold of the same anchor-point and spin around each other in an elaborate dance with many distinct moves and steps, including leaning away, pointing, quivering and spinning. Finally, they end their dance by floating up through the water column together. While they might only be fish, seahorses are quite the romantics – they mate for life, and their specialized tails, used to anchor themselves to coral and seaweed, also allow them to “hold hands” with their significant other.

Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at FCMoD!

Post written by Willow Sedam, Live Animal Husbandry Team Member

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#ArchivesBlackEducation

#ArchivesBlackEducation

Every month Fort Collins Museum of Discovery participates in a themed #ArchivesHashtagParty on Twitter. This month’s theme is #ArchivesBlackEducation in honor of Black History Month.

What is an #ArchivesHashtagParty you ask? That’s a great question! This article from the New York Times, The Record Keepers’ Rave, helps explain just that. Started by The National Archives and Records Administration of the United States, participating archives, museums, and libraries tune in to share a treasure trove of photos, stories, collections, and more.

For #ArchivesBlackEducation, the museum shared the following on Twitter (@focomod) of our local history from the Archive & Collections at FCMoD.

Let’s get started, shall we?

This #ArchivesHashtagParty we’re exploring local African American history with #ArchivesBlackEducation. Pictured here is Ella Mae Cook, Fort Collins Resident from about 1931 to 1944.

Grafton St. Clair Norman was the first Black student to attend and graduate from CSU, then Colorado Agricultural College. He became the 2nd lieutenant in the Army and teacher in Kentucky. This photo appeared in the 1896 CAC yearbook.

Charley Clay arrived in Colorado in 1864. By the early 1900s, the Clay home was a center of Black social life in Larimer County, hosting groups such as the local chapter of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Literary Society.

William Clay, son of Charley Clay, served with the Fort Collins Volunteer Fire Department in the 1890s and was a member of the State Champion Hose Team in 1897.

As a child, Academy Award winning film star Hattie McDaniel briefly lived in this home on Cherry Street in Fort Collins and attended Franklin School. She would later move to Denver on her way to Hollywood.

In March of 1939, Mattie Lyle sued the owner of the State Theater in Fort Collins for discrimination and won damager. Her daughter Joyce, pictured here, served as a witness to her mother’s testimony.

During the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s, Charles and Mamie Birdwhitle’s home on Oak Street in Fort Collins was a gathering spot for Black gospel groups, jazz orchestras, and scholars visiting Northern Colorado.

Virgil Thomas was a star left tackle – and the only Black player – for the Fort Collins High School Lambkins in the late 1930s.

In 1969, members of the Mexican-American Committee for Equality & the Black Student Assn. demanded more recruitment of minority students and faculty. Shown here is a protest they held at the home of college president William Morgan.

That wraps up this month’s #ArchivesHashtagParty! Explore more Black history with a walking tour from our friends at the Fort Collins History Preservation Department.

Thanks for tuning in! We’ll share next month’s #ArchivesHashtagParty content with you back here on the blog.

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The Museum Store Gift Guide

The Museum Store Gift Guide

‘Tis the season for holiday shopping! The Museum Store at FCMoD has something for everyone on your list (including you!) and, to make gifting even easier, we’ve compiled a 2020 Gift Guide.

When you shop small from The Museum Store, your purchases support the museum’s mission to create meaningful opportunities to learn, reflect, and have fun through hands-on and collections-based explorations in science and culture!

For the Music Lover

Whether your taste in music is rock ‘n roll or Rachmaninoff, you might just be surprised what you’ll find rockin’ around The Museum Store.

Featured Products:

Guitar Spoon Set $16
“Let’s Play” Wall Art: $16
Rockin’ Socks: $13

For Your/Our BFFs

As the only museum in the world with black-footed ferrets on-site, The Museum Store is your go-to spot for all things BFF (and for the prairie they call home).

Featured Products:

Plush BFF: $23
“The Prairie That Nature Built” Book: $16.95
BFF Notebook: $15

For the Space Explorer

3, 2, 1… blast off! Who knew shopping on Earth could be so fun?
Help keep curiosity right at your fingers tips (or toes) with a gift from our assortment of space-themed products.

Featured Products:

Moon Plush: $25
Space Morph Mug: $12
“Out of this World” Socks: $9-12

For the Local History Buff

Local history lives here in the Archive & Collections at FCMoD, but you can also take a piece of Fort Collins history home with you, too!

Featured Products:

Historic Photo Prints: $10
Archive Image Postcards: $0.75
Fort Collins History Books: $19.99-$21.99

For the love of NoCo Local Artists

When you shop at The Museum Store, you’re not only supporting the museum, but also supporting the many local artists and businesses that we work with!

Featured Products:

Allie Ogg Print: $30
Copoco’s Local Honey: $4.99-$20.99
Hand-crafted Jewelry: starting at $13

For the Adventurer

Even at home, the wild at heart will roam. Help them adventure with an assortment of wanderlust-inspired products!

Featured Products:

“Be Wild” Journal: $17
Tall Grass Pen: $3
Wooden Bird: $20

For Family History & Storytelling

We may need a bit a space between us and 2020 before we want to revisit the memories from this year, but here at FCMoD we hope to help make telling & preserving your stories even easier.

Featured Products:

Interview books for the whole family: $9.95-$14.95
Once Upon a Time Storytelling Kit: $32

 

Visit The Museum Store at FCMoD, now open daily from 10:00am – 6:00pm, or shop online

 

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Fort Collins Find & Seek: Halloween Edition

Post written by Linda Moore, Curator of Collections

Fort Collins Find & Seek: Halloween Edition

The Archives and Collections staff are here to wish you a Happy Halloween! This Halloween Edition of Historical Find and Seek uses spooky photographs from the Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. Try to find all of the items in the photographs using the links to the Fort Collins History Connect Database!

First photograph: “Holloween [Halloween] Masks”

This photograph (T00558B) shows Halloween masks from “Life of the Party” in downtown Fort Collins.

  • 21 masks
  • 8 masks with hair
  • Can you find any masks that are not human faces?
  • 2 price tags hanging off masks

Second photograph: “Methodist Women’s Halloween Party”

This photograph (H08932) shows a Methodist Women’s Halloween Party.

  • 1 mask
  • 15 cat pins
  • 2 dolls
  • 2 teddy bears

Third photograph: “Halloween costumes”

The photograph (T01280) shows the staff at the Fort Collins City Clerk dressed up for Halloween.

  • Someone dressed as Abraham Lincoln
  • 2 people wearing glasses
  • A coffee mug
  • A typewriter
  • How many people in the photograph are wearing collared shirts?

 

This photograph (T02651) shows a “bewitching display” in Fort Collins

Looking for a handy way to print this activity? Download the PDF here!

Have a safe and happy Halloween, everyone!

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Your True Colors Suffragette Sash Project

Post written by Linda Moore, Curator of Collections

Sip and Stitch At-Home Edition: Your True Colors Suffragette Sash Project

Woman working to get the right to vote in the 19th and early 20th centuries faced a tricky problem: how could they influence the vote to get the vote without the vote? Savvy suffragettes recognized that optics matter, and set out to shape the images of their movement to convey its strength. At the same time, many activists felt they had to be careful to avoid any appearance that could be dismissed as emotionally unstable, hysterical, or even unwomanly.

The suffragette sash, which appeared first in Britain and was quickly adopted by the American suffragist movement, seemed to have walked that line, and stands out today as emblematic of the movement. Sashes bore the traditional colors of the American National Woman’s Party: purple for loyalty and unswerving steadfastness to a cause, white for purity, and gold as the color of light and life “as the torch that guides our purpose, pure and unswerving”.

Here is your chance to express you own “unswerving” devotion to the right to vote: use these instructions and your own creativity to create a sash you’ll be proud to wear!

Materials

To make stripes in the traditional white, purple, and gold you will need 2 strips of each that are the length you want your sash to stretch, from your shoulder across your body –from 34 to about 40 inches. If you are buying fabric by the yard, the most economical way to get that is to buy:

  • ¼ yard of each of the 3 colors

You’ll also need:

  • Thread
  • Sewing machine (or a good chunk of time for hand stitching)
  • An iron
  • Extra scraps of fabric and interfacing if you want to applique your message; you can also use embroidery, iron-on lettering, or fabric paint

 Instructions:

  1. Cut 2 2.5” wide strips of white fabric (or whatever you are using as the center band of your sash) and 2 3.5” wide strips of each of your colors.
  2. Putting the right sides of your fabrics together, sew one colored strip of fabric to each side of one white band, along the long edge, stitching ¼” from the edge. Repeat for the other set of strips. You should have 2 identical, long strips, with the white bands in the middle.
  3. Use an iron to press the seam allowance away from the center band.
  4. This is the point when you should add your message. I backed scraps of fabric with interfacing (to prevent raveling) and cut out letters with pinking shears; then stitched them on. Your message will be whatever you choose, of course –it’s your right! But if you use fabric paint be sure to put paper or cardboard under your fabric in case the paint bleeds through.
  5. Now you sew your 2 wide strips into 2 tubes: with right sides together, fold each strip in half long-ways, joining the edge of each color. Stitch the long edges together.
  6. Press your inside-out tubes flat so that one side has the white band in the center and a color on each side, and the other side has the 2 colors only. Sew the bottom short edges closed. Then turn both tubes right-side out and press again.
  7. Almost done! A fussy bit that will make your sash sit nicely on your shoulder is to cut the short edges that are still open at a slight angle, sloping down from the left corner to the right. Finish these cut edges with a zigzag stitch to prevent raveling. Now put the right sides (with the white bands together and sew these cut edges together. Flip them over and the seam should form a gentle point that will sit nicely on your right shoulder.
  8. Put on your sash and join the open ends at your hip –either by tying them together or by pinning them with an appropriate political button.
  9. Now you are ready to march!

(P.S. Don’t forget to vote before 7:00pm on November 3, 2020!)

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Daily Discovery: Endangered & Forgotten

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

Daily Discovery: Endangered & Forgotten

National Wildlife Day is September 4, 2020! To celebrate, let’s explore some of the less well known endangered species in Colorado.

We hear a lot about endangered species these days, as the climate changes around us and human activities challenge wildlife survival. Often the articles and advertisements you see feature fuzzy and adorable animals like the Giant Panda or the Sea Otter. Here in Colorado, our featured endangered wildlife tends to be appealingly majestic, like the Grey Wolf (whose reintroduction to Colorado is on November’s ballot for 2020) or even FCMOD’s beloved Black-footed Ferrets. These are species that definitely deserve attention – but there are many more of our wildlife neighbors that need our attention and help that may not be so cute or exciting. There are so many ignored species in the world that are in difficult or dangerous situations thanks to habitat loss, pollution, water loss, and many other human activities.

Here are just a few of our Colorado wildlife neighbors in need:

Least Tern (Sterna antillarum), Federally Endangered

The Least tern is the smallest member of the gull and tern family. They’re only 9 inches long. They nest in the summer on sandbars along major rivers in the central U.S., including in Colorado. This bird was listed as federally endangered in 1985. A lot of nesting habitat in the U.S. has been lost to the birds because of the ways that humans have changed the river systems: dams and reservoirs; introduction of invasive plants; stabilizing river banks, hydropower, and diverting water.

Bonytail Chub (Gila elegans), Federally Critically Endangered

The bonytail is a freshwater fish that lives in the Colorado River basin. It can grow up to 2 feet long and can live up to 50 years. It was added to the endangered list in 1980, and is now the rarest big-river fish in the Colorado. The bonytail, along with numerous other fish species in the Colorado, suffered drastic population declines after the construction of Hoover Dam and other human projects that divert water from the river and change how the water flowed and pooled. These fish also suffer from competition from non-native fish species that humans have introduced into bonytail habitat. At this time, there is no self-sustaining wild population of these fish, and human-run hatcheries are all that maintains the species.

North Park Phacelia (Phacelia formosula), Federally Endangered

The North Park Phacelia only exists in one place in the entire world: the North Park area in Jackson County. It likes to grow on bare slopes and eroding rocks in ravines in the North Park area, where few other plants are able to survive. This phacelia was listed as federally endangered in 1982. It is threatened by livestock, off-road vehicles, commercial and residential development, and petroleum exploration. It also suffers from the loss of pollinating insects in the area, which it depends on to reproduce.

You may be wondering what you can do to be a better neighbor to these species, and the other species in our beautiful state that are threatened or endangered. Here are some steps that you can try:

Educate yourself. Learn about the different kinds of wildlife that live in Colorado with us, and what kinds of things we humans are doing that are putting them at risk.

Take action. Think about how much water you use, or whether the plants in your yard are native or invasive. Consider how much energy you use leaving on lights in an empty room, or streaming your favorite songs rather than downloading them. Look at how much gas your vehicle uses, or how many plastics or other petroleum products you use on a daily basis. Even a small change you can make in your own behavior can be a help to our endangered neighbors.

Talk to your friends and family about why this wildlife is in danger, and why it’s important to you. Your friends and family care about your thoughts and opinions. Help them to understand how important it is to help all.

Contact your representatives in government. These threatened and endangered species do not have a voice in our government, but you do. If you are old enough, vote for candidates that pay attention to wildlife. But at any age, you can make your voice heard! Make sure that your representatives know how important it is that we are good neighbors to all the wildlife in Colorado, in the country, and in the world.

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

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Daily Discovery: Polly Brinkhoff

Post written by Archive & Collections team.

Daily Discovery: Polly Brinkhoff

Get Inspired!

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, we’re highlighting the paths of local women in Fort Collins history with a series of video presentations created by the Archive & Collections staff at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Today Curator of Collections Linda Moore will present on Polly Brinkhoff, artist and long-time resident of Skin Gulch off Poudre Canyon.

After you have learned about Polly Brinkhoff, be sure to create your very own shrink-plastic charm.

Click here to download the printable Polly Brinkhoff Charm.

Want to download the charm bracelet directions? Click here for a handy PDF!

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

Educational opportunities like this are supported in part by Fort Fund.

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Daily Discovery: Elizabeth Coy

Post written by Archive & Collections team.

Daily Discovery: Elizabeth Coy

Get Inspired!

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, we’re highlighting the paths of local women in Fort Collins history with a series of video presentations created by the Archive & Collections staff at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Today Museum Collections Assistant Morgan Wilson will speak about Elizabeth Coy, first woman to graduate from a Colorado institute of higher education.

After you have learned about Elizabeth Coy, be sure to create your very own shrink-plastic charm.

Click here to download the printable Elizabeth Coy Charm.

Want to download the charm bracelet directions? Click here for a handy PDF!

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

Educational opportunities like this are supported in part by Fort Fund.

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