New Fishes!

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

New Fishes!

We have new fishes in our Animals Encounter Exhibit at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery!

Our fish are all from the Cache le Poudre River watershed and are indigenous species. The American Fisheries Society (AFS) at the Warner College of Natural Resources, part of CSU, has partnered with FCMoD to provide us with native Colorado plains fish species.

Come visit the museum to see our new fishes!

The species now living in our tank are:

  • Creek Chub (Semotilus atromaculatus)
  • Fathead Minnow (Pimephales promelas)
  • Longnose Dace (Rhinichthys cataractae)
  • Johnny Darter (Etheostoma nigrum)
  • Common Shiner (Luxilus cornutus)

Members of the American Fisheries Society sample the Poudre River watershed for fish.

Photo by Sandra Hargraves

 

Members of the American Fisheries Society sample the Poudre River watershed for fish.

Photo by Sandra Hargraves

Johnny Darter

 

Common Shiner

Common Shiner

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Birds in the Big Backyard!

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

Birds in the Big Backyard!

Happy National Bird Day!

National Bird Day in the United States has been celebrated every January 5 since 2002, honoring and bringing attention to our native, wild birds. Nearly 12% of the 9,800 species of birds are endangered or threatened, often by human behavior or structures. Humans take over and change the habitats birds need to survive and find food.

Birds are a kind of animal that has evolved for flight from a group of dinosaurs called theropods (which includes Tyrannosaurus Rex). They have a skeleton that is strong and lightweight; they have a beak instead of teeth (which are heavy); they have feathers and wings; and they lay eggs. Some species of bird have lost the ability to fly and now run, jump, or swim – but they all have the same original adaptations. Birds can vary tremendously in size, from the bee hummingbird (the smallest at only 2 inches!) to the ostrich (the biggest at 9 feet tall!). Birds live on every continent in the world.

This year for National Bird Day, take some time to watch and appreciate the wild birds living around us. In addition to being beautiful, they are useful as well: they pollinate plants, spread seeds, and some of them even clean up dead animals. If you don’t have a good spot near where you live or work, come by Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (FCMoD) and spend some time in our Big Back Yard. We have many birds that live here that you can enjoy watching.

Tips for bird-watching:

  1. Where can you watch birds? Nearly anywhere! You can find birds in any open green space or water. At FCMOD, we have many bird feeders in the Big Back Yard that attract a lot of birds. Our local birds know that we provide a reliable source of food and there are almost always avian visitors.
  2. Look around in every direction. Look at the ground, under bushes, up in trees, or soaring in the sky. Birds can be anywhere! Also listen. You may hear birds that you can’t see.
  3. Learn about different kinds of birds so you can figure out what you are seeing. Different species can be distinguished in many ways – color and pattern; size and shape; song; behavior; habitat. When you are looking at a bird, try to notice as much detail as you can. Is it bigger or smaller than a common bird you know, like the American Robin? Are you in woodlands or by a lake? What is the bird doing?
  4. Be quiet and move slowly when you’re watching birds. Birds get easily startled by loud noises or sudden movements, and will fly away to safety. Birds also hear better than humans do.
  5. Be patient! If you are still and quiet for a little while, birds will eventually move from cover into a space where you can see them better.
  6. Try pishing. Pishing is a small, squeaking noise that you can make by either kissing the back of your hand, or whistling the word “pish” through your closed teeth. Small birds may be attracted by the sound.

Equipment that might help:

  1. A good pair of binoculars. You will enjoy looking at birds much more if you can see them up close! We have some binoculars you can use at FCMOD.
  2. Bird Identification Guide. There are many excellent books and websites, as well as bird ID apps for your phone.
  3. Put up a bird feeder by your home. At the museum we have many feeders with a wide variety of food types, as different species of birds eat different things. Different bird foods include sunflower seeds, suet, hummingbird nectar (sugar water), millet, thistle seeds, and fruit.

Remember to always be respectful of both wildlife and other people when you’re out birdwatching.

Check out the American Birding Association Code of Ethics for guidelines. And thank you to Wild Birds Unlimited for their support of our Big Backyard birds!

Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata)

Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura)

Black Capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)

Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)

Photos courtesy of Alexa Leinaweaver.

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All About Animals!

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

All About Animals!

Saturday, Dec. 15, animals are taking over all of Fort Collins Museum of Discovery! Come to the museum and learn more about all of these amazing creatures at Museum Takeover: Animals. 

 

What do we mean when we are talking about animals?

What do you picture when you hear the word “animal”? Some people think of living things that move, but that are separate from human beings. Some imagine the specific kind of animal they know best, such as a pet.

“Animal” actually refers to a large family of living things that are related to each other and share similar characteristics – including humans. We are still discovering new species of animals in the world, so we don’t know exactly how many there are. However, scientists estimate there are around 1.2 million different kinds of animals!

All animals are multicellular; have to eat food of some kind rather than generating it themselves; breathe oxygen; and are able to move themselves around (motile). Animals are generally bilaterally symmetrical, and most animals have specialized tissue, or organs, in their bodies.

 

How scientists differentiate between different kinds of animals:

There’s a lot of variety in kinds of animals in the world. Scientists have come up with many different ways to distinguish one species from another. Some of these techniques include: What does the animal look like (size, color, number of legs, etc.)? Where does it live (on land or in water)? What does it eat? What kind of structures or organs does it have in its body? Try and think of some other ways you could tell different animals apart.

 

Of the estimated 1.2 million different species, 80% of them are arthropods! This group includes spiders and insects. There are also approximately 32,000 different kinds of fishes. Mammals, which we may think of first when we hear “animal,” have some 6,000 different kinds. Humans, dogs, and cats are all mammals.

You may have heard about the difference between vertebrate and invertebrate animals. Vertebrates (like humans) have an internal skeleton, whereas invertebrates do not. Many invertebrates have what is called an exoskeleton, and they have a rigid shell on their outside that has to be shed as the animal grows. Some animals (like jellyfish) have no skeletal structure at all!

Animals have several different ways of obtaining food, and scientists can classify animals by how they eat. Predators kill and eat a prey species – imagine a wolf pack hunting and eating an elk. Parasites feed on their prey species without killing it. Herbivores (animals that eat only plant matter) are actually defined as a parasite. Imagine an elk eating grass, or a tick sucking blood from that elk: both are parasites. Finally there are detritivores, who eat bits of decomposing organic matter. Many insects, such as roaches or millipedes, will eat this way.

 

Extreme animals:

  • Biggest (by weight): Blue whale
  • Tallest: giraffe
  • Longest: Bootlace worm
  • Fastest: Peregrine falcon
  • Most poisonous: Poison dart frog
  • Most venomous: Box jellyfish
  • Best vision: Bald eagle
  • Able to see the most colors: Mantis shrimp
  • Most Deadly (non-human): Mosquitos

 

Animals at the museum:

The museum has several animals on display in the Animal Experience, but they all come from just two families: Arthropods (insects, arachnids, etc.) and Chordates (amphibians, reptiles, mammals, etc.).  Take a moment to compare the different kinds of animals we have. How do they move differently? Do they have an internal skeleton or an exoskeleton? Each of our animals requires different kinds of food, as some are predators, some are parasites, and some are detritivores. See if you can guess which is which! What else do you observe about the FCMOD animals?

Animals in your own life:

Take some time to appreciate the animals you see every day! If you have a pet, take good care of them and show them some love. Come to the museum and see our more unusual critters, and sign up for one of our animal programs. Or, take a walk outside and enjoy spotting some animals in the wild.

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Reptile Awareness Day

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

Happy Reptile Awareness Day!

What makes a reptile a reptile?

Reptiles are vertebrates with scaly, with dry, water-proof skin. They generally lay eggs with leathery shells, unlike the hard-shelled eggs of birds. Reptiles are poikilothermic, generally termed as “cold blooded,” which means they maintain their body temperature through external sources of heat such as basking in the sun. Reptiles that live in northern latitudes – such as those native to Colorado – will become dormant in winter: their bodily processes slow in the cold.

There are four orders of animal that make up the class Reptilia: Testudines (turtles), Squamata (lizards and snakes), Crocodylia (crocodiles and alligators), and Rhynchocephalia (tuataras). Turtles and crocodiles first appeared on earth along with the dinosaurs!

Reptiles live on all continents except Antarctica.

 

Meet FCMoD’s Reptiles:

Ball Python (Python regius)

 

Our Ball Python, named Slinky, is approximately 20 years old.  The oldest Ball Python on record lived to be 40 years! The species is native to sub-Saharan Africa. Ball Pythons often burrow underground to stay cool in the African heat. They also may cool themselves in pools of water.

This python is named “ball” because when threatened, it curls into a ball for protection, hiding its head and neck (the most vulnerable parts) in the middle of the ball. Ball Pythons are also called “Royal Pythons,” as there is a story that royalty in Africa would wear the snakes as jewelry, because the camouflage pattern on their scales is so beautiful.

 

Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornate)

Our Ornate Box Turtle, Tara, is a species native to Colorado and the Great Plains. She eats fruit and vegetables – she loves pear the most! – and insects. Turtles don’t have teeth, but instead a sharp beak that they can use to crunch through an insect’s exoskeleton or bite into a tough root.

Turtles have a shell that protects them from predators, made from keratin (the same thing our fingernails and hair is made from!). It is attached inside to their spine and ribs. Tara and other turtles (though not tortoises) are able to pull their legs and head completely inside the shell when threatened.

In a cold Colorado winter, Ornate Box Turtles will dig a hole in the ground and hibernate to survive.

 

Leopard Geckos (Eublepharis macularius)

Our two Leopard Geckos are native to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of northern India, where it is dry and rocky. It can get very hot there during the day, so they generally stay in the shade or in burrows while the sun is out. They are active at dawn and dusk when the temperature is more comfortable. As winter in that area can get quite cold, these geckos will stay underground the entire time and hibernate.

Leopard Geckos will hunt for insects, spiders and scorpions, as well as other lizards. A fascinating fact about them is that they are immune to scorpion stings! These reptiles keep their food reserve in their tails, which is why the tail looks so large compared with other lizards. When they are threatened by a predator, they can even drop their tail completely! The predator will be distracted by the tail while the gecko gets away. The tail eventually grows back.

Geckos use their tongues to clean their eyes. They will also use their tongues to figure out what is in the environment around them.

 

How you can celebrate Reptile Awareness Day!

  • Take some time to learn about reptiles! There are some amazing species out there, and the more we know about them the better humans and reptiles can live together.
  • Visit FCMoD and observe our reptiles in our Animal Encounters exhibit! Observing a reptile will help you understand and appreciate these amazing creatures.
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Meet our new millipedes!

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

We have a new exhibit up in the Animal Encounters zone: Millipedes!

The name “millipede” comes from Latin and means “thousand feet”. Millipedes have two pairs of legs for each body segment and usually more than 20 segments – which is a lot of legs! – but no millipede has actually been found that has 1,000 feet.

Millipedes eat vegetables, fruit, decomposing plants, and will even eat poop from other animals. They are the cleaning crew for the animal world!

These arthropods will curl up into a spiral or coil when they feel threatened. They can also burrow underground to find protection from predators, as well as food and cool temperatures.

There are a few different kinds you can find in our tank:

Florida Ivory Millipede (Chicobolus spinigerus)

The Florida Ivory millipede is native to the American Southeast (Florida, Georgia, Alabama). They are smaller and black-and-white striped.

American Desert Millipede (Orthoporus ornatus)

The American Desert Millipede is native to the deserts in the American Southwest. This species comes in several colors, depending on where they live and what colors keep them camouflaged and safe. The dark red-brown millipedes in the tank are also called Sonoran Millipedes, as that color tends to be found in Arizona, in the Sonoran Desert. The brown and gold millipedes are also known as Texas Gold Millipedes, as they are found in – you guessed it – Texas.

Come see FCMoD’s millipedes during our open hours and stop by for our monthly series, Meet the Animals!

 

 

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