The Venus Fly Trap

This week in science, we began our biome projects.  This morning I was going to grow my Venus fly trap when I thought,  “How can it live in the harsh habitat that it lives in?”   Just like other organisms that live in extreme biomes, such as peat bogs and the abyssal zone of the ocean, the Venus Fly Trap has an unexpected adaptation. So, I decided that would be what my blog was about.

 

The Venus Fly Trap is one of the most well known carnivores plant. The Venus Fly Trap lives in the bogs of North and South Carolina. In this habitat the soil is low in nutrients and is acidic.  To cope with this, the Venus Fly Trap has adapted to be carnivorous- it eats bugs that land on it. The Venus Fly Trap is the state plant of South Carolina.

The Venus Fly Trap is not the only type of carnivorous plant.

Other plants that eat other living things are:

1. Cobra lily (Darlingtonia californica)

2 . Butterwort (Pinguicula)

3.  Sundew (Drosera)

and many more.

One of the most interesting things about carnivores plants is that, although they don’t brain cells, they have chemicals that act like a brain so that they can react when there prey is in range.  With the Venus Fly Trap when a insect triggers one of usually six hairs the trap closes first with a few openings so if the bug is to small it will escape so the Fly Trap doses’ the the waist energy on a small meal, if it is small enough it will open up its pedals again, but if the bug is to big for the mouth to close it  will let in bacteria that will kill it. If the bug is the right size it will bring in Asia’s to break down the bog and in five to twelve weeks it will spit out the exoskeleton, without the bug.

The Carolina bogs biom is low in nurturant and the soil is acidic, and yet the Venus fly trap thrives in this harsh environment because of its incredible, and slightly strange, adaptations.

Experiments

This week I did two experiments. The first one is butterfly pea flower tea. First you put butterfly pea flower in water to make it blue, after that you put a small amount of citric acid in it and it will turn purple.  If you put a lot of citric acid in it, it turns pink. How does it work?  Inside of the flower has something called delphinidin which is a blue pigmant that changes perpel in the presence of small amounts of acid and pink in larg amounts of acid.  If you were to add something very basic, like lim. We tried to make it green or yellow, but our stuf wasn’t basic enough.

 

 

 

 This is what it looks like when you add the flowers to warm water.

 

See the rest of the experiment, when we added slightly acidic soda and straight citric acid here:

IMG_0324

IMG_0325

 

Our second experiment is known as “Elephant Toothpaste”.

By adding water, dish soap, hydrogen peroxide and yeast, we created this:FullSizeRender

The hydrogen peroxide is made up of 2 hydrogen molecules and 2 oxygen molecules (H2O2).  The yeast is a catalyst, and 1 oxygen molecules escapes, then fills in the space in the soap, causing it to expand.  In the end, we just have oxygen, soap, and water (H2O), so it’s actually safe to play with it.

Beach scale

Beach scale is a typeof bug that feeds on beach trees. Unfortunately  beach scale is not native to America, and our beach trees are not used to it and are weakened by funguses that will kill it. Eventually only  5% of beach trees will survive because of an uncommon resistance to beach scale.

 

The good news is that scientists are working hard to find the trees with resistance to beach scale and reproduces them hoping that the new trees will also be able to fight the beach scale. Of all the movies I have watched one of my favorites is Jurassic park, and said in that movie by Ean Malcolm, “life finds a way”

Let’s Get Fun-gi

In science class this week I learned about mushrooms. Mushrooms are fungi and some have developed with amazing adaptations.

 The puffball mushroom, when poked, shoots out it’s spores from a hole in order to reproduce.

 This Posostroma Cornu-damae is one of the most deadly mushrooms in the world. The poison keeps it from being harmed or eaten by predator.

Omphalotus nidiformis, or ghost mushrooms, glow at night to attract nocturnal bugs to them so they can spread there spores.

Eye Spy

In science class this week, my class learned about a game called predator and prey.

In this game, the people who are the predators must hide while the prey counts, when the prey is done counting, they must find as many predators as they can find. Once the prey has found all the predators he can find, the prey must count again (all predators found must become prey), then the predators must move ten steps closer.  This will happen until the prey has found all of the predators, or if the predator has got the prey.

This game made me ask three questions:

  1. How do eyes help pry?
  2. How do eyes help predators?
  3. What sort of adaptations are good substitutes for eyes?

One of the cheetahs adaptations to improve sight is black lines around its eyes to get rid of the glint of the sun.

Some snakes have thermal radiation to see their prey even when the prey is camouflaged.

Owls not only use their large eyes to see on the dark, but also can only see the brightest colors in the rainbow, giving them even better sight in the dark  than they would have without it.

Chameleons have eyes that can look in two directions, that’s two lines of sight!

Not only eyes are used for seeing predators or prey, but echo location, like in bats, is also good for finding food and sensing danger.  Echo location is the ability to find objects by using sound.

Hammerhead sharks don’t only have eyes on the sides of their heads on order to see in all directions but also have a censor that detects electric pulses of other creatures so they can find their prey even if its hiding under the sand.

 

9/27 Everything is Connected 🌎

One of the topics we discussed in science at Pathfinder this week was how one little act can create a chain-reaction.  One example of this is when the people of Borneo got rid of malaria-carrying mosquitos using a man-made chemical.  The chemical, DDT, killed not only the mosquitos, but also parasitic wasps that killed roof-eating caterpillars, and poisoned the geckos that ate the mosquitos, which, in turn, poisoned and killed the cats that eat the geckos.  Consequently, the mice and rat population grew, spreading two new viruses. As a solution, cats had to be parachuted into Borneo.  The domino affect story shows how one thing in this story, DDT, can lead to bigger things like the two new viruses.

Sea otters provide another example that shows that “everything is connected”, called a trophic cascade. A trophic cascade is when the addition or subtraction of a top predator causes big changes in the ecosystem. Sea otters play a vital role to keep sea urchins in check by eating them. Kelp forests that have sea otters are usually healthy, but kelp forests without healthy sea otter populations are unhealthy and are mostly now “urchin barrens” because too many urchins eat all of the kelp.

My last example is the African Elephant. In very big habitats, where they can migrate, elephants’ feeding habits create a balance between forest and savannah by taking down trees so other things can grow.  But, in smaller ranges, because of habitat fragmentation, they can’t migrate and will completely devastate forested areas, leaving nothing but shrubbery.

9/13 Owl Letter

A Plea from the Short-Eared Owl

Co-written by Harrison Jeffries

 

Dear Mrs. Cuttatree,

 I am a short-eared owl, also known as asio flammeus.  My name comes from small tufts on my head, right where some other animals’ ears might be.  Other creatures with these “ears” are long-eared owls and great horned owls.  You can tell me apart from them because my tufts are much shorter.  I am about 13-17 inches tall with a wingspan of 33-43 inches.  My other distinctive features include my boomerang-like wings, giving me a moth-like flight-pattern, and a white facial disc. Unlike most owls, I would rather get up in the day than at night.  In fact, I am the most diurnal owl in the world, but I do sometimes hunt at night.  I’m a unique species and a pretty cool guy to have around… at least until you build that resort.

You see, I live in tundras, marshes, and other flat habitats, but during mating season, after a long migration, I sometimes roost in trees, which you intend to chop off from the roots!  Now, I don’t need a tree. I make my nest on the ground, but that is right where you intend to build that silly resort. Although I have a large range, spanning through most of North America and some of South America, I’m in trouble in most of my range and considered endangered in many states, including Michigan.  While I only come to Michigan for breeding, my children depend on a wide stretch of open space and grasses to grow-up in.  Did you know that a female short-eared owl can lay 4 to 9 to even 14 eggs?  We short-eared owls are extremely devastated by loss or fragmentation of habitat because we need a big space to live in.  One of the reasons that I and other short-eared owls should not go extinct is because we mostly eat voles, which you consider pests because they can kill infant trees, shrubs, and other plants.  If you think the voles are bad now, just wait until us short-eared owls are gone.  The vole population will grow much bigger- I wonder who’s to blame?  Now that you heard my plea, can you please consider helping us by canceling your construction on the Uppity Resort?

Sincerely, 

The short-eared owl