Friday, January 27, 2012

The Squishy Sea Cucumber!

Have you ever heard of a Sea Cucumber before? If not, then you might be surprised at how cute and cool this animal is, even though at first it seems to just be a stationary log! I first learned about Sea Cucumbers when I studied Invertebrates (a.k.a. animals without backbones) at university. Then, in the Summer of 2010 I started working at the Ocean Sciences Centre as an Interpreter of a touch tank, which means that I taught people about local ocean animals through a live display.

A sample of the cool animals in the touch tank
The animals were collected from the shore around the Ocean Sciences Centre, and then returned to the ocean in September, when the touch tank was put away until the following Summer. It was really fun to work at the touch tank, although the water was really cold, so sometimes my hands would go red and numb if I played with the animals too much!

Coral, Sea Cucumber, and Sea Stars

In the middle of this photo is a Sea Cucumber (the long, black, cylinder shaped animal). Without meeting this animal, it's hard to tell what it is or how it survives, but once you get up close you discover some really cool features! First of all, Sea Cucumbers are really soft and squishy. They are filled with lots of water and can change their body shape really easily. For example, if a Sea Cucumber wanted to fit into a tiny hole in a rock, it could squish its body into a small, thin shape and fit through!

In this photo, you can see the underside of the Sea Cucumber and see how it has changed it shape and size. The orange lines or dots that you can see are its feet! They are tiny "tube" feet, which means they can suction onto objects, like rocks, to walk along the sea floor.

Sea Cucumbers have many ways of keeping predators away from them. Sometimes, when vistors to the touch tank picked up a Sea Cucumber, it would squirt out water to make itself look deflated and confuse them into thinking it was dead. Most people jumped in surprise and thought that the animal was peeing on them! Some Sea Cucumbers also have a deadly chemical that they can squirt out (sort of like squid!) to kill any animals trying to eat them.

To eat, these cute squishy animals have a ring of tentacles (sort of like fingers) around their heads. These tentacles are sticky and sometimes a Sea Cucumber will point them up in the water and catch little bits of food that float by. They also like digging in the sand to find little food pieces. Their mouth is in the middle of the ring of tentacles.

Sea Cucumbers can be all sorts of different colors and patterns, like this cool bright blue one. I worked with animals that were dark black, with grey bellies, and orange tube feet.

P.S.: I've added a whole bunch of updates in the past few weeks: links to cute and fun games, craft tutorials (i.e. origami animal bookmarks, jellyfish mobile, zoo-themed board game), and a brand new Video page. Click on the pages above!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Squirrel Appreciation Day!

The word "Squirrel" means "shadow-tailed" and Squirrels are Rodents, like Mice, Rats, and Chipmunks. Rodents are mammals (just like us humans) but have special teeth that keep growing. Rodents must nibble and chew on things to wear down their teeth! Squirrels love climbing trees and have great toes and claws for holding on tight. Squirrels often find food in trees, such as nuts and berries, although its easier if they wait until the food falls to the ground. Then they scurry around, collecting all the delicious treats, and stuff them into their mouth for storage!

Squirrels can be lot of different colors, such as black, red, or brown, with different striped patterns on their tails. Black Squirrels are not a different species, and are actually Eastern Grey Squirrels. They just have a dark pigment to their skin and fur.

Squirrels have pretty big eyes, which means they have great vision, for avoiding predators and finding yummy food.

Squirrels love hiding their food in the ground, and will use their cute little feet to dig holes for burying their treats. These fuzzy creatures will come back for their food when they're hungry. Sometimes they forget where they have hidden their nuts, seeds, and berries, and a new plant will grow from the ground. This means, that Squirrels help plants reproduce by planting their seeds!

Feel free to share any of your Squirrel stories!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Special Post for my Hamster, Little Panda.

I have sad news: on December 24th, my Syrian/Teddy Bear Hamster, named Little Panda, passed away due to a stroke. He was an adorable, fuzzy, little creature who liked running on his hamster wheel and nibbling cute food.

April 2nd, 2011

This is Little Panda on his first day in my home. He was only a few weeks old and was very tiny, and a little apprehensive. He shred the newspaper into little tiny bits to make a comfy nest for himself.

Little Panda's First Adventure

After a couple of weeks of getting to know Little Panda, I let him venture out of his cage to explore my living room. He was very excited and ran very quickly around! Hamsters are very good runners.

Me and Little Panda :)

Little Panda also liked to climb on me! The sweater I'm wearing has deep pockets that he liked to explore.

In the wild, Syrian Hamsters are active at dawn and dusk, when they awake to run around and collect food. Pet Hamsters are often active all throughout the night because they have no predators to hide from.

Little Panda climbing

Hamsters are Rodents and are related to Mice, Rats, Squirrels, and Beavers. They are great climbers as seen in this photo of Little Panda! He loved to climb all over his cage and had little tiny feet with claws to grip on tightly.

A New Cage!

When I moved into a bigger house in May, I set about building a big cage using old window screens that I found on the sidewalk. I decorated the inside with grass and pebbles, and also made a really cool house for him with medium-sized rocks. It had multiple entrances and levels because Hamsters like to be protected. In the wild, Syrian Hamsters are considered "vulnerable" because people are starting farms on the land where these fuzzy guys live.

I fed Little Panda grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds and some treats of cheese and milk. Hamsters have special cheek pockets that they store food in, which makes their face look really chubby and cute!

In September, I embarked on a cross-Canada adventure. I got Little Panda a new travel cage with a wooden house, a water dispenser, and lots of privacy. He traveled with me on the train across all the provinces (except P.E.I), making him a very well-educated and cultured little Hamster.

Little Panda was buried in a cute park on the beach on Salt Spring Island, close to a farm with Alpacas and Sheep. I think this will be a quiet and nice place for him.


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