Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Special:Cane toads and their invasive effects

Frogs:Today the pond, tomorrow the world! Well, the Cane Toad doesn't need to think it will take the world tomorrow. It already has taken the world! Let's start with what exactly a Cane Toad is. A Cane Toad is a very large toad hailing from South America. Now, in South America it has predators that can handle its toxins, as the Cane Toad is highly poisonous, enough to kill a human being. Now, Australia had problems with sugar cane beetles. So they shipped the Cane Toads in to be natural pest control. But the toads ate or killed whatever was in their path-as long as it wasn't a sugar cane beetle. The toads were large enough that they ate smaller toads, endangered species, baby snakes, tourist's fingers:anything! And because they were poisonous and Australian animals couldn't handle their toxins, the Cane Toads killed larger animals like pythons and kangaroos. This was the attack of the killer cane toads. But the horror story doesn't end here. The Toads were then introduced into Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands to control pests. They were successful in controlling pests, but luckily for the islands, the toads died out before destroying native populations of other animals. The toad was then introduced into the Philippines and was successful, being the most abundant amphibian. The Philippines were now the Islands of the Killer Toads. The killer toads then entered Fiji, devouring both harmful and beneficial invertebrates, so on these islands the toads' effect was neutral. Into other islands, the United States, Australia leaving destruction in its wake. And this is no bad horror movie. This is the attack of the killer toads. They are eaten by pets, killing the family dogs. They are eaten by wild animals, killing the wild animals. If the killer toads are not stopped, they will destroy the world's ecosystems. Tell your dog to keep away from that gigantic frog, it could be the last thing they ever see.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chytrid in Virginia amphibians

Chytrid is a pretty bad thing if you're an amphibian. It's an aquatic fungus that often hooks onto and spreads throughout creatures such as frogs, salamanders, etc. It is one of the main causes of amphibious deaths! But how does this stack up for Virginian amphibians?

Due to the conditions in chytrid's makeup, drier habitats and habitats with different temperatures than chytrid thrives in have a lower chance to infect amphibians. In the eastern part of North America, chytrid has been found in 48 species of amphibians, but infections vary due to the fact that in the summer, it's too hot for the fungus, and in the winter, it's too cold. Cooler, shaded habitats have more prevalent infections, as does the presence of frogs and toads, particularly Green Frogs. Studies were done on whether or not Eastern Newts, American Bullfrogs, Spring Peepers, and American Toads had chytrid and how intense the infection was.

Ah, the many uses of cotton swabs! During the studies, swabs were used to investigate for chytrid in said amphibian species, with adult newts, adult peepers, juvenile bullfrogs, but because the bullfrogs varied in size, it was investigated whether Snout-to-vent length affected chytrid infections. Before swabbing for infections, the study environment was sterilized to prevent other infections entering the amphibians used. The amphibians were rinsed in containers holding sterilized water and of course, the amphibians. Other examinations on two species of frog show that chytrid infections are generally on the chest, front legs, and hind legs.

Two Spring Peeper sites-Airport Pond and Kentland Farm Pond were excluded as all individuals were not infected. Toads also weren't infected. All of the species that were swabbed except for American Toads had some level of infection. The highest levels of infection were in peepers, the next highest in bullfrogs. Low levels of infection were common, especially in bullfrogs and newts. All sizes of bullfrogs were equally likely to be infected and infection intensity was fairly low among them. Chytrid has been detected in a bit over half of the amphibian species in the Eastern USA, and most frogs and salamanders have some vulnerable individuals and some resistant individuals. But due to lack of infection in the two mentioned ponds for spring peepers and in toads, when previous studies showed that they had infection, showed that said populations had resistance to the disease.

Hughey, Myra, Becker, Matthew, Walke, Jenifer, Swartwout, Meredith, Belden, Lisa. "Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in Virginia Amphibians:Within and Among Site Variation in Infection" Herpetological Review, 2014, 45(3).

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dialouge for imaginary number

DISCLAIMER:This has nothing to do with Neopets or snakes, but it's still my work and still fairly interesting to my target audience for this blog.

DOCTOR: Why do we talk out loud when we know we're alone? (blows out candle) Because we know we're not.
DOCTOR: Mathematics perfects survival skills. There are perfect divisors.
DOCTOR: There are perfect reducers.
DOCTOR: Why is there no such thing as perfect concealment? How would you know? Logically, if mathematics were to perfect a number whose primary skill were to hide from view, how could you know it existed?
DOCTOR: It could be with us every second and we would never know. How would you detect it, even sense it, except in those moments when, for no clear reason you choose to speak aloud? What would such a number want? What would it do? Well? What would you do?
(That last word echoes around the Tardis. The chalk is no longer where he left it. It rolls on the floor to his feet and he picks it up, then sees that what he wrote on the blackboard has been replaced by one word. Listen.)

(Doctor Who and related marks are trademarks of BBC . Copyright © 1963, Present.)

(Math student pushes face down on bedspreads.)
Math student:I really wish I could get some sleep, but I have this huge math test tomorrow and I just can't grasp the concept of an imaginary number! I mean, if I'm only imaging it, is it here?
(Imaginary number appears)
Imaginary number:Depends on whether you think of me as just a figment of your imagination or just simply hiding.
Math student:Wait, who said that?
Imaginary number:I did.
Math student:Well, what are you?
Imaginary number:I am the square root of –1. Or if you prefer, I am i.
Math student:I for imaginary. Makes sense.
Imaginary number:It is i, not I!
Math student:Well, I'm/i'm confused. Is it okay if I call you a capitalized I?
Imaginary number:Yes, I suppose it is.
Math student:Say...if you are an imaginary number, you can help me grasp your concept!
(Imaginary number is not quite sure. Math student seems trustworthy, though.)
Imaginary number:Oh, all right, if you insist. You already know that I'm the square root of –1, correct?
(Math student nods.)
Well, how might such a number be imaginary? What in this mathematical universe could you square to get a negative number? Nothing. If you square –1, you get 1. And how, in the pure mathematical universe, could you square anything to be equal to –1? You can't. But surely there must be a number, perhaps something that's been lying in wait for years, but you never noticed it. Or perhaps you refused to admit it existed, that number whose square is negative one! Surely such a number must not be real. An imaginary thing, perhaps. Do you want to know one of the absolutely wonderful things about mathematics?
Math student:What? If it'll help me ace this test, I'd love to! And are you really a trademark of Apple like all other things that start with a lowercase I, like this iPod?
(Imaginary number hisses. It's probably heard the Apple joke before.)
Imaginary number:The wonderful thing about mathematics is that it can be either discovered or invented! So, if you cannot see me...(Imaginary number disappears), but you imagine me, I appear, but yet I was both discovered and invented. And no, I am not a trademark of Apple.
Math student:Can you please appear again? I think my parents are watching and it seems that right now this place is haunted and I'm talking to a ghost. And if you're a number, where exactly are you on the number line?
(Imaginary number reappears.)
Imaginary number:I am not on the number line, and neither is i. I am not positive, I am not negative, and I am not infinite. At least your horizontal number line cannot measure me. But picture this:a vertical number line between 0 and –1, containing all the numbers such as i, 2i, 3i, 4i, and et cetera et cetera.
Math student:So wait...can I add and subtract imaginary numbers?
Imaginary number:You bet! Guess what 2i+3i equals.
Math student:5i?
Imaginary number:You are correct! Now guess what 5i-3i is.
Math student:2i?
Imaginary number:Right again!
Math student:I've heard that weird things happen when you are added with a real number. What kinds of weird things. And why would anybody use you?
(Imaginary number is very enraged. Math student says that he did not mean it but just wanted to know its applications.)
Imaginary number:Yes, some strange things might happen with me and a real number. But together, however reluctant we are to stay together, we have many scientific applications that your pathetic real numbers cannot manage. And did you know that e∏i equals –1?
(Math student shakes head no.)
Well, without me, it would just be e∏ ! And we don't know what that equals, now do we? So there is a purpose for all things, alive, dead, hidden, in sight, real, or imaginary.
Math student:Okay, thank you!
(Math student's mom walks in.)
Math student's mom:It's time to wake up. You have a test today. And why were you muttering things about imaginary numbers in your sleep? You must have studied a lot tonight!
(Math student turns to thank the imaginary number, but it is nowhere to be seen. Maybe it was just a dream...)
DISCLAIMER:No offense intended to actual math students who might be reading this.

Friday, October 10, 2014

I wrote a field guide! A Neopian field guide.

Did you ever wonder which snaky Petpets are venomous or not, and what their venom does? Introducing the Neopian Snakebite Manual! In the voice of Kasandaria, my delightful herpetologist cobra, this field guide talks about the serpents that live on this Neopian planet, and I hope you enjoy this article.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A "Snakebook" profile for the Golden Fleece Serpent

This is a school project, may not relate directly to snakes.

For school, I did this fake Facebook profile for the dragon that guarded the golden fleece.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

To create a dragon-would it be possible?

Many of us love the idea of real dragons, large, intelligent lizards that breathe fire and fly! But would it be possible to make a dragon, in the future, with advanced genetic engineering techniques? First, let's start with the breathing fire. How could we get a real animal to breathe fire? Perhaps we could do something with gases, or modify fangs and venom as from a spitting cobra? I am intrigued by the prospect of having an animal that produced something like say, snake musk, and somehow igniting it, perhaps that could become the fire-breathing in our hypothetical dragon? We are not sure how to do this, but what we could do to create a large, intelligent, flying lizard would be to find a crocodile. Crocodiles are large, saurian creatures that are possibly as related to dinosaurs as birds are. Crocodiles also have the intelligence factor we want in our dragon. And then we can find a bird, with a large enough wingspan to send a crocodile aloft.  So, with this hypothetical technique, we would need to combine traits from a large bird of prey, a crocodile, a spitting cobra, perhaps, and possibly a snake such as a water snake that produces musk. And this might be possible! Birds of prey, crocodiles, spitting cobras, and water snakes are all fairly closely related as the snakes and crocodiles are all reptiles, and due to the evolution of the dinosaurs, reptiles are related to birds! So in the future, it may be possible to create a dragon, or at least a winged crocodile.

Cute dragon, from cartooncliparts.com

Monday, October 6, 2014

On killing snakes, how to prevent it, and why it should be illegal

Do you ever see somebody stomping on a snake or running away screaming from one, even when it's just a little garter snake they find on their lawn? This in my opinion should be illegal! Snakes have value, which many people don't realize. Snakes eat creatures like rodents, insects and other pests, and they are eaten by creatures such as birds of prey and even certain amphibians! Killing snakes disrupts the ecosystem. Did you know that many Americans call themselves "animal lovers" but they only love animals they deem "cute" or "not scary"? Rattlesnakes are animals too, and any so-called "animal lover" should love, or at least tolerate them. Killing snakes also effects the education in this country about nature. The main age where people kill snakes is between the ages of 8 and 10, and this carries on into teenage years. We need to teach our children not to kill snakes! And one of the easiest ways to train somebody not to do something is to tell them that it's against the law. Almost everybody does not want to break the law. In many states, you can only kill a snake if it is threatening you. This is not enough. Anybody who wants to kill a snake can say that just because it looked at them cross-eyed, it was sizing them up to eat them, or it wanted to bite their children, or steal their cat, or some garbage like that. I think that these laws are a good idea but there should be a better definition of "threatening" which is something like "It carries an obvious and eminent threat to you, your family, or your lifestyle." This would prevent fear and death of snakes across America. And one of the easiest ways to prevent killing snakes in America would be to teach it in school. In many cases, people think that every snake, or everything in the world is a dangerous creature such as a copperhead, cottonmouth, or a rattlesnake. What we need to do is have a class in school where children learn about ecology, and how to tell whether or not a snake is venomous or non-venomous. And if an unwanted snake is on your property, there are better ways to remove it than killing it! Many zoos, pet stores, herpetologists, and the official Animal Control service can move snakes away from your property. If you remember your neighbors having pet snakes, see if the snake is their pet. And seeing if the snake is a neighbor's pet can keep your neighbor's heart from being broken because their pet is dead. If said snake is either a non-native species or a native species with coloring you do not see in the wild, it is usually somebody's pet. Keep watch in the news for any escaped snakes in your area to keep yourself from killing them if they are somebody's pet or an escaped zoo animal. But one of the main ways to keep Americans from killing snakes is to keep them informed. Teach in schools that snakes have value. Have articles in newspapers that don't just identify snakes as evil, man-eating creatures. This portrayal in the media is one of the reasons for snake fear across America. In even newspapers, every snake is usually a gigantic, man-eating rattle-cobra that can crush a person in its coils. Instead of these articles, write articles on the value of snakes and how to react if you see one in the wild! And stop having evil snakes in movies and books. Many people learn from what they read and if they accept something like a fictional story about a child being eaten by a cobra as fact, and then they see a hognose snake or other snake flattening its head to look like a cobra, if it's anywhere near a child, they will kill it. Instead of these stories, there should be more books on identifying snakes. More books with good snake characters! Did you know that many people no longer think bears are dangerous because of the teddy bear movement? We need something like that for snakes! Create a line of adorable stuffed animals of snakes in cute colors like pink and lavender! There is a need for good snakes in the world! Enter My Little Python. This is another blog/movement I run which is like My Little Pony, but with snakes. Direct your misinformed children to this blog! Bring out your ophidiophobic and expose them to this good portrayal of serpents! And when you ever get a chance, try to make killing snakes illegal. But the easiest way to prevent this is education. Pure education. Teach people that your pet snake is not dangerous. If you don't have a pet snake, teach them that snakes in general aren't dangerous. Direct them to My Little Python. Heed the movement. Have good snakes.

Sssincerely, Alli

The My Little Python main characters.