Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Entomology Exploration:Cat Fleas and Siphonaptera

This Entomology Exploration happened at the spur of the moment when we found out our cats had fleas and figured that we could sketch them and learn more about them before we killed the fleas with medication.


General information on Siphonaptera

Siphonapterans, better known as fleas, are very small parasitic insects often found on mammalian hosts, including humans, cats, and dogs. In some cases, their hosts may be birds or reptiles, although I couldn't find anything on whether or not fleas feed on amphibian blood. The larvae resemble maggots or worms, usually not living on the body of the host but feeding and living on and in the host's feces or poop. They are covered with thin bristles and possess no eyes. The adults are fairly flat and slender in form, with hard exoskeletons and bristled legs, with long back legs adapted for jumping. Their mouthparts are specifically designed to suck blood out of the host. In many cases, they transmit disease, such as bubonic plague from Oriental rat fleas or cat and dog fleas which are intermediate hosts for the Dipylidium caninum tapeworm, which can infect cats, dogs, and humans. 


Information on Cat Fleas 

Cat fleas are small, black to brown parasitic insects that have a very wide range of hosts, residing on cats, dogs, raccoons, possums, skunks, and foxes. Its life cycle involves complete metamorphosis, starting with a small, oval-shaped, white egg, which then hatches into a grub, which then forms a silken cocoon around itself and develops into an adult flea. Interestingly, the adult flea is the only stage which actually resides and feeds on the host. Larvae do not actively feed on the blood of the host, but they will eat almost any organic material from the host, including poop and dried blood. Its range is worldwide and it is the most common species of flea in the United States. 


Citations

Siphonaptera. John R. Meyer. General Entomology. North Carolina State University, 28 Mar. 2016. Web. 30 Mar. 2016. ‹https://www.cals.ncsu.edu/course/ent425/library/compendium/siphonaptera.html›.
Cat Fleas:Life Cycle, Eggs, Bites. Orkin. Web. 30 Mar. 2016. ‹http://www.orkin.com/other/fleas/cat-fleas/›.

My Sketches







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Monday, March 28, 2016

Biomes and Biodiversity of Star Wars presentation slides

This is a presentation I did on biomes and the creatures that live in them both on Earth and in the Star Wars universe for my homeschool co-op.



















Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Cone Snail presentation slides

This is a presentation I did for Team My Little Python's Incredible Invertebrates event.







Saturday, March 26, 2016

Barbados Threadsnake presentation slides

This is a presentation I did for Team My Little Python's Mini March event.






Friday, March 25, 2016

Bamboo Pit Viper presentation slides

This is a presentation I did for Team My Little Python's Asian Animal New Year event.







Thursday, March 24, 2016

Ornate Flying Snake presentation slides

This is a Powerpoint I did for Team My Little Python's Leap Year event on animals that don't fly, but try.






Monday, March 21, 2016

What Mealworms Don't Do:Observations on Mealworm Behavior or lack thereof



During the study period, the worms were generally stationary, but during the periods marked “No Change”, any worms that were in a specific food quadrant were still in said quadrant, any moving worms were still moving, and any stationary worms were still stationary. The data, as a result, is not particularly varied, consisting of some movement near the beginning and end of the study, but otherwise no change. However, there may be certain factors as to why so much of the data consists of minimal change. These factors are not inherently problems, but may have influenced the turnout of the study.



·        The worms were taken from captivity, and may not have had responses to being watched or a desire to go towards food.
·         The worms were scared to move and were playing dead.
·         The worms were dead.
·         The worms simply don’t do much.
·         It was cold in the study area, meaning the worms were sluggish.
·         We studied too few worms.
·         The worms were secret agents and wouldn’t do anything when watched.
·         Due to the study taking place on a smooth surface, the fossorial worms may have had trouble moving due to not having very prominent legs or being equipped to dig rather than walk on smooth ground.



Before the main study period involving food sources, a general observation took place for 5 minutes. During said study period, in many cases, the worms simply crawled. Almost no interaction took place, expect for certain worms moving other worms due to the others being in the way of their crawling. During the beginning, more worms moved due to curiosity or fear. However, near the end, the worms were accustomed to being studied and exhibited almost no response. When the worms flipped themselves over, when on the smooth surface, they had trouble righting themselves. This was probably due to the smooth surface, as the worms were seen righting themselves before the study began. My conclusion from this study is that mealworms are boring as that is what I observed. Given more or fewer factors, the data may have been more interesting. But what I observed was crawling, defecating, and refusal to move. 







Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Texas Rattlesnake Festival:Summary

You've probably read from My Little Python, the news if you're in the Houston-Conroe area, and the Twitterverse that I've been at the Texas Rattlesnake Festival for the past weekend. But this conference was different. I was not just attending. I was exhibiting and presenting. Not with a herp group. With my mom. As My Little Python. The booth consisted of as many kid-appealing things as we could combine. We sold copies of the "What about Snakes?" book and stuffed snakes for donations to ASP, had a selection of gummy snake and alligator candies for kids to take and eat, and adorable snake finger puppet crafts. But we also came up with another idea for kid appeal. We had paper and we had art supplies. So, we told kids that if they drew a snake and signed it with whatever they wanted to be known as on the Internet, we'd feature them on My Little Python. Here's a few samples of the art we received, from kids of all ages.



As well as running the table, I also presented to both adults and kids about My Little Python. The adult presentation consisted of my talking about what I do for My Little Python and how others can get involved with advocacy for it or similar projects. Unfortunately, I can't copy and paste my outline because when I upgraded my computer I forgot to back it up and I think my dad and I took apart the hard drive it was on. For the kids, I talked about the My Little Python characters and their real snake relatives, from the point of view of Stripie Snakie.

I got a lot of publicity and friends! Thanks to everyone who saw my presentation!
Here are the slides for both presentations. All of them are saved as JPG files. 

Adult presentation slides


















Kids presentation slides
























On the second day, we reduced donations for snakes from a $5 donation to any donation. We sold many more snakes because of that. We also sold all the copies we had of the book, which was 3 of them because we were worried that if we took more, we'd run into issues with the weight limit for our suitcase. Now, I'm going to share some anecdotes that don't really relate to the conference except for the fact that that's where they happened. On the first day, I met a fan of My Little Python who's basically me at age 6. I'm not going to share her name to protect her privacy. She drove for more than 3 hours from Waco, Texas to meet me. I gave her a free snake and autographed her copy of the "What about Snakes?" book. After my final talk on the first day, I went with her to a station they had so that kids could practice using snake hooks on toy snakes and we happily observed, caught and fed the toy snakes. After all, there weren't that many people, my fan wanted to spend time with me, and my mom manned the booth so I was free to be a kid. During my final talk on the second day, which was actually the last talk of the day, about halfway through the talk, the laptop I and just about every other person there had been using for Powerpoints and had moved from the kids' area to the main presentation room warned me that its battery was critically low. Then, in the middle of my last slide, its battery died. Anthropomorphizing it, I can't blame it. It had done presentations for kids and adults for two days straight. It was tired. It was done. It wanted to go home. And after my last talk, I still had toy snakes which hadn't been sold. So I wandered around the convention center, handing them to anyone who wanted them. I got rid of all of them and made a lot of kids (and vendors) happy.

Some links:
My Little Python (parents, this is where you can see your kids' art)
The Texas Rattlesnake Festival
Article about the Texas Rattlesnake Festival which mentions me (Your Houston News)