Already Asked Questions!

Here are some of the questions I've answered in the past in a format that is a little easier to scroll through!

Click the down arrow to see the answer to each question!

Questions about conservation!

Are bleached corals dead?

To answer this, we can run through some background info on coral physiology. Coral reefs have a close relationship with plant cells called zooxanthellae. The corals provide a community where the plant cells can live, and the cells provide the reef with nutrients via photosynthesis (this is called a symbiotic relationship!). Additionally, the plant cells are what provide the coloring you typically see on corals. Different species of zooxanthellae can yield different colors such as red, brown, or yellow.

When waters get too warm, corals will think that the zooxanthellae are the issue and actually get rid of them. Without their little micro-algae friends, corals are losing up to 90% of their nutrient supply. The other 10% can be attributed to their consumption of tiny zooplankton at night (but they aren’t super good at doing this). This doesn't mean they are done for however. Many species of coral are able to recover (some better than others). But as global temperatures continue to rise at the rate they are now, corals are not able to adapt fast enough. The more bleaching events that occur, the more stress it is under and the more likely they are subject to mortality.

This is certainly a sad topic, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose hope! Scientists are working on understanding why some corals are more resilient to bleaching than others. And many programs are working hard on out-planting (taking healthy coral samples and growing them in the ocean) in coral nurseries. As a reader, you are making a difference right now! Just by educating yourself and others, you are able to spread awareness about what is going on our planet and are creating positive change.

Nathan is an aspiring marine biologist and is specifically interested in coral reefs and their response to climate change. Nathan is looking for a lab to start his graduate studies! Broadly, he loves all animals and wants to understand how they interact with each other and their environments and what we can do to help them! Follow Nathan on twitter (@GreenslitNathan) to learn more 😁

How are migrating animals adapting to climate change?

Just like all other animals, some migratory animals can adapt better than others!

In general animals can respond to climate change by moving where they live, behaviorally changing how they live, or given enough time actually genetically evolve to match their new conditions.

One way animals can adapt to changing habitats is to migrate to areas that are better suited for them. A study published in 2011 looked at where species where historically found and where they are found now and concluded that species that live near mountains are migrating about 11 meters up the mountain per decade and animals that live on flat land are moving about 1mile closer to the poles every year.

Another way animals can adapt is to modify their behavior, such as when they migrate between different habitats. A study published in 2017, researchers looked at migratory patterns of 49 different species of birds and found that 39/48 species were able to modify when they migrate to changing seasonal patterns. The other 9 species however were arriving when the food resources they depend on was already eaten!

Finally the last way animals chan adapt to changing climates is to evolve different genetic adaptations that help them survive in their "new" climate. There are about 20 species that we know of that have actually gone through genetic changes caused by warming temperatures, including the pink salmon and the tawny owl!

If you could resurrect one animal that has gone extinct, which would you choose? And what is one cool fact about that species?

If I could resurrect one species it would definitely be the thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf! These animals looked like a cross between a tiger and a wolf. However the thylacine was a marsupial, so it was more closely related to kangaroos and koalas than to tigers or wolves!

There are so many cool things about this species, but one of my favorites is that both males and females had pouches like kangaroos, though only the females used them to hold babies!

Another cool fact (sorry I couldn't pick just one) is that the thylacine and tigers evolved these similar body shapes through a process called convergent evolution, meaning the common ancestor of these animals looked nothing like their present forms, but each animal responded to similar habitats in similar ways. We actually have footage of the last thylacine, named Benjamin, from a Tasmanian zoo in 1935! You can see how similar these animals look to modern day tigers and wolves! Knowing how close we were to seeing these animals alive is another reason I find them so interesting and why they would be my pick to bring back!

Check out this video to learn more!

What are the top animals that are threatened by extinction?

There are many endangered species, some of which we don't even know that much about! For a full list of some of the most threatened species, check out the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, which lists all known animals and their conservation status.

I'm going to use this question to talk about the most illegally trafficked, and my personal favorite mammal. The pangolin! There are 8 species of pangolins and they are found in Asia and Africa. Pangolin's, also known as scaly anteaters, are cat-sized mammals that are covered in hard, plate-like scales! Unfortunately, these scales are highly sought after for traditional medicines.

Some facts about the pangolin that will make you love them too!

  1. Pangolins use their long, sticky tongue to eat ants. A single pangolin can eat up to 70 million ants in a year!!!

  2. Pangolin moms carry their babies on their tails, and it is so adorable!!!! (This opinion is obviously backed by science! Just kidding but is is real cute! )

  3. Pangolin scales are made of Keratin, the same material that our hair and nails are made of!

  4. When pangolins get scared they roll into a ball so their hard scales can protect them from predators. While it is very effective against the pangolins natural predators, this defense is useless against poachers who can just pick up the pangolin ball. This is one of the reasons why pangolins are in such danger today!

  5. World Pangolin Day is the 3rd Sunday in February and it is my personal favorite holiday! I make cupcakes with pangolin decorations and share pangolin videos and facts all day long!

Check out to learn more about these amazing animals!!!

Why are pygmy hogs so endangered?

Pygmy hogs are tiny pigs found in the state of Assam India. This species is critically endangered with only about 250 pigs left in the wild! However this is actually an huge improvement! In the 1960s this species was thought to be extinct! In 1971 a tea farmer found 6 pigs hiding in his farm after a fire in the area. The farmer gave the pigs to scientists to help establish captive breeding program. This means the pigs live and reproduce in captivity with the goal that their babies might be able to re-establish the population.

These pigs live in very special grassland habitats. Unfortunately these habitats are also great for growing tea, so much of the pigs natural habitat has been destroyed by humans. So before the pigs can be reintroduced to their natural habitat, we need to conserve and expand the natural ecosystem where these pigs like to live!

My source for this information is the Pygmy Hog Conservation Program. If you would like to learn more about this adorable pig or learn how you can help bring back the pygmy pig check out their website!

Questions about evolution!

Why do whales breathe out of their blow holes?

Whales breathe out of their blowholes to save energy!

Whale blowholes are actually their nostrils, or nose openings, that have migrated to the tops of most whales heads! This characteristic saves the whales a lot of energy because when they come to the surface to breathe they only have to stick the very tip of their head out of the water to exhale the old air in their longs and inhale a fresh lungful of air!

If you have ever been swimming and tried to launch yourself out of the water you know how hard it is to live your body above the surface! Whales don't want to have to use that much energy just to take a breathe so they use their blowholes instead!

However there has been at least one dolphin that didn't use its blowhole to breathe! This dolphin was spotted off the coast of New Zealand and scientist believe there was something wrong with it's blowhole, so the dolphin had to swim up higher out of the water to breathe through its mouth instead!

Why are some animals nocturnal?

Nocturnal means that an animal is most active at night.

Likely the first animals started moving their active time to after dark to make it safer for them to find food without having to worry about another predator hunting them! Since animals that are active during the day mostly use their eyes to find food, moving around in the dark makes it much harder for visual predators to find their prey!

Over time both predators and prey adapted to this new life style. For example most animals that are nocturnal have special adaptations that help them to see in the dark! In addition to being able to see better at night, nocturnal animals often use other senses to help them find their food. Some bats use echolocation to find their insect prey. Other animals, such as foxes and wolves use their sense of smell and hearing to track their next meal. Some animals even feel around in the dark! Blind cavefish live in dark caves and they have actually lost their eyes all together! Instead they find food by touch using special receptors in their fins and on their face!

Why do large herbivores have hooves?

Herbivores may not need to chase down prey to find food, but in most parts of the world where herbivores are found, they need to travel long distances throughout the year to find enough food to allow the herd to survive. Hoofs help animals walk long distances on hard surfaces!

Are lizards descendants of dinosaurs?

Nope! While lizards and dinosaurs are both classified as reptiles, T. rex is more closely related to modern day chickens than to geckos or iguanas!

Reptiles are split into 2 big groups... and turtles... turtles are just weird and we can't decide exactly where they go in the reptile family tree! The first group is the Lepidosaurs, which contains the lizards, snakes, and a really awesome animal called a tuatara! The second group is the Archosaurs, which contains modern day birds, crocodiles, and is the group that dinosaurs belonged to before they went extinct! That's right, not only are birds actually reptiles, but they are our last living dinosaurs!

Learn more here!

Why do monkeys act like us humans?

Monkeys and humans are both types of primates. Most primates are social animals, meaning we prefer to live in groups instead of living by ourselves. Once consequence of living in groups is that we communicate with and teach each other new things, a concept known as social learning! Many of the behaviors that we see in other monkeys are behaviors they have learned from family members or even other humans!

Learn more here!

Dolphins are mammals, so babies are born with hair, What does this hair look like?

You are correct that baby dolphins are born with hair, but it looks way different from our hair! Dolphin and other whales hair is only found on their rostrum (or the nose and mouth part of their face that sticks out farther than the rest of their head). These hairs look more like whiskers than fluff! For dolphins these hairs fall out pretty early in life, leaving only pores where the hairs used to be. Some other types of whales keep these whiskers throughout their lives and it's thought the whiskers may help them sense water vibrations!

Most mammals have hair for insulation. The hair minimizes the loss of heat our bodies produce, which keeps us warm! The way this insulation works is by trapping a layer of air between the hair and the skin. This air layer helps keeps our body temperatures stable. However when we get wet the hair sticks to our skin leaving no room for that layer of air to keep us warm. Marine mammals like whales and dolphins use a layer of fat for insulation because this keeps them much warmer in the water!

Learn more here!

Were lampreys around before insects? Are they the oldest animal?

In 2006 a team of scientists found a fossil lamprey in South Africa that was estimated to be 360 million years old! What's super cool is this lamprey fossil looked very similar to the modern lamprey we have today!

While lamprey are old, insects are much much older! According to this paper from 2014, insects originated about 479 million years ago! This is about the same time land plants started to evolve as well!

However neither lampreys or insects were the worlds first animals! Based on studies of common genetic codes of some of the living animals we have today, some scientists believe the first animals appeared about 730 million years ago! These early animals didn't leave fossils of themselves, so they probably had squishy bodies, like sponges or jellyfish! The early animals did leave behind trace fossils, or fossils of aspects of an animals life that were not the animals themselves. An example of a trace fossil would be holes where worms burrowed or dinosaur footprints! Exactly what the earliest animal was or what it looked like we still are not sure, but we do know if lived in the ocean and most likely have a very squishy existence!

Check out this video to learn more!

If humans evolved from monkeys, why are monkeys still around?

Great question! Evolution is complicated! And there is still so much we do not know. However, we do know that we did not evolve from monkeys! Instead both monkeys and humans (and all other animals!) share common ancestors. If you think of evolution like a family tree, monkeys would be our very distant cousins. The ancestors we shared with monkeys would be earlier species that lived a long time ago that with lots of time led to all of us! This video does a really good job of explaining what we know and what we don't know about our branch of the family tree that split off from chimpanzees! Like I said, this topic is complicated and if you have any more questions I would love to talk with you about them! Please reach out on the ask a question page!

How closely related are worms and snakes?

Wow! I've never been asked this one before, but fun to think about! The short answer is not very!

The animal kingdom is split into 2 big groups animals that have a back bone, called vertebrates, and animals that don't have a backbone, called invertebrates. Worms are in the invertebrate group and there are sooooo many different kind of worms that live in all kind of places (see this video if you like creepy-crawlies)! Snakes on the other hand have backbones. In fact, snakes have more bones in their back than most other vertebrates! Snakes are really just a special kind of lizard that over many many years have lost their legs!

Loved this question! Keep them coming!

Why does wild animal poo look different than poo from animals in zoos? (UPDATED 20June2020)

This question came from a zoo volunteer in Australia and they were particularly curious about why wombat poo was different in size, shape, and location in the wild vs in captivity. They mentioned wild wombat poo was bigger, slightly cube shaped, and on rocks. The captive wombat poo was smaller, not cubed, and not on rocks.

The short answer is that this question still needs answering! You might be just the person to answer it!!! I've come up wish some potential ideas based on what I was able to find about wombats and zoo animal diets. I've also reached out to #ScienceTwitter and I'll post updates if I hear back from any of my zoo keeper or poo scientist friends!

If you have any ideas please reach out here!

UPDATE! I received some amazing feedback from various scientist and animals keepers and have added their comments and links to their social media accounts in case you would like to learn more!

Potential reasons:

  1. Diet - It might be that zoo wombats and wild wombats eat different food that would move through their guts differently? According to this paper, many zoo wombat diets include man made pellets to ensure the wombats stay healthy. In the wild, the wombat diet consists of whatever grasses are around where they live, so different food going in could lead to different poo coming out!

    • Dr Dani Rabaiotti (@DaniRabaiotti) studies wild dogs and is one of the authors of the book 'True or Poo' suggested diet as the main cause. "Fairly confident it will be down to a difference in diet. Zoo animals often don't get the same foods as in the wild."

    • The National Poo Museum located in the UK also thought it could be diet related. "Agree it’s almost certainly diet related. Do you know if the captive wombat poo is cube shaped? If they’re not there might be more to it than diet alone....."

    • Laura Bertola (@LauraDBertola) studies big cats and suggested diet and parasites might contribute to differences. "Don't know about wombats, but for many large carnivores there's a big difference if the zoo is feeding them nicely cut steaks instead of an entire animal with skin and hair. And then there's usually a pretty high worm load in the wild."

    • Olivia (@liviloveasarus) is a wild life educator and graduate student who has worked with a zoo wombat! "The wombat I worked with never had fully cubed poop, but it wasn’t round like most marsupials either. FevL consistency differs mainly due to diet. One spp. not as impacted is koalas. Eucalyptus all day erry day so it’s pretty much the same. And it’s not to say the animals aren’t healthy (we have 3 nutritionists at our facility) and we have access to a variety of browse material."

  2. Hydration - Wombats typically live in areas where there is little water. To stay hydrated, they naturally produce very dry poo to keep more water in their bodies. However, I imagine in the zoo the wombat has access to as much water as it wants! More water could lead to more watery and less cubed poo?

    • Dr. David Hu (@drdavidhu) is the head of the Georgia Tech team that figured out why wombat poo is cubed in the first place and author of the book 'How to walk on water and climb up walls'. Dr. Hu reached out on the site to say his team is CURRENTLY STUDYING THIS! and is looking for pictures of wombat poop from the wild and from zoos. If you have pictures of wombat poo, please reach out to him (or I can forward the pictures if you would rather reach out here) to help his team answer this question!!! His team thinks that the amount of water in a wombat's system may play a roll in poo shape. Keep an eye on this team to learn more!

  3. Digestion - It is possible that the wombat in your zoo has a gut that is shaped differently than the wild wombat? This could be because they are different species, different ages, or different sexes. According to this study, different wombat species eat different diets and have different gut shapes that are better for processing the food where each species is found.

  4. Size - Bigger wombat... bigger poo?

  5. Hormones - Wild wombats use their poo to mark their territory! If the zoo wombat doesn't feel the need to mark it's territory there's no need to build a fortress of poo cubes! The wild wombat uses scat to communicate with the other wombats in its habitat! This could explain why you found more poo on rocks in the wild... that might just be where the wombat decided to put the border of their personal space?

    • A couple twitter accounts suggested this strategy as well, though I couldn't tell who was behind the accounts so I've decided not to link to them here.

Again, these are just ideas, not all questions have answers yet! That' what makes science so exciting! It seems like a really cool question that I hope you or some other scientist out there answers one day!

Questions about Extinct Animals!

How many dinosaurs were there?

Great question! And the short answer is we don't quite know!

There are about 700 species of dinosaurs that have been discovered and named according to The Dinosaur Museum! The exact number will vary depending on who you ask and what you count as being a true dinosaur species! This number does not include any of the living dinosaurs (aka birds)!

But this is only the dinosaurs we have found! There are many different ways to estimate how many dinosaurs we have yet to find! Some methods use the number of species we know about and the types of rocks those dinosaurs were found in to estimate a number. Other methods use the rate at which we are finding dinosaur species to estimate how many different kinds of dinosaurs there were. Still other methods estimate how many dinosaurs based on how many new species of birds we have discovered over time!

Check out this video to learn more, but in the end the short answer is we need more paleontologists to help figure out the answer to this question!

Did dinosaurs exist?

Although humans and non-bird dinosaurs never coexisted (sad, I know), we have concluding evidence on the existence of dinosaurs. Depending on the stratum (geological layer; see image) the fossils are found in, paleontologists are able to find out how long ago they lived, what other dinosaurs were around during the same time, and what kind of habitat they lived in. Even some dinosaur eggs and nests have even been discovered! Fossils of the same species but at different life stages have also been found, indicating how some dinosaurs grow. Scientists can use fossilized dino-dung, or coprolite, to understand their diets- a little gross but still pretty neat!

Not only do we know that dinosaurs lived on this earth, but we can even guess what some sound like! Similar to their modern reptile descendants, they most likely made sound by clapping their jaws, swishing their tails, and rubbing their scales together. Some dinosaur fossils have preserved skulls with hollow crests with extended nasal passages. A sound similar to booming foghorn is emitted when air is blown through these passages.

Although dinosaurs are really cool to learn about, it is probably for the best that we were not around the same time as them.

Author Bio: Nathan is an aspiring marine biologist and is specifically interested in coral reefs and their response to climate change. Nathan is looking for a lab to start his graduate studies! Broadly, he loves all animals and wants to understand how they interact with each other and their environments and what we can do to help them! Follow Nathan on twitter (@GreenslitNathan) to learn more 😁

Questions about pets!

Why do puppies sleep so much?

If you are a dog lover like me, you probably spend a lot of your time watching them , playing with them , and wondering what they might be thinking about. Other than being tiny little balls of energy and fun, puppies can be pretty sleepy too. According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is normal for dogs of all ages to spend half of their day sleeping and another 30% just chilling. That remaining 20% is what we see when dogs are freaking out in the yard or barking at inanimate objects. While we have things like TV, work, or school, dogs don’t have much to do and therefore will sleep to spend away the day. Puppies in particular can sleep up to 18-20 hours in one day! Because they are constantly growing, being exposed to new commands, smells, and people, puppies end up using a lot of their energy. Like with humans, sleep helps a puppy’s mind process and store all of the information they have learned throughout their exciting day.

Author Bio: Nathan is an aspiring marine biologist and is specifically interested in coral reefs and their response to climate change. Nathan is looking for a lab to start his graduate studies! Broadly, he loves all animals and wants to understand how they interact with each other and their environments and what we can do to help them! Follow Nathan on twitter (@GreenslitNathan) to learn more 😁

Why does my dog get so excited and aggressive about horses?

Author: Nathan the ocean scientist!

Dogs and horses have more in common that you might think! They are strong and intelligent creatures that highly rely on body language for communication. Both horses and dogs are known for developing relationships with other species, and due to centuries of domestication, have developed close relationships with humans in particular.

When your dog encounters another dog, they may chase and leap around each other, matching one another’s moves. Recently, scientists have reported that dogs and horses actually play together in a similar manner! When they encountered one another, they were observed to actually mirror the facial expression of the other’s--this is known as facial mimicry. One important mimicry feature that Elisabetta Palagi, an animal behaviorist at University of Pisa, noted was the “relaxed open-mouth display” where it appeared as if both species were smiling at each other. If your dog has ever encountered a horse, you may observe behaviors like play-biting, jumping and pushing, rolling, or shaking of heads (see attached video for a really cute example).

These kinds of behaviors are always interesting to learn about because horses are generally fearful creatures that can get spooked easily, and dogs are vulnerable to injuries from the horse. Despite this, most of the time, dogs and horses get along just fine!

Check out this Nat Geo article + video for more details:

Horses and dogs share a surprisingly common language of play.

Does my cat understand there is a world outside of my house?

First of all if you are keeping your cat indoors all the time THANK YOU!!!! As a biologist that loves all animals this is the safest thing for your floof and all the animals outside!

OK now to actually answer the question. If your cat has been an indoor cat it's whole life, I could not find any studies that have specifically looked at how indoor cats perceive the outside world... so the short answer is we don't know yet!

However, studies such as the one in this cat tracker video have shown that not only do cats have great spatial memory, but that they maintain that spatial memory for a pretty long time! In the video a team of researchers in North Carolina tracked house cats to see where they go when they are outside. One cat in particular stayed around their home most of the time... except for the one weekend when their family when out of town and left them at home. That weekend the cat went searching for their humans by going back to the last house it they lived at about a mile away!

Cats have retained a lot of instincts from their wild ancestors, so there's a good chance even your indoor floof has a pretty good understanding of the outside world, though maybe one day one of you will figure out a way to study and learn more about this question!

How do service animals learn if you are depressed or anxious?

There is no way a service animal could learn all the potential symptoms that signal anxiety or depression! Instead service animals that work with anxiety and depression are trained for a very specific set of cues. For example maybe when a specific person get's anxious they start scratching their hand. A service animal could be trained to identify when the person was anxious by that cue and could alert the person that they were performing the cue. The general steps for service animal training are:

  1. Train an "alert" behavior. This is a signal to the human that they are doing a behavior that signals they are anxious. In this video the dog is taught to nudge the handlers leg.

  2. Train the cue. This is what the person does when they start to feel anxious or depressed. I the video, the cue is the person itching their hand.

  3. Connect the cue and alert behavior and reinforce until the service animal can alert under any circumstances.

By training a service animal to alert their human to early signs of an anxiety or depression, the service animals can help the human recognize when they need help or to change what is triggering their symptoms.

Do dogs have Intuition?

This question was answered by Nathan the ocean scientist!

Yes! If you have ever felt like you have a special connection with your pet dog, there is a reason for that. Dogs are thought to have similar communication skills to young children. Similar to kids, they can read your face and are willing to do what they are told if we are nice about it (most times). They are even able to understand how the people around you treat you! If your friends are mean, your dog might either become angry and even ignore them. But if you have nice friends, they are more likely to be relaxed and social.

If you don’t already think they are superheroes, dogs have the ability to hear seismic activity before we feel earthquakes and smell electrical currents before a storm hits. Some are even able to smell when you are sick because of changes in blood sugar levels. Dogs have saved their owner's life before by smelling the odors released by cancer cells. Because of this, the owners have been able to get treated early!

If you want to learn more check out these resources!

Scientists Confirm Dogs Can Recognize a Bad Person

Dog's Intuition Confirmed by Science

5 Incredible Things Dogs Can Sense Before They Happen

How can we help our dog be less anxious around loud noises?

Dogs noise anxiety can be caused by all sorts of loud noises, from fireworks and thunder to power tools or even bird songs! There are a few options you can try if you want to save yourself a trip to the vet, but if the anxiety persists or if your dog seems stressed for prolonged periods you probably want to talk to you vet about medicine that can calm your stressed out pooch.

If you have the time you can try associating the noises that make your dog anxious with treats or rewards, but this takes time and patients. Other dogs do really well with wraps like the thunder shirt. We don't know exactly why this works, but it may have to do with how mothers protect their pups when they are small by basically wrapping the puppies up in a mom ball!

Prescription alternatives include pheromone based calming collars/ sprays or there are many hemp seed oil products that may calm you pup. Our dog gets anxious in the car and the hemp seed oil treats help calm her down. I would check with your vet first though before trying these last two options!

How old was the oldest dog?

According to the Guinness book of world records, the oldest dog was an Australian cattle dog named Bluey, who lived for 29 years and 5 months! Blue was born in 1910 and lived until 1939!

How do dogs communicate?

Dogs communicate in all kinds of ways, just like other social animals. You've probably seen dogs "greet" each other by sniffing the rears of fellow dogs. Since dog noses are much more sensitive than ours they can use their sense of smell to recognize and learn about the current moods/ health of other animals!

Dogs also communicate with body language, especially with their tails! Wagging happy puppy tails indicate a dog is relaxed and ready to play, while a tail that is hiding between a dogs legs indicates that it is scared or wants to run away. The tail of some breeds and species of wild dog is a different color to make it easer to communicate with other members of their pack.

Finally, dogs can communicate verbally, through howling, barking, or in the case of African wild dogs, even sneezing!

Can dogs cooperate with one another?

Yes! Dogs and their ancestors are social animals that naturally want to live with a pack. Though for our domesticated doggos often times they assume us humans are their pack and consider other dogs as outsiders. There are many guides for introducing a new pooch to the pack, but each dog/ family is different and it will depend on you specific situation.

Wild dogs and wolves, like the African wild dogs in this video must cooperate with each other to hunt and survive in often hostile environments! The success of the pack depends on every member chipping in to keep everyone alive and health!

Why can dogs not see screens?

I'm going to be honest and admit I'm not sure if this asker means digital screens or screen doors so I'm going to answer both, and actually they are very similar answers. If you asked this question and meant something different please reach out and I'd be happy to update my answer. Everyone please reach out if any of these answers inspire more questions!

My first though, like any good millennial, was that the question was referring to digital screens. While dogs don't see our televisions the way we do, they can see flashing lights and moving pictures, though it may look more like a dull-colored flip book than the bright action movie that we see. Check out this SciShow video for more details on this!

However, I think the question asker may be asking why fido keeps running through the screen door! It turns out dogs can see those screens too, but often what's on the other side of the screen is just too tempting to not try and chase. Dogs know windows don't open so they don't try to go through the glass, but they are used to going out doors and it often will take dogs a while to learn to check if the screen door is closed before they try to run bursting through!

How well can domestic rabbits adapt to the wild?

While domestic rabbits do have basic survival instincts, the process of domestication has stacked the deck against pet rabbits surviving in the wild. If your pet rabbit escapes they will know to run away from predators and to find a place to hide which will help them survive for a short period.

However, there are several traits that we humans have selected for that will make it hard for rabbits to survive on their own. One such trait is coat color. Wild rabbits have had generations to adapt their fur color to match their environments. Whereas pet bunnies are unlikely to have this advantage because we have bred different breeds of bunny to have different coat colors.

Another factor working against pet rabbits in the wild is their reliance on humans for food. In some places it may be easy to find food in the wild, but in many places a pet rabbit will not know how to find dinner when it isn't provided by its owners.

The safest place for a pet bunny is in captivity. If you can't take care of your rabbit anymore most animal shelters will help rehome them. If they escape, hopefully they will come hopping back when they get hungry!

Why do the inner eyelids of cats go across their eyes when they aren't feeling well?

The inner eyelid, also known as the palpebra tertia or nictitating membrane, is covered in pores called lymphoid follicles. These follicles act as they lymph nodes for they eye, trapping dirt and other particles that can cause infection.

The palpebra tertia is controlled by several different muscles and nerves. So if you see the third eyelid it could mean fluffy has an eye infection and the membrane is working overtime. Or it could signal that something is wrong with the muscles and nerves that control the third eyelid. If your cats third eyelid is showing for an extended period, it is a good idea to contact your vet as this could be a symptom of a larger problem.

If your cat or dog has the third eyelid showing on one side but not the other this could be an indication of Horner's syndrome, which is caused my the nerves and muscles of the face and around the eye not working the way they are supposed to. Our doggo Lily has Horner's Syndrome that was caused by an allergic reaction to some flea medicine when se was a puppy. Her third eyelid shows most of the time, especially when she is stressed or tired. Besides making her look a little funny it doesn't effect her vision or function, though Horner's syndrome can be more severe, she has a pretty mild case.

How long is a goldfish's memory?

A lot longer than 3 seconds! Several studies have show that fishes, including goldfish, are able to be trained and remember the training for several months!

One study trained goldfish to pull a lever to receive food. Once the fish learned this trick the researchers only let the lever work during a certain time period of the day. The fish learned and only pulled the lever at the right time to receive the food reward!

If you want to learn more about fish intelligence, check out this Sci Show video!

Are pets good for our health?

According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, yes! pets are good for your health! Petting a dog or a cat releases happy hormones in your body!

Studies from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggest having pets in the home can also boost your immune system, lower your blood pressure, and help with mental health problems such as anxiety!

Finally, having a pet that depends on you for care gives use a reason to get out of bed and stay active, which promotes both physical and mental health!

What's the best way to clean a dogs teeth?

I am not a veterinarian, and you should check with your vet about the best way to clean your pets teeth!

I went to the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) pet dental care page for information to answer this question as best I could, but again you vet is the best person to ask for specific dental care.

According to AVMA the best way to keep your pets teeth clean is with daily brushing using a soft bristle tooth brush and a toothpaste made for pets. This video shows you you can train your pet to having their teeth brushed by introducing the tooth paste as a treat, then the tooth brush, with lots of praise and treats added in to let the pet associate the tooth brush/paste with rewards.

If brushing isn't an option, the AVMA suggests using treats or toys that require mechanical chewing to ensure the plaque on the outside of the teeth is removed as much and as often as possible.

The main point I want to drive home here is that I am not a vet and your vet would be able to advise best practices for your specific animal!

Do cats live longer than dogs?

Yes, cats live an average of 15 years while dogs average lifespan is 12 years.

In biology, the general rule is that larger animals live longer than smaller animals. This is thought to be due to larger animals having less predators, so they have more time and energy to devote to other things that can help them live longer. While smaller animals must spend most of their energy on finding food and avoiding being eaten by bigger animals!

Cats and dogs don't follow this rule though! Scientists believe that cat ancestors may have been better at avoiding predators than dog ancestors. This allowed cats to invest in other parts of their biology that allow them to live longer, on average, than dogs!

What kind of coronavirus do pets get?

Great question!

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some pets can catch the same coronavirus as humans. However, at this time, there are only cases of humans giving the virus to pets and NO known cases of pets spreading the virus to humans.

Specifically cats and ferrets are more susceptible to the virus. Dogs can also catch coronavirus from humans, but don't seem to be as effected as cats or ferrets.

However, there is some evidence that suggests coronavirus can live temporarily on pets fur. For example if someone with the virus sneezed on their pet, the virus particles could live on your pets coat for a short period of time. If another person then pet the dog or cat that has been sneezed on, there is a very small chance that person could catch coronavirus.

The safest way to keep you and your floofs safe is to keep social distancing! The WHO and US Food and Drug Administration both suggest that pets should be socially distancing with their humans and stay 6 feet away from other people when on walks. However, unless you or someone in your family is showing signs of coronavirus, you can play with your own floofs all you want!

Why do dogs eat cat and bunny poop?

Dogs and their ancestors are natural scavengers! This means they don't always hunt their food, but will search for nutrients anywhere they can find it! Dog noses are fine-tuned to help dogs sniff out anything that can provide nutrients for them when live prey are in short supply!

When your cat or bunny poops there is still nutrients and bacteria from their food and guts that the cat or bunny body didn't use. Your dogs nose is able to smell that! Where our brains smell poop and think "Gross, stay away!" Dog brains smell the leftover nutrients and bacteria and think "YUM!"

Here is a fun video to learn more!

Why do dogs attack cats?

Many dogs (and their wolf ancestors) have what is called a prey drive, an instinct that helped them track and catch their smaller prey.

Certain breeds of dogs were trained and bred to use that prey drive to help humans hunt small animals, like foxes. Unfortunately, this has carried over to cats! It's not that dogs are actively thinking 'I must get that cat!' It's more of a reflex, 'oh look something small I need to chase it!'

Not all dogs have this prey drive though! Speaking from personal experience, my floofs spend most of the day passed out next to each other (see photo for proof!) Our dog has always had cats around, to her they are just a slightly smaller part of the pack that is our family!

Why are cats afraid of water?

Had to do some learning myself on this one! Turns out the ancestors of our house cats lived in deserts, where there was little water! So, this fear may just be a lack of familiarity! In addition to their ancestry, the fur on most cats takes a long time to dry. Being wet for a long time is uncomfortable for our floofs! However there are big cats that swim and hunt in the water like tigers and leopards! I found this fun video that goes into a little more detail if you're curious!

Here's my main source in case you want to read more!

What's the best way to train a dog?

Every dog person on the planet will claim their floof is the best floof ever! So let's stick to the science! My answer is based on this scientific paper that surveyed 364 dog owners. This study found that training methods that used rewards when the dog did something good were more effective at training dogs basic skills. Plus, dogs trained with positive reinforcement had less behavior issues compared to dogs that had been trained with verbal punishment when they did something wrong. What you use to reward your pup will depend on the dog, but dogs learn better when you tell them what they did right instead of punishing them when they do something wrong!

Do cats really always land on their feet?

Nope! Cats have what's called a 'righting reflex', This reflex helps their bodies react to being flipped over and helps them land on their feet MOST of the time. However, if they fall from a short distance, or have trouble determining which way is up they can fail to land on their feet!

Questions about birds!

How do crows know to only eat the livers of frogs?

YIKES! I had not heard about this phenomena before... and wow birds are strange and smart!!!

To catch everyone up, in 2005 ponds with EXPLODED FROGS were found in Germany and Denmark. Initially scientists believed a virus or fungus may be causing the explosions, but after some various tests they found that all of the exploded frogs has a similar small "beak sized" hole and all were missing their liver. The scientists concluded that crows were likely eating the frog livers and then the zombie frogs would have a physiological response to said missing organ, causing them them to explode! WOW!

According to Frank Mutschmann, the veterinarian who discovered the explanation behind the exploding frogs, crows are very clever and can learn quickly how to get to the liver without eating the poisonous skin of the frogs. Once one crow figured it out other crows could have quickly learned the behavior because crows are one of the few species that can learn socially by observing other crows!

How the first crow learned to do this is still a mystery from what I can find, though if anyone has more information please send it my way and I'll updated this post!

When crows attack eagles, why don't eagles attack back?

For those of you that were not aware (like I was before this question was asked!) groups of crows (known as a murder!) are known to attack eagles!

This post by naturalist Brian Mertins gives some great background information about how crows and eagles hunt and live and I would recommend you check out his page to learn more!

Here I'll give a brief summary. Crows are social animals and hunt in groups while eagles prefer to hunt alone. When crows attack eagles it is normally to either chase them away from crow nests, steal the eagles food, or steal the eagles next site. When a single eagle is mobbed by a murder of crows the eagle must weight the risks of fighting off the attackers vs jut going and finding another meal or spot to nest. Sometimes the eagle will fight back, but often it's easier for the eagle to go catch another fish than fight off all the crows for the one it already has.

Where do ospreys live? and what do they eat?

Ospreys (also known as sea hawks!) are birds of prey that eat almost exclusively fish.

Ospreys can be found on all continents except Antarctica! Because of their love of fish, these birds live near water so they can easily hunt for food.

Sea hawks have several traits that help them to hunt for their food including nostrils (nose holes) that can close when they dive for fish! Scales on their feet help them grip slimy fish! and oily feathers that help keep them dry when they get in the water! Here is an AMAZING slow motion video of an osprey catching a fish!

Questions about Fish!

How many species of parrotfish are there?

There are roughly 80-85 species of parrotfish in the world. Classifying these folks can be really tricky because juveniles, males, and females of the same species can have totally different colorations!

While we are talking about parrotfish, did you know that some species are even able to change their sex during their lifespan? These species undergo three separate stages of development where their coloration and size changes from the drab colors of sexually immature juveniles, to bright sexually mature males and females, and lastly, the terminal phase that only consists of mature males. The aforementioned exhibit reproductive domination through a harem-based social system, where once the male dies, a female picks up the cue to change sex and behavior.

By the way, most sand on the beaches you have walked consists of digested coral (AKA parrotfish poop).

Check out this video to learn more!

Nathan is an aspiring marine biologist and is specifically interested in coral reefs and their response to climate change. Nathan is recently finished his degree at Clemson University and is looking for a lab to start his graduate studies! Broadly, he loves all animals and wants to understand how they interact with each other and their environments and what we can do to help them! Follow Nathan on twitter (@GreenslitNathan) to learn more 😁

Do batfish eat starfish?

So there are actually a species of fish known as batfish that belong to the genus Platax and then there are species of angular fish belonging to the genus Ogcocephalus that are also known as batfish-- so this question will address both groups!

Let’s start with the Ogcocephalus batfish (middle image). If you have ever watched a marine documentary on strange creatures, these folks were probably in there. The red-lipped batfish (Ogcocephalus darwini) is one of the most famous examples and is found off the coast of the Galapagos islands. Like other species of angular, they have a modified spine that extends in front of them that functions as a lure (also called an illicium) to catch small prey. Their diet consists of small fish, mollusks, and some crustaceans like shrimps and crabs. They also have modified pectoral and dorsal fins that look like little legs. These function as stabilizers when chilling on the ocean floor waiting to chow down.

True batfish (bottom image) are a subgroup of spadefishes and have flattened oval bodies with triangle shaped dorsal fins, thus they look like spades on a deck of cards. These fishes are a little less drastic looking than the former, but are still beautiful to look at. These batfish are also omnivores and feed primarily on plankton, anemones, and algae.

So while it doesn't seem like batfish eat starfish, it could still happen on some occasions!

Author Bio: Nathan is an aspiring marine biologist and is specifically interested in coral reefs and their response to climate change. Nathan is looking for a lab to start his graduate studies! Broadly, he loves all animals and wants to understand how they interact with each other and their environments and what we can do to help them! Follow Nathan on twitter (@GreenslitNathan) to learn more 😁

How do electric eels create their charge?

Electric eels have special organs in their bodies called electric organs. Within these organs are special cells called electrocytes. When an electric eel's brain sends a signal to these organs, the cells can change the charge of the cell using special particles called ions. These charged electrocytes create an electric field, similar to how a battery works! To find out more, check out this awesome Ted-ed talk by Eleanor Nelsen.

What are the fishes called that hold their eggs in their mouth?

The science term for this is mouth-brooding and this is actually a pretty common strategy for lots of fish and some frogs too! Turns out if you live in the water, hiding your babies in your own mouth is a great way to keep them from being eaten by other sea animals! One example of fish that uses this method are the jawfishes like the one seen in this video!

What kind of fishes glow?

There are lots of fishes that glow! Most fishes do not glow themselves, but have tiny things in their skin, called bioluminescent bacteria that actually glow! Many of the fishes that glow live deep down in the ocean where it is very dark! The things the fish eat swim towards the light and the the fish use their glow kind of like a fishing pole! One good example of this is the angler fish from Finding Nemo!

Questions about mammals!

Do foxes like to eat fish?

I can not comment on if fish is any one individual foxes favorite food... but we do know that foxes will eat fish... in fact foxes will eat just about anything they can catch! Foxes are primarily meat eaters, but depending on what is available in their habitat they can also eat fruits and veggies too. This type of diet is called omnivorous. We humans are omnivores too!

Why do beavers have such big tails?

Beavers use their big tails for a few different reasons!

  1. The main reason their tails are so big is for fat storage! Despite their reputation for nawing on trees, beavers actually prefer to eat aquatic plants that are most abundant in the spring and summer months. This means they need to be able to store fat to get through the winter when the temperatures are too cold for their favorite foods to grow! Other animals, such as lizards, use a similar strategy!

  2. Beavers use their tails while swimming, though not to help propel them through the water! Instead beaver tails function as a rudder, helping them to steer which way they want to swim!

  3. Beavers also use their tail as a signal to other beavers! When there is a potential threat in the area, beavers will slap their big tail on the water to tell the other beavers in the area it's time to hide!

How old long do deer live in the wild

According to the University of Wisconsin, white tail deer live an average of 4.5 years in the wild but can live up to 10 years. To learn more about this species check out this video!

How old can lions and tigers live to be?

In the wild both lions and tigers have a lifespan of about 10-15 years. In captivity Lions tend to live up to 30 years, while tigers live to be about 20 years old in captivity!

As a graduate of Clemson University I couldn't help but sending you all some more tiger facts! Go Tigers!!!

Do dolphins have epiglottis's?

Yes they do! but it is a little different than ours!

To bring everyone up to speed, let's take a minute to talk about what is an epiglottis!? At the back of our mouth we have a tube for air to flow between our lungs and our mouth/ nose, called the trachea. We also have a tube that moves food from our mouths to our stomach, called the esophagus. The epiglottis is a flap that covers the opening to our lungs when we swallow so that food and spit goes down the tube to our stomach instead of going into our lungs!

But what about in dolphins and whales who's nostrils (the blow hole) have moved up to the top of their heads to make it easer to breath at the surface of the water!? It turns out when the nostrils of these marine mammals migrated to the top of the head, the trachea followed, but in the process, it moved right though the esophagus!!! The epiglottis still protects the trachea, but it is more of a support structure than a cover! Now instead of keeping food out of the lungs, the epiglottis helps to make sure the trachea doesn't collapse under the high water pressures when dolphins dive underwater!

Great question! If you want to learn more about some of the adaptations dolphins and whales have for breathing check out this video by Dr. Tracey Rogers

How many opossums do we have in the US?

In the US we have only a single species of opossum, the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana). The Virginia Opossum is native (meaning it occurs naturally) in central America and the southeastern united states. However in the 1900s these opossums were spread throughout the US via the pet trade. Because these trash-loving omnivores thrive in urban environments, they have become common in cities/ suburbs throughout the US.

Here are some Virginia opossum fun facts!

  • All opossums are marsupials and the Virginia opossum is the only marsupial native to North America! This means opossum cousins include kangaroos, sugar gliders, and wombats because they cary developing young in a pouch outside fo the mother.

  • When opossums are threatened, a common defense mechanism is to 'play opossum' where they will lie on their sides, open their mouth and drool to make it look like they are dead and rotting and unappealing to potential predators!

  • Opossums have prehensile tails that they use for balance and stability while climbing trees!

  • Opossums are immune to most snake venom and can eat most venomous snakes!

Learn more here

What is the difference between a horse and a pony?

The main difference between horses and ponies is in size. While there are exceptions, most horses are 14.2 hands or 4 feet, 7 inches or taller. Ponies are typically shorter than horses, have stockier bodies, and have more fluff. This allows ponies to be stronger for their body size and live in cooler climates!

Check out this video to learn more!

Why do lions hang out in families?

Lions are social animals and these family groups are called prides. Prides are primarily made up of female lions who live together throughout their lives and a few males that may or may not stay with the pride throughout their lives. Lions are carnivores, meaning they eat primarily meat. Hunting in a group increases the odds of capturing prey instead of hunting solo! However there are plenty of other big cats that successfully hunt solo, so why do lions live in prides?

Lions hunting strategy is to live in areas where the prey are more likely to be and survive by claiming these territories. By having more lions in a pride it makes it easier to control the territories where the prey are more likely to be found. In most prides it is the lionesses that hunt while the male lions look after the cubs! When the lady lions are not hutting they watch the cubs and the males patrol their territory. This group living increases the odds that everyone eats as well as providing protection for the cubs in the pride!

Do elephants really have good memories?

  1. Yes! Elephants live in social groups of up to 30 individual elephants. Not only can they recognize all their group members, but they can also recognize other animals outside of their social circle! Zoo keepers often tell stories of elephants that would hold a grudge against people too!

  2. Elephant groups are led by an older female, called the matriarch, who leads the group to different water and food resources. Several studies have looked at how well and how long elephants are able to remember and return to feeding sites and watering holes and their memory is remarkable!

Check out this video to learn more!

Why are giant pandas so big?

Pandas are a type of bear. Compared to other bears, pandas are actually pretty average sized. The smallest bears are sun bears, coming in around 110 pounds (50kg), pandas are mediums sized at about 250 pounds (113kg), and the biggest bears are the polar bears which can be over 1760 pounds (800kg)!!!

Bears in general are big for many reasons including:

  1. Bears are omnivores - which means they can eat just about anything including plants and animals when it's available.

  2. As adults, bears have few predators, mostly because of their size!

  3. Many bears are found in areas where food is more rare in the winter so they reduce their activity in winter. To make sure they have enough fat reserves to survive this period of reduced activity, bears eat as much as they can in the spring, summer, and fall!

How long do sloths live?

In the wild sloths live 20-30 years, but they often live longer in captivity. The current Gunless World Record for the oldest sloth Is Paula, a 2 toed sloth who lives in Germany and turned 51 this month!

Why does a narwhal have a tooth outside of its mouth?

This is a great question and one scientists still don't know a whole lot about! A narwhal "tusk" is a tooth that grows out through it's lip, ouch! Most male narwhals have tusks, while it is rare for female narwhals to have these "unicorn horns"!

Even though narwhals are mammals and need air to breathe, they spend most of their time diving in deep ocean water, making it hard for scientists to study them! However we do have some ideas for what narwhals use their tusks for!

  1. Sensing their environment! Tusks are made out of the same kind of materials as our teeth! Because of this, scientist think narwhals use this tusk to sense water movements around them, which could help them find food and other narwhals!

  2. Fish whacking! Using drones, scientists in Canada collected videos of narwhals hunting near the water surface! These videos show narwhals shaking their head side to side and using their tusk to whack fish. Once the fish were stunned by the tusk, the whats could more easily catch and eat them!

  3. Communication! Videos have shown narwhals rubbing their tusks together. Though we don't know why they do this, they could be brushing each others tooth! Or males could be using the tusks to fight for resources or mates. Alternatively, it could just be narwhals special secret tooth-shake!

  4. Beauty! Maybe lady narwhals just like male narwhals with bigger tusks! This recent paper measured the length of 245 narwhal tusks over 35 years and suggest that tusks keep growing because female narwhals prefer to mate with males that have longer tusks. Over a long enough period of time this would explain this strange structure!

How many types bunnies are there in the world?

It depends on what you mean by type!

If you are curious about pet bunnies, there are about 60 breeds of domestic bunny recognized in the US. Other countries have even more breeds too! There are some pretty crazy looking pet bunnies out there, with even funnier names! Some of my favorites include 'English lop' and the 'American fuzzy'! Check out this list to see more breeds with pictures! However all of these breeds are considered a single species to the scientific world, the domestic bunny.

There are currently 58 species of bunnies! Bunnies belong to the lagomorph family. Lagomorph means bunny (lago) shaped (morph). What unites all the family members together is their teeth! All lagomorphs have four front teeth on their upper jaw, but we can normally only see the front two!

There is one more member of the lagomorph family, the pikas! Pikas are also small round fluffy creatures that live up high in the mountains and they have the most pretty silly call (see video!) There are about 29 species of pikas

I used this Lagomorph entry from Encyclopedia Britannica and rabbitpedia to answer your question! Click the links if you would like to learn more about bunnies and their relatives!

Why are deer so big, but have little poop?

A lot of animals poop 'pellets'. These pellets are made because of how their guts move the food and how their sphincter (poo hole) lets the poo out of their system! Both the gut and the sphincter move the food in a pattern that forms these little pellets. These animals poo the same amount as other animals but it just look different because of how their guts and sphincters move! FUN FACT wombats (animals that look like tiny bears) poop cubes! This is also because of how their gut moves animals move the food through their bodies!

If you have more poo questions check out the book True or Poo! I have this one in my library and highly recommend!

Check out this video to learn more!

Questions about reptiles!

Do wolverine frogs have fangs?

Wolverine frogs are most well known for the fact that they can push the bones in their fingers out through their skin! Just like the wolverine comic character!

These frogs do have teeth both as tadpoles and as adults, though I would not consider any of the teeth fangs, like the ones that vampires have. Both tadpoles and adults of this species are carnivorous, meaning they primarily eat meat, so their teeth help them to catch and process their food!

Do lizards burb?

Not the way we humans burp. While some lizards do make sounds by pushing air from their bodies out of their mouth, these normally sound more like a hiss or a chirp than a burp! If your lizard is burping, they may have a respiratory infection and you should take it to a vet to make sure it's ok!

Some of the loudest lizards are tokay geckos that get their name from the sound that they make! To learn more about lizard sounds check out this article from National Geographic!

Why do some snakes look like big worms?

Some snakes live under ground, just like worms! Even though these two groups are NOT closely related to each other they both have adapted to this underground habitat in similar ways. This process is called convergent evolution!

Some traits help both worms and snakes move around and find food underground. These include:

  1. Point ends - both the head and tail of the snake and worm is somewhat shovel-shaped. This helps both animals dig around in the dirt!

  2. Smooth body surfaces. Worms don't have scales and snakes that live underground tend to have much smoother scales than snakes that live above ground

  3. Instead of using visual cues, both snakes and worms depend on chemical cues to figure out where they need to go in their dark habitats. While worms don't have eyes to begin with, many snakes that live under ground have smaller eyes than their land loving cousins!

So how do you tell if you have a giant earth worm or a snake?

Snakes will have eyes and scales (kind of like a fish) and a distinct head. Worms have rings that go all he way around their body called anuli, no eyes, scales, or distinct head!

How do some lizards reproduce asexually and produce clones?

The fancy science term for this is parthenogenesis, which is a Greek word that translates to "virgin birth"! Parthenogenesis is found in all kinds of plants and animals!

Before we can dive into how parthenogenesis works, we first need to talk about how animals make cells that let them reproduce, a process known as meiosis. In the picture above the different steps are listed as numbers. We are going to skip a lot of the complicated science words here... if you're interested in learning more please reach out and ask any followup questions! At the fart left of the diagram we have a cell that has genetic material from 2 parents (red parts and grey parts). In step 1 these parts from the two parents combine. In steps 2-3 the parts from each parent get scrambled together. This scrambling is why we don't look identical to our parents or siblings!!! In step 4-5 the cells are split in half, with the genetic material split evenly among them. At the end of meiosis there are 4 reproductive cells. This process happens in both males (producing sperm cells) and in females (producing egg cells)!

In sexual reproduction one of the sperm cells is combined with one of the egg cells. When these 2 cells combine, you end up with a fertilized egg. This is what we start with at the start of step 1 in our diagram above.

Ok, now we can jump into parthenogenesis! There are actually a few different ways this can happen, but in lizards all of them involve females combining 2 of her own reproductive cells to produce a fertilized egg without the need of a sperm cell!

Here's the tricky bit... sex determination. In humans and many other animals, sex is determined through a system we call XY. In this system, part of the genetic material that goes into each fertilized egg will have an X from the egg and either an X or a Y from the sperm. The animals that produce eggs only make X's and the animals that make sperm can make X's or Y's. Some lizards, like house geckos, have a similar system. When parthenogenesis occurs in species with this kind of sex determination, all the cells only have X's making all the individuals egg producers, or sexually female.

However, in other species it is the egg producers that can make the different kinds of genetic material that determine the sex of the offspring! Some lizards, like Komodo dragon, can actually produce male and female babies through through parthenogenesis because the egg producers can make the equivalent of the X and Y parts of the cells!

Great question! Keep them coming!

How many scales do lizards have?

The numbers of scales a lizard has depends on the species of lizard! In fact biologists use the number of scales lizard and snakes have on different parts of their body to tell different types of animals apart! Here is a video about the different kinds of scales found in the animal and reptile world!

How many geckos have you seen? When is world gecko day?

Growing up in Florida I've seen too many geckos to count! But my favorite type of gecko's are the Day geckos from Madagascar! This sticky-toed lizards look a little like the Geico Gecko! They are bright green and can have bright blue, orange, or yellow spots on their back! They are very charismatic and unlike most other geckos they are active during the day!

World gecko day is September 2nd!

How do iguanas change color?

Great question! And for iguanas we don't actually know yet, but chances since iguanas show the same color range as chameleons, it's probably a very similar mechanism.

In chameleons there are multiple layers of cells in the skin that help to control the skins's color. The top layer contains yellow or red pigments, while a deeper layer contains melanin pigments as well as cells called iridophore cells, which contain nanocrystals of different sizes, shapes and organizations. It turns out it's these iridophore cells that are the key to understanding chameleon (and probably iguana) color change! When the skin is relaxed, the iridophore cells are close together and reflect short wavelengths, like blues and greens. When the skin is excited (think of it like when you get goosebumps) these cells spread further apart, which causes them to reflect longer wavelengths, like yellows and oranges, and reds!

While iguanas color change is more uniform, the colors are very similar and I would imagine this is probably how the iguanas change color too!

Why do snakes smell with their tongue?

The quick answer is because snake tongues can sense more chemicals than than snake noses!

Snakes and some lizards have forked tongues. When snakes flick their tongue or "sniff" they are collecting sent particles on both tips of the tongue. When they bring their tongue back into their mouth, snakes stick each tip into a special slot in the roof of their mouth that connects to the Jacobson's organ. This organ tells the snakes brain how strong different smells are on each tip of the tongue!

Snakes use this information to track their prey, kind of like how we use our ears to figure out which direction sound is coming from. If the sent of a mouse is stronger on one tip of the tongue than the other, the snake knows that the mouse has been on that side of the snake more recently and the snake should in the direction where the smell is the strongest in order to find its next meal!

How many teeth do crocodiles have?

There are many different kinds of crocodiles and these different species will have different numbers of teeth. The Nile crocodile has about 33 teeth while other species, like the American alligator (alligators are a special kind of croc!) have around 80 teeth!

The exact number of teeth will vary at any give time. While croc teeth are sharp and pointy they are not very strong. Instead of building strong teeth, crocs just replace teeth when they wear out!

How many kinds of alligators are there?

There are only 2 living species of alligators. The American alligator is found in the southeastern USA, while the Chinese alligator is found only in China.

Fun fact! The Chinese alligator was historically called the muddy dragon! Check out this video for more facts about these 2 alligators!

Why are alligator's teeth so long?

Alligators cannot chew. This is partially because they don't have cheeks to hold food while they chew and partially because they don't have the kind of teeth needed to grind their food! Grinding teeth are called molars! Since they can't chew, alligators must swallow their prey whole!

It would be very difficult to try to swallow something that is sill alive and trying to run away, so alligators use their long sharp teeth to hold their prey while they do what is called a death roll. This is where the alligator holds on tight to the prey and spins in circles underwater until the prey is dead. Then they take their time swallowing their prey whole!

When alligators are small they use this death roll to pull pieces of meat off of a fish or other kind of prey, like in the video here!

What is the difference between alligators and crocodiles?

All alligators and crocodiles are part of the animal order Crocodilia. This means that really alligators are just a special type of crocodilian!

To tell them apart you can look at their teeth and the sensory bumps on their bodies and heats.

Alligators have an overbite so when their mouth is closed you can only see the teeth on their upper jaw. In crocodiles, you can see teeth from the upper and lower jaw when the mouth is closed!

Alligators only have sensory bumps, called integumentary sense organs, on their heads. Whereas crocodiles have these sensory bumps all over their bodies!

Check out this video to learn more!

Questions about Invertebrates!

(Animals that do not have a backbone! )

How do crabs breathe?

Like fish, crabs use gills to breathe underwater. Using an appendage known as the scaphognathite, they draw water over the gills, extract the oxygen, and transport it to the ret of their body through their blood vessels.

If you have ever been to the beach, you might notice that a lot of crabs spend their time on land. This is because crabs are amphibious organisms, meaning that they can breathe on both land and underwater! The trick is that they must keep their gills moist while on land. As long as they remain damp, oxygen can be diffused from the surrounding environment to the rest of their body. Some species of crabs have morphological specializations such as moving plates near the gills that function to seal off the moisture, allowing them to spend greater amounts of time on land. Others are known to drink dew water. If you have ever seen a crab blow bubbles, it is thought that that is resulting from them drawing air over their moist gills.

Some crabs, such as the hermit crab, can spend the majority of their life on land but still need to keep their gills moist. Other crabs, like the blue crab, are primarily aquatic but can survive on land for 1-2 days. The European Green Crab is an absolute beast of an animal and can survive on land for a week before returning to its aquatic habitat. Because of their tolerance, these crabs have become invasive in many parts of the world, dominating over other species and limiting resources like food or shelter.

Author Bio: Nathan is an aspiring marine biologist and is specifically interested in coral reefs and their response to climate change. Nathan is looking for a lab to start his graduate studies! Broadly, he loves all animals and wants to understand how they interact with each other and their environments and what we can do to help them! Follow Nathan on twitter (@GreenslitNathan) to learn more 😁

How do snails breathe?

Well... it depends on what kind of snail we are talking about! While we might be most familiar with land snails... the first snails lived in the ocean! Over a long LONG time snails adapted to life on land and in fresh water!

Most snail breathe through comb-shaped gills called ctenidia that is covered by their shell.

In land snails these gills are reduced and snails mainly breathe through their thin skin and through the respiratory cavity in their shell! To breathe in and out, land snails can make this chamber bigger to suck air in or smaller to push air out. The opening to this respiratory chamber is called the pneumostome!

One group of marine slugs have taken skin breathing to the next level! Nudibranchs have lost their shell and their ctenidia and instead developed protrusions of skin that are used for breathing! In fact the name Nudibranch means "nude gill" because their gills are not hidden by their shell! These breathing skin flaps are way prettier than what you might think, in fact nudibranchs are arguably some of the most beautiful sea creatures!

To learn more check out the snail page at!

Are the little balls on the beach crab turds or just sand?

Just sand! Crabs are filter feeders and some species filter their food out of the sand! In the process of filtering food out of the sand some crabs create balls or spirals of sand crumbs!

Do corals have feelings?

Answered by Nathan the ocean scientist!

This is a cool question! Despite there being a species of coral known as brain coral (Diploria labyrinthiformis), they do not in fact have brains, and therefore lack the ability to ‘feel’ or ‘think’ like we do. Feelings (or emotions) are psychological products of our brains interpreting physical signals from external stimuli. In other words, I touch a hot stove, nerves in my hand send a message to my brain saying “OW WHAT ARE YOU DOING??? STOP!” and the message goes back to my hand muscles to jerk my hand back. After that, my brain processes what just happened and I feel silly for being so careless.

Us humans (I am assuming you are human if you're reading this) have a central and autonomic nervous system that consists of a series of tightly packed nerves that go to our brain. Cnidaria (i.e. corals, jellyfish, and sea anemones) have something called a nerve net. With this spread out and interconnected system, they are able to sense things around them like food.

Corals also have the ability to respond to certain environmental stimuli such as warmer ocean temperatures. When they experience fluctuations in temperature, they will actually get rid of their symbiotic plant cells that help them gain nutrients during the day (this is what bleaching is, and is a whole other topic!).

So while a corals may not feel happy or sad, they are still able to react to the environment around them.

How large can starfish be and how long do the oldest starfish live?

The size and lifespan of starfish vary greatly among species, but the larges I could find is the sunflower starfish, which and can grow to be up to a meter (3.3 feet) across! The oldest starfishes can live to be up to 34 years old!

Why are spiders fuzzy?

For all the comic book lovers out there, spider hairs give spiders their spidey-sense!

Spiders use 3 different kinds of hairs to detect tiny vibrations of the bugs spiders hunt for food! I explain each below, but check out this Because Science video that goes into more detail!

  1. Tactile hairs - are the same kind of hairs you have on your body that help you tell when something is touching you. The difference between us and spiders is that spiders have a LOT more of these hairs so they can tell when super tiny bugs are vibrating near their bodies!

  2. Trichobothria - are even more sensitive hairs that allow spiders to detect vibrations in the air! This means spiders can detect insects flying by that don't even touch them!

  3. Slit sensilla - are hair-like structures in the spiders legs that can tell when SUPER tiny motions in the environment move the ground or web the spider is sitting on!

Together these different hairs help the spider 'hear' without even having ears! If you want to learn even more about the biology of Spiderman and his spidey-sense check out the Biology of Superheroes Podcast part1 and part 2 on the biology of Spiderman!

Questions about Washington animals!

What kinds of lizards live in Washington?

Washington is home to 7 native lizard species including:

  1. Northern alligator lizard

  2. Southern alligator lizard

  3. Western skink

  4. Pygmy short-horned lizard

  5. Common sagebrush lizard

  6. Western fence lizard

  7. Common side-blotched lizard

Of course you can also checkout the Komodo dragon at the Woodland Park Zoo ;)

Why is there so much less roadkill in Washington compared to other states?

Great question, since moving from the southeast in early 2020 I have often wondered this myself! I couldn't find a solid answer, but I do have a couple ideas. If anyone has any better ideas or information please reach out here!

  1. Due to the cooler climate, we have fewer species and fewer individuals per species compared to more southern states. Fewer individuals means fewer individuals get hit!

  2. Washington has fewer roads per square mile than all 36 of the 50 states, fewer roads means less roadkill!

One way we could further decrease the amount of roadkill is to increase the amount of fencing and wildlife crossings. We do have a couple in the state, but we could do better! Find out more about how road modifications can help wildlife in this video!

What's the most invasive (non-aquatic) animal in the Pacific Northwestern US? How bad is it?

The species (besides humans) that is the most invasive in most of the world is the domestic house cat. Domestic cats have caused the extinction of 63 species and According to this paper published in the journal Nature, domestic cats are responsible for killing 1.3–4.0 billion birds and 6.3–22.3 billion mammals each year in the US alone!

This doesn't mean we need to get rid of all cats, though some places have tried this. I myself live with 3 of the tiny floofs! But you can help by KEEPING YOUR CATS INDOORS! It's better for wildlife and safer for your cats too! Indoor only cats have an average lifespan of 15-20 years while outdoor only cats live on average only 3-5 years! Do what's best for fluffy and our native wildlife and keep cats inside!!!

What kinds of otters do we have in the Puget Sound?

We have sea otters, but these are very rare to see from the coast! More common are river otters, which hunt in fresh water, salt water, and even on land! While river otters mostly live and hunt alone, sometimes people spot a mom and her pups hunting or playing together! Here is a fun fact sheet about local otters and similar looking animals. Also check out the Seattle Aquariums live streams of otters and other animals!

What kind of dolphin do we have in Washington?

According to Olympic National Park there are 3 species of dolphins that can be seen in Washington! The most common (espeically in the summer time) is the Harbor porpoise, Phocoena phocoena. Occasionally, you might also see Dall’s porpoise, Phocoenoides dalli or the Pacific white-sided dolphin, Lagenorhynchus obliquidens! Here's a video from Cascadia Research on how to tell if the animal you see in the area are dolphins or not!

What's an example of an interesting animal unique to the PNW?

There are so many to choose from! One of the birds I recently learned about is the American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) which is the only songbird in the US that looks for food UNDERWATER! It looks like a pigeon, but eats like a puffin! Check out this video to learn more!