Monday, August 24, 2015

When coral meets micro-algae

Scuba diving is like zen for me. I've been fortunate enough to watch the forms and fauna underwater, and nothing else is as relaxing as that. Many, many things are cheaper and easier, though, so I don't go often enough.
the beauty of a coral reef
photo: Fascinating Universe, Wikimedia Commons

But coral reefs are more than meditation for lucky divers, they are homes to nearly 25% of all marine species -- they are "rainforests of the sea," if you will -- and the nurseries for many species of fish eaten by many of you out there.

They also protect seashores and islands, but more on that later.

Raise your hand if you know how these amazing structures are formed; everybody else can go ahead and read on!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Fresh produce is the best! Or is it?

Right now, in the United States, farmers' markets are now found not only near farms but also in urban centers.

It's the time of year where vegetables – sweet corn, peppers, tomatoes, and even especially zucchini – burst on the scene and flood markets everywhere, their freshness and flavor making their case for buying locally grown produce in its prime season.

What color is your Pepper? A Washington, DC farmers' market
6 – 7 different kinds of eggplants, among other goodies
If you are also buying fresh, local produce, keep it up and enjoy your good fortune.

However, in the off season, frozen veggies can actually be a better nutritional choice. Who knew?

True, with some simple caveats -- if the frozen fruits and veggies are picked when ripe and frozen immediately AND fresh food has been picked too early and taken weeks to arrive in your kitchen, then frozen vegetables may be the way to go, especially if their convenience means you will actually eat them.

Fresh vs Frozen?  The answer is YES, eat your veggies.

Have a look at this ASAP Science explanation:

really ENJOY your vegetables (tip: add cheese)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Armadillo armor!

Was it Karmadillo, as a friend of mine suggested?

Was it Armed-adillo, as I retorted?

That hard shell on a small armadillo in Texas may have served its protective purpose yesterday, as a bullet shot at it by a man ricocheted off the shell and back at the guy, wounding him in the face. The armadillo's crime was trespassing on the man's property.

a Southern three-banded armadillo, showing its bony plates, scutes, and a whole lotta hair underneath!
photo: WolfmanSF, Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Only in Texas, maybe? Apparently not -- a man in Georgia (yes, also the US) wounded his mother-in-law after the bullet he shot at an armadillo ricocheted and hit the poor lady. And sadly also killed the animal.

Beat ya.
Artwork: Liz Climo, Tumblr
Armadillos actually originated in South America, and the 20 living species all still reside there, some of which have since also moved north.

Armadillo means "the little armored one" in Spanish, though the Aztecs called them turtle-rabbits.

Their armor is made of rigid bony plates covered in relatively small, overlapping bony scales called "scutes", that are then covered by the material found in horns! Flexible skin separates the overlapping bands, which cover the animal's head, back, legs, and tail. The bendable nature of this skin allows some species to pull in their legs and roll up into their carapace. Not quite like a turtle, but the same idea.

Two armadillo species can roll into a tight ball to avoid being eaten, while others run from predators into burrows or thorny vegetation (where their outer protection comes in handy).

While the armor may help protect them from bullets, I would gather the protective carapace works a lot better against coyotes, bears, pumas, and alligators.