Introducing the Butterfly Proboscis (Snoot, Sippy Straw & Sponge)
Butterfly tongue (Flicker Sharing: Thomas Quine)
How Butterflies Get Their Fluids
I think I have a form of nature attention deficit disorder because I get so easily distracted by anything in the natural world. In meetings I'm focusing on the sparrows outside my window and and analyzing their flock structure. At restaurants I'm looking at moths flying around lights and trying to identify them. I can't help it, it's what I do. Thus, while sitting on a dock watching the sunrise I noticed a butterfly probing a fairly fresh pile of scat that the morning's inhabitants had left. It sat there for a long time, probing with its long tongue and "dung sipping" (yes, there is a term called "dung sipping" that scientists use, makes for a great insult to other entomologists). Butterflies also can be found sipping carcasses and dead things too (so much for a butterfly's beauty eh?.."corpse sipper" anyone?). Here's a picture of what I observed:
Swallowtail butterfly drinking from dung (Photo: K. McDonald).
Most people that I meet think that when a butterfly visits a flower that it's using its tongue to sip nectar. This is what happens, but the butterfly's tongue is more like a combination sponge and sippy straw instead of just a straw. Let's start with the correct sciency terms for you to stash for future garden parties.....
Giant Clam: A Living Greenhouse For Algae
The interior mantle of a giant clam can be quite striking. (Photo: Wiki Commons).
How Giant Clams Act asGreenhouses for Algae
Normally I stick to North American species of animals, but I thought the story of giant clams was too good to pass up, especially because of the emphasis on the study of light in the Next Generation Science Standards. Let's start with giant clam 101:
Spider Legs: Hydraulics in Action
Spiders are amazing works of engineering (Photo: Karen McDonald).
How Spider Legs Work
Let's face it, spiders are considered creepy by a large majority of people around the world. Yet when you ask them, most folks can't really name what it is about spiders that freaks them out so much. Usually explanations start with beady eyes, fangs, bites, or wrapping up their prey. Spider movement is also at the top of the list. They scuttle and scurry around at night (especially when you turn on the lights and they scamper off), jump, and generally run in a "creepy" way. But what makes their movement really foreign and creepy to us? The answer lies in two key elements of their anatomy, their skeleton and muscles.
Biomimicry and 3D Printing: Emerging Technologies Together
Beetle wings and carapaces are a source of inspiration (Biomimicry) for materials in 3D printers. (Photo: Wikicommons)
Biomimicry and 3D Printing: Is That An Insect You're Wearing?
One of my greatest inspirations and passions in life is a field of science called biomimicry. When people hear the term for the first time they usually think of animals or insects "mimicking" a plant or animal through camouflage, like a moth blending into tree bark. Biomimicry is more than this. It is a combination of science, technology, mathematics, and engineering which looks to nature as a teacher to solve modern human design challenges. This is based on the idea that nature has had millions of years to work out design problems through evolutionary trial and error, using only naturally occurring and biodegradable materials. Biomimicry places value on the inherent wisdom and information that nature possesses, as opposed to what can be harvested, collected, or extracted from nature. The reason I like this field is because it brings together biologists, scientists, engineers, researchers, designers, those who make materials, design products, chemists, and more all to the same table, and all looking at nature differently. But how are biomimicry and 3D printing coming together?
The Winner of the Biomimicry & Mobility 2025 Design Challenge Announced
The Automotive World is Engaging with Nature and Biomimicry as an R & D Lab
Designers from the DesignLA Board of Directors, at the LA Auto Show Competition, have chosen the winner of this year's automotive design challenge titled Biomimicry & Mobility 2025. Competitors from around the world were invited to join the challenge that would use biomimicry, using models from nature, to create a vehicle to increase human mobility and efficiency. As stated on their website, "The winning entry will identify issues facing mobility like congestion, pollution, sustainability, flexibility and safety and to design a mobility solution that mimics nature to solve the challenges."
The Suba-Roo personal mobility design concept.