no ordinary world — Science

A Bee's Buzz

Where do bees get their buzz?  No, I’m not referring to the sound their vibrating wings make when they fly.  In fact, I’m talking about a much more colloquial “buzz” – the one you get from caffeine when you drink a cup of coffee.  It turns out bees also enjoy the little boost in energy they reap from coffee plants when they drink the nectar, which contains low levels of caffeine that the pollinators obtain much satisfaction from. Plants originally evolved caffeine as a defense against herbivory because it can be toxic at high levels.  However, at low levels, it...


Mystery underwater sand circles are actually puffer fish art

If you thought crop circles were strange, odds are you haven’t seen these: The underwater version of crop circles!  Some of the intrigue with crop circles faded once people stopped thinking they were made by aliens, but these sand circles are even more interesting to behold once you know where they do come from. So who or what makes these enigmatic sculptures where they are doomed to fade into nonexistence once the ocean erodes them away?  No, not an alien race, nor a group of people from of the legendary Atlantis, but Puffer fish! Male puffer fish craft their detailed...


Dress to impress: bird courtship rituals

[caption id="attachment_190" align="alignleft" width="300"] Mandarin duck[/caption] Birds exhibit some of the most elaborate and bizarre courtship rituals of any animals on earth.  Here are a few of the more beautiful and zany examples: The marvellous spatuletail hummingbird exhibits one of the most extreme courtship rituals (see video below).  The male bird has two elongated tail feathers that end in a large violet-blue disc, or spatule.  The male bird hovers in the air, waving his spatules in front of the female and making a snapping sound with his beak.  To the hummingbird, which is the size of a ping-pong ball, this...


Dragon dance

Meet Nessie the sea dragon.  No, she’s not the monster that has popularized a certain Scottish loch, but is in fact a very real animal related to seahorses and pipefish that roams the weedy beds off the coast of Australia.  Like a dragon, Nessie has a plated body to protect herself.  She is one of the masters of camouflage, a method of crypsis many animals use to conceal themselves from predators. There are two types of sea dragons, the leafy sea dragon and the weedy sea dragon. Nessie is a leafy seadragon, and indeed she looks just like a leaf...


From Marlin to Marilyn: Clownfish Change Their Genders! Bizarre Courtship and Mating Rituals in the Animal Kingdom

[caption id="attachment_73" align="alignleft" width="300"] Clownfish in anemone home[/caption] It turns out Finding Nemo had it wrong.  When a barracuda ate mom in the first scene of the movie, Marlin would not become a single dad, because being a single dad clownfish is impossible.  Realistically, Marlin would have become Marilyn- a single mom! Clownfish are protandrous sequential hermaphrodites.  In other more pronounceable words, clownfish start their lives as males and then change into females.  Why is this necessary? Clownfish live in sea anemones and have adapted so they are unharmed by the anemone’s stings.  Because of its unique mutualistic relationship with...