On this cold and snowy day in Colorado, it’s time to talk about turtles. What do they do when it’s this cold (and their pond freezes over)? They are cold-blooded after all. Well, they hibernate. Painted turtles slow their body metabolism down by as much as 95% and spend the winter at the bottom of a pond. Except, wait, don’t they need some oxygen? They do! And that’s where this gets both interesting and funny.
Painted turtles have a cloaca – an all-purpose orifice. Basically, it’s their butt. Turns out that area has special blood-vessels that takes up oxygen directly from the water, so the turtles do not need to breathe air. So the next time you wonder what painted turtles are doing in the winter, know that they are taking a snooze at the bottom of a pond and breathing through their butts.
Anyone who’s ever been to my house knows that yard work is not high on our priority list. We like to go for the “au naturel” look. And we succeed marvelously. Luckily, we live in an area where that’s okay. Perhaps that’s why we live where we do. Anyway, I read an article earlier this week that slashed any guilt (there wasn’t much to begin with) I might have had about our lack of fall clean-up. The article, “To Help Birds This Winter, Go Easy on Fall Yard Work,” was published by Audubon. I’m happy to help birds!
My distaste for yard work aside, I’d always known on some level that much of the organic material did need to stay in place so the seeds could work their way into the ground and to replenish the soil. But I’d never thought about the birds and the bugs. Of course all of that stuff is good for them! Decomposing leaves, flowers, grasses, and the like all provide food and shelter throughout the winter. So, I’ll sweep the walkways, and trim and tidy a bit here and there. That’ll take an hour. After that, I’ll sit back and enjoy the fruits of my (lack of) labor all winter.
Let’s talk about vultures. They are definitely not the most glamorous of animals. After all, they’re a bit odd looking (even ugly?) and they eat roadkill. But they are oh, so cool. Let’s start with why many species of vultures are bald. That’s so when they stick their heads in that rotting, nasty roadkill, the festering blood full of bacteria doesn’t get stuck in their feathers! And now you’re probably wondering, how they can eat rotting meat in the first place and not get sick. Turns out that the stomach acid of vultures is so corrosive that it can dissolve some metals and therefore makes short order of any bacteria in the dead meat they feast on. That stomach acid comes in handy in other ways too. Once digestion is complete, vultures poop on their own legs. Disgusting? Most certainly. However, not only does that help vultures to cool down on hot days, but the acids help to disinfect their legs and feet after they’ve been mucking around inside a carcass. Yes, you read correctly. Their poop acts like a cleanser. The stomach acid of vultures is also useful when it comes out the other way – when they barf. Some vultures will projectile vomit when threatened. If the smell alone doesn’t send a predator running, the acid that is in their vomit will. No, vultures are not glamorous; but there’s no denying it – they are amazing.
Tomorrow I will celebrate a very important birthday…Crazy Contraptions: Build Rube Goldberg Machines that Swoop, Spin, Stack, and Swivel will (officially) be released. This particular book has had an interesting life leading up to publication…proposal, acceptance, contract, completion, submission, release from contract, anger, determination, a question, new contract, rewrite, and VIOLA! You can read the details from my blog on August 19, 2019 when the actual books arrived on my doorstep.
The takeaway, for kids, other authors, anyone, is that determination and hard work pay off. That, and physics really can be LOADS of FUN! Happy contraption building.