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Tag: animals

Curiosity Challenge: How Does an Octopus Breathe in Water?

Hi Alexis, awesome question. My name is Brian Helmuth, and I’m a marine biologist at Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center. I study the oceans to see how they are changing, and to find ways of protecting them. I don’t know about you, but my favorite character in Finding Dory is, all 8 arms down, Hank the octopus, who is able to move around outside of his tank and hide just about anywhere. There are real octopus who have escaped from their aquariums to eat fish in another tank next door, and then returned home after putting the lid back on the tank to hide what they have done! But back to your question, like humans, octopus need to breathe oxygen to survive. But, unlike people, an octopus can be in air for only a few minutes. They much prefer to be in the water where they can breathe with their gills…. Read More

Curiosity Challenge: Can Humans and Animals Understand Each Other?

Hey there, CSF fans, followers, and supporters! Anna Bishop here with a cool Zoosemiotics (animal communication) question from Ella Nelson, age 11, who wants to know if humans and animals understand each other. Excellent question! The answer is everyday and never: it depends on the animal, of course! If you were to scold your dog for getting into the garbage, he might not understand all of your words, but he would know you were angry because of your face, voice, body language, and gestures. He might feel ashamed, because he knows it is something he should not do. However, if you were to scold a chameleon, you might as well scold the wall. Chameleons, in the wild, do not communicate with one another, so their understanding of communication is essentially non-existent. They may be afraid of the loud noise, but they would not understand that you were trying to tell… Read More

Curiosity Challenge: How do Cells Work?

Hi Jollie, thanks for the question. This is a hard question to answer because cells are so different from each other. Cells are specialized to do the job they perform. Nerve cells look completely different than liver cells and perform a different function within the body. Also animal, plant, and bacterial cells all differ from one another. To answer your question I’m going to focus on the general principles that enable animal cells to function.   Cells were initially discovered (observed) following the invention of microscopes in the 17th century.  Cell theory, stating that cells form the fundamental unit of life, was put forward over 150 years later. In the 20thand 21st centuries a major goal of biological research has been to understand how cells work, so that we can recognize what goes wrong in disease and how best to intervene to cure the condition. The working of individual cells… Read More

Curiosity Challenge: How Can Lizards Regrow Body Parts?

      You may know that some animals, such as reptiles and amphibians, can grow back lost body parts, but how do they do that?   Image via Wikimedia Commons The process that allows animals, such as reptiles, to grow back their lost body parts is called regeneration. In order to understand regeneration, we must learn about DNA and gene regulation. Every living organism, from bacteria to plants, and including humans, are made up of cells. Cells are known as the smallest unit of living things. Cells are really small, and you need a microscope to take a close look at them. In fact, the human body is made up of trillions of cells!    You may also know that DNA is called the genetic material in our cells. DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, and it contains instructions for our cells. DNA is made up of nucleotides. We have… Read More

Curiosity Challenge: How Were Animals Created?

Hi there CSF followers, fans, and supporters! Anna Bishop here again, answering an awesome biology question from Ava Hartshorn, Age 7: How Were Animals Created? ( a picture of animal cells under a microscope) Well, it all started about 575 million years ago, a time called the Ediacaran Period, when primitive animals began to develop. Lumps of cells probably weren’t what you were thinking of when you thought of animals! But lumps of cells created the first animals on Earth. There are three educated guesses about how this happened. The first thought is that animals were made from clumps of cells (the smallest units of life) that banded together (like a slime mold) in a group called a “grex,” and helped each other survive. Did you know a slime mold can move around, and is a kind of animal? Another idea is that one cell’s center separated into many cells,… Read More

Spider Superheroes

Hello CSF fans, followers, and supporters! As the festival approaches, I was thinking about some of the awesome events we have going on just around the corner! Since this week’s theme is Earth and Nature, I was thinking about the Spider Superheroes event – an awesome, totally free event for Grades 1 to 4 at Harvard’s Museum of Natural History – all about spiders and the amazing things they can do. Spiders are a special type of animal called an Arachnid that has eight jointed legs and lives mostly on land. They have inhabited Earth, as far as we know, for about 130 million years — hundreds of millions of years before dinosaurs. They are carnivores, and detect their prey with the small hairs on their legs and body. Their sense of touch is exquisite, and probably the inspiration for Spiderman’s “Spidey Sense”. Most spiders catch their prey by spinning… Read More

Curiosity Challenge: Weather and Animals in Antarctica

“What’s the weather like in Antarctica?” — Aaliyah Bester, 7 “How do animals survive in the Antarctic?” — Josephine Sawyer, 8 My friend Rachel stands on the bottom of the world with the Geographic South Pole marker! Courtesy of Rachel Bowens-Rubin. The Antarctic is a really “cool” place–both because of how neat it is, and because it’s so cold!  In fact, the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth was −89.4 °C (−128.9 °F), at the Vostok Station in Antarctica.  I’ve been hearing a lot about Antarctica lately because my friend Rachel has just returned from a trip to the South Pole, which is right in the middle of the continent.  Rachel is an astrophysicist, which means that she studies the physics of stars and planets by looking at them through a telescope.  She was using a telescope at the South Pole to search for special waves in space that might… Read More

How big were T. Rex’s feet?

In our Curiosity Challenge Series… How big were T. Rex’s feet? Question submitted by Aidan Barry, Age 5 Great question, Aidan! While not the biggest carnivorous dinosaur (that distinction belongs to the Spinosaurus), Tyrannosaurus Rex (T. Rex) is arguably the most popular. It is estimated that an adult T. Rex was roughly twelve feet tall – more than double the height of the average American male adult – and weighed about seven tons (about the weight of an African elephant). We often think about – and mock! – the puny size of T. Rex’s arms, but its feet were decidedly more impressive. Foot size can be estimated by looking at a T. Rex skeleton and by measuring T. Rex footprints. No complete T. Rex skeleton has ever been found (the closest we’ve gotten is Sue, the resident T. Rex at the Fields Museum in Chicago, who is about 90% real… Read More

Dissecting the dead and alive—virtually!—at MGH

  by Judith Lavelle At the Paul S. Russell Museum of Medical History and Innovation, you can see demonstrations of a state-of-the-art virtual dissection table at 11AM and 4PM every weekday during the Cambridge Science Festival. A high-tech alternative to traditional cadaver dissections, the Anatomageis finding its way into medical schools as a teaching device. But its capabilities don’t end there. At Massachusetts General Hospital, doctors use the technology to view three-dimensional images of their patients’ bodies—whether these patients have been recently admitted to MGH or showed up a century earlier. I learned about the latter case from Russell Museum docent Jodie Grossman, who led a group of festival-attendees on a tour through the Ether Dome—the national historical landmark where the first public anesthetized surgery took place in 1846. There, she introduced us to MGH’s spokesmummy, Padihershef. We don’t know much about Padihershef’s life and afterlife before he was gifted… Read More