Spring in Northern Ontario is synonymous with rising water levels, the appearance of buds on trees, the return of songbirds and… black flies. These insects are part of the landscape in Ontario, which means we have to deal with them! The arrival of these creatures can be a source of great nuisance and anxiety to us as we go outdoors to enjoy the beautiful spring weather, but keep in mind that they play a significant ecological role.Black flies start their lives as larvae in the water, usually in streams and rivers. The larvae do not have legs but instead have an attachment disk at the end of their bodies (abdomen). This disk allows the black fly to remain attached to rocky surfaces and prevents them from being swept away by the current. On their head, they have two fan-like structures that help them to collect food. These head fans act like little sieves, collecting small particles of algae, bacteria, and other organic material in the water . Once a food particle gets caught on these fans, the insect quickly retracts them and directs the food into its mouth.Black fly larvae spend a few weeks or months in the water eating and getting bigger. In early spring, they transform into a cocoon-like stage, called a pupae, and from there transform into adult insects. The adults then emerge, rise to the surface, and fly away from their aquatic home. Adults feed on plant nectar and generally live for only a few weeks. During this time, they mate and lay eggs in streams and rivers, thereby completing their lifecycle.Black flies play an important role in the food web of aquatic ecosystems. They are food sources for large insects such a mayflies, stoneflies and small fish. These in turn become food for larger fish like trout. That is why I tell fisherman to look out for black fly larvae on rocks in streams. If they find these insects, there is a good chance that trout will also be found nearby.We only find black fly larvae in flowing, clean and well-oxygenated water. They cannot tolerate any forms of pollution such as silt, fertilizers or pesticides. Since they are sensitive to pollution, biologists have been using them for many years as indicators to determine the health of aquatic ecosystems. For example, if a stream previously had black fly larvae and suddenly none are found, this could indicate that something has disturbed the ecosystem. In order to create eggs, female black flies require blood protein from other animals. Only female black flies bite. They find a potential target by detecting the carbon dioxide and scents released by animals. Once they land on an animal, they use their serrated mouthparts to cut the skin and collect blood. The poor unsuspecting “prey” ends up with an itchy red bite!In some parts of the world, black flies are quite dangerous since they transmit a disease known as “river blindness”, causing infected individuals to lose sight. In Northern Ontario, black flies do not transmit disease but some people will have an allergic reaction to the bites. There are ways you can protect yourself from black flies:Black flies are only active during the day. Peak biting times are usually in early morning and early evening. Restrict your outdoor activities to midday or later in the evenings.Repellents are somewhat effective. DEET is the most effective repellent. Keep in mind that repellents are not as effective to black flies as they are to mosquitoes. In areas of where there are lots of black flies, repellents many not work in protecting you .Wear light-coloured clothing (e.g. khakis, whites, beige). A bug suit consisting of a jacket with hood and screened face shield is effective in preventing bites. Ensure that you tuck in your pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants; black flies are known to crawl under clothes to gain access to skin. Black flies are part of spring life in Northern Ontario. As annoying as they can be, they do play an important ecological role in food webs and pollinating plants. It's so surprising how such a small creature can have can have an impact on our lives. If you have any questions about black flies, you can post a comment below or contact me on Twitter: @BruceRDoran.
Every spring I get a few inquiries from people who have woodlots. They tell me that they are hearing ducks quacking in the woods. Yet when they investigate, they find nothing. What they’re hearing is not a duck but Wood frogs! Wood frogs are easily recognized by their small brownish bodies (about 5-8 cm long) and the mask-like streaks on each side of their head. Wood frogs start calling at the beginning of spring thaw in late March or early April, often when snow is still on the ground. These land-based frogs thaw out once the ground gets warm and they gather around pools of snowmelt. Males make a “clucking” call to attract females. When several males call together, it almost sounds like quacking ducks! Once a female approaches a male, he will clasp to her back. She will then lay her eggs in a pool and he will immediately fertilize them. Since the eggs are in pools that will dry up by early June, the eggs and tadpoles develop incredibly quickly. The eggs hatch and tadpoles become little froglets in as little time as 4-6 weeks! These temporary pools also offer advantages to the Wood frogs. The pools are small and can warm up quickly helping to speed up the frogs development. These pools also do not have any fish or other aquatic predators that might eat the frogs. The tadpoles can live in relative safety as long as they complete their development before the pool dries up. Once the froglets emerge from the pool, they hide under leaf litter in the forest. The froglets continue their growth during summer, getting bigger by eating insects and worms. So next time you take a walk outside in the woods in early spring and hear ducks quacking, it most likely is the male Wood frogs singing to attract potential mates. Listen to the call of a Wood frog.If you have any questions about Wood frogs, you can post a comment below or contact me on Twitter: @BruceRDoran.
At Science North we regularly receive requests to take pets from people that no longer want them or can no longer keep them. In many cases, these pets are what I would call exotic animals, which include birds, reptiles, amphibians and even fish that people have purchased without thinking through the decision. Some of these animals are illegal to keep, such as the situation of the macaque in Toronto. Therefore, we need to be aware of the regulations and effort it takes to care and keep these exotic pets.Pets that we have at home are in fact exotic in nature. The word “exotic” describes any animal that is not native to Canada. This includes most domesticated animals such as cats, dogs and cattle. Most people have an idea of the amount of care it takes to keep a cat or dog but we are not always aware of how to care for other exotic pets such snakes, turtles, birds and fish. Once people realize the amount of effort (and costs) it takes to care for the newly acquired pet, often they no longer wish to keep it. Unfortunately, many pet shops are not very forthcoming on the actual cost in money and time it takes keep some of these pets. The following is a brief description of the care required for some of the most popular exotic pets:TurtlesTurtles require an aquarium, filters and specialized lamps (ultraviolet and/or heat lamps). These can cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the size of the aquarium and filters purchased. Turtle food can be purchased at pet stores but it is recommended that we vary their diet and include foods such as minnows, earthworms and vegetables. The amount of care is highly dependent on the size of the aquarium and filters purchased. Since most people will buy some of the smaller equipment, the water in which the turtle is kept will foul more quickly. In this case, owners will have to clean the entire aquarium once or twice a week. If it is not cleaned regularly, the aquarium and filter will start to smell quite bad. Also, dirty equipment can affect the health of the turtle and could result in its death. Turtles are also carriers of bacteria called salmonella and if ingested by people (i.e. after touching the turtle and not washing their hands), this can cause gastroenteritis that can lead to diarrhea and vomiting. Many owners purchase these turtles as babies without realizing that these will grow much larger and therefore require more space. Owners are then on the hook to buy larger aquaria and filters to accommodate their growing pet. Perhaps the main reason why turtles do not make good pets is their lifespan. Most store-bought turtles can live up to 50 years … imagine having to take care of an animal for that long!SnakesSnakes require an aquarium, heat lamp or heat mat. Depending on the size of the snake, a medium size aquarium is acceptable. Keep in mind, snakes come in all sizes. Some snakes such as boas and anacondas can grow up to 2.5 metres (over 8 feet) long. Therefore, one would require an aquarium or enclosure the size of a closet to hold these snakes! Large snakes are usually fed small mammals (e.g. mice, rats, rabbits) that can be purchased in pet stores. Depending on the species, snakes can live up to 30 years. Another difficulty about keeping snakes is how good they are at escaping, especially if their enclosures have not been closed properly. Once they have escaped, snakes can be quite difficult to find since they can hide in spots like pipes, ventilation systems or between walls. They can also easily leave the house and hide outside. Imagine having to explain to your neighbours that you have lost your pet snake!BirdsThe size of the cage to purchase will depend on whether one obtains a budgie or a larger bird such as a parrot. Many owners tend to allow their birds free access in the house but this can lead to issues with the birds escaping or defecating on couches, curtains or carpets. A bird is relatively easy to feed as it eats grains, nuts, insects or fruits. The main issue with birds is their long lifespan. Parrots can live up to 100 years and in many cases outlive their owners! Arrangements have to be made so that the bird is cared for after the owner passes away. This is not something many people think about when they are looking to purchase a bird.MonkeysMonkeys, such as macaque, may look quite cute but keeping them can be very difficult. They are intelligent animals and require constant supervision and interaction with people. Unlike a cat, one cannot leave a monkey alone since they will develop emotional and mental issues. They must be constantly stimulated with toys or games and owners must spend lots of time with them. There is also the issue of house-training the monkey so that it will defecate in a specific location and not climb on things like curtains, or lamps. Most people do not know how to train such animals, which could result in conflicts between the owner and the pet. Depending on the species, these monkeys can live between 10 and 30 years, which makes them a long-term pet. One of the main issues with monkeys is that many of them are carriers of diseases that can affect humans. For example, many domesticated macaques are infected with herpes B virus which can cause severe neurological diseases in humans. An infected monkey can transmit this dangerous disease by biting a human. That is why it is not a good idea to keep monkeys as pets at home.Keep in mind that zoos and science centres will rarely accept an exotic pet. These centres either do not accept exotic animals or already have a collection of these and therefore cannot keep more animals. Also, releasing these pets into the wild is not a good idea. Many of these animals are not adapted to live in our climate (i.e. cold winters) and will not survive. Releasing these animals can also spread diseases that could affect local wildlife, other pets and even your neighbours! Another issue is that these animals do not belong in our environment and their release can upset our natural ecosystem. For example, Burmese pythons were released in the Florida everglades by owners who no longer wanted to keep them. These pythons are causing major problems in the ecosystem since they eat any small animal and are in fact eating alligators! In an effort to control their population, the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission recently launched a challenge allowing ordinary citizens to catch and kill these snakes. The release of exotic pets in our region could have similar impacts in that they could disturb our ecosystem and could lead to the loss of native species.Before buy any exotic pet (or any pet) ask yourself these questions:Do you have the time to take care of this animal?Do you have the money to take care of this animal? Are you willing to spend more money as the animal grows and its needs change?Are you willing to take care of your pet for its entire lifespan? Are you willing to take care of an animal for the next 20, 30 or even 80 years? Will you make arrangements for your pet in the case you pass away?Do you have a local vet that can take care of your pet? If not, are you will to travel long distances to bring it to a suitable vet? Are you willing to pay for the vet bills?Does your municipality allow such pets? Are you planning to move to another municipality that may not allow such pets?Are you planning to stay for a long time in your current dwelling or are you planning to move often? Will your new dwelling (i.e. rental property) allow you to keep your pet?Will your life or family situation change? Are you planning to have children later on in life? Will you be able to take care of both children and your pet? Will your pet be dangerous to children (or vice versa)?These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself before purchasing an animal. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of having an exotic pet and not make an impulse purchase. An animal might look cute in the pet store but it can become quite annoying or even dangerous if you are not able to care for it properly. Think about this before getting yourself an exotic pet.
Ectothermic animals, also known as “cold” blooded animals, are those that rely on external (i.e. environmental) heat sources to warm up their bodies. In other words, they cannot maintain a constant body temperature through internal metabolic processes. These animals depend on the sun to warm up their bodies or must seek shade or water to cool off. Their metabolism is thus at the mercy of air and water temperatures.Ectothermy presents a challenge for animals during the winter season. As temperatures plummet, so too does an ectothermic animal’s body temperature, to the point where it can no longer function and may even die. Ectothermic animals have evolved special strategies to deal with the cold and survive through our harshest winter months.Many invertebrates (animals without backbones) such as snails, worms, insects and spiders deal with the cold in several ways. Some of them will try to escape the cold weather by digging deep into the soil below the frost line. Others survive in their immature forms in the water underneath the ice layer of lakes and rivers. But most will survive by allowing themselves to freeze during the winter. For example, many mosquito species in Ontario will survive as frozen eggs in the soil. Many butterflies will survive as frozen caterpillars or pupae. Some other insects will survive the winter as adults; this explains why we see flies and ladybird beetles flying in our homes on warm winter days.Most vertebrates (animals with backbones) cannot survive the winter months by allowing their bodies to freeze, but there are a couple of exceptions. Wood Frogs and Gray Treefrogs produce chemical compounds, known as cryoprotectants, which protect their cells and organs against the harmful effects of freezing. These compounds allow the frog’s body to freeze and then thaw out the following spring completely unharmed! Most other ectothermic vertebrate animals do not produce cryoprotectants, so must somehow avoid freezing temperatures. As long as they can find an environment above 2-3°C, they will survive winter temperatures.Ectothermic terrestrial vertebrates such as salamanders, toads, and snakes, deal with the cold by burying themselves or by sleeping in crevices deep in the ground. Aquatic animals spend their time in the water underneath the ice layer. Even though the water under the ice is quite cold, aquatic ectothermic animals can survive here since this environment is always a few degrees above freezing. Most fish species remain active during the winter with only a few species (e.g. sunfishes) burying themselves in the mud. Many frog species such as Bullfrogs, Green frogs and Leopard frogs also bury themselves in the bottom of lakes and rivers. Most turtles in Ontario will hide underneath logs or rocks at the bottom and sleep during the winter. One question I’m frequently asked by visitors is how turtles “breathe” underwater while they are sleeping. Unlike frogs, which can absorb oxygen through their skin, turtles need to come to the water surface to take oxygen from the air. In the winter, turtles cannot do this and have evolved an interesting strategy to obtain oxygen. They use their cloaca, a posterior opening for the intestinal, reproductive and urinary systems, to absorb oxygen from the water. This cloaca is highly vascularized (i.e. lots of blood vessels) and absorbs enough oxygen for the turtle’s needs, which are quite low when sleeping in cold water. In a sense, a turtle ‘breathes” through its rear end during its winter sleep!As you can see, ectothermic animals are well adapted to survive our winter conditions. Many of them escape the cold by finding areas that do not freeze whereas others resist the cold, having evolved special chemicals and processes that allow their bodies to survive freeze and thaw cycles. Next time when you bundle up to go outside, remember these animals that have evolved incredible ways to survive the cold without the convenience of hats, mitts and coats.If you have any questions on how animals survive the winter season, you can post a comment below or contact me on Twitter: @BruceRDoran.
Science does not have to be limited to scientists in laboratories or in the field. Anyone can be involved in science to help better the world. A community group in Sudbury, the Junction Creek Stewardship Committee, is comprised of community members and local agencies that are working together to restore the health of an urban creek. This volunteer based committee is cleaning up Junction Creek and restoring life. One exciting component that they are working on is to create new wetland habitat along the creek.Over the next few months, this community group will work with experts and use scientific principles and knowledge to build habitat essential for the ecosystem of Junction Creek. This video demonstrates how these “new” wetlands are being built and techniques to support plants and animals that will live within them.
When people think of nature, they usually think of large expanses of habitat, far away from cities. In reality, nature is all around us and urban sites tend to be overlooked. One such site is the Lily Creek wetland, found in the heart of the city. Lily Creek, like many other natural urban areas, is valuable to the ecology of the area and the overall well-being of the citizens of Greater Sudbury.Lily Creek essentially plays the role of a small nature reserve in a sea of concrete, asphalt, and buildings. It provides habitat and food for a variety of organisms that would otherwise have to live outside the city. On many occasions, I have come across mallard ducks, marsh wrens, rails, herons, muskrats, and beavers that regularly use Lily Creek as their home. Some animals use Lily Creek in order to complete their lifecycle. Once such example is the Northern Pike, which requires marshy areas to spawn and develop. Since these habitats are few along the shoreline of some of our local lakes (due in part to development), Lily Creek allows these fish to grow before making their way back to our urban lakes. This wetland provides a natural corridor for animals by providing a safe environment to move from one area to another within the city. Many migratory species use this habitat as a pit stop. This is especially apparent in spring and autumn when numerous ducks, geese and songbirds can be found eating aquatic plants, wild rice, insects and fish before they continue on their long journey. Lily Creek is essential for those animals that do not migrate or have a difficult time moving about in the city, since they would otherwise not be able to live in the area. Lily Creek also plays an important role for the city. The marsh is bordered by two of the busiest streets in Sudbury, Paris and Regent, and receives runoff that contains pollutants such as road salts, sand, and oils. The wetland helps to trap these pollutants before they enter our local lakes. The marsh also acts as a sponge, helping to mitigate the impacts of snowmelt and high levels of rain. Excess water is absorbed by the marsh plants and soil, which help to prevent flooding. This was apparent a few years ago when Sudbury experienced a massive rainfall that resulted in many basements being flooded. In contrast, the area around Lily Creek, including the soccer and baseball fields, was slightly waterlogged but did not experience massive flooding compared to other areas in the city.Natural urban areas have also been shown to be essential to the mental and emotional well-being of citizens. Lily Creek is a perfect example of this. Patients from the nearby hospital as well as citizens regularly visit the wetland. I often see people on the boardwalk, sitting on the benches and enjoying the view and experience Lily Creek has to offer. This place allows people to relax and to escape from the hustle of the city and of their lives.For both wildlife and citizens, the importance of natural urban areas cannot be overlooked. City parks, beaches, and even the small woodlot in your backyard should be cherished. These natural oases may be small but add immensely to the vitality and health of the city.I invite you to visit Lily Creek and walk the boardwalk and enjoy our urban wetland. See what makes it a special and unique habitat in the heart of our city.If you have any questions about Lily Creek, you can post a comment below or contact me on Twitter: @BruceRDoran.
West Nile virus arrived in North America in 1999 and has spread throughout Canada. The virus is carried by a variety of animals, namely birds, and is transmitted by mosquitoes. One particular mosquito genus, Culex species, has been linked to the transmission of the disease to humans. Within humans, the disease has a variety of symptoms with most being flu-like in nature (i.e. muscle aches, slight fevers). In 1 or 150 individuals, the disease can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and other serious neurological diseases. That is why it is important that people minimize the chances of contracting West Nile virus by protecting themselves from mosquito bites. Wearing long sleeved sweaters, pants, applying DEET and restricting outdoor activities during the daytime hours will help individuals from being bitten by mosquitoes.Click on the video post to learn more about West Nile virus and what can be done to protect yourself. Have a question? Leave it below, or contact me on Twitter @BruceRDoran
Science is not always limited to scientists in laboratories, or researchers in the field. Anyone can be involved in science to help better the world around them.A community group in Sudbury, known as the Junction Creek Stewardship Committee is comprised of community members and local agencies that are working together to restore the health of an urban creek. All volunteers, this committee is cleaning up Junction Creek and restoring life. One exciting component that they are working on is the creation of new wetland habitat along the creek. Over the next few months, this community group will work with experts and use scientific principles and knowledge to build habitat essentials for the ecosystem of junction creek. This video introduces the members of the committee, and provides preliminary information about some of the work that will be ongoing to create three wetland habitats.If you have any questions, or are interested in learning more, you can find me on Twitter @BruceRDoran.
You may have heard about the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake found in Blind River on July 21, 2012. This area was part of the historic range of Eastern Massasauga, and therefore it is not surprising to find a few individuals there today. To learn more about the Eastern Massasauga, check out this post by Kathryn! (Bruce Doran, Staff Scientist)Did you know that Ontario has it's very own species of rattlesnake? It’s called a Massasauga Rattlesnake. The Massasauga is small as far as rattlesnakes go, and it is not typically an agressive species. Being able to identify the Massasauga is a good idea though, just in case you are ever in an area where Massasaugas are found.The Massasauga is the only type of rattlesnake in Ontario. It can be found in four areas of the province: the eastern shore of Georgian Bay, the Bruce Peninsula, a small pocket near Windsor, and a small pocket near Wainfleet Bog in Port Colborne. Sometimes individual snakes are found in other areas of the province, but this isn't common. You can identify this snake is by the markings and its body shape. The markings are in the shape of bowties, and run down their backs. They have a short, wide body with distinct head and neck. To learn more about our resident rattler, please check out the video below!
During the filming of a past Cool Science post, I came across an active beaver lodge. According to the property owner, this lodge had up to six beavers living within it. Beavers had arrived to this area years ago, built a dam and essentially transformed the ecosystem of the area.They created the ecosystem for themselves, but by doing so they created an incredible wetland that many animals and plants now call home. In fact, many animals depend on the engineering skills of beavers for nesting and feeding habitats. Join me in exploring the lodge, dam and wetland that these industrious animals have created and see why they are so important for the ecosystems of Ontario.
You have seen them in marshes, along the edges of lakes and rivers and even in ditches. What you probably do not know is that cattails play an important ecological role. They provide important habitat for birds that nest between them and for aquatic insects and young fish. Their rhizomes (i.e. roots) are an important food source for many animals such as geese and muskrat. They also act as biological filters, removing silt and organic pollutants from runoff. Unlike terrestrial plants that die if submerged in water, cattails have special adaptations to live in waterlogged soils. They have specialized air “channels”, called D-cells in leaves and aerenchyma in shoots and rhizomes, which allow air to travel from the leaves to the roots. Without these air “channels”, the aquatic rhizomes would not be able to obtain oxygen resulting in the death of the plant. Join me in examining this plant up close and discover their amazing adaptations. Do you have questions about wetlands? Find me on Twitter! @BruceRDoran
Every year I get a few calls from concerned citizens about “swarms” of insects appearing at the same time, and covering the surfaces of houses, cars and roads. These shadflies appear every year during the spring season, and are common near large bodies of water. Although some people may not like them, especially when they appear in high numbers, they play an important ecological role.Shadflies, also known as mayflies, start their life in the water. The immature form (called a nymph) is easily recognized by its three long filaments and gills on its abdomen. They spend much of their lives on rocks eating algae, plant matter or smaller invertebrates found the bottom of lakes and rivers. They are one of the favourite food items for fish. Nymphs will spend up to a year underwater before they emerge as an adult. During this stage, the nymph will crawl out of the water by clinging on to a plant. It will then split its skin (called an exoskeleton) and a winged adult will emerge and take flight. Adult mayflies are not good flyers and cannot escape predators. Therefore, they have evolved a strategy to “evade” predators. The adults will time their emergence at the same time so that millions of them will appear. This essentially overwhelms predators, which cannot eat all the mayflies, and therefore many of the insects survive. The role of adult mayflies is to mate and lay eggs before they die. In fact, adult mayflies do not have mouthparts and die several days after they have emerged. Hence, we do not have to be afraid of them since they cannot bite! Mayflies play an important ecological role in providing food to fish, birds and other animal species. Since they appear in great numbers, their bodies provide essential nutrients for plants living along the shoreline. The fact they appear in great numbers is also an indication of a clean aquatic ecosystem. So next time when you see these shadflies, remember that this is a welcomed site – shadflies today, means a clean and healthy ecosystem.
Many people look at wetlands and think that these wet and damp areas are smelly, harbour mosquitoes, and are otherwise completely useless. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Wetlands are important breeding sites for animals; they also act as “pit stops” for migratory birds and provide food sources and important habitats. Wetlands are also important for humans in that they act as sponges by preventing flooding and are also effective filters in removing pollutants from the water. Join me in discovering the four major types of wetlands in Ontario: marshes, swamps, fens and bogs. See how biologists classify these different wetlands and discover the amazing diversity of life in these ecosystems.
Mosquitoes and black flies are some of the most well-liked animals in Ontario... okay, not really. These insects are misunderstood by most people and often have a bad reputation. Although both of these insects bite, they are quite different from one another in terms of lifecycle and habitat. Both have an aquatic life stage, in that they start their lives as larvae (immatures) in the water and then emerge to become adults. Their choices of aquatic habitats are quite different though; mosquitoes breed in temporary pools whereas black flies prefer creeks and small rivers. They both have their ecological roles to play in that they pollinate many species of plants and are an important foodsource for insects, fish, amphibians and birds. Join me in discovering where these insects breed, why they bite and tips on how to protect ourselves from these fascinating creatures.
Spring is upon us and our landscape will soon be filled with the songs of various animals. One of the sounds that people enjoy listening to, especially during the evening, is the call of frogs and toads. These fascinating creatures will spend entire nights for weeks on end singing to attract a mate. Only the males sing, leaving the females to choose a mate based on his ability to sing, the intensity or frequency of his calls, and where he is located. Of course, females will only mate with males of their own species. To accomplish this (and help minimize any confusion amongst species), each species has its own specific time during the season when it sings its unique call. By learning to recognize these different calls, we can discover which frogs and toads are present in our local wetlands. Watch the video to listen to various frog and toad songs and learn some of the tricks to recognize and remember them.
In May 2010, I visited the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya. This sanctuary in Nairobi is dedicated to raising orphaned baby elephants for the first two years of their lives. In this posting, I explain the work of Dame Daphne Sheldrick and her staff in the caring and rearing of these animals that are becoming rarer every day. Unfortunately, many of these babies are orphaned due to poaching, resulting in the brutal deaths of their mothers. The staff of the Trust raise these babies by mimicking the activities that they would normally participate in with their mothers and other wild elephants, such as playing, taking mud baths, eating native food and drinking milk.Discover the incredible work of the people who have dedicated their lives to the welfare of these beautiful animals.
Renovations are currently underway on the 3rd floor, where new exhibits are being built to showcase three ecosystems: forest, wetlands and lakes and rivers. Visitors will experience new hands-on interactive exhibits that will allow them to better understand and appreciate the plants and animals that live within each ecosystem. In addition, new animal habitats are being built to accommodate our animal ambassadors. These habitats will provide more room and features for the comfort of our animals and allow visitors to better see and interact with them. Watch the video to take a tour with one of our Staff Scientists and discover the changes and new features coming to the 3rd floor.
A Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) is quite easy to recognize, with a yellow-coloured chin and throat and a notched upper jaw, giving the turtle a permanent “smile”. It is mainly carnivorous and eats a variety of small animals such as crayfish, insects, worms, leeches, snails, fish, tadpoles and frogs. It has a plastral hinge that allows it to close the anterior (i.e. head) shell opening whenever the turtle retires into its shell. Blanding’s turtles spend most of their time in shallow weedy waters such as ponds, marshes and swamps. Their numbers have been declining due to human activities, which have destroyed many of their habitats.Three Blanding’s turtles currently reside at Science North. Jigsaw (a female) arrived in 1999 after her previous owner was unwilling to care for her. Will and Emy arrived in 2006 after officers working for the Ministry of Natural Resources confiscated them from someone who was trying to sell them in Ontario (it is illegal to buy or sell native species).Watch the video below to learn more about the Blanding’s turtle.
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