Nature filled with unique animals

October 14, 2012 

The natural world is full of mysterious, amazing and wonderful creatures.

Sometimes, it can be hard to tell the difference between what is real and what is only a myth. In the Northwest, we have some incredible natural wonders that sound almost too bizarre to be real.

Aequorea victoria, a common jellyfish in the Puget Sound waters, can really make a statement when agitated. This amazing jellyfish combines two different proteins within its body to create bioluminescence and glow in the dark. Scientists have been able to extract one of these proteins and apply it to modern medicine to help researchers track proteins in living cells.

Jellyfish aren’t the only ones lighting up our local waters. Noctiluca scintillans, more commonly known as sea sparkle, is a marine-dwelling species of dinoflagellate, or single-celled organism.

These amazing creatures also exhibit bioluminescence when disturbed. Beachgoers have reported glowing clouds in the waves, and some swimmers have reported emerging from the water wearing a ghostly glow.

While the water has ghostly glowing organisms, dry land also is covered with its own wondrous creatures. Washington is home to at least four species of jumping slugs, which include the warty jumping slug, keeled jumping slug, Malone and the dromedary jumping slug.

Although they are called jumping slugs, they do more of an acrobatic corkscrew motion as a defensive action that allows them to let go of whatever surface they are clinging to. These slugs are the only terrestrial gastropod to exhibit such a behavior.

If jumping slugs don’t wow you, how about an owl that can locate its dinner in complete darkness just by hearing the sounds of footsteps?

The North American barn owl can pinpoint the location of its prey using its highly developed auditory system.

Some researchers believe that barn owls can tell the type and size of the rodent they are hearing.

While owls have excellent hearing, it is a myth that they can turn their head 360 degrees. While their ability to turn their head surpasses that of a human, owls can turn their head only 270 degrees.

To better understand what that means, try putting your left hand on your right shoulder. Now turn your head to the left and see how far you can turn. If you were an owl, you would be able to turn far enough around to touch your chin to the hand on your shoulder.

CREATE OWN CREATURE

Learning about the wonders of the natural world is always fun, but making up your own amazing creatures can be just as exciting.

Head out into your favorite natural area and think about what your new mysterious creature might need in order to survive there. Will it need to glow in the dark or make amazing acrobatic leaps in order to defend itself? Will it need super-human hearing to find its dinner?

Write down all the things your new animal will need to survive and then draw a picture of what it might look like.

Learn More

Discover how mysterious and amazing Northwest animals maneuver through the dark of night during the annual Hoot ’n’ Howl event at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park.

Highlights: Event include nighttime tram tours, education stations and games.

When: 6-10 p.m. Oct. 26-27

Admission: $11 for members ages 13 and older and $7 for members ages 3-12; $13 for nonmembers ages 13 and older and $9 for nonmembers ages 3-12. Ages 2 and younger get in free.

Information: Go to nwtrek.org

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