going wild at world animal day

new gecko species: gekko cutiepieus

we celebrated world animal day at the national geographic museum.
we spotted toot and puddle in the courtyard as we were on our way to
a short multimedia presentation by greg marshall,
the national geographic explorer who invented the crittercam.
he explained that he got the idea from watching remoras
— little fish that attach themselves to other fish for food, transportation and/or protection —
latched onto sharks and he pondered that it must be amazing to be a remora
and swim along with the sharks, seeing everything the sharks see.
it turns out, according to marshall, that sharks are pretty boring.
out of the hundreds of hours of shark footage,
no one has yet to see them feed.
maybe sharks aren’t the ravenous predators that humans think.
marshall and his team tested the crittercam on themselves,
even marshal’s son, and animals in captivity before trying it on animals in the wild.
scientists have corrected many of their assumptions about animals
after watching these videos of animals in their natural habitat.
marshall showed a few examples in his videos, for example:

  • penguins hunt solo and, like eagles do from above,
    spot their prey from far below the ice and then strike.

  • most animals can’t see red so they put red l.e.d. lights on the crittercam.
    however squids can, and they aggressively attacked the device
    until it came off and floated away.
    marshall showed some spectacular footage
    — after they attached the crittercam to another squid,
    videotaping during the daylight hours with the l.e.d. off. —
    the squids communicated
    — so scientists think —
    by a luminescent morse code, changing the color of their skin
    like we can quickly turn on and off a light switch.

after the talk we headed into the main hall for some more fun.
sanaa decorated and self-addressed a post card for jean pennycook to send to her from antarctica. we got to put it in jean’s hand! that’s some mail we can look forward to.

next, we learned a bit about how geckos have no eyelids,
and thus lick their eyes to keep them moist.
that was kind of hard for the girls to replicate with gecko masks on,
so they settled on licking a green lollipop decorated with a gecko eye,
and pocketing some gecko magnets and tattoos.
we’ll have to go back on the museum’s free wednesdays to see the live gecko exhibit.

lastly we experienced splash! animals.
set to animal-inspired music,
two artists joined together to energetically paint kaleidoscopic portraits
of endangered animals as the audience tried to guess the animal.

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