You’ll Be Glad to Know What Possums Eat!

Posssum Diet, Ticks, OffGridQuest_com

At night, when you catch sight of an opossum in your car headlights, you are allowed to think, “That is one ugly little animal.”  But what opossums lack in looks, they make up in originality.

They’re America’s only babies-in-the pouch marsupial.  They’re a southern species — proper name Virginia opossum — that’s adapted to New England winters.

They’re one of the oldest species of mammal around, having waddled past dinosaurs.

They eat grubs and insects and even mice, working over the environment like little vacuum cleaners.

“They really eat whatever they find,” said Laura Simon, wildlife ecologist with the U.S. Humane Society.

And they’re an animal whose first line of defense includes drooling and a wicked hissing snarl — a bluff — followed by fainting dead away and “playing possum.”

“They are just interesting critters,” said Mark Clavette, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

And now ecologists have learned something else about opossums. They’re a sort of magnet when it comes to riding the world of black-legged ticks, which spread Lyme disease.

“Don’t hit opossums if they’ve playing dead in the road,” said Richard Ostfeld, of the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.

Ostfeld is forest ecologist and an expert on the environmental elements of infectious diseases like Lyme disease.

Several years ago, scientists decided to learn about the part different mammals play in the spread of the ticks and the disease.

They tested six species — white-footed mice, chipmunks, squirrels, opossums and veerys and catbirds — by capturing and caging them, and then exposing each test subject to 100 ticks.

What they found, is that of the six, the opossums were remarkably good at getting rid of the ticks — much more so that any of the others.

“I had no suspicion they’d be such efficient tick-killing animals,” Ostfeld said.

Indeed, among other opossum traits, there is this: They groom themselves fastidiously, like cats. If they find a tick, they lick it off and swallow it. (The research team on the project went through droppings to find this out. All praise to those who study possum poop.)

Extrapolating from their findings, Ostfeld said, the team estimated that in one season, an opossum can kill about 5,000 ticks.

What ecologists are learning is how complex the interaction of ticks and mammals can be.

For example, foxes probably serve as a host for ticks seeking a blood meal. But foxes are great at killing white-footed mice — the species in the environment credited with being the chief reservoir of the Lyme bacteria.

Likewise, Ostfeld said, opossums, waddling around at night, pick up lots of ticks. Some ticks end up getting their blood meal from the possum. But more than 90 percent of them ended up being groomed away and swallowed.

“They’re net destroyers of ticks,” Ostfeld said.

For Simon, of the U.S. Humane Society, the Cary Institute research is a welcome justification to just leave opossums be.

“People are so hard on them,” she said.

That’s in part because people think oppossums might be rabid when they drool and hiss and carry on when threatened. In fact, opossums are resistant to rabies.

Meanwhile, they are not particularly pretty. People who “ooh” and “aah” over fawns and bluebirds may not extend the same love to pokey animals with triangular heads, white faces and naked tails.

“I tell people ‘We can’t all be beautiful,’ ” Simon said.

courtesy of, see video:  http://www.offgridquest.com/wildlife/

 

What Happens When a Chameleon Looks in a Mirror?

Chameleon, NatGeo-crop

Female in the Mirror 

Females change color to communicate their sexual status to males, Hughes says. Female Mediterranean chameleons, for example, display yellow spots to signal sexual receptivity, according to a 1998 study.

Female social signals may be fewer “because they choose and males are competing to be chosen.”

And if she sees herself in a mirror? It would likely be more subtle than the male reaction, Hughes says—although there isn’t enough knowledge of female chameleons to know for sure.

“Female-female communication in chameleons is generally not well understood,” he says, and may be less obvious than interactions between males.

Color us humans envious of an animal who looks in a mirror and sees little that needs changing.

Male in the Mirror 

Chameleon colors aren’t just camouflage, says Eli Greenbaum, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Texas at El Paso—they also change due to temperature shifts or emotions.

And males get emotional when they see other males that could be rivals for females or habitat.

“Male chameleons will, in most cases, immediately change colors in response to seeing another male, and in this instance, to itself in a mirror,” says Daniel F. Hughes, a doctoral candidate in Greenbaum’s lab. (Related: “What Do Animals See in the Mirror?“).

To illustrate his point, he referred us to a YouTube video of a male panther chameleon, a species native to Madagascar, doing that very thing.

A male chameleon that sees a “rival” would get excited and change from its camo green to noticeable hues of yellow, orange, or even red, says Michel C. Milinkovitch, a biophysicist at the University of Geneva … read more –>   http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/06/…

Dr. Seuss’s Original Lorax Tree in San Diego

Dr Seuss, Lorax Tree, La Jolla, Smithsonian

The lone Lorax tree in Scripps Park, La Jolla. (Courtesy of San Diego Tourism)

In 1937, a long line of publishers rejected a children’s book that would later become a classic. Penned by Theodore Geisel, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street immortalized a street in the author’s hometown, Springfield, Massachusetts. The book was eventually picked up by a publisher, the first in a long line of classics penned by Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.

His first book may have Massachusetts roots, but after World War II Geisel made his way to San Diego, California and moved into an observation tower in ritzy La Jolla. His newly adopted hometown became part of literary history, too. In this home and his studio on Mt. Soledad, Seuss wrote more than 40 children’s books—including the immortal The Cat in the Hat. And though he died in 1991, his legacy still looms large in both San Diego and the history of literature for kids.

“Seuss is the best selling and most influential children’s author in the United States,” Dr. Philip Nel, director of the children’s literature program at Kansas State University, tells Smithsonian.com. “He teaches children not only how to read but why and how to think. He wants children to take an interest in their world and make a better world.” … read more –>  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/…

8 Home Inspection Fails That May Require a Specialist

Home inspectors have the expertise and knowledge of home building to make sure that a house is going to be safe, livable, and worth the investment.

But even home inspectors have their limits. Some don’t have the qualifications to inspect certain aspects of the home, like the sewer drains and chimney, which is why homebuyers may want to call in specialists to review trouble zones.

Here are eight instances when Trulia recommends using a specialist if the general inspector indicates there’s a problem:

  1. Roofs:  Since roof repairs are costly and can cause major problems if put off, home sellers and homeowners may want to prioritize roof repairs. For homes that have shingle roofs, a roof inspector will look for shingles that are cracked, loose, or curling, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, a nonprofit supported by property insurers and reinsurers. Inspectors will also look at off-ridge vents to see if they are loose and for roof leaks, which they can spot if there are water stains around the chimney and pipes. Also they will check for indications inside of leaks (such as ceiling stains or peeling wall paper).
  2. Chimneys:  If the roof inspection reveals signs of damage around the chimney, a chimney specialist should give it a closer examination. This is done with the aid of a chimney inspection camera. Inspectors will also look at the exterior, interior, and accessible parts of the chimney, giving special attention to the strength of the chimney structure and the condition of the flue, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
  3. Geology:  A geological inspection of a property on a hill or in a flood zone will help catch issues like drainage problems or ground shifts. There are often two reports that come from these kinds of inspections: a natural hazard disclosure and a geologic environmental site assessment. The natural hazard disclosure includes a closer look at the maps of the area to hone in on areas that are vulnerable to earthquakes and landslides, according to George Dunfield of the California Board for Geologists and Geophysicists, in a 2005 interview with The Los Angeles Times. A geologic environmental site assessment (which can cost more than $1,000) looks at the soil quality of the property and assesses whether the site is susceptible to contaminants like fuels and solvents.
  4. Sewers:  A sewer line is a heavily used piece of equipment in any home and can go as far down as 16 feet underneath a property to connect to a public sewer system. Home inspectors sometimes call on plumbers and specialty contractors to do a “sewer scoping” with a specialized camera. “A lot of clogging comes from bad installation of sewer pipes, even with brand-new homes,” Bob Ansel, owner of Drain Solvers in Longmont, CO, told The Denver Post. Plumbers can unclog the sewer pipe to get it operational again. But if a sewer pipe needs to be replaced, the price to do so can go upwards of $20,000.
  5. Termite Damage:  Sellers often pay for termite inspection since many lenders require a full report on any termite-related issues before approving a loan.
  6. Moisture, Mold, and Toxins:  Every last inch of a house needs to be checked for these potential deal killers. Inspectors will look for physical signs of mold and moisture and take temperature and moisture readings. Inspectors may also look at the property’s history to see if any previously reported problems may be an indication of mold, according to ABC News.
  7. Asbestos:  If a house dates to 1975 or earlier, there’s a chance asbestos insulation was used around air ducts, water heaters, and pipes. This Old House recommends that homeowners who find asbestos that’s been significantly damaged should avoid touching the material. An industrial hygiene firm and an asbestos abatement contractor may be called in to assess, repair, and clean the property. If this can be easily done, Trulia suggests homebuyers ask the seller to pay for the inspection.
  8. Proper Use:  Homeowners may not need to hire an extra inspector to manage this, but Trulia suggests that they may need to work with the real estate agent. Any major additions or alterations to a home need to have been properly permitted for the sale to be legal. The garage that was converted into a home office might be beautiful, but if the inspector finds out that the proper permits weren’t obtained it could negate the deal.

Home inspectors provide you with important information that can have a major impact on a sale, but they’re not the only ones who may need to get involved in the process.

Often paying the up-front costs for a full inspection today, or before you list your home for sale, can save future expenses and headaches further down the line.

courtesy of:  http://www.thehomestory.com/…

First Athlete to Wear Hijab, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Wins Fencing Bronze Medal

Olympic, Bronze, Fencing, Hijab, Ibtihaj Muhammad, USMag_comIbtihaj Muhammad of the United States celebrates her bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on Saturday, August 13

A moment she’ll never forget. Ibtihaj Muhammad won her first Olympic medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Saturday, August 13 — but that wasn’t her only first!

The 30-year-old athlete became the first U.S. athlete to compete at the Olympic Games wearing a hijab, a veil commonly worn by Muslim women.

Muhammad took home the bronze medal with Team USA during the women’s team saber fencing event on Saturday. She competed with fellow fencers Dagmara Wozniak, Mariel Zagunis and Monica Aksamit to defeat the Italian team 45-30. (The last time the U.S. women’s fencing team won a medal was at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.)

Prior to joining the national fencing team in 2010, Muhammad was a three-time All-American and 2005 Junior Olympic Champion at Duke University. She graduated from the school in 2007 with a double major in international relations and African American studies.

Earlier this week, the New Jersey native spoke to USA Today about becoming the first American to compete at the Olympics in a hijab.

“A lot of people don’t believe that Muslim women have voices or that we participate in sport,” she said on Monday, August 8. “And it’s not just to challenge misconceptions outside the Muslim community, but within the Muslim community. I want to break cultural norms.”

Muhammad added, “It’s a blessing to represent so many people who don’t have voices, who don’t speak up, and it’s been a really remarkable experience for me.”

courtesy of:  http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/… 

California’s Bold Stand Against Islamophobia

Muslims pray while celebrating Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of fasting during the month-long Ramadan, at the Baitul Hameed Mosque in Chino, California on July 6, 2016. The Pew Research center estimated earlier this year there were about 3.3 million Muslims of all ages living in the United States in 2015. / AFP / Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

California’s State Assembly has taken a strong stand against a rising climate of Islamophobia in America.

On Monday, the Assembly passed a resolution that declared August 2016 as Muslim Appreciation and Awareness Month, as part of an effort to acknowledge the “myriad invaluable contributions of Muslim Americans in California and across the country.”

The resolution (HR-59) was introduced by Assemblymember Bill Quirk and passed with bipartisan support, according to NBC.

The writers of the resolution pointed out that California is home to over 240 mosques, more than any other state in the country. The resolution also decried the discrimination that Muslim Americans have had to endure in the years following the September 11 attacks.

“Muslim Americans have made contributions to education, science, entertainment and medicine both nationally and globally,” Quirk told NBC News. “Unfortunately, the Muslim community has been, and continues to be, the target of harassment, discrimination and assaults.” read more –>  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/…

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