10 cool things you can learn from the center

April 15, 2012 

What would any science museum be without fun facts to know and tell?

Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know but can learn much more about at the new Nature Research Center:

1The Milky Way doesn’t taste like a candy bar, but it does taste like fruit. In 2009, while searching for evidence of amino acids in space (a key building block of life), scientists found ethyl formate, the chemical responsible for the taste of raspberries and the smell of rum.

2 Alien beings are attacking our coast – alien fish, that is. After escaping from manmade aquariums, the Indo-Pacific lionfish has been spreading along the East Coast (including North Carolina) since 2000, threatening native species.

3 Why do North American fireflies do what they do? To attract mates, of course, and it’s a very intricate process. Males and females flash each other in specific patterns.

4 Whales eat a ton of krill every day. They do it by swimming through clouds of the shrimp-like crustaceans, mouths agape, filtering them out through a bristle-like system called a baleen.

5 Dogs can smell whale scat a mile away. Eventually the krill whales ingest turns to excrement (scat), which floats, and scientists have taken to using dogs to find it. The waste gives information about the whale’s diet, DNA and reproductive status as well as levels of toxins, parasites and stress.

6 Dogs obviously have their research uses, but the humble fruit fly ( Drosophila melanogaster) is one of the most popular research organisms because of its small size, short lifecycle and ease of maintenance in labs.

7 Dogs are related to cats, and bats. Believe it or not, cats, bats, dogs, horses and anteaters have very similar DNA. They comprise the Pegasus family (named after the winged horse of mythology).

8 Monarchs fly south for the winter, and not just anywhere. Eastern Monarch butterflies migrate up to 2,000 miles to a small part of Mexico only 73 miles wide, where oyamel fir trees can be found.

9 You may not be 6 feet tall, but your DNA is. If you were to unwind the DNA strand found in every one of your cells, it would measure more than 6 feet in length.

10 Boiling water won’t kill everything. It does destroy most organisms, but not all of them. Scientists are studying pyrococcus furiosus (“furious fireberry”), which lives and thrives near ocean vents that spew scalding water.

Source: N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences

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