Strange but True

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From Xplor: July/August 2019
  • Fish can be a real pain in the neck! Great blue herons have no trouble snaring fish in their bladelike beaks. But swallowing their catch can be a different story. Herons have choked to death by gulping fish too big to fit down their skinny throats.
  • Chanterelles pop up in woods across Missouri in July. The tasty yellowish orange mushrooms contain carotene, the same chemical that gives carrots their signature color.
  • Bad hair day: During summer, you might spot a bare-headed northern cardinal. In most cases, the bird has simply molted all of its head feathers at once rather than a few at a time. The bald bird’s “hair” will usually grow back within a week.
  • When a Walnut sphinx caterpillar gets pecked by a bird, it lets loose a loud shriek. The caterpillar's cry sounds like the call birds use to warn each other of danger. And it usually makes the bird drop the wailing worm and fly for cover.
  • Insects known as sharpshooters fling their pee using a catapult on their tails. The insect’s tail-apult launches tinkle faster than a cheetah can accelerate. Trees infested with these sap-sucking pests rain a pitter-patter of pee.
  • On a summer afternoon, a large shade tree may lose more than 50 gallons of water from its leaves each hour. A forest the size of a football field may lose 8,000 gallons of water per day — enough to fill a small swimming pool.
  • Life for prairie voles has its highs and lows. Numbers of the stubby-tailed, hamster-sized rodents go up and down about every four years. When their numbers peak, a meadow the size of a soccer field may contain 800 voles.

Also In This Issue

Raccoon In a Trash Can
Xplor’s fearless reporter braves the forest after dark to chat with Missouri’s most mysterious masked mammal.
Lichen On The Rocks
It takes special superpowers to survive on Missouri’s mini deserts.

This Issue's Staff

Bonnie Chasteen
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White