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CAT | Fauna




Over the years, we have found a range of interesting insects, butterflies and spiders around our offices but none compare to this beauty found resting on our parking lot.

Antheraea Polyphemus is one of the larger moths, part of the family Saturniidae or Giant Silk Moths. Common throughout most of the US, Polyphemus lives in a variety of habitats but usually where undergrowth is available for concealment.

Our specimen is at the extreme in terms of size with a wing span just over 51/2 inches. We know it is a male due to its two exquisitely delicate, antennae shaped like ferns. Females have thinner, less showy antennae.

The colorings are also breathtaking. The underside of the wings display a variety of shades of brown, cream and grey, interspersed with ripples of darker and lighter shades in a perfect camouflage for brush. But it is the upper wing surface that are the stars of the show, especially the hind wings. Here, initially hidden from view are two large eyes. Half an inch in diameter, the ‘pupil’ is transparent, ringed with a brown yellow ‘iris’ and surrounded by the black ‘eye shadow’ more typical of owls than moths. And therein lies the rationale for the eyes. An unsuspecting predator such as an American Robin may launch its attack only to be met by the fierce some sight of these two ‘owl eyes’ as the moth extends its wings.

Polyphemus have some other interesting characteristics. They do not eat during their brief lifespan! In fact, they do not even have mouth parts. All their energy is derived from their earlier life form as a caterpillar. Typically, it takes ten days to hatch the egg into a caterpillar and 5-6 weeks to metamorphose into its full size as a moth. Unsurprisingly, given the moth’s inability to eat, the caterpillars eat voraciously.

Finally, Polyphemus are nocturnal so while common in the US, they are not observed as often as butterflies. During the day, they shelter in the undergrowth and are hard to see for all predators.

We were lucky. This one had mated and was at the end of its lifespan. It was barely alive when Danny spotted it and it makes for some beautiful pictures with both a regular camera and under a stereo microscope

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Clearing Fall leaves is a thankless task so reward yourself by selecting a few of the more colorful leaves to view under a microscope.

Within seconds you will see what could be satellite images of Earth, the leathery skin of an exotic lizard or is that a giant maw, close up and in full color? The colors look glorious on the trees, but under the microscope the full detail is revealed.

The technique is simple. You simply place a leaf under a stereo microscope or, as with these images, under our new Explorer Series of handheld digital microscopes. We have packaged the Explorers with a range of engaging accessories  for the Holidays, all at reduced prices.

It’s a great way to engage your kids during a blustery afternoon. Our family has an annual tradition of catching falling leaves. It can get quite competitive – first to catch ten – but it’s good fun and great exercise.

It also leads in easily to us all gathered round the microscope to check out the various leaves we have collected. It’s such a relief to hear cries of “Wow, that’s so cool” from other than an X-Box game!

The Seasons offer a wealth of such specimens to view under a microscope……next up, at least in the North East,….examining snowflakes!


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Weightlifting Ants!

An amazing image of an ant lifting 100 times its body weight has won first prize in a science photography contest.

Image Copyright Dr. Thomas Endlein 2010

Image Copyright Dr. Thomas Endlein 2010

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Binocular Hammerhead Sharks

Who would have thought that hammerhead sharks have so much in common with a binocular microscope? Remarkable new research by Dr Michelle McComb, Florida Atlantic University demonstrates that contrary to previous thinking, hammerhead sharks have terrific binocular vision. They can also see through the entire vertical plane – up and down! As if that isn’t enough, with a marginal turn of their head, they can see backwards too. Now there’s an idea for a microscope! See the full article at

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