Who’s Your Favorite Footrest?

Do you have a favorite footrest in your home? Putting one’s feet up is so relaxing and relieving. The cushioniest footrest in my house is the one that came with a comfy chair. Simple, functional, the perfect height, very practical.

My favorite non-living footrest

My favorite footrest is covered with a needlepoint I stitched many decades ago. I was living in Michigan, so the Canada Goose theme was appropriate . . . as is the snow. Lots of snow in the lake-effect region of Southern Michigan. I could cross-country ski right out of my garage. I don’t miss the snow now that I’m here in the Sonoran Desert. Snow here is just wrong to me.

My most recent footrest comes to me while I am writing at the table. I don’t even have to pick my feet up – she walks right under me.  She stops, not minding that my feet are resting on her shell. In fact, I think it’s her way of making contact.

Myrtle says hello and rests under my feet as
I type away on the next story

If you want to learn more about tortoises, Myrtle, my footrest tortoise, has inspired a book Don’t Call Me Turtle and a number of workbooks at Lyric Power Publishing, LLC, where science education is fun!

a green book cover with an illustration of a tortoise standing on hind legs, pointing at the viewer
Learn the differences between tortoises and turtles today!
Collage of Science Education Workbooks
Click on Workbooks to see all 23 workbooks, making science education fun!

Word for the Day: Saurophagy (And Autophagy!)

Photo courtesy of Kaimuki Backyard on You Tube.

I learned a new term today. It’s not a word to be used in daily conversation but interesting, nonetheless. The new term is saurophagy. Its means “the eating of lizards.”

I was a little sad to learn this word in a report about one iguana species, C. similis, eating its cousin, C. bakeri. Normally herbivores, iguanas can be opportunistic consumers. C. similis seem to take the opportunity to eat the hatchling C. bakeri heading to the mangroves.

Like most people with access to the Internet, the first thing I did was search saurophagy. It’s apparently a well-kept secret. Google offered me autophagy which is very different. Autophagy is the destruction of cells during normal physiological cycles.

It took a while to find anything on saurophagy. Most of what I found was lizards-eating-lizards research, which makes sense in places with high numbers of lizards. But of course, lizards have many predators. Those predators are usually just called carnivores, nothing fancy like saurophagy.

Saurophagy is a fun word to know. You just might need it someday for a trivia contest or Scrabble game. And don’t forget, there’s autophagy, too.

To learn more about iguanas, check out this wonderful downloadable resource at Lyric Power Publishing, LLC. Nothing about saurophagy in it, but lots of other information about iguanas and wonderful activity sheets. Full description below.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas
Thirty pages of Iguana information and fun activity sheets for grades 2-4. Includes coloring pages, fact sheets, T/F about reptiles, parts of an iguana coloring page, compare animal traits, name matching, count and classify, reptile spelling page, life cycle of the iguana cut-and-paste activity, ecology word problems, iguana word problems, creative writing prompt, opinion writing exercise, mean, mode, median, and range worksheets, counting iguanas, histogram worksheet, grams-to-pounds worksheet, trace the words and color, short i sound, create an iguana puzzle.

Is That Torpor or Hibernation? by Curtis Curly-tail

Howdy, friends! It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail! You know how I LOVE to bask in the sun? Well, I’ve recently learned that some of my friends go underground when it gets cold—to stay warm!

My human friend, Elaine, wrote here at Tales & Tails that round-tailed ground squirrels spend the winter underground to stay warm. Yes, it gets cold in Southern Arizona during the winter, unlike the warm tropical weather of the Exumas, where I live. But ground squirrels don’t actually hibernate like some other mammals do—they go into a state of torpor.

Both the state of torpor and hibernation are means for mammals to survive cold temperatures, conserving energy due to low food availability. Hibernation and torpor both involve lowering body temperatures and breathing, heart, and metabolic rates. What’s the difference between them? It’s all in the planning. Animals that hibernate plan for it. They store fat in advance and stay in the quiet state for as long as possible. When the warm temperatures finally arrive, the animals take a while to wake-up, using up a lot of their energy reserves.

Torpor happens involuntarily and only lasts for short periods. It’s like a deep sleep. Waking up takes less time and involves violent shaking from muscle contractions. I call that shivering.

As scientists have learned more about hibernation, the definition has changed. Animals once believed to be hibernating were in fact in the state of torpor. Today, the term hibernation includes true hibernators and those asleep in torpor.

Here’s a fellow desert-dweller of Elaine’s, that hibernates during the cold winters.

Gila Monster image courtesy of David Mark from Pixabay

Another interesting state is aestivation, which is an entirely different topic, in my estimation. Do you like my word play? Aestivation and estimation? I think Elaine should explain what aestivation is and use my rhyme in one of her books—with credit, of course!

For information about a desert dweller that goes into torpor–not hibernation–the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake–check out the 46-page workbook and activity sheets at Lyric Power Publishing, LLC. It’s educational, but it’s full of fun activities. Elaine always says, “Learning should be fun! That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!”

Book cover with photo of western diamondback rattler
book cover graphic of rattlesnake

Or, a perennial favorite is the rhyming, thrillingly illustrated Don’t Make Me Rattle! People fear rattlesnakes because they don’t understand them. Come inside and learn about these amazing snakes, how they help people, and why they should be respected, not exterminated.

How Do You Know if a Lizard is a Green Iguana? by Curtis Curly-tail

Hello, out there, friends and fans! It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail!

Today, I wanted to ask you if you knew that Green Iguanas, Iguana iguana, come in different colors? And, if they come in different colors, how do you tell if a lizard is a green iguana? 

You look for the subtympanic scale. “What is that?” you ask. Well, I don’t have one, so I had to look it up myself. The subtympanic scale is that large scale on the side of the green iguana’s head.  Sub means below and tympanic means ear.  So, it’s the big scale below the ear. I have a friend who calls that scale the “jewel.” She always admires the beautiful coloring in the iguana jewels.

A blue Green Iguana

Here are some of my green iguana friends, in very different colors. As you can see, they are not just green–but they are all still called “green.” Even the green green iguanas come in different shades of green. It can be confusing, if you ask me.

The native range of the green iguana is southern Mexico to central Brazil and several Caribbean islands. If you don’t live in those areas, why should you know how to identify a green iguana? Because they’re very popular as pets in people’s homes and they have been introduced to many other places in the world, where they don’t belong and can be causing harm. That means they’re “invasive.”

A Green Iguana
If you are interested in passing out these descriptive booklets, which are free, please use the contact form on Elaine’s website to obtain them.

If you want to know the differences between a green iguana and their cousins, the rock iguanas, Lyric Power Publishing, LLC has several identification booklets to help you tell them apart.

Graphic image book cover about iguanas

If you enjoy learning while coloring and doing activities, I encourage you to be creative. To learn more in fun ways about iguanas, please see our 30-page workbook full of activity sheets about iguanas, My Unit Study on Iguanas. Remember that the green iguanas you color, don’t have to be green!

‘Zoe the Star’ Tortoise! by Curtis Curly-tail

Hello to all my friends out there! I hope you are taking care of yourselves and each other in these difficult times. I’m looking forward to the day when my human friends don’t have to worry anymore about the virus called Covid-19! (If I could, I would banish it right now!) Until this passes, please take good care out there.

I love having made so many friends through my sidekick, Elaine A. Powers, and today I’d like to introduce you to Zoe, a Sonoran Desert tortoise. She’s a female who knows her territory and stands her ground. (I just love that in a tortoise!)

I don’t want to tell Zoe she’ll never be the star I am, of course, but take a look at my You Tube channel on your small screen at this beauty in her habitat and learn about what it takes to be a tortoise in the Sonoran Desert.

And for the kids and kids-at-heart in your home, have some fun with science education using the activity sheets and workbooks from Lyric Power Publishing, LLC.

Here’s an example or two:

Twenty-three fun, engaging, and interactive pages on the Freshwater Turtle.
Ideal for your young learners.
Four ecology coloring and information pages; three spelling and tracing pages; what freshwater turtles eat coloring page; label the parts of a freshwater turtle coloring page; complete the life-cycle of the turtle (same for both freshwater and green sea turtle); three color by addition and subtraction pages; two learn to spell coloring pages; and several teacher information pages suitable for creating bulletin boards about freshwater turtles.

47 pages of captivating activities that kids from kindergarten through 3rd grade are certain to enjoy! Includes spelling pages, two Venn-Diagram activities: bats vs. parrots, and bats vs. rats; math pages, reading comprehension pages for both bats and rats; a teacher-driven felt board activity; rhyming words, less than-greater than coloring sheet; two word searches, and MORE! Students will gain a deeper understanding of the Caribbean Fruit Bat and the rats that live on Cayman Brac and how they affect the ecology.

Starfish: How Many Arms?

I started out my biology career wanting to be a marine biologist. Even though I ended up as a laboratory researcher, I’m always looking for interesting creatures when I visit the ocean. I never know who I’m going to write about in my next fun science book!

One group of animals I always enjoy seeing are starfish. They come in different shapes and colors. Starfish are echinoderms, a diverse family of marine invertebrates. They are found in all oceans and none of them can live in freshwater. Of course, starfish are not fish; the name comes from their star-like shape. Starfish usually have five arms but some have up to 40 arms!

One thing all starfish have in common is their radial symmetry. Their body can be divided into five equal parts. Amazing. Don’t worry that they’ll become asymmetrical if a predator bites off an arm–starfish have the ability to regenerate their arms.

Starfish themselves are carnivores. Their mouths are located on the underside of their bodies (the anus is on the top side). Interestingly, a starfish has two stomachs, one of which can be pushed outside the body to allow it to swallow the large prey that can’t fit in its small mouth.

I like playing with the multitude of starfish feet–feeling the tube feet crawl on my hand. The feet are used for moving, of course, but also for catching prey. While the feet are moving the starfish, its bony skeleton with its spikes and thorns provides protection from above. Which is a good thing, because starfish have lots of predators.

These are some of the beautiful starfish I have encountered.

Someday, I might write a book about starfish. For now, I’ll just have to know they run into the sea turtles you’ll see pictured in the book below that I wrote about the Hickatee turtle. It teaches the physical traits and differences between the land-dwelling Hickatee and the ocean-dwelling sea turtles.

Or, learn all about another fellow ocean feeder, in this Lyric Power Publishing workbook full of activity sheets about the Brown Booby–the large seabirds who live on only one island in the world.

Fun Geology and Biology for The Lime Lizards Lads!

Geology is the science that explores the earth’s physical structure and substance, its history, and the processes that act on it. Geology is often included under the topic of Earth Sciences.  You might be surprised to learn that I often include geology in my fun science books that feature lizards. You can’t really study biology without knowing the geology of the ecosystem. Everything is interconnected.

One of my favorite inclusions in The Dragon of Nani Cave in the mineral, caymanite.

Hidden in the limestone karst of Grand Cayman’s East End and the Bluff of Cayman Brac is an uncommon variety of dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2.  Caymanite is prized for its layers of earth tone colors, which are the result of different metal contents. Its harness allows for it to be shaped into jewelry and carvings.

In The Dragon of Nani Cave, the Lime Lizard Lads are sent on a quest to find a piece of caymanite for Old Soldier crab. It’s the most dangerous thing a lizard can do on Cayman Brac, because that’s where the dragon lives! One of the fun things about being an author is having a say in the design of the book cover. I had mine when I asked that the book title be colored just like caymanite.

book cover illustration of two curly-tail lizards
With the Lime Lizard Lads, it’s one adventure after another. They know how to make science fun!

For additional ways to supplement science education in fun ways, please see the activity sheets and workbooks at Lyric Power Publishing. The workbook pictured above is a supplement to The Dragon of Nani Cave.

Ground Squirrels: These Cute Little Burrowers Soon to Have Their Own Book!

When I lived in the Midwest and Northeast, I knew it was Spring when the crocus and daffodils raised their heads from the ground.  Here in the Sonoran Desert, I know it is Spring when the round-tailed ground squirrels, Xerospermophilus tereticaudus, which dwell in the desert of the US Southwest and northwestern Mexico, raise their heads from the ground.

The common name for these small mammals is derived from their long round tail and long fluffy hind feet. I think they look like small prairie dogs due to their uniform sandy color.

Instead of running up and down large, lush trees found in the more temperate areas of the country, these squirrels burrow into ground beneath mesquite trees and creosote bushes, plants tough enough to survive the harsh desert clime. They are active during hot summer days and stay underground during the winter, but they don’t hibernate.

Some people find the squirrels a bother because they are always digging holes in their yards, driveways and even streets. I think they make a new tunnel each day. I like to think of their efforts as aerating the soil and loosening the rock-hard ground. Going underground, they are able to evade their many predators: coyotes, badgers, hawks and snakes.

These cute little mammals do love their burrows!

Even though they live in colonies, ground squirrels like their space. Males like to be in charge during mating season, but the mothers dominate when they have young!

Why am I writing about these delightful squirrels? I am starting to work on a picture book about the local ground squirrels. This book was requested by an educator at a local park. There are no books about area ground squirrels. Another fun, science book waiting to be written in rhyme! Gosh, I love my work!

I’ve got to get back now to my burrowing into the world of ground squirrels.

Thanks for visiting!

I’ve written many books about reptiles, and am excited about adding mammals to my book collection. Here is a workbook on mammals from my publisher, Lyric Power Publishing, LLC, focused on making science fun. Their activity sheets and workbooks really help to pass the time in a fun way.

Is School Out? Kids Stir-Crazy? Worried About Education? How About Fun Science Workbooks?

The mission of my book publisher, Lyric Power Publishing LLC, is to “Make Science Fun!” That’s because they know how fun science really is.

Their Activity Sheets and Workbooks are for Ages K-5 (see workbook covers for grade level and contents) and while they are highly educational, they are also lots of fun! Have you ever counted iguanas? Or made a lizard clock? Made your own Compass Rose or Passport?

Depending on the grade, they can include: Animal Facts, Name the Animal, Lifecycles, Compare Traits, Food Chains, Label the Parts, Color by Math, Mean/Median/Mode/Range, Color by Number, Printing, Underline the Answer, Counting, Convert Grams to Pounds, Fill in the Blanks, True or False, Cut Along the Dotted Lines, Cut and Paste, Cut and Classify, Fill in the Right Word, Word Search, Match the Facts, Using a Histogram, Venn Diagrams, Making Charts, Interpreting Charts, Crossword Puzzle, Other Puzzles, Conservation, Vocabulary, Complete the Sentence, Unscramble the Sentences, Prepositions of Place, Using Maps, Writing Prompts, Essay Writing Exercise, Reading Comprehension, and More!

Who can make all the above fun, economically? Lyric Power Publishing!
Purchase a Download Once and Print as Many Times as You’d Like!

For additional relaxing fun, check out their Coloring Books and Flannel Board Templates, enjoyed by children and adults alike. Coloring is handwork and creative, proven to reduce stress. Let your creativity run wild! Get out your colored pencils or crayons and have some fun today! Then print the pages again and color them in a whole new assortment!

You’re welcome!

The Marshmallow: Not Merely Fluffy Sugar

In a previous blog, I related a story how even in my early years, I was working to keep wild alligators away from people food with stale, very hard, marshmallows. This occurred on Sanibel Island, FL. 

Have you ever thought about where marshmallows come from? My marshmallow story took place on Sanibel Island, FL, where you can find the marsh mallow growing. Yes, the marsh mallow is a plant. I learned about it while I was working at the “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. On Sanibel the species is called Kosteletzkya virginica.

Did you think marshmallows were merely fluffy sugar? Well, they’re not. Marshmallows have been around since ancient Egypt. They used the mallow, Althaea officinalis, which grew in salty marshes. The sweet sap was made into a candy that was dedicated to their gods.

The ancient Greeks valued the medicinal properties of the mallow. Many cultures have used mallow to treat wounds, inflammation, toothaches and sore throats.

In the 1800s, the French created a candy for adult consumption, in addition to its previous medicinal uses. The mallow sap was whipped with egg whites and corn syrup into an easily moldable substance and the modern marshmallow was created. The next time you enjoy a marshmallow, think of the plant from which it came:  the mallow growing in salty marshes.

Botanical illustration of the Marsh Mallow Plant

A botanical drawing of the marshmallow plant, featuring the plant as well as close-ups of the flower and seed.

FRANZ EUGEN KOHLER, KOHLERS MEDIZINAL-PFLANZEN

NOTE: Every now and then, I divert from writing about animals to do a bit of plant investigation. To see some of my work on plants, check out The Queen of the Night about the fascinating Night-Blooming Cereus, plants that bloom magnificently only one night per year—and they wait for each other to bloom all at the same time. EAP

book cover for the Night-Blooming Cereus
All about the mysterious plant that blooms only one night per year–all at the same time!

Using Children’s Books for Science Education–at a Bar!

Last February, I had the honor of giving a science talk at a local bar.  Yes, a bar! But it’s a very different bar–it specializes in astronomy and holds weekly science trivia contests with March for Science Southern Arizona.

My talk was about using entertaining children’s books in science education.  It was kind of fun that I had multi-colored spotlights instead of plain white. I spoke from a platform and looking down and around the room, I wondered if my talk was appropriate for such an audience. I couldn’t gesticulate as I usually do, because I had to hold the microphone to my mouth (eat the mic) and the slide clicker in the other hand. I felt constrained, but carried on with my assignment.

This is me with my Blue-iguana hybrid, named Blue, of course!

Even though I watched people drinking and talking through my entire talk and the background noise level was high – it was a bar, after all – some of the audience actually listened. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by that response and there were even a few questions afterward about book publishing and children’s science books. All in all, it was a great experience. 

My thanks to the March for Science organization for letting me present during Brains and Brews at Sky Bar in Tucson, Az.

Balloon Curtis created by artist Jeremy Twister.

And to the wonderful artist, Jeremy Twister, for creating the balloon version of the perfect curly-tail lizard of Warderick Wells in The Bahamas: Curtis Curly-tail.