Welcome to ON(line)SC's Virtual Learning!
Good morning Naturalists!
Today, we'll be taking a peek at some of the smallest living things on our planet: Invertebrates! What does it mean to be an invertebrate? These are animals that have no backbone! To give us an idea of what invertebrates look like, take a moment to look at each of these pictures and decide whether or not you think they are vertebrates. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to check your answers.
Invertebrates are certainly the most entertaining of our three major groups of decomposers to watch, and can be some of the most beautiful as well! We found these decomposers out on the trail last week. A lot of invertebrates focus on things that have already been partially broken down; in this case, they're eating scat! People often believe that butterflies only sip nectar, but the truth is that these little guys will eat much more than that! They often gather in large numbers around scat or nutrient-rich mud. This behavior is known as “puddling”.
How many butterflies can you count in this picture? What did the coyote that made this scat eat? What else, other than nutrients, might these butterflies be taking from the scat?
This picture brings up a good point as well, in that when we say “the remains of living things”, we don't always mean deceased things! Even in our own homes, microscopic invertebrates are decomposing the hair and skin cells that our bodies drop every day, and even our bodily waste is eventually returned to the environment. Some of these remains, especially the softer or more nutrient-rich parts, will decompose first, while the harder parts (such as bones, fur, feathers, or shells) will take longer.
Here's a question for you: What happens to the decomposers after they die?
Now, a final challenge for you today! We have a “scavenger” hunt! Look around your house (or outside, if you can), and see how many of these decomposers you can find!
One of the words on this list you may not be familiar with is “gallery lines”. This is the term scientists use to describe the lines made by insects as they burrow in wood. Here's an example of what they look like!
Now, the answers to our challenge up above: If you see a green star, that means the animal is an invertebrate. If you see a red arrow pointing downward, it is not an invertebrate, and has a backbone. Did any answers surprise you? Which ones?
This brings us to the end of our invertebrates day! Remember to reach out to us at email@example.com or on our Facebook page to share questions, comments, pictures, or stories! We love hearing from you!
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