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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Weird, Wild, Wonderful


Nature has a way of continuing to surprise and intrigue us the more we explore.  Have you ever seen the amazing camouflage that octopi have?  Some species of octopus have the ability to change the color and texture of their skin to hide from predators and from prey.  Cuttlefish can also change their color by expanding and contracting cells of pigment in their skin.  This is not an involuntary response. It is an ability that appears to be controlled, as they use it for everything from hunting to attracting a mate.  Some male cuttlefish have been seen warding off other potential mates with one half of their body and attracting a mate with the other half.

Nature is amazing and it is hard not to be curious about it when you see some of these things.  But there is good news!  You do not have to have a scuba diving license and go to Asia or Australia to see some of these amazing things in nature.  Some can be seen in your own backyard.

Every summer there are little flashes of light in the yard.  When I was younger I remember going out and catching these little flickering lights.  Lightning bugs are among the amazing things in nature.  These insects are an excellent example of bioluminescence.  Bioluminescence has many uses from providing defense from a predator to attracting prey or, as is the case of the lightning bug, to attract a mate.  The flashing light tells other prospective mates that they are the same species and interested in mating.

There are also some fungi that glow.  One of these fungi can be found right here in Illinois.  If you have ever read the book Huckleberry Fin you may remember Foxfire from the book.  Foxfire is used to describe several species of fungi that is found on decaying wood.  The glowing is produced when an enzyme that is made by the fungi is exposed to oxygen.  It is thought that the glowing is to either attract insects to spread the spores of the fungus or as a warning to animals.

Nature is full of weird and strange things.  These things amaze us and make being in nature fun and exciting.  These things also confound scientists, and the weird, wild, and wonderful parts of nature have also lead to some of the most amazing breakthroughs in science.

If you have any questions about nature or natural resources, please contact Jason Haupt (jdhaupt@illinois.edu).

 



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