©AMNH/D. Finnin
©AMNH/D. Finnin

10 Facts About Cuban Animals From AMNH's New Exhibition, '¡Cuba!'

©AMNH/D. Finnin
©AMNH/D. Finnin

Though many of us think of Cuba as one island, it’s actually an archipelago made up of more than 4000 islands and keys—20 percent of which is protected area. In its new bilingual exhibition “¡Cuba!”, the American Museum of Natural History looks at the cultural history of the country as well as its natural history, showing everything from how Cuban cigars are made to the endemic creatures that can be found only on Cuba. AMNH scientists have been working in Cuba for more than a century—their first expedition was made in 1892—and this exhibition was created in partnership with scientists at the Cuban National Museum of Natural History. “¡Cuba!” opens to the public on Monday, November 21; here are few things we learned at the preview.

1. Cuba is home to some 372 species of bird, 24 of which are endemic. One such bird is the Cuban parakeet, whose numbers have been depleted by the pet trade; one of the only places you can see big flocks of the birds is in Cuba’s Zapata National Park.

©AMNH/R. Mickens

2. Of the 190 species of butterfly that can be found in Cuba, at least 35 species are endemic to the island, including the clearwing butterfly (Greta cubana). Though it could once be found all across the island, these days its range is restricted to protected areas of humid forests.

3. Want to tell a Cuban crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer) from an American croc (Crocodylus acutus)? Look for bony ridges behind the eyes, which American crocodiles lack.

©AMNH/D. Finnin

4. In prehistoric times, Cuba was home to the largest owl that has ever lived: Ornimegalonyx. AMNH’s exhibition has the first scientifically accurate rendering of this enormous bird, which was more than 3 feet tall.

5. Solenodon cubanus—a venomous, 2-pound mammal endemic to Cuba and commonly known as almiqui—was once believed to be extinct. Then, in the mid-1970s, scientists discovered one of the animals in Humboldt Park; today, scientists know of 11 individuals, though evidence suggests there may be more out there.

©AMNH/R. Mickens

6. The patterns and colors on the shells of Polymita land snails vary widely even within the same species; scientists theorize this diversity is an adaptation the snails use to confuse predators.

7. Like the other armored fishes in its genus, the Cuban gar (Atractosteus tristoechus) has adapted to breathe air.

©AMNH/R. Mickens

8. Take a trip to “¡Cuba!” and you’ll see a Cuban boa (Epicrates angulifer), a mostly ground-dwelling snake that hangs out around the mouths of caves—the better to grab bats from the air when they fly by.

9. Cuba is home to the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae), the smallest bird in the world. It weighs just one-twentieth of an ounce.

©AMNH/D. Finnin

10. Millions of years ago, Cuba was home to primates, the last of which, Paralouatta varonai, weighed up to 20 pounds and may have been related to howler monkeys. When it was discovered, the skull above was missing large sections; scientists used modern monkeys to reconstruct its face. 

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
How a Hairdresser Found a Way to Fight Oil Spills With Hair Clippings
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker made global news in 1989 when it dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off Alaska's coast. As experts were figuring out the best ways to handle the ecological disaster, a hairdresser from Alabama named Phil McCroy was tinkering with ideas of his own. His solution, a stocking stuffed with hair clippings, was an early version of a clean-up method that's used at real oil spill sites today, according to Vox.

Hair booms are sock-like tubes stuffed with recycled hair, fur, and wool clippings. Hair naturally soaks up oil; most of the time it's sebum, an oil secreted from our sebaceous glands, but it will attract crude oil as well. When hair booms are dragged through waters slicked with oil, they sop up all of that pollution in a way that's gentle on the environment.

The same properties that make hair a great clean-up tool at spills are also what make animals vulnerable. Marine life that depends on clean fur to stay warm can die if their coats are stained with oil that's hard to wash off. Footage of an otter covered in oil was actually what inspired Phil McCroy to come up with his hair-based invention.

Check out the full story from Vox in the video below.

[h/t Vox]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Bristly
A New Chew Toy Will Help Your Dog Brush Its Own Teeth
Bristly
Bristly

Few pet owners are willing to sit down and brush their pet's teeth on a regular basis. (Most of us can barely convince ourselves to floss our own teeth, after all.) Even fewer pets are willing to sit calmly and let it happen. But pet dental care matters: I’ve personally spent more than $1000 in the last few years dealing with the fact that my cat’s teeth are rotting out of her head.

For dog owners struggling to brush poor Fido’s teeth, there’s a slightly better option. Bristly, a product currently being funded on Kickstarter, is a chew toy that acts as a toothbrush. The rubber stick, which can be slathered with doggie toothpaste, is outfitted with bristles that brush your dog’s teeth as it plays.

A French bulldog chews on a Bristly toy.
Bristly

Designed so your dog can use it without you lifting a finger, it’s shaped like a little pogo stick, with a flattened base that allows dogs to stabilize it with their paws as they hack at the bristled stick with their teeth. The bristles are coated in a meat flavoring to encourage dogs to chew.

An estimated 80 percent of dogs over the age of 3 have some kind of dental disease, so the chances that your dog could use some extra dental attention is very high. In addition to staving off expensive vet bills, brushing your dog's teeth can improve their smelly breath.

Bristly comes in three sizes as well as in a heavy-duty version made for dogs who are prone to ripping through anything they can get their jaws around. A Bristly stick costs $29 and is scheduled to start shipping in October. Get it here.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios