Tag Archives: Animals

Endotherms vs. Ectotherms!

Have you ever wondered what difference is between endotherms and ectotherms?In general, if an organism uses energy to regulate its body temperature internally, then it is considered endothermic. If an organism instead relies on external environmental factors to regulate its body temperature, then it is considered ectothermic. There are pros and cons to each of these methods of regulating body temperature.

To be endothermic, an organism must produce its own body heat through metabolism. This means that the endothermic organism can maintain internal homeostasis regardless of the external environmental temperature. This ability is commonly referred to as being warm-blooded and probably sounds familiar because of the fact that mammals are warm-blooded, thus making us endotherms. An example is seen in the image below, the young kitten. This is why during winter or summer temperatures, humans will maintain an internal body temperature of around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once we understand that we are endotherms, we can then understand better why we sweat or shiver when we are hot or cold. These actions are regulatory reactions from our body trying to maintain internal homeostasis while being exposed to differing external temperatures. The sweat we produce during hot days is actually helping to cool our bodies down and we shiver during cold days to keep our bodies warm. Being an endotherm allows an organism to survive in many diverse environments, but can be extremely energy demanding.

On the other hand, an organism that relies on the temperature of the environment around them to regulate their internal body temperature requires much less energy. This type of organism is called an ectotherm and commonly referred to as being cold-blooded. Great examples of ectothermic organisms are reptiles and fish. In the image below an example reptile is shown. Since these organisms rely on the environment for body temperature regulations, they exhibit different behaviors in reaction to changing external temperatures. In order for an ectotherm to warm up it would bask in the sun, or if it needed to cool down it could burrow or seek shade. These are physical interactions with the environment since the ectothermic organism can not rely on physiological processes like the endotherm (such as sweating and shivering).


So depending on if an organism is and endotherm or ectotherm, it will exhibit varying behaviors in order to survive and function at optimal level in their environment. Some examples are:

-Fish migrating to warmer/colder water as needed during season changes.

-Lizards coming out of burrows to bask in the sun in order to warm their bodies.

-Humans shivering during a cold night hike.

-Sea lions holding their flipper out of the cold ocean water to warm up.

Hopefully this has helped to clarify the main difference between endotherms and ectotherms. There is much more to be learned about these organisms and I hope this information helps encourage you to learn more about them.

Written By: Ryan McDuff

Catalina Island Animal Calls

Raven Animal Calls

On Catalina Island there is a wide variety of animals. Some of the animals that we see include ravens, foxes, bison, sea lions, and whales! Each of these 5 animals make vocalizations, or sounds, for specific reasons.

The common raven typically tends to use one of two calls. The first call is a loud caw or groan. Ravens use this call to communicate with each other. Their call can be heard by ravens that are a mile away! The second call that ravens make is a fast, repetitive caw. Ravens typically use this call when they are hunting prey like rodents, worms, or insects!

The Channel Island fox, Urocyon littoralis, is a relatively quiet animal. However, it can make up to 40 sounds and calls! These calls are used by a foxes to convey different messages to one another. For example, foxes will bark to alert other members of its skulk about danger, such as an approaching predator. The male foxes bark to attract a mate and growl to protect their territory. Female foxes bark to locate their cubs. Sometimes, the small cubs will let out a little  bark just to get mom’s attention!

Bison Animal Calls A bison can often be heard snorting, grunting, and even coughing! Male bison attract a mate by making a deep, low rumbling sound called a bellow. The length, volume, and frequency of the bellow indicates which male is the most dominant and therefore the most likely to find a mate! The female bison uses calls to locate her young. She will produce low grunts and wait for the calf to respond with high-pitched grunts! They repeat this process until they can find each other.

Sea Lion Animal Calls Sea lions communicate both audibly and visually. When they make a sound, they also strike a distinct pose! Male sea lions lift their heads up high in the air and bark when they are claiming their territory. When they are barking to defend their territory from other sea lions, they will bark right in the face of the trespassing seal lion! The female sea lions bark to locate and protect their pups. The female sea lion lets out a loud yell and listens for her pup’s weak crying response!

Whale Animal CallsWhales use clicks, whistles, and calls to communicate with their pod. Toothed whales called odontocetes use echolocation to help them navigate and find food! When echolocating, whales will make a clicking sound and wait for the sound to echo back to them. When the whales hear the echo, they are able to identify the location of the object or animal they are trying to find! Some whales can echolocate prey that is over 1,500 feet away! Whales also whistle and call to socialize with other members of their pod. Scientists discovered that whales have different dialects to help them differentiate between their pod and strangers! Certain low frequency calls can travel more than 10,000 miles across the sea. Pretty wild, right?!



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Corvus_corax_(Common_Raven),_Yosemite_NP,_CA,_US_-_Diliff.jpg (Raven photo)




https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfws_pacificsw/16512606125 (Fox photo)



https://www.flickr.com/photos/don34685/22654449684/ (Bison Photo)



https://www.flickr.com/photos/catsnorkelscuba/7826945136 (Sea lion photo)





Ravens: Clever and Intelligent

RavensFor thousands of years cultures all across the world have told tales of raven’s intelligence. The clever trickster in many native tribes’ stories, a sacred animal to Apollo the God of prophecy, a bringer of wisdom to the Norse gods, even Game of Thrones shows a three eyed ravens during prophetic visions. It’s obvious people recognize these birds as pretty smart, and as it turns out, many scientific tests back this up. There are several characteristics that put ravens up there with the cleverest species, sometimes even out smarting great apes and human children!

Recognizing friend or foe

Ravens birdsRavens are social creatures, in many ways very similar to some humans! When ravens are old enough to leave their parents’ safe and cozy nest, the juveniles will join a crew and spend their time there. When a raven eventually finds a one true love, it will separate off and mate for life. They even hold funerals for their lost loved ones!

With all these social interactions, what is really interesting is ravens’ ability to recognize friend or foe. When interacting with other ravens, these birds will be friendly with birds they know and like, even if they haven’t seen each other for years. But you don’t want to get on their bad sides. Not only have they been known to act suspiciously towards ravens they don’t know and give the cold shoulder to birds that have wronged them, but they recognize human faces as well! If you cheat a raven out of its food, it will remember you and hold a grudge for months!


Tools and Toys

ravens animalsUsing tools and playing games are sure signs of intelligence seen in only the most clever of animals such as monkeys, dolphins, and -you guessed it- ravens! In the wild, ravens are known to drop rocks on people threatening their nests, and to use sticks and other tools to get food. In one test, a majority of ravens figured out in only 30 seconds to pull down a string, anchor it, and keep pulling to reach a treat. But they’re not all work and no play! Ravens have been seen skiing down snow covered roofs and hillsides, making toys out of pinecones and golf balls, etc (a very rare animal behavior), and even playing “keep away” to taunt other animals just because it’s funny!



Planning Ahead

ravens intelligentWhat really sets ravens apart is that they have proven to be able to plan for the future, something scientists thought for a long time only humans and our close animal relatives did. In one study, ravens were given a tool to get food. Not only did they figure out how to use this tool, but later when they were offered this tool or another less tasty snack, many would chose the tool to use later. They continued to chose tool over snack even when it would be a long time before they would get the food. This type of delayed gratification test has been presented to monkeys and human children, and the ravens out performed! Talk about self control!


On Catalina Island, we have tons of huge raven friends, and If you have ever left your backpack outside while at CIMI, you may have experienced just how clever these ravens can be when on the search for your tasty food. Now that you know how impressively intelligent these majestic birds are, don’t forget to hide your snacks!






Ravens and All Their Dark Glory

ravensHere on Catalina Island there is never a dull moment when the ravens are around. One may see them as a pestering omen of darkness due to their long mythical history. However, once recognizing how incredibly intelligent the large black mystical creature really is, one may nevermore see them that way again. (Quoth the Raven)

The Raven” by the famous American poet Edgar Allen Poe was published in 1845 and is notoriously known for its uncanny atmosphere and the talking raven.

Ravens are considered to be one of the most high intelligent birds on the planet. They are capable of utilizing tools such as rocks to crack open shells, drop rocks on nest invaders, learn to talk when in captivity better than some parrots, and have the ability to recognize human faces and other birds up to three or more years after the first encounter!  Due to their highly functioning brain the ravens alway seem to be up to something mischievous whether it be playing “keep away” from other animals, rolling down snowy roof tops, trying dangerous flying maneuvers to impress a future mate or just taunting other animals for fun.

Adult ravens pair up with life long mates and as adults, are typically less likely to flock with other ravens. As adolescent, ravens that live together in a group referred to as an “unkindness” in order to help support each other in finding protection and food. Adolescent ravens can be the professionals at mischief by working together to trick other animals and steal their food. This may be the reason why a flock of ravens got the name “Unkindness”! 

ravens 1Where can I find one of these tricksters you ask, well, ravens are everywhere! They can be found just about anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere making them one of the largest widespread naturally occurring birds in the world. Ravens have very few natural predators so no matter the weather or the surrounding habitat ravens can live it up anywhere from snowy mountains, thick forests, hot deserts, to beaches of Catalina Island!

Next time you see a raven make sure to make a friendly gesture and you’ll have a life long feathered friend!




The California Moray Eel

It is reaching the end of your orientation snorkel on day one of your field trip to CIMI and your instructor dives down one last time before exiting the rocky reef structure of Pinnacle rock. As you watch his luscious blonde locks flowing underwater, you realize that he isn’t attempting a subsurface dance move, he is frantically signaling toward a giant, terrifying, green head looming from the darkness of a crevasse. The organism has incredibly sharp teeth and seems to have a problem keeping its mouth shut. Although you may think you are looking at a scene from Alien vs. Predator, you are actually looking at a California Moray Eel (Gymnothorax mordax).

Moray EelThe California moray eel is relatively common in our Channel Island’s shallow rocky reef habitats; however, they range from as north as Point Conception and as south as Baja California. They tend to conceal their entire bodies between rocks while peaking their heads out to stay aware of potential predators and prey. How aware are they? Well, like most eels, these morays have awful eyesight that does not significantly contribute to their hunting capabilities. CA moray eels are nocturnal ambush predators and rely on acute chemosensory organs (nares) to detect their prey. Common snacks include crabs and crustaceans, small fish and surprisingly, octopuses.

Although CA moray eels look like an alien creature, they are much more familiar than the appear. They are part of the taxidermic classification Osteichthyes or “bony fish” along with other beloved bony fish like the garibaldi. The reason these eels look so foreign is because they lack scales, a gill cover and both pelvic and pectoral fins. CA Morays are different from their relatives through an adaptation that allows a second set of jaws (pharyngeal jaw) to extrude from the back of their throat and pull their meal further into their mouths after the initial bite. The thought of this is so terrifying that it inspired Ridley Scott to model an extraterrestrial being after it in his movie Alien. Our worldly aliens can grow up to five feet in length at around 30 years of age.

Moray Eel 2The moral of the disgustingly horrifying California moray eel is that they are truly misunderstood. These organisms are extremely unique and are so ugly they’re cute, so next time you see this green slimy friend stashed in a crevasse blow them a kiss or better yet, sing them a song!

The California Moray Eel Fact Sheet

The California moray eel – Gymnothorax mordax

Movie Alien?

Our moray eels live in shallow rocky reef habitats from Point Conception down to southern Baja California.

Although California moray eels may not look like fish with their lack of scales, apparent fins and an operculum, moray eels are part of the Osteichthyes (bony fish) taxonomic group.

The moray is thought to have a life span of up to 30 years and possibly longer.

Moray eels have adapted a second set of jaws that extrudes from the back of their throat to pull their meal further into their mouths after the initial bite.

Being an ambush predator can be difficult when nearly blind, however, these eels have an excellent sense of smell that allows them to pin point prey.





World Penguin Day

Although Wednesday, April 25th is officially World Penguin Day, it’s never a bad day to celebrate these charismatic flightless birds! Penguins’ distinct waddle, fluffy feathers, and stout body shape make them one of the most objectively adorable animals on our planet. But they aren’t just cuddly organisms. On the contrary, they are efficient predators and are resilient in the face of some of the most challenging climates on earth.

Out of the 17 species in the penguin family, one of the most well-known is the Emperor Penguin. The largest of all penguins, Emperors live year-round in arguably the most unforgiving environment on our planet: the Antarctic. To survive in temperatures as low as -76°F, Emperors live socially, partitioning duties to ensure the continuity of their species. After laying a single egg, females will embark on a two-month journey in search of prey. During their hunting trip, these females will dive down to 1,850 feet for as long as 20 minutes in search of fish, squid and krill. They are aided by their dense bones and stiff flippers, which make flying impossible, but allow the Emperors to dive and swim with high efficiency. Meanwhile, males of the flock remain huddled together for warmth, carefully protecting their female’s egg. These males will rotate through outer and inner positions in the flock, allowing some to warm up in the middle while others bear the brunt of the cold in the outer flanks. Upon the females’ return, they will regurgitate food for their newborn chicks, and the males will swap out, now having their chance to take to the ocean in search of food. Without the cooperative tendencies that Emperor Penguins have developed over thousands of evolutionary years, their species would be long gone in such a trying environment.

While Emperors tough out long winters in the Antarctic, every other species of penguin either leaves during the coldest months, or simply occupies a milder climate year-round. The smallest of all penguins, reaching an average of 13 inches in height, is the Little Blue Penguin, which can be found along the coasts of Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. Unlike the Emperor Penguin, Little Blues dive in short spurts of about 35 seconds at a time, reaching a maximum depth of 230 feet. But although Little Blues are small, they are mighty. Little Blues have been known to escape from their primary natural predators: skuas, gulls, and sheathbills. Unfortunately, human-sustained predators like rats, dogs, and cats have taken their toll on Little Blue numbers.

Anthropogenic threats to penguins don’t end with predation on Little Blues. Perhaps the most imposing issue for these flightless birds is global climate change. As air and water temperatures warm in the Antarctic, vital ice sheet breeding grounds that Emperor and Adelie penguins need are melting away. A study conducted by the World Wildlife Foundation in 2008 predicted that in 40 years, 50% of Emperor penguins could be wiped out due to the impacts of climate change.
Penguin Day

So, what can you do to help out our feathery friends on the other side of the globe? Well, start by celebrating World Penguin Day! Then, think of ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint in order to slow global climate change. Maybe try biking to your friend’s house instead of catching a ride, or reducing the amount of meat you eat! Any little effort helps, because just like the Emperor penguin, if we all work together, we can ensure the continuity of an entire species!






The Giant Sea Bass

Let me introduce you to the King of the Kelp forest, the Giant Sea Bass. This behemoth of a fish can grow up to nearly 7 and a half feet long, can weigh a whopping 560 pounds, and can live to the ripe old age of 75. These fish were, at one point, a prized catch by fishermen. Now, critically endangered, an encounter with a Sea Bass is a rare, exciting, and memorable event.

giant sea bass adult

These mega-fish begin their lives as tiny planktonic larvae, adrift in the ocean at the mercy of the currents. As they grow into juveniles the Giant Sea Bass is golden in color with distinct black spots. As they grow into maturity, which can take up to 10 years, they lose their bright coloration and turn gray. Their spots, while still visible, are less permanent.

Giant Sea Bass juvi

Adults are apex predators. Top of the food chain. As such, these fish are a keystone species. Without the Giant Sea Bass the kelp forest ecosystem in which they reside would be drastically changed. On a daily basis the sea bass feeds on a variety of critters that also find their home in the kelp—fish, rays, crustaceans, squid, and sometimes kelp itself. Generally slow swimmers, the sea bass seeks prey that lives on the bottom of the sea floor. Their caudal fin (tail fin) is built, however, for short bursts of speed if need be. Say if, perhaps, the Giant Sea Bass finds itself face to face with its one and only known natural predator: the Great White Shark.





How Animals Came to Catalina Island

Catalina and the other Channel Islands are bustling with life. Many endemic species have lived and evolved on the islands for millennia. The channel islands, like so many other islands, have never been connected to any mainland or continent, so how did all of the different plants and animals get to there in the first place? The for most common ways for plants and animals to spread to new lands can easily be remembered with what we refer to as the four W’s.

The first W stands for Wind. The first inhabitants of newly formed islands are plants. Plants, which live very stationary lives, have had to evolve methods for reproducing and spreading their genes over broad areas. Many plants have developed the ability to spread their genes through pollen or seeds that are designed to be carried through the air far away from the parent plant.


The second W is wings. This is by far the simplest method for immigrating to new places. Birds, bats, and insects that possess wings can simply fly to freshly formed islands, especially ones as close to the mainland as Catalina.

animals 1

The next W stands for water. Many animals have swum great distances to increase their range. One example of this is the pygmy mammoth of the Northern Channel Islands. Some experts think that at the time the mammoths swam across the channel that the distance was about 10-12 miles. Some animals like the foxes and squirrels that still roam the islands that distance was too great to swim. What likely happened was that they ended up stranded on floating debris piles that drifted to the islands. Once they hit the islands or were close enough, they escaped the rafts and many eventually evolved into new endemic species.

animals 2

The last W can stand for either Westerners, Warner Brothers, or Wrigley’s. No matter which one you prefer the method and results were still the same. Humans brought plants and animals to the island for various reasons. Some plants were brought over for function such as the eucalyptus trees for erosion while others were brought over for décor. Animals that were brought to the island include goats, deer, and pigs. The most renowned animal on Catalina is probably the bison. They were first brought to Catalina for a movie and then they were never returned.

animals 3

However they got there, the animals of Catalina have and will continue to shape it’s unique ecosystem.

The Many Benefits of Nature

Nature has an incredible number of benefits—think of a time that you found solace in someplace wild. Or a time that you found yourself completely, utterly mesmerized by some odd creature. Perhaps your affinity for nature is more practical. We rely on nature to sustain our lives—nature provides us with the the oxygen we breathe, the water we drink, the land on which we build. Nature is also cause for inspiration. Scientists and engineers are now looking to nature to inspire new inventions. This is called biomimicry.

Biomimicry can be broken down like this: ‘bio’ comes from the Greek word for ‘life,’ and ‘mimicry’ comes from the Greek word for ‘imitate.’ Scientists, engineers, and researchers are quite literally looking to imitate life—it’s processes and other aspects. Here are some examples of biomimicry in action.

Shark Skin and Boats

Sharks have scales called dermal denticles. These scales, in some ways, resemble teeth on the shark’s skin. They feel rough to the touch, kind of like sandpaper. These scales make sharks extraordinarily hydrodynamic and they help protect against skin parasites. Researchers are looking into mimicking the structure and function of these scales to create a surface that can be applied to the hull of boats. The hope is that this surface will replace the toxic paints that are currently used.

nature shark

To learn more: https://www.wired.com/2005/03/shark-skin-inspires-ship-coating/

Sea Otter Fur and a Wetsuit

Sea otters have incredibly dense fur to help them deal with the cold water in which they live. When otters dive into the water their fur traps little bubbles of air. Researchers at MIT are trying to mimic this mechanism in their creation of a wetsuit catered to surfers. Wetsuits these days rely the wearer’s body to warm up a thin layer of water trapped by the wetsuit.

nature otter

To learn more: http://news.mit.edu/2016/beaver-inspired-wetsuits-surfers-1005

Photosynthesis and Energy

Could we look to plants to find an answer to alternative energy? Scientists are trying to mimic photosynthesis—synthetic photosynthesis—as a means of creating energy.

nature light

To learn more: https://www.nature.com/scitable/blog/student-voices/artificial_photosynthesis_adapting_nature8217s_energy?isForceDesktop=Y

Mola Mola Song

The Ocean Sunfish also known as the Mola Mola is perhaps the most strangely intriguing fish in ocean. Its appearance is more alien like than anything else though it isn’t from out of this world. The Mola Mola belongs to the class Osteicthyes that means bony fish. This differs from chondricthyes, which are fish that are made of cartilage like sharks or rays. The Mola Mola is particularly interesting fish. Though it is a bony fish that belongs in the order tetraodontiformes, which includes puffer fish and triggerfish, it lacks several structural features that are prominent on most of their fish cousins. The most glaring absence is the caudal fin (tail fin) and the presence of elongated dorsal and anal fins, which it uses to swim. They also lack a swim bladder, which is a special organ in bony fish that helps them maintain neutral buoyancy. Ocean Sunfish have buoyant skin to help them float which is very beneficial since Mola Mola have the potential to be large. They are the heaviest of all bony fish with some specimens recorded weighing over 5,000 pounds. To grow to such a size one would think that Mola would be carnivores with a high protein diet but instead they are pretty passive eaters that mainly eat jellies that they come across in the ocean. Some specimens have been found to have brittle stars and pieces of fish in their stomachs indicating that they may have a broader diet than previously thought.

mola mola flat

The Mola Mola is received the name Sunfish because their tendency to lay flat at the surface basking in sunlight. Historically they were thought to be planktonic and only go wherever the ocean currents would take them but Mola Mola are actually very strong swimmers that have the ability to dive to fairly deep depths. Sunfish have been observed swimming as deep as 600 meters. One theory that has yet to be proven is that Mola Mola bask at the surface to warm themselves up after extremely deep dives. They have also been known to swim beneath kelp rafts to let fish such as senoritas eat ecto-parasites that attach to their skin. On occasion they will even let birds like seagulls peck the parasites from their skin.

mola mola skin

Mola Mola are found in every ocean except the arctic but breeding grounds or seasons have not been determined. Mola Mola do however lay over 300,000,000 million eggs per individual. The sunfish lays more eggs than every other know vertebrate.

Mola Mola have very few predators. Sharks, Orcas, and Sea Lions have been known to prey on Mola Mola but do not do it habitually. Humans do not regularly fish for Mola and there isn’t a market for them in most parts of the world. Humans are however the biggest threat to Mola due to bycatch from commercial fishing operations around the world.

mola mola 2


We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. Catalina Island Marine Institute is a hands-on marine science program with an emphasis on ocean exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and ocean happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at least a Bachelors Degree usually in marine science or related subjects. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science and ocean information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit www.cimi.org for additional information. Happy Reading!