Monday, April 30, 2012

Guess the Genotype #68

Can you guess this dog's genotype? Its breed?

Image from under a Creative Commons license

Unusual Breed: Bavarian Mountain Hound

This breed is also known as the Bayerischer Gebirgsschweißhund, also spelled Bayerischer Gebirgsschweisshund
A Bavarian mountain hound
The Bavarian mountain hound is a breed originating in Germany. The breed is still rarely seen outside of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and, of course, its native Germany. In these countries, they are most often seen working with game wardens and foresters. They are commonly used for blood tracking, where wounded game that has run off will be tracked down and retrieved. It appears the majority of the members of this breed are bred to track and are working dogs.

The breed dates back to the mid-1800s. Before then, there was a more general landrace-type "bracken" that eventually led to breeds such as the Hanoverian hound and, of course, the Bavarian mountain hound. The BMH began forming into its present form when a preference came for a smaller, lighter hound than the significantly larger Hanoverian. This preference came after the predominant method of hunting changed.

In appearance, the breed is medium-large in size averaging twenty inches tall and between fifty-five and seventy-seven pounds. Bitches are usually significantly smaller than dogs. The predominant color is masked red, with or without brindle stripes.

I couldn't find much information on the breed, however they do appear to be rather healthy. The major issues are ear infections and "happy tail," with entropion, hip dysplasia, and epilepsy appearing on occasion.

Sources are the Fédération Cynologique Internationale, Bavarian Mountain Hound Society of Great Britain, Hillock Kennels, and Dr. Bruce Fogle's The New Encyclopedia of the Dog. Images are from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons licenses: one, two.

Cool Animal Sounds: Whip-poor-will

Like the Bobwhite, which was featured in the last CAS, the whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferus) has a common name derived from its distinctive call. The "whip-poor-will" call is a dominance call given by males to help establish and maintain a territory. The birds make a number of other noises as well, including a defensive hiss when confronted with a predator. Overall, they are common in their native range, which reaches from Canada to Central America if you include all of its migratory route.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


A stained sample of sputum (mucus that has been coughed up from the lungs) from someone with tuberculosis (TB). The red slivers are Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes this disease. The presence of bacteria in this sputum is why coughing can spread the disease.
A poster advising good hygiene
It seems there are a lot of misconceptions about TB, especially when it comes to how deadly it is.

To begin, the bacterium that causes the disease is spread through the air. Specifically, this is only through people who have had the bacterium heavily infesting their lungs. When an individual with this level of infection sneezes and coughs, or even speaks, the tiny bacteria are expelled into the air. Then, when someone breaths in the bacteria, they may become infected. Luckily, unlike many other diseases, you can only contract TB through this method. Touching the spit or sputum of an infected individual will not make you sick. Nor will sharing objects with that person such as food and drinks, a toilet seat, or linens. You can't even contract it by kissing them.

In addition to the very specific mode of transmission, not everyone who is exposed to the bacteria will become ill. Many will not become infected, and many of those are are infected will be asymptomatic. This asymptomatic form is known as latent tuberculosis. Those with this form are indeed infected, but their body is effectively fighting off the disease. The vast majority of infected individuals will have this form, and they cannot pass the disease on to other people. A few of those who have latent TB will eventually become symptomatic and develop full-blown TB.

M. tuberculosis bacteria in culture form
So, what are the symptoms of tuberculosis? They include a persistent, bad cough that lasts for three weeks or more. Chest pain can also occur, as well as bringing up sputum which may contain blood. The lack of appetite, weight loss, and fatigue are the sources of one of the common names for this disease: "consumption." This term was used because it appeared as if the person were being consumed from the inside out.

There are also a number of risk factors of tuberculosis, all of which can greatly increase your likelihood of developing active TB. After exposure to the bacterium, the biggest risk factor is a weakened immune system. Reasons for a weakened immune system include being infected with HIV, having certain cancers, being too thin, abusing drugs, having received an organ transplant, diabetes, scoliosis, severe kidney disease, and receiving treatments that suppress your immune system so as to treat certain diseases.
A person receiving a Mantoux skin test

How can you be tested for TB? You can receive either a skin test or a blood test. The skin test is done by insertion of the chemical tuberculin under the skin. Time is given for the body to react to the chemical, and then the injection spot is observed and measured to determine whether it is positive or negative. A negative result indicates it is highly unlikely the individual has been infected, and a positive test indicates a possible infection of either latent or active TB. One downside to the skin test is that people who have previously received a tuberculosis vaccine may test positive, even if they are not infected with the bacteria. I have met someone who was born in Namibia who received a false-positive skin test after being vaccinated in his youth. The other test that is available is the blood test, which takes a blood sample and then tests its reaction to the TB bacteria itself. This test is preferred for those who have previously received a vaccination, as false positives don't occur. If you think you've been exposed to tuberculosis, you should get tested.

Prevalence of TB worldwide, with red being highest incidence and gray being least incidence.
How do you prevent tuberculosis infection? Vaccination is one preventative measure, and is commonly given to babies in countries where infection rates are high. In countries like the United States, the vaccination is rarely used due to the overall rather low incidence. Only people who meet very specific requirements will receive the vaccine, such as people who regularly work with infected patients or with the bacterium itself. In countries where infection is uncommon, prevention mostly involves prompt identification of infected individuals, followed by measures to prevent further infection while the infected individual is being treated.

TB can be seen in a lung X-ray
Treatment is suggested for anyone who tests positive for TB, whether they have the latent or active form of the disease. In the United States, this is partly in an attempt to eliminate the disease from the population. Overall, measures have been rather successful, considering the low infection rate in this country. Latent TB is far easier to treat than active, as you might expect. If someone has active TB, they have to be sure to follow dosing instructions on their medication to the letter. If this isn't done, its possible that they may develop drug-resistant tuberculosis. The drug-resistant form of the disease is the most difficult to treat. The more drugs the disease is resistant to, the more difficult to treat and the higher the possibility the treatments will not be effective. For the most, tuberculosis can be a highly treatable disease when handled correctly.

Despite the fact that treatment can be quite effective against the bacterium, approximately one-third of the world's population is infected with the tuberculosis bacterium, mostly as latent cases. About one and a half millions deaths were attributed to tuberculosis in 2010.  TB is also a leading killer of those who have become infected with HIV.

Source is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Images are from Wikimedia Commons and are copyright free: one, two, three, four, five, six.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

Phylum Ctenophora

One of the many deep-sea species found in Phylum Ctenophora. This species is bioluminescent.
It's been a while since I took a look at one of the animal phyla. I've spoken about this particular phylum in some detail before, so some of you may have already read parts of this post.

A larvae with a colored body
The name Ctenophora is derived from the Greek for "comb bearing," and this phylum includes approximately one hundred and fifty species. Though they superficially resemble jellyfish and other Cnidarians, the two groups are quite different. For one, Ctenophores lack the stinging cells that the Cnidarians have that cause the painful sensation when their tentacles brush against you. Instead of using those stinging cells to capture food, Ctenophores used structures called colloblasts, which secrete a sticky, adhesive substance. They are actually quite successful predators, to the point where some are troublesome invasives. These animals can also be distinguished from jellyfish and their relatives thanks to their complete digestive tract. While Cnidarians have only a blind-ended sack, comb jellies have a distinct mouth for ingestion of food and anal pores for elimination of waste.

Ctenophores are commonly referred to as comb jellyfish thanks to another of their characteristic features. Every Ctenophore has rows of cilia known as ctenes or combs organized into eight bands along the body called costae or comb rows. This is their primary method of movement and most species are only weak swimmers, unable to swim against a strong current. This makes them planktonic, despite the large size of some species. In combination with the combs, a sense organ opposite of their mouth is used to detect their orientation and controls how quickly the different costae beat.

A bioluminescent species
These creatures can be quite colorful, though many are transparent. In addition to body pigment, nearly every of species is bioluminescent. This is common in organisms that live in deep ocean water, though the biological process that produces the light in this group is unique. It's difficult to say what exactly the glow is for in this Phylum, but a number of purposes have been theorized. In addition to this bioluminescence, all comb jellies also show iridescence, the rainbow sheen that is so frequently seen when viewing them. The sheen is actually cause by light reflecting off the comb rows as they move, creating the colorful, flashing appearance.

Class Tentaculata
Class Nuda
There are two Classes in this phylum, and the division has been made based on whether or not the species posses tentacles at any point during their lifecycle. Species with tentacles are placed into Class Tentaculata, a group which includes the vast majority of comb jellies. All other species are placed into Class Nuda. Overall, species in Nuda have simpler body plans than those in Tentaculata. This includes the lack of oral lobes, which aid in prey capture as well as movement through the water. In addition, those tentacles seen in Tentaculata are used exclusively for prey capture. Nuda, in contrast, has developed a very stretchy mouth to help capture prey.

There is still much that isn't known about Ctenophores thanks to most species only being found in open ocean. Often, observations are chance encounters where individuals are caught in fishing nets. It isn't uncommon for scientific expeditions that are specifically looking to study these animals to discover new species during their searches.

Source is Biology of the Invertebrates. Images are from Wikimedia Commons and are under Creative Commons licenses or are copyright free: one, two, three, four, five.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Name that Disease #21

Can you name this disease?

Image is from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

Car Back? Adventure Time!

I haven't mentioned, but my car's been having some issues for a while now. I even took it in and the service center thought they had fixed the problem, but hadn't and when I informed them they had no idea what the problem could be. This culminated in me taking the car in last Thursday so that the mechanics could try one last time to figure out what in the world was wrong. I got the car back today, completely better and driving like brand new. So, I took Ebon out to campus to celebrate. We had a nice, hour-long walk, circling around to a number of parts of campus Ebon had not yet been to, including several of the gardens. So, on to the ridiculous amount of photographs.

Ebon outside one of the buildings, watching the people
A roly-poly I found in the International Garden
Juniperus formosana in the Conifer Garden
Can't read plaque, but another species in the Conifer Garden
Marsilea macropoda in one of the gardens
Ebon on a bench in the Primitive Garden
Lepisorus bicolor in the Fern Garden
Same as above. Can you find the sori in the larger version?
Selaginella unicinata in the Fern Garden (not a fern, but related)
Ephedra tweediana in the Primitive Garden
Tired Ebon outside of the Science building
After dropping off the bags, we went to have a peek at the pond. It's come to life! The frogs were peeping furiously and the brush is no longer brown. Ebon seemed like he wanted to go for a swim, but I didn't bring a ball. Or a towel.
Sunset over campus. The experimental banana orchard is in front.
It was fun. Hopefully I'll get a chance to go to somewhere different soon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Crazy Plants: Pineapple

A pineapple (Ananas comosus) that isn't fully ripe.
A flowering pineapple
The pineapple is a commonly eaten fruit, but few people have actually seen the plant from which that edible fruit comes. This is likely in part due to the fact that most pineapple eaten in developed countries is eaten in the canned form. For example, did you know that before becoming that fruit, a pineapple is a series of red flowers in need of pollination? This is thanks to the fact that pineapple the fruit is actual not a sinlge fruit, but a compound fruit made of a number of smaller fruits. Each flower on the inflorescence will become only a small section of the fully ripened pineapple of which we are so familiar. You can see where each flower was when looking at the compound fruit, as each of the honey comb-like sections on the exterior of the fruit represents what was once a flower. When cutting up a whole pineapple, you can also see the flower remnants in the form of withered stamens near the rind.

The pineapple is also worth note thanks to how it photosynthesizes. It uses a fairly unusual method known as Crassulacean Acid Metabolism or CAM. Plants that use this form of metabolism are best adapted for areas that can be rather dry. Instead of opening their stomate during the day to gather carbon dioxide, CAM plants open them during the night when less water vapor will evaporate. Carbon dioxide is then stored as an acid and used for photosynthesis during the day when stomata are closed. This form of photosynthesis is nor particularly efficient under moist, cool conditions, but when it's arid, nothing can beat a CAM plant. CAM plants don't include a great number of species compared to C3 plants (i.e. most plant species), but groups that photosynthesize this way include some of the bromeliads and orchids, as well as many succulents. CAM plants are not very well studied, and there's even the International Society of Crassulacean Acid Metabolism that is working on bettering our understanding the process.

A field of pineapple plants
In addition to its use as a food, pineapple has also been used as a folk remedy for a wide variety of illnesses. These include such varied problems as corns and warts to soars, scarlet fever, scurvy, sprains, bladder problems, and even venereal diseases. By the way, unripened pineapple is actually toxic. Those harvesting pineapple can become injured thanks to the methods of harvesting and a chemical known as bromelain. A secondary infection following injury has been termed pineapple estate pyosis. This toxicity is also part of why the fruit was so heavily used as a folk remedy, since the toxins act as a violent purgative. So, be sure to eat your pineapple when it's fully ripe.

If you have not yet had fresh pineapple, it's a real treat that's much better than canned. Just beware to eat it ripe and don't eat the core or rind.

Sources are Purdue University, Pima Community College, Purdue University again, International Society of Crassulacean Acid Metabolism, Newcastle University, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Images are from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons licenses: one, two, three.

Reviews: Sweet Treats

This will be my first post with the new Blogger, so forgive me if it comes out looking unusual. As I mentioned in my last review, this will be my last treat review for a while so that I can work on pairing down what I already have.

Canyon Creek Ranch Yams

Ebon, wanting desperately for me to give him a yam
Ebon has had yams before, but he only got some leftovers from the little treat bags I gave as gifts this past Christmas. So, I decided to grab a bag just for him. I don't give him sweet treats very often, but a little sweetness is okay every once in a while. Ebon loves yams and gets more excited that he normally does with treats, probably since he doesn't get them as often.

I picked up these particular treats as they were the only yam treat I could find at the store I was at. I'm not as happy with them as I was with the Beefeaters sweet potato treats, mostly because of the inclusion of additional sugar. I don't remember there being added sugar in the other brand. I dislike seeing added sugar or other sweetener an any dog product that I buy, especially refined sugar so far up the list and when added to an already sweet food. Yams and sweet potatoes are pretty sweet, so I don't see the need to add more sweetness. I will occasionally give Ebon something with sugar in it, but I try to keep it to a bare minimum. I also find it odd that the yams are nowhere to be found on the Canyon Creek Ranch website.

I also purchased these treats before the brand was named in connection with the recent chicken jerky-related illnesses that have been linked to products made in China. I do not support the continued inclusion of these potentially harmful products on the shelves, even if the source of the illness has not been determined. For a company that claims to be concerned about pet health, they're being extraordinarily defensive about it and don't seem to feel the need to look into potential hazards themselves. I chose to still feed Ebon these treats since they do not contain any chicken.

Ingredients: Yams, Sugar, Sodium Metabisulfite (To Preserve Color), Citric Acid (A Preservative).

Nutrition Facts:
Crude Protein: minimum of 1.5%
Crude Fat: minimum of 0.2%
Crude Fiber: maximum of 10.0%
Moisture: maximum of 17.0%

Freshpet Wag-gurt

Fresh out of the freezer
Ebon enjoying his wag-gurt
I spotted these little sweet treats during my last trip to Petsmart and decided to pick up the Apple & Peanut Butter flavor. I thought they might be a nice little treat during the heat of summer here in Georgia. So far, I've given Ebon two of the four cups that come in the package over the last month, even though it hasn't been hot yet this year. He already absolutely loves ice and yogurt, having eating ice cubes and plain yogurt numerous times in the past, so special frozen doggie yogurt made him incredibly happy. Especially since it involves peanut butter, another of his favorite things. His tail was wagging the entire time he spent licking the wag-gurt out of its little cup.

As opposed to the yams, this treat appears to be sweetened purely using unrefined sugar, in the form of apple juice. I also expected to find added sweetener in this product, as opposed to the yams, and it's good that it's in an unrefined form. I will probably be buying these again, especially if it gets very hot this year as it did last year. In the past, I used to add ice to Ebon's water and feed him the occasional cube to beat the heat on particularly hot days, but giving more than just frozen water would make a very nice summer treat. I also might make my own canine frozen yogurt, since I already have a recipe in mind. If I do, I'll discuss my recipe and the results in a future post.

Ingredients: Organic Yogurt (Contains Lactobacillus Bulgaricus & Streptococcus Thermophilus Live Cultures), Apple Juice, Inulin, Peanut Butter, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Cellulose Gum, Salt.

Nutrition Facts:
Crude Protein: minimum of 2.0%
Crude Fat: minimum of 2.0%
Crude Fiber: maximum of 2.0%
Moisture: maximum of 85.0%

Monday, April 23, 2012

Interesting Animals: Caecilians

One of the caecilian species in the Order Gymnophiona
Caecilians look a great deal like snakes or large worms, but they are in fact legless amphibians. They are placed in their own Order Gymnophiona, a decision which is supported by genetic analysis. These creatures are adapted for a burrowing lifestyle, though there are some species that are aquatic. They live in moist areas that are fairly close to the equator as, like all amphibians, these creatures need a stay moist. They are blind, with severely reduced eyes, and have no ear opening, so thus probably can't hear. They mostly use sensory protrusions near their eyes to find their way around as well as locate prey. They are carnivores, with quite sharp teeth that they use to capture prey. They eat invertebrates such as beetles or worms, and also will eat snakes and amphibians, including caecilians. They aren't often eaten themselves as they are, in fact, toxic.

One rather remarkable characteristic that these animals exhibit is that mothers feed their young. This feeding is very unusual in the animal kingdom, though, in that mothers develop tissue inside of the oviduct for this purpose. Early on, eggs develop as normal, with the offspring feeding on the yolk. However, after this food supply is gone the offspring break out and then latch onto their mother's oviduct tissue. The tissue releases a milk-like substance specifically produced for feeding the young, but the babies also take chunks out of the tissue as they feed. Other species have an even more bizarre method in which the young scrape the skin off of their mother's body. Caecilians are also unusual among amphibians in that fertilization is internal.

Below is a video depicting these unusual creatures and some of their habits, narrated by the ever-wonderful David Attenborough. Discussion of Caecilians begins at 0:24.

Sources are the San Diego Zoo, Animal Diversity Web, and Vertebrate Life. Image is from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license. Video is from YouTube.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Unusual Breed: Lacy Game Dog

The Lacy Game dog is also known as the blue Lacy, red Lacy, Lacy dog, Lacy hog dog, and Texas Lacy game dog. Though commonly called the blue Lacy, this is a bit of a misnomer as not all Lacys are solid blue. Tricolor and red dogs are also seen.
A red Lacy puppy
Today's unusual breed is a fairly obscure one, despite being the state dog of Texas. The term "Lacy" comes from the Lacy brothers, who first began the development of this cur-type breed. Since the breed can be considered a type of cur, there is a lot of variation in its type. For example, according to the Texas legislature, the breed is eighteen to twenty-five inches tall and between thirty and fifty pounds. Sources are conflicting as to what exactly went into making the Lacy. Scenthound, greyhound, English shepherd, coyote, and wolf are all mentioned when the breed's history is discussed. No matter what the ancestry, they were bred to be tough working dogs. An all around breed, these dogs were used for such purposes as herding, tracking, working trapping lines, and hunting hogs. There is a major emphasis on working ability among those that breed these dogs.

This blue Lacy is a working hog dog
Perhaps the most well-known use of this breed is in hog hunting. Wild boar are a major nuisance animal that frequently destroy crops. This invasive species has to be gotten rid of in some way, but their intelligence can make them near impossible to trap. So, hunting has become the best way to handle a growing problem. For a hog hunter, dogs can be an indispensable tool. One major advantage to using dogs is that they can track down the elusive hogs. However, this isn't an animal that can be easily treed or cornered until the hunter arrives. Hogs can be incredibly aggressive, which could spell death for a dog with the wrong temperament. A hog dog has to be tough enough and smart enough to find the hog and then keep it busy without winding up injured. Frequently, hog dogs will wear protection in the form of reinforced collars to help prevent them from being gored. Lacys may also work with other breeds while hunting hog, including pit bulls, American bulldogs, Catahoulas, and other breeds of similar type.

Lacy game dogs are not for everyone, and the best homes would be with someone who will work the dog regularly. They require a great amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and the easiest way to satisfy both of these is by giving the dog a challenging job to do. Generally, these dogs are not suggested for owners who don't already have a job for the dog to do. They also don't make first-time dogs, so it's best to already have experience with dogs before bringing a Lacy home. This is also not a good dog for an urban environment, as they need room to run.

The Lacy game dog is not currently registered with any of the major kennel clubs, but several smaller registries, including a number of breed-specific ones, accept them. Some groups are working towards the breed's acceptance into such registries as the AKC.

This breed is a rather healthy one due to the need for soundness in a working breed, though I did find evidence of color dilution alopecia and skin allergies sometimes popping up.

Sources are the National Lacy Dog Association, Lacy Game Dog Registry, Texas Lacy Game Dog Association, True Blue Lacys, and Net State. Images are from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons licenses: one, two, three.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Whooping Crane Spotted in Georgia

An adult whooping crane
A crane in a Georgia marsh
Ebon's breeder recently took the interesting photograph on the left near her home in Southern Georgia. There are fifteen species of crane in the world, and the whooping crane (Grus americana) is the only species that this bird could possibly be. There are approximately six hundred of these birds in the world, including those that are in captivity. However, whooping cranes are not normally found in Georgia. So, how did this bird wind up here?

The current distribution of these birds is highly relevant to their history as an endangered species. In 1941 there were only fifteen of the birds left in the world, making the species critically endangered and close to extinction. These fifteen birds were part of a population that migrated from the Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Through protection efforts, the numbers were able to begin to bounce back. However, conservationists were concerned that relying on a single population could still result in the loss of the entire species though illness or natural disaster. So, effort was put toward creating several different populations of birds.

A juvenile whooping crane
The first attempt was to create a population of whooping cranes in Idaho, but this group of birds has since completely collapsed. The next population became established in Kissimmee Florida. Though the population has done rather well, these birds were never able to learn to migrate. Normally, the chicks would learn the migratory path from the adult birds, but these chicks were being raised by humans. Since the species is a historically migratory bird, this is of concern. There had to be same way to teach the birds a new migration route.

Young cranes following the ultralight
The solution came in the form of an ultralight plane. Chicks were raised by hand using white suits and puppet heads to prevent imprinting on humans. The young birds were then taught to follow the small aircraft, whose wings were painted with dark tips to resemble the wings of the adult birds. Through the use of this plane, a population migrating between the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin and the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Florida has been established.

There is also now another non-migratory population that has been experimentally established in White River, Louisiana.

So, back to how a whooping crane could have possibly ended up in Georgia. There are two possible explanations. First, a bird from the permanent Florida population somehow made it over the border. Second, a bird from the Florida-Wisconsin migratory population spent a little time resting on the way to its breeding grounds. The latter seems like the most likely explanation since it is spring and approximately the right time for these birds to be leaving their wintering grounds.

No matter the reason, seeing one of these endangered birds in the wild is a rare treat. If you ever see a whooping crane in the wild, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would like you to report your sighting using the following form: Reporting Whooping Crane Observation.

Sources are the International Crane Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, and IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. First image is copyright to Kathy F. Additional images are from Wikimedia Commons and are copyright free: one, two, three.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What is an MSDS Sheet?

A section of an MSDS sheet, showing some of the required sections.
MSDS stands for Material Safety Data Sheet. The sheets are standardized and include any and all dangers of a substance, its chemical composition, properties, and what to do for certain types of exposure. Companies are legally required to make MSDS sheets available and readily accessible to any and all employees that will be working with potentially hazardous substances. Though potentially hazardous chemicals purchased by consumers require safety labeling, an MSDS sheet has some advantages as it has far more detailed information. Whereas a safety label may simply say "contact poison control," the MSDS may in fact give relevant phone numbers. I was required to gain a knowledge of MSDS sheets for my Organic Chemistry class as hazardous chemicals are commonly used in the laboratory. In fact, there were so many of them that pregnant women were advised not to take the course in case of negative affects on their fetus. We were required to research every material we would be using during the lab before we even stepped through the door.

MSDS sheets are regularly available on the internet and many companies offer ones for their own products. For example, the Clorox company offers them for its suite of products. As an example, I'm going to break down the sheet for their Regular Bleach.
  • Section I gives the name and brand of the chemical, as well as important contact information in case of accidents. Though the description of the product is here, this is more often placed in the section on physical data.
  • Section II gives all potential hazards the product has. In this case, the only one is that bleach is corrosive. What follows are first aid instructions for various types of exposure. 
  • Section III lists all of the ingredients in the products that are potentially hazardous, their concentrations, and safe level of exposure.
  • Section IV gives any safety precautions that should be taken while handling the substance, such as the wearing of gloves and goggles or ensuring proper ventilation. 
  • Section V lists safe containment of the materiel and is most important for products that may eat through certain types of containers. 
  • Section VI describes how to go about cleaning up disposal of the product, as well as cleaning up spills. This is most important for materials that are dangerous to flush into the city sewer system due to certain properties of the material itself, such as its reactivity. 
  • Section VII lists how the substance will react when combined with other substances. This is quite important for bleach as mixing it with a number of different materials, including ammonia, will result in toxic gasses being produced. Chlorine gas, for example, which is produced when mixing bleach and ammonia, can be extremely dangerous.
  • Section VIII has all information pertaining to flammability and explosiveness. In this case, there are no dangers of exposing this substance to an open flame. 
  • Section IX gives all physical data for the compound, which is especially important when it is being used in experimentation. This includes the pH of the substance, as well as its boiling point, water solubility, and specific gravity (aka density). This data can be used for calculations pertaining to expected results and other such data. Other information that may be in this section include melting point, odor, color, physical state, molecular formula, and a number of other important physical properties.
The sections given on this particular sheet are a bit different from those given on others, but the sections are always clearly labeled, which is a key to quick use of the sheet when the need arises. To see some differences, here's a sheet for diethyl ether, which has significantly different properties from bleach and is also far more dangerous.

There are a number of resources had large databases of MSDS sheets. Some are freely accessible, while others may require you to sign up to access the sheets. Here are some databases:
You can also usually find a sheet through a search engine like Google by typing in "MSDS" followed by the substance's common name. It can also be helpful to know the brand name or suppliers, as formulas, and thus dangers, can vary greatly by brand.

Images are from Wikimedia Commons and are copyright free or under Creative Commons licensing: one, two

Guess the Genotype #64

Can you guess this dog's genotype? Its breed?

Images were submitted to me by Christine

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Invasive Species: Red-Eared Slider

A red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) in Spain.
Baby sliders being sold at a market
The red-eared slider is a very common pet. If you've had a pet turtle, it was most likely a red-eared slider. It's believed that the popularity of pet turtles peaked during the airing of the popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles television show.

The species is native to much of the United States, with its range extending into parts of Northern Mexico. Their introduced range is now global, with introduced populations being found in South American, Europe, Asia, Africa, and parts of North America that are outside of its native range. The introduced range is believed to be all thanks to the pet trade. Turtle farms have bred millions of turtles that have been exported all over the world. The vast majority of the sliders are sold when they are still very small hatchlings a mere three or four centimeters long. A large number of buyers don't realize that the turtles will grow to up to ten times this original size to a substantial maximum size of thirty centimeters. Release of unwanted pets that have grown too large for their terrariums is one of the biggest reason why these turtles have ended up in some many places.

Though it has proven difficult to fully assess the damaging affects of this species in its introduced range, a number of impacts have been determined. They compete directly with other turtle species for basking sites and food sources. This includes competition with the endangered European pond turtle. They are even predators of some aquatic species. Sliders are also known carriers of parasites, many of which may be transmitted to native species. The red-eared slider is considered an Extreme Risk to the native species of Australia. Salmonella is also a concern for the human owners of pet turtles, as sliders are well known carriers of the bacterium, including some antibiotic-resistant strains thanks to antibiotics being heavily used in many turtle hatcheries. This species has been linked to a number of Salmonella outbreaks.

Efforts to manage the invasion include bans on importation of the species, however the sliders have been replaced by importation of other species which may be even more dangerous if they become invasive. The turtles can be caught by hand or using nets to help control the populations, and dogs have also been used to track down and remove eggs, as well as the turtles themselves.

This species is currently on the list of 100 World's Worst Invasives at #93

Sources are the Invasive Species Specialist Group, United States Geological Survey, San Francisco State University, Texas Parks & Wildlife, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Images are from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons licenses: one, two.