Spring peepers bellow, Dinosaur plants live on,
Jell-O comes from cows
Q: At night, we hear the sounds of what many call
'peepers'. What is a peeper and how do they make all that noise and why?
---"Jeepers creepers" Gastonia, North Carolina
A: They’re frogs, a member of the Tree Frogs. Spring Peepers (Pseudacris
crucifer) make a fearsome racket for an inch (2 - 3 cm) long animal. Their
call is "a series of sharp, piercing, bird-like peeps about one per second or
faster," says sound recorder Lang Elliott.
[J. Harding, Michigan State U] Spring peeper bellowing his
They peep like a drum booms: a resonating cavity that amplifies sound. The
Spring Peeper bellows his ‘peep’ using a sac under his chin. He closes his nose
and mouth, squeezes his lungs, and blows up his sac. The squeezed air flows over
the vocal cords and into a closed system of chambers, including his mouth. The
sac beneath his chin balloons out and radiates the call from his vocal cords
into the world.
The noise can be deafening close up as zillions of frogs let loose. In a
spring evening and through the night, male frogs perch on sedges and grasses
near a pond and sing for mates. Each defends a small bit of turf about 4 to 16
inches in diameter (10-40 cm). Females listen and choose. A female usually likes
a fast-calling rate. Once decided, she swims nearby the chosen one’s territory
and finally touches the male. He climbs onto her back and she swims underwater
with the male clinging on. They glide around until she finds likely-looking
submerged plants. There she deposits about 800 eggs in small groups while the
male fertilizes them.
Scientific American: Frog
communication by Peter Narins
Studio: the sound of Spring Peepers
University of Michigan: Spring Peepers photos and sounds
University of Connecticut:
Q: What plants, from the days of
the dinosaurs, live today in their original form? —KW, Washington state
A: The dinosaurs roamed the land from 225 to 65 million years ago. During
this time, different plants evolved and some, like seed ferns, also died out.
Others—mosses, horse tails, ferns, conifers, cycads, magnolias—lasted, largely
[Gary M. Stolz, US Fish and Wildlife Service] Towering
conifers shaded dinosaurs... and they live on.
We still have conifers—the pines, larches, cedars, and firs. The biggest
living being is a conifer: the giant redwood of California (330 feet tall, 100
m). The oldest being is the bristle-cone pine that clings to windswept mountains
of southwestern deserts. They average 1000 years, a few exceed 4,000 years,
before they die.
The triumphant conifers evolved 224 million years ago, shortly after the
first dinosaur hatched.
Long before that, came the first land plant and it’s still around. Mosses
edged from the sea onto lava strewn land, almost 500 million years ago, but were
severely handicapped. They had no roots and still don’t. Next (400 million years
ago) came a group of three plants with roots (club-mosses, horse tails, and
ferns). Herds of long-necked sauropod dinosaurs grazed upon the ferns. The
descendants of these plants thrive today without much change.
The club mosses and horse tails grew tall (100 feet, 30 m), in dense ranks.
What an advantage these giant looming trees had—shading low-growing cousins.
Bugs climbed trunks after lush leaves and spores. Some evolved flight—a major
advance for the plants, too. Trees enticed flying insects to feed on their
spores. Insects flew from tree to tree, carrying male sex cells to eggs housed
Seeds evolved next, about 225 million years ago. Conifers and cycad trees
were among the first plants to produce seeds. Camarasaurs and brachiosaurs
hacked into these early trees with blade-like teeth. They must have had
steel-lined stomachs, too. Today, no mammal eats conifers because of their
foul-tasting, toxic sap.
The conifers endured the ages with few changes; likewise the cycads.
Dinosaurs were still around 100 million years ago when the first flowering
plants appeared, but probably they didn’t eat flowering plants. (We don’t know
why not but it might have contributed to dinosaur demise. Flowering plants
exploded over the land.) Magnolias flourish today much as they did when
Michael Knee, Ohio
State U: Evolution of plants
Michigan State U:
Q: What is gelatin? Is it made from horses?
---Marisa, Dallas, TX
A: Yes and cows and pigs and ... Gelatin is a colorless or slightly
yellow, transparent protein made by boiling animal hide, bones, and connective
tissues (i.e., gristle). Manufacturers most commonly boil cow parts to make
gelatin but any animal will do.
[Corel] Raspberry cherry gelatin
They grind the bones and other parts, soak in a strong base to soften them,
pass them through stronger and stronger acid solutions until the bones no longer
look like bones. They boil the mess for hours and raise an incredible stink. The
gelatin floats to the top. They skim off the gelatin from the boiling pot and
dry it into a powder. Adding sugar, flavorings, and artificial color transforms
it into Jell-O.
Peter Cooper, a self-taught engineer got the first American patent for the
manufacture of gelatin in 1845.
By the way, in 1981 a couple of Aussies (Paul Squires and Geoff Ross) created
the world’s largest Jell-O—a 7,700 gallon-tank of jiggling pink delight.
Union for the Advancement of Science and Art: Peter Cooper as Chemical Engineer
Chef Andy: Jell-O pages
Jell-O Museum: Jell-O trivia
Martin Chaplin, South Bank U:
(Answered Feb. 21, 2003)