eagleeagle with Nictitating Membrane

The Nictitating Membrane

By Nicole Reggia

Bald eagles, like other birds, have incredible eyesight. To help their vision stay sharp, they have the help of an inner eyelid called the nictitating membrane or plica semilunaris. This membrane is clearly visible, mid-blink, in the picture above and can be captured with a fast shutter speed camera.

Eagles and other birds have three eyelids: top, bottom and horizontal. As the bird blinks, the nictitating membrane slides horizontally across the eye beginning in the inside corner, closest to the beak, then moves across to the outside corner. In addition to protection while attacking prey, this membrane keeps the eye moist and clear of dust. And, because the membrane is transparent, eagles never lose sight of their prey when the membrane draws across the eye.

In most mammals, there is only a small vestigial remnant of the nictitating membrane in the corner of the eye. However, polar bears, aardvarks, camels, seals, marsupials and monotremes do have fully functional membranes. A good video of a crocodile's nictitating membrane in slow motion can be viewed here:

The first anatomical description of the nictitating membrane in the eye was made by an English biologist named Richard Owen in 1866. In the context of human evolution, we, too, have a remnant of this membrane in the corners of our eyes. If you look in a mirror at the inner corner of your eye, you will see a small fold of pink tissue which is the vestigial remnant of the nictitating membrane. Vestigial organs are things in our anatomy like our appendix and wisdom teeth that are left over remnants from a time in early human evolution when we needed them for survival for grinding leaves and digesting our food.

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The reason that primates lost the real function of this membrane is because evolution, by natural selection, takes away functions and organs that are no longer necessary for survival. There have been rare cases of persistent nictitating membranes found in our species which you can read about and see here: A rare case report

And the same report with pictures in the 2017 Indian Journal of Ophthalmology can be viewed here: Persistent unilateral nictitating membrane in a 9‑year‑old girl: A rare case report

To read about other interesting human vestigial organs and functions, please see here. 15 Human Vestigial Organs and Functions

Know Your Flies

Tips for Identification

Glass gem corn is a unique variety of rainbow-colored corn

by, Nicole Reggia

You can learn all about Nicole's homegrown gem corn featured on Dr. Jerry Coyne's website: Why Evolution is True.

glass gem corn
crystal river

Crystal River

By Nicole Reggia

Every winter West Indian manatees travel into the warm 74-degree waters of Crystal River, Florida. The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is a unique refuge that preserves the last unspoiled and undeveloped habitat that forms the headwaters of Crystal River. It is also home to a variety of wildlife including otters, alligators, bald eagles, raptors, and another 200 species of birds.

Despite their massive size, manatees are graceful swimmers in the coastal waters and rivers. Manatees are air-breathing, water-dwelling mammals related to elephants and they can grow up to 12 feet long and weigh up to 3500 pounds.

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These large animals are herbivores and adult manatees are voracious grazers eating weeds, water grasses and algae. Manatees have an average life span of 40 years but can live 60 years or more.

Manatees are endangered and are often accidently hit by motorboats and sometimes become entangled in fishing nets. Ultimately, loss of habitat is the most serious threat facing manatees.

Our friends at River Ventures in Crystal River, Florida provided us with an unforgettable experience and connection with these amazing animals. River Ventures is a family owned and operated manatee swim tour company and educational facility. Special focus is placed on educating the public on safety, conservation, history and behaviors of manatees and the federal and state laws regarding swimming with these beautiful animals.

If you have ever wanted to see these fascinating, shy and gentle creatures, consider a tour with River Ventures. Visit our friends at: Tell them we sent you!

How Elephants Listen with Their Feet

Beekeeping in winter

Winter Beekeeping

In winter, honeybees gather in a central area of the hive and form a "winter cluster". A winter cluster is much like a huddle you may have seen at a football game-except it lasts all winter. Bees have one main job in the winter-to keep the queen safe and warm. In order to do so, worker bees surround the queen and form a cluster with their bodies. The worker bees then flutter their wings and shiver. The constant motion keeps the temperature of the hive warm. Though the queen is always at the center of the cluster, worker bees rotate from the outside to the inside of the cluster, so no individual bee gets too cold.

Video written by Nicole Reggia, Produced by Dave Bock, Now That's


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Red Foxes - Red foxes live around the world in many diverse habitats including deserts, mountains, grasslands and forests. The red fox's resourcefulness has earned it a legendary reputation for intelligence and cunning.

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.
- Aristotle

Catch the Buzz

Buzz in the Box
Beekeeping is becoming a very popular hobby. Just as human society organizes itself to carry out many complex tasks such as food provision, rearing young, defense and household maintenance, so do bee colonies. Thousands of individuals are effectively programmed so that each bee within the colony knows exactly what it must do at any given time and in any given situation. A colony of bees can house itself, defend itself, feed itself, and if required it can raise another queen and move to a better location. It can even split itself into two separate colonies, one with a new, young queen, by swarming.

Wolves by Cheryl Lord

CherylThroughout history wolves have gotten quite a bad rap for being evil, villainous creatures loathed and feared by all mankind. The truth of the matter is while wolves should be respected, as all wild creatures should be, this misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. Most healthy wolves would just as soon avoid any contact with man, and there are very few documented fatal human/wolf encounters in the United States.

Wolves are actually very social creatures that live within a strictly regulated pack, led by the alpha male and female, who normally mate for life. The whole pack helps raise any pups, taking turns playing with, nurturing, feeding and guarding them as adults rotate hunting duties.

Read More >


Backyard and the Barnyard.

Many of us dream of abandoning the rat race of the city and migrating to "the country" for a more satisfying self-sustaining existence. For some, this new life includes the desire to have a few chickens pecking around the backyard or barnyard, providing us with the freshest eggs at little or no cost. The answer to the age-old question "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" is neither. It was the dinosaur. A recent study has shown that the chicken is a direct descendant of the Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaur.

It is estimated that 11 billion chickens populate the planet and they all are derived from the Red Jungle Fowl Gallus gallus, of southern and southeastern Asia. According to some estimates, half a million households now keep chickens. There are many, many breeds and varieties of chickens which are kept for eggs, meat, and exhibition. Chickens are very social birds and use about 30 different sounds to communicate. If you pay attention to the sounds they make as they engage in different activities, you'll soon be able to close your eyes and know what they are doing by the sound. Whether they are in the backyard or in the barnyard, raising chickens is educational and by watching them interact you will learn something about how all birds live and behave.

SnakeA Tale of

Reptile skin is covered in overlapping plates called scales. This layer of skin is good at keeping moisture inside, so reptiles can survive in hot, dry places. Skinks and snakes have smooth, flexible scales for burrowing or moving across ground. The leathery scales of caimans are strengthened by bony plates on the back and belly while tortoises have a tough, warty covering on their head and legs. Many reptiles have rough, granulelike scales that rise into spiked points along their back. These sharp spines are good for defense and some form beautiful crests which are useful in attracting a mate.

FungiFascinating Fungi

Fungi are very strange organisms. They have no stems, no roots or leaves. Even the most advanced of them are no more than interwoven threads. At first sight, they appear dead and early naturalists considered them exactly that. Fungi, the only organism apart from bacteria that can digest wood, feed on the fallen trunk of this tree in the forest, releasing the nutrients it contains. We know that their cells divide in a way that is fundamentally different from any other organism which sets them apart from both animals and plants into a kingdom that is entirely their own.

Now That's Wild Dolphin 56Dolphin 56

Dolphin 56 was one of five dolphins captured in 1979 near the NASA Causeway in the Indian River Lagoon as part of a field study to track dolphin movements. He was estimated to be ten years old at that time and was freeze-branded with the number “56” on his dorsal fin in Florida as part of an ongoing study.

Now That's Wild Dolphin 56 FinFor over three decades this friendly dolphin has been making appearances and turning up the waters up and down the coast from Florida to Maine and continues to interact with boaters, kayakers and surfers with his fame growing. Dolphin 56 has been spotted northward near Sheepshead Bay, New York but spends most of his summer in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, dazzling boaters. Bottlenose dolphins have an average lifespan of 25 years with a maximum of 50 years. All dolphins and whales are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and it is illegal for people to feed, pet, harass or harm these animals. Dolphin 56 is about 43-45 years old and was last spotted in the fall of 2011. The Now That’s Wild team will be looking for Dolphin 56 this summer season and will post any updates.
Dolphin 56 is so popular he even has his own Facebook page.

Now That's Wild Bird SenseBird Sense

Birds are more like humans than many realize: they are bipedal, they rely primarily on sight and hearing, and most are monogamous. And they’re smart. When compared to dogs and cats in experiment testing on the ability to seek food, corvids (jays, crows, rooks, jackdaws and ravens) out-performed mammals. The brain-to-body weight ratios of certain birds are equal to that of great apes and cetaceans and only slightly lower than humans.

Dr. Irene Pepperberg’s (Harvard University) research with African Grey parrots scientifically demonstrated they possess the ability to associate human words with meanings, apply the abstract concepts of color and shape, and perform cognitive tasks at the level of dolphins, chimpanzees and human toddlers.

The Clarke’s nutcracker collects up to 30,000 pine seeds, buries them across 200 square miles and succeeds in retrieving over 90 percent of them even when covered in snow. New Caledonian crows make tools of twigs they trim into hooks to pull larva from tree holes. Kea can solve logical puzzles and will work together to achieve a certain object and European magpies have shown to be able to pass the mirror test of self-awareness by trying to remove a sticker from their body.

Avian intelligence is represented through their feeding skills, use of tools, memorization abilities and group behavior and provides insight into the intelligence of bird species.

Now That's Wild There's No Place Like HomeThere's No Place Like Home

By Dave Bock

Had Dorothy landed here, instead of Oz, she would have been no less convinced that she was not in Kansas anymore. The Hopewell Rocks of New Brunswick, Canada, feel like one of the bizarre landscapes from the Star Wars universe. I half expected to meet some strange alien among the improbable rock formations along the beach. And why not? Just across the Bay of Fundy, a few days prior, we had been hunting fossils at Joggins Fossil Cliffs in search of some of our evolutionary predecessors. They too seemed alien.

Now That's Wild Field Notes The Bees Who Own MeThe Bees Who Own Me

By Nicole Reggia

I was in grade school when I first became interested in bees. A wild colony established itself in the branches of a tree in our backyard. I read with interest everything about bees and the tiny society living at our house. Now a bit older and with some space to house domestic hives, I recently decided to become a beekeeper. The reasons are both personal and environmental and stem from my love of nature and intrinsic motivation to improve the planet. Although working around 50,000 honeybees gave me some apprehension, I have to admit I’m absolutely smitten with these amazing little creatures.