Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
Nature’s Animal Ambassador
Do your feet sometimes smell rotten? Do you wish you could toss out your shoes and start with a new pair? We make jokes about smelly feet, but smell and feet have a very different relationship among some insects.
Take butterflies. Have you ever watched a butterfly flit over a plant, gently touch its feet to a leaf, and then fly on to the next leaf? That butterfly isn’t being picky about where to land. It’s hunting for the right kind of leaf for laying its eggs. It’s “smelling” the leaf with its feet!
Actually, we need to qualify that statement a bit. Some writers will say the insect is “smelling” the leaf while others may write that it’s “tasting” the leaf. Smelling and tasting are forms of “chemoreception,” or sensing of chemicals. Smell usually refers to sensing from a distance while tasting generally means actually touching the nerve cells that sense a chemical.
We humans have cells in our noses that send messages to our brains about chemicals in the air. We call that our sense of smell. We have cells on our tongues that sense chemicals dissolved in liquid in our mouths. That’s taste.
That butterfly doesn’t have a nose, and its mouth is a long tube for sucking up nectar from flowers. Its chemoreceptors are elsewhere, like on its feet, around its mouth, and on its antennae. Most butterflies lay their eggs on the plants that the hatched caterpillars will eat. Some species are very specific about what plants their young can feed on. Take the postman butterfly, which lives in Central and South America. Its caterpillars can only survive on certain species of passionflower vines. Other species are poisonous to their offspring.
The female postman butterfly has dozens of special nerve cells on her feet called “gustatory sensilla.” Scientists think that when she touches gently down on a leaf, these cells can sense chemicals there that would be poisonous to her caterpillars. She avoids laying eggs on those leaves. But when she finds a plant that will nourish her young, she’ll alight and lay her eggs.
Now take your shoes off and move your feet around on the floor. The only nerve endings on your feet are ones that sense touch. But then, you don’t need to be able to smell the ground you walk on. Imagine how gross it would be if your feet could smell the insides of your socks and shoes—yuck!
A dog’s nose is 300 times more powerful than a human nose, so it’s no wonder that dogs use their incredibly advanced sense of smell to do some very important jobs. In Super Sniffers, Dorothy Hinshaw Patent explores the various ways specific dogs have put their super sniffing ability to use: from bedbug sniffers to explosive detectors to life-saving allergy detectors . . . and more. This dynamic photo-essay includes first-hand accounts from the people who work closely with these amazing dogs. For more information, click here.
Dorothy Hinshaw Patent is a member of iNK's Authors on Call and is available for classroom programs through Field Trip Zoom, a terrific technology that requires only a computer, wifi, and a webcam. Click here to find out more.
MLA 8 Citation
Patent, Dorothy Hinshaw. "Smelling Feet or Smelly Feet?" Nonfiction Minute, iNK
Think Tank, 23 Jan. 2018, www.nonfictionminute.org/the-nonfiction-minute/
Stephen R. Swinburne
The celebrated astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, said, “People never look up.” Tyson or Starman, as he is called, is right. Look up and you’ll see amazing stuff: puffy cumulonimbus clouds rising 60,000 feet, broken rainbows, blue skies bluer than blue, Venus and Mars huddling beside the new moon, the Milky Way.
When you look up, you can’t help realize you are standing, feet firmly planted, on planet Earth. We are attached in a very physical way to this place...this planet called Earth.
So, not only look up, but, as Rachel Carson declared in many of her writings, “Look around, and down, and closer.”
Whether you are looking up or looking down, we celebrate our home planet every year on April 22. This celebration or “birthday” is called Earth Day and it has been going on since 1970 after Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, proposed a day of national focus on environmental issues. Buoyed by the success of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, about the concern for living organisms and the environment, Earth Day 1970 set out to raise public awareness for the health and harmony of the planet. People from all walks of life— young and old, farmers and urban dwellers, liberals and conservatives— banded together and achieved great things. The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
And now, forty-six years later, Earth Day 2016 has gone truly global. Around the world, people celebrate Earth Day with massive rallies, marches and festivals. But for many people it is not just an annual event, but all the quiet acts and the simple habits performed throughout the year. For instance, I make it a habit of recycling every piece of plastic I use (or as much as humanly possible). Less plastic that ends up in the oceans means happier and healthier sea turtles and whales.
If you want some ideas about how you can demonstrate your support for environmental protection, you might start by checking out the book, Recycle This Book - 100 Top Children’s Book Authors Tell You How To Go Green.
And if you link to the Earth Day website, you can take a peek at all the great activities planned around the world on April 22, 2018.
Let’s make this the best Earth Day ever...all year long!
With essays from renowned children’s book authors such as Ann Brashares, Jeanne DuPrau, Caroline B. Cooney, Laurie Halse Anderson, Bruce Coville, Gennifer Choldenko, and more than 100 others, each piece is an informative and inspiring call to kids of all ages to understand what’s happening to the environment, and to take action in saving our world. Helpful tips and facts are interspersed throughout.
Part of the award-winning Scientists in the Field book series, Sea Turtle Scientist introduces Dr. Kimberly Stewart, “the turtle lady,” and describes her work on St. Kitts with endangered loggerhead sea turtles. The book provides extensive information on sea turtles and Dr. Stewart’s research, as well as the efforts of WIDECAST to preserve and protect these amazing creatures. For more information, visit the author's website.
Stephen R. Swinburne is a member of iNK's Authors on Call and is available for classroom programs through Field Trip Zoom, a terrific technology that requires only a computer, wifi, and a webcam. Click here to find out more.
MLA 8 Citation
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