Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Life in a pine cone

The next time you go for a walk, see if you can find a pine cone. When you pick it up, marvel at this: you may be looking at someone’s home. Some animal species – like spiders, mites, and ants – can live, eat and sleep in this microhabitat. I learned this the hard way a year ago. I was working on a craft project involving pine cones and decided to saw one in half. Soon after I began cutting, small insects started fleeing the pine cone in earnest. A good rule of thumb for crafters is to bake a pine cone in a 200 degree F oven for about 20 minutes before using it for crafts. From an ecologist’s perspective, however, I must remind you that in doing so, you might be destroying someone’s home. You may wish to study the microfauna (little bitty animals) in your pine cone instead. Check out Life in a Pine Cone if you want to examine a pine cone like a scientist. I think this would make an interesting topic for a science fair project. What do you think?


Itinerant Cryptographer said...

Where do the ants and other creatures live during the rest of the year? Do they start a nest when the pinecone falls, and then send out queens/drones and die off when winter comes?

jublke said...

Great questions, IC. I don't know the answers off-hand, but I'm looking into it [buries head deeper into computer]. That's the great thing about science, there's always more to learn! :)