Why Do Mosquitoes Exist? Why Do Elephants and Donkeys Represent the G.O.P. and the Democrats? And More Questions From Our Readers |
At the Smithsonian
Q: What goal do mosquitoes serve?
— Lana Carlton | Bradenton, Florida
While they may be able to appear needless and purely frustrating to us people, mosquitoes do play a considerable position in the ecosystem. Mosquitoes shape the most important supply of biomass in the meals chain—serving as meals for fish as larvae and for birds, bats and frogs as grownup flies—and some species are necessary pollinators. Mosquitoes don’t deserve this sort of unhealthy rap, says Yvonne-Marie Linton, analysis director at the Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit, which curates Smithsonian’s U.S. National Mosquito Collection. Out of the greater than three,500 mosquito species, handiest round 400 can transmit sicknesses like malaria and West Nile virus to other folks, and maximum don’t feed on people in any respect.
Q: I learn that a lioness might consume her cubs or allow them to starve. Is that true? Why would she do this?
— Jeaneth Larsen | Mitchell, South Dakota
If a lioness eats her cub, it’s most likely as a result of there’s an issue: Either it used to be stillborn or died in a while after delivery from herbal reasons. The mom consumes the stays so predators aren’t interested in it. Think of it extra as a survival tactic than a brutal ritual, says Craig Saffoe, curator of Great Cats spaces at the National Zoo. A lioness will feed her offspring milk except she bodily stops generating it, which may occur because of low meals and water sources and may just lead the cubs to perish. If the cubs are sufficiently old to consume solids, they normally consume with the remainder of the pleasure, however need to consume ultimate and are normally the first to die off if sources are low. Grown adults usually consume first; that allows them to reproduce once more once sources go back to commonplace.
Q: What used to be the foundation of ZIP codes?
— Rosanne Levitt | New York City
The U.S. Postal Service presented the “zone improvement plan” (ZIP) code in 1963. The national machine mechanized extra of the paintings of mail sorting, which had up to now been completed by means of hand, says Lynn Heidelbaugh, curator at the National Postal Museum. The thought dates to 1944, when postal inspector Robert Moon proposed including a three-digit code to addresses; the first quantity referred to a area and the subsequent two to a mail processing middle. Two many years later, after mail volumes had grown exponentially, Postmaster J. Edward Day followed a model of that plan, including a fourth and 5th digit designating a particular submit workplace. The Zip code has been expanded two times: Four further numbers point out what facet of the side road, and even hallway, the vacation spot is on. Two extra numbers collection the provider’s path to make it extra environment friendly.
Q: Why is the Republican Party represented by means of an elephant and the Democratic a donkey?
— Anonymous | Washington, D.C.
President Andrew Jackson, who used to be supported by means of the Democrats in 1828, earned the nickname “Jackass” for his stubbornness, says Jon Grinspan, curator of political historical past at the National Museum of American History. The symbol caught to the Democrats and took off after the Civil War, once they have been observed as the defeated celebration that wouldn’t settle for its loss. Around the similar time, cartoonist Thomas Nast began drawing a stumbling elephant to constitute the Republican Party, as soon as united by means of its abolitionist purpose however suffering in the postwar years. Originally rather insulting, the two symbols have been embraced in the early 20th century.
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