Polar bear (Ursus maritimus)

Did you know that today (February 27) is The International Polar Bear Day?

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) grows up to 2.6 m and can be simply recognized by a thick white fur. Together with Kodiak bear, the polar bear is the largest land carnivore (order Carnivora). Polar bears are widespread in the whole Arctic region. They prefer floating pack ice which they use for traveling. Thus, their geographic range usually reaches the southern area of floating ice.

Polar bear and its prey from BHL
These mammals usually live solitarily and have a great smell. This sense is useful when searching for prey. Polar bears mainly feed different species of seals but they also feed small whales, birds and walruses. Main hunting technique is waiting near a hole in the ice on prey. If necessary, the bears can survive for a long time with their fat reserves, only.

Photo of polar bear by Alan Wilson from EOL

While males of polar bears grow up to mentioned 2.6 meters, females are roughly half that size. They usually give birth to one to three cubs from November to January. Female takes care for the cubs for 2.5 years. It is a well-known fact that these bears can live up to thirty years. Polar bear population is currently between 20 to 25 thousand individuals.

Listen to the voice of the polar bear on Europeana

If you are interested in polar bears and other arctic animals, see Northwest Passage, NortheastPassage and Conquering of North pole in BLE – Expeditions. Stay tuned!

Fugu/Blowfish (Tetraodon/Arothron)

If you like Japanese food, be careful when you try fugu. Some organs of this fish are very poisonous. The chef, who wants to prepare the fugu, must go through a three-year training to recieve a special license.

Tetraodon from BHL

Blowfish are a medium-sized fish (up to 60 cm) with a beak-like mouth. They have a rounded body without scales, or with tiny spikes, and no ventral fin. The Japanese name "Fugu" translates into "river pig". Blowfish can suck water into a special stomach chamber and expand their body, similarly to a porcupinefish. The blowfish is the first fish whose genome has been completely read.

Photo of Arothron nigropunctatus by Dennis Polack from EOL

The blowfish is considered a delicacy in Japan, although it is deadly dangerous. The tissues of this fish (especially reproductive organs, liver, intestines and skin) of some blowfish contain the poison of tetrodotoxin. First signs of poisoning appear in 30 minutes after ingestion. Numbness of the tongue, lips and fingertips come first. Next are headaches, fatigue, lassitude, speech impediment and difficulty to breathe. Gradual paralysis of breathing muscles follows, with a coma and death within 24 hours after eating a blowfish.

Results for Arothron on Europeana

You can find more about blowfish on BLE Poisonous Nature. Stay tuned!

Common Laburnum (Laburnum anagyroides)

Be aware that some plants in parks and gardens could be poisonous, especially for children. One of them is Common Laburnum. And did you know that in earlier times, the seeds and leaves of Laburnum were used as a psycho-pharmaceutical agent to treat excessive irritability, psychoneurotic illnesses, migraines, chronic arsenic poisoning and liver ailments?

Laburnum anagyroides from BHL

Laburnum is a robust shrub or small tree with smooth gray bark, reaching heights of up to seven meters. It blooms from April through May with profuse cascades of labiates yellow racemes. Pods are bean-like, colored brownish-gray. This angiosperm is also known as golden rain or golden chain. It originated in southern and southwestern Europe, but is frequently planted in parks and gardens as an ornamental shrub. Its hardy character also led to it frequently being planted around schools, and this was a frequent source of mass poisonings in children.

Photo of Laburnum anagyroides by Hermann Falkner from EOL

Laburnum contains poisonous cytosyne, which is present primarily in the flowers, seeds and roots. Most poisonings occur in children, from playing with pods and seeds. A fatal dose for children is three to four pods, or twelve to fifteen seeds of laburnum. Initial symptoms of poisoning appear thirty minutes to an hour after ingestion, and include burning mouth, nausea and vomiting. Subsequent symptoms are intense stomach and intestinal cramps, sweating, headaches and muscle spasms, up through circulatory failure. Fatal poisonings are manifested as whole-body paralysis with death from lung paralysis in one to several hours.

Laburnum anagyroides, this image is under CC-BY-SA of University of Vienna, Institute for Botany - Herbarium WU in Europeana

See more poisonous plants on Poisonous Nature. Stay tuned to us.