“I have a question about Hermann’s tortoises” says Christopher (10)

Many thanks team. The Western Hermann’s tortoise has evolved in the warmer parts of Europe while the Eastern Hermann’s tortoise has evolved in the colder parts of Europe where the ice age lasted longer. The Eastern tortoise is bigger than the Western one and it has been determined that it probably evolved faster than the Western tortoise. They can be distinguished by their carapace and plastron patterns. The images below are from Chris Leone
The Plastron

The Carapace

Maybe, Christopher you could tell me how long tortoises live? All you need to do is tell me in the Reply box below.?

Changes to title, images  and added information on tortoises (21/11/17)

Brandon S (10) asked “What kinds of alligators are there?

Nice question Brandon. Alligators and Crocodiles belong to the same family called the Crocodilians.

In a question from Kaia my team introduced the idea of ‘species’ and  said that, for example, there are 20,000 species of butterfly which means there are 20,000 different kinds of butterfly. There are however only two different types (species) of alligator – the American Alligator and the Chinese Alligator. Like butterflies they are almost identical the only difference with the alligators is their size.

There is a lot of work that has gone on by scientists to catalogue animals/insects/plants and other living things. For example you are in the family Sapiens and the Species Homo.

Brandon a question for you. Can you spot the differences  between a crocodile and an alligator?  They are in the same family. Try and let me know.

Thank you for your question.

“How many living things are on Earth?” asks Kaia (8)

Thanks team.

If you want a definition of ‘living’please click on the link.

The species  butterfly has  20,000 of the 1 million species in the insect group. At any one time there must be thousands of living Cabbage White butterflies flying around so you have 20,000 different types of butterfly flying around and maybe there are 50,000 of each type living at any one time.  Help. I must admit the calculations are frightening so i cheated and looked at the work of other scientists who say that there are  8 million species and each species has millions of living specimens. 

The homo species (us) has 9 billion living specimens, I suspect the ant population is considerably bigger than that so in answer to your question …. and then think of the number of plants  ….and then the number of bacteria …..there is no believable answer. However somebody has tried and they had difficulty putting all the numbers on their sheet of paper. Sorry Kaia.

If there are other questions which you may have thought of then please fill in the Reply box below or ask another question.  

Revised 17/102017  Numbers on image changed and text rewritten.

Siobhan (11) asks “Do fish sleep?”

Siobhan. You maybe interested in why all animals (ourselves included) sleep. It is in sleep that we make our memories. Our nervous system and brain work because of fantastic cells called neurons. When we feel something, it is the neurons in the nerve system of our hands that send messages to the brain about what we are feeling. When we sleep it is the neurons in our brain that link up and create the memory of that touching experience.

Thanks for the question. If you have any further questions you can make a comment or ask another question.
(Anyone reading this post who wants to ask a question or make a comment please feel free to do so)

“If all living things were in one food chain, what would be at the top?” asks Chelsea and Ashli (10)

Thanks team. I found a nice little revision site on food chains that you might like to try, find it at Food Chain Game.

Now to your question. Firstly it might be a little difficult putting all living things into one food chain. Secondly do you think it would be humans?  Ecologists (They are scientists who specialise in studying the living environment) rank species by their diets using a metric*  called the trophic level scale. Plants, which produce their own food, are given a rank of 1. Herbivores, which eat only plants, are ranked 2. The fiercest of meat-loving predators, such as killer whales, are rated at 5.5. Humans are rated at 2.5 which is the same level as a pig.

If you want to make a comment please use the box below or you could ask another question.

* metric as a noun means a standard scale of measurement so you could call a temperature scale a metric or any other standard scale of measurement a metric.

(Anyone reading this post who wants to ask a question or make a comment please feel free to do so)

(updated 13/9/17 -changed metric to measurement)
(updated 15/9/17 – ‘measurement’ back to ‘metric’ after realising it was the correct word in the context in which it was presented, added addendum explaining it’s use as a noun)

“Am I living?” asked Cloe (7).

Many thanks team. You are right there was a question about clouds  and if they were living. Think about what living means for you and for other things that might be living.

Do you think that plants, rocks, clouds, germs, the air, birds, trees and you are living?  You might not think that a tomato is living BUT does it contain seeds? Think about seeds and what happens to these non-moving, non-growing things. Are they living? So put them in some water and give them some soil, what happens?

Any reader can ask a question or leave a Comment in the Leave a Reply box below

“If a cow ate only strawberries would it’s milk taste like strawberries? was Reginalds (grade 2) question

It is amazing that a cow has four stomachs like sheep and goats. The four stomachs facilitate the process of breaking down the grass into an edible, consumable, foodstuff.  Reginald, I am sorry that I cannot suggest an experiment to test your interesting thought. Most of the strawberry you eat is organic fibre and cellulose in nature. The sugars and flavouring are quite volatile so I would imagine (don’t know) that they would not survive the four stomach processing. I am happy for you to come up with some additional information.

Poonie (9) asked – “Why do cats always land on their feet?”

Poonie, many thanks for your question. Having been a cat owner for the last 20 years I have always been interested in this BUT decided that I did not want to experiment on my 19 year old cat (Marley). I think  I will rely upon other people’s experiments to try and answer your question.

Apparently it’s all to do with, muscular reaction. Somehow they can rotate their body very quickly, within seconds of beginning a fall. I’ll talk my friends about it, and asked if any other animals can do this.

This little video, made using a flicker book, illustrates how the cat changes it’s bodies position as it falls

One of my friends suggested that you should look at cats and the positions that they take in their everyday life so that you can understand how flexible the backbone/spine of a cat is. Record what you see and let us know. Can you position yourself in the same way as a cat does? Possibly in some positions, but what about the other positions?

How do we know what organelles inside a cell looks like? – asks Anne (7th Grade)

How do we know what organelles inside a cell looks like? Anne, a fascinating questions. I have to be honest I have no idea what an organelle is (I am traditionally what might be called a physical scientist) – I know a lot about physics and chemistry but very little about biology and botany. I do have a team who can set me on the trail of answering you question so here goes…..over to you team.


Thanks team. Some other questions ‘bounce’ around my mind. Why can’t light bounce of the organelles? I then realised that it is thought that light is in fact particulate  in nature. Scientists think that light might consist of particles – called photons. These photons are basically to big to bounce of such a small particle as an organelle. They could bounce off but when you look at them after the bounce they will not be able tell you anything about the thing they bounced off.

As my team suggest electrons are much smaller than photons, so when they bounce of the organelle they will reflect what the organelle at that point looks like. To do this scientists use special microscopes called electron microscopes  that instead of firing light (photons) at the thing they want to look at fire electrons and look at how the electrons have changed after they have bounced of the thing you are looking at.

Anne, hope this makes sense. Thanks for the question. Unsure about what I have said then you can ask another question.

“Where do dogs come from?” – asks Sidrah


Thanks for the suggestion. Lets see if I can explain it?

The dictionary definition of evolution is: It is a process of formation or growth. An aeroplane evolves from a collection of its parts. A picture evolves from the actions of a painter. A plant evolves from a seed.

In the biological sciences it has a special meaning as it studies the how and why living organisms change over time.

Living things pass on their traits (characteristics) from one generation to the next. All of us inherit a set of genetic blueprints from our parents. But those blueprints are never copied exactly from one generation to the next. Little changes occur with each passing generation and those little changes can become very big changes over a long period of time. These changes can reshape living things, and biological evolution has then taken place. Look at the video below it shows the changes that resulted in who you are now.

Dogs, like humans were very different millions of years ago.

Have more questions …. then ask another question.