Vocablets in the News: They’re Slow, They’re Slimy, and They’ll Eat Your House

What’s the story behind the snippet?  Let’s dive deeper and see what’s really going on.

The Word:

Snails?  A menace?  But they seem so harmless!

How could something that doesn’t even have limbs or teeth possibly be a threat?

The Story:

Miami Invaded By Giant, House-Eating Snails (NPR, 17 Sept 2011)

These aren’t the ordinary snails you find in your garden or stuck to the sidewalk after a heavy rain.  These are Giant African Land Snails, which grow to an incredible ten inches long.

The animals are restricted in the United States, but people often smuggle them into the country in their pockets as unusual novelty pets.

The environment here isn’t designed to handle them, so they multiply rapidly, threatening local species of plants and animals and disrupting the ecosystem.

Hey, is that stucco? Looks tasty...

Why It Matters:

The snails aren’t just huge versions of your everyday garden snail, however.  They carry rat-lung worm, which can transmit meningitis to humans.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the snails will also latch onto the stucco on the side of houses and eat through it like huge, slimy termites.

An introduction in 1965 took ten years and a million dollars to clear out the seventeen thousand snails that had invaded the area.

Making It Memorable:

Another type of non-native menace is kudzu, a vine from China and Japan that has been growing at an alarming rate in the southeastern United States.  What are some other examples of non-native species wreaking havoc on local ecosystems?

Want to study all the hidden words linked in this post?  Go to the Snails: blog VitN studylist on VocabNetwork!

Studylist of the Week: Natural Remedies

Chicken soup, vitamin C, gargling with salt water, herbal teas, heating pads…

Most of us know at least a few non-pharmaceutical ways to feel better when we’re sick or hurting.  VocabNetwork’s Natural Remedies studylist showcases some of the more unusual ways that nature can treat what ails us.


Human beings have known for millennia about the psychedelic properties of magic mushrooms, using them for ritual and recreation.

Now, research has found that these “shrooms” can alleviate (make more bearable) pain in cancer patients.  Some even say they lose their fear of death after the experience!


Medicine from shark tissue?  Believe it!  Scientists have discovered a compound in sharks called squalamine that works as a potent antiviral.

The efficacy (ability to produce the intended result) of the compound of fighting chronic infections is remarkable, and could prove useful in many hospitals.


Cockroaches are usually thought to spread disease not fend  it off (defend somebody or something from harm).

However, newly-discovered chemicals in the brains of cockroaches have been found to kill E. Coli and even MRSA (a strain of staph infection resistant to antibiotics).



One potential remedy known for its surprising antibacterial properties is Manuka honey from New Zealand.

Ancient cultures saw it as a kind of panacea (hypothetical remedy for all ills and diseases) due to its ability to treat a variety of ailments, from colds and flus to wounds and rashes.


Would you be open to an unusual type of treatment, like magic mushrooms, if you had terminal cancer?  What kinds of natural remedies do you use?

Vocablet of the Day: Sate

Today’s Vocablet features a remarkably sure-footed animal that can scale unbelievable cliffs in search of its favorite mineral.

The sate (Mountain Goats) Vocablet is about the incredible ability of mountain goats to climb nearly smooth, almost vertical surfaces to satiate their craving for salt.  The goats climb rock faces and human-made dams, licking the salt from the surface of the stones.

National Geographic has an article on these sodium-craving creatures, including pictures so amazing that they look like they were altered in Photoshop.  Don’t look down!

Is this sate (Mountain Goats) Vocablet in your collection?
Check it out in VocabNetwork’s Amazing Animals studylist.

Have a story or anecdote about ‘sate’?  Let us know in the comments!

Studylist of the Week: Animal Mysteries

Did you know that sharks have cells in their brains that can detect electrical fields?

I sure didn’t.

There’s so much we don’t know about the other inhabitants of our world, and the more we learn, the more we realize we have so much left to learn.  The Animal Mysteries studylist details some of the more unexplainable phenomena of the animal kingdom.

Earth is home to innumerable species of animals, many of them more mysterious and bizarre than the most imaginative science fiction aliens ever created.  And just when we start to think we’ve got them figured out, we discover something entirely unexpected.


Mass fish and bird deaths last winter proved difficult for scientists and other experts to understand.

Even though there was no evidence that the events were linked, the eerie coincidence led many to worry that this was a sign of worse to come.


A newly discovered microbe is changing the way we think about life.

Instead of phosphorus, which until now was considered essential to life, these tiny creatures can feed on a highly poisonous metallic element, arsenic.


Unlike wolves, coyotes can coexist comparatively peacefully with humans, moving about mostly at night and remaining wary of people.

They continually avoid people through resourcefulness, making them easy to live around but difficult for researchers to study.


The largest fish species in the world, the Whale Shark, is so quiet and unlikely to cause trouble that people can play with them or even hitch a ride on a fin.

Despite their huge size, they have proven difficult to study, so researchers don’t even know how many of them may be in the oceans.


One of the best things about scientific inquiry is the knowledge that there is always more out there to discover.  And when it comes to animals, I suspect we’ll continue to be amazed and intrigued by our fellow Earthlings for a long time to come.

Do you have any stories of animal mysteries to share?  Do you know of any newly discovered animals or animal abilities that have left scientists stumped?  Let us know in the comments!

Interest Area Highlight: Bugs

They crawl, fly, bite, buzz, sting, and swarm.  They hide in dark, dusty corners and beneath rotting logs.  They are the most diverse, populous, and usually tiniest animals on the planet.


By definition, a “true bug” is a member of the taxonomic order Hemiptera characterized by a common set of mouth parts used for sucking.  For our purposes, however, we’ll stick with the loose definition of the term, comprising all manner of aforementioned creepy crawlies.

Bugs live everywhere on Earth except the deepest oceans and the most barren polar ice caps.  They form the bottom of the food chain, feeding every other type of carnivore — including other bugs.  They can be food for humans or a plague on agriculture.


The praying mantis is infamous for its bizarre mating ritual in which the female eats the male, sometimes even before mating is completed.  In fact, eating the male during the act may make the whole process move more quickly if she’s getting impatient.  Talk about a bad date!


The oddly-shaped and overly-equipped dragonfly doesn’t have four wings just to have an backup set in case of emergency.  The bug’s ability to float in the same spot in the air, something that most two-winged bugs can’t even attempt, requires the coordination of all four wings.



Some bugs, tiny though they may be, pose a legitimate threat to humans.  The Bugs Fight Back studylist showcases some of the more dangerous species.

Africanized honey bees are much more aggressive than their European counterparts, and go to greater lengths to defend their hives.

When threatened, they attack persistently and without mercy, chasing their abuser in a frantic swarm.


Bullet Ants are pretty darn frightening.  Not only will they shriek at you to get you away from their hive, but their sting is said to be as painful as getting shot.

The physical damage to the body and pain caused by the bite lasts for a full 24 hours.


Bombardier beetles have a unique and disgusting defense mechanism.

When put at risk being harmed, the beetle mixes chemicals within its body and sprays a hot, noxious concoction into the face of its enemy.


There are more than 900,000 known kinds of bugs in the world, comprising over 80 percent of the world’s species.  And there are definitely more out there — literally millions more varieties waiting to be discovered.  Who knows what kinds of incredible things they can do?

So let’s raise a toast to our many-legged friends — may you never be surprised by finding one hiding in your shoe in the morning.

What are your thoughts on bugs?  Have you seen any recent articles about bugs that would make a good Vocablet?  Let us know in the comments!