Mustard plant is a plant species in the genera Brassica and Sinapis in the family Brassicaceae. Mustard seed is used as a spice. Grinding and mixing the seeds with water, vinegar, or other liquids creates the yellow condiment known as prepared mustard; the seeds can be pressed to make mustard oil, the edible leaves can be eaten as mustard greens. It is not same as Salvadora persica, called "mustard bush", which fits in the Parable of the Mustard Seed in the Gospel of Matthew 13:31–32, of Mark 4:30–32, of Luke 13:18–21. Although some varieties of mustard plants were well-established crops in Hellenistic and Roman times and Hopf note, "There are no archeological records available for any of these crops." Wild forms of mustard and its relatives, the radish and turnip, can be found over west Asia and Europe, suggesting their domestication took place somewhere in that area. However and Hopf conclude: "Suggestions as to the origins of these plants are based on linguistic considerations." Encyclopædia Britannica states that mustard was grown by the Indus Civilization of 2500–1700 BCE.
According to the Saskatchewan Mustard Development Commission, "Some of the earliest known documentation of mustard's use dates back to Sumerian and Sanskrit texts from 3000 BC". Mild white mustard grows wild in North Africa, the Middle East, Mediterranean Europe, has spread farther by long cultivation. Canada and Nepal are the world's major producers of mustard seed, between them accounting for around 57% of world production in 2010. White mustard is used as a cover crop in Europe. A large number of varieties exist, e.g. in Germany, Netherlands differing in lateness of flowering and resistance against white beet-cyst nematode. Farmers prefer late flowering varieties, which do not produce seeds, they may become weeds in the subsequent year. Early vigor is important to cover the soil and suppress weeds and protect the soil against erosion. In rotations with sugar beets, suppression of the white beet-cyst nematode is an important trait. Resistant white mustard varieties reduce nematode populations by 70–90%.
Recent research has studied varieties of mustards with high oil contents for use in the production of biodiesel, a renewable liquid fuel similar to diesel fuel. The biodiesel made from mustard oil has good flow properties and cetane ratings; the leftover meal after pressing out the oil has been found to be an effective pesticide. A genetic relationship between many species of mustard, along with turnips and their respective derivatives, has been observed and is described as the triangle of U. Green manure List of mustard brands
Jojoba, with the botanical name Simmondsia chinensis, known as goat nut, deer nut, wild hazel, quinine nut and gray box bush, is native to Southwestern North America. Simmondsia chinensis is the sole species of the family Simmondsiaceae, placed in the order Caryophyllales. Jojoba is grown commercially to produce a liquid wax ester extracted from its seed; the plant is a native shrub of the Sonoran Desert, Colorado Desert, Baja California Desert, California chaparral and woodlands habitats in the Peninsular Ranges and San Jacinto Mountains. It is found in southern California and Utah, Baja California state. Jojoba is endemic to North America, occupies an area of 260,000 square kilometers between latitudes 25° and 31° North and between longitudes 109° and 117° West. Simmondsia chinensis, or jojoba grows to 1–2 meters tall, with a broad, dense crown, but there have been reports of plants as tall as 3 meters; the leaves are opposite, oval in shape, 2–4 centimeters long and 1.5–3 centimeters broad, thick and glaucous gray-green in color.
The flowers are greenish-yellow, with 5 -- 6 sepals and no petals. The plant blooms from March to May; each plant is dioecious, with hermaphrodites being rare. The fruit is an acorn-shaped ovoid, three-angled capsule 1–2 centimeters long enclosed at the base by the sepals; the mature seed is a hard oval, dark brown and contains an oil content of 54%. An average-sized bush produces 1 kilogram of pollen; the female plants produce seed from flowers pollinated by the male plants. Jojoba leaves have an aerodynamic shape, creating a spiral effect, which brings wind-born pollen from the male flower to the female flower. In the Northern Hemisphere, pollination occurs during March. In the Southern Hemisphere, pollination occurs during September. Somatic cells of jojoba are tetraploid. Despite its scientific name Simmondsia chinensis, the plant is not native to China; the botanist Johann Link named the species Buxus chinensis, after misreading a collection label "Calif", referring to California, as "China."
Jojoba was collected again in 1836 by Thomas Nuttall who described it as a new genus and species in 1844, naming it Simmondsia californica, but priority rules require that the original specific epithet be used. The common name "jojoba" originated from O'odham name Hohowi; the common name should not be confused with the written jujube, an unrelated plant species, grown in China. Jojoba foliage provides year-round food for many animals, including deer, bighorn sheep, livestock, its nuts are eaten by squirrels, other rodents, larger birds. Only Bailey's pocket mouse, however, is known to be able to digest the wax found inside the jojoba nut. In large quantities, jojoba seed meal is toxic to many mammals this effect was found to be due to simmondsin, which inhibits hunger; the indigestible wax acts as a laxative in humans. Native Americans first made use of jojoba. During the early 18th century Jesuit missionaries on the Baja California Peninsula observed indigenous peoples heating jojoba seeds to soften them.
They used a mortar and pestle to create a salve or buttery substance. The latter was applied to the hair to heal and condition; the O'odham people of the Sonoran Desert treated burns with an antioxidant salve made from a paste of the jojoba nut. Native Americans used the salve to soften and preserve animal hides. Pregnant women ate jojoba seeds. Hunters and raiders ate jojoba on the trail to keep hunger at bay; the Seri, who utilize nearly every edible plant in their domain, do not regard the beans as real food and in the past ate it only in emergencies. Jojoba is grown for the liquid wax called jojoba oil, in its seeds; this oil is rare in that it is an long straight-chain wax ester and not a triglyceride, making jojoba and its derivative jojoba esters more similar to whale oil than to traditional vegetable oils. It has been discussed as a possible biodiesel fuel. Jojoba cannot be cultivated on a scale to compete with traditional fossil fuels, its use is relegated to personal care products. Plantations of jojoba have been established in a number of desert and semi-desert areas, predominantly in Argentina, Israel, Mexico and the United States.
It is the Sonoran Desert's second most economically valuable native plant. Jojoba prefers light, coarsely textured soils. Good drainage and water penetration is necessary, it tolerates nutrient-poor soils. Soil pH should be between 5 and 8. High temperatures are tolerated by jojoba. Requirements are poor. Weed problems only occur during the first two years after planting and there is little damage by insects. Supplemental irrigation could maximize production. There is no need for high fertilisation, but in the first year, nitrogen increases growth. Jojoba is harvested by hand because seeds do not all mature in the same time. Yield is around 3.5 t/ha depending on the age of the plantation. Selective breeding is developing plants that produce more beans with higher wax content, as well as other characteristics that will facilitate harvesting, its ability to withstand high salinity (up to
A tuna is a saltwater fish that belongs to the tribe Thunnini, a subgrouping of the Scombridae family. The Thunnini comprise 15 species across five genera, the sizes of which vary ranging from the bullet tuna up to the Atlantic bluefin tuna; the bluefin averages 2 m, is believed to live up to 50 years. Tuna and mackerel sharks are the only species of fish that can maintain a body temperature higher than that of the surrounding water. An active and agile predator, the tuna has a sleek, streamlined body, is among the fastest-swimming pelagic fish – the yellowfin tuna, for example, is capable of speeds of up to 75 km/h. Found in warm seas, it is extensively fished commercially, is popular as a game fish; as a result of overfishing, stocks of some tuna species, such as the southern bluefin tuna, are close to extinction. The term "tuna" derives from Thunnus, the Middle Latin form of the Ancient Greek: θύννος, translit. Lit.'tunny-fish' –, in turn derived from θύνω, "rush, dart along". However, the immediate source for the word tuna in English is American Spanish < Spanish atún < Andalusian Arabic at-tūn, assimilated from al-tūn التون:'tuna fish' < Greco-Latin thunnus mentioned above.
The Thunnini tribe is a monophyletic clade comprising 15 species in five genera: family Scombridae tribe Thunnini: the tunas genus Allothunnus: slender tunas genus Auxis: frigate tunas genus Euthynnus: little tunas genus Katsuwonus: skipjack tunas genus Thunnus: albacores, true tunas subgenus Thunnus: bluefin group subgenus Thunnus: yellowfin groupThe cladogram is a tool for visualizing and comparing the evolutionary relationships between taxa, is read left-to-right as if on a timeline. The following cladogram illustrates the relationship between the tunas and other tribes of the family Scombridae. For example, the cladogram illustrates that the skipjack tunas are more related to the true tunas than are the slender tunas, that the next nearest relatives of the tunas are the bonitos of the Sardini tribe; the "true" tunas are those. Until it was thought that there were seven Thunnus species, that Atlantic bluefin tuna and Pacific bluefin tuna were subspecies of a single species. In 1999, Collette established that based on both molecular and morphological considerations, they are in fact distinct species.
The genus Thunnus is further classified into two subgenera: Thunnus, Thunnus. The Thunnini tribe includes seven additional species of tuna across four genera, they are: The tuna is a sleek and streamlined fish, adapted for speed. It has two spaced dorsal fins on its back. Seven to ten yellow finlets run from the dorsal fins to the tail, lunate – curved like a crescent moon – and tapered to pointy tips; the caudal peduncle, to which the tail is attached, is quite thin, with three stabilizing horizontal keels on each side. The tuna's dorsal side is a metallic dark blue, while the ventral side, or underside, is silvery or whitish, for camouflage. Thunnus are but sparsely distributed throughout the oceans of the world in tropical and temperate waters at latitudes ranging between about 45° north and south of the equator. All tunas are able to maintain the temperature of certain parts of their body above the temperature of ambient seawater. For example, bluefin can maintain a core body temperature of 25–33 °C, in water as cold as 6 °C.
However, unlike "typical" endothermic creatures such as mammals and birds, tuna do not maintain temperature within a narrow range. Tunas achieve endothermy by conserving the heat generated through normal metabolism. In all tunas, the heart operates at ambient temperature, as it receives cooled blood, coronary circulation is directly from the gills; the rete mirabile, the intertwining of veins and arteries in the body's periphery, allows nearly all of the metabolic heat from venous blood to be "re-claimed" and transferred to the arterial blood via a counter-current exchange system, thus mitigating the effects of surface cooling. This allows the tuna to elevate the temperatures of the highly-aerobic tissues of the skeletal muscles and brain, which supports faster swimming speeds and reduced energy expenditure, which enables them to survive in cooler waters over a wider range of ocean environments than those of other fish. Unlike most fish, which have white flesh, the muscle tissue of tuna ranges from pink to dark red.
The red myotomal muscles derive their color from myoglobin, an oxygen-binding molecule, which tuna express in quantities far higher than most other fish. The oxygen-rich blood further enables energy delivery to their muscles. For powerful swimming animals like dolphins and tuna, cavitation may be detrimental, because it limits their maximum swimming speed. If they have the power to swim faster, dolphins may have to restrict their speed, because collapsing cavitation bubbles on their tail are too painful. Cavitation slows tuna, but for a different reason. Unlike dolphins, these fish do not feel the bubbles, because they have bony fins without nerve endings, they cannot swim faster because the cavitation bubbles create a vapor film around their fins that limits their speed. Lesions have been found on tuna. Tuna is an important commercial fish; the International Seafood Sustaina
Wheat is a grass cultivated for its seed, a cereal grain, a worldwide staple food. The many species of wheat together make up the genus Triticum; the archaeological record suggests that wheat was first cultivated in the regions of the Fertile Crescent around 9600 BCE. Botanically, the wheat kernel is a type of fruit called a caryopsis. Wheat is grown on more land area than any other food crop. World trade in wheat is greater than for all other crops combined. In 2016, world production of wheat was 749 million tonnes, making it the second most-produced cereal after maize. Since 1960, world production of wheat and other grain crops has tripled and is expected to grow further through the middle of the 21st century. Global demand for wheat is increasing due to the unique viscoelastic and adhesive properties of gluten proteins, which facilitate the production of processed foods, whose consumption is increasing as a result of the worldwide industrialization process and the westernization of the diet.
Wheat is an important source of carbohydrates. Globally, it is the leading source of vegetal protein in human food, having a protein content of about 13%, high compared to other major cereals but low in protein quality for supplying essential amino acids; when eaten as the whole grain, wheat is a source of dietary fiber. In a small part of the general population, gluten – the major part of wheat protein – can trigger coeliac disease, noncoeliac gluten sensitivity, gluten ataxia, dermatitis herpetiformis. Cultivation and repeated harvesting and sowing of the grains of wild grasses led to the creation of domestic strains, as mutant forms of wheat were preferentially chosen by farmers. In domesticated wheat, grains are larger, the seeds remain attached to the ear by a toughened rachis during harvesting. In wild strains, a more fragile rachis allows the ear to shatter and disperse the spikelets. Selection for these traits by farmers might not have been deliberately intended, but have occurred because these traits made gathering the seeds easier.
As the traits that improve wheat as a food source involve the loss of the plant's natural seed dispersal mechanisms domesticated strains of wheat cannot survive in the wild. Cultivation of wheat began to spread beyond the Fertile Crescent after about 8000 BCE. Jared Diamond traces the spread of cultivated emmer wheat starting in the Fertile Crescent sometime before 8800 BCE. Archaeological analysis of wild emmer indicates that it was first cultivated in the southern Levant, with finds dating back as far as 9600 BCE. Genetic analysis of wild einkorn wheat suggests that it was first grown in the Karacadag Mountains in southeastern Turkey. Dated archeological remains of einkorn wheat in settlement sites near this region, including those at Abu Hureyra in Syria, suggest the domestication of einkorn near the Karacadag Mountain Range. With the anomalous exception of two grains from Iraq ed-Dubb, the earliest carbon-14 date for einkorn wheat remains at Abu Hureyra is 7800 to 7500 years BCE. Remains of harvested emmer from several sites near the Karacadag Range have been dated to between 8600 and 8400 BCE, that is, in the Neolithic period.
With the exception of Iraq ed-Dubb, the earliest carbon-14 dated remains of domesticated emmer wheat were found in the earliest levels of Tell Aswad, in the Damascus basin, near Mount Hermon in Syria. These remains were dated by Willem van Zeist and his assistant Johanna Bakker-Heeres to 8800 BCE, they concluded that the settlers of Tell Aswad did not develop this form of emmer themselves, but brought the domesticated grains with them from an as yet unidentified location elsewhere. The cultivation of emmer reached Greece and Indian subcontinent by 6500 BCE, Egypt shortly after 6000 BCE, Germany and Spain by 5000 BCE. "The early Egyptians were developers of bread and the use of the oven and developed baking into one of the first large-scale food production industries." By 3000 BCE, wheat had reached Scandinavia. A millennium it reached China; the oldest evidence for hexaploid wheat has been confirmed through DNA analysis of wheat seeds, dating to around 6400-6200 BCE, recovered from Çatalhöyük.
The first identifiable bread wheat with sufficient gluten for yeasted breads has been identified using DNA analysis in samples from a granary dating to 1350 BCE at Assiros in Macedonia. From Asia, wheat continued to spread across Europe. In the British Isles, wheat straw was used for roofing in the Bronze Age, was in common use until the late 19th century. Technological advances in soil preparation and seed placement at planting time, use of crop rotation and fertilizers to improve plant growth, advances in harvesting methods have all combined to promote wheat as a viable crop; when the use of seed drills replaced broadcasting sowing of seed in the 18th century, another great increase in productivity occurred. Yields of pure wheat per unit area increased as methods of crop rotation were applied to long cultivated land, the use of fertilizers became widespread. Improved agricultural husbandry has more included threshing machines and reaping machines, tractor-drawn cultivators and planters, better varieties.
Great expansion of wheat production occurred as new arable land was farmed in the Americas and Australia in the 19th and 20th centuries. Leaves emerge from the shoot apical meristem in a telescoping fashion until the transition to reprod
Lobsters are a family of large marine crustaceans. Lobsters have long bodies with muscular tails, live in crevices or burrows on the sea floor. Three of their five pairs of legs have claws, including the first pair, which are much larger than the others. Prized as seafood, lobsters are economically important, are one of the most profitable commodities in coastal areas they populate. Commercially important species include two species of Homarus from the northern Atlantic Ocean, scampi – the Northern Hemisphere genus Nephrops and the Southern Hemisphere genus Metanephrops. Although several other groups of crustaceans have the word "lobster" in their names, the unqualified term "lobster" refers to the clawed lobsters of the family Nephropidae. Clawed lobsters are not related to spiny lobsters or slipper lobsters, which have no claws, or to squat lobsters; the closest living relatives of clawed lobsters are the reef lobsters and the three families of freshwater crayfish. Lobsters are invertebrates with a hard protective exoskeleton.
Like most arthropods, lobsters must moult to grow. During the moulting process, several species change color. Lobsters have eight walking legs. Although lobsters are bilaterally symmetrical like most other arthropods, some genera possess unequal, specialized claws. Lobster anatomy includes two main body parts: the abdomen; the cephalothorax fuses the thorax, both of which are covered by a chitinous carapace. The lobster's head bears antennae, mandibles, the first and second maxillae; the head bears the compound eyes. Because lobsters live in murky environments at the bottom of the ocean, they use their antennae as sensors; the lobster eye has a reflective structure above a convex retina. In contrast, most complex eyes use a concave retina; the lobster's thorax is composed of maxillipeds, appendages that function as mouthparts, pereiopods, appendages that serve for walking and for gathering food. The abdomen includes pleopods, used for swimming as well as the tail fan, composed of uropods and the telson.
Lobsters, like snails and spiders, have blue blood due to the presence of hemocyanin, which contains copper. In contrast and many other animals have red blood from iron-rich hemoglobin. Lobsters possess a green hepatopancreas, called the tomalley by chefs, which functions as the animal's liver and pancreas. Lobsters of the family Nephropidae are similar in overall form to a number of other related groups, they differ from freshwater crayfish in lacking the joint between the last two segments of the thorax, they differ from the reef lobsters of the family Enoplometopidae in having full claws on the first three pairs of legs, rather than just one. The distinctions from fossil families such as the Chilenophoberidae are based on the pattern of grooves on the carapace. Lobsters are dark colored, either bluish green or greenish brown as to blend in with the ocean floor, but they can be found in a multitude of colors. Lobsters with atypical coloring are rare, accounting for only a few of the millions caught every year, due to their rarity, they aren't eaten, instead released back into the wild or donated to aquariums.
In cases of atypical coloring, there is a genetic factor, such as albinism or hermaphroditism. Notably, the New England Aquarium has a collection of such lobsters, called the Lobster Rainbow, on public display. Special coloring doesn't appear to have an effect on the lobster's taste once cooked. Lobsters live up to an estimated 45 to 50 years in the wild. In 2012, a report was published describing how growth bands in calcified regions of the eyestalk or gastric mill in shrimps and lobsters could be used to measure growth and mortality in decapod crustaceans. Without such a technique, a lobster's age is estimated by size and other variables. Research suggests that lobsters may not slow down, weaken or lose fertility with age, that older lobsters may be more fertile than younger lobsters; this longevity may be due to telomerase, an enzyme that repairs long repetitive sections of DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes, referred to as telomeres. Telomerase is expressed by most vertebrates during embryonic stages, but is absent from adult stages of life.
However, unlike most vertebrates, lobsters express telomerase as adults through most tissue, suggested to be related to their longevity. Telomerase is present in'Green Spotted' lobsters - whose markings are thought to be produced by the enzyme interacting with their shell pigmentation Lobster longevity is limited by their size. Moulting requires metabolic energy and the larger the lobster, the more energy is needed. Lobsters, like many other decapod crustaceans, grow throughout life and are able to add new muscle cells at each moult. Lobster longevity allows them to reach impressive sizes. According to Guinness World Records, the largest lobster caught was in Nov
Barley, a member of the grass family, is a major cereal grain grown in temperate climates globally. It was one of the first cultivated grains in Eurasia as early as 10,000 years ago. Barley has been used as animal fodder, as a source of fermentable material for beer and certain distilled beverages, as a component of various health foods, it is used in soups and stews, in barley bread of various cultures. Barley grains are made into malt in a traditional and ancient method of preparation. In 2016, barley was ranked fourth among grains in quantity produced behind maize and wheat; the Old English word for'barley' was bære, which traces back to Proto-Indo-European and is cognate to the Latin word farina "flour". The direct ancestor of modern English "barley" in Old English was the derived adjective bærlic, meaning "of barley"; the first citation of the form bærlic in the Oxford English Dictionary dates to around 966 CE, in the compound word bærlic-croft. The underived word bære survives in the north of Scotland as bere, refers to a specific strain of six-row barley grown there.
The word barn, which meant "barley-house", is rooted in these words. Barley is a member of the grass family, it is a diploid species with 14 chromosomes. The wild ancestor of domesticated barley, Hordeum vulgare subsp. Spontaneum, is abundant in grasslands and woodlands throughout the Fertile Crescent area of Western Asia and northeast Africa, is abundant in disturbed habitats and orchards. Outside this region, the wild barley is less common and is found in disturbed habitats. However, in a study of genome-wide diversity markers, Tibet was found to be an additional center of domestication of cultivated barley. Wild barley is the ancestor of domestic barley. Over the course of domestication, barley grain morphology changed moving from an elongated shape to a more rounded spherical one. Additionally, wild barley has distinctive genes and regulators with potential for resistance to abiotic or biotic stresses to cultivated barley and adaptation to climatic changes. Wild barley has a brittle spike. Domesticated barley has nonshattering spikes.
The nonshattering condition is caused by a mutation in one of two linked genes known as Bt1 and Bt2. The nonshattering condition is recessive, so varieties of barley that exhibit this condition are homozygous for the mutant allele; each plant gets a set of genes from both parents, so two copies of each gene are in every plant. If one gene copy is a nonworking mutant, but the other gene copy works, the mutation has no effect. Only when the plant is homozygous with both copies of the gene as nonworking mutants does the mutation show its effect by exhibiting the nonshattering condition. Domestication in barley is followed by the change of key phenotypic traits at the genetic level. Little is known about the genetic variation among domesticated and wild genes in the chromosomal regions. Spikelets are arranged in triplets. In wild barley, only the central spikelet is fertile; this condition is retained in certain cultivars known as two-row barleys. A pair of mutations result in fertile lateral spikelets to produce six-row barleys.
Recent genetic studies have revealed that a mutation in one gene, vrs1, is responsible for the transition from two-row to six-row barley. Two-row barley has a lower protein content than six-row barley, thus a more fermentable sugar content. High-protein barley is best suited for animal feed. Malting barley is lower protein which shows more uniform germination, needs shorter steeping, has less protein in the extract that can make beer cloudy. Two-row barley is traditionally used in English ale-style beers, with two-row malted summer barley being preferred for traditional German beers. Six-row barley is common in some American lager-style beers when adjuncts such as corn and rice are used. Hulless or "naked" barley is a form of domesticated barley with an easier-to-remove hull. Naked barley is an ancient food crop, but a new industry has developed around uses of selected hulless barley to increase the digestible energy of the grain for swine and poultry. Hulless barley has been investigated for several potential new applications as whole grain, for its value-added products.
These include flour for multiple food applications. In traditional classifications of barley, these morphological differences have led to different forms of barley being classified as different species. Under these classifications, two-row barley with shattering spikes is classified as Hordeum spontaneum K. Koch. Two-row barley with nonshattering spikes is classified as H. distichum L. six-row barley with nonshattering spikes as H. vulgare L. and six-row with shattering spikes as H. agriocrithon Åberg. Because these differences were driven by single-gene mutations, coupled with cytological and molecular evidence, most recent classifications treat these forms as a single species, H. vulgare L. VocabularyDON: Acronym for deoxynivalenol, a toxic byproduct of Fusarium head blight known as vomitoxin Heading date: A parameter in barley cultivation Lodging: The bending over of the stems near ground level Nutans: A designation for a variety with a lax ear, as opposed to'erectum' (with an erect ea
Skunks are North and South American mammals in the family Mephitidae. While related to polecats and other members of the weasel family, skunks have as their closest Old World relatives the stink badgers; the animals are known for their ability to spray a liquid with a unpleasant smell. Different species of skunk vary in appearance from black-and-white to brown, cream or ginger colored, but all have warning coloration; the word "skunk" is an Americanism from the 1630s, the Massachusetts reflex of proto-Algonquian squunck, from a southern New England Algonquian language seganku, from Proto-Algonquian */šeka:kwa/, from */šek-/ "to urinate" + */-a:kw/ "fox." "Skunk" has historic use as an insult, attested from 1841. Skunk cabbage is attested from 1751. In 1634, a skunk was described in the Jesuit Relations: The other is a low animal, about the size of a little dog or cat. I mention it here, not on account of its excellence. I have seen four of them, it has black fur, quite beautiful and shining. The tail is well furnished with hair, like the tail of a Fox.
It is more white than black. But it is so stinking, casts so foul an odor, that it is unworthy of being called the dog of Pluto. No sewer smelled so bad. I would not have believed it. Your heart fails you when you approach the animal. I believe. Skunk species vary in size from about 15.6 to 37 in long and in weight from about 1.1 lb to 18 lb. They have moderately elongated bodies with short, well-muscled legs and long front claws for digging. Although the most common fur color is black and white, some skunks are brown or grey and a few are cream-colored. All skunks are striped from birth, they may have a single thick stripe across back and tail, two thinner stripes, or a series of white spots and broken stripes. Some have stripes on their legs. Skunks are omnivorous, eating both plant and animal material and changing their diets as the seasons change, they eat insects, earthworms, rodents, salamanders, snakes, birds and eggs. They commonly eat berries, leaves, grasses and nuts. In settled areas, skunks seek garbage left by humans.
Less skunks may be found acting as scavengers, eating bird and rodent carcasses left by cats or other animals. Pet owners those of cats, may experience a skunk finding its way into a garage or basement where pet food is kept. Skunks dig holes in lawns in search of grubs and worms. Skunks are one of the primary predators of the honeybee, relying on their thick fur to protect them from stings; the skunk scratches at the front of the beehive and eats the guard bees that come out to investigate. Mother skunks are known to teach this behavior to their young. In addition, in California, skunks dig up yellow-jacket nests in summer, after the compacted soil under oak trees dries out and cracks open, which allows the yellow-jackets to build their nests underground. Skunks are crepuscular and solitary animals when not breeding, though in the colder parts of their range, they may gather in communal dens for warmth. During the day they shelter in burrows. Males and females occupy overlapping home ranges through the greater part of the year 2 to 4 km2 for females and up to 20 km2 for males.
Skunks do den up for extended periods of time. However, they remain inactive and feed going through a dormant stage. Over winter, multiple females huddle together; the same winter den is used. Although they have excellent senses of smell and hearing, they have poor vision, being unable to see objects more than about 3 m away, making them vulnerable to death by road traffic, they are short-lived. In captivity, they may live for up to 10 years. Skunks mate in early spring and are polygynous, meaning that successful males mate with more than one female. Before giving birth, the female excavates a den to house her litter of four to seven kits, they are placental, with a gestation period of about 66 days. When born, skunk kits are blind and covered in a soft layer of fur. About three weeks after birth, their eyes open; the kits are weaned about two months after birth, but stay with their mother until they are ready to mate, at about one year of age. The mother is protective of her kits, spraying at any sign of danger.
The male plays no part in raising the young. Skunks are notorious for their anal scent glands, they are similar to, though much more developed than, the glands found in species of the family Mustelidae. Skunks have one on each side of the anus; these glands produce the skunk's spray, a mixture of sulfur-containing chemicals such as thiols, which have an offensive odor. A skunk's spray is powerful enough t