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Word of the Week: Ecdysis

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Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each week to amp up your nature vocabulary!

This week’s word of the week is ecdysis [ek-duh-suhs] (n.): the molting or shedding of the outermost layer of skin or cuticle of an organism.

This word originates from the Ancient Greek word, exduo, which means to take off or strip off. Some animals that exhibit ecdysis include cicadas, when they molt and emerge out of their old exoskeleton, and snakes, when they shed their old skins.

Cicadas, which begin as little nymphs, spend most of their life underground, before they emerge out of the ground and begin the process of molting when they emerge in their winged form. The molting process in cicadas lasts about 1-2 hours. Once they emerge out they sit still and let their wings dry and new skin hardens and then spend the next few weeks mating and laying eggs before they die.

Snakes shed their skins about 4-12 times a year depending on their health and diet. They shed their skins because they grow out of their old skin and also as means of keeping clean and healthy by ridding their body of harmful parasites that might exist on the surface of their skin. Just before a snake sheds it skin turns bluish and their eyes become cloudy as the outer layer of their skin seperates. Snakes then rub themselves on an abrasive surface to tear open their old skin. They then emerge out of the tear and their old skin peels off while being turned inside out much like taking off a sock.