For Godiva’s sake folks, do it, DO ITTTT!!!
I mean just think how unbareable Valentine’s Day will be next year if we don’t have access to our Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie litre tubs of salvation!?! O_o
For Godiva’s sake folks, do it, DO ITTTT!!!
Parallel Evolution: when similar characterisitcs arise in closely related organisms
Most people who have studied even a little evolutionary biology are aware of the marvelous diversity of the Lake Victoria cichlids. These fish have radiated to fill nearly all available niches in the lake. Over only a few million years, 300 species were developed from one ancestral populations.
What you may not know is that there are cichlids in Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika, too, and all originated from similar ancestral populations. What’s more, the cichlids in each of the three lakes have evolved to fill nearly the exact same niches. The correspondence in ecology and morphology between the fish of the three lakes is the most spectacular example of parallel evolution that I’ve seen. Take a look at this figure, where the fish on the left come from Lake Tanganyika and the ones on the right are from Lake Malawi.
Broadway Lights: Sistas Doin’ It For Themselves…And The Wilderness!…
See folks, you’re never to old to start eco-lol-ing. A group called Great Old Broads For Wilderness is turning OAP’s into GPS-wielding protectors of public lands. Their favoured weapon of choice? - A great big sense of humour!
“We didn’t really want to be ‘ladies,’ and ‘women’ seemed like kind of a weak noun,” she adds, so Great Old Broads it became. The brash name is a selling point to women of a particular type, notes Chilcoat. Broads enjoy joking as they protest; when they picketed against snowmobiles in Yellowstone, one wore a Winnie the Pooh costume with a sign reading, “I can’t ‘bear’ the noise and pollution.” “When you get to a certain age, who cares?” she says.
Read the rest of this inspirational story from High Country News here
Marine Medical: Global Ocean Health Index Revealed…
The first comprehensive means of measuring the health of the world’s oceans has finally been unveiled in the form of the Ocean Health Index (Huzzah!). Developed through the collaborative efforts of 65 experts from a range of organisations including, among others, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of British Columbia’s Sea Around Us project, Conservation International, the National Geographic Society and the New England Aquarium, the index scientifically compares and combines all dimensions of ocean health – biological, physical, economic and social - in order to generate an objective and accurate picture of the health of the ocean as controlled by every coastal country.
The Index focuses on ten public “goals” representative of a wide range of benefits that a healthy ocean can provide to people. With almost 100 various components factored into their evaluation, the goals set out in the Index are thus:
- Food Provision (Harvesting Seafood Sustainably)
- Artisanal Fishing Opportunities (Ensuring Food For Local Communities)
- Natural Products (Harvesting Non-food Ocean Resources Sustainably)
- Carbon Storage (Preserving Habitats That Absorb Carbon)
- Coastal Protection (Preserving Habitats That Safeguard Shores)
- Coastal Livelihoods And Economies (Sustaining Jobs And Thriving Coastal Economies)
- Tourism And Recreation (Maintaining The Attraction Of Coastal Destinations)
- Sense Of Place (Protecting Iconic Species And Special Places)
- Clean Waters (Minimising Pollution)
- Biodiversity (Supporting Healthy Marine Ecosystems)
With Jarvis Island in the South Pacific Ocean ranking #1 in terms of ocean “health” and West Africa’s Sierra Leone bottoming out in the benthos at #171, why not follow the map’s click-through link to find out where your country ranks, read some more and decide for yourself whether or not you think it’s time to break out the waterproof plasters…
A Peruvian Piece of Glass: The 7,000th Amphibian Species…
AmphibiaWeb’s 7,000th species is a high elevation glass frog from Manu National Park in Amazonian Peru.
Called Centrolene sabini (Sabine’s Glassfrog), it was collected by Alessandro Catenazzi and his companions when he was a postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley. The frog is a small (31.2 millimeters long), delicate animal that calls from trees above the fast-flowing streams in the humid, cool, montane forests of Manu National Park at elevations of around 2,800 m (about 9000 ft).
Its coloration in life is green-yellowish, with yellowish patches and spots. Across its back, it is covered with yellowish-green tipped spicules. Its iris is silvery-bronze or cream bearing fine black reticulations. Remarkably, the bones of the animal are green; a feature that is highly unusual, even for amphibians! (though not entirely unique as the Parjacti Treefrog is also known to possess green bones and the Samkos bush frog of Cambodia goes one further by having green blood and blue bones! Like, WTF?!)
Eggs are laid on top of leaves above the fast-flowing streams in clutches of 35-45 eggs and the peritoneum of the tadpoles also has a greenish cast.
- The Surinam Toad (Pipa pipa): These flat, mottled brown toads aren’t just unusual due to the absence of teeth and tongue, they also have a quite remarkable reproductive strategies. Rather than the typical croaky sounds of other toad species, the male Surinam instead produces a sharp clicking sound by snapping the hyoid bone in his throat. During mating, the female releases 3–10 eggs, which get embedded in the skin on her back by the male’s movements. After implantation the eggs sink into the skin and form pockets over a period of several days, eventually taking on the appearance of an irregular honeycomb. The larvae develop through to the tadpole stage inside these pockets, eventually emerging from the mother’s back as fully developed toads, though they are less than an inch long (2 cm). Once they have emerged from their mother’s back, the toads begin a largely solitary life. Wondrously wacky and bemusedly bleugh!…
- Chile Darwin’s Frog (Rhinoderma rufum): This species of frog exhibits a highly unusual form of parental care in that the tadpoles spend part of their life developing in the vocal sac of their father, where they ‘hitch a ride’ to a pool of water in their father’s vocal sac where they complete their development from the tadpole to the frog form.
Very little is known about this species and it is currently considered critically endangered, but as there have been no confirmed records since around 1980, it may already be extinct. (Indeed, no photographs of the species exist so the pic shown here is actually of the related Darwin’s Frog and is shown for illustrative purposes only. So nyeh…)
- The Barton Springs salamander (Eurycea sosorum): This endangered lungless salamander can only be found living in the habitat of Barton Springs in Austin, Texas, USA. It’s still unclear how this animal derives it’s oxygen supplies from the water, but no doubt those pretty frilly gills sticking out on either side of it’s head have something to do with it. Owing to it’s limited distribution within a sensitive habitat, this little guy is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List.
- The Tomato Frog (Dyscophus antongilii): Endemic to Madagascar, the Tomato Frog derives it’s name from it’s vibrant orange-red colour. Females are much larger than males and have brighter tones of red or orange on their back, with a pale undersurface. Some individuals also have black spots on the throat. It is thought that the brilliant colours of the tomato frog act as a warning to potential predators that these frogs are toxic; a white substance secreted from the skin acts as a glue to deter predators (such as colubrid snakes) and can produce an allergic reaction in humans.
- The “Penis Snake” (Atretochoana eiselti): Okay, so while not a snake, nor a penis, this species has been dubbed so on account of it’s resemblance to, er, well, both of these things. Until it’s most recent re-discovery in 2011 in the Madeira River in Brazil, this phallic perturbation was only known to science via two preserved museum specimens. Encounters with A. eiselti are so uncommon that very little information on the species exists. It is therefore listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as “Data Deficient”. To read more on this slithery serpentine see here.
- The Mexican Burrowing Toad (Rhinophrynus dorsalis): The Mexican Burrowing Toad is, as the name suggests, a burrowing animal (fossorial), that spends a large part of its life underground. Unique among the frogs, the Mexican Burrowing Toad’s tongue is projected directly out the front of the mouth, instead of being flipped out, as in all other frogs. (I’m sure that’s real cute when he’s little but when he growed up, well that’s just gonna look silly now ain’t it…)
- The Mountain Climbing Frog (Anodonthyla montana): A species of frog endemic to Madagascar. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical high-altitude shrubland, subtropical or tropical high-altitude grassland, and rocky areas. Not much else seems to be known about this apparent Gabe Walker of the froggy world, but it is classed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
- The Northern Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus): Called slimy because it is capable of excreting a sticky glue-like substance from its skin, this salamander is typically overall black in color, with numerous silvery spots or gold spots across its back. Though considered neither threatened nor endangered, this slimer is however found to be vulnerable to parasitism by some nematode worms, particularly when guarding an egg clutch, due to poor nutrition. The small activity range of the species also makes it a victim of predation by a number of snakes that occur within it’s geographical range.
So there you go. Eight amphibians worth singing about. And within them some worth worrying about, some worth finding more out about and some worth, well, throwing up about (yes you…you know who you are, Pipa pipa and Atretochoana eiselti! Bleughs!…)
If you’ve ever looked into subscribing to Nature Magazine only to yelp in dismay at the sight of the yearly one-off subscription fee ($199/£135/€209 - Ouch! BUT, this does serve you up 51 plates of Natury goodness, so overall still pretty darn good value) then you may be interested to hear that in celebration of being ranked the No.1 weekly science journal with an Impact Factor of 36.280 (I have no idea what that means either…) Nature is now offering themselves to us with at a tempting limited-time subscription fee of only £36/$36/€36! BAR-GAIN!!! So what are you waiting for?! Get on this deal now. Quick, before they change their minds!!!
- *Based on a modest consumption rate of 1.2 bags per month of 1.5Kg McCain Crispy French Fries over 12 months when purchased from Tesco Supermarket assuming no further inflation in prices of french fries occurs within this 12 month period.
Now Dat One Ugly Motha’ Vulcha’, Boiii!: AfrrrEEka’s Lappet-faced Vulture…
One of the entrants to this year’s HBW World Bird Photo Contest that caught my attention (and indeed, that of the judges as it was awarded “Honourable Mention” - Oooerrr!) was the first pic in the above collage entitled “Instant” by the Swaziland-based European photographer Philip Perry. A veritable amazeballs with a side of awesomesauce of an action-shot, the photo portrays a Lappet-faced Vulture attacking a Golden Jackal. “A bird attacking a jackal?!” I hear you cry. “HELL YEAH, BOIII!”. So if, like me, you need to know more, read on…
The Snap Skinny:
Of the teeth-taloned-tacular image, Perry himself had this to say:
“The lappetfaced vulture had been sitting on a gnu carcass, keeping dozens of other vultures at bay (Ruppell’s & Whitebackeds). When along came a golden jackal. He tried to take possession of the food source. But was immediately attacked by the lappetfaced. The vulture used a foot to squash the jackals hindquarters right down to the ground and threaten it with its massive beak. Quickly the jackal realised its gross misjudgement and then ran off at great speed into the far distance of Tanzania’s serengeti.”
The Bird Blurb:
Like most birds of prey, the vulture possesses that distinct “angry” appearance that suggests it’s already so pissed off it’ll tear into you quicker than a fat kid with a Giant Kit Kat if you so much as respire too loudly in it’s presence. This, by the looks of things, goes doubly so for the Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos).
Like many of his vulture cousins, the LFV has a bald head; a feature that supposedly developed due to the difficulty arising from trying to clean blood and other carcassy fluids from any feathers growing in this particular area. However, the LFV very much ups the ante in the balding-beauty stakes by sporting a rather fetching expanse of excess pink-coloured skin (lappets) on the sides of it’s head which, lets be honest, not-so-remotely resembles a human foreskin. Yup, one ugly motha’ vulcha’. True dat.
What the LFV lacks in beauty, however, it more than makes up for in brawn; with a wingspan of 2.5-3m (8-10ft) and weighing up to 9.4kg (20.7lbs) it is the largest and most powerful of all Africa’s vultures. It is also the most aggressive of them all and is known to fend off other vultures and even jackals from coveted carrion. In the case of smaller vultures this does, however, prove a beneficial system as the LFV is strong enough to tear through the tougher hides and muscles of larger mammals that the others would otherwise be unable to penetrate. (*Giggles* Haha, see what I did there?… Foreskin… Penetr… Ack, fine! NEVER MIND!…)
Although primarily a scavenging bird and opting to feed mostly from animal carcasses, the LFV will occasionally attack young and weak live animals or prey on the eggs of other birds for a feeding. It’s even known to opportunistically feed on termites and locusts (Hmm, s’like, sooo Hakuna Matata, innit bruv!)
The Population Predicament:
So, Bruce-Willis baldness and butchness aside, where does this beauty queen of Hades sit in the conservation court? It seems not as well as would be liked. Accidental poisoning and purposeful persecution across it’s range is believed, in particular, to have had a detrimental effect on population numbers. A rising scarcity of carcasses and increases in nest disturbances from road constructions and off-road vehicle movements are also thought to be significant factors. This has led to the Lappet-faced Vulture gaining itself an IUCN Red List status of Vulnerable.
So then, much like it’s emotional state following the realisation that it is, effectively, Motha’ Nacha’s Biggest Dickhead.
(I mean, seriously Nature, what’s with those lappets?!…)
- Check out ARKive and Wikipedia for more info and awesome pics/links
- Additional Image Credits: Image 2 - ©Vittorrio Ricci; Image 3 - ©Andy Warn; Image 4 - ©Mark Hamblin; Image 5 - ©Unkown; Image 6 - ©Elsen Karstad; Image 7 © Unkown; Image 8 - ©Daniele Pralong(?); Image 9 - ©Jerry Pank; Image 10 - ©Unkown
In Pictures: Winners of the First Edition of the HBW World Bird Photo Contest…
The Handbook of the Birds of the World saw great success with it’s inaugural World Bird Photo Contest. Some 10,754 photo entries were received from 128 different countries and a total of 3,127 bird species were photographed in 154 countries all over the world!
The contest was created with the aspiration of becoming the most important bird photography competition at world level. It’s aims are to encourage and disseminate knowledge about birds, while at the same time inspiring creativity in the art of photography. To these ends, it’s focus is on photography that is ethical, grounded in the utmost respect for the conservation of birds and their habitats, and without unnecessary digital manipulation.
The species seen in these photos are as follows:
- Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus) - 1st Prize Winner
- Common Loon (Gavia immer) - 2nd Prize Winner
- Calliope Hummingbird (Stellula calliope) - 3rd Prize Winner
- Marvellous Spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis) - Best Threatened Species Photo
- Little Bee-eater (Merops pusillus) - Best Vox Populi Photo
- Gentoo Penguin (Pygoscelis papua) - Honourable Mention
- Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotus) - Honourable Mention
- Red-bearded Bee-eater (Nyctyornis amictus) - Honourable Mention
- Red-billed Quelea (Quelea quelea) - Honourable Mention
- Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) - Honourable Mention
I’ll leave you to decide for yourself whether or not the best image won!…