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Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor)

The Boa constrictor is a species of large, heavy-bodied snake. It is a member of the family Boidae found in North, Central, and South America, as well as some islands in the Caribbean. Ten subspecies are currently recognized, although some of these are controversial. There is clear sexual dimorphism seen in the species, with females generally being larger in both length and girth than males. As such, the average size of a mature female boa is between 2.1–3.0 m, whilst it is 1.8–2.4 m for the males. The coloring of boa constrictors can vary greatly depending on the locality. Boa constrictors will generally live on their own, and not interact with any other snakes unless they want to mate. They are nocturnal; however, they may bask during the day when night-time temperatures are too low. Boa constrictors will strike when they perceive a threat. Their bite can be painful, especially from large snakes, but is rarely dangerous to humans. Its prey includes a wide variety of small to medium sized mammals and birds. The boa will first strike at the prey, grabbing it with its teeth; it then proceeds to constrict the prey until death before consuming it whole.

photo credits: Pavel Ševela, carnivoraforum, Joe MacDonald

Photograph by Fang Guo,My Shot

Earliest Blooms in Recorded History, Due to Global Warming
by Christine Dell’Amore on National Geographic News

You could call them early bloomers: In 2010 and 2012, plants in the eastern U.S. produced flowers earlier than at any point in recorded history, a new study says.

This result, according to the research team, has a bit of a literary twist: It comes from data collected by U.S. environmental writers Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold. Thoreau began observing bloom times in Massachusetts in 1852, and Leopold began in Wisconsin in 1935.

Scientists compared this historical data with modern, record-shattering high spring temperatures in Massachusetts and Wisconsin during 2010 and 2012.

They discovered that those two recent warm spells triggered many spring-flowering plants to blossom up to 4.1 days earlier for every 1 degree Celsius rise in average spring temperatures.

Plants need to flower to reproduce. And in order to flower, they need a trigger—which is usually a long winter chill.

But if winters keep getting milder, plants may not get cold enough to realize the difference when warmer springtime temperatures start, noted Syndonia Bret-Harte, a plant ecologist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

The concern is whether plants are “going to be able to adapt fast enough as climate changes radically, [or] is there some physical limit against which you’re going to bump up [so] that you can’t adapt any longer?”

Read more

*I actually hadn’t thought of how catastrophic a change in chill hours could be for orchards and fruit production.

#climate change

The top image is a photograph of a lush rainforest canopy. The bottom image colors each tree based on its species.

How? It’s all thanks to a special lab built by ecologist Greg Asner inside a twin-turboprop airplane. From a few thousand feet up, the Carnegie Airborne Observatory uses lasers, spectrometers and other instruments to build a detailed 3-D model of a forest, identify different species of vegetation and quantify carbon sequestration. It’s a lot quicker than tramping through the jungle and taking these measurements on foot.

A fun tidbit from the full story:
"On one occasion, he and his team mapped more than 6,500 square miles of the Colombian Amazon at night — about the size of Connecticut plus Rhode Island — flying with all their lights out to avoid being shot at by the FARC, the Colombian rebel force.

Images: Greg Asner, Carnegie Airborne Observatory

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Mind-blowing and staggering photographs from the Socotra islands of Yemen. The archipelago is very isolated and about a third of its fauna is endemic to the islands, meaning that it can not be found anywhere else. The islands are considered a profoundly well-preserved jewel of biodiversity with over 700 documented endemic species of plants and animals and has been described as “the most alien-looking place on earth”.

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PORCELAIN CRABS FROM CHILE

Porcelanids are decapod (with 10 legs) crustaceans in the widespread family Porcellanidae, which superficially resemble true crabs. They have flattened bodies as an adaptation for living in rock crevices. They are delicate, readily losing limbs when attacked, and use their large claws for maintaining territories.

Photograph by Arthur Anker

  • Allopetrolisthes spinifrons
  • Allopetrolisthes angulosus
  • Petrolisthes laevigatus
  • Lipetrolisthes mitra
  • Alopetrolisthes punctatus
  • Petrolisthes violaceus
  • Petrolisthes tuberculatus
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Indian giant squirrel (Ratufa indica)

The Indian giant squirrel is a large tree squirrel species genus Ratufa native to India. It is a large-bodied diurnal, arboreal, and herbivorous squirrel found in South Asia. The Indian giant squirrel is an upper-canopy dwelling species, which rarely leaves the trees, and requires tall profusely branched trees for the construction of nests. It travels from tree to tree with jumps of up to 6 m. When in danger, the Ratufa indica often freezes or flattens itself against the tree trunk, instead of fleeing. The Giant Squirrel is mostly active in the early hours of the morning and in the evening, resting in the midday. The species is endemic to deciduous, mixed deciduous, and moist evergreen forests of peninsular India. There is some disagreement between biologists regarding how many subspecies belong to the Ratufa indica lineage. It is generally acknowledged that there are either four or five subspecies, depending on the source. The Indian Giant Squirrel lives alone or in pairs.

photo credits: wiki, wiki, Rakesh Kumar Dogra, adityajoshi

If you have ever eaten an avocado—anywhere in the world—there is an 80% chance it is from a genetic clone of a chance seedling planted in the 1920s, by a Californian postman named Rudolph Hass.

Therefore, should a disease strike the Hass avocado, 80% of the world’s (and 95% of California’s) avocado crops would be jeopardised.

As with many prized fruit cultivars, the security that comes from genetic diversity in crops takes a back-seat to the economics of fruit size, transportability, and yield.

This is why biodiversity—and genetic diversity in crops—should be an integral part of food security.
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Splendid fairywren (Malurus splendens)

The splendid fairywren is a passerine bird of the Maluridae family. It is found across much of the Australian continent from central-western New South Wales and southwestern Queensland over to coastal Western Australia. It inhabits predominantly arid and semi-arid regions. Exhibiting a high degree of sexual dimorphism, the male in breeding plumage is a small, long-tailed bird of predominantly bright blue and black colouration. Non-breeding males, females and juveniles are predominantly grey-brown in colour. These birds are socially monogamous and sexually promiscuous, meaning that although they form pairs between one male and one female, each partner will mate with other individuals and even assist in raising the young from such trysts. Male wrens pluck pink or purple petals and display them to females as part of a courtship display. The splendid fairywren mainly eats insects and supplements its diet with seeds. There are four subspecies.

photo credits: tumblr, Nevil Lazarus, Aviceda, Nationstates

Red-bearded Bee-eater 

The Red-bearded Bee-eater is a beautiful Asian bee-eater up to 34 cm long, scientifically named Nyctyornis amictus (Coraciiformes - Meropidae), and found in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand.

This species, along with the other which comprises the genus (Nyctyornis athertoni), are the most primitive extant forms in the Meropidae Family, probably originated in southeast Asian forest.

References: [1] - [2] - [3]

Photo credit: ©Henry Koh

Locality: Kaeng Krachan National Park, Thailand

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The Department of Captivating Caterpillars invites you to check out the awesome macro photos of John Horstman (previously featured here), an Australian who’s been living in China for almost 10 years. Horstman currently resides in the city of Pu’er, which is located in Yunnan Province in south-western China. Yunnan is home to so many different species of flora and fauna that it contains a United Nations World Heritage site and is sometimes referred to as “China’s Amazon.”

It contains the richest biodiversity in China and “may be the most biologically diverse temperate region on earth.” Red pandas and smooth-coated otters (both threatened species) are found here. In Horstman’s words, “everything (insect-wise) is bigger, brighter, more abundant and more bizarre than elsewhere.”

Although he takes fantastic photos of all sorts of insects, today we’re focusing on Horstman’s caterpillar photos. Some of these creatures look utterly alien, some appear to be little more than a smooth blob of jelly and others, such as the slug caterpillars, feature arrats of formidable spines capable of issuing terribly painful stings.

“You don’t acclimatize to the sting – they ALWAYS hurt. The worst incident was early in my stay in China when I stood up under a tree and an entire hatching of stinging slug caterpillars on the underside of a leaf contacted the back of my neck. The instantaneous sensation almost caused me to blackout, but the swelling, redness and burning persisted for a good week.”

You can’t see the caterpillar in the bottom photo because it’s hiding in a tiny pagoda that it built using bits of leave and silk. this is the work of a Bagworm caterpillar. They build these amazing little structures to hide themselves while they’re eating. So shhh, let’s not disturb its meal.

You can follow John Horstman right here onf Tumblr at sinobug. To check out his complete portfolio, and we highly recommend that you do, head over to his endlessly fascinating Flickr account.

Visit Wired to learn more about Horstman’s photography adventures in the wilds of south-western China.

[via Wired]

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So Many Spiders So Little Time: Welcome to Arachnoland!

Spiders and their relatives, to me at least, are hard work. Not that I don’t like them…I do, and think them wondrous creatures. So what do I mean by ‘hard work’. Well, as someone who can deal with beetles and classify most on sight and when necessary key out less-often-seen-beasts, I find spiders tricky.

First, they rudely hatch out as tiny little versions of their adult self and undergo a series of molts until adulthood. This means that within a single species there are spiderlings at various stages of development. Second, and to confound this, spiders are significantly externally sexually dimorphic. Often you need a adult or even adult male for identification. Finally, is the terminology. When you enter arachnoland from insectland you surely are in a different world…unsurprisingly. I find arachnoland intimidating. I wonder if spider people think the same of beetles or other insect groups?

Here we have spiders from pitfall traps in the Southern Grampians region of Victoria, Australia. Such a diversity from a three day survey by Deakin University students as part of SLE226 Team-based Environmental Research - and this ain’t all of them. They range from the sweet little microspiders in the first image, adult males the first two and less than several millimetres long, to larger ‘furry’ wolf spiders (several in the second image).

Many Little Things with eight legs.