Spiny turtle (Heosemys spinosa)

The spiny turtle is known from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Sadly this species is highly endangered! It inhabits lowland and hill rainforest, usually in the vicinity of small streams, mainly in hill areas up to 900 m above sea level. Mating behaviour appears to be triggered by rain; in captivity, spraying males with water results in them chasing females and attempting to mount. Nothing is known of nesting behaviour in the wild.

photo credits: zooborns, myviadventures

Unmown Areas Benefit Nature, Humans

Creating unmown areas in an urban park can significantly increase flowers and pollinating insects while also leading to a greater enjoyment of the space by people, according to a Univ. of Sussex study.

Researchers at the university’s Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) monitored areas of one of Brighton & Hove City Council’s managed parks to see what would happen if the grass was left uncut for different periods of time.

They found that, during the course of one year, the blocks of unmown land at Saltdean Oval saw a three-fold increase in the density of flowers, while the numbers of flower-visiting insects such as bees, butterflies and moths was up to five times higher in the least-mown areas compared with the areas mown regularly as normal, every two weeks.

Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2014/09/unmown-areas-benefit-nature-humans


The Alien World of the Cambrian

If you were to wake up one day and find yourself surrounded by these amazing creatures, after first freaking out, you would probably come to the conclusion that you were on some alien world.

But in actuality these are all real organisms from earths distant past - the Cambrian period. Artists and animators have joined forces with paleontologists to produce these visualisations of the various fossils found all over the world.

It is likely planet earth will never see a period like this again, and however horrifying it may have been, that is disappointing.

I have listed the names of the arthropods in the captions of each photo.



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

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”.


The Glorious Jewel Scarab and the physics of light

Also known as Glorious beetle and Glorious scarab, Chrysina gloriosa (Coleoptera - Scarabaeidae), is an unmistakable beetle found in the US (western Texas, New Mexico, southeast Arizona), and Mexico (Chihuahua and Sonora) [1].

The adults reach 25 to 28 mm long and are bright green with silver stripes on the elytra. However, this beetle (and several other species of beetle in the family Scarabaeidae), actually shine brighter than they appear, the result of a light trick that only a few animals on the planet can accomplish.

The fact is that hidden within the microstructure of the beetle’s exoskeleton there are helical twists and turns that enable certain species of scarabs the rare ability to create and reflect circularly polarized light. While many animals can create and even see linearly polarized light, there are very few examples of the creation of circularly polarized light in nature, and Chrysina gloriosa, a particularly adorable species of scarab, is one of those special few [2]. 

Further readings:

Photo credit: Chrysina gloriosa from Kohl’s Ranch, Tonto National Forest, Gila Co., Arizona, 5320 ft. elev. by ©Carla Kishinami [Top] - [Bottom


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.

OneZoom Tree of Life Explorer

OneZoom is committed to heightening awareness about the diversity of life on earth and its evolutionary history. Here you can explore the tree of life in a new way: it’s like a map, everything is on one page, all you have to do is use your mouse wheel to zoom in and out.  Explore



Scientists from the University of Aberdeen have had the first look at the life that thrives in one of the deepest spots in the ocean.

The expedition to the New Hebrides trench, in the Pacific, revealed cusk eels and large bright red prawns swimming together on the seabed, 7,200m (4.5 miles) below the surface. the ecology was unlike anything the marine biologists had ever seen. Was loaded with bait to lure the deep-sea creatures into view.
The 30-day expedition was conducted by the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand

  • Footage courtesy of Oceanlab, University of Aberdeen/BBC
  • editor’s note :(also they look so nervous and skittish)
Southwest Australia

Australia may be the driest continent on Earth, but it is still home to some amazing biodiversity. The country’s southwest corner is one region that is recognized as a global biodiversity “hotspot” with outstanding natural environments whose protection is essential.

A biodiversity hotspot

Think Australia and the Great Barrier Reef and the Outback quickly come to mind. But the often overlooked southwest corner is a region not to be missed.

From the Swan coastal plain to the valleys around Perth, from the Esperance plains to the jarrah-karri eucalyptus forests, southwest Australia has the highest concentration of rare and endangered species on the entire continent.

Here one finds more than 6,000 species of native plants and 100 native mammals, birds, frogs and reptiles, making the region a biodiversity “hotspot”.

Regional wildlife

The numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus), quokka(Setonix brachyurus), western swamp tortoise (Pseudemydura umbrina) and Gilbert’s potoroo(Potorous gilbertii) are just some of the endangered wildlife unique to region.

Sea lions, southern right whales, great white sharks and many other marine species are found off the southwest coast in the waters of the Indian and Southern oceans.

Threats and solutions

Land clearing for agriculture remains the number one threat to the survival of animal and plant species in Australia, especially in the southwest.

Logging, invasive species, salinity and climate change are also taking a serious toll on this fragile environment.

WWF has joined forces with local communities, NGOs, research centres, business and  government agencies to develop an ecoregional approach to biodiversity conservation in southwest Australia through a number of large-scale conservation projects and programmes.

text from the WWF

All photos from Australia.com facebook page except for the second (from Oceanic Imagery)


We Evolved Unique Faces for a Purpose

The amazing variety of human faces – far greater than that of most other animals – is the result of evolutionary pressure to make each of us unique and easily recognizable, according to a new study by UC Berkeley scientists.

Our highly visual social interactions are almost certainly the driver of this evolutionary trend, said behavioral ecologist Michael Sheehan, a postdoctoral fellow in UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Many animals use smell or vocalization to identify individuals, making distinctive facial features unimportant, especially for animals that roam after dark, he said. But humans are different.

Humans are phenomenally good at recognizing faces; there is a part of the brain specialized for that, Sheehan said. Our study now shows that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognizable. It is clearly beneficial for me to recognize others, but also beneficial for me to be recognizable. Otherwise, we would all look more similar.

The idea that social interaction may have facilitated or led to selection for us to be individually recognizable implies that human social structure has driven the evolution of how we look, said coauthor Michael Nachman, a population geneticist, professor of integrative biology and director of the UC Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

Continue reading…

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

If everyone lived as North Americans do, we would need five Earths; as Europeans do, three Earths. China and India are just under the one-Earth level, but that is increasing steadily. Moderate projections from the UN show that, by 2050, we will be using about twice the carrying capacity of Earth. This is accompanied by a catastrophic loss of much of Earth’s unique biodiversity…half the species on Earth are in danger of becoming extinct in 50 years.
—  Sustainable World Coalition, Sustainable World Sourcebook

Sunday Afternoon at Kallista: Happy Little Springtails.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours in the Dandenong Ranges National Park at Kallista. I didn’t move more than 10 metres in the whole 4 hours and was within a 20 metres of a major road. I was rewarded for my stasis with about 200 reasonable invert and other little things images. These are the springtails (Collembola). I could have stayed weeks and continued to get fresh things to take pictures of.

Perhaps my favorite (and I think that of many collembolaphiles) is the lovely, distinctive, springtail genus Acanthanura (middle). This genus belongs to the neanurid subfamily Uchidanurinae which has representatives in Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Micronesia and southeast Asia. Acanthanura itself is reasonably common in and under rotting wood in wet forest habitats in southeastern Australia and Tasmania.


Mountain viscacha (Lagidium viscacia) in the Lauca National Park, Chile | ©Arthur Anker

Lagidium viscacia is one of three South American rodent species commonly referred to as mountain viscachas.

In common with its two congeners, this species looks remarkably like a long-tailed rabbit. Soft dense fur covers its body, from the tips of its elongate ears to the end of its long, curled tail. The forelimbs are relatively short, while the contrastingly long and muscular hind-limbs enable it run and jump with ease. 

The colour of its fur varies seasonally and with age, but generally the upperparts are grey to brown, with tints of cream and black, while the under-parts are pale yellow or tan.

Animalia - Chordata - Mammalia - Rodentia - Chinchillidae - Lagidium - L. viscacia


Darwin Was Right: Island Life Makes Animals More Relaxed

The lack of predators reduces the instinct to flee, according to new research.

Nearly 150 years ago Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, made an observation: animals that lived on islands without predators tend to be tamer, for lack of a better word. They live in less fear and therefore can be easily approached. Darwin wrote about this in his classic 1859 book, "The Origin of Species," in which he notes the difference in behavior between island birds and those in his native England:

The fear of man is slowly acquired, as I have elsewhere shown, by the various animals which inhabit desert islands; and we see an instance of this, even in England, in the greater wildness of all our large birds in comparison with our small birds; for the large birds have been most persecuted by man. We may safely attribute the greater wildness of our large birds to this cause; for in uninhabited islands large birds are not more fearful than small; and the magpie, so wary in England, is tame in Norway, as is the hooded crow in Egypt.

Although this observation has been repeated for more than a century, it hasn’t really been studied and quantified scientifically until now. A team of scientists decided to look into this and examined 66 lizard species to see how they might flee in the face of a predator or other potentially dangerous animal. Their goal was to calculate the “flight initiation distance” — in other words, how close the lizards would allow a predator to get to them before they turned tail and fled. Lo and behold, the scientists calculated the island-based lizard species could be approached much more closely than those on the mainland. Their research was published last week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"Our study confirms Darwin’s observations and numerous anecdotal reports of island tameness," one of the study’s co-authors, University of California Riverside biology professor Theodore Garland, said in a news release. "His insights have once again proven to be correct, and remain an important source of inspiration for present-day biologists."

Other studies have looked at the flight initiation distance for individual species, but this appears to be the first major studies across numerous species around the world.

As the authors write in their paper, this “tameness” has an evolutionary advantage. If a lizard species lives on an island without the constant fear of predation, they do not need to “waste time and energy developing and performing needless escape.” This allows them to put more energy into gathering food and reproducing, giving a natural selection advantage to the individuals who do not waste their energy.

Although the authors do not touch on it in their paper, their research is one more clue as to why so many island species have become threatened or gone extinct as their habitats have been invaded by non-native predators such as rats, cats, dogs and snakes.

image (1) via AIA Gala 2011; image (2-4) via bugbog travel

Source: MNN

Related: Darwin’s Notebook: The Life, Times, and Discoveries of Charles Robert Darwin' by Jonathan Clements (review)