Why wildfires are necessary

Did you know that several forest species need fire to survive?

In the conifer-rich forests of western North America, lodgepole pines constantly seek the sun. Their seeds prefer to grow on open, sunny ground, which pits saplings against each other as each tries to get more light by growing straighter and faster than its neighbors. Over time, generations of slender, lofty lodgepoles form an umbrella-like canopy that shades the forest floor below. But as the trees’ pine cones mature to release their twirling seeds, this signals a problem for the lodgepole’s future: very few of these seeds will germinate in the cool, sunless shade created by their towering parents.

These trees have adapted to this problem by growing two types of cones. There are the regular annual cones that release seeds spontaneously:

And another type called serotinous cones, which need an environmental trigger to free their seeds:

Serotinous cones are produced in thousands and are like waterproof time capsules sealed with resinous pitch. Many are able to stay undamaged on the tree for decades. Cones that fall to the ground can be viable for several years as well. But when temperatures get high enough, the cones pop open.

Once it’s gotten started, a coniferous forest fire typically spreads something like this: flames ravage the thick understory provided by species like Douglas Fir, a shade-tolerant tree that’s able to thrive under the canopy of lodgepole pines. The fire uses these smaller trees as a stepladder to reach the higher canopy of old lodgepole pines. That ignites a tremendous crown fire, reaching temperatures of up to 2400 degrees Fahrenheit. At those temperatures, the serotinous cones burst open, releasing millions of seeds which are carried by the hot air to form new forests. After the fire, carbon rich soils and an open, sunlit landscape help lodgepole seeds germinate quickly and sprout in abundance. From the death of the old forest comes the birth of the new.

So however counterintuitive it may seem, wildfires are important for the wider ecosystem as a whole. Without wildfires to rejuvenate trees, key forest species would disappear—and so would the many creatures that depend on them. And if a fire-dependent forest goes too long without burning, that raises the risk of a catastrophic blaze which could destroy a forest completely, not to mention people’s homes and lives. That’s why forest rangers sometimes intentionally start controlled burns—to reduce fuels in order to keep the more dangerous wildfires at bay.  

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why wildfires are necessary - Jim Schulz

Animation by @provinciastudio

'Sharkcano' - it's sharks in a volcano
They don't have laser beams attached to their heads, but these sharks are living in an active volcano.

I am not worried about our marine species ability to adapt to our changing world.

I am worried about our ability to adapt.

Take a look at this shark discovery! 

Real human skeleton for sale! This is a male of Indian origin and was purchased from the University of Toronto in the 1980s. It was used for anatomical reference.

We can ship this skeleton worldwide, wherever human bones are legal. Price is in Canadian dollars and payment plans are available!

Buy it now on www.SkullStore.ca or email BuySkulls@gmail.com for additional information.

Don’t touch them…

All laughing at the expense of the solenodon aside, please no touchy this animal if you happen to find one. Not just because solenodon is endangered, but because it has a venomous bite, an extreme rarity for a mammal. (Shrews have a venomous bite too, and male platypuses have venomous spurs on their hind legs, though the males only use these to fight each other.) Sitting underneath the solenodon’s lower incisors are salivary glands that send venom along grooves in its teeth. All the solenodon has to do is break the victim’s skin—or cuticle, in the case of insects—for the venom to get in there and work its magic.

Absurd Creature of the Week: The Mystery of Solenodon, the Mammal That Bites Like a Snake (Wired)

Creatures from Tyler Rhodes’ “evolution” experiment for schoolchildren. Children copied each others’ drawings of simple “critters” and created complex lineages of doodle creatures.

I helped make one such clade more realistic and believable, rendering the animals as functional, tetrapod-like organisms.


Why Do Humans Have Chins? A Scientist Explains The ‘Enduring Puzzle’

James Pampush devoted five years and his Ph.D. dissertation to one question: Why do homo sapiens have chins, when all of our evolutionary relatives don’t? He tells NPR’s Robert Siegel about “the enduring puzzle of the human chin.”

Gorillas don’t have them. Chimpanzees don’t have them, nor do any of our other evolutionary relatives. In fact, with the arguable exceptions of elephants and manatees, humans are the only mammal with that little section of bone on the lower portion of the jaw that juts out past the teeth, and scientists don’t know why.