Crested barbet (Trachyphonus vaillantii)

The crested barbet is a sub-Saharan bird in the Lybiidae family. With its thick bill and very colourful plumage the crested barbet is unmistakable. The crested barbet feeds on insects, other birds’ eggs and fruits and sometimes mice. They are found singly or in pairs. They like to bounce around on the ground looking for food, they usually call from a branch out in the open. They do not fly easily and then only for short distances. Crested barbets roost in holes in trees.

photo credits: wiki

The Extreme World of Deep Sea Cephalopods

Although it is the home of approximately 98% of the ocean’s species, the deep sea is a frontier yet to be explored by natural scientists. Of the estimated 500.000 to 10 million species living on or above the seafloor, new species are discovered and described by marine biologists every year. Being one of the biggest and most extreme environments on Earth, the deep sea’s biodiversity is enormous in both species of prey and predators. From demonic red octopi to gigantic squid wrestling with sperm whales, the most interesting group of marine predators would be the deep sea’s cephalopods.

The biggest problem living as a squid at 5000 meters depth is the pitch black environment you have to hunt in. A great variety of cephalopods have adapted to their surroundings in the most extreme ways. One of the easiest feeding strategies is what we call “passive hunting”, and one of the more scary-looking squid known to science – the genus Magnapinna – uses this technique in the most bizarre way. Known commonly as Bigfin squid, or Long-armed squid, this group is known for its irregular big fin-size and extremely long arms. Although previously only known from caught juveniles, in 2007 an eerie video was made by a research facility in the Gulf of Mexico. What they saw was a 8 meters-long adult squid, floating around in the abyss.

Magnapinna sp.

Another more obvious feeding strategy is active hunting: squid are known to chase and ambush their prey using their intelligence and extremely complicated eyes. While we know that the eyes of squid are highly adapted and look similar to those of a mammal, there’s one species that takes it a step further. The so-called strawberry squid (Histioteuthis heteropsis) gets its name from the strawberry-like appearance of its skin. The light-producing speckles, or photophores, are supposed to confuse predators. What’s more interesting however, is the fact that it has one “normal” eye and one big green eye. It is believed that the smaller eye detects bioluminescence generated from potential prey, while the other eye watches the sky and filters faint light from above.

Histioteuthis heteropsis

While the strawberry squid tries to confuse its own predators, sometimes the best defense is simply being bigger than the predator. Some squid have evolved to be gigantic, take for example the Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas) from the gulf of Mexico. The human sized squid are known to be hostile towards divers and even hunt in packs – sometimes referred to as “a squad of squid”. An even bigger squid can be found in the deep: the Giant and Colossal squid (genus Architeuthis and Mesonychoteuthis) are known to reach sizes over 10 meters. There is only one animal capable of fighting a gigantic squid: the 16-meter long Sperm whale. Although never observed by biologists, evidence of squid-whale battles can be found on stranded whales. Circular marks, believed to be caused by the suckers of the squid, cover the hide of several found Sperm whales.

Lastly, there’s one group of cephalopods often overlooked by the general public. Having the creepiest name from the deep sea, the Vampire squid is one of the most interesting organisms on Earth. Its Latin name Vampyroteuthis infernalis literally means “vampiric squid from hell”, but its name is scarier than the animal itself. The Vampire squid feeds on the so-called deep sea snow: flakes of waste material that slowly falls to the ocean floor. It uses a long thread-like appendage to collect the snow and brings it to its mouth.

Thought to be the common ancestor of both squid and octopi, the bright red molluscs share a lot of characters with the other cephalopods. There are however some differences. When threatened, Vampire squids cannot simply swim away. Instead, they use an unique arsenal of defensive strategies. The filaments between their tentacles can be used to protect their soft bodies, exposing spiny structures on the inside of the tentacles. In addition, Vampire squid have no ink-sacs like other lineages, but can emit fluorescent fluids to scare predators away.

Vampyroteuthis infernalis

There’s a lot we still don’t know about the deep sea and its inhabitants, but every day new species are being discovered by marine biologists. We don’t have to look for other planets to find aliens, the weirdest organisms can be found below the waves, waiting for us.

Hi I’m Werner, master student and invertebrate enthusiast. Most information was found through the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute: if you’re interested in deep sea stuff like me, check out their site.

nature.com
Trump’s border-wall pledge threatens delicate desert ecosystems
Ecologists fear plan to seal off the United States from Mexico would put wildlife at risk.

“The southwestern US and northwestern Mexico share their weather, rivers and wildlife,” says Sergio Avila-Villegas, a conservation scientist from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. “The infrastructure on the border cuts through all that and divides a shared landscape in two.”

Animals that have gone extinct elsewhere can sometimes survive on islands due to the isolation they offer. That’s the case with Cuban solenodons, insect-eating shrew relatives which are part of a mammalian line that has existed since the time of the dinosaurs. Known in Cuba as almiquí, solenodons secrete venomous saliva through a groove in their front teeth. The presence of this groove is an ancient trait, more often found in reptiles.

Today, only two solenodon species survive—one in Cuba and another on the nearby island of Hispaniola. That makes protecting their few remaining habitats for these mysterious mammals all the more important, says Gerardo Begué-Quiala, deputy director of Alexander Humboldt National Park, one of the solenodon’s few known stomping grounds.

Read more about solenodons on the blog. 

Non-autistic people see autism as a great tragedy, and parents experience continuing disappointment and grief at all stages of the child’s and family’s life cycle. But this grief does not stem from the child’s autism in itself. It is grief over the loss of the normal child the parents had hoped and expected to have … There’s no normal child hidden behind the autism. Autism is a way of being. It is pervasive; it colors every experience, every sensation, perception, thought, emotion, and encounter, every aspect of existence. It is not possible to separate the autism from the person—and if it were possible, the person you’d have left would not be the same person you started with. This is important, so take a moment to consider it: Autism is a way of being. It is not possible to separate the person from the autism.
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The Asian Unicorn, Saola

Although very shy at first, it has become quite docile and does not show any fear of us. It came very close to the spot where we were staring at him, being more curious than afraid. We had the opportunity to touch it and even feed it but we preferred not to do so, as we had agreed before this adventure not to interfere in any way with the life and equilibrium that surrounds us.”

-Clement Van Burden diaries.

We all know the Saola, The Asian Unicorn was claimed to be discovered in 1993. It was a big discovery. It surprised many biologist how an animal such as big as the Saola ( like a regular deer) could be hidden from humans for such a long time. My Great Grand Father have the illustration above, done in 1821, which resembles the Saola discovered a few decades ago.

Follow my project here.

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A Passion for the Little Things

An interest in a major group of invertebrates means that you can easily develop a fulfilling, life-long-learning-filled, passion. You might even discover new species. In many parts of the world invertebrate faunas are so poorly known that thousands (tens-hundreds of thousands) of species remain to be discovered. Certainly most have never been photographed except for a relatively small number of common or conspicuous species.

I’m sometimes reminded of this when a colleague says something like ‘where’d you find such-and-such? Its only ever been collected twice and your image is the first one of the genus alive’. You’d be hard pushed to do the same for a mammal or a bird. To do it frequently you’d have to be dealing with little things!

Little things rock.

Lined chiton (Tonicella lineata)

The lined chiton is a species of chiton from the North Pacific. It has been recorded from intertidal and subtidal waters to a depth of 30 to 90 m. T. lineata often occurs on rocks that are encrusted by coralline algae; presumably this is what their coloration is intended to camouflage against. If knocked from its substrate, T. lineata will contract into a ball in order to protect its vulnerable ventral side, similar to many isopods. Coralline algae are also the major food item of T. lineata.

photo credits: Kirt L. Onthank

youtube

Slow lorises may look like big-eyed Ewoks, but their cute countenance has made these primates a target of the illegal wildlife trade. Join Mary Blair, primatologist and Director of Biodiversity Informatics Research at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, as she discusses how research on these endangered animals can contribute to a better understanding of wildlife trafficking, including the risk of zoonotic disease spread.

Learn more about the slow loris at March SciCafe on March 1!

Why is biodiversity important to national marine sanctuaries?

“Biodiversity” refers to the variety of different types of species in a given ecosystem. Many national marine sanctuaries support enormous biodiversity. By protecting these ecosystems, we can ensure they thrive for future generations.

This elephant seal knows and will shout it out loud: biodiversity is an important and essential part of the National Marine Sanctuary System!

Transcript beneath the cut.

Keep reading

Slow lorises may look like big-eyed Ewoks, but their cute countenance has made these primates a target of the illegal wildlife trade. Join Mary Blair, primatologist and Director of Biodiversity Informatics Research at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, as she discusses how research on these endangered animals can contribute to a better understanding of wildlife trafficking, including the risk of zoonotic disease spread.

Sign up for SciCafe today!

Earth is Dying - and it's Our Fault.

I need to fully develop my conservation blog and post things like this there. But here’s the deal.

We are in the midst of the planet’s sixth mass extinction.

These are incredibly rare, and yes, it is what you think it is - when hundreds, thousands of species go extinct within a short period of time. But if it’s happened before, why is this one so bad?

Because the five before this have been due to completely natural causes. The warming or cooling of the planet, volcano eruptions, floods, droughts…

But this time, HUMANS are the primary problem. That’s right, us. You and I.

Sure, we are not the only reason for species going extinct, but everything we do harms the environment. Our hunger for expansion and a higher standard of living has caused us to keep destroying nature just so we can build on it.

So, habitat destruction is a HUGE problem. Along with littering, overpopulation, overusage of water, fragmentation, and carbon emissions (which contribute to global warming). We are invading and destroying rainforests - even the protected biodiversity hotspots are difficult to preserve - and disaster falls.

We are wiping out keystone species, plants and animals that could trigger the collapse of an entire ecosystem because they’re so important. We are losing species of plants that may have undiscovered medicinal value (like a cure for cancer).

Species are disappearing faster than we can blink. What will we do when the bees are gone? The sea turtles, the sharks? What happens when you wake up in the morning and the birds aren’t singing, what happens when you go to the beach and instead of clean sand and rocks, it’s filled with litter and trash?

So, yes. We are destroying our planet and ensuring the downfall of both us and future generations.

So how can we stop this?
1.) Conserve resources. The lower the demand is for products, the less people will go out and harvest them. Try and save water, drive less (public transportation may be a better option for example), save electricity by turning lights off. The littlest things can help.

2.) Don’t litter. This should be easy. But apparently, people haven’t been getting the message. Those garbage patches in the ocean can’t just be cleaned up.

3.) RECYCLE!! This is so important, and so easy! I’m astonished at the amount of people I know who don’t recycle. Please encourage everyone you know to participate, too.

4.) Educate. We have the world at our fingertips. Visit the IUCN red list, which documents all species of animals, and names their status. Look at other websites. Learn. Teach people. Let them know what’s happening.

5.) Donate. This can be the hardest to do because, well - money is hard to come by. But I urge you all to send this money to a good cause. There are soooo many environmental and conservation groups out there to donate to. Your money will be well spent. Just make sure you research each project before donating to ensure it’s not a scam.

Thank you for listening - and I urge you all to speak up about this. We need this planet. It doesn’t need us.

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Stoat (Mustela erminea)

The stoat is a mammal of the genus Mustela of the family Mustelidae native to Eurasia and North America. The name ermine is often, but not always, used for the animal in its pure white winter coat, or the fur thereof. In the late 19th century, stoats were introduced into New Zealand to control rabbits, where the stoats have had a devastating effect on native bird populations. As with the least weasel, mouse-like rodents predominate in the stoat’s diet. However, unlike the least weasel, which almost exclusively feeds on small voles, the stoat regularly preys on larger rodent and lagomorph species. The stoat is an opportunistic predator, which moves rapidly and checks every available burrow or crevice for food.The stoat is a usually silent animal, but can produce a range of sounds similar to those of the least weasel. Kits produce a fine chirping noise. On average, males measure 187–325 mm in body length, while females measure 170–270 mm.

photo credits: wiki, wiki, wiki

Islands like Cuba are like natural experiments, where evolution becomes more dramatic!

Its complex politics and vibrant music have attracted the attention of the world. But Cuba, the largest island nation in the Caribbean, is also home to the unexpected. It’s a place of stunning contrasts: mysterious caves and bright boulevards, sweltering fields and cool forests, hard challenges and high energy.

Su política compleja y su música vibrante han atraído la atención del mundo. Pero Cuba, la nación más grande del Caribe, también es el hogar de lo inesperado. Es un lugar de contrastes asombrosos: cuevas mysteriosas y bulevares radiantes, campos de calor sofocante y frescos bosques, grandes desafíos y gran energía.

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A Gentle Giant, The Great Asian Rhinoceros

““The jungle is moving. Suddenly, in the middle of the night I felt the ground moving beneath us. Plants and ground were moving in the direction of the moon. It took us a while to comprehend that we were sleeping on the back of one of this giants. Their movements are so slow and is covered with a dense layer of foliage that is hard to notice in the jungle despite its impressive size.“

Clement Van Burden diaries. 

What appears to be a perfect symbiosis in nature, actually can be deadly for this Rhinoceros. If the plants grow in large quantities, the rhino will be too heavy to walk and the animal can die of starvation. On the other hand, some roots are invasive and they can grow inside the armor of this animal affecting his nervous system and motor skill abilities. It is a slow and painful way to die and probably the main reason this animal lives in herds; so they can eat each others plants.

The ecosystem that grows on the back of this gigantic mammal is home of numerous small animals.

Follow Clement Van Burden Project here