Clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa)

The clouded leopard is a cat found from the Himalayan foothills through mainland Southeast Asia into China, and has been classified as Vulnerable in 2008 by the IUCN. Its total population size is suspected to be fewer than 10,000 mature individuals, with a decreasing population trend. The clouded leopard is considered to form an evolutionary link between the big cats and the small cats. It represents the smallest of the big cats, but is not closely related to the leopard. Females vary in head-to-body length from 68.6 - 94 cm, with a tail 61 - 82 cm long. Males are larger at 81 - 108 cm with a tail 74 - 91 cm long. Their shoulder height varies from 50 - 55 cm. They have exceptionally long, piercing canine teeth. The upper pair of canines may measure 4 cm or longer. They are often referred to as a “modern-day saber tooth” because they have the largest canines in proportion to their body size. At the moment there are three subspecies recognized. Clouded leopards are the most talented climbers among the cats. They can easily jump up to 1.2 m high. They live a solitary lifestyle, resting in trees during the day and hunting at night. When hunting, clouded leopards either come down from their perches in the trees and stalk their prey or lie and wait for the prey to come to them. After making a kill and eating, they usually retreat to the trees to digest and rest. Little is known of the diet of clouded leopards. Their prey includes both arboreal and terrestrial vertebrates.

photo credits: Charles Barilleaux, wiki, Theonlysilentbob, frank wouters, Vearl Brown, cloudedleopard

Our planet’s diverse, thriving ecosystems may seem like permanent fixtures, but they’re actually vulnerable to collapse. Jungles can become deserts, and reefs can become lifeless rocks. What makes one ecosystem strong and another weak in the face of change? The answer, to a large extent, is biodiversity.

Happy Earth Week! 

From the TED-Ed lesson Why is biodiversity so important? - Kim Preshoff

Animation by TED-Ed


“It was a stunning scene—a 45-foot-long, 70-ton right whale hovering over the bottom just a few feet away from a diver standing on the bottom. … At some point I stopped and kneeled on the sand to catch my breath, and I was certain the whale would just keep swimming. Instead, the whale also stopped, turned, and hovered over me as it stared with that soulful eye. A few seconds later, I resumed swimming alongside the whale, making pictures, and savoring every second.”

- Brian Skerry, Diver & Photographer.

Check out Brian Skerry’s prints here.

(Nat geo)


Animals are dying at up to 100 times faster than the natural rate.

Planet Earth is dying all around us on a scale not seen since the annihilation of the dinosaurs. That’s the alarming finding of a new study on extinction rates recently published in Science Advances. Earth’s ecosphere is on the precipice of an epoch on the scale of the Cretaceous-Palogene extinction event. This would be like “sawing off the limb we’re sitting on” as humans.

Achrioptera fallax

Achrioptera fallax is a stick insect species found in Madagascar. The males are a bright electric blue (with greenish tints) and have two rows of reddish orange spines along the edges of the femur. There are also dark coloured spines going along the sides and underneath the thorax. Males are brachypterous (incapable of flight) and have small reduced wings. Females have a duller outlook. They are a light brown with red spines covering the entire thorax and the top of the head. The male grows up to 13 cm in length while the female is much bigger and can grow up to 18, 5 cm in length. Their diet in the wild is unknown but in captivity they mainly feed on bramble, raspberry, eucalyptus, and oak.

photo credits: thedancingrest, reptileforums


Cardiaspina Psyllid-scapes

Macro-photography reveals Many Little Things in our world that would be difficult to see otherwise. White spots on gum tree (Eucalyptus) leaves, that most people would never notice, become alive and amazing when magnified. Here we have the ‘lerps’ (see here to find out what these are) of tiny little psyllids. Psyllids belong to the insect order Hemiptera along with a wide range of insects that principally suck plant juices. Bugs suck, beetles bite.

These pictures show several stages of the species lifecycle.

The eggs, hatched and unhatched, are shown amongst lerps and excuviae (cast or sloughed ‘skin’ of an animal (like a snake), especially of an insect larva) in the second picture; the reddish eggs have hatched whereas the yellow ones haven’t. Hatching from the eggs are the tiny little first instar ‘crawlers’, shown in the bottom image. If you look closely you can already see it beginning to exude a pre-lerp from its rear.

As the nymph (immature) grows through a total of five instars before adulthood, the lerps it lives under are increased in size until they reach the fifth instar stage (top). The lerp of this stage is around 2.5-3 mm across (you could fit 3-4 across your little fingernail) and the nymphs not much longer than 1 mm. Remarkably, the lerps are woven by the nymphs using constituents of the plant juices that are excess to their nutritional needs. Kind of like making baskets from your crap - sort of.

Eventually after 10 days to over 6 weeks, depending on the species, the fifth instar will leave its lerp and moult on the surface on the leaf near its childhood home. The adult, which looks like a tiny little cicada is shown in the fourth image. They will mate, lay eggs on the host and start everything all over again.

Cue music. The cirrrrrcccclllllle offfffffff liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiffffffffe…


Boophinae Eyes.

Photo credit: PBertner.

These amazing photos highlight the diversity in frogs eyes of the Boophis genus. They’re part of a larger family called the Mantellids found on only two islands Madagascar and Mayotte.

Most of the worlds biodiversity is actually concentrated in specific regions. They tend to be areas like the tropics or coral reefs. Where lots of energy, food and competition combine causing selection for a whole host of interesting animals


Women Farmers are Guardians of Crop Diversity in the Andes
Women farmers in the Andes play an important role in preserving crop diversity.

“The Andes are home to incredible biodiversity where farmers have selected countless varieties of native crops—such as quinoa, maize, potatoes, oca, olluco, and mashua—adapted to heterogeneous environments with varied climates, soils, geography, and altitude. For instance, although often portrayed as a superfood with vast nutritional properties, most people only consume a few commercial varieties of quinoa, and are unaware of the hundreds of quinoa landraces of different sizes, colors, flavors, and textures selected by indigenous farmers.” 



Punch Junk: a Zebraplatys Jumping Spider (Salticidae)

I came across this little beauty yesterday in Langi Ghiran State Park in western Victoria, Australia. He was under the loose bark of a River Red-gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) minding his own business. The under bark ’subcortical' habitat of eucalypts is an important one for Australian invertebrates (and many reptiles too), yet we know remarkably little about the ecology and broader significance of this distinctively Australian habitat.

Zebraplatys are apparently uncommon with fewer than a 30 records from Australia, mostly from western Australia, and only around five from the east. The eastern records are all of the species Zebraplatys harveyi Zabka, which this one may be - it is very similar to the drawn image in Zabka’s 1992 revision of the genus. The related genus Holoplatys is much more numerous, both in terms of number of species and of records. Zebraplatys can be distinguished from Holoplatys by the occurrence of distinctive zebra stripes on the abdomen of Zebraplatys.

A number of related salticid genera in the Australian region have adapted to this habitat and like other groups that are important here - Ground Beetles (ironically) for example - have distinctive adaptations to living in a tight space. The most obvious character of these subcortical adapted taxa is the distinctive  fattened body. In this case short little chelicerae (mouth parts) and strong front legs are probably also adaptations to the narrow space under-bark place.

This specimen in clearly a male (hence the ‘he’ above) because of his well-advertised palps. He is one of the Many Little Things with boxing glove palps!


Multitude of Microscopic Wonders Discovered in the World’s Oceans

““This is the largest DNA sequencing effort ever done for ocean science: analyses revealed around 40 million genes, the vast majority of which are new to science, thus hinting towards a much broader biodiversity of plankton than previously known,“ explains Patrick Wincker, from Genoscope, CEA. EMBL’s high performance computing was essential in compiling this comprehensive catalogue, which is estimated to be derived from more than 35 000 different species whose genomic content had been mostly unknown to mankind until now.” – http://oceans.taraexpeditions.org/en/m/science/news/first-scientific-results-from-the-tara-oceans-expedition/

Support the Future of Science Tumblr on Patreon so we can geek out about science together! http://patreon.com/arielwaldman 👾

This we know:

We are the earth, through the plants and animals that nourish us.
We are the rains and the oceans that flow through our veins.
We are the breath of the forests of the land, and the plants of the sea.
We are human animals, related to all other life as descendants of the firstborn cell.
We share with these kin a common history, written in our genes.
We share a common present, filled with uncertainty.
And we share a common future, as yet untold.
We humans are but one of thirty million species weaving the thin layer of life enveloping the world.
The stability of communities of living things depends upon this diversity.
Linked in that web, we are interconnected — using, cleansing, sharing and replenishing the fundamental elements of life.
Our home, planet Earth, is finite; all life shares its resources and the energy from the sun, and therefore has limits to growth.
For the first time, we have touched those limits.
When we compromise the air, the water, the soil and the variety of life, we steal from the endless future to serve the fleeting present.

This we believe:

Humans have become so numerous and our tools so powerful that we have driven fellow creatures to extinction, dammed the great rivers, torn down ancient forests, poisoned the earth, rain and wind, and ripped holes in the sky.
Our science has brought pain as well as joy; our comfort is paid for by the suffering of millions.
We are learning from our mistakes, we are mourning our vanished kin, and we now build a new politics of hope.
We respect and uphold the absolute need for clean air, water and soil.
We see that economic activities that benefit the few while shrinking the inheritance of many are wrong.
And since environmental degradation erodes biological capital forever, full ecological and social cost must enter all equations of development.
We are one brief generation in the long march of time; the future is not ours to erase.
So where knowledge is limited, we will remember all those who will walk after us, and err on the side of caution.

This we resolve:

All this that we know and believe must now become the foundation of the way we live.
At this turning point in our relationship with Earth, we work for an evolution: from dominance to partnership; from fragmentation to connection; from insecurity, to interdependence.


‘The Declaration of Interdependence’ was written for the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by the David Suzuki Foundation. You can check out a beautifully animated video version of the declaration here.

Infographic: Sustainable Ideas

The Indigenous Life of Zendikar

Battle for Zendikar will feature a plane-wide struggle between the Zendikari and the extraplanar Eldrazi. While the Eldrazi have been trapped on Zendikar for 6000 years, they’re not from there. They are mysterious beings from the Blind Eternities, the non-space that separates the planes of the Multiverse.

But today, we don’t really give a crap about where the Eldrazi are from. Today is all about Zendikar and the biodiversity that is indigenous to her little corner of the Multiverse. While I won’t be talking about every single organism found on the plane, I will be highlighting the ones that are more uniquely Zendikari. You know, the life that makes Zendikar Zendikar.


Caravan Hurda

Hurdas are anatomically bizarre Giants that have tiny vestigial legs and ridiculously muscular arms. Their floppy tails are likely for balance as their hands propel them across Zendikar’s unstable landscape. Hurda’s aren’t very smart, but they also aren’t very violent. When they need to hurt something, however, they pack a whopping punch.

Their strength and temperament make these docile dullards perfect transports, able to carry tremendous weights across the wilderness. Hurdas excel at following directions, which is useful when navigating treacherous landscapes.


Felidar Sovereign

Felidar are large, antlered Cats that mostly live in the frozen mountains of Sejiri. While they tend to be wild and bestial, some Knights have been known to train them as mounts.


Kor Sanctifiers

One of Zendikar’s dominant humanoid races is the Kor. The Kor are lightly built and tend to have elongated skulls. They have white hair and pallid skin that ranges from white to pastel blue. Kor men have small barbels growing from their chins.

The Kor are a nomadic people, packing light as they travel across the wild parts of the plane. They are known for their exquisite tool use and climbing techniques. Kor are master ropeworkers, traversing Zendikar’s aerial landscape with a series of hooks and lines. Their tradition of stoneforging, pulling fully-formed weapons out of raw stone, has been passed down for generations.

Stoneforge Mystic

Kor practice a religion that personifies Zendikar as three deities. Kamsa is the goddess of the wind, revered as the breath of the world. Mangeni is the god of the sea, revered as the blood of the world. Talib is the god of the earth, revered as the body of the world. The Kor feel a strong connection to their gods, both spiritually and literally through their use of hook-and-line.

Centuries in Zendikar’s past, a large number of Kor were kidnapped by the Phyrexians and stashed on their artificial plane, Rath. There the Kor were split into two factions. The en-Kor resisted the power of Volrath, while the il-Kor allied themselves with the evincar. The Rathi overlay fused Rath with Dominaria, where the kidnapped Kor survive free from Phyrexia’s tyranny.


Dormant Gomazoa

While they look like floating rocks, Gomazoans are giant Jellyfish that float around Zendikar’s skies. They are opportunistic hunters, snatching up whatever happens to wander near their dangling tentacles. Gomazoans are not very active, preferring to drift where the air currents, or gravity wells, take them.

Sky Fish

Merfolk Wayfinder

Gomazoans aren’t the only sea creatures that have migrated to Zendikar’s skies. Many species of fish have taken to the air, leveraging an advantage of mobility in a world whose landscape changes daily.

Zendikar’s humanoid races have trained such fish as mounts. The Kor often domesticate flying eels. Merfolk prefer to ride mantas, which are able to move seamlessly between sea and sky.

Sea Monsters

Wrexial, the Risen Deep

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Zendikar’s oceans are safe. Giant Crabs, slithering Serpents, and colossal Krakens make navigating the plane’s waterways just as perilous as walking across land.

While Zendikar isn’t alone in its sea monsters, Wrexial and Lorthos are two of the most recognizable denizens of the deep. Wrexial is a Kraken that freely moves between the deep seas and toxic bogs. Lorthos is an Octopus that is commonly seen in Sunder Bay on the continent of Murasa. Both titans have inspired tales of death and destruction, spreading fear throughout coastal populations.


Surrakar Banisher

Deep in the Guum Wilds of Bala Ged live a mysterious race known as the Surrakar. They dwell in limestone caves that pepper the swamps, spending much of their time protecting their breeding rooms within. They have tough reptilian skin and rows of large tusks to protect themselves.

Surrakar intelligence and motives are unknown to the other Zendikari, although they show primitive signs of culture. The clandestine nature of the race has made them difficult to study.

Terrestrial Arthropods

Scute Mob

Only the toughest animals can survive on Zendikar, and often that means bugs reign supreme. Having a tough shell protects you from falling rocks and predators. Having razor claws and venom helps you tear through tough shells. The weapons race that exists among Zendikar’s insectoid species has turned them all into terrifyingly dangerous organisms.

A single scute bug is an annoyance; a swarm of scute bugs is an insatiable plague. Jagwasps nest in the dark bogs, swarming to attack those unfortunate enough to stumble near their hive. Venomous Scorpions strike from the shadows. Acidic toxins scar the rocks beneath massive crawlers.

Plated Geopede

The mountains of Akoum are so dangerous that bugs are the only organisms tough enough to survive. Their carapaces protect them from the razor rocks and magmatic geysers. Their teeth can burrow through the rock and shred their prey.


Arguably Zendikar’s most defining forms of life are the Elementals. While nearly every plane has Elementals, Zendikar’s are tied directly to the soul of the plane. Zendikar itself is alive, interacting with the Zendikari in the form of these inorganic creatures.

Elementals on Zendikar come in all shapes and sizes:

Avenger of Zendikar

Earthen Elementals take the form of the location they were born from. Ones created in the fiery calderas of Murasa burn with magmatic fury. The Elementals risen from ruin sites incorporate hewn stone and crumbing architecture into their bodies. Jungles give birth to rugged Elementals covered in verdant flora.

Living Tsunami

Aquatic Elementals twist and shape the waters of Zendikar into forms that defy gravity. They sail through the air and breach the waves, flowing fluidly with the natural order of the plane. Many of these Elementals are generally amorphous, sloshing around into whatever shape is convenient for their situation.

Rage Nimbus

Zendikar’s sky Elementals are as fickle as the winds themselves. They may lazily drift on updrafts one day and shower the land in lightning the next. Much of Zendikar’s landscape is suspended in the air, meaning there are few place the Zendikari can go that Elementals can’t be found.

The Roil is an event that greatly disrupts Zendikar. It usually results in utter destruction and a total reshaping of the landscape. Many Elementals are spawned during the Roil, embodying Zendikar’s pain and rage. The entire phenomenon can be thought of as a sort of immune response to the Eldrazi being trapped on the plane. Zendikar knows that the Eldrazi do not belong there and is desperately trying to get rid of them.

While most of Zendikar’s Elementals come and go, one has chosen to remain. Ashaya is an Elemental that revealed itself to the planeswalker Nissa Revane. They are bonded together, the Worldwaker and the Awoken World. Together they seek to destroy the three Eldrazi titans once and for all.


Rampaging Baloths

While baloths also live on Dominaria, they are the cornerstone of the jungle ecosystems on Zendikar. Baloths are apex predators, capable of preying upon most other creatures in the woods. Lone baloths are capable hunters, but they are most dangerous when traveling in packs.

Baloths have thick, leathery skin to protect them from other predators and dangerous prey. They sport bony horns, spines, and plates that generally cover their faces and spines. Different species have different configurations.

Aggressive Flora

Nature’s Claim

The lush continents on Zendikar feature trees that grow thousands of feet tall, but they are regarded as safe havens. Most plant life on Zendikar is just as dangerous as the animal life. Carnivorous snappers lash out at passersby, when they’re not crawling along the ground to hunt. Many plants excrete sticky sap that snares victims. Climbing a vine may result in untimely constriction. Zendikar is a plane where danger lurks in literally every crevice and nook you can find.

Living Hedrons

Runed Servitor

Surely one of the strangest forms of life are the living hedrons that scrabble around Zendikar. Their origins are unknown. Were they forged by Ugin 6000 years ago for some role in the containment matrix? Were they built by Nahiri at some point after the initial trapping? Were they animated by the Zendikari eons after the world had forgotten what the hedrons were? Were they fundamentally changed by the Eldrazi and morphed into minions? We may find out soon now that Ugin has been resurrected. Until then, the living hedrons are a total mystery.


For the variety of life on Zendikar, one theme ties them all together: danger. Zendikar is a savage world where kill-or-be-killed is universal law. As a result, the life on this plane has evolved to be lethally aggressive and ruggedly resilient. The plane itself is even alive, upheaving permanence with the Roil. Now that the Eldrazi have been released, they have a formidable opponent in Zendikar and those that call it home.

Until next time, planeswalkers, just stay away from Zendikar if you value your life.


A Collembolan with Charisma Coming out of its…Everywhere!

Whenever I am out in the bush I’m always excited to come across an Acanthanura springtail. I have a feeling this might be true of most people who appreciate nature and wander about in the forests of southeastern Australia - at least those that do it with their eyes open to the Many Little Things!

Most springtails are not as effusively blessed with the combination of size, colour and ‘armature’ of Acanthanura and their relatives, although if you do look up close at even some of the small species, they are pretty amazing. Now, consider they occur at huge densities (thousands or tens of thousands per metre square) making them one of the most abundant animal types on the planet. After mites.

Acanthanura belongs to the neanurid subfamily Uchidanurinae. This subfamily  has representatives in Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Micronesia and southeast Asia - all of them large, for springtails, some reaching over 10 mm long, and many of them gorgeous. Acanthanura itself is reasonably common in and under rotting wood in wet forest habitats in southeastern Australia and Tasmania and many be found openly foraging during the daytime. The images here, all of the same undescribed (but known) species, show an individual actively searching habitat on a green, bryophyte covered log, and a specimen from inside a rotten log, covered in jewel-like water condensation droplets.

How is it possible that something so conspicuous and charismatic in its group remains undescribed? Well…that is the way of the small things. Everybody wants to work on the big stuff so we continue to know much less about, to paraphrase E.O. Wilson, the Many Little Things that run the world.