Black and red broadbill (Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos)

The black-and-red broadbill is a species of bird in the broadbill family. It is monotypic within the genus Cymbirhynchus. It is found in Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical mangrove forests.

photo credits: zozounand

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.”


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.” –

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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!

A World of Mammal Diversity Has Been Lost Because of Humans

The Serengeti is home to great herds of wildebeest. Without humans, other continents would have similar levels of diversity in large mammals as this region of Africa, a new study shows.

by Sarah Zielinski

On the Serengeti, vast herds of wildebeest, zebra and other herbivores migrate across long distances, trying to avoid being eaten along the way by lions or other species with big teeth and claws. This small section of Africa is one of the last places on Earth to see such a diversity of large mammals, but that isn’t because the region has the perfect climate or abnormally high levels of biodiversity. It’s simply one of the last places where humans haven’t wiped out the megafauna, a new study shows.

Soren Faurby and Jens-Christian Svenning of Aarhus University in Denmark mapped out the current patterns of mammal diversity across the Earth. They then mapped what those patterns would be if humans hadn’t been around for the last 130,000 years or so. The goal was to estimate the natural diversity of mammal species — a key piece of data for studying species diversity and for providing a baseline for conservation efforts. The study appears August 20 in Diversity and Distributions…

(read more: Science News)

photograph by Ganesh Raghunathan/Flickr

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


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.