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Sunflower seastar (Pycnopodia helianthoides)

The Sunflower seastar is a large sea star found in the northeast Pacific. It is among the largest sea stars in the world (but not quite the largest), with a maximum armspan of 1 m. They are predatory, feeding mostly on sea urchins, clams, snails, and other small invertebrates. Sunflower seastars are quick, efficient hunters, moving at a speed of 1 m/min (3.3 ft/min) using 15,000 tube feet which lie on the undersides of their bodies.

photo credits: wiki, huffingtonpost, Paul Nicklen

dailyplantfacts said: I know these and other mistletoes are hemiparasitic, so the host tree won’t be totally sapped for resources, but why encourage the V. album to invade your apple trees? Are you worried about fruit yield / quality after the mistletoe has established?

I am actually using mistletoe as a tool to intentionally reduce the yield and vigour on certain apple trees: in particular, the crabapples used just for pollination and small things like making jelly or flavouring akvavit, and the older apples with less desirable cultivars.

I’d rather provide habitat (mistletoe is a keystone species) and do conservation of this local species on those trees, than have to deal with the huge apple harvest. The tree I planted the pictured mistletoe seed on produces two wheelbarrows full of mealy apples that only store for two weeks, and since I just pollarded it, so it will be a year until I have water shoots I can graft better cultivars to.

I currently have about 18 apple trees in various stages of maturity, with about 30 apple cultivars top-worked on them (not even counting the 50+ apple seeds I germinated this year), so I don’t really feel a negative impact from a reduced harvest from two of them. I also have dozens of other fruit trees interplanted that aren’t particularly susceptible. My intensive management strategy involves keeping a large number of species artificially small, and cycling the resulting timber resources.

Even if my more desirable cultivars are colonised, a mistletoe infection is easy to control through horticultural means: it grows very slowly. V. album produces a single forked branch each year: it’s actually a way to tell the age of the plant.

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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”.

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PORCELAIN CRABS FROM CHILE

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
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Indian giant squirrel (Ratufa indica)

The Indian giant squirrel is a large tree squirrel species genus Ratufa native to India. It is a large-bodied diurnal, arboreal, and herbivorous squirrel found in South Asia. The Indian giant squirrel is an upper-canopy dwelling species, which rarely leaves the trees, and requires tall profusely branched trees for the construction of nests. It travels from tree to tree with jumps of up to 6 m. When in danger, the Ratufa indica often freezes or flattens itself against the tree trunk, instead of fleeing. The Giant Squirrel is mostly active in the early hours of the morning and in the evening, resting in the midday. The species is endemic to deciduous, mixed deciduous, and moist evergreen forests of peninsular India. There is some disagreement between biologists regarding how many subspecies belong to the Ratufa indica lineage. It is generally acknowledged that there are either four or five subspecies, depending on the source. The Indian Giant Squirrel lives alone or in pairs.

photo credits: wiki, wiki, Rakesh Kumar Dogra, adityajoshi

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Splendid fairywren (Malurus splendens)

The splendid fairywren is a passerine bird of the Maluridae family. It is found across much of the Australian continent from central-western New South Wales and southwestern Queensland over to coastal Western Australia. It inhabits predominantly arid and semi-arid regions. Exhibiting a high degree of sexual dimorphism, the male in breeding plumage is a small, long-tailed bird of predominantly bright blue and black colouration. Non-breeding males, females and juveniles are predominantly grey-brown in colour. These birds are socially monogamous and sexually promiscuous, meaning that although they form pairs between one male and one female, each partner will mate with other individuals and even assist in raising the young from such trysts. Male wrens pluck pink or purple petals and display them to females as part of a courtship display. The splendid fairywren mainly eats insects and supplements its diet with seeds. There are four subspecies.

photo credits: tumblr, Nevil Lazarus, Aviceda, Nationstates

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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.

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Leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus fimbriatus)

The Leaf-tailed gecko is a gecko which is found in eastern Madagascar and on the islands Nosy Bohara and Nosy Mangabe. These geckos live in tropical rain forests. They reach a total length of 330 mm. A large nocturnal gecko, by day it plasters itself to a small tree trunk and rests head down. If disturbed it will raise its tail and head, open its mouth and scream.

photo credits: wiki, wiki, wiki, Piotr Nasrecki

This is an image I made for the petition to stop the wolf massacre in Spain. Done digitally, rather quickly. I was quite inspired when I did this and even though it is a sad image I’m rather proud of it.

We still need 30 000 signatures to take this to the next level!

Help us reach that goal! Sign this petition

https://www.change.org/p/prevent-the-massacre-of-190-wolves-in-castilla-y-le%C3%B3n-and-asturias

If you wish to use this picture for your profile pic feel free. Actually we encourage it, as it will help us raise awareness!!!

Thank you all for the support! Everyone has been great so far with all the sharing, and signing the petition! We GREATLY APPRECIATE IT!!!

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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!