California Newt (Taricha torosa), Sequoia National Park, California, USA

During the breeding season, male newts go through a fairly dramatic transformation–from a terrestrial condition (with dry, bumpy skin) to an aquatic stage? This seasonal change involves the development of smooth, thickened skin; a more prominent tail fin; a swollen vent; and rough patches on their feet called “nuptial pads.” Females will also change somewhat but not nearly as much as males.

To help Park Service staff observe and collect data on newts, and other wildlife in the National Park, come out to Bio-blitz on March 5:

(via: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks)

Dallas’ Ambitious New Parks Plan Prioritizes Recreation

With a growing population and shrinking funds for land acquisition, Dallas has just adopted a new Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Plan and the city’s first ever Recreation Master Plan, both developed in partnership with Philadelphia-based interdisciplinary design firm Wallace Roberts and Todd (WRT).

(Photo by David Wilson)


Pinocchio by Kenzie
Via Flickr:
Festival of Fantasy


Captain Phasma by Kenzie
Via Flickr:
Christmas Day Parade


The Phenotypic Plasticity of Death Valley’s Pupfish

Desert fish are revealing how the environment alters development to modify body shape and behavior

by Sean C. Lema

Despite variety, most of the surface of Death Valley is dead … a land of jagged salt pillars, crackling and tortured crusts of mud, sunburnt gravel bars the color of rust, rocks and boulders of metallic blue naked even of lichen. As one of the world’s harshest desert regions, Death Valley is a land of eroding badlands, scorching alluvial fans, and barren flats of mud and salt.

Yet hidden in remote corners of Death Valley live the desert pupfishes—several related species that survive in an archipelago of permanent water habitats scattered in a sea of desert. Death Valley’s pupfishes inhabit isolated springs, streams and marshes that are remnants of the region’s milder climate less than 20,000 years ago.

Since that cooler and wetter time, pupfishes in this region have evolved from a common ancestor into nine closely related species and subspecies, with each taxon living in full geographic isolation from the others. Death Valley’s pupfishes are thus a little like the well-known Darwin’s finches of the Galapagos Islands, in that they offer an opportunity to watch the process of evolution in action…

(read more: American Scientist)

photographs: Sean C. Lema and NPS


Rapunzel and Flynn Rider by Kenzie
Via Flickr:
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party