Category Archive 'Natural History'
23 Jul 2018

“An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles”

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http://engoulevent.tumblr.com/post/175880058059/eartharchives-bowelflies-extremely-important


From Fumiko Hirai on Twitter.

The title above is what J. B. S. Haldane (1892-1964) replied to theologians who inquired if there was anything that could be concluded about the Creator from the study of creation.

12 Feb 2018

Wooing Female Bowerbirds

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Archbold’s Bowerbird (Archboldia papuensis)

From Matt Ridley’s The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature:

Consider, though, the case of Archbold’s bowerbird, which lives in New Guinea. As in other bowerbirds, the male builds an elaborate bower of twigs and ferns and therein tries to seduce females. The female inspects the bower and mates with the male if she likes the workmanship and the decorations, which are usually objects of one unusual color. What is peculiar about Archbold’s bowerbird is that the best decorations consist of feathers from one particular kind of bird of paradise, known as the King of Saxony. These feathers, which are several times longer than the original owner’s body and stem from just above his eye, are like a car’s antenna sporting dozens of square blue pennants. Because they are molted once a year, do not grow until the bird of paradise is four years old, and are much in demand among local tribesmen, the plumes must be very hard for the bowerbird to acquire. Once acquired they must be guarded against other jealous male bowerbirds anxious to steal them for their own bowers. So, in the words of Jared Diamond, a female bowerbird who finds a male that has decorated his bower with King of Saxony plumes knows “that she has located a dominant male who is terrific at finding or stealing rare objects and defeating would-be thieves.”

So much for the bowerbird. What about the bird of paradise itself, the rightful owner of the plumes? The fact that he survived long enough to grow plumes, grew longer ones than any other male nearby, and kept them in good condition would be an equally reliable indicator of his genetic quality. But it reminds us of the thing that most puzzled Darwin and got the whole debate started: If the point of the plumes is to indicate his quality, might not the plumes themselves affect his quality? After all, every tribesman in New Guinea is out to get him, and every hawk will find him easier to spot. He may have indicated that he is good at surviving, but his chances of survival are now lower for having the plumes. They are a handicap. How can a system of females choosing males that are good at surviving encumber those males with handicaps to survival?


King of Saxony Bird of Paradise (Pteridophora alberti)

HT: Karen L. Myers.

06 Dec 2017

Spiders Could Theoretically Eat Every Human on Earth in One Year

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Christopher Ingraham, in the WaPo Wonkblog:

The World’s spider population weighs 29 million tons — as much as 478 Titanics.

Spiders are quite literally all around us. A recent entomological survey of North Carolina homes turned up spiders in 100 percent of them, including 68 percent of bathrooms and more than three-quarters of bedrooms. There’s a good chance at least one spider is staring at you right now, sizing you up from a darkened corner of the room, eight eyes glistening in the shadows.

Spiders mostly eat insects, although some of the larger species have been known to snack on lizards, birds and even small mammals. Given their abundance and the voraciousness of their appetites, two European biologists recently wondered: If you were to tally up all the food eaten by the world’s entire spider population in a single year, how much would it be?

Martin Nyffeler and Klaus Birkhofer published their estimate in the journal the Science of Nature earlier this month, and the number they arrived at is frankly shocking: The world’s spiders consume somewhere between 400 million and 800 million tons of prey in any given year. That means that spiders eat at least as much meat as all 7 billion humans on the planet combined, who the authors note consume about 400 million tons of meat and fish each year.

Or, for a slightly more disturbing comparison: The total biomass of all adult humans on Earth is estimated to be 287 million tons. Even if you tack on another 70 million-ish tons to account for the weight of kids, it’s still not equal to the total amount of food eaten by spiders in a given year, exceeding the total weight of humanity.

In other words, spiders could eat all of us and still be hungry.

RTWT

30 Sep 2017

Hearty Appetite

09 Sep 2017

Ten Best Bird Photos of 2017

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And they are great!

HT: Karen L. Myers.

01 Sep 2017

Mother Said There’d Be Days Like This

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05 Aug 2017

When You Finally Meet the One

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When you finally find the one

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Wikipedia article

HT: Steve Bodio

21 Apr 2017

Compare

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08 Apr 2017

Kermode Bear aka Spirit Bear

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Ark in Space:

This is not a polar bear which has decided to migrate to warmer climes.

This is a remarkable sub-species of the North American Black Bear. It is the Kermode Bearr – also known as the spirit bear.

Living along the shorelines and central interior of British Columbia on the west coast of Canada, around ten percent of Kermode bears have white or creamy coats. They are revered among the native peoples of the province.

Pronounced kerr-MOH-dee, the lighter Kermode bears are not albinos. They appear much brighter than most of the population because of recessive alleles.

Full story.

31 Mar 2017

The Australian Bin Chicken

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Threskiornis moluccus:

“Historically rare in urban areas, the Australian white ibis has immigrated to urban areas of the east coast in increasing numbers since the late 1970s; it is now commonly seen in Wollongong, Sydney, Melbourne, the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Townsville. In recent years the bird has also become increasing common in Perth, Western Australia and surrounding towns in south-western Australia. Populations have disappeared from natural breeding areas such as the Macquarie Marshes in north-western New South Wales. Management plans have been introduced to control problematic urban populations in Sydney.”

Hat tip to SuperversiveSF.

06 Mar 2017

The Authorities Will Tell You: Eagles Don’t Kill Baby Lambs

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Except they do, and lots of other things, too! Go, Eagles.

3:38 video

21 Oct 2016

Stung by a Tarantula Hawk

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Coyote Peterson is one of those weird guys with a unique approach to Natural History. He makes videos showing a variety of critters biting him or stinging him.

He’s been working his way up the great chain of painful insect bites, and this morning I came upon the video in which he serves up his own forearm to reputedly the second-most-painful insect sting in creation, the one delivered by the Tarantula Hawk, specifically Pepsis grossa.

As Wikipedia informs us:

Wasps of the genera Pepsis and Hemipepsis produce large quantities of venom and when stung humans experience immediate, intense, excruciating short term pain. Although the immediate pain of a tarantula hawk sting is among the greatest recorded for any stinging insect, the venom itself is not very toxic. The lethality of 65 mg/kg in mice for the venom of P. formosa pattoni reveals that the defensive value of the sting and the venom is based entirely upon pain.

20 Oct 2016

Pileated Woodpeker

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pileatedwoodpecker1

13 Oct 2016

From Down Under

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wedge-tailedeagle
On Nullarbor Plain near Cocklebiddy, Western Australia… a very isolated part of Australia with nothing but views of saltbush in all directions: Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax) munching road-killed kangaroo.

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