Category Archive 'Natural History'
25 Oct 2014

Glasswing Butterfly

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glasswing-butterfly
Glasswing Butterfly (Greta oto)

They have large, transparent, 5.6 to 6.1 cm (2.2 to 2.4″) wings. They’re native to Central America, and can be found from Mexico all the way down to Colombia. Occasional visitors to Florida.

Wikipedia article

Ark in Space

Hat tip to Kuriositas.

15 Aug 2014

Bye, Bye, Fish

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11 Aug 2014

No Room For Lions, Lefties Dream of a Peaceable Kingdom

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LionGiraffe

Nicholas James Pell, in Taki’s Magazine, deplores the radical Utopian Left’s desire to re-make predatory animals into vegetarians and remodel all of Nature into a “pan species welfare state.”

[O]ne of the curious things about leftist egalitarianism: it tends to eat everything in its path. The second you start believing that all men must be re-created equal, under penalty of law, the road to reasonable accommodations for people who think they’re elves or those who prefer to see multiple personality disorder as a lifestyle choice isn’t too long. And so we live in a world where grown men (or at least Ronan Farrow) get paid beaucoup bucks to go on television and bemoan the lack of ethnic diversity in cartoon smileys used by teenage girls for whom typing out whole words is too much of a bother.

Nor, when you accept the secular postmillennialist argument that humans need to wipe out every trace of injustice on Earth, is it that big of a leap to argue in favor of changing the genetic code of wild animals to make them stop eating meat—though it’s still not clear why the plan to eliminate suffering from the world doesn’t include anything about rescuing plants from consumption. Carnivorous animals, specifically lions, are singled out as “sociopathic killing machines.” David Pearce, the “independent philosopher” and transhumanist vegan who cooked up the Hedonistic Imperative, seems somewhat less interested in reprogramming carnivorous animals than he is in eliminating them.

To wit: “To judge that lions should exist is to affirm that it is better, in some sense, that sociopathic killing machines prowl the Earth rather than alternative herbivores.”

I’m somewhat sympathetic to the argument that people who have never field dressed an animal don’t get to to grouse about animal welfare.

Read the whole thing.

02 Jul 2014

Dolphins Fishing

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Bottlenose Dolphins off the coast of Florida utilize a unique hunting technique. One dolphin stirs up the seabed in a tightening circle around a shoal of fish, causing the fish to panic and jump straight into the mouths of the other members of the pod.

Life (2009)

Via Ratak Monodosico.

19 Mar 2013

Spider Bites

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27 Sep 2010

Correction: Alpine Ibex, Not Chamois

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In a posting below, I find that I misidentified the critters on the dam. They are Alpine ibex, not chamois.

Sigh.

26 Sep 2010

Peregrine Falcon & Goshawk’s View

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Miniature video cameras strapped to the back of the two hawks give humans an opportunity to experience from a firsthand perspective the speed of the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) and the manueverability in woodlands of the Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis).

07 Mar 2010

Sunday, March 7, 2010

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Cyber vigilantism punishes kitten killing, adultery, and a variety of other things in China these days.

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Essex cockerel and hens victorious when fox invades their coop.

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The LA Times finds that Italians have better political scandals.

Reporting from Rome — The governor made off to a monastery after having affairs with transsexuals, but not before the cops videotaped a tryst, all flesh and white powder, and offered to sell copies to a magazine owned by the prime minister, who, at the time, was rumored to be entangled with an underage Neapolitan model.

Then one of the transsexuals, a Brazilian named Brenda, turned up naked and dead, her laptop computer submerged under a running tap. Oh, yeah, and the drug dealer who supplied cocaine to the governor and Brenda would meet his own demise. It’s an odd coincidence.

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Glenn Reynolds explains why the federal government has come to resemble Schlitz beer.

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Leo Grin, at Big Hollywood has a four part essay on Werner Herzog, Timothy Treadwell, and “Grizzly Man” (2005). Pt1, Pt2, Pt3, Pt4.

Big Hollywood is promising more in-depth reviews of significant conservative films.

Multiple hat tips to Karen L. Myers.

18 Jan 2010

The Stray Dogs of Moscow

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Moscow commuters smile at sleeping metro dog

Andrei Poyarkov of the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution in Moscow has been studying his city’s population of stray dogs for 30 years. FT.com has a very interesting article describing some of his conclusions.

What is particularly interesting is the way, as is sometimes the case with Europeans, the Russians fail to see the necessity of the American Protestant “capture, euthanize, and sterilize” tidy-everything-up ameliorist approach. Muscovites don’t mind living with stray dogs and are willing to stand aside and let Nature take its course, even in a city.

“With stray dogs, we’re witnessing a move backwards,” explains Poyarkov. “That is, to a wilder and less domesticated state, to a more ‘natural’ state.” As if to prove his point, strays do not have spotted coats, they rarely wag their tails and are wary of humans, showing no signs of ­affection towards them.

The stray dogs of Moscow are mentioned for the first time in the reports of the journalist and writer Vladimir Gilyarovsky in the latter half of the 19th century. But Poyarkov says they have been there as long as the city itself. They remain different from wolves, in particular because they exhibit pronounced “polymorphism” – a range of behavioural traits shaped in part by the “ecological niche” they occupy. And it is this ability to adapt that explains why the population density of strays is so much greater than that of wolves. “With several niches there are more resources and more opportunities.”

The dogs divide into four types, he says, which are determined by their character, how they forage for food, their level of socialisation to people and the ecological niche they inhabit.

Those that remain most comfortable with people Poyarkov calls “guard dogs”. Their territories tend to be garages, warehouses, hospitals and other fenced-in institutions, and they develop ties to the security guards from whom they receive food and whom they regard as masters. I’ve seen them in my neighbourhood near the front gate to the Central Clinical Hospital for Civil Aviation. When I pass on the other side with my dog they cross the street towards us, barking loudly.

“The second stage of becoming wild is where the dog is socialised to people in general, but not personally,” says Poyarkov. “These are the beggars and they are excellent psychologists.” He gives as an example a dog that appears to be dozing as throngs of people walk past, but who rears his head when an easy target comes into view: “The dog will come to a little old lady, start smiling and wagging his tail, and sure enough, he’ll get food.” These dogs not only smell who is carrying something tasty, but sense who will stop and feed them.

The beggars live in relatively small packs and are subordinate to leaders. If a dog is intelligent but occupies a low rank and does not get enough to eat, he will separate from the pack frequently to look for food. If he sees other dogs begging, he will watch and learn.

The third group comprises dogs that are somewhat socialised to people, but whose social interaction is directed almost exclusively towards other strays. Their main strategy for acquiring food is gathering scraps from the streets and the many open rubbish bins. During the Soviet period, the pickings were slim, which limited their population (as did a government policy of catching and killing them). But as Russia began to prosper in the post-Soviet years, official efforts to cull them fell away and, at the same time, many more choice offerings appeared in the bins. The strays flourished.

The last of Poyarkov’s groups are the wild dogs. “There are dogs living in the city that are not socialised to people. They know people, but view them as dangerous. Their range is extremely broad, and they are ­predators. They catch mice, rats and the occasional cat. They live in the city, but as a rule near industrial complexes, or in wooded parks. They are nocturnal and walk about when there are fewer people on the streets.”

Hat tip to Karen l. Myers.

18 Nov 2009

Eat Your Penguin; It’s Good For You

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An hospitable Leopard Seal (Hydrurga leptonyx) makes every effort to feed National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen, but is frustrated by the strange incompetence of the clueless biped at the simple feat of eating penguin.

1:48 video

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

14 Nov 2009

Giant Snake Story

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Cropped and enlarged “Boa” photo

Despite the “internet sensation” claim, Ananova is really the only news source on this one.

A photograph purporting to show a 55ft snake found in a forest in China has become an internet sensation.

It was originally posted in a thread on the website of the People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper in China.

The thread claimed the snake was one of two enormous boas found by workers clearing forest for a new road outside Guping city, Jiangxi province.

They apparently woke up the sleeping snakes during attempts to bulldoze a huge mound of earth.

“On the third dig, the operator found there was blood amongst the soil, and with a further dig, a dying snake appeared,” said the post.

“At the same time, another gold coloured giant boa appeared with its mouth wide open. The driver was paralysed with fear, while the other workers ran for their lives.

“By the time the workers came back, the wounded boa had died, while the other snake had disappeared. The bulldozer operator was so sick that he couldn’t even stand up.”

The post claimed that the digger driver was so traumatised that he suffered a heart attack on his way to hospital and later died.

The dead snake was 55ft (16.7m) long, weighed 300kg and was estimated to be 140 years old, according to the post.

However, local government officials in Guiping say the story and photograph are almost certainly a hoax as giant boas are not native to the area.

Anannova seems to have gotten the story from QuirkyChina, which claims to be quoting the People’s Daily for November 11th, but no such story turn up in a search of the English language edition of the paper’s web-site.

The use of the term “boa” is obviously inaccurate. Boa constrictors are native to the New World. The visible markings on the snake’s back, I think, identify it clearly enough as a reticulated python. And Chinese English news reports do clearly routinely refer to pythons (native to Asia) as “boas.”

This 40 k. (88 lbs.), 4 m. (13′) long reticulated python found by Yunnan villagers in this October 22, 2006 story is referred to as a “giant boa.”

There is a problem with range. Guping is a bit north of the generally described range of Python reticulatus.


Wikipedia estimated range of Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus)


Jiangxi Province, China

And there is a problem with the size. The photograph is obviously calculated to mislead. The snake is hanging from the bucket in the extreme foreground in an effort to induce viewers to take the people and cab behind as an indication of scale. If someone could identify the model of the backhoe, and could determine the actual size of the digging bucket, it would be pretty easy to come up with a more accurate estimate of the actual size of the snake.

Estimates of how large reticulated pythons can grow vary. Wikipedia says “more than 28 feet (8.7 m),” quoting Murphy/Henderson (1997). Wall (1926) proposes 30′ (9.14 m.). Oliver (1958) goes all the way up to 33′ (10.06 m.).

Yet, there is a news agency account, dated January 8, 2004, describing the capture in Indonesia of a nearly 49 foot (14.9 m.), 990 pound (450 k.) monster reticulated python, complete with 0:33 video.

10 Nov 2009

Islamic Terrorists Killed in Kashmiri Cave

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Asiatic black bear (Selenarctos thibetanus)

Strategy Page reports that a formidable new ally, a powerful fighter particularly skilled in mountain warfare, recently joined the Western Anti-Jihadist Coalition.

In Indian Kashmir, an Islamic terrorist leader, and one of his followers was killed by a black bear. Two other terrorists were wounded, but were able to flee to a nearby village. Although the terrorists were armed with assault rifles, the bear attacked quickly, and at night, and the men were unable to use their weapons in the restricted confines of the cave. Apparently the bear was going to use the cave to hibernate in, and was upset to find that the terrorists had moved in. The four terrorists thought the cave was abandoned, and a good place to hide out in.

The Asiatic Black Bear is related to the American black bear, but is larger (up to 400 pounds for an older male), and is much more aggressive towards humans. The Asiatic bear has a more powerful jaw, and bigger claws.

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