Here’s a video of Hinckley, the Laughing Kookaburra!
Anonymous asked: You are awesome! I love your enthusiasm. (:
Thanks! Always great to hear support!
A biologist has become a Reddit star, thanks to his enthusiasm for fun science facts.
Thanks to Matt Silverman for the very flattering article about yours truly, I am truly humbled!
In fact, I’m the MOST humble!
Here’s an unapologetically vertical video (but seriously, sorry) showing a defensive compound produced by the African Milk Tree (Euphorbia trigona)!
This milky latex is a poison containing skin irritants (various esters) to make itself quite unpalatable to would-be herbivores! The latex can be extremely caustic to eyes, so be careful and always handle with care!
On reddit, a picture similar to this was posted of forest communities in Japan, and many wondered how this pattern could emerge! While the cedars in the picture are invasive in Japan, there is still a very interesting reason for this phenomenon!
One possible reason for this condition is referred to as “edaphic climax.”
If you’re following with classical ecological succession theory, this condition arises when there are two different conditions in a similar area so that two distinct climax communities arise.
Since the ridge has likely differing soil type (e.g. different A-layer depth due to slope, different pH due to hydrological differences from the slope/elevation), one could expect that the communities that dominate these different areas, even though they border one another, to be quite different.
I’ve photographed this type of thing happening in the US as well, it is particularly evident in the early fall when the communities that dominate the top of a slope (i.e. oaks) turn color after those that dominate at the bottom of the slope (i.e. maples).
Here’s an HD video I put together of some footage of my friend’s Red-tailed Hawk, Rusty!
I was recently able to take a visit with a friend to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology! A place full of incredible people and incredible science. While there, I was able to take a peek at their preserved specimen collection.
Here’s a small look at their Extinct, Critically Endangered and Rare bird collection.
The Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) was once one of the most abundant species of bird in North America. Traveling in gigantic flocks of over a BILLION birds, these pigeons were a spectacle to behold, described even by famed naturalist John James Audubon himself.
The bird eventually went extinct when overhunting was combined with extreme habitat loss, where suitable breeding sites were no longer available. The large flocks of the birds were so vulnerable to hunters that many could simply point a shotgun to the blackened sky of birds and pull the trigger to net several birds. Some hunts may have yielded a million killed pigeons, many estimate.
The last passenger pigeon died September 1st, 1914.
The Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) was the only native parakeet to the eastern United States. Once living along riparian forests from New York all the way down through Texas in the US, the parakeet was eventually driven extinct through habitat loss and hunting on agricultural fields.
These skins represent a collection of preserved specimens that now numbers just over 700 remaining in the world.
The last Carolina Parakeet died in captivity on February 21st, 1918.
The Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) is not yet confirmed to be extinct, though it is critically endangered. This woodpecker is among the largest of the woodpeckers, and is revered for its striking coloration and distinctive appearance.
As the flagship bird for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, exhaustive searches have been made by the lab to turn up evidence of a living specimen, but these have been to little result. Other organizations have even offered a reward for evidence of living birds, but none have surfaced thus far. While attempts to restore habitat to allow the woodpeckers to flourish have been made, recently, Cornell scientists have admitted that there may be no way for the populations to rebound back and that the it is only a matter of time before they are declared officially extinct.
Many ornithologists and conservation biologists have used this woodpecker as an example of why preventative conservation must be employed in order to avoid species loss in the future.
Wow! Thanks to all those who donated money to The Ecology!
I truly appreciate it as it helps me to keep doing what I love: providing moderately interesting factoids to strangers! If you, too, would like to donate to The Ecology, click on the “Donate to Science!” button above!
(For those wondering, the picture above is a photo of a Coquerel’s sifaka (Propithecus coquereli) that I took!)
On Reddit, someone commented:
They’re isopods! So, actually more related to shrimp and lobsters, really.
They have a terrestrial cousin that many people are familiar with: the pillbug or sowbug! Just like those guys, these guys are detritivores, meaning they eat material scavenged from decaying organic matter. Deep sea isopods will eat things like decaying whales while the tiny terrestrial kind will live off of decaying vegetation!
Anonymous asked: Not a question, just want to thank you for making ecology fun again. I am currently a cell and molecular bio undergrad and came about your tumblr randomly on reddit. It was mandatory to take an ecology course for my degree and it was really hard to get into. These posts you have made are really interesting and now easily my go to page to learn something new daily. I look forward to your posts now and hope you can continue this for at least until I graduate. Thanks, Gravy
Thanks for the very kind response! I’m happy to have made a rough subject interesting for you!
This actually made me think about the topic of microclimates and minor heterogeneity in what many consider to be a singular, uniform system!
If these two microenvironments (frosted vs unfrosted) exist, you can expect different processes happening ecologically which are completely dependent on cars being parked there to cast a shadow.
Areas that are frosted or shaded are going to do significantly less photosynthesis due to less light and also due to reduced temperatures which put the photosynthesis curve out of its optimal point. This means that frosted areas, all else being equal, are reducing their CO2 consumption from the atmosphere compared to the areas receiving sunlight.
Additionally, if more frost is able to stay on that area of grass for longer and percolate into the soil due to a slow raise of ambient temperature (not direct radiation which removes the frost from unshaded areas), we may assume that frosted areas have wetter soils. Wetter soils increases the rate of denitrification in the soil (conversion of nitrates in the soil to free nitrogen in the atmosphere). This process is not always a complete one though, sometimes producing N2O. Soil microfauna will produce N2O (an extremely potent greenhouse gas) and N2 as they use the nitrates and other compounds as electron acceptors in anaerobic environments, such as one that may exist in a “more frosty” microclimate.
Terrestrial soils, additionally, are methane consumers. Soil microbes may use methane as an energy source; however, they also use nitrogen compounds, as stated above. The two processes achieve a balance, though, which means one soil that is doing one is not doing the other. So a soil that is wet will produce N2/N2O and not uptake methane.
What does this mean? It means that frosted areas may produce more nitrous oxide (N2O) and take up less methane (CH4) than their non-frosted counterparts. They also remove less carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.
tl;dr: I hypothesize that, on a microclimate basis, areas of grass shaded, and thereby frosted, by cars contribute more to global climate change than areas that are unshaded.
Removal of organic material can change the nutrient availability for soil in the future. By removing decaying leaves, for example, you’re removing nitrogen and carbon that would normally make up the upper soil horizons. For many, this is what builds up what we consider “top soil.”
Most organic materials will break down to an amorphous organic molecule that we call “humus,” which is what people are creating when they compost. Humus has many properties such as increasing water retention, porosity and nutrient availability.
Nutrient availability is increased through a property of humus known as the ‘cation exchange capacity.’ Since humus is negatively charged, it can hold onto cations in the soil such as magnesium and calcium which would otherwise be leached out of the soil in rain or depleted by plants and microorganisms.
It’s important to remember the soil is more than just dirt! It’s also composed of water, minerals, organisms and air space! All of which can be influenced by organic matter availability!
If you go long enough without re-introducing leaves, for example, you can change the ratios of nutrients in the soil, most likely increasing the C:N ratio, which can affect the community that grows in that soil, too! You may eventually get a community of plants very different than that you would find in an organic material rich soil!
From a picture of a penguin’s bizzare mouth on Reddit today, someone asks:
can anybody explain what is going on with the mouth-function wise
The reason penguins’ mouths look like this is due to their diet. Penguins, like other birds, do not ‘chew’ their prey, they typically swallow it whole. In the case of penguins, which are eating wet fish, these ‘teeth’ (actually rear-facing barbs) help keep the fish down while it is wriggling!
The tongue is also barbed and moves in an undulating pattern to always keep movement to the back of the mouth. The rear-facing barbs work like a tire-trap does for a car, allowing smooth passage backwards, but not in the reverse direction, ensuring that the wet, flailing prey will inevitably end up in the penguin’s stomach!
In honor of Shark Week, I present: The Banana Shark!
This comes courtesy of our friends at the ‘How To Make A Banana Shark’ Tumblr, which I urge everyone to follow immediately for constant, up-to-date open-source information on how you can craft your own bananular shark!
This GIF was posted as a reaction to “How I feel when I’m at a friend’s house for dinner and their parents start fighting at the table.”
A great representation, but many people were confused as to what this wonderfully cute, protuberant eyed animal was!
For those wondering, this is a slow loris! They are a member of the Primate order! You can’t see it in the GIF, but this little guy has ten fingers and fingernails, just like us!
These guys are incredible creatures, with amazing grip strength, too! Their hands are so good at gripping that many lorises are found dead still standing up on the branches, as their hands have adaptations for locking into place!
They are also one of the few toxic mammals in the world! They secrete a toxin from their brachial gland on their arms, which they then rub all over their bodies. A loris’ defensive position often looks like a person reclining with their hands behind their heads!