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Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon

This is Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius). She died on September 1, 1914 in the Cincinnati Zoo. She was named "Martha" in honor of the first "First Lady Martha Washington" (

She was believed to be the last living individual of her species after two male companions had died in the same zoo in 1910. Martha was a celebrity at the zoo, attracting long lines of visitors. When she was found dead on the floor of her cage that afternoon, she was immediately frozen into a 300-pound block of ice and shipped by fast train to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, where her body was carefully preserved as a taxidermy mount and an anatomical specimen. The Passenger Pigeon had been the most abundant species of bird in North America only decades earlier. Its extinction helped to inspire our modern conservation ethic.

The specimen made from Martha’s remains is one of the most treasured possessions of the Smithsonian Institution.

Martha has become a symbol of the threat of extinction. She was used at the Zoological Society of San Diego's 1966 Golden Jubilee Conservation Conference as a mascot to emphasize the need for conservation.

► Source>>

► Gif source>>

Further reading and references

► Martha (passenger pigeon)>>

► The Passenger Pigeon>>

► "Martha," The Last Passenger Pigeon>>

#Biodiversity, #MarthaPassengerPigeon, #Ectopistes_migratorius, #HistoryofScience
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Diphylleia grayi

or "Skeleton Flower"

Nature never ceases to amaze! One of its wonders is an incredibly unique plant known as "the skeleton flower."

Diphylleia grayi (the scientific name of this plant. Family: Berberidaceae (Magnoliophyta)) is a little-known mayapple and fairy wing relative, native to moist wooded mountainsides in colder regions of China and Japan.

Diphylleia grayi is a deciduous perennial which dies back in winter. Its bloom time is May to July, when tiny white flowers with yellow centers burst onto the scene. Not to be overshadowed, the large deeply lobed foliage spreads over the stems with umbrella-like character.

In late summer, the stalks of eye-catching cobalt blue fruit replace the faded flowers. Diphylleia grayi does not like hot summer temperatures so plant it in a cool moist woodland site.

When it rains on the flowers they magically turn transparent then return to white as they dry.
Actually, in air Diphylleia grayi’s petals appear white, but on contact with water they become transparent. This change is not due to a pigment but loose cell structure in the plant petals. On sunny days the air–liquid interface of the petals causes diffuse reflectance, endowing the petals with a white colour, whilst on rainy days water enters the petals, yielding a water–water interface, increasing light transmission so they turn transparent.

► Image source>>

► Watch this video>>

Further reading

► Skeleton Flowers and Leaves>>

#Biology, #Biodiversity, #Diphylleia_grayi, #SkeletonFlower, #Nature, #Science
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400 Million Year Old Gigantic Extinct Monster Worm Discovered in Canadian Museum

A previously undiscovered species of an extinct primordial giant worm with terrifying snapping jaws has been identified by an international team of scientists. The species has been named Websteroprion armstrongi.

Researchers from the University of Bristol, Lund University in Sweden and the Royal Ontario Museum studied an ancient fossil, which has been stored at the museum since the mid-1990s, and discovered the remains of a giant extinct bristle worm (the marine relatives of earthworms and leeches).

The findings have been published on 21 February 2017 in Scientific Reports.

The new species is unique among fossil worms and possessed the largest jaws ever recorded in this type of creature, reaching over one centimetre in length and easily visible to the naked eye. Typically, such fossil jaws are only a few millimetres in size and need to be studied using microscopes.

Despite being only knows from the jaws, comparison with living species suggests that this animal achieved a body length in excess of a metre.

This is comparable to that of 'giant eunicid' species, colloquially referred to as 'Bobbit worms' which are fearsome and opportunistic ambush predators, using their powerful jaws to capture prey such as fish and cephalopods (squids and octopuses) and dragging them into their burrows.

Learn more>>

► The paper "Earth’s oldest ‘Bobbit worm’ – gigantism in a Devonian eunicidan polychaete", published in Scientific Reports >>

► Image: An artistic reconstruction showing W. armstrongi attacking a fish in the Devonian sea.
Image credit: James Ormiston

#Biodiversity, #Research, #Biology, #Bobbitworms,
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Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)

The Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius) is a species of bird occurring over a vast region from Western Europe and north-west Africa to the Indian Subcontinent and further to the eastern seaboard of Asia and down into south-east Asia. Across its vast range, several very distinct racial forms have evolved to look very different from each other, especially when forms at the extremes of its range are compared.

The bird is called jay, without any epithets, by English speakers in Great Britain and Ireland. It is the original 'jay' after which all others are named.

Eurasian Jay feeds primarily on invertebrates such as caterpillars and beetles during the breeding and nesting seasons. It gleans from foliage in trees. But as other Corvidae, it also takes eggs and nestlings of several bird species.
During autumn and winter, it feeds on seeds and berries, chestnuts and acorns. One jay often caches acorns in winter (up to 3000 a month), by burying each acorn in the leaf litter or beneath low vegetation. It has learnt to know the green shoots of oak produced by the buried acorns. The next summer, it easily finds them and feeds the germinated acorn. It is a prolific planter of oaks!

Eurasian Jay usually flies fairly low and between trees. In flight, the white rump is very conspicuous. It performs undulating flight.
During migrations or movements in flocks, they climb high and move out with steady wing beats.

Breeding season varies according to the range.
Eurasian Jays have long-term pair-bonds and are solitary nesters.

Photo credit: Conny Lundström >>

Further reading and references

► Eurasian Jay>>

► Eurasian Jay>>

#Biodiversity, #EurasianJay, #Birds, #Animals, #Garrulusglandarius
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King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus)

King penguins are the second largest of all penguin species. Females are noted to be slightly smaller than males. However, no specific female measurements have been recorded. Their documented height ranges from 85 to 95 cm and weight is between 9.3 and 17.3 kg. Average adult weight has been found to be 11.8 kg.

Although they are easily confused with emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri), king penguins are more colorful and have a longer, more slender bill.

King penguins colonies are mainly located on islands surrounding Antarctica. Islands include Crozet, Falkland, Heard, Kerguelen, Macquarie, Prince Edward, South Georgia and South Sandwich. Although no colonies have been found south of latitude 60 degrees S, some non-breeding members have taken residence in southern Chile and southern Argentina. Some lone wanderers have been found as far north as Brazil and South Africa and as far south as the Antarctic Coast.

They eat small fish, mainly lanternfish, and squid and rely less than most Southern Ocean predators on krill and other crustaceans. On foraging trips they repeatedly dive to over 100 metres (330 ft), and have been recorded at depths greater than 300 metres (980 ft).

The king penguin's predators include birds and aquatic mammals like: Giant petrels, Skua species, Snowy sheathbill, Leopard seal, Orcas , Antarctic fur seal.

The king penguin is able to breed at three years of age, although only a very small minority (5% recorded at Crozet Islands) actually do then; the average age of first breeding is around 6 years. King penguins are serially monogamous. They have only one mate each year, and stay faithful to that mate. However, fidelity between years is only about 29%.The long breeding cycle may contribute to this low rate.

► The beautiful image below is a rendition from +Margrit Schwarz. This splendid specimen is from Macquarie Island>>

Further reading and references

Aptenodytes patagonicus>>

► King penguin>>

► From the IUCN Red List of Threatened species>>

#Biodiversity, #KingPenguin , #Aptenodytespatagonicus, #Animals , #Science
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Evolution in Action: A Fish Adapts Quickly to Lethal Levels of Pollution

What's its secret? And can humans learn from it?

Evolution is working hard to rescue some urban fish from a lethal, human-altered environment, according to a study led by the University of California, Davis, and published Dec. 9 in the journal Science.

While environmental change is outpacing the rate of evolution for many other species, Atlantic killifish living in four polluted East Coast estuaries turn out to be remarkably resilient. These fish have adapted to levels of highly toxic industrial pollutants that would normally kill them.

The killifish is up to 8,000 times more resistant to this level of pollution than other fish, the study found. While the fish is not commercially valuable, it is an important food for other species and an environmental indicator.

Genetic diversity speeds evolution
What makes Atlantic killifish so special? Extremely high levels of genetic variation, higher than any other vertebrate — humans included — measured so far. The more genetic diversity, the faster evolution can act. That’s one reason why insects and weeds can quickly adapt and evolve to resist pesticides, and why pathogens can evolve quickly to resist drugs created to destroy them.

Not all species are so lucky, however.

Read more>>

► The study "The genomic landscape of rapid repeated evolutionary adaptation to toxic pollution in wild fish", published in the journal Science.>>

Image: Atlantic killifish like this one have adapted to highly toxic levels of pollution.
Credit: Andrew Whitehead/UC Davis

#Biodiversity, #Killfish , #Research , #Pollution , #GeneticDiversity , #Evolution
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Magellanic Penguin: How Natural Selection Acted on This Species over the Past Quarter Century

Biologists of all stripes attest to evolution, but have debated its details since Darwin’s day. Since changes arise and take hold slowly over many generations, it is daunting to track this process in real time for long-lived creatures.

“We know that evolution occurs — that species change,” said Dee Boersma, a University of Washington professor of biology. “But to see this process in long-lived animals you have to look at generations of individuals, track how traits are inherited and detect selection at work.”

Boersma studies one particularly intriguing long-lived species, the Magellanic penguins of South America (Spheniscus magellanicus). She has spent 34 years gathering information about their lifespan, reproduction and behavior at Punta Tombo, a stretch of Argentine coast that serves as their largest breeding site. Boersma and her colleagues combed through 28 years’ worth of penguin data to search for signs that natural selection — one of the main drivers of evolution — may be acting on certain penguin traits.
As they report in a paper published Sept. 21 in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, selection is indeed at work at Punta Tombo.

Read the full story>>

► See the paper "Natural selection on morphology varies among years and by sex in Magellanic Penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus)">>

► Image: Adult Magellanic penguin and two chicks, begging for food.
Credit: Dee Boersma

Further reading

► Magellanic Penguin Project>>

► UW conservationists celebrate new protected areas for Argentine penguins>>

► UW biology professor is a finalist for top conservation prize>>

#Biodiversity, #MagellanicusPenguin, #Research, #Biology, #SpheniscusMagellanicus
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Fishing Spider's Post-Sex Cannibalism Probably Aids Offspring

The male dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus) is just dying to father some children -- and this death wish probably evolved to benefit his offspring, according to new research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Gonzaga University.

Females that cannibalized their mates produced nearly twice as many spiderlings as females that were denied their post-sex dessert, the study reported. The spiderlings also grew nearly 20 percent larger, and survived about 50 percent longer, than those whose mothers did not eat their mates.

Researchers also decided to test whether consuming a cricket, rather than the male spider, confers the same advantages. Though the crickets were the same size as the male spiders, the study found no evidence that cricket-snacking delivers any substantial boost to the females' offspring.

"It's only when a female eats the male that we see these benefits," said Schwartz, a faculty member at Gonzaga who conducted the study while a doctoral student at Nebraska. "So there's something unique, something special, about the males.

► The study "Males Can Benefit from Sexual Cannibalism Facilitated by Self-Sacrifice" appeared in the journal Current Biology and was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.>>

► Animated gif via Gizmodo. The gif refers to Pisaurina mira, a species of spider in the family Pisauridae>>

Further reading

Read the article "Ultimate sacrifice: Spider's post-sex cannibalism aids offspring" on Nebraska Today>>

► Fishing Spider>>

Many thanks for being interested in this BIODIVERSITY collection. ☺
It would be nice, if you added me on Google+ (+annarita ruberto).
If it pleases you, you could take a look at:
► the BIOLOGY collection, here>>

#Biodiversity, #darkfishingspider , #Dolomedestenebrosus , #evolutionspider , #spidersex , #spidercannibalism , #research , #biology
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Why Scientists Are Rooting For Mushrooms

Mushrooms are the organisms that keep on giving. They grow and feed the soil by breaking down organic matter. For centuries, they’ve also been a staple in our diet.

Recently, people have started taking a closer look at mushrooms, and more specifically, mycelium — the hidden root of mushrooms — as an engineering material to produce goods like surfboards, packaging materials, furniture and even architecture.

As far as natural materials go, there’s never been anything as versatile and cost-effective as fungi, says Sonia Travaglini, a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley, who is collaborating with artist and mycologist Philip Ross to unlock the seemingly infinite potential of fungi.

Mycelium can grow into any shape or size (the largest in the world blankets an entire forest in Oregon). They can be engineered to be as hard and strong as wood or brick, as soft and squishy as foam, or even smooth and flexible, like fabric.

Unlike other natural materials, mushrooms can rely on their recycling properties to break down organic matter so you can grow a lot of it very quickly and cheaply just by feeding it biodegradable waste. In as little as two weeks, you can cultivate a hunk of mushroom that’s brick-sized.

That mycelium actually takes in waste and carbon dioxide as it grows (one species of fungi even eats plastic trash) instead of expelling byproducts makes it far superior to other forms of production.

[...] In the lab, Travaglini and other researchers crush, compress, stretch, pull and bend mycelium to test the amount of force the material can tolerate.[...]
They found that mycelium is incredibly strong and can withstand a lot of compression and tension.

Read more>>

Image sources: Vice UK/Mazda & Pearson Prentice Hall>>

Related links

#Biodiversity, #Biology , #Research , #Mushrooms
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Vampire Bat

Bats are the only mammals that can fly, but vampire bats have an even more interesting distinction—they are the only mammals that feed entirely on blood.
Young vampire bats feed not on blood but on milk. They cling tightly to their mothers, even in flight, and consume nothing but her milk for about three months.

Three bat species feed solely on blood: the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus), the hairy-legged vampire bat (Diphylla ecaudata), and the white-winged vampire bat (Diaemus youngi). All three species are native to the Americas, ranging from Mexico to Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina.

They glide stealthily through the night air as they search for food: they feed on blood from cows, pigs, horses, and birds. Though uncommon, vampire bats occasionally bite humans for blood.

Rather than sucking blood, vampire bats make a small cut with their teeth and then lap up the flowing blood with their tongues. These bats are so light and agile that they are sometimes able to drink blood from an animal for more than 30 minutes without waking it up. The blood sucking does not hurt the animal.

Vampire bats have special adaptations to help them with their unique feeding needs. Unlike some other species of bats, vampire bats can walk, run, and jump. They have very strong hind legs and a special thumb that helps them take off after feeding. Also, heat sensors on their noses help them find a good spot on an animal's body to feed.

What happens if vampire bats don't get their nightly meal? If they can't find blood for two or three nights in a row, they will die. Luckily, female bats can be generous. Well-fed bats will often regurgitate blood to share with others in exchange for grooming.

Are vampire bats really that scary? Even though bat bites themselves aren't harmful, vampire bats can spread a disease called rabies. However, vampire bats can actually be quite tame, and even friendly to humans. One researcher reported that he had vampire bats that would come to him when he called their names.

► Gif source>>

Further reading and reference

#Biodiversity, #VampireBat, #Mammals, #Science, #Biology
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