Taking the buzz out of life

28 07 2010

Nature has an interesting article exploring the ramifications of a world without mosquitoes.

Overall the benefits appear to outweigh the negatives – but they are still given their credence. Mosquitoes, and their larvae, may be physicaly miniscule, but they are big players in the scheme of things. Their removal would have effects on food chains containing birds and fish, plus wider ecological effects – such as plants losing pollinators and changes to deer migration, and also possibly cause over-population in already stretched human communities.

Image: mosquito by tanakawho (CC by A from Flickr)


Creativity unleashed

22 11 2009

I mentioned in my last school post (the one about set ups), that I’d used a modified version of The Future Is Wild‘s animal design activity.

While TFiW is more focused on evolution and decent with modification, my class was currently focusing on a more ecological unit – what roles do different organisms have in an ecosystem, how do they interact and how do we classify them.

Previous lessons had gone through self-made classification schemes, traditional classification schemes (e.g. The Classical Greek), and scientific classification schemes. The two scientific classification schemes were taught in my classes. Read the rest of this entry »

Orangutan awareness week

14 11 2008

Thank you KittyMowMow.

It is Orangutan Awareness Week this week. Sorry I’m slow at catching on (or maybe I was early?)

The biggest threat to orangutans is the clearing of the rainforest to plant palm oil plantations. Check out the labels on your groceries. You will find palm oil in cookies, shampoo, and many other products. If something isn’t done soon to stop the spread of palm oil plantations, orangutans will have no where to live.

I learnt this at Taronga Zoo, but I don’t know how well I’ve actually acted on this knowledge. I’ve probably actually bought palm oil products this week. Nuts.

Image: finger lickin’ ape by neonman; orangutan at toronoto zoo; Creative Commons

Even the fish hate America

3 11 2008

In case any American readers visit this page during the next 24 hours. Greg Laden has a low down on why your voice really does matter.

And back to the amusing ecological story…

You all know that animals have that sixth sense that warns them against nature.

Birds fly away just before tidal waves strike. Dogs start barking before earthquakes. Cats snarl and hiss at evil henchmen.

Well, is it an Omen that apparently Alaskan fish are migrating north into Russia rather than stay in US oceans. (LA Times – via the great beyond)

Chief suspect numero uno is climate change.

Running away from the USA may not exactly help the fishes cause. Russia’s fishery regulation is not known to be any improvement on Alaska’s. Russia seems to be playing impossibly cool with “No fish here…”

Because it is a bird-eating spider

27 10 2008

Actually it is only an orb-weaver, a very lucky orb weaver.

Yes, it does look to be for real (I know its the dailymail). I don’t think that spider will have to eat for the rest of the year. Jackpot!!

We have spiders just like that in my back yard. And birds that size too…

hattip: GrrlScientist

Ghost slugs invade Britain?

17 10 2008

The “Ghost Slug” (Selenochlamys ysbryda) is a newly described species of slug. Not only is it a creepy pale white colour, but it is a predator. This slug hunts down worms and eats them with its set of micro-razor teeth. As worms are considered a gardener’s friend, this slug is not.

The Museum of Wales is seeking further information on the Ghost Slug, and other related slugs. As the slugs have only been noticed in the last few years, and appear to be unrelated to local slugs (their nearest relatives hailing from Georgia and eastern Turkey), it is being assumed that it is an introduced species. Invasive species can be rather destructive to native island ecosystems, which the UK still is.

Soil-dwelling creatures are notorious global hitchhikers (eg. fire ants). Earth is moved by construction works, dirt trapped in travelers’ shoes, or the soil mix in potted plants – the latter currently being blamed for this little feller’s unwelcome trip to Wales.

And the song goes on

11 10 2008

Something I learned doing research with endangered Australian marsupials was that Australia has the worst record on history as far as extinctions of major animal species.

This doesn’t look set to change anytime soon.

At least my Australian European-ness can feel a little less self conscious – it seems its been that way since humans started arriving on this island.

Particularly Tasmania.

Which is still very depressing. Tasmania’s island of an island status means it does have some of the more interesting ecosystem inhabitants. With creatures like the Tasmanian devil not found anywhere else anymore.

Human arrivals to isolated islands – such as Mauritias and New Zealand – has seen severe eco-damage throughout history.

There is also a feature on this research in this month’s Australasian Science.