Monthly Archives: May 2013

Enormous Stick Insect, Thought Extinct, is Rediscovered

This story is both amazing and inspiring – an enormous stick-insect, considered extinct since the 1960s, has a fascinating story of re-discovery and hope for the future.

Read the story by NPR writer Robert Krulwich HERE or click on the image of the INSANELY GIGANTOR insects to read!!

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Image via Rod Morris/www.rodmorris.co.nz

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May 28th.

There’s a little patch of bright green grass I’ve found, hidden by a surrounding of junipers.

Tonight I sat there in the perfect cool of a vernal Central Oregon evening as the light faded.

Scrub jay, quail, meadowlark.

Robin. Cow mooing. Sparrows.

Crickets, quail. The gentle coo of a mourning dove.

A far-away Great Horned Owl, only twice.

A Red-Tailed Hawk is sitting on a powerline post that reaches high into the air. He screams, responding to a distant relative. The second appears, alights beside him, and they scream at each other until the first flies off. The second continues to call, perhaps displeased at the dog, who is wandering about quite contentedly, sniffing the bases of tall plants and short trees. He is never so at peace as when he is in open space; he requires a certain kind of freedom to be truly satisfied and I find that it is the same kind I deny myself because of all the things I “have to do.”

A magpie drifts by silently. Thunderclouds move in. I put a yarrow leaf between my front teeth, but it’s older now and too bitter. The golden currants are still covered in veiny, green bulbs; I wonder what chance I have of beating the birds to a single ripe berry. Crescent deer tracks are everywhere, but I still haven’t seen them. I watch for them carefully, though, because the dog loses all mind and goes pure instinct when he spots one.

He runs laps as we head back, kicking up the loose, dusty ash that is the substrate here. A quote by Rumi comes to mind: I am the dust that dances in the light.

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Nart: Caddisfly Cases

Nature + Art = Nart

(Just for your future reference.)

Check this out:

Images via Cabinet Magazine (cabinetmagazine.org)

What you’re looking at is one very awesome aquatic macroinvertebrate (an invertebrate large enough to be seen without a microscope) called the caddisfly (Trichoptera) in its larval stage. You’ve probably seen caddisfly adults if you’ve ever been around a freshwater lake or stream at night: they’re nocturnal, delicate, mothy-looking insects that are easily attracted to light. According to NC State University’s entomology resources, they may go that entire period (a few weeks) without eating, which I think is pretty neato.

Depending on the species, caddisflies may spend several months to two years in the larval stage before pupating into adults. During that time, it uses a special silk secreted from glands near its mouth to build a protective case out of debris on the stream bed. It can then drag this amazing little piece of architecture around like a hermit crab carrying a shell. The larvae eat a variety of items depending on species, including detritus, algae, other tiny invertebrates, and – now this is super cool – some may ingest the eggs of the highly toxic rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa). This newt carries the lethal tetrodotoxin, and according to Brian Gall of Utah State University, caddisfly larvae could be a contributing environmental factor driving the potency of the tetrodotoxin poison.

Now, the photos above obviously aren’t your typical northern American stream bed debris. These incredible cases were constructed by caddisflies given precious metals and stones by French artist Hubert Duprat. As a boy, Duprat lived in the countryside and was a naturalist at heart, raising aquatic critters in aquaria and later developing an interest in geology. These two passions came together in experiments where caddisfly larva were given these new, precious materials with which to build their cases, and the above photos can give you a taste of the results. The original article is interesting and definitely worth a read – check it out at Leonardo online. The authors cite another interesting little article (you can download the PDF here) where Charles T. Brues makes an observation in 1930 that some caddisfly cases were constructed partially with tiny blue opals (which were far less numerous than grains of sand or other available materials) from the stream bed, suggesting that the larva were intentionally selecting the “attractive” stones. 

While most caddisflies won’t get to use materials considered so precious to humans, they will still go on to construct magnificent structures from stones, leaves, sticks, and more! The next time you’re by a stream, reach in a check under a few rocks – you may get to see one of these awesome little cases.

Image by David Funk of the Stroud Water Research Center (click pic to visit site)

Image by David Funk of the Stroud Water Research Center

Image via nwnature.net

Image via nwnature.net

Image via nwnature.net

Image via nwnature.net

As another neato fun-fact, the presence of species like caddisflies and mayflies play a role in indicating the health of a stream.

Click this great fact sheet to learn more about how macroinvertebrates can indicate stream health. Published by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

And this one will tell you which types of invertebrates indicate which types of stream health! Also Maryland DNR.

Thanks for reading!

Student Humor

Robin Edds at Student Beans posted a hilarious collection of defiled textbooks, tests, and homeworks by students exhibiting either spite, or trying to get a few extra points for humor. Go here to see the rest and scroll down to see my two favorites (being a nature lover and an anthropologist).

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Nature comics for nature and science nerds

So I have a new favorite thing in the whole world, and it’s NATURE COMICS.

Bird and Moon, run by a fellow nature-lover named Rosemary Mosco, makes my wee naturalist’s heart happy. Did you know that birds have a speed fin?

Also, I’m a little embarrassed by how hard this made me laugh:

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Baaaahahahahahaha!

But wait! There’s more!

Rosemary isn’t just funny, she’s intelligent. I love this next one for its educational value:

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Another source of smart and funny comics is Beatrice the Biologist, produced by a lass named Katie who was once a biology teacher.
I wish I had this one for cellular biology class last term. Sigh.
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She’s also got a great post on copyright issues and online content. As a blogger regularly posting my own content and photos, I encourage you to read her article. I’ve heard the arguments that “if it’s on the internet, it’s free game” and even that copyright shouldn’t exist because information should be free. Yeah sure, except that people work hard to produce content and images, and when you reproduce them or use them without giving proper credit to the person who created it, you’re pretty much being a lazy poop, plain and simple. It takes literally seconds to give credit; a link, a small note, and it’s good. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re going to use an image or text, just credit the person who made it and provide a way to get back to the original. It’s easy, it doesn’t take long, and better yet, it makes you look more professional and responsible.  Anytime I see reproduced content with the proper credit, I’m far more likely to return to that site. So just, you know, do it.
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Ooooo, burn.
(See what I did there? The sun.. burn… HA!)

April showers bring… wait, no, not in the desert.

Hello everyone! I’ve been away a bit (schooling and applying for a program in zoology), but I’m back, and I have some flower photos for you to gaze upon today to rest your weary mind. It’s May Day, the first of May and harbinger of spring (and therefore.. SUMMER!). While folks at my alma mater are running around naked, plants in the lower plains of the sagebrush steppe of Central Oregon to blossom. It’s still cold as all get-out some nights (the peonies are drooping so sadly this morning), but we have that nice blazing sun during the day. Enjoy!

More Golden Currant!

Golden Currant (Ribes aureum)!

Golden Currant.

More Golden Currant!

The fleeting Sand Lily, one of the first flowers of the season in this climate.

The fleeting Sand Lily (Leucocrinum montanum), one of the first flowers of the season.

Backyard crab-apple getting ready to burst forth!

Backyard crab-apple getting ready to burst forth!

 

For those of you that may not know, magnolias are one of my all-time favorite blossoms. While none of them grow in Central Oregon, they are abundant just on the other side of the Cascades in Portland, where I’ve been spending a fair amount of time. I managed to grasp just a few images in my travels of the magnificent flowers.

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Thanks for visiting and happy Wednesday to you!