British butterflies early this spring


This video from Britain is called Wildlife in our garden.

From Wildlife Extra:

Butterflies have had an early spring into action

Small tortoiseshells not only came out of hibernation a couple of weeks early, they were also seen in incredible numbers compared to previous years

April 2014: UK garden wildlife has sprung into action early this year according to the latest figures from the British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) garden birdwatch scheme. This scheme monitors the changing fortunes of birds and other garden wildlife through its network of ‘citizen scientists’. Observations collected by BTO Garden BirdWatchers are analysed by BTO researchers and published in leading journals.

Butterflies demonstrated the most dramatic patterns of emergence. Small tortoiseshells not only came out of hibernation a couple of weeks early, they were also seen in incredible numbers compared to previous years, with 23 percent of Garden BirdWatch gardens reporting them. In comparison, their previous highest emergence peak was 12 percent in 2012.

Brimstone butterflies also had a very good start to the year. The first few individuals were not seen much earlier this year than in previous years but the peak emergence in 2013 was just four percent compared to 21 percent of gardens reporting them in March this year.

Hedgehogs were also seen far earlier in the year than is usual, with the first individuals … being reported during late February, almost a month earlier than was the case in 2013, and up to two weeks earlier than in any of the last five years.

In contrast, amphibians, such as common frog and smooth newt, were not seen earlier than usual, but there appeared to be something of a mass emergence, with a surge in reports from participants’ gardens. From early March, both species were seen in more Garden BirdWatch gardens than they have been for the last five years.

Clare Simm, from tBTO’s Garden BirdWatch team, commented: “As you can see, Garden BirdWatch is not just about birds. Our volunteers provide us with vital information on other taxa too, helping us to understand how important gardens are as a habitat for all wildlife. It’s too early to tell how the early emergence of these species will affect them, but it is an exciting contrast to the patterns of emergence that we saw last year.”

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New sponge species discovery in the Pacific


This video from California in the USA says about itself:

Four new species of carnivorous sponges: Adapting to life in the deep sea

14 April 2014

This video describes four new species of carnivorous sponges from the Northeast Pacific Ocean that were discovered by MBARI scientists. Carnivorous feeding in sponges is an adaption to the food poor deep-sea environment, where filter feeding — the typical way sponges feed — is energetically expensive. Instead, these sponges trap small crustaceans with microscopic hooks. Once trapped, sponge cells mobilize, engulf the prey, and rapidly digest it. In addition to consuming small crustacean prey, one of these species appears to be consuming methane-oxidizing chemosynthetic bacteria.

For more information visit here.

From Wildlife Extra:

Four new species of killer sponges discovered

April 2014: Four new species of carnivorous (killer) sponges living on the deep seafloor, from the Pacific Northwest to Baja California have been discovered by scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

It was only discovered that some sponges are carnivorous about 20 years ago. Unlike other sponges most carnivorous sponges do not have specialised cells called choancytes, whose whip-like tails move continuously to create a flow of water which brings food to the sponge. Therefore these sponges, explains lead marine biologist Lonny Lundsten “trap larger, more nutrient-dense organisms, like crustaceans, using beautiful and intricate microscopic hook.”

These animals look more like bare twigs or small shrubs covered with tiny hairs. But the hairs consist of tightly packed bundles of microscopic hooks that trap small animals such as shrimp-like amphipods. Once an animal becomes trapped, it takes only a few hours for sponge cells to begin engulfing and digesting it. After several days, all that is left is an empty shell.

The four new sponges are named as Asbestopluma monticola, (which was collected from the top of the extinct underwater volcano Davidson Seamount off the coast of central California), Asbestopluma rickets (named after the marine biologist Ed Ricketts), Cladorhiza caillieti, (found on recent lava flows along the Juan de Fuca Ridge, a volcanic ridge offshore of Vancouver Island), and Cladorhiza evae, which was found far to the south, in a newly discovered hydrothermal vent field along the Alarcon Rise, off the tip of Baja California.

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Orchids, dippers and tarantula in Costa Rica


Maxillaria ringens, 19 March 2014

The morning of 19 March 2014 on Costa Rica. There were not only orchids along the mountain road yesterday, but in the cloud forest today as well. Like Maxillaria ringens on the photos.

Maxillaria ringens orchid, 19 March 2014

Flower, 19 March 2014

And other species.

Before we went to the cloud forest, a rufous-collared sparrow singing. Hummingbirds at the feeders.

A flock of three-striped warblers on a bush.

A bright-rumped attila in a tree.

A monarch butterfly on flowers.

Chestnut-capped brush finch, adult, 19 March 2014

Like yesterday, a chestnut-capped brush finch.

Inca dove, 19 March 2014

An Inca dove.

Central American agouti, 19 March 2014

And a Central American agouti.

Tarantula, 19 March 2014

This tarantula is of the Brachypelma genus.

Butterfly, Costa Rica, 19 March 2013

About this butterfly, I don’t even know the genus.

Magenta-throated woodstar, 19 March 2014

A male magenta-throated woodstar hummingbird flying. A species which lives only in Costa Rica and Panama.

In the forest, a ruddy-capped nightingale thrush on a branch.

A spotted woodcreeper climbs up a tree trunk.

A tufted flycatcher in a tree.

An American dipper on a rock in the stream.

A sulphur-bellied flycatcher.

American dipper, 19 March 2014

11:35. Two American dippers on rocks in the stream. Unfortunately, just at a time when the camera was acting up. So, just this one photo.

We left, to the Arenal volcano.

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Endangered North American butterfly fights back against climate change


This video is called The Endangered Quino Checkerspot Butterfly.

From Wildlife Extra:

Endangered butterfly fights back against climate change

April 2014: The endangered Quino Checkerspot butterfly, found in Mexico and California, is defying climate change by adapting both its habitat and diet, a study has revealed.

The butterfly suffered dramatic population collapses during the last century along the southern edge of its range in Baja California as a result of climate change and agricultural and urban development.

But rather than heading toward extinction the butterfly has adapted to the changing climate by shifting to a higher altitude and changing its host plant to a completely new species.

Other species have been seen changing either habitat or diet to cope with a changing climate but the Quino Checkerspot may be amongst the first butterfly species to change both.

Professor Camille Parmesan from Plymouth University, explained:

“Quino today is one of the happy ‘surprises’, having managed to adapt to climate change by shifting its centre of abundance to higher elevation and onto a plant species that was not previously known to be a host.”

See also here. And here. And here.

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Prehistoric harvestman had extra eyes


This video says about itself:

10 April 2014

A 305-million-year-old harvestman fossil, ancestor of modern day arachnids, is more closely relates to the scorpions than spiders. Scientists discovered unusual features: it has 2 sets of eyes on the center and lateral sides of the body.

From Discovery News:

Ancient Daddy Longlegs Had Extra Eyes

APRIL 12, 2014 12:30 PM ET // BY PAUL HELTZEL

A 304-million-year-old fossil discovered in Eastern France shows primitive living harvestmen — more commonly called daddy longlegs — had one more pair of eyes than they do today.

The ancient harvestmen had a pair of eyes along the middle of the body — like their modern counterparts — but they also had a pair of eyes on the side of the body. The findings were reported by researchers from the American Museum of Natural History and the University of Manchester, in the journal Current Biology.

Photos: Look If You Dare: Ancient Spider Family Album

Scientists studied the fossil using high-resolution X-ray imaging at the Natural History Museum, London.

“Our X-ray techniques have allowed us to reveal this fossil in more detail than we would have dreamed possible two decades ago,” said Russell Garwood, a research fellow at the University of Manchester and a lead author on the study, in a release.

Though Harvestmen have eight legs and are categorized as arachnids, they’re not spiders. They’re more closely related to scorpions.

The scientists also examined the expression of an eye-stalk growing gene in harvestmen embryos. The embryos briefly express the gene for the second pair of eyes. But by the time they hatch, the daddy long legs’ second pair of eyes are long gone.

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Coral life in new film


This video about coral is called Slow Life.

From Wildlife Extra:

The incredible life of coral captured on film

April 2014: Coral as you have never seen before. Film maker Daniel Stoupin has produced a stunning film that captures the secret life of corals, sponges and other marine life in minute, microscopic, detail. filmed under high magnification ‘Slow Life’ illustrates their magical colourful world and transforms your perception.

For far from being the motionless creatures perceived by many, the film actually reveals them as live, graceful, blossoming, sea creatures that operate in a very different timescale to our own.

“‘Slow’ marine life is particularly mysterious. As colorful, bizarre-looking, and environmentally important as we know corals and sponges are, their simple day-to-day life is hidden. Time lapse cinematography reveals a whole different world full of hypnotic motion and my idea was to make coral reef life more spectacular and thus closer to our awareness,” says Daniel in the text that accompanies the film. “I had a bigger picture in my mind for my clip. But after many months of processing hundreds of thousands of photos and trying to capture various elements of coral and sponge behaviour I realized that I have to take it one step at a time. For now, the clip just focuses on beauty of microscopic reef ‘landscapes.’”

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More Costa Rican birds, and moths


Black phoebe, 17 March 2014

Still, 17 March 2014 near Bosque del Paz in Costa Rica. Not only hummingbirds, but also other birds, like this black phoebe.

They behave somewhat dipper-like on rocks in mountain streams. But they are an American flycatcher species, unrelated to dippers.

A golden-browed chlorophonia.

On the other side of the stream, a chestnut-capped brushfinch.

Black guan, 17 March 2014

In a big tree, a big bird, living only in Costa Rica and Panama: a black guan.

Rufous-collared sparrow, 17 March 2014

In a smaller tree, a much smaller bird with a much bigger geographical range: a rufous-collared sparrow.

A collared trogon.

Moth, 17 March 2014

Then, time to switch from telephoto lens to macro lens. From birds to moths which had gathered on the building.

Moth, Costa Rica, 17 March 2014

There are thousands of Costa Rican moth species, and I am far from an expert in these species. So, I know there were various moth species, but not which species.

Moth, in Costa Rica, 17 March 2014

Hawk moth, 17 March 2014

The largest specimens belonged to the hawk moth family.

Hawk moth with two smaller moths, 17 March 2014

Finally, a Central American agouti with a baby on the other river bank.

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Cambrian prehistoric predator evolution, new research


This video says about itself:

26 March 2014

T[amisiocaris]. borealis, an ancient predator, probably used its spiny appendages to sweep through the water for prey and then bring it into its mouth, as these animations show. Credit: Martin Stein. Read more here.

From Wildlife Extra:

Large ocean predators evolved into gentle giants 520 million years ago

April 2014: Large marine creatures that roamed the Earth’s oceans more than 520 million years ago have been found to filter food from the water in a similar way to today’s blue whales and evolved into a gentle sea giant from a large marine predator that feasted on large prey, say scientists.

Newly discovered fossils from North Greenland showed that these ancient giant marine animals used bizarre facial appendages to trawl for nekton and plankton from the seas.

The North Greenland fossil, called Tamisiocaris, was a member of the iconic anomalocarids group of early marine animals which roamed the Cambrian and later Ordovician oceans. They swam using a set of flaps down either side of the body and probably captured large prey with specialised grasping appendages in the front of the mouth.

The team demonstrates that the Tamisiocaris had evolved into a suspension feeder by modifying its grasping appendages into a filtering apparatus that could be swept like a net through the water trapping small crustaceans and other organisms as tiny as half a millimetre in size.

The research, funded by the Agouron Institute, Carlsberg Foundation and Geocenter Denmark, was led by the University of Bristol and also included researchers at Durham University, the University of Bath and the University of Copenhagen.

As well as shedding light on the evolution of the Tamisiocaris, the researchers said their discovery also showed how productive the Cambrian period was and how vastly different species of anomalocarids evolved at that time. It also provides further clues into the ecosystems that existed hundreds of millions of years ago, they said.

Study lead author Dr Jakob Vinther, a lecturer in macroevolution at the University of Bristol, said: “The fact that large, free-swimming suspension feeders roamed the oceans tells us a lot about the ecosystem.

“Feeding on the smallest particles by filtering them out of the water while actively swimming around requires a lot of energy – and therefore lots of food.”

In order to fully understand how an anomalocarid could have fed, Dr Martin Stein from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, created a 3D computer animation of the feeding appendage to explore the range of movements it could have made.

Dr Stein said: “Tamisiocaris would have been a sweep net feeder, collecting particles in the fine mesh formed when it curled its appendage up against its mouth.

“This is a rare instance when you can actually say something concrete about the feeding ecology of these types of ancient creatures with some confidence.”

The research about this was published here.

April 2014: An international team of researchers from the US, China and the UK have discovered the earliest known cardiovascular system in fossilised remains of an extinct marine shrimp that lived over 520 million years ago. The finding sheds new light on the evolution of the body in the animal kingdom and shows that even the earliest creatures had internal systems that strongly resemble those found in their modern descendants: here.

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Bee digging nest, video


This video says about itself (translated from Dutch):

8th April 2014

Andrena vaga is a solitary bee, rare in the Netherlands. Only the females dig a nest, and they mainly feed on willow pollen. Filmed by René Peeters.

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