Rare fungus discovery in Dutch Flevoland


Trichoglossum walteri

Translated from the Dutch Mycological Society:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Recently, on black clayey soil, some black fungi were found in the Spijkbos woodland among fallen leaves. The finder sent them to a specialist to see if it were some earth tongues. They turned out to be the rare Trichoglossum walteri. This is only the second time that this earth tongue species has been found in the Netherlands.

Good Galapagos tortoise news


This video says about itself:

Island-hopping in Galápagos: meet the world’s rarest tortoise and the birds of Española Island

10 October 2011

In the second part of his Galápagos island-hopping adventure, Andy Duckworth talks to naturalist guide Robert Naranjo, seeks out sea lions, a friendly hawk, dancing albatrosses and more prancing blue-footed boobies. He also meets Lonesome George, the last surviving Pinta Island tortoise and the rarest creature on the planet

From the BBC:

28 October 2014 Last updated at 19:16 GMT

Giant tortoise makes ‘miraculous’ stable recovery

By Jonathan Webb, Science reporter, BBC News

Where once there were 15, now more than 1,000 giant tortoises lumber around Espanola, one of the Galapagos Islands.

After 40 years’ work reintroducing captive animals, a detailed study of the island’s ecosystem has confirmed it has a stable, breeding population.

Numbers had dwindled drastically by the 1960s, but now the danger of extinction on Espanola appears to have passed.

Galapagos tortoises, of which there are 11 remaining subspecies, weigh up to 250kg and live longer than 100 years.

The study, based on decades of observations of the variety found on Espanola, was published in the journal Plos One.

Slow release

It offers some good news that contrasts with the tale of Lonesome George, the very last of the related subspecies found on Pinta, on the other side of the archipelago. George’s death, at the age of about 100, made international news in 2012.

Lead author Prof James Gibbs told BBC News the finding on Espanola was “one of those rare examples of a true conservation success story, where we’ve rescued something from the brink of extinction and now it’s literally taking care of itself”.

Prof Gibbs, from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at the State University of New York (SUNY-ESF), said he felt “honoured” to be reporting the obvious success of the reintroduction programme, which the Galapagos Islands National Park Service commenced in 1973.

His team has found that more than half the tortoises released since that time are still alive, and they are breeding well enough for the population to plod onward, unaided.

“It looks like we can step back out of the picture,” Prof Gibbs said.

It is quite a contrast to the 1960s, when just 12 females and 3 males roamed the island.

“They were so rare at that point, they couldn’t find one another. Many of the females had lichens growing on their backs, and fungi, that indicated they hadn’t been mated in a very long time.”

Those animals were taken to an enclosure [on] another island, to concentrate on breeding. Over the subsequent decades, more than 1500 of their captive-raised offspring have been released on Espanola.

Competing for cacti

It wasn’t as simple as putting the tortoises back, however. Their problems began when feral goats were introduced in the 1800s and devoured much of the island’s vegetation, severely disrupting the ecosystem.

“They can literally turn a rich ecosystem into a dustbowl,” Prof Gibbs said.

The goats even learned to feast on very tall cactus plants, whose dropped pads are a key food source for the tortoises in the dry season.

“They would feast on the roots… and chew away at the bark, and eventually that would topple these cacti. And then they had an incredible buffet of maybe 500-1000 years of cactus growth, demolished in a week or two.”

Conservationists set about culling the goats in the 1970s and finally eradicated them in the 1990s.

Their legacy, Prof Gibbs discovered, remains.

Analysis of the island’s plant life and its soil show that it has seen a major shift to bigger, woodier vegetation in the 100 years since the goats started stripping the undergrowth.

These shrubs and trees are a problem both for the tortoises and for their summer food of choice, the cacti.

The trees even get in the way of an endangered albatross that breeds on the island, making it difficult for the big, ungainly birds to take flight.

“Population restoration is one thing but ecological restoration is going to take a lot longer,” Prof Gibbs said.

Dr Rebecca Scott, an ecologist who studies turtles at GEOMAR in Kiel, Germany, said the results showed how important it is to monitor reintroduction carefully.

“Reintroducing these large, keystone species, in combination with reducing the spread of invasive species, can really help return ecosystems to native state.

“This work highlights the merit of well-managed reintroduction programmes, but also of really monitoring how these animals do.”

Dr Gerardo Garcia, a herpetologist at Chester Zoo, agreed that the situation was complex and the programme had succeeded because of careful, long-term management.

“It’s a long process but it’s quite normal for it to take decades,” he told BBC News.

“Nothing gets released and stable in less than 20 or 30 years.”

See also here.

Wild chimpanzees plan their breakfast


This video says about itself:

Backstage in the Wild: Yale Insights into Chimpanzee

20 April 2012

In the Ugandan national park Ngogo, Yale anthropologist David Watts and colleagues at the University of Michigan study the behavior of chimpanzees. Watts, who served as a consultant for newly released Disney nature Chimpanzee, describes his experiences with our with our primate cousins – and the urgent need to protect them in the wild.

From Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

Wild chimpanzees plan their breakfast time, type, and location

Significance

How do large-brained primates maintain high rates of energy intake when times are lean? By analyzing early-morning departure times and sleeping nest positioning of female chimpanzees as a function of the ephemerality of next day’s breakfast fruit and its location, we found evidence that wild chimpanzees flexibly plan when and where they will have breakfast after weighing multiple factors, such as the time of day, their egocentric distance to, and the type of food to be eaten. To our knowledge, our findings reveal the first clear example of a future-oriented cognitive mechanism by which hominoids, like great apes, can buffer the effect of seasonal declines in food availability and increased interspecific competition to facilitate first access to nutritious food.

Abstract

Not all tropical fruits are equally desired by rainforest foragers and some fruit trees get depleted more quickly and carry fruit for shorter periods than others. We investigated whether a ripe-fruit specialist, the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus), arrived earlier at breakfast sites with very ephemeral and highly sought-after fruit, like figs, than sites with less ephemeral fruit that can be more predictably obtained throughout the entire day.

We recorded when and where five adult female chimpanzees spent the night and acquired food for a total of 275 full days during three fruit-scarce periods in a West African tropical rainforest. We found that chimpanzees left their sleeping nests earlier (often before sunrise when the forest is still dark) when breakfasting on very ephemeral fruits, especially when they were farther away. Moreover, the females positioned their sleeping nests more in the direction of the next day’s breakfast sites with ephemeral fruit compared with breakfast sites with other fruit.

By analyzing departure times and nest positioning as a function of fruit type and location, while controlling for more parsimonious explanations, such as temperature, we found evidence that wild chimpanzees flexibly plan their breakfast time, type, and location after weighing multiple disparate pieces of information. Our study reveals a cognitive mechanism by which large-brained primates can buffer the effects of seasonal declines in food availability and increased interspecific competition to facilitate first access to nutritious food. We discuss the implications for theories on hominoid brain-size evolution.

The research was in Ivory Coast.

Plant, snake discoveries in Romania


This video is called Eryx jaculus – snake.

From BirdLife:

Autumn of discoveries: SOR welcomes new findings in the Romanian flora and fauna

By Alessia Calderalo, Mon, 20/10/2014 – 11:34

For the Romanian Ornithological Society (SOR, BirdLife Partner) the autumn of 2014 will be remembered as one of the most rewarding periods since the society began its work in conservation. Two important discoveries have been made in the area of Romanian flora and fauna; our colleagues in SOR are proud to share them with the BirdLife Partnership.

The first good news came in early May, when biologist Matis Attila was mapping habitats in the Dumbrăveni Forest Natural Reserve, a Natura 2000 site. While working, he discovered a plant that had never been seen in Romania before- the Hairy Broomrape Orobanche pubescens. However, it was not until September that he was able to confirm his identification. This plant normally lives in the Mediterranean Basin, in countries such as Greece and even Bulgaria, but not in Romania. “It is not an invasive species because it was not brought artificially into our ecosystem. Maybe the plant has been here before and nobody noticed, since the members of the Orobanchaceae family are hard to determine”, said Matis. Hairy Broomrape is a parasite that takes its water and minerals from the roots of a host plant. From now on, anyone who is interested in seeing the Orobanche pubescens will have be able to do so at the Alexandru Borza Botanical Garden in Cluj-Napoca, where it will be growing with the other 650,000 plants of their collection.

The second, very exciting moment came with the discovery of several specimens of Javelin sand boa Eryx jaculus, a non-poisonous, non-aggressive snake that had not been seen alive in Romania since 1937. The anonymous person who made the finding reported it via a Facebook message to Vlad Cioflec, herpetologist and SOR member, noting the discovery of one specimen of this small snake. Vlad set up a team with Corina, his wife and fellow herpetologist together with wildlife photographer, Doru Panaitescu. The trio promptly went to the site, where they discovered other individuals: a female and six youngsters that were photographed, filmed and returned to their burrows. In 1986 and again in 2011, individual snakes were found dead in Romania, but no Javelin sand boa had been found alive in the country since before World War II. The fact that not only one but seven individuals have been found this time gives the experts reason to think that a viable population is possible in Romania.

This video is about the recent discovery of Javelin sand boas in Romania.

Both discoveries have raised the hopes of biologists at SOR, whose work is dedicated to ensuring that Romanian ecosystems expand in variety and richness. If you wish to know more about these findings, please contact Ovidiu Bufnila, Communications Officer at SOR.

Fungi and birds


Yellow staghorn, 25 October 2014

This is a photo of a yellow stagshorn fungus. We saw it today, on 25 October 2014, on an old tree stump, on Hilverbeek nature reserve.

Mycena, 25 October 2014

A bit further, more small mushrooms. From the Mycena genus? That is a very complex group.

Mycenas and moss, 25 October 2014

Still further, other, darker, mycenas(?), growing between moss.

On our way back, a robin on a fence. Chaffinches. Blackbirds in a tree.

Fungi photos from Berkheide in the Netherlands: here.

Old and new natural history books


Alexander Reeuwijk, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

This photo shows author Alexander Reeuwijk behind a table with old natural history books in Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands. Like the other photos of this blog post, this is a cellphone photograph, of 19 October 2014.

On that day, as this blog already noted, Remco Daalder, Amsterdam city ecologist, was awarded the Jan Wolkers Prize. This prize is named after famous Dutch artist and author Jan Wolkers. Natural history was one of his subjects. The Jan Wolkers Prize is for the best natural history book of the year in the Netherlands. Remco Daalder’s book is about swifts.

Remco Daalder’s book had been nominated for the prize shortlist along with four other books. One of them was Alexander Reeuwijk’s book about nineteenth century British naturalist and evolution theorist Alfred Russel Wallace and his travels in Indonesia.

The three other nominations were for Mathijs Deen, for a book on the Wadden Sea region; Bibi Dumon Tak for her children’s book on common animals; and various authors for a book on Planken Wambuis nature reserve.

Back to Alexander Reeuwijk. He presented his ten favourite natural history books from the Naturalis collections. These books were from the sixteenth till the twentieth centuries.

Pierre Belon's book, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The oldest of Alexander’s ten books was from 1553. It was by Pierre Belon from France, about fish. Belon is often seen as the first ichthyologist. In Belon‘s time, fishes were not differentiated from aquatic mammals, aquatic invertebrates, etc. The book discussed over a 100 species for the first time ever.

The copy in Leiden is of De aquatilibus; the Latin translation of the French original.

Pierre Belon's book on sharks, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The book contains many woodcut pictures, including of hammerheads and other sharks.

Alexander Reeuwijk’s next book was from five years later, from 1558. It was by Conrad Gessner from Switzerland.

Lobster, in Gessner's book, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

Gessner’s Historiae animalium was the first attempt to describe all the animals known. Including the lobster pictured here on a woodcut in the book.

Lobster, watercolour, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The original watercolour depiction of the lobster, used for the woodcut, is also present in Naturalis.

Mark Catesby, parrots, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The next book was based on two books, originally in English. Mark Catesby died in 1749. He wrote Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, published 1729-1747. George Edwards wrote A Natural History of Uncommon Birds, published 1743-1764. Catesby’s and Edwards’ books contain many pictures of birds considered as ‘exotic’ by eighteenth century Europeans, like parrots in North America and the Caribbean.

Mark Catesby's and Edwards' Dutch translation, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

Catesby’s and Edwards’ books were translated into Dutch by M. Houttuyn, and published as Verzameling uitlandsche en zeldzaame vogelen in 1772-1781.

Spotted sandpiper, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

This picture in the Dutch translation depicts, below, a spotted sandpiper from the Americas.

Alexander’s fourth book was Nederlandsche Vogelen, about Dutch birds, by Nozeman and Sepp, published in various volumes 1770-1829.

Book number five was Histoire Naturelle des plus Rares Curiosoitez de la Mer des Indes. By Louis Renard, about marine life in Indonesia. The Leiden copy was published in 1782, after the author’s death.

Next, a book about plants in the Netherlands: the Flora Batava. Jan Kops wrote the first volume, published in 1800.

Then, Histoire naturelle générale des pigeons et des gallinacés (1808). Written by Coenraad Temminck; about pigeons. With pictures by Pauline de Courcelles Knip.

Mauritius blue pigeon

One of Ms de Courcelles Knip’s pictures for the book shows a Mauritius blue pigeon; now extinct.

The next book was about kingfishers. It was A monograph of the Alcedinidae: or, family of kingfishers, 1868-1871, by Richard Bowdler Sharpe. John Keulemans made the pictures.

Then, a book from the USA, by Sherman Foote Denton. It was As Nature Shows Them : Moths and Butterflies of the United States, East of the Rocky Mountains; from 1898.

Finally, another book on birds in the Netherlands: Ornithologia Neerlandica, de vogels van Nederland, 1922-1935. Eduard Daniel van Oort wrote it. Marinus Koekkoek painted the pictures.

Mushroom, new for the Netherlands, discovered


Lepista martiorum

Translated from the Dutch Mycological Society:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Along a bike path through the woods near Wageningen last week a Tricholomataceae fungus species new for the Netherlands was discovered: Lepista martiorum. The discovery of this mushroom was based on pure chance. The Lepista martiorum fungi were found during a stop for other mushrooms under some brambles.