Jurassic fly larva, parasite on salamanders, discovered


This video says about itself:

The fossil of two froghopper insects in the act of mating has been uncovered by archaeologists in northeastern China after being buried for around 165 million years.

From World Science:

Bizarre parasite from Jurassic found

June 25, 2014

Courtesy of the University of Bonn and World Science staff

Re­search­ers from the Uni­vers­ity of Bonn and from Chi­na have dis­cov­ered a fos­sil fly lar­va with such a spec­tac­u­lar suck­ing ap­pa­rat­us, they have named it by the Chin­ese word for “bizarre.”

Around 165 mil­lion years ago, a spec­tac­u­lar par­a­site was at home in the fresh­wa­ter lakes of pre­s­ent-day In­ner Mon­go­lia in Chi­na, re­search­ers say. It was a ju­ve­nile fly with a thor­ax, or “ch­est,” formed en­tirely like a suck­ing plate.

With it, the an­i­mal could stick to sala­man­ders and suck their blood with its mouth­parts formed like a sting, ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tists. To date no in­sect is known with a si­m­i­lar de­sign. The in­terna­t­ional sci­en­tif­ic team is now pre­sent­ing its find­ings in the jour­nal eLIFE.

The par­a­site, a long fly lar­va around two cen­time­ters (a bit un­der an inch) long, had un­der­gone ex­treme changes over the course of ev­o­lu­tion, the re­search­ers said. The head is ti­ny in com­par­i­son to the body, tube-shaped with piercer-like mouth­parts at the front. The mid-body, or thor­ax, has been com­pletely trans­formed un­derneath in­to a gi­gantic suck­ing plate; the hind-body, or ab­do­men, has caterpillar-like legs.

The re­search team be­lieves that this un­usu­al an­i­mal lived in a land­scape with vol­ca­noes and lakes what is now north­east­ern Chi­na around 165 mil­lion years ago. In this fresh wa­ter hab­i­tat, they say, the par­a­site crawled on­to pass­ing sala­man­ders, at­tached it­self with its suck­ing plate, and pen­e­trated the thin skin of the am­phib­ians in or­der to suck blood from them.

“The par­a­site lived the life of Reil­ly,” said paleon­tologist Jes Rust from the Uni­vers­ity of Bonn. This is be­cause there were many sala­man­ders in the lakes, as fos­sil finds at the same loca­t­ion near Ningcheng in In­ner Mon­go­lia (Chi­na) have shown. “There sci­en­tists had al­so found around 300,000 di­verse and ex­cep­tion­ally pre­served fos­sil in­sects,” said the Chin­ese sci­ent­ist Bo Wang, a post­doc­tor­al re­searcher in paleon­tology at the Uni­vers­ity of Bonn.

The lar­va, which has re­ceived the sci­en­tif­ic name of Qiyia juras­si­ca, how­ev­er, was a quite un­ex­pected find. “Qiyia” in Chin­ese means “bizarre”; “jur­as­si­ca” refers to the Ju­ras­sic pe­ri­od to which the fos­sils be­long. A fine-grained mud­stone en­sured the good state of pre­serva­t­ion of the fos­sil.

Smooth newt looking for leaves, video


This is a video about a smooth newt, looking for water plant leaves to deposit eggs.

While a chiffchaff sings.

Henk Lammers Hupsel in the Netherlands made the video.

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Baby salamanders, baby fish, flatworm and beetles


Flatworm on egg spoon, 31 May 2014

After the birds and flowers on the biodiversity day on 31 May 2014, to small animals living in water. Like the flatworm on this photo. This worm was photographed on a small egg spoon with water on it. A macro lens was really necessary to photograph a tiny animal like this. Research still has to find out which flatworm species this is.

Many small animals were caught with a landing net in the ditch near the allotment gardens. Water is rather clean there, so much biodiversity.

There were various leech species. Like Erpobdella octoculata, which was named in 1758 by Linnaeus. And Theromyzon tessulatum; which lives in ducks’ bills. One female Theromyzon tessulatum had eggs.

Bugs included specimens of water boatman; a species which may survive in polluted water. There was also the lesser water boatman. And a much smaller related species: Plea minutissima.

And a saucer bug as well.

There were nymphs of various damselfly species.

Crustaceans were represented by an aquatic sowbug.

Common bladder snail, 31 May 2014

And mollusks by a common bladder snail.

Meanwhile, a reed warbler sang.

There were various, still small, common newt larvae.

Among the very smallest animals were Cyclops and Daphnia crustaceans.

Not in the ditch, but in reed beds along the ditch: a beetle species, Donacia vulgaris.

Edible frog sound.

One very small fish is caught. Too young still to say which species. Among fish species living in this ditch are: northern pike, perch, ninespine stickleback and spined loach.

A water mite. One of scores of species in this ditch.

Finally, a great silver water beetle larva.

After the research, all animals went back into the ditch.

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Newt eating frog’s eggs, video


In this video, common frogs in the water try to protect their eggs.

Still, a common newt manages to feed on the eggs.

Renée Sips from the Netherlands made the video.

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2014, international Year of the Salamander


This video from North America says about itself:

The barred tiger salamander may look cute, but to any insects passing by, it’s a deadly predator.

2014 will be the international Year of the Salamander.

In this year 2013, the fire salamander was, and is till New Year, the Amphibian of the Year in the Netherlands.

In line with other countries, in 2014 all salamander species will be Dutch Amphibians of the Year.

Dutch 2014 various wildlife species of the year: here.

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Orchids and axolotls in the botanical garden


This is a Dutch video about botanist Ed de Vogel, who discovered many orchids on New Guinea island.

9 December 2013. To the botanical garden orchid collection.

We met Ed de Vogel at the recently restored hothouse complex of the botanical garden. The banana plants were flowering.

Eleven plant species are named after De Vogel. also two species of seashells; which he studied before specializing in botany.

He said that now, about 3000 New Guinea orchid species are known. Maybe still a thousand species there are unknown yet.

De Vogel estimates that, all over the world, there are about 30,000 orchid species; a higher estimate than Wikipedia, which estimates, at least today, “between 21,950 and 26,049″ species. De Vogel’s estimate makes orchids the biggest flowering plant family; more numerous than Asteraceae.

Most orchids are epiphytes, growing on shrubs, or high in trees. A minority, including all species native to the Netherlands, grow on ground level.

One of the species in the hothouses is Grammatophyllum speciosum, the biggest orchid species in the world.

Other species here: Arundina graminifolia. And Dendrobium chrysopterum. Discovered only ten years ago; described then by De Vogel.

A bit further, a related species: Dendrobium spectabile.

In all the botanical garden hothouses together, there are about 3000 orchid species; some not yet described. Mainly from South East Asia; making Leiden botanical garden the garden with most South East Asian orchids in the world.

Bulbophyllum medusae is flowering. Various orchids flower in the hothouses throughout the year; never all at once.

In the hothouse, only accessible for scientific research, there are not only orchids, but pitcher plants as well: Nepenthes vogelii.

Dendrobium victoria-reginae is originally from the Philippines. It was named after Queen Victoria of England.

Chelonistele maximae-reginae is named after Queen Maxima of the Netherlands. Recently, De Vogel described that new species.

In a small aquarium in the non-accessible part of the building, many small fish. And three axolotl salamanders: two whitish, one brownish. Will they be exhibited in a bigger aquarium, visible for the public, again, like before the reconstruction of the hothouses. Yes, says Ed de Vogel.

This video says about itself:

Axolotl salamanders continue to intrigue researchers

15 June 2011

Students and professors at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois are studying axolotl salamanders. They are trying to discover why some of the salamanders appear to hold air in their lungs while continuing to get oxygen through their gills. The lungs full of air make the salamanders float to the surface, and the students call them “Floaters.”

Hellbender salamander rock music video


This video from the Center for Biological Diversity in the USA says about itself:

Hellbenders Rock

20 nov 2013

We love hellbenders. But they’re not the cuddliest of species, with their slimy bodies that look like the 2-foot-long lovechild of phlegm and a rock. Actually these critters — also called (by people not on the Center’s staff) “devil dogs” and “snot otters” — are pretty much a PR nightmare for anyone trying to fight off their extinction due to water pollution and dams. The rallying cry “Save the Snot Otter” doesn’t always go over well.

Happily for the hellbender, a band from St. Louis is now doing this salamander justice through song. They may yet make a rock ‘n’ roll legend out of North America’s largest amphibian.

We think there are few things more rockin’ than raising a little hellbender.

NATURAL HISTORY

HELLBENDER: Cryptobranchus alleganiensis
FAMILY: Cryptobranchidae

DESCRIPTION: Hellbenders are considered to be living fossils because they have changed so little over time. They are large, stout-bodied, fully-aquatic salamanders that grow to be two feet long with brown, grey or black skin with lighter markings. Hellbenders have flattened bodies and heads that allow them to cling to the river bottom, as well as a rough pad on their toes for traction on slick rocks. They have paddle-like tails for swimming, and numerous folds of fleshy skin for oxygen absorption. Their eyes are small, without lids, and their skin secretes toxic slime to ward off predators.

HABITAT: This salamander occurs in rocky, clear creeks and rivers, usually where there are large shelter rocks. It generally avoids water warmer than 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Males prepare nests and attend eggs beneath large, flat rocks or submerged logs.

RANGE: This species is found in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The Ozark subspecies is found only in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.

MIGRATION: The hellbender does not migrate.

BREEDING: Hellbender breeding is aquatic. Males may move short distances within their home ranges to brooding sites. The breeding season is variable but occurs mainly in September and October; a male prepares a nest by moving gravel to create a saucer-shaped depression, then depositing 200-400 eggs in the depression. The male fertilizes the eggs and guards the nests until the young are about three weeks old.

LIFE CYCLE: Newly hatched larvae are approximately 1.2 inches long. Development is rapid, and hatchlings double their size in the first year. Larvae normally lose their external gills in the second summer after hatching. Hellbenders reach sexual maturity at five to six years and may live as long as 30 years.

FEEDING: Crayfish are the most important food items for hellbenders, but the salamanders’ diet also includes fish, insects, earthworms, snails, tadpoles, fish eggs, other hellbenders and other hellbenders’ eggs.

THREATS: This species is mainly threatened by poor water quality, unsustainable collection for the pet trade and scientific purposes, persecution by anglers, disease caused by chytrid fungus, stocking of predatory fish and loss of genetic diversity.

POPULATION TREND: The hellbender is declining throughout its range. The Ozark hellbender in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas is in especially alarming decline.

Action timeline

May 4, 2004 — The Center petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list 225 candidate species, including the Ozark hellbender.

April 20, 2010 — The Center petitioned to list 404 aquatic, riparian and wetland species in the southeastern United States as threatened or endangered, including the hellbender.

September 8, 2010 — The Service issued a proposed rule to list the Ozark hellbender as endangered but refused to designate critical habitat.

November 8, 2010 — The Center filed comments with the Fish and Wildlife Service urging the Service to designate critical habitat for the Ozark hellbender.

July 12, 2011 — The Center reached a landmark agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service compelling the agency to move forward in the protection process for 757 species, including the Ozark and eastern hellbenders.

October 5, 2011 — The Service issued a final rule listing the Ozark hellbender as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act as part of our 757 species agreement.

January 31, 2013 — The Center and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the agencies’ failure to protect the Ozark hellbender, Hine’s emerald dragonfly, Tumbling Creek cavesnail and two endangered mussels on Missouri’s Mark Twain National Forest, where logging, road use and other activities are polluting waterways.

Two new species of mini-salamander discovered in Colombia: here.

British newts in a dog bowl


This video is called Smooth Newts (Lissotriton vulgaris).

From Wildlife Extra:

Odd location for wildlife – More newts in a dog bowl again

Smooth and palmate newts appear in a dog bowl!

October 2013. The Wildlife Extra office is near a large pond, and there is plenty of wildlife in and around that pond, but we were taken aback in August when two small, immature newts appeared in the dog’s water bowl that sits outside our front door. We relocated the newts to the edge of the pond, but 2 months later, we now have 4 small newts in the dog bowl, apparently 3 palmate newts and a smooth newt.

Newts actually spend much of their year on dry land, so it isn’t unusual to see them away from the pond, but how and why they ended up in the dog’s water bowl is a mystery.

Even more surprising, it appears that they are two different types of newt; a smooth newt and a palmate newt! Once we had taken a couple of pictures, we released the newts back into the wild (before a dog could drink them.).

This video from Britain is called Palmate Newt displaying to a female.

Hellbender salamanders back in New York


This video from the USA says about itself:

A nationwide group is working to save the declining Hellbender species and hopes it can rally others to do the same. Hellbenders are North America’s largest salamander, typically 11-24 inches long with flat green or brown bodies that have noticeable wrinkles on the sides. They are long-lived and spend up to 30 years under flat rocks in rivers and streams across Appalachia, parts of the Midwest and the northern tips of several southern states.

But the eastern hellbender is endangered in five states, and protected or of special concern in many others. This video shows how a team from several state, national, and university groups (including Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources) are working together with the goal of increasing the Hellbender population in Indiana. For more information, visit: http://www.helpthehellbender.org.

By Jennifer Viegas in the USA:

Loch Ness Monster-Like Reptile Returns to NY

Sorry, Ms Viegas, a hellbender is an amphibian; not a reptile.

A large, Loch Ness monster-resembling reptile has been re-introduced to streams in western New York State, the Wildlife Conservation Society today reports.

Thirty-eight of the animals, known as Eastern hellbenders, were placed under rocks in streams by Don Boyer, Bronx Zoo Curator of Herpetology, and Sarah Parker, Bronx Zoo Wild Animal Keeper.

The researchers and their colleagues raised the Eastern hellbenders from eggs collected in the Allegheny River.

Eastern hellbenders, also known as devil dogs, Allegheny alligators and snot otters, are among the world’s largest salamanders. They can grow to around 2 feet in length. (The world’s two largest salamanders, the Japanese giant salamander and the Chinese hellbender, can both grow up to six feet long).

“The hellbender is an important part of our state’s aquatic biodiversity and it’s clear that we have to take dramatic steps to ensure its continued presence in New York,” Patricia Riexinger, Director of the Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, said in a press release.

According to the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, the big salamanders have been in decline due to pollution in their aquatic habitat and damming of rivers and streams, which lowers the dissolved oxygen content and eliminates some of their habitat. Siltation of streams and rivers resulting from agricultural practices and construction work, such as bridges and roadwork, is yet another problem.

Another issue is “the unintentional or intentional and senseless killing by fishermen who accidentally catch hellbenders and erroneously fear that they are venomous.”

Let’s face it. The Eastern hellbender won’t win any beauty contests. They have flattened heads and bodies, small eyes, and slimy, wrinkly skin. They are typically a brown or reddish-brown color with a pale underbelly. Their tails feature a narrow edge that helps to propel them through water.

But the Eastern hellbender is a gentle creature that spends most of its time searching for crayfish, insects, small fish and other prey. Studies show that it doesn’t favor game fish, so there’s no real conflict with humans.

It is actually a good sign to spot one, since studies show hellbenders have a preference for clean streams and rivers. When they are around, it’s generally an indication that water quality is very good.

Indiana and other states are home to hellbenders too, as you can see in this video [top of the post].