United States military base in Okinawa, Japan damages coral


This video is about diving at the coral reefs around Okinawa, Japan.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Japan: Onaga demands air base plans halted

Tuesday 24th March 2014

OKINAWA governor Takeshi Onaga instructed Japan’s Defence Ministry yesterday to suspend work at the proposed site of a US air base.

Mr Onaga claimed a concrete anchor thrown into the sea for a drilling survey of a reef at the designated site had damaged coral.

He took office four months ago after winning an election over a predecessor who had allowed the Henoko site to be developed to relocate the base.

Mr Onaga said the prefecture needed to conduct an independent survey to assess the damage and demanded the ministry stop activity in a week.

The central government’s effort to gain Okinawa’s understanding had been “insufficient,” he said.

But Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the survey should proceed regardless of the order.

The relocation is intended to address safety and nuisance concerns.

But Okinawans want the Futenma air base moved off the island completely and warn the construction would endanger marine life.

Australian stick insect, Mexican butterfly in botanical garden


Giant prickly stick insect, 22 March 2015

22 March 2015. To the botanical garden. On a smallish Eucalyptus tree in a pot in a hothouse, this adult giant prickly stick insect from Australia.

Before we had arrived at the garden, a song thrush sang from the top of a tree near a parking lot.

In the botanical garden, ring-necked parakeets flying and calling.

In the Victoria amazonica hothouse, we saw this gold-edged owl-butterfly. It was an old individual, with damaged wings.

Caligo uranus, 22 March 2015

First, we saw the upper side of its wings.

Caligo uranus, lower side, 22 March 2015

Then, the lower side.

Outside, bees had discovered the spring flowers.

Bumblebee on crocus, video


This video shows a bumblebee on crocus flowers, early this spring.

15-year-old Jessica den Bol from the Netherlands made the video.

Sea snail venom evolution, new research


This video says about itself:

11 January 2012

You’d think a snail wouldn’t be much threat in the sea, but the cone snail proves deadly to unsuspecting fish.

From the University of Michigan in the USA:

Predatory Snails Evolved Diverse Venoms to Subdue a Wide Range of Prey Species

Released: 17-Mar-2015 8:00 AM EDT

ANN ARBOR—A new study by University of Michigan biologists suggests that some predatory marine cone snails evolved a highly diverse set of venoms that enables them to capture and paralyze a broad range of prey species.

When cone snails sink their harpoon-like teeth into their prey, they inject paralyzing venoms made from a potent mix of more than 100 different neurotoxins known as conotoxins.

The genes that provide the recipes for conotoxin cocktails are among the fastest-evolving genes in the animal kingdom, enabling these snails to constantly refine their venoms to more precisely target the neuromuscular systems of their prey.

U-M researchers showed that the mix of neurotoxins in cone-snail venom varies from place to place and is more diverse at locations where the snails have a broad range of prey species. In addition, they concluded that the observed patterns of local conotoxin variation are likely due to natural selection.

That’s a significant finding because it is often difficult for biologists to determine whether place-to-place variations in an organism’s observable traits—the wide range of beak sizes and shapes in the Galapagos Islands finches studied by Charles Darwin, for example—are the result of evolution by natural selection or some other factor, such as the reproductive isolation of a population of animals or plants.

In addition, the U-M researchers were able to directly target the genes responsible for the observed conotoxin patterns. A paper summarizing the work is scheduled for online publication in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B on March 18.

“The differences in venom composition that we observed correspond to differences in prey, and a higher diversity of venom is used to capture more prey species,” said first author Dan Chang, formerly a doctoral student in the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“Our results suggest that prey diversity affects the evolution of predation genes and imply that these predators develop a more diverse venom repertoire in order to effectively subdue a broader range of prey species,” Chang said.

The study involved a common species of tropical, worm-eating cone snail, Conus ebraeus, collected at locations in Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa. These snails are about an inch long and are commonly known as Hebrew cone snails. Their shells are white with black rectangular markings that form a distinctive checkerboard pattern.

The researchers characterized the patterns of genetic variation in five toxin genes in C. ebraeus snails from the three locations. They also collected fecal samples from the snails to determine the types of worms they ate.

“We demonstrated that venom genes used for predation are highly affected by local variation in prey diversity and geographic heterogeneity in prey compositions,” Chang said. “Not all conotoxin genes are affected in the same way though, which implies that these genes may have distinct functional roles and evolutionary pathways.”

The other U-M authors are Thomas Duda and Amy Olenzek. The study was funded by a National Science Foundation grant to Duda, who is an associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and an associate curator at the U-M Museum of Zoology.

Dan Chang
Thomas Duda

Bees, birds and yellow flowers


This video is called Louie Schwartzberg: The hidden beauty of pollination.

From Plant Biology:

Bees, birds and yellow flowers: Pollinator-dependent convergent evolution of UV-patterns

Abstract

Colour is one of the most obvious advertisements of flowers and occurs in a huge diversity among the angiosperms. Flower colour is responsible for the attraction from a distance, whereas contrasting colour patterns within flowers aid orientation of flower-visitors after approaching the flowers. Due to the striking differences in colour vision systems and neural processing across animal taxa, flower colours evoke specific behavioural responses by different flower-visitors. We tested whether and how yellow flowers differ in their spectral reflectance depending on the main pollinator. We focused on bees and birds and examined whether the presence or absence of the widespread UV-reflectance pattern of yellow flowers predicts the main pollinator.

Most bee-pollinated flowers displayed a pattern with UV-absorbing centres and UV-reflecting peripheries, whereas the majority of bird-pollinated flowers are entirely UV-absorbing. In choice experiments we found that bees did not show consistent preferences for any colour- or pattern-types. However, all tested bee species made their first antennal contact preferably at the UV-absorbing area of the artificial flower irrespective of its spatial position within the flower. The appearance of UV-patterns within flowers is the main difference in spectral reflectance between yellow bee- and bird-pollinated flowers, and affects the foraging behaviour of flower-visitors. The results support the hypothesis that flower colours and the visual capabilities of their efficient pollinators are adapted to each other.

Butterflies flying again


This video says about itself:

Scarce Tortoiseshell Feeds on Oak Sap ヒオドシチョウがミズナラ樹液を吸汁

9 February 2014

A Scarce Tortoiseshell (aka Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell; Nymphalis xanthomelas japonica, family Nymphalidae) feeding on the fermenting sap of an oak tree (Quercus crispula, family Fagaceae). October 2013 in Japan.

Translated from the Dutch butterfly foundation:

Monday, March 9th, 2015

It was a beautiful sunny weekend and that was evident from the butterflies flocking, having left their wintering areas. Many people on Saturday and especially on Sunday saw their first butterfly of 2015. The brimstone was absolutely the most frequent species, but most special were the six scarce tortoiseshells.

Nearly 1500 brimstone butterflies were seen on 7-8 March.

Scarce tortoiseshells are an east European and Asian species. Last year, they were seen in the Netherlands for the first time. It turns out now that some have survived the winter.

Springtail jumps, video


This is a video from the Netherlands; about a springtail jumping.

Springtails are ‘primitive’, non-flying relatives of insects.

They usually live in soil.

This Dutch video is about how to discover springtails and other small animals in soils, in your garden or in a forest.

The 68th UN General Assembly declared 2015 the International Year of Soils.