Bee pollinates orchid, video

Jean Claessens, the maker of this video, writes about it:

In Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Germany) I had the chance to observe the pollination of the orchid Spiranthes spiralis by a small solitary bee, Halictus simplex. This bee has an ingenious, articulated tongue that enables this small bee to reach the nectar hidden in the flower of Spiranthes spiralis.

Sea grass genome, new research

This 27 January 2016 video is called Gareth Pearson – Zostera marina genome published by Nature.

From the University of Gothenburg in Sweden:

Land plant became key marine species

February 1, 2016


The genome of eelgrass (Zostera marina) has now been unveiled. It turns out that the plant, once land-living but now only found in the marine environment, has lost the genes required to survive out of the water.

Scientists from the University of Gothenburg participated in the research study, the results of which are published in the scientific journal Nature.

Eelgrass belongs to a group of flowering plants that have adapted to a life in water. As such, it is a suitable candidate for studies of adaptation and evolution.

‘Since flowering plants have emerged and developed on land, eelgrass can be expected to share many genetic features with many land plants. Studying differences between them can tell us how eelgrass has adapted to a marine environment,’ says Mats Töpel, researcher at the Department of Marine Sciences, University of Gothenburg, who participated in the sequencing of the eelgrass genome.

Töpel is part of an international research collaboration involving 35 research teams. As a result of their efforts, the eelgrass genome has now been published in Nature.

A life on land no longer possible

One interesting discovery made by the scientists is that eelgrass has lost not only the special cells that flowering plants need to be able to ‘breathe’ (meaning to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen) but also the genes required to form these cells.

‘This is a good example of how evolution extends beyond mere accumulation of useful traits; organisms can also benefit from losing certain genes and characteristics,’ says Töpel.

Eelgrass — a key species in trouble

Eelgrass belongs to a group of plants generally referred to as seagrass and forms gigantic submarine meadows along European, North American and Asian shores. The plant has adapted to many different environments, from the bitter Arctic cold to the warm waters further south.

In all of these environments, eelgrass serves an important function in the ecosystem by binding sediments and acting as a nursery for young fish and other animals. It also influences our own environment by binding large amounts of nutrients and carbon dioxide.

‘Lately, the eelgrass meadows have disappeared in many places, and a lot of research is underway to figure out how these ecosystems work and what we can do to protect them,’ says Töpel.

Further studies remain

The genome of an organism contains huge amounts of information.

‘So far we have only scratched the surface. A vast number of bioinformatic analyses of eelgrass remain to be done. And the increasing availability of genomes of other organisms enables us to make new comparisons,’ says Töpel.

Amorphophallus flowers in Adelaide, Australia

Titan arum

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation today:

Smelly corpse flower draws late-night visitors to Adelaide Botanic Gardens

A stench has drawn late-night visitors to Adelaide‘s Botanic Gardens as one of the world’s biggest flowers, the titan arum or corpse flower, has bloomed in its Bicentennial Conservatory.

The smell is likened by some people to rotting fish — and in the rainforests of Sumatra, where the plant is native, the scent encourages pollination.

It is the second corpse flower to bloom in Adelaide in just over a month and horticulturalist Matt Coulter of the Botanic Gardens said the conservatory remained open until midnight to let people get a whiff.

“It actually smells strongest into the evening,” he explained.

“The plant actually pulses the smell out, so it’s not just one smell that just hangs around [but] every 20 or 30 seconds the plant will push out some aroma and then that will dissipate and then another 20 or 30 seconds [later] it will actually push it out again.”

The flower blooms and emits its unusual aroma for a couple of days before it starts to wither.

Mr Coulter said a decade of propagation and nurturing by Botanic Gardens staff had achieved the two blooms within just weeks.

“We’ve been growing it, potting it up and hoping that one day it would come into flower and luckily enough we’ve been able to have two within a month which is quite incredible for our state,” he said.

“It’s quite rare to get one flower — to get two within a month is fantastic.”

The conservatory opened again at 7:00am today to give visitors a chance to see and smell the flower.

“It’s a very strong sort of ammonia, rotting fish sort of smell,” Mr Coulter said, and gardens visitors agreed.

One said: “It smells like a corpse or what I imagine a corpse would smell like.”

“I suppose it does smell a bit like rotting flesh but it’s quite an acrid smell,” another said.

New Zealand fairy terns threatened by greed and ignorance

This video from New Zealand says about itself:

22 May 2014

Forest & Bird is working to create an alternative breeding site for our critically endangered New Zealand Fairy Tern on the Kaipara harbour. They once nested right around the North island, however now it has only four breeding sites in Northland — all of which lie adjacent to large coastal developments. Predation by cats, ferrets and stoats during the breeding season has worsened their population outlook, and although many of the sites have pest control, it’s people that remain their biggest threat.

Recently we received an ASB community trust grant to establish this alternative breeding site on the Kaipara Harbour and over the next three years, we will create a suitable shell-bank and conduct weeding and pest control in the area to lure breeding fairy terns to this spit. Click here for more information about our project; and click here to help Forest & Bird to continue to help fairy tern and develop other conservation projects.

From BirdLife:

New Zealand Fairy Tern – critically endangered tiny tern faces new threat

By Karen Baird, Tue, 26/01/2016 – 02:22

Around half of the ten or so New Zealand Fairy Tern pairs remaining in the world breed at the beautiful Northland harbour of Mangawhai. They nest on the enormous sandspit where the Department of Conservation and NZ Fairy Tern Trust maintain a trapping programme for predators and the nests are closely monitored during the breeding season. However in recent years the so-called Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society (MHRS) have decided they want a mangrove-free harbour and applied to the planning authorities to allow removal of mangroves. In 2012 the Environment Court allowed for some removal in the middle harbour which was carried out this past winter. Conservationists have been concerned that removal of mangroves would deplete one of their major food resources, the gobies which live and feed amongst the mangrove pneumatophores. A foraging study was carried out by Karen Baird from the New Zealand BirdLife partner, Forest & Bird in collaboration with other scientists and published in Bird Conservation International (Ismar et al, 2014: Foraging Ecology and Choice of Feeding Habitat of the New Zealand Fairy Tern Sternula nereis davisae). The study showed that NZ Fairy Terns feed their chicks on these mangrove inhabiting gobies, preying on them when they move out of the mangroves at lower tide levels and into channels and pools on the tidal flats.

MHRS have now unveiled plans for a ‘stage two’, to remove more mangroves. This is despite a ruling already by the Environment Court that the area they’ve targeted should remain. There is increasing pressure in northern New Zealand from Tauranga northwards for councils to relax planning rules around mangroves which have previously enjoyed reasonable protection due to their high ecological values.

Mangroves are continually the target of prejudice, considerable misunderstanding and what amounts to a concerted campaign often based on misinformation. These negative views on mangroves include that they are: an introduced ‘pest’ plant which is taking over our northern harbours, limiting people from enjoying open space for speed boats and jet skis; obstacles to marina developments and reclamations, and are seen by developers as reducing the attractiveness of the coastal properties they hope to sell.

Mangroves are native to New Zealand. Their ecological value as nurseries for marine life is well known, they are home to threatened bird species such as the Australasian Bittern and Banded Rail, and act as natural buffers protecting shorelines from erosion.

For the NZ Fairy Tern more mangrove removal could spell disaster, if it is not already too late given the extent of the clearance work to date. It is critical that these terns can access productive foraging grounds near to their breeding sites, especially along the mangrove lined channels of the Mangawhai Harbour. This allows sufficiently frequent nuptial feeding of the nesting female when she’s incubating, chick feeding and post-fledgling tuition which runs for an extended period in this species. There are warning signs from across the Tasman. The reproductive failure in the closely related Australian Fairy Tern at Coorong was the result of lack of suitable prey near their foraging grounds. Baird and colleagues are now conducting a follow-up study of the goby population in the harbour since removal of mangroves so far. In addition Forest & Bird is engaging with the Northland Regional Council who are reviewing their planning documents to encourage recognition of this site (as well as others) as an Important Bird Area requiring greater protection, not less.

Spring mushrooms already in January

This video is called Pholiotina aporos – fungi kingdom.

Translated from the Dutch Mycological Society:

27 January 2016 – Pholiotina aporos mushrooms are almost exclusively known from spring. Especially in the months of April and May you have a chance to find them. In the Netherlands only a few have been found in late autumn. All the more remarkable is the finding of early January in the dunes of IJmuiden. When flawless Pholiotina aporos fungi were discovered on a thin layer of humus under high sea buckthorn.

What brent geese eat, new research

This ideo is called Brent geese (Branta bernicla) grazing on grassland.

Translated from BirdLife in the Netherlands:

Jan 26, 2016 – Brent geese preferably eat non salty salt marsh plants. Salty plants are avoided. The protein content of the plant apparently leaves the birds cold. That concludes PhD researcher Wimke Fokkema based on measurements of plants in the marshes of Schiermonnikoog island. The research is published this month in the journal Oikos.

Now flowers instead of racist violence for Syrian refugee in the Netherlands

Flowers and card from Dutch people who believe in love for Syrian refugee Basem in Veen

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands today:

Last week, a brick was thrown through the window of his home, today it was a sea of flowers at the residence of the Syrian Basem and his son in Veen town in North Brabant province. The local florist this afternoon gave some 25 bouquets along with a card which read: “On behalf of many fellow Dutch people who believe in love.”

The flowers were bought with money that was collected on Facebook after this Friday unknown perpetrators had smashed the window of his house. In that incident also a police car was burned. …

A reporter from regional TV visited the recipient who was very touched by the flowers. “I’m very happy and I feel despite everything welcome here. The love is mutual. Thank you dear Dutch people.”

Last week Basem told Omroep Brabant that he was very scared after the incident when his window was smashed. “I fled here because this is a beautiful and safe country. I thought something like this could not happen here.”

Refugee Basem is happy about the flowers