The plant family Corsiaceae, new research


This video is called Liliaceae plant family, description, examples, info.

From the Journal of Biogeography:

Ancient Gondwana break-up explains the distribution of the mycoheterotrophic family Corsiaceae (Liliales)

19 FEB 2015

Abstract

Aim

Many plant families have a disjunct distribution across the southern Pacific Ocean, including the mycoheterotrophic family Corsiaceae, which provides a prime example of this biogeographical pattern. A better grasp of the family’s evolutionary relationships is needed to understand its historical biogeography. We therefore aimed to (1) test the uncertain monophyly of Corsiaceae, (2) define its phylogenetic position, and (3) estimate divergence times for the family, allowing us to assess whether the distribution of the family is the result of vicariance.

Location

Southern South America and Australasia.

Methods

We analysed various combinations of mitochondrial and nuclear data to address the monophyly, phylogenetic position and age of Corsiaceae. To test its monophyly, we used a three-locus data set including most monocot orders, and to infer its exact phylogenetic position, we used a five-locus extended data set. We corroborated these findings using an independent plastome dataset. We then used a two-locus dataset with taxa from all monocot orders, and a three-locus dataset containing only taxa of Liliales, to estimate divergence times using a fossil-calibrated uncorrelated lognormal relaxed-clock approach.

Results

Corsiaceae is a monophyletic family and the sister group of Campynemataceae. This clade is the sister group of all other Liliales. The crown age of Corsiaceae is estimated to be 53 Ma (95% confidence interval 30–76 Ma).

Main conclusions

Corsiaceae is an ancient family of mycoheterotrophic plants, whose crown age overlaps with the plate-tectonic split of Gondwana, consistent with a vicariance-based explanation for its current distribution.

See also here.

Invasive cane toads stopped in Australia


This September 2014 video is called Invasion Of The Deadly Cane Toads – Australia with Simon Reeve – BBC.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

At long last, Australia is able to halt the relentless advance of the cane toad

The toad’s seemingly relentless advance across the Australian landscape has challenged and defeated two generations

Lewis Smith

Sunday 22 February 2015

When farming experts sought a solution 80 years ago to the damage that beetles were doing to Australia’s sugar cane crops, and to profits, they fixed upon a voracious amphibian as the answer. It was a decision they have regretted ever since.

Introducing the cane toad Down Under in 1935 was an ecological disaster. Placed in where food was plentiful and predators had no idea how to avoid its highly toxic skin, the toad thrived while native wildlife paid the price. Quolls (carnivorous marsupials), goannas (monitor lizards), and the fearsome freshwater crocodile could die from eating the toxic toad which can also shoot its venom and blind a predator.

The toad’s seemingly relentless advance across more than a million square kilometres of the Australian landscape has challenged and defeated two generations of scientists, farmers and conservationists. But now they believe they may finally have found its Achilles heel.

Having discovered that in dry weather cane toads need to find a source of water at least once every three days, scientists decided to build small fences around the man-made ponds and troughs for watering livestock. At 60cm, the fences were too high for the toads to jump over or climb, and a cloth covering was dug into the ground to prevent them burrowing underneath.

And researchers found this simple technique worked.

“We smashed ’em!” declared a triumphant Dr Mike Letnic, of the University of New South Wales, after witnessing the bodies of hundreds of cane toads piled in front of the fences. “They died en masse … our control technique massively reduced toad numbers.” Dr Letnic found that some of the dams that the team targeted had supported up to 700 toads.

“Until now, no one had demonstrated an effective control technique,” he said. “You can imagine we were chuffed when one year later, there were still hardly any toads.”

The success, reported in the Journal of Applied Ecology, is a welcome break for Australia’s native predators such as the cat-sized quoll, which had been eradicated in some regions such as the Kakadu National Park in Northern Territory.

See also here. And here. And here.

Humpback whale strays into Oosterschelde estuary


This 2014 video says about itself:

During the world circumnavigation with the ‘Oosterschelde‘ we were welcomed by about 6 humpback whales who did a nice performance. This happened on the south-east side of Australia.

Unfortunately, today not so good news from the Oosterschelde estuary after which that ship was named.

This video is about a humpback whale, seen 15 February 2015 near Wemeldinge along the Oosterschelde.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Little hope for humpback in the Oosterschelde

Today, 11:41

In the Oosterschelde, near the Zeeland Bridge this weekend a young humpback whale was spotted. That had never happened before. The animal still swims around. Its survival chances are not big, says the SOS Dolphin Foundation. …

On Saturday, the first report on the humpback came, one day later the animal first appeared on images.

It is unknown how young the animal is, what is its sex, and whether it can survive independently. “It accidentally swum into the Oosterschelde, hunting for fish,” thinks Annemarie van den Berg of SOS Dolphin.

The animal swims at this time in the eastern corner of the Oosterschelde. Not a good sign. “There are just more rivers there, so it is more likely it will get stranded.”

There is still hope. “It swims properly and if the animal find its way back, it’ll be fine,” says Van den Berg. “But porpoises have previously shown that they often do not dare to get back.”

The foundation calls on people to stay away from the animal. Van den Berg: “If people are going to flock to that animal in boats, then it is in big trouble. The boats can block the way back to the North Sea. Then the probability of survival really becomes nil. In addition, the noise may cause a lot of stress and of that it has enough already.”

Australian-British airship suffragette Muriel Matters


Muriel Matters

By Peter Frost in Britain:

The Suffragette in the airship

Monday 16th February 2015

PETER FROST introduces us to an amazing but little known hero of the battle for votes for women

DURING the struggle to win votes for women in Britain in the first couple of decades of the 20th century, Suffragettes became masters of the art of gaining media attention with elaborate and imaginative actions.

One of the most audacious examples of this was an airship flown over London on this day in 1909 by Muriel Matters. Matters was a master in imaginative publicity for her cause.

She was born in Australia, coming to Britain in 1905, aged 28. She was a professional pianist, elocutionist and actress before coming to England, where she also became a talented journalist.

Matters became involved with the Suffragette movement and was a leading member of the Women’s Freedom League (WFL), a split from the better known Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).

The WFL had been established in 1907 when Matters and some other leading members of the WSPU began to question the leadership of Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst.

The Pankhursts became unpopular with some Suffragettes by making decisions without consulting members and they challenged those who did not accept their leadership to leave the WSPU and to form an organisation of their own.

Seventy leading members left to form the WFL. Like the WSPU, the WFL was a militant organisation that was willing the break the law.

Members of the WFL however were generally non-violent and disagreed with the WSPU campaign of vandalism and arson against private and commercial property. Despite this over 100 WFL members were still sent to prison.

The WFL soon had over 4,000 members and it had its own newspaper, The Vote.

Matters was in charge of another publicity first — a horse-drawn recruiting caravan that toured the country.

Most WFL members were pacifists and during World War I they refused to become involved in the British army’s recruitment drive or to call off the votes for women campaign while the war was on.

WFL members supported the Women’s Peace Crusade for a negotiated peace.

Matters first came to prominence by chaining herself to a grille in the Ladies’ Gallery of the House of Commons.

While the authorities sent for a blacksmith to cut her free she made a speech. It was almost certainly the first speech ever made by a woman in the House of Commons.

When she learned that King Edward VII was to lead a public procession to officially open Parliament on February 16 1909 she knew this was an occasion not to be missed.

What was needed was something that would seize the headlines for the female emancipation.

Matters was not only a Suffragette, she was also a great socialist and counted among her circle of left-wing friends people such as Sylvia Pankhurst, George Bernard Shaw and the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin.

Another socialist friend and a keen supporter of the Suffragette cause was Henry Spencer. It was not, however, Spencer’s politics that caught her attention. It was his most unusual hobby.

Spencer had built his own airship and flew the 80-foot hydrogen-filled dirigible from a small field near the Welsh Harp Lake in Hendon, north of London.

The lake is still there, beside the North Circular road, and the flying field became Hendon aerodrome and is now the RAF Museum.

Matters explained her plan to the bold aeronaut. They would load his airship, suitably painted with suffrage slogans, with a hundredweight of pamphlets and rain them down over the king’s procession.

Muriel Matters' airship

I’ll let Matters take up the story as she did in a 1939 interview with the BBC.

“That morning I went to Hendon and met Mr Henry Spencer who had his airship all ready near the Welsh Harp.

“It was quite a little airship, 88 feet long, and written in large letters on the gas bag were three words: Votes for women.

“Below this was suspended an extremely fragile rigging carrying the engine and a basket, like those used for balloons.

“We loaded up about a hundredweight of leaflets, then I climbed into the basket. Mr Spencer joined me and we rose into the air.”

The airship, despite the weight of two people and all that propaganda, climbed to an altitude of 3,500 feet before levelling off.

“It was very cold,” Matters said, “but I got some exercise throwing the leaflets overboard.”

She went on to describe how Spencer would climb out of the basket and clamber like a spider across the framework to make adjustments to the engine.

“Suddenly I realised that if he fell off, I hadn’t the first idea how to manoeuvre the airship.” she said.

“Not that I was terribly bothered about that. I was too busy making a trail of leaflets across London.”

With the airship emblazoned with “Votes for Women” on one side and “Women’s Freedom League” on the other she scattered 56lb of handbills onto the streets and houses below.

Edith How-Martyn and Elsie Craig, two leading members of the Women’s Freedom League, followed the airship in a car.

Unfortunately, the elements conspired against the Suffragette cause. The airship’s feeble motor was not enough to overcome the strong winds that blew it off course.

The airship never made it to the Palace of Westminster but drifted across London, passing over Wormwood Scrubs, Kensington, Tooting and eventually crash-landing — after a trip lasting an hour-and-a-half — in the upper branches of a tree in Coulsdon, Surrey.

Despite failing to fly over the king and his procession, Matters considered the aerial adventure a great success.

“The flight achieved all we wanted,” she said. “It got our movement a great deal of publicity, as you can imagine. In those days, the sight of an airship was enough to make people run for miles.”

Certainly the unique flight made headlines all across Britain and the world.

After her aerial adventure, Matters continued with her political life as an active Suffragette lecturing all over the world. She was an active campaigner against the first world war and stood as the Labour Party candidate for Hastings in the general election of 1924.

She went on to study in Barcelona under Maria Montessori, the radical Italian educationalist, returning to work at Sylvia Pankhurst’s school in Bow, east London.

Matters, the Suffragette in the airship, died in 1969 aged 92.

You can hear Muriel Matters telling her own story in her 1939 BBC radio interview.

Australian little red megabats, prequel videos


This video from Australia says about itself:

Little Red Megabats (flying foxes) just before the fly out 11/02/2015-p1

11 February 2015

Megabats are very important pollinators and seed disperses of many native plants including Eucalyptus, figs, bush apples (Syzygium spp.), bush plums (Terminalia spp.), paperbarks, guerrillas, and fruits of many palm species. The seeds of some plant species (particularly those with white and green fruits) may only be dispersed by Megabats, meaning that these plants rely on Megabats in order to successfully reproduce.

It has been estimated that a single Megabat can dispense up to 60,000 seeds in a single night.

Megabats are also important for nutrient regeneration and nutrient cycling within the ecosystem.

Not only do they provide large quantities of fertilizer to the system, but they create gaps in the canopy which enables other plants to compete more effectively. For instance, some trees shade ground-dwelling plants and shrubs, preventing them from obtaining nutrients, light and rain. By creating a gap in the canopy, Megabats enable these plants to obtain more sunlight, rainfall and nutrients, thus promoting a more diverse plant community, with cascading benefits for many other animals and plants.

This video, and the other ones in this blog post, are parts of a series, of which I had already embedded the last video in another blog post.

Here come the sequels.

And also a video, not part of the series, but about the same species.

This video says about itself:

Tolga Mass Rescue of Little Red Flying Foxes off Barbed Wire

5 October 2012

This rescue involved 108 bats on barbed wire on one day, along a stretch of road and adjacent paddocks near to the Tolga Scrub on the Atherton Tablelands in Far North QLD, Australia.

These bats were Little Red Flying Foxes. They’re mostly juveniles (3 adults only), and oddly enough, nearly all female.

They’re inexperienced, newly returned to the Tolga Scrub. Some of the fencing was new. It was very windy the night before. All these factors combined to cause this horrific scenario.

All surviving bats being cared for at Tolga Bat Hospital.

Bats in Australia, video


This video from Australia says about itself:

Little Red Megabats (flying foxes) the fly out 11/02/2015

12 February 2015

Megabats are very important pollinators and seed disperses of many native plants including Eucalyptus, figs, bush apples (Syzygium spp.), bush plums (Terminalia spp.), paperbarks, guerrillas, and fruits of many palm species. The seeds of some plant species (particularly those with white and green fruits) may only be dispersed by Megabats, meaning that these plants rely on Megabats in order to successfully reproduce.

It has been estimated that a single Megabat can dispense up to 60,000 seeds in a single night.

Megabats are also important for nutrient regeneration and nutrient cycling within the ecosystem.

Not only do they provide large quantities of fertilizer to the system, but they create gaps in the canopy which enables other plants to compete more effectively. For instance, some trees shade ground-dwelling plants and shrubs, preventing them from obtaining nutrients, light and rain. By creating a gap in the canopy, Megabats enable these plants to obtain more sunlight, rainfall and nutrients, thus promoting a more diverse plant community, with cascading benefits for many other animals and plants.