Jack snipe in Shetland islands winter

New monkeyflower species discovery in Shetland

This 16 August 2017 video is called Scientists discover new plant in Shetland.

From the University of Stirling in Scotland:

New plant discovered in Shetland

August 16, 2017

Scientists at the University of Stirling have discovered a new type of plant growing in Shetland — with its evolution only having occurred in the last 200 years.

The new plant is a descendant of a non-native species, the yellow monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), which colonised the United Kingdom in Victorian times. It has evolved through the doubling of the number of chromosomes, known as genome duplication or polyploidy.

The plant, referred to as ‘Shetland’s monkeyflower’, produces yellow flowers with small red spots. It is larger than the typical monkeyflower and its flowers are more open.

Researchers say the finding is significant as it shows that a major evolutionary step can occur in non-native species over a short period of time, rather than over thousands of years.

Associate Professor Dr Mario Vallejo-Marin said: “Evolution is often thought to be a slow process taking thousands or millions of years. Yet we show that a major evolutionary step can occur in a couple hundred years.”

A team from Stirling’s Biological and Environmental Sciences, working with Dr James Higgins at the University of Leicester, carried out tests after a “chance encounter” with the plant while conducting fieldwork near Quarff, Shetland.

Led by postdoctoral researcher Dr Violeta Simon-Porcar, they measured the plant’s genome size and surveyed 30 populations of monkeyflowers from Shetland and across the United Kingdom.

The plants were then grown under controlled conditions and their floral and vegetative characteristics were measured to compare the effect of genome duplication in morphology and flowering time.

The team also conducted genetic analyses to investigate the relationship between the new polyploid plant and other populations in the Shetland Isles.

Genome duplication is common in the evolutionary history of flowering plants and many crops — such as potatoes, tobacco and coffee — are polyploids. However, it is rare to witness the phenomenon in recent history.

While genome duplication seems to be particularly common in hybrids between different species, the new plant has doubled its genome without hybridisation and has the same species as both its father and mother.

The Stirling team say that young polyploids, such as the new plant, provide an opportunity to investigate the early stages of an important evolutionary process.

Dr Vallejo-Marin said: “The fact that the new polyploid involves a non-native plant is poignant, given the fact that human activities are transporting all sorts of animal and plant species well beyond their native habitats. This raises the possibility that non-native species may increasingly participate in major biological processes, including the formation of new types pf plants and animals.”

He continued: “We found that genome duplication has immediate effects on the morphology and life strategy of this plant. Plants with double the DNA in their cells produce larger flowers, larger leaves, thicker stems, but they also take longer to flower.

“Although these type of changes are predicted by theory, demonstrating them is complicated as in older polyploids the parental species may be missing or may have evolved since the separation of the polyploid and non-polyploid lineages.”

Dr Simon-Porcar was funded through a postdoctoral fellowship from Plant Fellows.

The scientific description of this is here.

Killer whale pod in Scotland, video

This video from Scotland says about itself:

Killer Whales in Lerwick, Shetlands

5 December 2015

Photography: Malcolm Younger

Killer whales are facing the threat of extinction in European waters as a result of lingering toxic chemicals banned as far back as the 1980s, according to research led by international conservation charity the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and published today in the journal Scientific Reports: here.

Pied wheatear on Shetland islands

This video says about itself:

Pied Wheatear – Oenanthe pleschanka – Bonte tapuit / Mortsel – Belgium / 11-11-2014

Catching flies in the evening sun, on a pile of manure.

Shetland Wildlife in Scotland reports on Twitter that yesterday at Vaylie they saw a first winter female pied wheatear.

This species, breeding in Asia and the southeast of Europe, is rare in western Europe.

Shetland otters suffer from overfishing

This video is called Scotland’s Big 5 – European Otter.

By Stephen Walsh in Scotland:

Photographs show the plight of Shetland otters

4 December 2014

An award-winning Shetland photographer has released a series of images which show the daily battle faced by the islands’ wildlife.

Richard Shucksmith, of Skellister, has spent the last three years documenting the plight faced by otters native to the area.

Otters are faced with a shortage of food and often resort to killing unusual prey such as puffins and octopus in order to stay alive.

Last month, staff at the Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary had to rescue two orphaned otter cubs, just 10 weeks old, from two locations in the mainland Shetland village of Vidlin.

The pair of baby brothers, named Joey and Thea, were suffering from cold and lack of food.

Originally from Lincoln, Mr Shucksmith is also an ecologist, and studied at the Scottish Association for Marine Science at Dunstaffnage, near Oban, where he researched the impact on marine communities of invasion by non-native species.

Rare bearded seal on Shetland

This 2009 video is called Crittercam: Bearded Seals – Svalbard.

From Wildlife Extra:

Bearded seal spotted on Shetland

April 2013. Following the recent sighting of a walrus on the Orkney Islands a few weeks ago, a bearded seal, usually only found in the Arctic, has appeared on Shetland.

The bearded seal has been seen intermittently over the last week or so, mostly near the salmon farm in Basta Voe, on the island of Yell.

Although normally only found in the Arctic, there have been a few sightings in the UK, mostly on Shetland, and including sightings in both 2010 and 2011.

Bearded seals can reach nearly 9 feet in length and weigh as much as 440 kg. They feed on molluscs and anything else they can find on the bottom of the sea that they sift through using their whiskers.

Our thanks to Nature Shetland for their help with this information.

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Shetland fire festival

This video from Shetland says about itself:

The Up Helly As song, sung by Guizers and accompanied by the Lerwick Brass Band.

By Peter Frost:

The guizers and the galley

Thursday 24 January 2013

There are hundreds of reasons to visit Shetland’s magical islands. I go as often as I can, usually in summer when Britain’s most northern isles enjoy almost continuous daylight.

That means you have endless time to watch sea mammals such as seals, dolphins and whales and seabirds from comical puffins to majestic sea eagles.

There are many ancient sites and even a chance to visit the home of Scotland’s second best known poet – communist Hugh MacDiarmid – who lived on Whalsey, one of Shetland’s many islands.

Local ceilidhs are held in the countless halls offering a chance to hear and dance to the legendary Shetland fiddlers and other traditional music.

Best of all are the endless expanses of dramatic rugged coastal scenery.

That continuous daylight in summer has to be paid for, and in midwinter Shetland can be a dark and gloomy place until the islanders brighten it up with an amazing fire festival – Europe’s largest. They call it Up Helly Aa.

For 24 hours on the last Tuesday of January (this year the 29th) the capital town of Lerwick and the whole of the islands of Shetland go mad.

However dark and dreary, the proud boast is that “there will be no postponement for weather.”

As we are talking about Britain’s most northerly corner – on the same latitude as southern Greenland – that is some boast.

Gales, sleet and snow or flooding have never yet stopped the event.

The Jarl – leader of the festival for just one day – will have been elected a dozen years before and will have been planning the longest day of his life since then.

Today he will don his raven-winged Viking helmet, grab his axe and shield and embark on a 24-hour sleepless marathon.

On the evening of Up Helly Aa Day over 800 heavily disguised men form ranks in the darkened streets of the old whaling port of Lerwick.

They shoulder stout wooden poles, topped with paraffin-soaked sacking.

On the stroke of 7.30pm a signal rocket bursts over the Town Hall.

The torches are lit and the amazing, blazing procession begins, snaking half a mile astern of the Guizer Jarl, standing proudly at the helm of his doomed Viking longship.

The guizers circle the dragon ship in a slow-motion Catherine Wheel of fire. Another rocket explodes overhead. The Jarl leaves his ship as the torches are hurled into the galley.

As the inferno destroys four months of painstaking work by the galley builders, the crowd sings The Norseman’s Home.

Then the Vikings are off. More than 40 squads of guizers visit a dozen local halls in rotation.

At every hall each squad performs its “act.” Each guizer will dance with at least one of the local women, sink a dram or two and maybe snatch a bowl of mutton soup and a bannock.

It’s a fast and furious night – so fast and furious in fact that the next day is a public holiday.

That’s not the end of it, for throughout the rest of the winter each gang of guizers will hold their own squad dances for family and friends.

The Viking roots of the Up Helly Aa traditions go back 12 centuries and more but today’s format is in fact just over a century old.

Today’s torchlit procession and galley burning echo pagan Norse rituals at the cremation of great chieftains, and religious ceremonies to mark the sun’s return after the winter solstice.

If you should miss the Lerwick Up Helly Aa or if it gives you the taste for more of the same, there are another eight fire festivals in various districts of Shetland during the late winter.

Summer visitors to Shetland can discover more about the festival at the Up Helly Aa Exhibition in the Galley Shed, St Sunniva Street, Lerwick.

Shetland’s fine museum also has extensive photographic archives of the festival down through the years.