Tuesday, August 9, 2011

(one of) The most colourful animal in Galapagos Islands

Grapsus grapsus or the Sally Lightfoot Crab

The great American writer John Steinbeck described such crab in this way:

"any people have spoken at length of the Sally Lightfoots. In fact, everyone who has seen them has been delighted with them. The very name they are called by reflects the delight of the name. These little crabs, with brilliant cloisonné carapaces, walk on their tiptoes, They have remarkable eyes and an extremely fast reaction time. In spite of the fact that they swarm on the rocks at the Cape [San Lucas], and to a less degree inside the Gulf [of California], they are exceedingly hard to catch. They seem to be able to run in any of four directions; but more than this, perhaps because of their rapid reaction time, they appear to read the mind of their hunter. They escape the long-handled net, anticipating from what direction it is coming. If you walk slowly, they move slowly ahead of you in droves. If you hurry, they hurry. When you plunge at them, they seem to disappear in a puff of blue smoke—at any rate, they disappear. It is impossible to creep up on them. They are very beautiful, with clear brilliant colors, red and blues and warm browns.

Man reacts peculiarly but consistently in his relationship with Sally Lightfoot. His tendency eventually is to scream curses, to hurl himself at them, and to come up foaming with rage and bruised all over his chest. Thus, Tiny, leaping forward, slipped and fell and hurt his arm. He never forgot nor forgave his enemy. From then on he attacked Lightfoots by every foul means he could contrive and a training in Monterey street fighting has equipped him well for this kind of battle). He hurled rocks at them; he smashed at them with boards; and he even considered poisoning them. Eventually we did catch a few Sallys, but we think they were the halt and the blind, the simpletons of their species. With reasonably well-balanced and non-neurotic Lightfoots we stood no chance."

in Galapagos, Ecuador
April 2009

Monday, July 11, 2011

What is nature worth?

Friday, May 13, 2011

On site: Gêres and a special cow

So meet the Barrosã ox, a very unique animal that is uniquely found in a northern area of Portugal: Gerês.
The Peneda-Gerês National Park is known for its breathtaking beauty, where hikers of all ages can enjoy a great mountainous landscape. However the landscape is far from being harmonious as it has a lot of pressures from human impact that challenge the survival of the flora and fauna. This ox in particular is highly endangered, and one of its threats is the also endangered Iberian Wolf. Thus a lot of programs have been devised in order to make these two species co-exist peaceful, because if the bovines are kept safe, then the wolves will hunt something else, and voilá, problem solved. That simple.
It is without a doubt gorgeous region, incredibly photogenic, so it's well worth a trip :)

July 2010
all photos by Laura Nunes

Monday, May 9, 2011

On Site: Castro Marim, Portugal

This Nature reserve is perhaps one of the best locations to observe and photography birds in Portugal. Squashed near the Spanish Border, it might be small and often overlooked but it still shelter an enormous diversity of fauna and flora.
Unfortunately with the recent construction of a bridge that crosses right in the middle of the natural reserver, connecting Portugal and Spain across the Guadiana rivers, it might not be a very quiet area, but its vast natural beauty extends miles from the highway so a few moments of peace can be encountered for those that enjoy a good walk. In the mean time, you may be rewarded with a great flock of flamingoes either on land or cutting through the blue sky

April 2010

Reserva Natural do Sapal de Castro Marim V.R.S.A, Algarve Portugal

all photos by Laura Nunes
April 2010

Monday, April 18, 2011

The turtle and the Grape

"This tiny month-old Egyptian tortoise at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Bedfordshire, is dwarfed by a juicy grape."

Endangered Penguins Caught in Oil Spill in Nightingale Island

"On March 16, 2011, the MV Oliva, a freighter carrying soybeans from Brazil to Singapore, ran aground at Nightingale Island in the South Atlantic Ocean. Fuel from the ship spilled into the water and onto the shore, and the local population of endangered northern rockhopper penguins came in contact with the oil. National Geographic Expeditions' contributor Andrew Evans arrived March 23rd, and filmed what he saw."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

On Site: Ducks in Schiltach

Schiltach is considered by many as the most beautiful town in the Black Forest, Germanyand surely all of those people cannot be all wrong.The town is cute indeed, the building are colourful and well-preserved and it has avery 'homey' atmosphere. But enough about the town, this post is about the ducks :) These ducks were photographed in the water canal that passed by the car park. Spending some time observing the group and some interesting behaviours can be seen and photographed.
Some are more restless than others, but all of them provide a great deal of entertainment and great photo opportunities!
Spent, perhaps too much time, feeding and looking at these individuals and with my camera in hand, I managed to get an interesting collection, from moving to static, young and "old".
Schiltach is worth a lot of frames but the nature around it is also equally worth a (many) shot(s)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

On site: Triberg

The town of Triberg, hidden in the dense Black Forest, Germany is most famously known for its waterfalls, but while I was walking around, the waterfall, as beautiful as can ben, was what capture my attention the least.In fact, the flora and fauna that embraces the waterfall is also worthy of recognition. There are squirrels, black and red, nutcrackers and other birds, marching around, trying to escape the human eye and the camera lenses.

Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

But of course, the biggest nature enthusiasts know how to keep an eye on the wildlife around them and so these cute little animals could be easily seen and photographed. A lot of patience and rather nice results came out :)

Spotted Nutcracker
(Nucifraga caryocatactes)

Black Squirrel

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

On Site: On the move

So there is nothing more frustrating than trying to freeze an animal in a frame and fail. All that blurriness makes the majestic scenery that was witness look like nothing more than just a bad photo. However that might not always be the case, and sense of movement can add something quite special to an otherwise "lost frame".
I am not saying that these two examples are any good, maybe I was just trying not to put these two photos in the back room, seeing that I enjoyed capturing them so much.
Both were during my travels through the Black Forest in Germany this summer and in Triberg, where an immense waterfall was surrounded by flourishing dense forest, these two species could be easily seen, delighting any passing tourist and photographer :D

Spotted Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes) By Laura Nunes
Triberg, Black Forest, Germany August 2010

The Black Forest houses a lot of interesting biodiversity and thus should be handled with care and is well worth a visit.

Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)
Triberg, Black Forest, Germany August 2010

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On site: Sea Lion

10th April 2009, I set foot in the glorious Galapagos Islands. An incredible place, peaceful and unique and a dream come true to every nature lovers and photographer. Having the opportunity to wonder around and observe, capture and admire great specimens such as the Sea lions (shown below), Iguanas and Albatrosses is certainly worth every penny spent. It is not always that one find somewhere where the wild can be shot in the wild, without bars or barriers or glass windows. There is no separation between me and the rest of the world, all that exists is a mutual respect and appreciation for each other. What more could one ask for?
Sea Lion, Galapagos Islands April 2009 by Laura Nunes

Tourism is thought to be one of the several detrimental activities which threaten this unique biome, however if one is careful and conscious of his impact on the ecosystem, then tourists are the major drivers that raise awareness towards this endangered, special habitat.
Help save a unique site of speciation, diversity and biological endurance which inspired so many scientists and other nature lovers in such a number of areas such as literature and art.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Yesterday's Zoo

Very cute video about extinction and the importance of wildlife conservation by SHANE DEROLF

read more:http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0306-derolf_yesterdays_zoo.html?utm_campaign=General+news&utm_medium=Twitter&utm_source=SNS.analytics

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Vanishing of the Bees

Vanishing of the Bees - Trailer from Bee The Change on Vimeo.

Film by: George Langworthy and Maryam Henein

A Change of Colour: Tawny Owl

Recent studies in Finland, show that tawny owls (Strix aluco) populations are changing their plumage colour from grey to brown. It seems that the increase in owls with brown plumage may be related to climate change and the consequent decrease in snow cover.

Feather colour is hereditary, that is, is passed genetically from generation to generation, and the grey allele is said to be dominant over the brown allele, therefore, when both alleles are present, the progeny is grey-feathered, and only when it possess two brown alleles, the plumage is brown instead.

The terminology of colour change is misleading as tawny owls do not suffer any colour changes during its lifetime, they remain with the same colour, so why are scientists saying that the colours are changing?

Well, the truth is, that the brown phenotype (colour) is becoming more predominant, with a 20% increase. Thus nowadays the population of brown tawny owls makes up 50% of the entire population.

Grey and Brown Tawny Owls

Why this increase?

Population phenotypes change due to environmental pressures that select for advantageous characteristics, that is, if there is an advantage of having brown feathers, then the grey individuals will die, and the brown individuals will survive and pass on their winning genes. This is called Natural Selection and the 'survival of the fittest'.

So in the case of the tawny owl, it has been suggested that due to the decrease in snow cover, brown owls have more chances of survival as predators cannot detect them as easily as when there is thick snow cover.

The grey owls, conversely, are more easily camouflaged by the snow, and thus had higher survival rates, which counted for the predominance of this phenotype in the population.

However, these brown individuals possess disadvantageous genetic traits such as a weaker immune system and higher metabolism, requiring more foraging in search for food. Such characteristics are not found in the grey populations thus the increase of this phenotype may increase the vulnerability of the species overall.

Thus, it has been found that climate-driven selection is causing the species to evolve and raises concerns as to whether the grey 'gene pool' may disappear, causing a lower genetic diversity and a reduction in the variety of heritable material, which can cause the species to become genetically vulnerable to other environmental pressures and be at risk.

Such studies are important in determining not only the impacts of climate change on species but also the mechanisms from which species evolve and attempt to overcome adverse conditions, important information that is useful to our understanding of ecological interactions and allows scientists to devise more accurate and efficient conservation measures in order to prevent the detriment caused in our environment by human and non-human induced threats.

(click to see bigger) Survival estimates are based on averaging all candidate capture–mark–recapture models considering the effects of food supply (vole abundance), average snow depth and average temperature during a critical period in winter (see Supplementary Information). Climatic data are derived from the database of the Finnish Meteorological Institute. (a) Survival of brown and grey tawny owl colour morphs in relation to snow depth. (b) Snow depth during the critical period for tawny owl survival during 1981–2008 in Southern Finland. (c) Survival of grey and brown tawny owl colour morphs during 1981–2008. Grey tawny owls are denoted by grey circles and brown ones by red diamonds. Error bars are standard errors of the estimated survival and the lines are regression slopes based on the data.

Read more:
Original paper:http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v2/n2/full/ncomms1213.html

Thursday, March 3, 2011

There's a new species in town

Yesterday the Eastern Cougar was declared extinct but today the media is talking about a new species. Some come, some go it seems.
The new species is a jaguar-like catfish which swims in the Amazon River, Brazil, baptized as Ix,which in the maya language means jaguar. It was found in the world’s largest block of protected rainforest, in the nortehrn state of Pára.
This fish is small, translucent and is only a couple of centimeters long and its discovery enhances the need to protect one of the world's most endangered forests, as there is still a lot to be learned from this incredible corner of the world.

Stenolicnus ix

Further reading:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

End of the Cougar 'Big Foot'

Today is a sad day for all conservationists and for all of the non-conservationists. We lost someone. A species that was long questioned of its existence, yet a glimmer of hope still lingered in the eyes of cougar enthusiasts. Named the "ghost cat", the Eastern Cougar has been official declared extinct by the U.S FIsh and Wildlife Services on the 2nd of March of 2011.

Eastern Cougar (Puma concolor couguar) is a subspecies of the puma or mountain lion which since the killing of the last known individual in 1938 has been surrounded by a lot of speculation and myths.

Not a lot can be said about this unique subspecies as perhaps it vanished too soon for proper research to be conducted, thus its confirmed loss today, signifies, among many things, the loss of potentially insightful scientific knowledge that will never be obtained.

In 1973, the Eastern Cougar was placed in the endangered species list, e

ven though it wasn't certain whether the subspecies still walked around Florida. It is said that some hunters and outdoor enthusiast believed that an

Eastern Cougar

elusive breeding population was still roaming around. Encouraged by the people and backed by e 108 confirmed sighting between 1900 and 2010 from the Wildlife Service, researchers gathered in order to find that "ghost" population, but came back empty-handed.

If there was a breeding population, there should have been traces of it, scats, snow tracks, road-kills, caught in trail cameras, just to name a few. But nothing was detected, not a single trace.

It is certainly a great loss for the planet and many conservationists may feel defeated, however, there is still time to save the other subspecies of puma: the Florida Panther.

If the confirmation of the extinction of the Easter Cougar, conservation efforts can now turn to the other threatened mammal, hopefully having a happier-everafter.

The Florida Panther can be rescued from extinction by preservation its current habitat and reintroducing it to its historical homes. And there is a perfect place to start: Okefenokee refuge

Sure it is a bit unpronounceable but the pumas will not mind as it seems that is houses the habitat requirements which would perhaps save this equally unique subspecies and restore nature's balance.

Pumas, being a top predator, have a critical control on the lower trophic levels, in a process called Mesopredator suppression, and the dramatic loss of such predators is thus resulting in the increase of this larger herbivores, which can potentially have catrastrophic effect to the ecosystem around them. One consequence is the overgrazing of the flora by feral hog, which include several native plants. Being a

Florida Panther


species the feral hog is a threat to the native biodiversity found in Okefenokee, but with the

reintroduction of Florida Panthers, the numbers of feral hogs would decrease and therefore this precious forest ecosystem which sustains many other endangered animals would be restored.

These news only show that extinction happened and is happening and that there is still time for many of our planet non-huan earthlings to be rescued from extinction if we give them a helping-hand.
Feral Hog

Find out more:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sun Come Up

Sun Come Up Trailer from Sun Come Up on Vimeo.

Nominated for an Academy Award this year, but of course it went to something related to economical crisis in america and what not.
Still, a great effort and even though I haven't seen it yet, it sounds like a beautiful, well-orchestrated documentary.

Sun Come Up - A film by Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzge

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Attenborough: Saying Boo to a Sloth! - BBC Earth

Classic David Attenborough moment :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Of Forests and Men

In honour of the International Year Forests 2011
Save the Forests don't let 'The essential being destroyed to produce the superfluous'

  • a short film by: Directed by:Yann Arthus-Bertrand
  • written by: GoodPlanet and Isabelle Delannoy

  • Trees first appeared on Earth more than 380 million years ago.
  • But what do we know of them?
  • They have changed the face of continents.
  • From arid rock, they have brought forth the fertile lands we know today.
  • A tree never moves, but finds the food it needs where it's planted.
  • To live and grow, it takes in water, light, energy and carbon dioxide from the air.
  • The tree draws its raw materials from the environment
  • and turns them into leaves, branches and trunk.
  • At the same time, a tree gives off an abundance of the substance
  • that has allowed such a variety of life forms to proliferate.
  • Oxygen.
  • The planet's forests are home to more than half of its species.
  • Every year, we discover hitherto unknown insects, plants and genes.
  • Life, whose very existence we had not suspected.
  • Our food, our remedies and our scientific and technological research
  • depend on that biodiversity.
  • Man has always gained his livelihood from the forest,
  • which we transform and destroy.
  • Half of the forest that existed at the dawn of agriculture has since been destroyed.
  • Our model has been to strive for constant growth.
  • Since 1950 the world population has risen nearly threefold,
  • whereas our consumption of meat is up more than fivefold.
  • Paper, by sixfold.
  • Our tools are on a different scale.
  • We are cutting trees down by the million
  • to plant soybeans and to produce millions of tons of meat.
  • Forests are being replaced by stands of eucalyptus
  • more profitable for the paper industry.
  • And by oil palms, more profitable for the agro-food business.
  • Coastal mangrove forests have shrunk in the area by another 20% over the last 30 years.
  • One of the main culprits, is shrimp and fish farming.
  • However, deforestation can also be a matter of survival.
  • 2 billion people cut down forests to make charcoal,
  • and to feed their families through slash and burn agriculture.
  • Over the past 60 years, we have inflicted more rapid degradation on the planet
  • than in all of human history.
  • When forests are cleared it is not just animals that are endangered.
  • Is the essential being destroyed to produce the superfluous?
  • It doesn't have to be that way.
  • Woodlands still make up nearly 1/3 of the planet's total land area.
  • The world over - men and women - are fighting to protect it.
  • Villagers, scientists, associations, governments
  • are all sounding the alarm and proposing alternatives.
  • For other choices do exist.
  • Through understanding, education and information
  • we are finding that forests can continue to provide a livelihood
  • if only we alter our mindset.
  • Trees are living things.
  • And we are constantly learning more about them.
  • Half of our medications come from the plant kingdom.
  • The human body seems to recognize and be healed
  • by remedies derived from plants.
  • Our cells speak the same language.
  • We are of the same family.
  • Plants can detect the presence of parasites and predators,
  • their underground biomass.
  • Their roots may be equal to what we see above ground.
  • They create networks, exchange electrical and chemical signals
  • and enter into cooperative arrangements.
  • There is so much left to discover about plant intelligence.
  • Do we realize that water and forests are inseparable?
  • Forests filter, store or digest pollutants.
  • They are like sponges.
  • Absorbing water during floods, and giving it back during droughts.
  • Rainfall is born of forests.
  • Through transpiration the water absorbed by tree roots is given off as water vapor.
  • The trees also produce substances that seed the clouds.
  • And the vapor, condensing, becomes flowing, life-giving, water.
  • Plant life bonds water, air, earth and sunlight.
  • It forms the cornerstone of the whole living ecology we all depend on.
  • Forests are the guardians of climate.
  • They store more carbon than is contained in the earth's entire atmosphere.
  • 300 million people live in forests the world over.
  • 1.6 billion - or nearly 1 in every 4 humans -
  • are directly dependent on the forest for their daily livelihood.
  • And 7 billion people - in other words all of us -
  • rely on all the benefits the forests bestow.
  • They produce the food we eat, the water we drink,
  • the air we breathe,
  • and the medications that maintain our health.
  • Take a close look at the forests.
  • We and the forests are one.
  • We have always needed them,
  • and today, they need us.
  • Let us live in brotherhood like a forest, standing tall, like a mighty tree.

  • Free Educational Forest Posters at www.goodplanet.org
  • Directed by:Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Monday, February 21, 2011

Nikela Needs You

A fairly recent organisation, only founded in 2010, with a great vision for the future of wildlife and conservation
To find out more about NIKELA and help their quest please visit
http://www.nikela.org/ or follow http://twitter.com/nikela_wildlife

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Last Lions

Narrated by Academy Award Winner Jeremy Irons
Watch The Last Lions trailer and make a difference!

Watch The Last Lions trailer - and make a difference for lions! For every trailer viewing on YouTube, National Geographic will contribute $.10* to lion and big cat conservation in Botswana. Watch as many times as you want, and share with your friends and family. Let's get to 1 million views together!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

CUBE reports: The unexpected Visitor

For the portuguese who did not read in ecosfera and for those who do not know portuguese, here's is a quick summary of what happened on February the16th at Casa Andresen (Andresen House)

So according to ecosfera, Casa Andresen will be as of 2012 the gallery of Biodiversity, and its first stage is already finished and waiting for visitors. One of those visitors was no less than Camilla Whitworth-Jones, also known as one of the great-great-granddaughters of Charles Darwin.

From February to July, the gallery is demonstrating "A Evolução de Darwin" (Dawin's Evolution) and Camilla, while on holidays in Oporto, did not hesitate on having a look at this man's work. While walking around the exhibit, Camilla observed the life and work of Charles Darwin, a man that the former arts advisor says had always had a strong presence in her family but did not by any means influenced her choice of career.

Camilla visiting the ZSL London zoo 16/02/2009

Her visit was a surprise to everyone involved in the project and certainly can only mean that greater things will knock on the door of the house that was inspired by the famous portuguese poet, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen.

In one of her stories, named 'Saga', she wished the atrium of her house would have the assembled skeleton of a whale which for many years had remained packaged somewhere in one of the basements of the Faculdade de Ciências (Faculty of Sciences) because there was no place to put it.

The project, which is lead by the Universidade do Porto (University of Oporto), aims to create a tissue and DNA bank of all the species that can be found in the portuguese soil.

Casa Andresen

It is all very exciting news but surely there is still a long way to go. However, Camilla's approval certainly shines some positivism into the whole project, which will be a giant and important leap to the knowledge of all the living things that make up the country.

So if you're planning on visiting Portugal anytime soon, do not forget to have another great look into the life of Charles Darwin and while you're there, might as well check the beautiful city of Oporto and its surroundings :)

CUBE reports 17/02/2011 (Part 3/3)

This next slide showed that organisms living in more flexible temperature environments have greater ability to survive environmental changes, where as more thermally stable environments, such as the polar ecosystems, as they already live in close proximity to their limit temperature tolerance, have lower flexibility to environmental changes, which is another problem for our antarctic friends.

So off to solutions then, what can animals do to cope with the environmental changes? Unfortunately not much, two main possibilities come to play but none of them is suitable for the antarctic biodiversity.
One is physiological adaptations to the new environment, sounds reasonable but it is in fact complicated. According to Peck, we must consider that the Antarctic marine species are characterized by 4 things:
  • Long lifetime
  • Slow growth
  • Slow development rates
  • Delayed maturity
This leads to the production of fewer eggs and offspring which in turn, causes low production of new genetic material, thus there is a decrease capability for the species to survive adverse conditions, because few individuals will be capable of coping with such conditions.
Another solution is Migrations, which is a common trend in most animals around the world, cannot live in one area?Then move to another one!
But in the case of the Antarctic animals they cannot move because they are stranded by the southern ocean.
Hence we reached perhaps my favourite part of the talk, something that I had absolutely no idea. Did you know that the southern ocean circulates continuously around the whole of the Antarctic continent? Literally around it, I just found that amazing, specially when Peck said that a single wave can all way around the whole of the continent without being interr
upted by an obstacle- so called permanent fetch-! Regardless of how "cool" that might sound, in reality it is a burden for the marine animals that enjoy this ocean. Because of its cyclic nature, no other currents from other parts of the world can come into contact with it and thus animals have no where to go. So where do they go?
One way is to swim deeper where water are still nice and cold and the other way is to move to isolated patches in the Antarctica continent which are not were suitable for them particularly in terms of food supply.
Tragic right?
Sadly that is how the lecture ended, without any signs of hope or conservation measures, perhaps there was not enough time to fit it all in, perhaps that will be left for another time.

reporting from the University of Birmingham, UK