Exquisite Feathers

Bird feathers are evolutionary wonders.

“As the saying goes in architecture, ‘form follows function,’ but when it comes to feathers I would say if form follows function, then beauty follows form.”

The book Feathers: Displays of Brilliant Plumage by Robert Clark  is brimming with exquisite photos and facts to tempt the curious mind to embark on a journey filled with beauty and ideas about how the thousand of varieties of feathers have developed throughout history. Feathers have been designed for warmt, camouflage and sexual competivesss. This book is a perfect marriage between art and scienc; detailed cl0se-ups of feathers is paired with text about the utility as well as the evolution of the feather on the photo..

Robert is taking us on a journey filled with elegance as well as the past and interesting uses of feathers.

“The ways in which feathers have evolved and manifested themselves over time is riveting to me; over millions of years the scales of a dinosaur deviated and began to grow upward in spines that covered the body of birds. Through many generations, these spines spread, evolving specific purposes for the regions on the body on which they grew; eventually these spinal structures were imbued with extravagant colors and features,” writes Robert.

The aim is to make the feathers “look as if you could pick them up” and I could not agree more. So pick up the book and enjoy!

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The colour of scarlet macaw’s feather helps it live and blend in various different habitats. This is a secondary wing covert feather.

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Bird of Paradise.

 

Golden Headed Quetzal (Pharomachus auriceps)
Golden-Headed Quetzal (Pharomachus auriceps)
FEATHER TYPE : contour feather from the flank   LATIN NAME: Ithaginis cruentus   ENGLISH NAME: Blood Pheasant   REGION: Asia   OTHER NOTES: The green colour stems from a rare pigment called Turacoverdin   Further Information contact : Dr. Peter Mullen Kirchplatz 6 42489 Wuelfrath email: petermullen@gmx.de cell: +491726411691
The green colour stems from a rare pigment called Turacoverdin. Blood Phesant.

FEATHER TYPE : Wing   LATIN NAME: Lamprotornis superbus   ENGLISH NAME: Superb Starling   REGION: Africa Further Information contact : Dr. Peter Mullen Kirchplatz 6 42489 Wuelfrath email: petermullen@gmx.de cell: +491726411691

Superb Starling

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It’s Not Eureka! But That’s Beautiful!

Isaac Asimov, the science fiction novelists, reportedly once said that *The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the once that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” but “That’s funny!”

The theme in this blogpost is “That’s beautiful!” Beauty can be a great inspiration and a powerful motivator.  In the last years several articles have been written about teh improantce of teaching chidlren to care for nature. That is great. But we also need to find ways to motivate adults and politicians to care about nature.

Bugs and beetles may be small but they are a great tools to practice observing nature. Here are some stunning colourful examples that may inspire you to look at insects.

Let’s start with a beetle that is found in at least my backgarden. Always welcome and much loved.

 

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Image: by yokohamayomama. The Most Beautiful Bug I’ve Ever Found.

The Frog-legged Leaf Beetle (Sagra buqueti) looks like iridescent  sparkling wrapping paper. This colourful beetle is found in jungles in Souteast Asia.

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How far would you go to save this?

Fill your eyes with all the stunning colours and natural splendour.

Take deep breathe and smell the white sand and crystalline water.

Then think about how far you would go to save this.

A visit to the  Great Barrier Reef is a life-changing experience. One of the natural wonders of the world.

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Photo By Ciambue – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ciamabue/6106191035/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40691429

Sadly, new aerial surveys have found that back-to-back severe bleaching events have affected two-thirds of Australias’s Great Barrier Reef. This is the second year in a row that the reef has been hit by severe bleaching. This year, the bleaching has spread further south. The underlying cause for the bleaching is global warming.

A proposal to pump cold water on the Great Barrier Reef to help stave off the bleaching has been described as an band-aid solution. Admittedly to use $9m to pump water does not address the underlying problems linked to rising water temperatures. Yet, few of us would say that using a plaster is a waste of time and money to dress a wound.

What do you think? How far should go we go? What kind of solutions are required to save the reef?

Go here for more blog posts about coral reefs.

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coral colors from myLapse on Vimeo.

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Giving Wildlife a Voice – Animal Law

What does it feel like to have no voice?

How can we improve Animal Laws?

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Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is never easy. When the other mind belongs to an animal, it requires more than compassion for the animal to help. Imagination and different ways to trick your mind to breaking old thinking patterns is the first step

The GAL Project supports the introduction of laws that will put an end to practices that are responsible for animals suffering. Ethical values are important for the Swiss lawyer Antoine Goetschel. He represents abused animals in the court.  The clients are mostly dogs but he also represents farm animals who may have been exploited for food, clothes or other products. An animal lawyer may also represent wildlife.

Farm animals may be kept in extremely cramped conditions, which are responsible for an enormous amount of suffering. There are several issues related to animal farming, industrial livestock production and factory farming of animals.

Many countries have banned and condemned certain cruel practices such as force-feeding to produce foie gras or egg farmer griding alive baby chicks. But in many countries, they are still legal. Today, there are not many lawyers that focus on animal law. Often in life, the things that do not pay that much are the most interesting and exciting to work with. Hopefully, there will be more animal lawyers in the future because there is so much important work to be carried out in regarding, for example, sports animals and using animals for entertainment and using animals for experiments.

The protection of wild animals is often covered by environmental laws. The focus on these types of laws is usually on species conservation with the aim to protect species. The laws are rarely written to protect individual species from suffering. Anticruelty laws protect pets and farm animals but not wild animals. If a wild animal is captured, then they are covered by laws but in many cases not while they are living in the wild.

In the Uk, The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 protects wildlife. What laws protect wildlife where you are living?

There are several things that wild animals should be protected from.

Here are a few examples to start your thinking:

  • habitat pollution
  • trapping
  • shark fining

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P.S. Looking for great photos?

Check out Ann-Margrethe Iseklint’s stunning photos.

 

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What does the “Whoop” sound really mean?

Honeybees make a “whoop” sound. Is this a sound a tells other bees to stop looking for food in a certain area?

Or it is simply a sound of surprise?

Bee-apisHoney By Maciej A. Czyzewski – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8786717

By using accelerometers to record vibrations inside hives for a year, researchers from Nottingham Trent University managed to isolate the sound. You can hear it in the sound cloud below.

Lots of interesting ideas to why the honeybees make the “whoop” sound has been put forward. Yet, it seems that these whoops happen rather frequently. The bees made these whooping sound more frequently than would be expected if they were trying to tell other bees not to look for nectar or other types of food in a certain area. The whoops sounds happen mostly night. When the bees bumped into each other they were startled. So perhaps the whoop sound is a sound of being surprised when you bump into a bee in the middle of the night.

The insight could help us to monitor how healthy a bee hive is. A stressed colony would most likely not react to small stimulus such as the bumping into another bee in the middle of the night. Considering the many challenges that bees around the world are currently facing it is indeed important to find out ways to monitor their health.

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Guilty! Climate Change and Recent Wave of Extinctions

Does the understanding that we have helped to cause previous mass extinctions help us to become less nonchalant about our role in the present wave of mass extinction?

During the last million of years, our planet has experienced several cycles of cooling and warming. Unlike the relatively stable conditions the Earth has experienced the last 10 000 years, the Earth has undergone a series of climate fluctuations. The last cooling, the ice age, ran from about 75 000 to 15 000 years ago.

Animals have disappeared during these fluctuations in climate. For example, the largest ever living marsupial, the diprotodon, disappeared about 45 000 years ago. During this period, about 90 percent of Australia’ s megafauna disappeared together with the diprotodon.

Diprotodon_optatum

Diprotodon optatum

The climate on Earth never rest, it is constantly changing. As a result of these changes in climate different species have disappeared. Did Sapiens play any role in the previous waves of mass extinction?

The disappearance of the diprotodon around 45 000 years ago in Australia just when Sapiens arrived there, this is circumstantial evidence. Yet, there are several indications that Sapiens did indeed contribute to the extinctions of large marsupials in Australia. Not only does the arrival of Sapiens coincide with the extinctions of the animals but there is also no evidence of any extinctions of animals in the oceans. Usually, sea creatures are hit as hard as land dwellers when the major underlying reason for the extinction was changes in the climate. Thus, this suggests that the presence of humans on land contributed to the extinctions of these animals.

Similar pattern can we found when you examine extinction of animals in New Zealand, Madagascar, and other islands as well as in  North America, where the arrival of animals and changes in climate resulted in the extinction of several species.

The idea that human beings are powerful and responsible for negative impacts on the environment have been debated. Yet, the present extinction of animals and the changes in climate are indeed the result of human activities linked to the Industrial  Revolution.

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The graph shows the increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere over the last 2,000 years.

The rate of extinction of animals may be 1 000 times faster due to human activities. Yet, we are also inventing new technologies and methods to save animals.

Why not be part of the solution? Join a group that works to save animals!

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Finding time to slow down

”When I gaze at a sunset sky and spend hours contemplating its marvellous ever-changing beauty, an extraordinary emotion overwhelms me. Nature in all its vastness is truthfully reflected in my sincere though feeble soul. Around me are the trees stretching up their branches to the skies, the perfumed flowers gladdening the meadow, the gentle grass-carpetted earth, … and my hands unconsciously assume an attitude of adoration. … To feel the supreme and moving beauty of the spectacle to which Nature invites her ephemeral guests! … that is what I call prayer.”

Claude Debussy

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