National Moth Week - Moth of The Day!
Automeris io (female)
Winslow Homer (1836-1910), On the Beach (1869), oil on canvas, 63.5 x 40.6 cm. Collection of Arkell Museum, Canajoharie, New York, USA. Via Wikimedia Commons.
Henry IV, the Dauphin and the Spanish Ambassador
This portrait was painted around 1817 by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. It depicts Henry IV of France playing with his son and letting him ride on his back, the future Louis XIII, and then being surprised by the Spanish Ambassador. This scene was based on a popular anecdote from Henry’s reign, which lasted from 1589 - 1610.
No one expects the Spanish ambassador!
Migration requires dramatic seasonal changes in behavior and physiology, and these changes must be timed appropriately for successful migration. In late summer after nestlings fledge, birds begin to molt, replacing their ratty old feathers with sleek new ones. They also begin to gorge themselves. The flurry of activity around this time of year reflects this frantic, single-minded pursuit of food. The birds’ hyperphagia, or excessive eating, is accompanied by great changes in body weight and composition. The birds get very fat—and then they are gone, en route to their wintering grounds on a journey of several weeks. They spend the winter in warmer climates, where resources are sufficient for survival. In late winter, they grow new feathers again; afterward, there’s another weeks-long period of hyperphagia. When the days get longer and the temperature is just right, they’re off again, migrating to summer breeding grounds. Upon arrival, males establish territories. Pairs form. Nests are built. Soon, eggs are incubating, then hatching, and parents devote almost all of their energy to feeding chicks. If time permits, parents may mate again and have another clutch. Then, the cycle repeats….
Migration likely brings to mind the familiar sight of geese flying overhead in their iconic V formation, honking stridently as they fly toward their faraway goal. But the migration of many birds is a rarely observed phenomenon. Most passerine birds, a group that includes songbirds and groups taxonomically related to them, migrate at night. Nocturnal migration has fascinated scientists and bird enthusiasts for a long time. What are the advantages for birds that migrate at night? How do they do it? When do they sleep? The answers to these questions are as yet incomplete. And often answers only beget more questions. Nevertheless, technological advances have facilitated a recent surge in migration research. A recurring theme of this work is that biological clocks are intimately involved in controlling nocturnal migration.
(Read more via American Scientist)
For the first time in more than 30 years, paleontologists are about to revisit one of North America’s most remarkable troves of late Pleistocene fossils: The bones of tens of thousands of animals piled at least 30 feet deep at the bottom of a sinkhole-type cave.
Natural Trap Cave in north-central Wyoming is 85 feet deep and almost impossible to see until you’re standing right next to it. Over tens of thousands of years, many, many animals — including now-extinct mammoths, short-faced bears, American lions and American cheetahs — shared the misfortune of not noticing the 15-foot-wide opening until they were plunging to their deaths.
Now, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is preparing to reopen a metal grate over the opening to offer scientists what may be their best look yet at the variety of critters that roamed the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains during the planet’s last glacial period around 25,000 years ago….
Some mammal remains from the cave could be over 100,000 years old, Breithaupt said. The remote site is exceptionally well preserved. It’s far too challenging and dangerous to have been trammeled in by casual spelunkers. The Bureau of Land Management installed the grate to keep people and animals out in the 1970s.
A mound of dirt and rock containing layer upon layer of animal bones rises from the floor of the 120-foot-wide, bell-shaped chamber. Meachen hopes the remains are sufficiently preserved in the cold, sheltered environment to contain snippets of genetic information.
Co-investigator Alan Cooper with the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide will attempt to retrieve fragments of mitochondrial DNA from the bones, Meachen said. Such analysis wasn’t possible the last time scientists dug in the cave and could shed light on how the animals were related to their modern counterparts and each other.
"It’s so cold all year long, that it has got just the perfect conditions for preserving DNA, in multiple species, in large numbers of individuals," Meachen said. "Which is not really found anywhere except Siberia and the Arctic."
Starting Monday, scientists plan to re-explore the cavern, dig and extract as many fossils over a two-week period as possible. The researchers will dig by lights powered by a generator at the surface.
Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris)
… is a pine tree native to the southeastern United States, found along the coastal plain from eastern Texas to southeast Virginia, extending into northern and central Florida. It reaches a height of 30–35 m (98–115 ft) and a diameter of 0.7 m (28 in). Longleaf Pine is highly pyrophytic (resistant to wildfire). Periodic natural wildfire selects for this species by killing other trees, leading to open Longleaf Pine forests or savannas.
Before European settlement, the Longleaf Pine pine forest dominated as much as 90,000,000 acres (360,000 km2) stretching from Virginia south to Florida and west to eastern Texas. Its range was defined by the frequent widespread fires that occurred throughout the southeast. In the late 19th century, these virgin timber stands were “among the most sought after timber trees in the country.” This rich ecosystem now has been relegated to less than 5% of its pre-settlement range due to clear cutting practices…
(read more: Wikipedia)
Every week I post a roundup of birding and environmental news on my other blog. Here’s a link to this week’s edition.