Monday, 24 July 2017
The Oxwich site has new signage. Many of the flowers were past their best but there was still some Yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor); Wood sage (Teucrium scorodonia); Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis); Wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum); Sea holly (Eryngium maritimum); Bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum); Orpine (Sedum telephium) and Marsh heleborine (Epipactis palustris). There were also many Six-spot burnet moths (Zygaena filipendulae) as well as Small copper (Lycaena phlaeas); mating Common blue (Polyommatus icarus); Small blue (Cupido minimus) and Small heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) butterflies. A dung beetle (Aphodius rufipes) also flew in.
Sunday, 23 July 2017
There has been a lot of publicity about the plan to attempt breed endangered Northern white rhinoceros by using sperm from a male in a Czech Republic zoo and eggs extracted from the closely-related Southern white rhinoceros at Longleat (the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/49934/title/IVF-to-Revive-Endangered-White-Rhino-Population). The gametes would be mixed in Italy, allowed to divide to the blastula stage, before being possibly implanted in the womb of a hormonally-primed female Southern white rhinoceros at Longleat. The argument is that the hybrid (between the sub-species) result of in vitro fertilisation would conserve 50% of the genes of the Northern line. I am not sure that this is an entirely useful process as zoos have very limited carrying capacity for large animals and you might well subsequently have to accommodate populations of northern, southern and hybrids. The rhinoceros is mainly endangered by a combination of habitat loss and poaching for their horns. Money might be better spent on preserving and protecting lands where they currently live. It's sad to say but the Northern white rhinoceros is essentially in the process of becoming extinct.
Saturday, 22 July 2017
Wednesday, 19 July 2017
Tuesday, 18 July 2017
Saturday, 15 July 2017
Thursday, 13 July 2017
A Harvard team have successfully encoded, using the 4 bases, an old cine sequence of a galloping horse into the DNA of a bacterium and replayed it (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jul/12/scientists-pioneer-a-new-revolution-in-biology-by-embeding-film-on-dna). This may sound like a gimmick but the intention is to demonstrate that one can produce molecular recorders that could be used to establish what is going on in the organs of the body or to monitor environmental changes. If humans manage to extinct themselves, it would be interesting to see what alien explorers make of such data.
Wednesday, 12 July 2017
Tuesday, 11 July 2017
it's looking bad for biodiversity and the survival of ecosystems on the planet as the 6th mass extinction is reportedly well underway (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/10/earths-sixth-mass-extinction-event-already-underway-scientists-warn). Scientists have recorded that billions of regional and local populations have been lost and, of the mega species studied, around half have lost 80% or more of their range. The authors suggest that human over-population and activities (the Anthropocene era?) accounts for most of this event. In spite of this, many people seem to view the losses as an unfortunate side-effect (perhaps reducing the content matter of a new series of Life on Earth) rather than a real challenge to the viability of the planet's life in its present form (i suspect the bacteria will still be around so we wouldn't be starting from scratch).
A US study seems to have established that there is a direct link between a chemical produced to plants in response to grazing insects and cannibalism in caterpillars (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/10/when-very-hungry-caterpillars-turn-into-very-hungry-cannibals). The study was carried out using tomato plants and armyworm caterpillars. Plants sprayed with the chemical (methyl jasmonate) retained more of their leaves and a higher incidence of cannibalism. Methyl jasmonate apparently makes the plant less palatable but whether the chemical or hunger makes the caterpillars eat each other is debatable. Either way, the plant would benefit by reducing the feeding insects.
It must be a bit disconcerting to awake to a crunching noise and to find yourself dragged about 12 feet from your sleeping bag (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/10/us-teenager-survives-bear-attack-after-waking-to-animal-crunching-on-his-head). This happened in Colorado to a US teenager who survived the event and drove off the Black bear in question. Bears are opportunistic omnivores and, I suspect, that the teenager was viewed as a potential carcass in a bag. Nothing personal!
Sunday, 9 July 2017
Saturday, 8 July 2017
Visited, in Loughor, by a Blood-vein moth ( Timandra griseata ).
A combination of night rain and day-time sun has resulted in more Bynea blooms. The Southern marsh orchid ( Dactylorhiza praetermissa...
A study ( https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/feb/01/special-spit-is-the-secret-of-uniquely-sticky-frog-tongues-study-reveals ) has...
It is always sad to hear of problems occurring at places you have used for teaching and the outbreak of h5n8 avian influenza at Abbot...