Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Beetling Away

Coleoptera, or beetles, are incredibly diverse with hundreds of thousands of species currently on our planet. Although some are feared pests of crops and  products, many are important pollinators and removers of waste. Beetle species have been in rapid decline for some years with habitat loss and overuse of pesticides generally being cited are primary causes. If has now been noted, however, that climate change can have a devastating impact on these beasts (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/13/heatwaves-wipe-out-male-insect-fertility-beetles-study) as heatwaves can completely destroy the fertility of the male beetles. No tight underpants were involved.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

California Scheming?


It is pretty certain that the tragic, unusually intense Californian wild fires are much more a consequence of climate change (although fire, generally more manageable, is actually a natural phenomenon in such localities) than they are of inappropriate vegetation management (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/nov/12/california-wildfire-latest-camp-woolsey-fires-refugees). Do the claimants to the contrary expect every tree and bush in the state to be removed as a potential 'fire hazard'? 

Weight of Expectations?

A very substantial study has, perhaps unremarkably, demonstrated that people with genes making them likely to develop a high BMI are more likely to evidence clinical depression than counterparts without such markers (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/13/researchers-discover-why-being-overweight-can-lead-to-depression). It has been suggested that developing a poor body image is one causative factor. Yet another repudiation of the jolly, fat person stereotype!

Throwing Rocks at Brocks?

So, the expert report on the link between badgers and bovine TB (bTB) is out (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/13/farming-industry-to-blame-for-tb-crisis-not-just-badgers-report). The results are hardly surprising with a note that wild animals (including the badger, a species which may not always be a prime suspect) can make a modest contribution to the spread of bTB in dairy herds. The actual main conclusion is that cattle-to-cattle transmission is a major factor and that farmers need (even though it is an expensive option) put into place improvements in biosecurity (using better, more sensitive tests for bTB; taking more care when purchasing cows and restricting the movement of animals when there are any doubts about disease-free status). Somewhat predictably, some farming lobbies are pushing for a continuation of badger culling, claiming that it is 'one string to their bow' when fighting bTB spread. Still, I suppose someone else would be paying for this.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Seeing the Changes 1382




Pretty well perfect conditions for fungi in Loughor. These were all found on one small lawn.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Doubling Down Dutchman?

A 69 year old Dutchman has gone to court to try to get his date of birth reduced by 20 years (https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2018/nov/08/i-suffer-under-my-age-dutch-man-seeks-to-legally-change-his-age-video). His argument seems to rest of the observation that, in that country, people can now officially change their gender on documentation. The self-designated 'young god' also maintains that his actual age discriminates against him in terms of e.g. taking out a mortgage and getting hits on Tinder. I can see where he is coming from but, if you can officially change every bit of factual information about yourself, we have the end of data!

Saint or Sinner?

There has recently been some criticism of David Attenborough in relation to his natural history programmes (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/07/david-attenborough-world-environment-bbc-films). The charge is essentially that he 'does not tell it how it is' preferring to present images of a pristine world with lots of animal and plant wonders (in deed, he has gone on record as saying that too much concentration on the environmental challenges facing life on the planet is 'a turn off'). It is really difficult to strike a balance on this one as Attenborough appears to be one of the few individuals who can front natural history programmes that appear relatively frequently and are viewed by a substantial audience (sometimes leading to intense media attention as in the case of effects of marine plastics on wildlife). I seem to also remember that he had the bravery to suggest that limiting human population growth was a worthwhile undertaking if one really wanted to save the planet. There is no doubt that the films with which he is associated tend to give a somewhat 'Disneyfied' view of the real state of nature but, without him, I suspect there would be much less natural history on the BBC. Perhaps, as in the case of many prominent figures, the truth is that  they have their good points but you can't expect them to be flawless?

Beetling Away

Coleoptera, or beetles, are incredibly diverse with hundreds of thousands of species currently on our planet. Although some are feared pe...