Monday, 25 May 2015
In Loughor, Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) was in flower. In Bynea, White clover (Trifolium repens); Field rose (Rosa arvensis); Hemlock water dropwort (Oenanthe crocata); Thrift (Armeria maritima); Bramble (Rubus fructicosus) and Southern marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa) were blooming. Here, the Common froghopper nymph (Philaenus spumarius) was frog spitting and a Phylobius pomaceus beetle lurked.
Sunday, 24 May 2015
The Harlequin beetle (Harmonia axyridis) has apparently been declared the UK's fastest invading species (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/20/harlequin-ladybirds-declared-uks-fastest-invading-species). It has also been referred to as 'cannibalistic' and a danger to several resident species of ladybird. I admit it's fast but its speed of invasion is only known because it is easy to see and has been monitored by people over the whole country (others may have been faster without our noting them). There is nothing unusual about insects being cannibalistic and eating another species (if we are talking ladybirds) doesn't count.
It has been reported that a UK astronaut is advocating sending seeds of the rocket salad (I wonder if the name had any effect on this choice?) into space so that, on their return to Earth, they can be sent to large numbers of schools for children to determine whether the 'experience' had any effect on plant growth (http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/32801767). I'm sure that the intentions are educational and might well stimulate an interest in space science but the premise seems a little odd. It is well-established that plants growing under weightless conditions in space have difficulties with up and down but the pupils would be growing the seeds (along side 'regular' rocket seeds) under the full effects of gravity. I am uncertain what such a study might show (unless there is potential damage that results from travelling into space and back).
There is an interesting animal study in which human material was incorporated into mice, suggesting that the commonly-used and apparently safe pain-reliever, paracetamol, can, if taken as prolonged high doses in pregnancy, cause problems in male foetuses (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/may/20/paracetamol-use-pregnancy-male-foetus-testosterone-study). It seems to suppress the normal early surge of testosterone that 'masculinizes' those babies. It reportedly can increase the incidences of cryptorchidism where the testes fail to descend. The range of materials that impact on human reproduction seem to be ever increasing.
It seems (albeit belatedly) a move in the right direction that the Head of Royal Dutch Shell is admitting to concerns about the link between the burning of hydrochemical fuels and climate change (http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/may/22/shell-boss-endorses-warnings-about-fossil-fuels-and-climate-change). This does, however, sit a little oddly with the group's enthusiastic plans for oil extraction in Alaska. They may not have noted it but their scallop symbol is also under threat as the released carbon dioxide is increasing ocean acidification, a process that could have devastating effects on all shelled inhabitants of our seas and the organisms that rely on them. Still, I don't suppose there will be too many executives around to worry about bonuses if the average world temperature goes up by 4 degrees Celsius!
Wednesday, 13 May 2015
A report has come in that 7 Golden lion tamarins and 10 Silver marmosets have been stolen from Beauval Zoo near Paris (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/12/monkeys-stolen-from-french-zoo-are-extremely-rare-and-fragile). These primates (actually the property of the Brazilian Government) are rare and have 'special dietary needs'. The thieves were, no doubt, attracted by the reported going rate for tamarins on the black-market said to be between £3,600 and £7200. These acts further endanger already seriously endangered animals.