Biodiversity: How Wonderful


It is incredible because it has water, has a reasonable temperature, a protective atmosphere, and solid ground amongst other things.

A unique facet of Earth's supremacy in the known cosmos is it's biodiversity, or richness and abundance, of species. Maybe you take biodiversity for granted when you walk out your door to grab the morning paper and see a well-cut lawn, shady apple blossoms, and that darned neighborhood cat. Stop for a moment and really take in everything that you can see from your doorstep - wherever that may be.

Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and algae, and protozoans cover, penetrate, and consume everything in your sight. Your lawn and landscaping are probably comprised of over twenty plant species including grasses, trees, flowering plants, and leafy plants alone. Butterflies, ladybugs, houseflies, praying mantises, roaches, ants, bees, wasps, fleas, and ticks fly, jump, and scuttle about. Insects make up a huge portion of our Earth's biodiversity - part of the reason you never think twice before swatting that pesky mosquito. If you're looking to the sky, you might see 5-15 bird species, depending on how hard you're looking, and how far from the equator you are. If you're lucky, you can look in some bushes, under tree roots, or in your drainage ditch and find a couple of reptile or amphibian species. Come back at night (we're talking ~2-4am here) and you might catch a glimpse of some of the mammalian fauna living in very close proximity to you. Raccoons, foxes, coyotes, mice, voles, rabbits, cats (though not necessarily native), and rarely cougars or wolves might be digging through your trash or scurrying through your yard and marking their territory. Hey, they were probably there thousands of years before you were.

And last but not least, you. If you are reading this post properly, you are most likely a human, Homo sapiens. You may not care that much about that, but consider your evolutionary ancestors, primates in Africa and Southeastern Eurasia. Isn't it incredible how you live where you do, when your ancestors lived where they did? Without cars, airplanes, or trains, they populated all seven continents and took reign of terrestrial Earth as we know it.

If that wasn't a bit shocking, well, it shouldn't be. If you live in North America, you only experience a fraction of the total diversity of our planet. Additionally, if you followed through with the thought experiment I just laid out, you've not even stepped out of a human civilized habitat. Forests, swamps, grasslands, river systems, and the ocean contain more species than you could count in your lifetime (probably more than 10 of your lifetimes, if you tried from day one until you were on your death bed - obviously unreasonable).

So what? If you've been under the weather, maybe you haven't heard about the deforestation of our tropical forests, bleaching of coral reefs, and algal blooms killing millions of fish across our wonderful planet. In short, these are bad for the preservation of biodiversity. Reducing and fragmenting forests kills species (roads in the Amazon wreck major havoc on the ecosystem).

I've been reading E.O. Wilson's The Diversity of Life, and will comment on this further once finished. In the meantime, know that Wilson makes a claim in complete confidence that biodiversity is our planet's most valuable and most abused resourced. If I help one person think about that for a while, I've succeeded with this post.

FYI: School at SU started about five weeks ago, and boy howdy if it isn't picking up. I update this blog periodically, and the intervals between posting will become more and more erratic throughout the semester. Nevertheless, expect the same or greater numbers of articles on average posted over time. Thanks for reading :)

Article: Now Hiring Governmental Fact Checker on Python Populations

I recently read this fascinating article posted on Tampa Bay Online.

If I told you it was an article about reptiles in the Florida Everglades, I'll give you three guesses as to what the article is about. Due to grossly over-inflated media attention, you probably guessed it's an article on invasive Burmese pythons.

From what I've gathered by reading the article, U.S. government agencies are estimating the number of burmese pythons in the Florida everglades to be between ~1,000 and ~200,000 (two degrees of magnitude apart!).


What I hope to draw to your attention in this post is not that burmese pythons are good or bad in the Florida everglades, but that governmental biologists need some fact checkers before pulling on the "statistic crank."

Given the amount of media attention and governmental recognition the issue has received, an accurate (and hopefully conservative) estimate of the number of Burmese pythons and their ability to reproduce is necessary to maintain a non-nuisance level of this species.

A final word: always ensure you can be a responsible, long-term exotic pet owner before making a purchase or taking your neighbor's pet alligator off their hands. It's good for the environment!

Review - "Zoo: Animals in Art"


"Zoo: Animals in Art" by Edward Lucie-Smith is a neat little coffee table-type book succinctly reviewing depictions of non-human animals in human-made art.

By categorizing groups of images and works into categories such as "Water World" and "Microcosmos," the author organizes the books contents into an easily-digested format.

I compliment the Lucie-Smith's variety of animal species (and inclusion of imaginary beasts) portrayed on a huge variety of media. Cats, fish, elephants, and butterflies alike are portrayed on canvas, tapestry, ming vase, or Roman floor mosaic. Additionally, the stretch of time period works were pulled from was expansive, ranging from 10,000 BCE cave paintings to roughly 1997 (a year before the book's copyright date).

While the book excels in some areas, it's hard not to notice a few flaws. Notably, the "superwide" style format forces the author to crop and zoom in on images strangely. This sometimes left me wondering what the rest of the image contains - quite frustrating! Interestingly, neither South American, aboriginal, or native American artwork made much of an appearance at all. If going for the all-over approach, some digital art pieces would have felt welcome.

Overall: 4/5

I'm including a few of my favorite pieces (some are images by artists whose works are in the book, but the image itself is not included):

Flowers That Fly. Oil on canvas, 46" x 66", Leonard Koscianski, 2008.
Carl Hammer Gallery, Chicago.

Cat Catching a Bird. Pablo Picasso, 1939.

Umbrian Chair. Ditz, 1987.

Parlour Iguana. 40" x 30", Kendahl Jan Jubb. ~1990s

Chameleon: from Lives of the Animals. Alfred Brehm, 1892.

Some Hope for Hunted Sea Turtles


According to an Associated Press article by David McFadden, the Bahamas recently banned the sale or catch of any species of marine turtle.

Culturally popular for human consumption, sea turtles have required this sort of legal protection for too long. The five species of sea turtle inhabiting the waters of the Bahamian waters are listed as either endangered or threatened species. Previous to the bill, only the Hawksbill was afforded any legal protection from harvesting or hunting.

According to an ecoworldy article by Derek Markham:
The new regulations prohibit the harvesting, possession, purchase and sale of turtles, their parts and eggs, as well as the molestation of marine turtle nests, effective September 1st, 2009.
To get to this landmark legislation, several conservation groups played active roles, including: Oceana, The Bahamas Sea Turtle Conservation Group, and The Bahamas Marine Resources Department

According to the AP article, this legislation is unpopular with some proponents of preserving Bahamian culture. Fortunately, according to Jane Mather, co-chairwoman of The Bahamas Sea Turtle Conservation Group, ninety percent of Bahamians do not want sea turtles killed.

The penalties for breaking the ban are not currently determined.

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