Saturday, 24 July 2010

Butterfly week

Its butterfly week, apparently....  not that your likely to see many in this part of England.  Years of wet weather has given the native species a big hit lately, but the ultimate cause is changing land use patterns that have reduced the available habitat and eliminated many of the host plants our native butterflies use.  The problem, of course, is its a gradual process that has been going on for the last 30 years, so many people today don't really realize what they are missing.  Coming from North America, its painfully obvious how few insects remain in England, but even just picking up an old UK field guide or nature book published in the 50's or 60's and flipping through the pages reveals insect after insect that is either locally extinct or rarely seen.

Anyway, some photos of a species that is still common here: a larval Vapourer moth (Orgyia antiqua) munching on my roses.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Coraline Cruelty

I've been reading an interesting paper in bioessays which redescribes the symbiotic relationship between corals and their algae from one of mutalism to one of... well.... vampirism? Slavery? Rather than happy zooxanthellae producing sugars for their grateful host while basking in the protection of the coral polyps cnidocytes, the little algae are tricked into getting close to the coral, mercilessly engulfed by the gut cells, and then have to undergo a cruel process of selection, where over a period of days to years, they are tested, and most digested, with an unlucky few forced to live a life of indentured servitude, producing carbon for their coraline masters!

I'll never look at a coral the same way again.