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Birds on the Wires

Saturday, 18 September 2010

One day Jarbas Agnelli was reading his newspaper when he saw a picture of birds on electric wires which immediately fascinated him.. He noticed that the positions of the birds looked like a pice of musical notation.  He set about recreating the melody based on where the birds were perched.

He contacted the photographer who had taken the original picture who was also intrigued by the music.  He informed his Editor and the whole idea was turned in to a story in the newspaper.  Agnelli, spurred on, then created this animation with the photo, the music and the score.

There is absolutely no Photoshop involved here - the melody is created from the exact positions of the birds on the wires.  It's a lovely little tune, too!

Baby Wolf Spiders

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The maker of this video, Vimeo user Byron caught several adult wolf spiders and was taking care of them and studying them. Two of the spiders produced egg cases and carried them around with them for several weeks, even constructing little web-nests where the mother and egg case would sit, motionless, protected from the world.

Sadly, the mother spiders died, leaving their egg cases behind for Byron to take care of. Normally, the mother spider will open up the egg case and let the spiderlings out when they are ready to hatch; so after three weeks Byron opened them with tweezers  and the baby spiders jumped out!

Wolf spiders are unique among spiders in that they provide parental care: the spiderlings will jump on the mother's back and ride on top of her for a week.... if one falls off, the mother will wait until it jumps back on again.

Bedbugs: The Baleful Biters are Booming

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Apologies beforehand if you end up itching like a mad thing by the time you finish reading this.  However, bedbugs, which were once thought to have been almost eradicated are enjoying a massive bug renaissance. With the invention of DDT in the 1940s it was thought that the itch and rash would become a thing of the past. Yet like a scratch that you just can’t itch the humble bedbug has made an enormous comeback.

Above is a bedbug ingesting its meal of blood from a human host. What can only be described as an epidemic has broken out in the United States and, where the US goes the UK follows. The bedbug population of the United Kingdom is now booming. In both countries the problem is at is greatest since the Second World War. If you are getting freaked out by the site of one, screw your courage to the sticking point now.

Now the National Pest Management Association in Kentucky is predicting nothing less than a worldwide pandemic of Cimex lectularius. Yet how do they get in to your bed in the first place? They are not like that other blood sucker – the vampire: they do not have to ask permission to enter your home.

Plus, when they are doing it like they do it on Discovery Channel, it doesn't make them any more attractive. Their usual route in to your domicile is through luggage and clothing and often second-hand furniture. Unfortunately the cleanliness of your home is not a barrier – they often move from the Smiths to the Jones via cavities in the walls and floors.

An infestation from a distance can look bad - but not the end of the world.

Take a closer look though and it looks like the aftermath of a battle of Klendathu.

Then they feed on your blood, like the nymph above.  In fact, you can see the blood filling up and swelling its abdomen. You usually don’t feel a thing because they inject an anesthetic so you don’t notice and swat them. So that they can suck to their hearts content they also inject an anti-clotting agent – which keeps the blood flowing nicely.

If you are bitten too often it can create a rash or even eczema. As they like to stay close to their source of food – you – they can be found usually in the seams of mattresses and on furniture around your bed. Often they will live on the headboard, ready to jump you once you fall asleep. The bites are notoriously difficult to diagnose as they look like any number of things.

They are not nocturnal as such but that is when they are most active. When you fall asleep the warmth that you produce as well as the carbon dioxide from your breath attracts them like moths to the proverbial. However, there is some good news – they do not carry disease. So if you wake up one morning with enormous buboes under your arm it is most likely another source.

The females can lay hundreds of eggs, usually at the rate of one or two a day and they can live a long time between a feed, which means you can’t just abandon a bed for a year and then return to it thinking they will be gone. They won’t be. Here is what National Geographic have to say about the issue.

Scientists are not sure why they are making a comeback now. It could be the increase in international travel but it may also be that they have become resistant to the pesticides used to kill them. Whatever the reason, try not and let the bedbugs bite.

Dogs on Logs

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Dogs on logs? There may seem little point to a series of pictures of dogs atop big pieces of wood - but perhaps that is exactly the point. And why not? Cats at least have the lol variety - dogs seem a little left out. Above, Pio has spotted something in the water.  Is it a fish?  Who can say but we can perhaps guess what happened next... So - over to the rest of our canine buddies.

Some dogs will look cute anywhere, but add a log in to the mix and the cute factor goes stratospheric.  Although Hula doesn't look terribly happy on the log you can rest assured he was helped safely back to the ground!

From the sublime to, well - make up your own mind.  Hula may not known quite what to do with his log (stay on it or run!) and neither, we suspect, does Killer.  However, he certainly looks immensely happy to have found it though (we will take a look at what dogs do to logs, once they have discovered them, a little later...).

Sydney does the two log tree (although one, long as it is, hardly qualifies as a log, but...).  What is it with dogs, logs and water?  Well, nine out of ten for effort, Sydney! I wonder if he knows that properly trained, a man can be dog's best friend?

Matilda is quite happy to keep her feet dry but if a log is there it does have to be climbed - simply because it is there.  Some say that dogs laugh, but with their tail.  That being said - isn't that a huge grin on Matilda's face?  If not - how would you describe it?

No, Libby we said dogs on logs not dog logs on. Always has to be one....

This young pup gets the two log trick right first time and shows up his elders at a young age.  Wait, though, where's the water?  Disqualified!

Jasper is a canny character though - logs have their uses on those long summer walks. Plus, he can be quietly smug about the fact that four legs are better than two by going where most humans would not tread.

Sometimes, though, speed can be of the essence.

Other times, just being still is best.  Cooper knows a good photo opportunity when he see one.  Some people says that on occasion dogs are almost human (although if they could talk, wouldn't that take some of the fun out of sharing your life with one?).  However, that could be classified as something of an insult.

Clear off!  You don't count!

That's better - even though in the case of Marla here, we might still have to play guess the species...

Dogs can get very possessive about their logs.  Whenever they see one, they get all mine, mine, mine.  The size of the log is irrelevant.  Ownership is everything.

Really, really possessive.

So, why this fascination with logs?  Well, that's not rocket science.  After all, dogs love to...


..and chew.....

...and chew!

Dog Born Without Front Legs Gets Wheels

Sunday, 5 September 2010

This is Josie the chihuahua. She was born without front legs but she didn't let that stop her. She's now the mascot of Hanger Orthopedic Group. Something went wrong during her mother’s pregnancy. She was one of five – two others were born like her, one was born with three legs and only one with the full compliment.

The lady who adopted her decided that Josie needed more mobility so she approached her local orthopaedic group who put her in touch with someone willing to make her a prosthetic.

He had never seen a dog without two front legs before (not many of us have, I imagine) so it was to the drawing board. First it was a mould and some struggle getting it just right. The second design was a success.

Josie can now get around better – and even chases the cat around at home.

Orangutan Uses Sign Language to Make a Request

Apes can't do sign language, can they? Well, perhaps they can after all. Here, Siti, a young orangutan seems to be asking for help to open a coconut. She makes a series of genstures to her human companion - and seems to be urging him to give the coconut a good whack with his knife. Her actions seem remarkably similar to those a young human might make.

So can orangutans really pantomime their desires? ScienceNews seems to think so - and blame our inability to spot this talent on our own dim wittedness. In other words, we just haven't noticed it before!

Researchers in Indonesia have come to the conclusion after going through records of observations going back thirty years.  They maintain that their evidence shows conclusively that orangutans can mime their desires and going from the video above, it would seem that they were correct.

Image Credit Flickr User Bill and Mavis

The Indian Giant Squirrel – Secret Supersize Squirrel on Steroids

If you are not a particular fan of squirrels then perhaps you had better leave the page right now.  Whoever gave the Indian Giant Squirrel its name was not joking.  It makes the European and North American squirrel look like dormice in comparison.  This is no ordinary squirrel – secretive and shy, it is indeed a giant among its kind.

Before you start to lock your windows and gaze worriedly at the canopy as you pass beneath, be assured that you may only come across one of these if you live in Peninsular India or you happen to be visiting a zoo.

They live in the evergreen and mixed deciduous forests there as far north as Madhya Pradesh in isolated ranges.

Known also as the Malabar Giant Squirrel, Ratufa indica is easily distinguishable from its smaller relatives, having a very conspicuous color scheme which can be either two or three-toned.  The head and body of this gorgeous looking animal is up to sixteen inches in length, compared to the ten of the Eastern Gray found in the US.

What really gives the Indian Giant its appearance of size is its tail.  The tail can be anything up to two feet in length.  Plus it is heavy – a healthy adult weighs in at around four and a half pounds.  With their tan, rust, brown or beige coloring they are possibly the most colorful of the 280 squirrel species. Altogether it looks like it has been metaphorically down the gym and on steroids – in terms of squirrels at least.

The Indian Giant Squirrel shares characteristics with many of its cousins.  It is diurnal which means it is active during the day and sleeps at night.  It is arboreal, which means it lives in trees – and the Indian Giant dwells in the upper canopy and rarely leaves the trees.  Tall trees with as many branches as possible are the ideal choice for its nest.

The squirrel lives on its own or in a mating pair.  Their nests are large (out of necessity) and globe shaped and they build them on thin branches as high up as it is possible to support the weight.  This is to avoid its predators.  The nests are only noticeable in the dry seasons but it has been noted that a single squirrel can build several.  It uses one for a nursery and the other it uses for rest and sleep.  It seems the Indian Giant does not like to share a room with the kids.

It is also herbivorous, which may be a relief to a few of you reading this.  That means that it has adapted to eat plants.  However hungry an Indian Giant gets, he or she will not propel themselves from the canopy to make a meal of your nose or ears!

Predators hunt the IGS (as perhaps we should call it) and it often falls victim to birds of prey and leopards.  When it senses danger it often presses itself up against a branch and freezes.  Considering it can jump up to six meters (20 feet) from tree to tree this could be interpreted as strange behaviour.

Yet it is a shy animal and not easy to detect so perhaps when it freezes it is simply trying to blend in with its surroundings and by ceasing movement to avoid predation.

It is on the UN List of near threatened species, so it can only be hoped that the remaining Indian Giants avoid their predators and flourish in the forests of India.

Amung Feedjit