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Virgin Mothers – The Aphid and the Food Chain

Sunday, 24 June 2012


Aphids may be the bottom of the food chain but if they were to suddenly disappear so, quite likely, would a host of other species.  One of the more unusual aspects of the life of the aphid is that (apart from a handful of species) are all female. This means that reproduction is parthenogenetic and viviparous. That means that growth and development of the embryo happens without fertilization. It also means that the embryo develops inside the body – in fact the females are born with them.

You can see this happening in the above video, an amazing piece of work by John Dunstan.  You will also get to see some of the aphid’s many enemies as well as its sometime caretaker, the ant.  The camera work here is worthy of a BBC documentary – I was particularly struck by the shots of the insects struggling with single drops of water. Who would have thought that something that is wet to us could be downright sticky to our much smaller neighbors?

Puppy Mill Sing-Along

Sunday, 10 June 2012


Puppy Mills have been and continue to be a huge problem wherever there is a market for pet dogs. In other words, it is a global issue.  However, that does not mean that people in specific areas cannot help to raise awareness and as you will see this can easily translate to the trade in dogs anywhere.  This video was created for San Francisco SPCA to raise awareness of the cruelty of online puppy mills.

It raises the issue so well that there is little or no need to put the message home in writing. However, puppy farms are only a quick fix (to probably use an incorrect metaphor).  My grandmother used to have a saying and that is buy cheap buy twice. Dogs bought from puppy farms come with a host of problems, not least those caused by the experiences they have had in the first few weeks or months of their lives.  Many of these dogs need to be put down sooner rather than later causing great distress all round. If you are thinking of welcoming a dog in to your house, do it properly! Get down to a shelter!


Welcome to the Bee Hotel

Friday, 8 June 2012

This remarkable structure can be found in Place des Jardins  in Paris and is known as a bee hotel. You may be wondering what bees need a hotel for, when they make their own hives. The truth is that many species of bees are solitary – the do not live in hives but instead construct their own nest. The main reason for this is because in these species every female is fertile and this would not make for comfortable communal living in a hive.

Bee hotels are necessary for a number of different reasons. To begin with bee populations have been on a decline in recent years. Part of the problem is that their natural habitats have been cleared to make way for intensive agriculture. Pesticides have also been instrumental in their decline. 

The Water Vole - Back from the Brink

Thursday, 7 June 2012

It was not so long ago that naturalists were predicting that the Water Vole would be extinct in the United Kingdom within a few years. Predation by the North American Mink, loss of habitat and pollution seemed to be the main culprits.

The much loved small mammal, immortalized in fiction as Ratty (left) in Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, seemed destined for the history books.  It was given protected status as late as 2008 - a legislative moved considered by many to be too little too late.

Yet just a few years after their dire predictions it seems that the water vole is back from the brink, testimony to the help it has received from conservationists.

Thriving colonies of over two thousand now exist in several places in the UK. Less than ten years ago, surveys of the same places revealed only a scattering of water voles, less than twenty in each location.  If those numbers have made you raise an eyebrow you may not know just how fecund a water vole can be. Left to her own devices a female can produce up to thirty young in a season with up to eight baby voles per litter. So, what did the environmentalists do to aid such a dramatic come back for this semi-aquatic rodent?

Are These the Cutest Kittens on the Internet?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

We thought we would take a break here at the Ark in Space. A break from rare species, unusual bugs and dangerous beasties. We thought we would take time out to bring you a real cutefest – something which, as you can see by the title of this post, still raises a question or two. Why bring you this glorious gallery of the cutest kittens on the net? No real reason. Except because we can! Prepare to say aaaw a lot - enjoy!

OK, now we know that this has been done before - however, these are not pictures ripped (and ripped off) from a quick search. As ever, here, all the pictures are licensed through Creative Commons. We would like to thank the photographers for their huge generosity in allowing us to share their photographs with you. You can visit their photostreams on Flickr by clicking each picture!

Spider Mom


This is one of the most remarkable pieces of film I have seen for a long time. Sure, we are all used to macro photography these days, showing all aspects of insect and arachnid life close up. Yet while that sort of photography needs time and bags of patience this must have been a labor of love indeed.

Funnily enough labor is quite an appropriate word here. This remarkable piece of film shows a spider laying its eggs. Scientifically speaking I should have said a spider ovispositing its egg sac but now you have that you know what it means in everyday speak!

The detail here is stunning – quite remarkable – you can see the eggs inside the spider before their sack is oviposited.  Not only that it shows the care that the spider gives its young before they are born and even takes us to the birth itself.

This outstanding footage was taken by Alvaro Mendoza Productions, otherwise known as Amprods, a Spanish production company specializing in nature documentaries and, more specifically, in filming animal behavior.

Hey! When is it Time for MY Dinner?

You know the old saying, water, water everywhere? That may as well be the case both literally and metaphorically for this monkey at Omaha zoo.  While the carp – which I must say look very well fed – get to enjoy their dinner, this poor little guy has to do without. Of course he will get his own later but there is just a look of resignation on his face that I had to share with you! It just speaks volumes.

Both Images Courtesy of Flickr User Templarion

The Largest Pigeon in the World – The Victoria Crowned Pigeon

Monday, 4 June 2012

Due to the demise of the Dodo, the mantle of the world’s largest pigeon was passed on to the Victoria Crowned. If you associate pigeons with the types that we see in our cities and towns – altogether a pretty unimpressive lot – then you are in for a surprise.

The first reaction to this bird is usually exclamatory. What? You mean that is actually a pigeon? Put simply, this bird is a stunner – and if you are used to English vernacular you may well associate those words with scantily clad ladies on the third page of some tabloid newspapers. This bird has made the news recently, however, in as much as several breeding programs throughout the world have met with success and have managed to breed these beauties.

Depending on your taste, this picture will probably produce one of two responses – ‘ew’ or ‘aw’. This baby Victoria Crowned Pigeon was born two years ago in Saitama Children’s Zoo in Japan. This adds to the chick that was hatched in London Zoo in September 2009. There has also been a birth in San Diego zoo. A much lauded breeding program may very well save this massively endangered species from extinction – and who could possibly want it to go the way of its cousin, the Dodo? However, one reaction, with apologies to the character Shug from the Color Purple movie is ‘you sure is ugly’.

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