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Bah Ram Ewe Sheep

Monday 8 November 2010

Brenda Nelson did something of which a lot of us dream but rarely do.  She moved from the city to the countryside and now lives on a farm, pretty much living the life.  I have been following her online activities for some years but she has recently set up a new blog which I am sure will be of interest to readers of Ark in Space.

It is called Bah Ram Ewe Sheep.  Can you guess what it might be about?  Yes, that’s right!  Anything and everything on the upkeep of sheep.  On the site you will be able to follow the sheep experiences of Brenda and her family and share information about sheep in general.  Brenda keeps pet sheep and llamas and there are plenty of pictures on the blog too.

This promises to be a really cool online experience as you follow the seasons and get to know the sheep as individuals.

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

What is Biodiversity? Cool Animated Explanation

Sunday 22 August 2010

What is biodiveristy?  That is a very good question and it demands a good answer.  So, no doubt that is why many teachers and parents alike have shrink away from answering this and point to the internet for an answer.  Well, they came to the right place.

Help is at hand and what is even better - visual help.  If you are asked what biodiversity is, you can simply point your interrogator to this very cool explanation.  The animated short film was made by students of the Vancouver Film School.

The students involved in the project were Amanda Healey, Jesse Lang, Juan Carlos Arenas and Robert Ramalho and they created it through the VFS Digital Design program.  Congratulations to all of them - this animation should be sent out to schools immediately!  What about a text based explanation, however?

Wikipedia defines biodiversity like this:

Biodiversity is the variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or on the entire Earth. Biodiversity is often used as a measure of the health of biological systems. The biodiversity found on Earth today consists of many millions of distinct biological species. The year 2010 has been declared as the International Year of Biodiversity.

It certainly makes sense, but which explanation do you prefer?

Yup.  File under better explanation than Wikipedia.

Kuroshio Sea - Amazing Video

Wednesday 4 August 2010

This was shot at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan.

The main tank called the Kuroshio Sea holds 7,500-cubic meters (1,981,290 gallons) of water and features the world's second largest acrylic glass panel, measuring 8.2 meters by 22.5 meters with a thickness of 60 centimeters. Whale sharks and manta rays are kept amongst many other fish species in the main tank.

This was shot using a Canon 5DMKII with a 28-135mm lens.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

This project was produced for Science Alberta to promote science and agriculture in Alberta and to explain the concept of bio-diversity to kids in a visually interesting way. We think it does the job very well!

Dangerous Beetle Discovered in the UK - Citrus Longhorn

Saturday 31 July 2010

OK, so he doen't have huge fangs and he doesn't carry a plague that is going to kill you and your loved ones, but this Citrus Longhorn Beetle is a serious, serious threat if it encroaches properly in to the UK.  So, here is the bad news - one was found in Leicestershire a week or so ago.  Assume that the person who found it wasn't really looking for it and you can pretty much guess it is not the only one in England.

The Citrus Long-Horned Beetle (Anoplophora chinensis to give it its Latin name) is found in the Far East where it is considered a serious pest.  Why?  It can lay two hundred eggs after doing the Discovery Channel thing and each one is deposited separately in to the bark of a tree.  Once hatched it chews in to the tree and makes itself a tunnel in which to pupate.  Once adult the cycle happens all over again.

The Long-horned beetle is posing a threat to the environment in the US like nothing before.  Why?  It attacks healthy trees and has no enemies there.  It has no regard for where it attacks, so your garden is just as likely a place as farmland - if it has trees in it. Oh - did we tell you?  It has a cousin which, like the smarties, comes in blue....

So, just one found in the UK?  What's the panic?  Let's put it in to perspective.  If you do the math here, you will realise that the Beetle, if allowed to spread could do untold damage to the environment.  No natural enemis means carte blanche to reproduce as much and as quickly as it can.

So, if you see one of the guys in your garden then call the Plant and Seed Health Inspectorate on 01904 465625.

Octopi - Oscar Nominated Animation

Tuesday 6 July 2010

or in the original language Oktapodi. This is a short, very funny animated movie about how resilient and faithful two creatures can be.

Oktapodi is a 2007 French computer-animated short film that originated as a Graduate Student Project from Gobelins L'Ecole de L'Image. The short is about a pair of love struck octopuses who through a series of comical events are separated and find each other. Oktapodi was directed by Julien Bocabeille, François-Xavier Chanioux, Olivier Delabarre, Thierry Marchand, Quentin Marmier, and Emud Mokhberi. Music was composed by Kenny Wood.

Oktapodi was well received, winning a number of awards, as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Short Film (Animated) for the 81st Academy Awards in 2009.

Sailfish Drama

Sailfish inhabit the warmer sections of every single ocean on our planet.  Blue to grey in color they get their name from the erectile dorsal fin which is known as a sail – this often stretches all the way down their back and gives these fish their incredibly cool but cruel air.  You will probably notice too their elongated bill which is reminiscent of a swordfish.  In fishing circles they are known as billfish for that reason.

This amazing Sailfish Drama was caught on film at Isla Mujeres, Mexico in February 2010. The footage was captured with a RED One camera, using a Tokina 10-17mm lens, in a Deep RED Gates housing.  There is some great musical accompaniment by Alan Williams to give the footage that extra thrill.  This is really superb film making.

Cool Facts About Zebras

Saturday 26 June 2010

So, are zebras white with black stripes or are they black with white stripes?  An interesting question and often the first one asked by those of a curious nature when face to face with these beautifully coated creatures.  If you have pondered that question or want to know more about zebras in general then this article has some really cool facts about these strange equine animals.  It has all the answers - for example, how many species of zebra are there?  Where do zebras live?  Oh - and that other question that people ask - what on earth is a quagga?

Written by Brenda Nelson, you can also ask her about animals at her Factoidz page.

Image Credit Flickr User catlover

The Scimitar Oryx - Charismatic Antelope of the Desert

Once one of the most numerous horned animals in North Africa, the Scimitar Oryx has now been classified as extinct in the wild. A pale antelope with a ruddy chest this almost horse-like mammal would perhaps be unremarkable save for one thing – it’s majestic and incredibly long curved horns. For this reason it was hunted almost to extinction.

Its name too comes from its horns – they are shaped very much like a scimitar, a relatively light weight sword which originated in the Middle East. When they numbered in their millions the animals would have formed mixed gender herds of up to seventy or so. When it was time for them to follow their yearly migration they would come together in groups that numbered in their thousands. Can you imagine what a magnificent sight that would have been?

The male and the female of the species both possess the remarkable scimitar horns. The male can reach 125 cm in height and weigh in at an impressive 200kg. The color of its coat is so light so it can reflect the heat of the sun in dessert conditions. Their territories used to cover an incredible 3000 square kilometers and the Oryx would know every part of their journey, avoiding unfavorable locations.

The horns can grow up to 175cm, which is an incredible length considering the height of the species. When mating season begins the males will partake in spectacular fights – and they really mean it too. Horns are often broken and sometimes one of the combatants might die. It is thought that perhaps a one horned oryx who had lost the other in a fight may have contributed to the myth of the unicorn.

The Scimitar Oryx looks a little delicate, but it is a hardy species that in the wild inhabited desert and step where their diet consisted of grasses, leaves and – when they could get it – fruit. They have specially adapted kidneys which mean that they can live without drinking any water for weeks at a time. This is also due to the fact that they can change their body temperature at will and so avoid losing water through perspiration.
They can certainly cope with extreme conditions. At 42-45 degrees centigrade most other animals would expire but the Scimitar Oryx can still survive. One thing which helps is a habit they have formed of licking dew off each other’s coats at night. When water is around they are voracious – after giving birth the female can easily consume twenty percent of her body weight in water.

There were serious droughts in the early twentieth century and the numbers declined drastically as the animals continued to be hunted by desert nomad tribes who were also struggling to survive. However, two things contributed to the downfall of this swift and gregarious animal – the development of the gun and motor vehicles.

Where they once occupied the whole of the Sahara region and numbered in the very least in their hundreds of thousands, today they are restricted to zoos and sanctuaries. There has not been a single substantiated Scimitar Oryx sighting in the wild for almost twenty years.

So, how many of these remarkable animals are left today? After a captive breeding programme began in the 1960s their numbers have risen. It is thought that around five thousand exist altogether. There are hopes that someday the Scimitar Oryx can be reintroduced in to the wild in Tunisia where there is a herd that is protected within a fenced preserve.

The Sahara Conservation Fund is researching the full reintroduction of the species in to all of its previous range. Although there are many issues to be overcome, such a geographical bottlenecks, genetics and husbandry there may well be hope for this most enigmatic antelope of the desert.

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