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10 Beautiful Butterflies and Their Ugly Duckling Caterpillars

Saturday 19 June 2021

“There once was an ugly duckling,” goes the old song. This could not be truer of these stunning butterflies and their most peculiar caterpillars. Another opportunity to scratch your head at the vagaries of Mother Nature, take a look at this pictorial proof of butterfly beauty and caterpillar creepiness!

1 The Tiger Swallowtail

Found in the Eastern side of the US, this butterfly often produces two or three batches of eggs each year which puts it among the more fecund of butterflies.  You can see the black “tiger” strips on the wing of the male (a shadow of these stripes can be seen on the female but they do not to attract a mate – the male does all the leg work!).

Monarch Migration – Staggering Spectacle of Nature

Monarch butterflies are renowned for their migration.  Yet no single monarch has ever completed the 2,000 mile round trip – it is generational in nature because of the sheer distance involved. There being safety in numbers this leads to what is surely one of nature’s most spectacular sights – that of millions of monarchs congregating together.

In North America the butterfly begins this massive yearly migration in August.  Monarch butterflies fuel up on nectar in the northern States and Canada - it is time to leave as the coming winter will be so cold it would inevitably kill them.  Unlike their great-grandparents they have never flown more than a few hundred meters in their lives but they head out over vast northern lakes with no hesitation.  This is the first leg of one of the world’s greatest migrations.

The Incredible Chrysalis

The chrysalis of the butterfly looks, close up, alien and perhaps even a little frightening.  Yet it is one of the four stages of the life of a butterfly and without these bizarre looking enclosures we would not have the beauty of butterflies.  There always has to be a beginning in this process and above you can see a Painted Lady caterpillar beginning the transformation.

The butterfly emerges two weeks later.  The abdomen is white and still inside the shell of the chrysalis. Various silk strands from the caterpillar stage are in the upper right corner of the picture. The colorful wings seen here at the top of the picture have yet to unfurl and harden.  The pupal stage (called chrysalis in the Lepidoptera) is only found in insects that can be described as holometabolous (a marvelous word if ever there was one).  This is a term which is applied to any insect group that undergoes a complete metamorphosis during the transition from embryo through larva, pupa and adult (sometimes known as imago).

The Pronghorn – The American Almost Antelope

If you were asked to think of a large mammal of the American prairie you might well say the bison, coyote or wolf, a measure of how much these species have settled in to our general consciousness. Yet there is one unique American animal which is less known but is perhaps the most charismatic of the Great Plains. Many refer to it as an antelope but that is far from the truth. A true American native, the Pronghorn has sojourned across the deserts and plains of North America for at least a million years: but an antelope it is not. Its closest relative is the giraffe.

The pronghorn is found nowhere else in the world except the interior western and central north of America. At first sight it certainly does resemble the antelope of the Old World but it is thought to be a classic example of convergent evolution. This is where species develop to inhabit at least two separate places in the world but which share features and behaviors which mean they may resemble each other despite no shared ancestry. To the untrained eye, their appearance would suggest that they are related species even when they are not.

The Extraordinary Pink Katydid

Flamingos aside, you do not get to see the color pink in the animal kingdom a great deal.  A notable exception is the pink katydid.  Yet this is by no means a separate species – this coloring affects around one in 500.  You may have already guessed that the condition is something similar to albinism.

Known as erythrism, the condition causes a curious reddish pigmentation. It can affect the body of an insect as well as its skin, and it is so rare that it was not noticed by western scientists until 1887. The reason for this oversight was perhaps due to the inclination of the insect to remain perfectly still during daylight hours.

Bat World Sanctuary

In 1989, Amanda Lollar discovered a bat dying on the sidewalk.  Distressed that any creature should have to expire in such a way she took it home to allow it a dignified send off.

However the bat, which she christened Sunshine, survived due to Amanda’s care and was the catalyst for Bat World Sanctuary, which Amanda founded in 1994.

This short film by Brett Kessler takes a peek in to this world of injured, orphaned, and non-releasable bats in Mineral Wells, Texas.

I’m Just a Shark

Imagine if a representative of the group of fish we refer to as ‘shark’ could address us, what would it say? This ageless creature might have some things to say which would make us sit up and pay attention, surely? Shot and written by Pascale Briançon, I’m Just a Shark does exactly that and although I am naturally disinclined towards anthropomorphism this has a certain profundity which makes it gripping from start to finish.

Directed by Julien Marckt with the voice of Daniel Njo Lobé, this may be putting words in to the mouth of an entire group of animals… but what words they are.

The Largest Pigeon in the World – The Victoria Crowned Pigeon

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 Disappearing World of the Asian Elephant

Saturday 12 June 2021

The plight of the Asian Elephant is often overlooked.  However, when one considers the fall in its numbers in less than a century – from almost half a million to only three thousand, then the urgency of the issue begins to sink in.

Here, ProFilm looks at the plight of the Asian Elephant, with some history of its relationship with us and questions how things might be resolved for this most majestic of animals.

Why Does a Dog Lick Its Nose?

When dogs are in their training stage a question that comes up a great deal is why do dogs lick their noses?  While it is tempting to simply go with the old chestnut of an answer – because they can – there are a number of reasons why a dog might lick its own nose. Are they thinking about speedy paper reviews? One thing is for certain sure, however: while they are doing it they often bring a smile to the faces of their human companions. As you can see from this spread of pictures, it is sometimes difficult to resist this particular canine photo opportunity.

Manul – the Cat that Time Forgot

Friday 4 June 2021

Have you ever wanted to take a trip through time to see what animals looked like millions of years ago? When it comes to cats there is little or no need.  This beautiful specimen is a Manul, otherwise known as Pallas’s Cat.  About twelve million years ago it was one of the first two modern cats to evolve and it hasn’t changed since. The other species, Martelli’s Cat, is extinct so what you are looking at here is a unique window in to the past of modern cats.

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