Tag Archives: endangered species

Daytrippers’ chips are killing species in protected areas

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Leia em português

There’s nothing as threatening to nature as humans, as we all know. A lot of species have become endangered and even extinct due to human influence all around the world. As an attempt to protect whatever is left, we have been creating protected areas where species should be able to live their lives without the dangers of humanity.

However, in order to raise awareness about the importance of preserving the biodiversity, most protected areas accept human visitors. Although it does have some effect to improve the visitors’ view about nature and its importance, there are a lot of undesired side effects. Humans walking through a forest cause noise that disturbs the local fauna and the soil compaction caused by walking can lead to changes in vegetation growth and soil drainage.

But another human behavior that appears to have serious consequences on biodiversity conservation is our tendency to carry food with us, such as snacks, and eat it anywhere. People visiting a protected area may eat something on the way through the woods or stop for a picnic. Many species love food remains left by humans and will thrive with them.

Two Steller’s jays in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Photo by iNaturalist user kgerner.*

One species that benefits from human food is the Steller’s jay, Cyanocitta stelleri, a corvid that is common across the the west coast of North America. As a result, this species is not at all threatened at the moment and it tends even to follow humans because of the easy access to food. In the wild, this species is a generalist omnivore, feeding on seeds, fruits, invertebrates, eggs and small vertebrates, such as rodents and bird nestlings.

Another bird that can be found in the same areas as the Steller’s jay is the marbled murrelet Brachyramphus marmoratus, a small seabird. Different from most seabirds, the marbled murrelet does not nest in cliffs or burrows near the water but on branches of old-growth conifers. As a result, they may move up to 80 km inland to find a suitable place to nest. Different from the Steller’s jay, the marbled murrelet does not benefit from human snacks. On the contrary, they may be its ruin.

A young marbled murrelet found in the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Photo by iNaturalist user basinbird.*

The marbled murrelet relies heavily on old forests to reproduce and the female lays only one egg per year, leading to a low reproductive rate. Due to the removal of old forests by humans, the marbled murrelet has lost a lot of its original habitat and is currently considered an endangered species.

One of the few remaining areas for this species to nest is located in the Big Basin Redwoods State Park in California. The park contains many options for camping, which means humans bringing food all the time. This attracts a lot of Steller’s jays, which feast on the crumbs and other remains, and reproduce explosively. When humans are not present, this increased population migrates toward new areas, sometimes following humans to the cities, or starts to feed on whatever is present in the park, and one of the most nutritious options are nestlings of the marbled murrelet.

With an already endagered population, the marbled murrelet is about to get extinct because our desire to walk through the woods is accidentally increasing the population of one of its main predators. Will we ever be able to have a good impact on this planet?

– – –

You may also like:

Hundreds of lionfish were released in the Atlantic out of pity

Antidepressants in wastewater are unbalancing foood webs

– – –

Like us on Facebook!

Follow us on Twitter!

– – –

Reference:

West EH, Brunk K, Peery MZ (2019) When protected areas produce source populations of overabundant species. Biological Conservation 238: 108220. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2019.108220

– – –

*Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

1 Comment

Filed under Conservation, Extinction, Ornithology

Friday Fellow: Tender Nori

by Piter Kehoma Boll

If you like Japanese food, you have eaten sushi for sure, and thus have ingested the famous alga from Japanese cuisine known as nori that is used to wrap the rice, right? Well, it does not necessarily mean that you have eaten the species I am introducing today and you soon will know why.

Dried nori sheets as used in Japanese cuisine. Photo by Yuichi Kosio.*

During most of the Japan history, the main nori species used as a food was the tender nori, which is scientifically known as Pyropia tenera (formerly known as Porphyra tenera) and known in Japan as 浅草海苔 (asakusa nori). This species is a red alga and is closely related to other edible species used in other parts of the world.

Cultivated tender nori. Extracted from http://godairikibune.blog83.fc2.com/blog-category-7.html

The life cycle of the tender nori includes two different generations as seen in all plants. One generation, the gametophyte, is composed by haploid cells, i.e., with only one copy of each chromosome. This gametophyte stage is the largest and the one commonly used as food. It produces both female and male gametes and uses the water current to guide the male gametes, which are unable to swim, to the female gametes. For a long time, this was the only life stage known for the nori. The gametophytes were harvested in the wild, where they grow on the available substrate, especially wood. Only during the 20th century it became clear that the sporophyte, the other life stage, is smaller and needs the shell of mollusks as a substrate to grow. In fact, the sporophyte was already known, but was mistaken for a different organism classified in a genus named Conchocelis. Thus, the sporophyte is still commonly known as tie Conchocelis stage.

After the complete life-cycle of these algae was known, it did not take too long for people to develop cultivation methods that greatly increased the production of nori. Two nori strains soon became the main cultivars in Japan from around the beginning of the 1960s: Pyropia tenera var. tamatsuensis and Pyropia yezoensis f. narawaensis. The latter, as you can see, belongs to a different species of nori, the Ezo nori, known in Japan as 荒び海苔 (susabi nori).

Although the tender nori was considered of better quality and better taste, it was not as tolerant to the strong waves and winds as the Ezo nori. As a result, the Ezo nori became the favorite cultivar and spread quickly, so that this is the main species used nowadays in the Japanese cuisine. This increased cultivation of the Ezo nori displaced the original tender nori to the point that the tender nori is currently a very rare species, so rare that it is considered an endangered species by the Japanese government since 1997.

The distinction between species of Pyropia in wild populations is usually difficult because there is little morphological variation between them. Recent molecular studies from nori growing across Japan showed that the tender nori is not as rare as previously thought, although it does not makes it imune to extinction. Since the tender nori is considered softer and more tasty than the Ezo nori, there have been some attempts to increase the commercial interest on it, which could prevent it from becoming extinct in the near future.

– – –

Like us on Facebook!

Follow us on Twitter!

– – –

References:

Hwang MS, Kim S-O, Ha D-S, Lee JU, Lee S-R (2013) Complete sequence and genetic features of the mitochondrial genome of Pyropia tenera (Rhodophyta). Plant Biotechnology Reports 7(4): 435–443. doi: 10.1007/s11816-013-0281-4

Iwasaki H (1961) The life-cycle of Porphyra tenera in Vitro. Biological Bulletin 121(1): 173–187. doi: 10.2307/1539469

Niwa K, Iida S, Kato A, Kawai H, Kikuchi N, Kobiyama A, Aruga Y (2009) Genetic diversity and ingrogression in two cultivated species (Porphyra yezoensis and Porphyra tenera) and closely related wild species of Porphyra (Bangiales, Rhodophyta). Journal of Phycology 45(2): 493–502. doi: 10.1111/j.1529-8817.2009.00661.x

Niwa K, Kikuchi N, Aruga Y (2005) Morphological and molecular analysis of the endangered species Porphyra tenera (Bangiales, Rhodophyta). Journal of Phycology 41(2): 294–304. doi: 10.1111/j.1529-8817.2005.04039.x

ウィキペディア (Wikipedia in Japanese)。アサクサオリ。Available at <
https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%82%A2%E3%82%B5%E3%82%AF%E3%82%B5%E3%83%8E%E3%83%AA >. Access on 25 March 2019.

– – –

*Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

1 Comment

Filed under Algae, Friday Fellow

Friday Fellow: Imperial Fritillary

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Let’s bring a high dose of beauty into today’s Friday Fellow with a wonderful species that may sometimes be found in your garden.

Imperial fritillary growing in its natural environment in Kurdistan. Photo by Wikipedia user A2raya07.*

Fritillaria imperialis, the imperial fritillary or crown imperial, is native from Asian highlands between Turkey and the Himalayas but is cultivated worldwide, having a series of artificially selected cultivars. The plant reaches a height of about 1 m and has a series of lance-shaped leaves along its stem, similarly to what is found in other species of the lily family, Liliaceae, to which it belongs. The flowers appear in a whorl close to the top of the stem and face downwards. A crown of small leaves tops the flowers, hence its name imperialis. The bell-shaped flowers are usually orange in the wild but, in cultivars, they vary between red and yellow.

A cultivar named ‘Rubra Maxima’. Photo by Hendry Heatly.**

The imperial fritillary has been used in traditional medicine for centuries by people living around its native range. Recent studies revealed that the plant contains a series of alkaloids, mostly anticholinergic steroidal alkaloids, which have the potential to be used for the development of new medicines to treat several conditions.

Despite its popularity as an ornamental plant, wild populations of the imperial fritillary are endangered in many countries in which it occurs, especially due to habitat loss. In order to aid in the preservation and restoration of wild populations, some laboratory techniques have been developed to generate clones that could help increase population size in the wild.

– – –

Like us on Facebook!

Follow us on Twitter!

– – –

References:

Akhtar MN, Rahman A, Choudhary MI, Sener B, Erdogan I, Tsuda Y (2003) New class of steroidal alkaloids from Fritillaria imperialis. Phytochemistry 63: 115–122. doi: 10.1016/S0031-9422(02)00569-1

Gilani AH, Shaheen F, Christopoulos A, Mitchelson F (1997) Interaction of ebeinone, an alkaloid from Fritillaria imperialis, at two muscarinic acetylcholine receptor subtypes. Life Sciences 60 (8): 535–544. doi:
10.1016/S0024-3205(96)00691-1

Kiani M, Mohammadi S, Babaei A, Sefidkon F, Naghavi MR, Ranjbar M, Razavi SA, Saeidi K, Jafari H, Asgardi D, Potter D (2017) Iran supports a great share of biodiversity and floristic endemism for Fritillaria spp. (Liliaceae): A review. Plant Diversity 39(5): 245–262. doi: 10.1016/j.pld.2017.09.002

Mohammadi-Dehcheshmeh M, Khalighi A, Naderi R, Sardari M, Ebrahimie E (2008) Petal: a reliable explant for direct bulblet regeneration of endangered wild populations of Fritillaria imperialis L. Acta Physiologiae Plantarum 30(3): 395–399. doi: 10.1007/s11738-007-0126-2

Wikipedia. Fritillaria imperialis. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritillaria_imperialis >. Access on 11 February 2019.

– – –

*Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

**Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License.

Leave a comment

Filed under Botany, Friday Fellow

Think of the worms, not only of the whales, or: how a planarian saved an ecosystem

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Leia em português

Due to the massive interference of human practices on natural habitats during the past decades, ecosystem restoration has become a trend in order to try to save what is still savable. Unfortunately, the effort of ecologists and other experts alone is not enough to achieve that, and a larger section of the society needs to be engaged in helping reach the goals. In order to do so, it is common to appeal to the beauty and cuteness of endangered species, which usually include mammals and birds, since they are more likely to caught the public’s attention. However, most of the endangered species are invertebrates or other less charismatic beings, and they are often ignored even by biologists.

Hopefully, things are able to change on this matter. Recently the first ecosystem restoration directed to save an invertebrate was successful, and I am here to tell you about it.

The invertebrate in question is a freshwater planarian named Dendrocoelum italicum. It was discovered in 1936 in a cave in northern Italy named Bus del Budrio. Inside the cave, there was a small freshwater pool, about 5 × 5 m or little more, caused by a waterfall from a small stream coming through a narrow elevated corridor. The species is apparently found only in this pool and nowhere else.

There are no available photos of Dendrocoelum italicum, but it should look similar to the widespread Dendrocoelum lacteum seen here, but D. italicum lacks the eyes. Photo by Eduard Solà.*

During the 1980’s, a pipe was installed to divert the water from the stream to a nearby farm. The waterfall ceased to exist and the pool dried up permanently. The planarian survived in a very narrow rivulet that formed inside the cave and some small isolated ponds resulting from water drips. This critical condition of the population was discovered in 2016 by a research group from the University of Milan. They informed the administrators of the cave about the situation and, together, the team started to raise awareness about the situation of the cave among the citizens that benefitted from the reservoir formed by the diverted water, which made the farmer responsible for diverting the water agree to remove the artificial structure.

Image of the inside of the cave. Photo by Livio Mola. Extracted from https://www.naturamediterraneo.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=57050

The removal happened on December 3, 2016 after all the planarians occurring in the rivulet were collected and stored in plastic tanks inside the cave. When the waterfall was restored, it quickly started to fill the old pool again and, one day later, the planarians were released into the pool.

The ecosystem was monitored during the following two years until January 2018. The number of planarians varied greatly during the survey, but was not significantly larger after the restoration from what it was before. However, there was a significant increase in the population of a bivalve species, Pisidium personatum, and a small increase in the population of a crustaceon of the genus Niphargus. Additionally, annelids of the family Haplotaxidae, that were absent in the cave, appeared after restoration. Thus, it is clear that the ecosystem benefited from the reappearance of the pool.

Thanks to the efforts of those researchers, Dendrocoelum italicum now has a better chance to avoid extinction. However, this is not an isolated case. There are many cave-dwelling planarian species all around the world living under similar conditions, usually restricted to a single small pool inside a single cave. Many of those occur, or occurred, as D. italicum, in Italy, but the help came to late for some of them. For example, a closely related species, Dendrocoelum beauchampi, was discovered in 1950 in a cave in northwestern Italy named Grotta di Cavassola, but a recent survey found no planarians inside the cave, which seems to have suffered great alteration due to human activities. Similarly, the species Dendrocoelum benazzi was discovered in 1971 in central Italy in a cave named Grotta di Stiffe, but nowadays, with the cave open to turists and its water polluted, the planarians disappeared. It is very likely that both D. beauchampi and D. benazzi are now extinct. The situation is the same for other Italian species.

Out of Italy, a recently described species living a similar small environment is the Brazilian cave planarian Girardia multidiverticulata, which is known to occur in a small pool about 10 m² inside a cave named Buraco do Bicho in the Cerrado Biome.

Girardia multidiverticulata is a planarian species restricted a small 10 m² pool inside a cave in Brazilian cerrado. Credits to Souza et al. (2015)**

The case of Dendrocoelum italicum shows us it is possible to save small endemic populations of threatened habitats, but we need the help of the public. Let’s hope other ecosystems have a similar happy ending.

– – –

References:

Manenti R, Barzaghi B, Lana E, Stocchino GA, Manconi R, & Lunghi E 2018. The stenoendemic cave-dwelling planarians (Platyhelminthes, Tricladida) of the Italian Alps and Apennines: conservation issues. Journal for Nature Conservation.

Manenti R, Barzaghi B, Tonni G, Ficetola GF, & Melotto A 2018. Even worms matter: cave habitat restoration for a planarian species increased environmental suitability but not abundance. Oryx: 1–6.

Souza ST, Morais ALN, Cordeiro LM, & Leal-Zanchet AM 2015. The first troglobitic species of freshwater flatworm of the suborder Continenticola (Platyhelminthes) from South America. Zookeys 470: 1–16.

Vialli PM 1937. Una nuova specie di Dendrocoelum delle Grotte Bresciane. Bollettino di zoologia 8: 179–187.

– – –

*Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

**Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

3 Comments

Filed under Conservation, Extinction, flatworms, worms

Friday Fellow: Crystalline crestfoot

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Even in the smallest pools or ponds of freshwater lost in a field, the diversity of lifeforms is amazing. Sadly, these environments are one of the most damaged of all ecosystems on earth and we probably have led many tiny species to extinction. Today’s fellow, however, is still alive, and its name is Lophopus crystallinus, or as I decided to call it, the crystalline crestfoot.

lophopus_crystallinus

A colony of Lophopus crystallinus. Photo by Natural History Museum, London.*

The crystalline crestfoot is member of the phylum Bryozoa, sometimes called moss animals. In fact, it was the first bryozoan to be described. As other bryozoans, the crystalline crestfoot lives as a colony of individuals attached to substracts in the lakes and ponds where they exist, which includes Europe and North America. The individuals are not fully independent and have specialized functions within the colony, thus acting as a single superorganism. As a general rule, bryozoans, including the crystalline crestfoot, are filter feeders, extracting particles and microalgae from water.

Despite being considerable tolerant to eutrophication (increase of  organic matter in water) and heavy metal pollution, the crystalline crestfoot is yet threatened by other forms of human impact, such as climate change and certainly by the destruction of its habitat. Once an abundant species, the crystalline crestfoot is now rare and declining. It is currently regarded as a threatened species in the United Kingdom and is the only bryozoan to have a Species Action Plan. Let’s hope we can find a way to avoid it to be wiped out from this world.

– – –

ResearchBlogging.orgReferences:

Elia, A., Galarini, R., Martin Dörr, A., & Taticchi, M. (2007). Heavy metal contamination and antioxidant response of a freshwater bryozoan (Lophopus crystallinus Pall., Phylactolaemata). Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 66 (2), 188-194 DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2005.12.004

Hill, S., Sayer, C., Hammond, P., Rimmer, V., Davidson, T., Hoare, D., Burgess, A., & Okamura, B. (2007). Are rare species rare or just overlooked? Assessing the distribution of the freshwater bryozoan, Lophopus crystallinusBiological Conservation, 135 (2), 223-234 DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2006.10.023

– – –

*Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

Leave a comment

Filed under Conservation, Friday Fellow, Zoology

Friday Fellow: Paraná pine

by Piter Kehoma Boll

As the first conifer Friday Fellow, I decided to choose one of my beloved ones, the Paraná pine, Araucaria angustifolia, also known as Brazilian pine or candelabra tree.

The Paraná pine can reach up to 50 m in height, although most trees are smaller than that. They have a very particular shape and are easily distinguished from the surrounding forest where they occur, the so-called Mixed Ombrophilous Forest or Araucaria Moist Forest, in southern Brazil. The trees have a cylindrical trunk with a dark and thin bark that detaches in large and flexible pieces, being gray on the outer surface and reddish on the inner one. The crown changes its appearance during the development, being conical in young trees and with a candelabrum-like shape in mature specimens. Mature trees usually stand with their crowns above the forest canopy, which gives the Araucaria moist forest its particular look. The leaves grow in a spiral pattern around the stem and are very hard with a sharp point that can easily pierce through the human skin.

araucaria_angustifolia

A group of Paraná pines in Campos de Jordão, Brazil, close to the northernmost distribution of the species. Photo by Vinícius Ribeiro.*

The species current distribution is almost restricted to Brazil, from northern Rio Grande do Sul to southern São Paulo, with some small populations occurring in neighboring areas of Argentina and Paraguay. Once an abundant species, its population has been drastically reduced due to the heavy logging until the middle of the 20th century and the exploitation for the use of its seeds, called pinhão in Portuguese. As a result, it is currently considered as Critically Endangered by IUCN.

araucaria_angustifolia2

An adult tree in the municipality of Colombo, Paraná, Brazil. Photo by Mauro Guanandi.*

The paraná pine is a dioecious species, i.e., males and females are separate plants. As most conifers, it is pollinated by the wind. The large cones, which take two years to become ripe, contain a number of large and edible seeds used as food by many animals, as well as by humans. Pinhões cooked in salty water is a typical dish in southern Brazil during winter. One of the main seed dispersers of the Paraná pine is the azure jay, Cyanocorax caeruleus, which buries the seeds for future use.

araucaria_angustifolia3

A cone and lose seeds of Araucaria angustifolia in a market. Photo by Marcelo Träsel.**

As most (if not all) conifers, the Paraná pine forms mutualist associations with fungi, such as the glomeromycete Glomus clarum. Thus, in order to preserve this amazing tree, it is also necessary to guarantee the preservation of all its partner species, such as mycorrhizal fungi and seed dispersers.

– – –

ResearchBlogging.orgReferences:

Angeli, A. (2003). Araucaria angustifolia (Araucaria). Departamento de Ciências Florestais – ESALQ/USP. Available at: <http://www.ipef.br/identificacao/araucaria.angustifolia.asp&gt;. Access on January 26, 2017.

IUCN (2016). Araucaria angustifolia The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T32975A2829141.en

Soares, T. S. (2004). Araucária – o pinheiro brasileiro. Revista Científica Eletrônica de Engenharia Florestal, 2 (3).

SOUZA, A. (2007). Ecological interpretation of multiple population size structures in trees: The case of Araucaria angustifolia in South America Austral Ecology, 32 (5), 524-533 DOI: 10.1111/j.1442-9993.2007.01724.x

Zandavalli, R., Dillenburg, L., & de Souza, P. (2004). Growth responses of Araucaria angustifolia (Araucariaceae) to inoculation with the mycorrhizal fungus Glomus clarum. Applied Soil Ecology, 25 (3), 245-255 DOI: 10.1016/j.apsoil.2003.09.009

– – –

*Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

**Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License.

Leave a comment

Filed under Botany, Conservation, Friday Fellow

Friday Fellow: Samambaiaçu

ResearchBlogging.orgby Piter Kehoma Boll

It’s more than time to bring a fern as a Friday Fellow, and I decided to start with one of my favorites, the Neotropical tree fern Dicksonia sellowiana, known in Brazil as Samambaiaçu or Xaxim.

dicksonia_sellowiana

A samambaiaçu in a forest in southern Brazil. Photo by Wikimedia user DeadWood II.*

The samambaiaçu occurs from southern Mexico to Uruguay and is usually found in moist forests, being a remarkable species of moist forests in southern Brazil, especially in Araucaria moist forests. It may reach several meters in height and the fronds (leaves) reach up to 2,4 m in length.

During most of the 20th century, the fibrous stems of the samambaiaçu (usually called “xaxim”) were extensively used for manufacturing flower pots or plates that served as a substrate for cultivating orchids and other epiphytic plants. As a result of this exploitation, as well as the destruction of its native habitat, the samambaiaçu is currently included in the Brazilian Red List of endangered species.

The trade of xaxim is currently forbidden by law in Brazil, so if  you ever find someone selling it somewhere, please, communicate the authorities!

– – –

References:

Schmitt, J., Schneider, P., & Windisch, P. (2009). Crescimento do cáudice e fenologia de Dicksonia sellowiana Hook. (Dicksoniaceae) no sul do Brasil Acta Botanica Brasilica, 23 (1), 283-291 DOI: 10.1590/S0102-33062009000100030

Brazil. Law Nº 9.605/98. Available at: <http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/leis/L9605.htm >.

– – –

*Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Leave a comment

Filed under Botany, Conservation, Friday Fellow

Friday Fellow: Red Panda

by Piter Kehoma Boll

One of the cutest animals on the world, or perhaps the cutest in fact, the red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is today’s Friday Fellow.

"Hello! I'm the cutest thing you've ever met!" Photo by Wikimedia user Kuribo.*

“Hello! I’m the cutest thing you’ve ever met!” Photo by Wikimedia user Kuribo.**

The red panda is endemic to temperate forests of the Himalayas in Nepal, China, India, Bhutan and Myanmar. It has, therefore, a considerably small range and prefers areas with a higher bamboo cover.

Despite its cuteness, the red panda’s wild population is declining, with less than 10 thousand individuals remaining, although a more accurate measurement is hard to achieve because local people tend to confuse other small carnivores with the red panda, which may lead to an overestimation of the population size. It is listed as an endangered species in the IUCN’s Red List and the main threats to its survival are habitat loss and fragmentation, inbreeding depression and poaching.

As the giant panda’s, the red panda’s main food is bamboo, but it also eats fruits, eggs and small animals, such as insects and small mammals.

Red pandas love bamboo. Photo by Wikipedia user Colegota.*

Red pandas love bamboo. Photo by Wikipedia user Colegota.*

The taxonomic classification of the red panda was a headache for a long time. It has been placed among the bears (Ursidae) and the raccoons (Procyonidae), but molecular studies indicated that it belongs to its own family, Ailuridae, which is closely related to Procyonidae, Mustelidae (weasels) and Mephitidae (skunks).

Being so cute and only slightly larger than an average domestic cat, as well as easily adaptable to live in captivity, it’s strange that the red panda has not become popular as a pet.

– – –

References:

Pradhan, S.; Saha, G. K.; Khan, J. A. 2001. Ecology of the red panda Ailurus fulgens in the Singhalila National Park, Darjeeling, India. Biological Conservation, 98(1): 11-18.

Wikipedia. Red Panda. Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_panda&gt;. Access on January 28, 2016.

– – –

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic License.

** Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

3 Comments

Filed under Conservation, Friday Fellow

Friday Fellow: Quindio Wax Palm

by Piter Kehoma Boll

ResearchBlogging.orgSo our Friday Fellow is back! After almost a year… but it is!

To restart this section, I decided to talk about an interesting plant which can be found in the region where the mysterious Leimacopsis terricola was found back in the 19th century: the Quindio Wax Palm, or palma de cera del Quindío, in Spanish.

This palm, which belong to the species Ceroxylon quindiuense, is the national tree of Colombia and native to the Cocora Valley, a high altitude valley of the Andean region in the department of Quindío, Colombia, from where it was considered basically endemic. However, recently a significant population was found southwards in the Andes of northern Peru.

Ceroxylon quindiudense in the Cocora Valley, Quindío, Colombia. Photo by Diego Torquemada. Taken from commons.wikimedia.org

Ceroxylon quindiuense in the Cocora Valley, Quindío, Colombia. Photo by Diego Torquemada*. Taken from commons.wikimedia.org

As all species in the genus Ceroxylon (“wax wood” in Greek), the Quindio wax palm has a cylindrical trunk covered with a white wax marked by scars left by leafbases. It is also the tallest palm in the world, reaching as far as 60 m in height or even more.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was a very abundant species in Colombia, but its population was already being reduced due to several activities, mainly by harvesting it as an important source for manufacturing candles during the 19th century. Also, until very recently young leaves were cut to be used for Palm Sunday, leading to death or delay in growth. Nowadays both practices are highly reduced, but the species is still threatened by other activities. The raising of cattle have turned most of the forest where the Quindio wax palm grows in pasture and, despite the large amount of trees growing in the pasture, there are no young individuals, since all (or almost all) seedlings are eaten by cattle. Thus, it is considered Endangered (EN) in the Plant Red List of Colombia and Vulnerable (VU) by IUCN. As an initiative to save the species, it is legally protected in Colombia since 1985, when it became the national tree of the country.

The reduction of the populations of wax palm also threatens species associated to them, like the yellow-eared parrot, which nests in the hollow trunks of wax palms and is an endangered species according to IUCN. But that’s another fellow…

– – –

References:

Bernal, R. & Sanín, M. J. 2013. Los palmares de Ceroxylon quindiuense (Arecaceae) en el Valle de Cocora, Quindío: perspectivas de un ícono escénico de Colombia. Colombia Florestal, 16 (1), 67-79

Salaman, P. G., López-Lanús, B. & Krabbe, N. 1991. Critically endangered: Yellow-eared Parrot Ognorhynchus icterotis in Colombia Cotinga, 11, 39-41

Sanín, M. J. & Galeano, G. 2011. A revision of the Andean wax palms, Ceroxylon (Arecaceae). Phytotaxa, 34, 1-64

Wikipedia. Ceroxylon quindiuense. Available online at < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceroxylon_quindiuense >. Access on March 20, 2014.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

1 Comment

Filed under Friday Fellow

Friday Fellow: Corpse Flower

by Piter Kehoma Boll

ResearchBlogging.org I guess most of you already know Rafflesia arnoldii, the corpse flower, as it is quite popular for a lot of reasons. But sometimes it’s nice to show the classics too, right?

Described in 1822 by Robert Brown, the corpse flower is remarkable for having the largest flower among all flowering (and non-flowering too) plants. Its name honors its two discoverers, the statesman Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles and the botanist Joseph Arnold, who collected the first specimen in 1818. It is known from the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo, ocurring in secondary and primary forests. It is one of the three national flowers of Indonesia.

Rafflesia arnoldii. Photo by Henrik Hansson*

Rafflesia arnoldii. Photo by Henrik Hansson*

There’s a lot of other weird things about it yet to be mentioned. Its common name, corpse flower, is due to the fact that the flowers smell like rotten flesh to attract carrion flies from genera Lucilia and Sarcophaga that pollinate them. Besides that, Rafflesia arnoldii is also a parasitic plant, extracting all the nutrients it needs from the roots or stems of vines of the genus Tetrastigma, so that it doesn’t have neither roots nor leaves and passes most of its life hidden inside the parasitized plant. The only visible structure is the flower, which takes months to grow, but remains open only for a few days.

Currently, the corpse flower is not evaluated by IUCN, so that it is not labelled as threatened, but human disturbance in its natural habitat, including ecoturism, seems to be decreasing the number of flowers opening per year.

– – –

References:

Brown, R. 1821. XV. An Account of a new Genus of Plants, named Rafflesia. Transactions of the Linnean Society of London, 13 (1), 201-234 DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-8339.1821.tb00062.x

KEW Royal Botanic Gardens: Rafflesia arnoldii (corpse flower). Available at: <http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/Rafflesia-arnoldii.htm > Access on February 8, 2013.
Creative Commons License
These works are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

1 Comment

Filed under Botany, Friday Fellow