Tag Archives: endangered species

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.

2 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Botany, Friday Fellow

Earthling Bulletin #13

by Piter Kehoma Boll

For the first time, the strange four-strand DNA has been found in cells! Picture by Jean-Paul Rodriguez, extracted from nature.com

For the first time, the strange four-strand DNA has been found in cells! Picture by Jean-Paul Rodriguez, extracted from nature.com

News

Blog

Art & Books

Scientific Articles

Leave a comment

Filed under Bulletins