Home » Short Observations

  • Open-air Processional Column Termites in Bukit Timah Nature Preserve, Singapore (2016)

    Open-air Processional Column Termites in Bukit Timah Nature Preserve, Singapore (2016)

    Social insects are a major force in land habitats. A mature leaf-cutter ant colony can consume leaf material equal to a weight of a cow every day. Termites are another insect group (related to cockroaches) evolved independently to achieve sociality. Their effects on ecosystems in terms of material and nutrient cycling can rival those of ants. Higher termites (family Termitidae) feed on a wide variety of plant-based material, including decaying wood, leaf litter, humus, fungi, lichens, dung, and grasses. Non-wood-feeding […]

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  • Bald-faced Hornet Worker Collecting Nest Material

    Bald-faced Hornet Worker Collecting Nest Material

    A female bald-faced hornet worker (Dolichovespula maculata) was stripping the surface of a wooden fence post to collect nest building material. While stripping with mandibles the cellulosic material gets rolled up under her thorax. She strips a piece as long as her body and then climbs up again to strip another. Two consequtive strips must have been the optimal load size to carry into the nest. Leaf-cutter ants of the neotropics also use their bodies as yard sticks. The motivation […]

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  • A Spawning Aggregation in a Bluehead Chub Nest  – Brandon Peoples (2014)

    A Spawning Aggregation in a Bluehead Chub Nest – Brandon Peoples (2014)

    This short observation shows a spawning aggregation containing seven species of fish in a Bluehead chub (Nocomis leptocephalus) nest in Toms Creek, New River Drainage in Blacksburg, Virginia. These species are Mountain redbelly dace (Chrosomus oreas), White shiner (Luxilus albeolus), Rosefin shiner (Lythrurus ardens), Rosyside dace (Clinostomus funduloides), Central stoneroller (Campostoma anomalum) and Crescent shiner (Luxilus cerasinus). Bluehead chub with it’s impressive nesting behavior provides a rich natural history for ecologists. Brandon Peoples who recorded this short observation is a […]

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  • A Day in the Life of an Elite Male Greater Sage-Grouse on the Lek – Marc Dantzker – Cornell Lab of Ornithology (2015)

    A Day in the Life of an Elite Male Greater Sage-Grouse on the Lek – Marc Dantzker – Cornell Lab of Ornithology (2015)

    Here’s another fascinating piece of natural history from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. In this series of short observations staff producer and biologist Marc Dantzker breaks down the mating behavior and social interaction of the Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in five sections. Lekking or lek mating is a breeding behavior where males come together in a place and perform competitive displays to impress visiting females. While males do their “hello check me out” dances, females asses their qualities and choose […]

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  • A Leafcutter Ant Colony in Barro Colorado Island

    A Leafcutter Ant Colony in Barro Colorado Island

    Filmed on Jan 28th 2017 during the dry season. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institue (STRI) Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama. Leafcutter ants are an impressive group with more than 40 different species. All evolved and diversified in the New World at around 12 million years ago. Phylogenetic evidence suggests their evolution could go back as far as 50 million years ago when America separated from Africa. A mature colony can have more than 8 million workers collectively farming a subterranean fungus. […]

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  • Seed Dispersal by Dung Mimicry – Nature (2015)

    Seed Dispersal by Dung Mimicry – Nature (2015)

    Plant-animal interactions have not always evolved to become mutualistic win-win strategies like birds dispersing seeds of palms while feeding on the fruits. Plants can be rather deceptive. They can hijact sensory vulnerabilities of animals. Secondary metabolites such as nicotine, caffeine, codeine can be rather addictive. Plant chemicals can also be used as deterrent. A sub-Saharan desert plant taily weed (Ochradenus baccatus) detonates a mustard bomb in the mouths of seed predators who dare to chew and destroy its seeds. Plant […]

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  • A Jaguar and Her Cubs from Belize – Bart Harmsen (2016)

    A Jaguar and Her Cubs from Belize – Bart Harmsen (2016)

    In this short observation we see a rare sequence of footage recorded by the researchers working for the conservation program Jaguar Corridor Initiative. These particular observations were captured in Belize but the conservation program covers much of the jaguar range in 14 states including Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela. Jaguar is an elusive top predator of the neotropical forests. Observations of reproductive females and offspring numbers are very valuable in […]

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  • Carolina Anole Lizard Changing Color

    Carolina Anole Lizard Changing Color

    You can watch the gradual color change in this Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis) from green to brown over 4 mins.   Summer of 2011 was drier than usual in Athens, GA. Annual rainfall (37.11 inches) was lower than the 1981-2010 average (46.66 inches). The month of July was particularly hot. Average monthly temperature was 81.9 F (above 1895-2012 average of 80.0 F). Reptiles in such conditions have a rather fast metabolism and burn calories fast. This female lizard was a […]

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  • Mating Displays of Peacock Spiders – Jürgen Otto (2011)

    Mating Displays of Peacock Spiders – Jürgen Otto (2011)

    Here you see a series of short observations recorded by Jürgen Otto documenting the mating dances of Australian peacock spiders (for full scientific names of the spiders please see a list at the bottom of this post). Peacock spiders are another astonishing example of variation of the same theme in nature: “males display, females choose”. Mating displays have always been an attractive topic. A biological explanation for such behavior is given in a short animated documentary by the Cornell University […]

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  • A Mating Aggregation of Bearded Fireworms – Lütfü Tanrıöver (2010)

    A Mating Aggregation of Bearded Fireworms – Lütfü Tanrıöver (2010)

    A mating aggregation of a Mediterranean polychete worm (Hermodice carunculata). External fertilization is one of the early ancestral ways to produce offspring. Here an underwater explorer based in Fethiye has recorded a spawning aggregation of the Mediterranean polychete worm (Hermodice carunculata). External fertilization is rather costly. Internal fertilization has evolved numerous times as a result of this. One of the most striking example is the Coelecanth with many specimen containing embryos. Egg production requires more resources compared to sperm. Females […]

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  • Fish Tool Use Documented in the Wild – (2016)

    Fish Tool Use Documented in the Wild – (2016)

    The news that a black spotted tuskfish, Choerodon schoenleinii, (Valenciennes, 1839) was observed using a tool made the hearts of ethologists race. Here you can see a few recorded examples of the behavior from different locations and species belonging to the same genus within the wrasse family. As the story goes the behavior was first observed by Scott Gardner in Australia. On November 12th 2006, Mr. Gardner did an 18-m dive in the Keppel region of the southern Great Barrier […]

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  • Giant Ichneumon Wasp (Megarhyssa macrurus) Ovipositing

    Giant Ichneumon Wasp (Megarhyssa macrurus) Ovipositing

    Giant Ichneumon wasp (Megaryssa macrurus, Linneaus 1771) ovipositing. 10th of August 2013, Georgia State Botanical Garden, Athens, GA. 3:47 pm. This observation has been registered in iNaturalist.org with ID# 418639. Oviposition marks the beginning of the life cycle of all insects including parasitoid wasps. Females of Megarryhssa macrurus (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) are specialized to lay their eggs in the burrows of wood eating Pigeon Tremex Horntail (Tremex columba) larvae between June and September. Only one egg is deposited per host larva […]

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  • Visitors of Jerusalem Thorn (Paliurus spina-christi)

    Visitors of Jerusalem Thorn (Paliurus spina-christi)

    The Jerusalem Thorn (Paliurus spina-christi) is a native evergreen bush of the Mediterranean basin belonging to the Buckthorn family (Rhamnaceae). As you might have already guessed from its scientific name, this is the plant depicted as a torture device (the crown of thorns) on prophet Jesus Christ’s head. The genus Paliurus is quite recognizable by its orbicular-winged fruit. The fossil record for the genus is widespread in the Northern Hemisphere and goes back to the middle Eocene epoch (~34 million […]

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  • Visitors of Starry Rosinweed – Silphium asteriscus (Asteraceae)

    Visitors of Starry Rosinweed – Silphium asteriscus (Asteraceae)

    A brief record of the insect visitors on a starry rosinweed in less than half hour period during August 14th 2010 at the State Botanical Garden in Athens, GA. Visitors/pollinators included long-horned bee (Melissodes bimaculata), Juvenal’s duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis), Carder bee (Anthidium illustre), Fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus), Scoliid wasp (Scolia nobilitata), another long-horned bee belonging to genus Melissodes and Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis). In this short observation, the last visitor of the flower was a Silvery Checkerspot with rather beat […]

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  • Chain Forming Leptogenys Ants from Cambodia – Stephane de Greef (2014)

    Chain Forming Leptogenys Ants from Cambodia – Stephane de Greef (2014)

    The ant behavior described in these observations were first recorded by citizen scientists in Cambodia (see the original recording at the end of this post) where ants have been shown to form chains to transport large prey. The level of cooperation is so striking that myrmecologists scrambled to find out whether it is genuine. Two researchers have successfully documented the behavior by filming them in Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Self-assembling cooperation in ants is known to take many interesting […]

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