GO BLUE! Maybe the UoM should have the armadillo as the school mascot (Defense! Defense!) I couldn’t help myself.
Easier to observe in the back yard than in the zoo, Armadillo are mammals of the order Cingulata where as ant eaters and sloth are from the order Pilosa. Both are somewhat related in classification and are grouped together in the magnorder, Xenarthra. Without careful understanding of the anatomy the distinction can be seen only by dissection. “The lumbar vertebrae are xenarthrous; that is, they have extra contacts (joints, or arthroses) that function to strengthen the lower back and hips.”1 This facilitates the use of the forelegs for digging. The distinction can be seen in their behavior where the primary method used by anteaters and armadillos to obtain food is by digging for insects and roots. I made the distinction in the Everglades Ark Epicollect5 database to make observation data collection in Africa easier.
Armadillos have a really bizarre reproductive metabolism.2 They exhibit “obligate monozygotic polyembryony” where each fertilized egg will divide into quarters to produce four separate embryos thereby giving birth to litters of four genetically identical young. Additionally their ovulation period can be varied depending on available food resources. The fertilized egg may stay in the uterus for about 14 weeks before implantation into the wall for the four month gestation period.
These animals were really clever in their defensive behaviors. They have “armor plated” skin on the outside of their bodies, they have a low metabolic rate and body temperature, Among their defensive behaviors they can curl into a ball shape, climb, swim and jump. They are omnivorous and nocturnal. Although they are not indigenous to Florida they are considered native to the Americas. They are not an endangered species.
You might recall another animal with similar behaviors. Check out Gopher tortoise in the Everglades Ark.
Wouldn’t It be interesting to see ant eaters in the back yard ?
Caution: Armadillos dig holes and eat ground dwelling bird and reptile eggs. Try not to pick them up.
Giraffes are so unusual. They are big with extraordinarily long necks and legs and their coloration is vividly variegated. it is hard to imagine that they are camouflaged in the wilderness. They are one of my favorite animals.
Zoo encounters are interesting reminders of the real world beyond the confines of our daily lives. Nothing in a zoo, however, compares to the sight, sounds, smells and surroundings of animals in the wild. I highly recommend the experience of seeing the wild surroundings of our remarkable resource of four million acres of the wilderness of the Everglades National Park and associated state parks around us. Everglades Ark is my attempt to bring the wonders of it to you. Later this year I will be in Africa to observe and photograph the sanctuaries of the Okavango Delta in Botswana and the Maasai Mara in Kenya. I hope that you will see many examples of how this sample of Africa compares to our wilderness in SWFL.
Zoos which have value depend on money and leadership:
Zoos and nature reserves have several agendas which are not necessarily well understood and not always well directed. Superficially these nature reserve areas are entertainment to the public for a price. The public is invited to see and in some instances interact with the captive animals. It is almost like a circus. They also have another agenda which is to preserve some of the animal species in a protected environment. The price paid to see and interact with the animals is the welfare of the animals and the admission for the public to enter. Zoos are very expensive to operate in numerous ways. The two biggest costs are protection and preservation of the animals and protection of the public. I have looked at the literature regarding the effectiveness of the missions of zoos. The information is sparse and scientific studies are few and not well documented. A small number of zoos are well endowed and have the opportunity to facilitate breeding in captivity, promotion of species survival in the wild, and provide research into physiology and pathology that effects both the wild animal populations as well as humans.
Here is your citizen naturalist participation assignment: Go out and enjoy the wild world around us.
Feel free to participation in a discussion regarding the topics in the comment box below.
The Everglades Ark data base site at Epicollect5 needed an update of its classification of mammals under the listing of Animals. Here is the new listing as extracted from a variety of web available references. This is intended to simplify the gathering of information by reducing the need for enumeration of in-field choices while still providing an orderly database look-up. This will be especially helpful when comparing observations from diverse ecosystems including Florida, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South America, the Middle East, and other areas of the USA. The animals are listed by order with examples. This is not intended to be encyclopedic. It does, however, provide space for the observer to enter notes or comments such as genus and species. The example, order or both of the animal can be listed.
Is this next mammal the same order as the animal shown above?
Mammal Classification by Order
marsupial – kangaroo, opossum
armadillo, sloth, anteater
seal, bear, wolf, badger
dolphin and whale
even-toed ungulate: goat, hippo, giraffe
moles and shrew
odd-toed ungulate: horse, rhino, tapir
Expanded but simplified categorization of Mammals
Answer to the above question: it is a Perissoxactyla (tapir) lying on the beach in the Osa peninsula park in south west Costa Rica facing the Pacific Ocean. If you said yes; sorry it is not the same order as the Elephant. It is not just the noses but also the feet.
If you like it, click it. Your thoughts are also welcome in the comment area below.
This zoo is not a cat house. It is a house with a cat collection. Here are a few photos of some of the species. I hope that you have an opportunity to visit and contribute to the work of the Naples Zoo.
This visit to the Naples Zoo was done in preparation for my trip to Africa later this summer. I anticipate the African photo safari will be a rewarding adventure without the obstructions. The greatest difficulty I encountered here were the bars and fencing that obstructed a clear view. All of the images required extensive editing with Photoshop to make the images publishable. The zoo makes an excellent effort to maintain security for the public and the animals. On the other hand the zoo provides a predictable access for all of us to enjoy. The Florida panther is shown to demonstrate the typical enclosure fencing. I included it to remind all that the fencing may be more for the protection of the animals than for the people. Please recall the tragic death of the Malaysian tiger, Eco, about which I previously posted at Ode to Eco.
When I return from Africa we can compare the animals and ecosystems of both locations.
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There is an existential relationship between butterflies and specific plants. This has been discussed in previous postings. See Milkweed and Monarch and OE.
The classic example of this is the Monarch and the milkweed plant. This specific relationship exemplifies mutualism. The milkweed is a mildly toxic plant which the Monarch larva, caterpillar and butterfly can tolerate. This gives the multiple staged Monarch an environmental advantage. The toxic product of the plant is not metabolized by the insect; however, it is retained in their body during the caterpillar and butterfly stages. The toxic material residing in the very helpless stage makes the caterpillar less inviting to birds and other prey. The toxic chemical tastes bad and in sufficient quantities poisons the prey. The milkweed benefits from the butterfly pollination and thus facilitates propagation of its species.
Other relationships exist between the butterflies of different species and their feeding plant habits. Most insects feed on plant nectar and when coincidentally accumulating pollen on their bodies transfer that pollen to another plant of the same species. This results in cross polination and promotes fertility and diversity of genetic material in the various species. This sweet substance is often the source of nutrition that is sought after by the adult butterflies. The plant leaves are nutritious to the caterpillar stage of the butterflies.
The “butterfly plants” themselves are interesting to people because they attract butterflies and other insects such as bees and because they are very beautiful. Unfortunately, the blossoms are usually small and don’t get the deserved attention. I believe that their beauty is underappreciated. In this blog we can enjoy them for just their flowers. Shown here are plants from one private garden at one residential site. If you look at the epicollect5 data base you can find it close to observation #122
I’m sure that you will appreciate the coming blog site which will show the wide varies of butterflies that I have seen in the changing seasons of Florida. Click through the following series of photos to enjoy close up views of the blooms.
Whether you plant them in pots or in the yard you will get a double bonus, beautiful blossoms and butterflies.
Making your garden:
Large or small, make it fun and easy to maintain. Plan for about six hours of direct sunlight mostly in the morning. Pick a location that has plenty of hedges, shrubs, and trees around it to provide places for butterflies to take shelter from the elements and local predators. Alternatively, make a safe spot. Install some fencing or trellis around the edges, and plant some vining flowers next to them to make your butterfly garden a beautiful and thriving focal point. Diversify your flowers to provide both food and nesting environment for a variety of butterfly species. Provide some open spaces for sunning and some water or close proximity to water. Importantly avoid pesticides and use native plants. It is OK to set out a small plate of sweet ripe fruit on occasion for the butterflies.
Click on Butterfly attracting plants to see a work-in-progress list of plants and associated butterflies that I have assembled from observation in existing gardens in SWFL.
Check out this observation from our Epicollect5 site 122 through 129.
Please contribute your thoughts or experiences in the space below or simply click like!
Milkweed plants are the sustaining plants for the Monarch and Queen butterflies. They also are the vector for transmission for the protozoan parasitic OE (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha) infection. The three are intimately related. The Monarch depends exclusively on Milkweed for survival. The butterfly and its parasite cannot propagate without the plant. The insect and protozoan both mature through their growth and reproduction cycles* in perfect harmony on the leaves of the milkweed. Apparently, at this stage in our environment no Monarchs been found in the wild without some level of the parasitic infection. The infection is apparently only a matter of degree. Compared to uninfected individuals Monarchs have reduced survival rate and longevity, lower reproductive success, and compromised flight ability. This substantially alters their ability to migrate and reproduce. We have seen this in an earlier blog posting.
Investigation of this process is important to the survival of the Monarch butterfly population. I highly recommend that you participate in a citizen scientist project. It is sponsored by the Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens GA, 30602. Check out their site at Project Monarch Health.
Your comments and contributions to this topic are welcome. Please enter them in the comments box below. Please check out the recommended readings to discuss topics of prevention and control of OE.
We discussed Monarch Butterflies on several occasions and we saw the normal wing anatomy under the microscope. On this occasion I was speaking with a neighbor who was raising butterflies in tents in her back yard. She was happy to rescue the little caterpillars and protect them from predation. She did point out one of the butterflies who was not doing very well. I collected it and brought it home. I had a suspicion that it was ill and was not going to survived. I suspected a protozoan, Ophryocystis elektroschirrha (OE) infection. I baged it and put it in the freezer to euthanize it as recommended.
Featured image is a healthy male monarch butterfly as noted by the two darker spots in the dorsal veins of the tail wings.
The butterfly was unable to fly and its wings were all crumpled up. It was thrashing about on the ground. Post mortem I photographed the remains which had not changed significantly from the time I found it. It shows a typical irregular wing deformity characteristic of a OE infection.
I placed the specimin in a paper envelop to avoid spreading spores. With rubber gloves and cotton pliers the remains were placed on the stage of the microscope. These are bright field flash illuminated images. I looked for the telltail OE spores on the abdomen and wings. I’m not an expert in insect paracytology and I could be misinterpreting these observations. None-the-less here is what I found.
Using the microscope I also examined the envelop that held the remains and found no sign of OE spores.
Without evidence of spores my suspicion remains the same. This still could be a OE parasite infection based on behavior and gross appearance. The spore count could be insufficient to be seen or the infection could be in an early stage. I will continue to look for other Monarchs with similar signs and inspect them for spores. Examination for OE would make an excellent citizen scientist community investigative effort.
I informed my neighbor of my findings and recommended that she follow the recommendations of Project Monarch Health. This site is readily available to all readers who enjoy observing these beautiful creatures. It is especially helpful for the hobbyist who wishes to grow them in their yard in tents.
OE is a common and debilitating parasite of monarchs that can cause deformity and even death.
Heavily infected monarchs with clearly visible signs of OE infection (e.g., deformity) should be euthanized by freezing.
Monarchs with lower spore loads can be released, provided that the captive rearing conditions did not foster parasite transmission.
Containers, cages, surfaces and nets that contact adult monarchs should be carefully sanitized with 20% chlorine bleach to kill OE spores and prevent transmission.
Infected monarchs should not be kept as pets (as an alternative to euthanasia), as this will result in high rates of OE contamination to future generations of monarchs reared in the same household.
My general sense is that raising butterflies with good intention of preserving them from predators may in fact put them at a greater risk. Concentrating the insects may promote higher cross contamination. The grossly infected die but when the tent full of Monarchs with low to moderate levels of OE are released they spread the disease through the outside population.
Spring is here and so is another seasonal group of blooming trees. Most of the blooms of Christmas have fallen and some still linger on but all are interesting and beautiful. It seems that the Christmas tree blooms have lasted until two weeks ago and so this new group are a good replacement. The feature picture is a Plumeria.
The Golden Trumpet trees are found throughout the neighborhoods here in Florida and are such a bright harbinger of spring that they are even mentioned in the Naples Botanical garden bulletin. The Pink Trumpet trees are planted along the centers of the boulevards in our neighborhood. They are both members of the same genus and species. They both also make such a magnificent presentation that they are just unavoidable eye candy. In Florida, most plumeria tend to lose their leaves in the winter months and enter into a dormant period. Plumeria are now just coming to bloom. I found at least 6 with various colors within easy bicycling distance. There are several of the Jacaranda trees in the area however I had to wait two weeks to find a good full tree specimen that photographed well. This outlier here is the Coral Bean tree. It is a native to Florida and relatively hard to find. The green pods mature to a dark brown in the fall and will have red seeds that are quite poisonous. Locations for all of these observations are listed on the Epicollect5 database site
Be sure to describe the spring blooming trees in your area.
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You didn’t think that I would forget the parakeets. Did you?
Well, here are a few of the twenty or so birds that are in an aviary that were accessible to me. They were very reluctant to perch because my presence inside created some excitement for them. They did settle down for some portraits before my time ran out. My favorite color is blue! I hope that you enjoy them.
Please vote on your preferences or tell about your own pet in the comment space below.
#Parakeets #blue #yellow #green
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This visit to the Naples Botanical Garden is the first time for collecting observations of this very large and well organized attraction. There is such a diverse range of plants that it will take many visits to begin a true sense of the scope of this effort to preserve and perpetuate the collection. There are no captive animals in the garden. None-the-less here you will find a comprehensive array of eye catching plants.
Later we will explore in detail specific parts of the garden. There are numerous exotic, rare and endangered species growing there. This posting is just a sample of some eye candy emphasizing the red blooms seen on this three hour visit.
Be sure to look at the Epicollect 5 web site showing more data and images of the observations from number 143 to 159. On the same site click on the map and you will see the concentration of the fourteen recorded observations on the Naples Botanical Garden.
If you like the photos make your comments below to show your interest.
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“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or gazelle. When the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”* (The photo is a fraction of a gazelle herd just after dawn. They are drinking in shifts. Note the sentinels looking for possible attack from lions lurking in the bush.)
I am addressing the issue of biologic action and response because it lies at the source of all behaviors for survival. Most of what we see in this continuing survey of the plants and animals is the result of efforts of the RNA/DNA molecule. Its multiple iterations over the last four billion years improves its survivability through diversity. The continuing changes that we will see in our Everglades Ark voyage are the result of species meeting the challenges. These changes are now accelerating at such a startling rate that they now readily observable within the span of a few years rather than decades or centuries. We use technologies to document and interpret the observations.
Plants and animals are in constant interaction with one another. These interactions are defined but the lines between their behaviors are not extraordinarily sharp. They have various blended modes. In fact the animal or plant may have multiple roles as prey and predator at the same time.
If the behavior is efficient then the result is advantage. If the advantage is insurmountable then the result is listed below. If the adaptation is efficient the result is advantage. Here is my description of commonly describe interactions:
For animals there are a number of variations in the listed predator/responder actions. These competitive behaviors include: inter and intra species, exploitation and interference.
Long term resultor risk
Prey is eaten
Prey loses or balances by high reproduction rate
Monopoly resource consumption
Advantage Resource controller
Disadvantaged competitor is displaced
Loss of niche. Adapt or displaced
Responder failure results in extinction or adaptation.
Disadvantaged poisoned or irritated
Adapt or displaced
Masquerader, clue, reward,
Displaced looses niche
Over population without predator
Colony collapse risk without food.
Colony collapse risk if niche is compromised
Colony collapse risk if resource is compromised or adaptation is insufficient
Anatomy and resource
All niches and resources are vulnerable
Conscious consumption of resources or risk of colony collapse
Living by invasion
Cost to Host
Loss of host resources
May result in chronic disease or eventual death of host
Living with interaction
Resource gain to both
Population of both increase May result in inseparable dependence.
Living among without interaction
No pressure to differentiate
Living from remains
Life without loss
Decomposition and recycle
Action of members of an ecosystem
Here are several animal actors in our SW Florida ecosystem.
An eagle may be a predator and a commensurate by taking live wild prey and also scavenging for road kill.
The Cane toad is an environmentally advantaged insectivore and has a toxic chemical defense that dissuades predators from controlling their population. The Cane toads currently are hunted by humans to reduce their numbers. This may result in an imbalance in the insect population.
Bobcats have a relatively low birth rate. They are carnivore predators and may survive on rabbits which are herbivores. The rabbits have a high reproductive rate, run faster and live in burrows. Without the bobcat there would be an uncontrolled rabbit population resulting in significant damage to the foliage.
Monarch butterfly eat milkweed. Milkweed is mildly toxic and thus disfavored by all except the Monarch and the Queen butterfly. These two butterfly species are tolerant of the toxin. After ingestion the toxin resides in the bodies of the butterflies. The milkweed toxin in the Monarch and Queen is disfavored by insectivores. This improves their survival rate.
These are constantly changing behaviors with significant consequences to all resources involved. The Bird Island described in the earlier post Beauty and the Beast is a fair example of the interaction of the actions of the partners in that ecosystem.
At some point each animal or plant consumes resources and in turn is consumed in some way, hence the blurring of the lines of classification. We will look at plant behaviors in the near future.
The ultimate predators are not individual or small groups but herds. Humans acting as a herd collectively have all of the characteristics of predation, competition, and environmental advantage as well as all of the traits of symbiosis. The human herd is also prey to other species who act collectively and have highly adaptive behaviors. Insects and microorganisms with their high reproductive rates, readily mutative DNA/RNA, environmental adaptable capabilities, small physical size and collective behavior could ultimately be the demise of our species unless we continue to respond.
To learn more about Survival of the Fittest see these resources:
How do the birds know what area needs to be groomed on their partner? Maybe there is more to this behavior than grooming. Apparently it is not all about cleanliness. Birds preen themselves. This behavior is a form of cleaning and spreading oils that are important in the health of the feathers. They also preen one another. The interaction between birds is a form of bonding. This is called allopreening. Birds that are paired or in a flock will exhibit this behavior. It may also be a sign of trust or affection or part of a bonded behavior. Note that in these photos the majority of contact is the head , neck and beak areas. Contact with the wings and tail may stimulate the production of mating hormones.
Those love birds may have any number of ideas as part of their preening behavior. Be sure to check out the Love Bird at Valentine’s Day and Humans in Parrot Captivity on this blog site. If you have a bird that trusts you, make a comment or start a discussion in the comments box below.
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I can’t think of another way to celebrate this special time of the year than to have a display of Love Birds. These captive pets that have been rescued and are at the Wonder Garden in Bonita Springs fort all to enjoy. The rescue activity reflects several circumstances like incapacity of the owner to continue care of their pets because of age, illness or death. It may also reflect the nature of pets in general where the owner is no longer committed to the care of these creatures such as feeding, cleaning and playing. I find them fun to watch because they are so animated and colorful. I hope that you also enjoy them.
More captive small birds to come on future blog posting! They have me as a captive audience.
If you have a pet bird be sure to comment.
#Love Birds #Red face Love Bird #Fisher’s Love Bird
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Observations are recorded in the data base. Criteria are then selected and filtered in Excel. The data are then added to the map. The updated map is posted for your review in the linked site. Using this method the maps will become increasingly sophisticated as observations are made and interest is developed.
Here is what you can see:
You will see maps as they are updated. You are encouraged to make comments or open a discussion or simply follow discussions that the author feels are relevant.
Here is what you can do:
Open the map and select the layers that you wish to correlate. If available, the map matching your criteria will then appear. You may request posting of specific criteria for mapping to meet a particular need. You may also go to the Epicollect5 data file directly and make your own map to match your own needs by following the guide already posted as mentioned above.