Mammal Classification

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.

Just lying, watching the sunset over the ocean on the beach just in front of the palm trees. Check out the feet. What order is it?

Is this next mammal the same order as the animal shown above?

Standing on the Savana of the Massai Mara
Mammal Classification by Order 
Orderexample
Metatheria  marsupial – kangaroo, opossum 
Edentata armadillo, sloth, anteater
Pholidotapangolin
Carnivoraseal, bear, wolf, badger
Rodentiarodent
Lagomorpharabbit
Cetaciadolphin and whale
Artiodactylaeven-toed ungulate: goat, hippo, giraffe 
Tubuldentata aardvark
Dermopteracolugo
Insectivoramoles and shrew
Chiropterabats
Hyracoideahyraxes
Primatesprimates
Perissodactyla odd-toed ungulate: horse, rhino, tapir
Proboscidea elephant
Sirenia manatee 
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.

References:

Berkley classification

ITIS Report

Animal Diversity Web

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#mammals #order #classification #animal

House cats at the Naples Zoo

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.

African Serval (Leptailurus serval). In my opinion this is the most beautiful and agile of all of the cats at the Naples Zoo. It was shown at the demonstration theatre.
Cheetah. One of the pair in the featured photograph.
Two siblings of the three younger male lions in the lion area which at this time has three young males and an unrelated mated pair of mature lions.
The male lion. He really opened his eyes when the nearby male crocodile was bellowing a few meters away. That sure got my attention too.
Florida panther in captivity rehabilitating before release back to the wild.

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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#lion #cheetah #serval #cats #zoo #Naples Zoo #

A Walk in the Butterfly Park

This is what our butterfly garden is all about. You never know which butterflies flutter by.

Gulf Frutillaria (Agraulis vanillae). We will explore the Frutilleria, Queen and Monarch in detail later.
 Schaus’ swallowtail (Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus). An endangered species.
Southern White (male)
Long Wing Zebra (Heliconius charithonia). The state butterfly of Florida!
Monarch (Danaus plexippus L.)
White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae). Somewhat rare.
Mangrove Buckeye (Junonia genoveva)

Please feel free to contribute comments on this site through the box at the bottom.

References for plants and butterflies for Florida:

Alabama butterfly Atlas host and nectar plants

Water Institute of University of South Florida Projects

Plant atlas of Florida

You could have this stunning original butterfly collage print found on the Gallery page.

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Butterfly Garden

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.

Monarch laying eggs on Milkweed

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

A portion of a typical butterfly garden area with wire fencing to protect against rabbit invasion Epicollect5 site 122.
This is a great scene of a mixed field of flowering plants that provides a variety of colorful blossoms. It is endlessly entertaining for easy viewing of a broad selection of butterflies.

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.

Site plan of a well designed butterfly garden with morning sun and water proximity.

Please contribute your thoughts or experiences in the space below or simply click like!

References:

University of Florida Agriculture

Butterflies and their plants

The truth about butterfly bush

Dave’s Garden

Planting a butterfly garden

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#butterfly #butterfly garden #Monarch #milkweed #garden #planting #butterfly attracting

Milkweed plants: benefit and risk to Monarchs

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.

Healthy Milkweed leaf underside showing Monarch butterfly egg in direct center. (1:1)
Microscopic enlargement of healthy Monarch egg on Milkweed leaf. (~800X)
Milkweed leaf ladened with OE (1:1)
OE parasites on Milkweed leaf erupting from infected Monarch egg in initial single cell stage
OE parasite single cell stage spreading onto Milkweed leaf
OE parasite spread throughout leaf attached to small cellular fibers.
*The butterfly scatters spores on the eggs and milkweed plant. The parasite is ingested by the larva which erupted from the egg. We are highlighting the right side of this diagram.
New caterpillar hatchling larva starting to eat.
Hatchling larva covered with OE monocytes.
The larva will ingest the OE which will mature and divide in the caterpillar gut while the larva mature through the caterpillar and crysalis stages. When butterfly breaks through the chrysalis its wings are distorted, it is deformed and covered with spores. The OE in the spore stage will repeat the cycle.

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.

For further reading:

Long-lived butterfly parasites can’t take the heat

Effects of the parasite, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, on wing characteristics important for migration in the monarch butterfly

How This Popular Garden Plant May Spread Parasites that Harm Monarchs

Native Milkweed

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#OE #monarch #butterfly #parasite #spores #larva #crysalis #milkweed #vector transmission

Monarch Butterflies and Parasitic 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.

GROSS EXAMINATION:

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.

Newly emerged Monarch Butterfly with distinct symptoms of OE infection.

MICROSCOPIC EXAMINATION:

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.

This 200X magnification of the wrinkled dorsal surface of the Monarch wing with shows scales and pollen. (photoflash exposure)
Another area of the Monarch wing at 100X (photoflash exposure)
This is a sample of scrapings from the abdomen and underside of the Monarch wings magnified to 400X (bright field transmitted light). There is no sign of spores.

Using the microscope I also examined the envelop that held the remains and found no sign of OE spores.

RESULTS:

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.

Here is an extract from https://www.monarchparasites.org/presentations

Illustration from Project Monarch Health.

“In a Nutshell“:

  1. OE is a common and debilitating parasite of monarchs that can cause deformity and even death.
  2. Heavily infected monarchs with clearly visible signs of OE infection (e.g., deformity) should be euthanized by freezing.
  3. Monarchs with lower spore loads can be released, provided that the captive rearing conditions did not foster parasite transmission.
  4. Containers, cages, surfaces and nets that contact adult monarchs should be carefully sanitized with 20% chlorine bleach to kill OE spores and prevent transmission.
  5. 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.

Further reading:

Project Monarch Health

Wellington Faculty of Science

If there are experts in Monarch butterfly parasites please make your comments available to all of us.

If you wish to help in the community citizen scientist investigative effort please contact me at http://www.john@evergladesark.com

#Monarch #butterfly #parasite #Ophryocystis elektroschirrha #OE #microscope #raising butterflies

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Storks and Spoons

Roseate Spoonbills (Platalea ajaja) and Wood Storks (Mycteria americana) share the limited water in the marsh during this dry period before the monsoon season. They both feed in the shallow marshes but do not compete for the same prey. The Spoon Bills are bottom filter feeders while the Storks pick up insects and small fish. The Spoon Bills spend much more time preening than the Wood Storks. I find this particular group appealing because of the stark difference in the feather colors and behaviors of the two species. The spoonbills are so much more flamboyant than the severe storks. Both are iconic birds of SW FL. The feature image is an overview of the flock of birds including the spoonbills, wood storks as well as snowy egret and maybe a blue heron.

“I hope you don’t mind me drying my plumage here.” I emphasized the visual line of interest here.
“There! Now I’m all clean and dry. Arn’t I beautiful?” I really like the reflections in the water in this image.
“Eeeks! Goodness Chickie! Can’t you do that somewhere else? I just got done doing my feathers!”
At last some peace and quiet in this stand of isolated mangroves that has water at this period of high tide.

With diminished water and a protracted drought, water dependent birds are crouded together. These conditions make photography interesting. The birds may be more remote and thereby technically more difficult to photograph. The more compact group with more variety improves opportunities to observe bird behavior. The best approach I had for the group image was still at a distance of 150 meters. The image was just at the limit of the hand held 300mm lens that I had in my bag. I casually followed one bird through the afternoon and in the late in the day it sought an isolated area away from the flock. The fill-in-flash picked up the brilliant colors.

Make a comment: Which bird images do you prefer, roseate spoonbills or flamingos?

#roseate spoonbill #wood stork #snowy egret #group behavior #marsh

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Blooming Trees of Spring

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.

Golden Trumpet tree (Tabebuia chrysotricha)
Golden Trumpet blossom
Pink Trumpet tree (Tabebuia chrysotricha)
Pink Trumpet blossom
Jacaranda(Jacaranda mimosifolia)
Jacaranda(Jacaranda mimosifolia) blossom.
Plumeria or  frangipani (Plumeria rubra)
Coral Bean or Cherokee Bean tree (Erythrina herbacea)

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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#Spring tree flowers #pink trumpet #golden trumpet #plumeria #Coral Bean #Jacaranda

Microscopy, A New Tool in Our Armament

In the blog about Photomicrography you could easily see the detail of the butterfly wing scales. This valuable insight is not only beautifully patterned and dramatically colorful it also shows the remarkable complexity of the wing. This was done with a very low cost microscope and a cell phone. We also spoke earlier about the simple Gear used in this voyage of discovery. To expand the range of observations and bring more sense into the discussions I acquired a more sophisticated microscope.

New microscope

The addition to the observation gear is an Olympus BH 2 BHS trinocular microscope with five Splan objective lenses including oil immersion, light source adaptable to ultra blue illumination, photo extension with NKF 2.5X L microscope eye piece, and a Olympus OM to Canon EOS 5D mark II camera adaptor. The system was created by referencing the Alan Wood web site.1

Freely available microscope description downloaded from internet.1

New microscopic methods

The new scope has bright field, dark field, polarized light, color filtered light and flash direct lighting. These provide the opportunity to make observations of samples that may be unstained, vital and devital stained and fluorescent illumination.

Computer Assisted Photomicrography

In 2021 Canon made available a free downloadable software interphase to couple the camera to the Apple macOS Monterey on the Mac Pro computer. This allows a seamless control of the attached camera and a recording of still and video microscopic observations. Using this software, the camera can be remotely controlled without shutter or mirror camera vibration. The resulting photo micrographs can be loaded directly to the local hard drive or to the cloud with this arrangement.

Fully operational observation system assembling the microscope, digital camera and MacPro computer at the work station. The image on the monitor is the first light, live view of a cross-section of mammalian bone using polarized light.

Accessories

There are also a number of accessories including hand microtome, ring light flash light and full slide mounting, staining accessories and supplies for mounting and cleaning.

Sharing the Opportunities

Additionally, I donated my American Optical trinocular bright field microscope to the Wonder Garden of Bonita Springs FL to assist in observation of micro anatomy and pathology of their animals and plants and for live demonstration for their education programs. This was done in the spirit of exploration and expansion of horizons for others. We are all together on this discovery voyage of the Everglades Ark.

For further discussion for the amateur microscopist check out the website Microscope Clarity.2 Included in that site are discussions, recommendations for gear and supplies and experiments for novice microscopists.

References:

  1. Alan Wood Olympus microscopes
  2. Microscope Clarity

If you are a microscopist or are interested in the subject please make your comments in the space below!

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#microscope #polarized light #ultra blue light #bright field #dark field #oil immersion #slides

Parakeets

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.

Pretty bird? Yellow and green for Wayne State University?
There is always someone who is not looking at the camera.
The paparazzi are persistent. My favorite of the bunch.

Please vote on your preferences or tell about your own pet in the comment space below.

#Parakeets #blue #yellow #green

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