The picture above is of a mushroom thats thought to be a specimen of Clathrus archeri right before its fingers open up. It closely resembles a hand coming out of the ground. It even has the remnants of its tattered sleeves attached to the wrist.
Halloween Crabs (Gecarcinus quadratus): Ecosystem Engineers
The so called Halloween Crab, Gecarcinus quadratus (Decapoda - Gecarcinidae) is a neotropical land crab with a distinctive patterning; the upper carapace seems completely black (actually dark brown when examined closely), the body and limbs are a bright orange-red, two bright yellow to white triangular spots decorate the front of the upper carapace, and the claws are purple.
The species is distributed along Pacific shorelines from Mexico to Peru. Some authors have treated Gecarcinus quadratus as a subspecies of Gecarcinus lateralis (the Atlantic species), or as synonym with Gecarcinus lateralis, while others have maintained Gecarcinus quadratus as a valid species.
Whatever, these crabs play an important ecological role on its tropical environment and is regarded as an engineering species that controls nutrient cycling in tropical forests. Gecarcinus quadratus and other similar species of land crabs process large quantities of leaf litter, thereby influencing nutrient cycling. They alter the structure of plant communities through selective consumption of seeds and seedlings, and their burrows provide habitat for obligatory and facultative arthropod symbionts. Based on the direct and indirect influences of the land crabs on resource availability, as well as their modification of habitat, they can be considered allogenic ecosystem engineers.
Photo credit: ©Eduardo Mena | Locality: Bejuco, Guanacaste, Costa Rica (2010)
Happy Birthday Patrick the Wombat! This 29 year old is the world’s oldest living wombat (living currently at the Ballarat Wildlife Park in Australia). Given that Patrick has never had children, or any partners in general, probably makes him the oldest living wombat virgin as well! Congrats mate!
Spotted garden eels (Taenioconger hassi) live in colonies of up to several thousand individuals. They spend the majority of their lives with only the top half of their body sticking out of a burrow they make in the sand, eating plankton and other tiny animals that float by. If in danger, the entire “garden” retracts into the sand in the blink of an eye.
Stinging Nettle Slug Caterpillar (Cup Moth)
These caterpillars are custom built with every conceivable self-protection device imaginable.
Bright, garish colors which are like danger signs in nature saying “I taste awful” or “I am loaded with poison; multiple stinging barbs which inflict painful and persistent burning rashes (on humans anyway); false eyes pointing in every direction to say ” I see you, you can’t surprise me”; a head end that looks the same as the rear end so there can be no potential surprise attack from behind; and specific to the Limacodid caterpillars (who actually have no true legs, hence the slug in their name), a sticky adhesive underside that makes them very difficult to prise off their food plant.
With that in mind, stinging nettle caterpillars are often not hard to find. They don’t conceal themselves day or night and will often be in the most conspicuous of locations. Basically, they have little to fear.
Pu’er, Yunnan, China
View my other images of Limacodid Caterpillars from China (Beijing and Yunnan) in my Flickr set, Limacodid (Cup Moth) Caterpillars.
Common European Cockchafer - Melolontha melolontha
Also referred to as Maybug and Field Cockchafer, Melolontha melolontha (Coleoptera - Scarabaeidae) is a common inhabitant on agricultural lands throughout temperate Europe and the United States.
Males Common European Cockchafers have longer antennae than females, with a large, fan-like club protruding.
Cockchafers are among the most dreaded insect pests in many European countries, causing economic losses in agriculture, horticulture and forestry. In forests of south-western Germany, populations of the Forest Cockchafer (Melolontha hippocastani) and also the Field Cockchafer (M. melolontha) have been increasing during the past three decades and, therefore, monitoring of these populations has been intensified.
Water Clouds Tentatively Detected Just 7 Light Years From Earth
by Ken Crosswell
Astronomers have found signs of water ice clouds on an object just 7.3 light-years from Earth—less than twice the distance of Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to the sun. If confirmed, the discovery is the first sighting of water clouds beyond our solar system. The clouds shroud a Jupiter-sized object known as a brown dwarf and should yield insight into the nature of cool giant planets orbiting other suns.
Kevin Luhman, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University, University Park, recently discovered the nearby object by using images from NASA’s WISE infrared space telescope, which scanned the sky from 2010 to 2011. A brown dwarf is a failed star and has so little mass that it can’t sustain nuclear reactions, so after its birth it fades and cools. This brown dwarf, named WISE J0855-0714, is the coldest known. Its temperature is slightly below the freezing point of water, so it’s colder than Earth’s mean temperature but warmer than Jupiter’s…
(read more: Science News/AAAS)
illustration: Rob Gizis, CUNY BMCC
The Weird Ways Of Superfluid Helium
As helium is cooled to lower and lower temperatures, greater and greater fractions of it demonstrate strange quantum effects.
by Francie Diep
With a temperature below -268 degrees Celsius, liquid helium keeps MRI machines and particle accelerators properly cooled (yay!). Take liquid helium’s temperature even lower than that, however, and things start to get a little less practical — and a lot more weird.
At lower and lower temperatures, greater and greater fractions of liquid helium become superfluid. Superfluid helium can do some seemingly impossible things, like climb up the walls of containers or leak through pores that are too small for normal liquid helium to pass through. At this point, superfluid helium is demonstrating the effects of quantum physics, which makes it especially tantalizing to physicists.
Now, in a new study, an international team of physicists has taken images of tiny droplets of superfluid helium, finding that even very small amounts of superfluid helium act unusually…
(read more: Nova Next - PBS)
image: quantum vortices on the surface of a nano-droplet of superfluid helium. In the background is a wheel-shaped superfluid helium drop. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)