Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Wildflowers: The First Sign of Spring

The first signs of spring are the spring flowers that appear when the last snow melts. These flowers are a sign of hope that the long, dark days of winter are over and the hot days of summer will soon be here.

Wildflowers The First Sign of SpringPhoto: Hailgumby

The first flowers of spring appear before it feels like spring, when the ground is still frozen and firm. They are found in woodlands, sheltered from the winds. Among the protected landscape, small flowers shoot up through the litter of dead leaves. These early spring flowers are in a race with the trees.

dutchmans-breechesjpg.previewPhoto: Jason Hollinger

They need to bloom before the trees spring to life and cover the woodland floor with shade. Sunlight is the key to early spring wildflowers. This is also a time of year when the soil is very moist. Soil nutrients are also at a peak due to the decay that took place over the previous autumn.

skunk-cabbagejpg.previewPhoto: brewbooks

One of the first plants to bloom is the skunk cabbage. As its name implies, it has a foul smell. The skunk cabbage pollinates through flies and ground beetles drawn in by its decaying odor. Skunk cabbage is not known for its beauty, but it is an interesting plant to spot. The leaves can be a deep red color, often with stripes that push up out of the ground. While most spring flowers tend to be fragile looking, skunk cabbage has a look that's as bold as its name.

pasquejpg.previewPhoto: brewbooks

The first spring flowers to bloom are known as "ephemerals", meaning "short-lived". The blossoms of ephemerals typically last for a short time — some bloom only for a day. As a group, ephemerals constitute one of the largest groups of wildflowers, but they are rarely spotted by the casual explorer.

trout-lilyjpgPhoto: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Midwest Region

These flowers are often unknown to the casual gardener. Some of the most common are "trout lily", "bloodroot", and "dutchman’s breeches". Ephemerals grow best in uncultivated woodlands. Typically, they are small flowers that stay close to the ground. Their leaves are designed to hug and protect the main flower stem. They also commonly have a dense hairy layer that traps heat.

winter-aconitejpg.previewPhoto: Dan at Creative Commons

When walking through a woodlands to see the wildflowers, it is important to leave them be. Many wildflowers such as orchids and yellow ladyslipper were once common but are now rare due in part to plant collectors. While they grow abundantly in the woodlands, they will not thrive in an artificial environment or a flower bed.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Thursday, 23 February 2012

7 Mutts Going Nuts At Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras never fails to bring out the crazies in the crowd and dogs are no exception! These gussied up pooches happily joined their owners to celebrate Big Easy style on Fat Tuesday. Check out their beaded and bedazzled finery!

1. Smiling Jester Shakes His Tail Feather

Smiling Jester Shakes His Tail FeatherSource: thatcutesite.com

2. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeSource: Herkie, Flickr

3. Sharpei Rocks a Deep-V Tee

Sharpei Rocks a Deep-V TeeSource : Dennis Pillion, al.com

4. Wonder what he had to do get all those beads?

Wonder what he had to do get all those beadsSource: katedubyan, Flickr

5. Gonna fetch me ridin' dirty

Gonna fetch me ridin' dirtySource: Dennis Pillion, al.com

6. Golden Retriever Pup Pride

Golden Retriever Pup PrideSource: thatcutesite.com

7. Chihuahua Channels Elton John

Chihuahua Channels Elton JohnSource:thatcutesite.com

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Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Ice Age Flower Revived in Russia

Fruit and seeds hidden in an Ice Age squirrel's burrow in Siberian permafrost have been resurrected into a flower by Russian scientists.

Using a pioneering experiment, the Sylene stenophylla has become the oldest plant ever to be regrown and it is fertile, producing white flowers and viable seeds.

Ice Age Flower Revived in RussiaThe Sylene stenophylla in bloom (Pic: Institute of Cell Biophysics of the Russian Academy of Sciences)

The seeds date back 30,000 to 32,000 years and raise hopes that iconic Ice Age mammals like the woolly mammoth could also eventually be resurrected.

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The researchers, who published their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US, said the results prove that permafrost serves a natural depository for ancient life forms.

"We consider it essential to continue permafrost studies in search of an ancient genetic pool, that of pre-existing life, which hypothetically has long since vanished from the earth's surface," the scientists said in the article.

Woolly mammoth tusks dug up from Siberian permafrost in 1999Woolly mammoth tusks dug up from Siberian permafrost in 1999

Canadian researchers had earlier regenerated some significantly younger plants from seeds found in burrows.

Svetlana Yashina of the Institute of Cell Biophysics of the Russian Academy Of Sciences, who led the regeneration effort, said the revived plant looked very similar to its modern version, which still grows in the same area in northeastern Siberia.

The Russian research team recovered the fruit after investigating dozens of fossil burrows hidden in ice deposits on the right bank of the lower Kolyma River in northeastern Siberia.

They were firmly cemented together and often totally filled with ice, making any water infiltration impossible - creating a natural freezing chamber fully isolated from the surface.

The burrows were located 125ft (38m) below the present surface in layers containing bones of large mammals, such as mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, bison, horse and deer.

"The squirrels dug the frozen ground to build their burrows, which are about the size of a soccer ball, putting in hay first and then animal fur for a perfect storage chamber," said Stanislav Gubin, one of the authors of the study, who spent years rummaging through the area for squirrel burrows. "It's a natural cryobank."

"If we are lucky, we can find some frozen squirrel tissue," said Mr Gubin. "And this path could lead us all the way to mammoth."

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Saturday, 18 February 2012

Underwater Dog Photography Reveals New Animal Perspectives

Animal photographer Seth Casteel has been getting a lot of attention for his series of pictures depicting dogs underwater. While all of the photos are impressive, what's most interesting (or disturbing) is how the photos combine the childlike delight of these dogs with what looks like terrifying scowls on their faces as they hone in on their play toy targets. But as great as those pictures are, there's an accompanying video posted online that might be even better.

Underwater Dog

Underwater Dog 08

Casteel posted a video of "Nevada the Diving Dog," a Border Collie determined to fetch a tennis ball as it descends to the bottom of a swimming pool. One unusual aspect of the underwater filming is the way it almost appears like Nevada is about to run out of breath before slowly paddling his way back to the surface. And sure enough, it takes Nevada a few tries but he does eventually get the ball at the bottom of the swimming pool.

Underwater Dog 010

Underwater Dog

Underwater Dog 01

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Underwater Dog 02

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Underwater Dog 05

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source, source1, source2

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Rare ‘White’ Black Beast Captured on Camera is Not a Polar Bear

You could be forgiven for thinking it was a polar bear that had wandered off the ice and somehow found itself in a forest.

But this golden, almost white, beautifully unique creature is in fact a white variant of the North American black bear known as the spirit bear.

The animal, also known as the Kermode bear, lives among more conventional-looking black bears in the dense green forests of British Columbia in Canada.

The spirit bear comes into contact with another forest bear, , which is a more traditional black colourStanding its ground: The spirit bear comes into contact with another forest bear, , which is a more traditional black colour

The animal, also known as the Kermode bear, lives amongst the dense green forests of British ColumbiaExtremely rare: The animal, also known as the Kermode bear, lives amongst the dense green forests of British Columbia

The bear is able to climb into the trees to look for foodJust hanging around: The bear is able to climb into the trees to look for food

Once thought to be a myth, these legendary creatures are now so precious to the people of British Columbia, the Government has made it an offence to shoot one - with a fine of up to $100,000 CAD.

Wildlife photographers now travel from across the globe for the chance to capture the white bear on camera, which are virtually impossible to photograph, due to their scarcity.

But one lucky photographer who captured this series of images of the spirit bear in it's natural habitat is Paul Nicklen.

The 43-year-old from Vancouver, Canada, said: 'This little bear is amazing its pure white, it's not a polar bear and there are only 200 left in the world - it's more rare than a panda.

Wildlife photographers now travel from across the globe for the chance to capture the white bear on camera, which are virtually impossible to photograph, due to their scarcityPopular: Wildlife photographers now travel from across the globe for the chance to capture the white bear on camera, which are virtually impossible to photograph, due to their scarcity

These legendary creatures are now so precious to the people of British ColumbiaCatch of the day: These legendary creatures are now so precious to the people of British Columbia, the Government has made it an offence to shoot one. The bear is pictured here with a large fish for its lunch

The bear carries its snack while keeping a watchful eye outBig feed: The bear carries its snack while keeping a watchful eye out

Tasty The bear tucks into its large catchTasty: The bear tucks into its large catch

'I sat in this forest for two months without ever seeing one and I felt sure I was going to leave empty handed.

'But then after two months of wondering what I was going to do, this incredible big white male came right beside me about three feet away, he grabbed a fish and ate it.

'I then spent my entire day living my childhood dream walking around with this bear through the forest.

'I actually got to sleep within three feet of this bear and photograph him, it was a truly amazing experience.'

Although this looks like it is a polar bear which has somehow found itself in a forest, it is actually an extremely rare 'white' black bearStunning: Although this looks like it is a polar bear which has somehow found itself in a forest, it is actually an extremely rare 'white' black bear

Chilling out Paul Nicklen managed to capture the amazing images of the rare bear, including this one of it relaxing in the forest with a mealChilling out: Paul Nicklen managed to capture the amazing images of the rare bear, including this one of it relaxing in the forest with a meal

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Wednesday, 15 February 2012

5 Cute Animals That Show Heart All Year Round

These animals wear their hearts on their sleeve, forehead and rumps

Everyday is Valentine's Day for these furry little guys who have been blessed with some special, all-natural body art!  What better way to show the love than to wear it on your person?

Are you looking for your own furry Valentine? Look no further than Petfinder.com where you can find your furry forever Valentine today.

1. I Heart Puppy!

I Heart PuppyPhoto Source: news.com.au

2. Baby ox with heart!

Baby ox with heartImage Source: The Door Garden

3. Itty bitty kitty with heart so pretty. (It actually looks like it spells out "I Heart "dot." The mother was reportedly named "Dottie")

Itty bitty kitty with heart so prettyImage source: Life In The Fastlane

4. Now that's some pig!

Now that's some pigImage source: Daily Mail

5. Who knew that the scary Black Widow spider could show so much heart?

Who knew that the scary Black Widow spider could show so much heartImage Source: The Door Garden

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Monday, 13 February 2012

11 Horrifically Violent Animal Mating Rituals

Seals: Humping Their Way Onto The Endangered Species List

Seals Humping Their Way Onto The Endangered Species List

Is there anything cuter than a baby seal? There is when it's been crushed to death by a horde of frisky male seals who wanted to get in the action when they heard another couple mating. Think that's a rare occurrence? Think again. Some colonies have been known to lose 2/3 of their cubs this way. That's why the babies grow up so darn fast –the sooner they bulk up, the sooner they can avoid being crushed to d*ath.

Of course, babies aren't the only ones at risk. The male Southern Elephant Seal often crushes the female's skull in his jaws during copulation and female Monk Seals are often mobbed to de*th by excited males when they go into heat. In fact, endangered seal species are some of the only at-risk creatures to be put on libido-suppressing drugs in order to stop them from sexing themselves into extinction. (Buy it Here | Photo)

Bedbugs: Impaler? I Hardly Know Her

Bedbugs Impaler I Hardly Know Her

Why bother courting and mating when you can instead just impale and run? That seems to be the thought process behind the bedbug's reproduction method. Indeed, rather than finding the female's reproductive organs and getting a little frisky, this quick-moving bug just stabs his lady in her stomach, deposits his sperm and leaves. The sperm then travel through the female's blood stream into sperm receptacles and eventually into her waiting ovaries.

This type of mating behavior is known by the terrifying title of “traumatic insertion,” and it certainly lives up to its name. At least when it's happening to something as horrible as bed bugs it's a lot harder to feel bad for the victims. (Link 1 | Link 2 | Photo)

Squid: Those Slippery, No-Good Cephalopods

Squid Those Slippery, No-Good Cephalopods

Squids may not seem like the sexiest animals around, but as it turns out, they might be some of the kinkiest. The male bioluminescent Dana Octopus Squid uses its beak and sharp claws to pierce holes in its mate before using a pe*nis-like appendage to insert sperm into the cuts. On the other hand, the Greater Hooked Squid just bypasses the stabbing step by using sperm that independently burrow their way into the female's skin, using an enzyme that dissolves tissue.

The Sharpear Enope Squid is the first-known transgender squid, as some males not only resemble females in appearance, but even have female sex glands. While the debate is still out on what evolutionary benefit this provides, some researchers speculate that it allows these individuals to get closer to potential mates without being detected. (Link | Photo)

Quolls: De*th By Fornication

Quolls Dath By Fornication

While you may not have already heard of a quoll, if you know enough about their mating rituals, you won't soon forget the species. Every winter, the females all go into heat at the same time, causing a breeding frenzy within the species. The males will try to mate with as many females as possible, grabbing their newest mate by the neck and dragging them off to do the nasty. Average mating sessions last up to three hours, but can go on as long as a full day. That's because the males don't release very many sperm at a time, so they must ejaculate multiple times to ensure their genes are passed on. Like many human males trying to compensate for something, the quoll males are violent and ruthless. In fact, throughout all the biting, scratching and screeching, many females end up killed in the process, only to be eaten by their angry partner.

As if nature wished to compensate the females for their suffering, many of the males put out so much energy during the mating season that they lose weight, start balding and die within only a few weeks of their sexual rampage. (Buy it Here | Photo)

Seed Beetles: Take A Stab At Quenching Your Thirst

Seed Beetles Take A Stab At Quenching Your Thirst

There are over 350,000 species of beetle and their reproductive methods vary drastically. When it comes to beetle sex though, few have it as bad as the female Seed Beetle. That's because the male has a disturbingly spiky p*nis that always injures the female in the process of copulation. Researchers have concluded that larger spikes somehow help the males win out in the genetic arms race, and that those with the biggest, sharpest spikes also sire the most offspring.

As for why the females would even agree to mate with a partner knowing they would have to go through such a traumatizing experience, scientists have an answer for that one too. It turns out that because the beetles live in such an arid climate, the ejaculate fluid provides females with much needed hydration. When the insects are provided with ample water, female interest in mating drops drastically, but when things get dry, they suddenly have an insatiable thirst for love. Well, at least they get something out of the horrific experience. (Link 1 | Link 2 | Photo)

Flatworms: Fencing As Foreplay

Flatworms Fencing As Foreplay

Sex might seem easier for hermaphroditic species, but that's very often not the case. All sea slugs are hermaphrodites. But when it comes to flatworms, fighting for the right to be the father can be a dangerous duty. The animals all have a dagger-like p*nis that they use to hunt for food, but when it comes time to mate, the two flatworms will go about fencing one another in order to avoid becoming the mother. When one of the fighters is stabbed, it will become the mother, meaning it has to give up substantial energy resources to its new brood while the winner will continue to enjoy the life of a bachelor flatworm. (Link 1 | Link 2 | Photo)

Slugs and Snails: Playing Cupid Is Less Romantic Than It Sounds

Slugs and Snails Playing Cupid Is Less Romantic Than It Sounds

Like flatworms, snails and slugs are hermaphrodites that have to battle as part of their reproduction process. While they might not shake their penises at each other, their mating ritual is certainly just as strange.

For one thing, the creature's genitals are hidden on their necks behind their eye stalks. Since they don't actually have penises, they instead have an archery battle, shooting off so-called “love darts” at one another. The darts, made mostly from calcium, do not contain sperm, but instead cause the victim to become more receptive to the shooter's sperm, giving it an edge in sharing its genes with the next generation.
Shooting love darts can be rather dangerous and some victims have even been known to be shot in the eye and brain in the process –but don't worry, they survive, they just carry around a giant dart for a while.

Of course, dart shooting isn't the only weird bedroom behavior these invertebrates get into. The Banana Slug has a penis of around 6 to 8 inches, roughly the size of its full body. When fertilizing one another, the larger slug will often get his penis stuck inside the other. That would be bad in any situation, but the impatient partner makes it infinitely worse by biting off the offending member in order be able to get going a little bit sooner. Ouch! (Link 1 | Link 2 | Photo)

Bees: Pop Goes The Penis

Bees Pop Goes The Penis

You know how bees often die after stinging humans? As it turns out, this same fate awaits the males who mate with the queen. Before mating, the new queen will need to kill off all of her sister siblings, ensuring she will remain the unchallenged monarch of the hive. Once that messy business is taken care of, the virgin queen will take a mating flight with about a dozen males. While the special mating males, selected from the tens of thousands of other male bees in the colony, might seem lucky at first, their luck is soon to change. That's because they die as their penises explode (audibly even) while inside the queen. She's then loaded up with all the sperm she'll need for the rest of her life, which entails laying up to fifteen hundred eggs per day for three full years. (Buy it Here | Photo)

Wasp Spiders: Breaking Off A Piece of That…Literally

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You probably know that black widows often eat their mates, but as it turns out, this is hardly the most violent example of spider copulation. Male wasp spiders allow their genitals to break off inside their partner just before she attacks and eats him. For a long time, researchers believed this was an attempt to escape their eminent demise. But it turns out, breaking off their sex organs had no impact on whether or not the creature survived, but it did make it less likely that the female's subsequent mates would be able to pass on their genes. Females with genitals already broken off inside of them ate their mates much more quickly, providing the males with even less time to attempt to successfully mate first.

Wasp spiders aren't the only species of spiders to lose their junk in the mating process. In fact, the Tent Cobweb Weaver voluntarily chews off one of his sex organs before mating so he can pass his genes along to his mate faster, thereby being able to impregnate her before competing spiders get the chance. (Link 1 | Buy it Here | Photo)

Octopuses: Watch Which Hand You Shake

Octopuses Watch Which Hand You Shake

Next time you see an octopus tentacle, just remember, you could be looking at one of his arms, or, at his penis. While the sex organ tentacle isn't truly a penis, in many species, it actually fills with blood and becomes erect just like a human's. Regardless of species though, the basic process involved is always the same: the male places a packet of sperm on his sex arm and then uses it to place the sperm in a slot of the female's body used for reproduction. In every species, the male's organ stays embedded in the female's body. He cannot regrow his sex tentacle and he will die within a few months.

In some species though, the process is much more bizarre. For example, the Paper Nautilus will detach his penis tentacle and allow it to swim by itself over to the female. The Blanket Octopus has a similar unobtrusive mating habit. The male, which is approximately 40,000 times smaller than the female, will swim up to his woman of choice, stick his mating arm to her body somewhere and then swim off to die. The female rarely even notices the encounter, even as the arm left behind will crawl its way around her body until it arrives in her gill slit where it will wait until her eggs are mature. At that point, she'll remove the arm, rip open the sperm packet and sprinkle it over her eggs. She may as well be adding some sugar to her iced tea. Meanwhile, her mate will almost certainly be d*ad by that point. (Link 1 | Buy it Here | Photo)

Praying Mantis: Post-Coitus Snack Anyone?

Praying Mantis Post-Coitus Snack Anyone

It's common knowledge that female praying mantises eat the heads of their mates during intercourse, but as it turns out, this isn't always the case. In some species, head-eating is a required part of the interaction, as it makes the male ejaculate more quickly. But in most cases, the cannibalism is actually a relatively rare behavior that occurs anywhere from 5-31% of the time. In these cases, the female will only eat the male because she's hungry and needs more sustenance in order to go on living. Remember, most animals only mate to keep their species going and a d*ad female isn't going to help the mantis survive as a species. When cannibalism doesn't occur, the mating ritual is actually a bit romantic, including a long mating dance and soft antennae stroking. Who knew these guys were such softies? (Link | Photo)

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