Monday, February 24, 2014

Dr. Carin Bondar of Wild Sex brings us - Ode to the Female Bedbug

Hey ya'll

Super sexy, super beautiful Biologist with a Twist, Dr Carin Bondar of Wild Sex is back! This time with a lesson on the traumatic mating habits of bedbugs in the form of this awesome music parody video. The song: "I Don't Want to Love Again" is sang in the style of Pink's "We Can Learn to Love Again"

Bedbug sex is traumatic. It's so violent that it's actual scientific description is 'traumatic insemination'. You see, males use their razor-sharp 'penises' to stab their sperm into a females' body. They do not stab it anywhere near the females' genital opening either. Sperm that has been 'traumatically inseminated' will travel through the lymphatic system to the ovaries.

This is an unfortunate reality for female bedbugs. So, I wrote them this song. I hope they like it.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Just Another Batty Monday

Hey ya'll

Mondays are generally a downer in most people's weekly routine but there are ways of coping with the dreaded Monday Blues. For me, nothing will beats surfing the interwebs and finding a visual goldmine such as this. 
Now this may look like a fairly unassuming hole in the ground, picturesque maybe but hardly anything to shout about... 
Until the photographer zooms in to reveal this...
...and this
...and THIS!!! 
The images above, that seem to be a vision straight out of any naturalist's dreams or chiroptophobe's nightmares is a one of a kind phenomenon that is only observable at the Monfort Bat Sanctuary on Samal Island, Philippines. There are some 5 openings leading to a network of underground caves that are home to an estimate of 1.8 million individuals of Rousette fruit bats (Rousettus amplexicaudatus). Other bat species that may be found in these subterranean networks are the Lesser False Vampire bat (Megaderm spasma) and flying foxes (pteropus sp.) making it the largest colony of its kind in the world since recorded history. Because they live in the tropics and food is abundant all year round the bats are continuously feeding and mating and breeding that overcrowding has begun to pose a serious problem. Using heat thermal cameras researchers have observed bats acting aggressively toward pups and at times, even cannibalizing them as young and adult bats alikejostle about for space in the tightly packed cavern. In an effort to elaviate the probme, management of the Monfort Bat Sanctuary have even proposed the construction of artificial caverns and networks that will enable the bats to roost more comfortably. The caves are maintained and managed by Ms Monfort, a local resident of Samal, who works with bat conservationists to protect the habitat of what is undoubtedly the single most impressive congregation of flying mammals in the world. 

Bats leaving the caves at dusk in search of food
Rare sighting of an albino bat, who is also a mother making a stark contrast among her brown and black peers.
And a closeup of the beautiful mother and her young
Photo credits: Josh Aggars @ Flickr
If you are interested in witnessing this or learning more feel free to contact the Monfort Bat Sanctuary directly at their Facebook Page: Monfort Bat Sanctuary @ Facebook 

Peace Out! :) 

Living the Rainbow: A Selection of Exotic Birds from Around the World pt. 1

Hey ya'll 

I'll be moving back to the Bukit Kinta Rainforest come March 1st 2014 so updates at the blog will foreseeable grow a lot slower. In between now and then, however, I would like to take the opportunity to clear up some of the things I've had stored away for the past few months or so. The following are a list of paintings I did of exotic birds from all over the world. The theme of inspiration for me at that time was the idea of the "Rainbow" and how so many birds seemed to embody it so effortlessly. 

The Scarlet Macaw (ara macao) is a large colorful parrot that is native to South America. They are predominantly red, yellow, and blue in color although certain individuals may ehixibit various patches of green. The range of the scarlet macaw is relatively large but deforestation and capture for the exotic bird trade has made populations of wild birds largely fragmented with small groups existed over large distances in various regions. 

Like many other macaws, they mate for life and nest in the cavities of hollowed trees. Birds are relatively long lived with some individuals recording a whopping 75-80 years of age in captivity. In the wild they may often bee found gathering in large flocks with other macaws and parrots at the banks of rivers partaking in a phenomenon that is known as "clay licking". The reason for this is thought to be because of the macaws largely herbivorous diet that may sometimes include the leaves or flowers of poisonous plants. The clay from the Amazon basin is believed to neutralize many of these toxins and make them safe for the birds to digest. The scarlet macaw is the national bird of Honduras. 

Also a member of the parrot family, the Eastern Rosella (Platycercus eximius) is a small, colorful bird that is native to the Southeastern portion of the Australian continent, and some parts of Tasmania. In recent decades, however, the Eastern Rosella has also become naturalized in many parts of New Zealand, typically North Island and Dunedin. Because of its brilliant coloration, the Eastern Rosella is sometimes kept as a pet bird although, they generally do not socialize as well with their human captors and other birds as other species of parrots. Like most parrots, the nest is made in an abandoned tree hollow and a clutch of five to six eggs may be laid. The yare one of the most colorful of the Australian parrots (barring the Rainbow Lorikeet, which is a fair contender) and may be seen readily in both rural and urban areas. 
This last Living Rainbow is not a parrot at all but a pheasant.  Probably the most underrated of the birds, the males of some pheasant species such as the handsome Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus) pictured here are some of the most spectacular members of the avian world. The Golden Pheasant is native to the mountainous areas of Western China but because of its popularity as a show bird, it has since established self sustaining feral populations in various parts of the world. The birds are about a meter long, with the tail accounting for most of its length and like many other galliforms, both sexes are highly sexually dimorphic with male birds exhibiting the more beautiful feathers. Golden pheasants are capable of flight but their rounded wings make them rather clumsy in the air. Despite their brilliant coloration, however, the birds are difficult to spot in their natural habitat and consequently, not much is known of the birds' behavior in the wild.  The bird is believed to have inspired early painters and artists with regards to the design of the Chinese Phoenix. 
As always, if you are interested in purchasing any of these images as high quality prints, feel free to browse around the print gallery at my deviantart account

Peace Out

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Birdwing Butterflies prints now available on Deviantart!

Hey ya'll

The prints in my birdwing butterfly set have been really popular on deviantart as postcards or prints. Birdwing butterflies are probably one of my all time favorite of butterflies. Not only do their large size make them a breathtaking sight in any setting - both captive and wild - but their iridescent wings and uniqueness to the Southeast Asian region also give them an exotic touch that is quite unique to the species. 

The Southern Tailed Birdwing (Ornithoptera meridionalis) is the smallest of all the birdwing butterflies. Like the Queen Alexandra's birdwing butterfly (which is the largest butterfly in the world) the species was discovered by Walter Rothschild in Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea. The species is fairly widespread and may be found in several localities in southeast Papua New Guinea and the southern coast of Irian Jaya. Along with the Paradise birdwing (Ornithoptera paradisea) it is the only butterfly of the birdwing family whose wings are tailed.  Like several other species of birdwing butterflies, it is classified as "endangered" in the IUCN red list due to habitat loss in various parts of Papua new Guinea.  

Conservation initiatives that engage local communities have proven to be fairly successful and there are to date several villages in Papua New Guinea which farm the butterfly for conservation and commercial purposes. The specimens are incredibly valuable and may fetch prices as high as US$1000 per pair. Despite its desirability, collecting of the butterfly has little to negligible effect on its population size provided the original habitats are left undisturbed. The butterflies are remarkable in that they have an extremely small amount of wing area in relative to its large and bulky body. Male butterflies have hind wings that are severely reduced, tapering at the end into a pair of filamentous tails which are easily broken. The males of the species are thus rather clumsy and weak fliers and spend most of their day resting on the canopy layer of primary rainforests. The larva of the butterfly feed on the plants of the genus pararistolochia and incorporate its toxins into its defense system during its development and adult life.  

Ornithoptera priamus, or the common green birdwing, is a very widespread species of birdwing butterfly that is found in New Guinea, Moluccas, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Solomon Islands, and Northeast Australia.  Because of its sizeable range, the butterfly is extremely variable and is believed to have evolved multiple subspecies each exhibiting different markings, patterns, coloration, and forms. According to some experts, there are as many as 99 subspecies of Ornithoptera priamus butterflies although others would contend that some of these subspecies are to be treated as independent species altogether.  Most of the subspecies of Ornithoptera priamus feature brown and cream-patterned females and iridescent green males, although several subspecies such as Ornithoptera priamus urvilleanus, and Ornithoptera priamus miokensis have blue wings. Despite being an overall widespread and established species, some subspecies of the butterfly which are endemic to certain parts of the world are threatened by habitat destruction: primarily the clearing of primary forests (which the butterfly needs for its survival) for the palm oil trade. Many other subspecies, such as Ornithoptera aesacus may be seriously endangered in the wild but otherwise fairly commonly bred in captivity. 

Fun fact: the butterfly is named after Priam, the King of Troy during the Trojan War. 

IF you would like to see similar prints or show your support by purchasing them, do check out my profile on deviantart :

Friday, February 7, 2014

Flying Dragon @ Ulu Geroh, Gopeng, Malaysia.

Flying Dragon @ Ulu Geroh, Gopeng, Perak, Malaysia

Several species of "flying dragons" may be observed in the forest around Ulu Geroh but these yellow ones were by far the most common. The "dragons" are part of a diverse group of lizards in the genus Draco that are endemic to Southeast Asia. While they are generally relatively unremarkable in appearance, these reptiles possess a most unique ability to extend folds of skin stretched out between its modified ribs to create a set of wings that enable them to glide from tree to tree. While not exactly capable of sustained flight, some species of "flying dragons" have been observed to be able to obtain lift in the course of their glides and a total gliding distance of up to 60 meters has been recorded, although the average is commonly about 8 meters or so.  Unlike the rest of their bodies - which are commonly drably colored to aid in camouflage - the wings of the dragons are usually brightly colored and patterned. Both male and female dragons also possess a colorful fold of skin under their chins called a dewlap that they can extend at will for display purposes.  Despite their small size, the dragons are highly territorial and males will defend their respective trees from the intrusion of outsiders. In Ulu Geroh, dragons can sometimes be seen dropping from the tops of trees, gliding in a circle, before landing at the base of the tree and slowly making their way back to the top on foot. They are insectivorous and feed on a variety of insects though from my observations it would seem that they are particularly partial to a variety of ants.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Rajah Brooke Birdwing Plate

Natural History Style plate of a Male Rajah Brooke's Birdwing (Trogonoptera brookiana albescens) an artistic side project and work in progress of the insect life of Ulu Geroh

The Ingenuity of Carpenter Bees (excerpts from my Ulu Geroh Field Diary

Day 2

There were so many things that I wanted to talk to the people about and so many things I wanted to do, but it was hard in the early stages to insert myself into daily situations in such an intrusive manner and so there were some mornings - when families were going about their more intimate of household chores - that I would have literally nothing to do and would thus be relatively free to wander around and entertain my own curiosities. I sat that morning, in the common eating area underneath a beautiful trellis made of very large vines. The vines, which had leaves as big as my upturned palm (some even larger) also sported some very large purple flowers that would attract a large number of animal life. Sunbirds, butterflies and hummingbird moths could usually be found here but today it was the big,  fat carpenter bees. Now, if you've never seen a carpenter bee in your life and saw one buzzing about the flowers as it was doing today you might mistake it for a very large black beetle for that is what it most looks like. You may also notice a distinct buzzing sound like the engine of a very small motorcycle that is made by their wings when they fly. Indeed, this buzzing sound is so loud that carpenter bees are often heard before they are seen. This morning there were two of them flitting about the flowers, and they were doing it with such ferocity that it almost seemed as if they were engaged in a private little race with each other to see which bee could sip from, and pollinate, the most purple flowers on that vine before they ran out. For you see, the bees seemed to possess this remarkable ability - like a special kind of sixth sense - which prevented them from visiting the same flower twice!  A bee would buzz up to a flower, crawl clumsily into its open, upturned "mouth", do it's thing, and then fly noisily off to the next one. Should it happen to hover around the same flower cluster that it had visited before,  it would simply halt its flight, hover a little as if making sure, then move off to a new cluster. This was the same should another bee attempt to feed from an already fed upon flower. In effect, the bees were the epitome of efficiency! No bee visited the same flower twice and the other bees seemed to be able to know which flowers had already been visited as well. In this way the two bees were able to complete their rounds of the vine rather quickly and without any overlapping of flowers between the two of them. I could almost imagine them talking over the buzzing sounds they made a they left.

"Hah! I win today," a triumphant bee one might say.

"Oh we'll see about tomorrow. Just you wait!" says an indignant bee two. 

Xolocopa latipes (tropical carpenter bee) image source: wikimedia.commons

Rajah Brooke's Birdwing Puddling Site

Hey ya'll
First of all, allow me to apologize for the lack of updates. It amuses me somewhat to see that, despite my absence, the blog has continued to receive a fair trickle of visitors! Anyway I just got back from my field work at Ulu Geroh about slightly under a week ago. I am living there with the Semai community, an indigenous group of people of Peninsular Malaysia, as part of the field work process for my PhD dissertation.  Among other amazing natural wonders, such as several species of Rafflesia which flower there, there rainforests surrounding the Ulu Geroh settlement is renowned for having a high diversity of insect species, most notably, butterflies. It is also one of the few remaining sites in Malaysia where the Rajah Brooke's Birdwing butterfly gather in large numbers on the banks of river to imbibe upon the nutrient rich salts that are present in the mud. I shared the video of one such puddling site sometime earlier this week and so it only natural that it would soon be followed by the photographs. Check it out. 

Some of these butterflies grew so "drunk" on salts that they abandoned much of their usual, jittery dispositions and could be coaxed to climb upon my outstretched palm.

Butterfly roosting on the palm of my hand.

Butterflies precariously perched on a layer of algae that has grown over some of the more stagnant puddling sites. Some of these algae platforms "give way" when there are too many butterflies on top of them and the "Drunker" are not always able to react fast enough and  fall into the water.

A first, butterflies puddling on grass!!! Actually this shot was taken very close to a natural hot springs so it is possible that the soil was equally rich in salts and minerals.