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Posts Tagged ‘wildlife photo’

This fortnight’s photo(s) of choice are a set of night shots by photographer Martin Dohrn that I spotted on the BBC Wildlife Magazine website. He’s taken some really interesting thermal images and beautiful after-dark shots of African wildlife that give an unique view of life in the bush. Check them out here.

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This fortnight’s highlight is a collection of photos by the Smithsonian Institute taken by scientists using camera-traps. Camera-traps are an important tool in zoology research nowadays. Essentially a camera-trap is an infra-red (or, less usually, pressure pad) triggered camera (sometimes pair of cameras) set up across a trail or at a place where the target animal is likely to pass (such as a scent-marking point, salt lick, or waterhole) that takes a photo automatically when an animal breaks the infra-red beam (or stands on the pressure pad). They allow scientists to see rare and cryptic (camouflaged) animals, to make population estimations of animals in dense habitat such as rainforests where you don’t usually see the animals, and to prove that certain species are present or using particular habitats. And as a nice bonus, you get some interesting and beautiful photos of some of the rarer and more secretive animals on our planet.

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I’ve been catching up today on the BBC’s latest documentary series ‘Madagascar’ on iplayer. As the name suggests, David Attenborough is exploring the island of Madagascar in a three-part series.

As usual with the BBC the episode is full of beautiful photography with sweeping vistas and rare species. 80% of Madagascar’s plant and animal species are endemic – meaning they are not found anywhere else in the world – including the 80 species of lemur inhabiting Madagascar’s various ecosystems, and some really weird and wonderful looking bugs and reptiles such as the pygmy chameleon who is the world’s smallest reptile and is about the size of a passing ant.

I also always enjoy the BBC’s ‘behind the scenes’ sections that explain how the wildlife photographers got their footage – it’s incredible the lengths these men and women go to, and what they will put themselves through, to get a 30 seconds recording of a rare animal performing some behaviour never previously seen.

Highly recommended series – watch it if you can.

BBC2 – Madagascar

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The New York Times website has a slideshow of species recently lost to extinction, or currently hanging on by a thread. I’d recommend having a look, although it makes for very depressing reading.

There are continual arguments about why we should bother to save animals that are on the verge of extinction – or why we should care if a species does go extinct. My personal view, for what it’s worth, is that I find animals inherently beautiful (e.g. the golden toad) and/or interesting (who knew there was a snail that used to give birth to live baby snails [which is what ‘viviparous’ means]?!) and it is absolutely tragic that no one will see a golden toad alive ever again. From a more selfish, human-centric point of view, many animal and plant species could provide us with medical help (e.g. this amazing frog – now extinct). Finally, although extinctions have always happened naturally, the current rate at which species are disappearing is far higher than the usual background rate of extinction (I’ll look for some refs to back this up, but it is published data) – and, far too often, it is human-related effects, such as overhunting, deforestation, the building of dams, or the introduction of invasive species to an ecosystem, that is to blame for a species’ demise. Frankly, what right does any of us have to wipe out a complete species; what gives another species any less right to live on this planet than a human?

Further Information

Strange Behaviours: lost and gone forever
Action BioScience: the sixth extinction

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Scorpion glowing in UV light

This fortnight’s animal photo is of a scorpion glowing under ultraviolet (UV) light by Marlin Harms.  

All scorpions glow in UV light due to a protein in their exoskeleton – and although scientists have plenty of ideas, they have no definitive answer as to why scorpions have this brilliant quirk.

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 Blunt-spined brittle star (by laszlo-photo)

I found this photo on flickr completely by mistake while searching for images and love the contrast of the black brittle star against the red sponge. I have to leave it to the photographer Laszlo Ilyes’ expertise that it is a blunt-spined brittle star on elephant ear sponge as I’m not great on invertebrate ID-ing!

Brittle stars are closely related to starfish, and both are in the echinoderm phylum. Like starfish, brittle stars have five arms radiating out symmetrically from a central disk where their organs and mouth are located; apparently these arms can break off quite easily, but if it has part of the central disk attached a broken arm can regenerate and become a whole new brittle star.

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Paul Nicklen is a professional photographer who’s amazing photos of arctic and antarctic wildlife such as polar bears, leopard seals and narwhals completely capture the beauty of these animals in their natural environment. Check out his photos at http://www.paulnicklen.com/

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