natural history blog

Natural history and parasitical feedings on the world's press

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Zoological and natural hazards and the NHS

Volcanic eruptions, lightning strikes, lizard bites and hornet stings caused some of the more unusual injuries listed by the Department of Health (DoH).

From the Guardian here:
Accidents cost the NHS about £1bn a year. The most common cause of injury was falling, which led to 119,203 admissions to casualty.

Thousands suffered attacks from a wide variety of animals. These included 451 people stung by hornets, 46 bitten by venomous snakes and lizards, 24 bitten by rats, 15 injured in contact with a marine mammal, two people bitten by centipedes and one attacked by an alligator. But dogs accounted for most injuries with 3,508 people suffering bites.

Hundreds more fell victims to natural hazards, with 54 people struck by lightning, 37 victims of "volcanic eruption", 25 injured in "catacylsmic storms", 12 suffered from avalanches and seven were victims of earthquakes. A further 107 were exposed to "unspecified forces of nature".

Monday, March 28, 2005

Bar-tailed godwits record fliers

From New Scientist
Bar-tailed godwit is king of the skies

The animal kingdom's record for the longest non-stop flight has been broken by a migratory wading bird, clocking up an epic 11,000 kilometres
THE animal kingdom's record for the longest non-stop flight has been broken by a migratory wading bird. The bar-tailed godwit clocks up an epic 11,000 kilometres in the air during its annual migration from Alaska to Australia or New Zealand.

Bar-tailed godwits break their northward migration at staging posts in Japan and around the Yellow Sea off China. En route they make unbroken flights of up to 8000 kilometres - the current record, which is shared by two other waders, the red knot and the great knot. But much less is known about the bar-tailed godwit's return journey.

Robert Gill from the US Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska, reckons that one subspecies (Limosa lapponica baueri) makes the trip without stopping. During the northern summer they build up fat reserves that make up as much as half their body mass.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Dinosaur blood vessels found

Blood vessels recovered from T. rex bone
The amazing discovery means that biological information might be obtainable from many more fossils than thought, helping to trace evolution
New Scientist here

Pliny's Naturalis Historia

Some extracts from Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia

Ranis sui generis vox.
Frogs have a special kind of voice.
Ranae quoque rubetae, quarum et in terra et in umore vita, plurimis refertae medicaminibus.
Also the bramble frog, which is amphibious in its habit, is replete with a number of drugs.

Insecta, ut intellegi possit, non videntur habere nervos nec ossa nec spinas nec cartilaginem nec pinguia nec carnes, habent autem oculos praeterque e sensibus et tactum atque gustatum, aliqua et odoratum, pauca et auditum.
Insects, so far as is perceptible, do not appear to possess sinews or bones, or spines or cartilage or fat or flesh. But they possess eyes and also of the other senses taste and touch, and some have smell as well, and a few hearing also.
Sed inter omnia ea principatus apibus.But among all these species the chief place belongs to the bees.
Ratio operis mire divisi: statio ad portas more castrorum, quies in matutinum, donec una excitet gemino aut triplici bombo ut bucino aliquo. tunc universae provolant.
Their work is marvellously mapped out in the following manner. A guard is posted at the gates, after the manner of a camp. They sleep until dawn, until one bee wakes them up with a double or triple buzz as a sort of bugle call. Then they fly forth in a body.Aliae flores adgerunt pedibus, alia aquam ore guttasque lanugine totius corporis.
Some bring home flowers in their feet and others water in their mouth, and drops clinging to the down all over their body.Aculeum apibus dedit natura, ventri consertum ad unum ictum.
Nature has given bees a sting attached to the stomach, designed for a single blow.
Canum plura genera. Scrutatur vestigia atque persequitur.
There are several kinds of dogs. A dog traces and follows footprints.

Serpentes, cum occasio est, vinum praecipue adpetunt, cum alioqui exiguo indigeant potu.

Snakes are specially fond of wine when they have the chance, though otherwise they need little drink.Sibilo omnis fugat serpentes.
It routs all snakes with its hiss.Aliis vis malo est.
Its effect on other animals is disastrous.
Animae leonis virus grave, ursi pestilens.

Lion's breath contains a severe poison and the bear's is pestilential.Maximum est elephans proximumque humanis sensibus:

The largest land animal is the elephant, and it is the nearest to man in intelligence: durissimum dorso tergus, ventri molle,
the hide of the back is extremely hard, but that of the belly is soft,

elephans citra nares ore ipso sternumento similem elidit sonum, per nares autem tubarum raucitati.
the elephant squeezes out a sound like a sneeze from its actual mouth, not through the nostrils, but through the nostrils it emits a harsh trumpet sound.
Mandunt ore, spirant et bibunt odoranturque haut inproprie appellata manu.
They eat with the mouth, but they breathe and drink and smell with the organ not unsuitably called their hand.
Germanici Caesaris munere gladiatorio quosdam etiam inconditos meatus edidere saltantium modo.At the gladiatorial show given by Germanicus Caesar some even performed clumsy movements in figures, like dancers. mirum et adversis quidem funibus subire, sed maxime regredi, utique pronis.
It is surprising that they can even climb ropes, but especially that they can come down them again.
More here at BBC radio 3

top 20 birds in British Gardens 2005

The RSPB managed to organise nearly 400,000 people from across the UK in the bigest bird count in history. The watchers spent an hour counting the birds in their garden and their records provide a valuable snapshot of the UK's garden birds. This year's 2005 results:
Top 20

1. House sparrow
2. Starling
3. Blue tit
4. Blackbird
5. Greenfinch
6. Chaffinch
7. Collared dove
8. Woodpigeon
9. Great tit
10. Robin
11. Dunnock
12. Magpie
13. Long-tailed tit
14. Goldfinch
15. Coal tit
16. Jackdaw
17. Carrion crow
18. Wren
19. Rook
20. Feral pigeon

Necrophilia among ducks

"The first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard anas platyrhynchos, he was in his office in the Natuurmuseum Rotterdam, when he was alerted by a bang to the fact a bird had crashed into the glass facade of the building. "I went downstairs immediately to see if the window was damaged, and saw a drake mallard (anas platyrhynchos) lying motionless on its belly in the sand, two metres outside the facade. The unfortunate duck apparently had hit the building in full flight at a height of about three metres from the ground. Next to the obviously dead duck, another male mallard (in full adult plumage without any visible traces of moult) was present. He forcibly picked into the back, the base of the bill and mostly into the back of the head of the dead mallard for about two minutes, then mounted the corpse and started to copulate, with great force, almost continuously picking the side of the head. "
Tuesday March 8, 2005
Educaation Guardian Read more here

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Websites on Spain

This first post is just to tell you about my other two sites

Iberianature: A guide to the environment, geography, climate, wildlife, natural history and landscape of Spain

iberianature blog. The weblog to the above