Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Fun Guys ....

Fungi .... ok lousy pun. 

Some random pictures of these ephemeral and often overlooked plants

Very striking red ones dotted a hill in Mersing

Found this in Endau....not sure what it is but big and nasty looking

Nest fungus  Cyathus sp in Borneo lowlands
Cup fungi (Cookeina), a wine red and a pale form from 2 localities

A Ramariopsis (Coral fungus), past its prime but quite a large specimen nonetheless

 A large Ganoderma from Peninsula Malaysia

Friday, April 3, 2020

If this is right, then nothing will be left ....

Many years ago, pictures from a giant photo book from the library scarred me for life. I had forgotten to jolt down the name of the book but managed to scan a few pictures from it....

Nepal’s Terai lowlands is the site of some of the greatest animal massacre during early 1900s, when various prime ministers from the Rana Dynasty tried to get cosy with British Royals by organising massive shikars or royal hunts....

Make no mistake, this is not akin to Hemingway's "Old man and the sea" where one man battled, hands and fists, against nature. This is a grand ego trip where probably a thousand men and 500 elephants frightened the giant one-horn into the open so that a puny little man can get the easiest of shot and a trophy photo to boot. This photo may even be doctored (termed photomontaged) to remove all his assistants and entourage (Archduke Franz Ferdinand was notorious for this).

This picture probably showed the actual scene of the crime. (1912. His Imperial Majesty's shoot in Nepalese Terai, December 1911. Hemg & Higgins, Mhow, India)
Gristly body counts:
1877: Prince Albert was reported to kill at least 6 tigers in a day and not sure what else (with the help of 700 tame elephants)
1893: Archduke Franz Ferdinand killed 18 tigers, at least1 panther, 2 elephants and "anything that moved" including monkeys and fowls (with the help of a thousand men and 200 elephants)

1911: King George with his 12 thousand henchmen and 600 elephants massacred 18 rhinos, 39 tigers, 4 sloth bears
1938: Lord Linlithgow and his entourage was reported to slaughter 120 tigers, 27 leopards, 15 bears and 38 rhinos

Spoils of Maharaja Shumshere's Royal Hunt (early 1900). 

The gruesome pictures speak for themselves ....the dark pages of human history. Nowadays such excesses and disregard for animal life is frown upon but there are still many trophy hunters who kill for sport and excitement rather than  necessity. Since 1970s Nepal has banned hunting is just one less from a list of places where big game huntings are legal - most southern African countries, Congo,  Mexico, Argentina, Russia, Mongolia, Pakistan and even rich countries like Canada (British Columbia for example) and some states in USA. According to the website kontinentalist Canada is head and shoulders above all others in trophy export - albeit as a mean to control bears and cougars.

I will not go into the arguments on the rights and wrongs....I have vegan friends and a cousin who gave up fishing because "it was too cruel". But as cheesy as it sounds, I do think that if this is right, the nothing will be left, especially with climate change and dwindling habitats already exerting pressures on the wildlife.

The royal hunt of tiger and rhinoceros in the Nepalese terai in 1911

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

What Social Distancing .... ?

Caterpillars of Painted Jezebels sharing the leaf of parasitic mistletoe Dendrophthoe sp. Ths host tree (Wrightia religiosia) is completely untouched.

Friday, March 27, 2020

What the Fig....

What the fig is that ??? 

Its a geocarpic fig actually, meaning that the figs are actually produced at ground level to benefit animal dispersal.  This particular species is Ficus uncinata which we found in central Kalimantan lowland forest close to a stream.

Figs emerge from  long hairy stolons that dangle down a branch and slide below the leaf litter. The seed dispersers are pigs, deers and mouse deers, which are not deers actually but more related to pigs. The spiky hooks on the pericarp is decorative but their real  purpose is to discourage ingestion by ground birds like pheasants and jungle fowl which have powerful gizzard that destroy the seeds


* cartoon from D. Eisikowitch and M. Ghara Acta horticulturae October 2017

 Now abit of biology.

Figs may be monoecious (where male and female flowers appear inside the same fig) or dioecious, where  different trees bear either all-male or all-female figs.  Ficus uncinata belongs to the latter category, which can be represented by either c (male) or d (female) figs. As you can see from the cartoon, the male fig actually contains many female short styled flowers, which are sacrificial in function and will not develop  seeds (as opposed to only long style ones in the female fig). The female pollinator, which is a species specific pollinator wasp, enter from a pore called ostiole and attempt to insert its long ovipositer via the style into the ovary to release the eggs but only succeed to do so in the short-style flowers in male fig,  the style in the female figs being too long for the ovipositer to reach the ovary. The eggs hatch in the male fig and induced gall formation which nourish the larvae - while the female figs, once pollinated, develop seeds and not galls. Hence, the fig offered its short styled female flowers as food for the wasp in exchanged for the long style flowers to be pollinated .... both the fig and wasp goes home happy.

This particular tree is a male as evidenced by the long stamens (white strands at top left) and the galls inside. 

Against the trend in the competitive, selfish natural world, the fig and the pollinator wasp work in such perfect mutualism  that it seems inevitable that there has to be a hacker, a lock picking free loader to spoil the fun. This comes in the form of a parasitic wasp, which the way, is really cool....
 .... this is another type of fig which we saw in Indochina. Can you see the tiny parasitic wasp at the top left fig ?

This wasp does not pollinate the fig - in fact it preys on the larvae of the pollinator wasp resulting in lower seed yield. Here you can see it inserting its skinny ovipositor through the pericarp

If you try pushing a strand of hair through the unripe fig, you will find that it will be an exercise in futility. However, this ovipositor is no ordinary strand of hair - its a material scientist's dream - not only does it has chemical and mechanical sensors, its ultra sharp tip is reinforced with zinc and throughout its length tiny pits are strategically located to allow it to bend rather then snap and break. This appendage allows this wasp to punch and feel its way into the area of the fig where the larvae of the pollinator wasp reside where it will deposit its eggs and gate crash the perfect party.

They are so cool that they can be forgiven for being the bad guys in this overall scheme of things ....

Related Posts with Thumbnails