Sorry, but your photo isn't sufficiently clear to highlight critical bits which would help make a general identification.  The shape suggests that it IS a bug (i.e. Hemiptera) which is the insect order containing shield bugs and the like.  Without being able to see mouthparts, antennal segments and the like it is a bit of a challenge though!

I'm not sure of the scale, but they look like slugs' eggs to me (if a 1-4 mm in diameter).

(posted in Birds)

It's a brahminy kite, a common kite through south and south-east asia and into Australia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahminy_kite

(posted in Mammals)

Hi - great question, but I think to a giraffe its feet aren't tiny but just right!  Actually a giraffe's foot can grow to 12 inches or 30 cm in diameter which is about the size of a dinner plate, so that's pretty big next to your foot.  They look small because a giraffe is such a large animal, and actually is standing on just two toes (the third and fourth toes) which is why the foot looks to be not much bigger than the leg.

Hi Kate - what you have found is a cluster of goose barnacles (probably Lepas ansifera) which have attached themselves to the bottle you found when it was floating in the ocean.  At some point the bottle has been driven onto the rocks and smashed, leaving you with the washed up remains around which some barnacles are still attached.

their green colour comes from chlorophyll and accessory pigments, which means that they can fix carbon through photosynthesis.  However, pitcher plants typically grow in areas which are chronically short of available nitrogen, so their insectivorous habit ensures them a good supply of nitrogen to support growth.

Palaeontology is the study of ancient life forms interpretted from the fossils and traces they have left behind, and the evolution of life on earth.

Palaeoecology uses fossil data and data of past climates and landscape features to understand how ancient environments developed, and reconstruct the ecosystems of the past.

Paleoncology is a theatrical production linking oncology - the branch of medicine that deals with cancer tumours - with dinosaurs.  It's an award winning show, but I suggest that you check the title of your degree carefully.

Bananas, like cabbages, apples and onions, are made up of living cells and tissues while they are 'fresh'.  When those cells start to die, we see the fruit or vegetable starting to blacken and get infected by fungi or bacteria which break down the dead and dying tissues.  Consequently we work hard to keep bananas and other plant products alive until we use them - for example we keep them in the fridge to slow down their metabolic rates, but if we freeze them and so kill all of the cells, when thaw them they will blacken and collapse.

Animals eat to gain energy, and different food types contain different amounts of energy.  Meat, rich in protein and fat, is very rich in energy, and also the essential proteins that animals need to build their own bodies.  Plants are more variable in the amount of energy they contain.  Nuts and seeds can be very high in energy, but grass and leaves are much poorer sources of energy.  So a herbivore typically spends a lot of time eating poor quality foods (think how much time horses spend eating grass) while carnivores can gain their energy through eating less meat (and consequently a lion may only eat every two or three days and spend the rest of the time lying around).  However, grass is widely available and 'easy' to eat, whereas you may have to expend a lot of energy finding and killing a meat meal.  So as with many things in biology, the benefits of being a herbivore or a carnivore involve trade offs.

I've asked a friend who is an expert on dust mites, and his reply is that other mites eat dust mites - for example Cheyletus http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/spec … -eruditus/

Mites are too small for spiders to bother with I suspect.

Looks like a slipper orchid (Cypripedium).  Searching the Ontario slipper orchids the Pink Lady's Slipper Orchid looks most likely - see http://www.northland-paradise.com/orchids.html for example.

While chocolate is kept dry, the high fat and sugar content will help to preserve it and prevent fungi or bacteria from growing on it.  However, if you allow it to get wet, or in a humid climate allow it to absorb water from the atmosphere, the resulting droplets of water with low concentrations of sugars in are certainly capable of supporting fungal or bacterial growth.  Chocolate can take on a white 'bloom' if it gets too hot (common in the tropics when people bring chocolate meant for temperate areas*) but that isn't fungus.

So keep chocolate dry, and if the weather is very hot and/or humid keep it in the fridge.  Or eat it - enjoy!

*different formulations of chocolate are produced for different countries, depending on the local climate, so chocolate sold for consumption in cool areas has a lower melting temperature than chocolate sold for hot countries, and it consequently tastes different too. Most people like the chocolate they grew up with - so you can buy American chocolate at specialist stores in the UK, and British chocolate for a hefty price in Australia, and so on.

those are fleas not bugs

Looks like the final larval stage, the prepupa, of a fly - typically a fly maggot will leave whatever it has been feeding on and move off to find a suitable place to pupate.  Maybe you have got some dampness under your shower and there is rotten wood or other organic material there?

it is an American Darter or Anhingia, sometimes referred to as a snakebird.  There are four species around the tropics.  They are in  the same order as the cormorants and shags (the Suliformes) which they are similar to in habits, and to the gannets, boobies and frigatebirds.

(posted in Plants & Fungi)

David - do you mean Chaenomeles japonica, the Japanese quince?  I've only ever seen that with yellow fruits.

Mark, you could look online for images of the Japanese quince, and if that is not it try  taking another photo, but stand a bit further away so that we can see more of the tree (and it is in focus)

It is a cuckoo bee, I think it is Thyreus histrionicus.

Cuckoo bees are parasites of other bees , and are much less aggressive than wasps, so unless you handle them they are likely to leave you alone.

Looks to me like a rove beetle, but difficult to tell upside down and dead.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rove_beetle

I am not quite clear about your question, but I think you are asking what are the benefits of having a tamarind tree in the house, with regard to its release of carbon dioxide?  If so, the questions relates to the amount of carbon dioxide produced by the plant and it's potential effects on people in the house, I think.

Plants like tamarind tres respire like other living organisms, using up sugars and oxygen to produce energy and carbon dioxide as a biproduct.  They also photosynthesise during daylight hours,  using carbon dioxide, water and energy from the sun to produce sugars and oxygen as a biproduct.  For an actively growing tree the balance of oxygen production:carbon dioxide production will be in favour of oxygen production, as the tree is actively growing and therefore accumulating carbon from the sugars fixed during photosynthesis.

in terms of the benefits or effects of other people in the house, I would not be worried about the carbon dioxide production.  Some people worry that sleeping in rooms with plants could expose them to high levels of carbon dioxide at night, but unless you are in an airtight room with a huge number of plants this is unlikely, so rest easy - I have always slept with plants in my room.  Instead enjoy the positive benefits of having a beautiful tree near your house and the supply of fresh tamarind fruits for your kitchen.

What a great bug - and a true bug at that! I think that this is a leaf-footed bug or squash bug, a member of the Coreidae family, which is in the order Hemiptera or true bugs.

There is certainly work that shows that plant seeds are carried in the mud on birds' feet between water bodies, so it would be reasonable to assume that algal fragments at least move by the same method, and ppotentially fish eggs either in mud or attached to bits of plants attached to the mud.

Mustangs are managed by the Bureau of Land Management, who have a lot of information on their website.  They estimate that over 49,000 mustangs roam free, and their population is growing over the carrying capacity of the land.   Mustangs are protected by law.

See  http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/whbpro … facts.html

(posted in Plants & Fungi)

Cavendish bananas are the most common banana exported to non-banana growing regions, so in Europe and North America, for example, the vast majority of bananas on sale will be from the Cavendish group of bananas.

In countries that are fortunate enough to be able to grow bananas many more varieties are available, including those mentioned as well as green plantains (cooking bananas) and others with red skins

See also this post about seeds in bananas, which comes up in the post David refers to above: http://www.askabiologist.org.uk/answers … hp?id=7796

Let's start by looking at the defintion of a parasite, in this case from Oxford Dictionaries online: "An organism which lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other’s expense".  So this includes endoparasites like tapeworms, ectoparasites like ticks and fleas, as well as a number of plants, fungi and bacteria.
If we stay with the animals, the very high degree of specialisation required to be an endoparasite, including some very complex reproductive behaviour, is likely to make it very unlikely that any endoparasite would evolve back into a free-living organism.
However, the ectoparasites are already free living, so it is more likely that an ectoparasite evolve a different mode of nutrition to blood sucking (which is what most animal ectoparasites do).  The most obvious development might be from a parasite to a predato, killing and eating some or all of a prey item rather than only taking limited nutrition from them.
I don't know enough about the evolutionary relationships of animals to suggest a good example, except to point out that a number of species of lamprey (an ancient lineage of jawless fishes) are ectoparasites, and that the lampreys and sister taxa are though to be ancestral to the jawed fishes, so depending on the mode of nutrition of the early lampreys, some of them may have subsequently evolved into non-parasitic free living fish?

The wild cherry sphinx is found from Mississippi to southern Ontario, and like other hawk moths it pupates in late summer or early autumn and overwinters before emerging as a moth in spring. Thus the actual duration of pupation will depend on the climate and the weather, being shorter in the south and longer in the north, but will be several months.

Your question is not clear, but if you have found a cocoon and are waiting for it to hatch, I suggest keeping it in a sheltered place outdoors under some loose soil or leaves and letting it emerge when the temperature is right.  If you bring it indoors it will be at risk of emerging too soon to survive, or potentially of drying out in your artificially warm and dry house and not emerging at all.

I don't believe that we know of any instances where a plant appears to have evolved a particular chemical defence to target a single insect species - rather plants that have accumulated secondary chemicals which are broadly effective in reducing herbivore damage have survived better, and so been more likely to express their genes in subsequent generations. Consequently when a single insect herbivore goes extinct there are still likely to be many other species of insect (or other invertebrate, or vertebrate) herbivore out there, some of which will still be repulsed by the remaining toxins.

(posted in Plants & Fungi)

Hi Christopher - yes, you would need the algae to be growing at their maximum rate, so not only would you need to keep harvesting algae from the tank, but also adding the micronutrients into the water that the algae need to take up to survive and grow. Once you have harvested the algae, what do you do with it though? If you compost it, then the decomposition process will release the CO2 back into the atmosphere! That's why biofuels are referred to as carbon-neutral - burning them releases CO2, but only CO2 that has recently been taken out of the atmosphere. To actually remove the carbon you would have to isolate it such that it could not break down. Proposals to seed the ocean with micronutrients and encourage algal growth depend on the algae sinking when they die in the deep ocean, so deep that they accumulate as sludge at the bottom in the process that over millenia would give rise to coal. Naturally, carbon is also locked up in peat swamps while they remain acidic and waterlogged, but as soon as they start to dry out and oxygen can get into the peat then that breaks down too. So neat idea, but while you will fix CO2 into organic carbon, you won't be removing it from the global carbon cycle for anything except the short term.

Squirrels are rodents, so eat a pretty varied diet.   In the wild they will mostly eat grains and seeds, some fruits, bark and fungi.  If you want to supplement a wild squirrel's diet then things like corn husks are great.  You could also try a bit of fruit like apple, or seeds like sunflower seeds, or nuts.  A good seed mix like parrot mix will have a variety of hard-shelled seeds in it.  Don't feed to much, as you don't want waste food lying around either rotting or attracting other rodents and their friends, and you are really offering treats to a wild animal not providing it with a complete diet

Google serial dilutions in microbiology - I am sure that there will be dozens of sites out there offering explanations and examples.  In short a serial dilution is a series of (usually) tenfold dilutions, so you would start, with, for example, 10 ml of soap solution, remove 1 ml and add 9 ml of water to make a 1/10 th strength solution.  If you them took 1 ml of this and added 9 ml of water you would have a 1/100th  strength solution of your original soap solution.  You would use samples of each of your tenfold dilutions to assess their effect on your bacterial culture.

(posted in Evolution)

What about the concept of the species? We still use Victorian concepts of species to a large extent, but the species concept has developed with an understanding of meta population dynamics and now genetic techniques are allowing us to resolve previously cryptic species and determine patterns of relatedness which we were unable to decipher before.  There is lots to think about in terms of what the species concept means to us today, both from a legal and a conservation perspective, and advances in evolutionary biology are challenging existing notions.  Plenty of opinions around, lots of interesting work to read, your challenge would be to find a sufficiently focused area that you would only use 6,000 words to investigate!

... And what you can see inside are paralysed caterpillars which the wasp has put in the nest for the hatching wasp grubs to eat

(posted in Mammals)

Camels were released into Australia as train and road networks put the Afghan cameleers out of business, so as Sarah says the feral camels in Australia are the closest thing left to a 'wild type' - so much so that there is a flourishing trade in shipping captured feral animals back to the Middle East to reintroduce genetic diversity into the racing stud population.  There is also a growing trade in camel meat both for human and animal consumption - camels are doing so well in the arid centre of Australia that they are now a significant threat to these fragile ecosystems and the unique animal and plant life that lives there.

(posted in Plants & Fungi)

Bald cypress, more commonly known as swamp cypress in the UK, is a deciduous conifer from the south-eastern USA.  It can tolerate flooding and often but not always grows in swampy areas.

I think that your question is asking why sometimes the base of the trunk becomes hugely buttressed, and at other times it is relatively narrow? Buttressing and knee roots are a response to growing in flooded conditions where the ground may be soft and unstable, and bald cypress is notably resistant to strong winds and even hurricanes.  On drier sites where the soil if firm, trees don't need the extra structural support from buttressing, and tend to have narrower trunk bases.

The phenomenon of buttresses at the base of the trunk is much more common in tropical rainforests than it is in temperate systems, and buttressing is strongly associated with providing a support function, often developing to counter uneven canopy development.  Knee roots and stilt roots also provide a supportive function in mangrove and freshwater systems throughout the tropics.

absolutely not too old!  Some of the most committed and engaged undergraduates that I have taught were mature students because thay really wanted to be at uni, and had a range of experiences and perspectives to bring into class which often enlivened debates and made reading essays and discussing topics more diverse.  Yes you would need a PhD to pursue a research career, and many mature students do PhDs, and do very well.  I think the greatest challenge might be getting post-doctoral research jobs, as at least when I was in the UK (ten years ago) post-doc salaries were age-related, so you would be more expensive than some of your competitors.  However, in Australia  and probably elsewhere postdoc salaries are not age related so you may find if you were willing to travel you could find interesting jobs in academia overseas?

I suspect that this question is an extension of the home science experiment where you use a copper nail and a zinc coated nail in a potato to power a light bulb?  In this case, the phosphoric acid in the potato provides an electrolyte and the reactions between the acid and the two different metals generates a tiny voltage which can light an LED bulb.
In your question, I don't imagine that the bell pepper would have sufficient juice to do anything much.  The radish will have low levels of uric acid, and the onion sulphenic acids when cells are broken by cutting - that's what makes your eyes water.  My guess would be that a larger, juicier onion would probably be able to generate more electricity, but you could quite simply try out for yourself!

i don't think that you will find what you are looking for if it is an efficient search pattern - most organisms will selectively search the bits of their environment which are most likely to hold that which they are looking for.  If you want animals that collaborate and communicate what they have found, you are looking for pack animals like wolves which use chemical cues, or social animals like bees or ants, which you have already dismissed.  Animals like sharks and mosquitoes use chemical clues rather than random searches.  Birds like kites and vultures will 'patrol' particular areas while watching their nearest neighbour - when one descends to a prey animal others will follow, but they aren't really communicating, just following each others actions, though I suppose you could use drones or UAVs in swarms to do similar things?

no, they are not arboreal, though they may climb onto low growing vegetation

(posted in Birds)

I don't think that gulls are deliberately flying away from the sun, rather you are seeing them fly east.  Panama City Beach, Florida, lies on the Gulf of Mexico, so flying east would entail flying inland, away from the sea.  Gulls roost somewhere quiet where they won't be disturbed, and while some roost way out on the water, those nearer shore will fly inland and either find somewhere quiet under boardwalks or up on roof tops.

Red foxes are certainly present in urban areas in Australia and North America.  As opportunist predators and scavengers I would imagine that they occupy cities wherever they occur - and they are certainly common in European cities just as they are in British cities.

Silk webs are made by some, but not all, species of spider to catch prey.  In those species that make webs, both males and females make webs in some groups, while only females make webs in others.  In this latter group, which include examples like the golden orb web Nephila pilipes, the female may be enormous, up to 20 cm from leg tip to leg tip, while the male is tiny, only about 1 cm across the legs, and lives on the web off the female eating tiny insects she does not bother with.

Head lice are tiny parasites which live in the hair and feed on the scalp several times a day, causing itchiness.  Head lice can't jump or swim and don't survive long off the head of a host person, but they can run quickly and may 'trapeze' from hair to hair.  They spread by contact between heads, whether that is two children bumping heads as they look at the same book or collisions on the football field. 

Eggs  survive for 7-10 days stuck tightly onto the hair shaft, and are very difficult to dislodge.  The reason people keep getting reinfected is because it is very difficult to get everyone in a school to treat their children on the same day, so individuals who miss 'nit day' may be providing head lice with a refuge for a day or two, and then passing them around again.  There is no evidence that head lice prefer particular types of hair, or clean or dirty hair. 

Head lice have been found on Egyptian mummies, and will be with us for a long time to come.  They are actually becoming more problematic as they build resistance to commonly used insecticides.

Head lice infect adults as well as children, but adults are less frequently in close physical contact with lots of people, so their infection rates are lower.

Insects do not have a heart and blood vessels like a mammal, but their organs are bathed in a blood-like liquid and they have a pump-like structure which draws in blood from the abdomen and pumps it up to the head.  This pump may have several chambers so in effect an insect can have two or more hearts helping to maintain circulation.

Accepting your apologies for the photograph, I wonder how big this is?  Looks more like a hawk-moth caterpillar to me, though I don't know the European species.  They often have a horn-like tail, though obviously at the posterior rather than the anterior end.  Hawk moth caterpillars are quite large, 1-3 inches (2-8 cm) long.

It is an extraordinary flower, but looking closely I would be inclined to agree that it is real. The petals are correctly spirally whirled and each one is different, so either, as Peter says, someone has spent a long time perfecting this or it is real.  Shame that the background is so poor though, I would have tried to position the flower to be in a much more sensitive light - I suspect that photoshop has been employed to overcome the effects of the backlighting.

Carpenter bees are usually huge bees, often over an inch long, so yours sound tiny.  Could you instead have been bitten by ants?  Some ants bite rather than sting, and you are quite likely to have found them under logs.

(posted in Plants & Fungi)

I can't find any data explicitly about watermelon, but I can find data that show that green apples, lemons, oranges, peas, cucumbers and tomatoes are all photosynthetic.  Photosynthesis of the fruit wall of immature fruits can be an important, though not the only, source of carbohydrate to the developing fruit, so I wouldn't be surprised if there was at least some photosynthetic activity in watermelon skin, at least when the fruit was unripe and growing.

(posted in Birds)

Science develops through the testing and re-testing of hypotheses, through critical appraisal of accepted understandings and of the significance of new data as it comes to light.

Bird evolution is clearly a topic which is debated, and Dr David Hone gave you a distillation of the current palaeonotological view, which is based on an objective assessment of the data available at the moment.

The blog you cite appears to present a particular view and then use a rather select number of pages from Wikipedia to support the claim.  This isn't a very scientific approach.  Unfortunately the blog poster does not seem to provide any sort of biographical information with which to judge their credentials, and I can't find any publications attributable to 'Dr Pterosaur'.

I will leave you to form your own opinions.

(posted in Plants & Fungi)

These look like slime moulds rather than fungi, which are not actually fungi but several groups of amoeboid protoctista. 

This page is a great place to start, and includes a photo of the dog vomit slime mould, which suggests that your analogy is widely recognised.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slime_mold

Dingoes are wild dogs found in Australia and SE Asia from Papua New Guinea to Thailand.  There have long been debates about the relationships between domestic dogs, wolves and dingoes, but recent genetic analyses suggest that dingoes are a genetically isolated group of domestic dogs.

Consequently, dingoes are, essentially, feral dogs which have, in the case of Australia, been isolated and interbreeding for about 5,000 years.  Domestic dogs which become feral in Australia, often pig hunters' dogs which get lost, interbreed readily with dingoes, and there is concern that there are few if any populations of 'true' dingoes left that are not significantly interbred with domestic dogs.  So to your question - feral dogs do tend to group into packs with strong hierarchical structures, and which hunt cooperatively, as do dingoes.  But feral dogs are unlikely to become more dingo-like in appearance, as the distinctive breed characteristics of dingoes are the result of thousands of years of isolated breeding rather than their being wild or environmental factors.

The organelles which contain chlorophyll, called plastids, need light in order to complete the synthesis and activation of chlorophyll, which together with other pigments then absorb most wavelengths of light excepting those in the green wave bands - this results in the light reflected from leaves being relatively enriched in green wavelengths and therefore appear to be green to us. 

In the absence of chlorophyll or another pigment light reflected off the surface of a leaf is not enriched in any particular wavelengths and thus appears to be white Or nearly so (often cream or pale yellow). Leaves can appear white when they lack a gene to synthesise the chlorophyll pigment, which may be apparent only in part of a so-called variegated leaf.  Leaf miners which eat the chlorophyll-containing tissues inside a leaf may also leave white trails across the surface of a leaf.  Lack of critical nutrients may prevent a leaf from making chlorophyll, which can result in a leaf with yellow or white blotches on it, known as chlorosis.  As you mention in the question, keeping a plant in the dark will also prevent the leaves from turning green.