Tag Archives: Biology

Wolves change the course of rivers – Remarkable video!


The following excerpts are from ‘How Exactly Wolves Change the Course of Rivers’ by Ray Molina of yourdailymedia.com Mar. 1, 2014

…Trophic cascade is when the behavior of top predators have a trickling down effect on their environment. Let’s call these predators the “one percent.”
The one percent may be vicious killing machines who think only of themselves, but even bad intentions could have good outcomes. We are finding out that their murderous ways can be useful in controlling the over population of herbivores that are eating more than their fair share, which leaves little for a multitude of other animals lower on the food chain.
Eventually there will be plenty of wolves, perhaps even too many, and at some point we may need to protect the rest of the food chain from these top predators.
But like most things, if not everything, there’s a time and a place.
I do wonder about whether or not the Ecosystems would have just found a new way to balance themselves out over time. Who knows how long that might have taken though, or maybe it’s currently happening in ways we cannot yet witness.
The main culprit of our Eco failures is you and me through our destruction of habitats through land-developing and hunting and pollution. We really blew it, and now we’re trying to cut our losses by celebrating animals that repair our mistakes.

In the video below, Author/Activist George Monbiot describes to an audience at TED the effects of Wolves that were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in the mid 90’s.
He describes how the wolves, in a relatively short period of time, have transformed the landscape and allowed more varieties of life to flourish. And wolves did it in ways we never expected.
It’s a humbling reminder of just how connected life on this planet really is.

The original TED talk by George Monbiot, gives numerous examples of how “rewilding” our ecosystem can give us back the earth our predecessors had the privilege of experiencing.

NOTE: There are “elk” pictured in this video when the narrator is referring to “deer.” This is because the narrator is British and the British word for “elk” is “red deer” or “deer” for short. The scientific report this is based on refers to elk so we wanted to be accurate with the truth of the story.

When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable “trophic cascade” occurred. What is a trophic cascade and how exactly do wolves change rivers? George Monbiot explains in this movie remix.

Narration from TED: “For more wonder, rewild the world” by George Monbiot. Watch the full talk, here: http://bit.ly/N3m62h

Article link – http://www.yourdailymedia.com/post/how-exactly-do-wolves-change-rivers


VENICEBefore we address this subject, I highly recommend that you watch this extremely well presented in-depth video, “Sinking of the city of Venice”, Part 1 published by Nova.  Parts 2, 3 and 4 are also available on YouTube.

The following excerpts are taken from Water Canada (with RenewCanada) ~ “Fake Plastic Reefs”. 
HESSELEINRay Hesslein, limnologist, offers his thoughts on how using protocells to make limestone structures might affect water bodies.

Rachel Armstrong
wants to use synthetic biology and smart chemistry to save decaying buildings in the Italian city of Venice.

Water Canada’s sister publication, ReNew Canada, recently profiled Armstrong’s TEDTalk, wherein the scientist details how she ARTIFICIAL LIMESTONEproposes to grow artificial limestone reefs under those buildings and use them as support structures. The metabolic materials Armstrong’s team designs are based on the protocell. One of the reef-building organisms Armstrong and her team have engineered naturally moves away from light and towards darkness. This behaviour would keep reefs out of Venice’s navigable canals and have them grow in the darkness under its buildings, essentially petrifying, and sustainably reclaiming, the city’s foundations.

We wondered how the approach might affect the water in the canal system and asked Dr. Ray Hesslein, recent recipient of the LIMNOLOGISTSociety of Canadian Limnologists’ Frank H. Rigler Award, to give us a lesson in calcium carbonate.

Water Canada: Can you tell us a bit about how limestone works?

LAKE AREADr. Hesslein: The ease with which organisms can produce precursors to limestone really depends on how much calcium carbonate is in the water. At the Experimental Lakes Area [in Ontario], where there is very little calcium carbonate in the water, organisms have a huge difficulty developing this material.  Even clams and mussels have difficulty making shells. That’s one extreme. At the other end of things, the ocean is at the point of saturation. That’s why we have coral reefs. It’s relatively easy for organisms to produce shells or that kind of thing by precipitating calcium carbonate from the water.

What do you make of Armstrong’s protocells?

The greater concern is not whether you produce an enzyme package that can precipitate calcium carbonate, but whether you can control it. How do you make it go where you want it to? How do you stop it from growing wildly in the canals?

How might the introduction of limestone affect the surrounding ecosystem?

CALCIUM CARBONATE CALCIUM CARBONATE2     If you put calcium carbonate into fresh water, it will corrode and dissolve gradually. If the water body is not saturated or near saturation, that water body will corrode the limestone. That’s a concern in the ocean right now. When you add more CO2 into the atmosphere, it goes into the ocean and acidifies it slightly. Some areas where calcium carbonates were stable in the past have become corrosive, and that is having an effect on reefs. An estuary is more complex and variable. There may be times when things will be stable or under-saturated and begin to corrode. If you have organisms in that area and it’s semiclosed, this process will compete with them. Other organisms will have difficulty precipitating unless you put in amendments. This is not to say Armstrong’s process won’t work in some places. The concept is interesting, but in my mind, there are more questions than answers. One would have to look at the situation in Venice, checking for seasonal variability and doing a proper engineering assessment.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share?

Armstrong talks about continuous renewal being something biology does that is different from manmade structures. Organisms die and are replaced. In Venice, we might want to preserve everything forever, but I’m not sure I agree with the whole notion of being able to make things last. Biology evolves as well.



Animal World – Sea Horses | Storyteller Media ~ Published on Jan 23, 2012 ~ The mystical sea horse. Very graceful, very beautiful, very endangered and very strange. It’s the male who gives birth with this species. We join the team at the London Aquarium to see what they are doing to help save them from extinction.

The destruction of coral reefs, trawling and the use of seahorses in Chinese medicine is leading to their decline. How do we stop this near-mythical sea creature from becoming extinct? – Uploaded on Jun 23, 2010 to YouTube.

Male seahorse giving birth at The Deep Hull, Uploaded on Jun 21, 2010

http://www.thedeep.co.uk Filmed at The Deep, Hull, Yorkshire, United Kingdom  The world’s only submarium is home to over 3500 fish, including sharks and rays… There are many illegally imported seahorses. When they are discovered by Customs and Excise, London Zoo aquarium at ZSL help out by housing and taking care of them … We were able to help out by taking this mature breeding pair. Many seahorses are on the IUCN Red list classified as VULNERABLE and have shown population declines of 20% over the last 10 years. Many species haven’t enough information about them to be able to manage their exploitation.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocampus_%28genus%29 


Starfish, also known as sea stars are a ubiquitous ocean species, with around 1,800 living species occurring in all the world’s oceans, and can be found at ocean depths greater than 6,000 meters.

“The Sunflower Sea Star”  is one of OceanFutures Society’s many videos ~ Uploaded on Oct 27, 2009 – When people think of sea stars, they don’t typically think of voracious predators scouring the seabed, leaving carnage and fear in their wake, but this may simply be a matter of perspective. To the scallop or clam, this sea star is a pure nightmare. This whimsical look at one of the ocean’s less known predators may change your perception of sea stars forever. For more unique insights into the ocean realm, watch America’s Underwater Treasures, a two-hour episode of the PBS series Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures

Some 2,000 sea star species live throughout the world’s oceans. Some weigh as much as 11 pounds (5 kilograms) and stretch more than 2 feet (65 centimeters) across, but others are only half an inch (1 centimeter) in diameter. These animals reproduce prolifically, and some sea stars can release millions of eggs into the water for fertilization at the same time.

Starfish can go from soft (able to squeeze into small spaces) to rigid in a split second. In fact, their entire anatomy is surprisingly complex, including their nervous system.

The undersides of starfish have many tube feet capable of grasping on to things with amazing force. They work on a hydraulic water vascular system which aid the starfish’s movement – some species very slowly while others can move up to 9 feet in one minute. The tube feet are also used to grasp and deal with food.

Uploaded by on Mar 13, 2011 ~ This star fish is walking around my tank all the time, it just cruises the entire tank. Excellent to watch.

Secondly, the underside is where their mouth is located. They can swallow their prey whole and down it goes in a short esophagus to a cardiac stomach, and then on to a second pyloric stomach. But they don’t have to swallow… when dealing with prey larger than its mouth, many species of starfish can also spit out their stomachs to engulf the food and begin to digest it before pulling everything back into its body – eueew! (In this photo the sea star is eating a clam!)

Green Brittle Star at feeding time ~ Uploaded by on Nov 8, 2008.  This is my 2 year old green brittle star at feeding time.

Starfish species don’t all come with five arms. Several species have 10 to 15 arms, and some other species have as many as 50.

These bottom-dwellers play important roles in the ocean ecosystem, including keeping populations of shellfish in check, and, according to recent studies, absorbing large amounts of carbon in the world’s oceans.

Ever wonder what happens to a starfish when it is flipped upside down? ~ Uploaded by on Jun 8, 2010


 I really don’t know what I’d do without my e-mail account.  I’ve just discovered interesting information that I’d like to share with you about another amazing colourful mollusc-like marine creature, known as a “nudibranch” (pronouced NEW-dih-bronk) 

“Just what are nudibranchs?”, you might ask.

The nudibranchs are ocean bottom-dwelling, shell-less mollusks featuring featherlike gills and horns mostly found on their backs and are part of the sea slug family. They are noted for their often extraordinary colors and striking forms.

Nudibranchs are usually oblong in shape and measure anywhere from ¼ inch to 12 inches.

Nudibranchs are carnivores that graze on corals, anemones, algae, barnacles and sponges. To identify prey, Two extremely sensitive tentacles (‘rhinophores’) on top of their heads help them locate their food sources., called rhinophores, located on top of their heads.

The colour of the nudibranchs is retained from the food they digest.  This colouring and poisons they keep from their prey help the nubdibranchs protect themselves from predators.

Nudibranchs lifespans vary with some living under a month, and others living up to one year.

Related links –

SMH article ‘Underwater Wonders on Mail Run’:


Aquatic Community.com:


Article in National Geographic:




Rainsoft Ottawa sends best wishes for a joyous Easter celebration to all our WordPress friends/followers/bloggers.


In March 2011, a team of palaeontologists reported the discovery of a new species of extinct rabbit on Minorca, which is a small Spanish island in the Balearic archipelago in the western Mediterranean Sea. The researchers, led by Joseph Quintanaa from the Institut Català de Paleontologia in Barcelona, named it Nuralagus rex, literally ‘King of the Rabbits’.

This royal rabbit hailed from the Late Neogene period, which ended about 2.5 million years ago, and would have weighed around 12kg. This is about six times the size of the modern European rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus.

Its skeletal structure indicates that it was not built to hop like modern-day rabbits, and did not have the heightened sense of smell and excellent vision of its modern-day counterparts.

In the 40 million years of rabbit evolution, most species have remained within the size range found in modern rabbits. The giant rabbit of Minorca is a notable exception. Its enormous size (for a rabbit) may have been due to a lack of predators on the island. This would be a classic example of a principle in evolutionary biology called the “island rule,” which states that animals confined to an island can evolve to get bigger due to an absence of predators, or smaller because of a scarcity of food. Contemporaries of Nuralagus rex, also found in the Minorca fossil record, include a bat, a large dormouse, and a giant tortoise…

Nuralagus rex, a giant rabbit that lived between 3 and 5 million years ago, is the oldest known example of the “island rule.” Its unique physiology presents scientists with interesting insights into the evolution and adaptation of mammals in an isolated environment free of predators. Quintana hopes that his giant rabbit will become a mascot of sorts to attract students and visitors to Minorca, an island that’s a popular tourist destination in Europe. There’s no other place that can lay claim to being the home of the largest rabbit that ever existed on the planet.




Enjoy your weekend!