Category Archives: Reblogs

Readers’ wildlife photos

Why Evolution Is True

In the spirit of last week’s Penguin Appreciation Day, we continue with our series on biologist John Avise’s penguin shots from a recent trip to the Antarctic, the Falklands, and South Georgia. And remember, it’s always Penguin Appreciation Day, as almost all species are endangered by global warming and the breakup of ice. John’s notes and IDs are indented.

Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome), Falkland Islands:

Carrying nesting material:

These penguins had nests interspersed with those of Black-browed Albatrosses (Thalassarche melanophris):

Sitting on two eggs:

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A stunning case of mimicry

Why Evolution Is True

I don’t remember encountering this case of mimicry, but it’s so amazing that, when I became aware of it from a tweet (yes, Twitter has its uses), I decided to give it a post of its own.

First the tweet, sent to me by Matthew. He added, “This is the Iranian viper, as featured in Seven Worlds, One Planet, made by the BBC. Amazing.”

You don’t need to translate the Spanish, though, as the video below tells all. I swear that when I first watched it, I thought there was a real spider crawling on the snake’s back.

The snake…

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Divers give an octopus a new home

Why Evolution Is True

This is incredibly cute: the combination of the kind divers helping a vulnerable little octopus, the way the creature explores the proffered shells with its tiny tentacle, and its final acceptance of a new home. Lovely!

Speaking of new homes, check this one out:

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Readers’ wildlife photos

Why Evolution Is True

Today we feature a couple of photos from the past month or so, all sent by reader Christopher Moss. His captions are indented. The first pictures are of a Mystery Bird.

I’m stumped with this one! Starling sized, thin beak (unlike a grosbeak or finch beak), yellow breast and vent, with a whitish belly. No white lines around the eyes like the yellow breasted chat (and the chat doesn’t have the white edging to the primary wing feathers this one has). The best I can think of is that it might be a female northern oriole, Icterus galbula (aka Baltimore oriole, or Bullock’s oriole for the western race). If it is a northern oriole, it really ought to be in Florida or Mexico by now. But then again, I also have a flock of goldfinches that ought to have gone off to their trailer parks in Florida like good Canadian…

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Coordinated wing-waving in bees

Why Evolution Is True

The tweet at the bottom got me looking for longer videos of this mesmerizing behavior, and I found one (from BBC Earth) on YouTube. The coordinated wing displays are said to deter predators, and I can’t think of any other reason for it, but I wondered if it there really were data showing that it has this effect.  This PLOS One paper, however, shows that the shimmering effect of coordinated wing-waving really does deter wasps from picking honeybees out of the mass on the nest.

Another problem is how the bees manage to synchronize their movements so rapidly. In birds like starlings, which also move and change direction rapidly in similar “waves” during their murmutations, it’s been shown that this movement requires each bird to pay attention to and emulate the movements of six or seven neighboring birds. (Following one neighbor won’t enable such rapid changes.) I’ve put…

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January 16, 1547 – Grand Duke Ivan IV of Muscovy becomes the first Czar of Russia.

European Royal History

January 16, 1547 – Grand Duke Ivan IV of Muscovy becomes the first Czar of Russia, replacing the 264-year-old Grand Duchy of Moscow with the Czardom of Russia.

Ivan IV Vasilyevich (August 25, 1530 – March 28, 1584), commonly known as Ivan the Terrible, or more accurately, “Ivan the Formidable” or “Ivan the Fearsome”, was the Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 to 1547 and the first Czar of Russia from 1547 to 1584.

Ivan IV was the son of Vasili III Ivanovich Grand Prince of Moscow (1479 – 1533) and and his second wife, Elena Glinskaya, daughter of Prince Vasili Lvovich Glinsky from Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Serb Princess Ana Jakšić, member of the Jakšić family.

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Ivan IV, Czar of all the Russia’s.

When Ivan was three years old, his father died from an abscess and inflammation on his leg that developed into blood poisoning. Ivan was proclaimed the Grand…

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Readers’ wildlife photos

Why Evolution Is True

Today we have the second set of bird photos taken by Joe Dickinson on a recent visit to the Merced National Wildlife Refuge in in the California Central Valley near Los Banos (the first set is here). Joe’s captions are indented.

This great blue heron (Ardea herodias)  looks to me like it has some blood on its beak.  Probably scored a gopher or mouse  recently.

This is a yellowlegs, probably lesser (Tringa flavipes).

A congregation of coots (Fulica americana).  I just decided that that is the appropriate collective term for coots.

This and two following, more sandhill cranes (Antigone canadensis).

This gives an idea of the number of geese (Anser caerulescens and Chen rossii).  To make a decent photo, I had to crop this to about 1/3 of the line.

And more geese all the way down.

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Readers’ wildlife photos

Why Evolution Is True

Today we feature the bird photos of reader and regular contributor Joe Dickinson, whose notes and IDs are indented.

Here is the first of two sets of bird photos from a recent visit to the Merced National Wildlife Refuge over in the California Central Valley near Los Banos.

By far the most plentiful species are mixed flocks of snow geese (Chen caerulescens) and Ross’s geese (Chen rossii). These are almost always in mixed flocks, at least here in Central California at this time of year, and are hard to distinguish unless you can see the heads up close (which was not the case this time).

Based on expected distribution, this almost certainly is a white-faced ibis (Plegadis chihi):

Black-necked stilts (Himantopus mexicanus) are among my favorites—so “elegant” looking.

I’m pretty sure this and the following are red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis)…

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Bertrand Russell on why the term “agnostic” is for show

Why Evolution Is True

Reader Dom sent me a Bertrand Russell quote from what appears to be a very short essay, “Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic?” (1947)

As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think that I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because, when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.

None of us would seriously consider the possibility that all the gods of Homer really exist, and yet…

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Steve Pinker clarifies issues about his interview

Why Evolution Is True

In my post yesterday about Steve Pinker’s new interview, I made a few critical remarks about his views on identity politics, though by and large I agreed with him. I was more critical about his views on free will.

As usual, because he’s a friend, I alerted him in advance to the post, and asked him about his views about affirmative action (his interview didn’t say anything about that, but one might get the idea he opposed it), as well as about free will. I didn’t get a response from him until after my post went up, and in that response he gave me permission to post the views he set out in his email (of course I always ask in advance). I overlooked that permission and so didn’t say anything. Now that I see it, I’m posting our exchange for the record. Steve does favor affirmative action, but…

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