Friday, February 26, 2010

A Killer Killer Whale

February this year brought it's share of distressing news. I was reading Katie Stanley's blog Labrish Jamaica: Musings on Earth and Life when I learnt that Tilikum, a killer whale trained and displayed at Orlando's Seaworld, had grabbed and drowned its trainer at the end of its performance. (You can read the entire article here.) How unsettling must that have been for the public and other trainers watching incapable of providing any assitance.

Katie goes on in her blog to relate this incident to killer whale behaviour and ecology with this striking picture to support her post.  -----­>

Killer whales are a large migratory species that cover great distances over the course of one year. Although I have no litterature to support this, common sense tells us that if a creature is used to having a lot of space and is genetically programmed to search for cooler waters at a certain time of year, it might not enjoy captivity in a area nearing the equator (although they can be found in tropical waters).

I love killer whales or orcas as some call them. Their colouration and shape, their pack hunting habits, everything about them SCREAMS predator. They are the wolves of the sea, a formidable oppenent even for larger whales. They are an apex or super predator since they have no known predators. Never will I forget the documentary showing killer whales catching and juggling seals one after the other only to let them sink to the bottom of the ocean. Even so I can not help but be in awe of them (Free Willy must of had something to do with it).

If you've seen Free Willy (1, 2, and 3), you know that the Orca plays an important part in many Native American legends.  I like this one :
''Some legends claim that the first killer whale was previously a supernatural white wolf that entered the sea and transformed into a whale. Mother Earth painted markings on the side of the killer whale as a reminder that it used to be a member of the wolf family. Indeed, both the killer whale and wolf share similar characteristics as they both have similar coloring. They both also stay and hunt in family packs. There are also legends that describe the killer whale being able to transform back and forth into a wolf.''

Although zoos play an important role in conservation efforts, public education, and create awareness about vulnerable species, it comes at a great cost: life on both sides.

Take care.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Shepherd's Purse and their Canivorous Seeds

Shepherd's Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), a common weed found all over Montreal, a weed I frequently unearthed from my garden, a weed I found cute enough to repot, in a adorable tiny earth pot, and take care of for months before it died of thirst (I like plants, I never once said I was any good at keeping them alive).

Well, this little plant capable of producing 50,000 seeds is CARNIVOROUS!

Actually,  it's seeds are to be more precise, which makes the seed production number quite alarming don't you think? The seeds of the Shepherd's purse are covered by mucilage, a sticky substance, that attracts, captures and digests insects (larvae mostly, we're fine). These added nutrients gives the seed a competitive edge when germinating.

I know right? Not exactly what you expected from a carnivorous plant. Bet you were thinking more on the lines of Mario Brothers, Pitcher plants, Venus Fly traps, and sundews.

Yep, Nature Rocks!

Take care!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New blog

Hey all!
I started a new blog all about yoga. No worries, I am not dropping this one but I felt it necessary to blog about my yoga practice to give myself an added incentive to practice everyday.

Check it out at

Take care!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What happens when the temperature drops

These past few weeks have been hard on the east coast of southern USA. Washington received it's biggest snowstorm in 90 years on the weekend of February 5th. It was impressive. How do I know? Well, yours truely and her brave husband drove through it all the way from Virginia Beach to New York. It was scarey, driving at 30 miles an hour on the interstate, creeping past car after car after truck stuck in the ditch on either side of the road. The long moments of total darkness as the only car for miles driving through what may have been a black hole, for all we could see. Flicking on our high beams gave us the impression of jumping into hyperspeed; giant reflective snowflakes speeding towards us and swerving away at the last minute following the expertly engineered airflow around our car (thank you Saturn Ion designers).
The weather may have frustrated many an American but the impact on animal and plant populations is devastating. A recent article published in Discovery News reveals the ever increasing death toll in Florida's everglade marshes. The author reports the alarming death of over 200 manatees. These gentle aquatic cows are already on the endangered species list because of habitat degradation; biologists fear the worst for this species. They do not tolerate cold temperatures and meteorologists do not predict any warming in the near future. Florida is experiencing unusually cold temperatures and the animals there don't have central heating and 24/7 Starbucks to help them get through it.
There is a up side to these bleak conditions; the cold, as well as killing native and protected species, is killing off the tropical invasive species. Apparently, green iguanas are falling out of trees frozen and snakes are turning up frozen stiff like popscicles, this is great for the native flora and fauna ... if they survive that is.

Take care!

[Picture credits Mojo- 4th Ring Road]

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cutest nightlight ever

My brother found this amazing little thing. It's so cute that I had to share. For more pictures you can check out this post called Creative Bulb Holders.

Take care!

My most sincere apologies

This is no way to keep a blog or to treat faithful readers. (I am very fond of the precious few I have.) I've been busy, well, it's a complex blend of writer's block, stress, the loss of Internet, a snowstorm, and the preoccupations that come with moving all of your belongings to a storage facility halfway up the continent. Ooof! Now that all the crazyness is over, I'll be settling back down into a slightly more consistent posting pattern. I've got lots of fascinating topics to share, most of which are just waiting patiently as drafts. So please do come back! I promise I'll do better.

In hopes of your forgiveness, I offer you this drawing I did a couple years back - probably one of my best to date.

You can find more drawings I posted on Deviant Art by clicking here

        How about a little science behind the art. My little fairy is resting in the broad and elongated leaf of a purple orchid (which although inspired by many species, does not represent one in particular). Orchids are monocots and therefore have the characteristic simple leaf with parallel venation also found in the tulip and maize. They represent the largest group of flowering plants and although they are most abundant in the tropics, you can find species all the way up to the Arctic Circle and on land masses nearing Antarctica. 

OrchidImage by santoshnc via Flickr
    Their abundance and wide spread distribution may be linked to their highly risky and complex reproductive strategies. Their mimicry is unmatched in the plant world and their mechanisms so complex they merit their own segment (hint hint foreshadowing). Orchids produce millions of minute seeds that are dispersed mainly by the wind. Their size allows them to be transported to far off places. Their numbers allow for mutations that may insure the survival of the seedlings in various conditions.

     They are the record holders for the smallest seeds produced by vascular plants. This, however, comes at a great cost. To save space, orchid seeds do not have endosperm, stored food in the form of starch, oils, and proteins. Endosperm is what allows germination before the seedling can produce its food from the environment. Orchids bypass this need by forming a symbiotic relationship with mychorrizal fungi. Obviously this is easier said that done which is why cultivating orchids is such a challenge, but somehow they manage and produce incredible results.

If you wish to see more examples of the diversity and beauty of orchids and don't feel like playing with google images, Greg Allikas has produced this beautiful orchid slideshow you can look at by clicking here.

Take care!
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