Monday, December 29, 2008

The Myriapods - Centipedes and Millipedes

The MYRIAPODA are a subphylum of the Arthropoda, consisting of 4 Classes; the CHILOPODA (Centipedes), DIPLOPODA (Millipedes), PAUROPODA and the SYMPHYLA (Garden Centipedes). All are elongated creatures with multiple legs and segmented bodies. Not all classes of Arthropods are grouped together in Subphyla, but these 4 classes are considered closely enough related to warrant it. Let's have a look .

Class CHILOPODA - The Centipedes

Vietnamese Centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes ). Notice that centipedes have 2 legs per body segment, a flattened body, and a pair of long antennae.

Arizona Desert Centipede (Scolopendra heros) showing off the rear legs which may be used as weapons for defense or predation.

Chinese Red Headed Centipede (S. subspinipes mutilans) protecting its eggs.

The venom fangs or venom claws of a Scolopendrid centipede, centipedes are a completely predatory group.

House Centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata), as the name suggests, are often found in human dwellings.

S. gigantea, the largest species of centipede still around.

Class DIPLOPODA - The Millipedes

The African Giant Millipede (Archispirostreptus gigas) which is a species commonly kept as a pet or classroom display animal. Millipedes have rounded bodies and 4 legs per body segment.

Although it looks like a Pillbug (Isopod), this is a Pill Millipede (Glomeris marginata), found in Europe.

One of the Sheild Millipedes from Ecuador, which release an almond like odor when disturbed as a few species of millipede do, to dissuade predators.

A pair of mating millipede in Sarawak, Malaysia

Millipedes are herbivorous, and have plant grinding/cutting mouth parts.


Extremely small, the Pauropods live in soil and leaf litter, where they feed on a variety of plant and fungal material.

A microscope image of Pauropods, which are most closely related to the millipedes.

Pauropods are blind, and have many sensory hairs along the body and complex antennae.

Class SYMPHYLA - Garden Centipedes

Symphylans are tiny translucent myriapods that dwell in the soil and feed on decaying plant matter (Detritivores - animals that eat detritus or rotting/dead plant matter)

The young are born with 6 pairs of legs, but they gain a new pair with every molt of the soft exoskeleton.

Like Pauropods, Symphylans are blind , but have long antennae for finding their way.

The Largest Flower in the world?

The story of what the largest flower in the world is, depends on where one draws the line. If one means a single flower, then the largest flower would be Rafflesia arnoldii, a large red flower that grows in Indonesia. If one considers not single flowers, but includes multiple flower floral structures (an inflorescence), then the largest would be the Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum). Both are commonly referred to as the Corpse Flower, because of their odors (which resemble rotting corpses).

Corpse Flower (Rafflesia arnoldii)

R. arnoldii, the largest single flower in the world, found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sulawesi (Indonesia)

The ball of the unfurled flower emerges from the flesh of the Tetrastigma vine, upon which R. arnoldii is a parasite

Rafflesia opens up, it has no roots, nor leaves, nor stems and until flowering, lives only as a thread of plant tissue in the host vine

The inside of the flower, from which a rather pungent odor of rotting flesh emerges, attracting its pollinators, flies.

Even the texture of the flower somewhat resembles putrefying flesh.

If you were a fly, this would look like heaven, kind of.

This is a somewhat rare flower, that depends on a plant that needs relatively undisturbed primary (climax) forest.

Human and Rafflesia, to give some perspective

This smells like my wife.

Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum)

Naturalist and film maker, David Attenborrough regards a recently bloomed Amorphophallus at Kew Gardens in London... not a single flower, but a huge inflorescence (many flowers on one structure). It may reach up to 10 ft in height.

A chart of the life cycle of the Titan Arum, which is found in Sumatra, Indonesia

Growth/Life stages of the Titan,

The name, Amorphophallus titanum means "penis shaped enormous", which is why Attenborrough wouldn't use the name on his tv show, The Private Life of Plants.

Like the Rafflesia, the Amorphophallus emits an odor of rotting flesh, which attracts pollinating flies. The flower also creates heat, which helps with the illusion of freshly dead animal.

Multiple inflorescences emerge from one plant.

The fruit produced by the female flowers on the lower part of the inflorescence , before the flower dies back completely.

After the flower dies back, a huge leaf, the size of a small tree, emerges from the root under the ground. It will die back, and the process of dormancy and then flowering will begin again.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A GALLERY OF TURTLES (International) pt. 2

In my ongoing tribute to my friend Luka's obsession with turtles... I thought I'd move on to some or our Chelonian friends from around the world with another list of my favorites... Again, in no particular order.

06. Snail Eating Turtle (Malayemys subtrijuga)

This rare turtle is distributed throughout SE Asia.

Snail Eating Turtles come equipped with Japanese Kabuki face paint.

Malayemys approaching its usual diet of freshwater aquatic snail

They are Threatened due to habitat loss and overcollection, but have proven to be difficult to raise in captivity.

The colors of many turtles fade with advanced age.

The Snail Eater is a small turtle, only reaching a length of 8 inches.

07. Ploughshare Tortoise or Anganoka (Geochelone yniphora)

The Anganoka is endemic (found only) in Madagascar.

One of the rarest tortoises in the world, they have suffered from habitat destruction and overhunting.

The name "Ploughshare" refers to the plough (plow) like projection (an extended gular scute) at the front of the plastron. Gular means throat, and scutes are the sections of the shell. The males are larger and have longer gular projections, with which they may joust each other over females.

They have a notch at the top of the carapace, so that they may extend their necks upward to feed on vegetation.

" Hey baby, wuss crack a lackin?"

Captive breeding programs for Ploughshares by environmental and governmental groups have become an integral part of conservation efforts.

Mother and young

Sharing the love with Geochelone yniphora

08. Expansa or Arrau (Podocnemis expansa)

Arraus live in freshwater rivers in the tropics of South America.

The largest river turtle in the Amazon watershed, this picture taken in a tributary in Brazil

Expansa is in the suborder Pleurodira or "sideneck turtles", which pull their heads and necks in sideways, instead of straight back in an S shape... as do most of the freshwater turtles you know, who are in the suborder Cryptodira.

The colorful face of the smaller male

Herbivorous turtle, often dives for food

The bright colors of a younger male

Females come up onto sandy beaches and sandbars to lay eggs.

Looking for just the right spot

A large female at night

Digging a deep nest for the eggs, like most turtles they have Temperature Dependent Sex Determination (lower temperatures produce mostly males, higher produce mostly females).

Arraus congregate in large numbers to back on logs.

09. Pignosed Turtle (Carettochelys insculpta)

Pig-noses are softshell turtles found in Northern Australia and New Guinea.

While most softshells have cartilaginous shells, Carettochelys has a bony carapace underneath the skin.

The Pignose is unusual in freshwater turtles, in having flippers like Sea Turtles.

Also referred to as the Fly River Turtle in Australia, they prefer sandy bottom rivers. They are sometimes found in brackish and saltwater estuaries.

Males have longer and thicker snouts then the females.

A hatchling Pignose

10. Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

The largest turtle species alive swims the open ocean.

Though we often see pictures of Sea Turtles on the beach, they spend the vast majority of their lives out in the ocean (where they will feed mostly of Sea Jellies).

The distinctive ridges on the carapace of the Leather Back, which is lacking in scales... thus skin covered, and "Leatherback"

A Leatherback caught in a fishing net is freed.

Pretty turtles get all the attention.

A female, who has come ashore, begins digging a nest for the eggs.

A researcher monitoring the progress of this female, as she lays eggs. Leatherbacks are of great concern, because they are Critically Endangered from pollution, capture as bycatch in fishing nets, and egg collection for food.

A female makes tracks back to the ocean, after laying eggs. She will never knowingly come into contact with her young again.

Leatherbacks make nests on beaches of all continents, except Antarctica.

A hatchling emerges from the sand, ready to head to the ocean.

A hatchling's first encounter with the sea.