EpochCatcher: Blog http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog en-us (C)Teddy Fotiou epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) Sun, 19 Nov 2017 06:29:00 GMT Sun, 19 Nov 2017 06:29:00 GMT http://www.epochcatcher.com/img/s/v-5/u676325260-o515685704-50.jpg EpochCatcher: Blog http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog 80 120 Back from Extinction (Again) http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2017/11/back-from-extinction-again IMG_2848IMG_2848

Me in Iceland.  In January. Iceland looks like Middle Earth/Westeros.

G'day! If you're reading this, I'm back! I am probably the only animal that has gone utterly extinct and subsequently returned. Yet, here I am. I am alive, and I have new content for your viewing pleasure.

Originally, I made this site for fun, but when I started taking it seriously, it became a chore, and I started losing interest. Then, when I started writing articles for a website called Roaring Earth, that was the final nail in the coffin. Why write articles on my own site when I can get paid to write them for someone else? Well, I'll tell ya. Some things aren't about money or views.

While I enjoy writing for Roaring Earth, I also like to create my own content as well, and that's why I've published this new post. I cannot promise that I will be prolific with my posts, but I will certainly make a better effort to post more than once a year. Haha.

Anyways, I have been around a bit. In November 2016, I went to Zambia, which was my first ever trip to Africa. Going to Africa had always been a dream of mine, and I was overjoyed to finally fulfill it. I cannot wait to go back!

A leopard in Zambia's South Luangwa Valley. Leopards are quite prevalent in this part of Africa.A leopard in a tree in Zambia's South Luangwa Valley.A leopard in a tree in Zambia's South Luangwa Valley. Leopards are quite prevalent in this part of Africa.

A leopard perched in a tree in Zambia's South Luangwa Valley.

Additionally, in January 2017, I went to Iceland and explored the southern parts of the country. I went scuba diving in the Silfra Fissure, where the North American and European tectonic plates are slowly pulling away. There, I put one hand on North America and the other on Europe. That was pretty cool. But, anyways, enough about me. I'll write some more nature/wildlife-related posts soon. Until then, take it easy!

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) animals epochcatcher iceland nature images teddy fotiou travel wildlife zambia http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2017/11/back-from-extinction-again Sun, 19 Nov 2017 06:29:28 GMT
Leap Day! http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2016/2/leap-day Hello, everyone! No, I'm not dead; I've just been very busy! Keeping a blog updated is hard work, but I'm not going to miss any months! February gave me an extra day to squeeze in a little post for this month. I have less than thirty minutes left to post this before March begins. Here's a picture of ruby throated hummingbird perched on a branch. It's quite rare to see hummingbirds perched.

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) epochcatcher leap year ruby throated hummingbird teddy fotiou http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2016/2/leap-day Tue, 01 Mar 2016 04:39:04 GMT
Underwater Photos of North Carolina http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2016/1/photos-of-north-carolina-underwater Hey, folks! Sorry for the lack of updates. Here is my first post of 2016...at the very tail end of January 31st, 2016. As you can tell, I very hastily put this together, but I think many of you will enjoy the pictures. I am currently dedicating much of my time writing for MaxAnimal, but I have not forgotten about my own site. Below, I have included some photos I took while diving off the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina last year. North Carolina is a truly underrated destination for scuba diving, and due to the mind-boggling amount of shipwrecks, the waters off the state's coast are often called the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Check out all the barracuda and sandtiger sharks!

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) Atlantic Carolina Graveyard North barracuda carolina diving north of photos sandtiger scuba sharks the underwater wilmington http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2016/1/photos-of-north-carolina-underwater Mon, 01 Feb 2016 03:27:30 GMT
Goodbye, 2015; Hello, 2016! http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/12/goodbye-2015-hello-2016 Well, time for a sappy, cliche-ridden post about my 2015. Part of the reason I'm doing this is because I have made a goal to publish, at least, once post in my blog each month. Since resurrecting my blog in January 2015, I have mostly met this goal, although I did miss the month of September. But that's irrelevant; let me just get straight to the point. For me, 2015 has been monumental. This year has been filled with firsts, and I have no doubt that 2016 will be filled with even more firsts. Here are most significant firsts in 2015:

 

First Video Clip Featured in a BBC Documentary

In January 2015, on BBC Two, Nature's Weirdest Events - Series 4 aired a clip of my southern cassowary footage the first episode. I've mentioned this more than a couple times on my site here, so I've beaten the dead horse to a pulp. But the event was quite exciting for me, and it's actually the reason I revitalized my site and blog.

 

First Time Outside an Airport in California

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In March 2013, I gazed upon Los Angeles for the first time from the window of a plane as I prepared to land at LAX. From LAX, I would fly across the Pacific to Sydney, but I would never set foot outside the airport. Similarly, in March 2014, on my way home from Australia, I had a layover at San Francisco International, but I would once again never set foot outside the airport. Yet, finally, in 2015, I flew across the United States to San Diego to see an old friend and stepped outside an airport in California for the first time. Funny that I've seen more of Australia than I have seen of my own country.

 

First Land Rover 4x4 Adventure

IMG_5210IMG_5210 For 10 years, I have owned my Land Rover, and in those 10 years, I never took her out on a true 4x4 adventure, which is sad, really. Yet, finally, in April 2015, I took her down to North Carolina and drove along the beach in Corolla in the Outer Banks. I had a blast leaving the asphalt behind and roving across the sand. I regret not having done that sooner!

 

First Time Photographing & Filming Wild Owls

IMG_5054IMG_5054 I've glimpsed a number of owls, but until May 2015, I had never photographed (or filmed) them. This year, I got extremely lucky, and thanks to a helpful friend (and known bird enthusiast), I was able to photograph and film a mother great horned owl and her owlets in a nest.

 

First Time Volunteering for the Sierra Club

DSC03629DSC03629 I like to complain about current issues, especially those related to the environment. But, for the most part, I have been all talk and no action. In 2015, I changed that. Over the summer, I became very involved with the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club and volunteered to help combat climate change and deliver environmental justice. I intend to remain active in 2016.

 

First Time Scuba Diving in Virginia
DSC01257-4DSC01257-4 Despite being born and raised in Virginia, I did not scuba dive in my home state until July 2015. Why? Because, instead of learning to scuba dive in the US, I learned to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef. When I returned to Virginia a full year later, I started working on-call on tugboats, and I had very little time for much of anything outside work throughout the rest of 2014. Thus, I had over 100 dives in Australia and only a handful in the US. But, in 2015, I had far more time and flexibility and was able to dive in Virginia for the first and second time and North Carolina for the second and third time.

 

First Time Encountering Wild Venus Flytraps

IMG_7120IMG_7120 Believe it or not, Venus flytraps are only native to a 60 mile (96.5 km) radius around Wilmington, North Carolina. When I went to Wilmington, my intention was to scuba dive on the wrecks offshore (which I did), but I discovered that the area was also prime habitat for Venus flytraps and other carnivorous plants. So, being the naturalist and wildlife photographer I am, I HAD to go find them. And I did!

 

First Time Encountering Wild Bears

IMG_8565IMG_8565 In August 2015, I drove down to Alligator River Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina in search of American black bears. Alligator River is special because it boasts one of the largest concentrations of black bears on the eastern seaboard, and I knew I had a very good chance of seeing one there. After hours of aimlessly driving around the refuge, I finally encountered my first black bears at dusk and managed to snap a few shots. Later on, in September 2015, I returned to Alligator River and managed to get some even better shots (and some footage, too!).

 

First Time Sailing in a Regatta

DSC05764DSC05764 At the moment, I am getting back into sailing for reasons that I'll reveal in 2016. (Hint: I've circumnavigated Australia in a 1992 Ford Falcon. What do you think I plan to do next?) The problem? I haven't sailed since I was 12 years old. But, thanks to another good friend of mine, I sailed in my first regatta in October and November 2015, and somehow, we won!

 

First Time Visiting Boston

DSC06849-3DSC06849-3 Boston is definitely not an exotic or nature-packed place, so going there for the first time is decidedly more mundane than the rest of my accomplishments. Nevertheless, I found the history quite rich (for an American city), and the Harvard Museum of Natural History was fantastic! Also, a Dropkick Murphys concert in Fenway Park! What more could you ask for?!

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) goodbye 2015 hello 2016 scuba diving virginia sierra club virginia teddy fotiou 2015 2016 http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/12/goodbye-2015-hello-2016 Thu, 31 Dec 2015 08:11:02 GMT
My Top 10 Wildlife Videos (So Far) http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/11/my-top-10-wildlife-videos-so-far This is a sequel to my earlier post My Top 20 Wildlife Photos (So Far). In this post, I am including my best and most popular YouTube videos so far. Ironically, even though I primarily focus on nature and wildlife, my most popular video at this point features the huge road trains in Australia. I have not ranked these videos in any particular order, but these are among my best, although I have a LOT more footage from the past and present that I haven't even uploaded to YouTube yet. Footage from my cassowary video was featured in Episode One of the BBC documentary series Nature's Weirdest Events - Series 4.

Cassowary ScreenshotCassowary Screenshot A screenshot from my cassowary video.

 

Southern Cassowaries (Casuarius casuarius) at Etty Bay, Queensland

As I mentioned, clips from this video were featured in Episode One of the BBC documentary series Nature's Weirdest Events - Series 4.

Eyed Click Beetle

This video is extremely popular. At first, I couldn't understand why, but I think it's because this beetle's clicking behavior is so bizarre.

Mudskippers: Fish That Can Walk on Land

This video, narrated by yours truly, is my second most popular YouTube video right now. Learn about the fantastic amphibious mudskipper fish.

Road Trains - Australia's HUGE Trucks!!!

Obviously, road trains are not animals, but this is my most popular video, and it's the only one on this list that's not related to animals or nature.

Squirrels Eating Doritos

Title says it all. Squirrels eating Doritos.

The Jumping Crocodiles of Northern Australia

Watch these huge saltwater crocodiles lunge out of the turbid waters of the Adelaide River to snap up juicy slabs of buffalo meat.

Snow Birds

Northern cardinals, mourning doves, dark-eyed juncos, and a variety of other songbirds waltz in a winter wonderland.

Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)

This is one of my oldest videos, and it's the only one on this list where I get some screen time.

Black Bear Bathing

This is one of my newest videos, and it's also one of my favorites.

Osprey (aka Seahawk) Feeding Chicks

Another older video. I set up a camera to film this mother osprey feeding her chicks.

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) best wildlife videos best youtube videos my top 10 videos wildlife photography http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/11/my-top-10-wildlife-videos-so-far Tue, 01 Dec 2015 04:45:22 GMT
The Carnivorous Plants of the Carolinas http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/10/the-carnivorous-plants-of-the-carolinas In the coastal plains of the Carolinas in the eastern United States, a Lost World lies hidden away from the eyes of the average naturalist. Here, you will find several swamps with very low nitrogen and phosphorus soil content. For most plants, this lack of nitrogen and phosphorus makes life difficult, but for a few plants, this harsh environment is heavenly. While some of the usual plants like trees and ferns thrive, carnivorous plants--including the rare Venus fly trap--are the ruling class in these environments, and they are present in numbers rarely seen elsewhere. North Carolina's Green Swamp is a prime example of this.

Green Swamp Preserve is a small, secluded patch of forest owned by the Nature Conservancy. Yet, despite the name, it is nothing like a swamp you'd imagine. It's actually an open savanna populated by an assortment of longleaf pine trees, wiregrass, ferns, orchids, and of course, carnivorous plants. Ironically, these plants all depend on forest fires to survive, since the high temperatures allow pine cones to burst and release seeds and the aftermath leaves plenty of clear, sunlit land to allow wiregrass and pines to grow and thrive. The roots of all these plants (including the carnivorous ones) are protected from the hottest fires, which allows them to regenerate after each burning.

IMG_6879IMG_6879 This is Green Swamp. It hardly resembles a swamp.

Among the multitude of carnivorous plant species in Green Swamp, yellow pitcher plants are among the most common. Rows upon rows of the bright yellow plants speckle the green forest floor, which makes them very easy to spot. IMG_7084IMG_7084

Yellow pitcher plants in Green Swamp.

Like other pitcher plants, yellow pitcher plants capture prey using their long pitcher-like tube. Inside the tube, they possess downward-pointing hairs, which guide unsuspecting insects and spiders inside, and nectar-secreting glands, which invite prey further down. The nectar contains sugars, but it also contains coniine, which is a toxin also found in poison hemlock plants. Once prey has made it this far, it rarely escapes. Between intoxication and a watery grave, a small insect or spider is no match.

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The leaf lid above the yellow pitcher plant's tube.

But that's not the yellow pitcher plant's only critical adaptation. Above the pitcher plant's tube, a rolled leaf forms a lid, which prevents rain water from diluting the plant's digestive secretions inside the tube. This lid also serves as a resting place for many insects and spiders, unaware of the perils just below them.

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A green lynx spider rests on a yellow pitcher plant's leaf lid.

These insects and spiders provide food for all the carnivorous plants that haunt Green Swamp. Yet, of all these plants, the main stars are the Venus flytraps. Venus flytraps are, perhaps, the most famous of all carnivorous plants; yet, surprisingly, they are only native to this very small corner of the world. In fact, they are only found in a 60 mile (97 kilometer) radius around Wilmington, North Carolina.

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Venus flytraps are the most well-known of the carnivorous plants.

Contrary to popular belief, Venus flytraps do not specifically target flies. Their diet is 33% ants, 30% spiders, 10% beetles, and 10% grasshoppers, with fewer than 5% flying insects. As you can tell, flying insects such as flies make up a mere 5% of the Venus flytrap's diet while ants and spiders account for over 60%. However, Venus ant-trap just doesn't have the same ring to it, although Venus spidertrap would certainly capture a few eyes!

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The leaves of Venus flytraps are designed to capture and consume prey.

Because of their fascinating appearance and lifestyle, Venus flytraps are coveted by collectors worldwide. However, for this reason, they are at risk of endangerment. Roughly 33,000 Venus flytraps exist in the wild, and their populations are vulnerable. Since they are tiny and sedentary, they are defenseless against poachers, logging companies, and other outside threats.

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Venus flytraps are tiny and easy to miss.

Currently, Venus flytraps are only found on sites owned by the Nature Conservancy (such as Green Swamp), the North Carolina state government, and the US military. Thankfully, they are protected by law; in some North Carolina counties, it is a felony to collect Venus flytraps.

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) Green Swamp Venus flytraps Venus flytraps Green Swamp Venus flytraps North Carolina Venus flytraps Wilmington North Carolina carnivorous plants carnivorous plants green swamp carnivorous plants north carolina pitcher plants North Carolina pitcher plants green swamp wildlife North Carolina yellow pitcher plants http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/10/the-carnivorous-plants-of-the-carolinas Mon, 05 Oct 2015 05:05:06 GMT
There are Spiders Living in the Ocean but Not the Kind You Think http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/8/there-are-spiders-living-in-the-ocean-but-not-the-kind-you-think Beneath the turquoise sea, you ply through the murky depths. As you exhale, you watch the bubbles spew out of your regulator and shimmy up towards the surface. Then, you look down. The wreck of a decaying tugboat sprawls across the seabed.

A small fish darts in front of your mask, and it swims to the wreck. You follow it down and place your hand on the wreck, taking in the once glorious vessel. When you remove your hand, you casually glance at your glove and notice it's covered in several small, eight-legged creatures. Spiders.

Terrified, you jerk your hand back and shake it. But the spiders cling tightly to your hand. Why are there spiders 60 feet (18 meters) underwater?!?!

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Spiders? No. UNDERWATER SPIDERS!!!!!!

As unlikely as this scenario may seem, spiders do live under the sea. Yet, these spiders are not arachnids; they are pycnogonids. Pycnogonids, commonly known as sea spiders, are not spiders, but they are related to them. They share the subphylum Chelicerata with arachnids and horseshoe crabs, making them more closely related to spiders than to crustaceans and other marine arthropods.

Do spiders live in the ocean? These are sea spiders.Sea spidersThere are spiders in the ocean, and they are aptly named sea spiders. But sea spiders are not the arachnid kind. They are in their own class, which is called Pycnogonida.

A cluster of sea spiders on the wreck of a tugboat off Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA.

Pycnogonids are a rather ancient class and have existed for over 485 million years. They've been around so long because they're highly adaptable and inhabit all of the world's oceans, from the frigid Arctic and Antarctic oceans to the tepid Caribbean Sea. They are generally found in shallower waters, but some species can be found as deep as 23,000 feet (7000 meters).

They also tend to be carnivorous, feeding on cnidarians, sponges, polychaetes, and bryozoans. To feed, they use their long proboscis to suck nutrients out of unsuspecting prey.

 

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A cluster of sea spiders on the wreck of a tugboat off Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA.

But pycnogonids aren't the only spiders in the ocean. There are other spiders lurking in the depths, such as spider crabs. Of course, spider crabs aren't spiders at all, and they aren't even remotely related to them. Nevertheless, with their bumpy brown carapaces and eight long legs, they do look a bit spider-like. Just look at the photo below, and see for yourself.

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A sheep crab (Loxorhynchus grandis) at La Jolla Shores, San Diego, California, USA.

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) Chelicerata Pantopoda Pycnogonida arthropods arthropods in the ocean crustaceans do spiders live in the ocean marine arthropods marine spiders pycnogonids sea spiders spider crabs spiders in the ocean http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/8/there-are-spiders-living-in-the-ocean-but-not-the-kind-you-think Fri, 28 Aug 2015 15:56:50 GMT
I Shoot Animals for Fun, but I Don't Use a Gun... http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/7/i-shoot-animals-for-fun-but-i-dont-use-a-gun Dear readers,

If you have not heard yet, an American dentist named Walter Palmer shot and killed a beloved male lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe. Not only did he kill an animal in cold blood, but he and a couple other poachers lured the lion out of a national park, so he could shoot it. After he shot Cecil with a crossbow, Cecil staggered on, clinging to life for 40 hours with a crossbow bolt pierced through his body, before eventually dying. Thinking about Cecil's demise, I can't help but remember this scene from The Lion King:

 

Hunting vs Trophy Hunting vs Photography

Now, let me be clear, I have nothing against hunting or fishing. The majority of recreational hunters and fishermen are out for a good time with their families, and they will eat whatever they catch. However, this is not on the same level. This is trophy hunting. This is not about eating. This is about killing and bragging. These hunters pay hundreds of thousands to murder exotic animals. Yes, I said, "murder".

Walter Palmer, who killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, with one of his trophy kills.Cecil the Lion - Walter PalmerWalter Palmer, who killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, with one of his trophy kills.

Walter Palmer with one of his trophy kills.

As a wildlife photographer, I also like to shoot animals, but I don't use a gun. Whether I'm on land or underwater, I always have my camera on hand, and sometimes, I venture into the habitat of dangerous animals to take photographs. With a gun, you can easily shoot a lion or rhino, even if you're far away and can't see the whole animal. On the other hand, if you're photographing a lion or rhino, you need to get much closer to see the animal, AND you need a clear shot. Now, THAT'S dangerous. Yet, it's also sustainable. If you take a picture of an animal, rather than kill it, other people will get the chance to appreciate it as well.

 

The Headless Crocodile

Walter is not the only murderous trophy hunter out there. There are plenty of other people who slaughter defenseless predators for nothing more than sport. In this case, Walter was exposed, and the whole world could see his true colors. In most cases, the hunter gets away without anyone ever knowing his/her identity.

In fact, I have had my own experience with faceless trophy hunters. When I was living in Cairns in northeast Australia, I wanted to find and photograph wild saltwater crocodiles. However, in Cairns, crocs are fairly rare due to extensive hunting in the past and croc-control measures in the present. Unperturbed, I asked around until I learned about a local crocodile that had been living in Trinity Inlet for 15 years. Unlike most saltwater crocs, this one was neither aggressive nor territorial and could easily be approached in a small boat.

Excited, I prepared to rent a small boat to putter around the mangroves and photograph this local croc, only to learn that the croc was dead. Weeks earlier, trophy hunters had killed and beheaded the "friendly" croc. Just as Walter's greed had denied nature-enthusiasts the chance to see and photograph Cecil, these faceless hunters had denied me (and hundreds of other people) the chance to see and photograph the crocodile.

The headless crocodile in Cairns.

 

 

The Shark Killer

Trophy kills are not limited to the land, however. On the ocean, trophy-hunting fishermen catch and kill sharks and other large marine predators purely for sport. The most infamous of these marine trophy-hunters is Mark the Shark, who has killed hundreds, if not thousands, of sharks in south Florida. If you look at his website or Instagram feed, you will see the many sharks he has killed and hauled out on dry land. Coupled with photos of scantily clad women, his shark photos appeal to his "manly" fanbase.

Mark the Shark with two of his trophy kills.

Yet, as a scuba diver, I see no glory in hunting sharks from the safety of a boat. I have ventured into the sharks' element. I have been face-to-face with bull sharks and diving in known habitat for great white sharks. In this situation, the sharks have an advantage, and I am merely a visitor. If I want to photograph them, I need to get close. And, since I'm underwater and don't have a telephoto lens, I need to get VERY close. These shark hunters, on the other hand, don't. They bring the sharks into THEIR element, where the shark has no chance of fighting back. If you want to catch sharks, that is fine, but unless you intend to eat them (which is generally not the case with sharks), you should release them back into the ocean.

 

Conclusion: Trophy-Hunters Aren't Courageous or Manly

Overall, trophy-hunters believe they are hot stuff because they can conquer dangerous and/or predatory animals. They are not. Hiding behind the barrel of a gun or the reel of a fishing rod won't make you a hero. If you're defending yourself against a wild animal, that's one thing, but killing a defenseless animal "just for sport" is another. You are denying millions of people (both now and in the future) the opportunity to view and appreciate wildlife and experience the natural world.

 

Sincerely,

Teddy Fotiou

Editor and owner of EpochCatcher

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) African wildlife Cecil the lion Mark the Shark Mufasa Simba Teddy Fotiou The Lion King Walter Palmer beheaded crocodile Cairns crocodiles headless crocodile Cairns lions poachers shark fishermen sharks trophy-hunters wildlife photography http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/7/i-shoot-animals-for-fun-but-i-dont-use-a-gun Wed, 29 Jul 2015 14:33:39 GMT
Shark Week Sucks, but Will SharkFest Take Its Place? http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/7/shark-week-sucks-but-will-sharkfest-take-its-place Once again, the "most wonderful time of year" is upon us. Shark Week. Our favorite toothy elasmobranchs are back prowling our TVs. But, as a shark enthusiast, I am not psyched for Shark Week, and I haven't been for years because Shark Week sucks. Why? I'll get to that.

Bull Shark in Beqa Lagoon in Pacific Harbour, FijiBull Shark in Beqa Lagoon in Pacific Harbour, FijiBull Shark in Beqa Lagoon in Pacific Harbour, Fiji

From a young age, I'd dreamed of diving with sharks. I photographed this bull shark in Beqa Lagoon in Fiji.

Like many other Americans, I grew up watching Shark Week religiously. In the late 90s and early 2000s, I didn't have cable, so I couldn't watch the Discovery Channel at home. Unperturbed, I pestered my aunts and cousins to allow me to watch Shark Week at their houses and record all of the new episodes. For me, each documentary was a sermon: the marine biologists were preachers, and the cartilaginous marine predators were deities.

Yet, over time, as the Discovery Channel's programming started venturing southward, Shark Week's programming took a similar dive. Shark Week has increasingly taken a sensationalist slant, focusing on shark attacks and great whites, rather than educational content and the 439 other species of sharks.

Spotted Wobbegong near Manly Beach in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia Spotted Wobbegong near Manly Beach in Sydney, NSW, Australia Spotted Wobbegong near Manly Beach in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

This is the spotted wobbegong. Shark Week often glosses over weird sharks like these.

Just take a look at Shark Week's programming throughout the years. Many of their shows have ridiculous titles worthy of a Buzzfeed article: Return of the Great White Serial Killer, Bride of Jaws, Monster Mako, Monster Hammerhead, Zombie Sharks, Alien Sharks: Close Encounters (to be fair, this one is about deep sea sharks, and it sounds pretty cool). While I am not anti-fun and think education can be fun, these titles don't make the brain-melting content any more appealing to scientifically-minded folks.

A great white shark at the Neptune Islands in South Australia.Great White Shark at the Neptune Islands in South AustraliaA great white shark at the Neptune Islands in South Australia.

Obligatory great white shark picture. I photographed this guy at the Neptune Islands in South Australia.

But the most infamous Shark Week suckiness of all occurred in 2013. That year, Shark Week kicked off with a documentary called Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, which focused on a giant, prehistoric shark called Megalodon ("the big-tooth shark"). For 14 million years, the bus-sized Megalodon patrolled ancient seas, feeding on whales, dolphins, fish, and other marine life, and it was very much alive. So, if it was a real shark, what was the problem? The documentary was completely fake and claimed Megalodon was still alive, even though fossil evidence suggests Megalodons disappeared no later than 2.6 million years ago.

After that Shark Week, viewers were pretty pissed off, and the backlash from the scientific community was severe. Yet, despite the controversy, Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives became Shark Week's most popular episode, with 4.8 million viewers tuning in for its debut. Some viewers even believed that Megalodons are, indeed, still roaming the deep sea, and in 2014, Shark Week included a second fake Megalodon documentary called Megalodon: The New Evidence.

Needless to say, if Shark Week had much scientific credibility before, it lost whatever was left in those two years, and now, it has a rival. NatGeo WILD is now splashing into the cage to challenge Discovery's 27 year lordship over sharks. NatGeo has dubbed their event SharkFest, and they have released this rather tongue-in-cheek ad:

Looking at SharkFest's programming, SharkFest seems to be taking a more serious and educational slant, which I expect from National Geographic. However, with titles like Florida Frenzy, Gulf Coast Killers, Hawaiian Terror, California Killer, and Australia's Deadliest Shark Attacks, I am not so sure education is a main priority. Now, don't get me wrong: shark attack documentaries can be very interesting and educational, but if you focus solely on shark attacks and sensationalism, people will only associate sharks with danger and death.

Horn Shark at La Jolla Shores in San Diego, California, USAHorn Shark at La Jolla Shores in San Diego, California, USAA horn shark at La Jolla Shores in San Diego, California, USA.

A horn shark off San Diego, California. Does this guy look dangerous?

Will SharkFest become the new Shark Week? That remains to be seen. I don't even have NatGeo WILD, so unfortunately, I can't even watch it. Guess I'm stuck with Shark Week. Shucks. But, despite all my Shark Week hate, I cannot honestly call Shark Week an utter chumfest. Shark Week does still have a few diamonds among the bloody fish guts. Thanks to Shark Week and the Discovery Channel, we have this video:

 

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) Discovery Channel Geo I hate Shark Week Megaldon The Monster Shark Lives Mh Nat Nat Geo National Geographic Shark Fest Shark Week Shark Week is bad Shark Week sucks Shark Week vs SharkFest SharkFest Wild" great white shark he sharks http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/7/shark-week-sucks-but-will-sharkfest-take-its-place Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:45:47 GMT
Yes, It's Happening: Study Confirms the Sixth Mass Extinction is Underway http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/6/yes-its-happening-study-confirms-the-sixth-mass-extinction-is-underway In my previous article, I discussed the sixth mass extinction (also known as the Holocene Extinction) and its major causes. The concept of a sixth mass extinction is nothing new, but evidence to support the elevated extinction rate (and whether or not humans are responsible) had been dubious and fleeting. Now, a team of scientists led by Gerardo Ceballos of the National Autonomous University of Mexico has published a study in the journal Science Advances that confirms the sixth mass extinction is, indeed, underway, and the data is jarring.

Demonized by farmers, the Tasmanian tiger or thylacine was hunted to extinction in 1936. The thylacine is one of the victims of the sixth mass extinction.Tasmanian Tiger (aka Thylacine)Demonized by farmers, the Tasmanian tiger (thylacine) was hunted to extinction in 1936.

Demonized by farmers, the Tasmanian tiger (thylacine) was hunted to extinction in 1936.

Per the abstract, "the average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 114 times higher than the background rate. Under the 2 E/MSY background rate, the number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have taken, depending on the vertebrate taxon, between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear". As I said in my previous article, after the asteroid hit, the dinosaurs went extinct over the course of 30,000 years. To us, that may seem like a long time, but on the geological timescale, that is an instant.

Cumulative percentage of vertebrates extinct since 1500. (Source.)

In my previous article, I also mentioned that amphibians are in serious peril, since their numbers are declining very rapidly due to a host of reasons, from disease to deforestation. In the chart below (included with the study), you will notice that amphibians at a "very conservative rate", which includes only species verified as "Extinct", have experienced the most dramatic losses.

 

Years required for vertebrate extinctions in the past 114 years to occur at a normal rate. (Source.)

The study is well worth a read, so if you have some spare time, you should definitely give it a look. If you haven't already clicked on it in one of my hyperlinks above, you can find it here: Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction. Also, here's the original article where I found a link to the study: Earth’s sixth mass extinction has begun, new study confirms. You should check it out, too.

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) Holocene extinction Science Advances mass extinctions sixth mass extinction http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/6/yes-its-happening-study-confirms-the-sixth-mass-extinction-is-underway Sun, 21 Jun 2015 01:23:38 GMT
The Sixth Mass Extinction: Why Species are Disappearing 1000x Faster http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/5/the-sixth-mass-extinction-why-species-are-disappearing-1000-times-faster-than-normal Right now, life on our beautiful planet seems normal and calm. The trees are green and blossoming. The birds are flocking on branches and power lines. The fish are jumping in the rivers and creeks. The summers are hot, and the winters are cold. Surely, we have it good, and it cannot possibly get better, right? Not exactly. We are in the middle of a cataclysmic event heralded as the sixth mass extinction, and although you may not notice the effects, species are disappearing 1000 times faster than normal.

So why is this happening, and why should you care? Well, in the past few centuries alone, hundreds of species have disappeared worldwide, and that should be a cause for alarm. When the asteroid struck at the end of the Cretaceous, the dinosaurs did not vanish right away. They steadily died out over the course of 30,000 years. Since modern humans have only been around for about 50,000 years, 30,000 years may seem like a long time, but on the geological timescale, they are milliseconds. Thus, if you compare today's extinction rate (where a dozen species can go extinct in one day) to past extinction rates, our current extinction rate has reached unprecedented levels. Let's analyze this ecological disaster in greater detail.

Levaillant_Parrot_33Levaillant_Parrot_33

Once common on the US eastern seaboard, the Carolina parakeet disappeared in 1918 due to deforestation.

 

"The Big Five" Mass Extinctions

Let's turn back the clock a bit and look at previous extinction events. Throughout Earth's 4.6 billion years of existence, extinctions have been a norm. Like the changing of seasons, organisms have appeared and disappeared. When a lake dries up, species disappear. When a volcano erupts, species disappear. When an ice age ends, species disappear. Extinctions are as natural as the transition from fall to winter.

Yet, on occasion, extinctions occur on a massive, global scale, and they are called mass extinctions. So far, there have been five mass extinctions, colloquially known as "the Big Five". Here's a little background on each:

1.) The Ordovician-Silurian Extinction

This was Earth's first mass extinction and the second most devastating. Occurring between 450 and 440 million years ago, 27% of all families, 57% of all genera and 60% to 70% of all species went extinct.

2.) The Late Devonian Extinction

This was the second mass extinction, and it lasted 20 million years. 70% of all species perished during this event. Notably, the a class of armored fish called placoderms disappeared from the world's oceans.

3.) The Permian-Triassic Extinction

Known as "the Great Dying", this was the world's most devastating mass extinction. Compared to this, the extinction of the dinosaurs doesn't even come close. Between 90% and 96% of all species died out, including the trilobites, which had dominated the world's oceans for over 270 million years. As a comparison, dinosaurs ruled the Earth for 165 million years, so the reign (and overthrow) of the trilobites was nothing to scoff at.

4.) The Triassic-Jurassic Extinction

In this event, most of the archosaurs died out in an extinction that killed off 70% to 75% of all species, paving the way for the dinosaurs to dominate the planet.

5.) The Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction

The most famous (and most recent) of all mass extinctions is the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction. This extinction event wiped out all non-avian dinosaurs, from Tyrannosaurus to Triceratops. It also eliminated the flying reptiles like the pterosaurs and the marine reptiles like the mosasaurs. Overall, the event caused the extinction of 75% of the world's species.

Humans Enter the Picture

Between the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction and the rise of humanity, several more extinctions occurred, but they were nowhere near the scale of previous mass extinctions. Once humans gained a foothold, everything changed. Fueled by their big brains and adaptable bodies, humans took the powers of natural selection into their own hands. Never before had a single species so rapidly adapted to the land, the sea, and the air. Never before had a species developed methods of preventing and curing illness and disease. Our adaptations and impact on the planet have been so far-reaching that some scientists and activists have proposed a new epoch: the Anthropocene.

Font-de-GaumeFont-de-Gaume Cro-Magnon artists painting mammoths in Font-de-Gaume by Charles R. Knight, 1920

 

The Extinction of Pleistocene Megafauna

Despite humanity's triumphs over natural selection, other species fell victim to its throes. When humans migrated out of Africa, they hunted down the massive prehistoric beasts that roamed the ancient lands. Not long after humans expanded, the megafauna began to disappear.

Some scientists speculate that humans' hunting wiped out the Pleistocene megafauna. Yet, others speculate that the changing climate and changing landscapes had a more dramatic effect. Whatever the cause, the majority of megafauna disappeared between the Pleistocene and Holocene epochs. 10,000 years ago, you could see elephants and rhinoceroses on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. Today, Africa and Southeast Asia are their last bastions.

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Ice Age megafauna in prehistoric Spain.

 

The Collapse of Ecosystems on Fragile Islands

Once humans began building boats, they started crossing oceans and expanding onto islands. This spelled bad news for the native inhabitants. Small and isolated from the rest of the world, islands harbor highly specialized species that have evolved separately from those on large continental landmasses. After all, the unique species on the Galapagos Islands inspired Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

However, this isolation and specialization led to many island species' downfall. Island ecosystems are like eggshells: they are fragile and can very easily crack under pressure. On islands around the world, tortoises and flightless birds are common residents, and as you might suspect, these animals are not well-equipped to deal with hunting pressures or predation.

DodoDodo

Less than 100 years after humans arrived in Mauritius, the dodo disappeared.

The tale of the ill-fated dodo is one of the most infamous extinctions. First encountered by Europeans on Mauritius in 1598, the dodo was flightless and readily approached humans. This made the dodo easy prey for hunters and introduced species such as cats and rodents. Less than 100 years after humans arrived on Mauritius, the dodo went extinct.

Yet, the dodo was not alone. After the arrival of humans on various islands around the world, other native species disappeared for good. Here are a few examples:

Wrangel Island

While wooly mammoths went extinct on all the world's continents around 10,000 years ago, they existed on Wrangel Island until 4000 years ago. Their disappearance coincided with the appearance of humans on the island.

New Zealand

Of all island ecosystems affected by human colonization, New Zealand was among the most devastated. Once populated by giant, flightless birds called moas and their equally large predators known as the Haast's eagle, New Zealand lost both the moas and the eagles less than 200 years after the Māori arrived. Even today, New Zealand is still reeling from the effects, which were worsened when European colonists cleared much of the native forests for farmland and introduced predatory animals such as cats and rodents.

Hawaii

Even more devastated by human colonization, Hawaii has been dubbed "the extinction capital of the world". Over half of Hawaii's historically recorded bird species are extinct. Like New Zealand, Hawaii's native species suffered from the introduction of cats and rodents, and they are still suffering today.

Madagascar

Today, Madagascar is known for tiny chameleons and cute lemurs, but long ago, it was also home to gorilla-sized lemurs, cougar-sized fossas, terrestrial crocodiles, and gigantic flightless birds--not unlike New Zealand's moas--called elephant birds. Once humans arrived on Madagascar around 2000 years ago, all of these island giants disappeared.

 

Moa_(PSF)Moa_(PSF)

The moa disappeared less than 200 years after the Polynesians arrived in New Zealand.

 

In comparison to the rest of the world, the devastation and collapse of fragile island ecosystems is only a microcosm. The loss of a dodo or a giant lemur does not affect the global environment, but it does demonstrate what can (and is) happening on a grander scale. Even today, introduced species like crazy ants on Christmas Island and brown tree snakes on Guam are ravaging islands and causing even more extinctions.

 

Causes of the Sixth Mass Extinction

Now, with this brief history of extinctions and humanity fresh in your mind, let's consider the causes for the Sixth Mass Extinction. Do you think humans have played a significant role in the demise of species? Do you think we will lose more species in the future? Well, let's examine the roots behind this issue.

Until the mid-19th Century, people did not hold the preservation of species in high regard. In fact, nobody even believed extinction was possible until the early 19th Century when Georges Cuvier proposed that species can and do go extinct. Mass extinctions were similarly derided. Even Charles Darwin himself scoffed at the idea, believing all extinctions were gradual (and most were). Yet, here we are amid the Sixth Mass Extinction.

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A pile of American bison skulls ready to be ground into fertilizer in the 1870s.

 

Overhunting and Overfishing

Whether or not humans hunted the Pleistocene megafauna to extinction, we are definitely responsible for overhunting and overfishing species in more recent millennia, especially in the past 4000 years. With the invention of weapons and the advent of commercial fisheries, we developed more effective methods for gathering food and resources, and the Industrial Revolution only exacerbated this. Birds were blasted. Fish were gutted. Bison were butchered. Whales were harpooned. Wolves were slaughtered.

Today, there are more protections in place, but in the less developed parts of the world, the process continues. In Africa and Asia, the last remnants of the megafauna are being decimated. In all oceans, irresponsible commercial fisheries are wiping out fish stocks and ensnaring unwanted marine life. In China, various animals are being collected and abused for medicinal purposes.

1024px-Gyoruifu_seal1024px-Gyoruifu_seal After decades of overhunting in the early 1900s, the Japanese sea lion went extinct in the 1970s.

 

Introduced and Invasive Species

Before humans, most animals had no means of crossing oceans. Sure, some could fly, some could cross ice or land bridges, and some could hitch a ride on a piece of driftwood, but those cases were few and far in between. When people started building boats and ships, not only did they carry their livestock and pets, but they also carried stowaways and hitchhikers such as rats and fire ants.

In many cases, the extinction of island species can be attributed to introduced species, rather than the humans themselves. While humans did hunt the dodo, the domestic animals they brought with them were the dodos' ultimate killers. Dogs, cats, pigs, and other animals raided the dodos' nests and competed for food.

Worse yet, some invasive species were intentionally introduced. In Australia in October 1859, an English settler released 24 rabbits for hunting purposes. By the 1920s, there were over 10 billion rabbits in Australia. Since their introduction, the invasive Australian feral rabbits have been eating seedlings, preventing native plants from germinating.

IMG_2742-2IMG_2742-2

Originating from South America, the invasive red imported fire ant (RIFA) plagues many countries.

 

Disease

When a species' population rises, and predators are amiss, disease act as a natural form of population control. Yet, just like deadly, infectious diseases can be transmitted between humans in different countries, they can also be transmitted between species in different continents thanks to human transportation. Right now, we are experiencing massive amphibian die-offs, and diseases are partially to blame. One disease in particular called Chytridiomycosis has had a dramatic effect on amphibian populations worldwide. Seemingly overnight, various frog and toad species have vanished from their native habitats. The crisis is so severe that naturalists are collecting species from the wild and keeping them in captivity in an "ark" of sorts.

Bufo_periglenes2Bufo_periglenes2

In 1987, 1500 golden toads were counted in Costa Rica. On May 15, 1989, only one male was found (pictured).

 

Habitat Destruction and Fragmentation

Habitat destruction and fragmentation has been ongoing since the first forests were cleared, the first dams were built, and the first cities were founded. Today, with the propagation of roads and metropolitan areas, it is worse than ever. Lizards crossing roads are flattened into roadkill, and bears shopping for food venture into suburban neighborhoods. With less and less land available, many species are experiencing population reductions.

Test 2_2012_03_30_9999_372Test 2_2012_03_30_9999_372

While common and adaptable, deer suffer from habitat fragmentation, often leaping across busy roads.

Climate Change

Since the Industrial Revolution, harmful CO2 has been unleashed into the atmosphere via fossil fuels. Today, there is debate over whether or not climate change is real or not. Yet, despite what some people might claim, scientists have proven that climate change is happening, and global temperatures are rising at an ever increasing rate. NASA has an excellent time machine map that demonstrates the changes in temperature, sea ice, and CO2 levels over the past century.

This spike in climate is warming the oceans, and many species will suffer. Coral are among the most vulnerable, since they require very specific water temperatures and do not grow or reproduce quickly. If this trend continues, the world's coral reefs will be reduced to lifeless rock.

DSC04227DSC04227

Due to disease and temperature rise, staghorn coral populations have declined by 98%.

 

Ocean Acidification

Ocean acidification is, by far, one of the most alarming and wide-reaching issues, and it ties into climate change and CO2 emissions. Life on this planet started the seas, and now, the increasingly acidic seas are choking it. 30-40% of carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere dissolve in the oceans, decreasing their pH and increasing their acidity. This is already affecting calcifying organisms such as coral and some plankton (in addition to the warming waters).

DSC02908-3DSC02908-3

Cephalopods like this reef cuttlefish are highly susceptible to ocean acidification.

Pollution

This one is a no-brainer. Of course, pollution is a factor in the Sixth Mass Extinction. With all of our fossil fuels and products that are "built to last", we did not think about the environmental repercussions. In April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused tremendous damage to underwater ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico, which has yet to recover. Similarly, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch harbors plastics and other trash. These plastics are eaten by albatrosses and other animals, and the animals subsequently die.

IMG_2484IMG_2484

An industrial port on Virginia's James River. Ports are rife with pollution.

 

Overpopulation

Of all threats to the natural world, human overpopulation overshadows them all. Even if everyone on Earth drove vehicles with zero emissions and all power was clean and renewable, we'd still need to address population concerns. Since the year 1804, not long after the start of Industrial Revolution, our population has swelled from 1 billion to 7 billion. Over 2 billion people reside in China and India alone. The United States is a distant third with just over 321 million people.

By the year 2040, we are expected to have a population of 9 billion. With less space for arable land and declining fish stocks, one could argue that we are already overpopulated. And, with another 2 million mouths to feed over the next couple decades, the situation will only deteriorate.

DSC00074DSC00074

Downtown San Diego, California, USA. City populations worldwide have been climbing.

 

Conclusion

These issues are just the tip of the melting iceberg. As global climates change, populations rise, and unsustainable hunting and fishing practices continue, the Sixth Mass Extinction will claim even more species. Even if we stopped everything we're doing today and switched to more environmentally conscious practices, we could not halt all the negative effects. The damage has been done, and some of the effects are irreversible.

Yet, it's not all fire and brimstone. Thanks to our current conservation efforts, many species have been saved, and many more are being protected. Species that have become rare or extinct in the wild are generally housed in zoos and aquariums, where they can be bred and reintroduced into the natural habitat.

Even for these deceased taxons, there is hope. With modern technology, we have the power to perform de-extinction, where we use cloning, selective breeding, and other techniques to resurrect extinct species. As Ian Malcom said in Jurassic Park "Life, uh, finds a way".

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) Anthropocene Epoch Holocene Epoch Holocene extinction amphibian population crisis amphibian population decline big five mass extinctions causes climate change dinosaur extinction extinctions global warming mass ocean acidification of the sixth mass extinction http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/5/the-sixth-mass-extinction-why-species-are-disappearing-1000-times-faster-than-normal Wed, 27 May 2015 09:17:46 GMT
A Sestina Poem About the Creation of the Earth and the Evolution of Life http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/5/a-sestina-poem-about-the-creation-of-the-earth-and-the-evolution-of-life A Sestina Poem About the Creation of the Earth and the Evolution of Life M106 Spiral Galaxy -NASAM106 Spiral Galaxy -NASA M106 Spiral Galaxy - NASA

I haven't published anything on here in a couple weeks, but I am currently working on a rather long and detailed article for your viewing pleasure. In the meantime, I am publishing this. Below is a poem called a sestina, and it's about the creation of the Earth, the evolution of life, and mass extinctions. I wrote this during my senior year of college in Fall 2010. I can't believe it's been nearly five years now. It may not seem like much, since it's not your standard rhyming poem, but if you know anything about sestinas, you will know they are quite difficult to write.

Invented by the troubadour Arnaut Daniel in the 12th Century, sestinas consist of thirty nine lines compiled into six six line stanzas and one three line envoi. The same six words are used to end each line throughout the poem, and they are rotated in a set pattern. Pay very close attention to the words I use at the end of each line. I won't bore you with any more details than that, but if you want to learn more about sestinas the Academy of American Poets has a nice article on the subject.

 

Genesis

By Teddy Fotiou


CRASH! BOOM! BANG!
Volcanoes erupt on a smoldering sphere;
Steam slips into the atmosphere. Clouds.

Clouds form and drench the molten rocks.
Boiling waters rise and form seas.
The Cosmic Crockpot is brewing. Life. 

Stromatolites grow and harbor prokaryotic life.
And, then, billions of years later: BANG!
Modern invertebrates prowl the seas,
Lurking beneath the depths of the blue sphere.
Blue and white jellyfish form marine clouds;
Sponges and sea squirts cling to sandy rocks.

Pleated trilobites scurry under the rocks,
Hiding from anomalocaridids. Delicate life.
Conical-shelled cephalopods squirt ink in clouds.
Jawless fish dart into the blue. And then: BANG!
Cooksonia stalks sprout from the barren sphere.
Slender-bodied sharks swarm the warm seas.

Dunkleosteus reigns as King of the Seas,
Chasing amphibious fish onto the dry rocks,
The dry rocks on the blue sphere,
Where arthropods remain the sole terrestrial animal life.
Spade-tailed amphibians waddle after them, and BANG!
Reptiles rule the land, and dragonflies obscure the clouds.

Lumbering synapsids dominate but perish in dust clouds,
When the Great Dying purifies the land and the seas,
Reaping 83% of life in a horrendous BANG!
But, from death, come the dinosaurs, roaming the rocks,
Hunting the forests, and roving the plains. New life.
Pangaea splits, and its pieces move across the sphere.

A massive asteroid approaches the sphere,
Splashing into the sea and filling the sky with clouds.
The clouds obscure the sun and massacre most life.
Once again, the Cosmic Reaper robs life from land and seas,
And the dinosaurs are no more. Their bones become rocks.
And it’s all because of the asteroid that hit with a BANG!

But the cycle continues, and life recovers on the land and in the seas.
Mammals emerge from under the ash clouds and molten rocks,
And they gaze up at the bright yellow sphere. BANG! 

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) dinosaurs evolution of life evolution poems mass extinctions poem examples poems poems about evolution poems about sciene science poems sestina sestina examples the creation of the Earth http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/5/a-sestina-poem-about-the-creation-of-the-earth-and-the-evolution-of-life Wed, 13 May 2015 07:29:50 GMT
Amazing Pictures of Camouflaged Animals http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/4/amazing-camouflaged-animal-pictures Many animals use camouflage to hide from predators or ambush prey. This is basic, elementary life science. But there is more to camouflage than the revelations of a grade-school textbook. There are actually two forms of camouflage: crypsis and mimesis. Crypsis is when an organism is very hard to see. Examples of crypsis include a flounder blending in with a sandy seafloor or a toad hiding in leaf litter. Mimesis is when an organism mimics another organism or object. Examples of mimesis include a katydid mimicking a leaf or a crocodile mimicking a log.

Some camouflaged animals are more obvious than others, especially to us humans because we more easily recognize patterns, but there are many animals that you wouldn't even notice, even if you were looking for them. In the pictures below, you will see many wonderful examples of camouflage (especially crypsis) in action. I photographed all of these animals myself in their natural environments. Some of these animals are prey; some are predators; and some are both. Can you tell which is which? Why do you think they have their current adaptations? Would you have noticed all of them?

Reef Cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus)Reef Cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus)Reef cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus) on Agincourt Reef on the Great Barrier Reef. Cuttlefish are masters of disguise.

Reef cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus) on the Great Barrier Reef. Cuttlefish are masters of disguise.

Beaked Gecko (Rhynchoedura ornata) Beaked Gecko (Rhynchoedura ornata) A beaked gecko (Rhynchoedura ornata) hugging the sand in the Australian Outback.

A beaked gecko (Rhynchoedura ornata) hugging the sand in the Australian Outback.

Fanbelly Leatherjacket (Monacanthus chinensis) Fanbelly Leatherjacket (Monacanthus chinensis) You'd hardly notice this fanbelly leatherjacket (Monacanthus chinensis) off Rockingham, Western Australia.

You'd hardly notice this fanbelly leatherjacket (Monacanthus chinensis) off Rockingham, Western Australia.

White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)A female white-tailed (Odocoileus virginianus) in Newport News, Virginia, USA. Her brown coat blends in well with the brown grass and trees.

A female white-tailed deer in Newport News, Virginia, USA blends in well with the brown grass and trees.

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A great white shark countershaded against the dark blue waters off South Australia's Neptune Islands.

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A crab spider species waits for prey on a buttercup in Newport News, Virginia, USA.

Leopard Flounder (Bothus pantherinus)Leopard Flounder (Bothus pantherinus)A leopard flounder (Bothus pantherinus) camouflaged against the sandy seafloor at the North Shore of O'ahu, Hawaii, USA.

A leopard flounder (Bothus pantherinus) at the North Shore of O'ahu, Hawaii, USA.

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A very leaf-like lesser angle-winged katydid (Microcentrum retinerve) in Newport News, Virginia, USA.

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The horn shark's floppy fins sway in the current like kelp at La Jolla Shores in San Diego, California, USA.

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On the other side of the pond in Sydney, Australia, a spotted wobbegong looks even more kelp-like.

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A pair of great horned owlets are barely noticeable in the trees in Hampton, Virginia, USA.

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Weeping blowfish (Torquigener pleurogramma) at Ammo Jetty near Perth, Western Australia.

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Slant-faced grasshopper (Acrida sp.) in Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

Bluespotted Stingray (Neotrygon kuhlii) Bluespotted Stingray (Neotrygon kuhlii) A bluespotted stingray (Neotrygon kuhlii) brandishing its venomous tail-barb on the Great Barrier Reef.

A bluespotted stingray (Neotrygon kuhlii) brandishing its venomous tail-barb on the Great Barrier Reef.

 Fowler's Toad (Anaxyrus fowleri) Fowler's Toad (Anaxyrus fowleri)A well-hidden Fowler's toad in the leaf litter in Newport News, Virginia, USA. Can you find this camouflaged toad?

A well-hidden Fowler's toad in the leaf litter in Newport News, Virginia, USA.

Sea Slug SpeciesSea Slug SpeciesAn unidentified sea slug species at Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia.

An unidentified sea slug species at Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia.

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A metallic wood-boring beetle species in Newport News, Virginia, USA.

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A Roth's treefrog (Litoria rothi) near Kakadu National Park in Australia's Northern Territory.

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A flathead (Platycephalus sp.) in the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia.

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A pair of peaceful doves feeding among the grass in Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

Tiny Spidercrab Under Sea AnemoneTiny Spidercrab Under Sea AnemoneA tiny spidercrab beneath the stinging tentacles of a sea anemone in the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia.

A tiny spidercrab beneath the stinging tentacles of a sea anemone in Perth, Western Australia.

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A saltwater crocodile looking very log-like in Australia's Daintree Rainforest.

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A grasshopper species among the red sand and rocks of Uluru in Australia's Northern Territory.

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An eastern fence lizard (Sceloporus undulatus) on a fallen tree in Newport News, Virginia, USA.

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A mudskipper (Periophthalmus sp.) wallowing in muck in Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

 

Other Awesome Animal Articles

Mudskippers: Fish That Can Walk on Land

Walking with Dinosaurs: The Cassowaries of Etty Bay

My Top 20 Wildlife Photos (So Far)

8 Cool Clownfish Facts

Marsh Periwinkle (Littoraria irrorata): The Fungi-Farming Sea Snail

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) animal pictures camouflage camouflage examples camouflaged animals crypsis examples of camouflage fish pictures frog pictures insect pictures, lizard mimesis pictures of animals pictures" shark pictures http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/4/amazing-camouflaged-animal-pictures Thu, 23 Apr 2015 22:27:20 GMT
What is the Difference Between a Centipede and a Millipede? http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/4/what-is-the-difference-between-a-centipede-and-a-millipede I love bugs, but I am afraid I haven't given them much love lately, so here's a little post about some of my favorite bugs, the myriapods. Myriapods (which means "10,000 feet") are centipedes, millipedes, and other related arthropods. They are the oldest known land animals, and they are NOT insects. In fact, while centipedes and millipedes are more closely related to each other than they are to insects, they could hardly be more different.

Millipede (Narceus americanus)Millipede (Narceus americanus)Narceus americanus is, perhaps, the most common millipede species in eastern North America. They can attain a length of 4 inches. When threatened, they will curl up into a ball and/or secrete a noxious liquid that causes harmless skin discoloration. At lengths of up to 4 inches (100mm), Narceus americanus is the largest millipede in North America.

First off, centipedes ("100 feet") have fewer legs, although they don't always have 100 of them, and millipedes ("1000 feet") have more legs, but no known millipedes species has anywhere near a thousand. But that's just scratching the surface. On top of that, centipedes have one pair of legs (two legs) on each segment of their bodies while millipedes have two pairs of legs (four legs) on each segment.

CentipedeCentipedeA centipede scuttles across the Australian Outback.

Up to 6.3 inches (16 cm), the giant centipede (Ethmostigmus rubripes) is Australasia's largest centipede.

So that's it, right? They just look a little different? Nope. They also behave differently. Centipedes move very quickly and are primarily carnivorous. To attack and disable their prey, they possess a a pair of modified, venomous claws called forcipules, which are located on their heads. Millipedes, on the other hand, move rather slowly and are primarily detritivores, which means they eat dead plant and animal matter. While they lack venom, they secrete noxious (and occasionally dangerous) chemicals like hydrogen cyanide from microscopic holes in their bodies called ozopores.

IMG_0357IMG_0357 Like most myriapods, Narceus americanus prefers inhabiting dark, moist areas, such as under logs.

Thus, those are the basic differences between centipedes and millipedes. In short, the centipedes are fast, venomous predators with fewer legs, and the millipedes are slower, odorous scavengers with more legs.

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) Myriapoda animal pictures arthropods centipede bug centipede vs millipede centipedes difference between centipede and millipede millipede bug millipedes myriapods nature images http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/4/what-is-the-difference-between-a-centipede-and-a-millipede Fri, 10 Apr 2015 19:03:05 GMT
How (and Where) to Find Unicorns http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/4/how-and-where-to-find-unicorns Since the Bronze Age, humans have hunted a legendary, horse-like beast. Feared by men and adored by women, it prances around the world's forests and has no concept of personal space. This rare creature is none other than the common unicorn (Equus unicornus). In this post, I will discuss how to find and attract them.

"The gentle and pensive maiden has the power to tame the unicorn", Domenico Zampieri, c. 1602"The gentle and pensive maiden has the power to tame the unicorn", Domenico Zampieri, c. 1602"The gentle and pensive maiden has the power to tame the unicorn", Domenico Zampieri, c. 1602 The gentle and pensive maiden has the power to tame the unicorn, Domenico Zampieri, c. 1602

 

Unicorn Physiology

For the most part, the common unicorn resembles a horse; however, there is one major difference. The unicorn has a single, spiraled horn, which is fused to the rostrum. This makes positive identification of unicorns in the field slightly less challenging.

Of the unicornOf the unicorn Unicorn woodcut featured in The history of four-footed beasts and serpents (1658) by Edward Topsell

According to 13th Century explorer Marco Polo, unicorns are "scarcely smaller than elephants. They have the hair of a buffalo and feet like an elephant's. They have a single large black horn in the middle of the forehead... They have a head like a wild boar's… They spend their time by preference wallowing in mud and slime. They are very ugly brutes to look at. They are not at all such as we describe them when we relate that they let themselves be captured by virgins, but clean contrary to our notions." Source.

Professional Tip: Unicorns are very self-conscious animals, so we must consider their feelings. When Marco Polo published his travel memoir in 1300, the unicorns were outraged, and since then, they have scarcely been sighted. So, if you want to see a unicorn, you should never, ever offend them.

 

Where to Find Them

Unicorns come and go as they please, so it's difficult to pinpoint their range. They prefer temperate, forested areas, so you will probably not have much luck finding one in the tropics or polar regions. If you see a rainbow, there is a very good chance a unicorn is nearby.

4NDY4NDY

Wild woman with unicorn, c. 1500–1510

 

How to Attract Them

Traditionally, attracting a unicorn required a virgin woman. Famed artist and scientist Leonardo da Vinci wrote in his notebook: "The unicorn, through its intemperance and not knowing how to control itself, for the love it bears to fair maidens forgets its ferocity and wildness; and laying aside all fear it will go up to a seated damsel and go to sleep in her lap, and thus the hunters take it." Source.

Today, with our modern technology, we can replicate the scent and sounds of a virgin and use trailcams and camera traps to monitor unicorn activity. Prior to this, only a handful of unicorns had been documented in the wild. Now, scientists have learned more about unicorns than ever before.

Professional Tip: As a secondary method, you can also attract unicorns with freshly baked cupcakes and pumpkin spice lattes. They are the unicorn's favorite prey items.

 

Unicorn Exploitation

If you find a wild unicorn, I recommend keeping its location a secret. Historically, unicorns have been hunted and exploited for various purposes, and that is part of the reason they are so rare today. Whenever hunters and poachers hear about a unicorn, they will not hesitate to capture it for a zoo or kill it and mount it as a trophy. A cage or pen is no place for these mystical beasts and neither is a rack over someone's fireplace.
The_Unicorn_in_CaptivityThe_Unicorn_in_Captivity

The Unicorn Is Penned, Unicorn Tapestries, c. 1495–1505

In case you didn't get the hint from the beginning, this was all just an April Fool's joke. I will note, however, that Marco Polo and Leonardo da Vinci did actually say those things, but Marco Polo was talking about rhinos in India, and da Vinci was talking about the symbolism behind unicorns. Thanks for reading!

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) April Fool's Equus unicornus joke blog post legendary creatures mythical creatures parody blog post unicorn horn, unicorn poop unicorns unicorns are real http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/4/how-and-where-to-find-unicorns Wed, 01 Apr 2015 16:06:06 GMT
The Magnificent Artwork of John James Audubon http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/3/the-magnificent-artwork-of-john-james-audubon Today, thanks to our computers, smartphones, and tablets, we can observe fascinating wildlife within the comfort of our homes. In turn, this is possible thanks to our cameras, which allow us to capture photos and videos on the go and view them at our discretion. Yet, before cameras became popular and widespread and LONG before the first computer was conceived, people relied on other media. You couldn't just click on a YouTube video and watch a monkey playing with puppies or a meteor fly across the Russian sky. You couldn't like a bunch of cute animals pictures on Facebook. No. Back then, books, drawings, and paintings provided the best glimpse into the natural world.

plate-76-virginian-partridge-finalplate-76-virginian-partridge-final

Virginia Partridges (Bobwhites) and Red-Shouldered Hawk - Plate 76

When famed artist and naturalist John James Audubon published his master work The Birds of America, he revolutionized ornithology, documenting all known bird species in North America as well as 25 new species and 12 new subspecies. From 1827 to 1838, he gradually published his 435 images in the United Kingdom for the viewing pleasure of wealthy subscribers (sort of like an old school blog). Over the next couple centuries, his work would influence millions of naturalists worldwide, including Charles Darwin, who quoted him three times in On the Origin of Species and later works.

John James Audubon - PortraitJohn James Audubon - PortraitA portrait of famed naturalist and artist John James Audubon.

Portrait of John James Audubon. Audubon used his rifle to shoot the birds he depicted.

Yes, it's true that Audubon did shoot and kill just about all the birds he depicted and used wires to set them up in lifelike positions, and yes, that does seem counterproductive to conservation. But, at that time, cameras weren't nearly as advanced or widespread, and telephoto lenses were just a dream. Back then, you'd have no chance of capturing all the details of a wild bird without scaring it away. Wildlife shots were literally wildlife shots.

Having said that, thanks to Audubon's impressive efforts over the course of 18 years, he changed the way we view nature. Prior to the publication of The Birds of America, depictions of animals had been static, rigid, and somewhat uninspiring. Audubon's predecessor Alexander Wilson, who was dubbed the "Father of American Ornithology", followed the old style of depicting wildlife, which you can see in the print below.

Houghton_Typ_870.08.8778_-_OiseauxHoughton_Typ_870.08.8778_-_Oiseaux

Oiseaux from Alexander Wilson's American Ornithology.

For identification purposes, Wilson's work was great. However, outside of that, his prints were not too exciting. Today, the equivalent would be a wildlife photo where the animal is in focus and all the features are identifiable, but there is nothing particularly creative or memorable about the shot. (I have my share of those.)

In this regard, Audubon was very different. His prints had character. They not only depicted easily identifiable birds, but they depicted their behavior. Have a look for yourself at the prints below.
Plate-53,-Painted-Finch-finalPlate-53,-Painted-Finch-final

Painted Finch (Painted Bunting) - Plate 53

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Blue Jay  - Plate 102

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Whip-poor-will - Plate 82

Plate-97-Little-Screech-Owl-finalPlate-97-Little-Screech-Owl-final

Little Screech Owl (Eastern Screech Owl) - Plate 97

Plate-416-Hairy-WoodpeckerPlate-416-Hairy-Woodpecker

Hairy, Red-Bellied, Red-Shafted, Lewis', and Red-Breasted Woodpeckers - Plate 416

As you can see, Audubon's work contrasts starkly from Wilson's. Even though he rendered his subjects based on dead models, he positioned them in lifelike stances. He shows them feeding, preening, and communicating. To accurately portray these scenes, he ventured out in the field and spent countless hours observing their behavior. In the next few prints, you will see some of his depictions of birds' nests and the birds' nesting behavior, which was wholly unprecedented.

Plate-100-Marsh-Wren-finalPlate-100-Marsh-Wren-final

Marsh Wren - Plate 100

Plate-131-American-Robin-finalPlate-131-American-Robin-final

American Robin - Plate 131

Plate-173-Barn-Swallow-(285)Plate-173-Barn-Swallow-(285)

Barn Swallow - Plate 173

When painting some nests, Audubon added drama, wherein hungry snakes scaled branches and limbs to feast on eggs and birds alike. These depictions of realistic predation were also unprecedented, and they captured animal behavior in ways no other naturalist had before. In the print below, and eastern rat snake raids a brown thrasher nest.

Plate-116-Ferrunginous-Thrush-(611)-finalPlate-116-Ferrunginous-Thrush-(611)-final

Ferruginous Thrush (Brown Thrasher) - Plate 116

His other nest-raiding snake print was particularly controversial. In this print, he depicted a timber rattlesnake attacking a mockingbird nest. Enemies of Audbon were quick to pounce upon this fantastical behavior. "Rattlesnakes don't climb trees!" they moaned. Yet, today, we know that rattlesnakes can and occasionally do climb trees.

plate-21-mockingbird-finalplate-21-mockingbird-final

Mocking Bird - Plate 21

Of course, with all these snakes eating birds, Audbon had to include the reverse: a bird eating a snake, which you can see in the print below.

plate-72-swallow-tailed-hawk-finalplate-72-swallow-tailed-hawk-final

Swallow-Tailed Hawk - Plate 72

In fact, he depicted a variety of raptorial birds catching and eating different prey items. He had ospreys and eagles catching fish; he had owls chasing and eating rodents; and he had hawks and falcons chasing and eating birds and mammals. Today, these prints are impressive, but back then, they were mind-blowing.

Plate-81-Osprey-finalPlate-81-Osprey-final

Fish Hawk or Osprey - Plate 81

Plate-31,-White-headed-Eagle-finalPlate-31,-White-headed-Eagle-final

White-Headed Eagle (Bald Eagle) - Plate 31

Plate-171-Barn-Owl-finalPlate-171-Barn-Owl-final

Barn Owl - Plate 171

Plate-16,-Great-Footed-Hawk-finalPlate-16,-Great-Footed-Hawk-final

Great-Footed Hawk (Peregrine Falcon) - Plate 16

Notably, Audubon's work also included bird species that are now extinct or on the brink of extinction. Species such as the great auk, the Carolina parakeet, and the passenger pigeon no longer exist today. In 1852, just a year after Audubon's death, the great auk went extinct, although the last breeding pair (and egg) was killed in 1844 while he still drew breath.

PinguinusImpennusPinguinusImpennus

Great Auk (Extinct 1852) - Plate 341

The passenger pigeon and the Carolina parakeet, would disappear from American skies over half a century later. Their stories are just as captivating and saddening as that of the great auk, but I will discuss them in more detail in later blog posts.

Passenger_Pigeon (Resized)Passenger_Pigeon (Resized)

Passenger Pigeon (Extinct 1914) - Plate 62

Plate-26-Carolina-Parrot-finalPlate-26-Carolina-Parrot-final

Carolina Parrot/Parakeet (Extinct 1918) - Plate 26

Ivory-Billed_Woodpeckers_-_Campephilus_principalis_Audubon_001Ivory-Billed_Woodpeckers_-_Campephilus_principalis_Audubon_001

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker (Critically Endangered, Possibly Extinct) - Plate 66

After viewing the sad prints above, here's some happier prints for your viewing pleasure. Isn't the Internet awesome?

Plate-47,-Ruby-Throated-Humming-finalPlate-47,-Ruby-Throated-Humming-final

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird - Plate 47

plate-159-cardinal-grosbeak-finalplate-159-cardinal-grosbeak-final

Cardinal Grosbeak (Northern Cardinal) - Plate 159

Plate-431-American-Flamingo-finalPlate-431-American-Flamingo-final

American Flamingo - Plate 431

The Birds of America is among the world's most expensive books, and one of the 119 complete copies was sold in London for $10.3 million. As you can see from these beautiful prints, there's a good reason behind the high value. If you're interested in downloading the wonderful prints, the National Audubon Society has fully restored them, and they are available here. Currently, I am in the process of compiling all of these prints, so I can make a new gallery here on my site, so if you're interested in seeing them in a more viewable format, check back here in a couple weeks.

 

Like birds? Check out these other bird-brimmed articles:

Walking with Dinosaurs: The Cassowaries of Etty Bay

The Loud, Smart, and Beautiful Cockatoos of Australia

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) Alexander Wilson John James Audubon John James Audubon prints National Audubon Society North American birds The Birds of America ornithology the art of John James Audubon http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/3/the-magnificent-artwork-of-john-james-audubon Mon, 30 Mar 2015 13:16:28 GMT
8 Cool Clownfish Facts http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/3/8-cool-clownfish-facts Thanks to the popular Disney/Pixar film Finding Nemo, clownfish are among the world's most popular fish. Scuba divers hope to encounter them, and aquarists hope to own them. But what's the real story behind these small, anemone-hugging fish that inhabit tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific? Swim down--I mean, scroll down--to find out!

 

1. There are 30 species of clownfish

First off, there are 30 species of clownfish, and not all of them resemble the clownfish you may know. In Finding Nemo, Marlin and Nemo are ocellaris clownfish, which are also known as false percula clownfish or common clownfish. Yet, as common as they are, I do not have any decent ocellaris clownfish photos, BUT I do have photos of a variety of other clownfish species that you probably didn't even know about! Check out the cinnamon clownfish below. A beautiful name for a beautiful fish!

Cinnamon Clownfish (Amphiprion melanopus)Cinnamon Clownfish (Amphiprion melanopus)A cinnamon clownfish hiding in an anemone on the Great Barrier Reef.

A cinnamon clownfish (Amphiprion melanopus) in a bubble-tip anemone on the Great Barrier Reef.

 

2. They are protected by a thick mucus layer

Clownfish are famous for their special, symbiotic relationship with sea anemones. They protect the anemone from predators and parasites, and they anemone does the same. But why can they live so happily within the clutches of a creature that could easily kill and eat another fish of the same size? Well, the majority of fish are covered in mucus for osmoregulation, protection from parasites, and streamlining, but clownfish take it a step further. Their mucus coat is three to four times thicker than that of other fish, and scientists speculate that it is sugar-based rather than protein-based, preventing the anemone from indentifying them as food. Additionally, clownfish will rub themsevles up against the tentacles of a new host anemone to develop an immunity to its sting. In this manner, the clownfish are protected from the anemone's deadly, venomous nematocysts (tiny, harpoon-like stinging cells), and they can swim in and out of the tentacles with ease. DSC04830-5DSC04830-5

A barrier reef anemonefish (Amphiprion akindynos) in an anemone on the Great Barrier Reef.

 

3. They are compatible with only 10 species of sea anemone

Despite the symbiotic relationship between clownfish and anemones and the moniker "anemonefish", clownfish cannot set up shop in any anemone they choose. There are over 100 species of sea anemone in the ocean; yet, of these 100 species, clownfish are only compatible with 10 of them, and of these 10, only select species of clownfish are compatible with select species of anemones. Clark's anemonefish is one of the few species that is compatible with all 10 clownfish-hosting anemones. For a little more information about the anemones, here's a list of the 10 clownfish-hosting anemone species.

DSC05378-2DSC05378-2

A pink skunk clownfish (Amphiprion perideraion) hovering over an anemone on the Great Barrier Reef.

 

4. They are omnivores

Clownfish are omnivorous, which means they like a bit of salad to go with their meat. They dine on both zooplankton (small animals floating in the water column) and algae. They also eat parasites that are harassing their anemone host, and they feed on any scraps the anemone leaves behind. Once again, both clownfish and anemone benefit, which is a defining feature of a symbiotic relationship.

DSC01563-3DSC01563-3

A barrier reef anemonefish (Amphiprion akindynos) in a bubble-tip anemone on the Great Barrier Reef.

 

5. Their poop provides nutrients for their host anemone

Speaking of eating, clownfish produce a lot of waste, but their waste does not go to waste. Their poop provides nutrients for the anemone, and its nitrogen content increases the amount of algae growing within the anemone's tissue, which aids in the anemone's growth and regeneration. The clownfish's movements around the anemone also improves water circulation, increasing the anemone's body size and improving respiration for both anemone and clownfish. Who knew poop could be so powerful?

DSC04929DSC04929 Yes, clownfish poop. A Clark's anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii) defecating in Beqa Lagoon, Fiji.

 

6. They are good parents

In a single anemone, there is one dominant female and multiple males. However, most of the males are juvenile and are too small to breed. Only one male, the dominant male, can breed with the female. Depending on the female's size, she will lay anywhere from 600 to 1500 eggs, but that is where her parental duties end. Unlike most animals, clownfish parental responsibilities rest upon the male's shoulders, er, fins. When he does, he cares for the eggs by fanning and guarding them for 6 to 10 days until they hatch.

DSC05439-2DSC05439-2

A maroon clownfish (Premnas biaculeatus) in a bubble-tip anemone on the Great Barrier Reef.

 

7. They can change their sex

Now, here's a fun fact about clownfish that's not exactly "family friendly" and was not covered by Finding Nemo: all clownfish are born male. So how do a bunch of dudes create a bunch of little Nemos? Well, they use a rather...unconventional strategy. Remember that dominant female I mentioned in #6? She was once a he. Yes, that's right; clownfish can change their sex. When the dominant female dies, the dominant male changes his sex and becomes the new dominant female. In turn, the largest juvenile male rapidly increases in size and become the new dominant male. Meanwhile, all the other males are candidates for future dominant male and, later, future dominant female. Really changes your outlook on Finding Nemo, huh?

DSC04932-2DSC04932-2

A female Clark's anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii) with a much smaller male in Beqa Lagoon, Fiji.

 

8. They make up 43% of saltwater aquarium fish

Last but not least, clownfish are unsurprisingly among the most coveted and traded of all saltwater aquarium fish, and they make up 43% of the the global marine ornamental trade, along with their close relatives the damselfish. They were one of the first popular saltwater aquarium species to be aquacultured and have been bred for over 40 years. The release of Finding Nemo in 2003 saw a serious uptick in clownfish sales, and I expect the release of Finding Dory in 2016 will cause another spike in clownfish sales in the coming years.

DSC03539-3DSC03539-3

A barrier reef anemonefish (Amphiprion akindynos) in a bubble-tip anemone on the Great Barrier Reef.

So that's the clownfish: the tropical, anemone-hugging transvestite. For more information about clownfish and sea anemones, please check out Wikipedia, Animal-World, and Ask Nature. Thanks for reading!

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) Australia Coral Sea Finding Dory Finding Nemo Great Barrier Reef Pacific Ocean anemonefish animal pictures cinnamon clownfish clownfish clownfish anemone clownfish facts clownfish images clownfish photos fish facts marine nature images oceans scuba diving tropical fish underwater photography wildlife http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/3/8-cool-clownfish-facts Fri, 20 Mar 2015 19:05:30 GMT
Blue-Tongued Skinks: Chubby, Stubby Lizards of Australia http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/3/blue-tongued-skinks-chubby-stubby-lizards-of-australia IMG_7232IMG_7232

Western blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua occipitalis) in the Outback near Shark Bay, Western Australia.

If you’ve seen a small lizard sunbathing on your porch or darting into the bushes, chances are, you’ve seen a skink. Skinks are a widespread and diverse family of lizards that you can find on all continents except Antarctica. But, in Australia, you will encounter some of the largest and most impressive skinks of all: the blue-tongues.
Now, obviously, blue-tongues received their names from their tongues, which they flick from their mouths to frighten enemies. Yet, despite this aggressive display, they are harmless. They may bite, but unlike other Australia reptiles, they certainly aren’t venomous, and they are popular pets.

IMG_7107IMG_7107

Western blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua occipitalis) in the Outback near Shark Bay, Western Australia.

Apart from their tongues, blue-tongues have a variety of other defining features. They have broad heads and flat, chubby bodies, and they have stubby limbs, so they cannot move very quickly. They also have pointed, tapering tails, typical of lizards, but there is an exception. One blue-tongue species, known as the bobtail or shingleback, has a round, stumpy tail. This tail contains fat reserves, which allow it to hibernate through the winter. The tail may also confuse predators, since it resembles the bobtail’s head.

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Bobtail skink (Tiliqua rugosa) on a farm near Bullsbrook, Western Australia.

Blue-tongues have another unique characteristic: they are viviparous. This means the young develop within the mother’s body, and the mother blue-tongue gives birth to live young, rather than laying eggs like other reptiles. Pretty cool, huh?

IMG_5356IMG_5356

An eastern blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua scincoides scincoides) I found in a park in Brisbane, Queensland.

If you want to find a wild blue-tongue, you’ll generally encounter them in the bush or Outback, but you can find some species in cities and suburbs as well. For best results, though, you should scan roads and roadsides. Here, blue-tongues capitalize on the heat stored in the asphalt, and they are very easy to spot.

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Bobtail skink (Tiliqua rugosa) on a road in South Australia. Possibly injured.

However, as you can imagine, roads are not the safest place for lizards. With cars speeding across Australian highways at speeds of 110 kilometers an hour or more (that’s 68 miles per hour for my fellow Americans), they are common roadkill victims. If you see a blue-tongue on or near the road, please stop, pick it up, and move it a safe distance from the road. But, please, bear your own safety in mind, or you’ll become roadkill yourself!

For more information about blue-tongued skinks, please visit Wikipedia and bluetongueskinks.net. Thanks for reading!

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) Australia wildlife Australian animals Australian lizards Australian reptiles Outback Australia animal pictures blue tongues blue-tongue lizards blue-tongued skinks herpetology nature images wildlife photography http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/3/blue-tongued-skinks-chubby-stubby-lizards-of-australia Sat, 07 Mar 2015 20:13:33 GMT
My Top 20 Wildlife Photos (So Far) http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/2/my-top-20-wildlife-photos-so-far Here's a list of my top 20 photos (so far). I have hundreds of high quality photos, but these are my best, which I have chosen based on uniqueness and artistic value. If you have a moment, check em out. If you'd like to order any prints, please let me know. Thank you!

Western Grey Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus)Western Grey Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus)A western grey kangaroo posing for me on the beach at Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grande National Park near Esperance, Western Australia. A western gray kangaroo posing for me on the beach at Lucky Bay near Esperance, Western Australia.

Cinnamon Clownfish (Amphiprion melanopus)Cinnamon Clownfish (Amphiprion melanopus)Cinnamon clownfish (Amphiprion melanopus) hiding in an anemone on the Great Barrier Reef. A cinnamon clownfish hiding in an anemone on the Great Barrier Reef.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus carolinensis)Osprey (Pandion haliaetus carolinensis)A pair of osprey fledglings in their nest on the York River in Gloucester County, VA, USA. A pair of osprey fledglings in their nest on the York River in Gloucester County, VA, USA.

Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)A saltwater crocodile resting on the banks of Cooper's Creek in Cape Tribulation, QLD, Australia. A saltwater crocodile resting on the banks of Cooper's Creek in Cape Tribulation, QLD, Australia.

Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)A female southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) gazing across the Coral Sea in Etty Bay, Queensland, Australia.

A female southern cassowary gazing across the Coral Sea at dusk at Etty Bay, QLD, Australia.

Australian Sea Lions (Neophoca cinerea)Australian Sea Lions (Neophoca cinerea)Australian sea lions playing in the Indian Ocean off Green Head, Western Australia.

Australian sea lions playing in the Indian Ocean off Green Head, Western Australia.

White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)A white-tailed deer fawn in Newport News Park in Newport News, VA, USA. A white-tailed deer fawn in Newport News Park in Newport News, VA, USA.

Red Slate Pencil Urchin (Heterocentrotus mamillatus)Red Slate Pencil Urchin (Heterocentrotus mamillatus)A red slate pencil urchin off Koko Head, Oʻahu, Hawaii, USA. A red slate pencil urchin off Koko Head, Oʻahu, Hawaii, USA.

Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)A lazy koala on a lazy afternoon at Magnetic Island off Townsville, QLD, Australia.

A lazy koala on a lazy afternoon at Magnetic Island off Townsville, QLD, Australia.

New Zealand Fur Seal (Arctocephalus forsteri)New Zealand Fur Seal (Arctocephalus forsteri)A New Zealand fur seal pup on the Otago Peninsula near Dunedin, New Zealand.

A New Zealand fur seal pup on the Otago Peninsula near Dunedin, New Zealand.

Spotted Wobbegong (Orectolobus maculatus)Spotted Wobbegong (Orectolobus maculatus)A spotted wobbegong resting on the seafloor at Manly Beach near Sydney, NSW, Australia.

A spotted wobbegong resting on the seafloor at Manly Beach near Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Little Corella (Cacatua sanguinea)Little Corella (Cacatua sanguinea)An acrobatic little corella in Tom Price, Western Australia near Karijini National Park.

An acrobatic little corella in Tom Price, Western Australia.

Snail SpeciesSnail SpeciesAn unidentified snail species eating fungi in Newport News Park in Newport News, VA, USA.

An unidentified snail species eating fungi in Newport News Park in Newport News, VA, USA.

Western Blue-Tongued Skink (Tiliqua occipitalis)Western Blue-Tongued Skink (Tiliqua occipitalis)A western blue-tongued skink near Shark Bay, Western Australia.

A western blue-tongued skink near Shark Bay, Western Australia.

Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis)Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis)While strolling through the woods of Newport News Park in Virginia, USA, I stumbled upon this eastern ratsnake reclining inside a tree. Its eye is cloudy, which suggests it is about to shed. Rat snakes are excellent climbers and commonly invade bird nests, where they devour the eggs or hatchlings. Because of this, many people despise them and kill them on sight. It is cruel and unnecessary, but our culture has spent thousands of years proclaiming that snakes are evil vermin. Even Indiana Jones fears them.

An eastern rat snake sleeping in a tree in Newport News Park in Newport News, VA, USA.

Stinkbug SpeciesStinkbug SpeciesAn unidentified stinkbug species in the Cattana Wetlands near Cairns, QLD, Australia.

An unidentified stinkbug species in the Cattana Wetlands near Cairns, QLD, Australia.

Harlequin Darner (Gomphaeschna furcillata) Harlequin Darner (Gomphaeschna furcillata) A harlequin darner dragonfly flying in First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach, VA, USA.

A harlequin darner dragonfly flying in First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach, VA, USA.

Eastern Red Scorpionfish (Scorpaena cardinalis)Eastern Red Scorpionfish (Scorpaena cardinalis)An eastern red scorpionfish yawning on the Poor Knights Islands, New Zealand.

An eastern red scorpionfish on the Poor Knights Islands, New Zealand.

Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus)Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus)A thorny devil wandering the Outback at Uluru (Ayers Rock), NT, Australia.

A thorny devil wandering the Outback at Uluru (Ayers Rock), NT, Australia.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus carolinensis)Osprey (Pandion haliaetus carolinensis)A mother osprey shading her chicks on the York River in Gloucester County, VA, USA.

A mother osprey shading her chicks on the York River in Gloucester County, VA, USA.

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) Australia EpochCatcher Photography Wildlife animal pictures animals my top 20 wildlife photos nature images wildlife photography http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/2/my-top-20-wildlife-photos-so-far Sat, 28 Feb 2015 18:34:53 GMT
Walking with Dinosaurs: The Cassowaries of Etty Bay http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/2/walking-with-dinosaurs-the-cassowaries-of-etty-bay In my travels, I've encountered many strange critters. But, in September 2013, about a month after my Mudskipper blog post (my last blog post for well over a year), I encountered a very special creature in the rainforests of northern Queensland, Australia. A dinosaur. Yes, that's right, a dinosaur, which is fitting because the rainforests of Far North Queensland, specifically the Daintree, are estimated to be around 180 million years old. For reference, the Jurassic period began around 201 million years ago and ended around 145 million years ago.

Now, you may be wondering: how does one encounter a dinosaur in the 21st Century? A valid question, of course, but have a look at this photo of mine and see for yourself:

Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) at Etty Bay, Queensland, Australia.

I think I saw this movie once...

Now, compare it to the oviraptor illustration below: Nomingia gobiensisNomingia gobiensisNomingia gobiensis, an extinct species of oviraptor. Nomingia gobiensis, a species of oviraptor. (Not related to velociraptor.)

The resemblance is uncanny. Of course, the critter in the photo is not actually a dinosaur. It's a flightless bird called a cassowary, which I'm sure you've heard about, if you've watched any documentary about Australian wildlife. Having said that, a cassowary could easily pass for a prehistoric beast. The blood-red eyes, the tall head-crest (called a casque on cassowaries), and I mean, look at its feet!

Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) at Etty Bay, Queensland, Australia.

You really don't want to piss this guy off!

According to American ornithologist Ernest Thomas Gilliard, "The inner or second of the three toes is fitted with a long, straight, murderous nail which can sever an arm or eviscerate an abdomen with ease. There are many records of natives being killed by this bird". Hm. That doesn't sound very pleasant. Why does everything in Australia need to be deadly?

Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) at Etty Bay, Queensland, Australia. Oh, God! It's intentionally blocking my path to First Aid! Next thing you know, they'll be able to open doors!

Yet, despite these obvious warning signs, I decided to hunt this mythical beast. Cassowaries are among the most captivating Australian animals; yet, they are also among the the rarest. In northeastern Australia, a little over 2,500 remain in the wild, and the population is declining. Like the dinosaurs, the cassowary is on a path to extinction.

Cassowary Road SignCassowary Road SignA cassowary road sign in the Daintree Rainforest, Queensland, Australia.

With cassowary populations in decline, how relevant will this sign be in 20 years?

Okay. Now that we are a bit familiarized with the cassowary, let me give you a little backstory in my quest for this elusive bird. When I first arrived in Far North Queensland in April 2013, I had many goals. Finding a wild cassowary was one of them. Naively, I assumed that, once I ventured into the cassowary's native range and explored its known haunts, I would inevitably find one. I was wrong.

I started in the Daintree Rainforest. That's where cassowaries are most common, right? On my first expedition from Cairns to the Daintree, I stayed at a motel. Outside reception, a statue of a cassowary loomed, and I knew I had reached the right place. I talked to the motel owner and asked her about cassowaries.

"Cassowaries!" she said excitedly, as if she'd just seen one. "Yes, a male came here with his chicks every day. Some other photographers were looking for them here. They looked all over the forest and didn't find anything. When they came back and told me what they were looking for, I just pointed to the cassowaries right by my motel!"

"Wow!" I exclaimed. "I can't wait to see him! When does he usually come?"

"Oh," said the motel owner, frowning, "he's dead. Got hit by a car."

This did not bode well, but I figured there would be more lurking in the forest. I asked her a few more questions, and she handed me a map. She marked off a number of locations where cassowaries had been sighted, and I was off on my quest. I hiked up and down the roads, inspecting the dense rainforest on each side. Two hours later, I had still found nothing.

IMG_1662IMG_1662

No cassowaries in sight.

The next day, I went up to Cape Tribulation. I'd seen a YouTube video of a cassowary on the beach up there and was determined to find it. I prowled the beach and scoured the fringes of the rainforest, searching for the elusive, dino-birds. Yet, a day later, still no luck. I hadn't even SEEN a cassowary, so photographing one was out-of-the-question. I returned to Cairns, defeated, and began researching other locations known to harbor cassowaries.

Kuranda was next on my list. In my extensive research (i.e. Google), I found a place there called Cassowary House. With a name like that, surely, cassowaries would be flocking to its doorsteps and sipping afternoon tea. I drove up to Kuranda and visited Cassowary House.

The owners were pleasant but somewhat unenthused that I had arrived to see cassowaries but had no intention of staying overnight as a paying customer. They told me that a National Geographic film crew had recently been filming a documentary there, and the cassowaries had been appearing around 4:00 consistently for the past few weeks. I still had an hour to kill, so they advised me to investigate a trail just down the road. When the cassowaries came, I could catch them on the way to Cassowary House. Excited, I thanked them and hurried to trail.

On the trail, I searched, and I searched. The cassowaries could appear at any moment! I waited breathlessly in the lush rainforest, feeling like a true, professional nature photographer. I checked the time. 3:40. The cassowaries couldn't be far away now! Yet, the most noteworthy photograph I captured on that rainforest trail was this:

IMG_2455IMG_2455 Ah, yes. The wild couch in its natural environment.

But I wasn't about to give up yet! It was almost 4:00, and the cassowaries were surely nearing Cassowary House. I scrambled back. Throngs of photographers were gathered near the rainforest. This was a very good sign. Yet, as I approached, the photographers began to disperse.

"Hey, there!" shouted one of the owners. "You just missed them! The cassowaries were here just a moment ago. They were early today!"

Damn. Just my luck. I asked her if she knew of any other places to find cassowaries. She recommended a place called Etty Bay, an hour south of Cairns. She told me that's where she sends all the film crews, when they don't have much luck at Cassowary House.

A few days later, I drove down to Etty Bay, and I asked a local restaurant owner if she knew about any cassowaries. She said they would come almost every day and nearly walk inside her restaurant, but she could never predict when they'd arrive. I thanked her and headed to the beach, where I hunkered down with my gear on a picnic table. There, I waited. Hours passed. Nothing. I had expected that. I shrugged and left to explore the Atherton Tablelands.

Over the next few months, I revisited the Daintree and Kuranda, since the second or third time can be a charm in wildlife photography. I still had no luck. So I decided to return to Etty Bay one more time. This time, I arrived in the morning and waited around until the afternoon.

In the afternoon, a bus full of Japanese tourists arrived. They emerged from the bus wielding cameras of all shapes and sizes. I wasn't sure whether to be delighted or horrified. The tour guide sauntered down to the beach, carrying a camera of his own, and we started talking. He mentioned that the cassowaries here often came out in the afternoon, and they would stick around for a long time. Surely, this could be my lucky day.

Not long after he mentioned the cassowaries, a male and his chick emerged from the rainforest and came down a grassy hill. This was it. After five months, I had finally found my prize. I readied my cameras and started shooting.

IMG_8442IMG_8442

Male cassowaries, not females, care for the eggs and chicks.

Amazingly, even with a chick, this cassowary did not show any signs of aggression. He had become accustomed to people, and I could stand right next to him and collect photos and footage without worrying about being eviscerated. This behavior drastically contrasted everything I had heard about cassowaries. These Etty Bay cassowaries were not killer birds with a knack for terrorizing humans. These were gentle, awe-inspiring creatures.

Southern Cassowaries (Casuarius casuarius).Southern Cassowaries (Casuarius casuarius)Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) male and chick at Etty Bay, Queensland, Australia.

Male cassowary feeding on fruit as his chick stands nearby.

But that wasn't all. The show was just getting started. After thirty minutes or so, another cassowary appeared. This one was a female, and that wasn't good. Everyone on the beach was worried that she might become aggressive, since females have been known to kill chicks on sight.

Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) at Etty Bay, Queensland, Australia.

Male cassowary gazes across the beach at Etty Bay.

When the male saw the female, he and the chick immediately gave her a wide berth. They hung around for another five or ten minutes, but soon enough, they left and went back up the hill, disappearing into the rainforest. Meanwhile, the female stayed behind, feasting upon the remaining morsels of fruit lying on the ground. Of course, I was still taking photos and filming. In addition to my photos, here's the footage I gathered:

On that glorious day, I was like a dog in a tennis ball shop. I couldn't believe that, after so much terrible luck, I was privileged enough to see not one, not two, but three cassowaries in the same place at the same time. The moral of the story: don't give up. This is especially applicable to wildlife photography, where your subjects are fickle and unpredictable. You can have several unsuccessful expeditions, and then, bam! You strike gold and shoot photos like this:

Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) at Etty Bay, Queensland, Australia.

Female cassowary patrols the beach at Etty Bay.

That evening, I watched the sun set, standing next to a remnant of the Mesozoic era. This is one of the rarest birds in the world, and after many months of searching, I had finally found it in the most unexpected location. I had not found it within the remote and unpopulated Daintree nor in the photographer's paradise at Cassowary House. No. I'd found it among the throngs of people on the beach of Etty Bay. Sometimes, I wonder if that female cassowary was thinking as she stood on the beach and gazed out into the Coral Sea. I like to think she was.

Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) at Etty Bay, Queensland, Australia.

This is probably one my best photos...ever.

Believe it or not, the BBC contacted me in December 2014 to request using a few short clips from my cassowary YouTube video in Episode One of a documentary series called Nature's Weirdest Events - Series 4. Obviously, I said, "Yes", especially since I have been a long-time admirer of BBC's documentaries. But that's another story altogether.

Like birds? Check out these other bird-brimmed articles:

The Loud, Smart, and Beautiful Cockatoos of Australia

The Magnificent Artwork of John James Audubon

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epochcatcher@gmail.com (EpochCatcher) Australia Australian animals Casuarius casuarius EpochCatcher Jurassic Park Photography animal pictures animals birds cassowary attack critters deadly dinosaurs nature images oviraptor prehistoric southern cassowary velociraptor wildlife http://www.epochcatcher.com/blog/2015/2/walking-with-dinosaurs-the-cassowaries-of-etty-bay Sat, 21 Feb 2015 14:17:20 GMT