Amazing tree root pattern on city street

By on December 12th 2018 in Nature
Beautiful patterns of tree roots among the circular stones of the pavement near one of Bankok's most busiest roads.
Beautiful patterns of tree roots among the circular stones of the pavement near one of Bankok’s most busiest roads.
The roots slowly taking over the pavement
The roots slowly taking over the pavement. Photo Horst Kiechle.
Closer view of the tree base
Closer view of the tree base. Photo Horst Kiechle.
View of the base of the tree and its narrow city space to grow
iew of the base of the tree and its narrow city space to grow. Photo Horst Kiechle.
Full view of the tree on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road
Full view of the tree on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road. Photo Horst Kiechle.
Amazing root close-up
Amazing root close-up. Photo Horst Kiechle.
Beautiful patterns evolving between the pavement stones
Beautiful patterns evolving between the pavement stones. Photo Horst Kiechle.

In between slabs of concrete and electricity lines, this tree has grown a unique system of roots that has enabled it to thrive along one of Bangkok’s busiest roads. Like most city trees, it has to compete for space with the concrete jungle that we humans create around us. By letting its roots slowly zigzag around the circular pavement stones, this fig tree has developed a beautiful, almost mathematical pattern of roots.

For most tree species, more than a third of the tree can actually be found underneath the soil. The intricate root systems are vitally important by gathering water and nutrients and providing important support. While this tree only had a tiny surface area to grow on, it somehow has managed to survive and stay upright, perhaps partly by having its branches tangled with electricity lines.

I am not sure how much its roots trailing between the pavement stones are actually helping the tree in terms of nutrients or support. But hopefully it will stop passers-by in a moment of awe and thereby makes people aware of the space that plants and trees around us need to survive.

Note: This post was originally published on Mudfooted.com in July 2014, but was part of a selection of posts to reappear on Mudfooted and rewritten and published in Dec 2018.

The White Ravens of Qualicum Beach

By on December 8th 2018 in Animals
White raven on a branch, showing its blue eyes and pink beak.
white raven juvenile calling
close up of white raven head
two white ravens interacting
two white ravens on a tree trunk
white raven flying
white ravens together with black ravens
white raven foraging in the grass

Qualicum Beach is just an ordinary beach town on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. What is unusual though is that a considerable number of white ravens have been sighted in the area for well over a decade. Yes that’s right, not even just one white raven but a whole number of them! The white condition is a result of a very rare genetic disorder called leucism, which is reduced pigmentation rather than complete albinism. Leucism is extremely rare in itself, let alone being a characteristic of a whole group of birds.

In most cases, leucistic and albinistic animals have a pretty large disadvantage, foremost in terms of being targeted by predators. Therefore, the likelihood of their leucistic genes passing to the next generation is relatively small. However, such genetic disorders are much more likely to be passed on by incestuous matings. As this is not unheard of in corvids, this may potentially explain the existence of this unique population of white ravens.

The great photos above of the unique birds were taken by Mike Yip, an enthusiastic birder in the area. Indeed, asking him more about this special group of birds he explains that the two initial white ravens formed a pair already more than a decade ago and have been producing many generations of white ravens ever since, with at least 1 to 3 white birds each year. Nevertheless, the white ravens apparently do seem to have a disadvantage by not living as long or having as high breeding success as their black cousins, so it is not clear how long the population of white ravens of Qualicum Beach will be able to persist.

Note: This post was originally published on Mudfooted.com in February 2016, but was part of a selection of my favourite posts to reappear on Mudfooted and rewritten and published in Dec 2018.

Reactivation of the blog I am so passionate about!

By on July 9th 2018 in blogging

Hey there, thanks for checking in! It has been more than 8 years since I launched the first version of Mudfooted.com. I remember working hard on the first design for Mudfooted and finishing it while on holiday in Spain, publishing the first post on a fascinating discovery of how Octopuses dynamically use coconut shells as shelter.

In the years that followed Mudfooted grew and grew and gained hundreds of unique visitors a day. It was a treat for me to see my website gain so much attention and thereby getting so many people fascinated by the outside world! But unfortunately, times changed. Over the years websites started popping up everywhere and social media started to become overly dominant, thereby really changing the online climate so to say.

Also, due to pursuing a PhD, starting a family, and continuing with a postdoc abroad, I wasn’t able to keep it going as it was with my high ideals. Ultimately half a year ago this culminated in my decision to go offline completely until further notice and to properly rethink Mudfooted from the ground up. I realised that this could mean never going online again…

Well, here I am sitting writing this post. It is time for Mudfooted to come back alive again! But now with a much more personal touch. Blogging about our wonderful natural world and interesting scientific discoveries was what I was always deeply passionate about. And my drive to continue to do so is even stronger than before. But from now on I will do this from my own standpoint as a behavioural biologist and outdoor enthusiast. Mudfooted will be my blog, not my website with fun-fact-based non-personal articles about our natural world. I am enthusiastic about Mudfooted and what it stands for and that is what I will write about.

In the coming weeks, I shall be reposting a lot of original articles I wrote for Mudfooted over the years, but with new updates and extra information. More than that I will also really start blogging again and writing about all those elements what I feel Mudfooted stands for. So expect a lot more articles with a first-person perspective, from outdoor lifestyle, new scientific discoveries, insights and opinions about academia and conservation, and short and fun facts about our natural world.

Let’s see where this will go!