Wonderful collection of miniature animals made using crochet

By on March 27th 2015 in Animals Artistic

crochet animals platypus

Most textile arts like knitting and crochet result in the warm cloths we wear, the cozy pillows we sit on and the funny bags we carry. However there is a kind of textile art that is there purely to enjoy: cute miniature crochet animals!

Su Ami is a Vietnamese family of five that have created a large range of the most adorable miniature animals that easily fit on the tip of your finger. From dogs and cats, to tiny turtles and even platypuses, all made using crochet. It is impressive the crafters were able to give these tiny animals so much detail and showcase the animal’s main features, such as the cat’s whiskers, the platypus’ beak and even the kiwi’s egg!

I am always fond of artists and craftsmen playing with the natural world and these tiny pieces of craftsmenship are a great example of that. The crochet animals are for sale in Su Ami’s own Etsy shop, see some of my favorites below.

crochet-animal-lion-suami

red-bird-crochet

crochet-animal

suami-dog

turtle-crochet

black-cat

crochet animals

owl-crochet-animal

fox-crochet

crochet animals

suami-kiwi-crochet-animal

Amazing photos of waves that look like mountains

By on March 25th 2015 in Nature

A wave that looks like a mountain, by Ray Collins

Amazing ocean photography by Ray Collins

Waves photos look like mountains, by Ray Collins

Waves photos look like mountains, by Ray Collins

Waves photos look like mountains, by Ray Collins

Waves photos look like mountains, by Ray Collins

I love it when photography makes you look in a different way at the world. When it makes you change perspective. These amazing photos of ocean waves do exactly that. Professional photographer Ray collins shot these waves in such a way that they look like majestic mountains standing still in time. His close-up perspective and his artistic blending of water and light give these photos some allure of a grand painting.

Ray only started taking photos of the ocean in 2007, mainly to shoot his friends surfing waves near home. But in a number of years his photos have been used by big companies such as Apple, Nikon, National Geographic and Red Bull. You can see more of his amazing work on his website. (via ghost in the machine)

Pygmy seahorse camouflage explained

By on February 8th 2015 in Animals

pygmy-seahorse-camouflage

Pygmy seahorses are beautiful tiny fish that spent their entire adult life on beautifully coloured sea fans, a type of soft coral found especially in tropical waters. With only the size of an average fingernail and matching the colour and structure of the corals on which they live, they are extremely hard to see.

It has long been a mystery to scientists how these beautiful tiny creatures blend so perfectly with the brightly coloured coral around them. Now after a couple years of preparations, biologists at the California Academy of Sciences found out how the pygmy seahorse does it. Have a look at this wonderful short film about their findings below:

This video was created by KQED Public Media and is part of a new series of videos called Deep Look, which explores the big world of science by examining the very small.

Bilateral gynandromorph: the fate of a half-male, half-female bird

By on December 24th 2014 in Animals science

bilateral-gynandromorph-1

Yes I know what you are thinking, this photo must be photoshopped. However it is not! It is a gynandromorph, an organism that contains both male and female characteristics.

Even more interesting, this particular bird, a Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is a bilateral gynandromorph, with its left side appearing as a male cardinal, and the right side as a female. The demarcation is so clear that only when both halves of the bird were observed simultaneously was it evident that the bird was a bilateral gynandromorph.

Bilateral gynandromorphy arises very early in development, typically when the organism is still only a few cells large. This happens when one of the dividing cells does not split its sex chromosomes as normal, leading to one of the two cells having sex chromosomes that cause male development, and the other cell having chromosomes that cause female development.

bilateral-gynandromorph-2

Researchers have long known such split-sex gynandromorphs exist in a range of animals such as insects, crustaceans, and birds but rarely have scientists been able to study them. For this particular bird two scientists were able to follow it for more than 40 days and to document how it interacted with other birds and responded to various bird calls.

What they found is that the cardinal did not have a mate nor was it ever heard singning, the researchers report this month in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. The observers luckily also observed that the bird’s unusual looks did not raise any fierce aggression in its fellow cardinals.

References

Peer, B. D., & Motz, R. W. (2014). Observations of a Bilateral Gynandromorph Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 126 (4), 778-781 DOI: 10.1676/14-025.1

Amazing short film of Olympic National Park

By on October 14th 2014 in Outdoors

stars-more-than-just-parks

More Than Just Parks is a great film project with the goal to create greater awareness of the beauty and hidden treasures that reside within America’s National Parks. It was founded by brothers Will and Jim Pattiz, who wanted to combine their love for America’s natural world and engaging multimedia. Today they released their first film of Olympic National park and it is breathtaking:

This amazing video is the culmination of a month of backpacking through beautiful Olympic National Park. The Pattiz brothers explain:

We chose Olympic as our first of the More Than Just Parks short films due to its incredible diversity. It is unlike any park on the planet offering glacial mountain peaks, old-growth rainforests, and over seventy miles of wilderness coast, all within a day’s drive.

Their plan is to make stunning short films for each of all fifty-nine national parks! To create this first film the team covered more than 500 miles, shot over 50,000 photos and videos. Here are some amazing stills from their journey.

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lake-more-than-just-parks

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Please visit their website www.morethanjustparks.com, where you can make donations of which 100% goes back to making more captivating short films like the one above!

New species of woolly sea cucumber named after scientist’s dog

By on October 9th 2014 in Animals science
The "woolly" looking Phyrella mookiei, a newly discovered sea cucumber named after pet dog "Mookie"

The “woolly” looking Phyrella mookiei, a newly discovered sea cucumber named after pet dog “Mookie”

Scientists have discovered a new species of sea cucumber with a woolly look. What is great about this discovery is the researchers creativity in labelling it. Phyrella mookiei got its name from its resemblence to Mookie, the pet dog of one of the research assistants on the project! Quoting the paper:

Named after Mookie, the dog of our collection assistant Ms. Mandy Bemis, because the “woolly” appearance and color of this species is similar to the soft coat of wheaten terriers, the breed to which Mookie belongs.

This beautiful and relatively rare species is only known from the island of Guam. Already back in 2010 the team collected what they thought was a new sea cucumber species, but it took them four painstaking years to finally describe it.

Top view of the beautiful Phyrella mookiei sea cucumber

Top view of the beautiful Phyrella mookiei sea cucumber

With that they not only described this fascinating new species, they fully revised the whole genus of Phyrella for which they had to read through loads of old taxonomic descriptions and examine specimens from all around the world. This turned into a large and very detailed paper of over 40 pages long. Here is a section of the paper to give you an idea:

Description. External morphology. Body wall soft, fairly thin, densely covered with tube feet. Beige (UF 4770, UF 11539) to off-white (UF 10336), with well-defined burgundy (UF 4770, UF 10336) to dark brown (UF 11539) spots either restricted to venter (UF 4770) or across entire body (UF 10336, UF 11539); area around introvert and cloaca with diffuse burgundy coloration in UF 10336 (Fig. 11A). Coloration in preservative similar to live after 3 years. Oral disc marbled with burgundy and white (Fig. 10, Fig. 11B). Tentacles dendritic with long- stalk, with small dark spots at their extremities (Fig. 10, Fig. 11B). Body relatively straight when fully relaxed, contracting to U-shaped. Holotype 60 mm long along dorsum, 64 mm along venter and 18 mm wide; UF 4770, more contracted, 40 mm long along dorsum, 57 mm long along venter, and 23 mm wide; UF 11539 very contracted, 37 mm long along dorsum, 45 mm long along venter, and 16 mm wide. Introvert retracted in all pecimens, 4 mm (UF 10336), 6 mm (UF 4770), and 12 mm (UF 11539) long. Tube feet abundant, evenly dispersed across radial and inter-radial areas, slightly denser ventrally, generally same color as body wall near base, lightening distally. Eighteen tentacles (10 on outer circle, 8 on inner circle) in UF 4770, ~17 tentacles in holotype based on live pictures (introvert retracted and not dissected). Cloacal membrane white; surrounded by 5 calcified anal teeth.

Taxonomy helps to understand the evolutionary history of species by giving a rough idea of the position of species on the tree of life. Where scientists first mainly used morphological characteristics to characterise species, now DNA techniques play an important role to infer which species are related to one another. This study is a prime example of that as before this study all Phyrella were thought to have 20 tentacles, but a painstaking counting of the tentacles of many specimens revealed that this number is highly variable, even within a species.

close-up of sea cucumber

The head of Phyrella-mookiei showing the oral region.

I love it when researchers add a bit of humour to the often serious science and a sea cucumber named after a pet dog is a great example of that!

You can download the full article here and read more about the discovery by Francois’ and his team here.

References

Michonneau F, & Paulay G (2014). Revision of the genus Phyrella (Holothuroidea: Dendrochirotida) with the description of a new species from Guam. Zootaxa, 3760, 101-40 PMID: 24870076

Amazing tree root pattern on city street

By on July 10th 2014 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. Photo Horst Kiechle

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

View 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

second-roots-close-up

Beautiful patterns evolving between the pavement stones

Beautiful patterns evolving between the pavement stones. Photo Horst Kiechle

In between concrete and electricity lines, on one of the Bangkok’s largest roads, this amazing tree has managed to survive and develop quite a special looking set of roots.

As most city trees, it has to compete for space with the concrete jungle that we humans create around us. For this particular tree, this competition has resulted in some beautiful root patterns over the years, with individual roots zigzagging in-between the circular pavement stones.

For most tree species, more than a third of a tree can be found beneath the ground. Although hidden, the roots are vitally important for gathering water and nutrients as well as providing support.

I hope that by seeing photos of this amazing tree one will not only appreciate the beauty and adaptability of nature, but also makes one aware of the space that is needed for trees to thrive.

Thriving population of fish found in abandoned Bangkok Mall

By on July 5th 2014 in Animals
What an amazing scene, fish roaming in flooded basement. Photo Jesse Rockwell

What an amazing scene, fish roaming in flooded basement. Photo Jesse Rockwell

Somewhere hidden behind the narrow streets of old town Bangkok, in an old half-demolished shopping mall, thousands of tilapia fish roam freely in its flooded basement between desolated escalators and fragile concrete pillars.

The hidden entrance to the abandoned mall. Photo by Jesse Rockwell

The hidden entrance to the abandoned mall. Photo by Jesse Rockwell

The flooded basement with thousands of large tilapia. Photo by Jesse Rockwell

The flooded basement with thousands of large tilapia. Photo by Jesse Rockwell

View of the flooded basement. Photo by Jesse Rockwell

View of the flooded basement. Photo by Jesse Rockwell

Only a few blocks away from the famous Khao San Road, this amazing scene was discovered by Jesse Rockwell. He explains that in the late 90’s the four-storey shopping mall was set to fire, suspected to be arson by a competitor in the area, and has remained abandoned ever since. Not having a roof, the basement floor quickly flooded with rainwater and remains under several feet of water all year round. Here is a map to find this amazing place.

fish-basement-abandoned-mall

Apparently at some point in the early 2000’s, the large ‘reservoir’ of non-moving water attracted thousands of mosquitoes, annoying vendors in the streets around the abandoned building. To help the problem of the mosquitos, some vendors released a small group of fish in the flooded basement that quickly began to thrive, turning the mall into a secret urban aquarium.

Close-up of the large fish, probably tilapia. Photo Jesse Rockwell

Close-up of the large fish, probably tilapia. Photo Jesse Rockwell

Although I suspect the fish are sold to the many food stalls near the abandoned building, providing the neighbourhood with daily fresh fish, hopefully due to the high risks of collapsing the building and fish can be left alone..

Beautiful street art playing with nature

By on January 4th 2014 in Artistic Nature

I love it when artists play with nature in their work. In particular I have a thing for that kind of art that puts nature into a different perspective and makes you look at it in another way. A selection of artists have done exactly this and transformed street scenes including ordinary bushes, trees and weeds into beautiful pieces of art. Enjoy the selection below of some of the most creative and inspiring “natural street art” as I like to call it!

Magnificent mural of a girl watering a tree, by Natalii Rak. In Białystok, Poland

Magnificent mural of a girl watering a tree, by Natalii Rak. In Białystok, Poland

street-art-nature-hair-foliage

Street art by Ernest Zacharevic. In Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.

Street art by Ernest Zacharevic. In Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.

Street art "Better out than in", by Banksy.

Street art “Better out than in”, by Banksy.

Jimmi. Street art by Zoltron

Jimmi. Street art by Zoltron

Bush. Street art installation by Banksy in Canonbury, London

Bush. Street art installation by Banksy in Canonbury, London

Calvin and Hobbes, street art by Oak Oak.

Calvin and Hobbes, street art by Oak Oak.

Street art by Nuxuno Xän. In Fort De France, Martinique.

Street art by Nuxuno Xän. In Fort De France, Martinique.

Street art hot air balloon, by OakOak.

Street art hot air balloon, by OakOak.

Street art by By OakOak, somewhere in France.

Street art by By OakOak, somewhere in France.

Resistance. At Avenue Van Horne, Avenue Van Horne, Montreal, Canada.

Resistance. At Avenue Van Horne, Avenue Van Horne, Montreal, Canada.

Street art by Wild Drawing in Athens, Greece.

Street art by Wild Drawing in Athens, Greece.

street-art-nature-pink-girl

street-art-tree-hair

Eyes in tree. Street art by Filthy Luker, Bristol.

Eyes in tree. Street art by Filthy Luker, Bristol.

street-art-jimmi-hendrix

street-art-nature-girl-ivy-hair

street-art-nature-bushy-hair

I have tried to acknowledge the original artists and location of the street art. If you do have more information or even other cool street art that involves nature in a creative way, please do let me know. Thanks!

Abandoned ship becomes beautiful floating forest

By on January 2nd 2014 in Nature
SS airfield during sunset

Beautiful atmospheric shot of this wonderful place. By mezuni.

I love it to see when nature takes over man-made things and that, within a couple years, may be overtaken by mosses and plants to become little animal retreats. At first, left-behind objects or old buildings may be too bare for most flora and fauna to live. But over time, through a combination of the elements and pioneering species like lichen and fungi, soil may start to accumulate and the habitat may start to become more hospitable (known as primary succession), enabling larger plants like grasses and ferns and eventually trees to appear, making the environment more and more attractive to a variety of species.

SS ayrfield floating forest

A beautiful example of this process is what happened with the SS Ayrfield, an old shipwreck lying in Sydney’s Homebush Bay. This ship used to transport supplies to American troops stationed in the Pacific region during WWII and later served as a coal carrier but was retired in 1973 and sent to the ship-breaking yard in the bay. All usable parts of the ship were taken off and the hull was left to rot in the bay…

Although the SS Ayrfield would have been just a slowly disintegrating piece of metal, nature had other plans. Within 40 years the ship has become like a “floating forest” and lush mangrove vegetation now covers its rusty hull. But despite this story showing the amazing flexibility of nature and highlighting the beauty of nature taking over parts of our man-made world, it is of course also in parts a sad story.

SS airfield by nightfall

Photo by Bruce Hood

Originally, the bay home to the wreck of the SS Ayrfield was dominated by industry which developed as a dumping ground for almost anything, badly contaminating the land with heavy metals poisons.. The metals of this ship and others in the bay are continuing to contaminate the waters around, affecting marine and other wildlife in the area.

Photo by Catherine"

Photo by Catherine”

Much has been done, much will continue to be done in the future, but the prospects for a pristine environment in the foreseeable future are still dreary. Nevertheless, hopefully this beautiful picture of an old steel ship covered with a little nature haven will fascinate many of you and thereby increase awareness for such contaminated areas around the world.