SciBlogs

Archive May 2010

Monday Morning Macro- Orbweb spider Brendan Moyle May 17

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Orbweb-spiders are one of the most commonly encountered spiders. While there webs are often visible during the day, and occasionally the occupant can be seen resting in it, orbwebs spiders are actually more active at night. This is when webs are repaired or rebuilt.

The Australasian Eriophora pustolosa is often found in forest margins and gardens. The most distinctive feature are the five ‘bump’ on the abdomen – 2 laterally and 3 at the posterior. The species exhibits a wide variation in colouring and size.

What appeals to me most about these spiders, is the textures of their bodies. There is a mix of bristles and spines, smooth surfaces, and bumps and pits.

These are photos I took this weekend of a large female. I’m using a macro twin-flash for light. I’ve also positioned a white card behind the spider, which is reflecting some light back on the subject.


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With this shot you may be able to see the lateral eyes on the edge of the carapace close to you, and the middle eyes nearer the centre of the carapace


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This gives a better view of the mouthparts, and centrally mounted eyes. The orbwebs are an 8-eyed family


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This gives a nicer view of the texturing on the abdomen

Woman smuggles tiger penis into NZ Brendan Moyle May 14

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Naturally I was very interested to yesterday afternoon’s story about the tiger-penis smuggler. The women was caught by a customs dog, is said to be from Cambodia, and had a penis & gall-bladder conclaed on her body.
Link to NZ Herald Story

It’s actually very unusual to have tiger penises intercepted. In much of India, the intercepts are of claws and skins. And in China, the big risks mean only the big price parts get smuggled. So there, it’s all about the skins and bones. In my Chinese arrest-data set, only 1 instance of 22 intercepts included a penis. And investigations within China itself of aphrodisiacs, has seen a large shift away from animal parts to (probably fake) cialis, viagra and sex-toys. This market has moved on from the riskier animal parts- perhaps a handful of dried seal penises will sit on a shelf next to rows of other products.

In local markets there is more circulation of lesser parts- claws, teeth, sometimes meat.

I hope in this instance, the NZ authorities will DNA type the penis, both to check to see if it is an Indo-Chinese tiger or actually a chepaer substitute (like leopard). Given this is a rare intercept, it may yield some new clues as to the structure of the black-marker in Indo-China. It would for instance, be useful to know if the parts came from a wild tiger or an illegally farmed or zoo animal.

A look at some older insect photos Brendan Moyle May 11

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#1 – Male Bush Weta


#2- A better look at the mouthparts


#3- Hover fly


#4 Emergent Cicada


#5 Bronze Beetles

Turning to tiger news for a bit Brendan Moyle May 10

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As little as early as 2007, India was claiming to have nearly 4000 tigers left in its reserves. Skeptics in the conservation community suspected that the numbers were inflated. We had no idea how much but in the next few months, a disturbing picture was emerging. By mid-2007 estimates of the numbers of tigers in India had fallen to 1400.

Counting tigers is an imprecise process, as numbers often have to be extrapolated from indirect signs. Pug marks on tracks are very important, since direct observation is actually very rare. Tigers are rarely seen, and they like it that way.

Sadly, the signs were not good that India had poaching under control.

Now it appears even the 1400 tiger-estimate is optimistic. Numbers of 800 are being suggested now.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/mar/07/india-vanishing-tiger-rajasthan

The guardian link pinpoints one of the major facts about the illegal tiger trade. That is that the actual poaching is dominated by local peoples, often from hunting cultures or communities. These people have hunted tigers, leopards and other wildlife for centuries. The criminal conspiracies that move tiger parts throughout Asia, depend heavily on these local communities to poach the tigers in the first place. The first stage of the supply chain, depends on the complicit involvement of range-state peoples.

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