There Be Dragons!

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Australian Water Dragons (Intellagama lasueurii) lounge and bask around pond edges at the University of Queensland, where I saw this handsome fellow. The colorful markings under his chin advertise his masculinity to the local lizard ladies… and to rival males too.

Researchers painted a model Water Dragon (actually a plastic iguana with a few glued-on additions) with either brown markings or red markings. (1) The toy was then introduced among resident Water Dragons to record their response to the intruder. When the toy had brown markings, the real Dragons attacked faster and more often.

Those fancy red and yellow stripes attract mates, but also deter rivals.

  1. Baird, TA, TD Baird, and R Shine. 2013. Showing Red: Male Coloration Signals Sam-Sex Rivals in an Australian Water Dragon. Herpetologica 69(4) 436-444

Parasitic “Bait”

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These pulsating, engorged snail tentacles are actually a parasite’s way of moving to its next host. Birds see these juicy caterpillar-like structures and gulp them down.

Inktober Day 3┬áprompt: “Bait”

The Sedum, the Finch, and the Corpse Flower

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For over a year, my drawing has been sidelined by a misbehaving carpel tunnel. But I’m picking up a pen again for a fun little project (on a deadline set by a plant).

Lupin, the corpse flower at NC State, is growing another flower set to bloom about a week from now. The amazing greenhouse staff is preparing to host thousands of visitors who want to experience the olfactory disgust. I’m helping with outreach – stickers and coloring pages for younger visitors, and a map of the greenhouses to show off all the other non-corpse plants.

I’ve just finished this first small section of the map, the Sedum bed, and I am LOVING this. Since my hand needs a break, I thought I’d share the (very slow and laborious) process.

Sedum, or stonecrops, are succulants with thick, water-storing leaves. The ones in my yard are easily identified by adorable beak-bites taken out of them. Entire families of house finches settle onto the Sedum and clip mouthfuls of leaf, presumably for the water. I tried to research this behavior in the scientific literature to no avail. I found one lonely reference to an Oriole Finch in Tanzania eating Sedum leaves. That’s it. The behavior must be common since online message boards are full of complaints and advice on keeping the birds away from beloved Sedum in yards.

Seems like a great citizen-science opportunity to me!