Archive for September, 2010

Satellite image of the Strait of Gibraltar

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

File:Strait of gibraltar.jpg

Satellite image of the Strait of Gibraltar from NASA found on Wikipedia.

Algeciras Harbor is the prominent notch cut out of the eastern end of the north shore of the Strait; the Rock of Gibraltar is the tiny arrowhead that separates the notch from the Alboran Sea. The Sierra Nevada, farther away down the Spanish coast, lives up to its name in this April scene. The difference in elevation between the Sierra Morena and the Guadalquivir River valley is highlighted nicely by cumulus clouds. Tangier, Morocco can be seen as a light-toned spot on the southern shore of the Strait, near the entrance to the Atlantic Ocean.

Fabulous fly rediscovered in Spain

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Entomologists across Europe are extremely excited by the rediscovery after 160 years of the ‘mythical’ Thyreophora cynophila at two sites near Madrid and in La Rioja. Thought to be the first fly driven to extinction by humans, it was considered one of Europe’s few endemic animals to have disappeared for good. According to Dr Daniel Martín-Vega in interview with the BBC, T. cynophila has acquired almost mythical status among the entomological community due to several reasons.

It lived on the carcasses of dead animals that are in the advanced stages of decay, whereas most carrion flies prefer less rotten flesh.

The fly was also said to have had an orange head that would glow in the dark, with some 19th Century scientists writing about how it could be found at night due to its luminous shine.

And 50 years after being described, the fly suddenly disappeared, supposedly for good, with the last sighting in 1849.

I found its possible ecological relationship with wolves fascinating:

Many aspects of its biology remained unknown, but the fly’s niche lifestyle was thought to have contributed to its extinction, as some experts speculated that it had a preference for crushed bones, in which it would lay eggs that turned into maggots.

Changes in livestock management in central Europe, improved carrion disposal following the Industrial Revolution, as well as the eradication of wolves and other big bone-crushing carnivores could have helped eliminate the fly.

‘Mythical’ extinct fly rediscovered after 160 years (BBC)

Cuenca dinosaur linked to birds

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

The most complete fossil of a dinosaur is Spain has been found in Las Hoyas dig in Cuenca. Concavenator corcovatus is a previously unknown species of carnivore that lived in the Lower Cretaceous some 130m years ago. El País

The beast sports a hump-like structure on its back hence its nickname “the humpback dinosaur”, and a series of small knobs on the forearm which appear to be a link to birds:

The bumps could be analagous to the parts of modern birds’ skeletons that anchor the flight feathers. Since the knobs are unlikely to be representative of feathers on Concavenator, the researchers propose instead that they are “non-scale skin appendages”, such as tubular filaments, present in modern-day poultry. The Guardian

Osprey recolonising Andalucia

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Two pairs of ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) have reproduced in Andalucía (Cádiz and Huelva) for the second year running, thus confirming the recolonization of the species, some fifty years after disappearing from the Peninsula as a nesting bird (and eighty from Spain). It is claimed that the osprey is the first vertebrate top achieve this in centuries but it should be said that they have been helped by a reintroduction scheme involving the release of more than 100 chicks in the last seven years, until finally a released bird joined up with wild bird. The second pair is formed by two wild ospreys of unknown origin. Between the two pairs, four chicks have been raised this year (five were fledged last year) so a round of applause to them and the people involved in the project. Crónica Verde

Cory’s Shearwaters barbacued in Lanzarote

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) an endangered seabird, is under threat in Lanzarote, a World Biosphere Reserve, from unscrupulous restaurant-owning rogues selling them as “special chicken”. Thousands of shearwater chicks are being taken in Lanzarote and to a lesser extent Fuerteventura. The chicks are then being sold for as much 100 euros a go to punters wanting to try their “exotic” flesh”. Lanzarote is home to the second largest colony of Cory’s shearwaters in the world, and despite being a natural park, there is a woeful lack of suverlance, allowing the bird thieves to take their fill. Crónica Verde

Oldest Spanish mammoth remains found

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
Recreación artística de la fauna glaciar prehistórica que habitaba nuestra península. | P.Novák

The oldest remains of mammoths in the Iberian Peninsula have been found, dating back to 150,000 years ago. The last Spanish mammoths disappeared some 10,000 years go with the waning of the last ice age. Above recreation of prehistoric Iberian glacial fauna by P. Novak. El Mundo