Celebrate Biodiversity

This Wednesday, May 22, is the celebration of the International Day for Biodiversity 2024. The day celebrates the 1992 adoption of the text of the Convention on Biological Diversity. More simply, it celebrates biodiversity and raises awareness about the need to protect it.

This year the them is “Be Part of the Plan.” What struck me about this is that it’s something I’ve thought about for a long time. That thinking turned to speaking up (and writing about) the need for everyone to be part of the solution. And it’s translated into action in my own life.

Being part of the solution is really very simple. It means reducing harm and increasing the number of positive steps you take. Sometimes it feels overwhelming, no doubt. Yet if everyone changed one or two or ten habits in their everyday lives, the results would add up. As American anthropologist and author Margaret Mead (1901-1978) once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

So what can you do? Start by making a commitment to change one thing in your everyday life. Set a goal of doing that one thing for a week. Then extend it to a month. In time, it will hopefully become habit. Then try another. Here are a few ideas to start:

  1. Avoid single-use plastic
  2. Reduce your energy consumption
  3. Reduce food waste
  4. Drive less and don’t idle
  5. Buy less (of everything)
  6. Shop in thrift stores
  7. Repurpose items
  8. Upcycle your clothes
  9. Eat less meat
  10. Buy only refurbished electronics

These are just a few of the many steps we can all take. I challenge you to be part of the solution.

Ringed Caecilians

Forget what you learned in elementary school about mammals being the only animals that nurse their young. Science is always evolving!

Ringed caecilians are worm-like amphibians that grow to about 17.5 inches long. And they lay eggs (side note – other caecilians species give birth to live young). When the wriggly baby ringed caecilians hatch, they are born with itty-bitty teeth shaped like spoons. The teeth are not for nursing, but for scaping off their mother’s skin to eat. Delish! Apparently the skin is full of lipids (fatty, waxy, or oily substances) and proteins the young need to grow. Scientists realized, though, that the young only fed this way every few days. So how were they developing so rapidly, increasing their body mass up to 130 percent in just a week?

Ready for this? Young caecilians were observed wriggling around their mother’s posterior end several times a day, near her all-purpose orifice called a vent. Some even stuck their head into the vent. Not only that, but the young caecilians were also observed making squeaking sounds and nipping at their mother near the vent; both stimulated the production of a milk-like fluid. Analysis of the fluid revealed that it contained lipids and carbohydrates, giving the hatchlings much needed energy to grow.

And for the record, ringed caecilians are not the only non-mammal that nurse. Other animals that produce a milk-like substance include some bird, fish, spider, and cockroach species.

Mountain Bluebird

Photo Credit – Nigel

I love spring for a lot of reasons; one of them is the return of many bird species, including mountain bluebirds. The flash of blue on the open grasslands is welcome sight. And while humans, myself included, love the blue color, apparently the female bluebirds aren’t so interested.

For many species, bright colors attract mates and signify strength and health. Yet female mountain bluebirds are more interested in how the males can provide, specifically, can he provide a good home. Male mountain bluebirds must find the ideal nesting site and the females choose their mates based on this. Talk about location, location, location! His looks, and his ability to sing and fly, are unimportant to her.

These birds are nest opportunists. Instead of building their own nest cavities, they take advantage of both abandoned woodpecker cavities or nesting boxes. The savvy male arrives to the breeding grounds to find the best nesting spot before other bird species return and will fight fiercely over these sites. The best sites are those in open grasslands, three feet off the ground. They also look for the entrance to face away from direction from which storms approach.

The actual nest inside the cavity is built by the female. Humorously, the male may pretend to help by mimicking the act of bringing nesting material to the female, yet actually not carrying anything or dropping items along the way. Once the female is incubating eggs and raising the brood, though, the male often feeds her. They eat mostly insects, especially during breeding season, and tend to be partial to caterpillars. In the winter when insects are not readily available, they turn to seeds and small fruits.

If you’re looking for a mountain bluebird, which occurs across the west and up to Alaska, they are found in open habitats such as mountain meadows and locations where the prairie meets the forest. The males of this species are blue almost all over, not to be confused with the eastern or western bluebirds that are partially orange on their chest and under their wings. Happy spring!