biologe

Blog and online journal with editorial content about science, art and nature.

Tag: macro

The details about snow

Misty

In former times, when people lived in a mystic world, where elves, dwarfs, leprechauns and talking wolves did their dreadful state of affairs in the midst of dark and impenetrable huge forests, people thought that even the old trees in the woods had their own thoughts.

Park Rehberge in Berlin

Uncontrollable, sounds, the snorting of the deer, a mysterious hidden, permanently changing shades in a cold and misty twilight.

Biology

A forest is only then a forest, when a high concentration of trees is given. Woods bear a great number of species, produce a majority of oxygen in our world; they are huge reservoirs of water and stabilize the ground with their tangles of roots.

Snow

Snow consists of ice crystals. Their formation within clouds depends on the presence of ice nucleating particles and temperatures lower – 12°C.

Crystals possess a hexagonal symmetry, being prism-shaped at lower temperatures and dendrite-shaped at higher temperatures.

Temperate deciduous forests hibernate without functional leaves. Most trees throw off all leaves already in autumn to be protected from desiccation in winter frost periods.

Layers of snow are excellent thermal conductors and additionally protect all life underneath from frost damages in the cold season.

Waiting for the spring time

Most life forms hibernate together with their leafless trees. Especially accumulations of deadwood contain remarkable numbers of species, such as insects, spiders, mites or nematodes. Some already begin under their snow cover to prepare themselves for the warmer season.

When all snow is gone, winter colors in red, yellow, brown and some green reappear. Early blossoming plants are already germinating.

Berlin: Arthropod diversity in 2020 (Corona year)

I documented my nature excursions in 2020 via photography and videography with a special focus to animal macros (outside in the field) and to drone flights. There is also an underwater scenery existing. Most footage was recorded in the area between villages Lübars and Rosenthal in Northern Berlin, close to the nature refuge „Tegeler Fliess“.

The area is characterized by fields, meadows and forest parts and lays along the former GDR wall, today being a hiking and biking trail. Due to a connected mosaic of different ecological habitats, a remarkable biodiversity can there be found, even despite of the worldwide species‘ extinction based on a mostly human made global warming.

My videographic review of the second part of the Corona-year 2020, focussed on arthropod life on meadows in Northern Berlin, all copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

Some few sequences were recorded in other parts of the green city Berlin, namely in the park of the Charlottenburg Palace (beginning sequences of the video) and in urban park Rehberge und Plötzensee (the leaf beetle Galeruca tanaceti in Plötzensee and the scarabaeid beetle – systematically related to genus Cremastocheilus- in Rehberge). Crematocheilus (Cetoniinae) is a genus of myrmecophilous beetles. My individuals were not yet determined, Their existence in Berlin might be even of scientific interest. As putative phoretic vector (to carry mites for their dispersal), they are at least of interest for me, although the studied three beetle individuals did not carry mites at all. The beetles were all found in front of an ant nest intrance (Lasius niger) along the roots of an oak tree in park Rehberge.

As my scientific/ photographic/ videographic excursions happened in exactly that year, 2020, in which the normal human life came worldwide totally out of order based on the covid-19 pandemic, I decided to add this topic to the concept of my video. The video presents nature footage from my visit in the correct seasonal order, beginning with May and June, followed by July, then September/October. In front of each of those months-blocks, I added at that time some important recent news headlines about the corona-pandemic. I named these written parts „corona calendar“. The few December sequences are only dedicated to human street life, showing Berlin in the total lockdown phase, being filmed in black and white (with red recognition).

Berlin, 2 January 2021, all copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

Copulation details of snail Cornu aspersum (4K)

I collected two specimens of the land snail Cornu aspersum from an old olive grove in the city Sorrento (Gulf of Naples, Italy) in April 2019. The land molluscs could be found in that spring season in and under flat stones and smaller rocks. They shared this habitat with bgger diplopodes of genus Julidae and the harvestman Trogulus tingiformis.

The snails are until today successfully kept in a terrarium with sufficient moisture and regular food consisting of vegetable pieces. They share the terrarium with some specimens of diplopods from the original location in Italy.

Cornu aspersum mating, film made in Berlin, all copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

The snails go in a strict diapause several times a year for weeks or months, when temperatures in Berlin grow over 20°C . After getting active again on a colder period, they often quite immediately begin to mate. My video only focuses on details of such mating procedures, especially the spermatheca transfer. I decided to cut as less as possible and to present longer sequences of copulation activities, as they have due to slow slime exchange movements and rhythmical motions a special aesthetics. I additionally intended to show that scientific behavioral studies generally require patience and time as well as interest and fascination for aspects of life.

Cornu aspersum mates reciprocally, which means that both partners transfer a sperm package and produce ovules. The mating of my footage was successful (not visible in my video), and about 20-30 young snails hatched after about 2.5 weeks after egg deposition.

Aspects of mating and copulation in Cornu aspersum are quite well scientifically studied. For example: the variation in spermathecal morphology does not depend on the sperm competition intensity in populations (E. Koemtzopoulos & A. Staikou (Zoology 110 (2), 139-146, 2007); aspects of courtship and copulation were studied by S. A. Adamo and R. Chase (Canadian Journal of Zoology 66(6): 1446-1453, 2011). According to the latter authors the typical mating behavior has a duration of about 421.8 minutes and consists of three major parts: introductory behavior, dart shooting and copulation. My video concentrates only on part 3.

Berlin August 2019 – 10 June 2020, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

Macro Life in urban Parks of Berlin

Berlin is a green city. Each district has several urban parks of different sizes. Besides Tiergarten and Tempelhofer Feld in the center and South of Berlin, the northern district Wedding has an unusually large park area, the „Rehberge“ (originally connected with Schillerpark and Goethepark), which is based on several sand dunes as relicts of the last glacial period. Before the responsible governmental institutions began in the 1920th to create a large city park with sports and nature sites, the sand hills were connected by extended swamps. Today the park, to which also the location Plötzensee is belonging, consists of a mosaic of different habitat types. A cut meadow area is made for people to rest or to practice sports of all kind. Adjacent lay forest areas with partly conifers mostly, wild growing (dry) meadows, sandy areas and wetlands (around ponds and lake Plötzensee).

my film about arthropod biodiversity in the first half of 2020, all copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

There is quite a remarkable biodiversity inhabiting this urban nature refuge. Besides aquatic organisms and birds, arthropods, gastropods, lichens, mosses and different taxa of flowering plants inhabit the „Rehberge“. I did not try for this video project to seek for very rare species. Instead I just intended to record some (more or less) common macro life examples. Main purpose was a camera move through the park focused on the unusual perspective to the tiny life forms. Species names are visible underneath in the corresponding video parts.

Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, Berlin, Rehberge/ Plötzensee, May 2020

Linyphiid spider visits much bigger snail and bites into mucus

During a photo shooting with a specimen of the snail Arianta arbustorum in an evening outdoors in urban park Rehberge in Berlin with artificial light from an extra lamp and camera LED light, a tiny spider of Linyphiidae (seemingly Bolyphantes sp., may be still a juvenile) appeared unexpectedly and walked seemingly targeted to the snail’s head, which was partly retracted into its shell, and stayed there for about 3 minutes, biting repeatedly into the snail’s mucus and remained subsequently each time for seconds in that position. In between it skillfully and repeatedly rearranged the positions of its legs, presumably to be not in danger to remain stuck.

While doing so, it sometimes lifted legs, when not needed, in the air, may be to reduce that way the probability to remain stuck. After about 3 minutes the spider left its position around the snail-head mucus and walked partly sidewards to the top of the shell, where it carefully cleaned its legs from remaining mucus. Due to the difficult light conditions and the unexpected spider visit, I was in this short time unable to move the camera closer to the spider (would have been technically possible, when more time and more light). Thus-close-ups with a high magnification in my video were only due to digital magnifications out of the original 4K footage. Only one biting action could be clearly documented as video file. The same short scene is in my video three times repeated to exemplify that behavior.

Spider visiting a snail, in order to incorporate mucus? Berlin May 2020, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

The last repetition is additionally modified into slow motion. There was furthermore no video footage of legs adjusted in the air. Thus the corresponding short scene is one of numerous photos, which I captured before filming. It is unknown to me, what the purpose of the spider’s behavior was. I also did so far not find any scientific publication mentioning tiny spiders visiting much bigger snails on purpose. It looked to me as if the spider would incorporate mucus or moisture or other components excreted by the snail. I do not know, whether such a spider behavior happens regularly or at least occasionally, as I only have this one observation. I would exclude the possibility that the spider was disturbed by my photo activities in its web may be in the adjacent meadow, tried to flee and accidentally landed on the snail and just observed this unusual surrounding with its mouthparts. All looked too much like a targeted behavior with even specific behavioral adaptations. There is generally not much known about spider and snail interactions. The scientists Nyffeler and Symondson (Bern, Switzerland) published in 2001 about malacophagy in the sense of gastropod feeding by spiders (Ecological Entomology 26). But that paper deals about bigger and even big spiders feeding on snails of adequate size, which is unlike the size relations in my observed case.

It is not trivial for a spider to incorporate anything from snail mucus, as this very sticky slime acts besides other functions as defense mechanism for the gastropod. In that context the above mentioned authors cite Tretzel (1961) by mentioning that mucus production of gastropods seems to have no deterring effect on some spiders. The question then is the efficiency of spider enzymes against snail tissue, a topic, about which I did not do more literature research. According to the above mentioned authors, moisture can in malacophagous spiders be an important factor, as gastropod bodies consist to a high percentage of water. They refer to Lain (1982), who published about New Zealand mygalomorph spiders. In the case of my observation it would eventually be of interest, referring to the context above, that also gastropod mucus contains a high water percentage. More observations such as mine would be needed to find out, whether the behavior of the linyphiid spider on a much bigger slug is a specific behavior or not.

Berlin, May-November 2020, urban park Rehberge, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

Drone flights: Worth seeing nature around the fields of Berlin

The metropolis Berlin is the capital of Germany and much more than that. It represents an unusual green city. When using elevated viewpoints to watch the cityshape, then at least in summer visitors of Berlin can receive the impression of being in the midst of a greening huge landscapes with several villages in between.

 

Green areas in Berlin

 

 

Indeed related to other metropolitan cities of the world, Berlin is still partly not very densely populated and covered by remarkable huge natural countryside instead. The area of landing and runway strips of the former airport Tempelhof for example up to date represents the largest coherent green area inside a city worldwide. The so called Tempelhofer Feld was after the termination of the air traffic exposed to renaturation and is currently a very popular recreational park. It’s located in the South of the city.

Also the West and South-West partly represent nature reserve areas and are covered by the big urban forest Grunewald.

 

Meadows and wetlands in the North of Berlin as nature refuges

 

I am since two years discovering the Northern parts of Berlin, which according to my random observations (in comparison with other Berlin areas, such as Tempehofer Feld, Teufelsberg (Grunewald) and some urban parks in the center of the city; examples of species will be visible on my corresponding blog article) bears the greatest biodiversity in bloom visiting insects.

 

 

 

Mosaic of different landscape types close to each other

 

 

 

 

 

This is seemingly due to the complexity of different meadow-, field-, wetland- and bog-habitats, being originally shaped by the Weichselian-glaciers. I regularly visited the stream valley of the so called Tegeler Fließ with the lake Köppchensee. It’s a hilly area with different gradients of sunny slopes with partly Mediterranean climatic conditions, surrounded by different kinds of wetlands. This area is well known for its great biodiversity.

 

Between the villages Rosenthal, Lübars and Blankenfelde

 

But my drone flights present vast tracts in the South of that stream valley, consisting of fields, green meadows and wetlands. It is the area between the Berlin villages Rosenthal, Lübars and Blankenfelde. Inner urban agriculture is rare in metropolian cities worldwide, in Berlin there is only a small agriculture area in the South (Dahlem Dorf) and the fields between the named villages in the North.

 

Drone flights and bloom visiting insects

 

 

Fields and meadows with adjacent forests and wetlands in the North of Berlin, September 2019, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth. Please give my video also your like on Youtube.

 

Most part of the footage in my film represents the fields adjacent to the village Rosenthal. I newly discovered the partly quite tiny meadows between and adjacent to agricultural fields around Rosenthal this summer and discovered an impressive and steadily visible diversity of bloom visiting insects there. Fields as monoculture habitats usually bear a smaller biodiversity related to wild-growing nature zones. But due to the connection of the edges of fields with complex nature refuge zones around, I could observe a quite great number of species on closely adjacent meadows and even the natural border zones of these agricultural areas.

 

Videographic details

 

The footage was captured in 4K and D-cinelike quality using a Mavic 2 Zoom drone between September and October 2019.

 

 

Berlin, September/ October 2019, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

 

Ancient villa of Pollius Felix in Sorrento/ Italy: a nature refuge

Ancient ruins around the Gulf of Naples

 

The area of the Gulf of Naples (Italy) is full of ancient Roman ruins. Besides famous excavation sites such as Pompeii or Herculaneum, also not so famous, but nevertheless very fascinating buildings from around the first century are preserved. An example is the (originally) huge villa of Pollius Felix nearby Sorrento.

 

Pollius Felix and his eccentric extended villa in Sorrento

 

Pollius Felix was a rich man and build several villas around the Gulf of Naples. But the one nearby Sorrento surely was his biggest and most eccentric domicil. He intended to unite the four elements water (sea), air, earth (rocks) and fire (artificial heating system? lava rocks?) in his architecture. Unfortunately only a part of the very extended villa is preserved. But impressively shows, how the Mediterranean Sea was made to a part of a private building. What the natives call „I Bagni della Regina Giovanna“ is a sea water bassin (may be of natural origin) that was connected via stairs and bridges with the ancient super house. A reconstruction of the whole villa by the way can be seen in the second floor of the Georges Vallet Archeological museum.

 

 

 

How to visit the ruins?

 

The ruins are accessible for free, but visitors need to have good walking and climbing conditions. First an about 20 minuts walk downwards to the sea through an old tight walkway is required. To access the major parts of the ruins themselves small pathways through mediterranean seaside vegetation is necessary. The sea water bassin can be reached via stairs. In summer, it is a popular place for (mostly native) swimmers.

 

Landscape and biodiversity

 

The whole area is covered with natural wild vegetation, private and non private gardens and olive groves. A remarkable biodiversity is present, and – depending from the season – alwas shows different faces. In spring, early summer and autumn, everything is greening and blooming, while in the hot summer season drought predominates. The area is a home for interesting Opiliones (harvestmen), Diplopodes, rose chafers, snails or lizards (Podarcis) and snakes (rarely). I visited „Villa Pollio Felice“ (also named Villa Limona) this time in spring/ early summer: April 2019. Unlike in autumn, when I mostl visited the Gulf of Naples in the past, different flowers covered the region. The most abundant species was Allium triquetrum, decorating lush meadows with their almost bell-shaped white blossoms.

 

Villa Pollio Felice/ Berlin April/June 2019 Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

Orange tip butterfly Anthocharis cardamines

Anthocharis cardamines is a butterfly species, belonging to the big taxon Pieridae. Members of this group with about 1100 species worldwide are typically characterized by a more or less white color. There is even evidence that the popular term „butterfly“ refers to a pierid species, namely the brimstone, Gonepteryx rhamni, which British researchers considered as looking like a butter-colored fly.

The video introduces some morphological characters of a male specimen of Anthocharis cardamines. In this gender the most conspicuous character concerns the orange colored tip on the insides of both wings. That color character represents a sexual dimorphism, as female wings are completely white.

The quite common butterfly is distributed in Europe and temparate Asian zones. Interestingly adult A. cardamines strictly prefer specific habitats, which differ in males and females. While males inhabit the edge areas of forests close to adjacent meadows, females prefer the open meadows. Both genders fly only in a bright sunlight and strictly avoid the shadow, even then, when a suitable host plant for the egg deposition grows in a shady environment. Females select their mating partners using pheromones, which either attract or reject a male. Mated females in order of their egg deposition will always reject male approaches.

Other female pheromones are used as markers to characterize a host plant as already containing eggs. This will prevent a new egg deposition by another female specimen, which happens to improve a positive breeding success, as caterpillars show a cannibalistic behavior against other eggs. Host specificy, mating behaviors and reproductiion are result of evolution.

 

Berlin May/November 2018. Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth