Odds and Ends of Nature



While I want the main focus of this blog to be plants, occasionally I get distracted by other kingdoms in the natural world and end up with pictures or information that don’t really have a place. I want to keep a record of these things, but don’t want them to interfere with the botanical intent, so I will put them all on this other page for now.

Parasites, Symbiotics and Colonies

beetle parasite

Animals: Leucochloridium paradoxum is a parasitic flatworm that infects snails, it causes its host’s eyes to pulse in different colours so that they look like caterpillars and then alters the snail’s brain so that it crawls out to where it can be clearly seen, it is then eaten by birds which are the next host for the parasite (video here). Cymothoa exigua is a crustacean parasite of fish that attaches to a fish’s tongue and sucks all the blood out so that the tongue dies and falls off. The Cymothoa then takes the place of the tongue, attaching to the stump, and is used by the fish as a tongue for the rest of its life. (a cartoon and a video about this)

Fungus: A parasitic fungi is Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, it grows inside insects, altering their behaviour and then slowing killing them as its fruiting body grows out of their exoskeletons.

Plant and Animal Symbiosis

Potato Fern

Potato Fern

Solanopteris brunei is the potato fern from Central and South America, it is an epiphyte, growing in the branches of trees in the tropics. Ants colonize the ferns, living inside the potato like tubers and providing protection for the ferns in return.

Protist Colonies:

Slime molds are bizarre, slimy collections of amoeba that have spores and fruiting bodies like fungi. They can move, but at a rate of about 1mm an hour, as they move they leave a trail of chemicals that summon other similar slime molds, for some species this congregation leads to a single organism being formed, others remain apart and form a swarm. They are decomposers, like fungi, and they come in a wide variety of colours such as pink, yellow, blue or orange; they sometimes look a little like sick. Mostly they are small, but a few can reach up to several metres square. John Bonner’s short but excellent video of this here, contains this quote from him “Slime molds are no more than a bag of amoeba in a thin slime sheath”. A site with lots of stunning slime mold photos here.

Volvox are a genus of single celled, green algae that live in fresh water, they do not live alone, but instead form a spherical hollow ball made of hundreds or thousands of individual cells. Although each of the cells is an individual organism, the cells at the top of the ball have better developed eyespots that can detect light, each cell has a flagellum tail and these beat in time to move the colony. However, although cells differentiate according to their position, they can not form tissues as a true multicellular organism would. If cut in half the colony could continue to survive in the two halves, in the same way worms are rumoured to but don’t, this is another sign that Volvox colonies are made up of individual organisms rather than one multicelled one.  Daughter cells are formed inside the ball and form new colonies that can be seen from outside swimming around, sometimes microscopic animals also get inside and feed on the cells. This video shows the colonies swimming around, the daughter colonies can be seen inside.

Volvox 2