This morning I found a fascinating list of longest-lived organisms. Here’s a sampling, young to old.
The longest living bird on earth is Wisdom, a female Laysan albatross who was banded as an adult at Midway Atoll in 1956. Since her species cannot breed until it’s five years old and usually delays breeding until age seven or eight, Wisdom was at least 68 years old last November (maybe >70) when she returned to Midway to lay her annual egg, shown above. Like all of her species she spends most of her life at sea.
The longest-lived terrestrial animal is the Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea) of the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles. An individual named Adwaita lived to be 225 years old at the Kolkatta (Calcutta) Zoo. Unfortunately this species is vulnerable to extinction. It is sadly ironic that they outlive us but may not outlast us as a species.
The world’s oldest living clonal organism is a stand of quaking aspens (Populus tremuloides), nicknamed Pando, that covers 106 acres near Fish Lake, Utah. The stand is a single “tree” whose trunks are shoots from a single clonal root. Pando is thought to be 80,000 years old but that’s the conservative estimate. It may be as much as 1 million years old.
And finally, for a really long life you can’t beat immortality. Hydras do not undergo aging so they’re considered biologically immortal. They can live forever, theoretically.
My husband’s grandmother once said, “There’s such a thing as living too long.”
In the spring of 2015, Nature On The Go of Green Oak Twp, Michigan found a baby starling fallen from his nest. Since European starlings are invasive, no rehabber would raise the bird for release into the wild, so Nature On The Go decided to raise the starling as an educational ambassador.
It’s tree-planting season and a good time to remember that trees can be damaged by our good intentions. In the old days we staked every newly planted tree but we’ve since learned that for most tree plantings, stakes are a bad idea.
Tree trunks become strong from the ground up by swaying in the wind. When a tree is staked, it “thinks” it already has strong roots where it’s staked so it puts effort into growing tall instead of establishing roots. The trunk becomes strong above the yoke and remains weak below it. In addition the yoke may damage the trunk, further weakening the tree as shown above.
If your new tree has a big root ball it probably doesn’t need to be staked, though there are exceptions quoted here from the Davey Tree blog. You should use stakes on …
Bare-root trees or trees with a small root ball.
Trees planted in areas with lots of foot traffic, like a sidewalk or street.
New trees that can’t stand on their own or those that begin to lean.
Eucalyptus trees, mesquite hybrid trees, oleander trees and acacia trees.
Tall, top-heavy trees with no lower branches.
Young trees if you live in a very windy area or if the soil is too wet or loose.”
If you use stakes make sure to remove them at the next growing season. If you don’t, the tree will grow around them like this one did at Schenley Park. See more photos at How Stakes Hurt Trees.
Comb-footed spiders (Anelosimus studiosus) have a lot of personality. These social cobweb spiders live in colonies of 40-100 individuals, build their webs around branches, and hunt cooperatively to capture large prey.
The spiders exhibit either aggressive or docile personalities. If you know what to look for you can tell the difference. In the evening aggressive A.studiosus attack each other and then retire to opposite corners of the web; docile spiders rest side by side. Aggressive spiders come out to attack when their web is disturbed, the docile ones stay inside.
What happens to these spiders when they’re hit by a tropical storm or hurricane? Is there a difference in which spiders survive?
A 2018 study led by Jonathan Pruitt of U.C. Santa Barbara tracked 240 Anelosimus studiosus colonies in seven states including Florida, Alabama and the Carolinas. For baseline data they recorded the locations and personalities of the spider colonies. Later they searched for spider webs after a tropical storm or hurricane had passed.
You might think it’s futile to look for cobwebs after hurricanes, but individual spiders do survive, stay on their home territory, and rebuild. While humans are picking up the pieces, the spiders are too.
The study found that the storms always wiped out the docile spiders but the aggressive ones survived.
The relentless pressure of weather and nature is changing the spider population. Among comb-footed spiders, only the strong personalities survive.
It’s October but you wouldn’t know it by stepping outdoors. We’re still running the air conditioner and wearing summer clothes. Today’s low temperature of 68oF is the normal high for October 1 in Pittsburgh. Our 90oF high will be 22 degrees above normal. It feels like August.
It didn’t used to be this way. Do you remember when you used to turn on the heat in September or suffer because you delayed to save money? Ten years ago our furnace broke and we were cold! I wrote this on 1 October 2009:
The weather has been getting colder every day for a week. This morning it was in the upper 30s at dawn. By now most of you have turned on your heat, but not us. We’re toughing it out until we get a new furnace. The old one won’t turn on and rather than pay to fix it I thought we could cope without it until the furnace man comes with a new one on Friday.
Northern snakeheads (Channa argus) are predatory fish native to China, Russia and the Koreas. They prefer shallow stagnant freshwater and can survive in low oxygen locations because they can breathe the air. In fact they can live out of water for days where it’s moist and cool and are known to wriggle overland from pond to pond, earning them the nickname “walking fish.”
This top-level predator eats crustaceans, amphibians and other fish and can double its population in only 15 months. If you find one, watch out! They look like this.
All Snakeheads are distinguished by their torpedo shaped body, long dorsal and anal fins without spines, and toothed jaws. Northern Snakeheads are typically distinguished by a flattened, pointy head with long lower jaws.
They have teeth …
… and they can get really big! According to Wikipedia, a record 19.9 pound northern snakehead was caught — actually shot at night with a bow and arrow — at Mattawoman Creek in Charles County, Maryland in May 2018.
How did they get here? People release them. They’ve been kept in aquariums or raised on fish farms in the past, but it’s illegal to keep a live one now in North America. Not everyone knows this.
The first encounter with northern snakeheads in the U.S. did not go well. A breeding population was found in a pond in Crofton, Maryland in 2002. Officials were so worried about this species that they drained the pond and poisoned three adjacent ponds to kill every fish. A man later admitted to releasing an adult pair in the original pond, but the fish was out of the bag. It already had spread in the watershed.
Since then northern snakeheads have been found in Virginia, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California, North Carolina, Arkansas, and B.C, Canada. New isolated discoveries always begin with someone releasing a fish. If the fish become established they spread throughout the watershed. When deemed appropriate, wildlife officials may poison newly infested ponds and kill all fish.
Fortunately Lance Mroz knew what to do. He identified the fish, killed it, froze it and reported it to the PA Fish and Boat Commission. If you ever catch one,
This morning 12 of us gathered at the Bartlett Shelter to kick off a bird walk in Schenley Park. The weather was very gray and cloudy, almost foggy, and we worked hard for every bird for more an hour and a half.
Then the sun came out at 10am and so did the birds. Our best sightings were in the last 15 minutes. We ran overtime to see them!