salamanders, Uncategorized

News from The Treetalker

Today, for your holiday reading, four articles about salamanders, all from the New York Times. I found they have a number of articles about these sometimes exotic creatures, going back a few years, although these were all published in 2018.

“A Salamander of Legend Emerges From Southern Swamps,”
by Asher Elbein, Dec. 14, 2018

“It’s eel-shaped and leopard-spotted, and it has no hind-limbs. It grows to two feet long. And yet until recently, hardly anyone had ever seen it.

A team of researchers has discovered of new species of salamander in the pine forests of northern Florida and southern Alabama. The so-called reticulated siren is the largest vertebrate found in the United States in decades, and the first new member of its family since 1944.”

This is a link to the entire, fascinating article.


Photo: David Steen

“Vanishing in the Wild, These Salamanders Found Refuge in a Convent,”
by Geoffrey Giller, July 30, 2018

“The Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Salud, built in the 1500s with whitewashed walls and red stone columns, hosts a thriving colony of endangered salamanders. Scientists call them Ambystoma dumerilii, but the nuns in Pátzcuaro, Mexico call them achoques.

The achoques live their entire lives underwater and keep the external gills that most salamanders have only as aquatic larvae.

Carefully tended by the nuns, about 300 achoques live in glass aquaria and white enamel bathtubs lining the walls of a long hallway and two adjoining rooms in the convent. The nuns support themselves partly by selling a cough syrup called jarabe made from the salamanders’ skin.

They are found nowhere but Lake Pátzcuaro, and outside the convent their numbers are falling fast. This colony may be critical to the salamanders’ prospects in the wild.”

A link to the article is here.


“China’s Giant Salamanders Pose a Conservation Conundrum,”
by Rachel Nuwer, June 4, 2018

“The Chinese giant salamander, the world’s largest amphibian and a critically endangered species, has quietly slipped toward extinction in nature. Following an exhaustive, years long search, researchers recently reported that they were unable to find any wild-born individuals.

Millions of giant salamanders live on farms scattered throughout China, where the animals are bred for their meat. But another study by Dr. Turvey and his colleagues shows that reintroducing farmed animals is not a simple solution for saving the species in the wild.

In the wild, Chinese giant salamanders were not just one species but at least five, and perhaps as many as eight. On farms, they are being muddled into a single hybridized population adapted to no particular environment.

“The farms are driving the extinction of most of the species by homogenizing them,” said Robert Murphy, a co-author and senior curator of herpetology at the Royal Ontario Museum. “We’re losing genetic diversity and adaptations that have been evolving for millions of years.”

Many have been released into the wild, in the hope of maintaining the species, but the genetic mixup has created an issue of “pure” wild species.

Here is a link to the article.


photo credits: Goh Chai Hin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


“The Smiling Axolotl Hides a Secret: A Giant Genome,”
by Nicholas Bakalar, Feb. 1, 2018

“Scientists have decoded the genome of the axolotl, the Mexican amphibian with a Mona Lisa smile. It has 32 billion base pairs, which makes it ten times the size of the human genome, and the largest genome ever sequenced.

The axolotl, endangered in the wild, has been bred in laboratories and studied for more than 150 years. It has the remarkable capacity to regrow amputated limbs complete with bones, muscles and nerves; to heal wounds without producing scar tissue; and even to regenerate damaged internal organs.

This salamander can heal a crushed spinal cord and have it function just like it did before it was damaged. This ability, which exists to such an extent in no other animal, makes its genes of considerable interest.

This is the first salamander genome ever sequenced. The reason it took so long is that it has so many repetitive parts. The study’s author believes that it will open up a wealth of opportunities in studying how organisms regenerate.”

Here is the link.


photo credit: Research Institute of Molecular Pathology

Spotlight on:

Harbor seal    
Although Harbor seals have the greatest geographical range of all seals, encompassing both Pacific and Atlantic Oceans in the Northern Hemisphere, they stay in the coastal areas, rarely going out into the ocean further than ten miles.
They hunt alone, but are sociable when they “haul out” to rest or breed on places that are protected, which can be a beach, a rocky shore, or an iceberg.
Before a seal pup is born, it is covered with a white wooly coat. At birth, it weighs about twenty-five pounds and can swim and dive within four hours. The mother’s milk is 40% fat, so the pup doubles its weight the first month, after which time it is left to learn to hunt and fend for itself.
Seals are distantly related to dogs and bears. They have upper and lower arms and legs that are concealed, and only their hands and feet extend outside the casing of the skin. The hands and feet are known as “flippers,” and are flat and elongated, each having five digits.
They typically dive for about three minutes at a time, but can stay underwater for a half an hour and dive as deep as 600 feet. To do this, they breathe out before diving, using oxygen already in their bodies and slowing their heartbeat from about one hundred beats per minute to ten. In one breath a seal exchanges 90% of the air in its lungs, while we can only change 20%.
Both the United Kingdom and the United States prohibit the killing of seals, although there can be a high mortality rate for pups in some countries, as they can get caught in bottom trawl nets. From Volume 3 of Secret Voices: Crabapple Companions


Secret Voices from the Forest – Volume Three: The East is available on Amazon.

Vol. 3 - The East copy

cutting pollution, Environment, environmental agencies, Green Movement, Renewable Energy, Solar energy, solar power, Uncategorized, water purification, Weather, Wildlife

News from The Treetalker

Large wind and solar farms in the Sahara would increase heat, rain, vegetation

September 6, 2018

Wind and solar farms are known to have local effects on heat, humidity and other factors that may be beneficial — or detrimental — to the regions in which they are situated. A new climate-modeling study finds that a massive wind and solar installation in the Sahara Desert and neighboring Sahel would increase local temperature, precipitation and vegetation. Overall, the researchers report, the effects would likely benefit the region.

read the article here.


Map by Eviatar Bach

GOING THE DISTANCE  Painted ladies travel 12,000 km each year, farther than any known butterfly migration

By Leah Rosenbaum, June 20, 2018

Though found across the world, the orange-and-brown beauties that live in Southern Europe migrate into Africa each fall, crossing the Sahara on their journey; analysis of butterfly wings suggests that the butterflies head back to Europe in the spring. The round-trip is about 2,000 more than successive generations of monarchs are known to travel in a year. Some tenacious individuals even make the return trip in a single lifetime.

Read the article here.


A Leader in the War on Poverty Opens a New Front: Pollution
By Kendra Pierre-Louis, Aug. 24, 2018

The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is resurrecting the Poor People’s Campaign, a movement started by Martin Luther King Jr. He sees the climate and environment as issues on par with poverty and racism.

He and Al Gore are bringing attention to the problem of coal ash, its pollution of local drinking water and the health of citizens and workers in the area.

Read the article here.


Environment, environmental agencies, Nature, photography, tree plantations, trees, trees and fire, Trees in the News

Trees in the News

Retired surgeon, Dr. Salem Saloom, from Evergreen, CO, takes special pride nurturing the Longleaf Pine, a plant species wiped out by intensive commercial logging more than a century ago. His 2,200 acres of pine forest is part of an effort, spearheaded by the federal government, and supplemented by conservationists and private landowners, to restore what was once called “the Piney Woods.”

An announcement – Researchers have found some survivors of fatal Emerald ash borer beetle infestations of our native ash trees, and are asking for the help of private citizens in finding more in areas that have NOT been treated with pesticides. See to describe the whereabouts of ash trees they believe would be candidates.

And a slideshow of some of the most magnificent trees in the world.unnamed-18 unnamed-8

Environment, Nature, trees

The Treetalker returns!

Been away for a month, meeting the trees for my next two books. All done, and now I can stay home for literally years!

In the meantime, the second volume of my nature book series, Secret Voices From the Forest: Thoughts and Dreams of North American Trees is available on my website (go to the “Buy Now” page for details), or on Amazon. Sorry, I seem to be too stupid to create a hyperlink.  Arrg.

cover-SV2To help tempt you to buy a copy, here’s a lovely new 5-star review from Foreword Clarion Reviews:

“This personification of wise trees offers spiritual insight into leading a peaceful, satisfying life. . . . Secret Voices from the Forest strongly evokes magic realism in that it both relates opinions and advice from trees and delivers real information about the ecosystems that surround them. This combination of fact and fantasy results in a refreshing new perspective on the natural world that lingers long past the last page. . . . Plant enthusiasts and lovers of nature will relish in this short but highly re-readable volume. . . . Anyone who picks it up will have a hard time putting it down, if for no other reason than the renewed sense of wonder it infuses into the natural world.”



The Treetalker

New this week:

Salamander’s Hefty Role in the Forest
The top predator in North American forests is the woodland salamander, who lives under a rock, or a log, or any convenient dark and damp forest habitat. Only a few inches long and weighing well under an ounce, they nevertheless eat a huge number of insects termed “shredding invertebrates,” who cause leaf litter to release carbon and methane into the atmosphere more than if it were simply left on the ground to decay and be covered up by further dropping of leaves.


New Insights into the Make-up of Tropical Forests Could Improve Carbon Offsetting Initiatives –
new studies from enhanced satellite imagery shows that not all species of tree store carbon in the same way. This is a key factor in carbon offset schemes, in which trees are given a cash value according to their carbon content, and credits can be traded in exchange for preserving trees. For further information on these stories and more, go to my site.

Environment, environmental agencies

The Treetalker

Special post – this is not my usual posting of news. I got an email from PBS about shows they’ve just made available on Roku (which I have), and I thought this would be interesting/uplifting. Haven’t watched it yet, but probably will tonight.


This Earth Day, I want to bring your attention to a couple of organizations that work tirelessly on behalf of our environment:

EcoKids, Canada’s leading environmental education program for children, providing activities and resources for both K-8 students and teachers, and

the NRDC, who work tirelessly to fight against the relentless assault of the environment by big business. They enlist anyone who’s interested to send petitions, emails and phone calls, and help financially. AKA Biogems.



The Treetalker


New on The Treetalker

A little controversy, I think – 2 opposing articles on Genetically engineered trees. The first, from the Sierra Club. There were lots of others available, but they are well-spoken in their arguments; the second, reporting on the work being done to break down lingin (look it up) by researchers at the University of British Columbia and the U of Wisconsin-Madison. The scientists may be well-meaning, hoping their work will result in less pollution, but if they can manage to achieve their goals, then the paper/lumber industry will be replacing all the natural forests as fast as they can go with GMO trees, telling us it won’t make any difference. I can’t say I wish the researchers luck, but I think the outcome (on all levels) is inevitable, because big business, and rich people making more money for themselves, runs the world.


My blog gives another article from the Sierra Club about the Privatization of Genetic Wealth.

It may be past 1984, but it’s still a Brave New World, folks, and it ain’t goin’ away.



The Treetalker – news from the trees

This week’s stories:  LEARNING TO SPEAK SHRUB – scientists are starting to wise up!!



and:  URBAN FOREST MASTER PLANS TAKE CENTER STAGE – Long-term planning for a city’s trees is a growing practice.

Sparkleberry asks for us to behave in the forest!!

The Sandhill Cranes flew over my house today – yay!


The Treetalker

News this week:  HOW TO BRING TREES TO LIFE ON FILM.  Luc Jacquet, the director of Oscar-winning documentary March of the Penguins has taken on the challenge of bringing a forest to life on film in his latest documentary, Once Upon a Forest. Video at BBC.

and:  TREES TRAP ANTS INTO SWEET SERVITUDE.  In Central America, ants act as bodyguards for acacia trees, which add an enzyme to their sap that addicts the ants to theirs and no other.Image

Hello from Sarvis Holly!