Hi David,

I am pretty sure (from your photo) that this is tuberous comfrey Symphytum tuberosum, a moderately common semi-shade species to the north of Britain, which fits with your location.

Cheers,

Hi Rachel,

This sounds an awful lot like a female broad-bodied chaser dragonfly; is this: http://flic.kr/p/eQZ4PR what you have seen?

Dave.

(posted in Evolution)

In addition to Sarah's very cogent reasons given above, one also has to consider the time of isolation a lake / pond is 'genetically isolated' for; a lake / pond only 'genetically isolated' for a few decades or so is a great deal less likely, on average, to undergo speciation events than one 'genetically isolated' for many millennia or longer.

If you are particularly interested in speciation in the conditions resembling those you postulate, having a bit of a background read on cichlid fish of Lakes Malawi and Tanganyika inter alia may well be very productive. A start on a search engine of your choice / and or Wikipedia may prove fruitful for moving onto more primary literature, but many areas do have specialist fauna (cf. http://depts.washington.edu/oldenlab/wo … s_2011.pdf etc.)

Hi Brian,

The short answer is: maybe! Tawny mining bees are particularly fresh and lovely when they are young but, like all animals, they are subject to wear and tear. What this means is that their hairs are worn off through use / conditions and that the shiny cuticle (the exoskelton) that underlies the hairs is often exposed, making ID difficult (without looking at other characters (like genitalia etc.)).

On the flip side though, there are a number of solitary bee species (I'm guessing you are UK or NW Europe based), particularly of the genera Andrena and Nomada that may *superficially* resemble the tawny mining bee but not be, if that makes sense!

If you can send us a high resolution photo (or post to Flikr etc.), we may be able to offer a more detailed identification...

And of course, inverts have a whole complexity of behaviours for mate selection, both pre- and post-zygotic.

Dragonflies (Odonata) and grasshoppers / crickets & kin (Orthoptera), as well as many other groups, display female post-mating fertilisation selection through storage of multiple partner sperm (although males try to combat this 'cryptic selection' by a combination of physiological adaptations (such as spermicidal excretions, physichal removal of sperm through specialised sexual appendages, 'chastity plugs' etc.) and behavioural modifications, such as mate guarding).

(posted in Plants & Fungi)

After Cordyceps spp. initiate the reproductive phase of their lifecycle through host manipulation, the host is then killed by the extrusion of the sporocarp (the vast majority of the internal organs have already been consumed by this point, so the extrusion is really the coup de grace of killing the host).

Hi Eric,

I think it unlikely anyone on this site is going to be able to identify a nest from the pictures alone; I'm not aware if we have any Hymenoptera specialists that  can deal with new world wasps...

(posted in Plants & Fungi)

Certainly the radial outgrowths of lignin at the base of trees are termed buttresses, so I would presume that the canopy growths are somewhat similar. Perhaps, taking inspiration form gothic minsters, they are flying butresses? ;>)

Hi Vincent, great question!

If I understand your question correctly and your usage of terminology, you seem to be asking whether torpor is a 'basal' state for the variety of clades that form 'birds' through 'mammals' through 'amphibians' etc.

If we think of torpor as being a 'basal' state shared by all creatures that display torpor / hibernation / aestivation / diapause i.e. all behaviours that act to reduce metabolic 'wastage' in sub-optimal periods for food gathering (= in ethology (animal behaviour studies) these are sub-sets of "optimal for's]aging theory"), then, as far as I am concerned, we go back to the last common ancester for at least the vertebrate / arthropod junction.

Unless there has been recent research on this (I'm prepared to be demonstrated out of date here!), my interpretation of your question would be that these are convergent solutions to specific environmental conditions (your 'physiological adaptation'), rather than inherent traits per se.

For instance, all European Microchiroptera ('standard' bats, not the 'fruit bats') exhibit various degrees of torpor. These are based on clinal variations of, predominantly, ambient temperature (although one has to take into account variations in, for instance, continentality and prevailing weather conditions (e.g. the 'Gulf Stream' = North Atlantic Conveyor, for the western UK). Thus, the further south species are, the less they 'require' torpur, in general, although they will still roost [for instance, the Egyptian fruitbat Rousettus aegyptiacus seems to occupy a situation halfway between the Microchiroptera and the Megachiroptera in terms of foraging, activity times and echolocation]. The Microchiroptera are thus termed as 'heterotherms', as even though they are 'endothermic' whilst active, they are more 'poikilothermic' whilst sedentary.

Comparably, the dwarf lemur (reputedly the lowest basal metabolic rate in mammals) experiences periods of torpor that are exceptional even amongst its kin of lemurs (which display a variety of torpur -based adaptations to the very seasonal effects of Madagascar's ultra-variable climate) but the Lemuriformes are a subset of the Strepsirrhine primates, many of which display torpur within that group but their sister group, the Haplorrhine primates do not, which seems to me, on the surface, that the basal condition is for low metabalism, nocturnalism and periods of torpur, although, this may be correlation for activities, rather than causality [caveat, my taxonomy of this critters may well be out of date, as I stopped looking at primates in the late 1990's].

Equally, butterflies common to wide swathes of Europe display clinalism in terms of their voltanism (how many broods they have per annum) - so they display different strategies depending on climatic conditions which relates to the amount of broods they have.

Viviparity (live birth) in Squamates (lizards & kin) is another clinal variation, at least in the viviparous lizard Zootoca viviparus, which appears to have this state as it is the most northerly dwelling of all European lizards (although behaviour does change to the south where it often lays eggs!)

My apologies, I think I've strayed into mildly abstract examples that require rather more explanation as to how they demonstrate physiological adaptations rather than inherent physiological reactions than I've got time (or really, inclination - sorry!) to go into now.

Long explanation short, my understanding is that torpur is a variety of convergent adaptations to varying conditions that are not clade specific and not therefore monophyletic characteristics; I honestly don't believe that this behaviour is intrinsic to all the animals that demonstrate it. My understanding (and gut feeling!) is that clinal variation (coupled with phenotypic & behavioural plasticity) are more dominant and widespread than are generrally given credit for and thus count against the existnce of some inherent traits, such as torpur levels. However, if other contributors have more recent evidence to the contrary, I'm potentially happy to revise that view...

Hi Egbert,

This is a certainly a Solifugae (variously known as a camel spider / wind spider etc.). The apparent 10 legs are not all true legs, the first pair are the pedipalps, as found in more modified states on 'true' spiders, so this is an an arachnid with 8 pairs of true legs (and a pair of really large pedipalps!).

In terms of identification, I'm afraid that the variety of biologists volunteering on this site are predominantly UK / USA based and we may not be able to identify to species level this South African critter for two very cogent reasons 1) contributors may not be familiar with the South African Solifugae fauna (there are around 1,000 world-wide species) and 2) identification of invertebrates from photos is often rather fraught, as 'tell-tale characteristics' are generally only visible through microscopic examination.

Saying this though, I'm sure one of our biologists will now spell out exactly why this is 'X' species! ;>) Fingers crossed!

Hi Brendan,

This is one of the sure-fire harbingers of spring, a great sight indeed after our awful start to spring! This is the greater bee fly Bombylius major, a true fly that is a bit of a bee mimic. It hovers and uses its extraordinarily straight proboscis to feed on flower nectar. The females also seek out the nests of solitary bees and wasps and 'bomb' the nest with eggs! The larvae quickly hatch and make their own way into the nest, where they feed on stored pollen balls and the bee or wasp grubs themselves!

This species is pretty common around 'edge' habitats (woodland edges, roadside verges, even gardens) in the majority of the south of England. I saw and photographed my first of the season yesterday, so nice to see them out and about. By the way, they are completely and utterly harmless to humans if you were worried about the proboscis.

(posted in Evolution)

Although, we mustn't forget founder populations or population bottlenecks, which can potentially lead to speciation (particularly in island situations), although the experimental evidence for this seems equivocal. There is also an increase in genetic drift, as well as an increase in inbreeding and an overall lowering of genetic variation in founder populations...

Or, do you mean that of all the cells that we have on and in the body, how many are actually 'us' (i.e. somatic cells) and not in some sort of symbiotic relationship with 'us' (bacterial cells)? So, gut 'flora' (microbiota) is a good example of millions of cells that are not 'us' but have a close relationship in helping us digest our food. These are not, as far as I am aware, inherited but must be aquired (initially through mother's milk).

Likewise, the surface of our skin is crawling with thousands of organisms just pottering about making their living off us - we are an 'ecosystem' (or, microbiome) to loads of microscopic critters.

So, there are supposedly around 50 trillion somatic ('us') cells but they are vastly outnumbered by the bacterial cells we carry around (which may account for 1-3% of our body mass!).
http://www.nih.gov/news/health/jun2012/nhgri-13.htm

(posted in Birds)

A cormorant would defintiely be my call!

Unfortunately, yes, these are likely to be midges if the mark left is a red weal (or papule). There are a number of species, some of which will fly and bite even in cold but sunny weather. I was out fencing the other week and got several bites from midges... :-(

(posted in Birds)

Conceivable? Certainly. Probable? No!

However, light pollution or certain agitators may increase the probability that they would fly but as a general rule of thumb, nocturnal activity is unlikely in all diurnal birds.

Totally agree with David; both are going to stand you in good stead for a postgrad.

As an IC (postgrad) alumnus, I'd wholeheartedly recommend time there, with all the facilties IC has to offer, plus all the wider attractions London has too, in terms of extracuricular lectures and general 'culture'.

I say this as a Yorkshire born lad who absolutely hated the concept of moving to 'the South' but to be honest, once there, it was a fantastic time and I met some great people [oh, and I still live in London over a decade later, so it may not be all bad!].

Go where you feel that you will be challenged (maybe the challenge will be by the 'conditions', not the course), perhaps not where you feel 'safest'; controlled strife is often the best way to achieve, in my opinion.

***Caveat*** No responsibility can be claimed for destroyed livelihoods based on advice on this website! ;>)

All the best, wherever you decide is best for you.

(posted in Research and Careers)

It really depends on where you are in the world, what organisation you work for and the level you are at. You can just about survive on the wages offered by most organisations but you will never be rich! However, if money is a big factor in a career for you, I'd look elsewhere than science (and conservation / wildlife biology in particular!).

(posted in Research and Careers)

Hi Bianca,

You'll be absolutely fine with your undergrad degree in the courses you've mentioned. Should you wish to pursue a marine biology career after your undegrad degree, you'll need to look at specialising, perhaps through a Masters or PhD. However, there are very few marine biology jobs out there and the competition is extremely high, so do be aware that you may be channelling all your efforts into a career that just dosn't exist for you.

Start off building a wide variety of skills to a high degree and then look to investigate further career pathways in a few years but you have plenty of time yet.

(posted in Plants & Fungi)

That is a massive subject, far too big to be fully explained here but this seems a fairly basic introduction, which leads on to other videos explaining further aspects: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1SdfGZgSfE

(posted in Plants & Fungi)

Erik,

I have no defintive for this, I'm afraid. Certainly, in my experience, I have seen honey bees using feverfew but this may reflect necessity due to lack of other suitable sources. However, seeing as this was at work in one of my nature reserves, lack of suitable forage seems somewhat unlikely. As we all know though, anecdote provides little more than colour to a story, not evidence.

As far as I am aware though, feverfew is a good nectar source, particularly for butterflies and moths and some flower beetles, in which case, they may not 'need' honey bees (although bumblebees and solitary bees might well love it!). I'll have to have a look for some primary literature but I hope this helps for now...

Hi,

It probably depends on where you are in the world. Jobs in National Parks here in the UK are fairly varied, depending on the level one is at. The 'base' level is as a ranger, undertaking practical habitat management, infrastructure and general ranger duty. There then may be professional surveyors for a variety of taxa and people working on communication with the public. There will then be a site manager, dealing with more strategic issues, such as legislation, agri-environment schemes, staff management etc.

As I say though, this will vary greatly between countries and continents.

(posted in Plants & Fungi)

Chalara fraxinea (the ash tree Fraxinus excelsior fungal infection referred to above) was first identified in Poland in 1992. The major vector for infection has been importation of nursery stock from continental Europe, although there are now a couple of cases from East Anglia in natural forest (rather than propogated specimens), which may suggest natural spore dispersal from Europe.

Chalara is now treated as a quarantine pest and is, effectively, subject to a 'scorched earth' policy i.e. effected trees are subject to either burning or deep burial in situ, including trees / saplings in association but not infected. The import restrictions are obviously important but the major requirement is for rapid identification (difficult during autumn!) and the destruction of all infected stock prior to the major spore dispersal season (from June through September next year).

Next spring is likely to be a watershed moment; we can either contain C.fraxinea (through intensive surveying and rapid containment = infected tree destruction) or, we'll miss the boat and have to spend (or not!) tens of millions on trying to close Pandora's Box (as alluded to by David above). I don't think it is too late at the minute but next spring, my team will certainly be out assessing our tree stock.

What I don't understand in all this though is why we are (were) importing ash trees! They grow at a phenominal rate in undermanaged woodlands (i.e. most of our woodlands), along with sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus, they are the most populous species in self-seeded woodlands. Surely, we could have translocated millions of ash saplings from where we don't want them to whatever industry wanted them? Two birds, one stone (if only there had been the will and communication)...

I think you're going to have to elaborate a bit on this Jonathon, was a teacher of yours telling you that some organs were somehow, 'perfect'? If so, where and when was this and what kind of examples / criteria did they use?

Short answer though, there is no perfect anything; not an organ, not an organism, not a relationship and not a habitat, things do the best they need to do and no more...

As Dan says, it depends on what vegetation you have but as a general rule, aim to remove 1/3rd each year on rotation. If you have common reedmace ('bulrushes'), aim to clear 1/2 per year.

The most important thing is to ensure that your water quality is very high (NO tap water!), that you have a mix of species occupying different zones (submerged, emergent, marginal etc.) and that these are predominantly native species. It sounds as if it is doing well, so I'd suggest 1/3rd removal between November and February, when most critters undergo their winter diapause.

You can find more information at the excellent Pond Conservation http://www.pondconservation.org.uk/ or through ARCTrust http://www.arc-trust.org/advice/FAQs/ponds.php

I very much doubt that they are. I've seen late season large whites and brimstones in the last week.

One of the things about red admirals in the last few years is that they are becoming, in some ways, less migratory. Thus, there are often more in the late season, which then overwinter as adults. As soon as there is sun, they'll often be out (my first of the year was 11th January last year...) looking for late season nectar (ivy is a particular favourite at this time of year).

It is highly likely that the increased temperatures experienced during the PETM led to marked changes in the composition, distribution and phenology of numerous species of flora and fauna, without the mass extinctions (although there may have been local extinctions).

It also seems logical that the reasons that species could buffer such dramatic changes to life history timings, distribution etc. involve the rate of warming (slower than today) and the availability of 'other land'.

What we have today is a very rapid warming event (some species will be winners - generalist mobile, lots of others will be losers (specialists & sedentary)) and the double whammy of constrained land (for terrestrial species). For instance, if you are a 'cold adapted species', the response to rising temperatures are latitudinal (you head towards the poles) or altitudinal (you head up a mountain). Thinking of something like the mountain argus butterfly here in the UK, the warming projections are such that, very shortly, the species will have nowhere to go (our mountains are not high enough to be cold enough and once you reach the north of Scotland, there isn't any more land!).

Moreover, if you are a habitat specialist and you like warm situations (for instance, the silver-spotted skipper butterfly lives on south facing short turf grasslands), climate change might be beneficial. However, the only south facing short turf grassland we have here in England are predominantly in the south east and south coast, where most of the human population is. The remaining grasslands are only those too steep to plough or convert into housing and there is nowhere else for this species to move to, it is stuck in its specialist lifestyle. Happily, the silver spotted skipper has had a rise in population numbers over the last few years, due to targeted conservation management (scrub removal and appropriate grazing) but that is the equivalent of moving from intensive care to a general ward, the over-riding view is that the population for this (and most of our other butterfly species - which can be used as an indicator for the health of the overall environment) is rather bleak.

In short, we are looking at the local and large scale extinction of many species because of our impact on the climate and our demand for land, something far removed from the natural cycles of extinction and climatic change...

Ref: 'The State of the UK's butterflies'. R. Fox et al. British Wildlife vol. 23, #4, 229-239. 2012

David,


Any thoughts on why C-fibres are un- or poorly myelinated? At first glance, it would seem fairly logical that pain reception is something that requires high-speed transmitting?

(posted in Plants & Fungi)

The 'seeds' are a mix of the pappus and the achene. The morphology of the Asteracaea is quite complex, so start off with a simple introduction. Googling 'astaeracaea flower morphology' leads to quite a bit of stuff but have a read of this to start: http://www.backyardnature.net/fl_comps.htm

But we do look very similar to some animals, our closest living relatives. If you look at the feotus of a chimp and a human, they are almost identical. It is only after birth that the superficial differences start...

David,

Far too long and convoluted to go into here but you'd really benefit from reading some of the source material to see what characters each particular team is focussing on with each discovery or re-evaluation.

For H.ergastor vs. H erectus as potential concestor for AMH (Anatomically Modern Humans), all evolutionary biologists (and thus, palaeoanthropologists too) tend to plump for the 'least derived'. i.e. those species that don't seem to have specialised into one 'area'. Some of the cranial features of H.erectus are, to many palaeoanthropologists, too derived to 'revert' back to AMH, whilst H.ergastor (or something similar) was 'basic' enough in form that it could evolve our particular characteristics. The suggestion of a direct lineage is also on very shaky ground, we shouldn't suggest linear ancestor / descendent realtionships through fossils...

I don't have any real knowledge of the American wildlife laws but I would be extremely surprised to find that this particular spider is protected; as far as I am aware it is pretty common. It may be worth while having a web search for US protected species or such like.

However, even if you bring your female indoors, what is she going to eat? There is a reason why spiders are (mostly) annual creatures and that realte sto food availability. If you manage to keep her alive for long enough (which I doubt), the animal isn't really going to go on to have a long and happy life; reproducing is pretty much the end of the line for these critters, they put lots of resources into egglaying and defending their eggs / very young spiderlings before they disperse. Enjoy her as she is and watch for the next generation...

Hi Imogen,

Even if you study both marine and terrestrial ecology at university, your career path will be determined with the expereince you gain; it is very unlikly you will know enough at the end of university to start competing for jobs. It is not impossible to gain appropriate experience in both fields but it is very difficult, hence the split between terrestrial ecologists and marine ecologists.

As you go through university, you will probably get opportunities to learn about both to some degree and it is likely that at some point, you will discover a passion for some particular species / habitat that you want to focus on a bit more.

As with many forms of injury, the very act of rubbing can help alleviate the initial symptons, so whether with a dock or just the hand, the stimulation of the area sets other receptors going, reducing the injury pain...

Maija,

This is a great photograph of a tiny critter. I would suggest that it is likley to be a Collembola (springtail) but our resident insect / invertebrate specialist Richard Comont may be able to provide more details...

Bear in mind that there are many species of 'plover' in the PaleArctic (northern hemisphere) and that this is the description (caveat on Adam's notes above) of one single species. In the north western palearctic (where I am), the major 'plover' species (i.e the ones seen most regularly and over the widest distribution) (grey, golden, ringed, little ringed) are all invertebrate feeders...

Of course, many animals that aren't actively foraging ('downtime', so to speak) spend time either grooming to remove ectoparasites (all mammals and birds) or, if they are a social animal, engaging in social activities (which may also include grooming, or even recreational sex, if you are a bonobo!). If you're young, play is often a very large part of the day too and some adults from some species will also engage in this with their offspring and that of others.

Some species spend a lot of time sleeping (think lions, bats etc.) or simply ruminating (cows etc.) / digesting (foliverous monkeys, like howlers), if you have a cellulose heavy diet.

Laurie,

I'm afraid that most if us are UK based biologists and so, without a very good picture, we are very unlikely to be able to provide a identification. That being said, even with a good picture, there are so many species (some 4,000+ 'wasps' here in the UK alone - admittedly, not all 4" long!) that a full identification is often impossible from photographs alone.

However, do look up things like pigeon woodwasp to see if this looks remotely similar...

Combining biology and your existing skills might be a great place to start, as Al says.

Perhaps you could think about combining renewables with biodiversity? One of the big things in the very near future *should* be the UK catching up with continental Europe and integrating PV and solar thermal with biodiverse ('green' and 'brown')roofs. There is currently a large gap between what developers will countenance and what 1) the Local Planning Authority may recommend through condition(s) and 2) what we should be doing to enhance the remnants of the natural environment.

Someone with an understanding of both may well enhance either side of the planning divide (consultancy or LPA). The key thing which (in my experience almost never happens!) needs to occur is that biodiversity enhancements and (here in London) the 20% savings in CO2 emissions needs to be considered and evaluated at the very start of the design process. There is still a very entrenched position that there is an either / or situation; you can have a biodiverse roof OR photovoltaic / solar thermal panels. What I (and obviously, loads of other people!) am trying to do is promote the continental research showing that PV efficacy is increased through the addition of a biodiverse roof (through the creation of a more stable microclimate) and ensuring we get the best of both (biodiversity enhancements and more efficient renewables).

Personally, if I dealt with contractors / consultants that had more of a rounded knowledge on both renewables and biodiversity, I think we'd have a great many more and better developments, instead of being 20 years or more behind the best works of the Germans and Swiss. That isn't to say that we don't have some great biodiverse roofs in London (and Sheffield and loads of other places) but as a nation and a planning framework, we are SO inconsistent and SO adverse to 'trying something new'...

Martin,

This is a longhorn beetle, Strangalia (Leptura) maculata. The adults feed on pollen, whilst the larvae feed on deadwood. There should be absolutely no problems with your veggies from this species!

Plus, you could always read Richard Dawkin's The Ancestor's Tale, which details all you are asking about...

Jackie,


Not having done anything like these courses, I  don't have a professional opinion!

However, my personal opinion is that 1) undergrad doesn't usually matter, as you can specialise in post-grad (should you be good enough to get there) and 2) if you are worried about being too specialised early on, try to choose a more balanced course / major, preferably one with a variety of module choices, so you can sample from a broad palate...

Great photo!

It is a bush-cricket (or closely related) but I'm not sure if anyone on this site has the experience of the Levant Orthoptera fauna to get to species level, particularly from this angle, as the pronotum shape, abdominal shape and (in the female) ovipositor shape are all extremely useful in species ID...

Hi,

Use the search box for more information on herpetology careers. In short though, we are generally unable to provide specific advice to the Indian subcontinent, no-one ever having gone down that route...

Three things here:

1) Are humans particularly diverse? No. The differences between Homo sapiens of whatever creed or ethnicity are, relatively, minuscule compared to the variety between many, many other species.

2) What is the diversity like within another monotypic genus? As per above, it can be massive. Part of what one has to take into account is something called plasticity (which can be behavioural or phenotypical). For instance, the humble European great tit Parus major (is now, as far as I know, the only remaining member of the Parus genus, all other species having being reassigned on molecular evidence...) has just had a paper published on the plasticity of its behaviour, making some separate populations across Europe, at the same time, more disparate and some potentially also closer (as some populations can exhibit greater plasticity in behaviour and thus more closely resemble other populations). Thus, within this species, there is great variety but also the basis to learn (sound familiar?).


However, when we look at things like 'ring species' (the classic is the Larus fuscus / L. argentatus lesser black-backed gull / herring gull complex i.e. two separate 'species' live in Europe; herring gull 'species' don't breed with lesser black-backed gulls but can breed with some related eastern gull 'species' (looking a bit more like our lesser black-backed gulls but not), these 'species' can breed with some other more easterly gull species (looking even more like our lesser blacked-back gulls, but not) and so on, all around the globe back to Europe, where we then have two separate 'species', which, for the most, don't breed with each other - we see two 'species' when there is in fact a spectrum of one interbreeding population working eastwards around the globe), we can see that 'species' becomes a cataloguing term, rather than, necessarily, something in its own right...

3) Are there some extant creatures that are the sole living representatives of a much wider family 'bush'? Yes, lots! Some are examples of endemism (say, island species, of which the mainland 'donor' has long since did out) or others can be closer to home (this could be a artefact of a reclassification, as per our great tit above) or simply a single species of what is (postulated) to be a wider but now extinct heritage.

Of note in the news recently (in the UK at least) is the increase in the reported cases of whooping cough. This was a major child killer until routine vaccination started in 1957. It seems that the response rate of the antigen decreases from the initial 3 vaccinations one has as a child, until the adult is more susceptible to the disease (but less prone to death), thereby increasing the population's susceptibility to whooping cough as a whole. Those that had whooping cough as a child are more likely to be more resistant and for longer, on average, than those simply vaccinated. This is therefore a case where the antibodies might have a long term 'memory' of the disease but mostly 'forget it' over time and the factors involved for 'retention' of the 'memory'  appear to be related to variations in exposure / vaccination.


I'm sure some of our clinicians and epidemiologists can elaborate further or correct any mistakes in my understanding of this...

I think that as, in answer to your last question, if every remnant in the fossil record is the product of successful reproduction (which it must be, obviously), then, ipso facto, we can see that species in the fossil record. I appreciate this seems slightly circular but it isn't really. During life, there will be 'winners' and 'losers' but the 'losers' may not just completely disappear in one generation because they are 'less fit'. Remember that 'fitness' is an average against the whole population, which is likely to exhibit a normal distribution.

Of those forms that we find, we have no way of knowing how 'fit' they were (unless they had massive physical deformity that is preserved in the fossil record, which was likely to impede their reproductive success). Thus, if, during reproduction, the progeny of our fossil had a chromosomal inversion (or any other deleterious mutation) and was aborted early, this could be a result of the genetics of the parent or just 'one of those things', it may not necessarily mean, all things being equal, that our representative of X individual of Y fossil species is less fit (but it obviously might!)

You can't have any species 'randomly unfit for its environment'; everything has been fit enough to reproduce up until the individual that is found and we can't really know the results of that individual's reproductive life in terms of average fitness...

Again, we don't have the specialist knowledge for India on this site but it is (I would bet!) a bush cricket of some description, as it has extremely long rear legs and extremely long antennae...

(posted in Plants & Fungi)

As Dan says, this looks like a young emerging plant and I can't make out the details fully. The only thing would be to keep an eye on it (if you can!) and come back to us with some more photos later on when it grows a bit more / flowers.


Just off the top of my head, this doesn't ring any bells for common sand dune species I'm familiar with but I'll have a look through some of my books and come back if I see anything that looks similar...

Dysdera crocata certainly have very large fangs (to get around woodlice defences) and would have no problem piercing human skin (unlike many of our other native species). There are a number (a very, very small number!) of recorded spider bites attributed to this species in the UK and obviously, different people react in different ways. However, they seem to be a fairly amiable species; I've certainly handled lots over the years with no problem. As long as you are gentle with them, they'll be fine (as with the vast majority of species on the planet!)...

They normally live outside under bark or stones (funnily enough, near where you would expect to find woodlice!) and are not normally a species that would venture into houses, unless, perhaps, you have a woodburner and bring wood from outside inside, along with your little guest. Pop her back outside near some wood or stones and she'll be fine.