Botany photo of the day: mammalian pollinator

Beautiful photographs show a recently discovered bat pollinating a flower with a long tube.

The flower of the plant species, Centropogon nigricans, is exclusively pollinated by the tube-lipped nectar bat, Anoura fistulata. In other words, this is an example of obligate pollination. It’s also thought to be a prime example of co-evolution (PDF). Dr. Muchhala described Anoura fistulata in a 2005 paper, so this bat species was unknown to science as recently as three or four years ago. Native to the outer slopes of the Andes in Ecuador, Anoura fistulata has the longest tongue relative to its body length of any mammal — so long, in fact, that it is necessary for it to retract its tongue into its rib cage.

Now go and look at the pictures.


Moose noses

When something is under your nose, you tend to think it’s ordinary and obvious. Maybe you don’t look at it as closely as you should. For example, ever since Canada has been known to science, there has been a big, water-loving deer relative called the moose. We’ve laughed at its bulging nose, but have we looked at it? A few years ago somebody did. I remember hearing about it on the radio.

Case studies in novel narial anatomy: 2. The enigmatic nose of moose (Artiodactyla: Cervidae: Alces alces)
—Andrew B. Clifford and Lawrence M. Witmer

The facial region of moose Alces alces is highly divergent relative to other cervids and other ruminants. In particular, the narial region forms an expanded muzzle or proboscis that overhangs the mouth. The nose of moose provides a case study in the evolution of narial novelty within a phylogenetically well-resolved group (Cervidae).

The function of the nasal apparatus of moose remains enigmatic, and new hypotheses are proposed based on our anatomical findings. Head specimens of moose and outgroup taxa were subjected to medical imaging (CT scanning), vascular injection, gross anatomical dissection, gross sectioning, and skeletonization.

Moose noses are characterized by highly enlarged nostrils accompanied by specialized musculature, expanded nasal cartilages, and an increase in the connective-tissue pad serving as the termination of the alar fold. The nostrils are widely separated, and the rhinarium that encircles both nostrils in outgroups is reduced to a tiny central patch in moose. The dorsal lateral nasal cartilage is modified to form a pulley mechanism associated with the levator muscle of the upper lip. The lateral accessory nasal cartilage is enlarged and serves as an attachment site for musculature controlling the aperture of the nostril, particularly the lateralis nasi, the apical dilatators, and the rectus nasi. Bony support for narial structures is reduced. Moose show greatly enlarged nasal cartilages, and the entire osseocartilaginous apparatus is relatively much larger than in outgroups. The nasal vestibule of moose is very large and houses a system of three recesses: one rostral and one caudal to the nostrils, and one associated with the enlarged fibrofatty alar fold. As a result of the expanded nasal vestibule, osseous support for the nasal conchae (i.e. turbinates) has retracted caudally along with the bony nasal aperture. The nasoturbinate and its mucosal counterparts (dorsal nasal concha and rectal fold) are reduced. The upturned maxilloturbinate, however, is associated with an enlarged ventral nasal concha and alar fold.

Moose are the only species of cervid with these particular characteristics, indicating that this anatomical configuration is indeed novel. Although functional hypotheses await testing, our anatomical findings and published behavioural observations suggest that the novel narial apparatus of moose probably has less to do with respiratory physiology than with functions pertaining specifically to the nostrils. The widely separated and laterally facing nostrils may enhance stereolfaction (i.e. extracting directional cues from gradients of odorant molecules in the environment), but other attributes of narial architecture (enlarged cartilages, specialized musculature, recesses, fibrofatty pads) suggest that this function may not have been the evolutionary driving force. Rather, these attributes suggest a mechanical function, namely, an elaborated nostril-closing system.
(Accepted September 18 2003)

Andrew B. Clifford and Lawrence M. Witmer (2004). Case studies in novel narial anatomy: 2. The enigmatic nose of moose (Artiodactyla: Cervidae: Alces alces). Journal of Zoology, 262, pp 339-360

It’s nice to know that there’s a name for telling the direction of a smell; but I think I need a picture to understand all the rest.

more funny cat pictures

Baby beluga whale at Vancouver Aquarium


A young beluga whale gave birth to her first baby and was shown some parenting skills by her mother.

When you’re a first-time mom, it’s always a relief to know you have help from someone who’s been there.

This is no less important, apparently, when you’re a 12-year-old marine mammal.

Qila, a beluga whale who gave birth to a healthy female calf at the Vancouver Aquarium Tuesday, got some helpful pointers from her own mother, Aurora, without even having to ask.

“Grandma came to the rescue,” said the aquarium’s staff veterinarian, Martin Haulena. “She just went right for the calf and took her on her back and started riding her around … and just showed Qila what to do.”

Afterwards, Haulena said, Qila took over and the two have been bonding ever since. “She’s a natural mom.”

Quintessence of Dust: How the bat got its wing

bat with wing bones labelled

(The bat wing diagram is from University of Michigan’s animal diversity Web site.)

S. F. Matheson at Quintessence of Dust has written up a nice explanation of the morphology of bat wing bones compared to normal tetrapod “hand” bones.


more funny pictures

Religious tolerance, LOL style

This is pretty funny:

more cat pictures

World’s cutest otter

This is from Radikal Photo in Russia.

otter with baby

%d bloggers like this: