Shelob, shorelines and sandy spiders

Anoteropsis litoralis, a wolf spider found in seashore stormwrack. Image from Bryce McQuillan (contact him for using his images) One has to wonder whether Tolkien had a fear of spiders. From Shelob in the Rings trilogy, to Ungoliant in the Simarillion, to the giant spiders of Mirkwood, spiders are feared…

How to stop, the elephant in your crop

Elephants have long fascinated me. I think it goes back to tv series from the early/mid 1970s called ‘Elephant Boy‘. This was a Australian/ English/ German production that was filmed in Sri Lanka and loosely based on the book ‘Toomai, the elephant boy‘ by Rudyard Kipling. I don’t remember a…

Playing favourites – using calls to save the kokako from extinction

Moving to a new city can be a stressful yet exciting situation. Whether you move for a job, to learn a new language or just to get a fresh new start, you are facing a life-changing experience. For wildlife, moving permanently from one location to another can be a life-saving…

Raising chicks: Why invest, when there is no test?

Although house chores are usually shared among those living together, the concept of women being responsible for a tidy house and everybody’s full tummies is still present in our societies. The same applies to raising children, as women are often, once again, expected to invest more time with their kids…

Plane and simple: your travel is ruining the planet

The glaciers are melting; polar bears are starving; and many small islands are slowly drowning. “Quickly book this flight to Iceland before the snow disappears completely, you don’t want to miss out on the beautiful glaciers there”, a voice whispers in my ear. “You are selfish”, another voice comes to…

On triumphant penguins and tennis players

I have been a sports-fan all my life. One of my biggest passions is tennis. As a child I played tennis in a small tennis club in Germany. When I think back to this time, many special “tennis sounds” come to my mind. Tennis is a very auditory sport. Close…

For every season, tern, turn

Nothing is permanent. As an evolutionary biologist I am very used to the concept of change, especially slow change over long periods. As an animal behaviour scientist I am used to the concept for very rapid change over short periods. Some of my career has been spent in reconciling the…

How we used the leopard’s spots

Humans love to tell stories about the things that they see around them. All cultures have creation stories about why the world is the way it is. At a personal level we like to think that there is a narrative to our lives. No one really likes the thought that…

The elephant in the room

Many things affect our lives. Only some of these things get the notice that they deserve. We tend to fixate on the big, flashy events, while other linked events, just as important, are overlooked. One big and flashy event in my life was the Canterbury Quakes. The 7.1 quake of September…

Taking pictures of cats… for science (honest!)

I’m sure, when the internet was in its infancy, that nobody thought a major use would be for sharing photos and videos of cats. Cats have covevolved with humans for thousands of years. If we ever needed an example of how much they control that interaction then this flood of…