I visited Boston a couple of weeks ago and we stopped in for an afternoon at the New England Aquarium. It was my first visit and I enjoyed it immensely. My favorites included the 70 year old green sea turtle who doesn't like to eat broccoli, but she does like lettuce and brussel sprouts. They also have a great exhibit about jellyfish. The jellyfish were very beautifully dangerous floating around in their tanks. The exhibit also included a lot of educational information regarding jellyfish populations and global climate change. With the warming of the oceans we are in for some serious jellyfish overpopulation issues and since these animals are predators they are going to eat quite a lot of the other sea creatures. Good for the jellyfish. Bad for everything else.
In a surprising turn of events I ran into some moss at the aquarium! Mainly it was used in the exhibits of the tropical species to soften the surroundings, keep things moist, and add some greenery. The photo below was the mossiest one of them all!
And what animal just happens to live in the display full of moss? Oh, the mossy frog Theloderma corticale. Many organisms have common names that describe the other plants or animals that they look like. There are the fern mosses (Thuidium sp.) and the feather mosses (Hypnum sp.), just to name a few.
I would have to agree that this frog is well camoflauged to sit on mossy tree trunks and hide from predators. It is an example of an organism evolving to blend in with its surroundings. Those frogs who did not blend in would have been eaten by predators and those that blended in would have been survived to reproduce more mossy looking frogs. This system of natural selection over many years has led to the highly patterned and frilly frog that we see today. (Check out the bottom photo to get a sense of how frilly the arms and legs of the frog were. That was my favorite part about him/her!)
Juan Carlos, one of my labmates, sent out a link to this bryology blog written in Spanish. It has been online since January 2008, but I was unaware of it. I read some Spanish, but a majority of the bryology literature that I read is in English.
The aim of the blog is to share news of interest about bryology, bryologists and their research with the international community. Anyone who wishes can contribute to this blog. There are instructions for adding a post on the website.
There are several nice features in the sidebar on the right that. There is a list of bryology articles that have been published recently in scientific journals. There are also links to some of the top bryology journals in the field, so that you can browse through to see the tables of contents. You may not be able to access the full articles from home, but if you are at a university then you would probably have access. Finally there are a number of links to information pages about Latin American bryophytes. I think that it is a very nice website, but the posting is a little infrequent. So if you have anything to say about bryophytes, in Spanish, or about Latin American bryophytes, this would be the place to share it.
If is has been a while since you thought about classification systems for organisms you might need to bust out your favorite old pneumonic device. The one I learned was Kings Play Cards On Fat Green Stools, which usually helps me to remember Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species. However the latest classification schemes have added another layer above Kingdom, which is Domain. There are three of these and plants fall into the Domain Eukarya. I won't bore you with the history of how we arrived at this three domain system, but if you are interested the wiki page for biological classification has some good info. So for mosses the upper end of the classification goes something like this...
Domain Eukarya Kingdom Plantae Phylum Bryophyta
The online classification starts with Subdivisions, a half step below Phylum, and then continues on from there. Besides Subdivision, there are a couple other classification ranks that may be unfamiliar, but they are pretty intuitive. From this list you can see other closely related genera, closely related families, and so on.
While in Japan I visited the city of Kyoto and the Saiho-ji Temple. This is a Buddhist Temple that has approximately 120 different species growing on the grounds. Reservations are required and there is a 3000 yen fee, but it is well worth the money.
The mosses were a little crispy, seeing as how I visited during the dry hot part of the summer. I think that this temple would be even better to visit during the rainy season in the spring and earlier summer. I am not quite sure that I saw 120 species of mosses, but they covered all the available surfaces on the grounds.
One of my favorite parts were the grounds keepers who were sweeping the leaves off of the mosses and keeping them tidy. They were using traditional brooms, which I thought was a great touch. I would highly recommend it as a great place to see mosses, if you are ever in Japan. However it is not the place to go collecting. I had the urge to put some of the moss in my pocket, but I thought that would be frowned upon. So I resisted and instead took many photos to remember the visit.
I recently heard about a new bryophyte website brought to you by the Friends of the Australian National Botanic Garden. The website includes some general information on bryophytes, such as life cycles, ecology and classification. A good bit of the information is Australia specific. I especially enjoyed the information on Australian Bryogeography and Endemic Species. There is also a whole section detailing the history of bryology in Australia.
The website is really well done and it provides a wealth of information. In particular, check out the link to the case studies. There are approximately 30 entries that boil down scientific research articles into easily digestible summaries with helpful figures.
There is also a list of identification guides for Australian bryophytes. Basically, if you are interested in bryophytes in Australia this is the website for you.
Whew! The last few weeks in Japan were quite the whirlwind. I have arrived in Connecticut and am settling back into life and research. All the business has kept me away from the blog, but I am hoping to be back to regular postings starting this week.