24 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photographs

  1. Isn’t it somehow extraordinary that the system or life with its bewildering variety of organisms subsists and prospers on the planet only by having its members devouring each other?

    It is probably due to the chemical structures of cells that cannot replenish their material any other way.

    But, honestly, which ID genius would invent such a system that survives only by internal devouring of its components?

    Is this phenomenon beyond the domain of what evolution experts study?

    1. I don’t understand what you mean by “…a system that survives only by internal devouring of its components”

      Warning. Non biologist writing this:- All life on Earth grows and replicates. For this to be possible the organism requires a template & a series of algorithms to control growth [development] & reproduction. In turn the organism needs to harness an energy gradient & materials. Why bother having the machinery yourself [& expend the energy] to release raw materials from inanimate matter, & then construct useful organic molecules from that, when you can just go out and “mug” some other organism that’s already done the hard work for you? Plants gain most of their mass via molecules from the air [carbon cycle] & water from the soil, but still most of them [or is it all?] depend on soil micro-organisms to run the nitrogen cycle, so even plants are in the business of death.

      After excluding the very bottom of the food chain ~ each critter survives only by the death of many others.

      1. Michael Fisher:

        Thanks for the nice recapitulation of the life cycle. Every bit is as fascinating as the next.

        “After excluding the very bottom of the food chain ~ each critter survives only by the death of many others.”

        This is exactly what is so extraordinary about the life system, if you care to step back for a moment and reflect about it.

        And what about the “very bottom of the food chain”? The cells there are able to survive without eating up other living cells? Is there such an absolute bottom? The “ground” of the life system?

        1. I don’t find it remarkable that life involves death so fundamentally. I would suppose that evolution everywhere in the universe will be the same in that regard. As I wrote above the very first “living” replicating system must have obtained energy & mass via inorganic means, but once that system is operating evolution will add layer upon layer of “free riders” & other complexities

          Q:- Is there such an absolute bottom? The “ground” of the life system?

          Of course. HERE’S the Wiki on lithotropic organisms which are found sprinkled across the tree of life & some of them are “heterolithotrophic” which [I think] means they have the ability to fix carbon from the air ~ no need to take advantage of living or dead organic material at all:-

          “A lithotroph is an organism that uses an inorganic substrate (usually of mineral origin) to obtain reducing equivalents for use in biosynthesis (e.g., carbon dioxide fixation) or energy conservation (i.e., ATP production) via aerobic or anaerobic respiration. Known chemolithotrophs are exclusively microbes; no known macrofauna possesses the ability to utilize inorganic compounds as energy sources…”

          1. Michael Fisher:

            Great answer.
            The article on lithotrophic bacteria is fascinating as the basis of the maintenance of the whole life system on earth. Once the system is launched, it can maintain itself through the various chains of transmission of organic material.

            Still amazing that even in that class of lithotrophic bacteria there are lithoheterotrophic bacteria that are unable to produce their own organic material and must acquire it by devouring other bacteria.

            It’s great fun to be using those words derived from ancient Greek. The whole article is composed of Latin and Greek words. This is our own material for scientific analysis.

            1. From a human perspective which equates complexity with success* the “free rider” [I actually meant to write “free loader”] has a great advantage over the lithotropes in that they can operate at a higher energy budget because their nutrients are ready packaged for them. I don’t think it’s quite right to write “…unable to produce their own organic material” as if that might be a disadvantage the statement is correct, but it might be more accurate to express it as “…in the process of evolution retired some of the more costly mechanisms needed to produce their own organic material”

              *Multicellular life on Earth may become impossible except deep underground in only 800 million years [different sources vary]. So much for success “we” multi-cellulars have already burned through 75% of our allotted span on Earth 🙂

  2. Nice spider pictures. I’m interested in the yellow ‘knees’, what evolutionary purpose might they have? They remind me of the yellow aphids I currently have infesting my Mandevilla plant. Do you suppose it could be to disguise the size of the spider and make it look like a bunch of little non threatening insects?

  3. Beautiful pictures, and they help me to be nostalgic about my former life living in San Diego. I would see lots of these spiders in my walks through the ‘canyons’ that stretch for miles between subdivisions there.

  4. Oy, why can’t it simply be that “manna” fall fron Heaven and feed every creature so that it not be “nature red in tooth and claw”? 😉

  5. Nice pictures! I would have used the longest lens known to man to get that picture. Probably something like the array of Canon lenses that Ben posted once.

    The spider is a lovely colour and it’s abdomen shape makes it seem less frightful. That’s probably how they suck you in.

    The spider must be pretty big if its eating a carpenter bee though as they are about the size of a bumble bee.

  6. Thanks for the positive feedback. These were all taken with a simple point and shoot camera and it was sometimes difficult to get the right things in focus. This is the first year I have seen the spiders with prey, but always lots of babies in the fall.

    1. Neat photos. Does the plant have glandualar hairs?
      João Vasconcellos Neto and collaborators (2007. Biotropica, 39: 221-226) have shown that lynx spiders often associate with plant species that bear sticky glandular hairs. The lynx spiders probably help these plants by driving off and eating pest insects. The preference of spiders for plants with tacky coatings may be due to the extra food in the form of miscellaneous small insects that become ensnared by the haris. Some plants may even have evolved glandular hairs for harvesting spider chow as an enticement for bodyguards to stick 🙂 around.

      1. Apparently Lamiaceae also has glandular trichomes and two of the species above are Salvia “Hot Lips” and Mentha sp. The other with the babies is Lycium which is in the Solanaceae. Not sure the entire range of plants with glandular trichomes. I have also seen it on Grindelia – a gum plant in the Asteraceae which is as its name suggests is sticky – not sure about the hairs.

  7. I have lynx spiders in my hedges here south of Austin, TX. As to the not devouring, energy flows through ecosystems, materials cycle within ecosystems. I suppose devouring is necessary both for energy flow and material cycling.

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