QUESTIONS ABOUT ECOLOGY ARE TIMELESS
November 29, 2009
the following environmental questions within the last few days. And in
keeping with the spirit of a true Thanksgiving Day feast, they are many
Q. A few
of us in my ecology class have been wondering why animals cease to breed
during times of famine and drought whereas human beings do not. I realize
that where there is poverty there are more offspring to provide support
and labor but what is the physiological difference?
A. That is
an interesting question but the premise is too broad to draw any conclusions.
To say that "animals" cease to breed during adverse times is
probably not accurate. I imagine there are circumstances in which certain
vertebrates, invertebrates, and even plants continue to breed although
food is limited. Equally there are almost certainly cases when individuals
within the human species cease breeding when conditions are unfavorable.
The question can only be answered on a case by case basis. However, if
you ask why different species or individuals within species, including
humans, might respond differently to adverse environmental conditions,
you will have an excellent topic for an ecology class.
a warm spell last week, my dad discoverd some newly hatched painted turtles,
which he proceeded to pick up and put in a bucket on our kitchen counter.
I did some research and found that baby turtles, particularly painted
turtles, will survive just fine during the winter in our large pond. The
turtles have been living in a shallow dish with about one inch of water
and a few rocks for three days. My question is this: Should we return
the hatchlings to the pond to live out the winter, or would they have
a better chance of survival inside in a dish or tank?
A. The hatchling
turtles will be okay if you put them in the pond for the winter, a heavily
vegetated area next to the shore would probably be best. They will find
places to hibernate during the coldest periods and then emerge during
the spring and start feeding. The threat of predators always exists for
wild turtles but that's part of being a turtle.
Critter Sitting this weekend, I found what I believe to be a very young
Mediterranean gecko inside my client's home; then I saw one outside on
her window. I was able to catch the one in her home and now have it in
a terrarium. The second gecko outside escaped capture. I was shocked to
find two geckos in our area, and figure someone has freed pet geckos in
our neighborhood in South Carolina. Since this is an invader, should I
free the gecko, or keep it? Or perhaps you and your staff would like it
for educational purposes.
geckos are being reported from many cities across the Southeast from the
Carolinas to Louisiana. They seem to be innocuous invaders as far as native
lizards go, so I wouldn't worry about releasing one outside. If you want
to read more about them, visit
Q. We are
discussing human populations in different regions of the world in my general
ecology class in college. In your opinion what are the two most critical
environmental problems in Bangladesh and how can we mitigate these problems?
A. The two
biggest problems are overpopulation and widespread poverty. The problem
of too many people has no simple mitigation measure, but solving that
problem will solve the other.
Q. Can you
tell me what a group of squid is called? A squad? A school? I've tried
to look it up, but I haven't seen anything definite that says, "A
group of squid is called --." I would really like to know.
A. As you
are no doubt aware, a collective noun is a word that describes a group
of things. And collective nouns for animals are an exercise in creativity,
from a shrewdness of apes to a pod of baby alligators, a murder of crows,
an exaltation of larks, and a scold of jays. I believe the most common
word to describe a cohesive group of squid is "shoal."
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