Search This Blog

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Major differences between 10 sets of look alike animals

February 13, 2019 0 Comments
Do you know how to identify a crocodile when it's placed with an alligator? Do you know the difference between a panther and a jaguar? What about toads and frogs? Read this article to learn the differences between 10 sets of look alike animals.

Differences between 10 sets of look alike animals

Differences between Butterflies and Moths

Butterflies and Moths are very similar insects and belong to the order Lepidoptera under the class Insecta under the phylum Arthropoda. Many actually think that moths are butterflies. Well, here are their differences:
  • You're most likely to find butterflies during the day because butterflies are diurnal which means they're more active in the day. Moths however are nocturnal meaning they're more active at night so you're most likely to find moths at night.
  • Butterflies are colorful and have beautiful patterns in their wings but Moths mostly have faded patterns and are mostly white, black and grey.
  • When at rest, butterflies stretch their wings horizontally or vertically but moths fold their wings so their abdomen is fully covered.
  • The antennae of butterfly is club-shaped, meaning that it's straight from the bottom but swelled at the top but for moth, the antennae is feathery.
Butterflies and moths




Differences between Crocodiles and Alligators

How do you know that you saw an Alligator yesterday? What makes you feel it was not a Crocodile? Well, here are the differences between Alligators and Crocodiles:
  • The snout (mouth part) of a crocodile is pointed from the body, it is v-shaped. The snout of an alligator is wide, it is u-shaped.
  • Alligators in the world can only be found in some parts of USA and China however, crocodiles can be found worldwide so if you aren't in the US or China, you're most likely to see crocodiles.
  • When their mouth is closed, the teeth of Alligators are hidden but the teeth of Crocodile are not fully covered
  • Crocodiles are generally larger in size and longer than Alligators
  • Crocodiles are more aggressive than alligators
  • Crocodiles prefer to live in saline water while Alligators prefer fresh water like swamps
Crocodiles and alligators

Differences between Toads and Frogs

Toads and frogs are both amphibians. They both start their life-cycles as tadpoles and they look alike in almost every way. How can you differentiate both?
  • Habitat: Although they both hatched  and started their life in water, toads (when matured) live in land but frogs continue to live in/around water
  • Skin: The skin of frogs is wet, smooth and slimy but that of toads is bumpy, dry and rough.
  • Limbs: They both hop but the limbs of Frogs are structured better for hopping because it is stronger and looks thicker
  • Eyes: The eyes of frogs bulge out more than the eyes of toads
  • Eggs: Toads lay their eggs connected to each other like they're in long chain but frogs lay their eggs connected to each other in a cluster-form 
Frogs and Toads

Differences between Tigers, Jaguars, Panthers, Leopards, Cheetahs, etc

They're all cats and we love them. Although, lion is also a cat, it is unique can easily be identified. Let's learn the differences between the big cats:

  • Panthers: Just so you know, there isn't an animal species called panther. "Panther" as a term refers to the melanin (fully black) version of big cats like jaguars, leopards, etc. That's how we got "Black Panther"
  • Tigers: They're the largest of the cats. They don't have spots in their body, they have stripes instead. They can be found in Asia. They're solitary. Tigers love swimming and even have webbed paws.
  • Cheetahs: They can be found in the plains of Africa. Cheetahs are the fastest land animals in the world, they're good climbers as well. The best way to identify cheetahs is the tear-mark in their face. The tear-mark is like a black line (like tears) connecting their eyes to mouth.
  • Jaguars: They can be found in central and southern America and they're the biggest cats in their habitats. They're good swimmers and love water. Jaguars, unlike Tigers, have spots on their fur. These spots called rosettes have holes in their middle.
  • Leopards: They're the smallest of the big cats in their habitat. They can be found in Africa and Asia. They also have rosettes both theirs is smaller and sometimes have no space in the middle. They're excellent swimmers but don't like water.
Clockwise from top left: tiger, jaguar, cheetah and leopard

Do you know that is unfair to call lions the kings of the jungle? Here's the reason why: 5 wrong animal stereotypes that will make you rethink nature



Differences between Sponges and Corals

They can mostly be found in the same places, they're both animals and both look like plants. Here are some differences between sponges and corals:
  • They aren't in the same phylum. Sponges are in Phylum Porifera while corals are in phylum Cnideria.
  • Sponges are more primitive than corals. Corals are related to more complex animals like sea anemones, jellyfishes, etc.
  • Sponges feed and excrete through cells in their wall that aid in diffusion. Corals however, gain nutrition through a relationship with plants like algae
  • Sponges are generally soft in texture but corals can be soft or hard
  • Sponges have pores and large openings which help in diffusion.
Corals
Image result for sponges
Sponges

Differences between Ants and Termites

Both ants and termites are mistaken for the same insects. Very few people care to know their differences because they're both feared and hated for causing harm. Is that really true? Here's their differences:
  • Although they're both in phylum Arthropoda and class Insecta, ants are in order Hymenoptera and family Formicidae while termites are in order Isoptera and can be found in several families
  • Ants are scavengers (meaning they search for food). They may live in decaying wood or other materials but they don't eat them. They send their workers to go search for food. Termites however, eats plant tissues, wood and almost anything so termites are actually the destructive species.
  • Wings: Not all of their species have wings. You can identify winged termites through their long and uniform wings (all their wings are the same in size). Winged ants can be identified through their wings almost the size of their body while some are smaller than the others.
  • Antennae: The antennae of ants is elbowed while that of termites is blunt (almost straight).
  • The waist of ants is thin so it creates a visible segmentation between the thorax and abdomen but Termites have an almost uniform body. 
Ants and termites

Differences between Bees, Wasps and Hornets

They're all stringing insects and we don't want to get close to any of them. How can you differentiate a bee from a wasp or from a hornet? Keep reading:
  • Bees: They appear fuzzy because of the many hairs in their body. Their nest which is usually big is called a beehive and it is made from wax. Bees produce honey and store it in their honeycomb. If they sting an animal, their stinger remains in the body of that animal so they may likely die. They will only sting when they feel threatened. Bees pollinate flowers.
  • Wasps: They can easily be identified by their sharp yellow and black rings coloration. They have a thin and long waist so their abdomen is distanced from their thorax. They make their nest through chewing wood to make it soft and building it in a corner. They can sting more than once and even lay eggs on their preys (humans aren't their preys). Only the females sting.
  • Hornets: They're not so different from wasps. They're generally larger, are white with black rings. Hornets and wasps are carnivorous and can sting multiple times.



Differences between Goats, Sheep and Rams

People love calling themselves sheep and hate it when they're called goats. Not all sheep have wool so how can they differentiate goats from sheep? What about rams?
  • Rams: They're simply male sheep, identified by their testicles.
  • Fur: Sheep can have wool or hair but goats have just hairs. 
  • Tail: They can easily be identified by their tails, Sheep tail bends downward but goats tail bends upwards. 
  • Beards: Sheep don't have beards but goats do.
  • Horns: Most sheep lack horns but goats have horns.
  • Odor: When male goats mature, they emit a very sharp and distinctive smell.

Differences between Monkeys, Chimpanzees, Gorillas, etc

Just like humans, they're all primates. Excluding monkeys they're all apes. Wait what? Monkeys aren't apes? Why? How? here are the ways to identify these animals

  • Monkeys: Monkeys have tails but apes don't. Monkeys are usually small and very active. Baboons are monkeys. Monkeys can be found worldwide except Antarctica
  • Apes: Apes don't have tails, they are more developed, have larger brains and closer to humans than monkeys. Apes includes chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, etc. How do we identify them?
  • Gorillas: They look strong and heavy. They're actually the largest primates. They are covered with hair ranging from black to reddish black. The older the males get, the more grey the hair color on their back becomes. Adult males are known as silver backs. They can be found in Africa
  • Chimpanzees: They're the most social apes so whenever you see one, there are great chances of others being around. They're mostly on ground an move by knuckle walking. Their arms are usually longer than their legs.
  • Orangutans: They can mostly be found in trees. They have large cheeks. They are mostly solitary. They have a dark reddish hair.

Differences between Turtles and Tortoises

They're both reptiles and have a shell. Both animals are shy in nature. People often use their names interchangeably. Well, they're different animals and here are their differences:

  • Habitat: Tortoises dwell on land but turtles live in water most of the times.
  • Tortoises are mostly found in Africa and Asia but turtles are mostly found in Africa and America
  • Shell: The shell of tortoises bulges out and looks like a dome but that of turtles is streamlined for easy movement in water
  • Feeding: Tortoises are mostly herbivorous but turtles are omnivorous.
  • Limbs: The forelimbs of turtles are straight and almost flat (streamlined) for easy swimming but the limbs of tortoises are generally thick and bent.  
Tortoises and turtles

Bonus

Differences between venomous and non-venomous snakes

Do you know the differences between venomous and non-venomous snakes? Learn these differences by reading an older article here in this blog. Read the article here: Know the differences between venomous and non venomous snakes

Did you like the article or learnt something new? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Do well to share the article with friends as well.

References:

Monday, 4 February 2019

5 wrong animal stereotypes that will make you rethink nature

February 04, 2019 2 Comments
No one knows it all. What you thought was true today may just become false tomorrow. There are a few things we know about a few animals but we don't really know if they're true or not. Read this article to learn 5 wrong animal stereotypes we've been using to judge animals

5 wrong animal stereotypes

Lions are the king of the jungle

Lions to many people, represent pride. Pride literally a group of lions. Here are some facts about lions:
  • Male lions, when in a pride, mostly relies on the females for food. The females mostly do the hunting
  • When male lions become the alpha male of a pride, they kill and (sometimes) eat the cubs of the females impregnated by other males
  • Lions don't come first in anything; not in size, strength, speed, niche, etc.
  • Most lions aren't found in the jungle or forest. They can be found in grasslands, wildernesses, savannas, etc.
  • Other animals fear lions because lions are social animals (strength in numbers), predators and scary
How can lions be the kings of the king of the jungle if they mostly aren't found in the jungle? How can lions represent pride when all they do is sleep, hunt for food and eat? Why don't lions come first in anything? Such kings they are. 




Let's talk a little about tigers:

  • Tigers are mostly solitary. They only meet each other accidentally or when it's mating time. Although they're solitary, they still hunt successfully and dominate
  • They're mostly found in the jungle/forest. In other words, they dominate the forest
  • Tigers are the biggest cats
  • Their limbs are so strong that if they die standing, they still won't fall
Now, who should be the king of the jungle?
Image result for majestic tiger
The majestic Tiger

Owls represent wisdom

This has been known for ages. Even since the time of the Greeks, Athena the goddess of wisdom was commonly associated with Owls. Well, owls are nice birds and have cool features like their neck's ability to rotate up to 270°. Owls have large eyes which make them look as if they're very cautious. Well, i can't argue that Owls can represent wisdom but i can argue that they are not the best animal to represent wisdom. For instance, can an owl match the Octopus?




Here are a few octopus' facts:

  • They're invertebrates, in the same phylum with snails, slugs, clams, etc.
  • Octopuses have neurons in all their eight arms. This makes them great at multitasking because all eight arms can function differently at the same time. More like a creature with nine brains (one central).
  • Although related to slow and immobile organisms, octopuses (as well as squids) can be very fast in water.
  • Octopus; Octo -eight, pus/podus -foot literally means eight foot while its class Cephalopods literally means head foot.
  • Looking at the octopus its head is just that small part where the eyes can be found just above the arms. The mantle cavity (which houses its stomach, anus and other vital organs) makes a cephalopod look like an organism with a very large brain.  
Well, I think the Octopus should be the real representative of wisdom


Pigs are very dirty

You'd definitely feel insulted if someone calls you a pig. We all know pigs to be very dirty. Let's study the pigs:
  • If given the chance, pigs don't poop close to where they sleep or eat.
  • Pigs don't have sweat pores so they rely on the coolness of the ground to keep their body from over heating. This means that they love the mud, not because they just want to play or become dirty but because it's their natural instinct of survival.
  • Pigs are smarter than our household pets so they're more easily trained than cats and dogs
Well, pigs need the dirt to survive. Why does your dog like to roll in the dirt?




Vultures are evil

Yes they eat the flesh of dead animals but does that mean they're evil? Let's exam the vultures:
  • They're detrivores. This means that they eat decomposing animals. Is that really bad? With this niche of vultures, they're able to speed up the time nutrients would be taken back to the ground. For instance, it may take more than 3 months for the soft parts (flesh) of a carcass to decompose and even longer for its bones. When vultures eat the carcass, it would digest and excrete it in not more than 2 days.
  • Vultures are social. Meaning they're mostly around each other. Talking of co-operation
Don't call vultures evil. They're only acting their role in nature.

Read Microorganisms; the good, the bad and the ugly

Owls and Cats are evil

This stereotype is popular in Nigeria. It is widely accepted and more Nigerians would kill any Owl or unknown Cat they find wandering in the street early in the morning. Just like Nigerians many people believe that Cats and Owls are used by or transformed into by witches and wizards.

Owls and Cats (especially owls) are nocturnal meaning they're mostly active at night. They move at night, hunt/search for food at night, poop at night and return back to their hiding place early in the morning. There's nothing witchy about them. This is among the 5 wrong animal stereotypes we should put to rest.
What the average Nigerian thinks about witches
Read Cool nature facts you may not have known


References:

Monday, 7 January 2019

Cool nature facts you may not have known

January 07, 2019 0 Comments
Nature of is beautiful, wonderful and cool. Learning more about nature is very satisfying. Some people though, may be unable to learn more about nature because of tight schedule and other reasons. Read this article to learn some random cool nature facts. The more you know, the happier you become.




Random facts about nature. Cool nature facts to blow your mind

Prepare for your mind to get blown away. There may have been some things you thought you knew in Biology. When you realize that you've been living a lie, you'll question your own existence😂

Plants breathe in Oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide

I remember when i was a child. Our teacher told us that animals breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. She told us that for plants, the process of respiration is the exact opposite of that in animals. We had to believe her because that's what everyone would say. I kept holding on to this belief until we were taught plant respiration in my 200lv. We were all surprised and didn't want to believe our lecturer when he told us that every aerobic organisms breathe the same way -oxygen inhaled and carbon dioxide exhaled.
The thing is that plants also undergo photosynthesis.This means that for plants, they respire and photosynthesize. For photosynthesis to take place, there must be sunlight (or light which the plants can photosynthesize with). Photosynthesis also requires carbon dioxide to function. As the end result, photosynthesis produces nutrient (carbohydrate, energy, ATP, whatever you call it) and also produces oxygen as a bi-product. The amount of carbon dioxide taken into the plant by photosynthesis exceeds the amount of carbon dioxide taken out of the plant by respiration so during the day, we can say that more carbon dioxide is taken into the plant and more oxygen is taken out. When there's no light (at night) however, photosynthesis cannot occur so plants inhale only oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. This means that we should not go too close to big trees at night because we'll be inhaling carbon dioxide from the plant.
Plants Inhale oxygen (O2) and exhale Carbon dioxide (CO2) like every other organisms





Euglena is the only animal-like and plant-like organism

Euglena is under the kingdom Protista. The kingdom Protista is a kingdom characterized by unicellular eukaryotic organisms (solitary organisms with nucleus and more complex cell organelles) like Amoeba, Paramecium, etc. All the Protists organisms can be classified as animal-like or plant-like. This classification is based on how they gain nutrient. The animal-like ones gain nutrient by feeding on organic components of their environment and/or feeding on smaller organisms while the plant-like ones gain nutrient through photosynthesis (This means they have Chlorophyll). Euglena as an organism is both animal-like and plant-like. It switches to the best method of gaining nutrient with the availability of sunlight.
Euglena are both animal-like and plant-like

Viruses aren't living

Viruses are in the thin line between organisms and objects. For something to be classified as living, it has to have the characteristics of living things; movement, respiration, nutrition, irritability, growth, excretion, reproduction, death, etc. Viruses cannot do most of these on their own. For viruses to function, they need to be in a host cell. When outside a host, Viruses are as useful as useless. Without the organelles of its host, a virus cannot reproduce. Asides the characteristics of living organisms, viruses are very simple in structure; they're just composed of a nucleic acid (DNA or RNA, never both) inside a protein case, also having slight differences in their outside structure with regards the type. What the viruses do is that when they're inside their host, they insert their nucleic acid into the nucleic acid of their host. With this modification, the host will start producing more viruses with identical nucleic acid as the one inserted in it. When the host has expanded and cannot hold more viruses, it bursts and releases the already made new viruses into the environment. These new ones will then drift to new hosts.

Trees communicate with and help each other

Yes, they do communicate and with and help each other. The question now is 'how?'. Trees on their own cannot help each other but for a forest to be complete, it has to have a range of organisms from trees to other organisms like animals, protists, fungi, etc. Trees can achieve this social network with the help of fungi. Organisms in kingdom Fungi aren't photosynthetic so they gain nutrient from the environment. Saprophytes grow on dead decaying organisms. Others grow on the roots of different plants. These fungi which grow on the roots of plants may grow on thee root of one or more plants at once. They can now receive excess nutrients from the plants they're anchored on. A recent study has shown that they can also transfer nutrients from one plant to another. That is a plant with more nutrients can help a plant with less nutrients with the help of fungi. This network of the roots of different plants connected with each other though the help of fungi is called Mycorrhizal network. It is very important because taller plants get more sunlight than shorter plants. Through the help of the fungi, taller plants can help shorter plants.
Trees communicate with and help each other





Viruses are very selective

You may know different types of viruses and you may even be scared of all. The fear is normal because 'virus' is now a bad term. For a virus to function, it has to enter its host. What most people don't know is that each type of viruses have their own preferred host. 'Preferred' isn't even the right word to use. For a virus to be able to enter its host, it has to be recognized as friendly. It can be recognized by he host when its surface matches the receptor molecules of the cell. The identical nature of receptor molecules on the surface of cells is the only way organisms can be multi-cellular. If the outside structure of the virus does not match the receptor molecules of the cell, the virus won't be able to enter. This is why HIV cannot infect other cells in the body except the immune cells. Its structure matches only the receptors of human immune cells.
Rotavirus Reconstruction.jpg
See the outside structure of the virus

Cyanobacteria are Photosynthetic

And so what? Right? Well, it may surprise you that for an organism to be a bacteria, it must be prokaryotic. A prokaryotic organism is an organism without a nucleus and one which has lesser amount of cell organelles as opposed to eukaryotic organisms. Only eukaryotic organisms have chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a special pigment that aid in photosynthesis. Cyanobacteria however, have chlorophyll. This means it is the only bacteria, the only prokaryotic organism that can undergo photosynthesis. As a matter of fact, scientists are suggesting (with the theory of endosymbiosis) that eukaryotic organisms evolved from other prokaryotic organisms that devoured on cyanobacteria. That however will be a discussion for another day.
Tolypothrix (Cyanobacteria).JPG
Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic

Read Microorganisms; the good, the bad and the ugly

Did you learn something new today? Please do well to share your thoughts in the comments section below. Also help me by sharing the article with your friends if you loved it. Thanks very much.

References:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyanobacteria
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virus
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euglena

Friday, 28 December 2018

Dispose the right way -let's make 2019 cleaner

December 28, 2018 2 Comments
What's your 2019 resolution? Have you ever thought of how your resolution can affect your environment? The issue of waste disposal is universal. Most people dispose their dirt the wrong way because they either don't know what could be the outcome or they simply don't care. With this article, please learn why you should not dispose your wastes wrongly and how you can dispose the right way.

Why should we care about the way we dispose our wastes?

See garbage affecting both plants and animals in the environment

I'll give two scenarios with two options to choose from each. After each scenario, I'll explain the outcome of the option you choose to follow then you'll rethink and do the right thing. Let's get started





Walking on the road

You're walking on the road, you just finished consuming a snack and the waste bin is far from you. Here are some options too choose from: (1) You throw it to the ground and leave it there (it's easier to do so) or (2) You discipline yourself and hold it till you get to the waste bin (requires self control and the dirt might cause inconvenience but you've been able to dispose the right way). Let's examine the outcome of both options

When you throw it away in the street, here's a few of the possible outcomes:
  • It remains in your street, littering your environment. It makes your environment look ugly
  • An animal might think it's food and eat it. The dirt, along with other toxic microbes/elements attached to it from the street, would cause illness on that animal. Who knows if the illness could be transmitted to your pets and other domestic animals. Who knows if the illness can be transmitted to you?
  • The dirt would find its way to the sea, blocking sunlight from reaching aquatic plants, making the sea look ugly or even poisoning some aquatic animals that think its food.
  • Remember that a major cause of flood in a city is blocked drainage. Guess what's blocking the drainage...




The list of negative outcomes are endless. Let's now check out some positive outcomes that might happen if we decide to dispose it the right way (taking it to the waste bin)
  • If it's recyclable or reusable, you're reducing the amount of natural resources used to produce new ones when dispose it correctly
  • If it is organic, it can be used as a source of manure, bio fuel or even feed when handled properly by people who need it
  • You're helping both plants and animals from being suffocated and/or poisoned
  • You're helping your environment to be clean and safe by just disposing correctly
Notice how the results of discipline and laziness are just words and opposite? Let's look at the next scenario

Facing a large amount of garbage 

You have some wastes at home, they're becoming too much that you think the best option will be to burn them (ease of packing stress). Well, the sad truth is that a lot of people (especially in developing countries) still burn their wastes because they feel that it is the easiest way of saying bye to a large quantity of dirt. 

What could possibly go wrong when we burn then?
  • Let's start with our fellow humans. Humans, just like other organisms, require/breathe in oxygen in respiration. Normally, there's about 20% oxygen in the air. Burning would increase the amount of toxic gases in the air and reduce the amount of oxygen therefore rendering the air unbreathable for we and the humans around us.
  • Some of the gases released into the atmosphere are greenhouse gases (they stay in the atmosphere, store heat and are the major cause of global warming today). When we burn, we're adding to the heat of the earth.
  • Talking about rain, you must've heard of acid rain but very few people realise where it goes to. You see, when the rain comes to the ground, our plants take in both the water and whatever toxic element it carries as well. These plants feed us. Do you see how we're poisoning our selves?
What could possibly go wrong when we burn our wastes?
Instead of burning dirt, why not dispose it properly so you can avoid these things? Do I really need to state the outcomes of disposing it correctly instead of burning? I don't think so. 




Like i always said, telling people to stop doing bad is not good enough. It's good you also tell them what to do to replace the bad they've been doing. Only so is it complete. How can we dispose the right way? 

How do we dispose the right way?

Well, I remember when I typed that the issue of waste disposal is universal. I am not so sure that the solution to waste disposal is universal (can be applied same way everywhere). The technology and zeal to dispose correctly are different from region to region. One thing is constant though, 'We're in this together'. If I dispose correctly but all my friends don't, am making no or very low impact on the environment. 

We can only do this when we do it together. The government and other zealous people can support as well;
  • Making waste bins more available
  • Creating factories that either recycle or only produce recyclable alternatives to non-recyclable products
  • Creating awareness campaigns like my colleagues and I did. Read about our campaign 'Environmental issues awareness and plastic pollution campaign
  • Make laws to stop burning illegally.
  • Show people more ways they can reuse their wastes or even sell them to people that can reuse them.
May I request that you consider your environment and the Earth at large in your new year resolution? Just start acting and help others act right as well. My 2019 resolution is 'consistency'. I'll keep doing what is right and showing people the way to do what is right as well. 

Reference(s):

Monday, 3 December 2018

Microorganisms; the good, the bad and the ugly

December 03, 2018 2 Comments
Microorganisms are very small organism that are not visible to the naked eyes. They, although very tiny, are everywhere and have large effects on their environment and other organisms. Are all microbes bad? What are some popular microbes and their importance? Read this article to know some good microbes, bad microbes and other notable microbes.

Microbes 101. Introduction to the tiny world

Microorganisms aren't aliens or so different from we humans or other organisms we can see. Here are a few notes about microbes:
  • They're just simpler and tiny organisms. 
  • Most of them are unicellular (meaning they have just 1 cell) but some are multicellular (meaning they're made up of two or more cells)
  • They can be found in all kingdoms: Monera (Bacteria), Protista (Unicellular animal-like and plant-like organisms), Fungi, Plantae and Animalia.
  • Some can live individually while others form colonies (making them visible)
  • Some are free living while others depend on other organisms for survival

Of course the list is endless but let's focus on classifying microbes based on their benefits or harms.




The good; microbes we benefit from

Diatoms

These microbes are plant-like protists. They're Unicellular and like plants, they're able to manufacture their food through photosynthesis. They can be found everywhere especially in water bodies. Here are a few ways we benefit from them:
  • They're responsible for the production of about 20% of the Earth's oxygen each year (they release oxygen through photosynthesis)
  • Since they're very small, they're in the bottom of the aquatic food chain. Other organisms like juvenile (young) shrimps, octopuses and fishes eat them, larger aquatic organisms eat these juveniles, subsequently, it gets to the top of the food chain (man).
  • Since they number in trillions and float in water bodies, they form a blockage for sunlight (one reason why the ocean waters aren't clear) so that heat (which travels with sunlight) cannot penetrate deep into the ocean. Since water is around 70% of the Earth's surface, the role of diatoms in maintaining the temperature of the oceans affects us on land as well.

The niche (role) of diatoms in the environment cannot be overemphasized.


Penicillium

There are different Penicillium species. These organisms under kingdom Fungi have been a breakthrough for man. They can be found in temperate regions and can also be found in damp parts of buildings. They produce a substance that stops the growth and reproduction of some bacteria like Staphylococcus. This substance which they produce, is what we call penicillin today. The discovery of penicillin started the study and production of antibiotics. If not for these organisms, who knows, a lot of people would have died because of incurable bacteria infections. You see? Microbes have medical importance as well

Rhizobia

These are under the kingdom Eubacteria (Monera). They can be found in the soil as either free living or in association with plants. They (when in the root of legumes) can collect nitrogen gas (N2) from the atmosphere, convert it into a simpler form of nitrogen then send it to the plant (which the plant needs for growth). Legumes like beans, peas, clover, etc. Rhizobia are especially important in the mass cultivation of such plants in places where fertilizers (to supply nitrogen to the plant) aren't available or affordable. This relationship with legumes have proven the agricultural importance of microbes.
Rhizobia in the root of a legume

Microbes that are beneficial to man and the environment are so much and we're grateful. Some like the Lactobacillus aid in the fermentation of milk and also breaking down of food particles during digestion. Their benefits cannot be overemphasized.




The bad; microbes that harm us

Clostridium tetani

It is a bacteria. It is found mostly in soils worldwide. It can be free living and is very deadly when it is parasitic. It is responsible for Tetanus. Tetanus is a severe disease that children worldwide are being vaccinated against it. Its spores (reproductive part) enter our body through wounds and release toxins that cause the diseases. This bacteria is the reason why children are still vaccinated till today. It is advised that you get vaccinated if you have an injury around the lower region of your body to prevent tetanus.

Plasmodium

Plasmodium is a protozoa (animal-like Protista) that infects the blood of different vertebrate animals (including man) to form the malaria disease. There are different plasmodium species like P. malariae, P. ovale and P. falciparum. There is also a zoonotic species (able to infect different species) called the P. knowlesi. Plasmodium can be found in places with high humidity, temperature and rainfall. Its disease Malaria is responsible for the death over 1 million people per year especially children (according to UNICEF). Plasmodium enters into our bloodstream through infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes breed and the young grows in stagnant water, plasmodium infects some mosquitoes through that medium and enters into our bloodstream when the mosquitoes penetrate into our skin.

Molds

Molds or moulds (under Fungi) are filamentous fungi (i.e they grow in filamentous colonies therefore appearing as multicellular as opposed to Unicellular yeast that grows independently). Mold is a diverse term used to refer to different species of fungi. They are decomposers (meaning they breakdown food into simpler nutrients). They are responsible for most food spoilage. They produce little spores that the wind carries so whenever you expose your food for long, the spores germinate and begin to form molds. Fungi, unlike plants, don't produce their food through sunlight so they rely on your food and other sources for nutrient. When molds are available in large quantity, they may cause serious health problems like allergies and other respiratory problems.
Image result for mold
Mold decomposing an orange



Other notable microbes

Euglena

This is kingdom Protista. It exhibits both plant-like and animal-like features. Like plants, it is able to produce it's own food through photosynthesis (in the presence of sunlight). When there is no sunlight, it feeds on green algae and other protists. Euglena can be found anywhere there is  green algae (ponds, water puddle, stagnant water, etc). The ability of Euglena to generate energy like plants (autotrophic) and animals (heterotrophic) makes it notable and special.

Cyanobacteria

This is a plant-like bacteria. The difference between Protista and Bacteria is that protists are eukaryotes (having nucleus) while Bacteria are prokaryotes (having no nucleus). Cyanobacteria, although being a bacteria, is the only prokaryote that is able to carry out photosynthesis. Cool right? Some Cyanobacteria also fixes nitrogen from there atmosphere to become available to plants (just like Rhizobia). They're indeed notable for been the only prokaryotic autotrophs.

Tardigrades

Tardigrades or water bears are under kingdom Animalia. They're Unicellular and can be found literally everywhere on the Earth. What makes them notable is their nature of endurance. These organisms can exist in the hottest, coldest and most actively radioactive places on Earth, they can also survive in space. They can survive after being dehydrated and they can reduce their metabolism to below 0.01% of how it should work. Although, they don't prefer to live in such extreme conditions, their ability to endure makes them notable.
A tardigrade (water bear) under an electron microscope


Reading this article, you must've realized that microbes are everywhere. Some benefit you, some harm you and you're unaffected by others. What's your favorite microbe? 



References:
S.O. Nzeako, F.O. Nduka, C.N. Eze (2018). Biology of lower Invertebrates. (1):14-17
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatom
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penicillium_chrysogenum 

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Everything to know about phytoplankton

October 11, 2018 0 Comments
Have you every wondered about how life is possible in water? What do little fishes eat? Are there plants in the ocean that serve as food for fishes and other organisms? Read this article to learn about the unappreciated phytoplankton and why we should care for them.

Fishes don't have mammary glands (breasts) to feed their young. If fishes were to have mammary glands, they wouldn't be able to feed all of their young especially for those that lay more than 200,000 eggs. What then do fishes eat?

Introducing the plankton

Plankton are little organisms that float and drift in water bodies. They mostly rely on water current for movement except for some that move voluntarily. If you were taught that fishes eat plankton, your next question will probably be 'what do plankton eat?'. To answer this question, let use classify plankton by their kingdoms. There are the zooplankton (animals) and the phytoplankton (plants). The zooplankton just like other animals, need to eat other organisms (plant or animal) to get energy and survive. The phytoplankton however, gain their nutrients from the sun like other plants through photosynthesis. It is fair to say that phytoplankton are the foundation of life on water. They're eaten by zooplankton and other fishes, these zooplankton are eaten by larger fishes and the food web (a complex food chain) goes on to top water predators like sharks.
Illustration of the Southern Ocean food web.
Phytoplankton start the food web of aquatic Eco systems



Why are Phytoplankton so important?

Here are some importance of phytoplankton:
  • Through photosynthesis, they take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen as a bi-product. Without plants and phytoplankton, there may be little or no oxygen on earth.
  • They serve as direct food to zooplankton and other aquatic animals arthropods (lobster, krill, etc), indirect food to fishes like sardines, tilapia, sharks etc and both direct and indirect food to other animals like whales.
  • Phytoplankton aid in biodiversity by being available in different species across the world to suit other organisms around them. 
  • Since phytoplankton float near the surface of water bodies, they block the rays of the sun from entering deep into water bodies. This reduces the heat of the sun as the water goes deeper.
  • Since the earth is 70% water, the temperature of the water has great effects on the temperature of the whole earth so we can say that phytoplankton have a major role to play in both temperature and availability of oxygen on the whole earth.
A collection of diatoms (a unicellular form of algae). The most common form of phytoplankton



Plight of the phytoplankton?

Global warming

As the earth is getting warmer because of the green house gases we emit into our atmosphere, we're not the only ones negatively affected. You see, different organisms (especially those in kingdom plantea) have their specific temperature requirements. As the earth becomes warmer, plankton that prefer cold temperatures will die out while those that prefer warmer temperatures will grow rapidly. One may think that this isn't all bad because there will still be plankton but:

  • The organisms that rely on and can only be found where phytoplankton that prefer cold temperature are will die of starvation and/or competition
  • Global warming can cause Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). This is a phenomenon whereby some species of algae would grow rapidly and fill up their environment, covering the surface of the water thereby blocking sunlight from reaching fishes and plants below. Some species release harmful toxins into the water killing other lifeforms around.  

Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) bloom on Lake Erie in 2009    
Read Global warming in the world today

Pollution

Pollution introduces toxins into the water. These toxins do not only harm large visible organisms, they also harm plankton. For the plankton that don't die, they might absorb this toxin and it becomes part of them

When Phytoplankton absorb these toxins, they can pass it over to man. How? Polluted plankton will be consumed by other organisms like crayfish and lobster. Don't you eat lobsters? These lobsters will be eaten by fishes like sardines and tilapias. Don't you eat these fishes? The more we pollute the earth, the more we eat food with toxins. We are what we eat.




What can we do to help?

It all comes back to us being careful about the way we dispose our wastes and control the earths resources. 
  • Reducing the amount of green house gases emitted into the atmosphere will reduce the rate of global warming and therefore, help to save the earth's biodiversity. 
  • Let's dispose our wastes the right way so they don't find they way into the ocean. These wastes will come back to us as food.
  • To learn more ways we can help, read What about the earth? Why save it? and remember to share this article with friends

References:

    Sunday, 30 September 2018

    Meaning, importance and practices of conservation

    September 30, 2018 6 Comments
    Human needs are limitless. We don't give back to the earth an equal amount of what we take from it. Is this a problem? If then, how can this problem be solved? Are there vital lessons we need to learn to boost our practices of conservation for natural resources? Read this article

    Natural resources

    Natural resources are substances not created by man but are needed by man for economic gain and development. They include Crude oil, coal, wide life, water, air, minerals etc.

    Classification of natural resources

    Natural resources can be classified by different methods.

    Classification based on origin

    • Biotic resources: Obtained from living and/or organic substances like trees, animals and their products, coal, etc.
    • Abiotic resources: These are obtained from non-living, non-organic substances like gold, iron, water, etc.

    Classification as renewable and non-renewable

    • Renewable resources: These are resources that their rate of replenishment is greater than their rate of usage. Examples are sunlight, air, water, etc
    • Non-renewable resources: These are resources that have a slower rate of replenishment/formation with regards to the rate of usage. Examples are fossil fuels
    There are more methods of classification but these are enough for now. The main point is non-renewable. The term 'non-renewable' may be used to refer to a number of resources today and a greater number tomorrow. For instance if elephants' gestation period (period of pregnancy) is about 22 months and they're killed 1/day for their tusks, it wouldn't take long before their population will reduce to zero. Well, the actual figure as at 2017 is 1 for every 25 minutes. If only the killings would reduce, the status of wide life may be taken back to a renewable resource. Other examples of natural resources that need our urgent attention are forests, oil, atmosphere, etc.




    Introduction to conservation

    In a plain definition, conservation means maintaining, protecting and retaining anything so it would last longer. The biological term 'conservation' is an ethical term used to refer to management of the earths natural resources in order to protect nature's biodiversity and ecosystem stability. For instance, if we over use bamboo trees and their growth rate can't keep up with our consumption rate, our actions are directly affecting the tree and indirectly affecting organisms like Pandas that depend on the tree for survival. Pandas which were classified under endangered species are now recovering because of the conservation of the species and their habitat.
    Image result for what do pandas eat
    A Panda's primary diet is the Bamboo tree

    Importance of conservation

    Practices of conservation have countless numbers of importance. Their importance can never be over-emphasized.

    Stability of ecosystems

    Every organisms and substances have roles to play wherever they're found. For example, if we overuse the trees in the earth for buildings, making papers and other reasons, the oxygen in our air will become scarce, herbivorous animals (animals that depend on plants for food) would get lesser amount of food therefore leading to competition and reduction of their population, carnivorous animals (animals which feed on other animals) wouldn't get enough food to eat, humans in turn would not get enough food to it (no vegetable, no fruit, no meat and no animal product) and our population would reduce drastically because of starvation and lack of oxygen. See the impact of not conserving our trees. Would we want this to happen?

    Availability of natural resources to future generations

    There's no doubt that if we don't conserve our resources, today, our children may only see these resources in museums, zoos, schools, etc. The resources may not be available in commercial quantity. If crude oil takes between hundreds of thousands to millions of years to form and we use an average of around 90 million barrels daily, how long would we wait for a refill?

    Continuity of our development

    If natural resources are needed by humans for creation of materials used to make buildings, roads, appliances and other important sources of our civilization, it means that an aspect of our civilization and development would cease the moment a specific resource becomes too low in quantity.

    Continuity of the earth's biodiversity 

    It's no longer news that the lovely bird 'Hyacinth (or blue) macaw' that inspired the movie 'Rio' is now extinct in the wild. More organisms (plants and animals) are on their way to extinction if nothing is done. Do we really want this to happen?
    Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus -Disney -Florida-8.jpg
    The Blue macaw now extinct

    Solution to pollution

    Pollution is the presence of wastes in the environment. Wastes are materials that are not needed. Even though some wastes can be recycled, not all are recycled. If only we can reduce our use of natural resources, we would have less wastes therefore possibly recycle all our recyclable wastes. If petroleum used to make plastics gets exhausted, we'll have no choice than to recycle our plastic wastes. Why not recycle more wastes now so we conserve petroleum?

    As you can see, conservation has a to large role to play for the sake of our tomorrow. Let's move on to how we can conserve




    Practices of Conservation

    Conservation is not general meaning the application varies from a resource to another though all practices' mission is availability of the resource for future use. For we to conserve, we need to:

    • Know the amount of the specific resource left
    • Know our use for it
    • Check is it's renewable or non-renewable
    • Look for alternative renewable sources that would give us similar or the same product like the resource we're conserving
    • If the products of a particular resource is recyclable, let us recycle them instead of discarding them as wastes
    • Create awareness so others would get involved with the practices of conservation. Read Environmental awareness/Plastic pollution campaign
    Let us now look at some natural resources that need conservation

    Forest

    The forest is very important. It provides wood for construction, plants for consumption of some animals and canopy for various organisms. Wiping out the forest would have very bad impacts on the Earth, Well, how would we conserve our forests? Using the list above, we need to know how much forest is left. Forests which are supposed to cover 31% of the earth's land surface which is around 4 billion hectares (was around 6 billion during the pre-industrial era) are reducing by about 7 million hectares yearly. Forests really need our help. Our industries' major uses of forests are construction of buildings and making of paper. Rural places cut down trees to get fuel for heat and fire. 

    We can conserve our forests by replacing wood as a source of fuel with alternative sources like heater, stoves, coal or even solar panels. Schools can use more phones and tablets instead of books, construction companies should re-use woods used as temporal materials in buildings and there should be laws governing these companies to be conscious of the amount of trees they cut down and we should also plant and monitor the growth of trees.

    Wildlife

    Wildlife retains the biodiversity of nature. We feel wonderful when we see wild animals in zoos and other places. To some people, they've got other uses to these wild animals. For example:

    • Elephants are killed because of the value of their tusks
    • Helmeted hornbills are killed because of the value of their beaks
    • Tigers are killed for protection from their attacks and illegal wildlife trade
    • The population of most species is reducing because of loss of habitat. For example Koalas eat only eucalyptus leaves (gum leaves). Reducing the population of the eucalyptus trees is reducing the population of koalas
    The beautiful helmeted hornbill on the brink of extinction

    We should know animals on the brink of extinction and stop the killings and any other of our actions that have negative impacts on their population. We should encourage our leaders to support our practices of conservation of wildlife, we should open game reserves and other conservation units to protect the animals and should check the population constantly for increase or decrease to know the results of our actions




    Oil and natural gas

    These are non-renewable natural resources. We have countless uses for them. We use them for production of fuel, plastics, etc. As earlier stated, oil takes so many years to be formed. If we continue using these resources without conservation, they won't take up to 50 years to completely run off. Overusing these resources is one of the reasons why our atmosphere is polluted with poisonous gases and our lands and seas are filled with plastics. Some of our conservation practices for oil and natural gas includes:

    • Finding alternative sources of power like biofuel, solar panels, etc
    • Buying vehicles that don't require products of oil and gas therefore reducing the demand
    • Reduce, reuse and recycle plastics. Read Everything to know about plastics
    • Government should provide capitals to people who have ideas about making cars, generators, etc that don't rely on oil
    Natural resources in the earth are like money in our bank accounts. The more we withdraw, the emptier the account becomes. Even if we deposit money into our bank account, the account will get empty if we deposit lower than we withdraw. Let's remain hopeful that our conservation practices would have great impacts on the resource we're conserving and thus help nature so that the coming generations would view nature as it is.


    References: