G'day folks,

The world is full of stunning spots and destinations. 

The Benagil Sea Cave in Portugal is one such picturesque destination and one of the most photographed in the world. This spectacular rock formation which can only be reached from the sea attracts tourists from all over the world. Through its large round opening in the cave ceiling, you are able to see the clear blue sky all while lying on the sand. As stunning as this spot may be, it is not the only one. Our planet is ripe with many unique places that look surreal and unearthly. Take a look at these amazing shots that will guide you to the most otherworldly places on our planet. 

Clancy's comment: Extraordinary places, all of them. I never cease to be amazed by what there is to see and photograph. Many thanks to the photographers for sharing their work.

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31 May 2019 - An Ancient Ceiba Tree Blooms Once Again After Puerto Rico’s Devastating Storms

An Ancient Ceiba Tree Blooms Once Again After Storms


G'day folks,

It's always great to see survivors of mother nature, and here is another great story. The island of Vieques is still struggling after the hurricanes of 2017, but its most famous tree offers hope. 



 It’s been a year and a half since hurricanes Irma and Maria pummeled Vieques, a tiny island of off Puerto Rico’s eastern coast, and still many homes lay in rubble, electric wires hang precariously from poles, and a crippled cargo ferry system causes shortages of groceries.

The flora, too, bear the scars of the most destructive storms in modern American history.

Patches of leafless gray splotch mangroves that once covered nearly half the 52-square-mile island in greenery. Wind-resistant palms, their trunks snapped by fierce gusts, remain permanently hunched.

Yet an ancient ceiba tree Viequenses consider sacred is staging a remarkable comeback, one that symbolizes the resilience of the island itself for some residents.

Ceiba trees, sometimes called kapok trees in English, dot the island, but there’s only one known as the ceiba. It’s the island’s oldest tree, estimated to be upward of 400 years old, and stands as Vieques’s third-most popular tourist attraction after a 174-year-old Spanish fort and a bioluminescent bay that boasts the brightest glowing dinoflagellates in the world.

Photographs taken after Hurricane Maria show the tree leafless and badly damaged, with knobby limbs laying broken around its thick trunk. But today, new growth sprouts from its gnarled branches. And in February 2019, pompoms of pink blossoms unfurled for the first time since the hurricanes.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Edgar Oscar Ruiz, a 34-year-old local clean-energy activist living on Vieques, said staring up the tree’s trunk.

Only a few of the flowers remained during a visit to the island in late February. Dried, brown husks of expired blooms littered the ground below, blending with the scattered piles of wild horse dung to create an earthy potpourri. The flowers burst open at dusk, drawing swarms of bees, spiders, and hummingbirds to what Ardelle Ferrer Negretti, the founder of a local community project to protect the ceiba, calls “the nectar feast.” When the sunlight fades into blackness, bats join the banquet.

The fact that the ceiba blossomed at all this year demonstrates the kind of speedy recovery that’s evaded so much else on this island.

Clancy's comment: Don't you just love the way trees survive disasters?

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G'day folks,

It's time to step back in time.

Clancy's comment: Did you see anyone you know?

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G'day folks,

Welcome to some facts about another discovery. The sloth’s tooth, which was discovered in a deep pool in Belize, is helping scientists learn about the animal’s diet and the climate in which it lived.

In 2014, divers were searching for Maya artifacts in a deep sinkhole in central Belize when they stumbled upon the remains of a creature that long predated this ancient civilization. The hefty humerus, femur and tooth that were pulled from the pool once belonged to a now-extinct giant sloth—and as Ashley Strickland reports for CNN, analysis of the tooth has revealed a wealth of insight into what the animal ate, the climate that it lived in, and how it may have died.

The researchers who studied the tooth hoped to learn more about the environment in which megafauna went extinct thousands of years ago, but giant sloth chompers can be difficult to analyze, they explain in the journal Paleontology. For one, the animal’s teeth were devoid of enamel, which scientists use to learn about the diet of humans and some animal species. Ancient sloth teeth are also often fossilized, meaning that minerals have replaced much of the original bone and tissue.

For the new study, researchers relied on a technique known as “cathodoluminescence microscopy,” which causes minerals to glow and, in this case, helped the team hone in on the tooth’s surviving tissue. Fortunately, the researchers discovered that a dense type of tissue known as orthodentin was largely intact. They were able to extract 20 samples from the sloth tooth, which in turn allowed them to “trace monthly and seasonal changes in the sloth's diet and climate for the first time, and also to select the best part of the tooth for reliable radiocarbon dating,” explains Stanley Ambrose, study co-author and professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois.

The investigation revealed the tooth to be around 27,000 years old, and also indicated that the sloth was not living amid the dense tropical forests that cover this region of Belize today. Instead, it had been slowly making its way through a relatively open savanna. By analyzing stable carbon and oxygen isotopes in the dental tissue, the researchers were able to determine that in the last year of its life, the sloth had been eating a variety of vegetation during a fluctuating climate: a short wet season, followed by a dry season that lasted around seven months, followed by another short wet season.

“We were able to see that this huge, social creature was able to adapt rather readily to the dry climate, shifting its subsistence to relying upon what was more available or palatable,” says Jean Larmon, University of Illinois graduate student and lead author of the study.

The study’s findings align with what researchers already know about the climate in the Central American Lowlands during the Last Glacial Maximum, when large ice sheets sucked up much of the Earth’s moisture and led to low global sea levels. The region of modern-day Belize was arid and cool, and the “lower water table would have left much of the Cara Blanca area [where the sloth remains were found] desiccated,” the study authors write.

So while the sloth was quite adaptable in terms of diet, it was likely having a difficult time finding water. The researchers think it descended into the sinkhole in search of a drink—and though it stood around 13 feet tall, it wasn’t able to make it out of the pool, which is around 200 feet deep and quite steep. According to the study authors, the area is ringed with megafauna fossils, suggesting other unfortunate creatures met the same fate.

Scientists don’t know for certain why the ancient giant sloth went extinct, but the new study suggests that climate change wasn’t the lone culprit, since the animal appears to have adjusted well to the changing environment. Another potential factor is predation due to “the arrival of humans on the scene 12,000 to 13,000 years ago,” says Lisa Lucero, study co-author and professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois.

The study also shows how modern microscopy techniques can provide a detailed look at the final days of a long-extinct creature—based on a single, partially fossilized tooth.

 Clancy's comment: Science sure has moved ahead when they can define the age of discoveries found. That always staggers me.

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G'day folks,

Are you a keen gardener? Do you love unusual plants? Well, check out these masterpieces of nature.

 In the world of flower lovers - those who like to grow and cultivate them in their homes or find them in nature, to observe and learn about them - the beauty, grace, and aesthetics of the growing world transcends almost everything else. But like everything in life, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there are some special plants and flowers from all over the world, some of which you may find strange, but others with which you will fall in love with at first sight. 

Here are some extraordinary-looking flowers for you to see to help you discover another side of nature that you may not have necessarily known until today.

Clancy's comment: Brilliant specimens. Brilliant photography. I grew orchids for many years, and I've taken snaps of extraordinary flowers all over the world. Nature just keeps on surprising me.
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