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Biodiversity Blog

 
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BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: Green Anoles

IMG 7475 web   Female Green Anole, looking a little brownish-green. (Photo: Travis Laduc) With more time than usual at our homes, and the weather not searing hot yet, it’s a great opportunity to get outside and become familiar with the species we have in our own backyards! The Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis) is a common lizard not difficu...

Some Virus History and Origins

cell or bust highway small   Illustration: Nicole Elmer The history of viruses is difficult to trace because they don’t exist in the fossil record. Unlike our beloved dinosaurs, viruses don’t have bones that can be fossilized, and they are just too small and fragile. However, there is another way viruses can make their mark in the fossil record, and that’s th...

CAMPUS BIODIVERSITY: Northern Mockingbirds

bird m   Photo: Kathryn Gatliff The Northern Mockingbird is probably one of the easiest birds to identify, if not by their bold maneuvers to protect their territory, then certainly by their characteristic song. In fact, their scientific name Mimus polyglottos is based entirely on their vocal natures: “mimus” is Latin for mimic and “polyglo...

Are Viruses Alive?

Virus webimg   Illustration: Nicole Elmer Viruses are remarkably diverse. Some have RNA genomes, some have DNA genomes. Others have single-stranded genomes, and some have double-stranded genomes. But within this diversity, they still have common features. They are tiny, with a diameter less than 200 nanometers, hundreds of times smaller than mos...

Austin Spring Insects: Crane Flies

Picture1   A female Tipula crane fly in an Austin garden Spring continues to roll through Austin, paying no heed to our human worries of viruses and lockdowns. Rains fall, trees leaf out, bluebonnets speckle the roadsides, and crane flies flutter clumsily across our lawns. Crane flies? Few insects are as strongly evocative of the Texan sprin...

Trees of BFL: Spanish Oak

SpanishOak Photos: Larry Gilbert At Brackenridge Field Lab, the Spanish Oaks (Quercus buckleyi) is found mainly in the old pasture zone. This tree is sometimes also called “Texas red oak” or “Buckley’s oak.” The tree is native to Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. It grows on average between 30 to 50 feet tall. The largest known species grows right here in...

Fish Collection Expands with TPWD

shelvesA quick overview of 15 years of UT Fish Collection growth and collaborations with Texas Parks and Wildlife by Dean A. Hendrickson, Adam E. Cohen, Gary P. Garrett   As stated in the Biodiversity Center’s Collections webpage, the challenges for our collections are to: 1) “document biodiversity,” 2) “understand how biological processes...
Moth Threatens Prickly Pear Cactus

Moth Threatens Prickly Pear Cactus

   Moth damage to Prickly Pear (Photo: Larry Gilbert) Despite its iconic association with the Southwest, many people may not love Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia). However, various species of Opuntia are extremely important plants to most ecosystems in Texas and Mexico. They produce a huge quantity of fruits that are a critica...

The Texas Eight: Love ‘Em, Hate ‘Em, or Drink ‘Em

Juniperus deppeana alligator juniperwebTexas has eight species of juniper native to the state. Some prevent slope erosion, some play havoc with allergies, and some go into a gin made by Integrative Biology professor, Dr. Molly Cummings. Dr. Cummings uses berries from two Texas junipers for two different gins made by WildGins Co., a gin company headquartered in Austin and run by Cummings...

Texas Alligator Lizard

Tx infernalis cropped     Photo: Dr. Eric Pianka   The Texas Alligator Lizard (Gerrhonotus infernalis) is the largest lizard with limbs in Texas, exceeded in length only by Slender Glass Lizards, which are legless. It is also one of the largest alligator lizards in the world. Adults are about 16”-18” in length and endemic to the central...

CAMPUS BIODIVERSITY: Pigeons

19786421550 79acb30c66 b   Photo by Jaime Silva (via Flickr) Pigeons are so ubiquitous, searching our sidewalks and streets for anything edible, perched overhead on powerlines and building ledges, we don’t really give them much thought. In fact, pigeons get a pretty bad rap sometimes, are written off as nothing more than “rats with wings.” However, they are...

Creatures of Halloween: Widemouth Blindcat (Satan eurystomus)

WidemouthBlindcatBy Dean Hendrickson (Curator, Ichthyology Collection) and Nicole Elmer    Satan eurystomus (Photo: Garold Sneegas) In our last Halloween posting, the scorpionfly donned orange, black, and yellow. The species in this blog’s focus is pale and pink. This is Satan eurystomus, also known as the Widemouth Blindcat, a cave catfish, known...

CAMPUS BIODIVERSITY: Batty about Bats!

Tadarida head for website   Mexican free-tailed bat (Photo: Tigga Kingston) It’s October. The weather cools. People plan their Halloween costumes. Images of ghosts, vampires and other monsters start to fill our neighbors’ lawns or grocery store candy isles. Without a doubt, bats will be part of this montage, but do they deserve the association with scar...
Meet Amber Horning!

Meet Amber Horning!

  Amber Horning is our new Assistant Curator in the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center. Amber comes from the University of Mississippi, and took some time out of her busy day to tell us a little about herself. Tell us where you came from before UT, and what you studied. This past May, I received my Master’s of Science from the Universi...

Insects and Art

IMG 0395 red  Pencils in hand, erasers in reach, students huddle over cases of butterflies and beetles. The room is quiet, save for the “scratch scratch” of the pencil lead, the occasional rub of an eraser on paper. This is a scene from “Core II: Drawing,” a class in the First-Year Core Program at the Department of Art and Art History. On September 12t...

Billie L. Turner Plant Resource Center Awarded Digitization Grant

47495452601 9886cd63b1 oThe National Science Foundation recently awarded the Billie L. Turner Plant Resource Center a new grant for approximately $817,000. The grant extends over four years to complete the digitization of more than 500,000 herbarium specimens collected in the states of Texas and Oklahoma and housed in the herbaria, as well as those of 10 partner instituti...

CAMPUS BIODIVERSITY: Gulf Coast Toad (Bufo valliceps)

Incilius nebulifer DRD 5406 1     Bufo valliceps. (Photo: Drew Davis)   While it might be easy to assume we don’t have toads on campus, the Gulf Coast Toad (Bufo valliceps) is one species that does live here. Waller Creek is a one place to see them, in addition to planters where they hide, or on sidewalks at twilight to consume the insects that are att...

CAMPUS BIODIVERSITY: Raccoons (Procyon lotor)

Raccoon Procyon lotor CDWR reduced   Photo: California Department of Water Resources (Wikimedia commons) With their ringed tails and black “masks,” raccoons (Procyon lotor) are easy to recognize. These curious and smart mammals are native to North America. Due to their extreme adaptability and opportunistic natures, they are also part of the urban wildlife on the UT ...

FEATURED SPECIES: Rio Grande Chub (Gila pandora)

Gpandora   Illustration by Joseph R. Tomelleri   The only member of this minnow genus known from Texas, the Río Grande Chub, Gila pandora (Cope, 1872), lives in about a dozen sites in Río Grande tributaries of New México, and Colorado, and in one highly isolated, one mile-long section of a small stream in the Davis Mountains o...

CAMPUS BIODIVERSITY: Red-eared sliders

IMG 2063   Male red-eared slider, posing. (Photo: Nicole Elmer) They’re out. Stacks of them. Sometimes piled on top of each other like bricks, feet extended, much to the delight of students and visitors to the UT turtle pond. These campus charmers are turtles commonly known as “red-eared sliders,” or Trachemys scripta elegans. The “red” come...