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Biodiversity Blog

 

Austin’s Other Orange Butterfly: the Gulf Fritillary

adult1by Dr. Alex Wild (Curator of Entomology, Biodiversity Collections) and Nicole Elmer (Biodiversity Center)    Adult Gulf Fritillary (Photo: Alex Wild) Austin is a butterfly town. About 150 kinds are known to occur in our area, a mix of temperate and tropical, desert and deciduous forest species. Although many people know the famous...

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...
Two Georges and a Field Lab That Almost Wasn't

Two Georges and a Field Lab That Almost Wasn't

The Brackenridge Field Lab is one of the most coveted resources of the life sciences at UT. Only three miles from campus, BFL is an 82-acre biological research site that is part of a nearly 400-acre land tract. With a rich array of plant, insect, and animal diversity so close to campus, BFL is both an invaluable teaching and research tool. However,...

Fishes of Texas and Natural Resource Conservation

image3by Gary P. Garrett, Dean A. Hendrickson, Adam E. Cohen (Ichthyology Collection)    illustrations by Joseph Tomelleri The University of Texas Biodiversity Center Fish Collection holds over 73,000 jars with more than 1.7 million specimens of 1,785 species. Most (>75%) are from Texas freshwaters, representing 216 counties. However...

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...
Understanding Invasive Fire Ant Biology

Understanding Invasive Fire Ant Biology

    Click on image to play video.   Watch how UT researchers test fire ants to predict how pesty a population is likely to become. Learn more by watching this video.  
The Trees of BFL: Pecans (Carya illinoiensis)

The Trees of BFL: Pecans (Carya illinoiensis)

   One of the burried pecans.  Pecan trees (Carya illinoiensis) generally live along river bottom forest, or in places with irrigation systems. You may even have one or two growing in your yard. At Brackenridge Field Lab, the pecans here have a unique relationship with the history of the field lab. In this article “The Dam that ...
One Plant of Thousands

One Plant of Thousands

 The Darwin specimen. (Click on image for larger view) International Darwin Day is observed on February 12, the day Charles Darwin was born. Darwin Day asks people to “reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, and hunger for truth as embodied in Charles Darwin.” In 1831, when he was...
Mis-Stocking Mayhem: The Hunt for Invasive Gobies in the Colorado River Basin

Mis-Stocking Mayhem: The Hunt for Invasive Gobies in the Colorado River Basin

By: Adam Zambie (undergraduate student; College of Natural Sciences; Environmental Science Major and Marine Science Certificate)   Naked Goby (Gobiosoma bosc), source: FoTX Project Website, credit: Joseph R. Tomelleri Texas has a long history of non-native fish introductions into its rivers, streams, and lakes. Many are improbable st...

The Dam that Broke: Some Prehistory that Helps Explains How BFL Came to Exist

PowerHouseAndDamVia a talk given by Dr. Larry Gilbert at BFL, September 2019 Brackenridge Field Laboratory is an 82 acre biological research site that is part of a nearly 400 acre land tract. It’s a site of rich biodiversity and an excellent area of research and outreach. Before it became the BFL, however, it was once something quite different with a very differen...

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...

Space Limitations in UT’s Fluid-preserved Fish Collection – An Opportunistic Test of a Space-efficient Shelving Strategy

Esox headBy: Adam Cohen, Dean Hendrickson and Melissa Casarez Specimens are, in many ways, like books written in languages we are still learning. New technologies like DNA analyses, high-resolution CT scanning, and modern chemistry are providing ways to “read” the complex information stored in specimens. They tell us more about their evolutionary relationsh...

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...

Trees of BFL: Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)

BaldCypressby Nicole Elmer and George Yatskievych (Botanist, Curator: Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center) Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is a deciduous conifer (cone bearing) in the family Cupressaceae. The genus consists of very distinctive trees. They can get very tall, growing up to 120 feet, with massive, lobed ...

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...