Ahh, life is sweet

I have to take a break. I may be gone for some time... I may not. Here are some cool photos.

i-e5cf1aee47ee042b158c3948a8d9635e-pelican_eats _pigeon_Jan-2010.jpg





More like this

From top to bottom:

Pelican swallows pigeon.

Python is trying to eat a wallaby.

Two Odocoileus deer in deep snow.

Polar bear making friends with a dog.

Bald eagle catches Bewick's swan in flight.

Life may be sweet, but three out of five of these photos are scenes of predation. The pelican is eating that pigeon. The python is eating that kangaroo, and the trumpeter swan is being preyed upon by a bald eagle.

The Qimmiq dog (Inuit dog) and the polar bear are playing. This is a famous photo that appeared in National Geographic in the 90's. It's been filmed many times: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JE-Nyt4Bmi8

The North American deer (which are either Mule deer or white-tailed deer, it's hard to tell from the resolution of the photo) are in deep trouble. Not only can they not move around in the deep snow very well, they can't find food easily without expending lots of calories digging. Plus, it's very easy for predators to run them down in the deep snow, especially as they become weakened from lack of nutrition. This is the time when bobcats are likely to become successful deer predators.

I think only one of those photos is really a "life is sweet" moment, and that's the polar bear and dog.

Retrieverman: there may, or may not, be an implied irony in my choice of pictures and words. I leave you to decide.

I agree. Evolution is sweet!

By randomnut (not verified) on 27 Jan 2010 #permalink


the trumpeter swan

Yeah, on closer look that's what it seems to be (rather than a Bewick's/tundra swan). Thanks for the correction.

Well, grab some relaxation, if that's what you're in need of. I thank you for the wonderful inspirations you've shared here.

I have seen the python/wallaby picture before and wondered if it was "real".It absolutely fascinates me, from a distance!

Amazing pictures Darren, thanks for sharing!

As a relatively new subscriber to your RSS feed (but long time sporadic lurker) I do hope your break is a short one. I don't know how you professional scientists manage to keep up with the blogging, teaching AND groundbreaking research without burning out quickly. Keep up the good work. This is probably one of my absolutely favourite blogs of all time.

By Ubermoogle (not verified) on 27 Jan 2010 #permalink

Hey, most of the predated probably have a higher sugar content than is typical for arrangements of non-life.

I live just a 20min drive from the lake where that Eagle vs Swan picture was taken In Terrace, British Columbia. It is indeed a Trumpeter swan, they over winter on the lake.

By Christopher Co… (not verified) on 27 Jan 2010 #permalink

Um, is that pelican actually eating a pigeon? And if so, is this an unique freak event? I thought they were highly specialized fish eaters ... never really thought of them as eating anything else.

By William Miller (not verified) on 27 Jan 2010 #permalink

Comment #2 (Retrieverman)

Yeah ⦠definitely white-tailed deer. Mule deer have wider and deeper ears.

By deerhunter (not verified) on 27 Jan 2010 #permalink

Take a break and Dig up some Bones along the Sea shores cliffs.

By Bob Michaels (not verified) on 27 Jan 2010 #permalink

If Polar bears have started making freinds with husky's, I shuder to think what else is goign wrong with the world.

By Zach hawkins (not verified) on 27 Jan 2010 #permalink

Take as long as you need - we'll be here when you come back.

Have nice days, and may you and yours be well.

By Anthony Docimo (not verified) on 27 Jan 2010 #permalink

Best of wishes, Darren. Thank you so much for all of your work and contributions.

By Kevin Schreck (not verified) on 27 Jan 2010 #permalink

darren naish i've been reading your blog since before you moved to science blogs and take lots of time off if you want i mean jiminy christmas you've done a lot of posts

I hope you have a good break - I read this blog every day, and you will be missed.

No harm in taking a break to sort things out; it's obvious from the comments that people (including lurkers like myself) will continue to check in. Good luck with it all.

A specific indentification of the python and its prey, anyone? I'm guessing it's an olive python Liasis olivaceus that has caught some rock wallaby Petrogale species.

I doubt its burn-out so much as some new and hopefully
lucrative project. Good luck with what ever it is, Darren,
and not to worry, we'll be here when you get back. ( Unless
some red-eyed fiend gets us first.)

By craig york (not verified) on 28 Jan 2010 #permalink

Dartian, you have the right python species and macropodid genus (rock wallabies all look the same to me). The gorgeously weathered stratigraphy would be highly unusual anywhere but the Kimberley or Pilbara regions of WA, but I can't be positive which of the two. Pilbara olives are geographically isolated and have been described as a subspecies L. olivaceus barroni, and stated (I think originally in the taxonomy paper by Laurie Smith) to reach 6 m in length, which would probably be bigger than any northern ones. The snake (about 4 m in this case, I think) is pulling hard, but will probably end up swallowing the thing close to water level, rather than dragging it up to a ledge first.

Also note that the genus-species combo was originally Liasis olivacea, showing that (like many of the other generic names coined by J.E. Gray) he intended it to be a feminine noun. Unfortunately, the only other gendered species-name in his original list was amethistinus, originally described in another (masculine) genus and not changed to agree by Gray. Whatever reasons have been given for supposing Liasis to be masculine are bogus, and apparently derive from ignorance of Latin and of Gray's other work; so I stick with olivacea. Go thou and do likewise.

Take your break in peace, Darren. When you come back, the event will be heralded far and wide, and your readership will return alacritously.

By Nathan Myers (not verified) on 29 Jan 2010 #permalink

William Miller wrote:

Um, is that pelican actually eating a pigeon?

If it is, the pigeon seems to be taking it remarkably well...


The gorgeously weathered stratigraphy would be highly unusual anywhere but the Kimberley or Pilbara regions of WA, but I can't be positive which of the two.

If it's Kimberley, the macropodid might be either a black-flanked rock wallaby Petrogale lateralis or a Rothschild's rock wallaby Petrogale rothschildi (although the dark-ish pelage colouration would seem to rule out the latter). If it's Pilbara, it's most likely a short-eared rock wallaby Petrogale brachyotis. But it's hard to tell for sure from that photo.

Darren, don't be away too long (unless you _have_ to be). This is a wonderful blog and I check it several times a week. In the meantime I'll be starting on your dinosaur book that I received for Christmas.

I was kind of hoping that the pelican-pigeon thing was an attempt at some sort of two-stage intercontinental bird. But no.

The dog-polar bear match-up was interesting. Seems quite a few critters play cross-species at times. I've seen a deer and a rabbit playing. I wonder how the polar bear and the dog, or the deer and the bunny read one another's body language and know that playful socializing is in order.

Thanks for the link to the Snopes page, Jura. According to the information there, the picture is indeed taken in the Kimberley region, and the snake is an olive python, as John Scanlon said. It is also stated that the macropodid is a wallaroo Macropus robustus (although confusingly, it is also called a wallaby a couple of times).

I enlarged the image on the Snopes page; the resolution is still not great, but enough to show that the macropodid is quite uniformly coloured; i.e., there are no obvious white stripes on the face, or (unlike what I first thought I could faintly see) on the shoulders or the flanks. Enlarging the picture also shows that the tail's blackness and apparent thickening toward the end, which was what initially suggested Petrogale to me, is probably only a watery distortion. The animal's rather short arms, largish ears and overall robustness also seem right for a wallaroo. Wallaroo it is, then (and, specifically, a northern wallaroo Macropus robustus woodwardii).

Hope to see you back here soon again, Darren! I too have been reading your blog since before Scienceblogs and you have really rekindled my interest in animals; Iâm grateful.

If that's a wallaroo (one of those big, stocky, rock-haunting roos that I keep having 'yowie'-encounters with), the snake's even bigger than I thought. A 3 m Olive is marginal, safety-wise, for handling by a single person (if it gets round your neck and you can't find the tail to unwind it...). I've helped hold one that was about 4.5. Over 5 m, I probably wouldn't touch it.

I'm glad there's some bear/dog hope amongst the predation and snowing under. Thousands of people will be hoping that whatever's keeping you occupied elsewhere is neither unpleasant nor onerous.

It's not just the tetrapods that keep us coming back, it's the clever, exacting, entertaining man behind them.

Enjoy. Do what you need to do. I appreciate the effort you have been making to educate . Thanks.


By Blind Squirrel (not verified) on 03 Feb 2010 #permalink

Just written a blog post about green lizards in The UK, guess which blog was:
a) the best source of background info on the net
b) the only reference that wasn't a paper or book

In fact if it wasn't for a study in 2008 (the post was 2006) there probably would have been no point writing a post!

Its best stop for invasive animals/vert palaeo/tetrapod goodness on the net

Thank you. We'll keep on reading and reareading your books in the interim.

While patiently waiting for Darren to return, i have read a news scan by Michael Tennesen in the Feb 2010 issue of Scientific American entitled "Python Boom"
Big Snakes poised to change U.S ecosystems.

"It`s not just the Burmese Python, but the northern and southern african Pythons,reticulated pythons, Boa Constrictors and Four species of Anacondas"

Needless to say they are reproducing and have no natural enemies. Biologists belive that Tens of thousands are now in the Everglades

By Bob Michaels (not verified) on 08 Feb 2010 #permalink

and have no natural enemies

...when they're grown up, which takes a while.

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 09 Feb 2010 #permalink