Centennial Ridges Trail

Over this past long weekend my wife and I went camping at Algonquin Park, our favorite natural getaway.  On the Saturday we packed a lunch, lots of water, and trail snacks and headed to Centennial Ridges Trail, which was one of the only hikes at the park that we had yet to try.  The trail is a 10.6km loop, with a recommended minimum time of six hours.  Along the way you climb up to the top of five different ridges and visit five distinct lakes. Right from the start, Centennial Ridges lets you know that it means business; the path [... read the rest ...]

Apr 242011
Too cold to slither

It was chilly on Saturday, which meant that this little garter snake was in no hurry to slither away, and made a perfect little model for some photography practice. Click any of the shots for a full-sized view. From above   Profile Snout on

On a blade of grass

Parasites – as I’ve discussed before – are a fascinating case study in the lengths that nature will go to create creatures capable of extreme lifestyles.  The way that some parasites hijack their hosts and alter their form and function is equal parts amazing and repulsive.  Ants, like snails, are common victims: The spores of the [Cordyceps] fungus attach themselves to the external surface of the ant, where they germinate. They then enter the ant’s body through the tracheae (the tubes through which insects breathe), via holes in the exoskeleton called spiracles. Fine fungal filaments called mycelia then start to [... read the rest ...]

Zombie snails

Nature never ceases to amaze me.  The sheer volume and diversity of living things is an astounding example of a complex adaptive system in all of its glory:  creatures of all sorts have evolved to fill an ecological niche, often specializing their physiology and behaviors to unbelievable lengths in the process. In the most recent episode of Quirks & Quarks, Dr. Ryan Hechinger discusses a species of trematode flatworms that lead lives that are almost stranger than fiction. A reproductive trematode morph surrounded by soldier morphs The little worms in question start their life cycle by invading the body of [... read the rest ...]

The fungus of Algonquin

I was camping at Algonquin Park over the Labour Day weekend and spent much of the time hiking the gorgeous trails.  In all we covered 18.6km – not as much as we’d have liked, but more than enough given the blustery cold and damp weather that harassed us for the entire long weekend. While the weather may not have been as nice as we usually get when we’re camping, it did seem to be perfect for all of the mushrooms and fungi that were on display throughout the park.  As a closet fungi freak, I was more than happy to [... read the rest ...]

Of revivals, frozen assets, illusionary wildlife, and more

Ever had one of those days where you have a whole lot to say, but not enough time to do any of the topics justice?  Well, today is one of those days and so I’m just going to point you in the direction of a number of cool articles, and then run away giggling. PC gaming is dead? The demise of PC gaming has been predicted for nearly as long as the systems have existed, but a couple of years ago it looked like there might finally have been some truth to that old canard.  Valve’s Steam service, however, has [... read the rest ...]

Chickadee code

This is the sort of story that my grandmother would have loved to read: Biologists Crack Code of Chickadee Song. Who would have guessed that when a chickadee opens its tiny beak, it has a lot to say? Biologists studying the alarm calls of black-capped chickadees found the bird’s songs signal not only the presence but also the size of nearby predators. “This level of complexity is certainly new, in terms of alarm responses especially,” says Chris Templeton of the University of Washington in Seattle. His study shows chickadees have one of the most sophisticated means of communication discovered in [... read the rest ...]

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