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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

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Another informative issue of Calodema, the journal "devoted to promoting knowledge about the flora and fauna of Australia and the Pacific"

The eighth issue of "Calodema" follows in the strong tradition now established for this journal. While the emphasis is as usual on Australian entomology, particularly the scientifically and culturally important jewel beetles (Buprestidae), there is plenty of interest on other taxa and other parts of the world.

Dewanand Makhan continues to be prolific in describing new species of beetles and spiders from Suriname. I understand that he is a native of this area of northern South America, which used to be known as Dutch or Netherlands Guiana. Dr Makhan writes from The Netherlands. His descriptions of new genera, species and records for new areas provide four of the papers in this issue. They are accompanied by both line drawings and black and white photographs, including photomicrographs.

Highlights of this issue include a detailed and critical review of an important recent publication on Australian jewel beetles by Dr CL (Chuck) Bellamy, a noted researcher on the group. Like a few other important families of beetles, the Buprestidae have their own newsletter, "Buprestis". Beetles with a fanzine!

Suffice it to say that Trevor Hawkeswood's review of Bellamy's catalogue of Australian jewel beetles is less than flattering. He claims to have found "over 500 errors". Despite this, he notes that the book is the only one of its kind presently available. I would have liked a bit more information on the nature of those "500 errors". The main problems seem to lie with records of host plants and distribution. I am not sure that I agree that the cost of the catalogue is "astronomical" at 140 Australian dollars. Unfortunately, that is not an untypical price for a substantial academic work today.

Vertebrates are not ignored. The pied currawong (Strepera graculina, Cracticidae) is a prominent and dominant Australian garden bird. They are in the same family as the aptly-named butcher birds, and are notorious for their depredations on smaller birds. However they appear to be opportunistic omnivores, and Morison and Hawkeswood record pied currawongs feeding on seeds of the flame tree (Brachychiton acerifolius) in a suburb of Sydney, Australia known as Beecroft. (I note with amusement that Wikipedia remarks that Beecroft is "unusually English in its atmosphere".) Anyway, pied currawongs have been seen eating the seeds for a few years now, when they become seasonally available in this little bit of old England in Australia.

I have a paper on the evolution of sex in this issue, which is proving to be somewhat controversial.

Julian

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"Get the wax out of your ears!"

After going to the swimming pool a couple of days ago, I found myself rather deaf. Today I had my ears cleaned out by the doctor. Suddenly the world is full of the high-pitched noises I had not been hearing for a while: everything seems to be buzzing, clicking, whirring and hissing.

Julian

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

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Orthodox Christmas

"Most Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar on January 7."

Some good pictures here, including images from the Holy Land.

I shall add the relevant blog (Unam Sanctam) to my blogroll.


Julian

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