Thursday

Ancient Cat Species


Pallas’s Cats,also known as the Manul Cat, along with the extinct Martelli’s Cat, was probably one of the first two modern cats, appearing about 12 million years ago. It has changed little since that time, retaining features that have changed in modern cats. These include round pupils rather than slit-like pupils in other small cats and the first pair of upper premolars are absent. The cats generally weigh 5.5-9.9 pounds.

The cats are found in the Asian steppes between 3,300-13,00 feet in northern Iran, India and Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China, and Mongolia. It prefers rocky areas with few trees where it has been known to sun bathe on the warm rocks. It usually hunts at dawn and dusk preferring a diet of small rodents such as pika and voles.

The major threats to the Pallas’s Cat comes from the poisoning of its prey by farmers. In many areas the pikas and voles are poisoned as pests, these poisoned animals are then eaten by the cats which sicken and die due to accumulation of toxins. They are also susceptible to toxomoplasmosis which they catch from their rodent prey, this disease is particularly detrimental to the kittens. Human threats include hunting for their fur, as the fur is not only beautiful, but very soft. Although it is protected under CITES, many of the countries in which it lives do not have the money nor resources to prevent poaching and the harvesting of pelts continues. Also, habitat fragmentation and development which could result in local extinctions. This is especially problematic as there are 3 recognized sub-species of Pallas’s Cat, and if one were to lose its habitat the genetic diversity, and thus over-all health, of the population would decrease drastically.

Elusive Tree Rat


The Red-Crested Tree Rat may be the rarest rat in the world. It is known through descriptions, a single pelt in the New York Museum of Natural History from 1898 which was classified in 2005 as Santamartamys rufodorsalis, and now from two volunteer biologists working in Columbia for ProAves Foundation. The rat is nocturnal and assumed to be terrestrial rather than arboreal. It walked up to the researchers one night while they were standing on their porch about to turn in for the night. They sent pictures to Paul Salaman of the World Land Trust-USA who just a few years earlier had organized an unsuccessful attempt to find the elusive rat.

The Red-Crested Tree Rat is known only from Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Columbia. This area is a cloud forest, a type of tropical rainforest characterized by almost constant canopy-level clouds. Nothing is known about the rat’s life history or habits. Thus far the only thing known about it is that it is found in a small area, as the recent citing is only 3 miles from there the 1898 pelt was collected, and that the living rat probably weighed ab

out a pound, had a white and black tail and the red mane of fur from which it gets its name. The rat is the only organism within its genus and according to Salaman could basically be a living fossil, a rodent that has changed little in tens of millions of years of being isolated in its little cloud forest.

Tuesday

World's Smallest Frog



The Matang Narrow-mouthed Frog (Microhyla nepenthicola) is a newly described species, it was discovered more than 100 years ago, but thought to be a juvenile of another species. It is also the smallest known species of frog. Researchers tracked the frogs via their distinctive call; they knew it was an adult rather than a juvenile because only adult frogs call. Males range in size from 10.6-12.8mm and females are larger with a total length of about 16mm. They are found around the edges of tropical rainforests, spending most of its life in a pitcher plant Nepenthes ampullaria, after which it is named. Prior to its description the smallest Old World frog was Stumpffia pygmaea, with a body length of 10.9–12.0 mm. The frog is brown in color with blotches of darker brown on the body. The frogs are active in the day and at night, both only around the pitcher plants where they make their homes. The tadpoles are white to light green in color and are endotrophic meaning they live of the yolk which is inside their bodies. The species was described by Indraneil Das and Alexander Haas.

Sunday

Strawberry-Nutella Cheesecake



This almost worked, it seems that the oil in the Nutella made the center of the cheese cake not set quite enough. Not that it didn't taste good, as anything with these two ingredients will. I'll probably try this again some time, making it look a little prettier. The base recipe for the cheesecake is from America's Test Kitchen and it an excellent New York style cheesecake.