News in Brief – Beluga whale spotted in the Thames, Japanese knotweed invasion and Praying Mantises

Beluga whale spotted in the Thames

A Beluga whale, a species usually found in the arctic region, has been spotted in the Thames estuary a few miles from London. As the Thames is a river it is fresh water not salt and therefore not normally the place to find whales or dolphins. Furthermore until recently it was so dirty that none of these animals will come close. However in 2006 the northern bottlenose whale was sighted in the Thames unfortunately the animal died eventually.

Japanese knotweed invasion in the UK, and other plants where they should not be

This plant is causing significant problems in the UK as is regularly reported on. It should be noted, though that it is one of thousands of plants causing problems having been accidentally or intentionally introduced into ecosystems they are alien to. Knotweed plays the poster child of invasive plants, but we are finding our habit of accidentally or intentionally introducing plants from elsewhere must stop.

Cleaning up the issues caused this far, is already a huge possibly impossible task to complete. Plants transported to new ecosystems often unbalance the ecosystem doing untold damage.

Praying mantises have been spotted fishing out small Indian guppies to eat

Praying mantis which are large insects around 5 cm in length have been seen to eat all sorts of animals in the wild. This includes small birds, rodents and even lizards. However the species has not been spotted hunting the animals but merely eating their carcasses. In India they were spotted walking across water lilies and plucking guppies out of the water. In one particular place a praying mantis was seen carrying out this behaviour over 5 or 6 days in a row. On each day he caught roughly 2 guppies and ate them.

They have impressive visual capabilities, having two large eyes and three small eyes between them. They also have the capability of fully understanding what they are looking at and appear to have developed the ability to adjust for the bending effect that light has after it passes through water. This means that when they strike at guppies underwater they strike in the right place rather than where they appear to be.

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