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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Meet the Dugong

Share a minute with a rare marine mammal, the dugong (Dugong dugon).


Most Americans are familiar with the endangered Caribbean manatee (Trichechus manatus), a slow moving herbivorous mammal that swims in shallow warm waters from Florida and the Caribbean to coastal South America. The dugong is related to the manatee, but it lives in the Pacific Ocean from Micronesia and the Philippines to Taiwan, South East Asia, and Indonesia to northern Australia and the Pacific islands. Unfortunately, only the Australian population is monitored and there is concern that this gentle plant-eater may be disappearing across much of its territory.

Watch the dugong swimming and you will note that it has a fluked tail like a dolphin, rather than a spoon-shaped manatee tail. The dugong swims faster than the manatee and is known to travel further when migrating. 

However, because it lives across a wider area, little is known about wild dugongs except that they eat sea grass. They are important creatures in their marine ecosystem because their grazing encourages the growth of sea grass higher in nutrients. In captivity, dugongs are picky eaters, refusing more nutrient-rich greens and preferring romaine lettuce. 

Unfortunately, romaine is low in nutrients. It takes a crew of people to keep the dugongs healthy. They refill special feeding trays all day long that hold the lettuce upright underwater like sea grass. 

Like their closest land-relative, the elephant, dugongs can live to around age 70. They also do not reach sexual maturity until after 10 years old and mothers care for their offspring for several years, spacing calves three to seven years apart. They are very slow to reproduce. 

In 2014 there are only five dugongs in captivity in the world. The two pictured here are orphaned individuals that were unable to survive in the wild.  (more about Pig and Wuru at the Sydney Aquarium in Australia).

See more Australian wildlife:
Cape Tribulation, Queensland - Watch Green Tree Ants
See Natural Art on a Tropical Australian Beach (sand dabbler crabs)
Flying Foxes in Cairns, North Queensland, Australia
Sea Birds on Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia  
Spotting a Lace Monitor in the Wild
Australian Great Barrier Reef Swim
(parrot fish, zebra fish, giant clams, coral)

Swim over to The Earth Minute each week for a new one-minute adventure.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Close-up with a Red Jumping Spider

Not all spiders are the same. Jumping spiders are compact athletes with short, strong legs. Rather than construct webs, they prowl around for their prey. This spider is more like a tiger. 

Get close-up with a red jumping spider (Phidippus formosus). See if you can count its eyes?


Nearly the size of a quarter, this is California's largest jumping spider. More information on this amazing spider at

See more wildlife close-ups, including California's Valley carpenter bees and gray bird grasshopper, and green tree ants in Australia's rainforest.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Discover Mountain Wildflowers in Wyoming

In this montane meadow at Togwotee Pass in Wyoming, discover wildflowers and the meadow thistle (Cirsium scaroiosum).


While some people collect photos of architecture or kittens, I love thistles. Native thistles in their natural environment. 

meadow thistle (Cirsium scaroiosum)
Unlike most thistles, the meadow thistle has a single thick stalk with numerous flowers close together encircling the crown. Fine hairs on the leaves reflect the sun making the plant appear to glow on the mountain slopes. 

I have a hunch these plants really dazzle in the ultraviolet part of the light spectrum, creating a beacon to attract native bees and insects. The meadow thistle lives at high elevation and must attract its pollinators during a short alpine summer. 

creamy buckwheat (Eriogonium umbellatum var. subalpinum)

Togwotee Pass is adjacent to Tetons National Park and Yellowstone National Park. (watch bison in Yellowstone)

For more about Rocky Mountain flora visit

Visit for a new 
1-minute adventure each week

Thursday, November 6, 2014

California Misses the Rain -Take an Autumn Walk in New York's Central Park

In Southern California we are in the middle of a record drought.

This October we visited New York City's iconic
Central Park and took a walk on a wet and beautiful fall day.

Join us on our rainy day stroll through the park! 


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