Phenomena

The complexity of Nature is so overwhelming that there is a danger that we shy away from knowing. Scientist may devote their whole career to find a specific protein which plays a central role in the development of some parasite like malaria. The "Big 5" of Tanzania is an other example of framing our encounter with Nature to a comprehensible package. Pugu Hills Nature Centre in its physical limitations of 6 hectares also provides a convenient limit to the information to be shared concerning Nature.

This article groups some natural phenomena which occur within the Centre and are intended to illustrate the surprising activities going on in Nature, for some we fail to provide an explanation.

 

plants wilting with feet in water      

The bamboo along the nature trail has its roots in the water and still suffers from wilting as is shown by the curling leaves on the first photograph. Lower on the same bamboo the leaves which are not in the full sun, adequate water is supplied to the leaves (photograph 2). The same phenomenum can be observed in a maize field in the summer on a hot day around noon. The explanation for this (temporary) wilting is that the atmospheric demand for moist can not be satisfied while the capacity of plant to transport water to the leave is not adeqate to compensate for the loss of water to the atmosphere, with the result that the leaves "shut down" and reduce their evapotranspiration by closing their stomata and curling their leaves. Later on the day when the sun is less high and the atmospheric demand for water dropping, recovery of the turgidity of the leaves can be observed and they look fresh and shining green again.

The explanation for wilting during drought has a different explanation while with reduced presence of water in the soil, the suction required by the roots to extract adequate water from the soil is not any longer met and results in wilting.

wilting_bamboo_in_water_reduced same_leave_wilting_bamboo_in_shade_reduced  
tree forecasts rains      
The old pod mahogany along the nature trail has the mysterious ability to start budding its leaves before the first rains. With the rest of the forest reduced to sad brittle dry twigs the old remnant of the Pugu Forest will burst out in fresh young leaves (voodoo?) pod-mahogany_bursting_foliage_in_dry_season    
fastest growing plant at pugu      

A tuber has been recorded to grow some 50 mm per hour and is presently placed at No. 1 position (we are looking for challengers)

Searching on the internet suggests that we are dealing with a Dioscorea sansibarensis. In Singapore they are waging a war against this invasive poisonous tuber from Africa.

Download a list (IUCN) of the 100 worst invasive species and their history.

fastest_potato

tuber_growth_start_reduced tuber_growth_2_days_reduced tuber_growth_after_2_days_ruler_reduced
plant with muscles      
The Mimosa pudica or Sensitive plant, should actually not be at Pugu Hills Centre while it is an invase species from Asia. We would not like the kids to miss the interesting ability of this plant to close its leaves after being touched. (see video) and planted one at banda 3. Sensitive plant  
Animals camouflage      

During the days when our watchmen were still familiar with the bush (pori in Kiswahili) most probably as ex-poachers or illegal loggers, we heard many interesting stories. One story survived about the incredible camouflage of the praying mantis. Jumainne (watchman) took me to the valley and showed me a Agathisanthemum bojeri a common weed along the East African coast (Photograph). It took me a while to find the Mantis with exactly the same flowers growing on its back as camouflage. Jumainne added that it was quite exceptional to find one. He proved right while I did not yet managed in 10 years since he left to find a second "agathisantemum" mantis. (A free lunch for the guest who will find one at Pugu Hills! For this exceptional case you will be allowed to pick the flower with mantis and bring it to the restaurant for a photograph and reward)

agathisantemum bojeri    
animals and foot drumming      

The first time I saw the Elephant Shrew I could not make up my mind whether I was watching a hare, a giant rat or a small antilope like creature. With the snout like an elephant trunk the ears and hind legs of a hare, and the tail and front legs of a rat and the eyes and features of a Suni (a small forest antilope) it looks like a real photo collage. Also the ancestry of the elephant shrew has been confused "they were believed to be Insectivores (they eat insects, after all). However, it turns out that they have the teeth and digestive tract of a herbivore (e.g. they have a relic caecum - the organ used by rabbits and horses to ferment grass). They're now thought to be a very ancient group, and they have their very own order: Macroscelidea." (source). According to most articles they incorporated foot-drumming  into their social interactions and aggressive displays too. Each species (and there are about 17) has its own unique pattern of drumming, with bouts of stomping varying consistently in length, frequency and duration. So if you're an elephant shrew expert, you can identify a species from its sense of rhythm!

My first association for the drumming was to attract insects to the surface, but up to now I did not find much support for that theory yet.

 Four-toed elephant shrew    
preying animals      
The ant lion is the one of my favorite nature phenomena and loved by most outdoor kids. Ant Lion    
crocodile climbing tree      
We try not to attract attention for Nature through sensationalism, hype and guiness record book superlatives but it is hard to resist to make the association finding a monitor lizard in the tree (picture). crocodile in the tree    
Ecology, jungle and dead trees      
The centre has a mission to make people love "jungle", "bush", "pori" next to "garden", "shamba", "field" or meadow. Nature is not organised not cleaned-up, it is "messy", "chaotic". In fact it opposes our human, organised way of live. It may be as hard to find a dead tree in Tanzania as in countries with less wilderness. You most probably have to travel to a Game Park to make pictures of Nature where here and there chunks of dead wood sticking out. At the Centre we protect all trees living and dead, while the latter will house many other useful organism all playing their essential role in the show called "Life". dead_tree_pugu_reduced    
Invasive Species and over cultivated land      

Some invasive species are kept at the Centre or in some cases planted for demonstration. It is however asking for problems like the weeding required for the Mimosa tree which is very popular with the Sykes monkey for its seeds. But also the cute sensitive plant of the video above is an invasive species. Invasive species are either more successful that the indigenous species and becoming a thread after being introduced, or they are successful because the natural habitat has been altered by human activities.

Salinity may increase due to irrigation, water rentention in the soil may be reduced due to compaction and construction activities inviting more drought resistant species. The "Sodom Apple" eaten by satan after tempting Adam and Eva to eat the apple is a typical roadside plant in Tanzania as indicator of disturbed land.

Calotropis procera    
       
       

 

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