POLAR BEAR FACTS




The polar bear is arguably the most impressive and iconic mammals of the arctic tundra. Unfortunately,  due to a combination of hunting, loss of habitat, increased pressure from an expanding local human population, global warming and the associated melting of the ice caps and accidental poisoning, polar bear numbers are now in decline.

This problem is exacerbated as polar bears have low reproduction rates, but before we can address, and hopefully arrest the decline in polar bear numbers we need to know as much as we can about their behaviour and habitats.

Polar bear facts

1. The polar bear is only found in the Arctic region of the northern hemisphere, and NOT AT ALL in the Antarctic region of the southern hemisphere.

2. The polar bear is not only the world's largest land carnivore, it is also the worlds largest bear! An adult male weighs around 350–680 kg (770–1,500 lb), while an adult female is about half that size. This make a large male twice as big as the Siberian tiger!

3. The polar bear is classified as a vulnerable species, with eight of the nineteen polar bear sub populations in decline.

4. The scientific name Ursus maritimus, the Latin for 'maritime bear', due to the animal's native habitat.

5. Polar bears can breed with brown bears to produce fertile grizzly–polar bear hybrids. This indicates that they have only recently diverged and are genetically similar.

6. Research on fossilised bones has shown that there is a giant form of the polar bear once roamed the arctic. Known as Ursus maritimus tyrannus it became extinct during the Pleistocene, and was significantly larger than any living subspecies.

7. Polar bears overheat at temperatures above 10 °C (50 °F), and are nearly invisible under infrared photography.

8. Polar bears are superbly insulated by up to 10 cm (3.9 in) of blubber!

9. The polar bear is an excellent swimmer. In fact they have been seen in open Arctic waters as far as 200 miles from land. It swims in a dog paddle fashion using its large forepaws for propulsion. Polar bears can swim 6 mph.

10. The skin of a polar bear is black while the hair of a polar bear is not white! It is in fact transparent and hollow!

11. When sprinting, a polar bear can reach up to 25 mph!

12. The polar bear has an extremely well developed sense of smell, and is able to detect seals up to 1 mile away and buried under 3 ft of snow.

13. Mature polar bears tend to eat only the calorie-rich skin and blubber of the seal, whereas younger bears consume the protein-rich red meat.

14. A polar bear can kill an adult walrus, although this is rarely attempted. Why? Because a walrus can be more than twice the bear's weight and has up to three feet long ivory tusks that can be used as formidable weapons.

15. Unlike brown and black bears, polar bears are capable of fasting for up to several months during late summer and early autumn.

16. As of 2008, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) reports that the global population of polar bears is 20,000 to 25,000, and is declining.

17. The Inuit (Eskimo) people of North America and Greenland hunt the polar bear for its meat and fur. However, they cannot eat its liver. Why? Because its holds such a high content of vitamin A, polar bear liver is poisonous to humans!

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Images from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/highlands_and_islands/7874602.stm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Polar_Bear_Swimming.JPG and http://www.hsd3.org/HighSchool/Teachers/MATTIXS/Mattix%20homepage/studentwork/LYNNZIE%20TOMPKINS%20WEBPAGE/ASSETS/Appetite.html
Based on an article from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_bear and http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/mar/12/polar-bears-endangered-species-listing

WHAT IS WATERCRESS?




Watercresses (Nasturtium officinale, N. microphyllum; formerly Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum, R. microphylla) are fast-growing, aquatic or semi-aquatic, perennial plants. Their neutral habitat ranges from Europe to central Asia, and it is one of the oldest known leaf vegetables consumed by human beings. These plants are members of the Family Brassicaceae or cabbage family, botanically related to garden cress, mustard and radish — all noteworthy for a peppery, tangy flavour.

History tells us that the ancient European civilizations had great faith in the health giving properties that watercress had to offer. In fact, Hippocrates - the Father of modern medicine - is said to have deliberately located his first hospital beside a stream so that he could grow a plentiful and convenient supply of watercress with which to help treat his patients.

Through the latter half of the twentieth century the popularity of watercress had been falling, mainly due to increased competition from imported and more exotic ‘fresh produce’. However since its identification as a ‘super food’, watercress has been experiencing something of a revival and has now become one of the most popular salad crops available today.

Brimming with more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals and packed full of beneficial glucosinates, watercress contains- gram for gram - more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and more folic acid than bananas.

However what really makes watercress a ‘super food’ is the release of recent research which shows that eating watercress regularly can help cut the chances of developing cancer.

The University of Ulster has published a report in the ‘American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’ that suggests a regular intake of fresh watercress can significantly reduce DNA damage to white blood cells within the human body. In fact, they found that DNA damage to white blood cells was cut by an incredible 22.9%. This is a terribly important find, especially as white blood cell damage is considered to be an important trigger in the development of cancer.

In addition to this, watercress also appears to raise the levels of beneficial compounds within human cells allowing them to protect themselves from the damaging effects of particles known as ‘free radicals’.

When cell samples were exposed to hydrogen peroxide – a highly reactive substance which is used to generates large numbers of free radicals within the body - damage levels were found to be 9.4% lower than would normally be expected. In addition to this, the research found that the blood levels of antioxidant compounds, such as lutein and beta-carotene (naturally occurring chemicals important in combating the effect of free radicals) were also increased significantly. In contrast, levels of potentially harmful triglycerides were reduced by an average of 10%.

With important discoveries such as these being discovered within one of the cheapest and easiest to grow salad plants that you can find, you wold be foolish not to include watercress as a part of your everyday meal plan. Not only can it help reduce the incidence of this countries number 1 killer, it actually tastes good too.

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Based on an article from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watercress
Images care of http://fraukuchen.wordpress.com/2009/07/06/watercress-auf-deutsche/ and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/7957663/Watercress-may-help-fight-cancer.html and http://www.incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk/blogs/man-bites-veg-grown-on-fish-poo and http://troutcaviar.blogspot.co.uk/2009_04_01_archive.html

ALL ABOUT LIONS



The lion is the largest and most powerful of all the African big cats, in fact with some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, there is only one species of cat larger – the tiger!

Unlike most other members of the cat family, the lion is a social animal living in a family group known as a ‘pride’. A pride can hold between 16 and 30 members. Lions are apex predators, although they scavenge as opportunity allows. While lions do not typically hunt humans, some have been known to do so. Those that do are given the name 'Man Killer' and are hunted until they are caught and killed by locals.

Sleeping mainly during the day, lions are primarily nocturnal, although bordering on crepuscular in nature. This means that they are active primarily during dawn and dusk.

Some prides included a single male, while others can have up to 6 males. Where a pride has more than one male lion, they are probably litter mates or have established a permanent bond as siblings.

Nowadays, wild lions only remain in remote areas which have yet to be developed by man.

Where do lions live?

Wild lions currently exist in Sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia with an endangered remnant population in Gir Forest National Park in India. Unfortunately, lion populations disappeared from North Africa and Southwest Asia in historic times. A small population was once believed to have survived in remote parts if Iran, but these too are now thought to be extinct.

Until the late Pleistocene, about 10,000 years ago, the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans. In fact, they were once found in most of Africa, across Eurasia from Western Europe to India, and in the Americas from the Yukon to Peru.

Unfortunately today, the lion has become a species at risk, having seen a possibly irreversible population decline of thirty to fifty percent over the past two decades in its African range.

This means that lion populations are now next to untenable outside designated reserves and national parks. Although the cause of the decline is not fully understood, habitat loss and conflicts with humans are currently the greatest causes of concern. Within Africa, the West African lion population is particularly endangered.

Breeding

A lioness will produce a litter of cubs about every two years. Shortly before giving birth, she chooses a suitable site for her lair, which must be sheltered, close to water, out of sight, and safe from potential predators. The cubs are born blind, with a spotted coat. For two months they are completely dependent on their mother’s milk.

At six weeks they begin to accompany their mother to the kill, where they acquire a taste of meat and learn how to hunt. A lion cub cannot tear meat until it has permanent teeth - usually produced once it has reached about one year old, so it continues to rely on its mother for food. Slowly the cubs will master the art of hunting and by 15 months the cubs will be able to catch and kill small prey.

When the cubs reach two years of age, their mother is usually pregnant again and they are forced to leave her. However, some female cubs may be allowed to stay in the pride, but the dominant male will drive out all the male cubs. Less than half the young lion survive their first few weeks alone .

What do Lions eat?

Lionesses usually hunt for the pride which is probably why they are more aggressive by nature. However, the male lion will always take precedence at the kill, dragging the prey in to the shade, then gorging himself before the females and cubs begin to eat.

The male lion usually stays and watches its young while waiting for the lionesses to return from the hunt. Typically, several lionesses work together and encircle the herd from different points. Once they have closed with a herd, they usually target the closest prey. The attack is short and powerful; they attempt to catch the victim with a fast rush and final leap. The prey usually is killed by strangulation, which can cause cerebral ischemia or asphyxia (which results in hypoxemic, or "general", hypoxia). The prey also may be killed by the lion enclosing the animal's mouth and nostrils in its jaws which would also result in asphyxia. Smaller prey, though, may simply be killed by a swipe of a lion's paw.

However, lions are not particularly known for their stamina—for instance, a lioness' heart makes up only 0.57 percent of her body weight (a male's is about 0.45 percent of his body weight), whereas a hyena's heart is close to 1 percent of its body weight. Therefore, they only run fast in short bursts, and need to be close to their prey before starting the attack. They take advantage of factors that reduce visibility; many kills take place near some form of cover or at night. They sneak up to the victim until they reach a distance of around 30 metres (98 ft) or less.

The lions preferred prey are wildebeest and zebra which are slower and easier to catch than small antelopes and gazelles.

When water is scarce, lions will often lie in wait close to a water hole, knowing that its prey will eventually go there to drink.

When prey is scarce, lions will then eat almost anything, including carrion. They may even attack larger prey such as giraffe, buffalo, and hippopotamus. They are have also been known to take on elephants and rhinoceros, but this is rare due to the danger of injury.

Of course, lions will also attack domestic livestock. In India, cattle contribute significantly to their diet. Lions are also quite capable of killing other predators such as leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, and wild dogs, though unlike most big cats, they will seldom eat the competitors after killing them.

A lion may gorge itself and eat up to 66 lb in one sitting, and if it is unable to consume all the kill it will rest for a few hours before consuming more. An adult lioness requires an average of about 11 lb of meat per day, while a male needs about 15.5 lb.

Lion facts

1.There may be one species of lion but did you know that it was believed that there were up to 12 subspecies of lion? Unfortunately, some of these subspecies are now extinct and others have been discounted for being too similar. So today we are left with 8 - for now.

2. Lions have been known to breed with tigers (most often the Siberian and Bengal subspecies) to create hybrids called ligers and tiglons (or tigons). They also have been crossed with leopards to produce leopons and jaguars to produce jaglions. The marozi is reputedly a spotted lion or a naturally occurring leopon, while the Congolese Spotted Lion is a complex lion-jaguar-leopard hybrid called a lijagulep. Such hybrids were once commonly bred in zoos, but this is now discouraged due to the emphasis on conserving species and subspecies. Hybrids are still bred in private menageries and in zoos in China.

3. The lion is the tallest (at the shoulder) of all living cats, averaging about 14 cm (5.5 in) taller than the tiger. Behind only the tiger, the lion is the second largest living big cat in length and weight.



4. The longest known lion, at nearly 3.6 m (12 ft) in total length, was a black-maned male shot near Mucsso, southern Angola in October 1973; the heaviest lion known in the wild was a man-eater shot in 1936 just outside Hectorspruit in eastern Transvaal, South Africa and weighed 313 kg (690 lb).

5. The mane of the adult male lion, unique among cats, is one of the most distinctive characteristics of the species. It makes the lion appear larger, providing an excellent intimidation display; this aids the lion during confrontations with other lions and with the species' chief competitor in Africa, the spotted hyena.

6. The white lion is not a distinct subspecies, but a special morph with a genetic condition, leucism that causes paler colouration akin to that of the white tiger; the condition is similar to melanism, which causes black panthers. They are not albinos, having normal pigmentation in the eyes and skin.

7. Lions are the most socially inclined of all wild big cats, most of which remain quite solitary in nature.


8. Lions spend much of their time resting and are inactive for about 20 hours per day.

9. Lionesses do the majority of the hunting for their pride, being smaller, swifter and more agile than the males, and unencumbered by the heavy and conspicuous mane, which causes overheating during exertion.

10. The Nile crocodile is the only sympatric predator (besides humans) that can singly threaten the lion. Depending on the size of the crocodile and the lion, either can lose kills or carrion to the other. Lions have been known to kill crocodiles venturing onto land, while the reverse is true for lions entering waterways, as evidenced by the occasional lion claw found in crocodile stomachs.

11. Although adult lions have no natural predators, evidence suggests that the majority die violently from humans or other lions. Lions often inflict serious injuries on each other, either members of different prides encountering each other in territorial disputes, or members of the same pride fighting at a kill.


12. Lions have an array of facial expressions and body postures that serve as visual gestures. Their repertoire of vocalizations is also large. Lion sounds include snarling, purring, hissing, coughing, meowing, woofing and roaring. Lions tend to roar in a very characteristic manner, starting with a few deep, long roars that trail off into a series of shorter ones. They most often roar at night; the sound, which can be heard from a distance of 8 kilometres (5.0 mi), is used to advertise the animal's presence. Lions have the loudest roar of any big cat.

13. Lions were kept and bred by Assyrian kings as early as 850 BC, and Alexander the Great was said to have been presented with tame lions by the Malhi of northern India. Later in Roman times, lions were kept by emperors to take part in the gladiator arenas.


14. The lion will only kill when it is hungry. Prey can usually sense when lions are hunting and grazing animals will often ignore lions at other times – even when they close by.

15. Lion-baiting is a blood sport involving the baiting of lions in combat with other animals - usually dogs. Records of it exist in ancient times through until the seventeenth century. It was finally banned in Vienna by 1800 and England in 1825.

16. Lions were once kept in the Tower of London. However, the presence of lions at the Tower of London was intermittent, being restocked when a monarch or his consort such as Margaret of Anjou the wife of Henry VI - either sought or were given such magnificent  -animals.

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Image care of http://www.metrolic.com/roaring-in-the-wild-lions-150877/
Based on an article from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion and http://predatorhaven.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/lions-money-sex-again.html and http://predatorhaven.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/lions-money-sex-again.html and http://animalszooguru.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/lions-cubs-lions-video-pics-photos.html and http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/184239/20110721/forget-vampires-and-zombies-man-eating-lions-attack-after-full-moon.htm and http://mosaicartsource.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/lions-in-ancient-mosaic-art-cyprus-el-jem-israel-libya-naples-pella-pompeii-sicily-tunis-venice/

ROMAN ENGLAND: Who was Gnaeus Julius Agricola



Agricola was a Roman statesman and soldier who, as governor of Britain, conquered large areas of northern England, Scotland and Wales. His life is well known to us today because his son-in-law, the historian Tacitus, wrote a detailed biography of him which still survives.

Gnaeus Julius Agricola was born on 13 July 40 AD in southern France - then part of the Roman Empire - into a high-ranking family. He began his career as a military tribune in Britain and may have participated in the crushing of Boudicca's uprising in 61 AD.

During the civil war of 69 AD, Agricola supported Vespasian in his successful attempt to become emperor. In recognition for his support, Agricola was appointed to command a Roman legion in Britain. He then served as governor of Aquitania (south-east France) for three years, and after a period in Rome, in 78 AD he was made governor of Britain.

Arriving in mid-summer of 77AD, Agricola found that the Ordovices of north Wales had virtually destroyed the Roman cavalry stationed in their territory. He immediately moved against them and defeated them.

He then moved north to the island of Mona (Anglesey), where he established a good reputation as an administrator as well as a commander by reforming the widely corrupt corn levy. He introduced Romanising measures, encouraging communities to build towns on the Roman model and educating the sons of the native nobility in the Roman manner.

He also expanded Roman rule north into Caledonia (modern Scotland). In the summer of 79AD Agricola raised a fleet and encircled the tribes beyond the Forth, and the Caledonians rose in great numbers against him. They attacked the camp of the Legio IX Hispana at night, but Agricola sent in his cavalry and they were put to flight. The Romans responded by pushing further north.

In the summer of 83 Agricola faced the massed armies of the Caledonians, led by Calgacus, at the Battle of Mons Graupius. Tacitus estimates their numbers at more than 30,000. Agricola put his auxiliaries in the front line, keeping the legions in reserve, and relied on close-quarters fighting to make the Caledonians' unpointed slashing swords useless.

Even though the Caledonians were put to rout and therefore lost this battle, two thirds of their army managed to escape and hide in the Scottish Highlands or the "trackless wilds" as Tacitus calls them. Battle casualties were estimated by Tacitus to be about 10,000 on the Caledonian side and 360 on the Roman side.

Agricola was recalled from Britain in 85, after an unusually long tenure as governor. Tacitus claims that Domitian ordered his recall because Agricola's successes outshone the Emperor's own modest victories in Germany. The relationship between Agricola and the Emperor is unclear: on the one hand, Agricola was awarded triumphal decorations and a statue (the highest military honours apart from an actual triumph); on the other, Agricola never again held a civil or military post, in spite of his experience and renown.

He was offered the governorship of the province of Africa, but declined it, whether due to ill health or as Tacitus claims. the machinations of Domitian.

On 23 August 93 Agricola died on his family estates in Gallia Narbonensis aged fifty-three. Rumors circulated attributing the death to a poison administered by the Emperor Domitian, but no positive evidence for this was ever produced.

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HOW TO GROW HIBISCUS




Perhaps most identified with the welcoming floral wreaths of the Pacific islands, Hibiscus are in fact a huge and varied family containing 300 species of hardy and tender annuals, evergreens and deciduous shrubs. Of these, three tender evergreen are in general cultivation, but in Great Britain they will require protection so should be treated as houseplants.

Native to much of Asia, hardy hibiscus has been been grown as a garden shrub in Korea since time immemorial. In fact, it has become the national flower of South Korea where its flowers are eaten and the leaves are brewed for a tisane - whatever that is (fancy herbal tea apparently)!

For general hardiness, the strongest species is Hibiscus syriacus and luckily for gardeners, this species comes in at least a couple of dozen colour forms. These include double flowered forms as well as some varieties which display variegated leaves!

How to grow tender Hibiscus

The most popular species is the gorgeous, evergreen Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, but unfortunately is not hardy. If you can expect winter temperatures of no less that 7-10 degrees Celsius then it can be planted outside in any ordinary well-drained garden.

Give them a sheltered position, with as much sun as possible. You can of course choose to grow it as a container specimen, in which case plant into a good quality compost such as John Innes 'No 2' or 'No 3'.

When over-wintering, try to maintain a minimum temperature of 7-10 degrees Celsius, and the soil moist, but don't be surprised if you begin to experience leaf-drop.

However the foliage will remain when temperatures can be kept above 16 degrees Celsius. Just keep the compost on the moist side in these warmer temperature and you can expect your plant to continue to flower. If temperatures exceed 21 degrees Celsius then provide plenty of ventilation.

How to grow the hardy Hibiscus

Hibiscus syriacus and its numerous varieties will thrive in any well drained, fertile soil. Fertile is the key here as this species is incredibly hungry. Even the spring new growth will emerge looking nitrogen deficient so regularly top dress with a rich compost. Failing that, give them a regular liquid feed.

If your hibiscus plant is container grow then it can be planted at ant time, just be aware that you will need to keep an eye on the watering if you decide to plant during the height of summer.

Plant in a sheltered border, but make sure that it is in a position that takes full advantage of the sun. As hardy hibiscus are late flowering, it is advisable to protect them further by growing them against a wall or the side of a house in northern gardens.

Once established, there is no need to prune your hardy hibiscus, but long shoots can be trimmed back after flowering.

Be aware that drought conditions and low night temperatures can cause bud drop

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