Liverwort

liverwort_3767

Although hardly noticed by most of us, Liverwort is fascinating. In terms of the evolution of life on Earth, this plant type is old. About 400,000,000 years old. They existed a long, long time before more advanced plants such as flowering plants, ferns and mosses appeared on the planet.

liverwort_1564

They still utilize their primative features to this day. Instead of bearing regular roots, they have simple, one-celled appendages known as rhizoids. There is no vascular system, a characteristic of modern plants, to transport water, nutrients and other materials.

liverwort_1565

Liverworts are usually found in damp places. I often see them on the sides of rocks in woodland waterways. A number of species are aquatic; they grow on the water’s surface like mini Lily Pads.

liverwort_3796

Like the mosses, liverwort leaves are only one cell layer thick. These cells are usually isodiametric, meaning, the cell is as long as it is wide.

liverwort_1567

Liverworts got their name because long ago the people who named them felt that the curious arrangement of cells on the surface of some Liverworts was similar to the cell arrangement in actual livers taken from animals.

Third Eye Herp
E-mail

Spiny Softshell

spiny softshell_4191

This is an odd turtle, not only does it have a relatively soft shell, it also looks like a pancake and has a snorkel-like nose. I have occasionally seen them basking on the banks of the Cuyahoga River as well as some other rivers.

spiny softshell_5507

These reptiles have leathery shells and lack the bony plates that other hard-shelled turtles have. Spiny Softshells are essentially river turtles that prefer relatively shallow water with a sand or soft mud bottom.

spiny softshell_3683

They are very wary and will often dive into the water at the slightest hint of danger. Another common habit they have is to settle on the bottom of a riverbed and flip sand and mud up onto its back, completely burying itself. Usually it lies just deep enough for its long, pointed snout to reach the surface for air.

spiny softshell_5510

They have a mostly carnivorous diet consisting of frogs, tadpoles, fish, worms, aquatic insects, mollusks and their favorite food – crayfish. Though they prefer animal foods, spiny softshells have also been known to eat plants.

spiny softshell_5505

Along the front of the upper shell of some softshells are spines (or more often, bumps). This rough texture is what distinguishes the “spiny” species from the similar Smooth Softshell Turtle.

spiny softshell_5506

Females of this species can get up around 18 inches in shell length, while males are about half that size. The flattened shell allows this turtle to be able to speed through the water faster than most aquatic species. Although I don’t come across them very often, I always enjoy encountering these reptile oddities in the field.

Third Eye Herp
E-mail

House Finch

house finch_3296

This was originally a species of western United States and Mexico. In 1940 a small number of House Finches, which at the time were kept as caged pets, were released on Long Island, New York.

house finch_3305

The birds spread westward and were first recorded in Ohio in 1964. By the mid 1980s they had colonized the entire Buckeye State and by the early 1990s they occupied all of the eastern United States. They eventually reached their original western population.

house finch_1849

Adult males vary in color from orange-yellow to bright red. They derive their color from the pigments that are obtained from their diet of seeds, flowers and fruit. Females and immature birds are brownish and lack the bright colors of adult males.

house finches_1847

Studies indicate that the most brightly colored males are more successful at attracting mates than their duller counterparts.

house finch_3312

These days House Finches are particularly abundant in suburban areas. These small songbirds are often seen at birdfeeders. Though not native to Ohio, most people don’t seem to mind these adaptable, colorful and cheery-voiced creatures.

Third Eye Herp
E-mail

Wild Sarsaparilla

Sarsaparilla_1560

Walking along Chippewa Creek in Brecksville Reservation, I noticed an unusual looking flower – Wild Sarsaparilla. The flowers form in sphere-shaped clusters.

sarsaparilla 015

Native Americans and pioneers found many uses for the plant. The aromatic roots have long served as an ingredient in root beer.

Sarsaparilla_1562

The tiny, white flowers ripen into blue-black berries in mid-summer which are eaten by wildlife. Its leaves rise well above the flower, leaving it on a leafless stalk.

Sarsaparilla 031

This plant has a large distribution in North America, especially in Canada. Wild sarsaparilla is a widespread, dominant understory species in many forests.

sarsparilla_1911

The species part of its Latin name Aralia nudicaulis breaks down to meaning nudus “naked” and cauli “stalk.”

Third Eye Herp
E-mail

Ravine Salamander

ravine_3177

This amphibian can easily be mistaken for the “leadback” phase of a Redback Salamander. It has short limbs and is somewhat worm-like in appearance and movement.

ravine_9011

The background color is brownish black to black and flecked with a varying amount of fine silvery white to golden specks. This is Ohio’s most slender salamander. One-half of this animal’s total length is made up of its tail.

ravine210

Ravine Salamanders reside in forests and are often found on the slopes of valleys and ravines where it lives among the leaf litter, hiding under logs, stones or stumps. Unlike many amphibians, this creature completely terrestrial, laying eggs on land. The eggs hatch as tiny juveniles.

ravine_9013

During Spring and Fall they can be found on the surface under leaf litter and other debris, but they burrow into the ground or retreat into deep, moist crevices to avoid the warmer temperatures of Summer.

ravine_8466

Adult Ravine Salamanders are 3–4½ inches in total length. They are found in eastern Kentucky, Ohio, southern West Virginia, western Virginia, northwestern North Carolina and northeastern Tennessee.

ravine_8452

This is a species of amphibian is in the “lungless salamander” family, which contains many species. Like other members of its genus, Ravine Salamanders lack lungs and conduct respiration through their skin and lining of their mouths. For this reason they need damp conditions in order to function.

Third Eye Herp
E-mail