Opinion | The Last Hummingbird – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

CreditCreditLuisa Gonzalez/Reuters

“NASHVILLE — From inside my air-conditioned house, the light through my windows looks the way October light is supposed to look — mild, quiet, entirely unlike the thin light of winter or the sparkling light of spring or the unrelenting light of summer. In normal years, October is a month for open windows in Middle Tennessee. For cool, damp mornings. For colored leaves that quake in the wind before letting go and lifting away. For afternoon shadows so lovely they fill me with a longing I can’t even name.

Relief is on the way, the forecast tells us, but all we have had of autumn so far is the right slant of light, for this year the mild October light has not brought the usual mild temperatures. All over the Southeast, and much of the Midwest, October came in like August, breaking heat records. For all of September it was August in the South, and for all the first week of October, too — severe drought, temperatures near 100 degrees day after day.

My own yard is as drought-tolerant as I can make it, planted with native trees and shrubs that evolved for this growing zone. Hardly a blade of water-craving grass is left in what passes for a lawn here; to my delight, self-seeding wildflowers have gradually crowded out the grass over the years. But the wild ground cover is so dry now that it crackles when I walk on it, and little puffs of dust lift from the parched soil with my every step.

The once-fragrant piles of damp earth that moles turn up in the night are as dry as anthills, and the robins that like to pick through their leavings in the morning seem to have given up all hope of worms. I finally went to the hardware store to buy a sprinkler, partly to save the new berry-bearing trees and shrubs I planted last spring for the songbird migration, and partly because I take so much pleasure from watching all the neighborhood robins darting through the edges of the spray, catching insects desperate for moisture. I know their dance is nothing more than survival, but to me it looks exactly like joy.”

David Lindsay: I put this lovely piece into my category, Flora and Fauna, and then panicked. Are insects also considered Fauna. What is Fauna. It turns out it is the entire animal kingdom, which includes insects.

From http://www.quora.com:

Are fish, invertebrates and insects categorized as fauna?

2 Answers
Jonathan Jeffreys
Jonathan Jeffreys, Educator, Author, Creator of BiologyCoachOnline

Thank you for your interesting question. Many of my first-semester biology students are taken aback when they first hear me refer to fish, birds, and insects as animals (fauna). The fact is that there seems to be a stream of belief that only mammals–lions and tigers and bears and the like–are animals. The animal kingdom, however, is vast and varied.

There are nine major animal phyla. In order from simplest to most complex, then, they are the:

1. Porifera or the sponges;

2. Cnidaria which includes the jellyfish and corals;

3. Platyhelminthes, or the flatworms, includes tapeworms and flukes;

4. Nemotoda or the roundworms;

5. Annelida, or the segmented worms, includes earthworms and leeches;

6. Mullusca includes the terrestrial snails as well as marine bivalves, squids, and oysters;

7. Arthropoda, or the arthropods, are animals with external skeletons (or exoskeletons) and include both terrestrial and aquatic and marine forms including insects, spiders, crabs, and lobsters.

All of the aforementioned phyla include animals without backbones. In other words, invertebrates. So to answer one part of your question: yes, invertebrates (which includes insects) are animals.

The final two animal phyla are the vertebrates (or animals with endoskeletons). They are the:

8. Echinodermata, or echinoderms, are animals with “spiny” skin and include sea stars (or “starfish”), sand dollars, and sea urchins;

9. Chordates include the most complex animal forms; they have endoskeletons that protect internal organs while providing shape and structure, backbones that surround and protect spinal cords, and skulls that surround and protect brains; they have complete digestive systems, closed circulatory systems, and tails at some point in their development.

There are six classes of vertebrate chordates including the:

1. Chondrichthyes, or fish with skeletons made of cartilage like the sharks and stingrays;

2. Osteichthyes, or fish with skeletons made of bone, includes salmon, perch, trout, sea bass, catfish, etc;

3. Amphibians are semiaquatic vertebrates and include frogs, toads, and salamanders;

4. Reptiles are vertebrates with scaly skin and include snakes, lizards, and turtles;

5. Aves are the birds;

6. Mammalia are the mammals and include animals with hair and mammary glands; the mammals include those lions and tigers and bears mentioned in the very beginning. And oh yeah, humans are mammals as well.

https://www.quora.com/Are-fish-invertebrates-and-insects-categorized-as-fauna

Opinion | Three Billion Canaries in the Coal Mine – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

Margaret Renkl

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

A Magnolia Warbler found recently on a suburban lawn in the northeast.

NASHVILLE — During the nearly quarter-century that my family has lived in this house, the changes in our neighborhood have become increasingly apparent: fewer trees and wildflowers, fewer bees and butterflies and grasshoppers, fewer tree frogs and songbirds. The vast majority of Tennessee is still rural, and for years I told myself that such changes were merely circumstantial, specific to a city undergoing rapid gentrification and explosive growth. I wasn’t trying to save the world by putting up nest boxes for the birds or letting the wildflowers in my yard bloom out before mowing. I was hoping only to provide a small way station for migrating wildlife, trusting they would be fine once they cleared the affluence zone that is the New Nashville.

I was wrong. A new study in the journal Science reports that nearly 3 billion North American birds have disappeared since 1970. That’s 29 percent of all birds on this continent. The data are both incontrovertible and shocking. “We were stunned by the result,” Cornell University’s Kenneth V. Rosenberg, the study’s lead author, told The Times.

This is not a report that projects future losses on the basis of current trends. It is not an update on the state of rare birds already in trouble. This study enumerates actual losses of familiar species — ordinary backyard birds like sparrows and swifts, swallows and blue jays. The anecdotal evidence from my own yard, it turns out, is everywhere.

You may have heard of the proverbial canary in the coal mine — caged birds whose sensitivity to lethal gasses served as an early-warning system to coal miners; if the canary died, they knew it was time to flee. This is what ornithologists John W. Fitzpatrick and Peter P. Marra meant when they wrote, in an opinion piece for The Times, that “Birds are indicator species, serving as acutely sensitive barometers of environmental health, and their mass declines signal that the earth’s biological systems are in trouble.”