Western Scrub Jay or Pinyon Jay varieties of the same Species
|Photo by Yale School of Forestry|
The word/term Species is such a fuzzy word. It often gets muddled depending on the subject, the one using it and the context under which it is being used, the term could possibly have 16 different meanings. Why there is even this concept of terms in "Molecular Species". Who would have thought it. In some ways the subject of the great variety within the same species is what I touched on when I wrote the post, "Is it really "Taxonomic Exuberance" or "Phenotypic Plasticity" ?" In the science world there is a rush to find newer species and be forever immortalized as the discoverer. There is a lot of fame, glitter and glory for such on individual, but does all this pursuit of that precious prize cause a fudging of the truth at times ? That is often the subject of discussion and debate. Remember those infamous Finches that Darwin speculated about ? Who could forget. But even the Grants who researched them for 30 years on the Galapagos Islands generally found nothing more than mere oscillation in the epigenetic response to changes in the environment. More importantly for the average person is, what can we actually observe in the field minus all the assumptions and assertions which in reality are not explanations at all ? So what about Scrub Jays ? Are there really difference species ? There are many unique varieties, all of which have many of the same personality traits which characterize just who they are more than what they are. Yes there are different markings and shapes, but basically they all seem to come from the same mold. Much like the Florida Scrub Jay you can see below here.
|image: CSS Dynamic|
Florida Scrub Jay
|Photo by University of Cambridge|
There is something else interesting about these birds which I would imagine most of the birds in this family possess. Remembering where their caches are after planting. But I've also wondered if they don't also choose a specific Chaparral species for planting specific types of seeds or nuts. That is intelligence of course, but also it's important that they don't remember where they have planted each seed or not, otherwise forests wouldn't be born. We often take for granted that though they are not created like us, they never the less possess an amazing amount of brilliance even though much of it may be contained within the frame work of encoded instinctive behavior. Still they are quite capable within this frame work at a sort of free will in choices and decision making. Take a long look at this video which is quite entertaining. It shows the Eurasian Jay in a pen and an experiment at planting nuts. There is no listed link, so here is the link address:
The Eurasian Jay in the above video is so funny. Did you notice he had the ability to remember each pot he planted the nut in ? He chose a newer fresh pot each time. Watching this video, I suddenly had a wicked idea come across my mind. If the gardening sales business times get rough for Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery or Tree of Life Native Plant Nursery, they can simply lay the shade house workers off and hire cheaper labor who will work for peanuts like a couple of Western Scrub Jays to do essentially the same thing with seed flats. Okay, just a thought. Very kool video though, wish it was longer to see if the bird would fill up every single pot and remember which ones were left. Another interesting video is of a Western Scrub Jay actually pecking out the nuts from a Peanut shell. Peanut shells are easy to deal with, but I've always wondered how they manage harder pine nuts and oak acorn shells. Actually I have observed when they deal with them and I'll tell you, but first watch how they tackle the problem.
|animation: US Forest Service|
See, there's still enough meat on the bone to satisfy any wild creature which that first sprout tip breaks the soil level.
Recent articles on the climate change effects on vegetation, especially pinyon pines has some disturbing negative trends which are breaking down these ecosystems. It could have dreadful effects on creatures that depend on them as this paragraph from the article from University of Colorado in Boulder relates.
"Wildlife biologists say pinyon-juniper woodlands are popular with scores of bird and mammal species ranging from black-chinned hummingbirds to black bears. A 2007 study by researchers at the University of Northern Arizona estimate that 150 Clark's Nutcrackers cached roughly 5 million pinyon pine nuts in a single season, benefiting not only the birds themselves, but also the pines whose nuts were distributed more widely for possible germination."Can you imagine the value of the industriousness of these Jay bird workhorses and the major contribution the offer any and all ecosystems around the globe ? If we just contemplate 5 plus million pine nuts harvested and planted, the majority of which feeds not only the Jays & Clark's Nutcrackers, but all other birds and animals with just enough of the seed germination and further culling out where simply a few become future mature pine nut producing adults. It's a perfect system when fully functional. Humans should be glad that such birds have an instinctive obsession with collecting things no matter what and for how long. The natural world (both plant and animal) is dependent on their greediness. But it's not really selfishness and greediness is it ? I think that those words should only associated with humans !!!
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