Saturday, June 16, 2012

Oldest living organisms, OH MY!

So our first night in Yosemite was eventful we are staying in a little town called June Lake which is wonderful because we avoid a lot of the crowds. We got ourselves all settled in at our RV site, placed our 50lb bag of dog food locked in the action packer outside and fell asleep. Well at 4 AM I heard a thudump rump, thudump rump. I woke John up and said listen...... thudump lump, thudump, lump. John got up and walked to the back of the trailer. Our metal basket that has two action packers bolted to it was outside under the bed in the back of the RV. There was a bear trying to break into our dog food. John yelled quick and unzipped the window. The bear was gone but had thrown that 200lb basket around like it was a cotton ball. We decided we should get the dog food and put it in the truck. We decided against the trailer because we figure he could easily break in if he really wanted to. It was dark and as we were going to the back to get the food we heard a low grown.....we shined the flash light and did not see anything. We then realized our neighbors water heater was kicking on and our low growl was just water heating up!
Unfortunately no photos! But this was our "bears oh my", experience so far! Not a total loss our action packer has some really cool scars and may e a bit more ventilated now!
We were lucky enough to visit the Bristlecone Pines (Pinus longaeva) our first day here. They are the oldest living organisms on earth! 4000 years old. It is actually quite unbelievable. It seems like all things that are that old, look dead and struggling. We got to see Welwitschia (Welwitschia mirabilis) when we were in Africa several years ago. It is a very cool dead looking plant as well. Welwitschia is a gymnosperm, seed producing plant. Gymnosperm is actually Greek for naked seed which these plants have. There is not a fleshy or protective covering over the seed. It is the only species in the entire order Welwitschiales. They produce a reproductive structure that looks very much like a pine cone. This individual pictured below is the second oldest living organism at a young 2000 years old!

Our bristle cones are the oldest living organism about twice as old as Welwitschia! These plants are around 4000 years old however they are not very big. They grow slowly and therefor the rings you can use to age are much smaller! You can see the very fine lines that show the age below. This tree died in 1676 and because it is soooo dense it has not rotted or decayed yet.

Here are some photos of the live trees. They are also Gymnosperms and produce pine cones. They look dead but they are very much alive!

These trees were beautiful but the views at 10,000 feet were also amazing.

Kendra and John
- posted from ipad during the international bug expedition 2012

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About Me

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John is Curator of Entomology at the University of Texas at Austin. Kendra is a Professor at St. Edwards University in Austin. John has focused on dragonflies and damselflies in his career. He has two books Dragonflies and Damselflies of Texas and the South-central United States and The Damselflies of Texas. He is currently working on the Dragonflies of Texas. John and Kendra are also currently both working on revising the Peterson Field Guide to Insects of North America. We have had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Latin America, Africa and other parts of the world where we enjoy taking photos of pretty much anything that will allow us to capture its image. We are lucky enough to be able to teach students about the amazing biodiversity we see and to travel and photograph together.