Saturday, September 7, 2013

Biogeography in popular culture - Katy Perry's Roar & Transitions Optical TVC

Popular culture usually has an interesting (and often unscientific) depiction of biodiversity. Most of the time, producers tend to take the kitchen-sink approach, where more species or the more iconic species, the better.

Unfortunately, accuracy in biogeography suffers in most cases. Biological communities and species typically vary across geographic space (e.g., continents). The media often depict organisms belonging to more than one biologically distinct geographical regions in the same space. I wonder how this has an impact in shaping people's perception of nature.

This post developed from a rather short twitter post and is meant to take a fun, non-critical look at two memorable examples, one old and one current:

Transitions Optical TVC

This eyewear lens ad depicts a day's work by wildlife cinematographer where a tiger (Panthera tigris) from Asia, scarlet macaws (Ara macao) from South America, an orangutan (Pongo sp.) from Southeast Asia, and a Raggiana bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea raggiana) from New Guinea are seen. Such an assemblage is impossible in the wild in a single forest.

If 4 species of animals of at least 3 different biographic regions are a stretch, the next one stretches reality even further.

Katy Perry - Roar

The forest in Katy Perry's new music video for Roar has a minimum of 12 species of animals from at least 4 continents.

Image: Katy Perry / Columbia Records / Twitter
Asia: 1. Tiger (Panthera tigris), 2. great hornbill (Buceros bicornis), 3. Alexandrine or rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula sp.).

Africa: 4. African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana), 5. baboon (Papio sp.).

Australia: 6. Eclectus parrot (Eclectus roratus), 

South America: 7. white-headed capuchin (Cebus capucinus), 8. blue and gold macaw (Ara ararauna ) & hybrid (Ara ararauna x Ara macao), 9. Toco toucan (Ramphastos toco).

Unknown: 10. crocodilian, 11. tarantula, 12. firefly.

This is really quite an impressive list of animals from at least 4 different ecoregions. A lot of it must have depended on what captive animals were available for the production.

And that is just for the animals. Botanists can surely come up with a list of the motley assemblage of plants as well.

Update: Inkfish also noticed and wrote about the video.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Singpore Biodiversity Zodiac - Year of the Snake

The Lunar New Year for the year of the snake is approaching, and many people are reading the traditional zodiac predictions on how their fortunes would turn and what lucky colours to wear.

That and recent proposed land use plan of Singapore inspired this zodiac featuring animals in Singapore to highlight what challenges some of them may face in the year of the snake and beyond. Some of these threats to their survival may be things that people may be able to change, perhaps, though feedback to authorities or personal change in attitudes and mindsets. 

Much thanks to friends who have given feedback on this. Happy Lunar New Year!

Singapore Biodiversity Zodiac. Click for larger version.

[Rat] - Oriental house rat (Rattus tanezumi)

This human commensal rodent can be found in scrubland, plantations and urban areas. It is nocturnal, omnivorous and is a good climber. As it sometimes enters human dwelling, it is persecuted as a pest. Read more.

[Bull] - Banded bullfrog (Kaloula pulchra)

An introduced frog that can be found living around built up areas. Males can be heard calling before and after rain, sounding like a bellow of cattle. Feeds on insects. Read more.

[Tiger] - Leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis)

Singapore's last remaining wild cat. Nocturnal, feeding mainly on rodents, birds and small animals. A small population can be found on the forest and scrubland on the offshore island of Pulau Tekong and in the Western Catchment. Threatened by habitat loss. National status: Critically endangered. Read more.

[Rabbit] - Orange-spotted rabbitfish (Siganus guttatus)

A marine reef fish which can be also be found near mangroves. Feeds on algae. It has a row of sharp, venomous spines on the dorsal fin. These spines occasionally gets the fish trapped in driftnets and crab traps. Read more.

[Dragon] - Black-bearded flying dragon (Draco melanopogon)

A slender forest-dwelling gliding lizard. A pair of skin flaps on the sides of its body allows it to glide from tree to tree. Males have black and orange throat flaps which are used for signaling.  Read more.

[Snake] - Equatorial spitting cobra (Naja sumatrana)

Highly venomous black snake named from its ability to spray venom when defending themselves. Feeds on small animals including rats, frogs and lizards. Occurs in forest, scrubland, mangroves and suburban areas. Read more.

[Horse] - Tiger tail seahorse (Hippocampus comes)

Tropical marine fish found in reefs and other benthic habitat. Males carry the eggs in a brood pouch on the chest. Threatened by collection for traditional medicine and habitat loss from land reclamation. National status: Vulnerable. Read more.

[Goat] - Lesser mousedeer (Tragulus kanchil)

One of the smallest hooved animals in the world. The genus Tragulus means "little goat", but it is neither a goat or a true deer. Feeds on fallen fruit and other vegetable matter found in the forest floor. In Singapore, restricted to Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature reserves. Threatened by habitat loss and poaching. National status: Critically endangered. Read more.

[Monkey] - Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis)

This is the most common wild primate in Singapore. Forages for plant and animals both in trees and on the ground in forests, mangroves and parkland. Human-wildlife conflict with this species often results from food association with human due to human provisioning of food. Macaques regarded as problem animals are often trapped and put down. Read more.

[Rooster] - Red junglefowl (Gallus gallus)

Wild ancestor of the domestic chicken identified by a white ear patch and grey legs. Roosts in trees at night. The genetic purity of wild populations are threatened interbreeding with domestic fowls that have yellow legs. Read more.

[Dog] - Domestic dog (Canis familiaris)

Thousands of dogs are abandoned by their owners every year in Singapore. Feral population are sometimes rounded up when complaints are received by the authorities. Some are put up for adoption, while many are eventually put down. Read more.

[Pig] - Wild pig (Sus scrofa)

Singapore's largest resident land mammal. Omnivorous and active both by day and night. Once thought to be nationally extinct, populations in the Central Catchment Nature reserve were thought to be too numerous and destructive, leading to some calling for a cull, while others calling for more studies to be done. Read more.