Sweet smelling durian

Dr Songpol Somsri from Thailand has done a lot of crossing of wild species of durian to come up with one that doesn’t smell like decomposing cats. There should be more recognition for this sort of achievement: it has a greater potential to add to the sum total of human happiness than any number of Nobel Prizes for economics, say.

Hai chihuahua!

A DNA study suggests that small dogs started to appear about 10,000 years ago as a result of a mutation in a single gene (called IGF-1). I wonder if something similar will be found in other domestic animals.

Magnolias in trouble

The Global Trees Campaign says that 131 of 245 wild Magnoliaceae are threatened worldwide. According to this press release from BGCI:

The significance of this potentially catastrophic loss lies not only in the threat to the genetic diversity of the family, but also because they are a highly sensitive indicator of the well-being of the forests in which they are found. Magnolias are among the most ancient groups of flowering plants and have long been cultivated by mankind.

You can download a PDF of the new Magnoliaceae Red List. The publication of the red list has been widely covered by the press, including New Scientist. Many species have medicinal uses and some are used for food.

Predictably, protected areas are highlighted as an important approach to the conservation of these species, particularly in their hotspot in southern China. A separate new study

concludes that protected areas are necessary for preventing the loss of species due to climate change – provided that shifts in species’ ranges are factored into early analysis of whether to expand current protected areas or create new ones.

The new red list includes distribution maps of all magnolias, clearly an important first step.


Well, my three months’ break in Kenya is coming to an end, unfortunately. I’ll be starting a new job in a couple of days, and, what with the moving and getting settled in and stuff, blogging will probably be a bit slow over the next week or so. But Jeremy will take up the slack, wont you Jeremy?