Category Archives: Biology

A Frog Dies and A World Vanishes

“Two weeks ago, the last known Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog died in a biosecure safehouse at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Its distinctive, barklike call was last heard in the wild, as far as we know, in a Panamanian forest in 2007.” J. R. Mendelson III New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

ecnomiohyla-rabborum-commonly-known-as-rabbs-fringe-limbed-treefrog-is-believed-to-be-extinct-wikiwand

ecnomiohyla-rabborum-commonly-known-as-rabbs-fringe-limbed-treefrog-is-believed-to-be-extinct-wikiwand

Excerpt: A Frog Dies in Atlanta, and a World Vanishes With It By Joseph R. Mendelson III New York Times

“I was among a group of biologists who discovered this species in 2005 in the canopy of a cloud forest in central Panama. We documented a remarkable behavior never seen in any other animal. The males stayed with their tadpoles in small water-filled cavities high in the trees. These tiny arboreal ponds lacked sufficient food for the tadpoles, so the male would lower himself into the water, allowing his offspring to rasp the skin from his back for nutrition.

this-adult-male-in-the-atlanta-botanical-garden-named-toughie-by-his-handlers-was-the-last-known-surviving-member-of-its-species-until-his-death-on-september-26-2016

this-adult-male-in-the-atlanta-botanical-garden-named-toughie-by-his-handlers-was-the-last-known-surviving-member-of-its-species-until-his-death-on-september-26-2016

In this way, this species was able to perpetuate itself in the only place on the planet it was known to exist, near the town of El Valle de Antón. At the time of our discovery, nearby forests were being cleared for luxury vacation homes and it seemed now only a matter of time before the developers would reach the mountains where these frogs glided from tree to tree, catching air with their extensive toe webbing. But what proved to be a more pernicious threat was also afoot, destroying amphibian populations throughout the forests of Central America: an infectious skin disease called amphibian

Dr-george-rabb-photo-youtube

Dr-george-rabb-photo-youtube

We named our discovery after the noted conservationists George B. Rabb, the former director of the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago…Rabbs’ frogs had survived well in safekeeping, but experts at El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center in Panama, Zoo Atlanta and the Atlanta Botanical Garden who were trying to assure the species’ survival never discovered the secrets of how they reproduced. When the last female died in 2009, leaving two males, I had to come to grips with the virtual extinction of the species.

Now we seem to have moved to its actual extinction. The planet is permanently changed. This frog’s ecological role among the animals and plants with which it evolved has been lost, along with whatever other secrets it carried.

The origin of the fungal infection that doomed the Rabbs’ frog remains unknown, though its rise clearly seems linked to the global trade in amphibians…Emerging infectious diseases in wildlife, spread by global trade and transit, represent a real and present danger. Governments must aggressively police that threat with their powers to stop imports of nonnative species that could imperil native wildlife and plants…As a scientist, I like to be right, but in this case, I hope I’m wrong. There is a chance that a population of Rabbs’ frogs remains hidden in the Panamanian forest.”

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ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. A group of biologists discovered this species.
  2. The frogs were discovered in the canopy of a cloud forest in central Panama.
  3. These tiny ponds lacked sufficient food for the tadpoles.
  4. Our plan was to place them in breeding programs.
  5. No further trace of the frogs have been found despite persistent searches.
  6. Extinction is one of the realities of the new geologic age we inhabit.
  7. The government has since become more aggressive in trying to halt the spread of yet another infection.
  8. Some populations of amphibians now appear to be evolving tolerance to these diseases.
  9. The demise of so many amphibians is an indication of danger.
  10. Emerging infectious diseases in wildlife spread by global trade represent a real and present danger.
Vocabulary Cluster By Learnnc.org

Vocabulary Cluster By Learnnc.org

 

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following paragraphs taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Amphibians have ___us that ___attempts in___may be ineffective. Indeed, the ___of so many ___was one of our early___of what many ___believe is a ___major extinction now underway.

WORD LIST: demise, conservation, biologists, sixth, shown, indications, reactive,

  amphibians,

 Grammar Focus: Prepositions

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.  For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

Prepositions:  in, for, of, with, by,  on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over,  through, from, during, up, off,

The males stayed___ their tadpoles___ small water-filled cavities high___ the trees.

___this way, this species was able___perpetuate itself___ the only place___ the planet it was known___ exist.

Our plan was___place them___breeding programs and reintroduce them___ the wild after the scourge had passed.

The trajectory___this latest threat is familiar.

Amphibians have shown us that reactive attempts___ conservation may be ineffective.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss the following statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following  topics.

With your group prepare a list describing the ways that  the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can provide to prevent other species of Amphibians from becoming extinct.

Do you think global warming plays a role in the extinction of  various species of  amphibians? If yes explain how.

What can people do globally to help preserve native wildlife and plants?

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Biology | Tags:

Carnivorous Plants Are Getting Bigger and Hungrier

“As a refined Victorian gentleman, Charles Darwin naturally gravitated toward the macabre, and few things fascinated him like those floral flouters of the conventional food chain: carnivorous plants.” N. Angier, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

You tube clip: Watch as a Venus Flytrap plant devours an insect. By Francis Quinn

Excerpt:  Plants That Are Predators  By Natalie Angier, NYT

He compared the glistening and gothically tentacled sundew plant, or Drosera, to a most sagacious animal and said, I will stick up for Drosera to the day of my death.To which a sagacious sundew might well have replied, Thanks, but I’ll take a damselfly instead.

Venus flytrap. Credit Jay Dawson NYT

Venus flytrap. Credit Jay Dawson NYT

As a bounty of new research reveals, biologists are still sticking up for carnivorous plants, and still unearthing surprising details about the anatomy, evolution, biochemistry and hunting tactics of the green flesh-eaters. 

Plants that eat insects and even animals. Photo- acidcow

The Pitcher plant eats insects and animals. Photo- acidcow

One group lately has determined that a Pitcher plant in Borneo supplements its insectivorous diet with regular helpings of bat guano, attracting the bats to roost — and void — in its slender goblet of a modified leaf by tuning its shape to precisely match the bats’ echolocating calls…Carnivorous plants, the researchers argue, gained the power to pulverize and absorb their insect prey by repurposing the defensive chemicals that ordinary plants use to deter herbivorous insects, effectively pounding shields into swords.

Drosera magnifica.

Drosera magnifica.

Paulo Minatel Gonella of the University of São Paulo in Brazil and his colleagues recently reported in the journal Phytotaxa that they had identified a spectacular new species of sundewAfter seeing photographs of the plant posted by an amateur naturalist…the researchers traveled to the specified location, on a lone mountain in southeastern Brazil, and confirmed the sundew was new to science.

Man-eating plant Audrey II in film Little Shop of Horrors. Dailymail

Man-eating plant Audrey II in film Little Shop of Horrors. Dailymail

With stems reaching five feet long, Drosera magnifica practically qualifies for a turn on Little Shop of Horrors and is the largest sundew species in the Americas. With the bulk of its rosy, sticky tentacles enfolding trapped prey, the sundew stalks resemble nothing so much as giant insect kebabs.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Tasks

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. He compared sundew plant, or Drosera, to a sagacious animal.
  2. New research reveals biologists are still sticking up for carnivorous plants.
  3. They are still unearthing surprising details about the anatomy.
  4. The Pitcher plant in Borneo supplements its diet with regular helpings of bat guano.
  5. The plant tunes  its shape to precisely match the bats’ echolocating calls.
  6. Another team has nearly decoded the complete DNA sequence of the Venus flytrap.
  7. It is virtually the same size as the human genome.
  8. Scientists have  seen hints that at some point  plants may have imported insect prey nerve-related genes.
  9. This allows the plant’s trapping mechanism to shut faster.
  10. The sundew stalks resemble nothing so much as giant insect kebabs.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following paragraphs taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

“In ___that are ___and moist but nutrient-poor, the capture of___can give ___a real competitive advantage,” said Thomas Givnish, a professor of ___at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Carnivorous plants ___in open bogs; in damp, fire-swept sand; by roadside puddles; in the leached ___of a mountainside — bright, sodden ___where competitors are negligible, the ___gullible, and nutrients alone limit plant growth.”

Word List:  spots,prey, sunny, mud, insects, environments, botany,  plants, thrive,

 Grammar Focus

Preposition Exercise

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.  For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed above. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

Prepositions:  in, for, of, with, by,  on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over,  through, from, during, up, off, about,

  1. A bounty___ new research reveals new information.
  2. The plant holds water___ its slender goblet of a leaf.
  3. The researchers traveled___ the specified location,___ a lone mountain ___ southeastern Brazil.
  4. Industry could learn a lot___how___make enzymes more tolerant___ extreme conditions simply___studying the Venus flytrap.

III. Post Reading Tasks

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

The following  statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each statement in your own words, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.

“Researchers see in carnivorous plants a model for exploring a range of important questions, including how organisms adapt to extreme adversity and scarcity, and how sessile beings with neither muscles nor brains can outmaneuver mobile beings with both.”

“Carnivorous plants may yield practical spinoffs… a number of enzymes in carnivorous plants remained exceptionally stable under conditions of high heat and blistering acidity that demolished most garden-variety enzymes.Industry could learn a lot about how to make enzymes more tolerant to extreme conditions simply by studying the Venus flytrap.”

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about carnivore plants from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Biology | Tags: