Sunday 23 August 2009

British Wildlife: G

Goniopholis crassidens Owen, 1841
Goniopholidae; unranked clade Mesoeucrocodylia; Sauropsida; Chordata

Although looking a lot like a modern crocodile, Goniopholis lived during the late Jurassic and early Cretaceous periods. This was before the Crocodylia, the order containing modern alligators, crocodiles, caimans and gharials, and the extinct giant alligatoroid, Deinosuchus, had evolved, and as such it doesn't quite fall into that order.

Skull and teeth of Goniopholis sp.
Dinosaur Isle Museum, Isle of Wight
May 2008

There were many species of Goniopholis from Britain, Europe, North America and Thailand. They must have been numerous, as teeth and bones are found fairly commonly in these areas.

Eurasian jay
Garrulus glandarius Linnaeus, 1758
Corvidae; Passeriformes; Aves; Chordata

By far the most colourful British corvid, the jay is a beautiful and intelligent bird, and is always a joy to spot when in wooded areas or parks. The combination of pinkish grey, black and white, topped off with the flash of blue in the wing, makes for a memorable sight.

Eurasian jay in Hyde Park, London
October 2008

There are jays found across Eurasia and the Americas, but they are not closely related. The genus Garrulus found in Eurasia is close to the crows, ravens and jackdaws of the genus Corvus and the magpies of the genus Pica whereas the American jays Cyanocitta, Cyanocorax, Aphelocoma, Gymnorhina and Calocitta form their own monophyletic clade, according to a study of nucleotide sequences by Ericson et al. (2005). A jay is therefore just a small, colourful corvid, and doesn't imply phylogenetic relationships.

If you're from eastern Europe or Asia, in part of the range where Garrulus glandarius is found, you might not be familiar with the illustrated plumage. This is the western European nominate race. The plumage differs the further east you go, with more or less black or white on the head, making it look quite different.

(Red) grouse
Lagopus lagopus scotica (Latham, 1787)
Phasianidae; Galliformes; Aves; Chordata

The red grouse, along with the pied wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) and the Scottish crossbill (Loxia scotica), is one of Britain's endemic birds. The species Lagopus lagopus, known outside of Britain and Ireland as the willow ptarmigan, is widespread across northern Eurasia and North America, where it has two plumages: reddish-grey in summer, and pure white in winter. The red grouse, however, is always russet.

Male red grouse in Highland Wildlife Park, Invernessshire, Scotland
June 2005

I know, the above picture isn't fantastic, but it's the only one I have of a red grouse. The individual was making its distinctive 'go-back! go-back!' call, which is more funny to hear than I had imagined.

It is currently hunting season in Britain, which started on the 12th of August, known to gamekeepers and shooters as 'Glorious Twelfth'. Not so glorious for the poor birds, eh?


Ericson, P.G.P., A-L. Jansen, U.S. Johannson & J. Ekman (2005). Inter-generic relationships of the crows, jays, magpies and allied groups (Aves: Corvidae) based on nucleotide sequence data. In: Journal of Avian Biology 36:222-34 (link here)


m said...

Whoops, forgot to mention, next week, for H, we have an ornithopod, a seal and a tiny murid.

Nick said...

Well obviously that means you're going to bring up Hypsilophodon, but at any rate, that's a SWEET picture of Goniopholis.

m said...

Thanks! Yes the ornithopod will be Hypsilophodon!

Zachary Miller said...

Hey, we have that grouse up in AK.

m said...

The red grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica is endemic to Britain and Ireland. The other subspecies are more wider ranging, and the willow ptarmigan is indeed found in Alaska, being L. l. alascensis.