Lesson 9: Biodiversity --- Favorite Bits


I’ll get the ball rolling on this one. :slightly_smiling_face: Here are three of my favorite bits from Lesson 9, Mountain Biodiversity and Adaptations of Plants:

  • Banff Springs snail — and more generally, the idea of endemic species and hotspots of rare biodiversity.
  • Nunataks: Mountains peaks protruding from an ice field, that may serve a fertile ground for life to subsist in harsh, harsh climates — and what happens from an evolutionary standpoint when isolated peaks are connected when the ice melts (reverse allopatric speciation? evolutionary convergence, if you will?).
  • Espeletia schultzii — and hairy plants in general :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


I was surprised to learn that alpine flowers tend to be bright and fragrant. I associate those things with tropical plants, with temperate zone flowers a bit toned down.

I love the idea of co-evolution and certain flower-bug/bird exclusivities. Not sure I’d like the flower that smells like rotting meat, though :wink:


Natural history is my favorite topic so I loved this one and looking forward to the next too, especially with the preview of the kakapo (I think?) and lynx footage.

  • The von Humboldt Chimborazo diagram is amazing - I’d seen it before but not really understood what it was communicating. My book group is reading The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf (2015) this fall and I was already looking forward to it - now I’m even more excited to learn more.
  • DNA barcoding! Coincidentally I just read a great Q&A in Nature Conservancy with Dr. Tiana Moore about eDNA research.
  • I’d heard about biodiversity hotpots but didn’t realize how focused they are - 2% of land but half of endemic species? And half of them are in mountains - which makes sense now that I understand how they drive speciation.
  • Mutualism between whitebark pine and Clark’s nutcracker
  • I understand now why rock gardens with alpine plants are so beautiful - the flowers are so showy and large in comparison to the plants.
  • When I was a kid we used to spend summers near Mont Ventoux in the south of France. The top is bare limestone scree (lots of snow in the winter but not in summer) and I remember being amazed to find lots of wildflowers there that weren’t visible from a distance, including alpine poppy.
  • Everything about plant adaptations is amazing!
    • Larches extracting nutrients from needles before they drop them!
    • Cushion growth form 15 degrees warmer!
    • Hairs increasing heat gain and slowing heat loss! (Pasque flowers are so fuzzy I want to pet them)
  • The different kinds of pollinators resulting in various flower colors, scents, and shapes was especially interesting.
  • Great terms: allopatric, refugia. nunatak, subnivian, marcescent (one of my favorite words, which I parrot back to my friends on hikes when we see beeches in winter…)

On threats to pollinators and other insects, this upcoming free online talk entitled Insectageddon: is global insect extinction real? looks like it could be fascinating https://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/events/edinburgh-science-festival-2021/insectageddon-is-global-insect-extinction-real/