Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hudson's expedition

Did you know that members of Henry Hudson's expedition were the first Europeans to have reached the famous Manhattan Island on September 12th, 1609? They met friendly Indian tribes Algonquin and Lenape.

In 1610, on the ship named Discovery, Henry Hudson set out on the fourth of his attempts to find the Northwest Passage. He sailed from the southern tip of Greenland to Labrador, and then turned to the north. He encountered a wide channel and assumed that this was the way to China. From that day on, the bay had been called Hudson's Bay. Then, he sailed into the bay, which he assumed to be part of the Pacific Ocean, then travelled further to the south into what is known today as James' Bay. 

Hudson Bay.

In June of 1611, he set out to continue the expedition. Several days after leaving the bay, his crew mutinied. They had had enough of exploring and wanted to go home. The captain refused to consider their demands. When the crew was unable to persuade him, they set him, his son John and seven crew members loyal to Hudson adrift in a small boat and left them to their fate in a stormy and freezing sea, with no prospects of rescue. Nothing further is known of their fate.

Henry Hudson.

Locating the Northwest Passage eluded Henry Hudson, but his enthusiastic description of the area near the mouth of the Hudson River led to Dutch to colonize the area and found New Amsterdam, later New York. At the time of these discoveries, Henry was in the service of the Dutch.

Learn more about Hudson's expedition in Biodiversity Library Exhibition. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Wishes

Dear all,

one of the real joys of this Christmas season is the opportunity to say thank you for your favour and also to wish you all the very best for the New Year.

OpenUp! Team

Monday, December 9, 2013

OpenUp! questionnaire

Dear All, 
If you are a user of the Europeana.eu portal or would like to know about it, we would appreciate very much if you could contribute to this short survey for users and potential users of the Natural history content of Europeana.

It is a very short questionnaire, with only 5 questions (link to the questionnaire here).

Your help would be much appreciated,
Thank you

OpenUp! team

Monday, November 25, 2013

Content Highlights - Monoplacophorans

In 1952, Danish expedition named Galathea caused sensation among zoologists, when it discovered deepwater mollusks of class Monoplacophora near the coast of Mexico. Previously, the group was assumed as extinct for hundreds of millions years. Monoplacophoras were widespread in the Paleozoic Era, especially in the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian Periods.

Drahomira - a monoplacophorans from the Silurian Period, showing paired muscle scars. Image is under CC BY of Národní Muzeum.

These ancient organisms belong to phylum Mollusca and (similarly to snails) have a single shell composed of calcium carbonate. The shell is bilaterally symmetrical and oriented with its tip forward. This was probably the original orientation of molluskan shell. Other unusual features of monoplacophorans include for example hint of body segmentation, which is well reflected by the arrangement of paired muscle scars (see image).

Pragamira - a Silurian monoplacophorans. Image is under CC BY of Národní Muzeum.

Paleozoic monoplacophorans were probably substrate feeders at the sea bottom, just like their living relatives. Some genera such as Drahomira from the Silurian Period could have lived as filter feeders at shells of dead nautiloid cephalopods. Unlike recent monoplacophorans, the Paleozoic ones inhabited mainly shallow and well-oxygenated water. Fossils of Paleozoic monoplacophorans are known from Central Europe, Scandinavia , China, United States and Russia.

You can read interesting studies on fossil monoplacophorans here:

Horný Radvan J. (2005): Muscle scars, systematics and mode of life of the Silurian family Drahomiridae (Mollusca, Tergomya) - http://www.nm.cz/publikace/archiv.php?id=4&rok=61&kcislu=1%E2%8%932&f_=Zobrazit

Horný Radvan J. (2009): Patelliconus Horný, 1961 and Mytoconula gen. n. (Mollusca, Tergomya) from the Ordovician of Perunica. - http://www.nm.cz/publikace/archiv.php?id=4&rok=65&kcislu=1-2&f_=Zobrazit

Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The 5th OpenUp! Newsletter

We are pleased to inform you that the 5th OpenUp! Newsletter has been published! This issue is full of interesting articles and gives you a view into the second year of the OpenUp! project.

Traditionally, we bring you information on activities at our social networks in the article of "OpenUp! Just Became More Social", and about our "Meetings and Events". For our potential future partners we have prepared a great article "IPR Problems and Solutions for the Natural History Domain". "Opening up!, Reaching out!" gives you some examples from public relations field.

You can also find articles in the Newsletter that are focuse on our partners ("Building the European Biodiversity Observation Network" and "The Fauna Europaea Data Portal Now Linked to Europeana") or on our current content providers such as the Biology Center in Linz. For those of you who are technically oriented, there is the article of "The Graphical Query Tool".

We hope you enjoy the 5th OpenUp! newsletter. You can read the newsletter issue under this link. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Content Highlights - Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

Do you have a Cat? If so, the greatest pleasure for it could be a gift that contains a plant called Catnip!

Nepeta cataria from Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is up to 60 cm high perennial plant, blooming with white to pink flowers between July and September. The plant grows in highlands, along the watercourses or paths. The genus name “Nepeta” is derived from an old Roman city of Nepete (nowadays Italian city of Nepi) around which Catnip grew. The species name “cataria” means that it is attractive for cats.

Nepeta cataria from BHL.

This plant contains a substance called nepetalactone, which has similar effects for cats as cocaine has for people. If cats smell Catnip, they literally lost their mind, rubbing the plant or rolling in the plant. Some scientists think that it is actually a special strategy of seed dispersion. The seeds of Catnip get captured in the cat’s fur and then are bandied around. It is possible to buy cat’s toys filled by dried Catnip. Dry Catnip could also be hallucinogenic for people. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Joachim Barrande

Joachim Barrande was born on August 11th 1799 in the town of Sauges in southern France. During his studies at the École Polytechnique and École des Ponts et chaussées he was interested in natural sciences. He went to lectures of Georges Cuvier, Jean B. Lamarck, Alexander Brongniart and other great naturalists of that time. After his graduation, Barrande worked as an engineer and designed, for instance, a bridge over the Loire River. Then he became the tutor of Henry, Count of Chambord, the grandson of King Charles X. Bourbon. Unfortunately, after political changes in 1830, the Bourbons were expelled from France. Barrande left together with the Bourbons to settle in Edinburgh for a short time, and then traveled to the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now the Czech Republic).

Cephalopods from Barrande's "Systême silurien..."

Soon after arriving to Prague, Barrande met some of the main Czech literates such as František Palacký or Count Kaspar Sternberg (Sternberg was one of the founders of the National Museum and a great palaeobotanist). Sternberg suggested Barrande to take charge of the upcoming construction of the railroad from Křivoklát to the Radnice. During exploration work Barrande discovered, to his surprise, that rocks all around contain excellently preserved fossils. The project of the railroad was eventually cancelled and Barrande became the administrator of the estate of Henry of Chambord. Because he had a lot of free time, Barrande undertook paleontological excursions around Prague where he collected fossils. In collecting, he was assisted by amateur collectors, often workers from quarries, which Barrande paid.

Brachiopods from Barrande's "Systême silurien..."

In 1843 Barrande invited a Scottish geologist Sir Roderick Murchison to visit Bohemia. Murchison confirmed that all fossils are of Silurian age (Cambrian to Devonian in today's concept). After Murchinson´s pattern, Barrande decided to write a treatise about Silurian fossils of Central Bohemia. The first volume of the "Systême silurien du centre de la Bohême" was published in 1852. In his life Barrande published 22 volumes, which make almost 6000 pages and over 1000 lithographic plates in total. More than 3550 species of Paleozoic organisms (trilobites, crustaceans, cephalopods, bivalves, brachiopods and others) were described and illustrated. Owing to Barrande’s technical education all descriptions and illustrations of the fossils were very precise. That is one of the reasons why his work is unique even for today´s standards.

See Barrande's material from National Museum, Prague in Europeana.

In 1883 Barrande went to Frohsdorf in Vienna, where he found his former ward of Henry of Chambord on his deathbed. A few hours after his arrival, however, Henry died. Barrande took care of Chambord’s testament. He unfortunately fell ill with pneumonia during the work and died on October 5th 1883 at the age of 84. Barrande dedicated his huge collection, library, field notes, and 10,000 Guldens to the National Museum. The region between Pilsen and Prague has been named after Barrande, as well as the Prague city district of Barrandov, etc.

Read Barrande’s work here. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Delicacy and danger from the woods

In many countries in Europe and elsewhere around the world, mushroom collecting is a popular activity especially during summer and autumn. Mushrooms are an ingredience to our meals, although many of them are known to be dangerously poisonous to humans. But did you know that there are animals which are able to resist the poison? Or that collecting mushrooms dates back to the middle-ages when the mushrooms were called “meat of the poor ones”?

Scaly Tooth (Sarcodon imbricatus), edible - image is under CC BY-NC-SA of Danish Mycological Society.

For humans, mushrooms are important in medicine (e.g. Penicillium), as model organisms, are used as drugs (e.g. Psilocybe bohemica) and in gastronomy (Boletus, Agaricus). For example, about 3 000 of large mushroom species occur in Middle Europe, 400 of which are poisonous (e.g. Amanita muscaria)  and 10 can even cause death (e.g. Amanita phalloides, Entoloma sinuatum).

Lacrymaria pyrotricha, edible - image is under CC BY-NC-SA of Natural History Museum of Denmark.

Mushrooms are world-wide distributed organisms inhibiting a wide range of mostly terrestrial habitats from deserts to tropical forests. In the past, they were classified among plants but are nowadays being considered a sister group to the animals. Mushrooms play an essential role within ecosystems as decompositors of organic matter and thus contribute largely to nutrient cycles. Mushrooms are also important symbionts of for example plants (e.g. trees) and algae (lichens) but they live as parasites or may be associated with animals (incl. humans).

Yellow Morel (Morchella esculenta), edible - image is under CC BY-NC-SA of Danish Mycological Society.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Gregor Johann Mendel - born July 20th 1822

191 years ago, the father of modern genetics Gregor Johann Mendel was born on July 20th in a small village of Hynčice (now part of Czech city of Vražné).

Gregor Johan Mendel - image from BHL.

Mendel came from a German family and since his early childhood he was interested in nature and even studied beekeeping. At the age of 18, Mendel started his studies of philosophy and physics at the University of Olomouc. Later, he trained as a priest and took over the name Gregor. At that time, Mendel published several works on meteorology and founded the Austrian Meteorological Society in 1865. He also spent several years at the University in Vienna.

European Honey Bee by Richard Bartz - image is under CC BY-SA of EoL.

In 1867, Mendel became an abbot of a Augustinian Abbey of St. Thomas in Brno. There, he started his research and experiments on plant hybridisation and also bred bees. To conduct the research, Mendel cultivated and bred thousands of pea plants and experimented also with bees. As a result of his experiments, Mendel formulated basic principles of inheritance, today known as Mendel´s Laws of Inheritance. However, the importance of Mendel's contribution to science was recognized only after his death.  

Pea (Pisum sativum) - image is under CC BY-NC of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Read Mendel´s book from Biodiversity Heritage Library here. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Content Highlights - Small Shelly Fauna

Early in the Earth history, at the beginning of the Cambrian period, the first assemblage of multicellular organisms with hard skeletal parts appeared. In the Lower Cambrian rocks, paleontologists all over the world have discovered minute shells and sclerites which are together called “small shelly fauna”.

Aldanella kunda from Europeana - image is under CC BY-SA of Museum of Geology, University of Tartu.

Small shelly fauna is an artificial designation of various skeletal parts of various groups of animals. This fauna appeared in fact just before the beginning of the Cambrian period, but its greatest diversity is achieved in the early Cambrian.

Detail of Aldanella from Europeana - image is under CC BY-SA of Museum of Geology, University of Tartu.

Shape of sclerites varied from conical shells, spines to small plates. Some of these fossils look familiar, for instance Aldanella, which clearly is a mollusk. Others look strange and could represent fragments of larger organisms like sponges, velvet worms related animals, brachiopods, etc.

Fossils of the small shelly fauna are usually composed of calcium phosphate, calcium carbonate or silica. These minerals might not have originally built the shell; they rather replace the original material during fossilization. It is assumed that the invention of the shell in some of these organisms is a consequence of the onset of first predators.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Content Highlights - Auroch (Bos primigenius)

Did you know that the auroch is the predeccessor of present domestic cow and that the last auroch died in 1627 in the Jaktorów Forest, Poland?

Bos primigenius from Europeana - image is under CC BY-SA of Museum of Geology, University of Tartu.

Auroch was a large, even-toed ungulate (Artiodactyla) herbivore with short black hair and gray or yellowish stripe across the back in males and reddish-brown hair in females. The animal grew up to 2 m of height and 800-1000 kg in weight. Aurochs were pressumablly bound to swamps and swamp forests, such as river valleys, river deltas, and bogs, but they might have also lived in drier forests and perhaps in open grasslands. The animals lived in herds and has social behaviour similar to present domestic cattles.

Bos primigenius from BHL.

As evidenced from fossil remains and other proofs (painting in caves, artefacts), Bos primigenius first appeared in India 2 million years ago and was first domesticated there as early as 9 thousand years ago. From India, Bos primigenius migrated into the Middle East and reached Europe about 270 thousand years ago. In Europe, the animal was among the largest post-glacial herbivores and went domesticated about 6 000 years ago. In a summary, Bos primigenius originally inhibited most of Europe, Northern Africa, middle East, central Asia and India being a common prey of humans as early as in the Paleolite. Hunting finally led to its extinction in the 17th century. Only the Eurasian subspecies (Bos primigenius primigenius) managed to survive until now and is at present distributed worldwide under domestication. From the original species, it differs in smaller size and weight, colour and usually shorter horns. Since the beginning of the 20th century, attemps have been made to breed the original auchor back from the domectic cattles and thus return it back to the wild after 400 years.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Content Highlights - Houseleek (Sempervivum)

Houseleek is a flowering plant which occurs in rockeries and rooftops. Did you know that since antiquity, houseleeks were planted on roofs, because it was believed that they guarded homes against lightning and fires? Indeed, it could create a fire-resistant layer on the roof.

Houseleek from Europeana - image is under CC BY-SA of
Biologiezentrum der Oberoesterreichischen Landesmuseen. 

Houseleeks occur in about fifty species, from northern Africa, through Europe, to the Caucasian mountains. They occupy hilly to mountainous terrain in these areas. They are succulents - plants adapted to growth in places with little water. They prefer rocky outcrops and rock steppes. They are very undemanding, both for nourishment and for water.

Houseleeks from BHL.

Houseleek juice is rich in nutrients, has disinfectant properties and is an anti-inflammatory. Similarly to aloe vera, houseleeks are very effective in treating burns, scaldings, frostbite and sunburn. They reduce pain from insect bites, alleviate itching, redness and swelling.

Learn more about houseleek in "nature at your home". Stay tuned!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Content Highlights - May Bug (Melolontha melolontha)

Did you know that the May Bug is related to Scarabaeus, the sacred beetle of the ancient Egypt? Or that the beetle is used in gastronomy?

Once an abundant beetle in temperate Europe, Northern Asia and continental USA, the May Bug is nowadays quite a rare visitor to our gardens. However, after pesticide controls were implemented in last decades, its numbers have started to grow again.

Melolontha melolontha from EoL - image is under CC BY-NC.

The May Bug is 20 - 30 mm long beetle belonging to family Scarabaeidae. Female beetles lay 15-30 eggs three times during late spring. The larvae hatch after 4-6 weeks. They live in the soil feeding on roots of grasses and cereals and might be serious pests.

Melolontha solitaria from Europeana - image is under CC BY-ND of National Museum, Prague.

The larvae live for about 3-4 years. Pupate adult beetles stay hidden underground hibernating over winter and then fly out collectively. This corresponds to the development of the larvae and thus, adult beetles appear every 3-4 years in large numbers. This happens usually in April or May, which is where the name "May Bug" came from. The adult beetles feed on leaves and flowers of deciduous trees, plants and shrubs but do not tend to be serious pests. They are most likely to be seen in the evenings, often crashing into windows after being atracted by artifical light of human buildings. The beetle produces an alarming loud buzzing noise as it flies, but it is harmless to humans.

The genus Melolontha is also known to palaeontologists as it has been found fosilised. Pictured is a specimen of the Miocene age from the collection of the National Museum, Prague.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Content Highlights - House Mouse (Mus musculus)

Meet the house mouse, a mammal that is not only a pest but also a model organism. Did you know that male mice can produce ultrasound whistles, by which they react to female pheromones?

Mus musculus from EoL, image is under CC BY-SA.

Mice are small rodents, active primarily at night. They have very sensitive hearing, sense of smell and sight. They eat almost everything they come across, food scraps, various insects, grain and even soap. Mice are found in nature as well as human dwellings, and move often. Besides the damage to food stocks, mice are unpleasant in that they leave their urine and droppings everywhere. They are also dangerous carriers of disease and parasites.

Listen mice sounds at Europeana, these items are under CC BY-NC-ND of Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.

Mice build nests under floors or in attics, and line them with paper, rags, leaves and similar materials. They breed very quickly; females can have up to twelve young, five to ten times per year. Gestation is approximately 20 days. The young are ready to leave the nest in another 20 days, and become sexually mature within their first year. In captivity they can live up to four years. They have many natural predators, like carnivores, snakes and birds.

Mus musculus from BHL.

Meet more animals which live in human dwellings at Biodiversity Library Exhibition topic called "Nature at your home". Stay tuned!

Friday, May 3, 2013

New Biodiversity Library Exhibition topic – Nature at your home

Today, we would like to introduce a new BLE topic called „Nature at your home“, which will give you an insight on what organisms may be found living near or directly inside your house.

Nature at your home
„Nature at your home“ presents more than 20 different species of plants or animals, that have learnt to exploit the benefits of living close to human settlements. You can find them in your garden, as well as directly within your house or flat, sometimes being much closer than you have ever thought. Our new topic, however, also shows that these organisms are also fascinating creatures of the nature. Have you, for example, known that Oriental Cockroach (Blatta orientalis) is able to survive several weeks without its head until it starves to death? Or that the Human Flea (Pulex irritans) posseses the most complex reproductive organs among the animals? If not, then all you need to do is to go through our new topic at the BLE website!

All of the information, pictures and paintings in „Nature at you home“ are linked to their original sources at BHL, EoL or Europeana. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Second OpenUp! Annual Meeting 2013 Prague

In April of 2013, the OpenUp! project successfully concluded its second year, and for that occasion, we organized the 2nd Annual meeting in Prague.

The meeting was held at the National Museum, Prague, Czech Republic from Wednesday, April 24th through Friday, April 26th. For the main venue, we chose the New Building of the National Museum, which previously housed Radio Free Europe, before that, the communist parliament, and was built in the early 20th century as a stock exchange. More than fifty participants from Europe and the USA gathered to participate in the meeting.

Group photo

The first day of the conference started with the Steering Committee meeting, where administrative tasks were addressed and resolved. In the afternoon, two parallel sessions were conducted - Technology Management Group meeting followed by Content Providers meeting, and Outreach and Dissemination Group meeting. The first day was concluded by an excellent dinner featuring Czech cuisine at the spectacular Pantheon hall in the Historical building of the National Museum.

Katja Schulz is presenting EoL

The Project Assembly meeting took place on the second day, bringing interesting overviews of project progress and presentations by several invited speakers. We particularly thank four special guests who were asked to address the conference: Katja Schulz (Encyclopedia of Life, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC), who presented past, present and future visions of the Encyclopedia of Life; Geer Oskam (Europeana) introducing aims, efforts and impact of open data provided by Europeana; William Ulate Rodrigues (Biodiversity Heritage Library, Center for Biodiversity Informatics, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis MO) who spoke on behalf of the Global Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) US/UK and BHL-Europe; and Vishwas Chavan (GBIF Secretariat, Copenhagen), who expressed his views on the changing paradigm in biodiversity data publishing.

Jiří Frank is presenting BLE

After the presentations were over, the OpenUp! Tutorial and Outreach workshop took place being moderated by Jiří Frank (National Museum, Prague, Czech Republic) and Boris Jacob (MRAC, Belgium). During the event, the possibilities and benefits of becoming a content provider were stressed. Important information on providing content to Europeana through OpenUp! was presented, and the role of the Helpdesk was highlighted. Later in the afternoon, a short meeting of the ODG took place again, mainly discussing a new outreach strategy and usage of different dissemination approaches.

On the final day of the conference, the Review meeting by EU Evaluation Panel & Steering Committee took place. The reviewers had no major points of criticism and only a few recommendations, which we will implement during the project's final year.

Presentations given during the conference, as well as abstracts, more photos and other information concerning the event will soon be available at our project website, stay tuned!

Monday, April 22, 2013

The 4th OpenUp! Newsletter

We are glad to inform you that the new OpenUp! newsletter has recently been published at our new project website. You can read the last newsletter issue under this link. The 4th newsletter issue is full of interesting articles concerning different domains and topics.

If you are interested in becoming one of the OpenUp! partners or in what the benefits of membership are, you need to see the article of "A quick guide for becoming an associated partner of the  OpenUp!". We have also published several interesting news from our related projects, such as Europeana, BHL, BHL-Europe and Europeana creative. For the technically-skilled audience, articles on the new BioCASe version release and the implementation of common names web-services for the OpenUp! Content could be useful.

As we mentioned at the begining, the OpenUp! project has launched a new project website. The website´s description is also included in the new newsletter. For those who are interested in nature at your surroundings, we have prepared news on a new BLE topic of “Nature at your home”, which will be published at the beginning of next week.

Traditionally, we point out to our progress in social media and interesting conferences and events and one of them is presented directly by one of our content providers, Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands.

Thus, all you need now is to visit our website and go through our latest newsletter issue. Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Content Highlights – Death cap (Amanita phalloides)

The death cap is one of the most poisonous mushrooms in the northern hemisphere. However, did you know that food prepared with a death cap is extremely tasty?

Amanita phalloides; this image is under CC-BY-NC-SA of Danish Mycological Society in Europeana

The death cap is medium sized mushroom, with cap 7-15 cm in diameter. It grows throughout the entire temperate zone of Europe, Asia and North Africa. It was carried (probably with tree seedlings) to North America and Australia. This mushroom grows from summer through fall in deciduous or mixed forests. The death cap is responsible for most mushroom poisonings, and even small doses can be very dangerous. Resistance to the poison varies among individuals, so specifying a fatal dose is difficult. The poison - amanitin, damages the liver and kidneys.

Amanita phalloides by František Šaržík from EOL

Initial symptoms occur 8 to 48 hours after ingestion. In this phase, the person experiences fatigue, stomach nausea, dizziness, headaches and feelings of cold, even freezing. The nausea intensifies, stomach aches occur, accompanied by strong retching and watery diarrhea, leading to dehydration, and eventual circulatory failure. This is usually the immediate cause of death in children. If the patient survives this phase, his condition appears to improve (usually the fourth day after ingestion). In the second phase, the kidneys fail, and sometimes the liver as well. Death usually occurs four to twelve days after ingestion. Treatment of death cap poisoning involving infusions with a high concentration of thioacetic acid was invented by the Czech doctor J. Herink.

Amantia from BHL

You can find more about death cap on BLE – Poisonous nature. Stay tuned to us!