Hedgehog Facts and FAQs

This article will provide you with lots of fascinating hedgehog facts; learn about their natural history and behaviour and find out how the hedgehog is faring in Britain. Discover ways to make your garden attractive to these spiny creatures and other ways to get involved with hedgehog conservation and monitoring. Plus, get tips on some further reading and view a great range of hedgehog houses and other gifts.

Hedgehog Facts and FAQs. Image by Milo Bostock.
The hedgehog is a unique and much-loved garden visitor in Britain. Image by Milo Bostock via Flickr Creative Commons (CC by 2.0)

Hedgehog natural history and biology

The hedgehog found in Britain has the scientific name Erinaceus europaeus. This is the same species that can be found around Europe and, with the exception of some of the Scottish islands, they are present almost everywhere in Britain. Hedgehogs have even adapted well to urban habitats where they feed and nest in our wilder areas, parks and gardens. In more rural areas they utilise woodland edges and hedgerows where food and nesting spaces are plentiful.

A fully grown hedgehog measures approximately 260mm from nose to tail and can weigh in excess of 1.1kg, although this may be considerably less at certain times of year. The body of the hedgehog is covered in 25mm long spines which provide protection from predators: when threatened hedgehogs will roll into a tight ball with their more vulnerable face, belly and limbs tucked carefully inside.

Hedgehogs are omnivorous, feeding preferentially on beetles, caterpillars and earthworms, as well as slugs and snails. For this reason they are often referred to as the ‘gardener’s friend’. During the night they will travel long distances, eating as they go, before finding somewhere safe and sheltered to sleep during the day. A single hedgehog may travel up to 2km in a single night!

Between November and the end of March, hedgehogs hibernate to conserve their energy, as there is very little food available for them during these months.

Current status of hedgehogs in the UK

In the mid-1990s the JNCC produced a review of British mammals, in which the population of hedgehogs in Britain was estimated at 1.55 million. Since then citizen science schemes such as the BTOs Breeding Birds Survey and Garden Birdwatch, together with PTES’ Mammals on Roads and Living with Mammals have all contributed data to the picture, reporting significant declines in both rural and urban areas.

This picture is a cause for concern, not only for the hedgehog itself but because, as a generalist species, their presence is a good indicator of ecosystem health. Their declines suggest a loss of key soil invertebrates and important landscape features such as hedgerows as well a reduction in habitat connectivity.

As a result of these declines, the hedgehog was made a priority species in 2007 as part of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

Encouraging hedgehogs in your garden

Many modern gardens are designed to be aesthetically pleasing but are not hospitable for local wildlife. Tidy lawns and well maintained fencing, although neat to human eyes, provide little to attract the humble hedgehog. However, there are a few simple tips you can follow to make your more garden more appealing to them:

• Attempt to keep some areas wild and overgrown, as this will provide secure nesting and feeding spaces.

• If you have a garden fence, cut a hole at the bottom measuring 13 x 13cm as this will allow hedgehogs to pass through on their nightly wanderings. You could also remove a brick from the bottom of a wall or dig a channel underneath.

• Try not to use pesticides or slug pellets, as these are poisonous to other animals as well as slugs.

• Provide a shallow dish of fresh water along with some dog or cat food, some chopped unsalted peanuts or some sunflower hearts.

• Make or buy a hedgehog home. This will provide a safe and warm space for hedgehogs to hibernate throughout the winter, and also for a female to raise her young in the spring and summer.

• Take care when mowing or strimming your lawn, particularly if your grass is very long to begin with.

Other ways to help

• Contribute to Hedgehog Street’s Big Hedgehog Map – by pledging to make a hedgehog hole in your garden wall or fence then registering this on the map, you can contribute to the network of hedgehog-friendly gardens that is being created all around the UK. You can also report a hedgehog sighting for addition to the map.

• Join the British Hedgehog Preservation Society – as well as raising awareness of hedgehogs and the challenges they face, the BHPS also helps to fund research into hedgehog behaviour and provides financial support to hedgehog carers.

• Take part in a citizen science project – schemes such as the BTOs Breeding Birds Survey and Garden Birdwatch, together with PTES’ Mammals on Roads and Living with Mammals surveys, provide essential data about our local wildlife, all of which would be impossible to collect on such a large scale without the help of 1000s of volunteers.

Recommended reading

Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs
Pat Morris

Presents scientific and down-to-earth information about one of Britain’s best-loved wild creatures, the bumbling and endearing hedgehog. The principal ‘popular’ book on the hedgehog for over thirty years.

 

Hedgehog

Hedgehog
Hugh Warwick

The Romans regarded it as a weather prophet, and modern gardeners depend on it to keep their gardens free of pests. Hedgehog explores how the characteristics of this small creature have propelled it to the top of a number of polls of people’s favourite animals.

 

The Hedgehog

The Hedgehog
Pat Morris

This Mammal Society booklet is written by UK hedgehog expert Pat Morris. It includes lots of general information on the biology and behaviour of the hedgehog.

 

 

Hedgehog houses and gifts

From left to right:
Hogitat Hedgehog House and Care Pack
Igloo Hedgehog Home
Hedgehog Nest Box
Eco Hedgehog Feeding Station

From left to right:
Hedgehog Feeding Bowl
Hedgehog Mug
Hedgehog Soft Toy

 

Top 10 Bat Boxes for New Builds and Developments

Schwegler 1WI Bat BoxLooking for a bat box but don’t know which one to buy? This article is the third in a three part series designed to help you to make the right choice. Here you will find our top 10 boxes for incorporating into the masonry of a new build or development. The previous two posts feature the best boxes for trees and woodland and for walls and fences.

For each box listed you will also find helpful information such as its dimensions and weight and the box type (e.g. whether it is for summer use, for hibernation or for access into an existing roost space).

The Glossary below provides a guide to the key terms used in the descriptions.

• Woodcrete/WoodStone: A blend of wood, concrete and clay which is very durable. Is is also breathable and helps to maintain a stable temperature inside the box.
• Summer: Summer boxes are suitable for the warmer months but are less likely to be used over the winter.
• Hibernation: Designed to be larger and better insulated, hibernation boxes will provide a safe and warm space for bats over the winter.
• Maternity: Suitable for the formation of colonies and raising of young.
• Access: Provides an entrance to an existing roof space such as a wall cavity or loft.
• Crevice: Provides one or more narrow roost space. Species which prefer this type of box include common, soprano and Nathusius pipistrelle, Brandt’s and whiskered bats.
• Cavity: Provides a more spacious roost space. Bats such as brown long-eared, Daubenton’s and Natterer’s bats prefer cavity boxes.
• Large cavity: These boxes allow space for flight within the roost which is preferred by brown long-eared bats in particular.


Schwegler 1FR Bat Tube1. Schwegler 1FR Bat Tube

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 47.5 x 20 x 12.5cm; 9.8kg
• Box type: Cavity, summer

 

Habibat Bat Box2. Habibat Bat Box

• Made from: Concrete and brick
• Dimensions: 44 x 21.5 x 10.2cm; 13.8kg
• Box type: Crevice, summer

 

Ibstock Enclosed Bat Box B3. Ibstock Enclosed Bat Box B: Small

• Made from: Concrete and brick
• Dimensions: 21.5 x 21.5 x 10.5cm; 5.8kg
• Box type: Crevice, summer

 

Schwegler 1FE Bat Access Panel4. Schwegler 1FE Bat Access Panel

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 30 x 30 x 8cm; 5.1kg
• Box type: Large cavity, access

 

Bat Access Tile Set5. Bat Access Tile Set

• Made from: Clay
• Dimensions: 25.5 x 16cm; 3.5kg
• Box type: Cavity/crevice, access

 

Bat Brick6. Bat Brick

• Made from: Brick
• Dimensions: 6 x 21.5 x 10cm; 1.9kg
• Box type: Cavity, access

Build-in WoodStone Bat Box7. Build-in WoodStone Bat Box

• Made from: WoodStone
• Dimensions: 50 x 22 x 14cm; 6.2kg
• Box type: Crevice, summer

 

Schwegler 1WI Bat Box8. Schwegler 1WI Bat Box

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 54.5 x 34.5 x 9.5cm; 15kg
• Box type: Crevice, hibernation and maternity

 

Ibstock Enclosed Bat Box C9. Ibstock Enclosed Bat Box C: Small

• Made from: Concrete and brick
• Dimensions: 21.5 x 21.5 x 10.5cm; 6.7kg
• Box type: Crevice, summer

 

Habibat Bat Access Slate10. Habibat Bat Access Slate

• Made from: Slate
• Dimensions: 41.8 x 37.5 x 8cm; 1.3kg
• Box type: Large cavity, access

Browse our full range of build-in bat boxes.


The full range of nest boxes can be found in our online shop, as well as a useful nest box price list which can be downloaded as a pdf.

 

Top 10 Bat Boxes for Walls and Fences

Improved Cavity Bat BoxLooking for a bat box but don’t know which one to buy? This article is the second in a three part series designed to help you to make the right choice.

Here you will find our top 10 boxes for installing on an external wall or fence. The first and third posts cover the best options for installing on a tree in a garden, park or woodland and for building into a new build or development.

For each box you will also find helpful information such as its dimensions and weight and the box type (e.g. whether it is for summer use, for hibernation or for access into an existing roost space).

The Glossary below provides a guide to the key terms used in the descriptions.

• Woodcrete/WoodStone: A blend of wood, concrete and clay which is very durable. Is is also breathable and helps to maintain a stable temperature inside the box.
• Summer: Summer boxes are suitable for the warmer months but are less likely to be used over the winter.
• Hibernation: Designed to be larger and better insulated, hibernation boxes will provide a safe and warm space for bats over the winter.
• Maternity: Suitable for the formation of colonies and raising of young.
• Access: Provides an entrance to an existing roof space such as a wall cavity or loft.
• Crevice: Provides one or more narrow roost space. Species which prefer this type of box include common, soprano and Nathusius pipistrelle, Brandt’s and whiskered bats.
• Cavity: Provides a more spacious roost space. Bats such as brown long-eared, Daubenton’s and Natterer’s bats prefer cavity boxes.
• Large cavity: These boxes allow space for flight within the roost which is preferred by brown long-eared bats in particular.


Schwegler 1FF Bat Box1. Schwegler 1FF Bat Box

• Made from: Woodcrete and wood
• Dimensions: 43 x 27 x 14cm; 9.5kg
• Box type: Cavity; summer

 

Schwegler 1FQ Bat Roost2. Schwegler 1FQ Bat Roost

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 60 x 35 x 9cm; 15.8kg
• Box type: Crevice, maternity

 

Schwegler 2FE Bat Shelter3. Schwegler 2FE Wall-Mounted Bat Shelter

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 30 x 25 x 5cm; 2.5kg
• Box type: Cavity, hibernation

 

Chavenage Bat Box4. Chavenage Bat Box

• Made from: FSC Wood
• Dimensions: 38 x 18 x 10cm; 1.2kg
• Box type: Cavity, summer

 

Schwegler 1WQ Bat Roost5. Schwegler 1WQ Summer & Winter Bat Roost

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 58 x 38 x 12cm; 22kg
• Box type: Crevice, hibernation and maternity

 

Improved Cavity Bat Box6. Improved Cavity Bat Box

• Made from: FSC Plywood
• Dimensions: 38 x 24 x 15cm; 1.5kg
• Box type: Cavity, summer

 

Slimline Wooden Bat Box7. Slimline Wooden Bat Box

• Made from: FSC Wood
• Dimensions: 40 x 14 x 12cm; 1.9kg
• Box type: Crevice, summer

 

Beaumaris WoodStone Bat Box8. Beaumaris WoodStone Bat Box: Midi

• Made from: WoodStone
• Dimensions: 65 x 40 x 28cm; 4.4kg
• Box type: Crevice, summer

 

Improved Roost Maternity Bat Box9. Improved Roost Maternity Bat Box

• Made from: FSC Plywood
• Dimensions: 49 x 26 x 13cm; 6.6kg
• Box type: Crevice, maternity

 

Low Profile WoodStone Bat Box10. Low Profile WoodStone Bat Box

• Made from: WoodStone
• Dimensions: 44 x 29 x 9cm; 4.7kg
• Box type: Crevice, summer

 

Browse our full range of bat boxes for external walls.

Top 10 Bat Boxes for Trees and Woodland

Schwegler 2F Bat Box front panel with one of its residents.

Looking for a bat box but don’t know which one to buy? This article is the first in a three part series designed to help you to make the right choice.

The following two posts will cover our bestselling boxes for walls and fences and for building into a new build or development.

Here you will find our top 10 boxes for installing on a tree, in a garden, park or woodland. For each box you will also find helpful information such as its dimensions and weight and the box type (e.g. whether it is for summer use, for hibernation or for access into an existing roost space).

The Glossary below provides a guide to the key terms used in the descriptions.

• Woodcrete/WoodStone: A blend of wood, concrete and clay which is very durable. Is is also breathable and helps to maintain a stable temperature inside the box.
• Summer: Summer boxes are suitable for the warmer months but are less likely to be used over the winter.
• Hibernation: Designed to be larger and better insulated, hibernation boxes will provide a safe and warm space for bats over the winter.
• Maternity: Suitable for the formation of colonies and raising of young.
• Access: Provides an entrance to an existing roof space such as a wall cavity or loft.
• Crevice: Provides one or more narrow roost space. Species which prefer this type of box include common, soprano and Nathusius pipistrelle, Brandt’s and whiskered bats.
• Cavity: Provides a more spacious roost space. Bats such as brown long-eared, Daubenton’s and Natterer’s bats prefer cavity boxes.
• Large cavity: These boxes allow space for flight within the roost which is preferred by brown long-eared bats in particular.


1. 2F Schwegler Bat Box

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 33 x 16 x 16cm; 4kg
• Box type: Cavity, summer

 

2. 2FN Schwegler Bat Box

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 36 x 16 x 16cm; 4.3kg
• Box type: Cavity, summer

 

3. Improved Crevice Bat Box (Double Crevice)

• Made from: FSC Plywood
• Dimensions: 33 x 16 x 13cm; 2kg
• Box type: Crevice, summer

 

4. NHBS Kent Bat Box

• Made from: Wood
• Dimensions: 47.5 x 24 x 17cm; 3.5kg
• Box type: Crevice, summer

 

5. Chavenage Bat Box

• Made from: FSC Wood
• Dimensions: 38 x 18 x 10cm; 1.2kg
• Box type: Cavity, summer

 

6. 1FS Schwegler Large Colony Bat Box

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 44 x 38 x 38cm; 10kg
• Box type: Large cavity, hibernation and maternity

 

7. Double Chamber Bat Box

• Made from: FSC Wood
• Dimensions: 31.3 x 16 x 16cm; 1.8kg
• Box type: Crevice, summer

 

8. 1FD Schwegler Bat Box

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 36 x 16 x 16cm; 4.8kg
• Box type: Large cavity, summer

 

9. Improved Cavity Bat Box

• Made from: FSC Plywood
• Dimensions: 38 x 24 x 15cm; 1.5kg
• Box type: Cavity, summer

 

10. Schwegler 1FW Bat Hibernation Box

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 50 x 38 x 38cm; 28kg
• Box type: Cavity, hibernation and maternity

 

Browse our full range of bat boxes for trees and woodland.


The full range of NHBS bat boxes can be found in our online shop, as well as a useful nest box price list which can be downloaded as a pdf.

 

The NHBS Guide to Hand Lenses

The possession of a hand lens is one of the defining characteristics of a naturalist.

We use them for everything from peering at beetle genitalia and examining floral characters, to examining the arrangement of teeth in small mammal jaw bones. There are a wide variety of hand lenses on the market so how do you decide which lens is best for you? This article contains all the information you need to make an informed choice.

Glass versus plastic lens?

The optical lens in a hand lens can be made from glass or plastic. Plastic lenses are generally more affordable and lighter but are of lower optical quality and are more difficult to clean. Plastic hand lenses, however, can be a good choice for schools and young children.

How many optical elements?

Canon 400mm

An element is an individual piece of glass within a lens. When you look through a high quality camera lens you will typically be viewing what’s in front of the lens through four to six lens elements, as well as other elements used for focusing and zooming (see image below right).

Paul Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM By Paul Chin

Hand lenses are constructed with one (singlet), two (doublet) or three (triplet) lens elements. Each one is specially shaped to correct for a particular type of optical distortion, so the more elements, the higher quality the image.

Magnification

A 10x magnification hand lens will be more than adequate for most purposes. Higher magnification lenses tend to be harder to use but are very useful for viewing extremely small objects. If you are unsure of which magnification you need, or think you may need several different lenses, you might consider the Duel Singlet Loupe (x10 and x20) or the Triple Hand Lens (x3, x4 and x5).

Lens diameter

Large diameter lenses provide a wider field of view which means that they are easier to use but they are slightly more expensive to produce.

How hand leOpticron Hand lens, 23mm, 10x magnificationnses are named

Hand lenses are named in the same way as binoculars, with both the lens diameter and the magnification included in the name. For example, the Opticron Hand lens, 23mm, 10x magnification has a 23mm diameter lens and provides 10x magnification.

Using your hand lens

Finally, a quick note on hand lens technique. To use your hand lens correctly, hold the lens close to your eye and then either a) move the subject closer to your eye until it comes in to focus or b) move your head (and the hand lens) closer to the subject until it comes into focus. It’s easy with a little practice so don’t get put off if you find a new hand lens difficult at first. Expect to get close up to what you’re examining – it’s quite common to see naturalists crawling around on the ground to get close to a plant they’re identifying.

Keeping your hand lens safe

It can be very hard to find a much-loved hand lens dropped in long grass or woodland. To prevent this happening, we recommend a lanyard for your hand lens – this has two functions: a) if you have it round your neck you won’t drop it, and b) if you put it down somewhere the bright blue lanyard is easy to spot.

The table below provides a guide to the hand lenses sold by NHBS. More information and specifications of each can be found by following the links. Our full range of lenses and magnifiers can be found at nhbs.com.

 

Big Butterfly Count 2017

The peacock butterfly, with its striking eyes on the hindwings, is a common visitor to British gardens. Inachis Io by Maja Dumat is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The 2017 Big Butterfly Count, organised by Butterfly Conservation, runs from 14th July to 6th August.

This nationwide survey, launched in 2010 and conducted annually, is the world’s largest survey of butterflies; in 2016 over 36,000 people took part! The survey aims to investigate trends in butterfly and moth species and will help guide conservation efforts within the UK.

Taking part is easy – simply set a timer for 15 minutes and then count the butterflies you see during this time. Counts are best undertaken on a dry, sunny day and good places to conduct the survey are in your garden or in a local park or woodland.

If you are counting from one place, count the maximum number of each species that you can see at a single time. (This ensures that you don’t count the same butterfly more than once). If you are doing your count while walking, then simply total up the number of each species that you see during the 15 minutes. The final step is to submit your results online or via the iOS or Android app.

For lots more information, head over to the Big Butterfly Count website where you can download an identification sheet, submit your sightings and view the 2017 results map. Check out the video below for an great introduction from Nick Baker.

NHBS stocks a full range of butterfly survey equipment, including nets, binoculars, collecting pots and field guides. Need some advice? Contact our customer services team on +44 (0)1803 865913 or email customer.services@nhbs.com

 

 

The NHBS Guide to Whale and Dolphin Watching

Public sighting records are important for UK cetacean conservation. Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins by Jo Garbutt is licenced under CC BY 2.0

Catching a glimpse of a whale or dolphin whilst visiting the coast is a uniquely memorable experience and a few hours spent whale and dolphin watching is fun for all age groups. Plus, your sightings can really make a difference and will add to the growing body of survey data collected for the UK coastline.

Keep reading for some tips on when and where to watch whales and dolphins, how to get started and where to report your sightings.

When and where should I watch cetaceans and what am I likely to see?

The best time for spotting cetaceans is between April and October when visitors to our coastal waters are at their highest. Some areas are undoubtedly better than others for catching a glimpse of these elusive animals: Devon, Cornwall and Cardigan Bay in Wales are good places to go, as well as the coasts of northern Scotland.

Twenty-nine species of cetacean have been recorded in UK waters, and some areas of our coastline are home to permanent populations of dolphins. The most commonly reported species are bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoises and minke whales, although rarer visitors have included killer whales, humpback whales and striped dolphins.

Of course, cetaceans aren’t the only things you will see. Keep your eyes peeled for seals too and enjoy the seabirds and beautiful views at the same time!

How do I get started watching whales and dolphins?

For most people, watching cetaceans from the land (rather than from a boat) will be the most convenient and economical option. Any place where you can sit comfortably with a good view of the sea will suffice, but if you can make your way to a cliff top then this will provide a better vantage point. Calm, overcast days tend to be the best for spotting cetaceans as the combination of swell, choppy waves and surface reflections can make fins all but impossible to see. For the same reason, the hours following dusk and prior to dawn are the best times of day to go.

A watch is conducted by scanning the surface of the water with the naked eye, switching to binoculars periodically or whenever you notice a disturbance at the surface. As soon as you see something that may be a whale or dolphin, concentrate your binoculars in that area, making sure to scan a little way around in case it surfaces again nearby. Another good technique is to look out for seabirds circling or diving as this may indicate cetaceans feeding just below the surface.

Any binoculars (or a scope and tripod) can be used for sea watches. If you are looking for binoculars specifically for this activity, however, make sure to go with a model that has a large objective lens diameter as this will improve the light transmission and will help with viewing in lower light conditions.

For researchers studying marine mammals, items such as thermal imaging scopes and hydrophones are useful additions to the surveying toolbox and will allow them to find and identify cetaceans in a greater range of conditions as well as enabling more detailed investigation of behaviour.

Where do I submit my sightings?

Several organisations in the UK offer online sighting forms where you can submit information about whales, dolphins and porpoises that you have confidently identified during your watch. Take a look at the Sea Watch Foundation, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, or the Cetacean Research & Rescue Unit websites for sighting forms. Other regional groups such as the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust and Norfolk Cetaceans also collect local sightings so it might be worth finding out if there is an active recording group near to where you live.

Check out the NHBS website for a great range of binoculars and scopes, as well as other handy field kit such as waterproof clipboards and notebooks. Also have a look at these two field guides to help with identifying whales and dolphins.

Guide to the UK Cetaceans and Seals
Guide to the UK Cetaceans and Seals
Whales, Dolphins and Seals: A Field Guide to the Marine Mammals of the World
Whales, Dolphins and Seals: A Field Guide to the Marine Mammals of the World

 

The Importance of Nest Sites for Birds and Bees

Changes in land use can result in strong competition between species that have historically survived alongside eachother, such as goldfinches and chaffinches. Goldfinch by Tony Smith is licenced under CC BY 2.0.

Over the last century, land use in the UK has changed drastically. Small mixed-crop farms, traditionally separated by lanes, hedgerows and wild meadows have been replaced with larger, more specialised facilities. At the same time, the density of grazing animals such as sheep and cattle has also risen substantially. This combination of land-use change and agricultural intensification has contributed significantly to habitat degradation and biodiversity loss, and has led to huge, often dire, changes for the wildlife that call these places home.

Understanding these processes is of huge importance to conservationists, and a considerable amount of research has been conducted into the broad scale effects of land use changes on biodiversity. It is less well understood, however, why seemingly similar species can be affected to a different extent by local changes in their habitat.

A recent study, conducted by Dr Andrew Higginson at the University of Exeter, suggests that competition for nesting space may be a key factor in the differences observed. His study used a mathematical model to predict the likely outcome when populations of birds and bees are faced with a reduction in suitable nesting sites. Results indicated that larger, earlier-nesting species tend to fare better in these conditions, but at the expense of smaller, later-nesting species who, in the real world, would either fail to find a nesting site or be forced into using a poor quality or risky location.

Dr Higginson’s results illustrate that, whilst two or more similar species can co-exist together very happily when there are sufficient nesting spaces available, as soon as these become limited, competition and conflict become inevitable. In severe situations, species that have historically thrived in the same environment may suddenly find themselves battling for survival.

A key message from the study was that conservation efforts should ensure that priority is given to the creation and maintenance of suitable nesting sites. Conservation practices often focus on provision of food for wildlife, such as planting wildflowers for bees and providing food for our garden birds. Preserving and creating safe and accessible places for these animals to nest, however, is just as critical if we are to ensure their continued survival.

Head over to www.nhbs.com for our full range of bird nest boxes and insect nesting aids, or download our full nest box price list.

 

Kaleidoscope 4.3.0 Bioacoustic Software Now Available

The newest version of Kaleidoscope, version 4.3.0, is now available to download from the Wildlife Acoustics website.

See below for details about the new features included in this release, as well as a handy table to see which version of Kaleidoscope is right for you, and some useful tutorial videos.

New features include:

New Bat Auto-ID Classifiers
New bat classifiers for North America, Neotropics, Europe and South Africa as well as updated common names for some species. The default setting for classifiers is now “Balanced” which is a useful compromise between the more sensitive and more accurate options.

New time-saving workflow features
New features in the results viewer window include:
• When opening a saved results spreadsheet, a file browser allows you to easily locate the folder containing the corresponding input files
• Bulk ID multiple selected rows
• Bulk copy files in selected rows to a specified folder

Full support for GUANO metadata (Kaleidoscope Pro only)
Kaleidoscope now reads and write GUANO information alongside Wildlife Acoustics metadata (WAMD).  This will been shown in the file at the end of the metadata notes window.

Bug fixes
Several bugs have also been fixed in the new release, details of which can be found in the Kaleidoscope documentation.

Which version of Kaleidoscope is right for me?

Kaleidscope Tutorial Videos


Kaleidoscope UK, Kaleidoscope Neotropics and Kaleidoscope Pro are all available to purchase from NHBS.

 

Book Review – Turtles as Hopeful Monsters

Turtles as Hopeful MonstersTurtles as Hopeful Monsters: Origins and Evolution

Written by Olivier Rieppel

Published in hardback by Indiana University Press in March 2017 in the Life of the Past series

Turtles have long vexed evolutionary biologists. In Turtles as Hopeful Monsters, Olivier Rieppel interweaves vignettes of his personal career with an overview of turtle shell evolution, and, foremost, an intellectual history of the discipline of evolutionary biology.

An initial, light chapter serves to both introduce the reader to important experts on reptile evolution during the last few centuries, as well as give an account of how the author got to study turtles himself. After this, the reading gets serious though, and I admit that I got a bit bogged down in the second chapter, which discusses the different historical schools of thought on where turtles are to be placed on the evolutionary tree. An important character here is skull morphology and a lot of terminology is used. Although it is introduced and explained, it makes for dense reading.

I think the book shines in the subsequent chapters that give a tour of the evolution of, well, evolutionary thinking.

When Darwin formulated his theories, he argued that evolution is a slow and step-wise process, with natural selection acting on random variation to bring about gradual change. This is the transformationist paradigm. Turtles as Hopeful Monsters, page 53The fossil record has yielded some remarkable examples where a slow transformation has occurred over time, such as the development of hooves in horses. But equally, there are many examples where no such continuous chain exists in the fossil record. Turtles are one such example, as they just suddenly appear in the fossil record, shell and all. Darwin himself attributed this to ‘the extreme imperfection of the fossil record‘. This lack of transitional fossils has of course been eagerly exploited by the creationist / intelligent design movement for their own ends.

But ever since Darwin, biologists have argued, and still do, that there exist mechanisms that allow for rapid innovation and saltatory evolution (i.e. evolution by leaps and bounds). This is the emergentist paradigm. Rieppel gives an overview of the different theories that have been put forward over the last two centuries, which is both illuminating and amusing. This covers such luminaries as Richard Goldschmidt (who coined the phrase “hopeful monsters”), Stephen Jay Gould (who revived it), and Günter Wagner (who provides the best current explanation according to Rieppel).

Just a little bit more about this phrase “hopeful monsters”, as this is such a prominent part of the book’s title. According to Goldschmidt, major new lineages would come about through mutations during early development of the embryo. This, of course, has the risk of producing monsters when the organism matures, likely resulting in premature death. So, Goldschmidt proposed a theory of hopeful monsters, where such drastic changes would successfully result in new evolutionary lineages with new body plans. His explanations, which required evolution to be goal-directed and cyclical (so-called orthogenetic evolution) have become obsolete, but he wasn’t entirely off the mark either. The best current explanations, according to Rieppel, comes from Wagner (author of Homology, Genes, and Evolution) and others who suggest radical changes to body plans do originate at the embryonic stage, and that the cause is the rewiring of the underlying genetic mechanisms.

Turtles as Hopeful Monsters, page 181The final two chapters of the book show how the debate over turtle shell evolution has gone back and forth between these two paradigms over time. Here again, Rieppel goes quite deep into morphology, this time of the shell, with accompanying terminology. Although the consensus seems to be leaning towards changes in embryonic development being responsible for the sudden appearance of the turtle shell in the fossil record, the final chapter deals with recent fossil finds from southwestern China that have revealed a potential missing link: a turtle with a fully developed belly shield.

Overall then, this book is a highly enjoyable romp through the intellectual history of evolutionary biology, using turtle evolution as its red thread. I could have used a bit more hand-holding here and there, and I feel the book would have benefited from an (illustrated) glossary or some extra illustrations. The reading gets quite technical when Rieppel goes into expositions on skull and shell morphology. That said, this book is an excellent addition to the popular science works in the Life of the Past series.

Turtles as Hopeful Monsters is available to order from NHBS.