Mechanisms of speciation (red vs. yellow breasted musk parrots)

This is a photo of the yellow breasted musk parrot taken at the Kula Eco Park in Fiji

This is a photo of the yellow breasted musk parrot taken at the Kula Eco Park in Fiji

I decided to compare 2 species of parrots (the red breasted musk parrot and the yellow breasted musk parrot) that I saw at the Kula Eco Park in Fiji. There are different species of the musk parrots found on 5 distinct islands in Fiji.

PROSOPEIA PERSONATA (also known as the masked shining parrot)


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Psittaciformes

Family: Psittacidae

The yellow breasted musk parrot is commonly found in Viti Levu.  It is a large long tailed parrot with vibrant green plumage with a yellow breast and belly. Around its eyes and beak there is black, and they have blue feathers at the tips of their wings. Their tails are green with a blue wash, and is darker underneath. They average 45cm in size and normally nest between June and October.

The yellow breasted musk parrot can be found in mangroves or wet mountain forests. They live in large groups and they are very noisy.


This is a photo of the red breasted musk parrot taken at the Kula Eco Park in Fiji

This is a photo of the red breasted musk parrot taken at the Kula Eco Park in Fiji

PROSOPEIA TABUENSIS (also known as the masked shining parrot)


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Psittaciformes

Family: Psittacidae

The red breasted musk parrot is commonly found in Kadavu. Similar description to the yellow breasted, but the red breasted has a red/black face and the rest of the head is brown/red. They also have a dark blue collar across upper mantle which is obvious in some of the birds, but in others it is almost absent. Their tail is green but in some their tails are edged with maroon.

The red breasted musk parrots are versatile and can be found in mangroves or fruit trees. They are also popular house pets and are highly prized in aviculture.

A few red breasted birds from one island were flying around the fruit trees together playing a game of tag. They then ended up getting lost and landed on another Island with wet mountain forests. When they tried to find their way back home but they couldn’t. When they realized that there were no fruit trees on this island, they learned how to adapt to the new island. When they adapted to the new food and new environment, they started to change. Then as they started laying their eggs and having their own babies, they started to evolve. As they continued to change they changed genetically and the lineage split which then let to speciation of the yellow breasted musk parrots. Perhaps there was a change in colour from red to yellow because the food that the red parrots ate from the fruit trees helped keep them red, and when they flew over to the new island that specific food wasn’t available; causing them to genetically mutate.

Ecosystem Restoration

On July 24th 2013, we (the edutravel group) had the privilege to end our Fiji experience at the Votua Village. After a great Kava ceremony we got to learn about the coral reefs in Fiji and what Votua Village does as a community to protect it.

IMG_2922Understanding biodiversity is very important when it comes to coral because there are so many different types. Biodiversity is the variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat or ecosystem. Biodiversity is important because it boosts the ecosystems productivity where no matter how big or small, each species has a role to play. For example; greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms and healthy ecosystems can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters. Coral does a very similar thing which will be explained further below.

The ecosystem restoration project is a community-based resource management with the goal of conserving biodiversity, and replenish instore fish stocks specifically on the South Pacific. They are conserving biodiversity by coral planting which we got to do in the morning before we were welcomed into the village. The largest reef system in the South Pacific covers 32% of the South Pacific reef system, and the coral coast is the largest fringing coral reef system in Fiji. Coral is good for the fish which is an important food source, it also helps with medicine, and is part of cultural identity. It is amazing that something so small like coral can have a great effect on tourism, fisheries, aquarium trade, and research/education.

The problem with coral reefs now is that the fishing grounds are damaged and cannot provide the same way they used to. Noticeable declines in coastal resources due to overfishing, coastal development and global climate change have prompted Fijian communities to take locally-managed actions to protect their coral reef resources.

I think it is great that the Votua Village cares so much for the coral reefs and it is great that they are continuing to do research to learn more about managing the coral reefs. It is also great that they are teaching others and making them aware of what is happening the coral reef system. If they continue to plant coral it would make such a difference in the long run because the more coral we have planted  in the ocean, the more positive change we will see in terms of the way the underwater ecosystem acts.


Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance evolves naturally via natural selection through random mutation, but it could also be engineered by applying an evolutionary stress on a population. Antibiotic resistance occurs when an antibiotic has lost its ability to effectively control or kill bacterial growth; in other words, the bacteria are “resistant” and continue to multiply.

In the past 60 years, antibiotics have been critical in the fight against infectious disease caused by bacteria and other microbes. Antimicrobial chemotherapy has been a leading cause for the dramatic rise of average life expectancy in the Twentieth Century.

Antibiotic resistance can occur without human action, as bacteria can produce and use antibiotics against other bacteria, leading to a low-level of natural selection for resistance to antibiotics.Antibiotic resistance can also occur when people use antibiotics improperly (overuse or abuse of antibiotics), for example by not finishing the entire prescription. When people do not do this, the little bit that is left in the bacteria grows resistant to that antibiotic and can spread to more people. In some countries and over the Internet, antibiotics can be purchased without a doctor’s prescription. Patients sometimes take antibiotics unnecessarily, to treat viral illnesses like the common cold.

To prevent antibiotic resistance follow the directions carefully. It is important to finish your medicine even if you feel better.  If you stop treatment too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you. Do not save antibiotics for later or use someone else’s prescription.

In Fiji Shigellosis is a disease that is common in developing countries such as Fiji, and has cause millions of deaths. The growing problem of multi-drug resistance arises some issues about how Shigellosis would be treated in this country. Antibiotic resistance could have an impact on a developing country like Fiji because if a particular bacteria becomes resistant then that means that bacteria could spread rapidly throughout the country, therefore they may not have the resources to get a widespread infection under control. Compared to Canada, we are fortunate in the sense that we have access to resources to control a disease such as Shigellosis.

Natural selection plays a role in the development of antibiotic resistance because it allows the passage of a resistance gene. The trait for developing an antibody can be passed through inheritance, and natural selection allows surviving species to continue to reproduce.

Antibiotic Resistance (check out this video to understand more about antibiotic resistance)

Koronovia Research Station


This photo was taken at the Koronovia Research Station on July 16th 2013. These pigs are Canadian

On Julty 16th we visited the Koronovia Research Station and we got see pigs, the koronovia chemistry lab, weeds, and we learned about how different insects can damage fruits and plants.

Learning about the different weeds was really interesting because generally when people think of weeds, we assume that they are all harmful which isn’t true. There are invasive weeds that have an effect on the environment in a negative way, but there are also weeds that are good for the environment that help the soil and growth of other plants.


A weed that I came across is called Ageratum Conyzoides (goat weed); one of the various “good” weeds.  It is an erect, herbaceous annual, 30 to 80 cm tall; stems are covered with fine white hairs, leaves are opposite. This weed also has history of traditional medicinal use in several countries. Ageratum is used against epilepsy and wounds, and also used as an insect repellent.






Lactose Intolerance; local Fijians vs. Indo-Fijians

 As a young child my grandmother would always tell me stories about the Indian Gods and how the cows are very sacred in the Indian culture. Cows have historically been in India for many years, whereas in Fiji cows never played a role in natural selection. Due to the fact that there were no cows in Fiji originally, Fijians would not have access to cows and the ability to digest lactose would not have helped them to digest lactose any longer.

As I was reading about the comparison between Fijians and Indo-Fijians I instantly thought about how the fact that because Indian people cherish the cows so much, that could be one of the reasons why Indians are less likely to be lactose intolerance than Fijians and it actually is true. Indian people take care of the cows really well and use their by-products in a lot of Indian food such as the Indian sweets, the yogurt, butter chicken, curry etc, and because they use a lot of dairy in meals they are more accustomed than Fijians. This is an example of natural selection. In India the population has lived with cows for decades, and during times of starvation cow by-products have helped the population. Indians are best suited to the environment of surviving with cows, and they are able to reproduce more successfully than Fijians.

Lactose intolerance, also called lactase deficiency, means you aren’t able to fully digest the milk sugar (lactose) in dairy products. It’s usually not dangerous, but symptoms of lactose intolerance can be uncomfortable.

Prokaryote vs. Eukaryote

Prokaryotes can be found in all types of habitats, but the 2 domains are the bacteria and archaea kingdom. Prokaryotes obtain energy by breaking down organic or inorganic matter as a source of energy. Prokaryotic cells don’t depend on oxygen for their metabolism; prokaryotic cells contain bacteria which decompose dead organic matter.


Prokaryotes do not have a cell nucleus, do not have a membrane bound organelles in their system, DNA is not in the nucleus;its in a single loop, and they are either single celled or might have a few cells.

Eukaryotes come from animal, plant, fungi and protist kingdoms. They are multicellular or single cellular, DNA is organized in chromosomes and is in the nucleus, and cells have membrane bound organelles.




Phototrophic prokaryotes are found in shallow coral reefs and get their energy from the sun. They are bacteria or archaea that obtain energy from the light, and they use a variety of different carbon sources. Most phototrophic organisms obtain carbon from atmospheric CO2 in the process of photosynthesis. The cyanobacteria is the most well known and important phototrophic bacteria. Cyanobacteria is responsible for oxygenation of the earth, and for photosynthetic abilities of plants chloroplasts harvest light energy used by the plants in photosynthesis.



Google Image Result for” Google. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Aug. 2013. <>.


Plant Study; Clidemia Hirta

Clidemia Hirta also known as ‘soapbrush’ or ‘koster’s curse’, is a perennial
shrub. It is native to tropical America and was first recorded in the Pacific
Islands prior to 1905 (Fiji). It is an invasive plant species in many tropical
regions of the world, creating serious damage. Can be distinguished by its
hairy stems and foliage, opposite leaves, with a pleated surface, 5 parallel
veins from the base, short axillary cymes of white flowers and small black
bristle-covered berries.


Leaves: 5-18 x 3-10 cm

~acuminate at the apex

~rounded to subcordate at the base

~surfaces pleated

~5 veined from the base

Inflorescence: short


~axillary and terminal

~6-20 flowered panicles 1-3 cm long

Calyx: 5 hipsid

~linear lobes 2-4 mm long

~at the top 3-4 mm long urceolate hypanthium

Corolla: 5 white, ovate petals 6-8 mm long

~stamens 10 with geniculate anthers

Fruit: many seeded bluish-black berries 5-8 mm long with sepals persistent at the top


The Clidemia Hirta is a flowering dicot plant. It has white flowers with five petals and the major leaves of the plant come from a central line, and it is also a flower growing from a bush.


The invasiveness of this plant affects the growth of the plant. It is proven that non-native invasive species have greater relative growth rates.

This photo was taken july 9th in Levuka Island on Epi's hike through a forest

This photo was taken july 9th in Levuka Island on Epi’s hike through a forest





Water moves from high osmotic potential to a low osmotic potential. Water always flows away from an area of high pressure. There are 2 phases in which the water moves; soil to root and root to leaf. water






Water movement from soil to root is due to osmotic potential where the solute concentration in the root is higher than the solute concentration in the soil.

Comparative Anatomy; Shark Vs. Dolphin


Many would think that sharks and dolphins have a lot of similarities because they are both marine animals.


The sharks’ circulatory system is an s-shaped tube in the head of the shark. Blood is pumped by the heart through the afferent bronchial arteries (ventral aorta) to capillaries in the gills (where the blood is oxygenated). The blood flows through efferent bronchial arteries (paired dorsal aorta) then through the tissues of the body, and then back to the heart in veins. The sharks pulse is beat, space, beat, space. The beat is the blood being pumped out of the heart and the space is when the ventricle relaxes and is filled with blood.








Evidence for the existence of sharks’ dates from the Ordovician period, over 450–420 million years ago, before land vertebrates existed and before many plants had colonized the continents. The oldest shark scales date back 420 million years ago in the Silurian period. The first sharks looked very different from modern sharks. Majority of modern sharks can be traced back to around 100 million years ago.



A dolphins circulatory system adjusts to conserve body heat and maintain body temperature. Although the circulatory systems of marine animals follow a similar plan like other mammals, but they have special features associated with the diving response, thermoregulation, and large body mass. Dolphins have a slower heart beat because it gives the blood more time to warm and circulate through the whole body. Their average body temperature is 98˚C.


After millions of years an air-breathing mammal modified for life in the sea had evolved into the dolphin. As a result of evolution, its nostrils slowly migrated from its nose (or rostrum) to the top of its melon (head), making it easier to breath when swimming or resting partly under water. Unlike seals and walruses which breed on land and feed in the water, today dolphins remain almost entirely in the water for all life functions. As dolphins are essentially “weightless” in the water, their bones do not have to carry the weight of those of land animals. Meaning the bones of a dolphin are relatively lighter than land mammal bones.dolphin


Both the shark and the dolphin have closed circulatory systems, meaning the blood never leaved the web of blood vessels. The also both contain four chambers in the heart similar to humans. The four chambers of sharks are called aforementioned atrium and ventricle, sinus venosus, and bulbus arteriosus. Recent data on shark skeletal tissues have been reviewed and it is now certain that shark teeth and denticles are covered with ectodermal enamel. The calcified cartilage of sharks differs significantly from other vertebrates in the sense that the areas of calcification are composed of many vital and non-hypertrophic cells. We can examine their similarities by classifying them:

DolphinKingdom: Anamalia

Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)

Class: Mammalia

Order: Cetacea

Family: Delphinidae

Genus: Delphinus

Species: Delphis

SharkKingdom: Anamalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fish)

Order: Elasmobranchii (sharks and rays)

Family: Selachii

Genus: Carcharodon

Species: Carcharias

You can see that they are both from the same kingdom, and phylum.


(this photo was taken on July 6th 2013 at Takalana Bay resort in Fiji while dolphin watching) dophin 2








Sharks get their oxygen from their gills, while dolphins obtain oxygen through their lungs. This is because dolphins are mammals; the same way humans get oxygen through lungs.


Shark skeletons are made of cartilage and collective tissue. Cartilage is flexible and durable, yet is about half the normal density of bone. This reduces the skeleton’s weight, saving energy. Because sharks do not have rib cages, they can easily be crushed under their own weight on land.

The skeleton of a dolphin has changed from a land mammal layout to one adapted for life at sea. Dolphins in water are essentially weightless and the bones don’t have to carry a lot of weight, making them lighter than those of land mammals.


  1. “shark skeletal system – Google Search.” Google. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 July 2013. <

“evolution of dolphins – Google Search.” Google. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 July 2013. <


Monocot Vs. Dicot



This image taken Thurston Gardens, Fiji, in is a representation of a dicot. A dicot is a name for a grouping of flowering plants whose seeds have two embryonic leaves or cotyledons.

Some characteristics of a dicot plant are:

-multiples of four or five petals

-two cotyledons

-the major veins of the leaf come from a central line

-flowering bush, tree, etc

I figured that this flower was a dicot because it possesses four petals and their leaf veins reticulate. Also, dicots (such as these flowers) are generally trees and flowering bushes.

There are also plants that are monocots, which means that these plants have only one cotyledon in the seed.

Some characteristics of a monocot plant are:

-usually multiples of 3

-one cotyledon

-growth is herbaceous

-the vascular bundles are usually scattered.