Catalina Island 2015
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   Catalina Island Trip December 2015       Lichen Links           Ant Links     
Cameras Used On This Trip: Nikon D-3200 & Sony HX-20
© W.P. Armstrong 3 December 2015
This was a short flight from Palomar Airport in San Diego County to Santa Catalina Island in a Beechcraft Travelair D-95A Twin Engine. Our group stayed one night and flew back the following afternoon. The following images were taken during this delightful trip. Due to my 40 year teaching career, I was unable to concentrate on just "happy snap" people images. I simply was compelled to include some biological information about this fascinating island.

Beechcraft Travelair D-95A Twin Engine

Flight Approaching Catalina Island & Runway

Wildife On Island

The Catalina Island ecosystem has been greatly altered: The largest mammal is the bison and the largest mammalian predator is the Catalina Island fox!

I have heard unsubstantiated rumors that the bison heards roaming Catalina Island are actually beefalos; however, they do not resemble true beefalo hybrids. In fact, beefalo bulls look more like domestic cattle, except they have larger heads and shoulders like bison. The "beefalo" is a fertile hybrid between domestic cattle (Bos taurus) and the North American bison (Bison bison). Since a bison cow is used in the cross, the hybrid offspring receive bison mitochondrial DNA from their mother. Mitochondria are passed to the offspring through the egg and not through the father's sperm. [In plants, chloroplasts are passed through the egg and not the sperm--more overwhelming evidence that life evolved on this planet!] According to the following article, Catalina bison herds have mitochondrial DNA estimates of 44.9%, wheras estimates of cattle ancestry from autosomal genes is only 0.06%. True beefalos have up to 50% autosomal (chromosomal) genes as you would expect from an F1 hybrid.This is a complex subject that is explained in the following excellent article by Philip W. Hedrick.

Philip W. Hedrick. 2009. Conservation Genetics and North American Bison (Bison bison)
Journal of Heredity Vol. 100 (4): 411-420 (doi:10.1093/jhered/esp024).                     

  Wayne's Word Article About Interesting Plant & Animal Hybrids  

I looked for ants during our brief visit to this island, but the only ants I found were Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) in Avalon. They are small, dark-colored ants about 3 mm (1/8 inch) long that invade homes in search of food and water. They are especially fond of sweets, but will feed on practically any food. Argentine ants form an enormous supercolony with multiple queens and pose a serious threat to native wildlife by upsetting delicate food webs. These aggressive little ants generally thrive in well-watered urbanized areas and exterminate other ant species. Twenty-two additional ant species have been identified on Catalina Island, many of which also occur in San Diego County. Perhaps they were not active in the cool December weather during our visit.

Golden Hair Lichen (Teloschistes flavicans)

This beautiful fruticose lichen (Teloschistes flavicans) was found along the Airport Loop Trail around the Catalina Island Airport. It was growing with two other species: Flavoparmelia caperata and Evernia prunastri. This is a new lichen ID for me! The lower macro image shows several apothecia, the spore-bearing structure of the fungal symbiont. Lichen is essentially two organisms living together: A fungal component or mycobiont (lichenized fungus) and a photosynthetic algal component (algal cells) or photobiont.

Teloschistes flavicans apothecium photographed with Sony W-300 through a Bausch & Lomb dissecting microscope. The fact that it is rare on the California mainland explains why I have never seen this beautiful lichen species.

Historic Catalina Island Casino

Beautiful Brodiaea That Grows Near The Catalina Airport

Although it is reported on the herbarium label from Wrigley Botanical Garden (left), I don't think Brodiaea jolonensis occurs on Catalina Island. According to my images of the vascular system (see following link), the correct species appears to be the coastal form of B. terrestris ssp. kernensis (Coastal BTK). The latter species occurs from coastal Santa Barbara County to the Mexican border and may represent a new taxon. I have only seen B. jolonensis in Monterey County near the metropolis of Jolon and Fort Hunter Liggett military base; however, it may occur farther south in San Luis Obispo County. The following images of Coastal BTK were taken in a vacant field in San Marcos, CA (near Elephant Bar Restaurant). This endangered wildflower needs to be protected.

  Vascular Pattern Of Coastal BTK  

Vascular Strands Of Coastal BTK Compared With B. jolonensis
Magnified view (100x) of an inner perianth segment of Coastal BTK from San Marcos showing three primary vascular bundles (outlined in black). Each bundle is composed of three strands of tracheary elements (vessels), a total of nine strands. The strands consist of several intertwined vessels. In his monograph of the genus Brodiaea (1971) Niehaus represented this strand pattern as 3-3-3. Right: Magnified view (100x) of an inner perianth segment of B. jolonensis from Monterey County showing three primary vascular bundles. Each bundle consists of a single strand of tracheary elements, a total of three strands represented as 1-1-1. According to Dr. Niehaus these two species can be separated by their strand patterns.

The following 3 links discuss the occurrence of Brodiaea jolonensis in Monterey County and the doubtful occurrence of this species in San Diego County. The articles contain numerous illustrations and details. Apparently the editors of the revised Jepson Manual Of California Plants (2nd Edition 2012) thought this information was worth mentioning because under B. jolonensis they state that southern California populations (Gaviota Pass, Santa Barbara County) may be an undescribed taxon and not B. jolonensis! This undoutedly also includes populations extending south to the Mexican border and also Catalina Island. In my articles I have referred to it as a coastal form of B. terrestris ssp. kernensis (Coastal BTK) to distinguish it from the classic inland form (Montane BTK). The Jepson authors apparently felt it was best to list this possible undescribed taxon (what I called Coastal BTK) under B. jolonensis.
Brodiaea jolonensis Occurs in Monterey County
  Does Brodiaea jolonensis Occur In San Diego Co?  
  Brodiaea jolonensis Does Not Occur On Otay Mesa?  

Coastal BTK in San Marcos, CA grows from a corm in heavy clay soil like the area near Catalina Island Airport.