Education


Exploring the world of biodiversity

Whether you're looking for information on a seaslug named after Nelson Mandela or advice on how to deal with fig tree-eating beetles, Museum Online South Africa's Biodiversity Explorer will answer all your questions - and a lot more.

The information-packed website, hosted by Iziko Museums of Cape Town, gives fascinating details about new or little-known species, recent discoveries in the field of biodiversity and today’s threats like anthrax and the HIV/Aids virus.

It has a "Spotlight On" section, listing interesting developments on the biodiversity front and a "Shadow Falls On" section about the latest bugs or pests and how to deal with them.

The site has a comprehensive search facility with an extensive database on fauna and flora, not necessarily specific to southern Africa.

On the Mandelia microcornata seaslug, named after Nelson Mandela by two marine biologists who discovered it, Angel Valdes and Terry Gosliner, Biodiversity Explorer says: "It is regarded as something of an honour to have a species of organism named after you.

"To have a genus named after you is even more of an honour because new genera are less often named than new species. However, an even greater honour is to have a family named after you because new families are rarely created."

In why they named the seaslug after Mandela, the two said: "This South African genus is named Mandelia to honour Nelson Mandela, who led the struggle for a multiracial government in South Africa."

The specific name is taken from the Latin word mirus (meaning odd) and cornus (meaning horn), "referring to the particular shape of the rhinophores of this species". Mandelia microcornata has only been found along the Cape Peninsula coastline.

The Biodiversity Explorer has plenty of useful information on how to tackle common pests like head lice and cat fleas in an environmentally sound way and how to distinguish between poisonous and non-poisonous spiders and scorpions.

SAinfo reporter

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 mandelia, seaslug, mandela, nelson mandelaMandela mirocornata, named after Nelson Mandela (Photo: Iziko Museums of Cape Town)  mantos, insect, insect order, mantophasmatodeaA newly discovered insect order, Mantophasmatodea (Photo: Iziko Museums of Cape Town)  san hunter, san, beetle, poison, arrowA San hunter poisons an arrow with beetle juice (Photo: Iziko Museums of Cape Town)

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