The King of Nowhere is here!

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Our new Rockford's Rock Opera audiobook album is now available from the Rockford shop. We can get it as a download or on CD (with a lyric book).

With a new 75 minute audio adventure and 6 new Rockford songs, it's perfect for any Rockford's Rock Opera fan this summer.

Get it now and tell us what you think?

A New Rockford's Rock Opera Album

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We're delighted to announce that a new Rockford's Rock Opera audio book, The King of Nowhere will be out on CD in February.

Please join our Facebook page for more details:

We're really excited about this new story continuing the story of the Cocklebur Ick on Infinity. The 75 minute audio story includes 6 new Rockford songs and an amazing new story for all ages.

We hope you enjoy it. The album will be available from the Rockford's Rock Opera shop very soon.

Rockford's Summer Song

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Summer's here so here's Rockford's Summer Song! You'll need to LIKE us on Facebook to hear!

Hope you like it!

Tin Frog to headline Glastonbury

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We love this giant frog made from recycled Beetles - the VW ones that is!Glastonbury-festival-2014-017.jpg

The Glowing Coconut Octopus

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The Top Children's Story Download - on app, CD, DVD.

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Celebrating Two Million Children's Audiobook Downloads

We're delighted to announce that the award winning Rockford's Rock Opera audiobook for children has just passed the two million download mark.

These downloads, spread over our four children's audiobook apps (on Apple and Google play), our website (where the musical story can be streamed or downloaded) are in addition to the many plays via CD and DVD.

Rockford's Rock Opera is a musical educational story that's proved popular in schools (the story is rich in engaging educational content) and with families and children.

Part One - which is about an hour long is a free children's audiobook app and it's a free download at Rockford's Rock Opera website too.

To discover the magic of this unique children's audio story with pictures and videos, search for Rockford's Rock Opera on line, in the App Store or in Google Play. 

Say 'hello' to the Peacock Spider

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Although some of you may not like spiders... have a look at this. A species of 'jumping spider' from Australia! Worthy of being a character in Rockford's Rock Opera... perhaps they'll be a role for him in Part 5!View image

More Creatures' Secrets - A Moth with Amazing Ears

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From New Scientist:

The greater wax moth is flapping gently through the dark, looking for a mate, when it suddenly hears a high-pitched click. The sound is well outside the range of human hearing, but the moth has no problem picking it up. It swerves to the right - and escapes the jaws of a predatory bat by inches.

Greater wax moths have hearing like no other animal we know of. They can hear sounds that are so high-pitched that no known bat can produce them.

In the evolutionary race for survival, this moth has a head start.

Put simply, greater wax moths are a pest. Their larvae often live inside honeybee nests, where they survive on a diet of little more than beeswax. They have a particular taste for the brood combs where the bee larvae live, and can quickly trash the nest.

Adult moths only leave the hive to mate. Males gather on nearby trees and,shortly after sunsetbegin making calls to females, at frequencies above the range of human hearing.

Higher-pitched still are the calls of their predators: bats. While the male moth's calls range from 90,000 to 95,000 hertz, bats echolocate using sounds often closer to 110,000 Hz.

Evolution has pushed moths to keep up, so although they can't produce calls in the same range as bats, they can hear them coming. One North American moth can hear sounds up to 150,000 Hz - good, but not good enough to escape all bats, whose calls can reach 212,000 Hz.

I can hear you!

Enter the greater wax moth. Hannah Moir and colleagues at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK tested the hearing of 20 adult moths by playing them a wide range of sounds and measuring both the vibration of their tympanal membrane - the moths' "eardrum" - and whether a signal was transmitted down their auditory nerve.

Each sound was at 90 decibels, which is about as noisy as heavy traffic but not quite as loud as most bat echolocation calls. All the moths' tympanal membranes vibrated strongly to sounds at a frequency of 300,000 Hz, and 15 out of the 20 also showed strong neural signals.

Incredibly, that means the moths can hear a sound that no known animal makes.

Moir says there are two possible explanations. "It could be that the bats are producing higher frequencies than can be recorded," she says. Microphones struggle to record sounds higher than 150,000 Hz, and bat calls can be particularly difficult to capture.

Alternatively, the moths' sensitivity to high-pitched sounds could be an evolutionary accident, Moir says. The moths need to detect bat calls quickly to take evasive action. The physics of sound means that any sensor that can pick up a wide range of frequencies will also have a fast response time. So their sensitivity to a wide range of frequencies could be a fringe benefit of the ability to pick up the bats' calls faster.

Bats may eventually evolve higher-pitched echolocation calls to help them hunt those moths that can listen in on their existing calls. But this won't help them catch the greater wax moth: it is several steps ahead of them.

Despite their outstanding abilities, there doesn't seem to be anything special about the greater wax moth's ears. Moir says its tympanal membranes look pretty much like those of other insects, the only difference being that they are unusually thin - which would make them more sensitive to high-pitched sounds. So, as incredible as it seems, the moths' hearing may not be unique, says Moir.

More Creature's Secrets!

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This story, reported by the BBC and many others, highlights a report regarding the Earth's species and, highly relevantly to Rockford's Rock Opera - the ecological musical audio book - it states that many species may become extinct before we even discover them. Poor us....

Here's the story.

The natural world contains about 8.7 million species, according to a new estimate described by scientists as the most accurate ever.

But the vast majority have not been identified - and cataloguing them all could take more than 1,000 years.

The number comes from studying relationships between the branches and leaves of the "family tree of life".

The team warns in the journal PLoS Biology that many species will become extinct before they can be studied.

Although the number of species on the planet might seem an obvious figure to know, a way to calculate it with confidence has been elusive.

In a commentary also carried in PLoS Biology, former Royal Society president Lord (Robert) May observes: "It is a remarkable testament to humanity's narcissism that we know the number of books in the US Library of Congress on 1 February 2011 was 22,194,656, but cannot tell you - to within an order of magnitude - how many distinct species of plants and animals we share our world with."

Now, it appears, we can.

"We've been thinking about this for several years now - we've had a look at a number of different approaches, and didn't have any success," one of the research team, Derek Tittensor, told BBC News.

"So this was basically our last chance, the last thing we tried, and it seems to work."

Dr Tittensor, who is based at the UN Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre (Unep-WCMC) and Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK, worked on the project alongside peers from Dalhousie University in Canada and the University of Hawaii.

The vast majority of the 8.7 million are animals, with progressively smaller numbers of fungi, plants, protozoa (a group of single-celled organisms) and chromists (algae and other micro-organisms).

The figure excludes bacteria and some other types of micro-organism.

Linnaean steps
About 1.2 million species have been formally described, the vast majority from the land rather than the oceans.

Continue reading the main story
The natural world in numbers

Animals: 7.77 million (12% described)
Fungi: 0.61 million (7% described)
Plants: 0.30 million (70% described)
Protozoa: 0.04 million (22% described)
Chromists: 0.03 million (50% described)
The trick this team used was to look at the relationship between species and the broader groupings to which they belong.

In 1758, Swedish biologist Carl Linnaeus developed a comprehensive system of taxonomy, as the field is known, which is still - with modifications - in use today.

Groups of closely related species belong to the same genus, which in turn are clustered into families, then orders, then classes, then phyla, and finally into kingdoms (such as the animal kingdom).

The higher up this hierarchical tree of life you look, the rarer new discoveries become - hardly surprising, as a discovery of a new species will be much more common than the discovery of a totally new phylum or class.

The researchers quantified the relationship between the discovery of new species and the discovery of new higher groups such as phyla and orders, and then used it to predict how many species there are likely to be.

"We discovered that, using numbers from the higher taxonomic groups, we can predict the number of species," said Dalhousie researcher Sina Adl.

"The approach accurately predicted the number of species in several well-studied groups such as mammals, fishes and birds, providing confidence in the method."

And the number came out as 8.7 million - plus or minus about a million.

Muddied waters
If this is correct, then only 14% of the world's species have yet been identified - and only 9% of those in the oceans.

The rate of species discovery has remained about even ever since Haeckel compiled his Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms of Nature) a century ago
"The rest are primarily going to be smaller organisms, and a large proportion of them will be dwelling in places that are hard to reach or hard to sample, like the deep oceans," said Dr Tittensor.

"When we think of species we tend to think of mammals or birds, which are pretty well known.

"But when you go to a tropical rainforest, it's easy to find new insects, and when you go to the deep sea and pull up a trawl, 90% of what you get can be undiscovered species."

At current rates of discovery, completing the catalogue would take over 1,000 years - but new techniques such as DNA bar-coding could speed things up.

The scientists say they do not expect their calculations to mark the end of this line of inquiry, and are looking to peers to refine methods and conclusions.

One who has already looked through the paper is Professor Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation programmes at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

"I think it's definitely a creative and innovative approach, but like every other method there are potential biases and I think it's probably a conservative figure," he told BBC News.

"But it's such a high figure that it wouldn't really matter if it's out by one or two million either way.

"It is really picking up this point that we know very little about the species with which we share the planet; and we are converting the Earth's natural landscapes so quickly, with total ignorance of our impact on the life in them."
Yes, it's true, Rockford's Rock Opera audiobook for children Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 are now available from Google Play for Android phones and tablets.

Here they are:

The Part One App is free with parts 2,3 and 4 all £2.99 each.

We hope you enjoy them and please let us know any feedback - there are so many different Android devices its impossible to test for all of them.

And, while we're here, take a look at this wonderful recent review for WIred of our Apple Apps (the same content as the Google Android Children's Story Apps):

Here it is!