Posts Tagged ‘spring rites’

Ours is not to look back. Ours is to continue the crack.

14 May 2010

Our traditionalist is now beginning to worry, but he will grant this one last point pour mieux sauter.  OK, the very first Cambrian fauna included a plethora of alternative possibilities, all equally sensible and none leading to us.  But, surely, once the modern fauna arose in the next phase of the Cambrian, called Atdabanian after another Russian locality, then the boundaries and channels were finally set.  The arrival of trilobites, those familiar symbols of the Cambrian, must mark the end of craziness and the inception of predictability.  Let the good times roll.

This book is quite long enough already, and you do not want a “second verse, same as the first.” I merely point out that the Burgess Shale represents the early and maximal extent of the Atdabanian radiation.  The story of the Burgess Shale is the tale of life itself, not a unique and peculiar episode of possibilities gone wild.SJ Gould Wonderful Life (1989)

Had it in my head, tindered by a typically turgid comment I left over at Jerry Coyne’s blog, to write something about the phantasmic Fezouata fauna. About contingency and determinism and prehistoriography.

The first god had, in his garden, one of these I'm sure. Ordovician marrellomorph from the cover of this week's Nature / Van Roy et al. 2010. A strong contender for my next paleo-ink.

About Wonderful Life and Crucible of Creation. About broken molds and Technicolor films. About checking the guy’s rock record and replaying life’s wobbly mistracked tape.

this is what the late eighties was like

[I biked over the library after Schluter’s talk and grabbed some books.  “That’s a small book,” the librarian remarked about the paperback version of WL, recut into hardback form, “but I’m sure it’s filled with big ideas”]

And about GOBE and rocks from space. About evolutionary anachronism and steampunk anomalocaridids and Schinderhannes. About Chengjiang and Emu Bay and Orsten.

[I Googled.]

About Caratacus and the Ordovices and predictable outcomes. About the Cincinnati arch and Creation Museum atop it. About how those that ignore history are doomed to not worry about it too much, along the way.

[I read.]

And yes about the other big and massively under-celebrated early Paleozoic news this week: Cambrian Bryozoans (!) and Gondwanan echinoderms.

[I typed.]

And ultimately about how, really, all of this maybe shows not so much about the fickle nature of history or the inevitability of intelligence or even about foolish it is to draw deep philosophical lessons from a crappy fossil record.  But that, well, the Earth was a really weird place 550, 450, 250, 50, 5 million years ago and that we have a lot more surprises in store and a lot more to learn.  But we will, in fits and starts, and what we do discover will change our picture of our place in the universe.  Or maybe it won’t.

[I hit delete.]

Because it’s Friday afternoon, and that all sounds pretty damn pretentious and sappy and inconclusive.  Why not throw together a link-heavy meta-post [I thought], then sit back and watch the links decay over the years until all that’s left is an ambiguous smear that’s difficult to make any sense of.

Then I remembered that it’s post a Fall song on your blog day.

Beyond the Cryosphere

26 April 2010

April, as the poet has it, truly is the dickest month.  Which is a way of trying to excuse the hoary coat of freezer burn that has descended thick upon microecos just lately into its fourth year (!) of doing whatever it is (was) that it does (did), here, then (now).

The internet is the diffused cryonic vat for the terminally arrested brain, and you can call me Люба.

Which, anyway cryology might just as well be the word of the week for anyone keeping score at home.  So keep your eye out for gems from the freezer, a Triassic footnote to the Franklin Expedition, and less, but anyway, don’t hold your breath.

Also, I wrote a poem about termites somewhere.

In the mean time go check out the latest Accretionary Wedge at Mountain Beltway, a fantastic compilation of blog posts about geological heroes extinct and extant, including a great post about geologically inclined satirists from, um, cryology and co. [alarms sound, lights flash, duck confetti falls]

A petrifying stare.

13 April 2010

This photo I took at the Cal Academy a while back popped up on my screen saver and inspired me to take a break from the whole dead and stuffed jag, at least for a week.

Speaking of taxidermy though, I really wish I could make it to this auction, or this lecture.

The next time you see me I will be minus a molar.  Life staggers on…  Remind me to tell you about Nevada some time though, the hail storms, and the dust storms and the blizzards and the camera crew.  Strange experience.

Aeronauts*

16 February 2010

A warm-spell here in California (see? Global Warming is REAL!) finds me home-bound nursing a cold, trying to ignore a mild case of urushiol poisoning and swatting at mosquitoes.

With the latter comes some silver linings tho.  We saw a monster bat winging around the arboretum on Sunday.  That same day I heard a familiar sound overhead, the unmistakable descending cries of White-throated Swifts.

Swifts are year-round residents across much of the state — but here in the Sacramento Valley they seem to be seasonal visitors, at least I can’t recall having seen or heard them since November or so.

So, suck it Punxsatawny Phil – spring is here, bitches.

*This counts as Decimating Birds X by the way, 7 – 9 to come, some day.

**microecos just passed 100k views – crazy.

Central American Bats Know How to Hold Their Liquor

1 February 2010

PLoS ONE appears to be trying to corner the market on Bats Gone Wild research. Last year there was this gem which introduced us to the, ahem, catholic sexual proclivities of Asian fruit bats. Today everyone’s favorite open-access web journal brings a sort of thematic squeakuel (yeah, you heard me):


Orbach DN, Veselka N, Dzal Y, Lazure L, Fenton MB, 2010 Drinking and Flying: Does Alcohol Consumption Affect the Flight and Echolocation Performance of Phyllostomid Bats? PLoS ONE 5(2): e8993. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008993

Fruit and nectar eating animals occasionally ingest fermented food. Light-weight Waxwings get drunk and interfere with air traffic.  Tree shrews tough it out like George W. at a Skull and Bones initiation.  Which leaves an obvious question:  what about bats? Pansies or Panzers?

To address this nagging conundrum, researchers dosed several species of fruit-eating Central American bats with enough booze (actually an ethanol and sugar solution–you know, like Smirnoff Ice) to bring them to a Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.11.  For comparision, driving with a BAC over 0.08 will land you in jail in most states.  Given their small size, some bats got scheißed, with several individuals testing above 0.30 BAC – which, for normal humans, is black-out, piss-your-pants, you’re-going-to-die-if-your-frat-bros-don’t-call-an-ambulance territory.

Nevertheless, compared to control bats that were fed only sugar water, the soused bats showed no greater difficulty navigating an obstacle course.  Likewise, the bats’ echolocation did not appear to be affected by the libations.  Presumably, they also had no trouble reciting the alphabet backwards.

Prior studies of another fruit-eating bat species, Rousettus aegyptiacus, native to Africa and parts of Asia, did find that alcohol intake reduced their ability to navigate similar obstacle courses.  This suggests that alcohol tolerance might vary by species or region–the authors suggest that fruit ferments more quickly in the American tropics requiring the bats living there to better hold their liquor.  Insert obligatory racist joke about the Irish here.

Incidentally, there are a number of bat-themed cocktails floating around on the internet out there.  This one seems especially disgusting:

THE BATMAN

- 33 cl energy drink (red bull,battery,gatorade…)
- 4 cl gin
- 10 ice cubes

Mix all. Serve cold.

And if you can still fly straight after one of those – well, more power to you.

Damsels in Eustress

23 December 2009

Together, by Jan Zajc - borrowed from Myrmecos

Two of my favorite blogs struck a peculiar resonance today.  Alex Wild has posted his favorite insect photos (plus a spider) of 2009.  All of them are very good and some, such as Jan Zajc’s photo of mating damsel flies shown above, are nearly as spectacular as some of Alex’s own work.  Meanwhile, BibliOdyssey has a selection of plates from August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof’s ‘Insecten-Belustigung’ (Insect Amusements) published serially from 1746 to 1761.

Insectorum aquatilium Classis II V.2

I can’t decide if I’m more impressesed with the amazing scenes captured by today’s best macro photographers or by the work of pre-photography nature artists like Rösel von Rosenhof who explored the same territory with paint, ink and paper.  I suppose it is the insects that impress me the most.

Oh yeah, and “eustress” is a real word.  Look it up.

Wordless Wednesday – Are You Mocking Me?

27 May 2009
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