Archive for February, 2007

Two in the bush

18 February 2007

He’s a handsome male Anna’s (Calypte anna). She’s a Duchess of Rivoli(?), but Paula, not Anna.

Bird Names has some new material out. Apologies, again, on the post title. I promise I’ll stop now.

Snatch Bat

17 February 2007

Habilidades Força: +7; Combate: +3; Esquiva: 2½; Salto: +11; Natação: +3; Furtividade: +5; Corrida: +12; Preparo Físico: +5; Caça: +3.

Sorry about that title, I couldn’t resist. Given the popularity of a previous microecos post about a Mesoamerican deity, I feel compelled to engage in a bit of rampant parablogging and direct my loyal readers toward Darren Naish’s recent post about extinct giant vampire bats and the vampire headed mayan ‘demon’ Camazotz. It’s part of a larger series about sanguivory.

Sweet dreams, don’t let the Desmodontids bite!


It was when they were sentenced to the Bat House, they made their first mistake, in accordance with their destiny. Hunahpu decided to peek outside the blowgun and see if it was morning yet. When he did so, a bat sliced off his head and it went rolling out onto the ballcourt of Xibalba. His brother called all the animals together, asking each to bring its favorite food. The coati brought a squash, and with the help of the gods this became a new head for Hunahpu. Meanwhile the Twins told a rabbit to hide outside the ballcourt. (source:

Were first nation Americans carving squash-heads long before the import of European Samhain traditions?

¡Viva Darwin!

12 February 2007


As you may well have already heard, today, the 12th of February, marks the 198th anniversary of the birth of everyone’s favorite cirripedologist (no offense to Victor Zullo intended). Here at microecos, we mark the date with one of my favorite passages from The Autobiography of Charles Darwin:

That my mind became developed through my pursuits during the voyage is rendered probable by a remark made by my father, who was the most acute observer whom I ever saw, of a sceptical disposition, and far from being a believer in phrenology; for on first seeing me after the voyage, he turned round to my sisters, and exclaimed, “Why, the shape of his head is quite altered.” (1887)

I’m guessing chas’s tongue is firm-in-cheek here, but I must admit that Victorian subtlety jams even my extraordinarily vague sense of humor.



This Robert Smigel piece on the the other hand… (image links to video, sit through the weaker Falwell Bit, trust me it’s worth it).

¡Feliz Dia del Darwin!

Homo floresiensis too!

8 February 2007

Dean Falk and table full of hominin brains. (Photo: Michelle Edmunds)

We’re still stalling on phugoid fliers, not to mention most beautiful bird #5. In the meantime you might care to read up on the latest chapter of tit-for-tat over the putative miniature hominin Homo floresiensis.

As we saw in a previous post, the discovery of H. floresiensis (quickly dubbed as a “hobbit” by the popular press) in the Ling Bua cave on the Indonesian island of Flores quickly sparked a heated debate. One camp maintained that the remains belonged to a previously undiscovered species of Homo that showed signs of insular dwarfism, a phenomenon seen in a great range of living and fossil island taxa including mammoths, dinosaurs, goats and rails. The opposition retorted that ‘H. floresiensis‘ weren’t a new species at all but plain old ordinary H. sapiens striken with some type of pathology such as microcephaly.

Four years after the discovery, the debate continues to rage. The latest installment is a paper by neuroanthropologist Dean Falk and colleagues appearing in, where else?, PNAS. Falk et al. examined computerized 3-D endocasts of the Ling Bua remains as well as known human microcephalics. Their conclusion: H. floresiensis is a new species and not a microcephalic.

As compelling as the new study may be, it’s quite unlikely to be the end of the debate. Nothing short of some fresh corroborative material, perhaps including some juvenile remains is likely to quell the skeptics. Fortunately, Ling Bua is being re-opened. Rumors of a ‘lower chamber’ at Ling Bua open the door to the emergence of much more interesting details from one of the greatest (for humans at least) scientific puzzles of the decade.

Further reading:

above links will take you to the abstract and the opportunity to request a reprint.

John Hawks’ anthropology weblog has extensive coverage of the H. floresiensis ‘wars’ and a thorough treatment of Falk’s new paper.

Carl Zimmer also has post on the new paper.

I’m not entirely sure why the background has gone fuzzy. Perhaps it has something to do with the dropped shadow.