Posts Tagged ‘carnage’

The Last Tapu

23 June 2010

All images from the fantastic collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library

Got to wondering why my four-year-old post about the Huia, a fascinating and sadly extinct bird from New Zealand, was suddenly seeing a deluge of web traffic (well, by microecos standards), broken links and all.

Turns out, a single Huia feather just went to auction in Auckland and fetched NZ $8400 (about $6800 US), setting a new world record for the auction value of a single feather.

Huia feathers were important status symbols among the Maori.  The variation in the number of feathers worn in the hair of the individuals pictured above probably correlates broadly with their social standing, though it is interesting that the number of feathers in the images appears to dwindle with time.  An echo of the Huia’s decline, or a society in peril?  Perhaps a bit of both, certainly the two seem to have something of a common cause in the influx of European invaders, of the two-legged and four-legged variety.

Also noteworthy is that some of the photographs postdate the last confirmed sighting of a wild Huia in 1907.

One suspects the anonymous winner in the recent auction had status on their mind as they cast their bid.  As, I suppose, did their unnamed adversaries that  helped them drive the price up well above the expected NZ $500.  I mean the Huia’s tail feathers have a striking beauty to them, though I can’t help but find them more beautiful when the rest of the bird is attached:

When seemingly deeply vacuous contemporary status symbols like this fetch $10K, $7K for a Huia feather almost feels like an injustice.

But then, I guess that attitude misses the real injustices at work here.


30 March 2010

As seen at Sturgeon’s Casino in bustling Lovelock, Nevada. This guy looked a lot more lively than many of the patrons….

Phoning it in

9 February 2010

Originally uploaded by Anauxite

A bit distracted today, for reasons that will become clear. But I didn’t want to deprive you of your weekly taxidermy dose, so I ducked over to the UC Davis Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology and snapped this shot from their hallway display with my new phone (p.s. thanks for the phone Jessica and sorry I won’t be talking to you anymore).

This is a Yellow-rumped Warbler study skin (Dendroica coronata) creatively repurposed to demonstrate the field biology technique of mist-netting. In related news, warblers are quite a bit more bad-ass than you might have realized.

When Bacula Attack

5 February 2010

A few weeks back I invited microecos readers to identify this.

Almost immediately, and simultaneously, Mo and Valin correctly deduced that it was a baculum, otherwise known as an os penis or “penis bone.”  This rapid response says something encouraging about the readers of this blog, and their familiarity with the anatomy of animal genitals.

For those not in the know: the baculum is a “heterotopic” bone that, like the patella, forms from the ossification of connective tissue in the penis of many mammals.  You could sorta think of a baculum as a knee-cap in your penis — except that you, as  human, don’t have one, even if you’re a boy.  Many other primates do have a baculum as do most bats, rodents, carnivorans etc. There is a wonderful (but sadly, probably apocryphal) reading of the Genesis creation narrative that suggests the “rib” (צלע or tzela in Hebrew) removed from Adam to make Eve in Genesis 2 was actually a baculum – which would explain why humans don’t have one.

Anyway, the critter from whence this baculum came has remained elusive.  Kari and Gretchen in turn were able to work out that it came from a carnivoran and more specifically from a mustelid–the family that includes badgers, wolverines and weasels. But my “hint” about its potential lethality proved unhelpful.  Various guesses that it came from a marine mammal also deserve partial credit, though it’s worth noting that cetaceans, like their artiodactyl relatives (cows, hippos, muntjacs and the lot), lack penis bones.

So to whom does this impressive piece of equipment belong (or used belong to anyway)?

I’m sure the suspense is just killing you.  Below, the big reveal:

Read the rest of this entry »

Laser Bird

2 February 2010

north american golden throated laser bird -unforgivable realness / Valin Mattheis © All rights reserved.

An innocent enough harbinger of urban destruction, the appearance of the golden throated laser bird in north america led to untold chirping catastrophe on tiny feathered wings.

Overlooked by both Audubon and Wilson,  rumor has it that William Gambel first spotted the North American Golden-Throated Laser Bird during his second overland trip to California.  Sadly, it fried his face off before he could collect a specimen.

Mystery Train

31 January 2010

Mystery bird, name 1 field mark to support your id [hint: the laser].

Faces of Death 2

2 May 2009

Last time, we looked at various portraits of a weak-ass minor planet getting effed up by our atmosphere before getting royally bitch slapped by our lithosphere.  Anyone with a passing interest in dinosaurs will know that strike of the space-junk, while widely accepted (though see recent meso-profile critiques), is but one of countless etiologies proposed for terminal Cretaceous bummer days.

You might think that protracted catastrophes like pestilence, climate change and famine offer less in the way of dramatic potential than a body of a certain mass rapidly attempting to occupy the same space as a much more massive body.  If so, you should probably read more.

At all points the dinosaurs that had trampled the earth till the grasses grew, the most superb of all vertebrates, the creatures that fix the imagination above all others, are seen to fail. The growth forces and the responses to environment were no longer in adjustment. Eggs were few, their loss from attack devastating, life slow. The young were the prey of their own kind, and the race had lived long enough for reptiles lower in life’s scale to threaten. If new enemies were needed they were at the jungle-edge. Geologic change that once would have meant mere fluctuation in habitat affected the declining numbers disastrously, and what such change and the reptiles soon to rule in the forests of the Eocence may have failed to accomplish, senility did. That long dinosaurian day was done. Its sun was sinking beneath the horizon forever. (Wieland 1925).

15 years later Disney took a stab, note that it anticipated Bataan by at least a year.  Talk about zeitgeist.  While drought and desertification deal the fatal blow (with some help from miring), major geologic upheaval kicks in as an epilogue. We can talk about this and Lyell, and Agassiz some time.

Now, assuming you are are as sick of asteroid porn and dinosaurs as I am you will want to hear about the mass dysphoria induced by Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring courtesy of radio lab.