Posts Tagged ‘winter requiem’


2 March 2010

Friday night found us trapped on Donner Pass in the middle of a blizzard, hoping our reserves of cold tortillas and dried mangoes would sustain us long enough to avoid resorting to the grisly survival tactics of previous parties.  Fortunately the road re-opened and after navigating some sketchy icy roads we finally arrived at to our weekend destination: a rented cabin in Carnelian Bay on the shore of Lake Tahoe, only 5 hours later than planned.  As soon as we made it through the door we were welcomed by this chap, infamous cousin of the European Rasselbock.

Note the differences in coat-thickness, no doubt an adaptation to the cold Eastern Sierra Nevada winters.  Also importantly, this American is obviously more well-endowed than his European relative.  Just sayin’.

And in case you were worried about legalities, the hunting permit was on full display:

Endangered by Taxonomy

5 January 2010

Taxonomists really are a miserable lot.  Like mall cops and Canadians, they sport inferiority complexes the size of Wales.  Make the mistake of asking one about her work and expect a nauseatingly lengthy lecture on the “relevance” of systematics.

Sometimes though, they have a point.  Classification systems can have real world consequences.  Perhaps no where is this more striking than in cases of conservation efforts for endangered populations of organisms.  There is an implicit assumption that “species” are more worthy of protection than “subspecies.”

Occasionally, one endangered population that constitutes a putative species is sunk into synonymy with another more abundant species, alleviating or at least diminishing what had appeared to be a conservation crisis.  Such was the case Chelonia “agassizii,” the black turtle of the eastern Pacific now considered to be a distinctive (but not specifically distinct) sub-population of the green turtle Chelonia mydas. In some cases there are factions that resist such taxonomic revision on the grounds that it will jeopardize the population — taxa that are distinguished on the basis of conservation concerns have been termed “geopolitical species.”

More often it seems to go the other way though.  One species is split into two or more, often creating endangered species in the process whole cloth when a restricted regional endemic or rare variant is elevated to species status.  Today the BBC is reporting just such a case.  Biologists are beginning to suspect that one threatened species of Amazon fish, the pirarucu (Arapaimagigas“), may in fact be several critically endangered species.

Among the largest freshwater fish in the world pirarucu, belong to an ancient and impressive family of fish, the Osteoglossids.  Aptly named, the group is distinguished by a bony “tongue” covered with toothlike projections that function in feeding.  Like many fish that live in sluggish waters, all members of the family occasionally gulp air and absorb oxygen across a vascularized swim bladder.  Pirarucu are “obligate” air breathers frequently coming to the surface to breathe, one of the factors that makes them easily hunted by Amazonian fishermen.  Apparently they are also delicious.  For some reason they are also quite popular with video game designers. They also appear to like sticking anacondas in trees but that’s a whole other story.

Pirarucu seemingly take to captivity fairly well, and can be seen in many public aquaria including the California Academy of Sciences where I shot the time lapse sequence at top a few days ago.

Hat-tip: Knight Science Journalism Tracker

Dood Have U Seen Avatar Yet?

31 December 2009

An excerpt from T. C. Chamberlin‘s outgoing presidential address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science published one century ago today. Enjoy 2010.

T. C. Chamberlin “A Geologic Forecast of the Future Opportunities of Our Race” Science 31 December 1909: 937-949.

Never trust a forged fossil

24 December 2009

Death Throes pt. 2: Opisthomonotony.

9 February 2008

In the incursive preamble we spiroambulated about the corpses of mummified dinosaurs, pickled pelicans, time and a piss-covered pseudo-esker of rock, rock salt and dust. So, what does all of this have to do with experimental taphonomy?

Read the rest of this entry »

Hitting the Proverbial Snooze Button…

31 January 2008

Today I was introduced as an ‘up and coming science blogger’ (paraphrasing there). It was like one of those moments where you pass in front of a mirror, catch a peripheral glimpse and think “wait, is that what I really look like?”


Armadillodile warsSophophora?…hopeless monstersanthroposenescence

Um, I think I’ll sit this year/epoch out, thanks.

(with apologies to Tom Philippi)

Expect more decontextualized photo-collages…ganked media…wild, instantly retracted neologistics…19th century historiographies…maybe some bug sex. In short, we’re gonna party like it’s 2006.

When I wake up that is. If I wake up before the larvae pupate that is.

Until then: check out the best thing ever (thanks to zooillogix and retrospectacle from that one science blog portal…i forget the name).

Solstice is Over Man!

23 December 2007

So, I won’t waste my time wishing y’all a happy holiday. I converted to animism on I-5 just south of Lodi, beneath a wheeling gyre of White Pelicans. Mahayana blows
dude. Sorry.

Those pelicans then shall be our collective mascot this holy season, their holding pattern a gleaming metaphor for our soul. Which is to say, don’t be surprised if things are pretty quiet around here for the rest of the week.

In the mean time:

– Jennifer Rae Atkins pulled of the astonishing feat of drawing twenty-four mammals in twenty-four hours and in the process raised $800 for Defenders of Wildlife. With the help of several gallons of vanilla DP, she even managed to slam my “diabolical” curve-ball request out of the park. Go check out her awesome work!

– Entomologist, photographer and one-time Davisite, Alex Wild has launched an awesome ant-blog Myrmecos. Wild’s photography is truly amazing and has often made me want to chuck my camera off a cliff. Fortunately, since the camera doesn’t belong to me, there aren’t many cliffs in Davis. His blog may well drive me to lob my laptop into the Interstate though.

Mechanical insect art by Mike Libby! Crazy…

Tai’s tales of auspicious animal encounters reveals the patent grayness of my animistic sphere. But I saw an octopus! and cranes! and like, multiple scorpions some of which I held so cut me some slack.

– I was desperately hoping to take up the Schmitz et al. paper in the inaugural issue of Nature Geoscience and the broader issue of the Ordovician radiation and the growing impulse to invoke bolides as a causal agent for all dramatic biotic events… But, well we’re gonna have to wait for that.

So, here’s your homework – “What are the benefits and dangers of applying neoecology notions like disturbance ecology or island biogeography to evolutionary or extinction events in the fossil record?” Write a three to five page review of the issue including at least six primary references and one figure, due January 15th 2008.

okay, we’ll leave it at that, if I haven’t had cause or opportunity to apologize to you in person this year, I’m sorry.  There’s always next year!