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V. 103 i>( 

no. 1 



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Vol. 103, No. 1, January 1994 

Cover: with flukes raised, a right whale sails across the bay — whales often do this 
repeatedly — at its wintering grounds near Argentina's Peninsula Valdes. 
Story on page 40. Photograph by Iain Kerr. 

2 Letters 

4 State of the Museum: 1994 

The New President's Vision of Science and Society 

6 Losing Game Allyn Maclean Stearman 

Tales about fearsome natives in remote Bolivia may have been 
apociyphal, but the arrow in the settler's thigh was real. 

12 This View of Life Stephen Jay Gould 
Cabinet Museums Revisited 

22 This Land Roben H. Mohlenbrock 
Paxton Cone, New Mexico 

26 Sex, Drugs, and Butterflies Michael Boppre 

The stronger the chemical perfume of a male butterfly, the more alluring he is to females. 

34 Young Lizards Can Be Bearable Richard SMne 

In cold climates, moms give their young a head start — at a price. 

40 Among Whales y?oge/- Payne 

On calm, sunny mornings, sleeping whales "are scattered throughout the bay like 
drifting logs, with the sounds of their snores filling the air." 

48 Wings on Their Fingers Rick a. Adams and Scott C. Pedersen 

To earn their wings, young bats face a steep, often fatal, learning curve. 

56 A Fly in Ant' S Clothing Gregory Paulson and Roger Akre 
Beguiled by the shape and odor of a parasite, 
ants welcome it into their home with open arms. 

60 Science Lite Roger l. Weisck 

Spring in the Air 

62 At the American Museum 
of Natural History 

66 Reviews Paul D. Spudis 

Vanished Greatness 

70 Celestial Events Gail s. cieere 

Lost but Not Forgotten 

72 A Matter of Taste Raymond Sokoiov 

Pyramid Power 

76 The Natural Moment 

Photographs by Seiichi Meguro 
Ghost in a Snowstorm 

78 Authors 


A moiuhlv m;iE 

I Cfi nW^WSrsT; S k' 

ol the American 


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OF NaturalTOs 

A 125-year-old iiistiuuion di 
uiiderslandinc and prescnin 

WiluamT Golden 
Chaiiman, Board of Trustees 

Ellen V. Futter 

President and Chief Executive 

Naliir,}' Hislnry (ISSN 0028-0712) is published monlhly by 
Ihe Aincrican Museum of Natural History, Centlal Park West 
a! 79th Strcet, Neiv Yort. iV.Y. 10024. Subscriplions; S28.00 
a year. In Canada and all other couitnrics: $37.00 a year. Sec- 
ond-class (x>su]^e paid at New York, N.Y. and at additional 
mailing ofticcs. Copyright © 1993 by .American Mu.seum of 
Natural Hist.irv. Al! rights reserved. No pan of this periodical 
may be repK>,liiced without written consent of Natural History. 
Send subscripii on orden; and undelivemble copies to the ad- below. M.-'niben>hip and subscription information; Write 
to below uj c,3ll (800) 234-5252 if urgera. Postmaster: 
Send address chanecs (o Natural Histar,; Post Office Box 
: TO. Harlan L^ 5r537-5«)0. 

Pi nted in tlie USA 

Breadfruit— Puerto Rican Style 

In "A Fruit Freely Chosen" ("A Matter 
of Taste," September 1993), Raymond 
Sokolov explores the ways breadfruit is 
prepared and eaten in the British and 
French islands of the Caribbean. He does 
not mention, however, the use of this fruit 
in Spanish-speaking islands. 

Breadfruit trees can be found all over 
Puerto Rico. Panapen, or pana, as we 
Puerto Ricans call breadfruit, is usually 
cooked while still green. The skin is re- 
moved and the flesh cut into trapezoid- 
shaped pieces and boiled until tender The 
taste is slightly sweeter than a potato's. 
The boiled pana can also be mashed and a 
little flour added to make pasteles — pies 
filled with stewed beef, pork, or chicken. 
Puerto Ricans also love tostones de 
pana — fried breadfruit sticks, but my per- 
sonal high point in breadfruit came while I 
was camping on a beach on the island of 
Culebra, off the "main island" of Puerto 
Rico. As the sun set on the horizon, a fish- 
erman brought to my tent some baked 
balls of breadfruit stuffed with lobster 
meat. Every bite was heaven. 

Miguel Buxeda 
Miami, Florida 

Defensive Snoring Defended 

Although Roger L. Welsch does not 
mention me by name, I am the paleoan- 
thropologist whose hypothesis on human 
snoring is the butt of his September 1993 
column, "For Immediate Release." As a 
rancher in northwest Wyoming for the past 
eighteen years, I appreciate the barnyard 
humor. One correction needs to be made, 
however: Welsch got the wrong idea when 
the American Anthropological Associa- 
tion indicated in their press release fliat I 
was affiUated with the Institute of Human 
Origins. In fact, I have only been con- 
nected via friendship, fieldwork, confer- 
ence attendance, and contributions. 

Maybe the feUas at Slick's tavern would 
like to know that snoring (not to be con- 
fused with sleep apnea, which is patholog- 
ical in nature) is brought on by hormones 
(predominantly male). And although 
many people do laugh when they hear my 
hypothesis — that snoring protected our 

forebears by warning away predators — 
they usually come around to my way of 
thinking when they see how the medical 
facts fit with the paleoanthropological, an- 
thropological, and primatological data I 
have collected. As to flatulence in mam- 
mals, they all do it and all are capable of 
being audible. Unlike snoring, flatulence 
is equally a malady of flie young. (If a 
child snores, this indicates a pathology; 
one must reach physical maturity with an 
age-softened palate in order to snore prop- 
erly and keep the beasties at bay.) 

Carol Andersen Travis 
Jackson, Wyoming 

Camouflage Is Relative 

I do beUeve that Simon D. Pollard ("Lit- 
tle Murders," October 1993) has fallen 
prey to an old, untested assumption about 
cryptic arthropods. He states that the abil- 
ity of a female crab spider to match flower 
color "makes her a formidable predator of 
pollinating insects and affords her some 
protection from becoming a victim her- 
self." Vertebrate predators such as birds 
probably see flower colors as we do, so a 
color-matched spider may be missed. But 
bees, one of the largest pools of prey for 
the spider, see best on the ultraviolet end 
of the spectrum. They are therefore drawn 
to many otherwise plain-looking flowers, 
whose "hidden" patterns, called nectar 
guides, are visible only to ultraviolet-sen- 
sitive eyes. (We humans can see them only 
with the help of an ultraviolet lamp or with 
special lenses.) Tom Eisner and coOeagues 
observed in 1969 {Science, vol. 166, pp. 
1 172-74) that crab spiders, cryptic to us in 
"normal" light, are conspicuous to crea- 
tures with ultraviolet vision. 

Thus, crab spiders and similar flower- 
dwelling arthropods may be invisible to 
predators such as birds and lizards, but 
they are easily seen by many prey. The 
most likely evolutionary explanation for 
this (if there is one) is that visual predators, 
and not improved hunting success, have 
selected for crypsis. We need to remember 
that safety, like beauty, resides in the eye 
of the beholder. 

Jack C. Schultz 
Julian, Pennsylvania 

2 Natural History 1/94 




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State of the Museum: 1994 

A New President's Vision 
of Science and Society 

In November, after her first week on the 
job, the new president of the American 
Museum of Natural History, Ellen V. Put- 
ter, discussed with the editor of Natural 
History her vision of the future of the Mu- 
seum and its role in society. Excerpts from 
the interview follow: 

This Museum has a unique capacity to 
help each of us answer the underlying 
question: Where do I fit in? When you 

look at what's shown here or think about 
what goes on here, you begin to get, not 
answers, but clues or pathways to thinking 
about where you fit in, both biologically 
and culturally. And that relates to how we 
all get along. 

We have an attitude problem about sci- 
ence in this country. But we can't concede 
because of that. I think that this Museum 
can play a unique role in informing the 

At an exhibit under construction. Museum President Ellen V. Putter stands in front 
of a Diprotodon, the largest-known marsupial. The fossil will be on display when the 
Halls of Mammals and Their Extinct Relatives open at the end of April 1994. 

Peter Goldberg 

4 Natural History 1/94 

pubhc about science because we can do it 
in a way that no other type of institution 
can. The minute you come through our 
portals, your sense of wonder, your imagi- 
nation are piqued. That's the beginning of 
interest, the beginning of learning. We can 
build on that spark both here and — in co- 
operation with teachers — m the schools. 
By putting together effective software and 
other educational materials, we can have a 
great impact. I am very committed to mak- 
ing that happen. The class visit is the be- 
ginning of a process: first, to get the stu- 
dents to come back and, second, to 
reinforce the visit and develop ways of 
helping them learn on their own by using 
our materials. This apphes to adults, too. 
The technology revolution opens a new 
world for museums. We can put together 
primers and programs that speak to every- 
one. I think lifelong learning about science 
is important for children and adults. I 
know it is important for society. 

Of course, fund raising is an important 
part of this job. It's necessary to keep the 
Museum active and at the forefront. How 
we maintain what we do superbly and step 
up to new obhgations — as a partner with 
the city, as a partner with the schools, as a 
major voice in national and global discus- 
sions of social and scientific issues — is 
one of the great challenges, one that will 
require funding to do well. 

I have a great personal interest in 
human rights, in social justice, in helping 
all of us to get along. I suppose this reflects 
in some measure my legal training. The 
anthropological side of the Museum, with 
its studies of the meaning and values of 
cultural diversity, gives us a special role in 
this city. Even as we take on a broader role 
nationally and internationally in scientific 
issues, we won't for one moment fail to be 

a solid, contributing institutional citizen of 
New York City. 

We have a national shortage of scien- 
tists, and among the communities that are 
least represented in science are women 
and minorities. I come from an institution 
(Barnard College) that has a strong track 
record of producing women scientists, in- 
cluding many who have become leaders in 
their fields. This Museum is an important 
research institution — with scientists at the 
laboratory bench and in the field. The Mu- 
seum can help by speaking out nationally 
about the importance of training more sci- 
entists and by offering internships for 
women and minorities, as well as for other 
students. That would be a nice linkage 
with my background and with my strong 
concerns about women's issues and social 

The Museum is at an important inter- 
section for social change, for education, as 
well as for pure research and scientific lit- 
eracy. This institution is a mediator of un- 
derstanding. Our role should be to facili- 
tate and to help. We should not be afraid to 
raise questions, even controversial ones. A 
contemporary museum has to be brave 
enough to raise questions. 

From 1981 to 1993, Ms. Futter, 44, was 
president of Barnard College, where she 
led curricular reforms, major building 
projects, and fund-raising campaigns. A 
former associate of the New York law firm 
ofMilbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, she 
now serves on the boards of numerous or- 
ganizations and is chairman of the Fed- 
eral Reserve Bank of New York. Her hus- 
band, John A. Shutkin, is a lawyer, and her 
two daughters, Anne, 12, and Elizabeth, 8, 
are regular visitors to the Museum their 
mother now heads. 


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Losing Game 

Coaxed out of Bolivia 's vanishing wilderness, the last Yuqui 
are reluctant to give up the hunt 

by Allyn MacLean Stearman 

I first heard of the people I later came to 
know as the Yuqui in the early 1960s, 
when I was a Peace Corps volunteer work- 
ing in agricultural development in lowland 
BoUvia. I was assigned to the old Francis- 
can mission town of San Carlos, which sits 
on a bluff overlooking a wide expanse of 
lowland forest to the west; in the distance, 
the first ranges of the Andes rise abruptly 
from the blue-green haze. The villagers, I 
found, were fond of recounting what I sus- 
pected were apocryphal tales about iso- 
lated groups of native Amazonians still 
living in inaccessible comers of this wil- 
derness. About forty-five miles northwest 
of the city of Santa Cruz, San Carlos was a 

With large game scarce, a Yuqui hunter 
killed a macaw for food. 

jumping-off point for hunters, loggers, and 
the occasional settler, who stopped to buy 
supplies at our local stores. From time to 
time, we would hear unconfirmed reports 
of shooting incidents involving these ad- 
venturers and the shadowy people of the 

One memorable day, four men carried a 
wounded settler into San Carlos; a large, 
bamboo-tipped arrow had pierced his 
thigh. Old Ignacio Leon, at the center of 
the crowd that gathered around the man, 
looked at the arrow and solemnly pro- 
nounced, "It is from the people we call 
chori, the ones who live in the forest." We 
talked about this incident for weeks after- 
ward as the villagers pon- 
dered this close encounter 

Such confrontations have 
had a place in lowland Boli- 
vian folklore since early colo- 
nial times. Just prior to the 
European conquest, accord- 
ing to tales recorded in the 
early Spanish chronicles, the 
warlike Itatin, inhabiting 
what is now northern Para- 
guay, sent raiding parties 
north into the plains and 
forests of eastern Bolivia, pri- 
marily to take land from the 
indigenous people and cap- 
ture individuals for use as 
slaves. The Yuquf, Siriono, 
and other present-day Gua- 
rani-speaking peoples in Bo- 
livia are most likely the de- 
scendants of Itatin warriors 
who chose to remain in this 

During the early years of 
Spanish expansion into low- 
land Bolivia, these groups 
fought the European advance 
but were ultimately defeated. 
Most of the survivors ended 

Kenl H. Bedford 

up near missions such as San Carlos, 
where they, and other indigenous peoples, 
interbred with Europeans to form the pre- 
sent-day mestizo, or mixed, population. 
Only some, like the Yuqui, found refuge in 
the forests beyond the reach of their ene- 

In their infrequent encounters with out- 
siders over the years, the Yuqui were in- 
variably hostile. Well aware of the group's 
fierce reputation, Bolivians entering the 
wilderness went well armed and prepared 
for conflict. Even with firearms, however, 
they were often no match for the elusive 
Yuqui, waiting in ambush with seven- 
foot-long bows and arrows. Often, only a 
glimpse of an armed Yuqui was enough to 
keep people out of an area for years. 

Then, in the 1950s, the Bolivian gov- 
ernment decided to make the development 
of the lowlands a priority and began pro- 
moting pioneering by the highland peas- 
antry. As far as the Bolivian government 
was concerned, much of this region was 
vacant land. With colonization projects ex- 
panding to the north and south of their ter- 
ritory, the Yuqui found themselves trapped 
in a vise of settlement. 

Violence escalated as more colonists 
moved into the region. To put an end to the 
Yuqui threat, as well as occasional pilfer- 
age of crops, the settlers began to plan or- 
ganized manhunts. Learning of the in- 
creased sightings and hostihties, the New 
Tribes Mission, a group of North Ameri- 
can Protestant missionaries, set up camp 
near the Chimore River, about ninety 
miles west of San Carlos, to try to make 
peaceful contact with the Yuqui. After 
several public debates, the missionaries 
convinced the settlers that the better strat- 
egy would be to "pacify" the Yuqui rather 
than to risk more lives in efforts to exter- 
minate them. 

From 1955 to 1965, the missionaries 
engaged in a tedious campaign to earn the 

6 Natural History 1/94 


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NHO 194 -' 

trust of one nearby group of Yuqui. This 
was often a nerve-racking endeavor. The 
Yuqui men v\ ere fond of wrestUng and ap- 
plying choke holds, an often serious game 
of dominance. They also enjoyed pretend- 
ing to shoot arrows at the missionaries at 
close range, catching the arrow at the last 
moment as it slid across the bow. One mis- 
sionary was wounded in the hand when he 
reached up to protect himself and caught 
the tip of an arrow. 

Finally, in 1965, friendly contact was 
achieved, and after anodier four years of 
gradually lengthened periods of residence 
at the missionary camp on the river, the 
small Yuquf band made the decision to 
give up their nomadic existence. Deci- 
mated by skirmishes with settlers, they 
numbered only forty-three. 

In the late 1970s, another band was 
sighted as colonists began spreading far- 
ther into Yuqui territory. Again, hostilities 
resulted and unknown numbers of Yuqui 
were killed. As before, the missionaries 
set out to befriend this new group, and 
with the assistance of the Yuqui who had 
previously been pacified, the process 
moved somewhat more quickly. On De- 
cember 28, 1986, the new group, number- 
ing twenty-three people, was brought to 
the Chimore River camp. Nineteen more, 
probably the last surviving in the wilder- 
ness, were coaxed to follow in late Sep- 
tember 1989. With the addition of the new 
bands, as well as the natural increase as- 
sisted by modem health care, in 1990 the 
Yuqui population reached about 130. 

I met the first of the now sedentary 
Yuqui in 1982, having become an anthro- 
pologist following my stint in the Peace 
Corps. I had recently begun fieldwork 
with members of another lowland indige- 
nous people known as the Siriono. The 
group I was studying, first contacted in the 
mid- 1930s, were settled in Ibiato, a com- 
munity about 250 miles northeast of the 
Chimore River camp {see "Territory 
Folks," Natural History, March 1986). At 
the time, no one knew much about the 
Yuqui, but they were thought to be an iso- 
lated contingent of Siriono. Curious about 
this possibility, I spent enough time with 
them to learn that they indeed came fi^om 
the same ancestral group. But the Yuqui 
and Siriono languages and cultures had di- 
verged significantly during their years of 

Even for foragers, the Yuquf, like the 
Siriono, had an unusually simple material 
culture. As fo. est dwellers before contact, 
they had no means of making fire, wore no 
clothes, built no structures, and did not use 

watercraft. Their household goods con- 
sisted of a hammock and a baby sling, 
both made from twined tt^ee fiber, and a 
few hastily made baskets that could read- 
ily be discarded. The Yuquf did not adorn 
their bodies with bright feathers or elabo- 
rate painting. Their one concession to 
style was for the women to pluck their 
eyebrows and brow hair, giving them a 
startling resemblance (from the perspec- 
tive of outsiders) to aging, balding men. 

The Yuquf depended on palmwood 
bows and two types of arrows to provide 
most of their meat protein. Wild game was 
supplemented by fish, which were taken 
from forest ponds by hand or with bow 
and arrow. Unlike other Amazonian peo- 
ples, who, in addition to hunting and gath- 
ering, practiced slash-and-bum agricul- 
ture, the Yuqui planted no crops. 

By 1982 the Yuqui at the Chimore 
River camp had been settled there for a 
dozen years, but they continued to forage 
for most of their food. Their farming ef- 
forts were still rudimentary, consisting of 
exploiting a few stands of plantains estab- 
lished by the missionaries, and they pre- 
ferred meat and fish to the suppUes of flour 
and dried milk provided by the mission. 
Unlike many other Amazonian groups, 
their dietary taboos excluded httle, except 
snakes and insects. Even here an excep- 
tion was made for bee larvae, which the 
Yuqui harvested along with honey. On 
honey-gathering trips with the Yuquf into 
the forest, I was always offered a slab of 
comb containing not only honey and 
pollen but also several cells of immature 
bees, which the Yuquf called milk. (De- 
spite all my intentions to experience Yuquf 
life to the fullest, I could never develop a 
taste for this treat: no matter how much the 
Yuquf touted their delicate flavor, the lar- 
vae reminded me of blackboard chalk.) 

Honey was an important part of the 

Yuquf diet, even though they had access to 
refined sugar at the mission store. I was al- 
ways amazed at the amount of effort the 
Yuquf were willing to put into a honey 
hunt, felling tree after U-ee until a good 
supply was found. They would consume 
enormous amounts of this sought-after 
food in a single sitting, laughing at my in- 
ability to tolerate so much of a good thing. 

Going after honey was only one aspect 
of Yuquf foraging, which often combined 
the search for animals, fruit, and honey 
into a single expedition. While the men 
did the hunting, women were far from 
tagalongs: they were constantly on the 
lookout for edible items and sometimes 
spotted game before the hunters did. They 
were expert trackers, capable of mimick- 
ing animal calls to bring prey within 
shooting range. 

One morning during my second visit to 
the Yuqui in 1983, the young headman, 
Leonardo, and his wife, Loida, came by 
my house to invite me to go on a monkey 
hunt and to fish for sdbalo, a large bony 
fish found in oxbow lakes. Loida told me 
that they had located several promising 
bee trees along the trail we would follow. 
Even if we didn't get any fish or game, 
Loida assured me, we were certain to 
come back with honey. Leonardo had his 
.22 rifle, Loida carried his bow and several 
arrows, and I took the ax. Most Yuquf men 
now possess firearms, but ammunition is 
expensive, making bow hunting, particu- 
larly for fish, still a useful technology. 

After walking for almost two hours 
through the forest, we heard a commotion 
in the ttees overhead. Leonardo stopped 
abruptly, holding up his hand. Loida put 
down the bow and arrows and motioned 
for me to do the same with the ax. Then 
she showed me how to cup my hand and 
press my mouth against the palm, making 
a sharp sound with my lips. It sounded just 

A missionary tows a Yuqui-built canoe to the river for launching. 

Allyn Maclean Stearman 

8 Natural History 1/94 

like a monkey screech. Smiling at my be- 
ginner's efforts at animal calling, Loida 
motioned for me to move in a wide circle 
under the trees. While Leonardo stood 
still, she moved in the opposite direction. 

We continued calling the monkeys, 
which began to move closer, answering 
with their own sharp cries. Out of the cor- 
ner of my eye, I saw Leonardo raise his 
rifle and get off two quick shots. A mo- 
ment later I heard a third shot, and a yel- 
low squirrel monkey fell from the trees. 
Loida picked it up by the tail and struck 
the wounded animal sharply against a tree, 
killing it instandy. Two others, apparently 
dead, remained caught in the tangle above. 
We cut long poles from arrow cane and, 
after several attempts, finally dislodged 
the remainder of our prey. After tying the 
monkeys together with a vine, Leonardo 
tossed them over his shoulder and we con- 
tinued our trek. 

. Our next stop was a small pond in the 
forest. Leonardo said we could rest there 
and make camp while he fished. As Loida 
and I gathered wood for a fire to roast the 
ripe plantains we had brought along, 
Leonardo tried his luck with his bow. 
Within an hour he had shot three good- 
sized sdbalo, which Loida threw whole on 
the green-stick grill. She also took advan- 
tage of the stop to singe the hair off the 
monkeys — a foul-smelling chore that I 
quickly moved away from, using as an ex- 
cuse my curiosity about Leonardo's fish- 
ing techniques. 

He pointed to a place in the pond where 
there was an almost imperceptible ripple. 
Instantly, an arrow flew into the water. The 
long shaft shuddered a moment before the 
fish splashed to the surface, the arrow em- 
bedded in its side. After several misses but 
many more successes, Leonardo had 
caught another ten sdbalo by late after- 
noon. These were strung whole on a vine 
for transporting. 

Following our meal of fish and plan- 
tains, we started back toward camp. The 
sun was low in the sky, and the Ught was 
coming through the trees at right angles. 
Darkness falls quickly here. I asked Loida 
if we would go after the honey as well, 
now that we had fish and game to bring 
back. She smiled and said, "Of course. If 
we don't take it, our relatives will." The 
bee tree had been spotted by Leonardo 
some days before and was just off the trail 
we were following. Leonardo cut through 
the tree quickly while I waited with Loida 
at its base, trying to adopt her nonchalant 
attitude as to which way the tree might 
fall. Within a half hour, we had our honey 

safely wrapped in palm flower sheaths and 
were on our way home. 

In 1983, a Yuqui returning home from a 
hunt laden with fish, game, fruit, and 
honey was a common sight. Animals were 
plentiful, and people seldom had to ven- 
ture more than a day's walk from camp on 
foraging expeditions. For a period of fifty- 
six days, I kept track of all flie fish and 
game brought back by the Yuqui men. 
Most of flie fish came from the Chimore 
River, which the Yuqui had learned to ex- 
ploit by using hook and line and the gill 
net supplied by the mission. At the time, 
there were seventy-three Yuqui at the Chi- 
more camp, and according to my figures, 
each consumed an average of three ounces 

of animal protein per day. This was well 
above minimum nutritional standards set 
by the United Nations and similar agen- 
cies and compared favorably with the con- 
sumption rate of other Amazonian people 
on whom similar studies have been done. 
I returned to the Chimore River five 
years later, in 1988, excited about meeting 
the new Yuqui who had arrived in 1986. 1 
expected the intervening years of perma- 
nent settlement to have had some effect on 
game animal densities and, therefore, on 
Yuqui hunting strategies and success rates. 
But I was unprepared for the degree of 
change that had occurred. In 1983, the 
Yuqui were still isolated from the major 
settlements of colonists in the Chapare col- 




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onization zone. Other than the few Yu- 
racare famihes who had always hved in 
the area, the banks of the Chimore River 
were undisturbed. The Yuqui hunted this 
area without fear of competition or of en- 
counters with Bolivian settlers — occa- 
sions still fraught with uncertainty. 

Now, as I traveled upriver with my 
fieldwork supplies, the area looked like a 
suburb of the pioneer settlements in the 
Chapare: house after house lined the 
southern bank. Most of the settlers were 
growing coca for the drug trade. With the 
booming international market in cocaine, 
lands that normally would have been ig- 
nored as settlement areas were now being 
cleared for this lucrative crop. As a result, 
in just five years the Yuqui camped on the 
river found themselves hemmed in on 
three sides by colonists. This not only af- 
fected their access to the forest but also 
had an impact on fish and game supplies. 

Colonists were now competing for these 
resources, particularly since current pat- 
terns of coca production do not encourage 
subsistence farming. Typically, land is 
cleared and burned, and coca bushes are 
set out. Once the plants are estabUshed, the 
grower remains in the region only long 
enough to pick, dry, and pack the leaves 
for sale, returning to the highlands be- 
tween harvests. A coca farmer does not 
take the time or make an effort to grow 
food crops or keep domestic animals, both 
requiring a great deal more attention than 
the hardy coca bushes, which continue to 
produce even in the midst of weeds. Hunt- 
ing and fishing thus provide a convenient 
substitute for conventional provisions. 

The game species most affected by the 
presence of colonists was the white-lipped 
peccary, which runs in large herds and is a 
significant and preferred source of meat 
for the Yuqui. Unfortunately, peccaries are 
also the preferred food of the colonists, be- 
cause the animal is large and the meat has 
a mild flavor similar to that of many do- 
mestic animals. The Yuqui claimed that 
they had not seen a peccary herd pass 
through their hunting territory for three 
years, attributing this to overhunting by 
colonists and the disturbance to the habitat 
created by increased settlement. 

Of greater consequence to Yuqui sub- 
sistence was the recent depletion of fish in 
the Chimore River. While interviewing 
missionaries, Yuqui, and settlers who 
lived along the river, I learned that colo- 
nists, unwilhng to invest the money and 
time needed to catch fish with nets and 
other fishing gear, were illegally using dy- 
namite to kiU fish. Many of the coca farm- 

ers colonizing the area were ex-miners 
(ironically, laid off from their jobs to trim 
the national debt and free funds to fight the 
drug war). Most of these ex-miners were 
experts at using explosives, which they ca- 
sually tossed into the river to supply a few 
days' meals. 

The practice devastated spawning 
areas. Adding to the problem, the remain- 
ing fish were being taken by commercial 
fishers, who stretched nets across the en- 
tire width of the river. These entrepre- 
neurs, whose motorized launches were 
outfitted with large ice chests, had fished 
out the Chimore to supply the markets of 
the cities of La Paz, Cochabamba, and 
Santa Cruz. Primarily as a result of the de- 
cline in their fishing productivity, the 
Yuqui were consuming on average 
slightly under an ounce and a half of ani- 
mal protein a day, far below recommended 
nutritional requirements. 

Hunting success also could not keep 
pace with population growth, despite 
modifications in hunting strategies. In the 
past, there were certain animals the Yuqui 
seldom killed because they considered the 
meat inferior. In particular, coatis and 
kinkajous, both members of the raccoon 
family, were said to "taste bad and make 
you sick." In 1983, only four coatis and 
one kinkajou were captured in an eight- 
week period. In 1988, this number had in- 
creased to forty-three coatis and fifteen 
kinkajous for a similar period. The Yuqui 
were now actively hunting these animals 
for food but complaining all the while that 
if hunting weren't so bad, they would have 
tastier animals to choose from. The older 
people talked constantly about the lack of 
white-lipped peccaries, wistfully remem- 
bering the days when these and other pre- 
ferred game animals such as capybara ac- 
counted for most of the meat in camp. 

The Yuqui were also venturing farther 
away from the mission and for longer peri- 
ods of time, although this meant giving up 
the security and comfort of mission life 
(the Yuqui had come to depend on the 
store and clinic, as well as the presence of 
missionaries, who acted as a buffer against 
the real and perceived threats of the out- 
side world). They often hunted on the 
other side of the river, where settlement 
was still sparse and game animals rela- 
tively plentiful. Having to cross the Chi- 
more brought with it the risk of drowning, 
for although the Yuqui were now making 
and using dugout canoes, few could swim, 
except for those raised in the Chimore set- 
tlement. In recent years, two Yuqui men 
have been lost in canoe accidents. 

Loida (with whom I had shared many 
successful foraging trips in the past), 
Leonardo, and two other families left the 
mission for ten days, camping about six 
miles away on the other side of the riven 
There they killed and ate howler monkeys, 
fish, and other animals that were plentiful 
in this remote area. Loida delighted in 
telling me about all the food they con- 
sumed during the trip. But she also com- 
plained that she had to spend nights away 
from her house (she had not done so for 
more than three years), and that she suf- 
fered greatly from the mosquitoes, rain, 
chilly mornings, and the threat of preda- 
tors lurking in the forest. 

Living at the mission station on the Chi- 
more has undermined the Yuqui's ability 
to survive under precontact conditions. 
Although they are not yet full participants 
in the new world around them, they are de- 
pendent upon it for many of their needs. 
At the same time, they continue to look to 
the forest to supply much of their food. As 
more of this wilderness becomes the prop- 
erty of others, the Yuqui will confront 
even greater stresses on their traditional 
foraging patterns. At present, the mission 
supplements their diet with surplus food 
provided by the U.S. government, but this 
does not offer a long-term solution. 

The Yuqui will probably be forced to 
become better farmers, an activity they 
dislike and avoid when possible. Farming 
also takes away time the Yuqui would 
rather spend searching for game. For the 
present, they prefer growing plantains, a 
perennial crop that is ideally suited to their 
often haphazard attempts at cultivation. 
Other, more demanding crops, such as rice 
and com, have frequently failed, either 
from a lack of agricultural expertise or 
from neglect. By their own definition, the 
Yuqui are not farmers but "people of the 

Alejandro and his family stopped by 
my house to say goodbye when I had to 
leave. I noticed that they were heavily 
laden with household items for an ex- 
tended trip. "Where are you off to?" I 
asked the family. Resting his shotgun eas- 
ily on his shoulder, Alejandro answered, 
"Across the river to the place where the 
howler monkeys are eating wild papaya. 
There is no longer any meat here, and I am 
a hunter." 

Allyn Maclean Stearman is a professor of 
anthropology at the University of Central 
Florida and Senior Fellow in the Tropical 
Conseiyation and Development Program 
at the University of Florida. 

10 Natural History 1/94 

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Natural History 1/94 •^DE4 

Tffls View of Life 

Cabinet Museums Revisited 

'.-packed Victorian displays still contain up-to-date messages 


by Stephen Jay Gould 

In Dublin's fair city, at the heart of 
Georgian elegance near Trinity College 
and the Old Parliament House, stands an 
anatomically correct statue of Molly Mal- 
one. I do not speak of Molly herself, who 
may or may not be properly rendered (I 
didn't particularly notice), but of her leg- 
endary wares. She holds two baskets, one 
full of cockles and the other of mussels — 
not quite "alive, alive, o!" in their bronzed 
condition, but clearly sculpted as accurate 
representatives of the appropriate species. 
The artist has respected zoological diver- 
sity by representing the song's complete 
natural history. (To comment on diversity 
of another valued kind, I never understood 
why the song's third verse included the 
only nonrhyming couplet in such a consis- 
tent and admirable ditty: "She died of a 
fever; and no one could save her." But 
then I learned that these words do rhyme 
in Ireland — just as "thought" and "note" 
rhyme in Yorkshire, and therefore in 

Just a few blocks from Molly and right 
next to the Dail (the modem Parliament of 
the Irish Republic), stands the Dublin Mu- 
seum of Natural History. This museum 
traces its origin to a private association of 
fourteen citizens, founded in 1731 as the 
Dublin Society. The first public exhibit 
(largely of agricultural implements) 
opened in 1733 in the basement of the Old 
Parliament House. George 11 provided a 
royal charter in 1749, and parliamentary 
grants began in 1761. Growing collections 
required a new building, and a govern- 
ment grant of five thousand pounds, made 
in 1 853, largely financed the present struc- 
ture. Lord Carlisle, the lord lieutenant of 
Ireland, laid the foundation stone in March 
1856. His lordship, speaking in orotund 
tones suited both to Victorian practice and 

to the dignity of his official title, expressed 
a hope 

that the building about to arise on this 
spot... may, with its kindred departments, 
furnish ever-increasing accommodation for 
the pursuits of useful knowledge and hu- 
manizing accomplishments, and open for 
the coming generations worthy temples of 
science, art, and learning, at whose shrine 
they may be taught how most to reverence 
their creator, and how best to benefit their 
fellow creatures. 

I learned these details of the museum's 
history in a fine pamphlet, The Natural 
History Museum Dublin, by C. E. O'Rior- 
dan. (You may buy your copy of this gov- 
ernment document at the museum itself, as 
I did, or you may pick one up at the Gov- 
ernment Publications Sales Office at the 
memorable address of Molesworth Street, 
Dublin.) The museum building, although 
harmonizing with its earlier Georgian sur- 
roundings in exterior design, could not be 
more quintessentially Victorian within. 
Two fully mounted, magnificently 
antlered skeletons of the fossil deer 
Megaceros giganteus — informally, if in- 
correctly, called the Irish elk — greet visi- 
tors at the entrance to the ground floor 
(while a third skeleton of an unantlered fe- 
male stands just beyond). The rest of the 
ground floor mostly houses representative 
collections of Irish zoology, phylum by 
phylum and family by family (a case of 
the "roundworms of Ireland" or on "Irish 
crabs" certainly conveys an impression of 
admirable thoroughness in coverage). 

The remainder of the museum, a first 
floor and two galleries above, seems even 
more frozen into its older style of full and 
systematic presentation. Cast ironwork 
and dark wood cabinets, the mainstays of 
Victorian exhibition, abound. Copious 

Ught enters through the glass ceiling and 
streams around the shadows made by cab- 
inets and their contents. Heads and horns 
adorn the walls in profusion, and we won- 
der for a moment whether we are visiting a 
museum or a lord's trophy room. 

The ensemble seems so coherent that 
we might view the entire display as an em- 
bodiment of a blueprint in the head of 
some Victorian museum worthy under the 
spell of John Ruskin. In fact, as with any 
living entity, the exhibits were melded, 
fused, reordered, and cobbled together 
over many decades — although these par- 
ticular decades did end quite some time 
ago. The horns were not installed until the 
1930s, but most of the other exhibits have 
changed Uttle since Victoria and, later, her 
son Edward VII ruled this land — or at 
least since the locals demoted Edward's 
son George V to establish the Irish Free 
State in 1921. 

O'Riordan, who provides a meticulous 
account of every change in venue for any 
stuffed bird or seashell, also acknowledges 
twentieth-century stability. He discusses a 
massive rearrangement, begun in 1895, to 
establish the current scheme of Irish spec- 
imens on the ground floor, with a run- 
through of worldwide Linnaean order on 
the first floor and galleries above. He 
writes: "The recruitment of extra staff in 
1906 enabled work on the invertebrates on 
the top gallery to proceed quickly and this 
was completed by 1907. The exhibition on 
the upper floor and gaOeries has not radi- 
cally changed since." He then mentions 
the addition of several Irish elk skulls to 
the ground floor exhibit in 1910 and com- 
ments: "Apart from relatively minor alter- 
ations in the content and disposition of the 
exhibits, the overaU theme and plan of the 
exhibition has since remained the same." 

12 Natural History 1/94 



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We tend — i idsely I shall soon argue — to 
view such - .ability as a sure sign of stag- 
natioi ii not decrepitude and ruin. Our 
basic concept of "Victorian"' includes im- 
ages of soot-blackened buildings, cold in- 
terior spaces lined with dark wood, chip- 
ping paint, peeling wallpaper, and shelves 
of bric-a-brac. In many towns, the classic 
late- Victorian (Queen Anne) mansions are 
now either funeral homes or lawyer's of- 
fices — and neitlier enterprise seems much 
beloved of late. 

I confess that my first visit to the Dublin 
Museum of Natural History did nothing to 
dent this stereotype. I spent a good part of 
1971, yardstick in hand, measuring the 
skulls and antlers of Irish elks. I visited the 
manors of the Marquess of Bath and the 
Earl of Dunraven, and I measured the mis- 
treated male of commercialized Bunratty 
Castle (near Shannon Airport), where be- 
sotted revelers at the nightly medieval 
banquet had left the poor fellow with a fat 
cigar in his jaws and coffee cups on the 
tines of his antlers. But the best stash of 
specimens belongs to the museum in 
Dublin, where the two skeletons can be 
supplemented with another fifteen heads 
and horns, mounted high on the walls of 
the ground floor, one head above each 
major cabinet. 

The same Dr. O'Riordan greeted me 
warmly and treated me well; his speci- 
mens formed the centerpiece of my study 
(published in the professional journal Evo- 
lution in 1974, but initially, in a more gen- 
eral version, as my very first article for this 

magazine in 1973). The specimens were 
fine, but, oh my, the museum was a dingy 
place back then. Little light, less comfort, 
and dust absolutely everywhere. I had to 
sit on top of the tall cabinets to measure 
the heads mounted above. There the dust, 
undisturbed for so many years, had con- 
gealed into thick layers of grime. I doubt 
that any living being had been up there 
with any sort of cleaning device since 
Leopold Bloom met Stephen Dedalus in 
Nighttown (or since Molly Malone last 
sold the sort of staff labeled in the ground 
floor exhibits as "MoUusca of Ireland"). 

With such memories, I approached my 
visit in September 1993 with some trepi- 
dation — for the extrapolated curve of dete- 
rioration did not lead to happy expecta- 
tions. I could not have been more joyously 
surprised. Not one jot or tittle of any ex- 
hibit has been altered, but all the surround- 
ings have been restored to their original 
condition — not just accurately, but lov- 
ingly as well. An army of brooms has been 
through the premises (I think of the enor- 
mous clone constructed by Mickey Mouse 
in the Sorcerer's Apprentice of Fanta- 
sia) — and, as my grandmother would 
surely have said, "you could eat off the 
floor" (although I never understood why 
all my older relatives invoked this expres- 
sion, as I couldn't imagine why anyone 
would want to try the experiment, how- 
ever thorough the scrubbing). The glass 
ceiling has been cleaned, and the light 
floods through. The dark wood of the cab- 
inets has been repaired and polished, and 

"My only ambition in life is to become part of the fossil record.' 

the glass now shines. The elaborate cast 
ironwork has been scraped and decorated 
in colorful patterns reminiscent of the 
"painted lady" Victorian houses of San 
Francisco. The ensemble now exudes 
pride in its own countenance — and I fi- 
nally understood, viscerally, the coherent 
and admirable theory behind a classical 
Victorian "cabinet" museum of natural 

Two factors — one a prejudice, the other 
a condition — generally debar us from ap- 
preciating the Victorian aesthetic. First, 
our smugness about progress leads us to 
view any contrary vision from the past as 
barbarous. Thus, when modernism es- 
poused simple geometries, with unoma- 
mented and functional spaces, the Victo- 
rian love of busy exuberance became a 
focus of pity and derision. (We might 
praise an old Japanese house for anticipat- 
ing modem simplicity, but what could we 
do with a shelf of curios?) In a sense, this 
dismissal might be viewed as payback, for 
the Victorians aggressively depicted their 
own times as the pinnacle of progress and 
fliey often treated the past with condescen- 
sion. In any case, our knee-jerk dismissal 
of fliings Victorian is now fading as the 
preservationist movement wins more con- 
verts and as postmodernism brings eclecti- 
cism and ornament back into architecture 
and design. 

Second, and more important, our image 
of Victorian has not been set by the objects 
themselves, as constructed for their own 
time, but by their present appearance, usu- 
ally after a century of neglect and deterio- 
ration. The situation is almost perverse. I 
would not, after all, allow my image of 
"grandfaflier" to be set by the present state 
of my Papa Joe's remains at his gravesite. 
Why, then, do we conceptualize "Victo- 
rian" as a ramshackle building with bro- 
ken steps, creaking floors, and peeling 
paint — fit only for the Addams family or 
as the Halloween haunted house set up by 
the local Jaycees? 

My first, and keenly revealing, experi- 
ence with Victorian as Victorians knew the 
style, divested of a century's overlay in de- 
terioration, occurred in 1976 when, to cel- 
ebrate our nation's 200th birthday, the 
Smithsonian Institution opened a replica 
of the Philadelphia centennial exposition 
of 1876. This wonderful exhibition in- 
cluded plows, pharmaceuticals, imple- 
ments for house and farm, and, above all, 
machines and engines, all spanking new, 
freshly painted, and entirely in working 
order, with all their wheels, whistles, and 
hisses. I particularly remember a case of 

14 Natural History 1/94 

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ax blades — all shiny and sharp. And I real- 
ized that i. had always pictured Victorian 
tools as rusted and dull — without ever ar- 
ticulating to myself the obvious point that 
they must have been gleaming and func- 
tional when first made. I am always 
amazed at the power of a prejudiced as- 
sumption (however absurd, and especially 
when backed by a mental picture, for pri- 
mates are visual animals) to derail the log- 
ical thinking of basically competent peo- 
ple hke myself. 

1 remember Glasgow as the planet's 
ugliest city upon my first visit in 1961, and 
as one of the loveUest places I had ever 
seen upon my return in 1991. The differ- 
ence: Glasgow is the world's greatest Vic- 
torian city in public and commercial archi- 
tecture. All the major downtown 
buildings, horribly soot-blackened and de- 
crepit in many other ways in 1961, have 
now been cleaned and showcased, often 
by converting traffic orgies into pedestrian 
malls. I was stunned by the exuberance of 
these buildings, each different in its 
curves, ornaments, and filigrees; each 
vying with all the others, yet somehow 
forming an integrated cacophony (you 
have to see them to know why my chosen 
description is not oxymoronic). I was re- 
volted at my first sight of the Natural His- 
tory Museum in London — each archway 
of its elaborate Romanesque entranceway 
blacker and grimier than the one within — 
and uplifted by the subtle colors and arch- 
ing forms of the cleaned building. The 
Victorian secular glass of Harvard's 
churchlike Memorial Hall passed beneath 
my notice for twenty-five years. Now I 

force these wonderful windows, designed 
by John La Farge and other great Ameri- 
can glassmakers, and resplendent in their 
newly cleaned state, upon the notice of 
every visitor, for Memorial Hall is stop 
number one on my personal tour of Har- 
vard's architecture. 

I now add the Dublin museum to this 
list of Victorian buildings uplifted from 
squalor to glory by the simple expedient of 
restoring them to the original intentions of 
their architects and designers. Most of all, 
this splendid restoration taught me some- 
thing that 1 had never appreciated about 
Victorian museum design. 

The display of organisms in these mu- 
seums rests upon concepts strikingly dif- 
ferent from modem practice, but fully con- 
sonant with Victorian concerns. Today, we 
tend to exhibit one or a few key speci- 
mens, surrounded by an odd mixture of 
extraneous glitz and more useful explana- 
tion, all in an effort to teach (if the intent be 
maximally honorable) or simply to dazzle 
(nothing wrong with this goal either). The 
Victorians, who viewed their museums as 
microcosms for national goals of territor- 
ial expansion and faith in progress fueled 
by increasing knowledge, tried to stuff 
every last specimen into their gloriously 
crowded cabinets — in order to show the 
full range and wonder of global diversity. 
(In my favorite example. Lord Rothschild, 
richest and most prolific of all great collec- 
tors, displayed zebras and antelopes in 
kneeling position or even supine, so that 
one or two extra rows could be inserted to 
include all specimens in floor-to-ceiling 
displays at his museum in Tring.) The 


standard Victorian cabinet (including 
many in the Dublin museum) provides 
several rows of locked wooden drawers 
beneath the creatures on display under 
glass — to house all the museum's addi- 
tional specimens, which can then be 
shown to professionals and others with 
specialized interests. 

I realize that this tactic of displaying 
every last specimen includes a dubious 
side in recording the spoils of aggressive 
and militaristic imperialism, with all the 
attendant racism and ecological disregard. 
But do honor and acknowledge the coun- 
tervaiUng virtue of exhibiting such pleni- 
tude — as best expressed in the words of 
Psalm 104: "0 Lord, how manifold are thy 
works!... the earth is full of thy riches." 
You can put one beetle in a cabinet (usu- 
ally an enlarged model and not a real spec- 
imen), surround it with fancy computer 
graphics and push-button whatsits, and 
then state that no other group maintains 
such diversity. Or you can fill the same 
cabinet with real beeties representing a 
thousand species — of differing colors, 
shapes, and sizes — and then state that you 
have tried to display each kind in the 

The Victorians preferred this second ap- 
proach — and 1 am with them, for nothing 
thrills me more than the raw diversity of 
nature. Moreover, the Victorian cabinet 
museum thrives upon an exquisite tension 
in conrniingling (not always comfortably, 
for they truly conflict) two differing tradi- 
tions from still earlier tunes: the seven- 
teenth-century baroque passion for dis- 
playing odd, deformed, peculiar, and 
"prize" (largest, smaUest, brightest, ugh- 
est) specimens — the Wunderkammer (or 
cabinet of curiosities) of older collectors; 
and the eighteenth-century preference of 
Linnaeus and the Enhghtenment for a sys- 
tematic display of the regular order of na- 
ture within a coherent and comprehensive 
scheme of taxonomy. (Pardon a littie toot 
on the personal horn, but my recent book 
with photographer Rosamond Purcell, 
Finders Keepers, illustrates thesedifferent 
components in notable collectors from 
Peter the Great to Lord Rothschild.) 

1 have long recognized the theory and 
aesthetic of such comprehensive display: 
show everything and incite wonder by 
sheer variety. But I had never realized how 
powerfully the decor of a cabinet museum 
can promote this goal until I saw the 
Dubhn fixtures redone right. Light floods 
flirough the glass ceiUng, creating a fasci- 
nating interplay of brightness and shadow 
reflecting off both specimens and architec- 

16 Natural History 1/94 


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tural elements of iron struts, wooden rail- 
ings, and the dark wood and cleai' glass of 
the cabinets themselves. The busy 
arrangement of cabinets mirrors the 
crowding of organisms, while the contrast 
between dark wood and clear glass rein- 
forces the variegated diversity of the crea- 
tures within. The regular elements of cast 
iron and cabinetry echo the order of taxo- 
nomic schemes for the allocation of speci- 
mens. The exuberance is all of one 
piece — organic and architectural. 

I write this essay to offer my warmest 
congratulations to the Dublin museum for 
choosing preservation — a decision that 
was not only scientifically right but also 
ethically sound and decidedly courageous. 
The avant-garde is not the only place of 
courage; a principled stand within a recon- 
stituted rear unit may call down just as 
much ridicule and demand equal fortitude. 
Crowds do not always rush off in ad- 
mirable or defendable directions. 

In choosing to construct a dynamic mu- 
seum of museums, in asserting the old 
ideal of focusing display on nature's full 
diversity, in restoring their interior space 
to Victorian intent by harmonizing archi- 
tecture with organism, the Dublin mu- 
seum's curators have stood against most 
modem trends in museums of science — 
where fewer specimens, more emphasis 
on overt pedagogy, and increasing focus 
on "interactive" display (meaning good 
and thoughtful rapport of visitor and ob- 
ject when done well, and glitzy, noisy, 
push-button-activated nonsense when 
done poorly) have become the norm. 

Much as I love the cabinet of full vari- 
ety, I could not defend Dublin's decision if 
this exhibit in the old style usurped all 
available space for displaying natural his- 
tory. After all, we have learned something 
in the last century, and many of the newer 
techniques work well, particularly in get- 
ting children excited about science. But 
Dublin has found a lovely solution. They 
have restored their original housing to one 
of the world's finest and fullest exhibits in 
the old and stiU-stunning cabinet style — 
not just a room to showcase the past, but 
an entire building in full integrity. And 
they have opened a new building on the 
next street for needed exhibits in a more 
modem vein (now featuring the great in- 
evitability of this year of Jurassic Park — 
a display about dinosaurs). 

I would not be defending the cabinet 
style if such museums only honored a wor- 
thy past. I support this ideal of fullest pos- 
sible display because it remains so vital 
and exciting, as capable as ever of inspir- 

ing interest (as well as awe) in any curious 
person. I agitate for these old-style muse- 
ums because they are wonderful today. 
They provide, first of all, a richness in va- 
riety not available elsewhere. When I vis- 
ited the Dublin museum, for example, a 
college course in drawing had convened 
on the premises — and each student sat in 
front of a different mammal, sketching at 

But a second reason beyond immediate, 
practical utility must be embraced if my 
argument has any power to persuade. This 
more subtle, and controversial, point was 
beautifully expressed by Oliver Sacks in 
two letters written to me: 

My own first love was biology. I spent a 
great part of my adolescence in the Natural 
History Museum in London (and I still go to 
the Botanic Garden almost every day, and to 
the Zoo every Monday). The sense of diver- 
sity — of the wonder of innumerable forms 
of life — has always thrilled me beyond any- 
thing else. [December 1990] 

Love of museums was an intense passion 
for me, for many of us, in adolescence. Erik 
Kom, Jonathan Miller, and I spent virtually 
all our spare time in the Natural History 
Museum, each of us adopting (or being 
adopted by) different groups — holothuria 
(Erik), polychaetes (Jonathan), cephalopods 
(myself). I can still see, with eidetic vivid- 
ness, the dusty case containing a Stheno- 
teuthis carolii washed up on the Yorkshire 
coast in 1925. I have no idea whether that 
case, or any of the dusty cases we were so in 
love with, still exist — the old museum, the 
old museum idea, has been so swept away. I 
am all for interactive exhibits, like the San 

Francisco Exploratorium, but not at the ex- 
pense of the old cabinet type of museum. 
[September 1992] 

None of these three teen-agers grew 
into a professional zoologist (although 
others of the same clone and cohort, in- 
cluding me at the New York museum that 
publishes this magazine, did) — but all be- 
came men of great accomplishment, at 
least partly because they maintained (and 
transferred to their chosen profession) a 
museum-inspired love of detail and diver- 
sity. My friend Erik Kom is England's 
finest antiquarian book dealer in natural 
history; Miller's work in medicine and 
theater, and Sacks's in neurology and psy- 
chology, are well known. Sacks, in partic- 
ular, has based the passionate humanism 
of his unique insight into individual per- 
sonalities — his revival of the old "case 
study" method in medicine — upon his ear- 
lier love for zoological taxonomy. In his 
letter to me, he continued, "I partly see my 
patients (some of them, at least) as 'forms 
of life,' and not just as 'damaged,' or 'de- 
fective,' or 'abnormal.' " These "old-fash- 
ioned" museum displays had a profound 
effect upon the lives of three supremely 
talented, yet remarkably different, men. 

I must therefore end with a point that 
may seem outstandingly "politically in- 
correct," but worthy of strong defense 
nonetheless. We too often, and tragically, 
confuse our legitimate dislike of eUtism as 
imposed limitation with an argument for 
leveling all concentrated excellence to 
some least common denominator of maxi- 

18 Natural History 1/94 

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mal accessibility. A cabinet museum may 
never "play" to a majority of children. 
True majorities, in a TV-dominated and 
anti-intellectual age, may need sound bites 
and flashing lights — and I am not against 
supplying such lures if they draw children 
into even a transient concern with science. 
But every classroom has one Sacks, one 
Kom, or one Miller, usually a lonely child 
with a passionate curiosity about nature 
and a zeal that overcomes pressures for 
conformity. Does not the one in fifty de- 
serve an institution as well — a magic 
place, like a cabinet museum, that can 
spark the rare flames of genius? 

Elitism is repulsive when based upon 
external and artificial Umitations like race, 
gender, or social class. Repulsive and ut- 
terly false — for that spark of genius is ran- 
domly distributed across aU the cruel bar- 
riers of our social prejudice. We therefore 
must grant access — and encouragement — 
to everyone; and we must be unceasingly 
vigilant, and tirelessly attentive, in provid- 
ing such opportunities to all children. We 
will have no justice until this kind of 
equaUty is attained. But if only a small mi- 
nority respond, the true enthusiasts of all 
races, classes, and genders, shall we deny 
them the pinnacle of their soul's striving 
because all their colleagues prefer passiv- 
ity and flashing lights? Let them lift then- 
eyes to hills of books and at least a few 
museums that display the full magic of na- 

ture's variety. What is wrong with this 
truly democratic form of eUtism? 

While in Dublin, I also visited Saint 
Michan's church, with its beautifully 
carved organ, which Handel played (al- 
though some dispute die claun) at the pre- 
miere of Messiah, first performed in 
Dublin in 1742. Handel, who wrote four 
great odes for the coronation of George 11; 
the same JCing George who then granted a 
royal charter that eventually led to the 
Dublin Museum of Natural History. And I 
thought of my favorite chorus (not "Hal- 
lelujah!") in part two of Messiah, set by 
Handel witii a richly polyphonic begin- 
ning and a strong homophonic ending — a 
lovely analogy, I thought, to the interplay 
of nature's wondrously variegated diver- 
sity with the unity of taxonomic order and 
evolutionary explanation, flie themes so 
well displayed and intertwined in the 
Dublin museum. And I thought of the 
words, expressing the most noble mission 
of teachers: to expand out to the ends of 
knowledge, and then to gather in — by 
song, by writing, by instruction, by dis- 
play. "Great was the company of the 
preachers.. . . Their sound is gone out into 
all lands, and their words unto the ends of 
the world." 

Stephen Jay Gould teaches biology, geol- 
ogy, and the history of science at Harvard 


"Members of the Peaceful Village Armchair Travelers Club will 'take off' on their first 

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Whittington Nursing Home. That's this room next door Program: Professor F. Slemp of 

Ord, Nebraska, is going to give a lecture on natural history, and if I find any cigarette 

butts in there, you will all stay home next time!" 

20 Natural History 1/94 

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Paxton Cone, New Mexico 

Volcanoes have been an active force in 
northwestern New Mexico for the past 
four million years, beginning with the first 
violent eruption of Mount Taylor. Some 
590 square miles of lava between the Zuni 
Mountains and Acoma now provide a mu- 
seum of volcanic phenomena. This arid, 
inhospitable area is known as El Malpais, 
"the badlands." Part of the land is private, 
part is managed by the National Park Ser- 
vice, and part is managed by the Bureau of 
Land Management. A small area falls 
within Cibola National Forest. 

Paxton Cone, on the National Forest 
land, was created between 10,000 and 
40,000 years ago, when an eruption sent a 
river of lava northeastward down Zuni 
Canyon. Lying about thirty miles south- 
west of the present-day community of 
Grants, the cone built up from cinders that 
fell around the eruption orifice. The lava 
that flowed northeast was thick and tarlike; 
it solidified leaving very rough, sharp sur- 
faces and an intricate network of fissures. 
This type of lava is called aa (the word is 

Cinder cones are only one of four vol- 
cano types found in the Malpais area. The 

by Robert H. Mohlenbrock 

most violent, exemplified by long-extinct 
Mount Taylor, is the stratovolcano, which 
ejects material into the upper atmosphere. 
When it last erupted. Mount Taylor sent 
tons of lava, cinders, ash, and steam into 
the air as its crater walls fell inward to 
form a caldera. Less violent are shield vol- 
canoes, broad, flat volcanoes that often re- 
lease their energy through several orifices. 
Shield volcanoes usually can be recog- 
nized by multiple craters at the top. Fi- 
naUy, basalt cones, with wide, steep-sided 
craters, erupt rapidly and send out a rather 
thin-textured lava that cools to a smooth or 
somewhat ropy surface. This type of lava, 
referred to as pahoehoe, is the most com- 
mon in El Malpais. 

At higher elevations, where conditions 
are relatively cool and moist, the Malpais 
area is forested with well-developed conif- 
erous trees. Douglas firs and ponderosa 
pines are found at elevations between 
7,000 and 8,900 feet, along with a lower 
layer composed primarily of Rocky 
Mountain juniper. Douglas firs, which re- 
quire more moisture, are found mainly on 
northern slopes and on rough lava where 
rainwater tends to accumulate in the fis- 

Douglasfirs and ponderosa pines grow on Paxton Cone, above, 
which erupted between 10,000 and 40,000 years ago. Left: Claret 
cup cactus and yellow-flowered pericome cling to the volcanic rock. 


sures. Quaking aspens, which also need a 
lot of water, can also be found in these lo- 

Douglas firs germinate poorly in the 
lava because of the heated surface of the 
rock. Botanist Alton Lindsay has found 
that during the summer, the surface tem- 
perature of the lava rises as high as 129° F. 
According to Lindsay, the roots of Dou- 
glas firs get under the surface crust of the 
lava and grow along small tunnels that are 
warm and moist, but contain no soil. As 
the roots get older, they may break through 
the thin lava crust and be partly exposed. 
The growth of many of these trees is 
stunted by lack of nutrients and water, and 
they are often bent eastward in response to 
the strong prevaihng winds. Lindsay, who 
has studied the vegetation patterns on El 
Malpais for years, found one mature, 
cone-bearing Douglas fir that was only 
sixteen inches high. 

At about 7,000 feet and below, Douglas 
firs drop out and the plant community is 
dominated by ponderosa pines, with a va- 
riety of shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses 
often creating an understory. Ponderosa 
pines have thicker needles than the Dou- 
glas firs, and their roots penetrate more 
deeply, keeping them well supplied with 

Paxton Cone 

For visitor information write: 
Forest Supervisor 
Cibola National Forest 
2113 0sunaRoadNE 
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87113 
(505) 761-4650 

water. And because their very large seeds 
produce sturdy seedlings that send out 
roots promptly and deeply, they can ger- 
minate in spite of the hot lava surface. 

The Douglas fir zone and the ponderosa 
pine zone extend to lower altitudes in El 
Malpais than in nearby areas free of lava. 
As a possible explanation for this, Lindsay 
suggests that the dark lava becomes hotter 
than nonlava rock, stimulating an upward 
convection of heated air that causes an 
extra measure of rain to fall on the lava. 
Rainwater accumulates in the fractured 
lava long enough for plants growing there 
to replenish their supply. 

Here and there in El Malpais are sink- 
holes in which water accumulates, drain- 
ing down from the Zuni Mountains or 
emerging from natural springs. These 
oases are home to duckweeds, sago pond- 

.4 dead juniper stands among the living 
on a lichen-covered lava flow. 

George H. H. Huey 

weed, and watercress, surrounded by a 
border of cattails, soft-stem and three- 
square bulrush, reed grass, and swamp 
milkweed. But at the lowest altitudes, be- 
tween 6,200 and 7,000 feet, water is usu- 
ally scarce. Plants that can make it here in- 
clude pirions, one-seeded juniper, banana 
yucca, and cactuses. Broad-leaved shrubs, 
such as Apache plume, skunkbush sumac, 
New Mexico privet, and a couple of gnarly 
oaks, grow in lava-free zones or where 
shallow soil has slowly built up in lava fis- 
sures. The broad-leaved plants often have 
some mechanisms to prevent desiccation, 
such as leaves that are extremely smaU, 
succulent, or covered with hairs. 

In many places, the aa supports only 
gray, yellow, or orange lichens, which ce- 
ment themselves to the black, craggy sur- 
face of the lava. Requiring few nutrients 
for their minimal growth and effectively 
conserving the moisture in their tissues, 
the hchens may remain glued to the lava 
for hundreds of years. Lava does not cover 
all of the the Malpais area, however. Is- 
lands of deeper soil with richer vegetation, 
called kipukas, dot the landscape. Today's 
kipukas probably resemble the region as it 
was prior to volcanic activity. 

Robert H. Mohlenbrock, professor emeri- 
tus of plant biology at Southern Illinois 
University, Carbondale, explores the bio- 
logical and geological highlights of the 
156 U.S. national forests. 

100 Miles 




Joe LeMonnier 

24 Natural History 1/94 


hey were chiefs and 
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Maps, reconstmctions of places 
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i I 

U -11 

Edward S. Ross 

Sex, Drugs, and 

For male milkweed butterflies, a dead, withered leaf 
may have a chemical allure no pretty flower can match 

by Michael Boppre 

Observe the butterflies, sombre black fel- 
lows. . .flying in a crowd round a shrub with 
thick silvery-looking leaves. It is the 
Toumefortia Argentifolia, a tree that I see 
on almost every seashore that I have visited 
throughout the Pacific... A branch is bro- 
ken, and the leaves are hanging dry and 
wilted. The butterflies settle on the dead 
leaves in swarms, almost pushing and 
jostling one another to get a good place. No- 
tice that it is the withered leaves and flowers 
that they prefer, and seem to become half- 
stupid in their eagerness to extract the pecu- 
liar sweetness, or whatever it is, that the 
leaves contain. 

Since these observations were pub- 
lished in 1890 by C. M. Woodford, in A 
Naturalist Among Headhunters, other re- 

ports in the scientific literature have de- 
scribed butterflies apparently sucking at 
dead parts of Toumefortia trees and a 
number of other, unrelated plants. For 
nearly a century, these reports were a great 
puzzle to naturalists and scientists: first, 
because dead plants are dry and butterfly 
mouthparts are designed to suck up liq- 
uids, and second, because only male but- 
terflies were seen at the dead leaves. Only 
in the last few decades have scientists in 
Australia, Europe, and the United States 
pieced together an explanation involving 
complex interactions of sexual communi- 
cation and chemical protection. 

The butterflies Woodford watched were 
members of the genus Euploea (com- 

Left: Male crow and blue tiger butterflies congregate on a bundle 
of dried Heliotropium plants, in search not of food but of 
pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Numerous other insects, such as the 
snouted tiger moth, above, are attracted to the dried parts 
of plants containing these protective compounds. 

Michael Bopprd 

monly known as crows) in the milkweed 
butterfly subfamily, Danainae. Other fam- 
ily members include the tiger, queen, and 
monarch butterflies. Males of all danaines 
possess hairy glandular organs. Nine- 
teenth-century naturalist Fritz Miiller pro- 
posed that all these "pencils, tufts or 
manes of hair," which he found in a vari- 
ety of forms in the males of many butterfly 
species, were odoriferous organs serving 
"as an excitement to the opposite sex." 
The proof came nearly one hundred years 
later In the mid-1960s, smdies by Lincoln 
Brower (now at the University of Florida, 
but then at Amherst College) and his co- 
workers showed that male Florida queen 
butterflies locate females visually and, 
once they are within close range, emit 
chemicals from these glandular organs, or 
hairpencils, to seduce them. Such chemi- 
cal sexual stimulation is widespread in 
butterflies and moths, but the danaines ex- 
hibit one of the most elaborate chemical 
communication systems known among 
the Lepidoptera. (The American monarch, 
Danaus plexippus, is an exception. In the 
mating strategy of this species, chemical 
communication plays a minor role. Male 
scent organs are much reduced and rarely 
employed in sexual interactions, which ap- 
pear to the human eye more like rape than 

During courtship, a danaine male hov- 
ers above a female. He exfiudes his hair- 
pencils (usually hidden inside his ab- 
domen) close to her antennae and then 
expands them, often for just fractions of a 
second. In many species, the sudden pro- 
trusion and expansion of the hairpencils 
deUvers tiny, pheromone-laden particles to 
the female's antennae, which are lined 
with olfactory receptors. Without ade- 


quale pheromonal stimulation, the female 
would reject her suitor. 

Not all danaine pheromones smell 
alike, and the human nose can detect some 
differences in the male perfumes of milk- 
weed butterfly species. Mostly they smell 
strong but pleasant to us: some, sweet like 
chocolate; others, more like pineapple. 
However, for a more precise identification 
of the pheromone composition, sophisti- 
cated technical equipment is needed. Jer- 
rold Meinwald, of Cornell University, and 
Stefan Schulz and Wittko Francke, of the 
University of Hamburg, have analyzed the 
chemistry of hairpencil extracts taken 
from many species and found that the 
pheromones are species-specific bouquets 
made up of twelve to fifty volatile compo- 

nents, most of which are "unsmellable" by 
the human nose. 

What is the male telling the female with 
this fanfare of pheromones? Danaine but- 
terflies locate one another by sight, so the 
pheromones caimot be long-range attrac- 
tants. However, mimicry is very common 
among these butterflies, so something 
more than just visual inspection may be 
necessary to allow members of a species to 
recognize one another. At close range, the 
female may use the male's perfume to de- 
termine which species her suitor belongs 
to; "Let me smell you so I can know who 
you are." 

But there appears to be more than spe- 
cies recognition to the story. Certain 
chemical compounds are common compo- 

nents in the pheromone bouquets of many 
danaine species and thus are unlikely to 
contribute to species specificity. Called di- 
hydropyrrolizines, these chemicals often 
make up the largest proportion of the hair- 
pencil volatiles, with up to 500 ng (a half 
thousandth of a gram) in a single pair of 
hairpencils, an enormous amount com- 
pared with that of pheromones in other in- 
sects. These chemicals must serve a differ- 
ent purpose. 

Studies with field-caught male danaines 
revealed that the amount of dihydropy- 
rrohzines varies gready from individual to 
individual. Freshly hatched males possess 
various other pheromone components but 
lack dihydropyrrolizines entirely, and as 
Thomas Pliske and Thomas Eisner, of 

28 Natural History 1/94 

Cornell University, discovered, male 
queen butterflies lacking this type of com- 
pound are much less successful in getting 
accepted by a mate. These findings sug- 
gested that the chemicals played an impor- 
tant role in the lives of the butterflies, but 
no one knew just what that role was or 
where the dihydropyrrolizines were com- 
ing from. 

The answers to these questions began to 
come in the mid-1970s, from scientists 
working independently (John Edgar, with 
the Commonwealth Scientific and Indus- 
trial Research Organization in Australia) 
and collaboratively (Jerrold Meinwald and 
others at Cornell, and Dietrich Schneider 
and me at the Max Planck Institute for Be- 
havioral Physiology). We now know that 

adult male milkweed butterflies utilize 
certain secondary plant compounds, 
known as pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), as 
chemical precursors for synthesizing 
dihydropyrrolizines. (Secondary plant 
compounds are chemicals that are not part 
of the plant's essential molecular makeup 
but that frequently have a defensive func- 
tion and lead to better survival.) 

The butterflies use their sense of smell 
to locate the dry, withered, or damaged 
parts of certain plants that contain 
pyrrolizidine alkaloids. After landing on 
an appropriate plant, the butterflies walk 
about, probing the surface here and there 
with their proboscises. Eventually they 
settle down at one spot and release drops 
of fluid on the plant. They tiien reimbibe 

The crow caterpillar, left, may gather and 
store certain noxious plant compounds, 
such as cardenolides, while feeding on its 
host plant. Below: The chrysalis of a friar 
butterfly has a strong metallic luster, the 
effect of light reflecting off many thin 
layers in the cuticle. 

Photographs by Michael Boppr6 

the fluid mixture and, with it, some of the 
plant's PAs. Butterflies often congregate in 
small groups and fight over spots previ- 
ously wetted by others. What Woodford 
saw a century ago was undoubtedly such 
an incident, for Toumefortia trees contain 
pyrrolizidme alkaloids. (Other PA plants 
include Crotalaria, or rattlebox, in the pea 
family; Senecio, or groundsel, in the aster 
family, and Heliotropium in the borage, or 
forget-me-not, family.) 

These alkaloids occur in Uving as well 
as dead plants, but in live tissue, the com- 
pounds are sealed within cell vacuoles, 
where the butterflies cannot detect them. 
If, however, a leaf has been damaged by, 
say, leaf-feeding beetles, it may attract 
male milkweed butterflies, which, chick- 
enlike, scratch at it with their legs, creating 
fresh tears in the plant tissue and thus 
gaining access to the alkaloids within. 

Using pyrrolizidine alkaloids purified 
from plant extracts, we have demonstrated 
that the butterflies are after flie PAs and not 
any other plant compounds. And flieir in- 
terest in these chemicals is independent of 
any nutritional requirements: their sole 
reason for visiting PA-containing plants is 
to gather the alkaloids. These butterflies, 
then, visit two groups of plants: those they 


Tim Laman; The Wildlife Collection 

After scratching at a beetle-damaged 
Heliotropium leaf, two blue tiger males, 
below, gain access to the pyrrolizidine 
alkaloids within. These butterflies must 
also continue the regular business of 
feeding on nectar, right. 

Michael Boppre 

feed on, which could be thought of as gro- 
cery stores, and those they gather sec- 
ondary chemicals from, which could be 
cbnsidered pharmacies. 

Why do males engage in these efforts? 
Some twenty years ago, biologist Miriam 
Rothschild studied moth larvae feeding on 
fresh PA plants and proposed that insects 
are capable of stockpiling the alkaloids to 
protect themselves from predators. In the 
years since her suggestion, chemical 
analyses conducted by several separate re- 
search groups have revealed that pyrro- 
Uzidine alkaloids gathered by adult butter- 
flies from dry plants are used for the same 
purpose. The insects' storage capacity is 
impressive: up to 15 percent of a butter- 
fly's dry weight may be made up of un- 
converted pyrrolizidine alkaloids ex- 
tracted from dry plants. 

Behavioral tests of butterfly predators 
have shown that the stockpiled PAs can 
provide the insects with protection from 
many enemies. These chemicals, which 
become toxic once ingested, taste bad and 
have been found to be repellent, to varying 
degrees, to some mice, bats, lizards, spi- 
ders, birds, and all unadapted insects. 

Some members of the milkweed butter- 
fly family — monarchs and queens — are 
protected by other chemicals unpalatable 

to predators. Unlike PAs, fliese chemicals, 
known as cardenolides, have an immedi- 
ate effect on heart rate and blood pressure. 
Neither egg-laying females nor larvae 
specifically seek out cardenoUdes, but if 
the larval host plant contains them, fliey 
are ingested along with food. Stored in the 
larval body and retained into adulthood, 
these cardenolides deter several predators, 
as has been well documented during the 
last twenty-five years. Film footage based 
on Lincoln Brower's studies with blue jays 
provided the most memorable proof: blue 
jays eating with gusto and then immedi- 
ately vomiting up monarch butterflies that 

had been reared as larvae on cardenoUde- 
containing plants. 

For certain milkweed butterfly species 
or individuals, then, pyrrolizidine alka- 
loids add another dimension to their un- 
palatability, while for others, the alkaloids 
may be the only defensive compounds. In 
all cases, however, these plant chemicals 
play a dual role in the lives of danaines: 
they help males seduce females, and they 
act as potential lifesavers. Thus, males 
have good reason to pursue pyrroUzidine 
alkaloids. But why is a female so inter- 
ested in whether or not a suitor smells of 
the PA-derived dihydropyrrofizines? And 

30 Natural History 1/94 






'*;■■■■ 1 

why does she seem to use them in select- 
ing a mate? 

As the research teams of Thomas Eisner 
and Keith S. Brown, Jr., have demon- 
strated, male milkweed butterflies transfer 
more than just sperm to the female during 
copulation: included in the ejaculate is a 
mass of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, previously 
collected by the adult male from plants. 
This nuptial gift varies from male to male: 
the more of the alkaloids a male has taken 
in, the more his personal perfume will 
smell of dihydropyrroUzines and the more 
PAs he has to offer a female. Thus, if a 
male's aroma is an indication of the size of 

the nuptial gift he is likely to present, the 
female may have a meaningful basis for 
choosing a mate: the more alkaloids she 
can get from the male, the more she will 
possess to protect herself and to incorpo- 
rate into her eggs for their protection, too. 
Studies of the chemical ecology of 
milkweed butterflies led to a better under- 
standing of other insects that utihze PA- 
containing plants as grocery stores and 
pharmacies at the same time. The larvae of 
several tiger moth species (family Arcti- 
idae) store PAs for their protection, and 
some also use them as pheromone precur- 
sors. Although many are speciahzed to 

feed on PA plants exclusively, not aU are 
capable of detecting PAs directly. Among 
the most interesting of the PA moths are 
those such as Creatonotos species, which 
respond to PAs behavioraUy, as danaines 
do. The larvae of these moths can feed and 
develop perfectly well on a variety of 
shrubs, including some that contain PAs 
and others tiiat do not. Under experimental 
conditions, however, these caterpillars 
show a definite interest in flie alkaloids, 
feeding eagerly on almost any material, 
mcluding fiberglass disks, as long as the 
material has been first impregnated with 
the chemicals. As with the milkweed but- 


terflies, their enthusiasm for these chemi- 
cals is independent of their nutritional re- 

Creatonotos moths exhibit some strik- 
ing similarities to danaine butterflies. 
Males possess eversible scent organs, 
called coremata, that emit a dihydropy- 
rrohzine derived from pyrrolizidine alka- 
loids, and they, too, stockpile unconverted 
PAs for protection and transfer them to fe- 
males. However, there are some basic dif- 
ferences. Both male and female Creatono- 
tos feed on PA plants, gathering the 
protective compounds together with food, 
and they do so only as larvae (the short- 
lived adults do not feed at all). So while 
milkweed butterflies accumulate PAs as 
adults only, Creatonotos moths hatch with 
a fixed amount of pheromone and protec- 
tive chemicals. In both groups, the degree 
of protection varies from individual to in- 
dividual, as does the amount of male 

The dihydropyrrolizines of many da- 
naines and Creatonotos are structurally 
identical, but their roles in influencing the 
behavior of conspecifics are quite differ- 
ent. In most butterflies and moths, males 
expand flieir scent organs only in the final 
phase of courtship, after the sexes have 
come together through sight (butterflies) 
or smell (moths). Creatonotos males, in 
contrast, display their organs for hours, 
starting at dawn, whether any females are 
around or not. The pheromones the males 
release appear to lure both females and 
males, leading to the establishment of 
mating aggregations, or leks. Since Cre- 
atonotos females also produce phero- 
mones to lure males (as is typical among 
moths), the genus appears to use two 
markedly different means of bringing the 
sexes together 

We have not yet been able to conduct a 
detailed field study of these rare, noctur- 
nal, and quite small moths, but one aspect 
of their biology has already added a fasci- 
nating element to the complex story of 
plant alkaloids and insects. In the field, 
some Creatonotos individuals have gigan- 
tic coremata, exceeding the insects' wing- 
span; others of the same species have 

Male milkweed butterflies and male 
Creatonotos moths use pyrrolizidine 
alkaloids for protection and in the 
synthesis of sex pheromones. The 
butteifiies emit pheromones from 
glandular organs known as hairpencils, 
below. The size of a moth 's scent organs, 
or coremata, right, depends on the 
amount of PAs it gathered as a lan'a. 

Photographs by Michael Boppre 

coremata so tiny fliey are almost invisible; 
and yet others exhibit intermediate sizes. 
In file laboratory we have experimented 
with feeding Creatonotos larvae different 
amounts of pure PAs and have demon- 
strated a direct correlation: the more PAs a 
moth took up while it was a larva, the 
larger its coremata and the more PA-de- 
rived pheromone it produces. (No other 
part of the moth is affected by these di- 
etary changes.) 

Available phylogenetic evidence indi- 
cates that adaptations to utilize pyrro- 
lizidine alkaloids evolved several times in 
various insect groups. Certain leaf beetles, 
grasshoppers, and chloropid flies, for in- 
stance, as well as numerous other species 
of butterflies and moths, seek out these 
chemicals independent of feeding. Experi- 
ments have demonstrated that these in- 
sects are attracted to the alkaloids, whether 
they are presented in the form of dry plants 
or laboratory dishes impregnated with the 
chemicals. Not all these insects possess 
male scent organs, so the chemicals' role 
as a pheromone precursor is Hmited, and 
not all insects that need them to produce 
pheromones use them in the same way in 
sexual communication. By improving 
their chances of survival and perhaps by 
increasing their reproductive success, 
however, aU do better with PAs. For these 
insects at least, purloining plant poisons 
pays off. D 

32 Natural History 1/94 


Y)iingLizaiids CanBeBeamble 

In Australia, live-bearing skinks have evolved from egg layers. Why? 
by Richard Shine 

One of the reasons I was attracted to the 
study of Hzards and snakes, rather than 
other kinds of animals, is that they gener- 
ally like to stay in bed on cold mornings, 
just as I do. I thought that I wouldn't have 
to rise at dawn (like the bird watchers) or 
muck through muddy swamps at night 
(Uke the frog catchers) because Australian 
skinks come out into the woods and fields 
on sunny afternoons. 

Unfortunately, as I discovered in the 
field, these common little hzards are so 
elusive after they have warmed up by mid- 
morning that they are almost impossible to 
catch. Chilly mornings are the best time to 
pick them up as they lie, rigid with cold, 
under their nighttime logs. In the Brind- 
abella Range of southeastern Australia, 
where I study and collect skinks, I imag- 
ined the kookaburra birds were mocking 
me with their annoying "laughter" as I 
turned over logs from first light until the 
sun's rays dispersed the morning fog. Each 
morning a few hours after dawn, I re- 
turned to my tent, with dew-soaked socks 
and chattering teeth, to boil the billy (ket- 
tle), change into dry clothes, and sit by the 
campfire gloating over the fruits of my 
morning's labors. 

My prizes wouldn't have impressed 
most people. Every day I caught about 
twenty small, drab skinks, most of them 
less than six inches long. Why endure so 
many bone-numbing morns to collect 
these Uttle creatures? Because to me they 
were objects of intrigue: I hoped that they 
might help me solve one of the great mys- 
teries of reptiUan reproduction. 

All these unspectacular skinks may 
look very similar, but they include several 
species that are biologically very different. 
About half the Brindabella hzard species 
reproduce by laying eggs (oviparity); the 
other half, by giving birth to fully formed 
babies (viviparity). Those that lay eggs 
range from the elegant little elf skink, 
which Uves under cool, moist logs, to the 
larger, three-lined skink, which basks in 
the open and rapidly sprints between snow 
grass tussocks when approached. The hve 
bearers are all active in the daytime and 
are generally larger than the egg layers. 

Among them are two varieties of heavyset 
water skinks, confident lizards that are 
undisputed owners of large logs on the for- 
est floor. As I approached, they would fix 
me with a balefiil glare; but reluctant to 
move out of the warm sunlight, they were 
easily caught with a noose of fishing line 
at the end of a rod. 

In all skinks, egg layers as well as hve 
bearers, the females ovulate their large, 
yolky follicles in late springtime (Novem- 
ber in Australia). These are immediately 
fertilized internally by sperm that they 
have stored either for a week or two (in 
spring-mating species) or throughout the 
entu-e winter (in autumn-mating species). 
Eggs are laid in a moist, protected site 
under a log or rock. In hve-bearing spe- 
cies, the females retain membranous eggs 
without shells inside their oviducts. 

The soft, leathery shells of lizard eggs 
are much more permeable to water than 
are the brittle eggs of birds; thus, egg lay- 
ers need to deposit their eggs in moist en- 
vironments. Because of this water uptake, 
hzard eggs swell to twice their initial size 
as they develop. Since both types of eggs 
absorb water as the embryos grow, preg- 
nant females of live-bearing species are 
grossly distended by the end of the gesta- 
tion period. 

By getting several pregnant females to 
run along miniature "lizard raceti-acks" in 
the laboratory, I was able to show that they 
are much slower runners than their non- 
pregnant counterparts, especially when 
close to birthing time. In laboratory trials, 
small, venomous white-lipped snakes — a 
common predator of the Brindabella 
skinks — were much better at catching 
pregnant hzards than nonpregnant ones. 
While these tests appear to confirm the 
self-evident (ask any pregnant woman 
how the last few weeks of pregnancy af- 
fect her mobility), they were the first of 
their kind. (Charles Darwin said he "loved 
a fool's experiment," because it is remark- 
able how often the "obvious truth" turns 
out to be wrong.) 

I am continually amazed that lizards so 
similar in other ways — size, shape, color, 
diet, and general behavior — can differ so 

profoundly in the way they bring forth 
their young. When viviparous species 
omit an external egg stage, they also sub- 
stantially increase the length of time dur- 
ing which a female must carry her devel- 
oping young. 

She pays a heavy price for this burden. 
Not only is she slower in outrunning 
predators and capturing prey, but her store 
of fat may be so reduced as to impair her 
reproductive ability the following year. 
Why should both egg laying and live bear- 
ing occur in otherwise similar species? 
My curiosity was piqued about the pos- 
sible adaptive advantages of hve bearing. 

34 Natural History 1/94 

Ken Griffiths: NHPA 

An Australian lowland water skink, 
above, is surrounded by her brood of 
live-bom babies. This species strongly 
asserts territorial claims to logs or 
basking spots. Left: A female western 
skink broods her eggs at Gardner Ridge, 
east of Brooking, Oregon. 

Alan D. St. Jotin 


Australian blacksnake babies emerge 
fully formed from membranous "eggs," 
above, almost immediately after the 
female extrudes them. Common in the 
cool Brindabella Range, these venomous 
snakes prey on skinks. Collet's snake, 
right, a member of the same genus from a 
warmer habitat, lays shelled eggs that 
take two months to hatch. 

36 Natural History 1/94 

What gains could justify tiie costs? 
Both egg laying and live bearing can 
occur even within a single species, as in 
Bougaineville's skink, an almost limbless 
burrowing lizard from southeastern Aus- 
tralia. While mainland populations are egg 
layers, those on isolated southern islands 
produce their young alive. In some cases 
these islands are only a few miles off the 
coast, and the egg layers and live bearers 
live in very similar habitats. Studies have 
shown that the difference in reproductive 
modes is genetically determined and not 
subject to short-term change. Since egg 
laying in reptiles is believed to be the 
primitive, or ancestral, condition, the is- 
land populations must have evolved vi- 
viparity in fairiy recent times — certainly 
since the last Ice Age. 

When I combed the literature to find out 
how many times viviparity had been 
known to evolve within lizards and 
snakes, I found many more examples than 
I had expected: about a hundred separate 
origins of this characteristic. Furthermore, 
they occurred in a definite pattern. 

In ahnost every part of the world where 
there are lizards and snakes, live bearers 
are the dominant type only in colder parts 
of their ranges. In the tropical rain forests 
of northern Australia, less than one-third 
of the lizard and snake species are live 
bearers, while the vast majority lay eggs. 
But in the cold and windy mountains of 
southern Australia, the proportion of live 
bearers rises to almost 100 percent of the 
indigenous reptiles. Among the few spe- 
cies that brave even colder habitats, in- 
cluding European adders inside the Arctic 
Circle, Canadian garter snakes in the 
frigid fields of Manitoba, or the small 
lizards that scun^y across snowdrifts at 
12,000-foot elevations in the Andes, all 
are viviparous. Almost a// of the live bear- 
ers that are closely related to egg layers — 
presumably those that most recently 
evolved from them — are found in colder 

Although viviparous species have 
evolved in many other animal groups be- 
sides reptiles, any correlation between 
their reproductive pattern and cold cli- 
mates isn't apparent. In some cases, the re- 
verse trend appears. Viviparous sharks and 
rays, for instance, tend to inhabit tropical 
or subtropical oceans, while egg-laying 
species live in cooler waters. Among am- 
phibians, there are no clear correlations. 
Some European salamanders that Uve at 
low elevations are egg layers, while their 
high-elevation relatives produce well-de- 
veloped offspring. 

Viviparity has also evolved at least 
twice in tropical amphibians, where pro- 
tection of the eggs against drying out may 
be the most important advantage for these 
animals. Oddly enough, cold climates 
have not led to viviparity in any species of 
birds, although such cold-adapted flight- 
less birds as penguins would seem likely 
candidates. Mammals evolved viviparity 

A pregnant female agama lizard from Africa 
is an egg layer She carefully regulates her 
temperature by pushing her body away 
from the hot rock while she basks. 

Don W. Fawcett 

only once — early among their egg-laying 
ancestry — and it eventually spread 
throughout almost the entire group. (Platy- 
puses and echidnas are the only surviving 
egg-laying mammals.) 

Reptiles aside, the number of times vi- 
viparity has evolved in living vertebrates 
is small — about ten instances in sharks 
and rays, a dozen in bony fishes, four in 
amphibians, one in mammals, and none in 
birds. Because the trait spread throughout 
mammaUan Uneages so long ago, we have 
lost any basis for a comparative study 
within that group. 

With a hundred origins of viviparity in 
reptiles, however, we have at least some 
hope of finding a plausible explanation as 
to why this characteristic has evolved so 
often. Correlation with climate may pro- 
vide a starting point. Why should reptiles 
show so many striking examples of evolv- 
ing viviparity in colder habitats? Under 
cooler conditions, what factors could en- 
able live-bearing reptiles to become more 
successful than their egg-laying cousins? 

One answer was proposed more than 
fifty years ago by three scientists (Rudolf 


Photographs by Richard Shine 

The oviparous skink Saproscincus mustelinum with her eggs, right, and 
the viviparous species Pseudemoia entrecasteauxii, below, 
are abundant in many parts of the Australian high country. 

Mell, Claire Weekes, and A. M. Sergeev) 
who had studied reptiles in three different 
countries (China, Australia, Russia) and 
published their results independently in 
three different languages (German, Eng- 
lish, French). All had noticed that vivipar- 
ity was more common in cold-climate rep- 
tiles, and each suggested that embryos 
developed inside the female would have 
better odds of surviving the cold. 

Their explanation was that the pregnant 
female's warmth insures that the young 
develop not only more safely but also 
much more quickly. Whereas cold soil ex- 
poses eggs to dangerously low tempera- 
tures and the embryos develop slowly, 
eggs kept inside the female's body are 
warmed whenever she basks in the sun- 
light. Even when air and soil temperatures 
are close to freezing, many reptiles can 
keep their own body temperatures at about 
85° F by judicious basking. 

This idea is supported by the timing of 
Uzard embryo development. In the Brind- 
abellas, embryos of egg layers may spend 
as much as 50 percent of their develop- 
ment time in the mother's oviducts — 
about a third longer than in warmer habi- 
tats. After fertilization, oviparous females 
deposit a thick, calcareous shell around 
their eggs, and lay them from forty to sixty 
days later. Eggs laid during the AustraUan 
midsummer (December-January) in the 
mountains, where soil temperatures are 
low, develop slowly, and may hatch late in 
autumn (March-April). By contrast, vivip- 
arous females can keep their babies much 
warmer, so they develop more quickly. 
Live-bearing females usually give birth to 
living young in late summer (February) or 
early autumn (March), at least a month be- 
fore the eggs of their oviparous cousins 
will hatch. 

This head start for the young may be the 
most important advantage of viviparity. 
Babies bom early have more time to grow 
before the onset of winter and more time 
to locate safe hibernation sites where they 
are less likely to freeze. Young lizards that 
emerge earUer can set up and defend terri- 
tories against later arrivals. Also, being 
kept warm during incubation may result in 

the young being somehow "better" — per- 
haps larger or smaller or fatter or thinner 
or quicker or smarter. Fitness may involve 
all of these attributes at various times or at 
different stages of the life cycle — and it is 
always relative to the environment. Many 
aspects of an individual reptile's hfe are 
determined by the temperatures it experi- 
ences while still in the egg. Incubation 
temperatures can affect the animal's size, 
shape, color, basking behavior, agiUty, and 
strength. In all crocodiUans, many turtles, 
and some lizards, incubation temperatures 
even determine the sex of the individual. 

The lizards that I found during those 
frosty Brindabella mornings helped to 
confirm some of the earlier investigators' 
ideas. Pregnant females were slowed 
down by their babies, making them easier 
for predatory snakes to capture. Embryos 
that remained inside viviparous females 
were kept warmer, and did develop much 
faster than did eggs laid in natural nests 
under rocks and logs. Overall, this warm- 
ing reduces the total incubation period by 
about one month. Without this accelerated 
development, eggs of most of the ovipa- 
rous species would not have enough time 
to hatch before the onset of winters (at 
least in cooler years), and thus would be 
killed by freezing. Short summers may be 
the reason that so few species of oviparous 
reptiles reproduce successfully in very 
cold areas, where soU temperatures are fa- 

vorable for only a brief period each year. 

The data from the Brindabella skinks 
also supported my hunch that retaining 
eggs inside the female's body might di- 
rectly influence the quality of the hatch- 
lings. I checked this possibility by testing 
the development of eggs laid in captivity 
by oviparous skinks. I incubated some at 
normal (soil) temperatures, and others 
from the same clutch at hotter tempera- 
tures — simulating the warmth of a basking 
mother's oviducts. Compared with their 
siblings from cool-temperature incuba- 
tion, the artificial viviparous babies were 
shorter, fatter, and generally less active, 
but were much faster runners when tested 
on my lizard racetracks. They also devel- 
oped more quickly and hatched earlier. I 
carried out a similar experiment with one 
of the Uve-bearing species by giving some 
pregnant females access to more basking 
time, and again found that the higher tem- 
peratures affected the shape and behavior 
of the newborn Uzard. 

I still don't know if these characteristics 
of artificially warmed babies would help 
them survive any better or grow any faster 
in the wild. By marking and releasing lab- 
incubated young of both types and then re- 
capturing them later, I hope to learn more. 
Meanwhile, my hopes of sleeping until 
midmoming have faded away, and I am 
resigned to enduring more dawn laughter 
from the Brindabella kookaburras. D 

38 Natural History 1/94 

Among Whales 

In the fall, southern right whales return to the waters off 
Patagonia to mate and raise their young 

by Roger Payne 

In 1970 I read about a sighting of 
twenty right whales along a little-traveled 
section of Argentine coastline called 
Peninsula Valdes (about halfway between 
Buenos Aires and Cape Horn). Because 
right whales were almost extinct before re- 
ceiving protection in 1937, seeing several 
at once was a rare event. 

I had never heard of Peninsula Valdes 
but noticed it was at the same latitude 
south of the equator that Cape Cod is in 
the north. I knew that right whales came to 
Cape Cod every year, even though they 
are rare. Peninsula Valdes's two nearly 
landlocked bays, Golfo San Jose on the 
north and Golfo Nuevo on the south, bear 
a striking similarity to Cape Cod Bay and 
Nantucket Sound; and the combined land- 
forms of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, 
and Nantucket are so like Peninsula 
Valdes that I wondered whether right 
whales might also be coming there each 
year. The New York Zoological Society, 
where I then worked, provided the funds to 
go investigate, and so, in late September 
1970, I went to Argentina with an old 
friend, Oliver Brazier, and my then wife, 
Katharine Payne. 

We drove from Buenos Aires to Rio 
Negro, the northern boundary of Patago- 
nia, on what is now a paved highway (at 
the time it was a dirt track in places). Four 
days later we stood on the beach at Punta 
Norte, the northeast point of Peninsula 
Valdes. Three right whales were playing in 
the surf less than fifty feet offshore. 

Lysa Leiand 



40 Natural History 1/94 

Adapted from Among Whales, by Roger Payne. Reprinted by arrangement 
witti Macmillan Publishing Company Copyrigtit© 1994 by Roger Payne. 


A subadult right whale, below, about twelve feet long, 
swims in the bay ojf Peninsula Valdes. Adult southern 
right whales can grow to fifty feet in length. Inset: 
The cliff hut observation point. 

Flip Nicklin; Minden Pictures 




In the days that followed, we found the 
peninsula to be one of the world's greatest 
comings-together of land, sea, and wild- 
life. The currents in the bays, which can 
reach six knots, are generated by tides that 
rise and fall as much as thirty feet — a tidal 
ampUtude, the locals claim, second only to 
that in the Bay of Fundy. Albatrosses, pe- 
trels, shearwaters, fulmars, terns, and gulls 
ride the winds of the roaring forties, while 
penguins shuffle up beaches. We saw sea 
lion rookeries and elephant seal harems 
that stretched for thirty miles along the 
shore to where they dissolved in the dis- 
tant heat shimmer. Elephant seals reared 
up as we approached, making loud, intim- 
idating belches — an after-diimer noise of 
such exquisite vulgarity tliat even the most 
jaded eight-year-old boy could not have 
failed to be stunned with delight by them. 

One morning one of our hosts — we 

were guests of the local tourist office — 
showed Katy a deserted beach in Golfo 
San Jose from which he had often seen 
whales. Later that afternoon we all visited 
the place. It was less than a mile long and 
flanked by tall cliffs that stretched along 
the coast to the north and west. I climbed 
the westem cliffs and walked to a nearby 
headland, where we later established an 
observation hut. The wind had died, and 
the sun was setting in a spectacular display 
of colors. As the peace and stillness seeped 
into me, a whale started breaching far out 
in the bay, followed in the next few min- 
utes by two others closer to shore. In all I 
counted thirty-two right whales. 

I reaUzed that we had discovered the ul- 
timate place from which to study whales, a 
place where they came so close to shore 
that we could work from land and not dis- 
turb them. Neither would we have to raise 

enormous funds to support the costs of op- 
erating seagoing boats. Here we could 
even bring our four young children, and 
they would be safe, safe among whales. 

The next year, with fiinds from the New 
York Zoological Society, we established a 
camp on the beach and later a permanent 
research station. Katy and I lived there for 
almost four years with our children, the 
most formative of their lives and our hap- 
piest as a family. It was the longest I have 
ever hved continuously in the wild, and 
this stretch of Patagonian coast became 
my heart's home. 

Since we founded Whale Camp twenty- 
three years ago, I have returned to Penin- 
sula Valdes every year between August 
and mid-November (with the exception of 
three seasons when others were present to 
do the work) — the longest continuous 
study of a whale species based on recog- 

42 Natural History 1/94 

The right whale 's baleen, left, allows it to 
filter copepods and krillfrom the sea. 
Here the whale is probably not feeding 
but skimming along the surface to cool off 
in the warm winter waters. 

James D. Watt; Planet Earttl Pictures 

nized individuals. We can now identify 
more than 1,200 individuals. Some we 
have seen hundreds of times; others we 
have never seen again because they were 
either passing through or have subse- 
quently died. 

Nothing is more exciting than seeing 
the first whales arrive at Peninsula Valdes 
for the winter. Each year these whales 
make the long migration from the cold, 
subpolar waters of Antarctica to winter in 
Patagonia's warmer waters. Their enor- 
mous size and thick blubber are adapta- 
tions enabling them to keep warm enough 
and swim far enough to gain access to the 
most enormous blooms of food on the 
planet — the annual swarms of krill in the 
icy Antarctic Ocean — as well as to return 
to their warmer wintering grounds to mate 
and give birth to young. 

The pregnant females in our Argentine 

population probably make the 1 ,400-mile 
swim without eating. They linger in the 
bays of Peninsula Valdes for up to four 
months, during which time they give birth 
to a calf Although a mother may get an 
occasional snack, she is basically fasting. 
(Normally, right whales catch their prey 
by skim feeding; we've recently discov- 
ered, however, that the whales of Penin- 
sula Valdes are not feeding when they 
swim along with their mouths open but are 
probably cooling off in the warm waters 
through a heat-exchange mechanism 
along the roof of the mouth.) 

For months after her calf is bom, a 
mother pumps massive quantities of rich, 
creamy milk into the calf, which may gain 
as much as 125 pounds a day — at least in 
the first few weeks — while also putting on 
a thick blubber coat. At the end of this pe- 
riod, the mother — still fasting — leaves the 
wintering grounds with her calf and swims 
all 1,400 miles back to the feeding 
grounds. We are still not certain that we 
have found the main summer copepod and 
krill basket for Peninsula Valdes's right 
whales (although South Georgia does look 
like a good bet, as do the waters around 
Tristan da Cunha). 

We can watch the mothers and calves 
closely from our observation hut (called 
the cliff hut), located above the only place 
for miles where the cliffs plunge straight 
into the water. When the tide is halfway up 
the cliff or higher, the water is just deep 
enough for whales to swim directly below 
the hut. Mothers with calves faithfully fol- 
low the 16.5-foot-depth contour at Penin- 
sula Valdes, (just deep enough for a large 
mother to be clear of the bottom but not 
enough to allow attacks on her calf from 
below by killer whales and sharks). They 
are creatures of habit and will swim to ex- 
actly the same area — even the same 
rock — year after year. Once they start hav- 
ing calves, they return to the bays of 
Peninsula Valdes once every three years. 
So while following the 16.5-foot contour, 
they swim along almost touching the 
cliffs. Hundreds of whale-sized underwa- 
ter niches in the eroded hardpan along the 
shore provide shelter. 

Satellite photographs of Cape Cod, top, 
and Peninsula Valdes show striking 
similarities in landforms. 

Roger Payne 

The places chosen by mother whales to 
defend their calves, unlike the niches 
where they hide, are open areas with soft, 
sandy bottoms and plenty of room on 
every side from which to launch cata- 
clysmic haymakers. Right whales defend 
themselves with their tails, which they 
sweep sideways with stunning effect. (In 
this sense they are like the "undefended" 
apatosaurus now believed to have fought 
off attackers by sweeping them off their 
feet with its massive tail, perhaps even 
breaking or disjointing hmbs in the proc- 
ess.) I suspect that if a person were struck 
by a right whale's tail, the blow might well 
be deadly. 

1 once watched a pack of killer whales 
move along a line of female right whales 
and their calves. As the orcas approached 
a mother and calf, the mother would flex 
her body, cocking her tail for a blow to- 
ward the closest killer whale. They never 
attacked. From the cliff hut, Katy observed 
a nearby group of mothers form a ring 
around the calves as killer whales passed 
nearby. With their heads directed toward 
the center of the circle, they thrashed the 
water frantically with their flukes. Had 


Roger Payne 

Old-time whalers referred to the callosities on the right whale's snout 
as the "bonnet," below. The unique patterns of these callosities 
identify individual whales. Right: Usually most of the individuals in a 
mating group, like the one here, are males in pursuit of a single 
female that is the center of attention. 

any orca tried to get at the calves in the 
middle of the ring, it would probably have 
been killed outright. 

Females with calves appear to form the 
center of the herd in our comer of the bay, 
but over the years — through observations 
from the cliffs, boats, and the air — we 
have been able to piece together other in- 
formation about the herd's overall struc- 
ture and movements. Joining the primary 
mother-calf unit are subaduh males and 
females, whose mothers have given birth 
to new calves. After a few years of travel- 
ing with this group, however, young males 
disappear, perhaps going off to live with 
other males, while the females remain 
with the group until the year they give 
birth to their first calf, when they are be- 
tween five and nine years of age. We don't 
know where the females go between calv- 
ing years; we only know that they subse- 
quently reappear every three years on av- 
erage with a new calf. 

Covering up to twelve miles in a day, 
the herd doesn't take up a station at just 
any point along the shore, but moves back 
and forth along a fixed and relatively small 
stretch of the coastUne. Once estabhshed, 
the beat remains the same for years, usu- 
ally between headlands projecting out 
from the general contour of the coast. This 

behavior makes sense given the underly- 
ing acoustics, as points of land cast under- 
water acoustic shadows, and we suspect 
that right whales use sound as a means of 
staying together in herds. 

Along the most extensive sandy 
beaches of the peninsula, the mothers 
stretch out across the water each day like 
beads on a chain. Look at them in the 
morning, and the whole group appears sta- 
tionary, a mother every half-mile or so. 
Look again at lunch time, and sometimes 
the entire herd has moved as much as six 
miles, but their spacing is still more or less 
intact. Females appear to help themselves 
to the best areas — a long beach, protected 
from the full force of wind and storm 
waves, with a gently sloping sand bot- 
tom — and to push everyone else out, 
which is just what seems to happen. 

We have learned to identify individuals 
by callosities — patches of thickened skin 
distributed on the top, front, and sides of a 
whale's head — which make a whale rec- 
ognizable from all directions except from 
below. Callosities tend to be more devel- 
oped in males than females, and males 
seem to use their callosities for fighting, 
the way bulls use their homs — only not for 
gouging but for scraping opponents. 
Thousands of external parasites, called 

cyamids, or whale hce, cover the naturally 
gray callous tissue so thoroughly they 
make it look white. As the cyamids feed 
on the thickened, dead skin of the callosi- 
ties, they sculpt the tissue into distinctive 
forms. Another way to identify individual 
whales is by their distinctive white belly 
markings, ff we are diving in murky water, 
these bright white markings look almost 
luminous and are clearly visible long be- 
fore the rest of the whale looms into view. 
Callosities and belly patches probably also 
enable the whales to identify and recog- 
nize one another. 

Although the whales of Peninsula 
Valdes appear to be active day and night, 
mornings are their favored time for sleep- 
ing, and when the morning is especially 
calm and sunny, they are scattered 
throughout the bay like drifting logs, with 
the sounds of their snores filling the air. 
When their nostrils don't open and close 
cleanly, the snores sound like deep growls, 

44 Natural History 1/94 


^?^?^^^v _ :M^J ■■ ■-■'^X 



*r" - m 


-I ,.?^5^ 


which, when heard at night, may sound 
scary to the uninitiated. 

When a mother falls asleep in the shal- 
lows, the faUing tide lowers her slowly to- 
ward the sea bed. Often her flippers dig 
deep into the sand before she wakes up 
and moves. This leaves obvious flipper 
impressions, which, if the day is cakn, sur- 
vive the falling tides so we often can walk 
out to where the whale was sleeping and 
admire her flipper prints. As we stand be- 
tween them on the vast, draining tide flats, 
the scale of these marks is an eloquent 
statement of just how big the whales are. 

Aside from these tranquil activities, the 
whales are engaged in courtship and mat- 
ing when in residence at Peninsula Valdes. 
Surrounding the central core of mothers 
are groups of adult males, scattered widely 
about in the middle of the bay. They ap- 
pear to be doing nothing except for engag- 
ing in occasional bouts of furious breach- 
ing — ^possible challenges to the group of 

males that has taken up a position closest 
to the coast and with the greatest access to 
the females. We do not yet know exactly 
what is going on, but perhaps the males 
nearest the shore help reduce the pressure 
from other males on the mothers with 
calves (thus increasing the chances that 
calves will not be injured). 

There is no pair bonding, and on any 
given day a male may mate with several 
females. But since a female is slightly 
larger than a male, she can easily avoid un- 
wanted mating attempts. Whales mate 
belly-to-belly, so one of the female's 
strategies is to swim into shallow water 
and scrape the male off on the bottom. 
Once, when a male managed to squeeze 
himself under a female in shaUow water, I 
saw her flex her back dramatically so that 
her head and tail Ufted out of the water into 
the air, bringing many tons of weight bear- 
ing down on top of him. He left. 

Another strategy: Instead of lying beUy 

up, the female puts her tail in the air, hold- 
ing it there for minutes at a time. If the 
male is to mate with her in this position, he 
must put his tail into the air alongside hers. 
But without his tail to act as a propeller, he 
can't swim. He has to use his flippers to 
drag his whole body, held in a vertical, 
head-down position, around her as he tries 
to achieve proper alignment with her. 
Meanwhile, she simply revolves slowly 
about her own long axis, keeping her ven- 
tral slit just out of reach, and when she 
needs to breathe, she slips off to one side 
and grabs a few breaths. Whenever a per- 
sistent male tries to get beneath her, she 
roUs forward and raises her tail into the air 
once again. 

A male's testes weigh 2,200 pounds, 
making them the largest on earth (and par- 
ticularly impressive when compared with 
the 150-pound testes of the blue whale, the 
largest animal in the world). Presumably 
such large testicles have evolved because 


Rip Nicklin; Minden Pictures 

A mother and large calf rest in shallow water, below. A right whale, 
opposite, breaches off Peninsula Valdes. 

Roger Payne 

of the right whale's mating system, in 
which multiple males compete to insemi- 
nate the female. The one who gets the 
most sperm into the female will have the 
best chance of being the father of a calf. 

Yet by cooperating rather than compet- 
ing, males gain at least some chance of 
mating with a female. In our bay, we have 
seen groups of males stay together for pe- 
riods of at least six weeks. We are not sure 
yet how they are related or how they got 
together in the first place, but we have 
watched such groups try to push a female, 
who was lying belly up and inaccessible, 
under the water so one of them could mate 
with her. 

We suspect that many of the groups are 
made up of related males, hi a group of 
brothers, even if one whale gets less than 
his rightful share of successful matings, he 
still shares roughly half the genes that his 
more successful brother passed along to 
the next generation. If groups of related 
males are thus favored, this would explain 
why every year, for three years, some 
young males return to the same breeding 
areas to gather with their brothers. 

We've also noticed tliat while a mother 
discourages her calf from playing (be- 
cause the mother has to provide all of the 
calf's caloric intake at a time when she is 

fasting), she will allow her calf to play 
with subadults, at least some of which are 
her calves from previous years. In this 
way, two related males can get to know 
each other so that later, when both are sex- 
ually mature, they may become members 
of the same mating group. 

The sense of tranquillity, of hfe without 
urgency, power without aggression, has 
won my heart to whales. One time I 
watched a mother frustrate her calf's at- 
tempts at nursing by moving into shallow 
water where the calf could not get under- 
neath her to nurse — ^just the way she 
would lead a male into water too shallow 
for him to fit beneath her The calf still 
pestered her, so she rolled on her back, 
easing herself under the calf and cradling 
it in her flippers. She then came up from 
below, stranding the calf high and dry on 
her chest, and patting it slowly. 

As the season at Peninsula Valdes nears 
its end, the right whales ease themselves 
out through the entrance to Golfo San 
Jose, perhaps to rendezvous briefly with 
companions and acquaintances at Punta 
Norte and then set out across the vast 
South Atlantic toward eitiier South Geor- 
gia or Tristan da Cunha. I always wonder if 
I will see them again and what revelations 
I will be privileged to witness. D 

46 Natural History 1/94 




Thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats emerge at dusk from a 
cave entrance at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico. 

John Cancalosi 


* ^ 











Wings on Their Fingers 

Despite 50 million years of evolution, bats don't become expert fliers overnight 

by Rick A. Adams and Scott C. Pedersen 

^ i^J^'r 




r 1.V 



As the sun sets, we approach the exit 
hole of a maternity colony of little brown 
bats {Myotis lucifugus) that has taken up 
residence in the historic armory at Fort 
Laramie, Wyoming. This colony contains 
only females and young; the males gather 
in bachelor colonies several miles away. A 
few feet from the hole in the building's 
wall, we block the bats' exit path with our 
harp trap, a large metal frame vertically 
strung with more than two hundred wires 
spaced an inch apart. 

At dusk,^ several adult bats leave the 
colony to begin their nightly insect hunt. 
The first flies toward the trap, stops in 
midair, hovers, deftly backs away, and es- 
capes capture. A second adult quickly 
folds up into a cannonball, barrels force- 
fully between the wires, then flies away on 
the wind. Another shps through sideways, 
its wings perpendicular to the ground. 
Barely tapping the wires, it leaves us 
amazed at its split-second timing and acro- 
batic skills. 

Moments later, a juvenile exiting the 
colony awkwardly attempts an evasive 
maneuver, but hits the trap and drops gen- 
tly into a capture sack below. In quick suc- 
cession, several other juveniles tumble out 
of the exit hole, only to join their clumsy 
comrade in the sack. Within a few min- 
utes, we have bagged a dozen surprised, 
but unharmed, juvenile little brown bats. 

Bats, the only true flying mammals, are 
thought to have evolved more than 50 mil- 
lion years ago, during the Eocene period, 
from an insectivorous ancestor related to 
moles and shrews. Anatomists have 
known for at least three hundred years that 
a bat's wing contains finger bones of the 
same form, number, and relative position 
as those of the human hand. The scientific 
name for this mammalian order is Chi- 
roptera (hand-wing), implying that the 
bat's wing differs from other mammals' 
forelimbs only in shape and proportion. 
Indeed, each wing is composed of an elon- 
gated forearm and, except for the thumb, 
extremely long fingers sandwiched be- 
tween two thin sheets of skin. The diminu- 
tive thumb is left free. Elastic webbmg 
connects the fingers to one another and 













rV^ ■-!•■,. 






Bill Beatty 

Not yet able to fly, a juvenile little brown bat, left, clings head-up 
to a tree trunk. Wlien landing, older bats execute a flip that 
allows them to hang from their feet. Magnified ten times, a 
stained embryo of a little brown bat, below, about thirty flve days 
old, shows early bone development. Cartilage appears in blue 
and bone in red. Fingers have begun to elongate for their 
eventual fiinction as wing struts. 

Rick A. Adams and Scott C. Pedersen 

then to the body, forming a broad wing 
surface. A similar membrane spreads be- 
tween the legs and tail, completing an air 
foil that surrounds the entire body. Most 
insect-eating bat species strike the insects 
with their wings, then grasp the stunned 
prey with their feet. 

Juveniles are not as agile or maneuver- 
able as adult bats. One reason, of course, is 
simply inexperience, but restrictions asso- 
ciated with growth and development also 

handicap young fliers. Bats first attempt to 
fly when they are about four weeks old, 
but their wings are still underdeveloped. In 
some species, including most insectivo- 
rous bats, youngsters have only about 20 
percent of the adult wingspan. Yet in four 
weeks, the rest of the juvenile's body may 
have reached 60 percent of the adult size. 
This imbalanced development leaves the 
young in a precarious situation, for their 
early flights are awkward at best. In fact, it 

is not uncommon at our maternity site to 
observe what appear to be very disgrun- 
ded young bats walking back to the roost 
after having apparently, for whatever rea- 
son, given up on flying for that night. 
Their wings reach full size about forty to 
fifty days after birth. 

A bat's ability to fly is preceded by a 
long process that begins well before it is 
born. Although some researchers have 
studied the development of flight in bats, 
little work had been done on bone forma- 
tion in their wings. By focusing on the 
growth studies, we hope to shed light on 
the diversity and plasticity of the ancestral 
vertebrate body plan: four limbs, each 
ending in five digits. We are interested in 
the unique developmental events that 
allow bats to transform an otherwise "stan- 
dard issue" mammalian embryo into an 
airborne SiCvo-bat. 

To observe growth rates and the differ- 
entiation of anatomical structures in pre- 
served embryos, we used special chemical 
stains that migrate to difl'erent kinds of tis- 
sues, a technique that had not previously 
been appUed to the little brown bat. Alcian 
blue combines with certain sugars (rnu- 
copolysaccharides) in the developing car- 
tilage, while aUzarine red lodges in the cal- 
cium found in developing bone. After 
staining, the embryo is "cleared" using an 
enzyme (usually trypsin) that digests 
much of the remaining skin, muscle, and 
connective tissue. Now the embryo speci- 
men becomes translucent, allowing a clear 
view of the stained bones and cartilages. 
The final preparation is rather like a three- 
dimensional, color version of an X-ray 

In mammals, most skeletal elements 
begin as cartilage "models," or precursors 
of adult structures. As each bone develops, 
the cartilage becomes infused with cal- 
cium salts that will eventually form a hard, 
hollow matrix. As more salts are de- 
posited, the cartilage is eventually re- 
placed by ossified calcium, at which point 
the bone stops growing. 

Most bats develop in utero for about 
fifty to sixty days, but we began to see sig- 
nificant developments in the skeleton 


Stephen Dallon; NHPA 

A roosting little brown bat, below, exposes its daggerlike teeth, 
evolved for crunching the exoskeletons of insects. Right: A mouse 
fieesfrom a dive-bombing false vampire bat, a Southeast Asian 
species. Bats that feed on small mammals have stronger wings tlian 
do insect-eating bats but are less versatile aerial acrobats. 

Wayne Lankinen; Bruce Coleman. Inc. 

about thirty-five days after fertilization. At 
this stage, the cartilaginous model for the 
entire skeletal system had already formed. 
In fact, some calcification had begun in the 
lower jaw (dentary) and collar bone (clav- 
icle), as indicated by their absorption of 
red stain. The embryo's eyes, which had 
long been apparent as small black dots, 
now appeared as larger, hollow spheres. Its 
mitten- shaped, cartilaginous hands with 
incipient models of each finger were also 
visible. The hand was about one-third the 
size of the head, which is about average 
for many mammaUan species at this stage. 
No features indicated that this embryo was 
to become a flying mammal. 

Only near the beginning of the third 
trimester, about forty days into gestation, 
did the fetus begin to appear distinctly 
"batlike." As development continued, the 
fingers grew at an accelerated rate that 
outpaced that of the body — the first indi- 
cation of the formation of wings. We could 
now see bone at the centers of the hmbs; it 
would continue to be deposited outward 
toward both ends, which is typical for 
mammals. At this stage, we also saw cal- 
cification of the cartilaginous ribs, scapula, 
and the spine. 

Dramatic changes now took place in the 

fingers, which continued their accelerated 
growth until, just before birth, they ex- 
ceeded the length of the forearm. At the 
end of the third trimester, the feet were al- 
most fully developed; the toes and thumbs 
had grown claws. These little hooks will 
allow the juvenile bat to cling to its 
mother's fur immediately after birth. In a 
few more days, a newborn can hang from 
its feet in the roost while its mother leaves 
the colony to feed. 

Although the most striking feature of 
bats is certainly their wings, other anatom- 
ical features show a unique pattern of 
growth. The timing of their dental devel- 
opment, for instance, is different from that 
of most other mammals. Their highly re- 
curved milk teeth, which are apparent pre- 
natally, are probably adapted for grasping 
the mother's nipple while suckling. 
Whereas most mammals retain their milk 
teeth for months, some bat species lose 
these teeth soon after birth and have adult 
denfition even before they are weaned. In 
other species, the process begins before 
birth. The molars that really grind the 
food, and do not have milk teeth precur- 
sors, typically begin erupting in utero. 
This early start may mean the difference 
between life and death for young bats by 

52 Natural History 1/94 


A moth attempts an evasive movement 
as an echolocating greater horseshoe bat 
approaches. The bone development of 
these bats, which are native to Europe, 
Asia, and North Africa, is adapted for 
maneuverability in flight. 

Stephen Dalton; NHPA 

allowing them to ingest an adult diet al- 
most as soon as they begin flying. By con- 
trast, young mice must eat a soft diet for 
some time until their adult teeth come in. 

As the juveniles begin to be weaned, 
both their teeth and wings develop enough 
to allow attempts at hunting insects in 
flight. About a week after they begin fly- 
ing, they shift to the adult diet of moths, 
flies, and beetles. Now their teeth are ca- 
pable of masticating food, but young bats' 
abihty to capture prey remains limited by 
underdeveloped wings and inexperience. 

During the three weeks after birth and 
just before its first flight, a juvenile bat's 
wings develop faster than they did in the 
prepartum period. At the time of their first 
flight, the wingspan of a little brown bat 
may be only 20 percent of an average 

Because they receive elaborate parental 
care in the maternal roost, most newborn 
bats survive the first few weeks of life. 
After juveniles begin to take flight, how- 
ever, the mortahty rate soars, and most do 
not make it through the first year. Because 
a growing bat's wings change somewhat 
in size and shape practically every fime it 
attempts to fly, there are subtle but notice- 
able changes in wing performance. 

If someone were confinuaUy changing 
your car's power and cornering ability 
while you were learning to drive, you can 
imagine how difficult it would be to avoid 
disaster. An analogous situation exists for 
young, newly flying bats. 

Among insectivorous species, the 
young must quickly become capable of 
capturing enough insects to fuel a heart 
rate that exceeds 1, 100 beats per minute in 
flight. When grounded because of exhaus- 
tion or poor flight skills, the young are 
soon gobbled up by raccoons, skunks, 
snakes, or coyotes. But even though "de- 
velopment on the wing" is a highly precar^ 
ious adventure, more than nine hundred 
different species of bats have evolved 
throughout the world — about 25 percent 
of all living mammalian species. With all 
its perils and improbabilities, "batness" 
has been a tremendously successful en- 
deavor for these mammals. D 

54 Natural History 1/94 

Microdon pipen flies develop within small chambers called 
puparia, below, formed from the skin of the flies' last larval 
stage. A scanning electron micrograph, right, reveals the 
intricately sculptured surface of the larval skin. 

Photographs by Gregory Paulson 

♦ . •* 





56 Natural History 1/94 

A Fly in Ant's Clothing 

Beware of larval imposters 
by Gregory Paulson and Roger D. Akre 

As the sun rises, the dull thud of an ax 
echoes through a valley in northern Idaho. 
A group of elk, startled by the sound, 
begin to move purposefully toward the 
forest, when the sudden roar of a chain 
saw sends them headlong toward the shel- 
ter of the trees. The cause of this commo- 
tion is not another logging operation; 
rather, it is our research team in search of 
Microdon — the subject of our long-term 
study. Microdon are syrphid flies, also 
known as flower or hover flies, and they 
live most of their lives in the nests of so- 
cial insects. Although some tropical Mi- 
crodon live with wasps, the North Ameri- 
can species we study are associated only 
with ants. We have gathered them from 
colonies of carpenter ants and from the 
nests of Formica ants in stumps and logs. 
Hence the need for our sophisticated col- 
lection equipment: an ax, a pry bar, and a 
chain saw. 

Most of our coUecting expeditions have 
been carried out in the northwestern 
United States, particularly in northern 
Idaho. We have also "stalked" Microdon 
in the Midwest, from the Black Hills of 
South Dakota to the forests of northern 
Minnesota. While Microdon are fairly 
easy to find once you know exactly where 
to look, tiiey are not common. This prob- 
ably holds true for most inquiUnes, insects 
that reside in the nests of other insects. 
Most have a parasitic or predatory symbi- 
otic relationship with their hosts. Their 
strategy is to live in the midst of their 
hosts — and subtly live off them — without 
being detected. 

Each year we begin our studies as soon 
as the snow melts. Mature Microdon lar- 
vae overwinter deep within the ant nest. In 
spring, they move to the surface of the nest 
to pupate. This is when they are easiest to 
find and extract. If the ant colony is within 
a decayed stump or log, as is frequently 
the case, the larvae and pupae wiU be read- 
ily visible when the wood is split open 
with an ax or pry bar. Microdon, like all 
"higher" flies, pupate within a chamber, or 
puparium, formed from the skin of the 
final larval stage. The larvae secrete a glue 
that tightly bonds with the wood and holds 

the puparium in place as the pupa devel- 
ops and, later, as the adult emerges. Adult 
Microdon are quite hairy and range from 
gray to orange depending on the species. 
Microdon piperi adults are a striking 
metallic green and are strong and agile 
fliers. They live only long enough to mate 
and lay eggs, often in the same nest from 
which they fliemselves emerged. We are 
most intrigued, however, not by the beau- 
tiful adults, but by the biology, morphol- 
ogy, and behavior of the immamre forms 
of Microdon. 

Perhaps because of their sluglike ap- 
pearance, Microdon larvae were at first 
misidentified as mollusks and later as scale 
insects; their true identity as flies was not 
revealed until the 1880s. How they survive 
was long debated, but since the 1970s, sci- 
entists have known that some species prey 
on ant larvae. The extent and the exact 
mode of predation were unknown until 
1985, when one of the larval sttategies 
came to hght. 

In an experiment, Wilham Gamett, of 
the University of Cincinnati, placed many 
first instars (the first of three larval stages) 
in a glass-sided observation nest complete 
with host ants and their brood. Previously, 
most entomologists had thought fliat the 
first instars dispersed immediately upon 
hatching, settling deep within the ant nest. 
In this experiment, most of the larvae 
under observation had disappeared and 
were thought to be dead. One remained, 
however, and at about 1/32 inch long was 
visible only through a dissecting micro- 
scope. It was clinging to the outer surface 
of an ant cocoon. The magnification re- 
vealed the larva becoming rounder and 
rounder, as if it were exerting pressure to 
distort its shape. Suddenly, it was simply 
gone. A httle time and deductive reason- 
ing led to the conclusion that the larva had 
inserted its mouth hooks into the silken 
cocoon and created a hole large enough to 
allow it to enter. When the instar had ex- 
erted enough pressure and the hole was 
large enough, the larva quickly popped in- 
side (and a new term, "pupa poppmg," 
was coined). The disappearing larvae were 
simply inside the cocoons, feeding on the 


A larval Microdon, mimicking an ant larva, is grasped by an adult Formica 
ant, to be carried away for safekeeping. The papery cocoon just under the 
Microdon holds an ant pupa. 

Roger D. Akre 

ant pupae and molting into the next larval 
stage. The discovery of pupa popping 
proved invaluable to our work. It ex- 
plained why newly hatched Microdon had 
rarely been found before in the field and 
provided us with an efficient method of lo- 
cating them. Now, instead of searching for 
the fly larvae as we had in the past, we 
concentrate on collecting ant cocoons, 
which can be carefully opened in the lab to 
see if they contain Microdon. 

Microdon larvae, especially later 
stages, also feed on ant larvae, moving 
freely about the ant brood chamber as they 
do so. One day, some of the Microdon lar- 
vae that we had exposed in a tree stump 
provided us with another surprise. We saw 
these instars fold themselves lengthwise 
until they were practically indistinguish- 
able from ant cocoons. After this transfor- 
mation, agitated worker ants arrived, 
seized the impostor young, and carried 
them to the safe depths of the nest. We had 
discovered a most unusual case of aggres- 
sive mimicry. The ants perceived the fly 
larvae to be ant cocoons. The prey was 
tricked into protecting the predator. 

How were the Microdon able to accom- 
plish this feat? Chemical communication 
is important in ants, so we thought that this 
deception might be chemically based. 
Tests carried out by U. S. Department of 

Agriculture entomologist Ralph Howard 
showed that the chemistry of the outer, 
hard cuticle of the larval flies and that of 
the larval ants matched almost perfectly. 
On the outside, the flies were chemical 
mimics of the ant larvae. The ants merely 
mistook the folded Microdon for their own 
developing offspring and transported them 
to safety. Subsequently, we watched for 
and observed this subterfuge many times. 
We also saw ants carrying aggregates — 
whole clumps — of Microdon larvae, just 
as they often grasp and transport aggre- 
gates rather than single larvae of their own 

We wanted to find out if Microdon ac- 
quired these recognition chemicals from 
eating ant larvae or if they synthesized the 
chemicals within their own bodies. To an- 
swer this question, we studied Microdon 
albicomatus and one of its host ants, Myr- 
mica incompleta. In the spring of 1989, we 
collected 235 fly larvae; we washed some 
in a solvent to extract the chemicals for 
analysis and kept more than a hundred 
others alive for radioisotope testing. The 
chemical analyses confirmed that the 
chemicals on the surface of the Microdon 
matched those of its host, and radioisotope 
labeling revealed that a larva did indeed 
synthesize the chemicals to match those of 
its host — a case of true chemical mimicry. 

This chemical defense is employed only 
by Microdon larvae; adult flies are readily 
attacked and killed by the ants. The adults' 
defense is solely behavioral. They pupate 
near the nest surface so that they can make 
a quick getaway, and they tend to emerge 
early in the morning when worker ants — 
especially carpenter ants, which are 
largely nocturnal — are least active. 

We know that many species of Mi- 
crodon are host specific, that is, they reside 
with just one type of ant, but some can be 
found with two or even three different 
hosts. Microdon albicomatus, for ex- 
ample, has turned up in nests of several 
species of Formica ants, as well as in 
colonies of the unrelated genus Myrmica. 
We are still hying to unravel the relation- 
ships that occur with multihost Microdon 
and to determine if these insects can 
change their recognition chemicals in re- 
sponse to a change in host. 

Microdon larvae have a topography of 
odd structures covering the back of their 
sluglike bodies. Most highly developed 
and visible on mature, third-larval instars, 
some of these structures look like toad- 
stools, others like flowers, and stiU others 
are beyond analogy. On the underside of 
the larvae are other elaborate protuber- 
ances, some of which remind us of the 
"Schmoos" created by Al Capp in his 
comic strip LiT Abner. Although these 
structures have long been known, their 
function has not. We now suspect that they 
contain glands or glandular openings for 
secreting the chemicals that the larvae use 
to mimic their hosts. Since the surface is 
so convoluted, it would also present an 
enormous area for the dispersion of these 
chemicals. The reticulations may also 
physically deter attacks fi^om the host ants. 
Yet another possible function is as a recep- 
tor system for chemical signals from the 
ant larvae or from the adult ants. 

For all our educated guesses as to the 
secrets of these sdoictures, perhaps just as 
appealing is the suggestion made by the 
European entomologist E. Heckt in 1912 
fliat they are "a result of an exuberance of 
forms, which overrides with elan the bor- 
ders of the purely necessary forms." That 
exuberance and elan can be perceived in a 
larva is hardly more surprising than the re- 
centiy discovered chemical and behavioral 
ploys displayed by Microdon. 

Gregory Paulson is an instructor in the 
Program in Biology and Roger D. Akre is 
a professor in the Department of Entomol- 
ogy at Washington State University in 
Pullman, Washington. 

58 Natural History 1/94 



By Train 
July 9-16, 1994 

A rail journey through 
Mexico's mammoth and 
scenic Copper Canyon, 
or Barranca del Cobre, 
is one of the most breath- 
taking journeys in the 
world. Over four times 
the size of the Grand 
Canyon, Barranca del 
Cobre is a natural mar- 
vel best experienced 
along a rail route itself 
considered a marvel of 
engineering. Explore a 
remarkable region that 
has long been home to 
the Tarahumara, an iso- 
lated people whose abil- 
ity to traverse rugged 
terrain on foot is leg- 

August 8-21, 1994 

An African safari is an extraordinary experience and 
Kenya possesses some of Africa's best attractions: the 
famous herds of game in Masai Mara are spectacular 
and accessible; the views from escarpments embracing 
the Great Rift Valley are sublime; the semi-arid North- 
em Frontier District shimmers with magical light at 
dusk; and the morning air in the Aberdare Mountains is 
incomparably invigorating. August is a glorious time to 
enjoy the African bush and the abundance of wildlife 
found there. Join us for this special safari and discover 
the wonders and tremendous diversity of Kenya's finest 
game parks. 

Museum of 
i>&i^BM History 

Discovery Tours 

Join the American Museum of Natural History 
this summer on an exciting travel adventure 
designedfor the whole family. Discovery Tours 
has developed four travel opportunities, taking 
into consideration the diversity of interests and 
special needs of family travel. Lecture pro- 
grams for both children and adults will be held 
in tandem with Museum and guest lecturers 
who will help us explore and experience the 
natural wonders and traditional cultures of four 
spectacular destinations. 





July 14-25, 1994 

One of the greatest liv- 
ing laboratories of natu- 
ral history, the Galapa- 
gos Islands are unsur- 
passed in their primeval 
beauty. Sea lions, pen- 
guins, marine and land 
iguanas, seabirds and 
many other species of 
plants and animals, 
some of them unique to 
these islands, can be 
found here. Discover 
these remarkable islands 
as well as the magnifi- 
cent Andean highlands 
and the city of Quito in 
Ecuador, an ancient 
capital of the great Inca 

June 30 - July 13, 1994 

From classical Greek and Roman times through the 
Byzantine Empire, the eastern Mediterranean region 
has exerted an enormous influence on world history, art 
and culture. With exotic cities, magnificent landscapes 
and innumerable remnants of glorious ancient civiliza- 
tions, this region is one of the most exciting destinations 
in the world. Join us aboard the 174-cabin Daphne this 
sununer as we explore such sites as Ephesus in Turkey, 
Knossos on the island of Crete, Greece's Olympia. 
Akrotiri on Santorini and the acropolis on Rhodes, as 
well as the historic cities of Istanbul and Athens. 

Central Park West at 79th St. 

New York, NY 10024-5192 

Toll-free (800) 462-8687 or 

(212) 769-5700 in NYS 

ScffiNCE Lite 

Spring in the Air 

Sooner or laWr, scientists will get the message 

by Roger L. Welsch 

As I understand it, scientists watch for 
natural patterns and then try to determine 
exactly how they work and what they 
mean. Not that scientists are the only peo- 
ple capable of spotting bits and pieces of 
these patterns, which are often wide- 
spread. Take gravity, for example. Not 
easy to miss gravity. After all, it's not as if 
Newton invented gravity. Cave dwellers 
had to deal with gravity. Trilobites had to 
deal with gravity. 

Recentiy I've had to deal with springs 
(boing-boing springs, not trickle-trickle 
springs). Springs have suddenly and dra- 
matically inserted themselves in my life. 
Like the troglodyte or trilobite contemplat- 
ing gravity, I have had the uncomfortable 
problem, therefore, of sensing a pattern 
without being able to pin it down. See 
what you can do with my raw data and 
maybe someday they'll name a syndrome 
after you. 

It all started one morning when I was in 
my shop working on a tractor transmis- 
sion. I studied the technical manual in de- 
tail; I looked at the housing, levers, gears, 
and rods carefully and from every angle; I 
proceeded slowly and cautiously. The 
problem is, when it comes right down to it, 
I don't know anything about mechanical 
things, so in my case all of these precau- 
tions are bottom-Une necessities. 

Whoever wrote the technical manual 
must have taken his degree in the works of 
Jean-Paul Sartre. Nothing was obvious, 
even when it appeared to be obvious. My 
suspicions were aroused by the line in the 
manual that said, "Be careful not to lose 
the detente spring and ball." Maybe I was 
tipped off because the statement seemed 
clear and straightforward. Right — don't 
lose the detente spring and ball. Made 
sense to me. But hey, wait a minute. In the 
chapter on engines, the book doesn't say, 
"Don't lose the pistons," even though pis- 
tons are fairly important components of an 
engine. I know that much about mechani- 
cal things. So why go to the trouble of 

mentioning that I shouldn't lose the de- 
tente spring and ball? For that matter, what 
is a detente spring and baU? 

I looked at the accompanying diagram. 
An arrow numbered 46 pointed in the gen- 
eral direction of precisely where I was 
working in the transmission. Number 46 
in the Ust said "detente spring and ball." I 
checked the book's index; nothing about 
detente springs or balls. Gently I eased out 
the shaft that obscured the location, inso- 
far as 1 could tell, of the detente spring and 
ball. So far, so good. 1 used a little mirror 
on a flexible handle to see if I could find 
anything resembling a spring and ball. 
Nothing. It had to be inside something 
else, maybe behind the shaft. I eased the 
shaft out a little farther. Still nothing. I slid 
the shaft another quarter of an inch. 

And then it happened. I heard an ever- 
so-tiny ping and just out of the comer of 
my eye sensed — I didn't actually see it, 
only sensed it — something very small fly- 
ing at great speed out of the transmission 
case, straight out the open window six feet 
to my right, and into the two-foot-high 
grass. I didn't need the manual to tell me 
what it was. 

I had no more flian sputtered, "Well, I'll 
be dipped in..." when my astonishment 
was enhanced by the roar of my daughter 
Antonia riding by my shop window on our 
riding mower, throwing mangled grass — 
and presumably one detente spring and 
one detente ball — in every direction. 

I suppose a skeptical spirit would con- 
sider aU that a coincidence: "Big deal, you 
lost a spring and ball, it flew out the win- 
dow, and your daughter ran over it wifli a 
mower. You're not going to get a law of 
physics out of that, Welsch." Well, I'm not 
done with die story. 

The next day I went to Kerry's grocery 
store after picking up the mail, but to my 
surprise, Kerry hadn't opened yet. I sat on 
his doorstep waiting almost a quarter of an 
hour before he finally came rushing up. 
Here, verbatim, is what he told me: 

"Sorry I'm late, Rog. I can't believe my 
bad luck. I borrowed a lawn sprinkler from 
Dad yesterday. Of course he asked me if I 
knew how to use it, and of course I told 
him I'd have to be an idiot not to. You 
know, it's one of the 'chuck-chuck-chuck- 
chuck... sizzle-sizzle-sizzle' ones." Pivot- 
ing on his right foot, his right arm ex- 
tended, Kerry imitated a sprinkler jerking 
step-by-step in one direction and then 
quickly sweeping back. 

"Well," Kerry continued, "I wanted to 
adjust it so it would cover the yard but not 
hit the house, so 1 was prying away at this 
little lever thing under the sprinkler head 
and all at once, PING..." and Kerry's 
forefinger described an arc I knew all too 
weU. "This spring-thing flew about thirty 
feet out into the weeds. I just came back 
from Maurie Flembeck's place, because I 
heard he has a metal detector. If I don't 
find that blasted spring before tonight, my 
dad is going to kiU me." 

Right. "Just another coincidence." Still 
not convinced? Later that same day I was 
talking with my brother-in-law Gary and I 
told him what had happened to Kerry and 
me. And he told me about the time he was 
sitting out in a boat blind with Mick the 
Brick(layer) waiting for some ducks to 
come within range. Mick was showing 
him how you have to depress a little pin 
inside the chamber of certain shotguns be- 
fore you can slide the bolt out, and.. . . See? 
You've spotted the pattern too. That's 
right: a ping, a flash of hght, and a httle 
plunk in the water about thirty feet from 
the boat. 

I called up Mick to see what he had to 
say about the events Gary had described, 
and to verify my impression of an im- 
mutable pattern and potential law of 
physics. Mick confirmed Gary's account, 
but even more to the point, he told me 
about die time in Marine boot camp when 
the drill instructor was in the middle of a 
lecture on how to dismantle some weapon 
or another and said, "Whatever you do. 

60 Natural History 1/94 

ladies" — that's the way DIs talk — "what- 
ever you do, be sure you keep your thumb 
on that httle slot right in front of the set 
screw, because if you don't. . ." and at that 
point a spring leaped from beneath the 
thumb of the poor unfortunate sitting next 
to Mick. 

Mick used the very same word Kerry, 
Gary, and I had used — "ping" — and with 
his hand he described the lightning arc. 
Except in this case, since there were no 
weeds, grass, or water for it to land in, the 
spring found its way to the ceiling, direcdy 
to a twelve-foot-long fluorescent light 
bulb immediately over the drill instruc- 
tor's head. Mick says that even before 
some of the little pieces of glass had 
stopped rocking on the concrete floor, the 
DI hoisted the miserable miscreant by his 
collar and dragged him from the building, 
never to be seen again. "He's probably still 
carrying buckets of sand from one end of 
the camp to the other, even these twenty 
years later," Mick said. 

I think it is pretty clear: springs are not 
simply coils of metal capable of storing 
small amounts of energy for later release. 
There is substantial reason to believe, in 
my opinion, that springs can think. They 
do think. And their thoughts are consistent 
and malevolent. 

Scientists continue to turn their giant 
telescopes, antennas, and radiotelescope 
dishes toward space, waiting for a sign, a 
message, a clue that intelligent life exists 
"out there." I predict that sooner or later 
one of them will be adjusting the digital 
calibration retainer or, for that matter, try- 
ing to fix a cheap ball-point pen, and will 
see the sign, hear the message, or sense the 
clue he or she had looked for in the inky 
blackness of outer space: "Ping!" 

In fact, didn't I read somewhere that the 
last message from the Mars Observer was 

Folklorist Roger L. Welsch lives on a tree 
farm in Dannebrog, Nebraska. 



By Private Steam Train 
May 31 - June 12, 1994 

With exotic cities, magnificent landscapes and innumerable remnants of 
glorious ancient civilizations, Turkey is one of the most exciting destina- 
tions in the world. This spring, join the 
American Museum aboard a refurbished 
steam train as we explore this ancient 
land. Highlights include the fabled city 
of Istanbul, Turkey's capital, Ankara, the 
ancient sites of Ephesus, Pergamum, 
Heirapolis and Aphrodisia, and the 
bizarre formations and underground 
cities of Cappadocia. Join us for an 
extraordinary adventure through the 
Turkish countryside by steam train. 

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Name Phone ( ) 



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. Zip_ 


At the American Museum of Natural History 

The Accelerating Global Crisis 

Environmental and demographic issues 
in the next century will be the subject of a 
free talk by Paul M. Kennedy, the J. 
Richardson Dilworth Professor of History 
at Yale University and author of Preparing 
for the Twenty-First Century. The lecture, 
the first of a four-part, Tuesday-evening se- 
ries, will take place on January 18, at 7:30 
P.M., in the Main Auditorium of the Mu- 
seum. Other topics in this series include the 

rise of global cities on January 25; the role 
of ethnicity, religion, and nationaUsm on 
February 15; and the prospects for global 
renewal on February 22. 

In "Undesirable Elements," the eight 
members of Ping Chong and Company will 
dramatize their experiences of having been 
bom in one culture and now finding them- 
selves in another. The program will be pre- 
sented on Sunday, January 23, at 2:00 and 
4:00 P.M., in the Kaufmann Theater. Call 

(212) 769-5315 for information about this 
and other free events that are part of the Mu- 
seum's year-long program, "Global Cul- 
tures in a Changing World." 

Supernovas and Star Formations 

The life cycles of stars and the links be- 
tween stellar death and the creation of life in 
the universe will be discussed by Catherine 
Garmany, of the University of Colorado's 
Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics. 
The lecture, part of the "Frontiers in Astron- 
omy and Astrophysics" series, will be held 
on Monday, January 10, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets 
are $8 ($6 for members). For information 
about this and other Planetarium events, call 
(212) 769-5900. 

Sea Monsters During the Age 
OF Dinosaurs 

Gigantic aquatic reptiles that lived 245 
million years ago and were the world's 
largest predators will be the subject of a talk 
on Thursday, January 27, by paleontologist 
Judy Massare, professor of earth science at 
SUNY Brockport. This lecture will be held 
at 7:(X) pm. in the Kaufmann Theater. Call 
(212) 769-5606 for information. 

Drawings by Waurd Indians of two masks, 
a toucan, and a young tapir are on display 
in the Museum 's Akeley Gallery. 

Bob L Nugent 

62 Natural History 1/94 

The Coral Reef at Night 

The undersea transformations of a coral 
reef at night will be the subject of a talk by 
Joseph Levine, an associate in the ichthyol- 
ogy department at Harvjird University's 
Museum of Comparative Zoology and au- 
thor, with photographer Jeffrey Rotman, of 
The Coral Reef at Night. Levine's talk will 
be presented in the Kaufmann Theater at 
7:00 P.M., on Tuesday, January 11. 

Ancient Egyptian Jewelry 

Colored breast ornaments found in the 
tomb of Tutankhamen had particular sym- 
bolic properties for ancient Egyptians. 
Robert Steven Bianchi, curator of the Egyp- 
tian department at the Brooklyn Museum 
for fifteen years and author of Inside the 
Tomb of Nefertiti, will give a slide-illus- 
trated talk about ancient Egyptian jewelry 
on Thursday, January 6, at 7:00 rm., in the 
Kaufmann Theater. 

The Shoestring Players 

The tale of a prince journeying far and 
wide to find a cure for his ailing father will 
be performed, with three other folktales 
from around the world, by the Shoestring 
Players on Saturday, January 29. Using only 
minimal costumes and no sets, the Shoe- 
string Players call upon the audience's 
imagination to envision the props and 
scenery. The program, for children ages 5 
through 12, takes place at 1 :30 and 3:30 rm. 
in the Kaufmann Theater Call (212) 769- 
5606 for ticket availability. 

Designs of the Waura 

Since 1986, anthropologist Vera P. 
Coelho and artist Bob L. Nugent have en- 
couraged the Waura Indians of the Mato 
Grosso area of Brazil to reproduce in draw- 
ings the motifs of the ornamental art por- 
trayed in their body painting, pottery, bas- 
ketry, and woodcraft. An exhibition of their 
geometric designs, anthropomorphic fig- 
ures, mythological or supernatural beings, 
zoomorphic figures, and landscapes will be 
displayed in the Akeley Gallery, beginning 
on Friday, January 14, and running through 
Thursday, March 24. 

These events take place at the American 
Museum of Natural History, Central Park 
West at 79th Street in New York City. The 
Kaufmann Theater is located in the Charles 
A. Dana Education Wing. The Museum has 
a pay-what-you-wish admission policy. For 
more information about the Museum, call 

American Museum of Natural llistorv 


Cruising through Provence 

June 23 -July 3, 1994 

The Rhone River wends 
its way through Provence, 
one of France's most pic- 
turesque regions. Lov- 
ingly captured on canvas 
by Van Gogh, Gauguin, 
Cezanne and others, it is a 
beguiling region that 
blends history, culture 
and natural beauty to per- 

A team of Museum ex- 
perts accompany us as we cruise up the Rhone aboard the 5-star m.s. 
Cezanne from Martigue to Viviers. We will discover the splendor of 
ancient Rome as exemplified by the ruins in Aries, Viviers, Nimes and 
St. Remy's environs. Cities and towns rife with medieval remnants, such 
St. Gilles, Aigues-Mortes, Avignon, Les Baux-de-Provence and Aix-en- 

Provence, add to the his- 
toric atmosphere of our itin- 
erary. Not to be forgotten, 
we will also enjoy the sub- 
lime beauty of the country- 
side, including the magnifi- 
cent Luberon range and the 
isolated marshes and sand 
dunes of the Camargue. Join 
us for this special jour- 
ney through southern 

Museum of 

Discovery Cruises 

Central Park West at 79th St. 

New York, NY 10024-5192 

Toll-free (800) 462-8687 or 

(212) 769-5700 in NYS 


ITie Marl^t 




let available. Gallery of Prehistoric Paintings, 1202 
Lexington Avenue., Suite 314, New York, NY 10028 


DINOSAUR & HORSE-LIKE tracks found togetfier? 
Free sample newsletter. Anomanology, 10926-0 
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Display specimens, jewelry, books. Authenticity guar- 
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"FRIENDS OF THE MAYA" A national organization 
who's local chapters support individual Maya sites and 
archaeology If Maya culture and archaeology is your 
thing, dig in and become a member. $30. Box 241, 
Gladwyne, PA. 19135 


binoculars since 1923, Alignment performed on our 
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land of outstanding natural beauty the Isle of Colon- 
say. Traditional farmhouses and crofters' cottages 
available for holidays. April to October. Extensive 
wildlife, rare species of birds and wild flowers. 
Guided tours for naturalists. Walking, fishing, boat- 
ing and historic sites. Renowned Rhododendron 
garden. 5 hours travel time from Glasgow Airport 

TROPICAL MARCO ISLAND. Southwest Florida gulf- 
coast. Unsurpassed birding and marine life. Choice 
of accommodation, inexpensive to executive. (305) 

ADVENTURE CALLING! Outstanding wildlife safaris 
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tions alive with dazzling birds and tropical wildlife. 
Small groups, expert guides, guaranteed departures. 
Free Brochures! (800) 525-6772. Special Interest 
Tours, 134 W.26 St. (C) NY NY 10001 





camping safans In Kenya, Tanzania & Uganda. Kili- 
manjaro climbs, gorilla tracking, London/Nairobi over- 
land, more. Also extensive program of unique tours in 
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malayan Travel, (800) 225-2380 (24 hours). 

AFRICA: Personalized safaris in East and Southern 
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plan your Alaska vacation? Our informative 24 page 
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ALPS OF SWITZERLAND. 'The Hikers Paradise." 
Moderate optional length Day hiking, 1-3 weeks. 
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ralist guide. Stay at beautiful lodge/deep jungle camp. 
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800 351-5041 ■ 
P.O.BOX3656-C10 1 

1 Sonora, GA 95370 ■ 

64 Natural History 1/94 

ANCIENT EGYPT: Escorted tours, expert lectures, 
May and June 94. Itineraries from: Dr. Herta Jogland, 
Khemet Tours, WVSC, Box 100. Institute. WV 25112- 
1000 (304)346-2240 


You, 9 other adventurers and our licensed 
naturalist will soil by yacht to explore more islands 
than any other Galapagos expedition. 60 trip 
dotes. Machu Picchu option. Free brochure. 

Inca Floats' 510-420-1550 
1 31 1 -N 63rd St., Emeryville CA 94608 

accredited summer worl<stiops in Belize. Rainforest- 
ecology/Mayan Studies/others. Tel 011 501 92 2164 
FAX 011 501 92 2029. Maya Mountain Lodge. Box 
46. San Ignacio, Belize. 

Nature, Hiking and the Outdoors, Enjoying hiking and 
camping safaris, lodge stays, and island resorts in 
New Zealand's scenic National Parks and Milford 
Track; Australia's Outback, Tropical Nortti. and Great 
Barrier Reet. Pacific Exploration Co.. Box 3042-N, 
Santa Barbara. CA 93130 (805) 687-7282 


30 adventure and naturalist itineraries: 
nomads, tribal peoples, festivals, wildlife. 



Box #1147/ Dept NH, Carefree, AZ 85377 
Tel: (602) 488-3688 Fax: (602) 488-3406 

CANOE CANADA'S ARCTIC. Extremely remote fly-in 
canoe trips in Canada's Northwest Territories. Daily 
close-up sightings of wolves, muskoxen. caribou, 
moose. Wild-life biologist guide. Operating 20 years. 
Brochure. Canoe Arctic. Inc., Box 130C, Fort Smith, 
N.W.T, Canada XOE OPO 

COSTA RICA. National Parks, wildlife, birdwatching. 
rafting, beaches. Guaranteed weekly departures and 
customized itineraries. Free brochures. Terra Adven- 
tures. 70-15 Nansen St.. Forest Hills. NY 11375. 
(800) 53-TERRA. 

aboard comfortable houseboat. Snorkel, birdwatch, 
beachcombe. 3 day cruise/hotel vacations. Chic 
Charney, Box 295, Key Largo. FL 33037. (305) 453- 


._M< / Global experience, 

,10 exceptional guides and 

^' superior itineraries to 

?' over 30 destinations on 

j' six continents. Call for 

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The World leader 


ExcellenI boats. Plus Amazon & Andes. 


In-depth nalural history adventures. Small Rroups.f 
Voyogers, Depl. NG, Box 915, llhaca, NY 14851. ]-800-533-b299 

FRENCH DISCOVERIES. Exceptional inn-to-inn 
walking tours in Provence, the Loire, Perigord, Bor- 
deaux and Alsace. Tel (617) 424-9498. France: Dis- 
coveries. Salviac 46340. Tel/fax: (33) 65.41 .59.59 

GALPAGOS-AMAZON. Best choice of cruises: Luxury 
to Economy Combine with Indian markets or Amazon 
jungle. Free brochures. Terra Adventures, 70-15 
Nansen St., Forest Hills. NY 11375 (800)53-TERRA. 


Natural history wilderness float trips on a selection of the finest 
British Columbia and Yukon rivers. Each a unique experience 
highlighting a different combination of landscapes, waters and 
ecosystems Sunny forests, fjords and canyons Glaciers, wild- 
llowers and grizzlies Musk ox, nanwhal 8. gyrtalcon in the Arctic, 

Canadian River expeditions (604) 738-4449 

#31-3524 West 16th Ave, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6R 3C1 

GALAPAGOS ISLjANDS tours since 1979. Mainland 
Ecuador/Peru/Bolivia options. Joseph Colley, LAST, Inc. 
43 Millstone, Randallstown, MD 21133 (410)922-3116 

GALAPAGOS. Specializing in comprehensive, profes- 
sionally-led. natural tiistory and photo tours of the 
Galapagos Islands. Monttily departures/12 passen- 
ger yachts. Galapagos Travel. PO. Box 1220, San 
Juan Bautista, CA 95045. (800)969-9014. 

DANCE with the WOLVES'! 

pliv k'lii l'.i>''i iiii|''. I"i .11 h' '■ r .1 'i.i ■' ■ I ■!. I, . muskoxen herds, the great 
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and so riiuch more ,.al ihe Thelor. the most remote wildlife sanctuary in the 
world! Each 8-day program costs $3,450,00 USD from Minneapolis. Also 8- 
16 day canoe & rafi expeditions Besl references available. 




A 1-800^334734 

sia. Tours, treks, wildlife safaris. Huge selection. Af- 
fordable rates. Free color catalogs. Himalayan 
Travel. (800)225-2380 (24 flours). 

sensitive business documents. 475 international flights 
weekly Air Courier Association 1-303-279-3600. 

JOURNEY WITH WHALES along Baja California aboard 
the Pacific Queen. Gray whales, elephant seals, dol- 
phins; island, lagoon exploration: superb bird pfiotogra- 
phy. 8/10 day expeditions December-April. Pacific 
Queen/Fisherman's Landing, 2838 Garrison Street. San 
Diego. California 92106 (619) 726-2228; (619) 224-4965 

jr\ J J 1 J -^ jrl ^ 

In-depth group & private safaris. Excellent Guides. 
East Africa. Botswana, Namibia. 

VOYAGERS, Dept NH, Box 91 5, 
^^ llhata,NY1485]. 

jpf\ 1-800-633-0299 

MACHU PICCHU. Trekking the Inca Trail to Machu 
Picchu. Amazon lodges/cruises. Patagonia. Guar- 
anteed departures, customized itineraries. Free 
brochures. Terra Adventures. 70-15 Nansen St., For- 
est Hills, NY 11375. (800)53-TERRA. 

NATURAL HISTORY TRAVEL, Superb naturalist 
guides, small groups, outstanding itineraries: Tanza- 
nia, Galapagos, Everglades, Belize, Cost Rica, 
Trinidad, Amazon, Jamaica, Alaska, New Mexico, Ari- 
zona, Texas. Call for free brochure; Massachusetts 
Audubon Society (800) 289-9504 

personalized woridwide tours, small groups, wide in- 
terests. Warren Harden Tours, Box 720155. Norman. 
OK 73070 (405)364-6343. 

towns on tfie Rio Napo; learn about rainforest biology 
in a jungle school alongside Ecuadorian guides; dis- 
cover the changing lifestyles of the people who infiabit 
Amazonia. Small specialized trips to Ecuador, Costa 
Rica, Thailand, Nepal, and more. Myths and Moun- 
tains. 251 Cheswold Lane, Haverford, PA 19041 
(800)484-7422, ext 1184. 


Birds • Bears • Marine Mammals • Tidepools 

Pristine coaslal wilderness, glaciere. nesling eagles, rookeries, fishing. The 
world's best known photographers come to our deluxe lodge. Master chef, 
fresh seafood, winner of Harper's '81 and '89 Hideaway of the Year 20 
yeai3 of operation. Professional guides/naturalists. M950/peiMiy5 days 

Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge 

Box 956 NH. Homer, AK 99603 (907) 235-8910 

SOUTH & CENTRAL AMERICA; Overland & natural 
history tours, Amazon, Galapagos, Andean trekking. 
Free color catalog. Himalayan Travel. (800)225-2380. 

SWITZERLAND FREE hikers map of Swiss alpine 
trails. Mountain Hiking Tours from $700/week. Box 
655 Dept N Southport, CT 06490. 203-259-0178. 

TOUCH THE PAST - Join leading Souttiwestern Ar- 
chaeologists excavating Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) 
sites in souttiwestern Colorado. Journey to spectacular 
ruins. Hike, raft, and trek through dramatic mountains, 
mesas, and canyons. Explore the rich and diverse cul- 
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exciting workshops. Visit Native American artisans in 
their homes and studios. For complete program catalog 
call 303-565-8975 or write Crow Canyon Archaeological 
Center, 23390 County Road K. Cortez. CO 81321 
(please include $1 for postage). 



Interact with world renowned 
scientists. Experience a new dimension in 
rainforest conservation ■ the ACEER Canopy 
Walkway System & Amazon Biosphere Reserve. 
Feel excitement while witnessing nature's greatest 
spectacle on her mightiest river - the Amazon, 
8-Days. Departs March 19 & 26,1994.^ 
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Quality Natural History & Photography 

Trips - 20 Years Experience 


1696N Ocean Dr.. McKinieyville. CA 95521 
800-548-7555 or 707-839-0178 

TREAD LIGHTLY to the Amazon, Belize, Mongolia 
and more. Our wholesale airfares are light on your 
wallet too. 1-800-643-&060 (203)868-1710. 

WILDERNESS ALASKA — Small groups in remote 
wilderness unfolding the unique natural history of the 
Brool<s Range, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and 
Prince William Sound. Custom and scheduled back- 
packing, rafting and sea kayaking trips. Write Wilder- 
ness Alaska, POB 113063 NH, Anchorage, AK 99511 
(907) 345-3567 

Galapagos & Costa Rica Cruises 

Islands, Aa/nforests, Beaches FORUM 

& Vanishing Wlldllle — En/oy TRAVEL IKT'L 

Exotic Destinations on AFFORDABLE 510-671-2900 

Temptress Cruise/Land Adventures. FAX 510 671 2993 

Explore, Hike, Snorkel, Kayak, Dive, 91 Gregory Ln. #21 

Relax. Individuals, Groups, Families. Pleasant Hill, CA 

OUier Sensatlanal Destlaatloas. 9 4 5 2 3 

Morocco, Iceland, Madagascar and much more. 
Small group holidays for all ages. Call for brochure 
and Itineraries. Adventures Abroad 1 (800) 665-3998, 
24 Hours. 

Rates and Style Information 

$3.90 per word: 1 6 word minimum. Display classified 
is $425 per inch. All advertisements must be prepaid. 
Rates are not structured for agency or cash dis- 
counts. All advertisements are accepted at NAT- 
URAL HISTORY'S discretion. Send check/money 
order to: The Market/NATURAL HISTORY Maga- 
zine. Central Park West at 79th St., New York, NY 
10024. Direct any written inquiries to Eileen O'Keefe 
at the above address. Please include your personal 
address and telephone number, issue preferred, and 
suggested category. 

Waiting for custome I s m nunhein India. 

Dawn Starin 

Vanished Greatness 

by Paul D. Spudis 

Between 1961 and 1969, the United 
States chose to compete with the Soviet 
Union in the initial exploration of another 
world in the solar system, the moon. This 
epoch saw the emerging infant technology 
of space flight boldly pressed into the ser- 
vice of scientific exploration. Don Wil- 
helms relates this inspiring story from the 
perspective of both an observer and a par- 

Wilhelms's long career as a geologist 
for the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) 
has been devoted mainly to reconstructing 
the history of the moon by studying pho- 
tographs of its surface. He was involved in 
the geological training of the Apollo astro- 
nauts and in the selection of sites on the 
moon, both for the initial demonstration 
landings and for the later, more sophisti- 
cated scientific expeditions. But his princi- 
pal scientific contributions are in the area 
of historical geology, or the natural history 
of the moon preserved in its layered rocks. 
Like that of the earth and other rocky plan- 
ets, the moon's record may be read and re- 
constructed from photographs of its sur- 

The episodic story of how we came to 
understand the history and processes that 
have shaped the moon begins with the pi- 
oneering work of Grove Karl Gilbert, first 
chief geologist of the USGS, who mar- 
shaled evidence in 1893 that craters on the 
moon were formed by the colhsion of as- 
teroidal bodies. The largest of these im- 
pacts formed a prominent feature on the 
front side of the moon, the Imbrium Basin, 
a crater more than 600 miles across. 

Fast-forwarding to 1949, Wilhelms 
highlights the work of astronomer Ralph 
Baldwin, whose book The Face of the 
Moon got nearly everything right: that the 
moon's craters were formed by impact; 
that the dark maria were volcanic lavas; 
and that the surface of the moon was old — 
very old. 

After reading this book, Nobel Prize- 
winning chemist Harold Urey became ob- 
sessed with finding out more about the 
moon, which he believed was a piece of 
primeval nebular matter, unheated and un- 
modified since the creation of the solar 
system, 4.5 billion years ago. Urey cam- 
paigned for the scientific exploration of the 
moon, using the up-and-coming technique 
of rocketry, which had been salvaged from 
the ruins of a smoldering and prostrate 
Germany. Aiding him in this task was Ger- 
ard Kuiper, a heretic astronomer who was 

To A Rocky Moon: A Geologist's His- 
tory OF Lunar Exploration, by Don E. 
Wilhelms. University of Arizona Press, 
$29.95, 477pp., illus. 

interested in the planets and who treasured 
photographs as a source of data. 

Meanwhile, beginning in 1948, a 
young, energetic geologist was mapping 
the uranium deposits of the Colorado 
Plateau and dreaming of exploring the 
moon. From that point on, Eugene Shoe- 
maker devoted his career to making geol- 
ogy a part of the burgeoning and nascent 
lunar exploration program. Such an explo- 
ration strategy was far from self-evident: 
to Shoemaker, more than any other per- 
son, Wilhelms gives credit as the founder 
of an entirely new discipline, planetary ge- 
ology. Shoemaker went on to establish a 
branch at the USGS, created specifically to 
study the geology of other planets in the 
solar system and charged with mapping 
the geology of the moon to support the 
Apollo effort. 

The addition of geology into the mix of 
scientific subdisciplines involved in the 
exploration of space created an amusing 
and intriguing conflict of goals and tech- 
niques — a conflict that continues to the 
present day. Wilhelms carefully (and I be- 

66 Natural History 1/94 

lieve, objectively) recounts the fundamen- 
tal differences in the thought patterns and 
methods of those scientists who specialize 
in the "quantitative" sciences (such as 
physics and chemistry) and those who 
work in the "descriptive" sciences (such as 
geology and biology). Unraveling the 
complex history of a planet requires both 
approaches, but it is Wilhelms's thesis 
(and one that I completely agree with) that 
our fundamental understanding of the 
moon came more from the "descriptive" 
geological approach than from the highly 
mathematical conjectures of certain physi- 
cists and astronomers — Nobel Prizewin- 
ners notwithstanding. 

Once President Kennedy articulated the 
goal of a manned lunar landing, a space- 
faring infrastructure had to be created al- 
most literally from scratch. The story of 
the engineering involved in this heroic feat 
is recounted in several recent books (most 
enjoyably in Apollo: The Race to the 
Moon, by Charles Murray and Catherine 
Bly Cox, published in 1989 by Simon & 
Schuster). Wilhelms' great accomplish- 
ment is to complement these narratives by 
adding a perspective of science and scien- 
tific planning, including insider accounts 
of the fights, arguments, exhortations, and 
contributions of the scientists who were 
charged with the task of helping men land 
safely on the moon and then explore it pro- 

Although the idea of safely landing on 
the moon seems obvious to us today, in 
1962 perspectives were primitive, to say 
the least. Like medieval cartographers, 
some alarmists raised specters of dragons 
in "bottomless pits of dust" and of lunar 
soil so chemically reduced that it would 
explode when it made contact with the 
pure oxygen of the Apollo lunar module. 

Project Apollo was not merely a pro- 
gram to land men on the moon, it was a 
strategy for lunar exploration. Wilhelms 




Trace the story of the Andean peoples with this 

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first describes how we prepared scientifi- 
cally to go to tiie moon. This preparation 
involved mapping the moon (because all 
good explorers need maps), training the 
astronauts to be precise scientific ob- 
servers, and sending a variety of un- 
manned precursor probes to tell us about 
the nature, composition, and state of the 
lunar surface. These robotic probes were a 
boon to lunar science: they mapped, sur- 
veyed, tasted, and examined the moon on 
a variety of scales. They produced data 
that are still being analyzed as we continue 
to unravel the moon's secrets. But most 
importantly, they paved the way for the 
coming of Apollo and proved that the 
things people had to fear on this epic jour- 
ney were largely illusory; the moon be- 
nignly and patiently awaited them. 

Wilhelms next recounts each Apollo 
lunar mission in detail, including that of 
the hard-luck Apollo 13, which exploded 
on the way to the moon in 1970, nearly 
costing the lives of its crew. For each mis- 
sion, he describes the scientific prepara- 
tions (including the oft-contentious selec- 
tion of a landing site), the mission itself, 
what we learned from the mission, and 
how that information fit into our emerging 
picture of the history and evolution of the 

Each chapter is expertly and carefully 
drawn, and the scientific controversies are 
told at a level that makes them easily un- 
derstood by the general reader. We see 

through these pages how the Apollo sys- 
tem developed from a minimalist engi- 
neering test-bed into a robust and aston- 
ishingly capable exploration tool. This 
emergence was neither a foregone conclu- 
sion nor a fortuitous happening, but came 
about through the determined efforts of a 
dedicated group of talented engineers and 
scientists who, in my opinion, gave the 
American taxpayers the best value for 
their money that they have ever gotten, be- 
fore or since. 

Wilhelms sprinkles his text with many 
anecdotes. He has a fine eye for the char- 
acter sketch and a dry, understated wit; 
both tools serve him well in his description 
of the myriad characters, eccentrics, and 
occasional genius that this business seems 
to attract. We meet, for example, Dan Mil- 
ton, a geologist who applied for astronaut 
training, although colleagues who rode in 
a car with him as driver feared for their 
lives; Gordon Swann, raconteur and good- 
ole-boy, who nimbly jumped political 
minefields and ably led the field geology 
team for the Apollo 14 and 15 missions 
(which gready increased the scientific ca- 
pability and productivity of the Apollo 
system); and tlie inimitable Hal Masursky, 
a geologist who ran through obscure air- 
ports to yet another meeting (where some 
momentous decisions occurred) to look 
after the interests of the geologists. 

Some of the sharply drawn portraits are 
of the men who went to the moon: Neil 

In 1971, Apollo 's lunar-lander Falcon set dow n neai the moon 's Apennine Mountains. 
Vehicle tracks and footprints are visible in the foreground. 

NASA photo AS15-92-12430 

68 Natural History 1/94 

Armstrong, first man on the moon and one 
of the best and brightest of the "galvanized 
geologists," according to Wilhelms; Dave 
Scott, a test pilot who went bonkers for ge- 
ology and turned in a stellar scientific per- 
formance as commander of the first of the 
complex "J-missions," the enhanced 
Apollo science missions; and Harrison 
"Jack" Schmitt, the only professional ge- 
ologist to go to the moon, who got the 
chance that Gene Shoemaker missed — to 
swing his rock hammer on the boulders of 
the Taurus-Littrow Valley. 

The story concludes with Wilhelms's 
chapter describing what we have learned 
in the years separating us from the Apollo 
missions. That this can be adequately done 
in 20 pages (out of nearly 500 for the 
whole book) is no testament to laziness on 
Wilhelms's part, but rather a reflection of 
the pitiable state of lunar exploration dur- 
ing the last twenty years. America has not 
sent a mission to the moon since Apollo 1 7 
in December 1972, and the Russians have 
not done so since August of 1976. 

If all goes well, we may see some new 
lunar data in our lifetimes as the joint De- 
fense Department-NASA mission called 
Clementine, scheduled to be launched in 
January 1994, will map the distribution of 
minerals over the entire moon during the 
course of a two-month period. But this 
new robotic mission will not be followed 
by a marmed mission — or even any addi- 
tional robotic probes — in the foreseeable 
future. In 1989, then president George 
Bush's attempt to reestablish direction and 
purpose for our space program by caUing 
for a return to the moon floundered, and 
then sank, in a sea of media carping, con- 
gressional blundering, and parochial 
whining from the scientific community. 

Don Wilhelms has written the definitive 
history of the scientific exploration of the 
moon. Its lively and entertaining text in- 
forms and stimulates, but there are some 
slight flaws. The illustrations are not re- 
produced very well, and the place map of 
lunar localities used as the frontispiece is 
quite useless as the guide to craters and 
maria that it was meant to be. However, 
don't let these minor problems dissuade 
you from reading this book; from enjoying 
and savoring a distant time when America 
was confident, looked forward to the fu- 
ture, and did not shrink from challenge. 

Paul D. Spudis, a staff scientist at the 
Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, 
Texas, is deputy leader of the science team 
for the Clementine moon mission, to be 
launched in January 1994. 

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Michael Skre|mick 

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David Peters 
Mory Mueller 
David Mooney 
Ralph W. Miller, III 
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Celestial Events 

Lost but Not Forgotten 

by Gail S. Cleere 

As the new year begins, Mars is liidden 
in the solar glare, along with Mercury, 
Venus, Neptune, and Uranus. The Mars 
Obseiyer is hiding, too. All contact with 
the spacecraft was lost last August 21, 
after it had journeyed 450 million miles to 
reach the red planet. For several weeks, 
technicians tried everything they could 
think of to reestablish contact, but no re- 
sponse was picked up on NASA's Deep 
Space Network of antennas. Without con- 
tact, scientists have no way of telling 
where the spacecraft is or even if it still ex- 
ists. It may be uselessly orbiting Mars, or 
it may have sped past its destination on a 
path that will eventually take it out of the 
solar system. 

The silence began just as flight con- 
trollers at California's Jet Propulsion Lab- 
oratory sent signals to pressurize the 
spacecraft's propellant tanks in prepara- 
tion for maneuvers that would place it in 
orbit around Mars. Pressurizing the tanks 
required opening valves, which are oper- 
ated by firing small explosive charges. The 
resultant jolts may have caused the space- 
craft's main and backup clocks to fail si- 
multaneously when faulty transistors or 
wiring welds were jarred, crippling the 
craft's central computers and communica- 
tions systems. Transistors of the type used 
in the Mars Observer have failed on other 
spacecraft, such as the NOAA-1 weather 
satellite. A NASA committee has been set 
up to investigate the failure and to insure 
that no other spacecraft contains the sus- 
pect transistors. 

The loss of the Mars Observer has been 
a major setback for planetary scientists. 
The first spacecraft to visit Mars since the 
Viking landers touched down in 1976, the 
Mars Observer was to have mapped the 
planet from an altitude of 250 miles for 

one Martian year (687 Earth days). Its in- 
struments were designed to provide a 
wealth of data on the red planet's topogra- 
phy, atmosphere, climate, and geology. 
More than a hundred scientists were 
poised to begin analyzing the flow of data 
beamed to Earth — more data on the red 
planet than had been obtained from all the 
previous Mars missions combined. 

Some of the infoimation was crucial to 
planning future Mars missions that are al- 
ready scheduled. Another NASA space- 
craft, named Pathfinder, is due to land on 
Mars in July 1997 to carry out the Mars 
Environmental Survey Mission. Path- 
finder will include a lander and a rover 
carrying instruments and cameras for 
gathering information from the planet's 
surface. Scientists were hoping for more 
detailed images of the Martian terrain 
from Mars Observer to help them select 
Pathfinder landing sites. 

Last September, in the wake of the 
Mars Observer disaster, Daniel Goldin, 
NASA's chief administrator, challenged 
his agency to find a way to build and 
launch another Mars spacecraft by Octo- 
ber 1994, when the earth and Mars come 
into proper alignment (which happens 
only once every twenty-six months). A 
team of scientists was quickly put together 
to review the options. Thek recommenda- 
tion was to use spare Mars Obser\>er elec- 
tronic and instrument components, which 
were built as test models and backups and 
are now stored in New Jersey, and assem- 
ble them on a lightweight military satellite 
frame. The craft could have been carried 
aloft by the space shuttle and boosted out 
of the earth's orbit by rocket, or it could 
have been launched on a foreign rocket. 
Despite NASA's efforts, however, a new 
Mai'S spacecraft will not be ready on time. 

The Russians plan to take advantage of 
next October's window of opportunity to 
launch landers that will reach Mars in late 
1995. This mission will feature not only 
landers but also rovers that wiU traverse 
the terrain analyzing samples, as well as a 
balloon that will drift along dragging sen- 
sors across the Martian surface. NASA 
will have to wait until 1996 to launch a 
mission to Mars. 

The Planets in January 

Mercury is close to the sun at the be- 
ginning of the month. During the final 
week of January, however. Mercury 
moves far enough away to be spotted on 
the western horizon just after sundown. It 
will make a close approach to Saturn at the 
end of the month. 

Venus reaches superior conjunction 
wifli the sun on the 16th. It is then behind 
the sun. 

Mars is a morning object, but much too 
close to the sun to be seen. 

Jupiter rises a couple of hours after 
midnight and shines brightly in the south- 
em sky by dawn. The planet, now residing 
in the constellation Libra, continues its ret- 
rograde (western) motion across the sky 
and approaches Zubenelgenubi, the third- 
magnitude star that marks the right claw of 
Scorpius. On the morning of the 6th, the 
waning crescent moon stands weU below 
and to the right (west) of Jupiter, and on 
the 7th it will be well below and to the left 
(east) of Jupiter. 

Saturn is in Aquarius this month, rising 
in midmoming to the east of the sun. It sets 
in the west a few hours after sunset. This 
gives us a chance for one last look at the 
ringed planet before the sun's glare over- 
powers it. On the evening of the 14th, Sat- 
urn will be the bright, yellowish white 

70 Natural History 1/94 

"star" well off to the left (east) and slightly 
below the waxing crescent moon. The 
brighter planet Mercury will be near Sat- 
urn by month's end. 

Uranus and Neptune are in conjunc- 
tion with the sun on the 1 1th and 12th. 

Piuto is hidden near the tail star of the 
faint constellation Serpens, not far from 
Jupiter Pluto will remain in this position 
throughout 1994, making its way slowly 
eastward toward the constellation Ophi- 
uchus, and will remain closer to us than 

The Moon reaches last quarter on the 
4th at 7:00 P.M., EST; is new on the 1 1th at 
6: 10 P.M., EST; reaches first quarter at 3:27 
P.M., EST, on the 19th, and is full on the 
27th at 8:23 a.m., EST 

The Quadrantid meteor shower is one 
of the year's most potent. This shower ap- 
pears to emanate from a point between the 
constellations Bootes, Draco, and Her- 
cules. The name of the shower is from 
Quadrans Murahs (the wall quadrant), an 
eighteenth-century constellation created 
in a failed attempt to rename the classical 
constellations. The Quandrantid meteors 
are characteristically blue in color and 
leave long silver trails. The shower has 
been known to reach rates of 100 meteors 
per hour, but usually for only a few hours 
during the peak of the shower. This year 
the Quadrantids will peak on January 3 at 
12:00 noon, EST. Before sunrise on this 
date, the Quadrantids are likely to be only 
about a quarter as numerous as during the 
peak. The bright, waning gibbous moon in 
the sky will not help. Parent comets have 
been identified as the source of meteors in 
other showers, but not for this one. 

Gail S. Cleere lives in Washington, D.C., 
and writes on popular astronomy. 

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A Matter of Taste 

Pyramid Power 

The USDA has abandoned the four basic food groups, 
and confusion reigns 

by Raymond Sokolov 

More nonsense has been written about 
nutrition than any other topic so important 
to the survival of the human race. Fad 
diets promoted by doctors have cost wor- 
ried people billions of dollars and millions 
of hours... for nothing. Meanwhile, even 
the medical-nutritional establishment 
(MNE, pronounced mo-ney) has flip- 
flopped enough on this vital topic to erode 
the confidence of panicked laypeople. 

As a child, I watched apparently sen- 
sible adults go on weight-reduction diets 
heavily canted toward protein and shun- 
ning carbohydrates. My parents' friends 
would gorge on steak and other red meats 
loaded with fat and turn their noses up at 
potatoes and rice and bread. Then the bad 
news came in about cholesterol, so they 
dropped all that red meat and began peel- 
ing the skin off chicken. They dropped 
butter altogether, along with eggs, whole 
milk, and cheese. 

By and by, the news thundered through 
from the East that Asians, with very little 
fat of any kind in their diets, are less vul- 
nerable to many chronic diseases than we 
Westerners are. They also had lower rates 
of colon cancer because they were happy 
to eat foods high in fiber. 

These dire facts led more or less di- 
rectly to the boom for oat bran, which 
some studies showed provided an obvious 
source of fiber. (The phrase high fiber al- 
ways makes me think of high five, that ex- 
uberant greeting popularized by some 
African-Americans. After eating an oat 

bran muffin, I often suppress the impulse 
to give my wife a high five across the table 
to celebrate my dietary shrewdness.) No 
sooner had American cereal producers ad- 
justed to the demand for oat bran than the 
flighty world of official nutritional dogma 
came forth with an awesome and all-en- 
compassing ukase. In 1992 the U. S. De- 
partment of Agriculture made headlines 
and waves with the Food Guide Pyramid. 

Intended as a simplifying, graphic de- 
vice for representing modern thinking 
about healthful eating, the pyramid con- 
fused laypeople and infuriated profession- 
als in both industry and science. Leaving 
aside that the new symbol was not a 
(three-dimensional) pyramid but a (two- 
dimensional) triangle, the "pyramid" — 
with its four "tiers" and six "groups" sub- 
divided into eighteen categories of 
foods — was not a simplifying substitute 
for the old-fashioned system of four food 
groups that it was meant to replace. 

The old four groups (originally seven, 
but don't try to keep track; no nondietitian 
ever really succeeded) were all created 
equal, just like people. In a "balanced" 
diet, educated consumers divided their 
meals equitably between each group: (1) 
milk and dairy products; (2) meat, 
chicken, and fish; (3) grains and breads; 
(4) fruits and vegetables. 

From the modem point of view, this is 
not only a crude system but also a danger- 
ous one. It seems to recommend that we 
devote half our consumption to foods rich 

in fat and low in fiber (groups 1 and 2). 
The pyramid abandons this innocent pol- 
icy of apparent nutritional egalitarianism 
in favor of a frank elitism favoring carbo- 
hydrate sources over protein sources and 
demoting fat to pariah status. At the pyra- 
mid's broad base, the bread, cereal, rice, 
and pasta group is approved for six to 
eleven daily servings. The next tier up, 
narrower and by implication less worth- 
while, contains both the vegetable group 
(three to five servings) and the fruit group 
(two to four servings). Still higher up, tier 
three is divided between the milk, yogurt, 
and cheese group (two to three servings) 
and the meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, 
eggs, and nuts group (two to three serv- 
ings). At the apex of the triangle are fats, 
oils, and sweets, which we are admon- 
ished by the USDA to "Use Sparingly." 

Brief reflection should make it obvious 
why almost no one liked this new dietary 
polygon. Those who took it on its own 
terms wanted to know why foods of such 
different nutritional content as navy beans 
and porterhouse steak were put in the 
same group. The dairy industry wondered, 
with justice, why skim milk and nonfat 
yogurt should be lumped together with 
whole milk and cheese. OUve oil produc- 
ers didn't tiiink their product should be 
tarred with the same brush as lard and 
chocolate fudge. 

These were not just sectarian concerns. 
They raised real questions, but they did 
not go to file heart of die pyramid's prob- 

72 Natural History 1/94 


Exploring the world with expert lecturers 



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April 1-12, 1994 


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June 30 - July 13, 1994 


July 12-31, 1994 


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Alaska & the Russian Far East 
July 20-30, 1994 


Spitsbergen to Bergen 
August 6-21, 1994 




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June 30 -July 13, 1994 


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lem. The pyramid, by itself, did not di- 
rectly answer the most fundamental ques- 
tion it raised with its own jargon: What is a 
"serving," and how many servings from 
each group should be combined to make a 
dish or a meal? The poor consumer, al- 
ready bludgeoned by health statistics and 
doctors into supposing that cheese kills, 
was now confronted with an ostensible an- 
swer to the life-or-death question of what 
to eat, but the answer could not be under- 
stood and did not ever speak to the prob- 
lem of the well-meaning cook in a real-life 
kitchen. Just imagine the quandary of 
someone about to cook, say, spaghetti alia 
carbonara, trying to calculate how many 
servings of pasta or unsmoked bacon or 
sparingly grated Parmesan were in the 
total recipe and how many forkfuls equal- 
ing how many "servings" were consumed 
by each family member. And did the cook 
have to ask each one at the table what he or 
she had eaten at lunch so as to make the 
amount of noodles on the plate tally with 
that person's pyramidal goals for the day? 

Underlying all of this inevitable confu- 
sion was the fundamental question, what 
is a serving? 

This is not easy to find out. But if you 
can find a USDA pubhcation of August 
1992 called The Food Guide Pyramid, it is 
clear enough, in its way. "What counts as a 
serving?" it asks rhetorically. Well, it goes 
on, a serving of bread is one shce (thin? 
whole-wheat? egg chaUah? Don't ask). A 
serving of ready-to-eat cereal is one 
ounce, so get out your scale and don't be 
surprised if the amount seems mingy. A 
serving of raw, leafy vegetables is one cup 
(compressed or not? Who knows?), but a 
serving of fiaiit is only a half cup, while a 
serving of fruit juice is three-quarters of a 
cup, even though fruit juice is usually 
more concentrated than whole iruit. 

Logic evaporates altogether in the dairy 
tier. A serving of milk is the same as a 
serving of yogurt: one cup, no matter what 
the actual fat content of either. Utterly ab- 
surd is the cheese-serving guideline: one 
and one-half ounces of so-called natural 
cheese but two ounces of processed cheese 
(up with Velveeta, down with cheddar). 
And in the high-protein tier, the USDA 
wants you to believe that two to three 
ounces of cooked lean meat, poultiy, or 
fish, one cup of cooked dry beans, two 
eggs, or four tablespoons of peanut butter 
are fungible quantities — each is equiva- 
lent to one serving. 

Perhaps I have convinced you that the 
food guide pyramid is a snare and a delu- 
sion. If so, I'm not particularly happy 

about it. In fact, the pyramid makes me 
sad, in the way that every well-meant fail- 
ure to do good lowers one's spirits. The 
pyramid, to mix a metaphor, had its heart 
in the right place. Its bottom line (bottom 
tier?) was clear and valid: fat is bad; plant- 
derived foods, especially those made from 
grain, are good. 

Unfortunately, that message was lost in 
the pseudogeometry and semantic tangle 

i Karen Karp's Banana Bread 

Thiee flours combine to give this perfect 
tea cake its serious flavor. Karp is a 
restaurant consultant in New York. She 
recommends substituting six small fin- 
ger bananas for the three regular ones 
whenever possible. Remember that fin- 
ger bananas must be very ripe, almost 
mushy in the hand; otherwise they will 
be fibrous and unappealing. 

8 tablespoons (1 stick) wisalted 

butter, at room temperature 
'A cup sugar 

2 large eggs 

3 ripe bananas or 6 finger bananas 
1 tablespoon milk 

1 cup flour 
'A cup rye flour 
'A cup whole-wheat flour 
I teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
Sesame seeds 

1 . Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 
a 9 X 5 X 3-inch loaf pan and set 

2. Use a whisk or a hand mixer to 
cream tlie butter and sugar in a large 
mixing bowl until light and fluffy. 
Beat in die eggs one at a time and 
continue beating until the color of the 
mixture is pale yellow. 

3. In a small bowl, mash the bananas 
with a fork. Then mix in the milk and 
chopped nuts. 

4. In another bowl, mix togetlter flour, 
salt, baking soda, and baking pow- 

5. Add banana mixture to the butter- 
sugar-egg mixture and stir until well 
combined. Add dry ingredients from 
step 4 and continue stirring until the 
flour disappears. 

6. Pow the batter into the prepared loaf 
pan. Smooth and level the top. Sprin- 
kle with sesame seeds and bake for 
an horn- or until a toothpick inserted 

^ in the center comes out clean. Set 
I aside to cool on a rack for 1 5 min- 
utes. Then slide a knife around the 
edges of the banana bread to make 
sure it doesn't stick to the pan. 

7. Place a platter over the open side of 

of tiers and groups and servings. But the 
basic message is, in fact, the nutritional or- 
thodoxy of our day. Most people now ac- 
cept as common sense that densely caloric, 
easily storable fats are undesirable for 
people who typically live long enough in a 
sedentary manner to acquire cardiovascu- 
lar and other diseases associated with obe- 
sity and the accumulation of cholesterol. 
"Common sense" also dictates that grains 

the pan, invert, and unraold. Invert 
the bread onto a rack (so the top — 
the convex side that was exposed in 
the oven — is up) and let cool com- 
pletely before slicing. 

Yield: One loaf 

AU-Rye Banana Bread 

This is a somewhat less fiercely health- 
ful version of a recipe printed on the Ar- 
rowhead Mills rye flour bag. It has much 
less molasses and uses real milk instead 
of powdered. If you want the full-bore 
molasses taste, simply eliminate the 
sugar and use M cup molasses. The orig- 
inal recipe also suggested honey as a 
sweetener, another attractive option. 

4 tablespoons ('A stick) unsalted 

'A cup sugar 

1 tablespoon molasses 
3 eggs 

2 hatuiJias, mashed 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
% cup milk 

2'A cups rye flour 

1 teaspoon salt 

2 teaspoons baking powder 

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Oil a 
9 X 5 X 3-inch loaf pan and set aside. 

2. With a whisk or a hand mixer, cream 
the butter, sugar, and molasses. Then 
mix in the eggs, banana, vanilla, 
milk, and 'A cup water. 

3. In another bowl, stir together the 
flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir 
this mixture into the banana mixture 
until the flour disappears. 

4. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan 
and bake for 1 hour- or until a tooth- 
pick inserted into the center comes 
out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes. 
Then sMde a knife around the edges 
of the banana bread to make sure it 
doesn't stick to the pan. Place a plat- 
ter over the open side of the pan, in- 
vert, and unmold. Invert the bread 
onto a rack (so the top — the convex 
side that was exposed in the oven — ^is 
up) and let cool completely before 

Yield: One loaf 

74 Natural History 1/94 

and their derivatives offer a desirable al- 
ternative source of nutrition: cholesterol- 
and fat-free calories easily put to use and 
dissipated, and much fiber 

This was not at all the common sense of 
yesteryear. In 1968, that annus mirabilis 
of revolutionary thought and action, if I 
had suggested that a grain-based diet ex- 
tremely low in animal fat was the way to 
go, almost everyone (including the most 
radical) would have dismissed the idea as 
unhealthful and dangerous macrobiotic 
extremism. Now most of us have swung in 
that direction, at least in our minds. Why? 
How did it happen? 

In traditiontQ societies, new ideas per- 
colated downward from elites to a wider 
public. In our world, where novelty rico- 
chets from all sides at high velocity carried 
by the mass media, the rate of communi- 
cation is almost instantaneous, but there is 
still a vestige of tiie old top-down dy- 
namic. Serious medical and nutritional re- 
search has gradually convinced those ca- 
pable of rational thought that the 
low-fat/high-fiber theory is correct. 

Why didn't science reach this conclu- 
sion sooner? The reason is simple. To dis- 
cover the nature of optimal diet is not the 
same as learning to cure a disease. Disease 
kills dramatically, one person at a time, 
and it can be studied with efficiency in in- 
dividuals. Optimal diet reveals itself 
through statistics and must be studied in 
many people over long periods of time. 
The data are notoriously unreliable be- 
cause people are quick to lie about what 
they put in their mouths. But these ob- 
stacles have been laboriously and te- 
diously overcome. First came the evidence 
about obesity and cholesterol in the Fram- 
ingham Heart Study in Massachusetts. 
Then, decisively, comparative data arrived 
from China, and the discussion was, in a 
major sense, oven 

Since 1983, a joint Chinese- American 
project (by the Academy for Preventive 
Medicine in Beijing and Cornell Univer- 
sity) has investigated the diet of 6,500 
rural Chinese. The results show with dev- 
astating clarity the superiority of a plant- 
based diet. The average Chinese diet was 
only 10 percent animal based. Less than 
15 percent of the calories were derived 
from fat. Chinese ate a third less protein 
than Americans, and only about a tenth of 
that protein was animal. Americans got 
about 70 percent of their protein from ani- 
mals. Chinese fiber consumption was 
huge compared to American. Chinese, 
moreover, typically have about half the 
blood cholesterol that Americans have. 

And the incidence of heart disease and 
cancer is much lower in China than here. 

The most impressive — and depress- 
ing — statistics are tiiose that show the dis- 
astrous effect of modest increases in ani- 
mal-based food consumption on the 
Chinese sampling. Heart disease and can- 
cer rates climbed. 

All of this confirms the theory that ani- 
mal fat and animal-based foods in general 
produce the diseases rife in affluent West- 
em societies. This is a negative result and 
leads to a negative course of action: re- 
duce consumption of animal-based foods. 
But there is also a positive conclusion to 
be drawn and a positive course of action to 
be taken: Increase the intake of plant- 
based foods, not just as a desperate alter- 
native but as a constructive remedy, a 
restoration of balance in what we eat. 

I am not advocating a rigorous vegetar- 
ian regimen. But I do believe that all evi- 
dence points to a need for radical renova- 
tion of the way we plan meals, that we 
must find ways of de-emphasizing meat 
and of tilting the scales toward plant-based 
foods. Unwavering, true vegetarianism re- 
quires a moral commitment that only a mi- 
nority will embrace. 

Instead, we should be revamping our 
menus by choosing dishes rich in vegeta- 
bles and, especially, grains. Grains supply 
the food energy and the fiber we must 
have to survive. They are versatile, and 
they are major ingredients in thousands of 
recipes people already love. The trick is to 
put these grain-centered dishes at the cen- 
ter of our diet, rather than the periphery. 

Something like this has already been 
happening. The vogue of pasta is a key ex- 
ample. So is the fi-end toward Asian stir 
fries (despite insidiously high amounts of 
fat from the oil used in frying) and other 
dishes in which the central ingredient is 
rice and in which meat, when there is any, 
is a superaddition, almost a condiment. As 
this kind of eating becomes more com- 
mon, it will be less normal or mandatory 
to plan a meal around a cut of meat, such 
as a roast or a steak. This readjustment of 
attitude, moderate and gradual, will have 
the revolutionary goal of returning our 
meals to a pattern that has been the histor- 
ical norm for most human beings at all 
times everywhere. The battle will be won 
if ordinary Americans ask themselves: 
Should we have risotto tonight? Or barley 
with chicken? 

Raymond Sokolov is a writer whose spe- 
cial interests are the history and prepara- 
tion of food. 


Brown Bears of Katmai 

Alaska's legendary giants close-up! 

St. George, Pribilof Islands 

Huge fiir seal & seabird colonies! 

S.E. Alaska Wilderness 

Bears, glaciers, wilderness river! 

Alaska Spectacular 

A slice of Alaska's very best, from 
coast to mountains! 


PO Box 1 637C, Vashon, WA 98070 





Ecuador is a small country with 
dramatic topography, bountiful wildlife, 
incredibly diverse cultures, and eco- 
systems. Visit the tropical Amazon rain 
forests or the colorful Indian villages 
amid volcanoes in the Andean 
highlands. Explore the natural history 
wonders of the Pacific Coast home to a 
100 million year old petriried forest or 
follow in Darwin's footsteps on the 
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For your free copy of our Ecuador, 

or our otfier Latin America 

manuals, please contact your m^^,^ 

travel agent or call: SmSSmmS^^^^^ 

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The Natural Moment 

Ghost in a Snowstorm 

Gliding silently through the chilly night, a flying 
squirrel navigates a forest in Hokkaido, Japan's 
northernmost island. Although this species (Pteromys 
volans) is known as the European flying squirrel, it ranges 
throughout the coniferous forests of Eurasia, from Finland to 
eastern Siberia and the northern tip of Japan. Brown with 
white underparts in summer, its entire coat turns silver gray 
and silky smooth in winter. 

A versatile climber that is awkward on the ground (and 
avoids walking on it), a flying squirrel can glide as far as 
130 feet from tree to tree. A furry flightskin on the sides of 
its body, joined to the front legs and rear ankle joints, acts as 
an airfoil, while the bushy tail serves as a rudder. Active 
mainly in the evening and at night, flying squirrels eat birch 
bark and leaves, buds of coniferous and deciduous trees, 
insects, pine seeds, alder catkins, berries, and mushrooms. In 
winter, the northern populations feed almost exclusively 
on larch bark and buds. 

Photographer Seiichi Meguro has dedicated himself to 
photographing the squirrels, foxes, and other shy forest 
creatures near his Hokkaido home. Since flying squirrels 
habitually traverse the same routes on flieir feeding rounds, 
Meguro positioned himself near tiie sites of their regular 
flights. Focusing his camera on the area in which he 
expected a squirrel to leap, he clicked away when one 
appeared. Because the squirrels' movements are very rapid, 
Meguro finds it useless to follow tiiem through the camera's 
viewfinder. Working at night, when his subjects are most 
active, the photographer kept after the squirrels 
for five years before he was able to create this eerie winter 
nocturne. — R. M. 


Photographs by Seiichi Meguro 

Nature Production 

76 Natural History 1/94 







^^^Bi ^^^BI^^^H^' 


On the Trail of the 
Titans of Prehistory., 




\<K\SMt.\s\~im,f NATURAL IIIM^mt: 

Li lymimosa uiiis 


with the 

American Museum of 

Natural History 

The latest theories about the world of 
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Each title is 10" x 12" mid 32 pp., with over 100 
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To order, please send check or money order for 
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American Museum of Natural History 
Central Park West at 79th Street 
NewYork, New York 10024 
For MastercardA'isa orders, please call 



Richard Shine (page 34), shown here 
with a black-headed python, was bom in 
Brisbane, Australia, and has been fasci- 
nated by snakes and lizards since an early 
age. He used to keep several at home, but 
says "I now have enough of them to look 
at when I'm at work." The forty-three- 
year-old herpetologist has earned two doc- 
torates: a Ph.D. from Australia's Univer- 
sity of New England in 1975, and a D.Sc. 
fi-om the University of Sydney in 1988. He 
now teaches in the biology department at 
the University of Sydney. Shine's field- 
work has taken him from the chilly Brind- 
abella Range in southern Australia to 
northern Australia's wet-dry tropics. Shine 
says, "My skink studies combine two of 
my greatest interests: the biology of rep- 
tiles, and the ways that evolutionary 
processes operate. I'll admit to choosing 
the Brindabellas as a study area partly be- 
cause it has good trout streams (and I'm an 

avid fly fisherman), but the sad reality is 
that I've been so busy working on the 
fizards that I've never managed to even 
unpack my rod. Still, it's good for the soul 
to know that the trout are there." 

Roger Payne (page 40) earned his doc- 
torate from Cornell University in 1962 
with a dissertation on owls that locate prey 
in total darkness by sound. His research on 
owl and bat acoustics eventuaUy led him 
to study whales and to finding things out 
through observation rather than experi- 
mentation. An accomplished cellist by av- 
ocation, Payne is particularly attuned to 
the sounds and rhythms of whales. "I have 
been studying whales continuously since 
1967," Payne says, "and one must be con- 
tent to observe these animals with a 
metronome on adagio." Payne, who in 

1971 established what is now caUed the 
Whale Conservation Institute in Lincoln, 
Massachusetts, plans to continue investi- 
gating whale vocaUzations, as well as the 
effects of pollution on whales and other 
marine mammals. For more information, 
Payne recommends: The Sierra Club 
Handbook of Whales and Dolphins, by 
Stephen Leatherwood and Randall R. 
Reeves (San Francisco: Sierra Club 
Books, 1983) and Dolphins, Porpoises 
and Whales of the World: The lUCN Red 
Data Book, by M. Klinowska (Washing- 
ton, D.C.: Island Press, 1991). 

78 Natural History 1/94 

As a high-school student, Michael 
Boppre (page 26) took a summer job at 
the Max Planck Institute for Behavioural 
Physiology at Seewiesen, an isolated "sci- 
ence village" in an idyllic landscape in the 
German countryside. The atmosphere 
there — a satisfying mix of work and pri- 
vate life, with many interesting research 
groups and famous visitors ("most coming 

to see Konrad Lorenz") — convinced Bop- 
pre to "study biology and nothing else." 
When he did his university studies at Mar- 
burg, he continued to spend most of his 
holiday time at Seewiesen. A 1972 trip to 
Kenya sparked a great interest in the trop- 
ics and fieldwork. Now a full professor 
and director of the University of Frei- 
burg's Institute of Forest Zoology, Boppre 
continues his work in the interdisciplinary 
field of chemical ecology, which includes 
the study of behavior, physiology, mor- 
phology, taxonomy, and evolutionary biol- 
ogy. For more on butterflies, Boppre rec- 
ommends The Biology of Butterflies, 
edited by R. I. Vane-Wright and P R. Ack- 
ery (Princeton: Princeton University 
Press, 1 989), in which he has a chapter en- 
titled "Chemically Mediated Interactions 
Between Butterflies." 


A Train Journey 

Aboard the Red Prussian 

May 23 - June 4, 1994 

Join a team of Ameri- 
can Museum and guest 
lecturers next spring on 
a fascinating journey 
from Berlin to Istanbul. 
Following the tracks of 
the legendary Orient 
Express, we will travel 
aboard the Red Prus- 
sian from eastern Ger- 
many through Czecho- 
slovakia, Poland, Hun- 
gary, Romania, Bul- 
garia and Turkey. 

Along the way we will explore many of the grand and historic cities of 
Eastern Europe, including Berlin, Dresden, Prague, Krakow, Budapest, 

Plovdiv, Edime and Sofia, as well 
as some of the small towns and 
picturesque villages that have re- 
tained their rural charm. Continu- 
ing along the age-old route be- 
tween Europe and Asia, we culmi- 
nate our journey in Istanbul where 
the two continents meet. 

The privately-chartered Red Prus- 
sian, once used exclusively by East- 
em European dignitaries, is an ideal 
base for exploring this region. En- 
joy a front row seat from which to 
watch the beautiful landscapes and 
historic cities of Eastern Europe 

Museum of 

Discovery Tours 

Central Park West at 79th St. 

New York. NY 10024-5192 

Toll-free (800) 462-8687 

(212) 769-5700 in NYS 


Bat researchers Scott C. Pedersen (in a 

Costa Rican field, right) and Rick A. 
Adams (in Colorado, with a chiropteran 
friend, above) coauthored "Wings on 
Their Fingers" (page 48) despite the 3,000 
or so miles that separate them. Both are as- 
sistant professors: Adams teaches zoology 
at the University of Wisconsin at White- 
water and Pedersen is currently at the 
American University of the Caribbean 
School of Medicine, at Montserrat, British 
West tidies. Pedersen's lifelong interest in 
aircraft flight led to his study of biological 
flight systems. Some of his bat research 

has also focused on echolocation. Adams 
has had a special affection for bats ever 
since his childhood in Bethesda, Mary- 
land, when he accidentally killed one with 
a frisbee. ("Something about the twirling 
attracts them" he says, "and may distort 
the readings of their echolocation sys- 
tems.") The two met during graduate stud- 
ies at the University of Colorado at Boul- 
der, where they discovered a mutual 
interest in bone development. Adams is 
president and founder of the Colorado Bat 
Society, which is dedicated both to educat- 
ing the public about bats and to conserving 

Colorado species. For more on bats, 
Adams and Pedersen recommend Just 
Bats, by M. Brock Fenton (Toronto: Uni- 
versity of Toronto Press, 1 983); America 's 
Neighborhood Bats, by Merlin Tuttle 
(Austin: University of Texas Press, 1988); 
and Bats: A Natural History, by John Hill 
and James Smith (Austin: University of 
Texas Press, 1984). 

A former bus driver and car dealer, 
forty-three-year-old wildlife photographer 
Seiichi Meguro (page 76) nightly wan- 
ders the forests near his home in the 

Kamikawa District of Hokkaido, Japan, 
searching for suitable subjects. "I was fol- 
lowing some red foxes over a mountain," 
he says, "when I encountered an appealing 

little fellow — a flying squirrel — gliding 
from tree to tree." Fascinated, Meguro 
spent years observing the squirrels' habits. 
His "Natural Moment" photographs were 
taken near Takasu-Town on snowy 
evenings in January and March, when "an 
unskilled observer would not even have 
noticed the gliding squirrels." Using a 
Canon Fl, with a Canon FD 85mm fl.2 
lens, and two flashes (one mounted on 
each side of the camera), he froze the 
squirrel's flight on Kodachrome 64 film. 
Meguro takes photographs "in the hope 
that if people learn more about wildlife, 
they will not be so thoughtless in destroy- 
ing habitats for the sake of human conve- 
nience. Even a very small child does not 
step on vegetation if he or she knows the 
name of that plant." Some of Meguro's 
photographic sequences have been pub- 
lished in Japan as popular children's 
books. They include A Fox Called Boro 
and a Flying Squirrel Called Nenai 
(Tokyo: Gakken, 1984), and The Forest of 
Akkamui (Tokyo: Kumon Publishing, 

80 Natural History 1/94 

To Operate This Highly Advanced Training Equipment, 

It Takes A System Oi Sensitive Countemeights, Reinforced Suspension Cables, 

1934/1996 OIYMPIC GAMES 

It^ Everywhere \bu 
Want To Be? 

Natural hietory horary 
Received on: 01-10-94 
Ref 5.06(74.7)M1 

WeVe Desig 
A Protected Area. 

At Jeep, we're continually 
looking for ways to protect the 
planet, and we think we've come 
up with some pretty good ideas 
to protect one area in particular. 
It's the area known as Jeej? Grand 
Cherokee Limited. 

You see, the Quadra-Trac' 
aU-the-time four-wheel drive system 

See limited warranties, restrictions, and details at dealer. 'Always wear your seat belt. 

that can take you to the top of a 
mountain also helps keep you firmly 
planted to the freeway. Even when 
the weather turns wet or snow^. 

Jeep Grand Cherokee also has 
a standard driver's side air bag^and 
f^&p' standard four-wheel anti- 
^^^ lock disc brakes. And the 
.mli^ body of the vehicle is rein- 

forced with side-guard door beams 
made of ultra-high-strength steel. 
If you'd like to explore Jeep 
Grand Cherokee's protected area, 
please call 1-800-JEEP-EAGLE. 
■feur dealer would be more than 
happy to show you around. 

There's Only One Jeep! 


A Division of the Chrysler Corporation. 

Jeep is a registered trademark of Chrysler Corporation. 



•: • 

■■<f; ■•■« 

"' >^* 






>. -< 

," ;*» 





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any other. A wagon with a level of 
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Continual refinement makes 
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the look, ride and handling you'd 
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«- ;(•#«» 



July 12-31, 1994 

The North Pole, surrounded by more than 500 miles 
of drifting pack ice, has long been a coveted prize for 
explorers. Conquered only within this century, it 
continues to add names to an already illustrious list of 
explorers, among them Peary, Amundsen, Ellsworth 
and Nansen. The American Museum of Natural His- 
tory invites you to join a team of museum scientists 
for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cross the polar 
ice cap and stand at 90 degrees north. Sailing aboard 
a powerful Russian icebreaker, we will travel safely 
and comfortably to the North Pole, avoiding the 
extreme hardships faced by previous adventurers 
who had to travel overland and aboard ships ill- 
equipped for the ice. Along the way, we will search 
for walrus, seals, seabirds, whales, polar bears and 
other Arctic wildlife. We will also explore Franz 
Josef Land, a remote Russian archipelago where early 
Arctic expeditions wintered, and Norway's wildlife- 
rich East Spitsbergen. Join us for an unforgettable adventure. 

Museum of 

Discovery Cruises 

Central Park West at 79th Street 

New York, NY 10024-5192 

Toll-free (800) 462-8687 or 

(212) 769-5700 in NYS 


Vol. 103, No. 2, February 1994 

Cover: a. hawlcftsh hovers above an antler coral in 
the sea near Maui. Slury on page 50. Photograph by 
Andrew G. Wood; Photo Researchers, Inc. 

4 Nature's Infinite Book .lared Diamond 

Stinking Birds and Burning Books 

14 This View of Life Stephen Jay Gould 
In the Mind of the Belwlder 

24 Science Lite Roger l. Weisch 

Astrophys Ed 

"^ 26 Fire, Ice, and Eagles Text and photographs by Alexander Ladigin 
The American eagle's bigger cousin in Siberia has a taste for salmon, too. 

34 An UnSHAGGY Dog Story Alana Cordy-ColUns 

Twelve hundred years ago, traders from Ecuador may have introduced 
a walking hot-water bottle to Peru. 

39 A Lethal Gene 
42 Some Likje It Cold Bemd Heinrich 

Why would a moth choose to fly about on a winter day? 

50 The Case of the Missing Lobsters Jeffrey Poiovina 

Investigators solve a mystery in Hawaii by showing that no crime took place. 

60 Celestial Events Gaii s. cieere 

Baggitig the Little Green Man 

62 Reviews Steven Austad 
Reflections on Slime 

66 At the American Museum of Natural History 

68 This Land Robert H. Mohlenbrock 
Traverse Creek, California 

72 A Matter of Taste Raymond Sokoiov 

Through a Mill, Coarsely 

76 The Natural Moment Photographs by Michael S. Quintan 
The Quick and the Dead 

78 Authors 



A rnonllilv niasiazine of the Aniericiin 

Nature's Infinite Book 

Alan P. TfeRNES Editor 

Ellen Goldensohn Managing Editor 

Thomas Page Designer 

Board of Editors 

Robert B. Anderson, Florence G. Edelstein, 
Rebecca B. Finnell, Jenny Lawrence, 
VrrToRjo Maestro, Richard Milner, Judy Rice, 
Kay Zakariasen (Pictlires) 

Contributing Editors 

Les Line. Samuel M. Wilson 

Lisa Stillman Copy Editor 

Peggy Conversano Asst. Designer 

David Ortiz PicnireAssl. 

Carol Barnette Text Processor 

John Jeffers 

L. Thomas Kelly Publisher 
Bari S. Edwards General Manager 
Ernestine Weindorf AssI. to the Publishei 
Edward R. Buller Business Manager 
Gary Castle Circulation Director 
Ramon E. Alvarez Direct Mail Manager 
Judy Lee Asst. Circtilation Manager 
Brunilda Ortiz Asst. Fulfillment Manager 
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Primed in the USA 

Stinking Birds and 
Burning Books 

Want to make new discoveries in cliemical ecology? 
Talli with a tribal liunter 

by Jared Diamond 

Most scientists think of the golden age 
of iield biology, when explorers could 
travel to any part of the globe and count on 
returning with amazing discoveries and 
undescribed species, as a bygone era. The 
dwindling number of biologists who still 
journey to remote lands are suspected of 
doing it for the adventure. Other scientists 
would have us believe that biology's real 
discoveries today are being made in the 
laboratory, where molecular biologists are 
supposedly closing in on the secrets of life. 
Attention has also shifted to extraterres- 
trial space, whence some astronomers 
continue to await radio signals from intel- 
hgent beings on other planets. 

Actually, the vast majority of this 
planet's species are still undescribed and 
unknown. In addition, remarkable new 
knowledge has only recently been gained 
about many previously described spe- 
cies — such as the mouse that sheds its 
skin, the frog that broods its young in its 
stomach, the naked rat that Uves under- 
ground in colonies, the African monkeys 
that use different, gruntlike "words" to 
warn one another of particular species of 
predators, and the chimpanzees that use 
stone tools and wage genocidal wars. 

To scientists, these are exciting discov- 
eries. But they are not really discoveries, 
because much of this was already known 
to indigenous peoples. Technologically 
"primitive" peoples, who still depend 
heavily on hunting and gathering for their 
subsistence, routinely distinguish and 
name hundreds of species of local plants 
and animals and can recite the species' in- 
dividual life histories. The New Guineans 
who guide me in the jungle, for example. 

often point out plants that they use as con- 
traceptives, antimalarials, wound-healers, 
and abortion-inducing agents. 

Much of this knowledge would be com- 
mercially valuable in the outside world. 
As a result, drug companies hire ethnobi- 
ologists — biologists who study the folk 
knowledge of natural phenomena — to col- 
lect plants and animals for testing as 
sources of new drugs. Tribespeople tell 
ethnobiologists which species to collect 
and what to test each species for. The sci- 
entific study of the chemicals produced by 
Uving plants and animals is called chemi- 
cal ecology. A promising trend in conser- 
vation biology is for drug and chemical 
companies to buy "chemical prospecting 
hcenses" in remnants of the world's belea- 
guered tropical rain forests. 

The encyclopedic knowledge of the nat- 
ural world possessed by New Guineans 
(see "This-Fellow Frog, Name Belong- 
him Dakwo," April 1989, and "The Eth- 
nobiologist's Dilemma," June 1989) is on 
my mind now, as I have just returned from 
a month studying birds among the Keteng- 
ban people of Indonesian New Guinea. 
Showing the voluminous knowledge typi- 
cal of New Guineans, my Ketengban 
guides described the habits of 165 local 
bird species. They did not, of course, use 
English or Latin names but names in their 
own language, such as toktokpani, biila- 
biila, and amkeri-tololop. Much of what 
my guides told me I knew to be scientifi- 
cally correct; other things were new to me, 
but they sounded plausible. Some of them 
must have taken great acuity to observe. 

For example, one morning my one- 
eyed guide, Robert Uropka, claimed that 

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he had just glimpsed, high above our 
heads in the jungle, a small bird known lo- 
cally as mawe. Looking through my 
binoculars, I identified it as Lorentz's 
whistler and objected that Robert had al- 
ready applied that name to another bird, 
which I knew as the regent whistler. 
Robert then gave me a short lecture (in the 
Indonesian language that we shared) on 
the distinctions. "Yes, we use the name 
'mawe' for two different birds. This one 
lives high on the mountain, and the male 
and female have identical plumage. The 
other one lives lower on the mountain, has 
a different song, and the male differs in its 
black crown and yellow nape." I was flab- 
bergasted, because both sexes of Lorentz's 
whistler are so similar to female regent 
whistlers that even ornithologists poring 
over stuffed specimens didn't recognize 
them as distinct species until 1939. 

While Robert was demonstrably right 
about the whistlers, he also described to 
me some bird lore that sounded wildly im- 
plausible — stories of birds that stink and 
birds that act as living flytraps. But those 
stories, too, may be true; an equally wild 
tale, told by other New Guineans about 
supposedly poisonous birds, has just been 
confirmed by scientists. Such confirma- 
tion illustrates that major scientific discov- 
eries, perhaps of great economic value, 
await teams of chemical ecologists and 
ethnobiologists. The stories also carry a 
larger message about the tragedy of 
shrinking human knowledge. 

The recent "Case of the Poisonous 
Birds" has to do with three common, con- 

spicuous, and very noisy species of jay- 
sized New Guinea birds called pitohuis, 
which have been known to scientists since 
1827. Thousands of specimens are in the 
world's museums, and hundreds of tourists 
visiting New Guinea observe them in the 
jungle every year. I have caught hundreds 
of pitohuis in nets, watched and tape- 
recorded thousands, and published two pa- 
pers on their behavior. None of us "profes- 
sional" scientists suspected poison. The 
sole hint was a single sentence in a long 
book published in 1977 by the Kalam vil- 
lager Ian Saem Majnep, in collaboration 
with New Zealand ethnobiologist Ralph 
Bulmer. Detailing what Kalam villagers 
knew about each of 137 bird species living 
in their valley, Majnep wrote of the 
hooded pitohui, "Some men say that the 
skin is bitter and puckers the mouth." 

Pitohuis in general, and that sentence in 
particular, were far from the mind of 
American graduate student Jack Dum- 
bacher in 1989, when he set up nets in the 
New Guinea jungle to trap birds of par- 
adise. Hooded pitohuis got caught in the 
nets and had to be removed. In the process, 
the birds scratched Dumbacher's hands 
with their claws and bills, and he noticed 
that the birds had a strong, sour smell. 
When he licked off his wounds, his lips 
and mouth began to tingle and bum and 
then went numb for several hours. His 
New Guinea field assistants later told him 
that the hooded pitohui was "good for 
nothing, a rubbish bird" and was not to be 
eaten unless carefully skinned. 

The explanation began to emerge when 

New Guinea's rusty pitohui: common, noisy — and poisonous. 

Brian J. Coates; Bruce Coleman, Inc. 

Dumbacher sent dead specimens of 
hooded pitohuis to National Institutes of 
Health scientists for chemical testing. In- 
jection of pitohui skin or feather extracts 
into mice caused the mice to develop hind- 
leg prostration and paralysis, leading to 
convulsions and death in as Uttle as fifteen 
minutes. Dumbacher's belated discovery 
came as a real surprise. Although many 
other animals, such as monarch butterflies, 
were known to accumulate or synthesize 
poisons to make themselves unappetizing 
to predators, this was the first well-docu- 
mented example among birds. Presumably 
such would-be predators as snakes and 
possums would be driven off after one bit- 
ter, mouth-puckering lick of the pitohui's 
feathers, and the bird's sour smell and 
bold, orange-and-black coloration would 
help them remember the experience. 

Another surprise emerged when the 
hooded pitohui's poison was extracted, pu- 
rified, and chemically identified. It proved 
to be the nerve and muscle poison homo- 
batrachotoxin — a substance otherwise 
known only from a different continent and 
different vertebrate class — in South and 
Central American poison-dart frogs, so 
called because Indians use the animals' 
skins to poison blowgun darts. Homoba- 
trachotoxin is one of the most poisonous 
substances known, hundreds of times 
more powerful than strychnine. One 
hooded pitohui contains enough of the 
poison to kill more than 500 mice. How 
the pitohui's nerves and muscles resist its 
own poison is not known. 

The appearance of the same toxin in 
frogs and birds exemplifies, astonishingly, 
the phenomenon of convergent evolution 
at the molecular level. Just as birds, bats, 
and pterodactyls independently evolved 
wings, pitohuis and poison-dart frogs have 
converged on each other by evolving ho- 
mobatrachotoxin. The poison itself has no 
odor, so pitohuis seem also to have 
evolved some as-yet-unidentified, sour- 
smelling chemical to warn off predators 
before they can take a bite. 

Dumbacher and his colleagues identi- 
fied homobatrachotoxin not only in 
hooded pitohuis but also (albeit at lower 
concentrations) in two related species, the 
variable pitohui and the rusty pitohui. As 
its name implies, the variable pitohui 
shows far greater geographic variation in 
plumage than any other New Guinea bird 
species. Until now, no ornithologist had 
the faintest idea why two populations of 
variable pitohui, from opposite ends of 
New Guinea, are orange and black like 
hooded pitohuis; why some are uniformly 

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rusty, like rusty pitohuis; and why some 
have color patterns that differ from those 
of the first two. 

Now we have a clue: "Miillerian mim- 
icry," the phenomenon, well known in 
tropical butterflies, whereby several poi- 
sonous species share the same bold pat- 
tern. As a result of this mutual mimicry, 
each species benefits by the other's poi- 
son, because a predator that tastes and 
spits out one species thereby learns to 
avoid the other species as well. In the two 
parts of New Guinea where I collected 
pitohuis, however, not only did I smell and 
taste nothing after handling the birds my- 
self, but the local New Guinea tribesmen 
working with me also stuffed and ate them 
with no ill effect and volunteered no sto- 
ries about their being "rubbish birds." Per- 
haps the presence of poison varies geo- 
graphically in New Guinea pitohuis, and 
the variable pitohuis resemble the hooded 
pitohui, rusty pitohui, or neither, depend- 
ing on which species is locally poisonous. 

But the pitohui story has still bigger im- 
plications. All three pitohui species are 
leaders of wandering flocks, composed of 
several dozen different species belonging 
to at least seven different families. All 
members of the flocks are various shades 
and combinations of rust and black. And 
several flock members also mimic other 
member species' calls. Why? 

When I published an article on the 
flocks six years ago, I advanced the usual 
two explanations that ornithologists have 
invoked to explain convergence in oflier 
flocks of unrelated species: the mimicry 
may make it hard for a would-be predator 
to concentrate on foUowing any single po- 
tential victim and easy for each flock 
member to stay with die group. Now, as a 
result of the discoveries by Dumbacher 
and his colleagues, I have to wonder 
whether the flock members are also simul- 
taneously signaling or pretending to be 

And yet another big question arises. In 
the rusty-and-black flocks are individuals 
(mostly females) of at least fifteen species 
of New Guinea's most famous birds, the 
birds of paradise. Male birds of paradise 
have attracted much scientific attention 
because they evolved through sexual se- 
lection to have the world's most bizarre 
plumage. Females have drawn much less 
interest, their rusty-and-black plumage 
being much more conservative. But note a 
comment of feather collector A. E. Pratt, 
reduced by starvation nearly a century ago 
to eating a bird of paradise. He wrote of 
his dinner: "The most shocking flesh I 

have ever eaten. . .as bitter as gall. . .it was 
truly abominable, and after the first spoon- 
ful we got no further." While ornitholo- 
gists have been concentrating on the 
gaudy bird of paradise males and ignoring 
the females, could they have been missing 
another story of poison and Miillerian 
mimicry on a grand scale? 

Thus, behind one sentence in the ethno- 
biological literature lurked a cascade of 
major discoveries and questions: the first 
proven examples of poisonous birds; a 
case of convergent evolution at the molec- 
ular level; a case of Miillerian mimicry; a 
possible explanation for geographic varia- 
tion in plumage; a force behind mixed- 
species flocking; and a major selective 
force on birds of paradise. In retrospect, 
one might ask why none of the biologists 
who had read Majnep's and Bulmer's 
book beat Dumbacher to his discovery of 
poisonous birds. Undoubtedly, the main 
reason is that Majnep's clue was no more 
than a single, qualified sentence in a long 
book. Dumbacher discovered the bitter 
skin for himself and came across Majnep's 
sentence afterward. But there is also an- 
other reason: chemists aren't yet accus- 
tomed to asking New Guinea villagers for 
suggestions about promising research pro- 
jects. Here's one hint to chemists who may 
now be starting to regret their past over- 
sight: also buried in Majnep's book is a 
paragraph about the bitter, mouth-pucker- 
ing taste of the blue-capped ifrita, a New 
Guinea bird quite unlike pitohuis. 

In the case of the pitohuis, we now 
know that local folk knowledge was scien- 
tifically valid. Next, let's consider the 
"Case of the Stinking Birds." 

The case began one morning in July 
1967, when a group of New Guineans and 
I were sitting in a tent in the jungle, skin- 
ning some bird specimens that we had just 
caught. A Fore tribesman named Esa was 
working on a mound builder, a large bird 
famous for incubating its eggs with the 
heat of scraped-together mounds of rotting 
vegetation. Esa complained of feeling sick 
from the carcass's stink; then he abruptly 
vomited. This surprised me because the 
bird had been shot only that morning, it 
had had little time to rot, and the tempera- 
ture was cool. None of my field assistants 
had vomited over a carcass before, and, in 
fact, they had struck me as notably unfas- 
tidious in their wilUngness to eat birds that 
had been kiUed the day before. 

Another New Guinean present, who 
was more famiUar with mound builders 
than Esa or I, explained that they were dis- 
tinctive in stinking much sooner after 

death than other bird species. When I later 
traveled to the Solomon Islands, where 
mound builders are abundant, I was given 
the same information. My Solomon Island 
friend Alisasa Bisili told me the following 
traditional story of how his people hunt 
mound builders (called e-yo in Alisasa's 
Roviana language): 

If you want to eat an e-yo, here's what you 
have to do to cook it before it can start stink- 
ing. During the day, go into the jungle and 
look for a low branch with a white stain on 
it. That stain is the e-yo's droppings. The 
stain tells you that that's the branch on 
which an e-yo roosts at night. Then go back 
there after sunset with a pot of water and a 
bow and arrow. When you spot the e-yo 
sleeping on the branch, light a small fire on 
the ground directly under it, and set the pot 
on the fire. When the water reaches boiling, 
shoot the e-yo with your bow and arrow, so 
that it falls straight into the pot of boiling 
water. That's the only way that we can kill 
an e-yo and cook it soon enough that it 
won't start to stink! 

Mound builders aren't the only stinking 
New Guinea bird, as I learned in 1966 
when I took the Tudawe fiibesman Omwai 
to Utai village in the Sepik Basin. An Utai 
villager named Uteno had earned 
Omwai's dislike by threatening to poison 
him and by nevertheless coming to our hut 
every morning to cadge bu-d carcasses and 
tobacco. On this particular occasion, I saw 
Omwai give Uteno the skinned carcass of 
a giant cuckoo known as Menbek's cou- 
cal, and named pini in Omwai's Tudawhe 
language. I asked Omwai with surprise 
why he had given so much meat to a man 
whom he despised. Omwai explained — 
and I confirmed with my own nose the 
next time we shot a pini — that the pini is 
the only other bird that starts to stink as 
quickly as does a mound builder The gift 
of the pini was Omwai's revenge against 

We all know that dead animals smell 
bad, but we rarely pause to reflect on the 
smell's possible function. Think of any 
dead body as a potential battleground be- 
tween hyenas, beeties, other animal scav- 
engers, and many species of microbes, all 
seeking to digest the carcass for them- 
selves. If a hyena swallows the carcass, it 
thereby becomes unavailable to bacteria. 
Biologically synthesized poisons, bad- 
tasting substances, and evil-smelling 
gases are weapons of chemical warfare by 
which a microbe attempts to drive other 
microbe species and scavenging animals 
off the battlefield. The best-known such 
weapon is peniciUin, a potent chemical se- 
creted by a mold to kill bacteria (and now 

8 Natural History 2/94 






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one of the most valuable natural products 
ever appropriated by humans). 

For a microbe, a stinky chemical repre- 
sents a flag of possession. For a hyena, it's 
a deterrent. But what about the dead bird 
itself? If the bird had wanted to deter po- 
tential predators by a stink, shouldn't it 
have had to stink while it was still alive? 
Perhaps the post-mortem stink should be 
viewed as just a chemical weapon evolved 
by a microbe without any cooperation 
from the dead bird. 

Nevertheless, I'm suspicious because 
the only two New Guinea bird species that 
I've known to stink so quickly are both 
big, clumsy, noisy, slow-moving species 
that represent lots of meat for a potential 
predator, and that seem otherwise ill- 

equipped to deter predators. If you fill 
yourself with a stinking poisonous chemi- 
cal while you're still alive, you have to de- 
velop resistance to the chemical yourself 
You might find it much better to harbor 
potentially stinky microbes and keep them 
suppressed while you're alive, but ready 
to stink as soon as you die. Or you could 
design your tissue chemistry to attract a 
stinky microbe after you die. If a predator 
then makes the mistake of killing and eat- 
ing you, it will get sick and learn to avoid 
killing your relatives in the future. In the 
language of population genetics, that's 
called "increasing your inclusive fitness," 
or passing on your genes by aiding the sur- 
vival of relatives sharing your genes, even 
though you yourself don't survive. That's 

A female crested bird of paradise: does her plain plumage 
encode an untold evolutionary story? 

why animal parents risk their lives to de- 
fend their young, and why worker ants in 
an ant colony forgo reproduction. 

Naturally, all that I can offer at present 
to explain stinking birds is this speculation 
without evidence. It might prove to be 
nothing more than one of those "just-so 
stories" that biologists are often accused of 
dreaming up to provide a functional expla- 
nation where there really is none. But I 
have a clearly formulated, testable hypoth- 
esis. I propose that an ambitious chemical 
ecologist with a weak nose and strong 
stomach (1) measure the rates at which e- 
yos and pinis stink after death, compared 
with other birds, (2) identify the stinking 
chemical, (3) identify the microbe or en- 
zyme synthesizing the stinking chemical, 
(4) test the stinking chemical or other 
chemicals in a dead e-yo or pini carcass on 
various microbe and scavenger species, 
and (5) do feeding trials to see if experi- 
enced New Guinea predators avoid e-yos 
and pinis when given a choice of non- 
stinking, similar-sized birds. Might stink- 
ing birds prove to harbor another drug like 

The "Case of the Living Hytrap" is my 
other speculative example, designed to 
tantalize chemical ecology graduate stu- 
dents still searching for a thesis project. 
This case began one afternoon in August 
1965, when the Fore tribesman Paran 
brought in a Papuan frogmouth (yasa in 
the Fore language) that he had shot. As its 
name implies, this raven-sized bird has a 
very wide mouth reminiscent of a frog's. 
Supposedly, the bird is stiictly nocturnal, 
catches large prey like mice, lizards, and 
large beetles, and sleeps during the day. 
Paran insisted that this yasa, which he had 
just shot that afternoon, had been sitting 
motionless on a branch of a tree, with its 
mouth wide open. He explained that he 
had often seen yasas in that posture during 
daylight hours, and that insects flew into 
the bird's cavernous maw, attracted by a 
smelly, sticky paste on its palate. 

My first thought was, nonsense! If so, 
frogmouths would have achieved every 
species' evolutionary dream — getting 
food without work or cost. Then I reflected 
that there was indeed a cost, that of syn- 
thesizing the sticky chemical bait. On the 
other hand, a raven-sized bird would have 
to attract a lot of flying insects before its 
strategy of setting itself up as a living fly- 
trap could rate as successful. Then again, 
Paran was a cautious observer who had 
been right about everything else that he re- 
ported to me. My confidence in Paran in- 
creased when I read a note by an Aus- 

Frithfoto; Bruce Coleman, Inc. 

10 Natural History 2/94 


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tralian birdwatcher who had a pet frog- 
mouth, and who saw it sit during the day 
with its mouth open, snapping its mouth 
shut when an insect flew in. Since no fiir- 
ther information came to my attention, all 
I could do was to mention the behavior 
briefly in a book on New Guinea highland 
birds that I published in 1972. 

There the matter rested until last month, 
when my Ketengban guide, Robert 
Uropka. was lecturing me on the habits of 
birds. He eventually described a big, noc- 
turnal bird with a large mouth, convinc- 
ingly imitated the call of the Papuan frog- 
mouth, and called it sume in the 
Ketengban language. "And by the way," 
he said, "the sume sits during the day with 
its mouth wide open and" — 1 held my 
breath — "Binatang masuk sendiri!" he 
concluded in Indonesian ("insects fly in of 
their own accord!"). 

Does flie Papuan frogmouth really se- 
crete a chemical insect attractant and fly- 
catching paste on its palate? If so, I'd in- 
vest my pension in the stock of the 
chemical company that isolates and manu- 
factures the attractant and paste. Or did 
Paran and Robert and the Australian bird- 
watcher all misinterpret the frogmouth 's 
behavior? And did Paran misinterpret the 
paste on its palate? I've done what I can as 
an ethnobiologist; it's now up to a chemi- 
cal ecologist to confirm or explode the 
"Case of the Living Flytrap." 

We think of human knowledge today as 
undergoing explosive growth. In many re- 
spects, that's true. Laboratory biologists, 
for instance, are learning more about a few 
species that are superabundant — lab rats. 

lab mice, fruit flies, the bacterium Es- 
cherichia coli. and Homo sapiens. 

In other respects, though, our knowl- 
edge is shrinking. Over the course of mil- 
lions of years, humans throughout the 
world have built up a knowledge of their 
local natural environment so extensive 
that not even professional biologists can 
hope to capture more than a small fraction 
of it, and other members of urban and in- 
dustrialized societies can scarcely imagine 
it. At the end of the twenty-four days that I 
spent with the Ketengban people, I felt 
like a Philistine because I had so often 
nudged the subject back to birds when 
they began to talk of anything else. Even 
for very rare bird species, such as New 
Guinea's leaden honey-eater and garnet 
robin, they rattled off the altitudes at 
which the birds lived, the other species 
with which they associated, the height 
above the ground at which they foraged, 
their diet, adult call, juvenile call, seasonal 
movements, and so on. Only by cutting 
short the Ketengbans' attempts to share 
with me their equally detailed knowledge 
of local plant, rat, and frog species could I 
record even fragments of their knowledge 
of birds in twenty-four days. 

Traditionally, the Ketengbans acquired 
this knowledge by spending much of flieir 
time in the forest, from childhood on. 
When I asked Robert Uropka how, lacking 
binoculars and the sight oif one eye, he had 
come to know so much about a tiny, dull- 
plumed warbler species that lives in the 
treetops, he told me that as children he and 
his playmates used to climb trees, build 
blinds in the canopy, and observe and hunt 


.3^/1 ^tS\ )<|p 

up there. But all that is changing, he ex- 
plained, as he pointed to his eight-year-old 
son. Children go to school now, and only 
at vacation times can they live in the for- 
est. The results, as I have seen elsewhere 
in New Guinea, are adult New Guineans 
who know scarcely more about birds than 
do most American inner-city dwellers. 
Within a decade or two, drug companies 
carrying out chemical prospecting will 
have to go in blind, lacking guidance as to 
which of tens of thousands of species to 
collect or what to test each species for. 

Compounding this problem, education 
throughout Indonesian New Guinea is in 
the national language, not in Ketengban 
and the 300 other indigenous languages. 
Radio, TV, newspapers, commerce, and 
government also use the Indonesian lan- 
guage. While the reasoning behind such 
decisions is, of course, understandable, the 
outcome is that all but about 200 of the 
modem world's 6,000 languages are likely 
to be extinct or moribund by the end of the 
next century. As humanity's linguistic her- 
itage disintegrates, much of our tradi- 
tional, mostly unrecorded knowledge base 
vanishes with it. 

The analogy that occurs to me is the 
final destruction, in a.d. 391, of the largest 
library of the ancient world, at Alexandria. 
That library housed all the literature of 
Greece, plus much literature of other cul- 
tures. As a result of that library's burning, 
later generations lost all but the Iliad and 
Odyssey among Greek epics, most of the 
poetry of Pindar and Sappho, and dozens 
of plays by Aeschylus and Euripides — to 
mention just a few examples. 

The ongoing loss today that draws most 
public attention is the loss of biodiversity. 
In that loss, nature is viewed as the victim, 
humans as the villains. But there is also a 
parallel loss in which humans are both vic- 
tims and unwitting villains. Not only are 
species going extinct, but so is much of 
our information about fliose species that 
survive. In the future, no children will 
grow up in the forest, where they could re- 
ceive or rediscover that knowledge. Cer- 
tainly, professional biologists don't have 
the necessary time — I count myself lucky 
if I can spend one month every year or two 
in New Guinea. It is as if we are burning 
most of our books, while the languages of 
those books that remain become as lost to 
us as the undeciphered Linear A of ancient 

Jared Diamond is an evohttionary biolo- 
gist and physiologist at UCLA Medical 

12 Natural History 2/94 

NPG Statement on Population 

We Believe that the Optimum Rate of Population Growth is Negative 

We believe that the optimum rate of population 
growth for the United States (and for the world) is 
negative until such time as the scale of economic ac- 
tivity, and its environmental effects, are reduced to a 
level that would be sustainable indefinitely. 

We are convinced that if present rates of popula- 
tion and economic growth are allowed to continue, the 
end result, within the lifetimes of many of us, would 
inevitably be near universal poverty in a hopelessly 
polluted nation and world. 

We agree with Professor Herman Daly who has 
pointed out that the human economy is a subset of the 
biosphere, and that the current scale of economic ac- 
tivity relative to the biosphere is already far too 
large to be sustainable indefinitely. 

Stabilization Is Not Enoug h 

We believe that calls for merely slowing down rapid 
population growth, or for stabilizing population at 
present or even higher levels, are totally inadequate. 

Such proposals, while presented as a solution, fail 
to address the central issue: how to create a national 
(and world) economy that will be sustainable indefi- 

At present or at even higher levels of population, 
neither the application of science and technology, nor 
simplifying life-styles, nor any combination of the two, 
can offer any hope of reducing our impact on the en- 
vironment to a sustainable level. 

We Need a Smaller Population 

We recognize that our impact on the environment 
in terms of pollution and resource depletion is the prod- 
uct of our numbers times our per capita consumption 
of energy and materials. Thus, there are only three 
ways by which that impact can be reduced: 

• By reducing the size of our population by a nega- 
tive rate of population growth. 

• By reducing over consumption (in the United States 
and other developed countries) by simplifying life- 

• By reducing resource depletion and pollution per 
unit of consumption through more efficient use of 
energy and materials. 

Population size is by far the most critical of those 
three variables. Nevertheless, our present scale of 
economic activity is so large relative to the biosphere 
that all three measures are needed in order to re- 
duce it to a sustainable level. 

An Urgent Need 

Over 20 years ago, when our U.S. population was 
far smaller, (about 202 million, rather than our present 
260 million), Professor John Holdren correctly saw the 
urgent need for a negative rate of population growth. 
At that time he wrote, 

"...What is surprising... is that there is not more 
agreement concerning what the rate of change of popu- 
lation size should be. For given the uncertain, but pos- 
sibly grave, risks associated with substantially increas- 
ing our impact on the environment, and given that 
population growth aggravates or impedes the solution 
of a wide variety of other problems... it should be ob- 
vious that the optimum rate of population growth is 
zero or negative until such time as the uncertainties 
have been removed and the problems solved." 

A Population Goal for Our Country 

We must have, first of all, a nationally-determined 
population goal for our country, accompanied by effec- 
tive policies to achieve it. 

We urge Congress and President Clinton to set, as 
a top priority national goal, the achievement of a nega- 
tive rate of population growth for the United States 
until such time as the scale of our economic activ- 
ity is reduced to a sustainable level. 

We also call on our political leaders to urge other 
nations to pursue a similar goal. 

Please help us build broad public support for 
a national policy to achieve a negative rate of 
population growth. 

NPG is a nonprofit, national membership orga- 
nization established in 1972. We are the only orga- 
nization that calls for a smaller U.S. and world 
population, and recommends specific, realistic 
measures to achieve those goals. 

Contributions to NPG are tax deductible to the 
extent the law allows. As reported to the IRS on our 
most recent Form 990, our fundraising and admin- 
istrative expense was only 13.3 percent of our total 

YES! I want to become a member of NPG, and help 
you work toward a smaller U.S. and world population. 
I am enclosing my check for annual membership dues. 

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Tffls View of Liff 

In the Mind of the Beholder 

For one observer, the fossil record reveals "a world stunning and fascinating 
in its chaotic complexity and historical genesis " 

by Stephen Jay Gould 

A variety of ancient mottoes proclaims 
thiat no principle of aesthetics can specify 
the gorgeous and the ugly to everyone's 
satisfaction. "Beauty," we are told, "is in 
the eye of the beholder"; "There is no ac- 
counting for tastes" — an observation old 
enough to have a classical Latin original, 
De gustibus non disputandum, and suffi- 
ciently universal to boast a trendier ver- 
sion in our current vernacular, "Different 
strokes for different folks." 

Science, by contrast, is supposed to be 
an objective enterprise, with common cri- 
teria of procedure and standards of evi- 
dence that should lead all people of good 
will to accept a documented conclusion. I 
do not, of course, deny a genuine differ- 
ence between aesthetics and science on 
this score: we have truly discovered — as a 
fact of the external world, not a preference 
of our psyches — that the earth revolves 
around the sun and that evolution happens; 
but we will never reach consensus on 
whether Bach or Brahms was the greater 
composer (nor would scholars in the field 
of aesthetics ask so foolish a question). 

But I would also reject any claim that 
personal preference, the root of aesthetic 
judgment, does not play a key role in sci- 
ence. True, the world is indifferent to our 
hopes — and fire bums whether we like it 
or not. But our ways of learning about the 
world are strongly influenced by the social 
preconceptions and biased modes of 
thinking that each scientist must apply to 
any problem. The stereotype of a fully ra- 
tional and objective "scientific method," 
with individual scientists as logical (and 
interchangeable) robots, is self-serving 

Historians and philosophers of science 
often make a distinction between the logic 
and psychologic of a scientific conclu- 

sion — or "context of justification" and 
"context of discovery" in the jargon. After 
conclusions are firmly in place, a logical 
pathway can be traced from data through 
principles of reasoning to results and new 
theories — context of justification. But sci- 
entists who make the discovery rarely fol- 
low the optimal pathway of subsequent 
logical reconstruction. Scientists reach 
conclusions for the damnedest of reasons: 
intuitions, guesses, redirections after wild 
goose chases, all combined with a dollop 
of rigorous obsei"vation and logical rea- 
soning to be sure — context of discovery. 

This messy and personal side of science 
should not be disparaged or covered up by 
scientists for two major reasons. First, sci- 
entists should proudly show this human 
face to display their kinship with all other 
modes of creative human thought. (The 
myth of a separate mode based on rigorous 
objectivity and arcane, largely mathema- 
tical knowledge, vouchsafed only to the 
initiated, may provide some immediate 
benefits in bamboozling a public to regard 
us as a new priesthood, but must ulti- 
mately prove harmful in erecting barriers 
to truly friendly understanding and in 
falsely persuading so many students that 
science lies beyond their capabilities.) 
Second, while biases and preferences 
often impede understanding, these mental 
idiosyncrasies may also serve as powerful, 
if quirky and personal, guides to solutions. 
C. S. Peirce (1839-1914), America's 
greatest philosopher of science, even 
coined a word to express the imaginative 
mode of reasoning involved in such men- 
tal leaping: abduction, or leading from 
(one place to another), to confi-ast with the 
more sedate and classical modes of deduc- 
tion, or logical sequencing, and induction, 
or generahzation from accumulated par- 

ticulars (all from the Latin ducere, to lead). 

This general theme leapt (or crept) into 
my mind as I contemplated the three 
hottest paleontological news items of 1993 
(I am purposely excluding Jurassic Park, 
and anything else with the slightest odor 
of dinosaur, for personal reasons of over- 
saturation to the point of brontosaurian 
boredom; if someone could grant me a 
two-year's sabbatical from all contact with 
them, I might even like dinosaurs again.) 
In particular, I noted a discordance, com- 
mon to all three items, between their cov- 
erage in the press and my personal reac- 
tion to the claims. All three were described 
as particularly surprising (they would not 
have ranked as "hot" items otherwise) — 
whereas I found each claim intensely in- 
teresting but entirely expected. This led 
me, naturally, to wonder why these (to me) 
perfectiy reasonable claims seemed so un- 
usual to others. 

One might posit that my lack of surprise 
only recorded the professional knowledge 
of all practicing paleontologists — and tiiat 
the discordance therefore lies between 
public and professional perception (thus 
reinforcing the myth of an arcane and en- 
lightened priesthood of scientists). But 
many, probably most, of my professional 
colleagues were surprised as well — so the 
reasons for my expectations must be 
sought elsewhere. 

I then recognized an abstract linkage 
among the three news items and finally 
understood the coordinated source of my 
complacency and the surprise of others. 
On an overt level, the three items could not 
be more different — for they span a maxi- 
mal range of time and subject in the evolu- 
tionary history of multicellular animals 
(and this disparity provides an added ben- 
efit in making their conjunction a good 

14 Natural History 2/94 



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theme for an essay — so my literary thanks 
go out to them as well). The first item 
comes from the very beginning, the sec- 
ond from the middle, and the third from 
the latest moment in the history of animal 
life. The three seem just as different in sub- 
ject — for the first examines evolutionary 
rate; the second, interaction among organ- 
isms; and the third, biogeography, or place 
of origin for a key species. 

But the three stories are linked at a level 
sufficiently abstract to evoke the underly- 
ing attitudes so basic to one's particular 
being that popular culture speaks of a per- 
son's "philosophy of life," or "worldview." 
Scholars have also struggled with this no- 
tion of a personal or social model so per- 
vasive that all particulars are judged in its 
light. Being scholars, they may use a fancy 
German term like Weltanschauung, which 
sounds complex but only means "outlook 
upon the world." In the most celebrated 
use in a social sense, T. S. Kuhn referred 
to the shared worldview of scientists as a 
paradigm (see his classic 1962 book. The 
Structure of Scientific Revolutions). Such 

paradigms, in Kuhn's view, are so con- 
straining, and so unbreakable in their own 
terms, that fundamentally new theories 
must be imported from elsewhere (in- 
sights of other discipUnes, conscious radi- 
calism of young rebels within a field) and 
must then triumph by rapid replacement 
(scientific revolution), rather than by in- 
cremental advance. But the most eloquent 
testimony to the power and pervasiveness 
of worldviews was surely provided by 
Gilbert and Sullivan's Private Willis (in 
lolanthe), as he mused on guard duty out- 
side the Victorian House of Commons: 

I often think it's comical 

How Nature always does contrive 

That every boy and every gal 

That's bom into the world alive 

is either a Uttle Liberal 

Or else a little Conservative! 

Nothing is more dangerous than a dog- 
matic worldview — nothing more con- 
straining, more blinding to innovation, 
more destructive of openness to novelty. 
But on the other hand, a fruitful worldview 


'There they go on their annual migration, the 
wildebeests and Professor Lippincott. ..." 

is the greatest shortcut to insight and the 
finest prod for making connections — in 
short, the best possible agent for a 
Peircean abduction. So much in our mate- 
rial culture is both alluring and dangerous 
at the same time — try fast cars and high- 
stakes poker for starters. Why shouldn't a 
fundamental issue in our intellectual lives 
have the same property? 

In short, I realized that my linkage of 
the three issues, and my lack of surprise at 
claims reported in newspapers as startling, 
emanated from a worldview, or model of 
reality, different in some crucial respects 
from the expectations held by many scien- 
tific colleagues and by the general public. I 
do not know that my view is more correct; 
I do not even think that "right" and 
"wrong" are good categories for assessing 
complex mental models of external real- 
ity — for models in science are judged as 
useful or detrimental, not as true or false. 

I do know that chosen models dictate 
our parsing of namre and either channel 
our thoughts toward novel insight or blind 
us to evident and important aspects of re- 
ality. Beauty must be in the eye of the be- 
holder — and our minds are as varied as 
our hairstyles. "For great is truth, and shall 
prevail" — but we only get there along 
pathways of our own mental construction. 
Science is as resolutely personal an enter- 
prise as art, even if the chief prize be truth 
rather than beauty (although artists also 
seek truth, and good science is profoundly 

1. Timing the Cambrian explosion: 
How fast is fast? Paleontologists have long 
known, and puzzled over, the rapid ap- 
pearance of nearly all major animal phyla 
during a short interval at the beginning of 
the Cambrian period (a subject frequently 
treated in these essays and in my book 
Wondetful Life). The earth's fossil record 
extends back 3.5 billion years to the earli- 
est rock sufficiently unaltered by later heat 
and pressure to preserve traces of ancient 
organisms. But with the exception of some 
multicellular algae that play no role in the 
genealogy of animals, all life, including 
the ancestors of animals, remained unicel- 
lular for five-sixths of subsequent history, 
until about 550 million years ago, when an 
evolutionary explosion introduced all the 
major groups of animals in just a few mil- 
lion years. 

When geologists use die word explo- 
sion, you must take this expression with a 
grain of salt and recognize that, in our 
world, explosions have very long fuses. 
No one has ever doubted that the Cam- 
brian explosion must be measured in mil- 

16 Natural History 2/94 

lions of years — a long time for anyone 
who has ever set a dynamite charge, but 
awfully quick relative to a history of life 
measured in billions (remember that one 
thousand millions make a billion). But 
how many millions? 

Paleontologists have always hedged on 
this crucial question because we had no 
precise dates for the inception of the Cam- 
brian period. The Cambrian ended some 
505 to 510 million years ago, but we had 
no good fix on the beginning until last 
September, when several of my colleagues 
in the Cambridge mafia (Harvard plus 
MIT) joined with Russian geologists in fi- 
nally nailing the early Cambrian, based on 
data "so beautiful you could cry," to quote 
my grandmother, who would have under- 
stood (S. A. Bowring, J. P. Grotzinger, 
C. E. Isachsen, A. H. Knoll, S. M. 
Pelechaty, and P. Kolosov, "Calibrating 
Rates of Early Cambrian Evolution," Sci- 
ence, Septembers, 1993, pp. 1293-98). 

Previous estimates for the Cambrian's 
beginning ranged from nearly 600 to 530 
milfion years ago (I have been using 590 
in my introductory course for years, but 
must change the date this time around). 
The older dates (favored by most) permit- 
ted quite a good stretch for the Cambrian 
explosion, perhaps 30 million years or so 
(still a moment among billions, but at least 
a relaxed moment). My colleagues have 
now pinpointed the explosion by caUbrat- 
ing the radioactive decay of uranium to 
lead within zircon crystals obtained from 
volcanic rocks interbedded with Siberian 
sediments containing earliest Cambrian 

The earliest Cambrian, like Caesar's 
Gaul, is divided into three parts called, 
from oldest to youngest, Manakayan, 
Tommotian, and Atdabanian. (The names 
are all derived from Russian localities 
where early Cambrian rocks are particu- 
larly well exposed.) The Manakayan con- 
tains many fossihzed bits and pieces of 
cousins and precursors, but not the re- 
mains of major modem phyla. The Man- 
akayan therefore predates the Cambrian 
explosion. By the end of the Atdabanian, 
virtually all modem phyla had made their 
appearance. The Cambrian explosion 
therefore spans the Tommotian and Atda- 
banian stages. 

My colleagues have dated the base of 
the Manakayan at 544 milfion years ago 
(with potential error of only a few hundred 
thousand years) and have determined that 
this initial stage lasted some 14 million 
years. The Tommotian began about 530 
million years ago and — get this, for now 

the intellectual impact occurs — the subse- 
quent Atdabanian stage ended only 5 to 6 
(at the very most, 10) million years later 
Thus, the entire Cambrian explosion, pre- 
viously allowed 30 or even 40 million 
years, must now fit into 5 to 10 (and al- 
most surely nearer the lower limit), from 
the base of the Tommotian to the end of 
the Atdabanian. In other words, fast is 
much, much faster than we ever thought. 

This story rocked the airwaves (insofar 
as any scientific tale merits the cliche). 
The New York Times awarded front-page 
billing in its weekly science section; Na- 
tional Public Radio featured my col- 
leagues on its weekly science talk show. 
The primary theme was intense surprise: 
evolution means slow; how could so much 
happen so fast? Was the entire conceptual 
world of evolutionary theory about to be 

undermined? I was absolutely delighted 
by my colleagues' result, but I was not sur- 
prised. I have believed for many years that 
fast was at least this fast. (1 had regarded 
the old limits of 30 to 40 million years 
merely as an upper bound, and had as- 
sumed that the Cambrian explosion only 
occupied a small segment at the beginning 
of this full interval.) Why such a differ- 
ence between public perception and my 
personal reaction? 

2. bisects and flowers. Nothing displays 
human hubris more than the old textbook 
designation of recent geological times as 
the "age of man." First of all, if we must 
use an eponymous designation, we live 
today, and have always lived, in the "age 
of bacteria." Second, if we insist on multi- 
cellular parochialism, modem times must 
surely be called the "age of insects." 

c-i,, ■ / 

y' n 

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Homo sapiens is one species, mammals a 
few thousand. By contrast, nearly a mil- 
lion species of insects have been described 
(and several millions more remain undis- 
covered and uncataloged). Insects repre- 
sent more than 70 percent of all named an- 
imal species. 

So why are insects so diverse? Many 
answers have been offered, and the solu- 
tion will be some complex combination of 
the good arguments. Small size, great eco- 
logical diversity, rapid geographic disper- 
sal, have all been mentioned and are prob- 
ably valid as partial explanations, but one 
other factor always stands out in the con- 
ventional list of reasons: coevolution with 
flowering plants. The angiosperms, or 
flowering plants, are by far the most di- 
verse group in their kingdom. Many spe- 
cies are fertilized by insects in a mutually 
beneficial arrangement that supplies food 
to the insects while transporting pollen 
from flower to flower. 

So intricate, and so mutually adapted, 
are the features of both flower and insect in 
many cases — special colors and odors to 
attract the insects, exquisitely fashioned 

mouthparts to extract flie nectar, for ex- 
ample — that this pairing has become our 
classic example of coevolution, or promo- 
tion of adaptation and diversity by interac- 
tion among organisms during their evolu- 
tion. (Darwin wrote an entire book on the 
subject, using the classic case of intri- 
cately coadapted orchids and their insect 
pollinators.) Thus, a received truth of evo- 
lutionary biology has proclaimed that in- 
sects are so diverse, in no small part, be- 
cause flowering plants are so varied — and 
each plant evolves its pollinator (and vice 

Sounds good, but is it true? The fossil 
record suggests an obvious test, but curi- 
ously, no one had ever carried out the pro- 
tocol until my colleagues Conrad Laban- 
deira and Jack Sepkoski published a paper 
last July ("Insect Diversity in the Fossil 
Record," Science, July 16, 1993, pp. 310- 
15). Insects arose in the Devonian period, 
but began a major radiation in diversity 
during subsequent Carboniferous times, 
some 325 million years ago. An- 
giosperms, by contrast, arose much later. 
Their first fossils are found in early Creta- 

1 8 Natural History 2/94 

ceous strata, some 140 million years ago 
(if they arose earlier, as some scientists 
speculate, they could not have been very 
abundant). But angiosperms didn't really 
flower (pardon the irresistible, if unorigi- 
nal, pun) until the Albian and Cenomanian 
stages of the middle Cretaceous, some 100 
milhon years ago, where their explosive 
evolutionary radiation stands out as one of 
the great events of our fossil record. 

If insect diversity is tied to the radiation 
of flowering plants, as haditional views 
proclaim, then this burst of angiosperms 
should be matched by a similar explosion 
of insects in the fossil record. Why has 
such an obvious test of an important evo- 
lutionary hypothesis not been made be- 
fore? The reason may he ui a common 
misconception about the fossil record of 
insects. Many people suppose that this 
record is exceptionally poor, with so few 
insects preserved as fossils that we would 
never be able to get a good enough count 
to assess the hypothesis of a sharp increase 
during the Cretaceous when the an- 
giosperms radiated. 

To be sure, insects do not fossilize as 
readily as clams or trilobites, but theh 
record is by no means so sparse as com- 
mon impressions hold. Jack Sepkoski has 
spent most of his twenty-year career (he 
was my graduate student just before then, 
so I confess my familial bias toward his 
work) engaged in an enterprise that some 
traditional paleontologists dismiss with 
the epithet of "taxon counting" — fliat is, 
he sits in the library (which he describes as 
his "field area") and tabulates the ranges 
of all fossil genera and famihes in all the 
world's literature in all languages. (This is 
neither so simple nor so automatic a pro- 
cedure as the uninitiated might imagine. 
First of all, you need to know where to 
find, and how to recognize, obscure 
sources in publications with non-Roman 
alphabets. Second, you do not merely list 
what you find, but must make judgments 
about the numerous taxonomic and geo- 
logic errors in such publications. I have 
never understood why some traditionalists 
disparage this work. They, after all, have 
published the literature that Sepkoski uses; 
don't they want their work so honored and 
well employed? Through Sepkoski's 
painstaking effort in full and standardized 
tabulation, we have, for the first time, a us- 
able compendium of changing diversity 
throughout the history of life, and for all 

Labandeira and Sepkoski found that the 
insect record is better than anyone thought 
(once you add up all the Russian and Chi- 


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nese publications). In fact, insects are 
more cJiverse than that other famous ter- 
restrial group, for which no one has ever 
been shy about offering conclusions — the 
tetrapods, or terrestrial vertebrates (am- 
phibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals 
combined). The fossil record of insects in- 
cludes 1,263 families, that of tetrapods, 
825 families. Moreover, except for the lat- 
est Devonian, when insects were young 
and hadn't yet taken off on an evolutionary 
radiation, insect diversity has always ex- 
ceeded tetrapod diversity in every geolog- 
ical epoch. 

Looking at the taxonomic level of insect 
families, Labandeira and Sepkoski could 
find no evidence for any positive impact of 
the angiosperm radiation upon insect di- 
versity. The insect radiation began in the 
early Carboniferous, some 325 million 
years ago, got derailed once in the greatest 
of all mass extinctions at the end of the 
Permian (when eight of twenty-seven in- 
sect orders died), began again in the sub- 
sequent Triassic period, and has never 
stopped since. In fact, and if anything, in- 
crease in number of families actually 
seems to slow down somewhat during the 
Cretaceous as the angiosperms flowered! 

Labandeira and Sepkoski then tried a 
different approach and also found no rela- 

tionship with angiosperms. Instead of tax- 
onomic diversity, they tabulated ecologi- 
cal variety by dividing insects into thirty- 
four "mouthpart" categories — that is, 
different ways of making an ecological Uv- 
ing based on modes of feeding. (Many of 
these categories include insects from sev- 
eral different taxonomic lineages, so my 
colleagues are measuring ecological dis- 
parity, not just numerical abundance.) 
They found that 65 to 88 percent of these 
categories were already filled by the mid- 
dle Jurassic, the period before an- 
giosperms arose. Only one to seven new 
categories arose after the angiosperms 
evolved, but most of these have especially 
poor fossil records, and may well have 
originated earlier. Of these, only one cate- 
gory is plausibly linked to life with flower- 
ing plants. Thus, angiosperms are also not 
responsible for the morphological variety 
of insect feeding mechanisms. 

Again, the news wires buzzed (more 
punning apologies) with this story, and the 
New York Times again awarded front-page 
billing. Again, expressions of profound 
surprise were the order of the day. Insects 
evolved independently of the flowering 
plants to which many are now so strongly 
tied? How can this be? Doesn't Darwinism 
proclaim that organisms change within 

-7} "y 

"Ron, you should have the doctor reset your biological clock." 

20 Natural History 2/94 

webs of competition and interaction to- 
ward mutually beneficial states? And 
again, I was pleased but not at all sur- 
prised. For I have long felt that images of 
balance and optimizing competition have 
been greatly oversold, that major and ef- 
fectively random forces buffet the history 
of life, that most groups of organisms 
make their own way according to their 
own attributes, and that interactions 
among most groups are, on the broad scale 
of time in milUons, more like Longfel- 
low's "Ships that pass in the night" than 
the Book of Ruth's "Whither thou goest, I 
will go." 

3. Where did Homo sapiens originate? 
My last issue is a carryover from previous 
years. Nothing decisive happened in 1993 
to resolve this hot debate of the last decade 
or so. Rather, I am amazed that the story 
has such fantastic "legs," and remains 
both the hottest item on the paleoanthro- 
pological news wire and a source of di- 
chotomization that has forced a more com- 
plex issue into two warring camps (at least 
in pubhc perception). 

One position has been dubbed the 
"multiregionahst model," or the "cande- 
labra" or "menorah" theory (depending on 
your ethnic preferences) of recent human 
evolution. Everyone agrees that our im- 
mediate ancestral species. Homo erectus, 
moved out of Africa into Europe and Asia 
more than a million years ago (where they 
became Java Man and Peking Man of the 
old textbooks). Multiregionahsts argue 
that Homo sapiens evolved simultane- 
ously from Homx) erectus populations on 
all three continents (with necessary main- 
tenance of some gene flow among popula- 
tions, for they could not otherwise have 
evolved in such a coordinated way). 

The other side has been called the "out 
of Africa" or "Noah's ark" school of 
human evolution. They argue that Homo 
sapiens arose in one place as a small pop- 
ulation and then spread throughout the 
world to produce all our modem diversity. 
If Africa was the single place, then Euro- 
pean and Asian Homo erectus, and the 
later European Neanderthals as well, 
played little or no role in our origin but 
were replaced by later invaders in a sec- 
ond and much more recent wave of human 

The most famous version of "Noah's 
ark" theory, the poorly named "mitochon- 
drial Eve" hypothesis of modem human 
origins in Africa, suffered a blow in 1993, 
when discovery of an important technical 
fallacy in the computer program used to 
generate and assess evolutionary trees de- 

bunked the supposed evidence for an 
African source. But in so disproving the 
original claim, correction only dictated ag- 
nosticism, not a contrary conclusion — that 
is, the new trees are consistent with origin 
in a single place, but Africa cannot be af- 
firmed as the clearly preferred spot, al- 
though Africa remains as plausible as any 
other place by this criterion. Other inde- 
pendent sources of evidence — especially 
the greater genetic diversity measured 
among African peoples — continue, in my 
view, to favor an African origin. (A thor- 
ough and fair review by a partisan of the 
out-of-Africa school may be found in 

"DNA and Recent Human Evolution," by 
Mark Stoneking, Evolutionary Anthropol- 
ogy, wol 2, ]993, pp. 60-13.)' 

As a student of snails, I have no great 
personal stake in this argument, although I 
would be willing to wager that this new- 
fangled Noah's ark will one day find its 
Ararat (although I won't be shocked if the 
boat sinks and multiregionalism tri- 
umphs). But I am intrigued by joumalists' 
representations of this debate — particu- 
larly in their attribution of surprise to one 
side and expectation to the other (thus 
linking this tale, through the theme of mis- 
placed surprise, to my previous two sto- 

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ries). Newspaper and science magazines 
invariably present multiregionalism as the 
orthodox, or expected, view, and out of 
Africa (or any other single place) as the 
surprising new kid on the block. 

But this assessment is ass-backwards by 
any standard rendering of evolutionary 
theory (divorced from the distortions that 
intrude upon us whenever we consider 
something so close to us as human ances- 
try). Origin in a single place is the expec- 
tation of ordinary evolutionary theory, and 
utterly unsurprising. Species are unitary 
populations of organisms that split off 
from their ancestral populations in a hm- 
ited part of the parental range. Species 
arise as historical entities in particular 
places and then spread, if successful, as far 
as their adaptations and ecological propen- 
sities allow. Rats and pigeons live all over 
ihe world, just as humans do. Yet we are 
not tempted to argue that rats evolved in 
parallel on all continents simultaneously. 
We suppose that, like most species, they 
arose in a single region and then spread 
out. Why, then, does origin in a single 
place surprise us when we, rather than pi- 
geons, represent the subject? Why do we 
devise an entirely idiosyncratic and un- 
usual multiregional hypothesis, and then 
proclaim it orthodox and expected? 

I can only suppose that we want to seg- 
regate humans off as something special. 
We wish to see our evolution, particularly 
the late expansion of our brain to current 
size, as an event of more than merely local 
significance. We do not wish to view our 
global triumph as so fortuitously depen- 
dent upon the contingent history of a small 
African population; we would rather con- 
ceive our exalted intellect as so generally 
advantageous that all populations, in all 
places, must move in adaptive unison to- 
ward the same desired state. 

I must try to understand the contrast of 
public surprise with my personal expecta- 
tion for these three disparate stories by 
seeking a difference in worldviews, or 
general models of reaUty, between me and 
most of thee. Under what common para- 
digm, rejected by me, does a shorter Cam- 
brian explosion, a lack of lockstep evolu- 
tion between flowering plants and insects, 
and a single place of origin for Homo sapi- 
ens, seem so surprising? I can only ob- 
serve that all three contraries — a more 
leisurely origin for anatomical designs, a 
coordinated evolution of coadapted 
groups, and an intercontinental origin of 
our most valued features — fit well with a 
more stately, predictable, and comforting 
view of life's history than I can see in the 

22 Natural History 2/94 

fossil record. Traditional concepts of evo- 
lution, at least in their translation to popu- 
lar culture, favor a slow and stately proc- 
ess, ruled by sensible adaptation along its 
pathways and expanding out toward both 
greater complexity of the highest forms 
and more bountiful diversity throughout. 
Such a view would coordinate all three 
surprises in my three stories — for the 
newly shortened Cambrian explosion is 
decidedly unstately; the independence of 
insects and flowers seems chaotically un- 
coordinated; and the emergence of Homo 
sapiens, if viewed as a historical event in a 
single place, becomes quirky and chancy. 
But my worldview accommodated and 
anticipated all these phenomena of rate, 
interaction, and place. 1 have come to see 
stability as the norm for most times, and 
evolutionary change as a relatively rapid 
event punctuating the stillness and bring- 
ing systems to new states. A faster Cam- 
brian explosion feeds this expectation. I 
view lineages as evolving largely indepen- 
dently of one another. I do not deny, of 
course, that species interact in adaptively 
intricate ways. But each lineage is a 
unique entity with its own idiosyncrasies; 
and each evolutionary trajectory through a 

temporal series of environments encoun- 
ters so many random effects of great mag- 
nitude that 1 expect historical individuality 
to overwhelm coordination. Grand scale 
independence of insects and flowers (de- 
spite the tight linkage of so many species 
pairs today) conforms to this view. Finally, 
I regard each species as a contingent item 
of history with an unpredictable future. 1 
anticipate that a species will arise in a sin- 
gle place and then move along an unex- 
pected pathway. In short, all my nonsur- 
prises are coordinated by a worldview that 
celebrates quick and unpredictable 
changes in a fossil record featuring lin- 
eages construed as largely independent 
historical entities. I should also add that I 
find such a world stunning and fascinating 
in its chaotic complexity and historical 
genesis — and I happily trade the comforts 
of the older view for the joys of contem- 
plating and struggling with such multifari- 
ous intrigue. 

I've put myself in a tough spot. This 
essay has veered dangerously close to un- 
seemly self-congratulation. But I do not 
write to claim that 1 have a "better" world- 
view more attuned to solving the outstand- 
ing problems of life's history. Nor do I as- 

sert the correctness of my position on the 
three stories, for truth is the daughter of 
time, and 1 may be proved wrong about all 
of them. 1 developed this topic because I 
regard the subject of worldviews, or para- 
digms, as so important for the unification 
of all creative human thought, and I wrote 
of my own experience because personal 
testimony has been an accepted staple of 
the essay ever since Montaigne invented 
the genre. (And now 1 must halt, lest you 
parry with Shakespeare's observation that 
the author "dost protest too much, me- 

Maybe my worldview, shared by many 
scholars these days (for 1 came to it by as- 
similation, not invention), has power as a 
more fruitful outlook upon reality than 
previous paradigms provided. Maybe my 
horse is coming in. But maybe I am only 
riding a gelding named "fashion," a nag 
destined to stumble at the gate next season 
at Hialeah as the Seabiscuit or Secretariat 
of deterministic gradualism comes thun- 
dering down the homestretch. 

Stephen Jay Gould teaches biology, geol- 
ogy, and the history of science at Harvard 

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Do you know what famous critical mass was assembled in Cleveland! 

by Roger L. Welsch 

A few years ago, physicist Stephen 
Hawldng amazed the world of publishing 
by producing a runaway best seller, 
putting him right up there with literary gi- 
ants like Norm Schwarzkopf and Howard 
Stem. A couple of weeks ago I finally got 
around to buying a paperback copy of 
Hawking 's A Brief History of Time: From 
the Big Bang to Black Holes, a primer in 
astrophysics for the popular market. I am 
now ready to talk with you about the book, 
even though I haven't quite finished it, 
putting me right up there with millions of 
other book buyers. 

To begin with, you should know that the 
word astrophysics is a combination of as- 
tronomy and physics, NOT astrology and 
physics. Astrology is a belief system based 
on mystic mumbo jumbo with no demon- 
strable, substantiating basis in observable 
phenomena, whereas astronomy has an n 
instead of an / and an m instead of a g. 
(There is an even bigger difference be- 
tween physic and physics. Briefly, physics 

can be the plural of physic, but physic is 
not the singular of physics, a confusion 
Hawking promises to explain in a later 

Hawking's lesson for us in A Brief His- 
tory of Time is that while we once thought 
all matter was composed of indivisible el- 
ements, and then indivisible atoms, and 
then indivisible neutrons, all matter is ac- 
tually made up of indivisible quarks 
(meant to rhyme, sort of, with "quart," but 
which, for reasons that physicists who ex- 
plain the universe cannot explain, has 
wound up rhyming, sort of, with "smart"). 

These quarks come in several "col- 
ors" — red, green, and blue — even though 
quarks have no color in reality, if they have 
a reahty. Quarks are further classified into 
six "flavor" groupings — up, down, 
strange, charmed (which may explain why 
no one ever goes to a dinner party thrown 
by an astrophysicist), Szechuan, and 
cherry-pistachio — even though cherry- 
pistachio has no flavor in reality and 

ir^i-r' i.^ """ 

Szechuan has more than enough to make 
up for both of them. These taxonomic sys- 
tems have been constructed by astrophysi- 
cists, famous for their quirky (rhymes with 
"quarky") sense of humor. 

The important thing to remember is that 
astrophysics operates (or operate) primar- 
ily within scientists' minds, each step de- 
pending on the theoretical soundness of 
the theses leading up to it, a kind of intel- 
lectiial pyramid scheme, illegal in most 
states of the Union but still permitted in 
astrophysics. The point is, no one is more 
surprised than physicists when a couple of 
centuries of theory are suddenly mani- 
fested in some actual, observable, physical 
event — for example. Silly Putty or the 
atomic bomb. 

As you can imagine, everybody in 
physics circles was considerably relieved 
when SUly Putty resulted from the critical 
mass assembled in Cleveland and the A- 
bomb popped up, so to speak, at Alamo- 
gordo. Except maybe for Edward Teller, 
who still seems disappointed by one or the 
other of these outcomes. 

At any rate, almost everything in 
Hawking's book is based on his fertile 
imagination and logical speculation, with 
almost no visible evidence or proof. This 
appears to differentiate his work from fic- 
tion, which is almost always based on ob- 
vious, demonstrable fact. In another way, 
however, physics is a lot Uke fiction or in- 
come tax calculating, in that when there is 
a conflict between the world and an intel- 
lectual construct, the author adjusts the 
world to fit an imagined plot. 

Take black matter, for example. As fate 
would have it, the most recent and popular 
theories in physics just don't work. It's not 
as if there are some loose tiireads around 
the edges; the theories don't work at all. If 
they did, the universe would instanta- 
neously fall in on itself or fly apart. Now 

24 Natural History 2/94 

those of us who are not astrophysicists 
would probably do something like discard 
the theories. Not astrophysicists. They 
readjust the uncooperative universe to fit 
their theories, postulating a gigantic quan- 
tity of invisible gravity-producing stuff 
they call black matter, even though it's not 
black and maybe not even matter. And 
there you are. Just like that, the modem, 
popular theories are back in business. 

I can imagine that readers new to 
physics and its way of doing things might 
be skeptical, but those of us who are 
higher up in the world of science feel noth- 
ing but anticipation in all this theorizing. It 
could, after all, be a step toward a newer 
and even sillier putty. 

So that is how this book proceeds. For 
instance, everyone — from little kids to re- 
tired plumbers — who has heard rumors of 
theories about an expanding universe is 
haunted by the same question: If the uni- 
verse is indeed expanding, what is it ex- 
panding into? Isn't the universe every- 
thing? I mean, what isn't universe, just 
isn't. Right? Wrong? (Remember: You 
have a theory that doesn't fit logic and re- 
ality? Simple enough — change logic and 
reality.) As I understand Hawking's book; 
time began at the big bang. What was be- 
fore the big bang doesn't count (in physics 
you can do that; all you have to say is, 
"That isn't permitted"). In sum, the uni- 
verse is expanding into timelessness, fill- 
ing it with matter. And time. A lot like a 
dental appointment. 

Speaking of time, there's something in 
Hawking's book about a theory that the 
farther you are away from the world, the 
slower you get old — which sounds darned 
promising for those of us who live in Ne- 

Folklorist Roger L. Welsch lives on a tree 
farm in Dannebrog, Nebraska. 


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During a skirmish near Kuril Lake in Russia 's Kamchatka 
Peninsula, a huge subadult Steller's sea eagle has the advantage 
over a white-tailed eagle (bottom). 


Fire, Ice, and Eagles 

In a land shaped by volcanoes and glaciers, 
birds of prey batten on a winter bounty of salmon 

Text and photographs by Alexander Ladigin 

Winter nights are long on Russia's far 
eastern Kamchatka Peninsula, but moon- 
light brightens the landscape when it re- 
flects off snow some six feet deep. I leave 
my log cabin before dawn and ski toward 
Kuril Lake, hoping to elude detection by 
crows, ravens, and eagles, the better to ob- 
serve their natural habits. The temperature 
is barely 0° F, and steam rises from the 
lake. From the "window" of my second 
cabin, one that I have built of snow, I see 
eagles that have left their nighttime com- 
munal roost and are soaring over the lake 
in search of a breakfast of salmon. The ea- 
gles are the reason I spend winters in 
southern Kamchatka, sitting all day in an 
igloo, brushing snow from my notebook, 
and hoping my camera will still work de- 
spite the frigid temperatures. Although 
cramped and uncomfortable, my snow 
cabin, one of many I have built on the very 
edge of the lake, gives me a view of a 
teeming oasis in the midst of a white 

Kuril Lake, near the southern tip of the 
peninsula, is the largest sockeye salmon 
spawning ground in Asia. Traveling from 
the Pacific Ocean, through the Sea of 
Okhotsk, and upriver to Kuril Lake, some 
eight million salmon arrive annually near 
the place where they hatched some four or 
five years earlier. Even though the spawn- 
ing season is unusually long — from July to 
March — at peak times the huge numbers 
of fish pack not only the feeder streams 
but also the shallow edges of the lake it- 
self. Spawning, the laying and fertilization 
of eggs, takes place over and over again at 
the same sites. The pileup of eggs and the 
abundant bodies of adult salmon, which 
die after reproducing, are the foundation 
of the winter life of Kuril Lake. 

My study area is within the Kronotskiy 
State Biosphere Reserve, about 2.5 mil- 
lion acres in area and one of the largest in 
Russia. Kamchatka itself is a land of glac- 
iers and active volcanoes. Some thousand 
feet deep, Kuril Lake is of volcanic origin 
and is fed by creeks and springs. The sheer 
volume of water and the influx of rela- 
tively warm spring water keeps the lake 
from freezing over completely in winter. 






Until they begin to hibernate in late De- 
cember, bears are active fishers of salmon, 
and the resident foxes, wolverines, otters, 
and even shrews take advantage of the 
spawning frenzy. 

Thousands of birds of various species 
are also able to remain all winter because 
the lake is ice-free. Gulls feed on decom- 
posed salmon carcasses and caviar; com- 
mon goldeneye ducks and mallards gather 
dead eggs from the bottom of the 
lakeshore; mergansers capture young 
smolts (salmon hatchlings); and swans and 
mergansers dig up salmon nests and de- 
vour the eggs. Even perching birds not 

usually associated with fish, such as wood- 
peckers and willow tits, can be seen mak- 
ing a meal of washed-up remains of 
salmon and eggs. Crows, ravens, golden 
eagles, and white-tailed eagles also vie for 
a living on the lake — scavenging car- 
casses and pirating fish from other birds. 

The most impressive of the birds that 
take advantage of this winter bounty, and 
the subject that I have studied for more 
than ten years, is the Steller's sea eagle. 
True fishing eagles, closely related to 
North American bald eagles, these birds 
are named after Georg Steller, the eight- 
eenth-century Russian naturalist who ex- 

plored Kamchatka, Alaska, and the Aleut- 
ian Islands. Steller's sea eagles are charac- 
terized by their bright white foreheads, 
shoulders, and tails, which contrast with 
their brownish black bodies. Their beaks 
are massive, deep, and strongly arched. 
But the most remarkable aspect of these 
eagles is their size; Steller's sea eagles can 
weigh up to twenty pounds, about twice as 
much as a bald eagle, and can have a 
wingspan of some seven feet. Also known 
as the white-shouldered eagle, this bird 
breeds only in Russia; of the total world 
population of 4,200 breeding pairs, 1,200 
pairs nest on the Kamchatka Peninsula. In 

28 Natural History 2/94 

the winter, some of the birds migrate to 
Japan and Korea, but about 1,000 individ- 
uals, or one-eighth of the world's popula- 
tion of Steller's eagles, remain at Kuril 
Lake to feed on its riches. 

Unlike bald eagles of North America, 
which have attracted the attention of biol- 
ogists, conservationists, and ecotourists, 
Steller's sea eagles are little known and are 
studied today by only a handful of scien- 
tists. The haunts of the bird are remote, 
and this may account for its extreme shy- 
ness with humans. No roads lead to Kuril 
Lake, and the nearest village lies some 
sixty miles away. A scientific station has 

Spawning sockeye salmon, below, choke the feeder streams of 
Kuril Lake and sustain a wealth of bird life all winter. White- 
tailed and golden eagles, ducks, swans, ravens, crows, and some 
small songbirds, as well as Steller's eagles, left, partake of the 
spoils of salmon eggs and carcasses. 

an outpost on the one river that flows from 
the lake to the sea. The limited access to 
the region and the bitter weather make for 
hard living conditions for scientists in 
winter. But like other visitors to this area, 
we enjoy plenty of fresh salmon and 

Among themselves, Steller's sea eagles 
are extremely gregarious. Even in the 
breeding season, when many species of 
birds forgo flocks for family groups and 
hunt singly or in pairs, Steller's eagles 
tend to feed communally. This habit is re- 
lated to their specialization as fish eaters; 
fish, their main food year-round, tends to 
be concentrated in lakes and streams. 
Most Steller's sea eagles in Kamchatka 
breed along the more northerly coasts of 
the peninsula. Beginning in late March, 
the eagles begin to refiirbish their huge 
nests, which they use year after year. The 
usual clutch consists of two eggs, and the 
parent birds raise the eaglets on chunks of 
freshly caught fish until the young birds 
fledge by summer's end. As early as Sep- 

tember, the leaves fall, the icy winds of 
winter begin, and the eagles' lives change 
dramatically. The lakes in northern Kam- 
chatka freeze over, locking up their food 
supply. Adults, subadults (eagles less than 
five years old), and the young of the year 
wander southward and congregate in large 
groups, becoming even more social than 
in summer. Of the thousand or so eagles 
that take up winter residence on Kuril 
Lake, I have seen more than four hundred 
gather on one feeder stream choked with 
salmon. As soon as one eagle finds a car- 
cass, other eagles quickly gather The evo- 
lution of this intensely social foraging sys- 
tem, and the central role it plays in the 
birds' general ecology, is the focus of 
much of my winter work. 

I beheve that the size of then- prey ex- 
plains why feeding Steller's eagles attract 
one another and, indeed, rarely feed inde- 
pendently, even when food abounds. It 
certainly contributes to the varied interac- 
tions of Steller's and other species of ea- 
gles. Adult sockeye salmon average about 


[i^'l'"j?-''"'-!^^'J'U-v,^^Si^v'7 .'>7^ ' 




In the midst of glaciers and volcanoes, 
Kuril Lake, below, remains ice-free all 
winter An adult S teller's eagle, left, 
reveals its fully mature plumage as it 
hoists a scrap of salmon aloft. At six or 
more pounds, whole salmon are too hefty 
to allow even the mighty Steller's to 
become airborne. 

six pounds and are sheathed in tough skin. 
Unless a salmon is dead and decomposing, 
this hide is difficult for birds other than 
Steller's eagles to penetrate. The golden 
and white-tailed eagles that live at Kuril 
Lake may take hours to pry an opening 
around a salmon's gills, front fin, or anus, 
and for the most part, they depend on the 
massive-billed Steller's eagles to open a 
fish carcass. Salmon is unusual prey for 
white-tailed and golden eagles, which in 
most of their range, and in summer in 
Kamchatka, prey on other birds and on 
mammals. They have no specific adapta- 
tions for capturing large live salmon and 
tend instead to scavenge dead fish on the 
gravel bars of the lake or feed on the left- 
overs when the Steller's eagles have had 
their fill. The existence of the golden and 
white-tailed eagles on the salmon spawn- 
ing ground is attributable to the presence 
of the more brawny, fish-eating special- 
ists, the Steller's sea eagles. 

In contrast, Steller's sea eagles are ac- 
tive predators on the spawning ground. 
They can catch and pull live salmon from 
the water, but sockeye salmon carcasses 
are simply too heavy for even Steller's ea- 
gles to carry away, and they more often 

feed on dead fish deposited on the gravel 
bars and icy edges of the lake. One salmon 
is more than enough to satiate several ea- 
gles. The birds seldom bother with rotting 
fish being picked apart by other species of 
raptors. While golden eagles form small 
feeding groups of three or four members, 
and white-tailed eagles tend to hunt alone, 
wintering Steller's eagles are attracted in 
great numbers to other Steller's eagles. 
The degree of attraction and interaction 
reaches a peak when dozens of birds con- 
verge on a mound of dead salmon — often 
ignoring other carcasses — and harass and 
fight one another in an attempt to steal the 

From my snow cabin, I have witnessed 
some impressive squabbling from just ten 
to twenty yards away. Although physical 
injury, or even contact, is rare, the eagles 
use a number of ritualized displays to con- 
vey dominance, submission, and a variety 
of moods. Wing, tail, and head displays 
are most common. Sometimes one or 
more eagles will stretch out their wings 
and wave their tails to signal their determi- 
nation to feed on a particular fish. Steller's 
eagles and their cousins the bald eagles 
regularly force other birds to give up prey, 
as when a bald eagle harasses an osprey 
into dropping its catch. Because of their 
penchant for feeding together, Steller's ea- 
gles also often engage in piracy and steal 
fish from one another on the lakeshore. 
Piracy takes place only when the fish is 
sizable; small fish are not worth the energy 
expended in a fight or are simply con- 
sumed too quickly to allow piracy to 
occur Moreover, even though its massive 
beak enables a Steller's eagle to snatch 
and swallow large chunks of fish, eating a 
salmon takes a long time; before it has fin- 
ished eating, any eagle partaking of such a 
banquet is likely to be seen by another 
hungry eagle. 

For a long time I wondered why the ea- 
gles preferred robbing one another to feed- 
ing independently, especially when the 
lakeshore teemed with living and dead 
sahnon. 1 now beUeve that even for such a 
mighty bird as the Steller's sea eagle, 
opening large, tough-skinned carcasses is 


One feeding eagle invariably attracts a crowd, below. 
Displays, fights, and piracy ensue as the birds vie for salmon. 
The Steller's eagle, with its deep, massive beak, opposite page, 
is the only species of eagle on Kuril Lake able to penetrate the 
thick skin ofsockeyes with relative ease. 

a challenge. Cashing in on another eagle's 
work is quicker and easier than ripping 
open a fresh carcass and is even worth the 
energy lost in displaying and squabbling. 
Subadults, which are not yet adept at ma- 
nipulating salmon, must either steal part of 
another bird's fish or resort to eating soft, 
rotting carcasses. 

The dynamics of the Steller's eagles' 
strategy are not those of classic piracy, in 
which an entire prey is appropriated. 
Rather, piracy and scavenging are com- 
bined. Because a typical salmon provides 
more than enough food to satiate a single 
eagle, intruding birds do not so much steal 
as use the valuable, surplus salmon. Group 
feeding may be beneficial to the species 
because large, unwieldy windfalls of food 
are ultimately shared by many eagles. 

I was surprised to find that conflicts 
reached their peak in frequency and inten- 
sity when food was most abundant. Con- 
flicts between two individuals were rare, 
but when group size increased to five, the 
number of conflicts rose exponentially. A 

major factor affecting the makeup of feed- 
ing groups is the age of its members. Adult 
eagles more often attacked feeding birds 
and were more successful at piracy than 

As has been suggested for herons, 
storks, and gulls, the color of plumage 
may play a role in the formation of 
Steller's eagles' feeding groups. Subadults 
must wait five full years before they attain 
fully mature plumage, with the striking 
white head, tail, and shoulders. Younger 
birds are dark brown with a few white 
spots, and their beaks are pale, lacking the 
bright orange of their elders'. The contrast 
between white and deep brown in the 
adults makes them easy to spot at a feed- 
ing site and, I believe, gives other eagles a 
powerful visual signal of a particular 
bird's place in the feeding hierarchy — in 
which adults take precedence. I think this 
holds true not just on the wintering 
grounds but also on the breeding grounds, 
where Steller's eagles tend to nest near 
one another along salmon rivers and 

where several nesting pairs may share a 
common hunting area. 

According to my best estimates, each 
Steller's eagle consumes about fifty fish a 
season at Kuril Lake. In oflier parts of the 
Kronotskiy Reserve where no spawning 
grounds exist, eagles may die in winter. 
But on Kuril Lake they tend to gain 
weight. I was even able to catch some by 
hand on fire ground because, after gorging 
on several pounds of salmon, the eagles 
were unable to fly away. Of tiie seven win- 
ters I have spent on the lake, flie one ex- 
ceptional season was the winter of 1992- 
93. During weather that was unusually 
harsh, even for Kamchatka, ice covered 
tire spawning grounds, making fish inac- 
cessible to the eagles and aU the other 
birds that rely on salmon for their winter 
livelihood. Far fewer eagles congregated 
on the lake. Perhaps the next couple of 
winters will reveal whether this is a short- 
lived phenomenon or a climatic trend with 
greater, and grimmer, implications for the 
wildlife of the area. 

As the spawning season winds down 
and March approaches, most adult salmon 
have reproduced and died. Food now be- 
comes scarce. During this time, the com- 
munal roost of the Steller's sea eagles, 
which is located in stands of birch trees 
some three to six miles from the lake, be- 
comes particularly important as an area 
where eagles exchange information re- 
garding the location of food. When one 
scouting eagle finds a spot with a few 
salmon left, its soaring confreres wiU read- 
ily find and join it. Eagles flapping in a 
particular direction will soon catch the at- 
tention of the birds still in the roost, and 
the "word" will spread. This continues 
until the lack of salmon and the hint of 
spring send the eagles north to nest again. 

In the middle of March, when the ea- 
gles begin to return to the northern coasts, 
I too leave Kuril Lake. I board an orange 
polar helicopter and rise above the deep, 
bright water. From the air I can see the sin- 
gle river that connects the lake to the sea, 
the one artery that brings life to Kuril Lake 
in the form of millions of spawning 
salmon. D 

32 Natural History 2/94 

An Unshaggy Dog Story 

A bizarre canine is living evidence of prehistoric contact between Mexico and Peru 
by Alana Cordy-Collins 

When the Spaniards came to the Amer- 
icas in the early sixteenth century, among 
the novel animals they encountered in 
both Mexico and Peru was the hairless 
dog. "It is a dog with no hair at all; it goes 
about completely naked. It sleeps upon a 
cape which covers it," wrote the mission- 
ary-ethnographer Bernardo de Sahagun, 
who observed that the animal was raised 
by peoples throughout the warmer parts of 
Mexico and was frequently sold in the 
bustling markets. The Aztecs called the 
hairless dog xoloitzcuintli, a name com- 
posed of the word for dog, escuintli, and 
the name of a monstrous, doglike deity, 
Xolotl. Similar dogs existed in China, 
Africa, and the Middle East, but these 
were unknown to the Spaniards, who con- 
sidered the creature one of the extreme 
oddities to be found in the Americas. Four 
hundred years later, the descendants of 
those animals seem no less bizarre, with 
the wrinkles and warts of their bare and 
often mottled skin unrelieved by hair ex- 
cept for some on the crown of the head, the 
feet, and tip of the tail. 

The animal's presence in the New 
World can be traced at least as far back as 
the Colima culture, which flourished in 
western Mexico between 250 B.C. and a.d. 
450. Colima artists created hundreds of 
pottery vessels in the shape of dogs, usu- 
ally in a highly burnished redware, and 
buried them along with other pottery 
forms (human, animal, plant) in the deep 
shaft-tombs of their deceased. Many 
scholars believe Colima society was 
shamanistic. Although the culture is long 
extinct and left no written records, repre- 
sentations of the hallucinogenic peyote 
cactus, homed warriors, even the occa- 
sional homed or masked dog, all give rise 
to this interpretation. In fact, my initial in- 
terest in Colima ceramics was sparked by 
the possibility that they carried a meaning 
deeper than met the eye. 

Most of the Colima dog vessels are 
modeled into squat, rotund little animals 
that probably represent dogs with coats. 
But not every Colima dog is a sleek, round 
creature — some are unequivocally bald, 
displaying the wrinkled skin, warts, and 

34 Natural History 2/94 

Incised lines on a dog-shaped pottery vessel portray wrinkles 
in the skin, showing that the animal lacked a normal coat of hair 
The vessel was unearthed from a tomb of the Colima culture 
of western Mexico, 250 b.c.-a.d. 450. 

Perros en las Tumbas de Colima; Universidad de Colima 




Los Angeles County Museum of Art 

Two hairless puppies at play, right, were immortalized by a 
Colima artist. The earliest Mexican sculptures of the hairless 
dog precede by a thousand years the first such portrayals 
in Peru. Ecuadorean sea traders, such as the Salangone or 
their predecessors, map below, may have introduced the 
breed into South America. 

Joe LeMonnier 

boniness normally concealed by fur. Other 
Colima pots show dogs whose teeth are 
abnormal or even misssing entirely, a typ- 
ical trait of the hairless breed {see "A 
Lethal Gene," page 39). 

Early chroniclers do not mention en- 
countering hairless dogs in Peru, although 
the animals are amply represented in the 
region's art. Nineteenth-century reports in- 
dicate that the animals were confined 
mainly to the coast, as they are today. The 
cold Andean highlands offered no haven 
for such bare creatures. The explorer-car- ' 
tographer J. J. von Tschudi mentions that 
in the 1840s hakless dogs were found in 
the higher altitudes, but only in warm val- 
leys, in carefully protected circumstances. 
The Inca, who ruled Peru when the 
Spaniards arrived, probably were unable 
to maintain the dog in their 12,000-foot- 
high capital city (today's Cuzco). But the 
animal does appear in the art of coastal 
peoples within the Inca empire. 

In Peru, the earUest-known representa- 

tions of hairless dogs date to about a.d. 
750. One is a ceramic bottle made by the 
Moche people, who lived in the coastal 
river valleys of the north, from Piura south 
to Huarmey. Modeled on the bottle are two 
spotted, hairless dogs. Moche pottery was 
cream and brick red, allowing the artist to 
show the dogs' spotted markings. (The 
skin of today's hairless dogs ranges widely 
in color, from sohd black or elephant gray 
to mottled or spotted combinations of 
pink, brown, black, and white, and even all 
white.) Another vessel, in cream and 
black, shows a wrinkled, bony, black dog. 
Its shape and style suggest that it is about 
as old as the Moche bottle, but it cannot be 
attributed to a particular culture, in part be- 
cause, like many ceramics, it was not un- 
earthed by archeologists. 

Mexico's Colima artists seem to have 
modeled hairless dogs fully one thousand 
years before their Peruvian counterparts 
began to do so. Could the animals have ex- 
isted in Peru and have simply been ig- 

36 Natural History 2/94 

38 Natural History 2/94 

A Moche vessel with a pair of hairless dogs, dating to about 
A.D. 750, is one of the earliest in Peru. Why the dogs were prized 
in prehistoric times is uncertain. People may have believed the 
warmth of the dog's naked skin could relieve some ailments. 

Raul Apesteguia Collection. Lima; Photograph by Christopher B. Donnan 

nored by earlier artists? That seems un- 
likely, since they did portray coated dogs, 
with sleek rather than wrinkled skin. In ad- 
dition, dozens of mummified dogs from 
the thousand years before a.d. 750 have 
been found in Peru and Chile, and none 
appear to be of the hairless type. 

Could the hairless dogs have suddenly 
appeared in Peru as a result of an indepen- 
dent genetic mutation? Since hairless 
breeds exist elsewhere in the world, this is 
a possibility. But some or all of these 
breeds may tum out to be related. So far, 
the genetic and osteological studies that 
would determine the relationships have 
not been carried out. 

A third explanation is that hairless dogs 
were brought to South America from 
Mexico sometime in the eighth century. 
Early contact between the two regions has 
long been suspected, but proof has been 
elusive until recently. In 1 990, anthropolo- 
gists Dorothy Hosier, Heather Lechtman, 
and Olaf Holm published a comparative 
metallurgical analysis of ancient artifacts 
from the two regions, demonstrating that 
the craft of metalsmithing was introduced 
into western Mexico about 700 years be- 
fore Columbus arived in the New World. 
Techniques of alloying copper and ar- 
senic, for instance, have a long history in 
South America but appear quite abruptly 
in western Mexico. 

Current evidence points to the contact 
having taken place by sea, rather than by 
land. At the time the Spaniards arrived, the 
Salangone kingdom on the coast of 
Ecuador controlled a lively Pacific coast 
trade. The Salangone traders plied the wa- 
ters at least from Colima in Mexico to 
Chincha in southern Peru. Their vessels 
were large sailing rafts made of balsa logs, 
often with a cabin on deck. Francisco 
Pizarro, the Spanish conqueror of Peru, 
encountered one such vessel on his south- 
ward journey into the Inca Empire. His 
written account indicates that it was carry- 
ing numerous people, animals, textiles, 
and precious items. 

Whether the Salangone kingdom 
stretched back to the eighth century is un- 
certain, but my own studies have shown 

A Lethal Gene 

The Inca hairless dog 

Donna McClelland 

Dog fanciers recognize two breeds of 
hairless dogs that ai'e descended from an- 
cient New World forebears. Both breeds 
are uncommon, even in their homelands. 
The Mexican breed, called xoloitzcuintli, is 
classified in three sizes: standard, minia- 
ture, and toy (the popular name "Mexican 
hairless" generally refers to the toy). A sim- 
ilar Peruvian breed is called the Inca hair- 
less dog or the Peruvian Inca orchid dog. 
Some writers claim that to protect the ani- 
mals from excessive exposure to the sun the 
Inca kept them in orchid-filled rooms dur- 
ing the day and allowed them to ran free at 
night (giving rise to another nickname, 
"moonflower dog"). This colorful story ap- 
pears to be a modem invention; it is not 
supported by any of the early Spanish 

The hairless trait is hereditary and dom- 
inant — a puppy that inherits the gene for 
hairlessness from just one parent will be 
bom hairless. If genes for hairlessness are 
received from both parents, the combina- 
tion is lethal, and the embryo is resorbed or 
stillborn. Because of this, every hairless 
dog carries the gene for hair from one par- 

ent. When two hairless dogs mate and have 
a litter, on average one-third of their surviv- 
ing offspring have hair (breeders call them 
"powderpuffs"). When a powderpuff and a 
hairless are bred — a routine pairing done to 
maintain the breed — the litter averages half 
coated and half hairless. 

Hairless breeds have another abnormal- 
ity — an incomplete set of teeth. While dogs 
with coats have ten molars and sixteen pre- 
molars, modern hairless dogs usually lack 
or lose their premolars and may even be 
nearly toothless. The teeth they do have are 
often set at peculiar angles. Because hair- 
lessness and faulty dentition regularly ap- 
pear together, they may both be caused by 
the same gene. 

Otlier hairiess breeds, such as the Chi- 
nese crested, may be related to the New 
World's bald canines. Some breeders spec- 
ulate that the hairless tait originated in one 
locale and was then spread as a result of 
human trade or migration. But the dogs" 
distribution at widely separated locations 
suggests that the trait could have arisen 
more than once as a result of similar genetic 
mutations.— A. C.-C. 


Victor Perez de Lara 

A dog protected by a blanket, below, was sculpted by an artist of 
the Chancay people, inhabitants of the Peruvian coast in the 
fourteenth century. A less whimsical hairless dog, right, is a 
member of the Mexican breed known as xoloitzcuintli. 

Raul Apesteguia Collection, Lima: Photography by Alana Cordy-Ccllins 

that at least one Ecuadorean sea-trading 
society existed by that time. Hairless dogs 
may have originally been brought along 
on voyages as food, perhaps as a welcome 
diversion from a diet of fish and seabirds. 
In ancient Mexico, dogs appear to have 
been deliberately fattened for human con- 
sumption, at least for ritual feasts. And the 
Andean chronicler Guaman Poma de 
Ayala mentions that coastal people living 
in northern Peru had a custom of eating 
dogs (although he does not mention 
whether the animals were hairless). 

But hairless dogs may have been valued 
for different or additional reasons. In Mex- 
ico and Peru, there is a parallel folklore 
concerning their medicinal properties: 
some people believe that the dogs' warmth 
alleviates rheumatism and associated dis- 
orders. Thus they may have been used 
much as we use hot- water bottles (a com- 
mon misconception is that hairless dogs 
have a higher body temperature than other 
dogs do; actually, they seem warmer to the 

touch only because of the lack of hair). 
Furthermore, at least one report indicates 
that in the Tlaxcala region of Mexico, 
hairless dogs were sacrificed in times of 
drought. Such a practice could have been 
exported to inhabitants of the arid coast of 
Peru. Finally, the dogs could have been in- 
troduced simply as an exotic item. 

Some other clues reinforce the conclu- 
sion that Ecuadorean traders introduced 
the hairless dogs from Mexico into Peru. 
Archeologist Leon Doyon, while excavat- 
ing a fourth- to fifth-century site on the 
outskirts of Quito, found what might be a 
partial mandible of a hairless dog — the 
teeth seem to have been incompletely de- 
veloped. The chronicler Juan Velasco re- 
ported the dogs" presence in Ecuador dur- 
ing the eighteenth century, referring to 
them by the local name, viringo. And 
nineteenth-century travelers to Peru no- 
ticed them in the northern port town of 
Paita, close to the Ecuadorean border. 
(Even now, fanciers of the breed in Peru 

travel to the north coast in search of new 
animals to improve their stock.) 

After the eighth century, numerous Pe- 
ruvian peoples depicted the hairless dog in 
their art. The Lambayeque people, directly 
descended from the Moche and known to 
have traded with Ecuador, left us the 
greatest number of representations. One 
piece was crafted in silver with gold de- 
tails: a double vessel with the dog on one 
side and a drinking cup on the other. 

Among the later Peruvian artists to por- 
tray the dog were the Chancay, who occu- 
pied the south-central coast in the four- 
teenth century, before the rise of the Inca 
empire. They sometimes used their black- 
and-cream pottery to depict the spotted 
skin of the hairless dog. One of the Chan- 
cay dog figures also appears to be wearing 
a blanket, as indicated by the rectangular 
motif with geometric designs painted 
across the animal's back. Perhaps the artist 
knew a hairless dog that suff'ered from ex- 
posure even on the temperate coast. D 

40 Natural History 2/94 

Frithjof Skibbe; Oxford Scientific Films 

Some Like It Cold 

While most moths are summertime creatures, 
a few find that flying in winter is safer 

by Bemd Heinrich 

In this world of infinite moments, most 
are soon forgotten. But some, because of 
the startling images they produce, are kept 
forever. I will never forget one that oc- 
curred in the woods of western Maine on 
an early November evening ten years ago. 
The leaves had fallen from the trees, the 
last purple New England asters had fin- 
ished blooming, and even the witch 
hazel's yellow flowers were finally near 
their end on leafless branches. The mi- 
grant birds had left, and the little brown 
bats no longer fluttered about the forest 
clearings. A first snow flurry had already 
matted the brown leaves, but a melt had 
uncovered them. 

I was sitting on the trunk of a large, 
wind-felled sugar maple in a hardwood 
forest, hoping to see a deer in the ap- 
proaching dusk. The sun was going down 

in a blaze of color, and frost was starting its 
bite. But what I saw wasn't stalking among 
flie slowly darkening tree trunks. It was sit- 
ting right beside me on the log, shaking vi- 
olently. No more than an inch long and 
covered in sienna-brown fur, it was a shiv- 
ering owlet moth. 

The Uttle moth's antennae were partly 
extended, no longer tucked neatly along its 
sides under the wings, as they normally 
are when the insect is at rest. Its legs 
braced it against die bark, and its wings vi- 
brated so rapidly that they were a blur. 
After shivering for two or three minutes 
more, the moth quickly wiped its antennae 
with its front legs and launched itself into 
the air, fluttering off into the night. 

But why was an owlet moth still active 
at the threshold of winter? Until then, I had 
only seen moths in summer. The warmer 

On wann wintei days in Men England Lithophane patefacta ?noths emerge 
from under leaf litter, above, where they hibernate during the coldest weather. 
Right: The thick coat of fur covering the thorax of the Old World winter moth 
Eupsilia transversa Itelps it conserve heat inflight 

Bernd Heinrich 

42 Natural History 2/94 

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and balmier the weather, the greater the 
number of moths that would flutter around 
my porch light. And these numbers paled 
when compared with the hordes of moths I 
have seen attracted to lights in the equato- 
rial jungle. 

I later learned that this owlet moth is 
one of about fifty species of North Ameri- 
can moths that are active throughout the 
winter. Dale D. Schweitzer, an entomolo- 
gist now with the Nature Conservancy in 
southern New Jersey, has long studied the 
Ufe cycles of these winter moths, which 
are also found in temperate Europe and 

Asia. He has found that they spend the 
summer as larvae in a state of suspended 
animation, or estivation — the warm- 
weather equivalent of hibernation. 

I learned that the best way to catch win- 
ter moths was to lure them in with sweet 
bait. From John G. Franklemont, a Cornell 
University entomologist who is a world 
authority on winter moths, I learned a sim- 
ple method: make a concoction of one can 
of beer, three-quarters of a pound of sugar, 
some molasses, and a little mashed fruit. 
(Adding a little brandy is said to help.) In 
the evening, smear brushfuls of this mix- 

ture on tree trunks. With a little luck, the 
moths wiU appear within minutes and be- 
come so bloated on this sweet ambrosia 
that they cannot fly off and will drop to the 
ground if disturbed. Maple syrup works 
equally well. In early spring these moths 
make a nuisance of themselves when 
droves of them drown in sap buckets. 

I was elated when I caught my first win- 
ter moths, and I lost no time trying to find 
out how "winterized" they were. I put sev- 
eral of them in a vial of water and froze it 
into a block of ice in the freezer compart- 
ment of the refrigerator. A little while 

44 Natural History 2/94 

Bernd Heinrich 



"^A' » 

later, I took the block out and let it thaw. 
Once released from the grip of the ice, the 
moths righted themselves, shivered for a 
few minutes, and then flew off. They had 
me hooked. 

Winter moths turned out to be much 
easier to work with than many other moths 
I had studied. I found I could catch large 
numbers of them with stale beer, put them 
into a jar with moist leaves or tissue, and 
keep them healthy for months by storing 
them in the refrigerator at about 32° F. 
And I could catch them (usually the spe- 
cies Eupsilia morrisoni) during any month 

Photographed at night, two winter moths, Lithophane hemina, left, and 
EupsiUa morrisoni {far left) lap up a mixture of beer, sugar, and 
mashed fruit that the author applied to a tree trunk. Below: Resting in 
the late fall sunlight, Eupsilia transversa will be active in warm 
winter weather and reproduce in the early spring. 

of the winter, provided there was a thaw of 
a day or so and the snow cover was not too 
deep. I caught many more species in late 
winter to early spring. They had emerged 
after passing the coldest months totally de- 
veloped within the pupae. In March and 
April, when the woodcock had returned 
and was doing its mating dance on the first 
bare patches of ground, I would paint 
swaths of moth lure on the trees Uning my 
driveway and watch as these insects — 
with their beautifully subtle and muted 
colors — gorged themselves before disap- 
pearing with the next snowstorm. By late 
April the trees were about ready to burst 
into leaf, the first bats were flying again, 
and tire warblers were returning. The win- 
ter moths were near their end. 

The disappearance of winter moths just 
as the birds are returning is no coinci- 
dence; these predators have been a major 
force in shaping the moths' behavior and 
appearance. Early in their evolutionary 
history, moths probably escaped most bird 
predation by becoming nocturnal. But by 
the Eocene, some 45 miUion years ago, 
echolocating bats evolved, and moths 
were again vulnerable at night. The late 
Kenneth Roeder, of Tufts University, con- 

ducted experiments showing that some 
motiis, in turn, have evolved ear structures 
that allow them to hear the bats' sonar, 
usually in time to take evasive action. 

Most moths, cryptically colored to 
blend into bark or other specific back- 
grounds on which they perch, rest motion- 
less during the day. Some go beyond mere 
pattern mimicry and resemble sticks, dry 
leaves, and even bird droppings. Because 
birds hunt by sight, detecting prey by 
movement and contrast, they may fail to 
detect a resting mofli. But as Alan Kamil, 
a psychologist now at the University of 
Nebraska, has demonstrated, blue jays can 
learn to detect even the most well-camou- 
flaged moth. Many moths have therefore 
evolved other defenses to protect them- 
selves during the day. Underwing moths 
startle predators by flashing brilUant red, 
yellow, or white underwings if they are 
touched or otherwise disturbed while rest- 
ing. Thus they get a second chance to es- 
cape, usually by dropping to die ground. 
Some large moths have amazingly lifelike 
eye patterns on their underwings, and still 
others, such as many of the diurnal tiger 
moths, are brightly colored to advertise 
that they are poisonous. 


Adapting to extremes of temperature is 
another way for an insect to escape preda- 
tion. In the deserts of the American South- 
west, for example, the grasshopper Tri- 
merotropis palladipennis tolerates body 
temperatures near 122° F, so it can escape 
to hot sand where lizards cannot venture. 
Near Phoenix, the desert cicada is active in 
the suinmer, singing on the hottest days at 
noon, when birds are forced to retreat. 
(The cicadas are able to do so because 
their enlarged dermal glands "leak" water, 
which evaporates and cools them; they re- 
place the lost fluid by tapping into the 
phloem of mesquite bushes.) Winter 
moths operate on the same principle, but at 
the other end of the temperature scale. 

Winter moths undoubtedly escape 

much predation by being active when po- 
tential predators are either hibernating or 
several thousands of miles away. But this 
stratagem, like other defenses, is not with- 
out its costs or problems. To pull it off, the 
adult moths must find food in the dead of 
winter, and the larvae must feed quickly 
on early spring leaves and go into estiva- 
tion before returning predators can eat 
them. Perhaps the greatest challenge, how- 
ever, is the cold itself. 

Most overwintering insects — whether 
adult, larva, pupa, or egg — are laced with 
antifreeze compounds, but investigations 
by biologist John G. Duman, of Notre 
Dame University, and me failed to detect 
any antifreeze in winter moths. Their 
blood freezes at 30° to 28° F, as does that 

of summer insects. Furthermore, they 
don't "supercool" to temperatures very 
much lower than those of summer-active 
insects. (Had my freezer been much colder 
than 32° F, the moths would have died 
when they were frozen in the ice.) Why 
they are not protected from freezing isn't 
clear, but I suspect that the moths need to 
retain their ability to become active at a 
moment's notice on a warm winter day (by 
"warm" day I mean one with evening tem- 
peratures not lower than 32° F). Insects 
"embalmed" with a concentrated solution 
of alcohols may be protected from freez- 
ing, but the chemicals infringe on an ac- 
tive and coordinated life style. 

To maintain high temperatures in their 
thorax, where the muscles for flight are lo- 

46 Natural History 2/94 

A Lithophane amanda caterpillar feeds on beaked willow leaves, left. Having 
emerged in early spring, it is ready to form a cocoon by early June, when 
many summer caterpillars are just hatching from their eggs. Some cold- 
weather moths, such as the pair of Japanese Erannis obliquaria below, do not 
overwinter as adults. They emerge from their cocoons in November to 
reproduce, but die soon after The female, which mates and lays her eggs on 
the same tree on which she hatched, has only small, vestigial wings. 

Fukuo lloh; Nature Production 

cated, the moths have evolved two special 
adaptations. First, their thoraxes are cov- 
ered with dense fur that cuts their rate of 
heat loss in half. The fur is formed from 
greatly elongated scales, similar to those 
that color butterfly and moth wings. Like 
other lepidopteran scales, the fur rubs off 
easily, making the moths slippery in one's 
fingers and possibly also in the grip of a 
potential predator. (Winter moths retain 
the tympanic air sacs used by their ances- 
tors for listening for bat sonar, but whether 
or not they still work is uncertain. Never- 
theless, these air sacs thermally insulate 
the thorax from the abdomen.) 

Winter moths have also evolved a circu- 
latory system that reduces heat loss from 
the muscles in the thorax to both the head 

and the abdomen. As blood flows out of 
the thorax, it gives up its heat to blood 
flowing back in. The system conserves the 
heat in their thorax so efficiently that win- 
ter moths have lost the ability to use their 
abdomen as a radiator for dissipating ex- 
cess heat, which is a necessity for summer 
moths that would otherwise overheat. 
Thus, although winter moths fly at temper- 
atures of 32° F, they fly with thoracic tem- 
peratures similar to those of their summer 
relatives (about 86°-95° F). 

Most insects spend the whole winter in 
a state of toqjor; because the cold greatly 
reduces their metaboUc rate, they do not 
need to eat. Winter moths also spend most 
of their time in toipor. But when they do 
warm up and fly, they use up their energy 
reserves very rapidly. Consider a moth at 
rest at 27° F. Its metabolic rate is so slow 
that a full stomach of maple sap contain- 
ing 6 percent sugar would provide it with 
enough fuel to last the whole winter. A 
moth in flight, however, must maintain a 
body temperature of about 86° F. In cold 
weather, this means raising its metabolic 
rate to 8,(XX) times the resting rate, which 
would exhaust the fuel reserves in the 
maple sap in little more than a half hour. 

To meet their prodigious energy de- 
mands in late fall, cold-adapted adult 
moths can still tank up on the few late- 
blooming flowers such as the witch hazel. 
After that, however, nectar is not available 
again until the pussy willows bloom in 
April. In the interim, the moths must feed 
exclusively on sweet sap oozing from 
wounds in, or broken branches of, birches 
and sugar maples or on the maple syrup 
that runs from cuts made by red squirrels 
{see "Nutcracker Sweets," Natural His- 
tory, February 1991). With this source of 
sugar, they nearly double their weight in 
one feeding. 

Sap solves the food problem for the 
adults, and the reversed winter-for-sum- 
mer life style protects them from preda- 
tion, but the switch creates a different food 
problem for larvae, which normally feed 
on summer foliage. The caterpillars sur- 
vive because winter moths lay their eggs 
before the tree buds open, allowing their 
larvae to hatch and start feeding the 
minute the new leaves appear. By this time 
the first migrant warblers have returned, 
and some, no doubt, are feeding on these 
caterpillars. But the caterpillars continue 
to race through their development cycle, 


The winter moth Scoliopteryx libatrix 
is found in the northern latitudes of North 
America, Europe, and Asia. Sometimes 
called "the herald" because it is seen in 
the spring before other insects, the 
moth has been found hibernating in deep 
crevices in the rock. 

Frithjof Skibbe; Oxford Scientific Films 

completing both the larval and pupal 
stages before all the birds return. Then 
they drop to the ground, bury themselves, 
and go into suspended animation through- 
out the summer. 

These moths' predilection for cold- 
weather activity seems to have evolved 
fairly recently, because their coloration — 
ranging from charcoal gray to chocolate 
brown, sierma, white, yellow, and tan — 
still carries the imprint of a long history of 
bird predation. I wondered if winter moths 
would seek the "right" color bark to rest 
and remain hidden on, as the summer 
moths do. To find out, I placed twelve sec- 
tions of birch, cherry, pine, maple, black 
locust, and elm trunks in a large outdoor 
cage, and in the evening I released 173 
winter moths into the enclosure. The next 
morning not a single moth could be found 
on a tree trunk. I searched for six hours 
among the leaves on the ground and found 
twenty of them. Because they could not 
escape the enclosure, I presumed that the 
rest were hiding in the leaves as well. This 
explained why I had only seen winter 
moths on days when the snow cover had 
partly melted; they had been trapped be- 
neath the snow-covered leaves. Dale 
Schweitzer has measured temperatures 
beneath the leaves on the ground during 
the winter and found that at night (espe- 
cially when the ground is snow covered) 
the temperatures rarely fall below 37° F. If 
the winter moths in northern New England 
rested on tree trunks (as their summer an- 
cestors undoubtedly did), they would 
often be exposed to temperatures low 
enough to kill them instantly. Camouflage 
has become irrelevant beneath the carpet 
of leaves, where the moths now rest in rel- 
ative warmth. Their colors, which have 
probably changed little since they 
switched to a winter life style, are now 
"fossil" adaptations to a previous stage in 
their evolutionary history. 

When I saw my first shivering winter 
moth on a maple log that November 
evening years ago, the moth seemed mag- 
ical. It had traveled a different evolution- 
ary path than the summertime moths, and 
that had made all the difference. D 

48 Natural History 2/94 




Not far from its den, a Hawaiian spiny lobster forages on a coral reef. 

Mike Sevefns 

!ase of the Missing Lobsters 

What does a low-pressure system over the North Pacific have to do 
with the complaints of disgruntled lohstermen? 

' ' %* 

by Jeffrey Polovina 

From the main islands of Hawaii, 
countless small islands, atolls, and sub- 
merged banks stretch northwestward a 
thousand miles to Midway Island. The is- 
lands are part of a wildlife refuge, and ex- 
cept for a few biologists camped out at re- 
search stations, they are uninhabited. The 
archipelago supports a wealth of marine 
life, including a large population of 
seabirds and a small population (1,600) of 
Hawaiian monk seals, an endangered spe- 
cies. This is where, in recent years, loh- 
stermen have begun to harvest Pacific 
spiny lobsters. 

As a marine biologist with the National 
Marine Fisheries Service in Honolulu 
since 1979, my job has been to provide 
lobstermen and managers of the fisheries 
in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands with 
biological advice. Thus, I am no stranger 
to phone calls from unhappy or even irate 
lobstermen. I still remember a call I re- 
ceived in September 1989. The caller was 
not angry despite his recent return from a 
sixty-day fishing trip that had yielded a 
very poor lobster catch. He was puzzled, 
however, because on a trip to the same 
areas a few months before, the catch had 
been excellent. I told him the reason for 
the drop was obvious; he had fished out all 
the lobsters! He was not amused. So I sug- 
gested that the low catch was just a tempo- 
rary aberration. I reminded him that in 
1987, colder water seemed to have re- 
stricted spiny lobsters' movements, mak- 
ing them harder to trap, and that by 1988, 
more favorable conditions — and good 
catches — had returned. I even went as far 
as telling him that he should look forward 
to a good year in 1990. 

That was a mistake. By the summer of 
1990, lobster catches had not improved, 
and my advice was proving to be an em- 
barrassment. With fishermen grumbling 
and managers becoming nervous, I was 
under pressure to find the real reason for 
the persistent decline in lobsters. 

Although my first reaction had been to 
blame the lobster decline on the usual sus- 
pect, overfishing, I had a number of rea- 
sons to doubt that this was the cause. First, 
the proportion of the lobster population 


Bill Curtslnger 

A red-tailed tropic bird, left, soars through the air above the 
northwestern Hawaiian islands. An unattended red-tailed tropic 
bird hatchling, below, waits for its parents to return with a meal. 

Erwin and Peggy Bauer; Bruce Coleman, Inc. 



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being trapped in the islands was relatively 
low compared with other spiny lobster 
fisheries. Second, sizable areas of the 
wildUfe refuge were closed to lobster fish- 
ing. And third, size limits allowed lobsters 
to mature and spawn at least once before" 
reaching harvest size, which should have 
been giving the population a chance to 
renew itself. Furthermore, I had heard ru- 
mors of declining numbers of seabirds and 
monk seals in the area. These two species 
are often good indicators of changes in the 
ocean; the number of offspring they raise 
each year can be strongly affected by the 
abundance of food in the sea. 

Hoping that other parts of the ecosys- 
tem would provide clues to the declining 
lobster catches, I paid a visit to Beth Flint, 
a seabird biologist working for the U. S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service. I was fortunate 
to find Flint in Honolulu; usually, she is 
out on the islands monitoring seabirds. 
When I told her my story, she was very in- 
terested and told me that since 1985, the 
reproductive success of the red-tailed 
tropic bird and the red-footed booby had 
dropped to half of what had been observed 
in the early 1980s. She explained that the 
birds' reproductive success is defined as 
the fraction of eggs that ultimately hatch 
and become fledgling chicks strong 

enough to fly. The number of eggs laid 
hadn't changed, but the fraction of hatch- 
lings that survived to become fledglings 
had fallen. Although she didn't know the 
reason for the decline, she was able to rule 
out factors such as predators, diseases, and 
habitat loss and suggested that a scarcity 
of food would force the adult birds to 
abandon their nests for longer periods 
while foraging. This would increase the 
chances that their exposed eggs and chicks 
would perish in the hot, subtropical sun. 

I spent the rest of the day poring over 
dusty files of seabird records dating back 
to the early 1980s. I found that at the be- 
ginning of the decade, about 70 percent of 
the eggs laid produced fledghngs, but the 
success ratio decUned steadily through the 
mid-1980s, so that by the end of the dec- 
ade, this fraction dropped to about 40 per- 
cent, where it has remained. I also learned 
that red-footed boobies and red-tailed 
tropic birds feed almost exclusively on 
squid and flying fish. I wondered if these 
marine creatures had been reduced in 
number by some environmental change 
that had also affected the lobsters. If so, 
why did the decUne in seabird reproduc- 
tive success precede the decline in lobster 
catches by three or four years? 

Maybe monk seal statistics had some- 




Ed Robinson; Pacific Stock 

Searching the reef for lobsters, fish, and 
other creatures on which to dine, a 
Hawaiian monk seal, left, rolls beneath 
the surf. A monk seal, below, basks on an 
atoll in northwestern Hawaii. 

Erwin and Peggy Bauer; Bruce Coleman, Inc. 

thing to tell me. I turned to Tim Ragen, a 
colleague at the National Marine Fisheries 
Service, who monitors the endangered an- 
imals. Ragen had worked as a carpenter 
before becoming a marine biologist. Now 
he builds models of marine mammal pop- 
ulations instead of furniture. Ragen ex- 
plained that the records on monk seal pups 
only went back to 1986, but the data did 
show a decline in first-year survival rates 
from about 85 percent in the mid-1980s to 
about 45 percent in the early 1990s. Like 
Flint, Ragen didn't know the reason for the 
decline, but after eliminating possible 
causes such as disease, he felt that the 
most likely cause was a scarcity of reef 
fishes and lobsters, which make up a sig- 
nificant part of a monk seal's diet. 

With lobsters, seabirds, and seals all 
showing strong evidence of decline, I be- 
came fairiy certain that something had af- 
fected the entire marine ecosystem. To test 
my hypothesis, I looked to the reef fishes. 
In the early 1980s, their numbers had been 
surveyed at selected sites throughout the 
northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Because 
fishing is prohibited near these shallow 
reefs, any decline a decade later by a sec- 
ond survey of the same sites would be fur- 
ther evidence of environmental change. To 
coordinate a field survey to estimate reef 
fish densities at nine of the original sites, I 
enlisted the help of Ed DeMartini, a coral 
reef ecologist. 

The last biological data would come 
from a satellite and would indicate how the 
marine life at the base of the food chain 
was faring. Either directly or indirectly, 
phytoplankton, the microscopic plant life 
that thrives near the ocean surface, pro- 
vides almost all the food for the ocean's 
animal life. From space, the Coastal Zone 
Color Scanner, a special sensor mounted 
on a satellite, could measure an index of 
phytoplankton abundance. Unfortunately, 
the sensor, which was especially designed 
to pick up the light reflected from the 
chlorophyll in the phytoplankton, was 
only operational from 1979 to 1986, but it 
did record data during the crucial period of 
the early to mid-1980s. 

While the reef surveys were being con- 

ducted, and Mei Zhou, a computer wizard, 
was computing phytoplankton estimates 
from satellite data retrieved from a giant 
NASA data base, I traveled to Victoria, 
British Columbia, to attend a conference 
on climate change and northern fish popu- 
lations. I learned that weather patterns 
over the North Pacific had changed signif- 
icantly since the last decade. Every year, 
the Aleutian low-pressure system is re- 
sponsible for Hawaii's winter rainy season 
and the strong winds that blow from Janu- 
ary to March, generating rough seas and 
the huge waves that surfers love. For about 
a decade, from 1977 to 1988, the Aleutian 
low was more intense and farther eastward 
than it had been at any period since the 
1940s, causing unusually strong winds in 
the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The 
cUmate change was not abrupt. There was 
a gradual increase in the intensity of the 
Aleutian low, and the winds that accompa- 
nied it, from 1977 to the early 1980s, fol- 
lowed by a gradual decline, so by 1988 the 
chmate was back to long-term pre- 1977 





Jack Jeffrey: Photo Resource Hawaii 

A red-footed booby, left, perches in a tree on Kure Atoll In Hawaii. Below. 
False-color satellite images show the changing distribution of microscopic 
plant life, or phytoplankton, in the northern Pacific. Green indicates a high 
phytoplankton concentration; blue, a low one. The white patches are the main 
Hawaiian Islands, and the black patches are clouds. A drop in productivity to 
the north of the main Hawaiian Islands is evident between the first quarter 
of 1982. below left, and the same period in 1986, below right. 

levels characterized by a weak Aleutian 
low and weak winds. 

I left the conference with a new insight 
into the changes in the marine community 
of the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. 
Since I had no biological data prior to the 
1980s, I had assumed that the level of pro- 
ductivity in the early 1980s was the norm 
and that the recent drop signaled some- 
thing unusual — a reasonable assumption 
given that the commercial lobster fishery 
had only been in operation since 1980, 
when lobsters were plentiful. Having 
leamed that the early 1980s were charac- 
terized by abnormal climate pattems, I re- 
alized that the opposite was more likely. 
What originally looked like an ecological 
disaster, might be only a return to the usual 
population levels. The challenge that re- 
mained, however, was to determine if the 
atmospheric changes across the northern 
Pacific were reflected by equally dramatic 
changes in the ocean — changes that could 
effect an entire ecosystem. 

Back in Hawaii, I went to see Gary 
Mitchum, a physical oceanographer at the 
University of Hawaii. A year before, 
Mitchum had shown me how a shift in cur- 
rent could have caused a change in lobster 
distribution, and he thought that his help 
entitled him to some of the lobsters caught 
on our research cruises. When I entered 
his, office, he reminded me that he not re- 

ceived a single lobster for his trouble. 
Once I explained the reason for my visit, 
however, Mitchum forgot about free lob- 
sters and became intrigued with the idea 
that a decade of unusually strong Aleutian 
lows could alter the ocean enough to have 
drastic effects on marine life. He agreed to 
sift through the oceanographic data to see 
if he could find any evidence of such a 

Several weeks later, Mitchum came to 
see me and was quite pleased with what he 
had found: several large-scale features of 
the ocean reflected the changing intensity 
and position of the Aleutian low. The 
match was good enough to convince him 
that the link between atmosphere and 
ocean was real. During the last decade, 
tide gauges recorded exceptionally high 
sea levels over the central and eastern 
North Pacific during the winter months. 
The increase, which reached about four 
inches, was probably caused by an east- 
ward shift in ocean waters due to the 
change in wind strength and pattern result- 
ing from the change in the low-pressure 
system. At the same time, Mitchum found 
that water-temperature readings taken 
from ships showed that from 1977 to 
1988, the warm surface layer extended 
much farther down than it did from 1960 
to 1976 or since 1988. This is evidence 
that from 1977 to 1988, there was an in- 

crease in the mixing of deep, nutrient-rich 
waters with nutrient-poor surface waters. 
Mitchum and I estimated that during this 
eleven-year period, the deeper mixing 
brought five times more nutrients into the 
surface waters than during the period from 
1960 to 1976 or since 1988. 

As a biologist, I was more excited by 
Mitchum 's second finding, because it had 
great consequences for the marine life 
near the surface. Sun-warmed surface 
water is less dense and "floats" atop the 
colder water below. Usually there is very 
little mixing between the two layers. With- 
out an influx of nutrients from deeper wa- 
ters, the growth of phytoplankton near the 
surface — where the sunlight is — is se- 
verely limited. The problem is particularly 
acute in midoceanic regions, such as the 
waters around Hawaii, where the sea is 
often described as a desert. Whenever the 
deeper, nutrient-rich waters are brought to 
the surface, as in an upwelling system, 
phytoplankton production soars. This is 
apparently what happened from 1977 to 
1988, when more nutrients from deep wa- 
ters were mixed into surface waters. 

By early 1993, the pieces were all com- 
ing together. Ed DeMartini had the results 
of the reef fish survey, which confirmed 
that the numbers of most species have 
dropped 30 percent from what they were 
in the early 1980s. Mei Zhou's analyses of 


Andrew G. Wood; Photo Researchers. Inc. 

In the northwestern Hawaiian Islands, pyramid butterfly 
fish, below, school above a reef. A small bassletfish, 
right, hugs the reef, looking for food. 

Nikolas Konstantinou: Photo Resource Hawaii 

the satellite data were also ready and 
showed that phytoplankton production 
around Hawaii was highest during the first 
quarter of each year when the Aleutian 
low was strongest. Mean chlorophyll den- 
sity estimated from the satellite was about 
40 percent higher during the first quarter 
of each year from 1981 to 1983 than dur- 
ing the same period in the years immedi- 
ately before 1981 and after 1983. 

From the bottom to the top, all four 
major levels of the nearshore marine 
ecosystem in the northwestern Hawaiian 
Islands reflected the changing atmos- 
pheric conditions. As the Aleutian low 
reached its greatest intensity and eastward 
position in the early 1980s, the westerhes 
blowing across northwestern Hawaii gath- 
ered strength. The resultant wind-driven 
currents and rough seas increased the 
amount of vertical mixing of ocean wa- 
ters, so that nutrients were transported 
from deep waters to the surface, thus in- 
creasing phytoplankton production. 

Higher phytoplankton densities observed 
in the early 1980s, translated into more 
zooplankton, which in turn supports a 
greater abundance of flying fishes and 
squid, which are prey for seabirds. Abun- 
dant plankton could increase the survival 
of reef fishes and lobsters, which eat 
plankton during their long larval phase. 
And expanded populations of reef fishes 
and lobsters would provide more food for 
monk seal pups. 

The first quarter of each year seems to 
be a critical time for many animals, so 
when the Aleutian low began to wane in 
the mid-1980s, it would have had an im- 
mediate effect. As juvenile flying fish and 
squid declined in number, seabirds would 
spend more time away from their nests 
looking for food, leaving their eggs or 
chicks exposed to the sun. An immediate 
decline in the survival of lobster larvae 
would have occurred, but because lobsters 
trapped by the lobstermen are three to four 
years old, the decline wouldn't be ob- 

served until the very late 1980s and early 
1990s. Because monk seal pups will only 
eat lobsters and reef fishes that are at least 
several years old, a decline of monk seal 
pup survival would not have been evident 
until the late 1980s as well. Thus the time 
lag between declines beginning in the 
mid-1980s for seabirds but late 1980s for 
monk seals and lobsters is explained. 

I went back to the lobster fishermen and 
told them I had good news and bad news: 
the good news was that the decUne in lob- 
ster catches wasn't due to overfishing; the 
bad news was that, unless the Aleutian low 
strengthened again, they were stuck with 
the current low marine productivity and 
poor lobster catches for a long time. 

While the case of the vanishing lobster 
appears solved, I've learned from years of 
experience that ecosystems are compli- 
cated characters. We should not always 
count on nature to provide the same har- 
vest; natural changes in cUmate can work 
for or against us. D 

58 Natural History 2/94 

Celestial Events 

Bagging the 
Little Green Man 

by Gail S. Cleere 

The magnificent winter constellations 
are perhaps the easiest ones of the year to 
recognize. This is especially true in Febru- 
ary, when the evening sky is devoid of 
planets that might otherwise confuse us. 
Mercury is low in the west at dusk early in 
the month, and brillant Jupiter rises in the 
late night hours. By sunset, Orion the 
Hunter is high in the southeast. Four bright 
stars mark his extremities, and three more 
in a row form his belt, making Orion an 
easy target, even for the most amateur ob- 
server. The Hunter is flanked by the 
brightest of all the visible stars, Sirius, to 
the lower left, and the prettiest of all open 
clusters, the Pleiades, to the upper right 
just beyond the V-shaped open cluster 
called the Hyades. 

But while we can admire the beautiful 
stars of the winter season as soon as it gets 
dark, we can also catch sight of some 
spring stars that are beginning to appear in 
the east. Leo the Lion, whose stars form a 
distinctive "sickle" or backward question 
mark, can be seen emerging out of the 
east-northeast horizon just as Orion 
crosses the meridian. After midnight, as 
Leo crosses the meridian, Jupiter rises in 
the claws of Scorpius. At the same time, 
Hercules is rising in the east-northeast. 
Hercules is marked by the four brightest 
stars, which form a pattern called the Key- 

In the faO of 1974, Hercules was the 
constellation to which we directed our first 
intentional interstellar space message. 
Using the Arecibo radiotelescope in 
Puerto Rico — the world's largest — as- 
tronomers transmitted a three-minute table 
of binary digits toward M-13, a closely 
packed star cluster in Hercules. The mod- 
em search for extraterrestrial intelligence 

had begun in 1960, however, when a radio 
dish at the National Radio Astronomy Ob- 
servatory in West Virginia was "tuned" to 
Hsten to two sunlike stars located a rela- 
tively close twelve light-years from us 
(Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani) on the 
chance that a civihzation capable of radio 
broadcasts might inhabit a planet orbiting 
one of the stars. 

Are we alone? Our chances of finding 
out any time soon seem to be fading. After 
years of intermittent studies and short- 
Uved programs, NASA formally inaugu- 
rated its Search for Extraterrestrial Intelh- 
gence (SETI) and began listening for 
suspect radio signals in October 1992 — 
the 500th anniversary of Columbus's land- 
fall in the New World. But exactly one 
year later, a House-Senate conference 
committee voted to kill funding for the 
program. According to Senator Richard 
Bryan of Nevada, "Millions have been 
spent and we have yet to bag a single little 
green fellow." Bryan derided the program 
as "the great Martian chase.... Not a sin- 
gle Martian has said 'take me to your 
leader.' Not a single flying saucer has ap- 
phed for FAA approval." 

Serious scientists using radio astron- 
omy to search for nonrandom signals in 
space have battled that kind of rhetoric for 
years. The search for life on other planets 
has always been viewed as a somewhat 
suspect endeavor. Early science fiction 
was one problem. Science historian Trudy 
Bell wrote that "heroes swashing their 
buckles in steaming Venusian swamps or 
on the shifting sands of Mars, rescuing 
voluptuous damsels from the clutches of 
green and drooUng monsters" didn't help 
the more serious scientists. Bell suspects 
that this notion, coupled with flying saucer 

cuhs, not only shelved the idea of extrater- 
restrial Ufe for many years but also caused 
it to "fall off the shelf mto bad company." 
This "giggle factor," some experts claim, 
is what killed the SETI program. 

Perhaps to avoid being associated with 
the supermarket-tabloid brand of interest 
in extraterrestrial life, in 1992 NASA re- 
named the SETI program the High Reso- 
lution Microwave Survey (HRMS). 
HRMS was the culmination of a twenty- 
year project to develop sophisticated digi- 
tal radio receivers capable of tunmg in tens 
of millions of frequencies at a time, Usten- 
ing for signals of artificial origin against a 
busy background of interference from ter- 
restrial and astrophysical sources. 

Two approaches were being used. One 
employed the Arecibo radiotelescope to 
scan a thousand stars within 100 light- 
years of the sun. The second used the 
Deep Space Network's radiotelescope m 
the Mojave Desert to scan the remaining 
sky with a less sensitive, broader-band 
coverage. Later, telescopes in the Southern 
Hemisphere were to be used to cover that 
half of the sky. 

NASA administrator Daniel Goldin is 
disappointed. "SETI," he says,"is a pro- 
gram that pays for itself [in useful technol- 
ogy] and is inspirational." Project scientist 
Jill Tarter of NASA's Ames Research Cen- 
ter says that private funding will be so- 
hcited for HRMS, which, she claims, "is 
intrinsically international." Dr. Steven 
Dick, NASA's SETI project historian, 
commented, "It's basic human curiosity, 
and even Congress can't stifle that. One 
way or another, SETI will be back." As it 
now stands, E. T. might try to phone 
home, but we have voted to take the re- 
ceiver off the hook. 

60 Natxiral History 2/94 

The Planets in February 

Mercury will put in a good evening ap- 
pearance early this month. On the 1st, ap- 
proximately one hour after sunset, look for 
Mercury as a bright, starlike object very 
near to the western horizon. That night 
you can also use Mercury as a guide to 
find Saturn. The two planets will be in 
conjunction, with the fainter Saturn posi- 
tioned on a line below and to the left of 
Mercury. You may need binoculars to lo- 
cate Saturn in the evening twihght. Mer- 
cury will be at its greatest elongation — its 
greatest angular distance east of the sun 
( 1 8°) on the 4th, and should remain visible 
for at least another week before becoming 
deeply immersed in the solar glare. Mer- 
cury will arrive at inferior conjunction 
with the sun on the 20th. 

Venus emerges from behind the sun late 
this month to become an evening object, 
but it remains too near the sun to be seen. 

Mars is a morning object but, like 
Venus, is too near the sun to be visible this 
month. Recent studies of the red planet's 
southern hemisphere give further support 
to the theory that water once flowed on 
Mars. Two astronomers in California have 
been studying Viking images of a large 
crater called Argyle Planitia. A network of 
channels on both the north and south sides 
of the crater could easily have been carved 
by running water. Sediments deposited in 
this impact basin indicate that it once con- 
tained a large body of water. 

Jupiter rises about 12:30 a.m. local 
time on the 1st, and about two hours ear- 
lier at the end of the month. The planet is 
unmistakable, appearing as a brilliant, sil- 
very-white object in the south-southeast 
sky at dawn. During the morning hours of 
the 3d, look for Jupiter hovering well 

above and to the left of the last-quarter 
moon. Use Jupiter to locate the star 
Zubenelgenubi, whose Arabic name 
means "southern claw of the scorpion." 
Look just above Zubenelgenubi for an- 
other star of similar magnitude, and you 
will have found Zubeneschamali, the 
"northern claw of the scorpion." With 
these two stars located, the curved body of 
Scorpius, just below them, is easy to find. 

Saturn may be glimpsed at the very be- 
ginning of the month shortly after sunset 
by using the brighter Mercury as a guide. 
But within a few days. Mercury moves up 
and away from Saturn, while the ringed 
planet drops toward the westem horizon 
and gets lost in the glow of the evening 
twilight. Saturn will reach conjunction 
with the sun on the 21st. 

Uranus and Neptune are theoretically 
far enough west of the sun to be seen in 
predawn skies, although their altitude 
along the southeastern horizon is low. 
Both of these blue-green orbs (visible in 
very dark skies as fuzzy patches of light in 
binoculars) will remain in Sagittarius all 
year. On the 8th, a waning crescent moon 
passes just above them at sunrise, marking 
their position in the sky. 

Pluto is just northeast of Jupiter, not far 
from the star the Arabs call Zed Prior in 
the constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent 
Bearer. This distant planet is only visible 
with a fairly large telescope. 

The Moon reaches last quarter on the 
3rd at 3:06 a.m., EST; is new on the 10th at 
9:30 A.M., EST; reaches first quarter on the 
18th at 12:47 p.m., EST; and is full on the 
25th at 8:15 P.M., EST 

Gail S. Cleere lives in Washington, D.C., 
and writes on popular astronomy. 

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Reflections on Slime 

by Steven Austad 

In his essay Possible Worlds, the late 
British geneticist J.B.S. Haldane imagines 
the moral and religious sense we might 
find in dogs, honeybees, and barnacles and 
concludes: "My own suspicion is that the 
universe is not only queerer than we sup- 
pose, but queerer than we can suppose." It 
is difficult not to be reminded of Haldane's 
remark when entering the believe-it-or-not 
world of microscopic invertebrates, where 
John Tyler Bonner has spent his scientific 

In Bonner's world, the rules that our 
five senses have taught us govern animal 
life simply do not apply. When an amoeba 
reproduces by splitting in two, is it then 
both parent and offspring of the same age, 
or two offspring and no parent? What do 

Life Cycles: Reflections of an Evo- 
lutionary Biologist, by John Tyler 
Bonner. Princeton University Press, 
$19.95; 206 pp. 

gender and age mean? What constitutes an 
individual? For instance, we normally 
think of individuals as large, multicellular 
animals, such as ourselves, that arise from 
repeated cell divisions of a single fertilized 
egg. But some organisms become large 
without becoming multicellular. The 
"true" slime molds, such as those bright, 
slimy orange gobs we see on rotten logs, 
can, under good condiUons, grow to the 
size of a human hand, yet still consist of a 
single cell. 

Other organisms become multicellular 
by aggregating rather than repeatedly di- 
viding. In this category are the "cellular" 
slime molds, the organisms to which, says 
Bonner, in his new book's opening sen- 
tence, he has devoted his life. They can 
exist as self-sufficient, single-celled 
"amoebas" or as multicelled "slugs." 

Ubiquitous in soil and decaying wood, 
these creatures emerge from spores and 
assume a solitary existence, slithering 
about, eating (by engulfing bacteria), and 
reproducing (by simply splitting). 

When the going gets tough, however, 
slime molds stick together — literally. That 
is, food shortages cause certain amoebas 
to begin secreting attraction chemicals, 
thus drawing surrounding individuals to- 
ward them. The resultant social aggrega- 
tion of these previously independent cells 
forms the sausage-shaped "slug." This 
new individual develops distinctive cell 
types at its front and back, migrates toward 
light, and upon finding a suitable spot, 
forms an erect fruifing body crowned by 
spores from some of the original amoebas. 
These spores depend, however, on the al- 
truism of many other amoebas that died in 
forming the fruiting body's sturdy sup- 
porting stalk. 

We could delve deeper into what an in- 
dividual slime mold is, but this book isn't 
about slime molds. It is about the unusual 
perspective that a lifetime study of shme 
molds can give to large biological ques- 
tions. Bonner says he has "an inordinate 
fondness for grand ideas." This isn't sur- 
prising. Generally, the smaller and less 
charismatic the study animal, the more we 
focus on grand ideas. And because our 
ideas are as heavily influenced by the par- 
ticular organisms we study as by the envi- 
ronment in which we were raised, thinking 
about these bizarre creatures has led Bon- 
ner to a succession of unusually absorbing 
ideas and trenchant observations. 

For instance, he argues that biologists 
generally are overly fixated on adult or- 
ganisms, probably because humans spend 
so much of their existence as adults. When 
we think of a dog, we immediately picture 
some generic adult dog. But a puppy is just 
as much of a dog as an adult dog — so is 
the fetus, embryo, and even the fertilized 

egg. "Organisms are not just adults — they 
are life cycles," Bonner says. Focusing on 
the period of the life cycle between fertil- 
ization and first production of offspring al- 
lowed Bonner to realize that generation 
length will, to a certain extent, be limited 
by how much growth an organism requires 
before reproducing. To demonstrate this, 
he gathered data, now reproduced in virtu- 
ally all introductory biology texts, show- 
ing that body size and generation length 
have a consistent relationship whether the 
organism is a bacterium or a sequoia. He 
also emphasizes that an adult cannot be al- 
tered without altering the process by 
which adults are created. 

Bonner's focus on size and the various 
routes to multicellularity have led him to 
additional insights. He notes that increas- 
ing cell number is intimately related to in- 
creasing division of labor, a theory appli- 
cable to microscopic organisms or the 
workings of a modem city or corporation. 
A simple division of labor is seen even in 
filament-shaped colonies of primitive 
cyanobacteria, which may have some 
sporelike cells speciahzed for surviving 
hard times, other cells specialized for pho- 
tosynthesis, and still others specialized for 
chemically processing nitrogen. In case 
we hadn't thought to ask, he also points 
out that the multicellularity produced by 
successive cell divisions is a phenomenon 
of aquatic organisms, whereas multicellu- 
larity by aggregation is primarily a terres- 
trial phenomenon, thus reassuring us that 
we did have an aquatic ancestry. 

In the latter half of the book, Bonner 
tackles, in his understated way, the nature 
of sociality, consciousness, and culture. 
He considers many animal societies in 
light of the twin forces holding shme mold 
societies together, namely, division of 
labor and communication among the 
parts. If the terrain covered in this section 
is less compelling, it is because other pop- 

62 Natural History 2/94 

ularizers such as evolutionist Richard 
Dawkins and sociobiologist E. O. Wilson 
have shown us the same landscape. Never- 
theless, I very much enjoyed Bonner's ap- 
preciation of a clever experiment — that of 
biologist Gustav Kramer, who, in experi- 
ments with starlings and migration, used 
mirrors and hght bulbs in an indoor enclo- 
sure to alter the apparent position and 
movement of the sun. 

The book is leavened throughout with 
Bonner's own personal history and charm- 
ing asides. He recalls how his early inter- 
est in birds was cleverly deflected by his 
father, who was afraid ornithologists could 
not make a living. And during a sabbatical 
leave in France, he notices how the French 
mix their protozoan culture medium rather 
informally. Instead of the American (or 
German) technique of meticulously mea- 
suring ingredients according to a standard 
recipe, the French mix together a handful 
of this, a dash of that, a pinch of something 
else until the mixture seems right. He im- 
mediately reaUzes that the French labora- 
tory tradition comes straight from the 
French kitchen, and who would presume 
to dampen the spontaneity of a French 

To be compared with Haldane isn't re- 
ally fair to Bonner — or anyone else for 
that matter — as Haldane was possibly the 
best popular biological writer we've had. 
As veteran baseball manager Sparky An- 
derson once said of the Cincinnati Reds' 
nonpareil baseball catcher Johnny Bench, 
"Don't compare nobody to Johnny Bench, 
you'll just embarrass that guy." However 
much one might want to avoid the com- 
parison, Bonner's prose is nonetheless like 
Haldane's — wonderfully clear and direct. 
Like Haldane's, Bonner's popular writing 
is more than a repetition of his scientific 
work, glitzed and gussied up for a general 
audience. He develops original ideas and 
from his unusual vantage considers topics 

outside the domain of pure science. 

Bonner also has a gift for recognizing 
apt and unexpected examples. When he 
dismisses evolutionist Jean-Baptiste La- 
marck's idea of how we might pass on 
traits acquired during our lifetime, he 
chooses not to use the well-known tail- 
cutting experiments that German evolu- 
tionist August Weismann performed on 
twenty generations of mice. Instead he 
uses Weismann's more obscure argument 
that if Lamarck were correct, Jews should 
no longer require circumcision. Using an- 
other original image, Bonner points out 
how size affects every aspect of an organ- 
ism's biology — if watermelons grew on 
trees, their weight would require a stalk as 
thick as the melon itself. 

Unlike Haldane, however, Bonner laces 
his ideas and arguments with self-depre- 
cating and humorous personal anecdotes. 
My favorite one concerns Haldane him- 
self, whom a diffident young Bonner en- 
countered in the lavatory after lecturing at 
University College in London. "Bonner, 
we don't make jokes in lectures in this 
country," boomed the always intimidating 

If we measure books by the degree to 
which they alter our perceptions, then this 
one is certainly a winner. We will never be 
able to look at a rotting log in quite the 
same way again or dig through the soil in 
the garden. In one of Saul Bellow's novels, 
a character offers an opinion that aptly de- 
scribes Bonner's perspective — "Nothing 
is too rum to be true." Indeed! 

Former lion trainer Steven Austad is now 
an associate professor in the Department 
of Biological Sciences at the University of 
Idaho. He studies evolutionary biology 
and the biology of aging, and combines 
laboratory research on opossums with 
fieldwork on the arboreal nmrsupials of 
Papua New Guinea. 


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Tours, 134 W.26 St. (C) NY, NY 10001 



children's program, small groups. 

call for brochure: 6 1 0-543-6200 fax: 6 1 0-543-6262 

343 Dartmouth Avenue. Swarthmore, PA 1 908 1 

camping safaris in Kenya. Tanzania. Uganda. Zim- 
babwe. Botswana, Namibia. Kilimanjaro climbs, go- 
rilla tracking, more. Also, unique tours in Egypt, Israel, 
Turkey, Jordan, Syria. Free color catalogs. Hi- 
malayan Travel, (800) 225-2380, 24 hours. 

wildlife/gorilla safaris to East. Southern Africa. Also, 
Egypt. India. Nepal. SE Asia. Call Wanderlust Adven- 
tures in Denver at (800) 572-1 592 or (303) 777-5846. 

Galapagos & Costa Rica Cruises 

fsfanib, Aa/nftiiBsts, Beaches FORUM 

& Vanishing WlUllle — En/oy TRAVEL INT'L 

Exotic Destinations on AFFORDABLE 510-671-2900 

Temptress Cruise/Land Adventures. FAX 510-671-2993 

Explore, Hike, Snorkel, Kayak, Dive, 91 Gregory Ln. #21 

Relax, individuals, Groups, Families. Pleasant Hill, CA 

OUlar Sensaaoaal OestlaaUoas. 9 4 5 2 3 

AFRICA: Personalized safaris in East and Southern 
Africa featuring Ranch/Private Home Safaris, Box 49, 
Mt. Tremper. NY 12457 1-800-724-1221. 

ALASKA! Small group camping and adventure travel 
including the Inside Passage, Arctic and Aleutians. 
Adventures include bicycle, raft, kayak and mountain 
bike trips. CampAlaska Tours: Box 872247, Wasilla. 
AK 99687 (800) 376-9438. 




First Class Cruises with Naturalist Guides. 

Naural History Adventures to Cosia Rica 

Tented Sataris to Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda i^ 


1 years of Qualily Nalural History Trips 

tvj ■ 

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A"g 800 351-5041 ■ 

^ ' 1 P.O.Box3636-CI0 1 
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m . 1 

64 Natural History 2/94 

ALLAGASH CANOE TRIPS, Mane and Canada. Wilder- 
ness, wildlife. Guided adventures for adults, families, teens. 
Box 71 3H, Greenville, ME 04441 (207) 695-3668. 


You, 9 other adventurers and our licensed 
naturalist will sail by yacht to explore more islands 
than any other Galapagos expedition. 60 trip 
dates. Machu Picchu option. Free brochure. 

Inca Floats 510-420-1550 
131 1-N 63rd St., Emeryville CA 94608 

naturalist guide. Beautiful lodge, deep jungle camp, 
Amazon River boat trips. Affordable rates, small 
groups/independent travelers. Information/broctiure 
(800)765-5657 Sol International. 


30 adventure and naturalist itineraries: 
nomads, tribal peoples, festivals, wildlife. 



Box #1147/ Dept NH, Carefree, AZ 85377 
Tel: (602) 488-3688 Fax: (602) 488-3406 

Nature, Hiking and ttie Outdoors. Enjoying tiiking and 
camping safaris, lodge stays, and island resorts in 
New Zealand's scenic National Parks and Milford 
Track; Australia's Outback, Tropical Nortti, and Great 
Barrier Reef. Pacific Exploration Co., Box 3042-N, 
Santa Barbara, CA 93130 (805) 687-7282 



Advert zru. i-£S 


Call For Travel Caraloi- 


Naliiral Hislon, WilJhfc. Cttilure, Adventure 

CANOE CANADA'S ARCTIC. Extremely remote fly-in 
canoe trips in Canada's Norttiwest Territories. Daily 
close-up sightings of wolves, muskoxen, caribou, 
moose. Wild-life biologist guide. Operating 20 years. 
Brochure. Canoe Arctic, Inc., Box 130C, Fort Smith, 
N.W.T, Canada XOE OPO 

COSTA RICA. National Parks, wildlife, birdwatching, 
rafting, beaches. Guaranteed weekly departures and 
customized itineraries. Free brochures. Terra Adven- 
tures, 70-15 Nansen St., Forest Hills, NY 11375. 
(800) 53-TERRA. 




A Nature lover's 

PARADISE. Experience the 

tree-top level of earth's 

richest rainforest on the 

remarkable canopy walkvi'ay 

system. ask about our 

Rainforest Workshops. Call 

FOR details a BROCHURE 



One Environs PARK. Helena Al 35080 


Excellent boats. Plus Amazon & Ande: 


In- depth natural history adven l ures. Small Rroups.(^ 
Voyagers, Dept. NG, Box 915, Ithaca, NY 14851. 1-800-633-0299 

DIG DINOSAURS! The Western Badlands Fossil Ex- 
pedition presents 6-day excavation field camps this 
summer in eastern Montana. Learn to discover fos- 
sils. Small groups. Unique Western Badlands adven- 
ture! Box 1086, Drumheller, AB, Canada TOJ OYO 
Phone/Fax (403) 823-6774 

GALPAGOS-AMAZON. Best choice of cnjises: Luxury 
to Economy Combine with Indian markets or Amazon 
jungle. Free brochures. Terra Adventures, 70-15 
Nansen St., Forest Hills, NY 11375 (800)53-TERRA. 

northwest territories 
DANCE with the WOLVES'! 

- Join Tundra Tom in Ihe Canadian Arctic al our escorted wildltte photogra- 
phy tent basecamps for active tundra woli dens, muskoxen herds, the great 
caribou migration, raptors, migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, natural history, 
and so much more, .at the Thelon the most remote wildlife sanctuary in the 
world' Each 8-day program costs $3,450 00 USD from Minneapolis. Also 8- 
16 day canoe & raft expeditions. Best references available. 




GALAPAGOS ISLANDS tours since 1979. tVlainland 
Ecuador/Pem/Bolivia options. Joseph Colley LAST, Inc. 
43 Millstone, Randallstown, MD 21133 (410)922-3116 

GALAPAGOS. Specializing in comprehensive, profes- 
sionally-led, natural history and photo tours of the 
Galapagos Islands. t\/lonthly departures/12 passen- 
ger yachts. Galapagos Travel, P.O. Box 1220, San 
Juan Bautista, CA 95045. (800)969-9014. 

donesia, Vietnam. Tours, treks, safaris, overland ad- 
ventures. Huge selection. Affordable rates. Free 
color catalogs. Himalayan Travel, 112 Prospect St., 
Stamford, Ct 06901. (800)225-2380, 24 hours. 

IRELAND! Discover the magical, emerald green world 
of Ireland, Over 30 walking cycling, horseriding, sail- 
ing and natural history holidays featuring cozy B&Bs, 
home-cooked meals, small villages, traditional culture, 
and the friendliest people in the world! Celtic Nature 
Connections, Cliddaun-4, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland. 
Phone/fax 011-353-66-59882. 

JOURNEY WITH WHALES along Baja Califomia aboard 
the Pacific Oueen. Gray whales, elephant seals, dol- 
phins; island, lagoon exploration; superb bird photogra- 
phy 8/10 day expeditions December-April. Pacific 
Queen/Fisherman's Landing, 2838 Garrison Street, San 
Diego, California 92106 (619) 726-2228; (619) 224-4965 

In-deplh group & private salaris. Excellent Guides. 
East Africa, Botswana, Namibia. 

VOYAGERS, Dept NH, Box 915, 

^^ Ithaca, NY 14851. 

:#f 1-800-633-0299 

IVIACHU PICCHU. Trekking the Inca Trail to l\/lachu 
Picchu. Amazon lodges/cruises. Patagonia. Guar- 
anteed departures, customized itineraries. Free 
brochures. Terra Adventures, 70-15 Nansen St., For- 
est Hills, NY 11375. (800)53-TERRA. 


As featured on NBC, ABC, Nationol Geographic , , , 
Explore Alosko and work with whales on on exlfo- 
ordinory 10 day expedition aboard a classic 126' 

yochl. P.O. Box 1106E, Camiel Valley, CA 93924 
(4081 659-5807 

Intersea Research, Inc. smre 1976 

alized worldwide and domestic tours, small groups, 
varied interests. Warren Harden Tours, Box 720155, 
Norman, OK 73070. 


Caribbean - Virgin Islands 

A^ Biiding, Snotkcling, Nature Studies, Daily 
'■ ,\ Lectures - World Nature Tours & 
i\\\ DlrlgoCrulses,39 Waterside Lane 
L'Vv Clinton CT. 0641 3 

H^evoJT^ 1-800-845-5520 

towns on the Rio Napo; learn about rainforest biology 
in a jungle school alongside Ecuadorian guides; dis- 
cover the changing lifestyles of the people who inhabit 
Amazonia. Small specialized trips to Ecuador, Costa 
Rica, Thailand, Nepal, and more. Myths and Moun- 
tains. 251 Cheswold Lane, Haverford, PA 19041. 
(800)484-7422, ext. 1184. 

SOUTH & CENTRAL AMERICA; Overland & natural 
history tours, Amazon, Galapagos, Andean trekking. 
Free color catalog. Himalayan Travel. (800)225-2380. 

Don't miss the spectacular total eclipse in Chile on No- 
vembers. Plus visits to Bolivia and Argentina. For de- 
tails, contact Voyagers, 1-800-633-0299. 


Quality Natural History & Photography 
Trips - 20 Years Experience 


1696N Ocean Dr.. McKinleyville. CA 95521 
800-548-7555 or 707-839-0178 

TREAD LIGHTLY to the Amazon, Belize, Mongolia 
and more. Our wholesale airfares are light on your 
wallet too. 1-800-643-0060 (203)868-1710. 

Morocco, Iceland, Madagascar and much more. Small 
group holidays for all ages. Call for brochure and itiner- 
aries. Adventures Abroad 1 (800) 665-3998, 24 Hours. 

Rates and Style Information 

$3.90 per word: 1 6 word minimum. Display classified 
is $425 per inch. All advertisements must be prepaid. 
Rates are not structured for agency or cash dis- 
counts. Ail advertisements are accepted at NAT- 
URAL HISTORY'S discretion. Send check/money 
order to; The Market/NATURAL HISTORY Maga- 
zine. Central Park West at 79th St., New York, NY 
10024. Direct any written inquiries to Eileen O'Keefe 
at the above address. Please include your personal 
address and telephone number, issue preferred, and 
suggested category. Deadline — 1st of the month, 
two months prior to cover date (the January issue 
closes Nov. 1). 


Polar Bears, 
Tundra Buggies 
& The PoiAR Bear 
BuNKHOusE Lodge 

Experience the gathering of 
the Great White Bears on the 
shores of Canada's Hudson 
Bay from the exciting vantage 
of a Tundra Buggy®. Or 
immerse yourself in the bears' 
world at our exclusive Tundra 

Departures-October, 1994 
From $1895 


PO Box 1 637C, Vashon, WA 98070 
8 00-3 68-00 77 


Peaceful calm and unspoiled Its no wonder 
we call Marathon our own natural treasure And 
we've saved it all for you. Stroll centuries old 
nature trails at Crane Point Hammock. Do the 
Museum of Natural History of The Florida Keys. 
Take in our famed Seven Mile Bridge. Or simply 
enjoy our shops, restaurants and boutiques. 
It's all here. Naturally. For more information and 
a free coupon book with savings up to 51500, 
call 1-800-2-MARATHON. 




Introducing the Revolutionary ^^B^^ i 



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free caialog! 1- 

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ox 57^ IIINESBURC IT 05-161 .:?- . 


Private guided, tented safari to a part of the world rarely 
seen by outsiders. Max 16 adventurous paticipants. 
October, 1994, 19 days, U.S./U.S. {$6,850.00 Air & 
Ground from N.Y.) Ethiopian Expeditions, Suite 340, 
2568 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL 60614 (312) 327-3120 


Rafts offer effortless conveyance to tlie most spectacular 

londscapes on earlli: Groid 

lands, and Dinosaur 

tlie Colorado, Snake, 

Trips vary 

end to two 

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544 E 3)00 S. SU UI S4I07 IIOII 216 ?0I7 FIX liOl) Jtt 144) 

Canyon, Canyon- 
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Marine Biology. 

Botany & Otnithology 

on pristine Maine Island. 

For High School students 

with a genuine interest 

in Environmenlal Studies. 

Staff-Student ratio I 5 

Two Sessions: June 18 to July 6 
July 11 to July 29 

For lurtfier information contncl. 

I^ine Island Ecology 

Academy of hatural Sciences 

1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway 

Philadelphia. PA 191 03-1 195 


The Accelerating Global Crisis 

Tfie final two lectures of the free series 
"The Accelerating Global Crisis: Meeting 
the Challenges" will take place in Febru- 
ary. On Tuesday, February 15, Benjamin 
R. Barber, Whitman Professor of Political 
Science at Rutgers University and author 
of The Congress of Politics, will discuss 
the ways in which globalization and tribal- 
ism conflict and counter democracy. A 
panel discussion will follow. Philosophical 
and spiritual solutions to global crises will 
be the subject of the series' concluding 
talk on Tuesday, February 22, by Ameri- 
can novelist Hortense CaUsher, who will 
explore the complexity of human experi- 
ence in today's world. Both lectures begin 
at 7:30 p.m. in the Main Auditorium and 
are part of the Education Department's 
year-long program "Global Cultures in a 
Changing World." For information and 
free tickets, call (212) 769-5315. 

Shamanic Rituals 

A two-day conference, sponsored by 
the Museum in association with the Asia 
Society, will explore the Korean shaman's 
world through traditional and contempo- 
rary music, drama, dance, visual arts, and 
film. Sessions will be held in the Mu- 
seum's Hall of Ocean Life and the Kauf- 
mann Theater on Saturday, February 26, 
and at the Asia Society on Sunday, Febru- 
ary 27. Both programs begin at 1:00 p.m. 
Call (212) 769-5315 for ticket prices and 
further information. 

BoLSON Tortoise Reserve 

A 45,000-acre reserve in northern Mex- 
ico has been established to protect the 
dwindling population of North America's 
largest land turtle, the Bolson tortoise. 
Through the initiative of the Turtle Recov- 
ery Program, a project of the American 
Museum of Natural History's Center for 
Biodiversity and Conservation, scientists 
and ranchers have cooperated to conserve 
one of the last intact tracts of Chihuahuan 
desert grassland, the ecosystem upon 
which the tortoise, as well as many other 
animals and plants, depends. 

Evolution of Dwarf Galaxies 

Studies of the formation and evolution 
of the Milky Way's nine companion dwarf 
galaxies will be discussed by Kenneth 
Mighell, of Columbia University's astron- 
omy department, on Tuesday, February 8. 
The lecture, part of the "Frontiers in As- 

66 Natural History 2/94 

At the American Museum of Natural History 

tronomy and Astrophysics" series, will 
begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Sky Theater. Tick- 
ets are $8 ($6 for members). For Planetar- 
ium information, call (212) 769-5900. 

Shark! Fact and Fantasy 

The habitat, anatomy, behavior, and 
evolution of sharks will be the focus of an 
exhibit in Gallery 3, opening Friday, Feb- 
ruary 4. Models and interactive exhibits 
will demonstrate how sharks perceive 
their environment and prey through highly 
specialized senses of sight, hearing, and 
smell. Some of the many scientific and 
medical uses of sharks wOl also be shown. 

Search for the Great Sharks 

Sharks have lived in the world's oceans 
for more than 350 million years, and the 
new IMAX film, opening in the Nature- 
max Theater on Saturday, February 5, will 
document scientists' underwater research 
on these creatures. Featured are a view of 
the largest and most rarely seen species, 
the whale shark, and the birth of a baby 
shark. Daily showtimes for Search for the 
Great Sharks are 10:30 and 11:30 a.m., 
and 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. To the Limit, an 
IMAX film exploring the body's ability to 
adapt to the demands of intense physical 
action, will be shown at 12:30, 2:30, and 
4:30 RM. daily. 

Chinese Shadow Theater 

The ancient Chinese folk art of shadow 
theater was brought to this country in the 
1850s by Chinese immigrants who 

worked on the railroads and in the gold 
fields. In this art form, figures constructed 
from colored and perforated translucent 
animal hides are manipulated behind a 
backlighted screen. On Tuesday, February 
1, at 7:00 p.m. in the Kaufmann Theater, 
the Yueh Lung Shadow Theater will enact 
folk tales and epics from Chinese litera- 
ture using exact Peking-style puppet repli- 
cas from the Museum's collections. Call 
(212) 769-5606 for ticket availabihty. 

Saving Grace at Angkor Wat 

Up until the last twenty years of war and 
civil strife, Cambodia's Angkor Wat had 
survived threats from humans and nature 
for more than a thousand years. On Tues- 
day, February 8, at 7:00 p.m., Bonnie 
Bumham, executive director of the World 
Monuments Fund, will describe the efforts 
to conserve and restore Angkor's temples 
and monasteries. This talk takes place in 
the Kaufmann Theater For more informa- 
tion, call (212) 769-5606. 

A Society of Wolves 

By the 1950s, wolves in the United 
States had been shot, trapped, and poi- 
soned to near-extinction. Rick Mclntyre, a 
photographer, author, and naturaUst who 
has spent sixteen years observing wild 
wolves in Alaska and Montana, will talk 
about the battle for the wolf's survival, at- 
titudes toward wolves throughout 
recorded history, and the controversial 
issue of reintroducing wolves to Yellow- 
stone and areas in the Southwest and 

A Bolson tortoise in llie Chihuahuan desert grassland 

Michael Klemens 

Northeast. This slide-illustrated lecture 
will be given on Thursday, February 17, at 
7:00 RM. in the Kaufmann Theater. Call 
(212) 769-5606 for information. 

The Search for our Human Origins 

Paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson, 
author of Lucy: The Beginnings of Hu- 
mankind and adviser to NOVA's television 
series Ancestors: The Search for Our 
Human Origins, will give a talk on Mon- 
day, February 14, at 7:00 rm. in the Main 
Auditorium. Among the topics he will 
cover are the discovery of the newest fos- 
sils of Australopithecus afarensis and 
whether Homo survived as a noble hunter 
or a cunning scavenger. Tickets are $25. 
Call (212) 769-5310 for ticket availability. 

The Language and Meaning of DNA 
The semiotic analysis of languages and 
texts as sets of signs and symbols offers a 
new way of looking at DNA. On Thurs- 
day, February 24, at 7:00 rm., Robert Pol- 
lack, biologist and former dean of Colum- 
bia College, will talk about how DNA 
affects our understanding of common 
chemistry. Tickets are $25. Call (212) 
769-5310 for more infoiTnation. 

Spring Lecture Series 

Native American life in New York 
City — from prehistoric times, through the 
colonial period and into the modem era — 
will be the subject of four consecutive 
Monday evening lectures beginning Feb- 
ruary 28. Tickets for the series are $35. 

The forests of North America, from the 
temperate rain forest of the Pacific North- 
west to the deciduous woodlands of the 
East, will be discussed in a series of five 
slide-illustrated lectures. The series will 
be given twice: On five consecutive 
Thursday evenings, starting February 24, 
the talks will begin at 7:00 rm.; and on 
five consecutive Monday afternoons, 
starting February 28, the talks will begin 
at 2:30 rm. 

Call (212) 769-5305 for a full schedule 
of lectures and field trips. 

These events take place at the American 
Museum of Natural History, Central Park 
West at 79th Street in New York City. The 
Kaufmann Theater is located in the 
Charles A. Dana Education Wing. The 
Museum has a pay-what-you-wish admis- 
sion policy. For more information about 
the Museum, call (212) 769-5100. 


This Land 

Traverse Creek, California 

by Robert H. Mohlenbrock 

Originating in the foothills of Califor- 
nia's Sierra Nevada Mountains, rocky-bot- 
tomed Traverse Creek descends south for 
more than a inile through a tree-covered 
canyon and then passes gently through the 
middle of a shallow basin. The basin, 
carved out by the creek in ages past, is 
only slightly lower than the neighboring, 
flat terrain, but it is easily distinguished by 
what grows there. Surrounded by a dense, 
green forest of ponderosa pine, Douglas 
fir, and incense cedar, the basin itself con- 
tains only shrubs and a scattering of digger 
pines — often multitrunked trees with 
large, heavy cones and long, pendulous, 
gray-green needles. Because of its unusual 
vegetation, the basin's 200 acres are man- 
aged as a botanical special interest area by 
the Eldorado National Forest. 

As I learned from forest botanists Mike 
Foster and Mark Williams, digger pine 
grows in the basin, and ponderosa pine, 
Douglas fir, and incense cedar do not be- 
cause Traverse Creek is adjacent to de- 
posits and rock outcrops made of the min- 
eral serpentine. Geologists believe that 
serpentine rock, or serpentinite (named for 

Pine cones rest at the base of a digger 
pine, above. Right: Bitterroot grows 
in arid liabitats. 

Thomas Hallstein: Outsight 

68 Natural History 2/94 

its undulating, layered texture and mottled 
coloring), was first exposed in California 
about 150 million years ago. Today it is 
common enough to be California's state 
rock, covering many discontinuous areas 
for a total of about 1 , 1 00 square miles. It is 
most common in the South Coast Range, 
the North Coast Range, the Bay area, and 
the western foothills of the Sierras. 

The soil that forms when serpentine 
rock weathers is so low in some of the ele- 
ments plants depend on — calcium, potas- 
sium, and even the molybdenum needed in 
trace amounts — that most plants can't sur- 
vive in it. In addition, the soil is unusually 
high in nickel, cobalt, chromium, and 
magnesium, which are toxic to most 
plants. As a result, serpentine soils usually 
have a sparse cover of plants that can ex- 
tract the minerals they need while coping 
with the toxic chemicals. For example, a 
wild mustard known as milkwort jew- 
elflower, which grows only near Traverse 
Creek, can take up nickel in excess of 
1,000 parts per million without any appar- 
ent harm. Other serpentine species of jew- 
elflower and many other serpentine-toler- 
ant plants take up nickel in modest 
amounts or exclude it altogether. Plants 
not found on serpentine soil, including 
some species of jewelflower, may die in 
soils containing only a few parts per mil- 
lion of nickel. 

Arthur Kruckeberg, an authority on the 
botany of serpentine areas, notes that the 
vegetation in such relatively arid locales as 
Traverse Creek is made up of chaparral 
with a sprinkling of digger pines. In the 
Traverse Creek basin, the chaparral con- 
sists of four- to eight-foot-tall bushy 
shrubs, including four species in the buck- 
thorn family — buckbrush, deerbrush, Cal- 
ifornia coffeebush, and red inkberry — as 
well as leather oak and white manzanita. 
Most of these shrubs bloom in May. The 
manzanita is notable for bearing its littie, 
white, bell-shaped flowers at the tips of 
very sticky stalks. The stalks impede ants 
that might crawl to the flower in search of 
a pollen meal: instead, the pollen is re- 
served for the flying insects that pollinate 
the plants. 

Edward S. Ross 

Joe LeMonnier 




200 Miles 


Shrubs and digger pines grow near Traverse Creek. 

Thomas Hallstein; Outsight 

Traverse Creek 

For visitor information write: 
Forest Supervisor 
Eldorado National Forest 
100 Fomi Road 
Placerville, California 95667 

Since chaparral plants are adapted to 
arid terrain, all these shrubs have water- 
saving adaptations, such as small leaves, 
leathery leaves, or leaves with a whitish, 
waxy coating or hairy surface. Sometimes 
the microscopic openings, or stomata, in 
the leaves are sunk deep in the leaf tissue 
to further reduce evaporation. The leaves 
of the white manzanita, which are rela- 
tively broad, stand upright so that the rays 
of the midday sun fall obUquely on their 

Between April and June, many wild- 
flowers bloom in scattered openings in the 
Traverse Creek chaparral. These colorful 
"serpentine flower fields" consist of low- 
growing species that are tolerant of ser- 
pentine soil, although many grow else- 
where as well. Most of these wildflowers 
are also drought-tolerant; among them are 
a dwarf sedum with succulent leaves, a 
wiry buckwheat with a three-pronged 
flowering cluster, Sanborn's wild onion, 
Congdon's lomatium, and the brilliant, 
rose-pink bitterroot. One species found 
only at Traverse Creek is the rare Layne's 

Some moisture-loving plants inhabit 
shallow depressions that accumulate water 
when it rains. Among them are yellow 
monkey flower, which has five bright-yel- 
low petals; bicolored monkey flower, with 
two white petals and three yellow petals; 
pink-flowered whisker brush, with five 
pink petals and a rosy center above a tuft 
of short, slender, green leaves; a yellow vi- 
olet; a two-inch-tall wild white clover; and 
an equally small native plantain. 

Seeming anomalies at Traverse Creek, 
not far from the visitors' parking area, are 
a few large ponderosa pines and an in- 
cense cedar. According to the forest 
botanists, enough nonserpentine soil has 
washed down from higher terrain to create 
a foothold for these conifers. 

Robert H. Mohlenbrock, professor emeri- 
tus of plant biology at Southern Illinois 
University, Carbondale, explores the bio- 
logical and geological highlights of the 
156 U.S. national forests. 

70 Natural History 2/94 

february calendar 





































Traditional Sliadow neater u 
PERFORMANCE, 7:00 p.m. 
Kaufmann Theater,$7.00 
members, $10.00 nonmembers 


Sharlc! Fact and Fantasy m 
ion Viewing (Participating and 
Higlner Members), 4:00, free, 
and Naturemax screening (all 
members), 7:30 p.m., $6.00 


Sharl<! Fact and Fantasy 
Public opening 

Searcti for the Great Sharl<s ▲ 
IMAX FILM, public opening, 
Naturemax Theater 


Wonderful Sicy • 
1 0:30 and 1 1 :45 a.m., Hayden 
Planetarium, $7.00 adults, 
$4,00 children 


"The Formation and Evolution 
of Dwarf Galaxies" • 
LECTURE, 7:30 p.m., Hayden 
Planetarium, $6.00 members, 
$8.00 nonmembers 

"Saving Grace atAngl<or Wat" ■ 
LECTURE, 7:00 p.m., Kaufmann 
Theater, $6.00 members, 
$9.00 nonmembers 


Afro-Dominican Music 
and Dance + 
PERFORMANCE, 2:00 and 
4:00 p.m., Kaufmann Theater 


"Ancestors: The Search For 
Our Human Origins" * 
LECTURE, 7:00 p.m.. Main 
Auditorium, $25.00 


Understanding the Global 
Crisis: The Role of Ethnicity, 
Religion, and Nationalism + 
Main Auditorium. Limited 
seating, call in advance for 
free tickets. 


"A Society of Wolves" m 
LECTURE, 7:00 p.m., Kaufmann 
Theater; $8.00 members, 
$.11.00 nonmembers 

Global Renewal: The Search 
East and West for Philosophi- 
cal and Spiritual Vision + 
Main Auditorium. Limited 
seating; call in advance for 
free tickets. 


"Signs of Life: The Language 
and Meanings of DNA" * 
LECTURE, 7:00 p.m., Main 
Auditorium, $25.00 


Shaman Ritual: Practice, 
Performance, & Metaphor * 
PERFORMANCES, 1:00-5:30 
p.m.. Hall of Ocean Life, 
call for ticket and schedule 


Shaman Ritual: Practice, 
Performance, & Metaphor * 
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Asia Society. Call for ticket 
and schedule information. 

Malaki Ma Kongo 
(Big Feast of the Congo) * 
PERFORMANCE, 2:00 and 
4:00 p.m., Kaufmann Theater 


Waura: Drawings of the 
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Akeley Gallery 

Global Cultures in a 
Changing World * 

Star Trek Exhibition: A 
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adults, $4.00 children 

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and Saturdays, 7:00, 8:30, and 
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Shark Surprise m 
in the special exhibition 
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and Sundays, 11:00 a.m. and 
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Central Park West at 79th Street, New York City - For information, call 212-769-5100 

A Matter of Taste 

Through a Mill, Coarsely 

The laborious art of hand- grinding flour is not entirely lost 

by Raymond Sokolov 

When people say that wheat and rice 
are grains, they think they have said some- 
thing simple and obvious. But as a 
Supreme Court Justice once remarked 
about obscenity, he knew it when he saw 
it, but defining it was the hard part. 

The etymologist will tell you that our 
word grain comes from the Latin gramim, 
meaning "seed," as in cum grano sails, 
"with a grain of salt." Which is what you 
have to take that definition with, because 
by no means are all seeds grains. Think of 
potato seeds or sesame and poppy seeds. 
Nevertheless, the etymological approach 
has its grain of truth. Let's try saying that 
grains contain the seeds of grasses. 

At least, they start that way. The major 
grains are, in a botanical sense, the fruits 
of true grasses from the Gramineae family. 
There, however, the universality of the de- 
finition comes to an end. Ears of com and 
drooping green rice plants do not seem to 
have much in common, but that has more 
to do with their history under cultivation 
than with any underlying botanical dis- 
similarities. The grain, or useful part of 
these plants in terms of human consump- 
tion, is the endosperm, the httle packet of 
starch, protein, and other nutriments 
meant by nature to nourish the true seed 
(the germ, or embryo, it encloses). 

This starchy packet is many times 

larger than the seed it accompanies. Like 
some bloated commissary of carbohy- 
drate, it is properly referted to as the fruit 
of the grass plant, just as the orange, fleshy 
globe surrounding the seed-containing pit 
of the peach is its fruit. Both organs are 
primarily food sources (for the seed or for 
ambulatory and flying animals that will 
eat the seed along with the delicious fruit 
and then spread the seeds around the land- 
scape in their dung). 

Each major grain is slightly different 
from the others, but they all share two fea- 
tures: a dry, fibrous outer layer and an 
inner kernel of useful starch. The whole of 
grain technology after harvest aims at min- 

A Navajo woman in Arizona grinds com for tortillas 

John Running 

72 Natural History 2/94 


Exploring the world with expert lecturers 



June 21 -July 3, 1994 


Italy, the Greek Isles and Turkey 
June 30 -July 13, 1994 


July 12-31, 1994 


July 13-22, 1994 



Alaska & the Russian Far East 
July 20-30, 1994 


Spitsbergen to Bergen 
August 6-21, 1994 


Turkey and the Greek Isles 

Aboard the Sea Cloud 

August 28 - September 13, 1994 


September 17 - October 1, 1994 


Israel, Syria, Greece and Turkey 
November 17 - December 1, 1994 




The American Museum of Natural His- 
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comfortable cruise and land facilities. 



Italy, the Greek Isles and Turkey 

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June 30 -July 13, 1994 


July 9-16, 1994 


July 14-25, 1994 


August 8-21, 1994 



May 23 - June 4, 1994 


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May 31 -June 12, 1994 


September 15-30, 1994 


October 25 - November 12, 1994 



June 6-16, 1994 


June 1994 


September 24 - October 8, 1994 


September 1994 


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Central Park West at 79th St. New York, NY 10024-5192 

(212) 769-5700 in New York or 
Toll-free (800) 462-8687 

imizing or removing the outer layer and at 
making tlie inner starch packet available 
for human consumption. 

Grain hai-vests ai^e generally the equiva- 
lent of mass mowings. Then comes a 
threshing stage, which separates the grain 
from the chaff, the grassy part of the plant 
that ends up, when dried, as straw. Of the 
major cereal grains, three — rice, barley, 
and oats — come wrapped in hard husks 
formed from leaflike structures. Corn, 
wheat, and rye' are, as Harold McGee re- 
minds us, "naked," or huskless, fruits. But 
even they are not ready to eat after harvest. 

At this point, the wheat farmer finds 
himself with millions of grains covered 
with a fibrous "skin" known as bran. 
These so-called wheat berries can be eaten 
as they emerge from the threshing floor. 
Indeed, modern health food stores sell 
them and some restaurants do an inventive 
job of cooking them. But the brownish, 
unpolished wheat beiry takes a long time 
to cook and is an indelicate food, although 
not without appeal as an occasional item 
in a modem diet. 

The bran layer spoils easily, however. 
And in the dawn of grain agriculture, stor- 
age and convenience had to have been 
paramount goals. We cannot prove it, but 
it seems overwhelmingly plausible that a 
desire to keep the haivest safe led early 
men and women to exhaust themselves by 
grinding their wheat or rice between two 
stones. This loosened the bran and, inci- 
dentally, turned the interior starch into an 
appeahng powder we call flour or meal. 

Of course, it is possible, when milling, 
to stop short of pulverization. White rice is 
the leading example of that. After its bran 
has been rubbed off, it can easily be 
steamed or boiled to a wonderful tender- 
ness. Rice can also be pulverized into 
flour, and often is, with rice cakes and noo- 
dles the result. 

Wheat is most often milled into flour, as 
is rye. But oats and barley are usually not, 
in our day, because their flours lack gluten 
and can't compete with wheat in elasticity 
for baking pastry, and, most important, 
they don't rise. 

Corn is sui generis. Its kernels can be 
eaten whole (steamed on the cob or gently 
heated in almost any way). On the other 
hand, the bran or hulls can be removed 
when exposed to an alkali such as wood 
ash, yielding a beneficially altered starch, 
hominy, that needs no milling. (Alkaliza- 
tion makes the corn's natural niacin avail- 
able to human digestion and it also re- 
aligns the corn's amino acids so that they 
offer the human consumer a better balance 
of useful nutriments.) Or untreated com 
can be ground into meal. Early Americans 
prepared com in all three ways. 

Hand-milling techniques have persisted 
in isolated pockets of traditional American 
culture right up to the present. Primitive 
millers grind one rock, or quem, against 
another One of these rocks tends to be 
concave, the other convex. The mortar and 
pestle are slightly more efficient tools de- 
rived from these primordial hand mills. 
Such laborious techniques eventually 

gave way in many places to a tme mill, a 
fixed machine run by animal or water 
power In industrial societies, electrical 
power runs giant roller miUs, and stone 
grinding has survived only sporadically. 
But educated opinion has set its face 
against roller-milled, pure white flour 

In her authoritative English Bread and 
Yeast Cooker}' (1977), Elizabeth David 
campaigned for the preservation of Eng- 
land's historic stone mills. She rhap- 
sodized about the hard emery stones with 
their carefully cut grooves. She printed a 
detailed schematic diagram of a working 
mill, with its quants and shoes and 
damsels all neatly labeled. In the end, like 
proselytizers for stone-ground com and 
rice meals, David was making a case for 
imperfectly pulverized and sieved (the 
technical term is bolted) flour. 

The big machines work so well, she ar- 
gued, that they remove virtually all the 
bran and germ — and with them the tradi- 
tional flavor of bread flour. Gone, too, was 
the appealing texture of less completely 
milled wheat. 

The Chinese food expert Florence Lin 
does not say whether the advent of ma- 
chine grinding of fresh water-ground rice 
flour yields an inferior product. And even 
though the hand grinding and stone 
wheels of her childhood are gone, modem 
methods (themselves now obsolescent) as 
she describes them in her Complete Book 
of Chinese Noodles, Dumplings and 
Breads (1986) offer an eloquent testimo- 
nial to the importance of specific milling 

Nian Gao 

(Plain Rice Cake) 

As Florence Lin explains in her Com- 
plete Book of Chinese Noodles, Dump- 
lings and Breads (1986), this apparently 
simple, pure dish, eaten at Chinese New 
Year as a symbol of prosperity, has quite 
special flour requirements. The two 
kinds of rice flour should ideally be 
water-ground shortly before use (the 
moist flours spoil easily even under re- 
frigeration, and the ratio of long-grain 
flour to sticky-rice flour determines the 
ultimate consistency. For a softer cake, 
use slightly more long-grain. For a 
harder one, more sticky-rice. For a 
chewier cake, use Japanese rice, as Ko- 
reans do. Since most U. S. cities now 
have thriving Asian markets, there is no 
need for most of us to grind whole rice 
grains with water in a blender and then 
press out the moisture. Commercial, 

dried, water-ground rice flour is, there- 
fore, the ingredient anticipated in this 
recipe. If you want to start from scratch, 
presoak whole rice for four hours, then 
blend, water and all, to a fine wet powder. 
Tie up in a muslin bag and press out mois- 
ture by weighting with a heavy object, a 
big iron skillet or a large pot of water, for 
several hours, until the water stops com- 
ing out of the bag. The flour will have the 
consistency of a damp dough. 

2 cups long-grain rice flour 
1 cup sticky- rice flour 

1 . Put rice in a processor fitted with the 
steel blade. Turn on the motor and 
pour M cup cold water through the feed 
tube. The flour will soon look like 
granulated sugar. If it gathers into a 
dough, there is too much water Add a 
little flour so it separates again. 

2. Line the basket of a steamer with alu- 
minum foil. Shake the flour loosely 

and evenly into the steamer. Steam over 
high heat for 20 minutes. 

3. Rinse but do not dry the processor bowl 
and the steel blade. Reattach the bowl 
and replace the steel blade in it. 

4. When the flour has been steamed, return 
it immediately to the processor and 
process for 30 seconds or just long 
enough to produce a smooth dough that 
does not stick to the bowl. Oil fingers 
and remove the dough to an oiled sur- 
face. Knead while still hot. until very 
smooth. This takes about a minute. 

5. Roll the dough into a sausage shape 
about an inch in diameter Cut the tube 
into four equal lengths. Flatten them to a 
thickness of M inch. Cover and let cool 
to room temperature. Then they are 
ready to eat. They wiD keep for a week 
submerged in water in the refrigerator or 

. frozen in small pieces (IM inches long 
by !4 inch thick) sealed in right plastic. 

Yield: 4 cakes 

74 Natural History 2/94 

methods to the ultimate food on the table: 

In New York's Chinatown there is a factory 
still making fresh old-fashioned plain rice 
cakes. It does use machines to speed the 
process, however. Electric-driven grinders 
grind the presoaked rice. Then the ground 
rice, including the water, is put in a muslin 
bag and the water is pressed out by ma- 
chine. The result is fresh water-ground rice 
flour. A powerful steamer then steams the 
wet ground flour, which is immediately 
kneaded by machine into a soft dough. The 
cakes are formed by hand. The only cook- 
ing in the process is the steaming of the 
flour. No seasoning is added. 

It was difficult for me to read that as an 
account of a degraded, industrialized proc- 
ess. After all, I normally buy anonymous 
wheat flour in five-pound bags in a super- 
market. But that passage got me thinking. 
I remembered visiting the Hopi villages in 
Arizona, distant mesas with captive eagles 
flapping from adobe rooftops. There I 
bought blue commeal from a woman who 
had ground it by hand at home. It was su- 
perbly fresh tasting and finer than any 
flour I had ever seen before. 

Why not try this with wheat? I could 
buy wheat berries at a health food store. 
True, I wouldn't know what kind of wheat 
it was or where it came from or when it 
had been harvested. But I could mill the 
wheat berries myself, with one of the 
hand-powered European mills now on the 
market in this country. I could grind them 
to an appealing coarseness. I could sift out 
only as much of the bran as pleased me. 

I was unable to find the hand-operated 
French stone mill that David described, 
but I did find an Italian metal model. Since 
I would not be operating it at high speed, 
perhaps its metal rollers would crush the 
wheat berries just like a stone mill, instead 
of shearing them to dust. As a control, I 
decided to grind some wheat berries with a 
mortar and pestle. 

The results by both methods were 
greatly different from supermarket flour. 
The "grain" of my flour was appealingly 
unfine. I also found that bolting flour is an 
exacting task. I did not have the right 
cloth; so I ended up with a product flecked 
with brown specks. Both methods yielded 
flour fiill of personality and excellent, rus- 
tic bread. Fortunately, I have ready access 
to commercial stone-ground bread flour at 
a nearby water-powered country mill. 
Hand milling is a fine thing, but I akeady 
have a full-time career. 

Raymond Sokolov is a writer whose spe- 
cial interests are the history and prepara- 
tion of food. 



AGES 8-14 

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The Natural Moment 

The Quick and the Dead 

"Its highways are mighty limbs of the 
best big evergreens," wrote naturahst 
Ernest Thompson Seton. "Of all the Weasel 
tribe, the Marten most is at home in the 
trees. He dehghts in climbing from crotch 
to crotch, leaping from tree to tree, or 
scampering up and down the long branches 
with endless power and vivacity." These 
solitary predators of northern forests bring 
the same exuberance to the hunt. Two 
pounds of unbridled ferocity, a marten will 
ambush and devour red squirrels, marmots, 
voles, mice, and birds. 

In southeastern Idaho's Targhee National 
Forest, this American marten left plenty of 
tracks in the deep snow, giving 
photographer Michael Quinton a clue to its 
whereabouts in a lodgepole pine. By 
climbing an adjacent tree, Quinton was 
able to focus on the marten (inset). Only 
then did he see the carnivore's prize, a 
ruffed grouse that appeared to have been 
cached in the conifer a day or so earlier 
(right). Martens are usually extremely wary 
of humans; this animal was aware of its 
observer but not alarmed. It proceeded to 
pluck the feathers from the grouse and then 
began to feast on the bird's head. 

Despite the bitter temperatures and 
heavy snows in this mountainous region, 
neither martens nor ruffed grouse migrate 
or hibernate. When the snow is deep, 
grouse will sometimes roost in trees, but 
often they will burrow — or even fly — 
directly into the snow and roost there. 
Martens, which can move easily both in the 
trees and atop the snow, quickly dispatch 
any such prey they may 
detect. On days when 
hunting fails, a vole or 
grouse safely stashed in a 
pine will insure the marten 
of a meal. — J. R. 

Photographs by 
Michael S. Quinton 

76 Natural History 2/94 



M. / 



V. \ 


Remote Alaska & the Russian Far East 

Above the Arctic Circle 

July 20 -30, 1994 

The remote islands of the 
Bering Sea lead like stepping 
stones from Alaska to the vast 
frontier of the Russian Arctic. 
This summer, a team of Ameri- 
can Museum and guest lecturers 
will lead an exciting voyage of 
exploration in this rarely-vis- 
ited area of the world. 

Aboard the World Discov- 
erer, we will follow comfort- 
ably in the pathways of famed 
18th- and 19th-century Arctic 
explorers. We will cross the 
Bering Strait, which long ago 
formed the land bridge that pre- 
cipitated the migration of Asians 
to the Americas, visiting along 
the way such extraordinary 
places as the Arakamchechen 
Archipelago. We will also cross 
the Arctic Circle in search of 
polar bears traveling on the drift- 
ing pack ice. 

Our journey will allow us 
to meet with people from both 
continents who are historically 
and ethnically related and enjoy 
the spectacular Arctic land- 
scapes. These nutrient-rich wa- 
ters and remote rocky islands 
support some of the largest colo- 
nies of seabirds in the Western 
Hemisphere, as well as marine 
mammals, sea lions and seals. 
Join us for the voyage of a Hfe- 

Museum of 
Discovery Cruises 

Central Park West at 79th St. 

New York, NY 10024-5192 

Toll-free (800) 462-8687 or 

(212) 769-5700 in NYS 


"Watching Steller's eagles wintering on 
Kuril Lake in Russia is not IDce watching 
bald eagles in the United States," says 
Alexander Ladigin (page 26). "At Kuril 
Lake, there are no roads, cars, or human 
inhabitants for many miles around. It is 
not possible to drive by the river in a car 

After observing modem hairless dogs 
kept as pets and show dogs in Peru, Alana 
Cordy-CoUins (page 34) committed the 
gaffe of mistaking a dog in San Diego to 
be of the same breed. The indignant owner 
informed her that it was Mexican, not Pe- 
ruvian. Intrigued by the similarity of the 
two breeds, she has traced their possible 
prehistoric connection. Cordy-Collins is a 
professor of anthropology at the Univer- 
sity of San Diego and curator of Latin 
American archeology at the San Diego 
Museum of Man. She has done archeolog- 
ical fieldwork in Ecuador and Chile, as 
well as Peru. For additional reading, she 
recommends Atlas of Dog Breeds of the 
World, by Bonnie Wilcox and Chris 
Walkowicz (Neptune City: T F. H. Publi- 
cations, 1989); "Axe-Monies and Their 
Relatives," by Dorothy Hosier, Heather 
Lechtman, and Olaf Holm, Studies in Pre- 
Columbian Art and Archeology, no. 30 

78 Natural History 2/94 

and observe eagles from a window." Ladi- 
gin, a native of Moscow who has lived on 
the Kamchatka Peninsula in the far east of 
Russia for seven years, watches eagles the 
hard way. He spends his days in igloolike 
snow cabins on the edge of the lake for an 
up-close view of the hundreds of eagles 

(Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 
1990); and "Ancient Cultural Contacts 
Between Ecuador, West Mexico, and the 

that congregate there in the winter. His 
permanent residence, in a village on the 
Bering Sea coast, is a log cabin, which he 
shares with his anthropologist wife and 
their four-year-old daughter. A graduate of 
Moscow State University, Ladigin, cur- 
rently on the staff of Kronotskiy State 
Biosphere Reserve in Kamchatka, is com- 
pleting his doctoral dissertation on adap- 
tive radiation in birds of prey. In addition 
to observing Steller's eagles, he has stud- 
ied their cousins, bald eagles, in the Pacific 
Northwest. Future projects include more 
studies of the winter ecology of sea eagles. 
Emulating his favorite study subjects, he 
plans to raise his offspring far from the 
press of civilization. More on bii'ds of prey 
can be found in Vanishing Eagles, by 
Phihp Burton, with paintings and draw- 
ings by Trevor Boyer (Secaucus: Chart- 
well Books, Inc., 1987). The natural his- 
tory of bald eagles is the subject of Mark 
V. Stalmaster's The Bald Eagle (New 
York: Universe, 1987) and Jon Gerrard 
and Gary R. Bortollotti's The Bald Eagle: 
Haunts and Habitats of a Wilderness 
Monarch (Washington, D.C.: Smithson- 
ian, 1988). 

American Southwest," by Patricia R. 
Anawalt, in Latin American Antiquity, vol. 
3,no.2,pp. 114-29, 1992. 



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Jeffrey Polovina (page 50) has been in- 
terested in Pacific marine life since 1974, 
when he was twenty-six years old. Fresh 
out of the University of California at 
Berkeley with a Ph.D. in mathematical 
statistics, Polovina decided to spend nine 

months island hopping across the western 
Pacific, often making the jumps by small 
boat. His travels ultimately brought him to 
Hawaii, where, in 1979, he joined the Na- 
tional Marine Fisheries Service, and was 
immediately sent on a research cruise to 
the northwestern islands. With his statisti- 
cal background, Polovina was well pre- 
pared to study the population dynamics of 
the archipelago. He also recognized that 
the widely separated atolls and reefs of- 
fered an excellent opporfianity to investi- 
gate the mechanisms that create biological 
variation. Polovina has also done research 
on coral reefs around the Pacific, including 
a five-year study in the Marianas. In 1993, 
he was awarded a Fulbright Research 
Award to study lobster population dynam- 
ics off the coast of Kenya, and in 1994 he 
will be heading off to the Antarctic for fur- 
ther marine studies. He is currentiy chief 
of insular resource investigations at the 
Fisheries Service. For further reading, the 
author recommends D. H. Cushing's book 
Climate and Fisheries (London: Acade- 
mic Press, 1982). 

Living in southeastern Idaho on the 
edge of Yellowstone Park, Michael Quin- 

ton (page 76) doesn't have to go far to find 
subjects for wildlife photography. A full- 
time photographer for the past fifteen 
years, Quinton particularly enjoys taking 
pictures in winter. While Quinton sees 
marten tracks, like the ones that led him to 
this month's "Natural Moment," just about 
every day in winter, he actually spots the 
animals only once or twice a year. For 
these photos, he used a Nikon F3 and a 
400mm lens with tele-extender. Quinton 

has produced several wildlife books, in- 
cluding The Ghost 'of the Forest: The 
Great Gray Owl (Flagstaff: Northland 
Publishing, 1988), and is currently at work 
on a project on grizzlies. Quinton, his 
wife, and their two small children enjoy 
living in the wilderness; for most of the 
winter they get around on skis and snow- 
shoes, and by snowmobiles. Although 
Yellowstone has provided them with wild- 
life and winter on a grand scale, the Quin- 
tons have been thinking of moving on to 

Bernd Heinrich (page 42), shown here 
with his son, Stuart, is a frequent contribu- 
tor to Natural History. Heinrich 's interest 
in entomology began at the age of seven, 
when he started keeping bees and collect- 
ing insects. He earned his B.S. and M.S. 
from the University of Maine at Orono 
and his Ph.D. from the University of Cali- 
fornia at Los Angeles in 1970. Although 
his subjects have ranged from squirrels to 
birds, Heinrich has specialized in studying 
thermoregulation in insects. Some of his 
earliest work in this area was on moths, the 
subject of this month's article. Heinrich 
has done fieldwork in Africa and various 
ttopical and arctic locations, but Maine, 
where he has a cabin in the woods, is his 
favorite locality. Heinrich has been a pro- 
fessor of entomology at the University of 
California at Berkeley and is currently a 
professor of zoology at the University of 
Vermont, where he is studying the sociobi- 
ology of ravens. Further reading on ther- 
moregulation in moths and other insects 
can be found in his book The Hot-blooded 
Insects (Cambridge: Harvard University 
Press, 1993). 

80 Natural History 2/94 



By Train 
July 9-16, 1994 

A rail journey through 
Mexico's mammoth and 
scenic Copper Canyon, 
or Barranca del Cobre, 
is one of the most breath- 
talcing journeys in the 
world. Over four times 
the size of the Grand 
Canyon, Barranca del 
Cobre is a natural mar- 
vel best experienced 
along a rail route itself 
considered a marvel of 
engineering. Explore a 
remarkable region that 
has long been home to 
the Tarahumara, an iso- 
lated people whose abil- 
ity to traverse rugged 
terrain on foot is leg- 

August 8-21, 1994 

An African safari is an extraordinary experience and 
Kenya possesses some of Africa's best attractions: the 
famous herds of game in Masai Mara are spectacular 
and accessible; the views from escarpments embracing 
the Great Rift Valley are sublime; the semi-arid North- 
em Frontier District shimmers with magical light at 
dusk; and the morning air in the Aberdare Mountains is 
incomparably invigorating. August is a glorious time to 
enjoy the African bush and the abundance of wildlife 
found there. Join us for this special safari and discover 
the wonders and tremendous diversity of Kenya's finest 
game parks. 

Museum of 
i-^j'MR History 

Discovery Tours 

Join the American Museum of Natural History 
this summer on an exciting travel adventure 
designed for the whole family. Discovery Tours 
has developed four travel opportunities, taking 
into consideration the diversity of interests and 
special needs of family travel. Lecture pro- 
grams for both children and adults will be held 
in tandem with Museum and guest lecturers 
who will help us explore and experience the 
natural wonders and traditional cultures of four 
spectacular destinations. 

July 14-25, 1994 
One of the greatest liv- 
ing laboratories of natu- 
ral history, the Galapa- 
gos Islands are unsur- 
passed in their primeval 
beauty, Sea lions, pen- 
guins, marine and land 
iguanas, seabirds and 
many other species of 
plants and animals, 
some of them unique to 
these islands, can be 
found here. Discover 
these remarkable islands 
as well as the magnifi- 
cent Andean highlands 
and the city of Quito in 
Ecuador, an ancient 
capital of the great Inca 


June 30 - July 13, 1994 

From classical Greek and Roman times through the 
Byzantine Empire, the eastern Mediterranean region 
has exerted an enormous influence on world history, art 
and culture. With exotic cities, magnificent landscapes 
and innumerable remnants of glorious ancient civiHza- 
tions, this region is one of the most exciting destinations 
in the world. Join us aboard the 1 74-cabin Daphne this 
summer as we explore such sites as Ephesus in Turkey, 
Knossos on the island of Crete, Greece's Olympia, 
Akrotiri on Santorini and the acropolis on Rhodes, as 
well as the historic cities of Istanbul and Athens. 

Central Park West at 79th St, 

New York, NY 10024-5192 

Toll-free (800) 462-8687 or 

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Some of our biggest attractions cover a wide range. 

At night up here you can hear the 
Wolves howhng. Some of the last big 
packs anywhere on earth. 

You can snap Moose grazing in 
the wetlands and catch Muskoxen 
ambling past almost within reach. 
Up here herds of Caribou 
still stretch to the horizon. And Polar Bears patrol 
the coastline. 

NorthWinds Arctic Adventures 

Box 849 Dept. WNH 

Iqaluit, NT XOA OHO 

Phone: 819-979-0551 Fax: 819-979-0573 

Largest selection of winter and 

summer programs in Baffin Island. 

Dog sledding, hiking, rational and 

historic parks, Inuit culture. Brochure. 

Qullikkut Guides and Outfitters 

Box 27 Dept. WNH 

Clyde River, NT XOA OEO 

Phone: 819-924-6268 Fax: 819-924-6362 

Outfitted tours the Inuit way. 

Specialize in wildlife observation, Inuit 

cultural awareness, wilderness 


Canoe Arctic Inc. 
Box 130 Dept. WNH 
Fort Smith, NT XOE OPO 
Phone: 403-872-2308 
Remote fly-in canoe trips. 
Unparalleled arctic wildlife 
concentrations. Wildlife biologist 
guide. Operating 20 years. Brochure. 

Whilewolf Adventure Expeditions 

#41 - 1355 Citadel Drive Dept. WNH 
Port Coquitlam, BC V3C 5X6 
Phone: 1-800-669-6659 
Fax: 604-944-3131 

See Muskoxen, Wolves or Caribou! 
Natural history/photo expeditions by 
canoe or raft on the Nahanni, Bumside 
or Coppermine Rivers. 

And beneath the waves are Belugas and Bowheads, 
Narwhals and Walruses, Ringed and Bearded Seals. 

High overhead soar Gyrfalcons, Golden Eagles, 
Sandhill Cranes, White Pelicans, Snow Geese, Old Squaw 
Ducks. The list is as endless as the land. 
1.3 million square miles of virtually 
untouched wilderness. When you come 
up here, bring a camera. 

And be ready for a howl. 

Frontiers North 

774 Bronx Ave. Dept. WNH 

Winnipeg, MB R2K 4E9 

Phone: 204-949-2050 Fax: 204-663-6375 

Polar Bear, Caribou, Arctic Wolves, 

Peregrine and Gyrfalcons at Sila 

Lodge. Baker Lake - live in a 

traditional igloo. View Muskox. 

Subarctic Wilderness Adventures 

Box 685 Dept. WNH 

Fort Smith, NT XOE OPO 

Phone: 403-872-2467 Fax: 403-872-2126 

Guide-interpreted overland, water. 

Fortnights. Wood Buffalo Park. Peace/ 

Athabasca Delta: migratory flyways. 

Inuit. Caribou, Muskoxen, flora. 

Bathurst Inlet Lodge 

Box 820 Dept. WNH 

Yellowknife, NT XIA 2N6 

Phone: 403-873-2595 Fax: 403-920-4263 

Central Arctic. Scenery, wildlife 

.(caribou, muskox), flowers, Inuit 

culture, history. Teacher's course. 

Canoe outfitting. Brochure. 

For information on other NWT 
adventures and your copy of the 
Explorers' Guide, call 1-800-661-0788, 
or write: Department of Economic 
Development and Tourism, Suite 26, 
Government of the Northwest 
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Vol. 103, No. 3, March 1994 

Cover: a feral Soay ram in winter fleece mounts the crest of a hill in Scotland's 
Saint Kilda archipelago, where 70 percent of the sheep die off every three to four years. 
Story on page 28. Photograph by Laurie Campbell. 

4 A Naturalist at Large / whitfieid Gibbons 

How to Catch a Gator 

8 Macaque See, Macaque Do Meredith f. Small 

An island paradise for tourists is marred by monkey muggings. 

1 2 This View of Life Stephen Jay Gould 
The Persistently Flat Earth 

20 This Land Roben H. Mohlenbrock 

Summerby Swatnp, Michigan 

24 Science Lite Roger l weisch 

The Hyphenated American 

26 Celestial Events GaU s. cieere 

Getting Through the Night 

28 Counting Sheep Tim ciutton-Brock 

Wiy do feral animals on a remote Scottish island behave like lemmings? 

36 Tropical Liaisons 
ON A Beetle's Back 

Jeanne A. Zeh and David W. Zeh 

For some arthropods, large harlequin beetles are convenient Love Boats. 

46 Judas Transformed June Nash 

During Holy Week in the troubled Chiapas region of Mexico, Indians have been pointing 
out their enemies for decades. 

54 Britain's Magpie Parliament Tim Birkhead 

Darwin thought they discussed sex, 
but the birds probably meet to argue 
about real estate. 

60 North America's Magpies 
62 Reviews / Worth Estes 

A Quixotic Search for New Drugs 

76 A Matter of Taste 

Raymond Sokolov 
Breaking Bread, Tradition, 
atid a Long Run 

82 At the American Museum 
OF Natural History 

84 The Natural Moment 

Photograph by Robert Caputo 
The Eggs and I 

86 Authors 


A monthly magaziiie of the American 
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A Naturalist at Large 

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How to Catch a Gator 


OF Natural His lu-.- 

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President and Chief Executive 

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Or, the limits of professional ecology 

by J. Whitfield Gibbons 

Several years ago, I had the opportunity 
to conduct ecological research and, at the 
same time, make what I thought would be 
a modest personal contribution to environ- 
mental preservation. All I needed to do 
was catch a mother alligator and her 
young. The management of a South Car- 
ohna coastal resort had told me that a large 
alligator had been pestering golfers, and 
that they intended to notify the state, 
which meant the animal could be legally 
killed as a nuisance. I asked if, instead, we 
could catch it and remove it to the Savan- 
nah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL) for 
behavioral study. Both the resort owners 
and wildlife officials agreed. 

But why did we want a large, pesky fe- 
male alhgator at the lab? My research in- 
terest in alligators had begun twenty-six 
years ago when I caught my first one while 
doing a project on freshwater turtles. Be- 
cause they are coldblooded, alligators re- 
flect environmental conditions more di- 
rectly than mammals and birds, whose 
body temperatures are regulated inter- 
nally. But crocodilians are linked closely 
to birds — indeed, they are possibly the 
avians' closest living relatives. I wanted to 
continue investigating the evolutionary 
and ecological mysteries of these reptiles. 

Nest building and protection of the 
young are distinctive behaviors of the 
American alhgator. All crocodilians lay 
eggs on land near the fresh to slightly 
brackish water of coastal marshes, 
swamps, rivers, and lakes. In early sum- 
mer, the female alligator builds a large 
nest — about three and a half feet high and 
up to seven feet in diameter — of mud and 
vegetation along the shore and deposits 
twenty to sixty white eggs before sealing 
the nest with more mud and vegetation. 
(The decomposition of the nesting mater- 
ial produces heat, which incubates the 

eggs at a relatively constant temperature.) 

Because of a powerful protective in- 
stinct, however, the mother often remains 
in the vicinity of the nest until the late 
summer when the young hatch. Thus any- 
body inadvertently approaching the nest 
area may suddenly find an enormous, hiss- 
ing reptile charging overland. If one stands 
one's ground and does not molest the nest 
or pick up a baby, the mother alligator usu- 
ally retreats. Or she may not. If the mother 
hears the babies hatching, she may remove 
the vegetation and even help the eight- 
inch-long hatchlings to the water by carry- 
ing them in her mouth. 

Indeed, this strong parental care in alli- 
gators indeed seems more closely allied to 
birds than to other groups of reptiles. A fe- 
male turtle, for example, digs a nest, de- 
posits her eggs, and returns to the water, 
leaving the eggs behind. Prior to egg lay- 
ing, she stores energy and nutrients in her 
fatty tissues. These resources are allocated 
to each egg in the form of a large yolk re- 
serve and provide all of the nourishment 
needed both for embryonic growth in the 
egg and for early growth and maintenance 
of the hatchling turtle. 

Some years ago, Justin Congdon, my 
colleague at SREL, and I discovered that 
in alligator eggs the proportion of original 
egg Upids that remained in the hatchling 
was actually higher than that in turtles. 
Thus, the newborn alhgator entered the 
aquatic habitat with more fat reserves than 
any species of turtle we had studied. In 
capturing the alligator and her babies, I 
hoped to find out more about alhgators 
and their young. 

This particular mother alligator didn't 
intend to be a pest, but people kept hitting 
Uttle white balls close to the lake where 
she and her babies lived. She would 
emerge firom the lake, chase the golfers 

4 Natural History 3/94 




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Natural History 3/94 


away, and occasionally eat a golf ball. Al- 
ligators are known to ingest stones, pine 
cones, and other nonfood items that are re- 
tained in a part of the stomach equivalent 
to a bird's gizzard. Such materials may 
help grind food that is swallowed whole. 

One preeminent question a person 
should ask when wading through swamps 
and along lake margins in search of North 
America's largest reptile is whether alliga- 
tors attack hunians. After all, male Ameri- 
can alligators often grow to more than thir- 
teen feet and females to nine feet. This 
particular six-foot animal was impressive, 
too; and enough rare and spectacular re- 
ports of seemingly unprovoked attacks on 
humans had made me aware that alligators 
can be highly dangerous. Plus, this alliga- 
tor was a mother, and the good behavior 
record of mother alligators had been tar- 
nished before, especially in situations 
when maternal instinct overrode a pre- 
sumably innate fear of humans. 

Alligators have a problem faced by a lot 
of us — you can pick your friends but not 
your relatives. Not that alligators have 
many friends, but as one of almost two 
dozen crocodilian species, they do have 
some notorious Old World kin. Instances 
of crocodiles eating humans in Africa and 
Indonesia mean that New World crocodil- 
ians will never be completely above suspi- 
cion. Yet American alligators, if unmo- 
lested, are shy and peaceful and, based on 
the evidence, do not consider humans a 
standard menu item. They unfortunately 
exemplify how a species can have its nat- 
ural rights violated because of public mis- 

I took two students, Jeff Lovich and 
Tony Mills, out at night to make the cap- 
ture. Night is usually the best time to find 
alligators, both big and small, because of 
the reflective eyeshine that ranges from 
red to yellow. This particular September 
night was absolutely gorgeous, the perfect 
setting for a Gothic novel. The light from 
the recently risen flill moon was sphntered 
by pine and palmettos and turned the fair- 
way into slivers of white, black, and 
shades of gray. Scattered ground fog and 
mist gave the surroundings an eerie ap- 
pearance, and the only sounds were a dis- 
tant chorus of green tree frogs and the 
hooting of a faraway barred owl. We 
peered ahead searching for the pond 
where the alligators lived. 

With Tony being six four and Jeff six 
two, I anticipated no problem in handling 
this six-foot mother alligator. I even 
brought along my twelve-year-old son 
Michael to watch the show. When we got 

to the lake, our flashlights revealed the re- 
flected red eyeshine of a pair of gator eyes. 
The big, gleaming eyes were surrounded 
by what seemed like a swarm of fireflies 
on the water's surface — two dozen pairs of 
little yellow eyes, those of the babies. 

Our plan: We had a noose attached to a 
cable on a bamboo pole. When the mother 
came near shore, we planned to slip the 
noose over her head and pull it tightly 
around her neck. We would then put big 
rubber bands on her snout to keep the 
mouth closed while we carried her back to 
the jeep. Her plan: Swim around in the 
middle of the lake with the babies. And so 
she did. Our revised plan: Catch one of the 
babies. Since baby alligators in distress 
make a distinctive grunting sound, the 
mother should come close to shore to in- 
vestigate. When she got close enough, we 
could snare her with the noose, and that 
would be it. 

Most of the babies were with the 
mother, but a few adventurous ones were 
in the vegetation along the shore, perhaps 
foraging for crustaceans and insects. (Alli- 
gators more than five feet long will eat any 
creature inhabiting the land or water that 
they can catch and swallow, including 
muskrats, cottonmouths, fish, turtles, rac- 
coons, and waterfowl.) We walked around 
the edge of the lake and caught one of the 
babies. It immediately started making the 
sound of a frightened baby aUigator and, 
to our satisfaction, along came the mother. 
The two crimson eyes headed straight to- 
ward the shore, fast. I handed the baby al- 
ligator to Michael; the rest of us hid be- 
hind two big pine trees. 

As the mother reached the shoreline, 
Tony got ready to jump down and use the 
noose. Only she didn't slow down at the 
water's edge. The next thing we knew, she 
was up on land with a startlingly loud hiss, 
lumbering toward Michael as fast as her 
chunky legs could carry her. Her heavy 
tail swished against the sweet myrtle 
bushes along the shoreline. The crushed 
leaves filled the air with a pleasant, per- 
fumy scent incongruous with the charging, 
hissing reptile. 

Michael was holding the baby up in the 
air and saying, "Dad, Dad, what do you 
want me to do now?" Being trained pro- 
fessionals, we each offered expert advice. 
Jeff said, "Climb a tree!" Tony said, 
"Throw the baby in the lake!" I said, 
"Run!" Responding to my attempt at 
parental care, Michael turned and disap- 
peared into the woods, still holding this 
squeaking toy of an alligator. With a slight 
head start, a scared twelve-year-old can 

run a lot faster than an angry alligator, but 
the mother was still in pursuit. 

She was moving pretty fast when she 
passed the three of us, but Tony managed 
to slip the noose over her head, and Jeff 
and I grabbed the bamboo pole. We braced 
ourselves, ready for the cable to tighten. 
But instead of continuing forward, she 
abruptly reversed her direction, catching 
the three of us completely by surprise. She 
turned back toward the lake, dived into the 
water, and plunged to the bottom. 

Unfortunately, we all had good grips on 
the pole. The three of us were yanked 
down the slippery bank into the lake. The 
noose had slipped off, and the thought of 
being in the water with an irate, unfettered 
mother alligator impelled us to scramble 
out almost as fast as we had gone in. 
Michael emerged from the woods and re- 
turned the baby to the water. With some 
discussion about safer and more success- 
ful previous collecting expeditions, we 
slunk home in defeat. 

Catching an alligator should have been 
no problem for trained professionals from 
an ecology lab, but this encounter left me 
with some questions about how well 
trained we were and whether we should 
really be classified as professionals. Re- 
search ecologists must be reminded occa- 
sionally that they do not know everything 
about animals, plants, and the environ- 
ment. Alligators have effectively brought 
this to my attention more than once. They 
also serve as a strong reminder that biolo- 
gists still have much to learn about the be- 
havior, ecology, and evolutionary relation- 
ships of even the most familiar species. 

One of our current questions is whether 
female American aUigators, like birds, di- 
rectly or indirectly provide food to their 
young in some situations. This seems like 
a reasonable extension of their demonstra- 
bly complex parental care and was one 
reason we wanted a mother alUgator with 
recenfly bom young. I still have not ob- 
served a mother alligator feeding her 
young. However, after seeing the intense 
interest at least one mother had for taking 
care of her oiTspring, I feel certain that if 
parental feeding by alUgators does not al- 
ready exist, evolutionarily it may be only a 
baby step away. 

J. Whitfield Gibbons is a University of 
Georgia professor of ecology at the Sa- 
vannah River Ecology Laboratory. This 
article is adapted from his new book, 
Keeping All the Pieces: Perspectives on 
Natural History and the Environment 
(Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993). 

6 Natural History 3/94 

To err is human. 
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Macaque See, Macaque Do 

At tourist sites in Bali, hwnans are teaching their fellow primates some bad habits 
by Meredith F. Small 

Early last July, I boarded a plane for a 
thirty-six-hour journey to Bali, the tropical 
island vacation spot. Contrary to what 
most of my friends thought, this eight- 
week trip to hidonesia was not really in- 
tended as a hohday of sun, surf, and shop- 
ping — my assignment was to evaluate the 
effect of tourism on the native Balinese 
monkey, the long-tailed macaque. 

My last research project on monkey be- 
havior had taken place five years earlier, 
and I felt a surge of excitement when I 
reached my primary research site, the 
Sangeh Monkey Forest in the center of 
Bali. As I walked down a winding cement 
path through a lovely patch of nutmeg for- 
est to Sangeh 's central temple, Pura Bukit 
Sari, I suddenly saw them, scampering 
among the tourists, leaping over temple 
walls, and generally acting like mon- 
keys — curious, social, and full of energy. 

Watching them, I felt the old observa- 
tion skills chck back into gear: That one 
with a bent tail wiU be easy to identify 
again. The female over there is in heat. 
Two babies are less than three months old. 
I see at least four young infants. This 
group has few subadult males. 

Lost in this primatological reverie, I 
failed to see an adult female approaching 
to my left. Suddenly she streaked past me, 
a blur of green-gray fur so close I could 
smell the familiar monkey odor. In mid- 
leap, her tiny fingers gripped the earpiece 
of my brand-new sunglasses. She uncere- 
moniously yanked them off my face and 
sped into the forest. 

I was stunned. The swiftness of her cal- 
culated thievery was breathtaking. (More 
important, how could I spend day after day 
recording the minute details of monkey 
behavior without a decent pair of shades?) 
Accompanied by a temple guard, I tracked 
my assailant deep into the woods. She fi- 
nally stopped running, only to sit and 
chew contemplatively on my glasses, her 
brown eyes shifting back and forth be- 
tween her pursuers. The guard tossed her a 

Aiticle adapted from "The Monkey Bandits of Bali," by Meredith F, Small. 
Repiimcd h)j arrangement widi ComeU Magazine, 

few bags of peanuts. Needing both hands 
to collect this booty, she dropped the 
glasses in favor of something more di- 
gestible and sped away. 

"You must not wear glasses near the 
monkeys," instructed the guard. "They 
also steal wallets, money, hair ribbons, and 
handkerchiefs. And don't try to hide any- 
thing in your pockets, because they will 
find it." His description sounded more ap- 
plicable to big-city pickpockets than to 
monkeys on their home turf. As I returned 
to the main area, I noticed tourists holding 
on to their possessions for dear life, and 
monkeys clearly poised for thievery. Ani- 
mals stood up on two legs and yanked on 
clothes. They jumped on people, pulled 
hair, and rifled pockets. These normally 
gentle and friendly animals had turned 
into beggars and thieves. Something had 
gone terribly wrong at Sangeh. 

As my study progressed, I reaUzed that 
I had been a victim of a monkey mugging 
only because the monkeys were victims 
themselves. Bad management of a tourist 
site, coupled with uneducated visitors with 
no appreciation of macaques as fellow pri- 
mates, had resulted in a twisted relation- 
ship between the visitors and the very ani- 
mals they had come to see. 

All monkeys have a special place in 
Hindu religion. This reverence stems 
partly from the role of the monkey god, 
Hanuman, in the classic Hindu epic Ra- 
mayana. According to the story, Prince 
Rama's beloved wife, Sita, was kidnapped 
by the evil giant King Rawana. The mon- 
key king, Sugriva, had once aided Prince 
Rama, so Sugriva's general, Hanuman, 
was enlisted to gather an army, wreak 
havoc, and rescue the princess. 

Sangeh itself also features importantly 
in the Balinese version of the Ramayana 
story. Clever Hanuman and his monkey 
battalions capture Mount Mahameru and 
use the two halves of the holy mountain to 
crush the giant. Part of the mountain falls 
to earth and lands at Sangeh with a troop 
of monkeys hanging tight. 

Monkeys thus retain the status of privi- 

leged visitors, especially on temple 
grounds, where they are treated with great 
tolerance. Like aU living objects, monkeys 
also embody the spirits of Hindu gods, 
both good and evil. When a monkey leaps 
onto a temple altar, destroying carefully 
placed palm baskets of sacred offerings 
and gorging on the fruit and rice intended 
for higher powers, the Balinese ignore the 
vandalism — after aU, a spirit might now 
reside in that monkey and might need the 

Macaques are highly adaptable mon- 
keys that live in deep forests, on high 
mountains, or along the seaside. About 
five million years ago, the genus Macaca, 
of which longtails are one of nineteen spe- 
cies, radiated out of North Africa into Eu- 
rope and east into Asia. Macaques now in- 
habit Morocco and Algeria, India, 
Pakistan, China, most of Southeast Asia, 
and Japan; and long-tailed macaques 
{Macaca fascicularis) have lived on Bah 
longer than humans. Although they eat 
just about anything, they prefer fruits and 
vegetables. In a sense, they are the cock- 
roaches of the primate world, able to adapt 
well to changes, move into new environ- 
ments, and scrounge when food gets 

Their humanhke sociality makes these 
monkeys tourist attractions. We aren't as 
genetically related to macaqueS as we are 
to the apes, such as chimpanzees, but we 
see ourselves in their behavior — the con- 
stant social interactions, the jostling for hi- 
erarchical position, the bickering and 
making up are all similar to the daily 
machinations of human society. This con- 
nection between humans and the 
macaques either fascinates or repels 
tourists, and I saw both types of visitors in 

During my weeks at Sangeh, I watched 
monkeys eat 409 peanuts, 67 bits of bread, 
49 chunks of fruit, and endless quantities 
of crackers, cookies, and candy. I saw 
them chew on cigarettes, suck on match- 
sticks, rip apart film boxes, and play with 
discarded plastic bags. Feeding the ani- 

8 Natural History 3/94 



A great cup of coffee is a revelation. Once 
you've tasted it, you've experienced one of 
life's true pleasures. But hard as you 
search, you can't seem to find that superb 
taste again — even in gourmet shops. 
Fortunately for coffee lovers, a Swede 
named Victor Theodor Engvirall had the 
Victor Th. Engwaii ggjug passion for quality Over a century 
ago, he started a company in the small seaport of Gavle, 
and a family obsession was born. 

Down tk'ough the years, generations of Engwalls 
roasted, tested and tasted. Even today, they continue their 
endeavor to blend a coffee that reaches perfection. A cof- 
fee that is rich, and full-bodied, without bitterness. One as 
satisfying in the cup as fine coffee smells at the moment 
of grinding. 

They say that one chilly day King Gustav V sailed into 
Gavle and tasted it. So impressed was he that he awarded 
Gevalia* Kaffe the Royal Seal of Approval. 

Today, Gevalia is Sweden's most popular coffee. That's 
quite an achievement since Swedes feel as passionately 
about coffee as the French do fine wine. They know how 

crucial each bean is to the 
delicate balance of flavors. 
Kenyan AA, Costa Rican, 
Guatemalan— it takes up to 
6 varieties of the rarest 
arabica beans to create the 
high flavor notes, the deli- 

cate nuances, the fine aromatics in Gevalia. 

There's yet another secret to Gevalia's flavor: its impec- 
cable freshness. Roasted quickly, it's then vacuum sealed to 
ensure freshness. Because even the finest whole beans rap- 
idly grow stale when exposed to air, as in gourmet shop bins. 


Gevalia Kaffe comes whole bean or 
ground in a variety of full-bodied roasts. 
But perhaps the biggest revelation is 
Gevalia Decaffeinated. Caffeine is 
removed naturally with the same ele- 
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sparkling water The result is a full 
flavored decaffeinated that is no longer 
a compromise. 

Whole Beaa 





© 1994 VctTh Engwall & Co. If reply (ofm js missng, fof oelails wrtle lo Gevalia Kaffe Impon Service, P O Box 1 1 424, Des Moinos. lA 50336, Or call 1-80(M78-2687. 
Now available in Canada. 

As beans of Gevalia's quality are extremely 
expensive and not available in mass market 
quantities, the only way to obtain a trial supply 
of Gevalia Kaffe is directly from our Import Ser- 
vice. Just fill out the attached reply form. We 
will also send you the gift shown there, free. 

Now, at last, your search for 
a great cup of coffee has 
ended here in Gavle. 
The Swedes have 
known that for years. 

mals was encouraged by locals outside the 
forest; at dozens of stalls, men and women 
relentlessly hawked both monkey food 
and souvenirs. Huge buses and smaller 
minivans disgorged more than a thousand 
people a day to view the monkeys. Al- 
though many of the tourists were Asian, 
Australian, or European, by far the great- 
est number of visitors were from other In- 
donesian islands, such as Java. 

After a few days of observation, I un- 
derstood why the monkeys were so badly 
behaved — they have been taught to be ob- 
noxious. At the entrance to the temple at 
the Sangeh Monkey Forest, about thirty 
men who call themselves "guides" sit and 
wait for the tourists. Although dressed in 
appropriate temple garb — a sarong and 
scarf wound at the waist — they are not of- 
ficials of the temple; this is a business. 
Each man owns a Polai'oid camera, and his 
job is to manipulate the tourist into buying 
a photograph. The method is simple: As a 
tourist enters, a guide tags along offering 
tidbits of information (mostly incoirect) 
about monkey behavior. At the first sight 
of a monkey, the guide pulls bits of food 
out of his pack and puts it on the tourist's 
shoulder. The monkey, of course, leaps up. 
The animal quietly munches away, and the 
Polaroid camera flashes. The monkey is 
then shooed off, often hit, and the guide 
demands 6,000 rupia (about $4). 

In most cases, people are amused and 
give the money. But sometimes the 
clammy toes of a monkey on an unsus- 
pecting neck cause real terror. The tourist 
will twist and turn, while the monkey, 
tossed about and confused, becomes agi- 
tated and bites. These protest bites never 
break the skin, but they do hurt and 
bruise — I know from personal experience 
(about thirty bites). 

The guides — I called them the Polaroid 
gang — also foster mass thievery among 
the monkeys. When a monkey steals a 
nonfood item, such as a pair of glasses, it 
gets rewarded with a bunch of bananas or 
a bag of peanuts from the guide. The pur- 
pose is to distract the thief and grab the 
goods back. From the monkey's point of 
view, stealing translates into an edible re- 
ward. This destructive cycle instigated by 
the Polaroid gang guides, who are just try- 
ing to make a living in a poor country, has 
been going on for over a decade. 

The scene at Sangeh brings out the 
worst in both human and monkey behav- 
ior — stealing, screaming, injury, and in- 
timidation. The day I was attacked by a 
large subadult male who gnawed on my 
neck to get my glasses, I decided it was 

% ^ 

-«► .w^ .:,"*.!' .^ 




1! " 





^ iir lliliii i 1 1 1 - 4 






On an obliging tourist's shoulder, a monkey takes time to eat a banana. 

Meredith F. Small 

time to leave. I was beginning to hate my 
subjects — the tourists and the monkeys. 

I expected the situation at Sangeh to be 
repeated all across Bali because of the 
pressure of tourism. The island is the start- 
ing point for most tours of Indonesia. It is 
easily accessible from Asia and Australia 
and has been known for decades to Euro- 
pean tourists as the land of perfect 
beaches. Bali also has cultural allure, re- 
volving around its own brand of Hin- 
duism. To visit Bali is to see a delicate bal- 
let accompanied by a mystical gamelan 
orchestra, watch women with huge loads 
of fruit balanced on their heads move in an 
undulating line toward a temple, or bar- 
gain with fine craftsmen for carved 
wooden masks or intricately cut shadow 
puppets. Until now, the Balinese have 
been able to retain their culture, despite 
the onslaught of two million tourists annu- 
ally. But as the monkeys of Sangeh 
demonstrate, the relationship between 
Bali and its tourists is wearing thin. 

I left Sangeh and headed south to one of 
the more remote temples, Pura Uluwatu. 
Perched on the southwestern tip of the is- 
land, the temple looks like the prow of a 
ship thrust into the sea. A troop of about 
fifty longtails come and go here, wander- 
ing through the low scrub and out on the 
cliffs. "I feed them whenever I see them," 
the guard told me, "but that isn't every 
day." He pointed out that there are mon- 
keys living along the edge of the sea on the 
cliffs, undisturbed by the surfers who 
come from all comers of the world to work 
the waves of Uluwatu Beach. 

My time at Uluwatu was spent in peace- 
ful reflection. The monkeys came around, 
checked me out, took a few peanuts from 
the hundred or so tourists that passed by 
daily, and left. They only became aggres- 
sive when they spied a plastic water bottle. 
To these inhabitants of the dry Bukit 
Peninsula, water — not food — was the lim- 
iting resource. Monkeys would sneak up 
to tourists, grab bottles right from their 
hands, and empty them. Monkeys only sat 
on people — myself included — to get a 
good view of other group members or 
maybe to groom their hosts, systemati- 
cally flicking through hair in search of dry 
flakes of skin. 

Uluwatu is the opposite of Sangeh. The 
wheels of tourism have not yet been set 
into motion at Uluwatu. Consequently, 
fewer tourists are around to lure the mon- 
keys with food, and there are fewer hawk- 
ers and no Polaroid camera guides. 

Evidence of a peaceful monkey-human 
interaction made me wonder how an area 
could develop from the low-key situation 
at Uluwatu to the intense arena at Sangeh. 
I began hearing about another temple, 
Alas Kedaton where, according to many 
travelers, "the monkeys are nice." This I 
had to see — a highly visible tourist site 
with "nice" monkeys? 

Alas Kedaton is a tiny scrap of forest 
near the city of Tabanan, west of Sangeh. 
In addition to two troops of monkeys, sev- 
eral hundred flying foxes, or fruit bats, in- 
habit the trees. The site doesn't yet have 
the constant influx of tourists that Sangeh 
has, but a visit to Alas Kedaton now ap- 

10 Natural History 3/94 

pears on many day-tour packages. The 
major difference between Sangeh and 
Alas Kedaton, however, is the attitude of 
the people in charge. The neaity village of 
Kukuh has taken an active interest in the 
welfare of both the tourists and the mon- 
keys. As a result, this site offers the most 
pleasant interaction between humans and 
their primate cousins. 

Like Sangeh, the approach to Alas 
Kedaton is flanked by rows of souvenir 
shops. But no one harasses the traveler 
into buying food for monkeys, a cold 
drink, or yet another sarong. Instead, the 
community has installed a system to tone 
down the pressure on tourists. A desig- 
nated guide, usually a woman, accompa- 
nies each group of tourists into the forest. 
She encourages the tourists to buy only 
potatoes for the monkeys from one ven- 
dor. ("It's better for the monkeys," she will 
say, and this is true.) The guide then puts 
tourists through explicit monkey-feeding 
paces. "Bend down, open your hand, give 
only one piece at a time." 

Although no tourist could possibly imi- 
tate the graceful genuflection of a Balinese 

woman, the action does put the giver on 
the same level as the monkey. As a result, 
monkeys never jump on anyone. In addi- 
tion, the guides are constantly on the alert 
for actions that might harm the animals. 
They seem to know how to say "Don't 
touch the monkeys" in about five lan- 
guages. When the guide has taken the vis- 
itors on a short stroll to see the flying 
foxes, and once around its small temple, 
she requests a visit to her shop. If the 
tourists say no, they are free to head for the 
parking lot. 

Nyoman Oka, nicknamed Juli, is the 
principal monkey-food seller. Her hus- 
band is responsible for the organization 
and growth of Alas Kedaton as a tourist at- 
traction. She explained to me, over a lunch 
of hot Balinese chicken and rice: "If any 
shop owner bothers a tourist, they are 
fined 25,000 rupia [about $12]. It isn't nice 
for tourists to always have someone ask- 
ing them to buy things." When I inquired 
about the rows and rows of new shops ap- 
pearing near the gate, thinking only of the 
pressure of more human traffic on the 
monkeys, she laughed. "Those aren't new 

A statue of a Hindu deity at Sangeh Temple serves as a 
look-out for a long-tailed macaque. 

Hutchinson Library 

shops. We are moving the ones here out 
there, and we will build more forest or per- 
haps a garden here." In their ambition to 
increase the flow of tourists through the 
area, the people of Kukuh have taken into 
consideration not only what the visit will 
be like for tourists, but also what will be 
best for the monkeys. With the appropriate 
controls, monkeys and tourists can have a 
reasonable experience. 

A comparison of the three temples gave 
me the data I needed as an academic, but 
my memories of the summer were of more 
than maps of forests and counts of peanuts 
snatched from pockets. Most of all, I re- 
member time spent with the animals, deep 
in the forest away from the intrusive gaze 
of tourists. I often sat quietly with a group 
of females as they groomed one another, 
and smiled as babies made their first wob- 
bly steps away from mom. Sometimes I 
ran after screaming males as they fought 
out a hierarchical disagreement. 

I also remember moments with my 
other subjects, the tourists. At all three 
sites, I was repeatedly asked about my re- 
search. I always responded with my most 
used Indonesian sentence, "Saya menyed- 
lidiki monyet" (I study monkeys), fol- 
lowed by a quick natural history of 
macaques. I emphasized the macaque's at- 
tachment to family and friends and ex- 
plained specific behaviors as they un- 
folded right in front of us. Balinese tour 
guides often sat with me and watched me 
watch monkeys while their human charges 
wandered through the temple grounds. We 
talked together about the long history of 
macaques on Bali and compared notes on 
the different sites ai^ound the the island. I 
soon realized that educating an eager pub- 
lic was as much my job as collecting data 
for analysis. Obviously, the best way to 
save the monkeys from exploitation and 
extinction is to create a mutually respect- 
ful alliance between the tourists and the 

Back home, a carving of the monkey 
god, Hanuman, hangs over my desk and 
watches as I enter endless columns of 
numbers into my computer. Hanuman 
laughs because he knows that these data 
mean little in the real world of his monkey 
armies. Once more, he is needed to battle 
an evil foe, but this time, the monkeys 
themselves need Hanuman's protection. 

Meredith F. Small is an associate profes- 
sor of anthropology at Coniell. Her book 
Female Choices: Sexual Behavior of Fe- 
male Primates was published last year by 
Cornell University Press. 


This View of Life 

The Persistently Rat Earth 

Irrationality and dogmatism are foes of both science and religion 

by Stephen Jay Gould 

The mortal remains of the Venerable 
Bede (673-735) lie in Durham Cathedral, 
under a tombstone with an epitaph that 
must win all prizes for a "no nonsense" ap- 
proach to death. In rhyming Latin dog- 
gerel, the vault proclaims: Hac sunt in 
fossa, Baedae venerabilis ossa — "the 
bones of the Venerable Bede lie in this 
grave" (fossa is, literally, a "ditch" or a 
"trough," but we will let this gentler read- 
ing stand). 

In the taxonomy of Western history that 
I learned as a child, Bede shone as a rare 
light in the Dark Ages between Roman 
grandeur and a slow medieval recovery 
culminating in the renewed glory of the 
Renaissance. Bede's fame rests upon his 
scriptural commentaries and his Historia 
ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (Ecclesias- 
tical History of the English People), com- 
pleted in 732. Chronology sets the basis of 
good history, and Bede preceded his great 
work with two treatises on the reckoning 
and sequencing of time — De temporibus 
(On Times) in 703, and De temponim ra- 
tione (On the Measurement of Times) in 

Bede's chronologies had their greatest 
influence in popularizing our inconvenient 
system of dividing recent time into B.C. 
and A.D. on opposite sides of Christ's sup- 
posed nativity (almost surely incorrectly 
determined, as Herod had died by this 
time of transition and could not have seen 
the Wise Men or slaughtered the innocent 
at the onset of year one). In his chronolo- 
gies, Bede sought to order the events of 
Christian history, but the primary motive 
and purpose of his calculations centered 
on a different, and persistently vexatious, 
problem in ecclesiastical timing — the 
reckoning of Easter. The complex defini- 
tion of this holiday — the first Sunday fol- 
lowing the first full moon that occurs on or 
after the vernal equinox — requires consid- 

erable astronomical sophistication, for 
both lunar and seasonal cycles must be 
known with precision. 

Such computations entail a theory of 
the heavens, and Bede clearly presented 
his classical conception of the earth as a 
sphere at the hub of the cosmos — orbis in 
medio totius mundi positus (an orb placed 
in the center of the universe). Lest anyone 
misconstrue his intent, Bede then explic- 
itly stated that he meant a three-dimen- 
sional sphere, not a flat plate. Moreover, he 
added, our planetary sphere may be con- 
sidered as perfect because even the highest 
mountains produce no more than an im- 
perceptible ripple on a globe of such great 

I also once learned that most other ec- 
clesiastical scholars of the benighted Dark 
Ages had refuted Aristotle's notion of a 
spherical earth and had depicted our home 
as a flat, or at most a gently curved, plate. 
Didn't we all hear the legend of Columbus 
at Salamanca, trying to convince the 
learned clerics that he would reach the In- 
dies and not fall off an ultimate edge? 

The human mind seems to work as a 
categorizing device (perhaps even, as 
many French structuralists argue, as a di- 
chotomizing machine, constantly parti- 
tioning the world into dualities of raw and 
cooked [nature versus culmre], male and 
female, material and spiritual, and so 
forth). This deeply (perhaps innately) in- 
grained habit of thought causes us particu- 
lar trouble when we need to analyze the 
many continua that form so conspicuous a 
part of our surrounding world. Continua 
are rarely so smooth and gradual in their 
flux that we cannot specify certain points 
or episodes as decidedly more interesting, 
or more tumultuous in their rates of 
change, than the vast majority of moments 
along the sequence. We therefore falsely 
choose these crucial episodes as bound- 

aries for fixed categories, and we veil na- 
mre's continuity in the wrappings of our 
mental habits. (If I may venture into a 
"hot" area mentioned before in these 
columns, the abortion debate in contempo- 
rary America suffers greatly under this 
ertor when partisans try to find a moment, 
usually construed as fertihzation, for the 
unambiguous origin of a human being. 
But no such moment exists in this true 
continuum; fertilization may be a more in- 
teresting episode than most, but so is the 
initiation of quickening, or the first per- 
ceived motion of the fetus in the womb — 
and quickening set the favored criterion of 
personhood through most of classical and 
ecclesiastical history.) 

We must also remember anoflier insidi- 
ous aspect of our tendency to divide con- 
tinua into fixed categories. These divisions 
are not neutral; they are established for 
definite purposes by partisans of particular 
viewpoints. Moreover, since many con- 
tinua are temporal, and since we have a 
lamentable tendency to view our own age 
as best, our divisions often saddle the past 
with pejorative names, while designating 
successively more modem epochs with 
words of light and progress. As an obvious 
example, many people (including yours 
truly) view die great medieval cathedrals 
of Europe as the most awesome of all 
human constructions. (For me — and I say 
this as a humanist and nontheist — 
Chartres is off-scale, a place of mystery 
and magic, not truly of this world. 
Chartres is not just better than Amiens or 
Rheims or Notre Dame de Paris.) Yet we 
designate the style of these buildings as 
"Gothic" — originally a pejorative term 
(traced to seventeenth-century origin in 
the Oxford English Dictionary) apphed by 
self-styled sophisticates who viewed me- 
dieval times as a barbaric interlude be- 
tween the classical forms of Greece and 

12 Natural History 3/94 



September 15-30, 1994 

The legendary Trans-Siberian is undoubtedly the greatest railway in the 
world. Join a team of American Museum lecturers this September for an 
extraordinary 5,300-mile journey from Beijing to Moscow aboard the 
celebrated Orient Express. Tracing the ancient route of the tea caravans, 
we will travel through the vast, remote Gobi, the Mongolian steppe, the 
expansive and pristine Siberian taiga and along magnificent Lake 
Baikal. We will also explore numerous Siberian cities, frontier towns 
and traditional Mongolian ger encampments, as well as the great cities 
of Beijing and Moscow. 


with an optional extension to Angkor Wat 

October 25 - November 12, 1994 

Since the time of Marco Polo, the cultural riches and 
natural wonders of China have intrigued visitors. 
Lesser known are the many treasures of neighboring 
northern Vietnam. This October, enjoy the spectacular 
landscapes of rural China and Vietnam and a rare look 
at some lesser-known cultures traveling with a team of 
experts from Beijing to Hanoi. During our journey, we 
will see the life-sized terracotta soldiers near Xi'an, 
the Stone Forest of Kunming, the lovely Li River and 
the Red River Valley of Vietnam, enjoying along the 
way some of the most magnificent scenery in the 


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Rome and their revival in Renaissance and 
later times. These cathedrals, after all, 
were not built by German tribes who had 
their heyday in the third to fifth centuries. 
The names of several peoples who con- 
quered the waning classical world — Goths 
and Vandals in particular — became pejo- 
rative terms for anything considered nide 
or mean. For that matter, the word barbar- 
ian comes from the Latin term for for- 

Our conventional divisions of Western 
history are mired in these twinned errors 
of false categorization and pejorative des- 
ignation. I know that professional histori- 
ans no longer use such a taxonomy, but 
popular impression still supports a divi- 
sion into classical times (glory of Greece 
and grandeur of Rome), followed by the 
pall of the Dark Ages, some improvement 
in the Middle Ages, and an eclat of cul- 
ture's rediscovery in the Renaissance. But 
consider the origin of the two pejorative 
terms in this sequence — and the relation- 
ship of taxonomy to prejudiced theories of 
progress becomes clear. 

According to historian J. B. Russell, Pe- 
trarch devised the term Dark Ages in about 
1340 to designate a period between classi- 
cal times and his own form of modernism. 
The term Middle Ages for the interval be- 
tween classical fall and Renaissance re- 
vival originated in the fifteenth century but 
only gained popularity in the seventeenth 
century. Some people consider everything 

from the fall of Rome to the Renaissance 
as Dark, others as Middle. Still others 
make a sequential division into an earlier 
dark and later middle, separated by 
Charlemagne or the arbitrary millennial 
transition of 1000. Such uncertainty only 
shows the foolishness of attempting to de- 
fine fixed categories within continua. In 
any case, the intent of darks and middles 
could not be more clear — to view Western 
history as possessing a Greek and Roman 
acme, with supposed loss as tragic, fol- 
lowed by the beginning of salvation in Re- 
naissance rediscovery. 

Such prejudicial tales of redemption re- 
quire a set of stories to support their narra- 
tive. Most of these legends feature art, lit- 
erature, or architecture, but science has 
also contributed. I write this essay to point 
out that the most prominent of all scientific 
stories in this mode — the supposed dark 
and medieval consensus for a flat earth — 
is entirely mythological. Moreover, when 
we trace the invenfion of this fable in the 
nineteenth century, we receive a double 
lesson in the dangers of false tax- 
onomies — the second and larger purpose 
of this essay. For the myth itself only 
makes sense under a prejudicial view of 
Western history as an era of darkness be- 
tween lighted beacons of classical learn- 
ing and Renaissance revival, while the 
nineteenth-century invention of the myth, 
as we shall see, occurred to support an- 
other dubious and harmful separation 

"Capistrano — every year Capistrano — Can 't we ever go anywhere else ? 

wedded to another legend of historical 
progress — the supposed warfare between 
science and religion. 

Classical scholars, of course, had no 
doubt about the earth's sphericity. Our 
planet's roundness was central to Aristo- 
tle's cosmology and assumed in Eratos- 
thenes's measurement of the earth's cir- 
cumference in the third century B.C. The 
flat earth myth argues that this knowledge 
was then lost when ecclesiastical darkness 
settled over Europe. For a thousand years 
of middle time, almost all scholars held 
that the earth must be flat — Uke the floor 
of a tent, held up by the canopy of the sky, 
to cite a biblical metaphor read literally. 
The Renaissance rediscovered classical 
notions of sphericity, but proof required 
the braveness of Columbus and other great 
explorers who should have sailed off the 
edge but, beginning with Magellan's expe- 
dition, returned home from the opposite 
direction after going all the way around. 

The inspirational, schoolchild version 
of the myth centers on Columbus, who 
supposedly overcame the calumny of as- 
sembled clerics at Salamanca to win a 
chance from Ferdinand and Isabella. Con- 
sider this version of the legend, cited by 
Russell from a book for primary-school 
children written in 1887, soon after the 
myth's invention (but little different from 
accounts that I read as a child in the 

"But if the world is round," said Columbus, 
"it is not hell that lies beyond that stormy 
sea. Over there must lie the eastern strand of 
Asia, the Cathay of Marco Polo."... In the 
hall of the convent there was assembled the 
imposing company — shaved monks in 
gowns... cardinals in scarlet robes.... "You 
think the earth is round.... Are you not 
aware that the holy fathers of the church 
have condemned this belief. . . . This theory 
of yours looks heretical." Columbus might 
well quake in his boots at the mention of 
heresy; for there was that new Inquisition 
just in fine running order, with its elaborate 
bone-breaking, flesh-pinching, thumb- 
screwing, hanging, burning, mangling sys- 
tem for heretics. 

Dramatic to be sure, but entirely ficti- 
tious. There never was a period of "flat 
earth darkness" among scholars (regard- 
less of how many uneducated people may 
have thus conceptualized our planet both 
then and now). Greek knowledge of 
sphericity was never lost, and all major 
medieval scholars accepted the earth's 
roundness as an established fact of cos- 
mology. Ferdinand and Isabella did refer 
Columbus's plans to a royal commission 
headed by Hernando de Talavera, Is- 

14 Natural History 3/94 

abella's confessor and, following defeat of 
the Moors, Archbishop of Granada. This 
commission, composed of both clerical 
and lay advisors, did meet at Salamanca, 
among other places. They did pose some 
sharp intellectual objections to Columbus, 
but all assumed the earth's roundness. As a 
major critique, they argued that Columbus 
could not reach the Indies in his own allot- 
ted time because the earth's circumference 
was too great. Moreover, his critics were 
entirely right. Columbus had "cooked" his 
figures to favor a much smaller earth and 
an attainable Indies. Needless to say, he 
did not and could not reach Asia, and our 
Native Americans are still called Indians 
as a legacy of his error. 

Virtually all major medieval scholars 
affirmed the earth's roundness. I intro- 
duced this essay with the eighth-century 
view of the Venerable Bede. The twelfth- 
century translations into Latin of many 
Greek and Arabic works greatly expanded 
general appreciation of natural sciences, 
particularly astronomy, among scholars — 
and convictions about the earth's spheric- 
ity both spread and strengthened. Roger 
Bacon (1214-1292) and Thomas Aquinas 
(1225-1274) affirmed roundness via Aris- 
totle and his Arabic commentators, as did 
the greatest scientists of later medieval 
times, including Jean Buriden (1300- 
1358) and Nichole Oresme (1320-1382). 

So who, then, was arguing for a flat 
earth if all the chief honchos believed in 
roundness? Villains must be found for any 
malfeasance, and Russell shows that the 
great English philosopher of science 
William Whewell first identified major 
culprits in his Histoiy of the Inductive Sci- 
ences, published in 1837 — two otherwise 
entirely insignificant characters named 
Lactantius (245-325) and Cosmas Indi- 
copleustes, who wrote his Christian 
Topography in 547-549. Russell com- 
ments: "Whewell pointed to the cul- 
prits. . .as evidence of a medieval belief in 
a flat earth, and virtually every subsequent 
historian imitated him — they could find 
few other examples." 

Lactantius did raise the old saw of ab- 
surdity in believing that people at the an- 
tipodes might walk with their feet above 
their heads in a land where crops grow 
down and rain falls up. And Cosmas did 
champion a literal view of a biblical 
metaphor — that the earth is a flat floor for 
the rectangular, vaulted arch of the heav- 
ens above. But both men were minor and 
largely ignored figures in medieval schol- 
arship. Only three reasonably complete 
medieval manuscripts of Cosmas are 

known (with five or six additional frag- 
ments), and all in Greek. The first Latin 
translation dates from 1706 — so Cosmas 
was invisible to medieval readers in their 
own lingua franca. 

Purveyors of the flat earth myth could 
never deny this plain testimony of Bede, 
Bacon, Aquinas, and others — so they ar- 
gued that these men were rare beacons of 
brave light in pervasive darkness. But con- 
sider the absurdity of such a position. Who 
formed the orthodoxy representing this 
consensus of ignorance? Two pipsqueaks 
named Lactantius and Cosmas Idi- 
copleustes, known to practically nobody? 
Bede, Bacon, Aquinas, and theu^ ilk were 
not brave iconoclasts. They were the es- 
tablishment, and their convictions about 
the earth's roundness were canonical, 
while Lactantius and his colleagues re- 

mained entirely marginal. To call Aquinas 
a courageous revolutionary because he 
promoted a spherical earth would be akin 
to labeling Fisher, Haldane, Wright, 
Dobzhansky, Mayr, Simpson, and all the 
other great twentieth-century evolutionists 
as radical reformers because a peripheral 
creationist named Duane Gish wrote a 
pitiful book during the same years called 
Evolution: The Fossils Say No. 

Where, then, and why, did the myth of 
medieval belief in a flat earth arise? Rus- 
sell's historiographic work gives us a good 
fix on both times and people. None of the 
great eighteenth-century anticlerical ra- 
tionalists — not Condillac, Condorcet, 
Diderot, Gibbon, Hume, or our own Ben- 
jamin Franklin — accused the scholastics 
of believing in a flat earth, although these 
men were all unsparing in their contempt 



for medieval versions of Cfiristianity. 
Washington Irving gave the fiat earth story 
a good boost in his largely fictional history 
of Columbus, published in 1828 — but his 
version did not take hold. The legend grew 
during the nineteenth century but did not 
enter the crucial domains of schoolboy 
pap or tour guide lingo. Russell did an in- 
teresting survey of nineteenth-century his- 
tory texts for secondary schools and found 
that very few mentioned the flat earth 
myth before 1 870, but that almost all texts 
after 1880 featured the legend. We can 
therefore pinpoint the invasion of general 
culture by the flat earth myth to the period 
between 1860 and 1890. 

These years also featured the spread of 
an intellectual movement based on the 
second error of taxonomic categories ex- 
plored in this essay — the portrayal of 
Western history as a perpetual struggle, if 
not an outright "war," between science 
and reUgion, with progress linked to the 
victory of science and the consequent re- 
treat of theology. Such movements always 
need whipping boys and legends to ad- 
vance their claims. Russell argues that the 
flat earth myth achieved its canonical sta- 
tus as a primary homily for the triumph of 
science under this false dichotomization of 
Western history. How could a better story 
for the army of science ever be concocted? 
Religious darkness destroys Greek knowl- 
edge and weaves us into a web of fears 
based on dogma and opposed to both ra- 
tionality and experience. Our ancestors 
therefore lived in anxiety, restricted by of- 

ficial irrationality, afraid that any chal- 
lenge could only lead to a fall off the edge 
of the earth into eternal damnation. A fit 
tale for its intended purpose, but entirely 
false because few medieval scholars ever 
doubted the earth's sphericity. 

I was especially drawn to this topic be- 
cause the myth of dichotomy and warfare 
between science and religion — an impor- 
tant nineteenth-century theme with major, 
and largely unfortunate, repercussions ex- 
tending to our fimes — received its greatest 
boost in two books that I own and treasure 
for their firm commitment to rationality 
(however wrong and ultimately harmful 
their dichotomizing model of history) and 
for an interesting Darwinian connection 
with each author (I have often said that I 
write these essays as a tradesman, not a 
polymath, and that my business is evolu- 
tionary theory). Russell identifies these 
same two books as the primary codifiers of 
the flat earth myth: John W. Draper's His- 
tory of the Conflict between Religion and 
Science, first published in 1874; and An- 
drew Dickson White's A History of the 
Warfare of Science with Theology in 
Christendom, published in 1896 (a great 
expansion of a small book first written in 
1876 and called The Warfare of Science). 

Draper (1811-1882) was bom in Eng- 
land but emigrated to the United States in 
1 832, where he evenhially became head of 
the medical school at New York Univer- 
sity. His 1874 book ranks among the great 
publishing successes of the late nineteenth 
century — fifty printings in fifty years as 

the best-selling volume of the Interna- 
tional Scientific Series, the most presti- 
gious and popular of nineteenth-century 
publishing projects in science. Draper 
states his thesis in the preface: 

The history of Science is not a mere record 
of isolated discoveries; it is a narrative of the 
conflict of two contending powers, the ex- 
pansive force of the human intellect on one 
side, and the compressing arising from tra- 
ditionary faith and human interests on the 
other. . . . Faith is in its nature unchangeable, 
stationary; Science is in its nature progres- 
sive; and eventually a divergence between 
them, impossible to conceal, must take 

Draper extolled the flat earth myth as a 
primary example of reUgion's constraint 
and science's progressive power: 

The circular visible horizon and its dip at 
sea, the gradual appearance and disappear- 
ance of ships in the offing, cannot fail to in- 
cline intelligent sailors to a beUef in the 
globular figure of the earth. The writings of 
the Mohammedan astronomers and philoso- 
phers had given currency to that doctrine 
throughout Western Europe, but, as might 
be expected, it was received with disfavor 
by theologians.. . . Traditions and policy for- 
bade [the papal government] to admit any 
other than the flat figure of the earth, as re- 
vealed in the Scriptures. 

Russell comments on the success of 
Draper's work: 

The History of the Conflict is of immense 
importance, because it was the first instance 
that an influential figure had expUciUy de- 
clared that science and reUgion were at war, 
and it succeeded as few books ever do. It 
fixed in the educated mind the idea that "sci- 
ence" stood for freedom and progress 
against the superstition and repression of 
"religion." Its viewpoint became conven- 
tional wisdom. 

Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918) 
grew up in Syracuse, New York, and 
founded Cornell University in 1865 as one 
of tiie first avowedly secular institutions of 
higher learning in America. He wrote of 
file goals he shared with his main benefac- 
tor, Ezra Cornell: 

Our purpose was to establish in the State 
of New York an institution for advanced in- 
struction and research, in which science, 
pure and applied, should have an equal 
place with literature; in which the study of 
literature, ancient and modem, should be 
emancipated as much as possible from 
pedantry.... We had especially determined 
that the institution should be under the con- 
trol of no political party and of no single re- 
ligious sect. 

White avowed that his decision to 
found a secular university reflected no 

16 Natural History 3/94 

hostility to theology, but only recorded his 
desire to foster an ecumenical religious 

It had certainly never entered into the mind 
of either of us that in all this we were doing 
anything irreligious or unchristian.... I had 
been bred a churchman, and had recently 
been elected a trustee of one church college. 
and a professor in another... my greatest 
sources of enjoyment were ecclesiastical ar- 
chitecture, religious music, and the more 
devout forms of poetry. So far from wishing 
to injure Christianity, we both hoped to pro- 
mote it; but we did not confound religion 
with sectarianism. 

But the calumnies of conservative cler- 
gymen dismayed him profoundly and en- 
ergized his fighting spirit: 

Opposition began at once... from the good 
Protestant bishop who proclaimed that all 
professors should be in holy orders, since to 
the Church alone was given the command 
"Go, teach all the nations," to the zealous 
priest who pubUshed a charge that... a pro- 
foundly Christian scholar had come to Cor- 
nell in order to inculcate infidelity... from 
the eminent divine who went from city to 
city denouncing the "atheistic and pantheis- 
tic tendencies'" of the proposed education, 
to the perfervid minister who informed a de- 
nominational synod that Agassiz, the last 
great opponent of Darwin, and a devout the- 
ist, was "preaching Darwinism and athe- 
ism" in the new institudon. 

These searing personal experiences led 
White to a different interpretation of the 
"warfare of science with theology." 
Draper was a genuine antitheist, but he 
confined his hostility almost entirely to the 
Catholic church, as he felt that science 
could coexist with more liberal forms of 
Protestantism. White, on the other hand, 
professed no hostility to religion, but only 
to dogmatism of any stripe — while his 
own struggles had taught him that Protes- 
tants could be as obstructionist as anyone 
else. He wrote: 

Much as I admired Draper's treatment of the 
questions involved, his point of view and 
mode of looking at history were different 
from mine. He regarded the struggle as one 
between Science and Religion. I believed 
then, and am convinced now, that it was a 
struggle between Science and Dogmatic 

White therefore argued that the triumph 
of science in its warfare with dogmatism 
would benefit true religion as much as sci- 
ence. He expressed his credo as a para- 
graph in italics in the introduction to his 

In all modem history, interference with sci- 
ence in the supposed interest of religion, no 

matter how conscientious such interference 
may have been, has resulted in the direst 
evils both to religion and to science, and in- 
variably; and, on the other hand, all untram- 
melled scientific investigation, no matter 
how dangerous to religion some of its stages 
may have seemed for the time to be, has in- 
variably resulted in the highest good both of 
religion and of science. 

Despite these stated disagreements with 
Draper, their accounts of the actual inter- 
action between science and religion in 
Western history do not differ greatly. Both 
essentially tell a tale of bright progress 
continually sparked by science. And both 
develop and utilize the same myths to sup- 
port their narrative, the flat earth legend 
prominently among them. Of Cosmas In- 
dicopleustes's flat earth theory, for ex- 
ample. White wrote: 

Some of the foremost men in the Church de- 
voted themselves to buttressing it with new 
texts and throwing about it new outworks of 
theological reasoning; the great body of the 
faithful considered it a direct gift from the 

As another interesting similarity, both 
men developed their basic model of sci- 
ence versus theology in the context of a 
seminal and contemporary struggle all too 
easily viewed in this light — the battle for 
evolution, specificaUy for Darwin's secu- 
lar version based on natural selection. No 
issue, certainly since Galileo, had so chal- 
lenged traditional views of the deepest 
meaning of human life, and therefore so 
contacted a domain of religious inquiry as 
well. It would not be an exaggeration to 
say that the Darwinian revolution directly 
triggered this influential nineteenth-cen- 
tury conceptualization of Western history 

as a war between two taxonomic cate- 
gories labeled science and religion. White 
made an explicit connection in his state- 
ment about Agassiz (the founder of the 
museum where I now work and a visiting 
lecturer at Cornell). Moreover, the first 
chapter of his book treats the battle over 
evolution, while the second begins with 
the flat earth myth. 

Draper wraps himself even more fully 
in a Darwinian mantie. The end of his 
preface designates five great episodes in 
the history of science's battle with reli- 
gion — the debasement of classical knowl- 
edge and the descent of the Dark Ages, the 
flowering of science under early Islam, the 
battle of Galileo with the Catholic church, 
the Reformation (a plus for an anti- 
Catholic like Draper), and the struggle for 
Darwinism. No one in the world had a 
more compelling personal license for such 
a view, for Draper had been an unwilling 
witness — one might even say an instiga- 
tor — of the single most celebrated incident 
in the overt struggle between Darwin and 
divinity. We all have heard the famous 
story of Bishop Wilberforce and T. H. 
Huxley duking it out at the British Associ- 
ation meeting in 1860. But how many peo- 
ple know that their verbal pyrotechnics did 
not form the avowed agenda of this meet- 
ing, but only arose during free discussion 
following the formal paper officially set 
for this session — an address by the same 
Dr. Draper on the "intellectual develop- 
ment of Europe considered with reference 
to the views of Mr. Darwin." (I do love co- 
incidences of this sort. Sociologists tell us 
that we can touch anyone through no more 
than six degrees of separation, given the 

■ tCS- .^cfr 




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Above the Arctic Circle 

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The remote islands of the 
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This summer, a team of Ameri- 
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exploration in this rarely-vis- 
ited area of the world. 

Aboard the World Discov- 
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density of networks in human contact. But 
to think of Draper, taking the first degree 
just inches from Huxley and Wilberforce, 
can only be viewed as God's gift to an es- 
sayist who traffics in connections.) 

This essay has discussed a double myth 
in the annals of our bad habits in false cat- 
egorization: (I) the flat earth legend as 
support for a biased ordering of Western 
history as a story in redemption from clas- 
sical to dark to medieval to Renaissance; 
and (2) the invention of the flat earth myth 
to support a false dichotomization of 
Western history as another story of 
progress, a war of victorious science over 

I would not be agitated by these errors if 
they led only to an inadequate view of the 
past without practical consequence for our 
modem world. But the myth of a war be- 
tween science and religion remains all too 
current and continues to impede a proper 
bonding and conciliation between these 
two utterly different and powerfully im- 
portant institutions of human life. How 
can a war exist between two vital subjects 
with such different appropriate turfs — sci- 
ence as an enterprise dedicated to discov- 
ering and explaining the factual basis of 
the empirical world, and religion as an ex- 
amination of ethics and values? 

I do understand, of course, that this ter- 
ritorial separation is a modem decision — 
and that differing past divisions did entail 
conflict in subsequent adjustment of 
boundaries. After all, when science was 
weak to nonexistent, religion's umbreUa 
did cover regions now properly viewed as 
domains of natural knowledge. But shall 
we blame religion for these overexten- 
sions? As thinking beings, we have no op- 
tion not to ponder the great issues of 
human origins and our relationship with 
die earth and oflier creatures. If science 
once had no clue about these subjects, 
then they fell, albeit uncomfortably and in- 
appropriately, into the domain of reUgion 
by default. No one gives up turf voluntar- 
ily, and the later expansion of science into 
rightful territory temporarily occupied by 
religion did evoke some lively skirmishes 
and portentous battles. These tensions 
were also exacerbated by particular cir- 
cumstances of contingent history — in- 
cluding the resolute and courageous mate- 
rialism of Darwin's personal theory and 
the occupation (at the same time) of the 
Holy See by one of the most fascinating 
and enigmatic figures of the nineteenth 
century, the strong, embittered, and in- 
creasingly conservative pope Pio Nono 
(Pius K). 

18 Natural History 3/94 

But these adjustments, however painful, 
do not justify a simplistic picture of his- 
tory as continual warfare between science 
and theology. Exposure of the flat earth 
myth should teach us the fallacy of such a 
view and help us to recognize the com- 
plexity of interaction between these insti- 
tutions. Irrationality and dogmatism are 
always the enemies of science, but they 
are no true friends of rehgion either. Sci- 
entific knowledge has always been helpful 
to more generous views of rehgion — as 
preservation, by ecclesiastical scholars, of 
classical knowledge about the earth's 
shape aided rehgion's need for accurate 
calendars, for example. 

I began this essay with a story about the 
Venerable Bede's use of cosmology to set 
a chronology for the determination of 
Easter. Let me end with another story in 
the same mold — and another illustration 
of science's interesting and complex po- 
tential bond with rehgion. Two days be- 
fore my visit to the Venerable Bede's tomb 
in Durham, I marveled at an intricate as- 
tronomical device prominendy displayed 
in the Church of Saint Sulpice in Paris. 
Each day, precisely at noon the sun's light 
shines through a tiny hole in a window 
high in the south transept and illuminates a 
copper meridian laid into the floor of the 
transept and ending at an obelisk sur- 
mounted by a globe at the north wall. 

The line and obelisk are appropriately 
marked so that the days of solstices and 
equinoxes can be determined with preci- 
sion by the position of noon light. Why 
should such a scientific instrument be con- 
tained within a church? The inscription on 
the obehsk gives the answer — ad certam 
paschalis (for the determination of 
Easter), a calculation that requires precise 
reckoning of the vernal equinox. Interest- 
ingly, to further spin out the complexities 
of relationship between science and reh- 
gion. Saint Sulpice became a temple to hu- 
manism during the French Revolution, 
and most of the religious glass and statu- 
ary was smashed. The names of kings and 
princes carved on the obehsk were thor- 
oughly obliterated, but the beautiful blue 
marble balustrade of the choir was pre- 
served because the copper meridian passes 
through it, and the revolution did not wish 
to disrupt a scientific instrument. 

I would not choose to live in any age but 
my own; advances in medicine alone, and 
the consequent survival of children with 
access to these benefits, should preclude 
any temptation to trade for the past. But 
we cannot understand history if we saddle 
the past with pejorative categories based 

on our bad habits for dividing continua 
into compartments of increasing worth to- 
ward the present. These errors apply to the 
vast paleontological history of life as 
much as to the temporally trivial chronicle 
of human beings. I cringe every time I 
read that this failed business or that de- 
feated team has become a dinosaur in suc- 
cumbing to progress. Dinosaur should be 
a term of praise, not of opprobrium. They 
reigned for 100 million years and died 
through no fault of their own; Homo sapi- 
ens is nowhere near a million years old and 
has limited prospects, entirely self-im- 
posed, for extended geological longevity. 
Honor the past at its face value. The city 

of York houses the next great cathedral 
south of Durham. As Durham displays an 
amusing Latin rhyme to honor the Venera- 
ble Bede, so does York feature a verse to 
illustrate this principle of respect for the 
past in the service of understanding. On 
the wall of the chapter house, we read: 

Ut rasa flos florum 

Sic est domus ista domorum. 

As the rose is the flower of flowers, so is 
this the house of houses. 

Stephen Jay Gould teaches biology, geol- 
ogy, and the history of science at Harvard 


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Summerby Swamp, Michigan 

by Robert Mohlenbrock 

Summerby Swamp, in Hiawatha Na- 
tional Forest, is among the countless wet- 
lands that dot northern Michigan, northern 
Minnesota, and adjoining parts of Canada. 
Bisected by Michigan Highway No. 123, 
the swamp covers about three square 
miles. On one side of the road, the swamp 
is rather soupy looking, with hummocks 
of vegetation forming hundreds of tiny is- 
lands in shallow, standing water. On the 
other side it is forested with northern white 
cedar trees. The contrast in vegetation is 
related to differences in soil chemistry and 
drainage. This type of variation in wet- 
lands is also a clue to how these habitats 
gradually change from one type to an- 
other, or even into a dry habitat, as a result 
of plant growth. 

Bird's-eye primrose, above, grows in 
Summerby Swamp, but is more commonly 
found farther north. Right: Cattails and 
flowering asters border the swamp. 

Rod Planck; Photo Researchers, Inc. 

20 Natural History 3/94 

Terms such as bog, fen, marsh, and 
swamp are often used interchangeably, 
even by professional botanists. But biolo- 
gist Howard Crum, in his book A Focus on 
Peatlands and Peat Mosses (1988), pro- 
poses a more precise terminology. One of 
the differences he emphasizes is between 
peatlands, where sphagnum (peat moss) 
grows and accumulates, and nonpeatlands. 
Peatlands develop where the ground is 
water-soaked throughout the growing sea- 
son, causing the sphagnum to grow faster 
than its dead remains can decompose. The 
built-up deposit is known as peat. 

Peatlands vary depending on the degree 
of acidity. Fens, according to Crum, are 
peatlands that are rich in minerals and low 
in acidity or even sUghtly alkaline. They 
develop where water near the surface of 
the wetland is well aerated and suppUed 
with minerals such as calcium. Northern 
Michigan has "rich fens" that have abun- 
dant calcium and a pH value between 6.0 
and 7.5. (On the pH scale, 7 is neutral, val- 
ues from 7 to 14 indicate increasing alka- 
linity, and values from 7 down to indi- 
cate increasing acidity.) Where the 
calcium is low, a sedge-dominated "inter- 
mediate fen" will develop, with a ten- 
dency to become increasingly acidic. 
Crum designates a wetland a "poor fen" 
when the pH is between 4 and 6 and the 
vegetation, dominated by sphagnum, is 
still in contact with groundwater. If the pH 
falls to 3 or less, it is a "bog." 

Crum notes that peatlands form in low- 
lands that have a constant water supply 
and may even encroach on open water. In 
a fen, where the water is well aerated and 
not too acidic, the habitat will support a 
diversity of plants, often dominated by 
sedges. But sphagnum mosses are the key 
to the peatiand ecosystem: usually several 
species are present, and they may come to 
dominate, depending on conditions. 

In some calcium-rich fens in Michigan, 
spring flooding or other changes in water 
level may restrict the growth of sphagnum, 
which is a perennial. Such locales may be 
invaded by white cedars to become cedar 
swamps. But in fens where peat accumu- 
lates rapidly, the water flow is restricted. 

JackW. Dykinga 


!< \.*t 


, /' 

\i -- 

^.^ — »- 







^,,r iJ?»-' 

trapping nutrients so that they are no 
longer recycled. Such fens end up as bogs, 
as the waterlogged peat slows down oxy- 
gen movement and reduces the rate of de- 
composition. Fewer and fewer plant spe- 
cies other than sphagnum are able to 
survive in the habitat. Some, perched on 
the peat, must obtain their water and nutri- 
ents strictly from rain, absorbing these ne- 
cessities mostly through above-ground tis- 
sues rather than through roots. 

As a bog matures, more and more 
shrubs invade it, most of them members of 
the heath family. In northern Michigan, 
bogs eventually become dominated by 
black spruces, forming a type of swamp 
referred to as a muskeg. This process may 
take several thousand years. 

Unlike peatlands, marshes and swamps 
are flooded at least part of the year, so 
sphagnum has little chance to become es- 
tablished and to accumulate. Their soils 
are well aerated and rich in minerals. 
Marshes are dominated by grasses, with 
few woody plants. Similar habitats, when 
dominated by sedges, are called sedge 
meadows, and when forested, they are 
called swamps. 

In Crum's terms, Summerby Swamp 
consists of both rich fen and cedar swamp 
zones. (Another type of wetland found in 
Hiawatha National Forest will be explored 
in next month's article on Shingleton 
Bog.) I toured the area in early July, ac- 

companied by botanist Donald Henson. 
The fen, on the north side of Michigan 
Highway No. 123, was dotted with sphag- 
num hummocks. Although the fen's sur- 
face water and groundwater are charged 
with magnesium and calcium, these 
sphagnum hummocks are acidic enough 
to accommodate the growth of acid-loving 
plants, including wintergreen, leatherleaf, 
cranberry, and Labrador tea, all members 
of the heath family. Scattered throughout 
were thickets of stunted tamarack, white 
cedar, and black spruce. 

The fen was colorful with the orange 
flowers of wood lily, the yellow and or- 
ange blossoms of Indian paintbrush, and 
the purplish pitchers of pitcher plants. 
Closer observation revealed the much 
smaller flowers of arrowgrass (not a true 
grass) and a diversity of sedges and 

After surveying the fen, we crossed to 
the south side of the road. Here we ob- 
served a mature white cedar swamp with 
occasional stands of black spruce. Beneath 
the trees grew royal fern and many species 
of flowering plants that had bloomed ear- 
lier in the year, including starflower, 
goldthread, and bunchberry (a dwarf type 
of dogwood). Henson speculates that the 
construction of the road has restricted the 
draining of water from the north to the 
south side, speeding the establishment of 
the swamp zone. 

Summerby Swamp 

For visitor information write: 
Forest Supervisor 
Hiawatha National Forest 
2727 N. Lincoln Road 
Escanaba, Michigan 49829 
(906) 786-4062 

Joe LeMonnier 

Wood lily 

Rod Planck; Photo Researchers, Inc. 

While most of the plants in the fen and 
cedar swamp are common throughout 
northern Michigan, several are rare for the 
region. Black crowberry, bird's-eye prim- 
rose, butterwort, and the hyssop-leaved 
fleabane (which looks like a small daisy), 
all more common much farther to the 
north, have found the right conditions to 
thrive in Summerby Swamp. 

Worldwide, peatlands are often found 
in cool temperate zones near oceans. This 
is because mild winters and long growing 
seasons with cool, humid, foggy condi- 
tions favor the growth of sphagnum moss. 
Peatlands also arise in poorly drained 
topography sculpted by glacial action. 
This is true of the Great Lakes area, where 
the poor drainage of the shallow soil, com- 
bined with an even distribution of rainfall 
throughout most of the year, allows peat- 
lands to form despite short growing sea- 
sons, low humidity, and long, cold winters. 

Robert H. Mohlenbrock, professor emeri- 
tus of plant biology at Southern Illinois 
University, Carbondale, explores the bio- 
logical and geological highlights of the 
156 U.S. national forests. 

22 Natural History 3/94 

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The Hyphenated American 

What did Catherine the Great, Attila the Hun, andJabba the Hutt have in common? 

by Roger L. Welsch 

It was a remarkable moment in my life: 
(1) my mother agreed with me, and (2) she 
agreed with me that my name — Roger Lee 
Welsch — was dumb. "Roger" has no 
meaning in our family (or in all history, so 
far as I can determine), and neither does 
"Lee." Heaven knows, the combination 
was not chosen for euphony, since it 
sounds like the sloshing of a bucket of 
slops. "Yes, Roger" my mother confessed 
tearfully. "I wish I had given you a name 
Like your cousin RoseMary's." 

"Who was RoseMary named after?" I 

"Well, no one, but her middle name is 
her mother's maiden name, Welsch." 

Naming a human being is a ferocious 
responsibility and should be done with at 
least as much consideration as naming a 
pickup truck. My children's names are 
heavy with family and cultural history. My 
youngest daughter is Antonia (after two 
ancestors and Gather's fictional peasant 
heroine) Emily (after two other ancestors) 
Celestine (after a grandmother) Welsch 
(representing two millennia of endless 
German migration). 

These days people want their children 
to have cuddly names, apparendy content 
that they will never amount to much. 
Some people — a lot of people — work hard 
at finding names for their children that are 
without substance, evocation, or poetry. 
One of my own grandchildren has a set of 
labels so hopelessly trendy (and which 
will be as silly as a Nehru jacket by the 
time the kid graduates irom high school) 
that I cannot bring myself to refer to him 
as anything but C. B. 

Of course, one can go too far, loading a 
kid down with a meaning-drenched name. 
I recently met a woman, for example, who 
proudly told me she had named her son 
after her favorite place in the world. Rocky 
Mountain National Park. "You named him 
■Rocky?' " I asked. 

"No," she smiled. " 'Rocky Mountain 
National Park.' " 

So what are these kids going to do when 
they are older and embarrassed by their 
names? Until recently a woman cursed 
with a goofy last name could hope to 
marry a man with a heroic family name, 
take it as her own, and cut her losses. I 
think of the child whose mother was in the 
hospital bed next to my wife's at the birth 
of our son Chris (for his grandfather) Ed- 
ward (for his uncle, on whose birthday he 
was bom). This lady named her daughter 
Michelle Renee. Michelle Renee Bier- 
schluckenhausen. I am sure that Michelle 
Renee, and probably her mother, lived 
their lives anticipating a minister saying, 
"I now pronounce you husband and wife. 
You may kiss the bride, Mr. DuPont." 

She probably married a guy named 
Lukosolowicz, because that's the way the 
gods work. Or she got liberated and hy- 
phenated: Michelle Renee Bierschlucken- 
hausen-Lukosolowicz. Don't get me 
wrong: I have trouble only with the 
Michelle Renee part. Bierschlucken- 
hausen-Lukosolowicz rolls off this Ger- 
man tongue like a poem by Goethe. 

My father is Christian Welsch. That's it. 
No middle name. He says his family was 
too busy having other children and work- 
ing like slaves to think up middle names. 
And there's Marky Mark (of padded un- 
derwear fame) and Dougie Doug (televi- 
sion "personality"). I think of them as 
nominally challenged. Not to mention 
United Nations Secretary General Boutros 
Boutros-Ghali. Or Cher and Madonna, 
who have not exacdy distinguished the 
mononominal system. 

The customary Nordic system was to 
base the second name on the first name of 
the father or mother — so you got names 
like Eric Ericson and Sigrid Egilsdottir. 
This procedure makes sense to me be- 
cause, even though it can raise all sorts of 

hell with a telephone book, it provides tra- 
dition-rich names and plenty of conversa- 
tional material. 

As a fat old man, I have great fondness 
for George Foreman, another fat old man 
and — not incidentally — a formidable 
prizefighter. It takes ego to step into a box- 
ing ring, which probably explains why 
George named all of his sons George. 
George Foreman, George Foreman, 
George Foreman, and George Foreman. 
Consistency like that may result from the 
fuss Cassius Clay raised when he changed 
his name to Muhammad Ali, annoying the 
mainstream not only because it conftised 
heavyweight boxing records but also be- 
cause this guy sounds like he's from Qatar 
or something. The world of boxing, of 
which I have been a modest part myself 
now and then, is not noted for its social 

As usual, my Omaha Indian friends 
have, over the years, arrived at a resolution 
to the problems of naming. Traditionally, 
the Omahas bestowed tribal names that 
carried great meaning, but a person's name 
could be changed now and then to suit im- 
portant developments in his or her life. 
Moreover, new names were occasionally 
brought into the tribal inventory. When the 
French began to ply the Missouri and 
make themselves comfortable among the 
Omaha, French names found their way 
into the tribe — LaFlesche, Saunsoci, 
Fontenelle. (Sometimes even those names 
seem eerily appropriate: Frances 
LaFlesche, for example, an ethnologist of 
Omaha and Ponca parentage, had as her 
mentor the non-Indian ethnologist Alice 
Fletcher. La fleche is French for "the 
arrow," while fletcher is English for 
"arrow maker.") 

Things got nasty for the Omaha when 
the next wave of non-Indians — missionar- 
ies and soldiers — came across the Plains. 
Missionaries unwilling to learn the Omaha 

24 Natural History 3/94 

language and determined to crush Omaha 
traditions assigned new names to their 
young charges — Grant, Canby, Sheridan, 
Phillips, Stabler — names of America's 
great mihtary leaders, the very men who 
were wiping out the Omahas' Native 
American kin. It was a cruel process, com- 
parable to naming a Republican conserva- 
tive's children Eleanor, JFK, or Jane (as in 
Fonda) or a left-winger's offspring Rush 
or Orrin. The elegant Omaha solution is to 
have two names, an Omaha name for use 
within Omaha culture and an "Enghsh" 
name for use within non-Native American 

In 1967, when my Omaha brother Al- 
fred Gilpin, Jr., was preparing to give me 
an Omaha name, he flew in the face of an 
Omaha taboo and gave me his own name, 
Tenuga Gahi, or Bull Buffalo Chief. I sat 
uncomfortably in his yard one September 
afternoon and hstened to a heated debate 
as his brothers argued with him that giving 
away his own name was bad luck. They 
felt he should follow tradition by present- 
ing me with a choice of four or nine 
names, from which I could choose one, 
thus leaving the name to chance and ab- 
solving him of any responsibility. (Gilpin 
persisted, my name is Tenuga Gahi, and 
Gilpin spent much of the next year in the 
reservation hospital — for reasons, his 
family told me, that were unclear to med- 
ical experts.) 

So I have been spared the usual con- 
fines of our naming system. The spit- 
sloshing Roger Lee Welsch may be there 
on my birth certificate, but in my mind I 
am also the considerably more splendid 
Bull Buffalo Chief. 

I have been concerned about names for 
a long time — and concerned about being 
concerned, since a preoccupation with 
names can be a symptom of Huntington's 
chorea. Woody Guthrie's fatal disease 
(thus his songs "All they will call them 

will be 'deportees,' " or "What were their 
names, the men who went down on the 
good Reuben JamesT and others com- 
posed in large part of the names of rivers 
and dams). Thirty years ago, before I was 
graced by the Omahas, I was discussing 
the subject of names in a class and ob- 
served that I admired names of grandeur 
and poetry, especially when they included 
hyphens (hyphenation was not so common 
then). "One of the regrets of my life," I 
said, "is that I will never have a name with 
a hyphen in it." 

A young man who had been sitting in 
the back row all semester without saying a 
word slowly raised his hand, a look of dis- 
covery on his face. Surprised, I called on 
him. "But, uh. Professor Welsch," he said, 
"doesn't 'son-of-a-bitch' have hyphens in 
it?" (Actually, it doesn't.) 

Well, what do we do when a shoe 
doesn't fit? We change it. Aren't our 
names even more our personal posses- 
sions than our shoes? We could argue that 
a name belongs not only to the recipient 
but also to the donor, but my mother was 
just as uncomfortable as I was with this 
name of mine that sounded suitable for 
that fat baby more than a half century ago. 
So this year, as a birthday present for my 
mother and a long overdue relief to my- 
self, I decided to change my name — just a 
httle, but enough to make both of us a 
good deal happier. 

I am now Roger Lee-Flack Welsch. I 
have my longed-for hyphen. Mom's 
maiden name (Flack) is preserved in mine, 
and there's a nice staccato punctuation in 
the middle of all those ruminating sounds. 
So what if now, maybe, I will never wear 
the heavyweight boxing belt? 

(Solution to the riddle in the subtitle: 
They all have the same middle name.) 

Folklorist R. Lee-Flack Welsch lives on a 
tree farm in Dannebrog, Nebraska. 


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Celestial Events 

Getting Through the Night 

by Gail S. Cleere 

The vernal equinox occurs at 3:28 p.m., 
EST, on March 20, marking the beginning 
of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. The 
vernal equinox also marks a place in the 
sky where the celestial equator (the earth's 
equator stretched into space) and the eclip- 
tic (the path of the sun across the sky) in- 
tersect. These imaginary lines also inter- 
sect at the autumnal equinox, but the 
vernal equinox is special; it is used as the 
standard reckoning point for determining 
the position of every object in the sky. On 
the vernal equinox, the sun's right ascen- 
sion and declination (the celestial equiva- 
lents of longitude and latitude) are both 
zero. This position is also called the First 
Point of Aries (even though over the years 
it has drifted into neighboring Pisces). 

Most astronomical outsiders are less 
than thrilled with this dry, mathematical 
definition of spring, the season that brings 
us warmer days, flowers, and green buds. 
Since ancient times, however, people have 
used the vernal equinox to mark the pas- 
sage of the seasons. On the equinox, 
which means "equal night," the days and 
nights are roughly twelve hours long 
everywhere on the planet. Also on the 
equinox, the sun rises precisely in the east; 
and at local noon, it reaches an altitude 
that is halfway to the highest point it 
reaches in the sky all year. This event sig- 
nals that the harsh days of winter are fi- 
nally over Because of the unseen tilting of 
the earth to the sun, spring finally arrives. 

We no longer depend on the sky to mark 
the seasons, so most of us are not in the 
habit of keeping track of the shifting con- 
stellations and the whereabouts of the 
moon and planets each night. But for those 
who wish to give it a ti^y, help is now as 
close as the nearest telephone. Every state 
in the Union has at least one astronomy 
club that can provide information on ce- 

lestial highlights. One directory is pub- 
lished every March by Astronomy maga- 
zine. An even better source of information 
is the Astronomical Directory in Sky and 
Telescope magazine's September 1992 
issue, in which twenty-nine phone num- 
bers are listed as "telephone hotlines" for 
astronomical information and notes about 
the current night sky. Some of these hot- 
lines are provided by museums and plane- 
tariums, such as the Smithsonian's Air and 
Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and 
the Hansen Planetarium in Salt Lake City, 
Utah. Some are run by astronomy clubs, 
but these have mostly news about club 
events and members. 

If taped messages go by too fast for you 
(most have a three-minute limit in which 
the announcer must describe the night sky 
from horizon to horizon), a better solution 
is a computer bulletin board (SIcy and Tele- 
scope's September 1992 issue lists fifty- 
one of them). If you have a computer and 
a modem, you can gain access to them. 
Some give the same text given on the as- 
tronomy telephone hotUnes, and some are 
entirely different. Now, armed with your 
computer printout or your notes from the 
telephone hotiine message, you are ready 
to brave the night. 

As the sky darkens on clear March 
evenings, and the lovely Pleiades and 
Hyades pull Orion from the southern skies 
to the western horizon, watch as Leo the 
Lion lumbers up over the eastern edge of 
the sky with his signature star, Regulus, in 
the lead. Leo is easy to find if skies are 
dark, for it is one of the few constellations 
to actually look like what it's supposed to 
be. Spica in faint Virgo is the next bright 
star to come up over the eastern horizon. 
Just about midnight, watch as the two stars 
that mark the claws of the Scorpion reach 
out toward Spica. These are Zubenel- 

genubi and Zubeneneschamali, now des- 
ignated as part of the constellation Libra. 

And that mysterious bright object near 
the Scorpion's southern claw? A quick call 
to a hotline will reveal that it's Jupiter, the 
planet that will Unger in the same area for 
the rest of 1994. 

The Planets in March 

Mercury remains a difficult planet to 
spot this month, although it is up in the 
morning skies. The sun's closest neighbor 
reaches greatest elongation west (28°) on 
the 19th, but despite the large separation 
from the sun, this is an unfavorable elon- 
gation for Northern Hemisphere sky- 
watchers because of the low angle of the 
ecliptic. Perhaps the best time to try to 
spot Mercury this month will be within a 
few days of March 10, when you might 
spy it looking like a bright zero-magnitude 
"star" very low above the east-southeast 
horizon about an hour before sunrise. On 
the morning of the 24th, Mercury will 
stand less than half a degree (about the 
width of a full moon) south of Saturn. 

Venus slowly emerges from the glare of 
the evening twilight this month, as the 
time of its setting after sundown increases 
from about forty-five minutes on the 1st to 
ninety minutes on the 3 1 st. On the evening 
of the 13th, look to the west shortly after 
sunset and you should find a very young 
crescent moon. Below and shghtiy to the 
left of this delicate crescent, just above the 
western horizon, you should find brilliant 

Mars rises only one-half to one hour 
before the sun this month. Shining at mag- 
nitude -1-1.2, the red planet wiU be ex- 
tremely difficult to see in the bright morn- 
ing twilight. Mars passes Saturn on the 
mornings of the 13th and 14th, but be- 
cause of their low altitude and proximity to 

26 Natural History 3/94 

the sun, you probably won't see them. 

Jupiter is in Libra, to the west of the 
curved body of Scorpius. This gas giant 
rises before midnight and is in the south- 
west sky by sunrise. The waning gibbous 
moon pays Jupiter a visit twice this month: 
during the predawn hours of the 2d, you'll 
find it below and to the right of Jupiter and 
on the night of the 29th-30th, the moon 
lies below and to the left. 

Saturn might be seen by month's end, 
low in the southeast and rising just over an 
hour after the sun. Because of the low 
angle of the planet's orbital path relative to 
our horizon, Saturn will probably not be 
visible when it is passed by Mars on the 
13th- 14th. You might catch a glimpse of 
Saturn near Mercury on the 24th. 

Uranus and Neptune remain in eastern 
Sagittarius, inching their way toward 
Capricomus, until late April and early 
May, when the two of them become "sta- 
tionary" as they begin their retrograde mo- 
tion across the sky as seen from the earth's 
perspective. Binoculars, dark skies, and 
sky charts are essential for spotting these 
two blue-green planets. The waning moon 
points the way on the 7th, when both plan- 
ets are 4° and 5°, respectively, below it. 

Pluto hugs the northeast comer of the 
constellation Libra this month and re- 
mains there all year long, not far from 
Jupiter. Only the largest telescopes, steady 
atmospheric conditions, dark skies, and 
good star charts permit a view of Pluto. 

The Moon reaches last quarter on the 
4th at 1 1 :53 a.m., EST, is new on the 12th 
at 2:05 a.m., EST, and reaches first quarter 
at 7:14 a.m., EST, on the 20th. The full 
moon occurs on the 27th at 6:09 a.m., 

Gail S. Cleere lives in Washington, D.C., 
and writes on popular astronomy. 

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Three Soay ewes and three young rams graze on Hirta. Feral for 
at least a thousand years, the breed is the most primitive of 
Europe 's domestic sheep. Both sexes usually have horns. 

Tim Clutton-Brock 

Counting Sheep 

Every few years, most of the feral sheep on a Scottish island 
perish — yet the flock survives 

by Tim Clutton-Brock 

In the Atlantic Ocean, off the northwest 
coast of Scotland, lie the Outer Hebrides. 
Forty miles farther out, the shattered rim 
of an extinct volcano forms another archi- 
pelago known as Saint Kilda. Its rugged, 
rocky islands are home to huge colonies of 
puffins, gannets, fulmars, and shearwaters. 
The archipelago also contains its own sub- 
species of mouse and a wren whose songs 
are strikingly different from those of its 
mainland cousins. But the most unusual 
inhabitants of Saint Kilda are the small, 
feral Soay sheep, named for a small island 
in the archipelago on which they have 
grazed since ancient times. Precisely when 
they were introduced to Soay is unknown, 
but it may have been as early as 3,000 
years ago; even the most conservative es- 
timates place them on the island for at 
least a thousand years. Soays are the most 
primitive breed of domestic sheep in Eu- 
rope; their skeletons closely resemble the 
remains of sheep from early Neolithic 
sites. Although their fleece is generally 
brown, it can range in color from cream to 
black. Both sexes usually have horns, and 
their partly woolly fleece also sports long, 
straight hairs. 

Hirta, the largest of Saint Kilda's is- 
lands, supported a population of crofters 
that dwindled until 1930, when the thirty 
remaining villagers were relocated to the 
mainland. In 1932, 107 feral sheep from 
Soay were introduced to Hirta by the is- 
land's owner, the Marquis of Bute. They 
quickly increased to colonize the whole is- 
land, reaching 500 in less than ten years. 
When the first organized census was taken 
in 1952, there were 1,114 sheep on the is- 
land. To a zoologist, however, the striking 
feahire of Hirta's Soay sheep population is 

that it appears to rise and fall in cycles. 
Every third or fourth winter, after numbers 
have passed the 1,400 mark, the sheep on 
the island begin to starve. In their weak- 
ened condition, many seek the sanctuary 
of the oblong dry-stone shelters, or cleits, 
that the islanders once used to dry seabirds 
harvested for their meat and feathers. Sev- 
enty percent of the sheep succumb, mostly 
in February or March. Their bodies pile 
up, and by April, many of the cleits are 
choked with rotting carcasses. 

Until recently, zoologists thought that 
regular population cycles were confined to 
small-bodied mammals in the Arctic and 
sub-Antarctic {see "The Lemming Phe- 
nomenon," Natural History, December 
1989). At intervals of between two and 
nine years, populations of voles, lem- 
mings, and snowshoe hares commonly 
rise and fall, with populations sometimes 
falling to less than one-tenth of peak num- 
bers. Cycles may have dramatic effects 
both on these animals' food supply and on 
the prosperity of their predators, whose 
populations may decrease rapidly as their 
own food supply disappears. We are not 
accustomed to thinking of such dramatic 
cycles in larger mammals. Imagine, for 
example, a tenfold increase in American 
white-tailed deer populations over three 
years, or a sudden 90 percent reduction in 
their numbers. 

But population cycles may not be con- 
fined to small mammals after all. Ten 
years ago, Rolf Peterson and his col- 
leagues at Michigan Technological Uni- 
versity showed that, across species, the 
length of cycles increased with the body 
size of animals. The most rapid cycles — 
two to three years — are found among mice 




Stac an An 

57° 50' 

Joe LeMonnier 

30 Natural History 3/94 

and voles. Lemmings, which are larger, 
sometimes show cycles of three to four 
years. Muskrats may peak every seven 
years and snowshoe hares at nine years. 
Peterson's group suggested that the cycle 
length depends on the rate at which the 
population can expand, which, in turn, de- 
pends on generation length. Because large 
mammals mature more slowly and breed 
less frequently than small ones, they have 
longer generation times and lower rates of 
increase and therefore may show longer 
cycles. Using the known relationship be- 
tween body size and cycle periodicity in 
smaller animals, Peterson scaled up the 
figures and predicted that cycles might 
occur every thirty years in moose and 
every seventy years in elephants. We do 
not yet have data spanning many decades. 

but Peterson expects that the occasional 
oscillations we see in some larger ungu- 
lates may eventually turn out to be part of 
such long-term cycles. 

My colleagues and I have followed the 
Soay sheep on Hirta through three cycles, 
but we weren't the first to observe the phe- 
nomenon. Previous studies of the island 
sheep by Morton Boyd, of the British Na- 
ture Conservancy Council, and by zoolo- 
gists Peter Jewell and Peter Grubb, of the 
University of London, show that similar 
die-offs occurred every third or fourth 
year during the 1960s. Regular oscilla- 
tions have not been reported in any wild 
sheep populations in North America or 
Asia, nor do other ungulates on Scottish 
islands show similar peaks and crashes. 
The number of red deer on the island of 

Although sheep graze all over Hirta, in winter they spend most of 
their time on low ground, especially in the abandoned fields of 
Village Bay, left. The dry-stone shelters, or cleits, that dot the 
lower slopes were buih to dry and store seahirds. A yearling 
ram, below, is already sexually mature. During rut, rams wander 
widely in search of ewes in estrus. 

Laurie Campbell 

Rum, for instance, where zoologist Fiona 
Guinness and I have studied them for 
more than twenty years, remains remark- 
ably stable, declining slightly after hard 
winters and increasing after good ones. 
Then why should Soay sheep behave like 
voles or lemmings? 

Over the last three years, Steve Albon, 
Josephine Pemberton, and I, together with 
other biologists from Cambridge and Ed- 
inburgh, have begun to glimpse an answer. 
After a population crash, sheep numbers 
increase rapidly. Unlike North American 
wild sheep, Soay ewes first conceive when 
they are less than a year old, birthing their 
first lambs in April, soon after their first 
birthday. Up to 20 percent of the pregnant 
females bear twins. Since Hirta has no car- 
nivores, more than 80 percent of the spring 
newborns usually survive to the beginning 
of winter, and animals obviously cannot 
disperse from the island. When the popu- 
lation is small, winter mortality of lambs is 
less than 10 percent, so that by the end of 
the first year following a crash, total num- 
bers usually have risen by 50 percent or 
more. Fecundity and lamb survival remain 
high through the following year, when the 
sheep increase by 40 to 50 percent again. 
In the summer of the third season, they in- 
crease by another 40 percent. At this stage. 

there are more than three times as many 
sheep on Hirta as there were immediately 
after the crash, but they still begin the win- 
ter in good health. 

In late September or October, however, 
grass growth ceases at this latitude, and the 
sheep must winter on the remnants of 
summer's vegetation. When sheep num- 
bers are high, little food remains by Janu- 
ary or early February, and the animals 
begin to lose weight rapidly. Rams, which 
bum much of their fat in the November 
rut, are the first to die, followed by lambs, 
which suffer more heat loss than ewes be- 
cause of their smaller size. During Febru- 
ary and March (the last two months of ges- 
tation), the energy costs of supporting 
growing fetuses increase sharply, and 
pregnant ewes (especially those carrying 
twins) are the final casualties. 

At least two other factors may con- 
tribute to the crash. First, the sheep suffer 
from infestations of nematode worms in 
their gastrointestinal tracts. As the flock 
increases, more worms are passed out in 
their dung, so the density of worms in the 
pasture also rises. Second, as Dawn 
Bazely and Mark Vicari of Canada's Uni- 
versity of York have shown, heavy grazing 
may reduce the production of summer 
grasses immediately before a crash, fur- 


Glyn Satterley Book; National Tajst for Scotland 

Houses on a village street, below, abandoned by the islanders after 
1930, have been restored and are used to accommodate work 
parties and visiting scientists. Right: Sheep graze among the dry- 
stone cleits. When their numbers peak, the animals closely crop 
abandoned fields and lower slopes, even devouring rushes. 

Tim Clutton Brock 

ther depressing the autumn food supply. 
These factors help to answer the immedi- 
ate question of why the population shows 
periodic, dramatic die-offs. They do not 
tell us, however, why Soay sheep popula- 
tions should oscillate while those of other 
ungulates are stabihzed by the effects of 
increasing density on reproduction or 
mortality. Do similar processes not occur 
in Soays — and, if not, why not? 

We have found that rising population 
density has little effect either on the fecun- 
dity of the ewes or on neonatal mortality in 
the sheep through the first two years of the 
cycle. Even in the third year, 90 percent of 
the flock's adult ewes become pregnant. 
Why increasing numbers have so little ef- 
fect on neonatal survival is easy to see: 
food is plentiful on Hirta, even in the third 
year of the cycle. On Hirta, which is about 
as far north as southern Alaska, days are 
long and nights are short in early summer, 
and there is a burst of plant production. 
Growing lambs have plenty of food during 
their first months of life, even when sum- 
mer population is highest, so that popula- 
tion density itself has little or no effect on 
lamb survival. The relatively high lamb 
mortality during the summer following a 
crash — when population size is low but 
food is plentiful — occurs because light. 

weak lambs have been produced by ewes 
that have barely survived the winter. 

The same burst of plant growth in early 
summer helps to explain why the sheep 
can remain fecund as their population den- 
sity increases. After the middle of June, 
lambs suckle infrequently, and their moth- 
ers then have several months to recover 
the condition lost during lactation. As a re- 
sult, they can reach the necessary weight 
to conceive by the time of the late October 
rut, and summer numbers have little effect 
on the proportion that conceive. 

This situation differs from the breeding 
cycle of most other ungulates, which wean 
their offspring much later in the year. For 
example, red deer on Rum bear their 
calves in June and continue to suckle them 
until November or December, after the an- 
nual rut in October. During lactation, espe- 
cially in the weeks when their milk pro- 
duction is highest, the daily energy 
requirements of females increase as much 
as fourfold, and mothers typically lose a 
substantial proportion of their body 

Unlike Soay sheep, female red deer 
cannot begin to regain this lost weight 
until the latter months of lactation in late 
summer, when the demands of suckling 
calves have dropped. By this time, days 

are shortening, plant growth has dropped 
back, and food is no longer superabun- 
dant. High numbers of red deer deplete the 
food supply in late summer. Consequently, 
many mothers cannot regain body weight 
before October and fail to conceive during 
the rut. As a result, when deer density is 
high, the majority of mothers breed every 
other year, substantially lowering the 
growth rate of the deer population. 

To explain the apparent lack of relation- 
ship between population density and fe- 
cundity in Saint Kilda's sheep, we needed 
to compare the weights of mothers that 
had raised lambs during late summer with 
the weights of those that had not. But to 
weigh a sample of ewes, one must first 
catch them — and these animals are unac- 
customed to humans. Unfortunately, 
sheepdogs are of no use, for the sheep 
scatter, rather than bunch, when they are 

32 Natural History 3/94 

chased. We initially tried a number of dif- 
ferent roundup methods, and one of the 
simplest proved the most effective. On 
rainy nights, the sheep take shelter in the 
cleits; by moving very quietly, we were 
able to block the entrance before any could 
escape. Then one of our team would crawl 
through the low entrance into the cleit with 
a flashlight, grab a sheep, and drag it out to 
the open, where it could be weighed, mea- 
sured, and have its blood sampled. Some- 
times after crawling down the low, muddy 
entrance into pitch blackness and switch- 
ing on his helmet lamp, a catcher would 
confront a ram with its head down, ready 
to charge directly at the Ught. 

We found that the least painful method 
of capture was a large-scale netting opera- 
tion. With volunteers from the Mammal 
Conservation Trust, who are experienced 
in netting deer, we learned to build corrals 

of netting, well hidden behind the dereUct 
cottages of the village street; to erect hun- 
dreds of feet of side nets around the mead- 
ows where the sheep collect; and then to 
slowly ease the sheep up the tunnels of 
netting into the corral, where they could be 
caught and weighed. This way, we eventu- 
ally trapped enough sheep to allow us to 
compare the weights of mothers that had 
raised no lambs with those that had raised 
singletons or twins. As predicted, all three 
categories of mothers proved to be of sim- 
ilar weight in August — two full months 
before the rut — showing that mothers are 
able to regain weight lost during lactation 
in the two months following the weaning 
of their lambs. This contrasts strongly 
with red deer on Rum, where mothers that 
have raised calves are still in poor condi- 
tion in September. 
So what does our understanding of 

sheep cycles on Saint Kilda tell us about 
cycling in other ungulates? The features of 
the Soay sheep population that create cy- 
cles are the high rate of population in- 
crease (caused by first-year breeding, low 
juvenile mortality, and no dispersal) and 
the absence of any strong effect of popula- 
tion density on fecundity and lamb mortal- 
ity (fostered by the superabundance of 
food in early summer and by early wean- 
ing). This combination of factors is not 
common in ungulates. Most ungulate fe- 
males do not conceive until their second, 
third, or fourth year of hfe; twinning is 
rare; and neonatal mortahty is high. As a 
result, unlike Soay sheep, populations of 
other ungulates carmot exceed by a large 
margin the number of animals that the 
winter food supply can support. 

Some wild ungulates do parallel the 
sheep's situation, however. The Saiga an- 


A hornless ewe suckles her lamb, below. Between 10 and 20 
percent of mothers produce twins, which weigh less at birth and 
are somewhat less likely to sun>ive than are singletons. Bearing 
the remains of winter fleece, a two-year-old ewe, right, licks her 
newborn lamb. 

Tim Clutton-Brock 


telopes of the Asian steppes, for instance, 
conceive in their first year of life and usu- 
ally produce twins; their numbers, like the 
sheep's, can increase very rapidly. Their 
populations are unstable, but we don't yet 
know whether they oscillate regularly. 
White-tailed deer, too, commonly con- 
ceive in their first autumn of life, and ma- 
ture females often produce twins. But 
here, natural predators and human hunters 
constrain population growth, usually pre- 
venting local populations from exceeding 
their food resources. 

One other ungulate population that ap- 
pears to cycle is the Corsican mouflon 
sheep, which was introduced to the sub- 
antarctic Kerguelen Islands in the 1950s. 
As on Hirta, there are no effective mam- 
malian predators, and mouflon numbers 
have increased rapidly. Unlike the Soays, 
however, Kerguelen mouflon do not con- 
ceive until their second year. But twins are 
common and neonatal mortality is low. 
Patrick Bousses, of the French National 
Museum of Natural History, has recently 
shown that population crashes comparable 
to those we have observed on Hirta occur 
every fourth year among the mouflons. I 
am not surprised that the periodicity of 
these cycles is rather longer than in Soay 
sheep, for the mouflon are larger animals 

and their delayed age of first breeding 
slows the population's growth rate. (Simi- 
larly, as Peterson has suggested, the rela- 
tionship between small body size, high fe- 
cundity, and rapid population growth 
probably explains why smaller rodents re- 
cover from crashes more quickly than 
larger ones, generating shorter cycles.) 

So might population cycles be a much 
commoner phenomenon than we imagine? 
Can we expect to find thirty-year moose 
cycles and seventy-year elephant cycles, 
as Peterson and his colleagues suggest? 
That is not inconceivable, but I'm skepti- 
cal. As body size increases and fecundity 
falls, we see a decline in a population's ca- 
pacity to exceed winter food suppUes by 
multiplying during the boom months of 
early summer. Weaning occurs later, limit- 
ing mothers' ability to regain condition be- 
fore the autumn rut. Populations increase 
more slowly, providing more opportunities 
for density-dependent changes in preda- 
tion or starvation to depress further in- 
creases in numbers. Although moose and 
elephant populations may oscillate, and 
crashes may occur when winter or dry- 
season food supplies are suddenly re- 
stricted, I doubt that future generations of 
wildlife biologists will discover that they 
show regular cycles. D 

34 Natural History 3/94 


Tropical Liaisons on a Beetle's 

In the rainforests of Central and South America, pseudoscorpions and harlequin 
beetles are more than fellow travelers 

by Jeanne A. Zeh and David W. Zeh 

The forest of Panama's Soberania Na- 
tional Park felt almost cool after a torren- 
tial afternoon downpour. It was early May 
1988, and the wet season had just arrived. 
The forest, parched after four months 
without rain, was springing back to life. 
Near dusk, a shaft of pale light still pene- 
trated the dense canopy. After a long day, 
we were tired, drenched, and mud spat- 
tered. We took a compass reading and 
headed back toward a trail. Suddenly, we 
spotted what we had been searching for. 
Lying amidst the tangled green wreckage 
of a newly opened forest gap was the trunk 
of a huge, fallen fig tree. Struggling 
through the chaos of twisted Uanas and 
splintered black palms, we hacked a path 
to the tree. Pungent, milky sap still oozed 
from the fig's broken limbs. We could 
hardly beUeve our luck at finding a fig tree 
that must have fallen only a day or two be- 
fore. We had previously come across a few 
fallen fig trees, but they had all been well 
along in the decay process. 

A recently fallen fig, we knew, was sure 
to attract the most sfiiking of all the long- 
homed beetles, the harlequin, named for 
the pattern of swirling crimson, black, and 
greenish yellow that decorates its body. As 
arachnologists, our main interest was not 
in this magnificent beetle itself, but in its 
tiny passengers, pseudoscorpions belong- 
ing to the species Cordylochemes scorpi- 
oides. The false scorpions lack a tail 
tipped with poisonous stingers, but they 
can immobilize prey with poison pro- 
duced by a gland in their pincers. If you 
were to prize open a harlequin's wing cov- 
ers, you would almost certainly find at 
least one pseudoscorpion, maybe more. 
The record stands at fifty-four, all cUnging 
tenaciously to the abdomen of a single, 
large male beetle. Naturalists have been 
aware of this curious association ever 
since Linnaeus described it in 1758, but 
why the pseudoscorpions engage in this 
beetle-riding behavior has been a mystery. 
Do they climb on board to feed on the 
mites that infest the beetles? Do they 
spend their entire lives on the beedes? Or 
are they simply catching a ride, with the 
harlequins providing jumbo jet service be- 

36 Natural History 3/94 


A harlequin beetle rests on a fallen rainforest tree. 
Female beetles use their powerful mandibles to cut holes 
in the wood where they will deposit their eg^s. 

George D Dodge; Bruce Coleman, Inc 

tween one habitat and the next? Having lo- 
cated the harlequin's prime habitat, per- 
haps we could unravel this mystery. 

As night closed in, we checked our 
headlamps. Equipped with red filters, the 
lights would be invisible to insect eyes 
while providing us with a little illumina- 
tion on this moonless night. We waited 
silently, hoping that we would not en- 
counter a deadly fer-de-lance coiled be- 
neath the tree trunk (as we had on two pre- 
vious occasions). Within moments, our 
apprehension was forgotten as a large 
male harlequin descended from the 
canopy. The size of a small bird, it flew in 
slow motion, its enormously elongated 
forelegs outstretched and its body held 
vertically. Minutes later, the buzzing of 
large wings signaled the arrival of a sec- 
ond big male. 

The scene was set for one of the most 
remarkable displays of male combat in the 

insect world, a struggle to gain control of 
prime egg-laying sites on the tree. In a 
coleopteran version of jujitsu, each male 
repeatedly reared up on his hind legs, 
lunged forward, and using his forelegs as 
hooked levers, tried to overturn the other 
and toss him from the tree. Victory usually 
goes to the male with the longest forelegs, 
but these combatants were closely 
matched, and all attempts at tossing failed. 
Not the hard-wired robots insects are often 
thought to be, the beetles abandoned their 
standard tactics as the contest escalated, 
and their attacks and counterattacks grew 
more complex and less predictable. Fi- 
nally, after a frenzied ten minutes of vi- 
cious bites, flailing forelegs, and wildly 
waving antennae, one contestant retreated, 
part of his left antenna amputated by his 
opponent's powerful mandibles. The vic- 
tor then took up the task of guarding his 
mating territory. Within an hour a female 

arrived, and the pair began to copulate. 

For harlequin beetles, mating is a pro- 
tracted affair. After copulation, the male 
guards the site as his mate chews a hole in 
the half-inch-thick bark, an arduous task 
that may take her an hour. Excavation 
completed, the female injects a single egg 
into the pit and again copulates with the 
male. She may continue this sequence 
through the night until she has left a tell- 
tale line of five to ten holes in the bark. 

As the pair we watched began to copu- 
late a second time, we crept a little closer, 
confident that the harlequins were too pre- 
occupied to notice. To couple with the fe- 
male, the male arched his abdomen down- 
ward, leaving the space beneath his wing 
covers exposed. Straining to see in the dim 
red light, we spotted a pseudoscorpion 
moving down the male's abdomen. Climb- 
ing onto the female beetle's ovipositor, it 
paused and raised its pincers. Apparently 

38 Natural History 3/94 

Two male harlequins butt heads in a battle over prime 
mating territory on a fallen fig tree. When the 
combatants are equally matched in size, as these are, 
the fight may last as long as half an hour. 

Dauid W. Zeh 

irritated by the probing claws, the female 
harlequin flexed her abdomen and the 
pseudoscorpion crawled aboard, disap- 
pearing beneath her wing covers. 

Just from the size and bulbous appear- 
ance of its claws, we could tell that this 
pseudoscorpion was a big male. This 
marked external difference between the 
sexes — known as sexual dimorphism — 
suggested that strong sexual selection (ei- 
ther through female choice or male com- 
petition) had exerted its force on this 
species. Darwin was the first to recognize 
that sexual selection might exaggerate and 
perpetuate certain male traits, but more 
than a century after he first drew attention 
to this phenomenon, an unresolved prob- 
lem still puzzles evolutionary biologists: 
If, over long spans of evolutionary time, 
champions of male combat or the flam- 
boyant beaus preferred by females consis- 
tently sire more offspring than do their 

smaller or less showy rivals, the "lesser" 
males should eventually disappear from 
populations. But they don't. Indeed, the 
enormous variability in the size of C. scor- 
pioides males in museum collections 
prompted Austrian taxonomist Max Beier 
to describe it as the most variable pseu- 
doscorpion known. 

We realized that the beetle-riding pseu- 
doscorpion was an ideal species for study- 
ing how male variability is maintained, but 
finding pseudoscorpions and the beetle 
hosts in their natural habitat had always 
been difficult. 

When we first began our research in 
1987, we searched the Panamanian forests 
for two months without finding a single 
dead fig tree. Then, one morning in early 
December, we decided to combine field- 
work with sightseeing and hiked Las 
Cruces Trail. Cut through the forest by 
slaves, this pathway was once the conquis- 
tadors' major route across the isthmus. 
Our only companion was a giant Morpho 
butterfly fluttering erratically down the 
path ahead of us, its metallic blue wings 
flashing against a background of lush 
green. Following our lepidopteran scout 
around a bend, we came upon a dead, but 
still standing, fig tree, a mere twenty yards 
from the infamous trail. 

The roots that buttressed the 130-foot- 
tall tree were surrounded by fallen bark 
and mounds of pale yellow sawdust, con- 
spicuous evidence of harlequin beetle lar- 
vae tunneling within its trunk. The tree 
was pockmarked with dozens of elliptical 
holes, tunnel entrances leading deep into 
the heartwood. Most striking was the rip- 
pled appearance of the exposed outer sap- 
wood, where the beetle larvae had gouged 
large, curving tunnels just beneath the sur- 
face. The decaying tree was an oasis in an 
otherwise hostile environment. The wood 
of fig trees is very soft compared with 
most other tropical species, and the copi- 
ous, nutrient-laden sap supports thriving 
colonies of bacteria and yeast, the basis of 
the rotting tree's food web. 

The dead tree itself seemed strangely 
alive, with loud gurgling noises emanating 
from the trunk. (These sounds, we learned 

later, were produced by the wood-boring 
larvae of pantophthalmid flies, feeding 
ravenously as they cut perfecdy cylindri- 
cal holes. One of the largest flies in the 
world, it has its own species of pseu- 
doscorpion hitchhiker) The rotting wood 
was an entomologist's paradise, buzzing 
with anvil-headed fruit flies; stilt-legged 
flies; blue-bodied, yellow-headed stra- 
tiomyid flies; weevils; giant orange click 
beetles; rove and bark beetles; and four- 
inch-long cockroaches. And there were 
predators: female parasitic wasps, tailless 
whipscorpions, ambush bugs disguised as 
miniature garbage heaps, and raiding 
hordes of ants. All were feeding, fighting, 
mating, or depositing their eggs. 

In the sawdust and under the bark, we 
found C. scorpioides by the dozen — large 
males, small males, females carrying 
brood sacs, nymphs. This was the primary 
habitat of the beetle-riding pseudoscor- 
pion. (The trees provide an ideal nursery 
for developing young, and fly and beede 
larvae growing in the wood provide the 
adult pseudoscorpions with an abundant 
food supply.) To exploit such a rich, but 
ephemeral, resource, a small, flightless 
arthropod first faces the daunting chal- 
lenge of dispersal. Traveling between 
these patchily distributed habitats is well 
beyond its own abilities. While other pseu- 
doscorpions hitch rides by hanging on to 
the legs of various flying insects, C. scor- 
pioides has evolved behaviors that allow it 
to travel in relative luxury aboard the ab- 
domens of harlequin beetles, a far less 
hazardous method of dispersal. 

Four to twelve months after the female 
harlequin deposits her eggs, her offspring 
develop into five-inch-long larvae and are 
ready to pupate. But first the larvae pre- 
pare for their emergence as adults by cut- 
ting a disk eight inches in diameter in the 
bark covering their tunnel entrances. By 
the time the adult beetles begin to emerge 
from their pupal chambers, the resources 
of the decaying fig tree have become se- 
verely depleted, and its population of sev- 
eral hundred pseudoscorpions is ready to 
disperse. Attracted by chemical cues and 
surface vibrations, the pseudoscorpions 


Beneath the open wing covers of a harlequin beetle, below, two 
closely matched male pseudoscorpions are locked in battle. 
More than a dozen pseudoscorpions. right, hitch a ride on a 
small male harlequin that has just emerged from its pupal 
chamber in a rotting fig tree. When the beetle takes flight to 
search for another tree, it will transport the false scorpions and 
a number of much smaller mites. 

Photographs by Jeanne A. Zeh 

converge on adult beetles. Equipped only 
with a pair of poorly developed eyespots, 
the pseudoscorpions unerringly head 
straight for the "boarding gate," the rear 
end of a beetle's abdomen. One by one, 
males and females raise their claws, pinch 
the beetle's rear, and as the harlequin re- 
acts by flinching its abdomen, the pseu- 
doscorpions quickly clamber on board. 

Heavily laden with the stowaways, the 
harlequin climbs to the highest available 
point on die trunk and launches itself into 
the air in search of another fig tree on 
which to mate. 

We have found that the female harle- 
quins are extremely fastidious in their 
choice of trees. Our survey of a 150-acre 
tract of forest showed that 80 percent of 
the beetles we located were on newly 
fallen trees. Depending on their size, the 
trees attracted adult harlequins for only a 
brief period of from four to twenty-six 
days. We found the remaining 20 percent 
of the beetles on standing dead trees. 

While a harlequin flies in search of a 
fallen tree, the pseudoscorpions must 
avoid falling off the vertically held ab- 
domen of their host. Instead of simply 
clinging to the segments of the beetle's ab- 
domen, they attach themselves with a 
safety harness of silk, produced by a gland 

in their pincers. When the harlequin finds 
a suitable fig tree, the pseudoscorpions use 
silk again. They cannot fly or jump, but, 
undaunted, they spin a silken thread and 
rappel down to their new habitat. 

Our field observations confirmed that 
the pseudoscorpions use the beeties to dis- 
perse from old, exhausted trees to newly 
fallen ones, hi examining more than 150 
beetles, we have found only adult pseu- 
doscorpions. Because mature pseudoscor- 
pions are voracious and opportunistic 
predators not averse to cannibalism, the 
crowded beetle abdomens are no place for 
the weak and vulnerable. (We have often 
seen adults in trees feeding on nymphs, as 
well as older nymphs feeding on younger 
ones.) What was unexpected was the large 
number of beetles carrying just one pseu- 
doscorpion, always a male. Of the fifty- 
eight harlequins we examined on recently 
fallen trees, fifty-three were occupied by 
lone males. Their pincers, used for fight- 
ing, were markedly larger than those of the 
average males collected from the trees. 
These big males remained on board even 
when their host beetles stayed on the trees 
for several days. 

To investigate this perplexing finding, 
we marked 136 virgin male and female 
pseudoscorpions and allowed them to 

mount beetles in the laboratory. Then we 
released the harlequins on a newly fallen 
fig tree. Recapturing the beetles a few 
hours later, we identified the remaining 
pseudoscorpions and found that the fe- 
males and small males had disembarked 
rapidly, but the bigger males had stayed 
aboard. Only when there were no females 
aboard did large male pseudoscorpions 
show any inclination to abandon their 
hosts, and in such cases they often simply 
transferred to another beetle. In a few 
cases, we recaptured marked beetles for a 
second and a third census. On one, a male 
pseudoscorpion was still present after 
fourteen days, and in the interim, two fe- 
males had come aboard. Because female 
pseudoscorpions disembark rapidly, we 
were only able to recapture ten on flieir 
original beetles. Of these originally virgin 
females, eight subsequently produced 
brood sacs and nymphs in the lab, indicat- 

40 Natural History 3/94 

ing that the pseudoscorpions had almost 
certainly mated on board their host. 

With the discovery that the beetles 
served as mobile mating territories, our 
previous observations began to make 
sense. For several generations, pseu- 
doscorpion populations thrive within the 
decaying fig trees, until the trees' re- 
sources are exhausted (about a year). As 
new harlequin beetle adults emerge from 
the rotting wood, large numbers of pseu- 
doscorpions climb on board. A high pro- 
portion of the female stowaways are sexu- 
ally receptive. Males therefore compete 
intensely to establish a mating territory on 
a beetle's abdomen. When a harlequin lo- 
cates a recently fallen fig tree, inseminated 
female pseudoscorpions disembark to col- 
onize the tree, and smaller males are 
forced off by larger rivals. After the bee- 
tle's maiden flight, it continues to search 
the forest for suitable trees and mates, typ- 

ically carrying a single, large, male pseu- 
doscorpion under its wing covers. Females 
or challenging males may come aboard 
when the harlequin visits dead trees that 
are mosaics of old and new decay. The res- 
ident male may disembark to reconnoiter 
other beeties as its host beetle copulates, 
but in the meantime he may be supplanted 
by a larger intruder. 

In this cycle of population growth and 
dispersal, we saw how sexual selection 
could act to maintain the striking size vari- 
ability among C. scorpioides males. In 
essence, variabiUty persists because of the 
two very different habitats in which male 
pseudoscorpions must compete: on the 
backs of beetles and within decaying trees. 
During the pseudoscorpion's brief disper- 
sal episodes on beetles, it pays to be large, 
but during the several generations spent 
living within the trees, big males seem to 
have no advantage. In laboratory experi- 

ments, we found that big males were able 
to monopolize matings only under 
crowded conditions. In trees, where mates 
are spread out, siring more offspring may 
depend more on a male pseudoscorpion's 
mobility and his ability to find mates 
quickly. Selection may therefore favor 
small size and rapid maturation. Thus, 
rather than leading toward a single ideal 
male, oscillating sexual selection alter- 
nately favors small and then large males. 

Simply tallying the number of females 
with which a male mated was not enough 
to prove this hypothesis, however. Mating 
itself does not guarantee the siring of off- 
spring. As British biologist Geoffrey 
Parker pointed out more than twenty years 
ago, sexual selection does not necessarily 
end with copulation. Female pseudoscor- 
pions are able to store sperm. If a female 
opts to mate with more than one male, the 
sperm from each male may have to com- 


Stephen Dalton; NHPA 

Beneath the bark of a rotting tree, below, a female 
pseudoscorpion carries developing embryos in an 
external brood sac. Despite its vivid colors, 
a harlequin beetle, right, blends into the bark of 
a tree in a Venezuelan rainforest 

Edward S. Ross 










*.. %. 








•■ :."-\-.3 


^K. '^'^^^^^BH^^^^^S 








^^^. ^^^^^^^^^^^H 

















pete to fertilize her eggs. Female promis- 
cuity makes paternity hard to establish. 

Fortunately, DNA fingerprinting now 
offers a direct way to measure a male's 
success in fertilizing the eggs of his mate. 
By cloning DNA from the beede-riding 
pseudoscorpions, we were able to identify 
two regions of DNA that were particularly 
useful for tracing relationships between 
individuals. These probes enabled us to 
test our oscillating-selection hypothesis. 
We needed beetles from recently fallen 
trees, but few fig trees fell in Soberania 
Park that season. We traveled to French 
Guiana, where, we were told, we might 
find sufficient numbers of harlequins to 
complete the study. In the Kaw Mountains 
southeast of Cayenne, we found harle- 
quins in abundance, collected breeding 
pseudoscorpions from beneath the beetles' 
wing covers, and reared their offspring. 

Back in Panama, we found that DNA 
fingerprints of these families demon- 
strated that in the beetle environment sex- 
ual selection does favor large male size. 
Only very large males are able to monop- 
olize beetles. Yet even within this elite, the 
DNA fingerprints revealed a strong, posi- 
tive relafionship between size and fertil- 

42 Natural History 3/94 

ization success. To study the relafionship 
between male size and reproductive suc- 
cess in trees, we now need to develop ad- 
ditional DNA probes that will allow us to 
determine paternity among large numbers 
of putative sires. 

Taking a break from the long hours in 
the molecular lab, we spent a day in the 
forest, returning to the tree where we had 
seen the two harlequins fight a year before. 
A small male beetle, newly emerged from 
his pupal chamber, was resting on the 
trunk. All around him, pseudoscorpions 
were emerging from beneath the bark. 
One by one, they pinched his abdomen 
and disappeared on board. That night, we 
knew, the beetie would abandon the old 
tree and set out on his maiden flight. Al- 
ready overgrown with saplings, the re- 
mains of the fig tree would soon rot away 
completely, returning its precious nutri- 
ents to the soil. 

Somewhere in Soberania Park another 
old fig ti^ee will crash to the forest floor, but 
for the harlequin, for the beetle-riding 
pseudoscorpion, for an entire community 
of arthropod species, the death of this 
magnificent tree will present an indispens- 
able ecological opportunity. O 

I got 




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An effigy of Judas is venerated in Zunil, Guatemala, where 
the Maya have infused Christianity 's villain with 
a combination of ancient and modem attributes. 

Tom Owen Edmunds 

Judas Transformed 

During Holy Week, the Maya confront the man they, love to hate 

by June Nash 

When I saw Judas last year in Gua- 
temala, he was wearing a sport shirt, jog- 
ging pants, running shoes, and a blue hard 
hat — at least that was how some Maya 
portrayed this reviled figure. The conquer- 
ing Spaniards had introduced him as the 
betrayer of Jesus, a personage in the drama 
of the Crucifixion. But in the dehcate op- 
eration of imposing and maintaining the 
Cathohc religion in Mexico and Central 
America, the priests could not prevent 
Judas from slipping away and taking on a 
life, and meaning, of his own. 

I first encountered a Maya Judas forty 
years ago, when I began anthropological 
fieldwork in Cantel, a township in the 
western highlands of Guatemala. Inhab- 
ited by Quiche-speaking Maya, Cantel 
was a farming center with a large textile 
factory. The settlement clustered around 
the large colonial church that stood atop a 
high hill. Below flowed the Samala River, 
which had run red with the blood of the 
slain in 1 524, when the Maya king Tecum- 
Uman fought and died in battle with the 
conqueror Pedro de Alvarado. 

The Maya still spoke of that battle, and 
during Carnival they subtly reenacted it. 
The conquerors had introduced a dance 
commemorating the Spaniards' struggle 
with the Moors, which the Maya contin- 
ued to perform. The dancers dressed in 
costumes of both roles but, embracing the 
enemy of the Spaniards as their own race, 
they mingled brown masks of Tecum- 
Uman with the black masks of the Moors. 
In everyday life as well, the Maya re- 
mained hostile to those they called Ladi- 
nos, those of mixed Indian and Spanish 
descent who identified with the foreign 
culture. Their attitude was a result of a 
long history of exploitation and oppres- 
sion by Ladinos, who controlled the plan- 

tations, markets, and institutions of gov- 

Judas was one of the effigies paraded 
about during Holy Week each year, when 
the priest and the catechists (loyal follow- 
ers of orthodox CathoUcism) stage-man- 
aged the Passion of Christ. In 1954 the 
priest was a young Franciscan, newly ar- 
rived in Guatemala after previous service 
in China. His goal was to rescue CathoU- 
cism Irom the folk traditions that had been 
shaping religious practices during the pre- 
vious decades, when communities like 
Cantel did not have resident priests. His 
major adversaries were the groups of 
devotees, known as brotherhoods, that had 
arisen around various saints. Particularly 
resistant were the mayordomos, or care- 
takers of the brotherhood houses, who 
were responsible for the saints' figures. 
Even Judas had his own brotherhood, 
being granted a far less negative role in the 
folk tradition than by the church. 

At times during Holy Week, the two re- 
ligious factions came into conflict over the 
ceremonial use of public space. For ex- 
ample, on Holy Saturday, those upholding 
the folk traditions took the figure of the 
body of Christ, recumbent in its bower of 
flowers and pine needles, on a slow march 
through the town, accompanied by the 
mournful tune of trumpets and wooden 
ratchet noisemakers. The priest tried to get 
them to return the figure while it was still 
daylight, but the mayordomos insisted on 
a very slow pace, out of respect. The sac- 
ristan was obliged to allow the mayordo- 
mos to reenter the church after midnight. 

Generally, however, the two groups co- 
ordinated their activities, the catechists ex- 
erting their control in the church while the 
mayordomos held sway in the plaza and 
the brotherhood houses. For example, on 

Holy Thursday, in dramatizing the biblical 
scenario, the catechists set the image of 
Christ bearing the cross in the center of the 
nave. But outside the church that evening, 
under the direction of the mayordomos, 
the folk-traditionalists played the role of 
"the killers of Christ." The streets filled 
with the spectators' raucous cries of "the 
Jews!" as participants ran through the 
town seeking the one who played the role 
of Jesus. Often pausing to rekindle their 
energies in the liquor shops, they contin- 
ued their search until they discovered 
"Jesus" and dragged him to an improvised 
jail in the comer of the plaza. 

Judas, a straw figure with a wooden 
mask, belonged to one of the brotherhoods 
and was entirely defined by folk tradition. 
Costumed in a black wool suit, felt hat, 
and laced shoes, he was a caricature of a 
Ladino (in those days, Indians typically 
went barefoot or wore sandals and had 
straw hats and cotton clothing). Among 
his devotees were those who wished to 
gain commercial success or who profited 
from Indian labor. Some were Ladinos 
from outside Cantel; most were de vestido 
Indians (Indians "of clothing"), those in 
transition from their Maya culture. 

On Saturday, the brotherhood dedicated 
to Judas, who was also caUed San Simon, 
removed his effigy ft"om the brotherhood 
house, mounted it on a donkey, and led it 
around town to visit all the shops, includ- 
ing fire liquor stores in the town center. 
Each shop owner gave Judas a five-doUar 
donation to insure luck in business. Many 
also plied him with drinks, ^ownngposh, a 
distilled cane liquor, through a funnel into 
his open mouth. The drinks, collected 
through a tube that extended into a rubber 
"stomach" bag, were later consumed by 
his followers. 


In the house of a brotherhood devoted to Judas, his figure gets 
a morning kiss from the caretaker's wife. The choice of a coffin for 
Judas 's resting place may be unique to this brotherhood in a 
Maya village near Santiago Atitldn. 

Jim Pieper 

These offerings were considered an im- 
portant part of bfusiness management. I re- 
call the great anxiety of the druggist, a de 
vestido Indian, when she learned that the 
image had passed her shop while she was 
out, and how she ran to catch up with the 
entourage to make her offering. Although 
presumably introduced into the local cul- 
ture as a villain, Judas was welcomed in 
his peregrination, at least by those en- 
gaged in commerce. Perhaps they recog- 
nized, in his transaction for thirty pieces of 
silver, Judas's commitment to commerce 
at any cost. 

The priest frowned on the whole Judas 
cult and had even ordered the catechists to 
raid the brotherhood house and destroy the 
figure. But although the catechists had ap- 
parently succeeded on several occasions 
in burning the straw body and wooden 
mask, the brotherhood always secreted the 
"true" mask, tying it to a new straw effigy 
each year. Except for his appearance dur- 
ing Holy Week, Judas remained safe in an 
altar in the brotherhood house. 

I met Judas in another guise in 1957, 
when I was assigned to do fieldwork in the 
Tzeltal-speaking Maya community of 
Amatenango del Valle. A pottery-making 
town in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, 
Amatenango was known to outsiders as 
one of the most hostile of nineteen indige- 
nous communities surrounding the Span- 
ish "royal city" of San Cristobal de las 
Casas. Early in my fieldwork, I learned 
that the homicide rate was high and rising. 
I also learned that two anthropologists had 
been ordered to leave there because the 
community did not appreciate their pres- 
ence. I found it difficult to start a conversa- 
tion with any of the Indians. The area 
priest who served the community con- 
firmed my impression, adding that the 
hostility of the inhabitants to outsiders 
made his work easier because it kept away 
the Protestant missionaries. Despite the 
proximity of the (as yet unpaved) Pan- 
American highway, the only Ladino living 
in town was the schoolteacher, who barri- 
caded himself with his family in the large 
adobe schoolhouse on the plaza, with an 
arsenal of rifles for protection. 

IP^ ■^^. 

As might be expected, folk behefs had 
made severe inroads on whatever Catholic 
orthodoxy the community had absorbed. 
Mariano Lopez Shunton, one of the town 
elders, gave me a vivid example of this 
when he told me the story of "How Jesus 
Gained Control over the World." In an- 
cient times, Mariano said, Judas prevented 
the com plants from growing by making 
them come out with one "arm" and one 
"leg," so that they fell over. Jesus and 
Mary outwitted him by enticing Judas, 
whom Mariano called "the leader of the 
Jews," to a fiesta. Mary danced with Judas 
and plied him with liquor so that he forgot 
the fields. Meanwhile, Jesus guarded the 
fields of corn so that the plants grew 
straight and tall. In this role, Jesus was 
identified with the preconquest deity 
Cananlum, "caretaker of the earth," while 
Mary was identified with Me'tikchik, "our 
grandmother the moon," who was also in 
charge of crops. 

While in this story Christ appeared in a 
positive light, images of Christ — espe- 
cially the figure of Christ on the Cross — 
were regarded with ambivalence. In Ama- 
tenango, men who claimed extraordinary 
powers over life and death without valida- 
tion as folk healers were killed as witches. 
Saint Peter the Martyr, whose image in 

Amatenango showed him with a cleaver 
imbedded in his skull, was taken to have 
been a powerful witch, later redeemed by 
his role as the protector against Ughtoing. 
Similarly, the crucified Christ could have 
been viewed as a punished witch, evoking 
little sympathy. 

I spent varying amounts of time in Am- 
atenango over the next decade. During the 
Holy Week rituals, the Crucifixion was 
reenacted in the church under the supervi- 
sion of the Ladino priest, with the assis- 
tance of the mayordomos, who manipu- 
lated the images like puppets. The 
participation of the mayordomos in the of- 
ficial drama was welcomed, in contrast to 
the situation in Cantel, where members of 
the religious brotherhoods were in conflict 
with the priest. 

Although Judas enjoyed some popular- 
ity as a cult figure in Cantel, in Amate- 
nango he was almost universally reviled. 
The priest referred to him as the King of 
the Jews and identified him as flie "killer 
of Christ." And on Good Friday, following 
die enactment of the Crucifixion, tiie may- 
ordomos hauled the effigy of Judas up the 
belfry "to show the world that he killed 
Christ." They jabbed him with long poles, 
laughing when one well-directed blow 
landed and someone yelled, "Eunuch!" 

48 Natural History 3/94 

As I had observed in Cantel, however, 
Judas was something more than the be- 
trayer of Christ. In the 1960s, when men of 
the town universally wore white cotton 
shirts and large-waisted trousers tied with 
a red sash, the effigy was costumed in the 
canvas pants, black jacket, boots, and 
cowboy hat of a Ladino rancher. And 
Judas's ride around town on Saturday, 
reminiscent of the one carried out in Can- 
tel, further identified him as a Ladino, 
since riding a horse was a prerogative of 
Ladinos during colonial times. As I 
watched his image, tied to the saddle and 
with a cigarette in his mouth, I realized 
that under cover of the role of Christians 
outraged by the killing of Christ, the Indi- 
ans were acting out their own hatred of 

The priest did not acknowledge this 
performance, calling it a "pagan" practice, 
but as soon as his Volkswagen left the 

churchyard, the entourage set out. Al- 
though in Cantel the merchants had show- 
ered Judas with donations, in Amatenango 
only the folk healers gave money. Perhaps 
they felt an obligation toward Judas as one 
source of their power over illnesses caused 
by witchcraft (I could only speculate, 
since none of them confirmed this). Fol- 
lowing Judas's ride around town, the effigy 
was dismembered and later burned, the 
wooden mask being saved to be used the 
following year. The money that had been 
collected was used to buy liquor — associ- 
ated with the water used to bathe the body 
of Christ — that was served to the mayor- 
domos and their assistants. 

Another variation on the theme of Judas 
was described in a 1965 monograph, Los 
Escdndalos de Maximon (The Scandals of 
Maximon), by anthropologist E. Michael 
Mendelson. Mendelson reported that 
among the Atitec-speaking Maya of Santi- 

Jim Pieper 

As part of Holy Week in Santiago Atllldn, 
left, Judas is hanged on a rack beside the 
church. In that town he Is commonly 
called Maximon and Incorporates the 
role of a Maya fertility spirit. The Maya 
area, below, where cults devoted to Judas 
flourish, crosses the frontier between 
Guatemala and Mexico. 

Joe LeMonnier 

ago Atitlan, one of Guatemala's beautiful 
lake towns, the figure wore a shirt, pants, 
and belt similar to those worn by the Indi- 
ans, but along with them he wore a 
Ladino-style blue jacket, boots, and a 
broad-brimmed hat. He had a large cigar 
placed firmly in his mouth. Despite his 
role in the Christian Holy Week enact- 
ment, everyone (except for the clerics) 
called him Maximon. The Indians told 
Mendelson that Maximon was the oldest 
of the animal spirits; he was also called the 
Black Magician, patron of those "prayer 
makers" who, like the curers of Amate- 
nango, divine the cause of illness. 
- To Mendelson, Maximon seemed to be 
the incarnation of a traditional fertility 
spirit. This association was evident in the 
fruit offerings displayed on his altar and 
the corncobs hung on the image during the 
cult celebrations of Holy Week. Christ 
might have redeemed humanity from orig- 
inal sin, but in the eyes of the Indians — 
given the Catholic church's identification 
of sexuality with sin and portrayal of Jesus 
as an ascetic — he exposed the world to 
sterility. In one of the myths they re- 
counted to Mendelson, "God cooperated 
with the ancient kings to sow the worid 
with good things, but something happened 
and the world has died." Through Max- 


imon, the Maya restored the positive as- 
pects of sex and fertihty. 

According to one myth of Maximon's 
origin, the ancient authorities decided to 
make a talking figure to scare men away 
from other men's wives, who would other- 
wise be seduced during their husbands' 
trips to the plantations or the capital city. 
Created as a guardian of sexual morality, 
however, Maximon became the principal 
transgressor. He would impregnate 
women, whose children would then re- 
semble him or perhaps show some defor- 
mity. Or he would transform himself into a 
woman and lure men into sexual relations, 
after which they would die in three days. 

Thirty years later, anthropologists 
Nathaniel Tarn and Martin Prechtel report 
that the cult of Maximon is still ahve and 
well in Santiago Atitlan. In their research, 
they identify Maximon with Mam, the 

50 Natural History 3/94 



\ ifl 



E. Michael Mendelson 

With a cigar planted in his mouth, Judas, left, departs with the figures 
of the Virgin Mary and Our Lady of the Rosary for a procession 
through Santiago Atitldn on Easter Sunday of 1953. Clothed in a hard 
hat, sweatpants, and jogging shoes (opposite page, bottom), a more 
contemporary Judas is paraded through Amatenango del Valle in 
1993. In the same year, dressed as a Ladino rancher, Judas hangs 
over the entrance of the church in Zinacantdn, below. 

Maya god of the underworld, and describe 
him as "the changing power who main- 
tains the world in movement while chang- 
ing people's sexual partners." 

They point out that Judas-Maximon 
represents negative, as well as positive, as- 
pects of sexuality. Young men ask the 
prayer makers to intercede for them with 
Maximon, viewed as the patron of roman- 
tic love. But the Maya of Santiago Atitlan 
also regard romantic love itself as destabi- 
lizing, posing a threat as it does to parental 
control over the selection of mates. As the 
deity of unbridled sexuality, according to 
Tarn and Prechtel, Maximon stimulates 
both desire and its aftermath, disorder 

Cantel, Amatenango del Valle, Santi- 
ago Atitlan, and other Maya communities 
have all placed their own peculiar stamp 
on Judas, using the figure to embody dif- 
ferent local concerns. (In the 1980s, one 

anthropologist even found a Judas figure 
in a guerrilla camp in Guatemala, where 
Maya were counterattacking the genocidal 
forces of Gen. Efrain Rios Montt.) Judas 
has also responded to change over time. 
The Judas I saw in Amatenango in the 
1960s had changed by 1992, as the com- 
munity itself became more engaged in 
commerce with the outside world. That 
year I arrived on Holy Saturday, as the 
new young priest directed the drama in the 
church. The effigy of Judas was already 
hanging over the entrance. Instead of his 
predecessor's gloomy rancher's clothing, 
he was dressed in a jogging suit with his 
feet stuffed into Nike sneakers. 

On Sunday a boisterous and jocular 
group of mayordomos bore the hanged 
body of Judas on muleback, greeting the 
householders and asking for offerings. 
Now, all the people — not just the curers — 

offered money. Also carried in the proces- 
sion by the women prayer makers was the 
church's statue of Our Lady of the Rosary 
weeping over the recumbent body of the 
crucified Christ. When I lived in the vil- 
lage in 1965, the priest had not permitted 
the removal of saints' statues from the 
church for fiestas, because of the conflicts 
that often arose between villagers and vis- 
iting Ladinos, and women did not play any 
public role in ceremonies. 

The sporty Judas of 1992 was greeted 
more peacefiiUy than in the past. While 
before, Ladinos were perceived as domi- 
nating the commercial world as marketers 
and plantation bosses, more Indians now 
had gained, or hoped to gain, a piece of the 
action. Many of them owned trucks, and 
dozens of television aerials poked up from 
the cement block houses that had replaced 
many of the old wattle-and-daub 


Elsewhere, his effigy is often burned, but in Cuajimalpa, a papier- 
mache figure of Judas, below and right, is exploded. The town, on 
the outskirts of Mexico City, holds elaborate festivities that include 
individuals who dress as Judas and whip people in the crowd. 

Photographs by Tom Owen Edmunds 

dwellings. The women who were active in 
the saints' associations, and who bore the 
statue of Our Lady of the Rosary, were 
full-time potters, some who had good 
trade networks with national museums 
and tourist shops. 

Holy Week was celebrated more lav- 
ishly than ever, with eating and drinking in 
most of the houses. Even the Judas figure 
had proliferated, with several families 
hanging effigies in their own courtyards. 
As before, the mayordomos cheerfully im- 
bibed the drinks that were their reward for 
carrying out the fiesta. Most of them pre- 
ferred the soft drinks that were rapidly re- 
placing the strong, home-brewed liquor. 

In the nearby city of San Cristobal, the 
custom of hanging Judas in effigy had de- 
veloped into a competition of Holy Week 
figures, promoted by the municipal au- 
thorities. The offer of a cash prize had gen- 
erated some lively dioramas, which were 
displayed under bright fights in the garden 
of the newly painted gray-and-white mu- 
nicipal building. Drawing from a variety 
of themes, the tableaux departed widely 
from the Passion Play. First prize, appro- 
priately in the quincentennial year of 
Columbus's arrival, went to a local sculp- 
tor's depiction of a Spanish conquistador 
beating an emaciated. Christlike Indian 
with a sword. 

One contestant mounted a multitiered 
tableau of the class system, showing the 
rich landlords on top, stamping out the fife 
of the gasping peasants. Another depicted 
the poUce evicting famifies from the San 
Juan Chamula barrio (this dispute re- 
flected religious differences within the In- 
dian community and a land grab by local 
elites). Yet another tableau sought to raise 
people's consciousness about sexual ha- 
rassment and violence toward women by 
dramatizing the American prizefighter 
Mike Tyson's jailing for rape. These new 
conflicts cut across the division between 
Indians and Ladinos, which was no longer 
so keenly felt. 

Last year I again made my pilgrimage 
to Amatenango on Holy Saturday. As the 
time came on Sunday for Judas's ride 
around town, at ten in the morning, his 

hanged effigy was unceremoniously cut 
down from the belfry and hoisted on the 
back of a horse. He was still garbed in a 
gaily colored sport shirt and jogging pants 
as he had been the year before, but fliis 
time, strapped above his flaming pink face 
was a blue hard hat. When I asked his 
caretaker what he represented, he said, "A 
government agent," and his assistant 
added, "Yes, a forestry agent!" and they 
both laughed. Judas's identity now cen- 
tered on a specific Maya conflict with the 
government. New laws limited the cutting 
of trees; in addition, I was told, the forestry 
agents would sometimes solicit bribes 
from violators or even confiscate the cut 

wood and sell it for their own profit. 
As the Maya gain greater entry into flie 
Ladino world, die animosity is still there, 
but now it is focused on particular adver- 
saries instead of on the generalized 
Ladino. This January, a local rebellion 
gained international attention as a group of 
indigenous people calling themselves the 
Zapatista Army of National Liberation at- 
tacked the military barracks near San 
Cristobal and seized nearby towns. They 
specifically rejected the North American 
Free Trade Agreement and the reform act 
permitting the sale of communal lands. 
Perhaps this year, Judas wiU be dressed as 
a Mexican soldier. D 

52 Natural History 3/94 


w . \ 







Its black head and blue-green flight feathers are among the 
many traits that suggest the magpie 's family relationship with crows 
and jays. The wear and tear on this bird's black wingtips indicates 
that it is an adult, in at least its second year of life. 

Manfred Danegger 

Britain's Magpie Parliament 

These crowlike birds hold boisterous sessions every year in early spring 

by Tim Birkhead 

On the outskirts of Sheffield, one of 
Britain's largest industrial cities, lies the 
Rivelin Valley, a microcosm of traditional 
rural England. Woodland borders the 
stream that flows through the valley floor, 
and cattle and horses graze in the tree-dot- 
ted fields of the valley and surrounding 
hillsides. This region has long been home 
to a thriving population of black-billed 
magpies, a species that farmers and game- 
keepers invariably regard as pests. The 
British naturalist Charles Dixon wrote in 
1900 that "nowhere else in our experience 
have the magpies been allowed to live in 
such peace as they enjoyed in this roman- 
tic valley." 

Magpies still inhabit the Rivelin Valley, 
where I have studied their breeding behav- 
ior for the past fifteen years. These color- 
ful, long-tailed relatives of crows first cap- 
tured my attention when I was a schoolboy 
birder. Magpies are hard to miss. Beauti- 
fully plumaged, large, loud, and social, 
they are renowned for flieir noisy "cere- 
monial gatherings." More than a hundred 
years ago, these aggregations were 
brought to Darwin's attention by his 
cousin WilUam Darwin Fox, the rector of 
Delamere, who referred to them as "the 
great magpie marriage." Darwin later used 
this information in The Descent of Man 
and Selection in Relation to Sex: 

They [the magpies] had the habit very early 
in the spring of assembling at particular 
spots, where they could be seen in flocks, 
chattering, sometimes fighting, bustling and 
flying about the trees. The whole affair was 
evidently considered by the birds as of the 
highest importance. Shortly after the meet- 
ing they all separated, and were then ob- 
served by Mr. Fox and others to be paired 
for the season. 

I had long been intrigued by these cere- 
monial gatherings, but I had a gut feeling 
that Darwin was wrong in thinking them 
to be mating ceremonies. By marking sev- 
eral hundred birds witii unique combina- 
tions of color bands and following them 
through the course of flieir fives, I was able 
to discover the true function of the yearly 

Black-billed magpies are found in a va- 
riety of habitats across much of the North- 


E. A. Janes; NHPA 

Between bouts of chasing and calling, a moment of peace 
prevails among a small congregation of magpies, right, in 
Hertfordshire, near London. Such ceremonial gatherings 
precede the breeding season, typically occurring in early 
spring before the trees are in leaf. Below: Two magpies vie for 
dominance in a heads-up display that often takes place when 
opponents are evenly matched. 



ern Hemisphere. They are basically 
monogamous: a male and female usually 
work together to rear offspring. In my 
study area, pairs defend an all-purpose ter- 
ritory of about twelve and a half acres. All 
activities — wintering, feeding, roosting, 
breeding, nesting, and chick rearing — take 
place here, and some birds spend their en- 
tire life within the boundaries of their terri- 
tory. In rural England, an ideal magpie ter- 
ritory contains areas of close-cropped 
grass suitable for foraging for adult and 
larval insects (the birds may also eat grain, 
berries, and carrion) and has either thorny 
bushes or tall trees for nesting. Although 
territories are occupied throughout the 
year, they are actively defended only in 
March and April — the early part of the 
breeding season. 

The domed nest is bulky and conspicu- 
ous. Birds will sometimes reuse a nest 
from the previous year, but more often 
they build a new one. If good nest sites are 

in short supply, the new nest is often con- 
structed directly on top of the old one, and 
stacks of four or five nests are not uncom- 
mon. Of the normal six-egg clutch, usu- 
ally only three or four of the chicks fledge. 
The young birds are fed by their parents 
for six weeks after fledging — a long time 
by songbird standards. 

As young magpies become indepen- 
dent, sibling groups start to coalesce into 
loose flocks that remain close to home. 
One of the most unusual aspects of magpie 
behavior is this tendency of young birds to 
remain within a few hundred yards of their 
natal nest. A nonbreeding flock is a 
weakly structured group of from ten to 
fifty birds that share a common home 
range of about thirty-seven acres. Flock 
members fly and forage alone or in bands 
of three or four birds, coming together 
only at common food sources, such as a 
small carcass, or when roosting for the 
evening. Within a flock a hierarchy soon 

becomes established. Males, perhaps be- 
cause they are slightly larger, dominate fe- 
males, but a hierarchy exists for each sex. 
About 80 percent of the birds within a 
flock are in their first year of life, most of 
the rest are in their second, and even fewer 
are in their third or fourth year. Although 
less numerous, older birds generally dom- 
inate the younger ones. 

Magpies express their social rank most 
commonly around food: dominant indi- 
viduals drive away subordinates, and 
males displace females. Rank is vitally 
important because it ultimately determines 
who wiU and will not get to breed. 

56 Natural History 3/94 


















5' F 

^sifv )*: 

Although magpies usually pair off in 
their first spring after hatching and may re- 
main together for years, they need a terri- 
tory to breed. In the Rivelin Valley, almost 
all of the suitable habitat is carved up into 
magpie territories, and with more than 
seventy-five breeding pairs per square 
mile, the breeding density here is among 
the highest ever recorded for these birds. 
Territories, and hence actual opportunities 
for reproduction, are hard to come by. 
Magpies may breed in their first spring 
after hatching, but do so more usually in 
their second. In contrast to most other 
birds, they do not wait for a territory va- 

cancy to occur naturally, but go out as a 
pair and actively try to create one. This 
driving need for space, the prerequisite for 
breeding, proved to be the key to the mag- 
pie congregations. 

On bright, crisp mornings in late winter 
and early spring, a high-ranking pair of 
magpies from the nonbreeding flock may 
leave their normal home range and fly de- 
liberately into the heart of an occupied ter- 
ritory. The territory owners' response is 
immediate — they fly out to threaten and 
chase the intruders. The raucous chatter- 
ing that accompanies these encounters 
rapidly attracts other magpies, both breed- 

ers and nonbreeders. Within a minute after 
the two dominant birds invade a territory, 
up to twenty magpies will be flitting about 
in the treetops, calling noisily. After care- 
fully observing my banded birds, I real- 
ized that most of the action was between 
the intruders and the territory owners; the 
other birds were merely noisy spectators, 
drawn into the melee only when they got 
in the way of the protagonists. 

The usual outcome of such a gathering 
was the eviction of the intruders within a 
few minutes. When this occurred, all the 
participants quickly dispersed and re- 
sumed whatever they had previously been 


doing. If the initiators of the invasion, and 
indirectly of the gathering, were particu- 
larly highly motivated, they might fly off 
to another territory and start the process 
again. I once watched one such pair start 
no fewer than seven gatherings, one after 
the other over a thirty-minute period, 
being evicted each time. 

Once in a while the outcome is differ- 
ent. If the territory owners are less than 
forceful, the rituaUzed threats of the two 
parties can end up as a serious fight. Dur- 
ing such a battle, male grapples with male, 
and female with female, with both sets of 
birds on the ground with their feet firmly 
interlocked. Eventually one will gain the 
upper hand and begin to rain heavy blows 
with its beak on its opponent's head. In 
several cases I witnessed, the intruders de- 
feated the owners and drove them from the 
territory. The vanquished pair usually dis- 
appeared (and were presumed dead), but 
in one case, they were forced to swap 
places with the invaders and had to hve 
out the rest of their lives in the nonbreed- 
ing flock, while the intruders settled into 
the territory. 

What is going on is that just prior to the 
breeding season, the dominant members 
of the nonbreeding flock visit established 
territories to assess how well they are de- 
fended. In the majority of cases, territories 
are under adequate guard and the intruders 
retreat gracefully, albeit after a brief burst 
of aggression. But territory tenure is lim- 
ited—owners eventually age or become 
sick and are less able to defend their patch. 
These are just the opportunities intruders 
are looking for, and once they find a weak- 
ness, they are relentless in pressing home 
their attack. 

Why does this territorial probing by 
dominant nonbreeders provoke the rapid 
and dramatic gathering of so many other 
magpies? What is the advantage to those 
that turn up as spectators? I believe that 
these other birds can benefit by knowing 
the outcome of a gathering. For example, 
if the gathering results in a change of terri- 
tory ownership, this sometimes precipi- 
tates several other shifts in territory in a 
domino effect, creating new breeding op- 

portunities for both estabUshed breeders 
(hoping to move up market) and non- 
breeders (hoping to obtain some space). 

Over the duration of my study, I found 
that about one third of all territories were 
acquired during a ceremonial gathering, 
while another third were obtained simply 
as one magpie replaced another that had 
died in an occupied territory. The last third 
were won by pairs squeezing themselves 
in between the boundaries of existing ter- 
ritories late in the season. The last strategy 
was successful because it was undertaken 
only after most other birds had started to 
breed and when their territoriality was 
waning. It was, however, the least produc- 
tive strategy, because by the time latecom- 
ers had estabUshed sufficient space to call 
a territory, the breeding season was over. 
Like other perching birds of similar body 
size, 30 to 40 percent of breeding magpies 
die between one year and the next, so only 
a few individuals using the "squeezing" 

strategy will survive to see their tactic pay 
off in terms of producing chicks during the 
next year's breeding season. 

The only other bird species known to 
similarly acquire territory through cere- 
monial gatherings are the Eurasian carrion 
crow and the acorn woodpecker in Califor- 
nia, whose gatherings are referred to as 
"power struggles." (Other bird species 
form noisy aggregations, but for different 
reasons; the ubiquitous house sparrow, for 
example, performs communal sexual 
chases.) More attention has been paid to 
magpie gatherings than to the congrega- 
tions of other species, perhaps because of 
the magpie's striking plumage, brash man- 
ner, and dramatic interactions, which have 
earned it a place not only in the scientific 
literature but also in local folklore. 

The acquisition of territory is only one 
of several hurdles a magpie has to over- 
come if it is to leave any descendants. 
Once a pair have secured a territory, the 

58 Natural History 3/94 

serious business of breeding ensues, and 
here, too, competition is rife and vigilance 
necessary on the part of the male. Al- 
though Darwin knew about the magpies' 
gatherings and recognized the general sig- 
nificance of reproductive competition, he 
assumed that the females of monogamous 
species — in which a mated pair raise 
young — were strictly monogamous. As in 
many species of birds long considered 
faithful within pairs, the truth is more 
complex, as revealed by a particular inci- 
dent I witnessed one day at the beginning 
of the breeding season. 

The pair I was observing had laid part 
of their clutch, and the female was still fer- 
tile. As she searched for insects in a field, 
her mate sat on a nearby stone wall eyeing 
her every move. To my surprise, the 
male's head gradually sank onto his chest, 
and he fell asleep in the spring sunshine. 
No sooner had he stopped observing his 
partner than the male from the neighbor- 

ing territory flew over and, without any of 
the usual precopulatory niceties, mounted 
the female. Although receptive, she 
chanced to utter a cry and awake her 
spouse. He swooped down to attack the in- 
truder, who coolly retreated to his own 
partner and territory. Calling noisily, the 
wronged male then chased the female 
back to their nest tree, and the two birds 
disappeared into the dense vegetation. A 
day or two later, I noticed the male build- 
ing a new nest in a tree near the one that 
housed their original nest. This action 
would have been normal if the first clutch 
had been taken by a predator, but on 
checking, I found the partly completed 
clutch intact. The male appeared to be 
starting over and siring a new clutch of 
eggs in order to avoid the risk of rearing 
one or more of his neighbor's offspring. 

This incident was unusual only in that 
the male fell asleep. Male magpies are es- 
pecially keen to obtain sneaky matings 

Like their crow relatives, magpies will 
harass hawks that approach the nest or 
otherwise threaten their livelihood. In this 
case, a magpie unsuccessfully attempted 
to divert a buzzard from feeding on a 
dead rabbit. 

with breeding females, but must also 
guard their own mates to prevent being 
cuckolded. Males do not take this threat — 
known as extra-pair copulation — lightly. 
During the time that his female can be fer- 
tilized, a period of about one week, the 
male stays within a few yards of her from 
dawn until dusk, following her every 
move. He remains close enough to inter- 
cept any males trying to sneak a mating. 

Only already mated males, rather than 
single males, sneak matings, and they do 
so when their own females are just past the 
fertile stage and the pressure of guarding 
her is relieved. Females accept the atten- 
tions of interiopers and readily mate with 
them, but conversely, do not appear to 
condone the extra-pair activities of their 
own males. Each member of a magpie pair 
appears to attempt to optimize its own 
chances of copulating with more than one 
partner, while retaining a mate with which 
to rear chicks. On several occasions, I 
placed a caged female bird in an occupied 
territory. If the male territory owner ap- 
proached this decoy bird alone, he invari- 
ably started to court her, singing and try- 
ing to mount her by placing his foot on her 
back through the bars of the cage. If, how- 
ever, he was caught in such behavior by 
his partner, he instantly switched from 
courting the decoy to displaying aggres- 
sion toward her. 

The black-billed magpie was one of the 
first bird species in which mate guarding 
was described. Subsequent studies over 
the past fifteen years have shown that such 
behavior by males during their partners' 
fertile period is standard in many birds. 
However, guarding does not guarantee pa- 
ternity. In many so-called monogamous 
species, such as the reed bunting in Eura- 
sia and the splendid fairy wren in Aus- 
tralia, more than a third of aU the offspring 
in a population are fathered through extra- 
pair copulations, and some males help to 
rear young that are not genetically their 
own. We suspect that the same may be true 
for magpies and hope to ascertain this by 
testing for paternity through DNA finger- 

Over the course of the study, I have fol- 


Magpies are notorious egg predators, but this bird 
mistakenly attempted to make a meal of a golf ball. 

Maurice Tibbies; Survival Anglia 

North America's Magpies 

A magpie feeds on an elk carcass in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. 

Rod Planck: Photo Researchers, Inc. 

The black-billed magpies of Eurasia, 
Africa, and North America belong to the 
same species. Pica pica. They are nearly 
identical in physical appearance, but the 
North American subspecies (P.p. hudso- 
nia) has a higher-pitched voice and is 
somewhat smaller than its Old World coun- 
terparts. The ecology of these Old and New 
World magpies also differs. Ceremonial 
gatherings and much of the associated com- 
petitive behavior do not exist in North 
America, probably because the magpies' 
food, invertebrates, is patchily distributed. 

American black-billed magpies nest wher- 
ever suitable habitat is found, often in prox- 
imity to one another, but they forage away 
from the nests on communal feeding 
grounds. With no need to secure a year- 
round nesting and feeding territory, compe- 
tition for space and breeding opportunities 
is much reduced. Interestingly, in its behav- 
ior, America's black-billed magpie more 
closely resembles the yellow-billed magpie 
of Cahfomia, which is considered a sepa- 
rate species (P. nuttali), than it does other 
black-billed magpies.— Z B. 

lowed many magpies from hatching to 
death. For every hundred chicks that 
fledge, only ten survive to rear young, and 
only one or two of these produce offspring 
that survive to breed. Longevity is the key 
to success. The longer an individual lives 
and the more seasons it attempts to breed, 
the greater the likelihood of its producing 
offspring. Our most successful female 
bred for six seasons and had seven young 
that survived to breed. Our most success- 
ful male lived eight years, but as far as we 
could tell, produced only three breeding 
offspring. However, this figure does not 
take into account any young he may have 

fathered with females other than his mate 
or, indeed, any paternity he may have lost 
to other males in the race to get genes into 
subsequent generations. 

The first step in this race, beyond sur- 
viving the first year or two of life, is to 
stake out a territory. By becoming an ini- 
tiator of, or simply a spectator at, a gather- 
ing, a nonbreeding magpie can assess the 
competition and potentially learn enough 
to wrest a territory from the owners. The 
gatherings are neither great magpie mar- 
riages nor mating celebrations, but arenas 
in which the competitive business of 
breeding begins. □ 

60 Natural History 3/94 

N V' 


A Quixotic Search for 
New Drugs 

by J. Worth Estes 

According to Mark J. Plotkin, ethno- 
botanists have three major goals. The first 
is "to record and preserve the plant knowl- 
edge of forest peoples"; the second is to 
use their expertise to "benefit the tribes in 
their dealings with the outside world"; 
and, third, to possibly "uncover new, po- 
tentially useful plant-based medicines." In 
an engaging book, Plotkin recounts his ad- 
ventures among tribes in Suriname, 
Guyana, French Guiana, and Venezuela, 
where for the first ten years of his career he 
worked toward fulfilling these goals. The 
third goal, finding plant-based medicines, 
remains as elusive today as it was to the 
first explorers of the Americas. 

The typical shaman of the Amazonian 
rain forest is the village physician, phar- 
macist, and psychiatrist, as well as media- 
tor with the spirit world — at least in cul- 
tural enclaves that have not been affected 

A Tirio Indian treats a child's ear 
problem with a medicinal plant. 

Mark J. Plotkin; Conservation International 

62 Natural History 3/94 

by the advent of outsiders, such as mis- 
sionaries or gold miners. In these commu- 
nities, the young graduate student Plotkin 
followed the pioneering footsteps of his 
mentor, ethnobotanist and Harvard Uni- 
versity professor Richard Evans Schultes, 
and earned the trust of several shamans. 

Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice: An 
Ethnobotanist Searches for New Med- 
icines IN the Amazon Rain Forest, by 
Mark J. Plotkin, Ph.D., Viking, $22.00, 
318 pp., illus. 

who willingly passed on detailed knowl- 
edge of the plants they used in healing or 
in communicating with the spirits of the 

Plotkin's tales permit the reader who 
has never ventured into any rain forest, 
much less eaten the rodent meats or taste- 
less fruits that are part of the conventional 
human diet there, to experience almost at 
firsthand the hazards, as well as the plea- 
sures, of studies with witch doctors. His 
accounts of hacking his way through 
Uanas thick and thin, of being soaked in 
sweat and rain, of avoiding large crocodil- 
ians, and of being bitten by vampire bats 
are the stuff of adventure movies. His ac- 
counts of how shamans strip tree bark and 
make arrow poisons are the stuff of eth- 
nobotany — as is Plotkin's quasi-mystical 
story of how a Wayana shaman in French 
Guiana treated his sore elbow. However, 
one does wonder how Plotkin managed to 
carry in his backpack all the newspapers 
he needed for pressing his hundreds of 
botanical specimens. 

The visions he experienced under the 
influence of the Yanomamo tribe's hallu- 
cinogenic snuff called epena illustrate 
how a shaman can control the minds and, 
therefore, the forest spirits of his village or 
tribe. In this case, the shaman's control 

was total, because he blew the snuff 
through a long tube into the communer's 
nostrils — one puff at a time — until the de- 
sired effect was achieved. 

During stays among several tribes, 
Plotkin observed that their shamans' learn- 
ing was not being transmitted to a new 
generation. Young men were more inter- 
ested in maintaining their gardens or their 
families than in the work of healing. Thus, 
Plotkin realized that shamans were in dan- 
ger of disappearing, even without the cul- 
tural disintegration that accompanies the 
appearance of missionaries or miners who 
actively oppose retaining the old ways of 
tile forest. 

The denouement of Plotkin's adven- 
tures occurred when he returned to the vil- 
lage of Kwamala, in Suriname, after an 
absence of several years. He brought with 
him a book-length typescript of his notes 
on how the tribe used its local plants and 
presented it to the local headman. Without 
consulting Plotkin, the headman and vil- 
lagers decided to use it for teaching new 
generations of shamans. Shamans' learn- 
ing would be passed on to "apprentices," 
using the American scientist's notes as 
their textbook. 

Plotkin has achieved, in part at least, his 
second goal — insuring that Amazonian 
tribes will share in financial profits from 
remedies discovered in their territories. 
Early on, he had decided that he would not 
submit his botanical specimens for labora- 
tory analysis until one or more drug com- 
panies had shown definite interest — and 
until a mechanism for charmeling some of 
the profits back to the Indians had been de- 
veloped. His efforts prompted tire estab- 
lishment of both the nonprofit Healing 
Forest Conservancy, whose goal is to re- 
turn a percentage of the profits on any 
remedies identified in Amazonian flora to 
tiie peoples of the forest, and a firm called 
Shaman Pharmaceuticals, which is cur- 

rently developing potential antiviral drags 
from shamans' remedies; several major 
drag houses appear to be following suit. 
Plotkin himself is now vice-president for 
plant conservation at a Washington-based 
environmental organization, Conservation 

His third goal — to discover important 
new botanical remedies — is unfortunately 
likely to remain elusive. Although he is 
certain that there is "no shortage of 'won- 
der drags' waiting to be found in the rain 
forests," there is httle evidence from any 
quarter to vaUdate this hypothesis. 

Columbus and other early explorers 
also sought drags in the Americas. My 
own research shows that a few dozen did 
appear in European markets between 1492 
and 1632, but only four drags of enduring 
value — cinchona (the source of quinine, 
used for malaria), ipecac (used to make 
people vomit certain poisons), curare 
(used to relax patients undergoing 
surgery), and coca (the source of cocaine, 
the prototype of the local anesthetics used 
today in dentistry and surgery) — have 
come from plants that are indigenous to 
the Americas, and then only after 1632; 
curare was put to clinical use only in 1942. 

Plotkin cites the more recent examples 
of the anticancer alkaloids derived from 
the pink periwinkle, and of taxol, found in 
the Pacific yew. As he describes it, how- 
ever, the discovery of the effect of the an- 
ticancer alkaloids on malignant white cells 
was the result of a purely serendipitous 
laboratory observation. Moreover, even if 
the periwinkle had been employed in some 
folk healing traditions, its active principles 
had to be highly concentrated in order to 
treat cancer. And although taxol does help 
in the management of some cancers, its 
usefulness has proved to be limited (al- 
though more promising analogues are 
under development). 

We would be unrealistic if we expected 

American Museum of Natural History 


Cruising through Provence 

June 23 - July 3, 1994 

The Rhone River wends 
its way through Provence, 
one of France's most pic- 
turesque regions. Lov- 
ingly captured on canvas 
by Van Gogh, Gauguin, 
Cezanne and others, it is a 
beguiling region that 
blends history, culture 
and natural beauty to per- 

A team of Museum ex- 
perts accompany us as we cruise up the Rhone aboard the 5-star m.s. 
Cezanne from Martigue to Viviers. We will discover the splendor of 
ancient Rome as exemplified by the ruins in Aries, Viviers, Nimes and 
St. Remy's environs. Cities and towns rife with medieval remnants, such 
St. Gilles, Aigues-Mortes, Avignon, Les Baux-de-Provence and Aix-en- 

Provence, add to the his- 
toric atmosphere of our itin- 
erary. Not to be forgotten, 
we will also enjoy the sub- 
lime beauty of the country- 
side, including the magnifi- 
cent Luberon range and the 
isolated marshes and sand 
dunes of the Camargue. Join 
us for this special jour- 
ney through southern 

Museum of 

Discovery Cruises 

Central Park West at 79th St. 

New York, NY 10024-5192 

Toll-free (800) 462-8687 or 

(212) 769-5700 in NYS 




' L 

_B- .^ --^ 



M~--^W^*-§'- ^B^^^Bfrj 

aMj^m'^ f ^g0 

L ^i 

I^B^^H^^^B '''-'-- J^^^^^l 


the forest peoples of the Amazon to have 
employed the negatively controlled stud- 
ies that we deem an absolute necessity for 
evaluating putative new remedies ade- 
quately. Such methods did not become 
standard even in the United States until the 
1960s. Nevertheless, Plotkin takes it as ax- 
iomatic that "if a plant is used [by sha- 
mans] to treat a number of afflictions, it 
likely contains an active chemical com- 
pound and merits investigation in the 

This astonishingly quixotic statement 
seems to arise from his assumption that a 
purported remedy causes reUef of one or 

more symptoms if they disappear follow- 
ing administration of the remedy. My own 
studies of the drugs doctors prescribed be- 
tween 1700 and 1850 suggest that in the 
absence of a virulent epidemic, about 
nineteen out of twenty adult patients re- 
covered regardless of how they were 
treated, with a wide variety of agents that 
are now recognized as incapable of any 
truly beneficial pharmacological effect. 
These recoveries can best be attributed to 
what was even then called the healing 
power of nature — today we recognize that 
that power lies chiefly in the body's ability 
to heal itself via the immune and inflam- 

An unforgettable odyssey through 
the Amazon rain forest 

For 12 years leading ethnobotanist 
Mark Plotkin studied with the 
shamans of Amazon rain forest. 
To learn about the area's plant life 
and its medicinal resources — 
before these tribal medicine men 
and their invaluable knowledge 
disappear along with the rainforest 
itself. "Every time a shaman dies," 
says Plotkin "its as if a library has 
burned to the ground." 

Now Plotkin takes you along on 
a wild odyssey — in which he 
participates in healing rituals; discovers the secret of the 
poison curare; tries hallucinogenic snuff; and earns the 
respect of the mysterious shamans as he proves that he 
shares their endurance and reverence for the rain forest. 

'More than's also an adventure 
story and something of a corker." 

— Men's Journal 

'Reads like a travel adventure. Plotkin has a gift 
for evoking a sense of place; the characters he 
meets come alive on the page." 

— Los Angeles Times Book Review 



At bookstores now from Viking 

matory responses to microorganisms and 
tissue injury. 

Many argue that the world's rain forests 
should be preserved for their traditional 
human inhabitants and for the nearly infi- 
nite variety of plants and animals that live 
there. (By contrast, the arguments with 
which missionaries and gold miners, who 
are Plotkin's villains, support their claims 
to the same land and its dwellers are per- 
suasive only to themselves.) But so far, I 
have found no convincing evidence that 
untold numbers of valuable medicines 
await us in the Amazon basin, although 
they may be there. Plotkin seems to won- 
der why the headman of Kwamala re- 
garded the white man's medicine as supe- 
rior to that of his own tribe; perhaps the 
village leader was more reaUstic than flie 

Almost no other errors mar these splen- 
did tales (although Linnaeus was Swedish, 
not Swiss). Unfortunately, however, Plot- 
kin does not explain the shamans' reasons 
for choosing, from among the array of 
plant remedies available to them, those 
they administer for a given condition. Do 
the Amazonian witch doctors have a no- 
tion of body balances analogous to the 
four humors we inherited from the Greeks 
or to the more complex system of balances 
envisioned by the Chinese? Do they have 
a more static view of the body in health 
and disease? Or do the shamans that 
Plotkin studied simply choose their reme- 
dies on the basis of the tradition that plant 
X will cure symptom Y? Do other kinds of 
reasoning associate specific symptoms 
with specific plants? 

The elucidation of comparable ratio- 
nales for prescribing remedies in Western 
medicine's Hippocratic-Galenic tradition 
has helped us understand the use of histor- 
ical remedies, such as emetics, strong 
cathartics, bleeding, and blisters, that 
would otherwise seem bizarre today. A 
multitude of written texts helps explain 
these ancient European treatments; per- 
haps the shamans, who rely only on orally 
transmitted traditions, simply did not tell 
Plotkin why they did what they did. 

Nevertheless, as he demonstrates so 
well, ethnobotanical research is an inher- 
enfly interesting and exciting pursuit of 
knowledge about the world around us. But 
we should not expect more of the shamans 
or their forests than they can dehver. 

J. Worth Estes teaches pharmacology at 
the Boston University School of Medicine. 
He is the author of many books, including 
The Medical Skills of Ancient Egypt. 

64 Natural History 3/94 






T t*^^! 


^•^ *~«i-i»»L 







By Andrew Bill 




Trace the Voyages of the Vikings with 
the modern comforts of the expedition 
cruise ship Columbus Caravelle. - 
Experience the chronicles of legend, 
wildlife and landscapes of the British 
and Scottish Isles, Iceland, Greenland 
and the Canadian Maritimes. 

Reserve before April ISth for up to SSOO snuings 
pip. Departures 8/3/94 - 9/17/94. Inclusive 
air/land/sea programs roiindtrip U.S. range from 
U to 16 days. Bahamian registry. For reserva- 
tions contact yoitr professional travel agent. For 
a free brochure call 

J fTlQfOuest' 

txclKsii'C General Sales Agent for the 
Columbus Caravelle in North America 



Brown Bears of Katmai 

Alaska's legendary giants close-up! 

St. George, Pribilof Islands 

Huge fur seal & seabird colonies! 

S£. Alaska WUdemess 

Bears, glaciers, wilderness river! 

Alaska Spectacular 

A slice of Alaska's very best, from 
coast to mountains! 



PO Box 1 637C, Voshon, WA 98070 





Broadly speaking, today's vacationers fall neatly into two groups — passive 
tourists and active travelers. The first go in search of familiarity, albeit 
spiced with sun and sea, while the second group travels primarily to ex- 
plore and learn. Not content with pre-packaged culture, travelers prefer to 
dig down through the thin crust of modern civilization to their destina- ' 
tion's ancient core; unexcited by nature that has been brought to heel, they 
want it without fences, untamed and pristine. Instead of resorts, they visit 
exotic destinations. 

Discovering these destinations is part of the game — often requiring sev- 
eral detours off the thruway of mass tourism. To indicate some of the sign- 
posts, we present nine recommendations, all suitable for a week-long trips 
and all guaranteed to uncover the traveler in you. 

Houseboat and sailboat, on Great Slave Lake, in Yellowknife. 


Life looks different on top of the world. 

Up here, our days last for months. 
Our land is unspoiled. Most of it, 

Towering icebergs drift through the 
Arctic water. Rivers churn as they have 
for eons, and green vistas beckon. Pick a 
trail and see where it takes you. 

Explore life as never before. Great herds of Buffalo, 
Muskox and Caribou. Beluga and Narwhal pods. 

And when you walk, you walk with the Inuit and Dene 
people, who have been here for over ten thousand years. 

"We have no word in our language that means 
'wilderness', as anywhere we go is our home." 

Come, spend a day with us. 

Mackenzie River Expeditions Ltd. 

2 Rycon Drive, Dept. ANH 
Piione and Fax: 403-873-2699 
Luxury cruises under tiie midniglit 
sun - Mackenzie River and Great Slave 

Canada North Outfitting, Inc. 

Box 3100, 87 Mill St., Dept. ANH 
Almonte, ON KOAIAO 
Phone: 613-256-4057 Fax: 613-256-4512 
Tours to the Baffin region including 
Inuit villages, dog sledding and the 
ultimate - the North Pole! 

NorthWinds Arctic Adventures 

Box 849, Dept. ANH 

Iqaluit, NT XOA OHO 

Phone: 819-979-0551 Fax: 819-979-0573 

Largest selection of winter and 

summer programs in Baffin Island. 

Write for brochure. 

Arctic Odysseys 

Box 37B, Dept. ANH 

Medina, WA USA 98039 

Phone: 206-455-1960 Fax: 206-453-6903 

Pioneered Arctic group travel. North 

Pole, dog sled, culture and v/ildlife. 

Hudson Bay Tour Company 

Attn: Tamara K. Waite 

Box 328, Dept. ANH 

Rankin Inlet, NT XOC OGO 

Phone: 819-645-2618 Fax: 819-645-2320 

Serving Arctic Canada's Keewatin 

region. Complete tour packages. 

2-10 persons. 

Blachford Lake Lodge 

Box 1568, Dept. ANH 
Yellowknife, NT XIA 2P2 
Phone: 403-873-3303 Fax: 403-920-4013 
Remote fly-in log lodge, cross country 
skiing, Aurora Borealis, Caribou, 
hiking, canoeing. 

Baker Lake Lodge 

Box 239, Dept. ANH 

Baker Lake, NT XOC OAO 

Phone: 819-793-2905 Fax: 819-793-2965 

Individually suited adventures to 

explore Inuit history, tundra, wildhfe 

and fishing. 

Alliak Tours 

Box 114, Dept. ANH 
Cambridge Bay, NT XOE OCO 
Phone: 403-983-2622 Fax: 403-983-2385 
Travel, camp, experience the Arctic! 
Vast unexplored landscapes; 
untouched wilderness. 

NWT Marine Group 

17 England Crescent, Dept. ANH 
Yellowknife, NT XIA 3N5 
Phone and Fax: 403-873-2489 
Cruise the Mackenzie River and Great 
Slave Lake. 103' ship. 

For information on other NWT 
adventures and your copy of the 
Explorers' Guide, call 1-800-661-0788, 
or write: Department of Economic 
Development and Tourism, Suite 26, 
Government of the Northwest 
Territories, P.O. Box 1320, Yellowknife, 
NT, Canada XIA 2L9. 


CANADA'S Northwest Territories 

Within reach, yet beyond belief 


Ma nine 

& X p e a 1 / i o 

Norway & The Arctic 

from $2295 
including airfare 

London's Tower Bridge 

to The Fjords of Norway 

and Spitsbergen 

Lecturers and Naturalists 
Zodiac Excursions 

(800) 263-9147 


Expedition cruising 
to Antarctica, 
the Ross Sea Region 
and the 
islands of 
Ne'v^ Zealand 
^ & Australia 

See and photograph 

rare species of seabirds, 
^'^ ^*^ penguins, albatross 
^p ^J and sealion rookeries. 
^4 ^»^ Shore excursions by 
zodiac itk 

^ Qualified historians and 
naturalists accompany cruises. 
Lectures and library on board. 
Voyage log included. 

10-29 day expeditions, 

priced ft-om $2945 pp. 

Special group rates available 


(800) 351-2317 (CA) 
(800) 351-2323 (USA) 

A view of Hobart, Australia's second oldest city, as seen from Mount Nelson 


With a gamut of ecosystems, from 
dust deserts to dripping rainfor- 
est, and a collection of fauna that 
looks like the output of evolu- 
tion's test laboratory, Australia presents a 
dilemma — where to start? One option is Tas- 
mania, historical and scenic, a bite-size version 
of its mother continent. 

As is often the way with islands, time has 
moved more slowly here, making the past eas- 
ier to catch. A rosy picture of early British set- 

Hikers' "Cradle Hut" with a view of Cradle 
Mountain, Tasmania 

tlement is conjured up by the historic center 
of Hobart, Battery Park, the city's early ware- 
houses at Salamanca Palace and small country 
towns like Stanley, ancient and atmospheric. 
The rolling, grassy pastures of the midland re- 
gion combine with enduring habits like after- 
noon tea serv,ed with scones to complete the 
colonial connection. But its harsher realities 
are visible at Port Arthur in the southwest, 
where ruins of the old penal settlement are 
said to be overrun by the ghosts of ill-treated 

Tasmania's other allure is one noticeably unaf- 
fected by the course of time — a range of spec- 
tacular wilderness areas and coasdines. One of 
the most dramatic hikes in the world runs 
through 50 miles of rugged mountains and 
alpine moorlands from Lake St. Clair to Cradle 
Mountain. Another park on the Freycinet 
Peninsular has a 17-mile loop around travel- 
poster country. And wherever you go, you will 
be met by Australia's Alice-ln-Wonderland cast 
of animals and birds — from the shy platypus 
and friendly wallaby to the Tasmanian devil and 
screeching cockatoo. 


There are national parks and there are 
wilderness areas, but few come close to 
the immense region of the Northwest 
Territories sandwiched between the 
Yukon and Hudson Bay, on the roof of Canada. 



Home to only 60,000 people, it's one of those 
rare places where manidnd is dwarfed by natures 
sheer scale and majesty. 

The gateway for most travelers is Yel- 
lowknife, the capital and main jumping-ofif 
point for the many activity options. To get 
your bearings, both historical and visual, 
climb up to Old Town where the Bush Pilot's 
Monument recalls your pioneer predecessors. 
Below, the city spreads out to the scalloped 
bays of Great Slave Lake. Then, after a lunch 
of caribou steak at the nearby Wildcat Cafe, 
it's time for a cultural immersion course at the 
Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre 
where local carvings and dioramas capture 
local life. If you still have time, take the four- 
hour barbecue trip to Great Slave Island 
aboard the MV Naocha, drive the six miles 
north to the Takhini Hot Springs for a sooth- 
ing dip, or drop by the Book Cellar to load up 
on Jack Londons for the next part of the trip. 

Nobody travels to the top of the world just to 
tour Yellowknife. Instead they come to indulge 
their passion, whether it be hiking into virgin 
territory — especially the national parks of 
Auyuittuq and Nahanni — and camping by 
lakes as reflective as mirrors, or canoeing 
through the lace-work of tributaries that filter 
out from the Mackenzie River. The biggest 
draw, however, is to stay in the wilderness lodges 
like Blachford Lake, Drum Lake, or Sitidgi Lake 
and test your skill against lake trout, char, arid 
grayling so big they stretch even a fisherman's 


I ost people think of the Caribbean 
IH in terms of developed pleasures 
where local culture is something 
you see on the cabaret stage and 
"getting away from it all" means going back to 
your hotel room. The Caymans, however, offer 
another perspective — three islands each with 
its own unique slant on the sun, sand and sea 

There is the modern allure, a pleasure 
ground, centered around Seven Mile Beach on 
the western end of the biggest island. Grand 
Cayman. This is the place to lie on the beach 


"Choosing To 

Cruise Regency 

This Summer 

Was Easy. 

The Bakers made it 
easy on them- 
selves this vaca- 
tion. They chose 
Regency. The wonderful destina- 
tions, unique itineraries, fabulous 
ships with fine food and service 
and terrific prices were all they 
needed to hear. 

So if that sounds good to you, 
choose to sail either the 
Northeast Passage where you'll 
experience unique history, quaint 
villages and exciting cities 
between New York and 

Or, choose Alaska where you'U sail 

across the dramatic Gulf of 

Alaska to Columbia Glacier, 

CoUege Fjord, the Inside 

Passage and four 


Between Alaska 

And French 
Canada Was The 

Hard Part" 

Eriwit & Harriet Baker 
Cleveland, Ohio 

Either way, you'll "^^'~^" save up 
to 40% guaranteed. So if you've 
had your eye on a 7 or 14-day 
cruise vacation, take it from the 
Bakers, take Regency! For reser- 
vations, see your travel agent. For 
a free brochure, caU: 



Ships' Registry: Bahamas 





Fly the award winning service of 
Air New Zealand and experience 
the environmental destination of 
the 1990's. 

New Zealand is an 
outdoor enthusiasts nnecca, 
criss-crossed with a network of 
walking trails and readily avail- 
able guided treks that meander 
through pristine valleys, bush 
clad hillsides and above treelined 
tundra. The Routeburn; The 
Greenstone; The Hollyford; The 
Abel Tasman and the world 
famous Milford Track. 

Free of poisonous reptiles or any 
carnivorous animals New Zealand 
is the ideal setting for those who 
love to touch nature. 

Whether it's the Coastal Abel 
Tasman Walk, the mellow river 
banks of the Greenstone, or the 
deep lush native forest of the 
World Famous Milford Track, 
you'll find a walk to satisfy your 
heart's desire. 

For your free official color guide 
to "Trek New Zealand" please 

1 (800) 468 2665 or write to 


V^'O' ZiUCB 1906 

^ air neiu zeaiann 

the pride of the pacific 

I960 East Grand Avenue, Suite 910, 
El Segundo, CA 90245 

A red-eyed leaf frog in the tropical rain forest of Costa Rica 

(it's almost as long as it says it is), sit sandy- 
footed at any of the outdoor bars of the luxu- 
rious hotels, and crack lobsters by candlelight. 
If your hotel doesn't have in-house facilities, 
this is also the place to arrange diving excur- 
sions, exploring the crystalline waters and 
bright marine gardens for which the Caymans 
are justifiably renowned. Then, when you're 
ready to duck into the shade, wander around 
the streets of Georgetown, the capital at the 
beach's southern end, where the old wraps 
around the new. 

The islands' colorful past is brought to light 
in their two museums — the Maritime and 
Treasure Museum and the McKee's Treasure 
Museum — filled with precious salvage from 
Spanish galleons which met their undoing by 
offshore reefs. Modern bounty, meanwhile, 
beckons from the boutique windows of Car- 
dinal Avenue and the Kirk Freeport Plaza. 
Walking away from downtown, the modernity 
falls away in favor of simple wooden cottages 
dressed with fading gingerbread details and 
the occasional cemetery, their "A" frame "pi- 
rate" graves. 

Cayman Brae, the second in size of the 
three Cayman sisters, lies like a beached whale 
with a prominent backbone 89 miles to the 
east. Many people fly over for the day to ex- 
plore the caves and wilderness areas. Little 
Cayman, meanwhile, with its population of 
50 and three small lodges is the iJtimate place 
to shrug off the 20th Century. 


When asked for reasons for travel- 
ing to Costa Rica, devotees cite 
the sincerity of the locals and 
their commitment to preserving 
a natural splendor rich in ecosystems and 
thronged with tropical flora and fauna. They 
also speak of convenience, of how all the attrac- 
tions are within striking distance of the capital, 
San Jose. 

The city itself is busding, endearingly chaotic. 
Among its many sites, dotted around its geometric 
grid, your first stop should be the Museo Nacional 
(National Museum) to delve through the nooks of 
Costa Rica's evolution, to see how the heavy hand 
of Spanish colonialism overturned the pre- 
Columbian tranquillity. The Gold Museum ex- 
plains, through dazzling showcases of early jew- 
elry, the reason why. Then stroll through the 
shaded alleys of the Mercado Central (Central 
Market), the air heavy with herbs, the stalls loaded 
with a gaudy array of unrecognizable fruits and 
vegetables. The features on upturned feces reflect, 
in varying degrees, the successfiJ merger between 
the "new" and "old" worlds. 

After a few days of drinking in the atmos- 
phere and sampling the local cuisine — such as 
the hearty stew ollci del came and spicy cerviche, 
it's time for day trips into the Central Valley. Just 
over an hour's drive takes you through farmland 
to the bleak, black, and sulphurous mouth of 



Irazii Volcano, the highest of the country's many 
active craters. The havoc they have wreaked over 
the centuries is most visible in Cartago, once the 
country's cultural heart, now known for its ruins 
and aura of "once was." Slightly further south- 
east lies the Tapanti Wildlife Refuge, a small 
taste of rainforest where glimpses of the endan- 
gered quetzal, cheeky howler monkeys, and even 
a jaguar reward the patient. 


From a historical and cultural perspec- 
tive, Guatemala is one of the Latin 
American leaders. Like a well-ordered 
museum, it's divided into chronological 
galleries, each region separate from the others 
and condensed in its focus. 

A short drive from the modern gallery — 
the capital, Guatemala City — takes you to 
the colonial one. From 1543 to 1773 the an- 
cient capital, Antigua, ranked third behind 
Lima and Mexico City in Latin American im- 
portance. Finally undone by a series of vol- 
canic tremors and mud-slides, it was by-passed 
by the last two centuries of progress. Today 
you can walk its cobbled streets and catch 
glimpses, through heavy gates left ajar, of cool, 
shaded courtyards. You can wander through 
the broken convent of Las Capuchinas, now 
containing a museum and garden, and visit 
the church of San Francisco which rises like 
the proverbial Phoenix from the ruins of its 
former grandeur. Comfortable hotels and cafes 
are woven seamlessly into the ancient fabric. 

To see the gallery of native cultures, drive 
north on the Interamerican Highway until the 
terrain shifts into the Western Highlands. 
Glinting cooly at the foot of three volcanoes 
lies Lake Atitlan, a natural wonder that has left 
everyone from the first conquistadors to writer 
Aldous Huxley short of words. On market 
days (Thursdays and Sundays) in nearby 
Chichicastenango, hundreds of locals in tradi- 
tional garb materialize from surrounding vil- 
lages to hawk their handicrafts. 

But Guatemala's oldest and most renowned 
galley is surely Tikal, the massive and mysteri- 
ous city of the Mayas that has been wrestled 
from the jungle in the north. Reaching the 
site by plane from the capital, you are awed by 

Discover It All... 

Join us for Australia's "1994 Year of the Great Outdoors." 

Take a sailing trip with a school of dolphins, 
ride a camel to dinner, see ancient Aboriginal 
art, admire one of the 300 species of bird life, 
hop aboard a 4-wheel drive Outback safari 
or dive the Great Barrier Reef — one of the 
eight wonders of the world. Prices range 
from $227 per person. 

Special fares available on Ansett Australian 
Airlines. Ask for our new "Great Outdoors" 

• Trekking • Horse Riding • Camping Tours • Diving • Rafting 

• Ballooning • 4- Wheel Drive Safaris • Aboriginal Culture 


Ansett Australia Airiines. 


EstablKhedm 1879 



More whales and more caviar too. Explore more 
of the natural wonders of Alaska on Sagafjord, 
the only Five Plus Star ship to sail the Route of the 
' Glaciers all the way to Anchorage. Set sail from San 
Francisco, Vancouver or Anchorage for 14, 11 or 10 
spectacular days. Rates range from $2,856 to $8,305 and include free 
air. For reservations call your travel agent. For a free brochure call 
Cunard at 1-800-221-8200. And toast a great Alaskan vacation. 

Rates reflect early Ixxiking savinps (4 months in advance of sailing) anci are per person, double occupanc\', subject 

to availability and dependent on departure date. Port and handling charges are $200 per penion extra. Prices include 

free roundtrip economy air from 78 LIS cities. Sagafjord is registered in the Bahamas. © 1993 Cunard 





PoiAR Bears, 
Tundra Buggies 
& The Polar Bear 
BuNKHOusE Lodge 

Experience the gathering of 
the Great White Bears on the 
shores of Canada's Hudson 
Bay from the exciting vantage 
of a Tundra Buggy®. Or 
immerse yourself in the bears' 
world at our exclusive Tundra 

Departures-October, 1994 
From $1895 


PO Box 1 637C, Vashon, WA 98070 

If you've never 

considered an 

Australian cruise, 

*AeM jno sSuiLj) 
)e £u|>|oo| ^) 

Down Under everytning ta^ on a wnole 
new perspective. As you explore tne Great 
Barrier Reei, Coral Sea ana otker exotic 
coastal nignlignts you'll experience tne 
rrienoly atmospnere ana personal service or 
tne uncrowdea Cunara Crown Monarcn. 
10 to 14 days range from $2,120 to 
$6,490 and include tree air nom selected 
gateway cities. For reservations call your 
travel agent. Or lor a free Lrocnure call 
Cunard at 1-800-221-8200. Because we 
tnink you'll enjoy our point or view. 

Sailings start NovemDer 1993. Bxes reflect cany nralon^ savings 
(4 montns in aavance ot sailing), are per person, oounlc ocoipan- 

Z, suojcct to availability ana aepenaent on cruise len^tn ana 
sparture date. Port ano nanalin^ cnar^es are 5140 to 
S175 per person extra aepenaent on oeparture date. Free or low- 
cost ronnatrip economy air irom 100 U.S. ana Canadian cities. 
Cunard Crown Monarcn revered in IWaina. © 1993 Cunara. 






^ Jt *?? 


Effigies of dead ancestors "guard" a grave site at Tar<ualand, Sulawesi. 

the scale of temples, the network of houses, rewarded for their efforts with an introduction 

and the sophistication of the city where to one of the last truly unspoilt places on earth. 

100,000 once lived, at its zenith in 600 A.D., 

with greater sophistication than their counter- KAonlVIIK, 

parts in Europe. INUIA 


, ertainly the spiritual beauty of Bali has 
always played a part on the stage of in- 
[ternational tourism, with the larger is- 
lands of Java and Sumatra playing 
supporting roles. But Indonesia's outlying is- 
lands — like Sulawesi and the Moluccas — have 
stayed out of the glare, retaining a shy innocence 
so rare in this age of go-anywhere jet travel. 

It's apparent in their range of wildlife, from 
the submarine variety (visible in some of the 
world's best diving waters) to land-based fauna 
— like the pygmy buf&lo and the pig-deer with 
its idiosyncratic tusks. The human interest is no 
less rewarding. In Sulawesi, formerly called the 
Celebes, a one-day drive from the capital, Ujung 
Padang, brings you to the land of the Taraja, 
where the once warlike tribe keeps 500 years of 
tradition intact while being welcoming to mod- 
ern travelers at the same time. 

Even more isolated, the Moluccas (also 
known as the Spice Islands) are rimmed with 
reefs and untrodden beaches, topped with volca- 
noes rising out of a carpet of jungle. Visitors, 
most of them traveling by small cruise ship, are 

India is such a colorful tossed-salad of cul- 
tures that it's nearly impossible to recom- 
mend one week-long bite over another. Yet 
there is one region, high in the shadow of the 
Himalayas in the north, that offers the intense 
taste of the country mixed with a scenery and 
climate that is truly unforgettable — Kashmir. 

Although most visitors fly into the region's 
capital, Srinigar, the options from there are nu- 
merous. Start by marinating yourself in the fla- 
vor of northern India, browsing through the al- 
leys and carpet shops of the ciry, famous as a 
center of the arts. And, when it's time to escape 
the frenetic pace of the streets, you could duck 
into the cool interiors of the many splendid 
mosques or head out to the lake-side baghs or 
gardens, formal reminders of the different 
moghuls who took refuge here from the heat of 
the plains. Looking for accommodations with a 
difference? Try staying on one of the houseboats 
clustered at the southern end of Dal Lake, the 
Indian version of Venice, where multi-hued 
shikaras take the place of gondolas. 

But the real flavor of Kashmir becomes appar- 
ent when you leave the urban center for one of 
the hill stations, like Pahalgam. Here, in a town 
surrounded by fir woods and snow-capped 



peaks, the major attraction is hiking through the 
mountains to Kolahoi Glacier, or taking a rod 
and line out to a trout stream, originally stocked 
by the British as a diversion from serving the 


New Zealand's unique charm is that it's 
so comfortable to visit and yet so un- 
tamed at the same time. English- 
speaking, it has a sound and intrigu- 
ing tourist infrastructure and yet has only three 
million people (most in the major cities) scat- 
tered around a stunningly-beautiful country 
that's green, pristine, and untrammeled by the 
20th Century. 

Just a short but dramatic ferry crossing from 
the capital city of Wellington brings you to Pic- 
ton, the top of the South Island and the begin- 
ning of the 700-mile drive down the west coast. 
It winds first through towns like Nelson, with its 
Bishop Surer Art Gallery and even the odd win- 
ery, before the towns thin out, separated by long 
expanses of coast torn by bleached-white break- 
ers, lonely moorland, snow-capped mountains, 
and stands of deciduous woods. Distractions 
along the way include national parks — Abel 
Tasman and Mount Cook among others — 


If you are looking for a great adventure 
to one of the most exotic destinations 
in the world - let us take you to the 
Spice Islands of Indonesia. 

Travelers enjoy air-conditioned 
comfort with 35 like-minded passengers 
aboard P &. O's Island Explorer or the 
Spice Islander. Your choice of programs 
is as diverse as the islands you'll visit. 
You can cruise from Bali on an 8 day 
east-bound trip to Kupang, or a west- 
bound 7 day cruise from Kupang to 
Bali. Or do both. Or you can cruise 
from Jakarta to see the remains of the 
Krakatau Volcano and the equatorial 
rainforests of the Ujung Kulon National 
Park. Prices start from $1,962. 

You can still enjoy a 30% discount on 
spring '94 departures of Krakatau & 
Rainforests Expedition. 

For more information contact U.S. 
General Sales Agent: 


581 Boylston St. N 

Boston, MA 02116 

(617)266-7465 (800)426-5492 

You'll board a Time Machine, called the 
Kokomis. Travel only a few hundred yards, 
and 50 years. You step off onto a private 
island, it's 1935. Today's hectic world 
disappears. There are lU) crowds. No cars. It's 
quiet. Just the sound of the sea on four miles 
of secluded beach. You can actually think. 
There are over 150 species of birds. 150 
tropical plants. 200 varieties of shells. 100 
species of t~ish. Rich Florida history. Tennis 
and sailing. All for you and your family to 
discover. Enjoy tasteful olde Florida 
accommodations. Superb dining and .service. 

Time travel to the Florida resort experience 
~-^ jA of 50 years ago .Today. Call. 

"" 'm <■ 1-800-688-1935 
- % r or 813-262-4149 

'*! * for a brochure. 

I S L A / N D 

261) Hay Ruad, Naples. Florida 3 3 940 

The Earnslaw on Lake Wakatipu with the 
Remarkable Mountains in the background 

Sop. breezes 
on tropicaUn^hts, 
redolent with, the perfume^ 
of exotic blooms ■ 

T/iK (5 Costa Rica. 

Nature that captivates 

your senses. 

Nature's Museum 

'PHONE: 1.800-fe7-7033\ 





Explore a world of historic 
cu ture aboard the Regent 
Jewel - an intimate cruise ship 
with an attentive European- 
trained staff. Cruise 7-days or 
combine two itineraries for 14 
days of incredible cruising. 


Istanbul to Dikili (Turkey), 
Israel, Cyprus, Rhodes, Crete, 
Santorini & Athens. 

Athens to Kusadasi (Turkey), 
Mykonos, Yalta, Odessa, Constanta 
& Istanbul. 

Prices are per person, double occupangi 
Port charges and fees additional. Airfare 
additional Ships registry; Bahamas. 



M ri>Ttifi»H * RnnitfA ^M 











Scientifically-planned itineraries to 

the southwestern Amazon of Peru 
and Bolivia offer the highest diversity 

and density of rain forest wildlife in 

the world, including spectacular 
congregations of macaws and parrots. 

(See National Geographic Jan. '94.) 

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Milford Sound, on New Zealand's South Island, is unspoiled by tourism. 

hardly necessary among this wilderness, and a 
helicopter ride high up to the snow fields atop 
the mighty Fox Glacier. By night you can choose 
between rustic inns serving piping bowls of lamb 
stew, or more sophisticated inns and hotels in 
the farm towns that intermittently dot the route. 
Your final destination is Queenstown, the 
outdoor activity center of New Zealand. Tum- 
bling down the hill to Lake Wakatipu, the town 
is buzzing with options from hiking down the 
now-legendary trails like the Routeburn and 
Milford Sound and rafting or jet-boating down 
the Shotover River to the more extreme thrills of 
bungee-jumping and para-gliding in the Re- 
markables, rhe local moimtain range. 


Its position as the land bridge between North 
and South America has given Panama two 
distinct pluses in the modern travel depart- 
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unwelcome) of the major powers since the days 
of Columbus and it has become home to an 
enormous wealth of wildlife. Passing through 
over millennia of migration, hundreds of species 
liked it and stayed. 

The first plus is easily appreciated upon land- 
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more exciting Latin Ametican cities. Strolling 
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the baroque affluence of the Church of San Jose, 

and the rree-shaded French Plaza. The Prome- 
nade of the Dungeons, along the top of the civy 
walls, hints at a darker past. But probably the 
best place to soak up the tales of Spain's gun- 
powdei and attack-dog diplomacy is the nearby 
former capital, Viejo Panama, founded in 1513 
by the dubiously named Pedrarias the Cruel and 
once the Fort Knox of Pissaro's looring of the 
Inca Empire. Crumbling walls, torn down by 
marauding buccaneers under fienry Morgan, 
have survived to mock colonial conceit. 

The other plus is best uncovered by taking 
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Highway that runs from the Canal up to the 
Costa Rican border. This is the quieter side of 
Panama, where traditional ways of life have 
flourished far from world affairs. The plea- 
sures here are long beaches empty of people, 
wilderness areas filled with over 800 species of 
native birds (nor including the 200 seasonal 
visitors), and volcanoes, stark against the sky. 
Here you can find Guaymi Indian culture un- 
changed since the days of the conquistadors 
and small towns like Los Cantos and El Valle 
that come alive in the Sunday morning mar- 
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A Matter of Taste 

Breaking Bread, Tradition, 
and a Long Run 

After two decades of columns, our food writer pushes back from the table 

by Raymond Sokolov 

Exactly twenty years ago, I began writ- 
ing this column without the slightest idea 
of what it should be. All I knew was that it 
should be about food and "reflect the in- 
terests of the Museum." Since my main 
experience at the American Museum of 
Natural History before 1974 had been ac- 
companying young children excited by the 
simulacrum of the giant whale and various 
stuffed large mammals, I briefly consid- 
ered printing recipes for blubber and har- 
tebeest steak. 

Sensing that this was not the correct ap- 
proach, I made a solo pilgrimage to the 
Museum, passing through gallery after 
gallery devoted to artifacts of daily life 
among peoples from hot and cold lands 
with distinctive solutions for survival. 
There were baskets and masks and 
weapons and costumes; totems and pad- 
dles and canoes. You could stand there and 
imagine culture after culture from the ma- 
terials in those cases. Yes, but what did 
they eat? That was what I needed to know 
to write a column for Natural History. 

I ascended to the hbrary, the old hbrary 
with the leaky roof. And I found. . .almost 
nothing. The ethnography of food was not 
a Uvely field, never has been. There were, 
of course, brilliant — and brilliantly er- 
ratic — exceptions. But by and large, one 
had to make one's way as best one could. 

I learned to squeeze the anthropological 
Uterature for tidbits dropped among the 
exhaustive studies of kinship, geomancy, 
and body decorations. While slogging 
through this swamp of data, I learned a 
new word, or thought I had: balanophagy, 
"eating acorns." A Uttle learning is a dan- 
gerous thing. I dropped that mouthful in a 
column, only to get a hooting letter from a 
medical student in Boston pointing out 
that the Greek word balanos was an alter- 
nate anatomical term for glans. He asked 
for further information. 

After a column on cannibalism, for 

which I scoured the literature to determine 
what adepts considered the best cuts, I was 
encouraged to shift my focus from anthro- 
pology to botany. Now the documentation 
was vast. Edible plants had been studied 
from every angle, and the cookbook hter- 
ature of the post-World War 11 period of- 
fered rehable accounts of food preparation 
in most major cultures. So I embarked on 
a series of monographs on com and pota- 
toes and coriander and on and on, until the 
editor encouraged me to get out of the h- 
brary and hit the road. 

First I pursued endangered American 
regional dishes among hostile Indians and 
wary heartland farmers. In southern Indi- 
ana, outside the hamlet of Gnaw Bone, a 
dog bit me while I gathered native persim- 
mons from a field next to a dilapidated 
house. The reward was that back home in 
New York County (a k a Manhattan) at a 
Museum event, the distinguished anthro- 
pologist Marvin Harris dignified my hap- 
less forays by calling them fieldwork. 

Well, I was spending a lot of time in 
fields. But soon my travels extended to 
South America and even the Phihppines, 
in search of the colonial heritage of 
cuisines created by the collision of cul- 
tures in the Spanish empire after 1492. 
Most recently, I have been getting back to 
basics, thinking about grain. At the same 
time, I have been trying out a new diet that 
treats grains almost like poison. 

I'm speaking of the much-ballyhooed 
diet of Michel Montignac, the self-pro- 
claimed Descartes of weight loss and au- 
thor of ye Mange, Done Je Maigris (I eat, 
therefore I reduce). In America, he has a 
book called Dine Out and Lose Weight, 
but the idea is the same and just as radical: 
Avoid consuming carbohydrates when 
eating fat. 

The theory, roughly speaking, is that 
sugars and starches have the effect of pro- 
voking a sudden increase of insuUn in the 

blood. And when that insulin butts up 
against fat, it wraps its arms around the fat 
and stores it. If there isn't any carbohy- 
drate, there isn't any insulin; so the fat 
does not get stored. 

Ergo, peel the bread off that ham sand- 
wich. Throw out your pasta and Frosted 
Flakes. Kiss potatoes goodbye. Eschew 
coffee, which also stimulates insulin pro- 
duction. And tell your friends who have 
followed current nutritional orthodoxy and 
filled their larders with bulgur, quinoa, 
amaranth, and other grains that they are in- 
dulging in glycemic folly. You can also 
stop counting calories. Montignac is with- 
ering on calories as well as exercise. 

It isn't hard to see why this diet would 
have a certain appeal to people who don't 
want to give up animal fat and who hate 
going to the gym. But does it have any sci- 
entific validity? Since in some ways it re- 
sembles diets prescribed by conventional 
doctors for diabetes, the Montignac diet 
makes theoretical sense (in its own terms) 
only if there is reason to believe that over- 
weight people are quasidiabetic, that is, if 
their sugar-insulin metabolism is out of 

Some researchers believe this may be 
so. I am certainly unqualified to pronounce 
on any of this, but I have been impressed 
by dramatic weight loss experienced by 
several former fatties of my acquaintance 
who have been following Montignac. See- 
ing them, I thought I should try Montignac 
too, even if there was nothing to his hy- 
pothesis. Results were what mattered, 
after all. 

Well, it didn't work for me because I 
simply could not deal with the bizarre 
mayhem the Montignac diet does to cuU- 
nary tradition. My friend Jeffrey Stein- 
garten, the Vogue columnist, reveled in the 
freedom Montignac offered him to have 
eggs and (lots of) bacon for breakfast. I 
found it almost impossible to enjoy the 

76 Natural History 3/94 



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same breakfast without toast, which Mon- 
tignac will not countenance in tandem 
with fatty bacon. 

As a person who has been unhappily 
heeding medical warnings about choles- 
terol intake, I ought to have been over- 
joyed since Montignac made it sound as 
though I had the chance to eat as much 
cheese as I wanted, but again the bread 
prohibition made me very uncomfortable. 
I wanted rice with fish, and potatoes with 
steak. Naked salmon and sirloin on a plate 
looked mournful. Adding broccoli or fen- 
nel, so as to have a permissible vegetable, 
which also served as a substitute for the 
bulk that starch normally provides, did not 
satisfy me. 

In the end, I just found Montignac too 
heterodox, too unplugged from the seman- 
tics of engrained culinary combinations. 
At first, this realization made me sorry I 
was such a slave to traditional habits and 
biases. But then I remembered how often I 
had written in these pages about the 
predicament we all face, having inherited 
foodways that evolved in the strenuous, 
farm-based past and that do not suit mod- 
em life. Why should I find it easier than 
anyone else to unplug myself from the 
pegboard of culinary assumptions? 


(Sicilian Pizza) 

Adapted from Anna Tasca Lanza's The 
Heart of Sicily: Recipes and Reminis- 
cences of Regaleali, a Country Estate 
(Clarkson Potter, $40, 255 pages) 

2 medium onions, sliced 
'A cup olive oil 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 cup semolina flour 
1 teaspoon salt 

1 package diy active yeast 

i egg 

2 tablespoons butter, diced 

4 anchovy fillets, cut into 4 pieces 
% pound fresh mozzarella, sliced 
'A pound Emmentaler, julienned 
'A pound Gouda, julienned 
'A cup grated Parmesan 
'A cup grated caciocavallo or 
2-3 tablespoons dried oregano 
Vi cup bread crumbs 

1 . Saute the onions in M cup of olive oil 
over medium heat until golden, 15 to 
20 minutes. Set aside. 

2. Combine flours with salt in a bowl. 
Make a well in the center and add 
yeast, 1 cup warm water, egg, and 
butter. Work the dough until it makes 

Indeed, I should have more trouble than 
most people since I have spent the past 
twenty years cataloging and analyzing the 
logic of cuisines for this magazine. You 
could say, in fact, that that was the unify- 
ing theme of all my columns: traditional 
diets and how they have evolved, slowly, 
organically. These natural cuisines are all 
systems of tastes that have been selected 
by societies because they harmonized with 
natural possibilities and collective prefer- 
ences. Of course, these preferences are to 
a large extent arbitrary, but once the basic 
outlines are set, it takes a major effort for 
people raised eating in a particular cuisine 
to alter them. Change does occur, but al- 
ways within the preexisting frame. At any 
given moment, a cuisine makes sense of 
the world (while a radical, dadaist reshuf- 
fling of a cuisine, a la Montignac, creates 
chaos, mental indigestion). 

The truth of this emerges on every page 
of Anna Tasca Lanza's The Heart of 
Sicily: Recipes and Reminiscerices of Re- 
galeali, a Country Estate. Lanza lovingly 
describes the food year on her family's big 
farm. Regaleali is so old-fashioned it even 
has a Frenchified chef, a monzii (dialect 
for monsieur): Mario is Italian, the last in a 
line of Gallic-style chefs that goes back to 

a ball, and turn it out onto a work sur- 
face. The dough will be wet initially 
but will become smooth after you 
work it for 3 to 4 minutes. Continue 
to knead the dough for 10 to 15 min- 
utes, until it is smooth and elastic. 

3. Oil a 9 by 13 baking sheet. Roll out 
the dough and shape it to fit. Place 
the anchovy pieces on the dough in 
rows, cover with mozzarella, sprin-^ 
kle with the Emmentaler and Gouda, 
and spread the onions on top. Mix 
the Parmesan and caciocavallo or 
pecorino together and spread over 
the onions. Sprinkle with oregano. 
Spread the bread crumbs evenly on 
top. Press all the ingredients into the 
dough, using the palms of your 
hands. Drizzle the remaining olive 
oil on top and cover with a kitchen 
towel. Place in a warm spot, and 
allow the dough to rise until it dou- 
bles in volume, about 45 minutes. 

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

5. Bake the sfincione until the crust is 
browned underneath and the cheese 
has melted, about 40 to 50 minutes. 
Let it stand for 15 minutes, then cut it 
into squares and serve. 

Yield: 12 servings as a snack, 
6 as a first course 

78 Natural History 3/94 

the eighteenth century in Sicily. He makes 
pasta with truffles and cream and does 
fancy saucing. 

But most of the food at Regaleali is 
countrified and springs from the earth. 
There is pasta con le sarde (noodles with 
fresh sardines and wild fennel), the signa- 
ture dish of the island. Tomatoes, assimi- 
lated long ago, now provide the ground 
bass of the kitchen. Dependable sun and 
bumper crops make the laborious job of 
drying tomatoes and extracting their 
essence an almost mythic adaptation of a 
New World ingredient to local conditions. 

The century, even the millennium, is the 
time frame here. From ancient days, Sicily 
was the wheat-growing center of the 
Greeks and then the Romans. Recently, 
wine grapes replaced wheat in the fields. 
Lanza is too polite, perhaps, in a book 
aimed at Americans, to say the reason for 
the change is unbeatable competition from 
North American flour. 

In Lanza's amiable, confident text, the 
engine of progress roars dully offstage, but 
it is there, threatening the old way of life. 
Her sense of her cuisine is what gives this 
drama of devolution its point. The knowl- 
edge of how to make the intricate sweets 
invented by gifted nuns is dying out, but 
the local ricotta continues to be made as it 
always has, from the whey of Regaleali's 
hundreds of ewes: 

One dish that is absolutely unforgettable 
when Mario makes it with our ricotta is 
Guastelle (Spleen Sandwiches). Guastella 
is actually the name for a certain kind of soft 
roll with sesame seeds on top; it resembles a 
hamburger bun. You cut it in half and fill it 
with wanned ricotta, caciocavallo [a hard 
cheese made from cow's milk], and beef 
spleen, an organ meat that is much appreci- 
ated in Sicily. The spleen is sliced and 
cooked literally swimming in lard. Since 
spleen is not available in the United States, 
you will have to have schiette (spinster) 
guastelle, as we say at Regaleali. Maritate 
(married) would be with spleen. (Elsewhere 
in Sicily these terms refer to the absence or 
presence of ricotta.) Guastelle are really 
street food, and there is a focacceria in the 
Piazza San Francesco in Palermo where 
they still make them. 

Perhaps soon no one will make 
guastelle any more. Myself, I am trying to 
imagine their taste. I have no idea if I 
would like them, but I am sure, pace Mon- 
tignac, neither Lanza nor I would feel 
comfortable eating one without the bun. 

This is the final column of writer Raymond 
Sokolov, who will be pursuing less-fatten- 
ing endeavors {see page 88). 

American Museum of Natural History 


Spitsbergen to 

Bergen, Nor\A/ai| 

August 6-21, 1994 

The Norwegian Arctic is a 
spectacular area renowned for 
its breathtaking landscapes. This 
summer, a team of American 
Museum experts, sailing aboard 
the comfortable Polaris, will 
explore a region characterized 
by fjords, glaciers, mountains, 
icebergs and ice floes 

We will begin at Spitsbergen, a spectacular group of ice-covered 
islands just 625 miles from the North Pole. From there we will 
sail south along the coast of Norway, visiting mist-shrouded 
Bear Island, the mountainous Lofoten Islands and spectacular 
Geirangerfjord. Join us as we search for polar bear, walrus, seal, 
reindeer, arctic fox, orca, sperm whale and numerous species of 
birds beyond the North Cape. 

Museum of 

Discovery Cruises 

Central Park West at 79th Street 

New York, NY 10024-5192 

Toll-free (800) 462-8687 or 

in NYS (212) 769-5700 

Rediscover Your World 


Hie MarKpt 


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80 Natural History 3/94 

The Americas 


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Rates and Style Information 

$3.90 per word: 16 word minimum. Display classified 
is $425 per inch. All advertisements must be prepaid. 
Rates are not structured for agency or cash dis- 
counts. All advertisements are accepted at NAT- 
URAL HISTORY'S discretion. Send check/money 
order to: The Market/NATURAL HISTORY Maga- 
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at the above address. Please include your personal 
address and telephone number, issue preferred, and 
suggested category. Deadline — 1st of the month, 
two months prior to cover date (January issue 
closes November 1). 


At the American Museum of Natural History 

A Night Out with the Neanderthals 
European and Near Eastern Neanderthals 
are the best known of premodem humans. 
Erik Trinkaus, chairman of the Department 
of Anthropology at the University of New 
Mexico, will talk about fossil clues and 
archeological remains that are helping to 
clarify the relationship of Neanderthals to 
modem humans. The lecaire will be given 
on Thursday, March 10, at 7:00 p.m. in the 
Main Auditorium. Call (212) 769-5606 for 
ticket information. 

Rain Forest Conservation in 

The creation of the Ranomafana National 
Park in southeastern Madagascar will be the 
subject of a slide-illustrated lecture by Patri- 
cia C. Wright, associate professor in the an- 
thropology department of the State Univer- 
sity of New York at Stony Brook. She will 
also discuss her work with lemurs and her 
discovery of a previously unknown lemur 
species, Japalemur aureus. This event takes 
place on Thursday, March 3, at 7:00 p.m. in 
the Kaufmarm Theater. Tickets are $15. Call 
(212) 769-5310 for information. 

The Kingdom of Mustang 

Mustang, formerly part of Tibet, is one of 
the last semiautonomous pnncipalities m 

Neandeithal scene depicted in an 1873 issue of Harper's Weekly 

Nepal. Mountaineer and scholar Edwin 
Bembaum will talk about this remote sanc- 
tuary of Tibetan culture, which has been 
spared the ravages of modernization and the 
Chinese occupation of Tibet. The program 
will be held on Monday, March 7, in the 
Kaufmann Theater at 7:00 p.m., and tickets 
are $15. Call (212) 769-5310 for additional 


Volcanic origins, types of eruptions, and 
their effects on life and the evolution of the 
atmosphere will be discussed by Sidney 
Horenstein, coordinator of environmental 
programs at the Museum, on two Monday 
evenings, March 7 and 14, at 7:00 p.m. in the 
Kaufmann Theater. Slides and videotapes 
will accompany the presentation. Tickets 
for the two lectures are $25. For more infor- 
mation, call (212) 769-5310. 

Vanishing Jewish Communities 

The rituals and life styles of a Middle 
Eastern and an Indian population of Jews 
has been documented in two films. The 
Samaritans and Jews of India. Filmmaker 
Johanna Spector will introduce and com- 
ment on the documentaries before they are 
presented on Wednesday, March 30, at 7:00 
PM m the Mam Auditorium. Call (212) 
769-5606 for more in- 
formation and ticket 

Planet Pluto 

On Monday, March 
14, Dale Cruikshank, 
of NASA's Ames Re- 
search Center, will 
discuss "The Icy Edge 
of Our Solar System: 
Pluto and Beyond." 
This lecture, part of 
the series "Frontiers in 
Astronomy and Astro- 
physics" will take 
place at 7:30 p.m. in 
the Sky Theater. For 
all events at the Plane- 
tarium, including the 
Sky Show, "Orion 
Rendezvous: A Star 
Trek Voyage of Dis- 
covery," call (212) 

Food as Medicine 
In China, foods are 

divided into two categories, yin and yang, 
depending on the energy they release in the 
body. Ym foods (such as fruits, vegetables, 
crab, and fish) are beUeved to reduce the 
heat in the body; while yang foods (such as 
eggs or fatty meats) are thought to heat the 
system. Li Lian Xing, an herbalist and tradi- 
tional Chinese doctor, will talk about the 
medicinal properties of Chinese food and 
offer possible individual diagnoses. In addi- 
tion, gold-medal master chefs Shi Lian 
Yong and Bian Jian Nian will demonstrate 
the art of vegetable carving and offer sam- 
ples of healthful teas and foods. This pre- 
sentation will take place on Sunday, March 
6, at 2:00 and at 4:00 rm. in the Museum's 
Auxiliary Dining Room. Tickets are $5. For 
information, call (212) 769-5315. 

Traditional Healing in Senegal 

Healing ceremonies of Lebou women in 
the Senegambia region of West Africa will 
be presented by the Sabar Ak Ru Afriq En- 
semble on Sunday, March 13, at 2:00 and 
4:(X) p.m. The free program, which is part of 
the Woman's Month celebration at the Mu- 
seum, will take place in the Kaufmann The- 
ater. Call (212) 769-5315 for information. 

All About Sharks 

Eugenie Clark, a professor of zoology at 
the University of Maryland and coauthor of 
the children's book The Desert Beneath the 
Sea, will recount her adventures swimming 
with and studying sharks. The program, for 
children from preschool through grade 6, 
will be given in the Kaufmann Theater at 
10:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 12. 

John Maisey, a curator in the Museum's 
Department of Vertebrate Paleontology, will 
talk about shark evolution and fossils on 
Friday, March 18, at 7:00 rm. in the Hall of 
Ocean Life. The program will also include a 
discussion of shark adaptation and biology 
by painter and author Richard EUis. 

These programs are being presented in 
conjunction with the exhibition Shark! Fact 
and Fantasy showing in Gallery 3 until 
Sunday, May 1. Call (212) 769-5310 for 
ticket information. 

These events take place at the American 
Museum of Natural History, Central Park 
West at 79th Street in New York City. The 
Kaufmann Theater is located in the Charles 
A. Dana Education Wing. The Museum has 
a pay-what-you-wish admission policy. For 
more information about the Museum, call 

Enk Trmkaus 

82 Natural History 3/94^. 

march calendar 




































"Tropical Rainforest 
Conservation in Madagascar: 
The Making of a National 
Park" -S- LECTURE, 7:00 p.m., 
Kaufmann Theater, $15.00 


"The World of Animals" ■ 
for ages 5 and up, 11:30 a.m. 
& 1:30 p.m., Kaufmann 
Theater, $5.00 members, 
$8.00 nonmembers 


"Food as Medicine" 
2:00 & 4:00 p.m.. Auxiliary 
Dining Room, $5.00 


"Mustang: The Opening 
of a Forbidden Himalayan 
LECTURE, 7:00 p.m., 
Kaufmann Theater, $15.00 

"Volcanoes: Their Origins 
and Distribution" 
LECTURE, 7:00 p.m., 
People Center, $15,00 

"A NightOut with the 
Neandertals" ■ 
LECTURE, 7:00 p.m.. Main 
Auditorium, $10.00 members, 
$15.00 nonmembers 


"Artistic Expression in an 
Amazonian Culture" ■ 
LECTURE, 7:00 p.m., 
Kaufmann Theater, $7.00 
members, $10.00 nonmembers 


Shark Tales + 
10:30 a.m., Kaufmann 
Theater, $10.00 


NDEPP: A Traditional Lebou 
Healing Ceremony + 
PERFORMANCE, 2:00 & 4:00 
p.m., Kaufmann Theater 


"Volcanoes: Their Eruptions 
and Emanations" + 
LECTURE, 7:00 p.m.. 
People Center, $15.00 

"The Icy Edge of Our Solar 
System: Pluto and Beyond" • 
LECTURE, 7:30 p.m., 
Hayden Planetarium, $8.00 

"Sharks: Ancient Stories 
and Current Affairs" * 
LECTURE, 7:00 p.m.. 
Hall of Ocean Life, $10.00 


Ladyfingers + 

PERFORMANCE, 2:00 & 4:00 
p.m., Kaufmann Theater 


The Samaritans and The Jews 
of India m 

FILM SCREENINGS, 7:00 p.m.. 
Main Auditorium, $7.00 mem- 
bers, $10.00 nonmembers 


Sharks! Fact and Fantasy 
Gallery 3 

Search for the Great Sharks A 


Natliremax Theater 

Space Places: 

A Photographic Art Exhibit 

Orion Rendezvous: A Star 
Trek Voyage of Discovery • 
SKY SHOW, Daily Showings, 
Hayden Planetarium, $5.00 
adults, $2.50 children 

Waura: Drawings of the 
Waura Indians 

Akeley Gallery 

Global Cultures in a Changing 
World: A Series Exploring 
Cultural Diversity + 
MANCES celebrating Women's 
History Month, every weekend 

Membership, 769-5506 Natureniax Theater, 769-5650 + Education, 769-5310 • Hayden Planetarium, 769-5900 

Huseum of Natural History 

Central Park West at 79th Street, New York City - For information, call 212-769-5100 



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Tim Clutton-Brock (page 28) has 
earned two doctorates in zoology from 
Cambridge University, where he teaches 
animal ecology and heads the Large Ani- 
mal Research Group. Ten years ago, while 
attending a scientific meeting about ani- 
mal demography, Clutton-Brock became 
interested in studying the population cy- 
cles of large mammals. Searching for "a 
cyclical population where large numbers 
of individuals could be marked and their 
behavior, survival, and breeding success 
monitored," he remembered reports about 
the Soay sheep on Hirta, an island in the 
Saint Kilda archipelago off the northwest 
coast of Scotland, owned and managed by 
the National Trust for Scotland and Scot- 
tish Natural Heritage. When Clutton- 
Brock and his colleague Steve Albon vis- 
ited there, they were "astonished by the 
ease with which information could be col- 
lected." With funding from the Natural 

Environment Council and assistance from 
the Royal Artillery on Saint Kilda, Clut- 
ton-Brock returned the next year to begin a 
systematic saidy. For more information, 
he recommends Island Survivors: The 
Ecology of the Soay Sheep of St. Kilda, by 
R A. Jewell, C. Miber, and J. M. Boyd 
(London: Athlone Press, 1974). 

86 Natural History 3/94 

In the Panamanian rain forest, Jeanne 
A. Zeh (page 36) stands on a fallen fig 
tree. Ten years ago Zeh moved from Eng- 
land to Arizona to pursue a career in pho- 
tojournalism. Falling in love with the 
Sonoran Desert, she changed direction and 
in 1986 received an undergraduate degree 
in ecology and evolutionary biology from 
the University of Arizona. There she met 
her husband, David W. Zeh (pictured here 
with their son, Adrian), who was just fin- 
ishing his Ph.D. at the time. Their lives — 
and their work — have been closely en- 
twined ever since. Staying at the 
university, David began studies of desert 
pseudoscorpions, which travel from one 
rotting giant saguaro to another on the legs 

A veteran field researcher in Guatemala 
and Mexico, June Nasli (page 46) has 
long followed the career of Judas among 
the Maya. Other themes that intrigue her 
are the organization of work and the per- 
sistence of cultural traditions in peasant 
and industrial societies, as well as in the 
cosmopolitan settings of the "post- 
indusfiial" era. Nash, a Distinguished Pro- 
fessor of Anthropology at the City College 
and the Graduate Center of the City Uni- 
versity of New York, has written In the 
Eyes of the Ancestors: Belief and Behav- 
ior in a Maya Community (New Haven: 
Yale University Press, 1970). She recom- 
mends The Indian Christ, The Indian 
King: The Historical Substrate of Maya 
Myth and Ritual, by Victoria R. Bricker 
(Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981) 
and Comiendose la Fruta: metafores sexu- 
ales e iniciaciones en Santiago Atitldn, by 
Nathaniel Tarn and Martin Prechtel, in 
Mesoamerica, vol. 19, pp. 73-82. 

of cactus flies — the insects whose mating 
strategies were the subjects of Jeanne's 
graduate research. For the past six years, 
the Zehs have been with the Smithsonian 
Tropical Research Institute in Panama, 
where their sfiidies of the pseudoscorpion 
that rides harlequin beetles have led them 
from fieldwork on sexual selection to 
DNA research on speciation and the ge- 
netic causes of promiscuous behavior in 
female arthropods. They recentiy returned 
to the United States, where Jeanne is com- 
pleting her graduate studies at Rice Uni- 
versity and David is an assistant professor 
in the biology department of the Univer- 
sity of Houston. In their spare time, they 
enjoy hiking, playing tennis, and snorkel- 
ing in the Caribbean. 


Exploring the world with expert lecturers 



June 21 -July 3, 1994 


Italy, the Greek Isles and Turkey 
June 30 -July 13, 1994 


July 12-31, 1994 


July 13-22, 1994 



Alaska & the Russian Far East 
July 20-30, 1994 


Spitsbergen to Bergen 
August 6-21, 1994 


Turkey and the Greek Isles 

Aboard the Sea Cloud 

August 28 - September 13, 1994 


September 17 - October 1, 1994 


Israel, Syria, Greece and Turkey 
November 17 - December 1, 1994 




The American Museum of Natural His- 
tory has been conducting travel programs 
to remote and magnificent areas since 
1953. Working closely with the finest 
tour operators, we cai^elfully design in- 
novative and distinctive travel opportu- 
nities. We select lecturers from the 
Museum's extensive staff of scientists 
and fi'om other renowned institutions to 
provide a comprehensive and stimulat- 
ing enrichment program. Our programs 
attract seasoned and discerning travelers 
who want to satisfy their intellectual 
curiosity while enjoying comfortable 
cruise and land facilities. 



May 23 -June 4, 1994 


By Private Steam Train 
May 31 -June 12, 1994 


September 15-30, 1994 


October 25 - November 12, 1994 



June 6-16, 1994 


September 24 - October 8, 1994 


September 1994 


January 19 - February 21, 1995 



Italy, the Greek Isles and Turkey 

Aboard the Daphne 

June 30 -July 13, 1994 


July 9-16, 1994 



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American Museum of Natural History/Discovery Cruises and Tours 
Central Park West at 79th St. New York, NY 10024-5192 

(212) 769-5700 in New York or 
Toll-free (800) 462-8687 

With this issue, Raymond Sokolov 

(page 76) retires as the writer of "A Matter 
of Taste," having completed a stint of ex- 
actly twenty years as an analyst of cultural 
foodways in these pages. Sokolov's other 
labors are not winding down, however. He 
continues as editor of the Leisure and Arts 
section for the Wall Street Journal, where 
his responsibilities have recently been ex- 
panded to include the creation of a culture 
page for the European edition. Time-con- 
suming travel to Europe (and occasionally 
to Asia, where the Wall Street Journal has 
another edition) is one of the reasons 
Sokolov has decided to round off his Nat- 
ural History career after meeting 229 
deadlines. He is also finishing off a book 
on grain and claims to be "incubating an- 
other secret project." 

Because magpies are "common, extro- 
verted, and conspicuous," writes Tim 
Birkhead (page 54), he remembers being 
aware of them even as a small child in 
Yorkshire. Later, as a schoolboy birder, he 
used to watch magpies and try to count 
them as they flocked at their large winter 
roosts. Birkhead went on to study zoology 
at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne 
and eventually discovered that next to 
nothing was known about magpie breed- 

ing biology. Nonetheless, he didn't start 
his formal research on the species until 
after he earned his D. Phil, from Oxford's 
Edward Grey Institute in 1976. Mean- 
while, other birds have drawn Birkhead 
far afield. He has studied marine species in 
Arctic Canada, zebra finches in Australia, 
buffalo weavers in Africa, and yellow- 
billed magpies in California. Along the 
way he earned a D.Sc. from Newcastle 
and is now a professor of behavioral ecol- 

ogy at the University of Sheffield. Mar- 
ried, with three children and two dogs, he 
likes to paint, play the guitar, and write 
about birds. His book The Magpies: The 
Ecology and Behaviour of Black-billed 
and Yellow-billed Magpies (London: T & 
A. D. Poyser, 1991) is available in book- 
shops, and he recommends going to the li- 
brary to find the out-of-print Natural His- 
tory of Magpies, by J. Linsdale (Berkeley: 
Pacific Coast Avifauna 25, 1937). 

Robert Caputo (page 84), who pho- 
tographed this month's "Natural Mo- 
ment," is pictured here, showing his 

equipment to a group of Kenyans. After 
graduating from college in 1976, he went 
to Africa as a tourist. "I was so taken with 

what I saw that I wanted to show it to my 
friends — and, of course, I wanted to con- 
tinue seeing more of it myself. Photogra- 
phy accomplished both." Caputo was sur- 
prised to find that jobs were relatively easy 
to find in Africa; he started his photogra- 
phy career working for Jane Goodall, 
shooting movies of the chimpanzees she 
studied. Later, he became a Nairobi-based 
stringer for Time, Life, and other maga- 
zines. After his years in the bush, Caputo 
attended New York University's film 
school, where he earned his B.F.A. He is 
now based in Washington, D.C., but fre- 
quently travels back to Africa. He has 
completed a number of wildlife books for 
children and adults, all displaying his 
work his work on that continent. Caputo 
says he was surprised that the bird he pho- 
tographed for this issue allowed him to get 
so close, because "ostriches are shy and 
usually run away before you can get 
within about twenty yards of them." This 
nest-sitting male stayed put as Caputo ap- 
proached to within ten yards. The photo- 
graph was taken with a Nikon F3 camera 
and a Nikkor 300mm f 2.8 lens. 

Natural History 3/94 






Sprinkle your spirit with magic. 
Wear your exuberance as easily as the high flying eagle. 

Do everything you've dreamed, at least once in your life. 

Come to Arizona, where sunny and warm describes more than the weather. 
And a smile describes more than a moment. 

Would Improve His Studi 

Natural history 


Received on: 07-29-94 

Ref 5. 06(74. 7) Ml 

Drexel Sammons uses a variety of games to reinforce specifi( 
learning objectives in his sixth grade Social Studies class. 

From Mock Sessions of Congress to Colonial School / 
Days, his classes foster participation by making the subject 
matter come alive. 

In Colonial School Days he attires himself and his 

students in period garb. j 

They sit on wooden benches, read material 

written in 18th century style, and discover first-hand 

how hard it was to write with a soapstone and slate. 

It's no wonder Drexel Sammons' students have a 

superior grasp of their subject matter. They've lived it. 

The result has been their record of consistently earning 

in both county and state Social Studies competitions. 

For consistently maintaining an atmosphere that encourages learning, even if he has to 

set teaching back 200 years, State Farm is proud to award him the 

Good Neighbor Award, along with $5,000 to the Crescent 

Elementary School of Beckley, West Virginia. 





Home Oftices: Blcomtngton. Illinois 


The Good Neighbor Award was developed in cooperation with the National Council for the Social Studies. 




. 4 
ril 1994 


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In a Class by Themselves 

This month, in conjunction with the opening of the American Museum's 
Halls of Fossil Mammals and Their Extinct Relatives, Natural History 
celebrates the class Mammalia. Sixteen articles offer a sampling of the 
diversity of these beasts and discuss the ways in which paleontologists 
continue to learn about mammalian evolution and natural history. 

Although we include no articles on human ancestors, no snub is intended: 
Human evolution commanded special sections in last year's April and May 
issues, and an article containing an elegant theory of the evolution of 
bipedalism ("Human Ancestors Walked Tall, Stayed Cool") appeared in 
August 1993. But perhaps most memorable was Roger L. Welsch's 
September column, "For Immediate Release," which finally explained the 
Ice Age origins of snoring. 

2 Natural History 4/94 


Vol. 103, No. 4, April 1994 

The Marvelous Mammalian Parade 

40 A Pocketful of Fossils byMkhaeU. Novacek 

44 World Furry-weight Champions by Michael Archer 

48 Mammals Eggstraordinaire fey Mfc/iae/ Archer 

50 Suooessful in Spite of Themselves by s. David Webb 

52 The Great American Interchange 

56 Early Relatives of Flopsy Mopsy and Cottontail 

by Malcolm C. McKenna 

59 The Devil's Corkscrew by Lany d. Martin 

61 D\s]ari\lUun6er by Bryn J. Mader 

63 The Heyday of Horses by Bruce J. MacFadden 

66 Why Antlers Branched Out by Valerius Geist 

70 Green in Tooth and Claw by Margery C. Coombs 

72 West Indian Tuskers by Daryi Domning 

lA Key to the Carnivores by Richard h. Tedfard 

78 The Sobertooth's Repeat Performances by Christine Janis 

84 Tough Times in the Tor Pits byBlalre Van Valkenburgh 

86 The Whales of Tethys by PhiUp d. Gingerich 

90 Caught in Time by Richard H. Tedford 


Cover: a pair o/Smilodon, saber- 
toothed cats, yawn and stretch on 
a wann rock. Painting b\ Marianne 
Collins; © 1993 by W. W. Noiton 
and Company. Stories on pages 
74. 78. and 84. 

4 This View OF Life 

by Stephen Jay Gould 
Dousing Diminutive Dennis 's 

14 Science Lite 

by Roger L Welsch 
Socket to Me 

20 This Land 

by Robert H. Mohlenbrock 
Shingleton Bog. Michigan 

92 At THE American Museum 
OF Natural History 

96 Celestial Events 

by Gail S. Cleere 

100 The Natural Moment 
Photographs by Esther Beaton 
Bumper to Bumper 

102 Authors 

Tras View of Life 

Dousing Diminutive 
Dennis's Debate 

(DDDD = 2000) 

by Stephen Jay Gould 

In 1697, on the day appointed for re- 
penting mistakes in judgment at Salem, 
Samuel Sewall of Boston stood silently in 
Old South Church, Boston, while his con- 
fession of error was read aloud. He alone 
among judges of the falsely accused (and 
truly executed) "witches" of Salem had 
the courage to undergo such public chas- 
tisement. Four years later, the same 
Samuel Sewall made a most joyful noise 
unto the Lord — and at a particularly auspi- 
cious moment. He hired four trumpeters to 
herald, as he wrote, the "entrance of the 
18th century" by sounding a blast on 
Boston Common at daybreak. He also 
paid the town crier to read out his "verses 
upon the New Century." The opening 
stanzas seem especially poignant today, 
the first for its relevance (I am writing this 
essay on a January night in Boston, and 
the temperature outside is -2° F), and the 
second for a superannuated paternalism 
that highlights both the admirable and the 
reprehensible in our history: 

Once more! Our God vouchsafe to 

Correct the coldness of our clime. 
Make haste with thy impartial light, 
and terminate this long dark night. 

Give the Indians eyes to see 
The fight of life, and set them free. 
So men shall God in Christ adore. 
And worship idols vain, no more. 

I do not raise this issue either to embar- 
rass the good judge for his tragic error or 
to praise his commendable courage, but 
for an aspect of the tale that may seem pe- 
ripheral to Sewall's intent, but that never- 
theless looms large as we approach the 
millennium destined to climax our current 
decade. Sewall hired his trumpeters for 
January 1, 1701, not January 1, 1700 — 
and he therefore made an explicit decision 

in a debate that the cusp of his new century 
had kindled and that has increased might- 
ily at every similar transition since (see 
my main source for much of this essay, the 
marvelously meticulous history of fins de 
siecles, by Hillel Schwartz — Century's 
End, Doubleday, 1990). When do cen- 
turies end? At the termination of years 
marked '99 (as common sensibility sug- 
gests) or at the close of years marked '00 
(as the narrow logic of a peculiar system 

The debate is already more intense than 
ever, six (or is it seven?) years from our 
own forthcoming transition, and for two 
obvious reasons. First — O cursed spite — 
our disjointed times and our burgeoning 
press provide enhanced opportunity for re- 
hearsal of such narrishkeit ad nauseam; do 
we not feast upon tiiviafities to divert at- 
tention from the truly portentous issues 
that engulf us? Second, this time around 
really does count as the ultimate block- 
buster, for this is the millennium,* the 
great and indubitable unicum for any 
human observer (although a few trees and 
maybe a fungus or two, but not a single an- 
imal, have been through it before). 

I had originally intended to treat this 
subject in my last essay of this series — to 
be written for January 2001. But the cas- 
cade of preemptive discussion has given 

*In this essay's spirit of dispelling a standard set of con- 
fusions that have already surrounded the forthcoming 
millennium, may I at least devote a footnote to the most 
trivial, but also the most unambiguously resolvable? 
Millennium has two n's — honest to God, it really does, 
despite all the misspellings, even in most of the books 
and product names already dedicated to the event. The 
adjective millennial also has two, but the alternative 
millenarian has only one. The etymologies are different. 
Millennium is from Latin mille, "one thousand," and 
annus, "year" — hence the two n's. Millenarian is fi:om 
the Latin millenarius, "containing a thousand (of any- 
thing)," hence no annus and no two /I's. 

me a strong case of anticipatory seven — or 
is it six? — year itch. For a man who really 
does yearn to lead a usefiil life and who 
glimpses a little strategy for steering fel- 
low human sufferers away from embit- 
tered discussion about essentially mean- 
ingless and formally unresolvable 
questions, the time can only be now — or 
never. (How I wish I had better clues about 
answers to such truly resolvable and des- 
perately important issues as hunger, 
poverty, xenophobia, and environmental 
degradation!) The dominant force of com- 
mercial culture has already honed in, and 
scholars can no longer afford the rnceties 
of delay. 

On December 26, 1993, the New York 
Times ran a piece to bury the Christmas 
buying orgy and welcome the new year. 
This article, on commercial gear-up for the 
century's end, began by noting: "There is 
money to be made on the millennium. . .in 
999 feelings of gloom ran rampant. What 
the doomsayers may have lacked was an 
instinct for mass marketing." The com- 
mercial cascade of this millennium is al- 
ready in full swing — in journals, date 
books, the inevitable coffee mugs and T- 
shirts, and a thousand other products being 
flogged by a full gamut, from New Age 
"fruitcakes" of the counterculture to hard- 
fine apocalyptic visionaries at the Christ- 
ian fringe to a bunch of ordinary guys out 
to make an honest buck. The article even 
tells of a consulting firm expficitiy estab- 
fished to help others market the millen- 
nium — so we are already witnessing the 
fractal recursion that might be called 
metaprofiteering, or growing clams of ad- 
vice in the clam beds of your advisee's po- 
tential profits. 

I am truly sorry that I cannot, in cmrent 
parlance, "get with the program." I feel 
compeUed to mention two tiny difficulties 

4 Natural History 4/94 

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Natural History 4/94 

that could act as dampers upon the univer- 
sal ballyhoo. First — although I will not 
make a big deal of this technicality — mil- 
lenniums are not transitions at the ends of 
thousand-year periods, but particular peri- 
ods lasting one thousand years; so I'm not 
convinced that we even have the name 
right. Second, if we insist on a celebration 
(as we should) no matter what name be 
given, we had better decide when to cele- 
brate. I devote this essay to explaining 
why the second issue cannot be re- 
solved — a situation that should not be 
viewed as depressing, but enlightening. 
For just as Tennyson taught us to prefer 
love lost over love unexperienced, it is bet- 
ter to not know, and know why one can't 
know, than to be clueless about why so 
many people are so agitated about 1999 
versus 2000 for the great divide. At least 
when you grasp the conflicting, legitimate, 
and unresolvable claims of both sides, you 
can then celebrate both alternatives with 
equanimity — or neither (with informed 
self-righteousness) if your persona be 
sour or smug. 

Rightful names: Millennium does 
mean, by etymology, a period of one thou- 
sand years. However, the concept did not 
arise within the field of practical calen- 
drics, or the measurement of time, but in 
the domain of eschatology, or futuristic vi- 
sions about a blessed end of time. Millen- 
nial thinking is embedded in the two apoc- 
alyptic books of the Bible — Daniel in the 
Old Testament and Revelation in the New. 
In particular, the traditional Christian mil- 
lennium is a blessed fuUire epoch that will 
last for 1,000 years and end with a final 
battle and Last Judgment of all the dead, 
as described by Saint John in one of his 
oracular visions: 

And I saw an angel come down from 
heaven, having the key of the bottomless 
pit.... And he laid hold on. ..Satan, and 
bound him a thousand years. 

And cast him into the bottomless pit, and 
shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he 
should deceive the nations no more, till the 
thousand years should be fulfilled.... and I 
saw the souls of them that were beheaded 
for the witness of Jesus. . .and they lived and 
reigned with Christ a thousand years.. . . 

And when the thousand years are expired, 
Satan shall be loosed out of his prison. 

And shall go out to deceive the nations 
which are in the four quarters of the earth, 
Gog and Magog, to gather them together to 
battle... and fire came down from God out 
of heaven, and devoured them. 

And the devil that deceived them was cast 
into the lake of fire and brimstone, where 
the beast and the false prophet are, and shall 
be tormented day and night for ever and 

And I saw the dead, small and great, 
stand before God, and the books were 

And whosoever was not found written in 
the book of life was cast into the lake of fire 
[Revelation 20: 1-15]. 

How, then, did this original concept of a 
forthcoming reign of Christ become trans- 
mogrified in popular speech into a word 
for calendric transitions at multiples of 
one thousand? The main reason must be 
simple confusion and loss of knowledge 
about the original meaning, as apocalyptic 
versions of Christianity, not to mention 
Bible reading in general, decline in popu- 
larity (despite, to say the least, vigorous, 
continuing support in some circles!). But a 
rationale of sorts for the transfer of mean- 
ing does exist within the history of escha- 
tology, particularly in its intersection with 
my profession of geology in attempts to 
ascertain the age of the earth. 

Many biblical passages state that God's 
day may be compared with a thousand 
human years: "Be not ignorant of this one 
thing, that one day is with the Lord as a 
thousand years, and a thousand years as 
one day" (2 Peter 3:8: see also Psalm 90). 
This comparison, read literally, led many 
interpreters to conclude that the seven 
days of Creation must correspond with a 
maximal duration of 7,000 years for the 
earth from Creation to final destruction at 
the Last Judgment. In this scheme, the 
seventh or last cosmic epoch, correspond- 
ing to God's day of rest after six days of 
furiously creative activity, would be a 
thousand-year period of bhss, the grand 
sabbath of the traditional millennium. If 
either science or hermeneutics could then 
determine the time of the earth's origin, we 
might know the moment of inception for 
this last happy age. 

Most calculations of the earth's age, if 
done Uterally from bibUcal life spans and 
other ancient sources, place the Creation 
somewhere between 3761 B.C. (the Jewish 
calendar) and more than 5500 B.C. (the 
Septuagint, or Greek Bible). Therefore, a 
transition into the millennial age might 
well be on the horizon — or should have 
occurred just a while ago, according to 
your favored calculation. True, none of the 
suggested times of Creation give any rea- 
son to redefine a millennium as a transi- 
tion around a date with three zeros in its 
written form, but at' least we may under- 
stand why people might conflate a future 
period of millennial bhss with some sys- 
tem for counting historical time in periods 
of one thousand years. 

Rightful times: As a man of below aver- 
age stature myself, I am dehghted to report 
that the source of all our infernal trouble 
about the ends of centuries may be laid on 
the doorstep of a sixth-century monk 
named Dionysius Exiguus, or (literally) 
Dennis the Short. Instructed to prepare a 
chronology for Pope Saint John I, Little 
Dennis decided to begin countable years 
with the foundation of Rome. But, neatly 
balancing his secular and sacred alle- 
giances, Dionysius then divided rime 
again at Christ's appearance. He reckoned 
Jesus' birth at December 25, near the end 
of the year 753 a.u.c. (standing for ab 
iirbe condita. or "from the foundation of 
the city," that is, of Rome). Dionysius then 
restarted time just a few days later on Jan- 
uary 1, 754 A.u.c. — not Christ's birth, but 
the feast of the circumcision on his eighth 
day of life, and also, not coincidentally, 
New Year's Day in Roman and Latin 
Christian calendars. 

6 Natural History 4/94 

Fall under the spell of the buffalo spirit. ..a Bradford Exchange 
recommendation that reveals the bond between Indians and nature 

Tomorrow on the snowy plain, Indian braves 
will hunt the great buffalo. But tonight the tribe's 
shaman summons up the spirit of the buffalo and 
asks for a sign of its blessing. And the great beast 
thunders across the sky in reply 

This panoramic celebration of Indian culmre and 
spiritualism by well-known Western artist Kirk 
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Dionysius's legacy has provided little 
but trouble. First of all, he didn't even get 
the date right, for Herod died in 750 a.u.c. 
Therefore, if Jesus and Herod overlapped 
(and the Gospels will have to be drasti- 
cally revised if they did not), then Jesus 
must have been bom in 4 B.C. or earlier — 
thus granting the bearer of time's title sev- 
eral years of life before the inception of his 
own era! 

But Dennis's, misdate of Jesus counts as 
a mere peccadillo compared with the con- 
sequences of his second bad decision. He 
started time again on the eighth day of 
Jesus' life, January 1, 754 A.u.c. — and, get 
this, he called the date January 1 of a.d. 1 
(Anno Domini, or, "yeai" of the Lord"). 

In short, Dennis neglected to begin his 
new time with year zero, thus discombob- 
ulating all our usual notions of counting. 
During the year that Jesus was one year 
old (by Dennis's state of reckoning), the 
time system that supposedly started with 
his birth was two years old. (Babies are 
zero years old until their first birthday; 
modem time was already one year old at 
its inception.) The absence of a year zero 
also means that we cannot calculate alge- 
braically (without making a correction) 
through the b.c.-a.d. transition. The time 
from 1.5 B.C. to a.d. 1.5 is one year, not 
three year's. 

The problem of centuries also arises 
from this peculiarity — and for no other 
reason. If we insist that all decades must 
have ten years, and all centuries one hun- 
dred years, then year 10 belongs to the first 
decade — and, sad to say, year 100 must re- 
main in the first century. Thenceforward, 
the issue never goes away. Every year with 
a '00 must count as the hundredth and 
final year of its century — no matter what 
common sensibility might prefer. The year 
2000 must complete the twentieth cen- 
tury — and not launch the next millennium. 
Or so the pure logic of Dennis's system 
dictates. If our shortsighted monk had 
only begun with a year zero, then logic and 
sensibility would coincide, and the wild 
millennial bells could ring forth but once 
and resoundingly at the beginning of Jan- 
uary 1, 2000. But he didn't. 

Since logic and sensibility both have le- 
gitimate claims upon our decision, the 
great and recurring debate about century 
boundaries simply cannot be resolved. 
The logic of Dionysius's arbitrary system 
dictates one result — that centuries change 
between '00 and "01 years. Common sen- 
sibility leads us to the opposite conclu- 
sion: we want to match transitions with the 
extent or intensity of apparent sensual 

change, and 1999 to 2000 just looks more 
definitive than 2000 to 2001 , so we set our 
millennial boundary at the change in all 
four positions, rather than the mere incre- 
ment of one to the last position. (I refer to 
this position as "common sensibility" 
rather than "common sense" because sup- 
port invokes issues of aesthetics and feel- 
ing rather than logical reasoning.) 

One might argue that humans, as crea- 
tures of reason, should be willing to subju- 
gate sensibility for logic; but we are, just 
as much, creatures of feeling. And so the 
debate has progressed at every go-round. 
Hillel Schwaitz, for example, cites two let- 
ters to newspapers, written from the camp 
of common sensibility in 1900: "I defy the 
most bigoted precisian to work up an en- 
thusiasm over the year 1901, when we will 
already have had twelve month's experi- 
ence of the 1900s." "The centurial figures 
are the symbol, and the only symbol, of the 
centuries. Once every hundred years there 
is a change in the symbol, and this great 
secular event is of startling prominence. 
What more natural than to bring the cen- 
tury into harmony with its only visible 

I do so love human foibles; what else 
can keep us laughing (as we must) in this 
vale of tears. The more trivial an issue, and 
the more unresolvable, so does the heat of 
debate and the assurance of absolute right- 
eousness intensify on each side (just con- 
sider professorial arguments over parking 
places at university lots). The same clamor 
arises every hundred years. An English 
participant in the debate of 1800 versus 
1801 wrote of "the idle controversy, which 
has of late convulsed so many brains, re- 
specting the commencement of the current 
century." On January 1, 1801, a poem in 
the Connecticut Courant pronounced a 
plague on both houses (but sided with 

Precisely twelve o'clock last night. 
The Eighteenth Century took its flight. 
Full many a calculating head 
Has rack'd its brain, its ink has shed. 
To prove by metaphysics fine 
A hundred means by ninety-nine; 
While at their wisdom others wonder'd 
But took one more to make a hundred. 

The same smugness reappeared a cen- 
tury later. The New York Tunes, with antic- 
ipatory diplomacy, wrote in 1 896: 

As the present century draws to its close we 
see looming not very far ahead the vener- 
able dispute which reappears every hundred 
years — viz: When does the next century 
begin?... There can be no doubt that one 

person may hold that the next century be- 
gins on the Istof Januaiy, 1900, and another 
that it begins on the 1st of January, 1901, 
and yet both of them be in full possession of 
their faculties. 

But a German commentator remarked: 

In my life I have seen many people do battle 
over many things, but over few things with 
such fanaticism as over the academic ques- 
tion of when the century would end. . . . Each 
of the two parties produced for its side the 
trickiest of calculations and maintained at 
the same time that it was the simplest matter 
in the world, one that any child should un- 

You ask where I stand? Well, publicly 
of course I take no position because, as I 
have just stated, the issue is unresolv- 
able — for each side has a fully consistent 
argument within the confines of different 
but equally defensible systems. But pri- 
vately, just between you and me, well, let's 
put it this way: I know a young man with 
severe cognitive limits as a result of inborn 
mental handicaps, but who happens to be a 
prodigy in day-date calculation (he can in- 
stantaneously give the day of the week for 
any date, thousands of years past or future; 
we used to call such people idiot savants, a 
term now happily fading from use, al- 
though I have no love for its euphemistic 
substitute, "savant syndrome"). I asked 
him recently whether the millennium 
comes in 2000 or 2001 — and he re- 
sponded unhesitatingly, "In 2000. The first 
decade had only nine years." 

What an elegant solution, and why not? 
After all, no one then living had any idea 
whether they were toiling in year zero or 
year one — or whether their first decade 
had nine or ten years, their first century 
ninety-nine or a hundred. The system 
wasn't invented until the sixth century and 
wasn't generally accepted in Europe until 
the eleventh century. So why don't we just 
proclaim that the first century had ninety- 
nine years? Centuries can then turn when 
common sensibility desires, and we under- 
score Dionysius's blessed arbitrariness 
with a caprice, a device of our own that 
marries the warring camps. Neat, except 
that I think people want to argue passion- 
ately about trivial unresolvabilities — lest 
they be compelled to invest such rambunc- 
tious energy in real battles that might kill 
somebody. So be it. 

What else might we salvage from re- 
heai'sing the history of a debate without an 
answer? Ironically, such arguments con- 
tain the possibility for a precious sociolog- 
ical insight: since no answer can arise 
from the "externalities" of nature or logic, 

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changing viewpoints provide "pure" tra- 
jectories of evolving human attitudes — 
and we can therefore map societal trends 
without impediments of such confusing 
factors as discovered truth. 

I had intended to spend only a few 
hours in research for this essay, but as I 
looked up documents from century transi- 
tions, I noticed something interesting in 
this sociological realm. The two posi- 
tions — I have called them "logical" and 
"common sensible" so far in this essay — 
also have clear social correlations that I 
would not have anticipated. The logical 
position — that centuries must have a hun- 
dred years, and transitions must therefore 
occur, because Dionysius included no year 
zero, between '00 and '01 years — has al- 
ways been overwhelmingly favored by 
scholars, and by people in power (press 
and business in particular), representing 
what we may call "high culture." The 
common sensible position — that we must 
honor the appearance of maximal changes 
between '99 and '00 years and not fret 
overly about Dionysius's unfortunate lack 
of foresight — has been the perpetual fa- 
vorite of that mythical composite once 
designated as John Q. Public, or "man in 
the street," and now usually called vernac- 
ular, or "pop," culture. 

The distinction goes back to the very 
beginning of this perpetually recurring de- 
bate about century transitions. Hillel 
Schwartz traces the first major hassle to 
the 1699-1701 passage (place the moment 
where you wish), the incarnation that 
prompted Samuel Sewall's trumpeting in 
Boston. Interestingly, part of the discus- 

sion then focused upon an issue that has 
been persistently vexatious ever since: 
namely, did the first millennial transition 
of 999-1001 induce a period of fear about 
an imminent apocalyptical ending of the 
world — called "the great terror" by sup- 
porters of this position. Opinions range 
from the luridly supportive (see the re- 
markably uncritical book by Richard Er- 
does, who elevates every hint of rumor 
into a dramatic assertion — A.D. WOO, 
Harper and Row, 1988), to the fully de- 
bunking (see Hillel Schwartz, previously 
cited, and scores of references cited in 
chapter one therein). 

I will, in my ignorance, take refuge in 
the balanced position of the French histo- 
rian Henri Focillon {The Year 1000, Fred- 
erick Ungar, 1969). Focillon allows that 
apocalyptic stirring certainly occurred — at 
least locally in France, Lorraine, and 
Thuringia — toward the middle of the tenth 
century. But he finds strikingly little evi- 
dence for any general fear surrounding the 
year 1000 itself — nothing in any papal 
bull, nothing from any ruler. 

On the plus side, one prolific monk 
named Raoul Glaber certainly spoke of 
millennial terrors, stating that "Satan will 
soon be unleashed because the thousand 
years have been completed." He also 
claimed, although no documentary or 
archeological support has been forthcom- 
ing, that a wave of church building began 
soon after 1000, when folks finally real- 
ized that Armageddon had apparently 
been postponed: "About three years after 
the year 1000," wrote Glaber, "the world 
put on the pure white robe of churches." 


Glaber's tale provides a striking lesson 
in the dangers of an idee fixe. He was still 
alive in 1033, still trumpeting the forth- 
coming millennium — although he admit- 
ted that he must have been wrong about 
Christ's nativity for the beginning of a 
countdown, and now proclaimed that the 
apocalypse would surely arrive instead at 
the millennium of Christ's Passion in 
1033. He read a famine of that year as a 
sure sign: "Men believed that the orderly 
procession of the seasons and the laws of 
nature, which until then had ruled the 
world, had relapsed into the eternal chaos; 
and they feared that mankind would end." 

I doubt that we should grant much criti- 
cal acclaim to Fra Glaber (who, according 
to other sources, was quite a wild charac- 
ter, having been expelled from several 
monasteries during his checkered career). 
I do tend to side with critics of the great 
terror. Why, after all, should the year 1(X)0 
have provoked any great reaction at the 
time — especially since Dionysius's sys- 
tem had not been generally accepted, and 
different cultures hadn't even agreed on a 
date for the inception of a new year. I sus- 
pect that the notion of a great terror must 
arise largely as an anachronistic backread- 
ing, combined with clutching at a few le- 
gitimate straws. 

As another reason for doubting a great 
terror in 999-1001, the legend of such an 
episode begins with only a brief mention 
in a late sixteenth century work by the Vat- 
ican librarian Cardinal Cesare Baronio. 
Once the debate on century endings got 
started in the 1690s, however, backreading 
into the first millennium became in- 
evitable. Did the legendary terror occur at 
the end of 999 or 1000? Interestingly, the 
high-culture versus pop-culture distinc- 
tion can be traced even to this anachronis- 
tic reconstruction, with scholars favoring 
1000, and popular legends 999. Hillel 
Schwartz writes: 

Sarcastic, bitter, sometimes passionate de- 
bates in re a terminus on New Year's Eve 
'99 vis-a-vis New Year's Eve '00, have 
been prosecuted since the 1690s and confu- 
sion has spread to the mathematics of the 
millennial year. For Baronio and his 
(sparse) medieval sources, the excitements 
of the millennium were centered upon the 
end of the year 1000, while the end of 999 
has figured more prominently in the legend 
of the panic terror. 

The pattern has held ever since, as the 
debate bloomed in the 1690s, spread in the 
1790s with major centers in newspapers of 
Philadelphia and London (and added 
poignancy as America mourned the death 
of George Washington at the very end of 

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1799), and burst out all over the world in a 
frenzy of discussion during the 1890s. 

The 1890s version displays the clearest 
division of high versus vernacular culture. 
A few high-culture sources did line up be- 
hind the pop favorite of 1899-1900. 
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany officially 
stated that the twentieth century had 
begun on January 1, 1900. A few barons 
of scholarship, including such unlikely 
bedfellows as Sigmund Freud and Lord 
Kelvin, agreed. But high culture over- 
whelmingly preferred the Dionysian im- 
perative of 1900-1901. An assiduous sur- 
vey showed that the presidents of Harvard, 
Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Columbia, Dart- 
mouth, Brown, and the University of 
Pennsylvania all favored 1900-1901 — 
and with the entire Ivy League so firmly 
behind Dionysius, why worry about a 
mere Kaiser (even though the king of 
Sweden rallied to Wilhelm's defense). 

In any case, 1900-1901 won decisively 
in the two forums that really matter Virtu- 
ally every important public celebration of 
the new century throughout the world (and 
even in Germany) occurred from Decem- 
ber 31, 1900, into January 1, 1901. More- 
over, essentially every major newspaper 
and magazine officially welcomed the 
new century with their first issue of Janu- 
ary 1901. I made a survey of principal 
sources and could find no exceptions. The 
Nineteenth Century, a leading British peri- 
odical, changed its name to The Nine- 
teenth Century and After, but only with the 
January 1901 issue, which also featured a 
new logo of bifaced Janus, with an old, 
bearded man looking down and left into 

the nineteenth century, and a bright youth 
looking right up into the twentieth. Such 
reliable standards as the Farmer's Al- 
manack and the Tribune Almanac de- 
clared their volumes for 1901 as "first 
number of the twentieth century." On De- 
cember 31, 1899, the New York Times 
began a story on The Nineteenth Century 
by noting: 'Tomorrow we enter upon the 
last year of a century that is marked by 
greater progress in all that pertains to the 
material well-being and enlightenment of 
mankind than all the previous history of 
the race." On January 1, 1901, the lead 
headline proclaimed "Twentieth Century's 
Triumphant Entry" and described the fes- 
tivities in New York City: "The lights 
flashed, the crowds sang, the sirens of craft 
in the harbor screeched and roared, bells 
pealed, bombs thundered, rockets blasted 
skyward, and the new century made its tri- 
umphant entry." Meanwhile, poor Carry 
Nation never got to watch the fireworks, or 
even to raise a glass, for a small story on 
the same first page announced "Mrs. Na- 
tion Quarantined — smallpox in jail where 
Kansas saloon wrecker is held — says she 
can stand it." 

So high culture still held the reins of 
opinion last time around — even in such 
organs of pop culture as the Farmer's Al- 
manack, no doubt pubUshed by men who 
considered themselves among the elite. 
But consider the difference as we ap- 
proach this millennium — for who can 
doubt that pop culture will win decisively 
on this most important replay. Arthur C. 
Clarke and Stanley Kubrick stood by 
Dionysius in book and film versions of 


2001, but I can hardly think of another 
source that does not specify the inception 
of 2000 as the great moment of transition. 
All book titles of our burgeoning Uterature 
honor pop culture's version of maximal 
numerical shift — including Ben Bova's 
Millennium: A Novel about People and 
Politics in the Year 1999; J. G. de Beus's 
Shall We Make the Year 2000; Raymond 
Williams's The Year 2000; and even 
Richard Nixon's 7999.- Victory Without 
War. Prince's album and lead song "1999" 
cite the same date from this ne plus ultra 
of pop sources. 

Cultural historians have often remarked 
that expansion of pop culture, including 
both respect for its ways and means and 
diffusion of its influence, marks a major 
trend of the twentieth century. Musicians 
from Benny Goodman to Wynton Mar- 
salis play their instruments in jazz bands 
and classical orchestras. The MetropoUtan 
Opera has finally performed Porgy and 
Bess — and bravo for them. Scholars write 
the most damnedly learned articles about 
Mickey Mouse. 

This remarkable change has been weU 
documented and much discussed, but 
commentary has so far missed the impor- 
tance of this example for the great century 
debate. This distinction stiU mattered in 
1900, and high culture won decisively by 
imposing January 1, 1901, as the inception 
of the twentieth century. Pop culture (or 
the amalgam of its diffusion into courts of 
decision makers) may already declare 
clear victory for the miUennium, which 
win occur at the beginning of the year 
2000 because most people so feel it in 
their bones, Dionysius notwithstanding — 
and again I say bravo. My young friend 
wanted to resolve the debate by granting 
the first century only ninety-nine years; 
now ordinary humanity has spoken for the 
other end — and the transition from high- 
culture dominance to pop-culture diffu- 
sion may resolve this issue of the ages by 
granting the twentieth century but ninety- 
nine years! 

How lovely — for eternal debates about 
the unresolvable really do waste a great 
deal of time, put us in bad humor, and sap 
our energy from truly important pursuits. 
Let us, instead, save our mental fight — not 
to establish the blessed millennium (for I 
doubt that humans are capable of such per- 
fection), but at least to build Jerusalem 
upon our planet's green and pleasant land. 

Stephen Jay Gould teaches biology, geol- 
ogy, and the history of science at Harvard 

12 Natural History 4/94 

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Science Lite 

Socket to Me 

It all started with that jerk Phillips... 
by Roger L. Welsch 

Thomas Carlyle, Scottish essayist and 
historian, wrote in the early nineteenth 
century, "Man is a tool-using animal.... 
Without tools he is nothing, with tools he 
is all." French philosopher Henri Bergson 
wrote in the early years of this century, 
"Intelligence. . .is the faculty of making ar- 
tificial objects, especially tools to make 
tools." American anthropologist and ulti- 
mate toolman Tim Allen said a few 
months ago, "Man is the only animal to 
borrow tools." 

Tve already covered borrowing tools in 
a previous column. Now I am interested in 
the nature of tools themselves, the quintes- 
sential artifact (from the Latin, "made by 

skill"). Now comes Welsch's corollary: 
Man (or Woman) is not simply a tool- 
using animal, or a tool-making-tool-using 
animal, or even a tool-borrowing animal, 
but a tool-loving animal. The team of six 
accountants at Sears who handle my 
Craftsman tool account will verify that. 

I'm kidding, of course. I have a set of 
tools I use for working on old tractors — a 
modest set of tools. Well, maybe it isn't 
really a modest set of tools. Lots of tools. 
Okay, most of my estate is tied up in 
socket wrenches. 

More tools than I need? Well, actually I 
don't need any tools at all. I could take my 
tractors up to town and let a real mechanic 

'Wo, no, no!. . . That regular rock. Me need Phillips! " 

'The Far Side." © 1 991 . FarWorks, Inc Dist- by Universal Press Syndicated. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. 

14 Natural History 4/94 

work on them. I don't even need the trac- 
tors, since my farm isn't much in the way 
of a farm. And my taste in tractors leans 
toward tractors that aren't much in the way 
of tractors. In fact, I make more money 
writing about tractors than sitting on them. 
But I like working on tractors and I like 
tools, so I have tools. Lots of tools. 

I don't really need many tools to work 
on these tractors, which are each and 
every one of them an Allis Chalmers WC 
tractor, made between 1935 and 1942. 
Frankly, about all you need to work on a 
1937 Allis Chalmers WC is a medium- 
size crescent wrench, a claw hammer, and 
a screwdriver Two of each would be nice, 
but I suppose I could jam the bolt of a 
stuck nut with any old piece of yard iron if 
I had to. 

The old maintenance and service manu- 
als for WCs do call for some fancy tools 
such as torque wrenches, bushing pullers, 
and feeler gauges, but most of these old 
machines, if they could talk, would tell 
you that they never in their sixty years of 
life felt a torque wrench, bushing puller, or 
feeler gauge. 

Most old mechanics I know never use 
phrases like "foot-pounds torque" or ".019 
tolerance." They tell me to turn down the 
oil pan bolts until the gasket puckers out a 
trifle, and to be sure the cyhnder sleeve 
doesn't sit above the block more than will 
catch on a fingernail. "Tighten the nut fin- 
ger tight," they say, "and then turn it an- 
other quarter of a turn." Or, "Use an eight- 
inch crescent to tighten it just enough that 
your eyes pooch out a little." 

Oh, but you should see how pretty that 
set of sockets looks, all in a row on that 
pegboard. Here, try the heft on this three- 
quarter-inch ratchet. And listen to the mu- 
sical click it makes on the return pull. Take 
a look at this two-ton engine hoist; isn't 
that pretty? And when I put the load-lev- 


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eler on it, pulling an engine is as easy as 
sucking the pimento out of a cocktail 

I love tools, but I have my limits, and I 
suspect that humanity does too. Two 
things in my life have generated and agi- 
tated (in that order) those suspicions dur- 
ing the past couple of weeks. First, I sent a 
note to our household insurance carrier re- 
questing coverage for my shop and mod- 
est set of tools. The woman who handles 
our account wrote back, telling me I would 
have to list all my tools and the value of 
each one. I want you to imagine for a mo- 
ment going to your agent to get collision 
coverage on your new Taurus and having 
that person say to you, "I'll need a list of 
all its parts and their value." You could get 
a second job and earn enough to buy an- 
other Taurus before you could put together 
an inventory like that! 

I went out to my shop and looked 
around. Where would I start an inventory? 
Socket wrenches? Metric sockets? 
Crow's-foot metric sockets? Three- 
eighths-inch drive crow's-foot metric 
sockets? Wobble-mount, three-eighths- 
inch drive, crow's-foot metric sockets? 
The good set from Sears that I don't like to 
get dirty, or the cheap set from Taiwan that 
is missing the 9/16-inch socket (which 
doesn't really matter, I guess, because for 
some reason it never tit a 9/16-inch bolt 

Inventory my tools? Lady, you must be 

The second life-crisis that focused my 
attention on tools was when Lovely Linda 
asked me to install a window air condi- 
tioner in her studio. Easy enough. I 
grabbed a hammer, a screwdriver, a tool 
knife (to cut plastic sealers), and a crescent 
wrench and headed up the stairs. I pulled 
the machine out of its box, pried loose the 
window I had painted shut last summer, 
and got to work. As is her custom, instead 
of letting me get on with the job, Linda 
made a nuisance of herself and insisted 
that I waste even more time by reading the 

That done, I proceeded to do what I 
would have done anyway. But when it 
came time to adjust the side curtains 
(never mind what side curtains are; just 
take my word for it that the time did come 
when I needed to adjust them), I found that 
the screws were not the good, old-fash- 
ioned slotted kind, so I had to go down two 
flights of stairs and out to my shop to get a 
Phillips screwdriver. When I got back up- 
stairs, I found that the screws weren't even 
Phillips screws (the ones with the little 

cross on the top); these were something- 
else-head screws with a little star on the 
top. I don't know what they're called and I 
don't have a driver for them. I took a hack- 
saw and cut a groove across each one so I 
could use a regular screwdriver. (Early in 
this process Linda took our daughter An- 
tonia and fled to a safe house in a city not 
far from here.) 

It's the same thing these days with nails, 
bolts, brackets, zippers, staples, knife 
blades, nuts, washers, whatevers. A bolt is 
no longer a bolt. There are Torx drivers, 
Allen wrenches, Pitman pullers, bastard 
files. I can't say for sure, but I think it all 
started with that jerk Phillips who in- 
vented the aberrant screwdriver. I was 
ready to tell him off, but when I checked 
my dictionary I found that Henry F. 
PhiUips died in 1958. Just as well: if I had 
done something that stupid, I wouldn't 
want to be around when Roger L. Welsch 
found out either. 

As soon as Mr. Philhps worked his evil, 
every nut-case in the world wanted a 
screwdriver named after him, and there 
went the pure and beautiful principle of a 
toolbox that could be carried by something 
less than dump truck. Moreover, different 
groups use different terms for tools. Take 
men and women, for example. My daugh- 
ter Joyce is painting our kitchen cabinets 
and not ten minutes ago she came into my 
office and asked where she could find "a 
teeny-weensy sharp-end screwdriver" and 
"squinch-nose pliers." 

Someone somewhere along the fine has 
taken my modest fetish and degraded it 
into an obsession. A perversion. Even 
though my tractors don't need all those 
tools, all those tools need me. Now, when I 
cast about for the only 9/32-inch box-end 
crescent wrench I own, I can't find it. I 
can't find it because it is buried some- 
where under all those other tools I need for 
installing dumb things like window air 
conditioners. The only solution is to buy 
another 9/32-inch box-end wrench, or 
maybe two, so when I can't find the second 
one, I can maybe find the third. And then 
maybe a spare I can keep in my last-resort 

The natural consequence of that process 
is that on my next project I can't find my 
7/16-inch ratchet wrench because it sud- 
denly seems that all I can find is a 9/32- 
inch box-end wrench. Maybe I need a cou- 
ple more 7/16-inch ratchets. And so it 

Folklorist Roger L. Welsch lives on a tree 
farm in Dannebrog, Nebraska. 

1 6 Natural History 4/94 

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Shingleton Bog, Michigan 

by Robert H.Mohlenbrock 

In Hiawatha National Forest, in Michi- 
gan's Upper Peninsula, a five-square-mile 
wetland is known locally as Shingleton 
Bog. But because most of the area is not 
very acidic, the term bog is inappropriate 
under the definitions developed by Michi- 
gan botanist Howard Crum {see "This 
Land," March 1994). Since it contains 
ample sphagnum, or peat moss, it is a 
peatland. Its various open areas, which are 
best termed "fens," are interspersed with 
tree-studded patches known as white 
cedar swamps and black spruce muskegs. 

Among its habitats, Shingleton Bog has 
a "poor" fen and a "patterned" fen. To see 
them, I followed Hiawatha National Forest 
ecologist Jan Schultz, regional forest 
botanist Lawrence Stritch, and research 
natural area coordinator Lucy Tyrrell 
through a rather impenetrable white cedar 
swamp adjacent to Forest Highway 225 1 . 
The white cedar swamp is a natural com- 
munity that gradually arose following the 
retreat of the great glaciers that covered 
the region some 12,000 years ago. At that 
time, heavy, waterlogged soil began to 

Jack W. Dykinga 

20 Natural History 4/94 

build over the limestone bedrock. Sphag- 
num mosses eventually covered much of 
the soil, and their decomposed remains 
began to accumulate as peat. 

The considerable calcium in the under- 
lying limestone kept the peatland from be- 
coming acidic, so that the fen maintained 
itself until white cedar seedlings began to 
invade. As more and more trees became 
established and grew to maturity, their 
dense cover promoted the growth of 
shade-tolerant plants. 

The white cedar swamp was difficult to 
walk through because of the low-hanging 
branches, which often reach the ground. In 
addition, there were weak areas in the mat 
of sphagnum beneath the trees where one 
could easily step through and twist an 
ankle. Filling the understory were shoul- 
der-high clumps of royal fern and cinna- 
mon fern. Here and there, occasional pink 
lady's-slipper orchids and bluebead lihes 
grew among thick patches of low-grow- 
ing, evergreen club mosses. 

The ground sloped down imperceptibly 
as we made our way through the cedar 
swamp. Even though I could not detect the 
difference, the plants responded to the 
slight change in soil and moisture. Almost 
abruptly, the crowded, large white cedars 
gave way to open habitat containing few 
woody plants, all of them dwarfed and 
gnarled. Apart from cedars, there was an 
occasional tamarack, a few red maples, 
and a scattering of shrubs — red choke- 
berry, mountain holly, and raisin tree. As 
we proceeded, the ground became wetter, 
and water rose above the toes of our boots 
with every step. 

Crum describes this type of community 
as a poor fen because of its greater degree 
of acidity, not because it lacks a diversity 
of plants. Dozens of low-growing wild- 

Tamaracks and cattails, left, grow in 
Shingleton Bog's "poor" fen. 
Right: Pink lady's-slipper orchid. 

John Gerlach; Dembinsky Photo Associates 


Joe LeMonnier 175) 

•ILUNOIS .1 ' ' r :, "^ '■ 

flowers grow on the sphagnum-dominated 
soil, all species adapted to saturated soils, 
cool summers, and frigid winters with 
long durations of snow cover. They in- 
clude bushy-branched horsetail, winter- 
green, starflower, and bunchberry (a four- 
inch-tall, nonwoody type of dogwood). 
Carnivorous sundews and pitcher plants, 
as well as a wide variety of slender, deh- 
cate sedges, are also common. 

After making our way for a few hun- 
dred feet through this fragile, watery ter- 
rain — being careful not to step on the 
flowering plants — we left behind most of 
the scraggly trees and faced a meadowlike 
area with small rivulets of water running 
between ridges covered by sphagnum 
moss and other vegetation. This was the 
patterned fen, although the pattern was not 
immediately visible. If we could have 
looked down from above, however, we 
would have seen that the ridges and 
rivulets were all more or less parallel to 
one another, oriented east-west at right 
angles to the sUght slope of the terrain. 

Peatlands all across the more northerly 
regions may contain patterned fens. Scien- 
tists in Europe recognized them many 
years ago, calling them aapamires. The 
rivulets are referred to as flarks, while the 
adjacent ridges of soil and vegetation are 
called strings. Biologists have come up 
with several hypotheses concerning the 
origin of patterned fens. One suggestion is 
that the alternate freezing and thawing of 
the soil over a long period of time eventu- 

Bunchberry is a nonwoody type of 

Doug Locke: Dembinsky Photo Associates 

ally gives rise to the altemating flarks and 

While freezing and thawing may play a 
role in creating patterned fens, there may 
be a more important factor. Patterned fens 
usually arise where the terrain has a grad- 
ual, nearly imperceptible grade of about 2 
percent. Through time, soil slides down 
this small gradient. When one edge of the 
slipping soil hooks onto something, such 
as a small tree or even a rock, flie soil 
tears, forming a flark along the tear hne. 
After many years of constant sliding and 
tearing, a distinct pattern of altemating 
flarks and strings becomes evident. 

At Shingleton Bog, the strings and 
flarks may be as narrow as one foot or as 

Shingleton Bog 

For visitor information write: 
Forest Supervisor 
Hiawatha National Forest 
2727 N. Lincoln Road 
Escanaba, Michigan 49829 
(906) 786-4062 

much as thirty feet wide and are usually 
from ten to one hundred or more feet long. 
The strings may stand as much as three 
feet higher than the flarks, but usually the 
contrast is more subtle. The amount of 
water in the flarks varies with rainfall, 
ranging from inconspicuous amounts up 
to pools six inches deep. The water is 
nearly neutral, with a pH of about 6. 

Several plants seem confined to the 
flarks: a tufted httle sedge known as Carex 
exilis, the intermediate sundew, one kind 
of bladderwort, and the white beaked rush. 
The strings, on die other hand, provide 
habitat for Kalm's lobeha, bog rosemary, 
shrubby cinquefoil, a wild Uly, and several 
flowering plants exceptionally rare for the 
region. Most of the rarities, including a 
sedge, an orchid, a sundew, a tiny rasp- 
berry, and a willow herb, are arctic species 
that were left behind when the great glaci- 
ers of the Ice Age receded northward. 

Robert H. Mohlenbrock, professor emeri- 
tus of plant biology at Southern Illinois 
University, Carbondale, explores the bio- 
logical and geological highlights of the 
156 U.S. national forests. 

22 Natural History 4/94 


Inka Empire 


Its Andean Origins 

Trace the story of the Andean peoples with this beautifully produced new appraisal of the ancient Inka and the 
remarkable cultures that preceded them. 

Written by Dr. Craig Morris, American Museum of Natural History Curator of Anthropology, and noted journahst 
Adrianna von Hagen, this comprehensive study describes their agricultural methods, social organizations, pohtical 
structure, religious beliefs, ceremonial practices, technologies, and artistic expression. The text resonates wdth more 
than one hundred exquisite color photographs of objects from the Museum's rich collection of artifacts and offers 
compelling panoramas of the spectacular and diverse Andean landscape. 

252 pages, 9 7/8" x 9 7/8", 200 illustrations, cloth 

To order send check or money order for $50.00 including shipping and handling within the U.S. to Meml>ers' Choice, American Museum of 

Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024 or call toll-free I -800-43 7-003 3 for Mastercard and Visa ordei-s. 



September 15-30, 1994 

The legendary Trans-Siberian is undoubtedly the greatest railway in the 
world. Join a team of American Museum lecturers this September for an 
extraordinary 5,300-mile journey from Beijing to Moscow aboard the 
celebrated Orient Express. Tracing the ancient route of the tea caravans, 
we will travel through the vast, remote Gobi, the Mongolian steppe, the 
expansive and pristine Siberian taiga and along magnificent Lake 
Baikal. We will also explore numerous Siberian cities, frontier towns 
and traditional Mongolian ger encampments, as well as the great cities 
of Beijing and Moscow. 


with an optional extension to Angkor Wat 

October 25 - November 12, 1994 

Since the time of Marco Polo, the cultural riches and 
natural wonders of China have intrigued visitors. 
Lesser known are the many treasures of neighboring 
northern Vietnam. This October, enjoy the spectacular 
landscapes of rural China and Vietnam and a rare look 
at some lesser-known cultures traveling with a team of 
experts from Beijing to Hanoi. During our journey, we 
will see the life-sized terracotta soldiers near Xi'an, 
the Stone Forest of Kunming, the lovely Li River and 
the Red River Valley of Vietnam, enjoying along the 
way some of the most magnificent scenery in the 

Museum o1 

Discovery Tours 

Central Park West at 79th Street 
New York, NY 10024-5192 

Toll-free (800) 462-8687 
(212) 769-5700 in NYS 


■::57«rj^ - 



By 1|e;rb-S Ufe^ 


A Rediscover 

Alabama • Arizona • Georgia • Kentucky 

Mississippi • New l-lampsliire • New Mexico 

New Yorl< • Wisconsin • Wyoming 

Has there ever been a more lyrical description 
of this country than the verses oMmerica the 
Beautiful, written by Katherine Lee Bates in 

Today, ecotourism is reinforcing America's 
pride in its natural assets. A nationwide preser- 
vationist drive is keeping a richly varied envi- 
ronment in a state of grace. Travelers are seek- 
ing out those purple mountains and fruited 
plains, not overseas but in their own home- 
land-aided by well-planned travel itineraries, 
economic air fares and attractive car rental 

They undoubtedly agree with Alexis de Toc- 
queville, who in 1835 made the cogent com- 
ment, that "America is a land of wonders, in 
which everything is in constant motion and 
every change seems an improvement." 


The Camellia State is home to a memorable 
group of public and private parks, one of which 
was founded with the immense profits from the 
creation of a soft drink. Mobile's Bellingrath 
Gardens is a 65-acre expanse of spring-bloom- 
ing azaleas, autumn chrysanthemums, and 
winter poinsettas. The gardens were estab- 
lished in 1 917 on the family estate of million- 
aire Walter D. Bellingrath, a founding father of 
Coca Cola. 

Another "not to be missed" natural resource 
is the Alabama Wildlife Center, open to the 
public and nestled among ten wooded acres 
within Oak Mountain State Park, near Birming- 
ham. The Center has treated thousands of in- 
jured wild birds and mammals and has re- 
turned them successfully to the wild. Its 

Treetop Nature Trail is an elevated boardwalk 
flanked by spacious tree houses on stilts 
whose elevation allows recovering birds to fol- 
low their natural instinct of being high off the 

The Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge and 
Visitor Center, north of Bimiingham, is a pro- 
tected wildlife refuge. Its innovative crop-shar- 
ing programs with local farmers produce water- 
fowl food on 4,000 acres; and its corn, 
sorghum, millet, and soybean crops attract 
geese, mallards, wigeon, pintail and black 

The Sequoyah Caverns, in the northeastern 
corner of the state, are noted for their clear 
"Looking Glass Lakes." Above ground is a pro- 
tected home for buffalo, white fallow deer, and 



^<ar V 

In a tew years sne could turn 
into a dinosaur. 

Chances are you've never seen this creature before. And 
chances are you're not alone. That's because there are as few as 2,000 
manatees left in Florida. Which is why since 1976 Sea "World's 
Research and Conservation Program has done everything possible to 
rehabilitate the dying manatee population. 

In our care right now is a manatee we call Fathom. She was 
so badly injured, if left in the wild she would inevitably die. Due to 
the nature of her injuries, Fathom was unable to float or breathe 
properly, so we constructed a tailor-made wetsuit designed to help 
facilitate her recovery. And we're proud to say, she's doing well. 

Now while this contribution won't change the course of 
history, it will give the manatee a better chance to see the future. 


A pledge and a promise from tke AnLeuser-Busck Companies. 




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wildlife and landscapes of the British 
and Scottish Isles, Iceland, Greenland 
and the Canadian Maritimes. 

Reserve before April 1 Stb for up to $500 savings 
pip. Departures 8/3/94 - 9/17/94. Inclusive 
air/land/sea programs roundtrip U.S. range from 
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^ niQfOuest" 

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From $1895 


PO Box 1 637C, Vashon, WA 98070 
800-368-00 77 

Bellingarth Gardens, Mobile, Alabama 


Canyon Country-the name alone conjures up 
wild natural beauty, spectacular vistas, majestic 
rock formations. Its lure begins with the might- 
iest spectacle of them all, the Grand Canyon. 

A mile deep, 277 miles long, and two billion 
years in the making, it's one of America's most 
awesome spectacles. Canyon afficionados can 
view this wonder from rim-side or while hiking 
or white-water rafting at the bottom of the 
Canyon. Air tours take off from Tusayan near 
the South Rim, where an IMAX Theatre pro- 
jects the Grand Canyon story on a massive in- 
door screen. 

Lesser known Oak Creek Canyon, a dream- 
world of red rock cliffs carved through forests 
by a mountain stream, is accessible by highway 
and has a half-dozen national forest camp- 
grounds. Nearby Sycamore Canyon has no 
roads at all and is a remote wilderness accessi- 
ble only to hikers and horseback riders. 

Less than an hour from the art colony of Se- 
dona en route to the Grand Canyon are two na- 
tional monuments: Walnut Canyon, with a se- 
ries of cliff dwellings situated in a deep gorge, 
and Wupatki, with some 800 prehistoric rock 

The 1 2,643 San Francisco Peaks north of 
Flagstaff offer challenging high altitude trails for 
hikers as well as lower elevations walks through 
a blanket of wildflowers in summer. 

Note: The Arizona Department of Tourism 
has just published an EcoTourism Guide to 
Canyon Country which focuses on archaeolog- 
ical excavations, remote nature preserves and 
Indian reservations. 


Spring is the ideal time to visit the Golden Isles, 
part of a chain of barrier islands stretching 1 20 
miles along Georgia's coast to Florida's border. 

The gem of the group is Little Saint Simons 
Island, off the coast at Brunswick. An environ- 
ment geared to the conservation and preserva- 
tion of natural resources, this secluded enclave 
has the greatest concentration of shore-birds 
on the Georgia coast. The six-mile long, three- 
mile-wide retreat is an ideal nature preserve 
with rare flora and fauna inhabiting Its pro- 
tected sandy beaches, salt marshes, tidal flats, 
and pine forests. 

Little Saint Simons is a private island with a 
handsome rustic pine lodge owned by the 
Berolzheimer family dating to the turn-of-the 
century. Accommodating a scant two-dozen 
guests, it's known for its Southern "home- 
cooked" cuisine featuring such regional dishes 
as oyster stew and fried chicken. 

The island is accessible by boat from its sib- 
ling, the larger Saint Simons Island, whose 
charms include horseback riding, salt water 
fishing for red fish and flounder, or fly fishing 

Wading bird, St. Simons Island, Georgia 


Show me 
square andri 
show you 
a soul. 

Architect Robert 
Parker Adams 
considers Mississippi's 
courthouse squares. 

iut on the 
bypass and the 
edge of town 
you'll always find the 
discount stores and burger bams, 
symbols of growth and what some would 
call progress. But if you're searching for 
the elusive Southern soul, set your watch 
back a generation or two and head 
straight for a courthouse square. 

The old men are still there on the 
magnoha-shaded benches, whittling 
and talking hke their fathers before 
them. The day's topic may be poHtics 
or the upcoming flea market or crafts 
show. Or Friday night's showdown 
against the gridiron warriors from a 
county away. 

The shopkeepers still sweep the 
sidewalks in front of the stores where 
business is done on a personal level. 
The dark drama of misdeeds and justice 
is played out in the Greek Revival 
courthouse, the focus of the community. 

The scale of Mississippi's courthouse 
squares isn't architectural. It's human. 

For your copy of our free Mississippi 
Vacation Planner, simply call us toll-free 
at 1-800- WABMEST. 

The South's Warmest Welcome 


M a r in e 

J i i i 

Norway &: The Arctic 

from $2295 
including airfare 

London's Tower Bridge 

to The Fjords ofNonvay 

and Spitsbergen 

Lecturers and Naturalists 
Zodiac Excursions 

(800) 263-9147 

It's natural fun. The kind that only 
exists here in Marathon. Swim with 
dolphins at the Dolphin Research 
Center on nearby Grassy Key. Peruse 
history at the IVIuseum of Natural 
History of The Florida Keys. Dive 
pristine ocean waters. Take in our 
historic Seven Mile Bridge. Or simply 
enjoy our restaurants, shops and 
boutiques. Its all here. Naturally. 
For a free coupon book and more 1-800-2-MARATHON. 




Maker's Mark Distillery, Loretto, Kentucky 

for trout. There's canoeing and boating on tidal 
creeks, bicycling, hiking, and bird watching for 
painted buntings, great blue herons, and os- 
prey. Naturalists on staff bring guest and 
wilderness together in compatible harmony. 


The Bluegrass State has some remarkable mu- 
seums and historic sites dedicated both to its 
natural and manmade wonders. 

Among Kentucky's natural wonders is Mam- 
moth Cave National Park, whose explored pas- 
sages extend 330 miles through five levels of 
subterranean limestone chambers. Rangers 
lead visitors to such sites as Frozen Niagara, Fat 
Man's Misery, and the Bottomless Pit. 

Here in mint julep land, the running of the 
Kentucky Derby, on the first Saturday in May at 
Churchill Downs, is a tribute to the state's great 
horse farms. The local museum has a multi- 
image show highlighting the Derby, past and 
present, with hands-on exhibits. 

Bourbon was a drink created by a Baptist 
minister in Bourbon County in 1798. The Getz 
Museum in Bardstown has a unique collection 
of whiskey memorabilia, including a license is- 
sued to Kentucky-born Abraham Lincoln in 
1 833 to operate a tavern with the proviso that 
"said Lincoln shall be of good behavior and ob- 
serve the laws of Illinois." Among the museum's 
nonpotable artifacts are Jenny Lind's velvet 
cape and tools used by Trappist Monks in the 
nearby monastery where Thomas Merton lived 
and prayed. 

A noted National Historic Landmark is 
Maker's Mark, one of the oldest working distil- 

leries in the United States. Dating to 1805, it is 
located in Loretto and has regular tours. 


Mississippi is more than just a river. This state 
was once the secluded domaine of the 
Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez Indians- 
until the French arrived in 1 699. Before the 
Civil War, when cotton was king, it was one of 
the nation's wealthiest states. 

The era of affluence, splendour, and grace is 
preserved in more than 500 antebellum prop- 
erties throughout Mississippi, still standing 
amid lush gardens. Possibly the finest are cen- 
tered in Natchez. The city survived the Civil 
War, as did its opulent plantation homes, some 
of which are open year-round. Others are only 
open during Natchez Pilgrimage weeks, which 
were, started in 1 932 by the women of the city 
to raise money for preservation. These tours 
are given twice a year: three weeks in October 
and four weeks in March and April. 

Civil War memories come alive at Vicksburg 
National Military Park, where the fall of the 
"Gibraltar of the Confederacy" to Ulysses S. 
Grant on July 4, 1 863, is remembered by mon- 
uments and battle markers. 

The 8,000-year-old Natchez Trace, now a 
scenic autoroute without billboards, winds 400 
miles through the state to Nashville. A re- 
minder of the ancient trading trail of Native 
Americans, it's home to protected wildlife. 

Mississippi also has more tree farms than 
any other state and the world's only cactus 
plantation, with more than 3,000 varieties, is 
located near Edwards, Mississippi. 


A world of benefits 
for AMNH members. 

(A)t Hertz, iVMNII members enjoy a 
world of benefits! Our time-saving 
services like Computerized Driving 
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little easier. And with 5,000 locations 
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tage of your special worldwide 
savings is easier too! 
(t)o receive your AMNH member- 
ship discount, just mention your 
Hertz CDP# 25940 (printed on 
your membership card) when 
making your reservation. Then 
present your membership card at 
the time of rental. For additional 
savings in the U.S., use the free 
upgrade coupon inserted into this 
issue or the weekend coupon below! 
(f)oT reservations, call Hertz at 
1-800-654-2200 and we'll open the 
doors to a world of car rental 
savings ! 


Hertz rents Fords and other fine cars. 

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Mention this offer when you resen.'e and rent a 

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at least two consecuti\'e days at Hertz Standard 

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Weekend rates are ;i\ailable from noon Thursday 

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This offer is available at participating locations in 

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oi Oueoec 

ror your iree 

brochures, and 

lor rcsei-vations: 

1 800 363-7777 

/Xfiit lor opcrnlor 156 


It reels So Oiiiercnt. 

merits the educated 
traveler s attention. 

Diary of Francisco de Miranda 
Venezuelan traveler, 1783 

Visit Tryon Palace 

Historic Sites and Gardens 

in New Bern, Nortn Carolina, 

and see wnat many considered to 

ne tne most lasmoname nouse 

on tne continent. 

Historic Sites &, Gardens 

610 Pollock Street 
New Bern, Nortk Carolina 28563 


Longwood Plantation, Natchez, Mississippi 


Ecotourlsm could well have its roots in the 
Granite State, which holds nearly two million 
acres of parkland and forest as a public trust. 
Half of the narrow coastline is public parkland. 

The White Mountains have attracted nature 
lovers and ordinary tourists ever since the area 
was first settled in the 1 600s. Although heavily 
deforested in colonial days, the mountains are 
now almost completely wooded, with white 
birch and maple replacing green fir and spruce. 

Julia Ward Howe wrote: "If there is any kin- 
ship with nature in you, here is this place the at- 
tractions of society pale before the quietness, 
the simplicity, the freshness of nature." 

The exemplar of that freshness is arboreal 
Franconia Notch, a pass through the moun- 
tains. Its most noted feature is the "Old Man of 

Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire 

the Mountain," an incredible rock formation 
once said to resemble the profile of either God 
or President Jefferson. 

Mount Washington, the tallest peak in New 
England, has attracted hikers for centuries. As- 
cent takes about five hours along a challenging 
ravine trail edged with waterfalls and ponds. If 
you're a railroad buff, ride the famed Cog Rail- 
way dating to 1 869, which once carried Presi- 
dent Grant to the summit. A vintage coal-pow- 
ered steam engine pulls the train up the steep 
grade. A third choice is a highway to the top, 
where a souvenir shop sells bumper stickers 
proclaiming "I climbed Mt. Washington." 


The unoffical name of New Mexico is "Land of 
Enchantment" which the state lives up to hap- 
pily. Its potpourri of activities that include 
spring festivals colorfully marked by blooming 
of yuccas (candles of the Lord), summer 
mountain climbing, rodeos, fall aspen leaf 
watching, and winter skiing. 

The state's forty-eight parks range from high 
mountain lakes and forests in the north to the 
Chihuahua desert lowlands in the south. The 
popular Carisbad Caverns' "Big Room" is large 
enough to hold a dozen football stadiums. 

Albuquerque (easier to find than to spell) is 
dominated by the Sandia Mountains ("water- 
melon" in Spanish)-a paradise for hiking and 
horseback riding, with miles of nature trails, 
streams, canyons and picnic sites. The city. 



founded in 1706, is vibrant with theatre, opera, 
and ballet. Its "Old Town" has been restored, 
and is now filled with trendy shops, galleries 
and ethnic restaurants. 

Santa Fe and Taos are paradise for painters, 
poets, writers and artists. In celebration of their 
Native American heritage, publeos near Santa 
Fe (noted for their traditional polychrome pot- 
tery handicrafts) have ceremonial dances on 
feast days to which visitors are welcome. 

New Mexico's official state flower is the 
yucca (a lily that grows to tree-like heights); the 
state bird is the roadoinner; the state tree, the 
pinus edulis, or Rocky Mountain nut pine; the 
state vegetables, pinto bean and chili peppers. 


The sheer breadth of the Empire State tends to 
obscure the curious fact that nearly 20 percent 
of it lies within the Blue Line of the Adirondack 
State Park. In this region, such magnificos as 
Morgan and Vanderbiit created grand estates 
and contributed to preserving much of the 
mountain wilderness. The park, a patchwork of 
private and public lands, is more accurately 


Autumn on East Branch, Ausable River, New York 

called a preserve. It includes an astonishing six 
million acres of forest (or an area more than 
twice the size of Yellowstone) with an estimated 
2,000 lakes and 40 mountain peaks. 

The revolutionary Fort Ticonderoga complex 
on Lake Champlain, open to visitors since the 
1 820s, was one of the first historic sites to be 
preserved for the public. As a major tourist at- 

"Choosing To 

Cruise Regency 

This Summer 

Was Easy. 

The Bakers made it 
easy on them- 
selves this vaca- 
tion. They chose 
Regency. The wonderful destina- 
tions, unique itineraries, fabulous 
ships with fine food and service 
and terrific prices were all they 
needed to hear. 

So if that sounds good to you, 
choose to sail either the 
Northeast Passage where you'll 
experience unique history, quaint 
illages and exciting cities 
etween New York and 

Or, choose Alaska where you'll sail 

across the dramatic Gulf of 

Alaska to Columbia Glacier, 

College Fjord, the Inside 

Between Alaska 

And French 
Canada Was The 

Hard Part" 

Ernest & Harriet Baker 
Cleveland, Ohio 

Either way, you'll ""^■^^' save up 
to 40% guaranteed. So if you've 
had your eye on a 7 or 14-day 
cruise vacation, take it from the 
Bakers, take Regency! For reser- 
vations, see your travel agent. For 
a free brochure, call: 



Ships' Registry; Bahamas 



Enter the 

Enter a 1 0>000 acre private island. . . 
maintained in it's natural state... 
with a peaceful country inn... 7 miles of secluded beaches., 
miles of trails through ancient forests... 
wildUfe... over 200 species of birds... 
canoeing... boating... fishing... horseback riding... 
interpretive guides... tours... hiking- 
rocking chairs on the porches... 

delicious seafood & home cooking... 

a mere 24 guests for a relaxing get-away. 

X X 




Enjoy the wilderness 

with the comforts of home. 

912-638-7472 • P.O. Box 21078NH 
St. Simons Island, Georgia 31522 USA 

boUou'Liiij a liuiciMui trait through ijigaiitic Inndckrj, hv 
cnterecl DLuntiLi Canyon alonqjidc the thunderuu] u'aterj of 
I Rainbow FalU. We found oiuveL'ej in a 
hidden moMy-green and pearl-grey world 
filled with fenu and giant tree^u The canyon cajl iL' ,'/'<■//. 
Within two monthj we were the lucky ownem of the DLmiaL, 
a jpecial place in ALibama where time jtandj Jtill, life beatd 
jlower, and all the world jeenu . stars Fell On 

to reJt and heal. A ^ J A 

Cluit ojlil Bi:i'erly Friviktin, 
Oii'nerj ofDitinaL Canyon, 
Pbil Cajnpl>ett, ALibaitui 


Call for your free 1994 Alnbnma Travel Guide, or write; Alabama Bureau of Tourism and 
S= Travel, Dept. NH0494, 401 Adams Avenue, P.O. Box 4309, Montgomery, AL 36103-4309 

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico 

traction, it lias a museum and a fife-and-drum 
corps that performs in summer. 

The Erie Canal, the longest linear park in the 
country, stretches 363 miles from Buffalo to 
Albany, connecting the Great Lakes with the 
Atlantic Ocean. In the words of an old chanty, 
mules toiled along a tow path hauling lumber, 
coal, and hay. Passengers "got to know every 
inch of the way" at an average speed of four 
miles an hour Today's voyagers may travel at 
about the same rate but can also tarry at nine 
lock parks, twenty historical sites, and at such 
inns as Richardson's Tavern in Bushmill Basin, 
the oldest on the canal. 


Wisconsin has developed a unique series of 
twenty-three heritage road adventures. They 
range from an annotated trip along the Missis- 
sippi "road" to a Lake Michigan Circle tour and 
a Frank Lloyd Wright routing that marks the 
legacy of this native son who designed struc- 
tures at forty-two sites in the state. 

Typcially, the Lake Michigan Shoreline Tour 
#1 starts at Kenosha (named by the 
Potawatomi Indians for the resident pickerel) 
just north of the Wisconsin/Illinois border on 
the lake. A recommended stop here is the 
Kemper Center, a complex of mid-1 800s his- 
toric buildings in a county park. 

At Racine motorists can visit the Wind Point 
Lighthouse, built in 1 880. It's one of the tallest 
still standing on the lake. Port Washington, 
once a major commercial fishing port, is now a 



centerfor "biggame" fishing, where deepwater 
charter boats take anglers after chinook, coho 
salmon, or lake trout. 

In and around Sheboygan, where Jack 
Benny learned to play the violin, the Indian 
Mound Park contains 1 8 original effigy burial 
grounds of the early Woodland Indians which 
are listed on the National Register of Historic 

In nearby Kohler, the American Club is 
(quixotically) also on the Register. It was built in 
1918 as a dormitory for immigrant factory 
workers who were taught English in night 
school at company expense and who were 
provided these "hygienic surroundings." Today, 
the American Club is a five-star country inn; 
the workers' "plain washroom" is now a 
gourmet dining room. 


Among the many protected natural environ- 
ments in Wyoming, Yellowstone is the star It is 
not only the world's first national park but also 
the largest. Sprawling across volcanic plateaus 
in the northwest corner of the state, Yellow- 
stone contains more than two million acres of 
steaming geysers, crystalline lakes, thundering 
waterfalls, and panoramic vistas. 

Its companion park is Grand Teton, called 
Teewinot (Many Pinnacles) by the Indians. The 
French trappers more graphically and romanti- 
cally referred to the area - Grands Tetons 
means "large breasts" in French. 

Just south is Jackson Hole, a stunning 48- 



More whales and more caviar too. Explore more 
of the natural wonders of Alaska on Sagafjord, 
the only Five Plus Star ship to sail the Route of the 
' Glaciers all the way to Anchorage. Set sail from San 
Francisco, Vancouver or Anchorage for 14, 11 or 10 
spectacular days. Rates range from $2,856 to $8,305 and include free 
air. For reservations call your travel agent. For a free brochure call 
Cunard at 1-800-221-8200. And toast a great Alaskan vacation. 

Rates reflect early booking savings {4 months in advance of sailing) and are per petrion, double occupancy, subject 

to availability and dependent on departure date Port and handling charges are $200 per person extra. Prices include 

free roundtrip economy air from 78 U.S cities. Sagaf]ord is registered in the Bahamas. © 1993 Cunard 



Visit North Carolina's Crystal Coast, 
Where History Comes To Life. 


The Crystal Coast is as historically 
rich as it is beautiful. Explore mystic 
shores where pirates once roamed. Relax 
on one of the last national seashores or 
relive an adventure in a Civil War fort! 
From our museums and aquariums to 
horses running wild on Shackleford 
Banks, we offer over 65 miles of beautiful 
beaches where you can create a little 
history of your own. 

Forget about your other life and call 
today to receive a free Vacation Guide 
or write the Carteret County Tourism 
Development Bureau, Dept. 151, PO Box 
1406, Morehead City, NC, 28557. 

North Carolina's 


Along the Southern Outer Banks 
Call 1-8(D0-SUNNY-NC 




mile-long valley redolent of elk, the great 
American buffalo, bald eagles, and trumpeter 
swans. The town of Jackson, one of the West's 
major cultural centers, has been hosting visi- 
tors for more than a century, first as a ren- 
dezvous for fur trappers and now the center of 
a booming ski industry. 

The nearby Spring Creek Resort, with its 
lodge-pole buildings, is a registered game 
refuge that offers a mountain "safari" led by a 
wildlife biologist-perfect for spotting moose, 
elk, and mule deer. 

Healing mineral baths aren't found only in 
Europe. The world's largest hot spring is lo- 
cated in Big Springs, whose waters were given 
to the people of America by Chief Washakie of 
the Shoshones in 1 896. 


when Mark Twain wrote Life on the Mississippi, 
he immortalized the majestic river "rolling its 
mile-wide tide along, shining in the sun." 

These days, the last two overnight passenger 
paddle wheelers in the country-the National 
Historic Landmark Delta Queen and the smaller 
Mississippi Queen-wind their way through 
Louisiana's Cajun country and the Atchafalaya 
River Basin, a wildlife refuge with some of the 
most graceful'birds in the world. 

Cruises may also traverse the wilderness re- 
gion of the Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland 
Rivers or sail northward to Saint Paul and the 
river's headwaters. 

The upper Mississippi encompasses the 
largest wildlife refuge in the country. This is a 
migratory path for birds such as bald eagles, 
ducks, and even Arcitc whistling swans. 

Oldtime river gamblers might envy such 
contemporary touches as fresh-cut flowers on 
dining room tables, a praline on a stateroom 
pillow, or afternoon tea on a two-tiered sun- 
deck. Memories of the past are evoked by cal- 
liope concerts and ragtime music. 

On board, "riverlorians" lecture on every 
subject from river folklore and legend to re- 
gional wildlife. Often the captain will order his 
crew to "choke a stump," or tie the boat to a 
tree, so passengers may explore the country- 
side. During spring, flowers and trees planted 
more than century ago still blossom in a profu- 
sion of color-pastel-shaded magnolias, brilliant 
azaleas, and dozens of species of roses in every 

For advertising information, contact Ted 
Dolan at (21 2) 599-5555. 



Only resort in the world with 
three courses in Golf Digest's 
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trails, park, pools, marina 
village, shopping & dining. 

Free Color Island Resort Guide 
I 1-800-845-3911 Ext 516 1 

MRavenel Associates, Two Beachwalker, Kiawah, SC 29455 ' 


Get Away to the Islands 

From wildlife on pristine islands to quaint hshing villages, 
Jlaine's scenic coast is filled with iinitjtie pleasures. And 
nobody knows them better than our Captains. You'll anchor 
each night in a snug harbor, go ashore if you wish, enjoy a 
Downcast lobster bake and forget the world )'ou left behind,, 
3 & 6 Day Cruises, Special Events 
Rela.\ with experienced crew, hearty food and great shipmates 
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their Captains, One is just right for you. From $295 - $699, 
Call or write for brochures. 





POBoxllii Blue Hilt MEOibh 




Spectacular Scenery along the Great Rivers of the West, cruising 
Washington, Qregon and Idaho. See nine [\)ational Scenic Areas & 
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'forlroc,':r::%„ 1-800-451-5952 

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Or write: 520 Pike St., Suite 1610. Seattle. WA 98101 

Sailing by a Kenosha, Wisconsin Lighthouse 


You can contact advertisers directly or use this coupon to request information from the adver- 
tisers listed below. Circle the number next to the items for which you wish to receive informa- 
tion and mail this form to : NATURAL HISTORY, RO. Box 1 81 0, Riverton. NJ 08077-981 2. 

1 . Alaska's Glacier Bay 

2. Alabama Bureau of Tourism 

3. BIyth & Company 

4. Crystal Coast Tourism Board 

5. Cunard Line 

6. State of Kentucky Tourism 

7. Little St. Simon's Island 


8. Marquest Cruises 

9. State of Mississippi Tourism 

1 0. Monroe County Tourism 

11 . Regency Cnjises 

1 2. Travel Wild/Joseph Van Os 

1 3. Tryon Palace 



Please allow 4-8 weeks for delivery. Offer expires December 15,1 994. 

Experience the wonders of creation in Kentucky, 

They say bluegrass music comes from the soul. And the diverse beauty of the landscape 
inspires even the most modem arts and crafts. You see, heritage runs deep in Kentucky. 
You can still find craftsmen creating hand-carved dulcimers. Quilting nine-patch designs. 
Spinning folk yarns. Serving time-honored recipes. 

We celebrate our natural gifts with festivals for everything from brass bands to barbecue 
to bluegrass. And salute the past with historical dramas, Civil War reenactments 
and heritage tours. 

Once you experience the art and drama of a Kentucky vacation, you'll wonder 
how you can ever leave. For your free Official Kentucky Vacation Guide 
call 1-800-225-TRlP, Dept. NH. 

What You've Been Looking For 



<^;^' ^ ■^m^'^-,,,.^ 

■'■ 4B^ 



J^^-«.i', ***• 


«l^ I, ■ *?^'" 

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Whether they were enormous, hke the 

leaf-eating Indricotherium on the left (the 

largest land mammals ever) or tiny, most of 

the marchers in Earth's marvelous 

mammahan parade have fallen. . .are extinct. 

The animals that remain today (ourselves 

included) pale in comparison with the 

melange of mammals of the past. But the 

survivors have overcome countless trials and 

accidents and squeezed through many 
keyholes over the last 200 million years. And 

they contain traces of their lost ancestors' 

many fascinating experiments in adaptation. 

The fossil record is litde more than a few 

torn and scattered pages from the immense 

history book of mammals. But even these 

bits tell wondrous tales. 

And, as shown in the articles and artistic 

reconstructions that follow, paleontologists 

continue to dig up new clues and 

to reinterpret the story of life on Earth. 

This special section oi Natural History was prepared by 

consulting editor Judy A. Rice. 

Scientific consultant: Richard H. Tedford, chairman and 

curator, Department of Vertebrate Paleontology, American 

Museum of Natural History 

Painting by Ely Kish 


40 Natural History 4/94 

A Pocketful o' 

by Michael J. Novacek 

Tugrugeen Shireh, a line of cliffs near 
an alkaline lake in the Gobi Desert of 
Mongolia, is not marked on any road map. 
Indeed, there are virtually no maps for this 
poorly charted region of the world. But 
over the past four summers, "Tugrug" has 
become a paleontological mecca for our 
joint team from the American Museum of 
Natural History in New York and the 
Mongolian Academy of Sciences. Not 
only have we found exquisitely preserved 
theropod dinosaurs, such as the agile 
flesh-eater Velocirapton and the dinosaur- 
like bird Mononykus (see "New Limb on 
the Avian Family Tree," Natural History, 
September 1993), but we have also uncov- 
ered a wealth of tiny fossil skulls and 
skeletons, remains of mammals that lived 
in the shadows of the dinosaurs. 

These mammal bones are preserved in 
Brazil-nut-sized concretions of hard, dark 
sandstone and iron-bearing minerals. 
These concretions continually erode from 
the soft, white sandstone that makes up the 
bulk of the Tugrug cliffs as they are bat- 
tered by high winds and seasonal rain- 
storms, but they still provide a durable 
coating that protects the more fragile fossil 
bone underneath. Such conditions practi- 
cally guarantee our discovery of more 
mammals every season, even on slopes we 
have crawled across many times before. 

These fossils represent mammal com- 
munities that lived about eighty million 
years ago, near the end of the Mesozoic 
era, the Age of Dinosaurs. Although the 
following period, the Tertiary, is consid- 
ered the Age of Mammals, the iirst two- 
thirds of the entire history of mammals 
was played out in the Mesozoic. Unlike 
most Mesozoic localities, which yield 

only isolated teeth or bits of jaws with 
teeth, Tugrug and other Gobi sites have 
given us fine skulls and entire skeletons. 
The fossils have provided critical clues to 
the evolutionary steps linking Mesozoic 
with modem mammals, as well as with 
their primitive vertebrate relatives. The 
more complete fossils have also revealed 
secrets of locomotion, feeding, sensory 
systems, and possible life styles of these 
ancient creatures. 

The earliest mammals were the tricon- 
odonts, shrewlike creatures that appeared 
some 200 million years ago, during the 
Triassic period. They were tiny; an adult 
could snooze comfortably curled up in a 
teaspoon. Most likely, triconodonts laid 
eggs, as do the living duck-billed platypus 
and echidna. During the succeeding Juras- 
sic and Cretaceous periods, the tricon- 
odonts were joined by other mammalian 
lineages. Although many of these Meso- 
zoic "experiments" waned and died out 
before or at the time of dinosaur extinc- 
tion, sixty-five million years ago, some 
survived and diversified into the modem 
mammals — animals as different as kanga- 
roos, koalas, primates, bats, whales, ele- 
phants, and aardvarks. 

Thus, mammals from Mesozoic sites 
reveal a biological empire in transition, 
with archaic creamres destined to go ex- 
tinct before the Age of Mammals had even 
begun, living nose to nose (or fang to 
claw) with the precursors of modem mam- 
mals. Tugrug preserves a pastiche of 
mammal species. These cliffs do not con- 
tain the generally older triconodonts, but 
they have yielded abundant remains of a 
group known as the multituberculates. 
With their long, gnawing incisors; blade- 

Some eighty million years ago, in the arid regions of central Asia, a 

family o/Protoceratops sleeps while rat-sized mammals known as 

Deltatheridium/orage by night. Deltatheridium, which may have been a 

marsupial, or pouched mammal, may also have used its acute sense of 

hearing and smell to detect live prey such as insects or tiny lizards. 

Painting by Ely Kish 


Diagrams by Joe LeMonnier 

o o 























1 ■■ ^ 

0.01 2 5 





llions of years ago 

like, nut-cracking premolars; and broad, 
many-cusped molars, "multis" filled the 
role later taken over by rodents. They 
thrived in the Mesozoic and even persisted 
in respectable numbers for some fifteen 
million years after the demise of the di- 
nosaurs. Their subsequent decrease in di- 
versity and eventual extinction coincides 
with the rise of the mouselike and squirrel- 
like early rodents that were their main 

While the most abundant skulls and 
skeletons at Tugrug are those of the pos- 
sibly egg-laying multis, a few fossils from 
this site may belong to marsupials, or 
pouched mammals. The rat-sized Delta- 
theridiiim, for instance, had triangular- 
shaped molars much like those of living 
opossums. Deltatheridium and its close 
relatives are known only from the Creta- 
ceous of central Asia. A great variety of 
Cretaceous marsupials inhabited North 
America, but their record is largely one of 
isolated teeth and partial jaws. Delta- 
theridium is known from some excellent 
skeletons; a nearly complete skeleton 
found at Tugrug in 1 993 by American Mu- 
seum preparator Amy Davidson may also 
prove to be Deltatheridium. 

Of all the Mesozoic mammals from the 
Gobi, ihe. piece de resistance is the placen- 
tal group. These were among the prizes of 
Roy Chapman Andrews's expeditions to 
the Gobi for the Museum in the 1920s. In 
the 1960s, joint Mongolian-Polish teams, 
and later Mongolian-Soviet teams, re- 
trieved an impressive suite of placental 
skulls from new Gobi sites, including the 
Tugrug beds. These rare skulls are among 
the tiniest of Gobi fossils. They range 
from less than an inch to two inches long. 

On the last day of our fieldwork at 
Tugrug in 1991, Museum postdoctoral 
research associate James Clark strolled 
into camp; from his pocket he extracted a 
small collecting bag containing a nodule 
carefully wrapped in toilet paper. He un- 

42 Natural History 4/94 

raveled the paper to reveal a small skull, 
crudely outlined in the matrix. The snout 
region, however, was clearly delineated 
and was that of a placental animal. Months 
later, laboratory preparation confirmed our 
impression in the field that this nearly per- 
fect skull belonged to Zalambdcdestes, a 
species whose relationship with more 
modem placental orders greatly interests 
us. Zalamhdalestes has long front incisors, 
a gap between the incisors and the anterior 
premolars, and long hind limbs, a combi- 
nation of features reminiscent of rabbits. 
Indeed, my colleague Malcolm McKenna 
had a long-term hunch that Zalamh- 
dalestes was a granddaddy rabbit — a 
rather dramatic connection, since the first 
undoubted lagomorphs (the order to which 
rabbits and pikas belong) appear in the 
fossil record some twenty million years 
later (see "Early Relatives of Flopsy, 
Mopsy, and Cottontail," page 56). I was 
skeptical about Malcolm's idea, and we 
had a running debate on the matter. The 
Tugnig skull might determine the answer; 
it is certainly the finest known skull of Za- 
lamhdalestes, or indeed of any Mesozoic 
mammal from Mongolia. At this early 
stage of study, we have not resolved the 
rabbit origin problem, but we have already 
turned up some intriguing clues. 

In collaboration with Tim Rose, of the 
University of Texas, we put our rat-sized 
Zalamhdalestes skull under an industrial 
strength CAT-scan. The machine made 
1 ,600 high-resolution "slices" in cross sec- 
tion, from which a computer program gen- 
erated an animated sequence. Of course, 
fossils do not preserve soft tissue such as 
nerves and blood vessels, but various 
holes and canals in the skull indicate the 
pathways of these structures. From the 
CAT-scanned images, we could tell that 
the main pathway of the carotid artery ran 
in two branches on either side of the mid- 
line of the skull. This is a striking depar- 
ture from the usual situation in placental 

mammals, in which the carotid crosses the 
base of the skull away from the midline 
and through the middle ear cavity. The 
artery's position in Zalamhdalestes may 
reflect the problem of packing a great deal 
of equipment — in the form of nerves, 
blood vessels, small ear muscles, and mid- 
dle ear bones — into the diminutive skulls 
of these mammals. 

The carotid arteries are also known to 
take this middle route in some rabbits and 
rodents. Could this indicate affinity? At 
this stage the answer is not clear. The mid- 
line route could be a very primitive condi- 
tion merely retained in rabbits and some 
rodents, but modified in most other mod- 
em placentals. It might also occur in other 
Mongolian species. We are eager to re- 
solve this dilemma by casting a broader 
net of comparisons over fossil and living 
mammals and by CAT-scanning skulls of 
other Mongolian animals, such as Ken- 
nalestes and Asiorytes. These shrewlike 
forms are even smaller than Zalamh- 
dalestes, but we should be able to study 
details of their skulls with the high-inten- 
sity scanner. 

Anatomical data on Zalamhdalestes 
and other Mesozoic creatures dispel some 
myths about the roles of the earliest mam- 
mals. The popular scenario depicts a 
swarm of stealthy, sharp-toothed shrews 
puncturing and consuming dinosaur eggs. 
Doubtless some of these creatures were 
capable of such habits, but a wide range of 
feeding preferences existed, as demon- 
strated by the seed-eating, nut-cracking 
multis or the larger and possibly camivo- 
rous beasts like Deltatheridium, which 
could have devoured tiny Asiorytes or the 
abundant lizards known from the Gobi's 
Cretaceous period. The portrait of a shrew 
that lived on and walked across the ground 
also fails to describe adequately the vari- 
ety of movements that different species 
used in getting around their Mesozoic 
habitats. Highly mobile ankle joints and 







grasping digits suggest that some multis 
were adept at climbing trees. Long-limbed 
animals like Zalambdalestes were capable 
runners and leapers and might have 
dashed about like rabbits or jumping mice. 
Yet what we know of the anatomy of 
Mesozoic mammals suggests they had a 
narrower adaptive range than their modem 
counterparts. Our Mesozoic antecedents 
are all small; certain triconodonts are com- 
parable to the tiniest living shrews, and 
even the largest of the multis only reach 
the size of opossums. (Size itself puts lim- 
itations on adaptive virtuosity. An animal 
had to be sizable to eat the fishes and large 
lizards that survived beyond the end of the 
Cretaceous. In addition, larger mammals 
are capable of behaviors such as long-dis- 
tance migration.) Mesozoic mammals 

were constrained not only by small size 
but also by a rather standardized and prim- 
itive sensory system. This observation is 
based on the study of endocasts, casts of 
the brain formed by the infilling of sandy 
matrix in fossil skulls. Endocasts of multis 
and other Mesozoic creatures show a rela- 
tively small cortical area with few, if any, 
folds, or sulci, suggesting limited intelli- 
gence. (In contrast, think of the intricate 
folding of the human brain, which greatly 
increases the cortical surface.) 

By and large, Mesozoic mammals are 
all noses and ears. Their olfactory lobes, or 
smelling centers, are well developed in 
contrast to their optic regions, or vision 
centers. Lobes near the back of the brain 
that represent hearing centers are also well 
developed. Most of these mammals would 

seem to have had a keen sense of smell 
and acute, high-frequency hearing, but 
rather poor vision, like living shrews and 
hedgehogs. Presumably they were most 
active at night, a time when the senses of 
hearing and smell, as opposed to vision, 
are critical. 

Our team will continue to crawl com- 
pulsively along the Tugrug slopes in order 
to piece together a more complete picture 
of the evolution and natural history of 
Mesozoic mammals. We are elated that an 
assortment of skeletons that can fit com- 
fortably in a shoe box has helped illumi- 
nate the first two-thirds of mammal evolu- 
tion. And this summer we hope to 
experience once again the elation of 
trundling down the cliffs of Tugrug with a 
pocketful of fossil skulls. 









by Michael Archer 

Of the many kinds of extraordinary 
mammals that have come and gone, only 
three subclasses sui"vive today: the egg- 
laying monotremes (platypuses and echid- 
nas); the usually pouched marsupials (for 
example, opossums, honey possums, 
wombats, koalas, kangaroos, and bandi- 
coots); and the unpouched placentals 
(such as rats, bats, elephants, and hu- 
mans). Although not all marsupials have a 
pouch, this external nursery is one of the 
most commonly recognized features of the 
group. To anatomists, details of the repro- 
ductive system and remarkably early 
births (some only eleven days after fertil- 
ization) are even more distinctive features. 
Early births and an accessible pouch have 
given marsupials more control over the 
business of raising offspring. If times are 
tough, as they frequendy are in the unpre- 
dictable deserts of Australia, a mother can 
decide whether or not to continue to invest 
precious energy in a pouched young. If the 
decision is against, she can "diapause" the 
young developing in the uterus, or if an 
offspring is suckling, she may reach into 
the pouch, remove the young from the nip- 
ple, and discard it — increasing the 
chances that she will live to breed again 
when conditions are better. This and other 
reproductive differences have probably 
distinguished marsupials from placentals 
for more than ninety million years, dating 
from the time when marsupials and pla- 

centals diverged from a coirmion ancestor, 
probably somewhere in the dinosaur-rid- 
den forests of North America. 

Because many of Australia's marsupi- 
als, such as the koala, are cute and cuddly, 
as well as biologically different from our 
own group, they have attracted a lot of at- 
tention since their discovery in the 
1700s — unfortunately, not all of it mag- 
nanimous. Most of us who have fallen in 
love with the marsupials of this continent 
have at one time or another suffered a con- 
descending smile from a North American 
or English colleague. Some of these 
Northern Hemispherites think of marsupi- 
als as evolutionary casualties that should 
be shoe-homed into a single order — rather 
than the eleven in which they are currently 
placed. Placentals are dignified as Eutheria 
(meaning "good" mammals — because we 
are one of them), while marsupials are hu- 
miliated taxonomically as Metatheria 
(which means "between" mammals). 

I've often wondered if marsupials were 
described in this way because they in- 
spired feelings of subclass inadequacy in 
their pouchless placental classifiers — 
"pouch envy," to give the embarrassing 
condition a name. Placental males, how- 
ever, have even more to worry about. As if 
nifty female pouches weren't threatening 
enough, the pendulous scrota of some 
male marsupials, such as the honey pos- 
sum's, contain testicles that weigh in at 4 

A rhino-sized marsupial Diprotodon emerges from the undergrowth at far 

right, startling a threesome of giant "kangaroos." This painting from the 

1920s was originally intended by artist Charles Knight to highlight 

Palorchestes, an animal hiown at the time from just a few bones. The beast 

was later found to be, not a kangaroo, but a vastly different, quadrupedal 

Australian herbivore. Although the depiction arose from a misconception, 

the magnificent Pleistocene bounders featured here still convey a 
sense of the strange kangaroos that once dominated the island continent. 

Painting by Ctnaries R. Knighl; courtesy of the Field Ivluseum of Naturai History, Neg. No. CK27T 

44 Natural History 4/94 








percent of their body weight (human testes 
account for a mere 0.04 percent of the av- 
erage male's weight). Honey possum sper- 
matozoa, at 360 \xm long, are also the 
largest in the whole class Mammalia. To 
further prick placental inadequacy, mem- 
bers of one subfamily of dasyurid marsu- 
pials have two decidedly impressive erec- 
tile organs, one in front of the other. 

True, the less spectacularly equipped 
placentals do tend to dominate the North- 
ern Hemisphere' — today. But this was not 
always the case. In the last days of the di- 
nosaurs, more kinds of marsupials than 
placentals existed, even in the Northern 
Hemisphere. Long after T. rex gasped its 
last, marsupials persisted in showing off 
their pouches and dangly bits in North 
America until about fifteen million years 
ago. Then after a brief period of inexplica- 
ble absence, they reinvaded this placental 
bastion from South America about one 
million years ago, strong-arming placen- 
tals all the way to Canada. In fact, marsu- 
pials have left their bones on every conti- 
nent. Ice probably forced them out of 
Antarctica, but the reasons for their disap- 
pearances from Europe (by ten million 
years ago) and Asia and Africa (by thirty 
million years ago) remain a mystery. 

Over the last hundred million years or 
so, the world's placentals have indeed pro- 
duced an impressive array of pouchless or- 
ders. But on the single continent of Aus- 
tralia, some of the world's most distinctive 
mammals make their home, among them 
noolbengers, wambengers, and wombats. 
If we dip into Australia's fossil record, 
such as that tumbling out of the middle 
Tertiary sediments of Riversleigh, 
Queensland, even more distinctive groups 
abound, with 50 percent greater diversity 
at the family level than survives today. Re- 
markable marsupials have similarly 
emerged from the fossil record of South 
America, once home to the parrot-faced 
groeberiids, leaping argyrolagids, tusked 
bonapartheriids, and grizzly-sized bor- 
hyaenids that every edible placental in the 

Twenty million years ago, the 

dense, warm rainforests of 

what is now Queensland 

were home to a strange 

menagerie of furry, pouched, 

feathered, and scaly beasts, 

among them, marsupial 
lions, giant snakes, and flesh- 
eating kangaroos. 

Painting by Jim Reece 

place called "Sir." While confined for the 
most part to the Southern Hemisphere 
today, marsupials still exhibit a range of 
diversity nearly as spectacular' as that of 
the world's placentals. 

The curious events of South America 
are further humbling to the placental ego. 
Although both marsupials and placentals 
arrived there from North America some- 
time between seventy and sixty-three mil- 
lion years ago, the placentals became the 
highly edible mammalian herbivores of 
that land. In contrast, the marsupials be- 
came the small- to giant-sized carnivores, 
roles they held against almost all comers 
until they were shouldered a bit to one side 
by giant, meat-sucking phorusrhacid birds 

(some of which had skulls nearly three 
feet in length). Admittedly, one group of 
placental carnivores did manage to sneak 
in about eight million years ago — the rac- 
coon family, which persists today as 
kinkajous, olingos, and coatis. The marsu- 
pial saber-toothed "lions" may also have 
lost out in competition with invading pla- 
cental saber-toothed lions about two mil- 
lion years ago. But overall, placental chau- 
vinists can take little solace from the 
history of South America. 

For centuries after the discovery of 
Australian marsupials, biogeographers as- 
sumed that the failure of placentals to 
dominate this island continent must have 
had to do with Australia's history of isola- 

46 Natural History 4/94 

Mr. 1 

tion: Somehow marsupials reached Aus- 
traha from South America and only man- 
aged to hold the territory because Aus- 
tralia broke free from east Antarctica (to 
which it had been attached as part of 
Gondwana), presumably moments before 
the hordes of competitively superior pla- 
centals came to a screeching halt at the 
new, still-crumbhng continental edge. 

Unfortunately, recent discoveries pro- 
vide little support for this view. In 1983, 
Henk Godthelp and I filled three gunny 
sacks with fifty-five-million-year-old clay 
from the town of Murgon in Queensland. 
When this clay was mud, Australia was 
still part of Gondwana with land connec- 
tions, via Antarctica and South America, 

to the Northern Hemisphere. After drying 
and washing the clay in the lab, we found 
to our delight Australia's oldest — by 
twenty-five million years — marsupial, bat. 
snake, frog, and bird bones. But the 
biggest shock was a distinctive tooth that 
resembled those of placental condylarths, 
the group that gave rise to a wide variety 
of placental orders on other continents in- 
cluding South America. 

We concluded that marsupials and pla- 
centals were both present in Australia be- 
tween seventy and fifty-five million years 
ago. But then, contrary to the expectations 
of some paleontologists, the marsupials 
ran the placentals out of town. 

We placentals should also recall that 

doe-eyed Australian kangaroos, intro- 
duced last century to the remaining wild 
places of England and Germany, have 
since toughed out ferocious placental 
competition and Europe's worst winters to 
hoist the flag of "pouched and pendulous" 
on those lands. Like eucalyptus and wattle 
trees, these rampaging Australians have 
done much to di.spel the myth that Aus- 
tralia is a sanctuary of competitively infe- 
rior bits of biological history. Marsupials 
may seem unlikely contenders in the 
world furry-weight title, but when it 
comes to their going a round or two with 
placentals, you should probably put at 
least half your money in the pouch for 


by Michael Archer 

The first duck-billed platypus to set 
webbed foot in Europe arrived in 1798 at 
the Literary and Philosophical Society of 
Newcastle on Tyne, England — pickled in 
a wooden cask. It had been sent by the 
governor of New South Wales, His Excel- 
lency Mr. John Hunter, who had watched a 
"native" spear this "animal of the mole 
kind" in the Hawkesbury River. Unfortu- 
nately, the courier who carried the cask 
into the Society's rooms on her head was 
nearly suffocated when the bottom of the 
crate caved in, and the cask and its con- 
tents dropped over her head. An English 
historian, commenting later about the 
event and the wretched woman, mused 
that "apart from her physical nausea one 
can picmre her mental horror on seeing a 
strange creature, half bird, half beast, lying 
at her feet." 

The unfortunate accident, however, had 
an instructive aspect; like the defunct cask, 
the platypus exhibited to the gentlemen of 
the Society a most unexpected opening. 
The animal's cloaca not only voids refuse 
from the intestinal tract and bladder but 
also ushers into the world the most re- 
markable production of the platypus — 
eggs. In contrast, placental mammals have 
up to three external openings, two used for 
excretion and one (in females) dedicated 
to reproduction. The members of the order 
Monotremata — platypuses and echidnas, 
or spiny anteaters — are the only living 
mammals that reproduce by laying eggs. 
This distinction, in combination with such 
seemingly archaic features as the unusual 
structure of the shoulder girdle, has led to 
a common and not unfair view that 
monotremes are the most "primitive" 
order of living mammals. But add to these 
so-called primitive features the electric 
sensors in the bill that can detect the mus- 
cular activity of fleeing prey, and you have 
a very odd blend of archaic and super- 
specialized structures. 

Arguments about the evolutionary rela- 
tionships of monotremes have run the 
gamut from the bizarre (cousins of turtles) 
to the implausible (degenerate marsupials) 

48 Natural History 4/94 

to the possible (direct descendants of 
Mesozoic eupantotheres) and the tantaliz- 
ing (surviving mammallike reptiles). The 
best bets at the moment are the last two: 
monotremes may be either long-lasting 
descendants of eupantotheres (tiny mam- 
mals common in Europe and in the Amer- 
icas during Mesozoic times) or mam- 
mallike reptiles that have independently 
acquired mammalian hallmarks, such as 
three middle ear bones. 

Part of the difficulty in working out the 
relationships of monotremes has been 
their lack of well-formed teeth. Platypuses 
gum their food to death, their grossly de- 
generate teeth being lost early in life. 
Echidnas, having lost all trace of teeth, 
tongue-slurp worms, ants, and termites. 
Thus, comparisons with extinct mammals, 
which are often known only from fossil 
teeth, are difficult to make. After a brave 
attempt to make sense of the structure of 
the platypuses' vestigial teeth, mammalo- 
gist George Gaylord Simpson concluded 
in 1929 that whatever monotremes were, 
they were something "quite distinct" from 
all other groups of mammals. 

Little further light was shed on the ori- 
gins of monotremes until 1971, when two 
discoveries were made in South Australia. 
In the Tirari Desert, Mike Woodbume, of 
the University of California at Riverside, 
and I found a fully formed fossil tooth of 
an early Miocene platypus (later named 
Obdurodon insignis — "significant lasting 
tooth"). That same year, Dick Tedford, of 
the American Museum of Natural History, 
and his colleagues unearthed another 
platypus tooth in a fossil deposit near Lake 
Frome. But it was not until 1984, when our 
research group at the University of New 
South Wales found a whole skull and most 
of the teeth of a fossil platypus some fif- 
teen million years old at Riversleigh, 
Queensland, that we at last had the first 
complete and well-formed dentition of an 
adult monotreme. 

Hot on the heels of this discovery came 
another. Fossil fish expert Alex Ritchie, of 
the Australian Museum in Sydney, was 

mulling over a collection of opalized early 
Cretaceous fossils (about 120 million 
years old) gathered from Lightning Ridge, 
New South Wales, by the Caiman broth- 
ers, two amateur collectors. Among the 
brilliantly flashing specimens, he spotted a 
little jaw fragment sporting three gemlike 
teeth. Suspecting that it belonged to a 
mammal but not sure what kind, he sug- 
gested that I have a look. In their basic 
structure, the three molars in this jaw were 
so similar to the teeth we were examining 
from Riversleigh that we had no doubt that 
this, Australia's earUest known Mesozoic 
manunal, was a monotreme. We named 
the creature Steropodon galmani, "Gal- 
man's lightning tooth." Not only was this 
the oldest mammal so far found in Aus- 
tralia but its discovery sextupled the 
known age of monoti"emes. 

The surprises continued. In 1991 
Rosendo Pascual, of the Museo de La 
Plata in Argentina, wrote to Mike Augee, 
who was organizing a symposium on the 
biology of monotremes, telling of a 
strange tooth he and his team had col- 
lected from Patagonia, in southern Ar- 
gentina, at a site that was sixty-one to 
sixty-three million years old. Although 
much older, it resembled the teeth that had 
been described from the Tirari Desert. 
After Rosendo sent a photograph, the Aus- 
tiralian Geographic Society, the Royal Zo- 
ological Society of New South Wales, the 
Riversleigh Society, and the University of 
New South Wales quickly offered to fly 
him and his tantalizing tooth to Sydney. 
When he arrived and we set his find along- 
side die teeth from Riversleigh, the only 
comments were gasps. The two forms 
were abnost identical despite a separation 
of nearly forty million years and three 

The Patagonian platypus, which could 
be called nothing else in view of its stiik- 
ing similarity to Australian fossil platy- 
puses, was named Monotrematum sud- 
americanum, "the South American 
monotreme." The next year, supported by 
the Australian Geographic Society and 

In 1984, the fifteen-million-year- 
old skull and teeth of a platypus 
came to light in the rich fossil beds 

of Riversleigh in Queensland, 

Australia. In this reconstruction, 

the ancient platypus Obdurodon 

dicksoni basks on a mossy rock in 

its lush rainforest home. 

Painting by Jeanette Muirhead 

Paddy Pallins of Sydney, we joined 
Rosendo's team in an effort to find more of 
this expatriate platypus and, delightfully, 
unearthed two more teeth in the same 
windswept area as the first. Although a bit 
of a blow to Australian pride, we now have 
to allow that platypuses, those biological 
paradigms of the island continent, once 
waddled, swam, and probably electrolo- 
cated their way across the then-united 

lands of South America, Antarctica, and 

What light do these spectacular fossils 
shed on the mystery of monotreme rela- 
tionships? Unfortunately and intriguingly, 
not as much as we would like. If by 1 20 
million years ago (the age of the Lightning 
Ridge platypus), monotremes were al- 
ready distinct as a group, we should be 
searching the stream deposits of Jurassic 

Park, looking for older, more "primitive" 
members of this group. But where? Con- 
sidering the antiquity of monotremes in 
Australia and the intermittent connections 
between South and North America, could 
a monotreme bill or beak be jutting out of 
a Jurassic cliff somewhere in the United 
States? Considering the rush of unex- 
pected monotreme discoveries in the last 
decade, we might be wise to wait and see. 



essru in 


by S, David Webb 

Our team of scuba divers had been 
working the Withlacoochee River in cen- 
tral Florida for two weeks when I spotted 
the hand-sized jaw with its strange, 
warped teeth in a dark depression below 

the main channel. Other fossils gathered 
from this rich green clay pocket thirty feet 
below the surface indicated a deposition 
date of about seven million years ago. The 
identity of the animal to which the teeth 

belonged was unmistakable: the last of the 
four teeth in the jaw had a long figure- 
eight crown and very tall sides, diagnostic 
features of a mylodont sloth. An hour later, 
nearing the end of my air supply, I fanned 
the clay away from a mandible about the 
size of a human's. It contained the nearly 
square-crowned teeth and elongate chin 
"spout" of a small megalonychid sloth. 
These finds astonished me. Two kinds of 
sloths had apparendy lived in Florida in 
the mid-Miocene. 

While plenty of sloth remains had been 
found at La Brea and other Pleistocene 
sites, the Horida fossils were at least three 
times as old as the earliest Pleistocene 
sloths. Two million years ago, many South 
American groups had already entered 
North America via the Panamanian land 
bridge in a mass movement known as the 
Great American Interchange {see page 

50 Natural History 4/94 

52). These two sloths had reached Florida 
at least five million years ahead of this 
pack, a finding now confirmed from fos- 
sils at other rare sites in Oklahoma, New 
Mexico, and California. I like to think of 
the Withlacoochee sloths as the "heralds," 
in contrast to the "legions," of animals that 
later immigrated to North America. 

The megalonychid sloth I found in the 
Withlacoochee River was an unusually 
small species, but a later member of the 
family was the ox-sized Megalonyx, 
which pushed north and eventually 
reached Alaska. The real giant of the sloth 
tribe was the elephant-sized Eremothe- 
riiim, whose remains are found most 
abundantly at Daytona Beach, Florida, but 
which has also been discovered north to 
New Jersey. These animals' long, curved 
claws were at first thought to be evidence 
that they were lionlike carnivores. But in 

1853, Joseph Leidy, the father of verte- 
brate paleontology in North America, real- 
ized that both species had used their claws 
to gather edible leaves, twigs, and 
branches. This was reinforced by his 
recognition that the extinct ground sloths 
were related to the living tree sloths of 
South America. Recent studies have 
shown that modem three-toed tree sloths 
are more closely related to Eremotherium, 
and that living two-toed tree sloths share 
their ancestry with Megalonyx. Through- 
out its long, successful history, the sloth 
family tree has produced both small arbo- 
real and large terrestrial branches. 

Sloths, armadillos, and anteaters, along 
with the extinct glyptodonts — armored 
creatures superficially resembling tor- 
toises more than other mammals — make 
up the most peculiar and the most primi- 
tive group of placental mammals, the 

edentates, also known as the xenarthrans. 
The latter name, meaning "strange joint," 
refers to their unusual backbones. In most 
mammals, the paired overiapping surfaces 
that prevent dislocation between vertebrae 
are flat or faintly curved, but in these ani- 
mals, the surfaces are scrolled into an elab- 
orate set of interlocking ridges and val- 
leys. In glyptodonts, as well as in modem 
armadillos, such infrastructure supported 
the heavy carapace above the hindquarters 
(in full-grown glyptodonts, the shell 
weighed up to 200 pounds). In sloths and 
anteaters, the trait has no obvious utility, 
but suggests that the animals are de- 
scended from shell-bearing ancestors. A 
shelled ancestry is also supported by the 
presence of a sheet of small, overlapping 
bony scales, a kind of chain mail, in the 
skin of many mylodont and some mega- 
theriid sloths. 

Edentates, the ordinal name of this curi- 
ous assemblage of animals, is a misnomer, 
implying that they lack teeth. However, 
only anteaters, with their long, tubular 
snouts and sticky tongues, are truly tooth- 
less. The other groups of edentates have 
teeth but lack enamel, distinguishing them 
from other orders of mammals, in which 
enamel-crowned teeth are a hallmark. The 
exception that proves the rule is the oldest 
armadillo jaw, which bears ten peglike 
teeth, typical of many later, insect-grub- 
bing armadillos, except that each tooth re- 
tains a thin enamel coat on its sides. (The 
oldest-known edentates are armadillos and 
glyptodonts found near the Rio de Janeiro 
airport, in a sinkhole filled with sediments 
about sixty million years old.) 

If a scale-covered carapace were not 
unmammalian enough, modem (and pre- 
sumably extinct) edentates have less abil- 
ity to thermoregulate than any other order 
of warm-blooded vertebrates. In addition, 
armadillos have a "dumbbell bone" near 

Herbivorous edentates 

reached giant proportions in 

their native South America; 

ground sloths, such as the 


Megatherium, browsed 

placidly fivm trees by rising 

to a tripod stance with their 

tails as buttresses. Tiieir 

fellow edentates, the 
tanklike glyptodonts, had 
200-pound carapaces that 
were sixty feet in diameter 

Painling by Charles R. Knight; AMNH 



The Great American Interchange 

More than twenty million years ago, 
huge pieces of the earth's crust, moving to 
the slow rhythms of continental drift, en- 
croached upon the western margins of the 
American continents, pushing up the 
mountain ranges that still form the "back- 
bone of the Americas" from Alaska to 
Tierra del Fuego. These global forces were 
also responsible for forging, two to three 
million years ago, a land bridge in Panama 
between North and South America. To 
creatures that could not swim or fly, the 
bridge opened continent-sized new realms 
and unleashed hordes of competitors and 

In a movement known as the Great 
American Interchange, land animals ex- 
panded their ranges north and south in one 
of the greatest-known minghngs of distinct 
continental faunas in the earth's history. A 
dozen land mammal families from South 
America ranged northward through the 
tropics into temperate North America. 
Nearly half were edentates — mainly sloths, 
but also armadillos, glyptodonts, and 
anteaters. Other kinds of animals that made 
the trek north included porcupines, the 
giant aquatic capybaras, opossums, and the 
now-extinct, rhino-sized plant eaters 
known as toxodonts. 

North America's emigrants were even 

more varied. South America had previ- 
ously hosted no carnivores. The indigenous 
hoofed animals and rodents had been 
nearly free of predation. During the Inter- 
change, raccoons, weasels, dogs, bears and 
cats, including sabertooths, entered the 
continent. The hoofed contingent included 
mastodonts, tapirs, horses, peccaries, lla- 
mas, and deer. Rabbits and various rodent 
families also seized new opportunities in 
the vast lands south of the equator. Most of 
the newcomers spread and diversified, 
many traversing the tropics and following 
the high Andean route before reaching 
south temperate lands. 

The most successful of the northerners 
by any measure were the cricetid rodents, 
or New World mice. Within two million 
years, they produced some fifty new gen- 
era, bursting into arboreal and terrestrial 
settings, sylvan and pastoral habitats, low- 
lands and uplands, and even producing one 
offshoot that specializes in fishing in An- 
dean streams. 

Fully half of the land mammal genera 
that now live in South America came by 
way of the Panama land bridge during the 
Interchange. In contrast, only three genera 
from South America still survive in temper- 
ate North America — the porcupine, opos- 
sum, and armadillo. — S. D. W. 

Thefonnation of the Panama land bridge opened the way for two-way traffic 

between the American continents. In this scene of Florida some two and a half 

million years ago, a sloth known as Glossotherium; an armadillo; a large, 

flightless ground bird; and aquatic capybaras — all immigrants — share a 

cypress swamp with native North American beavers. 

Painting by Eiy Kisll 

the tip of their nose. Useful in burrowing 
for food and shelter, this extra bone, called 
a prevomer, is retained from the ancient 
mammallike reptiles. These traits, as well 
as molecular comparisons, indicate that 
the edentates were the first branch from 
the base of the placental mammal tree. 

Sloths arose from armadillo stock, but 
starting more than thirty million years ago, 
they made an extraordinary switch in 
adaptive strategy, becoming plant-eating 
giants. They played as important a role as 
the native South American ungulates, ri- 
valing these other large herbivores, such 
as the now-extinct toxodonts, in abun- 
dance and diversity. Their success as her- 

bivores is quite remarkable when one con- 
siders their descent from short-legged, 
armor-encased burrowers, with shallow, 
feebly muscled jaws and peglike teeth 
with no enamel. How could sloths even 
begin to compete with fleet ungulates 
whose deep jaws and elaborately enam- 
eled teeth were already well adapted to 
processing coarse vegetation? 

Perhaps part of the explanation for the 
improbable success of herbivorous eden- 
tates was that South America had no effi- 
cient carnivores to take advantage of the 
sloths' lack of speed. Evolution does not 
produce perfection in all departments; 
rather, like politics, it is the art of the pos- 

sible. South America, with its great tropi- 
cal girth, offered vast opportunities for 
beasts that could feed readily and live well 
on low-grade fodder. With no need for 
speed, sloths had the advantage of low me- 
taboMsm, and they easily converted their 
powerful digging claws and feet into leaf- 
and branch-stripping devices. Their hind 
feet became twisted, so that the claws 
faced inward, while the outer side faced 
the ground. This allowed the smaller sloths 
to climb trees and the bigger ones to clear 
their claws from the ground. With the aid 
of a powerful tail, they rose up on a solid 
tripod base to feed from trees. A set of fos- 
silized sloth tracks found in the prison 

52 Natural History 4/94 

yard of the Nevada State Penitentiary in 
Carson City shows just how sloths ambu- 
lated on huge, splayed-out feet. 

By making just a few modifications in 
their unimpressive teeth, sloths were able 
to chew vast quantities of leaves. (Glyp- 
todonts, too, with some orthodontia, be- 
came efficient large herbivores.) Despite 
their lack of enamel, sloths developed tall- 
crowned, elaborately folded teeth with 
tracts of a hard substance called vitroden- 
tine to supplement the soft dentine. Al- 
though sloth teeth wore down faster than 
enameled teeth, they compensated by 
growing continuously throughout the ani- 
mal's life. The jaws deepened, and the 

cheek bones expanded to support a com- 
plex set of chewing muscles. In short, 
sloths cobbled together the necessary bio- 
logical machinery to overcome the inade- 
quacies of their armadilloid heritage. 

All of the ground sloths, and the 
glyptodonts as well, slid into extinction 
just over 10,000 years ago in North and 
South America. The climate had changed, 
and bands of human hunters had swept 
across the Bering Strait and throughout the 
New World. At about the same time, most 
of the hemisphere's other large herbivores 
disappeared. When the first Megalonyx 
was unearthed at Big Bone Lick on the 
Kentucky frontier some 1 80 years ago, its 

dense, iron-stained bones were brought to 
the White House, where President Jeffer- 
son, an avid amateur paleontologist, stud- 
ied them. When Jefferson commissioned 
Lewis and Clark to explore the western 
territories, he also asked them to make a 
careful search for living Megalonyx. If not 
for the deadly combination of climate 
change and overhunting of the creatures 
by Paleo-Indians a few thousand years 
earlier, Lewis and Clark might have been 
successful. Instead, sloths are now discov- 
ered and studied mainly by paleontolo- 
gists. Today only two kinds of tree sloths 
exist, diminutive tropical sur\'ivors of their 
big, far-ranging, extinct brothers. 






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by Malcolm C. McKenna 

Paleontology is a combination of good 
science and good luck. Most of the time, 
we paleontologists work at determining 
the meaning of what has already been 
brought to a museum's storage cases. As a 
new field season approaches, however, we 
head for distant parts of the planet in hopes 
of finding something important that will 
improve our understanding of geological 
history and biological evolution. Thus, in 
June of 1991, ajoint Mongolian-American 
expedition, including two Mongohan pale- 
ontologists and six of us from the Ameri- 
can Museum of Natural History, headed 
for Naran Bulak ("Sunny Spring"), a re- 
mote oasis in the otherwise sere Gobi 
Desert of southwestern Mongolia. 

Due to Naran Bulak's coveted water — 
and because many eighty-million-year-old 
dinosaurs have been found in late Creta- 
ceous sediments nearby — it has become 
an important base for deeper paleontologi- 
cal exploration of the Gobi. The area's 
Mesozoic dinosaurs are about the same 
age as those at Mongolia's famous Flam- 
ing Cliffs — where, in the 1920s, the 
American Museum's own Mongolian ex- 
peditions first found dinosaur eggs, di- 
nosaur skeletons such as those of Proto- 
ceratops and Velociraptor (of cinematic 
fame), and skulls and jaws of early mam- 
mals such as Zalambdalestes {see "A 
Pocketful of Fossils," page 40). 

Since the late 1940s, many expeditions 
from scientific institutions in Russia, 
Poland, and Mongoha, as well as our own 
from New York, have used Naran Bulak as 
a center from which to radiate in search of 
extinct remains of late Cretaceous di- 
nosaurs, lizards, birds, crocodiles, turtles, 
and mammals. Our main interest in 1991, 
like that of most of our predecessors, was 
to explore the Cretaceous outcrops reach- 
able from Naran Bulak. But equally im- 
portant was the presence of younger fos- 

sils in the multicolored Cenozoic sands 
and clays overlying the dinosaur beds, 
where we unexpectedly had a stroke of 
good luck, practically within shouting dis- 
tance of camp, that set us off on a new path 
of discovery. 

One day, research fellow James Clark 
decided to prospect for fossils by follow- 
ing a fifty-five-million-year-old Eocene 
band of red early Cenozoic sediments that 
extended southeast and east of camp. The 
red layer rested on slightly older white- 
colored sands, so we could easily trace the 
boundary through the badland exposures. 
Clark was almost immediately rewarded 
by a hard nodule of stone that he found a 
few feet above the base of the red layer. It 
contained a complete skull and jaws of 
what at first appeared to be some sort of 
rodent. The fossil was mostly encased in- 
side a limey nodule with only a couple of 
front teeth protruding, but the nodule was 
vaguely skull-shaped, which was what 
had attracted Clark's attention. Being an 
expert anatomist, he could almost see the 
rest of the specimen through its coating of 
limey silt. 

When a paleontologist finds and col- 
lects a fossil, the next thing he or she does 
(after wrapping it up and recording the de- 
tails of its location on a map and its posi- 
tion in the rocks) is to follow the same 
layer of rock that produced it wherever the 
layer can be seen. We often do this on our 
hands and knees. Jim was not lucky again 
that day, but in the ensuing days Priscilla 
McKenna and I dihgently continued the 
search several miles to the east. We knew 
where to look: just a few feet above the 
base of the Eocene red layer. We had only 
to follow the red and white boundary 
wherever it went and then prospect a few 
feet above it. We also knew what to look 
for: not so much for actual bones but 
rather for limey rock nodules that looked 

vaguely skull- or bone-shaped, distributed 
in the red beds Uke raisins in raisin bread. 
After much effort in these areas both east 
. and west of Naran Bulak, we eventually 
found about fifty nodules with skulls or 
other bones inside. Most of the specimens 
were skulls and jaws of adult animals, but 
juveniles with milk teeth were also pre- 
sent. We even have a curled-up, articu- 
lated partial skeleton that looks as if the 
animal had died in a burrow. All these 
specimens in their stony coatings had been 
completely overlooked by our many pre- 
decessors who had not had our expedi- 
tion's brand of educated luck. 

Our first impression — that the speci- 
mens belonged to some unknown member 
of the Rodentia, the varied order that in- 
cludes mice, rats, beavers, and porcu- 
pines — was based on what we could see of 
the front teeth, often the only part visible 
at the surface of our rock nodules. They 
looked like rodent incisors. 

When we returned to New York, our at- 
tention was riveted by the dinosaurs, birds, 
and lizards that we had found in the late 
Cretaceous sediments far older than the 
Eocene red beds. But finally, we found 
time to begin removing some of the rock 
from our red bed "rodents." We have been 
able to dissolve some of the rock nodules 
in weak acetic acid, leaving the specimens 
inside more or less intact. We also have 
used sharp needles and other tools to get at 
the specimens. Gradually, some skulls and 
jaws have emerged. However, behind the 
gnawing front pair of theii" rodentlike in- 
cisors were some surprises. 

A second pair of incisors bolstered the 
front ones, not only in the upper teeth but 
also in the lower jaw. Rabbits, hares, and 
their short-eared relatives the pikas, col- 
lectively known as lagomorphs, have a 
second upper incisor pair, just behind the 
main pair — but rodents do not. Modem 
lagomorphs, as well as all known rodents, 
have only one incisor in each lower jaw; 
because our Naran Bulak specimens still 
had two on each side, they are more prim- 
itive. (Still more primitive mammals have 
even more sets of incisors.) Thus, in the 
early Eocene red beds at Naran Bulak, we 
had found, not rodents, but early and prim- 
itive Asian fossil lagomorph skulls and 
bones, about twenty million years older 
than any previously well-known lago- 
morph skulls. 

Members of the mammalian order 
Lagomorpha are well known from many 
fine specimens, including complete skulls 
and skeletons of Palaeolagus, dating back 
to about thirty-five milhon years or so ago. 

56 Natural History 4/94 

But since then, they haven't changed much 
compared with the evolutionary changes 
that must have occurred earher. Paleontol- 
ogists have had only a few glimpses of the 
jaws and teeth, often of just a few isolated 
teeth, of earlier specimens. Thus we have 
had no clear picture of what whole skulls 
or whole skeletons looked like in those 
early days of lagomorph history. Palaeo- 
lagiis is much more like modern lago- 
morphs than like the animals we began to 
find in 1991 near Naran Bulak. For ex- 
ample, since about thirty-five million 
years ago, rabbits, hares, and pikas have 
had high, prismatic, rootless cheek-teeth, 
used for grinding up vegetation with a 
side-to-side motion quite different from 
that of primitive mammals or rodents. 

The lagomorph pattern of folded 
enamel and dentine on the tops of the high 
cheek-tooth crowns is unique, and its ori- 
gin has puzzled generations of paleontolo- 
gists. Although theories abound, no one 
has been able to figure out exactly how the 
lagomorphs' pattern of cusps and valleys 
originated from the simpler triangular 
cusp pattern of more primitive mammals. 
But the teeth of our Naran Bulak speci- 
mens are not high-crowned, folded, or 
rootless like the cheek-teeth of advanced 
lagomorphs. Rather, the Naran Bulak ani- 
mals have cheek-teeth that are rooted and 
low-crowned, with a triangular cusp pat- 
tern that is little modified, even though the 
enamel on the inner side of the upper teeth 
sometimes enters partway into a tooth 
socket. Their low enamel crowns have a 

clear dental pattern that can be related to 
that of many primitive mammals, as well 
as to the highly modified design of ad- 
vanced lagomorphs. We now know how 
the dentition of lagomorphs has changed 
from a structure like that of primitive 
mammals to the unique pattern shown by 
modem representatives. 

Other lagomorph features are shared by 
our Naran Bulak finds. For instance, the 
joint between the jaw and the skull is high 
on the side of the skull, as in later lago- 
morphs. Another feature shared with later 
lagomorphs is the projection of a sliver of 
the frontal bone of the skull roof forward 
onto the side of the snout, between the 
main bones on the face (maxillary) and 
snout (premaxillary). The incisive foram- 
ina, the holes in the front of the palate be- 
hind the two pairs of upper incisors, are 
very elongated, another telltale clue of 
linkage with more modem lagomorphs. In 
still another traditionally lucky feature, the 
rabbit's foot, the anatomy of the ankle in 
our specimens is far more lagomorphlike 
than rodentlike, although we don't know 
whether the Naran Bulak animals hopped. 

Other characteristics of our Naran 
Bulak fossil lagomorphs are primitive, not 
yet modified from features shared with 
other (nonlagomorph) mammals of the 
time. The typical flexure of the snout and 
the shortening of the palate of modem 
lagomorphs' skulls are not present in our 
specimens, nor are certain changes in the 
bony parts of the ear region that took place 
closer to thirty-five miUion years ago. The 

lacy filigree of bone on the sides of the 
snout in modern rabbits is only faintly 
suggested by .some tiny openings in the 
Naran Bulak lagomorphs. The upper 
cheek-teeth in our creatures still had fairly 
large roots but these are much reduced in 
size in some and wholly lost by other, later 
lagomorphs. These technical anatomical 
details help to establish our Naran Bulak 
fossils as primitive members of the mam- 
malian order Lagomorpha, and they also 
show that different parts of organisms can 
evolve at different rates. Thus the long in- 
cisive foramina and upper incisor distribu- 
tion evolved long before the palate short- 
ened or the molars became prismatic. 

But the evolutionary trail does not end 
here. The teeth in our Naran Bulak skulls 
are closely similar to those of the Mimo- 
tonidae, an extinct family of lagomorph- 
like mammals known from snouts and 
jaws but not from well-preserved com- 
plete skulls. Mimotonids occur mostly in 
southem China in rocks about sixty mil- 
lion years old. Our colleague Li Chuan- 
kuei in Beijing has been amassing a large 
and important collection of mimotonids 
for years and has recognized their affini- 
ties with Lagomorpha. His fossils, as well 
as our more completely preserved ones 
from Naran Bulak, suggest to me that a 
Mongolian late Cretaceous mammal 
known as Banmlestes may also be related 
to lagomorphs. Their teeth share some fea- 
tures: an enlarged pair of anterior incisors 
accompanied by other, smaller rear in- 
cisors, a developing gap between the in- 
cisors and the cheek-teeth, and inner 
enamel of the upper cheek-teeth that 
sometimes enters the tooth sockets. The 
lower incisor of Banmlestes extends far 
back in the jaw, beneath the anterior mo- 
lars, and its enamel is restricted to an outer 
U-shaped band of single-layered enamel, 
like that of later lagomorphs. However, the 
creature does not have the pecuhar lago- 
morphlike forward-extending sliver of 
frontal bone that our Naran Bulak speci- 
mens share with lagomorphs. 

Banmlestes, in tum, is closely related to 
the enigmatic Zalambdalestes, one of the 
Mongohan late Cretaceous mammals first 
collected by the American Museum's 
Central Asiatic Expeditions in the 1920s 

An anist 's inteifretation of 

Palaeolagus, an early rabbit that 

lived in Nonh America some thirt}'- 

five million years ago 

Drawing by Frank Ippolito 


Frontal projection 
No filigree 

First incisor 

Low-crowned, rooted teetti 

Long incisive foromino 


Frontal projection 

Bony swelling for cheek-feeft^ 

Prismatic teeth witti folded enamel pattern 
Incisive foramina 

Fine details of the skull show that the 

fifty-five-million-year-old Naran Bulak 

animal was starting to become more 

like a modem lagomorph. A side view 

(h) of the skull reveals two pairs of 

incisors (blue), and a frontal bone 

(purple) that juts foi-ward; but no 

network of openings on the snout. (The 

diagonal stripes indicate rocky 

matrix.) A view of the upper jaw and 

palate (B) shows this animal's 

rodentlike, low-crowned teeth and 

relatively long palate; but unlike a 

rodent's, its incisive foramina 

openings are long. 

and by later expeditions (including our 
own in tiie 1990s). Now Zalambdalestes. 
too, seems to me to be a distant relative of 
lagomorphs — closer to them than to many 
other kinds of mammals because it seems 
to share at least a few derived features 
with them, the rest of its features being ei- 
ther primitive characteristics that were not 
later modified or peculiarities unique to it. 
This conclusion may be proved wrong by 
study of further evidence, but perhaps the 
relationships of lagomorphs to other mam- 
mals have been available to us all along, 
right in museum collections, unappreci- 
ated. That is why museums need to keep 
and augment large collections for future 
researchers. Someday, someone may see a 
specimen in our collections that has fea- 
tures currently unknown to paleontolo- 
gists, or someone may be able, through 
new insight, to reinterpret prevailing ideas 
in a new and interesting way. 

A Palaeolagus species from thirty- 
five-million-year-old North 
American rocks reveals a much 
more rabbitlike creature. Visible 
from the side (C) is the frontal bone 
projection (purple), as well as a 
rabbitlike lacy filigree on the snout 

and a swelling that housed the 

cheek-teeth. The palatal view (D) 

shows that the incisive foramina 

are still long, but the palate is 

short, the first incisors are grooved, 

the second incisors small (blue), 

and the cheek-teeth are prismatic, 

with enamel patterning, more 

appropriate for a lagomorph 's diet 

than a primitive manmial's. 

Illustrations by Ed Heck 

58 Natural History 4/94 

The Devi Is 

by Larry D. Martin 

Geologist Erwin Hinkley Barbour knew 
that he was looking at a spectacular new 
fossil, but he couldn't figure out what it 
was. In 1891, when he made his first expe- 
dition to the fossil-rich White River Bad- 
lands of Nebraska, the local ranchers had 

called his attention to the nine-foot-long, 
sand-filled tubes, enclosed within white fi- 
brous material, that spiraled down into 
what was thought to be the remains of an 
ancient lake bed. Barbour was at no loss, 
however, for a scientific name for the 

weird spirals; he called them Daimonelix, 
the classical language equivalent of their 
local name, devil's corkscrews. 

Soon after, Barbour proposed that his 
Daimonelix were the remains of giant 
freshwater sponges. He also noted that at 
least one sponge had become entangled 
with the bones of an extinct rodent. When 
further research revealed that the deposits 
had never been associated with a lake but 
more likely with a semiarid grassland 
some twenty-two million years ago, Bar- 
bour recovered grandly by suggesting that 
the spirals were a new order of gigantic 
fossil plants. Again, a few rodent bones 
had turned up with the Daimonelix. While 
Barbour never gave up his fossil plant sce- 
nario, his fellow paleontologists had some 

A herd of slender three-toed horses bypass mounds of dirt encircling beaver 

burrows. In the American West, twenty-two million year ago, these burrowing 

rodents constructed colonies analogous to those of today 's prairie dogs. 

Detail ol painting by Jay Matternes; courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution 


ideas about the presence of the rodents. 

In 1893, Edward Drinker Cope and 
Theodor Fuchs independently suggested 
that the Daimonelix were not remains of 
organisms themselves, but were trace fos- 
sils of structures excavated by the rodents. 
In 1905, Olaf A. Peterson, of the Carnegie 
Museum, examined the fossils and deter- 
mined that the bones were the remains of 
beavers and that the spirals were burrows. 
Like old sewer, lines, the burrows were 
lined with roots (Barbour had been right 
about the plant tissue). The surrounding 
sediments were so rich in volcanic glass 
that the groundwater was charged with sil- 
ica, and plant roots became embedded in a 
glassy matrix (the hard, white exterior of 
the burrows). This "cast" led to the preser- 
vation of the Daimonelix. 

The burrowing beavers were about the 
size of woodchucks or smaller. Like other 
digging vertebrates, they had short tails 
and small ears and eyes. They also had 
long claws and superlong front teeth, or in- 
cisors, that grew rapidly to counteract the 
wear that results from digging. Three spe- 
cies are known, the large Palaeocastor 
magnus, middle-sized P. fossor, and the 
small Pseudopalaeocastor barbouri. The 
burrows of each species can be distin- 
guished by the diameter within the spiral 
and the width of the dig marks. (North 
America was also home to aquatic beavers 
that Uved at the same time as Palaeocas- 
tor, and the oldest-known beaver, Agnoto- 
castor, was aquatic. However, the modem 
North American species. Castor canaden- 
sis, is descended from neither the burrow- 
ers nor Agnotocastor; it is an immigrant 
from Eurasia that arrived here some five 
milUon years ago.) 

Not long after coming to the University 
of Kansas in 1970, 1 began a detailed ex- 
amination of more than one thousand 
devil's corkscrews. By bringing casts and 
actual specimens of corkscrews back to 
my laboratory, I discovered that the an- 
cient beavers had left clues to their engi- 
neering strategy in the form of twenty- 
two-million-year-old dig marks in the 
burrow walls. 

Devil's corkscrews spiraled 
some nine feet into the ground. 
Equipped with chambers and 
side passages, they provided 
beavers with safe, cool living 
quarters and possibly latrines 
and water "sinks." 

Drawing by Ed Heck 

Instead of the narrow claw marks that I 
had expected, the walls were covered with 
broad grooves that I could match by scrap- 
ing the incisors of the fossilized beaver 
skulls into wet sand. The beavers had used 
their teeth to scrape dirt off the walls. The 
very regular spirals were constructed by a 
continuous series of either right- or left- 
handed incisor strokes, and the burrows 
are divided almost fifty-fifty into right- 
and left-handed spirals. A burrowing 
beaver must have fixed its hind feet on the 
axis of the spiral and literally screwed it- 
self straight down into the ground. Two or 
three yards underground, the burrow ex- 
tended into a straight chamber slightly in- 
clined upward where right- and left- 
handed incisor strokes alternate. These are 
the living chambers; some have low pock- 
ets that may have served as sinks for water 
or as latrines and side passages. This is 
where the skeletons of beavers and their 










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cubs are usually found. Some burrows also 
contain highly inclined (about 45°) living 
chambers, which may have been esfiva- 
tion chambers, where the beavers stayed 
cool during hot, dry summers. 

As they dug, the beavers had to dispose 
of the loose dirt they had scraped away 
with their front teeth. My investigations 
showed that the beavers scooped up the 
dirt with their paws and thrust it behind 
them. 1 think too that every so often the ro- 
dent must have used its remarkably flat 
head to push the accumulations out of the 
burrow. Burrow entrances would have 
been marked by high mounds of exca- 
vated soil. 

I once mapped more than two hundred 
separate burrows that all seemed to be part 
of one colony. Like modem prairie dogs, 
these beavers may well have had extensive 
networks of colonies, towns covering 
acres. The existence of more complex so- 
cial behaviors is easy to imagine but hard 
to prove. Did rodent guards stand on look- 
out on the mounds to give waming whis- 
fles of danger to other colony members? 
We do know that the beavers had enemies. 
An ancient raccoon relative, Zodiolestes 
daimonelixensis, as its name suggests, was 
found curled up in a Daimonelix looking 
completely at home. It may have lived 
within the colony and preyed predomi- 
nantly on the resident beavers, much as the 
black-footed ferret does today in prairie 
dog colonies. When pursued on the sur- 
face, a Palaeocastor could attempt to es- 
cape by plunging headfirst into its burrow. 
The tops of burrows reveal expanded areas 
that would have allowed a fleeing beaver 
to turn around and then pop its head over 
the mound or to back down the hole, only 
a little broader than its body, then face the 
predator with strong jaws and formidable 

The fossil record is full of examples of 
evolutionary developments, such as the 
beavers' colonies of spirals, which have 
now disappeared. The magic is in the reap- 
pearance of many of these developments 
at different times. Long before Palaeocas- 
tor, and for that matter, before any tme 
mammals existed, some members of a 
group called mammallike reptiles, the di- 
cynodonts, took to burrowing and created 
spiral burrows so remarkably like those of 
Palaeocastor that they should probably be 
included in the same trace-fossil genus, 
Daimonelix. And today, while modem 
beavers have undertaken new engineering 
feats, the spirit of burrowing Palaeocastor 
echoes in the subterranean labyrinths of 
prairie dog towns. 

60 Natural History 4/94 


by Bryn J. Mader 

Long before people of European de- 
scent came to the Great Plains of North 
America, the remains of extinct creatures 
that would later be called titanotheres were 
known to the native inhabitants of this re- 
gion. Many fossil bones of these mysteri- 
ous "titan beasts" had weathered out in the 
Badlands, and over time, the bones were 
woven into legend. According to the 
Sioux, the bones were those of the great 
"thunder horse," a gigantic creature that 
would occasionally descend to earth to 
hunt buffalo. 

Western science first learned of titan- 
otheres in 1 846, when a fur trader brought 
an unusual fossil to Hiram Prout, a med- 
ical doctor living in Saint Louis. The fos- 
sil, a section of a massive lower jaw, had 
been found in the Badlands, along the 
White River in what is now South Dakota. 
Front's specimen, which is still preserved 
in the collections of the Smithsonian Insti- 
tution, has a double significance because it 
was also the first fossil land vertebrate to 

be collected from the western territories of 
the United States. The strange fossil 
caused much excitement in scientific cir- 
cles and was largely responsible for the 
geological exploration of the territories in 
the decades that followed. All of the spec- 
tacular discoveries of dinosaurs and giant 
mammals in the American West owe 
much to the finding of this first, fragmen- 
tary fossil. 

After the discovery of the first titano- 
there specimen, more than a quarter cen- 
tury passed before scientists began to 
piece together an accurate picture of what 
titanotheres were truly like. Not surpris- 
ingly, the image that emerged was quite 
different from the fabulous creatures of 
Sioux legend; nevertheless, titanotheres 
turned out to be extraordinary animals. 

Titanotheres belong to the mammalian 
order Perissodactyla, which includes mod- 
em-day horses, tapirs, and rhinoceroses, 
and are members of a distinct perisso- 
dactyl family known as brontotheres 

(which means "thunder beasts"). Al- 
though many titanotheres were superfi- 
cially rhinoceroslike in appearance, they 
were a distinct lineage and left no descen- 
dants in our modern world. 

Titanotheres appeared in western North 
America in the early Eocene, approxi- 
mately fifty-one million years ago, and 
soon spread across the Bering land bridge 
into eastern Asia. The earliest titanothere, 
Eotitanops borealis, was a relatively small 
creature, no bigger than a large dog. Over 
the course of their twenty-million-year 
history, however, fitanotheres evolved into 
giants such as Megacerops platyceras, 
more than seven feet high at the shoulder. 

The titanothere was massive and pow- 
erfully built. It had four hooflike toes on its 
front feet and three on the hind feet. The 
head was oddly proportioned, with an ex- 
tremely short face on an otherwise elon- 
gated skull. Both eyesight and smell were 
pooriy developed, and the brain was extra- 
ordinarily small. In a giant skull more than 
three feet long, the brain was only slightly 
larger than a human fist. 

Like all perissodactyls, titanotheres 
were herbivores. Their very low-crowned 
teeth suggest that they fed primarily on 
soft leaves. On occasion, they may have 
eaten grass, but it does not seem to have 
constituted a large part of their diet. Grass 
is a highly abrasive substance that wears 
teeth down very quickly. If titanotheres 
subsisted primarily on grass, their teeth 
would have been worn to stubs in a very 
short period. 

Perhaps the most conspicuous feature 
of many titanothere species were the horns 
located on the front of the skull. Titanoth- 
ere horns differed from those of modem- 
day antelope and cattle in that they were 
blunt and covered with tough hide rather 
than with a homy sheath. They were pre- 
sent in both sexes, and in primitive homed 
species, the horns of males and females 
were about the same size. In the gigantic 
forms of later eras, however, the homs of 
males were larger than those of females. 

On exhibit at the American 

Museum, a skeleton of the 

titanothere Brontops 

reveals a broken and 

subsequently healed rib 

(fourth rib visible from 

front). Such an injwy could 

have resulted fivm rivalry 

between herd members. 

Photograph by Denis Finnin; AMNH 


Titanothere homs had a vaiiety of shapes 
and probably served a number of pur- 
poses: for species recognition, as displays 
in courtship, and as weapons during com- 
bat with other titanotheres. 

When titanotheres fought with their 
horns, they probably did so in one of two 
different ways. Most titanotheres had 
homs that were directed to the side, sug- 
gesting that the combatants might have 
circled one an'other while delivering lat- 
eral blows to the unprotected flank of the 
opponent. In other titanotheres, however, 
the homs were directed forward, indicat- 

In the late 1920s, artist 
Charles Knight depicted a 

magnificent bull 

titanothere, of the genus 

Megacerops, intimidating a 

would-be predator the 

carnivore Hyaenodon, at 

the edge of a watering hole. 

The rest of the titanothere 

herd dust-bathes and feeds 

in the background. 

Charles R. Knight: courtesy of the Field 
Museum of Natural History, Neg No, 121T 

ing that these species probably fought 
head to head, locking homs with those of 
their adversaiy. much as deer and cattle do 
today. Although these head-to-head con- 
tests were primarily wrestling matches, 
the focus of the attack probably remained 
the opponent's flank, which would be 
rammed with the homs if the opportunity 
arose. The American Museum's new fos- 
sil mammal exhibition includes a remark- 
able titanothere skeleton belonging to the 
genus Brontops in which one rib had been 
broken during the life of the animal, prob- 
ably during a sparring match with another 

At the end of the Eocene epoch, ap- 
proximately thirty-two million years ago, 
all titanothere species suddenly became 
extinct. Despite their abmpt disappearance 
from the fossil record, titanotheres were 
not casualties of a sudden cataclysmic 
event. Instead, their disappearance can 
probably be explained by a simple change 
in the earth's climate. 

The classical explanation for the extinc- 
tion of these huge browsers holds that as 
the Eocene passed into the Oligocene, the 
environment became cooler and drier, 
transfomiing the open woodland habitat 
inhabited by the last titanotheres into rela- 

tively open grassland. Many of the trees 
and shmbs that had fumished titanotheres 
with their primary source of food disap- 
peared over time, leaving only the expand- 
ing fields of grass to provide sustenance. 
Other perissodactyls, such as horses and 
rhinoceroses, developed higher-crowned 
teeth in response to this ecological chal- 
lenge, but titanotheres never evolved a 
tmly high-crowned tooth. With their fee- 
ble teeth basically unmodified, titano- 
theres were not able to efficiently utilize 
the primary source of food, and were 
doomed to extinction. 

In the grand scheme of things, titano- 
theres did not survive on this planet for 
long, but while they were here they were 
one of the dominant herbivores and 
thrived in great numbers. The last titano- 
theres were among the largest land mam- 
mals of their time and reigned virtually 
unchallenged for six million years. Like 
all creatures, however, they were subject 
to nature's great dictum: Adapt to the 
changing world or pass into obhvion. Ti- 
tanotheres could not adapt to the rigors of 
the new environment and passed from the 
scene, leaving only their fossil bones to in- 
trigue Homo sapiens, the dominant crea- 
ture of the present era. 

62 NATimAL History 4/94 



by Bruce J. MacFadden 

North America is the ancestral home of 
horses, and many fossil sites across the 
continent contain abundant remains of an- 
cient members of the family. During the 
past fifteen years, my colleagues and I 
have excavated fossil horses at Thomas 
Farm, a site in Florida that some eighteen 
million years ago was a sinkhole and per- 
fect trap for animal remains. In addition to 
such long-vanished creatures as extinct 
rhinoceroses and bear-dogs, we have un- 
earthed thousands of teeth and bones of 
fossil horses. 

Three different kinds of fossil horses are 
found at Thomas Farm, but by far the most 
common we have encountered is Parahip- 
pus — "side-toed horse," so named be- 
cause of the toes flanking either side of the 
central digit. About the size of a small 
white-tailed deer or pronghom, Parahip- 
pus probably lived in small bands, or 
harems (as do many modem horses in the 
wild), consisting of a dominant male, sev- 
eral females, and juveniles. It may have 
inhabited both woodlands and grasslands 
and fed on leaves from trees and shrubs, as 
well as on grasses. Thus, in its social struc- 
ture, habitats, and diet, this early horse 
combined characteristics of primitive, an- 
cestral horses with more modem traits. 
With its hoof — and toes — in two worlds, 
Parahippus stood on the verge of the great 
heyday of horses during the Miocene. 

At any given fossil locality in North 
America from about fifty-five to twenty- 
five million years ago, we usually can find 
two to four species of horses that presum- 
ably lived side by side. Thereafter, from 
about twenty to ten million years ago, 
horses evolved rapidly and adapted to var- 
ious environments and ways of life. Horse 
diversity increased so dramatically that at 
some fossil sites from fifteen million years 

ago as many as a dozen species can be 
found. Today, the world's horses (and their 
relatives the zebras, asses, and onagers) 
are reduced to the single genus Eqmis, 
whose wild members live only in parts of 
Asia and Africa. All are powerful runners 
and feed predominantly on grass. Such 
uniformity contrasts starkly with fossil 
horses, a group with a rich fifty-five-mil- 
lion-year-old history, represented by some 
three dozen extinct genera.