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isiaiLritM 



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TODAY 



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r&e.pii 




JUNE 2001 



VOLUME 110 



NUMBER 5 



FEATURES 




OF GENES AND GENOMES 

Halfway through this gene- 
conscious year, Natural History 
looks at some small things with 
big implications. 

28 ARE GENES REAL? 

NATHANIEL C. COMFORT 

3 8 THE BEAST WITH 
FIVE GENOMES 

LYNN MARGULIS 
AND DORION SAGAN 

42 SEX, ERRORS, AND 
THE GENOME 

MARK RIDLEY 

5 2 BACTERIAL 
REVELATIONS 

ROBERTA FRIEDMAN 



COVER Our bodies have two kinds of 
genomes. Tiie larger one (recently 
sequenced) is found in the center of each 
of our cells. But a different set of genes, of 
bacterial ancestry, dwells in the 
mitochondria, the cells' powerhouses. Our 
innards and skin also host hundreds of 
microbial species, 
each with its own 
genome. Artist 
Alexis Rockman 
adds mitochondria 
(green ovals) and 
bacteria (spirals 
and rods) to a 
fanciful "portrait" 
of our species. 




FEATURES 




DEPARTMENTS 



A NOSE FOR ALL REASONS 

A sampler of various and 
versatile snouts 
LAWRENCE M. WITMER 



BORN TO BE TAME 

Trusting, hand-raised birds 
go to desert survival school. 
YOLANDA VAN HEEZIK AND 
PHILIP SEDDON 




8 UP FRONT 

Lifestyles of the Small 
and Obscure 

10 LETTERS 

12 CONTRIBUTORS 

14 FINDINGS 

The Chimeric Self 
]. LEE NELSON 

18 IN SUM 

20 CELESTIAL EVENTS 

There Goes the Sun 
RICHARD PANEK 

21 THE SKY IN JUNE 
JOE RAO 

22 THIS LAND 

How the West Was Swum 
RICHARD L. ORNDORFF, 
ROBERT W. WIEDER, AND 
HARRY F. FILKORN 

26 BIOMECHANICS 

The Lobster's VioUn 
ADAM SUMMERS 

72 IN THE FIELD 

Arctic Fires 

PETER J. MARCHAND 

78 REVIEW 

Hardball Among the Hominids 
JOHN VAN COUVERING 

79 nature.net 

Biology's Giant Leap 
ROBERT ANDERSON 

80 BOOKSHELF 

82 MUSEUM EVENTS 

84 THE NATURAL MOMENT 

Woodworks 
PHOTOGRAPHS BY 
JIM BRANDENBURG 

86 ENDPAPER 

Would Darwin Get a 
Grant Today? 
T. V. RAJAN 



Visit our Web site at 
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8 I NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



UP FRONT 



lifestyles of the 
Small and Obscure 



Science, a product of the human mind, has delivered repeated blows to the 
huinan ego. Copernicus removed us from the center of the solar system. 
Darwin displaced us from near-angelic status by sticking us on a quite 
ordinary, though relatively new and green, branch of the animal family tree. 
Edwin Hubble informed us that the Milky Way is an undistinguished galaxy 
in a nondescript corner of the universe. Then came the Human Genome 
Project. When a draft of our genome was pubHshed in February of this year, 
we learned that we don't even have as many genes as we thought we did. 
The estimated 100,000 was pared down to a mere 33,000 — not all that 
much bigger than the genome of a mouse (28,000), a fruit fly (23,000), or 

a nematode (22,000). 
Of course, numbers 
aren't everything, but 
these findings do bruise 
our vanity. 

So far, gene- 
sequencing professionals 
have devoted most of 
their attention to 
bacteria, whose 
genomes typically have 
between 1,500 and 
4,000 genes. And as the 
most abundant (and 
arguably the most 
influential) organisms 
on Earth, bacteria 
deserve the limelight. 
About 2 billion years 
ago, they made complex 
life possible by getting 
themselves incorporated 
into larger cells and going on to do the jobs of respiration and 
photosynthesis in animals and plants. (Plants and animals, including humans, 
still carry bacterial descendants in each cell, as Lynn Marguhs and Dorion 
Sagan explain in "The Beast With Five Genomes," page 38.) 

Genomic studies can tell us something about how bacteria behave in 
human bodies and other habitats. Turn to "Bacterial Revelations" (page 52) 
for new insights into the obscure lifestyles of several germs — including the 
tuberculosis bacillus, the typhus pathogen, and the sea-dweUing 
Prochlorococais marinns, the world's smallest and most common photosynthetic 
bacterium. — Ellen Goldemohii 





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10 I NATURAL HISTORY 6/0 1 



LETTERS 



Pioneers! 

"The Scavenging of 'Peking 
Man,' " by Noel T. Boaz 
and Russell L. Ciochon 
(3/01), was fascinating. 
However, Helmuth Zapfe's 
studies on cow bones fed to 
captive hyenas were not, as 
the article states, pioneering. 
WilHam Buckland, the first 
professor of geology at the 
University of Oxford, 
conducted the same 
experiments in Oxford in 
1821 by feeding ox bones to 
a hyena in a traveUng 
menagerie. He compared 
the fragmented bones with 
bones found in various caves 
in England, which he 
interpreted as having been 
ancient hyena dens — at the 
time, a most controversial 
view. Buckland published 
detailed comparative 
engravings of the bones. His 
work and experimental 
approach were truly 
pioneering. 
Neville Haile 
Oxford, England 

Heaven . . . 

Could authors Scott L. 
Wing ("Hot Times in the 
Bighorn Basm," 4/01) and 
Kenneth D. Rose 
("Wyoming's Garden of 
Eden," 4/01) be a Httle 
more specific as to where in 
the Bighorn Basin their 
studies take place? The basin 
is paleontology heaven, with 
excellent outcroppings of 
everything from 
Precambrian to Tertiary age 
in the Wind River Canyon, 
at the southernmost part of 
the basin, to huge dinosaur 
finds in Therinopolis and 



outstanding petroglyphs at 
Cottonwood Creek near 
Hamilton Dome. 
Steve Leece 
Bagnio City, Philippines 

Scott Wing replies: 
"Paleontology heaven" is 
the best two-word 
description 1 have heard for 
the Bighorn Basin. The 
Paleocene and Eocene fossils 
and rocks that we study are 
near Cody and other towns 
in the central portion of the 
basin. Within that area are 
HteraUy thousands of fossil 
locations. Almost all of 
these are away from major 
rivers, dry creeks, and 
sagebrush flats, where recent 
sediments tend to cover the 
older rocks. 

...and Hell 

Scott Wing matter-of-factly 
writes of the Eocene global 
warming as being "perhaps 
as rapid as the one we 
humans are about to cause 
and experience." I don't 
beHeve there is enough 
evidence to support such a 
strong indictment of 
humanity. There have been 
many other documented ice 
ages in the last 100,000 
years and rapid warming 
and cooHng spells in the 
interglacial periods. The fact 
is that httle, if anything, is 
known about what causes 
cHmatic change on a large 
scale. To blame humanity is 
harsh and premature. 
Kent K. Smith 
via e-mail 

Scott Wing replies: Kent 
Smith correctly states that 



rapid cHmate change has 
occurred in the absence of 
human activity. That was 
what my article was about, 
so I clearly do not "blame 
humanity" for all cHmate 
change. That said, the 
addition of CO2 and other 
greenhouse gases to the 
atmosphere through human 
activities is well measured 
and documented, and I am 
not aware of any scientists 
who dispute that these gases 
lead to an increase in 
temperature near the earth's 
surface. The exact amount 
of warming that will be 
generated, the possible role 




of countervailing factors, 
and the effects of climate 
change on plants and 
animals are poorly 
understood at present. 
That's one reason why 
research into the history of 
cHmate change is important 
and why working on these 
problems is prudent planet 
management — the business 
we humans are getting into, 
whether we admit it or not. 

Interesting Point 

Steven N. Austad's review of 
Tlie Qtiest for Immortality: 
Science at the Frontiers of 
Aging, by S. Jay Olshansky 
and Bruce A. Carnes 



(4/01), does a good job of 
highlighting the two sides of 
the anti-aging debate, but 
his description of a bet with 
Olshansky overstates the 
miracle of compounding. 
The author reckons that 
their $300 bet wQI have 
become $500 million in the 
year 2150. Not Ukely Eight 
percent rather than 10 
percent annual interest is 
probably more reaHstic, and 
that yields a more modest 
figure of $30 milhon. 
Figuring in 3 percent 
inflation, we wind up with a 
much less iinpressive 
$450,000 at the end of those 
150 years. 
Stuart Robinson 
via e-mail 

Steven Austad replies: 
The miracle of compound 
interest is pretty evident, 
given that a mere 2 percent 
difference in our interest- 
rate assumptions leads to 
Stuart Robinson's 
calculation of my wager as 
yielding a mere $30 milhon, 
compared with my estimate 
of $500 milHon (or more 
than $7 biUion if the interest 
rate is 2 percent higher). I 
trust that my guess, using 
seventy years of history as a 
guide, has as much 
crediblhty as Robinson's — 
that is, very httle. Regardless 
of inflation, $30 miUion or 
$500 mMon or $7 bilhon 
ought to at least buy my 
descendants a good night on 
the town to celebrate their 
farsighted ancestor. 

Natural History's e-mail 
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12 



NATURAL HISTORY 6/0 1 



CONTRIBUTORS 



As a graduate student in genetics at the University of Wisconsin, Lynn MarguUs 

("The Beast With Five Genomes," page 38) learned about "cytoplasmic genes" — such 

as those that determine green color in plants — and recognized that they belonged to 

microbes that were once free living. Now a Distinguished University Professor at the 

University of Massachusetts Amherst, she is still exploring the impHcations of such 

ancient mergers. Margulis has collaborated with writer Doiion Sagan on numerous 

books, including Slanted Truths: Essays on Gaia, Symbiosis and Euolution (Springer- Verlag, 2001). Then- collaborative work 

is accessible at www.sciencewriters.org. Sagan is now coauthoring a book on the evolution of inteUigence. 




Mark Ridley ("Sex, Errors, and the Genome," page 42) started gravitating toward a career in the 
natural sciences in his midteens, after hearing a lecture by famed marine biologist AHstair Hardy. 
Ridley's fascination with genes and evolution developed at the University of Oxford, where he 
first encountered the ideas of Richard Dawkins. Now himself a researcher in Oxford's zoology 
department, Ridley is the author of several books, including Tlie Cooperative Gene (Free Press, 
2001). Despite his penchant for theory Ridley still enjoys old-fashioned natural-history pursuits 
such as identifying birds, bugs, and flowers. 




Roberta Friedman ("Bacterial Revelations," page 52) grew up in Queens, New York City. She 
received her Ph.D. in pharmacology from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, where she 
researched the neurotransmitter serotonin, but reaHzed that she much preferred writing about 
research to carrying it out. For the past fifteen years, she has written on science and medicine 
for a variety of publications. A resident of Santa Cruz, CaUfornia, Friedman has also written on 
science for children, inspired lately by her three boys. Now ready for a third career, she makes 
pottery and hopes to set up her own studio soon. 

Yolanda van Heezik and Philip Seddon ("Born to Be Tame," page 58), coauthors and spouses, 
spent nine years at the National Wildhfe Research Center in Taif Saudi Arabia, helping to 
reintroduce houbara bustards into the desert. The pair met at the University of Otago in New 
Zealand, where both did their doctoral work. They wrote about jackass penguins in South Africa 
for the November 1997 issue oi Natural History. Now back in New Zealand with their four-year- 
old son, Connor, Heezik (left) is a lecturer in zoology and Seddon (see page 61) is director of the 
wildlife management program at the University of Otago. Sophie the fox now Uves "in a state-of- 
the-art captive breeding facihty in the United Arab Emirates and may soon embark on a new career as a mother." 




Associate professor of anatomy at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine in 
Athens, Lawrence M. Witmer ("A Nose for AH Reasons," page 64) has "one foot in the 
Mesozoic and the other in the present, studying Hving species to learn about dinosaurs and 
other extinct beasts." To that end, he has made CAT scans of everything from tapirs to Allosaurus 
and, with his students, dissected all sorts of animals (currently in the freezer are two rhinoceros 
heads, two manatee heads, monitor Hzards, seals, and birds). To colleagues who complain about 
the odor coming from his lab, he repHes, "Sometimes science stinks." 





After two decades of traveUng on assignment for National Geographic, photographer Jim Brandenburg 

("The Natural Moment," page 84) decided to setde down next to a million-acre wilderness in his 
native Minnesota. Coming upon the tracks of a wolf or a lynx gives him even more pleasure, he 
reports, than did his former adventures in the Namib Desert or the forests of Manchuria. 
Brandenburg's books include Wliite Wolf. Living With an Arctic Legend (Northword Press). He has 
estabhshed a nonprofit gallery of his work in his hometown of Luverne; the proceeds go to acquiring 
and preserving the taUgrass prairie near his boyhood farm there (see wwwjimbrandenburg.com). 



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14 NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



FINDINGS 



CHIMERIC 
SELF 

Cellular traffic between 
mother and fetus raises 
questions about the causes of 
autoimmune disease. 

B\/ J. Lee Nelson 




One of the unsolved mysteries 
of immunology is why the 
body of a pregnant woman 
doesn't reject her fetus. After all, our 
immune system evolved to keep for- 
eigners out, to maintain a clear distinc- 
tion between self and other. In recent 
years, the mystery deepened as re- 
searchers learned that fetal cells get into 
the maternal bloodstream during preg- 
nancy and, what's more, may stay there 
for decades, perhaps indefmitely. What 
might this mean for how we think 
about autoimmune disease? 

The traditional view of autoimmu- 
nity is that it is a case of mistaken iden- 
tity: a body, often for no apparent rea- 
son, fails to recognize soine ot its own 
tissues and mounts an attack against it- 



self. There is no evidence, for example, 
that rheumatoid arthritis sufferers had 
anything wrong with their joints, or 
with the tissues Hning the joints, that 
might have led to the onset of the dis- 
ease; their bodies appear to have simply 
turned on themselves. The indefinite 
persistence of fetal cells in a woman's 
body, however, led me to ask if some 
so-called autoimmune diseases may be 
triggered by foreign cells, specifically 
by fetal cells present in the mother's 
body. After several years of looking into 
this question, I recently proposed that 
what we may be dealing with, in tact, is 
a kind of chimerism, though on a mi- 
croscopic scale. 

In Greek mythology, the chimera 
was a fire-breathing creature with the 



head of a hon, the body of a goat, and 
the tail of a serpent. In modern medi- 
cine, the term "chimerism" refers to 
an organism whose body contains 
populations of cells derived from an- 
other individual — a less grand but, to 
researchers like myself, equally com- 
pelling notion. Microchimerism is said 
to exist when the number of nonhost 
cells is very low (for example, fewer 
than one foreign cell for every million 
host cells). 

One observation that led me to sug- 
gest a connection between micro- 
chimerism and autoimmune diseases 
was that these illnesses — among the 
most familiar of which are rheumatoid 
arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, 
and multiple sclerosis — usually afflict 




irezzo chimera, bronze, sixth century b.c. 



more women than men, sometimes at 
ratios of greater than ten to one. Fur- 
thermore, many of these diseases strike 
most often in late middle age. Three 
such examples are thyroiditis (an in- 
flammation of the thyroid gland), pri- 
mary biliary cirrhosis (inflammation 
and destruction of the Hver), and sclero- 
derma (progressive hardening of the 
skin and internal organs). If these dis- 
eases hit earlier in life, when hormonal 
differences between men and women 
are so striking, the logical assumption 
would be that sex hormones were 
somehow implicated. But in part be- 
cause they tend to come on later in life 
(often not developing until after 
menopausej, I looked for other diffcr- 
ences between males and females. Preg- 



nancy was an obvious one, and I was in- 
trigued by the possibiUty that women 
are uniquely subject to a kind of reverse 
inheritance from their children. 

Men and children, as well as 
women who have never been pregnant, 
also develop autoimmune diseases, but 
microchimerism could play a role m 
these populations as well, because there 
are several ways people may wind up, 
perhaps indefinitely, with cells that 
aren't their own. During pregnancy, for 
instance, the mother's cells can also pass 
into the developing fetus. In addition, 
cell transfer can occur between twins in 
utero. Blood transfusions are another 
pathway for cell transfer: although the 
donor's red blood cells — which have no 
nucleus and are short-Hved — are soon 
cleared from the recipient's circulation, 
it turns out that the donor's longer- 
lived, nucleated white blood cells can 
persist within the recipient. 

Further sparking my interest was the 
knowledge that leukemia and lym- 
phoma patients who undergo bone 
marrow (stem cell) transplantation often 
develop a syndrome known as chronic 
graft-versus-host disease, with symp- 
toms very much Hke those of certain 
autoimmune diseases, especially those 
of scleroderma. This syndrome occurs 
most often when the donor's cells are 
not perfectly matched to the recipient's. 

Much of my own research — done 
in collaboration with colleagues at the 
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research 
Center in Seattle and with Diana 
Bianchi and her team at the New Eng- 
land Medical Center in Boston — has 
focused on scleroderma. This insidious 
illness begins with hardening ot the 
skin on the fingers and toes and slowly 
marches to the arms, legs, face, and 
trunk. Advanced hardening can result 
in skin ulcers and the loss of fingers or 
toes. No treatment exists to reverse 
scleroderma, and when it moves to the 
digestive system, kidneys, heart, and 
lungs, it is often fatal. 

To investigate the possible role of 
microchimerism in scleroderma, we 



took blood samples from two groups of 
women: scleroderma patients and 
healthy "controls." All the women had 
previously given birth to a son (moth- 
ers of sons were chosen because of the 
availability of a simple test to detect 
male DNA in a female host). We found 
that the amount of male DNA in a ta- 
blespoon of blood was significantly 
greater in the scleroderma patients — 
equivalent to as many as sixty-one male 
cells, compared with a maximum of 
two in the healthy women. The 
women in our studies had borne their 
sons many years earlier, yet the levels of 
male DNA in some of the scleroderma 
patients exceeded those found in preg- 
nant women carrying a normal male 
fetus. Working with skin biopsy sam- 
ples, other investigators subsequently 
produced similar results. 

As exciting as these results were, the 
mere presence of foreign DNA is not 
sufficient to explain scleroderma. By 
using very sensitive techniques, we were 
able to detect fetal cells m the immune 
systems of more than 60 percent of the 
healthy women we tested — present in 
smaller numbers than in the sick 
women, but there nonetheless. Why, 
then, do I think that such cells may be 
implicated in some instances of disease 
but not others? 

The answer, I beheve, lies in the 
genetic relationship between a mother 
and her child, specifically in how 
closely matched their HLA genes are. 
Present in almost all the nucleated 
cells in our body, HLA genes are a 
crucial part of our immune system, 
vital to the body's ability to distinguish 
self from other. A clear mismatch be- 
tween the HLA genes of a pregnant 
woman and her fetus appears to be a 
good thing, because the mother's im- 
mune system will then have no trouble 
recognizing as foreign any fetal cells 
that may cross over into her blood- 
stream. If maternal and fetal HLA 
genes are a perfect match, cell move- 
ments from one to the other will also 
not be a problem, since there would in 



16 



NATURAL HISTORY 



6/01 



fact be nothing foreign to worry 
about. But what if, my colleagues and 
I wondered, the HLA genes of 
mother and child are not identical but 
very similar? Might this make it easier 
for the foreign cells to slip past the 
mother's immune system undetected 
and remain active? If so, might this 
somehow put the mother at risk of 
developing an autoimmune disease 
later in hfe? 

To find out, we looked at the HLA 
genes of women with scleroderma and 
those of their children. 
Such studies can be con- 
fusing because ot the 
many variations on the 
theme of matched and 
mismatched genes. "For- 
eignness" quickly be- 
comes a matter of perspective. For il- 
lustration's sake, imagine a mother 
who has HL^i genes A and B and a fa- 
ther who has A and C (in reahty, of 
course, many more genes than this are 
involved). If both the mother and the 
father happen to pass on the A gene, 
then the fetus — with its two A 
genes — will not seem foreign to the 
mother, who has an A gene of her 
own. From the point of view of the 
fetus, however, the mother's HLA B 
gene will register as foreign. 

In this study, we concentrated on 
HLA-DRBl, a gene known to be in- 
volved in scleroderma and in many 
other autoimmune illnesses. What we 
found was striking: scleroderma pa- 
tients were nine times more likely than 
were healthy mothers to have given 
birth to a child whose HLA-DRBl 
genes were very similar to theirs. And 
when, as in the hypothetical example 
above, foreignness existed only from 
the perspective of the child, the 
mother then appeared to run as much 
as a nineteen-fold risk of developing 
this devastating disease. 

Fetal cells and fetal DNA have 
been found by researchers investigat- 
ing other autoimmune diseases as 
well — for example, according to one 



preliminary report, in the salivary 
glands of some patients with Sjogren's, 
or sicca, syndrome (in which inflam- 
mation results in dry eyes and a dry 
mouth) and in the livers of patients 
with primary biliary cirrhosis (al- 
though, complicating matters, it was 
also frequently found in the hvers of 
patients with other non-autoimmune 
diseases). Furthermore, two recent pa- 
pers on myositis, a degenerative mus- 
cle condition, reported finding more 
maternal cells in children with this 

Women are uniquely subject 
to a kind of reverse inheritance 
from their children. 

disease than in those without. Our 
scleroderma team has detected mater- 
nal cells in adult children, some of 
whom were scleroderma sufferers and 
others not. Other researchers have 
found they could induce lupus in lab- 
oratory mice by injecting parental cells 
into offspring, suggesting that mater- 
nal cells could be involved in this dis- 
ease as well. 

If foreign cells are indeed involved 
in autoimmune disease, why is there 
often such a long lag between the time 
of cellular transfer and the onset of ill- 
ness? The most likely explanation is 
that these cells may, under the right ge- 
netic circumstances, predispose a per- 
son to an illness, but that some kind of 
triggering event — exposure to an in- 
fectious agent, for example, or an envi- 
ronmental toxin — must also occur in 
order for the disease to develop. 

At this stage, we don't yet know Iww 
one person's cells cause malfunctions in 
the body of another. We think it less 
likely that damage results from a direct 
attack on host tissues than that the for- 
eign cells operate hke a computer virus, 
disrupting the sensitive network of 
communication between cells responsi- 
ble for immune regulation in the body 
of the host. 



The study of microchimerism in 
human health and disease is a new 
frontier. My research has convinced 
me that the movement of cells from 
one individual to another will prove 
to be an important factor in at least 
some diseases. There are, however, 
other interesting (and not mutually 
exclusive) possibilities. Persistent for- 
eign cells — whether fetal or mater- 
nal — may sometimes be neither detri- 
mental nor neutral, but beneficial. 
Some studies, for instance, have sug- 
gested that once a 
woman has given 
birth, she may in fact 
have a reduced risk of 
developing rheuma- 
toid arthritis, and we 
are currently investi- 
gating the possibility that reverse in- 
heritance may be providing some pro- 
tection here. And we have found that 
when fetal and maternal cells are ge- 
netically mismatched in a particular 
way, a woman who already has rheu- 
matoid arthritis may sometimes enjoy 
remission from the disease during her 
pregnancy. 

Future research will undoubtedly 
reveal much more about the cellular 
traffic between mother and fetus, in- 
cluding whether this form of mi- 
crochimerism is simply an unavoidable 
side effect of pregnancy or whether — if 
beneficial effects should prove to out- 
weigh the negative ones — it might ac- 
tually have been the target of natural se- 
lection. Obstetricians may never feel 
the need to hand out pamphlets entitled 
"Warning: The genes you don't inherit 
may be harmflil to your health." But 
one thing is certain: microchimerism 
research has shed new light on the age- 
old question "Who am I?" 

J. Lee Nelson is an associate member in the 
Program of Human Innmmogenetics at the 
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center 
and an associate professor in the Division of 
Rheumatology of the University of Wash- 
ington, Seattle. 




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18 



NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



IN SUM 



SNAKY FAKERY According to a theory of 
mimicry promulgated by English Victorian natu- 
ralist Henry Walter Bates, some harmless crea- 
tures warn away predators by evolving a strong 
resemblance to poisonous ones. Thus, several 
kinds of king snakes mimic the venomous coral 
snake's distinctive pattern of alternating red, 
black, and yellow or white bands. Now an ex- 
perimental field study has demonstrated that 
the king snakes can get away with the charade 
only if coral snakes inhabit the same locality. 




David W. Pfen-> 
nig, of the University 
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 
and colleagues predicted that the pro- 
tective effect of looking like a coral snake 
would break down in areas where the genuine 
article was absent. The researchers placed a 
total of 1,200 plasticine models of snakes at 
forty different woodland and desert locales in 
two wilderness areas, one in Arizona and an- 
other in North and South Carolina. About half 
the models in each area were placed inside 
coral snake territory, and half were placed out- 
side it. When raccoons, coatis, foxes, coyotes, 
skunks, or bears bit the models, they left tooth 
marks in the plasticine. 

Since there were far fewer attacks on king 
snake mimics within the ranges of real coral 
snakes. Pfennig believes that predators in 
these areas have developed an innate avoid- 
ance of snakes with bright-colored band pat- 
terns. How these mammals acquire their in- 
stinctive fear remains a question, as a single 
coral snake bite might well remove the 
"learner" from the gene pool. ("Frequency- 



Dependent Batesian Mimicry," Nature 410, 
2001)— Richard Milner 

EAU DE GENES Scientists and lovers alike 
have long known that fragrance plays a role in 
sexual communication. Now, research done by 
Manfred Milinski and Claus Wedekind while 
they were at the Universitat Bern in Switzer- 
land suggests some evolutionary explanations 
for odor preferences. 

A set of genes involved in both scent recog- 
nition and conferring immunity to infection — 
known as the major histocompatibility complex 
(MHC) — is widespread in vertebrates. Both mice 
and humans, for example, have been shown to 
prefer the body odor of partners that possess 
MHC genotypes different from their own. 

Milinski and Wedekind asked both women 
and men to assess various scents, indicating 
whether they would "like to smell like that" 
themselves or whether they would like to smell 
them on a partner. There was a positive corre- 
lation between the subjects' own MHC genes 
and the scents they chose for 
themselves — but a negative cor- 
relation for fragrances they selected for po- 
tential partners. 

The researchers believe that people prefer 
fragrances that amplify— rather than mask— 
their natural body odor. By using perfumes 
that broadcast their genetic makeup to poten- 
tial mates, and by selecting partners whose 
MHC genes are dissimilar to their own, individ- 
uals may reduce inbreeding as well as suscepti- 
bility to ceri:ain diseases. ("Evidence for MHC- 
Correlated Perfume Preferences in Humans," 
Behaviorai Ecology 12, Z001)—Kirsten L Weir 

PLAY OR PREY if there's one fact emerg- 
ing from all the field studies of chimpanzees, it 
is that chimp behavior and customs ("cul- 
tures") differ widely from place to place. Com- 
munities vary in their greeting behavior, use of 
tools, and food preferences. Because chimps 
are so closely related to us, primatologists 
carefully document any unusual behavior. 

One recurrent question concerns the extent 
of ape carnivory. Observers have verified that 
chimp populations at Mahale Mountains Wild- 
life Research Centre in Tanzania kill ten differ- 



IS' 



'^Xhimpanzee with hyrax .) 









/ 
( 



ent species of mammals and eat them, while 
other chimp groups at Bossou, in Guinea's 
southeastern corner, hunt much less frequently 
and prey only on tree pangolins. Still other 
communities are almost entirely vegetarian. 

Satoshi Hirata, Gen Yamakoshi, and col- 
leagues from Kyoto University in Japan have 
reported incidents in which chimps at Bossou 
captured and killed western tree hyraxes but 
did not eat them. At Bossou, they recently ob- 
served a mixed-sex group, including the alpha 
male, scream excitedly and then attack a hyrax 
that fell out of a tall tree. 

In another incident, an adolescent male 
was seen moving through a tree swinging a 
live hyrax, then slamming it against the tree's 
branches. An eight-year-old female soon got 
hold of the motionless carcass, swung it in the 
air, and carried it. She finally settled into a 
tree nest, where she slept with the dead hyrax 
all night; the next morning, she groomed its 
fur, carried it around, and eventually let it drop 
to the ground. 

Although chimps at Mahale do consume 
hyraxes, those at Bossou either let them go or 
kill them without eating them. Bossou chimps, 
which only rarely interact with hyraxes, appar- 
ently do not consider them prey. For further in- 
formation, go to www.pri.kyoto-u.ac.jp/chimp 
/Bossou/Bossou.html. ("Capturing and Toying 
With Hyraxes (Dendrohyrax dorsalis) by Wild 
Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) at Bossou, 
Guinea," American Journal of Primatology 53, 
2001)— Richard Milner 



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20 



NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



CELESTIAL EVENTS 




There Goes the Sun 

Witnessing an eclipse today may not be the mystical 
experience it once was, but it's no less impressive. 

By Richard Panek 



What you'll see," one of the 
cruise ship's official guides 
was saying, "you won't be 
able to describe to your family. People 
cry. People scream. People babble." An 
unofficial guide — the director of a 
planetarium back in the States and one 
of our fellow passengers — had a more 
frankly romantic interpretation of 
what we were about to experience: "I 
equate it with love." 

Can any natural event (even love) 
possibly Hve up to such advance 
billing? The passengers aboard a special 
cruise on the Black Sea in August 
1999 were about to find out — as will 
people taking similar sea cruises or 
land expeditions in Afi-ica this month, 
when the moon once again totally 
eclipses the Sun. Such an event isn't 
particularly rare. UnUke spectacular 



comets, which tend to streak into view 
only once or twice a decade, total 
solar ecHpses occur on average about 
once every other year. What makes 
them seem so rare, however, is their 
inaccessibility. 

You can witness the Moon 
precisely superimposing itself upon the 
Sun only if you happen to be in the 
right place at the right time. The right 
place — the path of the Moon's umbral 
shadow — is 170 miles across at its 
widest, and the right time — totaHty 
itself — can be seven minutes, thirty- 
one seconds at the longest and usually 
lasts several minutes less. A total solar 
ecHpse will be visible at a given place 
on Earth only once about eveiy 375 
years on average, so if you want to see 
any of the three dozen or so such 
events that are going to occur during 



your Hfetime, chances are 
you are going to have to 
go to it. 

Which helps explain 
why echpse cruises and 
land expeditions have 
become popular — and the 
best such tours not only 
get you there but also 
provide lectures and 
briefings on what to 
expect when totaHty 
arrives. That's not to say 
that the eclipse cruise I 
took in 1999 didn't have a 
casino or an onboard band 
featuring "The Girl From 
Ipanema" in its repertoire. 
Nor was every passenger 
"chasing totality," as 
echpse veterans hke to say: 
on the morning of the 
main event, fifteen 
passengers passed up the 
final and most extensive 
preparatory briefing in 
favor of a napkin-folding 
tutorial. Still, those of us 
who did go to the middle 
of the Black Sea for a 
good look at what some 
tour organizers were billing as "the last 
total solar ecHpse of the millennium" 
found ourselves trying to get the most 
out of our two minutes and twenty- 
one seconds. 

Among the phenomena any 
observer of a total solar ecUpse can 
anticipate are 

Weather. After the edge of the 
Moon meets the edge of the Sun, the 
temperature may begin to drop 
noticeably. Aboard our ship, idling in 
the August heat of the Black Sea, it fell 
21° F altogether, to 83° at totahty. 

Shadow. Just before the beginning 
of totahty, the shadow of the Moon 
wlU visibly race across the landscape — 
in our case, the calm surface of the 
sea — from the west. 

Baily's beads. When the last rays 
of the Sun poke through the valleys 



along the perimeter of the Moon's 
disk, they create an effect that 
iiineteenth-centur\' British amateur 
astronomer Francis Baily described as 
"a string of bright beads." 

Diamond-ring effect. The final 
Daily's bead appears together with the 
\'-isible band formed by the solar 
corona. 

Wildlife. Birds and beasts will be 
responding, perhaps starting to bed 
down for the "night" as the sunlight 
dims. But the response of human 
beings will be no less notable. As my 
fellow cruise passenger Robert J. 
Bonadurer, director of the Minneapolis 
Planetarium, said, "You can tell 
yourself that you don't beHeve the 
world is going to come to an end — but 
you do. And then you understand 
people shootuig arrows at the Moon." 

To be sure, a total ecHpse of the 



Sun is not without its scientific 
applications, whether it's Arthur 
Eddington using photographic images 
of the 1919 ecHpse to help vaHdate 
Einstein's general theory of relativity 
or today's astronomers monitoring the 
event to view the corona, the highly 
ionized gases surrounding the Sun. 
But the psychological impact of seeing 
the perfect fit between Moon and 
Sun — the only such coincidence 
visible from the surface of a planet in 
our solar system — is what casual 
observers remember. 

They'll be watching this month 
(see "The Sky in June," below, for 
details). And if you need any evidence 
that the impact of a solar ecHpse is 
more psychological than scientific, 
consider what happened on our cruise 
immediately alter totaHty. As the sight 
of the Moon creeping across the 



Sun — the spectacle that minutes earlier 
had awed everyone — continued to 
play itself out, only in reverse, hardly 
anyone paid attention. The band 
resumed playing; the totaHty chasers 
drank champagne and danced. Off to 
one side, Anthony E Aveni, professor 
of astronomy and anthropology at 
Colgate University and one of the 
official onboard experts, noticed that 
our ship as weU as several others in our 
immediate vicinity were already 
barreHng back across the Black Sea. 
"We're aU heading tor the Bosporus," 
Aveni laughed. "We've abandoned the 
midHne. What a bunch of eclipse 
hypocrites we are!" 

Richard Panek is the author of Seeing and 
Believing: How the Telescope Opened 
Our Eyes and Minds to the Heavens 
(Penguin, 1999). 



THE SKY IN JUNE 



By Joe Rao 



Mercury swings between Earth and the 
Sun this month, reaching inferior 
conjunction on June 16. This is not 
the best month for Mercury hunters, 
as their target wiU be cloaked by the 
blinding solar glare. 

Venus, by far the brightest of the 
planets, rises every morning just before 
dawn. At twiHght it is unmistakable as 
it ascends in the east. The planet 
attains its greatest elongation as early as 
June 8. On the 17th the Moon appears 
well below and to the right of Venus; 
on the 18th the Moon is a similar 
distance below and to its left. 

Mars dominates the night skies this 
month, reaching opposition on June 
13, when it shines at an eye-popping 
magnitude of -2.4. On June 21 it is 
only 41.8 million miles away, its closest 
approach to Earth since October 19, 
1988. Mars retrogrades among the stars 
of Ophiuchus all month. At 40° north 
latitude, it rises about an hour after 



sunset at the beginning of June and 
appears weU to the right ot an almost 
fliU Moon, rising together with it on 
the 6th. By the 13th the fiery planet 
rises as the Sun sets, and by month's 
end, it is already weU above the east- 
southeastern horizon at dusk. 

Jupiter's solar conjunction occurs on 
the 14th, and the planet is invisible for 
most ot June. At month's end, it might 
be gHmpsed just above the east- 
northeastern horizon about forty-five 
minutes before sunrise. This marks the 
beginning of a yearlong apparition, 
when the giant planet will blaze 
within the stars of Gemini. 

Saturn wiU be too close to the Sun 
during the first two weeks of June to 
be seen, but after midmonth, it begins 
to emerge low in the east-northeastern 
sky about two hours before sunrise. 
On the morning of the 19th the 
yellowish planet will be below and to 
the left of the Moon's crescent. 



The Moon is fuU on June 5 at 9:39 p.m. 
Last quarter comes on June 13 at 11:28 
P.M. The new Moon faUs on the 21st at 
7:58 A.M., and first quarter is on the 
27th at 11:19 P.M. 

A total solar eclipse, the first of the 

centuiy, wUl get under way at 6:37 
A.M. on June 21 and can be viewed 
along a narrow swath starting in the 
South Atlantic, crossing Angola, 
Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Madagascar, 
and ending in the Indian Ocean. The 
Moon's umbral shadow cone wiU first 
touch Earth far off the coast of 
Uruguay. The open waters ot the 
South Atlantic will experience the 
longest totality: four minutes and fifty- 
seven seconds. 

Summer solstice occurs on June 21 at 
3:38 A.M. in the Northern 
Hemisphere. 

Unless otherwise noted, all times are given 
in Eastern Daylight Time. 



22 



NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



THIS LAND 



How the 
West Was 
Swum 

At Nevada's Berlin- 
Ichthyosaur State Park, 
fossils of giant marine 
predators point to the 
region's watery past. 



B\/ Richard L. Orndorff, Robert W. 
Wieder, and Harry F. Filkorn 

Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park sits on 
the western flank of Nevada's 
Shoshone Mountains, about 7,000 
feet above sea level. Today a 
seemingly endless expanse of 
sagebrush covers the relatively 
featureless landscape of the valleys, 
while the rocky slopes of the 
mountains support scattered 
sagebrush and stands of juniper and 
piiion trees. This sparsely populated 
part of Nevada has changed little 
since the first settlers arrived more 
than one hundred years ago. But it 
has changed much since the largest 
marine predators of the Triassic 
Period Hved here, more than 200 
million years ago. 

Extinct reptiles that plied ancient 
oceans, ichthyosaurs had highly 
streamHned bodies resembHng those of 
some of today's fastest fish, such as 
swordfish, marUn, and tuna. Despite 
their fishhke exteriors, ichthyosaurs 

Adapted from Gfohgy Underfool in Central Nevada, by R. L. 
Orndorff, R. W Wieder, and H. F. Filkorn. © 2001 by the 
authors. Reprinted by permission of Mountain Press 
Publishmg Company, MissoiJa, Montana. 




had to surface to breathe air and they 
gave birth to hve young. Their 
elongate mouth and strong jaws held 
rows of pointed conical teeth, similar 
in shape to those of modern toothed 
whales. A circular set of overlapping 
bony plates internally reinforced the 
disproportionately large eyes of some 
ichthyosaurs and compensated for 
changes in water pressure when the 
animals dived or surfaced. This feature 
enabled them to consistently maintain 
their highly developed sense of vision 
at all swimming depths. 

Fossil ichthyosaurs are common in 



the sedimentary rocks that make up 
Nevada's Luning Formation. About 
230 million years ago, when these 
sediments were deposited, North 
America was part of the northern 
supercontinent known as Pangaea, and 
the Panthalassa Ocean covered much 
of what is now the western United 
States. Outcrops, or protruding layers 
of rock, of the Luning Formation are 
scattered throughout the mountain 
ranges of central Nevada, and 
paleontologists have found ichthyosaur 
remains in the West Humboldt Range 
and the New Pass Range, as well as in 



Union Canyon in the Shoshone 
Mountains, the site of Berlin- 
Ichthyosaur State Park. 

The first ichthyosaur bones 
discovered in Union Canyon were 
excavated by gold prospectors from the 
mining towTi of BerHn (now a well- 
preser\-ed ghost to\\Ti and part ot the 
state park). While the miners saw the 
bones as novelties and sometimes used 
them to decorate their cabins, the 
fossils did not become known to the 
scientific community and recognized 
as the remains of ancient reptiles until 
1928. The first field expedition to 
Union Canyon was launched by 
Berkeley paleontologist Charles L. 
Camp and his colleague Samuel P. 
WeUes in 1954. Today a stroll through 
Union Canyon takes visitors by 
Camp's cabin, where he and other 
scientists worked diligently for years to 
reconstruct the ichthyosaurs' skeletons 
and solve the puzzle of their presence 
here. Union Canyon has yielded at 
least thirts'-seven mostly complete 
ichthyosaur skeletons. In 1966 an A- 
frame shelter was buUt over the main 
quarr\' to protect some of the exposed 
fossils and allow visitors to see them. 
The skeletons of nine individuals, their 
bones still embedded in rock, are on 
view. While Camp considered the 
Union Canyon fossils to be of three 
different species of ichthyosaurs, all the 
specimens are now thought to be the 
remains of a single species, Shonisaums 
popularis, named tor the surrounding 
mountain range. 

Thanks to the abundance of 
Shonisaums specimens collected in the 
region, scientists know more about the 
skeleton of this species than about any 
other Late Triassic ichthyosaur. Fifty or 
more feet long and weighing an 
estimated forty tons, Shonisaums was 
one of the largest creatures of its 
time — about the size of a modern 
sperm whale and twice the size of a 
killer whale. Larger individuals had 
six-foot-long front fins, twenty-five- 
foot-long tails, and ten-foot-long 



skulls with elongate jaws, fdled with 
conical teeth. In contrast, the well- 
preserved ichthyosaurs found in shale 
quarries in Holzmaden, Germany, 
which date from the Jurassic Period, 
were only the size of today's dolphins. 

While fossil bones tell us about the 
body plans of extinct creatures, the 
composition of the surrounding rock 
can give clues to the enviromiients they 
inhabited and help answer such 
questions as how so many large ocean- 
going predators ended up in the 
Shoshone Mountains. At the time the 
Union Canyon ichthyosaurs Uved, the 
region was a tropical sea, situated along 
the west coast of what is now North 
America. The bedrock in the area 
indicates that the ichthyosaur bones 
were deposited in a deep ocean shelf 
environment. One of the most 
convincing pieces of evidence is the 
fine-grained sedimentary rock that 
encloses the fossils. As rivers carrying 
sediment spiU into 
the ocean, freshwater 
mixes with standing 
marine water, and 
the momentum of 
the flow decreases; as 
a result, coarse 
sediment drops to 
the bottom near the 
shore. Fine sediment 
remains in 
suspension much 
longer and travels far 
out to sea, where it 
settles slowly to the 
bottom. The 
sediment layers in 
the Union Canyon 
rocks suggest they 
accumulated in the 
deeper areas of the continental shelf. 

Other fossils found with the 
ichthyosaur remains also support the 
idea that this was a deepwater 
environment. Most of these are from 
swimming organisms, such as 
ammonoids and nautiloid mollusks 
that lived just above the deep seafloor. 




Ichthyosaur bas-relief and trail 
of vertebrae 



The general scarcity of fossils of 
scavenging marine animals also fits 
well with this interpretation, because 
scavengers tend to be less numerous in 
deep marine waters. In contrast, other 
rock layers of the Luning Formation 
contain an abundant and diverse 
assemblage of moUusks, corals, 
echinoderms, and sponges that 
typically hved in shallower waters. 

Most ot the Shonisaums skeletons are 
articulated; that is, the bones are stiU in 
the correct anatomical position relative 
to one another. Strong ocean currents 
would have moved at least some of the 
carcasses during their decomposition, 
and the bones would have been 
scattered during their transport. Thus 
currents must have been fairly weak, as 
they typically are in deeper water. The 
corroded and pitted surfaces of some of 
the bones, and the presence of 
brachiopod shells on them, suggest that 
the bones lay exposed on the seafloor 
for a time, but the 
relative completeness 
of the skeletons 
indicates that they 
were buried on the 
seafloor soon after 
the flesh had 
decomposed. 

One major 
unresolved problem 
concerns the 
explanation for 
exactly how so many 
ichthyosaur skeletons 
came to be preserved 
so close to one 
another. Two 
plausible explanations 
exist. The 
ichthyosaurs may 
have died singly over an extended 
period; according to this scenario, their 
carcasses sank to the bottom, and weak 
currents naturally concentrated them 
into a depression, or submarine valley, 
on the seafloor. Alternatively, this 
deposit of multiple ichthyosaur skeletons 
could represent a massive die-off. 



24 



NATURAL HISTORY 6/0 1 



Based mainly upon studies of 
modern marine vertebrates, various 
theories, of varying plausibility, have 
been proposed to account for the 
sudden-mass-mortality scenario. 
Changes in the physical or chemical 
conditions of the seawater have been 
proposed as a cause of death, but any 
change drastic enough to kill 
ichthyosaurs would also have killed 
other marine organisms. However, 
no other fossil evidence exists along 
with the ichthyosaur bones to 
indicate any such additional die-off. 
Volcanic eruptions could have killed 
many ichthyosaurs, but then we 
should see some evidence, such as a 
volcanic ash layer, preserved in the 
sediments. None is present in the 
rock record. Similarly, the 
stratigraphic record lacks evidence of 
a severe storm, for example, a 
coarser-grained layer ot sediment. 
The notion that some ichthyosaurian 
behavior — such as spawning, 
stranding, or coastal foraging — 
brought these Shonisaurus together is 
improbable. As dramatically 
evidenced in fossils from other sites, 
ichthyosaurs bore live young, so they 
did not spawn en masse as do many 
fish. And while mass mortality by 
stranding was previously supported as 
a cause for the concentrations of 
skeletons here, researchers now 
consider that scenario unlikely, given 
the evidence for an ocean shelf, 
rather than a coastal, setting. 

One intriguing possibility is that 
the ichthyosaurs ate fish or shellfish 



Park Ranging 

The state of Nevada, which has 
adopted Shonisaimis popularis as its 
state fossil, first officially recognized 
the importance of Union Canyon in 
1955, when it designated the site 
Ichthyosaur Paleontological State 
Monument. In 1970 the boundaries 
were expanded to include the 
mining ghost town of Berhn, and the 





10 

miles 



tainted with a neurotoxin that 
paralyzed them. (Paralytic shellfish 
poisoning in humans also results from 
a neurotoxin.) Such a poison may have 
originated at the base of the marine 
food chain, in oceanic plankton, and 
then become concentrated in the 
tissues of the animals that ate the 
plankton. The Slwnisatmis, top 
predators and consumers in the food 
chain, may have eaten 
these plankton- 
feeding organisms and 
perished. This type of 
poisoning mechanism 
has triggered some of 
the mass kills of 
modern whales along 



the coast of New 
England. 

Over the years, 
scientists have revised 



site was renamed Berlin-Ichthyosaur 
State Park. 

Located about twenty-three 
miles east of the town of Gabbs, the 
park offers guided tours of the 
Fossil Shelter, the ghost town of 
BerUn, and the Diana Mine rock 
tunnel used by the Berlin 
prospectors. Camping is available, 
and an extensive system of hiking 
trails can help visitors enjoy the 
juniper and pifion woodland, 
examine the local bedrock, or catch 
sight of wildlife. Eagles, 
rattlesnakes, deer, pronghorn 
antelope, foxes, coyotes, and 
mountain lions roam the area. 

For visitor information on seasonal 
access, tour schedules, and rules and 
regulations, contact: 
Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park 
HC 61 Box 61200 
Austin, NV 89310 
Tel: (775) 964-2440 
Fax: (775) 964-2012 
wvifw.state.nv.us/stparks/bi.htm 



and refined their views of how 
Shonisaurus popularis hved as an active 
predator and how it came to rest on 
the seafloor. Each new generation of 
paleontologists builds on the work of 
those who came before, providing 
some answers but invariably providing 
many more questions. A visit to 
BerHn-Ichthyosaur State Park is an 
opportunity to ponder the giant 
predators and their ancient 
environment. As you investigate the 
Shonisaurus fossils, you might want to 
consider some of these questions. And 
ask some of your own. 

Richard L. Orndorffis assistant professor of 
geology at the University of Nevada, Las 
Vegas; Robert W. Wieder is a biologist at 
the California Department of Agriculture; 
and Harry F. Filkorn is a paleontologist at 
Kent State University in Ohio. 



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26 NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



BIOMECHANICS 



Some lobsters and many eight- 
year-old vioHnists have a knack 
for making unpleasant noises; 
amazingly, crustaceans and 
humans use much the same 
mechanism to produce these awful 
sounds. The lobsters in question are 
not Maine's clawed variety but 
members of a family known as the 
Palinuridae, or spiny lobsters. These 
clawless marine invertebrates, found 
worldwide, often appear on menus as 
rock lobster or New Zealand lobster 
tail. Instead of a showy pair of claws, 



two long antennae are their most 
striking feature. The base of each 
antenna (where it joins the head) is 
thick and spiny — the reason for the 
lobster's common name. 

Many invertebrates, such as crickets 
and cicadas, make noise by "plucking" 
a series of spikes or ridges (usually on 
their legs or wings) — much Uke a 
person drawing a thunrbnail across a 
comb or a pick across guitar strings. 
But Sheila Patek, of Duke University, 
has discovered that spiny lobsters 
produce sound in a veiy different way: 



by drawing a bow across a vibrating 
surface. In this case the "bow," called 
the plectrum, is a flattened 
protuberance (actually a series of soft 
ridges) emerging from the basal 
segment of each antenna. (Earlier 
researchers thought the lobster's 
plectrum functioned like a pick; hence 
the confusing mix of terms.) The 
analogue of the vioHn string is the 
file — an oblong lump, or pad, one on 
either side of the lobster's head. By 
wagghng an antenna, the lobster 
draws the plech:,um''arross the fde; 




The 

Lobsteri 

It's enough to give a predator pause. 



Story by Adam Summers ~ Illustration by Sally J. Bensusen 



the result is a surprisingly loud, rasping 
buzz. (One striking difference between 
lobster and violinist, of course, is that 
no amount of practice wiU turn this 
buzz into music.) 

This type of mechanism is known as 
stick-and-slip motion. Imagine a box ot 
rocks sitting on a conveyor belt, but 
instead of being able to move ireely 
along the belt, the box is secured to a 
wall by a spring. As the belt moves, the 
box rides with it, stretching the spring. 
At some point, the tension of the 
spring becomes greater than the 




To generate its loud, raspy buzz, the spiny 

lobster waggles one or both of its 

antennae, causing a flattened projection 

(the plectrum) on each antenna's spiky 

base to skid across an oblong lump (the 

file) located on either side of the animal's 

head, near the eye. Microscopic shingles 

on the file create friction, which is 

essential to sound production. 



iiicrional force (the amount of 
resistance to movement that occurs 
between two moving objects in physical 
contact) between box and belt, and the 
box skitters along the belt toward the 
wall. This backward movement shortens 
(and thus reduces the tension of) the 
spring, permitting the box once again to 
ride the belt. Each time the box skips 
back across the belt, it makes an audible 
rumble; when the box rides smoothly, 
there is silence. The key to srick-and- 
sUp sound production is friction. If the 
conveyor belt was greased, the box 
would move forward until the spring 
was stretched taut. Then the box would 
ride in place, with the belt sliding 
smoothly and soundlessly underneath it. 
No friction, no sound. 

Violinists enhance the friction 
between the horsehair bow and the 
nylon or gut strings of their instrument 
by rubbing rosin on the bow. For 
lobsters, the friction comes from 
microscopic shingles on the otherwise 
smooth fdes. Each time the lobster's 
plectrum skids on the fde, it 

produces a pulse of sound. As it 
travels the length of the fde, the 
plectrum generates between 
two and twenty-four of these 
pulses, creating the 
characteristic raspy squeak. 
The duration of the sounds 
depends on the length of the 
file, which varies considerably 
from genus to genus. In fact, seven 
of the nine genera of spiny lobsters can 
be identified by the shape of their files 
and plectra. (The other two do not 
have files and thus make no noise at all.) 

Patek believes that lobsters make 
these raucous sounds to deter 
predators. Think how you would react 
if a hot dog let out a loud squeak 
when you picked it up. However, the 
sound may do more than just startle 
potential predators. Spiny lobsters can 
do considerable damage with their 



stout antennal bases, which may be 
several inches long. In captivity they 
wield these spiky clubs aggressively 
and even catch the occasional fish 
dinner by slamming their antennae 
together. In the wild, lobsters may use 
sound to warn a predator that it is 
about to get clunked. Or the noise 
may simply inform a shady character 
that the element of surprise has been 
lost — the lobster version of "I've got 
my eye on you." 

In any case, there is a very 
important biological reason a lobster 
would prefer a vioHn to a guitar. 
Lobsters, Hke all animals with 
exoskeletons, periodically shed their 
armor as they grow. As anyone who 
has appreciated soft-shell crabs can 
attest, naked crustaceans are both tasty 
and easy to eat. If a spiny lobster had 
to produce sound the way guitarists so 
often do — ^by plucking a hard 
plectrum across a series of hard 
ridges — the animal would be obHged 
to fall silent just when it would benefit 
most from an antipredator noisemaker: 
during the vulnerable few days it takes 
for the carapace to harden following a 
molt. The great advantage of the stick- 
and-slip approach is that a soft 
structure rubbing against another soft 
structure works just as well right after a 
molt as it did beforehand. 

Many animals produce sounds to 
communicate with their own 
species — to issue warnings or 
invitations or to affirm their presence. 
Spiny lobsters appear to have 
developed this communication system 
solely to talk to other species. Their 
predators can certainly hear sounds in 
the range produced by the plectrum 
and file, but as far as we know, the 
lobsters themselves are completely deaf 
to their own playing. 

Adam Summers is an assistant professor at 
the University of California, Irvine. 



28 NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



ESSAY 



Are Genes Real? 



Our understanding of heredity has been propelled 
by the oscillations of a conceptual pendulum, arcing 
between the gene as a real entity and the gene 
as an abstraction. 



By Nathaniel C. Comfort 

At the entrance to the Cahfornia Acad- 
emy of Sciences in San Francisco, a 
235-pound brass pendulum bob swings 
on a thirty-foot cable fixed to the 
cathedral ceiling. It is known as a Fou- 
cault's pendulum, after Jean-Bernard- 
Leon Foucault, a French physicist of 
the nineteenth centuiy Each arc of the 
pendulum cuts a diameter across a ring 
of metal pegs set on the floor. As the 
earth rotates, each peg in turn moves 
into the path of the giant bob and is 
knocked over. Although the pendulum 
swings in a straight line, it never returns 
to the same spot t^vice in succession. 

Science often behaves more Hke a 
Foucault's pendulum than Hke the for- 




ward march of progress depicted in 
textbooks and newspapers. An idea 
may oscillate between two extremes, 
yet as the world of science shifts be- 
neath its path, each swing results in a 
different incarnation of the idea. One 

Gregor Mendel ' 



-.,,j. 





such idea is whether or not genes are 
real. If the accumulation of scientific 
knowledge were Unear, the idea of the 
gene ought to have started out vague 
and become progressively more sharply 
dehneated with time. In fact, over the 
past 150 years, our understanding of 
heredity has been propelled by the os- 
cillations of a conceptual pendulum, 



tiiiS:' 




James Clerk Maxwell 




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30 



NATURAL HISTORY 6/0 1 



arcing between a real gene and an ab- 
stract one. 

The word "gene" was coined in 
1909 by Wilhelm Johanssen, a well- 
known Danish botanist of the late 
nineteenth and early twentieth cen- 
turies. During the preceding four 
decades, Gregor Mendel, Charles Dar- 
win, and many other scientists had pro- 
posed theories of how hereditary traits 
were passed down through the genera- 
tions. Mendel, the canonical father of 
genetics, modeled the inheritance pat- 
terns of seven carefully chosen "difier- 

Gregor Mendel did 
not distinguish 
between the traits 
seen in a plant — such 
as seed color and 
texture, pod shape, 
and stem length — and 
the hereditary 
elements that 
produced them. 

entiating characters" (differierende Merk- 
iiinle) — for example, stem length, pod 
shape, color and texture of the seeds — 
in garden peas. At the end of a paper 
pubHshed in 1866, Mendel hinted that 
the Merkmale might He in the cell nu- 
cleus, but he did not distinguish be- 
tween the traits seen in the plant and 
the hereditary elements 
that produced them. For 
Mendel these elements 
were abstractions, usetul in 
understanding the patterns 
of inheritance. 

The hereditary ele- 
ments proposed by Dar- 
win were more physical — 
and therein lay their 
downfall. In 1868, un- 
aware of Mendel, Darwin 
put forth his hypothesis of 
pangenesis, in which trait- 



bearing particles that he called gem- 
mules budded off from the body's tis- 
sues and collected in the reproductive 
ceUs, where they waited to be passed 
on to the next generation. Pangenesis 
won few adherents. The great physi- 
cist James Clerk Maxwell even di- 
gressed from his 1875 Encydopcedia 
Britannica essay "The Atom" to take a 
swipe at it. "Some of the exponents of 
this theory of heredity have attempted 
to elude the difficulty of placing a 
whole world of wonders within a 
body so small and so devoid of visible 
structure as a germ," he wrote, re- 
ferring to Darwin's gemmules. To 
Maxwell — an expert on particles — no 
simple particle could conceivably ex- 
plain the wonders of heredity and em- 
bryology. "To explain differences of 
function and development of a germ 
without assuiTiing differences of struc- 
ture," he continued, "is to admit that 
the properties of a germ are not those 
of a purely material system." Advocat- 
ing hereditary particles seemed tanta- 
mount to mysticism. 

Nevertheless, in the late 1800s it was 
Darvwn's theory, not Mendel's, that had 
the inost influence. Mendel died in 
1884, and his paper was largely ignored 
until the torn of the centory; it was cited 
just a handfiil of times and never as a 
landmark in the study of heredity. 
Though Darwin's theory of pangenesis 
was soundly rejected, it continued to 
echo throughout the rest of the centoiy 
The major theories of heredity put for- 



ward in the 1880s and 1890s also as- 
sumed the existence of real, physical par- 
ticles, with such exotic-sounding names 
as ids, biophors, and pangenes. 

When Mendel's principles, with their 
mathematical treatment of heredity, were 
rediscovered in 1900, however, the pen- 
dulum swung back toward abstract 
genes. One of Mendelism's staunchest 





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32 



NATURAL HISTORY 6/0 1 




Richard Goldschmidt 



partisans was WiHiani Bateson, an Eng- 
lish biologist who saw in it a weapon for 
his attacks on the Darwinian idea of con- 
tinuous variation in nature. Making the 
units of heredity abstract helped Bateson 
contradict this view, which was predi- 
cated on material particles. Bateson re- 
ferred to the MendeUan elements as unit 
characters — a dehberately abstract 
term — and he passionately denied their 
material existence. 

A young American embryologist 
named Thomas Hunt Morgan fol- 
lowed this trend. In 1903 Walter Sut- 



ton, an American cytologist, 
offered a cellular explanation 
of Mendel's principles, sug- 
gesting that Mendelian ele- 
ments lay on the chromo- 
somes. Two years later, 
geneticist Nettie Stevens (a 
former student of Morgan's) 
showed that sex was associated with 
the niysterious "accessory," or X, 
chromosome. Morgan, however, was 
skeptical. Given the limited evidence 
then available, too many assumptions 
were required and not enough biology 
was explained. Advocates of the chro- 
mosome theory seemed to him enthu- 
siasts, bandwagon jumpers. In 1905 he 
wrote that his colleagues at Columbia 
University, especially the distinguished 
cytologist Edmund Beecher Wilson, 
were "wild over chromosomes," mak- 
ing Morgan feel he lived "in an at- 



mosphere saturated with chromo- 
somic acid." 

In 1910 Morgan abruptly tipped the 
other way. Among the thousands of 
fruit flies he was breeding in his labora- 
tory, he found a single male with white 
eyes, rather than the usual red. Breed- 
ing experiments revealed that eye color 
was inherited together with a "factor" 
that determined sex. Stevens's results 
could no longer be ignored. Sex and 
eye color were linked by association 
with the X chromosome. 

Morgan and his graduate students at 
Columbia made genes real again. Dur- 

To Thomas Hunt 
Morgan and the other 
early fruit-fly 
geneticists who put 
together the first gene 
maps, a gene 'was 
roughly synonymous 
'with a physical point 
on a chromosome. 



ing the following years, they developed 
the first gene maps, assigning genes for 
various traits to different chromosomes 
and measuring the distance between 
genes in terms of the hkeUhood that 
two traits would be inherited together, 
much as blond hair often goes with blue 
eyes. To these early fruit-fly geneticists, 
a gene was roughly synonymous with a 
locus, a physical point on a chromo- 
some. In 1922 Hermann Muller, one of 
Morgan's former students, went further, 
describing genes as "ultra-microscopic 
particles." MuUer dreamed of one day 
being "able to grind genes in a mortar 
and cook them in a beaker." 

Practitioners of this "classical" 
school of genetics mostly ignored the 
question of what genes were made of. 
The question of most interest to them 
was what genes did. Working at Stan- 
ford University with the bread mold 



Xeurospcra, George Beadle, a geneticist, 
and Edward Tatiim, a chemist by train- 
ing, provided an elegant answer in 
1941. They identified genetic muta- 
tions that disabled specific steps in the 
synthesis of a complex molecule. 
Kno\\ing from biochemistiT that each 
step was catalyzed by a particular en- 
zyme, they concluded that each muta- 
tion knocked out one enzyme. In clas- 
sical genetics, genes had been defined 
as things that, when mutated, changed 
a trait: one mutation, one gene. Beadle 
and Tatum refined the definition by 
sho^^'ing that a gene was a thing on a 
chromosome that specified an enzyme: 
one gene, one enz\'me. 

As Beadle and Tatum's work be- 
came accepted, more and more scien- 
tists thought of genes as real entities. 
This did not happen overnight, how- 
ever, and there were critics. One of the 
most eloquent — and most aggravating 
to advocates of real genes — was 
Richard Goldschmidt, a brilliant, can- 
tankerous German who in 1936 fled 
Nazi Germany and took up a post at 
the University' of California, Berkeley. 
"There are no genes," Goldschmidt 
wrote in 1937, and "no gene muta- 
tions." In 1951 he continued his attack 
on the gene by suggesting this analogy: 
"If the A-string on a violin is stopped 
an inch from the end, the tone C is 
produced. Something has been done to 
a locus in the string, it has been 
changed in regard to its fiinction. But 
nobody would conclude that there is a 
C-body at that point." 

Within two years, Goldschmidt's 
provocative criticism seemed absurd. In 
April and May of 1953, James Watson 
and Francis Crick published their two 
papers describing the double-helical 
structure of DNA. The genius of their 
model was that the structure of the 
molecule and the structure of the gene 
were one and the same. With the dou- 
ble hehx finally came insight not just 
into how genes worked but also into 
what they were made of A gene was 
merely a particular sequence of nu- 




NATURAL HISTORY 




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cleotide subunits of a DNA strand — not 
a pearl on a string but the string itself. 

For most geneticists, the discovery 
of the double helix instantly and un- 
equivocally settled the debate in favor of 
real genes; from that point on, skeptics 
provided little more than comic reHef. 
Horace Freeland Judson reports an 
anecdote told by Russian biocheinist 
Vladimir Englehardt about his meeting 
in 1961 with Trofuii Denisovich Ly- 
senko, the infamous Soviet agronomist 
who rejected Mendelism and Darwin- 
ism as inconsistent with Stalinist ideol- 
ogy. Lysenko scoffed, "AH this DNA, 



Lysenko, right | DNA! Everybody 
speaks about it, but 
nobody has seen it!" 
Englehardt explained 
that in fact plenty of 
people had seen it, and 
he sent his secretary to 
fetch some. When she 
returned with a vial of 
powdered DNA, Ly- 
senko retorted, "Ha! 
You are speaking non- 
sense! DNA is an acid. 
Acid is a liquid. And 
that's a powder. That 
can't be DNA!" 

Yet just when it 
became clear that 
only cranks could 
deny the reality of 
genes, the scientific 
ground began to shift 
again. In 1957 Sey- 
mour Benzer, a physi- 
cist turned viral ge- 
neticist at Purdue 
University, proposed 
that more than one 
type of gene existed, 
and he suggested the 
term "cistron" for a 
segment of DNA that 
encodes a protein. 
This was, in essence, 
the gene of Beadle 
and Tatum expressed 
in the language of 
Watson and Crick. Cistrons caught on; 
the term is still used today. Recons and 
mutons, two other types of genes pro- 
posed by Benzer, soon fell by the way- 
side, though, because it quickly be- 
came clear that they merely amounted 
to a single unit of DNA. Nevertheless, 
the very suggestion that biologists 
should think in tenns of several senses 
of "gene" created fissures in the con- 
cept of a monoHthic gene. 

Meanwhile, a group of French ge- 
neticists, led by Francois Jacob and 
Jacques Monod, were showing that the 
gene's boundaries were fuzzier than bi- 



ologists had thought. First, genes often 
act in clusters: Jacob and Monod por- 
trayed "the" gene as a set of structural 
genes, which encode proteins, and reg- 
ulators- genes, which switch the struc- 
tural genes on and off in response to 
signals from the cell. Furthermore, 
Jacob and Monod showed that genes 
are not restricted to chromosonies. 
They found free-floating genetic ele- 
ments, called episomes and plasmids, in 
bacteria; other scientists soon found 
these elements in higher organisms as 
well. Mitochondria, the cell's power 
plants, and chloroplasts in green plant 
cells were later found to have their own 
genes, inherited independently from 
those on the chromosomes. 

In 1967 James Shapiro, an Ameri- 
can then working at the University of 
London's Royal Postgraduate Medical 
School, and Sankhar Adhya, of the 
University of Wisconsin, discovered 
another wrinkle: regions of bacterial 
DNA that can cut themselves out of 

A group of French 
biologists, led by 
Francois Jacob and 
Jacques Monod, 
showed that the gene's 
boundaries are fuzzier 
than had been 
thought and that 
genes are not 
restricted to 
chromosomes. 

one site on a chromosome and reinsert 
themselves at another site. They called 
these regions insertion elements. 
Twenty years earlier, Barbara McClin- 
tock, the great cytogeneticist of maize 
at the Carnegie Institution of Washing- 
ton's Department of Genetics, had 
demonstrated that certain chromoso- 
mal elements — she did not believe 
them to be genes — can move, but 



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Shapiro and Adhya were the first to 
show how this movement takes place. 
Within ten years, insertion elements 
were found to be widespread in nature. 
Bacteria use them to pass along genes 
that confer resistance to antibiotics — 
which is one reason that drug-resistant 
strains of disease-causing germs spread 
so rapidly. Insertion elements enable 
retroviruses (HIV, for example) to in- 
corporate their genes into their hosts' 
chromosomes. By 1980 biologists had 
accepted that certain genes routinely 



move around — within a chromosome, 
between chromosomes, within a spe- 
cies, between species. Movable genes 
torpedoed the idea of the gene as a site 
on a chromosome. 

Today a reasonable working defini- 
tion of a gene might read: one or more 
segments of DNA that specify a pro- 
tein. The DNA is transcribed into an 
intermediary called RNA, which fer- 
ries the genetic message out to the ri- 
bosomes, where it is translated into a 
protein chain. This definition is a use- 
ful distiUation of much that we learned 
about genes in the last century, but it is 
really just a starting point for thinking 
about all that a gene can be. 

In 1977 two research groups, one led 
by Richard Roberts at Cold Spring 
Harbor Laboratory and the other led by 
Phillip Sharp at MIT, found that the 
many DNA segments that constitute a 



single gene are sometimes quite distantly 
separated on the chromosome. In such 
genes the segments are then spliced to- 
gether to compose the RNA message. 
Furthermore, the same segments can be 
combined in different ways, which 
means that one gene is capable of speci- 
fying a whole family of products: one 
gene, sometimes several enzymes. 

And the story gets even more com- 
pUcated. Biologists have found exam- 
ples of genes within genes and even 
overlapping genes. In some cases, the 
same DNA sequence specifies one pro- 
tein when read in the "forward" direc- 
tion and another when read "in re- 
verse." Muddling things further, the 
instructions encoded in the DNA do 
not always reach the ribosome as a Ht- 
eral translation. In a phenomenon 
known as RNA editing, an enzymatic 
highwayman intercepts the RNA mes- 
sage en route and alters it, so the result- 
ing protein is not identical to that spec- 
ified by the DNA. 

In a sense, as the reaHty of the gene 
has become more and more certain, 
the gene has again become an ideal, a 
measuring stick against which scientists 
compare the exceptions and deviations 
of real biology. Little wonder, then, 
that some writers, such as the historian 
and philosopher of biology Evelyn Fox 
KeUer, have advocated scrapping the 
term "gene" altogether, in favor of 
some term or set of terms to better ex- 
press the dynamism of the chromo- 
somes. DNA is not made of discrete 
units with frxed boundaries; it com- 
prises great lengths of sequence that are 
altered, shuffled, and reused. Perhaps 
Goldschmidt was right. 

Yet the pendulum continues to 
swing. Some of the most exciting re- 
search in biology today employs de- 
vices known as DNA chips to provide 
snapshots of the activity of every gene 
in a ceU. The chip, a square inch or 
less of glass or plastic, is first dotted 
with DNA from every gene in an or- 
ganism. The genome — that interac- 
tive, responsive, deeply integrative set 



of all the genetic material on the chro- 
mosomes — is then digitized as an or- 
derly array of DNA microdots: one 
gene, one dot. Using special tracers, 
biologists can mark on the chip just 
those genes that are active at a given 
instant. Computers scan and analyze 
the chips, comparing the set of active 
genes both before and after various 
experimental manipulations. Thus, bi- 
ologists can see which genes are acti- 
vated in response to a specific proce- 
dure. It is an immensely powerful 
technique, one with promise for de- 
velopmental biology, immunology, 
cancer biolog)'; and drug discovery. 

Recently, biologists 
have found genes 
within genes, 
overlapping genes, 
and DNA sequences 
that specify one 
protein when read 
"forward" and 
another when read 
"in reverse." 

This new research makes genes real 
once again by imposing physical 
boundaries between them. And so the 
pendulum completes another arc. But 
the world of science continues to re- 
volve. As scientists probe genomes 
using DNA chips, they will, in all like- 
lihood, fmd that our current notions 
about genes are inadequate, and the 
next swing of the pendulum will un- 
doubtedly bring us to a new under- 
standing. 

Nathaniel C. Comfort is deputy director of 
the Center for History of Recent Science and 
assistant professor of history at Tlie George 
IVashinj^ton University in Washington, 
I J. C He is author of The Tangled Field: 
Barbara McClintock's Search for the 
Patterns of Genetic C;ontrol (Harvard 
University Press, 2001). 



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38 NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



THE BEAST WITH 
FIVE GENOMES 



Inside a termite's gut lives Mixotricha paradoxa, 
a microscopic orgam'sm comprising hundreds 
of thousands of smaller life-forms. M. paradoxa is 
an extreme example of how all plants and 
animals — including ourselves — have evolved to 

contain multitudes. By Lynn MarguUs and Dorion Sagan 



'he hullabaloo over mapping the human 



genome — the sum of all the genes m an indi- 




vidual — might lead one to think that each 
species has only a single genome and that the 
genetic makeup of individual organisms is discrete 
and unitary. Such is far from the case. Paraphrasing 
Walt Whitman, we multicellular beings contain 
multitudes. AH animals' cells have at least two inter- 
acting genomes. One is the DNA in the cell nu- 
cleus; this is the genome that has recently been 



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"mapped." The other is that of the DNA in the mi- 
tochondria — the cell's multiple oxygen-breathing 
organelles that are inherited only through the ma- 
ternal Hne. For more than a century, some scientists 
have known that every organism is in fact a multiple 
being, but until recently these unorthodox re- 
searchers were ignored. 

In most of the animals we think we know best 
(mammals, reptiles, msects), the genomes that de- 
termine hmbs, eyes, and nervous systems, for ex- 
ample, are very similar to our own. These animals, 
Hke us, are doubly genomic. Even some unicellular 
beings that do not have eyes, hmbs, or nervous sys- 
tems — such as amoebas and paramecia — contain 
both nuclear and mitochondrial genomes. Plants 
and algae have these double genomes as well, plus a 
third genome, of symbiotic origin. During their 
evolutionary history, they ingested (but did not di- 
gest) photosynthetic blue-green bacteria. There- 
fore, all visible photosynthetic organisms have at 
least three genomes. But many organisms — such as 
the protists that inhabit termites — contain within 
them up to five or more genomes. 

The great nineteenth-century naturalist Joseph 
Leidy one of the founders of the Academy of Nat- 
ural Sciences in Philadelphia, was the first to take a 
close-up look at the contents of a termite's gut. "In 




A termite's gut is a closed universe 

containing myriad microscopic organisms 

that enable it to digest wood. Found 

only within a particular Australian 

termite species, the protist Mixotricha 

paradoxa (inset) is in turn a composite 

being. Bacteria — thousands of small, 

hairlike spirochetes and hundreds of 

larger ones — cover its outer surface, 

enabling M. paradoxa to move, while 

thousands of spherical bacteria comprise 

its internal chemical workshop. 



Illustration by Alexis Rockman 



40 



NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



watching the Termites from time to time wander- 
ing along their passages beneath stones," he wrote, 
"I have often wondered as to what might be the 
exact nature of their food." What he saw under his 
microscope amazed him. If the termite's intestine is 
ruptured by the experimenter, he wrote, "myriads 

The pioneering biologist 
Konstantin S. Merezhkovsky 
argued in 1909 that the little 
green dots in plant cells, 
which make sugar in the 
presence of sunlight, were 
originally separate 
organisms. 

of the Hving occupants escape, reminding one of 
the turning out of a multitude of persons from the 
door of a crowded meeting-house." 
Leidy immediately reahzed that 
what he knew as "white 
ants" were actually 
composed of dozens 
of different kinds of 
tiny lite-torms, 
including bacte- 
ria and what 
we now call 
protists. (Pro- 
tists are mi- 
crobes with 
nuclei; more 
complex than 
bacteria, the 
group includes 
amoebas, slime 
molds, and algae. 



We now recognize 




Canaleparolina 
darwim'ensis (spirochetetj; 



Mixotricha parado. 



Treponema sp 
(spirochete) 

that the immense 
and motley crew that 
Leidy observed within a 
termite is in no way a gratu- 
itous add-on or a pathological m- 
fection. Rather, it is a necessaiy part of 
the termite's digestive system and is organized as a 
particular tissue: an aggregate working mechanism 
that turns the refractory compounds Ugnin and cel- 
lulose (the mam constituents of wood) into food. 
This composite fabric, or Hving consortium, has 



evolved in the nearly oxygen-free closed system of 
the termite's abdomen for probably 100 miUion 
years; without the living, wood-degrading factories 
that have become their digestive systems, these ter- 
mites starve. 

The pioneering biologist Konstantin S. 
Merezhkovsky first argued in 1909 that the little 
green dots (chloroplasts) in plant cells, which syn- 
thesize sugars in the presence of sunlight, evolved 
from symbionts of foreign origin. He proposed that 
"symbiogenesis" — a term he coined for the merger 
of different kinds of Hfe-forms into new species — 
was a major creative force in the production of new 
kinds of organisms. A Russian anatomist, Andrey S. 
Famintsyn, and an American biologist, Ivan E. 
Wallin, worked independently during the early 
decades of the twentieth century on similar hy- 
potheses. WaUin further developed his unconven- 
tional view that all kinds of symbioses played a cru- 
cial role in evolution, and Famintsyn, beheving that 
chloroplasts were symbionts, succeeded in main- 
taining them outside the ceU. Both 
men experimented with the 
physiology of chloroplasts 
and bacteria and found 
striking similarities in 
their structure and 
function. Chlo- 
roplasts, they 
proposed, ori- 
ginally en- 
tered cells as 
live food — 
microbes that 
fought to 
survive — and 
were then 
exploited by 
their ingestors. 
They remained 
within the larger 
cells down through 
the ages, protected 
and always ready to re- 
produce. Famintsyn died in 
1918; Wallin and Merezhkovsky 
were ostracized by their fellow biolo- 
gists, and their work was forgotten. Recent studies 
have demonstrated, however, that the cell's most 
important organelles — chloroplasts in plants and 
mitochondria in plants and animals — are highly in- 
tegrated and weU-organized former bacteria. Using 



new methods, scienrists have been able to raise and 
resoh'e the question ot how these bacteria became 
permanent s\Tnbionts. 

Like other animals, we harbor in our intestines 
an assortment of specific microbes that help us digest 
food, although some are also able to Hve outside hu- 
mans. Few of our microbes are organized as layers of 
tissue, as they must be in termites. Nevertheless, 
\\-ithout these hitchhikers to help digest fiber and 
produce vitamins, we — like termites — ^weaken and 
even die. Entirely integral to our bodies, however, 
are the mitochondria in our nucleated cells. These 
tiny entities use ox^^gen to generate the chemical 
energ\" needed to sustain Hfe. They reproduce on 

Acceptance of the composite 
nature of the individual 
revolutionizes evolutionary 
biology. Bacteria are 
exemplary genetic engineers: 
splicers and dicers and 
mergers of genomes 
par excellence. 

their own, independendy of the nuclear DNA, and 
multiply more quickly after short bursts of muscular 
exercise, leading to stronger, more mitochondria- 
packed muscles. Because mitochondria are so genet- 
ically integrated into each of our cells, no one has 
yet succeeded in growing them in test tubes. 

We beHeve that WaUin and Merezhkovsky were 
flindamentally correct when they claimed that all 
nucleated Hving things evolved by symbiogenesis, 
generally because of preexisting bacterial genomes 
physically associated with other organisms. Reef- 
buLlding corals, for instance, are now known to 
have five different genomes of once independent 
organisms. And Mixotricha paradoxa, a compound 
beauty found in a termite's gut, also has five 
genomes. Indeed, M. paradoxa could well be the 
"poster animal" for symbiogenesis. 

In 1933 Australian biologist J. L. Sutherland first 
described and named "the paradoxical being with 
mixed-up hairs" (she mistakenly thought it was the 
only microbe that swims by simultaneously using 
both flageUa and cilia). Studies done by A. V. Grim- 
stone of Cambridge and the late L. R. Cleveland of 
Harvard in the 1950s with the electron microscope 
showed that M. paradoxa was a hundred times larger 



than its close relatives, that four different kinds of 
bacteria were part of its body, and that it lacked 
mitochondria. 

For many years, we have studied and pho- 
tographed this organism. Under low magnification, 
M. paradoxa looks Uke a single-celled swimming cil- 
iate. With the electron microscope, however, it is 
seen to consist of five distinct kinds of creatures. Ex- 
ternally, it is most obviously the kind of one-celled 
organism that is classified as a protist. But inside each 
nucleated cell, where one would expect to find mi- 
tochondria, are many spherical bacteria. On the sur- 
face, where ciha should be, are some 250,000 hair- 
Hke Treponema spirochetes (resembling the type that 
causes syphilis), as well as a contingent of large rod 
bacteria that is also 250,000 strong. In addition, we 
have redescribed 200 spirochetes of a larger type and 
named them Caiialeparolitia daiwiiiieiisis. 

Acceptance of the composite namre of individu- 
als, we predict, will soon revolutionize evolutionary 
biology. Bacteria are exemplary genetic engineers: 
spUcers and dicers and mergers of genomes par ex- 
cellence. Devoid of immune systems, always repro- 
ducing without mate recognition, bacteria are 
supremely promiscuous beings in which infection 
and sex — that is, gene flow — are virtually the same 
thing. The sexual proclivities of bacteria include 
(when their survival is threatened) rampant exchange 
of genes — next to which our own species' most bac- 
chanalian orgies look like rather subdued affairs. 

Biologists have always puzzled over why there 
are so many kinds of beetles. Perhaps symbionts be- 
neath the surface, generating variety at the genomic 
level, account for nature's beetlemania. Insects have 
integrated bacterial genomes to an extraordinary 
degree. In many cases, bacteria reside in all the tis- 
sues, accumulate in the eggs, and are inherited. 
Beetles have developed partnerships with an ex- 
tremely diverse assortment of bacteria; many more 
kinds Hve inside their tissues than hve in most other 
groups of animals. 

Eventually we may well realize that natural se- 
lection operates not so much by acting on random 
mutations, which are often harmful, but on new 
kinds of individuals that evolve by symbiogenesis. 
Scrutinizing any organism at the microscopic level 
is like moving ever closer to a pointiUist painting 
by Georges Seurat; the seemingly solid figures of 
humans, dogs, and trees, on close inspection, turn 
out to be made up of innumerable tiny dots and 
dashes, each with its own attributes of color, den- 
sity, and form. D 



6/0 1 NATURAL HISTORY 43 



SEX, ERRORS, AND 



Can human beings keep 
evolving? Or does the 
error-ridden process of 
reproduction prevent us from 
getting more complex than we 

already are? By Mark Ridley 



When extraterrestrial visitors land on Earth in their 
space saucer, they will be excited to see that ours is 
one ot those rare planets on which complex Hfe has 
evolved. They ^vi[l already have found microbes — 
organisms resembHng our viruses and bacteria — on 
ever^' other hte-bearmg planet. And they will know 
that the real fian begins not in trying to understand 
how Hfe on Earth came to exist at all but in how 
such complex forms as humans and butterflies and 
clams and whales and trees came about. And a ques- 
tion they will certainly ask is, How many copying 
mistakes does earthly Hfe make when it reproduces 
the hereditary- molecules of its DNA code? 

When we (and other Hfe-forms) produce off- 
spring, our genome — the sum of aU our individual 
DNA — is copied. But the repeated copying that 
takes place prior to pregnancy, during numerous di- 
visions of our reproductive cells, can alter the mes- 
sages in our genome — much as the children's game 
of Chinese Whispers (called Telephone or Gossip in 
the United States) distorts a verbal message as it is 
repeated from one person to the next. By the end 
of the Hne in Chinese Whispers, the message is 
laughably corrupted. 

In sexual reproduction, a male's and 
female's genomes are reshuffled, 
increasing the odds that some 
offspring will be produced without 
serious DNA copying errors. 

Rajah Bhup Singh of GuLer under a quilt with his rani, 
ca. 1800 



THE GENOME 



Through 3.5 billion years of evolution, life- 
forms have been able to perpetuate themselves — 
and become more complex than their ancestors — 
partly because they evolved ways of deaHng with 
these copying errors. Double-stranded DNA 
(which appeared quite early in the history of Hfe) 
and certain enzymes work within the cell nucleus 
to prevent errors from happening in the first place. 
Other enzymes correct most of the errors that 
nonetheless arise: proofreading and repair enzymes 
correct errors in the code, and developmental trou- 
bleshooting enzymes correct the expression of a 
faulty code without correcting the code itself But 
the most important factor in the evolution of com- 
plex forms, which contain many genes (and there- 
fore the possibiHty of making many errors), was the 
evolution of sex. Because sex takes one set of genes 
from each parent and recombines them, it shufiles 
the errors that manage to sHp through aU the de- 
fenses and improves the odds that at least some 
healthy, error-fr^ee offspring wiU result. This crucial 
innovation probably arose about 2 bilHon years ago, 
around the time that a more complex cell type — 
called the eukaryotic cell — originated. 

Nonetheless, human beings are quite error 
prone. When we copy our DNA, we make more 
mistakes than most, if not all, other forms of Hfe on 
Earth. In fact, every human being is conceived in 
200-fold copying error. How many of these 200 
mutations are harmful is not known. Most errors 
seem to be neutral, and a very few may actually 
help the organism, but even rigorous accounting 
cannot squeeze the harmful-error rate to below 
about 2 per conception. A figure of 5 to 10, or even 
20, harmful mutations per conception may be quite 
likely. These high numbers are a consequence of 
our complexity. A human being contains 30,000 
genes, included within a total of some 6.6 billion or 



Based on the 
forthcoining book The 
Cooperative Gene, 
by Mark Ridley. 
Copyright © 2001 
by Murk Ridley To 
be published by The 
Free Press, a division 
of Simon and 
Schuster, Inc., N.Y. 
Adapted with 
permission. 



44 NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



MUTATIONS: MOTHER VERSUS FATHER 

As their life spans stretch out, men and women travel different 
evolutionary roads, and the amount of DNA copying that goes on 
in their gonads contributes to the error level of their genomes in 
different ways. Men manufacture sperm throughout their Hves. 
About 40 cell divisions in the reproductive cells have occurred in a 
human male by the time he reaches puberty. After that, the DNA 
in his sperm is copied every sixteen days, or 23 times per year. A 
twenty-year-old man's genome has been copied more than 200 
times, and a forty-year-old's more than 600 times. Compare that 
with the average adult male rat: its DNA has been copied only 58 
times in its short Hfe, and the DNA in its spermatozoa is therefore 
relatively error free. 

A female human, on the other hand, already possesses her hfe- 
time supply of eggs — ^with about 33 cell divisions behind them — 
by the time she is a late-stage fetus. When a thirty-year-old man 
breeds with a thirty-year-old woman, his DNA has been copied 
430 times against her 33. With about thirteen times as many errata 
in his DNA, about 185 of the 200 copying mistakes in each 
human conception may come from the sperm. However, a 
woman's eggs are more hkely to carry serious errors in chromo- 
some numbers, and these errors increase with maternal age. Some 
disorders, such as Down syndrome, are the result of eggs that de- 
hver the wrong number of chromosomes during conception. 

All the DNA messages in a sperm and an egg can be compared 
with all the text in two sets of encyclopedias. If publishers made 
errors in book production at the same rate fathers and mothers do 
in transcribing their DNA, buyers of Britannica would receive sets 
with 200 printing errors on average, and half the time they'd be 
sent the wrong number of books. 



more units of DNA. A bacterium might have on 
the order of 2,000 genes and 2 million units of 
DNA. The unit error rate, however, is similar in 
humans and bacteria. Humans therefore make more 
mistakes than bacteria do, for much the same reason 
that a scribe is more Hkely to make mistakes when 
copying the Bible — a job that took about a year and 
a half in the Middle Ages — than when copying a 
single psalm. 

Another, and perhaps even more important, rea- 
son we humans are error prone is that we are long 
hved, with an average of thirty years between one 
generation and the next. Mutation rates are higher 
in long-Hved animals such as humans because we 
copy our reproductive DNA a number of times in 
the interval between when we ourselves are con- 
ceived and when we beget our own children. (See 
"Mutations: Mother Versus Father," above.) And — 



comphcating matters further — not only do most 
human embryos contain about 200 copying errors, 
or "typos," in individual DNA messages, but about 
50 percent of these conceptions have a botched 
number of chromosomes. The length of a typical 
generation is probably a factor here, too, because 
the percentage of such errors in rabbits or guinea 
pigs — with generations measured in weeks or 
months — is negligible. Even if half of all embryos 
have chromosomal errors, that stiU leaves 50 percent 
that are potentially available to carry the human 
species forward. And these wiU of course have, on 
average, 2 to 20 damaging typos. 

Any individual may produce some faulty young, 
but for humans or any sexually reproducing form of 
life to persist, the average parent must produce at 
least one error-free offspring. Luckily, in addition 
to having enzymes that prevent or correct copying 
errors, we also have sex, which provides each off- 
spring with a helpful redundancy of genes. In fact, 
our cells contain four copies of the information for 
each genetic instruction — a paternal and a maternal 
double hehx. A correct version in one set will usu- 
ally override a copying mistake in the other, so the 
average parent has a reasonable chance of producing 
a baby that wiU itself survive to reproduce. Unfor- 
tunately, sexual reproduction does not always pre- 
vent an embryo from picking up a whole extra 
chromosome or two. In this case, natural selection 
comes into play after conception: embryos with the 
wrong number of chromosomes almost always die 
in the very earUest stages of their intrauterine exis- 
tence. (Those who have extra chromosomes but do 
survive, such as people with Down syndrome, often 
have significant health problems.) 

What impHcations does our high error rate have 
for human evolution? Can we keep on evolving 

AT CONCEPTION, HUMAN 
EMBRYOS AVERAGE ABOUT 200 
COPYING ERRORS, AND 50 
PERCENT OF THE EMBRYOS HAVE 
A BOTCHED NUMBER OF 
CHROMOSOMES. 

and pick up more genes for more functions? How 
high can the error rate go if a sexually reproducing 
Hfe-form is to be indefinitely sustainable? Equations 
have been written to address this question, but the 
real answer remains unknown. 



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classical iHll cruises 

presents 

An Extraordinary Travel Opportunity 

Passage to India 

Aboard the 88-Guest All-Suite Clelia U 




'■'■■■ "-'mii!' 









Red Fort, Agra 




Decorated Elephant, Qoa 




A Remarkable Passage 
to a Timeless Land 



Fishing Nets, Cochin 



India is a land of contrasts, a 

richly woven fabric of religion, 
music, art, ritual, and mysticism. 
Unique as a civilization, the 
country is an overwhelming feast 
for the senses. This winter, sam- 
ple the rich traditions left by 
more than 50 centuries of civi- 
lization and experience an exotic 
kaleidoscope of some of the 
world's most astonishing cultures 
on Fassage to India. 

Sailing aboard the all-suite Clelia II, 
explore some of India's most stun- 
ning and culturally diverse sites in 
the company of distinguished 
experts on Indian history, art, and 
culture. See the grand baroque 
churches of the old Portuguese 
colony of Goa. Visit Cochin, the 
oldest European settlement in 
India, with co-existing Jewish, 
Chinese, Dutch, and British com- 
munities. Experience Tiruchendur's 
Subramanya Temple and the fasci- 
nating Sinhalese palaces of Kandy. 
Discover Jaipur, the lovely pink- 
and-rose city built by a maharaja; 
and Mumbai (Bombay), home to 
some of the finest monuments from 
the Victorian age. 

Among the highlights of the pro- 
gram will be time in Delhi and 
Agra exploring the monuments of 
Old and New Delhi and visiting 
the incomparable Taj Mahal. This 
exquisite monument to love is one 
of the most impressive examples of 
landscaping and architectural sym- 
metry in the world. 

For over 30 years, Classical 
Cruises has been offering unique 
voyages of discovery to some of 
the world's most fascinating and 
pristine places. We invite you to 
join us and discover for yourself 
our unique concept of "travel as a 
learning experience." 



Study Leaders 



Annapurna Garimella 
Departure: Febnmry 1 2 - March 2 
A native of India, Annapurna Garimella 
is a specialist in Indian and Islamic art 
and architecture. A graduate of Columbia 
University, where she received her Ph.D. 
in art history, she was curator of the exhi- 
bition Saris of India at California State 
University Northridge, and documented 
paintings and wrote interpretive materials 
for the 1998 exhibition Sakki: Friend and 
Messenger in Rajput Love Paintings at the 
Sackler Gallery of Art. She is currently 
researching modern Indian religious 
architecture as a Visiting Fellow at the 
Center for the Study of Culture and 
Society in Bangalore, India. 

To Be Announced 
Departure: February 19 - March 8 

James Clad 

Departure: February 26 - March 16 
James Clad holds the Henry R. Luce 
Foundation Research Professorship of 
Southeast Asian Studies at Georgetown 
University. A diplomatic officer posted in 
India from 1976-77, Professor Clad 
chaired the "Georgetown India Forum" 
last year. His views on India and 
Indonesia are frequently quoted in lead- 
ing newspapers nationwide, and he regu- 
larly appears as guest commentator on 
Asia issues for National Public Radio, 
CNN, and CNBC. 

Damodar R. Sardesai 
Departure: March 5-22 
Professor Emeritus of Indian History at 
the University of California, Los Angeles, 
Damodar Sardesai has written over a 
dozen books, including India Through the 
Ages, and more than 200 articles, papers, 
and book reviews. Among many academ- 
ic honors, he has received honorary fel- 
lowships to the Royal Historical Society 
in 1979, Father Heras Society of Bombay 
in 1991, and was elected President of The 
Asiatic Society of Bombay in 1989. 




Bharatpur 
Jaipur, 



Delhi 

Sikandra 

'Agra 



Mumbai [ TKinT A 

(Bombay )f-... lJNUl/\ 



,'.MJ Oc-, 




r.N^- 



_..'^' 



: Cochin 

.Tuticorin 

SRI LANKA 



Itinerary 



Dayl 
USA I 



DEPARTURE 



Day 2 

EN ROUTE 

Day 3 

DELHI, INDIA 

Arrive in Delhi and transfer to the Taj 

Mahd Hotel. Afternoon tour of New Delhi. 

Day 4 
DELHI 

In the morning, explore Old Delhi. Tour 
the Red Fort, built by Mughal Emperor 
Shah Jahan as his royal residence; the 
jami Mosque; and the Raj Ghat, the 
memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. This 
afternoon, visit the National Museum 
and its extensive collection of artifacts. 

Day 5 

DELHI I SIKANDRA I AGRA 
This morning, visit Akbar's Mausoleum, an 
extraordinary work of architecture blend- 
ing Hindu, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, 
and Jain motifs. Continue to Agra and 
transfer to the Jaypee Palace Hotel Later in 
the afternoon, tour the massive Agra Fort. 

Day 6 

AGRA I TA] MAHAL I 
FATEHPUR SIKRI 

This morning, visit the incomparable Taj 
Mahal. This afternoon, tour the aban- 
doned yet perfectly preserved Mughal city 
of Fatehpur Sikri. 



Day? 

AGRA I BHARATPUR I JAIPUR 

Drive to renowned Keoladeo National 
Park this morning. Later in the after- 
noon, arrive at Jaipur for a two-night stay. 

Da:y8 
JAIPUR 

Tour Jaipur, including the Hawa Mahal, 
or Palace of the Winds. Continue to the 
Amber Fort. Also visit the Jantar Mantar 
Observatory and City Palace. 

Day 9 

JAIPUR I MUMBAI (BOMBAY) 

Board a morning flight to Mumbai. In the 
afternoon tour the Prince of Wales 
Museum, Victoria Terminus, Marine 
Drive, Chowpatty Beach, and the 
Municipal Dhobi Ghats. Accommo- 
dations are at the Hotel Taj Mahal. 

Day 10 

MUMBAI I EMBARKATION 

Enjoy an excursion by local boat to 
Elephanta Island, the small island famous 
for its eighth-century temple caves carved 
out of rock. This afternoon, transfer to 
the port to embark Clelia U. 




Royal Botanic Qardem, Peradeniya 

Day 11 

GOA 

After a morning at sea, arrive in Panaji for 

an excursion to Old Goa. 

Day 12 

MANGALORE I MUDABIDRI I 

KARKALA I MANGALORE 

From Mangalore an excursion leads to 

several revered Jain shrines that attract 

pilgrims from all over India, including 

Chandranatha Basti, with an imposing 

entrance gate and two large columned 

halls, and Chaturmukha Temple, noted 

for its symmetrical proportions. 



each departure is limited to only 88 guests. 

call classical cruises today at 

800-252-7745or212-794-3200 
to reserve your space. 



Day 13 
AT SEA 

Day 14 

TUTICORIN 1 TIRUNELVELI I 

TIRUCHENDUR I TUTICORIN 

Morning arrival in Tuticorin, once a 
thriving Portuguese colony. In 
Tirunelveli visit the 13th-century 
Nellaiyappa Temple. After lunch, contin- 
ue to Tiruchendur to explore the 
Subramanya Temple, one of South India's 
most sacred temples. 

Day 15 

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA I KANDY 
Call at Colombo for an excursion to 
Peradeniya to see its beautiful Royal 
Botanic Gardens. Continue to Kandy and 
the lake-front Temple of the Tooth, 
which enshrines what is said to be a tooth 
of the Buddha. We also tour the 
Archaeological Museum, with its superb 
collection of sculptures and other objects. 

Day 16 

AT SEA I COCHIN 

After a day at sea arrive in Cochin, the 

oldest European settlement in India. 

Day 17 

COCHIN I DISEMBARKATION 

Explore via local boats the backwaters of 
Cochin to observe typical village life. 
Afternoon at leisure. This evening, 
attend a performance of the centuries-old 
Kathakali dance theater. Accommoda- 
tions are at the Taj Malabar Hotel. 

Day 18 

COCHIN 1 USA 

In the morning, tour the old districts of 

Mattancherry and Fort Cochin. After 

lunch, transfer to the airport for the 

return flight to Mumbai to connect with 

the flight to the United States. 

Day 19 
ARRIVE USA 



Departures 



Depart 


Return 


Febniary 12, 2002 


March 2, 2002 


February 19, 2002 


March 8, 2002* 


February 26, 2002 


March 16, 2002 


March 5, 2002 


March 22, 2002* 



* The cruise on these departures operates 
in the reverse direction, Cochin-Mumbai. 



Program Inclusions 

• Seven-night cruise aboard Clelia 11. 

• Deluxe hotel accommodations in Delhi, 
Agra, Jaipur, Mumbai, and Cochin, as 
described in the itinerary. 

• Cocktail reception at the hotel in Delhi. 

• Domestic flights between Jaipur and 
Mumbai, and Cochin and Mumbai. 

• Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily dur- 
ing land portion. 

• Welcome and farewell receptions aboard 
ship hosted by the Captain. 

• All meals aboard ship, including break- 
fast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. 
Complimentary house wine and soft 
drinks are included with lunch and din- 
ner on board ship. 

• Complete program of tours and shore 
excursions as described. 

• Educational program of lectures, discus- 
sions, and reading materials provided by 
an accompanying study leader. 

• Professional cruise staff. 

• Complete pre-departure materials, includ- 
ing destination information, travel portfo- 
lio, document wallet, and name tag. 

• Transfers, baggage handling abroad, and 
airport departure taxes for passengers trav- 
eling on suggested flights arranged through 
Classical Cruises. 

• Port charges, embarkation and other 
local taxes. Gratuities to porters, guides, 
and drivers. 



The 88'Guest AlUSuite Clelia U 




fes-K-. 

Typical suite 



classical 



(dk 



cruises 



132 East 70th Street I New York, NY 10021 
For Reservations and Information Please Call 

212.794-3200 or 800-252.7745 

(Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-6;00 p.m., Eastern Time), 
or See Your Travel Agent 
www.dassicalzruises.cQnn, 




The all-suite Clelia II marks a new 
standard in small-ship, luxury cruise 
travel. This elegant private yacht 
accommodates 88 guests in 44 suites, 
the smallest of which measures 215 
square feet. Each suite affords ocean 
views and is appointed with a sitting 
area vjr separate living room, twin or 
queen-sized beds, spacious closets, 
color TV and VCR, mini-bar, and 
bathroom with marble vanity and teak 



floor. Clelia U is staffed by 60 European 
officers and crew. Public facilities 
include two lounges, a restaurant that 
accommodates all guests at a single 
unassigned seating, library, gym, steam 
bath, beauty salon, boutique, swim- 
ming pool and ample deck areas for 
relaxing and sunbathing. An elevator 
serves all decks. Clelia II complies with 
the latest international and U.S. Coast 
Guard safety regulations and is outfit- 
ted with the most up-to-date naviga- 
tional and communications technolo- 
gy as well as with retractable fin stabi- 
lizers for smooth sailing. A versatile 
launch transports guests ashore in 
comfort when the ship is at anchor. 
The limited guest capacity, the excel- 
lence of design, craftsmanship and 
material, and its overall spaciousness 
and intimate ambience make Clelia U 
ideal for distinctive cruise travel. 




Nautilus Cluh 

Deck Plan 



Dining alfresco 



Rates 




Per Person, 
Double Occupancy 



Explorer Deck 



mm . rr— I 




Erikson Deck 




Suite 
Category 


Rate 


F 


$7,595 


E 


$7,995 


D 


$8,595 


C 


$8,995 


B 


$9,595 


■^ 


$9,995 


VS 


$10,995 


AS 


$12,695 



Magellan Deck 



Airfare 

Classical Cmises would be pleased to assist 
you with your air reservations. Please call us at 
800-252-7745 for further information. 



Single Rate 

(Categories F through B) 

Approximately 150% of 
the double occupancy fare 



A complacent conclusion can be drawn it we as- 
sume that sexual reproduction — with its ability to 
compensate for errors — has dramatically raised the 
upper Umit on copying mistakes. It it has done so, 
then natural selection can easily take care of all the 
harmful mutations, and Homo sapiens is evolutionar- 
ily motoring along \vith more important worries 
than mutational error. 

Another possibility is that the harmful-error rate 
has already reached an upper Umit and we are in a 
mutational meltdown. This scenario is not only 
apocalyptic but unlikely. Our ancestors have prob- 
ably been making 200 copying mistakes per otF- 
spring and putting the wrong number of chromo- 
somes in 50 percent of them ever since the span of 
one hominid generation evolved to the modern 
figure of thirty years or so. Experts disagree about 
when this happened. Some argue that chimpanzees 
and gorillas have a generation time roughly similar 
to ours (between twenty and thirty years), which 
would push the origin of that trait back near the 
origin of great apes, to about 15 iniHion years ago. 
Others would use a figure nearer 5 million years 
ago, when the human Une branched otf trom that 
of the other great apes. Or, if our modern genera- 
tion length dates back to the origm of the genus 



Homo, maybe a figure of 2 million years would be 
better. If we have been just fine for 15 million years, 
we'd have to conclude that our mutation rate is 
truly sustainable. There is some evidence to suggest 
that we are accumulating mutant genes at a higher 
rate than are other species, but I suspect that our 
mutation rate is older than we are and is similar to 
that of chimps and gorOlas. We are probably not 
mutating our way to inevitable extinction. 

What does an understanding of genomic error 
tell us about what we can expect ti-om the new 
human reproductive and genetic technologies? Such 
a discussion is flituristic and necessarily uncertain and 
conditional, but the way we understand evolution, 
error, and complexity does bear on the answers. 

One potential reproductive technology that has 
aroused tremendous interest is cloning. Although 
flill reproductive cloning — in which an individual 



Perhaps our species would be 
unharmed if we disposed of sex, but it 
would be a good idea to find out first 

Amorous couple in bed, terracotta. Old Babylonian 
period, ca. 1750 b.c. 




46 I NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



produces an offspring made from an exact copy of 
the DNA in his or her sperm or egg cells — might 
be used by a minority of human beings who have 
no other reproductive options, I suspect the prac- 
tice is highly unlikely to become widespread. The 
reason is simply that cloning has a drawback: it suf- 
fers from as many errors as sexual reproduction does 
but lacks a crucial mechanism (sex itself) for clear- 
ing out the errors. If a subset of human beings 
signed up to use only clonal reproduction in the fu- 
ture, they would also be signing up their progeny 
for rapid genetic decay. Mutations would accumu- 
late much faster than they could be eliminated. Not 
many generations would pass before all the clones 
were so loaded with genetic defects that they could 
not survive. (See "Why Sex Is Better Than 
Cloning," page 49.) 

At this stage of our understanding, opting to re- 
produce by cloning is rather hke what volunteering 
for a heart transplant would have been during the 
era before the function of the immune system was 
known. The problem lies in messing with a design 
feature of our bodies when we do not know the de- 
sign principles. Whatever factors allowed sexual re- 
production to evolve, the advantages they conferred 
must have been big. Otherwise, the sexual form of 
life — in which each being is able to pass on only 
half its genes — would never have evolved in the first 
place. The lower reproductive rate is probably made 
up for by a difference in quality: the average sexual 
offspring is probably twice as good as the equivalent 
cloned offspring. In other words, sex may have 
evolved for some reason that we are clueless about, 
and perhaps our species would be unharmed if we 
disposed of it. But it would be a good idea to find 
out first. 

Gene therapy, however, may be another story. 
Gene therapy means medically curing a defective 
gene by replacing it with a normal version, or by 
neutraHzing it, or by some other technology yet 
unimagined. The use of such technology will, I ex- 
pect, prove to be as acceptable as conventional 
medicine is now. (The idea of gene enhancement — 
in which an individual's genes are replaced with the 
aim of improving physical appearance and athletic, 
mental, or other abilities — will remain controver- 
sial.) If one is carrying a gene for a condition such 
as Tay-Sachs disease, deciding to undergo gene 
therapy may someday be much easier than the only 
options currently available: deciding not to have 
children at all, aborting a fetus that inherits the de- 
fect, or giving birth to a baby with an incurable ill- 



ness. Such decisions are ghastly, and it therefore 
seems Ukely that people will use the new technolo- 
gies to cure genetic error. Of course, these practices 
have not yet been shown to be safe for humans. 
And in any case, we cannot now do much with 
gene therapy, relative to its potential. In absolute 
terms, geneticists have identified a large number — 

THE RISK OF HAVING A 
SCHIZOPHRENIC CHILD IS THREE 
TIMES GREATER FOR FIFTY-YEAR- 
OLD FATHERS THAN FOR FATHERS 
UNDER TWENTY-FIVE. 

maybe in the hundreds, maybe in the few thou- 
sands — of defective genes, but this is probably only 
the tip of the iceberg. Every one of a human's 
30,000 or so genes wrU have several mutant, defec- 
tive versions. Defects also exist in pieces of DNA 
that do not code for genes. 

Whatever the benefits of gene therapy, the fu- 
ture may also bring technologies for preventing 
copying errors in the first place, thus eHminating 
the need for repair. Consider the idea of freezing 
gametes (or preserving them by some other 
method). In women, the quaHty of egg cells tends 
to decline with time. The possibihty that a twenty- 
year-old mother will conceive a baby with an extra 
chromosome is negligible; the chance that a forty- 
year-old mother will do so is several percent; and 
soon after that, the biological clock reaches mid- 
night. In the future, however, we may be able to 
stay the clock hands. Young women could opt to 
have some reproductive cells removed and softly 
embalmed, and then have them revived for preg- 
nancy at a time of their own choosing. One conse- 
quence would be a reduction in the mutation rate 
in individuals (and in species, in proportion to the 
number of individuals who choose this procedure). 
Indeed, the mutation rate might be further reduced 
by harvesting the cells as early as possible — at birth, 
for example. Of course, the trade-off" here would 
involve particularly knotty ethical problems (the 
impossibility of getting informed consent being the 

If a life-form is to persist, the average 
parent must produce at least one 
error-free offspring. 

Detail from Offering to Venus, by Titian, ca. 1518 



most ob\'ious). Men, too, could freeze their ga- 
metes. An old man's sperm contains so many muta- 
tions that the geneticist James F. Crow once joked 
that the greatest threat to the human generic fiiture 
is fertile old men. The broad consequences, it any, 
of freezing sperm are uncertain, but a recent U.S. 



study found that fathers over fifty run three times 
the risk of having a child that develops schizophre- 
nia than do fathers under twenty-five. 

Could we ever evolve to be more complex? It's 
hard to say, and it depends on whether research 
proves that sexual reproduction is up to the task of 




48 NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 




clearing the errors that would be created by an or- 
ganism with a longer life, a longer generation time, 
or a larger genome. Early in the history of microbial 
life, the evolution of repair enzymes helped reduce 
the copying-error rate from about 1 in 10,000 to 
about 1 in 10 biUion. If gene therapy by itself could 
be used to cure a large proportion of human ge- 
netic defects, it could become the cultural equiva- 
lent of those repair enzymes. The introduction of 
new gene and reproducrive technologies could turn 
out to be not just a way to prevent individual heart- 
break but one of the most momentous events in the 
2-biLlion-year history' of complex life. It would rate 
with the handful of evolutionary breakthroughs: re- 
hably repHcating molecules, repair enzymes, the 
Mendelian machinery of inheritance, and the evo- 
lution of sex and gender. 

Such a breakthrough in reducing error rates 
might permit the evolution of forms with a whole 
new level of complexity' — in intellect or social orga- 
nization, for example. But what inight such a Hfe- 

GENE THERAPY COULD BECOME 
ONE OF THE MOST MOMENTOUS 
DEVELOPMENTS IN THE HISTORY 
OF COMPLEX LIFE. 

form look Hke? Thirty thousand genes of DNA code 
give you a complex being such as a human or a 
mouse, but what would 100,000 give you? Since ed- 
ucation in our information-based society uses up a 
large fraction of the human life span, perhaps we 
could evolve to live longer. Or we might evolve 
more efficient learning abilities. Our skill in acquir- 
ing language between the first and second year of Ufe 
is impressive, but genetic programming for early 
learning probably involves a large number of genes. 
With extra genes at our disposal, we could acquire 
other skills the same way, with our brains prompting 
us in the right direction. Each skill would have its 
own set of DNA codes. We could then pick up 
computer programming, for example, or methods of 
pricing derivatives on the fritures market, the way we 
learn to understand and speak our own languages. 

Unlike sex, cloning has the drawback 
of creating copying errors that cannot 
be corrected. 

Large Triple Elvis, by Andy Warhol, 1963 



Being brainier, however, may not be the best 
way to become more complex. I have in mind an- 
other fanciful idea, inspired by the late evolutionary 
theorist W D. Hamilton. If 30,000 genes are 
needed to code for a human being or a bird, and 
20,000 to code for an oak tree or a lobster, 100,000 
might code for all four. The resultant organism 
would not combine the features of all those organ- 



WHY SEX IS BETTER THAN CLONING 

All reproduction gives rise to some mutations, or errors, during 
the copying of DNA messages. Sexual reproduction, which oper- 
ates according to Mendel's principles of inheritance, has the ad- 
vantage of redistributing the parents' mutations among the ofi"- 
spring. In effect, a toss of the coin determines whether any 
particular gene wiU be "allowed" into each embryo. Meiosis is the 
fateful cell division in which each gene, whether perfect or mu- 
tated, has only a 50-50 chance of making its way into a gamete — 
a particular sperm or egg. On average, if a male or female with 
one harmfril DNA mutation produces eight gametes, four will 
have the flaw and four will be free of error. When the sperm and 
eggs of two parents — both of whom have one harmful muta- 
tion — are combined to form eight new organisms, four offspring 
on average will have one harmfril mutation and two will have two, 
but the remaining two vvdll have no mutations at all. The Hfe-form 
carries on. 

Now consider a clonal hfe-form. If a parent with one harmfril 
mutation decides to have eight offipring, all eight will inherit the 
flaw. A Ufe-form that reproduces this way will continue to accumu- 
late errors each time its DNA is copied; over several generations, it 
becomes unsustainable and wUl be destroyed by its mutations. 
Though some life-forms — certain plants, for example — use clonal 
reproduction, they also have sex from time to time. On the family 
tree of complex life, only a few odd twigs are exclusively clonal. 

Another reason to doubt we could go in for cloning in a big 
way is that sex is probably a necessary condition for complex hfe. 
This conclusion would stem from the theory (put forward by Alex 
Kondrashov, of the National Center for Biotechnology Informa- 
tion) that sexual reproduction evolved primarily to purge bad 
genes. Another plausible theory is that sex exists to keep us from 
being destroyed by parasites and microbial pathogens. Since infec- 
tious bacteria, as well as viruses and parasitic protozoans, evolve 
rapidly as they exploit our bodies as habitats, we need to make ge- 
netic shifts in each generation to keep up with them. Even if the 
parasite-avoidance theory is a better explanation for why sex 
evolved, cloning would stiU be a bad idea. Your cloned offspring 
would be more Hkejy to die of infectious disease rather than ge- 
netic disease. Cloning yourself would be Hke taking your children 
to a plague-stricken city, where the chance that they will die of 
plague is doubled. 



50 



NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



isms; such a monstrous body would have hopelessly 
difficult integration tasks. What the extra genes 
might provide is the opportunity to choose which 
Ufe-form to become. At some embryonic stage, our 
large-genomed creature could assess its environ- 
ment and see where the best opportunities lay. If a 
niche for oak trees was relatively unoccupied, it 
could commit to this form and grow up as a tree 
that produces acorns. If the sea bottom was under- 
exploited, it could grow claws, eight legs, and a 
spring-action tail — and watch out for lobster pots. 
Unconstrained by the form of its parents, the em- 
bryo would pick the adult form that promised the 
best reproductive return. The embryo itself would 
be a complex creature, because it would have to as- 
sess all those environments and opportunities. It 
might start out in larval-assessor form and then un- 
dergo a metamorphosis as it switched on all the 
necessary genes for its preferred adult form. All the 
unused genes would simply be switched off, per- 
haps until the next generation. 

But there may be many reasons such a flexible 
form has not evolved. An important one is that nat- 
ural selection — creating a massive slaughter of mu- 
tants in every generation — is needed to ensure that 
genetic information is not erased by mutational 
decay. If genes are not expressed, natural selection 
cannot work on them. Put another way, if a gene is 
not used, it is lost over evolutionary time. 

The destructive force of mutation has prevented 
earthly Hfe from evolving reserves of occasionally 
expressed genes. But what if that force were relaxed 
or resisted? If future technology could accompUsh 
this, or if an otherworldly method of reproduction 
superior to Mendehan inheritance emerged, hfe 
could add to its reserves of DNA. The future would 
He with Ufe-forms that, although not necessarily 
more inteUigent than humans, might have genetic 
subroutines that could be called up as appropriate. 
After fire and brimstone, such descendants could 
reinvent themselves as fire-adapted flowers and 
cover the scorched Earth with fresh foUage. After 
the deluge, they could grow up as fish and swim 
safely beneath the waves. D 



If we evolved extra genes, we might 
acquire computer skills as effortlessly 
as we pick up our native language. 



Golconde, by Rene Magritte, 1953 




52 



NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



BACTERIAL REVELATIC 

Genomics is providing a wealth of information about some 
of Earth's littlest, oldest, and most abundant living things. 

story by Roberta Friedman ~ Illustrations by Robert Grossman 



Pumping Metal 

How do certain bacteria subsist amid heavy metals, 
oils, and rank toxic sludge — substances that kill 
most other forms of life? Genomes may help re- 
searchers answer this question and, as a result, aid in 
the cleanup of humanity's nastiest messes. 

One bacterium that may be useful in mopping- 




METAL- MINING MICROBE 



up operations is Ralstonia metallidiinms. Through its 
ability to turn normally poisonous heavy metals 
into harmless carbonates, this bacterium has the po- 
tential to make the environment safe for other 
fornrs of Hfe that lack its transformational powers. 
Since the carbonates accumulate on the surface of 
R. metallidiirans, if these microbes are allowed to 
work for a while and are then removed, the heavy 
metals can be effectively removed with them. 

Last October, as part of its first annual 
"Microbial Month," the U.S. Department of 
Energy's (DOE's) Joint Genome Institute in 
Walnut Creek, California, sequenced the 
genomes of fifteen bacteria. One was R. niet- 
alliduraiis. Although not finalized, the se- 
quences give researchers a good idea of how 
this microbe survives and even thrives in the 
most hostile environments. The DOE's draft 
of this organism's 3,000 genes may in fact re- 
veal the secret of some microbes' ability to 
pump heavy metals and precipitate them 
harmlessly. 

The genes that confer R. inetallidiirans's 
resistance to heavy metals are on a circular bit 
of DNA called a plasmid. Plasmids are the 
shuttle buses of the bacterial genetic world, 
easUy transferring genes among microbes — 
even across species. And according to John 
Dunn, a biologist at the DOE's Brookhaven 
National Laboratory, R. inetallidiirans's plas- 
mids are about ten times the usual size. 

Before Microbial Month, only one per- 
cent of this bacterium's genome had been 
known. Now, because of the DOE-led effort, 
scientists can contemplate, for example, 
adding genes to R. metalJiduraiis that would 
hnk its uptake of heavy metals to biolumines- 



JS 




cence. Glowing bacteria could then indicate the 
presence of heavy-metal contaminants. Researchers 
might also be able to effect the transfer ot R. inetal- 
liduranss pumping instructions to other bacteria, or 
to use it as a host for other genes that could improve 
upon its talents. 

The very flexibihty of the R. metallidurans 
genome is what allows it to adapt nimbly to chang- 
ing and challenging environments, says Dunn. Of 
course, tinkering with such a mobile microbial 
genome raises concerns, and scientists working on 
the organism do not propose to release altered 
genomes without first amassing adequate knowl- 
edge of the habits these bugs might adopt. To that 
end, Dunn expects that within a year, the full 
genome of R. metallidurans will be mounted for 
study on a DNA microarray chip. Even with mi- 
croarrays — which will allow scientists to take snap- 
shots of the microbe's genes in action — it wiU be 
some time before the story of R. metallidurans's 
lifestyle is unraveled. 

By the 

Light of the Sea 

Efforts to probe marine ecosystems have always 
been hampered by the difficulties of exploring the 
open ocean. But now that the science of genomics 
is making possible the decoding of complete ge- 
netic blueprints, researchers are quickly moving to- 
ward a more comprehensive understanding of the 
marine food chain. 

Take the cyanobacterium Prochlorocoaus marinus. 
Discovered only fifteen years ago, it is the smallest 
and most abundant photosynthetic microbe on 



Earth: one tablespoon of seawater may contain 
10,000 of them. Together, all species of Prochlorococ- 
cus make up nearly a third of the ocean biomass that 
uses Hght to make food. Penny Chisholm, of the 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 
points out that, along with other phytoplankton, 
the carbon dioxide-consuming P. marinus plays a 
key role in the regulation of CO2 in the atmos- 
phere. "If all the phytoplankton suddenly died," she 
says, "the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere 
would increase two- to three-fold." 

One strain of P marinus, MED4, Hves in rather 
brightly lit surface waters. Another strain, 
MIT9313, inhabits deeper waters. Researchers at 
MIT, the Joint Genome Institute in California, and 
the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee 
have been working to determine the complete ge- 
netic instructions of both strains. And it turns out 
that the two are quite different. 

The surface-dweUing cyanobacterium has fewer 
genes — 1 ,700 compared with the 2,400 of its low- 
light relative. However, it possesses many more genes 
that are activated by Ught. And as befits a surface 
dweller, it also has an enzyme that repairs damage to 
its DNA caused by exposure to ultraviolet Hght. 

What does the deepwater speciaHst have that its 
shallow-water counterpart doesn't? Apparently, it 
can make a Hving off diverse sources of nutrients. 
For a start, it bears genetic instructions for making 
enzymes capable of utilizing the nitrite that is pre- 
sent in deeper waters but absent from the surface 
waters of the open ocean. In addition, the deep- 
water cyanobacterium carries the codes for several 
enzymes that handle sugars. 

Scientists are also using genomics to examine 
how certain microbes thrive in novel ways, using the 
abundant light available in the surface waters of the 



54 NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 




SHALLOW AND DEEP WATER CYAN O BACTERIA 



ocean. A pigmented molecule called rhodopsin helps 
many creatures use light; in humans, for example, it 
is present in the retina. But Edward F. DeLong and 
Oded Beja, of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Re- 
search Institute in California, certainly didn't expect 
to fmd rhodopsin in oceanic microbes, because it 
had never been found in any bacteria. But find it 
they did. They confirmed that these rhodopsins are 
capable of harvesting biochemical energy from light, 
thus giving the microbes an energy boost from sun- 
light. Since rhodopsin-containing microbes are 
widespread in the sea, the researchers predict that this 
harvesting is an important oceanic process. 

DeLong, Beja, and colleagues also discovered 
that microorganisms gathered from Monterey Bay 
and from surface waters of the Pacific Ocean north 
of Hawaii contain a red-reacting rhodopsin, while 
those from the Antarctic and the deep waters ot the 
North Pacific have a blue-reacting variant. The dif- 
ference most likely occurs because blue light 
reaches the farthest depths of the sea, while red 
light quickly attenuates with depth. The bacteria 
appear to have "tuned" their rhodopsins to react 



optimally with available light. Without modern 
genomics, the researchers would never have discov- 
ered oceanic rhodopsin or detected the habitat- 
specific spectral tuning evident in its variants. 

How TB Plays Possum 

More than sixty years into the antibiotic era, tuber- 
culosis is still the world's number-one infectious 
killer. One reason the disease has been so difficult 
to eradicate is that Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the mi- 
crobe that causes it, has a talent for hiding out in 
white blood cells — sometimes for decades. A third 
of the world's human population harbors the bacil- 
lus in its dormant state. 

M. tuberculosis may cause active disease right 
away, or it may weather the initial attack by the 
body's defenses and then enter a state of latency, 
persisting quietly in a kind of equilibrium with the 
immune system. If a host's defensive line falters 
(when the immune system is suppressed by AIDS, 
for example, or weakens with malnutrition or ad- 



vancing age), active disease ensues. The ability to 
coexist with its host is the mark of a successfiilly 
evolved pathogen, and the tuberculosis bacterium 
has an extremely effective strategy for doing so, says 
researcher Gary K. Schoolnik, of Stanford Univer- 
sity School of Medicine's Beckman Center. 

Schoolnik has been able to show which genes 
the TB pathogen "turns on" when its hosts — the 
large white blood cells known as macrophages — 
start responding to its presence. When the 
macrophages' immune response is activated, the 
pathogen undergoes fundamental metaboUc alter- 



ations to survive in the host cell. One component 
of this change is a switch to the hosts' fatty acids as 
a principal source of carbon for energy. The patho- 
gen also responds to nitric oxide, one of the main 
products of the activated white cell. When nitric 
oxide levels are high, the TB pathogen seems to 
slow or stop replicating. Wlien its production de- 
cHnes, repHcation resumes. The results suggest, but 
do not prove, that nitric oxide induces the disease's 
dormant state. 

There are many other puzzles for Schoolnik to 
grapple with as he tries to unravel the secrets of M. 







TUBERCULOSIS GERM PLAYING PEEKABOO WITH A WHITE BLOOD CELL 



56 



NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



tuberculosis^ success. For one, the microbe seems to 
be turning on the genes it uses to acquire iron from 
its surroundings, even though the nutrient mixture 
in which he is cultivating the microbe is rich in iron. 
Perhaps the toxic soup of macrophages and other 
vi^hite blood cells encountered by the microbe lead 
it to sense that iron is depleted, or perhaps more iron 
is needed by the bug in this environment. 

So far, says Schoolnik, the lesson from the ge- 
nomic investigation of tuberculosis is that what ap- 
pear to be genes for ordinary metaboHc functioning 
could in fact be crucial mediators of the infection's 
virulence. 

Pillars of a Salty 
World 

Sequencing the genomes of the ancient kingdom of 
microbes called archaea yields evidence that all hfe 
shares some basic strategies, despite disparate ways 
of earning a living. Consider this: the tiny genome 
of Halobacteriuin, a microbe that thrives in the salti- 
est, most landlocked bodies of water, shares many 
similarities with complex (eukaryotic) cells, even 
those from humans. 

Last year, an international team finished sequenc- 
ina; the NRC-1 strain of Halobacteriuiii. The vulture 




HALOPHiLIC MICROBE 



of Earth's salty puddles, NRC-1 grows on the de- 
grading carcasses of less sturdy organisms that die off 
as salinity mounts due to evaporation. The genome 
of Halobacterium NRC-1 facilitates this process by in- 
cluding instructions for generating such exotica as a 
putrescine transporter — a molecular version of a 
waste-disposal truck. The microbe also contains the 
directions for making proteins that can eject toxic 
heavy metals such as arsenic and cadmium. 

NRC-1 can prosper in water ten times saltier 
than Earth's oceans and can function happily with 
hypersalty innards. UnUke many other exotic mi- 
crobes, it is easUy grown in the lab, making it a po- 
tential workhorse for future research on the entire 
group of archaeal microorganisms known as ex- 
tremophiles. 

International efforts have resulted in the discov- 
ery that NRC-1 genes are carried on three reph- 
cating units, only one of which is as big as a typical 
chromosome; the other two are "minichromo- 
somes." The genome sequence was used to predict 
about 2,600 genes, a third of which do not resem- 
ble any other known genes. Yet many of NRC-1 's 
genes do carry instructions for familiar proteins — 
for example, those that facihtate molecular signal- 
ing across the cell membrane and those that are 
used for metabolic (housekeeping) functions. In 
fact, NRC-1 carries genetic instructions for mak- 
ing many cellular systems similar to those found in 
plants and animals. 

Microbiologist ShUaditya DasSarma, of the Uni- 
versity of Massachusetts Amherst, led the interna- 
tional sequencing project. He explains that NRC- 
1 's trick to surviving in ever saltier water is to have 
proteins on its inside that carry a high negative 
charge. Bacteria that lack such proteins succumb to 
salt poisoning. 

Also found in NRC-1 's genes are the machinery 
for growth in both the presence and absence of 
oxygen; a primitive photosynthesis system; and a 
very efficient DNA repair system that protects 
against damage by harsh sunlight. This hardy strain 
of Halobacterium is also genetically rigged with sens- 
ing systems that guide it to the best-lit waters and to 
the optimal locations where nutrients, temperature, 
and oxygen can stimulate its growth. NRC-1 even 
has a protein molecule for a membrane that can be 
Ukened to a primitive retina, and a component that 
in other bacteria (as well as in plants and animals) 
acts to maintain circadian rhythms. 

AH in all, the microbe should serve as an impres- 
sive genetic ambassador from its ancient kingdom. 




TYPHUS- THE Kl LLER OF SOLDIERS 



Typhus, 
Cats, and You 

Despite having one of the smallest genomes known, 
Rickettsia proimzekii, the typhus-causing pathogen, 
has played a major infective role throughout history. 
More soldiers have been killed by typhus (lice 
spread it) than have been killed in battle. The mi- 
crobe's genome itself looks like a molecular theater 
of war, with dead genes strewn among the Hving. 
According to Siv G. E. Andersson, of Sweden's 
Uppsala University, that's because fliUy a quarter of 
the microbe's compact genome is made up ot a 
kind of junk DNA — inactivated, ancient genes in 
their final stages of deterioration. 

Andersson, part of the team that sequenced the 
typhus genome, has also found that the Uttle killer's 
working genes mrn out to be remarkably similar to 
those that govern some important flinctions of the 
mitochondria, the energy-generating packets within 
all animal and plant cells. Mitochondria have tiny 
genomes that encode only a few proteins; the rest of 
the instructions for their task of generating cellular 
energy reside in the centers, or nuclei, of the ceUs 
they inhabit. The sunilarit\' between some of the nu- 
clear genes that code for the mitochondria's energy 
production and the genes of the typhus organism sug- 
gests that these instructions were transferred into the 
nuclear genome from a bacterial ancestor of the mito- 
chondria. According to this scenario, when oxygen 
levels started to rise in the atmosphere 2 billion years 
ago, our cellular ancestors had to adapt or die: they 
responded to the catastrophe by s"wallowing oxygen- 



respiring bacteria and converting them into Htde en- 
ergy-producing organelles, the mitochondria. Ander- 
sson's sequencing of the typhus genome has yielded 
remarkable msights into this evolutionary heist. 

When a formerly independent organism takes 
up residence in a host, it begins to depend on the 
host for its basic needs, and some of its own genetic 
instructions become redundant. Mutations can 
occur in the genes of the synibiont vwthout conse- 
quences for its survival. Theorizing that the typhus 
pathogen may have had just such a history, Anders- 
son contrasts its genome with that of Bartonella 
henselae, the microbe responsible for cat-scratch dis- 
ease. Typhus microbes can sui"vive only within other 
cells, whereas the cat-scratch pathogen, in the same 
microbial family, still carries functioning genes that 
allow for a more independent Hfestyle. B. henselae 
microbes are taken into the infected cell, but they 
don't live directly in the cell's fluids. Rather, they 
live in a kind of bubble called a phagosome. 

B. henselae can do even more for itself: it has re- 
tained genes instructing it to create the building 
blocks for proteins and DNA. The typhus patho- 
gen, on the other hand, lacks the genes for making 
amino acids and nucleosides and depends on its host 
cell for a steady supply of them. As much as 80 per- 
cent of the typhus pathogen's original complement 
of genes may have been lost or inactivated as it 
evolved its completely parasitic existence, Anders- 
son speculates. 

Meanwhile, evidence accumulating from ge- 
nomics suggests that the nucleus of the so-called 
eukaryotes, or nucleated cell organisms, is itself a 
donation from an ancestor of the microorganisms 
known as archaea. D 



58 NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



Born To Be Tame 




To attract a mate, 
a male houbara 
bustard, above, 
fans his 

elongated crown 
and neck plumes 
and may perform 
an animated 
"display run" 
for an hour 
at a time. 



To survive in the 
desert of Saudi 
Arabia, captive-bred 
bustards have to 
learn to go wild. 



By Yolanda van Heezik and Philip Seddon 



Imagine you're living on your own for the first 
time. Away from the comforts of home and in 
a strange town, you're preoccupied with look- 
ing for a place to get a meal and you inadver- 
tently wander onto a dark street. A large man 
comes toward you. Perhaps he could give you di- 
rections. You smile hesitantly. He smiles back and 
then flourishes a knife. Too late, you realize you've 
made a fatal mistake. 

In the natural world, naivete is costly, but it is 
also rare in animals that share their environment 
with natural enemies. Constantly faced with the 
danger of becoming someone else's dinner, prey an- 
imals are skilled in recognizing and avoiding poten- 



rial predators. In some species this ability is largely 
innate, while in others it seems to be learned from 
parents or other members of a herd or flock. Ani- 
mals raised in an artificial environment and without 
such guidance often lack the predator-detection 
skills of their wild cousins. 

For nine years we worked at a captive breeding 
center for Asiatic houbara bustards in Saudi Ara- 
bia. At the National Wildhfe Research Center in 
Taif, female bustards are artificially inseminated 
and the chicks are hand-raised and then released. 
The goal is to reestablish healthy populations of 
bustards in their Saudi Arabian range. One ot the 
first challenges the program faced was how to pre- 
pare naive bustards to survive — to eat and not be 
eaten — in the desert. 

Camouflaged and, in their natural state, wary 
birds, Asiatic houbara bustards are at home in the 
undulating steppes and semideserts of the Arabian 
Peninsula, western and central Asia, and the Indian 
subcontinent. Superbly adapted to arid environ- 
ments, wUd houbaras do not need to drink water 
but manage to get aU the moisture they need from 
their food. Indeed, part of the secret of the bustards' 
survival may be their varied diet. Opportunists at 
heart, they wiU try most edible objects they en- 
counter, from juicy berries and young green shoots 
to crunchy beetles and sunbathing Hzards. Though 
powerfril fliers, houbaras prefer to walk and are 
more difricult to discern when on the ground. 
When they do take to the air, their size (wingspread 
is about five feet), their deep wingbeats, and the 
black patches on their wings and neck make them 
easy to recognize. Houbaras' strong flight, coupled 
with a fighting spirit, make them a premier quarry 
in the ancient sport of falconry. This kind of hunt- 
ing, in which the falcons are trained to attack much 
larger birds, is one reason bustards are threatened 
throughout much of their range. 

Houbara bustards are also sensitive to human 
disturbance. Before Saudi Arabia's oil-fired eco- 
nomic expansion, the wanderings of nomadic 
herdsmen were dictated by the presence of water 
and green vegetation. Today water is trucked to 
livestock, and both the herds and the four-wheel- 
drive vehicles penetrate once pristine landscapes. In 



response to the decHne of resident houbaras in the 
Arabian Peninsula, the Saudi government began a 
conservation program in 1986. This project in- 
cluded captive breeding and the creation of large 
protected areas. By 1992 the successful program of 
artificial insemination and incubation had produced 
a surplus of chicks, enough to begin introducing 
some of them into the wild. Juvenile birds, from 
thirty-five to forty-five days old, were at first re- 




leased into a predator-free enclosure of about one Tiny and mainly 

and a half square rrdles, where they could learn how insectivorous, 

to find natural food. In their own good time, the Riippell's fox, 

young birds could simply fly out into the wider re- above, rarely 

serve, a fenced area of 850 square miles that was free preys on newly 

of livestock and human predators but had a full released 

complement of natural predators. Some bustards, bustards, but 

on first leaving the enclosure, immediately retreated many of the 

back inside, while others headed off into the desert, young birds fell 

Considering the enormous transition the young victim to red 

birds had to make, many of them fared well as far as foxes. 
food finding was concerned. After growing up on a 
diet of unlimited food pellets, alfalfa, mealworms, 
crickets, and water, they were somehow able to rec- 






Houbara bustard 
chicks, above, 
are cared for by 
hand. Right: A 
young red fox, 
Sophie, was 
enlisted to give 
predator- 
avoidance 
lessons. 




ognize and collect their natural plant and insect 
foods. They coped without water in temperatures 
that soared above 100° F and eventually even fig- 
ured out how to breed successtiilly. 

The main stumbling block along the road to 
self-sufficiency was predation. As more and more of 
the newly free young birds fell victim to deadly at- 
tacks, we considered a Ust of likely suspects. The 
dehcate Httle RiippeU's fox inhabits the region, but 
its predominantly insectivorous diet and small size 
argued against its being the villain. (However, 
should a hungry RiippeU's fox blunder upon a re- 
cently released bustard barely able to fly and search- 
ing for Its water dish, then the fox is Hkely to prefer 



6/01 NATURAL HISTORY 61 



im 



r 




the bird over another beetle.) The lovely, wide- 
faced sand cat could have preyed on some birds, but 
the habits of this desert species are litde known. 
Later on, we found that eagle owls could become 
habitual houbara killers once they discovered how 
ea.S)' it was to dispatch naive birds. But our investi- 
gation of the tracks and other signs around preda- 
tor-killed carcasses indicated that the main culprit 
was the red fox. 

Not as common in the region as Ruppcil's 
foxes, red foxes ordinarily pose litde problem for 
houbara bustards. Wild houbara chicks, usually two 
or three per clutch, stay with their mother for about 
three months in total, even though they begin to fly 



Eager to chase 
bustards, Sophie 
is kept in hand 
by author Philip 
Seddon. Each 
carefully 
supervised 
training bout 
lasted just three 
minutes. 



short distances at one month of age. They are 
taught by their mothers or other bustards how to 
recognize and avoid foxes and other dangers. The 
captive-bred houbaras missed out on these lessons, 
and many paid the price. Navigating a new, seem- 
ingly limitless environment, finding appropriate 
sources of food, and learning to Hve without water 
was demanding, yet possible. Having to cope with 
predators at the same time was too much. 

To help get the birds through this critical pe- 
riod, the research center's staff decided to trap foxes 
living around the predator-free enclosure and move 
them far away. When the young birds left the en- 
closure, provided they remained close by, their 
chances of running into a hungry fox were dimin- 
ished. Despite these trapping efforts, more than half 
the bustards released were quickly killed by preda- 
tors — three-quarters of these by red foxes. Removal 
of foxes from a buffer zone around the enclosure 
had only delayed the birds' encounters with preda- 
tors; the proportion killed was the same. 

Our bustards were in danger of becoming "bird 
nerds" — hand-reared individuals that, if they man- 
age to survive, still have handicaps that even other 



62 NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



Although 
primarily ground 
birds, houbara 
bustards are 
strong fliers 
when they take 
to the air, right. 
In the wild, 
clutches — 
usually of two or 
three eggs — are 
laid directly on 
the desert 
surface, below. 





members of their own species can readily recognize. 
A study of captive-bred male partridges, for ex- 
ample, has shown that when released, these birds 
not only lacked some basic survival skills but also 
were less attractive to females than were wild birds. 
Hand-reared female partridges were more Hkely 
than their wild counterparts to lose their eggs and 
chicks to predators. 

Could our birds be instructed how to recog- 
nize predators and behave appropriately around 
them? At first, we tried exposing the naive birds to 
simulated attacks, using a stuffed red fox. This 
method was safe and allowed us to repeat the 
training trials. But while the young bustards did 
seem to fear the model, when released they were 
just as likely to be devoured by a fox as were un- 
schooled birds. We began to think that the birds 
would benefit by experiencing a more reahstic at- 
tack. For this we needed a live predator, but we 
wanted one we had some control over. To this 
end, one chiUy March morning, we raided a fox 
den in northern Saudi Arabia, carefully extricating 
a ten-day-old female fox. 

We named her Sophie. She spent her first weeks 
snuggled inside layers of our clothing and waking us 
up at night with her warbling wails for food. As she 
grew, her prowess at chewing and chmbing was 
marked by our gradually raising all our possessions 
onto higher and higher shelves and into cupboards 
far from fox-reach. Sophie was very playfiil and 
Uked nothing better than to be entertained by us. 
Her delightful personality threatened to shift our al- 
legiance from bustards to foxes. We reminded So- 
phie that she was going to have to work for her 
keep, and we spent time trying to accustom her to 
walking on a lead and wearing a muzzle. We failed 
miserably on both counts. The lead was sometimes 
ignored, and at other times Sophie went ofr" at a 
breakneck pace, dragging us behind, until she 
jerked to a halt to investigate some odoriferous bur- 
row or bone. The muzzle was apparently a grievous 
insult to a fox and resulted in her complete immo- 
bility. We despaired that she would ever be of use in 
training the bustards. 

The day came, however, when young birds were 
ready to be moved from the captive breeding facil- 
it\' to the enclosure, and Sophie was caught, col- 
lared, and taken to a specially designed training 
cage. The birds had three training sessions, of about 
three minutes' duration each, over the course of a 
week. During those three minutes Sophie would 
tear around the cage, darting both at and away from 



the bustards, sending them up and crashing into the 
cloth walls and roof in a panic. We were treading a 
fine Kne between making the sessions frightening 
enough to teach the birds the lesson and damaging 
them. Eventually, half the bustards were "trained"; 
the other half, a control group, did not make So- 
phie's acquaintance. 

Before being released, all the birds were fitted 
wdth radio transmitters that allowed daily monitor- 
ing of their movements. We then waited anxiously 
for news. Past experience had told us that most 
deaths would occur vvdthin about two weeks after 
the birds left the security of the enclosure. As ex- 
pected, over the next few weeks, some birds went 
missing and some were lost due to illness or injury. 
Even if a bird was killed by a predator, its ti"ansmit- 
ter usually remained intact. The remains of individ- 
uals could be found quickly, and a cause of death 
could usually be ascribed. Within a few months, we 
were able to congratulate Sophie on the contribu- 



tion she had made to houbara bustard conservation. 
Her foxiness must have left a lasting impression on 
the young houbaras, because significantly more 
birds in the "trained" group survived. 

Most of the bustards that fell prey to foxes did so 
during the first week on their own. None of those 
that died survived longer than nineteen days, but 
those that lasted more than nineteen days appeared 
to be no longer at risk. We beHeve this is the criti- 
cal period during which the bustards learn to adapt 
to a new diet and new environment. 

The houbara bustards' experience with Sophie 
may have helped them develop some simple rules — 
the primary one being to react rather than hesitate 
during a dangerous encounter. Our training tech- 
nique is now available for use as future releases take 
place in new sites. We Hke to think we took a little 
of the nerd out of the birds and gave them a flying 
start toward self-sufliciency and a real life in the 
Arabian Peninsula. D 



Stillness 
and cryptic 
coloration can be 
natural defenses 
in the bustard's 
environment. 
Below: A 
captive-bred 
female bustard, 
equipped with 
a radio 

transmitter, is 
almost invisible 
as she incubates 
her eggs. 





The big, bulbous 
nose of the adult 
male proboscis 
monkey consists 
of erectile tissue 
that fills with 
blood when he is 
excited. This 
causes the nose 
to become red 
and swollen — a 
display that 
speaks volumes 
to the female, 
whose own nose 
is petite and 
upturned. 






6/01 NATURAL HISTORY 



65 



A NOSE FOR ALL 
REASONS 




From courtship to camouflage, 
sinking to swimming, there's a 
nose for the job. 

By Lawrence M. Witmer 



Noses are for more than just smelling — 
or for holding up spectacles, as Pan- 
gloss remarks in Voltaire's Caudide. 
Olfaction is certainly the nose's ancestral role, and smelling remains important for 
most animals, but in many disparate groups of vertebrates the organ has been co-opted for a 
variety of other, quite different functions. The reasons for the nose's evolutionary adaptabihty 
are straightforward. For starters, it is well positioned to greet the environment. In addition, it 
can be modified without compromising essential tasks such as locomotion or chewing. Fi- 
nally, nasal anatomy makes use of diverse raw materials — bone, cartilage, muscle, blood ves- 
sels, connective tissues — on which natural selection can draw. 

I was thrust into the arena of nose anatomy by dinosaurs. Along with Scott Sampson, of the 
University of Utah, I had noticed that certain groups of dinosaurs had enormous and compU- 
cated noses, some taking up half the skuU. Clearly, something biologically important was going 
on. Previous researchers had proposed a number of possibihties, based on loose analogies with 
animals Hving today. Hoping to unravel the enigma of dinosaur noses, we decided to conduct 
our own studies of modern analogues. My collaborators (including many students) and I soon 
discovered just how evolutionarily labile the vertebrate nasal apparatus is. 

A variety of mammals, such as tapirs and elephants, have evolved a trunk (nose plus upper 
Up) capable of manipulating objects. In many species, the nose has been transformed into a 
display organ, such as the fleshy knob on the snout of the gharial, the inflatable sac of the 
hooded seal, and the swollen nasal appendage of the proboscis monkey. Often — as in these 
three species — only the males possess display-worthy noses, which serve to communicate in- 
formation about their health and status both to females and to rival males. Many birds and 
some antelopes, notably the dik-dik and the saiga, sport noses that give them an exceptional 
ability to regulate brain temperature and conserve water. 

The list could go on — the nasal snorkel of many aquatic turtles, the nasal leaf of many echo- 
locating bats — but the general point is that all these noses are built from a limited set of anatom- 
ical tissues. Evolution "makes do" with what's available. Now our task is to add all this informa- 
tion to the fossil evidence, with the goal of reconstructing the dinosaurs' soft tissues and 
determining the biological roles of their nasal novelties. Our studies of tapirs, for example, indi- 
cate that dinosaurs most likely did not have trunks, as some researchers have proposed. Instead, 
we think that the nose of Triceratops and some other enormous dinosaurs was not a mechanical 
tool, and we are currendy homing in on its precise physiological function. Stay tuned. 



From the size 
and arrangement 
of fossil 
nose bones, 
paleontologists 
are certain that 
many dinosaurs 
had huge, fleshy 
noses. The 
anatomy of 
some, such as 
the hadrosaur 
Saurolophus, 
left, suggests 
the presence of 
inflatable nasal 
sacs. One way to 
explore this 
and other 
possibilities is 
to study the 
noses of living 
animals — the 
hooded seal, for 
example. 



66 NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 




The enigmatic nasal 
appendage of 
Madagascar's leaf- 
nosed snake may 
enhance camouflage 
and/or improve the 
animal's sense of 
touch. The male's 
nose ends in a 
tapering spike and 
the female's in a 
flattened "leaf," so 
the appendage may 
play a role in social 
display as well. 



The nose of the 
white bat is shaped 
like a leaf, an 
adaptation for 
echolocation. Leaf- 
nosed bats vocalize 
through their noses, 
not their mouths, 
and the leaf both 
modulates and 
focuses the sound. 






A tapir's trunk works 
more Like an 
octopus's tentacle 
than like a typical 
vertebrate 
appendage. Made 
mostly of muscle, 
fat, and connective 
tissue, this highly 
flexible organ is 
useful for 
everything from 
rummaging in debris 
on the forest floor 
to "directional 
smelling." 




Male hooded seals 
have two dramatic 
displays. The first 
(inset) involves 
closing both nostrils 
and exhaling, thus 
inflating the highly 
elastic black skin of 
the nose. For the 
second display, the 
male closes just one 
nostril and exhales, 
blowing out the 
blood-red elastic 
nasal septum 
through the other 
nostril. 



68 NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 







m 




!\ 




In their hot, arid 
African habitat, dik- 
diks may go months 
without drinking. 
The anatomy of the 
proboscis and nasal 
cavity enables these 
tiny antelopes to 
reclaim water 
otherwise lost 
during exhalation 
and to cool blood 
going to the brain. 




In many soft-shelled 
turtles, the nasal 
cartilages are 
greatly elongated, 
effectively turning 
the nose into a 
snorkel. Thus 
equipped, the 
turtle can remain 
submerged, 
periodically 
extending its nose 
above the water's 
surface to breathe. 




70 NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 




The snout of the 

jl male gharial is 
graced by a stiff, 
hollow knob, used in 

|i both visual and 
acoustic displays. 
Building a nose 
ornament entailed 
the evolution of a 
new means of 
closing the nostrils: 
penislike erectile 
tissue that, when 
engorged, seals off 
the airway. 



Once thought to be 
airspeed indicators, 
the nostrils of the 
southern giant 
petrel and some 
other ocean birds 
help in the 
excretion of excess 
salt. Salty fluids 
drain from glands 
above the eye, pass 
through the nostril 
(a long, horny tube 
perched atop the 
beak), and 
ultimately drip off 
the bill tip. 





Formed by 
thousands upon 
thousands of small 
muscles that confer 
both strength and 
versatility, the 
elephant's trunk is 
perhaps the most 
remarkable 
multipurpose 
vertebrate 
appendage. It is 
used for breathing, 
sniffing, 
manipulating 
objects as small as 
a single blade of 
grass, lifting an 
entire tree trunk, 
taking a shower or 
dust bath, and 
snorkeling across a 
river. In short, it 
does everything one 
could ask of a nose 
— and then some. 



titKiif 



72 



NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



IN THE FIELD 




Arctic Fires 

Tundra flowers wait for lightning to strike. 
By Peter J. Marchand 



For eons, wildfire has played 
a fundamental role in the 
evolution of plant traits. Around 
the world — in grasslands, 
coniferous forests, chaparral — fire 
influences the makeup of plant 
communities, shapes the way many 
plants grow and reproduce, and 
regulates the course of natural 
succession (the orderly replacement of 
one group of species by another over 
time). Fire may even play a major role 
in determining what types of flowers 
bloom in the cold arctic mndra. 

My first experience with tundra fire 
came in Alaska's Noatak River 
watershed, where sparse stands of white 
spruce give way to a seemingly endless 
expanse of dwarf shrubs and tussock- 
forming sedges that stretch northward 
to the farthest horizon. Although the 
soils in this region are usually cold and 
wet (permanently fi-ozen ground 
known as permafirost lies only inches 
below the surface), plant matter that has 
accumulated over many seasons often 
dries out in early summer and becomes 



vulnerable, for a brief period, to 
wildfires triggered by Ughtning strikes. 
And the impact of fire here can be far 
longer lasting than might be expected 
for a landscape dominated by low- 
growing shrubs and herbs. 

Flying over the confluence of the 
Noatak and Kugururok Rivers, where 
ecologist Charles Racine has 
estabUshed a research site for the study 
of tundra fires, I could see the extent 
of a 30,000-acre burn that had once 
charred the area. Its boundaries were 
clearly dehneated by the flesh green of 
vigorous new growth, standing out 
sharply against a charcoal gray 
backdrop. At the site, Racine and his 
assistant Kathy Hutchins were 
monitoring changes in the plant 
community, quantifying what I had 
already suspected: the fire had set into 
motion a complex cycle of 
events, giving some species all the 
advantage they needed to gain a 
foothold. Already, several new 
colonists — among them bluejoint 
grass, fireweed, fourpart dwarf gentian. 



horsetail, and arctic 
saxifrage — had invaded the 
site. It would be many 
years before the tundra 
could return to its pre- 
burn state. 

In a place where 
permafrost is a feature of 
the environment, the 
makeup of the plant 
community depends largely 
on the depth to which the 
soil thaws each summer. 
The depth of the thaw is 
determined by a tenuous 
balance between heat lost 
during the dark winter 
months and heat gained during the 
perpetual days of summer. This balance, 
in turn, depends greatly on the nature 
of the ground cover, since this is what 
absorbs or reflects sunlight and insulates 
the soil. Adding wildfire to the 
equation may shift the balance 
dramatically. A newly fire-blackened 
surface substantially increases 
absorption of sunlight, and in the 
absence of insulating plant cover, the 
absorbed heat is efficiently conducted 
downward. By season's end, the depth 
of thaw in burned areas may be 50 
percent greater than in unburned 
tundra. And it doesn't take plants long 
to respond. Sedges sprout vigorously, 
spurred by a flush of nutrients resulting 
from the accelerated activity of soil 
microorganisms as well as from the 
burning of dead plant matter. Other 
species, unnoticed at the site at the time 
of the burn, suddenly show up; some 
are carried in from afar, and some 
germinate from seed lying dormant in 
the soil. Even cotton grass, a 
widespread and dominant tundra 
species that reproduces year after year 
by cloning, profits from fire. Its dense, 
knee-high tussocks are built up through 
the prolific sprouting of belowground 
stems, but fire stimulates flowering and 
seed production, introducing fresh 
genetic material into a stand and 
keeping the species adaptable. 



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74 



NATURAL HISTORY 6/0 1 



The plants that benefit most from 
wildfire, though, may well be arctic 
annuals. Annual species (those that 
must germinate from seed, grow to 
maturity, and produce a new crop of 
seed within a single season) are 
something of a novelty in this 
environment, where the likelihood of 
their success is greatly diminished by 
compression of the growing season 
into forty or fifty days. Removal of 
the established plant cover and 
exposure of the soil, however, bring 
out the best in these fast-growing 
opportunists. Kneeling among a blue 
profusion of gentian blossoms, 
Hutchins measured the response of 
this annual to the fire, counting more 
than 200 plants and 1 ,200 flowers per 
square yard where the soil was 
blackened and competing vegetation 
had been destroyed. While she found 
that the total number of plants at the 
study site difi"ered little from the 
number at unburned sites, one flower 
characteristic stood out: seed 
maturation at the study site occurred 
tully one week earlier than it did in 
plants from unburned areas. For arctic 
annuals racing to finish seed 



production before the first kiUing 
frost, this was as good as a three- 
length lead in the homestretch of the 
Preakness. Testing the seeds back in 
the lab, Hutchins found them to be 87 
percent viable — as good as any 
commercial seed grower could hope 
for. The annuals in burned areas were 
clearly getting a jump start. 

When tundra vegetation remains 
free from fires and other disruptions, 
the long-lived sedges form large 
clumps that are often drier than the 
surrounding soil and eventually 
become colonized by lichens, mosses, 
willow shrubs, and alders. These 
invaders slowly crowd out their 
predecessors, changing the 
environment by shading the ground, 
which reduces soil temperature and 
makes it even more difficult for 
annuals to become established. But 
fire, if only occasional (it occurs once 
every three to four years somewhere 




in the Noatak River valley) , reverses 
this course of succession just often 
enough to keep annuals in the game. 
Like fire-adapted pines, which bank 
seed for future generations in tightly 
closed and long-lasting cones, the 
resourceful arctic annuals invest their 
future in an underground seed bank. 
We now know that every square yard 
of tundra soil holds many hundreds of 
seeds of diverse species. Biding their 
time in this cold-storage depository, 
the seeds await some change to tip 
the balance of competition in their 
favor. And in this frozen Eden, there's 
nothing like a good fire to rouse 
them from dormancy and spark a 
summer bloom. 

Peter J. Marchand is currently a visiting 
scientist at the Carnegie Museum of 
Natural History's Powdermill Biological 
Station in the Allegheny Mountains of 
western Pennsylvania. 



■'v!-™ 


^ 


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M. I. 




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78 NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



REVIEW 



History, they say, is written by 
the winners. If so, we may 
have been missing some good 
books. Jon Kalb's engrossing account of 
discovery and disappointment in the 
Afar region of Ethiopia may be one ot 
the best first-person accounts of finding 
human fossils ever written. In 1971, as a 
restless and somewhat overmature grad- 
uate student in geology, Kalb — galva- 
nized by the fossil-fmding successes of 
weU-fmanced French, American, and 
Kenyan groups working near the north- 
ern tip of Lake Turkana — decided to 
move his family to Ethiopia and put to- 
gether his own expedition into the last 
unexplored segment of the East African 
Rift System. Alas, once the hominid re- 
mains began to turn up, Kalb was the 
first (but not the only) loser in the ap- 
palling academic brawl that ensued, 
even as Ethiopia was exploding in waves 
of murderous revolution. Threaded 
through this vivid story of fieldwork, 
paleoanthropological poHtics, and on- 
the-spot war reportage is Kalb's nervy 
struggle simply to stay in the game. 

In these pages we are backstage for 
some of the great scenes in human pa- 
leontology, a long-running saga of tri- 
umphs and jealousies that might have 
been written by Giuseppe Verdi. Nearly 
fifty years had passed since Raymond 
Dart astounded the world with the dis- 
covery of the Taung skull in southern 
Afiica, giving anthropologists a new 
human ancestor to fight over. In the 
1970s in South African caves and East 
African rift valleys, especially Kenya's 
Turkana basin, discoveries and hard feel- 
ings were reaching a crescendo. At first, 
Kalb and his partner, French geologist 
Maurice Taieb, had the infernal land- 
scape of Ethiopia's Afar Depression to 
themselves. It was a jagged wasteland of 
oveiJike heat, frantic mosquitoes, and 
unfordable, unsanitary rivers, with a 
local population that had a history of 
wiping out exploration parties. Describ- 



Hardball Amon: 
the Hominids 

Fossil riches in the Horn of Africa have sparked 
decades of cutthroat competition. 



By John Van Couvering 




The prevailing mood at the Afar field camp in 1973 



ing how he and Taieb learned to get 
around in this terrible place (and how 
they began to fmd fossil beds wherever 
they looked), Kalb uses such vivid and 
compeUing imagery that one wishes — 
almost — to have joined them there. 

Some needed no urging. Not long 
after news that the Afar had fossil beds 
dating back miUions of years reached the 
who's who of hominid paleontology' that 
was entrenched around Lake Turkana, 



^ Kalb and Taieb were 
I sought out by a 
5 young professor, Yves 
I Coppens, represent- 
i ing the French pres- 
ence in the area, as 
well as by an ambi- 
tious graduate stu- 
dent, Donald C. Jo- 
hanson from the 
U.S. team. Louis 
Leakey, who had 
been sidehned by 
illness and politics 
after organizing the 
Kenyan contingent, 
was also eager to 
know more about 
the Afar fossils. 

When Leakey 
and his wife, Mary, 
met Kalb at a con- 
gress of prehistori- 
ans at Addis Ababa 
in December 1971, 
Mary Leakey stressed 
the importance of 
Kalb's not trusting 
anybody when it came to hominid fos- 
sils. As it turned out, she couldn't have 
been more prescient. From that time 
onward, the action in Kalb's story 
quickens inexorably as it dawns on 
everyone that the Afar is the biggest, 
the most fossUiferous, and (surely) the 
most newsworthy of all the tabled lo- 
cales in human evolution. The Afar 
Depression, however inaccessible a 
hellhole, appeared to be the one re- 



niaining place on earth that had geo- 
logical potential for a paleoanthropo- 
logical bonanza. (As Kalb notes, how- 
ever, there's always the Sudan.) 

Various accounts exist of what hap- 
pened, but the central tacts are the same 
in all of them: In late 1972 Kalb and 
Taieb signed an agreement to cooperate 
with their French and American part- 
ners and were joindy awarded a permit 
by the Ethiopian governments Antiqui- 
ties Administration to study the geology 
and paleontology of nearly 13,000 
square miles of the Afar's Awash River 
valley. In October 1973 Johanson came 
across hominid remains — australo- 
pithecine leg bones — as the team was 
exploring at Hadar (in the northern part 
of the concession). Just eleven months 
later, Kalb was forced out. Kalb claims 
that the reason given by 
the director of the An- 
tiquities Administration 
was that a rumor of his 
connection with the 
CIA had been brought 
to their attention by Jo- 
hanson. Within months, 
his former partoers Taieb and Johanson 
announced the discoveries of "Lucy" 
and ot the 2.3-million-year-old "First 
Family," a cache of 214 fossil bones and 
teeth of early hominids of both sexes and 
different ages found in a single locality. 

Kalb, meanwhile, managed to retain 
a corner of the original concession — in 
the Middle Awash valley, where no- 
body had yet explored. He assembled 
another team, and sure enough, in May 
1975, they found a vast trove of 
Acheulean hand axes and cleavers, "the 
artifacts so dense in places that they 
[could] be seen from an airplane at 
2,000 feet." In October 1976, in the 
same place, they found the 600,000- 
year-old Bodo cranium. 

Three proposals for work in the 
Middle Awash went to the National Sci- 
ence Foundation (NSF) in 1977 from 
Kalb's eminently qualified associates at 
Southern Methodist University, New 
York University, and Harvard — and all 



Adventures in the Bone 
Trade: The Race to Dis- 
cover Human Ancestors in 
Ethiopia's Afar Depres- 
sion, by Jon Kalb (Ccpeniiais 
Books, 2001; $29) 



three were rejected. The foUovwng year, 
Kalb was expelled from Ethiopia on six 
days' notice. The bitterest part of the 
book is Kalb's dry description of how 
the area of the Middle Awash was then 
taken over by J. Desmond Clark and his 
associates from the University of Cali- 
fornia, Berkeley, who had previously 
obtained an overlapping permit. 

Denied funds to investigate the 
Bodo site further, Kalb went to the 
NSF to see if his supposed CIA involve- 
ment was the problem. He was blandly 
informed that the rejections were 
strictly on merit — that no such rumor 
had ever reached their ears. In 1986 
Kalb filed a lawsuit against the NSF 
under the Freedom of Information Act 
and won a court-stipulated settlement 
as well as a pubHc apology from the 
NSF. Their records 
showed that the CIA 
rumor was indeed a fac- 
tor. The information re- 
leased to Kalb showed 
that Clark, who moved 
into the Middle Awash 
only weeks after Kalb 
was out of the way, was one of the ref- 
erees who had argued privately to reject 
the Harvard application due to the CIA 
rumor (the other two applications had 
vanished from the fdes) . 

Now a research fellow at the Uni- 
versity of Texas at Austin, Kalb paints 
an engaging and sympathetic picture of 
himself as a good guy who got steam- 
rollered. Skull digging without skull- 
duggery is hard to imagine, however, 
and Kalb may just not have been as 
proficient a hardball player as his com- 
petitors. I recall the wry diagnosis of 
"the hominid game" offered by a pale- 
ontologist who was in Kenya studying 
fossil fish at the time. "It's always a bad 
combination," she concluded, "when 
you get hominid fever on top of testos- 
terone poisoning." 

John Van Coiwcrinj^ is a j^eolo^ist and the 
editor and puhHsher of the Museum's Mi- 
cropakontoioj^Y Press. 



nature.net 

Biology's Giant Leap 

By Robert Anderson 

The prehminary map of the human 
genome is complete, but as the scien- 
tists who worked on the project read- 
ily admit, the hard work is just begin- 
ning. Researchers will be trying to 
figure out the role that each gene plays 
in our complex biochemistry. Even 
with only 30,000 genes — far fewer 
than the original estimates — this task 
could take decades. 

For wide-ranging information 
about the Human Genome Project, try 
the site at www.ornl.gov/hgmis/. Also, 
the "Human Genome Special" of the 
British weekly popular-science maga- 
zine New Scientist has nice online sum- 
maries of what biology's big moment 
means for all of us (ww^v.newscientist 
.com/news/genome.jsp) . 

For budding student geneticists who 
want to get in on the action, I recom- 
mend starting with the University of 
Utah's Genetic Science Learning Center 
site (gslc.genetics.utah.edu). Its "Basic 
Genetics" section has a primer on how 
our cells translate DNA's genetic infor- 
mation into the multitude of proteins 
our bodies need. Science becomes per- 
sonal in the "Genetic Disorders" sec- 
tion, in which young people suffering 
from a rare genetic disease, neurofibro- 
matosis, share their experiences. For 
news about how genetic research is 
changing the world, click on "Genetics 
in Society." Or try the "Students" sec- 
tion, with demonstrations such as "How 
to extract DNA from anything living": 
Place split peas (or onions or chicken 
liver) in a blender; add water and salt; 
blend; then add a Utde detergent, meat 
tenderizer, and alcohol, in sequence. Et 
voila, you get strands of sticky DNA, the 
code of life. Seeing is believing. 

Robert Anderson is a freelance science writer 
hving in Los Angeles. 



80 NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 




BOOKSHELF 



Brave New Brain: Conquering Mental 
Illness in the Era of the Genome, by 

Nancy C. Andreascii (Oxford University Press, 
2001; $29.95) 

Neuroimaging of the thalamus reveals 
that it is smaller in schizophrenics. Ac- 
cording to Andreasen, a neuroscientist, 
future mapping of the organ holds the 
promise of finding in "this small 
haystack . . . the quixotic needle that 
can be used to slay one of the biggest 
giants of mental illness." 

The Misunderstood Gene, by Michel 

Morange (Harvard University Press, 2001; 
$24.95) 

"Organisms are algorithms that are in- 
carnated in DNA molecules and in pro- 
tems." So writes this French biologist, 
intent on looking at genes as synthesiz- 
ers of proteins and on offering precise 
accounts of how they operate in such 
ftmdamental life processes as develop- 
ment, aging, learning, and behavior. 



The Impact of the Gene: From 
Mendel's Peas to Designer Babies, by 

Colin Tudge (Hill and IVang/Farrar, Straus 
and Giroux, 2001; $21) 
For Tudge, a scientist turned writer, 
the immense possibilities of biotech- 
nology raise the disturbing question. Is 
our basic humanity at risk? 

Transducing the Genome: Informa- 
tion, Anarchy, and Revolution in the 
Biomedical Sciences, by Gary Zweiger 

(McGraw Hill, 2001; $24.95) 
Storing and analyzing the genomic data 
of our species, writes Zweiger, promises 
to create "a dramatically new under- 
standing of life" but also to impose on 
us the enormous responsibility ot be- 
coming "stewards of our own genome." 

Cracking the Genome: Inside the 
Race to Unlock Human DNA, by Kevin 

Davies (Tlie Free Press, 2001; $25) 
Davies, the founding editor of Nature 



Genetics, gives a lively account of the 
costly and intensely competitive effort 
to decipher the full genetic composi- 
tion of human beings. The Human 
Genome Project, begun in 1990 and 
completed this year, "represents an ex- 
traordinary technological achievement, 
and is at best perhaps the defining mo- 
ment in the evolution of mankind." 

Abraham Lincoln's DNA and Other 
Adventures in Genetics, by Philip R. 

Rcilly (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 
2000; $25) 

Doctor, geneticist, and lawyer Reilly 
examines the diverse uses of genetic 
technologies, from the proposal to di- 
agnose a disorder in Lincoln's DNA 
known as Marfan syndrome to using 
animal organs in humans. 

Perspectives on Genetics: Anecdo- 
tal, Historical, and Critical Com- 
mentaries, 1987-1998, edited by James 



F. Crow and lllUiam F. Dove (University of 
Wisconsin Press, 2000; SI 9. 95) 
This collecrion of essays originally ap- 
peared in Genetics. Written by such 
contributors to the field as Joshua 
Lederberg, Richard C. Lewontin, and 
John Tyler Bonner, they richly docu- 
ment the history of modern genetics re- 
search and its continuing evolution. 

Decoding Darkness: The Search for 
the Genetic Causes of Alzheimer's 

Disease, by Rudolph E. Tanzi and Ann B. 
Parson (Perseus Publishing, 2000; $26) 
Isolating the genes and proteins respon- 
sible for this neuron-wasting disorder 
(now affecting 20 percent of people age 
sevent)'-five to eighty-four and 40 per- 
cent of those eighty-five and over) has 
been Tanzi 's quest since the early 1980s. 

The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Sci- 
ence That Reveals Our Genetic An- 
cestry, by Bryan Sykes (W. W. Norton, 
2001; $25.95) 

Modern genetics permits us to journey 
into the deep past of our species, "way 
beyond the reach of written records or 
stone inscriptions," writes geneticist 
Sykes. "These genes tell a story which 
begins over a hundred thousand years 
ago and whose latest chapters are hid- 
den within the cells of every one of us." 

The Way of the Cell: Molecules, Or- 
ganisms, and the Order of Life, by 

Franklin M. Harold (Oxford University Press, 
2001; $27.50) 

In 1944 physicist Erwin Schrodinger 
pubhshed his book IVIiat Is Life? This 
ageless question is at the heart of 
Harold's investigation of the ubiquitous 
"process of living" and the unique ca- 
pacity of organisms "to reproduce 
therri-selves indefinitely, and arise on a 
millennial time-scale by the interplay 
of variation and selection that underlies 
biological evolution." 

The books mentioned are usually avail- 
able in the Museum Shop or via the 
Museum's Web site, www.amnh.org. 



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82 



NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



MUSEUM EVENTS 



JUNE 4 

Lecture: "What's the Matter 
in the Universe?" (Frontiers 
in Astrophysics series). As- 
tronomer Vera Rubin. 7:30 
P.M., Space Theater, Hayden 
Planetarium. 

Lecture: "Dragon Hunter: 
The Life of Explorer Roy 
Chapman Andrews." Writer 
and archaeologist Charles 
Gallenkamp. 7:00 P.M., Kauf- 
mann Theater. For more 
information, call (212) 
313-7607. 

JUNES, 12, AND 19 

Three lectures: "Evolution 
and Genomics," Rob De- 
Salle, curator of the exhibi- 
tion "The Genomic Revo- 
lution," June 5; "Natural 
History of the Genome: 
The Role of Genes in Na- 
ture, Extinction, Mutations, 
and Status," Niles Eldredge, 
curator. Division of Paleontology, June 
12; and "Genetic Diversity and Native 
American/First Nations Cultural Is- 
sues," Linda Burhansstipanov, executive 
director. Native American Cancer Re- 
search Corporation, June 19 (Science 
of the Genome series). 7:00 p.m., Kauf- 
mann Theater. 

JUNE 6, 9, 13, 20, AND 27 

Films and discussions in connection 
with "The Genomic Revolution": Jlie 
Lost Tribes of Israel (DNA research aids a 
quest for identity), June 6, 6:30 P.M.; 
Gene Hunters (genetic research and in- 
digenous peoples), June 9, 2:00 RM.; 
panel discussion on art and biotechnol- 
ogy, June 13, 7:00 P.M.; Amrit Beeja 
(traditional agriculture and agribusiness 
in India), June 20, 6:30 RM.; After Dar- 
win (possibilities and ethics of genetic 
technologies) , June 27, 6:30 RM. Kauf- 
mann Theater (except June 13, Linder 




June 9: Opening of the Discovery Room, an interactive space for families with children ages five and 
up. Activities are available in all the Museum's major fields of sdence and research, from 
anthropology to astrophysics. Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; Friday 10:00 a.m.-8:45 p.m. 



Theater). For additional screenings on 
May 26 and 30, caU (212) 769-5200. 

JUNE 7 

Lecture: "Transition From Sail to 
Steam: Archaeology and the Social His- 
tory of Ships" (Earthwatch at the Mu- 
seum series). Anthropologist Richard 
Gould. 7:00 RM., Kaufinann Theater. 

DURING JUNE 

A fossil of a subadult theropod (125- 
145 million years old) discovered in 
northeastern China is on display in the 
Astor Turret. This dinosaur, covered 
with well-preserved featherlike struc- 
tures, probably looked much like a bird. 

For information on field trips and 
workshops for adults and children, in- 
side and outside the Museum, call (212) 
769-5315. 

Seminars on Science: Six- week on- 
line courses for K-12 teachers on sub- 



jects including genetics, spiders, fishes, 
and Hfe in the universe. Continuing ed- 
ucation and graduate credits available. 
For more information, visit www. 
amnh.org/learn/pd/sos/ 

Films at the IMAX Theater: Lost 
Worlds: Life in the Balance (biodiversity 
and the need for conservation); Shackle- 
ton's Antarctic Adventure (the dramatic 
story of the 1914-17 British Impe- 
rial Trans-Antarctic Expedition); and 
Ocean Oasis (the biodiversity of the Baja 
Cahforma peninsula). 

The American Museum of Natural 
History is located at Central Park West 
and 79th Street in New York City. For 
listings of events, exhibitions, and 
hours, call (212) 769-5100 or visit the 
Museums Web site at www.amnh.org. 
Space Show tickets, retail products, and 
Museum memberships are also avail- 
able online. 




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NATURAL HISTORY 6/01 



ENDPAPER 



Would Darwin 



Charles Darwin and 
a Galapagos tortoise 




For the first half of the 
twentieth century, bio- 
logical research was 
dominated by scientists 
who studied whole organisms in 
their natural settings. In recent 
decades, this approach to the 
study of life has increasingly 
been perceived as a poor cousin 
to molecular biology and has 
even, in some scientific circles, 
been contemptuously dismissed 
as stamp collecting. The change 
began as several forces conspired 
to bring about a reductionist ap- 
proach. One powerful influence 
was the 1944 pubHcation of a 

book entided Wliat Is Life? by Austrian physicist Erwin 
Schrodinger, whose work was vital to the development of 
quantum mechanics. In this book, Schrodinger maintained 
that physics could help explain why genetic traits are so 
stable — ^why, for example, a particular malformation of the 
lips (known as the Hapsburg Hp) turned up over several cen- 
turies in members of the German royal family. 

Physicists who felt that quantum mechanics had ex- 
hausted the possibihties offered by inanimate objects were 
inspired by Schrodinger's words to turn their attention to bi- 
ology. These scientists brought with them the bias that 
studying individual molecules was the only plausible ap- 
proach to understanding systems as complex as Hving organ- 
isms. This approach produced a massive explosion in our 
understanding of the molecular basis of hfe, teaching us that 
organisms derive their enormous complexity from a vast 
number of relatively simple interactive systems. Unfortu- 
nately, I feel, the molecular biology revolution has put the 
baby at risk of being thrown out with the bathwater. 

I am often involved in reviewing grant proposals in my 
own field — ^biomedical research — and over the years have 
witnessed a disturbing trend. Nearly all the worthy molecular 
studies receive the funding they need, while many promising 
clinical projects — ^following the progression of a disease in 
real human patients, for instance — are turned down. This is 
regrettable, because both approaches are critical to under- 
standing the many complex factors involved in any disease: 
the genes that may predispose someone to a particular illness, 
the environmental or other triggers that may bring on the ill- 
ness, and the numerous factors (some, but not all of them, 
genetic) that determine how the illness progresses. 

Some scientists believe that genetic information will 



Get a Grant Today? 

By T. V. Rajan 



soon render chnical or descrip- 
tive research moot. I am skepti- 
cal. The precise amino-acid 
substitution in the hemoglobin 
of patients with sickle-cell ane- 
mia has been known for ap- 
proximately forty years; so far, 
however, this knowledge has 
done little to help manage the 
disease. The inevitable time lag 
between a genetic discovery and 
any alleviation of human suffer- 
ing that might result from the 
discovery should be grounds 
enough to dictate steady finan- 
cial support of clinical as well as 
molecular studies. 
Furthermore, nature is notoriously frugal with her re- 
sources. Most genes play multiple, often Htde-understood 
roles in an organism. Altering a gene in order to treat one 
condition may leave the patient vulnerable to other prob- 
lems. For example, the early onset of puberty in girls is asso- 
ciated with health risks, including an increase in the chance 
of developing breast cancer, so why not try to inhibit prema- 
ture menarche? The enzyme responsible for breaking down 
the male hormone testosterone (which females also have, 
though in lesser amounts) may cause premature menarche. 
Wouldn't it make sense to tinker with the enzyme in order to 
increase a girl's testosterone level? No, because tinkering with 
it would adversely affect other areas of her physiology, such as 
her susceptibility to cardiovascular disease. 

My concerns are not hmited to medicine. I fear we may 
be discouraging many young people — the possible intellec- 
tual descendants of Darwin — who might otherwise choose 
to study organisms in the wild. In my view, this is tragic. As 
much as molecular biology and genonaics can teach us, to 
deeply understand Uving organisms requires that we also 
study how their physiology is structured, how they evolved, 
and how they function in their current ecological settings. 

Fortunately, as readers of Natural History know, field biol- 
ogy is far firom dead, and many field biologists are now in- 
corporating molecular biology into their research programs. 
As we begin to appreciate the hmits of reductionism, I am 
optimistic that descriptive biology wiU come back into fash- 
ion and once again be recognized as an essential part of our 
efforts to understand Hfe. 

T. V Rajan is chairman of the pathology department at the Univer- 
sity of Connecticut Heahh Center in Farmington. 



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September 4 -23, 2001 

Along the Ancient Coast of 
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September 21 - October 1, 2001 

The Ancient Silk Road: A Journey 
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September 21 - October 13, 2001 



OCTOBER 2001 



Exploring Egypt & Jordan 

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October 2 -18, 2001 

Ethiopia: The Heart of African 

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October 3 - 17, 2001 

Bhutan & Northern India: 

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October 8 - 26, 2001 

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October 18-30, 2001 



The History of Food & Wine by 

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October 22 - November 4, 2001 

Great Treasures of Southeast 

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October 22 - November 10, 2001 

Jewels of the Adriatic Sea: Sicily 
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October 22 - November 10, 2001 

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November 2 -11, 2001 

Patagonia: Torres Del Paine and Tierra 

Del f iierto Aboard the Terra Australis 
November 5 - 16, 2001 

Coastal Treasures of the 
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November 7 -20, 2001 

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November 15-30, 2001 



Nepal: A Himalayan fiimilj Adpinluie 
December 20, 2001 -January 3, 2002 



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JANUARY 2002 



India: Traditions in Action 
January 3 -21, 2002 

Expedition to the South Pole by 
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January 8 - 23, 2002 

The Galapagos Islands 
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January 13-23, 2002 

Exploring Antarctica: South 
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January 13 - February 3, 2002 

New Zealand by Land and Sea: 

Circumnavigatinij Aboard the 

Clipper Odyssey 

January 20 - February 3, 2002 

Daily Life in Mali; Featuring 
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January 22 — February 6, 2002 

Indochina Unveiled: Laos, 
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January 25 - February 12, 2002 



fBRUARY 2002 



Mexico: Mayan Ruins and 
Exefuisite Haciendas 
February2- 15,2002 

Ethiopia: A Journey Through Time 
February 9 - 23, 2002 

Pearls of the South Pacific: 

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February 9 - 28, 2002 

Cuba 

February 10-20,2002 



Ancient Trade Centers 
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February 14 - 28, 2002 

South America By Private Jet: 

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February 19 - March 1 1, 2002 

The Amazon: Discoverinij its 
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February 23 - March 3, 2002 



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March 2-10, March 9-17, 2002 

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March 4 - 22, 2002 

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March 8 -21, 2002 

Mysteries of Earth By Private 
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March 1 1 - April 4, 2002 

Indian Ocean Odyssey: 

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March 25 - April 10, 2002 

Rain Forests and Waterways: 

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March 26 -AprU 4, 2002 




Human Odyssey: A Search for Our 
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April 1 - 19, 2002 




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2001 - 2002 Programs 



The Lost World: Bioiiiversity in the 
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April?- 15. 2002 

Arabian Voyage: AUisciit to Aifaha 
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^pril 9 - 26, 2002 

Classical Greece at Easter 
April 28 -May 11, 2002 



MAY 2002 



The Elbe River: Treasures oj a 
Timeless La»ii Aboard the 
Katharina von Bora 
May 1 - 14, 2002 

Springtime in Japan Aboard 
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May 2 -16, 2002 

Turkey: The Crossroads of Civilization 
May 9 - 24, 2002 

Ancient Persia and Modern Iran 
May 14 -28, 2002 

South Africa's Great Rail 
Journey Aboard Rovos Rail 
May 15-29, 2002 

Caves France and Spain 
May 2002 



JUNE 2002 



Outdoor Living Skills: A Family 
Adventure in Chaco Canyon 
June 22 - 28, 2002 

Russia Through the Ages: 
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June 23 -July 6, 2002 

Family Cods and Heroes: 
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Circumnavigating Iceland 
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June 28 -July 14, 2002 

Wildlife of the Galapagos 
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Aboard the Santa Cruz 
June 29 -July 9, 2002 

Mongolia: In the Footsteps oJ 
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June 2002 

China for Families 
June 2002 



The Canadian Rockies: A Family 
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July 6 - 14, 2002 

Switzerland: An Alpine Family 

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July 15-25,2002 

Voyage to the North Pole 
Aboard the Yamal 
July 18 -August 1,2002 

Family Dinosaur Discovery: In 

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July 20 - 26, 2002 

Family Alaska Expedition Aboard 
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July 25 - August 1, 2002 

Game Parks of East Africa: 

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July 26 - August 8, 2002 



AUGUST 2002 



North America's Great Lakes: 

Chicago to Toronto Aboard Le Levant 
August 9 - 17, 2002 

The Biodiversity of Madagascar 
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August 10-29,2002 



White Nights: A Summer Voyage in 
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August 13-25,2002 

Costa Rica for Families 
August 16-25, 2002 

The Ancient Silk Road: A 

Journey Through China & Central Asia 
August 30 - September 22, 2002 

The Outer Islands of Britain and 
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August 31 - September 12, 2002 

Carl Akeley's Africa: 
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August 2002 



SEPTEMBER 2002 



Jewels of the FJimalaya 

September 1-19, 2002 

Treasures of the Ancient 
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September 16 - October 2, 2002 

The Swiss Alps to Budapest 

Aboard the Amadeus Classic 
September 17 - October 1, 2002 

Australia Air Safari: The Outback 

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September 25 - October 11, 2002 

China & the Yangtze River: 

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September 27 - October 13, 2002 

Sailing Turkey's Turquoise 
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September 30 - October 11, 2002 



OCTOBER 2002 



Vietnam and Cambodia: A 

Timeless Journey From Hanoi to Stem 
Reap Aboard the Clipper Odyssey 
October 3 - 19, 2002 

Living the Navajo Way 
October 6 - 13, 2002 

Peru: Empires oJ Gold 
October 1 1 - 25, 2002 

Lost Islands of the South 
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October 7 - November 11, 2002 

Mediterranean Crossing: Malta 
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October 28 - November 10, 2002 



NOVEMBER 2002 



Country Fairs of India: Featuring 
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November 4- 19,2002 

Ancient Crossroads by Private Jet 
November 4 - 24, 2002 



DECEMBER 2002 



Trains, Treks, and Tribes: A 

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December 20, 2002 - January 2, 2003 

Egypt and the Nile: 

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December 2 1 , 2002 - January 2, 2003 



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