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Natural History Magazine, Inc. 


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February 1998 Volume 107 Number 1 


28 Thompson's Ice Corps 

Camping on a glacier at nearly 22,000 feet in 
the Bolivian Andes, climate researcher Lonnie 
Thompson and a team of scientists extract ice 
cores that contain a cHmatic record of the last 
20,000 years. What they read in the ice may 
help predict the planet's future climate. 
Story by Mark Boweii 
Photographs by George Stciiiinetz 

44 The Genetic Battle of the Sexes 

Do mothers and fathers hght for control of 
their offspring's development? Harvard 
evolutionary biologist David Haig argues that 
parents wield their genes as weapons m a battle 
over how big their babies wiU grow. 
Rosie Mestel 

50 Winter Grays 

What's the owl forecast? The wintertime 
wanderings of great gray owls depend less on 
the weather than on the local abundance of 
barley and rodents. 
Gordon Court 

4 Up Front: No Ordinary "Climb and Tell" 

8 Letters 

10 Contributors 

Natural Selections 
14 Review: Multiversir/ 
Lee SmoUn 

16 Excerpt: The Physics of Virtual Particles 
Lawrence M. Kratiss 

17 Space Travel 
Robert Anderson 

17 Bookshelf 

18 Journal: Seeded Players 
Alex de Voogt 

24 This View of Life: An Awful, Terrible 
Dinosaurian Irony 
Stephen Jay Gould 

Field Guide 

57 This Land: Salt of the Earth 

Robert H. Mohlenbrock 
60 Celestial Events: Last Eclipse 

Joe Rao 

69 Rockman: The Rec-Room 
Image and text by Alexis Rockman 

70 Universe: On Being Rarefied 
Neil de Grasse Tyson 

Cover: Descending 

from the summit of 

Nevado Sajama in 

the Bolivian Andes, 

a mountaineer 

carries frozen cores 

of: ancient ice. 

Story on page 28. 

Photograph by George Steirwietz 

78 A Matter of Taste: Ewe Bet 
Robb Walsh 

82 The Natural Moment: Take a Bow 

Photograph by Michel and Christine Denis-Huot 

At the American Museum of Natural History 
84 Restoring Shiva's Hair 
84 February Events 

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Natural History 2/98 

No Ordinary 
"Climb and TeU" 

In two years, Natiiml History will celebrate its 100th anniversary. Through all those 
years, it has covered expeditions to every part of the world. And yet, as the cover 
story in this issue demonstrates, we can still bring our readers to new places. 

Our exclusive coverage of an expedition to Bolivia's 21,500-foot Nevado Sa- 
jama is not a "climb and tell" story of high-altitude adventure. The participants in 
what one scientist called one of the most important scientific expeditions of the 
decade were not out for personal fulfillment. Rather, researcher Lonnie Thomp- 
son and his "ice corps," from the Byrd Polar Research Center and elsewhere, were 
hoping that cores of ice drilled from this glacier atop the Andes would give them 
the keys to interpreting the last 20,000 years of the earth's climate and help predict 
the planet's future. 

To cover this story, Natural History selected writer/mountaineer Mark Bowen 
and photographer George Steinmetz. Although both are veterans of daunting as- 
signments aU over the world (this is their first appearance in Natural History), they 
found the Sajama expedition one of the most difficult of their careers. Bowen says 

Thompson's two-week bivouac on 
Sajama is one of the longest high- 
elevation encampments ever under- 
taken. Without supplemental oxy- 
gen, able to work only a few hours a 
day, and losing weight from the ef- 
fects of high altitude, Thompson and 
his crew were able to successfully 
drill, pack, and return with two 430- 
foot cores of glacial ice. Their find- 
ings may yield information not only 
about climate history but also on the 
long-term effects of El Niiio. 

The Sajama cores were the latest 
additions to Thompson's collection 
of ice from the world's highest 
climes. His mission is an urgent one, 
as Bowen explains, since tropical 
glaciers everywhere are melting. A 
drop of meltwater seeping down 
through an ice core can contaminate 
the whole, making it useless for re- 
search. So while both Bowen and Steinmetz took much-needed and well- 
deserved lowland vacations after their trip, Thompson came home, dropped off 
the ice cores m his lab, slept, ate, shaved, and was off to the Himalayas to begin his 
next climb. 

We are looking forward' to taking our readers on more Natural History expedi- 
tions. — Bruce Stutz 

A mountaitieer, ice cores on iiis back, 
descends Nevado Sajama. 

The magazine of the 

American Museum of Natural History 

Bruce Stutz 

Editor in Chief 

Ellen Goldensohn 

Managing Editor 

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Board of Editors 

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Associate Managing Editors 

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Picture Coordinator 

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N.ilMil Hislcf)- (ISSN ))028-07 12) is piiblislied monthly, except for conibitied L«ues in 
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Cambridge: The Natural Choice for Science 

The Nature of 

George E. Harlow, 


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Wide-ranging illustrations explain the geology of diamonds, chart 
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the diamond rush in South Africa and today's high-tech enterprises, 
and capture the brilliance and beauty of this extraordinary gem. 
Co-published with the American Museum of Natural History 
1997 288 pp. 62083-X Hardback $74.95 

62935-7 Paperback $29.95 

Perils of a Restless Planet 

Scientific Perspectives on Natural Disasters 
Ernest Zebrowski, Jr. 

"Zebrowski i infectious relish makes it hard not to look forward to the 
next plague — of say, black widows — as he might tell it. " 

— Kirkus Reviews 

Drawing upon actual events from ancient to present times, this 
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1997 320 pp. 57374-2 Hardback $24.95 

Einstein's Mirror 

lor\y Hey and Patrick Walters 

The Theory of Special Relativity is one of the most profound dis- 
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1997 240 pp. 43532-3 Paperback $27.95 

Carl Sagan's Universe 

Yervant Terzian and Elizabeth Bilson, Editors 

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Does the Weather Really Matter? 

The Social Implications of Climate Change 
William Burroughs 

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— Anthony Barricelli, Satya 

In this compelling look at weather, author Burroughs combines 
historical perspective and economic and political analysis to give the 
impact of weather and climate change relevance and weight. This 
refreshing and insightful look at the impact of weather will appeal 
to anyone who has ever worried about forgetting an umbrella. 
1997 242 pp. 56126-4 Hardback $24.95 

Global Warming 

Second Edition 
J.T. Houghton 

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remarkable simplicity, directness and crystalline clarity... " 

— Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 

In this second edition of his highly-acclaimed book, author 
Houghton provides a succinct, lucid, and comprehensive guide to 
global warming. The second edition features the findings of the 
1995 IPCC and, to facilitate its use in the classroom, questions at 
the end of chapters. 

1997 265 pp. 62089-9 Hardback $59.95 

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Advanced Amateur Astronomy 

Second Edition 
Gerald North 

"...the book has a superb introdiu'tion to the types of astronomical 
object most suited to amateur investigation. " 

— New Scientist 

Written by an accomplished amateur astronomer and available for 
the first time in North America, this advanced guide is designed to 
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for any amateur astronomer wanting a new way to look at the sky. 
1997 414 pp. 57407-2 Hardback $69.95 

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Malcolm S. Longair 

"...a beautifully produced book, in an oversize format, with an 
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illustrations. The text is unflinchingly direct and accurate.,, " 

— William H. Press, Nature 
Malcolm Longair takes us on a breathtaking and up-to-date tour 
of the birth of stars, the hunt for black holes and dark matter, 
gravitational lensing and the Isiest evidence for the Big Bang. 
1997 224 pp. 62975-6 Paperback $19.95 

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People Do. 

8 ; Letters 

Natural History 2/98 

To the 

Surviving in Safo 
I read with interest and 
concern the superb article 
'■Sur\aving in Sato," bv Leslie 
Nielsen (November 1997). 
Her portrayal of the 
community members was all 
the more compelling because 
she knew many of them 
personally from her earlier 
Peace Corps service. 

I praise the editors for 
including such a stor\' to 
remind us of the needs of 
Africa's people as well as those 
of its \^aldlife. I was moved to 
do something to help, small 
though it might be compared 
with the author's on-site 
servdce. A quick search of the 
Internet revealed charities 
with ongoing development 
projects in Niger. I urge 
readers to join me in donating 
to worthwhile philanthropies 
working in the area. 
RJchard F. Gilhiin 
Silver Spring, MD 

Not What the Doctor Ordered 
Edward Z. Tro nick's article 
"Doctor's Orders" (October 
1997) contains several 
disquieting assumptions about 
the Puerto Rican baby being 
cared for by siblings while his 
mother works. This baby is 
not being raised in a foreign 
culture, but in Boston. 
Certain of our Western 
childrearing practices are 
adapted to the circumstances 
we face in large. anon\Tnous 
urban centers. Thus, there are 
pragmatic reasons for lea\'ing 
voung children under 

adequate supervision. As a 
mother of a six-year-old and a 
nine-year-old, I can assure 
you that such small 
emergencies as a plugged 
toilet can be daunting to 
children. Also, given a healthy 
baby of reasonable talent, the 
siblings should be proficient in 
the Heimlich maneuver. The 
glaringly ob\"ious dangers 
posed by fire or forced entry 
are documented with 
heartbreaking regularity' in the 

As an African American 
academic, I have often 
encountered the notion 
among blacks and whites alike 
that the (poorer) peoples of 
color need not conform to 
certain standards because our 
cultures are different. This 
Latina is not alone in the way 
she is rearing her babies, but 
her sisters are not so often 
brown as they are poor and 
isolated. This isn't a "culture" 
issue, but a class issue. 
Hoiwrine C. Woodward 
via e-mail 

Vector Error 
I noticed an error in 
"Romancing the Equations" 
("Universe," November 1997) 
that to the layman probably 
would appear insignificant but 
that is most disturbing to an 

The cross product in 
vector algebra is unique in 
that it generates a vector 
product. The product that 
Neil de Grasse Tyson equates 
it to in his other\\Tse 
impeccable presentation is 
shown as a scalar value. \XTiat 
is missing is a unit vector 
(magnitude of 1) such as 
n(vector) representing the 
directional propertx' of the 

product. Another product of 
vectors that does not generate 
a scalar is the dot product. 
The dot product, however, 
does not fit his riddle 
regarding the cross of a rabbit 
and an elephant. Perhaps the 
author of that joke spent more 
time thinking about the next 
parrs- than on the study of 
vector analysis. 
Bob Barnard 
El Seoiiiido, California 

Neil de Grasse Tyson 
REPLIES: It's not often that I 
get caught without my unit 
vector showing. The cross 
product should have been 
written as: 
AxB = AB </;((9)k 

Dovey Crockett, Live 

Many of our readers have 
pointed out an apparent error 
in Stephen Jay Goulds essay 
"A Tale of Two Worksites" 
(October 1997). Gould vwote 
"fWiHiam Graham] Sumner 
cited a quintessential American 
metaphor of self-sufiicienc)' 
that my dicrionar\' of catch 
phrases traces to a speech by 
Davey Crockett in 1843," 
suggesting that Crockett gave 
the speech in 1843, seven years 
after his death. The sentence 
should have read that Sumner's 
citation, not Crockett's speech, 
w"as traced to 1843. — Eds. 

Natural History i e-mail address 

In the coming issues of 

Zebra Zones 

With three species of zebra roaming the African sa\"annas, 

it falls to the females to organize each herd's social life 

around the available resources. 

New Lives to Live 

How do immigrants to the United States retain or 

reinterpret the cultures of the lands they left behind? We 

asked some immigrant wTiters to tell us and some 

photographers to show us. 

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10 Contributors 

Natural History 2/98 

Dutchman Alex de Voogt ("Seeded Players") was initiated into bao, a complex type of 
mancala game, in 1990, when he was in Zanzibar taking a course in SwahiH. His 
fascination led to contacts with master players and a psychology doctoral dissertation 
on the limitations of human memory and calculating skills. In a 1997 experiment, de 
Voogt (left) played against a "bUndfolded" master, Abdulrahim Muhiddin Foum. De 
Voogt has done fieldwork on related mancala games in Barbados, Namibia, and the 
Maldives and is the author of Mancala Board Gaines, a catalog of the British Museum's 
collection. He has also helped organize games conferences and a new journal. Board 
Games Studies. De Voogt is currently a guest researcher at Leiden University and an 
affiliated fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies. 

Mark Bowen ("Thompson's Ice Corps") leaped 
at the chance to report from BoHvia on an 
arduous expedition, led by paleoclimatologist 
Lormie Thompson, to retrieve ice cores from 
the summit of Nevado Sajama. The assignment 
was an ideal one for Bowen, since his interests 
in climbing, science, foreign travel, and writing 
converged in it. Bowen (right) received his 
doctorate in physics from MIT in 1985 and 
went on to develop medical instruments and 
pharmaceuticals. In 1994 he embarked on a 
freelance existence as a writer, photographer, 
and consultant to the medical industry. He has 

chmbed extensively in North America and the 
Himalayas, and has written about his 
mountaineering experiences in the Caucasus and 
Indonesia. Award-winning photographer 
George Steinmetz hitchhiked through seventeen 
countries in eighteen months before returning to 
Stanford University to graduate in geophysics. 
His photographs have been published in National 
Geographic, Time, Life, and Conde Nast Traveler, 
among other publications. Troubles come in twos 
to Steinmetz. He has had two bouts of malaria 
and has also been twice arrested for spying in 
Africa (he was acquitted both times). 

Rosie Mestel ("The Genetic Battle of the Sexes") turned to science writing after seven years' hard toil in yeast and fruit fly labs. 
After deciding that hands-on research was never going to be for her, she enrolled in a science communications course at the 
University of California at Santa Cruz, worked for Discover magazine for a year, and, in 1993, struck out as a freelance v^riter. 
Currently a Umted States correspondent with New Scientist and a contributing editor for Health and Earth magazines, Mestel has 
written about everything from the biology of nausea to the scientists who consult for Hollywood. She has never, ever wished 
herself back in the lab. Her piece on the shark's immune system appeared in the September 1996 issue of Natural History. 

In addition to great gray owls, Gordon Court ("Winter Grays") has studied other forest 
owls, burrowing owls, and peregrine falcons. Court began his research in his native 
Alberta, but went far afield for graduate work, earning a doctorate in zoology from 
the University of Otago in New Zealand and studying the South Polar skua, a 
predatory seabird, in Antarctica. Now an endangered-species biologist at Alberta 
Environmental Protection, Court is shown here with his daughter, Emily. He 
recommends Robert W. Nero's Tlie Great Gray Owl: Phantom of the Northern Forest 
(Smithsonian Institution Press, 1980) and Robert R. Taylor's Tlie Great Gray Owl: On 
Silent Wings (Windermere House PubHshing, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1997). 

In. a small but powerftil boat, Michel Denis-Huot 

("Take a Bow") stayed to the last moment in 
front ot an oncoming supertanker to take the 
photograph ot a bow-riding dolphin in this 
month's "Natural Moment." In tliis instance, 
Michel was the one behind the lens, but he 
shares with his wife and photographic associate, 
Christine Denis-Huot. credit for their ventures. 
The couple also share a passion for wUdlife, 
particularly for the mammals of East Africa, 

where they first met. Michel gave up his 
veterinary studies and Christine her computer 
studies to pursue careers in natural history 
photography. When not on the road, the Denis- 
Huots and their nine-year-old son Hve in Saint 
Address, France. Michel and Christine's photos, 
and Christine's writing, have been pubhshed 
widely. The latest of their many books, this one 
on Kenya, is due out this year, and a project on 
dolphins at play is in the works. 

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seemingly endless profusion of flora and 
fauna and a bountiful collection of butterflies 
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famous monument, Ayers Rock, is steeped 
in spiritual mystery and natural beauty. 

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to the Aborigines, including the stunning 
mountain range known as the Olgas. 

Sunsets exploding into fire. The sheer cliffs 
of a gorge that rises from a shimmering pool. 
Wildlife unseen anywhere else on earth. 
A world viewed through the eyes of a people 
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14 Natural Selections 

Natural History 2/9S 

By Lee SmoUii 

Before the Beginning: Our Univene and 
Others. By Martin Rees. Helix Books/ Addi- 
soii-WisleY, $25; 291pp. 

Review -*^ lartin Rees is in love with 
the universe. Even more, he 
is in lo\'e with the adventure ot under- 
standing it and the wondrous things it 
contains. This passion, combined wdth un- 
usual intellectual breadth and \\'isdoin, has 
made him one of the world's leading as- 
trophysicists. As England's Astronomer 
Royal, he is ideally situated to introduce 
cosmolog\" to a wider pubHc. In his new 
book. Before the Beginning: Our Universe 
and Others, Rees tells us not only what is 
known of the cosmos — galaxies, neutron 
stars, black holes, dark matter, the mi- 
crowave background, inflation, the early 
universe, the earlier universe, and the still 
earlier universe before that — but also how 
this knowledge was gained. For unlike ge- 
ologists and paleontologists, astronomers 
cannot perform experiments. Their 
knowledge is gained purely fiom observa- 
tion, although, as Rees points out, as- 
tronomers are better off because they are 
able to obser\'e the past direcdy, to see 
many stars and galaxies almost back to the 
time of their formation. These observ'a- 
tions pro\-ide a lot of data, but much of it 
is understood imperfectly. Perhaps the 
great strength of this book is the extent to 
which Rees gives a fair presentation of 
competing theories, disagreements, and 

But beyond popularization of astro- 
physics in general, Rees wants to con- 
\Tnce the reader of the reasonableness of 
three quite startling claims about the uni- 
verse. The first (which he had a great deal 
to do with developing) is that the con- 
stants in the laws of physics, such as the 


masses of the elementan,' particles and the 
strengths of the forces, have somehow 
been finely tuned to special values that 
allow the universe to develop aU of its 
structures. Were the forces a bit stronger 
or weaker, or the masses different, it seems 
likely that our universe would contain Ht- 
tle more than hydrogen gas. 

As persuasive as Rees is on this subject, 
the claim raises unsettling questions. If the 
constants were tuned to special values, 
ho^v were they so tuned? Before address- 
ing these questions, Rees argues for his 
second provocative claim, which is that 
the universe we obser\'e with our tele- 

scope may be only one of a large number 
that make up what he calls the "multi- 
verse." This idea is a namral consequence 
of certain versions of quantum gravity' 
and inflationary cosmolog)^ (aspects of the 
latter wiU be tested by satellite obser\'a- 
tions planned over the next decade). Rees 
argues that there is reason to believe that 
the whole universe is much larger than 
what \ve obser\'e, but skeptics cannot be 
faulted for asking what such extravagant : 
multiplication of the universe may do for . 
us. What it does for us, of course, is allow ' 
us to explain how the constants of nature i 
were set. If our universe is onlv one of 

Astronomers think high-speeii jets in the Cat's Eye Xebnhi, abope,Jlou> i)i opposite 
directions from the central star, forming identical structures on each side. Opposite: "Fliers, " 
seen as red blobs in this image of a planetary nebula, are the source of high-speed streams of 
gas converging above the poles of the central star One hundred such images have been 
published in Through the Eyes of Hubble (Kalmbach Books, 1998). 

many cases, then we can try to apply sta- 
tistical arguments to explain its properties. 
Rees advocates one of these, which he 
calls "anthropic reasoning." 

"We are reluctant to assign ourselves a 
central position," he argues in his third 
provocative claim, "but it may be equally 
unrealistic to deny that our situation in 
space and time is privileged in any sense. 
We are clearly not at a typical place in the 
universe: we are on a planet with special 
properties, orbiting around a stable star. 
■ Somewhat less trivially, we are observing 
the universe not at a random time, but at a 
time when the requirements for complex 

evolution can be met." Characteristically, 
Rees discusses alternative explanations. 
While I would argue that some of these 
cannot yet be tested (including a proposal 
by this author), his is one of the best in- 
troductions I know to this vexing set of 

A book review is also supposed to say 
what the reviewer didn't like about the 
book, and I suppose I do have some quib- 
bles, although they are as much about the 
difficulties of the genre as they are about 
Rees's book. There are topics on which I 
suspect Rees could have said much more 
but held back, perhaps because of the un- 

certainty of our present knowledge. For 
example, he tells us several times that 
galaxies are like ecological systems, but he 
never really explains why. Some necessary 
characteristics of ecological systems are 
that they are open thermodynamic sys- 
tems kept out of thermal equilibrium by a 
flow of energy through them. The rates of 
processes within them are governed by 
interlocking sets of feedback loops. No 
one knows more than Martin Rees about 
the extent to which our present knowl- 
edge of galaxies is consistent with these 
characteristics of ecological systems. This 
is one subject I wish he had said some- 
thing more about. 

Finally, there is the problem of what to 
say about one's colleagues. In his life, Rees 
has known most of the important cos- 
mologists and astrophysicists of the sec- 
ond half of the century. He treats us to 
portraits of some of them, including Fred 
Hoyle, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, 
Stephen Hawking, Robert Dicke, and 
Roger Penrose, and his admiration tor 
them is clearly communicated. But stiU 
one does not quite see the flesh and blood 
people in Rees's descriptions. While it 
may be too much to expect a working 
scientist to attempt intimate portraits of 
his friends and colleagues, in a way it is a 
shame that more scientists who write 
don't take this risk. 

But these are quibbles. Rees has some- 
times been called the "astrophysicists' as- 
trophysicist." Now, with this excellent 
book, he can be everybody's. 

Lcc Siiioliii, <i ilicoivtiiiil physicist cii die Cai- 
icr for Gravitational Physics and Geometry at 
Peinisyh'aiiia State Uniivrsity lias contributed 
sei'cral key ideas to the search for a nnijication 
of quantum theory, cosniolo^^y and relativity. 
He is the author ci/"The Life of the Cosmos 
(Oxford I hiivcrsity Press, 1997). 

16 Natural Selections 

Natural History 2/98 

The Physics of 
Virtual Particles 

III his recently published Beyond Star Trek, 
Lawrence M. Krauss. a physicist and as- 
tronouier at Case Western Reserpe Uniuersity, 
investigates the pmzliiig ideas to come out of 
twentieth-century physics about empty space — 
devoid not only of matter but also of any radia- 
tion, such as radio waves. 

From Beyond Star Trek, by Lawrence 
Krauss. Copyright ©1997 by Lawrence 
Krauss. Reprinted by arrangement with Basic- 
Books, a division of Perseus Books, L.L.C. 

Excerpt It we combine Heisenberg's 
uncertainty principle with 
Einstein's special theory of relativity, the 
two together imply that empty space 
need not be empty — according to reason- 
ing borrowed from the physicist Richard 
Feymnan. First, the uncertainty' principle 
tells us that over very short distances and 
times, since we cannot measure the mo- 
mentum of a particle exactly, there is 
nothing that stops it from traveling mo- 
mentarily faster than the speed of hght. 
But if it does do so, then it must behave as 
though It is traveling backward in time 
and therefore pass by its former self travel- 
ing forward in time. It it then slows down 
and starts to travel forward in time again, 
it will pass its intermediate "backward-in- 
time" self. This means that if I start out 
with one particle, for a brief time three 
(almost) identical particles will coexist: (1) 
the original particle, (2) the original parti- 
cle traveling back in tmie to get there, and 
(3) the original particle which, after trav- 
eling back in time, slows down and tra\'els 
forward again. 

I insert the parenthetical "'almost" be- 
cause it turns out that if the original par- 
ticle had an electric charge, then when it 
travels back in time it simply behaves like 
a particle with the opposite electric charge 
traveling forward again. Thus, if vou start 

out with a proton, for a moment you wUl 
have two protons (the two particles trav- 
eling forward in time) and one antipro- 
ton. Indeed, it is precisely this reasoning 
that, some seventy years ago, led to the 
prediction that antiparticles must exist. 
After a while, you will end up with just 
one proton again. To an observer traveling 
torward in time (if you could observe the 
particles directly, which of course you 
can't), it would appear that you started 
with one proton, and then momentarily a 
proton-antiproton pair appeared tram 
nowhere only to disappear again. 

"How do we know?" you may ask — 
since by definition this process is sup- 
posed to be invisible. While we can't see 
the three particles directly, we can indi- 
rectly detect their presence. For example, 
the electric field generated by three par- 
ticles win be slightly different from that 
generated by one, even though the total 
charge will be the same. (The proton- 
antiproton pair has zero total charge.) So 

if the proton in question happens to be 
the nucleus of a hydrogen atom, the elec- 
tron orbiting the proton will be influ- 
enced by a sHghtly diiferent electric field 
than it would otherwise, and the energy 
levels of the orbiting electron will be al- 
tered in a calculable way. It was one of the 
great postwar successes of elementary- 
particle physics that this small shift could 
be both calculated and measured. Sure 
enough, the predicted effect of these par- 
ticle-antiparticle pairs — called virtual par- 
ticles, because they cannot be directly 
seen — is exactly in agreement with the 
experimentally measured value. 

The fact that empty space is fdled with 
a boiling mess of \'irrual parricle-antipar- 
ricle pairs that spontaneously appear and 
then disappear before you can say 
"Rumpelstiltskin" suggests that empty 
space may, in the quantum world, actually 
carry energy. In fact, in general it should. 
We know, for example, that as the um- 
verse evolved and cooled, the energy of 
empty space — or the vacuum, as it is usu- 
ally called — changed as the temperature 
changed and that various so-called phase 
transitions took place to make the uni- 
verse look the way it does now. So it is 
natural to suspect that even today the vac- 
uum carries significant energy. 

/)( Einstein's Mirror (Candmdge University Press, 1997), autliors Tony Hey and 
Patrick ]]'altcrs explore relativity's nuviy applications. Above: An artist's depiction oj 
Einstein's schoolboy thought experiment with a mirror 

space Travel 

By Robert Anderson 

nature, net 

If the pictures of Mar- 
tian rocks being 
probed by a robot failed to give you the 
sense of being on the Red Planet, there 
are images on the Internet that will: 
( . The 
people at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory 
generated these 3-D scenes of the terrain 
around the landing site. When I viewed 
one called "Twin Peaks" with inexpen- 
sive 3-D glasses, I was drawn into the 
landscape; boulders in the foreground ex- 
tended across hummocks of debris de- 
posited by an ancient flood. I could imag- 
ine hiking over to one of the two hills for 
a better view of the alien world. 

But what about the planets beyond our 
own solar system? What might they be 
like? A site maintained by Jean Schneider 
at the Paris Observatory has a nice Hst of 
groups that are interested in extrasolar 
planets ( 
/darc/planets/sites.html) . 

One site, maintained by Winchell 
Chung ( 
map.html), guides you to all sorts of star 
maps — some of them in three dimen- 
sions — that show where many of the 
brightest and closest stars in the sky are 
located in relation to the Sun. One I tried 
on my Macintosh ( 
/nyrath/orion_182.hqx) allowed me to 
maneuver freely among the stars found 
thirty light-years from the Sun, although 
I quickly became lost in space. 

If all you want is a good map of the 
night sky for any particular month, try 
GalacticSky Charts (www.calweb.eom/~ 
mchai-vey). To learn about some of the 
more interesting objects (including distant 
galaxies) that can be seen with modest tele- 
scopes, go to the Messier Catalog, named 
for French astronomer Charles Messier 

Robert Anderson is a science writer livinfi in 
Los Ani^eles. 


The Quest for Alien Planets 

By Paul Halpern (Plenum Publishin^^, 1997, $21.95, illus.) 

Worlds Unnumbered 

By Donald Goldsmith (University Science Books, 1997, $28.50, illus.) 

Planet Quest 

By Ken Croswell (Tlie Free Press [Simon & Schuster], 1997, $25.00, illus.) 
In these three detailed and comprehensive books, astronomers Halpern and Gold- 
smith and physicist Croswell trace new planetary finds and discuss the possibiliry 
that faraway planets may host life. 

In Search of Planet Vulcan 

By Richard Baum and William Sheehan (Plenum Publishing, 1997, $28.95, illus.) 
In the mid- 1800s, French astronomer Le Verrier announced that perturbations in 
Mercury's orbit were caused by an unknown planet close to the Sun. Two as- 
tronomers chronicle the failed hunt for the nonexistent planet. 

Space and the American Imagination 

By Howard E. McCurdy (Smitlisoniau Institution Press, 1997, $29.95. illus.) 
By the mid-twentieth century, when it seemed as though the last earthly fi-ontiers 
had been explored, the public had turned to the "new" frontier of space. Accord- 
ing to McCurdy, public support for space programs has now waned because of dis- 
appointed expectations. 

Billions & Billions 

By Carl Sagan (Random House, 1997, $24.00, illus.) 

Carl Sagan's Universe 

Edited by Yervant Terzian and Elizabeth Bilson (Cambridge University Press, 1997, hardcover 
$59.95; paperback $22.95, illus.) 

Just before his death, astronomer Sagan put together a selection of essays concern- 
ing humankind s dramatic affect on our fragile world. Astronomers Terzian and Bil- 
son have edited a collection by scientists who discuss topics related to Sagan's work. 

Hunting Down the Universe 

By Michael Hawkins (Addison-VVesley, 1997, $24.00) 

Hawkins, an astronomer, beUeves that 99 percent of the universe's missing mass is made 

up of primordial black holes formed within the fint microsecond of the Big Bang. 


By Michio Kaku (Anchor Books/Doubleday 1997, $24.95) 

Physicist Kaku tours the science of tomorrow, when developments in computers, 

biogenetics, and quantum physics will bring about revolutionary changes. 

The Dancing Universe 

ByMarcelo Gleiser (Dutton/ Penguin, 1997. $25.95. illus.) 

Sweeping through twenty-five centuries, physicist Gleiser examines how hu- 
mankind's discovery of the connections between mythology, philosophy, and sci- 
ence brought about new cosmological insights. 

18 Journal 

Natural History 2/98 

ceded Players 

Master players of hao, a game in the mancala family, compete in a tournament in Zanzibar. 

The East Afiican game of 
hao tests the limits of the 
human irdnd. 

By Alex de Voogt 

More than four thousand miles away 
from his native Zanzibar, Abdulrahim 
Muhiddin Foum sat with his back to two 
wooden game boards, taking on two op- 
ponents in the complex East African 
game oibac. This exhibition of a master's 
skill, held in the Netherlands in 1997, 
was the first-ever attempt by a "bhnd- 
folded" bao player to play more than one 
game simultaneously. The audience. 

composed more of curious obser\-ers 
than of knowledgeable bao players, 
watched in silence as Abdu pondered his 
next move. He dictated "six left." and 
someone behind him distributed seeds as 
instructed into the holes on one of the 
boards. Meanwhile, the adversary at the 
second board announced his move: 
"Five right." Even the audience mem- 
bers who had received only a cursors- in- 
troduction to the rules were dazzled by 
the rapidly changing positions projected 
for them on video screens. 

Invited to play at an international 
conference and various universities in 
the Netherlands, Abdu had found it dif- 
ficult to concentrate in the foreim land s 

untamihar, tast-paced surroundings. In 
his first attempts at bhndfolded play, he 
had preferred a casual, noisy atmosphere 
to soothe his ner\'es. But now he needed 
silence to create the peace of mind in 
which to plan his strategy'. In the end, 
neither game ended in \ictor\' for Abdu, 
but the experiment proved that bhnd- 
folded bao was possible. Afterward, , 
Abdu presented his analysis, not only re- 
playing the moves from memory" but also 
retracing them backwards — a difficult 
feat in bao. 

Abdus accompHshment resembled that 
of Said bin Jubair. a seventh-century 
black African who was the first recorded 
chess player to compete \^'ith his back to 

the board. But some people in Zanzibar 
do not believe that Abdu's demonstration 
in the Netherlands ever took place. It is 
not the sort of stunt he is likely to dupli- 
cate back home, smce no local player 
would risk the humiliation of losing to a 
man who is not even looking at the 
board. In any case it would be an open 
invitation to cheating, which is not un- 
heard of in bao strategy. 

Bao involves distributing, capturing, 
and redistributing sixty-four seeds on a 
game board with four rows of eight 
holes. It is part of the mancala game 
family, which consists of many variants 
with different numbers of rows (usually 
two, three, or four), holes per row (three 
to twenty-four or more), and a propor- 
tionate number of counters (usually 
seeds or cowrie shells). The rules also 
vary, but all mancala games involve a dis- 

niatter for speculation. Variants of man- 
cala have a long history in most areas of 
Africa, in large parts of South and South- 
east Asia, and in the Middle East. Africans 
introduced the game to the Caribbean 
and parts of South America. Mancala also 
has followers in Western Europe and 
North America, mainly as a result of its 
recent commercial introduction. 

Only two mancala games have an es- 
tablished tradition of championship com- 
petition; wani (also known as awele, awari, 
owarc and umi) in West Africa and the 
Caribbean, and bao (also known as solo, 
ban, and mbau) in East Africa. Warri has 
two rows of six holes and relatively simple 
rules, while bao has four rows ot eight 
holes and many complicated rules. An 

\A 2x3+ 2 Javanese mancala hoard 

tinctive way of making moves, which is 
by spreading counters, one by one, into 
consecutive holes. 

Mancala is one of the oldest board 
games in the world, although no one 
knows how old. It may have begun as a 
game played in holes scooped in the sand 
or earth (as it often still is today), or on 
wooden boards not likely to survive the 
centuries. Some modern packagers of 
mancala claim it was played in ancient 
Egypt, but the evidence for this is ques- 
tionable. The first solid evidence consists 
of first-century boards from Africa and 
the Middle East. 

Despite considerable research, the geo- 
j graphic origin of the game also remains a 

Tuareg nomads in Niger play a 2 x 4 mancala game. 

One theory is that mancala is an 
African invention, perhaps from North 
Africa. While Asian mancala is played 
predominantly by women and children, 
African mancala is played mostly by men, 
including kings and chiefs as part of royal 
ritual. Comphcated variants have been 
described in West and East Africa, and 
beautiful boards from these regions are 
found in various museums. Recent inves- 
tigations in Asia, however, have revealed 
many previously undocumented varia- 
tions, a wide geographical spread, and 
elaborately carved boards. Even mancala 
games with four rows, like bao, may be 
found in China, while they were once 
thought to exist only in Africa. 

important characteristic of bao is that 
captured seeds are immediately reentered 
into the game. As a result — unlike chess, 
checkers, or warri — the game does not 
diminish much in complexiu' toward the 
end. All the seeds captured from an oppo- 
nent may be lost again; only when the 
opponent has no more seeds in playable 
position does he lose the game. 

Each move typically involves a se- 
quence of picking up and spreading the 
seeds around the board. Once a move is 
initiated, its end position is calculable, 
provided one knows the complete hierar- 
chy of rules. Those who become bao 
masters usually begin to learn the game in 
their earlv teens, as do masters of other 

Notural History 2/98 

Player B "s 
Rows ^ 

Player A's 

Stock: 22 

Stocfc 22 

Stock 22 

Stock: 21 


An Opening Move 
O - : .: :. Eaj:h player (A orB) 

;• m it'hkh 
7. j' .cnofwhkh 

are distributed as slwivn. During the first 
stage oftliegaine, tlie players take turns 
Jistributing tlie reinaimng stock, seed by 
seed, into some occupied hole, until all 
seeds are in play. 

Player A b^ns tlusgame by tlirouing 
one seed (shown in red) from his stock 
into one of tlie occupied holes in his front 
TOW. Here lliepbyer Itas chosen tlie third 
bole from tlie right. 

Q Tlie tliree seeds in tiuU liole are dieii 
picked up and distributed one by one into 
die adjacent and conseaitive holes in 
either a clockwise or counterdockunse 
direatioii. (Wiidieivr direction is cliosen, 
it must befr)Uowed during tlie renuunder 
of the players move.) Hoe Player A has 
spread tlie seeds (slioivn in bhie) clockiiisc. 
Because tlie last seed liasfrillai into an 
anpty liole, tliis move is now over and it 
is Player B's turn. 


Stock: 21 


stocfcis O-^r-:-^ 

Stock: 13 

Stock: 13 

Stock: 12 

Stock: 13 

Stock: 12 

cannot initiate a capture, lie simply 
. ; '^:.' :'■ .■::.& tlifougliout liis turn. Bui if .: 
: ..;,: r ..:>; imtiate a capture, lie is 
obUgated to do so, and tliis also entitles 
him to make additional captures during 
the turn. Here it is Player A's turn to 
enter a seed from liis stock. 
Q Player A adds a seed (shown in red) 
to tlie front-row hole second from left. In 
so doing, he captures bis oppoiiait's dtiee 
seeds (tliese are sliowii in bhie) in tlie hole 

Player A lias to disttibute any 
captured seeds starting at one end of his 
front row. Because in tins turn he dtooses 
to move clockwise, lie must start at the 
left. Tlie last captured seed frills in an 
ocaipied hole opposite one of Ids 
opponent's ocaipied Iwles, resulting in die 
capture of an additional seed (slumti in 
green). Tliis seed must also be altered in 
:he front row. Tlie move will contimie 
uidi spreading and capturing seeds until a 
last seed folk in an wuxaipied hole. 


H'lienAU Seeds Are in Play 

O 1 1 illi 110 stock left to add, Player A 
iiiiisi spread the seeds from a hole iliat 
cotUaiiis more than one seed. (A single 
seed cannot be moved by itself.) If he 
cannot initiate a capture, he simply 
spreads seeds, starting with a hole in his 
front row, if possible. However, he must 
initiate a capture if he can, and in this 
case he can. Here he chooses to spread the 
tivo seeds (shown in red) in the third hole 
from his left. 

Q Spreading the seeds clockwise results 
in a capture of two of his opponent's seeds 
(shown in blue). 

Tlie two captured seeds are placed in 
Player A 's front row, in this case 
necessarily beginning at his left-hand end 
because he is already moving clockwise. 
The second seed falls into an oaupied hole 
opposite one of the opponent's seeds 
(shown in green). Tliis seed is therefore 
also captured. 

Q Tlie newly captured seed is placed in 
the front row, again starting with the hole 
at Player A 's left. 

Q The two seeds in that hole are now 
picked up and spread clockwise (they are 
shown in red). No new capture is made. 
Tlie last falls in an empty hole, and the 
move is over. 

Losing and Winning at Bao 

Tliese three sample )noves illustrate only the 
main ndes and some of the complexity oj 
bao. A player loses if at any stage of the 
game his front row becomes empty. In the 
second stage of the game, when all the seeds 
are in play, a player will also lose ij he has 
no holes containing more than one seed, 
since at that point he is unable to move. 

Reading and Games 

Limits of the Mind: Towards a Charac- 
terisation of Bao Mastership, by 
Alexander J. de Voogc (Leiden: 
CNWS Publications, 1995) and 
Mancala Games, by Larry Russ 
(Copyright 1995 by Larry Russ. 
613 Hudson Street, Hoboken, N]). Commercial game boards and computer in- 
teractive versions of mancala are available, but they do not have the complexity- ot 
bao. Web sites that provide playable or downloadable mancala games include: 
www.cs.ruu. nl/people/hansb/d.gam/mancala.html 


Natural History 2/98 

board games. East African children — boys 
mostly — play at bao clubs before the 
older men arrive, learning the rules and 

Calculating elaborate moves and or- 
chestrating compKcated captures several 
moves ahead are central to the art of a 
bao master. Such skills cannot be ac- 
quired after a few months of looking at 
the game but require the 
kind of dedication and tal- f 
ent characteristic of chess f 
masters. The two games 
differ gready. but both are 
at the upper Hmit of com- 
plexity' that humans can 
master. Games wth more 
comphcated moves can 
easily be de\-ised and can 
be calculated by comput- 
ers. But it the moves are 
generally too difficult for 
the human player to calcu- 
late, the game becomes 
one of chance, in which 
players move randomh- 
without making a serious 
effort to calculate. At the 
other extreme are game< 
in which the calculations 
are too easy for the experi- 
enced player. Such games, 
like tick-tack-toe, may sat- 
isfy children but other\^^se /„ JsJainibia 
result in a pointless series 
ot draws. 

When the bao master has re\'iewed all 
possible moves and decided on the best or 
trickiest one, he \\t11 spread the seeds at 
high speed, frequendy throwing three or 
four at a time. Only five or sis turns later 
are the masters plans revealed, and a be- 
ginner wiR find that he could not even 
have calculated the first, let alone the sub- 
sequent moves. A mediocre player wiR 
use other means to win a game. Teasing, 
joking, and challenging the opponent are 
a matter of course. Or a player might hide 
a seed in his pakn, make advantageous 
"errors" in distributing seeds, or intimi- 
date his opponent \\dth the rapid and 
forcefiid spreading of seeds. But nothing 

will disturb a master, w^ho will calculate 
the moves and corner the challenger. 

A memorable duel of wats occurred in 
the semifinals of a bao masters tourna- 
ment held in Zanzibar in 1994. Masoud 
Hassan Ah (known as Kijumbe) played 
Ali Maulid Hussein (known as Mauhdi) 
in what turned out to be the tourna- 
ment's loncre^r T":i:irch Either could take 

ponent not one or two but tens of seeds. 
Capturing is obhgatory, and the oppo- 
nent is force fed into a position where he 
will easily lose his wealth again. Kijumbe 
got spectacular wins, but on the fourth 
day his strategy turned against him, and 
the younger man went on to win the fi- 
nals. Kijumbe had not played at so de- 
manding a level in twenty years, and al- 

two teams of Yei-speaking men play xwine (also called owela) . 

the match simply by \\inning two games 
in a row. but on three successi\'e davs thev 
won one game each. Their engagements 
began at four o'clock in the afternoon — 
just after their prayers in the local 
mosque — and continued until dawn. Ki- 
jumbe, the most respected player of the 
tournament, whose fame dates from the 
1960s but whose age is not exactly 
known, slowly began to show signs of fa- 
tigue. His passion for the game and deter- 
mination to beat his t\vent)f-six:-year-old 
opponent was getting the better of him. 

Kijumbe's plans in the semifinals con- 
sisted of some intricate gambits known as 
tapisha bao (vomiting bao). Anticipating 
moves way ahead, a player offers his op- 

though he should have mastered his op- 
ponent, one cannot always master bao. As 
they say in SwahUi, bao mguu wa shetani 
(bao is a leg of the devU). 

The host of this championship tourna- 
ment was the Mikunguni bao club, one 
of about sixteen such clubs on the island 
of Zanzibar. The grandmasters of Zanz- 
ibar also compete in tournaments with 
representatives fijom nearby Pemba Island 
and from Dar es Salaam, on the Tanzan- 
ian mainland. The genius exhibited in 
this region will awe anyone who has at- 
tempted to learn the game. Whether or 
not mancala originated in Africa, that 
continent has assuredly given us some of 
the world s most extraordinary players. D 

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Naturvil History 2/98 -i-D?-: 

iView of Life 

Natural History 2/98 

An Awfiil, Terrible 



Richard 0^ven, the "inventor" of 
dinosaurs, argued that their existence 
refuted the idea of evolution. 

By Stephen Jay Gould 

Strong and sublime words often lose their 
sharp meanings by slipping into slangy 
cuteness or insipidity. Julia Ward Howe 
may not win history's accolades as a great 
poet, but the stirring first verse of her 
"Battle Hymn" will always symbolize 
both the pain and might of America's 
crucial hour: 

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the 

coming of the Lord; 
He is trampling out the vintage where 

the grapes of wrath are stored; 
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of 

His terrible, swift sword; 
His truth is marching on. 

The second line, borrowed from Isaiah 
(63:3), provided John Steinbeck with a 
title for the major literary marker of an- 
other troubled time m American history. 
But the third line packs no punch today, 
because "terrible" now means "sorta 
scary" or "kinda sad" — as in "Gee, it's 
terrible your team lost today." But "terri- 
ble." to Howe and her more serious age, 
embodied the very opposite of merely 
mild lament. Terrible — one of the harsh- 
est words available to Victorian writers — 
invokes the highest form of fear, or "ter- 
ror," and still maintains a primary 
definition in Webster's as 

treme alarm," or "overwhelmingly 

Rudyard Kiphng probably was a great 
poet, but "Recessional" may disappear 
from the educational canon for its smug 
assumption of British superiority: 

God of our fathers, known of old. 
Lord of our far-flung battle line. 
Beneath whose awflil Hand we hold 
Dominion over palm and pine — 

For Kiphng, "awful hand" evokes a pow- 
ei-ful image of fearsome greatness, an as- 
sertion of majesty that can only inspire 
awe or stunned wonder. Today, an awful 
hand is only unwelcome — as in "you 
keep your awful hand off me" — or im- 
poverishing, as in your pair of aces versus 
his three queens. 

LJnfortunately, the most famous of all 
fossils also suffers fi-om such a demotion 
of meaning. Just about every aficionado 
knows that "dinosaur" means "terrible 
Uzard" — a name first applied to these pro- 
totypes of prehistoric power by the great 
British anatomist Richard Owen m 1842. 
In our culture, reptiles serve as a prime 
symbol of slimy evil and scaly, duplici- 
tous, beady-eyed disgust — from the ser- 
pent that tempted Eve in the Garden to 
the dragons killed by Saint George or 
Siegfried. Therefore, we assume that 
Owen combined the Greek dciiios (terri- 

ble) with sauivs (lizard) to express the pre- 
sumed nastiness and ugliness of such a 
reprehensible form scaled up to such 
huge dimensions. The current debase- 
ment of "terrible" from "truly fearsome" 
to "sorta yucky" only adds to the negative 
image already implied by 0\ven's original 

In fact, Owen coined his famous 
moniker for a precisely opposite reason. 
He wished to emphasize the awesome 
and fearful majesty of such astonishingly 
large, yet so intricate and weU-adapted, 
creatures living so long ago. He therefore 
chose a word that would evoke maximal ' 
awe and respect — "terrible," used in ex- 
actly the same sense as Julia Ward Howe's 
"terrible swift sword" of the Lord's mar- 
tial glory. (I am not, by the way, drawing 
an inference in making this unconven- 
tional claim, but merely reporting what : 
Owen actually said in his etymological 
definition of dinosaurs.) 

The long-standing scholarly muddle ; 
surrounding the where and when ofi 
Owen's christening has been admirably 
resolved m r^vo recent articles by my col- 
league Hugh Torrens, a geologist and his- 
torian of science at the University of 
Keele in England: "Where did the di- 
nosaur get its name?" {New Scientist, April 
4, 1992) and "Politics and Paleontology': 
Richard Owen and the Invention of 
Dinosaurs" (in The Complete Dinosaur, 

J. O. Farlow and M. K. Brett-Surman, 
eds., Indiana University Press, 1997). 

Owen (1804-92), a professor at the 
Royal College of Surgeons and at the 
Royal Institution, and later the founding 
director of the newly independent Nat- 
ural History division of the British Mu- 
seum, had already achieved high status as 
England's best comparative anatomist. 
(He had, for example, named and de- 
scribed the fossil mainmals collected by 
Darwin on the Beagle voyage.) The sub- 
ject of several essays in this series, Owen 
was a complex and mercurial figure — 
beloved for his wit and charm by the 
power brokers but despised for supposed 
hypocrisy, and unbounded capacity for 
ingratiation, by a rising generation of 
young naturalists, who threw their sup- 
port behind Darwin and then virtually 
read Owen out of history when they 
gained power themselves. A recent biog- 
raphy by Nicolaas A. Rupke, Richard 
Owen: Victorian Naturalist (Yale University 
Press, 1994), has redressed the balance 
and restored Owen's rightful status as bril- 
liantly skilled (in both anatomy and diplo- 
macy), if not always at the forefront of in- 
tellectual innovation. 

Owen had been commissioned, and 
paid a substantial sum, by the British As- 
sociation tor the Advancement of Science 
to prepare and publish a report on British 
fossil reptiles. (The association had, with 
favorable outcome, previously engaged 
! the Swiss scientist Louis Agassiz for an ac- 
count of fossil fishes. They apparently 
took special pleasure in finding a native 
son with sufficient skills to tackle these 
"higher" creatures.) Owen published the 
i first volume of his reptile report in 1839. 

In the summer of 1841, he presented a 
verbal account of his second volume at 
the Association's annual meeting in Ply- 
mouth. Owen published the report in 
April 1842, with an official christening of 
Dinosauria on page 103; 

Tlic combination oj such characters . . . all 
manifested by creatures far surpassing in 
size the largest of existing reptiles will, it is 
presumed, be deemed sufficient ground for 
establishing a distinct tribe or sub-order of 
Saurian Reptiles, for which I would 
propose the name of Dinosauria. (Richard 
Owen, Report on British Fossil Reptiles, 
Part II [London, Richard and John E. 
Taylor, published as the Report of the 
British Association for the Advancement of 
Science for 1841].) 

Many historians have assumed that 
Owen coined the name in his oral pre- 
sentation of 1841 and have cited this date 
as the origin of "dinosaurs." But, as Tor- 
rens shows, extensive press coverage of 
Owen's speech proves that he had then 
included all dinosaur genera in his overall 
discussion of lizards and had not yet cho- 
sen either to separate them as a special 
group or to award them a definite name. 
("Golden age" myths are usually false, but 
how I yearn tor a time when local news- 
papers — and Torrens got his evidence 
from the equivalent of the Plymouth 
Gazette and the Penzance Peeper, not from 
major London journals — reported scien- 
tific talks in sufficient detail to resolve 
such historical questions!) Owen there- 
tore must have coined his famous name as 
he prepared the report for printing — and 
the resultant publication of April 1842 

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Natural History 2/93 

marks the first public appearance of the 
term "dinosaur." As an additional prob- 
lem, a small inirial run of the pubKcation 
(printed for Owen's own use and distri- 
bution) bears the incorrect date of 1841 
(perhaps in confusion with the time of 
the meeting itself, peiliaps to "backdate" 
the name against any future debate about 
priority, perhaps just as a plain old mistake 
with no nefarious intent) — thus con- 
founding matters even fiiither. 

In any case, Owen appended an ety?- 
mological footnote to his defining words 
cited just above — proof that he intended 
the "dino" in dinosaur as a tnark of awe 



Pis? n. 

KICHABD OWE*. Efi«. FJi-S., F.G-S., fc., ic 

LO>"D ON: 

XXXZXeX CCCTC Tin? 53313. 

and respect, not of derision, fear, or nega- 
tivity. Owen wrote: "Gr. [Greek] deiiws 
[Owen's text uses Greek letters here], 
fearfiJly great; saiiws, a lizard." Dinosaurs, 
in other words, are aw-esomely large 
("featfiilly great"), thus inspiring our ad- 
miraldon and respect, not terrible in any 
sense of di^ust or rejection. 

I do love the minutiae of natural his- 
tory^ but I am not so self-indulgent that 1 
would impose an entire essay upon read- 

ers just to clear up a Utde historical matter 
about etymolc^cal intent — even for the 
most celebrated of all prehistoric critters. 
On the contrary: a deep and important 
story Ues behind Owens conscious and 
exphcit decision to describe his new 
group with a maximally positive name 
marking their glory and excellence — a 
story, moreover, that cannot be grasped 
under the conventional view that dino- 
saurs owe their name to supposedly nega- 
ti\-e attributes. 

Ow-en chose his stion^y positive label 
for an excellent reason — one that could 
not possibly rank as mere irony today. 

Biuklaiid stuck a slip of paper 
matked "Transmutation" above, in 
Ills copy of Owen's report, left. 

given our current invocation of 
dinosaurs as a primary- example 
of the w?ondroirs change and va- 
riety that evolution has imparted 
to the history of life on our 
planet. In short, Owen selected 
his positive name in order to use 
dinosaurs as a focal argument 
against the most popular version 
of evolutionary theory in the 
1840s. Owen's refutation of evo- 
lution — and his invocation of 
newty named dinosaurs as a pri- 

L mar\' example — forms the ch- 

max and central point in the 
concluding section (entided "Summary," 
and occupying pages 191—204 of the 
1842 publication) of his two-volume re- 

This ironic tale about the origin of 
dinosaurs as a wieapon against evolution 
holds sufficient interest for its own imme- 
diate cast of characters (invohTng both 
the most important scientists of the day 
and the fossib deemed most tascinating by 
posterity) but attains e^^en more signifi- 

cance by illustrating a key principle in the 
history of science. AH major discoveries 
suffer fiom simplistic '"creation m^Ths" or 
"eureka stories" — that is, tales about mo- 
mentar\" flashes of briUiandy blinding in- 
sight by great thinkers. Such stories fuel 
one of the primal mvths of our culture — 
the lonely persecuted hero, armed with a 
sword of truth and eventually prevaihng 
against seemingly insuperable odds. They 
presumably arise (and stubbornly persist 
against contrary? evidence) because we so 
strongly want them to be true. 

Well, sudden conversions and scales 
falling fixDm eyes may w-ork for religious 
epiphanies, as in the defining tale abou: 
Saul of Tarsus (named Paul the Apostle 
on the Damascus Road; "And as he jour- 
neyed, he came near Damascus, and sud- 
denly there shined round about him a 
Hght finm heaven; And he fell to the 
earth, and heard a voice saying unto him. 
Saul, Saul, why persecutes! thou me? 
. . . And immediately there fell from his 
eyes as it had been scales; and he received 
sight forthwrith, and arose, and w^as bap- 
tized"* (Acts of the Aposdes, chapter 9 
But scientific discoveries are deep, diffi- 
cult, and complex. They require a rejec- 
tion of one y^iew of reaUty (never an eas"y 
task, either conceptually or psychologi- 
cally) and acceptance of a radically new 
order, teeming with consequences for 
everything held precious. One doesn't 
discard the comfort and foundation of a 
lifetime so hghdy or suddenly. Moreover, 
even if one thinker experiences an emo- 
tional and transforming eureka, he must 
still work out an elaborate argument and 
tVlease turn to page 611 

*I must now invoke my "deal" wich the editors of 
this fine magazine for one or rvro footnotes a \'ear 
fa gaing company poKcy). Since this essay focuses 
on the r hjngino; meaning of words, I just can't re- 
sist cidng one of she lines {Acts 9:5) left out of the 
above quotation — suiely the unintentionally fiin- 
niest bibHcal verse based on the passage of a word 
from high culture into slang betw-een the sey'en- 
teenih-centuiy King James Bible and our current 
vernacular; "And he said. Who an thou. Lord? 
And the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom thou perse- 
cutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the 


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Lecture 1 : Shakespeare's Wavelengths 
Lecture 2: The Multiple Actions of y4 

Midsmnmer Night's Dream 
Lecture 3: The Form of Shakespeare's Sonnets 
Lecture 4: Love in Shakespeare's Sonnets 
Lecture 5: Love and Artifice in Love's Labor's 

Lost and Much Ado about Nothing 
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Lecture 7: The Battles of Henr^i VL 
Lecture 8: Richard III and the Renaissance 

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Lecture 10: Action in Hamlet 

Lecture 1 1 : Coriolanus: The Hero Alone 

Lecture 12; Change in Antony and Cleopatra 

Lecture 13: The Plot of Cymbeline 

Lecture 14: Nature and Art in The Winter's Tale 

Lecture 15: Three Kinds of Tempest 

Lecture 16: History and Henry IW 




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28 Discovery 

Natural History 2/98 

Story by Mark Bowen 
Photographs by George Steinmetz 



Porters near the summit of Ncvado Sajaina 
carry a precious cargo of ice cores. 





30 Discovery 

Natural History 2/98 

he climbers I met in the 
bars of La Paz last sum- 
mer, as I adjusted to the 
altitude, yawned when I 
asked about the techni- 
cal ditFiculty of climb- 
ing 21,500-foot Nevado Sajama, Bolivia's 
highest mountain. They called it a "walk- 
up" or a "snow-slog," albeit a long one. 
This was a good thing for the members of 
the scientific expedition I was about to 
tag along on because they had to get five 
tons of drilling equipment to the top. 
Their mission? To extract ice cores from 
the summit glacier, float them down in a 
hot air balloon, and deliver them, frozen, 
to laboratories in Columbus, Ohio. 

The leader of this expedition of more 
than fifty people — including scientists, 
technicians, mountaineers, porters, even a 
world-class balloon crew — ^was Lonnie 
Thompson, a paleoclimatologist from the 
Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio 
State University. He hoped to obtain a 
record of changes in regional cUmate ex- 

tending into the last glacial episode (the 
Ice Age), which ended about 14,000 
years ago. To procure these icy archives, 
Thompson and tive others would live and 
work on Sajama's summit — roughly four 
thousand feet higher than Everest base 
camp — for twenty-eight days in a row, a 
feat of high-altitude endurance that has 
been exceeded only twice in moun- 
taineering history. 

In 1993, three of these die-hards had 
participated in a fifty-three-day effort on 
a 19,800-foot col on Huascaran, in Peru's 
Cordillera Blanca, recovering the first 

glacial-stage ice ever obtained from a 
tropical region. In a July 1995 article in 
Science, they reported results that chal- 
lenged the widely held view that tropical 
climates remain unchanged during glacial 
periods. The Huascaran cores suggested 
not only that temperatures in the Tropics 
were 5—6° C colder during the last ice age 
than they are today but also that the air 
was 200 times more dusty or very dry, 
and that the Amazon rain forest was 
much smaller. In the Tropics, conditions 
also seemed to fluctuate as the ice sheets 
receded, just as they did at higher lati- 
tudes. This new information called for 
modification of the mathematical models 
used to simulate past and future chmates. 
At that time, most paleocHmatologists 
ignored tropical glaciers in their preoccu- 
pation with the polar regions. In a com- 
ment published in Nature (July 1995), 
Wallace Broecker, of Columbia Univer- 
sity's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observa- 
tory, wrote that Thompson's achievement 
on Huascaran "reveals how the tenacity' 

The shadow of Sajama, left, meets the 
horizon near Las Payachatas volcanoes. 
Riglit: Members of last summer's scientific 
expedition to Sajama's summit glacier 
climbed the northwest face of the mountain 
along a series of ridges — visible on the left 
flank — on the way to "high camp," the last 
stop before the final leg of their journey. 

of a lone scientist moving against the 
grain of conventional wisdom can alter 
the course of thinking. . . . For years, he 
fought not only the cold condition ot his 
field sites, but also the lukewarm recep- 
tion by many of those in our field." 

Before leaving my home near Boston, 
I called Thompson's wife, Ellen Mosley- 
Thompson, who briefed me on what to 
expect on the mountain. A vital woman 
who. Like Lonnie, was born and raised in 
West Virginia, she is coprincipal investi- 
gator on this project. Her fieldwork gen- 
erally takes her to Antarctica or Green- 

land during the austral summer, so it 
would seem that she and her husband are 
rarely found on the same side of the 
globe. The one-woman Mission Control 
for this trip, she dispensed advice, at- 
tended to crises, and aided stragglers like 
me via phone and e-mail from her home 
and office in Columbus. 

While the climb might be easy, the 
climbers in La Paz still advised me to treat 



.Sajama with respect. There's at least one 
'body up there: in 1946, a participant in 
, the second successful ascent lost sight ot 
his companions in wind-blown snow and 
was never seen again. The elevation is it- 
, self a danger. In Bolivia, it is possible to 
reach the base of a 20,000-foot mountain 
' within hours of landing at La Paz airport, 
! which itself sits at 14,000 feet. Inexperi- 
enced climbers often go too high too 

quickly, inviting pulmonary or cerebral 
edema — abnormal fluid retention in the 
lungs or brain — which can lead very 
cjuickly to death. (Five weeks after 
Thompson's expetiition ended, a French 
woman, who had been guided to the 
summit, died of edema on the descent.) 

Sajama — a hulking volcanic dome that 
broods alone near the western edge ot the 
Altiplano, the world's second-highest 

plain — is sacred to the indigenous Ay- 
mara, who toil in the dusty fields at its 
base, raising Uamas and growing potatoes 
and quinoa, a protein-rich grain. Their 
way of life and animistic beliefs have 
withstood the Incas, the Spanish conquis- 
tadors, and — at least for now — the lure of 
the city. Sajama village, home to a few 
hundred people, sits less than a mile from 
the base of the mountain. When Thomp- 

32 Discovery 

Natural History 2/98 

son's caravan arrived in mid-June, an 
emotional town meeting was convened. 
Revering Sajama as a god that provides 
water, fecundity, and life, the residents 
feared retribution if the strangers drUled 
in this high and holy place. Some attrib- 
uted the previous summer's poor growing 
season to the mountain's indignation at 
the construction of an automatic weather 
station (one of the many facets of this 
project) near its summit by a group from 
the University of Massachusetts. And the 
townspeople wanted nothing to disturb a 
gold cross, buried, according to local leg- 
end, in Sajama's snows. Impassioned ne- 
gotiations ensued. 

The villagers' main concern was the 
mountain. Besides promising to leave it as 
they found it, Thompson and French 
glaciologist Bernard Francou had to con- 
vince them of the relevance of the re- 
search. They explained that the glacier — 
the town's sole source of water — is 
shrinking at an alarming rate. They had a 
name for the weather pattern that brings 

unusually dry summers to the already des- 
perately dry Altiplano every three to 
seven years: El Niiio. They explained that 
a worldwide climate change may underlie 
the increased firequency and severity of El 
Nino in recent decades and that Sajama's 
ice may tell whether human activity has 
caused or contributed to that change. 
Perhaps clues in the ice would improve 
their ability to predict El Nifio, so they 
can warn the people to plant appropriate 
crops in the years when it occurs. 

Thompson offered to leave if they 
wanted him to. He was willing to drag his 

equipment 120 miles north to the lumi- 
nous lUimani, Bolivia's second highest 
peak. This wasn't exactly a bluff, but an- 
other delay would have seriously com- 
promised his chances for success. In the 
end, he agreed to provide a small grant to 
the local library and donate an automatic 
weather station to the village. He also 
agreed to employ townspeople as the 
need arose and donate mountaineering 
equipment so the men could work as 
porters and guides on future expeditions. 
To mark the agreement, villagers and 
expedition members gathered near the fu- 
ture site of base camp, in a dry moraine 
below the mountain's imposing northwest 
face, to purify themselves and ask forgive- 
ness for the transgressions they planned. 
Standing in a circle around a fire, they 
chewed coca leaves catalyzed by pinches 
of kgia (a mixture of potato, quinoa ash, 
and powdered limestone) and nips of 
grain alcohol. Two yatiris, or holy men, 
laid a white llama on a sacrifice stone and 
sht its throat. Offering songs and prayers 

At the summit, left, scientists Bruce Koci 
and Vladimir Mikhalenko use a solar- 
powered drill to extract ice cores from the 
glacier. The cores quite possibly date from the 
last ice age, which ended 14,000 years ago. 
Right: Once drawn out of the glacier, the 
cores are cut and quickly stored in snow pits 
in order to preserve the story of climate 
change frozen within them. 

summit team, already acclimated by 
climbing a mountain near La Paz, reached 
the top of Sajama and set to the task of 
mining ice. 



first saw it at night: an enormous 
black hump under a bright stroke of 
MUky Way, in an icy, star-filled sky. 

As tropical glaciers melt, vital ror 

to Sajama and Pachamama ("earth 
mother"), the yatiris burned figurines of 
humans and animals in the fire and sprin- 
kled the llama's blood on the sand. 

This was probably a fresh experience 
for the newer graduate students, but just 
another bump m the road for Thompson, 
who's led thirty expeditions to glaciers at 
the world's highest altitudes and latitudes. 
After the ceremony, Thompson and his 

I'd been jarred awake on the back seat of a 
four-wheel-drive vehicle as it encoun- 
tered a deep pit in the road ringing the 
mountain. When the driver, Juan Pru- 
dencio, owner of the refi-igeration truck 
in which the cores would be stored, had 
suggested we leave La Paz after dark for 
the six-hour drive south to the mountain, 
I had feared he might fall asleep at the 
wheel, but he and his technician looked 

remarkably sharp, thanks to frequent for- 
ays into the large bag of coca on the con- 
sole between them. They showed me 
how to mix pinches of gray, powdery legia 
in with the leaves, stuff them in my 
cheek, and squeeze the bitter, grassy juice 
into my mouth. My cheek and tongue 
went slighdy numb, and a sense of alert 

ranging herds of the unmistakable, curi- 
ously regal llama. As Las Payachatas, twin 
volcanoes floating above the plains to the 
southwest, turned pink, we puDed up at a 
cluster of adobe huts. Don Luis Alvarez 
and his smiling wife, Teodora (owners of 
this hacienda), along with five balloon pi- 
lots here to support the expedition. 

well-being washed over me. The leaf is 
legal in Bolivia and plays a prominent role 
in the sacred and medical traditions of the 
Aymara and other indigenous peoples 
throughout South America. It's every- 
where. In remote areas, coca leaves are 
used as a form of currency. 

Predawn light revealed a flat, freeze- 
dried landscape, dotted with pointed 
hairballs of paja bmm (wild grass) and free- 

emerged with the sun. High winds had so 
far prevented the balloon from flying. 

By this time, the summit crew had al- 
ready drilled 100 meters of the first 
core — more than one-third of their 
goal — and there wasn't enough time for 
the four balloon flights that had been 
planned. Focus was now shifting to Plan 
B: arranging for porters to haul the ice 
down, althouffh the balloonists still 

wanted to demonstrate feasibility with 
one test flight. I decided to move care- 
fully up the mountain, balancing the risk 
of edema against my strong desire to gain 
7,500 feet — quite a gain in such a short 
time, especially since the hacienda sits at 
14,000 feet, and I had arrived from sea 
level only four days before — by the time 
the baUoon was scheduled to fly, six days 
hence. Following the mountaineering 
adage "Work high, sleep low," I made a 
round trip to the 15,500-foot base camp 
that day, passing through a grove of 
stunted quemia trees — reputedly the high- 
est forest in the world — and catching a 
glimpse of a family of vicuiia, a wild 
cousin of the Uama, once prized by Incan 
emperors for its fine, golden wool. 

At base camp three evenings later, 
Todd Sowers, a geoscientist from Penn- 
sylvania State University, poked a 
bearded, sunburned face through the 
door of the cook tent after a long descent 
from the summit. His eyes scanned 
mountains of food piled along the walls 
and the five-course meal that had been 
prepared by Ahnan Lin, an Ohio State 
University geochemist from Taiwan. 
Sowers licked his chops with a flourish 
and said, "Ahnan, that looks delicious. 
The cook on the summit can hardly boil 
water. I've had nothing but soup and 
freeze-dried food for two weeks." We of- 
fered him a full plate and an empty seat. 

As I lay in my tent an hour later I heard 
a commotion outside. I rushed out to 
find Lin and Doug Hardy, a geologist 
from the University of Massachusetts who 
had just finished servicing the weather 
station on top, yelling for help. Hardy and 
his colleague, Mathias Vuille, had been 
picking their way along the path on the 
last snowfield above base camp — firozen 
solid since the sun had set — when the ex- 
hausted Vuille had shpped. Vuille. by tar 
the calmest of us all, soon straggled into 
the strip of light projecting fi-om the cook 
tent's door. He had arrested his fall by 
digging his bare fingers into the ice. Large 
patches had been sanded firom his hands 
and forearms, and blood had congealed 
on his skin, but the abrasions weren't 

deep. He grimaced as I ■washed his 
•wounds with ethanol noin one of several 
five-gaMon drums in the cook tent. 
Thompson had biougjit ethaool in case 
the Racier required a thermal driH, which 
meliis its wani' into the ice and needs a sol- 
Yent to piEveiat it ftom keezkig in place. 
He had learned long ago to bring 
ethanol — the alcohol totmd in bever- 
ages — rather than lethal methanol on 

these excuxsioos, because the porters in- 
variably break into it. 

The next day, as I accompanied Sowers 
on a round-trip to the high camp at 
18,700 feet, the launchJEg pad tor the 
summit, he described a few of the chem- 
ical assays that would be used to read the 
story in the ice. Sowers would be respon- 
sible for analyzing the gas bubbles, while 
the analvsis of the ice itself, and the dust 

and microbes embedded in it, would be 
carried out primarily in Thompsons labs. 

One of the more usefiil markers in thi 
branch of paleoclimatoiogv' is the isotopic 
composition of oxy^n. In oxygen's pre- 
dominant form, O, the nucleus of the 
atom comprises eight protons and eight 
neutrons. The next most prevalent form. 
'O, has two extra neutrons. Water mole- 
cules containing *0 have a stronger pref- 

Natural History 2/98 

Discovery 3 

i! 1,500 feet. 

did be 

of lb 

erence for the liquid state (preferring it to 
both water vapor and ice) than those con- 
taining 'O. Scientists take advantage of 
both aspects of this preference. 

First, the ratio of 'O to ''O in ice 
molecules serves as a proxy for atmos- 
pheric temperature. As air, laden with 
water vapor, rises from the Atlantic and 
moves west toward the Andes, it encoun- 
ters colder conditions the higher it goes. 

The portion of the vapor that will con- 
dense to form clouds, collections of tiny 
water droplets, depends upon tempera- 
ture and pressure. If the droplets get big 
enough, they will fall as rain or snow. 
Since O has a stronger preference for 
the liquid state, the vapor in the air is 
gradually stripped of its ' O as it rises. 
Variations m atmospheric temperature at 
a given height (or pressure) will cause 
variations in the "O/ 'O ratio there. So, 
the ratio found in Sajama's snow is a mea- 
sure of the temperature of the overlying 
air at the time the snow tell. 

Second, in oxygen from ancient atmos- 
pheres found in gas bubbles trapped in the 
ice, the '^O/ 'O ratio reflects the size of 
the continental ice sheets. From this, the 
age of the surrounding ice can be interred. 
As the sheets grow, they scavenge O from 
the ocean because ^O wants to remain in 
the liquid state. In gas bubbles trapped 
20,000 years ago (during the last glacial 
episode), the ratio was 1.3 O atoms per 
thousand O atoms — higher than that of 

Left: Taking a break at the summit in a 
SI WW pit that served as dining room and 
parlor for twenty-eight days are expedition 
members (left to right) Bruce Koci, Markus 
Frey, Lonnie Tlwmpson, Vladimir 
Mikhalenko, Victor Zagorodnov, and 
Patrick Ginot. Right: In his mountaintop 
tent, Thompson makes notes on the 
day's ii'ork. 

todays annosphere. Sowers hopes to ob- 
tain precise dates for the deep portions ot 
Sajama's cores by comparing the ratios he 
measures in them against standard curves 
from Greenland and Antarctic cores. 
Greenland ice cores can be dated very ac- 
curately because their annual layers can be 
resolved individually as far back as 45,000 
years. He will also measure atmospheric 
carbon dioxide and methane, the second 
and third most important greenhouse gases 
(water vapor being the first). In polar 
cores, researchers have tound the levels to 
be high during warm periods and low 

during cold periods. About 12,000 years 
ago, a cold event called the Younger Dryas 
caused the ice first to advance and then to 
recede. He expects to find a distinct dip in 
methane levels, for instance, in the ice 
from that period. 

Base camp became the rendezvous 
tor a parade of characters stroUing 
or struggling up or down the 
mountain every day. Sometimes, as many 
as fifteen people crowded around the ply- 
wood table in the ten-by-fifteen-foot 
cook tent, and thirty or more bedded 
down in the ten mountain tents clustered 
around it. There were morning and 
evening radio conferences involving Lin 
at base camp, Thompson on the summit, 
and the balloon crew at the hacienda. 

The scientific crew came from at least 
seven nations. Thompson had brought 
along four trusted Peruvian mountaineers 
from his many previous expeditions there. 
A commercial outfitter from La Paz was 
providing cooks, gear, and many more 

porters. Local folks occasionally trooped 
by leading donkey trains. The curiosiu- 
t'actor brought scienrists and their families 
from La Paz. And finally, there were a few 
small groups of bewildered nroun- 
taineers — in search of a solitan,- summit, 
but stumbhng into a circus instead. All 
were invited into the cook tent, and many 
stayed to enjoy the camaraderie (and 
abundant free food) for quite a few days. 

The morning after my lesson with 
Sowers, a group of porters strolled into 
base camp, led by an eiiervescent, pony- 
tailed rock chmber named Jaimes Gon- 

w^^r^ f^^flHBi^^^^ 

^^m^^^^^^^Hir ' 

36 : Diiifiiovery 

Natural History 2/98 

zalo. I decided to join them on their trek 
to the high camp. We gathered in a circle 
to pass around bags of coca and kgia and a 
small bottle of ethanol (which I declined) 
and then proceeded at a very relaxed pace 
up the mountain. That night I lounged in 
Gonzalos tent, listening to a jovial porter 
play peaceful melodies on a wooden flute. 
During dinner, another porter, a twenty- 
one-year-old named Genaro, announced 
proudly that he'd cHmbed to the summit 
twenty-three times in eighteen days! 
Later, on the initial, epic ice carry, he 
would be the first to deliver his load, 
shouting, "Genaro, primero!" ("Genaro, 
the first!") as he arrived. 

After a night of altitude-induced 
sleeplessness, it seemed wise for 
me to spend a second night at 
high camp — still almost 3,000 feet below 
the summit. I opted for a solitary day 
hike. Stopping on an airy snow slope 
leading to the edge of the summit dome, 
I let the view spin for a while, then settle 

in my head; it could easily have become a 
swift 3,000-foot ride back down to base 
camp. The porters had frxed ropes up the 
slope, but I ignored them. I knew I 
wouldn't fall. I wanted to savor the free- 
dom of climbing alone and unfettered so 
high in the air. When I reached the top of 
the slope, soinethmg made me go for the 
summit. Gradually Las Payachatas, which 
had previously dominated the view to the 
west, seemed to bow at the feet of Sa- 
jama. To the north, IDimani and Huayna 
Potosi, the other white gods of the Alti- 
plano, appeared over the sharp edge of 

the snow. Inching up the round dome, 
deafened by the beating of my heart, I 
began counting steps and breaths (thirty 
steps, stop . . . forty or fifty gasps, start). 
The porters, who had left me behind at 
breakfast to haul loads to the top, were 
now loping down. 

Slowly the angle of the slope eased. I 
saw a pole from the drilling rig sticking 
from the summit like a solitary palm on 
an airborne desert isle. A frigid bunker 
came into view: a few wind-blown 
mountain tents on sunken platforms of 
ice, a snow pit for the scientists, a small 
tent by its entrance where the solitary 
cook melted snow for water and handed 
one-pot meals down to them, another pit 
for the ice cores, random piles of gear, a 
wall of snow blocks and brown cardboard 
boxes shielding the rig and its crew from 
the wind, and electric cables snaking to 
dozens of solar panels lying flat on the 
snow. Complete sOence (one of the beau- 
ties of solar power). White beaches of 
snow dropped away in all directions. Next 

An expedition member, left, makes his way 
through mosslike yareta on the slopes 
beneath Sajama. Yareta is the common 
natne for any of several densely cushioned 
Andean herbs of the genera Azorella and 
Laretia. Right: Dofia Teodora Jauregui de 
Alvarez, owner of a hacienda at the foot of 
the mountain, with some of the ftve tons of 
equipment used on the expedition. 

cough made me wince; he looked over- 
weight, dressed in lumpy down — although 
he'd undoubtedly lost weight (there's no 
better way to take inches ofl^ the waistUne 
than wasting away at altitude) . 

By day's end I understood the urgency 
of this mission. Tropical glaciers — plane- 
tary archives that provide the raw data 

Frozen bubbles of gas preservn 

to catch the eye: the horizon, hundreds of 
miles away, the occasional knife-edged 
mountain hovering above it like a cloud 
of carved crystal. A hooded figure in red 
broke trom his work and shuflled over to 
greet me. It 'was Thompson. 

He looked far older than his forty-nine 
years. His three-week beard had grown m 
gray; there were wrinkles around liis eyes 
from dehydration and lack of sleep; his 

upon which Thompson's life's work is 
based — are fast disappearing. Thompson 
believes that most, including Sajama's, 
will be gone within fifty years, along with 
their life-giving water and the power it 
generates. Almost all cUmate scientists see 
the melting of such glaciers as an early 
sign of global warming. He describes re- 
turning in 1991 to a glacier on Quelc- 
caya, in southern Peru, where he had ob- 




tained a fine l,5()0-year ice core in 1983. 
In the intervening years meltwater from 
the glacial surface had seeped into the ice 
and obliterated the record. "The zero de- 
gree isotherm [the lowest altitude at 
which ice will remain frozen] is rising at 
4.5 meters per year," he insists. "Three 
glaciers in Venezuela have disappeared 

percent of the earth's land mass and 80 
percent of the population. Their heat 
drives global weather. If a subtle increase 
in carbon dioxide raises their temperature 
even slightly, more moisture will enter the 
atmosphere. The greenhouse effect of the 
vapor will cause worldwide temperatures 
to rise significantly." 

^rviividence of ancient atmospheres. 



)«t it 

since 1972. Forty percent of the glacier 
on Mount Kenya has disappeared since 
1963. Every tropical glacier we have mea- 
sured is retreating, and wherever we have 
sequential information, we can show that 
the rate of retreat is exponential." 

To him these vanishing records are an 
important key to understanding global 
climate. "To be relevant, you must work 
in the Tropics," he says. "They contain 50 

Peter deMenocal, a paleoclimatologist 
at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observa- 
tory, notes that Thompson has a reputa- 
tion for gathering volumes of high-qual- 
ity data and for having the courage to go 
to harsh and downright dangerous places 
to get it. Twenty years ago, Thompson's 
colleagues assured him it would be im- 
possible to obtain ice cores from the 
Andes and the Tibetan Plateau, but the 

records he retrieved from both places 
have greatly advanced our understanding 
of global connections in the earth's cli- 
mate system, the connection between EI 
Nino and Asian monsoons in particular. 
Says Thompson, "A warmer climate 
may induce a permanent El Nino. Be- 
fore 5,000 years ago, the people on the 
coasts of Ecuador and Peru ate tropical 
fish. Cold water appeared only recently. 
Since the earth was warmer then, that 
time may show the behavior of El Nifio 
in a warmer climate. It won't be good 
for Australia and India, or for Ecuador 
and Peru." 

El Nino is signaled by a weakening of 
the trade winds that normally drive warm 
surface water west from South America's 
Pacific coast and puU a current of cold 
water up from the deep ocean to replace 


it. Fishermen along the coast of Peru, 
noticing warm seas near Christmastime, 
named the phenomenon El Nino after 
the Christ child. Since the cold-water fish 
they usuaUy harvest disappear then, they 
spend the season repairing their nets. The 
warm water normally pushed to the west- 
ern Pacific by the trade winds produces 
massive cumulus anvils near Indonesia. 
During El Niiio, when the trade winds 
recede, the western Pacific and the Andes 
usually experience drought, while coastal 
Ecuador and Peru are hammered by rain. 
The monsoon fails in India. Droughts 

38 Discovery 

Natural History 2/93 

occur in Africa and Australia. Storms 
pummel the coasts of California and 
Mexico. The 1982-83 El Niiio. by most 
measures the strongest of this centur\- (al- 
though this year's may eclipse it), killed 
nearly 2,000 people, left 600,000 home- 
less, and caused an estimated SI 6 biUion 
of damage. Thompson and Francou in- 
tend to use a fort\--meter core from Sa- 
jama to study El Nino, which may serve 
as a scaled-down model of the sort of 
abrupt cHmate change that might be in- 
duced by global warming. 

Standing near his drUl on the summit. 
•with the \\'ind-packed sno\v mrning gold 
in the afternoon light, Thompson told 
me the reasons he had chosen this spot. 
He waved at Las Payachatas and other 
snow-capped peaks sprinkled along the 
border with Chile. To the south, Gual- 
latiri, one of the three Nevados de Quim- 
sachata, periodically emitted pufB of 
smoke. We were standing on the south- 
ernmost tropical glacier in South Amer- 
ica, he explained. These cores would fill a 
gap between records he had pre\dously 
obtained to the north, on Huascaran and 
Quelccaya. and to the south, on Antarc- 
ticas Dyer Plateau. They would add an 
important data point to a transect of the 
Americas in an international project 
called Past Global Changes Pole Equator 
Pole I, and complement other cores he 
had obtained on the Tibetan Plateau, 
where the record displays long-distance 
correlation with El Nino-modulated 
South American weather. 

He had put years of effort into choos- 
ing this site, and Sajama met his needs 
perfectly. One advantage is its great 
height. In the Tropics, glacial-stage ice is 
found only at the deepest levels, frozen to 
bedrock. With the warming of the at- 
mosphere, all but the highest glaciers now 
have rivers ot meltwater flowing beneath 
them. The flow of Sajama's s^Tiimetrical 
ice dome originates at its summit, where 
it is coldest. Origination points, such as 
summits and saddles, are the best places to 
drill, because glacial flow is less likely to 
have fractured the strata of the ice there. 
In the High Andes, a new laver of snow is 

laid down each year during the wet aus- 
tral summer. Dust is deposited on its sur- 
face during the dr\' winter. If the strata 
remain undismrbed, the snow of recent 
years is separated by dust bands, forming 
discrete lavers that look like tree rings. 
The weight of newer snow compresses 
earher layers, so their thickness decreases 
wdth depth. Below roughly 100 meters, 
indixddual layers become difficult to dis- 
tinguish, but unusual events, such as vol- 
canic eruptions that leave a layer of ash, 
may permit ver\' precise dating. 

I remarked on the s^rmmetrs- of the 
text-book moraines we could see below, 
left behind by the retreat of the summit 
cap. "That's another reason we chose Sa- 
jama," he responded. 'If this volcano had 
erupted since the last ice age, we would 
see it in the moraines." 

Sajama has one more usefiil feature. Ice 
cores are usually collected in one-meter 
lengths, wTapped in plastic bags, and sHd 
into aluminum tubes. The tubes are 
packed in insulated boxes and buried in 

TIte portal of an abandoned church frames 
Nevada Sajama, Bolivia's highest 
mountain. Tlie indigenous Aymara who live 
at its foot revere the mountain as a god who 
provides water, fecundity, hfe. 
Paleoclimatologist Lonnie Tliompson is 
counting on Sajama to provide crucial 
information about regional climate changes. 

erator: why not fly it down in a hot-air 
balloon? Since Sajama rises from a flat 
plain, and a circular dirt road surrounds it. 
the mountain would seem to be the per- 
fect place to test this outlandish idea — al- 
though It would require the highest | 
launches in ballooning histon,*. A flight 
would take less than an hour and besin 

Summit nights: three-seconci 

snow pits. They're most vulnerable as 
they're carried through w'arm air to a re- 
frigeration truck waiting below. Trapped 
gas bubbles — samples of paleolithic at- 
mospheres — may escape it the tempera- 
ture of the ice rises even a few degrees. 
Reliable gas records have never been ob- 
tained fixjm the Tropics. Four years ago, 
Thompson conceived of a plan for keep- 
ing the ice cold all the wav to the refria;- 

just at da\\Ti — the coldest time of day and 
the only time the air has a decent chance 
of being stiU enough to provide a reason- 
able marain of safet\'. 

Since my sole responsibility' was to 
get myself to the top, it had been 
comparatively easy for me to thread 
my way through the confusing logistics, 
mountains of gear, swarms of people, and 

ids it, 



small pockets of resentment that seethed 
in the thicker air below. (Resentment is 
common on large expeditions. Here, as 
elsewhere, it seemed to result from fear, 
frustration at the weather, or failure on 
the part of some to reach their personal 
goals.) The purpose of the whole un- 
wieldy exercise became clear only as I fell 

drill; Patrick Ginot, a colleague of 
Bernard Francou's; Felix Benjamin 
Viceficio Maguina, the leader of the Pe- 
ruvian mountaineers; and Russian scien- 
tists Victor Zagorodnov and Vladimir 
Mikhalenko. The adventure, the exoti- 
cism, the beauty of this experience, the 
stories to be told later were all secondai-v 


wjs to 


lie, 111'' 

into step with the deliberate, unhurried 
I pace of labor on the mountaintop. 

The sun set and the raven sky drew 
away its warmth. Seven of us, wearing 
headlamps, huddled in the snow pit. Two 
rows of thighs, set knee-to-knee, made a 
table for what passed for dinner. These 
were the true believers, the ones who 
stuck it out for four solid weeks: Lonnie 
Thompson; Bruce Koci, designer of the 

to these folks. They were there to watch 
the science unfold. 

At that altitude, nights are long and 
mornings are slow. Once the sun had 
pumped some warmth into our bodies 
and risen high enough to provide power 
to the drill, the scientists wandered over 
to mine their ice, one meter at a time. 
After twenty years, they had the system 
down pretty well. Koci and Thompson 

began designing drills in 1979. The latest 
model is a tube about ten feet long and 
six inches wide. A Kevlar cable attached 
to one end passes through a pulley at the 
top of the pole planted in the summit and 
down to a solar-powered winch. A 
rugged electrical wire, carrying power to 
the drill, runs with the cable. The winch 
lowers the unit to the bottom of the drill 
hole. Gravity puUs it down as it cuts into 
the ice. When the new core hits a stop in 
the housing, the winch puUs the com- 
plete unit, holding about one meter of 
new ice, to the surface. Occasionally, the 
shadow of a cloud stops the system dead. 
When the drill sprouts from the ground, 
the scientists swing it by its cable and lay it 
on a metal stand. Despite the elegance of 
the setup, the work has the obstinate 
rhythm of a factory job. 

1 watched as they neared bedrock, 132 
meters into the first core. Thompson 
himself extracted each new ice segment 
from the drill so he could get the first 
peek. He would inspect it and sketch its 
visible features in a pad; then it would be 
numbered and packaged and stowed in 
the snow pit. The ice was hard and clear, 
with many bubbles and a few wavy sheets 
of dirt and small rocks inside. It looked 
like, well, dirty ice to me; but the men 
were all smiling and joking, like prospec- 
tors who had struck a vein. Thompson 
came as close as a cautious scientist could 
to saying that these bottom layers were 
formed during the last ice age: he had a 
strong hunch he had struck gold again. 

Despite the drain of living at such 
heights, he seemed indefatigable as he 
briefed me while sorting out problems 
with the drill and juggling expedition 
logistics over the radio. It seemed odd to 
be discussing global warming on 
benches carved of snow in a cave at the 
summit of an ice-capped mountain, but 
Thompson's concern was palpable. "Our 
cores from eastern Tibet show that the 
last fifty years there have been the 
warmest in the last 12,000. On Huas- 
caran, they're the warmest in 6,000 
years. Although it was warm and wet on 
Huascaran and m some other places 

Natural History 2/58 

10,000 years ago, if you look at the 
planet as a whole, this century seems to 
be the wannest since the last ice age." 

E\?idence of climate char^ in the ice- 
core record often coincides widi dramatic 
dislocations in human activity, as shown 
in several papers Thompson has written 
with aicheolc^ts. A century-long dust 
event, indicative of drought, is recorded 
in the ice ftom Huascaran dating fi»m the 
third millennium B.C., a period also 
marked by coDapsir^ civilizations and mi- 
grations in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, 
Africa, and South America. '"Sometimes 
a difference of only a few degrees can 
cause the end of a civilization," he ob- 
serves, mentioning a dust event in A.D. 
900, recorded in the Quelccaya cores, 
that seems to coincide with the abandon- 
ment of fields around Lake Titicaca by 
the pre-Incan Tiwanaku civilisation. 

^^^rmer weather is not the only har- 
bingier of ^obal winning. The extreme 
weather that has made headlines all 
thiou^ this decade may also be a sign; 

the frequent and extreme hurricanes in 
the Adantic, tor instance, or the severe 
rains and flooding in the great plains of 
the United States, or intensified H Ninos. 
Thompson and Ftancou both warned me 
that an El Nino was due in the tafl. 

I strug^ed to keep up with Thomp- 
son, who seemed in frill command of his 
(feculties as he ratded off i&cts in that rar- 
efied ain My Tiigjht?; on die summit con- 
sisted of thousands of three-second naps 
interrupted by desperate gasps for air. It 
takes about five days ifor most people to 
get a decent nigjit s sleep at that altitude — 

if they re capable of adjusting at all. Part of 
my motiv^acion to endure it was to watch 
the balloon launch. I gave up waiting 
after a delirious night during which the 
wind blew so hard my tent seemed to rise 
from the ground once or twice. The bal- 
loon never flew. 

The next morning, in siKt\'-mile-an- 
hour winds, Maguina helped me struggle 
into my crampons before I stumbled away 
over the rim. As I trudged down alone. 
gaining strength vidth every step, I was 
unaware that the first ice carry w^-as taking 
shape. It was timed so that the porters 
would reach the snow line (18,000 feet. 
roughly at hi^ camp) at dusk, to keep 
the ice cold. 

Back at base camp, after a sis-hour de- 
scent and a huge meal, I settled into my 
sleeping bag just as the weary porters ar- 
rived, having shed their loads at a point 
accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles a 
mile awaj'. They discovered the cans oi 
ethanol in the cook tent and a celebration 
ensued. A few of the revelers were still in 

Porters, !efi, widi ke tores strapped to their 
balks, begin t]ie trek doum Sajama. Weather 
cottditiotis killed the original plaii, whicli 
had mUedfoT the cores to be ferried down ilie 
mountain in a hot-air balloon. Hie porters' 
journey back to base camp will take six- 
hours. Riglit: From the top ofSajama's 
northwest ridge, the 20,472-foot Pomerape 
mountain is I'isibie on the western Iwrizon 
(extreme left). 

hi^ gear vi'hen I left for the hacienda ar 
ten the next morning. 

My pride at climbing Sajama was tem- 
pered a day later by the spectacle of the 
second ice carr^'. A few of the local 
people began in Sajama village, climbed 
7,500 feet to the summit, loaded awk- 
ward fifty-pound cartons on their backs 
(sometimes two), dehvered them to a 
waiting vehicle above base camp, and 
slept in their homes that night. (One of 
the most spectacular of the previous days 
drunks arrived first.) As the porters stmn- 
bled toward us in the dark, most without 

A lone scientin 

flashlights, many tripping on small boul- 
ders in their path, W"e would rush out and 
lift the loads from their backs. 1 found 
Genaro ""Primero" sitting straight-legged 
on the ground, staring blankly \\'ith a 
throat so sore from an ailment blazing 
through high camp that he couldn't speak 
or swallow water. 

Three weeks later, I visited Thompson 
in Columbus. Sajama's cores were stored 




safely down the hall. "The porters did 
well," he pronounced. "The ice core is in 
great shape. There's still fresh snow from 
the summit on the outside of the tubes, 
and the thermistors in some of the boxes 
never gave readings above —10° C. I ex- 
pect these cores to cover 20,000-plus 
years, and the two 132-meter cores to 
allow us to cross-check the record." (By 
mid-November he had verified this; the 

bottom thirty meters of the deep cores 
exhibit a drop of 5.4 parts per thousand in 
the ox)'gen isotope ratio — similar to that 
in glacial-stage ice from Huascaran.) 

He was vibrant with success. He 
looked fifteen to twenty- years younger 
than he had on Sajama. Evidently, the 
only ill effect of his sojourn at the summit 
was the loss of his toenails to "frostnip." 
They wouldn't be back soon: the follow- 

ing day he left for a site on the highest 
plain in the world; the Tibetan Plateau. 
0\'er thirty-five days in September and 
October, he, Bruce, Vladimir, and some 
other scientists, supported by FeHx Ben- 
jamin and his able countrviiien, obtained 
ice cores at the highest altitude ever: three 
cores drilled to bedrock, at 23,500 feet — 
breaking the record they had just set on 
Sajama. □ 

i T ii n iiiii i ii iij imi 

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Genetics Natural History 2/98 

^ry[\lff\T^ T^lf* 

By Rosie Mestel 

The mice PaulVrana tends are different from 
the white mice scientists usually study. Some 
are a rich chocolate brown; others are a beach- 
sand beige. Some — as mice go — are hulking 
brutes; others are puny runts. As Vrana opens 
their cages, they hop about and burrow into 
their bedding to escape the discomposing 
Umehght. "They're neat little animals, with 
such interesting behaviors — lab mice seem duU 
by comparison," says Vrana, a postdoctoral re- 
searcher at Princeton University. 

But behavior is not on Vrana's mind as, 
day after day, he does what every geneticist 
likes to do — put this female and that male to- 
gether and wait for the inevitable to occur. 
Vrana is thinking about war: war between fa- 
thers and mothers, each wrestling to gain the 
upper hand, callously using their babies as ge- 
netic battiefields. 

It's a bizarre and nasty-sounding concept, 
but one with logic and number crunching to 
back it. It's also a concept that might explain 
a strange phenomenon that molecular biolo- 
gists have unearthed this last decade: ge- 
nomic imprinting. Basically, genomic im- 
printing means that certain genes behave 
very differently depending on whether the 
mother or the father passed them down. This 
fmdmg defies common, garden-variety ge- 
netic theory, which tells us that it really 
shouldn't matter whether father or mother 
gives us any particular gene. While for the 
most part this still holds true, scientists now 
know that the DNA of a few genes is chem- 
ically altered in cells that give rise to eggs 
and sperm. And these alterations make for 
dramatically different properties when the 
father, rather than the mother, donates the gene to the young. 

Why should this situarion have evolved? David Haig, an evo- 
lutionary biologist at Harvard University, thinks he knows. Im- 
printed genes, he says, are weapons that mothers and fathers use 
to bicker over how big their babies should grow. 

Bicker? Shouldn't mom and dad both want the best for their 
fetus (with "want," in this context, being shorthand for whatever 
best flirthers each individual's evolutionary ends)? Well, yes, says 
Haig, but he argues that mother and father define "the best" 
somewhat differently. Mom wants a healthy baby but she doesn't 

want to end up so drained from feeding — or delivering — it that 
she can't bear healthy babies in the future. Dad, meanwhile, does- 
n't care about those fliture babies; who knows if they'll even be 
his? He wants this baby, his baby, to get all the mother can give. 
And therein Ues the conflict, with paternal genes ever pushing 
for a larger, spunkier baby and maternal genes applying the 
brakes to reserve energy for babies still to come. 

Haig developed his theory of competing parental interests 
years before the first imprinted genes were discovered. How, he 
wondered, might this parental war of wills be orchestrated? The 

q o1 rr\^ 




iw [lie 


first critical clue came from experiments showing that the ge- 
netic contributions of mother and father are not the same. Sci- 
entists had engineered mouse embryos that contained (as do all 
placental mammal embryos) two copies of every gene, but with 
a crucial difference. In some of the embryos, both copies came 
from eggs. In others, both came from sperm. Either way, the de- 
velopment of the embryos went horribly wrong before they fi- 
nally died. 

Why did development go so awry? The explanation came in 
1991, with the discovers' — in mice — of the first imprinted gene. 

one that codes for a protein called IGF-II (or 
insulin-like growth factor II). The gene is ac- 
tive — that is, able to make protein — in an em- 
bryo only if it comes from the father. And that's 
because the mother has chemically altered, or 
imprinted, her own copy of the gene, render- 
ing it totally inactive. More than a dozen 
other imprinted genes — some active only in 
paternal DNA, some only in maternal — have 
since been found in mice and humans. 

As yet, researchers don't know just how 
genes are turned off in the egg or the sperm. 
The process appears to involve enzymes, such 
as one called DNA methyltransferase, that add 
methyl groups to the DNA. Whatever the 
mechanism, the imprinting process is present 
in the embryo but wiped clean and fashioned 
anew in the offspring's own eggs or sperm 
(but not in other body cells) later on in life — 
in a male pattern if the offspring is a male, in 
a female pattern if it's a female. 

To Haig, imprinting meant he had found 
a perfect way for a father's genes and a 
mother's genes to be pushing for different 
outcomes. "It was great. It was really pleas- 
ing," he says. "Within seconds of hearing 
about it, I said, 'Aha! I've got a theory to ex- 
plain that.' " Haig wasn't the only scientist 
thinking along such Knes; so was develop- 
mental biologist Tom Moore, now of the 
Babraham Institute in Cambridge, England. 
In 1991, the two joined forces and pubUshed 
their ideas together. 

Is this evolutionary view of genomic im- 
printing correct? Certainly, the theory' enjoys 
support among many researchers working to 
understand the molecular biology' of imprint- 
ing and its contribution — when it goes 
wrong — to human disease. 
"My feehng is that Haig's theory is the best explanation of 
imprinting around," says Wolf Reik, a developmental geneticist 
at the Babraham Institute. Shirley Tilghman, a molecular geneti- 
cist and Paul Vrana's adviser at Princeton, also finds the theory 
attractive. Others, though, say it's not yet time for an all-embrac- 
ing theory: there simply isn't enough known about most im- 
printed genes. And while Laurence Hurst, an evolutionary ge- 
neticist at England's Bath University, praises the theory, there's a 
sting in the tail of that praise. "It's an absolutely dehghtfijl, ele- 
gant theory, and I'm not prepared to give up on it yet," he says. 

Genetics Natural History 2/98 

"But the bottom line is that while the early 
data on imprinting seemed to all go vndi the 
theory, just about all the data that have come 
out since then have not conformed to its pre- 

Haig, meanwhile, is convinced. "I've got 
no doubts. The theor\' is ver\' strong." Look, 
he says, at where and when imprinted genes 
are active: in the placenta, a tissue whose ver\- 
job is to control the flow of food from 
mother to embr%o, and in the fetus early on 
in developmentjust when the parental war oi 

Harvard professor David Haig, 
right, has proposed that 
imprinted genes evolved as 
weapons mothers and fathers 
use in a battle over how big 
their babies should grow. 
Unopposed, a mother mouse's 
genes lead to puny offspring 
(leftmost mouse), the father's 
to hulking brutes (center). 
Together, maternal and paternal 
imprinted genes lead to young 
of normal size (right). 

wills should be happening. Thus, while the fimction of many 
imprinted genes remains m^fsterious, they could easily be in- 
volved in embryonic growth and \'igor. And even it they re not, 
there are other ways that a father could ensure that his ofispring 
does well: using imprinted genes to make the baby a better suck- 
ler, for instance, or a fiissier, more demanding baby that gets 
more attention and food from its mom. 

And look, Haig says, at the kinds of organisms in which im- 
printing occurs: in mammals and flowering plants but not, ap- 
parently^ in birds, fish, or reptiles.The pattern supports his theory. 

Birds, fish, and reptiles lay eggs containing a preset amoxmt oi 
food, with no way for dad to influence matters. Thus, there s 
nothing for mother and father to fight about. But plants, like 
mammals, have embr\T)S that develop on the mother and are 
nourished by surrounding tissue. The father, in the form of 
pollen, can lobby for more food. 

What's more, plants, like many mammals, are promiscuous: 
the egg cells of one plant can be fertilized by the pollen of many 
others. It's an absolute condition of Haig's model that some of 
the females in promiscuous species v\-ill bear the young of more 

than one male during their lifetime. In monogamous species, all 
of the babies will have the same father, and he'll want all of them 
to thrive,just as the mother does. No conflict there. 

And then consider, says Haig, the very nature of imprinted 
genes — the ones, at least, that scientists best understand. IGF-II is 
a growth-stimulating hormone. According to Haig's theory, the 
IGF-II gene should be active in dad's DNA, nudging the embryo 
to get larger. And so it is. Mom, meanwhile, should react by turn- 
ing ofl^her IGF-II gene, slowing the embryo's growth. And so she 
does. But mom has another trick up her sleeve: another protein 
that sticks to IGF-II and stops its growth promotion. Her gene 
for this protein is active, while dad's, stubbornly, is not. 

grapelike cluster of cells develops instead of a placenta and even- 
tually swamps the barely discernible, degenerated embryo — an 
embryo, it turns out, that has only paternal genes. It's hardly 
what dad had in mind. 

Even smaller imbalances rock the boat. Mouse embryos that 
lack the father's IGF-II gene end up small and wimpy. Others 
lacking one or another of mom's growth-stomping genes end 
up the Schwarzeneggers of the mouse world. 

A similar power shift might also explain the tantalizing case 
of two mouse species that Vrana tends in Tilghman's lab: deer 
mice that produce very strange babies. The females of one spe- 
cies — the dark brown Peroinysais mai}iailatiis — are so promiscu- 

What has developed, in essence, is a molecular tug-ot-war, 
with genes pulling on either side of the rope, dragging growth a 
litde this way, a little that way, producing a baby larger than mom 
likes but smaller than dad likes. The two-way struggle is crucial. 
"If you've got two sides puUing, they come to rely on each 
other's resistance," Haig says. "They tend to overstate their 
claim." Dad knows mom is there to oppose him, so he lobbies 
for a huge placenta, far larger than is good for the embryo. 
Should mom drop the rope: disaster. In a strange, pregnancy- 
gone-wrong condition called a hydatidiform mole, an abnormal. 

ous that even babies within a single litter can have different fa- 
thers. Vrana's other species, the sand-colored, beach-dwelling 
Pewniyscns polionotus, pairs for life. Since imprinting, by Haig's 
theory, should be useful for the dark brown mouse but not for 
the sandy mouse, you might suspect that imprinting would be 
relaxed, or even lost, in the latter. 

You would definitely suspect it when you look in the cages in 
Vrana's mouse-breeding room or leaf through his photo collec- 
tion. Some of the mice, mothered by the monogamous beach- 
dwelling deer mouse and fathered by the promiscuous species, 

Genetics Natural History 2/98 

were so huge that the mothers died giving birth. Others, fathered 
by P. polioiwtiis and mothered by P. maiiiailahis are pathetically 
puny. "It really looks as if there's an imbalance," says Tilghman. 
"Here's this polygamous father mating with this poor, monoga- 
mous mother who's lost her warlike, Haigian mstincts, and she 
dies because she has this gigantic baby. She's stopped protecting 
herself against the growth signals he's sending in. Or, in the re- 
verse case, you've got this monogamous dad who's no longer 
sending these growth signals in and you've got a polygamous 
mom who's saying, 'Slow down, slow down.' " 

But while the two species of deer mouse seem to fit Haig's 
model, other findings don't seem to support it. Last year. Hurst 

Princeton biologists Shirley | 
Tilghman and Paul Vrana | 
study the effects of f 

imprinted genes by pairing | 
up mice belonging to two I 
different species — one 
polygamous, one 
monogamous— and 
looking at the relative sizes 
of their hybrid offspring. 

moval of imprinted genes that were maternally derived — and 
should have furthered the mother's ends — resulted in an abnor- 
mally small embryo, just the opposite of what Haig's model 
would predict. And then, says Hurst, consider a strange collec- 
tion of cases in which mice or humans end up with two copies 
of one of dad's or mom's chromosomes, while everything else in 
the embryo is normal. Shouldn't an extra paternal or maternal 
chromosome mean extra paternal or maternal imprinted genes, 
and thus large or small babies? "In fact, you end up with half of 
the data points consistent with the model and half of them not 
consistent with the model — -just what you would expect for a 
model that got it wrong," Hurst says. 

and Gilean McVean, at the University of Cambridge, reported 
that imprinted genes have not evolved as one would expect 
them to if an arms race really were under way. Since father and 
mother are each trying to keep ahead of the other, imprinted 
genes should accumulate far more changes over time than do 
normal genes. (Rapid evolution of this type is seen, for instance, 
between parasites and the human immune system, which are 
also engaged in a war of wills.) But imprinted genes have not 
evolved rapidly. 

And those aren't the only iU-fitting facts. In one case, the re- 

But if Haig's model has its problems, none of the other im- 
printing theories — more than a dozen at last count — fare any 
better. Most fare worse."Some are just laughably dreadful," com- 
ments Hurst. "You do the math, and you realize that the author's 
come up with a reason why genes shouldn't be imprinted, not 
why they should." Other models, while plausible, fail because 
they just don't match the facts. 

Take, for example, the ovarian time bomb theory, which 
holds that imprinting evolved because eggs might cause aggres- 
sive cancers if they developed without fertilization. (The pla- 


; else 111 
em not 
1 for a 

centa, after all, is tailor-made to burrow into tissues.) Inactivating 
important growth genes in eggs — and waiting for sperm to sup- 
ply them — could be a handy safeguard. But this model can't ex- 
plain why males imprint their genes even though they don't 
have such problems in their testes. Nor does it explain why 
plants — which also don't have the invasive placenta problem — 
imprint, as well. 

Alternatively, some have proposed that imprinting evolved 
because only one copy of certain genes should be active in the 
embryo. Maybe these genes' superprecise control over how 
much protein they make is critical if embryos are to grow at the 
right rate. Maybe turning off one gene makes this regulation eas- 


iK my 





) ier. Hurst, for one, tmds this reasoning hard to buy. "There's 
something squishy about this model," he says. "In a sense, that's 
the reason that I think the conflict model might be right: all the 
others just don't have the ring of truth about them." 

But if Haig's model is correct, what about the data at odds 
with it? For now, supporters of Haig's model aren't worried."! 
think what Laurence [Hurst] has been doing is absolutely cor- 
rect," says Moore. "He's saying, 'What does the theory predict?' 
and then he's going out and testing the predictions." Neverthe- 
less, Moore ponits out that when you look at the data in more 

detail, there are ways to argue around what seems at first glance 
to be damning evidence. 

Why don't imprinted genes evolve superfast? Maybe they 
can't. An escalating arms race might result in too many changes 
and destroy the ability of the proteins to do their job. And in some 
instances, the genes settle down to a stable balance of power. 

Why don't those mice and human embryos with an extra 
copy of one of dad's chromosomes, and thus an extra dollop of 
some of his imprinted genes, conform to Haig's model and grow 
into abnormally large babies? Perhaps because in these cases the 
system has been shoved too far off balance, to the point where 
the outcome is bad for the embryo. "If you make a major dis- 
turbance to the system, if you cut the rope or 
make one side let go of the rope, you can get 
an outcome that's not adaptive for either 
side," Haig explains. 

Maybe. Perhaps. Therein lies the frustration. 
"The problem is that the Haig model is quite 
flexible: if you find something that's a contradic- 
tion to the model, it's easy to argue your way 
around it," says Reik. In other words, the model 
IS damnably hard, maybe impossible, to test, for 
now. And so inight it remain until more is 
known about the development of embiyos, the 
development of placentas, the function of 
known imprinted genes, and the function of the 
hundreds of other imprinted genes that may be 
lurking out there waiting to be discovered. 

Recendy, for example, researchers discov- 
ered that imprinted genes on one chromo- 
some — the X — seem to influence a child's 
social skills. British scientists stumbled upon 
the finding when they studied the personali- 
ties of girls who are born with only one X 
chromosome instead of two, as is normal. 
Girls who'd inherited that lone X chromo- 
some from their father were more gregarious 
and generally more adept at getting along 
with people than those who'd inherited it 
from their mother. "I think it's a wonderfijlly 
interesting finding," Haig says. "I'm neutral at 
the moment about whether it fits my theory 
or not. I could rationalize it — but when new things come up it's 
best to just sit and think about them for a while." 

In the meantime, Haig welcomes all findings about im- 
printed genes, but to his mind, the answer is in. "I believe the 
model has been amply confirmed, but there are a lot of people 
who disagree with me on that," he says. "So now — depending 
on who's doing the asking — the question becomes. When is 
David going to see the error ot his ways? or When are the others 
going to change their minds? Either way, I'm not sure that's ex- 
actly a scientific question." D 

SirdS of Prey Natural History 2/93 

A denizen of boreal 
forests from 
Scandinavia to 
Siberia to 
Sasl(atchewan, the 
great gray owi (rigfit) 
is insuiated from 
bitter cold by air 
trapped in an 
undercoat of fine, 
loose feathers. 

When an army of great gray owls invades 
southern Canada, wildlife watchers and 
banders head for the front lines. 


id-October, 1996: A barley farmer near 
the community of Newbrook in Alberta, 
Canada, sur^^eys the sodden remnants ot 
his precious crop, kicking at the rotting 
swaths with disgust. Like most grain 
growers here on the southern edge of the boreal torest 
in this part of the pro\ince. he knows that the wet au- 
tumn has sealed the fate of this year's har^'est; most of it 
will be left on the ground. The energ)'-rich seed heads 
will soon be devoured by geese and ducks as they 
gather here before their journey south; then mice and 
voles ^^^ll move into the furrows and also reap a barley 
bonanza. In early \^Tnter, under the protective blanket 
of snow, the fattened rodents wiU begin to breed in 
prodigious numbers and in turn attract mammal-hun- 
gry predators from miles around. This year the abun- 
dance of rodents heralds a natural history- phenome- 
non: an invasion of great gray owls. 

My colleagues Ray Cromie and Trevor Roper — 
owl banders rather than farmers — monitored the crop 
conditions in east-central Alberta in the fall of 1996 
with enthusiasm. As the scent of moldy grain filled the 
air, they could almost smell the owls coming. On No- 
vember 11, during a heavy snoxviall, the great grays 
came in like a tidal wave. Ray phoned to alert me 
when the first birds were spotted just north and east of 
Edmonton, Alberta, where I Hve. Despite the storm, I 
bimdled my familv into the car and headed for the 
tovvTi of Opal and into what 1 can only describe as an 
owl-o-rama. We saw great grays on the edge ot dense 
stands of mature aspens, on clumps of willow, on tence 
posts, in the middle of pasmres. and on the root ot an 
old granar\-. I have been a lifelong owl watcher, but I 
had never seen such an abundance of great grays. At 

By Gordon Court 

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Birds of Prey Natural History 2/98 

Back from the hunt, a 
parent delivers fresli 
meat, in tliis case a 
weasel, to its brood. 
Great grays 
specialize in small 
mammals and are 
particularly fond of 
meadow voles, wtiich 
tt)ey cleanly dispatcti 
witti a single bite to 
the forehead. 

one point, I stopped the car at an intersection near 
Opal and saw six great grays in one clearing. 

Nearly three feet tall, great grays are among the 
largest of owls, but a good portion of their seeming 
bulk is composed of an underlayer of loose feathers 
that trap air, a good insulator. Despite their stature, 
they are not as heavy or powerful as great horned or 
snowy owls, and they specialize on small rodents, the 
meadow vole being their favored prey. Great grays live 
in coniferous, deciduous, or mixed forests of northern 
North America, Europe, and Asia. Within these usu- 
aUy dense forests, broken treetops or the stick nests 
originally built by hawks or ravens provide the best 
places for raising young. For hunting, however, great 
grays either need or prefer clearings, including burned 

areas, ditches, and even clear-cuts. While they can be 
active at night, great grays hunt during the day in win- 
ter (owls abroad on a winter day are invariably hunt- 
ing). Their acute hearing allows great grays to detect 
the movements of a mouse or vole under snow firom 
thirty yards away. Zeroing in on a rodent, an owl drives 
a hole through the snow by plunge-diving firom up to 
twenty-five feet in the air. It is able to punch its balled 
feet through snow crust thick enough to support an 
adult human. When an owl plows through their snow 
tunnels, the rodents are buried by miniature 
avalanches. The predator then reaches down with its 
long legs and sifts the snow by clenching its toes until it 
gets the rodent. In this way, great gray owls routinely 
capture voles two feet below the surface of the snow. 


After liunting, they retire to the cover of dense timber. 
While great grays are technically considered migra- 
tory, their movements have neither the strict timing 
nor the hemisphere-spanning lengths of flights under- 
taken by some shorebirds and songbirds. Often, great 
grays will ride out the vwnter in the same boreal forests 
*jl where they nested the previous summer. But sporadi- 
cally, they set out in considerable numbers for the 
.south. ("South" to a great gray owl means the rela- 
tively balmy realms of southern Canada and the north- 
ern United States.) Such irregular surges, or irruptions, 
have been recorded in Ontario, Quebec, New Eng- 
land, Iowa, Michisan, and Minnesota. 

None of these owi bumper crops has been so 
well documented as those of the last two win- 
ters: the first in Manitoba, the second in Man- 
itoba, Alberta, anci Saskatchewan. In the win- 
ter of 1995-96, veteran owl banders Robert Nero and 
Herb Copeland managed to capture and band 115 
great grays within an hour's drive ot Winnipeg, Mani- 
toba; the next year in Alberta, Cromie and Roper, 
using nothing more than a mouse lure and a salmon 
landing net, caught and banded 144. Nearly fifty of the 
latter were trapped within a six-week period in a ten- 
by-twenty-five-mile area northeast of Edmonton, a re- 
markable density for these large predators. 

While rodent population explosions have long 
been known to lure predators to an area, we knew lit- 
tle, until recently, about what drove the owls from their 
breeding grounds, 500 or more miles away, in the first 
place. Deep or heavily crusted snow, severe cold, and 

A Glimpse of the Gray 

In noninvasion years, great gray owls can be rare. If 
you want to see them, be prepared to travel fair dis- 
tances. An especially good place to look in either 
summer or winter is the Great Gray Owl Ecologi- 
cally Significant Area, which lies within the Sandi- 
lands Provincial Forest of Manitoba. Birding tele- 
phone hotlines and birding Web sites on the 
Internet are a good source of information on ongo- 
ing irruptions. Act quickly on a good tip and get 
out there. 

Owl forecast: 1. Look for great gray owls on 
calm days. If the wind is stronger than fifteen iniles 
an hour, you'll probably be wasting your time, be- 
cause an owl listening for mice under three feet of 
snow is unlikely to hear much on blustery days. 
2. In Alberta last year, most great grays were seen on 
days when temperatures were around —20° F; on 
some super days, when more than twenty individu- 
als were sighted, the temperature was as low as 
—43° F. (Great for viewing but not for owl banding, 
these temperatures make for cold, slow hands, and 
fumbling with a great gray's pointy parts makes for 
bloody hands.) Also, owls need to forage more 
often and for longer periods during cold spells, so 
you may encounter more hungry owls on cold 
days. 3. Some folks say that overcast days are more 
productive. Not so in Alberta. We've had great days, 
sunny and icy cold, with lots of owls. — G. C. 

Great grays locate 
rodents by listening 
for ttieir movements 
under snow. Below, 
left: A second-winter 
bird balls up its feet 
just before plunging 
through the snow 
toward its target. The 
clue to its youth is 
the single, uniformly 
dark adult primary— 
the sixth feather in 
from the wing tip. 
Once through the 
crust below right, a 
great gray sifts the 
snow with its toes 
until it grasps its 

Birds of Prey Natural History 2/98 

A male brings a 
pocket gopher to his 
family at the nest, 
beiow. The female 
will rend and 
distribute the meat 
equally to the four 
nestlings and devour 
any leftovers herself 
These two-and-a- 
half-week-old owlets 
will be hopping 
around nearby 
branches within 
another two weeks 
and flying, after a 
fashion, when they 
are just forty days 
old. Opposite: an 
adult great gray owl. 

slim rodent pickings had all been offered as explana- 
tions. The answer came from the work of Manitoba 
ornithologist Jim Duncan. He found that snow and 
cold did not motivate the owls, but that hunger did. 
Only a scarcity of rodents could force the birds off the 
breeding grounds. The numbers of meadow voles tend 
to rise and fall with little evidence of synchronized cy- 
cles, so that could explain the equally variable and un- 
predictable travels of great grays. Should a drop in the 
vole population follow a food-rich summer in which 
many owlets had fledged, a phalanx of hungry young 
birds would swell the numbers of mature owls leaving 
their forests to seek better hunting grounds. Add to 
these factors an unusual abundance of mice and voles 
causing the predators to concentrate locally, and you 
have an owl invasion. 

By fitting adult birds with radio transmitters, 
Duncan also discovered just how mobile great 
grays can be. When dispersing to rodent-rich 
areas in winter, these owls — although not 
speedsters compared to many other birds — moved far- 
ther and faster than we had thought. They could travel 
five hundred rrules in three months and, flying day and 
night, cover thirty nules in twenty-four hours. 

Because great gray owls — whether male or female, 
juvenile or adult — look alike, determining their vital 
statistics takes more than quick observation. Thanks 
mainly to Duncan and Nero, we now have methods of 
finding out the sex and age of great grays. They real- 
ized that one of the best indicators of sex was foot size 
(males' feet are smaller), and they determined the sex 

of winter-caught great grays in Manitoba over the past 
decade primarily by measuring the birds' foot pads 
While the ratio varied from year to year, females al 
most always outnumbered males. Last winter in Al 
berta, the sex ratio of our sample was fifty-fifty. The 
age of the birds is revealed by the extent of wear and 
the replacement pattern of certain feathers. In both 
provinces, a disproportionate number of irruption-year 
birds proved to be the same age: one and a half. These 
were young owls facing winter for only the second 
time. Last year in Alberta, 65 percent were second- 
winter birds, compared with less than 20 percent in 
nonirruption years. The remaining third were adult 
birds or juveniles hatched just the previous summer 
These numbers suggest that among great grays, a very 
mobile "teenage" group leaves breeding grounds, per- 
haps in the Northwest Territories or Alaska, and wan 
ders widely in some winters searching tor areas where 
the feeding is best. Researchers have speculated that 
among these wanderers are owls from northern Asia 
and Siberia. In the next few years, satellite telemetry 
might reveal just how far these owls roam. 

After the spectacular irruption last winter, my col 
leagues and I decided to conduct foUow-up fieldwork 
when it became clear that many of the owls had re- 
mained in east-central Alberta. By summer, with super 
numbers of meadow voles still providing plentifrd prey, 
the great grays began to breed, nesting surprisingly 
close together. We recorded as many as four nests with 
young within the radius of a mUe. As we had suspected, 
some of the pairs consisted of two-year-old birds possi- 
bly breeding for the first time. While great grays can 
breed at the age of one, this is rare, and most are three 
or older when they first nest. The three to five eggs in 
the clutch usually all hatch, but not all chicks survive to 
leave the nest. We found that not only were our nesting 
two-year-olds young for parenthood but they were also 
more successful than average. Most of these pairs! 
tended at least three nestlings, and of these most 
fledged. Their numbers and the speed with which they 
grew and began to leave the nests kept us so busy that 
we were unable to band all of them. 

Some of the young pairs had established themselves! 
in areas that had never been known to host breedini 
great grays. This may be one way in which this speciesl 
disperses into new areas of suitable habitat, by setdin: 
down in a hospitable locale discovered during thei 
winter wandering. The events of the last two years ir 
Alberta have convinced me that the great gray owls an 
far more likely to roam than I had beUeved. If you liv( 
in a certain latitude and conditions are right, they ma; 
be coming soon to a forest near you. D 

- \- '■ ' X-i 





Atlanta Housewife Investigated And 
Almost Arrested For Losing 73 Pounds 

By Sharon Louise Brodie, R.N., M.S.N. 


began writing this at a very low point in 
my life. 

First, my husband left me like a thief in the 
night. I had been at nurses' training classes un- 
til 11:30 P. M. When I returned home, there was 
a note on the kitchen counter saying he was 
sorry but "... the fire has died." How original! 

Anyway, he took most of my personal belong- 
ings including my furniture, my share of our 
savings account — even the sheets off our bed. 

And, no matter what his note said, I know 
the real reason he left. It was because I was 
overweight. Very overweight. I was 57" and 
weighed 210 pounds at the time. You'd think a 
nurse could do something about her weight. 
But I couldn't. 

I spent $399.95 on a home gym. I tried 
acupuncture. I tried hypnotism. I'd tried 
sixteen different diets and failed at all of them. 

Let me tell you something. In my humble 
opinion diets don't work! Period. I tried 
almost every popular diet you could think of. 
The problem wasn't losing the weight. It was 
keeping it off once you lost it. 

I just couldn't go through hfe starving 
myself. Or taking dangerous pills. Or drinking 
those chalky-tasting "shakes" every day. 

I became nervous. Irritable. And hungry. 
Always hungry. So any little thing triggered 
my anger. I was a bear. Or another "B" word. 

Finally I'd binge. It was always the same. 
I'd buy a box of chocolate filled donuts — 
usually a dozen. The real good kind. Then I'd 
drive around in my car with the donuts next 
to me on the front seat, eating and hstening to 
Rocket 105. 

It was my mother w'ho finally talked me into 
getting real help. She made an appointment for 
me with our family doctor. 

He took my history, listened to my 
complaints about diets and then recommended 
a program that was completely different from 
anything I'd ever seen before. 

This wasn't a "diet." It was totally different. 
I started the program on May 17th. Within 
the first four days, I only lost three pounds. 
So I was disappointed. But during the three 
weeks that followed, my weight began to drop. 
Regularly. Within the next 196 days, I went 
from 202 to 129 pounds. This may not seem like 
a lot. But, to me, it was a miracle. This was the 
first time in my life I'd ever been able to lose 
weight — and keep it off! 

Here, at last, was a program I could live 
with. Why? Because I was allowed to eat. 
Three delicious meals. Plus several snacks. 
Every day. Seven days a week. 

So I wasn't hungry. I wasn't irritable. I 
wasn't bingeing on donuts. 

But, I was losing weight! 

I know what you're wondering. How can a 
person eat so much and still lose weight? 

The secret is not in the amount of food 
you eat. It's in the prescribed combination of 
specific foods you eat during each 24-hour 
period. Nutritionally dense portions of special 
fiber, unrefined carbohydrates and certain pro- 
teins that generate a calorie-burning process 
which continues all day long. 

But the heart of the program is what re- 
searchers call The Thermic Effect. In laymen's 
terms it means that the Clinic-30 Program 
extends your metabohsm so calories are burned 
more consistently. Not just in unhealthy 
"spurts" like many diets. 'That's why it allows 
you to lose weight without feeling hungry. 
Without feeling irritable. Without feeling bored 
with all those "shakes" and bland meals. 

The Clinic-30 Program is marvelously 

You'll enjoy meat, chicken, fish, vegetables, 
potatoes, pasta, soups, baked goods, sauces — 
plus great-tasting snacks. Lots of snacks. 

You'll also enjoy the variety. 

There are literally hundreds of selections 
and combinations to choose from. Some are 
gourmet meals. Others just soup and 

Here are some other features — 

• There are no special foods to buy. 

• There are no pills. No powders. No 
artificial food. No drugs. No strange 
or "herbal" foods. 

• You don't count calories. You don't 
keep diaries. Simply stick with the 
program. It's easy-to-follow. Everything 
is explained on a day-by-day basis. 

Why haven't you heard about the Chnie-30 
Program on TV? Or in newspapers? 

The original program, developed by Dr. J.T. 
Cooper, M.D., was given to senior medical 
school students, interns and doctors who were 
taking in-service training in family practice. 
So it's doctor-tested. But until it was published 
by Green Tree Press, Inc., it was only available 
to doctors. No one else. And it's still only avail- 
able directly through the doctor's pubhsher. 
Green Tree Press. 

Here are a few comments from people who 
purchased the Doctors' Clinic-30 Program ... 

Kitty R. wrote to say she lost 56 pounds and 
went from a size 18 to a size 10 dress. 

"The Clinic-30 Program works! I'm an 
example. What I like best is that I can eat 
six times a day and lose weight! I recommended 
it to a couple of friends and they started losing 
weight, too!" 

Anne G., High Point, NC loves wearing a 
size 10! 

"I lost 25 lbs. in two months. I talk about 
it so much that others in my workplace have 
bought their own programs." 

And then there's me. About 4 months ago 
I was stopped by a policeman for not using 
my turning signal. When he looked at my 
driver's license he claimed it wasn't mine. 
He said it had someone else's picture on it. 

After he called for a computer check, he 
came back to the car smiling. "You must have 
lost a lot of weight. This picture doesn't even 
look like you." I agreed. In a way, it was one of 
the nicest "warnings" I'd ever received. 

We'll be happy to send you the program to 
examine for 31 days. Show it to your doc- 
tor. Try it. There's no obligation. In fact, your 
check won't be cashed for 31 days. You may 
even postdate it 31 days in advance if you wish. 

Choose a day and start the program. If you 
don't begin losing weight within five days — 
and continue losing weight — we'll promptly 
return your original uncashed check. No delays. 
No excuses. 

Or keep it longer. Try it for six months. Even 
then, if you're not continuing to lose weight on 
a regular basis, you'll receive a full refund. 
Promptly. And without question. This is the 
fairest way we know to prove to you how well 
this new program works. 

To order, just send your name, address and 
postdated check for $12.95 (plus $3.00 shipping/ 
handling) to The Clinic-30 Program, c/o Green 
Tree Press, Inc., Dept. 250, 3603 West 12th 
Street. Erie. PA 16505. 


Do not allow yourself to become too thin. 

It's also very important to consult your phy- 
sician before commencing any weight-loss pro- 
gram. Because everyone's results will vary. 
And be sure to see him periodically if you in- 
tend to take off large amounts of weight. 

1998 Green Tree Press. Inc. 



Natural History 2/98 

his Land/Nebraska 

airof theEarth 

ly Robert H. Mohlenbrock 

I ' f .:: 

X/etlands in the United States interior usually aresfreshwater, ■; 
vhile those along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf (Coasts are sahne 
)r brackish. But some inland lakes and marshy ar^as also are 
alty — most notably the Great Salt Lake of Utah l|it also smaller; 
wedands, scattered particularly in the Great Plainastates of ■ 

North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and | ; ^ 

Oklahoma. What these areas have in common is poor . 
drainage. The Great Salt Lake is a remnant of a -ff;^ 

huge freshwater lake that lost its oudet ■ gi 

to the sea at the end of the Ice Age, ::-j| 

while the smaller salty wedahds | <||| 

have generally formed in | - t '^^ 

surface depressions that | \ 0;$ 

periodically fill with water. ' "*'"'* 

Iiiland wetlands typically 
receive a supply of fi-esh 
water fi-om rainfall or 
streams and are drained 
by nearby creeks. They 
may accumulate salts ^ '=' 
during cycles of drouf 
ilbut these minerals are RuM 
out during wet seasons. Wh, 
the land is not drained, howt 
levaporating water may leave , 
salty compounds — especially 
chloride, calcium chloride, s 
sulfate, and calcium sulfate— 
exposed patches of s' 

A marsh wren 

Photographs by Michael Forsberg 

58 Field Guide 

Natural History 2/98 

Cattails wave over Arbor Lake, temporarily flush. 

IS repeated, a whitish crust often accumulates, eventually torming 
what is termed a salt flat, and any surface water becomes 
increasingly salty. 

During rainy periods, runoft" temporarily dilutes the salts, but 
at other times the salinity of the soil may approach 5 percent. 
The water table is usually shallow, with the upper inches of sOt 
underlain by a more or less impervious layer of clay. Botanist 
Irwdn Ungar and his colleagues have showTi that the salts are 
generally concentrated in the upper ten to t^velve inches ot soil. 
Freshwater marsh plants cannot grow under these conditions. 

Several salty wetlands he in or near Lincoln, Nebraska, and 
can be distinguished by their salt-tolerant plants from local 
freshwater wet prairies, where prairie cordgrass grows. One is 
Arbor Lake, a state-o\A'ned and -protected salt marsh at the 
northwest edge of the cit\-. A twenty-acre depression that fills 
temporarily followmg hea\7 rain — thereby jusriRang the term 


jlants grow where the soil's 
;alt content is negligible, 
ndigenous prairie cordgrass 
ind prairie dropseed are joined 
5y species that have colonized 
he area because of 
listurbance, possibly by hikers, 
rhe "weedy" plants include 
innual sunflower, common 
■agweed, smooth bromegrass, 
:urly dock, yellow sweet 
;lover, and pennycress. 

Slightly saline 


I with salt content of up to 
ibout 1.5 percent, supports a 
number of species, including 
iquirreltail barley and marsh 
elder. The barley dominates 
this zone from April to late 
[une, but once it has ceased 
flowering and dropped its 
seeds, the marsh elder, which 
germinates in late spring, 
rapidly grows three or four 
feet tall. Both species also 
thrive in the absence of salt, as 
do some other plants found 
here, such as kochia, heath 
aster, panicled aster, and 
sprangletop grass. 

With water scarce, sea hhle grows in the salt-crusted soil. 

Certain plants appear to 
depend on the presence ot 
some salt. They include 
spearscale, whose often 
triangular-shaped leaves are 
covered with minute gray 
scales that give the plant a 
gray-green appearance, and 
salt grass. Another is red 
glasswort, found in the 
northern Great Plains 
westward to British Columbia 
and here, in Nebraska, at the 
southern limit of its range. It is 
a member of the genus 
SaUcornia, whose species — 

"lake" — it is easily accessible from North 27th Street, which 
forms its western boundary. The state has built a small 
observation deck overlooking the edge of the marsh. 

When I visited in early June, Arbor Lake was fairly dry, with 
only a few areas of shallow standing water visible around the 
^periphery. From the deck I could see a dense cover of wet prairie 
vegetation, but I was looking for signs of saUne conditions. My 
gaze fell upon what appeared to be a few patches of bare soil, 
and I left the deck to inspect them. As I neared one, I could 
detect a telltale white, crusty film. When I reached it, I saw that 
the soil was not really bare but carpeted with dwarf plants — all 
Isalt-tolerant species. As I walked away, the plants I encountered 
were not only progressively taller but also species less tolerant of 
salt. The tallest plants were salt-intolerant weeds and wet prairie 
species, apparendy growing in salt-free soil. 

The soil of Arbor Lake salt flats may be as much as 4.7 
percent saline. Near Lincoln, one can also find a number ot pools 
or ponds of standing water, a few of which have a salt content ot 

variously called saltworts or 
glassworts or pickleweeds — are 
major components of coastal 
salt marshes. They have 
leafless, jointed, cyhndrical 
stems and bear their flowers in 
hollows of the thickened 
upper joints. Like some of its 
coastal relatives, red glasswort 
has stems that turn red in 

IPPPKI W ^ species that 
tolerate greater salinity include 
salt grass, easily distinguished 
from most other grasses 

because its short, narrow, 
ratlier stiff leaves grow on 
opposing sides of the stem 
rather than spiraling around it. 
Salt grass is also one of a few 
grasses whose pollen- 
producing flowers and seed- 
producing flowers are on 
separate plants, ensuring cross- 
fertilization. Salt grass also 
grows only one or two inches 
high where the salt is most 
concentrated, but up to eight 
inches high where the salinity 
falls to about 1 percent. This 
same species is common along 
the coastal plain of North 
America, although there are a 
few minor differences between 
the inland and coastal forms. 

Another surprising sight in , 
Nebraska is sea bhte, whose 
nearest relatives also are typical 
of the coastal plain. This plant 
has very narrow, somewhat 
fleshy, gray-green leaves. 
Where Arbor Lake's salt 
concentration is highest — 4.7 
percent — the sea blite hes flat 
on the soil surface, but it 
grows upright where the soil 
is about 2.5 percent salt. 

about 3 percent, similar to that of the ocean. They are usually 
surrounded by plains bulrush, a three- to five-foot-tall sedge 
with triangular stems and flowering spikes that are nearly one 
inch long. Most of the salt ponds contain a submerged, aquatic 
species called widgeon grass. This plant, with tuii:s of threadlike 
leaves attached to much-branched slender steins, is not really a 
grass but is instead a relative of pondweeds. It is usually found in 
coastal pools and ditches. 

Robert H. Mohlenbrock, professor emeritus of plant biology at Southern 
Illinois University, Carbondak, explores the biological and geological 
hiqhli(^hts of United States national forests and other parklands. 

For visitor information write: 
Nebraska Department of Game and Fish 
P.O. Box 30370 
Lincoln, Nebraska 68503 
(402) 471-5422 

60 Field Guide 

Natural History 2/98 

Celestial Events 

Last Eclipse 

By Joe Rao 

Those situated along the path of totality will see the Mooiijully 
eclipse the Sun's light. 

On February 26, the Western 
Hemisphere's last solar echpse 
of the century will begin as 
the shadow of the Moon, 
called the umbra, touches the 
Earth in the Pacific Ocean 
about 1,500 miles south- 
southeast of Hawaii. For the 
next three hours and twenty- 
three minutes, the shadow 
will sweep across Earth's 
surface. Those within the path 
of totality — a band some 
seventy-three miles wide — 
will be within the umbra and 
win see the Moon completely 
cover the Sun. Part of the 
band wiU cross Panama and 
northern South America, but 
much ot it lies over open 
water. As the shadow sweeps 
across the Caribbean Sea, 
numerous cruise ships wOl be 

positioned to give passengers a 
gHmpse of this sky spectacular. 
Near and along the center of 

the shadow track, the Moon 
wUl completely hide the Sun 
for roughly four minutes. 

On either side of the path 
of totahty is the penumbra, a 
region ot semishadow that 
gradually increases from total 
darkness to full illumination. 
Parts of the United States and 
Canada fall within the 
penumbra. A partial solar 
eclipse wOl be visible in these 
areas, but its magnitude 
diminishes with distance to 
the west and north. At San 
Juan, Puerto Rico, the 
magnimde of the ecUpse will 
be 90 percent. It decreases to 
50 percent at Miami, 25 
percent at Atlanta, 22 percent 
at New York, 14 percent 
at Dallas, 5 percent at 
Chicago, and 2 percent at San 
Diego. Those north of a Hne 
running roughly from Los 
Angeles to Sauk Sainte Marie, 

Michigan, to Nain, Labrador, 
wiU not witness the event. 
The eclipse will occur in 
midmorning m the 
southwestern states and 
progressively later in the day 
to the east. 

One word of warning; 
take every precaution for 
eclipse viewing! Never look at 
even a tiny bit ot the Sun's 
disk unless you are using a 
proven filtration device, such 
as #14 welder's glass or 
aluminized Mylar plastic, to 
protect your eyes. You can 
usually find all the safety tips 
you need in your local 

Joe Rao is a lecturer at the 
American Museum-Hayden 
Planetarium. He will speak about 
the eclipse on February 1 1 . See 
the "Events" column on page 84 
for more details. 



The Sky in February 

IBSSn IS invisible this 

26th, will be passing by Venus 
on the mornings of the 23d 
and 24th. 

■iWllilliM is the lone evening 
stal- this month; the yello\vish 
white planet shines at +0.7 

month as it passes through 

magnitude in the western 

superior conjunction — 
beyond the Sun as seen from 

Iiaiil£fl at magnitude +1.2, is 
low in the southwestern sky at 

sky for three to five hours 
after sunset. It's near the 

Earth — on the 22d. 

sunset and sets one to two 

Moon on the 1st. 

iMailiBl is moving rapidly 

hours later. It is closing in on 
the Sun, and by month's end 

■mawwniii is at first quarter 

west and away from the Sun. 

will be lost m the glow of 

phase on the 3d at 5:53 p.m.. 

By the end of the month it 


EST, and is full on the 11 th 

stands 25° above the 

at 5:22 a.m., EST. The 

southeastern horizon at 

HUriMli Hke Mercui7, is 

Moon is at last quarter on 

sunrise. Greatest brilliancy 

invisible much of this month 

the 19th at 10:26 A.M., 

(-4.6 magnitude) is on the 

as it arrives at superior 

EST, and the new Moon 

20th. The Moon, en route 

conjunction, on the far side of 

occurs on the 26th at 12:25 

to ecUpsing the Sun on the 

the Sun, on the 23d. 

P.M., EST. 

Natural History 2/98 

This View of Life 61 '^ 

'Continued fwm pa^e 26) 
gather extensive empirical support to per- 
;uade a community of colleagues often 
itubbonily committed to opposite views. 
Science, after all, is as much a social en- 
:erprise as an intellectual adventure. 

A prominent eureka myth holds that 
Charles Darwin invented evolution 
within the lonely genius of his own mind, 
ibetted by personal observations made 
while he lived on a tiny ship circumnavi- 
gating the globe, and then dropped the 
:oncept hke a bombshell on a stunned 
ind shocked world in 1859. Darwin re- 
mains my personal hero, and the Origin of 
Species will always be my favorite book — 
but Darwin didn't invent evolution and 
would never have persuaded an entire in- 
tellectual communitN' without substantial 
priming fronr generations of earlier evo- 
lutionists (including his own grandfather). 
These forebears prepared the ground but 
•never devised a plausible mechanism (as 
Darwin achieved with the principle ot 
natural selection) and never recorded, or 
even knew how to recognize, enough 
supporting documentation. 

We can make a general case against 
such eureka myths as Darwin's epiphany 
of 1859, but such statements carry no 
icredibilit\' without historical counterex- 
amples. If we can show that evolution in- 
spired substantial debate among biologists 
long before Darwin, then we obtain a 
primary case for interesting and extended 
complexity in the anatomy of an intellec- 
tual revolution. Historians have devel- 
loped many such examples (and pre-Dar- 
winian evolutionism has long been a 
popular subject among scholars), but the 
eureka myth persists (perhaps because we 
so yearn to place a name and a date on 
defining episodes in our history). I know 
ot no better example (however little 
known and poorly documented) than 
Owen's invention of the name "dinosaur" 

ias an explicit weapon — ironically for the 
wrong side, in our current and irrelevant 
judgment — in an intense and public de- 
bate about the status of evolution. 

Scattered observations of dinosaur 
bones, usually misinterpreted as human 

giants, pervade the earlier history of pa- 
leontology, but the first recognition of 
giant terrestrial reptiles from a distant age 
before mammalian dominance (the ma- 
rine ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs had 
been defined a few years eariier) did not 
long predate Owen's christening of them. 
In 1 824, Reverend William Buckland, an 
Anglican divine by title but a leading ge- 
ologist by weight of daily practice and ex- 
pertise, named the first genus that Owen 
would eventually incorporate as a di- 
nosaur — the carnivorous Megalosaunis. 

Buckland devoted his professional Ufe 
to promoting paleontology and religion 

observations of 
dinosaur bones, 

misinterpreted as 

human giants, 
pervade the earlier 

history of 

paleontology, but it 

was only in the 

1820s that giant 

terrestrial reptiles 

from a distant age 

were first 


with equal zeal. He became the tirst ofti- 
cially appointed geologist at Oxford Uni- 
versity and presented his inaugural lecture 
in 1819 under the tide "Vindiciae geo- 
logicae; or the connexion of geology 
with rehgion explained." Later, in 1836, 
he wrote one of the eight Bridgewater 
Treatises, a series generously endowed by 
the Earl of Bridgewater upon his death in 
1829, and dedicated to proving "the 
power, wisdom, and goodness ot God as 
manifested in the creation." Danvin's cir- 

cle referred to this series as the "bilgewa- 
ter" treatises, and the books did represent 
a last serious gasp for the venerable but 
fading doctrine of "natural theoiog}'" 
based on the so-caOed argument from de- 
sign — the proposition that both God's ex- 
istence and his attributes of benevolence 
and perfection could be inferred firom the 
good design of material objects and the 
harmonious interaction among nature's 
parts (read, in biological terms, as the ex- 
cellent adaptations of organisms and the 
harmony of ecosystems expressed as a 
"balance of nature.") 

Buckland (1784-1856) provided cru- 
cial patronage for several key episodes in 
Owen's advance, and Owen, as a con- 
summate diplomat and astute academic 
politician, certainly knev\' and honored 
the sources of his favors. When Owen 
named dinosaurs in 1842, the theoretical 
views of the two men invited comparison 
with anyone's favorite metaphor for indis- 
tinction, from peas in a pod to Tweedle- 
dum and Tweedledee. Owen later be- 
came an evolutionist, although never a 
supporter of Darwinian natural selection. 
One might be cynical and correlate 
Owen's philosophical shift with the death 
of Buckland and other powerftil men of 
the old guard, but Owen was too inteUi- 
gent (and also sufFiciendy honorable) to 
permit such a simple interpretation, and 
his later evolutionary' views show consid- 
erable subtlety and originahD,'. Nonethe- 
less — in a point crucial to this essay — 
Owen remained an unreconstructed 
Bucklandian creationist, committed to 
the functionalist approach of the argu- 
ment fi-om design, when he christened 
dinosaurs in 1842. 

Gideon Mantell, a surgeon from Sussex 
(southern England) and one of Europe's 
most skilled and powerful amateur natu- 
ralists, named a second genus (which 
Owen would later include among the 
dinosaurs) in 1825 — the herbivorous 
Iguiviodon, now classified as a duckbill. 
Later, m 1833, Mantell also named Hy- 
laeosiumis, now viewed as an armored her- 
bivorous dinosaur and ranked among the 

This View of Life 

Natural History 2/98 

Owen united these three genera to ini- 
tiate his order Dinosauria in 1842. But 
why link such disparate creatures — a car- 
nivore with two herbivores, one now 
viewed as a tall, upright, bipedal duckbUl, 
the other as a low, squat, four-footed, ar- 
mored ankylosaur? In part, Owen didn't 
appreciate the extent of the differences 
(although we do continue to regard dino- 
saurs as a discrete evolutionary group, 
thus confirming Owen's basic conclu- 
sion). For example, he didn't recognize 
the bipedahty of some dinosaurs, arid he 
reconstructed aU three genera as four- 
footed creatures. 

Owen presented three basic reasons for 
proposing his new group. First, the three 
genera share the most obvious feature that 
has always set our primal fascination with 
dinosaurs: gigantic size. But Owen knew 
perfectly weU that common size denotes 
httle or nothing about taxonomic affinity. 
Several marine reptiles of the same age 
were just as big, or even bigger, but 
Owen did not include them among dino- 
saurs (and neither do we today). 

Moreover, Owen's anatomical analysis 
had greatly reduced the size estimates for 
dinosaurs (although they remained im- 
pressively large). ManteU had estimated 
up to 100 feet in length for Iguanodon, a 
figure reduced to 28 feet by Owen. In the 
1844 edition of his Medals of Creation 
(only two years after Owen's shortening, 
thus illustrating the intensity of pubHc in- 
terest in the subject), ManteU capitulated 
and excused himself for his former over- 
estimate in the maximally exculpatory 
passive voice: 

In my earliest notices of the Iguanodon 
. . . an attempt was made to estimate the 
probable magnitude of the original by 
instituting a comparison betifeen the fossil 
bones and those of the Iguana. 

But the modern iguana grows short legs, 
splayed out to the side, and a long tail. 
The unrelated dinosaur Iguanodon had 
very long legs by comparison (for we now 
view the creature as bipedal) and a rela- 
tively shorter tail. Thus, when ManteU 

originally estimated the length of Iguan- 
odon from very incomplete material con- 
sisting mostly of leg bones and teeth, he 
erred by assuming the same proportions 
of legs to body as in modern iguanas and 
by then appending an unknown tail of 
greatly extended length. 

Second, and most importantly, Owen 
recognized that all three genera shared a 
set of distinct characters found in no other 
fossil reptiles. He cited many technical de- 
tails but focused on the fijsion of several 
sacral vertebrae to form an unusually 
strong pelvis — an excellent adaptation for 
terrestrial Hfe and a feature long known in 

In naming them 

"terrible lizards," 

Owen 'wished to 

emphasize the 

a'wesome and 

fearful majesty of 

such astonishingly 

large, yet intricate 

and -well-adapted, 


Megalosaurus, but only recently affirmed 
for Iguanodon, thus suggesting affinity. 
Owen's first defining sentence of his sec- 
tion on dinosaurs (pages 102-3 of his 
1842 report) emphasizes this shared fea- 
ture: "This group, which includes at least 
three well-estabUshed genera of Saurians, 
is characterized by a large sacrum com- 
posed of five anchylosed [fused] vertebrae 
of unusual construction." 

Third, Owen noted, based on admit- 
tedly limited evidence, that dinosaurs 
might constitute a complete terrestrial 
community in themselves, not just a few 
oddball creatures hving in ecological cor- 
ners or backwaters. The three known 
genera included a fierce carnivore, an 
agile herbivore, and a stocky, armored 
herbivore — surely a maximal spread of di- 

versity and ecological range for so small a 
sample. Perhaps the Mesozoic world had 
been an Age of Dinosaurs (or, rather, a 
more inclusive Age of Reptiles, with 
dinosaurs on the land; pterodactyls in the 
air; and ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and 
mosasaurs in the sea). In this view, dino- 
saurs became the terrestrial component of 
a coherent former world dominated by 

Owen then united all his arguments — 
building a case, in their ensemble, for a 
distinctive and dominant group of large- 
bodied terrestrial creatures in Mesozoic 
ecosystems — to characterize dinosaurs in 
a particularly flattering way that justified 
his etymological choice of "fearfully 
great." In short, Owen depicted dinosaurs 
not as primitive and anatomically incom- 
petent demzens of an antediluvian world 
but rather as uniquely sleek, powerful, 
and well-designed creatures — mean and | 
lean fighting and eating machines for a 
distinctive and distinguished former 
world. Owen emphasized this central 
point \vith a striking rhetorical device, 
guaranteed to attract notice and contro- 
versy: he compared the design and effi- 
ciency of dinosaurs with modern (read 
"superior") mammals, not with shthery 
and inferior reptiles of either past or pre- 
sent worlds. 

Owen first mentioned this argument 
right up front, at the end of his opening 
paragraph (quoted earlier in this essay) on 
the definition of dinosaurs: 

Tlie hones of the extremities are of large 
proportional size, for Saurians. . . . [They] 
more or less resemble those of the heavy 
pachydermal Mammals, and attest . . . the 
terrestrial liabits of the species. 


Owen then pursues this theme of struc 
tural (not genealogical) similarity with 
advanced mammals throughout his re- 
port — as, for example, when he reduces 
Mantell's estimate of dinosaurian body 
size by comparing their leg bones with 
the strong limbs of mammals, attached 
under the body for maximal efficiency in 
locomotion, and not with the weaker 


imbs of reptiles, splayed out to the side 
"'" md imposing a more awkward and wad- 
iling gait. Owen writes: 




Owen stresses this comparison again in 
mil the concluding paragraphs of his report 

Tlic same observations on the general form 
and proportions of the animal 
[Iguanodon/ and its approximation in 
this respect to the Mammalia, especially to 
the great extinct Megatherioid [giant 
grotnid sloth I or Pachyderiiml [elephant] 
species, apply as well to the Iguanodon as 
to the Me^alosaurus. 

center of circnlation in a degree more nearly 
approaching that which noii/ characterizes 
the warm-blooded Vcrtcbrata. 

The effect of Owen's promotion of 
dinosaurs from ungainly, torpid, primeval 
reptilian beasts to efficient and well- 
adapted creatures bearing favorable com- 
parison with modern mammals may best 
be gauged by comparing reconstructions 
of Iguanodon and Megalosauriis before and 
after Owen's report. George Richardson's 
Iguanodon of 1838 depicts a squat, elon- 
gated creature, presumably relegated to a 
dragging, waddling gait while moving on 

adorn the reopening of the Crystal Palace 
at Sydenham in the early 1850s. (The 
great exhibition hall burned long ago, but 
Hawkins's dinosaurs, recently repainted, 
may still be seen in all their glor)- — and 
less than an hour's train ride from central 
London.) In a famous incident in the his- 
tory of paleontology, Owen hosted a 
New Year's Eve dinner in 1853 within the 
partially completed model of Iguanodon. 
Owen sat at the head of the table, located 
within the head of the beast; eleven col- 
leagues won coveted places with Owen 
inside the model, while another ten 
guests (the Victorian version of a B-list, I 

George Richardson's 1838 Iguanodon is a lolling, lizardlike 
creature with splayed-out legs and feet. 

Loui^ Figuier\ 1867 scene of Megalosaurus batthng Iguanodon 
embodies Oiven's concept of dinosaurs as efficient quadrupeds. 




(and for a definite theoretical purpose 
embodying the theme of this essay and 
discussed below). Here, Owen speaks ot 
"the Dinosaurian order, where we know 
ithat the Reptilian type of structure made 
the nearest approach to Mammals." In a 
ifinal footnote (and the very last words of 
his publication), Owen even speculates — 
ithus anticipating an unresolved modern 
-debate of great intensity — that the effi- 
cient physiology of dinosaurs invites 
closer comparison with warm-blooded 
mammals than with conventional cold- 
blooded modern reptiles: 

The Dinosaurs, having the same thoracic 
structure as the Crocodiles, may he 
concluded to have possessed a four- 
chambered heart; and, from their superior 
adaptation to terrestrial life, to have enjoyed 
the function of such a highly-organized 

short legs splayed out to the side (thus re- 
calling God's curse upon the serpent after 
a portentous encounter with Eve: "upon 
thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt 
thou eat all the days of thy life.") But 
Owen, while wrongly interpreting all 
dinosaurs as four-footed, reconstructed 
them as competent and efficient runners 
with legs held under the body in mam- 
malian fashion. 

Just compare Richardson's torpid di- 
nosaur of 1838 with an 1867 scene of 
Megalosaurus fighting with Iguanodon as 
published in the decade's greatest work in 
popular science, Louis Figuier's Tlie World 
Before the Deluge. Owen also enjoyed a 
prime opportunity for embodying his 
ideas in (literally) concrete form, for he 
supervised Waterhouse Hawkins's con- 
struction of the first fijH-sized, three-di- 
mensional dinosaur models, built to 

suppose) occupied an adjoining side table. 
I do not doubt that Owen believed his 
favorable interpretation of dinosaurs \\ith 
all his heart, and that he regarded his con- 
clusions as the best reading of available ev- 
idence. (Indeed, modern understanding 
places his arguments for dinosaurian com- 
plexity and competence in a quite favor- 
able light.) But scientific conclusions — 
particularly when they involve complex 
inferences about general world views 
rather than simple records of overdy visi- 
ble facts — always rest upon motivations 
far more tangled and complex than the 
dictates of rigorous logic and accurate ob- 
servation. We must also pose social and 
political questions if we wish to under- 
stand why Owen chose to name dinosaurs 
as "tearfully great": Who were liis ene- 
mies? and What views did he regard 
as harmful, or even dangerous, in a 

64 This View of Life 

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larger than purely scientific sense? 

When we expand our inquiry in these 
directions, the ironic answer that moti- 
vated this essay rises to obvious promi- 
nence as the organizing theme of Owen's 
deeper motivations: He delighted in the 
efficiency and complexity of dinosaurs — 
and chose to embody these conclusions in 
a majestic name — because such di- 
nosaurian competence provided Owen 
with a crucial argument against the major 
evolutionai-y theory of his day, a doctrine 
that he then opposed with all the zeal of 
his scientific principles, his conservative 
political beliefs, and his excellent nose for 
practical pathways of professional ad- 

I am not speaking here of the evolu- 
tionary account that would later bear the 
name of Darwinism (and would prove 
quite compatible with Owen's observa- 
tions about dinosaurs) but rather of a dis- 
tinctively different and earlier version of 
"transmutation" (the term then generally 
used to denote theories of genealogical 
descent), best described as the doctrine of 
"progressionism." The evolutionary pro- 
gressionists of the 1840s, generally root- 
ing their beliefs in a pseudo-Lamarckian 
notion of inherent organic striving for 
perfection, looked upon the fossil record 
as a tale of uninterrupted progress within 
each continuous lineage of organisms. 
Owen, on the contrary, viewed the com- 
plexity of dinosaurs as the "smoking 
gun" — irrefutable evidence for annihilat- 
ing such a sinister and simphstic view. 

Owen opposed progressionistic evolu- 
tion for a complex set of reasons. First of 
aU, this opinion endeared him to his pa- 
trons and gave him leverage against his 
enemies. William Buckland, Owen's 
chief supporter, had used his Bridgewater 
Treatise of 1836 to argue against evolu- 
tionary progressionism by citing the ex- 
cellent design of ancient beasts that 
should have been crude and primitive by 
virtue of their primeval age. Buckland in- 
voked both Megalosaiinis and Igiiaiiodon to 
advance this argument (although these 
genera had not yet been designated as 

In his preface, Buckland announced an 
intention to show that "the phenomena 
of Geology are decidedly opposed [to] 
the derivation of existing systems of or- 
ganic life ... by gradual transmutation of 
one species into another." He then argued 
that the superb design of ancient organ- 
isms proved the constant superintendence 
of a loving deity rather than a natural 
process of increasing excellence, from ini- 
tial crudity to current complexity. Ac- 
cording to Buckland, superb design of 
giant Mesozoic reptiles "shows that even 
m those distant eras, the same care of the 
common Creator, which we witness in 

A rising generation 
of young naturalists 
threw their support 
behind Darwin and 
then virtually read 

Owen out of 

history when they 

gained power 


the mechanism of our own bodies . . 
was extended to the structure of crea 
tures, that at first sight seem made up only 
of monstrosities." He then inferred God's 
direct benevolence from the excellent 
adaptation of the teeth of Iguanodon to a 
herbivorous lifestyle: we cannot "view 
such examples of mechanical contrivance, 
united with so much economy of expen- 
diture . . . without feeling a profound 
conviction that all this adjustment has re- 
sulted from design and high intelligence." 
Owen dutifully copied all these key state- 
ments about dinosaurian excellence as?^ 
proof of God's commanding love and 
wisdom into his 1842 report, while copi- 
ously citing and praising Buckland as his 
source of insight. 

On the other hand, this defense of nat- 
ural theology and attack upon evolution- 




■i |to| 



I even 

BS ill 


111 to a 


;e and 


ary progressionism also positioned Owen 
well against his enemies. Owen deni- 
grated the amateur and bucoHc Mantell as 
much as he revered his urbane profes- 
sional patron Buckland, but this spat cen- 
tered on social rather than ideological is- 
sues. In London, Owen faced one 
principal enemy at this early stage of liis 
career, when advance to domination 
seemed most precarious — the newly ap- 
pointed professor ot zoology at University 
College London, Robert E. Grant. 

Grant (1793-1874) ended up m dis- 
grace and poverty for reasons that remain 
unresolved and more than a htde mysteri- 
ous. (See the excellent intellectual and 
"forensic" work of historian Adrian 
Desmond on this vexatious question. In- 
cidentally, my own inspiration for this 
essay began with an invitation to speak at 
University College in a celebration to 
honor the reopening of Grant's zoological 
museum. In reading about Grant, and de- 
veloping considerable sympathy for his 
iplight, I naturally extended my research 
to his enemy Owen, to dinosaurs, and ul- 
timately to this essay.) But, in the late 
1830s, Grant (who had just moved south 
from Edinburgh) enjoyed prominence as 
a new leading light in London's zoologi- 
cal circles, and Owen's obvious and only 
rival for primacy. Grant had pubhshed an 
excellent and highly respected series of 
papers on the biology and classification of 
"lower" invertebrates, and he held advan- 
tages of age and experience over Owen. 

But Grant was also a political radical, a 
man of few social graces, and — more rel- 
evantly — the most proininent public sup- 
porter of evolutionary progressionism in 
Great Britain. (In a wonderfiil tale for an- 
other time — and a primai-y illustration for 
the sociological principle of six degrees of 
separation and the general doctrine of 
"what goes 'round comes 'round" — 
Charles Darwin had spent an unhappy 
student year at Edinburgh before matric- 
ulating at Cambridge. As the only light in 
this dark time, Darwin became very close 
to Grant, who must be regarded as his 
first important academic mentor. Of 
course, Darwin knew about evolution 

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66 This View of Life 

Natural History 2/98 

from general readings [including the 
works of his own grandfather Erasmus, 
whom Grant also much admired], and 
Grant's Lamarckism stood in virtual an- 
tithesis to the principle of natural selec- 
tion that Darwin would later develop. But 
the fact remains that Darwin first learned 
about evolution in a formal academic set- 
ting from Grant. The myster\^ of Grant 
only deepens when we learn that the im- 
peccably generous and genial Darwin 
later gave Grant such short shrift. He ap- 
parently never visited his old mentor 
when the two men lived in London, liter- 
ally at a stone s throw of separation, after 
Darwin returned from the Beagle voyage. 
Moreover, Dar\^an"s autobiography wTit- 
ten late m his life, contains only one short 
and begrudging paragraph about Grant, 
cnkninating in a single statement about 
Grant's evolutionism: "He one day. \\'hen 
we were walking together, burst forth in 
high admiration of Lamarck and his \dews 
on evolution. 1 listened in silent astonish- 
ment, and as far as I can judge \\"ithout 
any efiect on my mind.") 

But Grant represented a threat and a 
power in 1842, and Owen used his anti- 
evolutionar)- argument about dinosaurs as 
an explicit weapon against this archrival. 
The nastiest statement in Owen's report 
on fossil reptiles records his unsubtle 
skewering of Grant's e\'olutionan,' \dews: 

Does the liypothesis of the transmutation of 
species, by a march of progressive 
development occasioning a progressive 
ascent in the organic scale, afford any 
explanation of these surprising phenomena? 
. . . A slight survey of organic remains 
may, indeed, appear to support such views 
of the origin of animated species; but oj no 
stream of science is it more necessary, than 
of Paleontology, to "drink deep or taste 

To illustrate the supposed superficialin,* 
and ignorance behind such false argu- 
ments tor evolution. Owen then cites 
only an 1835 paper by Grant — thus 
clearly identifying the target of his jibes. 
Could anvone. moreover, make a more 

dismissive and scurrilous statement about 
a colleague than Owen's rejection of 
Grant by Alexander Pope's famous crite- 
rion (the subject, by the way, of my col- 
umn in this space just five months ago): 

A little learning is a dangerous thing; 
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian 

0\^'en's concluding section cites several 
arguments to buttress his anti-ti-ansmuta- 
tionist message — but dinosaurs take the 
stand as his star and culminating wit- 
nesses. Owen, follo\\'in2; a standard for- 

Even if one scientist 

experiences an 

emotional and 


eureka, he must still 

persuade a 

community of 

colleagues often 


committed to 

opposite views. 

mulation of his generation, not a unique 
insight or an idiosyncratic ordering, 
makes a primary distinction between an 
evolutionary version of progressionism, in 
which each lineage moves gradually in- 
exorably, and unidirectionally toward 
greater complexity and increasing excel- 
lence of design, and the creationist st\-le 
of progressionism espoused by Buckland 
and other natural theologians, in which 
God creates more complex organisms for 
each new geological age, but the highest 
forms of one period do not evolve into 
dominant creatures of the next age. 

(To rebut the obvious objection that 
God could then be xdewed as a humbler 
\A'ho couldn't get things rieht at the outset 

and then had to use all of geological tim.e f 
for practice runs, Buckland and com- 
pany — including Owen in the final para- 
graphs of his 1842 report — argued that ; 
God always creates organisms with opti 
nial adaptations for the environments of 
each geological period. But these envi- 
ronments change in a directional manner, 
requiring progressive advance of organic 
architecture to maintain a level of proper 
adaptation. Specifically, Buckland argued 
that climates had worsened through time 
as the earth cooled from an initiallv 
molten state. Cold-blooded torpor 
worked best on a hot and primitive earth, 
but a colder and tougher world required 
the creation of warm-blooded successors.) 

Buckland and Owen held that the fos- 
sil record could act as an arbiter for this 
most vital of all zoological debates; in- 
deed, they both believed that paleontol- 
ogy might win primary importance as a 
science for its capacity to decide between 
progressive evolution and creation. The 
two theories differed starkly in their pre- 
dictions on a crucial matter. For transmu- 
tationists, each separate lineage should 
progress gradually and continuously 
through time, while the newly dominant 
form of each geological age should de- 
scend directly from rulers of the last pe- 
riod. But for progressive creationists, an 
opposite pattern should prevail in the fos- 
sil record: individual lineages should sho\v 
no definite pattern through time and 
might even retrogress, while the domi- 
nant form of each age should arise by spe- 
cial creation, \vithout ancestors and \vith 
no ties to the rulers of past ages. 

With this background, we can final!)- 
grasp the central significance of 0^ven'! 
decision to reconstruct dinosaurs a; 
uniquelv complicated beasts, more com- 
parable in excellence of design with latei 
(and advanced) mammals than ^^^th low]\ 
reptiles of their own lineage. Such di 
nosaurian exceOence refiited transmuta- 
tion and supported progressive creation 
ism on both crucial points. First, the higl 
status of dinosaurs proved that reptiles hai 
degenerated through time, as the old an; 
best — the grand and glorious Mega' 

losaums and Igiianodon — gave way to the 
later and lowlier snakes, turtles, and 
lizards. Second, these highest reptiles did 
not evolve into the next dominant group 
of mammals, for small and primitive 
mammals had already been discovered in 
Mesozoic rocks that housed the remains 
of dinosaurs as well. 

Owen clearly rejoiced (and gave thanks 
for the support thereby rendered to his 
patron Buckland) in the fearful greatness 
of his newly christened dinosaurs as a pri- 
mary argument against the demonizing 
doctrine of progressive transmutation. He 
wrote in the concluding passages of his 
1842 report: 

If the present species qfaniiimis had 
resulted jrom progressive developiiieiit and 
transmutation of former species, each class 
ought now to present its typical characters 
under their highest recognized conditions of 
organization: but the review of the 
characters of fossil Reptiles, taken in the 
present Report, proves that this is not the 

case. No reptile now exists which combines 
a complicated . . . dentition with limbs so 
proportionally large and strong, having . . . 
so long and complicated a sacrum as in the 
order Dinosauria. The Megalosaurs and 
Iguanodons, rejoicing in these undeniably 
most pe feet modifications of the Reptilian 
type, attained the greatest bulk, and must 
have played the most conspicuous parts, in 
their respective characters as devourers of 
animals and feeders upon vegetables, that 
this earth has ever witnessed in oviparous 
[egg-laying] and cold-blooded creatures. 

Owen then closed his argument, and 
this entire section of his report, by using 
dinosaurs to support the second anti- 
transmutationist principle as well: not 
only do dinosaurs illustrate a lack of 
progress within reptilian lineages but they 
also demonstrate that higher mammals 
could not have evolved from dominant 

Thus, though a general progression may be 

discerned, the interruptions and faults, to 
use a geological phrase, negative the notion 
that the progression had been the result of 
self-developing energies adequate to a 
transmutation of specific characters; but, on 
the contrary, support the conclusion that the 
modifications of osteological structure which 
characterize the extinct Reptiles, were 
originally impressed upon them at their 
creation, and have been neither derived 
from improvement of a lower, nor lost by 
progressive development into a higher type. 

As a closing fillip and small (but pretty) 
footnote to this argument from the public 
record, I can also add a previously un- 
known affirmation for the centrality of 
anti-evolutionism as a primary motiva- 
tion m Owen's designation of dinosaurs as 
"fearfully great." Owen certainly stressed 
an anti-transmutationist message in dis- 
coursing on the significance of dinosaurs. 
But how do we know that transmutation 
represented a Uve and general debate in 
the zoology of Owen's day — and not just 

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68 This View of Life 

Natural History 2/98 

a fiinny litde side issue acting as a bee in 
Owen's owTi idios\'ncratic bonnet? The 
public record does pro\'ide support for 
the generalitv'. For example, the first fiill- 
scale defense of evolution \\Titten in Eng- 
lish, the anominously printed Vestiges of 
the Natural History of Creation (by the 
Scottish pubhsher Robert Chambers), 
became the Hteran,- sensation and hottest 
press item of 1844. 

But I can add a small testimony fixjm a 
personal source. Several years ago, I had 

lists the taxonomic names of species 
under discussion, or the anatomical terms 
associated with Owen's immediate de- 
scriptions. For example, in Owen's sec- 
tion on dinosaurs. Buckland writes 
"sacrum" next to Owen's identitication 
of fiised sacral vertebrae as a defining 
character of dinosaurs. And he writes "28 
feet" next to Owen's defense of this 
smaller length for Igiianodoii. 

Buckland breaks this pattern in only 
one place — to mark and emphasize 

Sir Richard Ou'eti (1804-92) 

the great good fortune to purchase, at a 
modest price before the h\"pe ot Jiimssic 
Park sent dinosaur memorabilia through 
the financial roof, Buckland's personal 
copy of Owen's 1842 report. (This copy, 
inscribed to Buckland by Owen and 
signed by Buckland in two places, bears 
the incorrect date of 1841 and must 
therefore belong to the original lot of 
twent\--five printed for Owen's private 
distribution.) Buckland obviously read 
the document with some care, for he un- 
derlined many passages and \\TOte several 
margmal annotarions. But the annotations 
follow a clear pattern: Buckland only 
highlights factual claims in his marginal 
notes; he never comments on theoretical 
or controverted points. Mosdy. he just 

Owen's discussion of dinosaurs as an ar- 
gument against transmutation of species. 
Here, on page 196, Buckland wxites the 
word "transmutation" in the margin — his 
only annotation for a theoretical point in 
the entire pubhcation. Moreover, and in a 
manner that I can only call charming in 
our modem age of the 3M Post-it, Buck- 
land cut out a square of white paper and 
fastened it to page 197 by a single glob of 
marginal glue, thus marking Owen's sec- 
tion on evolution by sHght projection ot 
the square above the printed page when 
the book hes closed. Finally, Buckland 
again wrote "Transmutation " on a loose, 
rectangular sHp of paper that he must have 
inserted as a bookmark into 0\ven's re- 
port. Buckland, one of the leading Eng- 

lish geologists of his rime, evidendy re- 
garded Owen's discussion of evolution as 
the most important theoretical issue to 
arise from the giant reptiles that Buckland 
had first recognized and Owen just 
named as dinosaurs. 

Evolution must be a genuinely awfiil 
and absolutely terrible truth if Owen felt 
compelled to employ the most fearfully 
great of all fossil creatures in an ultimately 
vain attempt to refute this central prin- 
ciple of hfe's histor\', the source of all or- 
ganic diversit); from Megalosatims to 
-VIoses, from Iguaiwdon to the "lowly" in- 
tusorians residing inside those zoological 
oddballs who learn to name dinosaurs and 
strive to contemplate the great "1 Am.'" 

Stephen Jay Gould teaches biology, geology, 
and the history of science at Harvard Univer- 
sity. He is also the Frederick P. Rose Honorary' 
Curator in Inirertebrates at tiie American Mu- 
seum of Natural History. 

The Rec-Room 

Image and text by Alexis Rockman 

You may not know it, but you shore 
your home with inquilines, animals that 
use other animals' dwellings without 
direct harm to the host. Here, behind 
faux wood paneling, two uninvited 
rodents use materials at hand — in this 
cose the lody-of-the-house's most 
intimate possessions — as nesting 
material for their impromptu home. 
Some animals, of course, are invited to 
live in our space as companions. Their 
histories are intertwined with our own, 
and human behavior is often projected 
onto them. (In the wild, dogs do not 
play strip poker or indulge in substance 
abuse.) When uninvited, animals 
violate our boundaries and become 
on exterminator's bread and butter. 

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currency, women's underwear, framed 
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veneer on wood. 

Natural History 2/98 

Rockman 69 

70 Universe 

Kiotlirql History 2/98 




How empty is intergalactic 
space? Even astrophysicists 
don't know for sure. 

By Neil de Grasse Tyson 

Everybody knows that air is thin. How- 
else could we be impressed when a magi- 
cian pops a rabbit in and out of an other- 
wise empt\- hat? Most of the time we are 
not even aware the air is there. But when 
the rabbit disappears, nobody tells you 
that a cubic centimeter of pure, invisible, 
sea-level air contains more molecules (ten 
quintillion) than an average beach has 
grains of sand. Is this a lot? Or is this a lit- 
tle? Missing rabbits may be interested to 
know that the average densin,- ot matter in 
the entire universe is much, much less 
than the air m a magician's hat. The adage 
"nature abhors a vacuum" apphes fa- 
mously to life under our blanket of 
Earths atmosphere, but it fimdamentally 
misrepresents the rest of the cosmos. 

Before laborator^^ vacuums, air was the 
closest thing to nothing that anyone could 
imagine. Along with earth, fire, and 
water, air was one of Empedocles' origi- 
nal four elements that composed the 
known world. Aristode then postulated a 
fifth element known as the quintessence. 
Otherworldly, yet Hghter than air and 
more ethereal than fire, the rarefied quin- 
tessence was presumed to compose the 

We needn't look as far as the heavens to 
find rarefied emdronments. Our upper at- 
mosphere wUl suffice. Beginning at sea 
level, air pressure is about fifteen pounds 
per square inch, which means that if you 
cookie-cut a square inch of atmosphere 
from thousands of miles up all the way 

do^^Tl to sea level and put it on a scale, it 
would weigh fifteen pounds. In compari- 
son, a square-inch column of water would 
need to be a mere thirt\--three feet tall to 
weigh fifteen pounds. On mountaintops 
and high up in airplanes, the cookie-cut 
column of air above you is shorter and 
therefore weighs less. At the 14,000-foot 
summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, home to 
some of the world's most powerfiil tele- 
scopes, the atmospheric pressure drops to 
about nine pounds per square inch. While 
obsemng on site, astronomers must occa- 
sionally breathe from oxygen tanks to re- 

tain intellectual acuir\-. Earth's atmosphere 
extends thousands of rrules above its sur- 
face, but the compressibUity of air enables 
the atmosphere to pack over 99 percent of 
its molecules below r^vent)- miles. Above 
fifr\' miles, where there are no known as- 
tronomers, the air is so rarefied that your 
average gas molecule moves for a relatively 
long time — an interminable 1/100,000 of 
a second — ^before colliding wdth another. 

If, in between coDisions, the molecules 
are slammed by an incoming subatomic 
particle, they become temporarily excited 
and then emit a unique spectrum ot col- 




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72 Universe 

Natural History 2/98 


ors before their next collision. When the 
incoming particles are the constituents ot 
the solar wind, such as protons and elec- 
trons, the emissions are seen as curtains of 
undulating hght that we commonly call 
an aurora. When the spectrum of auroral 
hght was first measured, it had no coun- 
terpart in the laboratory'. The identit)- of 
the glowing molecules remained un- 
known until we learned that excited, but 
otherwise ordinar); molecules of nitrogen 
and oxygen were to blame. At sea level, 
their rapid collisions with each other — 
clocked at seven biUion per second — ab- 
sorb this excess energ\' long before they 
have had a chance to emit their own Hght. 
Earth's upper atmosphere is not alone 
in producing mysterious lights. Spectral 
features in the Suns corona long puzzled 
astrophysicists. An extremely rarefied 
place, the corona is that beautifuJ, fierv- 

threat of head-on collisions with Win- 
nebago-size boulders. The actual recipe 
for the asteroid belt? Take a mere 2K per- 
cent of the Moon's mass (itself just 1/81 
the mass of Earth) and crush it into thou- 
sands of assorted pieces, but make sure 
that over 90 percent of the mass is con- 
tained in just four asteroids. Then spread 
all the pieces across a 100-miUion-mile- 
wide belt that traces a 1.5-bilHon-mile 
path around the Sun. Yes, traversing the 
asteroid belt is more dangerous than not 
traversing the asteroid belt. But it is not as 
dangerous as you might think. 

Leading aside pesky chunks of rocks 
and boulders, interplanetarv.' space has an 
average densit\" ot about ten atoms and 
molecules per cubic centimeter, which is 
about the same as the best laborator\' vac- 
uums on Earth. Comet tails, as tenuous 
and rarefied as thev are, represent an in- 

The astronomically common yet 
deadly gas cyanogen was discovered in 
comet spectra in 1881 by Sir WUham 
Huggins. When it was later announced 
that Earth would pass through the tail of 
Halley's comet during the comet's 1910 
\'isit to the inner solar system, gullible 
people were sold anti-comet pills by 
pharmaceutical charlatans, even though 
the total quantity- of comet tail that Earth 
swept up amounted to no more than an 
ounce or t\vo. One of hfe's important 
lessons: knowledge of rarefied cosmic 
phenomena can save you money. 

The core of the Sun, where all the star's 
thermonuclear energ\- is generated, is not 
a place to find low-densin.- material. But 
the core is a mere 1 percent ot the Sun's 
volume. The average density' of the entire 
Sun is only one-fourth that of Earth and 
only 40 percent greater than that of ordi- 

The average density of the Sun is only 

one-fourth that of Earth and only 40 percent 

greater than ordinary water. In other 

words, a spoonful of Sun would 

sink in your bathtub, but it 

wouldn't sink fast. 

looking outer region of the Sun that be- 
comes visible during a total solar echpse. 
The unexplained features were attributed 
to "coromum," an element that was later 
recognized to be iron. We then learned 
that the solar corona is heated to milhons 
of degrees, which puts normally famihar 
iron into an unfamiliar state in which 
most of its outer electrons are stripped 
away and float free in the gas. 

The term "'rarefied" is normally re- 
sented for gases, but I wtU take the liberu- 
to apply it to the solar system's famed as- 
teroid belt. From mo\'ies and other de- 
scriptions, you would think it was a haz- 
ardous place, fraught with the constant 

crease in densit\' by at least a factor of 100 
over the ambient conditions of interplan- 
etaiy space. By reflecting surJight and re- 
emitting energ\" absorbed from the Sun, a 
comet tail possesses remarkable \isibihty, 
given its nothingness. Fred Whipple, of 
the Har\'ard-Smithsonian Center for As- 
trophysics, is generally considered a par- 
ent of our modern understanding of 
comets. He has succinctly described a 
comet's tail as the most that has ever been 
made of the least. Indeed, it the entire 
^"olume ot a 50-milhon-mile-long comet 
tail were compressed to the densit\- of or- 
dinary' air, all the tail's gas would fill a ten- 
mile cube. 

nar)- water. In othet words, a spoonfiil of 
Sun would sink in your bathtub, but it 
wouldn't sink fast. In five biUion yean, 
however, the Sun's core wiU have fused 
nearly all its hydrogen into hehum and 
will shordy thereafter begin to fuse he- 
hum into carbon. Meanwhile, the lumi- 
nosit\- of the Sun will increase a thou- 
sandfold while its surface temperature 
drops to half of what it is today. We know 
from the laws of physics that the only way 
an object can increase its luminosity- while 
simultaneously getting cooler is for it to 
get bigger. The Sun as we know it will 
ultimately expand to a bidbous ball of rar- 
efied gas that will completely fill, and ex- 

tend beyond, the volume of Earth's orbit. 
The average density of the Sun will fall to 
less than one ten-billionth of its current 
density. (Of course, Earth's oceans and at- 
mosphere will have evaporated into space, 
and life will have vaporized; but let's ig- 
nore these complications.) The Sun's 
outer atmosphere, rarefied though it will 
be, will manage to impede the motion of 
Earth in its orbit and force us on a relent- 
less spiral inward toward thermonuclear 
oblivion. Knowledge of rarefied phe- 
nomena can also give you nightmares. 

Going beyond our solar system, we 
venture into interstellar space. Humans 
have launched four spacecraft with 
enough speed to escape the Sun's gravit)': 
Pkvieer W and 11, and Voyager 1 and 2. 
The fastest among them, Voyager 2, will 
exceed the distance of the nearest star to 
ithe Sun in about 25,000 years. Yes, inter- 
istellar space is vast and empty. It's where 
you might expect to find only one atom 
■or molecule for every two cubic centime- 
iters. Like the remarkably visible rarefied 
comet tails in interplanetary space, gas 
clouds in interstellar space (with at least 
100 times the ambient density) can read- 
ily reveal themselves in the presence of 
nearby luminous stars. When the light 
from these colorful nebulosities was first 
analyzed, their spectra once again re- 
vealed unfamiliar color patterns. The hy- 
pothetical element "nebulium" was pro- 
posed. A century ago there was clearly no 
unclaimed spot in the Periodic Table of 
Elements that could possibly be occupied 
by nebuhum. As laboratory vacuum tech- 
niques improved, and as unfamiliar spec- 
tral features became routinely identified 
with familiar elements, suspicions grew — 
and were later confirmed — that nebulium 
was ordinary oxygen in an extraordinary 
.state. What state was that? The atoms 
were each stripped of two electrons and 
were in the near-pertect vacuum of inter- 
. stellar space. 

When you leave the galaxy, you leave 
behind nearly all gas and dust and stars 
and planets and debris. You enter a stu- 
pendous cosmic void. Let's talk empty: 
The average density of matter in inter- 


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galactic space is less than one atom per 
cubic meter. Translated into household 
terms, a cube of intergalactic space. 
200,000 kilometers on a side, contains 
about the same number of atoms as the air 
that fills the usable volume of your refrig- 
erator. Out there, the cosmos not only 
loves a vacuum, it's car\-ed from it. 

The latest obser\"ational evidence sug- 
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halt the current expansion. We are on a 
one-way crip. Fine. Suppose one day we 
find all that missing mass you've been 
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chanics holds that the real vacmun ol 
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that are continuously popping in and out 
of existence along with their antimattei 
counterparts. Their \irtualiD." comes from 
having Ufetinies so short that their direct 
existence can never be measured. The ac- 
tion of these particles is commonly ref- 
ferred to as the "vacuum energ\','" a phe- 
nomenon whose effects are not wel 
understood. But modern theories sugges 
that the vacuum energ\- may create anti- 
gra\it\- pressure — ^ultimately causing the 
um\-erse to expand faster and faster ant 
making intergalactic space all the nron 

What Ues beyond? 

It has been postulated that outside ou 
universe, where there is no space, there i 
no nothing. We have no word to describe 
this hypothetical region. Some call i 
nothing-nothing. But were we ever tc 
look, we might just find multitudes of los 
socks, car keys, and, of course, rabbits. 

Neil de Grasse Tyson, tin astrophysidsr, is th 
Frederick P. Rose direaor qt Xew York City 
Haydeii Planetarium and is a llsiting Re 
search Scientist at Princeton University. 

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Mil' York, Nliv York 

78 A Matter of Taste 

Natural History 2/98 


Small farmers in \X%consin 
are taking a gamble on 
dair\' sheep. 

By Robb Walsh 

Hal Kollers old white clapboard farm- 
house and big red bams sit on a bluii 
above the roUing green hilK of upper 
\^lsconsiQ. If there were some black-and- 
white Holsteia cows in the picture, it 
might be a picture postcard of America's 
Dair\;land. But unlike most of his nei^- 
bors around Star Prairie, Roller doesn't 
milk cows. 

"~Ybu should see the looks I get when I 
teU people I milk sheep" KoDer says as he 

"In Wisconsin, you have to find 
something eke to do on a small farm be- 
sides milk cows, or you're going to go 
under," he says. "Family farmers can't 
compete xvdth the big agribusiness dairies 
an\Tnore. Ten years ago, on the drive 
from my house to Amer^'; I passed eight 
family dair\7 farms. Today, there is only 
one left." 

Sheep dairying sounds w-eitd to many 
Americans until you start talking cheese, 
he says. The United States imported fifty 
million pounds of sheep 's-mi1k cheeses in 
1990, including such well-known vari- 
eties as Itahan pecorino Romano, Greek 
feta, and French Roqueftjrt. 

"When I heard there ■w-as a market for 
sheep's milk I started milking my 

with his Dorsets. KoUer produced sheep 
that gave mice as much mUk. 

After %vatching Roller's sheep dog 
round up the flock, he and I hop in the 
car and head for Spooner. Wisconsin, to 
find out about the progress of the Ameri- 
can sheep dairy business. Yves Berger, a 
French-bom researcher, meets us there 
and takes us on a tour of the University of 
Wisconsin's Spooner Agricultural Re- 
search Station. Berger is currendy evalu- 
ating crossbreeds of East Friesian and 
Dorset sheep. Earlier in his career, he 
worked at a sheep dairy research station in 
La Fage, France, about ten rmles fir)m 
Roquefort. He plans someday to com- 
pare crossbreeds of East Friesians and 
Dorsets wdth crossbreeds of Dorsets and 


shows me around the farm. "Some 
people actually say, 'Don't you mean 
goats?' I want to slap my ft)rehead and say, 
'Oh, so that's what they are!' " 

Dairy goats have become fairly com- 
monplace on smaD family farms in Wis- 
consin, thanks to the growing popularity 
of goat cheese. Dair\' sheep are something 
new around here. But wdth premium 
sheep's milk selling for $75 a hundred- 
wsei^t — ^about fi^^e times the going rate 
for cowl's milk — ^Roller is verv^ happy to 
milk sheep, even if his neighbors do give 
him odd looks. 

Dorsets,'" RoUer tells me. The Dorset is a 
breed that originated in En^and and has 
loi^ been raised ft>r meat in the upper 
Midw?est. "I got less than a pound of rrulk 
a day during a 120-day lactation period." 
A pound of milk a day is not a lot when 
you consider that a Holstein cow gives an 
averagie of eighty pounds of milk a day. 

In 1991, Roller acquired two sheep 
from British Columbia that were half East 
Friesian (a northern European dair\' 
breed that give ftsur to six pounds of milk 
■'a day) and half Arcott Rideau (Canadian 
sheep raised iox meat). By crossing them 

Lacaunes, the French dair\' sheep ot 

As we toured the milking parlor. I 
asked Berger if he had any sheep's milk I 
could taste. He dug around in the freezer 
and handed me a Utde plastic Baggie ftiU 
of frozen, yellowish milk I carried r. 
around with me on the tour until it wai 
defrosted and then cut the top and drank 
it. It was mild in flavor, thick, and ven 
creamy, with a silk\^ texture that lingerec 
in my mouth. "I think it tastes ever 
milder than cow's mUk," Roller said. "1 
slipped some in the reftigerator once anc 

ny kids poured it on their cereal. They 
lever knew the difference." 

The Bass Lake Cheese Factory in Som- 
erset, Wisconsin, is KoUer's top customer, 
stopped by the small cheese-making op- 
;ration and asked owner Scott Erickson 
vhy cheese makers are so crazy about 
heep's milk. "Sheep's milk has about 
wice the fat and twice the solids of cow's 
nilk," he told me. "So you get about 
wice as much cheese." But the volume of 
olids is not the only difference between 
heep's m:lk and cow's milk. 

"If you look at them both under a mi- 
:roscope, you see that the fat globules m 
heep's milk are about half the size of the 
"at globules in cow's milk," Erickson con- 
;inues. "That gives sheep's milk a 

that is very desirable to cheese makers; it's 
that slightly rancid aroma you associate 
with Italian pecorino." 

Lipase occurs naturally in sheep's milk, 
but it is also one of the digestive enzymes 
in the mouths and stomachs of suckling 
rummants. But rennin, or rennet, another 
digestive enzyme found in young animals' 
stomachs, is the one critical to cheese- 
making because it causes rrulk to coagu- 
late and form curds. In traditional cheese 
making, rennet is extracted from a calf for 
cow's milk cheese, from a kid for goat 
cheese, and from a lamb for sheep cheese. 
Nowadays, 75 to 80 percent of cheeses 
are made with artificial rennets from mi- 
crobial or plant products. But it was the 
naturally occurring rennin in young ani- 

used for cheese is one of those questions 
we can only speculate about. The archeo- 
logical evidence suggests that sheep and 
goats were domesticated long before 
cows, but no one can reaUy say which an- 
imal was milked first. "It is hkely that 
sheep and goats were important as dairy 
animals before the cow," Mistry says. "But 
it was so long ago, it's hard to say with any 
certainty. You find conflicting informa- 
tion in the literature, depending on who 
was writing and where they were." 

Cheese was more important than milk 
or butter in warmer regions because it 
didn't spoil as quickly. The ancient 
Greeks and Romans referred to northern 
Europeans as "milk drinkers," and Pliny 
expressed astonishment that "the bar- 


r.moother texture and makes it easier to 
digest." It also makes it possible for Erick- 
';on to freeze the sheep's milk until he has 
,1 .'nough for a 4,000- to 6,000-pound 
Mtch. "You can't freeze cow's milk be- 


jgLrause the large fat globules will burst, but 
:he small fat globules in sheep's milk 
lireeze very nicely." 

Erikson really waxes poetic about the 
nilk's flavor. "We call it a hpase flavor," he 
lays. Lipase is an enzyme that breaks fat 
.() ilown in milk, creating free fatty acids. 
'The lipolyzed free fatty acids in sheep's 
nilk have a unique tangy taste and aroma 


id Jail 
ind vef 


mals' stomachs that was probably respon- 
sible for the world's first cheese. "Before 
the invention of pottery around 5000 
B.C., bags made from the stomachs of 
slaughtered animals were used as storage 
containers," Vikram Mistry, coauthor of 
Cliecse and Fermented Milk Foods (third 
edition), told me. "The natural enzymes 
found in the young animals' stomachs 
would have caused milk stored in these 
bags to coagulate and form curds. Most 
experts believe that this is how cheese 

Which kind of animal's milk was first 

barous nations, v/ho hve on nulk, do not 
know, or disdain, the value of cheese." 

While the identity of the original dairy 
animal may be in question, there's not 
much mystery about why sheep's-milk 
and goat's-milk cheeses are so common in 
the Mediterranean. "Because of the cli- 
mate and terrain, sheep and goats are still 
more common than dair)' cows there," 
Mistry observes. 

American cheese makers are learning 
how to make sheep's-milk cheeses by fol- 
lowing centuries-old Mediterranean 
recipes. Classes and seminars, such as the 

Matter of Taste 

Natural History 2/98 


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University- of Wisconsin s Master Cheese- 
maker Program, bring artisanal cheese 
makers from around the world to the 
United States to demonstrate their tech- 
niques. A visiting Italian cheese maker at 
one such seminar inspired Erickson to 
make a basket-formed sheep's-milk 
cheese he calls Canasta Pardo, which won 
first place in its category at the American 
Cheese Sociers' Conference in 1996. 

"Once people tr\- these cheeses, they 
are hooked," Erickson says as he cuts into 
another variet\' of basket-formed sheep s- 
rmlk cheese he calls La Rosa. The cheese 

is about the size of a round loaf of sour- 
dough bread; it is rust-colored on the 
outside and retains the ridges and inden- 
tations of the basket it was formed in. 
The inside is creamv white and dense 
\vith a crumbly texture. I eat a little piece '■ - 
expecting an explosion ot flavors on my 
tongue, but compared to Roquefort or 
pecorino, this cheese is rmld. The charac- 
teristic hpase taste is identifiable but not 
overpowering, and the crumbly texture 
turns to velvet in my mouth. It is an ex- 
ceptional cheese, and I start trying to ne- 
gotiate to buy some. 


"Sorry, this is the only one I have," Er- 
kson laughs. "All our La Rosa and 
:.inasta Pardo cheeses are still aging. We 
ko to age them at least five months. 
Vlien they're ready, they'll sell for around 
iiirteen dollars a pound, plus shipping 
iid handling." I stare longingly at the 
asket-formed cheese with visions ot 
ucsadiUas dancing through my head. 

I beg and plead until, finally, Erickson 

jlcnts. In the parking lot, I lovingly tuck 

lie deliciously rancid-smeUing sheep's- 

1 iilk cheese into the passenger's seat, 

I /here I can easily reach it. On the long 

■.rive home, I nibble at the cheese and 

niagine a picture postcard of Wisconsin, 

mierica's Dairyland, with sheep where 

ne cows used to be. 

Zulinary adventurer Robb Walsh writes about 
wd for the Austin Chronicle. 

l\Vhere to Get 
\merican Sheep 's-milk 

iass Lake Cheese Factory 

Mnerset, Wisconsin 

asket-formed sheep's-milk cheeses and 

ended cheeses. 
■<()()) 368-2437 

/lajor Farm 

utney, Vermont 

vged, raw sheep's-milk cheeses. 

vvailable through Zingerman's by mail 

rder. (888) 636-8162 

■Jorthland Sheep Dairy 

4arathon, New York 

iergere Bleue, an American version of 

(.oquefort, and Tomme Bergere (Pyre- 

ean-sryle sheep's-milk cheese). 

,07) 849-3328 

Md Chatham Sheep Herding Company 
)ld Chatham, New York 
iged sheep's-milk cheese and 
lended cheeses. 
S18) 794-7733 

Voyage to the 
North Pole 

Aboard the Nuclear 
Icebreaker Sovetskiy Soyuz 

July 16- August 1, 1998 

Surrounded by more than 500 miles of 
thick polar ice drifting in every direction, 
the earth's north polar axis was one of the 
last great geographical prizes. Since explorer 
Robert Peary succeeded in reaching the top 
of the world in 1909, scientists and explorers 
associated with the American Museum of 
Natural History have transformed the polar 
regions from imaginary territories to actual 
places with contours, climates, ecologies 
and cultures. The American Museum of 
Natural History will be returning to the 
North Pole in July of 1998. Aboard the 
world's most powerful nuclear-powered 
icebreaker, we will cross the north polar ice 
cap in total comfort and safety— to 
accomplish what a generation of explorers 
endured incredible hardships to do. Along 
the way we will search for walais, seals, 
seabirds, whales, polar bears and other 
Arcric wildlife. We will also explore Franz 
Josef Land, a remote Russian archipelago 
where eariy Arctic expeditions wintered. Join 
the American Museum on this unforgettable 
adventure and be among the select few 
who have ever stood at 90 degrees north. 

Discovery Tours 

American Museinn 
of Natural Histoiy 

Cenlral Prnt West at 79th St., New York, NY 10024-5 192 
800-462-8687 or 212-769-5700 Fax 212-769-5755 
Call for a complete list of destinations. 

82 The Natural Moment 

Natural History 2/98 

Take a 

Photograph by 
Michel and Christine Denis-Huot 

Off the coast of Corpus Christi, Texas, a 
bottlenose dolphin escorts a supertanker 

into the Gulf of Mexico. Attuned to 
their element, the streamlined mammals 
can detect the pressure waves emanating 
from a vessel's bow, take up position, and 
ride along without ha\"ing to lift a fluke. 

This dolphin, along with a few 

companions, bodysurfed near the ship s 

prow, occasionally arcing into the air as 

the photographer focused his camera 

from a small but sv\"ift boat, and the 

tanker pilot bullhomed a warning. While 

dolphins frisking in bow \vaves appear to 

be indulging in sport, the beha\-ior may 

be one the animals "learned as calves," 

says Randall Wells, a biologist at the 

Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota, Florida. 

He has often seen a mother botdenose 

actively swimming by beating her flukes 

(tail fins) while her inert calf, stationed 

near her dorsal (or back) fin, was simply 

pulled through the w^ate^. And long 

beftsre men went down to the sea in 

ships, dolphins rode the waves generated 

by their fellow cetaceans the large 
whales — a maneuver WeEs had wimessed 
with bottlenose dolphins and humpback 

whales near Hawaii. When necessar\; 
bottlenose dolphins can sprint at t\\^nty- 

five miles per hour (their usual pace is 

two to four miles an hour), so the chance 

that this acrobat wdll be overtaken by the 

metallic hulk is sHm. But not impossible. 

Wells reports seeing dolphins that have 

been struck by boats, as well as those 

menaced by traffic noise and pollution. 

Something is indeed looming over the 

thousands of botdenose dolphins 

that live in the northern Gulf of 

Mexico. — -Judy Rice 


84 At the Museum 

Natural History 2/98 


An exhibition of pho- 
tographs, "Sacred Moun- 
tains of the World," will be 
on display in the Akeley 
Gallery from January 26 
through March 3 1 . 

In a high valley beneath 
the sacred snow peak of 
Nilkanth hes Badrinath, 
the major Hindu shrine 
in the Indian Himalayas. 
Today, more than 
400,000 pilgrims a year 
come to Badrinath from 
all over India. Under the 
impact of so many visi- 
tors, a sacred forest of ju- 


Tlie Hindu temple of 

niper and birch, which 
once filled the valley, has 
almost disappeared. 

India's G. B. Pant In- 
stitute of Himalayan En- 
vironment and Develop- 
ment, with the support 
of the shrine's chief 
priest, has initiated a pro- 
gram of reforestation that 
draws upon the ancient 
Hindu myth in which a 
sage petitions the goddess 
of the Ganges River to 
come down trom heaven. 
She protests that the force 
of her descent wlU shatter 
the earth, but Shiva, one 

of the three forms of the supreme deity, 
steps in to break her fall with his hair. Ac- 
cording to the interpretation of religious 
texts, the trees in the Himalayas are 
Shiva's locks; their roots hold the soil in 
place. If the Himalayan forests are cut 
down, the Ganges — falling from heaven 
in the form of monsoon rains — does in- 
deed shatter the earth with floods and 
landsHdes. "Plant these seedlings for Lord 
Shiva," the chief priest recently told pil- 
grims. "You win restore his hair and pro- 
tect the land." 

Badrinath's reforestation project pro- 
vides a promising model for developing 
sustainable environmental programs based 
on enduring religious and cultural tradi-j 
tions. — Edwin Bernbaum 


February 2 

As part of the "Frontiers in Astrophysics" 
lecture series, David Weinberg, of Ohio 
State University, wUl give a slide-illus- 
trated talk entitled "The Big Bang and 
Beyond" at 7:30 P.M. 

February 3, 10, 17, and 24 

Geologist Sidney Horenstein, the Mu- 
seum's coordinator of environmental pro- 
grams, will give four shde-Ulustrated talks 
at 7:00 P.M. exploring the earth's geologi- 
cal history. 

February 5 

In the first of a five -part series cospon- 
sored by the Museum and Earthwatch In- 
stitute, geologist Larry Agenbroad, of 
Northern Arizona University, will speak 
at 7:00 P.M. about the Western Hemi- 
sphere's largest deposit of mammoth re- 
mains, near Hot Springs, South Dakota. 

February 10 

Biologist John Kricher, a professor at 

Wheaton College and author of A 
Neotropical Companion, will speak about 
the ecological and ethical issues raised by 
land use in the American Tropics. 

February 11 

Hayden Planetarium lecturer Joe Rao 
will talk at 7:30 P.M. about solar eclipses 
through history. 

February 14 

The thirteenth annual New York Sword 
Dance Festival wiU be held at 1:00 and 
2:30 RM. 

February 18 

Two of India's authorities on the tiger — 
zoologist K. UUas Karanth and wildlife 
photographer and author Valmik Tha- 
par — will discuss the ongoing battle to 
protect this endangered predator. The 
talk begins at 7:00 p.m. and is free. 

February 19 

The role of diamonds and jewels in opera 
will be the subject ot a discussion begin- 
ning at 8:00 p.m. Panelists from the City 
Opera Company wlU be joined by City 
Opera singers, who will perform excerpts 
from their repertory. 

February 20 and 27 

Jeffrey H. Schwartz, a physical anthropol- 
ogist at the University of Pittsburgh and 
research associate in the Museum's an- 
thropology department, will give a talk al 
7:00 P.m. on human evolution and our re- 
lationship to Neanderthals. 

February 23, 24, and 26 

Retired BBC producer Jeffery Boswal 
will explore various aspects of fdmini 
wildlife for TV, including developini 
ideas and shooting and editing the pic- 
tures. The talks begin at 7:00 RM. 

February 27 

The world of the cockroach, from the jun- 
gles of equatorial Africa to the kitchens of 
North America, \y\]l be the subject of a talk 
at 7:00 RM. by David George Gordon, an 
award-winning nature writer and author. 

The American Museum of Natural His- 
tory is located at Central Park West and 
79th Street in New York City. For tickets 
and information about events, call (212) 
769-5200. Consult the Museum Web site 
for additional information (http://w\vw. For hours and admission fees, 
caU (212) 769-5100. 




To Last 

a Lifetime. 

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Ensuring the future 

for those who shape it." 

natural history „„.„„ 

Received on: 02-05-98 
Ref 5. 06(74. 7) Ml 

Chang Tang— the name means northern 
plain in Tibetan— is high, austere, and 
largely unexplored. Rolling away to the ii\\7 "U 4-"U V% 4- 

horizon, its immensity is broken only VVc lldVfc^ lllc dldllLc lU 

by snowcapped ranges Vegetation SEVC OHC of thc laSt UnSpoilcd 
is scant, with neither shrubs nor , 1 4- * * 

trees to break the expanse. Just a few CCOSyStCIUS OH OUr plailCt* 

nomadic herdsmen inhabit the fringes. 

Wolves still prowl the plains and snow 
leopards stalk their prey among the crags; 
wild yaks forage on the hillsides and herds 
of Tibetan antelopes migrate over unknown 
paths. This is a landscape untouched by 
civilization, virtually the same today as 
it was over a hundred years ago. 

George Schaller, science director 

George Schaller 

rugged places, studying wildlife, and 
fighting for its survival. And now 
Schaller and his Chinese and Tibetan 
colleagues have helped estab- 
lish a huge reserve the size 
of Arizona in -the Chang Tang. 
There, Tibet's last great herds 
can roam free and the nomads can 
maintain their traditional culture. 
Schaller explains, "If we don't 
protect the Chang Tang now, 
the magnificent species found 
here could soon vanish forever." 
Under such harsh and remote 
conditions, the right equipment is not 
only important, it's imperative. Which 
is why George Schaller wears a rugged 
Rolex Oyster Perpetual timepiece. .\\t. 


Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer in stainless steel with matching Oyster bracelet- 

For the name and location of an Official Rolex feweler near you, please call 1-800-36ROLEX. 

Rolex, '%, Oyster Perpetual, Explorer and Oyster are trademarks. 

Site of the Chang Tang Reserve in the 

Tibet Autonomous Region. 

of International Programs 
for the Wildlife Conser- 
vation Society, has spent 
four decades in wild and 

Drum Culture— The Americanization of Taiko 





V. 107 

lal Behavior ^| 

no. 2 




al Life 


ne African Plains 


3ial Report ^| 


phen Jay Gould 

iiBHsung,-- ■■ 

id Rachlin, 
loy Nigam, 
luna IVl.Sillah 










Dont fish have enough on their minds 
without having to worry about the water? 


Tt-if TTTB-^ %nirirr n=rrinn aVrmr Hrtni^«; rnr m mtrmg-ni -n^ fh=^ fm- ' Tini . ri v rn .-aTI IJ-RRR-Tr-HnNnA ffrt 4W © 1998 Honda Nonh -VreniS, Inc. 

It's not easy being a fish in the nineties. But 
thanks to Hondas long-time commitment to 
clean water, at least they have one less thing 
to think about these days. 

Since 1973, we've manufactured and sold 
only remarkably clean and surprisingly quiet 
four-stroke outboard motors. 

Unlike typical two-stroke marine engines, 
which deposit unburned fuel and oil in the 
water, Honda outboards feature recirculating 
oil systems. So the oil stays where it belongs. 
In the engine. Plus, our outboards are more 
fuel-efficient and as much as ninety percent 
cleaner for hydrocarbon emissions. 

All of which proves that when it comes to 
the environment, Honda is always thinking. 
With all of our products, from cars to power 
equipment, we work to balance your desire 
for fun and performance with society's need 
for clean air and clean water 

Something we're sure all our underwater 
friends appreciate when attempting to decide 
which minnows are really minnows. 


March 1998 

Volume 107 

Number 2 


26 Zebra Zones 

On Africa's savannas, the availability of grass 
and water dictate a herds social life. 
Story by Mace A. Hack and Daniel I. Rubenstein 
Photographs by Karl Ammaiin 

30 Grave Times for Grevy's Zebras 
Stuart D. WilUanis and Joshua R. Ginsberg 

1 34 The Transnationals 

The new immigrants coming to the 

United States are remarkable for their diversity. 

Nancy Foner 

4 Up Front: Coming to America 

36 New Elders 

Older immigrants fmd they must forge new 
relationships with their families. 
Photographs by Ed Kashi 
Story by Julie Winokur 

44 Anything but Quiet 

Kumi-daiko — group drumming — gives 
young Japanese Americans a way to 
revive a tradition and make themselves heard. 
Story by Samuel Fromartz 
Photographs by Lauren Greenfield 

50 Five Stories 

Passages from old worlds to new. 

Han Ong, Nahid Racldin, Orlando Cruz, 

Sanjay Nigam, and Memuna M. Sillah 


Cover; Encounters between 

rival Grevy's zebra stallions 

sometimes escalate into 

dramatic fights. 

Story on page 26. 

Photograph by Karl Anunaun 

6 Letters 

8 Contributors 

Natural Selections 

10 Review: Net Loss 

Elliott A. Norse 
12 Review: Dinosaurs in Depth 

14 Bookshelf 

15 Go Fish 
Robert Anderson 

16 Journal: Animal Minds, Animal Dreams 
Matt Cartmill 

22 This View of Life: The Internal Brand 
of the Scarlet W 
Stephen Jay Gould 

Field Guide 

57 This Land: Hagerman Fossil Beds 

Greg McDonald 
60 Celestial Events: Cancer's Cluster 
Joe Rao 

78 Rockman: The Donkey 

Image and text by Alexis Rockman 

82 Universe: The Greatest Story Ever Told 
Neil de Grasse Tyson 

86 The Natural Moment: A Telling Tail 
Photograph by Steve Get tie 

At the American Museum of Natural History 
88 March Events 




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Natural History 3/98 

Coming to America 

In a world in which information is easy to come by — on tele\dsion, on the 
Internet — the difference is no longer what you know but how well you 
understand it. It's the thing we care about most at Natural Hisrcry and why we 
decided to do a series on immigrant culture in the United States. Anthropologist 
Nancy Foner points out in her introduction ("The Transnationals," page 34) that 
unlike the European immigrants of the past, some of whom came as refiigees 
from homes destroyed by war or intolerance, most of the newest immigrants can 
and do maintain close ties to their native lands. For them, the transition into 
their new world may be easier because they aren't castaways from their former 
world, but assimilation still means breaking with the values of the cultures from 
which they come. 

In the first part of our series, we decided to ask immigrants to relate rites of 
passage into their new world ("Five Stories," page 50). We assigned 
photographer Ed Kashi and writer Julie Winokur to pro\-ide us \\'ith a glimpse of 
the lives of older immigrants ("New Elders," page 36). Stephen Jay Gould's essay 
("This View of Life," page 22) shows how even science can be used to ser\dce 
xenophobia. And we asked Samuel Fromartz, himself the grandson of Japanese 
and Russian Je\\dsh immigrants, to report on the pursuit of the traditional folk 
art o( kumi-daiko (group drumming) by youngjapanese Americans ("Anything 
but Quiet," page 44) and how it allows them to celebrate both their native 
culture and their lives in this countr\'. 

Future articles in this series will look at the lives of other immigrant cultures 
and, like the stories in this issue, go beyond the facts to bring our readers the 
greater understanding they expect from Xatiiml History. — Bruce Stutz 

Wong Wah Po, age 104, a newly iiatiiiahzed Aweiicaii 


American Museum of Natural HisroKy 

Bruce Smtz 

EdiwT in Chief 

Ellen Goldensohn 

Adauqgiiig Editor 

Thomas Page 


Maire Crowe 

Board of Editors 

Rebecca B. Fiimell 

jenny Lawrence 

Vittorio Maestro 

BJchard Milner 

Judy Rice 

Kay Zakariasen (Pictures) 

Lisa Stillman 

Associate Managing Editors 

Michel DeMatteis 

David Ortiz 

PictuTe Coordittator 

Annette Heist 

Research Associate 

Pe^y Conversano 

Assistant Designer 

Carol Bamette 

Editorial Coordinator 

Merle Okada 

Assl. to the Editor 

Linda C. Cherry 


Judy Lee 

Business Manager 

Gladys Rivera 

Asst. to the Publisher 

Cary Casde 

Coimimer Marketing Director 

Ramon E. Alvarez 

Ciratlation Manager 

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FulfiUment Manager 

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Ciratlation Assistant 

Mark Abraham 

Production Director 

Marie Mundaca 

Production Manager 

John Davey 

Advg. Prod. /Research 

Sonia Lee 


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w\\'\v, i 

Notural History 3/98 

Ifs a Reflection 

On page 44 of "Its a Nose! 
Irs a Hand!, Its an Elephants 
Trunk!'" (November 1997), 
the photo of the t^o 
elephants reflected in a placid 
pool appears to be upside 
do'UTi. Details of the reflected 
areas are all sharper than those 
at the top of the picture. 
Alaivin Goren 
River Forest, HUiwis 

Several sharp-eyed readers 
noticed this mistake. The 
right-side-up version is 
reprinted above. — Editors. 

Comfort in Stability 
I was delighted to read 
Stephen Jay Gould's account 
of "pre-Darv\Tnian Scottish 
evolutionist" Robert 
Chambers's mayfly metaphor 
("The Paradox of the Visibly 
Irrele\'ant" Dec. 1997/Jan. 
1998), illustrating why 
evolution is emotionally 
difficult to grasp, even by 
those who intellectually 
accept its reality-. 

Human nature seems to 
draw more comfort from a 
static, unchanging nature than 
flom an evoking one. 
Thomas Went^A-orth 
Hi^inson expressed the 
sentiment welt "[A]s I turn 

trom those men and w'omen 
around me, w-hom I w"atch 
gradually submerge under the 
tide of grey hairs, it seems to 
me a bliss I have never earned, 
to find bird, insect, and 
flower, renewing itself each 
year in fi-esh eternal beaut}-, 
the same as in mv earHest 
Paul Mantoii 
Hicksvilk, New i&ffe 

Nov/here to Run, Nowhere to Hide 
In "Digging Cuba" (Dec. 
1997/Jan. 1998), Ross 
MacPhee states that, on a 
regional basis, the loss of 
mammal species in the 
Caribbean in the last 500 years 
has been lai^r than 
"anw'here else in the world 
(fiJly 40 percent of all 
confirmed mammal 
extinctions at the species level 
siace 1500)." 

But Timothy Hannery 
wTites in 77ie Future Eaters 
(1994) that the extinctions of 
Austrahan mam m als are "the 
worst that the world has 
experienced in the last 500 
years, accounting for just 
under one-third of all 
mammal extinctions." 

If both figures are correct, 
can we conclude that the loss 
of mammal species in both 

regions accounts for 70 

percent of the worldwide 
loss in that period? And 
if so, is there a 
connection betw-een 
these uvo regions, 
other than the 
ob\ioiis one of 
relatively recent 
European expansion 
into them? 
Knrolyii K. Wrightson 
HasTings-on-Hiidson, Neii' York 

Ross MacPhee replies: The 
difference between Tim 
Hannery 's estimate for 
Australia and mine is more 
apparent than real. My 
colleague Clare Hemming and 
I agree closety with him on the 
number of losses in Australia, 
but we dh"erge somewhat on 
how- regions are defined and 
on the total number of world 
extinctions. According to our 
analysis, the combined total of 
modem-era, species-level 
extinctions in the Caribbean 
and Australia comes to 6 1 
percent (see pie chart, above) — 
still an enormous proportion 
of the w'orld's ninerv- extinct 

Islands versus Continents 

Mammal Extinctions since ad. 1500 

(including marine species) 

Australia (20% 

Africa (4% 
Eurasia (1%) 

The Americas 

Mediterranean Islands (1% 
Atlantic Islands (2% 
Indian Ocean 
Islands {7% 




Caribbean Islands (41%) 

mammal species. 

Surprisingly perhaps, 
European expansion alone 
does not seem to have pushed 
up the mammalian extinction 
rate ver\- much — on the 
continents, at least. Islands are 
another story. Generally 
speaking, islands are small, anc 
hfe there has evolved in 
relative isolation. Accordingly, 
acute impacts, such as large- 
scale land clearance or the 
introduction of exotic 
competitors, often affect them 
with disproportionate force. 

Australia is a continent, 
but in critical ways human 
impacts there resemble those 
on true islands. 

In the coming issues of 


Special Travellssue 

Gouig to Exri'enies 

For the most intrepid Natural Histor}' traveler; 

the driest desert, the largest cave, the coldest cruise, and 

the biagest inanimate creatures in the world. 


Killin g Tigers 

To satisfi," the growing Asian market for animal parts, hunters 
have taken to setting up net walls of death in the forests. 

Examine the latest in paleontological evidence and. theory with 

TheHuman Evolution Library 


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From Luq^ To Language 

Donald Johanson and Blake Edgar 

Explore tlie history of human evolution with the most complete 
visual record of the evidence ever assembled! Over 200 full- 
color photographs of the most significant early fossils and 
artifacts are presented with the age, location, and possible 
implications of each specimen. This breathtaking volume 
discusses a multitude of current and past theories from 
secondar)' altridalit\' to the possible coexistence of 
Aush-alopithecus boisei and Homo erectus nearly 
2 million years ago. 
272 pages. Outsized 10"x 12" Publisher's Price: $50.00 

Children Of The Ice Age 

Steven M. Stanley 

Find out how the Ice Age's fragmentation of woodland habitats 
caused tlie mysteriously swift evolution from Austrnlopitheciis 
to Homo over two million years ago. Renowned paleobiologist 
Steven Stanley explains how the "terrestrial imperative" is the 
key to answering the classic question: which came first, our 
bipedaBsm or our large brain size? 
278 pages. 17 illustrations. Publisher's Pnce: $25.00 

MEMBERSHIP BENEFITS In addition to getting the HUMAN 
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Over 850 pages of evidence and theory 

Features 200 photographs and 69 illustrations 

r~ 1 40.000 years ago | 

ig-k-f-'-- --.r: 100,000 ye^rs ago 


tS-SSJXXl years ago | 

eO.QOOi?) years ago I "t- 

5(h€a,odb{7j years ago | 

A map of the 
spread of 
Homo sapiens 
over the last 
100,000 years. 

African Exodus: The Origins Of Modern Humanity 

Christopher Stringer and Robin McKie 

Shattering the long-held assumption that the different races of 
the human spedes evolved separately, Afiican Exodus pro\'ides 
a definitive and dramatic answer to tlic Bell Curoe. This book, 
from one of the primary arcliitects of the Out-of- Africa model, 

foes beyond the fossil record to tlie nuclear genome to show 
ow Homo sapiens survived while others, including 
Neanderthals, died out. 

302 pages. 55 illustrations. Publisher's Price: $25.00 

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Natural Histor\'.^/98 

8 Coritributors 

Natural History 3/98 


As a Princeton undergraduate, Mace A. Hack ("Zebra Zones") participated in professor Daniel I. 
Rubenstein's long-term field study of the wild horses living on Shackleford Banks, of} the coast of 
North Carolina. After graduating, Hack (far left) joined Rubenstein (near left) in his ongoing study of 
the social life of zebras in Kenya and expanded the study to Tanzania. Rubenstein has also traveled to 
Israel to study onagers (wild Asiatic asses). Hack took a break from equids to write a doctoral 
dissertation on the fighting behavior of male field crickets, but he recently returned to Princeton to 
resume his zebra research in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, of which 
Rubenstein is Chair. An important goal of their current work is to apply their knowledge of plains 
zebra society to the conservation of the species. Photographer 

Karl Ammann (right) lives on Mount Kenya, at the edge of the ^^R^^HV^^Bk ^M 

range of the endangered Grevy's zebra, and he took many photos 

in this month's feature in Samburu National Game Reserve, about two hours" drive from his 

home. His pictures of plains zebras come from the Masai Mara Game Reserve and fi^om 

Maralal, where "the Samburu people walk straight through the rather tame zebra herds. That's 

great to see, because in my last stoiy for Natural History ["Road Kill m Cameroon," February 

1997], I documented how, in Central Aiirica, anything that moves is eaten." 

Stuart D. Williams ("Grave Times for Grevy's Zebras") grew up near the slopes of Mount Kenya and has been interested in the 
wildlife of the area since childhood. He conducted a study of dik-diks for his undergraduate degree and has worked in both West 
and East A&ica on a number of research projects. Currently a research scientist for the Zoological Society of London, Williams 
works in Akagerra National Park, Rwanda. Coauthor Joshua R. Ginsberg is Director of Asia Programs for the WildUfe Conservation 
Society in New York. In addition to Grevy's zebras, he has studied sea turtles m Thailand and African wild dogs in Zimbabwe. 

Photographer Ed Kashi and freelance writer Julie Winokur ("New Elders"), husband and wife, hve in 
San Francisco. Since the early 1980s, Kashi's photographs — on subjects ranging from the troubles in 
Northern Ireland to the struggle of the Kurds in the Middle East — have been widely published and 
exhibited. His and Winokur's collaborative documentation of the Uves of Jewish settlers on the West 
Bank was featured in the December 1996/January 1997 issue of Natural History. Their work on older 
immigrants in this issue comes out of a long-term project that examines aging in America. Kashi's two 
books of photo-essays are Tlie Protestants: No Surrender (San Francisco: Ed Kashi, 1991) and Wlien the 
Borders Bleed: Tlte Struggle of the Kurds (New York: Pantheon, 1994). Winokur's work has appeared in 
many magazines and newspapers, including the San Francisco Examiner and Publishers Weekly. We the 
Media: A Citizen's Guide to Fighting for Media Democracy (New York: New Press, 1997), co-authored by 
Don Hazen, is her most recent book. 

Born in Brooklyn, Samuel Fromartz ("Anything but Quiet") first saw taiko drumming as a teenager in the 1970s. But he didn't try 
the drums himself until last summer, when he attended a continent-wide conference organized by the Japanese American Cultural 
and Community Center in Los Angeles. "While practicing in a workshop for about two hours," he recalls, "I figure I hit the drum 
dead center, achieving a truly resonant sound, maybe five times. My arms were sore and my back hurt. The screaming was quite fun 
though." Based in Washington, Fromartz is a freelance writer and a jazz columnist for Reuters news agency. A Los Angeles native, 
Lauren Greenfield has contributed to numerous publications, including National Geographic, Time, Vanity Fair, and Life. Her recent 
exhibition and book. Fast Forward: Growing Up in the Shadow of Hollywood, (Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), documents the impact of 
Hollywood's values on the everyday lives of many young people in Los Angeles. In 1997, the International Center of Photography 
honored her with its Infinity Award in the Young Photographer category. 

Michigan native Steve Gettle ("The Natural Moment") has been photographing North American 
wildlife for more than tv/elve years. His goal, he says, is to turn his hobby into a full-time career, 
leaving his ceramic tile installation business behind. And he is well on his way. The work of this 
self-taught photographer has appeared in Audubon, Birder's World, and Sierra and has been exhibited 
at the American Museum of Natural History. Last year, he was named Michigan-Great Lakes 
photographer of the year. He photographed the frosty opossum with a Nikon N-90S equipped ; , 

with a Nikon 300 mm lens. L 


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1 Natural Selections 

Natural History 3/98 

Net Loss 

By Elliott A. Notse 

Song for the Blue Ocean: Encounters Along 
the World's Coasts and Beneath the Seas, by 
Cad Safina. Henn^ Holt and Company, 
$30; 458 pp. 

teviWW* "Space ... is big. Really 
big. You just won't believe 
how vasdy hugely mind-boggling^ big it 
is," said Douglas Adams in Tlie Hitchhiker's 
Guide to the Galaxy. Sadly the dominant 
species on our blue mote iu space has 
similar difficult\' comprehending the im- 
mensitv" of sea. Ninet)'-nine percent of 
the biosphere that plants and animals per- 
manendy inhabit (that is, feed and repro- 
duce in) is sea. Below the waw surface, 
events happen out of sight and largely out 
of mind. But unless Tve open our eyes to 
what is really happening, we cannot pro- 
tect and sustainably use the sea. 

Now comes an eye-opener: Song for die 
Blue Ocean, Cari Safina's l\Tical celebra- 
tion of the div-ersit)" of marine hte. Safina, 
a biologist, sport fisherman, and veteran 
of marine conservation batdes, heads the 
Li\"ir^ Oceans Program at the National 
Audubon Socien,^ With the kind of in- 
sist, clarity; and eloquence found only 
in the \'ery best nanire writing, he en- 
lightens us about the decline of fisheries 
woridv.-ide and w^eaves together the di- 
verse voices of citizen conservationists, 
scientists, international diplomats, and 
people who fish for a living. 

The author uses three themes to illus- 
trate the broader story of humankind's ef- 
fects on marine ecos^^tems. He fiirst ex- 
amines the bluefin ttma, a warm-blooded 
missile of a iish that can ouro^igh and 
outpace a horse and whose migrator}' 
routes firom spawning to teeding grounds 
cross vast oceanic expanses. Bluefins are 
apex predators, species — like hons. 

w^olves. and eagles — chat e\'olved lai^ely 
without predation fix)m other species. "We 
now regard the bluefin's terrestrial coun- 
terparts as magnificent creatures, and pro- 
tect them accordin^y, yet value this giant 
tuna primarily as sashimi. hi Tok)"o, the 
finest 715-pound fi^ozen bluefin seUs 
wholesale for $83,500, producing stag- 
gering, corrupting profits. 

The International Commission for the 
Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), 
an organization of Adanric-rim countries, 
plus Japan, was founded to ensure healthy 
populations of tunas and similar species. 
But ICCAT's scientific reports, Safina 
concludes, show that most species under 
its authority — including bluefin, sword- 
fish, and blue and white marlin — are in 
decline. He shov\3 that ICCAT members 
have used both nationalist demagogueiy 
and intimidation to keep bluefin catches 
so high that bluefin breeding populations 
in the western Atlantic have declined 90 
percent since 1970. ICCAT, sav^s Safina, 
"might well stand for International Con- 
spiracy to Catch AH the Tunas." 

The second theme is an elegy to Pa- 
cific Northwest salmon, which range the 
ocean, then return to their natal streams, 
fighting currents and vaulting cataracts to 
hud pea-sized e^s bearing their genes 
into the future in one paroxysmal, &tal 
spav^Tiing. Salmon once supported the 
rich indigenous cultures of Northv\7est 
Coast Indians. Each year, the Indians 
x\^ted tor fish fattened in the North Pa- 
cific to be honored guests at their celebra- 
tions of thanksgiving. Rapaciousness re- 
placed reverence, however, when 
Euro-Americans invaded. 

The once-bounteous salmon popula- 
tion has coUapsed before a blitzkrieg of 
forces: overfishing, logging of ancient 
forests, poUurion, and — most of all — 
dams that bar adult salmon fiiom natal 

streams and hinder their smolts' return tc 
the sea. Safina's depiction of the politica 
dynamics behind the disappearance o 
hundreds of salmon runs is both illumi- 
nating and depressing: everybody blame 
somebody else, and no one takes respon- 
sibility. Salmon and their habitats are cov 
eted by the protagonists of many eco- 
nomic sectors, each maxunizini 
immediate profit while passing on th 
costs, both present and fiiture, to other 
and doing anything necessary to evade 
the regulatory structures set up to curb it 

The final theme is fishing in tropi 
Western Pacific coral reefi, home to th 
wodd's most diverse shaUow-w^ater ma 
rine biota, including more than 2,50 
species of fishes and nearly 500 species 
corals. Seemingly a paradise to many ; th 
reeS are marred by an ugly realit\7: The is 
landers fish spawning aggregations 
groupers and other species vsdth dyna 
mite, cv-anide, and bleach to appeas 
Hong Kong consumers' taste for hve fish 
and to sell as short-lived curios for marin 
aquariums. As with bluefins and sahno: 
short-term profits, not ecologic; 
processes, now rule, and the fishes are fa; 
disappearing fix>m the ree6. The islandei 
have gone fix)m fishing for food to fishin 
for money, and the cooperation of thei 
governments is easily bought. 

Among the book's grace notes are th 
remarkable people it depicts: commerci; 
fisherman Dick Good, who despite 
day's meager catch of only four saknorj 
gives one ot them to Safina; and ecolog:; 
Bob Johannes, who discovered that in 
digenous Micronesians had evolved wa\! 
of fishing coral reef fishes sustainabh- und 
a cash economy replaced their subsistenc! 
economy. But this book is also revealin 

of the author, w'ho is candid about hi 


owTi foibles and chides himself for hi^ 
sometimes hasty" judgments about people 
He writes with insight and wit; and h^ 
best, often sensuous phrases last hk 
memories of chocolate after the taste itse 
is gone. 

Safina's lesson is clear: the sea is a ric 
endowment of biological capital whos 

inccrest could sustain us forever. But we 
should not forget that billions of passen- 
t;er pigeons darkened America's skies in 
liSSO and became extinct in 191-1 — in just 
one human life span. That was before the 
United States had strong conservation 
laws, such as the Endangered Species Act 
and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Con- 
sci\ation and Management Act. But this 
.uuhor has observed that our federal gov- 
ernment is reluctant to invoke the acts' 

protective provisions to avoid offending 
fishing companies, loggers, cattle ranch- 
ers, real estate developers, the electric 
power industry, and members of Con- 
gress beholden to them. Despite the sci- 
entific data and protective legislation, we 
are pushing our favorite food fishes to- 
ward the fate of the passenger pigeons, 
squandering our oceans' biological capital 
like drunken sailors. Reading this book 
just might sober up enough of us to help 

change course. What could be a better 
gift to future generations than a living 
blue Earth? 

Ellioi! A. Sorse is founder atid president of 
Marine Conservation Biology Institute. He 
is the author of Ancient Forests of the Pa- 
cific Northwest (1990) and the editor of 
Global Marine Biological Diversit\': A 
Strategy for Building Conversation 
Into Decision Making (1993). 

Left: Tuna, Tsukiji Market, 
Tokyo. Below: Drying fuh on 
Russia's Pacific Coast. 

From Faces of Fishing: People, 
Food and the Sea at the Begin- 
ning of the Twenty-First Cen- 
tury, by Bradford Matsen, 
Monterey Bay Aquarium 
Press, 1998, S19.95, 119 pp., 

12 Natural Selections 

Natural History 3/98 

Dinosaurs in Depth 


Tlie Complete Dinosaur, James O. Farlow 
and M. K. Brett-Surman, eds., Indiana 
University Press, $59.95, and Encyclopedia duo of 
of Dinosaurs, Philip J. Currie and Kevin entries 
Padian, eds., Academic Press, $99.95 whom 

These big new volumes, 
each of which is edited by a 
renowned paleontologists, contain 
by leading researchers, some of 
have contributed to both books. 

AUosaurus fragihs lunges at Dryosaurus akus, above, 
a Pterodactylus. 

Top: Two Archaeopteryx confront 

The information-packed texts are soHdly 
buttressed by references, glossaries, in- 
dexes, charts, illustrations, and a panoply 
of color reproductions. 

The Encyclopedia contains 275 alpha- 
betically arranged entries — from dinosaur 
groups to fossil sites and natural history 
museums — each cross-referenced. While 
visually engaging, this book is essentially a 
reference work, and the writing assumes a 
good deal of scientific literacy. 

Tlie Complete Dinosaur is arranged the- 
matically (one of its six sections is or 
"Dinosaurs in the Media"). In keeping 
with the editors' goal of presenting a vol- 
ume both authoritative and "as readable 
as possible," anatomical and other scien- 
tific terms are clarified within the text 
but the science is fuU strength, and com- 
peting theories are allowed full play. Thi 
book is useful both as a reference and as ; 
browse-and-enjoy compendium, am 
some sections are good for a complete 







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14 Natural Selections 

Natural History 3/98 


A Passion for Birds 

By John B. Rohrhach (Anion Carter Museum, 1997, 
$19.95, illus.) 

Photographer Eliot Porter graduated from Harvard 
Medical School and worked as a biochemist for ten 
years before he applied his scientific mind to photog- 
raphy. Perhaps least known are his portraits of birds. 
By the time of his death in 1990 at the age of 89, 
Porter had built an archive of more than 8,000 nega- 
tives and transparencies and 1 ,200 prints documenting 
252 species. 

Porter's winter wren 

Becoming Human 

By Ian Tattersall (Harcourt Brace and Company, 1998, $27) 

Although many popular anthropological accounts of the human species have been written, few are as engaging as that of Ian Tat- 
tersall, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History. Revisiting such places as the French caves decorated ■w.dth 30,000- 
year-old paintings or the African sites that \delded early hominid fossOs, Tattersall explains the current state of evolutionary the- 
ory, surveys exciting new data about primate behavior, and tells why we are unlikely to evolve into another species. 

John Abbot's Birds of Georgia 

Introduction and commentar}' by Vivian Rogers-Price iJlie Beehive Press, 1997, $125, ilhs.) 
The EngHsh-born artist-naturalist John Abbot settled in Georgia in 1776 and, for the next sixty-five 
years, collected and drew the insects, plants, and birds of the Savannah River Valley. Abbot's watercolors 
of birds, housed in Harvard University's Houghton Library, are remarkable contributions to American art 
and ornithology, ranking alongside those of his more famous contemporaries William Bartram, Alexan- 
der Wilson, and John James Audubon. 

In Search of Islamic Feminism 

ByEUzabeth Warnock Fernea (Doubleday 1998, $24.95, iUus.) 

Fernea, a professor at the University of Texas, spent t\vo years traveling around the world talking to Islamic women. She discov- 
ered thriving feminist movements in Muslim communiries of Russia, the Middle East, and Africa, biult upon indigenous tradi- 
tions and grass-roots networking rather than on the confrontational strategies of the West. 

The Cities of the Ancient Andes 

By Adriana von Hagen and Craig Morris (Tiiames and Hudson, 1998, $27.50, ilhis.) 

Von Hagen, a writer who specializes in the archeologs' of Peru, and Morris, an anthropology curator and dean of science at the 
American Museum of Natural History, combine archeological evidence with fictional vignettes to reconstruct the rich ceremo- 
nial Ufe of ancient Andean cities as far back as 2500 B.C. 

Where Worlds CoUide 

jB]' Penny van Oosterzee (Cornell University Press, 1997, $17.95, iUus.) 

In 1859, the English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace theorized that an invisible biological boundary divided Asian-derived fauna 
from species that evolved in Australia. Ecologist van Oosterzee follows Wallace's scientific journeys (without neglecting the 
charm and adventure of the man) and connects his biogeographic and evolutionary theories to current research. 

The books mentioned in "Natural Selections" are usually available from the Museum Shop of the American Museum of Nat- 
ural History (212) 769-5150. 

Go Fish 

3)' Robert Aiidmoii 

Since Earth is often 
called the water 
iliiiet, it's not surprising that more than 
lalf of Earths 60,000 or so vertebrate 
pecies are fish. Yet, because we live in 
iifFerent worlds, we rarely think about 
Ish other than in the context ot the 
qiuirium or the dinner plate. For a quick 
oiirse in ichthyology, Odyssey Expedi- 
loiis has a nice Web page (w\vw.odyssey The site briefly covers 
luch topics as what fish eat, how they 
wim, and how some even change sex to 
ncrease their reproductive success. As the 
)rganization's name suggests, Odyssey 
expeditions takes students on summer 
rips to observe marine life at close range. 

Cornell University ( 
edu/cgi-bin/hl?fish) and the Electronic 
'oo ( both 
aave nice Hsts of fishy sites. Since I like 
naps and had never heard of a ground- 
ish, I tried the Groundfish Atlas (www- 
■cnasap.htinl) and found that it shows the 
urrent status and distribution over the 
Vdantic Ocean of such commercially im- 
lortant fishes as cod, flounder, haddock, 
nd halibut. (I have been contributing 
inintentionaUy to their conservation by 
voiding them on the menu.) Another 
ite that focuses on fisheries in the United 
States — and tells you if your dinner is 
hreatened by overfishing — is called Our 
-iving Oceans Annual Report 

Because I was intrigued by the oxy- 
noron, I visited the Desert Fishes Coun- 
il site at ( 
:i he . w^\■\v/fish/dfc/dfc_top.html) . The 
.roup's goal is to preserve aquatic ecosys- 
;ms in some of the driest regions of the 
N'orld — on the premise that wherever 
here is water, there are fish. 

On Yahoo, I looked up orange roughy, 

popular new food fish found at depths of 

a mile or more on shelves and seamounts 
around Australia and New Zealand. I 
found plent\' of recipes, but only one site 
on the roughy's biology (www. 
ffll.htoil). Thought to reach 150 years of 
age, this tasty fish seems to grow too 
slowly to replace fishing catches. 

The ocean floor is another intriguing 
habitat for some very bizarre animals. 
Paul Yancey at Whitman College has cre- 

ated a site (ww^ that 
provides some information on the biol- 
ogy of fish and other creatures that lit- 
erally live under tremendous pressure. 
Many of the species have not yet been 
identified, so if you happen to recog- 
nize any of them, I'm sure he would 
appreciate your E-mail. 

Robert Anderson is a science imter living in 
Los Angeles. 

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16 Journal 

Natural History 3/98 

By Matt Cartmill 

Let me propose a thought experiment. 
Imagine that certain cells in the brain are 
necessary for consciousness. Then sup- 
pose that a certain drug paralyzes these 
cells, \vith no effect on the rest of the 
brain. People who take this drug behave 
as usual, but they experience nothing 
until it wears off. The di'ug converts them into sleepwalk- 
ers. Finally, imagine that a new form of this drug has per- 
manent effects, abolishing consciousness tbrever with, no ef- 
fect on behavior. I want to test it on you. How much will 
I have to pay you to take it? 

The question answers itself. The value of life derives 
from our awareness of it. Spendmg your life as a sleep- 
walker is equivalent to being dead; so you would charge 
whatever it would be worth to you to commit suicide. 

As the source of all value in our lives, consciousness 
should be at the top of the scientific agenda. Yet we know 
litde about its evolution. Some scientists and philosophers 
believe that consciousness has no evolutionary history be- 
cause they think people are the only creatures that have 

the outcome of the exercise of a higher psychical faculty', if 
it can be interpreted as the outcoine of the exercise of one 
which stands lower in the psychological scale." 

For Morgan, "higher" implicitly meant "human." 
Psychologists today revere his dictum under the name of 
Morgan s Canon. Why do they so readily accept it? Why 
is it safer to assume that human brain flmctions are unique? 
People who study kidney evolution don't think it's anthro- 
pomorphic to interpret an animal's urine as the outcome 
of the exercise of higher (humanlike) kidney faculties. 

One reason is that brain ftinctions, unlike kidney fiinc- 
tions, are markers of the boundary between animals and 
people. Because nonhuman animals lack many of our 
mental abiUries, we regard them as property, to be used for 
our ends in any way we choose — from food for the dinner 
table to scientific experimentation. The only obligation 
we recognize to other animals is a dut^' not to make them 
suffer, and we acknowledge that dut^' only because we sus- 
pect that some animals are on our side of the other big line 
we draw across the moral landscape — ^the boundary be- 
tween things that are sentient and things that aren't. 

Scientists are often reluctant to talk about animal con- 
sciousness because it's not an observable propeiiy, and sci- 

Aniroal Minds,! 

As the source of all value in our lives, consciousness should be at 

Slungjrom a 
ceavpia tree, a 
Central American 

it. Although other scientists will 
often admit in private that our 
nearest animal relatives may have 
mental lives something like ours. 

three-toed sloth takes many of them hesitate to say so 
a nap. plainly and publicly for fear of 

being accused of sentimentality 
and antliropomorphism. 

To be sure, sentimentality and 
uncritical anthropomorphism are 
real temptations in dealing with 
animals, and scientists succumb as 
often as others. To guard against 
such lapses, the British psycholo- 
gist C. Lloyd Morgan laid down 
the following law in 1894: "In no 
case may we interpret an action as 

.'lice deals only in public observations. So scientists who 
uc interested in subjective awareness prefer to study -the 
objective facts of neurology and behavior and try to con- 
vince themselves that this is somehow the same as studying 

The field of computer science called artificial inteUi- 
i^cnce grew out ot these behavioristic assumptions, hi 
1 9.S(1, the English computer theorist Alan Turing offered a 
classic test for telling whether machines can tliink. He 
called it "the imitation game." Suppose that we have a 
.oniputer program that will exchange E-mail with you. If, 
iftcr five minutes, you can't teU whether you've been chat- 
nng with a human being or a computer, then (said Turing) 
:he machine can think — because that's what thinking 
means: being able to carry on a human conversation. Tur- 
ling predicted that the huge (128 MB) supercomputers of 
the year 2000 would play his unitation game so well that 
f'an average interrogator wtH not have more than a 70 per- 
cent chance of making the right identification after five 
iminutes of questioning." 

Turing's prediction hasn't worked out. Today, you can 
.buy the supercomputer of Turing's dreams off the shelf at 
Sears, and far more powerfiil machines can be had at 

higher prices. But so far, none of them can play the imita- 
tion game very well. Because a computer lacks the experi- 
ence of inhabiting the worid in a Hving body it's readily 
unmasked by asking questions that require a common- 
sense understanding of the world. (A computer can be 
more easily programmed to play chess than to handle a 
question like, "Can a sheep eat an anvil?") 

Computer metaphors have nevertheless come to 
dominate the way we think about minds and brains. They 
predispose us to believe that mental events are algorith- 
mic — that is, that they are produced by executing a string 
of logically connected insn-uctions — and that digital com- 
puters (which are algorithm machines) will become con- 
scious when we learn to run the right program on the 
right kind of hardware. There are reasons for doubting 
tins. It simply moving electrical charges around in a certain 
pattern can bring a mind into existence, then I could 
get the same effects by sliding beads around on a gigantic 
abacus or making chalk marks on a blackboard. All these 
processes can be computationally equivalent, with 
algorithms that correspond in every detail; but none of 
them seems like a plausible way of producing a subjective 
awareness. And since a digital computer is just anodier 

\nimal Dreams 

p of the scientific agenda. Yet we know little about its evolution. , J 

1 ._ .,,,,,. 

way of instantiating an algorithm. In SaLmh, Malaysia, 
such a device is unlikely to be- a garnet pitta 
come conscious. bundles at night into 

If consciousness isn't algorith- a feathery ball to 
line, then how is it produced? We sleep. 
don't know. The machineries of 
consciousness are still a mystery. 
We know a lot about how our 
nei-vous system processes and dis- 
criminates among stimuli. But al- 
though such sensory mechanisms 
are necessary for consciousness, 
we can perceive things and re- 
spond to them without being 
aware of them. The most spectac- 
ulai" example ot tliis st.ite is sleep- 

18 Journal 

Natural History 3/98 

Leopard, Sambuni National Game Reserve, Kenya 

Giant tortoise, Galapagos Islands 

Walnis, Chukchi Sea, Alaska 

Do animals that need to sleep as \A'e do sometimes wake up as a 

In the Ihing brain, waves ot ner^'e-cell discharges travel 
across the surface of the cerebral cortex like ripples on 
\rater. These brain waves are fine and choppy when we're 
aw^e, but in sleep, the ^\'a\"es get slower, bi^er, and more 
synchronized. Thex" become slowest and biggest during 
deep sleep. Strangeh? enou^ this is when sleepwalking 
occurs. Sleepwalkers — who comprise about 25 percent of 
all children and 7 percent of adults — may do dangerous 
and stupid thin^, like w^aUdng through glass doors or o\^r 
cliffi. But the^' can also do compUcated, distinctively 
human things: converse or dri\-e away in cars. 

The phenomenon of sleepvv^alking shows that you can 
get disancti\"el\' human beha\ior without consciousness. 
Some sleepw%alkers could probabh' pass the Turing test. 
And if unconscious jjeople can fool us, how can we be 
sure that animals aren't unconscious even when they seem 
to be awake? Do horses gallop in their sleep in the same 

way that a sleepwalker gets into a car and dri\-es off at 
sixty-five nules an hour? And if we can do so many thing; 
while unconscious, then why did consciousness evolve? 

One theor\' holds that conscious- 
ness is usefiil because it allow 
us to construct objects in ou; 
minds by combining the inpu 
Irom different senses. When wt 
see a car driv^e past, we don' 
separately hear its motor anc 
see its bod\- and smell its exhaust. We perceh.^ one sin^i 
thing — a car passing by. Neurobiologists refer to this as the 
"binding" phenomenon. Most animals cleariy don't hav 
it They have separate and verv' mechanical responses ti 
the inputs feom different sense receptors. For example, 
fix)g is built to snap at any moving dark spot of a certaii 

jiizzly bear cub, Rocky Mouutaiii. 

Piinot jiili ill a iiiiicoiis bubble. Gayiihiii l.-Lui 

: and experience their own conscious presence in the world? 

izc. A frog will starve to death in the midst of a heap of 
icshly killed flies, because it doesn't recognize them as 
lies, by vision or any other sense. 

Some other animals do display binding. It seems to be 
1 necessary condition of consciousness, but the phenome- 
' ion doesn't tlirnish proof of consciousness because it can 
L'vndendy take place without conscious awareness. Sleep- 
ivalkers, for example, have been kno\\'n to sit down and 
■tlay the piano, which surely requires putting hearing, 
ouch, and proprioceprion together. 

Then what use is consciousness? If consciousness were 
iscless, I think natural selection would have operated to 
VI nd of it somehow, since we have to pay a liigh price for 
t. The price we pay for consciousness is unconsciousness, 
.)t the special and peculiar sort we call sleep. Sleep isn't just 
esting; it's a complicated and dangerous undertaking. In- 
oitebrates and coldblooded vertebrates don't do it. When 

they hide and rest, they show litde or no change m brain 
activity. Only mammals and birds exhibit true sleep, in- 
volving a shift from fast to slow waves in the tbrebrain. 

In both groups, slow-wave sleep is intenoipted at inter- 
vals by so-called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. In 
mamiiiiilian KEM sleep, the body goes limp but die brain 
waves become fast and shallow again, and the closed eyes 
s^ving this way and that in synch \\itli bursts of actixntN' in 
the visual cortex and the ear muscles. The brain appears to 
be seeing and hearing things that aren't there. The human 
brain, at any rate, is doing just diat, because REM sleep is 
often associated with dreaming. 

Why do we sleep? Some argue that sleep ser\'es to 
conserve energy, wliich is why only warm-blooded ;ini- 
nials do it. But in fact, niamm.ilian sleep uses just about as 
much energy as wakefril resting does. Another theoiy 
holds that sleep is a defense against predators, that it's na- 


20 Journal 

Natural History 3/98 

tuie's ^\^a\' of telling us to hide Avhen \ve don't need to be 
up and about. But most animals hide and rest without 
deeping, and mammals and birds too big to hide still have 
to lie dowTi and sleep even- day out in the open, exposed 
to even" predator in the wodd. They do it as little as pos- 
sible — a horse sleeps onlv three hours a day, ot which onlv 
thim- minutes is spent King dowTi in REM sleep — but 
they would be better oiFif they didn't have to do it at all. 

Evidently, sleep isn't primarily an adapta- 
tion to our external emitonment It's 
something imposed upon us by the 
needs of the brain. If we're forced to 
stay awake around the clock day after 
day. we start manifesting pathological 
s^Tnptoms culminating in haUucina- 
rions and metabolic collapse. Molecular biologist Francis 
Crick, who has turned in recent years to the smd\" of brain 
flincrion, has suggested (along with his co-workers at the 
Salk Insrimte for Biological Smdies) that birds and mam- 
mals can't live without sleep because their behavior is flex- 
ible and learning based This theon," holds that beha\ioral 
flexibilit\- — free will, if you like — introduces noise into the 
SN^tem and tends to mess up the innate, "hard-wired" re- 
sponses and beha\iors that all animals need tor sur\i\al. 
According to Crick's model, sleep in general — ^and REM 
sleep in particular — ^acts every day to erase the neural irrel- 
evancies, reset all the innate systems, and put evervthing 
back in working order, like running a disk-repair program 
and restarting a computer. 

One piece of evidence in favor of this model is that we 
need less sleep, especially REM sleep, as we age. Most in- 

evolurion. Some of the savants who doubt that dogs feel 
pain when you kick them remind me a little ot those cre- 
ationists who reject the theory of evolution because the\ 
have never seen a fish turn into a chicken. I suspect that 
these savants are less concerned about understanding the 
universe than they are about resisting the temptations of 

To most of us, anthropomorphism doesn't look all that 
dangerous. Our close animal relatives, after all, are anthro- 
pomorphic in the literal sense of the word, which means 
"human-shaped." They have organs like ours, placed in 
the same relath,'e positions. And interestingly enough, they 
seem to recognize the same correspondences and homolo 
gies that we do. Just as we anthropomorphize dogs, horses, 
and other domestic animals, they return the favor by using 
their own social signals to greet, entreat, and threaten us- 
and each other — ^much as thei,' would fellow members of 
their species. Scientists often regard this "assimilation ten- 
dency'" in animals as some sort of mistake, as if the poor 
stupid beasts were confaising dogs, horses, and people. But 
if all these similar species have similar mental lives, the as 
similation tendenc\' is perfectly realistic. 

Consciousness may be adaptive partly because it pro- 
motes that tendency. Psychologist Nicholas Humphrey 
proposes that our ancestors evolved consciousness because 
it enabled them "to read the minds of others by reading 
their own — to picture, as if fiom the inside, what othei 
members of their social group were thinking about and 
planning to do next." Humphrey," araiues that other animals 
have no use for such insights and therefore aren't con- 
scious. But mind-reading skills would be usefijl for othei 
social species — and between species as well. A zebra that 

Sleep isn't primarily an adaptation to external environment, 

Riolit: New York 
City, 1995 

fant mammals, including human babies, spend 50 to 80 
percent of the sleep q'cle in REM sleep. As we reach 
adulthood, the worid grows more familiar and our behav- 
ior gets more routinized, and REM sleep drops to about 
20 percent of the total cycle. Perhaps it does so because 
there is less new learning to be cleaned up after. 

Sleep seems to restore something that is damaged or 
depleted by things that go on in our brains when we are 
conscious. Frogs and other animals that are probably never 
conscious don't need sleep. Animals that we know are 
conscious (people) do need to sleep. So do the animals that 
we suspect may be conscious (mammals and birds). It 
seems reasonable to think that animals that need to sleep as 
we do will sometimes wake up as we do and experience 
their own presence in the worid. 

The evidence for animal consciousness is indirea. But 
so is the e\idence ft)r the big bang, neutrinos, or human 

can tell when a lion is feeling hungrv' is less likely to get 
eaten. A dog or a man who can tell when a horse is fiari- 1 
ously angr\' is less likely to get kicked in the head. Insofa 
as anthropomorphism alerts us to the mental states of 
other species, its not a mistake; it's a survival sldll. 

If consciousness allows us to read other minds- 
analog)' with our awareness ot ourselves — then the assim 
ilation tendency makes adaptive sense. It so, then scientists 
dismissal of even the most realistic sorts of anthropomor 
phism ironically diminishes the value of their own con 
sciousness. In this one respect, the average horse may b< 
more tiilly awake than are a lot of ps\'chologists anc 

Matt Canmill is a professor of anatomy and anthropology' 
Duke Umversity. His award-winning book, A View to a Deatl 
in the Morning (1996), is about tlie histor)' of hunting. 



^" a, 
lb ■ 






22 This View of Life 

Natural History 3/98 


The Internal Brand 

of the Scarlet 


All Italian immioraiitJainUy at Ellis Island, ca. 190d 

As a setting for an initial welcome to a 
new home, the international arri\^ haU 
at Kennedy Airpon pales before the spa- 
ciousness, the open air, and the s\"mbol of 
fellowship in New York's harbor. But the 
plaque that greets airborne immigrants of 
our tune shares one feature with the great 
lady W'ho graced the arrival of so many 
seaborne ancestors, including aU my 
grandparents in their childhood. The 
plaque on Kennedy's wall and the 
pedestal of the Statue of Liberty bear the 
same inscription: Emma Lazarus's poem 
Tlie New Colosstis — but wdth one crucial 
difference. The airport version reads: 


immigrants cany 
a special gene for 


By Stephen Jay Gould 

Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to 

breathe free . . . 
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost 

to me: 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door. 

One might be excused for supposing 
that the eHsion represents a large and nec- 
essan.- omission to fit the essence of a 
longer poem onto a smaUish plaque. But 
only one hne, easily accommodated, has 
been cut — and for a reason that can only 
reflect thoughdess (as opposed to merely 
ugly) censonhip, therefore inviting a dou- 


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View of life 

Natural History 3/98 

ble indictment on independent charges of 
stupidity and cowardice. (As a member of 
the last public school generation trained 
by forced memorization of a holy histori- 
cal canon, including the Gett^.'sburg Ad- 
dress, the Preamble to the Constitution, 
Mr. Emerson on the rude bridge that 
arched the flood, and Ms. Lazarus on the 
big lad\? with the lamp, I cau^t the dele- 
tion right away and got sufficiendy an- 
noyed to write a New York Times Op-Ed 
piece a couple of years ago. Obviously, 1 
am still seething, but at least I now have 
the perverse pleasure of using the story 
for my owti benefit to introduce this 
essay.) I therefore restore the missing line 
(along with Emma Lazaruss rhyming 
scheme and syntax): 

The wretched refuse of your teeming 

Evidenth', the ttansient wind of politi- 
cal correcmess precludes such a phrase as 
"wretched refose," lest any \'isitor read the 
line too literally or personalh? Did the au- 
thorities at our Port Authoritx? ever hear 
about metaphor and its prominence in 
poetry? Did they ever consider that 
Lazarus mi^t be describing the disdain 
of a foreign eUte tow^ard immigrants 
whom wre would welcome, nurture, and 

This story embodies a double irony 
that prompted my retelling. We hide 
Emma Lazaruss line today because we 
misread its true intention, and because 
contemporary culture has so confused 
(and often even equated) inappropriate 
words with u^' deeds. But the authori- 
ties of an earlier generation invoked the 
false and literal meaning — the identifica- 
tion of most immigrants as wnretched 
refuse — to accomplish a deletion of per- 
sons rather than words. That is, the sup- 
posed genetic inferiorit\»^ of most refugees 
(an innate wretchedness that American 
opportunity could never overcome) be- 
came an efective rallying cry for a move- 
ment that did succeed in imposing stror^ 
restrictions on immi gration beginning in 
the 1920s. These lav\fs, strictly enforced 

despite pleas for timely exceptions, im- 
mured thousands of Europeans who 
sought asylum because Hider's racial law^s 
had marked them for death, while our 
quotas on immigration precluded any ad- 
dition of their kind. These nvo stories of 
past exclusion and truncated present wel- 
come surely illustrate the familiar histori- 
cal dictum that significant events tend to 
repeat themselves — the first time as 
tragedy, the second as farce. 

In 1925, Charles B. Davenport, one of 
Americas foremost geneticists, wrote to 
his fiiend Madison Grant, the author of a 
best-selling book. Hie Passing of die Great 
Race, on the dilution of Americas old 
(read northern European, not Native 
American) blood by recent immigration: 
"Our ancestors drove Baptists fiom Mas- 
sachusetts Bay into Rhode Island, but we 

"The nomadic impulse is, 

in all the cases, one and 

the same unit character. 

Nomads, ot all kinds, have 

a special racial trait — are, 

in a proper sense, members 

of the nomadic race." 

— Charles B. Davenpon, 


have no place to drive the Jews to." Dav- 
enport faced a dilemma. He sou^t a ge- 
netic argument for innate JeviTsh undesir- 
abihty, but conventional stereotypes 
precluded the usual claim for inherent 
stupidity. So Davenport opted for weak- 
ness in moral character rather than intel- 
lect. In his 1911 book. Heredity in Relation 
to Eugenics — not, by the way, a political 
tract but his generation's leading textbook 
in the developing science of generics — he 

Li earning capacity botJi male andfanale 
Hebrenr immigrants rank high and die 
literacy is above tlie mean of all immigrants. 
. . . On die odier hand, they show die 
greatest proportion of offenses against 

chastity and in connection with 
prostitution, the lowest of crimes. . . . TIu 
hordes of Jews that are now coming to us 
jroni Russia and the extreme soudieast of 

Europe, with their intense individiMlism 
and ideals of gain at the cost of any 
interest, represent the opposite extreme from 
the early English and the more recent 
Scandinavian immigration, with their 
ideals of community life in the open 
count r)', advancement by die sweat of die 
brow, and the upreariiig of families in the 
fear oj God and love of country. 

The rediscovery- and publication o: 
Mendel's laws in 1900 had initiated the 
modem study of generics. Earlier theories 
of heredity had enxTsaged a "blending" or 
smooth mixture and dilution ot traits by 
interbreeding, whereas MendeUsm fea- 
tured a "particulate" theory of inheri- 
tance, with traits coded by discrete and 
unchanging genes that need not be ex-i 
pressed in all ofispring independent andi 
undiluted, but that remain in the heredi- 
tary constitution, aw"aiting expression in 
some fiiture generation. 

In an understandable inirial enthusiasm 
for this great discovery, early genericists 
conunined their most common error in 
trying to identify singje genes as cause- 
for nearly ever^' feamre of the human or- 
ganism, fiiom discrete bits of anatomy tc 
complex facets of personality. The search 
for sin^e generic determinants seemec 
reasonable for simple, discrete, and dis-' 
continuous characters and contrasts (like 
blue versus broven eyes). But the notior 
that complex behaviors might alsc 
emerge fi:om a similar root in simple 
heredity of single genes never made much, 
sense, for two major reasons: (1) a conti-: 
nuity in expression that precludes am 
easy definition of traits supposedly undel 
analysis (I may know^ blue eyes when I se* 
them, but where does a sanguine person' 
ahty end and melancholia take over?); an^ 
(2) a ^drrual certainty that environment 
can substanrially mold such characters 
whatever their underlying generic influ 
ence (my eyes may become blue whateve 
I eat, but my inhetendy good brain ma 

end up residing in a stupid adult if poor 
nutrition starved my early growth and 
poverty denied me any education). 

Nonetheless, most early human geneti- 
cists searched for "unit characters" — sup- 
posed traits that could be interpreted as 
the product of a single Mendelian fac- 
tor — with abandon, even in complex, 
continuous, and environmentally labile 
features of personality or accomplishment 
in life. (These early analyses proceeded 
primarily by the tracing of pedigrees. 1 
can envisage accurate data, and reliable 
results, for a family chart of eye color, but 
how could anyone trace the alleged gene 
for "optimism," "feeble inhibition," or 
"wanderlust" — not to mention such 
largely situational phenomena as "pau- 
perism" or "communality." Was great- 
uncle George a jovial back-slapper or a 
: reclusive cuss?) 

Whatever the dubious validity of such 
overextended attempts to reduce complex 
human behaviors to effects of single 
genes, this strategy certainly served the 

aims and purposes of the early twentieth 
century's most influential social crusade 
with an allegedly scientific foundation: 
the eugenics movement, with its stated 
aim of "improving" America's hereditary 
stock by preventing procreation among 
the supposedly unfit (called "negative eu- 
genics") and encouraging more breeding 
among those deemed superior in blood- 
line ("positive eugenics"). The abuses of 
this movement have been extensively 
documented in many excellent books 
covering such subjects as the hereditarian 
theory of mental testing and the passage 
ot legislation for involuntary sterihzation 
and restriction of immigration from na- 
tions deemed inferior in hereditary stock. 
Many early geneticists played an active 
role in the eugenics movement, but none 
more zealously than the aforementioned 
Charles Benedict Davenport (1866- 
1944), who received a Ph.D. in zoology 
at Harvard in 1892, taught at the Univer- 
sity of Chicago, and then became head of 
the Carnes^ie Institution's Station for Ex- 

perimental Evolution at Cold Spring 
Harbor, New York, where he also estab- 
lished and directed the Eugenics Record 
Office, beginning in 1910. This office, 
with its mixed aims of supposedly scien- 
tific documentation and overt political 
advocacy, existed primarily to establish 
and compile detailed pedigrees in at- 
tempts to identify' the hereditary basis of 
human traits. The hyper-enthusiastic 
Davenport secured funding firom several 
of America's leading (and, in their own 
judgment, therefore eugenicaUy blessed) 
families, particularly from Mrs. E. H. 
Harriman, the guardian angel and chief 
moneybags for the entire movement. 

In his 1911 textbook, dedicated to 
Harriman "in recognition of the gener- 
ous assistance she has given to research in 
eugenics," Davenport stressed the depen- 
dence ot effective eugenics upon the new 
Mendelian "knowledge" that complex 
behavioral traits may be caused by single 
genes. Writing of the 5,000 immigrants 
(Please turn to page 10) 

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As her juvenile offspring yawns, a plains zebra mare pulls hack her 
ears in a subtle threat to a herd member that has gotten too close. 

.. >.:,.. 

Natural History 3/98 

Ston,' by Mace A. Hack and 
Daniel I. Rubenstein 

Photographs by Karl Ammann 

Of the many species of equids (horses, 
asses, and zebras) that dominated the 
worlds grasslands for much of the last 
eight million years, only seven are left, 
three of them zebras. AH three zebra spe- 
cies live on the savannas of eastern and 
southern Africa, all feed exclusively on 
grass, and all have the stripes familiar to 
even the youngest child just learning that 
"Z is for zebra." Yet just as a closer look 
reveals differences in stripe patterns 
among the species, insights gained from 
years of fieldwork have uncovered two 
ver^' different t\"pes of zebra societ\", one 
of which is unusual for mammals. 

Of the three species, the plains zebra 
tEqtiiis burchelli) is the most abundant and 
widespread, inhabiting tropical grasslands 
from the vast, acacia-dotted savannas of 
East Africa — where we have studied it for 
the past ten years — down through the 
scrubby woodlands of the Zambezian re- 
gion to the rolling, treeless veld of South 
Africa. The mountain zebra (E. zebra), 
preferring a more temperate climate, Uves 
in the broken, mountainous regions of 
Namibia and southernmost South Africa, 
while Grew s zebra (Ji. grevyi) ranges over 
the stony, thin grasslands of Ethiopia and 
northern Kenya, where it sometimes 
overlaps with the plains zebra. 

Both plains and mountain zebras live in 
vear-round breeding groups ot one to 
several adult mares, their recent offspring, 
and a single adult male — the staUion — 
that defends his exclusive mating rights to 
the females. These groups can be \asual- 
ized as a wagon wheel, with the stallion at 
the wheels hub and the mares occupying 
the rim. The spokes of the wheel are the 
strong bonds between each mare and the 
StaUion. The females form long-lasting 
social bonds with one another as well, 
adding strength to the wheel's rim. 

Females of many other social mammal 
species, such as lions and elephants, also 
form bonds, but the\- do so almost exclu- 

Tlie plains zebra is the most abundant spec\ 
through the woodlands of the Zambezian 

sively with close kin. What makes plains 
and mountain zebra societ^• unusual is 
that the bonds are between unrelated in- 
di\-iduals. These zebras belong to a small 
set of species (which includes, among 
others, the mountain gorilla, the 
hamadrs'as baboon, and the greater 
spearnose bat) in which not only male but 
also female oiEpring ultimately leave the 
group in which they were born; conse- 
quendy, the adult females within a group 
are never closely related. (The evolution- 
ars7 impetus for the dispersal of young fe- 
males may be avoidance of inbreeding. 
Since a staUion may retain a harem for 
many years, any daughters that stayed at 
home would sooner or later wind up 
mating with their father. Our observa- 
tions in Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater 
lend support to this explanation: young 
females there move even farther away 
from the group of their birth than do 
young males.) 

Grevy's zebras are less social, with mares 
and their most recent oiJspring the onl\ 
stable social unit. Although one some- 
times sees a number of mares and their 
voung feeding together, such groupings 

typically break apart within hours or days. 
Stallions live alone, defending territories water or rich patches ot grass and 
mating with any sexually receptive females 
that come to feed or drink. Mares with 
newborn foals must remain near water be- 
cause of the physiological demands ot 
milk production and the inability ot 
Muing foals to travel long distances. Con- 
sequently, they may stay on a single stal- 
lion's territory tor several months. Once 
her foal is old enough to travel, however, a 
mare leaves the stallion's territory, often 
loining up with other lactating mothers. 

The differences in zebra society can be 
explained by a crucial tenet of behavioral 
ccolog\': the distribution of females is dri- 
\cii primarily by the distribution of the 
resources they need in order to repro- 

duce. In the semiarid savannas of Kenya's 
Buffalo Springs and Samburu national re- 
serves, where we and our colleagues have 
studied Grevy's zebras on and off for the 
past fifteen years, the best grass grows in 
widely scattered patches, forcing teniales 
to range over large areas to tind sufficient 
food. Competition for grass, together 
with the differing ability of lactating and 
nonlactating females to travel long dis- 
tances, works against the development of 
strong social bonds and stable groups. 
Plains and mountain zebras generally in- 
habit lusher grasslands, where both food 
and safe places to drink are more abun- 
dant and more evenly distributed. 

Male zebras, meanwhile, respond more 
to the distribution of females than to the 
distribution of resources. But this is seldom 

Travel Notes 

The lush cnmwiiinait of Tanzania's 
N^oiwi(ioro Cmler supports zebras and a 
great uariety of other animals year-round. 
Driving conditions are rough, so virtually all 
tourism is by safari. Most tours originate in 
.'\rnsha, a five-hour bus ride from Nairobi or 
a short drive from Kilimanjaro International 
Airport. High season for tourism is from mid- 
June to August and at Cliristmastime. A less 
crowded time to go is the end of the wet season 
(late May and early June), when baby 
animals and breeding birds abound. Northern 
Kenya s seniidesert offers an abundatue of 
birds and an extensive mammal fauna 
dominated by the oryx, reticulated giraffe, 
gerenuk, and Grevy's zebra. Hotels in the 
Buffalo Springs and Samburu reserves can be 
reached by car from Nairobi. 

igingfrom the vast, acacia-dotted savannas of East Africa, 
\i, to the YolUng, treeless veld of the south. 

400 Miles 

Opposite page, top: Ttiv stallioii-and- 
niarc groups of plains zebras graze 
together in typical East African acacia 
savanna. Group members mainiai)i their 
cohesiveness, even in herds oj several 
hundred. Left: On the alert for ticks or 
other parasites, o.xpeckers ride on the back 
of a plains zebra. 

30 Discovery 

Natural History 3/98 


Times for 

By Stuan D. IVilliams and Joshua R. Giiisbeiv 

Grevy's zebra has a distinguished lineage. 
It is the closest li\'ing relative of Dinohip- 
piis — the Miocene horse from which all 
modern horses, asses, and zebras evolved — 
and most closely resembles the first equid 
that wandered into Africa several milhon 
years ago. Eventually, the descendants of 
this equid came to range over much of 
the continent. At one time. Gre\y's range 
mav have included all ot eastern Africa, 
but by modern times, it was restricted to 
the semideserts of Kenya, Ethiopia, and 

In recent years, the species has become 
endangered. It disappeared from Somalia 
in 1973. In Ethiopia and Eritrea, perhaps 

only 500 Gre\'y's zebras survive, and those 
are found in and around a few protected 
areas. The species has also declined dra- 
matically in Kenya, from an estimated 
14,000 in the mid-1970s' to approxi- 
mately 4,000 today. 

In Somalia, Grew's was a victim of 
overhunting. Hunting was also a major 
threat in Kenya. By 1977, Kenya had 
banned both hunting and the export of 
skins, but the decline continued. Field 
studies that we and other researchers con- 
ducted in the 1980s suggested that com- 
petition with domestic animals might also 
be an important tactor; and in 1992, \ve 
began a research project to investigate the 
complex interactions between Gre\'y's ze- 
bras and Uvestock. 

In northern Kenya, Grew's zebras 
compete direcdy with the pastoral people 
and their Hvestock for food and access to 
water. Kenya has one of the world's fastest 
growing human populations, and more 
people means more cows, goats, sheep, 
and camels. This has led to both intensi- 
fied competition and, outside protected 
areas, a loss of habitat for the zebras. The 
importance of these findings cannot be 

~ebra hires the neck of a female, a soniewhai atypical prdudc to mating. 

overestimated because protected areas ac- 
count for less than one percent of the spe- 
cies' historic range. 

Livestock do more than just eat gras 
that would otherwise be avaOable to thi 
zebras; their intense grazing can change 
vegetation, causing grass to be replaced b\ 
woody species unpalatable to zebras anc 
domestic animals alike. A vicious cyclt 
results: as less food is available, competi 
tion for it intensifies. Zebras are forced t* 
travel farther and farther to find food. Al 
this moving about burns up a lot of en- 
erg\', an effect that shows itself in the poo 
sur\''ival rate of foals born to mares outsid 
the parks and reserves. Making matter: 
worse, these mares are often in poor con- 
dition themselves and bear fewer foals t( 
begin with. Competition for water is alsi 
a problem. Zebras prefer to drink durin| 
the relative safet\' of daylight hours, bu 
where Grew's and livestock use the sani' 
water suppHes, the zebras are forced ti 
drink at night, when lions and hyenas ar 
most active. 

Many years may pass before the effec 
of this sort of competition becomes obvi 
ous. Although many young zebras di 
when competition is intense, the long 
Hved adults are little affected, and th 
population may dechne as slowly as 2 or 
percent a year. Over time, of course, eve 
such a slow rate is devastating, as anyon 
who has ever lost the struggle to stay sol 
vent knows; if the amount of mone 
coming into a bank account is eve 
slightly less than the amount going ou 
the account will eventually hit zero. 

Conser\'ationists usually focus their at 
tention on critically endangered specie 
By that point, however, when only 
handfiil of individuals remain, determir 
ing the processes that brought these spg 
cies to the brink of extinction is difficul' 
We need to spend more time studying th 
slow, steady declines by which most spe 
cies become endangered. Sadly, thj 
Grew's zebra is probably a good modi 
for what is happening to many rare an 
threatened animals and plants. 

,is simple as it seems. A Grevy's stallion, for 
example, could follow mares around one at 
.1 time, waiting for an opportunity to mate. 
But such a strategy would be veiy time- 
consuming and ineiJicient, since females 
.uc sexually receptive for just a short time 
.ifter giving birth, gestation lasts thirteen 
months, and foaling is not strongly sea- 
sonal. The stallion is more likely to en- 
counter receptive females if he finds a 
place with the food and water females 
need and then stays put. If he can keep 
nwil males away fi-om the inuiiediate area, 
he raises his chances of being the only male 
to copulate with receptive females. 

Given these apparent advantages of ter- 
ritoriality, it may seem odd that the plains 
and mountain zebra males go to the trou- 
ible of defending whole groups of females 

instead of simply staking out a claim to a 
water hole or rich sward of grass. But 
plains and mountain zebra females also 
travel widely to seek good grazing and 
cannot be depended on to return faith- 
fully to the same spot. Plains zebras m the 
Serengeti, for example, migrate a few 
hundred miles every year, tracking the 
lush growth of grass that follows the rains. 
And while following a single mare might 
not make reproductive sense, following a 
harem is an altogether different proposi- 
tion: any male that can defend a group of 
females as it travels stands a very good 
chance of mating with all of them as they 
come into estrus. 

But why do females in the more social 
zebras form cohesive, long-lasting 
groups? Abundant tood and water may 

permit group formation, but they do not 
explain why it occurs. In many other ani- 
mals, living in groups appears to lower the 
risk of predation for any one individual, 
but zebras probably do not form groups 
for this reason alone: a closely related 
equid, the wild horse, lives in groups 
identical in size and composition to those 
of the zebra, even in environments free of 
predators. Unless group living is a ghost 
of predators past, other factors must favor 
group formation in equid societies. 

The answer can be found in the distri- 
bution and behavior of the surplus, non- 
breeding males known as "bachelors." 
Because zebras, Hke aU equids, digest food 
relatively inefficiently, individuals spend 
as many as sixteen hours a day grazing. 
Pregnant and lactating mares especially 

In northern Kenya, Grevy^s zebra competes directly with 
pastoral people and their livestock for food and water 

A pliiiiis zcbm scratches its head on a broken tree, a rare find in tlie f^rasslands. 


Natural History 3/98 

Books to Read 

The Safari Compaiiioii, by R. D. Estes 
(Chelsea Green Publishing, 1993) 
African Mammals, by Jonathan Kingdon 
(Academic Press, 1997) 
Maasailand Ecology, by K. M. Holinwood 
and W. A. Rodgers (Cambridge 
Umversity Press, 1991) 

After twenty minutes of fighting — which can get violent — 
stallions and bachelor males usually settle into an uneasy truce. 

need lots of uninterrupted feeding time. 
If a female is disturbed often enough, her 
physical condition, and thus her ability to 
bear and raise a healthy foal, decreases sig- 
nificantly. In the plains zebras we study m 
Ngorongoro, as well as in a population ot 
wild horses living on an island off the 
coast of North CaroHna, we have found 
the main source of disruption to be con- 
tests between a group's stallion and other 
males — usually bachelors. As bachelor 
males approach a group, the mares move 
closer together while the stallion trots out 
to meet his challengers, which are usually 
tamiliar to him from siinilar encounters in 
the past. After touching noses with each 
one, he uses his considerable physical 
strength and agility to keep them away 
from his females. Occasionally, one of the 
bachelors manages to outflank a stallion 
that is busy sparring with other rivals. 
The intruder may get to the mares to in- 
vestigate their reproductive status, or even 
attempt to copulate. Most of the time, 
however, the stallion — after a few tense 
minutes of rubbing necks, shoving, and 
snorting — succeeds in maintaining a 
buffer around his group, protecting his 

mares from the disruptive sexual advances 
of other males. Thus, by choosing to as- 
sociate with a dominant male, a female 
secures the peace she needs to graze for 
long periods. By intimidating other stal- 
lions and harems, a strong staDion can also 
ensure his mares' access to water and food. 
The influence of plains zebra bachelors 
on social organization may extend even 
further. In this species, bachelors congre- 
gate in large and cohesive groups, often 
containing twenty or more males. A sin- 
gle stallion set upon by such a large group 
has little chance of defending his females. 
As he barrels into the mob, taking on five 
or six of the marauders at a time, other 
bachelors just stream around him and 
head for the females. However, groups of 
plains zebra stallions and their mares often 
associate to form herds, which may some- 
times contain as many as several hundred 
animals. When a bachelor group ap- 
proaches such a herd, four or five stallions 
may leave their groups together and pre- 
sent a solid front against the interlopers, 
keeping them on the periphery ot the 
herd. After twenty minutes of fighting — 
which can get violent but usually involves 

Plains zebras and blue ii'ildebeests (dark 
animals in herd) often associate on the 
plains of East Africa, above. Two Grevy's 
stallions, opposite, battle over a mate. 
Prevailing in male— male combat is 
essential to reproductive success, and 
combat can be intense, as males punch with 
their forelegs and deliver bites to the head, 
neck, and legs. 

nothing more serious than an occasion; 
lunge at the rump or hind legs of an op 
ponent — the stallions and bachelors settli 
down to an uneasy truce of vigilant graz 
ing and sporadic outbursts of tussling 
Eventually, the bachelors wander off anc 
the stallions return to their groups. 1 

Over the years, we have observed thai 
the makeup of these herds is not randonii 
certain stallion-and-mare groups tend td 
stay together, raising the tantalizing possij 
bility that the herds represent an addi-i 
tional level of social organization. If sc 
zebras once again would be unusua; 
among mammals, for only a few species; 
most of them primates, live in such com[ 
plex societies. I- 


New Immigrants Natural History 3/98 

By Nancy Foner ^ merka's last great wave of immigra- 

tion began more than a hundred 
years ago and peaked before World 
War I. A new wave, only decades 
old, is transforming the nation 
today. In 1997, an all-time-record 
29 million foreign-born persons were living in the 
United States — the proportion of immigrants, at 1 1 
percent, is inching up toward the 1910 figure of 15 
percent. And these new arrivals are moving beyond the 
gateway cities into the heartland. Hmong refugees 
firom Laos, to pick one example, are now more than 10 
percent of the population of Wausau, Wisconsin. 

Immigrants who came through EUis Island in the 
last wave were overwhelmingly from southern and 
eastern Europe; today's arrivals are far more diverse. 
They come from Mexico, the Philippines, Vietnam, 
the Dominican RepubHc, and China — to name the 
top five source countries for legal immigrants in 1995. 
Where once there were Jewish pushcart peddlers, now 
there are Korean greengrocers and Indian newsstand 
dealers. Mexican gardeners and busboys are also a fa- 
miliar part of the urban landscape. 

A century ago, immigrants were generally poor and 
low skilled; today, too, many reach America with httle 
more than the shirts on their backs. Still, according to 
the 1990 census, a third of all those who arrived in the 
previous five years were college graduates. The West 
African driving your cab in New York City could well 
turn out to be studying engineering at City College. 
The Korean greengrocer may have a master's degree. 
Many are practicing their professions and trades here — 
in medicine, engineering, and computers. And some 
are bringing with them substantial amounts of capital 
that give them a start in business. 

In what seems Hke a timeless feature of immigrant 
settlement, today's newcomers often cluster in enclaves 
near kinfolk and friends, finding comfort and security 
in an environment of shared languages and institutions. 
But new polyethnic neighborhoods, with no parallel in 
previous waves of immigration, have also emerged. 
New York's Elmhurst section, in the borough of 
Queens, now has the distinction of welcoming more 
people from more places than any other ZIP code in 
the United States. Between 1991 and 1995, nearly 
13,000 immigrants from a stunning 123 countries 
moved there. Among better-educated and more pros- 
perous immigrants, a new kind of suburban existence 
is developing in the nation's bedroom communities. 
Monterey Park, California, only eight miles east of 
downtown Los Angeles, has been dubbed the first sub- 
urban Chinatown. 

Another dramatic difference is that most of today's 
immigrants are people of color, while those in the last 
great wave were, in the main, phenotypicaUy white. 
Most newcomers enter racially polarized cities, where 
they often live among — and are victims of the same 
kind of prejudice as — native-born blacks and Hispan- 
ics. Bear in mind, however, that race was an issue in 
the last wave as well. Jews and Italians, thought to be- 
long to inferior races, faced outspoken prejudice. 

Some reasons that immigrants are drawn to Amer- 


ica do not change. Today's newcomers are often escap- 
ing oppressive governments and poverty. In 1991, the 
minimum niontUy salary for full-time work in the 
United States was thirteen times higher than the mini- 
mum wage in the Dominican Republic; a Brazilian 
baby-sitter in New York makes more in one week than 
she made m a month as head nurse back home. Gov- 
ernment policies have also influenced the flow ot mi- 
grants. Some countries, Uke China, have relaxed their 
exit restrictions. In the United States, the hberalization 

of immigration laws after 1965, along with new 
refugee policies, opened the gates to millions (most 
notably Asians) who had been shut out before. 

Once the immigrants setde here, modern trans- 
portation and communications change the context in 
which they live out their lives. Some social scienrists 
even thmk a new term needs to be invented — 
"transnational" — to characterize the way many people 
now forge ties across national borders. Even before 
they arrive, their exposure to a new, global consumer 
culture and economy means that today's inmiigrants 
are more culturally attuned to the United States than 
their predecessors were. Once, letters spread the word 
about America; now, movies and television bring 
vivid, up-close views of American popular culture to 
the remotest villages in the developing world. 

A centui7 ago, the trip back to Italy took about 
two weeks, and more than a month elapsed between 
sending a letter home and receiving a reply. Today's 
immigrants can hop on a plane or make a phone call to 
check out how things are going at home. They can 
participate in weddings of scattered relatives by watch- 
ing videotapes sent by mail and maintain business in- 
volvement in more than one country through modern 
telecommunications. And the technology is not all 
that's changed. New, dual-nationality provisions in a 
growing number of countries allow immigrants who 
become United States citizens to vote in their home 
country as well as here. The Dominican Republic will 
soon allow its citizens to cast their ballots in polling 
places abroad, making New York's Dominican com- 
munity the second largest constituency in Dominican 
elections — exceeded only by Santo Domingo. 

The newcomers are a force to be reckoned with. In 
California, the Republican Party worries about alien- 
ating the growing Hispanic vote; Miami already has a 
Cuban American mayor. By 1990, Asians were 15 per- 
cent of the entering class at Harvard and almost 25 per- 
cent at MIT. Although the Chinese were once vilified 
as the "yellow peril" and Japanese Americans were im- 
prisoned in internment camps not so long ago, Asian 
Americans now have a new image; some even call 
them the "model minorities." 

WiU the new immigrants follow the path ot those 
who went before? How will their children respond to 
the American scene? Who among them will become 
our leaders? AH we can say with certainty is that this 
new wave of immigration, like its predecessor, will 
profoundly change the way we live. 

Nniiey Foiicr is a pwfcssor of iiiithropolooy ,u the State 
Uiiiivrsity oJ'Nai' York at Purcliasc. 

An Italian and 
Spanish barbershop 
advertises its 
presence in English, 
standing out among 
Chinese and Korean 
signs in the 
polyethnic Fiushing 
section of New York 
City's borough of 

New Immigrants Natural History 3/98 

' of * ,-4 

Photographs by Ed Kashi 
Story by Julie Winokur 

An older generation 
comes to America. 

The old days were the New World days, when young im- 
migrants came to America to claim their futures. It was a 
time when elders sent their children off with the imphcit 
understanding that parents and children would never see 
each other again. 

Today, people live longer than ever before, and trans- 
portation has become so easy that even an octogenarian can 
confidently travel thousands of miles, across continents and 
oceans, to start over. Seniors now account for more than 4 
percent of legal American immigrants. Many are retired 
and have come here to help care for their grandchildren. 
For many, the resulting experience is a rewarding but some- 
times bewildering mixture of American and Old World 

According to a recent study by the National Research 
Council, there has been a gradual shift in immigrant popu- 
lations toward both children and the elderly "This shift has 
mirrored changes in immigration pohcy, especially as family 
unification moves to center stage," the study found. 

The people described in the foDowing pages all came to 
America after they had raised families in their native coun- 
tries. They chose then to follow in the footsteps of their 
children. For many older immigrants, coming to America 
means a loss of control, the transition fiom being the head 
of a household to being a boarder in their children's homes. 
Without a car or drivers hcense, they often feel confined; 
without an income, they're afraid of burdening their chil- 
dren: without a social life or fluency m EngUsh. they teel 

Given the American preoccupation with youth and the 
anti-immigration sentiment infecting the country, the imm- 
cial burden of older immigrants on the state has become a 
poUtical issue. But these imnugrants receive $1,000 to $2,000 
less per year in Social Security benefits than do their second- 
or third-generation counterparts, and are 40 percent less 
likely to be placed m nursing homes, according to die Na- 
nonal Research Council study Their conn-iburions to child- 
care and home maintenance cannot be given a price tag. 

In this photo-essay, San Francisco photographer Ed 
Kashi takes us into the lives of three families, all of whom 
hve within sixty miles of one another in the Bay Area. The 
Fondekar taniily (opposite, top), whose roots ai'e in India, 
lives in the suburbs of San Jose. Leah Frenkel (middle), a 
Jewish woman from Uzbekistan, and Wong Wah Po (bot- 
tom), from mainland China, live only a few blocks apart. 
Despite their isolation in their adopted country, these se- 
niors have the comfort of their families" presence, ot being 
part of a chain whose links remain unbroken. 

New Immigrants Natural History 3/98 

Sunila and Vasudeo Fondekar — India 

Among Indians, the ex- 
tended family is a liv- 
ing tradition that has 
managed to traverse 
continents relatively 
intact. The Fondekars 
began visiting the 
United States after 
their daughter, Binita, 
moved here ten years 
ago to join her husband from an arranged marriage. 
Sunila, age fifty-nine, made the first extended visit, for 
one fiill year, after the birth of their first grandchild. 
When the Fondekars were sponsored by their daughter 
for green cards last year, they naturally moved in with 
her family. Now Sunila helps care for her grandchil- 
dren, which has enabled her daughter to go back to 
work as a software engineer. 

Until recently, the Fondekars had no intention of 
setthng in America. When SunUa's husband, Vasudeo, 
faced mandatory retirement from the Indian Railway 
seven years ago at the age of fifty-eight, the couple 
purchased a home in Bombay. "Our future was in 
India only," he says, his crisp white kurta an unusual 
sight in the suburban Cahfornia setting. "When our 
children settled here, they asked us to come because we 
missed each other so much." 

Since moving to the States, Vasudeo has retrained 
as a computer operator and, after a difficult search, has 
landed a job at a Silicon Valley computer company. He 
beHeves that most American companies are reluctant to 
hire seniors because of the high cost of insuring their 
health. The need for medical coverage was part of the 
reason Vasudeo wanted to return to work, but he also 

(Please turn to page 69) 

T*T * "^-^"V 


On a recent Siindny, I lisiideo Fondekiv; dbove, 
reads India Today online on his laptop 
computer, while his son and an in-law watch 
49crs football on television. Once a week his 
wife, Sunilii, aftcnds yoga class at the Iiido- 
Aniericaii Community Service Center, bottom 
row, far left. Center: Siinila shops at the local 
supeniiarkcl. Left: During Diwali, the Hindu 
festival of lights, Sunila blesses each family 
member in turn. Tliis traditional five-day 
holiday has been condensed iino one day to 
accommodate their busy American lifestyle. 

Above: Leah Frenkel visits a market near her 
new apartment in San Francisco's Chinatoim. 
Bottom row, left to right: Her twenty-one-year- 
old granddaughter, Regina, stops in for a visit on 
her way to work. At the L'Chaim Senior 
Center, Leah socializes and takes classes in 
English. Before serving a meal she has prepared 
for her fellow immigrants, Leah lights Sabbath 
candles and gives the traditional blessing. 


Natural History 3/98 New Immigrants 


Leah Firnkcl — Uzbekistan 

eah Frenkel's eyes glaze over 
with tears as she watches a 
home video that her son 
Gregory has recently brought 
from Uzbekistan. She nar- 
rates a scene of herself visiting 
her parents' graves and points 
out her recently deceased sis- 
ter. She watches the video as 
though for the first time, and 
Gregoiy takes a paper napkin to dry her tears. 

By the time Leah Frenkel came to San Francisco 
four years ago, at age seventy-four, most of her friends 
were either dead or had emigrated. Born m Romania, 
Leah migrated with her family to Uzbekistan, a pre- 
dominantly Mushm state, in the 1940s. Synagogues 
were few and far between, and religious tolerance was 
at a minimum. "Jewish people spend their whole Hves 
as imnugrants," says Leah, whose first language is Yid- 
dish, although she also speaks Russian, Pohsh, and Ro- 
manian and IS learning EngHsh. 

She finally decided to emigrate when an older son 
moved to seek a better hfe m America. He chose San 
Francisco because his in-laws had already setded there. 
The Umted States is also one of the few countries that 
allowed them to immigrate as an extended fainily. 

In Uzbekistan, Leah worked as an accountant in a 
cotton factory; if she had stayed, she would be hving 
on a pension of $10 per month. In the United States, 
she's entitled to more than S6(30 monthly in Supple- 
mental Security Income, and her small studio apart- 
ment costs only about a third of that. 

Until a few months ago, Leah lived with her older 
son and his wife and t^vo children, but she wanted her 

(Please turn to page 69) 


New Immigrants Natural History 3/9S 

IVoiw ]Vah Po — China 

n the last Thurs- 
day ot even' 
month, a group 
of ten elderly 
Chinese men tra- 
\'erse the few 
short blocks from 
the On-Lok Se- 
nior Center to 
the Little Garden 
Restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown. Among 
them is Wong Wah Po, 104 years old, dressed in a dap- 
per gray suit and fedora and pushed in a wheelchair by 
an eight\--sbc-year-old man who volunteen at the se- 
nior center. 7\fter a feast that includes soup, barbecued 
pork, Chinese broccoli, beef and bitter melon, and a 
whole chicken (presented ^^•ith its head still on), the 
men return to the senior center to play mah-jongg. 

A native of mainland China, Wah Po emigrated to 
the United States nearly rsvenrs- years ago to foUow 
his son, who is now se^"ent^■ years old. By the time 
Wah Po came to America, he had already migrated 
within China for poUtical and economic reasons. Up- 
rooting one more time wasn't so traumatic, he ex- 
plains, despite the fact that he was already more than 
eighty years old. Eventually, his daughter and her 
children followed suit. 

He brought udth him only his most prized posses- 
sions: his paintbrushes and a detailed family histor\-. in 
calligraphy, that traces twent\--r^vo generations. His an- 
cestors, he says proudly, were butlers in the Ming Dy- 
nast\"s Royal Court. Although he speaks no English, 
last year, at the age of 103, he became an American cit- 
izen. He proudly shows off the naturalization certifi- 
cate, his newest trophy. 

(Please turn to page 69) 

New Immigrants Natural History 3/98 

Stoiy by Samuel Fromartz 
Photographs by Lauren Greenfield 



n g^ uJ 






Seiichi Tanaka never planned to be a founder ot 
idikc — -Japanese drumming — in the United States. He 
actually came to San Francisco from Japan in 1967, at 
the age of twenty-four, to pursue a martial arts career. 
But then, at a local spring Cherry Blossom Festival, he 
was surprised by the absence of the familiar drums, 
which he remembered playing even as a child. ("The 
drummers would get drunk and then fall asleep. That's 
when I would try taiko.'") The following year, he bor- 
rowed some drums from a Buddhist temple in San 
Francisco and organized his own contingent of players, 
at first consisting mostly of Japanese nationals Living in 
the Bay Area. Tanaka's martial arts background helped 
shape his philosophy and approach, which emphasizes 
the drummers' intense physical and mental training 
and their disciplined and graceful movement. His 
group, San Francisco Taiko Dojo, has since grown and 
influenced the development of others in the United 
States and Canada. 

The first major gathering marking this three-dec- 
ade-long movement in North America was held in 
1997 and drew nearly 500 people to Little Tokyo, the 
predominantly Japanese American community ot 
downtown Los Angeles. During one jam session, while 
others were relying on brute force, Tanaka's drumming 
seemed efFordess, as if it were an afterthought to the 
fluid movement of his entire body. In a master class he 


held afterwards — ninety students rotaring through the Shoji Ozawa, a 
drums — he urged: "You have to totally relax. Let the Japanese member of 
energy come fr-om your ki [center]. Feel the energ\- San Francisco Taiko 
come fr-om the mother earth, from the bottom of your Dojo, solos on the 
feet." He stressed a kind of loose intensity', in which the odaiko, or big drum. 
mind focuses on the tips of the baclii, or drumsricks. 
And he heartily endorsed the yelps one often hears 
from performers at taiko concerts. "Screaming is very 
important! After you scream you teel good." 

Taiko rarely strays from an emphasis on percussion 
instruments. The pulse is maintained by the resonant 
tones of large and small drums, the clackerv'-clack that 
these wood-and-skin instruments make w^ien they are 
hit on the side, and the shrill sound of the atarigciiic (a 
bowl-shaped metal instrument struck \\'ith deer antlers 
attached to a bamboo stick). Gongs of various size and 
shape add musical depth, and a bamboo flute occasion- 
ally offers a melody. When the drummers solo, they 
improvise m response to the rhythms, engaging in a 

New Immigrants Naturar History 3/98 

kind of dance with the strong undercurrents. 

This music has ancient roots. The drums, which 
vary in form and use, probably came to Japan from 
China and Korea beginning around the fifth century, 
following the paths of Buddhism and theatrical arts. 
The drums are used in gagciku, the traditional Japanese 
court music that has changed little since the eleventh 
century. Regional folk styles of taiko have developed 
throughout Japan, tied to festivals and religious rites. 
But strictly speaking, the group drumming (kumi- 
daiko) popular today — in which several performers play 
drums of various sizes, some keeping the beat, others 
soloing — is a post- World War II development. 

In Japan, the rise of kumi-daiko coincided with the 
late 1960s counter-culture movement, which led some 
young people to reexplore folk arts that had been ne- 
glected as a consequence of the rapid modernization 
and Western bias of the post-war era. Ondekoza and its 
offspring, Kodo, now among Japan's best-known taiko 
groups, were established as rural communes in which 
the participants self-consciously sought to rediscover 
their roots. Japanese American youth began to explore 
taiko during the same turbulent times, vi^hen they were 
battling what was viewed as the stiff assimilationist out- 
look of their parents' generation and the prevalent 
stereotype of the "quiet Japanese" (taiko is anything 
but quiet). The 1997 taiko conference was organized 


by the Japanese American Cultural and Community 
Center QACCC) and held at their headquarters in Lit- 
de Tokyo. Founded in 1980, JACCC is a nonprofit or- 
ganization whose mission is to preserve and promote 
Japanese and Japanese American heritage and arts. 

Masao Kodani is the minister of the Senshin Bud- 
dhist temple in Los Angeles. According to him, before 
Pearl Harbor, "Every adult was expected to offer some- 
thing in terms of entertainment, whether it was a poem, 
singing, or dancing." But the war — and the internment 
by the United States of 110,000 Japanese Americans in 
barbed-wire-ringed camps — had a corrosive effect on 
that tradition. Despite huge economic and emotional 
losses suffered by Japanese Americans, their overwhelm- j 
ing response to that experience was assimilation. And , f 
among the things that got left behind were the small cel- 
ebrations of the community's cultural spirit. 

Kodani took charge of the temple as a young min- 
ister in 1968. This gated compound Hes in an African 
American and Latino neighborhood of south-central 
Los Angeles that had been largely Japanese American 
until the 1970s. Taiko drums are used in some of the 
temple ceremonies and festivals, but usually with other 
instruments and not for the kind of athletic group per- 
formances with which they are now associated. After 
the 1969 Obon Festival (a summertime celebration of( 
the ancestors), Kodani remembers, he and a member 



Kodani and Abe were putting away some drums when they began playingij 
hours, until they were sweating, their hands bleeding. ''We should do somi 

Right: At a 1997 
conference held in 
Los Angeles by the 
Japanese American 
Cultural and 
Community Center, a 
Japanese expert 
teaches a master 
class in bamboo 
flute. Far right: 

participants practice 
on drums made from 
wine barrels, an 
American innovation. 

if the temple, George Abe, were putting the drums 
iw.iy for another year when they began playing them, 
rhey played for about four hours, until they were 
,\\catmg, their hands bleeding. "George, I think we 
diould do something about this!" Kodani remembers 
iaying. Shortly thereafter (just one year after Tanaka 
formed his group in San Francisco) Kinnara Taiko was 
founded. It was the first contemporary taiko group to 
.ome directly from the Japanese American community. 
Tanaka linked up with Kinnara Taiko and shared 
knowledge, especially about buUding drums. Most tra- 
ditional taiko drums are made by hollowing out a tree 
itrunk and stretching animal skin over the head. Espe- 
cially in the case of an odaiko, or large drum, this can be 
quite an undertaking. Kinnara Taikos innovation was 
ito use oak wine barrels. Without this cost-saving re- 
source, taiko probably would not have developed in 
North America the way that it did. Another difficulty 
was stretching the skin. The group first used pliers, 
Kodani said, pulled by the biggest guy in the congrega- 
tion. Later, with the help of Tanaka, they devised a sys- 
Ttem with car jacks to stretch the skin. "We had to go 
through many experiments, breaking jacks and skins," 
Tanaka says. It's now a standard method. 

For someone like Johnny Mori, who grew up in 
the sixties and was an early member of Kinnara Taiko, 
the group seemed a natural link to Japanese culture. 

ri.They played for about four 
about this!" they agreed. 

"Mentally, for me, it was very rewarding to idenrify 
with what I thought was a Japanese thing," he says. 
"But lo and behold, this particular taiko, this Japanese 
American taiko, had no roots whatsoever in Japan, 
nothing at all. Basically, we sat around and said, 'Are 
we making this thing up?" and Reverend Masao said, 
'Yeah, we're just making this up.' And I go, 'This has 
no connection? No other Buddhist group in Japan 
does this?' And he said, 'Nope.' I go, 'Wow, I always 
thought I had this connection to Japan — and I don't.' " 

At first, this realization bred insecurity, which was 
compounded by comments from Japanese who told 
the group they were not playing taiko. But when other 
Japanese Americans cheered them on, especially the 
older Issei (first-generation immigrants), they grew 
more confident. What they were doing, the sounds 
they made, reflected who they were. It was a uniquely 
American form. 

To be sure, there were missteps along the way. P.J. 
Hirabayashi, of San Jose Taiko, remembers that young 
musicians jamming on the taiko drums "had no inkling 
how to play." Alan Okada, of New York's Soh Daiko. 
recalls one of their early instructors improvising on 
saxophone while the group played drums. The ques- 
tion they faced then — and still face — was how to 
maintain the traditions of taiko and stiO create music 
that resonated personally. "We were lucky enough to 
know there are traditions, and some of those traditions 
are valuable and need to be maintained," Okada says. 
"And we were lucky enough to know that you can 
change things. . . . It's a living folk art, and it evolves." 

Today, there are more than one hundred taiko 
groups — most formed in the eighties and nineties — 
performing throughout North America, firom Calgary 
and Vancouver to Los Angeles, Honolulu, and 
Burlington, Vermont. In Japan, there are roughly 
5,000 groups, including several major professional 
troupes. Week-long festivals attract thousands, and 
groups play for hours; at one festival, a thousand drum- 
mers play simultaneously. Kodo, along with a number 
of other professional groups, has been a force in that 
evolution in Japan. It tours eight months out ot the 
year, conducts workshops the world over, and holds a 
percussion festival at its base on Sado Island, otl the east 
coast of Japan. (Last year, groups from Senegal, 
Trinidad, Indonesia, and Ireland appeared). Kodo has 
become so influential that its members bemoan how- 
novice groups in Japan copy its pieces instead of devel- 
oping their own. 

Yoshiaki Oi, a founding member of Kodo and now 
a teacher m the group, applauds the American sr\'le. 
He says he heard a specific Kodo piece played at the 

Taiko Recordings 
Kenny Endo Taiko 
Ensemble, "Eternal 
Energy," Asian Improv 
Records. 1994: 
Katari Taiko, 
Karakarakara Records. 

Kodo, "Ibuki," Sony 
Records, 1996: 
Mugenkyo, "Mugenkyo," 
self-published, 1997: 
Ondekoza, "The 
Ondekoza." JVC, 1997: 
San Francisco Taiko 
Dojo, "Tsunami," self- 
published, 1997: 
San Jose Taiko, "Mo 
Ichido," self-published, 

Soh Daiko, "Soh Daiko," 
Lyrichord, 1991: 
"Japanese Traditional 
Music: Percussion," King 
Records, 1990: 
Uzume Taiko 
Ensemble, "In Your 
Dreams," Co Zoo May 
Records, 1994 


Some of these 
recordings, especially 
the self-produced ones, 
are difficult to find. They 
are available, along with 
other taiko products and 
information, from 
Rolling Thunder, 3008 
Giant Road. San Pablo, 
CA 94806. Web sites: 
Rolling Thunder 
ZaOndekoza/index. html 

New Immigrants Natural History 3/98 

Below: The Los Angeles 
taiko group Zenshuji 
Zendeko performs in 
formal costume. 
Opposite page: 
Ctioonyong Lee attacks 
ttie big drum for New 
York's Soti Daiko. 

Los Angeles conference. "In Japan, you hear the same 
melody [played by other groups], but it's the same pre- 
sentation that we do, with the same sound, but what I 
heard here was different." He hopes that North Amer- 
ican groups wUl appear more frequently in Japan "to 
show what creati\'it\' is all about." 

Kenny Endo, who grew up in Los Angeles and 
now Uves in Hawaii, has probably taken taiko the far- 
thest among Americans. He composes, runs a school, 
tours regularly, and plays with musicians in Japan and 
the United States. His interest took him to Japan for 
ten years in the 1980s, where he studied taiko and 
hogaku hayashi — 'the classical Japanese ensemble for 
flute and drums found in Noh and Kabuki. He played 
percussion in the Kabuki theater as a protessional and 
was the first foreigner to earn the distinction of being 
granted a natori, a stage name that is also an informal li- 
cense to teach. But Endo previously worked in fiink, 
Latin, and jazz bands, even as he studied with the San 
Francisco Taiko Dqjd All these experiences show up 
in his work. "I feel a responsibility and a desire to con- 
tinue the traditional music, whether it's Kabuki music 
or festival music," Endo says. "But I also feel a desire, 
for my own expression, to compose and use taiko in 
other types of contexts with other people." At the con- 
ference's concluding concert, Endo introduced a vioUst 
and saxophonist to play with his taiko ensemble. He 

also played a tsuziimi (an hourglass-shaped hand 
used in Kabuki) wth Tanaka's group. 

Perhaps the climactic moment came \\hen drum- 
mers lined up to take turns on a three-foot-wide drum 
nesded horizontally on a wooden stand. Two perform- 
ers at a time pounded at opposite ends, one as soloist 
and the other in a back-up role. As the sweat flew off 
their bodies, which in some cases were clothed only in 
lorn cloths, the drummers unleashed a rhvthmic fi:enz\-. 
summoning up a deep roar with mounting intensir.-. 

Following the concert, conference participants par- 
took of food and drink set out by the JACCC in the 
open plaza outside the hall. But the milling crowd was 
still reluctant to disperse. After a couple of hours, some 
of the musicians spontaneously struck up a pla\-fiil, rau- 
cous tankobushi, a traditional song and dance at Obon 
festivals, then segued into other taiko dance music. 
Somebody picked up a bamboo flute, another started 
to tap on a table, and then a couple homed in on plas- 
tic garbage cans and turned them upside do\\Ti for 
drumming. Surrounded by deserted office buildings in 
do\^Titown Los Angeles, the plaza felt like a \Tllage in 
the midst of a valley. The musicians tbrmed a huge cir- 
cle, couples danced in the center, and even Tanaka 
boogied into the fray to loud cheers. Everyone clapped 
and laughed long into the night; it was a celebration ot 
rhythmic spirit as old as the taiko drum itself 

For Japanese American youth, taiko drumming challenges the stereotype of | 
the "quiet Japanese" and the assimilationist outlook of an earlier generatior 

j] New Immigrants Natural History 3/98 

Rites of 
passage from 
the Old World 

to the New 






By Han Ong 

You tell people you 
were born in Manila, 
and immediately they 
conjure up this won- 
derful, exotic child- 
hood, conflating Ma- 
nila with the million verdant, sunlit 
resorts of their imagination. Or they run 
you through the perils of a place that is no 
more than a pastiche of the nightly news- 
cast, a Marcos here, an Aquino there, and 
of course, hnelda with her shoe factory, 
giving your hfe the patina of danger and 
excitement it never possessed. And all the 
while you're standing there, and you're 
thinking; Heck, everybody's got to be 
born somewhere. 

You nod on and on, telling them that 
you now live in New York City, that al- 
though you came to this country at six- 
teen you already spoke near-perfect Eng- 
Ush (only a giveaway accent to be worked 
on, sloughed off), and that, although you 
came with your family and the act of 
coining here together gave you a tempo- 
rary closeness, you are now estranged 
firom them. They'll take the last two ad- 
missions as independent of each other, 
not reahzing in their frenzy of free associ- 
ation that these two things are the ones 
most closely linked in your Hfe. 

I did not know what coming to Amer- 
ica would actually involve, except in a 
fuzzy, Third World, gospel-swallowed- 
whole sense of "improvement." In my 
mind, what I saw was a sky bluer and 
with fluffier clouds than the actual sky 
above our heads in Manila. Looking back 
on it, I can see that this is exactly hke a 
child's behef in heaven: it's above you and 
you climb a staircase to get to it. My par- 
ents' version of America was probably 
more sophisticated, but that did not make 
them any more prepared. 

They came to make our life better, but 
to their way of thinking, America was a 
place of "evil." Since my parents were 
both Chinese and Cathohc, this "evil" 
largely meant great personal freedoms, 
which they hoped their children would 

not partake in. They wanted to remain 
the sole arbiters of right and wrong for us, 
consequently drawing lines around our 
conduct that, in the harsh light of Amer- 
ica and its emphasis on personal liberty, 
were revealed to be outdated, unfair, in- 
human. Still, their hold on us would have 
remained firm had we not felt that they 
were in some sense weakening, their au- 
thority manifestly cracking, when re- 
quired to confront white people and a 
country whose language and systems ex- 
posed them as mere virgins: so many 
tasks, like having to talk to the phone 
company people, say, to ask about a bill; 
or to the grocer to finesse the difference 
between one brand of rice and another — 
tasks for which we, the children, had to 
intercede on their behalf — turned us into 
the new adults of this new place and our 
parents into infants, their threats and in- 
junctions growing day by day into watery 

We translated our parents' Tagalog. It 
wasn't that they didn't speak any English 
but that their speech was hampered by 
self-consciousness — knowing that their 
accents obscured certain words, that they 
dropped off crucial syllables and rounded 
off words that needed a delivery closer to 
spitting, that they had a limited vocabu- 
lary. They learned the word "good," for 
example, but none of its synonyms, which 
turned conversation into redundant 
music — good, good, good, on an endless, 
unvarying loop. All this (and the thought, 
too, of money, which meant that what 
they said had better be clearer than any- 
thing else in their Hfe) made their mouths! 
dry at crucial moments. So they turned to 
their children, and to me, their son, in 
particular, as I possessed a sharp tongtie 
and an exactitude they found consoHng. 

I'm not sure that my parents did find 
anything about America consoling. To 
improve our lives they were wiUing to 
give up many things. In America the; 
would Hve in what would be poHtely re^ 
ferred to as "reduced circumstances." But 
they never imagined that among those 
things they had to give up would be theii 
authority, seeing their children take ovei 



1 es that in the old country were theirs 
; J theirs alone. 

We had come to Los Angeles a month 
: :r the 1984 Olympics. The city was 
j ing through a fever phase of optimism, 
; .1 everywhere you turned you heard 
; nit plans for "expansion," "meeting 
I ' twenty-first century," "reorganiza- 
I n" — catchphrases I now realize appHed 
I us, the children, as well. We learned 
1 w to take the bus, familiarized our- 
< ves with schedules, routes, length of 
I vel. E.xploring the city, we learned, for 
I r own safety, how to ignore public 
I mniotion; we learned the danger sig- 

nals on the street; we learned to escape 
the hassles of our daily household at the 
movies, which took us even farther away. 
But mostly, we learned the language, 
sharpening our skills through constant 
practice in the outside world, a world 
we — unlike our parents, who remained 
hemmed in — grew to trust, and a world 
that took us, or I should say, took me, be- 
yond their fear-fdled stranglehold. 

Playwright and performer Han Ong's work 
deals largely with urban American life. A high 
school dropout, he was awarded a MacArthur 
Fellowship in 1997. 

By Nahid Rachlin 

In 1 964 I left Ahvaz, a hot, dusty 
town in southwestern Iran, to at- 
tend college in America. At last I 
was going to the place where 
you could do what you wanted. 
This was the America I had 
learned about, not from the Americans 
who were employed at the oil refineries 
in Ahvaz, who basically were segregated 
from the Iranian population, but from 
American movies. By the time the fdms 
came to Ahvaz, they were already more 
than ten years old. (I saw All About Eve in 
the 1960s.) Still, the women in these 
movies made their own decisions, mar- 
ried whom they wanted, had careers, 
were outspoken — leading me to realize 
that there were other possibilities in life 
besides getting married (as soon as the 
right suitor, approved by my parents, 
came along), having children, and settling 
for passive domesticity. My own parents 
at least allowed me to watch the movies. 
Most others forbade their daughters to 
watch them in fear that they would be led 
astray. (It is significant that one of the first 
sparks of the Iranian Revolution, fifteen 
years after I left, was the setting on fire of 
a movie theater in a town near Ahvaz that 
used to show American movies.) 

To make us into ideal girls who would 
go on to become ideal wives, we had to 
be carefuUy watched. When we went out, 
we were accompanied by an adult (in my 
case, a servant). We were not allowed to 
associate with certain people — foreigners 
or people of different rehgions; that is, 
non-Muslims. At our girls-only school, 
we weren't allowed to criticize our tradi- 
tional roles and had to listen to lectures 
about proper behavior. I kept begging my 
parents to send me to America, and fi- 
nally they gave in. But they made sure 
that once there, I would be protected; 
they selected a small women's college 
near the medical school that my brother, 
who had gone to America a few years be- 
fore, was attending. 

At Lindenwood College, in Saint 
Charles, Missouri, I walked through the 


New Immigrants Natural History 3/98 

campus, my heart pounding with excite- 
ment. Students roamed about, talking, 
waving to one another, or sitting on 
swinging benches in front of the dormi- 
tories, looking carefree. As it turned out, 
there was no need for my brother to pro- 
tect nre. To my shock, the college's rules 
turned out to be as limiting as those I 
chafed against in Ahvaz. The curriculum 
was geared to prepare us for domesticity, 
with many courses in home economics, 
sewing, and cooking. The ideal young 
woman at Lindenwood was a good 
Christian, agreeable and gay, sociable, 
outgoing. (One student seemed to think I 
was altogether too serious because she 
would say to me, "SmQe!" whenever she 
passed me.) We had to attend services at 

the Presbyterian chapel on campus twice 
a week, no matter what our religion; we 
had to wear high-heeled shoes and skirts 
to Sunday dinner; we were supposed to 
be in the dormitory by eight o'clock on 
weekday nights and eleven on weekends. 
Rebellion was quickly punished. One 
student's acquiescence to the culture of 
conformity fed into another's. 

Behind the chapel was a large meadow 
with a few apple trees. Sometimes I went 
there and sat under a tree for a while. It 
reminded me of when I was a child and 
used to sit in the hollow of the tree in our 
courtyard. Then one day, the house- 
mother, a middle-aged, kindly looking 
woman, summoned me to her room and 
asked, "Is something the matter? You 

<K-€ Am^rid^i^ CoiU;«'r r^k?'%rn^J ouX 

leave the chapel and sit in the field all 

"I Hke sitting there," I mumbled. 

"If you don't stay in the chapel to the 
end of the sermon, you'll be expelled 
from the college. I have been given re- 
ports that you're antisocial. You must start 
mingling more. To start with, I want you 
to go to a mixer. It wiU be a part of your 
American college experience." 

"I'D try," I said. 

The mixers took place once a month 
in a hall on campus. Boys from nearby all- 
male colleges were invited. As soon as I 
entered the hall, I regretted it. The girls 
stood on one side of the room, and from 
the other side the boys scrutinized them 
with the same supercilious expressions I 
had seen on the suitors who used to come 
to our house in Ahvaz to look me and my 
sisters over. Their eyes glided past me and 
the other less striking girls. I walked out 
and sat on a swing at the far corner of the 
campus and stared at the moon, the same 
moon that shone in the sky above our 
house in Ahvaz. I thought of my sister 
and me sleeping on mattresses on the 
roof, staring at that moon, whispering 
about the Umitations of our town. I asked 
myself. When am I gomg to find the free- 
dom I have yearned for all my life? 

When I graduated, instead of returning 
to Iran, I went to New York. Being out of 
the grip of my parents, I could now take 
steps on my own. I lived in Greenwich 
Village, worked part-time, took graduate 
courses. The students I met were ambi- 
tious and were always examining ideas, 
debating politics. The streets were hned 
with ethnic restaurants. There were 
women in saris, men in fezzes. People 
spoke different languages and in accented 
English. Nothing was uniform. You could 
be who you wanted to be. This wasn't 
quite the America of the Hollywood 
movies either, but it was the one that, I re- 
alized, I really had been searching for. 

Nahid Rachlin teaches creative writing in New 
York City. She has published three novels and 
a collection of short stories. In her free time, she , 
likes nothing better than going to the movies. 

By Orlando Cruz 

Everyone from my town 
comes to New York City. 
The first person came 
here, and that started the 
chain. The very first place 
I saw in New York was 
C^ueens. I couldn't beheve that everybody 
spoke Spanish there. It was definitely the 
last thing I expected. 

I had entered a Catholic seininary as a 
teenager in Ecuador. When I lefi: at 
twenty, I couldn't find a job in my home- 
town of Gualaceo, and life became diffi- 
cult. At twenty-two, I decided to come to 
the United States with my brother, Mar- 
tin, and fi-iend Luis. We each borrowed a 
few hundred dollars for the journey. 
Smce we didn't have visas, we had to 
make our way overland — by bus, car, and 
foot — through Colombia, Panama, Costa 
Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, 
Guatemala, and Mexico. 

You worry all the time when you're an 
illegal immigrant. You wonder. What 
next? We were stopped at several borders 
along the way and sent back to the coun- 
try we had just left. In southern Colom- 
bia, police officers stole most of our 
money. In northern Colombia, two men 
threatened to kiU us if we didn't hand 
over everything. They had a gun and 
knives and were on drugs. Thankfully, we 
escaped. In Costa Rica, police took Luis 
off the bus for having no papers. They 
freed him after he paid his "ransom." In 
Nicaragua, I was arrested, along with 
thirteen other Ecuadoreans, and jailed for 
eight days. The otTicers took what money 
and belongings we had before sending us 
back to Costa Rica. 

Illegals pay "coyotes" to help them 
evade capture. The coyotes think of us as 
"polios" (chickens), goods to be traf- 
ficked for profit. To get us from Costa 
l^ca to Guatemala, our parents, whom 
we had contacted, scraped up $L500 to 
pay for a coyote to help us. Going from 
Guatemala to the United States— Mexican 
border took another contract — this one 
for $3,000 each. (Thirty doUars was all 

You worrc^ all tH^^\vn-f i^^i^^^ljf:^ 3^ ;[|^'. 
vv^i^y^avKt. y°o wcry^d^r^ V^ai" ^^^T?^ 


two Indians had charged to guide us from 
Colombia into Panama. That took days, 
walking in the jungle, through streams 
and across mountains, sleeping by river 
banks. We had heard stories of cannibals 
there, tigers too, but didn't meet any.) 

It took us fifty-four days to reach the 
border at Tijuana, Mexico. I thought, 
maybe twenty minutes and we'll be over 
the magic line. In the evening, coyotes 
led a group of us on what turned into an 
endless and terrifying trek through river 
and scrub. It seemed the same thing to die 
or to keep going. In the end, we made it 
across the border at dawn, only to be ar- 
rested by American immigration officers 
within five minutes and quickly escorted 
back to Mexico. (We told them we were 

Mexican. If we'd said Ecuadorean, they 
might have shipped us all the way home.) 
A few hours later, we tried again. Finally 
we were in, and in May 1992, we flew 
fi-om Los Angeles to New York. I was 
$4,000 in debt. 

Marrin, Luis, and I had supported one 
another along the way, but once in New- 
York, we separated. Someone found me 
work at a metal factory on Long Island. 
Someone else lent me his (false) papers. 
My first week's paycheck was $183. As 
soon as I had a chance, though, I went to 
work in a restaurant. Restaurant work is 
good for illegal immigrants. The pay 
(often cash) is good, work is stable, food is 
free, and there's usually a chance of over- 
time. I bei^an bv washing dishes, some- 

New Immigrants Natural History 3/98 

times sLxty-five hours a week. It was hard, 
but not as hard as another employee, who 
used to schedule me for bad shifts and 

shout insults about "f ing Hispamcs." 

Dispiriting as that was, it was not heart- 
stopping, like the day in the summer of 
1994 when police came — guns drawn — 
down to the basement where I was work- 
ing. They told me to He on the floor, 
handcuffed me, and took me to the local 
precinct, where I was photographed, fni- 
gerprinted, and interrogated before being 
told that I was not the person they were 
looking for. 

I couldn't understand what people 
were saying when I first came here, so I 
went to school to improve my English. 
John Steinbeck's Tlie Pearl was the first 
book I read through completely. Next, I 
took computer classes. I know people 
who've been here for years, washing 
dishes, and in my darker moments I won- 
dered if that was how it would be for me. 
But at the restaurant I learned to make 
salads, dressings, soups, main courses, 
how to write menus, how to shop; even- 
tually, I was earning $600 a week. I paid 
back my parents and paid off my other 
travel debts. I bought a car, a TV, a VCR. 
Still, It wasn't the hfe I wanted. So, after 
four years at the restaurant, I left to join a 
religious community in New Jersey. A 
year later, I came to work where I am 
now — at a center for immigrants. The 
work is satisfying; I should be legal soon 
and therefore be able to go home for my 
first visit. I hope to go to college next 
year to study sociology. 

Luis works as a landscapes He is al- 
ready legal. He married and has bought a 
house. Martin is legal too. He works at 
the same restaurant where I used to work. 
He built a house in Ecuador but has no 
plans to go back. My youngest brother 
followed us here two years ago. He's al- 
ready more American than Ecuadorean. 

Orlando Cruz (not liis real name) is aimiting 
the outcome of his appeal for legal status in the 
United States. He says, "Even if offered a mil- 
lion dollars, I wouldn't make a journey like 
that again. " 

By Sanjay Nigam 

So, I'm watching my six-year- 
old son at soccer practice, 
and he's dribbling the ball 
toward the goal and now he's 
within scoring range, but a 
defender rapidly approaches. 
My son hesitates. "Kick it! Kick it!" I 
want to yell. I know what he's thinking: 
Should I go for the goal, or should I pass 
the ball? And for some strange reason, it 
occurs to me that Churchill would kick 
and Gandhi would pass. My son passes. 

AH of which leads me to reflect on 
what preoccupies me ever more as I sink 
into the doldrums of midlife: differences 
between Western and Eastern ways, and 
also the hfe I live and the Hves my kids 
will Hve. Perhaps I wouldn't dwell on this 
as I do were it not for creepy feelings of 
inauthenticity that seem to accompany 
these ruminations. Vague guUt unearths 
all sorts of tilings. 

Occasionally I am struck by the fact 

that my very Western lifestyle and atti- is* 
tudes are radically diflerent from anything 0)^ 
my ancestors could have imagined — s( )0 
different that the contradictions that sur- life 
face now and then must mean something iter i 
In part, these apparent contradiction) k lo ■ 
arise out of the obvious East- West dij sfii 
chotomies: the material versus the spirii KScac 
tual, the analytical versus the organic, thi ji h 
competitive versus the cooperative, am i rw 
so on. Sometimes the only realistic stanc Icie 1 
seems to be a kind of cultivated ambiva tn re 
lence. But ambivalence exacts a price an renBJ 
causes much more than mere philosophi Un 
cal malaise. Our bodies seem to 
mounting what is, at least to me, a verfccni 
distressing reaction. Of all ethnic group: f otii 
Asian Indian immigrant men may tur ml 
out to have one of the highest incidence bi < 
of coronary artery disease in the Unite w tl 
States and Great Britain. It isn't clear wb 
but many physicians think the culprit is \ 
combination of Western diet an 
Ufestyle — a mismatch between the envi 
ronment we have chosen to Hve in an twili 

still very Indian genes. So, another 

ijMitradiction: We Easterners transplanted 

■s |> the West are developing the prototypi- 

"|J disease of modern Western man much 

star than he is. Perhaps there's another 

"llde to all of this. I want to believe that 

sneath this and other more benign con- 

'adictions lurks some great secret, some 

w territory, the exploration of which 

» I'ill reveal what it means to live your 

It I'hole life in a culture that is in nearly 

/ery respect the opposite of the one your 

larents and grandparents grew up in. 

I was born in India and brought to the 

Inited States as an infant. Growing up in 

xizona some thirty-five years ago, I was 

pi ine of maybe a dozen or so Indian kids — 

l.sian Indian kids — in the whole state. 

:uJot only was I a visible ininority but, 

t 'liven the sizable Hispanic and Native 

jiierican populations, I had to point out 

ay differences to avoid confusion. When 

think back, the quest for my identity as 

brown man in a white world, although 

ot without a little pain, was exciting — 

ossibly the defining experience of my 

fe. I want my kids to go through that 

recess, and I don't want it to be too easy. 

Identity, as Odysseus learned, is a com- 

licated business. Confronting Cyclopses 

ind whirlpools is easy compared with fac- 

Iig internal conflicts that can be so ardu- 
ius you often feel like succumbing, for- 
:etting yourself. Indian immigrants may 
Drget more easily than others. Most of 

I' hose who settled in the United States 
ame from highly educated, English- 

■jpeaking, hberal, and prosperous families, 
iack in post-independence India, they 
vere sometimes labeled "brown EngHsh- 
nen." And when they came here, the 
uhenomenal power of Americanization 
nade the conversion fi^om brown Eng- 
ishman to brown American relatively 
lainless. But something important was 
ost in the conversion — although no one 
'[uite knows what. Now the second and 

I4iird generations are searching for it. 
It might help the present generation to 
lave a hero of some sort. Unlike main- 
tream Americans and Indians of the an- 
cestral land, we have no convincing he- 

roes to identify with, no natural or super- 
natural creatures who seem to represent 
what we're after — someone who knows 
who we want to be yet also reminds us of 
where we've come fi-om. This may not be 
so bad if we design our own superman or 
superwoman. Such a superhero might 
embody something of wily, witty, adven- 
turous Odysseus — that great-grandfather 
of all Western heroes, with his unmatched 
instinct for self-preservation — and also 
possess qualities hke those of the original 
Buddha, quiet wisdom and a sense of 
what is essential in life. One can imagine 
comparable chimeric superheroes — Ar- 
juna and Plato, or even Nietzsche and 
Gandhi. But creating one's own chimeric 
superhero is very hard. And so we yield to 
the temptation of co-opting mainstream 
superheroes at the cost of parting with 
our parents" heritage and ignoring the 
fact that we are, indeed, different. 

Fortunately or unfortunately, there are 
mirrors — and I'm not referring only to 
the kind above the washbasin in pubHc 
bathrooms. It is in these mirrors that our 
sense of inauthenticity appears. The re- 
flections tell us we cannot avoid the 
East— West question, that we must some- 
how refashion the issues in a deep way 
relevant to the American context and to 
our individual contexts. What are our 
lives if not pieces of East and West search- 
ing for the right fit? 

And so the search continues, as it must. 
Like the grand unification theory occu- 
pying modern physicists, this East-West 
thing could prove intractable. But so are 
most important answers we chase after. As 
Asian Americans, the burden of working 
out the cross-cultural grand unification 
theory rests upon our aching backs. It 
rests upon my son, who week after week 
in soccer practice must decide whether to 
kick the crap out of the ball or yield to 
the game. 

Sivijiiy Nigam is Associate Professor of Medi- 
cine at Harvard Medical School /Brigham and 
Women's Hospital. His novel, The Snake 
Charmer, will be published by William Mor- 
roii' this s\mimet 

By Memima M. Sillah 

ack in Sierra Leone, my 
boyfriend proposed to 
me through a modest 
delegation of about 
forty-five people from 
his family, telling the 
SLXty or so members of my extended fam- 
ily how much a union of the two famiHes 
would add to each one's already estab- 
lished good name. To prepare for the 
wedding, my entire family — all members 
of my tribe through birth and marriage — 
made monetary or other contributions. 
Even though our parents were relatively 
well off (both of our mothers were busi- 
nesswomen, my father a land surveyor, 
and his an electrical engineer), the 
thought of rejecting the contributions 
was as far firom their minds as the idea of 
refusing tax breaks would be for an 
American fainily. Besides, our parents had 
contributed toward others' weddings and 
would continue to do so. 

Younger tribe members who had less 
money did the running around. I didn't 
know exactly how many guests would be 
attending the ceremony; I simply gave my 
part of the list to a "cousin" who called 
me and identified herself as the person m 
charge of the guests. Another day, a 
"cousin" of my fiance called to ask my 
full name. He was in charge of printing 
the invitations. Afterward, everybody said 
the wedding was a hit. I thought so, too. I 
remember asking my sister which of our 
relatives had selected the music for the 
bride and groom's dance, because it hap- 
pened to have been my favorite song. She 
said my brother had. I approached my 
brother, meaning to thank him, but he 
said another "cousin" had chosen it. In 
the end, nobody remembered which of 
the numerous organizers of my wedding 
had made the selection. 

I was now also part of my husband's 
family, which was as extensive as my own, 
and so I would be invited to participate in 
all of their weddings, fianerals, child-out- 
ings, and parties. I escaped these engage- 
ments because a month after the wed- 

New tmmigrantS Natural History 3/98 

ding, my government ofeied me a job 
with an international bauxite organiza- 
tion in Kingston, Jamaica, and in June of 
1980, my husband and I left Sierra Leone. 
He returned to Miami, where he had 
been a manager of a department store, 
and I went to Kingston- 

family (that is, all tribe members who 
cared to participate) met to express their 
profound disappointment at the impend- 
ing breakup of a marriage the\' had all so 
happily put together. The\' gave her bleak 
scenarios of her children without their fa- 
ther, and voiced myriad examples of di- 




A year later, when 1 wanted a divorce, 
some thirty members of my family met 
solemnly and decided I should come 
home to t:aTir I knew their intention was 
to redirect my focus toward starting a 
famihi I made excuses that got so numer- 
ous and complicated that they rmalK' gsve 
up on me and made a recommendation 
to die tribal headman (who had adminis- 
tered the traditional M nslim marriage) to 
accept my request for a divorce. 

I have a "cousin" back home whose 
wedding was oi^anized several months 
before mine. A tew years later, she left her 
husband and, with her two children, 
moved back into her parents' home, in- 
tending to start divorce pioceedii^. The 

voiced ^'omen scrambling to feed their 
sons and daughters. She w^as frequendy 
stopped in the street by her and her hus- 
band's ftiends and relatives and entreated 
to reconsider. Eventually, she changed her 
mind and returned to her husband, who 
later thanked the family members. sa\Tng 
he knew- that they wouldn't have sat back 
and watched his marriage dissolve. The 
woman was praised for her patience and 
for heeding good counsel. She attends 
and enjoys a great many family fiincrions, 
where she is warmly welcomed. 

Few members of my tribe have come 
to the United Stales, and those that have 
are spread out in different states, so group 
ties are hard to maintain. When I first 

came to this country, I stayed with a 
"cousin" and close firiend in New 
Brunswick, New Jersey, among a com- 
munity of Mandingo people from Sierra 
Leone. After about three months, I was 
offered a job as an administrative assistant 
with an international organization in 
New York City, and I moved to the 
Bronx. 1 made ftiends in my apartment 
building among both Americans and im- 
migrants firom other countries. They 
were caring, of course, but in a different 
way from what I was used to, and I some- 
times felt alone. But when 1 needed time 
to myself or just didn't feel like socializ- 
ing, I appreciated the distance. 

When I had my son seven years ago, I 
missed the many relati\-es who would have 
\isited me at the hospital and later helped 
with the baby and my domestic chores. 
That I w^as a single mother would have 
caused litde concern; 1 had been married 
once, and a married woman is alw-ays con- 
sidered married. But I w'as relieved and 
uplifted when the hospital nurse gave me 
the birth certificate form to fill out, and I 
simply put dowTi the name I had decided 
on for my son, without having to deal 
with an involved and expensh'e naming 
ceremony. I also decided to skip the cus- 
tom of cutting off my son's birth hair. I 
had never really liked the w-ay babies 
looked without hair. StiU, whenever my 
son got a cold or cried incessandy, I could 
not help thinking that some curse was de- 
scending upon me for leaving his hair on. 

Finding myself in new simations and 
taking untried paths, I question myself 
more frequently than when I was home, 
but at least Fm encouraged by the knowl- 
edge that I'm not alone. When I talk with 
other w-omen fijom Siena Leone, or from 
other parts of the w-orld, I find that they 
too, experience doubts when they take 
steps that w-ould be considered out of the 
ordinar\' in their culture. It all starts with 
that first big step away from home. 

Memwia M. SiUah is uvrkiito on a iiovell 
about Afriain immigrant women in the United! 
States. She wrote about fanale dmimcision jor\ 
Natural History in tlieAttgust 1996 issue. 

Fossil Beds 



By Greg McDondd 

about anywhere in 
r sindii Luwn ui jndgciinan in south-central 
'you can see the 600-foot-high chffs that rise 
h e Snake River. The layers of sediment that 
I'form these blufis hold a history of the area fiom 3.7 to 
Bp million years ago. At that time, in the Phocene, the 
-re^n was wetter and grassier than it is now and was 
home to some wildlife that is stiU familiar today and other 
animals that are long extinct. Llamas, camels, peccaries, 
mastodons, ground sloths, and primitive dogs once 
. roamed the savanna-hke plains. Beavers, muskrat, a 
L variety of waterbirds, frogs, turdes, and fishes hved in 
.. or along rivers and streams Hned with willow, alder, 
and elm. But the fossil beds' claim to fame 

Grasses and sagebrush grow on. cliffs 
■ ■", overlooking the Snake River 

^U Jeff Gnoss 

58 Field Guide 

Natural History 3/98 

Monumental Sights 

I Any visit 
to the Hagennan Fossil Beds 
National Monument begins 
\^dth a stop at the Visitor 
Center located on Highway 
30 (State Street) in the town 
of Hagerman, Idaho. Exhibits 
at the center highlight the 
variety of fossOs — including 
horses and other vertebrates, 
invertebrates, and plants — 
found since 1929 at the Horse 
Quarry and the 300 or so 
other fossil sites within the 
park. The monument land 

covers approximately 4,300 
acres and includes recognizable 
portions of the Oregon Trail, 
stretches of the Snake River, 
high desert-sagebrush 
habitat — and its attendant 
wildUfe, including horses, 
deer, rabbits, and coyotes — 
and wedands good for viewing 
waterbhds. Big, rounded 
boulders visible on the sides of 
the roads are lumps of basalt 
transported by the waters of 
the great Bonneville Flood, 
which helped create the 

Hes in the great numbers and fme preservation of the animal 
known as the Hagerman Horse. 

The first four excavations at the Hagerman site were 
undertaken by the Smithsonian Institution from 1929 to 1934. 
First under the leadership of James W. Gidley, at that time the 
leading expert on fossil horses in North America, and later under 
C. Lewis Gazin, the crews uncovered enough fossil horse heads 
and complete skeletons to account for 120 individual animals. 
These fmds, and the research they inspired, soon made the 
Hagerman site famous among paleontologists. The Smithsonian 
also found the specimens to be a hot medium of exchange with 
other museums. In the 1930s and '40s, skeletons from Hagerman 
were incorporated mto exhibits of fossil horses across the country, 
and so the Hagerman Horse was introduced to the public. 

Now known scientifically as Eqiius simplicidens, the Hagerman 
Horse represents a critical transition in equine evolution. The 
earhest example of the modern horse genus Eqiius, it is closely 
related to its descendants, which include modern horses, zebras. 

Hagerman Valley along the 
Snake River some 15,000 
years ago. The Visitor Center 
provides maps deHneating 
roads, overlooks, trails, and 
boardwalks. No camping, ofF- 
road exploration, or fossil 
collecting is allowed within 
the monument grounds. 
Privately owned camp 
grounds can be found in 
nearby Hagerman. 

ESBUa During the 

summer, in addition to a 

variety of programs on the 
history and ecology of the 
area, park rangers offer tours 
of the Horse Quarry (these 
begin at the Visitor's Center, 
and you will need your own 
vehicle to reach the site). For 
information write: 

Hagerman Fossil Beds 
National Monument 
221 North State Street 
P.O. Box 570 
Hagerman, Idaho 83332 
Phone: (208) 837-4793 


and donkeys. About 4.3 feet (13 hands) tall at the shoulder and 
weighing some 935 pounds, this horse probably looked more 
Uke a zebra than a mustang. From their small, three-toed 
ancestors of some 20 million years ago, equids adapted and 
branched out, so that by about 1 2 million years ago, these 
herbivores were at their most diverse, with a variety of species, 
browsers as well as grazers, sharing their native. North American 

By three million years ago, horses were much less diverse 
(besides Eqiius, only one other genus, Naniiippiis, existed), but E. 
simplicidens had developed the habits and physical attributes — 
large size, single toe, long legs, and high-crowned teeth — we see 
in horses today. By about 10,000 years ago, horses were extinct 
on this continent, but they survived in Eurasia. Only with the 
coming of the Spanish to the New World did horses once more 
run on their evolutionary home turf. 

Tlionsand Springs and the Snake River. Idaho 




Three million years ago, the Hagerman Horse Uved in the savanna- 
like landscape of what is now southern Idaho. 

In 1988, the Hagerman Horse was named the state fossil of 
Idaho, and the fossil beds were given official protection, 
designated by Congress as the Hagerman Fossil Beds National 
Monument. In addition to its crown jewel, the Horse Quarry, 
1 the extensive monument lands contain some three hundred 
fossil-rich sites, as well as stretches of the original Oregon Trail, 
.wilderness areas, and the winding Snake River. I came to 
iHagerman in 1992 as the park paleontologist to help preserve 
the historical site and renew paleontological research there. 

In the summer of 1997, a grant from the Canon U.S.A. 
Foundation allowed me to take a field crew back to the Horse 
Quarry, not just to retrieve more horse bones — the site is still 
productive — but to examine the deposits for clues as to how and 
why the bones had accumulated. The long-accepted explanation 
was that many horses had died over a long period of time at a 
water hole, but our crew wanted to apply new techmques in 
determining the placement of bones within the sediments. In 
addition, the Hagerman fossils did not have the preponderance of 

very young and very old animals typical of sites where bones 
accumulate year after year. (The age and se.x of the many 
Hagerman Horses housed in museum collections can be 
determined by examining their teeth, as in modern horses.) In 
photographs taken during the Smithsonian excavations, the 
sediments looked more like those of a river channel than a placid 
water hole, and I began to think that the horse remains may have 
accumulated when a herd lost most of its members while trying 
to cross a fast, flooding river. 

The pattern that emerged after three months' careful 
excavation showed that the site was not an ancient water hole, 
but neither was it a stretch of fast-moving river. It was more Hke 
the Platte River of Nebraska today: broad, shallow, and slow 
flowing. While screening the sediments, we found lots of delicate 
fossil remains offish, frogs, snakes, birds, shrews, and mice — 
bones that would not have stayed put if the river had been strong 
and swift. Even the smallest of horse "wrist" bones rested 
alongside the ponderous skuDs and jaws. Maps of the distribution 
of bones showed that most had been waterborne, but only for 
short distances. 

Last summer's excavation provided a new working hypothesis 
on the origins of this classic site and the fate of its most famous 
denizens. The sediments indicate drought conditions. Perhaps 
the horses were drawn to the slowly drying river and then stayed 
near the dwindUng resource, stripping the vegetation clean and 
dying of hunger, if not thirst. The carcasses became mere bones 
on the dry river bottom. Eventually, water returned to the 
channel, jostHng the concentration of bones and, over time, 
burying them in river sand. Three miUion years would pass 
before natural erosion would bring them to Hght on the bluffs 
over the Snake River. 

Greg McDonald has been the paleontologist at Hagerman Fossil Beds 
National Monument in Hagerman, Idaho, for six years. 

Natural History 3/98 

Celestial Events 

Cancer's Cluster 

By Joe Rao 

While Cancer, the Crab, is the least conspicuous of the zodiacal 
constellations, it contains one of the largest, nearest, and brightest 
of the star clusters: Praesepe (also called the Beehive). This month, 
Cancer is high toward the south at midevening; look for the 
cluster — whose diameter is about tliree times the Moon s — m the 
middle of the lambda-shaped constellation. 

Praesepe is one of the few star clusters mentioned in antiquity. 
About 260 B.C., the Greek poet Arams called it Phatne (Greek for 
"manger," which later became the Latin praesepe) and described it 
as a "little mist." In 130 B.C., Hipparchus called the cluster a "little 
cloud." In 1610, Galileo resolved the cluster into thirty-six stars; it 
acmaUy contains more than 300 stars, about 100 of which can be 
seen with a small telescope or good binoculars. 

Praesepe is visible to the naked eye as a fiizzy patch near the 
stars Gamma Cancri and Delta Cancri. For about 2,000 years, these 
stars have been called AseUus BoreaUs and AseUus Australis — the 
northern and southern ass colts; they may have been thought of as 
feeding at the manger. 

Both Arams and Phny the Elder noted that Praesepe s absence 
on a clear night meant a storm was near. Indeed, any high cloud or 
haze preceding a weather disturbance can easily obscure Praesepe. 

The origin of the cluster's relatively new moniker, the Beehive, 
is unknown. Perhaps someone looking through a crude telescope 
thought the cluster looked just like a swarm of bees. 

Joe Rao is a lecturer at the American Miiseiiiu-Hayden Plaiictariimi. 

-_^^^ ^^ \ / 1 Cancer 

4 ■■ 

\ ■ Gemini 

^^'^-.^/ Gamma- 

'"^' / 

\ Delta- 'P^esepe 
"■'' 1 ,- /\ 


/^'- ^ x"""/ 

1^^ Conis IVIinor 

- i '-■■■■ V"^^' 



\^ IVIonoceros "" 


=.. « VV?i.>.?S;i'^JV' ^K 


The Sky in March 

ISSSDS is well-placed for 
viewing during the middle of 
March, arriving at its greatest 
eastern elongation (18.5 °) on 
the 20th. From March 1 1 
through the 25th, this zero- 
magnitude planet is easily seen 
in the western sky about an 
hour after sunset. 

Itoihbi is brilliant (magnitude 
—4.4) low in the eastern sky, 
rising two to two-and-a-half 
hours before sunrise. Look for 
it on the mormng of March 
24; it Hes to the left of and 
sHghtly below the crescent 
Moon. It reaches its greatest 
elongation west of the Sun 
(46.5 °) on the 27th. 

■MHIKI is all but gone from the 
evening sky, gradually lost to 
view in bright evening 

WinnHl is too close to the 
Sun's glare to be seen during 
the first half of the month. 
Toward the end of March, it 
emerges from the morning 
twiUght and is visible low in 
the southeast about an hour 
before sum"ise. On the 
morning of the 26th, in parts 
of the eastern United States, a 
thin crescent Moon rises with 
Jupiter hidden behind it. Use 
binoculars to locate the Moon 
in the bright morning twilight 
and watch for the emergence 
of Jupiter fi-oni behind the 
Moon's dark side soon after 

local moonrise. For other parts 
of the country, the Moon wiU 
appear to rise with Jupiter, 
hovering immediately to its 

liWnHil begins the month 
setting three hours after sunset 
and is readily seen in the 
western sky by nightfall. 
Toward the end of the month, 
it gradually disappears into the 
bright evening twiHght. On 
the 1st, note the crescent 
Moon riding above and to the 
left of Saturn. 

iiJElBBBlil is at first-quarter 
phase on the 5th at 3:40 A.M.; 
fiiU Moon is on the 12th at 
11:34 P.M.; last quarter is on 
the 21st at 2:37 A.M.; and the 
new Moon occurs on the 27th 
at 10:13 P.M. All rimes given 
are in Eastern Standard Time. 

A Penumbra Lunar Eclmse 

occurs on the night of March 
12-13, as the fuU Moon slides 
through the Earth's faint outer 
(penumbral) shadow. The 
deepest phase of the ecHpse 
will come at 11:20 p.m., EST, 
when 73.5 percent of the 
Moon will be inside the 
penumbra. For a few minutes, 
obser\fers might note that the 
Moon's lower portion appears 
slightly "smudged." 

The Vernal Equinox 


on March 20 at 2:55 P.M., 
EST. Spring begins in the 
northern hemisphere, autumn 
in the southern. 

Look for the star chister Praesepe (area of detail) in Cancer. 

1 =—-: 




costa rica 

' elize 
west Virginia 
^ Virginia 

the graceful and gently 

adventurous activity of birding is gathering more and 
more enthusiasts every year. It's easy to see why. Bird- 
watching combines our fascination with the natural world with an 
opportunity to be an inobtrusive observer 
of the great beauty and immense appeal of these endlessly 
engrossing creatures. 

And while birding is in some ways the easiest of pastimes 
(step outside almost anywhere to begin) true enthusiasts seek out 
destinations like those that follow. It is here-in marshy lowlands or 
on mountain crests, along beaches, or deep in the woods-that the 
authentic exhilaration of discovery occurs. And with more than 
9,000 species of birds throughout the wodd, there is a great deal to 

Whether at rest, in bnlliant song, or in full flight, birds-called 
by ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson "the most eloquent expression 
of reality "-offer an open invitation to wonder and astonishment. 


Packed into this small nation (half the size of Kentucky) is a treasure trove of 
ecological wonders. Walk and explore highlands embraced by clouds or 
mist-infused lowlands. Or patches of desert and swamp; coffee plantations 
and cattle ranches; pristine beaches and a volcano whose intermittent tantrums 
can fill the sky with steam and the surrounding landscape with ash. 
And then there are the birds-some B5D different species, more than can be 
found on many continents. Little wonder that naturalists from all over the world 
gather to catch sight of the glorious quetzal, the scadet macaw (and 1 5 other 
parrot species), the emerald toucans, and hummingbirds. More than 50 species of 
these delicate treasures have been recorded here. There are also six different 
kinds of toucans, flycatchers, antbirds, blue-crowned motmots, wood-wrens, brush- 
finches, tanagers, cotingas. And the enormous harpy eagle that can snatch a small 
animal from the limb of a tree. 


explore the tiny country of Belize and be prepared for a journey into an 
unspoiled, breathtakingly beautiful realm. 170 miles of Caribbean 
coastline, the second longest barrier reef in the world, and three 
magnificent coral atolls make the destination for divers. 

Inland, the jungles, swamps, and the gentle rise of the Maya Mountains are 
a vivid haven for naturalists, who can view an astonishing array of wildlife-from 
jaguar and tapir to more species of butterflies than can be found in the United 
States and Canada. 

Here, too, more than 300 species of birds can be spotted. The best site of 
all is the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, 33 miles northwest of Belize City. A 
network of inland lagoons, swamps, and waterways, the sanctuary protects 
resident and migrant birds. Here the lucky birder will find herons and ducks (both 
the black-bellied-whistling and Muscovy varieties), as well as snail kites, snowy 
and great egrets, ospreys, and black-collared hawks. The sanctuary is the nesting 
home to the largest flying birds in the New Wodd-Jabiru Storks, whose wing 
span can exceed 12 feet. 



■ ts very name synonymous with the natural 

I beauty and tropical indulgences that are the 
Caribbean, Trinidad is at the southernmost tip 
of the West Indies. With its Northern Range rising 
10 more than 3,000 feet and an inland comprised 
of lowland forest, mangrove swamps, and 
remnant savannas, the island is remarkable for its 
natural diversity. Wildlife abounds island-wide. 
The species list includes some 108 mammals, 55 
reptiles, and 25 amphibians. But birders can find 
particular riches on the island, with some 400 
species available. 

Most naturalists will want to begin at the 
Asa Wright Nature Centre, at an elevation of 
1,200 feet in the Northern Range. Established by 
a trust to preserve and study tropical wildlife, the 
Centre is home to a glittering array of birds whose 
very names incite the imagination: squirrel 
cuckoos, white-necked jacobins, six species of 
hummingbirds, chestnut woodpeckers, blue- 

crowned motmots, pygmy owls, and rufous- 
browed peppershrikes. 

Journeys from the Centre (which offers 
excellent overnight accommodations) can yield 
other natural wonders as well; Leatherback 
turtles, red howler monkeys, and hosts of 
magnificent butterflies. 


the sumptuous physical glories of Mexico are 
well-known, including its unparalleled 
beaches, magnificent mountains, and striking 
desert landscapes. But less publicized are its 
efforts to preserve the environment and the 
wildlife therein. Our warm and welcoming 
neighbor to the south has been making 
impressive strides toward eco-tourism and the 
promotion of adventure travel. The country is 
dotted with national parks and protected lands, 
where wildlife is abundant and wonderfully 

Among the most notable is the Sian Ka'an 


Nature Centre ^ Lodge, Trinidad 

Trinidad's species include an 
impressive 400 birds, 108 mammals, 
55 reptiles, 25 amphibians, and 
over 617 butterflies. 

Individual visits and expertly 

guided group tours are 
conducted at the Centre, 
as well as throughout Trinidad 
and its sister island of Tobago. 

The classic setting 
for tropical birding 

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Armonk, NY 10504 

800 426-7781 

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No nation in South America can match this beautiful country 
for its geographic and natural diversity. Nearly half of all the 
birds in South America can be found here; over 1,290 species. 

All of our inexpensive 9-day tours feature Hato El Cedral, a 106,000-acre wildlife re- 
serve and working catrie ranch in the llanos, where you can see Jabiru, Maguari, and 
Wood Storl<^, seven species of ibis, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Hoatzin, Horned Screamer, 
Sunbittern, and Aplomado Falcon among over 200 odier possible species. Other 
animals include Red Howler Monkey, Crab-e.ating Raccoon, Prehensile-tail Porcu- 
pine, Pink Dolphin, Giant Anteater, Ocelot, Anaconda, herds ot Capybara and hun- 
dreds of Caiman. Combined with a visit to famous Henri Pittier National Park, our 
program gives you some of the best birding to be found in this remarkable nation. 

Individual and Group Bookings may be ^ 

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Biosphere Reserve, more than 1,300,000 acres along the Caribbean t;oast. A 
UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sian Ka'an |IVlayan for "He who is born beneath the 
sun") offers forests, lagoons, bays, anti reefs-as well as 23 unrestored Mayan 

Best of all, the reserve is home to 33 percent of the bird species identified 
in Mexico, among them the black catbird, the Cape May warbler, and the Zenaida 
dove. |The Yucatan's location along the north-south migratory route makes it a 
popular resting spot for U.S. and Canadian species.) But these are merely a 
sampling. There are also toucans, ibis, egrets, falcons, vultures, and ospreys. 


,,^, ,,.»,*,.. J. 






Natl. Wildlife Refuae, 

Cape Gharels 

^^^^^B" ' ' 


the state's Eastern shore, with its barrier islands, lush forests, beaches, dunes, and 
marshes, is a virtual paradise for birders. Dunng the spring and fall, the area 
becomes a major flyaway for migratory birds, some 250 species. 

At Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge-best known for its wild ponies- 
swans and snow geese abound, and visitors can get clear-eyed views, depending on 
the season, of sandpipers, gulls, swans, pelicans, and bottlenose dolphins. Kiptopeke, 
a state park at the southernmost tip of the Eastem shore, is a site where omithologists 

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Coastline Md' 
!iP(y^HIBffil?lf»State Forest host 
\ a spectacular variety of birds. 

• Over 350 species recorded 

• Guided and self-guided 
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For information: 800-852-0335 


capture, tag. and release songbirds and birds of prey on 
their way south. (It's also the site in early October of a 
birding festival.) At the Virginia National Wildlife 
Refuge, a visitors center allows splendid, uninterrupted 
views of wildlife-not only birds, but the box turtle and 
astonishing butterflies. And at Fisherman Island 
National Wildlife Refuge, guided tout? are available 
from October to March. 


a state that is 70 percent wooded would seem to 
be a bird-watcher's dream, and is indeed the 
case with the lovely state of West Virginia. 
Breeding and migratory birds abound here, and the 
enthusiast who travels here will be rewarded with an 
impressive array of species. 

The Allegheny Mountains region, marked by its 
4,000-ft. elevations and cool forests is a perfect site for 
warblers, thrushes, and migrating hawks. Blackwater 
Falls State Park, Dolly Sods Recreation Area (where 
migrating songbirds are tagged from August to 
Octoberl, and North Fork Mountain are among bird- 
watchers' favorites. 

In fall and spring, the Ohio River Corridor bursts 
with bird life, including great blue herons, wood ducks, 
and ospreys. Best sites here include McClintic Wildlife 
Management Areas, Greenbottom, and The Ohio River 

Islands National Wildlife Refuge. 

The third favored area for West Virginia birding 
is the New River Gorge/Southern Region. As the 
river cuts through the Appalachian Mountains, 
it creates a perfect migratory passage for waterfowl, 
raptors, and songbirds. 

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Natural History 3/98 New Immigrants 

Stiiiila and Vnsudcc Fondekar — India 

(Continued Jivm page 38) 

knew that to thrive m America he must 

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house. You're not master, but mediator." 

Wong Wall Po— China 

(Coniiniied from page 42) 
I Wah Po lived with his wife in an 

apartment for fifteen years. Five years ago, 
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Leah Frenkcl — Uzbekistan 

(Continued from page 4 1) 
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This View of Life 

Nalural History 3/98 

(CoHtinuedfrom page 25) 

who passed through Ellis Island every day, 

Davenport states: 

Efery one of these peasants, each item of 
that "riff-raff^' of Europe, as it is 
sometimes carelessly called, mil, if fecund, 
play a role for better or worse in the future 
history of this nation. Formerly, ivhen we 
believed that factors bletid, a characteristic in 
the genu plasm of a single individual 
among thousands seaned not ii'orth 
considering: it would soon be lost in the 
melting pot. But now tve know that unit 
characters do not blend; that after a score of 
generations the given characteristic may still 
appear, unaffected by repeated unions. . . . 
So the individual, as the bearer of a 
potentially immortal germ plasm with 
innumerable traits, becomes of the greatest 

That is, of our "greatest interest" to ex- 
clude by restricting immigration, lest 
American heredity be overwhelmed with 
a deluge of permanent bad genes from 
the wretched refuse of foreign lands. 

To illustrate Davenport's characteristic 
style of argument, and to exemplify his 
easy sHppage between supposed scientific 
documentation and overt political advo- 
cacy; we may turn to his influential 1915 
monograph entided Tlie Feebly Inherited 
(publication number 236 of his benefac- 
tor, the Carnegie Institution of Washing- 
ton), especially to part 1 on "Nomadism, 
or The Wandering Impulse, With Special 
Reference to Heredity." The preface 
makes no bones about either sponsorship 
or intent. With three of America's 
wealthiest and most conservative families 
on board, one could hardly expect disin- 
terested neutrality toward the fuH range of 
possible results. The Camegies had en- 
dowed the general show, while Daven- 
port paid homage to specific patrons: 
"The cost of training the field-workers 
was met by Mrs. E. H. Harriman, 
founder and principal patron of the Eu- 
genics Record Office, and Jvlr. John D. 
Rockefeller, who paid also the salaries of 
many of the field-workers." 

Davenport's preface also boldly admits 
his poHtical position and purposes. He 
wishes to establish "feeble inhibition" as a 
category of temperament leading to infe- 
rior morahty. Such a formulation will 
provide a one-two punch for identifica- 
tion of the eugenicaUy unfit — bad intel- 
lect and bad morals. The genetic basis of 
stupidit)- had already been documented in 
numerous studies of the feebleminded. 
But eugenics now needed to codif\" the 
second reason for excluding immigrants 
and discouraging reproducti\''e rights of 
the native unfit — bad moral character (as 
in Davenport's fallback position, docu- 
mented earHer in this essay, for restricting 
Jewish immigration when he could not 
invoke the usual charge of intellectual in- 
feriority) . Davenport wTites: 

Early geneticists believed 

that single discrete genes 

would be tound tor ever\' 

feature o± the human 

organism, from anatomy 

to personalit}'. 

A word may be said as to the term 'feebly 
inhibited" used in these studies. It was 
selected as aft term to stand as co-ordinate 
with 'feeble-minded" and as the result of a 
conviction that the phetiomena with which 
it deals should properly be considered apart 
from those offeeble-mindedness. 

To alla\^ any doubt about his motivations, 
Davenport then makes his pohtical point: 
Feeble inhibition, leading to immorality'; 
may be even more detrimental than fee- 
blemindedness, leading to stupidity. 

/ think it helps to consider separately the 
hereditary basis of the intellect and the 
emotions. It is in this conviction that these 
studies are submitted for thoughtftl 
consideration. For, after all, the chief 
problem in administering society is that of 
disordered conduct, conduct is controlled by 
emotions, and the quality of the emotions is 





strongly tinged by the hereditary 

Davenport then selects nomadism as 
his primary example of a putati\-eh" sim- 
ple Mendelian trait — the ptoduCT of a sin- 
gle gene — based on feeble inhibition and 
leading almost ine\-itably to immoral be- 
ha\'ior. He encounters a problem of defi- 
nition at the very outset of his work, as 
expressed in an opening sentence that 
must be ranked as one of the least pro- 
found statements in the entire history of 
science. "A tendency to wander in some 
degree is a normal characteristic of man, 
as indeed of most animals, in sharp con- 
trast to most plants." 

How; then, shall the "bad" form of 
wanderlust, defined as a compulsion to 
flee finm responsibilitv; be distinguished (#' 
from the meritorious sense of bravery- and A^ 
adventure — leading to "good" wander- 
lust — that motivated our eady (largely 
northern European) imm^rants to colo- 
nize and subdue the fiontier. In his 1911 
book, Davenport had warmly praised as 1 
"the enterprising tesdessness of the earh' 
settlers . . . the ambitious search for bener 
conditions. The abandoned farms of 
New England point to the trait in our 
blood that entices us to move on to reap a 
possible advantage elsewhere." 

In a feeble attempt to put false labels on 
segments of complex continua, Daven- 
port identified the "bad" form as "no- 
madism," defined as an inabilit)- to inhibit 
the urge we all occasionalh^ feel to flee 
fix)in our duties, but that decent folks 
suppress. Nomads are societ\^'s tramps, 
bums, hoboes, and gypsies — ^"those w^ho, 
while capable of steady and efFeciive 
work, at more or less regular periods run 
2W3Sf firom the place where their duties lie 
and tavA considerable distances." 

Having defined his quarry (albeit in a 
fatally subjecti\'e way), Davenport then 
required two fiirther arguments to make 
his fevored link of a "Tjad" trait to a single 
gene that eugenics mi^t labor to breed 
down and oun he needed to prove the 
hereditary' basis and then to find the ^^^ 



His arguments for a genetic basis must 
DC judged as astonishingly weak, even by 
:he standards of his generation. He simply 
argued, based on four dubious analogies, 
:hat features akin to nomadism emerge 
whenever situations veer toward "raw" 
iiature (where genetics must rule) and 
iway from environmental refinements ot 
modern human society. Nomadism must 
be genetic because analogous features ap- 
pear as "the wandering instinct in great 
apes," among "primitive peoples," in chil- 
dren (then regarded as akin to primitives 
under the false view that ontogeny reca- 
pitulates phylogeny), and in adolescents 
(in whom raw instinct temporarily over- 
whelms social inhibition in the Sturm 
iund Drang of growing up). The argu- 

frcquently assumed that they are nomadic 
because they hunt, but it is more probable 
that their nomadic instincts force them to 
hunting rather than agricuhurejor a 

Davenport then pursues his second 
claim — nomaciism as the product of a sin- 
gle gene — by tracing pedigrees stored in 
his Eugenics Record Office. On the sub- 
jective criterion of impressions recorded 
by fieldworkers, or written descriptions 
of amateur informants, Davenport 
marked all nomads in his table with a 
scarlet W for iVandcrhist, the common 
German term for an urge to roam). He 
then examined the distribution of lis 
through families and generations to reach 

relevant gene resides on the X-chromo- 
some and males pass only a Y-chromo- 
some only to their sons). Mothers with 
the trait pass it to all their sons, but none 
of their daughters, when the father lacks 
the trait. (Since the feature is recessive, an 
afflicted mother must carry the gene on 
both X-chromosomes. She passes a single 
X to her son, who must then express the 
trait, for he has no other X-chromosome. 
But a daughter will receive one afflicted 
X-chromosome from her mother and 
one normal X-chromosome from her fa- 
ther; she will therefore not express that 
trait because the father's normal copy ot 
the gene is dominant.) Davenport knew 
these rules, so his study didn't tail on this 
account. Rather, his criteria for identify- 

Postcr glonjying eugenics, ca. 1922 

ment about "primitive" people seems 
particularly weak since a propensity for 
wandering might be regarded as well 
suited to a lifestyle based on hunting mo- 
bile game, rather than identified as a mark 
of inadequate genetic constitution (or any 
kind of genetic constitution at all). But 
Davenport, reversing the probable route 
of cause and etTect, would not be 
^ daunted: 

If we regard the Fuegians, Australians, 
Bushmen and Hottentots as the most 
primitipe men, then we may say that 
primitive man is nomadic. . . . It is 

Charles B. Davenport (1866-1944) 

one of the most pecuhar and improbable 
conclusions ever advanced in a famous 
study: nomadism, he argued, is caused by 
a single gene, a sex-linked recessive located 
on what would later be idenrified as the 
temale chromosome. 

Davenport reached this conclusion be- 
cause he thought that nomadism ran 
through family pedigrees in the same 
manner as hemophilia, color bhndness, 
and the other truly sex-linked recessive 
traits. This status can be legitimately in- 
ferred from several definite patterns of 
heredity. For example, fathers with the 
trait do not pass it to their sons (since the 

ing nomadism as a discrete and scorable 
"thing" were so subjective, and so biased 
by Ins genetic assumptions, that his pedi- 
gree data turned out to be worthless. 

Davenport's summary reached (and 
preached) a eugenic crescendo: "The 
wandering insrinct," he stated, "is a fiin- 
damental human instinct, which is, how- 
ever, typically inhibited in intelligent 
adults of civilized peoples." Unfortu- 
nately, people who possess the bad gene 
11 '(the scarlet letter of wanderlust) cannot 
achieve this healthy inhibition, and they 
become feckless nomads who run from 
responsibility- by literal tiight. The trait is 

72 This View of Life 

Natural History 3/98 

genetic, racial, and undesirable. Imnu- 
grants marked by IF should be excluded 
(and many immigiants must be shiftless 
wranderers rather than brave adventurers), 
while nomadic nativ^es should be stron^y 
encouraged, if not compeDed, to desist 
fiom breeding. Davenport concludes: 

T7ie new light brought by our studies is 
this: The nomadic impidse is, in aO die 
cases, one and die same unit diarader. 
Nomads, ofaU kinds, have a special racial 
trait — are, in a proper sense, members of 
die nomadic race. Tliis trait is die absence 
qfdiegenninal determiner tliat makes for 
sedentariness, stability, domesticity. 

Of course, no one w^otild now? defend 
Davenports extreme view of sin^e genes 
determining nearly every complex 
human behavior. Most colleagues eventu- 
ally rejected Davenports theory; he lived 
into the 1940s, long past the eady flush of 
Mendelian enthusiasm and well into the 
modem era of understanding that com- 
plex traits usually record the operation of 
many genes, each with a small and cumu- 
lative effect (not to mention a strong, and 
often predominant, influence from non- 
genetic environmental contexts oi growth 
and expression). A single gene for anger, 
convi\'iality, contemplation, or wander- 
lust now seems as absurd as a claim that 
one assassin's bullet, and nothing else, 
caused World War I, or that DarwTn dis- 
covered evolution all by himself, and we 
would still be creationists if he had never 
been bom. 

Nonetheless, in our modem age of re- 
newed propensity? for genetic explana- 
tions (a valid and genuine enthusiasm 
when properly pursued), Davenport's 
general style of error resurfaces on an al- 
most dail^' basis, albeit in much more sub- 
tle form, but with all the vigor of his pu- 
tative old gene — yes, he did propose 
one — for stubbornly persistent behavior. 

We are noi questioning whether genes 
influence beha\aor; of course thej' do. We 
are not arguing that genetic explanations 
should be resisted because diey have neg- 
ative political, social, or ethical connota- 

tions — ^a charge that must be rejected for 
two primary reasons. First, natures facts 
stand neutral before our ethical usages. 
We have, to be sure, often made dubious, 
even tragic, decisions based on false ge- 
netic claims. But, in other contexts, valid 
arguments about the innate and heredi- 
tary basis of human attributes can be pro- 
foundly liberating. 

Consider only the burden lifted from 
loving parents who raise beautifiil and 
promising children for tw^enty years and 
then "lose" them to the growing ra\^ges 
of schizophrenia — almost surely a geneti- 
cally based disease of the niind, just as 
many congenital diseases of bodily organs 
also appear in the third decade of life, or 

even later. Generations of psychologists 
had subdy blamed parents for uninten- 
tionally inducing such a condition, then 
viewed as entirely envirotmiental in ori- 
gin. What could be more cruel than a 
false weight of blame added to such an ul- 
timate tragedy? Second, we wtU never get 
very far, either in our moral deliberations 
or our scientific inquiries, if we disregard 
genuine facts because we dislike their im- 
plications. In the most ob\'ious case, I 
cannot think of a more unpleasant fact 
than the ine^dtable physical death of each 
human body, but a society built on the 
premise that King Prospero will reign in 

his personal flesh forever will not flourish 
for long. 

However, if we often follow erroneous 
but deeply rooted habits of thinking to 
generate false conclusions about the role 
of heredit)' in human behavior, then these 
habits should be exposed and corrected — 
aU the more \dgorously if such arguments 
usually lead to recommendations for ac- 
tion that most people would also regard as 
ethically wrong (involuntary sterilization 
of the mentally retarded, for example). I 
believe that we face such a situation today 
and that the genetic fallacies underhring 
our misusages bear a striking similarity in 
style and logic to Davenport's errors, 
however much we have gained in subdety 
of argument and factual accuracy. 

Throughout the history ot genetics, the 
most common pohtical misuses have 
rested on claims for "biological determin- 
ism" — the argument that a given behavior 
or social situation can't be helped because 
people are "made that way" by their 
genes. Once we attribute something we 
don't Hke to genes, we tend either to 
make excuses or to make less effort for 
change. For example, many people stiU 
argue that we should deny educational 
benefits and social services to groups 
falsely judged as genetically inferior. Their 
povert\7 and misfortune lie in their awa 
heredity, the argument goes, and theretore 
their condition cannot be signifi candy 
ameliorated by social intervention. Thus, 
history shows a consistent hnkage be- 
tween genetic claims in this mold and 
conservative political arguments for main- 
tenance of an unjust status quo of great 
benefit to people currendy in power. 

Of course, no serious student of either 
genetics or pohtics would now advance 
such an argument in Davenport's style oi 
"one gene, one complex behavior." That 
is, no one today talks about the gene foi 
stupidity, promiscuitN', or lack of ambi- 
tion. But a series of three subde — ^and ex- 
tremely common — errors leads all toe 
often to the same eugenical style of con-* 
elusion. Somehow, we remain fascinatec^ 
with the idea that complex social behav- 
iors might be explained, at least in large 


Artist's re-creation based on 
fossils of an ovi raptor pro- 
tecting its nest, discovered by 
AMNH scientists in the Gobi 
Desert in 1993. (Illustration by 
Mick Ellison for the AMNH) 


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74 This View of Life 

Natural History 3/98 

part, by inherited "atoms" of behavioral 
propensity lying deep within individuals. 
We seem so much more satisfied, so 
much more intrigued, by the claim that a 
definite gene, rather than a complex and 
inextricable mix of heredity and social 
circumstances, causes a particular phe- 
nomenon. We feel that we have come so 
much nearer to a real or essential cause 
when we impUcate a particle within an 
individual, rather than a 
social circumstance built 
of multiple components, 
as the reason behind a 
puzzling behavior. We 
will avidly read a front- 
page headline entitled 
"Gay Gene Found," but 
newspapers will not 
even bother to report an 
equally well-docu- 

mented story on other 
components of homo- 
sexual preference with a 
primary social root and 
no correlated genetic 

The common source 
of these errors lies much 
deeper than any correla- 
tion to a poUtical utility 
most of us do not even 
recognize — and would 
disavow if we did. I sus- 
pect that the source Ues 
in a general view about 
causaHty that has either 
been beaten into us by a false philosophy 
about science and the natural world or 
may even record an unfortunate foible in 
our brains evolved mode of operation. 
We hke simple kinds of explanations that 
flow in one direction from small, inde- 
pendent, constituent atoms of being to 
complex and messy interactions among 
large bodies or orgamzations. To use the 
technical term, we prefer to be "reduc- 
tionists" in our causal schemes — to ex- 
plain the physical behavior of large ob- 
jects as consequences of atoms in motion, 
or the social behavior of large animals by 
biological atoms called genes. 

But the world rarely matches our sim- 
plistic hopes, and the admittedly powerful 
methods of reductionism don't always 
apply. Wholes can be bigger than the sums 
of their parts, and interactions among ob- 
jects cannot always be disaggregated into 
rules of action for each object considered 
separately. The rules and randomness of a 
situation must often be inferred from di- 
rect study of large objects and their inter- 

A iicn-ly diiivcii jdiiiiiy, \cir )oil-: idly, til. I'MH) 

actions, not by reduction to constituent 
"atoms" and their fundamental proper- 
ties. The three common errors of genetic 
explanation all share the same basic fallacy 
of reductionist assumptions. 

1 . We think we have become oh so so- 
phisticated in acknowledging that both 
genes and environment produce a given 
outcome, but we then err in assuming 
that we can best express this correct prin- 
ciple by assigning percentages and stating, 
for example, that behavior A is 40 percent 
genetic and 60 percent environmental. 
We must understand why such reduction- 
ist expressions have no meaning. Genetics 

and environment do interact to build a 
totality, but resultant wholes are unbreak- 
able and irreducible to separate compo- 
nents. Water cannot be explained as two- 
thirds the separate properties of hydrogen 
gas mixed with one-third oxygen's inde- 
pendent traits — just as wanderlust cannot 
be analyzed as 30 percent of a gene for 
feeble inhibition mixed with 70 percent 
of social circumstances that abet an urge 
to hit the road. 

2. We also think that we have become 
sophisticated in saying that many genes, 
not just a Davenportian unity, set the 
hereditary basis of complex behaviors. 
But we then take this correct statement 
and impose the reductionist error of as- 
serting that if behavior A is influenced by 
ten genes and is 50 percent genetic (by 
the first error), then each gene must con- 
tribute roughly 5 percent to the totahty of 
the behavior. But complex interactions 
are not built as the sum of independent 
parts considered separately. I am not one- 
eighth of each of my great-great grand- 
parents (although my genetic composi- 
tion may be roughly so determined); I am 
a unique product of my own interacting 
circumstances of social setting, heredity, 
and all the slings and arrows of individual 
and outrageous natural fortune. 

3. We think that we are being sophisti- 
cated in qualifying statements about 
"genes for" traits by admitting their only 
partial, and often small, contribution to 
an interactive totahty. Thus, we think we 
may legitimately talk of a "gay gene" so 
long as we add that only 15 percent of 
sexual preference records its operation. 
We need to understand why such state- 
ments are truly meaningless and therefore 
worse than merely false. Many genes in- 
teract with several other factors to influ- 
ence sexual preference, but no separable 
"gay gene" exists. Even to talk about a 
"gene for" 10 percent of behavior A is to 
commit the old Davenportian fallacy on 
the "little bit pregnant" analogy. 

To give a concrete example of how a 
good and important study can be saddled 
with all these errors in public reporting 
(and also by careless statements of some 

iiiiiiigraiits, Ellis Island, ca. 1910 

jarticipating researchers), the New York 
Umes greeted 1996 with a headhne on 
he front page of its issue for January 2: 
'Variant Gene Tied to a Love of New 
Thrills." The article reported on two 
tudies in the January 1996 issue o( Nature 
enetics. Two independent groups of re- 
earchers, one working with 124 Ashke- 
lazi and Sephardic Jews from Israel, the 
ther with a largely male sample of 315 
tthnically diverse Americans, found a 
learly significant, if weak, association be- 
ween propensity for "novelty-seeking 
lehavior" (as ascertained from standard 
urvey questionnaires) and possession of a 

variant of a gene called the D4 dopamine 
receptor, located on the eleventh chro- 
mosome and acting as one of at least five 
receptors known to influence the brain's 
response to dopamine. 

This gene exists in several variant 
forms, defined by differing lengths 
recording the number (anywhere from 
two to ten) of repeated copies of a partic- 
ular DNA subunit within the gene. Indi- 
viduals with a high number of repeated 
copies (that is, with a longer gene) tended 
to manifest a greater tendency for nov- 
elty-seeking behavior — perhaps because 
the longer form of the gene some- 

how acts to enhance 
the brain's response to 

So far, so good — and 
very interesting. We can 
scarcely doubt that 
heredity influences broad 
and basic a.spects of tem- 
perament — a bit of folk 
wisdom that surely falls 
into the category of 
"what every parent with 
more than one child 
knows." No one should 
be at all offended or 
threatened by the obvi- 
ous fact that we are not 
born entirely blank or 
entirely the same in our 
mixture of the broad be- 
havioral propensities 
defining what we call 
"temperament." Certain 
genes evidently influ- 
ence particular aspects of 
brain chemistry, and 
brain chemistry surely 
affects our moods and 
behaviors. We know 
that basic and powerflil 
neurotransmitters, such 
as dopamine, strongly 
impact our moods and 
feelings (particularly, for 
dopamine, our sensa- 
tions of pleasure). Dif- 
fering forms of genes 
that affect the brain's response to 
dopamine may influence our behaviors, 
and a form that enhances the response 
may well incline a person toward novelty- 
seeking activities. 

But the long form of the D4 receptor 
does not therefore become the (or even a) 
novelty-seeking gene, and these studies 
do not identify tliis behavior as such-and- 
such a percent "genetic" in origin — al- 
though statements in this form domi- 
nated popular reports of these discoveries. 
Even the primary sources — the two orig- 
inal reports in Nature Genetics and the ac- 
companying "News and Views" feature 

76 This View of Life 

Natural History 3/98 

entitled "Mapping genes for human per- 
sonality" — and the excellent Tiiiies story 
(representing the best of our serious press) 
managed, amid their generally careful and 
accurate accounts, to propagate all three 
errors detailed above. 

The Times reporter cited the first error 
of assigning separable percentages by 
writing that "about half of novelty-seek- 
ing behavior is attributable to genes, the 
other half to as yet iU-defined environ- 
mental circumstances." Dr. R. P. Ebstein, 
principal author of one report, then stated 
the second error of adding up effects 
without considering interactions when 
he argued that the long form of the D4 
gene accounts for only about 10 percent 
of novelty-seeking behavior. If, by the 
first error, all of novelty seeking can be 
viewed as 50 percent genetic, and if D4 
accounts for 10 percent of the totahty, 
then we can infer that about four other 
genes must be involved (each contribut- 
ing 10 percent for the grand total of 50 
percent genetic influence). Ebstein told 
the Times reporter: "If we assume that 
there are other genes out there that we 
haven't looked at yet, and that each gene 
exerts more or less the same influence as 
the D4 receptor, then we would expect 
maybe four or five genes are involved." 

But the most significant errors, as al- 
ways, fall into the third category of mis- 
proclaiming "genes for" specific behav- 
iors — as in the Nature Genetics title 
previously cited: "Mapping genes for 
human personahty." (If our professional 
journals so indulge, imagine what the 
popular press makes of "gay genes," 
"thrill genes," "stupidity genes," and so 
on.) First of all, the D4 gene, by itself ex- 
erts only a weak potential influence on 
novelty-seeking behavior. How can a 
gene accounting for only 10 percent of 
the variance in a trait be proclaimed as a 
"gene for" the trait? If I decide that 10 
percent of my weight gain came from the 
calories in tofu (because I love the stuff 
and eat it by the ton), this item, generally 
regarded as nutritionally benign, does not 
become a "fatness food." 

More importantly, genes make en- 

zymes, and enzymes control the rates of 
chemical processes. Genes do not make 
novelty-seeking or any other complex 
and overt behavior. Predisposition via a 
long chain of complex chemical reac- 
tions, mediated through an even more in- 
tricate series of life's circumstances, does 


01. [lie 

riy no 


Immigrants being cxamiiicii, Ellis Island, ca. 1900 

not equal identification, or even causa- 
tion. At most, the long form of D4 in- 
duces a chemical reaction that can, 
among other possible effects, generate a 
mood leading some people to greater 
openness toward behavior defined by 
some questionnaires as "novelty seeking." 
In fact, a further study, published in 
1997, illustrated this error in a dramatic 
way by Unking the same long form of D4 
to greater propensity for heroin addiction. 
The original Times article of 1996 had 
exulted in the "first known report of a 
link benveen a specific gene and a specific 
normal personality trait." But now the 

same gene — perhaps via the same route of 
enhanced dopamine response — correlates 
with a severe pathology in other person- i . 
aHties. So what is D4 — a "novelt\'-seek- 
ing" gene in normal folk, or an "addic- 
tion" gene in troubled people? We need ;!■ 
to reform both our terminology and our 
concepts. The long 
form of D4 is a gene 
that produces a chemical 
response. This response 
may correlate with dif- . 
ferent overt behaviors in i "'' 
people with widely ) ifc 
varying histories and ge- ! Mff' 
netic constitutions. ' i»niii 

The deepest error of | sp'j™ 
this third category lies in I » Jfl 
the reductionist and re- ifflCJi 
ally rather silly notion 
that we can even create 
rigorous definitions for 
discrete, separable, spe- 
cific traits within the 
complex continua of 
human behaviors. We 
have enough trouble | ssient 
specifying characters I i 
with clear Hnks to par- j H 
ticular genes in the i toUlii 
much clearer and sim- 1 s 
pier features of human I tiiii 
anatomy. I may be able ( imilii 
to specify genes "for" i met] 
eye color but not for leg 
length or fatness. How 
then shall I parse the 
continuous and necessarily subjective cat 
egories of labile personalities? Is novelty 
seeking really a "thing" at all? Can I even 
talk in any meaningful way about "genes 
for" such nebulous categories? Have I not 
fallen right back into the errors of Daven 
port's search for the internal scarlet letter 
W of wanderlust? 

I finally realized what had been trou- 
bling me so much about the literature on 
"genes for" behavior when I read thM Niik 
Timcs's account of C. R. Cloninger's the-l Solfci 
ory of personality (Cloninger is the prin- yi!^ 
cipal author of the Nature Genetics "Newsfctjuj 
and Views" feature): ■!''lB.(ioi 



Nofclty seeking is cine offoiir iispecfs that 
Dr. Cloiiiiigey and many other 
psychologists propose as the basic bricks of 
normal temperament, the other three being 
avoidance of harm, reward dependence and 
persistence. All fonr humors are thought to 
be attributable in good part to one's genetic 

'he line about "humors" crystallized my 
jstress, for I realized why the canny re- 
lOrter (or the scientist himself) had used 
nis old word. Consider the theory in 
lutline: four independent components of 
;mperament, properly in balance in 
normal" folks, but with each individual 
dsplaying subtly different proportions, 
fius determining our personal tempera- 
aents and building our distinct personal- 
ties. But if one humor gets out of whack 
y substantial over- or under-representa- 
lon, then a pathology may result. 

But why four, and why these four? 
y\\y not five, or six, or six hundred? 
^hy any specific number? Why try to 
arse such continua into definite inde- 
endent "things" at all? I do understand 
le mathematical theories and procedures 
aat lead to such identifications (see my 
ook Tlie Mismeasure of Man), but I regard 
le entire enterprise as a major philo- 
Dphical error of our time (while I view 
,ie mathematical techniques, which I use 
xtensively m my own research, as highly 
aluable when properly applied). Numer- 
.;al clumps are not physical realities. A 
our-component model of temperament 
aay act as a useful heuristic device, but I 
ion't believe for a moment that four ho- 
aunculi labeled "novelty seeking," 
avoidance of harm," "reward depen- 
ence," and "persistence" reside in my 
rain, either vying for doininance or co- 

The logic of such a theory runs in un- 
army parallel — hence the clever choice 
f "humor" as a descriptive term for pro- 
osed modules of temperament — with 
le oldest and most venerable of glori- 
lusly wrong theories in the history of 
ledicine. For more than a thousand 
ears, from Galen to the dawn of modern 

medicine, prevailing concepts regarded 
the human personality as a balance 
among four humors — blood, phlegm, 
choler, and melancholy. Humor, from the 
Latin word for liquid (preserved in our 
designation of the fluids of the human eye 
as the aqueous and vitreous humors), re- 
ferred to the four liquids that supposedly 
formed the chyle, or digested food in the 
intestine just before it entered the body 
for nourishment. Since the chyle arose, 
on one hand, from a range of choices in 
the food we eat and, on the other hand, 
from constitutional differences in how 
various bodies digest this food, the total- 
ity recorded both innate and external fac- 
tors — an exact equivalent to the modern 
claim that both genes and environment 
influence our behavior. 

The four humors of the chyle corre- 
spond to the four possible categories of a 
double dichotomy — that is, two axes of 
distinction based on warm-cold and wet- 
dry. The warm and wet humor is blood; 

A single gene for anger, 


contemplation, or 

wanderlust now^ seems as 

absurd as a claim that one 

assassin's buUet, and 

nothing else, caused 

World War I. 

cold and wet generates phlegm; warm 
and dry makes choler; while cold and dry 
forms melancholy. I regard such a logi- 
cally abstract scheme as a heuristic orga- 
nizing device, much like Cloninger's 
quadripartite theory of personality. But 
we make a major error if we elevate such 
a scheme to claims for real and distinct 
physical entities inside the body. 

hi the medical theory of humors, good 
health results from a proper balance 
among the four, while distinctive person- 
alities emerge from different proportions 
within the normal range. But too much 
of any one humor may lead to oddness or 

pathology. As a fascinating Hnguistic rem- 
nant, we still use the names of all four hu- 
mors as adjectives for types of personality: 
sanguine — dominance of the hot-wet 
blood humor — for cheerful people; phleg- 
matic, for stolid folks dominated by the 
cold-wet humor of phlegm; choleric, for 
angry individuals saddled with too much 
hot-dry choler; and melancholic, for sad 
people overdosed with black bile, the 
cold-dry humor of melancholia. Is the 
modern quadripartite theory ot personal- 
ity really any different from this older 
view in basic concepts of number, bal- 
ance, and the causes of both normal per- 
sonality and pathology? 

hi conclusion, we might imagine two 
possible reasons for such uncanny similar- 
ity between a modern conception of four 
components to temperament and the old 
medical theory of humors. Perhaps the 
sinularity exists because the apparatus is 
true, with the modern version represent- 
ing a great refinement of a central fact 
that our ancestors could only glimpse 
through a glass darkly. But alternatively — 
and ever so much more hkely m my judg- 
ment — the stunning similarities exist be- 
cause the human mind is a constant thing, 
despite all our growth of learning and the 
historical changes in Western culture. We 
therefore remain sorely tempted by the 
same easy fallacies of reasoning. 

I suspect that we once chose four hu- 
mors, and now designate four basic con- 
stituents of temperament, because some- 
thing deep in the human psyche leads us 
to impose simple taxonomic schemes of 
distinct categories upon the world's truly 
complex continua. After all, our forebears 
didn't invoke the number four only tor 
humors. We parsed many other phenom- 
ena into schemes with four tundamental 
properties — the four compass points, the 
ages of man, the four Greek elements ot 
air, earth, fire, and water. Could these 
similarities be coincidental, or does some- 
thing about the workings of the human 
brain tavor such artificial divisions? Carl 
Jung, for reasons that I regard as dubious, 
felt strongly that division by four repre- 
sented something deep and archets'pal in 

78 This View of Life 

Natural History 3/98 


human proclivities. He argued that divi- 
sions by three lack balance and lead on- 
ward (for one triad presupposes another 
for contrast), whereas divisions by four 
stand in optimal harmony. He wrote: 
"[BJetween the three and the four there 
exists the primary opposition of male and 
female, but whereas fourness is a symbol 
of wholeness, threeness is not." 

I think Jung correctly discerned an in- 
herent mental attraction to divisions by 
four. I suspect the basis for this propensity 
Hes in our clear (and probably universal) 
preference for dichotomous divisions. 
Four represents a kind of ultimate di- 
chotomization — a dichotomy of di- 
chotomies: two axes (each with two fim- 
damental properties) at right angles to 
each other. We may experience four as an 
ultimate balance because such schemes fill 
our mental space with two dichotomies 
in perfect and opposite coordination. 

In any case, if this second reason ex- 
plains why we invented such eerily similar 
theories as four bodily humors and four 
basic constituents of temperament, then 
such quadripartite divisions reflect biases 
of the mind's organization, not "real 
things" out there in the physical world. 
We can hardly talk about "genes for" the 
components of such artificial and prejudi- 
cial parsings of a much more complex re- 
ality. Interestingly, the greatest literary 
work ever written on the theory of hu- 
mors, the early-seventeenth-century 
Anatomy of Melancholy, by the English di- 
vine and scholar Robert Burton, properly 
recognized the four humors as just one 
manifestation of a larger propensity to di- 
vide by four. This great man, who used 
the balm of literature to assuage his own 
lifelong depression, wrote of his condi- 
tion: "Melancholy, cold and drie, thicke, 
blacke, and sowre ... is a bridle to the 
other two hot humors, bloode and 
choler, preserving them in the blood, and 
nourishing the bones: These foure hu- 
mors have some analogie with the foure 
elements, and to the foure ages in man." 

I would therefore end — and how could 
an essayist possibly find a more appropri- 
ate culmination — with some wise words 

from Montaigne, the sixteenth-century 
founder of the essay as a Hterary genre. 
Instead of trying to identify a propensity 
for wandering or for novelty seeking 
(perhaps a spur to wandering) in a spe- 
cific, innate sequence of genetic coding, 
perhaps we should pay more attention to 
the wondrous wanderings of our mind. 
For unto we grasp the biases and propen- 
sities of our own thinking, we wiH never 
see through the humors of our vision into 
the workings of nature beyond. Mon- 
taigne wrote: 

It is a thorny undertaking, and more so 
than it seems, to follow a movement so 
wandering as that of our mind, to penetrate 
the opaque depths of its innermost folds, to 
pick out and immobilize the innumerable 
flutterings that agitate it. 

Stephen fay Gould teaches biology, geology, 
and the history of science at Harvard 
University. He is also the Frederick P. Rose 
Honorary Curator in Invertebrates at the 
American Museum of Natural History. 

The Donkey 

Image and text by Alexis Rockman 

Unlike the mule, that relatively recent 
and sterile product of crossbreeding, 
the donkey has o history that has long 
been intertwined with that of humans. 
Were it not for the noble tradition of 
horse breeding, this donkey would likely 
have fallen by the wayside at an early 
age. Although separated from his 
healthy equine cousins, this donkey is 
obviously oared for, despite his 
disabled status. 

1 997. 40 X 48 X 4.25 inches. Envirotex, 
digitized photograph, stainless steel 
crutch, bondage paraphernalia, barn 
siding, strew, plastic plants, plasticene on 

Alexis Rockman presents tiis idiosyncratic 
view of nature monthly in Natural History. 




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Rates and Style Information 

$4.20 per word: 16 word minimum. Display classi- 
fied is $455 per inch. Advertisements must be pre- 
paid. Rates are not structured for agency or cash dis- 
counts. Ads are accepted at Natural History's 
discretion. Send check or money order to: TTie 
Market/Natural History Magazine, Central Park 
West at 79th St., New York, NY 10024. Direct any 
written inquiries to Eileen O'Keefe at the above ad- 
dress, or call 212-769- 5500. Please include your per- 
sonal address and phone number, issue preferred, 
and suggested category. Deadline-lst of the month, 
two months prior to cover date. 

Long Island , Xi.r K 

82 Universe 

Natural History 3/98 

Se Greatest 

Ever Told ^ 

The world has persisteil many 

a long year, having once been set going in 

the appropriate motions. From 

these everything else follows. 


Sometime between 12 and 16 billion 
years ago, all the space and all the matter 
and all the energy of the universe could 
fit on the point of a pin. The temperature 
was so high that the basic forces of nature 
that collectively describe the universe 
were unified. For reasons unknown, this 
teeny-weeny cosmos 
began to expand. Our es- 
tablished theories of mat- 
ter and energy cannot be 
invoked to even hint at 
what the universe was 
like before it reached 10 
seconds of age. But at 10 
seconds, black holes 
spontaneously formed, 
disappeared, and formed 
again out of the energy 
contained within the unified field. Under 
these extreme conditions (according to 
what is admittedly speculative physics), 
the structure of space and time became 
severely curved as it gurgled into foamy 
convolutions. Physical phenomena we 
now describe by Einstein's general theory 

By Neil de Grasse Tyson 

of relativity (the modern theory of grav- 
ity) and by quantum mechanics (the de- 
scription of matter on its smallest scales) 
were then indistinguishable. But as the 
universe continued to expand and cool, 
gravity split from the other forces. Shortly 
thereafter, the strong nuclear force and 
the electroweak force parted company, in 
an event that has been implicated as the 
cause of a rapid, thirty-power-of-ten in- 
crease in the size of the universe. (This re- 
lease of stored energy is loosely analogous 
to the release of a substance's latent heat as 







Whafs been happening 

since tlie big bang? 

An eartliling brings us 

up to date. 

it freezes solid. The thermal energy stored 
in a gram of water at zero degrees, for ex- 
ample, exceeds that which is stored in a 
gram of ice at the same temperature. The 
energy difference is water's latent heat.) 
The early rapid expansion of the uni- 
verse, known as the era ot inflation. 

stretched and smoothed out the cosmic 
distribution of matter and energy so that 
no region varied in density from another 
by any more than about one part in 
100,000. Henceforth, the story gains sup- 
port from laboratory-confirmed physics. 
The universe was, and continues to be, 
hot enough for photons to convert their 
energy spontaneously into matter-anti- 
matter particle pairs, which then annihi- 
late each other to become photons again. 
For reasons unknown, the symmetry be- 
tween matter and antimatter had been 
"broken" earlier, possibly 
at the second force-spht- 
ting, leading to a sUght ex- 
cess of matter over anti- 
matter: for every billion 
antimatter particles, there 
existed a-biUion-plus-one 
matter particles. This in- 
equality was small but re- 
ally, really important for 
the future evolution of the 
universe: As the universe 
continued to cool, the electroweak force 
split to become the electromagnetic and 
the weak nuclear forces — -joining with 
gravity and the strong force to complete 
the four distinct and famiUar forces of na- 
ture. As the temperature of the photon 
bath continued to drop, pairs of matter- 


inii I' 






6 II 






mtiniatter particles could no longer be 
:rcated spontaneously from the available 
photons. All remaining pairs swiftly anni- 
liiLitcd, leaving behind a universe with 
one particle of ordinary matter — and no 
uitunatter — for every billion photons. 
Had this asymmetry not emerged, the ex- 
panding universe would forever be com- 
posed of light and nothing else. Over the 
roughly three-minute period that fol- 
lowed, surviving protons and neutrons as- 
sembled to create the simplest atomic nu- 
clei. Meanwhile, free-roving electrons 
scattered the photons to and fro, creating 
an opaque soup of matter and energy. By 
the tmie the universe cooled to one or 
two thousand degrees kelvin — about the 
temperature of fireplace embers — the 
loose electrons were moving slowly 
enough to get snatched by the nuclei to 
form complete atoms of hydrogen, he- 
lium, and lithium — the three lightest ele- 
ments. The universe became transparent 
to visible light for the first time, and these 
free-flying photons are seen today as the 
cosmic microwave background. Over the 
following billion years, the universe con- 
tinued to expand and cool while matter 
gravitated into the massive concentrations 
we call galaxies. As many as a hundred 
billion galaxies formed, each containing 
hundreds of billions of stars that undergo 
thermonuclear fusion in their cores. 
Those stars with more than about ten 
'times the mass of the Sun achieve suffi- 
cient pressure and temperature in their 
cores to manufacture elements heavier 
ithan hydrogen, including the elements 
that compose rocky planets and the life 
upon them. These elements might have 
remained hopelessly locked away were it 
Inot for the fortuitous fact that high-mass 
stars explode, scattering their chemically 
enriched guts throughout the galaxy. 
After 7 or 8 billion years of such enrich- 
ment, an unremarkable star (the Sun) was 
born in an unremarkable region (the 
Orion Arm) of an unremarkable gala.xy 
(the Milky Way) in an unremarkable part 
of the universe (the outskirts of the Virgo 
supercluster). The gas cloud from which 
the Sun formed contained sufficient 

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84 Universe 

Natural History 3/98 

heavy elements to spawn a system of nine 
planets, thousands ot" asteroids, and bil- 
lions of comets. As planets condensed out 
of the parent cloud of gas, they continued 
to accrete debris for several hundred mil- 
lion years. The effect? The surfaces of the 
rocky planets were rendered molten by 
the persistent high-velocity impacts of 
comets and other leftover debris, inhibit- 
mg the formation of complex molecules. 
As the solar system's accretable matter was 
used up, the planet surfaces began to cool. 
The planet \ve call Earth tormed in a 
zone around the Sun, where oceans re- 
main largely in liquid form. Had Earth 
been much closer to the Sun, the oceans 
would have vaporized; had Earth been 
much farther, the oceans would have 

fragile. Earth's encounters with large, left- 
over asteroids and comets, formerly com- 
mon events, still wreak intermittent 
havoc on the ecosystem. A mere 65 mil- 
lion years ago (less than two percent of 
Earth's past), a lO-triUion-ton asteroid hit 
what is now the Yucatan Peninsula and 
obliterated over 90 percent of Earth's flora 
and fauna — including dinosaurs, the 
dominant land animals. This ecological 
tragedy pried open an opportunity for 
Earth's small, surviving mammals to fiU 
freshly vacant niches. One branch of| 
these mammals, called primates, pro- 
duced a species (Homo sapiens) with a level 
of intelligence capable of inventing astro- 
physicists, along with their methods and 
tools of science. The species then went 

Our bodies' atoms are 

traceable to the birlti of ttie 

universe and the death of stars. 

frozen. In either case, life as we know it 
would not have evolved. Within the 
chemically rich liquid oceans, by a mech- 
anism still unknown, there emerged sim- 
ple anaerobic bacteria that unwittingly 
transformed Earth's carbon-dioxide-nch 
atmosphere into one with sufficient oxy- 
gen to allow aerobic organisms to flourish 
and dominate the oceans and land. These 
same oxygen atoms, normally found in 
pairs (O2), also combined in threes (O-,) 
to form ozone in the upper atmosphere, 
serving then and now as a shield that pro- 
tects Earth's surface from most of the 
Sun's molecule-hostile ultraviolet light. 
The remarkable diversity of life on Earth, 
and we presume, elsewhere in the uni- 
verse, is owed to the cosmic abundance of 
carbon and the countless number of mol- 
ecules (simple and complex) made from 
it. No, the number is not actually "count- 
less," but how can you object to the use of 
the term knowing there are more vari- 
eties of carbon-based molecules than all 
other molecules combined? But life is 

on to deduce the origin and evolution oi 
the universe. 

Yes, the universe had a beginning. Yes 
the universe continues to evolve. And yes 
eveiT one of our body's atoms is traceabki 
to the big bang and to the thermonucleaij 
furnace within high-mass stars. We an 
not simply in the universe; we are part o 
it. We are born from it. One might ever 
say we have been empo\vered by the uni- 
verse to figure the universe out — and w( 
have only just begun. 

Dedicated to the memory' of DavKS 
Schramm, University of Chicago, whosj 
cosmological insights led us all to a deepe; 
understanding of the astrophysics of th< 
early universe. His recent death in a plan 
crash leaves a void that \\aLl not soon b 

Neil de Gmsse Tyson, an astrophysicist, is t\\ 
Frederick P. Rose director of New York City^ 
Hayden Planetarium and is a Visiting Ri 
search Scientist at Princeton University. 





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Midlothian, Virginia 231 13 

Natural History 3/98 







Photograph by Steve Gettle 

ENP Images 

A frigid north wind worked to 

pull the mercury far below zero — 

';■'''■,,, not that unusual for a February day in 

southern Michigan. Until recently, 

. ^ the Virginia opossum was not 

a feature of this frozen landscape. 

" When European colonists first 

,^^^ arrived, the opossum — North 

.■^' Ainerica's only marsupial — ^was found 

only as far north as Pennsylvania. 

' Following the trail cut by settlers, and 

fc;* reportedly introduced into the Northwest 

as a food source during the Great Depression, 

Sj«>i» the opossum has extended its range into 

X southwestern British Columbia. An omnivorous 

■ diet and a reduction in the nuhiber of bears, wolves, 

and cats that are its natui-al predators have helped the 

S;' opossum to thrive. Adapting to life in the north, it 

-, accumulates fat during the fall and may enter an 

it inactive state during severe weather, remaining in its nest 

, , for several days at a time. Wlren it ventures out — -usually to 

' search for food^ — ^it does so at a price: frostbite cost tlris traveler a couple 

'••r of inches of tail, not an uncommon toU for those that push the limits 

of the northern range. Says Steve Getrie, who photographed diis creature on 

Iiis walk jiome from a morning spent pliotogi'aphing birds, "I have never 

seen an opossujii in our area tjiat was more thaii a yeai" old without some 

fi-ostbite damage to its taO^ — and often an ear or two." — Annette Heist 

SiftSi the Museum 

Nqturgl History 3/98 

March Events 

March 2 

As part of the "Frontiers in Astrophysics" 
lecture series, Chris Impey, of the Uni- 
versity of Arizona, will give a slide-illus- 
trated talk entitled "The History of 
Everything" at 7:30 P.M. 

March 9 

Alan Dressier, of the Carnegie Observa- 
tories in Pasadena, California, wiH give a 
sUde-Olustrated talk entided "Return to 
the Center of the Universe." The lecture, 
beginning at 7:30 P.M., is part of the "Dis- 
tinguished Authors in Astronomy" series. 

March 16 

John Hare, director of the Wild Camel 
Protection Foundation, has made four 
expeditions to the Gobi since 1993, 
tracking wild Bactrian camel migration 
routes. He estimates that less than one 
thousand wild Bactrians are left in the 

of the Hall of Human Biology and Evolu- 
tion, will speak at 7:00 P.M. on some of 
the topics covered in his latest book. Be- 
coming Human: Evohitioii and Human 
Uniqueness, focusing particularly on the 
fossil and archeological evidence tor 
human cognitive evolution. In his book, 
Tattersall revisits some of his favorite 
archeological sites as he explores hu- 
mankind's origins, the current state of 
evolurionarv' theory, and what we know 
about other primates" behavior. 

March 19 and 26 
April 2 and 9 

Seaweed and flowering plants of coastal 
dunes and wetiands vidll be the subject of 
four sHde-Olustrated talks on marine pro- 
ductivity and biodiversity given by Mu- 
seum botanist and lecturer William 
Schiller. The talks begin at 7:00 RM.; 
Schiller wUl repeat them on tour consec- 

Bdcirian camels in a Chinese scroll paititiug by Wu Zuo Ren, circa 1930 

wild, all of them livang in the heart of this utive Monday afternoons at 2:30 RM., 
desolate and remote region. Hares sUde- starting March 16. 
illustrated talk wdll begin at 7:00 RM. 

March 24 

jViarCn 1 9 The sixty-eighth annual James Arthur 

Ian Tattersall, a curator in the Museums Lecture on the evolution of the human 
Deparmient of Anthropology and creator brain wiU be given by Ian Tattersall, a cu- 

rator in the Department of Anthropology. 
Basing his ideas on the archeological 
record, Tattersall wiU argue that a "mod- 
ern" level of cognitive flinction evolved 
quite recently and suggest that "behav- 
ioral modernity" developed considerably 
later than "physical modernity," coming 
only with the invention of language. The 
talk begins at 6:00 P.M. and is free. 

Throughout March 

During International Women's History- 
Month, the Education Department \vill 
offer free weekend programs. The title ot 
this series of performances, fdms, and dis- 
cussions will be "Women of the World: 
Diverse Paths to Their Histories." The 
presentations wOl feature \asual. musical, 
hterars', and anthropological works pre- 
sented by blues singers, storytellers, anc 
dancers. The department wall also con- 
duct workshops for adults and children, a; 
\\'eU as nature walks and field Crips outsidt 
the Museum. Call (212) 769-5315 for . 
complete listing. 

The Hayden Planetarium will offer ■ 
number of courses, beginning thi 
month, m astronomy, meteorology, na%'i- 
gation, and aviation. For a completi 
schedule and additional details, call (212 

The Museum's IMAX Theater is fea 
turing Cosmic I oyage. an exploration o 
the universe's form and structure; Uliak: 
an investigation of le\'iathans; and Timt 
ica, a history of the world's most famou 
shipwreck. Double features will be shown 
on Friday and Saturday e\-enings at 6:0' 
and 7:30 RM. 

The American Museum of Natural His 
tory is located at Central Park West an 
79th Street m New York Cit\'. For ticke' 
and information about events, call (21- 
769-5200. Consult the Museum Web sit 
for additional information (http://w"\\"v For hours and admission tee 
caU (212) 769-5100.88 I 

Instead of a pot of gold, I find a panorama of green: 

the living treasure of the Sonoran Desert. 

For a free travel packet, call the Arizona Office of Tourism 
at 1-800-925-6689. HSlL^J 

Natural history 
Received on: 02-25-98 
Ref 5.06(74.7)M1 


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Ensuring the future 
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AprU 1998 Volume 107 Number 3 


26 Under the Rainforest 

In the darkness of a cave fuU of bats, 
cockroaches, beetles, flies, and earwigs, 
an enterprising spider with good eyesight 
can make a killing. 
Simon D. Pollard 

The Nomads of Gunung Mulu 

For the Penan, living in one ot the world's 
most remote rainforests has not been enough 
to keep civilization at bay. 
Story and photographs by Eric Hansen 

2 Up Front: A Superlative Travel Guide 


38 Life in the Arctic Labyrinth 

A scientific fishing expedition in the heart 
of Canada's Arctic Archipelago reveals a 
living world beneath the pack ice. 
Kevin Krajick 


46 Looking for Maria 

In Africa, an artist tracks a rhino. 
Story and paintings by Deborah Ross 


50 Silent Wild 

The Atacama Desert, hyperarid for at least 
the last 13 to 15 million years, tests the hmits 
of plants' and animals' adaptability. 
Jim Mahisa 

3 To the Editor 

4 Contributors 

Natural Selections 
6 Review: Wrong Division 
Bernard Nietschmaiiii 

1 Review: Maya on the Map 
Tim Norris 

1 1 Bugs 
Robert Anderson 

11 Bookshelf 

12 Journal: Voyage of a Painter 
Errol Fuller 

16 This View of Life: The L^ing Stones 
of Wiirzburg and Marrakech 
Stephen Jay Gould 

22 Findings: Killed for a Cure 
Alan Rabinou'itz 

72 Universe: To Fly 

Neil de Grasse Tyson 

Field Guide 

76 This Land: Land of the Giants 

Mamie A}idrcu's 

Photographs byjeffjacobson 
80 Celestial Events: Celestial 

Summit Meeting 

Joe Rao 

Cover: Light from the huge 

west entrance filters through 

Borneo's Deer Cave, home 

to millions of bats and countless 

spiders and insects. 

Story on page 26. 

Pliotograph by Tim Laiiian 

91 Rockman: Rt. 10 

Alexis Rockman 

92 The Natural Moment: 
To Get to the Other Side 
Photograph by Wolfgang Kaehler 

At the American Museum of Natural Histor\- 
94 Steel Masquerade 

Enid Schildkrout 
96 April Events and Notices 

2 Up Front 

Natural History 4/98 

A Superlative 
Travel Guide 

Intrepid Witiiral History travelers may argue whether Borneo's Deer Cave, 
explored in this issue by zoologist Simon D. PoUard ("Under the Rainforest," 
page 26), is one of the world's bluest. Some may take issue \\ath calling Chile's 
Atacama Desert, where wTiter Jim Malusa found himself hiking (""Silent Wild," 
page 50), the world's driest. And Kevin Krajick's cruise aboard a research vessel 
in the frozen North ("Life in the Arctic Labyrinth," page 38) may or may not 
have been the world's coldest. But there's little doubt that nowhere in the world 
is there a prairie chicken as big as the one that photographer Jeff Jacobson and 
writer Marnie Andrews caught sight of just off the expressway in Rothsay, 
Minnesota ("Land of the Giants," page 76). 

What ties together all the travels in this issue is not the parameters of the sights 
but the time the wTiters take to contemplate, study, and appreciate what they see. 
Adventure travel is a big draw these days. But in the quest for adventure, the 
natural world can too easily become little more than a backdrop. A rafting trip 
down river rapids may be exciting, but so is a car wreck. Drifting slowly in a 
canoe, or even walking along a local shore observing the \\Tldhfe, can be the 
greater adventure. To appreciate a river, mountain, or forest only tor the 
challenge it poses to us is to miss the real adventure m nature travel: to appreciate 
the complexities of things beyond ourselves. — Bruce Suiiz 

Guillemots diving in the Arctic Archipelago. 

The mag.\zine of the 

Amerjcajs! Museum of N.^tural History 

Bruce Stutz 

Edilor in Chief 

Ellen Goldensohn 

Managing Editor 

Thomas Page 


Maire Crowe 

Board of Editors 

Rebecca B. Finnell 

Jenny Lawrence 

Vittorio Maestro 

Richard Milner 

Judy Rice 

Kay Zakariasen (Pictures) 

Lisa Stillnian 

Associate Managing Editors 

N4ichel DeMatteis 

David Ortiz 

Picture Coordinator 

Annette Heist 

Research Assodaie 

Pegg>' Conversano 

Assistant Designer 

Carol Barnette 

Editorial Coordinator 

Merle Okada 

Asst. to tiie Editor 

Linda C. Cherry 


Judy Lee 

Business Manager 

Gladys Pavera 

Asst. to the Publisher 

Cary Castle 

Consujner Marketing Director 

Ramon E. Alvarez 

Ciraihition Mj)iagcr 

Brunilda Ortiz 

FulfiUmeut Manager 

Suzanne Kato 

Ciratlation jAssistani 

Mark Abraham 

Production Director 

Marie Mundaca 

Production Manager 

John Davey 

Adv£. Prod. /Research 

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Natural History 4/98 

Letters | 3 

To the 

Harmful Inquilines 

In the text accompanying his 
image "The Rec-Rooin" 
(February 1998), Alexis 
Rockman groups rodents 
among the inquilines — a 
group that he defines as 
"animals using other animals' 
dwellings without direct harm 
to the host."" 

But not only can in-house 
rodents harm us by infecting 
us with hantaviruses, their 
habit of gathering and massing 
nest-building materials in the 
walls, combined with their 
gnawing at electrical wires, 
definitely brings the risk 
of fire. 

Joyce Crocker 
Lafayette, Indiana 

An Errant Island 

Havingjust laid out a good 
chunk of money to take the 
family on a cruise to Antigua 
to view the total solar echpse 
on February 26, I was 
horrified to see your map on 
pages 44 and 45 ("Coral 
Worlds,"' December 
1997/January 1998). You 
place the island hundreds of 
miles from the path of totality! 
I hope things wiU be 
rearranged so that our trip 
win be successful. (I believe 
that Antigua should be just 
north of Guadeloupe.) 
Robert A. Gorcn 
Wynnewood, Pennsylvania 

Antigua is indeed just north of 
Guadeloupe. Our map was in 
error. Bon voyage. — Eds. 

Impious Smugness 

The subject of Stephen Jay 
Gould's February essay was 

Tlic pliotoi^raph of a Cuban tree fro^featnred 
in the December 1997/January 1998 
"Natural Moment" was not, in fact, natural. 
Photographer Joe McDonald had indeed 
photographed the creatine in the Everglades, 
but he later set up a similar shot in his studio. 
Tlie latter was what we received and published. 
For our readers' information, the studio shot is 
at left, the natural below. — Eds. 

"dino.saurian irony," but I find 
equal irony in Gould's 
statement that Rudyard 
Kiphng's "Recessional" may 
disappear from the educational 
canon because of its "smug 
assumption of British 

"Recessional" is about 
what happens when "The 
Captains and the Kings depart 
. . ." and "... drunk with 
sight of power, we loose / 

Wild tongues that have not 
Thee in awe." 

When we sang the 
"Recessional" in our 
Pennsylvania high school in 
the early 192()s, an English 
teacher told us that Rudyard 
Kipling was passed over for 
selection as poet laureate 
because of this impiety to the 
British crown! 
Bassett Ferguson 
Wilmington, North Carolina 

In the coming issues of 

Special Report 

America's Shorebirds 

Their migration routes span the continents from Canada to 

South America. The marshes and shorelines where they rest 

and feed form the basis of a network of reserves that runs 

the length of the hemisphere. Our report follows the 

sandpipers, avocets, red knots, sanderlings, and their kin and 

tells you where to go to see diem. 


Water Worlds 

In a ranking of cosmic abundance, water's constituents of 

hydrogen and oxygen would be one and three on the list. 

Rather than ask why some places have water, the better 

question may be: Why don't all places? 

/))' Neil dc Grassc Tyson 


Natural History 4/98 

Arachnologists Simon D. Pollard and Robert R. Jackson ("Under the Rainforest"), who 
first visited Borneo five years ago, eagerly returned last year to look for insects and 
spiders in Gunung Mulu National Park's famed bat caves. Pollard, left, a native New 
Zealander, is the curator of invertebrate zoology at the Canterbury Museum in 
Christchurch and an adjunct research professor at the University of Canterbury Jackson, 
an associate professor of biology at the university, originally hails from North Carolina. 
On June 23, Pollard will present a slide-illustrated lecture at the American Museum of 
Natural Histoi7, "BUnd and Bitten in the Biggest Bat Cave in Borneo." 

Eric Hansen ("The Nomads of Gunung Mulu") has known the Penan of Borneo since 1982, when he 
trekked 1,800 miles across the island. The tale of that adventure is told m his book Stmnger in the Forest: 
On FcKit Across Borneo. Pictured here with Kurau Kosin, Hansen, right, is an author and journalist based 
m Sacramento, California. His work with the Penan includes recording their music, documenting their 
language, compiling information on their use of medicinal plants, and chronicling change. He is also 
working on Forbidden Flowers, a book about the international trade in rare and endangered orchids. 

New York City-based journalist Kevin Krajick ("Life in the Arctic Labyrinth") takes a special interest in 
the ecology and geology of little-known places. A graduate of Columbia University's School of 
Journalism, he has written for Smithsonian, Discover, Audubon, and the New York Times. Among his , 

editorial posts were a stint at the National Law Journal, and eight years as an associate editor at Newsweek. ; 
His first book, Tlie Barren Lands, about diamond prospectors in the Far North, will be published next 
year. Krajick's article "An Esker Runs Through It" appeared in these pages m May 1996. 

Artist Deborah Ross ("Looking for Maria") teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York City 
and creates illustrations for exhibits at the Bronx Zoo (Wildlife Conservation Society). Ross, pictured 
here with Sergeant Richard Eleu, of the Kenya WildUfe Service, first went to Kenya in 1987 to paint 
baboons and has returned many times, traveling to the open plains of Aniboseli National Park to 
pamt elephants (see "A Kenya Sketchbook," Natural History, December 1996/January 1997) and, last 
vear, to the thick brush of Tsavo East National Park. 

Jim Malusa ("Silent Wild") knows deserts. He lives with his family in Tucson, Arizona, amid the 
cactuses and rocks of the Sonoran Desert. Malusa received his Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionai7 
biology from the University of Arizona m 1989 and now does fireelance work as a biologist for the 
Nature Conservancy and the Coronado National Forest. He is also a freelance writer and has 
reported on foreign explorations for the Discovery Channel. His idea of a good time is to tour the 
world's great deserts by bicycle. So far, Malusa, pictured here in the Atacama Desert, has ridden 
through the Sahara Desert, the Taklimakan Desert m China, and Australia's Central Desert. 

Tracking giant inanimate animals through the American Midwest ("Land of the Giants") was something 
that husband-and-wife team Marnie Andrews and Jeff Jacobson had talked about for years; eventually, 
the megafauna proved irresistible. These days Andrews, an actor as well as a writer, is working on a 
one-woman show, Surviml Secrets. Jeff Jacobson is an attorney turned photographer. His award-winning 
work has been widely published m such magazines as Life, Rollin^ii Stone, Geo, Fortune, and the New York 
Times Magazine, as well as in several books, including My Fellow Americans . . . (University ot New 
Mexico Press, 1991). He's now working on a book of "postmodern urban landscapes." 

On a visit to South Africa, photographer Wolfgang Kaehler ("To Get to the Other Side") was struck by 
the sight of two jackass pengi.iins crossing a road. When he first saw them, they were perambulating side 
by side and looked "as if they were holding hands." Using a Nikon F4 camera and Nikon 80-200 mm 
lens, he took several shots as the pair continued their trek. Since 1997, Kaehler has traveled to 140 
countries, taking wildlife photographs. His 1998 roster includes assignments in Saudi Arabia and South 
AiTienca; he will also lead photography and natural history tours in hidonesia, Iceland, and Namibia. 


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Ensuring the future 
for those who shape it.*" 

Natural Selections 

Natural History 4/93 

Wrons: Division 

By Beniiiwd Niasdmiaim 

Jlie Alyih qf Coiiiiiieiits: A Critique of 
Aletageograpby, by Martin W. Lewis and 
Karen E. Wigen, University of California 
Press, $55 (doth) and $19.95 (paper); 344 
pp., maps. 

Review Geography pro\'ides us 
with maps and terms that 

we use to order and orient our under- 
slanding of local and ^obal events. These 
tools underpin our imaginar\' divisions of 
the world — our mental maps. Second- 
century Greco-Eg3'ptian geographer 
Claudius Ptolemy defined geography as 
"a representation in pictures of the w'hole 
known world together with the phenom- 
ena which are contained therein." In the 
play Rape Upon Rape^ eighteenth-century 
English writer Henr\' Fielding wrote, 
"map me no maps, sir, my head is a map, 
a map of the whole wodd-'" But -what if 
Ptolemy s geographic "pictures" were dis- 
torted, or Fielding's mental map uTiong? 

Jlie Myth of Continents, by Duke Uni- 
versity's Martin Lewis and Karen Wigen, 
is a si gnifi ranr and capdvadng cautionarj? 
tale of how common "metagec^?aphical" 
terms ("the set of spatial structures 
through which people order their knowl- 

edge of the wodd") produce simphsnc, 
flawed, and sometimes dangerous no- 
tions. Despite centuries of scientific smdy, 
we are still a long way fi-om ha\Tng a 
comprehensive inventory or unbiased 
classifications of our planet's en\nron- 
ments and occupants. Depending on 
starting-point definitions, estimates of 
earth's biological diversin,' in number of 
species range fi-om 12 to 50 milli on and 
firom hundreds to hundreds of thousands 
of en\7ironments (there are almost 1,500 
oceanic islands, each with the uniqueness 
of a snovkl3ake). Estimates of cultural di- 
versity run fiom 192 to 10,000 peoples (a 
"people" is defined either as citizens of 
nation-states or as those having a distinct 
language and culture). 

With refi-eshing clarity and impressi\'e 
scholarship, in some 200 pages of text and 
75 pages of notes, LeviTs and Wigen ex- 
amine five fandamental but flawed geo- 
graphic concepts that guide every field of 
human inquiry? Imagine a five-tiered ge- 
ographic hierarchy of increasin^y larger 
territorial assumptions: the base com- 
prises 192 nation-states; the second tier, 
seven continents; the third tier, the Fint, 
Second, and Third Wodds; and the last 
two tiers, the megageographical units ot 
East and West and North and South. 


According to the authors, the myth of 
the nation-state is based on "the assump 
tion that cultural identities (nations) coin- 
cide with politically sovereign entities 
(states) to create a series of internally uni- 
fied and essentially equal units." Only 
tw?enty of the world's culturally and lin- 
guistically united 6,000—10,000 nation 
peoples are also internationally recog- 
nized as states. These include Iceland, 
Portugal, Nauru, Tuvalu, and the Mar- 
shall Islands. Most countries — ^90 percent 
of the world's states — are actually multi- 
national, claiming the lands, resources 
and identities of hundreds of distinct peo- 
ples fi"om preexisting nations (Indonesia 
670; India 380; Austraha 250; Democia 
tic Republic of the Congo 210; Brazil 
200; and China 150). 

When multinational states break up, as 
did the So^^et Union, Yugoslavia, and 
Czechoslovakia, the preexisting nations 
tend to endure, while the manufacmred tss. 
state identities disappear, sometimes 
overnight. As the authors point out, most 
states are pictured as "holistic entities, 
unified and distinct." In fact, the vast ma 
jorit}' are "imposed pohtical-geographical 
units" whose central goverrmients, 
armies, and poHce forces — often run by 
one of the preexisting nations — seek t 


r cllCOgCOgr3.pIllC /\.ti3.S '-,■ Chrisropha-R. ScoTeic. R\LEO-\L\P Prom. Vmrersit^- ofTcwis. Aiiiiigion. S'j: CD- 

unify the other, unconsenting nation- 
peoples within their borders. This is the 
source ot many territorial conflicts, 
refugee crises, and human rights viola- 
tions that are often characterized as inter- 
nal state problems, rebel-led civil wars, or 
civil emergencies caused by terrorists. 

Another basic taxonomic category of 
popular geography is the sevenfold conti- 
nental division of the world. Academics, 
journalists, and politicians refer to "Asia," 
"Europe," or "Africa" as uniform re- 
gions — as if being positioned withm the 
arbitrary boundaries of a continent im- 
parted some sort of essence to societies, 
economies, political systems, events, and 
circumstances (for example, "African art," 
"Asian banking," "South American 
democracy," and "European culture"). 

Lewis and Wigen astutely emphasize 
that "when it comes to mapping global 
patterns, whether of physical or human 
phenomena, continents are most often 
simply irrelevant." Refugees, for example, 
are produced not by continents or conti- 
nental-scale environments ("Asia's refu- 
gees") but by armed conflicts, govern- 
ments, people, and ideologies. A world 
map of "flee-from" and "flee-to" refugee 
crises and movements would reveal not 
continental causes but common, human 
dilemmas, such as a central government's 
armed expansion into nation-peoples' 
territories, as was the case with the 
Chechen, Hmong, Kurds, Miskito, Ti- 
betans, and many other peoples. If one is 

interested in studying deforestation, pop- 
ulation growth, urbanization, or eco- 
nomic development, little is to be gained 
from an analysis limited to continents be- 
cause today's world is connected through 
the global economy and processes that 
transcend continents. 

A higher level of geographic abstrac- 
tion, although just as flawed and outdated 
as that of nation-states or continents, is 
the concept of three "worlds" — the de- 
mocratic First World, the communist 
Second World, and the developmg Third 
World (originally conceived of as the 
nonaligned world). Still widely used in 
the social sciences for poHtical analysis, 
the three-world scheme is so wrong and 
self-limiting as to be essentially meaning- 
less. Is there a Third World geology or 
Third World vegetation? Are Argentina, 
Uruguay, Singapore, Taiwan, and South 
Korea really Third World countries? Or 
do they have these designations simply by 
virtue of where they are located? Theo- 
retically, since the collapse of the commu- 
nist Second World, couldn't the Third 
World move up a notch? What about the 
thousands of nonstate "Fourth World" 
nations, from Catalonia to Scotland, that 
are not included at all? 

The last two tiers in the geographical 
hierarchy — the cultural-political East and 
West and the economic North and 
South — have been altered over centuries. 
The concept of the West has expanded 
westward from the core area of Latin 

Christendom, while that of the East, 
which once designated Egypt, the Levant, 
and the adjacent areas, has expanded east- 
ward to include Asia. The North and 
South categories divide the globe into the 
economically developed "North" and the 
developing "South," often with Httle re- 
gard to where some countries are actually 
located in these "economic hemispheres." 
China is grouped in the South and yet 
extends to a latitude of fifty-eight degrees 
north, while Australia and New 
Zealand — Southern Hemisphere coun- 
tries — are grouped in the North (or the 
"West," when speaking culturally). 

Ironically, while satellites and comput- 
ers allow us to more accurately map the 
world in its grand diversity — including 
aspects of econoniic globalization and ex- 
panding communications — the old map- 
pings still limit our understanding. As the 
satirist Jonathan Swift wrote in 1733 in 
On Poetry: A Rapsody: 

So geographers, in Afrk-maps, 
With sai'age pictures fill their gaps; 
And o'er nn-habitable downs 
Place elephants for want of towns. 

Bernard Nietschinaini, a professor of geography 
at the University oj California, Berkeley, 
was project director of the recently published 
Maya Atlas (M)rt/i Atlantic Books) and is 
currently working on a large-scale National 
Geographic Society map, "Coral Reefs of the 

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or visit our website: 

10; Natural Selections 

Natural History 4/98 

Maya on the Map 

By Tim Nonis 

Maya Atlas: The Struggle to Preserve Maya 
Land in Soiitlicni Belize, by the Toledo 
Maya Cultural Council and the Toledo 
Alcaldes Association, North Atlantic 
Books, $25; 154 pp., iUus. 

ExcerDt "More indigenous territory 
can be defended by maps 
than by guns," geographer Bernard 
Nietschmann has written. And never has 
the point been better illustrated than in 
the Maya Atlas, a compilation of words, 
maps, and images produced by the Maya 
Mapping Project (MMP). The MM? was 
initiated by Mayan leaders in the Toledo 
district of southern BeHze in 1995 to se- 
cure their rights to land they have occu- 
pied for centuries but which the Belizean 
government has ceded to multinational 
logging operations, claiming that the 
Maya were "immigrants" and "squatters." 
The MMP effort to secure Mayan land 
rights is forcing the government of Belize 
to recognize the Maya as a political entity. 
In a series of three workshops, local 
Mayan leaders, the Indian Law Resource 
Center (Washington, D.C.), and GeoMap 
(a consulting group at the University of 
California, Berkeley) came together to 

map the disputed territory as it is known 
to those who have historically inhabited 
it. Stories were written by the commu- 
nity elders; demographic and land-use in- 
formation was gathered and compiled; 
maps were drawn and redrawn; and new 
symbols showed where to find not just 
rivers, roads, and forests but also the loca- 
tion of historical and sacred places, medi- 
cinal plants, drinking water, and hunting 
areas. The compilation, writing, and edit- 
ing of the atlas involved members of every 
Mayan community in southern Belize 
(representing approximately 12,000 
people) and linked Geo- 
Map's technology to a 
wealth of local tradi- 
tional knowledge. 

With the publication of the Maya Atla. 
the Mayan land-rights struggle is drawing 
international attention. The Mayan lead- 
ers' case is pending in Belize's Supreme 
Court. While the paving of the Southern 
Highway (a development project in- 
tended for more efficient resource extrac- 
tion) has been stalled, the Mayan people 
in southern Belize will continue their 
struggle against government encroach- 
ment. The atlas they created will better 
equip them to confront future issues. 

Tim Norris, a freelance cartographer/designer, 
graduated from the University of California, 
Berkeley. He has worked extensively with the 
Maya of southern Belize for GeoMap. 

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By Robert Aiideifoii 

Even if you never 
liked insects, you have 
;o admit they do some amazing things. A 
ist of insect superlatives — the African ci- 
:ada produces the loudest sound, for ex- 
imple — is at the University of Florida's 
Book of Insect Records site (gnv. I was sur- 
srised to find that the longest life cycle 
or an insect is held by a wood-bonng 
5eede, Biiprcsiis aiimlenta, that worked a 
oiece of timber tor fifty-one years. 

Insects on the Web (www.isis.vt. edu/~ 
ranjun/text/Links.html), maintained at 
i/irginia Tech, and Gordon's Entomolog- 
cal Home Page ( 
Hlramel/welcome.html) are both good 
jslaces to start. The latter includes quite a 
i)it of information on caring for insect 
lets. If you are so inclined, I recommend 
he small, spiny stick insect over the 
Madagascar hissing cockroach. For bud- 
ling collectors, the Young Entomologist 
|iociery ( is 
[ Iso worth checking out. One of the most 
lizarre insects, the ant Hon, is represented 
ly a terrific page (www.enteract 
:om/~mswanson/antlionpit/ welcome 
btml) with movies of the little subter- 
anean monsters trapping their prey. 
'. I never found the comprehensive site 
jin natural msect control I was looking 
.3r, but I came across a list of pesticide- 
'ee recipes for deahng with insects that 
ou might want to eliminate (www. 
' My fa- 
orite: When the ground is dry, place 
3me instant grits on top of a nest of fire 
iits. When it rains, the queen, who has 
ivariably gorged on the grits, will drink, 
Musing her stomach to expand fatally. I 
iniost wish I had a few fire-ant mounds 
carby on which to try it. 

Y>bert Anderson Is a freelance sdenee writer in 
m Angeles. 


Georges Cuvier, Fossil Bones, and Geological Catastrophes 

By Martin J. S. Rudwick (University of Ciiicago Press, 1997, $34.95, illus.) 

Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) rejected early theories of evolution and advocated a "cata- 
strophic" view of geological events, while at the same time founding the modern science of 
paleontology. Rudwick (a historian of science) has translated Cuvier's key papers, allowing us 
access to the great Frenchman's thought, from his ideas about extinctions to his reconstructions 
of fossil animals. 

Envisioning the City 

Edited by Dai'id Buisseret (University of Ciiicago Press. 1998. S50. illus.} 
Among the oldest known maps, city plans reflect the diverse perspectives of 
their creators, from churchman to merchant, soldier, and sanitary engineer. 
Studies of cities — ranging from seventeenth-century Andiijar, Spain, to 
twentieth-century Chicago — reinforce the point that cities are mapped out 
the way people want to see them. 

Plan of Chicago 

Maps and History 

By Jeremy Black (Yale University Press. 1997, $35, illus.) 

Historian Jeremy Black looks at the first "historical atlas," published in 1 570 in Antwerp, and 
examines how the practice of remapping and interpreting a previous age's worldview has con- 
tinued to the present. In the mid-twentieth century, however, the scope of such atlases has 
broadened to include global trends in health, population, and the environment, as well as a 
range of sociological, cultural, and economic factors. 

Picturing Empire 

By James R. Ryan (University of Chicago Press, 1998, $38, illus) 
To many Victorians, photography rendered "truthful delin- 
eations of natural objects." Ryan, a lecturer in geography at 
Oxford University, shows how nineteenth-century British 
explorers, soldiers, hunters, mountaineers, conservationists, 
and anthropologists used photography to capture, organize, 
and domesticate England's distant Empire. 

Native Americans 

By Robert J Moore, Jr (Stewart, Tabori €- Chang, 1997, $60, 

In the 1830s and 1840s, three painters — Charles Bird King, 
George Catlin, and Karl Bodmer — went West to document 
the cultures of Native Americans. Their drawings, paintings, 
and eyewitness accounts provide a glimpse of ways of Kfe that 
slowly faded out of existence after 1891, when the majority 
of Native Americans were confined to reservations, and their 
traditions extinguished. 

Oxford Atlas of 

Foreword by John Hemming 
(Oxford University Press, 
1997. $40, illus.) 

Tliis comprehensive collec- 
tion of maps, pictures, and 
text examines 3,000 years 
of exploration in concise, 
double-page spreads. 

American Pronghorn 

By John A. Byers (University of Chicago Press, 1997, $23.95. illus.) 

Zoologist John Byers, who by his calculation has spent nearly d.OOO hours observing the 
pronghorn antelope of the West, believes that their prodigious running ability is an adaptation 
to predation by species of hyena, Hon, and cheetah that died out ten thousand years ago. 

The Social Regulation ot Competition and Aggression in Animals 

By .Martin H. Moyndian [Smithsonian Institution Press. 1998. $27.50, illus.) 
Moynihan. the late zoologist and director of the Smithsonian's Tropical Research Instiaite. 
spent the greater part of his professional life studying the mechanics and evolutionarv origins 
of aggression in birds, primates, and ccphalopods. 

12 Journal 

Natural History 4/98 

Voyage _ 
of a Painter 

In 1804, Charles-Alexandre 
sketches of the strange fauna 

By Eirol Fuller 

To the French sailors and scientists aboard 
Le Geogmphc and Le Natiimliste in March 
1804, how welcoming and familiar 
France must have seemed after a three- 
and-a-half-year expedition to the little- 
known shores of Australia and Tasmania. 
The voyage had been dogged by disaster. 
Rifts between the crew and Captain 
Nicolas Baudin had caused defections. 
The rigors of the journey had led to 
deaths. And the expedition had not suc- 
ceeded in its mission to chart Australia's 
coast. The pubhc, preoccupied by the 
Napoleonic Wars, had ignored the entire 

Nevertheless, the two ships returned 
with a vast collection of natural history 
specimens, mcluding live wombats, kan- 
garoos, and emus. Also aboard the ships 
was a great treasure; the preparatory 
drawings of Charles-Alexandre Lesueur, 
who, at the age of twenty-two, had signed 
aboard Le Geographe as an assistant grmner 
and had taken over as expedition artist 
when the official artists jumped ship in 
Mauritius. From these drawings, he 
would eventually produce a series of ex- 
quisitely rendered watercolors on vellum, 
which were published between 1807 and 
1816 in the expedition's official report. 
Voyage de Dkouvertes mix Terres Aiistrales. 

Unsung throughout most of the Eng- 

Lesueur returned to France with 
of Australia and Tasmania. 


I mi 







lib til 

lish-speaking world and little known even 
in his native France, Lesueur is a fimiliar 
name only to those who have studied the 
early history of exploration in Australia. 
A remarkably complete archive of his let- 
ters, papers, and paintings is kept in his 
hometown of Le 
Havre, at the | 
Museum d'Histoire | 
Naturelle, which he I 
was instrumental in I 
establishing. What | 
has been docu- | 
mented about f 

Lesueur's life — the | 
journey to Australia, | 
the return to France, S 
a long spell living in i 
the United States, | 
and a final home- |, 
coming to Le i 
Havre, where he s 
died m 1846 — is 
due largely to the 

efforts of Jacqueline Bonnemains, an 
archivist at Le Havre's natural history mu- 
seum. Yet for all Bonnemains's work, 
Lesueur remains a shadowy figure. He has 
acquired little of the fame of John James 
Audubon, Joseph Wolt, or Edward Lear, 
yet his pictures of the early Australian 
scene are among the most historically im- 
portant and beautiful records of nine- 
teenth-century zoological discoveiy 

The impact of the strange Australian! ipire 
fauna on early explorers may not always 
be appreciated today. They found birds, 
whose tails were shaped like lyres. They 
found mammals that laid eggs, carried 
their young in pouches, and were armed; 

with poisonous spikes. As the eighteentl 
century turned to the nineteenth, creal 
tures such as kangaroos, koalas, and wom| 
bats, unique to Australia, were like 
ing Europeans had encountered befon 
The animal wonders of Africa, Asia 
the Americas were already fairly we 
known, but Australia was only just begin 
ning to give up its secrets, and they wei 
sometimes difficult for the Europeaj 

I niind to accept. When the first stuffed 
I duck-billed platypus arrived in England, 
it was famously condemned as an im- 
poster; the beak of a duck was thought to 
have been skillfully and undetectably 
ituck to the body of an unknown, ratlike 
creature with a stumpy tail. 

A decade or two earlier, seamen who 
tiad sailed with Captain James Cook had 
bund it difficult to describe an encounter 
vvith a kangaroo; certainly their descrip- 
:ion was very basic. The first report came 
oack of an animal that was "as large as a 
Greyhound, of a mouse colour and very 

Later, the great naturalist Sir Joseph 
3anks tried to pen a clearer description 
lut found himself at a complete loss: "To 
ompare it to any European animal 

would be impossible as it has not the least 
resemblance of any one I have seen." The 
celebrated first painting of a kangaroo by 
George Stubbs, the famous English ani- 
mal painter, looks as if the specimen he 
worked from had been pumped up like a 
football, which is, apparently, just what 

Lesueur's great achievement lay in his 
ability to convey the wonder that he felt 
in his encounters with such curious crea- 
tures. His compositions are unsophisti- 
cated and painstakingly honest. Some 
critics have suggested that they lack all 
litelike quality, but Lesueur was operating 
at a time when the camera was not avail- 
able to make clear the fleeting postures as- 
sumed by living creatures. He could only 
paint the creature that he saw in ixont of 

him. Sometimes this happened to be only 
a dried or crudely mounted specimen. 

Lesueur produced all of his highly fin- 
ished paintings in Paris after the expedi- 
tion's return home, working from pre- 
served specimens and the drawings that 
he'ci brought back from the journey. A 
letter he wrote on October 27, 1817, 
gives some insight into the appearance of 
his studio: "If you see my room, it's a 
topsy-turvy world: the skins of fishes, 
spirit bottles, fossUs, shells . . . and tor- 
toises in the middle of all this." Many of 
Lesueur's drawings are preserved in Le 
Havre, alongside the watercolors on 
which his reputation largely rests. 

Now, almost 200 years later, the voy- 
ages of Le Geographe and Le Naturaliste are 
chiefly remembered because they sup- 

^reatures depicted by Lesueur included a 
lebmfish and an extinct species of small 
Imu, opposite page, a short-nosed spiny 
tnteater, above, and banded hare wallabies, 
light. Below. An account of the expedition 
lopeared between 1807 and 1816. 

Natural History 4/98,^ 

«%. .. 

• -A- 


To Mauritius _. 


-Sharif Bay 

Bass Strait Flinders I 
.King I. Cape %• 
Barren L--WV..- 

* r 


From "■.' ■ ■ 
Mauritius '•, 

.< ^: 

Kangaroo!. *■ 

° ^™ Indian Ocean '" ^■. 

'•••>- Expedition route (simplified) 


plied Europe with a vast fund of scientific 
information. Captain Baudin's mission 
added immensely to knowledge of the 
Australian fauna and those places the ex- 
pedition explored. The iTussion brought 
back 40,000 preserved animals, filling 
thirty-three large packing cases aboard Le 
Naturdiste, together with a similar quan- 
tity of botanical specimens. Altogether, 
there were upward of 100,000 dried or 
preserved organisms, 2,500 of which 
were undescribed species. 

Many of these last were invertebrates 
and plants, but there were also a number 

Preserved specimens, siifli as a Tasmanian trout 
Galaxias truttaceus, ivere broiiglit hack by the 

of more spectacular 
discoveries, includ- 
ing the banded hare 
wallaby {Lagostrophits 
fasciatus). Lesueur's 
painting of this ani- 
mal is one of his 
most memorable. 
First found by the 
expedition at Shark 
Bay in Western Aus- 
tralia, the species was 
widespread in the 
southwest corner of 
Australia at the time. 
Today its range has 
contracted, and it 
can be found only 
on two small islands in the same bay 
where Captain Baudin's men originally 
found it. 

Another creature brought to the pub- 
He's attention by the expedition is now 
extinct. On January 6, 1803, the ships 
landed on Kangaroo Island, a large island 
just off" the coast of southeastern Australia, 
and found huge flocks of a peculiar dwarf 
form of emu that has been classified as 
Droitwins demeniamts. The scientists and 
crew managed to capture several of these 
birds alive and loaded them onto Le Geo- 
graplie. At least two survived the long 
journey back to 
France and were sent 
to the residence of 
the Empress 

Josephine, where 
they are said to have 
lived until 1822. 

So quickly were 
the remaining emus 
on Kangaroo Island 
exterminated that 
these two surviving 
exiles were possibly 
the very last of their 
kind. One of the 
emus brought back 
to France was sent to 
the Jardin des Plantes 
-sliaped fisli, (of the National 

expedition. Museum of Natural 

History) in Paris, where it remains as a 
stuffed specimen. This particular individ- 
ual may have been captured on King Is- 
land, where the emu population vanished 
about the same time as the one on Kan 
garoo Island. Strangely, of all the thou- 
sands of specimens brought back, this is 
one of the few that remain intact — or, at; 
least, that can be positively identified. 
Specimens were distributed to a number 
of museums and collections, but most 
records have been lost. Even specimens 
deposited in the museum at Le Havre area 
gone, destroyed during World War II. 

Other living creatures were also stowed 
aboard the expedition's ships, and getting 
them all safely back to Europe was a high 
priority with Captain Baudin. But three 
days' sailing from Kangaroo Island, thd 
captain found, to his dismay, that two o: 
his kangaroos had died, presumably frorr 
the dampness. As a remedy, Baudin hac 
two ship's officers removed from theii 
cabins so that the remaining kangaroo; 
could be kept in drier quarters. 

Worn out by responsibility and effort! 
Captain Baudin fell seriously iU as Le Gw 
graphe headed for home via Mauritius 
Barely two weeks after the vessel's arriva 
there, he died. 

As for Lesueur, he was to enjoy mam 
more productive years, yet the work hi 
did for the Baudin expedition undoubt 
edly represents the high point of his ca 
reer. Although he spent the most impor 
tant periods of his life away from hi 
native city of Le Havre, the French por 
pulled him back in the end; he returnei 
there from America in 1837, after an ab 
sence of twenty-one years. During his la; 
two years, Lesueur lived in his famil 
home close to the sea and became direc 
tor of Le Havre's newly founded museur 
of natural history. 

Lite most recent book by painter, ii'riter, an 
boxing buffErrol Fuller is The Lost Birds c 
Paradise (Voyagenr Press, 1995). Researc 
for an upcoming book on the great auk he 
taken him to museums all over the world, it 
chiding Lesueur's Museum d'Histoire M 
tiirclle in Le Havre. i 

The new LEV Accord. Drive one, and 
see what the neighbors call you. 

You are what you drive. Or so the saying goes. Which brings us to 
the new LEV Accord from Honda. If you havent heard, LEV stands for 
Low-Emission Vehicle. Which means its clean. How clean? 

Our engineers tell us it meets a seventy percent lower emission 
standard for smog-contributing reactive hydrocarbons than the current 
federal regulations require. But you can simply say to your neighbors, 
"Gee, this LEV Accord is really clean!' 

It accomplishes this feat with no sacrifice in performance and no 
increase in cost to you. In other words, it's just like many other Honda 
products. From lawn mowers to automobiles, we build products here 
in America that balance your desire for fun and performance with 
society's need for cleaner air And better fuel efficiency 

Which means the folks living in your neighborhood will come to 
the only logical conclusion. That you've made a responsible, thoughtfril, 
just plain smart decision to drive the new low-emission LEV Accord. 

Who knows, maybe you'll even acquire a new nickname. 


LEV Accord available in LX and EX 4-cylinder models. For more informalion about Hondas commitment to the environment, call If 
The Mr. Clean Man Design is a registered trademark of the Procter & Gamble Company, 

i-CC-HONDA e.\t. 214. © 1997 Honda Nonh America, Inc. 

16 This View of Life 

of Wiirzburg and Marrakech 

Why the author gladly bought crudely forged fossils from a rock merchant in Morocco 
By Stephen Jay Gould 

We tend to think of fakery as an activity 
dedicated to minor moments of forgiv- 
able fun (from the whoopee cushion to 
the squuting lapel flower) or harmless 
embellishment (from my grandfather's 
vivid tales of the Dempsey-Firpo fight he 
never attended to the 250,000 people 
who swear they were there when Bobby 
Thomson hit his home run in a stadium 
with a maximum capacity of some 

But fakery can also become a serious 
and truly tragic business, warping (or 
even destroying) the lives of thousands, 
and misdirecting entire professions into 

sterility for generations. Scoundrels may 
find the matrix of temptation irresistible, 
for immediate gains in money and power 
can be so great, while human gullibility 
grants the skillful forger an apparently 
limitless field of operation. The van Gogh 
Sunflowers bought in 1987 by a Japanese 
insurance company for nearly 40 million 
dollars — then a record price for a paint- 
ing — may well be a forged copy made in 
about 1900 by the stockbroker and artist 
manque Emile Schuffenecker. The phony 
Piltdown Man, artlessly confected from 
the jaw of an orangutan and a modern 
human cranium, derailed the profession 
of paleoanthropology for forty years until 
exposed as a foke in the early 1 950s. 

Earlier examples cast an even longei 
and broader net of disappointment, 
large body of medieval and Renaissanci 
scholarship depended upon the docu 
ments of Hermes Trismegistus (Thrice- 
Great Hermes), a body of work attributei 
to Thoth, the Egyptian God of Wisdom,! 
and once viewed as equal in insight (nol 
to mention antiquity) to biblical and clas- 
sical sources — until exposed as a set ol 
forgeries compiled largely in the third 
century A.D. And how can we possibK 
measure the pain of thousands of piou; 
Jews who abandoned their possessions 
and towns to follow the false messial 
Shabbetai Tzevi to Jerusalem in the apoc-. 
alyptic year of 1666 — only to learn tha 

/IP storm. 

TJi e makings of a p e rje c t sunset. 

£ijty mile views. 

The day s last jew 

minutes of ( n, of course, a pic 

where they can all nave 

a little ge t' toge ther. 

1 It could happen near Flamiug Gorge. High up in the Wind River nwuutains. Or 

!i out on the eastern grasslands. But wherever you travel in this slate, rest assured, 


:,; Wvonnng has many, many places where the days end on such a beautiful nole. 
i| Come, and see. For your free I'Vyoining Vacation Guide, call SOO-225-5996, 
cxt &?Z. Or write: The Wyoniino Division of Tourism, Chevenne, WY 82002. 

J_,ike no place on eartn. 

18 This View of Life 

Natural History 4/98 


their leader, imprisoned by the Sultan and 
threatened with torture, had converted to 
Islam, been renamed Mehmed Efendi. 
and made the sultans personal door- 

The most famous story of fiaud in my 
own field of paleontolog)^ may not quaUf)' 
for this first rank in the genre but has 
surely won both general tame and staging 
power by persisting for more than 250 
years. Like all great legends, this stor>' has 
a canonical form, replete with conven- 
tional moral messages and told without 
any variation in content across the cen- 
turies. Moreover, this canonical form 
bears httle relationship to the actual 
course of events as best reconstructed 
from available e\idence. Finally, to cite 
one more common propeny of legends. 

These fossils displayed a great array of ob- 
jects, all neady exposed in three-dimen- 
sional reUef on the surface of flattened 
stones. The great majority depicted or- 
ganisms, nearly all complete and includ- 
ing remarkable features of beha\ior and 
soft anatomy that would never be pre- 
ser\"ed in conventional fossils — lizards in 
their skins, birds complete with beak and 
eyes, spiders with their webs, bees feeding 
on flowers, snaib next to their e§^, and 
frogs copulating. But others show^ed 
heavenly objects — comets with tails, the 
crescent Moon with ra)!^, and the Sun all 
efiulgent with a glowing central face of 
human form. Still others depicted He- 
brew^ letters, neady all spelling out the 
Tetragrammaton, the ineffable name of 
God — ^YHWH. usuaUv transliterated bv 

From Lithogtaphiae Wirceburgensis, 1/26 

the correction of canonical errors gains 
further value in teaching us some impor- 
tant lessons about how we use and abuse 
our owTi histors-. Thus, the old tale merits 
yet another retelling, which I first provide 
in the canonical (and false) version known 
to so many generations of students (and 
no doubt remembered by many readers of 
this magazine from their college courses 
in natural science). 

In 1726, Johann Bartholomew Adam 
Beringer, an insufferably pompous and 
dilettantish professor and phv-sician from 
the town of Wiirzburg, published a vol- 
ume, the Lithogmphiae Wircebiirgensis (or 
Wiirzburg lithographv), documenting in 
copious words and twent\--one plates a 
remarkable series of fossils that he had 
found on a mountain adjacent to the cit\". 

From a Moroccan rock shop, 1998 

Christian Europe as Jehovah. 

Beringer did recognize the difference 
betw-een his stones and conventional fos- 
sils, and he didn't state a dogmatic opin- 
ion about their nature. Still, he didn't 
doubt their authenticit\", and he did dis- 
miss claims that they had been carved by 
human hands, either recenth" in an at- 
tempt to defraud or long ago for pagan 

Alas, after pubHshing his book and 
trumpeting the contents, Beringer found 
out that he had indeed been duped, pre- 
siunably by his students placing a prank. 
(Some sources say that he finally ac- 
knowledged cricket)^ when he noted his 
own name written in Hebrew- letters on 
one stone.) According to legend, the bro- 
kenhearted Beri^er then impoverished 

himself by attempting to buy back all 
copies of his book and died dispirited just 
a few? years later. Beringer's false fossils 
have been knowTi ever since as Lugen- 
sieine, or "'King stones." 

To illustrate the pedigree of the canon- 
ical tale, I cite the version given in the 
most famous paleontological treatise of 
the early nineteenth centurA; James 
Parkinsons Organic Remains of a Former \ 
World (volume 1, 1804). Parkinson, a 
ph\'sician by training and a fine paleontol- 
ogist by avocation, identified and ga\=e his 
name to the degenerati\-e disease that 
continues to puzzle and trouble us todav. 
He WTOte of his colleague Beringer: 

One work, published in 1 726, desen^es to 
be partiailarly noticed; since it plainly 
demonstrates, that 
learning may not be 
siifficient to prei'ent an 
unsuspecting n>an,JTom 
becoming the dupe of 
excessiiv credulity. It is 
uvrthy of being 
mentioned on another 
aaount: the quantity of 
censure and ridiaile, to 
which its author was 
exposed, served, not only 
to render his 
cotemporaries [sic] less 
liable to imposition; but ako more cautious 
in indulging in unsupported Itypodieses. . . . 
We are here presented with the 
representation of stones said to bear 
petrifactions of birds; some with spread, 
others with closed, wings: bees and wasps, 
both resting in their airiously constructed 
cells, and in the aa of sipping honey from 
expanded flowers . . . and, to complete the 
absurdity, petrifactions representing the sun. 
moon, stars, and comets: with many others 
too monstrous and ridiailous to deserve 
aien mention. Tliese stones, artfully 
prepared, had been intentionally deposited 
in a mountain, witich he was in the habit 
of exploring, purposely to dupe the 
enthusiastic colleaor. Unfortunately, the 
silly and cniel trick, succeeded in so far, as 
to occasion to him, who u>as the subject of 

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Natur.d Historx- -1/98 -i-DZi 

20 This View of Life 

Nq|[MrA! l||story 4/98 

/'/, SO great a degree of mortification , as, it is 
said, shortened his days. 

All components of the standard story line, 
complete with moral messages, have al- 
ready fallen into place — the absurdity of 
the fossils, the guUibility of the professor, 
the personal tragedy of his undoing, and 
the two attendant lessons for aspirmg 
young scientists: do not engage in specu- 
lation beyond available evidence, and do 
not stray from the empirical method of 
direct observation. 

In this century's earlier and standard 
work on the history of geology (Tiie Birth 
and Development of the Geological Sciences, 
pubhshed in 1938), Frank Dawson Adams 
provides some embeDishments that had 
accumulated over the years, including the 
unforgettable story, for which not a shred 
of evidence has ever existed, that 
Beringer capitulated when he found his 
own name in Hebrew letters on one of 
his stones. Adams's verbatim "borrowing" 
of Parkinson's last phrase also illustrates 
another reason for invariance of the 
canonical tale — ^later retellings copy their 
material from earlier sources: 

Some sons of Belial among his students 
prepared a number of artificial fossils by 
moulding forms of various living or 
imaginary things in clay which was then 
baked hard and scattered in fragments about 
on the hillsides where Beringer was wont to 
search for fossils. . . . Tlie distressing 
climax was reached, however, when later he 
one day found a fragment bearing his own 
name upon it. So great was bis chagrin and 
mortification in discovering that he had 
been made the subject of a cruel and silly 
hoax, that he endeavored to buy up the 
whole edition of his work. In doing so he 
impoverished himself and it is said 
shortened his days. 

Modern textbooks tend to present a 
caricatured "triumphalist" account in 
their "obligatory" introductory pages on 
the history of their discipline — the view 
that science marches inexorably forward 
from dark superstition toward the refining 

light of truth. Thus, Beringer's story 
tends to pick up the additional moral that 
his undoing at least had the good effect of 
destroying old nonsense about the inor- 
ganic or mysterious origin of fossOs — as 
in this text for undergraduate students 
published in 1961: 

The idea that fossils were merely sports oj 
nature was finally killed by ridicule in the 
early part of the eighteenth century. Johaini 
Beringer, a professor at the University of 
Wiirzburg, enthusiastically argued against 
the organic nature of fossils. In 1726, he 
published a paleontological work . . . which 
inchidcd drawings of many true fossils but 
also of objects that represented the sun, the 
moon, stars, and Hebraic letters. It was not 
till later, when Beringer found a "fossil" 

Moroccan feke 
fossils are plaster 

casts of small 
animals, cleverly 

cemented to 
flattened rocks. 

with his own name on it, that he realized 
that his students, tired of his teachings, had 
planted these "fossils" and carefully led 
him to discover them for himself. 

A recent trip to Morocco turned my 
thoughts to Beringer. For several years, I 
have watched, with increasing fascination 
and puzzlement, the virtual takeover of 
rock shops throughout the world by strik- 
ing fossils from Morocco — primarily 
straight-shelled nautiloids (much older 
relatives of the coiled and modern cham- 
bered nautilus) preserved m black marbles 
and limestones and usually sold as large, 
beautifully polished slabs intended for 
table or dresser tops. I wondered where 

these rocks occurred in such fantastic 
abundance; have the High Atlas Moun- 
tains been quarried away to sea level? I 
wanted to make sure that Morocco itself 
still existed as a discrete entity and not 
only as disaggregated fragments fashion- 
ing the world's coffee tables. 

I discovered that most of these fossils 
come from quarries in the rocky deserts, 
well and due east of Marrakech, and not 
from the intervening mountains. I also 
learned something else that dispersed my 
fears about an imminent dispersal of an 
entire patrimony. Moroccan rock shops 
dot the landscape in limitless variety; 
there are young boys hawking a specimen 
or two at every hairpin turn on the 
mountain roads, impromptu stands at 
every lookout point, and large and formal 
shops in the cities and towns. The aggre- 
gate volume of rock must be immense, 
but the majority of items offered for sale 
are either entirely phony or at least 
strongly "enhanced." My focus of interest 
shifted dramatically from worrying about 
sources and hmits to studying the ranges 
and differential expertise of a major in- 
dustry dedicated to the manufacture of 
fake fossils. 

Some enhancements are quite cleverly 
done — as when the strong ribs on the 
shell of a genuine ammonite are extended 
by carving into the smallest and inner- 
most whorls and then "improved" in reg- 
ular expression on the outer coil. But 
other "ammonites" have simply been 
carved from scratch on a smoothed rock 
surface, or even cast in clay and then 
glued into a prepared hole in the rock. 
Other fakes are simply absurd — as in my 
favorite example of a wormlike "thing" 
with circles on its back, grooves on both 
sides, eyes on a head shield, and a double 
projection, like a snake's forked tongue, 
extending out in front. (In this case the 
forger, too clever by half, at least recog- 
nized the correct principle of parts and 
counterparts, for the specimen comes in 
two pieces that fit together, the projecting 
"fossil" on one slab and the negative im- 
pression on the other, where the animal 
supposedly cast its form into the sur- 


rounding sediment. The forger even 
carved negative circles and grooves into 
the counterpart image, although they do 
not match the projecting, and supposedly 
corresponding, embellishments on the 
"fossil" itself.) 

But one style of takery emerges as a 
kind of industry standard, as defined by 
constant repetition and presence in all 
shops. (Whatever the unique and per- 
sonal items offered for sale in any loca- 
tion, this viti ordinaire of the genre can al- 
ways be found in abundance.) These 
"standards" feature small (up to six inches 
in length), flattened stones with a promi- 
nent creature spread out m three dimen- 
sions on the surface. The fossils span a fuU 
range, from plausible trilobites to arthro- 
pods (crabs, lobsters, and scorpions, for 
example) with external hard parts that 
might conceivably fossilize (although 
never in such complete exactitude) and 
small vertebrates (mostly frogs and lizards) 
with a soft exterior, including such deli- 

cate features as fingers and eyes, which 
cannot be preserved in the geological 

After much scrutiny, I finally worked 
out the usual mode of manufacture. The 
fossil takes are plaster casts, often remark- 
ably well done. (The lizard that I bought, 
which can be seen in two photographs 
accompanying this column, must have 
been cast from Ufe, for a magnifying glass 
reveals the individual pores and scales of 
the skin.) The forger cuts a flat surface on 
a real rock and then cements the plaster 
cast to this substrate. (If you look carefully 
from the side, you can always make out 
the junction of rock and plaster.) Some 
fikes are crudely done, but the best ex- 
amples match the color and form of rock 
to overlying plaster so cleverly that dis- 
tinctions become nearly invisible. 

When I first set eyes on these fakes, I 
experienced the weirdest sense of deja vu, 
an odd juxtaposition of old and new that 
sent shivers of tascination and discomfort 

up and down my spine — a feeling greatly 
enhanced by a day just spent in the med- 
ina of Fez, the ancient walled town that a 
millennium has scarcely altered, where 
only mules and donkeys carry the goods 
of commerce and where high walls, 
labyrinthine streets, tiny open shops, and 
calls to prayer (heightened during the fast 
of Ramadan) mark a world seemingly un- 
touched by time and conjure up every 
stereotype held by an uninformed West 
about a "mysterious" East. I looked at 
these standard fakes and I saw Bermger's 
Liigensteitie of 1726. The two styles are so 
uncannily similar that I wondered at first 
if the modern forgers had explicitly 
copied the plates of the Lithographiae 
Wircebnrgeiisis — a siUy notion that I dis- 
carded as soon as I returned and consulted 
my copy of Beringer s original. But the 
similarities remain overwhelming. I pur- 
chased two examples — a scorpion of sorts 
and a hzard — as virtual dead ringers for 
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22 Findings 

Natural History 4/98 

By Alan Rdniiowitz 

Killed for a 

I followed an old elephant trail, stopping 
occasionally to listen for the famihar 
alarm call of a barking deer or a rustling 
in the underbrush that might signal the 
presence of a hog badger or pheasant. I 
was looking for wildlife, but although I 
had walked more than ten miles from the 
nearest village, an ominous silence 
greeted ine throughout the day. The 
overgrowth on the trail and the absence 
of any tracks but my own heightened my 
sense of foreboding. Finally, toward late 
afternoon, already deep within the largest 
protected forest in Laos, I hit the wall — 

The "waU" I had walked into in the 
gathering darkness was an extended 
trapline made of sticks and small trees, no 
more than four feet high, that snaked its 
way for a quarter of a mile across the val- 
ley and up the nearest hiUside. I could tell 
the structure was man-made, but I had no 
idea what it was made for untU I reached 
an opening that was partly blocked by the 
skeleton ot a barking deer. Then, at regu- 

lar intervals along the wall, I discovered 
more openings, each with a snare hidden 
beneath the forest htter. Some openings 
were large enough for deer, bears, and 
tigers, while others were small and low to 
the ground, just right for catching civets, 
smaU cats, and ground-dwelling birds. At 
certain points, little stick ladders leaned 
against the wall. These, I was told later, 
were to enable forest spirits to surmount 
the wall without disturbing the traps. 

As I walked along the wall, I saw that it 
was abandoned. Later, I learned that most 
of the larger animals in this valley, such as 
deer, bears, and wild pigs, had been 
wiped out by this "wall of death" during 
the previous dry season. A new wall was 
being built in an adjacent valley, but no 
one had bothered to dismantle these 
traps. A few final carcasses were ot little 

In the past, indigenous peoples hunted 
largely for personal consumption. Even 
when wild meat was sold or traded, trans- 
actions took place locally, and wildlife 






populations were not endangered. Con- 
servationists who were familiar with these 
practices, and who subscribed to the er- 
roneous notion that indigenous peoples 
always lived in harmony with their envi- 
ronment, developed the concept of "sus- 
tainable" hunting. This concept was pop- 
ular with wildlife managers, who believed 
that if you protect large enough areas of 
forest, preventing habitat destruction ing 
within them, you will also protect the an- ill a 
imals living in the forest, even in the face 
of poor management and ongoing local 
poaching. The last two decades have been 
a time of growing realization in Asia that 
wildlife populations and even entire spe^ 
cies are disappearing, or their numbers 
plummeting to unprecedented lows. This 
awareness, combined with changes in 
hunting practices and in market demands, 
has forced a reexamination of these con- 
cepts of protection and sustainabiUty. In- 
creasingly, biological surveys throughout 
Asia are revealing that preserves are often 
merely forest facades — areas of beautifiil 






Musk deer musk gland: to treat malaria 
and convidsioiis and for general vitality 

Malayan sun bear bile: for liver disease, 
blood disorders, and digestive ailments 

Malayan tapir skin: 

to remove boils and kee^ 
away infections 


Hhistmtioiis by Elizabeth Traynor 

foliage on the outside with many of the 
larger animals gone from the inside. 

Behind all this new devastation is a 
resurgence of interest in an ancient prac- 
tice: the use of wildlife parts in traditional 
•Asian medicine. With the burst in eco- 
nomic growth throughout much of Asia 
.durmg the 1980s and early 1990s, tradi- 
itional cures became more affordable, and 
iusing them became both a status symbol 
:and a way to hold on to tradition in a 
rapidly changing society. Added to other 
commercial uses of wildlife — such as the 
growing local demand for wild meat and 
trophies for the tourist trade — the re- 
Wewed interest in old-fashioned cures has 
had a devastating effect. 

In remote villages throughout Asia, 
wildlife took on a value far beyond any- 
thing that had been known in the past. 
The carcass of a sambar deer or a bear, for 
example, no longer simply put meat in 
the pot or provided a mat to sit on. Now 
the animal could be traded for clothes, 
btchen utensUs, and maybe even a new 

gun. Better still, animals that had never 
been hunted were now of value, and the 
condition of the carcass didn't matter. 
Traders canvassed villages, willing to pay 
for almost anything: tiger bones, leopard 
fat, tapir skin, elephant eyeballs, porcu- 
pine stomachs, wild boar teeth, bear gall- 
bladders, deer tendons, monkey paws, 
civet glands, rabbit skulls, otter penises, 
rodent flesh. It didn't take long for 
hunters to figure out that a single, freshly 
killed animal was not nearly as valuable as 
the parts of many animals. Thus began 
the slaughter. 

Over the last decade, while searching 
for tigers, clouded leopards, and Suma- 
tran rhinos, I traveled to some of Asia's 
largest, most remote forested areas. De- 
spite differences in cultures and pohtics 
across national borders, inside the forests 
the story was always the same. Unpro- 
tected forests all showed signs of the same 
debihtating illness: too few large animals 
in habitats where they had once been 
abundant. And the situation was not 

much better within most protected areas. 

The reasons could be found hidden on 
the forest floor, unseen until they had 
done their work — wire ground snares 
that tightened as the frightened animal 
struggled to escape, neck snares that 
choked, spring snares that Ufted an animal 
into the air and held it upside down, jaw 
traps that bit to the bone, falling-weight 
traps that crushed skulls and bodies, and 
bamboo or wooden spike traps that skew- 
ered. The lone hunter and his gun were 
now replaced by trapHnes that sometimes 
ran for miles and were checked only 
every one to two weeks. I accompanied 
hunters as they retrieved traps containing 
only a leg or toe or the barely identifiable 
rotting carcass of an animal that must have 
lived for days before its death. The 
hunters were never disappointed. No 
matter how litde was left in the trap or 
what shape it was in, there was always 
something of value to salvage. 

The irony of these trade-driven hunt- 
ing practices, and the indiscriminate 

Pig-tailed macaque flesh: 

/(')• iihihvia and general lassitude 

Sumatran rhino horn: 

Jor headaches and fct'crs 

24 Findings 

Natural History 4/98 

slaughter that results, is that they come at 
a tiine when significant strides in wildlite 
conservation have taken place throughout 
much of Asia. There is greater awareness 
among people of all economic levels 
about the ecological and moral value of 
forests and wildlife. More protected areas 
have been set aside than ever before. 
Thailand, for example, designated its first 
national park in 1962; today, the countrv" 
has about 100 parks and sanctuaries. Gov- 
ernments have enacted stronger laws and 
signed international conventions about 
hunting and trading in endangered wild- 
life, chiefly the Convention on Interna- 
tional Trade in Endangered Species 
(CITES). Yet something has gone terri- 
bly, dangerously awry when more species 
of animals are to be seen in the market- 
place than in the forests. 

The creation of large protected areas 
wiU not insure the survival of wildlite as 
long as economic pressures, coupled with 
a lack of adequate on-the-ground protec- 
tion, encourage hunting with snares. 
traps, and other techniques that continue 

to kill Asia's wildlife wantonly, cruelly, 
and wastefiiUy. To reduce these pressures, 
the use and consumption of wildHfe 
products must change. One approach is to 
educate the practitioners of traditional 
Chinese medicine about the threats their 
profession poses to wildlife. The Wildlife 
Conservation Societ\" has one such pro- 
ject under way, employing Chinese na- 
tionals to work with traditional-medicine 
practitioners in China. 

Demand for wildlife parts, however, 
extends far beyond Chinas borders: iron- 
ically, international pressure has so far led 
to more effective controls on the sale of 
certain tiger products in China than in 
North America. Earher this year, the 
Wildlife Conservation Society and the 
World Wildlife Fund issued a report on 
tiger-based medicinal products. Accord- 
ing to the report, more than half the retail 
stores surveyed in the Chinatowns of 
seven major North American cities of^ 
fered products made with animal parts 
from endangered species. 

Recently, the American College of 

Traditional Medicine in San Francisco, in 
conjunction with the World Wildlife 
Fund, has begun an initiari\"e to promote 
alternative ingredients — such as dog or 
pig bones instead of tiger or leopard 
bones — in traditional Chinese medicinal 
products. In todays global econom\; the 
business of saving wildlife is complicated 
and often finstrating. But it is an essential 
business. Without it, w-e will one day, not 
too long ftom now, be left with little but 
the soimds of silence in our fijrests. 

Alan Rabinowitz is Director of Science ih 
Asia for the Wildlife Conservation Society. 
He has worked extensively in the forests qi 
Tliailand, Taiwan, Myanmar, Malaysia, and[ 
Laos, conducting research on big cats an, 
other endangered large mammal species ana] 
setting up some cf the region's first trainii:;< 
programs for staff in protected areas. In addi-\ 
tion to his scientific and popular publications. 
Rabinowitz is author of the recently revised 
Wildlife Field Research and Conser\"a- 
tion Training Manual (Wildlife Conserva- 
tion Society, 1997). 

Eyeballs: for epilepsy, 
malaria, nen'ousness or 
fei'ers in children, 
convukions, and 

'Nose: for epilepsy 
and children's 

Teeth: ffr rabies, 
asthma, and sores 
on the penis 

Brain: to aire 
laziness and pimples 

SMtu to treat mental illness 

Blood: for strengthening the 
constitution an 

Flesbzfor nausea, 
malaria, and 
improving intality 

Bones: for arthritis, 
^tieumatism, and 
•irengtliening miucles 

Hair: when burnt, 
to drive away 


Testes: for tuberailos 

'WMskers:^r toothaches 

GaDstones: Jt>r weak 
and ivatering eyes and 
abscesses on the hand 

Uluiiiuiion adcpteo from KJSecJ fc^a Curs. VAVFs TRAfHC. 1 994 

Parts of a Tiser Used in Some Traditional Asian Medicines 


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Maiaysia Natural History 4/98 




By Simon 

'iy^ ij 


i .r*VA.,-'ji 

Malaysia Natural History 4/98 

More than a mile long 

and up to 700 feet high, 

a Bornean cave crawls 

with hats, hugs, and 


I sat on a rock outcrop in northern Sarawak, the 
principal Malaysian state on the island of Bor- 
neo, looking east across the Melinau River. The 
rainforest spread out before me and gently rose 
like a rumpled quilt over a small range of 
mountains three miles away. As dusk descended and 
rain clouds gathered, black streaks rose from the base of 
the mountains Uke floating scarves. The scarves were 
millions of bats pouring out of Deer Cave and begin- 
ning their almost daily foraging commute to distant 
sites, including the coast fifty miles away. They would 
return to their roosts before daylight, after not only 
feeding themselves but also securing a source of energy 
for other inhabitants of the cave. Just as life on earth 
depends on the sun contin- 
uing to shine, a host of in- 
vertebrates depend, directly 
and indirectly, on the three 
tons of bat guano that fall to 
the cave floor each day. 

Deer Cave owes its exis- 
tence to the region's very 
thick limestone deposits and 
heavy rainfall — about 200 inches a year. Rapid weather- 
ing of the limestone by water flowing through it has cre- 
ated a massive cave complex. A travel brochure boasts 
that Deer Cave, more than a mile long and ranging up to 
600 feet wide and 700 feet high, could hold five cathe- 
drals the size of Saint Paul's in London. Long known to 
the local inhabitants, Deer Cave got its name because 
people used to hunt deer that came to drink water flow- 
ing out the west entrance. Not far from Deer Cave is the 
Sarawak Chamber, the world's largest natural chamber, 
not discovered until 1984. It is nearly 2,000 feet long, 
1,500 feet wide, and more than 300 feet high. 

Deer Cave and its bats are a prime attraction of Gu- 
nung Mulu National Park, a 210-square-mile zone close 
to the border between Sarawak and Brunei. The park is 
named for Gunung (Mount) Mulu, a 7,800-foot sand- 
stone peak that looms nine miles east of Deer Cave. I 
visited the park with Robert R. Jackson, a jumping-spi- 
der expert and my colleague from the zoology depart- 
ment at New Zealand's University of Canterbury. One 
thing that drew us was a report, from a 1977-78 expedi- 
tion conducted by the Royal Geographical Society and 
the Sarawak government, that jumping spiders were liv- 
ing around Deer Cave. We wondered if these creatures, 
which depend on keen eyesight to catch prey, could be 
living inside a cave. In any case, the habitat was bound to 
be intriguing. 

Despite the remote location, we did not have to 
rough it. Our base camp was the recently constructed 

Royal Mulu Resort, just outside the park boundary. 
Each morning, our guide, Richard Jalong, would ar- 
rive in a long, wooden boat with an outboard motor 
and take us three miles up the twisting Mehnau River. 
We would then proceed two miles on a walkway 
through the rainforest to the west entrance of Deer 
Cave. For the benefit of tour groups, a concrete path 

leads about two-thirds of the way through the cave. 
Even some generator-powered lighting is installed, but 
the tour guides we saw never turned it on, preferrmg 
to rely on their flashlights. 

The huge entrance, from which flows a ten-foot- 
wide stream, is at the base 
ot a theater of limestone 
cliffs, many of them cov- 
ered with vegetation. A 
couple of hundred yards 
inside, the ground beside 
the stream is a seething 
mass of cockroaches, bee- 
tles, and flies crawling 

over bat guano. These creatures extract nutrients from 
the partly digested or undigested remains of insect prey 
that have passed through the bats. A cloud of mist 
often hangs over the guano, filling the air \\dth an am- 

Left: At dusk, 
bats emerge from 
the west entrance 
of Deer Cave. 
Most numerous 
are the wrinkle- 
lipped bats, some 
oj which fly as far 
as fifty miles to 
feed on insects. 
Far left, top: A 
naked bat, one of 
a dozen bat 
species inhabiting 
the cave. Far left, 
bottom: One 
denizen of the 
raitforest is the 
stalk-eyed fly; the 
njales' unusual 
headgear figures 
in mating 

A host of invertebrates 
depend, directly and 

indirectly, on the three 
tons of bat guano that fall 
to the cave floor each day. 

■J Malaysia Natural History 4/98 

Travel Notes 

Guming Mulu 
National Park is 
accessible from Miri, 
on the Saraii'ak coast, 
by air or along the 
Baram and Tutoh 
Rivers by boat. 
include facilities at the 
park headquarters, 
nearby guest houses, 
and the Royal Mulu 
Resort. A guide must 
accompany visitors to 

Bandar Seri Begavian^ 




the park. Package 
tours of Deer Cave, as 
well as more strenuous 
jungle and mountain 
treks, are available, 
independent travelers 
may consult Lonely 
Planet Malaysia, 
Singapore and 
Brunei (Lonely 
Planet, 1996). 

monia stench, a by-product of the breakdown of pro- 
teins. It is warm inside the cave, about 78° F, and the 
air is saturated with moisture. 

Hundreds of feet above, visible only as pools of 
blackness, vast roosts of bats 
emit a sound like rustling 
cellophane. Les Hall, a bat 
biologist in the University of 
Queensland's Department of 
Veterinary Pathology, esti- 
mates that the bats number 
between two and five mil- 
lion. He has observed at least 
twelve species, probably the greatest variety known for 
a single cave. Most prominent are wrinkle-Hpped bats 
and several species of horseshoe bats. I rarely saw bat 
bodies on the ground, however — further testimony as 
to how quickly scavengers absorb whatever falls to the 
cave iloor. 

About a half mile into the cave, the stream disap- 
pears below ground and the passage narrows. Here, the 
bat roosts are only two or three hundred feet above the 

Jumping spiders have 
eyesight that rivals our 
own. Come face-to-face 
with one, and it stares 
hack at you. 

floor. Looking into this blackness with my headlamp 
was like looking into the night sky during a light 
snowfall, except these flakes were guano. Beyond the 
narrow passage, another stream appears, and the cave 
expands into a large chamber. At the east end is an 
opening to the Garden of Eden, a mile-wide, circular 
sinkhole fdled with jungle vegetation. The sinkhole 
was created when part of the cave roof collapsed many 
thousands of years ago, dropping the rainforest down 
to the level of the cave floor and leaving sheer clifls 
hundreds of feet high. From the air, it looks as if a gi- 
gantic finger had poked a hole into the rainforest. 

The vegetation in the Garden of Eden is beautifully 
backlit when seen from within the cave, but to reach it 
you have to surmount one last obstacle, a deep, dark 
pool in the stream. Swimming through the pool, I 
could not help feeling that some monster would nibble 
at me or yank me beneath the surface, but fortunately, 
as in the garden itself, no large animals lurk there. 

The most obvious signs of creatures that inhabit the 
cave, other than the mounds of guano, are spider webs. 
Thousands of amaurobiid cobweb spiders build flat, 
circular sheet webs on the moss and soO around the en- 
trances and on high mounds of collapsed Hmestone far- 
ther in the cave, where light penetrates. (Because the 
openings at both ends of the cave are large, some light 
reaches into most of its main passage, except where it 
narrows in the middle.) In darker parts of the cave and 
in dim regions close to the entrance, psechrid cobweb 
spiders with very long legs bounce across the sUk of 
their huge trampohne-like webs to grab trapped in- 
sects. Their webs are httered with the hollow exoskele- 
tons of the cockroaches, flies, earwigs, and beetles that 
feed on bat guano. Hairy earwigs, which hve among 
naked bats and suck oil from their bodies, are also 
common victims in these webs. They often fall from 
the roosts, and if lucky enough to miss the spider webs,) 
they attempt to climb back up. Assassin bugs, disguised 
as bits of firngus-riddled detritus, scavenge the remains 
of prey hanging in the webs. They move very slowly 
across the silk to avoid being detected by the owner. 

On the limestone walls, where the psechrids can-i 
not attach their trampolines, small hersihid, or two 
tailed, hunting spiders sit motionless with their long 
pairs of spinnerets sticking up behind them. Hersiliids 
do not build webs but sit in ambush and wait for prey 
to land within striking distance. When a victim is clos 
enough, the spider behaves like an out-of-controll 
wind-up toy, wrapping its meal in a bag of sUk. Hairyj 
earwigs attempting to negotiate this gauntlet often end! 
up as bundles of spider food. Another hunting spider 
common on the pale brown hmestone walls is the two 
tone brown heteropodid, or huntsman spider, the sizi 
of a human hand. Like the two-tailed hunting spiders, 
it waits in the darkness for tactile and vibratory cue^ 
from prey before leaping on them. Its victims include 
camel crickets, which gather in large groups, their lonj 
antennae "listening" for predators. 

Many spider species inhabit Gunung Mulu Na- 
tional Park, including some eighty jumping spider 
(salticids) . One thing we were on the lookout for in- 
side Deer Cave was Portia fimbriata, a jumping spide: 
on record as living on the nearby limestone chfli. Spot^ 
ting these brown, one-third-mch-long creatures is nc 

The Eyes Have It 

By Robert R. Jackson 

Jumping spiders (salticids) are unmistak- 
able. These are the only spiders with eye- 
sight that rivals our own. Come face-to- 
face with one, and it stares back at you 
with a pair of large eyes, known as the 
principal eyes, located front and center of 
the head. These eyes perceive size, color, 
and form. Another six secondaiy eyes, 
positioned laterally, function mainly as 
movement detectors. 

Observant by nature, salticids do 
more than just leap on their prey, as the 
common name implies. First they see 

Portia ^(jefi the jump cii Scytodes, a spitting spider. 

and recognize their prey from a distance 
of up to thirty times their own body 
length; then they stalk it, using a mix of 
crawling, waiting, and jumping. Insects 
on the wing are leaped at and taken in 

midair interceptions. Salticids even make 
careful detours to take elusive prey from 

The jumping spider's prmcipal eyes 
are as refined as those of a cat, but the de- 
sign details are very different. What you 
see from outside are stationary, corneal 
lenses that have a long focal length. Be- 
hind each of these convex lenses lies a 
long eye tube leading to a complex retma. 
Light is refracted by a cone-shaped de- 
pression in the surface of the retinal ma- 
trix. This has the effect of enlarging the 
image, as in a telephoto lens. The pho- 
toreceptors, which are sensitive to the 
spectrum of light from ultravio- 
let to green, are stacked in four 
^ layers. This layered arrange- 

ment, combined with the way 
different wavelengths of light 
come to a focus at slightly dif- 
ferent depths, is believed to pro- 
vide a means to distinguish 
color. In addition, a stepped 
arrangement of the photorecep- 
tors in the deepest layer may en- 
able the spiders to keep objects 
in focus — from a great distance 
to a few body lengths away — in the ab- 
sence of an adjustable lens. In the central 
region of the deepest layer is a fovea, in 
which receptors are packed especially 
close together. The fovea is smaD, having 

only about 1 00 receptors and an angle of 
view of about two degrees. Compensat- 
ing for this narrow-angle field, however, 
the spider has sLx muscles attached to the 
eye tube, which provide precise rotary 
and to-and-fro movements. Having fixed 
its gaze on an object of interest, the 
jumping spider scans it by moving its 
fovea about within the large image cast by 
the lenses of the eye. 

A typical jumping spider does not 
build a web to ensnare prey but actively 
hunts insects during the day. Other spi- 
ders are common in the darkness of 
caves, but not these creatures, with their 
highly evolved eyesight. That is why we 
were intrigued to find one species, Portia 
fimbriata, living in Deer Cave and captur- 
ing its favorite prey, other spiders. Even 
before this discovery, P. fimbriata had a 
reputation as an oddball among jumping 
spiders. While it may be found hunting 
away from webs, it also is known to build 
a prey-capturing web of its own and to 
invade the webs of other spiders. Despite 
the danger they pose, other web-building 
spiders are usually no match for P. fimbri- 
ata. Its eyesight usually gives it the advan- 
tage, enabling it to pounce on its victim 
at just the right moment. Lack of preci- 
sion can be fatal. Sometimes the tables 
are turned and the intended prey be- 
comes the predator. D 

easy task because they mimic bits of detritus. My col- 
league is an unrivaled jumping-spider detector, how- 
ever, and he soon discovered them hving among the 
spider webs inside the cave and dining on their pre- 
ferred prey — other spiders, including some particularly 
dangerous species. 

We found that when it had sufficient light, P. fim- 
briata used its normal tactics, which depend on its eye- 
sight. TypicaDy, fi-om a distance it sees and identifies a 
spider in a web. It then mimics prey trapped in the web 
by making vibratory signals and watches how the other 
spider responds. Because it can see well, P. fimbriata can 

time its attack with precision. Our subsequent labora- 
tory experiments have confirmed that it can also cap- 
ture prey in total darkness. Exactly how it does this is 
still being investigated. 

Scavenging among the spiders and crickets are tail- 
less whip scorpions and six-inch centipedes. The cen- 
tipedes, whose bodies are dwarfed by large legs and 
long antennae, move back\\'ard and fonvard equally 
quickly and, when disturbed, cover thirty or forty feet 
before pausing. Seeing all these invertebrates spaced 
out on the cave walls reminded me of the Afi-ican sa- 
vanna, where the herbivores seek safety in numbers and 

Malaysia Natural History 4/98 

Right: A 
centipede suii'iivs 
in the cave by 
catcliing crickets 
and scavenging 
the remains cif 
dead animab. Far 
right: MiUipedes 
mate in the 
nearby rainforest. 

Kurau Kosin, u'ho 
died in 1991, was 
a Penan elder wlw 
never adopted the 
settled life. He 
holds a packet of 
medicinal leaves 
and wears a 
headdress made of 
rattan and bornhill 

The Nomads of Grnnml 

Stoiy and photograplis b)' Eric Hansen 

Nearly 10,000 Penan inhabit the re- 
mote interior of Borneo's Sarawak 
rainforest. Their oral tradition de- 
scribes how, in the beginning, the 
first Penan man and woman stood in 
the forest while two large trees blew about in a wind- 
storm. As the trees swayed back and forth, a large 
branch of one entered a hole in the crotch of the other. 
The man and woman were ignorant of sex and procre- 
ation, but the motion of the trees gave them an idea, 
and the end result was the birth of a child. The Penan 
say they have been in the forest ever since, hvmg a no- 
madic existence as hunters and gatherers. 

Catching a gUmpse of the Penan elders, with their 
feathered headdresses, distended pierced earlobes, tat- 
toos, loincloths, and blow guns, one imagines them to 
be members of a mysterious lost tribe chnging to an 
ancient way of life. Some people beheve that the Penan 

(or Punan, as they are variously called) are the aborigi- 
nal inhabitants of Borneo. But a more plausible theory 
of their origins was first put forth by British anthropol- 
ogist Tom Harrisson, curator of the Sarawak Museum 
from 1947 to 1966. Harrisson proposed that the Penan 
are principally de- 
scendants ot over- 
whelmed villagers 
who reverted to 
nomadism during 
the nineteenth 
century, when the 
Kayan and Iban 
tribes carried out 
their great head- 
hunting e.xpedi- 
tions. In a 1986 
study, anthropolo- 
gist Carl Hoffman 
concluded that the 

At the east end of the 
cave is an opening to the 
Garden of Eden, a mile- 
wide sinkhole filled with 
jungle vegetation. 

carnivores and scavengers forage opportunistically. 

Unlike most of the cave's residents, the bats have to 
leave to feed. The mass exodus, which can be viewed 
from vantage points near the west entrance, is spectac- 
ular. It begins soon alter 
the day shift of swifdets 
(small swallowlike birds) 
return to their nests in- 
side the cave, near the en- 
trance. At first, the bats 
are hesitant to leave the 
cave, perhaps mindful 
that bat hawks on the 

surrounding cliffs are prepared to pick them off. Some 
circle around the roof of the entrance, like penguins 
trying to avoid being the first one in the water. Even- 
tually, however, some spiral up the cliff-face and into 
the sky. Others soon follow in continuous streams. 

Wrinkle-Upped bats fly high above the rainforest to 
catch their evening meal of insects. Because the cave is 
so large, allowing a huge colony to form, these bats 
must fan out to distant sites to obtain sufficient food. 
Other species inhabiting Deer Cave feed more locally, 
some on moths, beetles, and other insects and some on 
fruits and nectar. Altogether, some thirty species of bats 


groups called Penan were hnguistically diverse, but that 
their languages appeared to be related to those of 
sedentary peoples. He reported that in two dialects 
spoken in East Kalimantan (in hidonesian Borneo), 
"punaii has the meaning 'to gather,' 'to collect,' or 'to 
assemble' things or goods." This habit of purposeful 
wandering to collect jungle products is what distin- 
guishes the Penan from the settled tribes of Sarawak. 

Whatever their origins, the Penan cannot hold on 
to an isolated existence. For those living along the 
Tutoh and Melinau Rivers, fateful change began to ar- 
rive at least three decades ago. Protestant and Catholic 
missionaries began converting the nomadic and seini- 
settled Penan in the 1950s, displacing their original an- 
imist religion and its elaborate system of taboos and 
bird omens. The 1977-78 Royal Geographical Soci- 
ety/Sarawak Government Expedition and Survey (car- 
ried out soon after the establishment of Gunung Mulu 
National Park) helped introduce many Penan to the 
concept of day labor and a cash economy. Logging 

companies began large-scale operations near the park 
in the early 1980s. They were followed in 1990 by in- 
ternational adventure-travel companies, which hire the 
Penan for low-paying jobs. The Royal Mulu Resort, a 
beautifully designed and situated luxury hotel, was 
opened just outside the park in 1993. United States 
and Australian environ- 
mental groups have made 
brief visits to the Penan 
communities and spoken 
of "cultural genocide," 
but they have not suc- 
ceeded in mitigating 
these developments. 

In 1982, when I first 
encountered the nomadic Penan, I hired them to lead 
me on a five-month, 1,800-mile jungle odyssey across 
the island of Borneo. What had lured me was the 
chance to experience a vanishing way of life. And in- 
deed, today, very few full-time nomadic Penan are left — 

"From the forest we 

get our life," say the 

Penan, who still view 

themselves as nomadic 



Malaysia Natural History 4/98 

A lantern fly, 
right, and a 
pentatoniid bug, far 
right, are insects 
that feed on plain 

may be found in the rainforest, from ground level to 
the upper canopy, constituting the most numerous 
group ot mammals there, both in terms of species and 
of individuals. 

Like bats, we too spent the days in Deer Cave and 
left in the evening. 
As we walked back 
through the rainfor- 
est to our boat, frogs 
and insects sang out 
in a cacophony. Ci- 
cadas and crickets 
rasped industrial 
techno-beats. One 
species of frog 
croaked like an an- 
tique car horn, 
while another spent 
the night singing 
"what, what, what." 
Most unsettling was 

the frog that sounded like a cuckoo clock running in 
reverse. Our headlamps picked up the eye shine off 
four-mch huntsman spiders, which waited on tree 
trunks and vegetation for prey to send telltale vibra- 

between 300 and 400 in all of Sarawak, by government 
estimates. The rest are either settled or semisettled in 
upriver villages, where they are learning to farm liill 
rice, bananas, and tapioca. Many of the Penan go to 
church on Sundays, some of their children attend gov- 
ernment schools, and most wear Western-style cloth- 
ing. Nevertheless, on a re- 
cent visit to Penan commu- 
nities near Gunung Mulu 
National Park to research 
the use of medicinal plants, I 
realized that these people 
stOl view themselves as forest 

In the villages of Batu 
Bungan and Long Iman, I met with Katong, Tingang, 
Bati, and Bati's wife, Paya, all friends I knew from my 
many previous visits. Together we traveled for a day up 
the Tutoh River before tying the dugout to a tree with 
a length of rattan. Shouldering our packs, we hiked 
into a towering wall of primary rainforest. Although 
my four companions had been settled for nearly 
twenty years, upon entering the rainforest they quickly 
and eflbrtlessly fell into their hunting and gathering 

The nomads are prohahly 
the descendants of 
villagers who sought 
refuge from nineteenth- 
century headhunters. 

Katong picked jackfruit, marked a tree that held a 
beehive full of honey, and stopped to replant a durian 
seedling in a sunny spot. Paya collected rattan to make a 
backpack and a lump of tree resin to use as a Hght at 
night. Tingang, knowing what I hke, cut a vine that 
contained drinking water that tasted of sassafras. He 
showed me a leaf 
used as sandpaper and 
another one, com- 
bining the properties 
of stinging nettles 
and poison oak, that 
he called "the fire 
leaf." It seems that a 
European explorer 
once used the fire leaf 
as toilet paper; the 
Penan are still talking 
about the spectacular results of that experiment. 

Bati and Tingang collected sections of giant bam- 
boo for cooking rice and carrying water, while Paya 
gathered bundles of edible fiddlehead ferns. She also 
began selecting medicinal plants, which she identified 
by their Penan names. There was a a root used as an 








tions across the bark and through the spiders' feet. A 
light show was also provided by the fireflies, whose 
continual flashes made me feel as if I were being pur- 
sued by insect paparazzi intent on selling my portrait to 
some arthropod tabloid ("Alien Found in Bat Cave!"). 

Bat hawks aren't the only ones waiting for the bats 
to leave Deer Cave. I would often emerge from my 
torays into the cave's deeper recesses, covered in bat 
guano and with my mud-caked camera equipment 
around my neck, to find 
a hundred people of all 
ages, some carrying pic- 
nic baskets, waiting 
around the west entrance. 
Since Gunung Mulu Na- 
tional Park was opened 
to the public in 1985, the 
number ot visitors com- 
ing to see the bats has risen to about 1,600 a month. 

The park and the Royal Mulu Resort can be 
reached only by a forty-minute flight in a small plane 
or an eight-hour boat journey. People usually fly in 
from the city of Miri or from the small nation of 
Brunei and stay for one or two nights. The nightly bat 
exodus IS becoming one of Sarawak's biggest tourist at- 

Disguised as bits of 
fungus -riddled detritus, 
assassin bugs scavenge 

the remains of prey 
hanging in spider webs. 

anti-inebriant and for curing hangovers, a slender root 
that serves as an antidote for scorpion and snake bites, a 
fleshy stem that is chewed as a cure for headache and 
upset stomach, and an aromatic leaf applied to sore 
joints. Paya also gathered a leaf that produces fragrant, 
soapy bubbles when crushed and rubbed between the 
hands with water. Katong uprooted a fine example of 
toii^kat ali (Etirycoina loii^ifolia), the fabled aphrodisiac of 
Borneo. The group managed to collect all these things 
I by the side of the trail. 

As we moved through the forest, Katong identified 
birdsongs, interpreted animal tracks, predicted what 
month the dipterocarp trees would begin to drop their 
seeds this year (and attract the wild boar), and esti- 
mated what time it was (within ten minutes, according 
to my watch) by the sound of the cicadas. By the time 
we arrived in camp, the Penan were loaded down with 
enough food and supplies to last for several days. 

Joined by Katong's wife, Lujok, they built a water- 
proof shelter in three-quarters of an hour using saplings 
and a roof of overlapping fan palms. After setting up a 
cooking area and splitting several days' worth of fire- 
wood, Paya selected a length of thin-walled bamboo 
and made a Penan nose flute. Surveying the camp, I 
saw primitive affluence at its very best — not a compass. 

map, packet of freeze-dried food, or scrap of Gortex 
fabric in sight. 

Contrary to common assumptions about these for- 
est nomads, the Penan were never a people to wander 
aimlessly in search of resources. Traditionally, their 
movements were carefully thought out, and they fol- 

lowed a net^vork of well-established trails that con- 
nected stands of wild sago palms and areas rich in tish 
and game. In addition, their custom ot iiioloiii^ — claim- 
ing ownership of wild plants and trees in order to save 
them for later use — guided their management of nat- 
ural resources. The idea was to harvest resources with- 
out exhausting them and pass on ownership rights to 

Dipterocarp logs, 
left, are probably 
destined for high- 
quality plywood. 
Far left: Abat and 
her daughter live 
along the upper 
reaches of the 
Tutoh River 

Malaysia Natural History 4/98 

A jumping spider, 
right, awaits prey 
OH a large, dead 
leaf. Far right: 
Like the huge caves 
formed within the 
mountains, surface 
pinnacles owe their 
existence to the 
region's heavy 

tracrions. Park officials hope they can implement a 
management plan that ensures the bats are not over- 
whelmed. They are worried that the noise levels from 
visitors inside the cave could stress the bats and cause 
them to seek out other caves. Another concern is the 
destruction ot habi- 
tats on the coast, 
where some ot the 
bats fly to feed. 

As outside tech- 
nolog\; wealth, and 
culture infiltrate 
this isolated region, 
w^ildlife has made 
some ingenious 
adaptations. On our 
boat trips back to 
the resort, for in- 
stance, bats would 
dip in and out of 
my headlamp beam 

to grab insects attracted to the light, much Hke dol- 
phins surtacing and di\'ing in a boat's wake. Similarly, 
in nearby Clearwater Cave, I saw a six-foot cave racer 
snake coiled next to one of the lights used to illuminate 

the next generation. The practice of molong allowed the 
torest to regenerate and continue to pro%ide the Penan 
with such staple foods as fi-uit and sago and, indirectly, 
with bearded pig and several species of deer. 

The forest also pro\'ided the Penan \\'ith such jun- 
gle products as gaharu (an 

/ saii^ primitive affluence 

at its very best — not a 

compass, map, packet of 

freeze-dried food, or scrap 

of Gortex in sight. 

aromatic wood used as in- 
cense and medicine in 
China and elsewhere in 
Asia), bezoar stones (mon- 
key gallstone, used in Chi- 
nese medicine), rattan, ed- 
ible bird nests, wild-bee 
honey, camphor, and tree 
resin. These items were once exchanged for salt, to- 
bacco, shotgun shells, cooking pots, iron tools, and 
fabric, but today the Penan are just as likely to trade 
jungle products for jean jackets. T-shirts, running 
shoes, wTistwatches, sunglasses, plastic teacups, floor 
covering, radios, and videocassette players. 

The Penan have an expression: "From the forest we 
get our life." They did not overexploit their emdron- 
ment, and for this reason the plant, fish, and animal 
populations in their part of the forest remained stable 
unril recently. But this started to change in the 1980s, 

when logging camps began to surround 
Gunung Mulu Park. Since then, sUtation 
of the rivers, competition from hunters 
■working in the logging camps, and a dra- 
matic increase in the settled Penan popu- 
lation have led to an overall depletion ot 
wild game and fish. In addition, the col- 
lection of jungle products for trade may 
soon decUne because of a growing cash 
economy, the drop in demand for some 
of these products, and the increased diffi- 
cult)- of finding the ones for which there 
is a market. 

Tingang explained to me that many of 
the Penan originally abandoned their no- 
madic existence because they wanted their children to 
attend school and be able to mix wixh other races. They 
also wanted to be near government health clinics so that 
they could get modern medicines. Before the clinics 
were established, the Penan bound or sutured their own 
wounds, and the women gave birth in the jungle. 

Even if they wanted to revert to fiiO-time no- 
madism in the forest, my Penan companions would 
find it vers' difficult to do so. Their \illages of Batu 
Bungan and Long Iman are wedged between the log- 


the cave during the hours visitors walk through. The 
light was oif, but according to our guide, the snake 
stakes out a position next to the light, which attracts 
flying insects when it is switched on. The snake may 
occasionally catch an insomniac bat intent on dining 
on the lured insects. I wondered if the snake salivates 
Pavlovian drool when the Lights come on. 

With the rapid development of Gunung Mulu as a 
tourist destmation, I asked Tom Damit, one of the se- 
nior guides in the park, 
how long it would be be- 
fore the park was on a 
cellular phone network. 
Would cell phones ever 
be as common on the 
hips of locals as they are 
in the city of Miri? He 
laughed and said he could 

imagine a scenario in which he is huntmg monkeys in 
the forest with a blowpipe, and just as he is about to 
blow the dart at his prey, his cell phone goes off and 
scares the monkey away. 

Indirectly, any such development would depend on 
the continued daily fall of tons of bat guano to the 
floor of Deer Cave. D 

On our boat trips along 

the river, hats dipped in 

and out of my headlamp 

beam to grab insects 

attracted by the light. 

ging concessions and Gunung Mulu National Park, so 
wild game is often scarce or subject to hunting restric- 
tions. The Malaysian government encouraged the 
hunter-gatherers to settle down as a way to "protect" 
the wild, natural beauty of the park and to brmg the 
Penan into the mainstream of society. 

Penan now work as laborers and sell handicrafts to 
tourists, while developers and park ofl^icials seek ways 
to accommodate a growing stream of foreign visitors. 
The existing airport runway was recently extended to 

handle more flights, and despite denials from resort 
personnel, rumors circulate that the Royal Mulu Re- 
sort has plans to add many more rooms and build a 
monorail and golf course. 

One night at our jungle camp, after I had finished 
my notes and put away the plant presses, Katong asked 
me to explain the meaning of the word golf. He had 
heard the word mentioned many times, but he could 
not imagine what it was. By the Ught of a tree-resin 
lamp, I described the felling of thousands of trees, the 
bulldozers at work churning up the earth and leveling 
the ground, and then the planting ot grass, and the cre- 
ation of water hazards and sand traps. I teed oft' using 
what I called "a heavy metal spoon attached to one 
end of a stick." I worked the ball down the fair\\'ay 
using a variety of clubs and sticks until I eventually 
managed to put the little white ball into a shallow hole 
at the far end of the jungle clearing. 

When I finished the story they aU laughed, and 
Tingang congratulated me on my fantastic and absurd 
imagination. I don't think the Penan believed a word 
of what I said. Leveling a vast expanse of jungle for 
such an activity didn't fit ver^' well with their concept 
of //Ki/ii»(;. I didn't bother telling them that there were 
still seventeen holes left to play. D 

Katong (left), Bati 
(right), and their 
wives, Paya and 
Lujok, build a 
temporary slieher 
using saplings and 
fan palms. 

By Kevin Krajick 

r — 1 he strangest place on earth I have ever 
" " gone fishing was off the stern of the 

Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker 
Louis S. Sl-Laurcnt. On a freezing 
September night, the ship was stopped 
and silent m shifting pack ice at the heart of Canada's 
Arctic Archipelago, the 550,000-square-niile laby- 
rinth of islands, bays, sounds, gulfs, peninsulas, in- 
lets, channels, and straits north of the North Amer- 
ican mainland. 

Rick Crawford, a fish biologist from Massa- 
chusetts, brought the gear: a pole cobbled to- 
gether from a thick orange mop handle and a 
bolted-on deep-sea reel, with gobs of duct tape 
wrapped around the handle. He plopped a line 
over the ship's fantail into a watery crack fifteen 
feet below and jiggled the lure. Light from an 
open hatch showed pressure ridges and ice 
hummocks a dozen feet away and almost level 
with the deck; beyond was total darkness. 
Snow began to fall. After a while, Crawford 
handed me the mop handle and went to 
fetch another pole. "Catch something," he 

We and others aboard were trying to 

Even ill summer, 
thick sea ice, left, 
clogs the narrow 
channels between 
islands in the 
Canadian Arctic 
Tlie author's 
voyage aboard the 
icebreaker Louis S. 
St-Laurent covered 
a vast stretch of ice- 
choked water. Tlie 
map below shows 
part of the route the 
ship traveled. 



BATHURST (Start of 

ISUND Voyage) jept. 1 

Sept.4L..-Sept3 r^,^* Be«hey Island 

Sept. 10 TASMANIA 

(evening! • ISLANDS 


Joyce Pendola 




il Canada Natural History 4/98 

]]lien tJie ice 
breaks up in 
ii'liales, seals, 
and seabirds 
conoreoate to 
feed or breed. 
A few weeks 
later, most 
creatures flee. 

catch anything that would tell us about life in the 
world's least explored marine region. Crushing year- 
round ice, narrow channels, uncharted shoals, and a 
crazy quilt of currents make travel here difficult to im- 
possible, even for the 30,000-horsepower Louis. Biolo- 
gists have long presumed the area almost Hfeless, yet 
there is growing e\'idence of biological hot spots: packs 
of deep-di\dng whales, conventions of polar bears and 
seals, s^^•i^ling masses of birds. Some of these local con- 
centrations appear in the same places yearly; others pop 
up — seemingly at random — for a few^ hours or days, 
then disappear. Scientists on our 2,400-mile research 
voyage, conducted by the Canadian Department of 
Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), to these normally inac- 
cessible places were asking the essential Arctic biologi- 
cal question: why are things where they are? 

The Arctic Archipelago is less studied than the re- 
motest parts of Antarctica. The reason is ice. In austral 
•\\-inter, the southern ocean waters are a frozen mass 
surrounding a single piece ot land; but in summer, 
most ice dissipates into adjoining warm seas, opening 
the way for beasts and scientists. The Arctic Ocean is 
the opposite: a sea shut in by the landmasses of Siberia, 
North America, and coundess islands. During the brief 
summer, the ice breaks up a bit but has nowhere to go. 
Pacific and Adantic waters stream in through straits 
along Alaska and Greenland and, once inside the trap, 
gyre in a complex parfait topped by ice up to twenty 
feet thick. About a third of the outgoing water is 
thought to drain through the archipelago to the At- 
lantic, but passages are so constricted and twisty that 
floes may take thirt\' years to reach open sea. Shore-to- 
shore pUeups and freeze-thaw c\-cles create monstrous 
stretches of sea ice as deep as 150 feet — the world's 
thickest ice — and water streaming underneath rarely 
comes up to the surface. 

With so Utde open water, H\Tng things that abound 
on the edges of the permanent ice pack — such as 
seabirds and ph^toplankton, the ocean's floating plant 
Hfe — seem to thin out or disappear in the inner islands. 
Scientists have thought that because of the ice, phyto- 
plankton are unable to photos\Tithesize, seabirds can- 
not get at fish, and marine mammals are unable to find 
breathing holes. Gigantic bowhead whales and smaller 
beluga whales form distinct populations east and west 
of the archipelago. Narwhals, small whales whose sin- 
gle spiral tusks once fueled the unicorn myth, are 
found almost entirely in the east. Even signs of ancient 
Arctic peoples are exceedingly rare on the central ice 
pack; animals were probably too scarce, travel too dan- 
gerous. Not a single inhabited setdement exists in the 
inner archipelago. 

Beneath the ice, though, is previ- 
ously unsuspected Hfe. Since 1993, radio- I 
tagged belugas, once thought to hve only s 
in shallow coastal waters, have been tracked 1 
migrating each fall to a 1,650-foot-deep % 
ice-covered trough in Viscount Melvdle % 
Sound, at the very center of the archipelago. ■" 
Signals show that the whales dive to the bot- 
tom, presumably to some rich, secret food 
source. Radio tags on polar bears have revealed 
that some frequent a nearby bay. WhUe polar 
bears nearlv ever\^vhere else range thousands ot 
miles in search of food, these apparently have a 
steady source. No one knows what is dri\dng these 
seemingly rich ecosystems because no one has been 
able to obser\'e them firsthand. 

tarting in about 1500, Europeans tried to 
tmd a wav through the Arctic Archipelago 
to the Orient, but most voyages resulted in 
dead ends. Crews suffered frostbite and 
scurvy; months or years of deprivation and 
despair often ended in madness, mutiny, and death. In, 
1845, Sir John Franklin and his 129-member crew set 
out to find a "northwest passage" through the 
lab^Tinth — and disappeared. The fate of Franklin's ex- 
pedition became the subject of endless, vain searches 
and worldwide speculation. Archeologists to this day 
find bones of his men, hacked with knife marks, on 
lonely islands; we now know the dead were eaten by 
their comrades. Neither Franklin nor his two ships, 
probably crushed by moving ice, have ever been found. 
Explorers finally pieced together a map of the re- 
gion, but it was not until 1944 that a Royal Canadian' 
Mounted Police ofEcer in a schooner sailed through ir 
one season. Plans to ship oil across the archipelago 
came to nothing. The handflil of vessels that now entei 
the islands during the six-to-eight-week shipping sea- 
son mostly haul suppHes to a few tiny native communi-| 
ties along the southern fringe, near the mainland coast 
Our expedition intended to avoid these areas, instead 
threading between the far north islands, pushing 
against the main ice stream in Viscount MelviUei 
Sound, then through M'Clure Strait, where much o 
the ice flows in from the Arctic Ocean — an east— wes 
voyage made only once, in 1993, by the Louis itse 
On August 28, 1997, 1 and many of the scientists flevj 
in to meet the ship at Resolute, a mosdy Inuit setde 
ment of some 180 persons at the eastern edge of th^ 
permanent ice — the end of the Une for most vessel 
coming trom the east. Here, from late July to mid-Sep 
tember, floes peel off into open water and drift towan 



board, couldn't say for sure what 
caused the sudden bloom, but he had 
ideas. The main variable in algal 
growth is the availability of nutri- 
ents — scarce in the north but 
sometimes concentrated by water 
movement. Concentrations may 
occur where opposing currents 
or tides collide and mix; where 
freshwater streams hit salt 
water; or where 

Atlantic, and 
huge numbers of migra- 
tory whales, seals, and seabn-ds come to 
the ice edge to feed or breed. A few weeks later, 
most creatures flee as the water refreezes for thou- 
sands of miles around. 

We cast off in freezing fog at 2:00 a.m. Next day, 
the ship was in Barrow Strait pushing through floes 
broken by ponds and leads — corridors of open 
water that can be as narrow as creeks. Framed by 
the barren, eroded hills and cliffs of surrounding 
islands, the ice presented a shifting puzzle of end- 
less shapes and colors. Peaks of massive mountains 
would appear on the horizon, signahng distant 
land; an hour later, the land would turn out to be a 
giant mirage created by humped-up ice — a common 
illusion that disoriented early explorers. 

Department of Fisheries and Oceans biologist 
Buster Welch came on deck with me. He has studied 
Arctic tood webs for tliirty years but until this moment 
had stayed at the ice edge. "I only had a small boat," he 
explained. "We could not possibly make it through 
here." Soon we arrived at several spots that fascinated 
him. In some open areas, "grease ice" was forming — 
crystal-laden water, viscous as bacon fat, on its way to 
resolidifying for winter. It was a strange, dirty brown, 
and the ships wake washed scuzzy foam off it onto 
nearby floes. "That's not dirt," said Welch. "That's the 
biggest bloom of algae I have ever seen. You won't see 
anything richer, short of a duck pond or sewage treat- 
ment plant." He pointed out that photosynthesis, car- 
ried out by algae, determines the abundance of every- 
thing else: the tiny invertebrates that eat the algae, 
larger invertebrates that eat them, cod that eat them, 
and seals, whales, and birds that eat them, on up to 
1,000-pound polar bears, the top predators. 

Eddy Carmack, a DFO physical oceanographer 

moving water hits 

underwater bumps or troughs, turns around a point 
of land, or squeezes into a narrowing channel. Any 
combination can create slowdowns, eddies, and up- 
weUings that concentrate sediments and organic matter 
and drive them to the surface, where phytoplankton or 
bacteria use them. Nutrients rare in one water mass 
may be common in another, so places where they meet 
are often biologically rich. 

Fishes and marine mammals may concentrate in a 
particular spot, either because it's a good feeding place 
or simply because they are pushed there by currents. 
"Things Hving in the water don't scatter at random like 
kids running out into a schoolyard," said Carmack. In- 
stead, they concentrate. All it takes is the right combi- 
nation of topography and moving water — and the 
archipelago has topography and moving water the way 
Kansas has cornfields and wheatfields. 

After leaving Resolute, the ship made a brief de- 
tour east to Beechey Island, a place where the water 
may temporarily conjure such fertility. Some of the 
scientists had flown over an inlet near this spot in a he- 
licopter in 1995 and had described seeing what looked 

A polar hear tries 
to make its way 
across a lead, or 
gap, on chunks of 
hrol-;cn ice, above 
left. In a freshwater 
shalloii' in the 
Territories, above, 
hundreds ofbehii^a 
whales gather to 
molt by rubbing 
their skins oti 
underwater rocks. 


Canada Natural History 4/98 

With its spedally 
designed and 
reinforced steel bow, 
the 15, 000- ton 
icebreaker Louis S. 
St-Laurent, right, is 
one of the few ships 
capable of traversing 
the Arctic Archipelago 
during the six-to- 
eight-week summer 
season. A crew 
member, below right, 
retrieves large nets 
used to collect 


appeared on 
the horizon, 
distant land. 
They turned 
out to he 
created by 
frigid air and 

like a river of 
black ink stream- 
ing a half mile in 
the clear water. It 
was a densely 
packed school of 
arctic cod — some 2 
billion of them. 
The fish weren't 
spawning or feed- 
ing; no one knows 
what they were 
doing. Charging in 
with mouths open 
were some 2,000 bel- 
uga whales and narwhals and un- 
countable numbers of harp seals 
Seabirds swarmed in the air like 
bees, diving repeatedly to 
gorge. Many tore out just the 
fatty livers of the fish and left 
the rest. A few hours later, the 
inlet was empty; an unknown 
signal had ended the party. 
After collecting stories from 
native people and witnessing 
similar gatherings since, 
Welch thinks that these 
"feeding events" may not be 
unusual; it's just that scien- 
tists are rarely around at the 
right time to witness them. 
If water movements do 
control phenomena like 
these, it will be a while 
before we understand 
how. The bottom topog- 
raphy of many passages is 
stiU poorly charted, and 
no one is sure exactly 
what routes water trav- 
els, how long it takes, 
what compounds it contains, and 
whether the various streams make rest stops or detours 
along the way. Places where algae grows profusely may 
not attract many creatures; algae, along with the rest of 
the food web, may be swept downstream to some 
other spot. And so most days we made frequent stops 
so Carmack's crew could lower an array of canisters to 
take water samples and measure temperature, salinity, 
chlorophyll levels, and other properties and begin con- 
structing a map. 


After taking sam- 
ples opposite 
Beechey Island, 
we turned due 
west and steamed 
deep into the ice of 
Viscount Melville 
Sound. We contin- 
ued to see far more 
signs of Kfe than ex- 
pected. In open 
water between ice 
pans, Welch's group 
lowered fine nets and 
came up with loads of 
weird, squirming zoo- 
plankton: shrimplike 
amphipods with big 
eyes and long, grabby 
legs; jeUyfish-like 
ctenophores in the 
shape of hot-air bal 
oons, covered with 
beating cUia; pointy, 
transparent arrowworms 
their black pincers loaded 
with poison. When the 
ship plowed through ice, 
it would flip over floes to 
expose invertebrates or| 
cod grazing on the under- 
sides. Crowds of glaucous guUs and black-legged kitti-i 
wakes from nearby colonies appeared, as if out ofl 
nowhere, to swoop into our wake and scarf down theMju- 
newly exposed prey. 

Fish biologist Crawford and his colleagues kept 400" 
pounds of frozen squid, used for baiting hooks and 
nets, stacked up next to the ship's cache of vaniUa icei^ 
cream. One time they hauled in a net with a few smaU/a 


cod, but by the time they got it on deck, one specimen 
had been converted to a perfectly stripped skeleton. 
"There's things down there that will eat anything soon 
as it stops moving," Crawford commented. "I'm not 
sure I want to know what some of them are." A video- 
cam and hydrophone lowered to the bottom by Pete 
Scheifele, a University of Connecticut bioacoustician, 
gave us startling hve broadcasts of five-armed brittle 
stars scuttling out of the way and swaying anemones 
violently puUing in their tentacles as the camera ap- 

My job was to stand in the howling wind on an 
open deck and count marine mammals and birds with 
DFO scientist Jim Reist. At places where the water 
was shallow, dozens of massive, bottom-feeding 
bearded seals had hauled themselves out onto small 
chunks of ice. In deeper water, we saw smaller ringed 
seals sitting next to breathing holes they'd knocked 
through patches of new ice. The only seals thought to 
survive here year-round, they scratch tenaciously at 
these holes, through deepening ice, all winter. 

As we headed deeper into the sound, progress 
slowed. Leads became rarer, and the ship had to make 
constant detours around massive floes. At night, we 
were regularly jarred awake when the bow smashed 
head-on into a pan of ice to open a path. For those of 
us bunking below waterline, the next sound was of ice 
scraping slowly along the hull, inches from our heads, 
as the ship inched forward. I wondered it icebreakers 
ever sprang leaks. 

Signs of life began to thin, too. We were now well 
past the big bird colonies around Resolute, and on 
some days only one or two guOs tagged along. Bearded 
seals thinned, then disappeared, and after a while, even 
the hardy ringed seals became hard to find. There was 
less plankton, and Scheifele's video images of the bot- 
tom began showing mostly mud and rocks. Maybe this 
place would turn out to be barren after all. 

By September 7, we were following along a low 
peninsula at the northern edge of the sound, where a 
narrow lead presented the only route forward. Satellite 
images and reconnaissance by the ship's helicopter 
showed the sound's central channel choked with 
closely packed ice fragments. If we entered, we could 
be trapped — or worse. But the deep middle was where 
the belugas had been tracked by radio telemetry in pre- 
vious years. And beyond this lay Wynniatt Bay, where 
50 many polar bears had been tracked. After much de- 
;bate, the captain made a left-hand turn directly into 
Ithe central ice mass. 

Worming through narrow leads, we were soon sur- 
rounded by infinitely beautiful seascapes: a shifting 

archipelago of ice floes twisted and tortured to resem- 
ble volcanoes. Viking ships, jawbones, Egyptian 
obelisks, and limestone caves. In small, clear patches of 
open water, the keels of some ice pans appeared deep 
turquoise. The sky was overcast and leaden gray, but on 
distant horizons aU around, bright sun spots pierced 
through. It was deadly calm and quiet. 

s we got near the center of Viscount 
/A \ MelviUe Sound, something strange 

I L \ \ began to happen: life reemerged. First, 

my binoculars revealed a single ringed 
aseal lying like a log on new ice. Then 
another, and another. Soon the ship came to an area 
dimpled with scores of their perfectly circular breath- 
ing holes. A little farther on, Reist and I saw in the 
snow on port side a winding line of gigantic footprints: 
polar bear. 

Three huge forms suddenly shot vertically out of 
the water like ballistic missiles. By the time I had re- 
covered my wits, people were running out on deck 
with cameras. The missiles were harp seals — a species 
scientists had never seen this tar west until this mo- 
ment. They leaped out again, their blackish bodies sus- 
pended momentarily in the air. A moment later the 
water near them began to boil. Three, six, ten, thirteen 
harps appeared, racing along in a tight pack ahead of 
the ship. As we passed, they milled about nearby. 
Throughout the day, we saw other pods ot them, 
sometimes swimming placidly, other times bobbing up 
partway out of the water to spy on us. 

Unfortunately, the ship had to stop short of the 
central trough; helicopter scouting showed the ice 
ahead to be impenetrable, with blocks as big as apart- 
ment houses tumbled on top of one another. The sci- 
entists, unwiUing to give up, piled into the aircraft. 
Scheifele took only a hydrophone. Eighteen miles 
from the ship, over the deepest part of the trough, they 
landed on a small floe and crawled on their bellies to 
the edge. There, they beat a hole through the thin ice 
with an iron bar and hand-winched sampling bottles 
and the hydrophone into the black water. Scheifele 
heard a clicking sound, as if a wheel of fortune were 
spinning, then a long, eerie yowl — the unmistakable 
phonations of belugas. During the next fifteen min- 
utes, more whale sounds echoed: cicadas buzzing, ba- 
bies crying, and carpenters hammering. These might 
have been echolocation signals allowing the whales to 
find breathing spots in the ice above or prey some- 
where below. "I don't know what they were saying," 
said Scheifele. "I only know they were there." 

Seals fearlessly popped out of a lead nearby to 

Travel and 

TCS Expediliciis 
will make ilsjoiirih 
commercial cruise 
tlnou'^h the 
Northwest Passage in 
July 1998. Although 
it will follow a more 
southerly route than 
the author's, the 
icebreaker will fisit 
Resolute and Bcechcy 
Island and pass 
through Peel Sound. 
For further 
information contact: 
TCS Expeditions 
2025 First Avenue 
Suite 930 

Seatde, Washington 
(800) 121-1 Ml 

To learn more about 
the Arctic and its 
whales, read 
Northwest Passage, 
photographs and log 
by Robert Glenn 
Ketclmm (New York: 
Aperture, 1993), and 
Beluga Whales, by 
Tony A'lartin 

Minnesota: Voyageur 
Press, 1996). 

Canada Natural History 4/98 

From the air, 
scientists saw 
what looked 
like a river of 
black ink — a 
school of 
2 billion 
packed arctic 
cod, followed 
by 2,000 
beluga whales 

harp seals. 

watch the humans. On the flight back to the ship, the 
scientists could see them all over. When passing over 
one football-shaped pan, they noticed the strange color 
of the ice. Circling back, they saw why: a polar bear 
was in the center, his head buried in the belly of a seal. 
Purple entrails were spilling out, and both bear and ice 
pan were covered with gore. The bear looked up at the 
helicopter. We had found our hot spot, and now it was 
time to get the heU out. 

oving ice could zipper shut the 
way back to the edge of the 
sound's channel at any moment, 
and we clearly were not going to 
make it any farther along our 
planned route; the ice stream was too powerful. We re- 
treated the way we had come. After two days' hasty 
backtracking, we were back near Resolute. From here 
w^e turned south toward the mainland coast, down a 
narrow passage called Peel Sound, where rocky cliffs 
and hiUs were visible on both sides. 

On the way, the water taken from the center of 
Viscount Melville Sound was analyzed, and the scien- 
tists' mouths dropped. Contrary to expectations that 
the water just rushes through, chemical analysis 
showed It stays thirty years or more down in the deep 
center trough. There, it is. a balmy 33° F and loaded 
with nutrients. This suggests that below the raging sur- 
face currents, a big, quiet trap exists, where water cy- 
cles around and collects aquatic Hfe. This would help 
explain the bounty of mammals on the surface. But we 
stm had no idea what was down there, apart from the 
beluga. "This is hke chapter three of a murder mys- 
tery," said Carmack. "We know there's been a killing 
and we have a few clues. But we just don't know who 
did it yet." 

Another tantalizing chapter was added as we neared 
BeUot Strait, a twenty-mile-long cleft in the high 
promontories along Peel Sound. Cutting cleanly 
through a huge north-south peninsula, Bellot Strait is 
the shortest water route from east to west. It is the true 
Northwest Passage, as well as the first place north of 
Tierra del Fuego where flowing Pacific waters meet 
Atlantic tides. If, somewhere on the earth, the ship-de- 
stroying Scylla and Charybdis of Greek mythology are 
ahve, this might be their abode. Westerly currents pour 
through the passage with terrifying velocity, alternately 
boosted by or colliding with tides from the east. 
"Whirlpools and sharp rocks await unwary voyagers, 
and ice floes are said to shoot out of the mouth of Bel- 
lot Strait like bowUng balls. 

Vessels stay away, but the strait is another place 

where wildlife gathers. Radio- 
tagged belugas have been tracked 
concentrating outside it, and trav- 5 
elers have reported seeing large 
flocks of seabirds. Perhaps nutrients 
concentrate there because the con- 
stant violence roils up sediments and 
organic matter, or because such differ- 
ent water masses mix. These are 
guesses, but the motion definitely 
maintains a polynya — a year-round 
patch of open water — that accommo- 
dates a wide range of creatures. 

As we passed by the entry to the fear- 
some cleft, ringed seals suddenly became 
visible in large numbers on the ice. A 
mother polar bear trailing two cubs heaved 
into view off starboard. Soon after, a single 
male was spotted off port side stalking along 
the ice a quarter mile away. Welch was stand- 
ing on the fantail trying to count the crowd of 
guUs and kittiwakes diving to grab fish uncov- 
ered by our passage. While looking down at the 
snow along our moving huU, I saw a forty-foot- 
long pinkish groove flecked with raw tissue and 
flanked by footprints. This was one murder mys- 
tery easily solved: a polar bear had killed a seal, 
then dragged the body between its legs to a more 
convenient dining spot. A while later, we spotted 
the blackened skeleton of another seal on the ice, 
stamped down all around by the footprints of scav 
ending arctic foxes. \ 

Deeper investigation of this place would have to- 
wait. The captain was now mostly concerned wi 
getting us into clear water on the other side of the p, 
sage, and we were making no more stops. At the boi 
torn of Peel Sound, we approached the place whe|^ 
Franklin's ships are thought to have gone down. Heii 
we sailed by a series of bare, eerie rocks incongruoua^ 
called the Tasmania Islands. I later learned they wej" 
named for colonial residents of that New Zealand ii 
who, like others around the British Empire, co- 
tributed funds to the search for the lost hero so lor 
ago. This lifeless terrain was what they found. 

Dead ahead, a dark object was sticking out of ti; 
ice. As we pulled within a few yards, I saw a batter 
cylinder of wood about a foot and half long, as I 
around as a man's thigh. A nineteenth-century shi 
spar? Drifi3,vood carried by river from a Siberian 
Canadian forest into the Arctic Ocean? We'd ne\ 
know; the Louis nudged the ice, and the wood slow] 
folded underneath, not to be seen again 

Leads open in the 
ice in spring and 
summer, providing 
travel corridors and 
breathing space for 
ii'liales and seals. 



Wtmi^ Kenya Natural History 4/9S 


We found ha' standing by a low acacia tree, her horns backlit by the morning sm 

Maria is extraordinarily svveet, for a 
rhinoceros. I \^tI1 always be gratefiil for 
her part in my education in the 
particular and subtle language of the 
African bush. Last year. I traveled to Kenya's Tsavo East 
National Park to paint \Mldlife and was soon enchanted 
by the landscape. The broad band of the Yalta Plateau 
rose a thousand feet above my campsite. Blo\A'n 
ever\'\vhere by the wind, brick-red dust from the 
park's lateriric soil colored the brush and its inhabitants, 
coating elephants and leaves alike. But as beautifiJ as 
the area was, the thick brush made it difficult to 
approach the animals. Even when I could get within 
painting distance, the animals tended to run away. 
I had a frustrating first week, but then Kenya 
Wildlife Ser\ace rangers from the park's Rhino 
Release Program kindly undertook my education. 
These rangers monitor the black rhinos that have 
been introduced into the park since the program 
began in 1993. (In the 1980s, intense poaching and 
severe drought had virtually eliminated Tsavo 's 
original black rhino population.) The rangers use 
radio collars to monitor the movements of the 
introduced rhinos, and when the transmitters run 
out, they track the animals the old-fashioned wav — 
on toot. I was to walk with them. 

iMaria, with her unusual tolerance of people, had 
chosen the immediate \icinity of the release program's 
base camp as her home range. The rangers refer to her 
as "iMother of the Camp" and consider her proximin- 

Looking for 

she pricked up her ears and turned to face us. Then she lay down for a nap. 


Story and paintmgs by Deborah Ross 


Kenya Natural History 4/98 

The rangers taught me how to keep downwind of the animals, how to read "hu. 


a sign of good luck. And so she seemed for me, too. On 
my very first day out with the rangers, we found her 
standing by a low acacia tree, her horns backlit by 
the morning sun as she pricked up her ears and 
turned to face us. After watching us for a while, 
Maria sighed and lay down for a nap. It was ten 
in the morning, and the sun was hot. My guide 
said it was time to leave Maria to her rest. 

As we trekked back to camp, I was 
thrilled and oprimistic about the coming 
days. Litde did I know that x\vo months of 
searching would pass before we would meet 
up with Maria again. But the process ot 
looking for her proved enormously 
rewarding, and soon the search captured my 

svtl*' *;,^ 



ript," and — perhaps most important — how to move silently through the bush. 

Tnifel and Reading 

Travel to Kenya's 
Tsai'o National Park 
is easily arranged 
through a trawl agent. 
The park's "tented 
camps" provide large 
canvas tents, some 
with showers. 
Walking safaris — 
offered by these camps 
and led by Kenya 
Wildlife Service 
rangers — are the best 
way to experience the 
park's wildlife. 
Galdessa, a tented 
camp near the Galana 
River, faces the 
spectacular Yalta 
Plateau and is located 
within the home range 
of the rhino Maria. 
Less costly, public 
campgrounds are also 
available. For those 
who prefer indoor 
living, there is Voi 
Safari Lodge, where 
hyraxes scamper up 
and down the stairs 
and among the dining 
room tables. An 
excellent book on 
black rhinos is Horn 
of Darkness: Rhinos 
on the Edge, by 
Carol Cunningham 
and Joel Berger 
(Oxford University 
Press, 1997). 

full attention. My guides taught me how to keep 
downwind of animals (it helps to kick up a small 
cloud of dust and check which way the wind blows 
it), how to read "bush script" (telling the age of a 
footprint, for example, by the sharpness of its edges), 
and — perhaps most important — how to move silently 
through the bush. 

As we tracked Maria, we encountered many of the 
other animals living in this dense and magical 
landscape: a crocodile slipped into a water hole at our 
approach, and a startled yellow-billed stork flew off; a 
hippo, objecting to our intrusion, burst out of a small 
pool and lumbered away. We also followed giraffe 
tracks circlmg round and round an acacia and read the 
movements ot a large snake slithering across the road. 
Once, our own passage through the brush flushed 
out a pair of grouse. Sergeant Richard Eleu, 
the ranger who took charge of my bush 
education, knelt down, pointing out what 
at first appeared to be a cluster of leaves 

at the base of a small bush but turned 

out to be four grouse chicks 

huddling together, camouflaged 

in their stillness. 

On my last day with the 

rangers. Sergeant was determined 

that I would see Maria one more 

time. (As a mark of respect for hi 

long service protecting rhinos all 

over Kenya, everyone referred to 

Sergeant by his tide.) We 

followed her tracks, confident we 

would find her when she stopped 

for her midmorning nap. But 

10:00 A.M. came and went, and 

still the tracks went on. Soon the 

tracks revealed that Maria had 

joined up with two other rhinos, 

known to the rangers as Ruto 

and 284. We made our way up a 

small rise and chmbed some 

rocks that gave us a 360-degree 

view of the surrounding plain. 

No rhinos in sight. Disappointed, 

we began to retrace our steps. And 

there, on the trail, were the rhino 

tracks, overlapping ours. The rhinos 

had sneaked around behind us. 

Redoubling our efforts, we soon heard 

loud chewing just beyond us in the bush. 

We crept silently, circling around the sound until we 
were downwind. Then Sergeant beckoned to me to 
climb on top of a termite mound, and there was 
Maria, looking petite and sweet next to 284, a huge 
rhino known to have a bad temper and a tendency to 
charge. With her ears pitched forward in my 
direction, 284 was snorting and looking very 

The setting was not conducive to painting, but 
fortunately I had my camera with me. Sergeant urged 
me to take some pictures. The clicks of my Nikon 
seemed alarmingly loud. It was time to leave. D 

Chile Natural History 4/98 

When the 
earth was 
very young, 
and the 
land was 
rock, it 
must have 
looked like 

Chile Natural History 4/98 

Undaunted by 
severe drouahts, 
Eulychnia cactus, 
below, survives in 
Pan de Azi'icar 
National Park, 
"the blooming 
garden of the 
Atacanta. " 

Chile's Pan de Aziicar Narional 
Park is the simplest sort of land- 
scape, where every feature has 
the dean profile of a paper 
cutout: a heave of black slabs; a 
hogback ridge; a naked, scrap- 
heap mountain standing in its 
awn debris. The park lies at the edge of the Atacama 
Desert on Chile's northern coast, where the Pacific 
Ocean rolls in long, gray breakers that smack and foam 
onto the headlands. 

If the bald desert isn't enough to repel visitors, the 
road there should be. It's lousv. Taxi driver Mario Ver- 
acas, who's ferrying me from Chaharal, seventeen 
miles south of the park, hates the corrugated dirt road 
that makes his Htde Che\y shudder and the sun visors 
flop do^^^l and his dashboard Bible skid to the floor. 
When a deep drift of sand appears, he mutters. "This 
part is bad,"' then slows do\Mi so much that we can't 
possibly make it through. 

'^'hich is why my first close look at the Atacama is 
from my knees, digging beneath the taxi. I ask Mario if 
there are any plants nearby that we could tear up and 
toss beneath the tires for traction. "Only cactus," he 
says. "It has not rained in two years." I keep digging. 

ica's Death Valley receives less than nvo inches of rah 
annually — a sniffle of moisture — ^buc that's one hun 
dred times wetter than some reaches of the Atacama 
where rainfall averages only .02 inches a year, as clos- 
to rainless as is known on this planet. Most years ther 
is not a drop. From the perspective of a thirsty anima 
or plant, there w no rain. The perfect desert. 

Mario calls it the "tranquil desert," although afte 
he guns his taxi out of the sand, he's too ner\-ous t< 
drive much farther. He stops, eyes my backpack, anc 
says, ""Only nine kilometers to the park headquarters. 
I get out. shoulder the pack, and leave Mario behinc 
The afternoon sun is low and swollen, and the flutei 
stems of cactuses catch halos of yellow light in thei 

At least I'm stuck where I'd long wanted to go. Deserts 
are my natural habitat, and the Atacama is the driest of 
them all. 

Some plants and animals do survive in Pan de Azu- 
car and in other relatively "fertile" patches of the Ata- 
cama"s 54,000-square-inile expanse. Elsewhere, the 
desert stretches out bone-drv and sterile. North Amer- 

spines. I have the road to myself for the next two 
hours, then stop and make camp amid a jumble of dark 
boulders. On a planet that I usuaUy experience as 
buzzing and hopping with life, I spend the night feel- 
ing very alone. 

A few days earlier, riding on a bus north 
out of Santiago, I opened the windows 
as we entered the drylands, and I felt 
my skin tighten. The tall poplars out- 
side the capital gave way to scrubby aca- 
cias clipped into umbrella shapes by hard-luck goats. 
Farther north, the acacias quit the hillsides to inhabit 
only the folds between, the sandy arroyos holding 

buried traces of the last rain. It felt as if we were head- 
ing south from Los Angeles to Mexico's Baja Califor- 
nia. It wasn't just the bus driver's choice of music — the 
yelping trumpets of Mexican mariachis. Chile's 2,700- 
mile stretch along the Pacific is dry toward the equator 
and wet toward the pole, mirroring the run from the 
Pacific Northwest to Mexico's Baja. The dark forests 
of southern Chile hold all the gloom and drip of 
Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Central Chile shares 
southern California's easy weather and groves of exotic 
eucalyptus. In northern Chile, the desert takes hold. 

One reason for the aridity is the cordillera of the 
Andes, Chile's eastern frontier. With peaks nearly 
23,000 feet high, the Andes force winds to cool and 

Tlie Atacama 
Desert, left, with 
the Andes in the 
Enough Jog rolls in 
from the Pacific to 
sustain intermittent 
communities of 
plants and animals 
along tlie coast. 

Chile, Bohi'ia, and 
Peru fought in the War 
of the Pacific, 1879 to 
1883. over the 
Alacama's sodium 
nitrate fields, aboiv. 
Chile won. 

ij/Ei ^>^'i^ 

Natural History 4/98 

Tlie naturally 
remains of an 
Atacameno Indian 
are on display at 
the archeological 
museum of San 
Pedro de Atacama. 
Having observed 
the desert's 
desiaating effects, 
the coastal 
Chinchorro people 
developed elaborate 

drop whatever water they carry onto the mountains, 
depriving Chile of rain from the Atlantic. The Pacific, 
too, offers no relief. Fifty miles off Chile's coast, the 
Pacific is as much as 26,000 feet deep. The Humboldt 
(Peru) Current sweeping north from the sub-Pacific 
Antarctic stirs up the black chill of the submarine 
trenches. Pan de Aziicar is as close to the equator as 
Miami, Florida, yet the water here is so frigid that the 
park harbors a colony of Humboldt penguins. Cold 
water next to warm land doesn't make rain; the fog 
moves onshore and evaporates like the morning dew. 

Equally desiccating is a phenomenon that has its 
origins in the Tropics, where air biHowmg over the 
equatorial zones rises, cools, and drops its rain. Devoid 
of moisture, the air then hustles along at great altitudes 
for several thousand miles before sinking; the places 
this air descends on are among the most arid on earth: 
the Empty Quarter of Arabia, the Skeleton Coast of 
Africa's Namib Desert, and the Atacama. It's hard to 
believe that an invisible mass of sinking air can render 
the Pacific's rainmaking powers impotent, but it does, 
sitting atop the cold, persistent fog hke oO on water. 
Along the coast of Peru, north of the Atacama, the 
Humboldt Current is occasionally displaced by warm 
currents associated with El Niiio. The fog breaks, 
warm marine air spirals up into thunderheads, and 
storms begin. But without El Nino, survival in the At- 
acama hinges on how long you can wait. 

Walking through the Atacama 
Desert, you hear only the 
crunch of gravel underfoot. 
Most landscapes have a voice: 
prairies shush in the wind, jun- 
gles pant and groan, forests titter; the Atacama holds its 
breath. The morning after my first lonely night here, 1 
hike under a Ud of dull fog, over sleek foothills of pul- 
verized rock, at the foot of mountains as dark as burnt 
brownies. Poking out of the dirt are some of Pan de 
Azucar's fourteen species of cactus. They include 
chubby barrels of the genus Copiapoa that all lean 
north: by aiming their head at the sun's zenith, they 
keep their sides cooler. For a hat, they wear a reflective 
coating of wax. The clusters of spindly columned Euly- 
chnia are two meters high and can't lean without falling 
fiat. Like Arizona's senita (Lophocerens) cactus, the Euly- 
chnia copes with severe droughts by abandoning whole 
limbs. Each Eulychnia is surrounded by a sad heap of 
discarded arms. 

Not all is cactus. Hidden in a shallow arroyo is a 
bunch of succulent leaves of the heroic Nolana — 

"heroic" because it manages the unimaginable, to 
flower here. Like Zorba the Greek, the Nolana is deter- 
mined to have sex to the end. Of course, it is no more 
"determined" than stone. Yet how else to describe the 
nerve and grit of desert Ufe? In more humid climes, life 
appears an everyday accident. Here it seems stubborn, 
and very clever. 

For instance, virtually all plants 
need carbon dioxide, water, and 
sunUght to make food. The trou- 
ble is, when the sun is out, the 
heat is on, and there's no way to 
allow the carbon dioxide in with- 
out letting some water out. How- 
ever, some species of Nolana and 
cactus have hit on an answer: they 
take up carbon dioxide during the 
cool of night and store it in the 
form of malic acid, then complete 
photosynthesis during the day 
without opening their pores. It 
sounds simple, but it's no less ele- 
gant than designing a car engine 
that takes in and stores oxygen 
twelve hours before it needs it to 
combust gasoline — a feat that 
might be accompUshed, given a 
few million years of tinkering. It's 
the stuff of evolution. 

Although relatively recent 
glacial episodes caused rainfall to 
increase briefly in the Atacama, 
the desert has been hyperarid for at 
least the last 13 to 15 million years 
when, stratigraphic records show, 
water-borne sediments stopped HE'::^^!^^^ 
accumulating in its basins. This 
desert remains a testing ground for 
the toughest plants and the wiliest 
animals. I'll never see the Ata- 
cama's leaf-eared mouse (Phyllotis), 
probably because it, too, is waiting 
for the rain, for a spurt of vegeta- 
tion, for seeds to eat. In the mean- 
time, it turns down its metabolism, 
not simply resting but achieving a state of torpor tha 
would do a swami proud. Its body temperature sink 
thirty-five degrees Fahrenheit and its need for food anc 
water drops to one-tenth of normal. That's what i 
takes to survive. 

When I arrive at Pan de Aziicar park headquarters 
I expect the ranger to be a sort of desert rat. Instead, 

meet David Marchant, a wrinkle-free young man with 
eyes the color of kelp. He gives me a tour of the official 
cactus garden and of the solar still that turns salt water 
to fresh. The pelicans and guUs that shriek and swoop 
above the crash of the surf are our only company. Pan 
de Azucar, says Marchant, is the blooming garden of 
the Atacama. On the other side of the coastal moun- 

:ains, he warns, there is nothing. 


"Here the plants drink the fog," he says. "In the 
Tiorning, the earth is damp. Twenty kilometers away 
irom the sea — no fog, no plants, nothing for many 
f lundreds of kilometers. You will see if you leave the 
l^ark by the other road, to the east." I do, on the back 

of his motorcycle, clinging to Marchant like a limpet 
so my pack won't flip me backward as he charges 
through the sandpits. He drops me off near the last of 
the Nolana plants, at the Pan-American Highway that 
crosses the fijll 600 miles of the Atacama from Copiapo 
to Arica. For much of this length, wherever the moun- 
tains are high enough to cool and condense the fog, 
there are coastal fog communities of plants and ani- 
mals. Inland, several basins that collect floodwaters 
from the Andes support mesquite trees (Prosopis). But 
between the Andes and the coastal mountains there is 
only a single stream, the Rio Loa, and a handful of 
oases. I stick out my thumb and catch a ride to the dri- 
est reaches of the Atacama. 


' perhaps one thousand people, have ex- 
acdy two reasons to venture into the 
surrounding desert: the town dump and 
the rock quarry. Isabel Charcas, matron 
of the local inn, peers out at the desert between the 
branches of a mango tree she's watering, but there's not 
much to see. A terrific wind has joined the earth and 
sky in a heaving cloud of dust. Isabel drags a gushing 
hose to an orange tree. She deftly twists off a fruit. 
"Here, have an orange." 

It's very hard to leave Pica. I like the orchards, the 
jacaranda trees with their sexy purple blooms, and the 
church that is merely a ramada with a cane roof de- 
signed for shade alone, as if to remind you that heaven 
IS closer than rain. The cane grows at springs where 
water that has percolated down from the Andes 
through gravel is brought to the surface by a lens of 
impermeable rock beneath the town. This sUver of 
L^eologic luck has been enhanced by eight miles of in- 
dustrious burrowing by the locals, resulting in a net- 
work of underground canals like those in the deserts of 
Chinese Turkestan and Iran. 

These tunnels are hard work, but the water is 
worth it. It's one hundred miles south from Pica to the 
W\o Loa. It's another hundred miles south to the next 
sizable oasis town, San Pedro de Atacama, where there 
are scattered artifacts of the Atacameiian culture reach- 
ing back at least 1 1 ,000 years. Descendants of the Ata- 
cameno persist, although it's remarkable that they sur- 
vived the water of San Pedro, which has arsenic levels 
of over 600 micrograms per liter, more than eleven 
times the maximum allowed by the United States En- 
vironmental Protection Agency. Pica's water is good 
water, says Isabel, as she fills my jugs. I thank her and 
tromp out of town. Once I'm out fi-om beneath the 
canopy of trees and into the murk of blowing crud, the 

he residents of Pica, an oasis town of 

Travel and 

Pan dc Azucar 
National Park is off 
the I'an-Aincrican 
Hiolni'ay. sivailicn 
miles norili of the 
town qj Chanaral. Il " ' ' 
is accessible hy car — if 
the driver is ^ 

determined; be jH 

prepared for deep sand -£^ 
on the road. Jlie park 
has two campgrounds; 
ii'ater is available at 
the headquarters 
smaller, lamer vers] 
of Pan de Azucar is 
230 miles to the 
north, at La Chimba 
National Reserve, 
near Antofagasta. 
For a recent acconii 
Atacama mummii 
read Beyond Death: 
The Chinchorro 
Mummies of 
Ancient Chile, by 
Bernardo T Arriaza 
Institution Press, 
1993). For a historic 
per.<;pcctive. tr)' Isaiah 
Bowman's 1924 
"Desert Traib of 
Atacama" (American 
Geotiraphical Society 's 
special pidtlicatiou 







200 Miles 

Chile Natural History 4/98 

Tlie main plaza in 
Pica, below, an 
oasis town in the 
northern Atacama 

town soon fades from a scarab-green blip in the desert 
to a smudge of khaki. Then it's gone. 

An odd feeling, walking out into a clearly hostile 
place, but I have a compass and need only walk in one 
direction today and the reverse tomorrow. I choose 
115 degrees east-southeast, past the quarry and a 
whitewashed wooden cross garnished with palm fronds 
trembhng in the gusts. A bit farther and everytliing is 
dust and stone, with a veneer of sand scalloped by the 
wind. The stones are brown fragments, with occasional 
black cHnkers the size of my shoe. 

Soil inicrobiologists have found the wind-borne 
spores of Bacilhis bacteria in the Atacama, but that's 
about it. No dung beetles, no threads of fungal hyphae, 
no decomposition. Philip Rundel, of the University of 
California, Los Angeles, is working on the physiology 
of the genus Nolana. He figured that the chalky re- 
mains of dead plants he had found were maybe hun- 
dreds of years old. He did not expect what his prelimi- 
nary radiocarbon dates told him — that some of the 
plants had keeled over several thousand years ago. 

The aridity that allows such feats of preservation 
also gives humans a fair shot at a kind of immortality. 
The Chinchorro, the ancient fisherfolk of the Atacama 

AtaMina Desert, 
far fit','!,', ims 
described by 
Charles Daiwin as 
"so useless a 
country. " 

coast, developed elaborate burial rituals after they no- 
ticed that their deceased didn't rot but instead mummi- 
fied. Their dead, according to anthropologist Bernardo 
T. Arriaza, "were literally disassembled and recon- 
structed." Organs were removed, skeletons reinforced, 
skin sewn back on. With nothing in the soil to cause 
remains to decompose, the Chinchorro mummies have 

lasted far longer than the Chinchorro: the oldest 1 
mummies so far discovered are 9,000 years old. 

And that was at the relatively moist fringe of the , | 
Atacama, along the Pacific. It's drier here, away from if 
the foggy coast, and I remember Ranger Marchant'; :j 
words: "There is nothing." The proof comes as the '. 
wind fades and the dust settles, like a veil dropping, :i 
The landscape emerges, the elemental landscape that .j 
underhes all others. A plain in Nebraska, a hollow ir | 
Virginia, the Big Sur coast of California — if thesql'l 
places were burned clean of Ufe, hit with wind and su 
for a millennium or two, and stripped to bald ridges 
then they might look like this: bedrock buried unde 
the crumbs of erosion, not a freckle of green, nothini 
to give a clue as to what's near or far. The sun sinks h 
degrees into a vague horizon, the lurid globe takin 
the day with it. I hear the compass in my pocket clack 
ing against pesos, hear my breathing. 

The desert is powerflil because it is so simple, 
brute. "I arrive at last at your wild mineral silence,' 
wrote the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. I imagine hi 
was drawn by the Atacama 's blank face. As geographei 
Isaiah Bowman recorded in 1924: "I was delighted t 
find all my expectations of desert scenery realized. Fo 
the first fifty miles there was but a single spot where 
natural growth of green could be seen." I once be- 
heved that all deserts are good deserts, clean ani 
bright, but what I see before me are heaps of grit th 
color of cement, shoved around by the wind. At Pai 
de Aziicar, as at my Arizona home, each weird plan 
and panting rodent and croaking bird is a success 
something to bhnk and marvel at. Here in the heart o 
the Atacama, aridity is the only winner. 

It's getting cold fast. Making camp is easy: stop, p 
out mat and sleeping bag, he down. There are no ant 
to bother my dinner of cheese, onion, and bread. If 
had hay fever, this would be paradise. Solace come 
with a swallow of wine and the words of my bedtimi 
book, Charles Darwin's account of his voyage on thi 
H.M.S. Beagle. "It was almost a pity," he wrote of thi 
Atacama in 1835, "to see the sun shining constantly 
over so useless a country." My little oil lamp attracts 
lacewing that must have flitted over from Pica. My de- 
hght is aU out of proportion to this half inch of gree; 
insect with blond wings — as if a condor had landed. 

The next morning, in the cheery Hght of dawn, m; 
camp looks like a finger painting, a brilliant tussle ol 
blue sleeping bag, orange mat, green pack. I eat fou 
oranges that Isabel gave me, pack up, and explore a bi 
then turn tail for Pica. I won't miss the Atacama, bu| 
there's pleasure in knowing that biology texts are right 
Without water, there is no life. 


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become more popular than ever, 
thanks to the recent movie's sudden 
success.) And the Museum of Natural 
llistoiy has several adjuncts 
thioughout the province to bring the 
history, wildlife, geology, and peoples 
of the area to vivid life. 

An excursion to Cape Breton Island. 

at the provuice's north-east end, is also 
imperative. Remote and imposing, the 
island boasts a rocky coast and an 
interior of mountains, rivers, and 
lakes. The islands Higliland National 
Park has some of the country's most 
spectacular terrain. Hiking and cycling 
(biU not for amateitrs) are splendid 
ways to take full advantage of the 
scenery, and there are several sites for 
first-class whale watchmg. 

Great britain-so you think you 

know the British Isles? As perhaps 
the most favored destination of all for 
sopliisticated travelers. Great Britain 
has earned its sterlmg reputation 
vilth a host of classic sites. 


ice of open roads 



' ^ . 

/ ■/ 

flV Ij^^^Tlfa^ 





Beargrass, ,^]^ 
Glacier National Pai^i? 

Discover Montaim with yourHfinee Vacation 
Planning Kit. Call 800-VISIT-MT {847-4868|, 
ext. 854, or fi^d us atJhittp:// on U| "^ 


But take the coiuitn' for granted at 
voiu" owTi peiill Chances are thero niP 

countless liiddeu treasures tlu-oughoui 
the kingdom waiting to be explored: 
museiuns. manor homes, stone ciicles. 
galleries, castles, abbeys, and 
gardens— a truly distuictive arrav of 
in\'itiiiglv imexplored sites. 

Take the Callanish Standuig Stones, 
for example, on Scotland s Isle of 
Lewis. Standing for some 4.000 years, 
dieu- mysteries intact, diey have in\'ited 
speculation that thev relate to the monn 
in ways diat Stonehenge is said to 
relate to the sun. Or the CasterUgg 
Stone Circle in England's north 
countn . a renmant of an ancient 
culture's rehgious ceremonies. 

And. of com'se. the castles: Eastnor. 
vdxh its faii'\iale settuig m 
Herefordshire. Wales" Cardiff Castle, a 
flamboyant Xeo-Gothic gem. Or Corfe 
Castle, a splendid ruin with dark 
liistoiic associations. 

Exploring Britain's less-traveled 
corners can be an exliilaratmg wav to 
re\isit an old and cheiished friend. 

WYOMING-Brawny, colorful. 
expan6i\ e. and diverse. 'Wyoming 
embraces broad, open praities. 
awesome moimtain ranges, and the 
classic splendors of Yellowstone. 

Lstead of the BTitain everyone kno' 
discover its hidden treasures. 


\\ itii pleasures for the casual visitor 
and challenges for the most adventure- 
minded, the state represents the West 
in all of its glory. 

Its Southern tier is marked by the 
fascinations of Cheyenne and Laramie 
and their irresistible Wild West 
associations. Flaming Gorge National 
Recreation Area — so named for its fierv 
red sandstones — offers hikinu, boating. 
crnss-coniUrv skiing, and camping 
amid its spectacidar scenery. Look, too. 

lor a paiiiipK (if w ildlilr: mdiisc. 
an(eliip<', elk. and occasionalK blacL 
bear and mouMfain lion. 

Here, too, is the Snow y Range, 
whose Scenic Byway is llie |5crl'ect i-onle 
lor discovering cam]igr(ninds, ski areas, 
and the hot-springs resort of Saratoga. 

Yellowstone, the world's firs! 
national paik. is the crown jewel of lln- 
park s\strm. W ilh some 250 active 
geysers, and the largest concentration 
of mammals in the lower 48 states 
(inchiding grizzly bear, bison, and 
Rocky Mountain elk), Yellowstone 
remains an uiiforgettal:>le and 
unmissable destination in itself, h is 
rivaled for sheer l;)eainy (and first-class 
birding) by the Grand Teton National 
Park. To the east, it's the Bighorn 
Canyon National Recreation Area, 
where hiking, ca\ing. and vidldhfe- 
spotting are perennial favorites. 


by the non-profit conservation agency, 
The Nature Conservancy, as "one of the 

Wdild > la^l great pla(•(•^.' tin- I'm mihi 
Miinijtains is among those coz\ secrets 
lliat true nature lovers like to keep to 
themselves. 'I liis 2.-l-()()-si|.-mile region 
iiestlefl in the uorllieast corner of 
l'enns\ Kaiiia is a treasnre trove of 

if Britain's most 
sigKts are beco 


tKe Grand Tour of Britain's 
Hidden Treasures. It's a 
coJJecl-ion of lesser Jcnovyn 

■;fascinating country 

f- ■ , " 

ises and gardens, castJes, 
■abbeys and museums, put 
together for tJie seasone<' 
traveler, many of wKicJi 
are accessibJe with the 
Great British Heritage Pass. 
For your free Grand Tour 
and Heritage Pass brochures, 
call 1-800-395-726S. And 
get off the beaten P 
path on your next . 
British vacation. L ' '^'^ 

1 - 8 - 3 9 S - ,: 

y/ww.visitbrit- a i 






e've packed a thousand 
seacoast adventures into this 
free 368-page Doers' and 
Dreamers" Guide. Lose yourself in 
the sounds of the surf and the salt 
sea air. Hunt fossils along a rock\- 
shore. Feast on seafood fresh from tlie 
deep. .\11 in an island-like pro\ince where 
you're never more than 35 minutes from the sea. Call 
for youi free guide today and book accommodations 
ranging from cozv" B&Bs to liDOiiy hotels at the same time 
Remember - your money's ^\ortli a lot more herel 

Get Your FREE guide todav! 

1-800-565-0000 NO 

Ask for Operator # Two 

bttp:/ /explore. gov. ns. ca/iirtualns 

wildlife, rare plants, and a host of 
natiual wonders. 

-\nd even secrets can contain secrets. 
Nature Consen ancy has identified 
"Hidden Treasures among the 
Poconos boundaries. There's Big Bear 
Swamp, home to black bear, porcupine, 
beaver, and songbirds. Fossil Trail has 
been didabed "an outdoor classroom." 
filled with all manner of natural 
beaim-. from hemlock gorges and 
w aterfaUs to ponds and shale barrens. 

\\ oodboimie Forest Trail ■« ends 
tlirough 600 acres to give the Wsitor a 
feel of the \Trgin woods that once 
covered most of the state. Lakeside 
Trail includes Tobvhanna State Park, 
resident to most of the ^■arieties of 
Pocono mammals — bobcat, covoie. 
otter, and bear among them. And the 
Ledgedale Xatiual -\rea is a 100-acre 
forest preserve overlooking Lake 
^ allenpaupack. whose hdls bin-st with 
briUiant spring flow ers. 

All told there are seven state parks. 
"2.000 acres of state forests, state game 
lands, and the Delaware ^\ ater Gap 
National Recreation area. 

MONGOLIA-Mongoha offers one of 

the most midiluted and haimting 
glimpses into the past as can be found 
on eartli. With one of tlie last nomadic, 
horse-based cidnu'es in the w orld. the 
cotmrr\" is also one of the few remainins 


Take a vacation 
good enough to 
mai(efou forget 
wliat year^, 
it is. 

unspoiled wildernesses of Asia. 
Appioximalely the size of Western 
Europe, Mongolia boasis a pristine 
ecosystem: one-lcrilli uC iis land lias 
been preserved as a wildlife icfnge. 
proxiding a habitat for planl and 
animal life not found throughoni tlie 
rest of the continent. 

A rich Tibetan-Buddhist Iradilion 
infuses the countiy with not only an 
intense spirituality, but a legaex of an 

Pack your bags 
and let History 
Channel Tours pack 
your vacation with all the 
excitement of the past. Dine with Thomas 
Jefferson's descendants, take a cruise on an 
original 1920's Rum Runner, do time at 
Alcatraz and have the time of your life reliv- 
ing the past. History Channel Tours include; 

• Expert tour guides 

• Unforgettable special events 
■ Lodging at the finest 

historic inns 

as well. Sctdpture, calligraphy, 
jjainting, music, and dance, alDounrl 
here — from "throat singing" to 
handcrafted sOver work. 

E.xploring the countiy can be a great 
adventure, whether hiking among 
niounlain foothills, visiting a rare 
species of wild horse at the Hustain 
Nuruu National Reserve, or visiting the 
site of the f 3th-century capital of the 
Mongol empire. A camel ride to 
Flaming Cliffs yields the site of the first 
collection of dinosaur eggs ever 
disco\ ered. A trek through the 
legendary Gobi reveals e.xotic plant life 
diat sustains the herds of nomads' 
animals. /Vnd at the ])eaks of the .Altai 
-Mdinitains. alpine lakes teem with fish 
and hills blaze with wildflowers. 

Here hospitality is warm and 
surprise seeitis endless. It's a 
dc^linaliiin that s liiiK distint'tix c and 
ripe lor e.\|:)loratioii.B 

© 1998 Htslory Channel Tours, All Rights Reserved 





Call now for vour FREE 

100-page, full-colour Adventure 

Guide & Touring Planner and 

discover the many ways we 

make people feel good. 

1 -800-565-2627 

(operator 635) 


(operator 636) 

or visit 

(operator 637) 

Our expeditions will 

certainly give you 

something to write 

home about. 

Assuming there's 
mail service. 


Track endangered tortoises 
in Joshua Tree National Park. 
Uncover the riddle of Costa Rican 
dry forests. Identify the dolphins of 
Sarasota Bay, Florida. Find out what 
makes wetlands work in Texas and 
Canada. Unearth Morocco's ancient | 
City of Gold. Earthwatch trips are 
not just vacations, they are short 
( I -3 week) expeditions where you 
help scientists perform on-site 
research. No experience is 
necessary and the cost of your 
trip IS a tax-deductible 
contribution. Call today. 
It's your move. 


a nonprofit organization ap.'^jath 





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ir^r^COl^iV 800-207-5454 

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Vacation deep in 
tne heart or Florida. 

Lakeland, located in the middle or Central 
Florida, has everything you look lor in a 
Florida vacation. More than one hundred 
lakes. Legendar^' bass rishing. ^'atersports. 60 
.\jitiques District shops and dealers. Detroit 
Tigers Spring Trainino, Minor league haseball. 
Great museums, exhibits and restivals.The 
largest sinigle collection or Frank Llovd ^'^ri^ht 
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A FL 33802-3607 


A Country of Extraordinary Beauty 

Picture white-washed villages nestled 
high on a mountainside where the 
narrow, winding streets are lined with 
flower-decked balconies. Collette 
Tours combines the Greek Islands with 
4-night Aegean cruise 
for the best of both 
For information and free brochures, call 

1-800-248-8986, Ext. 7098 

Call your travel agent for reservations, 

CSTS^6766-20 ^g^ a 

Missouri River 
Petting Zoo. 

Wildlife larger than life, and a 

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Inquire about our free coupon book. 


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Call or write for the Lakes Region 

vacation information packet. It includes 

the "Where To..." guide with lodging, 

dining, camping, rentals, boating & 

fishing details and maps. 

Phone: I -800-60-LAKES 


Web site: 

Lakes Region Association 

PC Box 589 
Center Harbor, NH 03226 


The road U^d traveled. 

Dif liistory of The Outer Banks is ridh andjasmating - 

as is the expaiavx ofkarmng it So come to The Outer 

Banks ths spring. Thews ne\-cr been a better lime. 

The Outer Banks 

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i"roni ~no\v-co\'erea pealc? to 
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Lo visit Grand Teton National Parle. 
And JacKson Lake Lodge is one or 
tne most spectacular places to stay in 
tne parlc. For reservations or a tree 
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Careers. Professional level home study for concerned 
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Employment Opportunities 

EASY WORK! EXCELLENT PAY! Assemble products 
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Environmental & natural resource vacancies from non- 
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Natural History APRIL 98 Page 71 

COSTA RICA, KENYA, Tanzania, Ecuador, 
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GALAPAGOS. Specializing in comprehensive, pro- 
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GREENVOLUNTEERS Worldwide Guide to 
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Rates and Style Information 

$4.20 per word: 16 word minimum. Display classi- 
fied is $455 per inch. Advertisements must be pre- 
paid. Rates are not structured for agency or cash dis- 
counts. Ads are accepted at Natural History's 
discretion. Send check or monev order to: The 
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dress, or call 212-769- 5500. Please include your per- 
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and suggested category. Deadline-lst of the month, 
two months prior to cover date. 

Woman sellijig meat, San Bias Altempa, Mexico 

Hronn Axelsdottir 

7i2 Universe 

Natural History 4/98 

By Neil deGrasse Tyson 

In ancient days two auiators procured to 
themselves iimigs. Daedalus flew safely 
through the middle air, and was duly 
honoured in his landing. Icarus soared 
upwards to the sun till the wax melted 
which hound his wings, and his flight 
ended in a fiasco. In weighing their 
achievements perhaps there is something to 
be said for Icams. Tlie classic authorities tell 
us, of course, that he was only "doing a 
stunt"; but I prefer to think of him as the 
man who certainly brought to light a 
serious constructional dfect in the flying- 
machines of his day [and] we may at 
least hope to learn from his journey 
some hints to build a better machine. 
Arthur Eddington 
Stars and Atoms [1921) 

For millennia, the idea of being 
able to fly occupied human 
dreams and fantasies. Waddling 
around on Earth's surface as ma- 
jestic birds flew overhead, per- 
haps we developed a form of 
wnng envy One might even call 
it wing worship. 

You needn't look far for evi- 
dence. For most of the history of 
broadcast television in America, 
when a station signed ofl^ for the 
night, it didn't show somebody walk- 
ing erect and bidding farewell; it instead 
would play the "Star Spangled Banner" 
and show things that fly, such as soaring 
birds or some Air Force jets whooshing 
by. The United States even adopted a fly- 
ing predator as a synnbol of its strength — 
the bald eagle appears on the back of the 
doUar bUl, the quarter, the Kennedy half 
dollar, the Eisenhower doUar. and the 

Susan B. Anthony dollar. There's also one 
on the floor of the Oval Oflice in the 
White House. Our most famous super- 
hero. Superman, can fly upon donning 
blue panty hose and a red cape. When 
you die, if you qualify, you just might be- 
come an angel — and everybody knows 
that angels (at least the ones who have 
earned their wings) can fly. Then there 
are the wdnged horse, Pegasus; the wing- 
footed Mercury; the aerodynainically un- 
likely Cupid; and Peter Pan and his 
fairy sidekick, Tinkerbell. 

Our inabOiD,' to fly 
often goes un- 
noticed in 

book comparisons of human feature 
with those of other species in the anima 
kingdom. Yet we are quick to use tht 
word "flightless" as a synonym for "hap- 
less" when describing such birds as tht 
dodo and the booby, which tend to fmc 
themselves on the wrong end ot evolu 
tionary jokes. We did, however, ulti- 
mately learn to fly because ot the techno 
logical ingenuity afforded by our humai 
brains. And of course, while birds can fl-y 
they are nonetheless stucl 
with bird brains 
But thi 

Robert Grossman 


aggrandizing line of reasoning is some- 
wiiat flawed because it ignores all the years 
before we had figured out how to fly. 

I remember as a student in ju- 
nior high school reading an 
essay, published at the turn 
of the century, that ar- 
gued the impossibility of 
self-propelled flight by 
any device that was 
heavier than air. This 
was clearly a myopic 
prediction, but one 
needn't have waited for 
the first airplanes to be 
invented to refute the 
essay's premise. One only 
needed to look at birds, 
;, which have no trouble flying 
:i and, last I checked, are aU heavier 
than air. If something is not forbidden by 
the laws of physics, then it is, in prin- 
ciple, possible, regardless of the hmits 
of one's technological foresight. The 
speed of sound in air ranges from 
about 700 to 800 miles per hour, 
depending on the atmospheric 
temperature. No law of physics 
prevents objects from going 
faster than Mach 1, the speed 
of sound. But before the 
sound "barrier" was broken in 
1947 by Charles E. "Chuck" 
Yeager, piloting the Bell X-1 
(a U.S. Army rocket plane), 
much claptrap was written 
about the impossibility of ob- 
jects moving faster than the 
speed of sound. Meanwhile, 
buUets fired by high-powered ri- 
fles had been breaking the sound 
barrier for more than a century. 
And the crack of a whip or the 
sound of a wet towel snapping at 
I somebody's rear end m the locker 
room is the mini sonic boom created by 
: the end of the whip or the tip of the 
; towel moving through the air faster than 
} the speed of sound. Any limits to break- 
ing the sound barrier were purely psy- 
chological and technological. 

The fastest winaied aircraft is incon- 

afflicted with a 

case of wing en 

human beings 

eventually flew — and 

even went 


testably the Space Shutde, which, when 
descending from orbit, slows down from 
speeds in excess of Mach 20. 
Although we have other 
craft that routinely 
travel many times 
faster than the 
speed of sound, 
you can never 
travel faster than 
the speed of 
light. I speak 
not from a 
naivete about 
technology's fu- 
ture but from a 
platform built upon 
the laws of physics, 
which apply on Earth as 
they do in the heavens. The 
Apollo astronauts who went to the Moon 
are credited with attaining the fastest 
speeds at which humans have ever flown: 
about seven miles per second at the end 
of the rocket burn that lifted their craft 
beyond Earth's orbit. This is a paltry 
1/250 of one percent of the speed of 
light. Actually, the real problem is not the 
moat that separates these two speeds but 
the laws of physics that prevent any object 
from ever achieving the speed of light, no 
matter how inventive your technology. 
The sound barrier and the hght barrier 
are not equivalent limits on invention. 

The Wright brothers of Ohio are, of 
course, generally credited with being 
"first m flight" at Kitty Hawk, North 
Carolina, as that state's chosen license 
plate slogan reminds us. But this claim 
needs to be further delineated. Wilbur 
and OrviUe Wright were the first to fly a 
heavier-than-air, engine-powered vehicle 
that carried a human being — OrviUe, in 
this case — and that did not land at a lower 
elevation than its takeoif point. Previ- 
ously, people had flown in balloon gon- 
dolas and in gliders and had executed 
controlled descents from clitTsides, but 
none of these eflbrts would make a bird 
jealous. Actually, Wilbur and Orville's 
first trip would not have turned bird 
heads either. At 10:35 A.M. eastern time 

on that historic day, December 17, 1903, 
the first of their four flights lasted twelve 
seconds, at an average speed of 6.8 miles 
per hour against a 30-mile-per-hour 

The Wright Flyer, as it was called, had 
traveled 120 feet, a Utde more than the 
length of one wing on a Boeing 747 
jumbo jet. Even after the Wright brothers 
went public with their achievement, the 
media took only intermittent norice of it 
or other aviation firsts. As late at 1933 — 
six years after Lindbergh's historic solo 
flight across the Atlantic — H. Gordon 
Garbedian ignored airplanes in the other- 
wise prescient introduction to his book 
Major Mysteries of Science: 

Present day life is dominated by science as 
never before. You pick up a telephone and 
within a few minutes you are talking iinth 
a friend in Paris. You can travel under sea 
in a submarine, or circumnavigate the globe 
by air in a Zeppelin. Tlie radio carries 
your voice to all parts of the earth ii'itli the 
speed of light. Soon, television will enable 
you to see the world's greatest spectacles as 
you sit in the comfort of your living room. 

But some journahsts did pay attention 
to the way flight might change civiliza- 
tion. After the Frenchman Louis Bleriot 
crossed the Enghsh Channel from Calais 
to Dover on July 25, 1909, an article on 
page three of the New York Times was 
headlined "Frenchman Proves Aeroplane 
No Toy." The article went on to obser\'e 
England's reaction to the event: 

Editorials in the London newspapers 
buzzed about the nciv world where Great 
Britain 's insular strength is no longer 
unchallenged; that the aeroplane is not a 
toy but a possible instrtmient of warfare, 
which must be taken into account by 
soldiers ami statesmen, and that it was the 
one thing needed to wake up the English 
people to the importance of the science of 

The guy was right. Thirt\-fi\'e years later, 
not only had airplanes been used as fight- 

74 Universe 

J^Nqturaj History; 4/98 


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ers and bombers in warfare but the Ger- 
mans had taken the concept a notch fur- 
ther and invented the V-2 to attack Lon- 
don. This vehicle was significant in many 
ways. First, it was not an airplane; it was 
an unprecedentedly large missile. Second, 
It could be launched like a rocket several 
hundred miles away firom its target. Third, 
Its modern-looking, pointy, bullet-shaped 
body with large fins at the base influenced 
an entire generation of images in science 
fiction stories of space travel. And lastly, 
for its entire airborne journey after 
launch, it moved under the influence of 
gravity alone; in other words, it was a sub- 
orbital ballistic missile, the fastest 
•way to deliver a bomb from 
one location on Earth to 
another. Cold War 
"advances" in the 
design of ballistic 
missiles enabled 
military powers to 
target cities on 
opposite sides of 
the world. Flight 
time? About half 
an hour. 

Colloquial usage 
of the term notwith- 
standing, if something 
"goes ballistic," its trajectory 
is no longer controlled by rockets 
or fms or wings, although fins can add 
stabUity to its flight. Where it goes (and 
where it lands) is controlled by the laws of 
gravity. AH falling objects, all satellites (in- 
cluding the Hubble Space Telescope), and 
all interplanetary spacecraft "go ballistic" 
after they are launched. 

While we can say they're traveling bal- 
listically, do we have the right to declare 
missiles to be flying? Are falling objects in 
flight? Is Earth "flying" in orbit around 
the Sun? By Wright brothers' rules, a 
person must be onboard the craft, and it 
must move under its own power. But no 
rule says that we cannot change the rules. 
If flight includes space travel, then the sky 
is the Unlit. 

Knowing that orbital technology was 
within reach with the V-2 rocket, some 

people were getting impatient. An article 
dated March 22, 1952, and entitled 
"What Are We Waiting For?" was writ- 
ten by the editors of Collier's, a popular, 
family-oriented magazine. The article 
was conceived and written after two Col- 
lier's journalists visited New York City's 
Hayden Planetarium on Columbus Day, 
1951, for a seminal "Space Travel Sympo- 
sium" attended by engineers, scientists, 
and other visionaries. The Collier's editors 
endorsed the need for and value of a 
space station that would serve as a watch- 
ful eye over a divided vv^orld: 



humans were the 

Apollo 13 astronauts, 

who went about 

245,000 miles 

"above" Earth, 

//) the hands of the West a space 

station, permanently established 
beyond the atmosphere, 
would be the greatest hope 
for peace the ivorld has 
ever known. No 
nation could 

preparations for war 
without the certain 
knowledge that it 
ivas being observed by 
the ever-watching eyes 
aboard the "sentinel in 
space. " It would be the 
end of the Iron Curtains 
wherever they may be. 

We Americans didn't build a space sta- 
tion; we went to the Moon. With this ef- 
fort, our wing worship continued. Never 
mind that on the airless Moon, where 
wings are completely useless, our astro- 
nauts landed in a spacecraft named after a 
bird. A mere sixty-five years, seven 
months, three days, five hours, and forty- 
three minutes after Orville left the 
ground, Neil Armstrong gave his first 
statement from the Moon's surface: 
"Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The 
Eagle has landed." 

The human record for "altitude" does 
not go to anybody for having walked on 
the Moon. It goes to the astronauts of the 
ill-fated Apollo 13. Knowing that they 
could not land on the Moon after the ex- 
plosion in their ox'ygen tank, and know- 

ing that they did not have enough fuel to 
stop, slow down, and head back, they ex- 
ecuted a single figure-8 ballistic trajectory 
around the Moon, swinging them back 
toward Earth. And the Moon just hap- 
pened to be near apogee, its farthest point 
from Earth in its oval-shaped elliptical 
orbit. No other Apollo mission (before or 
after) went to the Moon during apogee; 
this granted the Apollo 13 astronauts the 
human altitude record. After I had calcu- 
lated that they must have reached about 
245,000 miles "above" Earth's surface, in- 
cluding the orbital distance from the 
Moon's sui-f;ice, I asked Apollo 13 com- 
mander Jmi Lovell, when he was visiting 

ithe Museum recently, "Who was on the 
far side of the command module as it 
rounded the Moon? That single person 

.would hold the altitude record." He re- 

i.fused to tell. 

|i In my opinion, the greatest achieve- 
ment of flight was not Wilbur and 

iOrville's airplane, nor Chuck Yeager's 
breaking of the sound barrier, nor the 
Apollo 1 1 lunar landing. For me, it was 
the launch of Voyager 2, which ballistically 
toured the solar system's outer planets. 
During the flybys, the spacecraft's shng- 
shot trajectories stole a little ofjupiter and 
Saturn's orbital energy for its rapid exit 
from the solar system. Upon passing 
Jupiter in 1979, Voyagers speed exceeded 
40,000 mUes per hour, sufficient to es- 
cape the gravitational attraction of even 
the Sun. Voyager passed the orbit of Pluto 
in 1993 and has now entered the realm of 
interstellar space. Nobody happens to be 
onboard the craft, but a gold phonograph 
record is attached to its side. It is etched 
\\'ith the earthly sounds of, among many 
ithings, the human heartbeat. So with our 
heart, if not our souls, we continue to fly 
farther than ever before. 

Neil de Grasse Tyson, an astrophysicist, is the 
Frederick P. Rose Director of New York City's 
Haydeti Planctariiiiii and is a Visiting Re- 
search Scientist at Princeton Uniivrsity. He re- 
cently contributed a chapter entitled "Paths of 
Discovery" to The Columbia History of 
the 20th Century (1998). 

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Natural History 4/98 


#'1 ' 


Prairie Chicken 

This Land/Upper Midwest 

Land of the Giants 

Photographs by Jeff Jacobson Story by Marnie Andrews 

Near dusk, under a dark, foreboding sky, we caught sight of the Worlds 

, ; Largest Prairie Chicken off the expressway in Rothsay, Minnesota. 

Frozen in niidniating ritual, his air sacs puffed up, his feariiers spread. 

the twenty-two-year-old game fowl stands eternally "booming" for 

the benefit of passersby. And while just the sight of this gargantuan 

grouse would have made the trip worthwhile, our pilgrimage thus far 

■ had already taken us to Audubon, Iowa, home of Albert, Worlds 

Largest Bull; to Neillsville, Wisconsin, to hear Chatty Belle. Worlds 

Largest Tlilking Cow; and to Fennimore, Wisconsin, to view Igor the 

Rat. The upper midwestern United States teems with giant hoofed. 

clawed, and finned animals — all inanimate. If dinosaurs had not actually 

roamed the earth, the proprietors of these roadside attractions \\ould 

most likely have invented them too, along with the World's Largest 

Buffalo in Jamestown, North Dakota, and the World's Largest Pelican in 

Pelican Rapids. Minnesota. 

"When my husband, photographer Jeff Jacobson, and I first heard of 

. these monumental creations, we thought of die Lascau.x cave in 

Dordogne, France, where, 17,000 years ago, humans painted deer. 

horses, oxen, and aurochs on the walls. We thought of the 

mound builders of the Ohio River Valley of .SOO B.c:.. 

who sculpted a giant egg-swallowing serpent into the 

landscape. But nothing had prepared us for die sight 

of the World's Largest Pheasant, in Huron. South 

Dakota, perched on an abandoned liquor store 

next to a bowlinir allev. Will archeoloirists 

before twentieth-century 

behemoths, trying to imagine the 

impulses that inspired them?-- 

While we could understand the Giant 

Black ]")uck in Blackduck, Minnesota, 

*■ why does Ffa.zte- have the World's Largest 

' . Turke)^ Why, tlie World's Largest Floating 

- •'.;■■' Loon in Virginia, Minnesota (not to be 

conflised with the World's Largest Talking 

)' 'j • LoWn in Mercer.- Wisconsin, which, sadly, has 

■. ' been silenced by \andal,s)? The World's Largest 

Muskie at die National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame 

in H;iyward. Wisconsin, was. we decided, like the deer at 

Lascaux. sxinbolic of the importance of this wild game to the 

residents of the region. Or, since one could actually climb up into 

the fish's mouth, perhaps it was a post from which to look out at the 

flat, surroundinii landscape (not an issue in Nevis. Minnesota. 


Natural History 4/98 

where the World's Largest Tiger Miiskie had a ''Keep Out" sign 
wedged into its giant jaw). 

The pilgrims that we met along the way gave us little help. Did 
they think the animal sculptures were rooted in ancient 
Scandina^■ian m\-tholog\^^ — ^reflecting the culmre of those who 
setded the Upper IVIidwest? Or did they think the species depicted 
were those most important to the well-being of the population? 
Most people seemed uninterested in h\-pothesizing and were 
content just to stop (""We were bored," said one) and pose in front 
of a giant inanimate animal, speedily snap their photographs, and be 
on their \\-av. 

Guide to Midwestern Megafauna 

Height Length Weight Composition 
Prairie Chicken 13 feet 18 feet 4.5 tons Concrete 

"Badger 35 feet 16 feet 3.5 tons Concrete 

Turkey 22 feet 18 feet 2 tons Cardboard/rubber coating 

Fiazee, Mnmesota 

Muskie 48 feet 143 feet 250 tons Concrete/fiberglass 

Block Duck 9 feet 9 feet 2 tons Concretaiiberglass 

l^at 12 feet 8 feet 0.5 tons Rbergloss 

Buffalo 26 feet 46 feet 60 tons Concrete 

lamesiamL ^3OTdl Dakota 

*QQ5ed to die puHic 


Natural History 4/98 

Celestial Events 




By Joe Rao 

Venus, a brilliant beacon in 
the eastern sk)' since mid- 
January, rises one and a half to 
two hours before sunrise this 
month. Jupiter, which 
emerged from the bright 
morning twUight in March, is 
now about 1 8° to the lower 
left of Venus and rises about 
an hour before the Sun. 
During much of April, these 
celestial bodies — the two 
brightest planets to the naked 
eye — wHl approach each other 
in the predawn sk\'. The 
spectacle will begin on April 
22 and cHmax on the morning 
of the 23d, when the crescent 
Moon joins this planetary' duo 
in an eye-catching 

Venus and Jupiter appear 
brilliant because their thick, 
cloudy amiospheres reflect 
sunlight. At magnitude —2.1, 
Jupiter is twice as bright as 
Sirius, the brightest star in the 
sks-. But Jupiter pales in 
comparison ^^'ith Venus, 
which, at magnitude -4.2, is 
about seven times brighter. 

The planets wiU be 
separated by just half a degree 
on both mornings, but their 
positions relative to each other 
change noticeably. On the 
morning of the 22d, Jupiter is 
to the lower left of Venus; the 

following morning, it wiE 
have switched to Venuss lower 
right, and the crescent Moon 
will then be 1.5° to the lower 
left of both planets. Look for 
this three-way formation low 
toward the east-southeast at 
5:00 A.M. local time. Although 
they are. of course, nowhere 
near each other in space, fi-om 
our vantage point these 
celestial bodies appear to be in 
the same plane. The Moon is 
the closest to Earth (225,300 
miles away on the 23d). 
followed by Venus at 82.4 
rrdllion irdles, and Jupiter at 
525.8 million. 

The angle of reflected 
sunlight on the trio also varies, 
making the Moon appear to 
be crescent-shaped, Venus to 
be in a gibbous phase, and 
Jupiter fully illuminated (see 

The Sky in April 

ISSJSSn IS at inferior 
conjunction — passing between 
the Earth and Sun — on the 
6th. As such, it is imisible 
through much of April. 

li'ifilKi approaches solar 
conjunction next month and 
is invisible. 

fcinilllil is in conjunction 
wth the Sun on the 13th and 
cannot be seen this month. 

■liiai'jMiliJ IS at first quarter 

on die 3rd at 3:18 P..M., EST. 
Full Moon is on the 11th at 
6:23 P.M., EDT. Last quarter is 
on the 19th at 3:52 P.M., EDT, 
and the New Moon occurs on 
the 26th at 7:41 A..M., EDT. 

Venus, Jupiter, and a crescent 
Moon line up (see inset) in a rare 

In an extremely rare event, 
on the morning of the 23d, 
obser\'ers in eastern Brazil and 
southwestern Africa (and in 
the ocean in between) will see 
the Moon appear to briefly 
occult (or hide) both planets 
from \-iew simultaneously. An 
occultation of either Venus or 
Jupiter from a specified 
location occurs on an average 
of once every twent\' to 
twenty-five years. The 
simultaneous occultation of 
both planets happens 
only once in many hundreds 
of years. 

Joe Rao is a lecturer at the 
American Musewn— Hoyden 

iJtIJIAf-J/Aia A fat crescent 
Moon should be only a minor 
obstacle to \'iewing the annual 
Lyrid meteor shower, which 
peaks just before sunrise on 
the 22d. Appearing to 
emanate from the vicinity of 
the brilliant blue-white star 
Vega in Lyra, the meteors are 
directly overhead at about 
4:00 A.M. local daylight time. 
While not numerous 
(generally only ten to fifteen 
meteors appear per hour), 
Lyrids usually appear as bright 
swift streaks of light. 

"Sorina Aiieod on Aoril 5 

For most parts of die countr)', 
daylight sa\Tng time returns at 
2:00 A.M. local time on the 
first Sunday in April. Move 
clocks forward one hour. 




e r s 


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Natural History 4/9S 

(Continued Jrom page 21} 
Beringer's Liioensteine, and I present on 
these pages a visual comparison of the 
two sets of fakes, separated by 250 years 
and a different process of manufacture 
(car\'ed in Germany versus cast in Mo- 
rocco). I only wonder if the proprietor 
beUeved my assurances, rendered in my 
best commercial French, that I was a pro- 
fessional paleontologist and that his w'ares 
were faux, absolument et sans doiite — or if 
he thought that I had just de\'ised a bar- 
gaining tactic more clever than most. 

But an odd similarity" across disparate 
cultures and centuries doesn't make an 

The "K'ing 

stones" of 1726 

depicted spiders 

^^ith their \vebs, 

bees feeding on 

floAvers, and even 

the Hebrew 

name of God. 

essay. I only extracted sufficient generality 
when I realized that this maximal likeness 
in appearance correlates ^ith a difference 
in meaning that couldnt be more pro- 
found. A p rimar y strategy of the experi- 
mental method in science works by a 
principle known since Roman times as 
ceteris paribus ("all other things being 
equal") — that is, if you wish to understand 
a controlling difference betw"een tv\-o sys- 
tems, keep all other features constant, for 
the difference may then be attributed to 
the only tactor that you have allowed to 
var\-. If, for example, you wish to test the 
effect of a new diet pill, oy to establish 
two matched groups — folks of the same 
age, sex, weight, nutrition, health, habits, 
ethnicitx; and so on. Then give the piU to 
one group and a placebo to the other 

(without telling the subjects what they 
have received, for such knowledge would, 
in itself, establish inequalit^' based on dif- 
fering psychological expectations). The 
technique, needless to say, cannot be per- 
fect (for true ceteris paribus can never be 
obtained), but if the piU group loses a lot 
of weight and the placebo group stays the 
same, you may conclude that the piU 
probably works as hoped. 

Ceteris paribus may be a far more dis- 
tant pipe dream in trving to understand 
two different contexts in the developing 
histo^^• of a profession, for we are now 
not manipulating a situation ot our o\\ti 
design, but rather smd^ing past circum- 
stances in complex cultures that cannot 
be regulated by our experimental ideals at 
all. But any constancy between the tv\-o 
contexts increases the hope of illustrating 
and understanding their differences in the 
foUovving special way: if we directly ex- 
amine the disparate treatment of the same 
object in two cultures, worlds apart, then 
at least we learn that such disparities arise 
from the cultural differences, for the ob- 
jects treated do not van,^. 

The effectively identical Uigeiisteine of 
early-eighteenth-cenmr\' Wiirzburg and 
modern Marrakech embody such an in- 
teresting difference in proposed meaning 
and effecth'e treatment by two cultures — 
and I am not sure that we should be 
happy about the contrast. But we must 
first correct the legend of Beringer and 
the original Liioensteine if we wsh to 
grasp the essential difference. As so often 
happens in the construction of canonical 
legends for moral purposes of a later age. 
the standard tale either distorts or mis- 
takes nearly every important detail of 
Beringer's sad story. (I obtained my infor- 
mation primarily from an excellent book 
published in 1963 by Mehin E. Jahn and 
Daniel J. Woolf, TIk Lying Stones of Dr. 
Beringer. Jahn and Woolf provide a com- 
plete translation of Beringer's volume, 
along with incisive and extensive com- 
mentary about the paleontology of 
Beringer's time. I used original sources 
from my own hbran,' for all quotations 
not from Beringer in this essay.) 

First of all, on personal issues not di- 
recdy relevant to the theme of this essav 
Beringer was not tricked by a harmles: 
student prank but rather purposely de 
fiauded by two colleagues who hated hi 
dismissive pomposity- and wished to brint 
him dowTi. These colleagues — -J. Ignati 
Roderick, professor of geography and al 
gebra at the Universit>' of Wiirzburg, anc 
Georg von Eckhart, Hbrarian to the cour 
and the university — ^had the stones carvec 
(or. in Roderick's case, probably die 
much of the carving himself) and ther 
hired a seventeen-year-old boy, Christiar 
Zanger (who may also have helped witl 

niiisTration ti'oni Johanii Beringer's 
Lithographiae Wirceburgensis 

the carving), to plant them on the moun 
tain. Zanger, a double agent of sorts, wa 
then hired by Beringer (along with tw 
other boys, both apparendy innocent o 
the fraud) to excavate and collect thi 

This information comes from incom 
plete and somewhat contradictory- record 
of hearings held in April 1726 before th 
Wiirzburg Cathedral Chapter at the Cir 
HaU of Eivelstadt (the site of Beringer 
mountain just outside Wiirzburg). Thes( 
records, discovered by the Germai 
scholar Heinrich Kfrchner in 1935 in th: 
state archives of Wiirzburg, focus on thi 
testimony of the three boys. Zanger, thi 
double agent, states that Roderick hai 
devised the scheme because he "wishec 
to accuse Dr. Beringer . . . becausi 
Beringer was so arrogant and despisec 
them all." I was also impressed by the tes 



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84 This View of Life 

Natural Histpry 4/98 

tiniony of the boys hired by Beringer. 
Their innocence seems clear in the won- 
derfully ingenuous statement of Nicklaus 
Hahn that if he and his brother "could 
make such stones, they wouldn't be mere 

The canonical tale may require 
Beringer's ruin to convey the desired 
moral, but the tacts argue differently. I do 
not doubt that the doctor was painfully 
embarrassed, even mortified, but he evi- 
dently recovered, kept his job and titles, 
Hved for another fourteen years, and pub- 
lished several more books (including, al- 
though probably not by his design or will, 
a posthumous second edition of his Litho- 
graphiae Wirceburgensis). Eckhart and 
Roderick, on the other hand, were dis- 
graced. Eckhart died soon thereafter, and 
Roderick, having left Wiirzburg (volun- 
tarily or not we do not know), then 
wrote a humbling letter to the 
prince-bishop begging permis- 
sion to return — which His Grace 
allowed after due rebuke for 
Roderick's past deeds — and to 
regain access to the hbrary and 
archives so that he could write a 
proper obituary for his deceased 
friend Eckhart. 

But on the central intellectual 
theme of Beringer's significance 
in the history of paleontology, a 
different kind of correction in- 
verts the conventional story in a 
more meaningful way. The usual card- 
board tale of progressive science tri- 
umphant over past ignorance requires that 
benighted "bad guys" — who upheld the 
old ways of theological superstition 
against the plainly obvious and observa- 
tional truths of advancing science — be 
branded as both foolish and stubbornly 
unwilling to face nature's empirical factu- 
ality. Since Beringer falls into this cate- 
gory of old and bad, we want to see him 
as hopelessly duped by preposterous fakes 
that any good observer should have rec- 
ognized — hence the emphasis, in the 
canonical story, on Beringer's mortifica- 
tion and on the ridiculous character of 
the Liigensteine themselves. 

The Wiirzburg carvings are, of course, 
absurd by modern definitions and under- 
standing of fossQs. We know that spiders' 
webs and lizards' eyes — not to mention 
solar rays and the Hebrew name of 
God — cannot fossilize, so the Lugensteine 
can only be human carvings. We laugh at 
Beringer for not making an identification 
that seems so ob\dous to us. But, in so 
doing, we commit the greatest of aU his- 
torical errors by arrogantly judging our 
forebears in the light of modern knowl- 
edge perforce unavailable to them. Of 
course, the LUgensteine are preposterous 
once we recognize fossils as preserved re- 
mains of past organisms. By this criterion, 
letters and solar emanations cannot be real 
fossils, and anyone who unites such ob- 
jects with plausible images of organisms 
can only be a fool. 

But when we enter Beringer's early- 




I I 



ill a 


From Lithographiae Wirceburgensis, 1 72 1 im 



eighteenth-century world of geological 
understanding, his interpretations, how- k, i 
ever improbable (and however tragically imioro 
misguided), do not seem so absurd. First Hdece 
of all, Beringer was puzzled by the y 
unique character of his LUgensteine andiirtf 
adopted no dogmatic position about|«l 
their nature. He did regard them as nat 
ural and not carved (a portentous error, ten ft 
of course), but he demurred on further | sntj 
judgment and repeatedly stated that he 'n 
had chosen to publish in order to pro- i kith 
vide information so that others might ii 
better debate the nature of fossils — a tac- 
tic that scientists supposedly value. The 
closing words of his penultimate chapter i ligm 
may be a tad grandiose and self-serving, | fcv,|. 



Dut shall we not praise the sentiment of 

/ liiu'c ii'iIHiii^Iy submitted my plates to the 
scriitiiiy of wise men, desiring to learn their 
verdict, rather than to proclaim my own in 
this totally new and mnch mooted question. 
I address myself to scholars, hoping to be 
instructed by their most learned responses. 
. . . It is my fervent expectation that 
ilhistrions lithographers will shed light upon 
this dispute which is as obscure as it is 
umisnal. I shall add thereto my own 
humble torch, nor shall I spare any effort to 
reveal and declare whatever future yields 
may rise from the Wiirzburg field under 
the continuous labors of my workers, and 
whatever opinion my miud may embrace. 

More importantly, Beringer's hoaxers 
lad not crafted preposterous objects but 

w/;; a Moroccan rock shop, 1998 

lad cleverly contrived — for their pur- 
poses, remember, were venomous, not 
lumorous — a fraud that might fool a man 
if decent will and reasonable intelligence 
>Y the standards of interpretation then 
iurrent. Beringer wrote his treatise at the 
ail end of a debate that had engulfed sev- 
inteenth-century science and had still not 
'Cen fully resolved. What did fossOs rep- 
esent and what did they teach us about 
rie age of the earth, the nature of our 
lanet's history, and the meaning and def- 
nition of life? 

Beringer regarded the Litgensteine as 
natural," but not necessarily as organic in 
irigin. In the great debate that Beringer 
new and documented so well, many sci- 

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Natural History 4/98 

enrists viewed fossils as inorganic products 
of the mineral reabn chat somehow mim- 
icked the forms of organisms (but might 
also take the shapes of other objects, even 
including planets and letters — thus mak- 
ing the Liigenstciiie not preposterous 
prima facie). This debate could not have 
engaged broader or more crucial issues 
for the developing sciences of geology 
and biology — for if fossils are remains of 
organisms, then the earth must be an- 
cient, life must enjoy a long history of 
consistent change, and rocks must form 
from the deposition and hardening ot 
sediments. But if fossils can be inorganic 
results of a "plastic power" in the mineral 
kingdom (that can fashion other interest- 
ing shapes like crystals, stalactites, and 
banded agates in different circumstances), 
then the earth may be young and virtually 
unchanged (except tor the ravages of 
Noah's Flood), while rocks, with their 
enclosed fossils, may be products of the 
original Creation, not historical results of 
altered sediments. 

If pictures of planets and Hebrew let- 
ters could be "fossils" made in the same 
way as apparent organisms, then the inor- 
ganic theory gains strong support, for a 
fossilized aleph or moonbeam could not 
be construed as a natural object deposited 
in a streambed and then fossiUzed when 
the surrounding sediment became buried 
and petrified. The inorganic theory' had 
been fading in Beringer's time, while the 
organic alternarive gained continually in 
support. But the inorganic view remained 
plausible, and the Liigeiisteine therefore 
become clever and diabolical, not prepos- 
terous and comical. 

In Beringer's day, theories of sponta- 
neous generation remained popular for 
explaining the origin of life; if simple or- 
ganisms can arise by the influence of sun- 
shine upon waters or heat upon decaying 
flesh, why not conjecture that simple im- 
ages of objects might form upon rocks by 
natural interacrions of hght or heat upon 
inherent "lapidifsang forces" of the min- 
eral kingdom? Consider, moreover, how 
puzzHng the image of a fish inside a rock 
must have appeared to people who re- 

garded rocks as products of an original 
creation, not as historical outcomes of 
sedimentation. How could an organism 
get inside? And how could fossils be or- 
ganisms if they frequently occur petrified, 
or made of the same stone as their sur- 
roundings? We now have simple and "ob- 
vious" answers to these questions, but 
Beringer and his colleagues still struggled, 
and any sympathetic understanding of 
early-eighteenth-century contexts should 
help us to grasp the centrahty and excite- 
ment of these debates and to understand 
the Ltigcnstcine as legitimately puzzling. 

I do not, however, wish to absoh-e 
Beringer of all blame under an indefensi- 
bly pluralistic doctrine that all plausible 
explanations of past times may claim the 
same weight of judicious argument. The 
Liigeiisteine may not have been absurd, but 
Beringer had also encountered enough 
clues to uncover the hoax and a\-oid em- 
barrassment. However, for several reasons 
involving flaws of character and passable 
intelligence short ot true brilliance, 
Beringer forged on, finally allowing his 
judgment to be canceled by his desire to 
be recognized and honored for a great 
discovery that had assumed so much of 
his time and expense. How could he re 
linquish the tame he could almost taste 
when he wrote: 

Behold these tablets, which I was inspired 
to edit, not only by my tireless zeal for 
public service, and by your wishes and 
those of my many friends, and by my 
strong filial hue for Franconia, to which, 
from these figured fruits oj this previously 
obscure mountain, no less gloiy will accrue 
than from the delicious wines of its vine- 
covered hills. 

I am no fan of Dr. Beringer's. He strike; 
me, first of aU, as an insufferable pedant— 
so I can understand his colleagues' frus- 
tration, while not condoning their solu- 
tions. (I pride myself on always quoting 
from original sources, and I do own s 
copy of Beringer's treatise. I am no Latin 
scholar, but I can read and translate mosi 
works m this universal scientific language 


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88 This View of Life 

Natural History 4/98 

of Beringer's time. But I cannot make 
heacis or tails of the convoluted phrasings, 
the invented polysyllabic words, the ab- 
surdly twisted sentences of Beringer's 
prose, and I have had to rely on Jahn and 
Woolf's translation, previously cited.) 

Moreover, Beringer saw and reported 
more than enough evidence to uncover 
the hoax, had he been inclined to greater 
judiciousness. He noted that his Lii^en- 
stcine bore no relationship to any other 
objects known to the burgeoning science 
of paleontology, not even to the numer- 
ous "real" fossils also found on his moun- 
tain. But instead of alerting liim to pos- 
sible fraud, these differences only flieled 
Beringer's hopes tor fame. He made 
many observations that should have clued 
him in to the artificial carving of his fos- 
sils: Why were they nearly always com- 
plete, and not usually fragmentary like 
most other finds? Why did each object 
seem to fit so snugly and firmly on the 
enclosing rock? Why did only the top 
sides protrude, while the lower parts 
merged with the underlying rock? Why 
had letters and sunbeams not been found 
before? Why did nearly all fossils appear 
in the same orientation, splayed out and 
viewed from the top, never from the side 
or bottom? Beringer's own words almost 
shout out the obvious and correct con- 
clusion that he couldn't abide or even dis- 
cern: "The figures expressed on these 
stones, especially those of insects, are so 
exactly fitted to the dimensions of the 
stones, that one would swear that they are 
the work of a very meticulous sculptor." 

Beringer's arrogance brought him 
down in a much more direct manner as 
•well. When Eckhart and Roderick 
learned that Beringer planned to publish 
his work, they realized that they had gone 
too far and became frightened. They 
tried to warn Beringer, by hints at first, 
but later quite directly as their anxiet}' in- 
creased. Roderick even delivered some 
stones to Beringer and later showed his 
rival how they had been carved — hoping 
that Beringer would then draw an obvi- 
ous inference about the rest of his identi- 
cal collection. 

Beringer, however, was now commit- 
ted and would not be derailed. He replied 
with the argument of all true believers, 
the unshakable faith that resists all reason 
and evidence: yes, you have proved that 
these psychics are frauds, but my psychics 
are the real McCoy, and I must defend 
them even more strongly now that you 
have heaped unfair calumnies upon the 
entire enterprise. Beringer never men- 
tions Eckhart and Roderick by name (so 
their unveiling awaited the 1934 discov- 
ery in the Wiirzburg town archives), but 
he had been forewarned of their activities. 
Beringer wrote in chapter 12 of his book: 

Then, when I had all but completed my 
ii'ork, I caught the rumor cucidatmg 
throughout the city . . . that every one of 
these stones . . . was recently sadpted by 
hand, made to look as though at different 
periods they had been resurrected from a 
very old burial, and sold to me as to one 
indifferent to fraud and caught up in the 
blind greed of curiosity. 

Beringer then tells the tale of Roderick's 
warning, but excoriates his rival as an 
oafish modern caricature of Praxiteles 
(the preeminent Greek sculptor) out to 
discredit a great discovery by artificial 




Unr Praxiteles has issued, in an arrog^ant ^^ 
letter, a declaration of war He has 
threatened to write a small treatise exposing 
my stones as supposititious [sic] — / should' 
say, his stones, fashioned and fraudulently \ 
made by his hand. Tims does this man, 
virtually unknown among men of letters, 
still but a novice in the sciences, make a bid 
for the dawn of his fame in a shameful 
calumny and imposture. 

If only Beringer had realized how truh 
and comprehensively he had spoker 
about "a shameful calumny and impos- 
ture." But Roderick succeeded becausci 
his carvings had been sufFiciendy plausi- 
ble to inspire belief by early-eighteenth-: 
century standards. The undoing of al 
protagonists then followed because 


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Beringer, in his ovei-weening and stub- 
born arrogance, simply could not quench 
his ambition once a clever and plausible 
hoax had unleashed his ardor and vanity. 

In summary, the Liigcnstciuc of 
Wiirzburg played a notable role in the 
most important debate ever pursued in 
.paleontology — a struggle that lasted for 
'centuries and that placed the nature of re- 
lality itself up for grabs. By Beringer's 
time, this debate had largely been settled 
in favor of the organic nature of fossils, 
and this resolution would have occurred 
even if Beringer had never been born and 
the Liigciisleiiie never carved. Beringer 
may have been a vain and arrogant man of 
limited talent, working in an academic 
backwater of his day, but at least he was 
i struggling with grand issues — and he fell 
■because his hoaxers understood the great 
stakes and fashioned frauds that could be 
viewed as cleverly relevant to this intellec- 
tual struggle, however preposterous they 
appear to us today with our additional 
knowledge and radically altered theories 
about the nature of reahty and causation. 

(One often needs a proper theory to set 
a context for the exposure of fraud. Pilt- 
down Man fooled some of the worlds 
best scientists for generations, and I will 
never forget what W. E. Le Gros Clark, 
one of the three scientists who exposed 
the firaud in the early 1950s, said to me 
when I asked him why this resolution had 
not occurred earlier. Even an amateur in 
vertebrate anatomy, like myself, has no 
trouble seeing the Piltdown bones for 
what they are — the staining is so crude; 
the file marks applied on the orangutan 
teeth in the lower jaw are so obvious, yet 
so necessary to make the teeth seem 
human in the forger's plan, for the cusps 
ot ape and human teeth differ so greatly. 
Le Gros Clark said to me: "One needed 
to approach the bones with the hypothe- 
sis of fraud already in mind. In such a 
context, the fakery immediately became 

The Liigensteine of Marrakech are, by 
contrast — and I don't know how else to 
say this — merely ludicrous and preposter- 
ous. No excuse save imorance — and I do. 

of course, recognize the continued preva- 
lence of this aU-too-human trait — could 
possibly inspire a belief that the plaster 
blobs atop the Moroccan stones might be 
true fossils, the remains of ancient organ- 
isms. Beringer thus was grandly tricked in 
the pursuit of great truths, however inade- 
quate his own skiUs. We are merely hood- 
winked for a few dollars that mean Httle to 
most tourists but may make or break the 
hves of local carvers. Caveat emptor. 

In contrasting the conflicting meanings 
of these identical takes in such radically 
different historical contexts, I can only re- 
call Karl Marx's famous opening line to 
The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 
his incisive essay on the rise to power of 
the vain and cynical Napoleon III, culmi- 
nating in his appointment as emperor in 
1852, as contrasted with the grand hopes 
and disappointments inspired by the orig- 
inal Napoleon. (The French revolution- 
ary calendar renamed the months and 
started time again at the establishment of 
the Republic. In this system. Napoleon's 
coup d'etat occurred on the 18th of Bru- 
maire, a foggy month in a renamed au- 
tumn of year VIII — or November 9, 
1799. Mai^x, who may be justly out of 
fashion for horrors later committed in his 
name, remains a brilliant analyst ot histor- 
ical patterns.) Marx opened his polemical 
treatise by noting that all great events in 
history occur twice — the first time as 
tragedy, the second as farce. 

Beringer was a pompous ass, and his 
florid and convoluted phrases must rank 
as a caricature of true scholarship. Still, he 
fell in the course of a great debate, using 
his limited talents to defend an inquii-y 
that he loved and that even more 
pompous fools of his time despised — 
those who argued that refined people 
wouldn't dirty their hands m the muck of 
mountains but would solve the world's 
pressing issues under their wigs in their 
drawing rooms. Beringer thus character- 
ized this opposition from the pseudo-ele- 
gant glitterati of his day: 

They purine jpaleonlologyj with an 
especially ccnsorions rod, and condemn it to 

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90 f This View of Life 

Natural History 4/98 

rejection from the world of erudition as one 
of the wanton futilities of intellectual idlers. 
To what purpose, they ask, do we stare 
fixedly with eye and mind at small stones 
and figured rocks, at little images of 
animals or plants, the rubbish of mountain 
and stream, found by chance amid the 
muck and sand of land and sea? 

He then defended his profession with the 
greatest of geological metaphors: 

Any [paleontologist], like David of old, 
would be able with onefiawless stone 
picked from the bosom of Nature, to 
prostrate, by one blow on the forehead, the 
gigantic mass of objections and satires and 
to vindicate the honor of this sublime 
science from all its calumniators. 

Beringer, to his misfortune, and largely as 
a result of liis own limitations, did not 
pick a "flawless stone," but he properly 
defended the great value of paleontology 
and of empirical science in general. As a 
final irony, Beringer could not have been 
more wrong about the Lugensteine, but he 
couldn't have been more right about the 
power of paleontology. Science has so 
revolutionized our view of reality since 
1726 that we, in our current style of arro- 
gance, can only regard the Wiirzburg hii- 
gensteine as preposterous, because we un- 
fairly impose our modern context and fail 
to understand Beringer's world, including 
the deep issues that made his hoaxing a 
tragedy rather than a farce. 

Our current reality features an un- 
slayable Goliath of commercialism, and 
modern scientific Davids must make an 
honorable peace, for a slingshot cannot 
win this battle. I may be terribly old fash- 
ioned (shades, I hope not, of poor 
Beringer), but I continue to believe that 
such honor can only be sought in separa- 
tion and mutual respect. The temptations 
for increasing fusion with the world of 
commerce are omnipresent and well nigh 
overwhelming, for the inimediate and 
palpable "rewards" are so great. So scien- 
tists go to work for competing pharma- 
ceutical or computer companies and 

make monumental salaries but cannot 
choose their topics of research or publish 
their work. And museums expand their 
gift shops to the size of their neglected 
exhibit halls and purvey their dinosaurs 
largely for dollars in the form of images 
on cofiee inugs and T-shirts or by special 
exhibits, at fancy prices, of rented robotic 
models, built by commercial companies 
and featuring, as their come-on, the very 
properties — mostly hideous growls and 
lurid colors — that leave no evidence in 
the fossil record and that therefore remain 
a matter of pure conjecture to science. 

I am relieved that Sue the Tyran- 
nosaurus, sold at auction by Sotheby's for 
more than 8 million dollars, wiU go to 
Chicago's Field Museum and not to the 
anonymity of some corporate board- 
room, to stand (perhaps) next to a phony 
van Gogh. But I am not happy that no 
natural history museum in the world has 
funds for such a purpose — and that Dis- 
ney had to pony up the cash. Disney is 
not, after all, an eleemosynary institution, 
and they will legitimately want their 
piece for their price. WiU it be the Disney 
Hall of Paleontology at the Field Mu- 
seum? (Will we ever again be able to view 
a public object with civic dignity, unen- 
cumbered by commercial messages? Must 
city buses be fuUy painted as movable ads, 
lampposts smothered, taxis festooned, 
even seats in concert halls sold one by one 
to donors and embellished in perpetuity 
with names on a metal plaque?) Or will it 
be Sue the Robotic Tyrannosaurus — the 
purchase of the name rather than the 
thing, for Sue's actual skeleton cannot im- 
prove the colors or sounds of the robots, 
and her value, in this context, lies only in 
the recognition of her name (and the 
memory of the dollars she brought 
down), not in her truly immense scien- 
tific worth. 

I am neither an idealist nor a Luddite in 
this matter. I just feel that the world of 
commerce and the world of intellect, by 
their intrinsic natures, must pursue differ- 
ent values and priorities — the commercial 
world looms so much larger than our do- 
main that we can only be engulfed and 

destroyed if we make a devil's bargain o 
fusion for short-term gain. The worth o 
fossils simply cannot be measured in dol- 
lars. But the Liigensteine of Marrakech car 
only be assessed in this purely symbohc 
way, for they have no intellectual value 
and can only bring what the traffic (anc 
human gullibility) wiU bear. We cannoi 
possibly improve upon Shakespeare's fa- 
mous words for this sorry situation — anc 
this ray of hope for the honor and differ 
ences of intellect; 

Who steals my purse steals trash . . . 
But he that filches firom me my good 

Robs me of that which not enriches 

And makes me poor indeed. 

But we must also remember that thes^ 
words are spoken by the villainous lago 
who will soon make Othello a victim (bj 
exploiting the Moor's own intemperancel 
of the most poignant and tragic deception 
in all our literature. Any modern intellec-1 
tual, to avoid Beringer's sad fate, mus| 
hold on to the dream — while keeping 
cold eye on immediate realities. Follov 
your bliss, but never draw to an insidJ 

Stephen Jay Gould teaches biology, geolog 
and the history of science at Harvard UniveA 
sity. He is also the Frederick P. Rose Honorary 
Curator in Invertebrates at the American Mu% 
seum of Natural History. 

Image by Alexis Rockman 

7 997. 44.25 x 56.25 x 4.125 inches. 
Envirotex, digitized photograph, oil 
paint, latex rubber, rat body parts, 
rattlesnake, asphalt, unknown bird 
part on wood. 

New York artist Alexis Rockman 
presents his idiosyncratic view of 
nature monthly in Natural History. 


Natural History 4/98 

Rockman-"' 91 

gtural Moment 

Naturaf History 4/98 

" ' O ;^ 

cs pi 'O i^ t~ i 

" " -s ^ ^ s^ 

^ r~ .. >. n > 


94 At the Museum 

Natural History 4/98 

Steel A4asquerade 

By Eitid Sdiildkroiir 

A new exhibiiiofi, "Spirits in Steel: Tlie Art 
of the Kalahari Masquerade," will open in the 
Miiseum's first-floor Gallery 77 on April 25 
and nm through October 12. 

Like many West A&ican coastal 
peoples, the Kalahari of 
southeastern Nigeria think ot 
sw?anips. creeks, and other 
bodies of water as the home 
of spiritual beings ^vho may form many 
kinds of relationships wdth humans. Peri- 
odically, the Kalahari invite these spirits to 
join them in celebrations and masquer- 
ades. The spirits — ^w-hich 
may be male, female, or 
anim al — are thought to 
take possession of the cel- 
ebrants, who put on 
water-spirit masks and 
costumes and make their 
way through towTis and 
villages, inspiring laugh- 
ter, wonder, and fear 
among the inhabitants. 

Sokari Douglas Camp, 
a London-based sculptor 
bom in eastern Nigeria, 
v^imessed these masquer- 
ades in her hometown 
throughout her child- 
hood. Then, in the early 
1990s, she learned of a 
collection of Kalahari 
masks in the British Mu- 
seum's storerooms. Dis- 
turbed by the idea of the 
disembodied masks, she 
thought of creating life- 
size steel sculpoires of 
masqueraders to display 
with them. In 1995, in 

collaboration with the British Musemii, 
her figures were exhibited alongside the 
masks from the museum's collections. 

She said she decided to work with 
masks from a female point of \new, which 
is that of the observer. Women in her part 
of Nigeria are not allowed to perform 
with masks or to touch them, so women 
and children are the principal witnesses of 
masquerade performances. "I began my 
work by observing how masks are put on 
the masqueraders; how the human form 
is changed; ho^v men become gods when 
they perform. The masqueraders are ahve 
and frightening and beautifril when they 
move. This element still comes across in 

museums, even though the mask is not 
moving and is in a box." 

Thirteen of Sokari's steel figures wiD 
be on display at the American Museum of 
Natural History- for the next five and a 
half months. The exhibition will also in- 
clude traditional and modern masks from 
the collections of the British Museum 
and the American Museum of Natural 
History- as well as \ddeos of the Kalahari 
masquerade and commentary" by the 

Enid Schildkrout is chair of the Museum's De- I 
partment of Anthropology and has been doing 


fieldwork in Africa since the 1960s. 

\ Mo 


A symbol of power, "Big Masquerade with Boat 
and Household on His Head," right, wears an 
apron spattered with the blood cfsaerifices made 
to the water spirits. Tlie "Otobo (Hippo) 
Masquerade," above, is a fearsome half-animal 
half-human character. 



Artist's re-creation based on 
fossils of an oviraptor pro- 
tecting its nest, discovered by 
AMNH scientists in the Gobi 
Desert in 1993. (Illustration by 
Micl< Ellison for the AMNH) 


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96 At the Museum 

Natural History 4/98 

Biodiversity and Human Health April Events 

A two-day symposium — sponsored by 
the Museum's Center for Biodiversity- and 
Conservation, Harvard Medical School's 
Center tor Health and the Global Emi- 
ronment, and the United Nations Envi- 
ronment Prosramme — \\ill be held at the 

Tropical poison 
frogs are a 
source of new 

Museum on Friday and Saturday, April 17 
and 18. This event \\-ill bring together a 
multidisciphnarv' force of experts to ex- 
amine the vital role of biological diversits' 
in promoting human health and to forge 
strategies to combat the degradation of 
the global environment. 

Scientists, environmentahsts, and 
health professionals from around the 
world win explore the value to medical 
research of plant, animal, and microbe 
species and their use as sources of 
new medicines. The speakers 
will also consider the per\-a- 
sive threats to human 
health that are cre- 
ated when ecosystems 
are altered, compro- 
mised, or destroyed. 
For additional intorma- 
tion, please \-isit the Bio- 
diversity Center's Web site 

Hands-on Science for Children 

Science-oriented acti\-ities that foster ob- 
servation skills in children aged four to 
seven can now be found on the Museum's 
Web site (http://w-^^-^ On 
the Family Acti\dties page, children can 
obser\'e the complexin" of a shell, identif\- 
differences in birds" teet, or compare the 
leaves of oak and beech trees. Parents can 
also help their children in a range of pro- 
jects, from composing field journals to 
diorama making. 

Biodiversity: It Takes All Kinds to Make A 
World is a colorfU sixteen-page magazine 
ot word puzzles, picture searches, articles, 
and interactive games. It addresses four 
questions: What is biodiversits-? Why is it 
important to us? What are the threats to 
it? and What is being done to save it? The 
publication will be distributed free to \isi- 
tors when the new Hall of Biodiversity 
opens in May. Both the Web page and the 

magazine, which is handed by the Interna- 
tional Bank of Japan, are produced by the 
Museum's National Center for Science 
Literacy, Education, and Technology': 

April 6 

The John Burroughs Association's annual award for 
nature WTiring \\-Ul go to John Alcock for his book In 
(J Desert Garden: Loi'e and Death Among the Inseds. 
Tickets to the awards luncheon are $30, For resei 
tions and information, call (212) 769-5169. 


As part of the "Frontiers in Astrophysics" lecture s^ 
ries, Julianne Dalcanton, a Hubble Fellow at the ols 
ser\'atories of the Carnegie Institution, will give '~ 
shde-iUustrated talk entitled "Galaxies Faint ai 
Fu2z\ " at 7:30 P..M. 


April 15, 22, and 29 
May 6 and 13 

"Animals, People, and Pets: Cviltural Change in the 
Twentieth Centur\'" will be the theme of live talks in 
a series co-sponsored by the Museums Education 
Department and the Columbia Graduate Anthropol| 
og\- Alumni. The lecmres will begin at 7:00 P.M. 1 

April 20 

At 7:00 P.M,, Cad Zimmer, a senior editor at Discover^ 
magazine, will give a talk dra\Mi fiom his newly pub- 
lished book on macro evolution. At the Waters Ed^ 
Macroa'olution and the Transfonuaiion of Life. 

April 23 

At 7:00 P.M., astronomer Da\id H. Le\-\; codiscoverer 
of comet Shoemaker-Le\")" 9. will give a talk entitled 
"Sharing the Night Sk\'." His lecture will be accom- 
panied by poetn; slides, \ideo, and music. 

April 23 and 30 

T\vo talks on the theme "Life at the Ends of the 
Earth" by Kenneth A. Chambers, zoologist and 
scholar of polar exploration, will focus on the Arctic 
and Antarctica. The talks will begin at 7:00 P.M. 



Original monologues and scenes exploring a range of 
women's issues \^^ll be presented by author Ban 
Caseley Swnain at 2:00 and again at 4:00 R.M. The pro- 
gram is signed as well as spoken and is suitable tOT 
families with older children. For information, call 
(212) 769-5186. 

Throughout April 

A variety- of free multicultural outreach programs 
from around the world will be presented during an 
Indigenous Peoples" Celebration chat includes talk^ 
films, performances, and lecture-demonstrations. Fw 
a schedule of events, please call (212) 769-5315. 

The Museums IMAX theater is featuring Cosnat 
I oyaoe, an exploration of the universe s form and 
structure; Wliales. an investigation of the feedings 
breeding. na\'igation. and sociahzation of le\iai 
and Tiraiiica. a histon.- of the worlds most famoi 
shipwTeck. Double features will be shown only oiPI 
Fridays and Saturdays at 6:00 and 7:30 P.M. 

The American Museum of Namral Histor\" is locat 
at Central Park West and 79th Street in New Yoi 
Cit\'. For rickets and informarion about events, 
(212) 769-5200. Consult die Museum Web site Bit 
additional information (httpr/./ For 
hours and admission fees, call (212) 769-5100. 

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of clams, fish and cream, and her very own 1.7-million-gallon pool, this big baby 
named J.J. is still making history. Now a robust 20,000 pounds, J J. is ready to face her 
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J.J.'s amazing rescue touched millions of people around the world. But most of our 
rescues don't make headlines. They happen behind the scenes every day of the year. 
Dedication isn't a new idea at Sea World. Our 40-year commitment to conservation 
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Stephen Jay Gould on Galileo 






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May 1998 Volume 107 Number 4 

32 Guatemala's New Evangelists 

Missionaries have been seeking converts 
among the Maya since the days of the Spanish 
Conquest. In recent years, Protestant 
evangelicos have penetrated the 
predominantly Cathohc countryside. 
Story and photographs by Rachel Cobb 

44 Discovery 

Shorebird Odysseys 

On their migratory flights between the Arctic 
and South America, some birds can log 
20,000 miles a year. How the birds find their 
way across the continents remains a mystery, 
but scientists do know that preserving key 
habitats along their routes is critical to these 
birds' survival. 
Jim Corven 

46 Twenty-Five Years and Counting 
Brian Harrington 
Map by Joyce Pendola 

48 Rites of Spring Migration 

49 Web Flights Robert Anderson 

50 Northwest Passages 

Nils Warnock and Mary Anne Bishop 

52 A Season in the South 
Horacio de la Cueva 
54 Kansas Travelers Helen Hands 
56 Showdown at Delaware Bay 

Paul Kerlinger 

Cover: Sundown over 

California's Salton Sea silhouettes 

a black-necked stilt. Beginning 

on page 44, this month's 

"Discovery" section highlights 

the spring shorebird migration. 

Photograph by Tom Vezo 


4 Up Front: Shorebird Odysseys 

6 To the Editor 

8 Contributors 

Natural Selections 

10 Interview: A Conversation with 

George C. Williams 

Frans Roes 

12 Excerpt: Life and Death Fallacies 
George C. Williams 

13 Bookshelf 

16 This View of Life: The Sharp-Eyed Lynx 
Outfoxed by Nature 
Stephen Jay Gould 

22 Journal: Island Dreams 
Thomas McNamee 

28 Findings: Windows on the Desert Floor 
Peter J. Marchand 

Field Guide 

73 This Land: Border Lands 

Robert H. Mohlenbrock 
76 Celestial Events: Stellar Body Double 

Joe Rao 

78 Universe: Water, Water 
Neil de Grasse Tyson 

82 The Natural Moment: Mud Warriors 
Photograph by Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch 


At the American Museum of Natural History' 

84 Regalia of Rank 

84 May Events 

^bu may try this offer for the free coffeemaker. 
But you' stay for the coffee. i 

You may wonder why we're offering you 
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Natural History 5/98 

Shorebird Odysseys 

One natural phenomenon that has it all is the migration of animals — from turtles 
and cetaceans that traverse the oceans to the salmon and shad that return to their 
natal streams; from the herds of caribou that track the tundra to the birds of prey 
and shorebn-ds that crisscross the hemispheres. Migrations speak of time, place, 
sex, birth, death, wind and tide, the changing of seasons, the demands of 
survival, the absence of borders, and the balance of ecosystems. The flights of 
inigrating birds challenge our imaginations. Walt Whitman described them as 
"flashing a hint of the whole spread of Nature with her eternal unsophisticated 

freshness, her never- visited 
recesses of sea, sky, shore — 
and then disappearing into 
the distance." 

While we might take long 
walks, run marathons, train 
for triathlons, only in our 
dreams can we come close to 
the athleticism of a bird's 
migratory journey; only in 
our myths or in our 
machines can we fly or travel 
such distances. We are 
fascinated because these 
migrations defy the 
Hmitations of our bodies and 
our terrestrial notions of 
time and change: whatever 
else goes on, the birds wOl 
return in their season and 
disappear in their time into 
the distance. 

In October 1996, Natural 
History pubhshed a special 
section on the migrations of the world's birds of prey ("The Rites of Autumn"). 
In this issue we celebrate the springtime return of Western Hemisphere 
shorebirds to their breeding grounds. And while we give you the natural history 
of these birds and some details of their long flights from South America to the 
Arctic and points in between, we're hoping the articles inspire you to get out 
and see these migrants for yourself. To that end we've included a map of the 
birds' routes (page 47) and a Ust of shorebird festivals (page 48). We hope this 
issue gives you a new rite of spring. — Bruce Stutz 

A willet in breeding plumage 

The magazine of the 

American Museum of Natural History 

Bruce Stutz 

Editor in Chief 

Ellen Goldensohn 

Managing Editor 

Thomas Page 


Mai re Crowe 

Board of Editors 

Rebecca B. Finnell 

Jenny Lawrence 

Vittorio Maestro 

Richard Milner 

Judy Rice 

Kay Zakariasen (Pictures) 

Lisa Stillman 

Associate Managing Editors | 

Michel DeMatteis | 

David Ortiz 

Picture Coordinator 

Annette Heist 

Research Associate 

Peggy Conversano 

Assistant Designer 

Carol Barnette 

Editorial Coordinator 

Merle Okada 

Assl. to the Editor 

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Business Manager 

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Asst. to the Publisher 

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Nmal Hislory (ISSN 0028-0712) is published monthly, exctpt for combined issues in 
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Natural History 5/98 

To the 

Hot Tuna 

My conceptual world has 
suffered a severe tremor with 
the arrival of your March 
1998 issue and "Net Loss " 
Elliot Norse's review of Carl 
Safina's Song for the Blue 
Ocean. The third paragraph 
informs me that the bluefin 
tuna is a warm-blooded fish. 
Please don't tell me, after all 
these years, that I was 
intellectually abused by my 
high-school biology teacher. 
Robert L. Shalkop 
Salisbury, North Carohna 

Elliot Norse implies: 
Research begun in the late 
1960s and led by the late 
Francis G. Carey, of Woods 
Hole Oceanographic 
Institution, showed that 
bluefin and bigeye tuna, as 
well as several requiem sharks, 
have highly developed heat 
exchange systems that keep 
their blood temperatures stable 
as they move from relatively 
warm surface waters to cold, 
deep waters. Thus, the term 
"warm-blooded" is now used 
for some fishes, contradicting 
everything we learned in high 
school. Barbara Block, of 
Stanford University, is using 
advanced computer 
technology to further study 
the phenomenon in great 
oceanic fishes. 

The Greatest Extinction 

I was impressed by "The 
Greatest Story Ever Told," by 
Neil de Grasse Tyson (March 
1998). But on page 84, he 

states: "A mere 65 million 
years ago (less than two 
percent of Earth's past), a 10- 
trillion-ton asteroid hit what is 
now the Yucatan Peninsula 
and obliterated over 90 percent 
of Earth's flora and fauna — 
including dinosaurs" 
(emphasis added). Although 
the Cretaceous extinction was 
devastating, I don't believe it is 
credited with a 90 percent 
consequence. That figure 
applies to the most devastating 
extinction event, the Permian, 
which ended that era about 
248 miUion years ago. 
David L. Tlwmpson 
Ann Arbor, Michigan 

Yes, the 90 percent figure is 
usually cited for the Permian 
extinction and 75 percent for 
the Cretaceous. But Ross 
MacPhee, curator of mammals 
at the American Museum of 
Natural History, points out 
that scientists necessarily 
disagree on such estimates, in 
large part because it is 
impossible to establish how 
many species were extant 
before the extinction 
occurred. — Editors 

IVIore Quartets 

Stephen Jay Gould, m "The 
Internal Brand of the Scarlet 
W" (March 1998), could have 
considerably strengthened his 
argument that we have an 
inherent propensity for 
quadripartite divisions had he 
included two foursomes that 
Mother Nature herself has 
mandated: the four 
fundamental forces 
(electromagnetism, gravity, 
and the weak and strong 
nuclear forces) and the four 
nucleotides of DNA (adenine, 
cytosine, guanine, and 

thymine). Indeed, our 
ingrained tendency to 
apportion by fours might be a 
subject for a future essay. 
Curt CoUier 
Lafayette, CaUfornia 

Across tlie Mancaia Board 

As a collector ot board games 
and sometime student of their 
history, I very much enjoyed 
the article on bao ("Seeded 
Players," February 1998). 
When I was living in France, I 
kept a mancaia board to 
entertain my nine-year-old 
daughter. As she and I played 

under our awning one day, 
another little girl wandered b 
and watched us intently. Afte 
a few minutes, she indicated 
her desire to play. I watched 
these two girls, neither of 
whom spoke the other's 
language, engaged each othe- 
for well over an hour. 
However, it soon became i 
clear that our visitor knew 
different rules; my daughter 
and I were chastised severely 
when we strayed from what 
the girl considered the norm 
Carl R. Berman, Jr. 
Marina, California 


A Forest Grows in Manhattan 

Visitors to the new Hall of Biodiversity at the American 

Museum of Natural History will find an African rainforest 

and a vast panorama of life on the planet. 

Life in the Balance 

Why is biodiversity threatened? Why should we care? NUes 

Eldredge, a curator in the Museum's Department of 

Invertebrates, looks at the "biodiversity crisis" as precursor 

to a sixth major extinction episode — one caused by humans. 


Artist's re-creation based on 
fossils of an oviraptor pro- 
tecting its nest, discovered by 
AMNH scientists in the Gobi 
Desert in 1993. (Illustration by 
Mick Ellison fortfie AMNH) 



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Natural History 5/98 

Peter Marchand a : _- ^^ :■ the Desert Floor") is a biologist of extremes. Ha\TOg spent many years studying the winter 
ecOiOgv' oi pl^r.s. ^.u tt:;::::o^s m snow country, the subject of his book Ufe in the Cold (Univenity of New England Press, 1996), 
he is now fascinated by the Sonoran Desert. "The forces that shape evolution and adaptation become much clearer at the edges," 
he explains. The evolution of his own living habits seems to have taken him in a direction counter to most — ^he migrates north 
to the snow^-covered Rockies in the winter and south to the desert in the summer. .Marchand, a visiting professor of biology at 
Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, now resides ("more than an^'where else") in Florence, Arizona. 

In 1991, while researching a stor^' in Guatemala on 
the Day of the Dead (a Latin .American Catholic 
holiday), photojoumalist Rachel Cobb "Guatemala's 
New Evangelists") became intrigued with the 
nations Evangelical Protestants. In this issue, she 
reports on her most recent trip there to meet v. ;tn 

both missionaries and converts. Cobb, who lives in 
New York Cit)', has also documented the homeless, 
alternatives to incarceration, and obesity in America. 
Her award-winning photographs have been 
exhibited in the United States and Europe and have 
appeared in many pubHcations. 

After eigbteer: > e^r^ of fieldwork in Central America, particularly in Belize and Costa Rica but also in Panama, Honduras, and 
Nicaragua, Jim Corven ("Shorebird Odysseys") is very familiar with the threats faced by birds that migrate between continents. 
Now; as director of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, he coordinates efibrts to identify and protect the 
chain of wetlands — from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic — that are \ital to birds migrating between wintering and breeding 
grounds. Based at the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, Corven is helping to design a National Shorebird 
Conservation Plan that integrates research, management, and pubhc policy to protea birds and preserve their habitat. 

^^^KK^ Nils Wamock ("Northwest Passages") has studied shorebird migration along the Pacific fl^T\-ay from Mexico's 
kQ|^^^^ Baja California to Alaska's North Slope. Formerly a research associate with the Biological Research Di\ision of I 
1 9 ^fe^ ^P the U.S. Biological Survey in the Pacific Northwest, he is now with the Point Reyes Bird 
ObserxTatory in Stinson Beach. CaUfomia, where he is directing a project on the 
endangered San Clemente loggerhead shrike. (Wamock also conrribured the apt passage 
fram Pablo Neruda that appears on page 44.) Coauthor Mary Ann Bishop has been a USDA 
Forest Service wildlife biologist at the Pacific Northwrest Research Station in Cordova. 
Alaska, since 1989. When not studying the western sandpipers and other shorebirds of Prince WiEiam Sound 
and the Copper River Delta, Bishop researches black-necked cranes in Bhutan and Tibet. 


A Midw-est native. Helen Hands "K ■.^.is 
Travelers") became irisresiej. ui ^ncreoirds 
while studying for her master's degree in 
Fisheries and Wildlife at the University of 
Missouri in Columbia. Now a viildlife 
biologist for the Kansas Department of 
Wildlife and Parks, Hands monitors both 

migrant and nesting shorebirds, as weD as 
webless migratory game birds, at Cheyenne 
Bottoms, near Great Bend, Kansas, on the 
path of the midcontinental migration. Hands 
also enjoys the outdoors off the job. She goes 
hunting, fishing, and backpacking with her 
husband. Randy Rodgers, and dog, Ryne. 

Paul Kerlinger ("Showdown at Delaw^are Bay") first wimessed the spectacle of mating horseshoe crabs and migrating shorebirds a 
Delaware Bay in 1980. In the early 1990s, as director of the Cape May Bird Observatory, he grew alarmed at the decreasing 
numbers of crabs and birds there. Maw an environmental consultant for the wind powder industr\; Kerlinger is also a leading 
researcher of the effect of ecotourism on local economies. He is the author of How Birds Migrate (Stackpole Books, 1995) and 
Bight Strategies of Migrating Hawks (Universit>7 of Chicago Press, 1989). His latest book, Tlie Neir York City Audubon Societ)''s Guic 
to Finding Birds in tlie Metropolitan Area, is due out from Cornell University Press next year. Kerlinger lives in New York Cit\'. 

Photographer Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch ("The Natural Moment") currendy Uves in London, where h 
studies Egyptology at University' College, and runs Shark Trust, a nonprofit organization dedicated 
to protecting rays and sharks. To get his shot of dueling mudskippers. Stafford-Deitsch says he 
consulted a biologist who told him to "slosh out into the mud, sit there, and wait." He did: "For 
hours," he said, "until ever^Tihing got used to me." Stafford-Deitsch used a Nikon F-4 equipped 
with a 400 mm lens to take the photograph. 

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'atural Selections 

Natural History 5/98 

"/ am convinced that it is the light and the 
way." Tliese are the final words in Adapta- 
rion and Natural Selection, George C. 
miliams's 1966 book 
about evohition. In the 
decades since the publi- 
cation of this book, 
which became one of 
the most influential in 
its field, nothing has 
altered IViUiams's con- § 
viction that evohition- | 
ary theory is not just of I 
intellectual interest bin 
has much praaical sig- 
nificance for human 

A marine biologist 
by training, Williams 
took two sabbaticab to 
conduct fish research in 
Iceland, but he is most 
widely known as a the- 
oretician. As early as 
1957, he wrote a paper 
on senescence consid- 
ered by some to be a 
cornerstone of modern 
evolutionary theory. 
Williams lias also writ- 
ten passionately about 
the "moral unaccept- 
ability of imtural selec- 
tion" and tlie necessity 
of using our intelligenct 
to triumph over it. For 
a paper on evolutionary- 
ethics, Williams came 
up with one oftlie most 
eye-catching titles in 
scientific literature: "Mother Nature Is a 
Wicked Old Witch." 

Despite his strongly held convictions, 
Wlliams says thatfjr him, controversy is what 
makes biolog)' interesting. In years past, he de- 
fended reduaionism (the idea that organisms 
can be adequately understood in terms of 
physics, cliemistr}', and the history of evolution- 
ary change) uiien it was not fashionable to do 
so. More recently, he has explored the insights 
to be gained fry applying evolutionary theory to 
medicine. His 1996 book, Evolution and 

A Conversation 

Georee C. Williams 

By Frans Roes 



Healing: The New Science of Darwinian 
Medicine (coauthored with Randolph Nesse, 
of the University of Michigan Medical School), 
stresses the importance of understanding the 
adaptive significance of symptoms such as fever 
rather than merely seeking immediate relief. 

George Williams taught biology for thirty 
years at the State University of New York at 
Stony Brook, where he is now professor emeri- 
tus. He is abo editor of the Quarterly Re- 
\dew of Biology, which has been publbhing 
thoughtfil articles and book reviews about the 

life sciences for nearly three-quarters of a a- 
tury. Williams's latest book. The Pony Fis ■ 
Glow and Other Clues to Plan and Pi- 
pose in Nature, was published by BasicBoi^ 
as part of its Scieiue Masters Series. 

Tliirty years ago, in Ada- 


tarion and Natural S- 
lecrion, you criticized some ideas in biolog) 
I think that my main criticism in tit 
book was directed at the general assun- 
rion that adaptation characterizes popu- 
rions and species, rather than simply te 
individuals in the populations and speci . 
What I did was take the position that n - 
ural selection works most effectively t 
the indi\'idual level, and adaptations t: r 
are produced are adaptive for those in - 
xdduals, in competition with other m - 
viduals of the same population, ratli 
than for any collective well-being. j 

Individual selection would mean that living! 
ganisms are not adapted to prevent the exti 
lion of their own species. 

That is right. Most evohdng linead 
human or otherwise, when threater'i 
with extinction, don't do anything speiil 
to avoid it. I presume that the last pabit 
passenger pigeons, once a ver\' abundit 
bird in North America, now extinct, ^ 
produced the same old way. Once ..e 
species had gotten extremely rare, it d 
nothing new and did not take any spe jl 
measures, the way an indi\-idual woul'il 
threatened with death. On the ot;r 
hand, we humans in fact have not g(ie 
extinct as yet; all our closest relatives h;e. 
so I would presume that to some extit 
the current human biolog\" may be bia^i 
in favor of attributes that make us less \l- 
nerable to extinction. 

Just what features raise or lower vulrr- 
abOm- to extinction is a ^eneralK- ;- 

glected problem, but it is widely recog- 
nized that sexual reproduction helps to 
keep a population going. Sexual repro- 
duction is a complicated process that is 
occasionally lost, thereby simpHfying the 
reproductive process. As a general rule, 
though, in both plants and animals, once 
a line of descent loses the sexual process, 
nothing new ever comes of it. It won't 
branch into several new species the way a 
sexual species might. So asexual repro- 
duction exclusively in any hne of descent 
apppears to be a dead end. If there has 
ever been a mammal that reproduced 
asexually, it is not around any more and 
has no descendants. 

If selection works at the individual level, why 
don't individuals livejorever? Wliy do we grow 

Well, no matter how fit you keep your- 
tielf, sooner or later something will get 
iyou: an accident, a new epidemic, an at- 
:ack by terrorists, or whatever. Even if 
you had eternal youth, this would obvi- 
ously not assure that you Hve forever. So 
';he interesting question is, once we attain 
3ur fuU youthflil adulthood, why don't 
Afe just stay that way? 

Suppose we could do that: let's wave a 

Tiagic wand, and suddenly we have eter- 

lal youth. In evolution that would not be 

itable, because eternal youth does not 

iboHsh mortality. Let's say that half of us 

OTth this eternal youth managed to live to 

100, a quarter to age 200, one-eighth to 

500, and so on. A mutation that would 

;onfer some sHght advantage in our twen- 

ies and thirties might well be favored, 

ijven if it causes us to drop dead at age 

500. Most people are going to be alive in 

heir twenties and thirties and thus get the 

liiioenefits of whatever that mutation does, 

ilbut since only one-eighth of the popula- 

ion is going to reach age 300, dropping 

'iead then would be worth an advantage 

liiiarlier in life. So the evaluation by natural 

Selection of new genetic variability would 

>e biased in favor of the earlier part of hfe 

listories and against the later part, until 

4ve had reevolved to something like the 

enescence we have now. 

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Natural Selections 

Natural History 5/98 

But I read that sea anemones may live forever. 
How is this possible? 

The general rule is that anything that is 
passed on in reproduction does not un- 
dergo senescence. So things that can di- 
vide in two, wixh. both halves going on, 
would ordinarily not deteriorate with in- 
creasing age. They wouldn't have the 
kind of trade-oil" that you have when 
there is something you can discard. We 
humans may discard our bodies, but our 
germ cells do not necessarily come to an 
end. We can pass them on in reproduc- 
tion to people who in turn can pass them 
on. Asexually reproducing organisms 
such as sea anemones retain eternal youth 
for the same reason that our germ cells re- 
tain eternal youth. I think it is the British 
biologist Tom Kirkwood who invented 
the term "disposable soma." If tou have a 
disposable soma, that soma wtU undergo 
senescence. If you don't, it won't. 

Tliere are all sorts of wonderfd adaptations, 
yet you write that natural selection never de- 
signs new machinery. R'?))' did you write this? 
Because there is nothing in natural se- 
lection that looks ahead and plans ahead. 
All it can do is make use of variation that 
is present. Some things work better than 
others, and the ones that work better are 
the ones that tend to be preser\'ed. And 
these are always presented in relation to 
immediate circumstances, never in order 
to facilitate an^T:hiag in the future. 

You also wrote that every organism shows fea- 
tures that are finctionally arbitrary or even 

The human body is just full of illustra- 
tions of ^fhat are really either arbitrary or 
in many cases quite unfortunate legacies 
fix)m prior historv". Our respirator\' sys- 
tem, for instance. Way back, half a billion 
years ago at least, some early vertebrate 
didn't have a respiratory s\-stem, but it had 
a digestive s\"stem with a way of taking in 
water at the front end and running it 
through a filter. That machinery" turned 
out to be easily modified to facilitate res- 
piration, to arrange some special mecha- 
(Please turn to page 14) 

Life and 



From The Pony Fish's Glow and Other 
Clues to Plan and Purpose in Nature, by 
George C. Williams. Copyrigln 1997 by 
George C. WillliVns. Reprinted by arrange- 
ment with BasicBocks. 

F X r "^ f n t ^3^1*7 traditional reUgions 
foster attimdes that ought to 
have disappeared as biological under- 
standing accumulated over the last cen- 
tury. One of these might be termed the 

George C. H-llliams, 1962 

holy-corpse fallacy. When people die, 
their relatives and friends behave as if 
there were some moral significance in the 
dead body. They ignore the fact that the 
"last remains" are just that, material that 

happened, at the time of death, to provic '-- 
the medium of expression for a huma . - 
hfe. However long this complex huma - 
message was expressed is the duration ( i", 
time in which the materials were comir i ^ 
and going. The tons of matter that at or tr 
time or another were part of a dead senit r'- 
citizen are already dispersed throughoi ^ 
the terrestrial ecosystem. A small mino ; 
it\' of the dead person's molecules are : : - 
orbit around the earth or sun. Crematic ^ 
of the matter that happened to be there ; ' 
the last minute merely hastens an ii :~: 
evitable process. i:: 

The holy-corpse fallacy' once had su| : r. 
port &om the biological concept of proti t;? 
plasm, the special living matter of an o 
ganism. Other matter may be entern ; _ 
and leaving a living celL but its protoplas ::; : 
was presumably a stable entity that regi rj;: 
lated this material flux, es 
dead person may hal Ej 
dead protoplasm, but in 
was presumably that pe r ; 
son's vet)' own prot^ t .; 
plasm, and had be« ejj, 
throughout his or he 
life. Protoplasm w ';::; 
often discussed in the I ;i: 
ology courses I took c: 
the 1940s. It is a term ; t ; 
most never heard todai b 
Another error is t t; 
moment-of-conceptii k;- 
faUac)'. The joining o) [ --;. 
human egg and spei c-, 
defines a new afcj] 
unique human gen '^:; ; 
t\-pe. It does not pt r- ■ 
duce any human hof : - 
and fears and memor :]^ 
or anything else of mo > '- 
importance imphed 
the term human. T 
newly fertilized egg n 
have the potential for a fiilly human ex 
tence, but that potential was there ev 
before fertilization. The same can be s; 
of all the fertihzations that might hs 
been. The penetration of that egg by o 

erni meant an early death for millions 
competing sperm. It destroyed all hope 
^ those millions of other unique human 
no types. 

The moment-of-conception fallacy 
iplies that fertilization is a simple proc- 
. with never a doubt as to whether it has 
has not happened, hi reality, the "mo- 
."nt" is a matter of some hours of com- 
.'X activity. There are elaborate bio- 
emical interactions between the sperm 
d various layers of the egg membrane. 
ke sperm gradually breaks up, and only 
nucleus is established in the egg. Then 
tth egg and sperm nuclei initiate radical 
ianges before the flision of the two nu- 
i. Many of the developmental events 
lowing this fusion were predetermined 
ring the production of the egg. Genes 
fjvided by the sperm do not have dis- 
■nible effects until embryonic develop- 
•nt is well under way. A strictly biolog- 

I definition of hunaanity would have to 
cify some point in this elaborate pro- 

i:m at which the egg and sperm have 
idenly been endowed with a single 
iman life. 

There are other difficulties with defin- 
; humanity this way. If that single 
man life develops for a while and then 
ides to produce identical twins or 
)lets, are they to be considered one 
iTian being? This would be contrary to 
lost everyone's moral sensibilities. Re- 
it observations have raised additional 
istions about the connection between 
logical and moral individuality. Early 
.levelopnient, fraternal twins from two 
arate, fertilized eggs may fuse and de- 
pp into what, at birth, is physically a 
^le baby. Molecular techniques avail- 
; today may show that such an individ- 
is geneticaUy different in various parts 
ts body. An apparendy normal woman 
Y have some genetically male tissues 

II what originated as her twin brother, 
|vice versa. Tlie only realistic view is 
jt a human life arises gradually, which is 

much help in making personal deci- 
is or devising public policy. D 


At the Water's Edge 

By Carl Zimmer (The Free Press [Simon & Schuster], i998, $25, illus.) 

Zimmer, a senior editor and writer at Discover magazine, gives a lucid exegesis of macroevolu- 

tion — major, long-term changes in animal anatomy and behavior. He discusses transitional 

forms, cladistics, and other technical matters without losing sight of the animals themselves — 

or ot the flawed, quirky, and ingenious humans who are investigating their origins. 

A Science Odyssey 

By Charles Flowers (William Morrow, 1998, $30, illus. Videos of the ten-hour PBS series are available 
from WGBH Video, 800-255-9424.) 

Astronomer Edwin Hubble s discovery that the universe is expanding and medical researcher 
Joseph Goldberger's piecing together the nutritional etiology of pellagra represent just two of 
the developments in science featured in a PBS series that aired in January and February 1998. 
The five-part series, and its accompanying book, examines the advances of the last hundred 
years in cosmology, medicine, human behavior, technology, and geology. 

The Murder of Tutankhamen 

By Boh Brier (C. P Putnam's Sons [Penguin Putnam], 1998, S24.95) 

Atter examining X rays of the 3,000-year-old mummy of King Tutankhamen, Egyptologist and 
paleopathologist Bob Brier was convinced that the nineteen-year-old pharaoh died from a blow 
to the back of his head. Using forensic, archaeological, and historical evidence. Brier dramatizes 
the turbulent times in which Tut Hved and pieces together the explanation of his murder. 


By Wliit Gibbons and Anne R. Gibbons (Tlie University of Alabama Press, 1998, S16.95, illus.) 
Herpetologist Whit Gibbons, of the Universit)' of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology' Labora- 
tory, has teamed up with his sister, Anne, to take a wide-ranging look at the natural world from 
an ecological perspective. Whether describing the bombardier beede that shoots off a scorching 
liquid in self-defense or the South American knife fish that uses electric current to distinguish 
its territory, they offer a paean to earth's diversity and a plea to preserve it for our own sur\-ival. 

Beauty of Another Order 

Edited by Ann Tliomas (Yale University Press, 1998, S50, illus) 

Five essayists discuss the popular and historical uses of photography since its mid-nineteenth- 
century beginnings and trace its evolution — via electronics and digital technology' — into an es- 
sential tool for exploring the natural world. 

Cats' Paws and Catapults 

By Steven Vogel (W W Norton, 1998, $27.50, illus.) 

Biomechanics is the way liwng things work — how they walk, run, jump, fly. and grow. Vogel, 
a professor of biology at Duke University, compares human technology over 10,000 years with 
nature's selected designs over billions of years. 


By Nicolas Umier; translated from the French by WWard Wood (Harry N. Abranis, Inc., 1998, $49.50, illus.) 
In a miscellany reminiscent of the Wliole Earth Catalog, French advennirer Vanier documents 
two decades of expeditions to the far north. His text is illustrated with maps, photographs, and 
detailed drawings and captions that explain everything from building an igloo to snaring spruce 
grouse to harvesting edible Uchens. 

Molecules at an Exhibition 

By John Emsley (Oxford University Press, 1998, $24.95) 

Emslcy, of London's Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine, eschews formu- 
las, equations, and diagrams as he discusses "the intriguing materi:ils of evervday life." Whether 
he is tracing the role of titanium in paint and pacemakers or elaborating on such "molecules 
from hell" as sarin (the lethal nerve gas) or thallium sulfate (a poison used by Iraqi securin- 
forces), Emsley is a fluent and entertaining guide to the wodd of chemistry' for the nonexpert. 

The books mentioned in "Natural Selections" are usually available from the Museum Shop of 
the American Museum of Natural History, (212) 769-5150. 

at Selections 

Natural History 5/98 

(Continued from page 12) 
nisms for exchanging gases with the envi- 
ronment when the organism got big 
enough to actually need that. 

Ever since then, all descendant verte- 
brates have had the forward end ot the di- 
gestive system and the forward end of the 
respiratory system very much involved 
with each other. This manifests itself in 
the human body with a crossing of the 
two systems in the throat. So there can 
be, and frequently are, traffic problems 
there, the extreme being that you choke 
to death because you are trying to eat 
something. If you could redesign it, you 
would have two completely separated sys- 
tems, or they would be connected in a 
way that doesn't require any crossing of 
the two systems. 

Another seemingly maladaptive phenomenon: 
Wlty would a vital organ like the human male 
testis he outside the body, where it is quite vul- 

For some reason, sperm development 

has to be at a lower temperature than the 
rest of the body. This is accomplished by 
the somewhat external scrotal structure. 
This certainly makes the testicles vulner- 
able, and I think an indication of this is 
that whenever mammals reproduce sea- 
sonally and don't need to be producing 
sperm for much of the year, the testicles 
are retracted into the body and only go 
back into the scrotum during the breed- 
ing season. 

But this sounds like an excuse: We don 't know 
why testicles are outside the body, so it nnist be 

Oh no, I think it quite obviously is 
temperature because any time the testicu- 
lar temperature is abnormally elevated, 
for instance by a high fever, sterility or 
defective sperm results. 

Still, I think this sounds like makhig the the- 
ory irrefutable. 

If you are talking about the general 
theory, it is not likely to be refiitable by 

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any one study. No single observation like: 
this is going to make users of some major 
theoretical set of ideas abandon these 
ideas. What does happen is that you use 
evolutionary theory to make certain pre- 
dictions and check on those predictions. 'F * 
More often than not, they turn out not to 
work. So you go back to the drawing 
board and try something else. You don't 
find the wrong ones being published in 
biological journals. 

But aren't people justified in saying, hey, then 
is a conspiracy going on of biologists who don'i 
publish anything that is unfavorable to evolu- 
tionary theory? 

The same bias affects engineers. They 
calculate that if they did something a cer- 
tain way, they would produce a better en- 
gine. They do it and try it out, and it 
turns out not to be better at all. So they 

Natural selection 
maximizes short- 
sighted selfishness, 
no matter how 
much pain or loss 
it produces. 

go back and try something else. They dc 
not claim to have refuted the laws of ther- 
modynamics. These are not things tha 
get pubhshed in the engineering journals: 
It is only the improvements that get pub- 
lished. Evolutionary theory works thi 
same way: Use it to generate expectation 
and then check on them. If the expecta 
tions turn out as expected, then you hav 
made a discovery that may be somethin; 

Darwin based his theory on generaHza 
tions that were strictly empirical. You caj 
go out and see that organisms do var^ 
that variations are inherited, and tha 
every organism is capable of increasing it 
numbers in sufficiently favorable circum 
stances. These are basic premises that ca: 

© 1998 Garden Way, Inc. 

be checked directly. By contrast, physical 
theories, such as those that describe invis- 
ible atoms, are often not directly testable. 

//; your latest book, you describe the biological 
creation process as being both "evil" and 
"abysinally stupid. " Hliat do you mean when 
you say this? 

Natural selection maximizes short- 
sighted selfishness, no matter how much 
pain or loss it produces. There are far 
more losers than winners, and great losses 
often arise from trivial gains. The killing 
of monkey infants for ininor male repro- 
ductive gain IS the example that most per- 
suasively led me to use words like evil. 

As to its stupidity, natural selection 
produces what seem to be ingenious de- 
vices, like eyes and hands and the human 
capacity for language, but a close exami- 
nation shows these devices to be just the 
sorts of things that can arise from trial and 
error, with no modifications that would 
arise froin any real understanding of the 
problems to be solved. As a result, all or- 

ganisms are burdened with maladaptive 
historical legacies, such as the many prob- 
lems that arise from the close association 
of the human reproductive and excretory 

I found in your work several references to Bud- 
dhism. Do you have a special Hkhigfor Bud- 

My reading on this sort of thing is ex- 
tremely limited, but as a doctrine I think 
Buddhism is more compatible with the 
spirit of scientific inquiry than what you 
get in the Old Testament. I think it is be- 
cause of the e.\plicit recognition in Bud- 
dhism that things are not naturally good. 
There is a lot of pain and suffering in the 
world, and that is because that's just the 
way the world is. And the way to over- 
come this is to live a certain way and to 
be resigned to the inevitable imperfec- 
tions of life. 

This is opposed to some Christian and 
Jewish traditions, in which everything is 
for the best to some extent, because it is 

God's will that things be this v/ay. And if 
they don't seem right — well, that is be- 
cause we don't really understand. In the 
Book of Job, for instance, no matter how 
many evils befall, you accept them and 
really don't admit that they are evU be- 
cause they must have come from God. 
And opposing what God does is stupid 
because God is so powerful. Job's avoid- 
ance of rebellion against God has nothing 
to do with God being good or wise or 
anything like that; it's strictly because 
God is so povverfijl, and you don't fight 
something when you are so much weaker 
than that which you would fight. 

Trained as a sociologist, Amsterdam native 
Frans Roes has for much of the last decade 
written about evolutionary theory. His second 
book, The Naked Mole Rat: On Hu- 
mans, Animals, and Evolution, was pub- 
lished (in Holland) in 1993. Roes is now 
working as an eiwironmeiual adviser, consult- 
ing with firms on their fossil energy consump- 
tion, chemical use, and waste production. 

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16 This View of Life 

Natural History 5/98 

^he Sharp-Eyed 


Outfoxed by Nature 

Pan One: Galileo Galilei and the Tliree , 
Globes of Saturn 

In 1603, Federico Cesi. the duke of 
Aquasparta, founded an organization that 
grew from uncertain beginnings to be- 
come the first scientific societ\" in mod- 
ern European histors". Cesi (1585—1630), 
then a teenage nobleman, imited three 
slightly older friends (all in their 
midtwenties) to estabhsh rAccademia dei 
Lincei (the Academy of the Lynxes), ded- 
icated to scientific investigation ("reading 
this great, true, and universal book of the 
world," to cite Cesi's own words) and 
named for a sleek and wily carnivore, 
then still li\ting in the forests of Italy and 
reno\T,Tied in song and stor^' for unparal- 
leled sight among mammals. 

The legend of the sharp-eyed Ktix had 
arisen in ancient times and persisted to 
Cesi's day. Pliny's canonical compendium 
of namral histon,- had called the lynx "the 
most clear sighted of all quadrupeds.'" 
Plutarch had embellished the legend by 
speaking of "the lynx, who can penetrate 
through trees and rocks wdth its sharp 
sight." And Galen, ever the comparative 
anatomist, had \\T:itten: "We would seem 
absurdly weak in our powers of ^nsion if 
we compared our sight to the acuiDi" of 
the lynx or the eagle." (I have translated 
these aphorisms directly from Konrad 
Gesner's 1551 compendium on mam- 
mals, the standard source for information 
on natural histon,' in Cesi's day.) 

Still, despite Cesi's ambitious name and 
aims, the academy of four young men fal- 
tered at first. Cesi's o\ATa father made a 
vigorous attempt to stop his son's foohsh- 

Galileo and friends 

taught us that there is more 

to observing than 

meets the eye. 

By Stephen Jay Gould 

ness, and the four Lynxes all dispersed to 
their native cities, keeping their organiza- 
tion ahve only by the uncertain media of 
post and messages. But Cesi persevered 
and triumphed (for a time), thanks to sev- 
eral skills and circumstances. He acquired 

Emblem of the Academy of the Lynxes, 

modern Europe's first scientific society, 

founded in 1 603 in Rome. 

more power and prestige, both by grow- 
ing up and by inheriting substantial 
wealth. Most importandy, he became a 
consummate diplomat and facilitator 
within the maximally suspicious and 
labyrinthine world of chdl and ecclesiasti- 
cal pohtics in Rome during the Counter- 
Reformation. The Lvn.xes flourished 

largely because Cesi managed to keep the 
suspicions of popes and cardinals at bay 
while science prepared to fracture old 
views of the cosmos and develop radically 
new theories about the nature of matter 
and causation. 

As a brilliant administrator. Cesi knew 
that he needed more clout among the 
membership of the L\-nxes. He therefore 
recruited, as the fifth and sixth members 
ot an organization that \\ould eventually 
reach a roster of about thiny. two of the 
most prestigious thinkers and doers of 
early-seventeenth-century life. In 1610 he 
journeyed to Naples, where he persuaded 
the senior spokesman of the fading Neo- 
platonic school — the se\'enr\'-five-year- 
old Giambatrista della Porta — to join a 
group of men young enough to be his 
grandsons. Then in 1611, Cesi made his 
preeminent catch when he recruited the 
hottest intellectual propert)^ in the West- 
ern world, Galileo Galilei (156+-1642), to 
become the sLxth member of the Lynxes. 

The year before. Galileo had proNided 
an ultimate proof for the cHche that good 
things come in small packages by publish- 
ing Sidereus nuncius (Starry messenger) — 
httle more than a pamphlet really, but 
containing more oomph per paragraph 
than an\thing else ever achieved in the 
historv' of science or printing. Galileo 
shook the earth by turning his newly in- 
vented telescope upon the cosmos and re- 
porting that the moon is a planet \\-ith 
mountains and valleys, not the pertect 
sphere required by older science and the- 
ology'; that thousands of pre\'iously invisi- 
ble stars build the MUky Way, thus ex- 
tending the cosmos beyond anv prexiously 





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Natural History 5/98 

(Continued from page 21) 

Stelluti first encountered Galileo in the 
context of this struggle, and he initially 
took della Porta's side. In 1610, with della 
Porta inscribed as a Lynx but Galileo not 
yet a member, Stelluti wrote a gossipy let- 
ter to his brother about the furor gener- 
ated by Sidereiis mincius and the dubious 
claims of the pamphlet's author: 

/ believe that by now you must have seen 
GaUleo, he of the Sidereus nuncius. . . . 
Giambattista della Porta wrote about [the 
telescope] more than thirty years ago in his 
Magia naturalis . . . so poor Galileo will 
be besmirched. But, nonetheless, the Grand 
Duke has given him 800 piastres. * 

But when Galileo joined the Lynxes, 
and as his fame and success solidified and 
spread, Stelluti and his compatriots be- 
came fervent Galileans. With della Porta 
dead and the Starry Messenger riding a 
truly cosmic crest of triumph, the Acad- 
emy of the Lynxes grew to become 
Galileo's strongest intellectual (and practi- 
cal) base, the primary institutional sup- 
porters of the new, open, empirical, and 
experimental view of scientific knowl- 
edge. Making the link between GalUeo's 
error and Stelluti's planet, Cesi wrote to 
Stelluti in 161 1 about the wonders of the 
telescope, as revealed by Galileo himself, 
who was paying a long visit to the duke of 

Each evening we see new things in the 

*The quotations from Galileo's Letters on 
Sunspots come from StiUman Drake's 1957 Eng- 
lish translation, published by Anchor Books. I 
have translated aU other quotes from the Itahan 
of SteUuti's 1637 monograph on fossil wood, 
letters from several volumes of the Edizione 
nazioimle of Gahleo's complete works, and three 
standard sources on the history of the Academy 
of the Lynxes: Breve storia delta Accademia dei 
Lincei, by D. Carutti (Rome: Salviucci, 1883); 
Contributi alia storia della Accademia dei Lincei, by 
G. Gabriel] (Rome: Classe di scienze morali, 
1989); and L'Accademia dei Lincei e la cultura eu- 
ropea nel XVII secolo, a catalog for a traveling ex- 
hibit about the Lynxes by A. M. Capecchi and 
several other authors, published in 1991. 

heavens, the true office of the Lynxes, 
fupiter and its four revolving sateUites; the 
moon with its mountains, caverns, and 
rivers; the horns of Venus; and Saturn, 
your own triple-star [0 triplice suo 
Saturno] . 

Such floods of reforming novelty tend 
to alienate reigning powers, to say the 
least — a generahty greatly exacerbated in 
early-seventeenth-century Rome, where 
the papal government, besieged by wars 
and assaulted by successes of the Refor- 
mation, felt especially unfriendly to un- 
orthodoxy of any sort. Galileo had writ- 
ten a first note of cautious support for 
the Copernican system at the end of his 
Letters on Sunspots, published by the 
Lynxes in 1613. Soon afterward, in 
1616, the Church officially declared the 
Copernican doctrine false and forbade 
Galileo to teach heliocentrism as a 
physical reality (although he could con- 
tinue to discuss the Copernican system 
as a "mathematical hypothesis"). Galileo 
kept his nose clean for a while and 
moved on to other subjects. But then, m 
1623, the Lynxes rejoiced in an unantic- 
ipated event that Galileo called a "great 
conjuncture" (mirabel congiuntura): the el- 
evation of his friend and supporter Maf- 
feo Barberini to the papacy as Urban 
VIII. (In an act ot literal nepotism, Maf- 
feo quickly named his nephew 
Francesco Barberini as his first new car- 
dinal. In the same year, Francesco Bar- 
berini became the twenty-ninth mem- 
ber of the Lynxes.) 

On August 12, 1623, Stelluti wrote 
from Rome to Galileo, then in Florence, 
expressing both his practical and intellec- 
tual joy in the outcome of local elections. 
Three members of the Lynxes would be 
serving in the new papal government, 
along with "many other friends." Stelluti 
then enthused about the new boss: 

Ttie creation of the new pope has filled us 
all with rejoicing, for he is a man of such 
valor and goodness, as you yourself know 
so well. And he is a particular supporter of 
learned men, so we shall have a supreme 

patron. . . . We pray to the Lord God to 
preserve the life of this pope for a long time. 

The Lynxes, suffused with hope that 
freedom of scientific inquiry would now 
be estabUshed, met for an extended con- 
vention and planning session at Cesi's es- 
tate in 1624. Galileo had just built the 
first usable microscope for scientific in- 
vestigation after recognizing that lenses, 
properly arranged, could magnify truly 
tiny nearby objects, as well as enormous 
cosmic bodies rendered tiny in appear- 
ance by their great distance from human 
observers. Anticipating the forthcoming 
gathering of the Lynxes, Galileo sent one 
of his first microscopes to Cesi, along 
with a note describing his second great 
optical invention: 

I have examined a great many tiny animals 
with infinite admiration. Mosquitoes are 
the most horrible among them. . . . I have 
seen, ivith great contentment, how flies and 
other tiny anUnals can walk across mirrors, 
and even upside down. But you, my lord, 
will have a great opportunity to view 
thousands and thousands of details. . . . In 
short, you will be able to enjoy infinite 
contemplation of nature's grandness, and 
how subtly, and with what incredible 
diligence, she works. 

Galileo's microscope entranced the 
Lynxes and became the hit of their meet- 
ing. Stelluti took a special interest and 
used the new device to observe and draw 
the anatomy of bees. In 1625, Stelluti 
published his results, including a large en- 
graving of three bees drawn under 
Galileo's instrument. Historian of science 
Charles Singer cites these bees as "the 
earliest figures stiU extant drawn with the 
aid of the microscope," and if the name of ■ 
the sadly underrated Francesco Stelluti, 
the tardigrade among the Lynxes, has sur- 
vived at all in conventional annals of the 
history of science, he perseveres only as 
an entry in the "list of firsts" for his mi- 
croscopical drawings. 

The Lynxes, always savvy as well as 
smart, did not choose to draw bees for ab- 


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conceivable limit; and that four moons 
orbit Jupiter, forming a miniature world 
analogous to the motion of planets around 
a central body. Moreover, Galileo pointed 
out, the crystalline sphere supposedly en- 
compassing Jupiter (and each of the other 
planets) could not exist, for the revolution 
of moons would shatter this mystical 
structure of a geometrically perfect, un- 
sullied, and unchanging cosmos — God's 
empyrean realm. 

But Galileo also made some errors in 
his initial survey, and I have always been 
struck that standard books on the history 
of astronomy, written as they are in the 
heroic or hagiographical mode, almost 
never mention (or only relegate to an 
awkward footnote) the most prominent 
of Galileo's mistakes — for the story strikes 
me as so fascinating and so much more 
inforinative about the nature of science, 
and of creativity' in general, than any of 
his valid observations. 

Galileo also turned his telescope to Sat- 
urn, the most distant of the vnsible plan- 
ets, and he saw the famous rings. But he 
could not properly visualize or interpret 
what he had observed, presumably be- 
cause his conceptual world lacked the 
requisite "space" for such a pecuhar ob- 
ject (while his telescope remained too 
crude to render the rings with enough 
clarity to force his mind, already be- 
numbed by so many surprises, to the 
most peculiar and unanticipated conclu- 
sion ot all). 

The srsTTiied Galileo looked and looked 
and focused and focused, night after mght. 
He finally decided that Saturn must be a 
threefold body, with a central sphere 
flanked by two smaller spheres of equal 
size, each touching the main planet. Fol- 
lowing a common custom of the day — es- 
tabhshed to preserve claims of priority 
while not reveaUng preliminary' conclu- 
sions ripe for theft by others — Galileo en- 
coded his interpretation as a Latin ana- 
gram, which he posted to his friend and 
leading compatriot in astronomical re- 
search, Johannes Kepler. 

Kepler may have been as brUhant as 
Gahleo, but he never resolved the ana- 

gram and he misinterpreted the message 
as a statement about the planet Mars. In 
frustration (and a bit of pique), he begged 
Galileo for the answer. His colleague 
repUed with the intended solution: Al- 
tissiimim plaiietam tergemltium observai'i (I 
have observed that the farthest planet is 

I regard the last word of Galileo's solu- 
tion as especially revealing. He does not 
advocate his conclusion by stating "I con- 
jecture," "I hypothesize," "I infer," or "it 
seems to me that the best interpretation 
is. . . ." Instead, he boldly writes "obser- 
vavi" — I have observed. No other word 
could capture with such terseness and ac- 
curacy the major change in concept and 
procedure (not to mention ethical valua- 
tion) marking the transition to what we 

The stymied Galileo 

looked and looked and 

focused and focused, night 

after night. He finally 

decided that Saturn 

must be a threefold body, 

with a central sphere flanked '■ 

by two smaller spheres of 

equal size, each touching 

the main planet. 

call "modern" science. An older style (as 
found, for example, in Gesner's com- 
pendium on mammals) would not have 
dishonored a claim for direct observation 
but would have read such an argument as 
a corroborative afterthought, surely sec- 
ondary in weight to such criteria as the 
testimony of classical authors and logical 
consistency with a conception of the uni- 
verse "known" to be both true and just — 
in other words, to authority' and fixed 

But the new spirit of skepticism toward 
past certainty, coupled with respect for 
"pure" and personal observation — thenj Sij 
being stressed by Francis Bacon in Eng- 
land, by Rene Descartes in France, and by 




Natural History 5/98 

This View Of Life 19 

the Lynxes in Italy — was sweeping 
tlirough the intellectual world, upsetting 
all standard procedures of former times 
.Hid giving birth to the modern form of an 
institution now called "science." Thus, 
Galileo supported his theory of Saturn 
with the strongest possible claim of the 
new order, the one argument that could 
sweep aside all opposition by claiming a 
direct, immediate, and unsullied message 
from nature. Galileo simply said: I have 
observed it: I have seen it with my own 
eyes. How could old Aristotle, or even the 
present pope himself deny such evidence? 

I do not intend, in this essay, to debunk 
the usual view that such a transition from 
old authority to direct observation marks 

defining (and wonderfully salutary) 
event in the history of scientific method- 
ology. But I do wish to note that all great 
mythologies include harmful simplicities 
lamid their genuine reforms, and that 
these negative features often end up by 
saddling an originally revolutionary doc- 
trine with its own form of restrictive and 
unquestioned authority. The idea that 
observation can be pure and unsullied 
(and therefore beyond dispute) — and that 
great scientists are, by implication, people 
who can free their minds from the con- 
straints of surrounding culture and reach 
conclusions strictly by untrammeled ex- 
periment and observation joined with 
dear and universal logical reasoning — has 
often harmed science by turning the em- 
Diricist method into a shibboleth. The 
rony ot this situation fills me with a niix- 
nire of pain for a derailed (if impossible) 
deal and amusement for human foibles — 
is a method devised to undermine proof 
oy authority becomes, in its turn, a spe- 
;ies of dogma itself. Thus, if only to 
aonor the truism that liberry requires 
iternal vigilance, we must also act as 
watchdogs to debunk the authoritarian 
"orm of the empiricist myth and to re- 
issert the quintessentiaUy human theme 
:hat scientists can only work within their 
ocial and psychological contexts. Such 
in assertion does not debase the institu- 
ion of science but rather enriches our 
ntw of the greatest dialectic in human 



history: die transformation of society by 
scientific progress, which can only arise 
within a matrix set, constrained, and fa- 
cilitated by society. 

I know no better illustration of this 
central principle than the tale of Galileo's 
losing struggle with Saturn, for he in- 
sisted on validation by pure sight (obser- 
I'cim), and he was quite wrong — presum- 
ably because his intellectual domain 
included no option for rings around a 
planet. Galileo did not just "see" Saturn; 

he had to interpret an object in his lens by 
classifying an ambiguous shape within the 
structure of his mental space, and rings 
didn't inhabit this interior world. 

The great Dutch astronomer Christiaan 
Huygens finally recognized the rings of 
Saturn in 1656, more than a decade after 
Galileo's death. Galileo, who had wrestled 
mightily with Saturn, never moved be- 
yond his trigeminal claim and finally gave 
up and turned to other pursuits. In his 
1613 Letters on Sunspots, published by the 




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20 This View of Life 

Natural History 5/98 

Lynxes (with the author designated on the 
title page as Galileo Galilei Linceo), 
Galileo continued to insist that Saturn 
must be threefold because he had so ob- 
served the planet: "I have resolved not to 
put anything around Saturn except what I 
have already observed and revealed — that 
is, two small stars which touch it, one to 
the east and one to the west." Against a 
I colleague \vho interpreted the planet as 
! oblong, Galileo simply asserted his supe- 
rior \-ision. The colleague, Galileo \\Tote, 
had viewed Saturn less often and \\Vi\i a 
much poorer telescope, "where perfection 
is lacking, [and] the shape and distinction 
of the three stars imperfectly seen. I, who 
have observed it a thousand times at dif- 
ferent periods wth an excellent instru- 
ment, can assure you that no change 
whatever is to be seen in it." 

Yet just as Galileo prepared his book on 
sunspots for publication, he observed Sat- 
urn again after a hiatus of two years, and 
the two side planets had disappeared (a 
situation produced, we now know, when 
the planet's orientation causes us to see 
the rings directly on edge). The stunned 
Galileo, reduced to a most uncharacteris- 
tic modesty, had just enough time to 
make an addition to the last chapter of his 
book. He abjured nothing about his pre- 
vious obser\'ations, or about the right- 
eousness of the empirical method in gen- 
eral. He merely confessed his puzzlement, 
making a lovely classical allusion to the 
primar\' myth about the planet's eponym: 

/ had discovered Saturn to be three-bodied. 
. . . When I first saw them they seemed 
almost to touch, and they remained so for 
ahnost two years without the least change. 
It was reasonable to believe them to be 
fixed. . . . Hence I stopped observing 
Saturn for more than two years. But in the 
past Jew days I returned to it and found it 
to be solitary, without its customary 
supporting stars, and as pefectly round and 
sharply bounded as Jupiter Now what can 
be said of this strange metamorphosis? 
Tliat the two lesser stars have been 
consumed? . . . Has Saturn devoured his 
children? Or was it indeed an illusion and 

a fraud with which the lenses of my 
telescope deceived mejor so long — and not 
only me, but many others who have 
observed it with me? . . . I need not say 
anything definite upon so strange and 
unexpected an event; it is too recent, too 
unparalleled, and I am restrained by my 
own inadequacy and thejear oj error. 

After this lengthy preamble on the 
maximally celebrated Galileo, I now wish 
to present the main subject of this dual 
essay: the virtually unknown Francesco 
SteUuti, one of the original four Lynxes, a 
loyal friend and supporter of Galileo, and 
the man who tried to maintain — and 
eventually disbanded with dignity in 
1652 — the original Academy of the 
Lynxes, fatally weakened after Cesi's un- 
timely death in 1630. The pre\'iously un- 
charted Hnks between Stelluri and Galileo 
are rich and fascinating (I would have said 
"the links between these Lynxes," if the 
pun were not so horrific) and provide a 
poignant iUustrarion of this essay's central 
theme: the power and povert\' of pure 
empiricism and the need to scrutinize the 
social and intellectual contexts of re- 
search, both for practicing scientists (so 
they wiU not be beguiled) and for all 
people who wish to understand the role 
and history of knowledge (so they wijl 
grasp the necessarv' and complex interdig- 
itation of science and society). 

The original L\Tixes began with all the 
bravado and secrecs' of a U^jical boys' club 
(Cesi, remember, was only eighteen years 
old, while his three compatriots were all 
rwenty-six). They wrote complex rules 
and enunciated loft^' ideals. (I do not 
know whether or not they developed a 
secret handshake.) Each adopted a special 
role, received a Latin moniker, and took a 
planet for his emblem. The leader, Cesi, 
commanded the botanical sciences as 
Coehvagus (the heavenly wanderer); the 
Dutchman Johannes van Heeck would 
read and interpret classical philosophy as 
lUuminatus; Anastasio de FOiis became 
the group's historian and secretan,^ as 
Eclipsatus. Poor Francesco SteUuti, \vho 
pubhshed httle and e\ddendy saw himself 



.IS a systematic plodder, took up mathe- 
matics and geometry under the name of 
lardigradus (the slow stepper). For his 
planet, Stelluti received the most distant 
and most slowly revolving body — Saturn, 
the subject ot Galileos error. 

In their maturity, the Lynxes would 
piovide powerful intellectual and institu- 
tional support for the open and empirical 
approach to science, as promoted by their 
most prominent member Galileo. But at 
their beginnings, as a small club of young 
men, the Lynxes preferred the older tradi- 
tion of science as an arcane and secret 
form of knowledge, vouchsafed only to 
initiates who learned the codes and for- 
mulas that could reveal the mysterious 
harmonies of universal order — the astro- 
logical links between planetary positions 

Pope Urban VIII, wlio ordered that Galileo 
be tried for heresy in 1 632 

and human lives; the alchemical potions 
and philosophers' stones, heated in vats, 
that could transmute base metals to gold 
("Double, double toil and trouble; Fire 
Durn and cauldron bubble," to cite some 
famous witches); and the experiments in 
smoke, mirrors, and optical illusions that 
occupied an uncertain position bet\veen 
;ategories now labeled as magic and sci- 

ence, but then conflated. Giambattista 
della Porta, the fifth Lynx, had survived as 
a living legend of this fading philosophy. 
Delia Porta had made his reputation in 
1558, long before the birth of any origi- 
nal Lynx, with a book entided Magia nat- 
iiralis (Natural magic). As a young man in 
Naples, della Porta had founded his own 
arcane organization, the Accademia dei 
Segreti (the Academy of Secrets), dedi- 
cated to alchemical and astrological 
knowledge and later officially suppressed 
by the Inquisition. By initiating the aged 
della Porta into the Academy of the 
Lynxes, Cesi and his compatriots showed 
the strength of their earher intellectual al- 
legiances. By inducting Galileo the next 
year, they displayed their ambivalence and 
their growing attraction to a new view of 
knowledge and scientific procedure. 

The election of both newcomers virtu- 
ally guaranteed a period of definitional 
struggle within the academy, for no love 
could be lost between della Porta and 
Galileo, who not only differed so greatly 
in their basic philosophical approaches to 
science but who also nearly came to 
blows for a much more specific reason 
rooted in the eternally contentious issue 
of priority. Galileo never claimed that he 
had invented the telescope firom scratch. 
He stated that he had heard reports about 
a crude version during a trip to Venice in 
1609. He recognized the optical princi- 
ples behind the device and then built a 
more powerful machine that could survey 
the heavens. But della Porta, who had 
used lenses and mirrors for many demon- 
strations and illusions in his Magia natnralis 
and who understood the theory of optics 
quite well, then claimed that he had for- 
mulated all the principles tor building a 
telescope (although he had not con- 
structed the device) and therefore de- 
served primary credit for the invention. 
Although tensions remained high, the 
festering issue never became an overt bat- 
tle royal because Galileo and della Porta 
held each other in mutual respect, and 
della Porta died in 1615 before any grow- 
ing bitterness could get out of hand. 

(Please turn to page 70) 



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22 Journal 

Natural History 5/98 

Human nature is the 
least predictable element 
in a battle for the last 
pristine ecosystem on 
Saint Croix. 

By Tliomas McNamee 

Conservation is supposed to be about 
consen^ation, right? Say you want to save 
the last untrammeled ecosystem on the is- 
land of Saint Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Is- 
lands. Youve got an upland wilderness. 
You've got the island's last rsvo really iso- 
lated and pristine beaches. You've got su- 
perlative coral reefs and sea-turtle nesting 
habitat. You've ^ot research underway at a 


world-famous facility. You want to talk 
biodiversity, fisheries, beaut\; and knowl- 
edge. Your plans probably do not include 
an eccentric countess, embezzled research 
funding, and the fliry of a hurricane. 

Hurricane Hugo came to Samt Croix 
late on September 17, 1989. Through the 
night, the wind blew at over 140 miles 
per hour (and probably harder, but Hugo 
broke all the anemometers). At the West 
Indies Laborator%' of Fairleigh Dickinson 
Universit\' (FDU), a marine research sta- 
tion at the eastern end of Saint CroLx (the 
largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands), thirt\-- 
five students and twent)' researchers hud- 
dled together in a dorm as the roofs flew 
out to sea and the boats at the station's 
docks splintered and sank. 

The laboratory's director, Elizabeth 
Gladtelter — a compact marathon runner 
then fort\'-two years old, with a fierce, 
direct stare and the set of jaw that be- 
speaks iron determination — rallied her 
troops. Soon students, facult\', and staff 

were digging latrines, firing up barbecue 
grills to heat water, forming committees 
for every conceivable e.xigency, including 
entertainment. They made, remarkably, 
three hot meals a day and salvaged years 
of research data. Twenty-two of the 
twenty-eight who stayed to try to restore 
the laboratoiy came down with dengue 
fever — a mosquito-borne malady that 
makes you feel as though your every bone 
is broken and, accordingly, is known as 
"breakbone fever" — but they survived 
that too. Within a month, research sched- 
ules were back to normal. 

Hugo left Saint Croix in ruins. Three- 
quarters of the island's houses had lost 
their roofs. There was no telephone ser- 
vice, no electriciD,'. There was some loot- 
ing, and much more rumor of it. Hardly a 

tree was left with a leaf or twig. Swarms 
of bees and wasps descended on a largely 
homeless populace. It took four months 
to restore power, even longer to get the 
phones working. Mainlanders (swindlers 
among them) arrived to cash in on the re- 
building. Local businesses shriveled. 
Tourism, the economy's heart, dwindled 
to almost nothing. 

The West Indies Laboratory had been a 
paradise of a research facility, nestled in a 
mountain bowl of dry tropical forest and 
endowed with state-of-the-art equip- 
ment. Its flower-lined paths wound 
alongside coconut palms, gumbo-limbo 
trees, and tropical fruit trees. The sea, 
with its miles of coral reef, lay just across 
the road. The lab brought together un- 
dergraduates, graduate students, conser- 

vationists, and researchers in many natural 
science disciplines from all over the 
world, including some of the leading 
lights of marine science. Before Hugo 
smashed it almost to pieces, the lab's re- 
search work had resulted in nearly 250 
scientific publications. 

The late Fairleigh Dickinson Jr. had 
helped found the lab in 1971 as a campus 
of FDU — whose board he chaired — set- 
ting it amid some 200 acres that he do- 
nated. Dickinson was a very rich man and 
a generous man, and no place was dearer 
to his philanthropic heart than Saint 
Croix, where he kept a house; he once 
owned much of the eastern tip of the is- 
land. In 1977 he donated a large parcel of 
it to the U.S. Virgin Islands to be pre- 
served as a park. It encompassed mostly 

undeveloped beach with superb coral 
reefs just offshore, and above it mountain- 
sides of uninhabited tropical woodland. 

Close by this parcel, on the south side 
of the island's eastern tip, lie two isolated 
bays that epitomize the tranquillity, 
beauty, and biotic diversity that have been 
lost in much of the Caribbean. It's a long, 
hot walk through the thorn bush to Jack 
Bay and Isaac Bay, where arid mountain- 
sides — although farmed, overgrazed, and 
altered in centuries past — have grown 
into a dense quilt of thorn scrub and cac- 
tus and littoral woodland: an undisturbed 
beach ecosystem. The bay areas are sensa- 
tionally beautiful. So is the reef. Four- 
foot barracudas hover in the shallows of 
crystalline water between the surface and 
the crowded heads of elkhorn coral. 

Surges of red-eared sardines burst from 
shadow, and brown pelicans plunge into 
their midst. Rainbow-colored parrotfish 
gnaw at the coral and excrete it in cloudy 
plumes — the source of sand for the beach 
where leatherback, hawksbiU, and green 
turtles come to lay their eggs. Here and 
there, the long-spined Caribbean sea 
urchin (Diadema aiiliUarwii) is making ten- 
tative moves toward recovery from its 
mysterious pan-Caribbean die-off fifteen 
years ago. This spiky and venomous crea- 
ture was the principal grazer of algae on 
the coral reefs, and scientists speculate 
that the demise of great stretches of reef 
may have been caused by Diadeina\ disap- 
pearance, as ungrazed, rapidly growing 
algae choked the coral. Now, just as mys- 
teriously, Diadema seems to be coming 
back at Jack and 

Castle Aura, left, 
inspired plans for a 
luxury housing 
Conununity Aura, 
which would engulf 
the site of the 
former West Indies 

Isaac Bays and else- 
where around the 

Coral reefs are 
both highly re- 
silient and highly 
vulnerable. Hugo 
buUdozed reef 

walls of elkhorn 
coral across the 
south shore of Saint Croix, sometimes 
scouring ten to twenty feet of sand out of 
the reef channels, but there was no de- 
tectable damage to the Jack and Isaac 
Bays' reef ecosystem. A hurricane to a 
reef is something Uke a fire to a forest: an 
agent of renewal. On the other hand, or- 
dinary mud can choke a reef. Ten years 
ago, reefs offshore firom a Saint Croix re- 
sort development called Carambola were 
trashed by the mud that washed down 
from its construction site. 

The possibility of just such a sudden 
catastrophe is what had so many people 
on Saint CroLx so upset back in 1986, 
when Dickinson sold the land he owned 
in the area surrounding Jack and Isaac 
Bays to CaribBank Financial Group LP, a 
real estate development company headed 
by Franklin Knobel. This was no minor 
parcel: it was the whole south side of the 
eastern tip, 301 acres all the way from the 

24 Journal 

Natural History 5/98 

ridge line dowTi to the sea, directly ad- 
joining the land Dickinson had earlier 
given to the territory. 

Knobel eventually floated a proposal 
for a huge resort there, and the local con- 
servationists — ^led by the Saint Croix En- 
\'ironnientaI Association — set up a howl. 
A battle was in store. Then came Hugo. 

Of the Dickinsons' o\\ti house, noth- 
ing was left but a concrete slab. There 
were many such slabs. For the island's 
55.000 people, unemplo\Tnent was hor- 
rendously high. Crime and other indexes 
of despair rose. The bottom dropped out 
of the real estate market. Franklin Knobel 
stopped making payments on the mort- 
gage Dickinson had extended to him. As 
the months dragged on. Saint Croix 
seemed paralyzed in a sort of posttrau- 

Saint Thomas 

Saint John 

Caribbean Sea 


Frederiksted , 

Salt River 

Christiansted a 

Saint Croix 

Saint Croix East End 




West indies Lab'dratory^i 


Jack' Bay 



Caribbean Sea 

matic shock. And Jack and Isaac Bays re- 
mained pristine. 

Meanwhile, the president of Fairleigh 
Dickinson University, Robert Donald- 
son, was impressed with the work Betsy 
Gladfelter and her smdents and staff had 
done after the hurricane; Donaldson had 
toured the lab shortly after Hugo struck. 
Gladfelter says that insurance company 
oiEcials and the Federal Emergeno,' Man- 
agement Agency had assured her the lab 
was eligible for hiU replacement money — 
$1.3 million. And Donaldson said his visit 
had con\Tnced him that when the insur- 
ance money came through, the universit^• 
must rebuild the West Indies Laborator\'. 
But the universit\' was in severe financial 
difficulty, and running the lab cost 
money. Some members of FDU's board 
of trustees saw Hugo's devastation of the 
lab as an opportunity': the insurance 
money could be used to pay off some of 
the universit)-'s debt. 

When FDU sent its representatives to 
Saint Croix in Februar\- 1990, Gladfelter 
suspected that the university,? was thinking 
about shutting down the lab and pocket- 
ing the proceeds. Her faith in the execu- 
tive branch of the university had already 
taken a battering because of events at Salt 
River, a deep bay on the north shore of 
Saint Croix. The National Oceano- 
graphic and Atmospheric Administration 
(NOAA) operated a submarine research 
station called Aquarius there, and fionds 
for Aquarius flowed through the office of 
Richard Touma, associate dean of the 
College of Science and Engineering at 
FDU. It mmed out that some Aquarius 
ftinds had been embezzled. Gladfelter was 
not optimistic. The 
signs for the lab's 
fiiture were grim. 

On February' 27. 
1990. the planning 
and development 
committee of the 
FDU board of 
trustees decided, 
by a margin of one 
vote, to use the in- 
surance proceeds 

'"to rebuild [the lab] if the University does 
not need the fiinds for general University 
purposes of a higher priorit\'." That deci- 
sion was followed in April by the board's 
vote to suspend the coming academic 
year at the lab. The same spring, NOAA 
decided to relocate the Aquarius research 
station, effectively mo\ing it out of the 
scandal-tainted control of the universin,' 
and away from Saint Croix. (In February 
1993, Touma would plead guilt)' to theft 
of federal hinds and would receive three 
years' probation.) 

Gladfelter continued to drum up letters 
of support from scientists worldwide, 
manv of \vhom had \vorked at the lab. 
But on June 13, the FDU board voted to 
kill the West Indies Laboraton,'. Betsy 
Gladfelter simply refused to let it die. 
When Francis J. Mertz, who had been 
appointed the new president of FDU in 
May 1990, went down to take a look at 
the lab, Gladfelter begged him to keep it 
open at least for the rest of that summer; 
she would find an angel somewhere. And 
Dickinson promised her that he would 
help fiind the reborn lab. Then Gladfelter 
discovered that the Virgin Islands' plant- 
closing law required procedures — includ- 
ing gi^'ing the employees the first option 
to purchase — that FDU hadn't followed, 
so in September she and nine other staff 
members at the lab sued the university' to 
keep the faciliD,' open. And she stormed 
up to FDU's home campus m Teaneck, 
Ne\v Jersey, to demand written assurance 
(which she never received) that FDU 
would use the insurance proceeds for re- 
building the lab if she succeeded in form- 
ing a nonprofit corporation to run it. 

On September 12, 1990, the Territor- 
ial Court of the Virgin Islands issued a 
temporary' restraining order directing 
FDU to keep the lab open for three 
months wth full pay for everyone on the 
staff, and ordering the plaintifis to post a 
550,000 bond. (In the event that the case 
went against the staff, the bond would 
cover the universin." for possible lost rev- 
enue.) But the tide soon turned against 
the Gladfelter group; not satisfied with 
the manner in which the bond was 








posted, the judge vacated the restraining 
order. On November 30, Gladfelter and 
the rest of the staff received the following 
notice from the Office of Academic Af- 
fairs at FDD: 

Effective iiiiiiicdicitcly, the lab is 
pcnihvieiitly closed, Viuil further notice, 
there is to be no access to the facility, hi 
case of emergency contact Mr Farber. Yoti 
will be contacted in due course about 
outstaudiui^ pay arrani^cmcuts. 

So who e.xactly was Mr. Farber? And 
how had he entered the picture? Well, it's 

Nadia Farber, the contessa de Navarro, 
is the widow of Sid Farber, a Long Island, 
' New York, industrialist (her title comes 
to her from a previous husband). The 
above-mentioned Yuri Farber is the in- 
dustrialist's nephew. He and the contessa 
sometimes reside in splendid isolation in 
Castle Aura, a vast and inexpressibly 
strange stucco and marble ersatz-Moorish 
castle designed by the contessa herself; it 
stands high on a crest, overlooking the 
West Indies Laboratory. 

The contessa, who is of Bulgarian birth 
and international upbringing, is a small, 
ample, and graceful lady of a certain age, 
and she and her castle are the object of 
obsessive fascination on Saint Croix. Her 
■ wardrobe consists almost entirely of caf- 
tans and color-coordinated turbans. She 
wears iridescent sea-blue eye makeup that 
swirls around her cheekbones in serpen- 
tine filigree. She speaks ten languages. In 
the heat of the day she carries a white lace 
parasol. Gesturing theatrically with genr- 
crowded fingers, she calls her interlocutor 
"my darling." She is utterly charming. 

Yuri Farber is as reserved as the con- 
tessa is flamboyant. A fortyish Czech, he 
is by all reports the entrepreneurial spirit 
of the contessa's expanding empire. He is 
guarded, polite. He has reason to be cau- 
tious; he is unpopular with some of the 
neighbors, as is the contessa. 

This, in part, is why. By the late 1980s, 
Fairleigh Dickinson University had a de- 
clining enrollment (down by 38 percent 

in ten years) and a budget deficit reported 
to be $24 million. Desperate for cash, the 
university, just a few months before the 
devastating hurricane, had sold the con- 
tessa approximately 125 acres of roadless 
forest land it owned in the area between 
the lab and the castle. At that time, the 


South Carolina's offer exceeded the con- 
tessa's bid, but FDU was already well 
along in its negotiation with her. In AprU 
1991, the contessa signed a contract to 
purchase the lab and its remaining land 
for $415,000. The contract included pay- 
ment to Sid Farber's estates of $10,000 a 
month for lab se- 

Tlie cast of 
characters in the 
drama over Jack 
and Isaac Bays 
includes the 
contessa de 
Navarro, left, 
and the late 
Dickinson Jr., 

curity and manage- 
ment until the uni- 
versity settled all 
outstanding mat- 
ters (between it 
and the lab staff) 
and the deal could 
at last close. (The 
university and staff 
are prohibited from 
discussing details of 

contessa also picked up the t 
right of first refusal for a re- ■; 
maining 9.5 acres, includ- 
ing the West Indies Labora- 
tory itself. 

Then came Hugo, the 
lab shutdown, the lawsuit, 
the court order. The con- 
tessa saw her chance to 
complete her holdings, and 
FDU jumped. On Septem- 
ber 11, 1990 — one day be- 
fore the issuance of the 
court order to keep the lab 
open for three months — 
the university installed a 
new property manager at 
the lab: Yuri Farber. 

Betsy Gladfelter pleaded 
with the contessa not to go dirough with 
her option to buy the lab properrs'. Glad- 
felter also called the University' ot South 
Carolina, which has one of the best ma- 
rine science programs anywhere. With 
amazing alacrity for an institution, USC 
offered to rescue and rebuild the lab. 

their final setdement.) The contract also 
stipulated that the contessa would donate 
$175,000 to FDU. 

The contessa and Farber had a vision of 
their own for the property': Communirs' 
Aura, a luxurious mountainside dex'elop- 
ment, the design of whose houses would 

26 Journal 

Natural History 5/98 

reflect the glory of the great Castle Aura 
towering above it. Some of the lab struc- 
tures would be incorporated into the de- 
sign; the rest would be demolished and 
replaced by a club for the citizens of 
Community Aura, with a swimming 
pool, tennis courts, dinmg room, "what- 
ever my people wish," as the contessa put 
it. Soon, Yuri Farber's bulldozers were at 
work chewing in a network of roads. 

Time in the islands passes in stumbling 
starts and sudden fits. Long periods of sta- 
sis are punctuated by irruptions of cata- 
strophe — like Hugo, say, or hke real estate 
developer Franklin Knobel's successively 
less outrageous but ever more hopeless 
proposals for Jack and Isaac Bays. 

Franklin Knobel could have been sent 
from Central Casting: pac- 
ing back and forth in white 
pants, white shoes, and gold 
bracelet, sucking fiercely on 
a cigarette, preemptively 
angry, he endured hearing 
after hearing, filed plan after 
amended plan for the 
bays. The environmentalists 
howled, the hearings 
dragged on through the 
years, new conditions were 
attached to this or that per- 
mit, and Knobel would be 
back at the drawing board. 
Stasis, meanwhile engulfed 
Community Aura. The cas- 
tle still stared down at the ruins of the 
West Indies Laboratory, which the con- 
tessa still declined to sell. But along the 
new roads, not a single house rose. 

In the meantime, Gladfelter and the 
University of South Carolina decided that 
the best place for a rebuilt lab was Cot- 
tongarden Point, a lovely peninsula on 
the land Dickinson had given to the Vir- 
gin Islands government. It was essentially 
wilderness except for one dirt road and a 
gigantic radio telescope, part of the Very 
Long BaseUne Array, a system often tele- 
scopes that stretches from Hawaii to Saint 
Croix. To build there would require shar- 
ingjurisdiction with the University of the 
Virgin Islands — an agreement that took