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77/t' Xative-Amcrican language Salish—Pend 
d 'Oreille faces extinction — just like more than 
half of the world's 6,000 other languages. 



Libya's ancient ruins were built over many 
centuries by vastly different groups. 


.-1 South African animal-rehabilitation 

center gives an unpopular primate a 
chance to return to the wild. 


ON THE COVER: A group of speed skaters race in Bormio. 
Italy, to quality for the Olympics. Photograph by Max Rossi 



Lynx Jinx 
Photograph by Michael Qtiiiiton 


Outward Bound 
Robert Anderson 

News from Nature 

Hiber Nation 



Skating through the Ages 
Adam Summers 


Florida Underground 
Robert H. Mohlenbrock 

Best Books for Young Readers. 2007 
Diana Lut: 

54 And for the Coffee Table 
Laurence A . Marschall 


Joe Rao 



Who's Watching Whom? 
Barbie Bischqf 


I 'isit our Web site at 


Lynx Jinx 

Photograph by Michael Quinton 




'* ^ 



i *5P 


LTUR.AL history December 2007/January 2008 

s * 


vk W i ^k 

New from 
Thames & Hudson 

by Joanne Berry 

$40.00 / 256 pages / 318 illus. 

by Andrew Robinson 

$34.95 / 224 pages / 334 illus. 

by Sophie D. & Michael D. Coe 

$21.95 paper / 280 pages / 97 illus. 

'Q- Thames & Hudson 
Available wherever books are sold 


~* See preceding two pages 

Caught in the clutches of a cat? 
You're not alone. In more than 
38 million U.S. households, 90 mil- 
lion domesticated cats have owners 
wrapped around their little pinky 
claws and are lapping up household 
luxuries. But the six other feline spe- 
cies in North America — the bobcat 
(or bay lynx), the Canadian lynx, 
the jaguar, the jaguarundi, the 
ocelot, and the puma — must prey in 
ever more precarious and taxing set- 
tings. In fact, of the thirty-six wild 
cat species in the world, more than 
two-thirds are either 
endangered or at risk. 

Bobcats, like the 
one pictured here near 
the Snake River in 
southeastern Idaho, are 
currently classified as 
being at risk, but that's 
been up for debate. 
Six months ago the 
United Nations con- 
sidered removing the 
bobcat (Lynx rufus) from its protected 
list. Many U.S. officials favored such 
a change in order to ease the trade in 
bobcat skins. Over 50,000 skins are 
brought to the global market every 
year, making the bobcat the most 
traded cat species on the planet, with 
the U.S. as the leading exporter. 

Are there really that many bobcats 
to spare? The pointy-eared creatures 
range widely, from Ontario to Cali- 
fornia to Florida. Yet the last bobcat 

Michael Quinton 

census was conducted more than a 
quarter century ago, so only rough 
population estimates exist today. 
Apart from that, an L. rufus skin 
can be indistinguishable from some 
other, more vulnerable species, even 
after DNA testing. Therefore, out of 
extreme concern for the other cats, 
the U.N. voted to keep the strictures 
in place. 

Photographer Michael Quinton 
certainly wasn't out for a pelt when 
he spotted this bobcat several winters 
ago in Market Lake Wildlife Man- 
agement Area. About 
twice the size of a 
domestic cat, it was 
stalking a fat muskrat. 
The solitary hunting 
creatures usually prefer 
dusk and dawn, but in 
tough seasons, when 
rabbits and rodents 
(even deer) are scarce, 
longer hours prevail. 
"The muskrat had 
a moment of bravery when it lunged 
at the bobcat," recalls Quinton, "but 
it was quickly killed." The cat then 
proceeded to toss the carcass repeat- 
edly and roll around on it. Finally, 
after eating about half of its catch, 
the bobcat ran off with the remains. 
Having no guarantee of its next meal, 
the cat likely cached the leftovers 
under the snow — in its own version 
of domesticity, refrigeration. 

— Erin Espelie 

After living on the edge Of Yellowstone National Park for years, Quinton left in 
favor of a "real wilderness": a home near Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park 
in Alaska. There Quinton set up a base for his video and photography pro- 
duction. See for more of his work. 

PICTURE CREDITS Cover: ©Max Rossi/Reuters/Corbis; pp. 2-4: Michael Quinton/Minden; p. 10: (top) Hector D. Douglas 111. 
(middle) Dennis Frates/Alamy. (bottom) Kimimasa Mayama/Reuters; p. 12: (top) ©Mike Parry/Minden, (middle) Dino Frey, (bottom) 
Olivier Gargominy; p. 14: (top) Allen West, (inset) Jim Wittke, (bottom) Keith M. Law/Alamy; pp. 21-22: (skates) Federico Formenri; 
pp. 24-25: Chuck Haney; p. 25: (map) Joe LeMonnier; p. 26: Thompson Smith/ T7ie Salish People and the Leuis and Clark Expedition, 
by the Salish-Pcnd d'Oreille Culture Committee and Elders Advisory Council (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 2005); p. 27: 
'Halt for rations at Stevensville. Mont, October 15. 1891.' University of Pennsylvania Museum image #174304; p. 28: Ryan Tahbo; 
p. 32: (map) Joe LeMonnier; p. 36: Attie Gerber; p. 37: (map) Joe LeMonnier; pp. 38—12: Attie Gerber; p. 44: (top) Kristopher Barrios, 
(middle) Planigraphy /Alamy; p. 45: (top) Florida Images/ Alamy, (map) Joe LeMonier, (bottom) M.Timothy O'Keefe/AIamy; pp. 48-51 : 
(cartoons) Dolly Setton. 

NATURAL HISTORY December 2007/ 'January 2008 




The Natural History 
Museum of Los Angeles 
County and Conservation 
International are pleased to 
announce an exciting 
new series of weekend 
presentations featuring some 
of the most renowned 
conservation scientists and 
explorers working today. 



The Lost World 

Bruce Beehler.Vice President of Melanesia Program 


Pushed to the Edge: Species and Climate Change 
Lee Hannah, Senior Fellow for Climate Change 


The Smaller Majority 

Piotr Naskrecki, Director, Invertebrate Diversity Initiative 


Building a Common Agenda Between Indigenous People and Conservation 
Kristen Walker Painemilla,Vice President and Executive Director and 
Susan Stone, Senior Advisor Global Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Initiative 


Ocean Exploration and Research in Marine Conservation 
Roger McManus.Vice President for Marine Programs 


Head in the Sky, Feet in the Mud 

Russell A. Mittermeier, President, Conservation International 

Each will include a multimedia presentation 
and the opportunity for audience members 
to interact with our prominent speakers 
through a question and answer session. 

presented by 





os Angeles County INTERNATIONAL 

For a complete description of the series go 

All presentations begin promptly at 2 pm in 
the Jean Delacour Auditorium at the Natural 
History Museum of Los Angeles County. 

Presentations are FREE for Members and 
Museum visitors with paid admission. Event 
tickets required and are available the day of 
the event at the Guest Relations and 
Membership Desks. Seating is limited and 
available on a first come, first served basis. 
Early arrival is recommended. 

Our theory: 

If the price is free, 
your mind will follow. 

Travel back in time to a world dominated by 
dinosaurs. Look beyond the road less traveled 
to a galaxy less observed. Or shrink down to 
the size of an atom and gain some perspective. 
These exciting experiences are just some of the 
cool things going on at the Arizona museums 
and science centers listed below. 

To get your two free admission passes, 
just visit 


Lowell Observatory 


Mesa Southwest Museum 


Arizona Science Center 


Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum 

Flandrau Science Center 
and Planetarium 

Kitt Peak National Observatory 
Visitor Center 


Hail from the Chief 

In case you missed Peter Brown's 
kind introduction last month, I have 
now succeeded him as Editor-in- 
Chief. As it happens, one of the first 
initiatives I've taken is to use the 
term "Editor in Chief" without hy- 
phenation, to better conform with 
our preferred reference dictionar- 
ies. Other than that, don't expect 
wrenching surprises; I wouldn't be 
approaching my thirtieth year on 
the staff of Natural History if I were 
not pleased with what we do. 

In my view the magazine's hall- 
mark remains the publication of ac- 
cessible articles by actively engaged 
scientists describing their primary 
research. An example is linguist Sar- 
ah Grey Thomason's report, in this 
issue, on the few remaining fluent 
speakers of Salish— Pend d'Oreille, a 
Native American language of the Pa- 
cific Northwest, and on the threat- 
ened extinction of between 60 and 
90 percent of the languages spoken 
around the globe today. Still, we 
happily make room for those whose 
stock-in-trade is writing: that enables 
us to bring you Michael C. Blumen- 
thal's engaging account of his expe- 
rience in South Africa as a volunteer 
caring for orphaned baboons. And 
of course we are proud of our stable 
of columnists (regrettably, however, 
Neil deGrasse Tyson's loyal fans will 
have to make do with fewer "Uni- 
verse" columns each year, because 
his other commitments have forced 
him to cut back). 

We will be tweaking a few in- 
grained practices. For one, you will 
now find the feature authors' bio- 
graphical notes at the ends of their 
articles, instead of on a separate con- 
tributors' page. And I'll be keeping 
any future editorial notes short, to 
allow more room for your letters. 
Vittorio Maestro 

Stand Up Straight 

Ian Tattersall gives a fine summary 
of bipedalism in early hominids 

Continued on page 8 

NATURAL history December 2007 '/January 2008 


Vittorio Maestro Editor in Chief 

Steven R. Black Art Director 

Erin Espelie Executive Editor 

Senior Editors 
Rebecca Kessler, Dolly Setton 

Ben Duchac Assistant Art Director 

Graciela Flores Editor-at- Large 

Annie Gottlieb Copy Chief 

Melisa Beveridge, Erica Westly Interns 

Contributing Editors 

Robert Anderson, Olivia Judson, Avis Lang, 

Charles Liu, Laurence A. Marschall, Richard Milner, 

Robert H. Mohlenbrock, Joe Rao, Stephan Reebs, 
Judy A. Rice, Adam Summers, Neil deGrasse Tyson 

Charles E. Harris Publisher 

Edgar L. Harrison Advertising Director 

Maria Volpe Promotion Director 

Sonia W. Paratore National Advertising Manager 

Adam Cohen Advertising Manager 

Meredith Miller Production Manager 

Lydia Bell Manager, Publishing Services 

For advertising information 

call 646-356-6508 

Advertising Sales Representatives 

Detroit— Barron Media Sales, LLC, 3 13-268-3996 

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Todd Happer Vice President, Science Education 

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National Direct Response — Smyth Media Group, 914-693-8700 

Natural History Magazine, Inc. 

Charles E. Harris President, Chief Executive Officer 

Judy Buller General Manager 

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Charles Rodin Publishing Advisor 

To contact us regarding your subscription, to order a new 

subscription, or to change your address, please visit our 

Web site or write to us at 

Natural History 

P.O. Box 5000, Harlan, IA 51593-0257. 

Natural Hixor)- (ISSN 0028-0712) is published monthly, except for combined 
issues in July/August and December/January, by Natural History Magazine 
Inc.. in affiliation with the American Museum of Natural History, Centr 
Park West at 79th Street, New York. NY 10024. E-mail: nhmag@natura Natural History Magazine. Inc., is solely responsible for 
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York. NY, and at additional mailing offices, Canada Publications Mail No. 
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all creatures great and small 

rer comes great responsibility. We c 
to be kind and merciful or cruel an 

Kindness and mercy are values that exemplify the 
best of the human spirit. Visit 
to find out what you can do. 



Celebrating Animals | Confronting i 




the endongeted arctic 

A stunning visual record of an 
endangered habitat. 

AnAbrams Hardcover 
ISBN: 978-0-8 1 09-9464-5 • $40.00 

Available Wherever Books Are Sold. 

4 Abrams 

Outward Bound 

By Robert Anderson 

In 1958 the prolific science fact and 
fiction writer Isaac Asimov pub- 
lished "Our Lonely Planet," an article 
in which he reasoned that given the 
tremendous distances — four light-years 
even to the nearest star after the Sun, 
Proxima Centauri — interstellar space 
travel would take too long to be practi- 
cal. But with more than 200 planets 
now discovered in orbits around nearby 
stars, it's nice to imagine that we could 
someday get to one that looks hospi- 
table. On the Internet, Google Earth's 
new Sky feature makes such flights of 
fancy a snap. Please visit the magazine 
online (, 
where I review Web sites devoted to 
virtual space travel. 

Robert Anderson is a freelance science 
writer who lives in Los Angeles. 

Continued from page 6 
["Lucy Goes Walkabout," 10/07] 
so I was surprised to see that Viktor 
Deak's cover illustration shows Lucy's 
close relative in a semi-erect, bent- 
knee stance. I had the good fortune 
to examine Lucy when she was in 
Donald C. Johanson's lab in Cleve- 
land, and I can assure you that the 
anatomy of the lower back, hips, feet, 
and knee and ankle joints all provide 
clear evidence that those early homi- 
nids stood just as erect as we do. 
C. Loring Brace 
University of Michigan 
Ann Arbor, Michigan 

Viktor Deak replies: The Australo- 
pithecus garhi in the illustration (which 
is part of a larger mural on display at 
the Houston Museum of Natural Sci- 
ence) is shown in a slightly crouched 
stance, shielding her child. My intent 
was to catch her at the moment of 
pulling away from a possible predator 
(in this case, the viewer) — a gesture 
that neither human nor ape would 
do with locked knees. After years 
of studying Lucy's bones with Gary 
Sawyer and Ian Tattersall, I have not- 
ed their striking similarity to modern 
human bones, but one can't ignore 
the fact there are also a lot of differ- 
ences. Lucy's bell-shaped, robust up- 
per body and small gluteus maximus 
(well-suited to climbing) probably 
gave her a slightly different posture 
from ours. 

Lucy Goes Walkabout, but Arizona 

State University does not. ASU is in 

Tempe and the University of Arizona 

is in Tucson. 

Paul Aizley 

Las Vegas, Nevada 

The editors reply: Indeed! We 
mistakenly stated that the Insti- 
tute of Human Origins at Arizona 
State University, where Donald C. 
Johanson works, is in Tucson. As 
several of our readers pointed out, 
ASU is in Tempe. Thanks for keep- 
ing us on our toes. 

No Translation Necessary 
I read Neil deGrasse Tyson's dis- 
cussion of the space race ["Fellow 
Traveler," 10/07] with great interest 
since I worked with the von Braun 
group on the creation of Jupiter-C, 
the rocket that launched Explorer 1. 
What Mr. Tyson didn't mention was 
that Wernher von Braun's German 
ties gave him inside knowledge of 
Russia's activities, so he knew about 
the Sputnik program before the rest 
of America. In fact, we built Jupiter- 
C six months before Sputnik 1 was 
launched and put it in a warehouse! 
When the Secretary of Defense 
got around to asking von Braun to 
put up a satellite, it took only two 
months to launch Explorer 1. The 
joke going around at the time was: 
"Do you know how Explorer i was 
able to speak to Sputnik'? They both 
spoke German!" 

A. P. Warren, Retired NASA Engineer 
Gallion, Alabama 

Translation Necessary 
Robert Anderson's mention of Sput- 
nik l's "evocative sounds" ["Beep 
Beep," 10/07] reminded me of that 
October morning in 1957 when 
I hastened from class to my dorm 
room to switch on my old Hal- 
licrafters S-40B. Fortunately I had 
the presence of mind to switch on 
the beat frequency oscillator (BFO), 
which converted Sputnik's hisses 
into a few fading beeps. Ham radio 
operators working with Morse code 
used the BFO to convert continu- 
ous wave (CW) signals into audible 
beeps. A number of my memory cells 
have faded into retirement, but I re- 
member thinking that the weak CW 
signal emitted by Sputnik could eas- 
ily have been overshadowed by the 
signal emanating from WWV, the 
national standards station broadcast- 
ing from Ft. Collins, Colorado. I sus- 
pect that many who reported hearing 
Sputnik's beeps may have been using 
smaller, less sensitive shortwave ra- 
dios lacking BFO capability and mis- 
Continued on page 63 

8 NATURAL history December 2007/January 2008 


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on the ocean floor to new galaxies being born at the edge of the universe, 
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All in our unique magazine, world-acclaimed for its award-winning color 
photographs and reportage by leading scientists, educators and writers. 

Yours in Natural History— for s 25! You save 37% off the newsstand price. 


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The Croc Came Back 

Saltwater crocodiles aren't known for their senti- 
mentality, but they are prone to bouts of home- 
sickness, according to a new study. Conducted 
with the help of the late Steve R. Irwin — the 
"crocodile hunter" — the study shows that dis- 
placed "salties" will travel as far as 250 miles to 
return to their home estuaries. 

Craig E. Franklin of the University of Queens- 
land and several colleagues, including Irwin, 
captured three large male crocodiles on the 
Cape York Peninsula in Australia's northeast trop- 
ics — no mean feat considering the beasts weigh 
more than 500 pounds apiece. After securing 
satellite transponders to the crocodiles' backs, 
the team helicoptered them thirty-five, sixty, or 
ninety miles away from their capture sites. 

After lingering in their new environs for as 
long as three months, the crocodiles made a 
beeline along the coast for their old haunts. The 
endurance champ — a fifteen-footer who'd been 
airlifted across the peninsula — swam 250 miles 
clear around the coast. He covered as many as 
nineteen miles in a single day, belying the no- 
tion that crocodiles are burst swimmers and can- 
not exert themselves for extended periods. 

The study also shows that salties are gifted 
navigators; Franklin speculates that they, like 
their closest relatives, birds, use clues from the 
sun and Earth's magnetic field, as well as their 
senses of sight and smell, to find their way. 
(PLoS ONE) —Brendan Borrell 

12! natural history December 2007/January 2008 

Did Skimming Fit the Bill? 

Today, only three bird species have the 
chops to skim for their supper. Black, 
African, and Indian skimmers fly low, 
pushing their lower beaks through the 
water, then snap their jaws shut when 
they hit a fish. Anatomical similarities 
between skimmers and pterosaurs — 
ancient flying reptiles that included 
pterodactyls — have led some paleon- 
tologists to suggest that pterosaurs also 
ploughed the water's surface. But Stuart 
Humphries, now at the University of 
Sheffield in England, begs to differ. 

With three colleagues, Humphries 
made casts of the lower beaks of skim- 
mers and pterosaurs, pulled the casts 
through water, and measured the drag 
force water exerted on the beaks. The 
team calculated that overcoming drag 
consumes a fifth of the energy that 
modern skimmers devote to flying — a 
substantial handicap that probably ex- 
plains why skimming is so rare. As for 
the pterosaurs, Humphries measured 

On the Trail of a Snail 

In 1970 John B. Burch, a malacologist 
visiting Tahiti, collected Partula hyalina 
snails bearing pretty white shells that 
islanders often fashioned into jewelry. 
Little did he know that the species, 
along with numerous others on South 
Pacific islands, would be devastated 
by a carnivorous snail introduced a 
few years later to control agricultural 
pests. Now that the damage to the 
native fauna has been done, however, 
Burch's snails have helped solve a 
longstanding malacological mystery: 
how did P. hyalina come to live only on 
Tahiti, on two of the Cook Islands (600 
miles to the southwest), and on four 
of the Austral Islands (500 miles to the 
south) — but on none of the region's 
myriad other islands? 

Enter Taehwan Lee of the University 
of Michigan and several colleagues. 
They recently compared portions of 

Partula hyalina 

Fossilized Scaphognathus 

such great drag on their beaks — as 
much as 68 percent of what their total 
energy expenditure would have been, 
he calculated — that flying while skim- 
ming would have been impossible for 
all but the smallest species. The team 
also compared the skulls and necks 
of pterosaurs and skimmers, 
and discovered that 
pterosaurs pos- y,i 
sessed few of /w 
the thirty ad- 
aptations that 
enable skim- 
mers to do 
their thing. 
It's more 
likely, says 
that when 

the largest flying creatures of all time 
fished, they snatched their meals from 
the water in one targeted swoop. (PloS 
Biology) —S.R 

DNA from Tahitian P. hyalina snails, 
collected by Burch and others, with 
those of individuals from the Cook 
and Austral islands. The comparison 
showed that the species originated 
on Tahiti, and was introduced to 
the outlying islands within the past 
30,000 years. 

But how did it get there? P. hyalina 
belongs to a lineage that comes in 
two color morphs: the white one and 
a darker one that lives only on Tahiti. 
Ancient Polynesians, the team thinks, 
selected the white-shelled morph to 
establish colonies of Tahitian snails on 
the outer islands as a source of shells 
for jewelry. If that's the case, they did 
P. hyalina a big favor: it is all but ex- 
tinct on Tahiti and now thrives only on 
its new, far-flung island homes. (Pro- 
ceedings of the Royal Society B) 

— Rebecca Kessler 

riiide * 

Field G 

Natural Woi Id 
New York City 


mi. km i - ai DOMMf 

Field Guide to the 

Natural World of New York City 

Leslie Day 

illustrated by Mark I. Klingler • foreword by Michael It. Bloomberg 

\s I eslie Day's wonderful book informs us, the five boroughs oi New York 
can be as interesting and exotic as that oi any place on Earth. You don't 
need a fancy research vessel — just a field guide, a sturdy pair of shoes, a 
Metrocard, and a desire to see the lite teeming in our midst. Welcome to the 
Big Apple \M>ilns sylvestris gig 

—Richard Ellis, author, artist, and research associate at the American 
Museum of Natural History 

the Pursuit 

of Knowledge 

Owls of the 
United States 
and Canada 

A Complete Guide to 

Their Biology and Behavior 

Wayne Lynch 

"Essential reading 
tor those who 
are fascinated by 
owls — and those 
who aren't yet but 
are now at risk of 
becoming so." 
— Bernd Heinrich, 
author oi Mind of 
the Raven 

The Rise of 

Evolution and 
Diversification of the 
Kingdom Animalia 
Mikhail A. Fedonkin, 
James G. Gehling, 
Kathleen Grey, 
Guy M. Narbonne, and 
Patricia Vickers-Rich 
foreivord by 
Arthur C. Clarke 

In this exquisitely illustrated book five of the world's leading 
paleontologists take us on a journey to the most important fossil 
sites that serve as unique windows to the earliest animal life. 


Power and Sex among Apes 

25th anniversary edition 

Frans de Waal 

"This excellent book achieves the 
dual goal which eludes so many 
writers about animal behavior — it 
will both fascinate the nonspecial- 
ist and be seen as an important 
contribution to science."' 
— Times Literary Supplement 

Cosmological Enigmas 

Pulsars, Quasars, and 

Other Deep-Space Questions 

Mark Kidger 

The universe is big. Really big. And it gets 
bigger even- dav. Mark Kidger weaves together 
history, science, and science fiction to consider 
questions about the bigness of space and the 
strange objects that lie trembling at the edge 
ot infinity. 



1-800-537-5487 • 


Black layer found in Arizona, above, and elsewhere containing 
carbon spheres like the one at right, magnified 130x and colorized, 
suggests an extraterrestrial cause for a mass extinction. 

Camels 0, Comet 1 

Thirteen thousand years ago camels, giant 
ground sloths, and mammoths roamed a lush 
North American landscape, along with the 
continent's earliest human inhabitants, the 
Clovis people. A mere hundred years later, 
however, the megafauna and the people had 
vanished forever, and an ice age that would 
last a millennium had begun. What hap- 
pened? New research points to a seemingly 
"far out" cause: an enormous comet that 
exploded over present-day Canada. 

More than two-dozen scientists, led by 
Richard B. Firestone of the Lawrence Berke- 
ley National Laboratory in California, stud- 
ied a distinct, inch-thick layer of black sedi- 
ment deposited 12,900 years ago at sites 
across North America. Fossils of the extinct 
megafauna and Clovis artifacts have never 
been found within or above the layer. At the 

layer's base, the team discovered minerals 
and particles that are typical of extrater- 
restrial objects, as well as soot and charcoal 
suggesting massive fires. 

Firestone and his team think the layer 
formed immediately after one or more ex- 
traterrestrial objects — possibly fragments 
of a comet — hit an icy region of northern 
Canada. The explosive impact sent a devas- 
tating shock wave and thermal pulse across 
the continent, incinerating animals and land- 
scapes. It would also have destabilized the 
ice sheet, upsetting ocean circulation and 
triggering the ice age. Lingering environ- 
mental effects of the impact — particularly 
a lack of food — contributed to the mass 
extinction, which included the loss of thirty- 
five mammal genera, the team concludes. 
(PNAS) —Harvey Leifert 

It's Not Just the Heat 

It's the humidity, or so the satellites say. 
They've been measuring a steady rise in at- 
mospheric moisture over the oceans since 
1988, when they first started gathering 
such data. The mugginess seemed a likely 
hallmark of global warming, and a new 

study now shows that human ac- 
tivity is definitely the cause. 
The satellite data indicate 
that the column of atmosphere 
above every square yard of 
ocean now holds nearly three 
more cups of water than it did 
two decades ago, according to a 
team led by Benjamin D. Santer 
of the Lawrence Livermore 
National Laboratory in Califor- 
nia. Combining results from all 
twenty-two of the world's major climate 
models, Santer and his team discovered 
that the increase came not from solar ra- 
diation, volcanoes, or El Nino — factors that 
climatologists had considered — but from 
the greenhouse gases people have been 
pumping into the air. 

Greenhouse gases warm the atmo- 
sphere and thereby increase its moisture- 
holding capacity. But water vapor is itself a 
greenhouse gas — a wicked feedback loop, 
if ever there was one. Of course, a fraction 
of the extra vapor condenses and forms 
clouds, which could offset some of the 

Beware though: high humidity can trig- 
ger intense hurricanes, the kind of cloudy 
weather we can definitely do without. 
(PNAS) —S.R. 

Earlier Birds 

team of investigators studied 
up to fifty-six years' worth of 

now arrive as many as twenty 
days ahead of schedule. By 


Birds returning from a win- 

data, gathered at six English 

contrast, species with declin- 


ter's retreat are showing up 

locales, on the arrival and 

ing populations have been 


in England earlier and earlier 

departure dates of thirty- 

flying in just five days early. 


each spring as a result of 

three migrant bird species. 

Why the difference be- 


global warming, a new study 

On average, they discovered. 

tween thriving and declining 


confirms. Unexpectedly, 

the birds are arriving in the 

species? Sparks thinks ob- 


populations in decline show 

spring twelve days earlier 

servers may spot the earliest 


a less pronounced shift than 

than they did fifty years ago. 

birds more readily when a 


thriving ones do, sparking 

That's a big change, and it 

species is abundant. If so, the 

33CI \ 

fears that ecologists have 

mirrors advances already 

true average advance in Eu- 

rw\ \ 

underestimated the effect of 

noted for migratory birds 

ropean and American arrival 

jLpA \ 

rising temperatures on mi- 

throughout Europe and in 

times may be even greater 


gratory birds. 

the United States. But the 

than actually measured be- 

s tPm\ 

Led by Tim H. Sparks, an 

change was even bigger 

cause, sadly, many migrant 


. ecologist at the Natural En- 

among species, such as the 

bird species are on the wane. 

Swallows \\^jt\ 

vironment Research Council 

blackcap, whose numbers are 

(Journal of Ornithology) 

prepare to \ LyL^, 

in Monks Wood, England, a 

on the rise in England: they 


migrate. jjgj 

14 j natural history December 2007/January 2008 

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Hiber Nation 

Understanding how creatures put their lives on hold 
could yield therapies for a variety of human ills. 

By Olivia Judson 

As the nights close in and winter 
takes hold, I get a hankering 
to burrow into my duvet, curl up, 
and hibernate until spring. But alas, 
humans are not among the large 
and diverse group of animals that 
can put themselves on hold for a few 
months. At least, not yet. 

Human hibernation is a hot topic, 
as I discovered one afternoon when 
I happened across the Journal of Brit- 
ish Interplanetary Science. Space agen- 
cies are interested because the abil- 
ity to hibernate on demand would 
come in handy on long-haul space 
flights. The immortality crowd is 
interested too: if you've got an in- 
curable disease or simply won't settle 
for an 80-year-life span, wouldn't it 
be great if you could put your head 
down, catch forty million winks, 
and wake up when medical science 
catches up? But the applications 
aren't all so futuristic; some are 
much closer to home. For instance, 
Matthew T. Andrews, a biologist at 
the University of Minnesota in Du- 
luth, foresees that discoveries from 
hibernation biology will be useful 
in treating everything from heart 
conditions and hypothermia to obe- 
sity. Indeed, writing earlier this year 
in the journal BioEssays, he argued 
that "there is tremendous potential 
for applying hibernation strategies 
to improve the human condition." 
Gosh. I threw off my duvet and 
went to investigate further. 

First off, I discovered that hi- 
bernation takes different forms in 

different animals. A black bear, for 
example, drops its body temperature 
by only a few degrees, and spends 
the winter in a kind of deep and 
continuous sleep. During that time, 
it neither urinates nor defecates. 
For small mammals such as bats and 
ground squirrels, in contrast, hiber- 
nation typically features profound 
drops in body temperature, during 
which the animal is inactive, punctu- 
ated by regular bouts of warming up 
to normal and rousing into activity 
for some hours. The Arctic ground 
squirrel in particular may be the most 
extreme case. During regular life, 
its core body temperature, like ours, 
hovers around 98.6 degrees Fahr- 
enheit. But during hibernation, its 
core body temperature can actually 
fall below freezing, to as little as 26.8 
degrees, for days at a time. How do 
Arctic ground squirrels manage that? 
They supercool. 

Supercooling is what happens 
when the temperature of a liquid falls 
below its freezing point yet doesn't 
freeze. That can happen if a liquid 
has no nucleating agents — no parti- 
cles around which crystals can form. 
But add a particle — a piece of ice, 
say — to a cup of supercooled water, 
and pow! The entire cup of water will 
freeze instantly. Being able to super- 
cool is rare among mammals — but 
popular among insects. In Alaska, 
yellowjacket queens of the species 
Vespula vulgaris survive the cold, 
hanging by their mandibles for nine 
months in a dry, snow-free cavity, 

by allowing the fluids in their bodies 
to supercool. A supercooled yellow- 
jacket can drop her temperature to as 
low as 3 degrees, but rather miracu- 
lously avoids turning into a waspsicle. 
Bring her into contact with snow, 
however, and again, pow! She freezes 
solid — which kills her. Other insects 
can get even cooler: the beetle Rha- 
gium inquisitor, otherwise known as 
the ribbed pine borer, can supercool 
to —24 degrees. Is a supercooled Arc- 
tic ground squirrel at risk of freezing 
solid? It's possible, but unlikely. Its 
skin would have to be pierced by an 
icicle or something like that. 

Hibernation, on many levels, 
looks passive, almost like a tem- 
porary death. In a small mammal, 
the body is cold, the heart rarely 
beats, the animal scarcely breathes. 
A hibernating little brown bat, for 
example, may take a breath less of- 
ten than once an hour. The cellular 
machinery shuts down, too: little 
DNA is copied, few proteins are 
made. But hibernation is far from 
being a full suspended animation. 
For one thing, many hibernating 
animals remain alert to unusual 

16 natural HISTORY December 2007/January 2008 

noises or disturbain es. ( lough loud 
lv in a cave full of hibernating bats, 
and they w ill start to rouse. Stride 
into a bear's den, and the bear will 
wake up — aind it probably won't be 
pleased to see you. Moreover, hiber- 
nation is tightly regulated, Ground 
squirrels nunc m and out of hiber- 
nation with clockwork precision — 
somehow, they measure time — and 
their body temperatures are always 
kept a bit higher than the tempera- 
ture of their dens. 

Hibernation seems to have 
evolved as a way to save energy 
when food is scarce, rather than a 
way to bypass winter months. That 
is why it isn't found only in cold 
climates. For instance, the fat-tailed 
dwarf lemur — a small primate that 
lives in Madagascar — hibernates to 
escape not cold, but drought. The 
animal beds down in a treehole, 
often snuggled with its mate and 

perhaps a couple ol their offspring, 
for as long as seven months, even 
though the outside air can reach a 
balmy 85 degrees. 

But cold climates do encourage 
energy-saving methods. Mammals 
maintain their high body tempera- 
tures by burning fuel, and it costs 
more to stay warm when the differ- 
ence between the usual body tem- 
perature and the outside air is large. 
It costs more for a small mammal 
to adjust to dropping temperatures 
than for a big one (smaller animals 
lose heat faster). In short, it is hard 
for an animal the size of a mouse to 
stay warm when the weather is be- 


low freezing for weeks on end; thus, 
lowering the body's thermostat saves 
on heating bills. So it's all the more 
mysterious that ground squirrels 
bother to warm up every ten days 
or so. Warming up is expensive. In- 

deed, that's the main energetic drain 
ot hibernating. 

Perhaps it's necessary to have a 
brief systems check every so often, 
depending on housing conditions. 
For instance, a fat-tailed dwarf lemur 
doesn't bother to rouse if it's hibernat- 
ing in a poorly insulated tree-hole, 
one that lets air temperature exceed 
85 degrees. Instead the lemur aban- 
dons control of its body temperature 
altogether, letting it (and presumably 
also its metabolism) fluctuate with the 
temperature of the air. But a lemur 
that's settled into a tree trunk that has 
thick walls and a cool interior — a cas- 
tle among tree trunks — keeps its body 
temperature steady at 77 degrees, and 
rouses for a few hours about once a 
week. (Maybe the reason bears don't 
do such systems checks is that they 
never let their bodies get much colder 
than about 90 degrees.) 

How does an animal begin to 
hibernate? It goes to sleep. Indeed. 
one of the first things that happens 
in slow-wave sleep (as opposed to 
rapid-eye-movement sleep) is that 
body temperature drops a little. But 
whereas your body temperature 
won't drop more than a degree or 
so, the body temperature of a hiber- 
nating animal keeps going down as 
its metabolic processes slow 7 down. 
Some animals let their temperatures 
drop low on a daily basis, essentially 
hibernating for a few hours in the 
night (or day) — a condition known 
as torpor. But, interestingly, many 
animals, such as hummingbirds, that 
become torpid do not hibernate for 
longer periods. 

And if an animal begins to hiber- 
nate by going to sleep, what does it 
do upon rousing from hiberna- 
tion? Oddly, the first thing a 
ground squirrel does is . . . 
take a nap. Why? No one 

18 NATURAL HIS D? sember 2007/January 2008 

But what does any of this have to 
do with the human condition? It 
turns out that when they hibernate, 
animals overcome what currently 
look to us like intractable medical 
problems. For instance, cold-tem- 
perature hibernators, such as bats 
and ground squirrels, put them- 
selves through rigors that would 
kill us. Most mammals that don't 
hibernate — such as mice, rats, and 
humans — die of heart failure if 
you cool the heart below about 70 

What does an 
animal do upon 
rousing from 
hibernation? Oddly, 
the first thing a 
ground squirrel does 
is . . . take a nap. 

degrees. Similarly, the hibernating 
brain gets almost no oxygen, yet the 
animal doesn't suiter brain dam- 
age. Understanding how that works 
could lead to better treatments for 
stroke and head trauma. 

Indeed, ground squirrels have 
much to teach about brain regenera- 
tion. Studies ot the golden-mantled 
ground squirrel show that during 
hibernation they retract many of their 
dendrites — the tendril-like nerve-cell 
endings that receive information from 
other neurons. Such a disappearance 
of dendrites is usually associated with 
senility. Yet each time the animal 
rouses, though it's only for a few 
hours, it regrows its dendrites. What's 
more, the dendrites grow faster when 
the animal emerges from hibernation 
than they do during embryonic de- 
velopment — a period usually thought 
to be the pinnacle of speedy neural 
growth. In the brain of an embryonic 
rhesus monkey, for example, den- 

drites can grow 1 14 microns per day 
(about the thickness of a human hair). 
The freshly roused adult ground 
squirrel can accomplish the same 
growth in just two hours. Strange. 

Why would an animal repeat- 
edly dismantle and then rebuild the 
connections in its brain? Again, the 
answer isn't clear. One possibility, 
favored by the hibernation expert H. 
Craig Heller, a professor of biological 
sciences at Stanford University, is that 
during hibernation, it is too difficult 
to properly maintain the dendrites, so 
it's better to get rid of them and start 
over than to have to repair them. In 
support of that idea, he and his col- 
leagues have shown that retraction 
is more extensive in animals that get 
colder. That makes sense: the lower 
the body temperature, the more 
complete the general shutdown, and 
the harder it would be to keep the 
dendrites in good order. Irrespec- 
tive of why it happens, though, un- 
derstanding how ground squirrels 
regenerate their brains might help 
develop therapies for the regeneration 
of damaged human ones. 

Several other aspects of hiber- 
nation turn out to be of potential 
medical interest. Take black bears. 
They don't move for months — they 
often start hibernating in October 
and don't emerge until April — yet 
their muscles don't waste away. A 
man confined to bed for six months 
would not be so lucky: his muscles 
would atrophy to about 20 percent 
of their prior strength, and on get- 
ting up, he'd find it difficult to 
walk. It isn't clear how T the bears 
manage to keep their muscle tone, 
though preliminary studies sug- 
gest that hibernating bears engage 
in regular episodes (that is, three or 
four times a day) of vigorous muscle 
contractions, a k a shivering. 

At the same time, bears and other 
hibernators lose weight — Bears and 
their kind, because they keep their 
body temperatures relatively high; 
the deep hibernators. because ot the 
repeated bouts of warming. More- 

over, hibernation burns up tat fast. 
For those with six months to spare, I 
foresee the hibernation diet, with the 
slogan: "Lose weight by doing noth- 
ing!" More seriously, hibernation 
could shed light on obesity and how 
to treat it. An animal preparing for 
hibernation suddenly starts gaining 
weight. The fat-tailed dwarf lemur 
doubles its mass in a few weeks, stor- 
ing most of the fat in (you guessed 
it) the tail. Thus, understanding the 
underlying mechanisms of weight 
gain coupled with the subsequent 
weight loss could eventually lead to 
new anti-obesity drugs. 

But here's the most radical re- 
search. Instead of trying to mimic 
natural hibernation, cell biologist 
Mark Roth and his colleagues at 
the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Re- 
search Center in Seattle have taken 
a different approach to suspended 

animation. By exposing mice to 
tiny quantities of hydrogen sulfide 
gas — which in large amounts is 
poisonous — they seem to be able to 
switch off the body's ability to keep 
up its normal temperature. Sensors 
record a precipitous drop in metabo- 
lism along with temperature. In this 
fashion, the biologists can cause the 
mice to appear dead — but when the 
gas is removed from the air six hours 
later, the mice perk up, apparently 

Roth hopes his research will lead 
to new ways to approach surgery 
and the treatment of strokes; oth- 
ers have wilder ideas. One aspiring 
Methuselah, Florian Midler, argues 
that reducing body temperature by 
just a few degrees would reduce me- 
tabolism and thus increase life span. 
Writing m the journal Rejuvenation 
Research, Muller, now a post-doc- 
toral fellow in aging studies (and not 

yet thirty), proposes living in a tem- 
perature-controlled box and breath- 
ing air mixed with minute quanti- 
ties of hydrogen sulfide (to bring his 
temperature down just a smidgen) 
until medicine has progressed to the 
point where aging is abolished alto- 
gether. Of course, he writes, "one 
would have to be willing to tolerate 
. . . the slowing of other biological 
functions (e.g., probably reasoning, 
movement)." Is it worth it? Muller 
thinks "probably yes." 

Me, I think I'll take a different 
approach: follow the swallows and 
the swifts, and go south for the rest 
of the winter. 

Olivia Judson, a research fellow in the 
Division of Biology at Imperial College 
London, is the author of Dr. Tatiana's Sex 
Advice to All Creation: The Definitive 
Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of 
Sex (Owl Books, 2003). 

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/ __ _ - _ 


Skating through the Ages 


Skaters have been speeding up over the centuries, 
thanks to better footwear that allows longer strides v 
for maximum efficiency. 

By Adam Summers ~ Illustrations by Tom Moore 

My little brother and I grew up 
on Rollerblades, the terrestrial 
version ot ice skates. We raced on the 
rumpled streets of New York City, 
from Greenwich Village north to 
Central Park, ecstatic not to be cir- 
cling a small oval of ice. In those days 
I held two major misconceptions 
about skating: I imagined that we 
were pioneering a new form ot long- 
distance transport, and I thought 
skating was easier than running be- 
cause of its gliding phase. In neither 
case was I close to the truth. 

As far back as the Bronze Age, 
3,000 years ago, skates helped people 
travel more widely. And it turns out 
that skating is extremely efficient, 
taking advantage of biomechanical 
properties of the muscles throughout 
the movement cycle — not only dur- 
ing the glide. 

To an unmechanized Europe and 
Russia, ice skates were one of the 
first useful tools for making winter 

trips between towns. 

And since the joys of skating 
are best appreciated on long stretch- 
es of smooth black ice, it comes as 
little surprise that ice skates made 
their first appearance on relatively- 
flat, snowless waterways. 

Early skates were constructed of 
trimmed horse or cow bones, pierced 
at one end and strapped to the foot 
with leather thongs. Rather than being 
powered by the classic skating motion, 
those beauties were used in tandem 
with a long stick; skaters straddled 
the stick and poled themselves along. 
Bone blades gave way to iron ones and 
then to steel. By the 1 800s the idea of 
a steel blade grafted to a fitted leather 
boot had firmly taken hold. (Although 

most skaters still use that design today, 
the ultimate innovation in the skat- 
ing world was the "klap" skate; it has a 
hinge that allows the skater to extend 
the ankle while pushing, which boosts 
speeds by 5 percent.) 

The advent of thinner blades and a 
firm attachment to the foot signaled 
a transition to the longer strides of 
a modern skater. Those extended 
strides give skating its advantage 
over unassisted modes ot transport 
(such as running) because, as it hap- 
pens, the slower a muscle contracts, 
the greater the force it develops. To 
understand how that force difference 
works on the molecular level, imag- 
ine the muscle fiber as a "rope": slow 
contractions pull the rope hand-over- 
hand, as if hauling a bucket from 
a well; rapid contractions grab and 
quickly release the rope — delivering 
a smaller relative force. Since skaters' 
leg muscles can contract quite slowly, 
even at very high speeds, they gener- 

r 4 

Runner at the same given speed as a skater might take six steps for every 
skating "step" — generating less force per leg-muscle contraction. If both 
athletes exerted the same effort, with heart rates of 120 beats per minute, 
say, the skater would be almost four times faster. 

20 '.-.n R.AI history December 2007/January 2008 

ate more force during each stride 
cycle. And that slow contraction can 
be maintained thanks to the fact that 
less lateral force — the outward push 
against the ice — is needed at higher 
speeds. Thus the strides get longer 
and the skate tracks become more 
parallel to the direction of travel [see 
the herringbone tracks that straighten and 
get farther apart as they pick up speed 
across the page] . 

Human-locomotion biomecha- 
nists Federico Formenti of Oxford 
University and Alberto Minetti of 
the University of Milan collaborated 
to trace the efficiency of ice skates 
through history. Their aim was to 
measure the evident increase in ef- 
ficiency from clunky animal-bone 
skates (1800 B.C.) to iron skates (A.D. 
1200 and 1400) to steel skates (1700) 
to cutting-edge modern skates, also 
made with steel blades [the five skates 
used in the experiment are pictured here]. 
First the researchers fabricated auth- 
entic replicas of the ancient skates, 
adding only a somewhat safer binding 
to the oldest models. Then they found 
five retired professionals — short-track 
ice skaters — with a sense of adven- 
ture. After the skaters had familiarized 
themselves with the historic skates, 
they were equipped with a small 

strap-on apparatus that measured their 
oxygen intake, heart rate, and (for 
three of the skates) leg movements. 
Each skater was then asked to skate 
both at a slow, comfortable pace and 
at a faster, more demanding pace with 
each type of skate. From those data, 
the researchers derived the energetic 
demand relative to speed of ice-skat- 
ing on different kinds of skates. 

The oldest bone skates used with 
the push pole simply would not go 
very fast; the pros only managed 

a single speed of about 2.5 miles 
per hour (mph). Of course, even to 
achieve a steady, safe walking pace 
such as that would have been a big 
advantage to someone on a flat, icy 
river. The earliest metal-bladed skates 
that were tested allowed a near dou- 
bling of the slow, steady speed, but 
also permitted a fast gait of about 
9 mph. Better bindings and thin- 
ner blades further enhanced speeds, 
culminating in a fast gait of about 
15 mph with the modern non-klap 
skates that were tested. 

Not surprisingly, the more modern 
skates delivered not only on speed 
but also on distance covered. By far 
the most impressive increases, though, 

have to do with efficiency relative 
to speed. Consider a skater working 
herself to a point of exhaustion in ten 
minutes; on the oldest skates or the 
newest ones, she is putting in the same 
amount of energy. Yet on the newest 
blades she could travel considerably 
farther. Her stride frequency stays the 
same and her leg muscles continue to 
operate at high power, independent 
of forward speed (unlike a runner that 
squeezes out less force the faster the 
leg muscles move.) 

Formenti and Minetti have gone 
on to test the bone skates in different 
locations, and have found that their 
benefits must have varied with the to- 
pography, particularly the number and 
length of lakes; Finland, with more 
than 60,000 lakes, seems the ideal lo- 
cale and the likely place of origin for 
them. Considering my poor ankles, I 
might opt for the skates of yore on my 
next visit to the rink and punt around 
on horse metacarpals, big stick in 
hand to tend off any whizzing, would- 
be Bobby Orrs. 

Adam Summers ( is 
an associate professor of bioengineering and of 

ecology and evolutionary biology at the Uni- 
versity of California, Irvine. 

December 2007/January 2008 NATURAL HISTORY 21 

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Uti ft 







The Native-American language 
Salish-Pend d' Oreille is on the brink 
of disappearing. More than half 
the world's 6,000 languages will be 
gone by the end of the century. 

By Sarah Grey Thomason 

ohn Peter Paul, a rugged, dignified man, was ex- 
tremely ill during the summer of 2000. He was nine- 
ty-one years old and suffering from stomach cancer. 
Still, every week he insisted on wheeling himself 

Uinto the Ussnelx'" (Longhouse) on the Flathead 
reservation in northwestern Montana. There, he 
and other elders of the Salish and Pend d'Oreille tribes 
would gather in meetings I had set up to expand and 
fine-tune the dictionary of their language and the col- 
lection of texts that we had been working on together 
for many years. 

On one occasion in midsummer, when John's illness 
reached a crisis point, he refused to go to the hospital 
because he didn't want to miss our scheduled meeting 
the next day. As a result, he had to be rushed to the hos- 
pital in desperate condition the next morning. His fierce 
dedication to the task of documenting and preserving 
his language almost cost him his life. 

Other elders I work with share his dedication to their 
language and the culture it expresses. Some are Pend 
d'Oreilles, like John; the rest are Bitterroot Salish (also 
called Flatheads). Although they are different tribes, 
they share the same language — which is called, logically 
enough, Salish— Pend d'Oreille — albeit with minor dia- 
lect differences. 

But like so many indigenous languages on every popu- 
lated continent, Salish— Pend d'Oreille is on the point of 
vanishing. Fewer than thirty fluent native speakers remain, 
and nearly all of them are elderly. The great majority of 
the roughly 6,000 Salish and Pend d'Oreille tribal mem- 
bers do not speak their ancestral language at all. 

Flathead River area in Montana where the Hell Gate Treaty of 1855 
established a reservation for the Native American Pend d'Oreille, 
Salish, and Kootenai tribes. The Pend d'Oreilles had lived in this area 
for thousands of years; the Salish originally lived farther south. 

24 natural history December 2007 '/January 2008 


I In fluenl Salish— Pend d'Oreille speakers who work 
with me report that the only opportunities they have 
to "talk Indian" are at the tribes' Culture Commit- 
tee's weekly elders' meetings from the fall through the 
spring, and in their weekly language sessions with me 
during the summer. John Peter Paul, who died in 2(101 
at the age of ninety-two, was married to his wife Agnes 
1'okerjim Paul, a Bitterroot Salish, for seventy-two 
years; they were the last married couple who spoke their 
language regularly at home. Their oldest daughter, Jose- 
phine Quequesah, is a fluent and highly skilled speaker 
of the language, but some of her younger siblings have a 
more passive level of fluency. 

What happened to bring Salish-Pend d'Oreille to this 
precarious position? The obvious answer — the absolute 
necessity for most Americans to speak English in order 
to survive economically, together with the appeal of 
mainstream American culture to most younger tribal 
members — tells only part of the story. Another factor 
is the boarding schools that many Native children were 
forced to attend, starting in the nineteenth century. 
Those schools implemented the United States govern- 
ment's policy of assimilating Indians by replacing their 





talispel Ae^d d'QreWe 

WASHINGTON ^Okan 3 MlsSnjila. 

% Perce ^ ^'ish 



Distribution of Salishan 
languages, pre-White contact 

Salishan languages, twenty-three in all, were widely spoken 
in the Pacific Northwest before Whites arrived in force in the 
1800s. The Salish and Pend d'Oreille tribes were allies of the 
neighboring Nez Perce and Kootenai tribes, and enemies of 
the Blackfeet. 

Pend d'Oreille elder John Peter Paul 
(1909-2001) stands near the spot in 
Montana's upper Bitterroot Valley 
where the Salish tribe first encountered 
the Lewis and Clark expedition. Paul 
and his wife Agnes were the last 
married couple to regularly speak 
Salish-Pend d'Oreille at home. 

native cultures, including their languages, with Anglo 
culture and English. (The policy had close parallels in 
Canada and Australia.) 

head reservation — and elsewhere — were often brutal. 
Some teachers and principals beat children for speaking 
their language anywhere on the school grounds. 

Louis Adams, a Bitterroot Salish elder in his late sev- 
enties, recounts what happened to him in the first grade, 
in a public school on the reservation. He and his friend 
Peter Pierre were talking Indian in the hallway of the 
school; a teacher heard them and broke her yardstick 
over Peter's head, then hit Louis with the biggest of the 
broken pieces. Next she took them to the principal, who 
said that if they spoke Indian again, he'd whip them 
with his belt. Louis complained to his father about the 
treatment and was told that he should do what the teach- 
ers wanted in school, but go on talking Salish outside 
of school. "Don't throw away your language," his father 
told him. Louis didn't, but many of his peers did. 

The policy encouraged tribal members to suppress their 
own language. Harriet Whitworth, a Bitterroot Salish 
woman now in her late eighties, who — like all the re- 
maining fluent speakers of Salish-Pend d'Oreille — has na- 
tive-speaker fluency in both English and Salish, once told 
me she raised her five children to speak only English: "I 
didn't want my kids to go through what I went through." I 
asked whether she'd do things differently if she had known 
then that her language was in grave danger of vanishing 
forever: "Yes," she told me. "But it's too late now." 

The circumstances that brought Salish-Pend d'Oreille 
to the brink of extinction differ from the stories of other 

communities only in the details. All dwindling lan- 
guages fight against time in the face of increasing pres- 
sures to speak a dominant language. English, Spanish, 
French, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Mandarin, Que- 
chua (before the Inca Empire was destroyed by invad- 
ing Spaniards), and other expanding languages have all 
been spoken by powerful outsiders who imposed their 
own order and language on subjugated, or at least less 
powerful, peoples. Two obvious questions arise here: 
Just how widespread is the phenomenon of language 
loss? And, more fundamentally, so what? 

Before answering those questions, let me clarify that 
when linguists talk about language death, we are not 
referring to languages like Latin. Latin certainly quali- 
fies as a dead language, but it did not die by losing all 
its speakers to another language; instead, it evolved into 
a sizable group of descendants, the modern Romance 
languages, almost all of which still thrive. The vanishing 
languages that I'm talking about leave no descendants. 

Estimates of the number of threatened languages vary. 
About 6,000 languages are spoken in the world today. Pes- 
simists like the linguist Michael Krauss of the University 
of Alaska Fairbanks predict that 90 percent of them will 
be dead by the end of this century; optimists predict the 
demise of only about 60 percent by then. Either way, we 
are looking at a future of catastrophic language loss. 

There are, of course, quite a few languages that are 
certainly not going to vanish in the foreseeable future: all 
the languages listed above except Quechua are safe, for 
instance. Millions of people speak those languages, many 
of which are official in one or more nations. In fact, 
among the 200 or so nations in the world, English ranks 
as the most popular official tongue, cited in fifty-two 

26: natural history December 2007/January 2008 

The principal told the two first graders that if they "spoke Indian" again, 

he'd whip them with his belt. 

countries (not counting the United States, which stands 
nearly alone in having no official language). French fol- 
lows, official in twenty-nine countries; Arabic and Span- 
ish arc tied, each with twenty-four; and Portuguese has 
eight countries that recognize it as official. Do the math. 
The count for those five languages totals 137 nations — a 
great majority of the world's languages. 

One might assume that other languages with at least a 
million speakers should also be sale, but that's not nec- 
essarily so. Quechua, with several million speakers and 
official-language status in Bolivia and Peru, is steadily 
losing ground to Spanish, which is also official in both 
countries. It that is so, consider the plight of "smaller" 
languages, those with only 100 to 10,000 speakers — 

sands. ( )ne ret uncut argument, voiced loudly by pro- 
ponents of the "English Only" and "Official English" 
movements in the U.S., is that reducing the number of 
languages will promote understanding and therefore 
national (and, ultimately, world) peace. It's hard to take 
this argument seriously in a country that fought both a 
Revolution and a ('nil War in which both sides spoke 
English, and in an era when Sunni and Shiite Iraqis, all 
speakers of Arabic, are killing each other by the hun- 
dreds almost daily. 

Another common argument claims that English (or 
Arabic, or Spanish, or French, or Mandarin, or . . .) en- 
ables you to communicate anything you might want to 
say. According to that view, the loss of a language can be 

nearly half the languages in the world. Only the most 
isolated can be considered stable in their communities. 
But geographic and social isolation is itself vanishing 
fast, in every part of the world. 

DOES LOSING A LANGUAGE matter so much? Some peo- 
ple tavor moving toward one world language, or at least 
toward a drastic reduction in the cacophony of thou- 

compared to the disappearance of the type of frigate that 
dominated Western navies in the eighteenth and early 
nineteenth centuries: the sailors who had mastered the 
intricate manipulations of the sails surely mourned their 
loss, but the need for effective fighting vessels made it 
inevitable that technological progress would sweep the 
sails away. 

I believe, along with most other linguists and a great 

December 2007/January 2008 NATURAL history 27 

many minority language communities all over the world, 
that any such comparison fails. Sure, tearing down lan- 
guage barriers would streamline international business 
and tourism. But a language cannot be evaluated solely 
on grounds of efficiency. In a very real sense, you can- 
not say anything you want in any language. This is not 
a question of translatability — of course it's possible to 
translate sentences like "Please pass the salt" into any lan- 
guage in the world — but of less tangible things, such as 
cultural ties, through language, to one's great-grandpar- 
ents and to traditional ethnic ways of thinking about the 
world. Languages place special 
emphases on things and concepts 
that are important to their speak- 
ers: shapes of objects, meanings 
of certain plants and animals, 
fundamental ways of seeing the 
world. For instance, the "word 
for "automobile" in Salish— Pend 
d'Oreille, p'ip'uysn, is named for 
the appearance of tire tracks — 
literally, "it has wrinkled feet"! 

Most Americans who have 
spoken English all their lives, and 
whose parents and grandparents 
also speak (or spoke) English, 
may find it hard to understand 
how a heritage language could 
matter so much. I got my first 
inkling of its importance when, 
right after college, I spent a year 
in Germany, speaking German 
constantly and becoming fluent. 
Although I was delighted with 
my new linguistic skill, I spent 
the whole year with the un- 
comfortable feeling that I wasn't 
quite the same person as when 
I was speaking English. It felt 
like a slight personality trans- 

Elders such as Johnny Arlee (standing) who try to pass down 
the Salish language to the next generation face an uphill 
battle. But some younger Salish, including Chaney Bell 
plant, with different rhythms of (seated, center), have embraced this mission; in fact, Bell 
thought and speech I was °"lad named his son the Salish word for "Whirlwind." 
to return to my English-speak- 
ing self when the year ended. This sort of discomfort 
must have a far more profound effect on people like the 
elders who grew up speaking Salish-Pend d'Oreille, but 
have had no chance to use it regularly for decades. And 
the elders I've talked to feel their own loss, and their 
community's loss, acutely. 

In addition to the profound loss to the community, 
every language that dies without being thoroughly docu- 
mented and analyzed robs us of potential insights into 
human linguistic capabilities, and reduces our chances of 
arriving at a comprehensive understanding of the work- 
ings of the human mind. That may sound grandiose — 

after all, even if upwards of 60 percent of the world's lan- 
guages vanish during this century, we'll still have a couple 
of thousand left, and besides, scholars have other tools for 
figuring out how the mind works. But there's a lot to the 
old notions that language is what makes us human and 
that its structures open a window into the mind. 

The variation in human languages is not infinite. The 
fact that any human baby can learn any human language 
with equal ease is evidence of a fundamental similarity 
in all our languages. Nevertheless, the amount of varia- 
tion is immense, and our understanding of the range and 
details of such variation can help 
challenge our theories about the 
nature of human language. 

Even with the growing popu- 
larity of Chinese, Japanese, and 
Arabic, most foreign-language 
study in the West involves famil- 
iar European languages. English, 
French, Spanish, German, Ital- 
ian, Russian, and Portuguese all 
belong to just one of the world's 
hundreds of language families, 
the Indo-European family. As a 
result, they share numerous struc- 
tures in their grammar, sound sys- 
tems, and ways of organizing their 
vocabularies. Studying an unre- 
lated language is an eye-opener: 
it's not just a matter of memoriz- 
ing a lot of new words and learn- 
ing how to fit relatively familiar 
pronunciations and grammatical 
patterns into new configurations. 
Languages outside the Indo-Eu- 
ropean family are different in 
ways you can't imagine until you 
experience them. 

PRISES me every summer. It 
includes sounds that are rarely 
heard in Indo-European lan- 
guages: stops produced with a glottal catch, sounds pro- 
duced with the air sliding noisily past the sides of the 
tongue (lateral fricatives), sounds pronounced far back in 
the pharynx (pharyngeal consonants). The alphabet used 
to spell the language therefore contains letters that look 
very different from English letters, as the following ex- 
amples illustrate. The language has no detectable limits 
on the number of consonants that can occur in a row, so 
that there are marvelous words like Ta qesm'l'm'el'cstmstx w 
("Don't play with it!"), with eight consonants in a row at 
the end, and sx u 'cst'sqd ("someone whose job it is to take 
care of livestock"), with seven consonants at the begin- 

28 NATURAL history December 2007/January 2008 

ning. It has words .is long as your tongue, for instance 
q"'o qi--c-iax"l-in-iu-tui-in-nt-m ("lie would come up to 
me"). The short word, q"o, me. ins "me;" the long word 
has .1 root, tax" I "start," preceded by two prefixes and fol- 
lowed by six suffixes, some ot them repeated. Words in 
[ndo-European languages don't have anything approach- 
ing this exuberant deployment of prefixes and suffixes. 

Salish makes subtle distinctions that would require 
much more verbiage if expressed in an Indo-European 
language. Both cipntis and Hpntim mean "s/he hunted 
it," for instance, but the verb ending in — is indicates that 
the hunter is the most prominent character in the narra- 
tive, whereas the verb ending in — km indicates that some 
character other than the hunter — maybe the hunted crea- 
ture — is more prominent than the hunter in this context. 
It's not that this distinction can't be expressed in Eng- 
lish or any other Indo-European language; of course it 
can. But not as easily, and such specificity certainly isn't 
obligatory in Western languages, as it is in Salish-Pend 
d'Oreille. Storytellers often used this grammatical dis- 
tinction to signal a subtle shift of attention from one char- 
acter to another. 

But like other aspects of Salish— Pend d'Oreille culture, 
some of the most "exotic" features of the language are 
fading: the last native speakers all speak English much 
more often than they speak Salish-Pend d'Oreille. To 
give one example ot the effect that has on sound systems, 
only about three or four of the elders I work with pro- 
nounce clear pharyngeal consonants. 

And in some semantic domains, most strikingly in the 
area of kinship categories and terminology, the much 
simpler English system has replaced much of the elaborate 
native Salish-Pend d'Oreille system. In my most recent 
session with the elders, in the summer of 2007, I wanted 
to find out how many of the old kinship terms are rec- 
ognized by the current generation of elders. The kinship 
terms were compiled in 1976 with the help of a group of 
elders who are all now deceased. 

At first the current group of elders said that they had 
never learned the old words; but the more they talked 
about their extended families, the more words they remem- 
bered. Dolly Linsebigler mentioned her father's brother: 
she always called him her smamd?, but "after my dad died, 
everything changed — then he was my hi'estn ("aunt or 
uncle after the death of the connecting relative"). Jose- 
phine Quequesah remembered a word, smc?ci, that meant 
either uncle or nephew, and then Louis thought ot another 
reciprocal kin tern:: "Yeah, like my t'ot'6 used to call me her 
t'ot'6 ("great-grandparent or great-grandchild"). 

Dolly also commented that people who come from big 
families like hers got used to all the complicated terms, 
like Iqaqce? ("woman's older brother"), q'e?cw's ("mid- 
dle brother"), and shn'ce? ("woman's younger brother"). 
But many words were already beyond their memories, 
unrecognized. Like other complex systems of kin terms 

around the world. Salish Pend d'Oreille offers insights 
into the possible range ot categories tor hum. tn relation- 
ships. But the old system teeters on the brink oi oblivion, 
and the same is true of intricate kinship systems all over 
rhe world. 

Within the next twenty or thirty years, there will 
be no speakers left who learned Salish-Pend d'< )reille 
as a first language, spoke it regularly in their younger 
years, and revisited it throughout their lives. There are 
twenty-two other languages in the Salishan family, and 
they await the same sad fate. When there are no longer 
any Salishan speakers who remember how their grand- 
parents and great-grandparents spoke, the old kin terms 
will vanish, along with the other cultural and historical 
riches encoded in the ancestral languages. 

Language death, much too much language death, 
seems inevitable in this and future decades. But the pic- 
ture is not completely dark. Many communities whose 
languages are threatened, including the Salish-Pend 
d'Oreille tribes, have begun vigorous efforts to docu- 
ment and revitalize their languages, so that today's and 
tomorrow's children will be able to learn them. In a few 
spectacular recent cases, notably Maori in New Zealand 
and Hawaiian in the U.S., heritage languages have been 
restored to the community's children. And in perhaps the 
most dramatic historical case, Modern Hebrew emerged 
as the native language of a new nation's children after 
2,000 years of near-death. 

Even when efforts to save heritage languages fail, that 
doesn't mean the effort has been wasted. If fluent native 
speakers help document a dying language, with a full 
grammatical description, a dictionary, and a collection of 
narratives, the possibility of revival will always be there. 
The revived version won't match the earlier version, but 
it can still serve its community. It can allow traditional 
practices and values to be expressed without the disrup- 
tions of translation, making the past more accessible. It 
can contribute its unique data to the scientific under- 
standing of the universal human capacity for language. 

Ultimately, though, if a community loses its language as 
its main vehicle of communication, both the community 
and its individual members lose an irreplaceable part of 
their identity. And at the same time, a part of our common 
world that their language uniquely illuminated goes dark. 

Sarah Grey Thomason 

Thomason has worked with the S.ilish-Pend d'Oreille 

Culture Committee since 1981, compiling a dictionary 

and text collection in collaboration with tribal elders. 

Thomason, who is currently co-authoring a textbook 

on endangered languages tor Cambridge University 

Press, is the William J. Gedney Collegiate Professor of Linguistics at 

the University of Michigan and is a former president of the Society 

tor the Study ot the Indigenous Languages of the Americas. 

Web links related to this article can be found at 

December 2007/January 2008 natural history 29 

* X 

*— *»,.« 


Photographs by Ellen Kaplowitz ~ Text by Mary Knight 

A Natural History Photo Essay 

ong before it was dominated by sand and oil wells, 
Libya hosted a diverse fauna that feasted in its fertile 
green valleys. Such natural resources in turn lured 
prehistoric human populations more than 10,000 
years ago. The climate became increasingly arid, 

though, and within a few thousand years the region's 

inhabitants were congregating on the more hospitable shores 
of the Mediterranean. The indigenous peoples — speakers of 
Berber languages primarily — were later joined by waves of 
colonists from abroad: first Phoenicians, around 1000 B.C., 
from what is now Lebanon and Syria, and then Greeks, Ro- 
mans, and finally Arabs. For all those who claimed portions 
of Libya, the scarcity of water posed a challenge. 

The historian Herodotus, writing in the fifth century B.C., 
tells the story of the founding of the first Greek colony in 
LibyarThe king of the island of Thera complained to the or- 
acle at Delphi that his land was without water.The priestess 
advised him to "colonize Libya." Of course, the irony of this 
advice (to emigrate to a permanently dry place from one in 
a temporary drought) was lost on the Greeks of the time. 
But colonize Libya they did. And ultimately, the Greek city 
of Cyrene became famous for its philosophers and math- 
ematicians. Oddly enough, its wealth grew from the region's 
production of silphion, a now extinct plant, which caused 
abortion — much like an ancient version of'Plan B." 

Romans settled primarily in the west, in Tripolitania, the 
"land of three cities": Sabratha, Oea (modern Tripoli), and 
Leptis Magna. All three were originally Phoenician trad- 
ing outposts, but the Romans outfitted them in style for a 
king, Septimius Severus (ruled A.D. 193—211), who hailed 
from Libya. By the fourth century, his 
cities had begun to fall to ruin, plun- 
dered by lawless bands and prolonged 
droughts. As ruins go, however, the 
beaux arts of his time are remarkably 
well preserved. 

The Islamic "opening up" (al-fath 
al-islamiya) of the region west of Ara- 
bia, beginning in 643, brought a new 
style of architecture specially adapted 
to the desert. The Arab mud-brick 
structures were painted white, for 
instance, to reflect sunlight, and 
their thick walls and high ceilings 
kept their inhabitants cool. 

Libya's natural resources, particu- 
larly its oil, continue to draw people and nations from around 
the world into its economic orbit. Twenty years of trade 
sanctions have arguably overshadowed the region's past. 
But its ancient ruins, largely obscure to Western travelers, 
may still stand out to archaeologists a thousand years from 
now — long after today's conflicts have been forgotten. 

Mud-daubed walkway 
in Ghadames, opposite 
page, allows residents to 
stay cool in the hostile 
Saharan heat Occupied 
for centuries by Romans, 
Ghadames operated as a 
trading town and remains 
inhabited today. Above: 
a panpiper from a marble 
pilaster in the apse of 
the Severan Basilica of 
Leptis Magna reflects the 
city's Roman roots. Left: 
the Roman-era theater at 
Sabratha, a city founded 
by Phoenician colonists. 

December 2007 '/January 2008 natural history 31 






* Leptis Magna 
/ • 





Severan Basilica (built under the rule of Septimius Severus), above, viewed through fallen 
colonnades, stood at the head of the central road leading through the city of Leptis Magna. 
Opposite page: other ruins at Leptis include a gorgon head — one of many decorating the 
arcade of Severus, top middle; marble latrines in the great Roman baths, top right; and an 
open-air theater, middle. Bottom of opposite page: portions of the "labyrinth mosaic" of the 
house of Jason Magnus, a wealthy citizen of Cyrene, reveal that the opulence of that city, 
founded by Greeks, continued into the Roman period. 






December 2007/January 2008 

December 2007 '/January 2008 natural history 33 

• -*: v ■ 

Granary, above, was built some 700 years 
ago in the Berber town of Nalut, which sits 
high above the surrounding desert. Locals 
call the structure a gasr ("castle"), but the 
rooms were simple storage facilities used 
by local families for grain and oil. A high 
exterior wall (not shown) protected the gra- 
nary from attack as well as from the ravages 
of sand and wind. Left: Berber messages 
imprinted on stone by Saharan nomads may 
date from ancient times or from yesterday. 

Ellen Kaplowitz and Mary Knight 

Ellen KaplOWitz'S images have appeared at a number 
of museums, including the Field Museum in Chicago 
and the American Museum of Natural History in 
New York, and in her most recent book, A World of \ 
Decent Dreams: Vietnam Images (Weath- 
I erhill Press, 2003). Visit www.ellenkaplowitzph.otog for more. Mary Knight is currently a visit- 
ing scholar at New York University and a member of 
the Cyrenaica Archaeological Project. She has spent 
much of the past decade working in and traveling 
throughout North Africa. 

Web links related to this article can be found at 

34 natural HISTORY December 2007/January 2008 

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.[URAL history December 2007/ 'January 2008 



grunts and chatterings, Sinamo does .1 backward som- 
ersault between my legs, chasing after Cory andjagger. 
I riends and colleagues, perhaps secretly envious, have 
predicted that as a city boy and literature professor, I would 
feel out of place among these orphaned chacma baboons. 
Yet here I am, on the bank of the Olifants River in South 
Africa, yards away from wild crocodiles and elephants and 
hippos and the occasional lion. And it teels good — this 
grooming and chattering, these small baboon bodies 
hunkering against my chest. 

THIS IS THE BABOONS' STORY, not a woman's, yet it must 
begin with a woman nonetheless — for it is with her that 
it all began. Rita Neumann was in love with animals as 
early as she can remember. Born in 1931 in Germany, she 
dreamed of becoming a veterinar- 
ian, but that path was closed to her 
because higher educational institu- 
tions granted preferential admission 
to soldiers returning from the Second 
World War. Rita went to work instead 
at Hamburg's renowned Hagenbeck 
Zoo and then, in 1953, emigrated to 
Johannesburg, South Africa. There 
she soon married her German fiance. 
Lothar Simon, and the couple had 
a daughter. In 1963 Rita bought a 
fifty-acre tract of bush wilderness 
near Phalaborwa, about 250 miles 
northeast ofjohannesburg, that was 
destined to become her intimate link 
with the animal life she loved. But 
before that, in 1972, tragedy struck: 
Rita's husband and their seventeen- 
year-old daughter were both killed 
111 a small-plane crash. 

Eight years after the accident, dur- 
ing her brief second marriage to Piet 

Miljo, an Afrikaner, Rita made what might be regarded as 
the transforming acquaintance of her life. While traveling 111 

Stefan, about one year old in photograph on opposite page, was 
born within a chacma baboon troop made up of animals rescued 
by the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education (C.A.R.E.). 
Located near Phalaborwa, map above, C.A.R.E. attracts volunteers 
to act as foster parents for its young orphans and to perform many 
other duties. 

northern Namibia, she encountered a baby female chacma 
baboon named Bobby. (In fact almost all anonymous baboons 
in Smith Africa were dubbed Bobby, after the Afrikaans 
name for the species, bobbejaan.) The animal had been plied 
with alcohol and abandoned in a trash bin at a military 
encampment. In defiance of the requirement for permits. 
Rita took Bobby home, and a bond between baboon and 
human was forged. In 1989, along with Bennett Serane. a 
like minded South African, Rita founded the Centre for 
Animal Rehabilitation and Education (C.A.R.E.). and 
her fifty acres of bushland became a refuge where injured 
wild animals — various birds, reptiles, and small mammals, 
initially — were treated and released. 

As increasing numbers ot injured or abused chacma 
baboons, mostly orphaned babies, were brought in, the 
center began to specialize. Agri- 
cultural lands had encroached on 
the baboons' natural habitat, and 
wherever crops were threatened. 
farmers had the right to shoot the 
offending "vermin." Poaching, 
poisoning, illegal trade in pets and 
experimental animals, as well as 
environmental hazards (natural or 
otherwise), also left behind baboons 
in need of C.A.R.E. 

"You know, they are the last crea- 
tures under the sun that nobody 
cares about," Rita says. "When I 
Olifants River first started, everybody said to me, 
SWAZILAND 'With all that energy you've got, why 
don't vou look after rhinos?" — or 
cheetahs, or whatever else it was 
they cared about. And I answ ered. 
'Because these guvs need me.'" 



Range of chacma baboons 

quickly find out when I arrive in 
May (South African autumn) to serve as a C.A.R.E. 
volunteer for three weeks. At the Phalaborwa airport I 
am picked up by the Centre's manager, thirty-eight-year- 
old Lee Dekker, a cheerful woman who exudes an air 
of commitment and competence. Normally she would 
be carrying an infant baboon in a shawl tied around her 
waist, but today the only baboon she's wearing is the one 
imprinted on her T-shirt. Since she has to stop in town 

December 2007 /January 2008 NATURAL history 37 

Stefan pictured at about 
two weeks of age, right, 
with his mother, Schatzi, 
and other female mem- 
bers of his troop. Known 
as Tito's Troop for its 
alpha male, the troop was 
released on farmland but 
had to be relocated when 
landowners began to 
exercise their right to kill 
"vermin." Below: Baboon 
that, when an at-risk 
infant, was transported by 
C.A.R.E.'s director, Rita 
Miljo, without the required 
permit. He was given 
the name James Bond 
because the rush rescue 
required a detour to avoid 
a roadblock. A judge 
acquitted Rita of wrong- 
doing on the grounds that 
she acted out of necessity 
to save the baboon. 

to do some food shopping, she's left the baby she's foster- 
mothering, Suzie, behind. 

"The situation for wildlife in Africa is essentially hope- 
less," Lee tells me en route, "but we keep trying." Near- 
ing the Centre, we drive along the crocodile- and hippo- 
filled Olifants River — a tributary of the "great grey-green, 
greasy" Limpopo, of Rudyard Kipling fame, where the 
Elephant's Child of the Just So Stories got his nose stretched 
into a trunk by a crocodile. I see a memorial wreath along 
the water's edge. "Don't ever walk along the river bank 
by yourself at night," Lee warns me, "and, for God's sake, 
don't ever go swimming in it. We don't want to have to 
put one of these up for you." 

How I got to C.A.R.E., like so many of the volun- 
teers, is by watching the Animal Planet network — to be 
precise, a show called "Growing Up Baboon," featuring 
the work of Rita Miljo and her staff. Another volunteer, 
Kim Solbakk, a former real estate investment manager 
from California making her fourth visit in less than two 
years, echoes my own sentiments: "I had always been 
interested in primates," she says, "and I wanted to do 
something hands-on." 

What a volunteer does have on his or her hands, almost 
from the moment Lee's truck pulls into the Centre, is ba- 
boons — including baboons jumping on the back of the truck 
to help themselves to the victuals before Lee can frighten 
them off with stones and pull in behind the fenced gate. 
You quickly learn that there are actually two populations of 

baboons in residence — a "wild" group numbering around 
120, affectionately dubbed the "Longtit troop" by Rit.i 
tor reasons that take little emu.- to become apparent, and 
the 3()() to 5oo captive baboons, whose relatively spacious 
metal-and wire-reinforced enclosures are dispersed all over 
the property. The wild baboons arrived uninvited, but 
their presence has had the serendipitous effect ot showing 
that wild and caged baboons can interrelate. The younger 
caged baboons learn about foraging, playing, fighting, and 
copulating by observing and interacting with the older 
free ones, and — since baboons are able to figure their way 
around virtually any obstacle — adult members ot the two 
groups freely copulate. 

Rita and her staff's most radical innovation over the 
years, however, has been the artificial formation of co- 
herent troops that can succeed on their own in the wild. 
Previously it had been largely taken for granted that a 
troop had to form naturally, through a matrilineal lineage, 
with females spending their lifetimes in the same troop 
and a few dominant males moving in and out. But Rita 
discovered that by combining compatibly aged, sexed, 
and spirited baboons into troops within the cages, then 
allowing them to reach maturity, she could release them 
back into the wild together. 

C.A.R.E.'S WEANING PROCESS ATTEMPTS to closely parallel 
what takes place in nature. During the first month or two, 
a newly arrived orphan infant spends twenty-four hours a 
day, seven clays a week (including time in the shower and 
on the toilet) either tied around its surrogate mother's waist 
in a shawl, or in her arms. When the surrogate mother, 
the staff, and Rita think the infant is ready, it is moved to 
the nursery with the other infants for several hours a day, 
returning to sleep with the mother at night. This phase 
slowly morphs into the next, usually at around two months, 
when the infant grows comfortable spending the entire 
day in the nursery, and only nights with its mother. 

During the final phase, the most trying tor the little ba- 
bies, the infant continues to sleep in its surrogate mother's 
room at night, but in a small cage. This prepares it for its 
real "move" into post-infancy, when it will begin to sleep 
with its contemporaries — and, of course, their stutfed 
animals. Those youngsters are cozily set up in the main 
house, in Rita's bathroom. 

MY SCHEDULE IS FAIRLY TYPICAL for a volunteer: from 
11:00 a.m. until noon I prepare bottles from powdered 
milk — several hundred bottles are distributed daily; then, 
from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 I play and socialize with the "me- 
diums" (baboons between eight months and a year old); 
from 2:00 to 3:00, with the "smalls" (between four and 
eight months); and from 4:00 to 5:00, with the infants in 
the nursery. At around 5:30 — it gets dark early — all three 
groups of babies are brought indoors to spend the night. 
In the mediums' cage I have my first exposure to being 

mobbed by a group of frightened baboons. I here are sev- 
enteen nl them, ten females and seven males. Dennis, one 
of the lower-ranking males, quickly decides I'm a threat. 
Just when I think we're beginning to develop a rather 
friendly, if cautious, relationship, something i do — per- 
haps an inadvertently raised eyebrow, or a set of teeth too 
conspicuously revealed — triggers Ins anxiety and, before I 
know it, a high-pitched warning cry issues from his lips. In 
seconds, all seventeen of the mediums, teeth bared, make 
for my cakes, my arms, my thighs, my waist. 

All! Ah! Ah! cries Zurika Potgieter, who along with 
Elena Pasotti supervises the volunteers, mimicking the 

Rita acts as foster mother for an abnormally small female baby. The 
infant was the first-born of a very young female, and under natural 
circumstances most likely would not have survived. 

baboon cry that means "Cut that out!" She yanks several 
of the young tykes off me by their arms. legs, scruff ot 
the neck, ears, and tails. (Baboons have amazing abilities 
to tolerate pain and to heal from injury — a baboon can 
be dragged, pulled, bitten, and clawed so much in the 
course of the average day that its very survival, much less 
its prospering, seems a near miracle.) Later, in the nursery 
cage, I also learn that baboon society is profoundly gender- 

December 2007/January 2008 NATURAL history 39 

oriented, and that the animals have very discriminating 
eyesight. From the moment I first enter the cage, these 
infants know I am both a stranger and a man, and they 
beat a hasty retreat into Elena's already baboon-fdled 
arms. "They just need to get used to you," she consoles 
me. "They're terribly afraid of new men." 

A volunteer has little time to waste in learning how to 
navigate life among the young baboons. Once you have 
picked, cajoled, lifted, and forced enough of the little guys 
and girls from your head, thighs, shoulders, and waist to 
have a seat on one of the plastic crates provided for that 
purpose, you must wrestle with the first of many chal- 
lenges about to confront you: How do you tell Dennis 
from Kimberly, Tortilla from Yoshi, Judy from Jagger? 
Everyone else seems able to do it — so why not you? 

The male /female bit is easy enough. If you can't stop 
them moving long enough to spot a penis, or lack of one, 
there's another simple method: in males, the callosities, 
or buttocks, are fused below the anus; in females, they 
are conveniently separated to make room for the sexual 
organs. And then, slowly but surely, you become aware 
of more subtle differences: Kimberly has rough, thick 
gray fur and — with the exception of Sinamo, the alpha 
female — is the largest of the troop; Icarus has several scar 
markings on his left cheek; Maggie is not only nearly 
inseparable from her brother, Dennis, but is also missing 
her tail; Cory is the one who attempts to masturbate on 
your left knee. After a few weeks of this, you could swear 
your eyes are becoming as focused and discriminating as 
the baboons'! 

ONE OF THE OTHER THINGS you need to learn quickly is 
baboon language: lip-smacking, grunting, warning calls, 
laughing sounds, mating cries — the emotional range is 
rather astonishing. I've already become acquainted with 
the warning cry — and its repercussions — thanks to Dennis. 
In the meantime, I arduously practice my lip-smacking, 
the ultimate accompaniment to the come-hither face, in 
front of the mirror. My attempts more closely resemble a 
forlorn lover blowing kisses than a baboon trying to be 
friends, but I'm just a beginner, after all. 

"You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, 
but you can't pick your friend's nose," was a popular el- 
ementary school joke when I was growing up in Manhat- 
tan, but it certainly isn't the prevailing ethos here. Maggie, 
who is clearly becoming my friend, is not at all averse tcT 
picking at my nose, my ears, my eyelids, my lips, and my 
gums, as well as virtually any other protrusion or orifice 
her adept little hands can reach. 

In the nursery one afternoon, I meet Shanti, a two- 
month-old female who greets me with a flattering, and 
utterly archetypal, gesture: the presentation of her deniere. 
The presenting of the female buttocks, in the hope that 
the one so honored will comply by scratching them, is a 
gesture of incipient friendship and interest (it can also have 

other functions, such as expressing a desire for grooming 
or copulation, or surrender after a fight). So I scratch, 
and Shanti, temporarily satisfied, scoots off playfully into 
Elena's arms. 

Shanti's story — heartbreaking, but not uncharacteris- 
tic of orphans who have the good fortune to end up at 
C.A.R.E. — is that her previous owner had nourished her 
largely on alcohol, a substance infant baboons will ingest 
all too readily. Within days of her arrival at C.A.R.E., it 
became clear that poor Shanti was going through detox. 
Originally Lee's baby, she also takes a liking to one of the 
volunteers, Jacob, who agrees to take on the rather unique 
status of being a male "stepmother" until his departure. 

TO SAY THAT BABOONS ARE not earth's most beloved 
creatures is to establish oneself as a master of the art of 
understatement. Not only do baboons not lend them- 
selves to being dressed up in overalls or tutus and paraded 
onto the Late Show with David Letterman, they also, when 
grown, have an elongated snout, reminiscent of a dog's, 

40 natural HISTORY December 2007/January 2008 

Volunteer Maria Corales and her foster "child" (in diapers), left, 
socialize with some young baboons. At first infants are carried by 
their foster mothers twenty-four hours a day, but then are gradually 
weaned. Top photo: Young baboons play on a tree used as the 
sleeping place of Tito's Troop. Above: members of the troop before 
they had to be relocated. 

not the relatively flat, humanlike face of a chimpanzee. 
Contemporary folk tales in Africa and elsewhere freely 
portray baboons as stupid and lazy. And in South Africa, 
where people once received a monetary reward if they 
could hand in a baboon scalp and tail, all sorts of unflat- 
tering myths endure. 

Nor are baboons in general especially endangered pri- 
mates. But as Rita says, "Why do we have to wait until the 
baboons are almost extinct until we care for them?" In any 
case, the loss of any regional population can be significant. 
By one reckoning all baboons belong to the same species, 
Papio hamadryas, and the chacma baboon, P. h. ursinus, is 
one ot five subspecies. Even within that subspecies, two or 
three forms can be distinguished: the Cape chacma. the 
gray-footed chacma, and perhaps the Ruacana chacma. 

I lie potential t"i future tragedy motivates Rita and the 

si. ill not only to nurture the orphans in their cue. but also 
to return animals to the wild, Iii the nearly twent) \ ears of 
C.A.R.E.'s operation, some eight troops totaling roughly 

150 baboons have been released all around South Africa. 
The process is time-consuming and complex. Not only must 

in appropriate release site be located, permits applied tor. 
and (lie Hoop transported, but also two "release manag- 
ers" (one of whom needs to have bonded tightly with the 
troop's alpha males) must accompany the troop to make 
sure the animals can successfully forage on their own. The 
release managers select a sleeping tree as a central gather- 
ing place, sleep at the site, and lead the baboons to water, 
fruiting trees, and other resources until the males are able 
to find them on their own. ( )ne of the managers may have- 
to remain with them for as long as five months. 

I hiring my stay as a volunteer, a troop is being readied 
tor release. The same troop was released once before, 
five years ago. and survived two years on land owned by 
a sympathetic firmer. When a tolerant neighbor died. 
however, the animals fell prey to shooting and poisoning. 
Rita and Lee then brought them back to begin the whole 
process over again! 

IT'S WITH DENNIS— THE "medium" whose warning cries 
first led to my being mobbed — that I develop my most 
complicated, and at times perplexing, relationship. Along 
with his devoted sister Maggie, my hairdresser, he spends 
much of the time when I'm in the cage grunting and vo- 
calizing in my arms and grooming me to calm himself. 
He repeatedly comes to me for comfort, but — when I 
apparently don't satisfy him — begins biting me, or crying 
out for help. 

Several days into my stay, thanks to 1 )ennis's instigation. I 
get mobbed twice. My mistake: projecting human reactions 
onto the baboon world. I'm expecting simple gratitude— 
atter all, who's been protecting and cuddling him these past 
several days?— but I've not reckoned with baboon politics. 
The fact is, Dennis falls very low. perhaps lowest, in the 
troop hierarchy, and those of low rank will often "switch 
sides" against a common enemy (me!) as a way of trying to 
ally themselves with their more powerful cohorts. 

Making eye contact with me obviously frightens Dennis: 
whenever I look at him, or try out my lip-smacking, he 
runs ott screaming. I decide to adopt a new strategy, which 
actually seems to work: I studiously look away whenever 
he tries to meet my gaze. I sense he is just waiting for our 
eyes to meet to give out the help! cry and have the others 
mob me, and I'm not buying. 

The tact that your spirits rise when young baboons are 
nicer to you than they were the previous day may not 
signify that you have risen within our own not-so-humble 
species, but that's how I'm starting to feel. It's another day, 
and the mediums seem genuinely happy to see me, with 
Kimberly jumping down on me at least a dozen times 

December 2007 '/January 2008 NATURAL history 41 

Tito, the alpha male, photographed 
jumped up and displayed his canine 

from the wooden post 
above and lying playfully 
in my lap, and Tortilla 
and Sabrina madly vying 
for Maggie's hairdresser 
role. My Dennis strategy 
seems to be working, too: 
he constantly tries to make 
eye contact, first from my 
lap and then from various 
vantage points around the 
cage, but I steadfastly hold 
to my resolve — stroking 
and lap dancing are okay; 
eye contact, no. 

This morning, though, 
one of the adult baboons 
has been found dead. His 
purplish-black tongue re- 
veals he has died of as- 
phyxiation, the result of 
a black mamba bite, the 
deadliest snakebite of all. 
In the brief time since my 
arrival, three baboons have 
now died (two from snake- 
bite, one from tetanus). 

Several others have been mauled by baboons from the 
wild troop, reaching into the cages. Each day brings its 
small and large emergencies — illnesses, accidents, deaths, 
injuries, escapes, fights. 

BY THE END OF MY SECOND week, I'm beginning to 
feel a bit baboony myself. It's not a bad life, being the 
alpha male. Somebody up there on my head — Tortilla? 
Sabrina? — madly grooms my hair, my eyes, then moves 
on to my chest and, along with periodic yanks on my 
chest hairs, methodically chews off all three buttons on 
my shirt. Then, also, there are lots of soft kisses along my 
eyes, nose, and ears today, not only from Maggie — who 
has also taken to kissing me on the lips — but from Kariba 
and Tortilla as well. I'm slowly fitting in, I find, just be- 
coming another one of the family. 

But before I know it, my stay at C.A.R.E. is drawing to 
a close. Suddenly one of those "super-emotional human 
things" Rita likes to speak of takes possession of me: I 
am actually going to have to say good-bye to Dennis and 
Maggie and the others. Sentimental to the core, I decide 
to put it off: I'm spending a week in Phalaborwa before 
my flight; I'll just come back before I leave and do the 
dirty work then. 

On the day of my flight, I rent a car and drive back to the 
Centre. As soon as I arrive, I make one of those "human 
errors" (Rita's favorite expression) and leave my car outside 
the volunteer lodge, instead of locking it up behind one 

on awakening (a second later he 
teeth in warning). 

of the fences. Though I've 
removed any obvious sign 
of food, I should, after three 
weeks of living among my 
primate cousins, know 
better. By the time I've 
walked down the hill to 
Rita's house, the wild troop 
has ripped the passenger- 
side mirror off in search of 
something to eat. "Stupid 
baboons?" Not at all — just 
another example of a rather 
careless human. 

When I walk into Rita's 
living room, Suzie, Lee's 
baby, is so glad to see me 
that she leaps onto the sofa 
to play. But there's also 
been bad news during the 
night: Nathan has died of 
pneumonia after eleven 
years at C.A.R.E. While 
shaving his chest to do the 
chest X-ray, they made 
a disturbing discovery: a 
number had been tattooed on him by the experimental lab 
where he was used as a subject before Rita rescued him. 
Before leaving, there's one last thing I need to do. I enter 
the mediums' cage, where I am immediately greeted and 
climbed upon by Dennis and Maggie, along with Sabrina 
and Tortilla. I take a seat on one of the crates, Maggie and 
Dennis firmly planted on my right knee as usual, Maggie 
fervently grooming me. 

But I don't have much time for the hairdressers today; 
I've got a plane to catch. So I turn and look Dennis right 
in the eyes, lip-smacking and smiling as I do so. He looks 
back at me, neither running for cover nor sounding the 
alarm cry, lip-smacking as well. 

And I could swear he is smiling too. 

Michael C. Blumenthal 

Formerly a New Hampshire law clerk to now-Supreme Court I 

Justice David Souter, a science writer/editor for Time-Life 
Books, and director of creative writing at Harvard, Blumenthal 
occupies the Darden Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at 
Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. It was only in I 
hindsight that he realized that one of his motives in experiencing and writing 
about C.A.R.E.'s mission may have sprung from a deeper connection with 
the animals: "Not only were the infant baboons separated from their mothers 
at birth, I was too — adopted away from my natural mother when I was eight 
days old." Blumenlhal's own family circumstances are recounted in his book 
All My Mothers and Fathers: A Memoir (Perennial, 2003). 

Web links related to this article can be found at 


NATURAL history December 2007 '/January 2008 

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_.~Grotto Spring Run, sixteen 
^^bBbs south of j=Iqrida Caverns 

ate Park, ]s-one,of the Chipola 
'^Oder's many tributaries. 

Florida Underground 

At a state park riddled with caves, even the Chipola River ducks below the surface. 

By Robert H. Mohlenbrock 






As its name implies, Florida 
Caverns State Park is a place to 
see stalactites, stalagmites, and other 
cave features, but it also boasts a 
variety of natural plant communities, 
including one in which Appalachian 
Mountain species reach their south- 
ernmost limit. The park lies about 
sixty-five miles northwest of Tallahas- 
see, near the small city of Marianna, 
the seat of Jackson County. It covers 
a two-square-mile area that ranges 
from 65 to 1 80 feet above mean 
sea level. Flowing through it from 
north to south is the Chipola River, 
whose name is said to be Choctaw 
for "sweetwater."The river is eighty 

feet wide in some places, but it also 
sinks underground for about half a 
mile (though some of the water flows 

Southern magnolia 

across the surface in a ditch cut 100 
years ago for a logging run) . 

The park owes its geological 
features to a complex history. Some 
300 million years ago, two prime- 
val supercontinents, Gondwana and 
Laurasia — themselves the products of 
earlier tectonic movements — collided 
to form a single landmass, Pangaea. 
When, about 100 million years later, 
Pangaea began to break up, a frag- 
ment of the African continental plate 
remained attached to North America. 
That rock ultimately underlies what 
is now Florida and adjacent areas. 
During the past 100 million years, 
the region was often covered by the 

Appalachian forest Veg- 
etation along the Beech 
Magnolia Trail is reminiscent 
of that in the Chattahoochee 
National Forest of northern 
Georgia, with such trees as 
American beech, American 
holly, black walnut, southern 
magnolia, white ash, white 
basswood, and yellow poplar 

towering over blue phlox, 
daisy fleabane, elephant's- 
foot, hairy phlox, mistflower, 
partridgeberry, Solomon's- 
seal, Virginia snakeroot, 
and other Appalachian 
wildflowers. Species just 
barely reaching Florida from 
the Appalachians are Al- 
legheny spurge, bloodroot, 

Chattahoochee River wake 
robin, false rue anemone, 
lance-leaved wake robin, 
mayapple, waxy meadow 
rue, and two very uncommon 
wake robins: purple toad- 
shade (Trillium underwoodii) 
and spotted wake robin (T. 
maculatum). Species that fall 
between the canopy trees 

and the wildflowers include 
bigleaf snowbell bush, 
needle palm, red buckeye, 
southern flame azalea, and 

Upland forest The uppermost 
elevations of the park, along 
its eastern and western sides, 
are relatively dry. Among 


NATURAL HISTORY December 2007/January 2008 

The coral 

si.-. i, which laid down layers 
nt shells, corals, .ini.1 other 
carbonate deposits. Those 
deposits eventually formed 
an enormous platform of 
limestone tens of thousands 
of feet thick. 

Once formed, the limestone was 
subjected to the whims of sea-level 
fluctuation. When the sea level 
high, acidic ground water found 
fissures and cracks in the soluble 
limestone, and slowly enlarged those 

Florida Caverns State Park 
3345 Caverns Road 
Marianna, FL 32446 

pathways into caverns channeling 
underground streams. When the sea 
level and water table fell, the caverns 
drained, and in the presence of air, 
calcium carbonate that was dissolved 
in dripping water precipitated out. 

snake is highly venomous. 

building up residues in the form ol 
columns, draperies, rinistonc pools, 
soda straws, stalactites, and stalag- 
mites. Visitors to the park may view 
such wonders by taking a guided 
tour along a lighted pathway in one 

A number of underground 
chambers known in the park are not 
included in the tour. One is Sala- 
mander Pond Cave, which contains 
an underground pool 183 feet long, 
1 3 feet wide, and more than 8 feet 
deep. Two rare cave species live in 
that aquatic cavern, the Dough- 
erty Plain cave crayfish (Cambarus 
cryptodytes) and the Georgia blind 
salamander (Haideotriton wallacei). 

Geological activity has hardly 
ground to a halt in the region. The 
Chipola River continues to erode 
the limestone; the River Sink is 
where the river disappears about 
100 feet below ground before 
emerging downstream. Blue Hole 
Spring, a pool nearly 100 feet in di- 
ameter and 39 feet deep, is fed by an 
artesian spring, where water emerges 
under pressure at a rate that has 
been measured at 56.8 cubic feet per 
second. The overflow creates pictur- 
esque Carter's Mill Branch, which 
eventually flows into the Chipola 

The Chipola is a small tributary 
of the Apalachicola River, which 
originates to the east of the park as 
a confluence of the Chattahoochee 

and Flint rivers. The Chat- 
tahoochee has its hc.idv. I 
ters in the mountains of 
northern Georgia, and this 
connection has provided 
a pathway tor plant spe- 
i as of the Appalachians to 
migrate into northern Florida. The 
park's trails, including the Beech 
Magnolia Trail and the Blufl-Flood- 
plain Trail, provide a cross-section 
of the vegetation. If you hike in the 
park, be aware that alligators, coral 
snakes, cottonmouths, dusky pygmy 
rattlesnakes, eastern diamondback 
rattlesnakes, and snapping turtles live 
there as well. 

Robert H. Muhlhsbrock is distin- 
guished professor emeritus ot plant biology at 
Southern Illinois University Carbondale. 

"Wedding cake" dripstone formation in 
the cavern 

the trees flourishing here 
are flowering dogwood, hop 
hornbeam, laurel cherry, laurel 
oak, live oak, loblolly pine, 
and spruce pine. 

Floodplain forest The fairly 
flat and low-lying terrain that 
borders the Chipola River and 
its tributaries is inundated 

each year when the river and 
streams overflow. Trees that 
inhabit the wettest areas 
include American hornbeam 
(also known as musclewood), 
bald cypress, green ash, 
loblolly bay, Ogeechee lime, 
overcup oak, swamp gum, 
sweet bay, tupelo gum, water 
hickory, and water locust. 

Bluestem palmetto is plentiful 
beneath the trees. 

Limestone cliff Low lime- 
stone cliffs, up to thirty feet 
tall, appear in places along 
the Chipola River. False rue 
anemone and wild columbine 
are common, growing from 
crevices in the cliff face. A 

close examination of the cliff 
face reveals bicolored spleen- 
wort, ebony spleenwort, 
modest spleenwort, and 
Morzenti's spleenwort, the 
rare one-sorus spleenwort, 
and southern maidenhair 
fern. The attractive oak-leaf 
hydrangea hangs from the 
tops of the cliffs. 

December 2007/January 2008 NATURAL HISTORY 45 

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Professor Barbara J. King (Ph.D., 
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1. What is Biological Anthropology? 

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7. The Mind of the Great Ape 

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1 1 . Stones and Bones 

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14. Did Hunting Make Us Human? 

15. The Prehistory of Gender 

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17. On the Origins of Homo sapiens 

18. Language 

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Best Books for Young 
Readers, 2007 

By Diana Lutz 


Otven & Mzee:The Lan- 
guage of Friendship, told 
by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hat- 
koff, and Dr. Paula Kahumhu; 
photographs by Peter Greste 
(Scholastic Press; $16.99) 

This tender photo-essay, 
a sequel, chronicles the un- 
likely friendship that began 
when a baby hippo, Owen, 
orphaned by the terrible tsu- 
nami of 2004, was taken to 
the Kenyan wildlife sanctu- 
ary where a 130-year-old tor- 
toise, Mzee, was living. Since 
the last book, the two friends 
have worked out a "lan- 
guage" of their own. Owen 
has learned to steer the tor- 
toise by nipping or nuzzling 
a hind leg; Mzee blocks Owen's way 
when the hippo gets upset and pre- 
pares to charge. 
Both speak in a 
grunt unknown 
to either hippos 
or tortoises in 
the wild. 

At least six il- 
lustrated books 
by various au- 
thors have cov- 
ered the pair's story, a natural for chil- 
dren. But this team — a publisher, his 
young daughter, a naturalist, and a 
photojournalist — has authored the best 
of them. 

How Big Is It? A Big Book All About 
Bigness, by Ben Hillman (Scholastic Ref- 
erence; $14.99) 

Many objects of scientific interest 
are so very big (or so very small) that 

it's difficult to grasp just how big (or 
small) they are. The giant squid, Archit- 
euthis dux, can grow to fifty-five feet. 
But how long is fifty-five feet? 
To show his daughter Maizy, 
five years old at the time, Ben 
Hillman used photo-editing 
software to park a giant squid 
in their home's driveway. That 
image inspired How Big Is It?, 
a book of startling composites. 
The two-mile- 
thick ice sheet 
that covered the 
northern hemi- 
sphere during the 
last ice age looms 
over the Chicago 
skyline, dwarfing 
the Sears Tow- 
er. The massive 
corpse flower, Rafflesia arnoldii, makes 
a surreal umbrella for two. Hillman 's 

witty images will stick in a child's 
mind long after standard comparisons 
to the weight of an elephant or the 
height of the Empire State building 
are forgotten. 


How Underwear Got Under There: 
A Brief History, by Kathy Shaskan; 
illustrated by Regan Dunnick (Dutton 
Children's Books; $16.99) 

Organized around eight func- 
tions that underwear has served 
through the centuries (cleanliness, 
exaggeration, modesty, protection, 
shaping, status, support, and warmth), 
Kathy Shaskan's book takes readers on 
fascinating tour of historical solu- 
tions to very human problems. Shas- 
kan points out that the smock was 
the first answer to body odor, that 
corsets couldn't be laced really tight 
until metal eyelets were invented, 
that elastic didn't exist until 1820, 
and that the bra hasn't even celebrated 
its centennial yet. Regan Dunnick's 
lighthearted cartoons perfectly match 
Shaskan's playful tone. 

Will It Blow? Become a Volcano De- 
tective at Mount St. Helens, by Eliza- 
beth Rusch; illustrated by K.E. Lewis 
(Sasquatch Books; $18.95) 

In 2004, scientists began 
to detect swarms of small 
earthquakes under Mount 
St. Helens, and wondered 
whether the volcano was 
about to erupt again. In Will 
It Blow? five volcanologists 
struggle to understand the 
data they collect. The read- 
er can speculate with them 
as they compare seismograms of the 
current tremors to those made by a 
helicopter on the ground and a steam 
explosion, among other phenomena. 
The scientists become increasingly 
baffled by their data. Why is no gas 
J escaping from the rumbling volcano? 
What's that bulge in the crater floor, 
and that spot in the glacier that melts 
and then boils away? Readers won't 

48 NATURAL HISTORY December 2007 '/January 2008 


Evocative and informative" 1 natural history from YALE 


The Art of Natural History in the 
Age of Discovery 

David Attenborough, Susan Owens, 
Martin Clayton, and 
Rea Alexandratos 

"[This] is a book to 
savor in your 
favorite chair. . . . 
The sumptuous draw- 
ings and watercolors 
reproduced in this 
volume bear witness to 
the endeavors of Merian, Leonardo da 
Vinci and other artists. . . . The coupling 
ot words .wk\ images is primal, yet 
transcendent." — Susan P. Williams, 

Washington Post Book World 
160 color illus 


The Disappearing Edens 

William Burt 

"For more than 30 

years naturalist and 

photographer Burt 

has prowled North 

America's wetlands, 

finding beauty in 

unexpected places. . . . 

Burt's evocative and 

informative writing complements the 

book's gallery of beautiful marshes." 


92 color illus. 


Ten Years o) 'the Yule Anglers' journal' 

Illustrated by James Prosek 
Edited by Joseph Furia, Wyatt Golding, 
David Haltom, Steven Hayhurst, 
Joseph Kingsbery, and Alexis Surovov 
With a Foreword by Nick Lyons 

"The liveliest collection of angling land 
angling-related) pieces I have read in a long 
time." — Ian Frazier 

'For more information: 
52 color illus 


A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of 
Extinct Humans 

Created by G. J. Sawyer and 

Viktor Deak 

Text by Esteban Sarmiento, I 

G. J. Sawyer, and 

Richard Milner 

With Contributions by 

Donald C. Johanson, 

Meave Leakey, and 

Ian Tattersall 

"A magnificent matching 

of precisely researched science 

and inspired popularization. . . . 

Fascinating."— Adrian Barnett, New Scientist 
8 b/w + 63 color illus. + 2 1 maps 


A Brie) History 

Bernd Brunner 
Translated by Lori Lantz 

"A much -welcomed 
book about the 

shared and surprising 
connections between 
two ama/ing animals. 
Brunner covers 
numerous matters — 
ursine-human — in an 
easy to read and com- 
pact work. Packed with facts, 

stories, and light humor."-Marc Bekoff 
105 illus. 


An Annotated Selection from the 
Journal of Henry D. Thoreau 

Edited by Jeffrey S. Cramer 

"Cramer has aimed to 
provide general read- 
ers with a clean, reli- 
able, intelligently 
chosen series of 
entries from the mas- 
sive original [two-mil- 
lion-word journal of 
Thoreau]. ... He has 
admirably succeeded." 
— Wayne Franklin 



Eleanor Jane Sterling, Martha 
Maud Hurley, and Le Due Minh 
With illustrations by Joyce A, Powzyk 

This book, the first comprehensive 

account of Vietnam's natural history 

written in English, is "comprehensive 

and knowingly illustrated . . . [and] 

engagingly readable."— John Balzar, 

Los Angeles Times 
22 b/w + 54 color illus 

New in paper 

The Hidden Wonders of the World's 
Most Famous Islands 

Michael Bright, with Karen Bass and 
Scott Alexander 

"This concise, readable natural history of 

our nearest island neighbors will provide 
exciting reading for travelers as well as arm- 
chair naturalists." — Margaret D. Lowman 
Co-published with BBC Books, on imprint of 
Edbury Publishing 
1 16 color illus. 


A Complete Guide 
Nick Garbutt 

This comprehensive and fully illus- 
trated field guide to all the extraordi- 
nary mammals of Madagascar includes 
many new species only recently identi- 
fied. An essential volume for even- eco- 

tourist or scientist visiting the island. 
Published in association with Christopher 
Helm/A&C Black Publishers Lid. 

■ * 1 75 color illus. + 1 88 maps 

YAI F University Press 

' ' » 1— I— A\iiiliihlr wherever ljooks tire sold • VI 

Available wherever books arc sold • 

be able to predict the answer, but the 
book makes sense of all the clues. 

Will It Blow? provides an exciting 
glimpse into the science of volcanol- 
ogy, but the text is somewhat en- 
cumbered by the design. The book is 
dressed up as a private eye's case file, 
with notes paper-clipped to docu- 
ments rubber-stamped "CASE FILE 
OPEN" or "CASE CLOSED." Yes, sci- 
entists sometimes think like detectives, 
but the metaphor gets in the way of a 
story intriguing enough on its own. 

Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars: 
Space Poems and Paintings, by Doug- 
las Florian (Harcourt Children's Books; 

In his latest children's book, Douglas 
Florian, an accomplished poet-painter 
and father of five, romps through the 
universe. Each spread features light 
verse printed over gouache images of 
planets and other heavenly bodies dec- 
orated with collage and rubber stamps. 
As always, Florian loads his paintings 
with witty details. Mercury, for exam- 
ple, is outlined in numerous small feet, 
a glancing reference to Mercury the 
messenger in Roman mythology. 

The book's design entertains as much 
as its illustrations do. As one turns the 
pages, celestial bodies dance from left 
to right and a rusty brown 
planet glimpsed through 
a cut-out hole turns 
bright blue. Playful 
though the book 
may be, it is al- 

ways accurate. Venus's atmosphere is 
toxic and Uranus really does spin on 
its side. Florian accepts the discipline 
of fact as well as that of poetic form, 
and so it is always a pleasure to see his 
name on a book's spine. 


George's Secret Key to the Universe, 

by Lucy and Stephen Hawking, with 
Christophe Galfard; illustrated 
by Garry Parsons (Simon 
& Schuster Books forYoung 
Readers; $17.99) 

The first in a three-part 
series, George's Secret Key is 
an illustrated chapter book 
written by the renowned 
physicist Stephen Hawk- 
ing and his daughter Lucy, 
a journalist and author. The 
hero, a boy named 
George whose 
parents are tech- 
nophobe environ- 
mentalists, lives 
next door to Eric, 
a physicist with a 
computer that can 
open portals in 
spacetime. George, 
accompanied by Eric's daugh- 
ter, jumps through the portal 
to tour the solar system, hitch- 
ing a ride on a comet. 

The joyride is interrupted 
by a science teacher portent- 
ously named G. Reeper.To get 
his hands on the computer for devi- 
ous ends, Reeper lures Eric out to the 
nether regions of the universe, where 
a black hole swallows the physicist 
whole. In order to save his neighbor, 
George must overcome a series of ob- 
stacles, including, amusingly, his fear 
of scientific jargon. 

People who know real scientists 
will appreciate Eric's enthusiasm, na- 
ive idealism, and tendency to lecture. 
The book gets points for tackling the 

recurrent tension between environ- 
mentalism and science, but it suc- 
ceeds first and foremost as a good 
old-fashioned adventure tale. 

Tsunami Wkrning, by Taylor Morrison 
(Houghton Mifflin Company; $17.00) 

A shocking revelation of the 2004 
tsunami was that nations bordering 
the Indian Ocean had no system for 
tsunami detection and warning. Nor, 
for that matter, did the Atlantic coast 
of the United States. The Pacific coast, 
however, did have a sensor network, 
installed after a devastating tsunami hit 
Hilo, Hawaii, in 1946. Taylor Morri- 
son describes that system, as well as the 
advanced warning system 
that has since subsumed it. 

Tsunami Warning, like 
Morrison's earlier books, 
The Coast Mappers and 
Wildfire, has a slightly old- 
fashioned feel: his paintings 
resemble popular graphic 
arts of the 1940s and his 
palette of forest green, 
black, and gray distinguishes 
itself from the screamingly bright 
colors of most modern children's 
books. Both text and illustrations 
are of a piece with his subject 
matter: feats of engineering that 
have stemmed Nature's blind 
fury. At a time when environ- 
mentalism dominates children's 

,_jmhbh^^b literature and tech- 
Tsunami Warning 

nology is largely ig- 
nored, one is grateful 
that Morrison speaks 
for the engineers. 

The Secret of 
Priest's Grotto: A 
Holocaust Survival Story, by Peter 
Lane Taylor with Christos Nicola (Kar- 
Ben Publishing; $18.95) 

In 1993 an American caver named 
Christos Nicola, exploring a maze- 
like Ukrainian cave south of Kiev, 
was startled to find hand-built rock 
walls, old shoes, buttons, and other 
signs of human habitation. Four years 
later, he tracked down the cave's in- 
habitants: three families of Jews, now 
living in the United States and Can- 
ada, who hid in the cave during the 
Nazi occupation. 

Tlie Secret of Priest's Grotto, a photo- 
illustrated book, interleaves an account 

50 NATURAL HISTORY December 2007/January 2008 

ot .m expedition to the cave with the 
story of the families who hid there. 
Living underground in the seventy 
seven-mile-long cave for nearly .1 year 
(after five months in .1 smaller cave), the 
[ews suffered hypothermia, malnutri- 
tion, and sensory deprivation. But the 
greatest danger was other people. When 
Ukrainian peasants realized Jews were 
hiding in Priests Grotto, they worked 
for days with picks and shovels to block 
the entrance. Only two former neigh- 
bors remained trusted friends. 1 [ad 
Nieol.i not been curious about an old 
shoe and a few buttons, we might never 
have heard the survivors' story. 

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and 
the Science of Ocean Motion, by Lone 
Griffin Burns (Houghton Mifflin Com- 

In 1990, during a storm in the Pa- 
cific, the ship Hansa Carrier lost five 
containers that held roughly 80,000 
Nikes.When more and more sneakers 
began washing up on beaches. Curt 
Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer, decid- 
ed to track them to their source. He 
soon realized the sneaker spill was "the 
largest (and cheapest) ocean drift ex- 
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After that lighthearted beginning. 
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captain, discovered a convergence zone 
in the North Pacific where plastic bags, 
shampoo caps, and soap bottles have 
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abandoned, drifting "ghost nets" en- 
tangle and kill untold thousands of sea 
animals annually; scientists are trying 
to tag and track them with satellites. 
Tracking Trash is the latest in Hough- 
ton Mifflin Company's Scientists in the 
Field series, notable for its high pro- 
duction values and reliance on first- 
hand reporting. Loree Griffin Burns 
has loaded the book with informa- 
tion, insight, and intellectual twists. 

Alter Ego: Avatars and Tiieir Creators, 

by Robbie Cooper Julian Dibbell, and 
Tracy Spaight (Chris Boot Ltd; $35.00) 

Several years ago, Robbie Cooper, 
a photojournalism began asking online 
gamers to let him photograph them 
and take a screen grab of their ava- 
tar, or game character. Alter Ego com- 
bines his gamer/avatar image pairs 
with Tracy Spaight's interviews. The 
result is a fascinating glimpse into the 
psychology of masquerading and se- 
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dead rogues or warriors because they 
can do what they want without guys 
bothering them. A severely disabled 
man is free online to ride futuristic 
speed bikes and fight monsters. But 
other choices scratch more obscure 
psychological itches, such as a male 
economics professor whose avatar is 
a dwarf girl. 

Kids will be fascinated by this 
book, which addresses their culture in 
an intelligent way. Parents should be 
warned, however, that Alter Ego cov- 
ers the dark side of gaming, including 
Chinese "game farms" where chain- 
smoking young men work twelve- 
hour shifts to advance wealthy gamers' 
avatars. Even nongamers might want 
to pick up Alter Ego, if only because 
gaming is the future: more than 150 
colleges have virtual campuses in the 
online game Second Life. 

Diana Lutz is a freelance science writer and 
editor, as well as the former editor of Muse, a 
science magazine for young people. She lives 
in Madison, Wisconsin. 

52 NATURAL HISTORY December 2007 '/January 2008 

C2007 Media Servicoi S-7748 OF18547R-1 Advortiaement 


Famous EdenPURE portable heater 
that can cut your heating bill 
up to 5 0/o is now much better 

a large room in minutes with even 
heat wall to wall and floor to ceiling 

Does not get hot, cannot start a fire and will not reduce humidity or oxygen 

By John Whitehead, 
Media Services 

The famous infrared 
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heating hills hy up to 5091 . 

has been great!) improved. 

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hetler. taster, saves mure 
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End of interview. 

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Heats floor to the 
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1 . Electricity Ignites powerful 
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this publication, we reserve 
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BioTech Research Depi. EPH4965 
Canton. OH 44767 

,7800 Whipple Ave, N.W., 

And for the Coffee Table 

By Laurence A. Marschal 

Tlie Deep: Tlie Extraordinary 
Creatures of the Abyss by Claire 
Noiwian (Tlie University of Chicago 
Press; $45. 00) 

Oceanic Wilderness by Roger Steene 
(Firefly Books; $59.95) 

Until twenty-five years ago, the 
deep sea was virgin territory to biolo- 
gists, and even today virtually every 
research dive into the abyss turns up 
a profusion of previously unknown 

species. In The Deep, journalist Claire 
Nouvian has assembled a portrait gal- 
lery of these exotic creatures, accom- 
panied by eloquent essays by more 
than a dozen ocean scientists. The 
denizens of the deep are so bizarre 
they seem to have been sculpted by 
Salvador Dali on acid. Fish with skel- 
etal heads and protruding fangs glow- 
er into the camera, some with lower 
teeth so long that a reckless bite could 
take out their own eyeballs. Smooth- 
skinned octopuses float in the black- 
ness, resembling embryos attached to 
bundles of wormlike tentacles. Other 
creatures look like ball-point pens, 
paper lanterns, baby's buttocks, and 
Pokemon cartoon figures, while the 
spooky vampire squid reminded me of 
a bat's head grafted onto the webbed 

foot of a duck. Since only a few per- 
cent of the ocean's depths have so far 
been explored, one can hardly imag- 
ine what phantasms of this remarkable 
bestiary the next edition will display. 

Underwater photographer Roger 
Steene frequents shallower waters in 
and around coral reefs throughout the 
world. In Oceanic Wilderness he records 
underwater scenes few of us have the 
resources, skill, or patience to behold, 
rendered with a startling sharpness 
and brilliance. In one picture a rain- 
bow mantis displays so many colors it 
looks as if it is wearing a clown cos- 
tume; even its huge goggle eyes are 
purple. Elsewhere, collages of close- 
ups highlight the kaleidoscopic pat- 
terns of markings on sponges, sea ur- 
chins, and corals. Most remarkable is a 
series of pictures showing the tender 
embraces of tropical fish making love 
(how did he get those shots?). All in 
all, this collection of undersea glam- 
our is a pleasant foil to the nightmar- 
ish vision of The Deep. 

The Pompeii Pop-Up Text by Peter 
Riley with Dr. Thorsten Opper; design 
by David Hawcock (Universe Publishing; 

The Red Volcanoes: Face to Face 
with the Mountains of Fire by G. 
Brad Lewis and Paul-Edouard Ber- 
nard de Lajartre (Thames and Hudson; 

The catastroph- 
ic explosion of 
Mt. Vesuvius on 
August 24, 79 
B.C. not only put 
an untimely end 
to the city of 
Pompeii, but also 
etched an impres- 
sion of the enor- 
mous destructive 
power of volca- 
noes in our col- 
lective memory. 

True to form, Vesuvius erupts from 
the centerfold of this infernally clever 
Pompeii primer when the book is 
opened and its scenes unfold. In the 
foreground, residents desperately try 
to outrun the blast, or, with equal fu- 
tility, cower in houses that will soon be 
sealed under a blanket of ash. Yet the 
hot ash that interred them froze time 
in the city, saving it for archaeologists 
to uncover two millennia later. Now, 
thanks to paper engineer Hawcock 
and writers Riley and Opper (a Brit- 
ish Museum curator of antiquities), 
readers can manipulate 3-D models of 
Pompeii's old marketplaces, inns, and 
villas, and explore its monumental fo- 
rum from the comfort of an armchair. 
Clearly, Vesuvius was an agent both 
of destruction and of preservation. 

Volcanoes are also agents of cre- 
ation, especially at places in the Earth's 
crust where magma wells up to form 
new land in the sea. Two of the most 
active of these are Kilauea, on the Pa- 
cific island of Hawaii, and Piton de La 
Fournaise, on the Indian Ocean island 
of Reunion. Distinct from stratovolca- 
noes like Mt. St. Helens and Vesuvius, 
which explode with catastrophic vio- 
lence, these so-called "red volcanoes" 
merely ooze and spray, creating me- 
andering lava flows and fantastic py- 
rotechnic displays that can be viewed, 
albeit cautiously, with minimal risk. 
Two skilled nature 
G. Brad Lewis, in 
Hawaii, and Paul- 
Edouard Bernard 
de Lajartre, in 
Reunion, have 
devoted years to 
recording the red 
volcanoes, creat- 
ing abstract com- 
positions in earth, 
darkness, and fire. 
Daytime views 
show the delicate 

Peter Riley 


54 natural HISTORY December 2007/January 2008 

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texture of cinder, lava, and venting 
gases, but the nighttime shots, in their 
simple beauty, are the most compel- 
ling. In one, a splash of orange-red la- 
va bursts into the blackness, its tracery 
suggesting the quiet power of the fa- 
mous wave woodcut by Japanese art- 
ist Hokusai. In another, thin rivulets 
of lava, looking like the glowing fangs 
of a dragon, drip from an elongated 
precipice into the ocean. 

Cartographia: Mapping Civilizations 

by Vincent Virga and the Library of 
Congress (Little, Brown and Company; 

If a picture is worth a thousand 
words, then a map is worth at least a 
thousand pictures. Not only does each 
place on a map evoke a story, but so 
too does the map itself: we want to 
know who made it and why, and what 
impact the map had on those who 
used it. Picture editor Vincent Virga, 


drawing on the resources of the Li- 
brary of Congress, which houses the 
largest cartographic collection in the 
world, lays forth a spectacular cultural 
history of cartography, organized by 
geographic region — starting with the 
Mediterranean, the oldest region to be 
mapped, and ending in Antarctica. 

The highlights of the book, of 
course, are exquisite reproductions of 
noteworthy examples of the carto- 
graphic art, from a Babylonian world 
map — an abstract diagram of circles, 
lines, and symbols inscribed on a clay 
tablet — to a 1996 chart of the estuary 
of the Mississippi, so detailed it seems 
almost to replicate the river itself. 
Though cartography has obviously 
become more precise with time and 
technology, it is clear from this book 
that the history of mapmaking is not 
just a constant striving for geographic 
verisimilitude. Mapmakers usually 
had other things in mind. A seventh- 
century Persian chart represents land 
in the shape of a bird, a poetic vi- 
sion of the motherland. As recently 
as the nineteenth century, a Japanese 
map of the prefecture around Mt. Fu- 
ji embodies more artistic stylization 
than true-to-life rendition. And even 
when the goal of the mapmakers 

56 NATURAL HISTORY December 2007 /January 2008 


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was strictly utilitarian, their 
maps often displayed truths 
that were political, social, 
economic, or military rath- 
er than strictly topographic. 
That is what makes maps 
so delightful and fascinat- 
ing: they do not show us 
the world as it is, but rather 
the world as seen through 
other eyes, in other places 
and times. 

Vanishing World: The En- 
dangered Arctic Photographs by Mireille 
dc la Le:; text by Fredrik Granath 
(Abrams; $40.00) 

Antarctic Fishes Illustrations by Boshu 
Nagase; text by Mitsuo Fukuchi and 
Harvey /. Marchant (The Johns Hopkins 
University Press; $45.00) 

Mireille de la Lez and Fredrik 
Granath spent five years at the top 
of the world, traveling by sledge and 


MitMio I uliik-lii iii.l 1 1. mo I M.mli.mi 

snowmobile, tenting in snowdrifts, 
and keeping a wary eye out for an- 
gry polar bears, hidden crevasses, and 
swiftly advancing blizzards. The pho- 
tographs that they worked so hard to 
create are beautifully reproduced here 
in full color, but they depict a world 
etched mostly in subtle tones of blue- 
gray and white. There are intimate 
close-ups of bears — in repose, jumping 

through the snow, swim- 
ming in watery leads be- 
tween drifting Hues i.i ice. 

I here are equally detailed 
portraits of walruses, arctic 
foxes, whales, .ind arctic 
terns. And there are gor- 
geous landscapes, organic 
forms sculpted in ice and 
rock or ice and water. Ex- 
cept for a few paragraphs 
here and there, none of the 
pages are captioned, as if 
the authors relied on the 
Arctic to speak for itself. And speak 
it does: these images of barren, rug- 
ged terrain and hardy, solitary animals 
convey an overwhelming sense of the 
lonely and precarious state of life in 
the tar, far North. 

From the opposite pole of the 
Earth comes Antarctic Fishes, an il- 
lustrated catalog by a polar marine 
ecologist and an Antarctic biologist 

December 2007/January 2008 NATUR.AI HISTORY 57 





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of the finned species 
that swim the south- 
ernmost oceans. Read- 
ers will want it on their 
coffee tables, but not 
as a field guide; few of 
us 'will ever encounter 
a Nichol's lanternfish 
or a sailfm plunderfish, 
either in the wild or 
at the fish market. The 
book's appeal, rather, is 
in its illustrations, pro- 
duced by the unusual 
Japanese art of gyotaku, 
or "fish rubbing." In 
gyotaku (which was developed in the 
mid- 1800s, and so is no more ancient 
than photography), a thoroughly 
washed fresh fish — in this case, fresh- 
frozen for transport from the Ant- 
arctic — is covered in clinging, semi- 
transparent tissue paper. Then layers 
of colored inks are carefully dabbed 

Lavishly illustrated with hundreds of color 

photographs. American Mineral Treasures 

is a limited edition collection of first-hand 

accounts detailing some of the nation's great 

post- WWII mineral specimen finds. 

available Jan. 2008 

Hardbound; 375+ pages; $85.00 (plus s&h) 
Prepress and wholesale discounts available 

Lithographie, LLC 

PO Box 263; East Hampton, CT 06424 

phone 860.267.1512; fax 860.267.7225 

over the surface using a cotton wad. 
When the tissue is lifted off and laid 
flat, a luminously textured, anatomi- 
cally accurate rendition of the living 
creature appears. Each of the fifty- 
four plates in Antarctic Fishes was cre- 
ated by this process, and each print, 
bearing the calligraphic signature of 
gyotaku master Boshu Nagase, stands 
on its own as an elegant and informa- 
tive work of art. 

Shells by Paul Starosta and Jacques 
Senders (Firefly Books; $85.00) 
The Shell: A World of Decoration and 
Ornament by Ingrid Thomas (Thames 
& Hudson; $65.00) 

These opulent books document 
two of the world's most dazzling col- 
lections of shells. Shells, photographed 
by Paul Starosta, showcases the one 
malacologists Jacques and Rita Send- 
ers assembled over fifty years of travel 
and diving. There's a brief introducto- 
ry essay by architect Paolo Portoghesi, 
noting how the shell has influenced 
art and building, from King Solomon's 
Temple to the Sydney Opera House. 
But the real treasure of this book is 
more than 300 pages of heart-stop- 
ping photographs. Starosta has posed 
every specimen against a black back- 
ground, lit dramatically from the front 
and above, and sometimes from be- 
hind as well, to emphasise symmetries 
in shape and nuances in color. Leaf- 
ing through the pages, the senses are 
overloaded with variations on a few 
repeating themes: hearts, spirals, fans, 

undulating ribbons, 
ovoids, and cones, as 
well as phantasmagori- 
cal forms with spikes 
and excrescences that 
seem to deliberately 
defy any notion of reg- 
ularity. Some shell sur- 
faces seem to bear the 
monochrome glaze of 
primitive pottery; oth- 
ers are as crowded with 
iridescent jewels as a 
Faberge egg. 

Ingrid Thomas, an 
artist and concholo- 
gist, draws from her extensive col- 
lection and research in The Shell: A 
World of Decoration and Ornament, but 
while the illustrations here are as me- 
ticulously reproduced as Starosta's 
photographs, Thomas's book is far 
more than a gallery of natural forms. 
Thomas provides an ample text and 
more than 500 photographs and art 
reproductions to show how shells and 
shell-like forms have been used in 
jewelry, pottery, domestic design, and 
a wide variety of other decorative and 
fine arts from prehistoric times to the 
present. What difficulty Thomas must 
have had choosing only 500 examples 
of this lovely craftsmanship! Should 
she have left out the ornate cup made 
from a nautilus shell in early seven- 
teenth-century Holland, cut to the 
shape of an ostrich's body, with neck, 
head, and legs made of pure gold? 
Or the pectoral ornament from New 
Guinea, embroidered with hundreds 
of cowrie and nassa shells? Or the Art 
Nouveau alabaster table light sculpted 
in the shape of a conch shell, with a 
young maiden emerging, Venus-like, 
from its interior? Looking at what 
Thomas did include, one can only 
wish for a book with twice as many 
pages, and perhaps for coffee tables 
twice as strong. 

Laurence A. Marschall, author ofThe 
Supernova Story, is W.K.T. Sahm Professor 
of Physics at Gettysburg College in Pennsyl- 
vania, and director of Project CLEA, which 
produces widely used simulation software for 
education in astronomy 

58 NATURAL HISTORY December 2007 '/January 2008 



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Cutting-edge Science? 

I cringed at the description of the 

surgery on the pregnant ewe ["A 

Human Cell in Sheep's Clothing," 

7—8/07). Author and surgeon seem 

oblivious to the operation's severity 

and the ewe's painful recovery. 

Laurie Sexton 

New York, New York 

Olivia Juoson rhimiis: I am not 
used to seeing surgery, so I expected 
to be horrified; instead, I was im- 
pressed. The surgeon was not at all 
callous, and the sheep was given 
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In last month's biographical note for 
Sandra L. Postel ["Contributors," 
11/07], the Global Water Policy 
Project she founded was mistak- 
enly identified as "geared toward 
sustaining the Connecticut River 
watershed." Though based in west- 
ern Massachusetts, the project is de- 
signed to promote the preservation 
and sustainable use of freshwater 
throughout the world, through re- 
search, writing, outreach, and public 
speaking. The error was introduced 
during editing of the biographical 
text provided by the author, and 
slipped through our fact-check- 
ing process. For information on 
the Global Water Policy Project see 

Natural History welcomes correspon- 
dence from readers. Letters should be sent via 
c-///iii7 to or 
by fax to 646-356-6511. All letters should 
include a daytime telephone number, and all 
letters may be edited for length and clarity. 

December 2007 '/January 2008 natural history 63 

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By Joe Rao 

Mercury is difficult, if not impossible, 
to view in December; it is at superior 
conjunction with the Sun (on the 
opposite side of the Sun from Earth) 
on the 17th. In January, however, 
Mercury will be an evening object, 
setting after the Sun, and by the 9th 
should be visible with the naked eye. 
The planet swings widest of the Sun 
on the 22nd, its tiny disk a little more 
than half illuminated from our point 
of view. Decreasing rapidly in brightness 
and phase after that peak performance, 
Mercury fades precipitously. 

Venus rises in the east to east-southeast 
between 3:15 and 4:15 a.m. local time 
during December. At the beginning 
of the month that is about two hours 
before the first hint of dawn. By the 
time morning twilight is under way, 
Venus shines fairly high in the southeast 
as the December "Morning Star." It 
gradually sinks a little lower during 
the month, and by the end of January 
it rises less than a half hour before the 
start of morning twilight. During the 
latter half of January Venus slowly 
approaches Jupiter, much lower in 
the sky; they'll be closest together on 
February 1, when they'll be separated 
by only 0.6 degrees. 

Mars rises at about 6:20 p.m. local time 
at the beginning of December, some 
fifteen minutes after evening twilight 
ends, but just a week later it is already 
above the horizon as twilight fades 
to night. The planet is retrograd- 
ing (moving westward) through the 
stars of Gemini, the Twins, and will 
cross over into Taurus, the Bull, on 
December 30. Along the way it will 
arrive at opposition to the Sun (on 
the opposite side of Earth from the 
Sun) on Christmas Eve, when it will 
be visible all night long, shining at 
magnitude —1.6 and passing nearly 
overhead at midnight as seen from the 
southernmost United States. 

The Red Planet will be 54.8 million 
miles from Earth on December 18, its 
minimum distance for 2007. That's 11.7 
million miles farther away than at our 

last close encounter, which occurred 
just before Mars reached opposition to 
the Sun in 2005. On this upcoming 
occasion, however, Mars will climb 
much higher in the sky. This appari- 
tion of Mars is the best we'll get until 
2016; a good 4-inch telescope should 
show Mars's bright north polar cap and 
quite a few dark features (the maria, 
or "seas") — on those nights when the 
atmosphere is steady. 

Injanuary, Mars increases its distance 
from Earth to 72.3 million miles, and 
in the process fades almost a full magni- 
tude, from -1.5 to— 0.6. A little higher 
above the eastern horizon each day at 
dusk, the Red Planet (shining yellow- 
orange) continues to move "backwards" 
into Taurus. It will sit between the Bull's 
horns on January 30, when it resumes 
its normal forward (eastward) motion 
against the star background. 

Jupiter might be glimpsed with bin- 
oculars in the evening sky during 
the first few days of December, just 
above the southwestern horizon about 
fifteen or twenty minutes after sunset. 
It then falls completely out of sight, 
passing behind the disk of the Sun on 
December 23. The planet starts the 
New Year as undetectable, rising less 
than thirty minutes before the Sun, but 
each morning it appears about three 
minutes earlier and gets a little higher 
before it disappears in the morning 
light. By month's end it will team with 
Venus (about seven times brighter) to 
make an eye-catching duo low in the 
southeast, visible as morning twilight 
begins to brighten. 

Saturn is in Leo, the Lion, during De- 
cember and January; it can be found 
about 8 degrees to the east of Leo's 
brightest star, Regulus. The planet 
rises soon after 11 p.m. local time in 
early December. By New Year's Eve 
it's coming up before 9:30 p.m., and 
by the end of January, it will rise soon 
after 7 p.m. and will reach its highest 
point in the sky around 2:00 the fol- 
lowing morning. The planet's famous 
ring system, observable through small 

telescopes, is now tilted less than 7 
degrees to our line of sight. 

Many observers consider the Gemi- 
nid meteor shower, expected between 
December 7 and 17, to be the best 
shower of the year. The peak will be 
the night of December 13—14, when up 
to 120 meteors maybe seen every hour 
under ideal dark-sky conditions. The 
Geminids are one of the few showers 
that perform well before midnight. On 
the evening of the 13th, the waxing 
crescent Moon sets around 8:15 p.m. 
local time. By then, the shower's "radi- 
ant" (the place in the sky from which 
the meteors seem to fan out), near the 
star Castor, is quite high — 20 or 30 
degrees up in the east — so the meteor 
rates should be appreciable. 

The Moon reaches Last Quarter on 
December 1 at 7:44 a.m. The New 
Moon falls on December 9 at 12:40 
p.m.; First Quarter is on the 17th at 
5:18 a.m.; and the Full Moon appears 
on the 23rd at 8:16 p.m. Last Quar- 
ter occurs for a second time in De- 
cember on the 31st, at 2:51 a.m. Injanu- 
ary New Moon occurs on the 8th at 
6:37 a.m.; First Quarter is on the 15th 
at 2:45 p.m.; and Full Moon is on Janu- 
ary 22 at 8:34 a.m. Last Quarter comes 
on January 30 at 12:03 a.m. 

The solstice, when the Sun arrives at 
that point where it is farthest south 
of the celestial equator, takes place 
on December 22 at 1:10 a.m. Win- 
ter officially begins in the Northern 
Hemisphere, and summer begins in 
the Southern Hemisphere. 

Earth will arrive at perihelion — the 
closest point in its orbit to the Sun — on 
January 2 at 7:00 p.m. To get to the 
Sun you would have to travel only 
91.4 million miles. 

Joe Rao ( is 
a broadcast meteorologist and an associate and 
lecturer at the Hayden Planetarium in New 
York City. Unless otherwise noted, all times 
are eastern standard time. 

66 natural history December 2007/January 2008 

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At the Museum 

American Museum o Natural History *£} 

Young and very, very old: Leonye Dreiser, 12, and her brother Luis, 9, of Cologne, Germany, take in the brilliant hues of the 80-million- 
year-old ammonite fossil recently installed in the Museum's Grand Gallery. 

If your idea of fossils is dull, dusty, old bones, a dazzling 
new specimen on display in the 77 th Street Grand Gal- 
lery at the American Museum of Natural History is 
sure to challenge that notion. The fossilized shell of an 
ammonite that lived approximately 80 million years ago is 
alive with color, shimmering with orange, yellow, purple, 
red, and green like psychedelic mother-of-pearl. 

The two-foot-diameter fossil is a large and particularly 
rare example of a marine cephalopod that was once one of 
the most common invertebrates in the ocean. They went 
extinct around 65 million years ago, after a massive asteroid 
impact wiped out nearly half of all living species, including 
most of the dinosaurs, at the end of the Cretaceous Period. 

The name ammonite comes from the Egyptian god 
Ammon, whose ram-like horns resemble the spirals in the 
sea creature's shell. The shape of the shell is reminiscent 

of today's chambered nautilus, but the ammonite's nearest 
living relative is the modern squid. 

High temperatures and pressures acting on this shell for 
millions of years preserved its iridescent nacreous layers. 
Ammonite fossils that exhibit this characteristic are known 
as ammolites, and share the spotlight with amber and pearl 
as one of only three gemstones produced by living organisms. 

Scientists greatly value ammonites, colorful or not, as 
clues to the relative age of the rocks in which they are 
found, because different species of ammonites lived during 
different time periods. Their presence also indicates the lo- 
cation of ancient seas, such as the Western Interior Seaway 
in the middle of North America where this ammonite lived. 

The fossil was unearthed by ammolite miners near 
Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, and donated to the Museum 
by Korite International and Canada Fossils Ltd. 

! Holiday Spirits 

This year, the Origami Holiday Tree (on view through January 1) is more magical than 
ever, teeming with the stuff of legends and fables: dragons, mermaids, unicorns, as well as 
real animals like narwhals and peacocks, echoing the popular exhibition Mythic Creatures, 
which closes January 6. 

The approximately 500 enchanting ornaments were crafted by members of Origami USA 
to match the tree's theme, Fantastic Creatures: Mythic and Real. The tree, a Museum tradition 
for over 30 years, is located in the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall on the first floor. As in 
years past, volunteers will be on hand to teach visitors the ancient art of paper folding. 

Rethinking Velociraptor 

New Study Finds They Had Feathers 

Remember those rapacious 
Velociraptors stalking children in 
the film Jurassic Park} It appears now 
that these prehistoric predators could 
use a costume change: they weren't 
leathery-skinned toughs after all! 

Scientists have known for years that 
many dinosaurs had feathers. Now, 
after a new look at some old bones, pa- 
leontologists at the American Museum 
of Natural History and the Field Mu- 
seum have documented the presence 
of feathers in Velociraptor, one of the 
most iconic of dinosaurs and a close 
relative of birds. 

The fossil specimen the group ex- 
amined was a Velociraptor forearm 
unearthed in Mongolia in 1998. They 
found on it clear indications of quill 
knobs — places where the quills of sec- 
ondary feathers, the flight or wing feath- 
ers of modern birds, were anchored to 
the bone with ligaments. Quill knobs 
are also found in many living bird spe- 
cies and are most evident in birds that 
are strong flyers. Those that primarily 
soar or that have lost the ability to fly en- 
tirely, however, were shown in the study 
to typically lack signs of quill knobs. 

"A lack of quill knobs does not neces- 
sarily mean that a dinosaur did not have 
feathers," said Alan Turner, lead author 
on the study and a graduate student of 
paleontology at the AM NH and at Co- 
lumbia University in New York. "Find- 
ing quill knobs on Velociraptor, though, 
means that it definitely had feathers. 
This is something we'd long suspected, 
but no one had been able to prove." 

The Velociraptor in the current study 
stood about three feet tall, was about 
five feet long, and weighed about 30 
pounds. These dimensions, coupled 
with relatively short forelimbs com- 
pared to a modern bird, indicate this 
creature could not fly. The authors sug- 

An artist's rendition of Velociraptor in life 

gest that perhaps an ancestor of Veloci- 
raptor lost the ability to fly, but retained 
its feathers. In Velociraptor, the feath- 
ers may have been useful for display, to 
shield nests, for temperature control, 
or to help it maneuver while running. 

"The more we learn about these ani- 
mals, the more we find that there is ba- 
sically no difference between birds and 
their closely related dinosaur ancestors 
like Velociraptor," said Mark Norell, 
Curator in the Division of Paleontology 
at the American Museum of Natural 
History and coauthor on the study. 
"Both have wishbones, brooded their 
nests, possess hollow bones, and were 
covered in feathers. If animals like 
Velociraptor were alive today our first 
impression would be that they were 
just very unusual-looking birds." 

The research team also included 
Peter Makovicky from the Field Mu- 
seum in Chicago. The work was sup- 
ported by the National Science Foun- 
dation and the American Museum 
of Natural History, and a paper de- 
scribing the discovery appeared in 
the September 21, 2007, issue of the 
journal Science. 

Saturdays in Winter: 

We're All Wet! 

In four workshops on Saturday afternoons in January and February, youngsters are 
invited to delve into the science of water, the subject of Water: H2O = Life, the 
engaging exhibition that opened in November and runs through May 26, 2008. 

In the first hands-on session, on Saturday, January 12, children will ponder the 
presence of water on Mars, learning how we have come to know that there was 
water on the Red Planet, and discuss the implications of that knowledge. Next, in 
a hydrology workshop, children will explore the basic engineering principles that 
underlie the design of dams and ancient waterways. The third session revolves 
around the unique properties that make water the only substance able to exist 
in three phases — gas, liquid, and solid — in the normal range of Earth's tempera- 
tures. In the final workshop, children will construct their own terrariums to learn 
about groundwater, where it comes from, and why it is so important. 

Two separate series of workshops are being offered, one for children ages 4 
though 6 accompanied by an adult, and the other for children 7 through 9. 
Participants who attend all four sessions will earn a certificate. 

The contents of these paces are provided to Naturae Histosi' sr the American Museum of Natural History. 

Museum Events 

American Museum S Natural History <gp 

Water: H2O = Life 

Through May 26, 2008 
Live animals, hands-on 
exhibits, and stunning 
dioramas invite the whole 
family to explore the beauty 
and wonder of water and reveal 
one of the most pressing 
challenges of the 21st century: 
humanity's sustainable 
management and use of this 
life-giving, but finite, resource. 

Water: H2O = Life is organized by the 

American Museum of Natural History, 

New York (, and Science 

Museum of Minnesota { 

in collaboration with Great Lakes Science 

Center, Cleveland; The Field Museum, 

Chicago; Instituto Sangari, Sao Paulo, 

Brazil; National Museum of Australia, 

Canberra; Royal Ontario Museum, 

Toronto; San Diego Natural History 

Museum; and Singapore Science Centre 

with PUB Singapore. 

The American Museum of Natural 

History gratefully acknowledges the 

Tamarind Foundation for its leadership 

support of Water: H2O - Life, and the 

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future 

for its assistance. 

Exclusive corporate sponsor for 

Water H2O = Life is JPMorgan. 

Water: H2O = Life is supported by 

a generous grant from the 

National Science Foundation. 

The support of the National Oceanic 

and Atmospheric Administration is 


The Museum extends its gratitude to the 

Panta Rhea Foundation, Park Foundation, 

and Wege Foundation for their support of 

the exhibition's educational programming 

and materials. 

The Butterfly Conservatory 

Through May 26, 2008 
Mingle with up to 500 
live, free-flying tropical 
butterflies, and learn about 
the butterfly life cycle, defense 
mechanisms, evolution, and 

Mythic Creatures: Dragons, 
Unicorns, and Mermaids 

Through January 6, 2008 
Mythic Creatures traces the 
cultural and natural history 
roots of some of the world's 

most enduring legendary 
beings of land, sea, and air. 

Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, and 
Mermaids is organized by the American 
Museum of Natural History, New York 
(, in collaboration with 
The Field Museum, Chicago; Canadian 
Museum of Civilization, Catineau; 
Australian National Maritime Museum, 
Sydney; and Fernbank Museum of 
Natural History, Atlanta. 
Mythic Creatures is proudly supported by 
MetLife Foundation. 

Undersea Oasis: Coral Reef 

Through January 13, 2008 
Brilliant color photographs cap- 
ture the dazzling invertebrate 
life that flourishes on coral reefs. 


Through April 6, 2008 
Exquisite images from 
unmanned space probes take 
visitors on a journey through 
the alien and varied terrain of 
our planetary neighbors. 

The presentation of both Undersea Oasis 
and Beyond at the American Museum of 
Natural History is made possible by the 
generosity of the Arthur Ross Foundation. 

Unknown Audubons: 
Mammals of North America 

Through August 2008 
The stately Audubon Gallery 
showcases gorgeously 
detailed depictions of North 
American mammals by John 
James Audubon, best known 
for his bird paintings. 

Major funding for this exhibition has been 
provided by the Lila Wallace-Reader's 
Digest Endowment Fund. 


Wolf Empire 

Tuesday, 12/11, 7:00 p.m. 
With wildlife photographer 
and environmentalist Scott 
Ian Barry. 

The 3.5 Billion- Year History 
of the Human Body 

Wednesday, 1/23, 6:30 p.m. 

With Neil Shubin, University 
of Chicago, Department of 
Organismal Biology and 


Lunchtime Winter Bird Walks 

Three Wednesdays, 2/30-2/23, 
22:00 noon-r.30 p.m. 

The Ron K. Brown/Evidence Dance Company will perform at Kwanzaa. 

The City Celebrates Kwanzaa 

Saturday, 12/20), 12:00 noon- 
5: 00 p.m. 

Celebrate Kwanzaa's seven 
principles, the Nguzo Saba, 
with an afternoon of song, 
dance, and spoken word. 

This event is coproduced by Community 
Works and the New Heritage Theatre 
Group under the artistic direction of 
Sistah Aziza. 

Living in America: 
Rivers of Life 

Three Saturdays, 1/12-26, 
12:00 noon-y.oo p.m. 
Consider the meanings, 
uses, and values placed on 
water with performances, 
discussions, films, and 
workshops for adults and 

Global Weekends are made possible, in 
part, by The Coca-Cola Company, the City 
of New York, the New York City Council, 
and the New York City Department of 
Cultural Affairs. Additional support 
has been provided by the May and 
Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, Inc., 
the Tolan Family, and the family of 
Frederick H. Leonhardt. 

With Paul Sweet, Collections 
Manager, AM NH Department 
of Ornithology. 

Understanding Our DNA 

Three Thursdays, 1/31-2/14, 
6:30 p.m. 

Participants sequence their own 
DNA and discuss their findings. 

Public programs are made possible, in 
part, by the Rita and Frits Markus Fund 
for Public Understanding of Science. 

Rose Center for Earth 

and Space 

Sets at 6:00 and y.30 p.m. 

Friday, 12/j 

The 7:30 performance will be broadcast 
live on WBGOJazz 88.} FM. 

Friday, 1/4 


for lineup. 

The Properties of Water 

Saturday, 1/26 
Groundwater and the 
Water Cycle 

Saturday. 2/2 



Why Are We So Lonely? 

Monday. 12/3, 7:30 p.m. 
With Chris Impey, University 
of Arizona, Department of 


Monday. 1/14. 7:30 p.m. 
With Chris Tully, Princeton 
University, and Nima Arkani- 
Hamed, Harvard University. 



Field Trip to the Moon 

Every Wednesday, 10:30 a.m. 

Fly to the Moon in the Hayden 
Planetarium, guided by a live 

Adventures in Cryptozoology 
Saturday, 12/1, 1:00 p.m. 
Discover the world of 
"hidden" creatures, such as 
Bigfoot, with Loren Coleman, 
one of the world's leading 

Hands-on workshops; take all 
four and earn a certificate. 
11:00 a.m.-i2.}0 p.m. (Ages 
4-6, each child with one adult) 
1:30-3:00 p.m. (Ages 7-9 J 
Water on Mars? 
Saturday. 1/12 
Hydrology Workshop 
Saturday. 1/19 


Call 212-769-5100 or visit 


Call 212-769-5200, Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-5:oo p.m., and 
Saturday, 10:00 a.m. -4:00 p.m., or visit A 
service charge may apply. All programs are subject to change. 

AMNH eNotes delivers the latest information on Museum 
programs and events to you monthly via email. Visit to sign up today! 

Become a Member of the 
American Museum of Natural History 

You'll enjoy many valuable benefits, including unlimited free 

general admission, discounts on programs and in shops, 

subscriptions to Natural Histoiy magazine and 

our Members' newsletter Rotunda, and much more! 

For further information, call 212-769-5606 
or visit 

Virtual Universe 
How Deep In the Universe? 
Tuesday. 12/4, 6:jo-y:jo p.m. 

A New Year in the Milky Way 
Tuesday, 1/8, 6:30-7.30 p. »m. 

Celestial Highlights 
Myths in the Winter Sky 

Tuesday, 1/29, 6:30-7:30 p.m. 

Cosmic Collisions 
Journey into deep space 
to explore the hypersonic 
impacts that drive the 
formation of our universe. 
Narrated by Robert Redford. 

Cosmic Collisions was developed in 
collaboration with the Denver Museum 
of Nature & Science; GOTO. Inc., Tokyo, 
Japan: and the Shanghai Science and 
Technology Museum. 
Made possible through the generous 
support of CIT. 

Cosmic Collisions was created by the 
American Museum of Natural History 
with the major support and partnership 
of the National Aeronautics and Space 
Administration's Science Mission 
Directorate, Heliophysics Division. 

Dinosaurs Alive! 
Great dinosaur finds by 

W inter 

AMNH scientists past and 
present come to life with 
archival and contemporary 
footage and scientifically 
accurate, computer-generated 

One Step Beyond brings the 
party to the Rose Center. 



One Step Beyond 

Friday, 1/25, 9:00 p.m.- 

1:00 a.m. 

This monthly party in the Rose 

Center features the biggest 

names in techno, electronica, 

and indie rock. Food and drink 

keep the party going. 



Who's Watching Whom? 

Story and photographs by Barbie Bischof 

To make ends meet during 
the summer — a season when 
graduate students like me often lack 
funding — I took the job of "natural- 
ist" aboard the Juliet. The 104-foot, 
steel-hulled, three-masted schooner 
embarks out of Miami each week. 
Carrying about fifteen passengers, 
mostly scuba divers, she leapfrogs 
along the reefs of the turquoise and 
teal-ribboned waters of the Bahamas. 

When your life is at sea, time 
passes differently, and every voyage 
is unique, even if you've been in the 
same waters hundreds of times. But 
some of those moments stick to your 
soul and change your perspective 
forever. Such an event began one 
sunset when the Juliet was anchored 
in preparation for a night dive: 
suddenly a pod of more than one 
hundred dolphins came toward the 
schooner from all sides. My ship- 
mates and I watched as they jumped 
and dove, surrounding our boat; and 
then, in a matter of minutes, they 
vanished into the dying embers on 
the horizon. For the next three days, 
about ten dolphins — primarily At- 
lantic spotted dolphins (Stenella fron- 
talis) — paid us a visit two or three 
times each day. 

When someone spotted "our" 
dolphins, the dive master and I 
would each grab a mask, snorkel, 
and fins, and with an approving 
nod from Captain John, we'd leap 
overboard. Typically, dolphins in 
the wild ignore humans. Yet in my 
struggle to keep up with the crea- 
tures, I accidentally hit on a way to 

get their attention. I would free- 
dive down about fifty feet — and 
here's the key — kicking with my 
legs and feet locked together, like a 
dolphin. Seeing this, seven or eight 
members of the small pod would 
immediately rush towards me and 
then swim alongside, clicking and 

If I turned, they'd turn; if I spun, 
they'd spin. They nailed my every 
move. When I ran out of breath, I'd 
head up. Some of my escorts would 
bolt ahead with effortless flicks of 
their tails. Those defectors would 
wait in a circle near the surface, 
and watch as I emerged in its center 
for much-needed air. Taking a few 
short gasps, I'd quickly dive again. 
They lingered until I was about ten 
feet under, before swooshing down 
around me. After the fifth or sixth 
round of our up-and-down game, 
my energy spent and my head light 
from the want of air, I needed to 
rest. But a rest broke our rhythm 
and usually ended the game. 

In my own research around the 
reefs of the Western Atlantic, partic- 
ularly at the edges of coral "walls," 
as divers call them, I've encountered 
barracuda, rays, sharks, turtles, reef 
fish galore, a few manatees, a right 
whale, and more, but typically I was 
ignored or avoided. These dolphins, 
however, chose to interact: in fact, 
they were playing with me, rather 
than vice versa. Their frenetic 
reaction to my swimming 
style reminded me of the 

way researchers get excited when a 
chimp copies human behavior. They 
made eye contact, peering into my 
mask and inspecting me as we swam 
side by side. I felt as if I was in their 
laboratory, possibly a subject in an 

Each diving experience was ex- 
hausting but utterly amazing. The 
creatures never made physical con- 
tact, though I was only inches away. 
Once I tried, but they avoided my 
touch, and I didn't want to spoil it. 

The Juliet saw its little pod for 
the last time in the early afternoon 
of the day we sailed back home to 
Miami. Needing to stay on sched- 
ule, we could no longer stop. We 
watched the dolphins from the bow- 
sprit as they surfed and played in the 
pressure wake. After about an hour, 
they simply moved off towards the 
northwest to deeper water as they 
had done so many times before. 

Barbie Bischof is a doctoral student 
in the Department of Geography at 
Florida State University. Her work 
focuses on the social aspects of marine 
science and policy. 

72 natural HISTORY December 2007 '/January 2008 


Family Greece 

June 15 - 26,2008 

Introduce your family to classical Greece antiquity on this 
learning adventure. With special programming for young 
people, this odyssey begins in Athens, then sails to five Greek 
islands including haunting Delos, lively Mykonos and cliff-top 
Santonni. Seek out the lair of the Minotaur on Crete and 
bask in the sun on isolated Kythira. Visit archaeological sites 
in Mycenae, Olympia and Delphi. From $6,995 

Travel the World Together 

China: A Fami 
H Expedition 

June 20 -July 5,2008 

Experience China with your family at this unique 
time in history. Visit the Forbidden City and Great 
Wall in Beijing. View the Terracotta Soldiers, explore 
the Zigong Dinosaur Museum, and learn about giant 
pandas. Young travelers will enjoy building kites in 
Tiananmen Square, observing martial arts classes, 
visiting local schools and watching a performance of 
the world-renowned Shanghai acrobats. From $6,995 

American Museum 5 Natural History *fc) 


Winter 2008 trips are also available. 

Call 800-462-8687 

or visit 





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