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TRACKING THE 
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2 THE NATURAL MOMENT 

Worm Ring 

Photograph by J. Claire Moving 

6 nature.net 

■ Ground Well 
^ Robert Anderson 

WORD EXCHANGE 



TO SAMPLINGS^ 

News from N 



LIFE ZONE 

The Next Wave 

Robert R. Dunn 





www.naturamistorymag.com 



• -/^::i 


OCTOBER20.10 


FEATURES 


^Hlv ^ji -> 


COVER STORY 


^K ^iriHf 


20 MARRIED TO THE MOB 


^Hi '^Hl 


Brave in tiie face of predators and flexible 


^^v IB 


in their family arrangements, tarsiers offer 


^H j^BI 


clues to the origins of sociality in primates. 


wii^m^' m 


BY SHARON GURSKY-DOYEN 




28 POMPADOURS IN THE PALMS 


■:•..:-*. 


A rare bird's elaborate mating habits 


'^^:-;'' , m^ 


help a tropical tree disperse its seeds. 


^\\\X;i, 


BY JORDAN KARUBIAN 


si? 



VOLUME 119 



NUMBER 1 



"^■^ 




igates 

..berth. Mohlenbrock 

36 BOOKSHELF 

Laurence A. Marschall 



. KYLOG 

Joe Rao 

J44 EXPLORING SCIENCE 
"^ AND NATURE 

48 ENDPAPER 

Muse of the North 



Cheryl Lyn Dybas 



ON THE COVER : Spectral tarsier in Tangkoko Nature 
Reserve, Indonesia, eats a cockroach. 
Image by Tim Laman 



THE NATURAL MOMENT 



WORM RING 



Photograph by J. Claire Moving 



"* See precediug^ two pages 

THE NATURAL EXPLANATION BY ERIN ESPELIE 



For a worm the length of this ! ex- 
clamation point, a wardrobe of 
20,000 protein-coding genes seems 
excessive. People, after all, likely 
possess no more than 25,000. Nem- 
atode worms come in more guises 
than we yet realize — some 24,000 
species and quickly counting. They 
ply ocean floors, plow soil, pock 
potatoes, plague pine trees, rage in 
human guts, and more. They now 
account for an estimated four of 
every five multicellular animals on 
the planet. 

The worm pictured on the pre- 
ceding two pages, NippostroHgyhis 
brasilieiisis, inhabits the innards 
of rats. Like many a nematode, it 

experimen- 
tal model for 
understand- 
ing related 
organisms, 
in this case, 
human hook- 
worms (also 
nematodes). 
Hookworm 
larvae often 
enter through 
the skin of a 
person's feet 
and travel the 
vascular system until they reach 
the lungs, where they get coughed 
into the trachea and swallowed. In 
the gut they mature, feed on blood, 
mate, and expel eggs to the outside, 
where the cycle begins anew. Some 
740 million people worldwide are 
losing blood to adult hookworms. 




Female N. brasiliensis 
worms stained with iodine 



L/'ght micrograph 
of an unstained 
nematode 




Although infections are rarely fatal, 
they pose a substantial danger to 
pregnant women and children. 

Photographer J. Claire Moving studies 
mammalian immune responses 
in Frank Brombacher's laboratory at 
the Institute of Infectious Diseases 
and Molecular Medicine of the Uni- 
versity of Cape Town, South Africa. 
She used a Nikon light microscope 
to capture the (stained) tail end of a 
pregnant female N. brasiliensis — then 
color-reversed the image to blue. 
The eighteen round globules are 
eggs, shown at 1,200 times life size. 

One of Brombacher's research 
aims is to understand how the mam- 
malian immune system ultimately 
rids the body of adult worms. On 
the flip side, several research groups 
are intentionally infecting people with 
hookworms. As it happens, people 
with worms in residence are less 
prone to allergies, asthma, hay fever, 
and other disorders of hypervigilant 
immunity. Thus, some portion of 
the worms' lavish gene collection 
must be distracting — if not disarm- 
ing — the hosts' immune cells. 



mm 



VirroRio Maestro Editor in Chief 

Steven R. Black Art Director 

Erin Espelie Exeaitiwe Editor 

Senior Editors 
Rebecca Kessler, Dolly Setton 

Melisa Beveridge Associate Art Director 

Joe Sharkey Assistant Art Director 

Annie Gottlieb Copy Chief 

Graciela Flores Editor-at-Large 

Contributing Editors 

Robert Anderson, Marcia Bartusiak 

Druin Burch, Robert R, Dunn. 

Avis Lang, Charles Liu, Laurence A. Marschall, 

Richard Milner, Robert H. Mohlenbrock, 

Joe Rao, Stephan Reebs, 

Adam Summers, Neil deCrasse Tyson 



Charles E. Harris Publisher 

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Todd Happer Vice President, Science Education 

Educational Advisory Board 

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Carol Valenta Saint Louis Science Center 



Natural History Magazine, Inc. 

Charles E. Harris President, Chief Executive Officer 

Judy BuUer General Manager 

Cecile Washington General Manager 

Charles Rodin Publishing Advisor 



J. Claire Hoving, who is completing her PhD in immunology at 
the University of Cape Town, South Africa, hopes to continue 
investigating the immune effects of infectious diseases. In her 
microscopy u^ork, Hoving has gained an eye and appreciation 
for capturing the fascinating sights she encounters. Her images 
have appeared on the covers o( PloS Pathogens (January 2007) 
and EMBO Journal (April 9, 2008). The Nikon Small World 
Photo competition has twice recognized her photographs, 
including the one featured here, which was cited as an "image 
of distinction" in late 2009. 



^^K 



~^ ^':L :^y^''■■' y^ -'■'-■. V:--^;'iit^V '.^'-'li',):' 



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Naumi Hisicry (ISSN 0028-0712} is published monthly, cxctpc for combined 
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4 NATURAL HISTORY October 2010 



ONE special reason 
4o visit India in 2010 




Any time is a good time to visit the Land of the Tiger. But there is no time like now. 



Incredible India 

For information visit 
www.incredibleindia.org 
ny@itonyc.com 1-800-953-9399 



FROM THE PUBLISHER 

To Our Readers 

After a hiatus of seven months, Natural History is back in print. 
A series of events triggered the temporary suspension of the 
magazine, and there were other contributing factors that prevented 
us from resuming pubhshing sooner. Many of you were extremely 
frustrated in your attempts to find out what had happened to your 
subscription and disappointed that we did not find a' way to keep 
you informed — a card, a letter, a notice on our website, a response 
to your phone calls, anything. I was able to write some of you and 
speak with others, but our staff was on leave, our offices in New 
York were closed, and our phones were forwarded to an answering 
service. The process of restarting the magazine took many twists 
and turns, with several false starts and dashed hopes. 

Throughout this interruption, you as readers demonstrated 
your loyalty and your passion for the subject matter that Natural 
History has been publishing for the past 110 years. We don't take 
your goodwill for granted. It inspires us to do everything we can 
to assure the publication of this venerable magazine for another 
110 years. — Charles E. Harris 




OUR GUNSLINGSR CAN 
BBAT UF YOUR GUNSLIKGER. 



<^ip 



Nestled high in the pristine Sacramento 
Mountains of southeastern New Mexico, 
Ruidoso is a casual resort destination with a 
colorful past. From the infamous BiUy the 
Kid to Geronimo, you'll ^^^^^^^^ 
find history lives in our 
nature. Plan your adventure 
in our wild west today. 



1 



Hubbard Museum of the American West 
Lincoln State Monuments/Museums ?* 
Historic fort Stanton J 



NEW M E X I G o i 1-877-784-3676 




Tiature.net by robert anderson 
GROUND WELL 



RECENTLY ON THE TED (Technology, En- 
tertainment, Design) Web site, I watched 
Anupam IVlishra, a founding member of the 
Gandhi Peace Foundation, tall< about the 
centuries-old engineering projects that are 
still used to collect and store water in the 
driest parts of India (see www.ted.com/ 
talks/anupam_mishra_the_ancient_ingenu- 
ity_of_water_harvesting.html). With passion 
and humor, he demonstrated how those 
structures are often superior to modern 
water megaprojects. Mishra's talk reminded 
me of the natural aquifers beneath us, which 
store about 30 percent of the freshwater on 
Earth — at least thirty times as much as in 
all the world's lakes and rivers (ice caps and 
glaciers lock up the rest). In many places this 
precious supply is being extracted faster 
than natural processes can replenish it. For 
my guide to Web sites exploring ground- 
water resources, please visit the magazine 
online (www.naturalhistorymag.com). 

ROBERT ANDERSON is a freelance science writer who 
lives in Los Angeles. 



WORD EXCHANGE 




Going Viral 

In Druin Burch's article "The Virus 
Within" [10/09], he reports that 
"small genetic mutations in regula- 
tor genes can have major dramatic 
effects," but observes that the no- 
tion that such effects "could prove 
adaptive is questionable, given the 
complexity of biochemical systems." 
He then suggests that when viruses 
merge with cellular genomes, those 

Continued on page 38 



RUIDOSO AT TR AO T I O N S . G O M 



6 NATURAL HISTORY October 2010 



Natural Selections 




Predicting the Unpredictable 

The Tumultuous Science of 
Earthquake Prediction 
Susan Hough 

"[A] fascinating history of one of the 
most vexing problems in science. Anyone 
who has ever wondered why geophysicists 
can't predict earthquakes should read 
this book." 

— Thomas H. Jordan, director of the 
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Cloth $24.95 978-0-691-13816-9 






HowtofW** 



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How to Find a 
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James Kasting 

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Science Essentials 

Cloth S29.95 978-0-691-13805-3 




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Darwin in Galapagos 

Footsteps to a New World 
K. Thalia Grant & 
Gregory B. Estes 

"This volume provides a timely and 
interesting account of a key moment 
in Charles Darwin's life — and, it 
might be said, in the history of 
evolutionary biology." 
— ^Janet Browne, author of Charles 
Darwin: The Power of Place 

Cloth $29.95 978-0-691-14210-4 



All about Birds 

A Short Illustrated History 
of Ornithology 
Valerie Chansigaud 

"This is the deepest and most thorough 
history of ornithology that I have seen." 
— Frank Gill, former president of the 
American Ornithologist's Union 

Cloth $29.95 978-0-691-14519-8 

Hot for sale in ttie Commonwealth (except Canada) 

and the European Union 



The Great Ocean Conveyor 

Discovering the Trigger for Abrupt 
Climate Change 

Wally Broecker 

"With this highly entertaining tale of 
scientific and personal adventure, Wally 
Broecker has invented a new genre: the 
science detective thriller." 
— Kerry A. Emanuel, Massachusetts 
Institute ofTechnology 

Cloth S27.95 978-0-691-14354-5 




Galapagos 




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Islands Born of Fire 
Tenth Anniversary Edition 

Tui De Roy 

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ensure the survival of the islands' 
threatened animals." 
— Scientific American 

Cloth $29.95 978-0-691-14637-9 

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What's Eating You? 

People and Parasites 
Eugene H. Kaplan 

"Kaplan's storytelling approach entices 
nonscientists to venture into the world of 
parasites and appreciate their importance. 
His sense of humor comes through on 
virtually every page." 

— Lillian F. Mayberry, University of Texas, 
El Paso 

Cloth $26.95 978-0-691-14140-4 



The Company of Strangers 

A Natural History of Economic Life 

Revised Edition 

Paul Seabright 

With a new foreword by Daniel C. Dennett 

" The Company of Strangers exemplifies a 
new breed of economic analysis, seeking 
answers to fundamental questions 
wherever they are found and ignoring 
disciplinary boundaries." 
— Herbert Gintis, Nature 

Paper $19.95 978-0-691-14646-1 



PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS 



800.777.4726 
press. princeton.edu 



WHERE GODS 
BECOME MOUMTAIHS 



The Inca took giaiit blocks of stone and brought them to life, 

raising them high up to the heavens. There, he made his home 

with magnificent gardens and walls covered in gold. 

At the Sun's Gate the clouds part to unveil a mystery 

that still today remains alive in the midst of one of the most 

majestic masterpieces created ever by man. This place exists 

You can see it, feel it. 

PERU. LIVE THE LEGEMlf 



If --r^ 



^r?.**! 







#,'^^. •■;,>: 



■■■'■ i!:?/^':- ~^^A'- 



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SAMPLINGS 




In a Pig's Eye 

Researchers have long used 
mirrors to gauge self-aware- 
ness in animals. (So far, 
dolphins, magpies, some 
primates, and an elephant 
have passed the test.) But 
mirrors can also test the abil- 
ity of animals to learn Physics 
of Light Reflection 101— a 
different but still impressive 
achievement that was mas- 
tered, most recently, by pigs. 

Donald M. Broom and 
two veterinary students at 
the University of Cambridge 
started by letting penned pigs 
look at themselves and their 
surroundings in a large mirror 
for five hours. Then, without 
the pigs looking, they posi- 
tioned the mirror so it showed 
a bowl of food otherwise hid- 
den behind a barrier. Seven 
out of eight pigs went around 
the barrier and found the bowl 
in just twenty-three seconds, 
on average, showing that they 
could learn to use a mirror to 
gather information about their 
surroundings. 

In contrast, nine of 
eleven pigs that had never 
before encountered a mirror 
wrongly looked behind it in 
their search for food. (The 
tenth pig just walked around 
aimlessly, while the last one 
simply knocked over the 
food-obscuring barrier.) 

Pigs are already known 
to be pretty smart, and 
this study neatly confirms 
it — though it remains to be 
seen whether they can pass 
the mirror test for self-aware- 
ness. {Animal Behaviour) 

— Stephan Reebs 

10: NATURAL HISTORY October 2010 



Vertebrate Bias 

Can invertebrates feel pain? 
"No" is the scientific consensus 
ttius far on all but octopus- 
es—but that may just reflect an 
ingrained human bias against 
"simple" animals. Last spring, 
Robert W. Elwood of Queen's 
University Belfast and graduate 
student Mirjam Appel caused 
ripples when they reported 
that hermit crabs— those little 
crustaceans that live in sal- 
vaged seashells— appear to 
experience pain. The two 
biologists subjected each crab 
to a slight electric shock deliv- 
ered by wire through a hole in 
its shell. The shockee hastily 
exited its shell and rubbed its 
abdomen where it had been 
zapped— much as we and other 
vertebrates respond to painful 
stimuli. 

Now Elwood and Appel have 
gone further, showing that her- 
mit crabs not only seem to feel 
pain, but can remember it, too. 
The team's shocked subjects 



usually reenter their mobile 
homes, but during the twenty- 
four hours following the bad 
experience they are more likely 
than unshocked crabs to inspect 
an empty shell nearby. In factj, 
a half hour after the shock, 
they're also more likely to aban- 
don their old shell altogether 
and trade it in for the new one. 

Scientists usually invoke 
reflex, as opposed to pain 



sensation, in explaining inver- 
tebrates' responses to noxious 
stimuli. One key criterion they 
use to identify pain objectively 
in vertebrates is the creation of 
memories that affect such deci- 
sions as the hermits' shell swap. 
By that measure, Elwood and 
Appel argue, hermit crabs— and 
perhaps other crustaceans— 
probably do feel pain. (Animal 
Behaviour) —S.R. 






"^^'kJ 



Sailing Ancient Seas 

Paleontologists have long noted that pterosaur 
wings were like sails, being membranes that 
could flex in either direction. The resemblance 
may prove to have been more than passing: 
preliminary research suggests the piscivorous 
reptiles sailed the seas as well as the skies dur- 
ing their extended reign from 220 million to 65 
million years ago. 

Sankar Chatterjee, a paleontologist at Texas 
Tech University in Lubbock, and three colleagues 
(one an aeronautical engineer) studied fossils 
of the crow-size pterosaur Tapejara wellnhoferi. 
They reconstructed the animal and made a series 
of models to examine its range of motion, then 
analyzed its aero- and hydrodynamics with a 
biomechanical computer simulation. 

Landing at sea, a foraging pterosaur could 
raise its wings to catch a breeze, the team thinks. 
Strong collagen fibers — much like sail bat- 
tens — maintained the wings' shape in the wind. 
T. wellnhoferi, like many pterosaurs, possessed 
a huge membranous head crest that the team 
likens to a jib. And the reptile's sternum and 
legs would have contacted the water much as a 
trimaran's hulls do. Rigged thus, the team rea- 
sons, pterosaurs could skim across the surface 
with minimal effort, probably for short distances 
between bouts of fishing. 



The researchers plan to test their ideas with 
wind-tunnel experiments next year. In fact, 
they're developing a robotic drone based on T. 
wellnhoferi that they expect will be able to fly, 
walk, and sail. (Annual meeting of the Geological 
Society of America) — Rebecca Kessler 

Computer rendering shows how Tapejara 
wellnhoferi might have sailed, catching the 
wind with its head crest and wings. 





I 



About forty years ago in Poland, an adventurous strain of the bac- 
terium Staphylococcus aureus made a seemingly unprecedented 
move, a new study shows: it crossed over from humans to chickens 
and settled in to stay. S. aureus has since spread worldwide to be- 
come the leading cause of lameness in broiler chickens. 

J. Ross Fitzgerald and graduate student Bethan V. Lowder of the 
University of Edinburgh, along with eight colleagues, discovered 
the big jump and reconstructed the pathogen's diversification and 
pandemic spread. To do so, they compared DNA sequences from 
fifty-seven S. aureus samples isolated during the past half century 
from poultry living on four continents. Remarkably, the team 
found, most poultry-infecting strains belong to a single genetic 
group and are closely related to a few human strains that circu- 
lated exclusively in Poland in the 1990s. That suggests a single, 
recent, human-to-poultry host switch. 

The poultry strains subsequently lost genes involved in human 
pathogenesis and acquired ones that confer virtual imperviousness 
to attack by chicken immune cells, the team found. Thus, the avian 
strains seem to have adapted to their new host. That's a first from 
the short list of pathogens that animals can pick up from humans 
(usually we hear about animal pathogens adapting to humans). 

In the human-to-poultry case, the conditions seem uniquely op- 
timal for spreading infection: a few multinational companies dis- 
tributing huge numbers of live chickens worldwide. But microbes 
are resourceful; most likely, epidemiologists haven't looked hard 
enough for other cases. (PNAS) —Graciela Flares 



Citizen iVIaya 

Very old artworks provide a fas- 
cinating glimpse of ancient life, 
but not without limitations: they 
t)'pically portray the lifestyles of 
the rich and famous (rulers, roy- 
als, generals, and priests), aban- 
doning the masses to the mists 
of history. That's why the recent 
discovery of a 1,300-year-old 
mural at Calakmul, Mexico, is so 
significant. It is the only known 
pre-Columbian artwork depict- 
ing ordinary Maya engaged in 
everyday activities, rather than 
serving the wealthy. 

Archaeologists first un- 
earthed the pyramid bearing 



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, 


A Sticicy Puzzle 


^^K 


f 1 


Barnacles make their living 


^tt^^^^^^^^r 


X 


clinging to one spot and 


^^^pum^^ 


C5 


filter-feeding on plankton. The 


or "protease," 




virtually insoluble, protein-rich 


known to be Amphibalanus 




cement that anchors them in 


involved in amphitrite 




place has been tricky to study, 


human blood 




though not for lack of interest: 


clotting. Then, closely examin- 




scraping the crustaceans from 


ing cement proteins, they 




ships' hulls and other marine 


found amino acid sequences 




gear is a huge expense. 


that, despite a billion years 




"No one ever thought to 


of evolution, exactly matched 




ask the simple question . . . 


sequences in a human 




what is [the] glue related to?" 


blood-clotting protein that 




says Daniel Rittschof of Duke 


cross-links fibers during 




University, who, with his 


scab formation. 




then doctoral student Gary 


Rittschof suspects that 




H. Dickinson and several 


barnacle-cement bonding is 




colleagues, recently discov- 


an evolutionary modification 




ered the glue's surprising 


of wound healing, and that 




biochemical origins. Since 


many other marine inverte- 




compounds essential to 


brates use the same chem- 




survival can be evolutionarily 


istry to get a grip. {Journal of 




conserved over millennia, 


Experimental Biology) 




Rittschof and Dickinson hy- 


—Lesley Evans Ogden 




pothesized that barnacle glue 




|I 


shares a curing mechanism 


_ 


% 


with another sticky bodily 


^^^^^^V''' ^^^^^^ 


3C 


fluid: clotting blood. 


^^^^B^^ "'- 


^1 


Working with the Amphibal- 


^B^ ' '' 


|i 


anus amphitrite barnacle, 


^^^ 


i 


Dickinson collected its glue by 


f I'.-f'- 


1 


pricking the base plate of the 


■%' /' '' / ' 


I^H 


shell and gently squeezing jj 


1' 


out droplets. Investigating M 




i 


the glue's components, the ■ 


'^^^i&^^^ . 


r 


team detected a protein- " 


L. ^ 


" ■ 


X-ray tomographic image shows 


^^HHHP^^ 




section of an A. amphitrite shell. 








1,300-year-qia mural 
portrays a Mayan porter 



carrying aji 



ssel. 

ML 



the painted exterior walls 
in 2004 and are still in the 
process of restoring it. The 
murals show Maya of both 
sexes preparing and dispens- 
ing food, or carrying baskets, 
sacks, and large vessels. (Pre- 
viously discovered images 
mainly show men.) The wom- 
en wear face paint, and both 
sexes sport broad-brimmed 
hats, earrings, necklaces, and 
pendants. Hieroglyphic cap- 
tions identify some people 
by their trades: salt person, 
tobacco person, and maize- 
gruel person, for example. 



Ramon Carrasco Vargas, 
of the National Institute of 
Anthropology and History in 
Campeche, Mexico, directed the 
excavation with two colleagues. 
The trio report an intrigu- 
ing observation: the original 
pyramid \vas expanded over the 
centuries, but its murals were 
preserved with packed mud 
before being built over. The 
Mayan builders may have had 
to cover the murals— you can't 
stop progress— but they were 
apparently still reluctant to de- 
stroy such exceptional artwork. 
{PNAS) -S.R. 

October 2OJO NATURAL HISTORY 11 



SAMPLINGS 



Deep Sleep 

When northern elephant seals 
{Mirounga angustirostris) migrate 
between their breeding and 
foraging grounds, they spend as 
long as eight months at a time 
at sea. They're almost always 
underwater, devoting only a few 
minutes to breathing at the sur- 
face between dives — hardly long 
enough for a nap. After a sip of 
air, they often sink quickly to 500 

feet, then drift farther down in a 

J 
shallow descent. Some experts 

have suggested that the drift is 

when the seals catch their Zs. 

To find out, a team led by Yoko ] 
MitanI of Hokkaido University in 
Japan fitted six juvenile elephant 
seals with satellite transmitters and 
newfangled data loggers capable of 
recording such information as body 
position, flipper strokes, and the 3- 
D path of movement. They tracked 
the seals for up to eight days off the 
California coast. The resulting data 
revealed that drifting seals usually 
rolled over on their backs, stopped 
stroking, and spiraled peacefully 
down for a dozen minutes or so. 
(The team dubbed it the "falling- 
leaf phase" of the descent.) 

The belly-up position is consis- 
tent with slumber: ventral blubber 
tends to flip an unresponsive seal's 
body. What's more, a few animals 
that drifted in shallow areas hit the 
seafloor without reacting. 

The initial rapid descent Is 
important, Mitani's team points 
out. It takes the seals below the 
usual cruising depths of their 
main predators, killer whales 
and white sharks. And their slow 
sinking thereafter makes for a rela- 
tively short ascent for air once they 
awake. (S/o/ogy Letters) —S.R. 

Juvenile northern 
elephant:seal wears a 
tellite transtfimer: 





Fine Times for Pines 



Great Basin bristlecone pines, Pinus 
longaeva, are the Methuselahs of the 
living world. Many live trees are several 
thousand years old, and the record holder 
clocks in at around 4,840 years. The pines, 
which subsist high on the mountain slopes 
of the western United States, grow very 
slowly. But, old age be hanged, those at the 
highest elevations are now having the time 
of their lives, thanks to global warming. 

Trees leave a record of their growth in 
their annual rings— the wider the ring, the 
greater the growth that year. A team of 
dendrochronologists four strong, headed 
by Matthew W. Salzer of the University 
of Arizona in Tucson, reports that pines 
high up near the tree line in California and 
Nevada developed wider rings during the 
second half of the twentieth century than 
during any other fifty-year period of the 
past 3,700 years. 

That's probably a consequence of milder 
temperatures, because only pines close to 
the tree line— those most limited by cold- 
exhibit the effect. If the growth spurt were 
caused by more-abundant carbon dioxide 
boosting photosynthesis, or by a wetter 
climate, then lower-elevation trees should 
have wider rings too. They don't. 



Great Basin bristlecone pines grow amid 
dead wood near tree.linein Nevada. 



In fact, over the past century (for which 
good weather records exist), there is a 
significant correlation between tree-ring 
width at the tree line and mean air tem- 
perature-further support for the notion 
that the venerable trees are long-lived 
indicators of warming in western moun- 
tains. (PNAS) -S.R. 







Great Basin bristlecone pine 



Rising Waters 

Since 1900, global sea levels 
have crept upward about 
seven inches. Rising tem- 
peratures are melting gla- 
ciers and ice sheets, as well 
as warming the oceans di- 
rectly, which causes them to 
expand. Various research- 
ers have attributed only a 
portion of the rise in water 
level to carbon dioxide 
(CO,) released by human 
actions— and blamed the 
rest on natural factors such 
as solar activity. The latest 
study goes much further, 
faulting people for more 
than three-quarters of the 
sea-level change during the 
past century. 



Records of tide height 
have been kept for cen- 
turies at several seaports 
(Amsterdam since 1700, 
Liverpool since 1768, 
Stockholm since 1774, and 
many other places since 
1850). Such long records 
have enabled Svetlana 
Jevrejeva, of the British 
government's Proudman 
Oceanographic Labora- 
tory in Liverpool, and 
two colleagues to statisti- 
cally model the influence of 
various factors on sea level 
during the past three cen- 
turies, and to extrapolate 
the findings over the past 
millennium. 



The team found that 
up until about 1800, sea 
levels actually fell owing to 
volcanic eruptions that pe- 
riodically injected ash into 
the atmosphere, veiling the 
Sun and cooling the Earth. 
But as the waters rose after 
1850, the biggest contribut- 
ing factor was increasing 
atmospheric CO2. 

Significantly, Jevrejeva's 
team calculated that with- 
out the ongoing, mitigating 
effects of volcanic activ- 
ity since 1880, sea levels 
would now be about three 
inches higher than they 
are. (Geophysical Research 
Letters) -S.R. 



I 




Considering it took 485.000,000 years to create, it's hardly surprising what you'll find here. Not the 
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The Next Wave 

What makes an invasive species stick? 



pOLONISTS OF ANY ERA— and of 
Wany species — rmeet with failure 
more often than not. It is almost the 
rule. Yet failures seldom garner the 
same attention as successes, particu- 
larly in hindsight. Europeans, for 
instance, tried to establish them- 
selves in North America at least 
eighteen times before Jamestown 
eventually flourished. Likewise, 
another set of colonists probably 
made many attempts before gaining 
a foothold on the continent: Argen- 
tine ants {Linepithema humile). 

The first of those ants to have 
survived in the United States, per- 
haps a few related queens and their 
attendants, arrived no later than the 
1890s, when colonies were reported 
in Louisiana. It is hard to imagine 
a creature more fragile than one of 
those queens, her exoskeleton not 
much thicker than the film on a soap 
bubble. She may have come on a ship 
bringing coffee or some other prod- 
uct. Or perhaps she drifted across the 
sea on a scrap of floating debris. After 
the long journey north, she would 
have been slow, weakened by hunger, 
and bereft of army or armor — hardly 
the circumstances firom which an em- 
pire might rise. And yet one did. 

The precise trajectory of those first 
queens went unnoted, but analysis 
of the mitochondrial genes of the 
Argentine ants now in California and 
the southeastern U.S. suggests that a 
single clump of queens and work- 
ers made it to Louisiana and from 
there to California and elsewhere in 
the warm parts of the U.S. By 1900 
the ant was in Portugal, by 1905 in 
France, by 1926 in Italy, and then 
things sped up. By the 1 940s it had 
made it to Australia, the Azores, and 
on. The Argentine ant is now found 
in hot areas of more than 320 coun- 
tries. And so far, genetic data seem to 

16 1 NATURAL HISTORY October 20T0 



indicate that many, if not most of the 
introduced populations of Argentine 
ants might descend firom the original 
clump of workers and queens. 

What distinguishes such a suc- 
cess from the countless failures? The 
differences might be due simply to 
chance. But might there not also be 
rules of success and failure — rules 
that could be decoded fi-om the husks 
of abandoned towns and unsuc- 
cessflil queens? No one knows why 
Roanoke became the Lost Colony 
and Jamestown didn't, though many 
have looked for an explanation. The 
record of failure is sparse: marks on a 
tree, an axe head, a bit of brick. Nor 
do we know how many birds arrived 
in the Galapagos and failed before 
the finches arrived and succeeded. 
Nascent populations of species that 
people have inadvertently carried 
to new lands are easier to find and 
observe. Such introductions of ants 
resemble scientific trials, as they have 
been repeated with every possible 
permutation — different weather, dif- 
ferent species, different places. At least 
forty-seven ant species have become 
established just in Hawaii (whose is- 
lands have no native ants). 

A 1999 review byTerrence P. Mc- 
Glynn, an entomologist now at CaK- 
fornia State University, Dominguez 
Hills, identified 147 ant species that 
had been introduced — always acci- 
dentally — to new regions around the 
globe. A decade later, so many more 
ant species have been trafficked by 
people that the actual number may be 
two or three times as great. McGlynn 
used to keep track of the new arrivals 
on a Web page, then lost count. Each 
day ants are moved around the world. 
Each shipment is, Uke the first line 
of a novel or the first small steps of a 
nation, a beginning with a far-off and 
unknown end. 



I IKE MANY BIOLOGISTS, Andrew V. 

I Suarez, of the University of Illinois 

at Urbana— Champaign, struggled 
for years with the question of 
which colonizing organisms fail and 
which succeed. He studied it the 
hard way — with fieldwork and lab 
experiments — until 1999, when he 
found some brown jars. He found 
them the way a child hopes to find 
treasure, accidentally. He had gone 
to the Smithsonian Institution Na- 
tional Museum of Natural History's 
National Insect Collection to look 
for early samples of Argentine ants 
collected in the United States or at 
its borders. He hoped to find out 
how vintage specimens of Argen- 
tine ants were related to the exist- 
ing populations: would they be kin 
to the first successful queens — or, 
perhaps, evidence of other, less suc- 
cessful attempts? 

Ted R. Schultz, a myrmecologist 
who works in the museum, pointed 
Suarez to samples that had been col- 
lected throughout the twentieth cen- 
tury. There, among many thousands of 
jars of insects labeled with taxonomic 
notes, locations, and dates, Suarez ul- 
timately found relatively few samples 
of Argentine ants. But what he found 
besides them was, to his mind, far 
more interesting: some of the etha- 
nol-fdledjars were jammed with vials 
of ants collected at ports of entry in 
the eastern U.S. from 1927 to 1985. 
They were ants that border agents, 
tired, overworked, and overwhelmed, 
had picked fi-om plants being shipped 
into the U.S. Could those "ants be 
identified as members of species 
that had failed or succeeded as 
colonists, and if so, could the 
specimens be used to compare 
the two groups? As curious 
as Pandora before him, 
Suarez opened the jars. 




In the jars and vials were 394 sepa- 
rate samples of ants. Suarez solicited 
the help of two friends, ant ecologist 
David A. Holway of the University of 
California, San Diego, and Philip S. 
Ward, guru of ant gurus, at the Uni- 
versity of California, Davis. Altogether 
they identified 232 distinct species, 
many of them completely new to sci- 
ence. Twenty-eight of those species 
had survived and established them- 
selves somewhere in the U.S. (fr'om 
separate introductions that occurred 
either before or after the arrival ot the 
interdicted ants). The rest, as far as was 
known, had never made it through. 

Suarez considered the traits pos- 
sessed by each of the ant species in 
an attempt to see what might have 
predisposed some of them to survival. 
He measured whether they were big 
or small. He examined whether each 
Lived in the canopy or on the ground, 
and whether they were from one sub- 
family or another. He also looked at a 
simpler possibility: that "survivor spe- 
cies" tended to be those introduced 
more than once. The evidence in the 
jars showed, for example, that Argen- 
tine ants had arrived at least twice. 
Were successes just a consequence of 
the number of tries? Might history, 
at least of ants, be a consequence of 
persistence — try and, as your mother 
might have said, try again? 

The theory that surviving species 
tend to be those that were intro- 
duced more than once held up, 
on average. There were also 
other patterns. Ants that Hve 
exclusively in tree canopies, 
for example, were veiry un- 
likely to succeed unless they 
were versatile in their choice 
of host trees. But one con- 
clusion seemed inescapable: 
the more species ^, 



we move around the Earth, the more 
will escape into new habitats and have 
a chance to survive. 

QURVMNG IS JUST THE BEGINNING 
Oof the story, however. When a 
pioneering group sets up camp and 
starts living in a new place, possible 
futures diverge. One species might 
be wiped out within a generation 
or two. A second might survive, but 
never become common. Yet another 
species might thrive, eventually 
spreading across states, continents, 
and even the world! Even if surviv- 
ing in a new environment is some- 
times a matter of being introduced 
again and again, thriving is a differ- 
ent story. Relatively few invasive spe- 
cies truly prevail. 

One of the most prominent ex- 
planations of why an ant empire 
rises has its roots, not in a brown 
jar, but in a hole. In the late 1980s, 
biologist Ted J. Case and zoologist 
Robert N. Fisher at the Univer- 
sity of California, San Diego, were 
studying coastal horned lizards 
{Phrynosoma coronattmi) .The two put 
out lizard traps — small 
equivalents of holes 
dug to catch, 
say, African 
lions — 
aO ^ '^■'' 



over southern California. They 
wanted to see where the lizards were 
doing well, declining, or just plain 
gone. Case and Fisher knew when 
they began the work that certain liz- 
ard populations were dwindling, an 
observation corroborated when the 
trap results started to come in. As the 
project continued, it became more 
and more clear that the horned liz- 
ards were on the decline because of 
Argentine ants. It turned out that 
the native ants on which the lizards 
fed were being displaced. 

One curious thing about Argentine 
ants is that they are, despite their ap- 
parent meekness, ecologically domi- 
nant.They are squishy, small, stingless 
wimps, as ants go, yet somehow they 
have managed to overpower the big, 
tough native ants. It's almost as if they 
are a force out of a Gabriel Garcia 
Marquez novel: ethereal things unper- 
turbed by the ordinary rules of cause 
and effect, strength and weakness. 

There's another strange thing 
about Argentine ants, as Suarez and 
Holway discovered in collaboration 
with evolutionary ecologist Neil D. 
Tsutsui, now at the University of 




.i^.»lk 



California, Berkeley (the three have 
gone on to become myrmecological 
supercoUaborators of a sort). If you 
take an Argentine ant from what 
looks like one colony and put it to- 
gether with one from a distant colony, 
they accept each other. In fact, you 
can perform that trick over much of 
California and very few ot the ants 
will fight. It is as though all of the Ar- 
gentine ants in California are part of a 
few huge colonies — "supercolonies," 
they've come to be called. Although 
"super" refers to the underlying unity 
of multiple individual colonies, it also 
seems to imply superpowers: the pos- 
session, perhaps, of thousands of tiny 
red capes. 

Ted Case joined forces with Hol- 
way and Suarez for an experiment to 
test whether the lack of aggression 
among those ant colonies somehow 
helped them to compete with other 
species. Might it simply be that by 
not fighting with their neighbors, the 

18 NATURAL HISTORY October 2010 



Argentine ants wasted less energy on 
war and could spend more time on 
the good stuff — sex and finding food? 
Does such peace pay? It turned out 
that, yes, aggressive ants wasted energy 
fighting (and dying) , and so gathered 
less food and fared poorly, in general. 
Peace pays (at least peace with one's 
kin) , and so Argentine ants have made 
bank everyplace they have moved. 

In fact, it isn't just for the Argen- 
tine ant that peace seems to pay. 
Supercolonies and the unicolonial 
populations they create look to be 
common among invasive ants. Just 
last year, big-headed ants {Pheidole 
megacephald) — a species probably from 
southern Africa, now introduced 
across much of the tropical world 
and thriving — were found to form 
supercolonies. Other supercolonizers 
include the little fire ant {Wasmarmia 
auropiinctatd) , the European fire ant 
(Myrmica rubra), the garden ant {Lasius 
negkctus), three species of the genus 



Monomoriiiin and six of the genus 
Cardiocoiidyla — none of them yet 
awarded comrnon names — and more. 

In warfare, be it urban or myrme- 
cological, identifying one's enemies is 
key to besting them. The Bloods and 
Crips flash gang signs as symbols of 
their allegiance. Ants flash chemical 
badges identifying their home nest. 
Without such markers, no one knows 
who is friend or foe. When the clar- 
ity of "us versus them" breaks down, 
peace breaks out among colonies of an 
ant species. Different nests swap work- 
ers and queens, and the term "colony" 
becomes fuzzy. Experiments seemed 
to show that one conglomeration of 
Argentine ants stretched the length 
of CaUfornia, another from Italy to 
Portugal . . . until, in 2009, workers 
from those two "colonies" (along with 
a third from Japan) were put together, 
and they didn't fight. Thus, across the 
entire globe, a few peaceful supercolo- 
nies could exist and expand. 



«;i^ 





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A NSWERING THE QUESTIONS of why 
/A and how supercolonies form has 
provoked wars of a different kind, 
among scientists who mark territo- 
ries on conceptual ground. Literally 
hundreds of ant biologists (and now 
even a few termite and wasp biolo- 
gists) have studied supercolonies and 
their origins. Behavioral ecologist 
Deborah Gordon and colleagues at 
Stanford University have argued that 
supercolony formation is a conse- 
quence of many ant colonies having 
similar diets and consequently smell- 
ing the same, thus being incapable 
of distinguishing nestmates from 




'■* V 



outsiders. In contrast, Tsutsui, Suarez, 
and Holway have argued that ants' 
chemical "signature" is at least pardy 
inherited, so when all the individu- 
als in a population are descended 
from a common ancestor, they don't 
identify each other as "other" be- 
cause in a genetic sense they aren't 
"other." Or maybe certain species are 
predisposed to form supercolonies, 
regardless of geography. At the messy 
boundaries ot those debates, consen- 
sus even breaks down in formulat- 
ing a definition of "supercolony." 
Yet regardless of how supercolonies 
emerge (and it may differ from spe- 
cies to species), it seems true that 
they are disproportionately common 
among invasive ants. 

A handful of other traits found in 
many invasive ant species seem to 
relate to supercolony formation, such 
as having multiple queens (polygyny) 
in each nest. And the males are apt to 
mate with their sisters, enabling an ant 



colony to reproduce on its own — a 
handy trait in a new realm where 
mates are scarce. In addition, many 
invasive ants seem to rely on hemip- 
teran husbandry. That is, the ants care 
for hemipterous insects, such as scale 
insects and aphids, which produce 
sugary food in exchange for protec- 
tion and other favors. 

Yet not all invasive ants fit that 
mold. Take the Asian needle ant 
{Pacliycoiidyhi chinensis) — so called for 
its painful sting. Native to Japan, the 
needle ant is now widespread in the 
southeastern U.S. It dominates and 
drives out many native ant species, 
with all the possible ecosystem-wide 
ripple effects that implies; yet it does 
not appear to form supercolonies. 
Nor do its colonies tend aphids. To 
explain such an exception, and per- 
haps the broader rule as well, let's re- 
turn to the jars of ants Suarez found 
at the Smithsonian. The bigger story, 
the scoop from those jars, is the great 
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It may be two o'clock m the mommg, but that's 
the middle of the ■workday when you are monitoring a 
nocturnal animal. I am on a mountainside in Tangkoko 
Nature Reserve on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, 
using a flashlight and radio-tracking device to keep tabs on 
a diminutive primate, a spectral tarsier {Tarshis spectnim). 
All of a sudden I hear high-pitched shrieks from higher 
up the mountain. Following those sounds, I pick my way 
up the steep, forested slope as fast as I can. Somewhere a 
group of tarsiers is upset, and I want to know why. As I 
get closer to the commotion, I slow down, not knowing 
what awaits me. Cautiously, I scan the foliage for tarsiers 
and for whatever threat has caused them to call with such 
urgency. Then I see it: a large python coiled up in a tight 
ball. Four, five, no, six spectral tarsiers — each no bigger 
than my hand — are sounding the alarm. And they are all 
leaping toward the python. 

The tiny tarsiers repeatedly lunge so close to the in- 
truder that I think they are about to become snake din- 
ner, and then they leap out of reach. One individual is 
truly brazen: he jumps onto the python's back and bites 
it! The snake's muscles ripple as it tries to capture and 
strangle the animal on its back. But the daring tarsier is 
too quick, and darts a'way. For nearly thirty minutes, the 
tarsiers lunge and retreat; even the individual I was fol- 
lowing earlier arrives to join in the mobbing. Finally the 
python uncurls — it must be twelve feet long — and slith- 
ers away. After calling for another twenty minutes the 
tarsiers move off But they remain skittish throughout 
the night, breaking out into alarm calls and frequently 
returning to the scene of the face-off. 

The spectral tarsiers' mobbing of a predator is a total 




Married 

to the 



Brave in the face of predators and 
flexible in tlieir family arrangements, 
tarsiers offer clues to the origins 
of sociality in primates. 



By Sharon Gursky-Doyen 



surprise. What might have prompted such brazen — and 
coordinated — behavior? I know that a male-female pair 
and two offspring, a juvenile female and an infant, sleep 
during the day near the site of the incident. But on my 
nightly "focal follows," the excursions in which I track 
the activity of one individual, I rarely encounter more 
than one or two tarsiers in any one place. Yet I've just 
seen at least six adults join together in attacking a py- 
thon. Maybe the species is more gregarious than anyone 
has realized. And the incident is significant in another 
way: the vast majority of species known to mob preda- 
tors are diurnal, not nocturnal. 

Mobbing is but one of the enigmas about spectral tar- 
siers that have captured my attention over the past two 
decades. Another puzzle is why some individuals choose 
to be monogamous and others polygynous (one male 
mating with several females). Few species have such a 
variable mating system. By exploring those and other 
tarsier behavioral traits, and the ecological and social 
factors at play, I hope to shine a light on how group liv- 
ing evolved in primates. 

Tarsiers, of which there are,. leas, s.xi.v.„g 

species, stand out in numerous ways. Their saucerlike 
eyes are larger, relative to the head, than those of 
any other mammal. The animals boast two or 
three pairs of nipples, even though a female gives 
birth to only one infant at a time (apparently not 
all of the nipples are functional). And they are 
the most carnivorous of the primates, with a 
diet consisting entirely of insects and, in some 
cases, small vertebrates. 



20 NATURAL HISTORY October 2010 




Spectral tarsiers and all the other living tar- 
sier species are classified in the genus Tarsius. 
Beyond that, their taxonomic position has been a 
source of dispute. The eighteenth-century French 
naturalist Buffon, who, upon examining a juvenile 
tarsier, thought it might be a kind of opossum, was 
not the first to find them a bundle of contradictions. 
While other living primates fall fairly neatly into two 
main groups — the Strepsirrhini (the suborder that em- 
braces lemurs, lorises, and galagos) and the Haplorrhini 
(the one that includes monkeys, apes, and humans) — 
tarsiers seem to belong to both at once. 

A variety of characteristics mark tarsiers as Strepsir- 
rhini: their small body size, grooming claws, nocturnal 
habits, and two-horned (as opposed to single-cham- 
bered) uterus, as well as aspects of their parental care (a 
mother will park her infant in a tree while she forages, 
and infants are transported by mouth, the way a dog car- 
ries a puppy). On the other hand, tarsiers possess 
numerous features linking them with 
the Haplorrhini, including 
a dry nose, a mo- 




bile upper lip that is 
not attached to the nose, 2. fovea centralis 
(a depression in the middle of the retina that increases vi- 
sual acuity), and a hemochorial placenta, which provides 
close contact between the mother's blood and the fetal cir- 
culatory system. Certain skeletal traits, most notably an 
eye socket backed by bone, also seem to favor a haplorrhine 
connection, but they may have evolved independently. 

Most taxonomists today assign tarsiers to their own 
infraorder within the suborder Haplorrhini, but their 
unusual combination of traits shows that their lineage 
branched off long ago from the rest of the suborder. Fos- 
sils representing Tarsius and closely related genera, found 
in North America, Africa, and Asia, date as far back as 45 
million years, and their lineage is believed to have sepa- 
rated from all the other Haplorrhini as early as 71 mil- 
lion years ago. Strepsirrhini and Haplorrhini diverged 
perhaps 78 million years ago, not long after the origin of 
all primates. Consequently, modern tarsiers are pivotal 
in understanding the roots of primate evolution. 

Even living tarsiers remain shrouded in mystery, be- 
cause studying their behavior is no easy feat. Not only are 
they small nocturnal forest-dwellers (bad enough!), but, 
as I learned early on, some of their most peculiar features 

make them hard to track. To begin with, they are ex- 
treme leapers — indeed, they are named for an 



Opposite page; Having leapt from the tree where it 
sleeps during the day (background), a spectral tarsier 
reaches for the first meal of the evening. Above: In spite 
of a reputation as solitary animals, spectral tarsiers are 
commonly found in family groups and will even gather to mob 
a predator, such as a python, left. 

October 2010 natural history 21 




Tarsier carries an infant by moutli, 
above, a form of behavior common in 
lemurs, lorises, and ga/agos. Posses- 
sion of grooming clams on the second 
and third digits of the feet, below, is 
another feature tarsiers share with 
those primates. Monkeys, apes, and 
humans have only nails. 




unusually long tarsal (ankle) bone that acts as their 
launcher. They are reportedly capable of leaping 
as far as eighteen feet; as a result, they can travel 
through the forest a lot faster than I can. 

Then, tarsiers have the owl-like ability — shared 
with no other mammal — to rotate their heads 
backward 180 degrees. Often when I am out in the 
jungle tracking a tarsier, it will look in one direc- 
tion, but then leap the opposite way! That makes it 
very easy to lose the individual I am following. And 
unlike the majority of nocturnal mammals — but like 
all haplorrhines — tarsiers lack the light-reflecting 
layer of tissue behind the retina known as the tapctum 
lueiihitii. In low light, that "bright carpet" improves 
vision and, as a byproduct, renders an animal's pupils 
visible as "eyeshine." Absent any eyeshine, the strik- 
ingly large eyes of tarsiers do not broadcast their loca- 
tion as one might hope. 

When I first began studying tarsiers m the 

1990s, they were considered solitary creatures, like most 
other nocturnal foragers. But when I started tracking 
them using radio telemetry, I learned that sometimes 
other tarsiers w^ere not so far away. The conventional 
approach is to put a radio collar on an individual and track 
it over the course of one night, picking different nights to 
watch different individuals. To determine whether tarsiers 
might be more social than they were reputed to be, I tried 
a new technique. I would radio-collar a pair of tarsiers and 
perform "simultaneous focal follows" with an assistant: 
the two of us would synchronize our watches, each take a 
radio receiver, and then note our respective tarsier's location 
every five minutes over the course of twelve hours. So, for 
example, I might observe a mother while my assistant would 
simultaneously track her offspring; or we might track two 
mates this way. Then we would compare our notes. 
Once we started watching pairs rather than individuals, we 
, discovered that spectral tarsiers are far from solitary. A major- 

ity of the sexually mature adults are monogamous, and mates 
often stay together for most of their lives, which average seven 
years. With their immature offspring (as many as two per female) 
they occupy home territories in small family groups. Although 
direct paternal care is rare, it is common for a member of the 
group other than the mother — typically an adolescent sister 
of the infant — to help with the caretaking. Examples of 
such "allomothering" include sharing food, babysitting, 
grooming, and playing. An adolescent female will also 
transport a young infant by mouth if, say, it falls out 
of a tree where the mother parked it. 

Spectral tarsiers are territorial. They use their 
urine and various body glands to scent-mark 
along the boundaries of their home range; they 
announce their claim with early 



rii^f. 



family choruses; and they vocally confront and chase any 
members of neighboring groups that threaten to intrude. 
They exhibit tremendous attachment to a particular site, 
with individuals and sometimes family groups continually 
using the same sleeping tree for years. 

How might those patterns of behavior have evolved? 
When I surveyed the primate literature, I found that 
three main factors had been hypothesized to lead to soci- 
ality, or gregariousness, in primates. One is intanticide: 
if outsiders of their own species pose a threat, relatives 
stick together to defend their offspring. Another is food 
abundance: the patchier the distribution of food in the 
habitat, the more a group may need to come together to 
share and defend their resources. And finally there is pre- 
dation pressure: members of a group cooperate to warn 
and defend against common enemies. 

Infanticide has been observed in captive tarsiers, but 
does infanticide — or the threat of it — play a role in wild 
tarsier sociality? I kept track of how much time males 
spent near females, noting whether or not the females 
were pregnant or lactating. When a female was lactat- 
ing — that is, had an infant — the average distance be- 
tween the male and female of a pair was significantly 
less than when the female was pregnant or at some other 
point in her cycle: 85 feet versus 135 feet. By remaining 
near and traveling with the female and the new infant, 
her mate could prevent neighboring males from getting 
too close and killing the infant. 

Given the exceptionally large prenatal investment tarsier 
females must make, it is not surprising that males inust help 
protect the infant. Newborn infants weigh about a third 
of the mother's weight — ^imagine a 
120-pound woman pro- 
ducing a 40- 





Infant 
shows the 
tarsier's owl-like 
ability to swivel its head 
bacl<ward. 






pound baby! However, the presence of an 
infant only explained a small proportion of the 
gregariousness exhibited by spectral tarsiers, since the 
majority of social interactions did not involve infants. 

I therefore began examining the role of food 

abundance. To record insect distribution on the ground 
and in the air, I began collecting insects by means of 
pittall traps (holes in the ground), sweep nets (similar to 
butterfly nets), and Malaise traps (stationary nets named 
for the Swedish entomologist Rene Malaise). I found 
that individual tarsiers were more likely to remain near 
other group members when insect abundance was high 
rather than low: the average distance between group 
members was 87 feet compared with 175 feet. 

Although the level of sociality was increased by food 
availability, as it was by the presence of an infant, it did 
not even come close to the coordinated mobbing be- 
havior that 1 had observed during the python incident. 
Obviously, I needed to explore the effect of predators. 

As you might imagine, interactions between tarsiers 
and their predators are relatively rare and difficult to 



Tangkoko Nature Reserve embraces a dormant 
volcano whose 3,770-foot peak is 
regularly enveloped by 
clouds. 






October 2010 



observe. I thus looked for ways to mimic the presence 
of predators. First, I used physical models of preda- 
tors, such as carved wooden civets, rubber snakes, and 
plastic birds of prey; and second, I recorded the vocal- 
izations of predators at zoos and then played them back 
in tarsier territory. 

In 74 percent of encounters with a rubber python, the 
tarsiers alarm-called, and in 42 percent of the incidents, 
once joined by other individuals, they also mobbed the 
snake. Such an encounter had a measurable effect on 
their social behavior throughout the night. The average 
distance between group members when no rubber snakes 
were present was 135 feet, but when rubber snakes were 
planted within the group's territory, that distance shrank 
by about half, to 67 feet. Upon encountering the model 
bird of prey (a falcon), their response a little more than 
half the time was to freeze, on average tor twenty-one 
minutes. On other occasions they both mobbed 





Fifty-miltion-year-old 
fossil of Shoshonius (left), found in Wyoming, resembles that 
of modern Tarsius (right), evidence that the two are closely 
related. But tarsiers, which leap from tree to tree, are adapted 
to holding their bodies vertically, whereas skeletal features of 
Shoshonius suggest it may have walked on all four limbs. 



and alarm-called. 

And when raptor vocalizations were played back, 
the tarsiers responded in 42 percent of the experiments 
by alarm-calling, and in 38 percent by both alarm-call- 
ing and mobbing the speakers. 

The model civet often elicited harsh alarm calls, but 
it was mobbed in only about 10 percent of the encoun- 
ters. Thinking the experimental setup might be over- 
looking the tarsiers' well-developed sense of smell, I 
organized a new set of tests. I observed the reactions of 
twenty different adults as each was exposed to four dif- 
ferent situations: a wooden civet model covered in civet 



Above: 
Tarsier tails, often as long 

as their bodies, provide balance when the animals 
leap in their characteristic upright posture. 
Below: Asian palm civet is a skillful climber and 
dangerous to the tree-dwelling tarsiers. The 
author's experiments show the predator's 
scent, sight, or call may independently elicit 
tarsier alarm calls and mobbing responses. 



urine, a \vooden civet without urine, a stick covered in 
civet urine, and a stick without urine. 

The results were revealing. The tarsiers never ignored 
the wooden model with civet urine: it provoked alarm 
calling every time, and they mobbed it in 77 percent of 
the encounters. In contrast, when exposed to the wooden 
civet model without urine, the tarsiers responded with 
alarm calls 39 percent of the time and with both alarm 
calls and mobbing 15 percent of the time; during 46 per- 
cent of the trials, they ignored it. In response to the stick 
with urine, the tarsiers alarm-called during 93 percent of 
the trials, but never mobbed; they ignored it in 7 percent 
of the trials. Unsurprisingly, the stick without urine pro- 
voked no response at all. 

Mobbing is obviously a risky tactic, yet in both sets of 
experiments, more adult tarsiers mobbed the ostensible 
predator than resided in the local territory. What drove 
other adults to get involved? I observed that adult females 
regularly attended mobbings, but they were usually pas- 
sive participants, alarm-calling nearby and watching 
from a safe distance. The aggressive participants, those 
lunging at the predator and then retreating, were usually 
adult and adolescent males. That was an important clue. 

To my knowledge there were a number of common 
hypotheses to explain mobbing behavior, all 
some practical, protective outcome, such as 
driving away the predator. I returned to Sulawesi 
in 2004, 2006, and 2008 to test which of them 
might apply to spectral tarsiers. 

One rationale, known as "infant silencing," 
suggests that mobbing distracts predators from 
young offspring, which learn to remain silent dur- 
ing the exchanges. That hypothesis predicts that 
mobbing will be restricted to groups with young in- 
fants. However, I found that mobbing occurred just 
as often in groups without immature offspring, thus 



24 NATURAL HISTORY October 2010 




knocking a hole in that explanation. Another idea is that 
mobbing instills "site avoidance." That is, individuals 
will avoid a locale where a predator was previously en- 
countered and mobbed. But tarsier mothers apparently 
had no qualms about parking an infant in or near a tree 
where they were previously exposed to a rubber snake. 
The data did not support that hypothesis. 

According to the "perception advertisement" hypoth- 
esis, the potential prey animals, by openly identifying 
themselves (in this case through mobbing), inform the 
predator that it has lost the advantage of surprise. Dis- 
couraged, the predator then leaves. Naturally, the op- 
portunity to test that was limited to when an actual 
snake appeared. But based on preliminary observations, 
the hypothesis fell flat: there was little evidence that the 
snake spent significantly less time in the area after being 
mobbed than when the tarsiers only emitted alarm calls or 
just ignored it. The same set of observations also rejected 
the "move-on" hypothesis, which states that because it is 
discomforted by harassment, a predator entering an area 
will leave sooner the more intensely it is mobbed. 

Finally, the "cultural transmission" hypothesis states 
that an individual learns to fear an object when it wit- 
nesses other animals mobbing it, and thus learns to avoid 
it or mob it in the future. However, when studying the 
response of infants, I found that nursing infants, even in 
their first week of life, alarm-called when exposed to a 
model snake, despite never having seen a snake previous- 
ly. Their awareness of danger from snakes was not cul- 
turally transmitted, 
undermining that 
hypothesis. 

Because none of 
the above hypotheses 
seemed satisfactory, I 
proposed a new one: 
spectral tarsiers inob 
predators as a "costly sig- 
nal." In effect, the sig- 
naler advertises that it 
can afford to perform 
an otherwise detrimental 




act — something that a weaker competitor cannot do as 
effectively. The classic costly signal is the peacock's tail. 
The tail makes the bird more vulnerable to predators, but 
the message to the potential mate is, "I have survived in 
spite of this huge tail, hence I am fitter." Similarly, while 
aggregating around a dangerous snake, tarsier males may 
demonstrate their current physical condition, agility, and 
speed — and therefore suitability as a mate. According to 
this hypothesis, the trait of mobbing behavior has evolved 
in males because it is attractive to females, thus increasing 
a male's chances of procreating. The driving force is a type 
of natural selection known as sexual selection. 

Because spectral tarsier groups contain only one adult 
male, any additional males that show up at a "mob scene" 
must come from other groups. But I observed that males 
did not show up at all such events. In 80 percent of the 
cases, including both experimentally elicited and natu- 
rally occurring events, males preferred to join groups that 
contained adolescent females — they came to impress the 
gals! By observing the males mobbing, young females 
can evaluate the ability and willingness of males to pro- 
tect them and their future offspring against predators. 

Mobbing, then, seems to be a way for a maie to 

get an adolescent female to leave her group and form a 
new pair. That conclusion naturally made me curious 
about why tarsiers join groups, leave groups, or remain 
in their parental group. To this end, I started to explore 
dispersal — the permanent departure of an animal from 
its original home. 

Because dispersal involves leaving the protection of a 
familiar group and territory, an animal that takes the 
plunge increases its risk of predation and takes a gamble 
on finding food resources. Therefore the payoff needs to 
be significant. In mammals, males tend to be the ones to 
seek new territories. One of the most widely accepted 
explanations for that is the preponderance of polygynous 
mating systems — one male siring the offspring of several 
females in a group. In a polygynous group, the females 
invest more time and energy in their offspring than the 
male does. Consequently, they usually have a greater 
stake in a home range proven to have sufficient resources 
for successful reproduction, and the males are the ones 
likely to strike out on their own. 

Starting in 1994 and continuing through 2008, 1 tracked 
seventy-four banded individuals, noting their location rela- 
tive to their initial sleeping trees. Both sexes proved equal- 
ly likely to disperse from their natal territories, but males 
dispersed significantly farther than females, an average of 
2,165 feet away, compared with 873 feet for females. One 
possible explanation for the difference in distance may be 
that it reduces the chances of inbreeding. 

Like many territorial primates, spectral tarsiers return 
to the same tree when it is time to sleep. They prefer hol- 

Octobsr 2010 natur.^l history 25 



lowed-out fig trees with multiple entranc- 
es and exits. These typically form when a 
"strangler" fig tree grows around another 
tree, kills it, and the dead supporting tree 
rots away, leaving an empty space. In measur- 
ing the diameters (at "breast height," 4.5 feet 
aboveground) and heights of their sleeping 
trees, I was able to demonstrate that individu- 
als residing in larger sleeping trees v^^ere more 
likely to be found at the same site in later years, 
while individuals residing in smaller trees were 
more likely to move. I also discovered that po- 
lygynous groups were more likely to have the 
larger sleeping trees. 

While there are a few primate species that 
vary in their mating patterns, rarely has the 
variation been observed within a single popu- 
lation, such as that inhabiting the Tangkoko 
Nature Reserve. Consequently, I wanted to 
know what led individual tarsiers to choose 
monogamy or, much less frequently (about 15 
percent of the time), polygyny. In some species, the 
male's help is required in order to successfully rear 
offspring, and that favors what Devra G. Kleiman, an 
ethologist and conservation biologist affiliated with the 
Smithsonian National Zoological Park and the Uni- 
versity of Maryland, has called "obligate monogamy." 
But spectral tarsiers don't provide much direct paternal 
care, so that is not a factor. Why, then, were polygy- 
nous groups not more common? 

I decided to examine possible ecological factors, spe- 
cifically variation in insect abundance, size of home 
territory, sleeping trees (size and species), and habitat 
quality (number of trees, number of tree species, num- 
ber of large trees). After a field assistant and I spent 
more than a thousand hours following the movements 
of adult individuals in ten groups, we were able to con- 
clude that polygyny is not limited by insect biomass, 
insect abundance, or territory size, but primarily by ac- 
cess to high-quality sleeping sites — that is, tall, wide fig 
trees. Real estate ruled! 

Groups that were fortunate enough to possess terri- 
tories with large fig trees for sleeping sites were signifi- 
cantly more likely to be polygynous than were groups 
whose sleeping trees were smaller or of another species. 
While monogamous groups consistently used only one 
sleeping site, polygynous groups tended to have mul- 
tiple sites, giving them more options if something were 
to happen to one of their sleeping trees. That is a sig- 
nificant issue, because tree falls are frequent, owing to 
the high winds at Tangkoko Nature Reserve and the 
diffuse root structure of the fig trees. Although fig trees 
are fairly common within the reserve, those making 
the best sleeping sites are relatively rare, which is why 




Having grown from above dovi/n- 
ward to the soil, the roots of a fig 
tree wrap lil<e vines around another 
tree. If killed by the strangler, the 
supporting tree will rot away, 
leaving a comfortable hollow that 
enhances the fig tree as a sleeping 
site for tarsiers, birds, and rodents. 



polygyny is so much less com- 
mon than monogamy. 

In choosing a mate, a female spec- 
tral tarsier apparently looks not only 
for a male whose mobbing displays 
demonstrate his readiness to defend 
her and her offspring against preda- 
tors, but also, where possible, for one 
whose territory includes at least one 
high-quality sleeping site. Why would 
such a sleeping site — namely a large, hol- 
low fig tree — be so important? One possible ex- 
planation is that its numerous entrances and exits provide 
more avenues of escape if a predator invades. 

My observations of Imng spectral tarsiers suggest 
that polygyny — one form of sociality — may have arisen 
in primates when females chose to be with a male that 
controlled the best territory. A safe sleeping site could 
be one measure of the "best" territory, but that is only 
an example. And the tarsiers' mobbing behavior may be 
comparable to the way their ancestors and other early 
primates responded to predators. Snakes are persistent 
predators of modern placental mammals, and according 
to Lynne Isbell, an anthropologist at the University of 
California, Davis, they may have been major driving 
forces of evolutionary change in mammals. Their ability 
to hunt, moving silently even in the trees , was and remains 
a major threat to primates. Mobbing behavior may have 
evolved as a survival tactic in the face of that threat and, 
in turn, been a major leap toward group living. 



Sharon Gursky-Doyen is an associate profes- 
sor of anthropology at Texas A&M Univer- 
sity. She received her PhD from the State 
University of New York at Stony Brook 
and has been studying tarsiers throughout 
Sulawesi, Indonesia, since 1990. While 
continuing her work on spectral tarsiers, 
she is also investigating the effects of alti- 
tude on the recently rediscovered pygmy 
tarsier {Tarsiiis piiiiiihis). She is the author of 
The Spectral Tarsier (Prentice Hall, 2007) and coeditor (with K.A.I. 
Nekaris) o{ Primate Aiiti-Piedator Strategics (Springer, 2007). 



26 NATURAL HISTORY October 2010 




RUB NOSES 



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SEE BONES 
PREPARED IN 

Dino 



N ATU RAL 
H I STORY 
MUSEUM 

LOS ANGELES COUNTY 

www.ahm.org 



STAND AT THE FEET OF A FULL SIZE f. REX 




A rare bird's elaborate mating habits 
help a tropical tree disperse its seeds. 

By Jordan Karubian 



28 NATUUAL HiSTOKY October 2010:'. 



full-grown chapil palm tree can reach 110 feet tall, its corona of 
forty-foot fronds stretching skyward above the surrounding canopy. 
Competition for space and light can be intense among rain forest 
trees, and every mature, fruit-producing chapil that towers overhead had 
countless less-fortunate siblings that perished during the long journey from 
seed to adult. But what determines the winners and losers in that lottery?. 
In the case of the chapil, part of the answer may lie in the social behaviof 
of a curious endangered species known as the long-wattled umbrcllabird. 
The chapil (Oeiiocaipiis batnita) is widely distributed — and widely con- 
sumed — throughout the South American tropics. Mammals such as tapirs 
and peccaries rely on the palm's date-size purple-black fruits for food. 
Indigenous people use the fruits for medicine, food, and to make a thick, 
rich, nutty-tasting beverage. Birds that feast upon the chapil's protein-rich 
fruits and seeds include some of the Amazon rain forest's biggest and most 
brightly colored species, such as macaws and toucans. / 

But on the other side of the Andes from the Amazon Basin the chapil 
palm serves the long-wattled umbrellabird — perhaps its most unusual avian 
patron — and benefits in return. There lies a distinct biogeographic zone 
called the Choco, which extends down the mountains' western flank to the 
coast in Colombia and Ecuador. That zone is characterized by rain forests 
even more humid than those of the Amazon, and harbors a distinctive and 
largely endemic flora and fauna. Thomas B. Smith, a biologist at the Uni- 
versity of California, Los Angeles, and I have been studying long-wattled 
umbrellabirds and other endangered species in the Ecuadorian Choco for 
several years. We initiated a conservation program that provides training, 
education, and sustainable alternatives to locals and Ecuadorian university 
biology students who assist in our research. 

In our neck of the Choco, the long-wattled umbrellabird {Cephaloptcnis 
pendtiliger) lays claim to the title of best-dressed dinner guest at fruit-bearing 
chapils. It is a large, charismatic, midnight-black bird, with a maximum 
wingspan of about two feet. Males have long crest feathers that, depending 
on their mood, they can retract like slicked-back pompadours (cool, relaxed) 
or expand to completely cover their heads (amorous, aroused). With his 
crest retracted, a male looks like Elvis on a bad hair day; with it expanded, 
he looks like Liberace on steroids. The crest accounts for the "umbrellabird" 
part of the name. Every male also has a thin, feather-covered flap of skin 
known as a wattle that hangs from his neck down past his tail. About eigh- 
teen inches long, the wattle looks rather like the ruffle on a tuxedo shirt, 
but functions more like a gold chain in the sexual lexicon of the species. 
Females are smaller than males and much more restrained in their appear- 
ance. Ecuadorians call the bird the pajaro tow, meaning bull-bird, because 
the male's song resembles nothing so much as a lost bovine mooing in the 
forest. The calls travel more than half a mile, to attract females. 

1 spite of its outlandish appearance and trademark calls, not much is 
known about the long-wattled umbrellabird. It's not an easy bird to 
see in the dark foliage; few birders and even fewer biologists have spotted 
it. It relies on pristine Choco forests — habitat that is threatened by rampant 
deforestation. When the forest disappears, the umbrellabird is never far 
behind. Today it is in danger of extinction, its population having declined 
by at least 30 percent in the past decade — to less than 10,000 birds. 

The loss of the umbrellabird would be a shame, of course, and particularly 
so for the chapil trees of the Choco. My research shows that the chapils 
depend upon those flying fashionistas to disperse their seeds through- 
out the forest. At first glance, that service may seem trivial. But in fact, 



<:,:^\^:M 



'tM 



^1^^'' 



mm 




Chapil palm tree grows in the Choco 
rain forest of Ecuador, where the long- 
wattled umbrellabird is one of the 
main consumers of its fruits. Opposite 
page: A male umbrellabird, flaunting his 
trademark wattle and crest, begins the 
day at a lek — an area in the forest where 
males gather to woo visiting females. 



October 2010 natlirai. history 29 




Male long-wattled umbrellabird puffs, fluffs, preens, and generally shows off for the benefit 
of any females passing the lek. 



the importance to a rain forest tree of its seeds being 
carried to a favorable location cannot be overstated. 
Transportation away from the parent tree is key to a 
seed's chances of survival to adulthood. Other birds and 
mammals eat chapil fruits, but in the Choco nothing 
seems to eat more of them than long-vi^attled umbrel- 
labirds, which flock to a fruiting tree and remain in the 
area for hours. When an umbrellabird feels peckish, it 
approaches one of the bundles of fruits that hang off 
the tree like horses' tails, and hovers in front of it like 
some Daliesque hummingbird. Finally the umbrellabird 
plucks a plump morsel, swallows it whole, and returns 
to its perch to digest. 

The fruit remains inside the bird's belly for about an 
hour, we discovered (as I'll explain), where its rich oils are 
stripped from its seed. When the seed has been cleaned of 
nutrients, the bird regurgitates it and spits it out onto the 
ground. Once the bird has eaten its fill of chapil fruits, it 
flies off, usually carrying a few not-yet-fully-processed 
seeds inside. Wherever the bird happens to be an hour 
or so after consumption, there the remaining seeds come 
out. A given seed may be dropped on rich soil, where 
it takes hold and begins the long and uncertain march 
toward adulthood. Or it may perish before germinating, 
if insects or other seed-destroying predators attack it, or 
if it lands in the middle of a cleared pasture and desic- 

30 NATURAL HISTORY October 2010 



cates. Either way, the long-wattled umbrellabird plays a 
pivotal role in determining a seed's fate. 

f^t addition to eating the fruits of chapils and other 
Jfc« f trees (along with the odd lizard, frog, or insect), 
male long-wattled umbrellabirds have one overriding pre- 
occupation: sex. During the August-to-February mating 
season, groups of between five and fifteen males gather 
every morning and afternoon at special sites called leks, 
each of which typically covers about 4.5 acres. Most males 
stake out their own territories within a lek. Beginning 
in the predawn darkness, the males sit on their favored 
perches and bellow their moo calls out into the forest 
around them. As the day breaks, they begin to extend 
and retract their crests. They ruffle the feathers on their 
wattles and bob them up and down. They spread their 
wings out in a vulture-like pose and make a strange gur- 
gling sound. They briskly beat their wings against their 




bodies, making a sound like the ears of a wet dog shaking 
its head dry. Sometimes they pull small branches off their 
perching trees and beat them against the limbs or trunk. 
They spend hours each morning and afternoon in such 
elaborate displays, often nearly falling off their branches 
from the exertion. 

Singin', dancin', lookin' fme . . . the males are, of 
course, trying to impress females! For their part, female 
umbrellabirds spend most of their time away from leks, 
and rarely intermingle with males. But each year, when it 
comes time for a female to reproduce, she visits the leks to 
find a sire for her offspring. Each male wants to convince 
every visiting female to copulate with him, and not with 
the guy down the hill. But females don't rush headlong 
into romance. They shop around, extensively. 

At first, a female may pass close to a lek ■without 
entering, listening to the different males sing. After 
a day or two of that, she may visit a male that sounds 
particularly good to her. She flies in silently and perches 
ten or fifteen yards away. When he notices her, he kicks 
his efforts into overdrive and begins an energetic se- 
quence of singing, head bobbing, wattle ruffling, wing 
spreading, and whatever else may occur to him. She 
sits on her perch, apparently absorbed in preening her 
feathers, but really all eyes and ears, as he fires up his 
one-man show. 

If she's making her first visit, she will invariably fly off 
after a few minutes, as quickly and quietly as she came. 
She will definitely drop in on many males, and perhaps 
several different leks, before picking a mate. Sometimes 
she'll return to the same lek for several consecutive days. 
Sooner or later, however, she settles on one male and 
begins to spend more time on his turf Whenever she is 
near, the male feels compelled to ruffle, fluff, gurgle, and 
moo, pulling out all the stops. 

Finally, the moment arrives, and she flies over and 
perches about a foot away from him. He slowly works 
his way toward her until he is by her side. He pauses. 
Crest flared and wattle ruffled to the max, he moos once 
or twice, maybe throwing in a gurgle for good measure. 
He then performs what my assistants refer to as "the deal- 
closer" — the umbrellabird equivalent of dimming the lights 
and putting on some Barry White. He vigorously sways 
his head away from the female and then back toward her, 
causing his wattle to swing up around her neck and come 
to rest on her back, like a feather boa. Her eyelids lower 
at such an intimate embrace, and he seizes the moment. 




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Female long-wattled umbrellabird, top two photographs, dodges 
defensive spines to pluck ripe fruits from a chontilla palm. Above: 
The female sports only a nominal wattle, and her head crest is 
tamer than that of the male. 



hovering up behind her on the wing to consummate 
their brief union. Although the courtship takes several 
days, the sexual act lasts just seconds. Before you can say 
"long-wattled umbrellabird," the male is back by her side 
and she jolts back to attention, preens a bit perhaps, and 
then flies away without a backward look. 

And that is the extent of their relationship. The female 
is now on her own. She flies back to her home area in the 
forest, sometimes a few miles away, and proceeds with the 
business of nesting. My team and I haven't been able to 
document whether she builds her nest before mating or 
after, or how long she can hold sperm before fertilizing 
her eggs. (Some female birds can store sperm for months 
before they use it.) Sometime after copulating, however, 
the female lays a single egg. She alone then incubates the 
egg; feeds, broods, and protects the chick until it leaves 



Ripe fruits hang from a chapil palm, far left. About an hour after 
a long-wattled umbrellabird eats a chapil fruit, it regurgitates 
the seed, middle left. Where seeds land, chapil seedlings may 
sprout, near left. 



October 20W natural history 



31 




Male umbre/Zabird takes flight, top. Above: A juvenile chapil palm 
grows in a remnant scrap of Choco rain forest: local people cleared 
the surrounding area to make way for agriculture. 

the nest; and continues to care for it until it can fend tor 
itself, a few months later. 

The male's life, conversely, remains centered on the 
lek. For several months of the year he spends most of his 
time there, leaving only to eat. He will never see the nest 
where his offspring is raised, and most likely wouldn't 
know his own son or daughter if they met beak to beak. 
Such deadbeat-dad behavior may not provide a good ex- 
ample of responsible parenting by human standards, but 
it is part and parcel ot the lek mating system as practiced 
by many bird species. 

Ayjfa « team and I hypothesized that the mating be- 
i^mJT havior of umbrellabirds might have important 
consequences for chapils and other plants whose fruits they 
disperse. Males, we thought, might bring a high propor- 
tion of the seeds they eat back to their lek sites. To test 
that idea, we trapped umbrellabirds of both sexes, attached 



lightweight, temporary radio transmitters to their tails, 
and released them unharmed. We then noted their loca- 
tions over the course of several months as they traveled in 
search of food or displayed at their leks. A few of the birds 
we held in aviaries and fed chapil fruits, recording how 
long it took them to regurgitate the seeds — that's how we 
arrived at the figure of one hour. Armed with those new 
data on movement patterns and seed-retention time, we 
were able to estimate where umbrellabirds of both sexes 
deposit the seeds they ingest. 

Sure enough, we determined that males deposit roughly 
half their seeds in the lek sites. Females, on the other hand, 
distribute their seeds more evenly throughout the forest. 
In other words, the different reproductive behaviors of 
males and females translate into different dispersal pat- 
terns. To address how that affects chapils, we compared 
the rate of survival to the seedling stage for seeds deposited 
within and outside leks. We found no difference in the 
probability of survival. That came as a bit of a surprise: 
we had anticipated that high seedling density in the leks, 
and the resultant competition, would be a disadvantage. 
That it was not suggests that, for reasons we could not 
determine, the leks may be unusually favorable sites for 
chapil seedlings relative to the forest at large. 

Working with Victoria L. Sork, a plant ecologist at 
the University of California, Los Angeles, my team and 
I are now using genetic markers to identify which adult 
trees the seeds arriving in umbrellabird leks came from. 
In addition to illuminating how umbrellabirds promote 
gene flo'w among chapil palms, that approach will tell us 
something about how forest fragmentation and defores- 
tation affect seed dispersal patterns. The challenges are 
great, but between our research and our efforts to involve 
local residents in conservation work, we hope to preserve 
the age-old pact between a palm and its conspicuously 
plumed dispersal agent. 



Jordan Karubian. 

whose research in 
behavioral ecol- 
ogy, evolution, 
and conservation 
focuses on tropi- 
cal birds, lived in 
Ecuador's Choco 
rain forest for 
four years, studying such imperiled species as umbrellabirds, banded 
ground-cuckoos, brown wood-rails, and macaws. He has also worked 
in Australia, with grasswrens and fairy-wrens. He conducted most of 
his work on the long-wattled umbrellabird while at the University of 
California, Los Angeles; recently he became an assistant professor of 
ecology and evolutionary biology at Tulane University in New Or- 
leans (http://karubian.tulane.edu/lab). Karubian works closely with 
his wife, Renata Duraes, who is also a tropical biologist. 



Web links related to this article can be found at 

■ wwwW.noturaiMistory(ii..ig.cotTi 




32 NATURAL HISTORY October 2010 



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THIS LAND BY ROBERT H. MOHLENBROCK 



Mickey Mitigates 

In exchange for land development, 
a Florida preserve takes shape. 



As a consequence of population 
growth and resource develop- 
ment, many wetlands that once ex- 
isted in the United States have been 
drained or otherwise destroyed. In 
the past half century, however, lo- 
cal, state, and national initiatives 
have sought to slow down the loss. 
Perhaps most notably, as written and 
amended in the 1970s, Section 404 of 
the Federal Water Pollution Control 
Act, commonly known as the Clean 
Water Act, has guided the protection 
of surviving wetlands, w^hich may not 
be altered or destroyed without a per- 
mit issued by the United States Army 
Corps of Engineers. To obtain a per- 
mit, a private or public owner must 
first show that impacts on wetlands 
have been avoided or minimized 
where possible. If some losses appear 




unavoidable, an owner 
may negotiate to "miti- 
gate" (offset) the effects by 
restoring or creating wet- 
land somewhere else. 

Often many small wet- 
land areas are created or 
restored in exchange for 
one large tract, but a suc- 
cessful initiative in central 
Florida took a different 
tack. During the 1980s, 
the Walt Disney World 
Company wanted to de- 
velop an additional 11,000 
acres — including about 600 acres of 
wetland — ^within its vast complex of 
land. Coincidentally, the 8,500-acre 
Walker Ranch, about fifteen miles 
south of Walt Disney World, was 
under consideration for residential 
development, to include up to 9,000 
homes, six golf courses, and a marina. 
Threatened and endangered species 
that lived on the ranch stood to lose. 
The Florida Audubon Society urged 
that, as a mitigation project, the ranch 
site be restored to its original natural 
conditions, including substantial wet- 
lands. In 1991 the Walt Disney World 
Company offered to undertake just 
such a project in exchange for its own 
development. All the required gov- 
ernment agencies signed on, and The 
Nature Conservancy was asked to 




Festooned with Spanish moss, a live oak grows in a mesic 
hammocli along with saw palmetto. 



develop a restoration plan and oversee 
its implementation. 

Walt Disney World spent nearly 
$45 million to purchase Walker 
Ranch and to pay for habitat resto- 
ration, including the re-creation of 
substantial wetlands, through the 
year 2012. At the end of 1992, the 
land was turned over to The Nature 
Conservancy. Ultimately, more than 
3,000 additional private and public 
acres were added to the tract, now 
known as The Nature Conservan- 
cy's Disney Wilderness Preserve. 

"The preserve property has a varied 

I past. From 1926 to 1979 it be- 
longed to the Candler Lumber Com- 
pany (Asa Candler also founded the 
Coca-Cola Company). Throughout 



CO 

en 
< 
X 



Wet prairie Blue maidencane 
and toothache grass create 
a dense cover along with 
bulrushes, spikerushes, and 
other sedges. Wax myrtle 
is the most common shrub, 
but bladderpod thrives in 
disturbed areas. Insect-trap- 
ping plants — hooded pitcher 



plants and two species of 
sundews — are present, 
along with such wildflowers 
as bogbutton, two kinds of 
meadowbeauties, narrow- 
leaved sunflower, rose pink, 
southeastern sneezeweed, 
tickseed, white-topped 
sedge, yellow hatpins, ten 



yellow-eyed grasses, and two 
yellow stargrasses. 

Mesic hammock Among the 
trees are American elm, cab- 
bage palm, live oak, pignut 
hickory, southern magnolia, 
and sugarberry. Small trees 
and shrubs include common 



persimmon, red mulberry, 
and saw palmetto, while 
vines (species of greenbrier 
and wild grape) are promi- 
nent in the understory. 

Floodplain marsh Bulrushes, 
maidencane, sawgrass, and 
spikerushes are common. 



34 



NATURAL HISTORY October 2010 



vTallatiassee 




that time local cypress 
trees were logged exten- 
sively for timber produc- 
tion, and into the 1940s 
many ot the pines were 
damaged or destroyed by 
tapping tor turpentine. 
Open-range ranching 
of "scrub cows" was 
practiced until Florida's 
fence law was passed in 
1949, after which more 
mtensive cattle ranching 
began to have a major 
impact on the land. To 
increase grazing acre- 
age, drainage ditches and 
canals were dug, which 
lowered the water table 
significantly — a trend 
that reached its culmi- 
nation under Walker 
ownership after 1979. 
Nevertheless, the tract 
still harbored much na- 
tive wildlife and many remnants of 
its original plant communities. 

Today, the eighteen-year-old pre- 
serve is already a showcase for the 
results of knowledgeable restoration 
and management practices. There are 
now good examples of a whole host 
of habitats. One is mesic (moist) flat- 
woods, also known in Florida as pine 
flatwoods or pine savanna, where 
widely spaced longleaf pine trees and 




a scattering of slash pine trees form 
an open canopy above a continuous 
ground cover of grasses, wildflowers, 
and shrubs. That habitat's flat terrain 
is usually poorly drained because a 
hardpan of clay underlies the acidic, 
sandy soil. At slightly higher eleva- 
tions, where a substrate of white sand 
permits rapid drainage, is an oak 
scrub with several species of dwarf, 
evergreen oaks. In between is a tran- 
sitional zone, scrubby flatwoods, 
with both pine and oak. 

The approximately 4,000 acres of 
wetlands, featured in the habitats list- 
ed below, include wet prairie, a flat, 
treeless habitat with relatively poorly 
drained soil that is a mixture of fine 
sand and organic matter. Occurring 
wherever the land dips slightly below 
the elevation of the flatwoods — in 
depressions and around the rims of 
marshes and swamps — wet prairie 
is inundated for two to five months 
each year, yet can become quite dry 
during the rain-poor winter. 

Mesic hammock, whose occasion- 
ally inundated, poorly drained soil 
consists of fine sands with some or- 
ganic content, supports a fairly closed 
canopy of live oak and other trees. 
Floodplain marsh, found adjacent to 
streams, has primarily sandy alluvial 
soils that are frequently inundated by 
river flooding. Floodplain swamp, 
however, is flooded to varying depths 
for most of the year. Found along the 
edges of Lake Russell, as well as along 
stream channels, it supports cypress 
and other water-tolerant trees. Bay- 
head — a densely forested, fire-resis- 
tant community dominated by several 
species of bay trees — occurs in peat- 
filled depressions. 

The diverse habitats are fa- 



[Orlando 

Orlando 

International 

Airport 

528/ 




II3TI Lake \ ^"^^ 
,--( The Nature! Tohopekaliga 
'iO Conservancy's /J7> 

jsii Disney Wilderness V n 





VISITOR INFORMATION 
The Nature Conservancy's 
Disney Wilderness Preserve '. 

2700 Scrub Jay Trail 
Kissimmee, FL 34759 
407-935-0002 

www.nature.orgMherewework/ ;, 
northamerlca/states/florida/ .. 

preserves/art 5523. htm I 

vored by protected species of birds 
and other animals. Among them 
are bald eagles (mesic flatwoods), 
Florida scrub jays (oak scrub), wood 
storks (floodplain swamp), and go- 
pher tortoises (scrubby flatwoods). 
Visitors can start their tour at the 
Conservation Learning Center — 
headquarters for both public informa- 
tion and conservation research — and 
then venture forth on a hiking trail. 
Covering a 2.2-mile loop, the trail 
offers a close look at the preserve's 
natural communities of plants and an- 
imals. Or one can take the trail just as 
far as Lake Russell, a one-mile round 
trip to view one of the last remaining 
pristine lakes in central Florida. 

Robert H. Mohlenbrock is a distin- 
guished professor emeritus of plant biology at 
Soutliern Illinois University Carhondale. 



Two kinds of arrowheads, 
dotted smartweed, lanceleaf 
primrose-willow, pickerel- 
weed, and a tickseed are 
present in shallow depres- 
sions. Buttonbush is a com- 
mon woody plant. 

Floodplain swamp Bald cy- 



press and swamp tupelo are 
the larger trees; shorter trees 
and shrubs include dahoon 
holly and wax myrtle. Laurel 
greenbrier is a common vine. 
Arrow arum, two arrowhead 
species, lizard's-tail, and soft 
rush abound along with cin- 
namon fern, giant leather 



fern, marsh fern, royal fern, 
and swamp fern. 

Bayhead Loblolly bay, sweet- 
bay, and swamp bay are 
characteristic trees, but pond 
cypress, swamp tupelo, and 
sweetgum are also pres- 
ent. Shrubs include dahoon 



holly, fetterbush, maleberry, 
swamp doghobble, wax 
myrtle, red chokeberry, and 
Virginia sweetspire. Laurel 
greenbrier and poison ivy are 
common. Among the ferns 
are cinnamon fern, netted 
chain fern, Virginia chain fern, 
and swamp fern. 



October 2010 NATUR.M HISTORY 35 



BOOKSHELF BY LAURENCE A. MARSCHALL 




From Eternity to Here 

The Quest for the Ultimate 
Theory of Time 

by Sean Carroll 
Dutton, 2010; 
448 pages, $26.95 



t seems obvious that I could not 
have written my impressions of 
this book before reading it, but to 
astrophysicist Sean Carroll, of the 
California Institute of Technology 
in Pasadena, there's something pro- 
foundly strange about that. Why, 
he asks, can we move in any direc- 
tion in space, whereas time only 
shuttles us from the past into the 
future? The key to understanding 
time's one-way arrow, according 
to Carroll, is the second law of 
thermodynamics, which insists that 
entropy, a measure of disorder in a 
complex system of objects, inexo- 
rably increases with time. Put more 
succinctly: you can't unscramble an 
egg, even though there's no law of 
physics prohibiting each atom in 
the scramble from spontaneously 
returning to its proper place in the 
shell. It's just supremely unlikely. 
Paradoxically, when you look at 
a single particle, time actually is re- 
versible, for all intents and purposes. 
Imagine a billiard ball caroming off 
the side of a pool table: you couldn't 
tell whether a fdm of the collision 
is playing forward or backward. 
Clearly, the same is not true for 
complex systems. A film of a cue 
ball breaking a formation of fifteen 
colored balls is readily distinguish- 
able from the reverse: fifteen colored 
balls assembling into a perfect tri- 
angle and spitting a single white one 
out of their apex. While the latter 



scenario is physically possible, it is 
vanishingly improbable — there are a 
gazillion ways a cue could break the 
colored balls, but only one arrange- 
ment of the velocities ot the colored 
balls that could bring them to a 
stop in triangle formation. Time, in 
other words, flows in the direction 
of maximum statistical likelihood. 

Recognizing the second law in 
action, however, is just the begin- 
ning of understanding time, which 
is why Carroll has written more 
than 400 pages on the subject. Since 
the entropy of the universe has been 
increasing for more than 14 billion 
years, it must have been in an ex- 
quisitely uniform — some astrophysi- 
cists would say "orderly" — state at 
the time of the big bang. But ho\v 
could that be, Carroll asks, if, at 
the atomic level at least, time can 
roll backward just as easily as it can 
roll forward? And where is all the 
entropy leading? Will the universe 
continue to become more and more 
diffuse and disordered until the stars 
all burn out, the galaxies dissipate, 
and the whole thing becomes cold 
and lifeless? 

The simple answer to all those 
questions is that we don't know for 
sure. But Carroll is not one for sim- 
ple answers. He examines his sub- 
ject from a variety of viewpoints, 
writing clearly and expressively 
about the temporal implications 
of black holes, time machines, and 
theories of the expanding universe. 
He quotes liberally from such liter- 
ary lights as Marcel Proust, T.S. 
Eliot, and the playwright Tom 
Stoppard. But despite its avoidance 
of equations. From Eternity to Here is 
not a book for the mathematically 
faint of heart. It presupposes a pa- 
tient reader who is willing and able 
to follow some pretty complex log- 
ical and philosophical arguments. 
Still, it is one of the most lucid 
popular overviews of modern theo- 
retical cosmology that I have read 
in recent years. And though you 
may not come away from it know- 



ing exactly why you read the book 
from start to finish rather than the 
other way around, you will doubt- 
less regard the experience as time 
well spent. 







Fireflies, Honey, 
and Silk 

by Gilbert Waldbauer 
Illustrations by James Nardi 
University of California Press, 2009; 
233 pages, $25.95 



Hang up that flyswatter, cap that 
roach spray, and join Gilbert 
Waldbauer as he explores the lives 
of insects worthy of our apprecia- 
tion. It's a journey that takes the 
reader far beyond the domain ot 
crickets on the hearth and but- 
terflies in the garden. Our guide, 
an emeritus professor of entomol- 
ogy at the University of Illinois 
at Urbana-Champaign, is abuzz 
with obscure lore about a host of 
bugs that are as accommodating to 
humans as bedbugs, fleas, and mos- 
quitoes are annoying. 

There's a chapter, for instance, on 
insects as jewelry. Did you know that 
fashion-conscious Victorian ladies 
used to tether live iridescent bugs 
to their dresses with delicate gold 
chains? In some quarters such beetle- 
mania is still in vogue — Waldbauer 
spotted a large, leashed insect resem- 
bling an Egyptian scarab crawling 
across the chest of a fellow traveler 
on a flight from Mexico. Since ag- 
ricultural inspectors are notorious 
bug spoilsports, as any entomolo- 
gist returning from abroad with a 
suitcase full of specimens can testify, 
Waldbauer doubts that the animated 
jewelry made it through customs. 



36 NATURAL HISTORY October 20W 



Although it is rather unusual to 
stick insects on our clothes, it is 
not at all strange to stick them in 
our mouths. In modern Japan, fried 
rice-field grasshoppers, called iiiago, 
are a popular snack. Thai diners 
relish matigda, giant water bugs that 
reputedly taste a bit like gorgonzola 
cheese when served fresh out of 
the steamer. And I can personally 
recommend escainoles, the pupae of 
ants fried with onions and garlic, 
which I recently enjoyed at a high- 
class restaurant in Mexico City. 
(Fittingly, if memory serves, my 
waiter niay even have been wearing 
a silk cummerbund- — with fibers 
produced by the larvae of another 
obliging insect, the silk moth, 
Bombyx mori.) 

Europeans and Americans still 
find insects a bit hard to stomach, 
but few people don't enjoy hon- 
ey — which can be procured not 
only from bees, Waldbauer tells 
us, but also from so-called honey- 
pot ants. Specialized worker ants 
take in plant nectar and honeydew 
(aphids' sweet excreta), regurgi- 
tated by forager ants, until their 
own abdomens become grossly 
distended. Immobilized, hundreds 
of them hang like water balloons 
about to burst in the colony's 
underground nest, serving as a 
food reserve. Before the advent of 
high fructose corn syrup, Native 
Americans in the Southwest used 
to dig the ants up to sweeten their 
diets, and some Australian aborigi- 
nes still do. 

Even insects we find repulsive 
can serve us well. Take maggots, 
the larval form of various species of 
flies. In 2004 physicians worldwide 
used more than 30,000 vials of them 
to assist in removing necrotic tis- 
sue from wounds. The maggots, it 
seems, do a much cleaner job than 
the surgeon's knife can, a talent that 
is especially important as bacteria 
become increasingly resistant to an- 
tibiotics. So for a few people in dire 
straits, insects save lives. And for 



all of us, as Waldbauer makes clear, 
insects can make life easier, sweeter, 
and more enjoyable. 




The Collector: 

David Douglas and the Natu 
History of tiie Nortiiwest '*■ 

by Jack Nisbet ^ 

Sasquatch Books, 2009; 
290 pages, $23.95 , 



n 1 825, ten years before the fabled 

visit of the Beagle, a Hudson's Bay 
Company supply ship sailed into the 
Galapagos archipelago, en route to 
the Pacific Northwest. Aboard was 
the young Scottish naturalist David 
Douglas, who was employed by the 
London Horticultural Society to 
collect samples of interesting plants 
for their burgeoning collection. 
During three landings on the islands, 
Douglas collected 45 birds and 175 
plants, most of them previously un- 
classified by science. The Galapagos, 
which were to be the high point 
of Charles Darwin's field experi- 
ence, were only passing landmarks 
in Douglas's career, in part because 
rainy weather on the next stage of 
the voyage rotted almost all of the 
young collector's specimens. 

What followed, however, is one 
of the classic natural history adven- 
tures of the nineteenth century. For 
most of the next decade, Douglas 
made his home primarily along the 
Columbia River and its tributar- 
ies — insofar as it can be said that he 
had a home. He seized every op- 
portunity to explore nevi^ territory, 
forging deep into what is now west- 
ern and central Canada and down 
the coast, by sea, as far as Monterey, 
California (which was then still part 



of Mexico). Everywhere he roamed 
he filled his journals with notes and 
his collecting bags with skins, seeds, 
and live plants. Just two years after 
his arrival in the region, he estimat- 
ed that he had already traveled 7,032 
miles by foot, horseback, and canoe. 

He suffered near starvation, thirst, 
fever, and narrow escapes from 
poisonous snakes and from angry 
Indians (though more were friendly). 
His journals provide lively source 
material for historian and nature 
writer Jack Nisbet. Although not 
the first book to detail Douglas's life, 
Nisbet's travelogue both provokes 
and satisfies readers, like me, who 
envy the botanist for his wilderness 
adventures long before the age of 
road building. 

Today, botanists know Douglas 
from the plants he collected, many of 
them flagged by the Linnaean species 
designation douglasii. To the rest of 
us, he has, like the hero Cyparissus 
in Greek myth, turned into a tree: 
Douglas fir {Pseiidotsiiga memiesii), 
one of the building industry's prime 
timber sources and a mainstay of the 
Pacific Northwest economy. 

Had Douglas lived longer, we 
might remember him as the preemi- 
nent botanical collector of his era. 
Instead, his death at age thirty-five, 
on the big island of Hawaii in July 
1834, adds a final mystique to his ac- 
complishments and travails. A feral 
bull fatally gored him in a pittall 
trap set by a local hunter. Did he 
slip on the muddy volcanic soil, or 
was he pushed in a robbery attempt? 
Wisely, biographer Nisbet doesn't 
spend much time on idle specula- 
tion. The uncommon life of David 
Douglas, not his untimely death, is 
what makes this book such a pleasure 
to read. 

Laurence A. Marschall is VV.K.T. 
Sahm Professor of Physics at Gettysbura 
College ill Pennsylvania and coauthor, 
with Stephen P. Maran, oj Pluto 
Confidential: An Insider Account of 
the Ongoing Battles over the Status 
of Pluto (BcnBella Books, 2009). 



October 2010 natural history 37 



WORD EXCHANGE 



Continued front page 6 

effects — also great — might be more 

likely to prove adaptive. Why so? 

Richard A. Morgan 

Berkeley, California 

Druin Burch replies: I would ar- 
gue that any large genetic change 
is far more likely to do harm than 
good. Thus we often find single- 
gene mutations that are responsible 
for human diseases, but we've been 
poor at finding ones responsible for 
human successes (such as spectacu- 
lar physical or mental capacities). 
When it comes to viral invasion, 
the chance of viral genetic mate- 
rial doing more good than harm 
is remote. But a constellation ot 
viral genes will already have been 
adapted to serve a particular func- 
tion, so that remote chance of good 
is probably higher than that of ran- 
dom mutations previously subject 
to no selective pressures. I can't 
think of a practical experiment to 
test that assertion, but I find it sug- 
gestive all the same. 

Small, 
Medium, 
or Large? 
I read "Ghost 
of Predation 
Past" [in 
"Samplings," 
11/09] with 
interest. How- 
ever, I do not 

see how the experiment described 
proved anything other than that 
marmots are capable of distinguish- 
ing between large, medium, and 
small canid predators — and reacting 
appropriately to the larger, more 
dangerous predator. Did Daniel T. 
Blumstein and colleagues try show- 
ing the marmots pictures of a fox- 
size fox, a coyote-size fox, and a 
wolf-size fox? Large, medium, and 
small wolves? Until they can dem- 
onstrate that marmots react to the 
wolf in the image, and not just to 
the size of the predator, they have 




not proved that the marmots are 

"recognizing" wolves. 

Anna Runnings 

Qnaliaini Beach, British Cohimbia 

Daniel T. Blumstein replies: This 
is an excellent question, and I refer 
readers to the original article that 
details the experiment (available 
on my Web site, www.eeb.ucla.edu/ 
Faculty/Blumstein). The short answer 
is no, we did not present all possible 
stimuli. Why? Because the trials are 
difficult to carry out and because the 
animals ultimately habituate to re- 
peated presentations — always a prob- 
lem in such experiments. 

Nonetheless, if size alone were the 
issue, we would have expected the 
marmots to respond more strongly to 
the nonpredatory African antelope 
than to the fox. We did not find that 
to be so. Moreover, the wolf and 
the mountain lion we showed to the 
marmots were of similar size, but the 
marmots reacted quite differently 
to them. After seeing the moun- 
tain lion, marmots engaged in high 
vigilance, and one of them alarm- 
called — a good strategy against that 
kind of stealthy predator. After seeing 
the wolf, marmots fled — probably 
the best response to such a predator, 
which hunts in groups. 

The bigger question is whether 
the presence of predators helps a prey 
species maintain its ability to react to 
extirpated predators. Ours is one of 
several studies — examining different 
taxa and using different methods — 
that show that the answer is yes. The 
finding has implications for wildlife 
conservation; it may work better to 
restore long-absent predators near 
prey populations that have ongoing 
exposure to similar predators than 
near insular, "clueless" prey popula- 
tions that cannot hold their own. 

Earth to Mars 

In his "Skylog" column [12/09- 
1/10], Joe Rao indicated that Mars 
and Earth would be 61,720,695 miles 
apart at 2:01 p.m. eastern standard 



time on January 27, 2010. I was won- 
dering what points on the planets 
that measurement reflects. Is it from 
their centers? Or is it taken from 
their nearest surfaces? If the latter, 
does it factor in surface variations, 
such as mountains, and their exact 
position at that precise moment in 
time? 

Keith A. Hirt 
Elhcott City, Maryland 

Joe Rao replies: The Mars-to-Earth 
distance was calculated using the 
United States Naval Observatory's 
Multiyear Interactive Computer 
Almanac (MICA). The value is based 
on the distance from the center of 
one planet to the other. The distance 
from surface to surface would be 
nearly the same, on average 6,074 
miles less. As Keith A. Hirt suggests, 
however, the topography of the plan- 
ets would add an extra complication. 

Beware the Ides 

In "The Search 
for Evidence of 
Mass Extinction" 
[9/09], authors 
Scott Lidgard, 
Peter J. Wagner, 
and Matthew A. j 
Kosnik refer to 
"sulfide-reducing 
bacteria." In fact, a sulfide already 
represents a fully reduced (unoxi- 
dized) state. Instead there are sulfate- 
reducing bacteria, which reduce oxy- 
gen-containing sulfates to oxygen- 
free sulfides. Permian period sulfate- 
reducers took the plentiful dissolved 
marine sulfate and transformed it (via 
reduction) into the hydrogen sulfide 
gas that was a significant component 
of late Permian oceans. 
Dan Dorritie 
Sacramento, California 

Natural History welcomes correspon- 
dence from readers. Letters should he sent via 
e-mail to nhmag@naturalhistorymag.com. 
All letters should include a daytime telephone 
number, and all letters may be edited for 
length and clarity. 




38 NATURAL HISTORY October 20W 



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LIFE ZONE 

Continued from page f9 
heaps and hordes of ants being intro- 
duced everywhere. 

F HUNDREDS OF ANT SPECIES are being 
intercepted by U.S. Department of 
Agriculture agents checking just a 
handful of plants, how many more 
might be getting in? The answer is al- 
most certainly thousands, being put to 
the viability test wherever they land. 
One hundred fifteen species of ants 
have been captured en route to New 
Zealand. Seventy-six species have cast 
up on the shores of the Netherlands, 
less than a quarter of them the same 
species that turned up in New Zea- 
land. A new invasive species was re- 
cently detected in Te.xas; even though 
it infests much of the state, it has not 
yet been formally named (unoffi- 
cially it's called the "Rasberry crazy 
ant" — Rasberry for its discoverers last 
name and crazy for its seemingly er- 
ratic crawling). Columbia University 
students discovered that a nonnative 
ant that has never been studied outside 
Japan is now the most common spe- 
cies on Manhattan Island. 

Here is my own take, based on the 
contents of Suarez's jars. Some ants 
fit nowhere. Some fit everywhere. 
We are, with our sloppy shipping, 
sampling the world of species for the 
toughest, the most fertile and durable. 
They (and other invasive species) will 
be the progenitors of the next dy- 
nasty. Local species, including people, 
must compete with invasive species 
for resources. If we had chosen con- 
sciously, we might have chosen to pit 
our native flora and fauna against the 
weakest invaders, but it is the stron- 
gest Ave have spread instead. And they 
keep coming, ringing in, queen by 
queen, the new empire. They begin 
weak, but they shall inherit the Earth. 
By most measures, they already have. 

Robert R. Dunn is an ecohgist in tlie De- 
partment of Biology at North Carolina State 
University in Raleigh. His first book, Every 
Living Thing: Man's Obsessive Quest to 
Catalog Life, from Nanobacteria to New 
Monkeys, was recently published by Smith- 
sonian Books /HarperCollins. 



40 NATURAL HISTORY October 2010 



CURIOSITY? 

Did dinosaur meat taste like chicken? Is invisibility possible? 

Do you find yourself searching tidal pools for life forms? Do you 

experience heart palpitations when you spot a Pileated woodpecker? 

You have chronic curiosity. Since 19OO, miillions of people — 
just like you — have found temporary relief by taking Natural History . 






-Beulah Henderson 

Fairfield, Maine 



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SKYLOG BY JOE RAO 



"The brilliant constellation Orion lies 

I on the celestial equator (Earth's 
equator projected onto the heavens), 
and so is visible — at one time of year 
or another — from every inhabited 
part of the globe. For viewers in 
northern latitudes, it dominates the 
winter sky. In i^iany ancient cultures 
the constellation was associated 
with heroes or demigods. Among 
Europeans, Orion is the Great 
Hunter or Celestial Warrior. He is 
traditionally pictured in the stars 
with his club raised in his right hand 
and, hanging from his upraised left 
hand, the skin of a great lion that 
he has killed. Yet in contrast to such 
Greek mythical heroes as Hercules, 
who was credited with a detailed 
series of exploits, Orion is a vague 
and shadowy figure. Even the origin 
of his name is obscure. 

The constellation, however, is 
perfectly clear, instantly recogniz- 
able from the row of three bright 
stars defining Orion's belt. Two 
other stand-outs are the stars Rigel, 
in the imagined figure's left leg, 
and Betelgeuse, marking the right 
shoulder. The two represent dif- 
ferent periods in a star's existence. 
Bluish Rigel, estimated to lie 770 
light-years away from us, is a blazing 
hot supergiant, about seventy times 
the diameter of the Sun and shining 
roughly 57,000 times as brightly. 



It is reaching the prime 
of what will be a rela- 
tively short life of only 
a few million years (by 
comparison, the Sun is 
about 5 billion years old 
and should last another 
5 billion). In contrast, 
reddish Betelgeuse, some 
520 light-years away, is 
an irregularly pulsating 
supergiant, nearing the 
end of its expected life 
span of less than 10 mil- 
lion years. It expands and 
contracts spasmodically, 
varying within the space of five or 
six years between 550 and 920 times 
the diameter of our Sun and shining 
about 85,000 times brighter. 

"The constellation also contains the 

I Orion Nebula, a region of space 
where star formation is underway. 
To the naked eye it appears to be 
the centermost of the three stars that 
are envisioned as the Great Hunter's 
sword, hanging from his belt. But a 
telescope will reveal the dim, diffuse 
spot as a fan-shaped greenish cloud 
of stars and interstellar gas. Edward 
Emerson Barnard (1857-1923), for 
many years an astronomer at Yerkes 
Observatory in Williams Bay, 
Wisconsin, once remarked that it 
reminded him of a great ghostly bat. 




Orion Nebula (composite view of visible, ultraviolet, 
and infrared light) 



The nebula, which lies 1,344 
light-years away, is about 30 light- 
years in diameter, or more than 
20,000 times the diameter of the 
entire solar system. Its total mass 
(excluding stars) is 10,000 times 
that of the Sun, yet because it is so 
spread out, its density is less than 
a millionth that of the best labora- 
tory vacuum. The Orion Nebula 
is largely visible to us through its 
fluorescence: high-temperature stars 
entangled within it emit strong ul- 
traviolet radiation that triggers a sort 
of auroral glow. 

Joe Rao is a broadcast meteorologist and 
an associate and lecturer at the Hayden 
Planetarium in New York City 
(www. haydenplanetarium.org/ 



NOVEMBER NIGHTS OUT 

3 Venus has lately been masked by sun- 
light, having gone through inferior con- 
junction (passed between the Sun and 
Earth) on October 28. Today you might 
spot its reappearance as the Morning 
Star, rising a half hour before the Sun. 
Viewed through a telescope, the planet 
shows itself as a wire-thin crescent. By 
the end of the month, Venus will be rising 
three hours before sunup. 

4 Saturn rises due east, two and a half 
hours before the Sun. Rising about 10 
degrees below and to the planet's right is 
the slender crescent of the waning Moon. 
Distinguishable through a telescope, 
Saturn's rings present their lighted north- 
ern face to Earth. During the month they 



increase their tilt toward us from 8.1 de- 
grees to 9.3 degrees from edgewise. 

6 The Moon is new at 12:52 a.m. eastern 
daylight time. 

7 Clocks "fall back" one hour at 2:00 a.m. 
daylight saving time, making it 1:00 a.m. 
standard time. At dusk Mars may be 
spotted very low in the southwest, within 
2 degrees above and to the right of the 
day-old crescent Moon. If the sky is at all 
hazy, you may need binoculars to see it. 
Two nights from now the planet will ap- 
pear 4 degrees to the upper right of the 
star Antares, which has a similar reddish 
hue. Later in the month Mars is lost in 
bright twilight. 

13 The Moon waxes to first quarter at 



11 :38 a.m. eastern standard time (EST). 

16 Jupiter is unmistakable as the bright- 
est point in the evening sky. By about 
7 P.M. local standard time, it's high in the 
south, and it does not set in the west 
until after midnight. The Moon rides high 
above and to the planet's left. 

18 The Leonid Meteors peak this morn- 
ing. They are so named because they 
appear to radiate from a point within the 
constellation of Leo, the Lion, which is 
high toward the southeast at dawn. It's 
unlikely that more than a dozen meteors 
per hour will be seen this year. 

21 The Moon is full at 12:27 p.m. EST 

28 The Moon wanes to last quarter at 
3:36 P.M. EST. 



42 



NATURAL HISTORY October 20 W 




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Around th 

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CALIFORNIA 


r 


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■■n»« 




Mesa 


Los Angeles 




'~ '^SS/K^^^K§, < 


«:,-«i^« 


m^^w' 




Arizona Museum of 


Natural History Museum 




T^^^^.., 


m. " M 




Natural Hisxory 
Ongoing: "Therizinosaur: 


OF Los Angeles County 
Through November 7: 




^. ^^^H ^^H^SSi 




^^K. ^y^ 






Pfas^^ m 


wm0' 


D*^ 




The Mystery of the Sickle 


"Spider Pavilion." See 


' -|H||^ -' 




SIS? _ 


Clawed Dinosaur." 


spiders spinning webs. 


IB' 


ttn^lVA 


Travel back to the Creta- 


interacting with their en- 


<^^ ^..-/ 


wmU^. 


ceous period, a time when 
the Western Interior Seaway 


vironment, and feeding on 
their prey in the first public 


/ * 




i/isitors can wear dolphin hats or fish costumes, and dance to Brazilian 


covered much of North 


spider-viewing center of 


music, in the "Amazon Voyage" exhibition, now at the Denver Museum 


America and was filled with 


its kind in the U.S. Gallery 


Df Nature and Science. 




fishes, sharks, sea turtles, 


interpreters lead visitors on 






giant marine reptiles . . . 


tours through the museum's 






and a land-based dino- 


greenhouse and explain 


COLORADO 


volcanic eruptions, and as- 


saur? See real fossils from 


habitats and behaviors of 


Denver 


teroid collisions. Discover 


the sickle-clawed dinosaur 


the exhibition's inhabitants. 


Denver Museum of 


how the planet's rocky sur- 


called Nothronychus, from 


which include golden silk 


Nature and Science 


face — on land and under 


the Therizinosaur family. 


spiders, spiny-backed orb 


Through January 2, 2011: 


the oceans — interacts with 


that was found in an ancient 


weavers, and other local and 


'Amazon Voyage: Vicious 


the atmosphere and waters 


marine bed; put together a 


exotic species. 


Fishes and Other Riches." 


to create Earth's livable cli- 


puzzle of its skeleton; and 


Exposition Park 


ixamine the teeth of the 


mate. From the museum's 


discover what scientists 


900 Exposition Boulevard 


world's largest piranha 


vast collections, see rare 


think the animal was doing 


213-763-DINO 


(now extinct), test a zap as 


gems as well as minerals 


60 miles out to sea. 


www.nhm.org® 


strong as an electric eel's, or 


with unusual properties 


53 North Macdonald 




discover the mythical, un- 


such as vivid colors, fluo- 


480-644-2230 


San Diego 


derwater world of pink dol- 


rescence, magnetism, and 


www.azmnh.org 


San Diego Natural 


phins, called Encante, in this 


radioactivity. 




History Museum 


exhibition that explores the 


Yale University 


Phoenix 


Ongoing: "Fossil Mysteries." 


biodiversity of South Amer- 


170 Whitney Avenue 


Arizona Science Center 


Dioramas, fossils, mod- 


ica's Amazon River region. 


203-432-5050 


Ongoing: "Forces of Nature." 


els, murals, and plenty of 


Climb aboard a riverboat. 


www.peabody.yale.edu ® 


Explore — and even ex- 


hands-on activities tell the 


see freshwater stingrays, try 




perience — some of the 


changing story of the biore- 


doing what scientists do in 


FLORIDA 


raw power generated by a 


gion encompassing south- 


the field, and much more. 


Gainesville 


dynamic Earth, including 


ern California and Baja 


2001 Colorado Boulevard 


Florida Museum of 


phenomena such as earth- 


California in this exhibition 


800-925-2250 


Natural History 


quakes, hurricanes, torna- 


spanning 75 million years 


www.dmns.org ® 


Through January 11, 2011: 


does, volcanic eruptions, 


of history. Examine fos- 




"CSI: Crime Scene Insects." 


and wildfires. An "Immer- 


sil clues — just as scientists 


CONNECTICUT 


An exploration of forensic 


sion Theater" puts you in 


do — to answer questions 


New Haven 


entomology, this exhibition 


the center of the action, and 


about plants and animals 


Peabody Museum of 


shows how investigators use 


hands-on exhibits help ex- 


(including dinosaurs and 


Natural History 


beetles, flies and their mag- 


plain the underlying causal 


mastodons), changing envi- 


Ongoing: "Hall of Minerals, 


gots, and other insects to 


phenomena of plate tecton- 


ronments, evolution, extinc- 


Earth, and Space." This 


determine key facts about a 


ics, ocean currents, wind 


tion, and more. 


geological exhibition ex- 


crime, such as the time of 


patterns, and more. 


Balboa Park 


plores the birth of the solar 


a death. Real-life case stud- 


600 East Washington Street 


1788EIPrado 


system and the forces that 


ies, field equipment, and 


602-716-2000 


619-232-3821 


shaped the Earth's early 


live insects are featured, 


www.azscience.org ® 


www.sdnhm.org (?) 


geology: earthquakes, 


and visitors have the oppor- 



44 NATURAL HISTORY October 20^Q 



tunity to try their hand at 

solving crimes. 

University of Florida 

Cultural Plaza 

SW 34th Street and Hull Road 

352-846-2000 

www.flnnnh.ufl.edu (?) 

Tampa 

Museum of Science and 
Industry (MOSI) Ongoing: 
"Disasterville." Hold on 
tight in this new permanent 
installation that vividly 
simulates floods, hurri- 
canes, tornadoes, wildfires, 
and other natural disasters 
in the unfortunate town of 
Disasterville. The interac- 
tive exhibition explains the 
science behind each threat, 
as well as constructive steps 
you can take to prepare your 
own home for nature's fury. 
The WeatherQuest area 
provides an innovative role- 
playing experience, in which 
teams form TV news crews 
that investigate and report 
on the crises as they unfold. 
4801 East Fowler Avenue 
813-987-6100 
www.mosi.org (J) 

GEORGIA 
Atlanta 

Fernbank Museum of 
Natural History 
Opening October 2: 
"Water: H20=Life." Explore 
this essential substance in an 
exhibition full of hands-on 
activities, interesting arti- 




A life-size model of a colossal squid, the world's largest invertebrate with the world's largest eyeball 
is featured in the "Creatures of the Abyss" exhibition, now at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. 



facts, living animals, and 
captivating images — and 
discover its often-surprising 
but pervasive importance in 
the world around you. From 
its role in shaping landscapes 
and climate to its use in agri- 
culture, the show documents 
water's history and influence 
on culture across the globe, 
including the challenges of 
maintaining healthy eco- 
systems and providing safe 
drinking water. 
767 Clifton Road NE 
404-929-6300 
www.fernbankmuseum.org 

HAWAII 
Honolulu 
Bishop Museum 
Through January 9, 2011: 
"Creatures of the Abyss." 
Dive into the deep-ocean 
depths in this new ex- 



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around the world. 
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hibition that reveals the 
surprising landscapes and 
inhabitants found beneath 
the surface of the seas. See 
the glowing lights made by 
bioluminescent creatures, 
discover how strong water 
pressure can be at different 
depths, take a virtual tour 
of a deep-sea hydrothermal 
vent where unusual ani- 
mals thrive in superheated 
water — and try not to get 
tangled up in the tentacles 
of a 26 -foot colossal squid. 
1525 Bernice Street 
808-847-3511 
www.bishopmuseum.org ® 

ILLINOIS 
Chicago 

The Field Museum 
Opening October 22: 
"Gold." Some of the world's 
largest and most spectacular 
gold nuggets are on display 
in this exhibition, along 
with cultural artifacts such 
as gold records, Oscar and 
Emmy statuettes, and a 
Kentucky Derby trophy. 
The show also illustrates 
historical and current pro- 
cesses of prospecting, min- 
ing, and refining. Brilliant 
gold objects document the 
various ways people have 



valued and used gold — in 

art, culture, fashion, and 

religion — across continents 

and through time. 

1400 South Lake Shore Drive 

312-922-9410 

www.fieldmuseum.org (S) 

MASSACHUSETTS 
Cambridge 
Harvard Museum of 
Natural History 
Ongoing: "Language of 
Color." Find out what bold 
zebra stripes, bright but- 
terfly wings, and iridescent 
beetle wings are saying in 
this dazzling new exhibition 
of real animal specimens, 
video presentations, hands- 
on activities, and interac- 
tive exhibits. Discover how 
different animals' bodies 
produce the rainbow of hues 
found in nature and the var- 
ied ways their eyes perceive 
color. Find out how color 
is used to conceal or com- 
municate in this interactive 
show that lets you experi- 
ence colors as other animals 
do, including parts of the 
spectrum that are normally 
imperceptible to humans. 
26 Oxford Street 
617-495-3045 
www.hmnh.harvard.edu ® 



October 2010 NATUR.^L HISTORY 45 



46 



MISSOURI 


NEW YORK 


the museum's eco-friendly 


designers, and scientists use 




Saint Louis 


Buffalo 


features, from the "green" 


similar skills in their work. 




Saint Louis Science Center 


Buffalo Museum of Science 


roofs to the waste and water 


433 West Murray Avenue 




Ongoing: "Ecology & 


Ongoing: "Whem Ankh: 


recycling systems, plus ideas 


919-220-5429 




Environment." This com- 


The Circle of Life in An- 


for how you can apply these 


www.ncmls.org ® 




prehensive exhibition 


cient Egypt." Learn about 


technologies at home. The 






explores the relationships 


daily life as it was lived, in 


new facility is the first mu- 


Raleigh 




of living things with one 


rhythm with the seasons. 


seum in New York State to 


North Carolina Museum 




another and with the places 


on the banks of the lower 


be certified by the Leader- 


of Natural Sciences 




they inhabit. See a T. rex 


Nile River 2,300 years ago. , 


ship in Energy and Envi- 


Opening October 2: 




prepare to take down its 


Meet the mummies of Nes- 


ronmental Design (LEED) 


"Animal Grossology." 




dinner, an unlucky tricer- 


hor and Nes-min, who were 


program of the U.S. Green 


Based on a popular chil- 




atops; feel the Earth move 


priests of the Egyptian 


Building Council. 


dren's book, this exhibition's 




beneath your feet; find out 


fertility god Min. Find out 


45 Museum Drive 


interactive stations and 




about acidic lakes in Aus- 


how different life was then. 


518-359-7800 


informative, humorous 




tralia and the microbial life 


and yet, in important ways. 


www.wildcenter.org 


graphic panels allow visi- 




that thrives there; examine 


how similar it was to our 




tors to discover the scientific 




65-million-year-old fossils; 


own lives today. 


NORTH CAROLINA 


reasons why cats cough 




visit an urban forest; and 


1020 Humboldt Parl<way 


Durham 


hairballs, skunks stink, and 




much more. 


716-896-5200 


Museum of Life and Science 


birds regurgitate into their 




5050 Oakland Avenue 


www.sciencebuff.org ® 


Ongoing: "Flip It, Fold It, 


babies' mouths, among 




800-456-SLSC 




Figure It Out! — Playing 


other fascinating biological 




www.slsc.org ® 


New York 


with Math." Demystify- 


adaptations. 






American Museum of 


ing mathematics, this new 


11 West Jones Street 




NEW MEXICO 


Natural History 


exhibition uses everyday 


877-4NATSCI 




Albuquerque 


Ongoing: "Discovery Room." 


activities to reveal the hid- 


www.naturalsciences.org ® 




New Mexico Museum of 


Designed for children ages 


den math principles we all 






Natural History and 


5 to 12, this gallery covers 


use on a regular basis. Make 


PENNSYLVANIA 




Science Ongoing: 


research activities from an- 


a quilt, slice a pizza, create 


Philadelphia 




"Space Frontiers." From 


thropology to zoology, and 


rhythmic tunes, estimate 


The Academy of 




ancient Native American 


can serve as a springboard 


which juice container holds 


Natural Sciences 




observatories at Chaco 


for exploring the exhibitions 


the most liquid, and much 


Opening October 23: 




Canyon to current facili- 


in the rest of the building. 


more. Discover how archi- 


"Cruisin' the FossU Freeway." 




ties such as the Very Large 


Try to find all the birds. 


tects, craftsmen, product 


A few years ago, artist Ray 




Array observatory in So- 


insects, and mammals that 








corro, this new exhibition 


live in an African baobab 








explores the human effort 


tree; make your own col- 


Visitors operate a mechanical model of a cow's ruminant digestive tract 




to understand outer space, 


lection of minerals or skulls 


n the "Animal Grossology" exhibition at the North Carolina Museum of 




and New Mexico's sig- 


from a specimen cabinet; 


Natural Sciences in Raleigh, 






nificant role in that quest. 
Artifacts and hands-on 


put together a life-size cast 
model of the 14-foot-long, 








^^^^^^^B^K 


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exhibits fill the gallery. 


Triassic reptile Prestosuchus; 


H^^BH^^^^^ 


^Bm, ^^^^H 




giving visitors a chance to 


and much more. 


^^■^^K/^^^ 






discover the work of such 


Central Park West at 79th Street 


^BH^Br< 


^^IPII^^^^^^H 


1F^' 


rocketry pioneers as Robert 


212-769-5100 


^^^ '"^, ■( 


""^ ^IM^S^^^H 


Wtmt ' 


Goddard and Wernher von 


www.amnh.org 


^^^^^-'-AV 


^mI^hI^^u^ 


Wf^ 


Braun, manipulate a model 




^^^^H' ' i^N^ 


■Hj^p ^ . 




Mars rover, find out about 


Tupper Lake 


^^^^^K 


^^KKu^^KM 




the commercial Spaceport 


The Wild Center, 


^^^HA 


^^^^^Bt^^^^^^^^H 




America facility that is cur- 


Natural History Museum 


HRsi^ 


jpUPpP^jH 




rently in development north 


of the Adirondacks 


v*""**"^^^^^^ '"''*^B 




of Las Cruces, and more. 


Ongoing: "The New Path." 


^SHk^^^^ - 


ml^\y^'J^ ^^B 




1801 Mountain Road NW 


This self-guided, outdoor 


h^^hI^ ^H 


||H|mh|[If 




505-841-2800 


exhibition gives you a be- 


^^^^^r M ^ 


W^^^ fl 




www.nmnaturalhistory.org ® 


hind-the-scenes view of 


^3k' ^wM 






NATURAL HISTORY October 2010 








1 



Troll and paleontologist 
Kirk Johnson took a 5,000- 
mile, "ultimate paleo road 
trip" through the American 
West, encountering evi- 
dence of early life, evolution, 
and extinction along the 
way. This show recounts 
their adventures — and those 
of ancient ammonites, killer 
pigs, saber-toothed cats, and 
"angry bugs of Zion" — in 
whimsical, colorful, ac- 
tion-packed artworks and 
unusual fossil specimens. 
Walking through the exhi- 
bition, it's easy to imagine 
the diversity of geological 
features and animal life that 
were present thousands and 
millions of years ago near 
the location of today's cities 
and highways. 
1900 Benjamin Franklin Parl<way 
215-299-1000 
www.ansp.org ® 

TEXAS 
Fort Worth 
Fort Worth Museum 
OF Science and History 
Ongoing: Designed by 
Legorreta + Legorreta, the 
expanded campus houses 
intriguing new program 
spaces and exhibitions cov- 
ering science, technology, 
history, and culture. The 
new "Energy Adventure" 
exhibition takes you on a 
trip through geologic time, 
revealing what scientists are 
learning about dinosaurs 
and the nearby Barnett 
Shale; the new Noble Plan- 
etarium features astronomy 
programs on its 3D digital 
system with crystal-bright 
stars and immediately view- 
able events, such as new 
asteroid discoveries; the 
new Cattle Raisers Museum 
takes you into the history of 
ranching; and there's much 
more to discover. 



1600 Gendy Street 
817-255-9300 
www.fwmuseum.org ® 

Houston 

Houston Museum of 
Natural Science 
Opening October 8: 
"Real Pirates: The Untold 
Story of the Whydah from 
Slave Ship to Pirate Ship." 
Starting out as a slave ship 
in 1715, the Whydah was 
captured by pirates, who 
used it to attack more than 
50 other ships before it sank 
during a storm off Cape 
Cod. Now the WJtydah re- 
veals her secrets in this ex- 
hibition, which features real 
stories of the pirates' lives; 
gold and silver coins from 
all over the globe; pirates' 
buckles, buttons, and cuff 
links; clay smoking pipes; 
pewter tableware; and can- 
nons, muskets, and swords. 
Since the Whydah pirates 
plundered so many different 
ships, the recovered treasure 
now provides archaeolo- 
gists — and visitors — with a 
fascinating window on the 
intersections of the slave 
trade, pirates, commercial 
activity, and everyday life in 
18th-century America. 
One Hermann Circle Drive 
713-639-4629 
www.hmns.org 

VIRGINIA 
Martinsville 
Virginia Museum of 
Natural History 
Ongoing: "Uncovering 
Virginia." This new, per- 
manent gallery tells the 
story of Virginia's natural 
history over the course of 
the past 300 million years. 
Six exhibits focus on differ- 
ent geologic epochs being 
studied by scientists in vari- 
ous locations around the 



commonwealth. Each ex- 
hibit describes the animals 
and plants that lived there 
in the past and features a 
laboratory-like environ- 
ment where visitors can use 
the same tools scientists 
do to interpret fossils and 
archaeological items. See a 
tropical swamp from a time 
when Virginia was south of 
the equator, visit a site oc- 
cupied by Native Americans 
both before and after Euro- 
peans arrived, and more. 
21 Starling Avenue 
276-634-4141 
www.vmnh.net (?) 

WASHINGTON 
Seattle 

Pacific Science Center 
Opening October 23: 
"Harry Potter: The 
Exhibition." If you've ever 
wondered about the natural 
history and cultural tradi- 
tions of imaginary worlds, 
don't miss this new show 
that features flora, fauna, 
and habitats from the fa- 
mous Harry Potter stories 
depicted on film. Authentic 
costumes and props are dis- 
played in galleries inspired 
by the film sets — including 
the Great Hall and Hagrid's 
hut. Pull a mandrake in the 
herbology area, see a hip- 



pogriff and a house-elf, and 
visit the dormitory room 
of those mythical creatures 
Ron Weasley and Harry 
Potter. Tools from their civi- 
lization are also displayed, 
including Potter's original 
wand and eyeglasses, the 
Marauder's Map, Gryffindor 
school uniforms, and cos- 
tumes worn at the Yule Ball. 
200 Second Avenue North 
206-443-2001 
www.pacsci.org ^ 

WISCONSIN 
Milwaukee 

Milwaukee Public Museum 
Through January 2, 2011: 
"Frogs: A Chorus of Colors." 
Hop into a herpetological 
world in this exhibition de- 
voted to the evolution and bi- 
ology of frogs. More than 100 
living frog specimens — repre- 
senting species from around 
the world — showcase the di- 
versity of these animals, from 
the golden mantella to the 
Chinese gliding to the not- 
so-plain American bullfrog. 
An interactive station enables 
visitors to hear recorded frog 
calls, and a virtual dissection 
exhibit allows you to examine 
the insides of a frog. 
800 West Wells Street 
414-278-2702 
www.mpm.edu ® 




OP ^fEMMHN&,COL0P„AnO 5i 



Night of Ammonites, by Ray Troll, is one of the many artworks in the 
"Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway" exhibition at The Academy of Natural 
Sciences in Philadelphia. 



October 2010 NATURAL HISTORY 47 



ENDPAPER 



Muse of the North 



By Cheryl Lyn Dybas 



Hundreds of moons ago, according 
to Ojibwe legend, moose van- 
ished. The Ojibwe (also known as 
Anishinabeg or Chippewa), a Na- 
tive American tribe of the northern 
Midwest and Ontario, thus lost 
their main source of food — and a 
wellspring of their identity. A search 
party found the herd farther north 
and pleaded for their return. But the 
moose chief replied: "Without you, 
we can live. But without us, you 
cannot live." ''":1'^^!*' 

But can the moose live with us? It 
is many seasons later, in 2009, and I'm 
accompanying biologist Seth Moore 
on another kind of moose quest. His 
team works for Minnesota's Grand 
Portage Band of the Ojibwe, on the 
tribe's reservation near Lake Superior. 
The researchers and I skitter along 
ice-crusted backcountry trails on 
snowmobiles, searching for what's fast 
becoming the state's most elusive ani- 
mal — with climate change a suspect 
in its disappearance. "We're looking 
for tracks in the snow, scat left behind, 
or broken branches of aspen and wil- 
low trees — and hoping we see some- 
thing," shouts Moore over the whine 
of the engines. Moose were abundant 
here years ago; now they are rare. 

A freezing rain cut a swath across 
Minnesota last night, and therein 
lies a clue to where the moose have 
gone. In February, precipitation 
1 1 in northern Min- 
tt I ■; / nesota should 

\ ' ' I / be snow. 




become 
stressed at 



winter temperatures 
above 20 degrees 
Fahrenheit (and 
summer tem- 
peratures above 
60 degrees). To- 
day it is 34 degrees. 
We will not see a 
sinele moose. 



On a complementary mission, the 
Minnesota Department of Natural 
Resources (DNR) sends conserva- 
tion officer pilots like AI Buchert t®, 
the skies in Cessna 185 planes — so- 
called Skywagons. Buchert's Sky- 
wagon, parked at an airfield in 
Eveleth, Minnesota, is outfitted with 
receivers. The instruments pick up 
signals transmitted by radio-collared 
moose that are part of a DNR study. 

As I climb into a cramped seat 
alongside Buchert, he warns that "it 
takes a pretty strong stomach to fly 
in tight circles just above tree line."; 
A whir of propeller blades, and the 
plane pops up like a balloon set free. 
A short distance above white-tipped 
fir trees we finally see ... a moose. 
Three, in fact. "By now we should 
have seen thirty," says Buchert. 
Eveleth has been a crossroads for 
moose. But that, says Buchert, was 
once upon a time. 

Moose {AlceS alces) live only in the 
northern forests and wetlands of 
North America, Europe, and Eur- 
asia. Minnesota's boreal forest once 
abounded with beaver, caribou, deer, 
moose, and wolf But caribou disap- 
peared from Minnesota in the early 
to mid-twentieth century, victims of 
overhunting and disease; now they 
are found only in Canada. 

With caribou gone, moose reign 
in the Minnesota forest. Bulls may 
weigh 1,200 pounds and cows 900 
pounds. A single moose takes about 
three million bites of shrubs and 
trees each year and eats more than 
6,000 pounds of leaves and twigs, 
three-fourths of it in the summer, 
says biologist Ronald A. Moen of 
the University of Minnesota, Du- 
luth. Moose spend summer days 
in inland lakes and bogs eating 
leaves and aquatic plants, storing 
fat for the lean winter days when 
they must browse the bare twigs 
and bark of willows, aspen, and 



red osier dogwood. The animal's 
Ojibwe name, mooz, means "twig 
eater" or "bark stripper." 
Two moose "populations roam 
i^OTiesota's woods, one in the 
horWieast and one in the northwest. ' 
According to Mike Schrage, a biolo- 
gist with the Fond du Lac Band of 
the Ojibwe, the northeast herd holds 
stable at about 7,500 animals. But a 
decreasing calf-to-cow ratio and high 
adult mortality bode poorly. As for 
the northwest population, it is al- 
ready in free fall. Rolf O. Peterson, a 
wildlife ecologist at Michigan Tech- 
nological University in Houghton 
who studies the predator— prey rela- 
tionship bet'ween wolves and moose, 
reports, "Twenty years ago, the 
northwest herd numbered about four 
thousand. But by the early 2000s, 
there were barely a hundred." 

n hotter weather, moose take refuge 
under shade trees and spend less 
time foraging for food. Seth Moore 
explains that because moose are well 
insulated, large, and dark-colored, 
they readily absorb sunlight and are 
prone to heat stress. A moose's weak- 
ened condition leaves it susceptible 
to lethal parasites, such as brainworm 
{Parelaphostrongyhis tenuis) . 

Moore is one of many scientists 
looking into where the moose are 
going and why. Recent surveys on 
the Grand Portage Reservation, con- 
ducted by helicopter in winter when 
it's easier to spot animals in the for- 
est, show that moose on tribal lands 
declined 64 percent between 2005 
and 2008. As Norman Deschampe, 
chairman of the Grand Portage 
Band, put it: "Soon mooz may exist 
only in tales told by the fire." 

Cheryl Lyn Dybas, an ecologist and journal- 
ist, covered hundreds of miles of wintry Minne- 
sota lands on snowmobiles and in small planes 
in quest of moose. She has written for many na- 
tional magazines, including Natural History. 



-HIST^QRY October 2010 



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'*% counts*'* 



Over two-thirds of all people infected with HIV/AIDS 
live in sub-Saharan Africa, yet the continent relies 
on just 3% of the world's healthcare workforce,' a 
disparity that creates tremendous stress for caregivers. 

The International Council of Nurses (ICN), a federation 
of more than 130 national nurses associations, is 
addressing this crisis through a program of Wellness 
Centers for Healthcare Workers and their Families. 
To learn more, please visit www.icn.ch. 





^ 

^Malawi 2009 ' 



tN Wellness C6ft*m'= 



It is estimated that African health systems 
may lose 20% of their workers to HIV/AIDS 
in the coming years due to illness and 
unacceptable working conditions.- 

BD and ICN are collaborating to establish 
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The goal is to sustain a healthy, motivated 
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program includes testing, counseling, stress 
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Recently, BD, ICN and PEPFAR (The U.S. 
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Dhere ' Magazine. April 2009 



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