I’ve always thought that the observational powers of birds could be harnessed for good or evil. Perhaps the nuthatch republicans would like to place a tiny camera on a yellow-shouldered Amazon parrot’s head to spy on Venezuela’s leader, Hugo Chavez. They’re obsessed with his socialist activities, for some reason. Or the paparazzi would like to use little Tits to spy on bigger tits.
There are so many birds around us on a daily basis, we most often tune out their chatter. What a shame. I’ve noticed over twenty-five bird species in my own backyard while paying a minimum of attention over the years. On any given day there must be at least a dozen. I just hope none of them have been watching me too closely. Sometimes I have their cousins over for dinner.
Check out David Attenborough on YouTube. His series on the Life of Birds is brilliant and educational. The Bowerbirds are my favorite.
Filed under Biology, Science
Do you want to wear a big ant on your chest? The first Darwin Report T-Shirt is available at CafePress.
One of the greatest, most fascinating, invertebrate animals in the world has to be the Leafcutter Ant. There are about 40 species of this social insect and all of them make their living by growing a fungus (their food) on the chewed-up remains of leaves, which they diligently harvest.
When I was 12 years old, I visited one of the pyramids in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. And on the grassy field surrounding the pyramid, I spotted a long narrow path cut through the grass; it was only three or four inches wide. Curious I walked toward the strange sight and saw what appeared to be a fleet of tiny green sails traveling along the path like boats on a river. Upon closer inspection I saw that the green sails were actually sections of cut leaves, which were being carried along by a streaming army of ants. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories.
While checking out one of David Attenborough’s great nature videos, Life in the Undergrowth, on Amazon.com, I came across some negative reviews left by creationists. It’s a noticeable trend; creationists trash good scientific books and videos. Sadly, no where in their reviews do they actually make valid points. They simply proclaim the falseness of evolution and truth of creationism. It’s often apparent that they haven’t even read the book or watched the video in question. A user named Debbie gave Life in the Undergrowth 1 star and left these useless words of wisdom:
We were all very disappointed with these DVDs. They were FULL of evolution. Too bad that the beautiful photography wasn’t just shown with descriptions of the the little critters. The evolution was throughout…couldn’t just skip a few spots. Just wanted to notify other Creationists.
Another user named Anna gave it 3 stars and this review:
This would have been a four star if they had stuck to the biology of the insects rather than their “origin”. Really annoying if you don’t believe in the evolution theory.
Of course, in the creationist mindset, the biology of insects has nothing at all to do with their origin. But if the video had mentioned creationism in a positive light, Ann and Debbie probably wouldn’t have minded so much, having some “origin” mixed in with some “biology”. On a positive note some sane people shot back with comments of their own:
This is a BBC documentary. The BBC is British. In Britain we have no time for crack-pot ‘theories’ like creationism. You are a silly person. Thankfully, and judging by the other reviews, I don’t think all Americans are quite so silly.
You review unfortunately says nothing about the content of this DVD. Perhaps if you would view it without preconceived notions, you might have learned more and given customers a more informative review.
Oh my! Evolution, next you will tell me the earth is not flat, and the universe does not rotate around the Earth.
I cannot help but make a sexist remark at this point; Debbie and Anna are probably some busybody, ultra-conservative, religious right, soccer moms, who protect their brats from life by filtering out reality. And they probably network with their own kind. It’s just a guess.
First, take a good look at the creature in the above picture. What do you think it is? We’ll give you a clue. It’s the larval stage of an aquatic vertebrate. On first appearances it does kind of look like a snail; it has eyes on stalks. But the eyes seem a bit too massive for those flimsy stalks to hold up. And the body isn’t gastropod-like at all. Our wacky imaginations tell us that it’s a type of snake which has had its eyes violently yanked out. That would be wrong too though.
But before we reveal the creature’s identity we want to explain our reason for mentioning it in the first place. According to good old fashion creationism and Intelligent Design creationism, a creature, like the one above, is designed by a designer. Thus it is well suited to its environment. Perfectly suited. But we’d argue that this creature isn’t designed at all, and it’s not perfectly adapted. We’d say that an insufficient field of vision is the very reason for its eyes being on stalks.
Now click here to see the adult stage of the mystery creature.
It’s called a Dragonfish, and it’s from the genus Idiacanthus. According to Australian Museum Online
The Black Dragonfishes (Family Idiacanthidae) are long, slender fishes which live in mesopelagic to bathypelagic waters down to depths of about 2000 m.
Like many deepsea fishes, the Black Dragonfish can produce its own light. This species has tiny photophores scattered over its body and two rows of larger photophores along the side of the body. The chin barbel of the female has a a slender luminous tip. This may be used to attract prey.
Larval Black Dragonfishes are most unusual. They are long, slender, transparent fishes that have their eyes at the ends of long stalks which can be up to half the length of the body.
The Family Idiacanthidae contains three species.
Nature does find a way. The long stalks provide a better field of vision for larval Dragonfish, enabling them to see more food. If Dragonfish were designed, the designer made a poor design choice and then covered it up with another equally poor design choice. We’ll stick with evolution, which allows species to adapt, but not perfectly. Perfection is for fools and gods.
The NOVA program, which aired on PBS on Tuesday, Nov 13th, revealed several interesting and troubling facts about the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Intelligent Design case. For instance, we at the Darwin Report did not know that prior to the trial, a student’s life-size mural, depicting the evolution of man, was stolen from the Dover school by someone and burned. Bill Buckingham, one of the schools board members, was actually heard gloating that he had watched the mural ablaze. Interviewed in the NOVA program, Buckingham comes across as a contemptible son of a bitch, to say the least. To watch a student’s work being destroyed and to approve of the act of vandalism is disgusting. Buckingham is a worm of a man, and clearly he should not have held a position of authority over anyone. The fact that he was even on the Dover school board is shameful. He’s a pathetic, hateful, narrow minded, piece of dung. Creationists like him must have very weak religious faith, to feel so threatened by evolution.
An aspect of the case that we find particularly amusing is the fact that the several of the defense witnesses for Intelligent Design bowed out of the trial and did not testify, William Dembski being one. In the NOVA program, Eugenie Scott, of the National Center for Science Education described the absent witnesses as “dropping like flies”. No doubt, many of them didn’t want the negative press coverage or they didn’t want to be caught lying on the stand. Poor little Michael Behe was left hanging in the wind as the defense’s “star” witness.
The Discovery Institute on its web site has been bashing the NOVA special before it even aired, calling it unfair and bias. FYI. You people at the Discovery Propaganda Institute had your chance at the trial and you whoosed out. Now you’re whining about it. Go piss it on the mountain, you big babies.
Watch the NOVA special, “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design On Trial”, if you’re interested in science education and a very important legal case. We recommend it highly.