This Mutant Crayfish is All Female and Clones Itself

Click to enlarge

❝ Over the past five years, Dr. Frank Lyko and his colleagues have sequenced the genomes of marbled crayfish. In a study published on Monday, the researchers demonstrate that the marble crayfish, while common, is one of the most remarkable species known to science.

❝ Before about 25 years ago, the species simply did not exist. A single drastic mutation in a single crayfish produced the marbled crayfish in an instant.

The mutation made it possible for the creature to clone itself, and now it has spread across much of Europe and gained a toehold on other continents. In Madagascar, where it arrived about 2007, it now numbers in the millions and threatens native crayfish…

❝ In 2003, scientists confirmed that the marbled crayfish were indeed making clones of themselves. They sequenced small bits of DNA from the animals, which bore a striking similarity to a group of crayfish species called Procambarus, native to North America and Central America.

❝ Thanks to the young age of the species, marbled crayfish could shed light on one of the big mysteries about the animal kingdom: why so many animals have sex…Since they don’t!



Black Kite

Australia is no stranger to fire: The hardy landscape is adapted to blazes, enduring many thanks to humans and lightning. But Australia’s Aboriginal peoples have long identified a third cause: birds.

❝ In interviews, observations, and ceremonies dating back more than a century, the indigenous peoples of Australia’s Northern Territory maintain that a collective group of birds they call “firehawks” can control fire by carrying burning sticks to new locations in their beaks or talons.

The idea is that these birds of prey use fires to help find food—making easy meals out of insects and other small animals trying to flee the blaze…

❝ The anecdotes, compiled in a recent study published in the Journal of Ethnobiology, may lead some to rethink how fires spread through tropical savannas like those in northern Australia.

Terrific article. Especially including the natural history recorded by onlookers for generations.

On the Road: The Original Scroll by Jack Kerouac

First Edition Cover

❝ …The scroll is in fact only slightly different and longer than the published novel. There are, however, a few key differences which impact the novel’s overall effects. First and foremost, the scroll is unparagraphed, an unusual but not unprecedented novelistic technique (see the Molly Bloom soliloquy in James Joyce’s Ulysses or Samuel Beckett’s Molloy, first published in French in 1951). While this makes for challenging reading, the unparagraphed scroll better mimics the ceaseless movement of its characters. Movement is an oft repeated theme in both the scroll and novel; Kerouac says at one point, “[we were] performing our one noble function of the time, move.” In addition, the scroll makes much more use of dashes and ellipses. Peggy Vlagopoulos, in her essay that accompanies the scroll, observes that the published novel often replaces these marks with commas, thereby interrupting the flow of the narrative. These typographical differences create a faster moving work but also a highlight Kerouac’s use of parataxis, a style in which one syntactic element is followed by another without an apparent hierarchy of importance.

RTFA. Better yet, read the novel – scroll or typeset. A picture of a certain time and life I enjoyed, my friends and I enjoyed and practiced, which led many of us to extend our rejection of the rules and economic justification for the bigotry and hypocrisy prominent in American culture.

Dinosaur with iridescent feathers

Click to enlargeVelizar Simeonovski, The Field Museum

❝ The discovery that dinosaurs were feathery, not leathery, means we’ve had to rethink how they might have looked – and now there’s evidence that at least one dinosaur could have been as brilliantly coloured as some of the most jewel-hued modern birds.

Caihong juji, a name that means “rainbow with the big crest” in Mandarin, was a tiny, duck-sized dinosaur from China. The fossil it left behind indicates a bony crest on its beak, and a brilliant, iridescent ruff of feathers around its neck – the earliest evidence of a colour-based display…

❝ It’s difficult to tell for certain what colour the feathers were, but the fossil was so detailed that it preserved the shape of the melanosomes, the organelles inside cells responsible for pigmentation.

And when the team compared these melanosomes to those of living birds, they most closely resembled melanosomes found in the iridescent, rainbow-hued feathers of hummingbirds.

RTFA for more on the find – and analysis. And special thanks to UrsaRodinia.

New Movie, “Hostiles” — Profound Respect for Native Culture

Scott Cooper’s Hostiles, Starring Wes Studi, Rosamund Pike and Christian Bale is a flawless portrayal of an unflinching, vicious and unforgiving America in 1892.

❝ In countless movie reviews, many of you have undoubtedly heard the term “sitting on the edge of my seat,” to describe a movie that might be cutting edge, causing tension, or even outrage. In this movie Hostiles, I was literally watching this movie, sitting on the edge of my seat, the entire time…

I felt outrage at the reality, laughed at the humanity and grieved for the brutal truth that existed in the world of 1892. I didn’t expect this from this movie as I went into it waiting for the same stale stereotypes often portrayed in westerns or civil war films … Soldiers hate Indians, Indians hate the soldiers. Settlers fear the Indians, everybody tries to kill each other, the end.

Read this whole review by Vincent Schilling. Useful commentary as well as incentive to see the film. Which I shall.

What we lost

Click to enlargeLibrary of Congress

❝ Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X met only once. On March 26, 1964, the two black leaders were on Capitol Hill, attending Senate debate on the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

❝ King was stepping out of a news conference, when Malcolm X, dressed in an elegant black overcoat and wearing his signature horn-rimmed glasses, greeted him.

“Well, Malcolm, good to see you,” King said.

“Good to see you,” Malcolm X replied.

❝ Cameras clicked as the two men walked down the Senate hall together…

❝ The exchange would last only a minute, but the photo remains a haunting reminder of what was lost. They would never meet again before each was assassinated, first Malcolm X and then King.

I met each of these men. Briefly. Once each.

BITD, when I still was a performing artist, I opened for Dr. King on a street corner in the West Side of Chicago. !2-string guitar and all, it was a sunny day in reality and metaphor. MLKjr had come to Chicago to join the fight to end institutional racism, segregated schools in Chicago. Joining Al Raby. Confronting Mayor Daley and part of the racist wing of the Democratic Party. The summer of 1965.

I met Malcolm on another street corner. In 1958 in Harlem. He stood on a step ladder addressing a crowd of a hundred or so. Near Lewis Michaux’s African National Memorial Bookstore. A frequent use for that street corner. I’d taken the A Train to Harlem with my closest friend then. A young Black man working as medical intern for a homebound physician. I was working as a technician in a corporate research lab. We met at night school – both trying to get degrees somehow that might put us in line for better paying work. Both trying to learn more about the nation around us. The racism that chained us together.

Malcolm saw us on the edge of the crowd. And after his speech he came over and asked why we were together. And though his meet was obviously focussed on my friend Daniel, he praised our seeking knowledge, together or separately. Encouraging us.

Both were dead, assassinated within a decade.