Monthly Archives: January 2015

In Plain Sight

I braved the bitterly bracing cold, so gusty that I had to walk backwards for about a block in order to breathe, to hear about these frogs that had been hiding in plain sight. I forced a lot of my nerdy frog facts onto others in the days after the lecture, so here are some highlights for posterity:

  • Frogs don’t have regional accents in their croaking, unlike birds.
  • Individual appearances can vary more within the same species than between species of frogs, when selecting random specimens. This is called a cryptic species.
  • Extirpation is a possibility for this frog on Staten Island, where it was discovered.
  • The man, Carl Kauffeld, who originally discovered this species couldn’t even correctly identify all of his specimens correctly as part of this species. That’s how confounding identification was before genetics and bioacoustics.
  • Herpetologist is a fun, funny word.

Here’s hoping in this densely packed urban corridor that this frog, which needs ample space and specific marshy habitats, can make a successful stand. This story has reminded me that the coolest nature can be found in and around cities. It’s our job to help out, so that these impressive survivors can do more than just eke out an existence.

Background Reading:

https://student.societyforscience.org/article/new-frog-discovered-new-york-city

http://www.sci-news.com/biology/science-rana-kauffeldi-new-cryptic-species-frog-new-york-city-02240.html

http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/new-frog-species-was-discovered-new-york-city

So Long, Lonesome George

I went to see Lonesome George (Chelonoidis abingdoni) today, his last day at the American Natural History Museum before returning to Ecuador. He was tucked away in a turret on the fourth floor, through throngs of adults posing for photos and kids scurrying underfoot.

He deserved better than to be the last of his kind.

This is going to make me sound like an overwrought tree-hugger, but I went to pay my respects. He was beautiful, and majestic, and the last one, sealed in a glass cage. His remarkably long neck stretched forward, as if there was still something just out of reach.

Someone nearby commented from the display information that there are closely related species on other islands, so it’s not as big of a deal. I nobly refrained from grabbing him, with his coiffed side-swept hair and skinny jeans, and shaking him while wildly yelling, “IT IS A BIG DEAL! WE HAVE LEARNED NOTHING FOR CENTURIES AND KEEP SENDING UNIQUE, IRREPLACEABLE FORMS OF LIFE INTO THE VOID FOR NO DEFENSIBLE REASON!”

Instead I read about the Pinta Island Tortoise and apologized to Lonesome George in my head, over and over and over again.

LonesomeGeorge

For a compelling podcast on the changes occurring on the Galapagos Islands:

http://www.radiolab.org/story/galapagos/

For information on Lonesome George and Pinta Island Tortoises:

http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/current-exhibitions/lonesome-george/lonesome-george2

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/lonesome-george-last-tortoise-his-kind-posthumous-display-nyc-180952833/?no-ist

An ode to an octopus

Mimicry delight

Turning in fright

A splash of ink

Makes you think


Why can’t I obscure

And slink into nooks

Hidden and demure


And outwait the danger

Without looking stranger

Than the ocean floor

Just another background, nothing more


The whole thing is worth watching, but after minute 4:15 is absolutely stunning.

Other Resources:

http://ocean.si.edu/ocean-news/how-octopuses-and-squids-change-color

http://animals.howstuffworks.com/marine-life/octopus-camouflage.htm

Happy Exploring!