Life Always Surprises, Won’t Stay in Your Categories #biology #genetics #poem #poetry

Yoruba twin statues

The Yoruba have the highest twinning rate in the world, as reflected in this art, but still no sesquizygotic twins as far as western science knows.

Sesqui – zygotic
Makes babies most exotic.
Rarest people you could meet,
Their genes are quite quixotic.

Buckets you put words in
Are only there as stand-ins.
Cling to them
and fool yourself,
The word is not the thing.

Nature’s not confined
By what is in your mind.
When shadows dance in Plato’s cave,
Escape the chains that bind.

You’ll never force reality
Into the form you want to see.
The world is bigger,
stranger,
more
Than claimed by you and me.

Kate Rauner

We humans are so invested in language, we sometimes forget that words are imperfect representations of reality. Like the words “male” and “female.”

The twins in Australia are 4 years old now… the second known case [of] ‘sesquizygotic twins’: not identical, but not fraternal either. They’re somewhere in between.

The twins are actually chimeras, meaning they both have a mix of XX and XY cells in their body, but in different proportions. The one who looks like a boy has an XX:XY mix of 47:53; the girl has a mix of 90:10. In the 2007 case [the first reported occurence], one of the twins actually had ambiguous genitalia, which is what tipped doctors off to something previously unknown about the twins. The Atlantic

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Glimmer of Hope – This 100 Year Old Girl Proves Her Species Not Extinct – Yet #nature #extinction #Galapagos

I’ve writen several posts about the sad loss of species to extinction. It’s time for some good news, even if it’s only a glimmer of hope.

Tweet about re-discovered Galapagos TortoiseA rare species of giant tortoise was feared extinct after over 100 years without any sightings on the Galápagos Islands. But now, officials say they’ve found one.

An adult female Fernandina Giant Tortoise, or Chelonoidis phantasticus, possibly older than 100, was found on Fernandina Island… The animal was transported to a breeding center on Santa Cruz Island [for] genetic tests. USA Today

Where’s there’s one, there may be more! Introduced species like rats, cats, pigs, and goats destroyed a lot of Galapogous wildlife, and the poor tortoises made excellent living pantries for early European sailors, but this particular species was threatened by lava flows over 100 years ago.

Today, only two groups of giant tortoises remain around the world – those on the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean and others on Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean.

I wish the old lady and her keepers the best of luck. Lonesome George mated with females from his own island, but the eggs never hatched. Whether scientists learned anything from George that will help this Fernandina tortoise, I don’t know, but of course one lone female can’t breed on her own.

She’s already quite old – the tortoises are thought to have averaged 100 year life span before contact with humans, and some may have lived for 150 years. Their best chance at recovery may be if more individuals have survived, and if people and our traveling-companion animals will now leave them alone.

 What are the odds? Two bits of good news in one day. The world’s largest bee isn’t extinct either, though no one knows how many may survive. Check out the comparison picture to a standard honeybee.

Juliet may save Romeo and their whole species – last chance battle with extinction #extinction #nature #environment

A related species, not quite as lonesome yet. Attribution: José Grau de Puerto Montt at en.wikipedia

Romeo, known as the world’s loneliest frog, has spent 10 years in isolation at an aquarium in Bolivia. Scientists say they have found him a Juliet after an expedition to a remote Bolivian cloud forest. BBC

I seem to be finding a number of stories on recent, current, and near extinctions lately. The loneliest frog still has hope, though I have no idea how difficult it is to breed Sehuencas water frogs in captivity. Even if scientists can fill their aquariums (aquaria?) with frogs, will there be any wild land to release them into?

Charismatic species like tigers and elephants do more than frogs to grab the public’s attention. Saving them means saving habitat, and that benefits many vulnerable species that never go viral on the internet. Good luck, Romeo and Juliet. Good luck ecosystems. Good luck Earth – because that would be good luck for us humans too.

Shelter in the deepest pines #haiku #poem #poetry #winter

Science and nature in poetry - Kate Rauner

Not going up there – nope – not going

Branches sway and bounce
Cold and harsh are winter winds
One lone bird blows by

Kate Rauner

Tiny Little Creature is Colossally Tough – a Surprising Survivor #tardigrade #poetry #nature #evolution #science

Tardigrade - worthy of poetry

A humongously enlarged museum model, image by Janine and Jim Eden

What’s the toughest animal,
A lion or a bear?
Or you and me with our dominion
Over others’ prayers?

What tolerates the cosmic rays,
Curled in a dried-out ball,
What can survive a vacuum
Or hottest heat
or coldest cold?

The microscopic tardigrade
Looks like a critter should,
With feet and head and funny face,
It’s kinda cute and good.

In half a billion years evolved
A thousand speciations
To beat the competition
And earn
our exclamations.

Who will be here
to greet the gods
As final days of Earth unfold?
It won’t be me,
it won’t be you.
The tardigrade
will fill that role.

by Kate Rauner

Rhyming poems inspired by scienec - at your favorite online store

2nd edition now available! Expanded!

There are articles every now and then about the tardigrade, a wee beastie worth contemplating.

Join me here for a new science-inspired poem about once a week, or read my collection today on Amazon or your favorite store. All for fun and no existential angst.

 

In a Dry Forest #haiku #nature #poem #poetry #flower

Agave bloom in New Mexico

In my yard

Agave flowers
Lift their blooms above the trees
Reaching for the sun

by Kate Rauner

Find more poetry inspired by science and nature here – every other post or so. Or read one of my collections of rhyming poetry and a few haiku too.

Humans Slaughtered Mammoths But Can They Save Us from Climate Change? #globalwarming #rewilding #elephant #climatechange #nature #EndangeredSpeciesDay

Feral horse

Rewilding is “large-scale conservation aimed at restoring and protecting natural processes and core wilderness areas.” In North America and Europe, projects are underway to protect and reintroduce large wildlife, including predators, and reverse habitat loss.

Pleistocene rewilding seeks to restore ecosystems from ten thousand years ago – for example, by introducing elephants, lions, and cheetahs to protected areas in the American Great Plains.

Rewilding aims to save animals and ecosystems, but a project now underway in Siberia is “a radical geoengineering scheme” with a human-centric goal: to slow climate change.

During the last Ice Age, vast areas of grasslands beyond the edges of glaciers locked up huge amounts of carbon in Siberia (not something universal in the Arctic.) As today’s permafrost melts, release of all that carbon dioxide threatens to create a positive feedback that would accelerate global warming and make climate change worse for you and me – and our progeny. But returning these areas to Pleistocene grassland could slow or prevent the change by keeping “permafrost frozen by giving it a top coat of Ice Age grassland.”

All we need are the animals that created that grassland ecosystem. Horses, bison, musk ox, and reindeer have already been moved into what was once a Soviet-era gulag of gold mining, but the project needs something bigger – mammoths.

Cloning may jump into your mind, but it’s not likely. DNA degrades even when frozen and we may never find a viable mammoth cell. But mammoths are closely related to elephants, and scientists from across the globe are working to resurrect the mammoth by turning on genes that will adapt elephants to the Arctic climate by giving them heavy coats, thick layers of fat, and smaller ears, among other changes.

That seems like the easy part. If embryos are eventually created, they can’t be placed in surrogate elephant mothers – Asian elephants are endangered. So artificial wombs are needed.

A womb isn’t just a bucket of fluid.

The mammalian mother–child bond, with its precisely timed hormone releases, is beyond the reach of current biotechnology. But scientists are getting closer with mice… [There are] hopes to deliver the first woolly mammoth to Pleistocene Park within a decade.

Even if the technical problems are solved, there’s still a cultural issue. A baby needs a mother. Elephants – and, no doubt, mammoths – are highly social animals.

Older mammoths would have taught the calf how to find ancestral migration paths, how to avoid sinkholes, where to find water. When a herd member died, the youngest mammoth would have watched the others stand vigil, tenderly touching the body of the departed with their trunks before covering it with branches and leaves. No one knows how to re-create this rich mammoth culture, much less how to transmit it to that cosmically bewildered first mammoth.

It’s an amazing, overwhelming undertaking. But there are people out there working on it. Perhaps we’ll see reconstructed, de-extincted mammoths in our lifetime.

Thanks to theatlantic.com for their article, with some help from wikipedia.org.