Don’t ask me…
Don’t ask me…
As I continue to try and adapt to having a significantly longer commute to work, settle into our rental house, and generally try to get my crap together, here are some pictures of some critters I’ve encountered over the last few months.
First a mollusk:
I discovered this rather large (approx. 10cm) slug making its way across my front walk. Not sure about my ID but I’d say it was possibly a Limacus flavus, which would make this an introduced ALIEN SLUG! [Scream!]
Secondly a couple different arthropods, one terrestrial and the other aquatic:
This dangerous little bugger was hitchhiking in a load of horse manure that my mother was unloading from the back of her pickup truck. A centipede, probably a Scolopendra polymorpha. After I told my mother that I wasn’t interested in adopting it she ended up feeding it to her chickens, which was probably a little spicier than their usual fare.
OK, there is a bit of a set up to our next crawly, or rather swimy critter. I was on my way to work one morning and while driving by a vacant lot around the corner from my house, I noticed three adults standing around a large puddle in middle of the lot that was left over from some recent rain. My brain noted that this was an unusual thing to see, so I slowed down a bit and saw that a couple of them were holding small fishnets, of the sort that an aquarist might keep handy. Quickly running through the possibilities of what three adults with fishnets standing around a small ephemeral body of water in a generally arid environment might be up to and my brain instantly hit upon what seemed to be the only logical conclusion…BIOLOGISTS!
Unfortunately I was already a little late for work and couldn’t stop and talk to them, however I immediately vowed to myself that I would visit the puddle ASAP to see what might have drawn a trio of probable biologists to this vacant lot. So on my way home from work I stopped at the lot and checked out the puddle.
At first I didn’t see anything but once my eyes adjusted to what I was looking at I noted some small (maybe 2cm) things swimming fairly vigorously around the puddle. At first I thought that they might be fish, perhaps Gambusia which are often stocked in our local waterways to control mosquitoes. This wasn’t totally crazy as there is a catchment basin immediately adjacent to the lot and I thought that, while it was unlikely, it might be possible for some Gambusia to have somehow made it into this puddle. However given that this was a very ephemeral body of water and that Gambusia would be considered “junk fish” by an ichthyologist I quickly dismissed this idea.
Looking a bit closer at the tiny swimming creatures I realized what their true nature was and why thy might be of interest to biologists became much less of a mystery. They were fairy shrimp, possibly of the Family Streptocephalidae, some members of which are very endangered. In this case possibly Streptocephalus woottoni A.K.A. the “Riverside fairy shrimp“, though this puddle was a little shallow (under 30mm) for the normal bodies of water that S. woottoni are supposed to inhabit.
Anyway, after seeing that they were indeed fairy shrimp I rushed home and got one of my critter keepers (a small plastic aquarium) and fashioned a small, pitiful, net out of a coat-hanger and one of my wife’s old nylon stockings. Pitiful as my jury-rigged net was, it allowed me to catch a few of the shrimp.
Fear not for the shrimp though, after I photographed them (which isn’t an easy thing!) I returned them to their puddle which remained habitable for three or four days longer.
Last but not least a couple different chordates, in this case both mammals:
While driving through a local rural area (Reche Canyon) my wife and I spotted a herd of feral burros (Equus africanus asinus) that we had heard (get it?) lived in the area. I wasn’t able to get too close to them and only had my cell phone camera so these are not the best pictures. However if you look carefully at the second picture below you’ll get a glimpse of some “hot donkey action” going down (brown chicken, brown cow!).
Apparently there is something of a mystery involving these burros lately. It seems that several of the newborns have gone missing and it becoming a concern for the locals who watch over them.
Finally a rough pair of middle aged male apes (H. sapiens). Yours truly with Dr. Sean B. Carroll Professor of Molecular Biology, Genetics, and Medical Genetics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison at U.C. Riverside on 2-11-2013. Dr. Carroll had just given a very entertaining talk: Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species about the adventures and scientific contributions of Alfred Russel Wallace, Charles Darwin and Henry Walter Bates in honor of Darwin Day 2013 (Photo and my shirt by Lani Britain, a.k.a. Mom).
OK, so this wasn’t a scathing dissection of creationist silliness, but it was something…
If creationists keep spewing nonsense about horses and horse evolution, there may come a day when I run out of literary references and idioms involving horses to play off of in my post titles. But today is not that day.
Before I start I want to promise any regular readers of this blog that despite this being yet another post that is (in part) about creationists and horses, I promise there will be no mention of Hyracotherium this time. No quotes of Richard Owen. No references to hyraxes whatsoever, you have my word.
Once again the source of my ire is the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) who sent forth one of their minions, Christine Dao, to dutifully report what the institute’s “creation scientists” had to say about the recent news that the South Korea is going to be altering their school textbooks to pander to creationists in that country.
Dao: Science gained a victory when South Korea’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced last month that textbook publishers will correct editions that contain misinformation regarding evolution.
Yes, absolutely, if there is misinformation in the textbooks we would certainly want to weed that out. The problem is, to a creationist, any of the data that makes up the mountain of empirical evidence supporting evolutionary theory is “misinformation”. Let us examine the two examples of supposed misinformation the South Korean “Ministry of Education, Science and Technology” is planning of removing from textbooks and the “scientific” reasons why the ICR agrees that they should be removed; starting in reverses order with “feathers” (figuratively speaking):
Ken Ham, president/CEO of Answers in Genesis (USA), which is headquartered in Kentucky has attacked an exhibit at the Kentucky Horse Park on horse evolution in a recent post to his blog “Around the World with Ken Ham” and it is yet another glittering example of creationist scholarship.
“The Lord hath delivered him into mine hands”.
The reason this came to mind was that it is clear from his comments that he has not bothered to educate himself on the subject and is just mindlessly repeating tired, long refuted creationist clichés on the subject of horse evolution. In other words, he’s lobbing softballs at defenders of science like me.
Alright, without further ado let’s saddle up and ride forth into the mind of Ham:
Dr. John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research is at it again. Apparently not content with advertising his abject ignorance of zoology as he did a few months ago when he listed tunicates (phylum chordata) along with sea stars as members of the phylum echinodermata, he is now letting everyone know that he is equally incompetent to comment intelligently on the subject of paleontology (I know, I am as shocked as you are).
More specifically he has come out attacking the classic fossil evidence for the evolution of the horse in the September (2008) issue of ICR’s Acts & Facts.
Morris: Horse evolution prominently appears in textbooks as a supreme example of the evolution of one body style into another. All students remember the “horse series” sketches, tracing the development of a small browser named Hyracotherium (formerly known as Eohippus) with four toes on the front feet and three on the rear, into the large one-toed horse of today. Intermediate steps included the three-toed Mesohippus, a modified horse with one toe touching the ground… [Emphasis mine]
Wrong right off the bat. The fact is that with Mesohippus all three toes touch the ground as can be seen in the above photo of a mounted fossil at the Chicago Field Museum. This is especially true when it is taken into account that Mesohippus probably would have had pads on its feet similar to those found in tapirs.
…the horse is of course the famous Eohippus.
One of my favorite corners of the alternate universe that is creationism is where creationists get to talking about (denying) horse evolution. The fossil record for horses and their relatives (rhinos, tapirs and some extinct groups) is so well documented it is amusing seeing how creationists rationalize their way around the evidence and when I find something about horses on a creationist site I often take a look to see what sort of silliness they’ve gotten up to.
Case in point: Answers in Genesis put up a short piece on their site recently titled “Not Just Horsin’ Around” which directs their readers to a site called “eQuest 4 Truth.com”. They report that the owner of the website (Rebekah Holt) started it to “… steer young people away from the incorrect information that they receive in many public school textbooks and encyclopedias” and that the site “…helps refute the claim that the modern horse evolved from a much smaller, non-horse ancestor.”
On the site is a page titled “Horse Evolution – Fact or Horse Manure?” written by creationist Arthur Biele, who, judging by a Google search on his name, has been pestering people with nonsense in various internet discussion forums for years. His article here attacking the evidence for horse evolution is a barely readable hodgepodge of unsupported assertions, factual errors and standard quotes from “The Creationist Joke Book™”.
Given that there is so much creationist nonsense out there on the web I normally wouldn’t have taken as much time as I did to dissect it but since Answers in Genesis put their seal of approval on it I figured it would be worth the time.
OK, we’re off to the Eohippus races…