Sunday, March 05, 2006

architects and aphid husbandry - "sky prawns" and the scorpion waltz 

...and the giant earthworms of Gippsland.

New York Review of Books:
4 Ant shepherds drive off aphid predators such as ladybirds, and in bad weather build shelters of leaf particles and soil to protect their livestock. They have even been observed marking their herds with a substance specific to one ant colony; it resembles our branding of livestock,...

4 The idea of Australians eating their way clear of a locust plague, or even tossing a "sky prawn" on the barbecue, seems remarkable to an Australian such as myself.

4 In the laboratory, scorpion pairs have waltzed for two days.

4 The greatest of Earth's architects and builders are the termites. These distant relatives of the cockroach build cities whose spires tower far higher above their inhabitants' heads, relative to their size, than do our tallest skyscrapers. Some species in northern Australia build razor-backed structures that point north, maximizing the thermal comfort of those within. And in many species of termites the water provisioning, highway construction, and air conditioning of their great edifices rival in sophistication anything built by humanity.

When a Scorpion Meets a Scorpion - By Tim Flannery

I have seen the mantis's abdomen dribbling out eggs in wet bubbles like tapioca pudding glued to a thorn. I have seen a film of a termite queen as big as my face, dead white and featureless, glistening with slime, throbbing and pulsing out rivers of globular eggs. Termite workers, who looked like tiny longshormen unloading the Queen Mary, licked each egg as fast as it was extruded to prevent mold. The whole world is an incubator for incalculable numbers of eggs, each one coded minutely and ready to burst. ~ Annie Dillard Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


Far out on the desert to the north dustspouts rose wobbling and augered the earth and some said they'd heard of pilgrims borne aloft like dervishes in those mindless coils to be dropped broken and bleeding upon the desert again and there perhaps to watch the thing that had destroyed them lurch onward like some drunken djinn and resolve itself once more into the elements from which it sprang. Out of that whirlwind no voice spoke and the pilgrim lying in his broken bones may cry out and in his anguish he may rage, but rage at what? And if the dried and blackened shell of him is found among the sands by travelers to come yet who can discover the engine of his ruin? ~ Cormac McCarthy Blood Meridian

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