Zoologist and artist Ernst Haeckel (1834 - 1919) had some odd ideas about the origins and evolution of life forms. That’s understandable, because at the time, scientists were just beginning to accept Darwinism. (Haeckel himself was a champion of Darwinism, but he added Lamarckism and some unpleasant conjectures about race into his philosophical worldview.)
This remarkable page of expressive bat face drawings was posted last week on Open Culture. It can also be found in the book, Art Forms in Nature, which was originally published as a series of portfolios between 1899-1904. This book of the same name compiles 100 color plates of Haeckel’s meticulously composed, obsessively detailed drawings of plants and animals arranged to show the similarity of different species. Haeckel’s lifeforms radiate vitality from the page and the peculiar way they are drawn seems to stimulate the same part of the brain that’s affected by psychedelic drugs.
The plates were intended to illustrate Haeckle’s ideas about life and evolution, but they ended up being more important to artists than scientists. His blend of crystalline geometric patterns and swooping organic curves feels very Art Nouveau, and in fact many Art Nouveau artists were influenced by Haeckel’s drawings. His work continues to inspire and amaze people today.
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Bats and skateboarders have something special in common. They both use inertia to land their tricks which, in a bat's case, means landing upside down.
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Fun with poop and bats and flesh-eating plants of the Pacific.
The undisputed king of cute pollen-faced bat photography is Merlin D. Tuttle of Bat Conservation International. If you like tequila, thank a bat! Read the rest
Named after King Midas, the Myotis midastactus golden bat that calls Bolivia's tropical savanna home was recently determined to be its own unusual species.
“Apparently it isn’t related to camouflage, because two other species of Myotis that occur in the same area are consistently darker and use similar [daytime] roosts,” Oswaldo Crus Foundation wildlife biologist Ricardo Moratelli told National Geographic.
The bat's curious coloring may be a result of its particular insect diet.
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Renovation of a barn on Ozzy Osbourne's England estate can't begin until bats currently residing there are protected
. There are owls there too, but of course Ozzy and bats have a history
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Leaving the house this morning, a neighbor spotted a tiny bat huddled on our stoop.
The creature had a gash in one wing and wasn't moving. It was still breathing, through, and the day was already getting hot and sunny. So we called upon a friend, David Mizejewski, who'd know what to do.
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Over at National Geographic, Carl Zimmer reveals the wonder of vampire bats. "Of the 1200 or so species of bats, vampire bats are among the very few that can move quickly on the ground." Watch one run in the video above. Also, Zimmer delves into a new scientific paper with the fantastic title of "Dracula's children: Molecular evolution of vampire bat venom." Read the rest
"Post some fucking bats!" baturday.tumblr.com, a Tumblog of Greatness. (thanks, Antinous) Read the rest
In this video for Science Friday, bat biologist Nickolay Hristov takes a thermal camera inside Carlsbad Caverns to see what bats do in the dark when nobody's watching.
In his footage, a blazing yellow blob on the cave ceiling—which the video's narrator likens to a pool of lava—is actually a mass of bats, packed closely together and hanging upside down. Here, Hristov can see, in person, the very social world of bats, playing out as though he weren't even there.
It's a great video, and well worth watching.
Via Science Friday
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Xenophobia is neither the fear of Xeni, nor of Xena. Rather, it's more about knee-jerk mistrust, dislike, and hatred for people who aren't part of your group. We've come to associate it with not liking people from other countries, but it applies to smaller-scale, less formal tribalism, as well.
Over at the Scientific American blogs, science writer and biologist Rob Dunn talks about some of the theories for why something as seemingly antisocial as xenophobia could have been beneficial to our ancestors—at least under certain circumstances. The key, he says, might be disease. Not cooperating between groups, refusing to share resources, and generally going out of your way to avoid strangers makes sense if those strangers are infected with something that could kill you.
If I'm understanding Dunn correctly, the research and theorizing on this topic isn't saying xenophobia is good. Nor is it saying that all xenophobia grows out of a conscious, reasonable fear of disease. It's more like, the times when xenophobia did turn out to be coincidentally beneficial happened to reward people who were more likely to pass on xenophobic tendencies to their offspring (whether those tendencies were genetic or cultural is hard to say). Thus, the tendency continues, even in situations where it's actively detrimental. And Dunn points to an interesting recent study that showed deadly white-nose syndrome is causing xenophobic-esque changes in the behavior of bat populations.
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Although it looked as though the little brown bats and several other species might soon face extinction, at least in some regions and perhaps even in North America, the little brown bats have begun to rebound in some places, albeit modestly.