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robertogreco : zoology   12

PIG/PORK: Archaeology, Zoology and Edibility: Pía Spry-Marqués: Bloomsbury Sigma
"Pigs unite and divide people, but why? Pig/Pork explores the love-hate relationship between humans and pigs through the lenses of archaeology, biology, history and gastronomy, providing a close and affectionate look of the myriad causes underlying this singular, multi-millennial bond.

What is it that people in all four corners of the world find so fascinating about the pig? When did the human obsession with pigs begin, how did it develop through time, and where is it heading? Why are pigs so special to some of us, but not to others? Pig/Pork sets out to answer these and other porcine-related questions, examining human-pig interactions across the globe through time, from the Palaeolithic to the present day. The book dissects pig anatomy and behaviour, and describes how this knowledge plays a major role in the advance of the agricultural and medical sciences, among others. The book also looks closely at the history of pig-human interaction; how they were domesticated and when, how they affected human history through their diseases, and how they have been involved in centuries of human conflicts, with particular reference to the story of the Iberian Jews and Muslims at the time of the Inquisition. The book goes on to look at how pigs' characteristics and our relationship with them have combined to produce many of the world's great dishes. All this is accompanied by a liberal peppering of pork recipes and the stories behind them, along with facts, wisdom and porker lore, providing a thought-provoking account of where our food comes from, both historically and agriculturally, and how this continues to influence many parts of our behaviour and culture."
pigs  books  pork  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  morethanhuman  multispecies  livestock  agriculture  history  culture  food  archaeology  zoology  gastronomy  biology  science 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Why Are the Scientists Who Classify Life So Mean to Their Dead?
"The open nature of the science of classification virtually guarantees fights."



"Taxonomy, the art and science of classifying life, really should be a civilized pursuit. It encourages solitude, concentration, care. It rewards a meticulous attention to detail. And while it might occasionally receive some good-natured ribbing from the popular culture—think of all those butterfly collectors stumbling around in Far Side cartoons—it continues to play a vital role at the foundations of modern biology.

It can come as a bit of a surprise, then, when that veneer of civilization cracks, and the field reveals itself to be one of the more contentious arenas in science, a place where arguments over names and classifications rage through the literature for decades. This is both a strength, as challenges to current classification keep the field dynamic and relevant, and an expression of its hardwired vulnerabilities."



"More than twenty years too late for his scientific reputation, and after having done an amount of injury to entomology almost inconceivable in its immensity, Francis Walker has passed from among us.”

Walker’s two-page obituary, in the November 1874 issue of the Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine, sits between a short research note (“Emmelesia unifasciata three years in the pupa state”) and some words on the passing of William Lello (“He leaves a considerable collection of Lepidoptera ...”). Written anonymously, it pulled no punches when it came to the late taxonomist’s legacy: The vast majority of the tens of thousands of new species he proposed were “objects of derision for all conscientious entomologists.” More than once, the obituarist referred to Walker’s work simply as the “evil.”

And yet, the man’s career had begun with promise. His first work, a well-regarded study of the tiny wasps known as chalcidids, had “marked an era in the study of its subject.” Despite considerable inherited wealth, he longed for a permanent position at one of Britain’s major collections. When that position failed to materialize, Walker, “in an unlucky moment,” instead took up the first in a long series of contract appointments cataloging insects for the British Museum.

This is where the trouble began. Moving from drawer to drawer through the collection, Walker took it upon himself to describe what he believed to be thousands of new species in virtually all major groups of insects, a task requiring skills far beyond what he, or anyone else, possessed. “The result,” the obituarist wrote, “was what might have been expected. The work was done mechanically: ‘new genera and species’ were erected in the most reckless manner ...” Through a Rafinesquean combination of industry and incompetence, the humble Englishman had begun to single-handedly wreak havoc on the classification of the world’s insects.

As Walker published more and more dubious names, in wider and wider groups, the entomological establishment grew ever louder in its condemnation. By the time he had exhausted most of the major insect orders, his once considerable “entomological reputation [had been] worn to shreds.” Walker, however, “appeared to be utterly indifferent to anything that could be hurled at him ... In his social relations he was amiability itself ...” When he died, at 65, the entomological community mourned the gentle soul who had walked the halls of the British Museum, but also let out a collective sigh of relief. “We earnestly hope,” the obituarist added, “that never again will it fall to us, nor to our successors in entomological journalism, to have to write such an obituary notice as this.”

But Walker’s name wouldn’t be the last to live in taxonomic infamy. In fact, his obituary seems downright tactful beside Claude Morley’s note, from 1913, on the death of Peter Cameron, an infamous describer of Central American insects.

“Peter Cameron is dead, as was announced by most of the halfpenny papers on December 4th. What can we say of his life? Nothing; for it concerns us in no way. What shall we say of his work? Much, for it is entirely ours, and will go down to posterity as probably the most prolific and chaotic output of any individual for many years past.”

Cameron, a Scottish amateur with a penchant for Central American insects, left a legacy that echoed for decades. Fifty years after his death, Richard Bohart, a taxonomist at the University of California Davis, would reiterate that the entomologist’s “work was careless, his descriptions poor, his locality data were often vague or omitted, his generic assignments were characteristically erroneous and contradictory, and he eschewed illustrations.” Despite all that, or perhaps because of it, Bohart wound up with the thankless task of sorting through Cameron’s North American contributions to a small group of wasps known as the Odynerini. Of the hundred or so names Cameron proposed within the group, almost all, Bohart found, were invalid.

Meanwhile, modern taxonomy has its own outliers. In 2006, over 50 scientists signed an open letter to the administration of the University of Utrecht protesting the work of one Dewanand Makhan, an amateur entomologist who frequently listed the university as his institutional affiliation. (Makhan was a contract employee at the university’s herbarium, and not a member of the academic staff; his publications now list a personal address.)

“For many years,” they wrote, “Dr. Makhan has been a growing threat to taxonomy and zoological nomenclature, publishing a large number of new genera and species in groups as wide ranging as beetles, spiders, and gastropods. These publications are uniformly poor in quality and scholarship.” A group of ant experts put it more bluntly: A 2007 publication by Makhan, they wrote, was “one of the most inadequate papers that has ever been produced in ant taxonomy.”

Makhan’s descriptions are notoriously short on detail. In place of clear scientific diagrams, he illustrates much of his work with blurry, out-of-focus photographs. Most frustrating to fellow entomologists, many of Makhan’s “new” species are instantly recognizable, at least to them, as already described insects. Despite numerous articles and blog posts on the so-called “Makhan problem,” new publications continue to appear, most in a small Australian journal without a traditional peer-review process. (As recently as last year, Makhan described a new species of waterbeetle, Desmopachria barackobamai—named, of course, for the 44th president of the United States.)


The story is a familiar one, but with a modern twist. That’s because the growth of so-called “vanity journals”—publications that look to all appearances like mainstream scientific outlets, but lack rigorous peer-review—has produced new avenues for what some have taken to calling “taxonomic vandalism.” As traditional boundaries between experts and amateurs dissolve in the face of digital publishing, more opportunities than ever exist for novel voices in science, journalism, and politics. Unfortunately, these opportunities come at a cost, as a growing tide of information challenges the discriminatory abilities of scientists and lay readers alike.

While discussions underway now could revise the Codes to include stricter controls on which publications count for classificatory changes, many taxonomists are wary of doing anything that might deter amateur contributions. With so many species left to discover, and with existential threats to biodiversity looming, they realize the field needs as much help as it can get.

In the struggle to balance its highest ideals with its unruliest practicioners, taxonomy teaches us an enduring lesson about science as a whole. While we like to think of that enterprise as an antidote to fallibility—a way of seeing that seeks, through meticulous care and relentless examination, to minimize our tendency toward error—it remains fundamentally, inescapably human. Somewhere in between is where real progress happens."
science  taxonomy  anselpayne  biology  2016  biodiversity  franciswalker  entomology  williamlello  claudemorley  petercameron  richardbohart  dewanandmakhan  amateurs  fallability  humans  zoology  constantinerafinesque  asagray  classification  taxonomists  iczn  naming  names  nomenclature  edmerrill 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Ants of the Prairie: Into the Wild - Architect Magazine
"Joyce Hwang’s practice, Ants of the Prairie, is generating buzz with innovative projects that create urban habitats for bees, bats, and other threatened species."
2014  joycehwang  art  architecture  animals  bees  bats  birds  battower  zoology  biology  highline 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Cornelia Hesse Honegger: Chernobyl [and elsewhere]
"Field studies in the nuclear fallout areas from Chernobyl
 
As a scientific illustrator I had worked for Prof. Hans Burla, a geneticist at the Zoological Institute of the University of Zurich. In 1967 he gave me the assignment to draw Drosophila subobscura flies that had been mutated in the laboratory by adding a poison (EMS) to their food. For my own interest I also painted these mutated flies, which were called quasimodo.

In 1985 I painted a housefly, Musca domestica, mutation called aristapedia — mutated by x-rays in the laboratory. The dean of the Zoological Institute gave the mutant flies to me when I asked him for permission to paint them. This work trained me to detect morphological disturbances in Heteroptera true bugs, which live in the wild at the edge of forests and in meadows."

[via: https://twitter.com/anabjain/status/428389515363774464 ]
animals  insects  drawings  corneliahessehonegger  nature  chernobyl  zoology  flies  mutations  science 
january 2014 by robertogreco
The Book of Barely Imagined Beings by Caspar Henderson - review | Books | The Guardian
"Henderson's project: a spellbinding book that seeks to astonish us with the sheer intricacy, diversity and multiplicity of life forms that share our planet. In what he modestly calls a "stab" at a 21st-century bestiary, he fuses zoology, literature, mythology, history, paleontology, anecdote and art through 27 brilliantly executed essays…"

"These are essays in the original, Montaignesque sense of the word, and range freely over whatever topic takes the author's fancy."

"In 1959 CP Snow delivered his famous Rede lecture on "The Two Cultures", in which he lamented the gulf between intellectual elites fluent either in the sciences or in the humanities, but all too rarely in both. Fifty years on, the landscape seems as divided as it was in Snow's day. It's a gulf of which the likes of Leonardo could not have conceived, and one that Henderson – an English graduate turned science writer – seeks to bridge. We have a great deal that we can learn from one another…"
gavinfrancis  anniedillard  toread  books  laurencesterne  sirthomasbrown  enlightenment  philosophy  art  anecdote  paleontology  history  mythology  literature  zoology  julesverne  darwin  italocalvino  robertburton  wgsebald  cv  essays  micheldemontaigne  writing  borges  multid  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  leonardodavinci  bestiary  casparhenderson  2012  cpsnow  animals  montaigne  charlesdarwin 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Not a Wolf, But a Tiger | Wired Science | Wired.com
"But appearances can be deceiving. The skull of Thylacinus may be a remarkable marsupial facsimile of the grey wolf skull, but this does not mean that the thylacine actually behaved like its placental counterpart. In fact, many of the proposed equivalencies between marsupials and their placental proxies do not hold up very well under close scrutiny – the fossil “marsupial lion”, for example, is a vastly different creature than Panthera leo. In the case of the thylacine, a study just published by Borja Figueirido and Christine Janis suggests that the predator probably had more in common with cats when it came to subduing prey."
animals  tasmania  australia  evolution  tasmaniantiger  extinction  science  zoology  thylacinus  nature 
may 2011 by robertogreco
“The Species Problem” by Allison Martell | The Walrus | April 2011
"IF IT WAS clear to David and Bella Kuptana what had happened to their hunting cabin on Victoria Island in the Arctic Archipelago last spring, it’s because there was a bear-shaped hole in the wall. Tracing the frozen coastline on snow machines, they found five more cabins in a similar state of ruin; behind one that appeared untouched, they spotted the rogue, making a break for the open plain. David, who took down his first polar bear when he was nine years old and has killed as many as three a year since then, felled the animal with his first shot, and immediately knew something was wrong. Its head was unusually wide, and its paws were brown. Except for all that matted white fur, it looked more like a grizzly."

"…About a month later, they got word: this was a hybrid, with both polar bear and grizzly ancestors, perhaps a freak consequence of climate change, which is pushing grizzlies into polar bear territory."
polarbears  grizzlybears  bears  hybrids  via:javierarbona  arctic  climatechange  animals  2011  canada  pizzly  grolarbears  polizzly  biology  zoology 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Human ecology - Wikipedia
"…interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary study of the relationship btwn humans & their natural, social, & built environments…

Human ecology is composed of concepts from ecology like interconnectivity, community behavior, & spatial organization. From the beginning, human ecology was present in geography & sociology, but also in biological ecology & zoology. However, it was the social scientists who applied ecological ideas to humans in a rigorous way. Throughout 20th century, few biological ecologists really tackled human ecology, but they tended to focus on humans’ impact on the biotic world—which is only half of the picture. Paul Sears is the perfect example of this, an ecologist who realized disastrous effects that humans were having on environment & called for human ecology to act as a means to solve them. However, some social scientists expanded human ecology to include also the physical environment's impact on people."

[Ken Robinson and K-12 reference at end of the article]
ecology  environment  human  philosophy  psychology  humanecology  collegeoftheatlantic  education  learning  interdisciplinary  systemsthinking  systems  interconnectivity  interconnectedness  glvo  behavior  spatialorganization  transdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  kenrobinson  tcsnmy  socialsciences  zoology  anthropology  sociology  interconnected 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Modcult: Spiral Path of a Blindfolded Man
"Schaeffer, an American zoologist, observed that an amoeba placed on a cylindrical surface always moved in a spiral path around the cylinder. To further study spiral movement, Schaeffer blindfolded a right-handed friend and instructed him to walk a straight line across a country field. Schaeffer plotted his friend’s track, which described a clockwise spiral form until the blindfolded man happened to stumble on a tree stump."
blind  blindness  spirals  nature  zoology  amoebas 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Turning The Pages Online: Book Menu
"Using touchscreen technology and animation software, the digitized images of rare and beautiful historic books in the biomedical sciences are offered at kiosks at the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Visitors may ‘touch and turn’ these pages in a highly realistic way. They can zoom in on the pages for more detail, read or listen to explanations of the text, and (in some cases) access additional information on the books in the form of curators’ notes.
via:preoccupations  medicine  renaissance  science  education  art  biology  illustration  images  anatomy  reference  libraries  medical  zoology  archives  history  digitallibraries  nlm  books 
december 2009 by robertogreco
Bees Enlisted to Attack Crows in Tokyo
"After years of being attacked by crows, a colony of seabirds nesting in Tokyo is getting an unlikely ally: the tiny honeybee."
bees  zoology  crows  japan 
july 2008 by robertogreco

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