Crimson-speckled flunkey (Utetheisa pulchella), proof that some of Australia’s insects never got the hang of camouflage.
Or perhaps it’s *~APOSEMATIC COLORATION~*
This spider was trapped in tree resin about 20 million years ago. Over time, the resin fossilized to amber, preserving the animal inside. Specimens like this are helpful given that spiders don’t fossilize well in sediment. They offer researchers good information about the group’s more recent history. The oldest known amber specimen is from around 130 million years ago. This specimen was collected in the Dominican Republic.
Learn more in our exhibition, Spiders Alive! open now.
AMBER. PREHISTORIC SPIDER. WOW.
It was a challenge to picture 故宫 (the Forbidden City) unmolested by throngs of tourists. The Beijing summer is indeed hot, heavy and muggy, weighing on the body like a fever. It was grand though, to stand in the middle of 人山人海 and mentally photoshop away the umbrellas and audio-guide carriers and microphone-toting tour group leaders. I close my eyes, a silly tourist who barely speaks mandarin with a 南方 southern accent. Imagine myself an ancient assassin, making my away across, alone, in the middle of the night.
A giant metal bird descends in circles in the sky and cruises parallel to the landing strip. The moment before touchdown, just as the creature unfolds its rolly metal legs to meet the tarmac, always gives me a minor heart attack. It’s difficult to watch from the windows cut into the belly of this giant bird. I think wildly, this could be the moment before impact. But a few thundering rolls and bumps later the Boeing 777 completes its landing unscathed. I send a mental cloud of grateful thank-you balloons to the maintenance crew and wind speeds.
This is Miami, Florida and I step onto soil that I have been away from for half a year. Not my soil and not too sorely missed, but nonetheless familiar. After some little incident at customs I recheck my bags, head to my gate, and am startled by this sudden, new understanding I have of airport announcements and the surrounding hustle and bustle. Realizing I have barely eaten since the previous day I buy an expensive cupcake (¿puedo usar mi tarjeta?) and enjoy the swift change in the expressions of the entire counter staff, from routine politeness to surprise (¿de donde eres?).
A jolting reminder that city hostels will never be my thing.
My thoughts are with the forest that ends abruptly in dark, jagged rocks half buried in sand, that the tide cleans and reburies with regular certainty. Being in the city, if not for people I need I meet, only impresses upon me where I actually need to be. I hold in my mind an infinite palette of shades and shapes and textures of greens and browns and blacks, and the occasional peeking splash of golden light. I hold in my mind the leaf-litter rustle of perturbed land crabs that one might at first take for a snake, the cautious backwards glance of a black-throated trogon, the strange, mixed coffee-dog smell of a puma. I hold in my mind an eleven year old who taught me to be young again and seek for starfish surprises in tidal pools.
The advertisement of the wild nutmeg (Myristicaceae: Virola), marketed both towards canopy-dwelling toucans and spider monkeys, and creatures favoring a more down-to-earth lifestyle like guatusas and tinamous. The advertised message is simple: Disperse me!
But what happens after that (Who takes the bait? Where does the seed go? Does the seed get destroyed and if not does it germinate?) is a puzzle buried under a mountain of uncertainty and possibility.
Abandoned houses are creepy, but I’ve rarely thought about why they are so. A structure, built for the purpose of human habitation, takes a life of its own when released from the contract that is the foundation of its existence. They fall into disuse and disrepair in a rejection of human habitation. They take on purposes unknown. Perhaps they are insect-eating bats, black smudges of little furry, fidgety bodies clinging to the wall with tiny claws. Perhaps their wooden walls become the homes of varieties of lichen, a body of termites, or a launching vertical platform for emerging cicadas that emerge from their larval proteinaceous jumpsuit like zombies splitting the well-used skin on the backs of their necks and emerging into new life. Perhaps an abandoned house is not haunted by spirits and the stories of the people who once lived in it, but for the new initiation that the structure takes in rebellion of its human-centric beginning. An abandoned house now welcomes visitors that human house owners would not dream of - even if they could, they would chase them off with brooms, parangs, machetes and guns. In the cupboard in which treasured books, trinkets, silverware used to be displayed may sit dried crumbly pieces of old puma shit. The walls on which maps, family photo-frames were hung are now adorned by feathery spider’s silk, further decorated by the shells of last night’s dinner. After all, wood cut from forest giants must prefer tenants of families from its choosing.
There is little more thrilling than watching a battalion of dark clouds advancing across the flat expanse ocean towards the shore. Its approach is excruciatingly slow such that the army seems almost motionless…but if you watch carefully, they are moving. An ibis takes off across the sky like a white arrow in truce, but in vain; the cavalry of this army have no heart. The horses eat wind and their riders feel no hunger. Their riders are too immortal, for when a soldier falls he merely changes state and lays in wait for the opportunity to rise again. Silent and motionless, the great army slides across the sky, looking very much like the dark gray underbellies of ghost ships seen from underwater by a spying frogman.