Natural History

A magazine of scientific research and education in nature and culture. Features articles, book reviews, and general information about the natural world and its inhabitants.

Articles from Vol. 110, No. 2, March

"After You, Eve"
Research on the Y chromosome only hints at the complexity of the human genealogical tree. My wife, Grace, and I are expecting our first child in July, so I've had a lot on my mind recently. Most of it has been pretty mundane stuff. What's the fastest...
A Method for the Masses: Oxygen Delivery for Stay-at-Home Embryos
Most marine invertebrates set their young adrift. Some, however, produce masses of embryos that remain at the bottom of the sea, where they may be protected by tough capsules, by layers of gel, or by the body of a parent. Though these embryos are safe...
And Then There Were Two: Cloning in Sea Star Larvae
In 1989 scientists reported an astonishing discovery: cloning by sea star larvae. Isidro Bosch, of the State University of New York College at Geneseo, and several colleagues observed larvae with small growths, or buds, in place of one or more of their...
A World Apart
The larval lifestyle may seem alien to us terrestrial bipeds, but it comes quite naturally to most creatures-especially inhabitants of the world's oceans. A tiny larva, not much larger than a speck of dust, swims through the swirling soup of plankton...
Bookshelf
The 23rd Cycle: Learning To Live With a Stormy Star, by Sten Odenwald (Columbia University Press, 2001; $27.95) Tracing the recent history of the Sun's destructive power, astronomer Odenwald warns us about the coming cycle of solar flares and storms,...
Coming to Our Senses
Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure science. -Edwin R Hubble, 1948 Our eyes are special organs. They allow us to register information not only from across the room but from across the universe....
Cosmic Chemists
Gazing out at the far reaches of the universe led scientists back into the microworld of matter. The unity of nature isn't just a poetic phrase. Ever since Isaac Newton showed that the same gravitational force that pins us to Earth holds the planets...
Daddy's No Boob
IN SUM DADDY'S NO BOOB According to some evolutionary biologists, mates will act to favor the reproduction of their own genes at the expense of their rivals' genes. Mate blue-footed boobies provide extensive parental care, including defending the nest,...
Getting to the Point: Self-Defense in Crab Larvae
Of the many predators that crab larvae face, plankton-- eating fishes (such as anchovies and silversides) pose the greatest threat. Female crabs living in the marshes, mangroves, and sea grass beds of estuaries and bays-the productive but perilous habitats...
Informed Consent
A muckraking book spotlights the ethics of anthropological fieldwork. Early last September, an ominous message addressed to the president of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) began making the rounds of the e-mail grapevine. "We write to...
Letters
Word Count In his article on the evolution of language, "Homo Grammaticus" (12/00-1/01), Martin A. Nowak states that "English has about 100,000 words." But an article in the December 2000 issue of Smithsonian notes that English has "a total vocabulary...
Lost in Space
What goes up must come down. Or not. Every sky watcher knows that what's "up" in our nighttime skies isn't up at all. Celestial objects may look as though they're "up there" to observers "down here" on Earth, but we long ago adjusted our thinking and...
Mushi
Every summer and fall, Japanese children spend hours catching and playing with insects. From Companion Animals and Us: Exploring the Relationships Between People and Pets, edited by A. L. Podberscek, E. S. Paul, and J. A. Serpell. (c) Cambridge University...
Out of the Frying Pan, into the Freezer: Larvae at Deep-Sea Vents
A quarter century ago, when scientists discovered lush colonies of organisms surrounding hot-water vents, such as black smokers, on the ocean floor, they began wondering how these animals maintained their populations. The giant tubeworms, specialized...
The Aftershocks That Weren't
New evidence from California -and old reports from the Midwest-indicate that some earthquakes can trigger others hundreds of miles away. Before dawn on June 28, 1992, residents of southern California were jolted from their sleep by a magnitude 7.3 earthquake....
The Fine Art of Waddling
As it rocks from side to side, a walking penguin may look clumsy, but its movements are actually quite efficient. When Tim Griffin and Rodger Kram set out to study how penguins walk, they didn't expect to be impressed. Compared with long-legged ostriches...
The Helicoprion Mystery
AT THE MUSEUM Where were the teeth situated on this ancient shark? In its jaw? On its tail? On its back? In the Museum's Hall of Vertebrate Origins is a most intriguing object, tucked away where few people see it. The object appears to be a perfect spiral...
The Long and the Short of It: "Arm" Development in Sea Urchin Larvae
Like sea star larvae, most sea urchin larvae have little "arms" lined with rows of cilia that gather nutritious particles suspended in the water. Remarkably, when food is scarce, a sea urchin larva's arms grow longer, thus providing more cilia with which...
The Scavenging of "Peking Man"
New evidence shows that a venerable cave was neither hearth nor home. China is filled with archaeological wonders, but few can rival the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, which has been inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Located about thirty miles...
The Sky in March
Mercury hugs the southeastern horizon before dawn in early March. Despite being far from the Sun (27.50 at greatest elongation on the 11th), it comes into view only for those willing to search diligently with binoculars. Venus is the blazing evening...
Urban Country
An Indianapolis park offers. some natural surprises. In 1916 John Holliday, who founded the Indianapolis News and the Indiana National Bank, donated his country estate to Indianapolis for family recreation and nature study. Today, managed by the Indianapolis...
Warm Welcome
A beaver's lodge is its castle, particularly when ice covers the pond. Northern winters can be long for a beaver-longer than for most nonhibernating mammals. Though equipped to gnaw through the hardest wood, beavers show little inclination to chisel...