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. 103, No. 10, October

Adios, Locos?
Along the 3,000-mile coastline from mid-Peru to southern Chile lives a gray marine snail, with a flattened, bowl-shaped shell about as big as your hand. It lives on rocks that may be just below the water's surface or as much as ninety feet down. Known...
All the Khan's Horses
In August 1227, a somber funeral procession--escorting the body of perhaps the most renowned conqueror in world history--made its way toward the Burkhan Khaldun (Buddha Cliff) in northeastern Mongolia. Commanding a military force that never amounted...
Amphibians in a Bad Light
Each spring, two or three times a week, my graduate students and I travel eighty miles east, from Oregon State University to Lost Lake in the Cascade Range. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks and volcanic debris, the lake, at an altitude of about 4,000...
A Texas Powwow
It is pouring rain outside the Inn of the Twelve Clans on the Alabama-Coushatta reservation in east Texas, and no one is eager to leave. Because of the rain, the afternoon's gourd dances, which were to have been held in the powwow arena at the community...
A View outside the Galaxy
A quick look at a star map for early evening in October shows that one of the least interesting areas of the celestial sphere has now spread itself before us to the south. As always, the northern sky is occupied by Polaris and the Big Dipper, which circles...
Born to Talk? - Patterns in the Mind: Language and Human Na
The behaviorist B. F. Skinner viewed most human behavior as quintessentially cultural and structured by individual experience, with genetic factors playing a minimal role. His book on verbal behavior, published in 1957, struck a chord with a generation...
Cardon and the Night Visitors
Along a narrow belt in Mexico's western Sonoran Desert grows the cardon, the world's largest cactus. Widespread in Baja California and coastal Sonora, the cardon resembles the much more familiar saguaro because of its single trunk and multiple branches,...
Caroni Swamp, Trinidad
On Trinidad's western coast, about five miles south of the capital city of Port of Spain, lies Caroni Swamp, a forty-square-mile stretch of swampland intersected by numerous water channels. Fed by freshwater that drains down from the island's Northern...
Jove's Thunderbolts
One night in 1847, and partly to escape her parents' noisy dinner party, Maria Mitchell of Nantucket lugged her telescope to the roof of the Pacific National Bank (where her father worked as chief cashier) and discovered a comet five degrees from Polaris,...
Sticker Shock
I collect and repair old tractors -- to be exact, Allis Chalmers WC tractors from the late 1930s. It's more than an avocation: dismantling and reassembling old Allises my therapy, my retreat, my obsession. At this point I have...well, I have more orange...
What Are Squirrels Hiding?
Naturalists and casual observers alike have been struck by the special relationship between squirrels and acorns. As ecologists, though, we cannot observe these energetic mammals scurrying up and down oak trees and eating and burying acorns without wondering...