Wednesday, August 09, 2006

In the beginning...

Hello lab gang,

I was hoping to support UBC's blog host, but it's not particularly well maintained and it's much easier to use this Blogger site.

Before the science of the day, an intro to my site:

"Duckfeet" and "Duck in the muck" are both references to the observations and experiments described in Darwin's "On the origin...". Darwin, in his supremely subtle brilliance, draws parallels between his simple experiments with ducks in a pond and the biogeography of plants and small animals that range across and between continents. I love this passage because it is both brilliant and funny. I'm including it here, but as I'm working in Safari, I can't readily use formatting to highlight it.

"Although the beaks and feet of birds are generally quite clean, I can show that earth sometimes adheres to them: in one instance I removed twenty-two grains of dry argillaceous earth from one foot of a partridge, and in this earth there was a pebble quite as large as the seed of a vetch. Thus seeds might occasionally be transported to great distances; for many facts could be given showing that soil almost everywhere is charged with seeds. Reflect for a moment on the millions of quails which annually cross the Mediterranean; and can we doubt that the earth adhering to their feet would sometimes include a few minute seeds? But I shall presently have to recur to this subject.

Almost every year, one or two land-birds are blown across the whole Atlantic Ocean, from North America to the western shores of Ireland and England; but seeds could be transported by these wanderers only by one means, namely, in dirt sticking to their feet, which is in itself a rare accident.

When a duck suddenly emerges from a pond covered with duck-weed, I have twice seen these little plants adhering to its back; and it has happened to me, in removing a little duck-weed from one aquarium to another, that I have quite unintentionally stocked the one with fresh-water shells from the other. But another agency is perhaps more effectual:

I suspended a duck's feet, which might represent those of a bird sleeping in a natural pond, in an aquarium, where many ova of fresh-water shells were hatching; and I found that numbers of the extremely minute and just hatched shells crawled on the feet, and clung to them so firmly that when taken out of the water they could not be jarred off, though at a somewhat more advanced age they would voluntarily drop off. These just hatched molluscs, though aquatic in their nature, survived on the duck's feet, in damp air, from twelve to twenty hours; and in this length of time a duck or heron might fly at least six or seven hundred miles, and would be sure to alight on a pool or rivulet, if blown across sea to an oceanic island or to any other distant point."
On the origin of Species Chapter 12 - Geographical Distribution


At 5:50 AM, Blogger Rosie Redfield said...

Nice quote - can I relate it to our research? Are our ideas the mud in the toes of science? Are our research blogs the wings that spread our ideas around the world?


Post a Comment

<< Home