Friday, August 1, 2014

Mystery Goose Update

On July 20, I saw the Old Town mystery goose again.  This time it was slightly upriver, in the water at Oronoco Bay Park.  

I also discovered that the mystery goose is on YouTube, in a video from last August that shows the goose in the same place as my most recent sighting.  

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Crash Bandicoot's Eponymous Ancestor

I am interested in cases in which organisms, and particularly extinct organisms, are given non-typical scientific names.  Mostly I concentrate on prehistoric animals named after rock stars (and I have a few of those still to blog about).  But today it came to my attention that paleontologists have named an extinct bandicoot from the Miocene of Australia after the video game character Crash Bandicoot, under the binomial Crash bandicoot—yes, that's right, genus Crash, species bandicoot.  (For the record, I have never played that game, as it came out at a point in my life when I had mostly stopped playing video games.)

What is really surprising to me is not that an extinct animal was named after a video game character, but that the name was used in an entirely unaltered form. Normally when scientists name a species after someone or something from pop culture, they make some effort to Latinize . . . or, um . . . Greekify the name.  For example, a pterosaur from China was recently named in honor of the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but the name was rendered using Greek roots as Kryptodrakon

And thus we are left with the irony that Crash Bandicoot himself is not a Crash bandicoot, but (according to his Wikipedia page) an Eastern Barred Bandicoot (Perameles gunnii).

I will note that, if I wanted to, I could update the Crash Bandicoot Wikipedia page, which as of today does not reflect that a prehistoric species has been named after the character, but I just don't have the energy.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Mystery Goose of Old Town

On Saturday I saw a goose that I couldn't identify among the Mallards and Canada Geese in the Potomac River at Founders Park in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia.  I got a few pictures, including the one above. 

I later consulted my Peterson guide and found that the bird resembles a Greater White-Fronted Goose (Anser albifrons). This was unexpected (although not as unexpected as the announcement that Pink Floyd will be releasing a new album in October), since the Greater White-Fronted Goose is not a resident of the mid-Atlantic states; it spends its summers in Canada and its winters in the Gulf of Mexico region.

I did some checking on the internet, and found that this individual bird has been seen in the area last year (pictures here, discussion here and here).  The speculation is that the mystery goose is not  a pure Greater White-Fronted Goose, but a hybrid with some other species.  If if is a hybrid, it doesn't show much physical input from the other species, having just about all the characteristics of a Greater White-Fronted Goose with the exception of the white line on the sides (which doesn't occur in juveniles).

(I sometimes think about starting a separate blog to document my wildlife observations here in Alexandria, but since I don't even have the energy to update Scaly Distractions more than twice a month, I don't know if I should be undertaking any new blogging projects.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mosquito Hopes and Theories Are Dashed

The Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes albopictus) is an introduced species of day-biting mosquito which has been making summers unbearable in parts of the Washington area for the last fifteen years or so.  The adults die off during the winter in temperate climates; populations survive via eggs.  

   Much of the country experienced an abnormally cold winter in 2014, which, I thought, might have had an effect on this obnoxious species. A recent study discovered that Aedes albopictus eggs will suffer 100% mortality after being exposed to temperature of 10° F (-12° C) for four hours, or 5° F (-15° C) for one hour.  On January 7, the low temperature at Reagan National Airport was 6° F; on this day the temperature may possibly have met the condition of four hours at 10° F or lower.  For most of the spring I held out hope that the cold might have locally eliminated the Asian Tiger Mosquito (until it could recolonize from warmer areas, which one hopes would take a few years).

   But then on May 21, I received the first Asian Tiger Mosquito bite of the year.  Asian Tiger Mosquitoes are still here, bringing another summer of misery.  I assume that ultimately it was a problem of microclimate. Members of the species lay their eggs in holes in trees and other cavities where rainwater accumulates.  These cavities presumably created sheltered environments in which the temperature was significantly warmer than that of the surrounding air.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Presidential Longevity

Former President George H. W. Bush marked his 90th birthday yesterday by skydiving from a helicopter.  This sort of longevity is seemingly universal among chief executives from the last few decades.  Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford both lived to be 93, and Jimmy Carter is still alive and active at 89.

I have read (although I don't have any relevant links) that modern presidential campaigns are so strenuous that only the most healthy candidates can endure them.  It seems reasonable that such a process would select a group of Presidents healthy enough to generally live abnormally long lives.

Presidents from before about forty years ago did not tend to reach such advanced ages, however.  Richard Nixon lived to 81, Dwight Eisenhower died at 78, and Lyndon Johnson only made it to 64.

Was  this because health care at the time was less advanced, or were campaigns in that era less grueling, and thus less likely to select Presidents with the potential to live to 90? 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

It's Time to Blog Again

It's time to blog again, just to keep up my minimum of one post per month.  Unfortunately, I haven't had time yet to move my blog notes from my old computer, which, after refusing to turn on for weeks, suddenly started working again when I took it in to be repaired.  

Maybe I can do some better blogging tomorrow.  

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I Blog Again About Television Because That's All That I Can Do

 I always seem to end up blogging about television shows or some other shallow element of entertainment culture.  And I'm going to do it again.  Unfortunately blogging about anything more substantial requires too much research, and I generally don't have the energy.  And it doesn't help that my old computer, which had all my notes for future blog posts (and lots of other stuff) on it, stopped working a few weeks ago, and I haven't had the chance to see if I can get it repaired.  

Two things are weighing on my mind concerning television.

The first is last week's Parks and Recreation season finale, at the end of which the show jumped three years into the future, and possibly jumped the shark as well.  Does this mean that next season will be set in 2017, or that all the past seasons have been set three years prior to their broadcast dates without us knowing it?

The second is Craig Ferguson announcing that he will be leaving his late night show at the end of the year.  I'm sure that Craig Ferguson will appear in other venues in future years.  But I can't imagine that we'll have any opportunity to see Geoff Peterson again.  And that is what is truly sad.