Sunday, May 31, 2015

My Cardinal Prediction Comes True

Way back in 2010, when I first started this blog, I wrote a post about a news report on the phenomenon of gynandromorphism (a condition in which half the body is male and the other half female) in chickens.  In that post, I engaged in some speculation:

 I am wondering—is this kind of gynandromorphy unique to chickens, or does it occur in other birds? It would be barely noticeable in many species, but obvious in sexually dimorphic birds like woodpeckers and certain songbirds. When a half-male, half-female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) shows up at the bird feeder, that would attract some attention.

  And now it turns out that a gynandromorphous Northern Cardinal has been observed, and is the subject of this video that was posted on the online magazine Slate in January.  

I am not an expert in bird genetics, but I do notice one significant error in the video: it shows sex as determined by the X and Y chromosomes (as occurs in humans), but birds have the ZW chromosomal system for sex determination, in which males are ZZ and females are ZW. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Yoda Best

A week or so ago I was walking by some tennis courts in a park adjacent to the local public high school.  I noticed a great deal of writing in chalk on the concrete walkways near the courts.  From what I could tell, the writing was a tribute from the members of the high school's girls tennis team to two team members who were graduating.  

Part of the tribute was the words "YODA BEST" (i. e., "you're the best"), accompanied by a drawing of Yoda's face. Normally, observing the activities of today's high school students makes me feel really, really old—or rather it makes me understand that I am really, really old, because I actually feel very young; deep down I feel as if I'm only a few years older than a high school student myself.  But here was something that made me feel that maybe I wasn't all that old after all—high school students referencing a character whom I knew when I was in high school.  

Indeed, by the time that I was in high school, Yoda already seemed like a relic of the distant past, just as Yoda probably seems to the student who did the chalking (although, to them, the distant past might only mean the prequels).

It's been almost exactly 35 years since we first saw Yoda.