biology zoology blog benno meyer rochow head brain

Head- and Brainless

Is learning something then still possible?

I love the questions that children have. Why isn’t the sun alive? What would happen if we had eyes also on the back of our head, like spiders? And, can we live without a brain?

Well, occasionally anencephalic children are born and they lack almost the entire brain. Few live longer than a few days after birth, but there is a case of an anencephalic infant having been kept alive for almost 3 years. And there is the famous legend of the 15th-century pirate Klaus Störtebeker, who was captured to be beheaded along with his crew. According to the legend, he struck a deal with the executioner that those men of his crew that he’d run past, after being decapitated, should get their freedom. And how many men did the headless Störtebeker then pass in order to save them: 11 according to the legend. —>—>

biology zoology blog benno meyer rochow Pine needles

Pine Needles

Pine needles are not quite as needless as some think: they’re edible!

It’s quite amazing what people can do to turn certain plants or their parts and products into something insipid or savory (note: I am not saying that it has to be delicious). Especially in times of deprivation human inventiveness has produced amazing results, think about acorn coffee or acorn bread, or using the inner bark of birch trees to eat or making deadly poisonous cycad seeds palatable or cooking food with fresh pine tree needles. But why aren’t such kinds of uses more common – at least with regard to human gastronomy? There are after all always some animals that seem to relish what’s pretty awkward to handle digestively by humans. —>—>

Plants that Live on Plants – no, actually “live off” plants

Are plants that live on other plants parasites? Not really, right? Especially in the tropics, you can hardly find a tree on which there isn’t a growth of another kind of plant ranging from tiny mosses via larger ferns to proper seed-bearing species. However, such ‘epiphytes’ (as these species that are using a bigger individual as a support to grow on are called) may only weaken their host by being too numerous or by becoming too heavy. They can also affect their host by intercepting some rain water and shadowing some of the host plant’s leaves and/or by providing shelter to insects and other arthropods that can be foes as well as friends. However, as long as they do not sink their own roots into the host plant’s body, they are not removing anything from their host. And that’s different in species belonging to the genus Viscum, commonly known as the “mistletoe”. —>—>