Hot and Scalding

Some organisms manage to harness extreme heat

We all know that dragons and other mythical beasts are frequently given the power of fire-blowing or fire-spitting, but I also know that fire and life don’t mix well and can therefore categorically rule out the existence of fire-producing creatures (with the exception of fire-blowing circus and stage acts). What I am less certain about, however, is what I am supposed to make of stories I heard in rural France, spending 7 months in Moulis, namely that gas production by cows in crowded and badly ventilated stables is said to have been responsible for the occasional explosion. OK, cows produce methane, but who would ignite it? Stranded and decomposing whales on a tropical beach build up gases inside their body due to bacterial activity and can, indeed, explode, but generating fire? No. —>


Life on the Fast Track

Mayflies don’t have time

I once had to examine a fascinating German PhD-thesis; fascinating not just because of some real beauties of single-word monstrosities (you could find in the text words like “Windgeschwindigkeitsdurchschnittswerte” and “Trefferwahrscheinlichkeitsoptimierung”, but fascinating because of the topic: the visual behaviour of mayflies. Mayflies are an ancient order of insects and have nothing to do with ordinary flies, hence their spelling in a single word (if they were true flies one would spell them as “may flies”). —>

Zoology biology life between 2 sheets

Life Between Two Sheets

Tight but nice

When I was living in Canberra (the capital of Australia) we had a pomegranate plant (it was more a bush than a tree) that produced the odd fruit and had beautiful shiny leaves. But some of the leaves contained whitish lines, a kind of roadmap seemingly scribbled onto (or perhaps into) them. And -not to be misunderstood- it is about the upper and lower leaf sheets and what’s between them I want to write. —>