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Bayou-Diversity (31 March 2019) Humans have been putting names on plants and animals ever since the first cave man found it advantageous to convey to his mate the difference between a cave cricket and a cave bear. As our species developed culturally and interactions between groups who spoke different languages increased, the problem surfaced again. The folks on the other side of the mountain were peddling rugs from an animal they called moose, but which were known to the prospective buyers as camels. It was a problem of conflicting common names, and it got worse when scientists came along. A Swedish fellow named Linneaus began working on the issue in the 1740’s by developing a system to

Sicily Island Neanderthal

Bayou-Diversity (24 March 2019) On the morning of January 9, 1951, two Baton Rouge newspapers, the States Times and Morning Advocate, ran a story that fueled coffee shop gossip and tailgate prattle across the state for weeks to come. The articles described the discovery of “Neanderthal man – an 11 foot tall ancestor of modern man – that lived in North America about 50,000 years ago.” The backstory is that two days after Christmas in the preceding year a bulldozer operator was working up a pile of gravel in a pit in the Sicily Island Hills in Catahoula Parish when he noticed what appeared to be bones of a large mammal. They spilled out of the vein of chert about 15 feet below the natural

Chains & Webs

Bayou-Diversity (17 March 2019) The field of ecology has its own bag of words and terms used to describe the relationships between plants and animals and their environment. Food chain is one such term. Most folks grasp the basic meaning as “the big fish eats the little fish,” which is pretty much the simplified truth. A more thorough definition might be a “chain of organisms in a community through which energy is transferred.” An ecological community consists of the plants and animals living in a particular habitat. Each animal link in the chain obtains energy by feeding on the link below it, and in turn passes the energy on when it is eaten by the next link. A chain typically begins

Windstorms & Forests

Bayou-Diversity (10 March 2019) From most people’s point of view, spring storms that produce strong winds are destructive and anything but beneficial. However, if a forest is capable of a perspective, it would be that such storms are critical to their survival. Most of the forested lands in Louisiana once had some species of oak as a major component. The exception was the region blanketed with longleaf pine. Alluvial bottomlands were covered with several types of oaks and other hardwoods. The hill country grew different types of oaks mixed with pines. These forests were mosaics of trees of different ages. Large stands of even-aged trees were rare. Oaks have growth habits that forester

Big Bend & Bayous

Bayou-Diversity (3 March 2019) As I write this Bayou-Diversity essay I am overlooking the muddy, roiling Rio Grande nearly 1,000 miles southwest of my Louisiana home on the edge of the Bayou D’Arbonne Swamp. There is little that can be called civilization for 500 miles to the south. Indeed, much of the looming Sierra del Carmen Mountains in Mexico has never been mapped. To the north the small village of Marathon, Texas lies across a hundred miles of Chihuahuan desert. Between here and there a road is closed because three mountain lions have recently behaved in a manner bolder than the comfort level of patrolling rangers. Two days ago as we hiked along a remote trail a limb snapped fift


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