Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Flora, Fauna and Tomfoolery

Did the first dogs spring from wolves? Did our ancestors domesticate the noble hound as a hunting companion? A night watchman? Or for warmth when the cave got so cold? Well (cue the sinister music) coulda been dogs were first penned up for their meat. That awful thought comes from a new study of dogs worldwide. Full disclosure: we own a wiener dog.

Most birds like to sing while perched. But some can sing while flying. Birders think the flight songs were developed to warn of predators. Some of have learned the hard way that birds can do other things while flying. Don’t look up.

That guy Goethe (who wrote Faust) also studied plants. “From first to last,” he once wrote, “the plant is nothing but a leaf.” Maybe so. But is there no difference between a paw paw tree and a rose bush?

Grave robbers who stole jewels from the dead in the Middle Ages didn’t get sick. Could be because they washed their hands after every job in a concoction of cinnamon bark, lemon oil and eucalyptus. Thieves oil, they called it. Some sawbones swear by it still.

If you want to know more about any of these items, click on Science Times in Tuesday's New York Times. I couldn’t blog without it.

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