Archive for April, 2009
Just read about one of my favorite plant genus, Ferraria. This is a small group of about 17 species (Wikipedia says 11 but I’ll go with Goldblatt et al.  who are Iridaceae if not iridescent specialists*…), and they are native from South(ern) Africa.
Ferraria have wonderful tinted flowers like they where dyed or painted and most of the time it’s really a daring mix of gray-ish colours and brighter ones. I fell in love at first sight, during my PhD field season (back in 2001). I didn’t notice they smelt that bad, else I would have guessed the most frequent pollinator cohort is dung- and game flies , but that could just be they smelt better than I did after a few days of field work.
Anyway, the flowers are often described as dull, even by the best botanists, so I don’t know how I should feel about my personal tastes. Maybe I’m just a “dung beak” of some sort. I was touched by their grace, their lovely colours of course, but also their particularly crisped tepals giving the impression they have been crumpled like a treat paper and just thrown away. Now I learn they have a sapromyiophilous fly pollination system. And that’s the only aim of the post, not swallowing big lovely words. Along with the unpleasant putrid scent, sapromyiophily is apparently associated with “dull” and mottled perianth. I simply wonder why this is so, and whether this relate to any actual adaptive function, such as dung usually does not look bright or spots look like fly wastes. I hope the answer will fly out in a next future…
* Well, actually the ten first species were recognised by De Vos, three more were described or elevated to a species rank by Goldblatt and Manning in the early 2000′s and four remain to be described currently…
 – P. Goldblatt, P. Bernhardt & J.C. Manning (2009). Adaptive radiation of the putrid perianth: Ferraria (Iridaceae: Irideae) and its unusual pollinators. Plant Systematics & Evolution 278:53–65.
Like any good Biology addict, not only do I pretend to be a scientist, but so do I love natural history museums (fondness is not even appropriate). There’s one that I would never miss the opportunity to give another visit. It is located at Lille, far North of France, where 90% of my recent ancestors lived (there’s even a wiki stub about it!).
This is a rather small museum, but then it is also one of the reasons it is lovely: having to deal with space constraints, bits and pieces are arranged in a quite dense fashion and therefore offers a feeling of completeness (no empty space left around). It is based on several natural history collections inherited over the years in the previous centuries and offers a comprehensive take into biodiversity.
The bird collection is really impressive, and it’s a decent choice to have made it available to public, while both sensitizing people about the historical role of collections and the need to preserve endangered modern species (As you might guess, many species on display are on the verge of extinction). Since the latest tendency at Seeds Aside is gallery pixes, here is another cartoon post.
According to the ID theory (we’re really in need to put things in, given the almost empty basis proponents are leaving us with –don’t forget that it’s also an open minded theory according to Pratchett’s definition), all things natural should directly point out, not only as to how perfectly designed creatures are, but also as to how their wonderful behaviour is designed. Based on this assumption, Seeds Aside just keeps noticing just how far certain natural behaviours require further explanation under an ID view of life… Here are we back for this single but recurrent observation, so… ID proponentsists (or the other creationist kinds), any word about it?
Early April was silent here. Sort of. Business. I had the chance to go to the most renowned French garden fair (happening two times a year, in a spring flowers and a fall veggetables kind). At Saint Jean de Beauregard. A famous castle place (well, all gardeners heard of it). That’s just the neighbour town, and for a tricky reason I sometimes get free tickets. I was planning a full post on this wonder- and colourful crowdy occasion, but having left writing a few days ago I don’t feel like I would find the fair words for such a vivid experience. I’ll then just let you have a pixy look on the latest gardening fashion thingies. Looks more and more americanised*, though quite metallic and not so woody, and of course it ranges from cool to overly kitsch…
I received a “post-doc ad” today, one of which that I first thought of as a good opportunity (yep, I’m fitting the subject + it’s “theme free”/I’ll be learning new things or skills/This is a place I want to go/This is an interesting or new collaboration network and so on). There are a few such positions opening currently, and I’ll be back fishing in the job market soon. So far, so good.
The ad is nevertheless closing with a curious statement about compliance to the university honour code. Spotting some warning lights since it’s rather unusual for such a job profile. Of course I had to see all what this was about (hey, I was already thinking to apply!). I was thinking this had to do with conducting research, and since I’m already and naturally following quite stringent ethical guidelines for my work, why would this be an issue?
The thing is I can’t possibly apply for this position. Do you want reasons? Here they are:
- I have a beard (and even when I didn’t, I wasn’t shaving on a regular basis),
- I’m a coffee addict and I occasionnally indulge into drinking tea (or such harmful substances, does chocolate yet count?)
- Even if I’m on my way to quit smoking, I find tobacco attractive addictive,
- It happens that I drink a glass of wine or a beer occasionnally,
- I have two love children (and they are both lovely. Yes, you can be born outside mariage and be perfectly normal),
- some of my jokes cross the line where they have to be interpreted in a sexual context.
Hum… All of these are clear-cut departure from what is deemed acceptable from the honour code of the university. It clearly seems like I could not possibly get this position. Because of my scientific activities of course!
If I tell you this university is in the USA, would you guess which one it is?