Saturday, July 28, 2018

Still Life with Robin: Lizards & Leaf Blower, Crane & Crowe

Photo by J.M. Garg (Wikimedia Creative Commons)

by Peggy Robin

You know I hate the noise of leaf blowers. I thought I would never, ever have a good word to say about them. But now I do! It’s because of science. Harvard researchers wanted to find out how tropical lizards are able to hold onto their tree limbs during hurricane force winds. So they set up an experiment and mimicked the force of the hurricanes using a leaf blower in a lab. You can see the experiment in action here:
Don’t worry – the lizards who could not hold on in 108 mph winds (yes, they cranked up the leaf blower to over 100 mph!) were blown into a soft net, unharmed. Rattled perhaps, and deafened, most likely, but otherwise OK.

That’s not the only strange animal story in the news this week. Have you seen the cover story of the Sunday Washington Post magazine? It’s been available online for the past few days (see: It’s the oddball but heartwarming story of a crane named Walnut who needed a mate for life. But she had been hand-raised by humans and so found herself confused and unattracted to the male cranes sent to woo her. Then a man came along who seemed to understand her and appreciate her. He even learned to do the crane mating dance with her. Through his devotion to her, and with the help of artificial insemination (there’s science put to good use again!), he brought about the laying of many rare crane eggs. Their love story may go on for many, many years, as the white-naped crane from China can live to be 60 or more. Her human mate, named Chris Crowe, is now 42, and may one day want to retire from his job as a bird keeper at the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, VA – but as the Washington Post story tells us, he knows he would never be able to leave her. “I’d feel like a jerk,” he says gallantly.

After a week of news of fires, floods, and many other forms of disaster, it’s always nice to hear of a couple dedicated to each other’s welfare, together for the long haul – and especially so when they come from different backgrounds, or in this case, different species!

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.   

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