Just what would you do for a pet fish? Would you pay $100 for one? $1000? $10,000? Would you lie? Cheat? Steal? Would you kidnap another person? Would you kill for one?
While this may seem hyperbolic, when it comes to the Asian Arowana, the subject of Emily Voigt’s The Dragon Behind the Glass; A True Story of Power, Obsession, and the World’s Most Coveted Fish, none of it is even slightly exaggerated. With prices that can reach into six figures and an international trade network that includes an exceptionally colorful assortment of fish enthusiasts, aquaculturists, entrepreneurs, government officials, and organized criminals, the story of the “dragon fish” is one that was ripe to be told; something Ms. Voigt does in a way that is both compelling and illuminating. Keep reading…
Recent Book Reviews
It usually begins in a similar manner each time. From the upstairs bathroom comes my daughter’s voice, “Papa!” From my wife in the living room, “Sweetheart – come in here please!” From the stairwell leading to her ground-floor apartment in the house we all share, my mother’s urgent inquiry “Where’s John?” Each of these calls generally mean one thing: a previously unknown resident of, or unexpected visitor to, the house has made an appearance. From firebrats and spiders to centipedes and even, during one fortnight a few years back, mice, I have caught and released – well, generally, firebrats are absurdly fragile – a wide variety of small creatures that were declared “undesirables” by a majority consensus of the humans inhabiting the residence (and even I agreed that the mice had to go). Keep reading…
Let’s imagine for a moment that you’re a male Lissopimpla excelsa wasp in the prime of your reproductive life. You’ve been buzzing about over the local Australian flora for the better part of the morning looking to make contact with a female who’s “a bit of a go-er” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more). Suddenly just off to your right you notice an attractive possible candidate for a bit of intimate ichneumon interaction. Making your approach you clearly perceive the scent of a receptive female L. excelsa. However upon making contact, you notice a complete lack of movement on your partner’s part, but as no resistance is perceived, you get on with business. Keep reading…
Newly Noted Books
If you live along the Florida coast, plan to be spending some time along the Florida coast, or simply have an interest in marine species of fish – particularly those inhabiting the waters off the Florida coast – then David B. Snyder, George H. Burgess, and Johns Hopkins University Press have a new book that may greatly interest you: “Marine Fishes of Florida.”
Despite their vast, open stretches of sand where, other than some waving swaths of unusually hardy grasses, living things seem sparsely represented at best, the dunes of the Pacific Northwest are actually teeming with a wide ranging variety of life – if you know where to look.
Think about the last time you saw a field bedecked with wildflowers. Wasn’t it a sublimely beautiful sight? I know that each time I see one, whenever possible I stop and simply soak in the delightfully random arrangements of color. And yet how many of us – unless of course we’re skilled botanists – can easily identify the various plants that make such sights possible?
The series to which I so often turn when I need to begin learning about a subject, Oxford University Press’ Very Short Introductions, has recently added the volume “Moons” by David A. Rothery to its expansive – as well as impressive – collection of titles.
What with marijuana now legal for recreational – as well as medicinal use – most everyone here in Oregon seems to be opening a shop selling it in any unused retail space, garden shed, or chicken coop. Indeed, the proliferation of cannabis throughout the state is at levels never before seen (and that’s saying something in a state that contains both the city of Portland and the annual site of the Oregon Country Fair).
Not so very long ago, a colleague of mine, during a conversation between us about astronomy, took issue with the fact that I had conflated it with astrophysics. “The two are very different,” he insisted. He having studied the latter at university, and not being particularly learned in either subject myself, I was confused regarding the distinctions between the two – and, to be perfectly honest, have been ever since.
Unlike James Taylor, I will soon be going to California not only in my mind but in an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737. I’ll be there for a week to attend to some business for Celestron in Los Angeles and to speak at the San Diego Bird Festival. Thus in keeping with my preferred practice of taking along a book or two with relevance to my destination, I’m planning to pack copies of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of California by Alvaro Jaramillo and the recently published third edition of Insects of the L.A. Basin by Charles L. Hogue and James N. Hogue in my shoulder bag.
The Well-equipped Naturalist
For as long as I’ve ventured afield in search of whatever nature might wish to show me, I’ve gone fully vested. That is to say, I’ve worn a field vest. Not that I have anything against day packs or shoulder bags, mind you; I just find that vests (or as my British friends call them, waistcoats) allow me to carry what I need in a way that allows me easy access to all of it while still letting me move about with a feeling of being unencumbered.
Recently, when I downloaded the latest Quirks & Quarks podcast, to my great delight I learned that Dr. Roland Kays was to be discussing his work with camera traps as well as his recently published book on the subject “Candid Creatures; How Camera Traps Reveal the Mysteries of Nature” from Johns Hopkins University Press.
For those who, like me, place great value in Oxford University Press’ brilliant Very Short Introductions volumes not only for the consistently high quality of the information they contain but also for their perfectly pocketable size (you’ll never find my beloved old Harris tweed sport coat lacking one in its lower left-hand pocket), I am happy to report that 2016 will see a number of new natural history related titles added to the series’ expanding roster.