May 24, 2011

Celebrating Diversity

by Heather Falconer

It’s been a devastating two weeks in terms of weather and natural events. Floods in the Southern US, tornadoes in the Midwest, volcanic eruptions in Iceland…I guess we should be glad that the greatest earthquake in the history of Earth didn’t strike on Saturday. It’s been hard to watch all the destruction. However, it’s important to remember that change is a precursor of great things — even if it’s hard to imagine what those great things can be just yet. Adaptation to change is never easy, but it is because of that adaptation that we are able to see so much diversity in the world.

As a respite from all this upset, we thought we’d share some of the more wonderful discoveries from the very recent past (courtesy of Discovery News) that highlight the intriguing and sometimes comical ways nature adapts.

Take, for example, the Darwin bark spider that builds its webs along rivers. In addition to having the strongest spider silk known, it builds some pretty darn long webs — the longest recorded was 82 feet! That’s pretty impressive for a spider less than an inch in size. Go to Discovery News to see a picture of this cute little arachnid. It even seems to have a smiley face on its head!

Or, we can celebrate the discovery new fungi. In Oregon, scientists found the first mushroom that fruits underwater; in the forests of Brazil, a glow-in-the dark ‘shroom that resembles Glow Sticks. Out of the estimated 1.5 million species of fungi on the planet, only 71 are thought to be bioluminescent.

Then there is the discovery of a rust-eating bacteria living off the remains of the Titanic. (Not good for the boat, but possibly great for the environment.)

What are some of your favorite species-discoveries of the last few years? Share with us here, on our our Facebook page!

Heather Falconer

Written by

Heather Falconer holds undergraduate degrees in Graphic Arts and Environmental Science, as well as an MFA in Writing and an MLitt in Literature. She is currently completing her PhD in Rhetoric and Composition, with an emphasis on rhetoric in/and/of science. Heather has worked internationally in academic publishing as both an author and editor, and has taught a wide range of topics – from research writing to marine biology – in the public and private educational sectors.