Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw

When I was a child in the 1970's long car rides were occupied by either staring out of the window or fighting with siblings. (This was before video games, dvd's, iPods, satellite radio, and cellphones, heck it was even before cassette tapes). In an effort to encourage the more peaceful staring out of the window option many parents would resort to the cheap and ever popular 'I-Spy' books. Like the game of the same name these books would list items for you to spot and, as far as I remember, you would get a different number of points for different items. There were always items that were practically impossible to spot - 50 points for a 'Mobile Coal Office'. I don't even know what that is and forty-something years later I've still never seen a mobile coal office.

Although the majority of the books that I remember were road themed (for obvious reasons) they did make a number of natural history themed books. I'm sure many future bird spotters got their start with these books.

Anyhow, I was down on the beach today enjoying the low tide when I thought that they should have made an 'Ecological Interactions' I-Spy book. Not only would it have been more fun, I'd like to see what illustrations they'd have come up with. Here are some of the items I thought of. The best thing about these, compared to the mobile coal office, is that you just need to look hard to see most of them. Trust me, no matter how hard you look you won't see a mobile coal office.
  • Predation - 1 point ( too easy but there have to be some easy ones)
  • Predation where the predator is smaller than the prey - 3 points (think weasel, easy to spot but you need to sit very still for a while)
  • Cannibalism - 3 points (surprisingly common)
  • Herbivory - 1 point (way too easy)
  • Parasitism - 3 points (take Armand Kuris's Parasitology class if you need some hints for finding macroparasites)
  • Necrophilia - 10 points (need a hint? Watch some sea otters...)
  • Inter-species sex - 10 points (Yup, sea otters again.)
  • Inter-species necrophilia (is there a name for this?) - heck, take 50 points for this one but it's been observed in both sea otters and some water fowl.
  • Interference competition - 1 point (too easy)
  • Exploitation competition - 3 points (I guess you'd have to watch one spot long enough to see one organism eat another and then another organism come by looking for something to eat).
If you weren't in lecture on Thursday you are wondering what this has to do with the class. Just get out there and watch some nature. A decent low tide again tomorrow afternnon.

1 comment:

John Latto said...

I thought of another one: Altruism. Feel free to add your own.