Peter Pan Complex

Last month I published a story in Nature about the sad story of the axolotl. It’s a tragic tale of an incredibly bizarre creature looking at extinction in the wild. Of the many odd attributes of the axolotl – ability to regrow limbs, giant cells, laughably big genome – the one that always gets mentioned […]

Redux: A Visit to the Museum of Osteology

This post originally ran March 31, 2015. I knew what I expected from the Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City: amusement. I go to a lot of museums, and in my experience, privately-run museums based on one person’s obsession are always quirky and often pretty fun. This museum was founded by a guy and his […]

GRANDMOTHER? Really? and Subsequent Thoughts

Last week I had a couple of snakebit days, the kind that are my fault entirely – like leaving (almost) the house with no makeup and no shoes.  On one of these days I took a package to an UPS store, found out I would pay $50 to send a $50 present, decided what the […]

The Case of the Missing Sandstone

Flying through Monument Valley on the Arizona/Utah border recently, I was crammed into an old and slow Cessna 140 taildragger. Light filtered through the smoke of distant wildfires. It felt like looking through antique glass at a country of stone giants. We’d arrived at the last blink of this particular landscape, buttes shipwrecked alone in […]

Guest Post: The Baby Equinox and Charles Darwin

On this year’s summer solstice, the longest day, my daughter is about to reach her own personal equinox. She has lived outside of me for nine and a half months, almost as long as she spent swimming in my belly. The milestone means she now belongs to the world more than to me. In a […]

Not all stories are words, not all maps are pictures

You know those sounds that slip across the senses until they settle, in the brain, on an association entirely unrelated to their maker? Those sounds that seem to almost synesthetically transform one thing into another? The way noise can be brilliant, or color evokes flavor, or a smell touches old dreams? An unspectacular-looking, fist-sized bird […]

Guest Post: The Descent of the Testes

  I did not plan to write about testicles this week. And I do not recommend plugging the phrase “elephant testicles” into Google’s image search engine. But I had a nagging question about the fierce little mammal sketched above, and one literature search led to another. Before I knew it I was  — forgive me gentle […]

Saccorhytus coronarius Is Your Weird Cousin, Too

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Mouth. Anus. Reproductive bit in between. Isn’t that all one really needs to get by? I’m oversimplifying, of course. Lungs are helpful if you live on land, for example. But check out our newly discovered really ancient fossilized ancestor. Saccorhytus coronarious, unearthed recently by paleontologists in sedimentary rock in […]