Celebrate blattodeans

In 1994 I took a tropical ecology course in Costa Rica, which was my first exposure to a Neotropical rainforest. The course itself did not convince me to become an ecologist, but at the same time it ignited my fascination with Neotropical biodiversity that has remained strong to this day. While there I made an…

Our top predator

As the days grow shorter and colder, I find myself paying more and more attention to the organisms that I took for granted throughout the entire summer. Suddenly, cricket songs punctuate the unexpectedly chilly nights with hesitation, moths coming to the light on our deck are getting smaller and rarer, and spindly centipedes trapped in…

Artists take on The Smaller Majority

Last night I saw the amazing David Byrne and St. Vincent in concert, which made me wonder once again what it means to be an artist. It is a person, I have come to believe, who holds a joystick to your endocrine system, and with a flick of a wrist holding a pick (or a…

Beanie babies with teeth

The island of Madagascar, an ancient chunk of the Indian subcontinent that somehow ended up very close to Africa’s eastern shores, has always been a magnet for biologists. And not surprisingly so: the place is bursting with ancient and endemic lineages, and in some groups of organisms 100% of their species can be found nowhere…

The Eye

Like the Eye of Sauron, this eye never sleeps. The Red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas) from Costa Rica has the upper part of the lower eyelid translucent, allowing the frog to see its surrounding even with the eyes closed. The eyelid carries a pattern of golden lines that obscure the normally highly visible red iris…

Dangerous candy

My first visit to Africa was in 1989, when I went to visit some friends in Zimbabwe. Back then the country was still prosperous and democratic, Toni Childs optimistically sang “No more crime in your lifetime, Zimbabwe”, and nothing indicated the darkness it would soon descend into. I spent a few weeks traveling around the…