Mozambique Diary: Sibylla

These days, if God speaks directly to you, be it about the precise date for the end of the world or his opinion about somebody else’s sexual preferences, you are either a crazy nut or a Westboro Baptist crazier nut. Ancient Greeks, clearly more open minded about such things, referred to a woman with powers…

Mozambique Diary: Blind snakes of Gorongosa

Last night’s downpour flushed out a lot of things from under the ground, and one of them was a large blind snake, Megatyphlops schlegelii, which I found as it was swimming in a puddle in front of the Scientific Services’ trailer. Now, large is a relative term – the snake is only a little over…

Mozambique Diary: Devonian sashimi

A few years ago I wrote a book titled “Relics”, which was a way of expressing my fascination with both time travel and with all the irreplaceable forms of life that had existed long before our species sneakily appeared when Nature wasn’t paying attention. One of the organisms I really wanted to include in the…

Mozambique Diary: Victims of our deficiencies

I had a very short and uneventful tenure as a boy scout – I simply could not stand having my activities organized for me, and the idea of wearing a uniform fills me with dread to this day. But I did learn a valuable lesson at one of my camping trips: if a can of…

Mozambique Diary: Poetic justice

If we lived in an ideal world, right about now I would have been putting on my headlamp to begin stalking katydids in the luxuriantly green savannas of Gorongosa National Park. But, alas, we don’t. For reasons beyond my control I had to postpone a trip to Mozambique, although I hope to be able to…

Mozambique Diary: The fat coneheads of Gorongosa

A few years ago I was at the Museum of Natural History in London to examine several type specimens of African katydids. One of them was the holotype of a conehead katydid Lanista africana, a species described by the infamous 19th century entomologist Francis Walker. (Stories abound about the quality of his taxonomic work, such…