W1 Eisner (2003) - .. , .-..‘r_-, ....'.-_ , 7....

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Unformatted text preview: .. , .-..‘r_-, ....'.-_ , 7. -~,..,_._.-..n.- _ ~;! 3111;; u ..,r.' "tq‘r 'L - "3: he introductory biology course, that first year at Cornell, had gone well. I organized the lectures around the unifying theme of evolution and made every effort to incorporate the new molecular information that was redefining the biological frontier at the time. DNA was not quite a house- hold word yet, and it was wondrous to sense the intellectual excitement engendered in the students when they came to grips with the reality that the genetic material was now understood in chemical terms. Much of the credit for the success of the course belonged to the graduate students who assisted me that year. They were truly a remarkable lot. There was Io Da- vis, a mammologist and talented artist, who was later to become associ- ated with zoos. There was also Irwin Brodo, a born teacher and naturalist, destined to become the world’s leading specialist on lichens (and author, in the year 2.001, of a spectacularly beautiful book on these little—appreci- ated organisms). And there was Roger Payne, naturalist and visionary teacher, who was eventually to achieve fame as the world’s authority on whales. One of the great benefits of the academic year is that it leaves the sum- mer months—the insect season-free for fieldwork. I knew all along that I would abscond the moment I finished grading the final exams and 1 had my mind set on Florida. I knew the panhandle but had never been to the peninsula itself, although the area had long been on my list of “musts.” The further south the warmer, i reasoned, and the warmer, the better for bugs. I was raring to go. I asked Roger whether he would like to come along and he said yes, with enthusiasm. Roger was really interested in birds. His doctoral re- search—0n how owls locate prey by sound in darkness fihad little to do with insects but he was ready for a diversion. We agreed we would explore together, each driven by his own interests. 30 we rented a car from Cor- nell’s fleet of vehicles and took off. At the last minute, Ioseph Nowosielski, a graduate student in entomology, decided that he too would join us, so we left as a trio. We had all the gear we needed, including vials of all siZes, some large insect cages, Coleman lanterns for night work, a borrowed camera, a Coleman stove, pup tents, and sleeping bags, but very little money. We were loaded to fender-scraping capacity, as we were reminded every time we hit a bump. 76 We went by way of the Smokey Mountains, where we camped and had occasion to observe daddy-long-legs as they came to life at night and carabid beetles as they fed on snails. I noticed that the daddy-long—legs emitted odorous secretions when disturbed, fluids that years later I was to investigate jointly with jerry Meinwald. As we made our observations we were ourselves also observed at close range by a bear. We tried unsuc- cessfully to conceal from each other that we were quite terrified of such animals. I recall also having long discussions on that trip about matters political. Both Roger and I were becoming convinced that being a biologist meant having to speak out on behalf of conservation. For me a decisive experi- ence had been hearing as an undergraduate a lecture by Karl Sax, the au- thor of Standing Room Only. The world was getting too crowded and na- ture was disappearing. Roger and I agreed that we would both need to become activists. This meant, for starters, including lectures on the hu- man predicament in the introductory course when we taught it again in the fall. And so we did. I also recall Roger mentioning that he would want eventually to work on animals that could inspire concern. Take whales, said Roger. People really could be made to care about whales. Roger followed through on those dreams. Years later, in 1968, when he was already famous as a whale expert, he was to provide me with one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I was to lecture at Rockefeller University, and Roger, who was on the faculty there, was my co—host. “I have something to show you,” he Said. “Let’ s have a glass of wine first, and then go to my lab." When we arrived, he sat me down in an easy chair and put a set of earphones over my head. “Now don’t say anything. just listen.” I relaxed, and let myself be overwhelmed by the songs of humpback whales. Fresh out of the ocean, they had so far been heard by few. Roger knew he was on to something precious. Millions, including Iudy Collins and Alan Hovannes, would eventually agree. The trip was going well except that we hadn’t counted on the Florida rains. We were drenched each day and were constantly running out of dry clothes. Not even the tents provided refuge. At Myakka State Park, inland by some 40 miles from Sarasota, Florida, we got caught in a torrential thunderstorm that soaked us to the bones. It had been raining off and on all day, weather that kept the insects in hiding and us pretty frustrated. Tired out, we had our hopes set on the dryness of the tents. Alas, we had WONDERS FROM WONDERLAND not counted on the raccoons. They had broken into what we thought was our private domain, consumed our watermelons, and in the process made an utter mess of things. We didn’t sleep much that night, and by the time we packed up and went on our way the next morning, we were feel- ing a bit dejected. Little did we know that we were about to stumble upon paradise. From Myakka we followed Route 70 east, and then, about midway across the state, turned south on Route 8. Our intention was to head for the Everglades. Instead, after only a short distance following the turn, we came upon a sign that we found inviting: Archbold Biological Station. We turned right into the entranceway and found ourselves on a secluded path, flanked by pines, leading after a quarter of a mile or so to a cluster of what were clearly the main buildings. We rang the bell and were greeted by a gray-haired, middle-aged man who quietly and politely asked us where we were from and what we were doing in Florida. I was struck by his rather formidable looks and by his shy demeanor. He reminded me of someone but I couldn’t make the connection. “We are here on a lark,” I said. "We found you by chance." "Do you want to stay at the station?” he asked. “We can put you up.” It was a wonderful offer but I worried that our rag-tag appearance might be a problem. “The clothes we’re in are the best we’ve got,” I said. He ignored the comment. "I’ll show you to your quarters," he said. “Dinner is at six. I am Richard Archbold.” We were ushered one flight up, shown our rooms and a private bath, and told we could stay as long as we liked. And yes, there was a washer and drier available to us. As soon as we were by ourselves we looked at each other in disbelief Fresh beds and air conditioning. Was this for real? We showered, got dressed, and went downstairs. It was late afternoon and the humidity hung heavily in the air. If we could get to some lights af- ter dark, we might have the thrill of sampling the insect fauna. We had a quick look around and realized we were in unfamiliar surroundings. It was very much an open sort of habitat. Sandy terrain, lots of palmetto and scrubby oaks, plus much else that we didn’t recognize. We knew the next days would be adventurous. The station owned some 1,500 acres. It was an hour before dinnertime, and Richard Archbold was just out- side the front door, in the parking area, scattering seeds and other edibles to an assemblage of the local fauna, including bunnies and a variety of WONDERS FROM WONDERLAND Richard Archbold. birds. This was a daily ritual, we were told, in which Mr. Archbold took de- light. Prominent among the animals that gathered for the feeding were birds called scrub jays, which were endemic to the area. They were tame and readily took food from Mr. Archbold’s hand, and would even fly casu- ally to his shoulder to beg for morsels they were sure to get. What a won- derful setting, I thought, for feeding insects to a bird, to Check on which insects were edible and which were noxious. Richard Archbold bid us to dinner, which meant joining him at his pri- vate table in the station’s dining room. It also meant joining him in a drink beforehand, a double martini as I recall, which none of us were physiologically constituted to withstand. We hadn’t had a drop of alcohol on the entire trip and the martinis hit us like dynamite. I still don’t know how we managed to stay upright in our seats. Dinner was sumptuous, and in such sharp contrast to what we had been used to that we were quick to regain our senses. Mr. Archbold led the conversation. He remi- nisced about New Guinea and Madagascar. He had organized expeditions WONDERS FROM WONDERLAND there before the war, in the thirties, and he had been a pilot. He had owned an amphibian aircraft, a PBY, which he had flown on these expedi- tions. As we listened spellbound a thought suddenly came to me: Albert Schweitzer. Richard Archbold had the same imposing looks. I learned eventually of the importance of these expeditions, which had WONDERS FROM WONDERLAND Top: Archbold Biological Station, main buildings. Bottom: Florida scrub at dawn. brought to light so much new information about Madagascar’s animal and plant life, and led to the first contacts with some of New Guinea’s in— digenous tribes. I learned also about the volumes upon volumes of scien- tific documentation published under the heading of Archbold Expedi- tions. And i learned how Mr. Archbold came to possess the station, in realization of a lifetime dream to create a natural haven for the study of wildlife. The Archbold Station was to become my primary natural labora- tory, and is to this day my favorite outdoor haunt. It is where I made most of my discoveries and where nowadays I feel most at home as a naturalist. I fell in love with the Florida scrub on that very first trip, and have re— mained in love with that unique habitat ever since, acutely aware of its threatened status. We lit the Coleman lanterns after dinner that evening and, still a bit shaky from the martinis, set out on foot to explore the surroundings. The night was balmy. Among the first animals we encountered were two spe- cies of millipedes, Narceus gordcmus and Floridobolus pcnneri. Both were gi- ants of their kind and they were out in abundance, crawling on the sand. Both gave off secretions when we handled them, from glands along their flank, and the odor was instantly familiar. Could it be benzoquinones again? Ierry’s group eventually confirmed that this was indeed the case. I had never seen millipedes that large. The size of index fingers, they left trails in the sand, which in the daytime betrayed the sites where they were commonly found. I learned from that first evening’s experience that the time to collect millipedes is at night, when they are out in the open. Floridobolus, for instance, had so far been sought by biologists only in the daytime, by looking under logs and in other presumed hiding places. The species was known from a single specimen collected at Archbold’s and was considered to be one of America’s rarest millipedes. We must have seen more than a hundred on that night alone. Narrows was interesting in another respect. Unlike most millipedes, which are dark in color, Narceus closely matched the color of sand. I found this puzzling since I couldn’t see how an animal active in the dark would benefit from blending with the background. I didn‘ t realize until later that on moorflit nights the sand is so brightly illuminated that being light in color, like sand, could be beneficial. Equally fascinating that night were the orb-weaving spiders, of which two caught my fancy, because of the strength and size of their webs. One, WONDERS FROM WONDERLAND Argiopeflofida, was a species endemic to the area while the other, Nephila clavipes, occurred widely throughout the New World tropics. As we moved close to examine these spiders, some of the insects that had been attracted to our lamps flew into the webs and got caught. We watched as the spiders subdued them and readied them for eating. How erroneous the notion that flight in the night was safer for an insect than flight in the daytime! There were webs to be seen in virtually every direction. True, insects could avoid these by flying higher up, but would they then not risk exposure to bats? I wondered how the threat from birds in the daytime measured up to the combined threat of spiders and bats in the night. I also wondered about the gastronomic likes and dislikes of spiders. Were there defenses that insects had evolved specifically to deter spiders? Behind the main building of the station was a light trap for the attrac- tion of insects. Consisting simply of a white sheet, pinned to a vertical wooden framework, and a set of lights, including an ultraviolet light that shone on the sheet, it was the sort of contraption known to be irresistible to insects. We had turned on the lights at dusk, before we went on our walk, and the trap had done its job. Insects had landed on the sheet by the hundreds, providing us with an instant glimpse of the variety of the local bug population. My mouth watered. There were insects here that I had never seen in numbers, and others that I hadn’t seen at all. One by one I picked them up and sniffed them, and placed the most interesting “stink- ers” in vials. There might be an occasion on the next day to try them out with a predator. As I lay in fresh sheets that night I had trouble dozing off. We had only 3 days left at the station before we would need to head back. What a mar- velous place! Would the daytime prove as exciting as the night? Breakfast was early and we got into the field while the sun was still low. Spider webs, bedecked in dew, were visible everywhere. Surely there were insects that were protected against spiders. I did a few tests with Argiope that convinced me that I would need to spend time with this animal. I flipped some of the insects that I had taken the night before into webs and learned, first of all, that Argiope subdues prey of different kinds in differ- ent ways, and second, that there are indeed insects that the spider doesn’t eat. I also learned that the spider does not reject all insects that are chemi- cally protected. To my surprise it seemed not to be deterred by the stink of stink bugs (family Pentatomidae). WONDERS FROM WONDERLAND 32 We also made some observations on antlion larvae. These remarkable little animals construct funnel—shaped pits in the sand, at the bottom of which they lie in wait, ready to feed on any ambulatory insect that slides into the pit. I found that this predator, too, had the ability to feed on pro- tected insects. I dropped some of the “Stinkers” I had taken at the trap into the pits and the larvae ate them all. And, of course, being antlions they ate all the ants that I offered them, including the formicine ants that I knew sprayed formic acid. How is it that they seem unbothered by the acid? The next morning we dug up a colony of Pogonomyrmcx ants, which I wanted to take back to Cornell so I would have ants available for predation tests, and managed to get our car stuck in one of the sandy lanes on the station grounds. “Don‘ t drive on the sandy lanes,” we had been warned, by the very same station personnel who were kind enough to tow us out. The little time we had at the station went by altogether too quickly. The stay had been marvelously productive and I had uncovered leads to doz— ens of projects. How should I sort these out? As we drove back to Ithaca, I decided that I would not try. I would file away all the information in my memory bank for later use. The mind can be overwhelmed by the first ex- periences in a new habitat, but the memories are durable, and over time, cumulative. When you return to a site to explore some more, the old memories are always there to provide guidance. New facts connect to the old, and pretty soon the stories take form. There was therefore no other option. I would have to come back to Archbold’s. There were discoveries there to be made, and I wanted to be the one to make them. Since that first visit in 1958 I have returned to the Archbold Station al- most every year, and in some years more than once. Eleven of my graduate students did a major part of their research there, or on animals from there, as did some of my undergraduate honors students. And I have taught field courses there, under the title “Exploration, Discovery, and F01- low-up." For the past 25 years Maria has been my companion on every trip to the station, and we both remember our times there as some of the most joyous in our lives. We recall in detail what we discovered there, but more than anything else we remember how glorious it felt to make the discov- eries. WONDERS FROM WONDERLAND How is it, I am often asked, that I make discoveries? I always feel a bit awkward about answering the question, because I do not have a partic— ular method. The truth is that I spend a fair amount of time looking around. I already knew as a boy that if I wanted to see things happen—wit” I wanted to win the revelatory lottery of nature—I had to buy a lot of tickets. So it was in my youth that I formed the habit of taking exploratory walks, whenever possible and as often as possible, for the sole purpose of "eaves- dropping” on nature. Naturalists thrive on such walks, driven by curiosity and the hope of witnessing chance events. Taken at face value, such events may not amount to much. But they may “connect” to what you already know, to previous observations stored away in your memory, and thus take on added meaning. There has to be a constant readiness to make such connections. Every tidbit of new information, no matter how trivial, has the potential of amounting to more than a speck of color. Properly as- signed to the pointillist canvas that constitutes your inner view of the nat— ural world, the new speck adds dimension to the vision. Not everyone shares the predisposition constantly to place observation in context. I used to teach a course at the Archbold Station, entitled “Ex- ploration, Discovery, and Follow-up,” in which students designed a re- search project based on leads they obtained on exploratory walks at the Station. Although all were gifted and genuinely interested in nature, few had that capacity—so magically evident in Bob Silberglied, Ian Baldwin, Fotis Kafatos, and Mark Deyrup—of being able to conceptualize, to derive a greater reality from simple observation. I have been extremely lucky in having nature reveal itself on occasion through chance events in my pres- ence. I can remember as if it were yesterday witnessing for the first time Utethcisa being cut from a spider web, or Chrysopa dressing itself as an aphid, or Ammophila carrying a “flower,” and I yearn for future occasions when I may again be granted unexpected glimpses into the workings of nature. One of the great joys of returning to your natural haunts time and again, is that you have the opportunity of grasping the broader image. Ob- servations tend then to become cumulative, to be evocative and revelatory in ways that are not possible until you begin to feel at home in the area. For the naturalist, in fact, feeling at home means having achieved a biolog- ical appreciation of a region. An Arion slug (3x) and its eggs (6X). 396 I have a mental construct that leads me to ask four simple questions when I come upon something in nature that piques my curiosity, Whether it is a structural feature of an animal or plant or a behavioral peculiarity. First I ask myself what the structure or behavior is all about. What is its function? In other words, what is its adaptive significance? That to me is always the fundamental question. I then pose the comparative query. What do other organisms have in lieu of such a structure or behavior? In other words, how are they specialized to achieve the same ends? And finally I ask two questions pertaining to origins. How is the feature likely to develop, to be formed embryologically? And, ultimately, how is it likely to have evolved, to have been molded over the course of generations? Mere reflection about such questions can help put a discovery in context. Lest it be thought that I am entirely dependent upon the fortuitous, let me say that I also approach some problems on the basis of logic, or biorationality, as I am fond of saying. Some examples, based on recent ex- periences, will serve to illustrate the point. I have always been fascinated by slugs, and by their ability to survive un- der hostile conditions. living in soil, as so many of them do, entails spe- cial risks. Predators alone are a major hazard, in the form of ants, carabid beetles, centipedes, and spiders, and there is really no way that you can imagine slugs being spared exposure to such enemies. In' particular you Wonder how slug eggs manage to survive, given that they are not only im- mobile, but gelatinous and soft. It seemed to me a foregone conclusion that slug eggs are chemically protected. As a chemical ecologist, I found the temptation irresistible to put the idea to the test, and Frank Schroeder, EPILOGUE a superb chemist from Ierry’s group, was easily persuaded to join in the venture. The project, logically conceived, paid off. The eggs of a slug (a species of An'on) turned out to contain an interesting new isoprenoid compound, characterized as a polyoxygenated geranylgeraniol derivative, which we found to be potently deterrent to insects. Since the compound was new, we thought we would give it a name, and chose miriamin in honor of Miriam Rothschild, dear friend and naturalist extraordinaire. Miriam was delighted to be so honored, and found it in no way demean- ing to be recognized via a slug product. Biorationality told me also that the slugs themselves had to be pro- tected, and I found that they did indeed have a remarkable way of coping with the likes of ants. There is a simple experiment anyone can do to acti- vate this defense. Look for a slug, and when you find it, poke it gently with a toothpick. A pine needle or leaf stalk will do as well. As long as you keep the stick motionless, nothing will happen. But if you wiggle the stick, the slug will set in motion a coagulation mechanism, whereby the slime in the immediate vicinity of the contact point is converted into a rubbery blob that clings to the tip of the stick. The mechanism is wonderfully ef- fective because it keeps an enemy from piercing the body wall of the slug. Ants are literally muzzled when they bite into a slug. They are thwarted the moment they bear down with their mandibles, and as they back away, are left with their mouthparts encased in coagulated slime. I still don’t know how the mechanism works but I can imagine that some sort of coagulation or macromolecular cross-linking is involved. Dan Aneshansley and I have data based on the response of slugs to local- ized application of mild electrical stimuli that show the coagulation to be triggered in a fraction of a second—literally in less time than it takes an ant to clamp down with the mandibles. And we have learned that in some slugs the coagulation is accompanied by the visible injection of crystalline material into the slime from specialized integumental cells. But basically EPILOGUE Miriamin. 397 Electrical induction of slime coagulation in the slug Philomyws caroiinianus. In this species, the coagulation is triggered when crystal-laden integumental cells void their white contents into the slime. In the right photo the emptying ofthese crystal—laden cells has been induced by mild electric shock delivered by way ofthe two elec- trodes shown. we are still far from being able to explain the coagulation mechanism in molecular terms. Nature provides numerous examples of soil-dwelling animals with slimy investitures. Biorationality predicts that these slimes may also be worth investigating, not only to see how they confer protec- tion, but to determine whether there are applied benefits to be derived from an understanding of their composition and physical structure. Another project that was engendered by logic rather than chance obser— vation led to the discovery of highly unusual secretory products in certain beetle pupae. The pupa is a relatively helpless stage in the life cycle of an insect. Unable to walk or fly, it is potentially vulnerable to any number of predators. Not surprisingly, many pupae are protected. Some are con- cealed underground, others are camouflaged, and still others are enclosed A“ 3'“ baCl‘ing away from 3 Slug it he“ lust . _ . I ‘I I. ' ' ' l ' , I - in cocoons. Quite unusual are pupae that defend themselves actively by bitten. Coagulated slime is sticking to its '- ' " " ‘ mouthparts, and it is pulling a column of slime from the slug. Slime coagulation in a slug. The experimenter presses a glass rod against the back ofthe slag and wiggles it, causing a iocalized plug of slime to form. The plug clings to the glass rod when the rod is pulled away. biting. They don’t use mandibles for the purpose, but alternative struc- tures present on the thorax or abdomen and fashioned as jaws. Such de- vices, activated by body motions when the pupa is touched, can effectively deter predators. Many beetle pupae have such devices, which, to judge from their multiplicity of form, must have evolved independently in a number of beetle lineages. Some years ago I took a fancy to ladybird beetles (family Coccinellidae) and got interested in their defenses. Their pupae in particular drew my at- tention. Conspicuously colored and positioned visibly on vegetation, they seemed ready made for the taking. I took a brush and proceeded to stroke EPILOGUE The pupa ofthe moth Uredus puruuln. The cocoon, although loosely spun, doubtless protects the pupa against predation. them, in hopes they might mistake me for an ant. They did, and whenever I touched them they retaliated by activating What I was to discover were ex- tremely effective biting devices on the back of their abdomens. These de- vices take the form of four deep clefts, ordinarily held agape when the pupa is at rest with its body recumbent against the substrate. Disturbance, however, causes the pupa to straighten up, with the result that all clefts are snapped shut. Stimulating the pupa with a single hair suffices to trigger the response, as does exposure of the pupa to individual ants. No sooner did an ant brush its antennae against a pupa’s back than the pupa flipped upright and “bit.” Ants that were pinched fled instantly. EPILOGUE Left: The pupa ofa ladybird beetle {Cycloneda sanguinea) responding to stimulation with the bristle ot'a fine paint- brush. The jawlike devices on the back ofthe pupa are ordinarily held agape (arrows). Poking the jaws with the bristle causes the pupa to flip upward, with the result that the bristle is "bitten." Top right: Dorsal view ofa pupa ofthe Mexi- can bean beetie (Epilachna varfvestis). Notice the glandular hairs that fringe the pupa. Bottom right: An enlarged View ofthe glandular hairs ofthe E. varivestr's pupa. EPILDGUE 402 While experimenn'ng with these “jaws,” I remembered working ear- lier with a coccinellid beetle whose pupa seemed to lack biting devices. The coccinellid was a well-known pest species, the Mexican bean beetle, Epiluchna varivestis, which Karen Hicks and I, together with ]erry’s group, had found to be well protected as an adult, by virtue of chemicals in its blood. We had characterized one of these chemicals, an interesting tro- pane alkaloid, which we found to be deterrent to spiders, and had pub- lished these findings. I checked and found I had remembered correctly. There were no pupal snapping devices in Epilachnu. Was it because Epilochna didn‘t need them? Surely not. Epiluchna pupated out in the open like any coccinellid beetle and was bound to be plagued by the same set of enemies as coccinellids generally. Biorationality told me that Epilachna had to have an alternative defense. I took a close look and found that the Epilachna pupa was indeed differ- ent in that it was covered with microscopic glandular hairs, tiny secretory structures consisting of slender stalks with droplets of secretion at the tip. The sides and back of the pupa were densely covered with these hairs, so that it would be virtually impossible for a predator even to inspect an Epilachna pupa without coming in contact with the secretion. This was an exciting finding. 1 teamed up with Scott Smedley and we were able to show that the hairs are indeed deterrent to ants. Mere contact with a few hairs caused ants to engage in frenzied cleansing activities. Other species of Epiluchnu, such as the squash beetle, E. horeulis, also had pupal secre- tory hairs, as did species of the related coccinellid genus Subcoccinella. There was evidently a nice chemical problem here. The secretion could be collected in pure form simply by taking up one droplet after another in glass capillary tubing, so it was only a matter of time before we gathered enough material from three of the species for analysis. At the hands of three of Ierry’s best associates, Kevin McCormick, Frank Schroeder, and Athula Attygalle, the chemistry panned out beautifully. The secretion turned out to contain an entirely new group of compounds that we called azamacrolides, which the beetles are able to synthesize from simple pre- cursors, and which they produce as variants, the polyazamacrolides, with up to enormously large ring structures. Time will tell whether these novel substances have potentially applicable properties other than insect de- terrency. I highlight them here not only to exemplify discovery through EPILDGUE An azamacrolide (left) and a polyazamacrolide (right). BIC/ofilrc'lzldmj O H biorational reasoning, but to illustrate that chemical prospecting in the world of insects can still bring real rewards. 1 am often asked whether there is much left to be discovered in the nat- ural world, and whether we can count on future generations remaining curious about nature. These are separate questions and I have no qualms about answering the first. I think the potential for discovery of novelty in nature is still enormously high. How could it be otherwise? With the technical tools now available, exploration can be carried out at all levels of biological organization, with the result that individuals of the most di- verse backgrounds can join the ranks of the naturalist explorer. Think of it. Most species have not even been discovered yet, let alone examined for their biological characteristics. There is general agreement that the 1.5 million species so far described amount to less (probably fur less) than half the total in existence. Think of the implications. There may be millions of unique biological entities awaiting discovery, each with its own particular habits, its own way of interacting with mates, enemies, pathogens, and symbionts. The opportunities for discovery in the decades ahead—wof biological structures, of mechanisms and functions, and of course of new molecules—are literally limitless. Potentially, at least, natu- ral history could be at the threshold of a golden age. Whether the potential is realized will depend, of course, on whether we have the good sense to preserve what is left of the natural world. EPILOGUE 403 Will we remain curious enough about nature to maintain the explor- atory momentum? Will the collective urge to discover keep natural history alive? Although I don’t have the answer to this question, I despair when I think of the possibility that curiosity may be on the wane. Without curios- ity, without a passion for discovery, nature cannot endure. And without nature, curiosity will fade. Think of the consequences if it came to the worst. Of what purpose would be our intellect in a world without nature? Of what purpose our senses, our eyes and ears? Imagine the riches fore- gone, the myriad stories left untold. I cannot help feeling that, ultimately, curiosity will be sustained. It is so fundamentally human to thirst for knowledge and to turn to nature for vi- sions of the unknown. Will we be Wise enough to put limits on our en- croachment upon nature? Perhaps we can keep the hope alive that we will eventually succeed in doing so. It might help if naturalists of all persua- sions closed ranks to redefine the rules by which we coexist with the living world. Can love of insects make a difference? I am not sure. But I would like to believe that it does. EPILOGUE ...
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This note was uploaded on 08/27/2011 for the course BIONB 2210 taught by Professor Seeley during the Fall '10 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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W1 Eisner (2003) - .. , .-..‘r_-, ....'.-_ , 7....

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