Friday, September 11, 2009

In my garden, again

A mantis fly, neither a mantis nor a fly, but more closely related to green lacewings. I love my crazy garden; if the weather is nice tomorrow, I'll take some pics of all of the insects that are enjoying the goldenrod right now.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ernst Haeckel's house

During my recent trip to Jena, Germany, I saw an after-dinner talk by Olaf Breidbach that was held at Ernst Haeckel's old house. Above is a portrait of old Ernst himself.

His history is pretty checkered, especially as concerns his interpretations of evolution and developmental biology, but he did some nice natural history work that he documented with beautiful (if somewhat embellished) drawings.

We now know that one of his most famous ideas about evolutionary developmental biology, that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny", is not generally the case. However, there are some instances where the development of a structure within an animal does seem to pass through an intermediate stage that is more reminiscent of more basal species. In paper wasps, for example, mushroom body development begins with a structure that looks like that of most other hymenopterans (the ants, bees and wasps)(panels A, D and G above), but then reorganizes in the pupa (panels B, E, H) into a morphology that is unique to the higher paper wasps (C, F, I) (Farris, Abrams and Strausfeld, 2004). So in this rather unusual instance, ontogeny (development) does recapitulate phylogeny (the evolutionary history of the insect, in which wasps with these unique mushroom bodies arose from wasps with more typical hymenopteran mushroom bodies).

The talk was given in the dining room, which had this beautiful painting of one of Haeckel's cnidarians around the chandelier...

...and ended with this nice picture of Ernst's brain. Maybe someday people will be showing pictures of my brain in their talks, too...

This made me laugh

Thanks Dad :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First day of September

Today was too beautiful to spend in the office, so I left the back door open at home and worked on mushroom body/cerebellum schematics, Burnout Revenge on XBox, and a new blog header (as seen above). I worked on my latest Blythe custom just a bit, too; she still needs her new hair, obviously.