Jonathan Crowe

My Correct Views on Everything

A New Species Hiding in New York City

Rana kauffeldi

Last month an article published in PLOS ONE confirmed the existence of a new species of leopard frog — the Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog (Rana kauffeldi) — along the Eastern Seaboard. (News coverage: CBC News, Wired.) Its range runs from central Connecticut to at least Northern New Jersey — including New York City — and possibly to North Carolina. How does a species found in such a densely populated area stay undiscovered for so long? Because discovering a new species is often an exercise in reclassifying known populations, rather than discovering new animals: cryptic species that were thought to be something else. In this case, the more broadly distributed northern and southern leopard frogs, from which R. kauffeldi was isolated by genetic data and its distinctive call. (Image credit: Male R. kauffeldi, from the article by Feinberg et al., Creative Commons licence.)

Geologic Maps of Vesta

Geologic map of Vesta

Geologic maps of Vesta, the asteroid visited by the Dawn spacecraft between July 2011 and September 2012, have been produced for a special issue of the planetary science journal Icarus. Above, a global geologic map of Vesta, compiled from 15 individual quad maps and using a Mollweide projection (Vesta itself is decidedly non-spheroid, but still). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU.

Previously: Atlas of Vesta.

The Biggest Venomous Snake Ever

In 1857, Richard Owen described a gigantic viper, Laophis crotaloides, on the basis of 13 vertebrae found in early Pliocene rock formations in Greece. Owen’s fossil holotypes for Laophis have since been lost; it’s taken until now for Owen’s find to be confirmed in a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology this month, with the discovery and description of a single vertebra. (I have learned that sometimes that’s all that’s needed). At an estimated length of up to three metres and an estimated mass of up to 26 kg, Laophis crotaloides was a whopper of a viper — hardly Titanoboa cerrejonensis, but quite a bit bigger than the largest venomous snake today, the king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), whose largest reported specimen weighed in at 12 kg. Via Kingsnake.com.

‘This Year Is Different’

No Mans Land, Flanders Field, France, 1919 (W. L. King)

“This will be the first time I’ve worn a poppy in over 20 years,” writes Gurmeet Ahluwalia, who grew up in Alberta when Legion halls barred Sikhs wearing turbans from their premises.

These men wore their turbans on the battlefield, defending the British Empire, yet it was deemed disrespectful to wear it in a place meant to honour the sacrifice of those who served. […]

So — why haven’t I worn a poppy until now? Well, to be honest, my feelings were hurt. I was born and raised here, and yet the public debate reminded me that I will continue to look “un-Canadian” to a sadly large portion of my fellow citizens. […]

This year, however, things changed. With the death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, gunned down while doing his duty on Canadian soil, I realized it was time to let go of my hurt feelings from almost two decades ago. For whatever reason, this young man’s sacrifice impacted on deeply emotional level. I picked up a poppy yesterday, and will wear it again in the coming years.

“Remembrance Day has always been ambiguous to me,” writes my friend Hayden Trenholm, whose father served during World War II.

After the war, he went to the Legion a few times but by the time I was ten he stopped doing that, stopped marching in the Remembrance Day parade. He told me that he couldn’t stand the drinking and couldn’t stomach the men who told stories of war as if it were a glorious thing, as if it was the best thing they had ever done. My father was a strong gentle man and he hated war and the remembrance of it.

But he also loved his fellow soldiers, fought with Veterans Affairs on their behalf, getting several men pensions who had been previously denied. I came to hate that department on his behalf. Things haven’t changed much.

So most years I don’t wear the poppy and don’t remain silent at 11 a.m. But this year is different. I was at the Cenotaph when a mad man with a gun killed Nathan Cirillo and I can never forget that. So this year I am wearing the poppy and I will be silent.

Photo credit: No Mans Land, Flanders Field, France, 1919 (Library of Congress). Modified.

Sorol

Sorol world map

Another one for those of you who like geofiction as much as I do. The Sorolpedia is an online encyclopedia of the distant and fictional world of Sorol, containing articles about the planet and its inhabitants. The maps are something else: far better than you’d expect from such a project (there’s even a KML file to import it into Google Earth). Its creator has put it on indefinite hiatus since 2010, so we may not see any more updates, but it’s still fascinating stuff.

Gift Guide: 10 Map Books of 2014

Every year, at about this time of year, I assemble a gift guide listing some of the noteworthy books about maps that have been published over the previous year. This list is by no means comprehensive, but if you have a map-obsessed person in your life and you’d like to give that person a map-related gift, this list might give you some ideas.

This year’s list includes several lavishly illustrated histories of maps and globes, interesting reads about map thieves and forgotten places, an a couple of guides to map art and personal mapmaking.

Once again, books bought through these Amazon affiliate links (routed to what my web server thinks is your nearest English-language Amazon store) make me a little money. Thanks for your support.

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Ecdysis 4

Ecdysis 4 cover The fourth issue of Ecdysis, my science fiction and fantasy fanzine, is now available for download.

It’s late: I’d hoped to get it out in September. Even that would have been a bit of a scramble, after summer vacations and Tamara’s sojourn at Clarion. But then life got in the way in a fairly fundamental fashion, as many of you know.

This issue features my editorial on works that are “not science fiction” appearing on award ballots, Tamara’s adventures at Clarion, the art Jennifer creates during readings, and reviews of work by John Chu, Lee Killough and Karl Schroeder, among other things. Plus graphs. I hope you enjoy it.

Threatened Status Proposed for Black Pine Snake

Lucifer eats a rat

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the black pine snake (Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi) as a threatened species. Popular in the pet trade (I’ve had a pair since 2000), the black pine snake has a limited and dwindling range: it’s disappeared from Louisiana and is now found in a handful of counties in Alabama and Mississippi. The FWS cites habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation, killing by humans and pine snakes’ low reproductive rates (they have small clutches) as factors in the subspecies’s decline.

Notably, the pet trade is not cited as a factor; it’s “currently saturated with captive-bred black pinesnakes.” I can’t quite figure out what impact threatened status will have on that saturated pet trade. But however much we enjoy our captive black pine snakes (and they really can be quite lovely animals: I frequently compare ours to black Labradors), the needs of the wild population must come first.

The snake has been on the cusp of being proposed for protection for decades. The proposal opens a 60-day period for public comments; the final listing would probably come some time next year. News coverage.

Gene Wolfe Interviewed

You know how I feel about sf author Gene Wolfe. Here are two recent interviews: one in the MIT Technology Review; the other in the Barrington Courier-Review (until recently his local paper). Attention must be paid.

The Evolution of Combat and Courtship Behaviour in Snakes

Male snakes of many species engage in ritualized combat during mating season, and snake courtship also has specific behaviours. A recent article explores the evolution of those behaviours. ScienceDaily: “The authors of this study analyzed 33 courtship and male-to-male combat behaviors in the scientific literature by plotting them to a phylogenetic tree to identify patterns. The authors identified the patterns in behaviors, which was not always possible, and then used the fossil record to match the behaviors to the snakes’ evolution.”

Older Entries

Moon and Comet Maps
My Can-Con Schedule
Fantasy Maps of U.S. Cities
This Deer Is Already Dead
A Change in Cable Companies
Atheism in America
Open for Submissions Soon: Second Contacts, Tesseracts 19
Encountering Racers
Emergency Kittens, Creative Commons, and Me
Subaru XV Crosstrek: Three Months In
More Adventures in Snakekeeping
Adventures in Snake Missexing
Snake vs. Snake: Copperheads in Atlanta
Readercon Video: Books That Deserve to Remain Unspoiled
Geologic Map of Mars
Readercon 25
Astronomy in the Pontiac
Mapping It Out
Again with a Sinkhole on the 148
My Readercon 25 Schedule