links: $4 garden planner, birds and cigarette butts, and a new history of life on land?
THIS WEEK IN MY BROWSING and radio-listening, what caught my eye and ear? From a fun $4 garden planner that tells me when to sow what, to news of birds making nests with used cigarette butts, and a challenge to the notion that life began in the sea.
the $4 garden planner
IT’S ALMOST TIME—for seeds, that is; to delve into catalogs, order, and then try to be patient till it’s time to sow. To that end—the timing part—I’m suddenly taken in by a $4 companion from the all-organic Seattle Seed Company (above) whose job it is to keep me on schedule, and not jumping the gun (or forgetting something till it’s too late). With a low-tech pullout format, you “set” your first and last frost dates and then the “when to sow what” falls into place. At this price, how can I resist the promise of feeling like I finally have it all together?
smart birds: recycling butts into nests
YES, BIRDS USE the usual twigs, grasses, and feathers. But apparently they use cigarette butts, too—or so scientists at Scotland’s St. Andrews University have reported after studying house finch and house sparrow nests in Mexico City. Why the used butts, which averaged 10 per nest? Seems the cellulose is just right for insulation and comfort, and chemicals present in them including residual nicotine, a powerful insecticide, help keep things pest-free. Whoever coined the expression “birdbrain” to mean not a big thinker had it all wrong. Smarty-birds. (Via the BBC.)
did life start in the ocean after all, or on land?
LIFE BEGAN IN THE OCEAN, and crawled up onto land—or so the long-held story goes. But was it maybe the other way around? Professor Greg Retallack at the University of Oregon thinks so, stemming from his likewise-divergent view that ancient Australian fossils of the Ediacaran period (about 540 million years ago) weren’t in fact animals, but closer in similarity to fungi or lichens—and that they weren’t living in the sea, but on land. “This discovery has implications for the tree of life, because it removes Ediacaran fossils from the ancestry of animals,” Retallack told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. His paper in the journal “Nature,” which has already sparked both dispute and support among other scientists, was the subject of this NPR Science segment about whether this part of our traditional evolutionary theory is all wet.