Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Coqui Frog Gets Smaller, Song Gets Briefer & Higher

I am always curious about how our little creatures deep in the forests are experiencing changes due to our creation of more carbon dioxide in our global air. Let's take a look at the little coqui frog in the forests of Puerto Rico. The coqui has existed for more than 11,000 years and is a beloved protagonist in Puerto Rico's folklore, songs, and children's books.

UCLA Professor of Biology Peter Narins has been studying the coqui for 41 years. In 1983, he began a longitudinal study of the coqui, studying male frogs at 28 different altitudes, from near to sea level to up in the highest hills. Checking back in two decades later in 2006, he found that frogs had grown smaller, which is consistent with moving upward in elevation due to a rise in ambient temperature. Basically, the frogs found their current elevation too hot, so they moved upward in elevation, thus causing their offspring to be smaller as they migrated upward. During this same time period, the temperature had raised .5 degrees.

Not only had the frogs migrated to a higher elevation, but their songs had changed. Usually in Puerto Rico, the frogs at a lower elevation are shorter with a higher pitch in comparison with the lower, long songs of their brethren in the hills. Narins and his research partner Sebastiaan Meenderink found that, within a certain elevation, over the 2 decades, the frogs' song pitch had risen and also had grown shorter in duration.

The song is used for two purposes: the "co" part of the song is for territorial defense against other males, while the "-qui" part of the song is intended to impress female coqui frogs. Since the purpose of the latter song is to attract females to mate with, scientists predict that the briefer, higher-pitched song will decrease the coqui's reproductive success. In other words: briefer & higher song, fewer coqui females attracted, fewer baby coquis grown. This spells potential trouble, since the coqui exists within an entire interdependent web: the coquis are the prey of other animals such as "owls, snakes, land crabs," according to Stuart Wolpert.

Read the original research here

Ross Gay on Gratitude, Ancestors, Compost & Peace Knee Deep in Terra Firma

Ross Gay is a poet who digs gardens. That is, he really digs soil, gets knee deep in compost, nuzzles insects and aphids. He finds in the muck and unabashed fecund mix--love and the endings and origins of everything we need. Social justice swims in his gardens.

Check out this excerpt from his long poem "Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude," which appears in the beautiful online journal Waxwing.

Thank you the ancestor who loved you
before she knew you
by smuggling seeds into her braid for the long
journey, who loved you
before he knew you by putting
a walnut tree in the ground, who loved you
before she knew you by not slaughtering
the land; thank you
who did not bulldoze the ancient grove
of dates and olives,
who sailed his keys into the ocean
and walked softly home; who did not fire, who did not
plunge the head into the toilet, who said stop,
don’t do that; who lifted some broken
someone up; who volunteered
the way a plant birthed of the reseeding plant
is called a volunteer, like the plum tree
that marched beside the raised bed
in my garden, like the arugula that marched
itself between the blueberries,
nary a bayonette, nary an army, nary a nation,
which usage of the word volunteer
familiar to gardeners the wide world
made my pal shout “Oh!” and dance
and plunge his knuckles
into the lush soil before gobbling two strawberries
and digging a song from his guitar
made of wood from a tree someone planted, thank you
--Ross Gay excerpted from his long poem "Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude"

Photos are from the Bloomington Community Orchard, where Ross volunteers, site of inspiration for much of his poetry

Read Ross Gay's whole poem here