Saturday, May 17, 2008


Lately it seems that I've been surrounding myself with flightless creatures. I'm not sure what this signifies, but the connection between my chicks and an art exhibit that I went to see today was quickly apparent.
First, the exhibit. As silkworms have been bred in captivity for hundreds of years, they have lost their ability to fly. It comes down to a bad body-to-wing size ratio, but the results are extremely tame moths that can't, well, get it up. The artists Tera Galanti has been breeding them in captivity to try to reverse this evolution and her exhibit was part sculpture, part textile project, and part science experiment all in one.

She has created hutches for the hatched moths to go in. The females go to the top platforms and the males go in the bottom. The males smell the female pheromones and go into a wing-flapping frenzy, but alas, they can't fly up. Some climb up the sides and manage to get to the females, but the hope is that males will be born with the ability to fly so that they can get up to the females and then pass on those flying genes. As a biology and art major, I always like to bring art into my bio classroom and since we're just getting into genetics, it'll be fun to talk about rates of mutation and whether we can expect to see this evolution occur in our lifetimes. In any event, the exhibit itself was lovely, slightly magical and airy. I knew I'd never be a researcher because I couldn't stand the idea of being cooped up in a lab my whole life, but this kind of research I could do.
And for those who haven't accepted the fact that homosexuality exists in nature: here are some male moths getting it on.
So what does this have to do with the chicks? Well, as it turns out, they actually can fly a bit. I'd argue that it's pretty inefficient (again, that body-to-wing ratio), but my chicks are managing to get some air time lately. Sometimes I hear a commotion and look over into the cage thinking that they're pecking each other to death, when in fact they are getting little running starts and practicing their flying skills. Who knew? Chickens can fly.

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made. by k.d.