- Dalen Villmarkssenter4 months ago
- Hurtigruten 4 months ago
- Sandnes Nature Hikes4 months ago
- Rogaland Arboret4 months ago
- Høle & Ims 2019/024 months ago
- Disgusting Food Museum9 months ago
- Valley of Fire State Park9 months ago
- Navajo Bridge9 months ago
- Gage Hotel9 months ago
- Nothing12 months ago
- Goldfield1 year ago
- Sam Houston Statue 1 year ago
It's Europe day, so what better way is there to celebrate this incredible continent than by discovering it's hidden gems.
In this riveting taxidermy diorama at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the sambar deer is portrayed caught in a moment of disquieting hesitation. One of the stag's front legs is raised ready to stamp the ground with its hooves in a defensive display characteristic of all deer when threatened. Surrounding the terrified animal on all sides are a pack of baying wild dogs which snarl, snap, and bare their fangs, all the while pressing forward in a deadly flanking maneuver that has their prey seemingly cornered.
One of the dogs lies dead or close to death at the stag's feet, felled by a savage kick of the deer's hoof and trampled into the mud. But time and luck are running out for the sambar, which really only has two options left: flight or fight. If it flees, it will either outrun its enemies or else succumb to their snapping fangs in a slow and gruesome death. Otherwise, it can take a stand and keep fighting, though it will inevitably tire or falter and be pulled down and torn to pieces by its tenacious enemies.
The Asiatic wild dog, or "dhole" as it is commonly known in India, is a formidable predator. Working intelligently in packs, it has been known to pursue and kill other apex predators such as leopards, and even on rare occasions, the Bengal tiger. Considering the wide geographic distribution that both species occupy, the scene depicted in this taxidermy diorama could take place anywhere, from the tropical dry forests of India and Nepal to the rainforests of Sumatra, Java, or Indochina. But the setting of this particular museum exhibit depicts the hill country of Mysore in southwestern India.
The power of this diorama lies in its ability to invoke a multiplicity of perspectives. For many viewers, the scene is a brutal drama in which they empathize anxiously with the desperate plight of the deer. Other visitors may appreciate this exhibit as a recreation of a timeless scene of predation, the wild dogs performing their ecological role of controlling a prey species that would otherwise overbrowse the forests. But there are many ways to interpret the narrative here, including within the context of the environmental history of India at the time the diorama was created.
For the British colonial administration of India and the Indian elite, who viewed the dhole as little more than vermin (and organized the culling of the species), such a scene would undoubtedly provoke irritation at the "destruction" of a game animal valued for recreational hunting. Conversely, for many of the indigenous forest tribes of the region, the sight or sound of a sambar being pursued by a pack of wild dogs would instead herald a meal of venison, as the dogs would be chased from their kills, which would be taken for village feasts.
But in the 21st century, this drama is imbued with an added poignancy, due to the awareness that such timeless scenes of the natural world may, in the near future, only be glimpsed through the medium of museum dioramas. Today, the dhole and its sambar deer prey are fast-disappearing from wide areas of the Indian subcontinent, where both species are listed as endangered. Indeed, the wild dog is considered by many conservationists to be at a far greater risk of extinction than its eternal enemy the Bengal tiger in many of India's national parks.
For a long time, well-to-do Chileans looked down on merquén. The spice mix, invented and traditionally used by the country's indigenous Mapuche people, was considered too smoky, too spicy for upper class tastes, argue some food writers. While it's fundamental to Mapuche cuisine, the spice mix rarely received attention in major tomes of Chilean cooking, part of a long legacy of eclipsing the indigenous roots of many Latin American cuisines. In the past couple decades, however, merquén is finally being recognized on a wider scale in Chilean cooking, adding color and smoke to salads, jazzing up pizzas, and livening up grilled meats
The Mapuche and, by extension, merquén call Araucanía, a region in central Chile, home. Today, Araucanía’s population is one third Mapuche. But until 1883, the Mapuche ruled the region as their own kingdom, independent from Spanish authority. Fierce fighters and savvy politicians, Mapuche leaders ensured they were one of the last indigenous South American holdouts to total colonial rule. Actual sovereignty fell during the brutal Spanish "pacification" campaigns of the 1870s and ’80s, but a separatist Mapuche government in exile claims Araucanía as sovereign Mapuche land to this day. This complex colonial history colors the current popularity of foods such as merquén and the blue eggs famously produced by the Mapuche's Araucana chickens.
Despite the political ups and downs, Mapuche vendors still sell musical instruments, blue eggs, and sacks of spicy merquén in the local markets of Araucanía. The long, pointed red peppers used to make the spice are called aji cacho de cabra, or “goat's horn," in reference to the pepper's slightly curved shape. After the February cacho de cabra harvest, Mapuche farmers dry the peppers in the sun until they become a rich purple. The aji are then hung over a wood fire to be imbued with a deep, woodsy smokiness. They're sun-dried again before being finely ground, either with a stone mortar (the traditional way) or, more commonly today, in an electric grinder. The powder is then mixed with smoked coriander seeds and salt.
The smoky mix enjoys pride of place in several Chilean dishes. It's the star of puré picante, mashed potatoes spiced up with ample quantities of merquén. It adds a kick to roasted peanuts, or mani merquén. The mix is also often added to pebre, the Chilean salsa. With the spice mix's growing popularity among foodies in its native country and beyond, these days merquén-dusted dishes, from simple pasta to an upscale lobster eclair, can be found in restaurants around the world. But for the smoke and punch of the real stuff, curious diners should eschew mail-order options and go straight to the source: The Mapuche people, who resisted the Spanish Empire and whose culture will endure beyond the whims of foodie trends.
Built in the late 18th century, the Cathedral of the Most Holy Rosary is the only remaining architectural relic of Kolkata’s lesser-known Portuguese past. Commonly called the Portuguese Church today, the cathedral, painted in a combination of vivid blue and pristine white, still holds services and is currently the seat of the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kolkata.
Originally built as a chapel for Augustinian friars, the Portuguese settlers in 18th-century Kolkata (then called Calcutta) decided to repurpose the building into a new church for the community. With the financial assistance of a wealthy Portuguese trader and philanthropist named Joseph Barretto, the new church was built and consecrated in the 1790s and dedicated to Our Blessed Lady of the Rosary. Situated on Portuguese Church Street and amidst a warren of shops and buildings, the cathedral with its two lofty towers adorned by crown-shaped cupolas is a unique reminder of the city's highly cosmopolitan past.
The Portuguese had arrived in Bengal as early as the 1530s, starting a trading post in Bandel, now a town in the Hooghly district of West Bengal. The Dutch traders arrived next, followed by the French, while the British were the last to arrive in this part of India. With the establishment of Kolkata as a British settlement at the end of the 17th century, descendants of the early Portuguese traders, mainly of Eurasian heritage, began migrating to the city, their numbers becoming substantial in the mid-18th century.
Gradually, the kaleidoscopic population of the city seemed to have raised the necessity of demarcating specific areas for particular races. Since the Portuguese were the only ones to raise fowl, their quarter came to be designated as Murgihatta (also Murgighata), loosely translated as "poultry quarter," though the word murgi usually means "chicken" in Bengali. The cathedral too came to be known colloquially as the Murgighata church.
Apart from the two towers, the eye-catching exterior of the cathedral is adorned with a decorative pediment rendered in vibrant hues. An arched entrance leads to a colonnaded interior with wooden pews set on either side of the aisle. The main altarpiece, painted white with gold highlights, looks resplendent when light from the circular stained-glass windows set high above filters in. The statue of the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus occupies pride of place on the massive altarpiece. Another interesting feature of the cathedral is the 14 wooden panels in bas relief, which depict the 14 Stations of the Cross.
The Panteón Francés de La Piedad (French Pantheon of La Piedad) was built in 1865, when Maximilian I ruled as Emperor of Mexico. As a private pantheon, the French cemetery was able to preserve exquisite works of funeral art, and today it houses an eclectic array of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and neo-colonial tombs all worthy of admiring.
The cemetery is considered a hidden treasure of Mexico City, as it is an almost unknown place. Those who pass by Cuauhtémoc Avenue can only see the neo-Gothic tower of the abandoned church in the interior, and the monument to the fallen French soldiers of the First World War. Once inside, the main road hosts the family crypts of ancestral families. Each one has luxurious decorations, including marbles sculptures, stained-glass windows, and wrought iron doors. Behind them are the tombs. The best way to explore this solitary place is to lose yourself among the pathways and find the hidden surprises of the pantheon.
Among the labyrinthine corridors, you can find the gigantic monument dedicated to the firefighters who died in 1864 trying to rescue several people that were trapped in a burning building. There is also an ossuary where the French soldiers who died in Mexico during the French Intervention were buried.
In addition to the melancholic sculptures, the cemetery houses the tombs of various prominent figures that died in mysterious or unusual circumstances. Among them are the actress Miroslava Stern (who took her own life due to an unrequited love), the revolutionary Francisco I. Madero (killed by his minister of war), the deputy Serapio Rendón (kidnapped and murdered in 1913), the impressionist painter Joaquín Clausell (suffocated in the mud of a mudslide), writer and activist José Revueltas (who died of various diseases at 62 years old), and actor Mauricio Garcés (who committed suicide when diagnosed with cancer after acting in a movie filmed in a nuclear test field).
One of the most sought-out tombs at Panteón Francés is that of the comedian Roberto Gómez Bolaños "Chespirito," who brought to life the beloved Latin-American character Chavo del 8. The poor character always wanted to eat a ham torta (a Mexican sandwich), and to this day people leave tortas at Chespirito's grave.
Naoki Hayashi’s first encounter with gyotaku—the traditional Japanese art of fish printing—was anything but traditional. It was the early 1970s, and a few local families had taken their four-wheel drive vehicles out to some Oʻahu beaches to camp out and catch some fish. As an elementary-school kid, Hayashi’s job was to scale and gut the fish so there would be no mess at home. The adults were nearing the end of a successful day of fishing, meaning they were deep into a bucket of beer, sake, and soju. As Hayashi dug around inside a Hawaiian soldierfish for its red-frilled guts, an older family friend grabbed the fish from him, dipped it into rusty bucket full of red paint (a hand-me-down from the Korean War) and slapped the fish against Hayashi’s bare chest. “This is gyotaku,” the older man said, pointing to the distinct red imprint.
The son of immigrants who came from a small Japanese fishing village, Hayashi made his first fish print at 11 and, aside from a brief stint studying biochemistry in college, never stopped. Hayashi has since developed a full-time career as a gyotaku artist. First used as a handy way to document the size and shape of a fish, gyotaku has since evolved into a genre of scientific illustration, an educational tool, and a modern art form. According to Hayashi, there are three key steps in traditional gyotaku: catch it, print it, and eat it. But the history of the form is a little more 0bscure.
People have been making prints of things they find in nature for around 20,000 years, but the specific form of gyotaku probably emerged in mid-19th-century Japan, according to Rachel Ramirez, a printmaker who wrote her doctoral thesis on gyotaku at the University of Porto in Portugal. The procedure is quite similar to Chinese stone rubbing, an ancient method of reproducing inscriptions originally made in metal, bone, or stone. It follows that the two kanji characters that combine to form “gyotaku” translate literally into “fish” (gyo) and “rubbing” (taku). The earliest known example of gyotaku—though this is somewhat contested—traces the form of a carp caught in the Mogami River in 1857. The print can now be seen in Japan’s Yamagata prefecture, at the Honma Museum, which boasts the richest collection of historic gyotaku prints anywhere in the world.
In its heyday, gyotaku was a fisherman’s best bet for bragging rights. It was used to document “trophy catches”—anything big or unusual enough that other fishermen would need to see it to believe it. As photography had just been invented and definitely could not be used on a fishing boat in roiling waves, fishermen kept on board a chest of rice paper, nontoxic sumi-e ink, and a set of brushes. As soon they caught a fish, it was a simple matter of dipping it in ink and slapping it on a piece of paper. After printing the catch, the fishermen would simply rinse off the ink and either release the fish, take it to market, or eat it themselves. These prints were not artful at that time, but more utilitarian. As the trend caught on, fishermen began adding to their prints with brushes, such as the detail of an eye or the color of scales.
Soon, knowledge of gyotaku spread to the West. In the 1950s, a Tokyo gyotaku enthusiast group called Gyotaku-no-kai organized an exhibition of prints that eventually traveled to the city’s Museum of Natural History. In 1964, Yoshio Hiyama, one of the founding members of the organization, published Gyotaku: The Art and Technique of the Japanese Fish Print, a text largely responsible for introducing the practice to an international audience. Hiyama, who worked as a fisheries research scientist, connected with colleagues at the Smithsonian, who began to recognize the potential of gyotaku as a tool for research and accurate scientific illustration. Now gyotaku is used most commonly in conservation work, primarily as an educational tool for marine animal anatomy.
That said, many fishing villages in Japan continue gyotaku in a purely utilitarian way. Each year the city of Osaka hosts an enormous fishing and angling expo, where people can show off their trophy gyotaku prints. In Keelung Prison in northern Taiwan, artist Yan Shang-wen teaches gyotaku art classes as part of a rehabilitation program, according to the Taipei Times. In 2015, his pupils held an art show at the Keelung City Hall.
Where a practical fisherman’s gyotaku would consist of a single fish in sumi-e on a sheet of white paper, the form is open to dynamic reinterpretation. Many artists now craft prints of entire shoals in vivid color, sometimes with toxic acrylic paint (i.e., no rinsing and eating when it’s all done). Other artists have begun experimenting with subjects other than fish, such as birds or plants. Rodriguez printed an entire series of gyotaku using only roadkill she encountered in Algarve, Portugal.
But to purists such as Hayashi, gyotaku is only gyotaku if you follow all three key steps—catch, print, eat. “Sometimes people call their work gyotaku without having all those three main components,” he says, in reference to prints of ornamental fish such as Moorish idols that were clearly never consumed as food. “But that’s not gyotaku. All the value and meaning behind it is brushed aside, not appreciated.” Hayashi sees his practice as directly descended from traditional Japanese fishing culture. He regularly helps clients and their children, who have caught their first fish, for example, and want to memorialize their prize—before they eat it. “That happens only once in a lifetime,” he says. “To capture it in this format and have it as a family treasure, that’s the true value of gyotaku.”
To avoid animal cruelty or contributing to the global overfishing crisis, Hayashi and many other modern gyotaku artists try to avoid waste in pursuit of their art. Unlike in the past, gyotaku practitioners no longer make prints of specimens while they are alive. Hayashi always eats his art supplies (though some don’t, out of fear the fish will spoil during the printing process). Another artist, Heather Fortner of Toledo, Oregon, uses only dead fish that wash up on her local beach. She makes several prints of each fish before burying them in her yard for fertilizer.
Hayashi elects to catch his fish himself, which he admits is the hardest part of gyotaku. And he prefers spearfishing to hooks and lures. “You become this little particle floating in the ocean, and you lose all sense of self. Like you’re a part of this Earth,” he says. When he’s out in the blue, spear in hand, Hayashi seeks out wahoo in particular—“ono” in Hawaiian, an enormous, slithering, iridescent mackerel with razor sharp teeth. Wahoo is challenging to catch, but rewarding to print and delicious to eat.
How to make your own gyotaku
Many gyotaku prints are considered fine art today, but the roots of the practice are simple and it’s very easy to make your own. Christopher Dewees, a gyotaku practitioner who belongs to the nonprofit Nature Printing Society, says there are two methods: direct and indirect. Direct prints are often more simple and monochromatic, while indirect prints are better for showing finer detail and using more colors, but are more complicated and difficult to do right.
Before you print, you’ll need a fish. If you’re not skilled in the ancient tradition of spearfishing, or don’t have a rod and reel, any good fishmonger or Asian market can sell you a whole, fresh fish. Look for one that’s relatively flat with prominent scales, such as bluegill, bass, snapper, or flounder. (If you want to make sure it’s fresh, check the smell—there shouldn’t really be one—and look for glassy eyes.) Anything too hefty or round, such as tuna or salmon, will be much more of a challenging to make a clear print of. Then use salt to clean off any mucus or excess moisture, and pat it dry.
You can use any water-soluble block-printing ink, which can be found in most art stores. Any color can work, but Dewees recommends starting off with black for practice. For the paper, the best options feature strong but flexible fibers made in Asia, such as mulberry, kozo, unryu, or goyu. You’ll also need a few small pins to hold the fish’s fins in place, and some large and small brushes to apply the ink. Prepare your printing station by lining a flat surface with paper or plastic.
Lay the fish on the printing area and pin each fin in place. Use a brush to apply a thin coat of ink from the head toward the tail, leaving the eye blank. Brush the ink back in the opposite direction, and dab away any excess with a paper towel. Then decide where you’d like to see the fish appear on the paper and place the sheet down directly onto the fish. Rub it firmly onto the fish with your fingers, but try not to wrinkle it. Then peel away the paper and set is aside to dry. Dewees says you can probably make at least five prints from the same fish, re-inking it each time, before it loses detail. So long as the ink is nontoxic, you can then wash and eat the fish.
Place fabric, silk, or paper over the top of your clean, dry, pinned fish. Moisten the covering and use a sponge and pressure to mold it to the fish’s body. Let the paper or textile dry completely. Then apply your choice of inks on top of the fabric with a brush. Peel the covering away gently, doing your best to avoid any tears. These fish can be eaten, too, but only if they’re kept cool and are not out too long.
The desert mesquite tree that Hawaiians call kiawe was never supposed to be on this volcanic island. Brought to Big Island (also known as Hawaiʻi) in 1828 by a Catholic missionary, the kiawe, which is native to Ecuador and Peru, thrives on the leeward side of the major Hawaiian islands. Wispy, elongated, lemon-yellow flowers hang from the trees in the island’s 1,000-acre Puako forest. Honeybees collect nectar from these abundant blooms to make the rare, award-winning kiawe honey.
The scant rainfall in Puako is enough for the trees to grow 60 feet tall. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the trees can flower at any time of the year, providing plenty of sustenance for the island’s honeybees. Here, the bees forage, making the forest a natural bee habitat that is in danger from urban encroachment thanks to Hawaiʻi’s vibrant tourism industry.
The honey is 99 percent monofloral, meaning the bees making kiawe honey almost exclusively feed off the kiawe flower. The extraction process has to be precisely timed. If removed from the combs too early, the honey tends to ferment. If the beekeeper waits too long to extract, the honey crystallizes in the comb and needs to be melted by applying heat, which affects the natural, delicate floral flavors. The smooth, creamy texture of the honey, along with its white color, makes it truly unique. While some people say there’s an aftertaste of menthol, others hail kiawe honey for its vanilla-almond flavor tones. The honey keeps at room temperature for three to four months, after which it should be refrigerated.
The threats to kiawe honey are many. In 2007, a forest fire destroyed nearly half the kiawe trees in Puako, severely limiting honey production. That same year, the varroa mite wiped out large swathes of the island’s bee population. Keeping up a market demand for kiawe honey ensures the preservation of these kiawe tree groves, which are saltwater tolerant, and eminently capable of thriving on the Puako soil. Allowing them to flourish protects Big Island from the problem of desertification, and provides a habitat for the island’s bees. And who wouldn’t want a schmear of this creamy natural sweetener on their morning toast?
From time to time, art galleries, museums, and exhibition spaces are created in such a way that the architecture rightly become as much of an attraction as the contents. These are often grand buildings in public view, but this fantastic space is hidden away under a city square in the town of Alcoi in Valencia, Spain.
Called the Llotja de Sant Jordi, the exhibition space was designed in 1992 by the architect Santiago Calatrava. The main space is made of pure white concrete with a granite floor, and was designed to look like you're inside the rib cage of a giant whale. The parabolic ribs used in this underground structure are a favorite of Calatrava's and he has used them in many other buildings, but this magnificent space is one of the smallest and least well-known of his structures.
The fantastic scene is enhanced by the natural light that filters through the ceiling, entering from the Plaça Espanya above. Also remarkable is the entrance system, a series of hidden, hydraulically operated trapdoors that open onto two wide stairways descending below the square.
The Tōkaidō Shinkansen, Japan’s famous bullet-train line, flashes past futuristic skyscrapers, Shinto shrines, and lush paddy fields on its 180-miles-per-hour dash from Tokyo to Osaka. This time-defying bolt is vanquished only by the majesty of placid, cloud-cloaked Mt. Fuji, the brief sight of which makes time stand still for a serene, spectacular moment. To commemorate this sight, which occurs around 45 minutes after leaving Tokyo, many passengers unwrap boxes of food bought at station kiosks or from train attendants.
Called ekiben, a portmanteau combining eki (the Japanese word for “station”) and ben (short for bento, or boxed meal), these boxed meals are as numerous as the country's train stations. Coming from Tokyo, one might dig into the cosmopolitan capital's diverse offerings: fried chicken, shrimp tempura, macaroni salad, salmon onigiri (rice balls), steamed carrots shaped like flowers, and a bite of cake, all served in a bento modeled after the shinkansen. Passengers coming from Osaka might choose takoyaki, the city's famous fried octopus dumplings, or takomusu, a takoyaki and musubi (rice ball) combo.
Ekiben is a bite-size representation of Japan’s food culture, portioned out in compartments of beautifully designed bentos that resemble gift boxes. Most contain pieces of chicken, cubes of breaded or grilled fish, tempura, an omelette, and a vegetable assortment of pickled daikon or seaweed arranged around balls of rice with a sprinkling of black sesame or nori. From this basic template (known as makunouchi, meaning “between act” and harkening to the bento served during intermission at kabuki and Noh shows in the Edo period), ekiben expands to include regionally specific novelties. At Hokkaido, for instance, this might mean celebrating the island’s cherished Pacific flying squid. Hokkaido’s Mori Station offers ikameshi (squid stuffed with a nub of rice and cooked in a special sauce), a dish that became famous during the Second World War when rice was scarce.
Ekiben has been part of Japanese rail travel almost since workers laid the earliest tracks. The first Japanese rail line, from Tokyo to Yokohama, began service in 1872. By 1885, records note, vendors were selling rice balls stuffed with pickled plums in bamboo leaf wrappers at Utsunomiya Station. By the turn of the century, a rapidly expanding rail network was matched in pace by the appearance of ekiben stalls selling boxes of local delicacies: tai meshi (sea bream rice) at Shizuoka station, ayu (fresh river trout) sushi at Yamakita. Initially, vendors peddled ekiben out of trays, coming right up to the train window to eager customers. With the advent of air-conditioned coaches, the call of the ekiben vendor has all but disappeared. Now passengers make a steady canter to ekiben stalls on the station platform during scheduled train stops—a feat that requires speed and hustle. Fortunately, train attendants also sell ekiben from pushcarts.
It’s not just the food—ekiben’s beautiful packaging also evokes the region where it was made. In Hyōgo Prefecture, known for the traditional practice of catching octopus in a takotsubo, an earthen pot designed specifically for cephalopod nabbing, the hipparidako meshi ekiben is a rice, octopus, conger eel, and vegetables dish served in a miniature takotsubo. In Okayama, the most popular ekiben references Momotarō, or peach boy, a local folkloric hero thought to have emerged out of a peach. The bento is shaped like a peach and the wrapper features an artistic rendition of Momotarō. Each ekiben box is a souvenir, and travelers often bring famous regional ekiben home as gifts.
In contrast to the dreary sameness of fast food, ekiben changes to incorporate seasonal ingredients. Springtime travelers might look forward to salt-preserved cherry blossoms with rice. Conger eel and rice ekiben appear in the summer, replacing winter’s oyster rice (kaki meshi). While you’d need to travel endlessly by train to sample all of the country’s ekiben, Tokyo Station’s retail behemoth Ekibenya Matsuri (meaning ekiben festival), sells 170 kinds that feature local delicacies from all over Japan.
Ekiben is equally popular among Japanese and foreign tourists. Fans have their own ekiben wrapper collections; devotees can enjoy ekiben magazines and comic strips; and the official vendor of the Japanese rail pass (similar to the Eurail pass) has tips on how best to enjoy ekiben on their website.
A fast food prepared slowly, with local, seasonal ingredients, and consumed while meditatively pondering passing landscapes, ekiben is a cultural artifact, an invitation to take a slice of Japan’s culinary bounty as a flavorful memento of the pleasures of exploration.
Traditionally, dung beetles—insects from the family Scarabaeoidea—rely on the sun to guide them through the savannas of Africa, at least the ones that roll their prized dung into tidy balls. But when the sun is too high or clouds fill the sky, the beetles have to adjust to a different type of navigation. Based on recent research, they turn to the wind for guidance.
A team of biologists from Sweden and South Africa studied the precision with which these particular dung beetles move by tracking their movements in the wild when the sun was at different points in the sky. In the middle of the afternoon, when the sun reaches its highest point above the horizon, the beetles toggled on their inner wind compasses (thanks to sensors on their antennae that detect the breeze). Then, as the sun began to set, the beetles moved according to the sun once again.
"This is the first study that shows how an animal's biological compass can integrate different directional sensors, in this case wind and sun, in a flexible way,” lead author Marie Dacke, who studies sensory biology at Lund University, said in a release. This enables the highest possible precision at all times." The fact that these dung beetles can oscillate between two different methods of navigation indicates that they have more advanced brains than previously thought. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"The insect brain is definitely not pre-programmed to always follow the same set of actions. On the contrary, we can show that such small brains work according to very dynamic principles that adapt to the conditions prevailing at a given moment," Dacke said. The international research team studied the beetles in their native habitat and in a controlled laboratory environment. Outside, they manipulated the sun’s elevation with mirrors, and indoors, they simulated wind direction with fans.
When the researchers shifted the sun 180 degrees, the beetles turned around completely—and the same dramatic effect occurred with changes in wind direction. Essentially, the dung beetles have developed a redundant navigation system, adaptable to almost any daytime conditions. (And it’s been shown that some dung beetles can navigate by the moon or the Milky Way, which is just wow.)
Moving forward, Dacke and her team plan to investigate whether dung beetles register wind the same way at night, and how they do under those circumstances when there’s neither wind nor sunlight.
Organized like the old curio cabinets of the 19th century, the Manuel M. Villada Museum of Natural History at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México houses a trove of curiosities in its collection. But of all the intriguing items at the museum, the mummies are the most peculiar. Several experts have tried to find out the origin of these curiosities, which are surrounded by legend.
The first mummy on display is María Reyna, the wife of the bandit Chepe Pesos Duros who raided the area of Almoloya in the 19th century. At that time, an epidemic of dysentery had arrived in the city. According to the story, Maria and her entire family died of the disease, and when they were buried they were lime plated to avoid further infections. This is how, over time, they became mummified and were sent to the university.
The mummy with the most unusual story is probably Father Botello. According to legend, he was a man who officiated religious services to earn money without actually being a priest. He was addicted to alcohol and once, while drunk inside a canteen, revealed that he was a fake priest—a confession that unsurprisingly angered the population.
"Father" Botello was taken to San Antonio Acahualco where a popular trial was held, finding him guilty of false sacraments and sexual abuse of women in the confessionals of the churches. For these crimes, he was hanged publicly. Later his body was buried with lime in the San Diego Temple where his mummy was later discovered. According to one expert, the tongue outside the mummy and the rope mark on the neck proved the veracity of the story.
Although the museum is small, it abounds in curiosities. Some of the taxidermy animals are more than 100 years old. If you visit the museum, do not lose sight of the collection of Japanese marine fauna conserved in tiny flasks with formaldehyde, its fossil dinosaur eggs, and an ancient shrunken head.