Why we are here:

Our signature Bible passage, the prologue to John's Gospel, tells us that Jesus (the Logos) is God and Creator and that He came in the flesh (sarx) to redeem His fallen, sin-cursed creation—and especially those He chose to believe in Him.

Here in Bios & Logos we have some fun examining small corners of the creation to show how great a Creator Jesus is—and our need for Him as Redeemer. Soli Deo Gloria.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

When it comes to classifying skippers—I usually skip it!

(Click on pictures to enlarge)

In addition to colorful Lepidopterans like Monarchs and Sulphurs, the Skippers are working the Celery Farm flowers in late September.

What can we say about Skippers? First, they are almost moth-like, with rather furry bodies. But they have typical matchstick antennae, rather than the feathery antennae characteristic of moths. Second, they are almost all some shade of brown, with various patterns of other shades of brown in their wings. Third, they have big brown eyes. So they are nice butterflies—if you like brown.

When it comes to classifying Skippers, things get tricky, unless your eyes are particularly sensitive to shades of brown—and you have the patience to study closely the characteristics of the nearly 100 species listed in the National Audubon Field Guide to Butterflies. In that volume, Skippers are divided into the “Folded-wing Skippers” and the “Spread-winged Skippers”, classified by how they hold their wings when at rest. Our examples are obviously of the “folded-wing” variety.

Other than wing position, the pattern of spots becomes crucial and challenging, particularly to my patience! I’ll put up with just so much nit-picking between and among species; then I become what is called in the field of taxonomy, a “lumper” and readily leave the fine distinctions to experts who have devoted their lives to such things. There is a relatively new science called “Baraminology” (derived from the Hebrew and Greek: “study of created kinds”). From the creation standpoint, all Skippers—and perhaps all butterflies—are derived from a common created kind. That’s a perfect excuse for a lazy taxonomist like me to give up on distinguishing between look-alikes.

A recent identification at the Celery Farm of a “Sachem” (a species of Skipper) must have been by one of those experts, or just a good guesser. Staring at a photo didn’t convince me one way or another.

As to our examples, I’ll call the one on the right the Yellow Patch Skipper (formerly known as Peck’s Skipper) and let an expert help me with the other.

Unfortunately, we can all too easily get locked into the box of taxonomy and nomenclature (no offense to Carolus Linnaeus, who thought up the whole thing) and forget about the incredible engineering that went into the design of all aspects of the anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology of every insect. Lying beneath the surface of the skipper’s brown eyes and brown body is a marvelous array of nano-technology that would have blown Charles Darwin’s mind. The human eye almost made him doubt his own theory; one look at an electron micrograph of even one of an insect’s cells would surely have finished the job—and we might have been spared the distraction of almost 150 years of less-than-useful speculation about the origin and diversification of life and could have made more progress in real science’s solving of the real problems facing this sin-cursed world.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Migrating Monarchs

It’s now past mid-September, so the Monarchs are on the move south. They are slurping up the nectar from whatever plants are still in bloom. And, thanks to the faithful ladies who tend the Celery Farm’s Butterfly Garden, there is lots of nectar left to slurp. Mist Flower and Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) provide nourishment during a refueling stop for the Monarchs along the long route from New England to Mexico or southern Florida. (Monarchs west of the Rockies prefer southern California as their winter destination.) Here is a migration map.

So this week’s photos (Click on them to enjoy larger views) feature the travelers on each of the above-mentioned plants. I especially like the mirror image Monarch effect on the Buddleia (I took about a dozen shots of that flitting pair—this was the only successful one).

By this time (more than a week later) these Monarchs have flown well to the south and have been replaced by others in the still flourishing garden—the Mist Flower is at its blooming peak as I write this.

All migration is an incredible phenomenon when you think about it. Most often we think of birds flying thousands of miles, guided by Earth’s magnetic field, the stars and factors yet to be determined, often for the first time in their lives. Just recently, a Bar-Tailed Godwit won the distance record—an electronically tagged bird flew 7150 miles non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand!
Here is an account of the feat.

As amazing as bird migration is, butterfly migration seems all the more phenomenal. These half-ounce invertebrates, flapping chitinous wings, have never before been to their wintering grounds. They are the last hatch of the summer, the great-great grandchildren of the Monarchs that flew north in spring. And, although they look the same as earlier summer generations, their bodies and behavior are different. They have entered a condition called diapause and won’t mate until next spring. They store fat in their abdomens and may actually gain weight during their 3000-mile migration. And their destination is not only the same general area used by their now dead great-great grandparents, but sometimes the same tree! Even my recently acquired GPS unit can’t do that for me!

Darwinian evolutionists can’t say much about this phenomenon (they try, but they just sputter or make up stories). But the Creator is using all this as a loud and clear message and warning: “I did it and there is no excuse for not believing that I have made it all. So make this the first step toward discovering an even better thing that I’ve done—sending my Son to save sinners. Now go to my Written Word and find Him!”
Click here for the ugly truth and here for the good news.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Early and Late Summer Favorites

(Click on the images to enlarge)
I suppose we shouldn’t play favorites with God’s creations, but I guess it’s only natural. Come on—equal appreciation for ragweed and rose? After all, rose equals beauty; ragweed equals hay fever.

But I digress, even before I get started. This week’s photos are of two beauties, neither of which has a chance of producing pollen allergies, since both are entomophilous (insect-pollinated) and don’t produce dusty pollen that is likely to get into your nose. So you can examine them closely—no need for Alavert.

It’s easy to see why I’ve chosen these two as examples of early and late summer bloomers. They are rather petite but unusual and exquisite in their own ways. The yellow flowers are of the Moth Mullein, which blooms in late June. The purplish-blue spikes belong to the Great Lobelia, still blooming in early September.

Moth Mullein, as you can see, like its much taller cousin the Common Mullein, bears its blooms on a single stalk and opens its flowers only one or a few at a time. But it’s worth the effort to stoop down (the stalk is only about a foot or two tall) and get a close look at its unique flower and its leathery buds. Moth Mullein, as far as I know, is not pollinated by moths. It got its name from someone who imagined that its red, feathery stamens looked like the antennae of a moth—took a lot of imagination, I would say. But it makes for a strikingly beautiful little flower.

The Great Lobelia, so called because it is larger than most others of its Genus, gets my vote as favorite late summer bloomer because of its stripy, spiky buds, its groovy stalk and its intense purplish-blue, interestingly shaped flowers. It stands out because there is usually nothing of its color or form in its immediate neighborhood.

Last year I saw only one or a few of each of these plants at the Celery Farm. This year they popped up in greater numbers in more different areas, giving more opportunities for photography. That was fortunate, because my failure rate in photographing small flowers is rather high!

This year I have saved you the pain of stooping—just enjoy the pictures (be sure to click on them to get larger views). But next year, if you happen to see one or both of these plants, why not stoop—and experience the real thing? Remember, no Alavert needed, but maybe some Tylenol for the back. :-) Some day soon, there will be no need for allergy or pain medications, when The Savior returns and restores His very good creation—but even better!
(Romans 8:18-23) (Revelation 21:1-5)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Red Maple (Acer rubrum) jumps the gun!

(Click photos to enlarge)
These photos were shot in late August, and the Red Maples were already showing their impatience for fall to arrive, well before any other species were even thinking red, much less displaying the anthocyanins (reds and blues), carotenoids (orange) and tannins (brown) that produce our autumn displays of color.

All those fancy terms represent fancy organic molecules that plants make by fancy (complex) chemical processes—which goes to show that plants are indeed fancy (complex) and aren’t simple in any sense. Plants make these pigments for
various reasons, some of which are obvious and some still vaguely understood. Chlorophyll (green) is intimately involved with food making (photosynthesis), but what about the red, yellow and orange colors? What roles do they play? Some act as light antennas, shuffling important wavelengths to chlorophyll for higher efficiency in food production.

Our Red Maple leaves produce red pigment in spring, summer and fall, mostly for protection against excess light, visible and ultraviolet. Tender emerging leaves are particularly vulnerable to radiation, and the red anthocyanins serve same purpose as the sun block we slather on (or should) before our beach or birding treks.

Summer may bring new growth, again starting out red; and soil mineral deficiencies can also elicit color changes (a possible cause of our maples' premature color change).

It is in autumn, of course, when we usually think of color change. Some pigments are present all along and are revealed as chlorophyll breaks down in autumn in the trees’ preparation for “senescence,” during which important molecules are shipped out of soon-departing leaves to be conserved in trunks or roots.

But leaves once again manufacture anthocyanins for protection, this time from another danger—oxidation. As chloroplasts are disassembled, chlorophyll is set free and becomes a potentially dangerous oxidizer and destroyer of other valuable molecules. Anthocyanins act as anti-oxidants, tying up “free radicals” and saving the important stuff from destruction. That’s why an apple (skin) a day keeps the doctor away from US and why we are encouraged to eat all sorts of red and purple-skinned fruits so that free radicals don’t destroy OUR valuable molecules.

So as we look at these “fall preview” photos and look forward to our annual colorful display, we should remember several things:

*Plants are fantastically complex organisms and undeniable examples of intelligent design, not the result of mindless chance.
*Fall color is a blessing not enjoyed in all areas of the world, so be thankful for this treat.
*Eat your fresh colorful fruit (or take supplements made from them).
*Thank God for His wonderful handiwork—and especially for His great plan of redemption, by which He is able to save us from the "free radicals" of our sin.

p.s. There is another possible explanation for the premature blush of our Red Maple foliage: some passerby thoughtlessly called these trees “Swamp Maples.” Embarrassment and outrage stimulate the production of anthocyanins. :-)