By the way, I’ve already talked to one teacher who is going to use the Freak of the Week series in her class on Natural History next semester. This would make a great resource for teachers in biology or natural history, and the students would love it! It’s an innovative way to open up discussion on a variety of topics. Keep the F.o.W. in mind if you’re a teacher or feel free to forward to a teacher that you know.
Here’s a great new book that just been published, the Amphibians of Ohio. It’s a comprehensive look at some of the most interesting and unusual members of our vertebrate fauna. This 916-page hardcover book is full of beautiful photos, original artwork, and is available from the Ohio Biological Survey for only $90 plus shipping: http://www.ohiobiologicalsurvey.org/pub_highlight/
Here’s a blurb from the press release for the book: “The book combines non-technical text with rigorous scientific data to accommodate a range of interests and uses. It is appropriate for amateur and professional naturalists, academics, environmental consultants, and public agencies, as well as anyone else looking for a complete reference for all of the amphibians in Ohio.”
This would be a great holiday gift for that naturalist on your list!
Many of you got this one! It IS a turkey bone and is from the leg, but which bone is it? It’s the tibiotarsus, or long bone of the lower leg. In mammals that bone is known as the tibia, so why is it called the “tibiotarsus” in birds? Well, it’s more than just a tibia. It’s actually a tibia with tarsal (ankle) bones fused into the distal end of the bone. You can see in the photograph that the shape of the distal end of the turkey tibiotarsus resembles the tarsal bone (astragalus) in deer that articulates with the tibia. This fusion of the tibia with the proximal tarsal bones is present in birds and acts to help in absorbing the stress of landing, takeoff, and running.
The tibiotarsus is also what you are holding on to when you’re eating a turkey or chicken “drumstick”. Many people assume that the drumstick is the femur but it’s actually the lower leg with the calf muscles. So the next time you’re having turkey at a holiday dinner and someone asks you what part of the turkey you want, you can now say “I’ll have the tibiotarsus please”! By the way, the turkey bone in the photos was part of my family’s Thanksgiving dinner in 1981. If you’re a bone nerd like me, you don’t let them go to waste!
It’s also interesting to look at the tibiotarsus of a wild turkey from an archaeological site compared with a modern commercially-raised turkey (photo). Wild turkeys and domestic turkeys are all the same species (Meleagris gallopavo) but modern commercially-raised turkeys are bred to be almost twice the weight of their wild counterparts. They grow fast and abnormally large, and sometimes can have crippling leg abnormalities.
Here’s something to ponder over the long holiday weekend. What bone is this? What animal is it from? Why is it significant? Place your answer in the Reply box and the correct answer will be given next week.
So what is the function of this grappling hook-like structure of this crinoid!? Well, rather than have suckers or roots to attach to the sea floor, paleontologists think this structure probably swiveled on the sea floor and hooked on to coral, seaweed, or other objects and thus held the animal in place. The specimen in the photo, called Ancyrocrinus, was collected in Clark Co., Indiana and is from the mid-Devonian (385 – 406 million years ago).
So why the unusual spoon-shaped bill? The Spoonbill feeds by walking steadily through shallow waters and swinging its bill back and forth in the water, with its mouth partially open. When it encounters small prey items, such as small fish and invertebrates, it snaps its bill shut. Not only is it an odd looking bird, but it makes a low guttural sound as it swings it’s head back and forth during feeding!
The spoonbill population began to decline in the early 19th Century when it was extensively sought after for its feathers. Egret plumes were the mostly highly prized however, and it is believed that disturbance of egret rookeries also affected the spoonbills who shared the nesting area. Spoonbills are still vulnerable, and in Florida it is listed as a Species of Special Concern. The specimen in the photos is an old taxidermy mount that we borrowed from OSU’s Museum of Biological Diversity for an upcoming exhibit.
Fall colors have turned, and most of the green leaves that became bright yellows and reds have dropped to the ground. The hills of southeast Ohio are quickly becoming all brown. But last week Wahkeena Nature Preserve started to become a little more green.
Wahkeena is an OHS site at the edge of the Hocking Hills south of Lancaster. As with most of the OHS sites, this site has the daily operation run by a local partner group, in this case the Fairfield County Historical Parks. The nature center building there is an old log lodge, converted with logs from an old barn in the 1930’s by then owners Frank and Carmen Warner. One coal furnace and two fuel oil furnaces later, the heating system was in need of replacement. As site manager Tom Shisler started talking with the OHS Historic Site Facilities team in Columbus, a joint decision was made to replace the old furnace with a geothermal system. This system is a “closed loop system,” pumping a recirculating fluid underground, where it absorbs the ambient ground temperature, which is near 50 degrees year-round, and then pumps that temperature up to heat exchangers in the basement. It works like a heat pump, but much more efficiently since the ground temperature is nearly constant. No worry about, “do I convert to the back system at 32 degrees or 25 degrees or when?” While somewhat more expensive to install, the life of the geothermal system is long, and the energy requirements are among the best possible. Naturally, this reduces use of electricity and coal or oil, so geothermal systems are highly environmentally friendly, green systems. Just as good, from a management and financial standpoint, they greatly reduce the long-term costs of operating the site. This helps the bottom line at OHS, which no one complains about!
This past week, three wells were drilled, each 150 feet deep into the ground. Then tubing connected these underground into the basement. This week, the new heat exchanger/furnace will be installed in the basement, and soon the new geothermal system will be up and running. By spring, grass growth in the lawn area where the wells were drilled will eliminate any evidence of the massive effort of drilling the wells and connecting them to the basement. The evidence of disturbance will be gone, and so will the old, higher energy bills. Welcome in a greener Wahkeena Nature Preserve. The work was funded in part from funds in the Carmen Warner Foundation, established in the Warner will to assist with maintenance of the site, and with emergency repair funds that OHS receivess from the State of Ohio.
When the new Education Building at Cedar Bog was dedicated in April of 2009, it included a number of green technologies. It too has a geothermal heating and cooling system – in this case powered by ground water that also feeds the buildings water needs. Cedar Bog also has extra thick wall insulation, an energy capturing tromb wall, solar panels on the roof, special low flow toilets and non-water urinals and a variety of other energy efficient options. Exhibits at Cedar Bog discuss each of the green technologies used.
While these two examples are great, in some ways they are just the beginning for OHS. The Ohio Historical Society has begun a Sustainability Initiative at the Ohio History Center in Columbus, from which lessons will be shared with other OHS sites in future. At OHC, we are pursuing LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, which is a 3 year process to “green” our building and operations. Watch for future developments at our Columbus facility, or contact Amy Kaspar in the Historic Site Facilities office at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Curator Emeritus of Natural History November 11, 2013
Photos by Linda Pansing, OHS archaeologist