The entire English alphabet has been found in nature, in the wings of butterflies and moths!
THE BUTTERFLY ALPHABET
Packed away in a corner of the attic in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History was an old Havana cigar box full of exotic
butterflies and moths, one with a sparkling silvery letter “F” awaiting its future rendezvous with destiny.
That day came in the spring of 1960 when a young visitor Kjell (“shell”) Sandved, arrived at the Smithsonian to conduct research for an encyclopedia on animal behavior.
The director of the museum provided Kjell with an office, and introduced him to his neighbor, Barbara Bedette, who became his collaborator, best friend, and finally the love of his life.
One day, balancing high on a ladder surrounded by drawers and boxes full of butterflies and moths, Kjell found the old cigar box. And there was the sparkling letter “F” woven into the tapestry of the wing.
“We looked at this miniature design under the microscope,” Barbara recalled, “and marveled at the beauty of this letter. It reminded us of how ancient scribes lovingly embellished colorful letters in Bibles and illuminated manuscripts with human and animal forms.”
Not even a calligrapher could have improved on the beauty of nature’s own “F;” and so Barbara wondered, “If Nature can create one such perfect letter, there must be others flying around out there. Let’s go out and find more.”
The day they found the letter was the day their lives were changed. Optimists, they decided to travel worldwide to find all the letters from the wings of butterflies and moths.
There were problems — Barbara knew nothing about butterflies, and Kjell knew nothing about photography.
Born in Conneaut, Ohio, Barbara was a geology graduate student of Bowling Green State University and moved to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in 1954 where she specialized in evolution of seashells.
Her intellectual capacity and soft-spoken nature soon brought her numerous Peer Recognition and close cooperation with Smithsonian legendary scientists such as Harry S. Ladd, on his “Mohole Project” with ongoing research on how Pacific coral reefs are created, and with Wendell Woodring with species migration during separation of the North and South American continents.
Kjell was a Norwegian publisher of two comprehensive encyclopedias: “The World of Music,” translated into ten languages, and “The World of Art.
First Kjell had to teach himself basic photography. For two years he studied to solve problems in macro photography.
Examining thousands of museum specimens under the microscope, Barbara and Kjell soon realized that faded museum butterflies were unusable.
When touched by human hands of collectors, the fine powdery scale formations on butterfly wings are easily destroyed. They would have to be photographed in nature without killing them.
Kjell designed, jerry-rigged and glued together a portable “bellow” microscope with German Zeiss Luminar and Leitz Summicron microscope lenses that were adapted for extreme close-up photography with double strobe slave units.
After yearlong intensive research Barbara had pinned down countries where various families, genera and species of butterflies and micro Lepidoptera were likely to be found.
They were ready to travel to research stations and rainforests all over the world.
Traveling to botanical gardens, nature reserves and rainforests from the Amazon to New Guinea, they survived malaria-infested jungles, leeches and ants while photographing letters and numbers on the wings of exquisite butterflies and moths without killing any.
A surprising discovery was that the wing patterns of their night-flying cousins, tropical moths, yielded just as many attractive letters and numbers as did those of butterflies.
EASY AND DIFFICULT LETTERS TO FIND
Of all the design elements in nature, the symmetrical “O”- the circle, the zero, the eye — is the most common.
Large eyespots on the wings of butterflies scare or deter enemies. Rows of smaller eyespots along less vulnerable areas invite pecking away from the vulnerable body.
Symmetrical letters like “C,” “D,” “F,” “I” and “L,” are relatively easy to find.
However, asymmetrical letters, particularly “B,” “H,” “K,” “Q,” “T” and “X,” were more difficult.
Only one rare ampersand (&) was found.
By 1975 Barbara and Kjell had found enough letters in the wings of butterflies so that the Secretary of the Smithsonian, Dillon Ripley decided to reveal their discovery as a poster in his new Smithsonian Magazine using five masterly crafted central words from the American poet Theodore Roethke’s “The Far Field”:
ALL FINITE THINGS REVEAL INFINITUDE
The mystery of our life’s wanderings from beginning to end, from the smallest to the largest, seconds in geological time.
To reproduce the line above required innumerable experiments over eons of time. For each letter has been etched into the wing of a moth or a butterfly through a never-ending series of trials and errors known as natural selection.
No one knew the letters could be found there in the wings until Barbara Bedette and Kjell Sandved of the Smithsonian’s perceived them. Imagine then what else there is to be seen in the wings of a butterfly or moth, or the water above a sunken tree, or in the memory of a single person.
DILLON RIPLEY, SECRETARY, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION
With a readership of over 5 million, the publicity of the Smithsonian poster and subsequent Butterfly Alphabets promoted a new U.S. phenomenon: butterfly gardening and rearing of butterflies in our school systems.
It was truly Barbara who put on the magic glasses that revealed nature’s hidden designs to become the architect and designer of both the Butterfly- and Nature alphabets, joining the two in the spirit of Smithson’s mandate to “Create an institution for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” We can all take delight in finding letters and numbers, symbols and signs in nature. Take your child by the hand into a field of flowers on a summer’s day, but bring a magnifying glass. Look, and then look more closely. Miniature marvels are there for all to see.
The Lion and the Lamb shall lie down together!
African Lion Kisses, Hugs Woman Who Saved It
People in Cali, Colombia, are shocked to see the bond between a large African lion and a woman who saved it from abuse, involving long, affectionate kisses and hugs between the pair.
Ana Julia Torres, who runs the Villa Lorena animal shelter in Cali, fed and nursed Jupiter the African lion back to health years ago after it was found abused and emaciated in a traveling circus.
“It is amazing to see an animal like that be so sweet and affectionate,” said Torres. “This hug is the most sincere one that I have received in my life.”
Torres, 47, said her work rehabilitating animals began more than a decade ago when a friend gave her an owl that had been kept as a pet.
Later, when she asked her students to bring their pets to school, she realized many families illegally kept wild fauna from Colombia’s biologically diverse jungles in their homes.
The number of animals under her care grew, and now Jupiter is among 800 recovering creatures at Villa Lorena, where Torres looks after, among others, burned peacocks, limbless flamengos, blind monkeys and mutilated elephants.
Most of the animals are caged, though some, like iguanas, roam freely around the grounds of the shelter, which are enclosed by a 13-foot wall.
Torres said she relies on donations and her modest teacher’s salary to run the shelter.
“We dedicate our lives to the care of these animals without one single peso from the state,” Torres said.
Torres said many of the animals were rejected as infants by their parents in the wild or found abandoned on the streets of Cali.
Torres said because she opposes exhibiting animals in circuses, she decided to keep her shelter closed from the public.
Saved the BEST for last!!!
|Laminin is a protein that is part of the extracellular matrix in humans and animals.
The extracellular matrix (ECM) lies outside of cells and provides support and attachment for cells inside organs (along with many other functions).
Laminin has “arms” that associate with other laminin molecules to form sheets and bind to cells.
Laminin and other ECM proteins essentially “glue” the cells (such as those lining the stomach and intestines) to a foundation of connective tissue.
This keeps the cells in place and allows them to function properly. The structure of laminin is very important for its function (as is true for all proteins).