The start of a slow poop movement?

Well I am not 100% sure I believe all the claims in this but it is fascinating: What Drives a Sloth’s Ritualistic Trek to Poop? | Articles | Smithsonian.  I knew nothing about sloths and their poop until reading this.  The key part of the article to me:

The scientists’ results point to linked mutualisms between the sloths, the algae, and the moths: the sloth climbs down the tree to poop and, because the ground around the tree is littered with poop from previous descents, moth larvae growing in the poop can hitch a ride on the sloth’s back. The moths find shelter and thrive in the fur ecosystem. They also bring nutrients to their new home from the poop they were born in and when they die and decompose. Those nutrients fuel algae growth in the fur, and the algae supplement sloths’ foliage diets with lipids that the scientists speculate could serve as a high-energy snack. Then, when the sloths go down to do their business again, moths hop on their back and the cycle starts over again. 

I think this could be the start of a slow poop movement …

Quick post: interesting article in Smithsonian on the human microbiome by Richard Conniff

Just q quick post here.  There is an interesting article about the human microbiome worth checking out: Microbes: The Trillions of Creatures Governing Your Health.  By Richard Conniff in Smithsonian Magazine. It also comes with some related videos and pictures. See for example and And it references my “Overselling the microbiome” award …

When a scientific team recently suggested that changes in gut bacteria could protect against stroke, Jonathan Eisen of the University of California at Davis lambasted them for “absurd, dangerous, self-serving claims that completely confuse the issue of correlation versus causation.” Eisen, a specialist in microbial genomics, now regularly presents “overselling the microbiome” awards on his blog. He says he doesn’t doubt the ultimate importance of the microbiome: “I believe the community of microbes that live in and on us is going to be shown to have major influences.” But believing that “is different from actually showing it, and showing it doesn’t mean that we have any idea what to do to treat it. There is danger here.”

And it even discusses a fecal transplant-like treatment called RePOOPulate. What could be better? Anyway – definitely worth checking out.

Butterfly exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

Some pics from the butterfly exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History


Evolution Trumps Money at Smithsonian

Great News from the Smithsonian.

Not only is Lawrence Small finally out (after his issues with expense accounts finally caught up to him) but Cristián Samper is in as the Acting Director. Samper is the current Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and is an excellent evolutionary biologist / tropical ecologist. Here is hoping that he becomes the permanent director, although it will be a loss for the Museum of Natural History if he does.

If you want to blame Cristián for something, he was the Teaching Assistant for the course I took as an undergraduate at Harvard that finally convinced me to be a biologist. This was a Tropical Ecology course taught by Peter Ashton and Otto Solbrig that in addition to being a good lecture course, had a field trip to Venezuela for three weeks. On the trip we visited and studied all sorts of tropical ecosystems. The best part was getting advice on birding from Cristián, who pretty much knew every bird in every place we went.

In honor of Cristián I am posting a picture of him working hard in Venezuela as part of the course (that’s him in red).