Stories tagged natural history

Birthday of Joseph Leidy

by Anonymous on Sep. 09th, 2009

Joseph Leidy: The last man who knew everything.
Joseph Leidy: The last man who knew everything.Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Today is the birthday of scientist Joseph Leidy. Born in 1823, Leidy is considered the father of vertebrate paleontology. He described the first near complete dinosaur skeleton, Hadrosaurus foulkii, which was put on display at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences in 1868. But Leidy's studies weren't limited to just paleontology. His scientific interests and expertise were so vast a recent biography is titled Joseph Leidy: The last man who knew everything. If you read more about this remarkable man, you'll see that isn't too far from the truth.


Oh no! Here they come to poke out your eyes!
Oh no! Here they come to poke out your eyes!Courtesy Colin Kloecker
You know what's kind of scary? Riding a bike through the parking lot of a big box store like Target. Until recently I only had to worry about being hit by cars or shopping carts, maybe falling into a gigantic pothole. Lately, however, I've had another threat to deal with every time I go to the strip mall near my house. I'm talking, of course, about the parking lot seagulls.

We've all seen them hanging around. From a distance they even look kind of pretty, swooping and flying and flocking just like other birds. But when you get up close you realize that all these birds do is make creepy noises, eat garbage and poop on everything. If they see you approaching they will swarm and attack, poking out your eyes and then stealing your wallet.*

My point is: be careful! These are not lost birds that are innocently trying to find their way to the sea. These are hungry, blood-thirsty, opportunistic consumers that have found their niche in the American landscape. Did you know that seagulls will eat almost anything, and that they spend most of their time looking for and consuming food? Just like my older brother, who survives solely on cheeseburgers and mountain dew, seagulls like the ones pictured here have no need for lakes and oceans. They can find everything they need at Wal-mart.

Which is why I agree with the wildlife biologist interviewed in this article, we should stop calling them seagulls. They are just plain old gulls, exactly the kind of bird you get when you pave over everything and produce lots of garbage. I actually think that 'Wal-gulls" might be a more appropriate name, and that Wal-gulls should be our new national symbol. I don't hate them, but I do find their behavior very familiar.

*This statement not supported by scientific research, just a bad dream I had one time