"Romantic display gets tree planted" (SN: 6/27/98, p. 343) makes a major scientific event, directed dispersal, out of the bellbirds' dropping seeds of the tropical tree Ocotea endresiana in openings where the seeds may germinate under favorable conditions. Actually, a far more efficient behavior of our own Clark's nutcracker not only disperses seeds of several western pines up to a score of miles but also buries them in favorable seedbeds, making seedling establishment likely if the caching bird does not dig up its seed for a meal. The nutcracker's behavior is so reliable that limber and whitebark pines depend upon it for regeneration. Similar nutcracker-pine symbioses are well-documented across Europe and Asia.
There is a tendency among many researchers to think that interesting biological phenomena and important undiscovered principles can only be found in exotic tropical locations. Yet, organisms on our own continent often have a much greater backlog of past study, so new findings can fit more meaningfully into established knowledge. There are often good scientific reasons to work in well-known ecosystems and save the airfares.
Ronald M. Lanner
Counting test blasts
In "Indian blasts stymie seismologists" (SN: 5/23/98, p. 324), the facts seem quite simple. India claims to have exploded five nuclear weapons. There is seismographic evidence of one. There are two obvious explanations. The seismographic method failed to detect the blasts, or the blasts did not occur.
Given the strength of the signal that was detected and India's record of exaggerating its nuclear prowess, I suggest that the other blasts either never existed or were duds. Isn't this what one would expect when testing?
Palo Alto, Calif.
Close but not the same
I found a little mistake in your article "Ahh, the sweet smell of bacteria" (SN: 6/6/98, p. 364). My photosynthetic isolate is not R. spheroides. It is phylogenetically close to R. spheroides, and we call it Rhodobacter PS9.
Young S. Do
Iowa State University
Brood parasitism's charm
In "Stealth, lies, and cowbirds" (SN: 5/30/98, p. 345), Susan Milius notes that cowbirds' practice of brood parasitism makes them one of the most despised birds in North America. How curious, then, that one of our most beloved children's stories is based on an incident of brood parasitismHans Christian Andersen's "Ugly Duckling." Of course, Andersen's tale is not biologically correct. But the swan in the story is a brood parasite, after all, and we love it just the same.
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