I've been watching a lot of David Attenborough lately so biology has been on my mind a lot lately.
Here's a few things I came across.
First of all the bookofratings website has rated amphibians
. Good stuff. The author asks the very interesting question what the difference is between newts and salamanders. Good question. The difference in classification
seems to be somewhat subjective. Newts have a rough-textured skin that is not slimy but that seems to be about it. There's no separate family of newts. All are in the order Urodela
(or Caudata), family Salamandridae
Fascinating stuff, though the last two links are not for the faint of heart as there's scientific controversy
and technical mumbo-jumbo.
Second is my recollection of a mention somewhere in a newspaper about ten years ago of a fungus that was apparently the most massive known organism. Here's a link I dug up
, apparently there are people who REALLY like fungi, as this one was fungus of the month in April 2002. Imagine that! A fungus of the month, what next? A pet rock of the month?
If you're looking for the oldest known
organism* by the way you're probably best off with an aspen clone. As mentioned in the article on the humongous fungus there are some pretty old aspen clones around. There's rumoured to be one that has been going on for a million years. Read the pdf on this page.
It's hard to see what the evolutionary advantage is of living a million years and cloning yourself continuously, instead of reproducing and creating slightly different offspring, but there you go, not everything makes sense and not everything is easy to grasp or logical.
*) Update, originally I wrote individual
, but organism
is more apt in this case as all surviving aspen trunks are now clones from the original, all linked via the root-system, thereby forming a giant 'super-organism'. As is the case with the humongous fungus this raises the question of what comprises an individual: is it the fact that the entity is continuously connected or is the fact that the entity has one genotype
or is it something else entirely?
By the way, if all these clones make you uncomfortable there's a creosote bush
that's 6,000 years old.