Now and then - more now than then - we encounter evidence of the astonishing gifts of the Internet. Needless to say, just as frequently we are bombarded by evidence to the contrary. That issue will endure.
Here is one such gift, from Andrew Revkin of The New York Times:
David Rothenberg’s engaging reflection on evolution and aesthetics, Survival of the Beautiful, came to mind as this amazing photograph, taken in Dubai by Peter Roosenschoon, a conservation officer at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, circulated on Twitter (thanks to Ziya Tong, a host of Daily Planet, a Discovery program in Canada)
[David Rothenberg's extraordinary book, Survival of the Beautiful, is more than an "engaging reflection."
I did a bit of sifting and found more photos from Roosenschoon on the UAE
Birding Web site and a very nice description of what’s known about this species in The National, an English language Emirates newspaper. Here’s an excerpt from the fascinating piece, by Anna Zacharias:
[A] closer examination of the transparent wings of Goniurellia tridens reveals a piece of evolutionary art. Each wing carries a precisely detailed image of an ant-like insect, complete with six legs, two antennae, a head, thorax and tapered abdomen.
“The image on the wing is absolutely perfect,” says Dr. Brigitte Howarth, the fly specialist at Zayed University [link] who first discovered G. tridens in the UAE.
It is a member of tephritidae, a family – there are two – of 5,000 species of fruit flies whose colorful markings have earned them the name “peacock flies.”
In the UAE alone, 27 picture wing species are known. Some have wings bearing simple shapes but others, like G. tridens, are far more complex.
Dr Howarth first saw G. tridens on an oleander shrub in northern Oman. “I was looking at the stem of the leaves and I noticed that there were some insects crawling around. When I sort of honed in I started to notice what I thought was a couple of ants moving around.”
At first she suspected an infestation on the fly’s wings. “But it was so symmetrical that I thought, ‘oh this is not possible’. When I got it under the microscope I realized that these were insects painted onto the wings.”
Editor's note: Here is a brief characterization of David Rothenberg:
David Rothenberg is a rarity--an actual polymath--and his writing, like the music he plays, reveals an extraordinary mixture of curiosity, intelligence, and playfulness. Tracing complex ideas that link consciousness, human spirit, and creativity within the framework of Darwinian theory leads to the sort of book you would expect from a man who makes music with whales and cicadas. Where does the impetus for the making of art and music reside? How does that fit into an evolutionary scheme? Read this book and enter into Rothenberg's world. You will be rewarded with an exploration of these questions that is both entertaining and revelatory.
-- David Ross,
director emeritus, Whitney Museum of American Art