Tag Archives: archy & mehitabel

Oh Diversity! Thy Name Is…

insects have
their own point
of view about
civilization a man
thinks he amounts
to a great deal
but to a
flea or a
mosquito a
human being is
merely something
good to eat
excerpted from archy the cockroach’s poems. from don marquis’ timeless “archy & mehitabel”(1927) lack of caps & punctuation due to archy having to dive onto the keys to type.)

Did you know that as the Amazon rain forest gets decimated, the tribal people inhabiting it disappear as well? The loss of both is not only unacceptable, but bodes poorly for the future of our species. After all, diversity is essential, and the Amazon does provide 20 % of the oxygen we breathe. To the best of my knowledge nobody is making any new rainforest or new sources of oxygen for us.

But at the moment I’ve got a to a more micro approach to a macro issue.

It’s not breaking news that if the bamboo forests of China go, so goes the Ailuropoda melanoleuca melanoleucaor or Giant Panda whose home it is. Of course human encroachment is the driver of the extinction bus. Without the continuing decimation of the forests, the panda would be okay. Well, probably. The genetic reality is that as adorable as they are, they are nowhere near as successful a species as say the (groan) cockroach or the (screech) bedbug.

If you’re a wordsmith you probably know the joke about the panda in the bar that “eats, shoots, and leaves” a play on the definition of a panda as an animal that “eats shoots and leaves.”  From the perspective of adaptability and survival here’s a third, noir version: Eats shoots, and leaves.

Diversity. Adaptability. Mutation. The life forms that hold those keys to the kingdom are the stayers for the long haul.

The cockroach, for example. These critters have been around for about 200 million years and are likely to outlast us one-million yr. old newbies. Cockroaches are one of the most successful species on earth partly because they are fully adaptable food sluts. They’ll eat (or suck for water on) almost anything. Really.

This currently includes cigarette butts, toothpaste, glue, feces, and paint among the neverending list of roachian delicacies.  OK, so it’s not our taste, but talk about the power of diversity! They can also live without their heads for up to a week (gross), go without food for up to a month, stay submerged up to a half-hour and go without air for 45 minutes (downright scary!)

They’re also intelligent. They balance competition with cooperation for resources. (Boy, could we learn a thing or two from these guys) They won’t touch arsenic or other heavy duty poisons. The way exterminators get them through level two poisoning. They walk in boric acid, for example, – they are roachian very hygenic –and  whilst cleaning themselves lick the poison.

The nasty little bedbug can survive up to a year without indulging its vampiric abilities. That’s like a year with no food or water for us.

We homo sapians sapians don’t begin to compare in survivability to these annoying critters.

My point? Hmm. Hadn’t thought about it that way. Just part 1 on the amazing staying power of diversity.