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Old Apr 18th, 2009, 06:57 PM   #31
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One of the best stories I've read in a while and who knew - right here in Scarborough a scientific triumph and a mystery solved for a couple of deserving Canadians

I recalled being astounded when I saw that National Geo article and the incredible journey the monarchs make....no idea it was being sleuthed out by a couple right here in Toronto......


sorry could'nt resist

Quote:
Couple's home was butterfly ground zero


Norah and Fred Urquhart, seen in Mexico in undated family photo, were pioneers in insect migration.


Norah Urquhart won Order of Canada for work on monarchs

Apr 18, 2009 04:30 AM

DANIEL DALE
STAFF REPORTER

Millions of radiant monarch butterflies graced Toronto during the warm months of spring and summer. By winter, they had disappeared.

Where in the world had they gone?

Fred Urquhart, a local zoologist, began attempting to solve the migratory mystery in 1937. His wife Norah, who died March 13 at age 90, became his sleuthing partner upon their marriage in 1945.

"It started with a little idea that nobody really believed in," said friend Don Davis. "It's not going to make you money, not going to make you rich. Where do these butterflies go in wintertime? That's all they wanted to know."

Their Scarborough home turned into the headquarters of an international operation. By the 1960s, hundreds of volunteers across North America were helping the Urquharts apply tiny self-devised adhesive tags to the insects.

Norah and Fred, by then a University of Toronto professor, traversed the United States to follow fruitless leads at their own expense.

"They really were partners, even though Fred had all the letters after his name," said World Wildlife Fund Canada conservation director Steven Price.

Norah handled voluminous volunteer correspondence, said Davis, who met the couple as a volunteer in the 1960s. Highly organized, she ensured her busy husband remained focused when he became "the absent-minded professor." And, crucially, she wrote articles to solicit help for the campaign.

It was Norah's 1972 article in a Mexico newspaper that led to their long-awaited triumph.

The appeal caught the eye of American expatriate Ken Brugger, who wrote the Urquharts an enthusiastic letter in 1974.

On a mountain drive, he had encountered butterflies of just the type Norah had described.

Brugger became the Urquharts' Mexico proxy. In January 1975, near a meadow on the forested slope of an inactive volcano about 160 kilometres from Mexico City, he made one of the most thrilling nature discoveries of the century.

Millions of monarchs cloaked hundreds of trees, rendering their trunks invisible.

Millions more carpeted the ground. A blizzard of orange and black filled the sky.

"I gazed in amazement at the sight," Fred wrote in his National Geographic cover story on the couple's January 1976 visit. "Masses of butterflies – everywhere!"

Eduardo Rendon, who leads the WWF's monarch program in Mexico, said the Urquharts were the "two most important people" in the history of monarch conservation.

Their discovery led to international efforts to protect the area's high-altitude forests, which have been threatened by logging, climate change and ecotourism. It also spurred further research on butterfly migration.

"It changed our whole perspective. Not only on monarch butterfly conservation, but on the amazing things that little creatures in the world can do, and the importance of international co-operation in conserving things like butterflies," said Curtis Freese, a Montana biodiversity consultant.

"It provided a unifying, galvanizing new way to look at saving habitats and species."

In 1992, the Urquharts officially discontinued the tagging project, which eventually involved thousands of volunteers.

They remained preoccupied, however, with monarchs.

"They were constantly in touch," said Price, "often sending messages and phoning, saying, `What has the WWF done this year to conserve those forests?' In a healthy, impatient way."

Norah and Fred were "self-sufficient people" who grew vegetables and raised chickens, Davis said.

Norah, funny and good-natured, treated her horse like a pet, he said.

For "one of the greatest natural history discoveries of our time," the Urquharts received the Order of Canada in 1998.

Fred died in 2002. Norah, who died in a Pickering nursing home, is survived by son Doug.
One of the most memorable flying experiences was whipping along at 100 knots at cloud base near Toronto and hundreds of black things flying past..I ducked out of sheer surprise .......then I realized it was migrating monarchs......a mile and half up using the same power I was to make their way to Mexico.....

Every year I'm amazed to see them heading out over Lake Ontario when the wind is right......
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Old Apr 18th, 2009, 07:09 PM   #32
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A fine story, MacDoc. There have been a few times when the Monarch butterfly makes it as far as St.John's. Winds blow it here and they seem to like their short stay here.
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Old Apr 19th, 2009, 11:52 AM   #33
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snopes.com: Amazing Eagle Story - Freedom & Jeff

Here is a unique and inspiring story. Enjoy.
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 08:24 PM   #34
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Quote:
Florida athlete only needed one leg to have a Hall of Fame career



Carl Joseph, who earned 13 letters in football, basketball and track, has been elected to the Florida High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

By Christine Brennan, USA TODAY

As a rookie reporter at the Miami Herald in 1981, I was assigned to write about a one-legged linebacker at Bethune-Cookman College. His name was Carl Joseph, and although he was born without a left leg, he had been a star at Florida's Madison High, earning 13 letters in football, basketball and track.

Video clip of Carl Joseph
YouTube - One-Legged Wonder Makes Hall of Fame

Joseph started two years at nose guard and captained the football team his senior year, cleared 5-10 in the high jump and dunked a basketball. He did all of this by hopping on a right leg that was almost as wide as his waist. He didn't wear an artificial limb. They were not allowed in competition. People who watched him said he looked like a "bewitched jackhammer" on the playing field.

In college, Joseph became known for his special-teams play. "The impact on all our kids and on how they perform is something," Coach Bobby Frazier told me back then. "When it's rough and Carl's in there, we know we can do it. I'd love to see what he'd do with all his limbs."

As inspiring as Joseph was, I lost touch with him in the nearly three decades that had gone by — until I opened a recent e-mail announcing that he had been elected to the Florida High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

Joseph's induction will take place Sunday in Gainesville.

"It's an accomplishment beyond my wildest imagination," Joseph said. "To see a one-legged guy be blessed to become part of a Hall of Fame with elite athletes like Emmitt Smith and Cris Collinsworth, it's a wonderful honor."

Joseph, now 48, is senior bishop at Tallahassee's Holy Jerusalem Church of God. He has had some health problems and no longer plays sports, although he coached high school football for 15 years. He gets around these days on crutches.

"I've always said that I never thought of myself as handicapped," he said. "It was never talked about in my household, so I always considered myself an average kid. I always felt I could do with one leg what kids did with two legs."
Remarkable...
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 08:43 PM   #35
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Truly remarkable. An inspirational story, MacDoc, in this day of glorified "superstars" (and I use the term loosly). Paix, mon ami.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2009, 12:52 AM   #36
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I was quite astounded... I thought I had stumbled on an Onion piece.....had to double check it. Glad you enjoyed it.

Did you watch the video??
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Old Apr 22nd, 2009, 07:27 AM   #37
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Yes, it was amazing to watch him partake in footback and track & field events.
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Old Apr 24th, 2009, 04:57 PM   #38
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Fortune favours the prepared mind.....

Quote:
Fossil hunters discover new species

ANNE MCILROY
Globe and Mail Update
April 22, 2009 at 1:07 PM EDT

OTTAWA — Canadian and American fossil hunters have found the remains of strange new species in the high Arctic, a “walking seal,” that had long legs and webbed feet.

It's a transitional form that shows how seals, sea lions and walruses went from land animals to sea creatures, the researchers report in the latest edition of the British journal Nature.

They named it Puijila darwini, a combination of the Inuktitut word for young sea mammal and a tribute to Charles Darwin, the visionary scientist who predicted the existence of such a creature in his seminal book about evolution.

“A strictly terrestrial animal, by occasionally hunting for food in shallow water, then in streams or lakes, might at last be converted into an animal so thoroughly aquatic as to brave the open ocean,” Darwin wrote in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, which was first published 150 years ago.


Puijila skeleton laid out. (Martin Lipman)

An expedition led by Canadian Museum of Nature paleontologist Natalia Rybczynski found the bones of an animal matching that description in the Haughton crater on Devon Island in the summer of 2007.

Early seal-like creatures that had previously been found on the west coast of the United States already had flippers and were clearly at home in an aquatic environment. This animal hunted on land as well as in the water, Dr. Rybczynski says.

Seals have even teeth that are good for grasping, she says, but Puijila had a mouth more like a dog or a fox. It was found in the sediments of what was once the bottom of a freshwater lake. At the time, the Arctic was forested with a temperate climate. The lake would have frozen in the winter, so the scientists say it is likely Puijila travelled over land to find food in the ocean.

It is estimated to be between 20 million and 24 million years old. Seals had evolved by then, so it would have been a living fossil, an ancestral form that remained unchanged while its relatives became more adapted to the sea.

The Haughton crater is about 20 kilometres in diameter and was created when a meteorite crashed to Earth, perhaps as much as 39 million years ago. It filled with water to become a lake. Today it is a polar desert and researchers from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Canadian Space Agency have used it to test ways of living and working on Mars.

Fossils from a small rhinoceros have been found in the crater, as well as the remains of swans, fish and small deer-like creatures. Dr. Rybczynski was hoping to find other animals that lived in Arctic at a time when it was cooling down, but the discovery was serendipitous.

Their all-terrain vehicle had a faulty fuel gage, ran out of gas and got stuck in the mud. While Dr. Rybczynski trudged back to the base camp for more fuel, Carleton University student Elizabeth Ross starting poking around. She found a small, black bone that she showed to Mary Dawson, Curator Emeritus with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. They then found the jaw and limb bones spread on the surface.

When Dr. Rybczynski came back, she found Ms. Ross and Dr. Dawson doing a “fossil dance.”

“They were hopping around, wriggling in the air....It is one of these moments that just never happen.”


They knew at once they had found something unusual, and were quickly able to determine that the creature was related to modern seals, sea lions and walruses.

The discovery suggests that these animals, known as pinnipeds, may have first evolved in the Arctic, Dr. Rybczynski says.

In fact, their big eyes – which many experts believed to be an adaptation to diving into deep, dark water – may have evolved to help the animals hunt through the darkness of a long polar winter.
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Old Apr 24th, 2009, 04:59 PM   #39
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A very interesting article, MacDoc. Thanks for sharing it with us.

"Fortes fortuna adiuvat".
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Old Apr 24th, 2009, 05:04 PM   #40
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What a thrill for the Carlton student - this is getting circulated all over the world - a significant transition species and her experience of a life time......just for staying alert and curious and putting the time waiting during an accidental break down to excellent use.

And kudos to prof for recognizing what was found.......

I found it intriguing that there was overlap with modern modern species existent at the same time.....echoes of Lost World.

and in Darwin's special year too.....how could it be more perfect.....
Darwin 2009 - The Festival



Life reconstruction of Puijila darwini swimming in crater lake. Credit: Mark A. Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Quote:
The Puijila skeleton will be on display at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa from April 28 to May 10. A model of the fossil will be included in the "Extreme Mammals" exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, which opens on May 16.

The project was supported by the Canadian Museum of Nature, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, American Museum of Natural History, Polar Continental Shelf Program, Northern Scientific Training Program, Government of Nunavut, Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the hamlet of Frise Fiord, Nunavut
Walking Seal Called Missing Link in Evolution | LiveScience
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