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Impermanence and Toads - Phil's Rambling Rants
June 19th, 2007
09:19 pm

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Impermanence and Toads
I ducked over to Kickapoo after work and walked along the trail that leads south from No. 6 Pond to the old railway line.  There are a number of remnants of buildings and other works.  It made me wonder what had been there before and how long it had been abandoned.  It put me in mind of the discussion I had with TC last week: if humanity disappeared tomorrow, what signs might a cockroach-descended archaeologist find of our presence 65 million years from now?

I also had an interesting nature experience.  As I walked along the old railway bed toward the bridge, I saw a very small toad (or frog; I don't actually know how one tells).  A couple of steps farther, I saw another.  And suddenly, the ground all around was hopping with them -- thousands of tiny toads, about half an inch long.  Could they have hatched out already from the rain yesterday?  Will they be gone tomorrow?  I'm not likely to find out; I'll probably next visit the area weeks from now at the soonest.  Too many places, not enough hours.

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From:shockwave77598
Date:June 20th, 2007 02:47 am (UTC)
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The pyramids would still be there. And so will the hardware we placed on the moon, if they get up there.
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From:robin_june
Date:June 20th, 2007 03:42 am (UTC)
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Remembering back when we explored the woods beyond our wooded lots behind our suburban house in Mass., the differences between frogs and toads are that (a) frogs have slimy wet skin and need to immerse in water on a regular basis, while toads have dry skin (and warts, which exude irritants, so Don't Touch!) and live on dry land as adults. Frogs are green and toads are brown, but actually so many are brownish green or greenish brown that you need to seek other clues.

Also (b) if the puddleful of tadpoles that you scoop up and keep in a basin of water in your back yard sprout their backlegs in just a day or so, they're toads. If it's a week or more, they're frogs.
Thousands of half-inch-long ones? Yup, toad cohort hatching. I'm wondering if they were laid as eggs before the rainstorm, but only developed so far, and had to delay finishing out until the rain came.
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From:tigertoy
Date:June 20th, 2007 02:50 pm (UTC)
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Is the wet vs. dry skin the defining difference between frogs and toads, or just a typical characteristic?
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From:robin_june
Date:June 21st, 2007 03:09 am (UTC)
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That's what my gradeschool science taught me, and, sad to say now that I think of it, not updated by all my years of postsecondary biological practicing.

Any herpetologists out there?
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From:tigertoy
Date:June 21st, 2007 03:25 pm (UTC)
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Well, Wikipedia says:

The use of the common names "frog" and "toad" has no taxonomic justification. From a taxonomic perspective, all members of the order Anura are frogs, but only members of the family Bufonidae are considered "true toads". The use of the term "frog" in common names usually refers to species that are aquatic or semi-aquatic with smooth or moist skins, and the term "toad" generally refers to species that tend to be terrestrial with dry, warty skin.
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From:catsittingstill
Date:June 20th, 2007 01:21 pm (UTC)
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what signs might a cockroach-descended archaeologist find of our presence 65 million years from now?

65 million years is a very long time. The shapes of the continents would probably be different; areas that are now under sea may be mountains and vice versa.

A sudden jump in carbon dioxide (and sulfur dioxide and various other pollutants) in tiny bubbles trapped in polar ice caps might be all that would mark our presence on the surface of the earth at that point (supposing that polar ice caps still exist.) Plus we're in the middle of a mass extinction event; there aren't too many of those. The cockroach archaeologists might be puzzled about what was going on there, until cockroaches got to the moon.
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From:tigertoy
Date:June 20th, 2007 02:45 pm (UTC)
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We find fossil traces not only of bones of dinosaurs, but occasionally even feathers and tracks. While I realize than most of the stuff we do will be gone by that time, I think there will be places where the right conditions occur to preserve stuff. It would only take one landfill that hit on the proper conditions for plastic or metal stuff to be preserved or leave traces to give the cockroaches a lot to think about.

If an archaeopteryx's feathers can leave a fossil, I'm sure a human's clothes and manufactured accessories could too. I bet some of our larger construction projects would leave interesting strata when they were covered by sediments in new seas or buried under volcanic ash. I know nothing would be obvious to a casual observer, but I think there would be traces here and there.
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From:catsittingstill
Date:June 21st, 2007 12:29 am (UTC)
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Okay, you have a good point; fossils from our time could certainly survive. I was thinking in terms of the pyramids (okay, they've lasted a long time, like 5,000 years--but they're pretty beaten up, and 65,000,000 years is a lot longer) and other surface structures.

I wonder if human bone fossils would form under conditions that would allow the metal parts of our clothing to be preserved as well? And the coins/pocketknife/keys in our pockets?

I wonder what the cockroach archaeologist would make of that :-)
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