Living Fossils

Our aged Earth, up close and virtual.

By Jesse Mandell-McClinton

One of the best perks of life in the information age is the ability to plug mental holes with a quick web search. While the Internet provides plenty of avenues to waste away an afternoon, one spent exploring the millions of little facts connecting our day-to-day activities to the billions of years that make up the earth’s storied past is surely not one of them.

Did you know that ages before the first human measured the length of a day, the world spun much faster before it slowed to its 24-hour revolution? Or that when you get close to a pine tree, the strong scent that fills your nose is actually an aroma that was used by the trees to deter hungry dinosaurs? Even a simple swim in the lake can become a dip into one of the lasting glacial footprints that continue north to the still receding ice caps of the Arctic Circle.
In a culture preoccupied with granules of seconds, a minute or two of research on our planet’s natural fauna and phenomena can yield extraordinary information.

So after a quick stop to smell the roses, keep in mind that exploring the mysteries behind the scent (fully emitted only for a short time in the morning to best attract pollinators), petals (which feature alluring patterns too intricate for the human eye to see, but perfect for insects), and thorns (to discourage hungry herbivores from feeding on flowering plants) can unlock a fresh look into interactions between plants and animals that outdate our species. It only takes a minute of time.