Monthly Archives: February 2010

Who knew – barnacles are very, very cool!

Today was the day of great anticipation.  Excitement filled the room.  Not really – AV didn’t sleep very well and promptly fell asleep into the invertebrates textbook he was reading.  JV and BR worked out math without disturbing the boy wonder.  Anyway.  Around 10:00 we bounded to the car and headed to the Citadel.

I have odd memories of the Citadel.  I was at the College of Charleston when Save the Males bumper stickers were the rage as a female, who sued to be admitted, enter the Citadel and promptly found it too difficult and quit.  I remember going over with a friend who had a thing for watching guys parade around in uniforms. Found it not amusing watching guys try not to shiver or faint as they stood in review.  I’m just too much not a conformist.  Ahh the memories.


The Citadel campus

The kids quick stepped all the way to the teacher’s office in Duckett Hall.  That wind coming off the river was fierce.

Dr Zardus was waiting for our guys and put them at rest quickly.  He is a biologist who is focused on invertebrates and is fascinated with barnacles.

He allowed the boys to gape at his extensive collection of great creatures.  He has a preserved giant isopod!  GIANT!  AV was impressed.  He also showed us a crab that lives in chambers formed by a type of coral.  The female doesn’t leave as she is too large when full grown, but the smaller male can come and go.  He had two types of goose barnacles in alcohol and an exoskeleton of a spiny lobster.  He has a massive (larger than a football) claw of a lobster.  All this was just sitting around his office!  And wait!  There was so much more. What a great collection.

We also went to his labs and saw how he grew food for his barnacles that he is studying. (None there now thanks to the cold weather.)

We spent a great deal of time in his large working lab. He had tons of different types of barnacles. He specializes with ones which grow on sea turtles, dolphins, whales, and manatees.  We found out that barnacles come in very different sizes.  Some live only on sea turtle’s tongues!  Not all barnacles have a shell under them; some have a membrane. Some have four parts to their shell; most six; and others eight.

Some trap whale skin in hollow grooves, and as the barnacle grows it pushes down and forces the skin to grow upward in the tubes. This helps the barnacle hold on.  A few barnacles have “teeth” that push down into the soft skin of sea turtles to help them grip.  There is even one that the scientists believe moves around on the backs of turtles.

“The best science talk ever!”  “I like him.” “I want to speak with him again!”   (Note the good grammar – yes!)

Do you think the bleary minds of the boys enjoyed the time with Dr. Zardus?

Oh and how.

As soon as they saw a family friend later, they all talked about the things they learned from him. It began to pique her interest in science.


Filed under Biology, Going outs (Field Trips), Science

Today’s Obsession

Tomorrow we have been invited by a professor at the Citadel to visit him and his lab.  Yes!!!!   His speciality is invertebrates and particularly barnacles. The excitement has been building and today it unfurled itself unseating “project week” as the point of interest.  We re-read information on barnacles, looked up new information, created barnacles, tried to gross out the rest with weird information, and generally lived and breathed barnacles today.

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Filed under AV, Biology, BR, Going outs (Field Trips), JV, Science, Writing

Project Work – Project Week

The winter break ended on Wednesday and project week began.

JV drawing all the creatures in the tank.

This project week has encompassed less “project” work and more research work. We have worked and worked at the library.  BR discovered the SC History Reading Room.  Of course we can’t check out any of these books.  BR is been hand copying information for his Drayton Hall project.  His goal is to become a tour guide.  He has made 3 x 5 cards of each spot in the tour with the topics he is planning on covering at each spot.  As the temperature has dropped again, we are putting off a “shadow” visit.

AV is doing – pause – wait for it – Nudibranches again!  We’ve visited the College of Charleston’s library and learned how to do the Library of Congress’ system.  We didn’t find much that he says he doesn’t know.

JV has undertaken a research book encompassing all the creatures in the tank. He has been forced to limit his research/rabbit trail time.  He spent the first day making his book – blank.  The second was spent sketching each creature from the tank. Then the book research began in earnest.

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Filed under AV, Biology, BR, Geography and World Studies, Going outs (Field Trips), JV, Practical Life - Elementary, Projects, Salt Water Tank, Science, Writing

Neanderthal Lecture – AV

We attended a lecture on Neanderthals at the College of Charleston last week.  The boys were a little less than their normal enthusiastic selves.  Their old teacher loved the “Coming of Man” lesson and would give it at least 6 times per year.  AV has heard it around 15 times.  But the lecture was to be in the new science building, and they were interested in seeing that.  We picked-up BR’s brother and headed down to the college only to get lost in the new building.  The room we needed wasn’t there.  The liaison with NASA (who knew we had one) helped us and gave antidotes about the moving in process (no trash cans – oops).

We were so impressed by the lecture hall.  Rolling chairs.  Cooooool.

Dr. David Frayer of the University of Kansas provided the lecture:  Who says Neanderthals are so different?

1909 drawing of Neanderthal based on la Chapelle-aux-saints find


  • The first Neanderthal (pronounced ne-an-der-tal – not with a th sound) was discovered in Germany near Duseldorf in 1856.  He was classified as a “poor idiot” or a lost Cossak. These derisive terms continued. “No one would want this creature to be in their family tree.”  One of the few people who did not dismiss the find or subsequent finds out of hand was Darwin.
  • The reconstructive drawing were biased and even reflected characteristics not know or known but not existent in the Neanderthal.
  • The Neanderthal is the paleontological “N” word.  Dr. Frayer asserts that in modern interpretations and culture (he showed examples) the Neanderthal is misrepresented based off of this early bias.  He does not believe this view is deserved.
  • sites excavated with Neanderthal implications

    Historical Record says that the Neanderthal is found in Europe and Western Asia 200,000 – 30,000 year ago, the people lived through glacial and interglacial periods and had a distinctive morphology.


  • Broad-scale Hunting
    • in Gibraltar the find has discovered in a seasonal camp
      • mollusks
      • seals
      • whales
      • birds
      • also cut marks on the bone (from obsidian blades)
    • in Blasco, Spain
      • rabbits
      • tortoises – they were flipped over and cooked in their shell – the shell becomes a bowl – known by burn marks
      • cut marks and tooth marks on the bone
    • in more northern climates
      • ungulates like deer and antelope show systematic exploitation just as by “modern” man
  • Broad-scale Gathering
    • in Kebara, Israel
      • acorns
      • pistachio
      • seeds
      • in more southern climates their diet relied heavily on plant food
  • Flint knapping in France - stages of production

    Raw Material Distribution

    • evidence in Neolithic sites in France show the trading of raw materials
    • the distribution of these raw materials is across large areas – several hundred miles from the primary local.
    • this is proved by processing areas found near the quarries which roughly prepare stone with much smaller fine processing areas (see next topic)
  • Site Utilization
    • in Tor Faraj, Jordan (as an example of others mentioned)
      • divisions into site specialization areas
        • butcher area
        • dump area
        • bedding area
        • lithic processing – fine working
        • lithic processing – rough working
    • in Abric Romani, Spain
      • numbers of fire pits
        • the spread of them around the cave suggests complexity
      • posts made of wood
  • Burial site in UK

    Burial Areas/Grounds

    • in La Ferrassic
      • positioned bodies buried with objects – stone tools on top of body
      • children and adults
      • some children buried together (twins?)
      • there is a positioned stone over one body – the stone has coupouls or “drilled” holes in a pattern
    • in other sites:
      • beads and painted objects
      • manganese dioxide in large quantities – probably used for tattooing
      • stone cups with pigment
      • ceremonial cuts into the scull above the brow but below the hair line – done post mortem
        • parallel marks with 2 gaps (30 or so cuts)
        • not defleshing marks made by cannibalism

The complexity of the society speaks to a formation of a “culture”.  Could you trade, have burial ceremonies, large scale gathering and hunting, trade, etc without symbolism, communication skills, and language (I think math as well – but it was not brought up.)

reconstructed skull

Communication Ability

  • there was a reconstruction completed from a CASTING of a Neanderthal skull which argues that the bone structures disallowed Neanderthals to say a, i, and u. The glottal passage was “kinked”.  However a group of grad students went and looked at the original skull and discovered that the skull had been constructed incorrectly (around 70 years ago).  When they placed the bone in its correct position.  The hyoid structure would support all “modern” sounds.
  • the FOXP2 gene is found in all creatures able to produce “human” speech – parrots, crows, and humans. Not in creatures like chimps.
    • When the FOXP2 gene is abnormal humans have no ability to put sounds into cohesive words.
    • Chimps’ alleles differer in 2 markers
    • Neanderthals are the same as Humans
  • the tooth connection
    • in Atapuerca, Spain
      • 500,000 year old teeth with striations (marks) that lean in the same direction
      • theory was presented that these marks were formed by:
      • holding hides or meat between the teeth
      • pulling taunt with the left hand.
      • the right hand was used to cut across the hide or meat
      • When this is done the rubbing of the hide or meat forms striation in the teeth which lean toward the direction of the cut
      • the theory was tested on grad students using forms placed in their mouths and the process attempted.  It showed the direction of the cut (whether left or right on the teeth).
    • This theory has been observed in multiple sites all over Europe and Western-Asia.
    • The significant is that to have hand dominance the brain must have lateralization
      • chimps do not have hand dominance
      • the left side of the brain is related to spoken language
      • 92.3% of the samples from Europe and Western-Asia show right hand dominance
    • Can’t be uncoordinated – it is hard to cut that way

Genetic Evidence in Croatia

  • Red hair
  • Light Skin

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Filed under "Coming of Man", AV, Geography and World Studies, Going outs (Field Trips), Montessori, Writing


It snows here about once every 10 years.  Here we go!  You learn early that no matter what time the snow comes you go out and play because it won’t be here long.  All these photos were taken between 10 and 2 am.

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Filed under AV, JV, Practical Life - Elementary

Tunicates and Amphioxus

We’ve been plugging away at systematics and have begun looking at non-vertibral chordates including Amphioxus.

There is a song!



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Filed under Biology, notochord, Science

Tank Up-Date

It is nearing AV’s birthday and I had a bit of cash.  We opted to go to the fish store today because I didn’t want his gift money to get co-opted by the needs of the family.

The gobi had a heart attack last week in the middle of our crisis with the naked tube worm.  Long story.  The tube worm is made of steal.  The gobi not so much.  Anyway.  We replaced him with a sea star as the main way the sand is being filtered.

Today AV purchased:

  • Pink and green sea cucumber
  • Green candy coral
  • Pink candy coral
  • Acanthastrea coral

The guy at the fish store is super nice and gave him 50% off one for his birthday.

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Filed under AV, Practical Life - Elementary, Salt Water Tank