Friday, November 23, 2012

Bookworms

S. Blair Hedges, a biologist at Pennsylvania State University, has just published a remarkable piece of research in the journal Biology Letters entitled "Wormholes record species history in space and time." He has figured out that the detailed history of 2 species of invasive wood-boring beetles is contained within the covers of books published between the early 15th c. and the early 19th c. The beetles left their wormholes in the wood used to carve block prints that illustrate texts printed in western Europe. Hedges has gleaned details from these precisely dated and located wormholes that show rare books and artwork to be a largely untapped resource several million strong for studying distributional changes through time. The wormhole record existed long before species were described and museum collections were assembled. Hedges writes, "Knowledge of the wormhole record will allow biologists to trace the recent biogeographic history of species, including invasives of economic importance, and historians to evaluate the place of origin and movement of a woodblock, book, document or art print." From the wormholes, which appear as white and uninked areas, researchers can discern species based on the width and shape of the track and may be able to corroborate if they can obtain DNA from the samples. 

The caption for the set of illustrations reproduced above is as follows: "Details of European prints (a, northern; b, southern) showing printed wormholes, and woodblocks (c, northern; d, southern) showing actual wormholes (scale, 1 : 1). (a) Netherlandish woodcut art print de Rijke Man (1541) by Anthoniszoon (Rijksmuseum). (b) Italian woodcut (1606) by Ramusio (Library of Congress). (c) Netherlandish woodblock The wedding of Mopsus and Nisa (1566) by Bruegel (Metropolitan Museum of Art). (d) Bois Protat (1370–1380) from Saône-et-Loire, France (Bibliothèque national de France). Yellow arrows indicate wormhole tracks. Diagrams showing (e) position of typical woodblock (110 mm wide) in log from hardwood tree, (f) cross section showing grain, and the position of tunnels produced by (g) northern and (h) southern woodborers. The wood-boring larvae are shown in tunnels, and adults are shown emerging from flight holes (wormholes) following pupation." 
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The Cabinet has a large library:

1 comment:

  1. Interesting write up !!! thank you for taking some time out and sharing this amazing piece of work with us!!!!

    ReplyDelete

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