Speculative Sandhill Cranes
This week I have been speculating on how a Sandhill Crane’s beak could be adapted to withstand the heat of the water at Mammoth Hot Springs (70°C/160°F). I have chosen the Sandhill Crane as a resident of Yellowstone National Park. Below the image, I have justified my iterations.
The Yeti Crab, as discussed last week, is an example of an extremophilic animal that can withstand the environment around hydrothermal vents. Being a crustacean, its exoskeleton is composed of chitin. Chitin is an organic polymer comparable to keratin. Evidence shows it is resistant to extreme temperatures (Deguchi, S. et al., 2015) therefore I have speculated that a chitinous beak may be more heat-resistant than a standard keratin-based beak.
Extremotolerant & Resistant Lichens
Another speculation was to have the beak covered with colonies of lichens. There is evidence that some species of lichen are extremotolerant (Meessen et al. 2013). It is interesting that lichen is a symbiosis between cyanobacteria, algae and fungi. Cyanobacteria is one of the thermophilic bacteria that is prevalent in Yellowstone’s hot springs, such as the Grand Prismatic Spring. Also, fungi have a chitinous cell wall.
Filamentous, Thermophilic Bacterial Colonies
The Yeti Crab has also formed a symbiosis for better adaption to the hydrothermal vent ecosystem. The filamentous, thermophilic bacteria that covers the surface of the crab oxidises the sulphides in the water (Goffredi, S. et al., 2008). Filamentous bacteria also cluster on the surface of the Pompeii Worm allowing it to exist in temperatures of 80 °C (176 °F). Perhaps these filamentous, thermophilic bacterial colonies could provide heat-resistance for the Sandhill Crane’s beak.
From Microbiology to Mycology: branching into other disciplines is providing useful for speculating on a more heat-resistant beak for the Sandhill Crane of Mammoth Hot Springs. There are still questions to be answered: how will the crane walk across the pools which are not only hot but also made of delicate Travertine? How could the feathers be adapted to the steam rising from the terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs? What would the Sandhill Crane feed on in the hot spring water?
A challenge of collaboration, I have found, has been that the ideas between Jill and I come faster than my drawings can keep up with! Also, communicating the idea in a clear and scientific way has adapted my presentation method for my drawings. How can a drawing be aesthetically pleasing, fit within a specified art direction and communicate a scientific concept?
Deguchi, S. et al. (2015) In situ microscopic observation of chitin and fungal cells with chitinous cell walls in hydrothermal conditions. Sci. Rep. 5, 11907; doi: 10.1038/srep11907.
Goffredi, S. et al. (2008) Epibiotic bacteria associated with the recently discovered Yeti crab, Kiwa hirsuta. Environmental Microbiology 10: 2623–2634. doi:10.1111/j.1462-2920.2008.01684.x
Meessen, J. et al. (2013). Extremotolerance and Resistance of Lichens: Comparative Studies on Five Species Used in Astrobiological Research I. Morphological and Anatomical Characteristics. Origins of life and evolution of the biosphere: the journal of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life. 43.. 10.1007/s11084-013-9337-2.
The first five pages…
This week I have been working on writing a screenplay. As part of my coursework, I am charged with writing a short twenty-page script. I thought it would be a great opportunity to write a story for the speculative creatures we will design through our collaboration.
Environmental protection and conservation of biodiversity is important to both of us. Keeping that theme at the center of the story and factoring in our scientific interests and aesthetic sensibilities, I needed to create a premise, a sentence or two that describes the main character(s) and the story.
Through our brainstorming we came up with some great visuals and ideas but it was a challenge for me to create the premise and tie it all together. Every idea I was pursuing was too much about fitting to the world we were creating. I think I was putting the cart before the horse so to speak. Why? Conflict. I needed to focus on the characters first. It didn’t have enough conflict and the characters were all too nice. That just doesn’t work for dramatic writing. Drama requires an opponent and conflict!
I had a break in my writer’s block last week when I shifted focus from building the environment onto developing the characters and the dialogue. From the situation and the character choices I can then return to describing the world that supports the story.
I’m really looking forward to our meeting this week, refining the premise statement, getting feedback from Rose, and incorporating the direction she is going with the creature design. I will build upon our discussions to revise the first five and draft the next few pages. The hardest part really was in dismissing the inner critic and getting something on the page. You can’t edit a blank page!
Until next week!