19.

The Whirligig bladderwrack (F. gyrovesiculosus), an alga common to the Black Sea, thrives in the coastal reefs off the Euxinovan province of Draephedusa. Anchored fast to the seemingly inhospitable jagged rocks, its irregular branches terminate in symmetrical reproductive bodies containing paired blades of fibrous tissue and air vesicles. Subject to the violence of the surf, these bodies will detach from the weed and take wing, their descent slowed by their own rotation.

The sight of the seeds dispersing aerially from a distance has led to fanciful accounts of diminutive “limpet cranes” (thought to hatch from oversized limpets) possessing horns that curve like those of a ram. Known in Antiquity as “fledglings of Pumphon” (ibid.), their ability to portend shipwrecks derives from the fact that a swarm of seeds must indicate the presence of shallow rocks. 

Specimens of the weed burgeoning in the calmer waters of coves may yield winged seeds that, though too bulky to disperse while alive, can be manually detached and dried to create a flying toy that rides the air’s currents like a gliding bird. Children often affix the wings to a stick, adding for a “head” seashells that spiral like the mythical crane’s horns — and, if available, the skull of a local bird, such as that of a burrowing osprey (also ibid.).

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