More Mammals with Venom

by John Wible

The duck-billed platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, is no doubt one of the world’s oddest mammals, with a suite of adaptations to its life in streams in eastern Australia and Tasmania. Its suede-like bill is packed with electro- and mechanoreceptors, which help the platypus find small invertebrates and fish in murky waters. It has webbed forefeet and hind feet and a hairy, beaver-shaped tail, all great for swimming and diving, and a lush, thick coat for insulation on cold mornings.

As with other mammals, the female platypus produces milk to nurture its young. However, its young are hatched from leathery eggs! Along with the echidna or spiny anteater from Australia and New Guinea, the platypus is one of the two types of living monotremes or egg-laying mammals. This is in contrast to the other groups of extant mammals, marsupials, and placentals, which have live births.

Along with egg-laying, the skeleton of the platypus is a throwback to its mammal-like reptile origin. The bones in its arms and legs, the humerus and femur, are set perpendicular to the trunk, giving the platypus a sprawling posture and a waddling gait on land. Marsupials and placentals have more upright postures with less waddling.

But where is the venom? If you look closely at the ankle of the male platypus, you will see a deadly looking weapon made of keratin, just like your fingernails. This tarsal spur sticks out from the body and sits on a small, flat bone—the os calcaris. The spur is hollow and connected to a gland below the knee that produces venom during the platypus breeding season. Because of this seasonal activity, the venom is thought to be used in male-male competition for females. 

For humans that make the mistake of picking up male platypuses at the wrong time of year, the venom is not deadly, but it is excruciatingly painful. One unfortunate soldier said it is worse than shrapnel! A small remnant of the spur is retained in juvenile female platypuses for only a few months after hatching, and the supporting bone, the os calcaris, without a spur occurs in the echidna. In recent years, tarsal spurs and support bones have been found in the fossil record for numerous groups of extinct primitive mammals that lived during the Age of Dinosaurs. Rather than being unique to the male platypus, venom manufactured in the leg may have been a widespread component of early mammalian weaponry for survival in the hostile Mesozoic landscape. Why this apparatus was lost in early marsupials and placentals is a mystery. One group, the bats, have reinvented a tarsal spur, where it is used in support of the wing membrane.

John Wible, PhD, is the curator of the Section of Mammals at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. John’s research is focused on the tree of life of mammals, understanding the evolutionary relationships between living and extinct taxa, and how the mammalian fauna on Earth got to be the way it is today. He uses his expertise on the anatomy of living mammals to reconstruct the lifeways of extinct mammals. John lives with his wife and two sons in a house full of cats and rabbits in Ross Township.

Bible Belt Gothic (pt. 1)
  • You pass by a Baptist church. You could have sworn that you had passed it six minutes ago, but still you see the letterboard clear as day. It’s the same steeple. It’s the same white building. You pass by a Baptist church, or was it a Methodist church this time?
  • You find a small piece of paper. It presents itself either as a map, possibly as a stock image background, or as threatening comic. The letters are tacky and reminiscent of outdated photo editing software. ‘’Where are you headed?’’ – it questions you. You try to throw it away. It still finds you. You’re a waitress and it’s placed with your tip, planted there by the devout evangelical family of six that just walked out and piled into their blueish-grey Chrysler Town & Country.
  • You walk inside Kroger at exactly 9:30 PM. Into your view comes a familiar face. It’s your mother’s Christian school teacher from fifth grade. She gives you an all too familiar smile, despite never having seen her before in your life, as she and your mother make small talk in the produce section. Into your view comes yet another familiar face. It’s the church deacon you saw only an hour previously during a church business meeting. He’s buying chicken. 
  • You’re in the backseat of the family car. You can hear the roaring approach of a truck. The truck is splattered with mud. There are two mounted flags, one Confederate flag and one state football team flag. You take a second look. It’s covered in bumper stickers. There’s a family of stick figures in the window. Lower, there is a large caricature of a rifle and bold text that reads ‘’pro-gun’’ – announcing the existence of the second amendment loud and proud to any passerby within a mile’s radius. Even lower, there is a sticker that reads  – ‘’Nancy Pelosi, your village is missing their idiot!’’ The stickers multiply each time you choose to take your eyes away. There are campaign stickers for each republican nominee from the past eight years. A new sticker emerges, now in clear view – ‘’Abortion stops a beating heart.’’ Another sticker comes into your peripheral vision – ‘’I just got a gun for my wife. Good trade!’’ The final sticker shows itself in a bright red, white and blue – ‘’God Bless America!’’
  • You find yourself inside the nearest Walmart. You pass by a large cut-out of Willie Robertson and an onslaught of cameo merchandise. You try to hide from his gaze by wandering into the apparel section. Your hand gently rests on a stack of neon colored tees. You pull them out while an uneasy feeling begins to rise inside your chest. There’s a illustration of a cross on the back, covered in bright polka dots and flowery patterns. The words, in an almost illegible font, haunt your subconscious with the voice of a woman in her mid-forties, a proud mother of three children and has just spent three hundred dollars at Belk – ‘’Too blessed to be stressed!’’ 
  • There is a Lifeway bookstore inside the local strip mall. It has an eerily quiet atmosphere. The only noise to be heard is the never-ending loop of Veggietales playing as white noise in the children’s section. 
Mammals with Venom

by John Wible

Did you know that some mammals are venomous?

The Section of Mammals has one specimen in its collection of the solenodon, which at 21 inches long is the largest member of the group of mammals that includes shrews and moles.

Our specimen, Solenodon paradoxus, comes from the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (which includes Haiti and the Dominican Republic), but there is second solenodon species in Cuba, Solenodon cubanus. Solenodons have a mobile proboscis, obviously much shorter than an elephant’s trunk, and a powerful sense of smell, which makes up for their tiny eyes. They occupy a shrew-like niche, rooting in leaf litter for insects and earthworms—their primary prey.

Both solenodon species are highly endangered and at various times have been thought to be extinct. Problems for the solenodons started in the 1800s when small Asian mongooses were introduced by humans to control the snake and rat populations; feral dogs and cats aggravated the issue, as the solenodons did not fare well against any of these three carnivores. Habitat destruction has nearly been the final blow.

Prior to the introduction of the carnivores, solenodons were the top mammalian predator on their islands. Part of what helped them was their ability to produce venom in one of their salivary glands, making the solenodon one of the very few venomous mammals. They have a snake-like delivery system for their venom. The tallest tooth in the lower jaw (the second incisor) has a deep groove on its inner surface, which accommodates the duct of the venomous salivary gland. In fact, the name solenodon in Greek means “grooved tooth.” When the solenodon bites, the venom is injected from that tooth and slows down its prey. Unfortunately for the solenodons, their venom and fighting prowess has not been sufficient to protect them from the introduced carnivores.

John Wible, PhD, is the curator of the Section of Mammals at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. John’s research is focused on the tree of life of mammals, understanding the evolutionary relationships between living and extinct taxa, and how the mammalian fauna on Earth got to be the way it is today. He uses his expertise on the anatomy of living mammals to reconstruct the lifeways of extinct mammals. John lives with his wife and two sons in a house full of cats and rabbits in Ross Township.

I met Aleya Fasier hunched over sweet potatoes growing stubbornly in hard-packed earth under a sky that held history. There weren’t many words exchanged that day–mostly just weeding–or that fall–just digging, weighting and sighing. What I did pick up on was that Aleya was a person who did everything with intention. Since that day, Aleya has poured her heart into that same soil, left her mark on the historical record under that same sky and the results have been remarkable. And that is where we’ll start.

Prepare yourself and give thanks for the words of black, queer, womanist, futurist, ecologist, artist, educator, farmer Aleya Frasier–co-founder of Black Dirt Farm and a revolutionary warrior for black food security.

GSF: Who are you and what is your superpower? 

AF: I am one of many queer, biologically active, radical molecules of melanin chilling on your amygdala guiding your primal instincts. And our superpower is activating your superpower. This is done through hormonal and vibrational synchronicity with other radical melanated molecules. I was formed under libra skies so by definition my vibration brings balance to different sides of the equation and works to bring organic and inorganic reactions to equilibrium. Our superpowers activate at the intersection of entropy and equilibrium which is pretty much at all times and space continuums, but they are strongest when connected to the land as space and now as the time. When people step foot on the farm the serotonin in the soil mixed with the ancestors in the air and UV ray excitation of my electrons and my subtle vibrations in their cells allows caverns in the mind to open that have been previously filtered and neurons to connect in ways that they haven’t before. Mitochondrial dna is stirred awake and its knowledge from your uterine having ancestors that has been passed down since the beginning of her story is realized. Through black dirt under fingernails, melanated work under the sun and calloused hands peoples superpowers and ancient rhythms are germinated approximately 3 weeks after the last frost. so you see all with melanin possess this ability at varying frequencies. and then we do it again.

GSF: You are a disciple of AfroEcology and gather folks to celebrate and mobilize around Afro-ecological practice. First of all, what is AfroEcology? How is it, as you say “a perfect counter attack to white supremacy capitalism and patriarchy.” ? 

AF: Afroecology is a form of art, movement, practice and process of social and ecological transformation that involves the re-evaluation of our sacred relationships with land, water, air, seeds and food; (re)recognizes humans as co-creators that are an aspect of the planet’s life support systems; values the Afro-Indigenous experience of reality and ways of knowing; cherishes ancestral and communal forms of knowledge, experience and lifeways that began in Africa and continue throughout the Diaspora; and is rooted in the agrarian traditions, legacies and struggles of the Black experience in the Americas.The nature of the Black Experience in America, and in the Americas, has always been and will be, intimately, tied to the land and our agrarian identity. As said by Harry Haywood in Negro Liberation in 1948, “The Negro Question in the United States is Agrarian in Origin.” To draw upon this agrarian legacy, we, at the Black Dirt Farm Collective, felt it was important to introduce the concept of Afroecology – not as a definition but as a place to stimulate discussions on the intimate connection between us as people and the land. Far too often, people of color and Black Folk succumb to using words, theories and concepts that do not directly speak our language nor speak to our experience of reality. All the while, these very concepts, like organic farming, permaculture, etc. come from and stem from our ancestry, and current practices as people of the land and our organizing legacies. As part of the liberation struggle, we recognize the need to create political ideologies, and cultural theories, concepts and practices to help clarify certain aspects of reality, so as to transformation the material and social conditions of reality. We present Afroecology as part of that process. Afroecology is a call back to the land that is awaiting our return. It is a living breathing process of decolonization that is built upon the black experience of the indigenous (africans) becoming indigenized(diasporic africans). Our indigenous reality cannot be recreated but it can also not be forgotten because WE as indigenized peoples have the unique ability to create and determine our reality using our wildest imaginations and ancestral knowledge as fuel. Afroecology is above all else a process of reclaiming our identity as communal beings connected to every aspect of our ecosystem and about reclaiming knowledge from the base!As a practice, afroecology builds from agroecology in its way of teaching how to work in harmony with nature to feed people. On the farm, we try our best to recycle nutrients, biomass and raw materials to achieve a balance in the flow of inputs and outputs. We promote diverse microcosmic and macrocosmic relationships from soil bacteria and fungi to the people who visit the farm and we ultimately treat the farm as an extension of our beings ,nurturing its recovery and decolonization much as we do our own, through natural inputs, spiritual practices, art and balance.

GSF: Describe a mythical seed variety that you would cultivate if you could. 

AF: I like to think that every seed variety is mythical in the magical sense and I play out their magical path in my daydreams. If you truly tell the story of a single seed from its origin to your farm, the story would be as colorful as any spiritual text. I will share about a seed variety that to me epitomizes myth and magic and the power of mitochondria. Sorghum is a grain indigenous to Northeastern Africa with earliest known records from the Egypt/Sudan border region from 8000 BC. It is a BEAUTIFUL monocot; its got strappy leaves, a bamboo like shoot and parallel veins; with as many powers as your imagination can handle imagining. Its seed pops sizzles and cracks in your cast iron and its cane can be pressed for sweet juice. Its seed can be threshed pounded and kneaded into nourishment for your baby or boiled and baked into your favorite recipe. It body has the powers to convert sunlight into energy in unique efficient ways and its roots go deep to ensure it survives in drought too. It’s powers allow it to serve as money in the common market place, more valuable than cattle at times for the women selling their beers made with sorghum strains specific to their mitochondrial lineage. Strains that have in a way co evolved with the women and families who cultivate them, the people who bear its callouses, the people who could not part with it when captured and stripped away from their own gardens. Strains that survived in afros across the middle passage that were planted and transplanted and harvested and sowed and reaped and seeded and then again and again until yesterday, today and tomorrow when I harvest our sorghum from seed given to us by friends. 10 seeds now 1000 to share with them. Sounds mythical, right?

GSF: Magical, indeed! So tell me, what’s the dirt on Black Dirt Farm? How can people support? Winter plans?

The dirt is not even black on Black Dirt Farm haha we are frontin! We have this kind of cool light brown sandy loam texture that grows amazing root crops but turns into cement when baked under the hot sun. But on the flip side, a farm is very rarely the effort of solely one or two people. Thus, Black Dirt Farm is collectively cared for by a strong network of farmers, friends and families. A core group manages the day to day operations of the farm, the distribution and marketing as well as coordinating and participating in trainings and events around agroecology, food sovereignty and regenerative economics with black and brown folks from all over the diaspora. We LOVE to gather with folks on the farm and to share black agrarian images and voices and to learn from our elders who are supporting the journey!

People can support by eating their veggies and by supporting our friends like you at Community Farming Alliance and Chris Bradshaw with Dreaming out Loud and Xavier Brown with the Green Scheme and Natasha Bowens author of The Color of Food and the list goes on! We will be hunkering down this winter and hopefully going to some warm places to collectively energize and create our vision for the next few seasons. A wish list of support would be a website designer, a logo designer, a farm truck or station wagon, and a yurt to serve as an agrarian library, but thats all haha. 

Ya’ll heard that? If you’re feeling in a do-gooding mood, do something for a farmer. They’ll make sure you eat good. 

Thanks for reading and stay on top of Aleya’s awesomeness on her instagram or the Black Church Food Security Network’s twitter! 

anonymous asked:

Hi! I was wondering if you could help me. When I was really little, I used to watch this cartoon we got from I think a local Lifeway store. It was about a group of sheep and one had a blue scarf and it had a family wolves that were trying to get the sheep and the Shepherd would show up, but it would only show His hook and the sheep with the scarf really liked these blue berries and got into trouble because he went to get some after someone told him not to. If you know anything, please help!

Hi friend,

I know what you’re talking about and I’m trying to research it, but so far I can’t find anything. I’ll keep looking but I’m praying one of my followers knows the name of the cartoon you’re referencing. 


All my love,


I was tagged by @avengerdragoness

A) Age: 20

B) Biggest Fears: I am actually terrified of the dark

C) Current Time: 9:05 PM

D) Last Drink I Had: Tea

E) Every Day Starts with: Checking the time lol

F) Favorite Song At the Moment: Mama by MCR

G) Gayest Moment I Ever Had: Oooh little story time lol so my former youth group (graduated so i am no longer in this youth group though I am at the same church) goes on these camps (FUGE) run by an organization called Lifeway Ministries. So the drill on those camps is we are on a college campus so most of the time you are in an average dorm and have three roomies. My junior year I had two eighth grade roomies and one seventh grade one. (Side note: this is actually the year that @yourecold-and-i-burn became besties and at this camp as well eyyy) So on to the story, I had (I say had because I have not seen her since the fall after this) this friend named Sadie who would come to my room each night and hang out for a bit before lights out. On this particular night, she waltzes in and plops down in my lap (she was only like 4′8″, but she was FEISTY. Y’all think I am sassy smh) and says “You know guys, if JoAnnah were a guy, I’d so date her.” and I am just like “Aaawwww babe same.” and my eighth grade roommates at this Christian camp looked at us like OH SHIT THEY ARE IN LESBIANS TOGETHER. Side note #2: my eighth grade roommate walked in on me packing to go home two days later whilst dramatically singing “One Jump Ahead” from Aladdin. She walked in the exact moment I sang/said “Still I think he’s rather tasty” and she was like “what are you doing?” and my dumbass could only say “packing?”

H) Home Town: Hometown is cutting it a bit close. I will say I live in Alabama though

I) In Love With: Jason Todd

J) Jealous: Of people who don’t hate their life right now (my prof is a dickhead)

K) Killed Someone: I attempted to murder my twin brother when I was eight if that counts

L) Last Time I Cried: I don’t fucking know

M) Middle Name: Elizabeth

N) Number of Siblings: Four (two sisters and two brothers) and one brother-in-law

O) One Wish: To get past this class and to pass it

P) Person You Last Called/Texted: Probably @sorchathequeen

Q) Question You’re Always Asked: “How is school/Where are you going to school?”

R) Reason to Smile: Summer’s just around the corner! (Jules’s answer but amen to that)

S) Last Song Sung: I think it was Candy Store from the Heather’s

T) Time You Woke Up: 8:30 AM

U) Worst Habit: Overthinking everything (Same, Jules, same)

V) X-Ray You’ve Had: My last x-ray was to see if my pneumonia had cleared up (like two months ago?)

W) Your Favourite Food: French fries

X) Zodiac Sign: Pisces/Aries

I tag @batfamily-imagines and the people I mentioned lol


IG CONTEST ENDS TONIGHT AT MIDNIGHT! I’ll be choosing 5 more people to call & chat with! Here’s how to win!
•Buy a physical copy of ‘Unstoppable’ from @BestBuy, @Lifeway, @Mardel_Inc, or @MerchNow.
•Post a photo of your receipt & put hashtag #MattyMullinsUnstoppable in the caption.
•That’s it! I will follow all 5 of the winners on IG as well!

Made with Instagram

Honoree Tracee Ellis Ross speaks onstage at the National Women’s History Museum 5th Annual Women Making History Brunch presented by Glamour and Lifeway Foods at Montage Beverly Hills on September 17, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California.


Lifeway stands with @CarliLloyd and all women in the fight for equal pay. #WomensEqualityDay

As many as 70% of those who identify themselves as Christians entering college will walk away from their faith by the time they are seniors and only about a third of these young people will ever return to the Church
—  LifeWay Research Study 2007

Fair Play Means Fair Pay

This is Adrian Stimson’s (Siksika Nation, Blackfoot) 2010 installation Beyond Redemption. The title, physical surroundings, and composition speak volumes about the devastating near extirpation of the plains buffalo (whose importance to the Plains peoples cannot be fully expounded here) due to the infringements and excessive hunting practices of colonial peoples. Beyond Redemption speaks about a population of animals whose rehabilitation in its natural habitat has been precluded, and when the buffalo is gone, so too is the way of life of an entire people; now, the buffalo (and also, the people’s lifeways) are relegated to the museum context in the form of a diorama, a physical space that is linked to the past and has a tendency to dichotomize various studies of the past into the realms of natural and human history.