Yesterday I blogged about taxonomy but I did not mention the reasons for it.  One of the benefits of a standardized naming system is that people all over the world can refer to the same organism regardless of the language they speak.  All scientific names are Latinized.  Latin is the language of choice because it is a dead language.  No one speaks it anymore, so it will never change or progress into different meanings.  

Bromeliads massed in a garden bed


The binomial system also gives relationship information to scientists about how organisms have evolved.  For example, plants in a Family have diverged back in time from all other families.  Those plants in the family have further divided and evolved different genuses.  All plants in a genus evolve into a particular species which does not usually crossbreed with other species in that Genus.  Species may go on to further specialize due to the forces of geography, time of blooming, or other factors.  The species becomes more and more fit to its environment.  

In the past, botanists used flower anatomy to classify plants into Genus, species, etc.  Now they have another tool.  In the hands of a skilled botanist, even the chromosomes can be counted and studied to shed new light on evolutionary paths.  Some recent studies have revealed surprises that have changed the classification of certain plants. 



The Bromeliad family of plants has had a shake up recently.  It is composed of several subfamilies which we will not go into here.  One of the subfamilies is called Bromelioideae.  Some botanists were looking at the chromosome number of members of the subfamily, Genus Cryptanthus.  Most all other Bromeliads have been found to have 50 chromosomes.  Most of Cryptanthus sp.  have 50 also.  However, a few were found to have either 34 or 36 chromosomes.  This was quite a shock since chromosome number is a very stable and unchanging attribute in most organisms.  A reduction of chromosomes is called aneuploidy and usually causes death or distortion of the organism.  In this genus of Bromeliads, the chromosome number has changed and the plants pass this down to their offspring.  It is a sign that those reduced chromosome plants are evolving into a different group.  How should the botanists react in the name they call these new plants?  Should those species having reduced chromosome number be given a new Genus?  If we are using the naming system the way it is intended, they should probably be named separately.  Bromeliad flower stalks

Bromeliad flower stalks

Article about aneuploidy in Bromeliads:




  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phyllum Insecta
      • Class Insecta
        • Order Hymenoptera
          • Family Formicidae
            • Genus Monomorium
              • Species Monomorium minimum
                • Variety or Cultivar


Listed above is the taxonomic breakdown of the common ant.  You will notice that all the levels of hierarchy are single words except for the species.  We usually refer to an organism by the last two, the genus and the species.  In this case the genus is Monomorium and the species is Monomorium minimum.  Notice that the species name consists of two words.  The first is the genus the second word is called the specific epithet.  The genus is always capitalized and the specific epithet is always lower case unless you are in the Everglades National park where all the specific epithets are capitalized.  This temporarily caused Infamous to think that taxonomy had changed the rules on her, but it turns out the National Park service just messed up a little bit.  But I digress, the two word description of organisms was developed by some other people and brought to world wide attention by the Swedish botanist, Carl Linneaus.  It is called binomial nomenclature.  After he reorganized the plants in the Netherlands into modern day families, genuses and species, the systematic naming of organisms took off worldwide.  He changed taxonomy forever by grouping species into ever more general groupings as you go up the taxonomic ladder.

Movie Review: Shutter Island 5/5*

Matin Scorsece’s ‘Shutter Island’ is the best psychological thriller in years.  Starring Leo DiCaprio and Ben Kingsley, it takes place on an island based mental hospital.  Only dangerous insane criminals are housed there.  There is no escape since the island is encircled by sheer rock cliffs. 

DiCaprio is a U.S. Marshal called in to find a runaway patient/prisoner.  Ben Kingsley is the possibly insane psychiatrist running the ward.  I cannot tell you much more than this.  It is great.  Good acting, good story, full of suspense.   Go see it!

Rated R for gory violence and scary scenes but it is NOT a slasher movie.  A horror movie for adults, not teens.


Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.

Tree of the Week Southern Live Oak

The Angel Oak, in a park near Charleston, South Carolina

 Quercus virginiana


One interesting plant found in Florida is the Golden Dodder, Cuscuta pentagona.  It is a parasitic plant that twines right handedly around the stem of its victim.  It rarely photosynthesizes for food, in fact some species cannot even make chlorophyll.  It sends root-like fingers called haustoria into the host and lives off the juices.  It can become so severe, the host does very poorly and dies.  Ususally parasites do not kill their host because it will put them out of business too.  Dodder is a seasonal plant that dies off in very cold weather, so they usually do not have time to kill their host in a season.  The severe cases I have seen in Florida must be multiple year infestations and the mild winters are not killing the dodder off as much. 

Dodder look like yellow spaghetti except for the flowers.  They are a flowering plant, and as such they produce seeds.  The seeds are long-lived in the soil and will germinate for years after an infestation has been cleared.  The seeds are an important weed seed that seed producers are always on the look out for.  It is a bad plant to come along with, for example, grass seed.  The customers would not want to get dodder from a contaminated batch of seed. 

I have only seen dodder in Michigan on rare occasions.  The type in our northern midwest has always been in Alfalfa.  I believe these pictures are of a different species, however none of it was flowering, so not sure. 

 The only cure for it is to remove or prune out the dodder from the host plant.  The haustoria can give rise to new infestations in the host if just a little bit is left.

In a bizzarre twist, so to speak, in Wiki, there is a bit about dodder being able to smell.  They say that some research has shown it grows toward pheromones emitted from possible host plants.  None of the dodder that I saw was sniffing around but here are some photos of a big mess.

And then we came upon a


I felt like it was a scene from Men in Black.

And Then There Was True Bigness

Just plain BIG

Continuing on a theme.

Further Gigantism

Giant Rhino inexplicably on display in the Florida keys

Sometimes I am appalled. Just appalled.

Giant Things Alert

OK, I know you read this blog for all the first rate sciency topics covered (and my movie reviews).  But enough is enough, time to have a little fun.  Notice this post is categorized as humor today, so go get your science fix from the Martian Chronicles or someone else. 

Infamous has been traveling through the very deep south to get away from cold winter weather.  That has only partially worked. Yesterday, in Key West, it was a moderate 65 degrees.  Sixty five is good and all, but there was no swimming at all.  While not swimming, we drove around and soon I noticed a trend.  Giant things.

 As my readers know, I have a fond spot in my heart for kitchy things people put out to get you to stop and take photos.  I especially like giant things, and well, first I saw this fish.

A very large fish in the Florida Keys

I think this might have been attached to a restaurant.  I did not pay any attention to what this thing was advertising which kind of defeated the point.

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