Friday, September 30, 2016

Medical Comments on the Specimens of Joseph Lord

Kara deGroote, a student in the MayX course at Furman University, has compiled a medical commentary on the specimens of Joseph Lord. Joseph Lord was sent to Dorchester, South Carolina, in the early 1700s as the leader of a new colony (you can read more about him here.)

Joseph Lord sent his botanical specimens back to England to Joseph Pettiver. Since Pettiver was an apothecary, it is not surprising that Lord’s specimens emphasized plants that had, or were believed to have had, medical uses.

deGroote’s commentary is a CITE Collection on GitHub.

Did dinosaurs invent termites?

Jurassic cockroaches ate lots of dinosaur dung. Scientists have actually found fossilized cockroach feces that contain bits of wood that had already been partially digested by dinosaurs.

Termites, social insects famed for wood-eating ability, are the direct descendants of cockroaches. But termites don’t exactly digest wood themselves. Instead, microorganisms in their guts break it down for them. They keep their guts full of essential microbes by (ahem) eating one another’s feces.

Dinosaurs are known to have eaten rotting wood that was already broken down by fungi. They processed their food for a long time, churning it in their stomachs where they also kept collections of microbes that did much of the digestion for them. Some of these microbes and fungi came out in their feces. Young dinosaurs probably got their own digestive microbes by eating adult dinosaur feces.

Cockroaches that ate the feces would have also eaten those microbes. After millions of years, those cockroaches best able to incorporate dinosaur wood-digesting microbes into their own personal microbiomes would have thrived, at the expense of less successful roaches; the successful ones thus evolved into termites.