Many of my blog topics originate from information I gathered while researching other blog topics. My most recent essay is a good example of this process. I recently reread Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer, and this author mentioned another book that interested me. The Wall about the Jewish uprising in Warsaw during 1943 is a collection of journal excerpts edited by John Hersey. I looked for this book on amazon.com and discovered another book by the same author, but this 1 was about bluefish. I ordered that book too, and it inspired me to write my recent essay about bluefish. While researching for more information about bluefish, I recalled John Lawson’s brief description of this species in his book– A New Voyage to Carolina. I have this book on my bookshelf, but it was quicker to look for this passage online. When looking for this passage, I discovered a paper that analyzed the content of Lawson’s book. I’ve always been fascinated with A New Voyage to Carolina because it is the very first natural history book ever written in North America. So I read this paper and learned the “grampus” described by Lawson is an alternative archaic name for Risso’s dolphin. I became curious about this little known species and decided to write a blog entry about it. This species is poorly studied and I couldn’t find much about it. However, I did come across a study that determined Heinrich events caused annual mass whale strandings, and this led to my previous essay, an entry that is far more interesting than any I could have written using the meager scientific literature focused on Risso’s dolphin. The internet is a nearly infinite encyclopedia, and it’s easy to get distracted, but I think these distractions lead to my most interesting blog entries.
Illustration of Risso’s dolphin. Note the scars from its battles with squid–its favorite food.
Risso’s dolphin ( Grampus griseus ) diverged from an ancestor that also gave rise to false killer whales ( Pseudorca crassidens ) about 6 million years ago. Risso’s dolphins usually live well offshore in pods of 10-50 individuals, and their diet almost exclusively consists of squid. Adults have many scars, resulting from battles with the tentacular cephalopods, whose suckers tear away flesh. According to Wikipedia, Risso’s dolphins hybridize with bottlenosed dolphins ( Tursiops truncatus ) in captivity. This seems odd because they are not that closely related. Risso’s dolphin is little studied, and as I mentioned above, I couldn’t find enough about them to write a more compelling essay, but at least they led me to the paper that inspired Monday’s blog entry.
“John Lawson’s Observations on the Animals of Carolina”
The North Carolina Historical Review 2011