The Fish Story

Don’t Drive and Watch Bigfoot at the Same Time; Dogfish Can Drive You Mad – and Then Cure You

By JAY MANN | Mar 29, 2017

BIGFOOT MADE ME DO IT: How can I not pass along one of the greatest car-hits-deer stories ever told? It took place just a few days back on US-95, over Idaho way, where a 50-year-old, normalish woman is swearing to both high heaven and the local sheriff’s office that she hit a deer after having her road attention ripped away by ... a Bigfoot.

The local Moscow-Pullman Daily News, which first broke the story, went a tad more Moscowish by headlining, “Sasquatch blamed for Idaho car crash.”

The paper said the woman had been intently looking in her rearview mirror to do a Bigfoot double-take. When she looked back ahead, her Subaru Forester was metallically greeting the bounding deer.

In telling her tale, the woman accused the Bigfoot of having chased the deer onto the highway and smack into her vehicle. “You bastard!”

Experts will now try to determine if the Bigfoot was simply chasing the deer for food – or was purposely chasing it onto the high-speed road just to mess with the heads of drivers.

Per the police report, the guilty-until-proven-innocent perpetrator was pushing 8 feet in height and was hairy to the hilt; the term “shaggy” was shared by the sheriff’s office. As to any identifying marks, like scars or tattoos, none were forthcoming. “It could have been any Sasquatch” was possibly thought by many.

As for me, I’m wondering how an 8-foot Bigfoot runs down a deer. It’s a lot easier envisioning a Subaru running down a deer.

The sheriff’s office is apparently reluctant about releasing the name of the driver. Can’t think why. However, Oprah and a slew of other talk show hosts are hot on her trail. I’ll call in sick from work to see an airing of that show.

I’m not sure how it plays into things, but the driver hails from a town called Tensed. By name alone, it would seem a place where there’s no guessing what might await residents … right around the bend. I base that on the town of Tranquility, Calif., where residents tend to repeatedly spot the Dalai Lama hitchhiking.

This Bigfoot incident means we’ll likely have to suffer through another “Here at Farmer’s we’ve seen everything” commercial.

DOGFISH FOR MANKIND: In today’s world, it’s hard to tell what ails us … and what heals us. There’s always some new disease du jour, followed by absurdly high-end pharmaceuticals, custom made to treat each emerging malady – while simultaneously sporting side effects that often make the actual illness look more appealing than the meds. But I already digress.

I recently waxed poetic on the miraculous burn-easing qualities of lowly tilapia skin, routinely being laid upon ravaged skin by Brazilian doctors. I was later wondering if that same tilapia skin might also be applied after one of those famed personal Brazilian waxings. Now, there’s a tilapia skin sight to behold, eh?

This week, I got word of another potential ultra-healer, residing within a far more localized fish species: dogfish – a species so lowly that certain anglers have been known to chuck it up on the beach as retribution for being just that lowly. The anglers’ thinking: How dare those dogs eat bait meant for more desirable fish?

In overall perceived lowliness, dogfish are outdone only by the skate.

So, what could dogfish – sometimes called “sand sharks” – have to offer to all humanity, short of angling frustration? How about a treatment for dreaded brain deteriorations, like Parkinson’s disease and assorted forms of dementia?

According to researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center, “A synthesized steroid (squalamine) mirroring one naturally made by the dogfish shark prevents the buildup of a lethal protein implicated in some neurodegenerative diseases, reports an international research team studying an animal model of Parkinson’s disease.”

Who’da guessed it? There’s something highly anti-dementia within the unassuming innards that issue forth from gutted dogfish – gutting being another lethal act performed by dishonorable anglers trying to rid the world of all dogfish, one senseless gutting at a time.

One of the main movers behind the isolation of squalamine is Michael Zasloff, professor of surgery and pediatrics at Georgetown University School of Medicine. He has been studying it since 1993, after first discovering its essence in spiny dogfish.

The dogfish’s potentially lifesaving essence was not given a name in its natural state. It was after Zasloff perfected a synthesized form in 1995 that he coined the term squalamine – taken from the dogfish’s genus name, Squalus. The synthesized form requires no sharks – or their innards.

Currently, the synthesized form of the dogfish miracle stuff is being fed to nematode worms; within, it stymies the buildups of highly brain-destructive types of protein. Squalamine can even dissolve existing clumps of lethal brain proteins.

While squalamine is not yet on the open pharm market, pre-clinical studies on larger-than-nematode creatures is further establishing its antiviral and anticancer properties.

I now must go both trite and profound in one fell swoop.

We all but worship the likes of striped bass and fluke, as if they’re a couple of God’s greatest gifts to humanity, while a seemingly undesirable also-swam just might contain the inner ingredients to kill off some of the most horrible maladies known to man. How many other creatures on our “undesirables” list possess substances capable of easing what ails all mankind?

So, the next time you yank a dogfish out of the water, you might want to resist the urge to drop-kick it into oblivion. Instead, gently release it … with a sporting little “Thanks much” pat on the tail.

SPEAK TO ME, PLANT: Have you ever chatted with vegetation? Plant-chats are a long-standing concept, faithfully held by many a grower who believes such communication is as real as rain – and as beneficial as fertilizer.

I know many plant-talkers. While they can be a tad scary when seen from a distance, there is some scientific energy behind plants growing faster and stronger when fed some sweet talk.

Plant-speak was famously fostered by cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who had both his alter-ego, Mike Doonesbury, and his befriended stoner, Zonker, carrying on socially important discussions with window-sill greenery. I fully related to a Doonesbury noncommittal flower that would boldly speak out ,then quickly mollify any political innuendoes by contritely adding, “Of course, I’m just a rhododendron.” To which Mike would contemplatively respond, “No, no. You’ve got a good point there.”

The only verbal interactions I have with vegetation come when I’m being shredded by deep-woods thorns. My language is far from flowery or nectary. In fact, it can make chlorophyll blush – which is not easy to do.

The entire man/plant speak thing came to mind when I read about blossoming plants having their precious pollen sported off by gooey horsehairs hanging from beneath bee bots.

Say what!? I’ll explain.

As you know, bees are dying off like there’s no tomorrow. Hardest hit are eco-essential honeybees (genus Apis), dying off from Colony Collapse Disorder.

The evil behind CCD includes non-attributable malnutrition, loss of prime habitat, parasitic fungi (nosema), bacillus larvae (foulbrood), insect pests (wax moth, varroa mite), climate change, herbicides, GMO interaction, chemicals, pesticides … face it, the whole world suddenly seems to be conspiring against the humble honeybees. What’s more, the remaining bees are often enslaved by humans, who hoard hives for farming usages. The corralled hives get moved all over agricultural tarnation. Every bee is forced to work its Apis off. This weakens their immune systems.

But enough science. Onward to the bee bots and gooey horsehair stuff.

In something straight out of “Mythbusters,” a band of young researchers is flying to the aid of beleaguered bees. The work of these melittologists (bee studiers) could also save the farm – aiding crops dependent on the cross-pollination performed by the hardworking insects.

Per sciencemag.org, it all began when the researchers ran out and mail-ordered a slew of four-propped, hummingbird-size drones. They then ingeniously jerry-rigged the drone’s underside with horsehair bristles from a paintbrush. Next, the hairs were covered with high-tech sticky stuff, called ionic liquid gel (ILG). ILG has a long-lasting “lift-and-stick-again” adhesive quality, making it ideal for repeatedly – and gently – coaxing pollen off blossoms.

Once haired and gooed, the drones became robotic bees … bee bots.

The bee bots were soon being remotely guided above the pollen-rich stamens of flowers. The sciencey gang perfected a pollen-nabbing, touch-and-go maneuver upon blossoms. For the coup de grâce, the pollen-laden bee bots were directed to repeat the touch-down process, delivering pollen to the desirous pistils of other same-species flowers. Their efforts bore fruit.

Are bee bots ready to soar, as replacements for erstwhile bees? Better hold the bee bot hive for a minute. If only a few dozen, say, blueberry bushes needed cross-pollinating, the remotely controlled bots, individually guided by human hands, could save the pollinator-less day. However, New Jersey alone has many tens of thousands of fruiting plants, requiring cross-pollination. Hand-based bee-bot pollination would require human navigators in unnatural numbers – to fill just one grocery with fruit.

This hands-on problem has gotten the creative juices flowing among melittologists and agriculturists. There is already shop talk of bee bots designed to discern flower colors, while also telling one plant species from another. In fact, those computerized capacities already exist. It now comes to miniaturizing the technology to meet honeybee-size specs.

With computer advances now happening at the speed of light, might farmers soon begin their day by releasing tens of thousands of pre-programmed, remotely activated bee bots? Go ahead and smirk. I bet the farm that robo-pollinators will become the indispensable norm if bees and other natural pollinators keep dying off.

Finally, cycling back to chitchatting with plants, I must sympathetically wonder what the plants themselves might think of what’s coming down on them with the rise of bee bots. It won’t help fruit prices to save a bundle using mechanical pollinators only to spend the savings on plant psychologists trying to stave off every emerging plant’s insecurity over its lot in life. What? Hey, somebody has to look out for the plants!

jaymann@thesandpaper.net

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