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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Sense of Feeling

Katydid nymphs are appealing little creatures that are actively curious about their surroundiings. This very young katydid nymph kept tabs on a nearby beetle, following its every move with its long expressive antennae. The beetle, on the other hand, acted unaware it was being watched by us and crawled over a repetitive pattern over the flower petals.

Or not. The katydid is appealingly cute, bouncy and colorful while the beetle is dark and stodgy, moving in a plodding predictable way and most of all lacks those long, wavy antennae. So it's tempting to characterize the katydid as curious, maybe even smart; and the beetle as mechanical, a bit stupid, acting on instinct alone.

Yes the katydid follows movement with its antennae, moving them around in incredibly graceful ways but not taking any action. If I get too close, it suddenly hops away in a great and seemingly uncontrolled (or is that giddy? carefree?) leap. All the while I watch the beetle, it is roaming over the flower petal, seeking . . . food? When I get close to it, it burrows down into the inaccessible folds of the flower center. Both are guided by instinct, and empowered by their anatomical features to sense and make the most of their environment.

On a walk, a human up-looker will notice a bird in flight and can judge the direction ahead but trip on a tree root. A down-looker will see mushrooms and fiddlenecks and tree roots but miss ripe berries at eye level, or the trail marker sign.

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