Extraterrestrial Citizen Science

Robert Krulwich riffs on (or off) this book in a recent post on Krulwich Wonders titled:

What’s That Clinging To The Towering Wall And Why Doesn’t It Fall Off?

In the spirit of citizen science, of which Krulwich is a master promoter, it makes sense to share this post of his on the same day that we posted about citizen science related to creatures that fly, and creatures that swim. These ones climb, but not on earth as we know it.  While calling them extraterrestrials is not quite accurate, you will get the point:

Maybe you’ve seen this, (it’s gotten around), but I’m still gobsmacked. Totally amazed. We’re in northern Italy looking at the face of the Cingino Dam, and here and there on the vertical stone wall, you’ll see a few dark specks.

27_wide-2b0e1d4708dfea3af8f9481ce967dbd85e3814f2-s40-c85Here they are again, a little closer. They look like protruding rocks, or maybe some kind of metal studs, but lean in, and you’ll see they have what seem to be … legs.

37_wide-5529197d3c449f1be9e76731dc396ddaf0290896-s40-c85That’s because those are legs. These are goats, Alpine ibexes. They’re here because this wall is rich with salt, a mineral they crave, so they’ve come to lick, while balancing matter-of-factly with four feet(!) on a surface so narrow, that I can’t figure out how they manage it. This wall — when we look straight down — is drastically steep.

149_wide-2316d318feb97e14a9f8777f1677ed42defba287-s40-c85She’s perched on almost nothing …


And yet, they casually browse the surface as if they were wandering across a country road. They also can make little leaps upward, and sometimes will swing around, two legs briefly dangling mid-air, which makes me sweaty even to think about, but then I realize — these animals are wired differently from me; they are designed for verticality — like mountain sheep. Watching sheep go bounding up a vertical wall, the writer Ellen Meloy once observed, they get their power from their backsides: “The rump carried all the muscle … with nothing beneath their hooves but air and a foothold barely larger than my lower lip.”

I guess this goat is balancing on a “lower lip’s” worth of footing … but she doesn’t seem in any way nervous …

Read the rest of the post here.

3 thoughts on “Extraterrestrial Citizen Science

  1. Pingback: Extraterrestrial Citizen Science | Nature Conse...

  2. Pingback: Nature Conservation & Science Fiction #EcoSciFi #wildlife #conservation #animals #writing #nature #sciencefiction #biodiversity | A Listly List

  3. Pingback: Extraterrestrial Citizen Sience… | Gabriel Lean Gabriel's Blog

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