Relics Among Us

For the purpose of the gorgeous and astounding book, Relics: Travels in Nature's Time Machine by Piotr Maskrecki, the author defines a relic in this way: 

Relic: a creature or habitat that, while acted upon by evolution, remains remarkably similar to its earliest manifestations in the fossil record.

Do we have relics here in the U.S. of A.? Bunches. Among them, the Atlantic horseshoe crab.  It lives on the eastern North American Coast and has been doing a mass spawning every Spring, like clockwork, for 440 million years.

Relics not found in the U.S. : Emerald and black mottled treerunnner: Its cache of eggs is normally stashed in elevated piles of leaves in the geographical area of Africa called the Guiana Shield. If the nest is disturbed by a predator near the end of the eggs' development, all the eggs will hatch at once, within seconds of each other, the infant lizards scattering in all directions.

The Atewa dinospider from West Africa is from an ancient group of arachnids that go back all the way to the Carboniferous period. When was that? Three-hundred million years ago. What's a dinospider look like? Think brown pipe cleaners--those fuzzy things you used in third grade art class.

And New Guinea....my goodness. You're amazing. A giant, newly discovered and as yet unnamed gliding frog (think flying squirrel) and an equally astonishing and also as yet unnamed tiny frog of the species Choerophryne, smaller than a human fingernail.

I'd go further into the spider arena but I know it's gonna freak out some of you. But I can't leave without mentioning the Goliath tarantula that weighs in over 150 grams--about a third of a pound--that the author of this book thought at first was a small mammal when he saw it scurrying across the forest floor. I'm not an arachnophobe but the picture of this bad boy was all it took for me to close the book.