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January 29, 2010

Squirrels of White

C. Claiborne Ray's December 29, 2009 "Q&A" feature in the New York Times Science section was where I learned that "significant sightings of white or albino squirrels have been reported in many areas of North America. A mapping project lists them in Charlotte and Brevard, North Carolina; Kenton, Tennessee; Marionville, Missouri; the Northern Keys of Florida; Olney, Illinois; and Exeter, Ontario [featured in the video up top]."

Here's her piece.


Squirrels of White

Q. There are an incredible number of white squirrels living here in Pensacola, Fla., on the Gulf Coast. Are they albinos? How would it be genetically possible to have so many in one community?

A. Significant sightings of white or albino squirrels have been reported in many areas of North America. A mapping project lists them in Charlotte, N.C.; Kenton, Tenn.; Marionville, Mo.; the Northern Keys of Florida; Olney, Ill.; Exeter, Ontario; and Brevard, N.C., where the White Squirrel Research Institute has been established to study and publicize the local population of white examples of the Eastern gray squirrel, or Sciurus carolinensi.

Only a few white squirrels are albinos, recognizable by pink or blue eyes and the absence of pigmentation anywhere on the body. The gene for such an absence of the pigment, melanin, is recessive, so each parent must carry it to produce an albino squirrel. Albino squirrels have vision problems and are at a disadvantage in the wild.

Most so-called white squirrels in North America are genetic color variants of the gray species, not unlike the fairly common black squirrel. They breed normally and may have gray siblings. It is thought that the genes that normally produce a white underbelly in the gray squirrel are active in a wider area of their bodies, often leaving discernible gray patches on the spine and head. It is also theorized that the white coloration may even provide some kind of survival advantage in the colonies where they do thrive.

Widely separated white squirrel colonies are often traced to well-documented pet white squirrels that escaped into the wild.



No problema: try Roadside America's White Squirrel Wars.

January 29, 2010 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cashmere Leg Warmers


Created by Jessica Harrigfeld.

[via StyleList and vi.sualize.us]

January 29, 2010 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Traveling when you have no fingerprints



FunFact: "About one in 50 people lack fingerprints."

Rita Rubin's May 27, 2009 USA Today story exploring this unusual condition follows.


Checking fingerprints when a person has none

Before they can enter the USA, virtually all non-U.S. citizens 14 to 79 have their fingerprints screened at the airport or seaport to confirm their identity and make sure they're not a security threat.

But what if you don't have fingerprints?

That was the dilemma faced by a Singapore cancer patient whose chemotherapy drug caused severe peeling of the skin on his hands and feet, which erased his fingerprints. His oncologist describes the case in a letter published online today [it appears up top as well] by the Annals of Oncology.

The 62-year-old man was taking capecitabine, sold in the USA as Xeloda, for head and neck cancer that had spread to his bones, chest and abdomen (in the USA, Xeloda is approved for the treatment of breast and colorectal cancer that has spread). He developed hand-foot syndrome [also known as palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia, or PPE], a drug side effect that causes the skin on the hands and feet to peel.

After taking capecitabine for more than three years, the man, who wasn't identified by doctors, flew to the USA to visit relatives. He was detained at the U.S. airport by Customs and Border Protection officers for four hours because they couldn't detect his fingerprints, his doctors, from the National Cancer Centre Singapore, write.

Finally, the officers were satisfied that he wasn't a security threat and allowed him to enter the country. They told him to travel with a letter from his oncologist explaining his lack of fingerprints.

Two years ago, Spanish cancer doctors reported a similar story about a 39-year-old flight attendant detained for several hours at a U.S. airport until her doctor faxed an explanation that the capecitabine she'd been taking for breast cancer had erased her fingerprints.

Many other drugs can cause hand-foot syndrome, but there is little information about whether they lead to fingerprint loss, Su-Pin Choo, one of the co-authors of the new letter, said in an e-mail.

"Hand-foot syndrome is more common with capecitabine than with most other drugs," Choo wrote. Fingerprint loss probably is also related to how long a patient takes a drug that causes hand-foot syndrome, he said, and he added that patients receiving a continuous infusion of 5FU, a common cancer drug, also should consider carrying a letter attesting to that if they travel to the USA.

In the world, an estimated one in 50 people lack matchable fingerprints. "We have standard operating procedures that take that into account," says the Department of Homeland Security's Anna Hinken. She says Customs and Border Protection officers decide whether to admit such people on the basis of other physical and behavioral traits.


Katherine Harmon's "Ask The Experts" feature in the February 2010 issue of Scientific American also addressed the topic.

Other causes of lack of fingerprints include:

• Work as a bricklayer

• Work with dry-cleaning solution

Naegeli-Franceschetti-Jadassohn syndrome

• Dermatopathia pigmentosa reticularis

• Elective surgical removal

January 29, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Easter Island Ice Cubes


May the Maoi be with you.



January 29, 2010 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A question for bookofjoe readers — or anyone else who happens by


Because I'm sure there are those who just visit to look at the pictures.


My crack Indianapolis correspondent Clifyt emailed me last weekend to the effect that I should have my live Twitter feed appear on bookofjoe's homepage for people who might want to read the tweets but don't have the energy to go there.

Good idea?

Bad idea?

Other ideas?




January 29, 2010 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Birds of Prey


By metalsmith


Rebekah Frank.



[via mappeal]

January 29, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Incredible Tape Measure Tricks


Finally, a post that measures up.


[via bighousegod]

January 29, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Piranha Pizza Cutter


"Stainless steel cutting blade, high density plastic handle with soft textured grip, 8" long."


January 29, 2010 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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