Remember Moon, Mann, and Otto? No!? I Cannot. Believe. It. Modern Biology? 1956 edition? Advanced Bio with Mr. Bertram? Unfortunately, its star is a bit dimmed for me thanks to the TEXTBOOKHISTORY site where I was reminded that All Mention of Evolution were scrubbed from this text. I’d learned this from my teacher, Mr. Bertram, who used the 1956 edition because he had to, but he had a 1921 edition of Mr. Moon’s earlier biology text on his desk to make a rev0lutionary point: Darwin was on the frontispiece and Mr. Moon started the book with the statement that the whole of biology is “based on the fundamental idea of evolution” and that “both man and ape are descended from a common ancestor.” Holding both books up, Mr. B. asked us, So what’s changed? He asked the question with that sly grin and lit-eye look he used to grab Everyone’s Attention Immediately. We thumbed through our textbook. Clueless as to what he was talking about. After a while, he asks, What’s changed is this: By 1956 Mr. Moon had to erase most mention of evolution from his book. More profits for the publisher.
Even at 16 I had wondered at all the mention of God in my biology text. But despite the grave omission and probably because of Mr. B’s riveting teaching, I survived to be a nature lover.
(All sorts of memories here; please let me know if you had this book too and tell me your memories; I can see it now right there on the NYT Best Seller List: Moon, Mann, and Otto Reunion.)
Today I want to connect MM&O to the White Throated Sparrow.
The White-Throated Sparrow is a hopping, flying anatomy lesson says the allaboutbirds folks. It’s because his face markings are so clearly delineated that you can match each color with the name of that part of the face.
In birding books we have these Learning Pages? Parts of a Bird learning pages usually take up a nice space with a pencil drawing of a bird with straight lines going from the name of the part to the actual part. Knowing the name of a body part helps you focus your attention on a specific part of a bird and notice what might be the distinguishing characteristic. (So, does it have an incomplete eye ring or what’s the color of the undertail covert?) But, it’s hard to learn from those charts; they pack a lot in.
Enter Mr. White-Throated Sparrow. He’s a textbook example of body parts.
For instance, his head. It has such a striking pattern it’s as clear as those Moon, Mann, and Otto charts. (Remember them? Those overlays? Very High Tech for 1963 we thought. Cutaway views of first the frog and then–yes!!-the human torso, albeit minus the reproductive organs, as we high school kids observed. Really, was that necessary, Mr. Otto? First you take Charles Darwin off your cover and then you remove body parts?)
Back to W-T-Sparrow: black eyestripe, white crown and supercillium, yellow lores, white throat bordered by black malar stripe (we’d call it a black whisker). Perfectly defined. Just like MM&O.
The Fox Sparrows who touched down last week to take a few days off from their migratory trek have left to continue North, but the White-Throated Sparrows who’ve been here all winter are sticking around. Both are stay-near-the-ground-scratch-through-leaves-in-search-of-food types. During the winter they loved my deliberately-placed-and-happy-to-be-of-service-brush piles. I notice they’re eating some of the new buds off the bushes now too. They usually go further north to breed, but who knows, maybe they’ll like it so much here, they’ll stay. I love waking up to their sweet whistled song. I bet you’ve heard it too. It’s one of the most recognizable bird songs: Oh Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody, or, if you’re Canadian, Oh-sweet-canada-canada-canada.