Andrew Sugden

Andrew Sugden is an editor at Science magazine.

Hairy, Spiny or Naked: Leaves

Andrew Sugden, 7 February 2013

The botany student’s textbook leaf, in anatomical cross-section, is a sandwich with two thick fillings packaged between thin outer envelopes. The outer layers – upper and lower epidermis – are each usually a single layer of cells, coated with a waxy hydrophobic cuticle. The fillings – the mesophyll – have an upper rank of vertically-oriented palisade cells,...

A new wave of forest clearance is now spreading across eastern Amazonia, driven partly by the European preference for non-GM soya. Siberian forests, meanwhile, are being released from Russian state control into private ownership, raising the prospect of unregulated clear-felling for timber. Forests in the American west, Australia and Mediterranean Europe have burned extensively in summer...

Turf Wars: grass

Andrew Sugden, 14 November 2002

The Prince of Wales would love The Forgiveness of Nature. The underlying vision is of England on a Saturday afternoon in late summer, the village green bathed in golden light, the groundsman leaning on his roller and puffing on his pipe, milkmaids and strapping young farmers snogging in the grass, Hereford cattle grazing calmly in nearby fields, confident that their softly marbled beef is...

‘We shot a new pigeon’

Andrew Sugden, 23 August 2001

In October 2000, the last wild Spix’s macaw, a solitary male, disappeared from its patch of forest in Brazil. The species is not, technically, extinct: a few dozen individual birds survive in zoos and in the aviaries of private collectors, but it is now in the realm of the undead, where it will remain until either the last individual dies or – less likely – the species is...

Doughnuts with the Prince

Andrew Sugden, 20 July 2000

In 1984, a small patch, no more than a metre square, of the tropical alga Caulerpa taxifolia was discovered in the Mediterranean – where it had never been seen before – growing on the sea-bed immediately below the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, then under Jacques Cousteau’s directorship. Five years later, the area of the patch had extended to a hectare. In July 1990, another colony of the same alga appeared at Cap Martin in France, 5 kilometres to the east, and in September of the same year it was found near Toulon, 150 kilometres to the west. In 1992, patches were discovered in the Balearics. By the following year, Caulerpa had spread to Italy, as far as the whirlpool of Scylla and Charybdis, and in 1994 it turned up in the coastal waters of Croatia. By the end of 1996, the alga had invaded and occupied 70 sites on the northern Mediterranean coast, spreading over a total area of more than thirty square kilometres and to a depth of more than a hundred metres.

The lengths to which people have gone to eradicate snakes are remarkable. A century ago, for example, a prolonged campaign was mounted against timber rattlesnakes in the north-eastern United States. Since this species tends to aggregate in large numbers in winter dens, eliminating them seemed quite feasible: the dens were variously dynamited and cemented over and timber rattlers have now disappeared from most of New England. Yet feelings run so high that in 1979 an employee of the US Office for Endangered Species was fired by the Secretary for the Interior for protesting against the presence of timber rattler meat on the menu of a Washington restaurant. Snake populations are almost everywhere in decline – which is why Harry Greene has set out to improve their image and enhance their appeal.


Jesus Bug

24 May 2007

W.G. Runciman’s backbench source for the image of Blair as a water spider is a couple of consonants and a whole zoological phylum adrift (LRB, 24 May). Water spiders don’t run about on the surface: they live underwater, where they spin a bell-shaped web among submerged vegetation. They stock it with bubbles of air carefully collected from the surface, enabling them to bide their time in...

Out of Africa

3 April 1997

Edward Luttwak’s cool handling of a potentially nasty encounter with the Bolivian drug mafia (LRB, 3 April) is impressive. But he doesn’t have to be quite so nonchalant about his brush with a green mamba, especially since the object of his trip was to see animals; very probably, his was the first sighting of this reptile outside its native Africa. Surely something to get a little excited...

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