Saturday, June 25, 2005

Beauty and the beast

Nature is full of strange transformations. While the caterpillar to the butterfly is best known, another beauty and the beast scenario is perhaps more beneficial to humans.

Lurking in the bottom slime of ponds and slow brooks are creatures even Stephen King might find hard to imagine. These long, dark, six-legged creepers have huge retractable lower lips – sometimes a third the length of their bodies – designed to snare victims and feed them into their razor-sharp mandibles. Why, these monsters even breathe through gills protruding from their rectums.

Yet, they are just children. As adults, they are so elegant they’ve inspired the design of countless pieces of jewelry and even Tiffany lampshades.

Fortunately, perhaps, the nymph of the dragonfly stays out of sight in the muck while its handsome transfiguration flies about for us to enjoy. But in either form, dragonflies gobble up large numbers of mosquitoes, larval or winged, helping keep them under control.

Thus, beauty or beast, either is a friend.

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