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Metamorphosis Explained, At Last!

Swampwalker's Journal --

Monday, Bob Bickworth called Elwood at the Extension Office. Bob, who planned to move to the country and become a fiction writer, had recently purchased a large track of land. Earlier Bob had called the Extension Office for advice on managing his woodlot. In response to the call, Elwood had driven out to visit Bob and see his property.

Bob's call Monday concerned wetlands, not woodlands. Bob told Elwood that he had recently walked down to the swampy area on the lower edge of the property where he had seen some unusual vegetation and heard some strange sounds. Bob asked Elwood is he could recommend a book that would help him understand the ecology of the wet swampy land. Elwood explained that, because of the moisture and decayed vegetation, wetlands were home for Amphibians such as frogs that can make a variety of different sounds, for water loving plants such as cattails and sedges. Elwood told Bob he would check with some people at the office and get back to him about a reference.

When Elwood finished his conversation with Bob, he went down the hall to visit Kathy at the library. When Kathy learned that Elwood was looking for a book about the animal and vegetable life in a swamp, she said -

Bob's timing is perfect. David M. Carroll, who wrote The Year of the Turtle and Trout Reflections, has a new book, Swampwalker's Journall. I just finished the book. It is excellent. If your friend is a writer, I know he will like it. The writing is eloquent. Just listen to how the author describes the flight of mayflies - "The mayflies rise, then, wings still for a moment, they fall. Again a sudden ascent, followed by another drop, all in midair. Gossamer-winged, doubled-tailed, they look like tiny cellophane kites with no means of controlling their flight, yet they hold precisely spaced places in the brisk and capricious breeze."

With a copy of Swampwalker's Journal in hand, Elwood returned to his office. He soon found the author's description of the flora and fauna of the swamp fascinating. When he can to the discussion of metamorphosis, Elwood realized David Carroll was able to say in a few lines what his biology teachers had struggled for a year to say -

Frogs and toads pass through great changes as they absorb their gills and undergo shifts in circulation, a reshaping of their mouths, changes in teeth, and, finally, absorption of their tails. There is a concomitant make-over of their digestive systems, as the long, tightly coiled intestines of swollen-bodied herbivorous tadpoles become the shorter food canal of carnivorous frogs and toads. . nothing in the life histories of reptiles, birds, or mammals equates with complexity to this amphibian transformation. . . compelled to start over again as different animals in a different world. They acquire an entirely new form for a second life within a single lifetime.

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