Some Thoughts on Classification and Uniqueness

Have you ever noticed how natural it is for us to classify things? In biology we have Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. Consider how this might be applied to the Machine Kingdom. We might have for Phylum - transportation, for Class - automobile, for order - family size, for Family - auto maker, for Genus - line of car produced, for Species - model name. We might even list the cars by Sub-species using the various options packages. At each level we tend to think in generalities but there comes a point where uniqueness must be admitted even between two cars that are identical down to sub-species. Even if we could say that all else (parking lot dents, engine noise, tire wear, etc.) were the same (and we can't), the cars would still occupy two different spaces. To be identical requires that they be in the same space at all times and this obviously would lead to undesirable consequences. Each car is therefore unique - there is only one, there can only be one, and there will never be another one exactly like it - not ever. (It is significant that only human beings actually try to make things identical.)

So what does this have to do with natural history, bugs or NIC or anything else for that matter? A lot. We do not tend to think at the unique level. It is only our experience that takes a wetland, a desert, a species, a look, a moment of time or anything else and makes it special to us - that is, separates it from all the rest and allows us to recognize and appreciate it for what it is - truly unique.

With that in mind I would like to share some of my experiences in a small part of the area around NIC. It had its own character and its own wildlife. It was one of the most productive areas on the Bug Walks last year. The group could easily spend 20-30 minutes there without any problem finding interesting bugs in the vegetation. It had a large population of harlequin bugs - in fact, it was the only stop on the walk where I was sure to find them. Often we could find immature ones and occasionally mating pairs. On most occasions we could find a couple of species of ladybug sometimes their larvae as well. As the season progressed we found pupal cases and one morning prior to a walk I was fortunate enough to watch a mature unspotted (California?) ladybug emerge from its pupal case and begin its new life. On one walk we found a bola spider and on another a four-spurred assassin bug - both of these are the first and only ones I have ever seen. There was a species of aphid there that I only found in that area. On one walk the local "tree" swarmed with green fruit beetles; at another time it contained the largest green lynx spider I have yet to see. There were lots of insects even after most of the vegetation had died and turned brown. The children found them easy to capture, sometimes in their hands, sometimes in the small bug boxes provided, and proudly showed them off to their parents and the other participants. After everyone had had a good look, the insects were released back into the vegetation. All this occurred in a small piece of urban wasteland maybe 10 feet by 10 feet. It was a special place.

You all know this area - you pass it every time you come to NIC. There is a bicycle rack there now and the new NIC parking lot. It is still unique but in a much different way. It will serve as a reminder to me. Our whole existence is unique - from the atoms that constitute us to the experiences we undergo - although the terms we often use to describe it would deny this fact. As Walter Cronkite used to say, "It was a day like any other day except you were there!"

[ Table of Articles ]    [ Next ]    [ Previous ]   

Ron Lyons (volunteer 1990-1999)
Chula Vista Nature Center, 1000 Gunpowder Point Drive, Chula Vista, CA 91910-1201