Deadly pres­ence of hu­mans forc­ing many an­i­mals to a noc­tur­nal sched­ule

The Woolwich Observer - - LIVING HERE -

Q. Sixty years ago, this iconic toy was im­ported from Aus­tralia to the United States by one Joan An­der­son, whose dis­tinc­tive move­ments in­spired the name. Can you name it? A. It’s the hula hoop, of course, trans­formed by the Wham-O toy com­pany from a cane hoop to a ring made of light­weight and in­ex­pen­sive plas­tic and trade­marked un­der “a name that evoked the still-ex­otic Ter­ri­tory of Hawaii and its kinda sexy but still fam­ily-friendly hula dance,” says Alec Scott in “Smith­so­nian” mag­a­zine. Af­ter an in­tense six-month mar­ket­ing cam­paign, the com­pany went on to sell more that 20 mil­lion hula hoops — at $1.98 per hoop.

Though sales never again matched these num­bers, the toy re-emerged in the age of so­cial me­dia thanks in large part to Marawa Ma­jorettes, a troupe of hy­per hoop­ers that cap­ti­vated their In­sta­gram fol­low­ers: Imag­ine the “pizza toss,” where a per­former ro­tates a hoop around her thighs, then bal­ances on one leg as she moves the cir­cle up her torso and into the air. Also, the troupe has per­formed at the Olympics and set hoop­ing world records.

Other world records set in 2017: most hula hoops caught and spun in one minute — 245 (China); fastest time to climb 60 stairs while hoop­ing — 23.39 sec­onds (USA); and size of the largest hula hoop spun — 16 feet, 10 inches.

Marawa Ibrahim holds the record for the most hula hoops spun si­mul­ta­ne­ously — 200! Q. Let’s give a shout-out for the ver­sa­til­ity and rich­ness of the English lan­guage. From the cat­e­gory “I Didn’t Know There Was a Word for That,” are you fa­mil­iar with “arachno­pho­bia,” “orex­i­genic,” “palil­ogy,” “plun­der­bund” and “quin­cen­te­nary”? A. If you wanted a sin­gle word for “fear of spi­ders,” you’d no doubt choose “arachno­pho­bia,” know­ing that a pho­bia is a fear; the Greek “arakhne” for “spi­der” fills in the rest, says Anu Garg on his A.Word.A.Day web­site. “Orexis” (long­ing) + “genic” (pro­duc­ing) com­bine to give us “orex­i­genic,” or “stim­u­lat­ing the ap­petite.” And “palil­ogy,” from “palin” for “again,” and “logy” for “words,” is “a rep­e­ti­tion of words, espe­cially for em­pha­sis,” as in, “Oh, the agony, the agony of it all!”

Now “plun­der­bund” it­self might sug­gest the mean­ing-“a group of po­lit­i­cal, busi­ness and fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests en­gaged in ex­ploit­ing the pub­lic,” from the Ger­man “plun­dern” (to loot) and “bund” (as­so­ci­a­tion). Fi­nally, the sin­gle word “quin­cen­te­nary” means “a 500th an­niver­sary,” com­bin­ing the English “cen­te­nary,” (100 years) with the Latin “quinque” (five). So now you do know. Q. With the demise of the di­nosaurs, mam­mals left the cover of dark­ness and be­came ac­tive dur­ing the day­time, know­ing that their fiercest foes were no longer a threat. Why are many mam­mals to­day re­vert­ing to the noc­tur­nal habits of their an­ces­tors? A. Hu­mans are now “the ubiq­ui­tous ter­ri­fy­ing force on the planet and we’re forc­ing all the other mam­mals back into the night,” says Kait­lyn Gaynor of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, as re­ported by Michael Le Page in “New Sci­en­tist” mag­a­zine. When Gaynor and her col­leagues re­viewed 76 stud­ies of 62 mam­mals all over the world, they found “al­most all are shift­ing to the night to avoid us.” For in­stance, in ar­eas with few peo­ple, the sun bear from South­east Asia is ac­tive at night only 19% of the time, whereas the num­ber climbs to 90% around a re­search camp in Su­ma­tra, In­done­sia. And “on av­er­age, an­i­mals with a 50/50 split be­tween night and day ac­tiv­ity in undis­turbed ar­eas have a 70/30 split in dis­turbed ar­eas” (“Science”).

The con­se­quences of this shift are still not clear: An­i­mals forced into noc­tur­nal ac­tiv­ity might strug­gle more, but, on the other hand, it may ac­tu­ally be good for them. Says Gaynor, “It’s a way to share space on an in­creas­ingly crowded planet. ... We take the day and they take the night.”

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