National Geographic : 1989 Mar
NA G PH MAG AG P *A CA Memorable Reunion for Bomber's Crew SThen veterans of World War II's 43rd Bomb Group gathered for Sa reunion in Dayton, Ohio, last October, nine of them reminisced about the B-17F in which they flew. All served at one time or another on Black Jack (right), shown here in a wartime photograph. Black Jack went down in a violent storm off a New Guinea beach after a bombing run in July 1943. The entire crew survived. That was the last time anyone saw Black Jack until David Doubilet's photograph of it appeared in the April 1988 GEOGRAPHIC. Col. Harry A. Staley of Batavia, New York, who had piloted the plane on earlier missions, said one former crewman told him that when he opened the magazine, "I saw my airplane, my little baby of 45 years ago." "Black Jack was like a person that saved our lives, not just an airplane," Staley said. Museum Highlights Earliest Vertebrate, South American Cultures 470 Million Years Old he many peoples of South Ameri ca, past and present, are featured in a new permanent exhibition hall in New York's American Museum of Natural History. The Hall of South American Peoples will contain some 2,300 objects depicting the lives and cultures of native South Americans. Among them are a cotton cloth mantle from Peru's Paracas culture, which thrived from 1000 to 100 B.C ., a mold made gold figurine from Colombia's Muisca people (A.D . 600 to 1532), and a back ornament made from bird bones by Ecuador's Jivaro Indians. Most of the items on display were collected during museum expeditions to South America in the late 19th cen tury and in the decade between 1929 and 1939. cientists have found the fossilized remains of the oldest and most complete vertebrate yet known: a jawless fish that swam near the shores of a sea some 470 million years ago. Gabriela Rodrigo de Walker of Bo livia's National Museum of Natural History first found mysterious fossils on the site at Sacabamba in the Rio Challaqui in 1985. Based on her discov ery, a French team led by Pierre-Yves Gagnier went to the area the next year and found several more specimens. When they returned in 1987, with the support of the National Geographic Society, they collected the best pre served and most complete specimens of early vertebrates, animals with backbones, ever found. Scientists now have almost 30 complete skeletons of DRAWINGBYPASCALLE ROCH COURTESYH. A. STALEY the ancient fish, which averages more than a foot long. Gagnier, who describes the discov ery in the spring issue of National Geo graphic Research, says scientists had already found bone-like fragments dat ing from between 470 and 500 million years ago, but none were definitely identified as coming from vertebrates. Tons of Toads Threaten Australia's Animal Life The best laid plans of toads and men... In June 1935 Australia's sugar industry imported 101 cane toads from Hawaii in the hope that they would kill cane beetles threatening the sugar crop. The toad, described by one writer as "ugly even by toad stan dards," did not have much success, or even interest, in eating cane beetles. But it made itself at home. It now exists over half of Queensland and is spread ing into New South Wales and the Northern Territory. A single female has been known to lay as many as 54,000 eggs in a clutch, and females may lay eggs twice a year. Australia's toad population has reached the mil lions-and is growing. And the cane toad, which can grow to a length of more than eight inches, is dangerous. It eats baby snakes and frogs, and when other animals try to eat it, it secretes a poison that can kill an animal as large as a dog in 15 minutes. Even humans can die from ingesting the poison. Biologists have suggested introduc ing a parasite or disease to control the pests. But isn't that where we, and the cane toad, came in?