A Singular Critter

“The case of the three species of protozoan (I forget the names) which apparently select differently sized grains of sand, etc., is almost the most wonderful fact I ever heard of. One cannot believe that they have mental power enough to do so, and how any structure or kind of viscidity can lead to this result passes all understanding.”

— Charles Darwin, letter to W.B. Carpenter, 1872

A life form found in many eras
Back as far as they can tell
Is called the foraminifera,
Ubiquitous and single-cell.

The thing that makes so many care a
Lot about this bagatelle —
This tiny foraminifera —
Is that it forms a tiny shell.

This makes it be the mini-bearer
Of Life’s long age, capital L,
This runty foraminifera,
The oldest creature in fossil.

And still it lives within e. terra
Oceanus, swamp or well.
Greetings, foraminifera,
We praise the tree from which you fell.

We saw delight, va bene era,
In classes summoned by the bell:
The School on Foraminifera
Is under Urbino’s campanell’.

This 600-million-yearer
Has a product it can sell.
“Look here!” the foraminifera
Tells BP, Exxon-Mobil, Shell.

But science with its skinny mirror
Has other, purer clientele.
Our Brother Foraminifera
Speaks of life twixt heaven and hell.

School on Foraminifera

About Doug Cumming

Writer, W&L journalism professor emeritus
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