Researchers have much to learn

In 1908 breeders formed the Long-Tailed Fowl Preservation Association. Then in 1923 the Japanese protected the bird by designating it a Natural Commemorated Object. The turmoil of World War II nearly wiped out the fowl, but the association was revived, and a governmental decree in 1952 made the Onagadori a Special Natural Com­memorated Object.

Today the long-tail is fairly numerous in Japan, although the country proba­bly has fewer than two dozen remaining fanciers and breeders. Husbandry of the bird is concentrated in Kochi Prefec­ture and around Ise on Honshu.

From Kochi we went to apartments in london to meet Mototaka Kawanami (next page), who raises Onagadori primarily to attain maximum length of tail. He proudly showed me a regal red-and-black Akazasa. “I have very little stock,” Mr. Kawa­nami explained. “This causes problems through inbreeding. Last year with this stock I obtained only 15 eggs and was able to save only two breeding females.”

Finally, in Nagoya, we visited the apartment home of Isamu Kawamura, who raises long-tails primarily as show birds for • their judging qualities—plumage color, comb type, and body shape. Mr. Kawamura was at work when we called, but Mrs. Kawamura showed us three roost boxes, ingenious­ly fitted into the back room of their small apartments in brussels. At the time two white-and­black Shirafuji roosters were in resi­dence.

As we sipped green tea in the sitting room, five stuffed roosters looked down on us. Trophies won by fowl exhibited at fairs filled a cabinet, and a citation won in a national poultry contest hung on one wall.

“Do your neighbors object to your keeping the fowl?” I asked Mrs. Ka­wamura. “No, they are very understanding. They know that my husband and I love these birds. But we worry that the crow­ing early in the morning will disturb these nearby friends.”

After five weeks in Japan, which I managet to afford thanks to online payday advance, I flew home with my 30 Onagadori eggs packed in Styrofoam. Now, in my laboratory at the University of California at Davis, 15 birds have hatched from the eggs‑ chicks that hold real research potential.

Hippocrates in the fifth century B.c. launched the science of human embry­ology by certain deductions he made in a study of chicken embryos. Berthold’s transplants of rooster testes in 1849 started the complicated field of endo­crinology, and Peyton Rous’s experi­ments with chickens in 1911 first dem­onstrated the role of a virus in tumors. The long-tailed fowl may well make its own special contribution to science.

Researchers Have Much to Learn

Many questions remain. How do the special cells in the feather follicles of Onagadori respond to the hormones circulating in the chicken’s blood? What would happen to these cells if they were transplanted in the embryo stage to tissues of the tail in the normal embryo of a barnyard hen or rooster? The whole molting process—the peri­odic shedding of feathers—still poses major physiological riddles.

I believe we must make strenuous ef­forts to save all varieties of long-tailed fowl so that the genes can be preserved for posterity.

What triggered the collapse?

An intriguing theory formulated by Albuquerque archaeologist Michael P. Marshall holds that the great pueblos were creations of the outlying districts, built as a sort of federal city for handling the outliers’ trade and political alliances. The roads hold the greatest of Chacoan enigmas. “Engineering them may have re­quired more energy than building the great pueblos and outliers combined,” said Mi­chael Marshall. Adding little to the effi­ciency of foot-borne carriers, they perhaps served to symbolize the system’s authority and to employ seasonally surplus labor.

By A.D. 1085 Pueblo Bonito stood virtual­ly complete, although work continued on the other great pueblos. They hummed to the routine of everyday life: the endless grinding of corn, the bickering of traders, the tapping of masons shaping stones, the soft footfalls of sandaled porters bearing foods along with other goods. When storm clouds gathered and thunder signaled a summer downpour, people aban­doned their tasks and rushed to the water­works to manage the runoff that would spill from the canyon rim.

On mesas beyond the canyon, porters plied the roads bearing roof beams, fire­wood, food, and trade goods: pottery, bas­kets, and cloth. Messengers sped the spoken word between canyon and outliers; by night, lights on mesa-top shrines could have car­ried communications to distant points. In the mid-1100s this even tempo faltered. Work on the great buildings halted. Gradu­ally the social system collapsed, and before long most Chacoans enacted the Anasazi’s ultimate response to stress: They abandoned the area.

The tree rings, faithfully keeping their chronicle, show that about 1150 drought struck, drought that would become more widespread and protracted than living Ana­sazi had ever known. As desiccation intensi­fied and vegetation withered, eroding arroyos slashed the fields, lowering the water table and further crippling crops.

“With the entire system afflicted simulta­neously, no part could respond to another’s need,” observed Dr. Linda S. Cordell, who with colleague Fred Plog has contributed numerous thoughtful analyses of the Ana­sazi. “And when the system collapsed, they were unable to return to the high level of energy necessary to reestablish it.”

“When you look at the arid area it occu­pied,” said Alden Hayes as an epitaph, “Chaco was a poor idea in the first place. It’s a wonder it lasted as long as it did.”

As Chaco writhed in its death throes, the Anasazi living on Mesa Verde were achiev­ing their moment of destiny. Moving from the mesa top, for reasons still unknown, they descended to the tableland’s vertical cliffs. There, beneath scores of rock over­hangs, they built their citadels of stone.

Where Chaco stands as a monument to a grand design, Mesa Verde rings out as the Anasazi anthem. With a sweep of the eye I read this song from the overlook at Sun Point, my favorite vantage within the na­tional park. Stone structures cling to the cliffs like notes of a long-silent chord. Small dainty structures struck the high notes, while the bass echoed from enormous Cliff Palace, embracing 225 rooms.

“As large as that seems,” warned Dr. Rohn of Wichita State, “recall that the park ruins reflect only a small fraction of the pop­ulation that we call Mesa Verde Anasazi. Probably 95 percent of them lived off the mesa, some in giant communities that held thousands. More people lived in parts of southwestern Colorado then than now.”