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Darwin theory on comet orchid is right on

By TIMES WIRES
Published January 18, 2007


Orchidheads, take note: Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota has a blooming comet orchid on display, a flower discovered in Madagascar that captivated Charles Darwin. Selby's orchid should be in bloom for another week to 10 days. The white waxy flowers draw pollinating insects with a seductive scent. But few insects could reach the nectar hidden 30 centimeters down a narrow tube. Darwin predicted that a moth with a tongue long enough to reach that far would one day be discovered, and if it were ever to become extinct, the comet orchid would soon vanish. Forty years later, a subspecies of the Morgan's sphinx moth was discovered that fit Darwin's prediction. The moth is still around, and so is the comet orchid.

UCF trims trans fat off campus menu

Take that, Freshman 15! The University of Central Florida is following the University of Florida's lead and banning trans fat from its main campus dining hall, which could help curtail the number of freshmen who pack on an extra 10 to 15 pounds. The ban also hits UCF's catering services and the hospitality management school food court. Trans fat-free, nonhydrogenated corn and sunflower oil will be used. And students won't be the only ones to benefit. President John Hitt, whose healthy eating helped him drop more than 100 pounds in recent years, nonetheless had a severe heart attack in June. Now he can have some fries without worrying so much (unless he's watching his carbs).

Tampa sergeant earns state honor

Sgt. James Contento of the Tampa Police Department received the Florida Officer of the Year Award Wednesday from state Attorney General Bill McCollum. Over the past three years Contento designed and led several operations that contributed to a 42 percent reduction in felony thefts throughout the South Tampa, West Tampa and West Shore area, he said. The 4-foot, 60-pound award depicts a life-sized bronze eagle perched on a rock. "This is the highlight of my career," he said. "Emotionally, I was almost in tears." Contento, who has served for 27 years on the force, plans to retire later this year.