Monthly Archives: February 2009

Leafy Sea Dragon

leafy-sea-dragon1

 

The Leafy Sea Dragon (Phycodurus eques) is related to the more well-known seahorse, and like the seahorse, is an example of gender role reversal that has left the human female population in paroxysms of envy and amusement since the species was first discovered: female leafy sea dragons deposit as many as 250 bright-pink eggs to a “brood patch” on the male’s tale via a long tube. The male then incubates the eggs for 8 weeks until they mature and hatch, at which point the newborns are left to fend for themselves.   

 Because they are fragile and subject to numerous natural and man-made threats, sea dragons have become endangered, and are protectedfrom by the Australian government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act of 1999.* Thus far there have been no viable captive breeding programs, a fact that may be chalked up to male performance anxiety.**

 *http://www.deh.gov.au/epbc/index.html
** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viagra

Cf. http://divegallery.com/Leafy_Sea_Dragon.htm
      http://www.deh.gov.au/coasts/species/marine-fish/syngnathidae32.html
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leafy_sea_dragon

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Breaking News: latest addition to list of endangered species

Shall we sing a requiem for a dying breed? Genus Newspaperus Printae , which long sat at the top of the media food chain, has been in a state of gradual decline for the last decade. The situation is now critical, as the genus has been dealt a resounding blow by the pending extinction of several of its prominent species. California and Colorado are, thus far, the habitats  in greatest danger of losing their representative species. Conservationsists wonder, is it too late to save the Newspapers? And if it is, with what shall we line our birdcages? 

 

The Chronicle, first published in 1865, is unlikely to recover.

The Chronicle, first published in 1865, is unlikely to recover.

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Dissertation Elf

There have long been tales of the wise old owls who swoop through the windows of sleeping doctoral students in teh wee hours of the morning to finish their dissertations: new photos suggest that these stories may have basis in fact.
There have long been tales of the wise old owls who swoop through the windows of sleeping doctoral students in the wee hours of the morning to finish their dissertations.

Elf Owls (micathrene whitneyi), the world’s smallest owls, are often spotted perched near lit windows at night; it is generally assumed that they prefer these spots becasue the light draws moths, which then become easy prey. Stories about Elf owls sneaking into open windows to peck wildly at computer keys, leaving finished dissertation chapers behind,  have long been considered urban legend. Graduate students, however, often exibit a child-like belief in these stories, and the owls have become a sort of santa-claus figure for those with writer’s block. A number of graduate students from UC Irvine have reportedly banded together in a  cult worshipping the “Dissertation Elves,” as they have taken to calling the owls. The University declined to respond, stating only that they are aware that the pressures of dissertation work can be overwhelming,* but that they do not discriminate against any religious practice, as dictated by the Nondiscrimination Policy Statement for University of California Publications Regarding Student-Related Matters.

      
* a recent email from the UCI “grad mailer” made these concerns clear, stating that  “January is Graduate and Professional Student Mental Health and Wellness Month! Happy New Year! The Graduate Division wishes you all the best in 2009 and we hope that this year is a positive and rewarding one for you!” Students from UCI reported taking offence at the overuse of exclamation points, and noted that they would continue worshiping Dissertation Elves rather than attending the workshops, as positive results seem more likely to result from Owl-worship.

 

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Rabbits and Hares

Given the size of this creature, one might ask exactly how it would be possible to get a wild hair up one's posterior. Given the state of today's economy, hoever, it is clear that many in the public eye suffer from just such an affliction.

Given the size of this creature, one might ask exactly how it would be possible to get a wild hare up one's posterior. Given the state of today's economy, however, it is clear that many in the public eye suffer from just such an affliction.

Rabbits and hares are among the most semantically complex of all mammals. Although the terms “rabbit” and “hare” are used interchangeably in colloquial speech, they are actually two distinct species, according to zoologists.  Both are shamelessly promiscuous, which explains the colorful colloquialism  “F***ing like bunnies.” The jury is out on whether the correct phrase is “having a wild hare” or “a wild hair”  up one’s a**, though both are sure to be wildly uncomfortable. Irish folklore associates hares with witchcraft, while English traditions focus on the propensity for mental pathologies during the mating season of family leporidae, hence the phrase “mad as a march hare.” 

Recently, however, some linguists have suggested that the phrase “mad as a march hare” did not enter common usage until the inception of a basketball tournament founded by Kansas coach Phog Allen in 1939. If this is true, then the phrase is likely a creative amalgam of  the mating/tournament season, and the fact that like wild hares in rut, basketball fans are  (often literally) “hopping mad” throughout the tournament season. Seriously. If you have never witnessed this phenomenon firsthand, I have the numbers of several basketballs fans who would be happy to demonstrate.

 

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Bird of Paradise (Paradisaeidae)

The male bird of paradise; a spectacular display of brightly colored plumage belies his deeply ingrained inferiority complex

The male bird of paradise will take any opportunity to display his goods

 Birds of Paradise, of the order Passeriformes, are known for dazzling plumage and elaborate courtship dances. Some of the males seem more interested in dancing for one another than for a female; these birds  have long been stereotyped by the media as anal-retentive, broadway loving, promiscuous narcissists, though evidence for such generalizations is anecdotal at best.*  There is, however, ample evidence that they are indeed better dancers than most dull-feathered females.  Unfortunatley, video evidence in figures A and B, below, also demonstrates that  like many  humans, this male bird has overestimated the appeal of the scary-face dance

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_McFarland

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ANGLERFISH:

This female may have been the nightmarish model for Mrs. Pac-man.

This female Anglerfish's tiny mate was once mistaken for a parasite; despite her pronounced lack of physical beauty, women around the world reportedly identify with the female Angler.

 Male Anglerfish (from the order Lophiformes)  are tiny, insignificant in appearance, and were, when scientests first began studying the Anglerfish, thought to be parasites attached to the much larger females (up to 20x larger than the males). When a male matures, his digestive tract dissolves,  and he loses the ability to digest food without a female’s assistance; he thenceforth needs a female to prepare his food and prevent his immanent death. He quickly seeks out a mate, sinks his teeth into her skin, and proceeds to literally digest her tissues and fuse himself to her until they are as one. This romantic process is called “marriage.”* The male then dissolves “into nothing more than a pair of gonads”  that deliver sperm when ovulation is indicated by hormonal cues  in the female’s bloodstream. Despite the  grotesque process, many females find marriage extremely convenient, wishing only that that their mates would also take out the trash. Males seem content with the total loss of identity, so long as they retain their gonads.**

 

** ibid.

Cf. http://webecoist.com/2008/08/24/strangest-endangered-species-and-animals/
      http://tolweb.org/Lophiiformes
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglerfish

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Weasels: Genus Mustela

Weasels have long been pervasive on earth- often reviled as thieves, there are weasels on every continent in the world. Certain members of genus mustela reportedly perform the “mesmerizing weasel war dance” after fighting or stealing food.* Members of this genus are known as tricky, opportunistic, and extremely flexible, characteristics which contributed to the colloquial terms “weaseling out of” punishment, or of something one finds particularly onerous, and “weasel words,”   vague language that belies unrelliable and/or unverifiable information**  

Least Weasel (mustela nivalis)

Least Weasel (mustela nivalis)

 

Long-Tailed Weasel (mustela frenata)

Long-Tailed Weasel (mustela frenata)

Dirty Rotten Weasel (Mustela Berni Madoff)

Dirty Rotten Weasel (Mustela Berni Madoff)

 

* For more information, see http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Weasel-war-dance

**http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/weasel+out;  http://www.weaselwords.com.au/index3.htm

Cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weasel

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Happy Birthday, Gabriella pussycat!

Gabriella pussycat's cousin, Henrietta, is famous for her role on Mr. Roger's neighborhood

Gabriella pussycat's cousin, Henrietta

Dear Gaby,

I’m taking a litle break from all the funny business, just  to tell you how meow meow special I think YOU are, old friend. Congrats on making it into your thirties with a loving husband, a beautiful child, and a rewarding, important career. In my book, that makes you the rarest of beings. Now, get ready to get your party animal on tonight! 

With Love,

sj

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FATCAT

Fatcats like this one have recently been the topic of much debate, with some wondering whether rescue programs should consider euthanasia.

Fatcats like this one have recently been the topic of much debate; even the staunchest of animal advocates are left wondering: should rescue programs consider compassionate euthanasia?

Fatcats (pinguis felis economicus)  have long been the subject of  jokes*; but it is only recently that both mainstream and specialty media have taken interest in the plight of the fatcat, once an issue reserved only for the ASPCA and related animal rights and protection groups.  Pet advocates argue that these Fatcats lack normal instinctual regulation of consumption, thus qualify as evolutionarily challenged animal companions.  Detractors say that the animals are just plain greedy.

The process of increasing public awareness has been slow;  a  January 2008 MSNBC article demonstrated the shady behavior of one food filching feline,**  a June 2008 article showed our now-president pointing his finger at  a related pussy.*** But it was not until January of 2009 that public awareness of the Fatcat’s sad existence  reached its peak.  Today, republicans and democrats, animal rights advocates and avid hunters alike are calling for accountability for this epidemic. 

Unfortunately, the new movement contains many factions that have, thus far, been largely at cross purposes. Many, moroever,  have placed blame on the Fatcats themselves, begging the question: regardless of how we define the problem, can we really expect personal responsibility from greedy, evolutionarily  challenged animals? 

***http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/06/09/1125857.aspx

 

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NARWHAL: ONE- HORNY WHALE

The Narwhal is subject to regulated subsistence hunting by Inuit people in Northern Canada and Greenland. Narwhals were once hunted by Vikings, who prized both the meat and horns; narwhals were thought to be related to unicorns, and to have magical powers-- their horns were thus worth more their weight in gold.

Narwhals were once hunted by Vikings, who prized both the meat and horns; in the medieval period, people thought narwhals to be related to unicorns, and to have magical powers-- Narwhal horns were thus worth more than their weight in gold. The Narwhal population is stable today.

 The exquisite narwhal (Monodon monoceros), is a medium-sized arctic whale; it’s common name is Old Norse for “Corpse whale,” perhaps named for it’s habit of swimming belly-up for short durations.  Charming.

This morbidly named whale’s most notable feature is it’s “horn,” actually a very long tooth seen only on males. In point of fcat narwhals only have two teeth, but to make up for this dearth of dentibus,  the left tooth grows in a spiral out of the mouth, reaching lengths as impressive as 7-10 feet. The function of this horn (and why it is only the left tooth) is the source  of much speculation; the dominant theory is an old one, first offered by Chuck Darwin himself, who hypothesizes that the horn is a secondary sex characteristic, like a peacock’s feather’s or a human male’s automobile, and is likewise used in mating and male-dominance rituals.

One can only assume that narwhals hear a lot of “are you just happy to see me” jokes. 

Cf. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/narwhal.html
      http://acsonline.org/factpack/Narwhal.htm

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Drones and Worker Bees (a.k.a. “TA”s and “adjuncts”)

New studies on drones in California's University hive system suggest that the bees are exhibiting statistically signifiant increases in depression-like symptoms

New studies on drones in California's University hive system suggest that the bees are exhibiting statistically signifiant increases in depression-like symptoms

 

 Apiologists were surprised to discover University hive system of California, wherein, counter to typical apian behavior,  a body of largely non-productive, post-prime leaders known as  “Regents” live on after their productivity has expired, draining the resources of the entire hive system.  Drones in the University hive system  (sometimes called “TA”s or “adjuncts”) typically spend between five and seven years serving the whims of the regents, though trends in  habitat depletion and toxic environments, including the widely publicized Colony Economy Collapse Disorder, have significantly shortened the normative life expectancy of “TA” bees.

While there have been claims that  “the drone [is] …a canonical example of a worthless member of a society,”* without drone and worker bees, the pupae in the University hives (sometimes called “undergrads”) would go untended, and the hives would collapse. Some apiologists theorize that University bees will soon show signs of rejecting and/or evolving beyond the regent system, while others fear that the Regents’ unswerving self-interest will drive the entire hive system to extinction, taking the hardworking  TAs with them.

 *http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drone_(bee)
Cf.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worker_bee

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The anti-book worm

This image of the anti-book worm is still being authenticated by parasitologists

This image of the anti-book worm is still being authenticated by parasitologists

 

Anti-book worms (cestoda antibibliographia) are a new discovery similar to the amoeba Naegleria fowleri (the brain eating parasite). Despite its name, the anti-book worm enters the host through contact with the old books in which the worms incubate;* anti-book worms enter the host trough tiny lesions in the scalp thought to be caused when readers touch the infested books and then tear their hair. From point of entry anti-book worms travel rapidly to the brain, where they anchor themselves in Brocca’s area (responsible for language production) and Wernicke’s area (where language processing occurs). Here the worms impede dissertation progress: hence the name “anti-book” worm. Increasingly, parasitologists are demonstrating that seventh-year dissertation-level students are in fact suffering from the effects of cestoda antibibliographia infestation, and should not be blamed for exceeding normative time.
  
 * Concerned parents should note that these are typically books from those obscure sections of libraries and private collections used only by graduate students; a recent rash of cases amongst students of literature and literary theory suggests that books in those areas may be particularly implicated in such cases.

  Cf. http://www.cdc.gov/Ncidod/dpd/parasites/listing.htm
      http://library.thinkquest.org/C004367/la4.shtml
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naegleria_fowleri

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Gay Dinosaurs (extinct)

Dinosaurs (δεινόσαυρος, deinosauros) roamed terrestrial ecosystems  beginning in the  late Triassic period (about 230 million years ago) and throughout the Cretaceous period (65 million years ago), until at the end of the Cretaceous period there occurred an event that incited near-total extinction: the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event. Or so goes the traditional story.
 
Now, however, some suggest that a small subset may have brought about the extinction of all dinosaurs: i.e.,  gay dinosaurs. Prehistoric homosexual reptiles formed same-sex pairs, thus failing to produce genetic heirs; these “fruitless” unions, some hypothesize, spelled disaster for all of their dino brethren, though the precise mechanisms of this fatal influence are not known.  Jake Aron’s et. al’s  controversial group “Gay marriage killed the Dinosaurs” has recently brought this issue to light amongst laypeople on a popular social networking site.   The scientific community refuses to comment, but one intrepid intern at a major research facility did manage to leak the following pictures, in which the physiological discrepancies between dinosaurs and gay dinosaurs is readily apparent. These photos prove that with dinosaurs at least, one really can “tell just by looking.”
Triceratops

Triceratops

Gay Dinosaur

Gay Dinosaur

For more information on this topic, see also “Gay marriage killed the dinosaurs”: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=2204465246&ref=nf, and  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irony

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Freaky monkeys (Daubentonia madagascariensis):

 

The Aye-aye’s long digits are surrounded by superstition; some locals believe that whomever an aye-aye points its long middle finger at is condemned to death. The Sakalava people believe that Aye-ayes like to sneak into homes to pierce their victim's heart with that long finger. Lady monkeys know differently, though some believe that the length of an Aye-aye’s finger indicates the length of other members.

The Aye-aye’s long digits are surrounded by superstition; the Sakalava people believe that Aye-ayes like to sneak into homes to pierce their victim's heart with that long finger. Lady monkeys know differently, though some believe that the length of an Aye-aye’s finger indicates the length of other members.

New research has somewhat reversed the traditional theory that Daubentonia madagascariensis (aka the Aye-Aye),  native to Madagascar, is a solitary animal. Typically, males’ territories overlap and males will socialize across territories. Females are pickier about their neighbors, and their territories never overlap, though they might be friendlier if their males weren’t such attention whores. Male  “probiscus monkeys” (a misnomer, for the aye-ayes are not truly part of the monkey family), are the champion cock-blockers of the animal kingdom, and will even haul a rival male off of a female mid-coitus. The females don’t seem to mind. Despite their obviously limited sex appeal, these are Freaky Little Monkeys.

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(In honor of Valentines day) The Lovebird: member of genus agapornis.

Lovebirds, while highly social when unbonded, often lose interest in socializing when paired.This in human lovebirds, the initial "honeymoon phase" typically dissipates over time.

Lovebirds, while highly social when unbonded, often lose interest in socializing when paired.This in human lovebirds, the initial "honeymoon phase" typically dissipates over time.

There are nine known species of lovebirds in genus agapornis,  all of which are highly social and known for deeply affectionate monogamous pair bonding, from whence their English name derives. Similar German and French versions are die Unzertrennlichen and  les inséparables. The avian species have a corollary in homo sapiens; however,  many individuals of the human variety tend to be less spontaneously affectionate than do their avian counterparts, and often search out other sources for agapornis. This extra-monogamous behavior is particularly observable in, though not restricted to, males. Mid-February  seems to signal lovebirds to begin elaborate courtship displays: they gather shiny objects and sweets, in order to demonstrate the strength of their pair bonds.  Single lovebirds will tend to stay in their nests, or make elaborate displays of disinterest in the courtship rituals around them.

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