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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