Category Archives: academia

Honey Badger: who you calling honey mister?

Don’t make the mistake, dear reader, of judging a badger by its nomiker: this one’s no honey.  Named for their predilection for eating honeycombs pilfered from beehives, Mellivora capensis is also famous as a snake-killer. The honey badger uses its jaws to grab a snake behind its head and kill it, and can devour a snake measuring up to 5 feet in length  in a mere 15 minutes. 15 minutes. Piggy little honey badger.

The badger’s prey is hardly limited to honey and snakes, however. Consider the following list: earthworms, insects, scorpions,  porcupines, hares, ground squirrels, meerkats, mongooses, tortoises, crocodiles up to one metre in size, young gazelle and snakes (including venomous species),  lizards, frogs, small rodents, birds and fruit.  Goodness. (GAZELLE??? CROCODILES???)

National Geographic documentary,  “Snake killers: Honey badgers of the Kalahari”,  documented a badger snatching a meal out of a puff adder‘s mouth, after which he casually ate the purloined prey, and, insatiable, turned to stalk the deadly snake itself. This bold item managed to kill the snake, and even to begin eating it, but having been bitten, collapsed on the dead snake mid-chew. Cameramen were shocked, however, when the badger awoke 2 hours later,  finished his meal and went on his merry way.

Construction workers, take note: watch who you call honey. It may be the last thing you do.

Leave a comment

Filed under academia, human behavior, Phobia-inducing, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized

Chickcharnie

When sightseeing on the Island of Andros, dear readers, keep your eyes peeled for a creature that Bahamian folk tales describe as a three-toed elf, a red-eyed man-beast or a birdlike creature with a lizard’s tail and a fluffy mane, that likes to hang upside down from trees. Quite monstrous really. And carry flowers or bright bits of cloth, with which you will, if rumors are to be believed, be able to charm the creatures– so long as you treat them respectfully. This is something you will surely want to do.

Why, you might ask? Well, it’s quite simple really. If you piss these touchy lil’ buggers off they’ll make your head spin right around. Right on around. Dastardly.

… Of course, should you treat the elf with respect, you may be blessed with good luck for the rest of your natural life—a boon not to be sneered at, in the author’s humble opinion.

Of course, some doubting souls claim that Tyto pollens, an extinct species that is distantly related to the Common Barn-owl ( Tyto alba), is the origin of the chickcharnie myth. Tyto pollens was a large, flightless burrowing owl rumored to have been territorially aggressive, though it coexisted with humans. Rapid deforestation by white explorers in the 16th century led, sadly, to this creature’s extinction… or just to the chickcharnie’s retreat from common view…

Whichever version of the story is true,  the author is ready to chance it, as some good luck– and a beach vacation– would be greatly appreciated.

Leave a comment

Filed under academia, extinct species, folklore, human behavior, Phobia-inducing, Uncategorized

California Academy of sciences promises to let you watch

Another link to love, dear readers: California Academy of Sciences promises to let you watch the penguins “swim, flirt, nest, and relax” via its penguin-cam. You can also watch the tuxedoed charmers feed every day at 10:30am and 3:30pm. As she writes the author is watching them do… fuck all really.  But feeding time is something to see, and nicely coincides with the mandatory coffee and cookie breaktimes that the author of BV is petitioning congress to institute as a universal workplace practice in the U.S..  You’re welcome.

Leave a comment

Filed under academia, exceedingly cute, links to love, marine life, Uncategorized

The Borneo frog: it’s itsy bitsy and it crawled up the pitcher’s spout

Apparently, Dear readers, the author of BV is on a tiny animal kick. The newest addition to the list being Microhyla nepenthicola, recently discovered by researchers in Borneo. These little buggers live and breed  in the muck that accumulates at the bottom of pitcher plants that grow on the forest floor.

Neat trick, that, since the pitcher plant is carnivorous.  Perhaps even these tiny frogs are too big a bite for the pitcher plant to chew.

And perhaps the author’s love for these creatures of diminutive size is a reaction to the smallness she feels in the face of almost insurmountable personal hurdles, and a respect for their ability to adapt and persevere. Or perhaps that pop psychobabble should go the way of poor  Ornithomimosauria, long extinct and similarly toothless.

But the bottom line, dear readers, is that that tiny frog is damned cute, don’t you think?


Leave a comment

Filed under academia, exceedingly cute, the strange and the beautiful, tiny animals, Uncategorized

BV-worthy new exhibit

 

The California Academy of Sciences has long been beloved by the author of BV, figuring in her elementary school field trips, and, more recently, looming large in her consciousness as an example of stunning sustainable architecture. And a friend is employed there, I am proud to say, as a plant taxonomist– though, traitorous wench that she is, she will soon be abandoning us all to pursue a PhD in Chemistry on the east coast.

Pah. stupid PhD in chemistry. Stupid east coast.

In any case, If you would like to see an exact cast of Ida, the  Darwinius masillae that is a distant cousin of all of us today, you can do it at this exhibit. You can also learn about extreme adaptations (neat!) , reproduction (wink wink, nudge nudge) , and extinction (boo!).

Personally, the author of BV is excited to learn that the state fossil of California, Smilodon Fatalis, will be on display. She is also not a little bemused to discover that california *has* a state fossil.

which led the author on a rather amusing little digression into internet research-land, where she discovered the following:

California has the expected emblems, that is, a  state…

BIRD: California Valley Quail
ANIMAL: California Grizzly Bear
TREE: California Redwood

as well as a

 song
 seal
 motto
colors
nickname
flower
and flag (social studies history reports come flooding back to some of us) 

But is also has a state…

FOSSIL: Smilodon Fatalis (sabertooth tiger, see above)
INSECT: California dog-face Butterfly (well, it’s mother thinks it’s beautiful)
FISH: California Golden Trout
MARINE FISH: Garibaldi
MARINE MAMMAL: California Grey whale
REPTILE: the Desert Tortoise

not to mention:

 gemstone
Gold Rush ghost town
 Silver rush ghost town
grass
military museum
mineral
Fife and drum band (very cool)
Prehistoric artifact
rock
soil (SOIL!?!?! we have an official  SOIL. inconceivable)
tall ship
tartan
and theater.

And a poet laureate to write about all of ’em. (Which she doesn’t, at present. She seems to write a lot about love and death and architecture. But that’s a snap judgement)   

Seriously. Don’t believe me about the soil? look here. And expect a California series on BV in the near future.

sick of my rambling and want to read more about the exhibit? Read the articles from SFGATE and/or SFAppeal.

Leave a comment

Filed under academia, endangered species, extinct species, human behavior

Dissertation Owls Asleep on the Job

Folkes, while the dissertation elves, tiny little owls that creep into grad students’ bedrooms to madly type pages whilst the tortured souls sleep, are on furlough,  I have been working furiously on my thesis. The result? A certain lack of Beastliness. And vocabularity.

This will be remedied shortly, just as soon as the Muse goes on strike again, as she (the fickle bitch) is wont to do.

– sj

Leave a comment

Filed under academia, folklore, Uncategorized

Banana Slug: “hard” life.

 

To paraphrase Brittney Spears, this banana slug is not that innocent

To paraphrase Brittney Spears, this banana slug is "not that innocent"

Beloved by alumni of UC Santa Cruz, banana slugs seem to have a pretty good thing going. Sure, they’re slow and eat detritus on the forest floor. But they’re beloved.

 …Just, you know, not by each other. In fact, as one intrepid UCSC PhD candidate put it, slugs

are constantly in an evolutionary arms race where males try to manipulate females into doing what they want them to do (for example, NOT mate with a new male) and females are constantly trying to prevent males from manipulating them.

 This is all a very messy—and uncomfortably familiar—business.  But if, dear readers, you are thinking you have caught the author in a gaffe, and that that banana slugs have developed an interesting solution to the battle of the sexes by evolving into hermaphrodites, problem solved, no muss no fuss… well then you are sadly mistaken. Because as you are by now perfectly aware, the end of the story is almost never the end of the story.

 And Banana slugs are not the nice, neat, nonexistent Barbie-genitalia sporting spontaneous generators we might like to imagine in our PG science textbooks. No, indeed. In fact, slugs are Simultaneous hermaphrodites, which means that they have both male and female primary sex characteristics. And boy, do they ever: an eight-inch slug can have an eight-inch long penis.  

Some of the male readers in the audience are doing some fast math and a little creative visualization in their mirrors, but don’t get overly excited, boys. Because even if the idea that the slugs mutually penetrate souds like a pretty good deal to you, you might be less excited to learn that sometimes a slug will also chew it’s mates member off after the deed is done.

 Chew it right on off. It’s called apophallation. And no, it doesn’t grow back.

Leave a comment

Filed under academia, backyard fauna, gender bending, Phobia-inducing, rated NC17, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized

Echeneis: stubborn little bastard of a fish.

img5125

Isidore of Seville, who is, let’s face it, quite the hero for BV, named it the “delay,” for obvious reasons In the 1st century CE, Lucan wrote of it as  “…the sucking fish / Which holds the vessel back though eastern winds.” 

This little sucker was the echeneis, a small fish no more than six inches in length, which made its home in the Indian Ocean, and is said to have clung to ships and delayed their passage. When this fish latches on to a seagoing vessel, the most Shakespearean of gusts or invocations thereof would not move the ship, which would seemed to have become rooted to a fixed point in the roiling sea.

This fish, dear readers, reminds me of someone… another stubborn little bastard. Who could it be? ah, well. It’ll come to me…

In any case, Pliny the Elder elaborated, noting that it is used for making love-charms, and spells to slow litigation, and that it can be used to hold back the birth of a pre-term fetus until term. “This fish” says Pliny,  “is not eaten.”  “Some say,” says Pliny,” that “this fish has feet.” Pliny is loathe to believe this last tidbit. It’s not particularly that the presence of feet is more far fetched than the efficacy of its presence in charms and spells, but simply that “Aristotle says it does not.” And it’s simply quite gauche to argue with Aristotle—at least, it was in the 1st century.

AHA! I remember now: who could resemble an impedance to progress impervious to either reason or pathos?

Why, it’s the author’s writer’s block, of course- her worst enemy while adrift in the rough seas of dissertation.

 

yes, it’s one of those days folks. Send the life rafts… And mind the echeneis.

 

 

 
 

Leave a comment

Filed under academia, extinct species, folklore, marine life, medieval, Phobia-inducing, Uncategorized

The missing link: Darwinius masillae, Sweet as Apple cider

090519-missing-link-found_big

 

 

The sound of the name “Ida” has suddenly become  sweet sweet music to paleontololical ears.

This is because “Ida,” a 47 million year old fossil hidden in a closet for 20+ years has recently been unveiled. Apparently, a team of amateur fossil hunters discovered the fossil, which was astonishingly intact (even down to stomach contents) in Germany  in 1983, but had no earthly idea—the dummies—what  they had on their hands.

Skip ahead 24 years, and the University of Oslo buys the fossil at auction for around a million dollars. There, Jorn Hurum of the Natural History Museum in Oslo, Norway, names his prize “Ida” after his daughter, and  studies it in secret for two years. Until this month, when he revealed it to the world.  

Hurum believes that little “Ida,” barely the size of an average housecat, may prove to be the bridge between higher primates such as monkeys, apes, and humans. Oh yes, and lemurs.

The author of BV doesn’t know about you, dear readers, but she gets an odd sort of kick out of the notion that she’s distantly but directly descended from a lemur. In fact, several of her cousins have distinctly lemur-like characteristics, so it does not seem all that far fetched.    

According to National Geographic Ida, properly known as Darwinius masillae, “has a unique anatomy. The lemur-like skeleton features primate-like characteristics, including grasping hands, opposable thumbs, clawless digits with nails, and relatively short limbs. But there’s a big gap in the fossil record from this time period….”

Sadly, the author’s dreams of lemus ancestry were shattered a bit when she learned that researchers “are unsure when and where the primate group that includes monkeys, apes, and humans split from the other group of primates that includes lemurs.” And that according to one American  expert, Ida may not be “our grand, grand, grandmother, but perhaps with our grand, grand, grand aunt.”  Sigh. But that’s still pretty darned grand, isn’t it?

Ida’s European origins are intriguing to experts, because her extreme age and advanced evolutionary characteristics prove that “contrary to common assumptions…  the continent was an important area for primate evolution.” In fact, “This specimen is like finding the Lost Ark for archeologists,” Hurum said: “it is the scientific equivalent of the Holy Grail. This fossil will probably be the one that will be pictured in all textbooks for the next 100 years.”

And what does all this science mean for us laypeople? Well, dear readers, it’s really quite simple: you may now commence with Germanic-monkey jokes. At your leisure.

Leave a comment

Filed under academia, extinct species, Uncategorized

Money Might Not, But Barnacle Geese Do (grow on trees)

img4465

 Source: British Library Images Online Copyright Copyright 2004 British Library / Used by permission Manuscript description British Library, Harley MS 4751, Folio 36r

What medieval-inspired bestiary would be complete without the Barnacle Goose?  According to Sir John Mandeville, who wrote in the 14th century CE, this fantastic creature is–or was– a species of goose that grows on trees. Not in trees, mind you. On trees.

In his Travels, Sir John writes that

 I told them of as great a marvel to them, that is amongst us, and that was of the Bernakes. For I told them that in our country were trees that bear a fruit that become birds flying, and those that fell in the water live, and they that fall on the earth die anon, and they be right good to man’s meat. And hereof had they as great marvel, that some of them trowed it were an impossible thing to be.

We moderns might be inclined to trow it impossible, too. Yet is it possible that the barnacle goose finds its equivalent in recent college graduates, who find themselves suddenly adrift of the parental money tree, and must function on their own or perish?  Indeed, the author sees many subtle similarities. Barnacle goslings grow on trees that overhang bodies of water; the young birds hang from their sprouting-points by their beaks.  When the birds are “ripe,” they fall. The fortuitous ones, which fall into the water, float and find themselves well on their way to healthy, productive adult lives. But those that fall on land– or go to graduate school– face a harder fate. Some die. The 14th century besties apparently all died, as there simply aren’t many tree-growing geese running about these days.

Yet today’s hapless little geese, who unerringly choose graduate studies in something “esoteric” like “Medieval English” or “Philosphy,” may in fact return to the life-giving tree well into adulthood, until the tree at long last shouts:

“Enough already! how long does a dissertation TAKE, anyway?

sigh.

take it from the author of BV, dear readers. major in something useful, like billiards, or graft.

Leave a comment

Filed under academia, baby animals, extinct species, folklore, human behavior, medieval, parasites, Phobia-inducing, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized

Humanatee: A dying breed

seen here without a school, this humanatee may never find a home

The humanatee is an ancient, intelligent beast, most often found in large “schools,” though members of far-flung schools frequently gather together in large, gregarious groups called “conferences.” During these  sporadic expeditions, humanatees may demonstrate dominance by flashing the “TT” position. These strange creatures then show off to potential mates by uttering strange, unintelligible  sounds in rapid succession.

Infighting and promiscuous behavior is not uncommon in conferences.

But dear readers, the humanatee, contrary to appearances, is not its own worst enemy. The humanatee is among our worlds most endangered species, and though abundant, is seriously threatened by the rough economic waters currently plaguing our shores and those the world over. Worse, funding for conservation programs has recently been cut dramatically, leading some experts to wonders whether there is adequate habitat  in today’s academe for the humanatees.*

Leave a comment

Filed under academia, endangered species, exceedingly cute, human behavior, marine life, Phobia-inducing, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized

Catobelpas: Head of an Ox, Tail of a snake, Bad dinner date.

To all of the singletons reading this entry: the author of BV would like to caution you about the Catobelpas, for according to Pliny the Elder, this next member of our medieval bestiary series, which is  “of moderate size and inactive with the rest of its limbs, only with a very heavy head which it carries with difficulty and it always hanging down to the ground” is also “deadly to humans, as all who see its eyes expire immediately.”

Others, like Edward Topsell, the 14th century author of The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes, rejected notions that the beastie’s breath was the actual culprit, writing that despte its diet of poisonous herbs, “it is more plausible, that like the cockatrice, he killeth by seeing, than by the breath of his mouth, which is not competible to any other beasts in the world.”

Charming.

It is perhaps not terribly unfortunate that the Catobelpas has gone the way of the DoDo.

…And yet… if the author of BV’s  experience in the dating world is any indication,  there may be a significant subgroup of human descendants of the Catobelpas: individuals who slouch, hang their heads, and eat poisonouos herbs (read: garlic) at the dinner table are in no short supply in today’s dangerous dating tundra.

So,  readers: be forewarned! Should you suspect your dinner companion of being just such a shaggy-haired specimen, then when s/he at long last raises his heavy head and gaze at you with his bloodshot eyes, and ask if you want to split the bill, Do. Not. Make. Eye contact.   

Pay for your food and run.

Leave a comment

Filed under academia, extinct species, human behavior, medieval, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized

Interactive Penguin Cam: time waster extraordinaire

050819_penguins1

 

Finaly, dear readers, an un-ironic post. The link below takes you to National geographic’s interactive program, which allows you to build, attach, and follow a “penguin cam’ under the ice in the Antarctic. You can follow this link to other animals as well- enjoy!

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/crittercam/ax/ff_penguin.html

Leave a comment

Filed under academia, exceedingly cute, human behavior, marine life, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized

The Ant-lion (lion ant)

img8107

The entire premise of Bestiarum Vocabulum, as some of you might know, rests on the genre of the medieval bestiary ( or bestiarum vocabulum). It is therefore meet that we occasionaly visit the archives for entries, as part of an ongoing medievalist series. 

Take, for example, the Ant-Lion, of whom Adhelm, abbot of Malmesbury (639-730)  once wrote the following riddle:

Dudum compositis ego nomen gesto figuris :
Ut leo, sic formica vocor sermone Pelasgo
Tropica nominibus signans praesagia duplis,
Cum rostris avium nequeam resistere rostro.
Scrutetur sapiens, gemino cur nomine fingar !

I long have borne the name of hybrid form :
Both ant and lion I am called in Greek
A double metaphor, foreboding doom ;
My beak cannot ward off the beaks of birds.
Let wise men search out why my names are twain.

 

And why are the Ant-lion’s names twain? There are two possible answers. In the first, the Ant-lion is a large, fierce insect. This is likely Adhelm’s opinion, one shared by Gregory the Great ( Moralia in Iob, Book V, chapter 20, section 40), and Isidore of Seville (Etymologies, Book 12, 3:10), and other venerable medieval types.

But there is another possibility: that as the result of a mating between a lion and an ant, the Ant-lion has the face of a lion and and the body of an ant.  And this, dear readers, is the interesting answer, made more interesting by its tragic ending.

Because the Ant-lion is at gustatory war with itself.   Belying the Latin dictum “de gustibus non disputatem est,” the lion’s head will only eat meat, while the ant body can only digest grain. The ant-lion, divided against itself, inevitably starves.

Very sad.

… but the author of BV, as you might expect, is having a difficult time getting past the basic premise of this explanation, which is that an ant can mate with a lion. The mind. boggles.  at that visual.

 

 

…and should any reader find him or herself with a bit of free time and a clever pen (ahem), renderings of said illicit act will be gladly posted in a future posting. But *try* to keep it PG13.

Leave a comment

Filed under academia, extinct species, medieval, parasites, Phobia-inducing, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized

Amazonian Weasels

As always, the author of BV seeks to bring you information that is relevant and revelatory regarding animal behaviors. News today is that a new species of weasel– the hypocritical amazonian weasel.  

You may sign a petition protesting Amazon’s new unbalanced policies regarding “adult” materials by following the link below:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/in-protest-at-amazons-new-adult-policy

Leave a comment

Filed under academia, rated NC17, Uncategorized