Tag Archives: mating rituals

Tungara frog: foamy little freaks

It is a biological truth that in most cases of human canoodling some modest amount of various and sundry bodily fluids are produced. (Indeed, many female humans in the author’s aquaintence have had occasion to note that some male specimen seem to produce excessive saliva when mating rituals such as “necking” are undertaken. What is with that, anyway?)

Well, ladies and gentlemen, imagine your horror should you find that your mate had the habits of Engystomops pustulosus (formerly known as Physalaemus pustulosus.) When mating, the eager male frog positions himself atop the female and starts to pulse rhythmically (not to say monotonously, though some lady frogs might complain on that account). As a result, the female  releases a foam producing solvent which the male’s gyrations froths up into a giant, floating foam nest that protects the fertilized eggs “from dehydration, sunlight, temperature, and potential pathogens until the tadpoles hatch.”

Very creative. And very… well, unsavory, frankly. But if one is a Tungara frog, one might find such foamy emmissions quite provocative.  And the author suspects that should she look hard enough, she would find internet porn for that.

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Sea krait: love machine of the underwater world

If you are like the author, dear readers, you were inordinately excited by the release of the first installment of the “Life” series, a follow-up to “Planet Earth,” which aired on the  Discovery channel and its affiliates this sunday. And if you know the author at all (at all, I say), the three of you who read with any regularity (ahem) would immediately have recognized that the sea krait was destined to be the newest addition to the annals of BV.

Because it is impossible to ignore the single most prominent feature of these Hydrophiidae  : sea kraits Do. It. All. Day. Long. In more scientific terms, they “copulate. prodigiously. diurnally.” During which time the much smaller male is unable to disengage.

You read it right, dear readers. “Unable to disengage.”

No female sea kraits were available for comment (or their native reticence prevented them from kissing and telling), but we might imagine that this unique (ahem) situation has its benefits and its drawbacks:

 *First: the male is unable to claim fatigue and roll over before he gets the job done.  BUT:

*this leaves the female no option of… shall we say creative vocalization and a speedy retreat. NEVERTHELESS:

*there is no need for the female to long for just a bit more post-coital cuddling, AND

* she has no need to wonder if he’s going to call again. After all, dear readers, she  knew he was a snake when she picked him up.

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Cockatoo love song

 

Cockatoos are known for their intelligence, their vocality, their general precociousness. And this bird, apparently going by the nomiker S. Elvis, is no exception. One might wonder where he came up with this particular mantra, but then…

In the author’s humble opinion, it is likely that every woman (and a fair number of men) has had this experience: you’re having a nice evening with your significant other, watching some television, when said mate begins to harrangue you with demands to “RUB the bird!!! RUB the BIRD!!!”

 

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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.

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No, It’s not a Typo; It’s the “Cock” of Dawn.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have  Chinese folklore to thank for next entry: the celestial cock, aka the “cock of dawn.”

<< The author respects all cultures and will not resort to infantile murrmerings about the word “cock”. But, dear readers, it’s gonna be difficult.>>

The Cock of Dawn, or so it is said, is a “magnificent golden three-legged cock” <<ahem>>.  According to myth,  he lives in the mile-high Fu-Sang tree in the Land of Sunrise.  It is believed that he is the ancestor of all worldly cocks <<ah-ahem>>, that he crows exactly three times a day (to mark the sunrise, zenith, and sunset) and that his red comb signifies the sunrise.

According to a legend  describing the conjunction of yin and yang, the God of the immortals (Tung-hua Ti-chun) gave this bird to a lucky fellow named Shen-i, who rode the back of the celestial cock <<oh, come now, we are all mature adults here, lets be serious>> to the heat of the midday sun, where, it is said, he attained perfect happiness.  Just him and his golden three-legged cock. (Until he set up regular visits with his wife, who was living over on the moon at the time.)

…In all seriousness,  dear readers, it is a lovely story and we should not be swayed from its import by our puritanical, repressed, juvenile obsession with naughty bits. And yet… one cannot help but wonder whether, on the occasional lonely night on the moon, Shen-i’s wife didn’t long for a little celestial cock of her own.

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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.

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Cat of a thousand faces: mad genius (and a quiz!!!)

Yes, folkes, its another “cute” and/or “crazy” cat video posts. In this installment, in order to spice up a potentially stale theme, prizes will be distributed to the first reaedr who can correctly identify both the song playing and each of the disguises, in order of appearance. “Yo mama” will not be accepted as an answer.

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The Ant-lion (lion ant)

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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.

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The life of the leaf-cutter ant: miss lonelyhearts OR sapphic smithii?

 

Leaf-cutter ants, or so they say, are all female. According to a National Geographic article, these ladies “thrive without sex of any kind—ever.”  As evidence of this essential sexlessness, scientists cite the fact that leafcutters have evolved to the point that they reproduce only when queens clone themselves.

Indeed,  one author of the study explains  that the (typically muscular) reproductive organ of the female leafcutter ant (M. smithii)  “has evolved into a ‘sort of a ghost of an organ at this point,'” and that no male of the species has ever been found. Were a male “theoretically to appear somewhere, we’re not sure they could mate any more,” she said.

The author of BV would like to offer a few observations:

1) Some among us would probably chuckle, quipping  that it will be a fine world when human females develop the same ability.

2) But others- the more sexually driven, certainly- would retort that a life “without sex of any kind– ever”   was not nearly worth the benefit of a life without fighting for the remote or the correct arrangement of the toilet seat.

3) And there the debate might end, with the simple conclusion of “I’m glad I’m not an ant” or “I wish I were an ant,”  but for the third group- the more flexible thinkers and those who swing that way- who might question the scientists’ assumption that the lack of males (and even of internal reproductive organs)  neccesarily means a “lack of any kind of sex-ever.”  

Rather denotes a lack of creativity, from a certain standpoint…

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Ichneumon wasps: evidence against religion or just mean sons of Bi*%*!s ?

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Darwin once offered  the ichneumon wasp as proof against the central tenets of natural theology, which believed in the creation of all living things by a benevolent god. Expressing his opinion  in a letter to American botanist Asa Gray, Darwin wrote:  “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae.” 

What form of animal behavior could be so abhorrent that its existence alone could stand as proof against divinity? Dear readers, the author of BV would like to warn you that what follows should not be repeated to small children, nor the highly suggestible, lest they– like the author herself– suffer recurring nightmares because of it. Even those strong of stomach, beware:  no zombie movie could prepare you for this one.

Ichneuman wasps are what is called “parasitoids:”  the wasp selects a nice, juicy looking victim, lands, and with a flick of her stilleto-sharp  ovipositor,  injects her eggs forcibly into the host’s vulnerable body. Not leaving anything to chance, she will then inject a paralytic, a poison that paralyzes the victim without killing it.

Then, keeping the living incubator alive as long as possible, the newly-hatched young first eat their host’s fatty deposits and digestive organs, before moving on to the choicest- and most fatal- morsels: the heart and central nervous system. 

I believe, dear reader, that the proper response to this is:

 evolutionary-disgust

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Chimpanzees: Will F*%@ for Meat

Chimps- mother nature's "working girls"

Chimps- mother nature's "working girls"

The BBC reported yesterday that a strange new facet of primate behavior has been documented amongst chimpanzees living in the Tai forest reserve, in Ivory Coast: the females will get down more often with males who share their grub.  Cristina Gomes, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, reports that this is a win-win proposition for the primates. “By sharing,” she claims,  “the males increase the number of times they mate, and the females increase their intake of calories.”  The author of BV is unsurprised that the “meat for sex hypothesis” (its real name) has been confirmed: the chimps’ priorities seem familiar enough from the human dating world, though *some* human females prefer shiny baubles to hanks of raw meat.

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Sharks: Sisters are doing it for themselves

       scalloped_hammerhead_shark_465x310             

Ladies, listen up: While many of us of slightly-less-than a certain age have started reaching our “scary age”s  and have taken to searching the web for ways to delay (or defeat) the tick-tick-icking of our biological clocks, a few select  members of  superorder Selachimorpha have taken matters into their own hands: a quick search of National Geographic’sarchives generates no fewer than 742 hits on “virgin births” in the animal world. two of note occured in sharks.

In October of 2008, a female blacktip shark in Virginia was confirmed to have successfully committed parthenogenesis– a process by which females of some species can produce young without the sticky contribution and equally sticky commitment issues of males.  

Lest you women out there feel too much jealous animosity towards “Tidbit” (the female blacktip in question), you should also know that she died on the physician’s table during a routine physical exam. It was during the subsequent necropsy that scientists discovered that she was carryng a near-term shark pup, as there had been no previous indication of gestation.  Yes, you read right: she managed to get pregnant on her own and didn’t even have to worry about stretch marks. But then she died.

The first time scientists had witnessed parthenogenesis amongst sharks was at a Nebraska zoo in 2001, when a baby hammerhead was born to one of three possible mothers in the shark tank, none of which had access to males. Sadly, despite the successful full-term birth, the baby hammerhead (see photo, below) was killed within hours by a stingray cohabiting the tank.

The author of BV submits that there is something fishy going on:  these “virgin births” seem to end only in tragedy… perhaps it should be a lesson to us all… 


R.I.P., little shark: this baby hammer head was the result of a virgin birth and died tragically young, giving new meaning to the term "jesus fish."

R.I.P., little shark: this baby hammer head was the result of a virgin birth and died tragically young, giving new meaning to the term "jesus fish."

* Legal disclaimer: the author of B.V. in no way means to insinuate that this fish is actually Jesus, that its fate is related to or sheds light on the Christain belief system, or even that the joke is particularly funny.  Any complaints should be directed to  Rush Limbaugh .**

**Legal disclaimer: The author of B.V. does not claim any affiliation, topical, personal, creative, contractual, or otherwise, with  Mr. Limbaugh or his  production company, but is sure he’d love to hear from you.

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Hercules Beetle: natural prey of the Stymphalian birds?*

behold the strongest insect on earth

behold the strongest insect on earth (and in the background, the much smaller flower beetle).

 The Hercules beetle (Dynastes hercules) is perhaps the most immediately recognizable of the rhinoceros beetles; it’s propensity for epic battles and family tragedies in the Grecian vein, though less well known, is among the beetle’s most prominent characteristics. 

Male beetles, for instance,  often use their prominent horns to fight for the right to mate with a comely female. The outcomes of these battles are determined by the whims of the gods, and may inflict devastating psychosocial effects which can fatally disrupt the entire Dynastes  family.

The winner and his prize may then engage in extended bouts of celebratory lovemaking; amorous sessions between Hercules beetles can last for 50 minutes-considerably longer than the average human encounter, which clocks in at a whopping… two minutes.

Epic, indeed.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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pink elephant: not just a figment of your imagination

this rare pink elephant, probably an albino, was recently spotted in botswana
The next pink animal to grace our fair page is this charming little pink elephant. Scientists say that he is probably an albino, but the discerning readers of BV (all several of you. ahem.) will likely join the author in her suspicion that his coloring is a direct result of the night of debauchery that concieved him.

Of course,  this rosy-toned pachyderm is *so* cute that  the author hopes you will not hold his inillustrious conception against him, and will cross your fingers, pray, and/or do an interpretive dance for  his survival under the hot african sun, which, experts caution, may lead to blindness and skin problems for the calf.  

We’re behind you, little pink elephant. And we will likely see you tonight after a tipple or two.

cf. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nwNPaYoTY8
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7951331.stm

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pink amblycorypha katydid

 

This Pink amblycorypha katydid gave his bride a gift, but she wishes he katy-didn't

This Pink amblycorypha katy-did give his bride a gift, but she wishes he katy-didn't

It has been brought to the author’s attention that the Pink Dragon Millipede is not the sole pink specimen  in the insect world; the pink amblycorypha katydid is equally pink, and no less charming at cocktail parties. In accordance with this discovery, the author would like to introduce a short run of “pretty in pink,” a series on roseate  members of the animal world. Whether their behaviors are as rosy as their hues remains to be seen.

The second member in our series (following the Dragon Millipede, naturally) is, as noted above, the pink amblycorypha katydid, a romantic soul and a genetic anomaly belonging to the species western round-winged katydid (Amblycorypha parvipennis). Like other katydids, this specimen  (should it prove to be a hetero male secure enough in his masculinity to wear pink)  will provide a “nuptial gift” of a  spermatophore, a nutritious little ball of ejaculate, to his loving bride.

What the author of  BV would like to know is: will that little love-token be equally pink, and mightn’t the female katydid prefer something by way of a box of chocolates?

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