Meet the littlest dog with the biggest ears… delightful isn’t he! What’s more he’s probably the only dog that is a regular supper for cats… probably best not to mention his feline foes… Gah! Don’t whisper about it either… as if that was going to help!
The Fennec Fox, Vulpes zerda, is found scampering about the Saharan desert getting eaten by things. Being the littlest of the dogs it’s supper for pretty much anything bigger than it’s good self, which of course is pretty much anything… other dogs, owls, budgerigars and what not… Aaah yes good point there is of course his feline mortal enemy the caracal; the biggest of the small cats… a small cat that delights in chomping on very small dogs.
Naturally the fennec fox had a good old think about this invitation to lunch and has come up with a cunning plan to politely decline this RSVP; run like the bejesus. It works too… it’s said to be very hard to get a table for a fennec fox and a caracal, even in the most indifferent of bistros.
You won’t be surprised to hear that he has remarkable hearing either, he certainly isn’t. Though it’s not the reason he has those remarkable ears. He uses those honking great listeners to cool off with, quite, exactly the same reason that the elephant has massive flappers. Though it has to be said that this chap has a cunning hidden plan for those big ears; to listen with. Remarkable we know but he, along with the other foxes, have incredible hearing. Indeed they can hear tasty things scrobbling around underground. Though if you ever tell him not to go out at night, when the biggest of the small cats are out on the prowl… well he just never bloody listens.
Say how-do-you-do to a rather discourteous filly; the female blanket octopus.
She’s quite a woman too, as big as a female blanket octopus sized person, whereas the male is merely the dimensions of a walnut. Indeed the little chubby-chasing male was only found alive for the first time a couple of years ago.
Aaaaah yes the shape-shifting thingy. Yes ‘pon being greeted by any untoward types she unfurls net like membranes; greatly increasing her size, which no doubt really gets Mr Blanket Octopus Esq. going.
Of course that’s the least of your problems should you happen across her at any number of social events. If the cape unfurling isn’t enough to give you the heeby jeebies, then her second tactic certainly is. She will quickly head to another partygoer, a Portuguese man o’ war to be precise, and tear them limb from limb. A move often looked down upon by other guests. Especially when she begins flailing the quite deadly limbs around… quite uncalled for one is sure you’ll agree.
There’s something surprising about this sea pig fellow’s family… and it’s not that they are a bit wet, porcine and on the salty side.
The wee pigs live on the seabed, all pink and podgy tottering around on their wee trotters, slurping up all the gubbins that rains down on the seabed with their piggy snouts. These sea pigs live in odd little herds too, where they bob around eating what not, getting eaten by things and… well… that’s about all we know to be honest. The problem being that it’s rather difficult to stay in touch with piggies that live on the deepest ocean beds, though all is not lost dear reader as thankfully we’ve managed to get to know their relatives. Though as we said they are considered a rather flabbergasting bunch, even when they are at soirees with their salty little hog cousins.
Sea pigs are from the holothurian family, also known as the sea cucumbers, a type of echinoderm… that’s right starfish and urchins and what not. The sea cucumbers are found all over the shop, at least all over the shop in the sea, what’s more they have a really rather surprising trick up their sleeve.
Gaaaaaah one knows what you’re thinking, you think old Pilkie’s going to tell you that as a defence mechanism they belch their intestines out of their anus. Well yes that is indeed surprising, and is quite often cited as the worst party trick in the sea. Though the sea cucumbers have an even more remarkable trick; they can liquidize themselves. Yes of course many animals can liquidize themselves, it’s just that the sea cucumbers manage to act all alive afterwards. Part of their arsenal of trying to not be gobbled down by something, as if hoiking your wibbly insides out in front of a rapscallion isn’t enough. The sea cucumbers, with the aid of a clever compound called ‘catch collagen’ can turn themselves into a bag of soup and pour themselves into a crevice before acting all solid as if nothing had happened. Remarkable, one is sure you’ll agree.
The family of the sea pigs, quite a surprising bunch one is sure you’ll agree… and as for the sea pigs, if you do meet them do tell them to get in touch.
Blast it he’s seen us, no escaping from the sod now, it’s the sarcastic fringehead… great.
Quite the scallywag he is too always picking a fight if anyone is daft enough to bob into his backyard. Though it’s what happens when a male member of his own species pops by that is remarkable. If George from down the road has the audacity to stroll through his garden, as he does, he’ll have to put up with the owner running up and planting an enormous sloppy fishy kiss on him.
He’s not being friendly either, nor is he continental for that matter. It’s a big aggressive smacker, the saracastic fringehead open up their mouths as wide as possible, and wrestle away. What they are doing is quickly trying to work out who is the biggest chap, and so not to be trifled with… yes quite we covered this in Volume I of the Ever so Strange Animal Almanac when we talked about the hooded seal’s nose balloon antics.
So that’s an end to The Proceedings for tonight, I’m afraid. Here’s some nice moving pictures for you;
What’s that? More you say? Are you being sarcastic? No? Smashing! Well let’s talk about sarcasm, from the Greek sarko; to tear flesh. Vicious humour, it’s as old as houses, really old houses, indeed you can find examples in the Old Testament… actually that would explain a lot of things. Actually let’s not bother with all that nasty sarcasm bobbins, let’s talk about humour.
We learn to laugh before we talk, but you won’t be surprised to hear we don’t really know how it came about. We know that laughter is a shock to the brain, we laugh when something unexpected happens when something slips on a banana skin, or when something that is brown and sticky turns out to be a stick.
So how did laughing happen to come about? Well current thinking is that a laugh isn’t simply a response to a chicken crossing a road, it’s a social thing to say everything is just fine. It’s though that perhaps it began as a visible signal, a flash of the teeth and a hearty chortle was a good way of quickly conveying ‘I say that sabre-toothed tiger that was looking a tad troublesome has in fact slipped on that funny shaped fruit and fallen over… has anyone mastered the art of lighting a fire? One is sure it’d make a delightful supper… no… perhaps someone present has stumbled upon the concept of introducing yeast to a fruit to ferment it and we’ll have a jolly old shindig…’ though it was of course a lot easier to ‘say’ and so it’s stayed with us… which is jolly.
What’s that you say? Interesting?
Bah… now you are being sarcastic.
Ding Ding! Let’s shake hands and have a nice clean fight chaps, Queensbury rules. What’s that you say? He’s got a pair of viciously stingy Cnidaria on his mitts … mmmh no that is hardly cricket old bean, or boxing for that matter.
The boxer crab can be found bopping things on the nose in the Indian Ocean, where they have co-existed for some time alongside their anemone boxing glove chums. Their claws have changed shape to slip on the stingy mitts, a flat pad allows the sticky base of the anemone to slap on to the surface of the snippers. Of course most creatures have evolved to not become a weapon for walloping unfriendly buggers in the Indian Ocean with, yet the anemones don’t seem to mind and indeed may benefit from the relationship. The boxer crab has abominable table habits, he eats like a hungry Scot with a head cold, consequentially with all the bits flying everywhere the anemones are thought to get a passable brunch from our boxing chum. Still it’s the weapon wielder rather than the weapons we’d like to chat about today.
It’s not so long since we were hairy little buggers sharpening up sticks to jab things with in Africa. That is until we happened upon a great idea to shape a rock and shove it on the end of a stick and called it an axe, a design that has remained pretty much unchanged for millennia. We soon realized not only was it terrific for chopping up stuff, it was smashing for bonking things over the head with… quite literally.
It’s not just us and the boxer crab that go around bothering things with weapons either. In a famous study when a fake leopard was introduced to a troop of chimps they whacked it on the head with sticks until its bonce fell off. Some chimps have even been observed sharpening sticks on the African savannah – and we all know where that ended up the last time. Other animals use weapons too; the blanket octopus likes to rip the stingers from Portuguese man ’O war and flail things with them, the woodpecker finch uses a cactus spine as a small spear to jab prey with, and the boxer crab uses a pair of anemones to bonk things on the nose that… well… deserve to be punched on the nose.
Upon one’s morning stroll one couldn’t help but marvel at the bird’s sweet song and the flowers delicate splendour… what could be more pleasant than a wander through the English countryside… certainly not a stagger through the parched deserts of Arizona, where instead of bird song and blooms you might be lucky enough to spot two rather drab lady lizards humping the hell out of one another … though one can’t help but point out that the bird’s song, the delightful flowers and indeed the lesbian lizard’s leathery frot are all about one thing…
Yes rumpy pumpy. It’s the reason why birds warble and why flowers unfurl, it’s why a hummingbird is as iridescent as a polished gem and why a blue-footed booby has such marvellous azure feet, why the hooded seal inflates a scarlet sack out of its schnoz, why the suberb lyrebird sings the most delightful tunes, and why squillions of other creatures are so bloody marvellous too. What’s more one has inkling that it may be something to do with the faint sound of whip cracks coming from the basement of this less than salubrious gentlemen’s club.
Bally good reason for all this effort into getting some bedroom malarkey too… Yes it’s rather good fun, and of course it makes wee ones who can go off and make wee ones of their own. We are rather fond of making wee ones… little bits of us going on to live forever… we’ve talked about all that gubbins yes, though it is what all that sloshing around downstairs leads to that is the interesting thing…
Not only is it how we ensure our genes are passed down the generations it’s also rather important at mixing things up. In the sticky goo that is left at the end of the act something rather remarkable happens. Of course life is born, but it’s a unique life, like a deck of cards that has been shuffled and out pops a new hand; something completely unique.
Why all this smutty muttering? Well the lesbian lizards, or New Mexico whiptail lizards as their women’s empowerment group are petitioning for them to be known, have decided that they don’t need all this recombinant business with chaps and have done away with all that icky swapping things downstairs. They simply clone themselves to make a new lizard, another lady, just like their lady-loving selves. Aaaah yes, the lesbian thingamujig, well yes while it seems like they may as well have done away with all that energetic to-ing and fro-ing, there may well be some advantage to these romps. Indeed studies have shown that nuptials may still facilitate the making of more lesbian lizards… and so a couple of the ladies will still get jiggy with it… quite right too.
Wakey wakey little snoozy chops, it’s time to bimble through the trees being as sweet as can be. Meet the silky anteater, though don’t bother him just yet, he’s dreadfully grumpy until he’s had a big bowl of flightless social insects…
As we found out in a previous installation of The Proceedings, anteaters are not all related, they are simply using the same tactic to get at a bit of brunch and so look a bit like each other. The silky anteater hails from South America and is most likely to spend Christmas with the tamandua and the giant anteater, if he isn’t too busy having a nap. His relatives aren’t the only thing he has a passing resemblance to either; the silky bundle of fur that sits in the treetops all day… looks rather like a silky bundle of fur that sits in the treetops all day. Not by accident either, our sleepy little friend looks just like silk cotton tree seed-pods, which is rather handy as harpy eagles and other beaky buggers rarely chomp on seed-pods, they prefer their furry things to be full of meat… allowing our somnolent chum to catch a few more z’s.
He’s not the only one who rather enjoys these little slivers of death either, we at The Proceedings try and do it most nights. Indeed it’s probably safe to say that all higher animals sleep. Of course sleep must be dreadfully important if everything with half a brain does it, but remarkably no one knows why the blazes we need it so. We spend half of our lives comatose, and we haven’t got the foggiest why. It might be an evolutionary mechanism, and like the silky anteater it helped a distant relative of ours avoid predators. Having a nap is often thought of as restorative, but the body repairs cells twenty-four hours a day. It might be that to sleep is simply to dream, though no one knows why we do that. It could be that dreaming is a way of reorganizing the brain, so we can wake up every morning to a fresh noggin. Other thoughts on dreams include that it may be a problem-solving device, a different way of thinking and when we come across the conundrum again we suddenly remember an idea we had, one we dreamt up.
All this doesn’t matter one bit to the silky anteater, he’s just happy snoozing his days away in the treetops… and if you were to ask him what he thought all this bedtime hoopla meant, he’d probably just say he’d have to sleep on it.
Sir P-S x
Hell’s teeth that’s a big baby! Meet the rather counter-intuitive paradoxical frog. This croaker’s wee ones are in fact not very wee at all. In fact they are bally massive! Three times larger than the adult!
The paradoxical frog lives in Trinidad, but not on the neighbouring island of Tobago… that would be far too logical. Instead they are found burbling their nonsense on mainland South America. They live in ponds, and spend most of their time in the water, probably because frogs are meant to spend some time out of the water. The frogs have a croak that sounds like a pig’s oink, he really is a paradoxical chap you see.
Of course there are paradoxes everywhere on our wonderful big wet rock – things that apparently contradict each other. A good example of a paradox is the ‘Ship of Theseus’. Take a ship and replace bits and bobs of it through general wear and tear and it is the same ship. Therefore you could methodically replace all the bits and have an entirely new same ship. Then you could build the same ship again out of all the bits that are left over, so you can have two ships that are the same. What’s more this paradox is theoretically possible for a same you. Every single molecule in your body is said to be replaced a number of times throughout your life, so it should be feasible, though of course rather testing, to have two you’s. Which would no doubt be labour saving, even if the conversation would be rather abominable.
Other paradoxes just defy intuition but are perfectly true; like the birthday paradox – if you get together twenty three random people who’ve never even met, you will not just have a socially awkward soiree, there is a fifty percent chance that they two of them will share the same birthday – when it would seem more logical that it would need to be a much bigger gathering.
This is beginning to make one’s head hurt, and it really is time for an aperitif so let’s get back to our odd amphibian chum. Naturally the delectable paradoxical frog has been nudged into the Proceedings of the Ever so Strange because of their honking great babies… about twenty five centimetres long, quite a handful for a seven centimetre long nanny… we won’t even begin to go into how dreadful it is at nappy changing time. Perhaps what is most remarkable about this oddity is that no one has been able to work out why this wee one is such a whopper. They are rather difficult to study what with them steadfastly refusing to get out of the drink, and of course they are far too busy confusing everyone to be easy to raise in captivity. Still it might be for the best, it’s bound to be bamboozling whatever it is they are up to.
Meet a rather smashing bird who has evolved into… well a bird that’s become really rather good at smashing into things… for all intents and purposes these chaps have evolved into a feathered hard hat…
The helmeted hornbill are found across the bits of south east Asia that are lucky enough to still have trees on them. Their call is said to resemble hoots, followed by maniacal laughter. Such ludicrous behaviour isn’t surprising when you take into consideration the amount of headfirst crashing he does. Thankfully that enormous bonce helps with the giddy spells, it sports a huge solid lump that may weigh up to 10% of the total body weight. You wouldn’t particularly want to be clonked into by the fellow either, at roughly the length of a short man… he’s much like one of those human cannonball chappies you see down at the fair… just a bit more feathery.
Of course it is crashing that gets these smashers into our second volume of Ever so Strange animals. Banging into each other in particular. It’s not buffoonery, they are doing it on purpose, having a bit of a ruck as it were. The hornbills fly through the forest, and if they spot one another WALLOP… full-welly head-first into one another. A flying head butt. The birds are trying to work out who is king of the jungle, which chap is the strongest… and therefore who gets to ravish all the really smashing maniacally-laughing, enormous-bonced young ladies in the neighbourhood. Indeed nothing quite gives a show of strength quite like a mid-air forty miles an hour headbutt… it really impresses the fillies, do try it some time.
Naturally anyone who has been out to some insalubrious drinking dens will know that knocking seven bells out of some other chap is normal behaviour for the oi polloi. Thankfully drunken pugilism is on the wane, the author is at least pleased as it is the leading cause of spilled beverages. Though there are other ways us baldy apes have taken to impressing the fairer sex. Darwin had it that we use beard length or indeed an impressive tumescence… more recent studies have shown that men will use a more grandiloquent vocabulary in front of the ladies. If there are any ladies who’ve happened across this book in the drawing room… it’s a pleasure to meet your acquaintance; please do try not to be too metagrobolized or indeed discombobulated by this opuscule.
Now where were we? Aaaah yes the helmeted hornbill smashing isn’t he? The world’s most magnificent crasher! Good to hear he thinks it’s all a bit of a laugh.