A Beastly Menagerie

American Chums! Do you have a wobbly desk? Worried that your local second-hand charity emporiums are insufficiently stocked? Then may we be so bold as to suggest you buy this book!

Available from all good emporiums and Amazon. Copies will soon be made available to other parts of this smashing planet of ours! x

Published in: on October 26, 2010 at 9:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Adelie Penguin

In 1807 Jules Sébastien César Dumont d’Urville failed the physical test to get into the Ecole Polytechnique and was soon esconced in that bunch of ne’er do wells… the French Navy. There the legendarily unhygienic sailor rose through the ranks and sailed the Seven Seas. His career was illustrious, most notably his discovery of the famous Venus de Milo statue in the Greek Cyclades. Years later the fragrant Frenchman set foot in the Antarctic. There he set eyes on a rather sweet and diminutive penguin and promptly decided to name it after his wife; Adelie. Sadly for Dumont this rather romantic gesture was about as successful as a French naval campaign… as it turned out that the female adelie penguin was a trollop.

I didn't say that dear, it's just that he's rather ... brown ... a bit like George next door.

I didn't say that dear, it's just that he's rather ... brown ... a bit like George next door.

The adelie penguins live on the Antarctic beaches, where once every couple of years unseasonably warm weather hits. This would of course be good news on most beaches but the icy plains that the penguins call home are subject to floods, the warm spell melts the ice and the whole place is awash with mud and guano. Not the ideal environment for bringing up junior.

brazen strumpetry

brazen strumpetry

So how does this turn a penguin into a harlot I hear you cry? Bear with me good reader, you see the adelie have found a way of keeping their seed in good shape by building stony nests to elevate their egg. These stones are not that plentiful, so there are some mighty squabbles over them. The stronger males eventually take the most pebbles and build the best nests.

When the female adelie return from the better part of the year at sea, they will choose a mate and soon steer towards the strong provider penguin who has proved himself by building up a good tall nest … but that’s not the end of the story. As we have said the female adelie penguin is quite the strumpet. It seems that as soon as hubby’s back is turned she is getting rather game with the neighbours, those males who haven’t had any success at finding a mate.

In return for a frolic with a filly the bachelor penguins are rather happy to pay… the princely sum of one pebble. The adelie penguins are the only example of prostitution in all of the birds. In fact, some of the more amorous female adelies have been observed prostituting themselves over 62 times in a breeding season.

Of course there is no record of Jules Sébastien César Dumont d’Urville’s wife Adelie Dumont being anything like her penguin namesakes, though it has been noted by more than one learned gentleman that she was of French origin.

Published in: on October 21, 2010 at 10:52 am  Comments (2)  

Lake Titicaca Frog

WE’VE MOVED! COME AND SEE US HERE YOU BIG SMASHER!

High in the South American Andes sits an epic body of water, many years ago the local tribes saw that it was shaped like a puma pouncing on a rabbit and so named it Lake Titicaca. Years later, deep in its azure waters Victorian naturalists found a rather curious looking frog, they marvelled at this new species poked at its flaps of skin and scratched their learned chins, there was only one name for this froggy fellow Telmatobius coleus – the aquatic scrotum.

... the aquatic scrotum...

Lake Titicaca is an unforgiving place, at nearly 4,000 metres above sea level the Sun is punishing, oxygen is thin and freezing temperatures abound. It’s for this reason that the Lake Titicaca Frog has evolved into something that looks like it should be in a man’s pants, which is surprising as a man’s pants are rarely thought of as an extreme environment. It should also be noted that it being discovered in 1876 it was way before any sort of TV chef, hence the frog is not called Gordonus Ramsiius. Not that we at the proceedings think Gordon Ramsey looks like a nutsack … no …no… no… no… no. It seems the key to the frogs success is that it stays underwater at all times, and those folds and flaps of skin help with the uptake of oxygen from the lake.

... one will have you know that it is your scrotum that looks like a frog...

For years this fellow has been revered by the locals, who thought the frog could summon rain. They would take a frog, place him in a jar, and leave him at the top of a hill. Of course the frog would scream bally murder, it hadn’t evolved into a scrotum-like frog to sit in jars at the top of hills, he much preferred life at the bottom of a lake where people couldn’t constantly remark on how much he looked like a pair of knackers. Unfortunately the Frogish for ‘get me out of this jar you fools’ sounds a lot like the Quechuan for ‘oh do rain, it would be awfully nice’. Thankfully sometimes the rains would come, and as the jar filled with water the frog could slosh out and go back to the bottom of the lake where he felt much less self conscious.

... unhand me you buffoon!

In the 1970’s when Jacques Cousteau visited the lake he reported that the bottom was quite literally swimming with ‘thousands of millions’ of giant frogs, many up to 50cm long. Sadly the days of these behemoth have gone, there are few frogs left and those that are still there rarely get that big . One of the main reasons for their demise is the fad for ‘frog juice’ in nearby Lima. These cosmopolitan forward-thinking erudites think that they can produce an aphrodisiac by skinning a frog alive, mixing it with a bit of honey and some roots, and whizzing it up in a blender. Of course nothing gets me in the mood like watching a frog being skinned alive and blended. In fact I can think of no bigger turn off… apart from Gordon Ramsay… who looks like a nutsack.

Published in: on October 19, 2010 at 11:00 am  Comments (1)  

Tongue Eating Louse

WE’VE MOVED! COME JOIN US HHERE

The tongue-eating louse is the only example of a parasite that lives by crawling into another animal and after dispatching with a body part lives as a rather awkward replacement. It does so with relatively little harm to the poor bloody fish, though it is said the poor bloody fish rarely gets a smooch these days.

tongue-eating-louse

say aaaaah

He’s an unwanted guest, like some insufferable bugger from college who comes around and stays far too bloody long, at least he would be if said guest came in ate your chaise longue and quickly proceeded to decimate your wine cellar and didn’t leave until the day they died. The tongue-eating louse is quite possibly the most repugnant thing on the planet, worse than the Major’s wife and even a sniper wouldn’t take her out.

cymothoa

just a quick kiss... no no don't mind him

This louse is quite simply a monster, albeit a little one. The crustacean crawls into the gills of a fish, scrambles up to the mouth and stabs its claws either side of the fishes tongue. Despite its name it doesn’t actually eat the tongue, the organ atrophies as the parasite slurps the blood taking with it all the oxygen and nutrients and what not. There the louse sits for the rest of its life, why the blazes they never evolved to eat the tasty morsels the poor bloody fish is eating is anyone’s guess. One also wonders how they find this living-in-a-fishy mouth lifestyle satisfying.

tongueeater

... well on tuesdays i do Spanish classes... and on Thursdays I do salsa

So do we at The Proceedings wish we’d never mentioned the horrible buggers? Quite the opposite we think they are really rather grand! An incredible example of a pinnacle of evolution…. you see parasites rather obviously live off another animal to the hosts detriment. It’s a rather lazy, but devilishly clever survival technique that has arisen again and again independently throughout the course of evolution. It’s safe to say almost every single animal of any size has at least one. The really really clever, or more to the point the really well-evolved parasites, tap the hosts resources all the while leaving the host to live quite normally and hence as long as possible…. so that the parasite can tap more and more resources, and make more and more horrible little offspring. And we at The Proceedings can think of no other parasite that does it quite so well.

Indeed the closest we could think of is our own offspring, living off the nutrients of the blood of its mother, before popping out being a bit of a pain until you can eventually pack them off to a cripplingly expensive boarding school at the age of four. Which is at least some good news for the parents as they get back to smooching, a smooch that contains millions of micro-organisms, some of which are parasites.

Published in: on October 18, 2010 at 1:21 pm  Comments (3)  

Goliath Tigerfish

WE’VE MOVED! COME AND SEE US HERE YOU BIG SMASHER!

Don’t worry it’ll only attack you if you’re wet… meet the goliath tigerfish of the river Congo.

... and this is the eating end

... and this is the eating end

He’s a smasher isn’t he! One learned friend of The Proceedings described him as ‘…the fiercest fish that swims. Let others hold forth as advocates for the mako shark, the barracudas or the blue fish of the Atlantic. To them I say ‘Pish and Tush’’. Strong words I know, and I can only apologize that such offensive language has been used in front of lady folk, however I felt it prudent to establish just what a vicious brute he is.

A huge bollard of darting fishy muscle, the goliath tigerfish is quite simply an eating machine. Those teeth are set into a hard bony jaw so that when it snaps its unbelievable gob shut they interlock like a set of shears. If you happen to have rolled up your trousers for a paddle in the Congo it would be clever thinking to keep the noise down, as the goliath tigerfish’s sense of hearing is absolutely tip-top, a small bone connects its ear to its swim bladder which acts like an amplifier. The other rather brilliant news about this highly-astute uber-strong swimming set of gnashers is that they shoal… in huge numbers. Attacks on humans have been reported but not verified.

goliath tigerfish: not very cuddly

Though there has to be a bit more than ‘bitiness’ to get you into The Proceedings of the Ever So Strange. You see all around the world wildly different creatures look a bit similar. One reason for this is that there are only so many things in the world that make a sufficient supper. What’s more evolution only has what it’s given to work with… much like the Royal families’ portrait artist. The foot of an elephant contain the same bones as the foot of a mouse. The neck of a giraffe has exactly the same amount of vertebrae as that of Winston Churchill. Combine this fact with there are only so many meal tickets in the wild, you get animals that aren’t closely related who look remarkably similar… like the anteaters, the aardvarks and the pangolins for example. Evolution has come up with the same answer to the same question, just in a different place. Convergent evolution as learned types call it. Why all these musings I hear you cry, well put simply the goliath tigerfish is Africa’s version of the river Amazon’s renowned piranha… and indeed it is incredibly similar… just much much bigger.

Published in: on October 15, 2010 at 12:20 pm  Comments (4)  

Ocean Sunfish

WE’VE MOVED! COME JOIN US YOU BIG SMASHER!

The largest bony fish in the world is the incredible ocean sunfish Mola mola, a bizarre circular fish that can reach more than 4M across, weighing up to 2,300 kg… about the same weight as an Asian bull elephant… which is a lot… but don’t tell him I told you so as that would be terrible manners.

snfish

This enormous bony fish gets its name from its behaviour of thermal recharging, basking his big flat body to catch the warmth of the sun’s rays, after deep dives into the depths of the chilly ocean. Lying flat like a mirror image of the sun. In fact it has a number of apt monickers, in many countries it is known as the moonfish, in Germany it’s “the swimming head”, in Poland the “head alone” and in China it’s the “toppled car” which makes absolutely no bloody sense whatsoever.

Mola_mola

Talking of talking sense, I’m a simple man who likes to keep things elementary; I call my dog “doggy”, Lady Gwendolene “darling” and a Frenchman a “stinking coward”. So I thought it pertinent to bring it to your attention that the very word ‘fish’ is probably misleading. There are 9 different classes of vertebrates; mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians are a familiar and really rather nicely defined four, incredibly the other five are all different classes of fish. The Agnatha; weird eel-like fish like the hagfish and lamprey. The Acanthodii and Placodermi, who didn’t do frightfully well and went extinct. Then there are the Chondricythes, with their cartilaginous skeletons, like the sharks and rays. Finally there are the more ‘fishy’ fish, the Osteicythes, the bony fish like the tuna, the cod and our smashing ocean sunfish.

sunfish

Thankfully the ocean sunfish doesn’t care what you call him as he’s bally stupid, the most stupid animal in the sea, after a Giraffe of course. His brain is quite literally the size of a peanut, weighing in at 4g. He doesn’t really need it of course, nature is like that… terribly efficient, he happily bimbles around the ocean, eating jellyfish and well having a bit of lie down, eating another blobby thing… and that’s it really. He eats the easiest of prey; starfish, sponges what not… anything that can’t get away from the slow moving oaf to be perfectly honest… it’s fair to say that the ocean sunfishes prey have about as much chance as a biscuit in a fat man’s bed. So how did he get so big? Well quite simply by eating lots and lots. All the really big animals around the planet have access to tonnes and tonnes of food. The elephant chows down on the grasses and brows of Africa and Asia. The blue whale, who incidentally has a tongue the same length as an elephant, slurps up tonnes and tonnes of krill. The ocean sunfish, the largest bony fish in the world, eats jellyfish and sponges… lots and lots of them.

Published in: on October 14, 2010 at 2:20 pm  Comments (4)  

Book of Faces

You like faces, right? Books too?

...rather!

You’re going to love our new Book of Faces!

Published in: on October 2, 2010 at 11:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Texas Horned Lizard

This spiky fellow has evolved to become the most disgusting meal ever… at least since we had that Scotch chef fired… say how-do-you-do to the Texas horned lizard. The frightful chap is the biggest and most widespread horned lizard in the United States. There he eats lots and lots of ants, with a side of locusts… and perhaps a little beetle for afters if he feels he has been a good Texas horned lizard. He likes a drink too, don’t we all, and when a rainstorm comes in he shoves his bottom in the air and allows the water to drizzle down his back to the corner of his mouth… very refreshing.

... that's probably as close as you want to get old bean...

Though as we previously hit on it is his aversion to getting eaten that propels this chap into the Proceedings. Now as we have seen most animals have an inclination towards not being munched into tiny fleshy pieces by some beast that out-sizes you by ten to one. Quite naturally there has been some evolutionary advancements towards not getting into said creek. So if it does come to the crunch the Texas horned lizard stands stock still… not the best option one would think, at least you would think that until the lizard went for option number two. He stands stock still for a reason you see… rather good camouflage all those horny bits. Ah yes, option two, I always knew we’d get round to you. For option two he makes the rather unexpected move of shooting blood out of his eyes. Yes the Texas horned lizard is quite simply the rarest meal since that French chap, who was well known for his penchant for particularly rare steaks, went and broke his stove. This bloody lizard’s blood is said to taste fowl to coyotes and … not to mention it’s rather bloody startling too.

... I told you...

Now blood, as I am sure you’re aware, is not known for its shooty-out-of-your-eye-i-ness and so it is rather surprising to see this Ever so Strange behaviour. Though it is an undoubtedly smashing spectacle and it rather neatly demonstrates an important aspect of evolution. Evolution only has a set number of materials. The flipper that helped some forward-thinking fish out of the ocean has, over an excruciatingly long period of time, developed into all sorts of wonderful things; legs and claws, and hands and wings and sometimes back into flippers again. The tiny bones that make up our ears were once simple parts of the jaw. Something as wondrous as a ladies bosom was once little more than a jumped up sweat gland. All animals are made up of the same bits and bobs, as if the bits and bobs are made of rubber bands to stretch and pull in different directions… evolution has a blueprint… and so the Texas horned lizard has quite naturally evolved to shoot toxic blood out of his eyes if you try and make a meal out of him.

Published in: on October 1, 2010 at 12:37 pm  Leave a Comment