There’s a rather cheeky young lady for your delectation over at Vol II!
At first glance, many take a dislike to the vampire bat; flapping around, giving everyone the heeby jeebies, and getting a load of free drinks. But give him a chance dear reader; this flappy chappy actually always gets his round of drinks in …
The vampire bat is of course impeccably adapted to drinking blood. He will fly in absolute darkness to slurp on mammals, while its two closest relatives prefer birds. He first detects its prey through the snuffling and snoring that we animals do when we sleep, and indeed the bit of its brain that deals with this information is rather pronounced—much like the bit in the Pilkington-Smythe’s bonce that locates booze.
To get to all that lovely red stuff unsurprisingly the vampire bats have big fangy teeth at the front, though it is not for the reason you would presume. First, if their prey is particularly hirsute, they use their teeth as a razor and shave the area they want to eat. Secondly they nick open the wound and lap at it with their tongue. A substance in their saliva called draculin stops the blood clotting and, like a quiet night in a Scottish pub, they proceed to drink up to half their body weight in blood. Of course, this is where going to the toilet rather sharply comes in handy, especially for a super-light flying mammal, a liquid lunch being frightfully heavy-going you see. It quickly gets the wet bit of the blood and bundles it out of the back door via the kidneys. In fact, a common vampire bat’s digestive system works so quickly it will begin wazzing within two minutes of starting to feed.
Most creatures don’t like being shaven in the night, especially if it leads to having your blood drunk and being wazzed all over. So it won’t be a surprise to discover that sometimes vampire bats don’t get a delicious bloody meal. Quite often, a vampire bat will go home empty-bellied. Not a problem though, as when they arrive back at the big spooky castle they live in … what … don’t they? How disappointing! Once they arrive back in the very dark tree stump they call home, the ones who haven’t got a meal will go and ask for one from the neighbor … yes, like borrowing a cup of sugar … as they may well die without getting a feed. All very well, if indeed your idea of vampires vomiting blood into each other’s mouths is all very well… as it would seem that these bats are rather kind, friendly, and neighborly after all. Some learned types decided to do an experiment to see if bats would always share their spoils, and it turns out that there is a catch. They will stop sharing with a bat if that bat stops sharing the blood they collect. So vampire bats will only shout you a drink if you shout them one back. The moral of the story: don’t be nice to anyone. Gad’s, that can’t be right—be nice to vampires … nope … always urinate when drinking half your body weight … closer … dammit, just be nice.
Dear Buddha… I’m writing to you today to ask a favour… as you know… are you all knowing? As you might know I’m not a man for organized religion… but I can’t believe that if you supernatural types are keeping an eye on us that you wouldn’t awfully mind if we just got on with things and were just… well, nice to each other. Surely the possibility of an all powerful God who leaves his subjects to have a torrid time is about as possible as some sort of magical device you can carry around in your pocket that receives telegrams, can play gramophone records and be used like some sort of receptacle to speak to acquaintances to arrange soirees. I digress chubby chops… you see I was wondering if you aren’t too busy by the time I kick the bucket that you could possibly see to it that I could be reincarnated as a sort of animal… a pen-tailed tree shrew to be exact.
The pen-tailed tree shrew is the biggest non-Scotch drinker on the planet. Of course the biggest boozer on the planet is the McPen-tailed tree shrew but that is another story. Incredible wee drunkard this fellow is too. He is about the size of a small rat and remarkably manages to hoof down the equivalent of twelve glasses of wine every single night. In fact that is all he ever ‘eats’, still he doesn’t seem to be too badly effected by going at it every night.
Upon ruminating on the concept one is sure you will be as aghast as one’s self in working out that it really can’t be that good an idea if you’re a teeny tiny tasty bite-sized beastie to get absolutely hammered every eve. Predators would have the time of their lives… who wouldn’t on the concept of self-marinating meals. Indeed one of the very few studies in alcohol intake in animals looked at boozing in fruit bats and whether they liked to eat fermenting fruit… they don’t… and although one finds it very hard to comprehend, they’re not silly buggers “a drunk bat is a dead bat” as one of the researchers pointed out.
The pen-tailed tree shrew on the other hand frequents a rather affable tree, the Bertram palm, whose buds harbour a type of yeast. In the bud the nectar and yeast ferments producing an alcoholic beverage. It is not just the pen-tailed tree shrew that has discovered this rainforest pub, in fact seven species of beastie make regular trips to the plant. It is just our little shrew friend who is always there, the animal equivalent of the Pilkington-Smythes and the local pub.
The tree isn’t daft of course, it doesn’t attract a gaggle of boozy animals to carouse around it and keep it awake all night for nothing, as these little lushes act as pollinators. The bertram palm and the pen-tailed tree shrew have been living this happy relationship for nigh on 55 million years… yes quite… the longest bender in history.
Of course man has long been boozing too, some of the earliest writings refer to the production and distribution of beer, such as the “Hymn to Ninkasi” a prayer to the goddess of beer… hmm might need a quick rethink on this organised religion thing… there is even evidence of the preparation of a brew from the Stone age, in the past it was a handy way to get some liquid and not drinking a load of horrible beasties, indeed most people would drink it all day. I even have it on good authority that Queen Victoria was partial to a pint or two of a morning.
One final note; the pen-tailed tree shrew is remarkably similar to the first primate… our earliest ancestor… so it may just well be that we are all in some way reincarnated from a rather smashing little boozer.
The wee and really rather lovely monito del monte doesn’t go around the world proclaiming different types of fruit to be in tip top condition, nor is he “the little monkey of the mountain” as the natives like to call him. This chap could be the biggest case of a missing persons in the animal kingdom, indeed this little ex-patriot was thought to be extinct more than eleven million years ago, before popping up swanning around in South America.
Forty six million years ago, when India was having a ding dong with Asia causing the Himalayas to buckle up out of the earth, mega-continent Gondwanaland was going through a rather messy divorce. While the Americas drifted away from Oceania the monito del monte and the Australian marsupials said Adieu. Leaving the rather marvellous Australian little mountain monkey behind.
There are of course South American marsupials, the mammals that have a handy little pouch in front to keep their young and pocket watches in… namely the opposums and the shrew opposums. However it seems the smashing monito del monte is naturally a lot more closely related to Australian marsupials. Not so long ago on a farm in Queensland, Australia there was a rather smashing find; a small pile of bones belonging to a tiny wee thing called Djarthia, which for all intents and purposes turned out to be a monito del monte. In fact Djarthia is the oldest marsupial from Australia, so it seems that all of Australia’s marsupials come from this wee gadabout, which means the little mountain monkey is a rather important formerly-extinct wee fellow.
Many species seemingly go extinct, only to suddenly appear feeling right as rain in some hitherto unexplored part of the planet. Such “lazarus taxon” as they are known are perhaps inevitable as we know so little about the planet we live on. Incidentally sometimes they turn out to be impostors, new species that look like old species, these look-alikes are known as “elvis taxa”… yes really one isn’t making it up. Further there are fossils that appear to go extinct that are then found millions of year later in the record… these are called “zombie taxon”… now really one must protest one may be half way through a rather nice Chateau Latour… but yes one is telling the whole and absolute truth. Now where are we you impudent bunch… ah yes the rather gorgeous monito del monte.
The monito del monte lives in a very small corner of the Chilean Andes, where he makes his nest in the bamboo thickets that grow there. He covers the nest with moss to keep himself all warm and toasty and will hibernate when the weather turns too cold. They eat insects and fruit, in fact the local mistletoe is so dependent on the monito del monte for seed dispersal it would quite simply go extinct if anything untoward should happen to the little chap… and we wouldn’t want that to happen again.
This tremendous little fellow is often thought of as the ‘forgotten’ ape Pan paniscus; the pygmy chimpanzee. What this whippersnapper lacks in stature he more than makes up for in the trouser department, as these are possibly the most promiscuous creatures on the planet.
Invariably when people speak of chimps they are talking about the bonobo’s cousin the common chimpanzee, but this chap is actually a separate species who also lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The bonobo’s appearance is slightly different, their legs are relatively longer and they find it easier to stand, they have a darker face, pink lips and long hair in a centre parting…. is anyone picturing Queen Victoria right now or is it just me? The bonobo live south of the Congo, their more famous cousins are found North of the great river, and it was only in 1939 that they were discovered, three centuries after all the other great apes. Incidentally when early explorers first discovered the great apes of the Congo they assumed that they were in fact human and strolled right up to them to have a bit of a chinwag… presumably to try and find out where one could find a passable gin and tonic in the area.
On to the obscene, you see the bonobo like to have sex all the time; mothers with fathers, fathers with mothers, mothers with mothers, sons with sisters, sisters with sisters, fathers with fathers, mothers… oh you get the point, basically everyone with anyone with the possible exception of mothers with sons… what do you think they are? Perverts or something?
Like many animals they are not afraid of a bit of homosexuality either. Male bonobos will hang from branches and ‘frot’ or ‘penis-fence’, or stand back to back and rub their scrotums together. Females on the other hand will scissor… I’ll leave that one to your imagination.
You see in bonobo-world having sex is just their way of getting along better and to say sorry. What is more it is their way of saying hello, how do you do and isn’t the weather much the same as yesterday as we live in equatorial Africa. When you live in a tribe of a hundred horny little chimps that is a lot of bedroom athletics to get through. They even have sex when they find a new food source… it is literally fair to say the bonobo have sex at the drop of a peanut.
One more thing about this naughty chimp, and one can only apologize to all our lady readers for all this lasciviousness, but the bonobo is quite simply the only other creature on the planet that goes for face to face sex, tongue kissing and oral sex. Apart from a single pair of gorillas that is, but all the other gorilla’s avoided them because they were a bit ‘funny’.
What is perhaps most human, and they really are “most human” being more closely related to us than they are to gorillas, is the bonobo’s compassionate nature. Learned types have stated the bonobo is capable of altruism, empathy, kindness, patience and sensitivity. In fact it is often mused that perhaps the chimps would be much better in the same genus as humans; Homo paniscus perhaps or even we humans could be reclassified as Pan sapiens. Of course no-one has ever asked a bonobo what they would like, they’d probably have to have a think about it… over a nice bit of rumpy-pumpy.
Hippopotamuses… tough is not the word… everyone knows them for their man-squishing temper tantrums… though few know that their hide is so thick they are bullet proof and what’s more they can bimble around on any terrain… put quite simply they have evolved into the biological equivalent of a tank. Then there is Choeropsis liberiensis, the pygmy hippo… the anti-hippo.
The common hippo is renowned for its ferocity, often cited as the most dangerous animal in Africa. Of course the mosquito is a far more dangerous animal than the hippo, though I know which one I’d rather tackle with a newspaper. While the hippo will think nothing at having a go at eating a boat or causing a ruckus through farms and villages… the pygmy hippo thinks all this rampaging quite tiresome… not least because he’s knee high and would be frankly abominable at the chore. It would probably be safer to say the common hippo is the most ferocious animal in Africa. It is aggressive and invasive. The mosquito is more of a silent assassin, but enough of him he’s such a whiner.
The pygmy hippo on the other hand is a rather rare hippo from western Africa. The other living species of hippo, the common hippo is much bigger… ah quite, yes and more common. Hippopotamus means “river horse” in Greek, the locals call the pygmy hippo the “river pig” but the actual family tree of the hippos is a tad more smashing than that. Their closest living relatives are in fact the cetaceans; the whales and dolphins. Which makes sense when you think about it really… a water living fatso and all that.
Interestingly hippos, despite spending 90% of their time in the water, can’t swim. To get around in the water they simply sink to the bottom of the river and skedaddle along the bottom. The pygmy hippo spends a lot more time on dry land. To stop getting sunburn both types of hippo actually secrete sunscreen, or “blood sweat” as it has rather gruesomely become known. It is neither blood nor sweat but is a highly alkaline substance that turns pink in sunlight, it’s also a rather effective antibacterial agent.
Pygmy hippos are smaller and spend more time on land. They have a sloped back allowing them to pass through the bush more effectively, they merrily mark their path by pooing while using their tiny wee tail to scatter the stuff all over… again like their bigger cousin. For this reason that they are one of the few retromingent animals… they urinate backwards.
Of course the point I’m very slowly getting round to is that the pygmy hippo is not a chubby sociopath with a head swimming in blood lust, in fact they are quite the opposite of the aggressive common hippo. They are adorable tubby lumps who are just begging for a scratch under the chin, unfortunately you’d be lucky to give the wee chap a tickle in the wild, not just because they are very rare, they are very shy… and though no doubt they’d appreciate the scratch they are quite frankly avoiding that big dangerous cousin of theirs.
Meet one of the most dapper chaps on the planet, granted he doesn’t get his shirts from Jermyn St… nor does he know that a fine Harris tweed is of course unsurpassed as poor weather attire… but he does know a thing or two about grooming… say good day to the Sifaka.
We could learn something from this clean-cut primate… one can feel drunk on power from the crispness of the crease of a pair of trousers, actually to be fair mostly from this gin, but at least some giddiness from sartorial elegance.
Sifakas are a type of lemur, a smashing bunch of animals from Madagascar, yes like the Aye Aye. Madagascar said toodlepip to Africa ninety million years ago, while dinosaurs were still skedaddling around the planet. The lemurs separated from the rest of the primates (you, me, chimpanzees, creationists etc) about 55 million years ago. They diversified and filled all the ecological niches that the lovely tropical paradise of Madagascar had to offer them… until man turned up and thought them quite tasty.
Their name is onomatopoeic, that is to say their name is the name of the noise they make; like a cuckoo, a splosh, a quack or indeed a zip. The sifaka, who despite being a dapper primate hasn’t cottoned on to onomatopoeic universal fasteners, lives on the western side of the island and makes a noise that sounds like ‘Shee-fak’, and so the tribes their call them sifaka. On the eastern side the sifaka make a noise much like a sneeze, and so the tribes their have given them a name that sounds much like a sneeze, of course this is mightily confusing for both the local tribes and the sifaka when it comes to cold season.
While most lemurs like to belt all over the place on all fours, the sifakas thought it much more refined to be a bit more… well upright… and are incredibly well adapted to bounding through the trees, in fact some hoof along at up to twenty odd miles an hour amidst the twigs and branches. Of course being mostly upright, and hoofing it through trees takes some skill. The sifaka manage this feat by leaping out from the trees, spinning 180degrees, and landing back face-first on the next tree up to 10 metres away. Being so well adapted to hoofing through branches means that they are rather ill adapted to crossing land, though they do their best… unfortunately doing their best looks like a cowboy, fresh from crossing the entire western plains heading towards a bar after a nut-kicking competition.
But why is he so dapper I hear you cry?
Well it turns out that he has a number of remarkable implements at his disposal to keep himself presentable. He has a toothcomb, highly adapted teeth that comb through his thick fur, to keep himself clean. What’s more he has a toilet claw which is used for… what it’s not for… aaaah! for gads sake… does that mean… I’m so sorry for wasting everyone’s time… I thought it was used for… ah never mind.
Everyone knows the story of the right whale, the whale the whalers thought was the right whale because… well it was the “right” whale to catch… well I’ll tell you something about this right whale chap… he’s just not right.
He’s certainly an odd looking fellow for starters, his huge mouth starts way above his eye… a gaping maw chock full of baleen to strip the water of tasty shrimp and the like. On that bonce are big bugger off callosities, sometimes appearing white because of the huge lice that congregate on them… though as Mrs Merrick said to her little boy ‘it’s not what is on the outside that counts’ and what shoves this fellow clicking and squeaking into the Proceedings of the Ever so Strange… is what is on the inside.
When you are dealing with whales it’s not exactly a huge leap of the imagination to realise that you are going to be dealing with some big body bits. Though there is one body bit in particular of the right whale that is really rather outsized. You see these chaps have enormous gonads… knackers… family jewels… call them what you will… one thing you can call them is bloody enormous… each one is five hundred kilos… together they weigh the same as a saloon car… though you wouldn’t want to clamber inside one for a family Sunday I’d warrant.
The right whale needs them too as the female right whale is… well something of a strumpet. When it comes to mating season the female right whale will… erm take on multiple partners at the same time. They are tremendously sensuous creatures and it’s said that the pressure of a human finger can give them a knee-trembler… if they hadn’t evolved their knees away. The right whales meet for these watery orgies and the males gather round to nuzzle and stroke the female for hours, then the males will enter her with their eight foot schlongs… it’s true that… how do we put this… she’ll allow them ‘in’ more than one at a time… after which the right whale all agree that they’ve had a merry old time and bimble off in to the big wet to find another orgy to attend.
All salacious gossip, and it’s just one of the reasons that female right whales don’t live in small villages and attend church… but there is also the tricksy laws of evolution here afoot… sexual selection. Postulated by Charlie Darwin… yes you are quite right… it’s the reason that males fight like rutting stags and show off like pompous peacocks. But combat and ornamentation are only two aspects of sexual selection… there are other shadowy goings on… one is sperm competition. Yes one way in which this never-ending tussle for more offspring is to continue the fight on to a microscopic level. As you’d expect nature has come up with a range of strategies to deal with this… the male dunnock bird pecks out his predecessors sperm before mounting the female… whereas dragonfly have evolved a penis that for all intents and purposes looks like a bottle cleaner to scrub out his predecessor’s love goo. Even humans have sperm competition and men will produce more of a type of ‘blocker’ sperm, like a defending footballer, if he suspects his missus is having it away with the milkman. The right whale has a much more simple method… to produce lots of sperm… from enormous testes… put quite simply he’s buying lots and lots of tickets in a lottery. I warned you that these chaps just aren’t right.
There are three species of these not-so-right whales who inhabit the Arctic and Antarctic, their populations spilt by a cold planet warming some millions of years ago. There is a forth… though not currently put in the right whale group… the much larger bowhead whale, a huge leviathan, it uses its great big bonce to smash through thick ice to draw a breath… as I mentioned it’s not usually placed in the right whale group but modern genetic studies have found there is more variation between the three species of right whale than there are betwixt them and the bowhead.
Finally as I mentioned the whalers of yore were said to have given the right whale its name after the fact that it didn’t sink, though the truth is a tad more multifaceted than that. Early whalers were based on the land, lookouts would keep a constant vigil, and when whales were spotted they would give the signal for the other whalers to row out to spear the poor sods. The right whale is also a slow swimmer, so it’s not surprising the right whale was considered right by those having to row out and catch one. Finally these ‘right’ whales are indeed more likely to float than other whales once you’ve stuck a harpoon in the poor sod, at the absolute most only 30% would sink.
While it’s easy to point a finger at these whalers that decimated the right whale populations, it’s these ‘right’ characteristics that means it is still being killed today… they are constantly struck by propellers and crashed into by boats… which means that some species of these rather marvellous creatures are down in their hundreds… Sad news indeed and while it’s debatable whether this whale is right or not… we at The Proceedings can certainly tell you when something isn’t right.