Archive for May, 2007

Autofocus Assist

13 May 2007

Snap. Mere moments after I added a link to the “Ted the Titan” timelapse to my corpse flower post, Jessica noticed a familar back hiding in the frames. Sure enough, twenty-one ‘seconds’ into the video there I am, taking this photo:

If you look closely, you can see the AF-assist beam illuminating the spadix with an orange glow. I had actually scanned the video frame-by-frame earlier but somehow missed it. I guess I’m just not used to recognizing myself from the back.

I suppose this means I’m famous. I’ll try not to let to go to my head.

Death Caps stuffed with seared Yeti Crab over a bed of rice

12 May 2007

E.O. and co. are rolling out EOL (not to be confused with ELO), an online ‘Encyclopedia of Life‘, with the ulitmate aim of individualized pages for every living species on Earth. You know, sort of like a Myspace or Facebook for every animal, plant, fungus, and ‘other’ on the planet.

So far, the EOL site boasts some slick multi-media self-promotion, a list of particpants and sponsors, an FAQ page, contact info and a way to register for updates, and, of course free samples (images link):

True to the ecumenical spirit of the project, the demonstration species range from the ultra-obscure to the familar and from nourishing to fatal. I, for one, think Kiwa hirsuta was an excellent choice for a flagship animal.

As a devoted former collector of Illustrated Wildlife Treasury cards, I look forward to the new project, with great zeal (image links to crazy flashback commercial madness).



I don’t think you’re ready for this Jelly..

10 May 2007

My body’s too abdolicious….

What does UC Davis ant expert Phil Ward use to attract his quarry?  Why, grape jelly and pecan sandies of course..

Photos from the Davis Arboretum Ant Walk are here.  Don’t miss the May 20th, turtle walk lead by Brad Shaffer!

Death of a Corpse (flower).

9 May 2007

If you are reading this right now, the ‘titanic formless phallus’ of Ted the Titan is already fading.

We were lucky enough to make it to the spectacle last night at the height of the bloom (images with ‘sprocket holes’ link to video). Check beneath the fold Read the rest of this entry »

I’ll tell you the story of Henry Morgan…

2 May 2007

Male Argentine Duck, Oxyura vittata, with extruded 32.5 cm long phallus.


I wasn’t even aware that I actually knew any dirty limericks, but when I saw this PLoS One paper one popped from the depths of my subconscious like a roach emerging from beneath a rock:

I’ll tell you the tale of Dead Eye Mick
The only man with a corkscrew ‘intromittent organ’

He spent his life in a desperate hunt
For a woman who had a corkscrew ‘introreceptive organ’

When he found her he dropped down dead
The corkscrew
introreceptive organ’ had a left hand thread.

(unredacted version here – ADULT CONTENT WARNING!)

Actually the version I remembered was about Jolly Jacques…who was born with… well, you get the idea. Imagine my surprise/relief when I found the same limerick on Bora’s post about spiraling swine phalli (although his version is ‘Clarence Cool/Who was born with a spiral tool).

Anyway…if you’re the type to follow such things, you’ll no doubt recall Dr. Kevin McCracken, the man who was born with (sorry), who lead a team that published their discovery of a duck with a ‘almost half a metre long’ phallus (pictured above) as a brief communication in Nature [pdf].

Ducks are unusual among birds in having long phalli (footnote), in fact most birds don’t have phalli at all but copulate by means of a ‘cloacal kiss’. This endowment is possibly linked to their rather raucous (and from a human-perspective sometimes down-right nasty) mating habits which include forced copulation (rape) and group forced copulation (gang rape).

In their new paper, Patricia Brennan and coauthors (including McCracken) take a fresh perspective on the situation by examining the reproductive anatomy of female water-fowl…which, while less ‘in-your-face’ is no less remarkable.

In marked contrast to the traditional ho-hum ‘short, narrow muscular duct’ view of bird vaginae, they found a remarkable array of anatomical innovation in female ducks. These include dead-ends and a clockwise spiral that runs against the counter-clockwise spiraling phallus of the male!!!

These morphological novelties apparently provide females some leverage against well-equipped, but undesirable males. The acknowledgement of so-called ‘female choice’ has revolutionized our view sexual selection. The game is not simply an ‘inseminating contest’ between randy males, but a complex interplay among and between males and females with various coordinated and competing interests.

In fact the authors propose that the impressive phallus-length of male ducks may not be primarily a response to competition between males as has been largely assumed. Instead, they suggest the evolution of absurdly long duck-phalli may driven by the anatomical elaborations of the females…i.e. it’s the females driving morphological evolution not the males.

The new report has gotten a well deserved flurry of press, both in the blogosphere and a great Times article by Carl Zimmer, the man who was born with… Sorry, just trying to make up for missing National Poetry Month.

If you just can’t get enough of non-mammal intromittent organs may I suggest Darren’s recent post on turtle members?

1 – I’m avoiding using the term ‘penis’ not for decorum but due to the likelihood that the phallus of ducks is not homologus with mammal penes.