When Animal Memes Attack!

29 September 2007

The last time I got tagged with a meme…well Decimating Birds: Episode V is coming any day now. I swear.

Now Brian has tagged me with the “Cool Animal Meme” that’s been racing around the interwebs like a Chinchilla on crystal meth. So…here it goes (I’ve broken things down by vert and invert so I could squeeze a bit more in):

An Interesting Animal I Had
vertebrate:

Tex

Interesting is certainly one way to describe Clyde. He has acres of personality and makes some of the strangest noises I’ve ever heard come from a dog. Here are three videos of Clyde interacting with a log in Tomales Bay (which he liked), a hawk feather, and a snake skin shed (both of which he did not like).

invertebrate:

A couple of springs ago I brought in a mantis egg case from the garden and put in on our window sill. I watched it carefully for a couple of weeks then promptly forgot about it. A couple of months later, while enjoying a cup of coffee, I glanced over at the sill and saw this:

I set most of the hatchlings free, but kept one which survived until about Christmas. My manticulture experiments this year didn’t fare so well, I accidentally left the container open and the mantis fled. Oh, well there’s always next year…

An Interesting Animal I Ate
vertebrate:

Okay, this is going to sound weird. Bobcat.  Let me explain (not that it will help)…

When I was a kid my dad hit a bobcat on the way home. Always one to seize an opportunity, my father threw the cat in in the back of the pickup with the idea of salvaging the pelt (which is still around some place). We also got a fair amount of venison this way. My dad also cooked up some of the bobcat meat because, you know, why not?

I don’t remember what it tasted like, but my dad sent me to my mom’s house with a little tupperware of cooked bobcat meat. This of course, totally freaked out my mother (which was surely my father’s intention) but my mom’s pot dealing/gourmet chef landlord raved “It tastes like filet mignon!”

invertebrate:

I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I’ve never intentionally eaten a terrestrial arthropod. We did have an “invertabrate dinner” at the end of my invertebrate biology course but all of the goodies were of the marine and/or molluscan persuasion. I can’t say I’m terribly fond of land snail, but fried conch is delicious.

Probably the tastiest invertebrate eats I’ve had was in El Rocío, Andalucía. After rolling into the dusty Spanish town we parked next to a hitching post and walked down the dirt roads till we found a little tapas bar, complete with horses hitched outside. We ordered up a round chipirones: whole baby squid with garlic and lemon. You had to pick the tiny beaks out of your teeth. Washed down with a cold bottle of Alhambra..yum!

With the prospect of doing field work in Southern China, I imagine my interesting animals I have eaten list is set to grow considerably.

An Interesting Animal In The Museum
vertebrate:

whale.jpg

Photo by Sam and/or Sophie from here.

This one’s easy. This juvenile blue whale from the Göteburg Naturhistoriska Museum is surely the most pimped out whale mount on the planet. I tweaked the photo a bit to try to expose the interior a little better, here is how the museum website describes it:

The great blue whale which was preparated in 1865, is exhibited beside its own skeleton and other whales and seals in “Valsalen”. This 15 meter long baby whale is the only stuffed blue whale in the world! Its jaws can be opened, and once a year you can inspect its inside with its wooden floor, flowered tapestry and mahogany benches.

I guess we had good timing because when we visited the whale was open and we climbed on inside, Jonah-style. Being inside a large animal is rather surreal, but I have to say, with the handsome wooden benches and the upholstered walls, the inside of a whale is far cozier than either the Bible or Pinocchio would have you believe.

invertebrate:

Explorit’s giant cave cockroaches (Blaberus giganteus) are pretty fun to share with kids and especially parents. They are much more lively than the hissing cockroaches (though I like them too). They secrete a mild vinegary chemical predator deterrent and are freaking huge.

An Interesting Thing I Did With Or To An Animal
vertebrate:

My first ever field biology project at eight or nine, was to tie colored thread to the wrists of toads to try and track their movement and figure out how many individuals were living in our yard. I have no recollection of the results although I do remember recapturing several.

invertebrate:

I’ve done some interesting things to the cave roaches. They have wings but they can’t really fly. However, they can flutter their wings to glide to the ground when tossed in the air. They can also use them to flip back over when they are put on their back. I know, it seems mean, but think about what most people do to cockroaches.

An Interesting Animal In Its Natural Habitat
vertebrate:

Well, I don’t really remember this, but when my parents were first bringing me home from the hospital it was a rainy, bleak day. On the way home they spotted a sodden Golden Eagle walking alongside the road. In true hippie fashion they promptly gave me an ‘indian name’: ‘Walking Eagle.’ Here’s the tattoo I have that commemorates that moment:

 

Eagle

 

A few years ago, when I was working as an intern at Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming I had my most memorable Eagle encounter. I was prospecting for Eocene mammal fossils in the Wasatch Formation. As I came over the crest of Cundick Ridge I came face to beak with an Eagle roosting on a rock. I was probably several meters away but it felt like I could have reached out and touched it.

My heart skipped a beat as I stood there awestruck and paralyzed in the presence of this gigantic bird.  After what felt like minutes, but must have been a split second, the eagle casually leapt off the rock into empty space, unfurled its wings, beat them twice and sailed off. It was out of sight in a few moments, replaced by a few stray fluffs of down slowly tumbling down the cliff.

invertebrate:

Again, it’s tough to pick just one.  Finding adult ant lions with kids this spring was pretty awesome.  And lately I’ve become obsessed with scorpion hunting.  Most recently I got a big kick out of seeing an octopus while exploring tidepools in Cambria.  None of the photos turned out really well but this was the best of the lot (its the brownish thing center left).

In that eerie way that often happens with exciting animal encounters, I somehow anticipated the whole thing.  As I watched hermit crabs and bat stars I had this ‘octopodial’ feeling. But I certainly didn’t expect to see one of these cryptic masters of disguise, even though I knew that they were probably around.

I was leaning over to examine a chunk of blueschist or something, when I heard a  sudden squirt and turned to see a fist-sized cephalopod inching away.  It morphed from a deep red, to brown, to almost black then back to brown.  I got a short video, you can hear the excitement in my annoying nasal drone:

I still wish I had picked it up, damn it.

Okay, I spent waay too much time on this.  It seems like everyone and their mom has already picked up this meme.  But I’d be nice to see what Carel has to say after he gets back from his blogging vacation.

Oh yeah and Jessica of the brand new blog Inorganics should give it a shot, although I’m predicting some overlap!

4 Responses to “When Animal Memes Attack!”

  1. rebecca Says:

    you dog has floppy ears.

  2. Julia Says:

    With the prospect of doing field work in Southern China, I imagine my interesting animals I have eaten list is set to grow considerably.

    Mmm, yes – it seems to be a bit of a lab rite of passage in my research group to go to far-flung areas of China. By the third day I will apparently be eating nothing but ginger biscuits…

  3. Chelsea Says:

    I like that the walking eagle is a baby walking eagle. Right?

    Is this what you mean when you talk about rudeness to cockroaches? Or do you mean forcing them to sit next to your boring relatives at dinner parties, because I honestly thought that they would get along, I was not doing it to be a jerk.

  4. Neil Says:

    Indeed Clyde’s ears are floppy under the right circumstances, they can even generate lift!

    A baby walking eagle? Well, the tattoo is certainly much smaller than an actual adult eagle…but it’s fully fledged so I’m guessing it’s not a neonate. Depending on how I twist my arm it can look a little squashed and neotenous though I guess….

    That cockroach study is kinda crazy and I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around it…but I guess roaches are the new lab mice!


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