Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pupafurius hypervesta redux

Monday, August 31, 2009

Pegea pacifica

The Makassar Salp is the largest species of free-floating Tunicate to inhabit tropical waters. Its gelatinous body is typically 5 cm long and prolate, featuring siphons at either end. These can dilate to a degree sufficient to allow other animals to crawl or swim inside the body. Typically such an intruder is ejected during the propulsive process, but on occasion it may become lodged. In these circumstances, the salp’s usual recourse is to expel all water and contract at both ends, suffocating the creature in a vacuum. The salp may itself die in the process, and then harden — resulting in an attractive, semi-opaque object shaped exactly like a bird’s egg.

“Mermaid grenades,” as these floating trinkets are often called, are commonly gleaned by fishermen and sold as souvenirs. Their shape and intrinsic beauty can cause them to be mistaken for handmade items. A color illustration by Ernst Haeckel from 1904 (of a dead specimen encasing a Mammoth tomopteris) is well known to the public due to its frequent appearance on Easter cards.

Despite their appeal, dried Makassar salps are very brittle and should be placed out of the reach of children. The “shell” consisting of the actual salp can cause nausea or vomiting if ingested, whereas the trapped contents may be more lethal. The corpse of an Hörkbisschen’s devil prawn, for example, will induce blindness, paralysis and asphyxia in very short order if tasted. Frequently found nested in dead salps, these crustaceans
have more than once been mistaken for red licorice “prizes” — with tragic consequences.

From: P. P. Klimpsonel, The Shores of Borneo (New York: Harcourt Brace and World, 1969), p. 83.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Coturnix coelobonesis

Malayo-Polynesian Azure Quail is a stout, small bird that nests on the ground like others of its family. Gregarious animals, they typically roam in compact flocks known as coveys, probing grassy spots for ants and seed. When attacked, a lone quail’s defense mechanisms will differ from those of an accompanied bird. Most notably, the solitary quail will eject jets of lymphous blood from its femoral regions. Generated by extreme distress, this pungent secretion is (in contrast with the regular fluid) noxious and harmful to predators such as the ORIENTAL JUNGLE FENNEC. But to humans, it is the foundation of practically any recipe involving the bird, and hunters strive to collect as much of it as possible.

When Philippine traders introduced new culinary practices to Sulepawak, the demand for Azure quail immediately rose. It was the art of curing pig’s flesh in brine that made the difference, for it is now accepted that the bird must be wrapped in a sheet of bacon (which in turn is wrapped in a palm leaf, as per tradition) before cooking in order to truly bring out the tangy flavor. Generous slathers of autohemorrhaged blood enhance the bacon’s smoky zest to make this dish (baburunkasapar) the island nation’s most popular delicacy.

From: H. Viveam Constanelle, Known Wildlife of Sulepawak: A Field Guide, Mandaroeb & Sons, 1955: p. 174.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Mico nudocapite

Hot Slut Of The Day!

Knödel, the week-old bald platina marmoset at the Berlin Zoo! Bald platina marmosets hail from the hottest (and sluttiest) part of the Amazon basin, which explains why their hair is thin enough in places to give the illusion that Kate Gosselin raided the poor bitches for spare possum parts. Their visible fur, on the other hand, comes in luxuriant wisps of spun silver, doubtless bestowed by the same good fairy who once queefed on Silver Fox Anderson Cooper’s precious dome(s).

Anymustmentionmahboowheneverpossible, those animal rights-types who prattled about putting Knut down are suffering extreme pantytorsion over Knödel’s offbeat approach to marmosettery. A spokeswhore is on record complaining that Knödel was born with weak eyesight, which would never fly in the wild for his kind, so his good times are already too “unnatural” for these dumb hos. More fuckery: he won’t get with his species’ nocturnal program and always starts shaking his no-no around at the crack of dawn — and this, we’re told, is also wrong, wrong, wrong.

I don’t see a problem here at all. Knödel just takes care of shit his way! Bitch probably wants to get served some delicious breakfast cereal, preferably with colorful chunks of toon-shaped flavor. Bitch knows that looking at bright, shiny things provides good exercise for those peepers. This also applies to the exploding rainbow that is morning television, and… Hey wait – this is in Europe, so the time difference would make AC360 a morning show, right? Bingo! Knödel’s ass is on schedule.

Retrieved from on 2009-8-2.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rheum amarissimus

• To regulate their body temperature, BIJOU PARACHUTE GECKOS routinely direct their freefall to the spacious leaves of the water-retaining COELOBONESE RHUBARB in hopes of a cool bath.

• In the absence of recent rainfall, the usually slick cuticle of the plant adopts a tacky, adhesive texture and clings to the lizards, many of which give up their tails while escaping.

• The minuscule tails are eventually flushed into the soil, where once-dormant parasitic worms (ASIAN PLANT FLUKES, or Schistosoma coelobonesis) erupt from the scales and burrow into the tender roots of the AUSTRONESIAN JUNGLE TRILLIUM (usually found in the vicinity).

• Infected trillium blossoms develop “bloodshot” petals with vibrant colors that attract MALAYSIAN WAXWINGS, which eat the flowers.

• The flowers’ astringent properties play havoc with the birds’ organs, culminating in enormous bladder stones.

• In the final stages, a pain-crazed waxwing is likely to hurtle itself, kamikaze-fashion, against the forest floor. Urinary minerals released from the bird’s decaying carcass will imbue the soil with the parasorbic acid needed to prime Coelobonese rhubarb seeds into germination.

Retrieved from The Natural History Museum Online Host-Parasite Database, July 2009.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Credo quia esse titillandum

5 Ways to Tickle a Strident Fawn Quonaggra

It’s that time again – the hot and humid season, when gravid Strident Fawn Quonaggras coast on the summer breeze through our parks and gardens, gliding aimlessly until the threat of collision or capture sends their rudder-like tails into action. Though hard to catch and harder to tickle, the benefits of lightly prodding a Quonaggra — before she unleashes her semi-hatched eggs into the wind — are obvious to all. Untickled Quonaggras release a high level of frantosicaniferine as they jettison their young, causing even the starchiest shirts to wrinkle. “The gargalesthetic response definitely reduces fabric warpage,” explains Dr. Beetarn Parnault, director of ovoviviparity studies at the Montosolini Institute. “But the tickling has to be humane and effective or it won’t help our clothes at all.”

Here are 5 tips for those wishing to attempt this classic summer pastime.

1. Strip down your feather. While a feather can be effective, Dr. Parnault suggests clipping the barbs along the side (leaving only a slender, wispy vane) for maximum efficacy.

2. Aim front and center. The Quonaggra has difficulty peering directly into its pouch area — which, as luck would have it, is highly sensitive and ripe for tickling. Aim above the eggs.

3. Use medium walnut phoscorinck tongs. Traditional images depict pioneer children chasing swollen Quonaggras with bulky hearth implements, which in fact can easily harm the animal. These tongs, specialized for a light touch, are a much better choice (although most experienced ticklers find tongs unnecessary).

4. Replace commercial bait wedges with peach slices. Should you need to attract Quonaggras, this fleshy stone fruit is more effective than any artificial lure, and cheaper.

5. Dribble molasses into your breast pocket and hold your breath. Yes, this traditional method does indeed work, and requires no further explanation.

Retrieved from on 2009-6-24.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Taraxella electri

The titular secretion of the Amber gem spider is not true amber, nor any other sort of resin (a substance derived only from plants). This hard, pellucid material is in fact composed of the spider’s own silk. Being the only arachnid discharge released in such a large quantity all at once, its producer is the one species known to “amberlock” – that is, to set itself inside a rapidly congealing mass when menaced.

When amberlocking, a gem spider is thought to enter a state of dormancy rather than death (at least in optimal circumstances). This is not yet conclusive, although an expedition into Upper Sulepawak, planned by Professor Loömdorf for 1956, may yield a better understanding of the subject.

Natives have already accepted the frozen slumber of the spider as fact, resulting in several strict taboos that complicate possession of the rare nuggets: They can only be found, not given or traded. They may be set like jewels, but not threaded (like beads) or otherwise punctured. The extreme heat (such as that of a volcano) required to liquefy the amber must not be applied intentionally. But should fate cause the gem to melt, the revived animal will scuttle away bearing on its back the Uborlepoluk (the mischievous imp that acts as a spirit courier) desirous of the amber-owner’s soul — prolonging said owner’s life by at least another day, regardless of present circumstances.

From: H. Viveam Constanelle, Known Wildlife of Sulepawak: A Field Guide, Mandaroeb & Sons, 1955: p. 123.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Cynocephalus omnivorus (redux)

Armored colugo broods are fairly large, and a mother with few resources will prioritize feeding her more robust children. Neglected or underfed babies will experience stress-bred metabolic alterations, leading to increased aggressive behavior. If the mother then provides adequate attention to such infants, they will revert to normal — but in cases where she is unable or unwilling to do so, they will attain the full-blown gregarious traits and depart the family unit.

Visitors to Sulepawak are advised to avoid gregarious armored colugos at all costs. Though quite rare, they are easy to identify: Their fur is silver to snow white, their scutes burnt orange, their gums and tongues dark purple. They are no longer purely nocturnal, but sleep erratically. They spend little time on high branches, and usually climb only for the purpose of gliding downward and rolling along the ground: their preferred method of travel. They stay together in groups and behave with extreme hostility to anything alive that is not one of them. Their bites are usually very painful and for hygienic purposes alone should receive immediate medical treatment.

From: H. Viveam Constanelle, Known Wildlife of Sulepawak: A Field Guide, Mandaroeb & Sons, 1955: p. 206.

Cynocephalus omnivorus

The varied diet and namesake plate-mail of the
Armored colugo set it apart from all others of its order. As expected for a tree-gliding mammal, its frame is light and efficient, without an ounce of excess ballast — thus the thin scales of horn covering its spine from nape to tail are flimsier than the Ceylonese pangolin’s scutes that they most resemble. In fact, this scant protection serves not to deflect a predator’s blows, but simply to absorb the impact of the colugo’s landing — for when this species takes to the air, it is as likely to desert its lofty branch for the hard earth as for another tree.

Using its keen eyes to scan the forest floor, the armored colugo can detect a CARBUNCLE SCARAB (its favorite meal) from more than thirty feet away, and as that ground-dwelling insect never tarries when scuttling from one sanctuary to another, the mammal cannot afford to waste time breaking its fall. Moments before it touches the earth, the colugo assumes a near-globular shape (curling inward like an enormous wood louse) and hits the ground rolling with undiminished speed. Instead of crushing its prey as one might expect, the colugo usually manages to swerve in front of the beetle and snatch it while unraveling. This operation can take less than a second.

From: H. Viveam Constanelle, Known Wildlife of Sulepawak: A Field Guide, Mandaroeb & Sons, 1955: p. 205.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Poromya hermilaqueus

A stationary bivalve mollusc, the carnivorous Kepat ketubinar thrives not on the coast, but on the dampest portion of the Coelobonese forest floor: the miniature swamp created by a patch of rainwater-hoarding GAMUBUK BOG MOSS. Affixing itself to a subterranean root or stone, a Kepat ketubinar will typically develop into a slender but dense vertical column of less than seventeen inches in height, surmounted by a large, tilted ovoid: this amounts to the outer double shell (dark blue to black) which appears as a single piece, the join and hinge being well concealed. A generous opening in the shaft invites the invasion of snakes, bugs and small mammals in search of meat — which they are unlikely to retrieve, as the entire apparatus is a highly efficient trap. A single muscular contraction will tighten the interior like a snare while the host’s vitals remain inaccessible behind a partition. Once caught, the intruder is digested at leisure by fleshy lobes equipped with mucilage-secreting glands.

Should the victim be an immature BOTIKTIKI (a diminutive ungulate once called the “Bald Malay muskrat” but now understood to be a close relative of the rhinoceros — see separate entry), a gruesome yet picturesque phenomenon will usually follow: The head of a young Botiktiki is just small enough to penetrate the upper cavity, yet just large enough that its snout will crack the shell once inside. This desperate maneuver will do it no good, nor will it harm the mollusc. A round panel will simply break cleanly away along the shell’s natural grooves — exposing the victim’s muzzle in a calcareous frame, as though it had donned a helmet. After the body is consumed, the decaying head can stay on as potent carrion bait.

On the rare but inevitable occasion that a pair of Kepat ketubinar grow together, columns intertwined, and ensnare two young Botiktiki in such a manner, the result becomes an object of the utmost veneration among devout natives. Removing the double-headed curio from its natural home, they preserve it in a resinous mixture and set it at the end of a scepter-like rod, called a tongamalap gandamukar, which is passed into the hands of a literate monk. Used wisely, the artifact is thought to protect whole communities from wicked spirits, foreign diseases, and the “bamboo-sliver-missiles” of popular superstition.

From: H. Viveam Constanelle, Known Wildlife of Sulepawak: A Field Guide, Mandaroeb & Sons, 1955: p. 123.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Oreosoma pacificum

Connecting to server…

You’re now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!

Stranger: hey
You: yep

Stranger: asl
You: I'm ready to defend the Fulci 'n' Watteau Connection
You: in and out of the ring

Stranger: lolwut

Stranger: pics
You: I only have polaroids. Not scanned yet
You: I'm in a phone booth

Stranger: what size
You: probably average

Stranger: ooooo
You: Are you touching your false teeth right now?

Stranger: dont have any
You: Sorry. When did you lose them?

Stranger: ^^^
Stranger: stoned/hard now
You: Just add mustard

Stranger: ha

Stranger: wut
You: There's something very exciting we should chat about
Stranger: not another bot
You: No no u got me wrong
You: This is hot f'shizzle
Stranger: dude wtf
You: OK. I really really wanna talk about a certain something right now
You: You'll never guess what it is
You: but I just gotta fuckin talk about it
You: You'll never guess tho
You: It's what really excites me
Stranger: what its it
You: But you'll never guess
Stranger: fuck u
Stranger: what is it
You: It's....
Stranger: ...................
Stranger: wutwutwutwutwut
You: ...the Ox-eyed false jelly (Oreosoma pacificum)
Stranger: uhh
You: it's a fish
You: completely translucent
You: almost impossible to see when in the water
You: but it's covered with hard, sharp conical protuberances
Stranger: this is on xbox right
You: A pelagic fish, often forming barely-perceptible schools
You: While technically omnivorous, the Ox-eyed false jelly's core diet consists of larger fishes who unluckily (and often unwittingly) swallow it whole.
Stranger: wtf
You: The Ox-eyed false jelly's jagged casing is guaranteed to tear up even the toughest insides -- including a shark's.
Stranger: swallow.. yeah
Stranger: more
You: With its merciless exterior doing most of the work, the Ox-eyed false jelly feeds on its devourer with a relatively unexceptional set of jaws and teeth.
You: It is only easily visible for a short time after feeding.
Stranger: um
You: yeah buddy
You: That was hot
Stranger: ok who r u
You: I'm four years old
You: I have nose hairs

You: I don't exist

Your conversational partner has disconnected.

Retrieved from on 2009-4-17.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Glossina jujuformis

When you make Ogbono magic fly money soup, you must catch and kill by yourself an insect living in the neighborhood from where you want to draw the money. And this insect must be a Northern bagorie tsetse. Keep in mind that the Northern bagorie tsetse in its adult form never strays from a small area and that it is always biting human to take blood. From this you can be certain that a plump mature specimen (size of adult thumb) will contain the blood of many people that live near it. Of course this blood is in a very small amount, but that is your intent with Ogbono magic fly money soup: to extract small portions of money from a very large group of people, with the ideal hope that your spell is not even recognized.

To prepare: use the traditional ogbono soup recipe closest to you, preferably the one taught by your mother. But be careful to observe these elements:

• Use only goat meat, not beef.
• Cut the tomatoes in five pieces each but do not peel.
• Use leaves of green plants picked from the target area.
• Purify the cooking oil by means of the dance described on page 3.

Before cooking, you must determine who is the most beloved woman of your target area, and you must collect a good amount of her hair. Use this to bind the corpse of the tsetse fly, as though to prevent its legs from moving. Use only one fly per bowl, and eat at least three of these.

When you have finished, spend your nights perfectly still and on your back. Do not expect the rain of bills to arrive before the third night. Be thankful even of small amounts, and consider that you have derived succor through magic without killing anyone. Shedding of blood by your own hand is the road to Kirikiri.

From: Stella Onutosokwu, Three Bug Magic Spells. Pamphlet, retrieved from downtown Lagos, Summer 2008.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Fraxinus sutura

‘Loop-trees’ prompt vandalism alerts

A row of oddly-shaped ashes bordering a popular lookout point have led to several erroneous reports to police that the trees have been mutilated.

Authorities near Epping Forest, Essex received another rash of calls from ramblers concerned about the row of Maltese looping ashes on Sunday.

Planted less than two years ago, the trees belong to a fast-growing Mediterranean species unknown to the area before the recent development of a cultivar conducive to UK climate.

On attaining a height of roughly 30 metres, the trunk begins to bend back toward the ground, continuing until the tip reaches the soil and takes root near the original base, forming the namesake “loop.”

From some angles, a mature specimen may appear to the uninformed as though it is being forcibly bent, tied down, or that its top has been sheared.

“When the ash starts its bending, it’s a very rapid process,” explained Dunnelda Kennings-Highbeech, spokeswoman for the City of London Corporation. “This clearing is a picturesque vantage spot for looking out on the heath, and the sudden change was alarming to a number of return visitors. But the trees are in fact fine.”

Kennings-Highbeech hastened to assure any concerned parties that the Epping Forest Keepers administer only the most essential pruning practices and do not engage in lopping, topping or flush cutting of any kind.

From: BBC News (27 March 2009). Retrieved on 2009-3-28.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chlamydosaurus exultata

By consulting Mercurialis, Bayerus, Caricterius, Galen, Paraquozilli, and the less penetrable marginalia of Vesalius, I have determined that a melancholia such as yours arises from an excess flow of black blood in one your principal veins. (Snatches up an enormous syringe.) As you are bum-heavy, I estimate the vein in question to be accessible right there, between the cheeks — or in your case, between the hemrods. I shall now demonstrate the presence of angry dark humours by evacuating some in fluid form. (Pokes HARLEQUIN’S buttocks.) But you must keep still — keep still! (HARLEQUIN wriggles, deflecting the prop.) By Hippocrates, a hangman noosing an eel must have it easier! (HARLEQUIN somersaults away from the table.) Return at once or you’ll never be cured.

You’re attacking the wrong spot, for I promise you that dark substances pass out of there daily, without chirurgical aid. Ah! But there was something to your jabs. They ministered a fresh agony, very unlike my spleen. Therein lies the remedy. If only the pain were sharper, less medicinal, and delivered with more rage. Someone procure me a cutthroat! Where is that Brighella?

He’s off in the provinces, attending to wealthy suicides. They pay generously at the outset, and once the deed is finished, they never seem to complain that he takes away more than his fee. You can’t afford him, but I’ll ape him for nothing. (Swipes a knife from the DOCTOR’S table.) I’m no good at this, but that could make it hurt more. (Thrusts the knife at HARLEQUIN, who contorts wildly at each strike.)

Eheu! That won’t do in the slightest — Enough, enough! (Bats GIFILCCHIO about the head until he retreats.) I won’t put up with your feeble tickles. My carcass deserves a special outrage. (Muses.) A sailor told me that in far-away Coelobon live some rather puny dragons — monkey-sized things that can stand up like men. They spend all their days leaping skyward — not only to snap at the flies, but often for no reason at all, as though they hope the giant frills on their throats will catch the breeze like sails and keep them aloft. This never comes to pass, but after they die, the Orientals skin their heads to make kites — and those always fly without a hitch. It makes me wonder if a good peeling wouldn’t elevate my spirit.

Shall we make a kite from you, then? And if we do, what of the meat left over?

Now that’s a problem. If you bury it, then I’m as good as dead. An airborne fleece this gaudy might create a spectacle, but no one who sees my headstone would bother to pay me for the show. However, if it’s true that all of this melancholy resides not in my hide, but in the moist anatomist’s manikin that hides inside of it — why then, I say it’s best if, once I’m flayed, you just let that part of me be. Give it a stool to sit on and pour it a glass of vinegar now and then, and I reckon it will stay in a corner, sulking, and bother no one.

From: Rylanch Tealtherne, Esq. Harlequin Vexed (from the French Bergamask Burlesque known as Arlequin sans peau by M. Pierre-Baptiste de Meltouffle, derived from that Gentleman’s study of Italian buffoons, altered, alliterated and otherwise adapted for the English stage.) Quarto edition, London, 1673.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Vermihippus ferus

One of the very few species of limbless mammal, the
Pipesteed is an equine but not a true horse, although its native moniker — Kudasankutar, meaning “wild worm-stallion of the north” — emphasizes its very horse-like appearance. Some biologists trace it (with reservation) directly back to the Hipparion genus. Knowledge remains scant, as no Pipesteed has ever been captured live.

Its exclusive habitat is the impervious northern half of Sulepawak, where it twists between or through dense bushes and roots, forging paths when none are present and grazing on the fly. It apparently restricts its movements to aboveground, as its tough, leathery underside and robust frame (reaching 12 feet in length) seem optimized for negotiating rough surfaces and vegetation. Study of its skeleton reveals gaps between sections of grouped ribs (effectively a sequence of four ribcages), where oversized, hinge-like vertebrae allow it to assume the postures necessary for its style of serpentine locomotion (known as “the sinuous gait”).

Despite miniscule ears, a mere wisp of a mane and no distinct withers, the head of a Pipesteed is clear proof of its genus. The area from the forelock to the snout is best described as a common horse’s muzzle in caricature — stretched to one and a half times its original length and pinched somewhat at the end. Also reminiscent of its hoofed cousin is the Pipesteed’s ferocious whinny, which explains why kudasankutar is also the Coelobonese word for locomotive.

From: H. Viveam Constanelle, Known Wildlife of Sulepawak: A Field Guide, Mandaroeb & Sons, 1955: p. 212.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Corydalus maximiliana

…of his window. Glöcknürner describes the iridescent waxy finish of the Emperor Maximilian dobsonfly’s epicuticle as metallic in appearance: "wie Metallplatten… gebildet um den Körper." [See Appendix 3.] Pontolomucci (apparently working from a translation) takes Glöcknürner’s descriptive flourishes literally, rendering the insect as clad in then-contemporary armour in place of exoskeletal segments. The head’s encasement, for example, appears as a double-visored war helmet, with hinges, horizontal slits and decorative fluting. The tibiae also sport moulded greaves; the prothorax is a breastplate, and so on.

The resulting woodcut appears at first glance an exercise in anthropomorphic whimsy, perhaps meant as satire. But Pontolomucci (by all accounts) was completely earnest in his attempt to construct a precise visual correlation with the text. What impresses us today is his undeniable success at detailing the proportions of the bug and all its parts with near-perfect naturalism.

The Emperor Maximilian dobsonfly was strictly an inhabitant of the New World until 1573. Its main…

From: Jeldra Prambello, Insects in Art. Sydney: Digenitori Press, 1978: p. 224.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Anodorhynchus maximus

Moments after we let loose the bloodhounds into the woods, one of them yelped and dove beneath a dense thicket, then emerged with the very fresh carcass of a half-eaten wild cat. As the predator was likely nearby, we heeded the old huntsman when he distinguished the carnage as the work not of paws and fangs, but of talons and a very sharp beak. We wondered aloud to each other what sort of bird had done this. As it happened, we were not puzzled long.

A sharp and unfamiliar cry of “Over here! Over here!” sounded from a place not far ahead. The repeated phrase was not in English, but Tlajamut, the local Indian tongue — an interesting fact, as our Redskin companions (the reader will recall) were both Cherokee.

At the ensuing sound of dead branches snapping and what might have been very heavy footfalls, the old man blanched. “’Tis a death-dealin’ parrot! Ready yer arms!” he croaked, fumbling with his rifle’s breech.

We had little time to prepare. A clump of foliage rustled vigorously, then flew apart, rent by a violent force that scattered leaves and green twigs like buckshot. Then out it pounced: a Davenedict’s apex macaw, announcing its rage with a piercing squawk — which resembled a scream, and removed any doubt as to the source of the previous cries. The bird seized one of the dogs, crushing its midsection. Harper fired and claimed later to have nicked the brute, but to no end. Clutching the dying hound, it bounded into an impenetrable mess of bush and was gone.

Our failure that day was typical among encounters with this most ferocious of macaws. A forest-dwelling raptor, taller than most men and wholly incapable of flight, the Davenedict’s apex macaw is equipped with the most powerful legs and claws of any known bird. It uses them not to sprint (like the equally huge ostrich of Africa), but to tear apart any manner of creature that opposes it. The bird’s talent for mimicking the voice and words of men makes it an insidious threat, and explains why Redskins who frequent these forests are loathe to separate when hunting in groups.

My later success in capturing one of these feathered monsters alive is the subject of the next chapter.

From: Peter-Klaus Swannet, Dangerous Game-Trackers of North America. Edinburgh: Gluorputtney Ltd., 1875: p. 153.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Alstonia toreumatis

The fan-like leaves of the Coelobonese devil pine (known locally as the Pokot kudupanatar) are ubiquitous in the carved relief panels of Sulepawak’s cave temples. They are always depicted in the same dimensions as life, and are tinted green even when surrounding motifs are uncolored. Both attributes derive from the use of the actual leaves in the carving process: The sculptor presses a fresh pine leaf against its stone counterpart, fixing it with an alcoholic solution. Once dry, the leaf will have induced a reaction in the volcanic rock, staining it green as deep as an inch.

To the Coelobonese, the passage of the leaf’s essence into its chiseled image is a manifest link between the visible everyday world (the pine tree) and the veiled regions (exemplified by the terminal creature-heads often pictured vomiting streams of ornament, including the leaves). Though the pine’s bark is exploited medicinally, the sacred status of the leaf renders it taboo for any other application. One cannot help but notice, however, that a pile of them gives off a pleasant aroma when burnt.

From: H. Viveam Constanelle, Known Wildlife of Sulepawak: A Field Guide. Mandaroeb & Sons, 1955: p. 126.

Monday, February 9, 2009

V. zerda celebesus

The Oriental jungle fennec shares with its Saharan cousin a proportionally enormous pair of ears (each the size of its face) and a relish for fruit that places it with the omnivores. It is as likely to pluck a ripe MONK RAMBUTAN as it is to filch the eggs from a COPPER FIEND DRONGO’S nest. Both treats are common in the thickets that reach into Sulepawak’s untraversable northern region, where drongo nests are regularly sighted in rambutan trees. It happens that this bird’s egg closely matches the fruit in form and density, although the rambutan (the only known spineless variety) is a glossy dark violet, while the drongo’s eggshell is matte beige. By touch alone, however, they are nearly twins.

Cracking open a newly laid egg is a difficult proposition for this slightest-built of vulpines, who anyway favors the flesh of a formed chick over yolk. Thus a stolen egg stands a good chance of coming to term while in the fox’s possession, and it is not unusual for a den to harbor a pile of unmolested eggs mixed together with their analogous fruits. Should a burgled Copper fiend drongo hen know where her eggs have been taken, she may resort to a tactic that suggests, if not proves, great intelligence on her part: At mid-day, when fennecs are most torpid, the drongo will squawk loudly outside of their den and drop a small cargo of rambutan fruits onto the ground. Collecting these familiarly shaped gifts will engross the mammals, leaving the bird a chance to retrieve her property. This escapade occurs often enough to have been a subject of Coelobonese folktales before it was ever caught on film.

From: H. Viveam Constanelle, Known Wildlife of Sulepawak: A Field Guide. Mandaroeb & Sons, 1955: p. 203.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lampetra immanis

Star lamprey to remain in local zoo

TUCSON — Bing the mammoth brook lamprey isn’t moving, and funnyman Beau Runtfoyle is not amused.

On Tuesday, the Public Works Committee approved the completion of a $44 million semi-aquatic enclosure that will retain the iconic marine parasite as a fixture at the city zoo, despite opposition by the semi-retired comedian (and longtime Tucson resident) and other high-profile locals.

The approval was announced after a crowded public hearing, where Mr. Runtfoyle reiterated his earlier pledge of $1.4 million to relocate Bing to a sanctuary along the Colorado River.

By far the largest of the Petromyzontidae family, the mammoth brook lamprey spends only its larval years in brooks or streams, moving to wide rivers when mature.

Its large mass drives it to seek out wading mammals over fish, especially young horses and deer. It often applies its rasping mouth to a bodily orifice and works its way inside the host, making quicker work of it than a smaller lamprey could manage.

As the zoo’s unofficial mascot and the subject of picture books and stuffed toys, Bing’s listless behavior over the past year received steady media scrutiny.

He became reluctant to feed, even when a pair of whitetail fawns were introduced to his enclosure.

His minders found a solution whereby a live fawn’s legs were severed at the joints and it was lowered vertically by crane into the habitat. The flow of blood in the water finally roused Bing to feast.

Mr. Runtfoyle’s camp has pointed to this incident as evidence that Bing is essentially unhappy here are and requires more open space to swim in.

“It’s mean to the lamprey to keep him away from a big river where he wants to be,” said Mr. Runtfoyle’s 6 year-old son Zack in a prepared statement.

He stated that fans of the jawless, cartilaginous, one-nostriled celebrity would rather see him happy and healthy in a remote reserve upstate than sad and cooped up downtown for convenience’s sake.

He said that the kids of Tucson want what’s best for Bing because they love him. “He has googly eyes,” remarked the child by way of closing.

Opponents have noted that several eel-like predators have perished prematurely at the zoo since 1974, but zoo officials insist they will be significantly better equipped following the new changes.

The new, cutaway-view "Visible Riverbed" will be seven times larger than the current exhibit.

The Associated Press
(Retrieved: 01.29.2009)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

R. candelabrum

A close relative of the Corpse flower, the jungle-dwelling Anajamut tinkar consists (like others of its family) of a stemless, parasitic bloom, lacking roots of its own but subsistent on those of a lignified vine (the host in this case being the TAJAMUNUGU GRAPE, source of most Coelobonese wine). Its name in Sulepawak means “dead dog’s ears,” as its fleshy petals (each up to half a yard long) taper into points. (See COELOBONESE TOY BOXER.) While it gives off the same carrion odor as its relatives, this is often abated by another benign parasite: the Uburutan or Land jelly (P. terrestris), a coelenterate that, true to its name, is typically found out of water — albeit in very damp conditions. Its ideal resting place is the central cup of an Anajamut tinkar blossom, around which its wispy, barely visible tentacles can droop, ready to trap and devour INDOMALAYAN BUZZARD MIDGES (harmful to the flower) by stinging them with chemicals that, on contact with the plant’s flesh, will reduce its noxious odor. While the quelled stench might dissuade humans from destroying the flower, it remains perceptible to needed pollinators such as CARBUNCLE SCARABS and their larvae — which the Uburutan spares.

On account of this union, an Anajamut tinkar can last longer than others of its kind, living up to a fortnight. Once every five days, however, the flower is compelled to close, which can smother and possibly kill a tenant jelly.

The Uburutan’s float bladder, though small and vestigial, is like its cousin the BOLERTANKULAK’s in that its gasses ignite upon death, sputtering flames for a minute or more. On occasion, a blossom will open to reveal a dead Uburutan in mid-blaze. Natives interpret this sight as the birth of an Uborlepoluk (a folkloric creature; see index) and auspicious for those who witness it, despite the newborn’s wicked nature.

From: H. Viveam Constanelle, Known Wildlife of Sulepawak: A Field Guide. Mandaroeb & Sons, 1955: p. 115.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Physalia daducus

All along the southern (and presumably northern) coastline of Sulepawak thrives the Bolertankulak medusa, known informally to anglophones as the “shore nettle” for its contact sting. Among coelenterates, it alone can boast a gas-filled bladder or “float” that is literally lighter than air — which largely explains its vertical form. The top three quarters of its main body extend above the bell margin and generally protrude from the water. The float crowns this mass like an onion dome, and overall it resembles a translucent chess piece when adrift.

Bolertankulak are less plentiful in the open water of the Celebes Sea than around the rocky banks of Sulepawak’s shores. Clusters are typically found lounging against tide-battered lava pillows, where their long, barely visible tentacles snare unsuspecting prey. It is usually under these circumstances that natives of the island kingdom will poison large groups of the creatures (accomplished by clouding the water with powder made from MALAYAN LAVENDER SHRIMP collected at red tide), an action that gives rise to the highlight of the annual water festivities known as the Betaralat paruvan.

For in death the Bolertankulak outdoes anything it accomplished alive, providing a spectacle unique to the greater jellyfish family: as corruption sets in, the gasses in the float ignite, and the bladder detaches from the corpse and rises into the air, incandescent. (See the Land jelly or UBURUTAN for a comparison.) It becomes no less than a sky lantern — like those made for similar events in other parts of Asia — but completely natural in origin. And while this lantern may not last as long as its paper cousins (never burning for longer than four minutes), its blaze dazzles with a rapid variety of shapes and colored flames.

From: H. Viveam Constanelle, Known Wildlife of Sulepawak: A Field Guide. Mandaroeb & Sons, 1955: p. 47.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Anthonomus juglandinsidias minor

…but according to the Tholomartholomadic calendar, 2009 is the year of the Lesser walnut saboteur weevil. This farmer’s nuisance is distinguished from the Greater walnut saboteur weevil by its iridescent trochanters and smaller maxillary palps. Its secure place in the all-arthropod Tholomartholomadic zodiac stems from its abundance in northern Tholomartholomasia, its distinctive chirp, and the famous “Fable of the Lesser Walnut Saboteur Weevil and the Crippled Squab” — still a popular subject of Tholomartholomadic picto-strudels.

From Constanelle’s Global Almanac, 2009 edition, p. xiv.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Anser hamadryas

Now we arrive at the most risible display so far: an adult Wood-nymph goose, discovered in a typical place of rest (here the hollow trunk of a rotting juniper stump) by a young stoat, who, though still a good foot away from the jagged breach that exposes the bird, has already startled his potential prey. Her beak frozen in a silent honk of alarm, the goose’s wings have burst through the decayed walls of the trunk on either side, leaving the bark surrounding them intact — so that when viewed from the back, the display becomes simply a tree-stump with pinions, like some figure of folklore or primitive worship.

Questions goad the informed spectator: Does Mr. Urbilne [then director of the Natural History Museum at Tarpeath] feel that nature, accurately reproduced, cannot suffice for the average museumgoer? Does he prefer theatre to science? Do the absurdities fashioned under his watch form an immense rebus, yet to be finished or deciphered?

For contradicting the very premise of this exhibit are basic facts about the species of goose depicted. It is true that after feeding, this most torpid (or rather torpor-dependent) of all waterfowl will lodge itself in an enclosed space to slumber, preferably the hollow of a dead tree. But it ensconces its body deeply in this refuge, and would never be visible from the outside. Nor would rousing its cold, metabolically decelerated corpus be an easy task. Indeed, the entire display might begin to convince were the goose identified as a barnyard-variety Greylag, making a poor attempt to doze in the manner of its sylvan cousin.

From: O. O. Prutchitton, “Taxidermal gaffes and follies at the Natural History Museum.” Tarpeath Gazette, 17 June 1910.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Osmia vapularis

The aromatic adhesive paste made from the pulped flowers (but not the fruit) of the Ribbonleaf bramble (R. lemniscatus) is a surefire means of trapping, through olfactory deception, the Occidental umber-belted mason bee (O. vapularis). When stuck fast by this goo to a bundle of the plant’s thorny twigs, such insects can add a distinct flavor to corporal punishment. As Occidental umber-belteds possess reusable stingers, a flagellant may enjoy their fury (if properly administered) for a good number of lashes at a time.

Records of this practice date from the mid-18th Century in England, where Sir Hilary Trudicombe — amateur beekeeper, botanist and founder of the Garden Rakes’ Club — introduced it to his infamous “greenhouse of vices.” Further accounts, spanning into this century, reveal its continued popularity among libertines — that is, whenever both plant and bee were available. Its final mention of note as a contemporary pursuit was surely funk legend Rick James’s hit 1981 single “Super Freak,” which contains the lines: “Three's not a crowd to her, she says / ‘Room 714, I'll be waiting’ / When I get there she's got insects, slime and brambles / And vents her weekly spleen.” This prominent reference was already dated when the record hit the shelves on July 25th — two weeks after the passage of the Groydille Act, which ensured not only the illegality of Mason bee-birching, but also the near-impossibility of acquiring its paraphernalia in sufficient amounts.

From: Flann Brüthargalong, Hive Culture. Dublin: Clarennington Press, 1993: p. 144.

Monday, December 15, 2008

E. asinus cuniculi

ATSJ: But would not all of these factors, including your observation on loam density in lower Syria, point to the likelihood of an undetected subspecies of wild ass — a burrowing animal, with elongated, spade-shaped hooves and poor eyesight, that surfaces only after dark, sits upright on its haunches, and communicates with its peers by means of echolocative brays audible beneath the soil — and would not the presence of such an Equid explain the reports of “bull larvae” as well as the more recent “wailing ghoul” (ghūl), both reputed to haunt the outskirts of Damascus?

KW: Yes.

From: “Terse words with a busy man: an exclusive interview with Professor Kumburt Wielorther.” Animal Traction Studies Journal, vol. XXXVII, no. 4 (1987): pp.178-189.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Rhamnus nilotica

The smallest plant to be mummified during the Twelfth Dynasty was the Nile buckthorn, a minuscule shrub with fruits of up to 5mm in length. Due to their curative benefits, a thousand of the tiny berries accompanied Senusret II on his descent to the underworld to ensure that his Ka would be free of catarrh and dropsy throughout the journey.

The embalming process began with removal of the mesocarp partitions, funiculus, and superior ovary. (The ovule, believed to house the soul of the fruit, was left unmolested.) This was all accomplished with a hooked pick as wide as a hair. The priests swabbed these entrails with half a droplet of palm wine, then placed them in canopic jars the size of capers. The eviscerated berry was gently stuffed with a few grains of natron salt and left to dry for a period of several days. Once dehydrated, the fruit (now so diminished it was often difficult to see) was perfumed, coated in resin and then in gilt. After that came the doubtless excruciating task of wrapping it in linen strips of usually two threads in diameter. The finished mummies each found homes within a series of nested sarcophagi, the innermost of which are surely the smallest fruit coffins ever made. Mention of the Nile buckthorn berry is bound to come up during any debate over the presence of magnifying devices in the time of the Middle Kingdom.

From: Brammuel Thauzich, The Lighter Side of Egyptology. Stratford: Muttnamp & co., 1933: p. 127.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dasypus crotalus

Vaspaïme Paris joins forces with The Arkadelphia Free Range Armadillo Ranch to present


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Friday, November 28, 2008

A. fragilis fremoris

The serpent known as LAQUEUS FREMORIS is called this because it makes a loud noise when handled roughly, and because despite its ability to break off a section of its back end, it is so long and sturdy that, even when so broken, it can be tied into a noose suitable for hanging a man. The animals were used for this purpose during the reign of Gallienus, when the Appian Way was beset with bandit attacks led by the dissolute philosopher Pidepibus (known earlier for his translations of Zeno), who demanded a blood oath from his men not to exhibit any signs of remorse, sorrow or pain once in custody. In response, the wily Praetor Titurva chose to eschew crucifixion and execute the captured bandits by hanging them at a certain distance from public spectators — so that the type of noose employed was less evident, and so that the serpents’ cries could more effectively displace the stubborn silence of the condemned. It is said that a bandit and his rope would often expire at the same moment.

From: M. M. Trevevemme, Trans. & Ed., Selections from Three 13th Century Bestiaries. London: Bungrove Press, 1973: p. 166.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


…that when shattered, a sheet of this brittle alloy will cleave into equilateral truligons, hence the name. Despite its delicacy, truligonium’s remarkable heat-retention property has made it a staple material for builders in Estonia’s colder regions. Its presence is often announced (especially in public buildings) by a wallpaper
pattern incorporating prominent truligons. This décor warns of the fragile component within the walls, but also assures that the room can maintain a safe level of warmth if heated by a government standard-issue stove unit. It is with this common knowledge that Lt. Mandrõkin locates, inside a wall, the corpse of the missing youth (chapter 32): Using a thermometer, he deduces that despite the wallpaper design, there is no truligonium insulation in one room of the engineer Närviarst’s bungalow — and so the details unravel of Närviarst’s murder and concealment of his crippled son.

Despite a decent premise, the thrills are few and the characters fairly flat, making A Cold Reception one of the weakest entries in Ulfsak’s Lt. Mandrõkin series.

From: Veronibeth Jenkins-Uusberg, “100 Years of Estonian Crime Fiction.” Yellow Spines Quarterly Review, vol. XLIV, no. 7 (Winter 1993): pp. 76.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Magnolia Rognolfiana

Q: Are there any flowers more dynamic in behavior than the insects that pollinate them?

A: Yes, at least one. The self-fertile Rognolfi’s magnolia (M. Rognolfiana) flourishes only in climates subject to intermittent rainfall. The bloated, lethargic female of the Sloth cricket species prefers the low-hanging blossoms of this plant as her permanent shelter. In fact, the most vigorous act of her life occurs when instinct drives her to heave herself beneath the frond-like tepals. Soon the blossoms will dust her rotund husk with pollen specially adapted to cling fast to the chitin. When the rain comes, the drop-pelted flower gently batters the insect, connecting the pistil to the pollen grains, and mating is completed. Thus, in this case, a pollinator is required merely to be present, while all the necessary movement is the plant’s duty.

From: Nylo Jamesolver, Answers to 444 Routine Questions about Pollen, New York: Loarme, Drean & co., 1957: p. 85.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Capra aegagrus pseudohircus

[…] But currently, the most serious case of pastoral imposture afflicting UK farms is that of the False domestic ibex (Capra aegagrus pseudohircus).

They arrive on the scene in packs of about five, and insinuate themselves into a proper herd of goats with little initial violence.

The males work together to remove the native alpha bucks, either driving them away or killing them. They will often trample newborns.

This alien threat can dominate and even completely replace a herd of domestic goats in a space of six months. Very frequently, the minder detects nothing of the invasion until it is too late.

Rather than face economic ruin, farmers are likely not to report an infestation, and instead attempt to pass off their herd as genuine. Consumers of the resulting wool, meat and milk often fail to notice a difference, exacerbating the problem.

False domestics are thought to originate from the South Caucasus. They most closely resemble the common British Alpine breed. Telltale differences include a beard several millimetres shorter than average, particularly dense horns and (reportedly) ranker odour than usual.

From: Khabilla Simmic, “Key players in the growing invasive livestock problem”, BBC News (30 October 2008). Retrieved on 2008-10-30.

Pica proditor

Wake up, kids! It’s time for another

Tonight’s story is called

A shy princess was once married off to a king far from her own country. The young queen felt lonely in her new home, and wished for children to come into her life. But alas, none came, and the king soon complained that his wife was barren. One day, as she walked past a wastebasket, the queen noticed a peach-pit shaped like an unborn infant. She snatched up the pit and planted it in a pot on her windowsill. Soon it blossomed into a little tree, with three luscious peaches dangling from its branches. The queen ate all three fruits greedily, and within a week, she could feel three little heartbeats inside her newly swollen womb.

Unfortunately, on catching a glimpse of a rare and supremely revolting Moaning slug-bird as it flapped past her window, the queen was severely frightened, and as a result, her three daughters all turned out half-witted, deformed and gnome-like. This caused the young queen no end of anguish. “If only my children were normal and pretty!” she would lament over and over.

One day, an old woman overheard these words while passing through the palace grounds. “There’s no need to cry, your majesty,” she said to the queen. “Your daughters will become as splendid as they ought to be if you follow my advice: In the palace churchyard, amid the crypts of the royals, stands a solitary oak. On one of its higher branches is a nest built by a Copper-billed magpie, that notorious breed that steals only from other birds. Go to this nest now and you’ll find a group of eggs, with one colored differently from the rest. Inside this egg will be three silk ribbons — stolen from the heads of beautiful princesses who died too young, and swallowed by a bird who was in turn robbed by our greedy magpie. Tie these ribbons around the necks of your daughters, and they will become the children you wished for. Go do this now, and tell no one about it!” The queen thanked the old woman from the bottom of her heart, making her take a sack of gold with her before she went away.

Without delay, the queen rushed to the churchyard, climbed the oak, found the egg with the ribbons inside and returned to the palace. But once she had tied the ribbons around each of her daughters’ necks, they immediately lost all of their hair — and nothing else happened to them. Seeing that his offspring were not only deformed idiots but now also hairless, the king promptly annulled his marriage. The former queen was sent to a convent, where she hung herself to end her misery.

“Haw haw! Stupid bitch!” said the old woman, once her friend the magpie had told her the news. She then cackled to herself and touched her privates — and continued at it for nearly a fortnight, so ecstatic was she to have caused such grief.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phocoena cetus

The Angolan monk porpoise, a truly one-of-a-kind species, is now critically endangered. With its unmistakable lantern-like eyes and patterned, glowing underside, the Angolan monk porpoise is the only known marine mammal with bioluminescent features. Its rostral filament, equipped with a photophoric lure, has yet to be properly researched and is unique in all deep-sea cetaceans. Until recently, the species has thrived by using this growth to attract its foremost prey: the famously nearsighted Lesser neonback shortfin squid. But in the past five years, the sub-photic regions of the Atlantic nearest to the African coast have been subject to explosive releases of giant air bubbles from hydrothermal vents — a phenomenon nicknamed “the uncola effect” by geologists who admit to not fully understanding its cause. The resulting sonic disturbances reach amplitudes unendurable for a porpoise’s ears. This has driven the animals away from their principal habitat and main food source. As a result, the Angolan monk porpoise population is declining rapidly, and
a calf's chances of reaching reproductive age is roughly one in five.

But the Angolan monk porpoises can be saved. A successful method has been documented in trial CCIS treatment-and-release programs. It involves recycled silicone, specially molded plugs, and you. To find out what you can do to help, please click on the yellow krill.

From: CCIS (Cetacean Conservation International Society) website. Retrieved on 2008-09-13.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Zerynthia temernika

Wake up, kids! It’s time for another

Tonight’s story is called

Andrei and Lilya were cousins, and much in love. They spent most of every summer at her father’s dacha near Rostov-na-Donu, playing together in the forest. One June afternoon, when Andrei was eleven and Lilya eight, nineteen strange aircraft flew overhead, issuing colorful clouds that steeped all the trees in a new pesticide. While this pesticide scarcely accomplished its purpose, it did manage (in a matter of days) to make the local bats as small as bees and the butterflies larger than seagulls. This was especially true of the vibrant Ciscaucasian festoon butterfly (Zerynthia temernika), a species common to that part of the woods. These insects had in fact become so enormous that they could no longer fly in the usual manner, but were obliged to scramble up a tree trunk and glide off a suitably elevated branch. This made them easy to catch, even for a pair of children with fishing nets.

Upon apprehending one of the creatures, Lilya would hold it still while Andrei gently sliced off its wings—which they would store away with the intent of using later for binding books. Then they would epoxy the butterfly by its legs to a long, sturdy stick. This they would suspend over a large jar of honey, chutney or a similar preserve, granting the lepidopteran full access to the sweet substance.

Without fail, the long probosces would uncoil willingly and slurp ounce after ounce of the stuff. The insects’ bodies grew visibly plump, and their multiple corneas would twinkle with possible merriment. Perhaps they ate to forget their recent mutilation—or perhaps they’d forgotten already. One the jar was emptied, the children would twist off the creature’s head and hold the body over an open fire, roasting it to golden brown.

Ah! The pastries of Copenhagen and Provence could never compare with these succulent layers of melting flakes interspersed with wells of true ambrosia! Lilya’s father couldn’t understand why they were never hungry for dinner. Were there ever a snack one could never tire of, this was it.

Sometime in early September, while the adults were out mushroom hunting, both Andrei and Lilya quite suddenly became ill with pronounced gastric pains. Their conditions swiftly worsened and they were rushed to a hospital that very night. There they lingered for weeks, incontinent, heaving violently whenever fed, staining the sheets a bilious green. The doctors had no idea of how to proceed with these mysterious cases, and by the month’s end both children were found dead in puddles of their own filth, their faces frozen in painful grimaces usually not seen on patients so young.

THE MORAL: It’s always fun until someone gets hurt.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Citrus juglandis

PHOLILOTUMNUS, son of Hermes (Mercury) and the Naiad Astophaxibia (ibid.). Variously described as the tutelary spirit of false prophecy, of prevarication, or merely of fibbing. He appears in most accounts as a gaunt, stooped figure who claims to be advanced in age but responds to threats with surprising vigor. The dingy hue of his long robe makes it impossible to determine if it is clean. He always bears in his fist a small garland of Sicilian burr shaddocks, also known as walnut limes (Citrus juglandis), which he will offer as a remedy for whatever ails those he befriends.

But he is not to be trusted. Depending on the obscure walnut lime's stage in life, its effects on man vary sharply: As a bud, it is a powerful emetic, effective on contact with the skin; when blossoming, its ripe fruit (legend has it) can rid one’s blood of any harmful poison. But once dead, its dried zest is said to corrupt the flesh and eventually kill those who touch it. The hard outer casing does not change throughout the growing season, making the state of the fruit difficult to confirm.

The better-known tales have Pholilotumnus outwitted by clever intended victims, such as Pratinoxos (ibid.), who, aware that Pholilotumnus was, by character, lying about the fruit’s property, ruled out his initial claim, leaving two possible conditions for the plant — which, through further deduction, he narrowed to one: the dried and lethal stage. Pratinoxos then used the limes to vanquish the giant serpent poisoning his well (rather than attempt to purify its waters).

Fragments of early Satyr plays depict Pholilotumnus using his garland to threaten groups of paunchy Sileni, who, also aware that he is lying about its danger, snatch the fruits away, and either eat them (if they are ripe), or, if they are in bud-form, overpower Pholilotumnus and force him to vomit.

From: Clema Meskine Vermelt, Mythological Glosses for To-day’s Readers, Cambridge: Rohaurght & Druffton, 1871: p. 327.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Calidris bellicosus

Our stance on this matter is reaffirmed by none other than Herodotus, who cites a Sinopian traveler as having seen, outside a Scythian encampment on the banks of the Gerrhus, a pair of Maeotian bull sandpipers (Calidris bellicosus) incited to combat for the benefit of a crowd. He noted that the birds sparred with great fierceness, though conical muzzles of stiff hide hindered their beaks from dealing grave wounds. A spectator explained how a rousing fight could boost the virility of these ornery waders, producing not only larger broods, but more robust chicks that grew into meatier birds. It was to the breeders’ advantage, then, to set the sandpipers against each other, though not to the death; thus the sport flourished with these checks in place.

It emerged that within this site, the municipal chieftain staged similar battles, but his craftsmen would rig out the birds in more elaborate restraints, binding their already-clipped wings and weighing down their legs to impede both movement and equilibrium. This filled them with a wild vexation that departed only when they were allowed to mate — with gainful results for their keeper.

And further east (the historian concludes), in the heart of the Scythian territories, those alleged descendants of Skythes known as the Royal Tribes imposed yet grander curbs, enclosing their downy pugilists in bronze-girded spheroids of cured pelt. Preceding a match, the keeper would open a tiny exterior flap to introduce a ration of air and a caress from an opponent’s feather — an action sufficient to fill a bull sandpiper with the spirit of Ares. What ensued resembled nothing so much as a skirmish between strangely motile eggs. In fact, to stifle and goad the species in this manner could supposedly conjure the conditions of an actual egg within the casing, making the adult bird a renewed embryo, but in magnified terms, so that it emerged from its second hatching a superior creature, doubled in size. Herodotus was dubious of this claim and we may dismiss it entirely.

From: Burncourtin Raldice, Littoral Avians Delineated from Known Specimens, London: Ficknor & Velsonport, 1829: p. 248.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nymphaea persica

The SOLIFUGID POND-LILY (Nymphaea persica) was, until late in 1872, the subject of a zoological comedy of errors, for it was initially misconceived as an arachnid of the order Solifugae, hence its name. Its narrow, sparse and flimsy white petals do resemble the limbs and chelicerae of a camel-spider — even in their tendency to buckle slightly at certain junctions, as the joints of such an animal might if seen floating belly-up on the surface of a pond. In addition, the impressive length of the roots let it drift like an apparent free agent with no anchor to the mud below.

However, the Solifugid Pond-lily, having next to nothing in the way of leaves (they resemble small coins and are usually hidden beneath the petals), is far and away the most fragile of its family. Moderate rainfall is enough to collapse and drown one of the flowers (though they eventually resurface), and if any animal larger than a common fly should land on the corolla, the frail blossom will implode, causing plant and animal to sink together as quickly as a stone.

From: P. Hambunck Constanelle, Constanelle’s Global Flora, 4rd Ed. Mandaroeb & Sons, 1873: p. 481.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ammotrecha nymphaeae

No specimen of the POND-LILY SOLIFUGID (Ammotrecha nymphaeae), living or dead, has yet been obtained, but Dr. Blymphinson (ibid.) did manage to produce a spectacular daguerréotype from his survey of Persian oases during the early months of 1871. The singular habits of this animal will explain how it can be elusive to the extreme, yet still enough, when sighted, for a photographic plate to retain its image.

It is the only arachnid of its order to make its home around water; the only, in fact, not to flourish in severe aridity. Its name results from its colorless husk and propensity to float on its back — legs heavenward, drifting but otherwise motionless, suspended (we must conclude) by the minute air-pockets that cluster along the bristles of all such arthropods. But should a foreign element (such as a frog, or even a large fly) disturb its peace, the passing resemblance to a water-lily will go the way of a mirage in the deserts nearby. The limbs, like grasping talons, will close sharply around the unwitting guest, and both parties will plummet instantly into the pond’s depths, where, we may presume, the victory feast ensues. The remarkable speed it displays in such maneuvers, coupled with the large and painful bites Solifugae are known to inflict, have hindered efforts to trap the animal up to now.

From: P. Hambunck Constanelle, Constanelle’s Global Fauna, 3rd Ed. Mandaroeb & Sons, 1872: p. 618.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Gerobatrachus matercula

The last pure remnants of Uruguay's indigenous Charrua Indians—who were almost completely exterminated by the Spanish and Portuguese prior to the country’s independence—reside, no longer nomadic, on the southeast base of Mount Catedral, the highest of the rather minuscule but lovely Sierra de Carapé range. Of note, aside from their preserved culture, is the remarkable role
the Charrua play in the local ecosystem.

A few knobby green hills lie between their settlement and the small lake called Embalse des Espejos, which is home to El Ébuacató (Gerobatrachus matercula), a species of amphibian unique in all the world. The dominant female (the male being a tiny parasite) is an unsightly creature of up to two feet in length with bubble-shaped eyes at the top of its head, a loose and unwieldy womb-sac on its belly (which can be stretched out to several times its original size), and an abnormally large vulva just above its tail.

The rite of manhood among the Charrua dictates that a boy who has reached his seventeenth year must journey by himself to the edge of the lake and spill his semen, along with a sample of his blood, into the water. The youth is then compelled to live alone in a hut at the edge of the settlement for six months. At the end of this period, he is likely to be visited by a replica of himself—identical in general appearance and fairly accurate even at a closer glance. This doppelganger will by instinct feel a murderous hostility towards the youth, and the two will fight each other to the death. Usually the original boy, being well-trained as a warrior, will prevail, in which case he will eat the brain and heart of his double—an action now thought to be a kind of osmotic process linked to the prodigious lifespans of Charruan males—and its carcass is then tossed back into the lake to be devoured. Should the replica win, as does happen from time to time, it will still die within the space of a week.

But Camilo did not die. A week after he had strangled and partially eaten his father-twin, his screams of bewilderment and incomprehension, coming from the tent where he was bound, had not lost their vigor. The others in the settlement had no idea what to do, for this had never been known to happen. Had they made a mistake? No—this victor was not the boy they had sent off to the lake months before. He had no grasp of any language, did not recognize the woman who claimed him, at first, as her son, and possessed all the telltale signs of one from the lake: the clammy but supple flesh, the segmented bronze eyes, the broad skull, the flat, wide lips, the underdeveloped thumb, and the fondness for water.

A year went by, and he only grew stronger. Being as sharp-witted as the original boy, he caught up quickly in his learning, mastering the local tongue as well as Spanish. He took up carving, and made ingenious masks that he would slip on when he passed by the children who found him frightening. The months passed... and still he did not die.

They never truly accepted him. Some believed he should be slaughtered and thrown back to those who bore him. Word quickly spread to the people at the institute in Montevideo who studied the tribe, and they wasted no time in luring him away to be examined. They kept their findings secret. Camilo, comforted by the mere indifference of those he met in the city, decided to stay there, and study.

Adopting a Spanish name, he gained admission to the Universidad de la República and immersed himself in his education. In this new and stimulating domain, no one feared him: he was Camilo, an Indian with strange eyes, and nothing more. His future, he realized, was his own, and he enjoyed the luxury of indecision that these cloistered years provided.

But by 1992, Camilo des Espejos knew what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to take over the weekday overnight slot at Montevideo’s leading adult contemporary FM station and sweeten the airwaves with continuous soft hits. For over a decade, Camilo has remained the lite favorites champion of the greater Montevideo area, spinning laid back classics and smooth chart toppers on Radio DeLaLuna (99.44 FM; streaming online at He’s on Monday thru Thursday 11:30 PM – 4:00 AM. Wednesday is Urban AC Groove night, and check out his special one-hour Friday Magic Countdown at 7:00 PM, where valuable prizes go to anyone who takes the Magic Challenge and correctly names the Hot Tune Half Second song clip. (Just last Friday, Graciela Parrado identified Christina Aguilera's latest and won an iPhone and 140,000 pesos cash!)

Camilo’s known for sustaining the mood with soft rock and less talk. And though he keeps the chatter to a minimum, listeners agree that his charisma shines through. He promises to make your listening experience as smooth as the surface of the lake he was born in all those years ago. Whether you’re working the evening shift, chilling out or drifting off, listen to Camilo and he'll keep you relaxed all night!

— From a Radio FM DeLaLuna press release dated 7/19/07. Translated from the Spanish by Sabiunne Treabill.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sepia madrasi

“Sea-Ghost” scare now comedy hit

CHENNAI, Aug. 7 (Xinhuanet) – It is hard to comprehend how the creature spreading fear across the Bay of Bengal only a year ago could now be a subject of jokes and light-hearted laughter.

But the summer of 2007 was awash with sightings of a pallid face — bloated like a drowned corpse, with holes for eyes and a lipless mouth that uttered silent curses — pressing itself against the windows of vessels and seafront structures (often where no human could possibly be), then vanishing.

The stories generated hysteria, culminating in the near-fatal public thrashing of an albino child by a mob convinced he was the “Sea-Ghost” in mortal disguise.

In mid-October, however, Dr. Maharajapuram K. Nayagam quelled the phenomenon. The local marine biologist outed the spectre as a certain species of cephalopod: the Leper’s hand cuttlefish (Sepia madrasi), named for its stubby tentacles.

Taking note that the sightings always occurred during choppy weather at windows near the waterline, Dr. Nayagam rounded up several specimens using a baited cage, then presented them on a Sun News television broadcast, demonstrating how their livid muzzles could resemble phantom faces.

“There’s a broad, fleshy area around the beak — unusual for cuttlefish,” explains Dr. Nayagam. “Above the beak we find a dual valve for the funnel: two openings, which form the ‘eyes’ of the face.

“This pseudo-face only appears when the tentacles are spread out and apart — but that will happen when a Leper’s hand cuttlefish clings to a window. They enjoy flat, smooth surfaces when they can find them, although they will typically stay for a just few seconds before ‘taking off’ via jet propulsion.”

Leper’s hand cuttlefish once preferred deeper waters but have closed in on the bay in recent years.

The saga came full circle this month with the release of The Sea-Ghost Among Friends, a VCD by Ravi Akbar Khan, one of the most popular Tamil comedians.

Structured like a talk show, the feature eschews modern special effects for puppetry using actual marine life: freshly killed fishes (and cephalopods) are given electric shocks via hidden wires, causing their features to move as though speaking. Three Leper’s hand cuttlefish were needed to actualize the Sea-Ghost.

Khan, who provides all of the voices for his characters, claims sales of The Sea-Ghost Among Friends far exceed those of any other comedy VCD produced in “Kollywood,” and that a Hindi-dubbed version will debut next week.

“People find this one even funnier than usual,” he says. “I think it’s because many of them were frightened a year ago, and now they’re just relieved.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sarda helisaltator

Dervish Bonitos
(Sarda helisaltator), the most colorful of all mackerels, are found as far north as Panama on the Pacific. They are easily identified by their enlarged, fan-like pectoral and pelvic fins and long, square-tipped tails. Their oily flesh is not prized as food, and a captured specimen is more likely headed for a public aquarium than a dinner table. Traveling in schools, their feeding excursions often take them to the water’s surface, where they will leap out and execute the “dance” they are named for.

Although they cannot cover long distances like Beloniformes, Dervish Bonitos are able to keep themselves out of the water by their own impetus for roughly 30 seconds at a time. Their dance involves a combination of caudal propulsion (“tail-walking”) with the lift granted by rotating with fins splayed. The sight of dancing Bonitos is always impressive — especially on a clear day, when the sun’s rays glance off their brilliant green and violet scales. The spectacle can become grisly, however, should a low-flying gannet enter the picture.

While a Dervish Bonito’s bony meat is a possible meal for a seabird, gannets prefer its tastier, water-bound relatives. If a gannet scouting prey happens to glide over a Bonito whirling at full tilt, the fish — especially when driven by hunger — is likely to dart straight at the bird’s underside in a burst of hitherto-unseen energy. Using its small but powerful jaws (which are ringed about the lip by miniature bone “pikes”), a Dervish Bonito can tear into a gannet’s torso, remove the liver (likely its favorite collation), and be back underwater in seconds. Hence the nickname “gannetsucker” (although the Dervish Bonito is not a member of the completely-freshwater suckerfish family).

Dervish Bonitos are born with long barbels but lose them before maturity. The high forehead is characteristic of the male.

From: Hurbest S. Gomarding (Ph.D), The Hazel Marine Guide. New York: Brownish Press, 1956: p. 89.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mandrillus caledoniae

Mandrill-snatched Scots’ bones to be returned to descendants

By Mirley Rellecco
Science reporter, BBC News

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A deputation on behalf of the Clan Macdunliffie will receive a collection of human remains at Edinburgh and transport them to ancestral burial grounds for proper interment.

The assortment of thighbones, ribs, a shin and several skulls are currently housed at Edinburgh City College.

“We’ve completed the necessary research with these articles,” said Dr. Fergus Podgreath, director of Anthropological Research at the school, “so we’re happy to ensure that they end up where they belong.

“What matters now is to continue study of the mandrill fossils and related artifacts found with the bones,” he added.

The Carrick mandrill (Mandrillus caledoniae), now believed extinct, once made the hills of southwestern Scotland its home.

It was often called “Crankie Auld Four-Hands” and “Marten’s Bane” for its startling habit of tearing a Pine Marten limb from limb to establish territory.

Most remarkable was its role in the funerary customs of the Groithelunic peoples (later almost exclusively absorbed into the Macdunliffie Clan).

The Groithelunes did not bury their dead straightaway, but first left the bodies exposed on a nearby heath.

Carrick mandrills would tear the corpses apart, selecting certain body parts for use during mating.

Male Carrick mandrills would communicate with potential mates by waving about fresh extremities of aggressor species.

Apparently, females were more likely to respond to suitors who could flag them down with pieces of human.

“The Groithelunes didn’t see it as desecration at all, since the mandrills were so selective in what they took,” explains Dr. Podgreath.

“They would record the state of the body for augural purposes before burial.”

The singular behavior of the Groithelunes was noted by early British historians, including Sir Thomas Browne in his Hydriotaphia (1658).

Speculative reconstructions of Carrick mandrills vary in appearance, but most experts suspect that its colourful rear end influenced the vibrant Kynnkleandonquodon tartan.

Published: 2008/07/07 14:38:44 GMT