Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Drosera singultantem

(ibid.) make the not-uncommon error of nibbling on a poisonous TRICK HELMET MOREL (ibid.), mistaking it for a harmless and succulent GALAHAD’S MOREL (ibid.), it will at first feel deprived of oxygen and gasp ineffectually — then, as though struck by lightning, it will suffer the second blow: an all-encompassing paralysis, which without fail will leave it with motionless jaws wide-open. The soft flesh of the inside of a moribund Jade Dwarf Monitor’s mouth is the favorite repast of the CARRION SYLPH CHAFER (ibid.), an insect that might easily, in another circumstance, become a healthy Monitor’s supper.

But in its haste to conquer the much larger adversary, a Carrion Sylph Chafer risks a similar blunder. For among the morels grows the THROATWHEEL GARNET (Drosera singultantem animam), which boasts a rosette of bright leaves (often confused with its blossom) that simulates the fixed yawn of a dying Dwarf Monitor, right down to the sickly magenta hue that the reptile’s mouth will assume once poisoned. A Sylph Chafer that pounces hungrily on this rosette will find itself snared by mucus-laced fibers, smothered by closing leaves — and soundly digested.

From: P. Hambunck Constanelle, Constanelle’s Global Flora, 4rd Ed. Mandaroeb & Sons, 1873: p. 517.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dynastes fibula

Beetle brooches battle bug bots for hearts of Mexicans

Fri June 13, 2008 6:41pm EDT

By Raquela Villarreal

TÉJUXPAN (Reuters) – Juan Medrillo, 27, lounges with a flavored coffee in the city square. On the lapel of his silk Gaultier dinner jacket crawls a large beetle with a jeweled carapace, secured to the garment by a small gold chain and pin. Since his late teens, Medrillo has always accessorized himself with a beetle brooch, or maquech.

He will replace his maquech once it dies, as he has before (a beetle can live up to a year). He claims the next one will be “more splendid even than this, meaning the most fabulous in all of Mexico.” He has not yet worked out the design for the successor’s decor, but he is already certain of one thing: “It will be a living bug. I’m never going to wear some imported gadget. That’s not a maquech.”

Medrillo has taken his side in a growing cultural schism. Over the past few years, some Mexicans have chosen miniature Japanese robots (or functional Taiwanese knockoffs) to become their maqueches. The conversion process is simple and the result is seen as less squashable than the classic variety.

The tradition of living insect jewelry is rich along the Yucatán Peninsula, and never more so than the town of Téjuxpan, where the Buffalo clasp beetle (Dynastes fibula) is prevalent. The buffalo clasp is the ideal bug for a brooch, due to its size, extremely resilient elytra (casing), long life span and overall hardiness.

The imported Isukiraba or ASBU (Autonomous Scarab BUddy) devices both look like beetles and are close in size to buffalo clasps. They utilize similar software platforms that run on tiny detachable memory sticks, which allow them to respond to speech, play simple games and other functions. In other words, they can do things as brooches that real beetles can’t.

But the mecha-maqueches may not be quite as durable as reputed. Unverified rumors abound of them consistently losing to buffalo clasps in illicit beetle blood sports (apparently neither model has fight programming). More evident is their allure to unyoked male beetles, who mistake the luminescent robot eyes for those of a female of their species in heat — and attempt to mate with them, with destructive results.

“A beetle mounted my ASBU maquech yesterday,” weeps a visibly upset Lupita Jambrina, 12. “It got blattapappazonza [local slang for insect semen] all over her and now she won’t work. She had an audio diary function and I used to tell her everything.”

But if Lupita’s robot friend can’t be fixed, she might consider taking it to the toy sales and repair shop El Balero, run by Pablo Navarrete, 62. Business has surged for Navarrete since he began offering to convert broken electronic pets into traditional (and rugged) wind-up toys. The addition of classic clockwork innards, with their distinct whirring and retro-appeal, might for some owners alleviate the loss of cutting-edge AI interface.

“Why would you want to talk to your maquech anyway, or ask it the time?” ponders Navarrete. “Better to just wind it up and let it crawl around a little. That’s all a piece of jewelry should do.”


Monday, June 9, 2008

L. lanzarotensis

The most spectacular subspecies of the Lepus is the celebrated SEASIDE HARE (L. lanzarotensis) of the Canary Archipelago.

By far the most seaworthy of the extended family, the diminutive female of this breed might not wait for a low tide to plunder the reef for shells. She hunts expressly for marine casings large enough to accommodate her body the way a snail wears its home-made housing — this almost always means specimens of RIBBED TRITON or JUMBO TURRITELLA (ibid.), which interlock well with her curiously developed spine. She dons her shell when she becomes gravid, and thenceforth is never seen without it. That she bolts about in this state with the same rigid posture she exhibited unshelled makes her seem to us proud or ostentatious, like a lady of fashion sporting a peaked headdress.

However, it is not vanity but Nature’s wisdom that guides the mother-to-be. For when parturition is imminent, off comes the shell — but not before the hare has located a suitable place for her family. There, she rolls onto her back and turns (always clockwise) into the soil, until only the mouth of the shell is above ground. She then upends herself, leaving the husk embedded in the earth: into this fortified depression she will deposit her young. The consequent safety afforded to a drove of Seaside leverets leads at times to an overabundance of the animal — a problem counteracted during tourist season by the increase in seashell demand.

From: P. Hambunck Constanelle, Constanelle’s Global Fauna, 3rd Ed. Mandaroeb & Sons, 1872: p. 406.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Fraudator tripartitus

The “life-long imposter” I mentioned earlier now wriggles onto center stage — ready, in its very infancy, to carry out its first swindle. The triple-ruse hawk moth worm (Fraudator tripartitus) possesses all the qualities it needs to deposit itself unnoticed among strangers: a trick essential to its survival. Truly it is the changeling of the animal world, as worthy of the title as the fairy babies who pass for mortals in the old folktales. For once this larva has invaded a litter of infant shrews, it comports itself like a regular member of that copious household. Its pudgy but tiny shape, pink flesh and downy fur (actually tubercles) mimic the attributes of the suckling mammal well enough that the shrew mother, more often than not, will accept the counterfeit, and allow it to feed with the others.

The milk of the shrew will sustain the worm (it is the only victual that can) until it senses the approach of metamorphosis. Before that hour comes, the larva must escape the brood, then find a cranny among the stones and fallen leaves where it may pupate. This brings us to its second ruse, for our chrysalid should become dull in texture and assume an earthen colour. If all has gone well, it should now be scarcely distinguishable from a pebble — a tiny hard morsel of stone, a source of neither meat nor interest to hungry parties that pass it by.

But our subject is thrice-deceptive, hence its name. The third subterfuge is plain to anyone who sees our triple-ruse hawk moth, now full-grown, land on its favorite resting place — the trunk of an elm — and immediately vanish, its cryptic brown wings a perfect forgery of the bark.

From: A. Burnleath Harthawick, Arthropods and Vermes of the Upper Plundtra. Cassell & Co., Limited, 1821: p. 117.