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.