Monday, August 08, 2005

Animal of the Week August 8, 2005 -- You are!

May your gods bless you one and all,

As the UK gay-pride season comes to a close, with a joyous day for many on Saturday in our gayest of towns, Brighton, it's time to wheel out a gay animal. Although there are many instances of actual gayness in the animal kingdom, from lesbian seagulls to rams with proclivities for other rams, this animal is rather symbolically gay. Welcome, Columba mayeri (Mauritius Pink Pigeon). In the early 1990s there were fewer than 20 of these birds left in the wild, but captive breeding programmes have established a much larger and more robust population of 350 to 400. Brought to the brink of extinction due to the classic combination of limited range, habitat destruction, batty behaviour, and introduced predators (mongooses, rats, cats, macaques) the remarkable recovery of the population is likely due to an interesting facet of population genetics. Animals that live on remote volcanic islands are nearly always descended from a very few founder individuals, and to have established a population with intense inbreeding they must have very few deleterious genes in the whole population. So, after a population crash, whereas other animals would have trouble bouncing back as inbreeding exposes lethal combinations of bad genes that have been hidden in the large population, island populations need not worry because they don't have any bad genes in the first place. Either that, or they cottoned onto the turkey-basting techniques shown to them in the captive breeding programmes. This week's picture is of Brad and Randy who are watching an episode of Will and Grace, their conversation is going a bit like this:

Brad "Show me more Karen, they should have more of Karen and less of Grace."

Randy "Wouldn't it be great if they just gave Karen a show on her own, with Bette Midler in it, soundtracked by Cher"

Brad and Randy photographed staring into the middle distance in rapt contemplation of such a fabulous concept.


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