Monday, December 19, 2005

Animal of the Week of the Year, 2005

Dear All,
I don't really believe I have been doing this for a whole year... this time last year, there were four people on the mailing list for my sporadic nonsensical outpourings. Little would I have believed you if you'd told me that 12 months hence there would be over 130 people receiving said nonsense (it may not sound like many, but I'm impressed). Still here we are. Thanks to everyone who voted, the results are now in! There was an early surge centred around a certain Kennington residence for the flammulated owl (24/01/05). However, as in the fable of the hare and the tortoise, slow and solid voting for Brian Sewellel (the mountain beaver [25/07/05]) took this weepy eyed bundle of fluff out into the lead. The mountain beaver managed to fight of the challenge mounted by the Sunda stink badger (04/04/05), but in the end was bested by your Animal of the Week of the Year, 2005: the wholphin (18/04/05)! I had a look and can't find any updates on the health or the name of the do-wholphin calf, but nevermind. Anyway, that's me done for this year, have lovely holidays/new years. See you in 2006.

Hello Lovelies,
This week's animal of the week is a tricky one, normally I just rattle off the latin name, put the common name in brackets after, and then launch into the informative and entertaining text about the animals. But, in a break with style, this is not about a whole species, rather it's about Kekaimalu and her un-named daughter -- the world's only known wholphins!

19-year-old Kekaimalu was born from an unholy union between a female bottle-nosed dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and a male false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens). Now, the saucy thing has gone and had a female calf with another bottle nosed dolphin. Typically species hybrids are infertile (mules, for example, so rarely are able to have offspring that such an event is considered a portent of Armageddon in parts of north Africa), so no-one expected the only wholphin to be able to reproduce.

The convention for naming hybrids (mule doesn't fit obviously) is to combine the first part of the sire species' common name with the latter part of the dam species' common name, hence wholphin (male whale, female dolphin)--in researching this week's animal I came across the example of li-liger (cat sired by a lion with liger dam [male lion X female tiger]), so really the calf is a do-wholphin! Other hybrids include ligers and tigons, leguars, lijaguleps (I kid you not). Some of you may be interested in this website, which contains, among the many battles, an account of a fight between a lijagulep and a giant anteater I do not believe it to be true.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Animal of the Week December 12, 2005 -- Cat monkey

This week's animal of the week has to be the new carnivore discovered in Borneo. With so little information available it's difficult to know what to say, it has no name, there are only two pictures of it caught by motion-triggered cameras, and for all we know may never be seen again. But how great is it that there are still things left to be discovered?

Southeast Asia is one of the hotspots of new discoveries; a more usual way to discover new species is dead in food markets, as with the Saola (a strange antelope like animal) in Vietnam and a primitive rodent related to procupines in Borneo.

This new thing, is likely to be a viverrid. Other viverrids include civets, genets, and bintourongs (AOTW 27/06/05). I also attach images of a fossa (left), a Madagascan viverrid that resembles the new one more by convergence than relation (I guess) and a linsang (right), which is spotted but lives in the same area as the new species. Fossas, Linsang, and other viverrids spend a lot of time up trees, so who knows, maybe as they cut them all down to replace them with a palm plantation they'll discover a load more new species just as they die out.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Animal of the Week December 05, 2005 -- March of the penguins

If 2005 is going to be remembered for one animal (assuming Siegfried and Roy don't get back on stage in the next few weeks), it's going to be this week's animal Aptenodytes forsteri (emperor penguin). March of the Penguins (La Marche de l'Empereur) belly flops onto UK cinema screens on Friday, so I thought it high time to acknowledge these monochrome wonders.

The largest living penguin species, emperors are the only vertebrates to brave the Antarctic winter, choosing to breed on pack ice or land 100 km from the edge of the Southern Ocean. I've not yet seen this film (naturally I can hardly contain my excitement), but the remarkable journey of monogamous couples, their dedication to the family that means the male loses nearly half his bodyweight waiting for the egg to hatch then goes to replenish his reserves while the fatted female goes through a similar weight loss (think Oprah Winfrey dressed as a nun), and the cooperation between the penguins huddling together for warmth has inspired Christian bods to claim this as evidence of God's work. Messages of love, perseverence, positivity, and the existence of a creator are the very fabric of this film by all acounts, and US Christian groups block bought tickets for it because they think (a) it promotes christian values of mongamy and dedication to the family and (b) it is evidence of intelligent design by an omnipotent being, because only an all knowing creator could create a situation in which 120 cm tall birds trek 70 miles across frozen wastelands to stand their ground through the harshest weather in order to raise one chick. I contend their point on two main grounds: first I've never once heard mention of the chritsian values of having feathers and existing solely on a diet of squid; second that's just not intelligent design, it's bloody stupid design—for a start an intelligent designer wouldn't come up with flightless birds. Furthermore, they're not even monogamous, each year they pair up differently.

There are a couple of great Christian film-review websites, checkout the WISDOM score on the Capalert site (; Not wanting to bombard you with Christian propaganda (apparently bona fide male geese are also evidence of God's work [booom boooom]), here's a counterpoint to the intelligent design theory in the website (see why global warming has caused a decline in pirates).

Anyway, that's it from me, what a big one. Next week I'm going to start the end-of-year review proceedings and would like your suggestions of your favourite animals of the week of 2005. I'll send a complete list so you can pick ones you didn't get if you only recently joined.