Monday, August 07, 2006

Animal of the Week August 07, 2006 -- Geep

So, I recently finished uploading all the available Animal of the Weeks onto the blog (, and do you know what I noticed? Most AOTWs have been vertebrates (fish, birds, mammals, and the like); among the vertebrates, mammals are vastly overrepresented. Indeed, last week's animal was the first time that a genus has been repeated, and what was it? Yeah, a primate (, Classism, maybe... and I had never really thought of myself as being prejudiced.

So today I was going to start at the bottom, and over the next few weeks intersperse some of the more basal animals groups with the regular role-call of bird muderousness, new monkeys, and seafood recipes. So, there I was, reading about sponges in preparation—the least animal-like of all the animals, sponges are a sister group to all other animals. Sponges are simple animals with no distinct tissues, although they do have functionally differentiated cells. I have known for many years that if you put a sponge in a blender, surviving cells will reform a complete and living sponge. But here is where I got distracted by the wikipedia entry: "If multiple sponges are blended together, each species will recombine independently (contrast animal chimera such as the geep)". Now, a chimera is an animal comprising cells of two different species. And, knowing scientists as I think I do, a chimera called a "geep" can only be one thing. Yes, this week's Animal of the Week.

Apparently, if you put a sheep and a goat in a blender and then leave to stand, the cells don't separate out and you end up with a geep. You clearly have to do this at a very early embryonic stage, leave it too late and you end up with so much doner meat. But if you blend embryonic cells of the two animals and then implant the resulting mash into a host womb (preferably a sheep or a goat) a fully functioning, four-footed beast will grow. Some parts of the body develop from sheep cells and others from goat cells. In the picture, you see the legs are woolly (sheep) and the back hairy (goat). Unlike a hybrid animal (such as the wholphin AOTW 25/04/05) which has two parents from two species, a geep has four parents from two species. Put that in your pipe and smoke it Nicole Bradford!


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