Scampering around the top of the planet the rather fine herds of reindeer can be found all throughout the Arctic tundra, there’s even a small pocket of them in Scotland. Of course, much like the Scots, what Reindeer love to do more than anything is to become inebriated.
Yes, one knows you want to hear about how they can take enough drugs to knock out Queen Victoria, and believe me that is a few – salacious and sordid details must wait, first a little background on this furry fellow.
The reindeers most renowned attribute is that it travels further than any other land animal and can cover 3,000 miles in a year. What’s more they can gallop at marvellous speeds … up to 50mph, often to escape swarms of marauding insects… renowned for their ability not to travel 50mph.
Rather suited to all this gallivanting they are too, as they pass through the swampy summertime into the cold Arctic winter their feet actually change shape to suit. The hooves, spongey during the summer like a rather comfortable gentlemen’s crepe sole, harden and shrink in the winter. This allows the hard rim of the hoof to appear so that the deer doesn’t slip and slide, and has a rather natty tool to dig through the snow to eat to boot. Although its preferred food is plant based there is surprisingly some evidence that they like to chomp on the odd lemming, they’re not adverse to having a munch on fish dish or even something eggy.
However it’s not these carnivorous ways that have given the reindeer a shock early entry into the Proceedings of the Ever so Strange. You see they really really like psychedelic magic mushrooms… of the species Amanita muscaria to be precise… also known as the fly agaric or the-big-red-and-white-sort-that-gnomes-make-their-houses-in.
Reindeer love eating these midget’s edifices so much that you can actually herd them just by chucking the mushrooms on the floor. The active ingredient in these mushrooms can’t be broken down, which means it comes out of the body in your wee. If you haven’t guessed why I’m being so crass it’s that you can even herd reindeer by simply taking a slash into the snow, providing of course that you’ve been partaking in the fly agaric mushroom yourself. This also goes at least some way in reasoning why shaman of the Sami people of Finland swear by a good glug of reindeer urine to get the night off to a bang.
The fly agaric has been part of the Sami’s rituals for centuries. It’s said that during the holidays just before the end of the year the shaman of Lapland would don their red and white mushroom coloured outfuits, and enter a house through the smoke hole or chimney, carrying a bag of fly agaric. It was also often said that he, and his reindeer could fly. It is however up for debate whether some reindeer got caned enough to think their mate had a very shiny nose, up for further debate is whether the Shaman were ever blitzed enough to enslave elves in a sweat shop to make toys… but at least it seems that these rather jolly present giving Sami shaman fellows are one of the myths that brought about our rather jolly friend Father Christmas.
Aaaah Drosophila melanogaster, you absolute smasher, these humble apple-botherers must quite simply be the most important organism in our understanding of science. As Groucho Marx once quipped ‘time flies like an arrow, and fruit flies like a banana’… well we at The Proceedings really like fruit flies… and we’ll come back to our bushy eyed chum Groucho.
Fruit flies are the tiny insignificant specks you see hooning around your fruitbowl when things haven’t been shanghaied out of there quick enough. They are about 3mm long and are so small that its rather hard to see what they’re about with the naked eye. Nearly a century ago some learned type suggested them as a model for the study of genetics. They were small, easy to feed and most importantly didn’t answer back when you shoved them under a lump of Uranium and watched them have sex.
It’s often cited that we share about 99% of our genetic code with chimps, and therefore they are virtually human… all very well but 75% of our human genetic code is identical to Drosophila’s meaning a 3mm long fruit fly is also mostly human. Still this doesn’t change the fact that fruit flies, and indeed chimps, are dreadful billiards partners. Though what they lack in gaming etiquette they more than make up for in being rather good subjects. Fruit flies are for a whole host of moral and logistic reasons a whole lot easier to do experiments on, not having to throw them tea parties is a good starting point. Not to mention it takes a lot less time to produce tens of thousands of fruit flies, than it does to produce a cartload of chimps.
The fruit flies can be mutated and manipulated and they can be used as a model for such terrible diseases as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimers. We can find out about how we age and the multitude of ways we can get cancers. We can even learn about our own behaviour from these humble flies, some have genes that mean they are more likely to want to settle by the fire with a bottle of Claret or forty seven for the evening, others are a tad predisposed to the rather moreish crack cocaine. There is even a so-called ‘fruity fly’ variant that is a little more partial to musical theatre and the company of other male flies.
Other variations have wrinkly skin and are known as the ‘Shar Pei’ variants, others have little legs like a Sausage Dog or ‘Dachsund’ variants. Genghis Khan variants are powerful and muscular, and have quite a following from the ‘fruity fly’ variant, but perhaps our favourite is the Groucho Marx… famed for his bushy eyebrows, and yes he does like a banana.
The koala is rather partial to a lesbian romp. I say!’ you say, quite right to say ‘I say!’ you are too that’s what I’d say… yes the koala love a good lesbian romp, who doesn’t, one would warrant most lesbians definitely do for starters.
The koala sits motionless in Australian trees like a fluffy buffoon for about eighteen hours a day. About ninety per cent of that time is allocated to snoozing, the rest is just time for resting. You would be rather slothenly too if you ate like a koala. They only chomp on the leaves of certain species of eucalyptus, and then only ones of a certain age. The thing about eucalyptus trees is that they are pretty much poisonous, if you can get past the poison the nutritionally bereft leaves would give you very little energy… but eucalyptus is the only thing that koala eat.
Now I know you all want to get to the lesbian romping, we will come to that soon, but first let me tell you why the koala is such a dimwit. Of course choosing to solely eat a poisonous leaf that is low in nutrition is in the first place is one of the first signs when trying to spot a silly bugger, but the eating of eucalyptus leaves has shaped koala evolution. It is of note that they have further evolved into phenomenal dullards. Their skull is quite literally fluid filled, while their tiny brains have shrunk, like a pair of small walnuts sloshing around in a bowl of soup. You see thinking uses up energy, and you don’t get much energy if you eat eucalyptus leaves.
The koala’s digestive system is also quite remarkable… enlarged here … full of microbes there…but let us skip the gastroeneterology and once again delve into the curious. You see the koala feeds its young its poo. Mother koalas produce a soupy “pap” from their bottom and a joey will lean out of his pouch and with great gusto enthusiastically slurp it down. It is much like the mush we feed our young on, though we do like to keep our baby food as far from our bottoms as possible. Of course the pooey pap is of tremendous benefit to the young joey, packed full of protein and the gut bacteria that will help it to eat those infernal eucalyptus leaves.
Koalas in captivity have also taken to some rather unusual behaviour… yes I’m very pleased to say we are getting to the… lesbian romps. Said romps have only been observed behind bars and can involve up to five females at a time, racy stuff I should say. They even seem to prefer it to having a traditional bit of rumpy-pumpy and as many as three in every four sexual encounters in captivity are lady on lady. Males are often rebuffed in these situations, which isn’t surprising when you hear that koalas, like most marsupials, have a double-headed penis. So… at least in the case of the koala… it may well be that two dongs can make a dyke.
“It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures” so said Charles Darwin in 1881, and to be fair he had a point on a number of matters not least his wiggly favourites.
Indeed it is fair to say that the earthworm, said to be the most important creature in the world, was Darwin’s passion; his life’s work. His fastest selling book was the rather catchily titled “The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms” a rip roaring swashbuckler of a read if there ever was one. Though I have to confess, and this is something of a spoiler, that the hero doesn’t get the girl in the end, it turns out that she’s a he, he’s a her and they both impregnate each other… a fairly standard storyline of the time.
The lowly earthworm is of course a hermaphrodite, it has a mixed up downstairs as it were. To mate the worms will very affably swap semen over the space of a couple of hours, they will then slither back down their burrows to fertilise the eggs on their own in the privacy of a slime tube… a beautiful picture one is sure you’ll agree.
Indeed the earthworm is very little more than a slimy tube within a slimy tube; albeit a very important one. Aristotle referred to them as ‘the intestines of the earth’, Cleopatra thought them important enough to declare them sacred. We know what Darwin thought of them, indeed he spent 40 years of his life studying these incredible little creatures, starting as a young man, he returned to his fascination later in life, toiling over countless elegant experiments including how much they churn soil. He buried coal stones and returned to see if they had moved tens of years later, he also dug the worms up plopped them on a pool table and got his son to play a bassoon at them… but that is another story.
There are six thousand different species of these slimers, the biggest is the 22ft long giant South African earthworm, there are white earthworms that smell of lilies in America and there are blue glow-in-the-dark earthworms in Australia… and I’d warrant there are many other delights deep in the earth we haven’t discovered.
Of course what earthworms are really good at is breaking down soil, they crunch up dead matter into a rich organic humus, aerating the soil as they leave burrows through it, they even grind up small rocks in their gizzards. In rich soil there can be as many as one or two million worms in an acre, indeed if this rich soil happens to be a pasture the weight of worms in the soil will outweigh the herd on top of it. Let us leave as we began, and in the words of Charles Darwin “All the fertile areas of the world have passed through the bodies of an earthworm.” Remember that next time you chomp on a carrot.