Monday, January 2, 2012

Galapagos space-spaniels. Spoof on 'The World Around Us'.

[To be read with a breathy, festinating, plum-in-mouth accent; tongue-in-cheek!]

This week, we examine life on an icy atoll a thousand miles from the nearest land fall.

From where I stand, over a million Galapagos space-spaniels can be seen on their annual return from Alpha Centauri, high in the southern skies. On February 14th every year with Julian precision, they complete the long migration in the intergalactic race for procreation right here on this desolate, windswept outcrop.

The males land precisely 90 minutes ahead of their mates who they recognise by not only their punctuality, but also from their individual umbilical sweat gland odour. Once paired off, they perform a captivating goose neck swan dance, first seen when the island was used by pirates in the 16th century. This ritual is the only example of coitus frigidis in the entire animal kingdom. Whenever the couples become aware of being observed they coyly abstain and flee, barren, self-conscious and inconsolate back into the cold waters of the inhospitable south seas to feed, prior to the long interplanetary trip home. Today we will attempt, for the very first time, to film these mysterious rites, both the foreplay calisthenics as well as the sex act itself on a concealed camera.

As you can hear, the couple are reaching the crescendo of their pas-de-deux. The male moves away from the female, and approaches our hidden lens. He raises his claws. There seems to be some interference in the reception. Oh dear! I fear that our camera has become an intimate part of the erotic ballet... and another casualty in the dangerous fight for survival in this remote part of the galaxy!

Courting pairs make a guanochyme nest in their first month on the atoll. They regurgitate five times their own body weight in this epoxy-like substance to produce a resilient 'igloo' structure to protect their eggs.

Invariably two male and four female pups hatch. The two smallest females are ritually sacrificed on the third day and fed to the others. This leaves the sexes equal, builds up food reserves and reduces in-breeding which is so common in these lower amphidactyls. These marvellous, blood-thirsty creatures spend the next six weeks feeding their remaining young which quadruple in weight every 24 hours. They are taught the important lessons needed for defence in deep space where they must fend off comets, asteroids, space-shuttles, lethal sun-spot radiation and other hazards. Alpha Centauri is 4 light years away, so few live long enough for a return flight.

That is it for this week's program. Next week from the universe, we turn to a microcosm. We look at life in a gold-fish bowl with a difference. With the promugulated fish-eye lens and the icthyencephalogram, we examine observations of a doctor's waiting-room from inside the fish-tank. We will learn a carp's opinion of Medicare, we interview a pair of Siamese fighting fish on euthanasia, and we look at the weather-loach's approach to contraception. Looking forward to seeing you all then. Bye for now!

Written by Andrew Byrne with apologies to 'The World Around Us' [from the 1990s archive]. Dr Byrne is a G.P. practising in Redfern, N.S.W.