from the specimen drawer

from the specimen drawer

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sea Hare Sex and Fun at the Aquarium

Today’s gross but cool entry was going to be about how some sea hares have penises on the sides of their heads AND vaginas (in around the usual location) and, because they are simultaneous hermaphrodites, can form mating chains. So if you had 5 sea hares mating it would go (from front to back) girl, boy/girl, boy/girl, boy/girl, boy. In humans this mating technique might be somewhat shocking and even offensive to behold but in squooshy, little sea hares it’s just plain cute- all stacked up on each other, little “wings” folded up... It really is quite an economical way to get your gametes out there. But I’m not going into any more detail as I think I’ve been talking entirely too much about penises and invertebrate sex lately. (Though the topic will be revisited I am sure.) So instead I thought I might recount one of several gross experiences I have had doing biology work.

I did the usual stint as an aquarium volunteer. At first I worked at the touch tank where I kept my sanity by having imaginary conversations with the younger, not so gentle, clientele. “It might be a good idea to stop yanking on that horseshoe crab’s tail. It’s highly venomous and if he gets really irritated he’ll catapult himself out of the water and latch onto your face and suck your brains out through your eye socket.”

Anyway, next I worked with the reptiles. Pretty far removed from my field of interest but I actually do love snakes and on my breaks I could go visit the cuttlefish. It was in the reptile care facility that I had one of the grossest moments of my life ever. EVER! I swallowed turtle crap. That’s right, turtle crap.

I was instructed to clean a big tank, that held a really cheeky diamondback terrapin, by siphoning out the water- with my mouth. Many of you, I am sure, are thinking “Wow, she’s really stupid.” And you would be correct. Anyway, I was just following orders like a good volunteer. As per instructions, I put my shirt over the sucking end (and, by the way, the tube was the diameter of a garden hose and it was long so there was a need for mighty sucking power) and I sucked and nothing happened. The turtle was watching me and I swear he was smiling. I wouldn’t be surprised if he took an extra shit special for me. So I tried again. I was even watching the hose and somehow did not see the nasty turtle water shooting up through it straight through my t-shirt and down my throat. I spit out what I could and my “mentor” assured me “No, you won’t die”, “No, you won’t get some turtle disease” and so on. So the cool part of this story? There isn’t one! It was just a really sucky moment (literally and figuratively).

Oh, and one last thing. I had to pour sugar on the surprisingly large penis of a snapping turtle with an erectile dysfunction. Who the hell knows why!? Needless to say, I was not a volunteer much longer.

Hey! I managed to talk about penises afterall!

Reminiscing about vertebrates has left an unpleasant taste in my mouth so let’s close this post with a soothing photo of an INvertebrate.
photo copyright 2007 

Heeeeeeeey… there’s actually two invertebrates here. This looks like a good guessing opportunity for someone… Any takers? You know the prize!

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