some favorite animals

squid!Opalescent Squid, found off the coast of California

  • They're elegant, sleek, slippery, fast, agile, have big cute eyes, and they're tasty - fried, poached, or stuffed and baked. Small squid taste better.
  • See some beautiful photography of wild squid.
  • Clues indicate that giant squid grow to 20m long in the pitch-black ocean depths. People are still searching for them.
  • The little ones off the coast of California are Loligo opalescens. There's a decent-sized industry in catching and selling them, and there's an annual Monterey Squid Festival which i got to visit in the late 90s.
  • In another example of parallel evolution, squid (and octopi) have incredible eyes that are similar to those of higher mammals, but actually have a somewhat better design.
  • Squid nerves are unique. They have the largest axon of any animal, which makes it handy for teaching and research. Squid played a major role in the history of computational neuroscience.
  • Even more incredibly, squid (and most octopi) have varying degrees of mental control over their own color, in effect they have an addressable surface.  See Jaron Lanier's What cephalopods can teach us about language.
  • The squidpage.


iguanas!

  • They're quiet, largely vegetarian tree-dwellers from Central and South America. I saw some, both captive and wild, in Costa Rica. I think they look very cool.
  • People seem to like iguanas as pets, despite the fact that you won't get much mammalian warth or friendliness with them. They are definitely photogenic!
  • Reportedly they taste like chicken and would make a good livestock animal - more environmentally appropriate for tropical climates than other meat sources.


banana slugs!

  • From the House of Slime: "When I was a connoisseuse of slugs I would part the ivy leaves, and look for the naked jelly of those gold bodies, translucent strangers glistening along the stones, slowly, their gelatinous bodies..."
  • Slugs chew their food with a tonguelike organ covered with as many as 27,000 teeth
  • Some humans may relate to their unusual mating habits: "Banana slugs often eat each other's slime before mating. They begin to circle each other and may bite each other's right side. They spend hours mating and then try to separate."
  • The eyes are at the tip of the tentacle and, in some species, also functions as a infrared receptor allowing them to hunt in the dark.
  • From The Western Society of Malacologists' Field Guide to the Slug: "They mate with themselves only if no other slugs are around.... The sight of a courting pair of slugs majestically circling one another and ceremoniously rasping each other's flanks while they solemnly wave their enormous penises overhead puts the most improbably athletic couples of Pompeii and Khajuraho into a more appropriate and severely diminished perspective." Here's a picture of something like that.


chinchillas!

  • Chinchilla!Native to Peru, and almost trapped into extinction for their pelts, they're now available as pets, despite the fact they're totally untamed and nocturnal.
  • They're the softest animal i've ever touched, and cute too.
  • They like to take dust baths to keep their fur clean. This is messy, as a friend with two of them testifies - her room gets regularly coated with dust.
  • The population of chinchillas in the wild needs protecting.


other interesing animals..

  • Perhaps the middle-aged hacker is the first sign that humans are evolving toward the Naked Mole Rat:
    • adapted for life underground wrinkled, flabby flesh-toned skin
    • sparse hair tiny eyes and no external ears
    • prominent incisor teeth no sweat glands
    • eusocial, meaning they live like insects in colonies controlled by a single dominating female
    • "They're naked and butt ugly, but people love them"
    • resembling nothing quite so much as tiny walruses from outer space.
  • Bonobo Chimpanzees
    • physically similar to chimpanzees, with a more graceful build and major social differences
    • substitutes sex for aggression - sex is part and parcel of social relations - and not just between males and females, bonobos engage in sex in virtually every partner combination, and sexual interactions occur more often than among other primates
    • bonobo society is not only female-centered but also appears to be female-dominated
    • shares more than 98 percent of our (human) genetic profile
    • the bonobo's behavioral peculiarities may help us understand the role of sex and may have serious implications for models of human society, challenging assumptions about male supremacy in human evolution.