Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Why Granica Monotremata?

Today's post is LONG overdue. The name of my blog has remained an enigma until today's exclusive!

Let's tackle the latter word first: monotremata. This is the latin name of an order of animals that contains only two species, the platypus and the echidna, both endemic to Australia, my continent of fascination (to see why, you should read Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson). The platypus has long been my favorite animal and more recently the favorite animal of my better half, so this word is first and foremost included for D. Our official mutual fascination commenced when we happened to find this book at a bookstore, and since then our sometimes nicknames have become Echidna and Platypus.

Now, I quote verbatim, "There is nothing quite as enigmatic as a platypus," says Richard Gibbs, an expert. This bizarre creature is a wild cacophony of duck bill, egg-born-milk-nursing young, fur, beaver tail, venomous leg spur, electroreceptors, mammal, reptile, bird. In short, when it was first discovered by British explorers in Australia, they examined it for seams and "duct tape," convinced that someone was playing a (funny) joke.

There are many things about the platypus that simply defy reality (which is a sub- theme of this post: defying reality.) It has characteristics of mammmals and reptiles and sex chromosomes that are similar to a bird's. It lays eggs but suckles its young with milk "patches," (Aside: Echidna babies are called "puggles." Two words: KEE-YUTE!). It has venomous spurs on its hind legs for fending predators off like some cool lizard. It has electro-receptors in its snout for detecting the tiny electric fields its prey produce when they contract their muscles (it is the only mammal with this ability). In short, the platypus (and the echidna - which has tiny spines on its TONGUE!) are a marvel and an oddity and a curiosity and incredibly cute, all characteristics I would like this blog to have.

I have to, against my better judgement, mention this, so scroll down if you are squeamish, as I am going to discuss the sex lives of echidnas and platypuses:

It has been discovered that the playpus has 10 sex chromosomes (compared with two for other animals) and the female platypus has two ovaries but only the left is functional. Furthermore, the platypus lacks the mammalian sex-determining gene, so we have no idea how sex determination occurs!

Now the echidna also has some bizarre sexual characteristics so if you are curious, please visit this Wiki article for the scoop. Last I heard, the mating rituals of echidnas had only been observed ONCE in the wild, but involve up to 10 males following a single female around, all jostling for a piece of the pie. These animals are very secretive! Unlike me. No secretive person has a blog. :)

Do we even have enough energy to explore the first word: granica? It means "frontier" in Polish and is meant to allude to three things.

First, my hometown of Albuquerque in the enchanting state of New Mexico and the great restaurant across from UNM that sustained me through college, the Frontier (see above sweet roll).

Second: pushing boundaries and exploring. To put it another way, to always be pushing the boundaries that define and limit me, to constantly be growing and accumulating new ideas and experiences and territory. In a metaphorical way, obviously, not in a take over the world kind of way.

And finally, a representation of my Polish culture, roots and sensibilities.

What's in a name? Now you know.

1 comment:

MadSilence said...

An enigma to everyone except the author. And one of the most creatively original explanations for a blog title I've read. Also explains why I found the title so engaging: a Polish word combined with Order Monotremata. Why I didn't recognize that immediately I'll never know! :-)

As for the the kids say, TMI ("too much inforation")! Although it's interesting to note that American beaver males have something in common with the echidna, only a bifurcate condition.