Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Having written about animal remains last week and U.S. technology failures the week before, I swore to myself that I wasn’t going to write about anything scientific or technological this week. I feel that too much focus in one subject area can get boring – for me and my readers – and I’ve vowed not to do it.
I had every intention of holding firm to that vow, too. I honestly did, until I stumbled across a section of the BBC News website that had the three most incredible headlines I’ve ever read: “Cricket earns big testicles title,” “Super squid sex organ discovered” and “Uglier fish have ‘better sperm.'”
Now, seeing just one of those headlines by itself wouldn’t get me too excited. I’d read the story, sure, but I probably wouldn’t try to fashion a column out of it. But when you place those three headlines together, it makes it virtually impossible for me not to comment in some way.
It’s not that I’m necessarily fascinated by animal testicles and sex organs – not that there’s anything wrong with that – but, come on, if you don’t find those headlines hysterically funny, I’m probably not the columnist you’re looking for. Try George Will. I’m told he rarely discusses animal penises these days. I’m not saying he’s trying to run from his past or anything, but I’m not not saying it, if you know what I mean.
Anyway, back to cricket balls. I was a little shocked when I saw the headline saying that crickets have the world’s largest testicles, because I’ve held a cricket up next to mine, and I dare say they were larger than the entire cricket. Had I known there was a size competition going on and my rivals were going to be insects, I definitely would have entered.
Upon reading the story, though, I learned I would have lost handily. Apparently the competition measured testicles as a percentage of overall body mass, and one species of bushcricket had ones that made up nearly 14 percent of its weight. To put that in human terms, according to one of the researchers who weighed the testicles, “It’s like having testes the combined mass of 11 bags of sugar.”
That means, since I buy my sugar at CostCo, where the smallest bag is 50 pounds, that my testicles would have to weigh about 550 pounds to compete with those of the bushcricket. I don’t know what that would be as a percentage of my overall body mass, but it’s probably more than 14 percent.
Moving on to squid sex organs, the story talked about how scientists caught a male squid that was still alive when it was hauled onto the boat. The body of the squid was cut open, and then, according to one scientist, “We witnessed an unusual event.”
It seems the squid’s penis, which was only slightly elongated prior to the animal being sliced open, “suddenly started to erect,” eventually growing as long as the entire squid. As the story dryly noted, “The squid’s sexual agitation caught the researchers by surprise.”
You think? Because I’m not really sure. Why else would scientists deliberately slice open a squid while it was still alive? I’m guessing one of the scientists had heard that squids are the cephalopod equivalent of Marv Albert, into all sorts of weird, masochistic sex, and he wanted to see if it was true. Well, consider the rumors verified.
Lastly, let’s chat for awhile about fish sperm, shall we? Researchers in Australia did a study on guppies that found that drab ones had faster-swimming sperm than their brightly colored counterparts. The reason for this, the scientists theorized, was that the attractive ones expended their energy trying to look fancy, at the expense of their virility. A similar phenomenon can be seen in human metrosexuals.
The problem for the drab ones, though, was that they had a harder time attracting mates, a problem they solved by engaging in non-consensual or “sneak” mating – essentially raping the female guppies – a practice the scientists witnessed without trying to intervene or call the police.
So, to recap, scientists around the world have been weighing animal testicles, slicing open squids to ogle their penises, and condoning the rape of defenseless female guppies.
Thus, I issue this warning: If there are scientists living in your neighborhood, make sure their names are on a registry, and insist that they go door to door to alert everyone to their presence. We can’t be too careful with sexual deviants like that.
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