Grok My Enthusiasm (18)
May 11, 2016
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars.
Monotremes are the queerest of animals, mammals who lay eggs. They have electro-receptors in their snouts. They have no nipples — they secrete milk through their skin. Nor do they have teeth. What all monotremes do have is intense venomous spurs, a structure no other living mammal has, though only the male platypus’s are still functional (and they’re strong enough to kill a dog and seriously torment a human).
Only two animals on earth get to call themselves monotremes: the echidna (spiny anteater) and the platypus.
Echidnas are introverts. They live mostly solo and prefer not to fraternize. The only time they hang out with each other is during mating season. Then the female starts leaving a sexy scent trail and the males start falling into line behind her — they will actually form “trains” of up to ten males trailing after a single female. The males have four-headed penises; google at your own risk.
It’s hard to outdo the weird coolness of the echidna, unless you’re a platypus.
The platypus is intensely private and secretive. From their first discovery by British scientists in the late 1700s, they have proven maddeningly elusive. Few people ever see them in the wild and they’re hard to catch. (Once it was determined to be a real creature, not a jackalope-type hoax, the platypus was caught up in a 90-year debate about taxonomy, creation, and evolution — with infighting involving Sir Richard Owen and Charles Darwin himself.) They close up their eyes and ears when they plunge into rivers to hunt at night, relying on their bills’ exquisite sixth sense: the electrosensory ability to detect even minute changes in the electrical field generated by their prey.
Though scientists have unraveled the platypus’s genetic code — an evolutionary treasure, bearing avian, reptilian, and mammalian features — we still know almost nothing about their evolution. Fossilized monotreme remains date back 200 million years, and though they look very similar to their present-day descendants, they still provide no evidence of the monotremes’ origins. Present-day monotremes keep their secrets well, too. The reclusive, ornate, mysterious monotremes are likely happiest to stay exactly as they are: enigmas.
GROK MY ENTHUSIASM: Rob Wringham on THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | Gordon Dahlquist on WEEKEND | Joe Alterio on MILLION YEAR PICNIC | Adrienne Crew on LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | Josh Glenn on THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | Alix Lambert on THE SKIES BELONG TO US | Adam McGovern on PENELOPE and CHAVEZ RAVINE | Rob Wringham on THE LYKE WAKE WALK | Mark Kingwell on NORTH STAR SNEAKERS & GWG JEANS | Gordon Dahlquist on FELLINI SATYRICON | Erik Davis on AH! | Devin McKinney on WHISPERING AFRAID | Mimi Lipson on 1973 SEARS ROEBUCK CATALOG | Jessamyn West on MOSS | Josh Glenn on THE SCOUT HOW BOOK | Brian Berger on SLACKER | Alix Lambert on ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS | Chelsey Johnson on MONOTREMES | Devin McKinney on THE BUTCHER COVER | Flourish Klink on ONE DIRECTION | Gordon Dahlquist on FULL METAL JACKET | Allegra Huston on CLOTHESLINE | Jenny Davidson on POWERLIFTING | Evan Narcisse on REZ | Deborah Wassertzug on VEGETARIAN MEATBALLS | Chris Spurgeon on WALLACE AND GROMIT | Mandy Keifetz on BENEFICIAL MICROBES | Annie Nocenti on MARKS ON WALLS | Molly Sauter on THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF | William Nericcio on LAND OF THE LOST | Dan Fox on “VOICE OF GOD” RADIO DJS | Brandi Brown on WIKIPEDIA TALK | Claire Lehmann on THE APPARATUS REVEAL | Alice Boone on COSTUME JEWELRY | Colin Dickey on WIDESPREAD PANIC | Anshuman Iddamsetty on THE FULL BODY PROJECT | John Hilgart on MAKING GRATEFUL DEAD ALBUMS | Rob Wringham on STEVEN UNIVERSE | John Overholt on DECKLE EDGES | James Hannaham on HABIT PATTERNS | Jessamyn West on THE PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM | Adam McGovern on THE SPACE GIANTS | Brian Berger on MEDIUM COOL | Chris Spurgeon on THE DUNNING-KRUGER EFFECT | Joe Alterio on TABLETOP WARGAMING | Mimi Lipson on TRASH PICKING | Jason Grote on CZECH CINEMA | Roxane Gay on AUTOMATED CAR WASH | Dan Fox on JULIA DAVIS | Amy Thielen on BINGO | Steph Burt on FEIJOA.
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