Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The less cerebral pleasures of life

I've been catching up with some podcasts. One I heard today I enjoyed enormously. I would link to it, but I have not been keeping up and it was old enough to have disappeared from the Radio New Zealand podcast page. I will have to tell you about it instead.

The story I enjoyed so much was about a tuatara named Henry. Henry is a late developer. He is 110 years old and has just started to show an interest in girls. Previously, when any female showed interest in him, he responded by getting confrontational and biting off her tail. He was a cantankerous and bad-tempered tuatara, and had to live in solitary confinement for quite a long time because of his antisocial habits. This is disappointing behaviour in an endangered species, so it was heartwarming to learn that Henry has finally become less stubborn about holding onto his virginity.

It is possible that poor Henry had a good reason to be cantankerous, though. He had what was discovered to be some kind of cancer in his bottom. (Bottom was the word used on the podcast, by the way. I am not being coy.) It is only since the cancer was removed (in 2001) that he has recovered his equilibrium (slowly, as is the way of tuataras), had a change of heart, and has now begun his slow courtship of the young and lovely Juliet. Juliet is only 20. I hope her mother knows she's out.

I have seen a tuatara, in a zoo when I was a small child. I thought at the time it was a stuffed tuatara because it did not appear to be breathing. But I was informed that tuataras can hold their breath for as much as an hour, and that the one I was watching was indeed alive, just having a quiet moment of contemplation. In a tuatara a quiet moment of contemplation can last for a considerable time, I discovered. My tuatara blinked once, and I got momentarily excited, but although I continued to watch closely for quite a long time it did not blink again, and eventually I got bored and moved on. There is only so much motionless tuatara-watching one small girl can tolerate. The fascination wears off.

The man interviewed on the podcast explained that tuataras have, basically, three speeds; motionless, slow, and pretty damned fast but only for about two seconds. On reflection I am glad the tuatara did not use its fast mode while I was watching it so closely. (Although come to think of it, that would be an interesting way of dealing with potential predators. Is there such a thing as terminal surprise?)

Anyway, Henry (whose story I have discovered is online here) is now embarked on his courtship. It is true that ninety years is rather a large age difference and could be considered controversial, but on the other hand 110 years is a long time to save yourself for that someone special, and I think he deserves to succeed in his new pursuit of the less cerebral pleasures of life.

He has a lot of catching up to do.


Radioactive Jam said...

Hmm. One breath per hour vs. humans at approximately 1200 per hour. So, 110 / 1200 is-- no, that's not right...