My wife Leslie is a marine invertebrate taxonomist - a zoologist who specializes in identifying little spineless sea critters. I marvel over how absolutely, completely, totally head-over-heels passionate she is about one particular class of these animals, polychaetes -segmented worms with bristles. I never even knew these guys existed until I met Leslie. My excuse? I'm a musician. Duh!
Pictures of these animals leave me absolutely slack-jawed with wonder. The strange shapes and colors are only outdone by stories of strange behavior. The most intelligent science fiction movie designer could never create alien creatures half as weird as the photos Leslie is constantly showing me.
Strangely, she insists that I use correct facts when I write. So the following paragraphs have been edited to conform to the facts. I used the wrong names in the first version. My excuse? I'm a musician. Duh! I hope I don't get into trouble with the International Commission on Zoologoical Nomenclature. Anyway . .
. . . There's another type of sea critter - a group of very colorful hermaphroditic flat worms called Platyhelminthes who compete with one another during mating using their extended penises as weapons. If one guy scores a hit on the other guy, he becomes pregnant. This ritual is called Penis Fencing.
Leslie clued me in to a gallery of pictures of two worms caught in the act at the website ppfotos Gallery: look for the section marked Pseudoceros lindae Penis Fencing - read the description and then click to see the pictures. (The slideshow option is good.) In this particular scene both our heroes - Jack AND Ennis -- are impregnated and will soon be proud mothers. Here's a website which Leslie recommended for an introduction and more pictures.
Incidentally today (3/5) is Leslie's birthday. When I started Mixed Meters she set two rules for what I can write about her. Rule Two is that I can't tell you Rule One. So let's just say "I married my trophy wife first." (Not a joke. Love you honey.) To hell with the Oscars - Leslie gets the Docker Award for Best Marine Biologist in a Starring Role. Don't you wonder what's in the Gift Basket?
Leslie has become active at the website Digital Diver - where she helps scuba divers identify the creatures they photograph "down there." Click here to see a lot of birthday greetings to Leslie. There are two pages including many pictures of Fan Worm Bouquets.
Samples of Leslie's own worm pictures are available here. The first picture you see when you click (the yellow worm with blue bristles) is a "mother" worm. The children are attached behind. The last and largest offspring will soon break off and go to college. The others will follow eventually.
Look around for more worm pictures by Leslie. The LA County Museum of Natural History has one of the world's largest collections of polychaetes. Be impressed.