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Ripples #44

Compiled and Written by Lenny Giteck

We’re pleased to present the first all-animal installment of Ripples, which begins halfway around the world in South Asia …

Ripples art--smallRoosters Sacrificed in India to
Secure Swimming Pool Safety  

According to indiatimes.com, a rooster is ritually sacrificed every Monday in Coimbatore, India, to make a corporate swimming pool safe for bathers. Contractor M. Saamithangam is quoted as saying, "We have to be careful as a lot of people, including children, use [the pool]." Apparently, sacrificing a female chicken would not provide quite the same water-safety mojo.

If you’re thinking that Coimbatore is some primitive, backwater village cut off from the 21st century, think again. It is a major metropolitan area — the second largest city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, according to Wikipedia — with a population of more than two million and advanced manufacturing and engineering sectors.

Needless to say, Indian animal rights activists are not pleased with the fowl ceremony, which indiatimes.com describes as a “medieval ritual.” As a Solomonlike compromise, Ripples suggests that instead of sacrificing live animals, voodoo pins be inserted into a rubber chicken, which would then be swung 10 times over the practitioner’s head in a clockwise circular motion.

True, despite repeated attempts using this rubber-chicken voodoo technique, Ripples has not been able to grow more hair on his head. Still, it’s worth a try for the sake of pool safety — or to put it another way … it couldn’t hurt.


Have you ever wondered about the sex lives of small aquatic creatures that inhabit the planet’s ponds, lakes, streams, rivers and oceans? Don’t worry, Ripples hasn’t either. Luckily, there are highly trained scientists who devote their lives to unraveling the mysteries of water-based nookie. Take the following three recent studies, for example …

Tiny Aquatic Bugs ‘Sing’ Mating Call
By Rubbing Penis Against Abdomen

An article on the Web site bbc.co.uk (“Singing Penis Sets Noise Record for Water Insect” and “Tiny bugs make huge sounds with a surprising organ”) reports on a new study that proves a tiny male bug, commonly known as a water boatman (Micronecta scholtzi), rubs its penis against its abdomen to make rhythmic sounds aimed at attracting female sex partners. The mating display is called stridulation, the article says.

Amazingly, the research also found that the diminutive bug is “the loudest animal on Earth relative to its body size.” The Web site notes: “Scientists from France and Scotland recorded the aquatic animal ‘singing’ at up to 99.2 decibels, the equivalent of listening to a loud orchestra play while sitting in the front row.”

Since the entire bug is just two millimeters across, one can only wonder what size the male’s protuberance could possibly be, and how scientists are able to measure the decibel level when the creature bursts into “song.” The microphone would, of course, be many thousands of times larger than the subject it is recording.

Ripples is skeptical as to what practical application this research might have for the human race. Hopefully, none.

Audio: You can hear this virtuoso water bug demonstrating its musical and romantic prowess by clicking here and then on the audio recording. However, don’t expect anything to blast out of your speakers; listen instead for the faintest of squeaks, which apparently are music to the ears of lady water boatmen (if they have ears).


Peaceful Canadian Ponds Scene
Of Violent Insect Sexual Assaults

Who would have thought that placid Canadian ponds are actually the scene of a violent “war of the sexes” between male and female insects called pond skaters? That’s exactly what another research study — carried out by scientists at the University of Toronto together with their colleagues at McGill University in Montreal — discovered.

One of the main findings of the study, again according to bbc.co.uk, was that male pond skaters (a member of the Gerridae family) “have evolved their antennae to perfectly match the contours of a female's head,” and that the males use the antennae to force themselves on unwilling female pond skaters.

In plain language, we’re talking about nothing less than insect rape!

“Females of the water-skimming bugs are known to vigorously resist the advances of males deemed to be poor mates,” the article reveals. “With the use of high-speed video, scientists in Canada were able to analyze how males responded. They found that males used hook-like antennae to pin down and restrain females and mate successfully.”

While the study may seem somewhat arcane to the average layperson, scientists say it can help us better understand the mechanisms of evolution. The article quotes University of Toronto professor Locke Rowe as observing, “We were surprised that each small step in modifying these antennae resulted in an increase in the mating success of these males. The study gives us new insight into the evolution of novelty, and novelty is one of the most spectacular outcomes of the evolutionary process.”

Image: To see what the offending antennae look like, click here.


When Size Matters in Fish Reproduction,
Being Smaller Can Sometimes Be Better

Research conducted by the University of Sheffield in the U.K. shows that “small male zebrafish adopt sneaky tactics to improve their chances of reproducing.”

The study, which was published in the journal Ethology and reported on by bbc.co.uk, discovered that “the most diminutive males were able to get between a female that had just laid eggs and larger, rival males” — good positioning when it comes to fertilization.

This doesn’t mean that large, dominant males lost out, however. On the contrary: DNA testing revealed that the bigger, more dominant males did indeed father the largest number of fish. But among the nondominant males, the smallest “subordinate” individuals also had a relative advantage.

Here’s how the research experiment played out:

The team placed a single female into a tank with two males — one dominant male and one subordinate. The female was contained in a plastic cylinder covered in fine mesh, so she could smell the males but could not make contact with them. After 24 hours, the scientists released the female, allowing the fish to spawn, with males and females releasing masses of eggs and sperm together at the base of the tank. When the female was ready to lay eggs, males jostled for position close to her…The closer a male was to the female, the better the chance he had of fertilizing the eggs she produces.

In other words, being the fish equivalent of a 98-pound weakling doesn’t necessarily rule out becoming a dad.

Photo: To see what a zebrafish looks like, click here.


Finally, we conclude this special edition of Ripples with a heartwarming story about humans who stepped up to the plate when a beloved pet was in mortal danger …

Saving Sam the Dog

Beautiful 6-year-old golden retriever Sam could easily have lost his life after being swept away by New Hampshire’s Merrimack River — but he survived thanks to the actions of concerned bystanders and the Manchester Fire Department. Be prepared to get a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye while watching this emotional video, especially when Sam’s owner expresses his gratitude for the happy outcome.

Video: To see Sam being rescued, click here.


Until next time, happy watershaping to you!

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