Friday, November 16, 2007

Aunt Patty and the curse of the monkey

The last voice mail I received in America came from Aunt Patty. She told me about a news story involving monkeys in India attacking and biting people. Her final word of advice: stay away from monkeys.

First full day in India: After buying a dozen bananas for 10 rupees (25 cents) with Ashish, the guy my age, we see a big angry looking monkey with giant old floppy balls on the way home. He says "uh oh" and gets very nervous. He hides the bananas and we get out of there as fast as we can. He says that they sometimes attack with no reason and get much more aggressive around food.

So my request to Aunt Patty, because your warnings seem to come true after you make them (this is not the first time), please only warn me about good things like finding the girl of my dreams, becoming an international cricket sensation (if I could stay awake through the game) or starring in a Bollywood movie.

It's five in the morning here (still not adjusted right) and the call to prayer just started from the local mosque. If I didn't know what it was, I would swear that it's a bevy of ghosts wailing on Halloween. It is truly a haunting sound.

Lex's Science Corner: Testicles, Muscles and Your Love Life
In the animal kingdom (and our own), males compete for copulation in various ways. Seals have large harems and exhibit some of the most vicious fighting in the animal kingdom. Similarly, gorillas have one older male who dominates the other males and impregnates all of the female of the troop. Chimpanzees mate indiscriminately while gibbons remain monogamous.

As you can imagine, this affects many parts of the phenotype (external characteristics) of the species. Animals who win females by fighting tend to have a large physical sexual dimorphism (difference between the sexes). The males get large in order to fight the other males while the females get only as big as needed to bear and raise their young. Chimpanzees grow giant testicles because whoever puts the most sperm in the female, tends to have the most children. Gibbon's exhibit little physical sexual dimorphism. They have more children if they are good providers who make sure their babies live to adulthood. Therefore, a more polygamous culture tends to lead to bigger muscles or balls.

Humans also display a small physical sexual dimorphism but that's a tale for another day.

Ideas lovingly stolen from Richard Dawkin's The Ancestor's Tale


anna said...

Lexy! Two Ton! Before you two left people kept asking me how you two would get along on the trip. i said, fine, except if lexy gets hungry because then you do that whole walking with your head down in dismay only thinking about food and even getting a bit snippy.(gasp!) It is just continually startling to see the similarities between you and monkeys. adoringly yours, anna

Ned said...

Lex only wishes he had big muscles...say like mine. The large testicles, of course, are his birthright.
How about some photos on this stinking blog? I can't quite picture what it's like to walk down the street and have a big monkey saunter over to me. As Always, Ned