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Apocalyptic Megafauna!

May 2, 2010

It all started at one of those super-fun meetings about contracts.  We were going over the different kinds of natural resources work that an installation could possibly require – stuff like bird surveys, small mammal surveys, plant surveys, etc. –  and I suggested that we shouldn’t forget about surveys for apocalyptic megafauna (This seemed particularly important since the contracts in question included work done for installations in Japan.).  So, whatever, it was good for a few laughs.  

Actually this is a term that came to me once as I was thinking about how, as an entomologist, I sometimes have a chip on my shoulder when it comes to charismatic megafauna and all the various “ologists” that study them.  Since, by definition, I don’t think the charismatic megafauna include any current species of insects, there should be a classification for the mega-insects that will usher in the end of civilization as we know it and rule the planet – beasts from godzilla movies such as Mothra and Megaguirus. (I guess there could also be a separate group of  mega-arthropods, such as the giant scorpions in “Damnation Alley”, which have become gigantean from atomic radiation and roam about, terrorizing the nuclear wasteland – these would actually be post-apocalyptic megafauna, but that term doesn’t really have the same ring to it.) 

The funniest part is that the term made its way into a few Powerpoint briefings, and then became somewhat of running joke around the office.  We even made t-shirt about it (you can find it here).  Here’s an example of just how far it has evolved – the following email string began in response to an unusual comment that was found in a bat recovery plan.

(Coworker A)

Evidence that the world is not completely bird centric :

“Typically, observations of vertebrates flying between islands over tens of miles of open ocean are extremely rare.”

(Coworker B)

Sheesh! Maybe they don’t count the class Reptilia.

(Coworker C)

I’d strongly disagree!

I’d suggest the dude check the latest airline schedules!!

(Me)

That’s because birds are pseudo-vertebrates (phylum pseudovertebrata).

(Coworker B)

 So if somebody is spineless, they could be called “bird backed”? (as opposed to “bird brained” – in some cases this would mean they have an enlarged hippocampus).

 (Coworker A)

 Attached shows at least one bird out there with a backbone! (Thought you’d appreciate some avian apocalyptic megafauna…)

 

(Coworker B)

Quick! What’s the species??!! Is it a species of concern?

(Me)

Penguins suck, even colossal fire-breathing ones.

(Coworker B)

What!!??? They are the movie stars of Antarctica! Males practically starve themselves in the cold for their children while the female runs off and spends all the goods! It’s an apocryphal object lesson for all of us men.

Learn from the masters.

(Coworker A)

More sucky penguins attached here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Coworker B) 

Aww, they’re almost worth starving yourself to death for.

(Supervisor)

Since I am coming in late…  We’ll have to observe the fire-breathing penguin.  That one was a baby penguin.  How big does it get?  Was it in the “terrible 2s”?

(Coworker B) 

Apocalyptic megafauna are extreme K-selected organisms, therefore, they have long maturity cycles before reproduction. Since Godzilla was supposed to be pretty doggone old when he went on his rampage. Maybe this fire-breathing baby penguin is in the “terrible 200s”?

(Coworker A)

The babies breathe fire on just attack helicopters — adults will take on aircraft carriers… and leopard seals.

(Coworker B)  

The Navy isn’t going to like mitigating for that! I think that would be Terrestrial Resources’ responsibility. They certainly don’t breath fire when they are in the water!

(Supervisor)

Yes, they breathe fire under water!!!  They like their fish seared.  The flames are bluer.  

(Coworker A)

This one still has just down feathers (not waterproof), so wouldn’t be able to forage under water yet. Maybe that’s why it’s so pissed off – it’s just hungry.

Re: mitigation, we could likely just train them to do Force Protection, like the bottle-nose dolphins.

(Coworker B)

I see where this is going. Push the impossible task off on Marine Resources, watch them flounder, laugh when it taken away from us and given it to somebody else to put a happy spin on it and add it to the INRMP.

How cruel can you be??!!

(Coworker C)

I’m forwarding the picture to Ed Becker.  It will be perfect for the cover of the helicopter EIS he is working on!

(Supervisor)

INRMP section:

Endangered species: Apocolyptic baby penguin [mega-fauna group, linneas]/Order: Sphenisciformes/Genus: Aptenodytes apocolyticii var. pseudovertbratii

This bird is unique in several ways, it has moved north of the equator and has been known to roost in or transit through human metropolises.  It is distinct in that it appears to maintain chick plumage throughout its known (to humans) lifespan and can reach up to 50 ft (15.24 meters) high.  Luckily it is unable to fly, but when it is under stress it has been reported to display glowing red eyes and breathe flames at circling helicopters.  The USFWS listed the apocalyptic baby penguin as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2008.  It was stated within the listing notice of the Federal Register that since only one apocalyptic baby penguin has been seen, this unique species must be protected from all irate governments. There has been no critical habitat designated.

The species is assumed to have world-wide distribution and could potentially show up at Navy Installations.  Monthly surveys for this species will be initiated within the next fiscal year.  It is assumed that since this species is worldwide, that this species will be included within the next iteration of the EIS documents on the Pacific side.  Surveys for at-sea sightings will begin upon completion of the section 7 consultation with NOAA. 

Current INRMP management will consist of grinding up large amounts of fish, or fish-based products (high-end cat food) and freezing the fish into assumed apocalyptic baby penguin gullet-sized portions.  Catapults will be installed at all installations and if a siting occurs, the apocalyptic Baby Penguin Strike Team (ABPST) will mobilize to all catapult stations (the model is the Incident Command System).  If the apocalyptic baby penguin begins to exhibit stressed behaviors, the ABPST will lob the thawed fish goo portions at the baby penguin in an effort to get it to eat the proferred food and fall asleep.  The Navy is still working on a plan to obtain a take permit from USFWS to move the penguin to a safer place while it is asleep.  

(Coworker B)

Wow! Your expertise extends to apocalyptic baby penguins! I am truly impressed!

The only things I would add is we need to have an appropriate military name for the catapults. How about penguin neutralizer uplift station or PNUS?

(Coworker A)

More appropriate for the bird world:

Cyprinid Launch Overhead-Applicator CAtapult (CLOACA)

(Coworker B)

Excellent! They wouldn’t even know why we would be laughing at them during the OPS brief. I can hear it now:

“We are assigning Captain Smith to man his CLOACA and subdue the target.”

(Coworker D)

I would like to suggest the Enormous Numbing Ultimate Katopolt-o-matic (UNIK)

(Me)

Maybe its just me, but prefer PNUS over UNIK.

(Coworker A)

Yeah, that’s not just you.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Martin Buchert permalink
    July 7, 2010 5:50 am

    Cory,
    this is hilarious. I’ma gonna get me an apocalyptic megafauna shirt.

    • corycampora permalink
      July 21, 2010 9:49 am

      Hey Martin! I’ll try to send you an Apocalyptic Megafauna magnet or button (assuming I remember to get around to it!). Good to hear from you.

      Cory

  2. Martin Buchert permalink
    July 21, 2010 4:52 pm

    That would be awesome. 🙂

    BTW, you are the perfect person to answer a lingering question that’s been bothering me for years. I have some bug photos from my time in HI; sphinx moths mating, and I never did get an identification on whether they were native or not while I was still there (I remember a conversation with another ecologist there who told me there is a native species?). If I sent you a photo, could you give me an opinion on the species? I know that a positive ID sometimes requires more than is apparent in a photo, but I’d be interested in any further info.

    • corycampora permalink
      July 22, 2010 9:44 am

      Sure, send it over (entophile@hotmail.com). There are quite a few native sphinx moths – the coolest of which is probably the fabulous green sphinx of Kauai (that would be quite a find). Another notable is Blackburn’s sphinx which endangered. There other natives more which are more common, but there are also quite a few non-natives as well. I’m definitely not the best person to look at it, but I’ll give it a shot.

  3. Patrick Chee permalink
    October 2, 2012 11:37 am

    I remember seeing this around the office. I should get a shirt.

  4. corycampora permalink
    October 4, 2012 5:59 pm

    Sadly, I think you would be only second person to buy one (the first was me!). Come to think of it, I might still have the button that I ordered but never sent to Martin.

    • Patrick Chee permalink
      October 5, 2012 11:46 am

      Hehe. Maybe the apocalyptic baby penguin would be a better seller ;).

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