Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My afternoon with Apteryx

I spent most of the afternoon dealing with kiwis, genus Apteryx, in one way or another. I passed a few pleasant minutes photographing the MVZ's mounted kiwi.

Then I had a look at Richard Owen's 1841 monograph on Apteryx australis. Two things you need to know about kiwis:

1. Despite the genus name, they really do have wings. And their wings still have most of the parts they started with. More than those of an emu, anyway. The real "apteryx" (name means wingless) was the moa. Moas had the scapula and coracoid fused into a little splint, but no forelimb bones at all.

2. Their eggs are stupid huge. Above is an x-ray of a pregnant kiwi. I think it's pretty clear that the bird can't eat, drink, poop, or even breathe while that monster is in the pipe. It's science.

Below is one of these oddly disreputable-looking birds* sitting on its egg (image stold from here). Sorta like those weirdos at the gym that sit on the big plastic balls and pretend to be working out.

*Seriously. Every lovin' one of 'em looks like it might hit you up for spare change. I've never seen a picture of kiwi without thinking, "Dammit, boy, have some respect for yourself! Take a bath, shave and get a haircut! And for the love of Pete, put some pants on!"

Labels: , ,


Blogger Darren Naish said...

Fantastic. I will be blogging about them at some stage. Did you see where their nostrils are? Check out data on their olfactory bulbs? Note the orientation of the hallux? Wonder at those freaky ribs? Drool over the chunky pelvis with its [disturbingly familiar] unfused pubes and ischia? And what is it with McGowan's claims that muscle scars don't match muscle positions?

They crawl with parasites, run so fast downhill that they roll down like a ball, and make freaky loud calls.

By the way, the species taxonomy of the brown kiwis is currently in flux so be careful with those bi- and trinomials.

2:39 AM  
Blogger Dr. Vector said...

Fantastic. I will be blogging about them at some stage.

Well, my afternoon of kiwi work was dissertation related, and the pix were so cool that blogging them was compulsory. But I warn you that I am not above blogging on a topic just to get you moving. (I have not stooped to that yet.)

3:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the record, birds don't get "pregnant."

11:08 AM  
Blogger Dr. Vector said...

Yeah, that's a great catch. It's certainly the only inaccurate statement in that paragraph.

Nice sense of humor, doofus.

5:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home