12 May 2008

Deep questions on parthenogenesis

FlaccoFlacco is one of those cultural icons who defies easy description. He's an Australian comedic and satirical observer. Sort of. He's a creation of Paul Livingston.

Flacco wryly asks many questions about parthenogenesis on this week's Science Show, courtesy of the Australian Radio National. You can listen to the audio online now – but hurry, as the audio files don't stay up indefinitely. A transcript should be up soon.

Additional: Here’s the transcript!

oday I'd like to discuss parthenogenesis. Many creatures are parthenogenetic. That is, they have no need to be fertilised. The common aphid, for example, is a parthenogenetic miracle. All aphids experience virgin birth, which makes one ponder. Perhaps Joseph’s wife Mary was parthenogenetic. Does this mean that Joseph was in fact sexually excited by aphids, certain wasps and jellyfish? Was Mother Mary a crustacean? Certain Christians don't like eating fish on Fridays. Now we know why.

And some bacteria are also parthenogenetic. These bacteria could reveal a whole new frontier if we could study their ways and perhaps adapt to parthenogenesis ourselves. Imagine if we were all self-fertilising. How do parthenogenetics fall in love? Do they date themselves before self-fertilising? Is there dinner involved? A movie perhaps? Are they monogamous? Is it possible to be jealous of yourself? Does a parthenogenetic creature mate for life? And if not, how would they cope with a divorce? Who gets the mouth?

What if you are a parthenogenetic swinger, a real parthenogenetic party animal? You throw yourself a party, accept your own invitation, then you go to the party suppliers where you purchase a packet of ice breakers, a round of introductions, two kilos of small talk, some idle chatter, a lengthy anecdote, a hearty laugh, a faux pas, two quips and three uninvited guests. And if you do get lucky and manage to get yourself drunk and crack onto yourself, you wake up in the morning, realise you’ve made a mistake, you try to creep quietly out of your own bed, you leave a note saying ‘I’ll call’ but you’ll never call back, with the result that you never see yourself again. Well, all I can say is, you only have yourself to blame.

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