Saturday, 11 June 2016

Another Jennifer-Bate style joke

Today, on a visit to my brother, who now resides in Balaclava, I was looking for the book Cotingas and Manakins, which had impressed me greatly upon reading it in a library yesterday. The contingas are a fascinating group of neotropical suboscine birds. They are best known for the beauty of some of their males, most notably the two Rupicola species, and for the unusual vocal performances of several Liphagus species and the large, strangely-shaped Perissocephalus. Liphagus and Perissocephalus, like the “grey bowerbirds” of the genus Chlamydera, are monomorphic yet lek-mating, with the males using skills other than plumage to attract females, who then rear the young alone.

The most fascinating and unique of the cotingas and manakins, however, are the three Phytotoma plantcutters. They are the only folivorous passerines, and unique among arboreal folivores in being fast-metabolising – most arboreal folivores, like the koala, sloths, pandas and mousebirds (order Coliiformes), have abnormally low metabolic rates to cope with very low-nutrient and toxic food. Andean and Southern Cone South America, however, is the most eutrophic subcontinent not only today, but, with negligible doubt in Earth’s entire geological history. Consequently, its flora uses little chemical defence and Phytotoma species, unlike other vertebrate folivores, gain excellent nutrition, while their ability to fly out-competes non-volant mammalian folivores in this predator-dense environment.
This is a seagull supposedly placed in chicken curry
When I found Cotingas and Manakins on eBay, I had a look at the prices and felt they were too expensive for my limited present budget. My brother, however, made a remarkable response that is as absurd as his claims about organist Jennifer Bate being a cat: he said that the male Rupicola rupicola was a seagull dipped in chicken curry (above)! Although the colour and size of a male Rupicola rupicola (and of males of some forms of Rupicola peruvianus) apart from that seagulls are totally different from cotingas in biology and shape. Rupicola species are much more solidly built than a seagull, their bill is much more deeply hooked, and their feet are adapted to perching rather than to swimming on the shore. It stands even less possible to mistake that seagull for a real Rupicola rupicola male than to mistake a cat playing the piano for a real performance of Olivier Messiaen by a true master like Carl-Axel Dominique, Roger Muraro, or Peter Hill!