Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Love and other animals

For the female whiptail lizard, finding a mate can be impossible. Though she has all the right skills and equipment for a successful courtship – head bobs, mouth displays, attractive colouring – they do her little good. She tastes the air for male pheromones by flicking her forked tongue while scouring the barren landscape of the Sonoran Desert. The male population is so small, however, that there is almost no chance she will find any – making the female whiptail lizard the ultimate loner of the animal kingdom. Maybe there have been times in your life when you felt just as lonely as a whiptail.
The desire to couple up, settle down and have children can be stifling. We are constantly reminded that nobody stays young or beautiful forever and that all the good ones are getting away. Who, at times, wouldn't feel desperate? Countless nights alone give rise to feelings of inadequacy, and so we rake internet dating sites in search of that special someone , filling up our schedules with dinners that seem to go nowhere.
You ask your friends to try and to set you up, but connecting is tough and you begin to feel like there is nobody out there for you. Despite the great life you may have built, you begin to measure yourself not by what you are doing but by whom you are doing it with. The seemingly endless search for a significant other leaves you feeling utterly insignificant, and you wonder how whiptails survive at all.
When the whiptail lizard cannot find a mate, she relies on herself, even for reproduction. Using parthenogenesis, she produces clones of herself. She will build a nest, lay her eggs, and her tiny duplicates will hatch two to three months later. Females have been reproducing this way for so long that male populations have nearly been wiped out. Over millions of years of evolution, perhaps the lizard has discovered that the only one worth caring for is herself.

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