Columns

2007.12.12 Dolphin love

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

I’ve brought home shiny buckeyes, both in the shell and out. I’ve collected bladdernut pods with dried seeds that rattle in the wind.

I’ve collected honeylocust pods and wafer ash seed clusters. I’ve come home with mayapples and cicada exoskeletons.

Milkweed and dogbane pods bursting with seed. Tiny beechnuts. Hickory nuts. A fascinating variety of acorns. Snake weed and jewelweed. Boneset and pawpaw.

Wondrous fossils. Stalks of yarrow. Dried mint. Cow parsnip heads. Wahoo fruit, beautiful wahoo fruit.

What more could a woman want?

Well, I suppose there’s the obvious: “I want you to get rid of all this stuff,” but my wife never said that.

With this behavior, I would be the romeo of the dolphin world. I’d have to fight the ladies off.

At least that’s the idea I got from reading about the boto dolphin of the Amazon rain forest. The males are frequently spotted bringing gifts of seaweed, sticks and mud to the ladies, and it apparently drives them wild.

Dolphin watchers have known about the behavior for years, but it’s only recently they decided it wasn’t just boys having fun. Instead, they conclude that it’s men on the prowl. Three years of study in Brazil’s Mamirauá ecological reserve strongly suggest it's a sexual display.

How do you come to a conclusion like that? Well, it’s almost always the men who are seen carrying gifts, it’s almost always done in the presence of females and it isn’t done by young boys.

If it were just for fun, said researcher  Dr. Tony Martin of the British Antarctic Survey, then everybody would be doing it.

And the clincher? I know this will settle your skeptical mind: DNA tests revealed that males who carried the most gifts were also the ones with the most children.

This puts dolphins in the culture club, along with other interesting animals such as chimpanzees and humans. They all show skills and behavior learned from previous generations, rather than passed down through the genes.

There are other ways to a woman’s heart besides seaweed, such as through the feet. My wife loves a good foot rub, as do I, but I’ve got a slight problem right now.

When I was getting out of the shower last week, I gave my trailing foot a good flick to shake off the water. What I ended up doing was no flick. It was a self-destructive act of striking a toe against the metal railing where the shower door travels.

For a couple of days, every step hurt a little bit. Even now, any touch sends a wave of pain through the foot.

That seems to be the toe of choice for my wife to grab during acts of mutual foot rubbing. You know how it goes, don’t you? Face to face on the sofa, watching a movie and taking turns massaging a foot.

Last night there was no time for a movie, but we got in a quick rub. She yanked at my sock by grabbing the special toe.

“Not that toe!” I yelled.

She got the sock off and grabbed the toe. What’s wrong with this woman?

“Not the lazy toe!” I yelled as I recoiled.

I couldn’t think of any other way to describe it quickly. Please avoid the fourth toe from the right.

Then she started squeezing the same injured toe, asking, “The lazy toe. What’s the lazy toe?”

Isn’t there some nursery rhyme about “this is my middle finger, this is my lazy finger, this is my pinkie finger.” I always assumed this transferred over to the toe and I was astounded that she didn’t know what toe to avoid.

I checked in with a ring toe website and they talk about the index toe.

“The most comfortable toe to wear a toe ring on is your index toe. This is because there is extra space between the big toe and the index toe. However, people who wear toe rings are as individual as the toes they wear them on so be yourself. We have clients who wear one ring on the pinkie toe and clients who will wear 5 and 6 rings scattered among various toes.”

Maybe that’s what I need to do—get a toe ring for my so-called lazy toe. Make it easy to see, easy to avoid.

The fortunate dolphin has no toes.

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