Double X: How to make SURE he’ll never leave you

May 21, 2009

It’s Sex Week at Deep Sea News! In honor of my favorite dark, cold, and high-pressure threesome, my latest Double X post offers advice to all the deep sea lovelies just trying to hang on to their men:

Ever had the feeling that your male is getting restless? Think he’s not ready to settle down with you and have 10,000 larvae and a white-picket mud burrow? If you’ve got a hard time finding a man, a dwarf male might be right for you. Dwarf males have evolved to be tiny semi-parasites, forgoing feeding and swimming for a life of providing you with sperm-on-demand. Since dwarfism makes a good man easy to find (there he is, stuck to your shell or living in your gut!), it’s perfect for gals on the go. Here are three easy ways to keep your dwarf male with you for ever and ever:

More here. And be sure to get in on the rest of the super hot Sex Week action – there’s barnacle penii, wandering worm genitals, sea turtle orgies, and more!


Sex Week at DSN begins with a bang!

May 18, 2009

This week is sex week at Deep Sea News! Today, they’re featuring sleazy sponges and sand dollar love shacks. For an extra bonus, check out I’m a Chordata on penis fencing – is it really that bad for a flatworm to get..stabbed?

Double X: Their chirpin’ cheatin’ hearts

May 15, 2009

My latest Double X post is up…and it’s all about tits. Blue tits, that is.

The hoary old evolutionary explanation for gender differences is that males are slutty and females are choosy. Males sleep around in order to fertilize as many eggs as possible, while females guard their virtue until Prince Charming comes along. But with the advent of genetic techniques (and in my opinion, female biologists), scientists have found that nature overflows with wanton females. Figuring out evolutionary reasons for looseness in ladies is harder—since each egg can only be fertilized once, having lots of sex won’t necessarily lead to more babies. A study on a European songbird, published in last month’s Current Biology, reveals one possible reason for female infidelity—bastard chicks are bigger and stronger than their legit half-siblings.

Check out the rest at the Oyster’s Garter outpost.

My Double X debut: dolphin smackdown!

May 13, 2009

My very first blog post at the new Slate spinoff Double X is up. As Double X’s resident marine biologist, I figured that I needed to get the dolphin issue out of the way post haste.

It never fails. Every single cocktail party, as soon as someone finds out that I’m a graduate student studying marine biology, they ask, “So, do you get to play with dolphins?” Since my heart is as black and cold as the oceanic abyss, I usually take this opportunity to disillusion yet another poor soul of their childhood fantasy of Mystical Dolphin Love.

Dolphins are not gentle or psychic. If they could talk they would not impart eco-wisdom or deep spiritual truth. Dolphins are violent predators with a predilection for baby killing and rape. I feel it’s my duty to warn you, despite the risk of insulting creatures made of hundreds of pounds of muscle and rows of sharp teeth. Throw out your rainbow dolphin painting, and check out dolphins’ low-down dirty secrets:

Head over to the shiny pretty Double X site for the rest.

Don’t believe my tales of dolphin deeds done dirt cheap? The original peer-reviewed research is listed below. Or check out the lads of Southern Fried Scientist on dolphin worship and the evils of dolphin-safe tuna.

Oh, and you know that whole thing about Double X syndicating the Oyster’s Garter? Well, somehow I got it totally wrong. Most weeks, I’ll be posting at the Double X outpost on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The rest of the time I’ll be comfortably ensconced right here.

The research behind the Scientific Dolphin Smackdown:

Connor, R., Richards, A., Smolker, R., & Mann, J. (1996). Patterns of Female Attractiveness in Indian Ocean Bottlenose Dolphins Behaviour, 133 (1), 37-69 DOI: 10.1163/156853996X00026

LYAMIN, O., MANGER, P., RIDGWAY, S., MUKHAMETOV, L., & SIEGEL, J. (2008). Cetacean sleep: An unusual form of mammalian sleep Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 32 (8), 1451-1484 DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2008.05.023

Patterson, Reid, & Wilson (1998). Evidence for Infanticide in Bottlenose Dolphins: An Explanation for Violent Interactions with Harbour Porpoises? Proc Biol Sci., 265 (1402)

Subtle ways to tell your elephant seal that she’s not fat enough

April 22, 2009

Along with several other ocean bloggers, I recently received a email from plugging their Top 10 Ocean Rivalries piece. Though I generally think that bringing ocean love (or slime or violence) to new audiences is a Good Thing, some of the assholery at sets my feminist leg hairs on end. Then I realized that ocean love and mocking sexist bullshit are two great tastes that taste great together. So without further ado:

Subtle ways to tell your elephant seal that she’s not fat enough

Don’t you hate it when your special seal hauls up on the beach and you notice that she’s just not jiggling the way she used to? Blubber loss is a sensitive issue – after all, she’s spent weeks nursing a pup without eating. You can’t just bark “You’re losing weight and I find you less attractive!” You’ve got to make sure that’s she’s in the mood for love before she goes back to sea – as alpha male, it’s your job to get her pregnant before she goes back to sea for the year.

Don’t worry. We here at are here to give you the top subtle ways to tell your elephant seal that she’s not fat enough.

1) Dig her a comfy hole in the sand, but make it too big. When she tries to settle in but doesn’t fit, she’ll realize that she’s half the seal she used to be.

2) Couch it in terms of her health. What if she freezes in the deep sea or starves during molting season? Remind her that she’ll be going back to sea already pregnant, and that she needs her strength.

3) Playfully poke at her sides. She’ll feel self-conscious about her puny layer of fat and go back to sea early.

4) Pour sealant over her favorite section of the beach in order to glue the sand grains together. That way, when she hauls out, she’ll won’t even make a dent. Nothing plays on a seal’s self-esteem like undented sand.

5) If all else fails, “accidentally on purpose” squash her during mating. She’ll realize that if she was bigger, it wouldn’t be so unpleasant. That’ll show her!

This year’s squid orgy

March 5, 2009

Check out Gary Hawkins’ film of this year’s La Jolla squid orgy. The big booms are seal bombs – meant to keep sea lions away from the nets. They also keep divers out of the water. Hawkins says:

We did not get in the water to film the underwater shots. The day we filmed the boats were actively fishing so there was danger from boat traffic. Also, seal bombs were being dropped in the water. Thus to get the underwater footage, we lowered a weighted videocam by rope and let it dangle beneath our boat. Hence the reason squid randomly come in and out of shot and the camera appears to bob up and down.

He got some great footage, though! You can also see the light boats shining very powerful lights into the water to lure up the mating squid. (That’s squid sex no-no #1.)

Pondering the lack of diverse sexualities in the ocean sciences

March 3, 2009

I started this post while writing up the diversity section of my Science Online presentation, but it’s been languishing in my drafts folder for over a month. However, Dr. Glitterbear’s sad comment over at Deep Sea News prompted me to dig it out again. On a post on how to become a deep-sea biologist, Dr. Glitterbear said:

To do deep sea research, it also helps to be white, male and hetero. I was once in that field but grew weary of the homophobic attitudes. And after a prominent researcher told me that people like me don’t belong in science, I stopped fighting and switched to a field less insular and bigoted.

Now, I’m not a deep-sea researcher, but I am at an oceanographic institution with five research vessels and I do go out to sea. I agree with Peter and Kevin that it’s a lot easier to be female in the sciences these days, but I have no idea if it’s hard to be gay. That’s because I know very, very few LGBT scientists, grad students, or even undergrads. In fact, I think that I’ve only met three LGBT ocean scientists ever – Rick MacPherson, a former master’s student at SIO, and a friend in Boston who is just starting to get into marine resource management. (Along with Joan Roughgarden, but I’ve never met her.)

Since I bordered on haggery in college, it’s not for lack of knowing tons of LGBT people outside of science. But even at my very LGBT-friendly undergrad institution, I think there was only one gay undergrad in the ecology department.  And currently at SIO, I don’t know a single LGBT person.

I can think of a couple possibilities:

1) I have met lots of LGBT scientists, but I didn’t know them well enough to know about their personal lives. I’m sure this is true to some extent, but after hanging around the same place with the same people for several years, you do tend to meet most people’s SOs at happy hours and graduation parties.

2) There aren’t that many LGBT people to begin with (<10% of the total population), and there aren’t that many ocean scientists, so it’s just a function of statistics.

3) Ocean sciences are unfriendly to LGBT people, so they are not out at work or leave the field altogether. I’m also sure this is true to some extent.

What do you think?