Friday, April 1, 2011

The Mating Imperative

Some time back in high school biology, I was captivated by the mating of fruit flies. The deterministic control of the experiment gave me a heady sense of the order of the universe. Such an orderly taxonomy of all of god's critters was antidote to the uncertainty of another outbreak of acne.

I suppose those little creatures, pinned and poked, were my creepy-crawly concubines. They gave my life purpose, beyond indiscriminate masturbation.

But after many formative years jumping through one academic hoop after another, the last twenty years as Professor of Entomology has me pining for the driven sense of purpose I felt when I would impale a frog's tiny hand with a straight pin.

For many years I was clinically detached delivering my bug lectures like an automaton in LL Bean khakis. Now I grow all teary-eyed and mushy when I explain to freshman
Males serenade females with close-range wing vibrations. Females feel the wispy air currents with their finely-tuned antennae.
The wiser I get, the harder it is to be non-didactic with my students. After all, procreation is our one encoded imperative. And two winks after a couple of hucklebucks in the hay, my biological progeny are already finding the rungs of academia to be hastily attached to the rails.

It's only when students visit during office hours that I can be candid about how I feel about those kill-joy existential questions. Mating rituals of insects merely provide the context.

If procreation wasn't our encoded imperative, the antennal ears of female tephritidae wouldn't be exquisitely dialed into the vibratory gusts emanating from their mates. They'd be ignoring this biological imperative as if they'd better things to do.

The female antennae would be tuned to something else - like vintage Chubby Checker. Their tiny gyrating thoraxes would be doing The Twist.

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