Matthew Cobb has pointed me to a wonderful website called “WTF, Evolution?“, in which photos of nature’s oddities are given funny captions. It shows that if you were present when the first replicator formed, and asked to guess what creatures would evolve, you’d never even get close to things like the pig-nosed frog (see it: first on the page!).
Or the pelican. Here’s a recent post—a photo captioned: “This pelican looks like a urinal. Go home, evolution, you are drunk.”
And a famous pelican limerick that you may not know:
A Wonderful Bird is the Pelican
by Dixon Lanier Merritt
A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
But I’m damned if I see how the helican!
As Wikipedia notes (link above):
The limerick, inspired by a post card sent to him by a female reader of his newspaper column who was visiting Florida beaches. It is often misattributed to Ogden Nash and is widely misquoted as demonstrated above. It is quoted in a number of scholarly works on ornithology, including “Manual of Ornithology: Avian Structure and Function,” by Noble S. Proctor and Patrick J. Lynch, and several others.
That beak is gynormous. In an incident that shocked and disgusted many in 2006, a pelican devoured a live pigeon in London after holding it in its beak for 20 minutes. A photographer captured the carnage, and the BBC reported:
Mr McNaughton, from the Press Association, said: “The pelican was on the towpath preening itself, and there were a lot of tourists watching it.
“Then the bird got up and strolled along until it reached one of the pigeons, which it just grabbed in its beak.
“There was a bit of a struggle for about 20 minutes, with all these people watching. The pelican only opened its mouth a couple of times.
“Then it managed to get the pigeon to go head first down its throat. It was kicking and flapping the whole way down.”
And a happier picture: a fish market in the Galápagos that I photographed in March, 2010: