July 18, 2004

Gynandromorphic Speculation

Welcome to the first of my special lectures on the subject of lepidoptery. Over the course of the week we will look at a number of special butterflies and consider what we might learn not only about them, but also from them.
Our first featured butterfly is a possible gynandromorph of the ornithoptera priamus poseidon. At least, that is what it said on the envelope in which I received it from the Lepidoptery Society. When shaking it from the envelope, it fluttered under the sofa along with the notes describing its genus. Although I was able to find the specimen, I’m sorry to report that the notes have quite vanished. In consequance, much of what follows is purely speculative.
A gynandromorph, ladies and gentlemen, is a species that has both male and female sexual characteristics and organs. At birth, one may not distinguish the gender of the creature in the usual manner. My dog, Flaps, is also a gynandromorph, which is exceedingly rare in bulldogs. I say “my dog” but I’m no longer in possession of him/her, since I shrewdly donated him/her to the English department of a University where I once worked. He/She was an unwanted gift to begin with.
Note the yellow markings of the tale. They’re nice, aren’t they?
There is a certain school of thought that maintains that Shakespeare’s Hamlet was also a gynandromorph, citing the “more things in heaven and earth” speech as their proof, specifically the lines: “Or such ambiguous giving out, to note / That you know aught of me” (Act I, scene V). The fact that Shakespeare had almost certainly encountered our yellowtailed friend at Stratford Butterfly World lends weight to this theory.
Incidentally, Poseidon was the Greek god of both the sea and earthquakes in ancient mythology; brother of Zeus, Hades and Hera. The Greek myth has since been surpassed in popular culture by a rather splendid Irwin Allen disaster movie, The Poseidon Adventure (1972) in which Gene Hackman in the role of Reverend Frank Scott dies shouting “HOW MANY MORE LIVES!?!”
The Reverend Frank Scott was based on a real life acquaintance of mine, The Reverend Francis Stoat. Francis Stoat did not die in a misadventure at sea, but rather of a liver complaint. Nevertheless, his dying words were the same.
At this point I’d say more, but frankly, if it’s all the same to you, I’d like to knock off early and get to the bar. Are there any questions from the audience?

Doctor Pockless

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