Annals of inadvertently cute creatures

During the frustrating days of searching for a source of the Japanese-Spanish “Ariperro” cartoon (5/5 report on this blog here), I wrote on Facebook:

Stacy [Holloway] says there’s no clear answer. I say I’m sad about the unclear answer.

And Stacy offered to allay my sadness with something happy, specifically, from the My Modern Met site, “Adorable “Leaf Sheep” Sea Slugs Look like Cartoon Lambs” by Jenny Zhang on 8/22/15:

(#1) A leaf sheep sea slug, Costasiella kuroshimae

If you thought last week’s sea bunnies were cute,

(#2) Two sea bunnies, sea slugs of the species Jorunna parva

here’s one more underwater treasure that will make you say “aww!” Costasiella kuroshimae (also referred to as “leaf sheep” and “Shaun the sheep” [a reference to the hero of the British stop-motion animated television series Shaun the Sheep]) is a species of sacoglossan sea slug whose beady eyes and flat face make it look like an adorable cartoon sheep. Add some droopy feelers and a phosphorescent, leaf-like body, and this little darling may just be the loveliest slug in the ocean!

Costasiella kuroshimae, which can grow up to 5 millimeters in length, can be found near Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They graze on green algae, and use the chloroplasts from their food to manufacture their own energy in a process called kleptoplasty [‘plastid stealing / theft’; plastids are small bodies in plant cells that contain food or pigment — the term is based on Greek plastos ‘shaped’, as in plastic]. One of the only non-plant organisms in the world that can perform photosynthesis, leaf sheep can survive up to a few months on the energy produced from kleptoplasty.

Just to be clear here, this isn’t mimickry, or convergent evolution, but sheer accident, filtered through the human inclination to see familiar forms anywhere we can.

Leaf sheep sea slug and the Leith police. Stacy went on to suggest that this 4-part compound noun — [ [ leaf sheep ] [ sea slug ] ] ‘sea slug, that is, a slug living in the sea, resembling a leaf sheep, that is, a sheep covered in leaves’  — would make a great band name: The Leaf Sheep Sea Slugs. My feeling was that it’s not bad as a band name, but it’s great as a tongue twister (found in nature, as it were).

I went on to suggest that we might take advantage of The Leaf Sheep Sea Slugs as both a band name and a tongue twister to put it on a double bill as the main act, with opening act The Leith Police.

Leith police on its own is a tongue twister, but it’s usually embedded in a longer, more linguatortuous sentence:


(which folklore tells us that police sergeants in Leith, Scotland, used  as a sobriety test — but tongue twisters almost never have identifiable sources).

This sentence is sometimes embedded in a still longer twisty routine, of which there are several. The one I know is:

The Leith police dismisseth us,
And no one sympathizeth with us

— a version that has special import for me, because I got it years ago from Ann Daingerfield, who later became Ann Daingerfeld Zwicky. Today is her birthday; she would have been 82 today (she died in 1985).

This Sunday is Mothers Day in the US, a holiday Ann reviled on general principles but also resented because celebrations of the holiday regularly interfered with celebrations of her birthday.

Meanwhile, today is also Victory Day, recognizing Germany’s surrender to the Allies in 1945 (74 years ago) and Europe Day in the EU, recognizing the presentation of the Schuman Plan in 1950 (69 years ago), which established the framework for a European community.

And then tomorrow is a holiday of local significance, the anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 (150 years ago, with the driving of a golden spike at Promontory Summit, in the Utah Territory): important in these parts because this was the enterprise that provided the robber baron Leland B. Stanford with profits from the Southern Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads, to back the founding of Stanford University. So: drive in a golden spike for Leland B. tomorrow!

Or drink one — well, of course there’s a Golden Spike cocktail: 1  part vodka, 2 parts orange juice, garnish with a slice of orange or a curl of orange peel:

(#4) Golden Spikes hooking up at the Orange Ball

One Response to “Annals of inadvertently cute creatures”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    The title of this post puzzled me, as seeming to imply that there were (for could be) animals that were deliberately cute.

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