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Tuataras This ancient New Zealander is are the most primitive of all living reptiles. Their brain is tiny and their heart and circulatory system are rudimentary, making them extremely cold-blooded. ‘Do it slowly’ is the tuatara’s motto. They can live for over a century but it takes them 15years to reach sexual maturity and the females only squeeze out an egg every four years. They ‘hunt’ by sitting outside their burrows waiting for beetles, worms, or better still, of a young tuatara to toddle past. To defend themselves they sit inside their burrows, waiting for the danger to go: hardly a challenge for a sprightly rat.
Sea Cows Sea cows—manatees and dugongs—are more closely related to elephants than cows, but they have a very laid-back life. They paddle around in warm tropical seas, with little competition for food and no natural predators. When they aren’t eating or sleeping, sea cows come together regularly to ‘cavort’. These sessions of nuzzling, bumping, kissing, and mutual masturbation can involve up to four individuals of either sex and last for several hours. Interestingly, their louche lifestyle seems to have left them impervious to the diseases which afflict other mammals, like cancer and syphilis, propelling them to the forefront of medical research.
SUMMER 2008 Lions While it’s pretty stressful being a young lion—constant battles for supremacy, insatiable lionesses—in general, mature male lions are loafers. Lionesses and hyenas do most of the actual killing; even the big dark manes are a con. Far from being an indicator of virility, they are the leonine version of the hair that sprouts from the ears and nostrils of middle-aged men. Worse still, a lazy old lion is much more likely to turn man-eater. Slow, weak and always hanging around, we are easy prey: the lion’s equivalent of a night in watching telly with beer and a pizza.
Meet other bone idle beasts in the pages of The QI Book of Animal Ignorance by John Lloyd & John Mitchinson (Faber & Faber). Illustrations by Ted Dewan.
NOTES FROM THE COUCH