Thursday, March 25, 2010

Arthropod Wars

The recent outbreak of Invertebrate Wars reminded me of something splendid that happened a while back. A couple of blocks from our house, as we were coming home from a walk, my husband spotted an ant moving at frenetic ant-speed across the sidewalk. "Look at that ant," he said, "fleeing from the Great Arthropod Wars!"

This assertion was apropos of nothing at all (other than the ant) and did not in any way reference earlier conversations. In fact, as far as I can recall, this was the first instance that the phrase "the Great Arthropod Wars" has ever entered my brain.

But now it will not leave.

I've already sketched out the plots. Plots, plural, because it is a trilogy, of course. I will pick Star Wars over Star Trek (and the Beatles over the Rolling Stones, which now that I mention it seems somehow like the very same thing for reasons that I do not now have time to dissect) every time. Not that I ever dressed up as Princess Leia* or anything that dorky. Well, I may have done the double-braid-bun to my hair once. Or maybe twice. But I haven't seen pictures of that in a long time. It will remain a happy mystery. (Apparently I am into italics today! Maybe it's all the suppressed energy that can't find an outlet in my dissertation. Writing in academese is getting really, really tiresome. My illustrious university is now doing electronic dissertation submission--do you think that means I could just blog my whole thesis? And they would confer a degree on my head? Because that would be awesome!)

Does anyone remember what I was talking about before the long parenthetical diversion? Oh yes: Arthropod Wars.

But first, a quick disclaimer, because this whole plot hinges on a post-apocalyptic Earth, in which we foolish vertebrates (not just humans, mind you, but all vertebrates) have long since wiped ourselves out, and all those jokes about bugs taking over the world come absolutely true. The story opens with Insecta reigning supreme. And of course, the quesion is, how could I? How could the Cephalopodiatrist's deep and abiding love for molluscs be set aside so callously, to sketch out an entire trilogy about a crunchy reddish mess?

Never fear! I'm not setting aside that love. No, I'm still going to write all sorts of novels and poetry about squid in space and other fabulous cephalogia. But I love all invertebrates. I can't help it. So although I am greatly honored that the Cephalopodiatrist and Squid-A-Day were both invoked in the defense of Molluscs during the Invertebrate Wars, and although I did issue of checklist of cephalawesome, I can't really argue against the wonder and delight of tunicates, echinoderms, and, of course, arthropods.

With that, I give you:


Episode IV: Crustacea Rising
Insecta reigns supreme. Termite mounds have spread across plains and deserts. Dipterans (flies and mosquitoes) have quickly engineered leftover human technology to their own ends. Cockroaches serve as beaurocrats, organizing insect affairs. But in their hubris, the insects have forgotten that Earth should be more appropriately called Water. And in the oceans, the downtrodden Crustacea are plotting insurgency. Their plan: to engineer the slippage of the Greenland ice sheet (yes, we're assuming it hasn't happened already) to drastically raise sea level, bringing in their armies on the rising tide to inundate the terrestrial Insecta.

Episode V: In Which The Myriapods Mediate
Okay, it's a stupid title. But here's the idea: the Myriapods (millipedes and centipedes) are not nearly as abundant as either Insecta or Crustacea. But what they lack in numbers, they make up in legs. Also, they have deadly poison (centipedes) and negotiating ability (millipedes). Seriously, I've had pet millipedes, and they are very soothing. Look at this: wouldn't you listen if that talked to you in a calm, reasonable voice? Especially if its centipede pal is backing it up? So the myriapods try to negotiate a cease-fire between Insecta and Crustacea. But the aggressive, poisonous Centipedes are won over by Insecta, accusing the Millipedes of being more sympathetic to Crustacea--even though Millipedes themselves can't breathe underwater. Battle lines are drawn again, and the nascent treaty is in shambles.

Episode VI: Return of the Chelicerates
For those who have been following along at home with your favorite invertebrate textbook, you know who the final player is . . . the Chelicerates! For those who haven't been following along (what? you don't have a favorite invertebrate textbook?), we're talking about spiders, scorpions, horseshoe crabs, and pycnogonids. They have long memories. They remember when their cousins the Eurypterids ruled the world. (The Largest Arthropod That Ever Lived was a Eurypterid.) They even remember the Trilobites. They've got perspective. And they get things sorted out.

Um . . . the end?

Do you see how I am heavy on biology, but short on things like plot and character? Do you have helpful ideas for me? Then share them! As long as you don't mind me using them when I make these into books someday. You will be in the acknowledgments, I promise!

* Yes, I did just link to a perfectly good blog that has nothing to do with biology whatsoever. Well, that is not strictly true, because it is (ostensibly) about dachshunds, and dachshunds are certainly included in the Great Circle of Life. Although some people think they shouldn't be. Some people are judgmental about weiner dogs. I am not one of them. Perhaps it is my German ancestry, but I think this is the very definition of adorable.

Well, right after this. So, um, hmmm, maybe it's hard to define words with pictures.

Anyway, the moral of the story is: I like Miss Doxie, even though she cusses and drinks a lot, plus she is blond and a lawyer, and all of these characteristics make her like the ANTITHESIS OF ME, and perhaps if we were ever in a room together, there would be an explosion like in a collision chamber, and new subatomic particles (blogons!) would be discovered. And now I will stop being weird and creepy, because I am talking about a fellow human being whom I do not actually know and may possibly, concievably, through the magic of the interwebs, find and read this.


  1. Bring back the trilobites!!! Against all science, I harbor the hope that a few survivors are out there in the deep...lurking...

  2. I feel just the same! Maybe there could be a Trilobite Yoda?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.