Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What I Learned In Lab Class

Behold the lamprey: not quite an eel, not quite a fish, not even quite a vertebrate. In other words, one weird-ass mothafukkin animal, my people. Damn.

What you see at its front is essentially an extended upper lip with nary a lower lip in sight. Lampreys are jawless. They sort of have heads, but you'd be hard pressed to find exactly where they end and the body begins (not to mention their brains are barely more than a cluster of cells). Their front ends are basically sensory organs with that big mouth at the end, which functions like a suction cup with teeth in it. They glom onto a hard-spined fish, stick to them and rasp away with those teeth, ingesting the fish's blood and tissues. Their tongues even have teeth on them!

Their skeletons are cartilaginous, like sharks, and they have both a nerve cord, which is similar to a spinal column, minus the vertebrae, and a notochord, an early version of the vertebral column which is much less rigid, and is now found in mainly lower forms and embryos (yes, you had one, too, early in your development). A bizarre throwback to ancient times, fossilized records show that they may not have changed in over 360 million years. Judging from the condition of our dessicated dissection specimen in lab class, it was probably among the first.

My first dissection went fairly smoothly, considering the condition of the specimen and the fact that the scalpels in those dissection kits are about as sharp as prison-issue sporks. The lamprey was actually pretty small, so it's a stretch for eyeballs over thirty years old to see all the mushy parts, especially since doing so meant getting close to that smell. However, I did it, and I made a new friend in one of my new lab partners. It turns out she is a geeky gay white girl, too. In fact, she's so gay, geeky and white, she makes me look like Snoop Dogg. Let me put it this way: we ended our conversation by talking about the origin of slash in Star Trek fiction. For further research in lab: how did the idea of Kirk, Spock and McCoy all getting it on at once not kill slash in its infancy, if not actually kill homosexuality altogether? Discuss.

After a long-ass lecture, delivered in an outrageous French accent by our professor (thank goodness I did the reading), I filled in an application at a local vet's office, and then went home to find my lab coat had arrived in the mail. Question: if you found out your animal health care professional had run around the house in his or her lab coat and underwear singing "(s)he's the one they call Doctor NOOOO PAAAANTS!", would you entrust him or her with your beloved pet? Does it help to know it was to the tune of an old Mötley Crüe song?

All in all, a very productive day. I think I'm going to enjoy this class. It makes me feel AAAAWL RIIIIGHT!


claire said...

I realize that i'm terribly late for this post, but there is just so much to comment on.

1. Holy crap, those little buggers take me back to when i was a Bio major. Freaky little things, but so cool. And yet? I'd rather not meet a live one, thankyouverymuch.

2. I am disturbed by your lab-time conversations.

3. Dr. No Pants? Wow... It's probably best not to know what our animal health care professionals do in their private time. :)

Anonymous said...

cool pictures and blog entry! you are mondo-cool, gretchen... of course, i luv how I got a mention. ;)