I marvel at how often discussions of animals illuminate human ignorance.
Why just today I was sharing this fascinating L.A. Times article on intrauterine cannibalism in sand tiger sharks with one of my classes. Although we’d already touched on this evolutionary oddity (embryos chewing through womb walls to eat their sibling competitors), I felt the subject deserved another go-round. I didn’t have much to add to the discussion except “Wow. Can you believe it?” until I neared the end of the piece and read this:
“In captivity, an alpha male sand tiger shark will guard a female when she shows signs that she will soon start ovulating.”
At various times in my illustrious career, I’ve been stunned by the dearth of knowledge that males between the ages of 19 and 25 have about female reproduction. Simply put, most guys in my classes have no idea what a period means. When I casually inquired if any males knew what ovulation meant, one fellow answered confidently, “When a girl has her period.” I made the sound of the losing game show buzzer. The girls giggled.
One young man finally explained eggs and fertility in an economical and tasteful way as his brethren looked on like hostages at the Lillith Faire.
I tried to lighten things up by asking the class to imagine if intrauterine cannibalism existed in humans.
I don’t think they quite get my particular brand of humor.