Coral reefs legalize same-sex marriage - A scimonopsis

Given all the ranting I do about the shortcomings of scientific communication, I have decided to stop wasting my time expressing my negative feelings and instead try my best to be a good communicator myself (god there's a lot of "my" in this sentence). As a consequence, I proudly present the first scimonopsis* of an article I published during my Master’s degree. What a gem! It's not that I'm excessively proud of this particular paper - it's just a ripper of a story... Therefore, to save yourself the tedious read that is this paper, have a go at the words written below. Clearly, the summary digresses a little bit into political topics that aren’t quite mentioned in the original article but the essential results are unaltered. Now go on, read! It’ll be fun… trust me.  

 

Coral reefs legalize same-sex marriage

For years and years, governments around the world appear to have tremendous problems with same-sex couples (or, in fact, feel threatened by the mere thought – yeah, that’s right, this guy is making decisions in a first world country). Among many other farcical reasons for this point of view, people that are against same-sex marriage often state that it is simply unnatural (if you’re up for misery, just try a google search with the terms “unnatural” and “gay marriage”). Since clearly, most people who hold such perspective have lost a fair proportion of their sanity, there is an obvious need for some therapeutic approaches. In this context, as therapeutic slaps in the face are neither socially accepted nor overly constructive, how about a nice curative dive on a coral reef to observe how unnatural same-sex pairs really are? Sound good? Buckle up!

Diving into the clear and beautiful, sometimes not so clear and beautiful waters of the Great Barrier Reef, there is plenty to explore. After we avoid getting pooped on by frolicking parrotfishes, dodge vicious attacks by grumpy damselfishes and find Nemo (wasn’t that hard, really), our glance falls onto an adorable little fish, a rabbitfish called barred spinefoot or Siganus doliatus.

A pair of Siganus doliatus swimming merrily together.

Oh wait there are two of them. How cute, a boy and a girl. As we swim along, we notice that there are lots of them, gobbling down tons algae while hanging out with a significant other. Adorable. We are somewhat intrigued by these fluffy couples and decide to find out more about them. First, we want to know if they are actually being serious or just doing some kind of promiscuous reef-fish-speed-dating-sleeping-around-thing. Because we can (and have some change to spare), we buy a whole bunch of cheap-as-chips acoustic transmitters (at 300$ a pop) and after asking politely, we take the liberty to catch some of these adorable fish pairs, get them high on drugs (yummy yummy yummy tricaine methanesulfonate), slice them open once they’re completely baked, shove a transmitter up their bellies and stitch them up. In case you think that’s unfair, worry not. These little buggers have multiple venomous spines on every single one of their fins which means that when you’re juggling two of them underwater trying to transfer them from a net into their means of transport, they will inevitably get you back. They hurt. A lot. After upgrading regular rabbitfishes into terrifying pinging-rabbitfish-stalker-research-machines, we drop the fishies over the side of the boat and spend our next weeks on a wonderfully stable kayak with a beeping grey box on our lap, frying to a crisp while following our pinging fishes around without them even knowing we’re there (evil laugh to be added here).

Living the tracking dream. It's hard work.

While slowly losing feeling in our lower legs, we monitor the positions of the two partners and delightedly notice that Harry and Sally, Vivian and Edward, and whatever the stupid vampire and his chick’s names are go together wherever they go. They sleep together, have their algae-breakky together, go for a little wee-wee together, eat some more delicious algae together, watch the news together, nomnomnom a little algae-snack together and when the day’s over, they go back to bed together. It’s so romantic, we can’t even take it. I’m sure they will have a great family with lots of beautiful rabbitfish babies (which they desert the second they’re done with the meaty bits… geesh). But hey, let’s just make sure they’re actually making sweet, sweet rabbitfish love (and consequently babies), just for shits and giggles. So we catch a whole bunch more pairs (getting stabbed in various body parts) and this time we buy the poor little fishies a one-way ticket to fish heaven (as unfortunately, to distinguish between genders, one has to extract the gonads from these fishes). Looking at the gonad goes real well for the first three pairs, but then, all of a sudden, pair number four did not read the homophobic’s well-thought out script. They’re two boys. Surely, just a curious coincidence. We keep going and pair number eight is playing similar shenanigans - two girls this time. As we continue scooping gonads out of fish bellies, we settle at a 25% ratio of homosexual pairs. In writing, twenty-five percent or screw-the-homosexual-pairs-are-unnatural-argument-because-these-fishes-are-about-as-natural-as-drinking-tea-and-the-Queen-are-British. Done.

Politics aside, however, from a scientific perspective, the story has only started. Clearly, there appears to be some advantage for Harry when being in a relationship with… well, the other Harry. Same goes for Sally. Since, reproductively, these couples are arguably rather un(re)productive, it looks as if something else is driving these rabbitfishes to stick together, even without the prospect of making thousands of beautiful rabbitfish babies. Some natural factor supporting the formation same-sex couples of fishes on coral reefs…

 

The actual article does in fact give a little more information on the methods, results, and interpretation but for the sake of brevity and entertainment, I’ve kept it to a minimum level. Also, note the open ending to leave you craving for more… come on, it’s a nice try!

 

 * "scimonopsis" = a short, digestible, and hopefully entertaining summary of a scientific paper or an expression of sentiments toward a certain topic, written by a hopelessly delusional guy who thinks he's funny.