It’s a dickhead of a shark (literally)

Did you know there’s a deep sea shark with a retractable penis on its head? Just in time for the Silly Season, Verandah Magazine publisher Candida Baker goes in search of some news that is not the news…

Did you know there’s a deep sea shark with a retractable penis on its head? Just in time for the Silly Season, Verandah Magazine publisher Candida Baker goes in search of some news that is not the news…

It was the discovery of the Hydrolagus trolli, or, as they’re more commonly known, the pointy-nosed blue chimaera that prompted me to write this column – my last piece of writing for 2016. Verandah Magazine is taking a break for four weeks over summer – and what better way to end the year than writing about some of the weirder stories of 2016?

The pointy-nosed blue chimaera is a unique, ghostly looking shark that lives in the deep, deep ocean, almost beyond David Attenborough’s reach, and until recently was known only to live in the waters around Australia, New Zealand and Caledonia. But recently an ROV sent thousands of feet below the surface in the waters of California captured footage of the chimaera, and somehow came back with the startling news that amongst other strange features –  cartilage for teeth for instance, these sharks have a retractable penis on their head. (Giving a whole new layer of meaning to the expression ‘giving head’.) 

It set me thinking all the weird and wonderful bits of news we’ve heard this year that have got somewhat buried under the weight of the world’s worries. Quite a few of them, to be honest, are to do with the male appendage, or variations thereof, and you can make of that what you will.

Take for example, Rich Lee, a 38-year-old biohacker famous for implanting headphones in his ears, who is embarking on a new body modification journey – to turn his penis into a vibrator. The ‘Lovetron 9000’ is a vibrating implant inserted beneath a man’s public bone; the device runs on a wireless rechargeable battery that lasts 45 minutes.  In his push to merge man and machine, Rich claims the ultimate goal is to use technology to create an entirely new set of senses, but all I could think of was – 45 minutes?!? I mean, I’m sorry, but wouldn’t four minutes be more realistic – and more comfortable. 45 minutes. That’s a lot of shopping lists.

Rich Lee, a biohacker 'transhumanist', with earphones implanted in his ears...

Rich Lee, a biohacker ‘transhumanist’, with earphones implanted in his ears…

Another fact that leapt out at me – so speak – is that foreskins can be used to make skin grafts for burn victims and this particular report goes on to say that one foreskin can actually provide four acres worth of grafted skin. How does that work? Does it grow like grass? When I think of acreage I think of horses – you can happily graze two or three horses on four acres of land. That’s a hell of a lot of foreskin, and not an entirely attractive image, truth be told.

Other weird penis statistics thrown out by the wonderful worlds of Google and Buzzfeed – so I take absolutely no responsibility for whether they are true or not – are, in random order:

According to a study by the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, men in the Republic of Congo have the biggest average penis size in the world.

There is a condition known as ‘koro’ which is an irrational fear that your penis will be retracted back into the body.

There is a museum in Iceland strictly dedicated to penises.

And one for the feminists among us:  All penises actually start off as clitorises.

There is a restaurant in Beijing that specialises in serving penises.  (I am so glad I’m vegetarian.)

There is a festival every year in Japan devoted to the penis and fertility.

According to a boffin, human penises might have lost their penis bone when the species became monogamous. (Humans? Monogamous? Really?)

Celebrating 'Kanamara Matsuri', the Japanese Festival of the Steel Phallus.

Celebrating ‘Kanamara Matsuri’, the Japanese Festival of the Steel Phallus.

And just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water – normal sharks, not the blue pointy-nosed numbers, have two penises, keeping a spare at all time. Our blue pointy-nose friend only has the one on its head, but it does have an advantage over non-deep sea sharks in that it can also live for hundreds of years. 

The Greenland Shark, a mysterious slow-moving deep-sea shark, has recently been found to have a life expectancy of 400 years, with a recent female’s DNA clocked at 392 years.  According to Buzzfeed this mean that when this particular shark was born (the Greenland shark gives birth to live young, not eggs), the Pilgrims had only just landed in Massachusetts; Europe’s Thirty-Year War was in its infancy; James 1 was on the English throne and Terra Australia still belonged to its original inhabitants.  This shark has lived through the English Civil War, the Great Plague and Fire of London, the American Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, both World Wars and endless reruns of Seinfeld, Frazier and Friends and, closer to home (for the shark), Jaws.


In other interesting fish news, and who of you out there are not interested in these fishy tidbits – cod might apparently have regional accents.  ‘Might’ is a curious word here, isn’t it?  I mean, it does raise more questions than it answers – like, for instance, who’s actually overheard a cod speaking in order to come to this conclusion?  “Ay oop,” says a Yorkshire Cod, “water’s a bit bloody cold today.”  “Darling,” says a Southern Cod, “frightfully effing cold.”

Talking of swearing, apparently swearing is not necessarily a sign of a limited vocabulary. (Which should please my sixteen-year-old daughter no end.) At least among humans, I don’t know about fish. But I did hear that one Cod said to another: “Take that, you effing retractable penis head of a shark.”

Candida Baker has recently completed Mandy Nolan’s stand-up comedy course, which has obviously gone to her head. 





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