Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bird teeth & other curiosities

So, Jim and I were having this conversation with a dear friend yesterday, who I shall call Dear Friend to protect her identity, when she made some comment about "ostrich lips," and Jim replied, in jest, "You know ostriches don't have lips, right?" I mean, I think we both assumed she knew that -- people know that, right? -- but rather than joking back, she got this flummoxed look on her face and said, "What?" Like, what do you mean birds don't have lips? And then this whole conversation unspooled on the subject of beaks and lips and teeth, concluding with the shocking assertion, made by us, that BIRDS DO NOT EVEN HAVE TEETH!

And Dear Friend asked, "But. . . how do they chew?"

This was all great fun, especially when she whipped out her phone, called a friend in Boston, and unceremoniously, without context, demanded, "Do birds have teeth?"

He was on speaker phone, and to his credit, took the question entirely seriously and said something like, "I believe fossil records suggest that they once did, but no, birds, to the best of my knowledge, do not have teeth." (which is right, by the way)

And Dear Friend promptly hung up on him. I believe she spent the rest of the day quizzing people in order to discern whether she was the only person who did not know this. I haven't heard a tally yet, but this morning she sent me the above photo as "proof" that she was right!

The whole conversation was much fun, and it serves as an interesting example of how many common everyday things we might discover one day we have just never spent a moment considering. Well, this is an extreme example perhaps, but last night, out with another dear friend, another topic came up: hypnotism.
And I realized I actually had no idea if it is real, what it really is, and if I believe in it or not. Having not yet researched it, I will say that I DO think I believe in it -- which is horribly unrigorous of me, to say "I think I believe in" something I have not looked into, but whatever -- but I am expecting it is not mind-control like in the old movies, and it is not like a direct telephone line to your subconscious either. But the sudden discovery that I have NO IDEA what hypsosis really is, it's like a conk on the head. Do you know what I mean? Does that happen to you? The realization, all of a sudden, that you've never thought about some ordinary thing?

[By the way, I had said I was going to write a post on what it means to me to be liberal, and I still am going to, I just haven't had time yet. If you care.]

13 comments:

xegbp said...

I had this exact bird and teeth conversation this morning at 6:30 am central time.

Laini Taylor said...

Aha, xegbp, and how did you respond? [A certain person in Boston was a pretty good sport about it!]

Anne Kelly said...

Laughing and reading your post to a coworker. After grossing out at the picture, she insisted birds did have lips. Then, after pinching her lips into a beak-like shape and considering, she replied, "No, you're right, birds don't have lips." And then she left my office. I am still laughing.

She sure is strange! said...

This is quite possibly the funniest thing I've read(or heard) this week! Maybe even this year!!!

Molly aka Birdlips

Anonymous said...

This is shocking, that in this day and age, a grown adult wouldn't know such a thing. This "dear friend" must compensate abundantly in other areas to make up for this abominable deficit in common knowledge. Why, I bet you this friend is not only unbelievably gorgeous but strikingly , maybe even devastatingly sweet, would even give up her very flesh if it meant she could save even one freaky child from those dreadful, neverending Canadian Eskimo wars, or even those Bolivian Buffalo Hide wars to which there apparently is no end in sight for all those little buffalo children. I'll take a non-beak-knowing friend any day over a brilliant but brutish pal who can cross their p's and q's.
Wincidoodle Pickolo of Poo, Tennessee

Anonymous said...

Thank you Wincidoodle of Poo, Tennessee, for that lovely comment. I happen to know this dear friend as well and she is all of the things (and much more) that you have so eloquently described. I want to add that I asked David and Hunter the following:
"True or False:
Some birds have teeth."

David said False, and Hunter said True!

Alexandra

tone almhjell said...

Haha, Alexandra. If that is your real name.

Oh, and I care.

bbmowery said...

Did you hear this episode of This American Life? If not, take a listen and forward it on to Dear Friend. It might make her feel a little better...especially about the guy who thought that elves existed. :)

Jennifer said...

Laini-

This post is so timely. Camille was actually convinced that some dogs have ears and some dogs do not.
She had to call Dave to ask. She did not believe me when I said that all dogs have ears!
But of course her excuse is that she is six :)
By the way, I think that it was actually You and Jim who thought that birds had lips and that your friend ( I know who you are ! ) had to convince you otherwise! (Ha!)

Cheers!
~Jennifer =)

Wyman said...

Reminds me of the time I had an encounter with an ostrich at our local zoo. This big bird had no teeth, and certainly no lips, yet the eyeball to eyeball moment we shared, revealed an ostrich intelligence, which seemed to be saying to me, in his view, I was the zoo animal, while he, in his zoo freedom, was only visiting this new zoo animal, ME.

I have never forgotten the feeling that I was the new zoo curiosity for this ostrich. Role reversal can be an enlightening experience, not to mention uncomfortable.

Anonymous said...

Birds do indeed have teeth and I've been trying to find out the correct name for them...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8879785@N07/629769810/

will show a baby european robin, mouth agape showing teeth. (And this picture isn't Photoshopped!)

Anonymous said...

egg tooth. so do crocs. that's how they get out of the egg. there is also a small muscle in the neck that degenerates shortly after hatching. they don't have lips - they have a horny coat of keratin (almost the same as the keratin of hair and horns of rhinos, baleen of whales, coverings of reptilian scales, etc) over their facial bones called a ramphotheca. some birds have complex ridges and groves along the ramphotheca that either act like a seive. blackbirds have an extention of the palatine bone in the upper jaw that helps them to cut a groove in large seeds. most birds have a gizzard or another muscular structure that processes their food (rather than teeth). lots will chemically digest the soft parts of prey items and then puke up the bones and fur (ie. owls hawks, etc) or exoskeleton (ie. insectivorous birds). blah blah blah.

Jbog said...

While most birds don't have lips, most birds do have some form of serrations on their beaks that act as teeth:
http://www.digital-nature-photography.com/nature/GR10/GRGG280405-2863.jpg
Some birds even have real teeth like the picture in the last post.
Those aren't egg teeth; egg teeth are on the outside of the beak:
http://lancaster.unl.edu/4h/images/embryology/eggtoothx450.jpg