Saturday, June 16, 2007


A tiger's (Panthera tigris) cryptic coloration.

This evening, we will travel to beautiful downtown Denver, Colorado to explore the language of evolutionary biology. Specifically, we will discuss the concept of crypsis. In zoology, crypsis refers to the ability of an organism to avoid detection. This may be achieved through camouflage, as seen in the predatory tiger above, attempting to remain hidden from its prey. Alternatively, crypsis may be achieved through mimicry, where an organism attempts to look like another model organism.

I have to say that I suck at both of those forms of crypsis.

My wife is a physician. And every so often, we have to attend functions. Although I don’t really “enjoy” attending these functions, I realize that’s what good husbands do. This evening, I gave my wife a hard time, but I ended up at the function nonetheless.

It was ok, I guess. Good food, good drinks. I had a gin and tonic, a heineken, and a glass of wine – and then it was time for hors d’oeuvres. By that time, I had really started looking for cryptic people. I find it to be an entertaining little game that I play in my head. I was also quite tipsy. So perhaps that was why I was playing a game in my head.

Now, at these functions, every doctor has a spouse or significant other – most of whom, are not in the medical field. And it’s quite easy to identify the spouses. While the docs all know each other and are wearing doctor clothes, the spouses are all hanging politely behind the docs, wearing slightly less-doctorish clothes. You can see the spouses who are attempting mimicry: laughing occasionally, pretending they understand what’s so funny about the patient everyone saw that morning – generally trying to look like doctor people.

You also get your occasional attempt at camouflage. This evening, I saw a husband of a doc blending into the background, trying to look like a barstool or something. He almost succeeded until somebody tried to sit on him.

And then, there’s me. Jeans and a Tommy Bahama shirt. I’m not a doctor. I’m a researcher. If I want to wear a kickin’ floral shirt to a function, my wife knows that’s who I am. No problem.

I’m not into mimicry, camouflage, or crypsis in general. I gave up long ago. And, although I sometimes worry too much about what other people think, I know it’s not worth acting like someone else. Overall, I guess I don’t really understand the language of crypsis.

Are there situations where you try to blend in? Why do you attempt it?

Can you help me translate?

And please send me a Postcard from the Edge...of the World!

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Burfica said...

I only try to blend in when people are searching for volunteers for something I'm not gonna be able to do. Then I try to blend into the walpaper. hehehehhe

sfgirl said...

Very cool! Crypsis...and mimicry. Have you heard of the concept "biomimicry"? It's something author/biologist Janine Benyus coined to describe the revolutionary science of innovation inspired by nature. I'll be talking on it in my blog, The Alien Next Door soon. Might see you there!

Translator said...

Burfica - yep, I don't like to be chosen most of the time, too ;)

Sfgirl - I have heard of "biomimicry". It's a very interesting idea. I look forward to reading about it on your blog!

Thanks for visiting, come back soon!

Deb (Crabbie) said...

As I get older, I have pretty much given up on blending in... However, I sure remember being a little girl sitting in a classroom trying to blend in with my desk or the back wall or just anything else when the teacher would be about to ask a math question (LOL)...

Splantrik said...

"Doctor clothes," eh? Labcoats? Probably not. A few weeks ago I went to a conference with a few astrophysicists (including myself), a couple of geoscientists, but mostly a mathematicians and brain-image-processing specialists. The brain imagers stood out quite a bit, wearing suits and such.

I suck at crypsis, too, although I'm currently wearing a blue shirt on my blue couch.

Translator said...

Deb - that sounds like a good strategy to avoid math questions ;)

Splantrik - hmmm...if the brain imagers wear suits, what do astrophysicists wear? Star Wars shirts?

And, I can't see you. You're great at crypsis.

Michele said...

Oh how often I wish I was a Chameleon...sigh. I abhor being the center of attention.

Translator said...

Ah, the life of a Chameleon. I don't like being the center of attention either, but I find it hard to "blend in" to the background. I guess I just don't have what it takes to be a good chameleon. ;)

Beenzzz said...

Nah. I don't even try. There are two things I refuse to do, kiss ass and fit in. I don't know if I'm stubborn or what, but I refuse to play those games. Either that or I'm just very, very, odd.

Eneida said...

Shyness. That's why I sometimes would like to blend in as much as possible. Not wearing or doing what others wear and do. I would rather try to camouflage like that husband of a doc... Try to look like the walls, or even better, just be invisible. Shyness. That's why.
I've found your blog at Adria's blog, which I found at my cousin's blog... I'm very new in the "blogsphere", and I've been visiting a blog here, another there... Your blog is the first one that really impressed me. Its graphic appealing is great, as well as its content.
Thank you for contributing such an interesting place to visit! I'll send you a postcard as soon as my "doing soon way of doing" allows me to do it!

Translator said...

Thanks for the great comment, Eneida! I'm glad you like my blog! Feel free to come back often and input via comments!

Am I right that you live in Louisville, CO? My sister lives in Superior, and I'm only about 30 minutes away myself! Very cool to meet local bloggers!

Thanks again for stopping!

Eneida said...

Yes, I do live in Louisville, door to door with Superior, almost. I work in Denver, so we are probably closer than 30 minutes each and every day of the week, except for Sundays and Mondays. I was happy, also, when I found that you were a neighbor! I thought it was a heck of a coincidence, given that coincidences actually exist, what I actually do not believe. Thank you for visiting my blog! Not very exciting for you, all in Portuguese! I thought about writing it both in Portuguese and English, so that my friends here in the USA and specially my husband would be able to read it and be part of it. However I barely find time to write it once!
Will visit you whenever I find some time, and send you a postcard as soon as I decide which one to send.
Nice to "meet" you!

Eneida said...

I don't like this thing that you cannot edit your comment after you post it!!! Well I think I was trying to say "supposing that coincidences actually exist", or something like this, instead of "given". Anyway... My English frequently fails me!