The Men from U.N.C.L.E.A.N.
—Poster for COP26
Too grim to aim a rhyme at?
It’s all that’s in my range:
Mollusk of the Year
“Researchers in Germany are asking people around the world to vote for their favourite creature
out of a list of five nominees. The winner will have its genome sequenced, with scientists extracting DNA
to work out more about how it evolved. This is a significant prize for a group of animals
that remains largely unexplored from the genetic point of view”
—The Guardian, March, 2022
Five modish mollusks take the floor:
Which will mankind be voting for?
Just one can win the phylum crown
And have its genomes written down,
Translucent, shining, protein-rich:
You might choose any one—but which?
I The Barge-Footer
My titles vary. I’m rubes-
Cens Fustiaria, no less,
To Latinists: “a blushing”—what?
(Some words look Latin but are not).
Barge-Footer is my English name,
Which fills me with a certain shame;
In Greek(ish), I’m a Scaphopod
And that is how I’m known to God.
But all of this is by the way:
By any name or sobriquet
I’m hardly known at all to man;
So back my number while you can!
II The Telescope Snail
I’m Telescopium, x 2:
The mangrove-dwelling Snail to you,
Rodong to some; although no dud,
To others still my name is Mud
Creeper. I’m loath to undersell
The columella on my shell:
A feature folded, double-ply,
Unique for Potamidiae.
Pray vote for me, and win the key
To my genomic mystery;
Pollution has not killed me! This
Is worth mankind’s analysis.
III The Sea Butterfly
Third on the list, behold in me
(A little boat, to give the gist,
But not, I swear, a Peronist).
Sea Butterfly’s a better fit:
On see-through, winglike foot I flit,
Six centimeters wide or so;
If sea’s acidic, I will know,
And this is why I recommend
You vote for me, my human friend:
I’m the canary in the mine,
Who helps you keep it alkaline.
IV The Painted Snail
Meet Polymita Picta next:
Endangered, Cuban, highly sexed,
The Painted Snail—that “paint”’s a slur;
“Enhanced” I very much prefer.
Though not just shell—my mind is keen—
I am a blue-blood beauty queen,
And thus my love life sparks (you’ve guessed!)
My “love dart” sounds like fun? It is!
And you’ve a way to probe it, viz:
Give me your vote, be cute-astute:
With Poly you’ll have Picta beaut!
V The Naval Shipworm
You’ve saved the best for last. I am
In fact no Shipworm but a clam:
My Latin handle is Teredo
Navalis; I resemble Play-Doh,
Rolled loosely into 2-foot strips.
My favorite snacks are wooden ships,
As Christopher Columbus learned.
But recently this worm has turned,
And human fearfulness and spite
Have ripened into appetite.
I’m wanted for a table d’hôte!
So fair is fair: I’ve earned your vote.
Five fine contenders, you’ll concede:
Each one an honor to its breed,
And all in hopes that you’ll select
Its name (or names)! The box once checked,
You cannot change your vote, I fear.
To find the winner, please click here.