Tetrapod Zoology

Tetrapod Zoology

Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals - living and extinct

My famous duck-based rant


Back in February 2001, noted ornithischiphile Pete Buchholz accused ducks of being boring. How dare he. I could only respond...

Portrait of a domestic Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata). Photo by Darren Naish.

"Errm... the evolution of carpal spurs and knobs, extreme pugnacity and territoriality, nest parasitism, creching behaviour, parental carrying of young both in the water and (!) in the air, monogamous pair-bonding, underwater copulation and the (?)reinvention of the penis, major sexual variation in tracheal structure, grass-eating and 20-minute gut carrying time, niche partitioning according to intestine size, carrion feeding on Subantarctic islands, the evolution of fern-eating, island giantism, island dwarfism, crepuscularity, serrated bill margins, filter feeding with buccal lamellae, deep-diving, species where males are flightless but females flighted, coevolution of browsing forms with spiky lobelioideaens, repeated increases and decreases in body size during phylogeny, the annual transportation of TONNES of sand... and, pant pant pant, quacking.

How *ON EARTH* can ducks be boring?????"

Assorted waterfowl I have known. Clockwise from top left: domestic Swan goose (Anser cygnoides), weirdly pale female Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), Madagascan or Bernier’s teal (Anas bernieri), Black swan (Cygnus atratus), male Upland or Magellan goose (Chloephaga picta), and Mandarin duck (Aix galericulata). Photos by Darren Naish.

Ok, some of the claims made in the above (the one about penises, for example) are questionable and now seem incorrect, but I think you get the point. For Tet Zoo articles on ducks and other anseriforms, see...

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Share this Article:


You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

Starting Thanksgiving

Enter code: HOLIDAY 2015
at checkout

Get 20% off now! >


Email this Article