Throughout history many learned men have studied the animal kingdom and spoiled countless reams of perfectly good paper with their observations.
Pliny the Elder was a great man for this kind of thing. In his Natural History, first published in AD77, he devoted a chapter to the humble goldfish.
Here are his Seven Wondrous Verities on the subject.
Well, we've certainly come a long way since Pliny's day. Goldfish skins are now in use as condoms the whole world over.
But do we really know any more about the animal kingdom now than pliny thought he knew then? I wonder.
Take, for example, the phenomenon of fish falls. Rains of tiny fish cascading down on the planet. Observed by many, disbelieved by most, understood by none. And what about hedgehog falls? So much solid evidence and no research carried out whatever.
Take a drive in the country during the hedgehog season and you will see the remains of thousands of them splattered across the roads. And observe just how flat they are. They must have fallen from a very great height to end up like that!
The popular explanations for these pitiful remains is that the hedgehogs have been run over by motor cars. Oh dear, oh dear. It is quite clear to me that the hedgehog, or hedge-hopping hog, as it was originally known, is a dweller of the upper atmosphere. It feeds on flying insects and the tiny fish that inhabit the Aquasphere.
The Aquasphere, as all who have read my monograph Noah's Flood : Where all the water actually came from will know, is the mile-thick outer layer of water which prevents our atmosphere from drifting away into space. Hedgehogs, which fish in this region, float about up there, remaining aloft due to the inflated sacs of natural methan which surrouds their bodies. When they die, often due to punctures recieved during rutting season, they deflate and plunge down to earth, exploding as they strike the tarmac. The fact that you never see a flat hedgehog upon a soft grassy field, bears this out and proves my point somewhat conclusively, I so believe.
Another case of popular explanation falling well wide of the mark is that of the so called 'extinct' wooly mammoth.
During my travels across the Siberian Steppes, some years ago, I chanced upon a team of Russian paeleontologists, who were clearly in a state of heightened exuberence.
Apparently, an unseasonable deluge had washed away a section of river bank, exposing the perfectly preserved carcass of a wooly mammoth. The beast was frozen in a running posture and looked as fresh as the proverbial daisy.
The Russian greybeards were quite beside themselves with glee, considering this to be the find of the century. Somehow, they had gotten it into their heads that this specimen was at least fifteen thousand years old.
I introduced myself, and upon learning my identity they naturally begged me to examine their treasuse and offer an authoritative opinion.
I was pleased to do so, having nothing else planned for the morning. I perused the beast and proclaimed that it was indeed a wooly mammoth, of the genus Mammothus primigenius. And that it had been dead for at least half hour!
The wooly mammoth, I explained to them, is a burrowing animal, which lives exclusively beneath the ground and isvery common in these parts. It tunnels with it's enormous tusks and dies instantly on it's exposure to sunlight.
'You have a nice frsh one here', I told them, 'and it would be a shame to waste it.'
Without further ado I had my servants haul the carcass back to the village where I was staying and get the fire stoked up.
The greybeards made a quite unnecessary fuss about this and I was forced to employ my stout stick. With typical bad taste they did not attend the barbecue.