Interview with professor Björn Öndlëglüfödlëngäström
A surprising discovery made by Swedish scientists at Kenyan savanna
Professor, how come such surprises still happen at the beginning of the 21st century?
Right, it can actually be perceived as surprising. However, as scientists, we always have to take into account different locations of the biological existence of animals. Nature is often not too consistent.
But this is unbelievable, zebra in Africa, how come?
It is not such a surprise for us. It has been predicted for a long time that an animal of that type must exist somewhere. One may read about such possibility in, let's say, Plinius' works. But you are right. Scientists had always thought that the species' existence was possible only in the northern countries and this is practically beyond the polar circle. It took us many years to come across it above the 65th parallel. But eventually, we decided to follow the trail of the Norwegian explorers and to try our hand in Africa. In the same way as it was with a crocodile. And we succeeded. We found zebra actually immediately.
Right. A zebra. Where is the name from?
The animal had it written on its rump.
On the rump?
Yes. It is a bit surprising. Normally, as we know, the names occur at the front of a trunk. It is only in the case of giraffes that it is placed on the palate. That was the reason for long-lasting problems with giving the animal a name.
Apart from the name on its rump, is zebra characterized by anything special?
It is surprising to some extent that the sought animal is a mammal. We had always been thinking that it would belong to the family of insects.
But it makes a tremendous difference.
Certainly. However, taking into account the fact that we were looking for an animal and not, let's say, a box of shoe polish, we are not so much surprised.
You must be joking.
Not necessarily. French scientists were looking for such a box a long time ago and after many years they came across the kiwi bird in the forests of New Zealand.
So this is the origin of the name of shoe polish?
No, this is the origin of the word "bird".
Just normally. They have found kiwi that had the word "bird" written on its feathers.
All right. We all know that birds exist only in New Zealand. So how did the word Kiwi come into being?
Shoe polish was named this way many years ago in praise of all flying animals. Bird, as we know, is kiwi belonging to the flightless.
But maybe let's get back to zebra. Has it surprised you by anything else, apart form the fact that it is not an insect?
Not at all. It is a mammal belonging to the horse family. It has no wings, has four legs and normal fur. The French got even a better lucky find. They have found an animal that is the only non-striped one among the known ones to date.
And it has got wings.
Right. Bird is an exceptional animal.
Nevertheless, you are the main candidate to the Noble Prize in the area of zoology this year.
I would be honoured to get the prize named after the great discoverer of whale.
Alfred Nobel discovered dynamite, if I am right.
The name placed in the stream of water blown out by a whale is rather illegible. It has been deciphered quite recently.
So, it means that the gigantic sea mammal is not dynamite?
No. Whale. Anyway, Nobel discovered it in search of matches.
So, may I have one more question? Are zebras doomed to the same thing as whales?
No, zebras do not explode.
Thank you very much for the interview.