Birds may be cute, but they’re also a little weird and alien. In many ways, they’re sort of like endothermic fuzzy lizards, which I suppose makes sense, given that taxonomically, they are. Anyway, Emily’s chickens (which I thusly dub “The Tap-Dancing Browne Brood of Ballard”) arrived this weekend, and while I don’t think I contributed to The Naming in even an unhelpful way as depicted here, I know what I’d name my chickens. “But Charlie,” I hear you say, “aren’t most of the described fiends male, when egg-laying chickens are female?” This is true. But I’m a biologist by training, and I have a solution.
So, we all know how it works with mammals and their 23rd chromosome, the sex chromosome. Human males have the XY combination, while women have the XX pair, where one of each of these chromosomes was inherited from our parents. This system is pretty consistent in it’s application to mammals (although I’m sure there’s exceptions somewhere, since there always are), where the male is the “heterogametic sex” where the chromosomes are different, and the female is the “homogametic sex,” and the chromosome pair is of the same type.
However! It’s different with chickens. They make use of the less standard but equally useful ZW system, where the females are heterogametic, with the ZW chromosome pair, and the males are homogametic, with a ZZ pair. So, while the male chicken still produces sperm, and the female chicken (famously) produces eggs, they break from the usual Chromosome 23 template that we all know and love. And chickens (or birds, generally) aren’t even the weirdest case: honeybees are pretty complicated, and I think I’ve heard that corn is pretty bizarre too.
Thus it is my argument, that on the assumptions that the demons of the Abyss make use of the XY sex determination system, one can safely apply “male” names to ZW lady chickens. Of course, I don’t know how gendered the admittedly imaginary demons are, anyway. In the case of Turaglas, he’s a colossal shifting mass bent on consuming the world, and as an immortal fiendish entity lacking fixed form, “he” might not have a sex or gender at all. Juiblex is a similar case, as a shapeless being of slime. Like most things, it really probably doesn’t matter, and I’m sure the chickens won’t mind. Nevertheless, like the Denizens of the Abyss, they will probably jostle, peck and combat each other for supremacy of their domain.
Oh, and you may have noticed a change in coloration for this week’s comic. In preparation for the coloring phase of my Rime of the Ancient Mariner project, I’ve started practicing some variant color motifs, so you’ll likely see these more limited palette comics every now and then. It’s likely not going to be a permanent change, but I’m enjoying the experiments, and it‘s interesting to take a more planned tonal approach to color, rather than just thinking more literally along the lines of “blue shirt, brown desk, red jacket.” It’s a lot like how you have to shift your mental perception of a scene when you’re using black and white film in the camera, since you can’t rely on color alone to carry an image.