Ensonglopedia of Animals

by John Hinton

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1.
Let’s take a fact-checked trek through the animal kingdom. If you know a fan of animals then grab ‘em by the hand and bring them. I’ve written twenty-six little animal songs, And you’re about to listen to me sing them. Let’s place our bets that our quest will turn up some surprises. We’ll meet a wide variety of weights, gaits, shapes and sizes. But this slick quipster’s strictly sticking to his script… except when he improvises. It’s an Ensonglopedia – One song for each letter because two would be greedier. But instead of ordering them alphabetically, I’ve sorted the creatures phylogenetically, Which means that they are rated By how closely they’re related, By how recently their latest common ancestor is dated. Don’t worry – it’ll all become clearer with the help of multimedia. It’s an Ensonglopedia – And I will start with the only animals Who have chosen to meet here.
2.
Homo Sapiens 01:21
Ho, ho, ho, ho, Homo sapiens, We’ve got a body shape that looks a lot like an alien’s, And of all the species who are living today, We’re the only ones who play croquet. Okay, let’s take a closer look At the only living thing who can read a book, At the only animals who choose to tattoo their own skin, And apart from elephants the only one with a chin. Let’s glance askew at the brainy crew, Although our brains are not as big per body weight as the tree shrew. We’re the upright ape whose backbone has uncurled And who, for better or for worse, can reshape our world. Ho, ho, ho, ho, Homo sapiens, We’re the only ones who build spaceships and stadiums. But bear in mind while bragging about how unique you are, You share half your DNA with a banana. And over ninety-six percent with a chimpanzee. And over ninety-nine point nine percent with me.
3.
Aye-Aye 02:09
I-I I-I am a primate, a primate. Aye-aye aye-aye is a pri-pri-pri-pri-primate. Before we get too far out of the gate, Let’s get our fact straight On how all of these primates relate. In the last few million years there were lots of human species – Homo ergaster, antecessor, heidelbergensis, rudolfensis – of which we’ve found pieces, But we've got to accept There's only Homo sapiens left. Aye-aye aye-aye, we’re getting our facts straight. 7 million years ago, we had descended from the trees, And we had the same parents as the chimpanzees. 40 million years ago, an African monkey escapes To South America, leaving behind the soon-to-be apes. 60 million years ago, the theory supposes, Primates split in two – those with dry and those with wet noses. And let’s look closer at one wet-noser, A Madagascan lemur who’s a strict day-dreamer. It’s the aye-aye aye-aye aye-aye and it’s a primate The aye-aye aye-aye is a pri-pri-primate. This tree-clinger’s middle finger is exceptionally long Which it uses as a hammer and then uses as a prong To extract the larvae underneath the bark of the tree, Which is quite the feast, I’m sure you’ll all agree. Local people think that it can be a bad omen To spot an aye-aye wandering near to your home and Will kill it on sight and hang it upside-down To avoid bad spirits from visiting the town. No wonder that there aren’t so many aye-ayes around. It’s the aye-aye aye-aye: Not a monkey nor an ape, Aye-aye aye-aye aye-aye: But it is a primate. Aye-aye-aye.
4.
Meerkat 01:46
A head pops up from a hole in the ground, With ears that are crescent-shaped and eyes that are round, And the edges of its mouth pulled up in a grin, And wrists held close to its chinny-chin-chin, And a look so innocent and frightened and sweet That you’d think it the friendliest creature to meet, And you’d never suspect that an animal like that Could murder its mates at the drop of a hat. Meet the meerkat. The meerkat Is no mere cat. In fact, it’s not a cat at all. To further its cause It has sharp curvy claws With which the meerkat can maul Any meerkat baby From its community Who presents its own kids a threat, Then, mean as can be, It’ll eat it for tea. How cruel can a carnivore get? Meet the meerkat. The head pops up from a hole in the earth Of a lucky meerkat who wasn’t eaten at birth But though they may have shocking ways of settling their disputes Boy oh boy are they cute! Meet the meerkat.
5.
Narwhal 02:08
Did anyone ever tell you that unicorns don’t exist? Well you tell them they’re in for a surprise. They just weren’t looking close enough, and somehow must have missed Seventy-five thousand unicorns living underneath the Arctic ice. It’s a unicorn! But in truth That horn’s a tooth. Unicorns are real They live up near the polar bear, the walrus and the seal. You may guess they use that tooth to spear themselves a meal, But now science can reveal That they just use them to feel. It’s a unicorn! But of course, It’s not a horse. Interestingly though, both horses and this type of animal that I’m talking about, which obviously isn’t called a ‘unicorn’ by scientists, are classed as ungulates, which means “hooved”, though it’s through water this one moves So it has no need for knees nor legs nor hooves. Nor can it trot nor gallop, nor swat flies with its tail, For the real unicorn’s a type of whale. It’s a unicorn! But we call it a narwhal.
6.
Quokka 02:03
Not long ago, I became a father, And carrying my daughter around has been rather A strain for the back of this poor ageing rocker. I wish I were a quokka. I’ve spent far too many years slouching on the couch And when I pick my baby up you’ll hear me yelling “Ouch!” Chances are that I would not be such a grumpy grouch If I had a pouch. The quokka lives exclusively down under in Australia, Like most members of the infraclass marsupialia. Marsupials have pouches where they hold their joeys close, And I want one of those. Don’t mock a quokka! A quokka is a proper little cute Aussie hopper With a sprog in the locker. Do not kick a quokka, Though some rotters play quokka soccer. I think that’s a shocker. If you mock a quokka, You must be off your rocker. They’re fluffy and they’re friendly, And they care for their kids gently. Consequently, I want to be a quokka. Oh please let me be a quokka.
7.
When I say “Duckbilled”, you say “Platypus”! Duckbilled! (Platypus) Duckbilled! (Platypus) When I say “Ornithorhynchus”, you say “Anatinus”! Ornithorhynchus! (Anatinus) Ornithorhynchus! (Anatinus) Duckbilled! (Platypus) Duckbilled! (Platypus) Ornithorhynchus! (Anatinus) Ornithorhynchus! (Anatinus) Duckbilled! (Platypus) Duckbilled! (Platypus) Ornithorhynchus! (Anatinus) Ornithorhynchus! (Anatinus) Whoever would believe a Tail from a beaver And the beak of a duck Would be discovered stuck To an animal who’s got a Foot like an otter With quite a snake-like Venomous spike? With which to poison its foes? And if you then heard It laid eggs like a bird You’d think that I was being absurd. CHORUS: Duckbilled! (Platypus) etc. Ducky-ducky-duckbilled platypus! You’re the very definition of randomness! You’re a monotreme From a madman’s dream, Something I’d hallucinate In a stupefied state. You’re somewhere in the range Between crazy and strange, And that’s why I think you’re fabulous. CHORUS: Duckbilled! (Platypus) etc. Duckbilled Platypus, you’re really wild! You’ve been my favourite animal since I was a child! You’ve got lots of bits that just don’t belong, As though you’ve been put together wrong. Duckbilled! (Platypus) Duckbilled! (Platypus) Ornithorhynchus! (Anatinus) You bring me happiness.
8.
Promenade 1 01:10
If we’re asked“Can you name any type of animal?”, It’s unlikely we’d name non-mammalian species at all. And yet less than half a percent of the world’s species Are mammals, so how come we just think of these? This has to do with something called the Bambi effect Which says we tend to express more tenderness and respect To an animal who’s cute with big eyes, which may be Because they look a bit like a human baby. But this show ain’t Bambi, it’s science communication, And it’s time the animal kingdom had some de-Disneyfication, So with six songs down, that’s it for the mammals, Though we’ve skipped swine, porcupine, canines, cats and camels. We’ll continue with the mammals’ closest living relatives, Known collectively to scientists as the sauropsids. These include all the reptiles, and of course, The only living relics of the dinosaurs. And one.
9.
Everybody thinks Dinosaurs are extinct, But some of them survived and they’re not even on the brink. They’re just called by different words, now. That’s right, we call them birds now. From the owl to the stork To the fowl to the hawk To the wren to the quail To the hen to the rail To a bird of a more majestic scale… Everybody’s heard about the bird With talons so sharp and a beak so curved Oooh-oooh, it’s the eagle It’s the bird of prey with no equal Everybody knows all About the bald. Our knowledge of the crowned Is reasonably sound. Everybody’s partial To the martial. Everybody is besotted With the greater spotted. Knowledge of the crested Is well-attested. We all know exactly where the wedge-tailed’s nested. But nobody in the whole world knows A single damn thing about the eagle called Verreaux’s. I’m putting ignorance to rest one species at a time, In the only way that I know how – and that’s rhyme! Verreaux’s Eagle is entirely black Except for two strips of white along the sides of its back, And the odd white feather, And a beak that is yeller. Verreaux’s likes eating rock hyrax. And like every other eagle they don’t go quack. Now everybody’s heard about the bird Whose skills are finally revered throughout the world Oooh-oooh, Verreaux’s eagle It can catch rock hyrax by the beak-full. Oooh-oooh, Verreaux’s eagle It’s the eagle with no equal.
10.
Beautiful Madam Leafy seadragon, Why do you sport such fanciful fashions? These leaves that I’m wearing Do not aid seafaring, Nor help attract mates, nor aid with childbearing, But you must concede, they help me succeed In looking a bit like seaweed. Beautiful Madam Leafy seadragon, Who will look after your eggs ere you hatch ‘em? To save from mislaying These eggs that I’m laying I’ll put them on the tail of the male with whom I’m staying, And if he cares for them until they’re ready Then I might consider going steady. Beautiful Madam Leafy seadragon, Once they’ve been born, say what will then happen? Every son and every daughter I spawn in the water Will look after themselves, like a good child ought’a. But here’s a sadistic statistic: just five Out of every hundred eggs that I lay will survive.
11.
Wobbegong 00:45
“I could be wrong,” Said the Wobbegong, “But isn’t it time for my song?” Hark! It’s a shark! It’s a shark that comes out after dark! It’s a shark that’s about to make its mark, And its bite is worse than its bark! As sharks go, it’s pretty damn weird – With its flat body-shape and its wobbly beard, And its subtle mottled back all phantasmagoric Like something left over from a time prehistoric. But don’t be mislead By its odd-shaped head: It’s still a shark when it comes to how it likes to be fed, And if some nice juicy toes Get under its nose, It’ll still say, “Hey, I’ll have me some of those!” “I won’t be long,” Said the Wobbegong, “I’ll just keep nibbling till the end of this song” Well the song’s done, And you’ve had your fun. Now off you run… I mean, swim.
12.
In Northern Californ-i-ay, The redwood forests Are popular with tourists, But not one of them is here today To see the Klamath River lamprey. It’s goin’ surfin’, Surfin’ on a bigger fish, Oh yeah! The lamprey’s greatest wish Is to surf on a fish That will serve as a delicious and nutritious dish. If you’re goin’ fishin’, You better start a-wishin’ For an extra-special two for one – The Klamath River Will deliver A fish with another fish on. Admit it: Yeah, life’s terrific When you’re livin’ it lawless As a sucker-mouthed jawless Surfer with a lifestyle parasitic. Surfin’ Surfin’ on a bigger fish, Woah yeah! The lamprey’s greatest wish Is to surf on a fish That will serve as a delicious and nutritious dish.
13.
Promenade 2 00:45
Every animal that we’ve covered thus far Is a member of the phylum Chordata. And next we’ll meet a species shaped like a star, Who belongs to phylum Echinodermata blah blah blah. Here’s another way to put it: we’ve had the vertebrates. They’ve all got a back-bone. And now we move on to the invertebrates, And then you can all go back home.
14.
Table manners table manners How do you eat up your dinners? I bet you don’t regurgitate Your stomach lining on your plate Then let your dinner part-digest Before you gobble up the rest? Well starfish do! Yes starfish do! And don’t even ask how they poo! All right – the starfish have no bums; Instead, all up each of its arms, It has hundreds of small tube feet, And it’s through these that they excrete. Now please excuse my snobbishness But I think that is vomitous. The chocolate chip sea star Is a cookie-look-alike if seen from afar, But I wouldn’t dip this one in your tea, Because it’s not really a choc chip cookie, It’s a little star in the sea! Sea! Star!
15.
You must be The most beautiful slug in the sea. Are you the slug for me? When you crawl, You resemble a Spanish shawl, And I hope you don’t mind if I call You the sweetest slug of all. People tell me that it’s odd To fall in love with a gastropod, But those who so demean you, Clearly haven’t seen you. To be frank, If I had you in my tank, You’d outrank every other nudibranch. What a sight! You’re exciting my appetite: An exquisite hermaphrodite In which both boy and girl unite. Your rows of bright orange cerata Extract oxygen from the water, But perhaps I should beware of your cnidosacs With which you sting anything that attacks. I’m in thrall To the call of the Spanish Shawl And I hope you evade the fisherman’s trawl.
16.
Get a load ‘a This cephalopoda, It’s the cleverest creature Who’s ever gonna meet ya. And it’s about to treat ya To a very special feature. Introducing the aptly named Flamboyant Cuttlefish! You must be proud To be endowed With such a loud Multicolour dreamcoat. What a suit! There’s no dispute That you’re a beaut. You’re like a disco dreamboat. Aah, ooh, yeah, the shimmering, glimmering Razzmatazz and dazzle Of your colour-changing mantle Will captivate and baffle Like a hypnotist’s candle, With waves of colour, One replacing the other, Spreading down from you neck, And you’re a-lighting up the ocean floor like a discotheque. You may be a cuttlefish, But you are not a very subtle fish.
17.
Promenade 3 00:11
Now we have arrived at the arthropods. How many of them are there? Lods and lods.
18.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage: The Bee-like Flower Scarab Beetles! Let a bee Be a bee Let a bee Be a bee Let a Bee-like Flower Scarab Be a bit Like a bee
19.
Down in Japan, Out in Suruga Bay, There’s a crab with a plan To make the whole world sway. It’s got a lengthy lifespan - Lots of time in which to cabaret, And if it’s okay We’re gonna learn its dance today. You gotta start off really, really small, I mean smaller than that, like a tiny tiny ball, And then grow, grow, grow ‘til you’re the biggest arthropod of all. Now you shuffle side to side on your spindly legs. I swear it doesn’t much care where it treads. Now snap, snap, snap with your razor-sharp chelipeds. It’s time to feed, eat anything you find: Fish, slugs, seaweed, or if you’re so inclined, A carcass a shark has been kind enough to leave behind. Do the crab, Do the Japanese spider crab! That’s fab, come on, everybody have a stab! You gotta shuffle side to side on your spindly legs And snap, snap, snap with your chelipeds And then grow, grow, grow a new layer of exoskeleton And the sing, sing, sing the chorus of the Japanese Spider Crab song Which goes like this… “I am the Japanese Spider Crab!” Everybody now… “I am the Japanese Spider Crab!” Do the crab, Do the Japanese spider crab! That’s fab, then for the fun of it, dab dab dab! Now you shuffle side to side on your spindly legs. And snap, snap, snap with your chelipeds And raise your shoulders cos you’ve got no neck to link your bodies to your heads Once a year, you all gather close to the shore In a throng of two thousand crabs or more And clamber all over each other like some kind of King Kong And then shed, shed, shed that old layer of exoskeleton And then have another go at the chorus of the Japanese Spider Crab song! “I am the Japanese Spider Crab!” And again now… “I am the Japanese Spider Crab!” Final time now… “I am the Japanese Spider Crab!”
20.
Leggy leggy leggy Leggy leggy leggy Four hundred million years ago, Animals first gave land a go. They needed legs, They needed feet. One of the first to come ashore Went a little overboard. It was a type Of millipede. Now, ‘pede’ means ‘legs’ and ‘milli’ Means one thousand, but really This is quite a lot More legs than they have got. The record’s seven fifty, And this one has two fifty, But despite that figure, This one’s bigger. And last year at Drusillas, I met one of these fellas, And he just ran All over my hand. I was tickled by his tiny toes And his back felt like a shower hose, And then he crawled Into a ball. And it was quite amazing Being so near that strange thing, And if I can I’ll do it again. But next best thing, I s’pose, To holding one of those Is spending all day long-a Doing the conga. But now we really have to end This ode to the giant African Millipede. That’s it – you’re freed!
21.
It’s time to launch an expedition To go to Togo, cause there’s a suspicion That the Togo red jewel damselfly Could be gone forever without saying goodbye. It’s time to go to Togo. No, no, we will not rest Until we’ve done our best to address this rescue request From a damsel in distress. She’s not been seen since eighteen ninety-eight, And she may have suffered from a terrible fate. We must go straight away, not wait – We might already be too late. It’s time to go to Togo: There’s a damsel in distress. There’s been lots of deforestation All across the Togo nation, And it may have placed our damsel in a perilous situation. It’s time to go to Togo: There’s a damsel in distress. Chances are that you’ll Never see a Togo red jewel. If she’s not already extinct She’s definitely definitely definitely definitely definitely On the brink.
22.
Usambara Baboon Tarantula Usambara Baboon Tarantula Usambara Baboon Tarantula This strange orange tarantula Is a very skilful ambusher, With eight fat hairy legs And eight big scary eyes. But before you have a massive fit, It’s more scared of you than you of it. Don’t pick on Usambara; Pick on someone your own size.
23.
Promenade 4 00:40
And as if all of those weren’t weird enough, Now we’re down to the really far-out stuff. To find out if a species has a thing called a coelom All you have to do is chop ’em up and peel ’em, And ask, upon a closer look at their anatomy 
If the organs are protected in a body cavity. If the answer’s yes, it’s a coelomate, mate. 
If the answer’s sort of yes, it’s a pseudocoelomate. If the answer’s no, it’s an acoelomate.
 End of the debate.
24.
Take it easy If you see me On the seas or on the shore. Though I look plasticky, I am actually The Portuguese Man of War, And I’m the King of Sting. I’m the real thing. My tentacles have nematocysts With a venomous mix that assists Me when I wish to shock my prey. I always get my way. I’m not a jellyfish, Nor indeed any fish, Nor am I even a single living thing. I am four individual creatures, Each with individual features. We’re the Man of War: The King of Sting. It’s clever To work together. It’s a scream Operating as a team. It’s good science To form an alliance, Even if your crew Are stuck to you like glue. The Portuguese Man-of-War Functions as an army corps, Co-operating To be the King of Sting. I got my martial name Cos someone thought I looked the same As a 16th-century warship sailing by, And you’d better be alarmed, Cos like that warship, I am armed, And I am dangerous, and someone’s gonna fry. So don’t go snorkelling Near the King of Sting.
25.
I will not roam. I’ve chosen my premises, And set up home On the skeletons Of my relatives. If they chose to live here, then that’s good enough. The seas can be rough, And I’m lukewarm about all that travelling stuff. And when I die, My body shall remain Where I lie, And it won’t be in vain If it helps this coral reef To grow sky-high. And it’s very hard to overemphasise The enormous proportion of life that relies On the coral reef, And it beggars belief How hard man tries To pulverize My prized high rise. It took ten thousand years To create this monument, Then mankind interferes And it’s gone in a moment. I’d be sad if I had a brain. If I could, then I would feel pain. But I am Zoanthus gigantus And I’m about as sentient as a plant is My ancestors built this Atlantis And I hope our descendants supplant us But frankly I fancy our chances Are slim to grim in these circumstances. If you’re hoping for a moral There’s no need to quarrel Because one day we’ll all be buried on the bones of our ancestors, Just like the coral.
26.
The riddle’s not solved Of how we evolved From our single-celled ancestors, But zoologists have hunches That the first ones were the sponges , And that we are all their sisters. Gimme S! Gimme P! Take O N G! Gimme E! And what have you got? Sponge! It’s the root of our family tree! Gimme ROW! Gimme PORE! Gimme ROPE! Gimme SPONGE! And what have you got? Row pore rope sponge! It’s the coolest cat in the sea! The sponge deserves a double clap For being the first to take the step Towards feeding on organic material, And that’s what differentiates Us from all of our equally great Cousin clades arboreal and bacterial. Give it up for the sponge! It’s not just a thing that you have in the bath Let’s grab that sponge by its pores and plunge Down our evolutionary path. The sponge deserves a double clap For putting animals on the map By forming spheres of cells they call the blastula A step that we now recognise As ultimately giving rise To a kingdom so diverse and so spectacular Gimme S! Gimme P! Take O N G! Gimme E! And what have you got? Sponge! Most animals move but you can’t! Gimme ROW! Gimme PORE! Gimme ROPE! Gimme SPONGE! And what have you got? Row pore rope sponge! You may look like a plant but you aren’t! And now in ¾ row pore rope sponge Gimme more, row pore rope sponge I adore row pore rope sponge Encore! Row pore rope sponge Not poor row pore rope sponge But cor! Row pore rope sponge I adore row pore rope sponge Encore! Encore! Encore! Encore!
27.
That’s the end of our fact-checked trek through twenty-six critters. Some are cute and cuddly, some are ugly, some will give you the jitters. And they all have vital roles to play, Though very few would qualify as babysitters. I know my Ensonglopedia Was unable to cover every single creature, But if you know an animal who ought to belong, Then it’s up to you to write that song, And post it, hashtag Ensonglopedia, on social media.

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Almost all the songs from the hit show 'Ensonglopedia of Animals' - a song about an animal beginning with each letter of the alphabet

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released October 15, 2018

Words and music by John Hinton
Backing vocals on track 10 by Ellen Hinton and Malin Maunder
Orchestrations for tracks 2, 5, 8, 12, 13, 17, 20, 21, 23 and 25 by Michael Hinton
Recorded and mixed by Vlad Sokolov at Port House Studio
Many thanks to Jo Eagle, Eliza Wills-Crisp, Ann Hinton, Buff and Hugh Eagle, James Woodward at Drusilla’s,Helen Fitzgerald and Joe Williams at the Sea Life Centre, Daniel Goldman, Mathieu Beckett, Beulah Garner, Gemma Price, Katy Petherick, Sarah Elton, Inês Varela-Silva, Inês Sequeira, Anita Malhotra, Joanna Bagniewska, Arian Mirzarafie Ahi, Rachel Barnett and Cameron Kalani.
Sleeve photo: Alex Brenner

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