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Discovery: Internet!

Glenn McDonald

Join our guide on a tour of the Internet, where stealthy sexual predators, docile digerati, pathetic loners, and vast, roaming herds of the dangerously overinformed roam freely in their habitat.

In our continuing series on native habitats, we now turn to that wild and fecund territory known as the Internet. Home to millions of fascinating organisms, the Internet is swarming with the amazing and astonishing -- stealthy sexual predators, docile digerati, pathetic loners, and vast, roaming herds of the dangerously overinformed. On your next trip online, see if you can spot some of these remarkable creatures!

The Urban Legend Forwarder
Gulliblus infinitii
More an annoyance than a genuine danger to the online ecosystem, the Urban Legend Forwarder is a dim and inattentive creature that swallows whole all emails that purport to relate an actual true story, such as the vacationing couple who return from Mexico with a new pet for the kids. ("It's not a Chihuahua -- it's a GIANT RAT! MY GOD IT WAS SLEEPING WITH THE CHILDREN!!! GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!!") After swallowing these stories whole, the Forwarder then proceeds to regurgitate the email to several dozen others on its mailing list, swearing that it actually happened to a "friend of a friend." In many jurisdictions, the Urban Legend Forwarder is legally (and sensibly!) hunted for sport, in an effort to keep the population down.

The Minimalist Spam Poet
Freeversus broadcastium
Taxonomically classified within the larger and more prolific Spammer genus, the Minimalist Spam Poet has adapted to adverse environmental conditions with an ingenious survival mechanism. As anti-spam software has grown more predatory and effective, the MSP circumvents potentially life-threatening inbox filters by randomly generating Sender and Subject lines so that no individual message ever appears in the same fashion twice. The result is a new and surprisingly engaging kind of poetic free verse. Some recently quarantined examples: "Ritual Sculptor" by Isolde Rhiannon (stock market alert); "Incandescent Casket" by Sienna Beowulf (free cruise ship packages); and "Resonant Ambiguity" by Ophelia Jade (intriguing Nigerian investment opportunities). Closely related, but technically distinct, is the curious species known as the Barely Literate and Highly Dubious Pharmacist Spammer, which lures victims with melodious calls of "V!!aGRA Neww!" "Bigger SEXX intimate" and "ADD3 inche3s in [email protected]"

The Furious Political Blogger
Opinionii volublus
Previously known to science as the Furious Political Essayist, this fascinating animal was once relegated to the forlorn and barren aisles of the local Kinko's, photocopying badly researched 'zines, manifestos, and letters-to-the-editor. With the dawning of the World Wide Web and digital publishing technology, the species has undergone a remarkable evolutionary transformation into the Furious Political Blogger. Now able to disseminate spurious arguments and feverish righteousness on a truly global basis, the FPB runs fruitful and rampant across the Internet. Individual subspecies include the Hubristic Right Wing Asshole, the Inarticulate Left Wing Coward, the Useless Puff-Breasted Cynic, and the chameleonic Arianna Huffington.

The Galactic Fanboy Chancellor
Harrytae knowliius
As with many successful species, the Galactic Fanboy Chancellor thrives by exploiting its own very small and specific environmental niche. Whereas other creatures must often roam vast territories to locate sufficient sustenance and suitable mating opportunities, the Galactic Fanboy Chancellor seldom needs to leave its "nest" of personal computer equipment, televisions, console games, comic books, high-capacity network cabling, and huge collections of special-edition science-fiction DVDs. The GFC then mines these local resources to create websites and blogs of incredible depth, typically detailing the entire career output of writer/director Joss Whedon. Despite their solitary nature, GFCs can communicate with one another over long distances by use of an organized system of obscure acronyms, and occasionally gather in huge droves at convention centers in San Diego and Indianapolis.

The Desperate YouTube Exhibitionist
Shamelessii digitaalus
The Desperate YouTube Exhibitionist is at its most active (and entertaining!) when preening before digital cameras and webcams, displaying its remarkable seasonal plumage. You can often spot these creatures in their natural habitats -- college dorms and basement bedrooms -- as they engage in delightful social play behaviors; "singing" and "dancing" in repeating patterns that seem nearly choreographed. Subspecies include the Japanese Popstar Wannabe, the Anonymous Softcore Gyrator, and the oddly compelling Numa Numa Guy.

The Creepy Chat Room Cipher
Lonelius desperatii
One of the most tenacious of Internet species, the Creepy Chat Room Cipher haunts the forums, message boards and, of course, chat rooms of the World Wide Web. Leveraging the essential anonymity of online communication, the Cipher employs an ingenious camouflage technique in which its personality, appearance and gender -- indeed, its very identity -- morphs to suit its surroundings. For instance, a Cipher presenting as an "18/F" in a Love & Romance chat room is very likely neither 18 years old nor female, but instead IT'S A GIANT RAT!!! GET OUT OF THE CHAT ROOM!!! MY GOD!! THE CHILDREN!!!

Other Internet species currently attracting scientific interest include the IMDB Message Board Troll, the Clueless Corporate Viral Marketing Executive, the Cross-Media Cautionary Tale, and the Obscure Porn Genre Merchant. As always, your donation to the Internet Preservation Fund is key to protecting these magnificent creatures. Thank you for your concern.

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