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The origin of the species

A Field Guide to SuperCity Students: A Completely New Guide to Field Marks of Selected Student Species Found in North America in the Vicinity of the 63rd Meridian and its Intersection with the 44th Parallel.

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Nova Scotia’s green fields, deciduous climate and historical brewing operations have long made this Canadian province a thriving habitat for one of nature’s most beloved and befuddled creatures, the university student (genus Studentus). Nowhere is there to be found a denser population than in the provincial capital and environs. Drawn by the city’s abundant watering holes, leafy camouflage and friendly bouncers, Studentus makes an important contribution to the nocturnal economic biochain within the Halifax ecosystem. Whether observed in their diurnal habitats of dorm room, gym and even sometimes classroom, or at night as they come out to feed, drink and mate, the many local varieties of Studentus make an engaging subject.

Amateur observers of the genus, however, will note that most species of Studentus, in spite of a relaxed, earnest appearance, can be hazardous subjects to observe. Particularly during mating seasons (early fall and spring), the Studentus species of Halifax crowd local watering sources, leading to unbridled, voluble mating aggression, damage to property and an overall taxation on the city’s fragile habitat management systems, e.g. drunk tanks.

This guide has been prepared with a view to providing the Studentus watcher with the means to reliably identify, observe and, as necessary, curb incursions by this raucous creature.

Studentus collegius regium (commonly, “King’s”; also “journalism student”, “philosophy major”)Occasionally mistaken for S. nscadiensus, S. c-regium tends to inhabit the higher climes of the Studentus atmosphere. Brooding, confused and riddled with self-doubt, c-regium mates infrequently and drinks to excess, preferring imported Belgian wheat beer or anything stout. In keeping with its grey-brown plumage and preference for thick woolly turtlenecks, c-regium’s typical evening song is Joycean in its rambling incoherence, a vocal strategy that ensures minimal breeding. When agitated (which is frequent, particularly in territorial skirmishes with medicus or weldonia), c-regium will spout verses in Latin or initiate lengthy, time-wasting debates on ethics. Collegius regium rarely exercises and is prone to coughing fits, which, in spite of implied genetic unsuitability, contradicts the female Darwinian instinct and indeed incites in her a longing to breed, if not smother. This urge she will act out in a mating ritual consisting of reading aloud long passages from Naomi Klein. If the male survives, he has shown himself suitable and will be allowed to mate with her. S. c-regium flourishes in community radio stations and places of worship, or anywhere it will not be tossed out for loitering. Subsisting on mead, nicotine and microwaveable KD, c-regium has a delicate digestive system that makes its apoplectic nature all the more confounding. S. c-regium can be enticed into a controlled observation environment by spreading copies of Socialist Worker on the ground and covering them with melted cheese. Alternately, c-regium can be baited with a fountain pen and fresh black notebook. S. c-regium is generally unobtrusive; however, should a loud chorus of “The Philosopher Drinking Song” erupt, c-regium may be dispersed by waving Penthouse magazine at it. This strategy works against both males and females.

S. dalhousianus medicus (commonly, “med student”)Probably the most stressed of Halifax’s Studentus populations, this highly specialized subspecies of S. dalhousianus can be difficult to detect outside its cluster of nests in the area surrounding University Avenue. Regardless, a preponderance of white lab coats and/or green cotton scrubs usually indicates S.d. medicus is nearby. Likewise, S.d. medicus emerges in large numbers for charitable events, where they can be seen careening down city streets perched upon speeding hospital beds. At these events, it is difficult to discern the male from the female of the species, as the males display a somewhat disturbing fondness for female dress, choosing to don outlandish wigs and parade about with huge grapefruits for breasts. This type of mating behaviour has confounded naturalists and led to speculation that the sexuality of the male becomes distorted in the stressed environment. While seemingly a sober species, medicus is known to respond to high levels of environmental stress by voluntarily imbibing large quantities of homemade bathtub gin, sometimes via an ingeniously devised IV drip, and by the self-administration of behaviour-altering chemicals that it poaches, under cover of darkness, from the institutions it naturally inhabits. This behaviour is carried on into the adult life of the species, where such drugs become even more readily available. The only true natural enemy of this species (apart from itself) is the medical licencing board, which has aggressively impinged on its health by forcing migration to far-flung communities such as New Brunswick. In response to this encroachment, fledgling medicus migrate more and more frequently to the richer feeding grounds of our southern neighbours. Admirers of S.d. medicus can help preserve the local population by offering to play Scattergories, or by providing access to marijuana that doesn’t involve going any further north than Quinpool Road.

Studentus dalhousianus technicus (commonly, “Dal-Tech student,” var. “architecture student”)A deeply conflicted subspecies of Studentus dalhousianus, S.d. technicus has great difficulty maintaining a stable environment due to its twin urges to build and destroy. Until recently, this subspecies was at risk of extinction because of its unnatural intolerance of females; happily, a more liberal environment has allowed the introduction of greater numbers of females into the breed. S.d. technicus frequents building sites where it can be seen posturing with surveying equipment; in its fledgling stages, technicus will flock to the lawns of Spring Garden Road where it builds hazardous, conceptual nests that collapse at the first sign of rain. Happiest when busying itself with graph paper and calipers, technicus will peck away for hours at a computer, giving the impression of slaving over a CAD assignment. In reality, technicus is an accomplished Sim City player whose study skills are rather poor. S.d. technicus is attracted to anything pyramid-shaped; piles of rocks and lumber will also bring technicus into observational range. Beware, however, that technicus likes to play with electrical circuits and should be considered a fire hazard if found nesting near you.

Studentus dalhousianus weldonia (commonly, “law student”)S.d. weldonia tends to be a close-knit, perhaps even inbred population. Rarely does one find a solitary specimen at his labours; instead S.d. weldonia goes abroad in large flocks and can often be found trolling the watering holes, dressed in identical t-shirts, participating in coming-of-age rites called “pub crawls.” During the day, this species can be seen displaying “cramming” behaviour in various libraries throughout the city. Weldonia’s plumage is conservative to the point of dreary, preferring button-down collars or expensive sweats in such brands as J. Crew and T. Hilfiger. At various times, however, S.d. weldonia engages in “mooting” rituals, during which the sweats are exchanged for floor-length black robes. Amateurs will enjoy the sight of these young specimens as they flutter and caw loudly throughout the ritual. Indeed, it would appear that mating selection among S.d. weldonia is predicated on a specimen’s ability to vocally pound his or her rival into submission. Attracting a specimen of S.d. weldonia for closer, prolonged observation is not difficult. Simply mention “the dissent in Palsgraff v. Long Island” and weldonia will cling to you like a bad smell. The chatterbox of Studentus, weldonia is a natural mimic that can be trained to say anything you like if you wave a stack of bills at it. Disliked by other Studentus, this subspecies of S. dalhousianus recently suffered a habitat collapse when its traditional nesting ground, Domus Legis, was bulldozed. It remains to be seen whether the nocturnal Studentus population in the city’s core will tolerate incursion by argumentative, hard-drinking S.d. weldonia.

Studentus monte-sanctavincente (commonly, “MSVU”; vulgar “Mountee”)A chirping, brightly coloured breed, S. m-sanctavincente inhabits a world that can best be described as “Gidget-esque.” Opportunistic to the point of parasitism, S. m-sanctavincente excels at glad-handing, partying and shoulder-rubbing and will nest anywhere it feels a suitable mate (or job opportunity) might be found. Long thought to be a female-dominant breed, the natural habitat of m-sanctavincente (in particular the amorphous field of “women’s studies”) provides welcome cover for sexually weak or deviant members of other Studentus species. Both male and female m-sanctavincente will breed indiscriminately in the hope of attracting a mate, preferably one with a fat wallet and/or opposing thumbs. In many ways, m-sanctavincente is a natural chameleon; indeed, there has yet to be a conclusive study on the specialization of the species, although current data suggest “public relations.” Geographically isolated from the majority of the Studentus population, solitary m-sanctavincente can be found weaving along the Bedford Highway late at night, or vomiting in the back of a taxi. Off-campus, m-sanctavincente roosts in hair salons, shoe stores and Winners. Largely vegetarian but known to “binge” on chicken wings, m-sanctavincente is attracted to vanilla, screenings of When Harry Met Sally and vodka coolers. It is best not to attract a large number of m-sanctavincente to one place; their high-pitched cries of “Hey-howaya! Hi! Hi!” can be deafening. Like nscadiensus, m-sanctavincente likes shiny things and has been known to pilfer jewellery and car keys.

Studentus nscadiensus (commonly, “art college student”)An erratic seasonal visitor easily recognized by its whimsically unkempt skirt-over-pants ensemble, this species prefers to nest in condemned buildings where the fumes from its late night painting and welding activities are less likely to be detected by predators. Feeding exclusively on tofu and fairly traded coffee, the territorial song of S. nscandiensus is a repetitive “twee-twee-kung-kung,” reminiscent of an ill marriage of Philip Glass and Slayer played at 78 rpm. Preferring to migrate during non-scholastic seasons to more decayed environs like Prague and New York City, nscadiensus is often thwarted in its migratory efforts by severe funding swings, most often caused by the parent withholding support in favour of more practical pursuits, e.g. dentistry. S. nscandiensus gathers in large numbers at gallery openings where food and drink are freely available, watering holes where draught is sold for less than three dollars and, on occasion, bowling alleys, where it demonstrates a professed if secretly disdainful attachment to low-brow entertainment. Nuisances caused by this colourful species include non-payment of rent, defacement of city installations by high-concept graffiti, and disruptive, dangerous, or annoying art stunts involving, for example, the dispersal of millions of paperclips from the tops of office buildings. Attract nscadiensus for convenient observation by leaving a pile of interesting refuse out on the sidewalk, by posting any sign containing the word “free” or by doing nothing over and over again, like it’s on purpose. Natural enemies include landlords, grant committees and Studentus sanctamaria (see below).

Studentus sanctamaria (commonly, “SMU”; var. “commerce student”)S. sanctamaria is a hulking specimen easy to identify by the huge chip on its shoulder. Long thought to be a poor relation of S. dalhousianus, S. sanctamaria has now come into its own, mostly due to its success as a sporting breed. Even so, sanctamaria trumpets its group identity by wearing sweat pants boldly announcing the alma mater across the exterior cloaca. S. Sanctamaria is drawn to sports fields, or any venue where a projectile can be heaved from one specimen to another. At crowded watering holes, sanctamari is readily discerned by its nocturnal call: “Woooo! Woooohooo! Wooo!” This vocalization is usually accompanied by strutting and chest-pounding behaviours, typically challenging territorial infringement by a rival. Curiously, this behaviour is not limited to the male of the species. Female sanctamaria can be equally aggressive in defense of her territory; observers report that sanctamaria instigates the majority of brawls in women’s bathrooms. It is advised, when drinking near sanctamaria, to be certain the beer you pick up is your own. Transgressions against beer ownership can result in so-called “frenzy fighting”; in the result, flocks of S. sanctamaria frequently finish a night’s labours in the city’s lock-ups. Often the physical if not intellectual “alpha” of genus Studentus, sanctamaria emerge in later life as bank employees, telemarketers and insurance adjusters, where their sociopathic tendencies are exercised just as predictably, if less violently.

Author’s note: Tag-and-release research of Studentus is not recommended. Once introduced to a new environment, Studentus may quickly become a pest. Safe observation of the SuperCity’s Studentus population is best achieved from behind a blind. Dressing as a liquor inspector, collection agent or student loan officer should provide more than adequate cover.

Originally published August 2, 2004.

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