Some observations on the
Phantasmabiology of 'Potamoi
by Mary Sawyer and Dana Sawyer

A note about 'potamology
Introduction to 'potamoi
'Potamoi in their natural habitat
The Eastern Connecticut 'Potamological Field Research Station (ECPFRS)
Spring at ECPFRS: Preliminary Investigations
'Potamology takes to the air
Winter at ECPFRS: Squirrel blames local 'potamoi
'Potamoi and Global Warming
'Potamoi on the Potomac: a Utopian vision
Recycled Monitors
'Potamoi on the Move
The Education of a 'Potamologist

A note about 'potamology
The term 'potamology, as used here, refers to the study of 'potamoi; it is not to be confused with the study of rivers.  Whether 'potamoi are the same as potamoi (sans apostrophe) remains to be seen, but it is important to remember that 'potamology is a branch of phantasmabiology, and as such is, to the best of our current knowledge, concerned with imaginary -- or at least improbable -- animals.

Introduction to 'potamoi
'Potamoi superficially resemble the African hippopotamus, but they are found mainly in our imaginations and therefore they tend to live in imaginary places such as Potamogonia, Botswagonia, and eastern Connecticut.  Also, they are somewhat smaller and shyer than the African hippopotamus, so they often go unnoticed even where they are living side by side with humans.

The brief excerpts that follow are drawn from our extensive research on the phantasmabiology of 'potamoi, but even so, this will be no more than the briefest introduction to the subject.  The definitive work on the phantasmabiology of 'potamoi has yet to be written, but will eventually appear in forthcoming volumes of the essential but elusive Acta 'Potamologica.

'Potamoi in their natural habitat
In Potamogonia, the 'potamoi live in an exquisite balance with the local ecology.  A Potamogonian correspondent writes:

If you ever have a chance, be sure to visit Potamogonia in 'potamusweed season.  This prolific plant grows abundantly on the surface of lakes and streams, buoyed up by its large hydrogen-filled pods.  It would completely block everything, except that great fleets of 'potamoi come and swim side by side munching it up.  At some point when they have eaten enough, the 'potamoi become airborne, and the gentle trade winds waft them over the sand dunes and out to sea.  Then with a distant burping sound they settle down on the waves and swim back to shore.  Another splendid example of 'potamoi at work, making the world a better place (and having fun at the same time)!
The Eastern Connecticut 'Potamological Field Research Center
Even as the process of equipping the Eastern Connecticut 'Potamological Field Research Center (ECPFRS) continues, our field 'potamologists are gathering important observations.  Here is an initial report dated November 30, 2003:

A few young 'potamoi were spotted this evening on the shores of Pickerel Lake.   These appear to be a previously unknown species of 'potamus, descended, no doubt, from ice-age Connecticut River Valley 'potamoi who adapted to suit a glacier-ridden environment (the geological history of the Connecticut River Valley is available at several wonderful websites that I can't for the life of me remember...oddly, as I recall, none of these mentions the role of the 'potamus...).  The unique evolutionary history of these Pickerel 'potamoi is evident from their shaggy fur coat, which resembles the fur of the otter. Apparently, the Pickerel 'potamoi use potamusweed for an interesting purpose...after munching on bits of autumnal potamusweed, they were observed hiccoughing gently into the downy under-layer of their winter coats, creating a bubble-layer which, it can be presumed, affords them extra protection from the chilly waters of Pickerel Lake.

This field researcher is encouraged by the results of a mere five days of ownership of the new ECPFRS and hopes that close observation of this newly discovered species will enrich current 'potamological understanding.

Follow-up report from December 7, 2003:

Possible sighting of 'potamus tracks in snow today at ECPFRS... 'potamoi in question may have been in search of alternative food sources due to recent heavy snowfall... the distance between footprints suggests 'potamoi were using small supply of 'potamus weed to maintain low level of buoyancy, bouncing toward their winter food supply like astronauts on the surface of the moon.

This unusual locomotion of Pickerel 'potamoi in deep snow, if confirmed, is further evidence of a unique Ice Age adaptation.  Additional research is needed to verify that Pickerel Lake is of glacial origin.  If so, Ice Age 'potamoi may simply have settled in as the glaciers retreated, and have probably been there at least since the draining of Lake Hitchcock at the end of the Ice Age.

One web site on the geological history of the Connecticut River Valley is provided by the University of Massachusetts.

Spring at ECPFRS: Preliminary investigations
Springtime has brought donations of new equipment, and a great increase in activity at ECPFRS.  Two canine staff members have joined the research effort, and are currently being trained in the unobtrusive detection of 'potamoi.  An initial expedition in the Center's new watercraft provided field training for the canine assistants and revealed rich 'potamoi habitat, as described in this report from the field:
Prime 'potamoi habitatAttached are some photos from Thursday's (4/22/2004) expedition by local 'potamologists... Thanks to recent generous donations, we are now able to survey the local lake-fauna for signs of 'potamoi.  As you can see, there are several prime 'potamus locations on Pickerel Lake (left). 

These 'potamus-sized islands are surrounded by 'potamus weedSub-surface 'potamus weed.  Though it's still growing towards the surface, our observations lead us to expect a bumper crop for the summer migration!. 

Possible beaver/'potamus cooperationThe existence of several well-gnawed trees along the bank (left) conjures up images of beaver/'potamus cooperation the likes of which have yet to be observed!  Preliminary stratigraphic excavation

Although attempts to photograph local 'potamuses have been unsuccessful, and our excavation in search of evidence of ice-age 'potamolotical activity progresses slowly... it is an exciting time for phantasmazoologists!

(Preliminary stratigraphic test trench revealed boulder at far right, possibly used by ice-age 'potamoi.)

'Potamology takes to the air
Although few details have yet been revealed, the pictures below show an intrepid ECPFRS 'potamologist evaluating arm-mounted airfoil mock-ups in preparation for 'potamoi migration season.  Evidently the 'potamologist will ingest a suitable quantity of 'potamus weed in order to maintain altitude as she tracks the airborne 'potamoi.  Note flight goggles and orange blouse for high visibility.  The blouse is equipped with integral arrays of miniature retroreflectors to facilitate continuous ground-based laser ranging during flight.

Airfoil mockup #1
Airfoil mockup #2
Airfoil mock-up #3

Airfoil prototype #1 (photo at left above) doubles as a plankton net for investigations of the 'potamoi food chain.  However, there is some concern that its aerodynamics may be inferior to #2 and #3.

In order to visualize the appearance of Pickerel Lake to migrating 'potamoi, we have conducted preliminary aerial reconnaissance from fixed-wing aircraft.  (The junior canine assistant firmly believes he is visible in the picture at right below.)

Pickerel Lake Lake with Super Pixel

Winter at ECPFRS: Squirrel blames local 'potamoi
In early January 2005, we received the following report from our hardy field staff at ECPFRS:
Victor recently spotted a furry ice-age 'potamus living quite peacefully in a drift of snow on the garage foundation.  We were hopping in our SUV (a sure-fire way to attract 'potamoi) when he saw it dart into a small hole between the snow and the cement wall of the foundation.  The distinct lack of footprints in the snow when we got out for a closer look points to definite 'potamus-weed-buoyed winter 'potamoi activity.  We we relieved to see this 'potamus, as we have not had much opportunity to 'potamus-watch this winter (although a squirrel I recently scolded for knocking down our birdfeeder tried to blame it on local 'potamoi).
Squirrel (Sciurus sp.) interviews are a novel and still experimental method of 'potomological investigation.  The reliability of observations reported by squirrels is uncertain.  In this case, the squirrel may have been truthful, or it may just have been making an unwarranted and squirrelous allegation.

'Potamoi and global warming
Like many other animals, 'potamoi are expected to gradually shift their natural range due to ongoing climate change.  Like 'possums, 'potamoi may someday be common in New England, if present trends continue.  Perhaps they are here already, passing unnoticed among the endemic herds of pedestrians in Harvard Square, or steaming peacefully up the Mystic River.  (Indeed, since this was originally written, increasing numbers and varieties of 'potamoi have been discovered in Connecticut, though some of these may be derived from persisting Pleistocene 'potamoi populations which apparently continue to radiate from cryptic refugia deep within the complex post-glacial ecosystem.)

An observer in Wakefield Massachusetts, writing during the rainy summer of 1998, expected the imminent arrival of 'potamoi:

Ecologists tell us that the northerly range of 'potamoi has until now been constrained by the relatively harsh climate of New England.   Fortunately for 'potamoi, the boreal climax forest is rapidly being succeeded by tropical swampland.  I expect to see 'potamoi cruising down our flooded streets any day now.

As our streets become deep placid waterways supporting diverse and luxuriant vegetation, not only 'potamoi, but also manatees will move north in increasing numbers.

So will 'potamoi come steaming up the Saugus River to Wakefield, or will they come north in K cars like everybody else?  Perhaps some of each.  Ecologists are watching closely to see how this phenomenon develops.  Meanwhile, more rain is predicted.

Potamoi have not yet been seen on the Saugus River, but Wakefield is preparing to welcome them.  Town Meeting decided to buy the Lanai Island site and turn it into a park, complete with a little bridge over the Saugus River where it originates at Lake Quannapowitt.  When the Potamoi arrive, we will all stand on the bridge to welcome them.  They will be the first 'potamoi in Wakefield since the woolly 'potamoi of the Ice Age -- or were those woolly rhinoceroi?  Anyway, we are preparing to welcome them all the same.

However, a 'potamoi spotter in New Jersey reported that 'potamoi in her region had largely abandoned aquatic travel:
Most of the potamoi I've seen have been traveling in K cars, however, if they can get a whole herd together, they sometimes rent an RV.  They like to travel in vehicles that can be referred to by letter (K cars, RVs,  ATVs, SUVs, etc.).  No one really knows why.
Unfortunately, 'potamoi have been slower to arrive than expected, and dry conditions in 2002 quite likely have further postponed the arrival of 'potamoi in eastern Massachusetts, whatever their means of transportation.  Still, those furtive shadows in the Red Line stations may be 'potamoi.  (Update: heavy rainfall in the spring of 2006 gives us new hope of sighting 'potamoi in Massachusetts.)

Our field researchers have also looked for a northward extension of 'potamoi into the pleasant climes of Ohio.  In a memo to field staff, one of our researchers confidently wrote:

The many lakes and rivers of Ohio could make it a favorite destination for 'potamoi.  Not since a local mistook Robert Fulton's first steamboat for "the devil riding a sawmill up the river to Albany" has there been such a notable sight on the Hudson as will be presented by fleets of 'potamoi.  From there, the Mohawk River leads a short distance to Schenectady, where they can visit the former habitats of their friend Charles Proteus Steinmetz.  Then westward through the Erie Canal past many beautiful small lakes and finally to Buffalo.  From there it is but a short detour up the river to visit Niagara Falls before cruising into the vast expanses of Lake Erie.

'Potamoi will doubtless keep land in sight as they cruise toward Cleveland, mindful of the sudden storms for which the Great Lakes are so famous.  At Cleveland, the Cayahoga River leads inland to Akron, and from there a network of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs gives ready access to almost every part of the state.  Indeed, it is a veritable 'potamoi playground, with few places more than five miles from 'potamoi-navigable waters.

Of course, the 'potamoi potential of neighboring Pennsylvania, together with Ohio and upstate New York already mentioned, should not be neglected.  These regions could become great new centers of 'potamoi culture.  Just as the newly independent United States expanded its horizons to these very areas in the last days of the eighteenth century and the first decades of the nineteenth, so also could 'potamoi in the last of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first.

Unfortunately, initial reports from the field did not immediately confirm the expected presence of 'potamoi, but our field staff in Ohio remained hopeful:
I kept an eye out for potamoi, and although I didn't see any, there were several very inviting clumps of green things on the shore.  These may very well have hosted a shy, mid-western breed of potamoi.
Though New England 'potamoi also remain at best elusive, our researchers are still very excited about the potential of the northeastern United States, and especially the Boston area, as a 'potamoi habitat:
New England may become the big vacation spot for 'potamoi who want to escape the harsh Potamogonian winter in July and August.  The Fleet Center could be renamed the Hippodrome, and flooded for 'potamoi water sports.  The Public Gardens will be popular with 'potamoi, as will Jamaica Pond.  There's parking for hundreds of K cars under the Common.
Background information on global warming can be found at EPA and Union of Concerned Scientists.  Due to uncertainties of current climate models, the effect on 'potamoi cannot be predicted in detail, but as warming becomes more severe, the recently discovered Pickerel 'potamoi may react differently than their less furry tropical cousins.

'Potamoi on the Potomac: a Utopian vision
Some say the Potawatomi Indians gave the river Potomac its name because it would be such a natural place for 'potamoi.  Others say that since the Potawatomi lived in Michigan, they probably didn't name anything on the East Coast -- unless they were peripatetic Potawatomi, which is possible.

Be that as it may, the lovely aroma of cigar smoke spreading across Foggy Bottom from the vicinity of the Congress not only banishes mosquitoes, but serves as a beacon for migrating 'potamoi, calling to them across the waves, directing them safely through Chesapeake Bay and up the Potomac.  Upon arrival in the alabaster city, they can make a brief detour on the L4 bus to visit the National Zoo, then take up residence in nearby Rock Creek Park, or settle on the mud flats of the Anacostia River, or migrate up the Potomac to the rural splendors of Mary-land.

The 'potamus lobby will become very influential; they will carry great weight in the halls of Congress.  'Potamoi will stand for responsible government, old-fashioned values, and habitat preservation.  Not since the ancient glory of Hippo Regius will there have been a city so blessed with the influence and wisdom of 'potamoi.  And as the capitol, so the nation, until it shines with 'potamoi from sea to sea.

Recycled monitors
One of our field researchers has recently filed some remarkable observations from Potamogonia:

Strange that you should ask about computer monitors...evidently, large numbers of computer monitors have been escaping the confines of human service and migrating to Potamogonia to live in freedom among the 'potamoi.  Among these escaped monitors, a phenomenon is occurring the likes of which phantasmazoologists have never seen before, and which they are, so far, unable to explain.

For some reason, after just a few months among the 'potamoi, these monitors begin to exhibit strange, reptilian qualities, basking in the sun for hours at a time, displaying intricate screen savers that, much like the skin of a chameleon, provide camouflage within the constantly changing flora of Potamogonia.  Indeed, these monitor-lizards have evolved rapidly, and are flourishing in the fertile Potamogonian environment.  Although ferocious in appearance, they are actually quite gentle, and as far as phantasmazoologists on the scene can tell, completely vegetarian.  Largely nocturnal, they spend most of the day snoozing in the hot Potamogonian sun, relying on their intimidating appearance, sophisticated camouflage, and basically nonfood-like appearance to protect them from predators.  Unlike many non-native species, monitor-lizards do not seem to be interfering with the other inhabitants of Potamogonia, a fact which comes as a great relief to observers of the Potamogonian 'potamoi.  Further observation of the monitor-lizard is necessary, and phantasmazoologists are eager to undertake this new field of study.

In the interests of science, I may wish to release the monitor from my computer into the wild to see if it develops any reptilian characteristics.  Of course, I would need to replace it with another, more docile, model.  Perhaps a smaller one, say about three to six inches less deep, would be less likely to become feral.

Updates on monitor-lizard activity, and their interactions with 'potamoi, may indeed follow if this phantasmazoologist does not get more sleep.

We will add new observations to this page from time to time as they become available.  So far we can report that the smaller three to six inch deep monitors currently employed by our researchers have not shown any tendency to become feral.  Perhaps they are less fond of heat than the older, larger monitors, or perhaps they simply haven't yet reached the right age.

'Potamoi on the move
We received this interesting note from an intrepid 'potamologist in the field:

Remembering the potamoic fascination with monogrammed vehicles, it is not surprising that I spotted some 'potamoi yesterday [March 9, 2002] while riding through the Connecticut River Valley in an SUV.  Yesterday's heavy fog and unseasonably high temperatures provided excellent conditions for these migratory 'potamoi as they crept northward.  Similar weather conditions on the Northwest Coast have encouraged western 'potamoi to explore the dense woodlands of Washington and Oregon.  According to some reports, 'potamoi have been spotted wandering as far north as Vancouver, B.C.  In light of the 'potamoi's aforementioned fascination with places and cars whose names contain abbreviations, their attraction to B.C. is no surprise.  I feel further field research is necessary...

That may explain the special attraction for 'potamoi of Washington D.C., where all the street addresses have N.W., N.E., S.W., or S.E. after them.  Indeed, more research is clearly indicated.  For example, are 'potamoi especially fascinated by Canadian and British postal codes, which contain letters as well as numbers?  To date, our field work in B.C. has been inconclusive on the importance of this factor, as it is difficult to control for other environmental differences between B.C. 'potamoi and their Washington and Oregon counterparts.  For example, despite the attractive green color of US currency, the 'potamoi may prefer to use Canadian one and two dollar coins because of their damp habitat.  On the other hand, the new US dollar coin may partly offset that advantage, even though it is not presently available in a two dollar denomination.  The relative resistance to corrosion of US and Canadian coins in damp 'potamoi habitat is unknown.

We are also watching closely to discover whether 'potamoi will transition from K cars and SUVs to more efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles such as SULEVs, PZEVs, and HEVs.  Only time will tell.  Perhaps they are waiting for super ultra low emission hybrid SUVs.  Meanwhile, the city government of New York has replaced some of their aging fleet of K cars with commercially available HEVs which also happen to be SULEVs (Toyota Prius); we do not know whether this change will have any effect on 'potamoi.

To further our research in this area ECPFRS phased out K cars some years ago, and for several years used a 2001 Prius SULEV for transport while maintaining an SUV for backup transport and comparative studies.   Various preliminary reports indicated that 'potamoi seemed to be attracted to the Prius, but we never determined whether they found the SULEV more attractive than the SUV.  The fleet has now been upgraded again to a 2009 Prius and a Honda Element, and a three-way comparitive study is in progress to see whether 'potamoi gravitate toward either of these or toward the propane tank.

The Education of a 'Potamologist
No doubt many people have wondered what qualifications are necessary for research in 'potamology.  Because 'potamologists are almost as elusive as the 'potamoi they study, it is difficult to generalize.  The typical 'potamologist seems to be an amateur naturalist rather than a trained zoologist.  Educational background varies widely, but one 'potamologist is known to have attended a large midwestern university, where he majored in Applied Troglodytics with minors in Plumbophony and Paleontology.  Another majored in sociology and French while attending a small liberal arts college in the east, where 'potamoi may have dwelt unobserved among large populations of gray squirrels and deer.


Last updated October 24, 2009

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