The Third Leader: Small is beautiful

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The Independent Online

Welcome, Paedocypris progenetica. One moment, you were pottering about unnoticed in a swamp in Sumatra; the next, you were being hailed as the animal with the smallest backbone in the world. Not a bad example of the instant nature of fame today, I should have said. Remind me, what is the name of that girl with the blond hair in Celebrity Big Brother?

But, PP, if I may call you that, you have other lessons to offer. I, for one, am always very glad to make the acquaintance of someone with a smaller backbone than mine. It is also fine to see something being acclaimed for its smallness, an increasingly fashionable quality since this newspaper demonstrated how it can be achieved without losing substance.

Even so, PP, you are very small: 7.9mm. Just 0.1mm less than the previous smallest, a species of Indo-Pacific goby. This does introduce a small note of sadness into the celebrations, however, for who will take notice of that poor goby now? It's like trying to remember the name of the other girl who was the first to be evicted from Celebrity Big Brother.

That reminds me: PP, as a member of the carp family, is related to the goldfish, even if it would require a very small bowl. Do not, though, believe the canard that goldfish have a memory span of only a few seconds. In fact, they have what could be called a selective memory, in that they have some kind of consciousness of what has happened on previous occasions, but may not be sure exactly what it was. Which, you will agree, shows just how close, despite the size, our two species are.