Friday, January 14, 2011

Predators of the Office Ecosystem

In our last foray into the wide world of the Office Ecosystem, we outlined the life cycle of the herd beast known as Paper, without which the entire ecosystem would cease to function. This time, we will attempt to detail some of these various behaviors, in order to illustrate for the scientifically inclined reader the peculiar nature of the beasts living therein.

As we discussed last time, Documents generally require some sort of material to bond them together upon their release from the Printer. Documents which travel in packs, called Position Papers, have greater genetic diversity and are thus much more likely to spawn new Post-It Notes. Single-Page Documents, meanwhile, are doomed (with only rare exceptions) to uneventful ignorage as Inter-Office Memos, which are inevitably seized upon by the alpha predators in this environment. I refer here, of course, to the Recycling Bin, the Trash Can and the Shredder, which we will discuss momentarily.

This bonding material can take many forms, and over time a variety of different organisms have evolved to fill this need. Banana Clips and Paper Clips will leech some nourishment from the Document when they are attached, but will also provide bonding material for the Documents. Once the Documents have been clipped, it is generally very difficult for multiple Clips to attach. Thus, the Clips which get to the Document first command a huge advantage over their competition. Many Clips have evolved bright, fluorescent plumage for this reason, even going so far as neon green or sickly pink to attract attention.

Their biggest competition is the Stapler, which is an ecosystem in itself. The Stapler attempts to root its offspring, or ‘Staples’, in as many documents as possible to ensure the best chance of survival. This organism will sometimes wander throughout the Office in hopes of securing the best possible Documents, and thus the most opportunities for their offspring to survive to adulthood (where they will become new Staplers, with the intermediate, adolescent stage of ‘pocket Staplers’ in between). The Staple Removers prey on this tendency, and rely on Staples as their largest food source; in fact, scientists discovered this menacing predator during a long-term ecological study of the Staple population in one Office. They were mystified when only a small percentage of the Staple population survived to adult Staplerhood, but the appearance of the Removers cleared up the confusion.

Staple Removers, besides eating Staples, assist another predator that feeds off of Documents. It has been theorized by leading scientists that the Staple Remover and the Shredder actually exist in symbiosis, with the one making its den near the other and preying on passing Documents. Noted vellogist Stephen McCoy has observed Staple Removers attacking Documents and removing the Staples, making them more vulnerable to the Shredder (which then gobbled up the Documents). The Staples’ removal makes the document easier for the Shredder to digest and throws the ‘sheaf’ of Documents into confusion, upon which the Shredder can capitalize. Trash Cans and Recycling Bins do not require such specialized treatment of their Documents, and are more prevalent in more Office environments then the Shredders. However, in official Office environments such as those in Washington D.C., Shredders thrive. This phenomenon is so far unexplained, as is the appearance of Burn Bags, which appear to feed off the Shredder’s waste products.

Other predators of Paper and Documents include Scissors, Hole Punchers and Binders (which can swallow entire reams of Paper whole, before spending months-often years-digesting them on a Shelf).

Pens and Pencils form their own segment of the ecological web. It is speculated that Pens compete with Ink Cartridges to dispense Ink onto Paper; however, scientific analysis has revealed that the two species dispense very different kinds of Ink. For example, Cartridges come in several different varieties (reddish, yellowish, blueish and black) which combine to form Printer Ink, which is nearly always black. Pens, meanwhile, dispense all different colors of Ink. We can tentatively say that the two species share a common ancestor, which we have dubbed Quillus featherii, or the Quill. However, absent the discovery of a fossil Quill, the genealogy of this piece of our history may remain forever unknown.


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