Jan 31, 2008

World's Longest Insect

I want to offer my thanks to Laura for pointing me in the direction of the world's longest insect. This is a distinction I had not thought to research. But now, that defficiency has been remedied.

Check out Phobaeticus serratipes (formerly known as Pharnacia serratipes) . These walking sticks are denizens of Malaysia. And as you can see, they have earned their title. This particular specimen is a 17 inch female. They like to dine on bramble, oak, and Photinia. They are winged, though they can't fly.

That's got to be frustrating: being given useless wings. Such a cruel taunt.

BTW, check out the links below. There are some really cool photos and great info and supplies (and pets) for petkeepers.

Jan 30, 2008

Trade Offs

Here is another classic example of sexual dimorphism. In this case, the male half of the Brazillian Pink Tarantula (Pamphoboteus plattyomma) gets painted in a purply magenta (or pink if you want to go with the spider's common name). That's not fair, is it ladies?

But, nature abhors imbalances almost as much as it does vacuums and idiots. So, the male forgoes the longer life span of the female in return for being fancy. Isn't that a trade-off we see so much in Hollywood?

Thanks for the spider, Jade.

Jan 29, 2008

For Lunch

I'm just now eating my lunch, and I thought it only appropriate that I post on this video Lydia sent along (thanks Lydia!). No, it isn't about hamburgers or pizza or ice cream or Santa Fe shrimp pasta...

It's of a spider, a huge spider, snaring a scorpion and dining on it. Hmm. There's nothing like watching an arachnid eating an arachnid to keep my diet in check.

And I love the music...

Jan 28, 2008

Cold-blooded and Pain Free

As if we didn't already have plenty of reasons to admire the naked mole-rat (unique in so many ways among mammals), we have a few more.

As revealed in an article in Live Science, researchers have determined that naked mole-rats, though very sensitive to touch, are impervious to pain caused by acid or burning. They performed a test, consisting of injecting one paw with what equates to lemon juice and a bit of chili pepper extract (mmm, lemon and pepper...). But the creatures show no response, which makes them unique among mammals. This has significance to us humans, who may benefit from the findings in aiding us in treating chronic pain.

Also, did you know that naked mole-rats are the only cold-blooded mammal (aside from some people I know) on the planet? There is so much more to this little beast than meets the eye (which is quite a jarring experience the first time around).

Thanks for the link, Martha. I love it when uglies (not of the celebrity ilk) make headlines.

Jan 27, 2008

Crustacean Life

Ida sent me this video of one of my favorite crustaceans: the Christmas Island Red Crab. Though these terrestrial crabs live on only two islands in the Indian Ocean, there are estimated to be around 120 million of them. This video is proof.

They are famous for their annual migration, when they emerge from their lairs to head towards the sea to breed. What's interesting is that the early records from the human inhabitants on this island hardly ever mention these crabs. It's quite possible that the extinction of the native Maclear's rat (around 1903), which would have dined on the crabs, caused their population boom.

But don't worry. A new predator has emerged to contend with the crab. The yellow crazy ant is believed to have killed more than 15 million of them in recent years. Such are the vagaries and vicissitudes of crustacean life.

Christmas Island Red Crabs - Funny video clips are a click away

Jan 26, 2008

Brandishing Colors

I hesitate to post on this...dare I say, pretty...mantis. But mantids have a home here, and all are welcome, even if they decide to show off their wings and dilute the ugly pool.

Jade sent this photo, taken by the illustrious Igor Siwanowicz. I assume the bug is brandishing his colors in an effort to frighten Igor away.

I want to make a kite out of that pattern. In part to entertain my kids, but also to frighten off any aliens that might be planning an invasion near my house (the LGMs would see those eyes staring back at them through their telescopes and choose another neighborhood). I assume that if it works for bugs, it works for people.

Jan 25, 2008

So Tired

I thought I'd end the work week with some photos of how I feel. My wife has strep throat, influenza, and laryngitis. She's been down for the count, so daddy (and hubby) has had to step up to the plate. But one of my daughters also has the flu, and another one broke out in hives last night, for no good reason.

I'm tired. Gorilla tired. I just hope I haven't had the disposition of our hairier cousin during this ordeal.

Speaking of which, I think we humans give ourselves too much credit when we lump ourselves in with the great apes. I know that doing so is taxonomically correct, but look at those teeth, look at those arms and those pecs. This ape might have nothing on me when it comes to frontal lobes, vocal folds, and accounting knowledge, but I wouldn't want to meet up with it in a dark alley. Any familial affinity it might feel for me as its 'hairless' relative wouldn't count for much.

Photo source: Knuttz.net

Jan 24, 2008

Inverted Hair Styles

Following up on my post from yesterday, today is supposedly the most depressing day of the year (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, at least).

In light of these dour times, I thought we could all use a few llama shots (alpaca?).

Note their similar crooked smiles, but their inverted hair styles (cranial pompom versus bushy neck). There doesn't appear to be much of a trend toward conformity among camelids. They are too cranky.

Hope you all feel better.

Photo courtesy (above photo): Mark McLaughlin

Photo source (above photo): Kool SkatKat

Jan 23, 2008

Life Lessons

I feel like there's a life lesson in this photo, or at least a demotivational poster to be made. I can't quite put my finger on it, though I'm thinking about the virtue of hanging on, the mean tricks life can play on you, the futility of it all...

Sheesh. it must be January.

Anyone know what kind of chameleon that is? It looks like it hails from an arid climate, which is what's throwing me off.

Thanks for the photo, Jade.

UPDATE: Kristi has identified this as a veiled chameleon.

UPDATE Part 2: The status of this reptile as a veiled chameleon is in dispute. But no one can name an alternative species. Can any herpetologists weigh in?

UPDATE Part 3: Jasmine has identified this as a
Namaqua Chameleon (Chamaeleo namaquensis), a ground-dwelling desert chamelion. Thanks, Jasmine.

Jan 22, 2008

Emergent Fly

Igor Siwanowicz, famed macro photographer, has sent me along some of his recent work.

head swells as it emerges and then shrinks down to normal proportions (He has taken to raising flies as mantis fodder, and has noticed that the flies use a "hydro-pneumatics-based procedure to push themselves out of the pupa." The fly'shmm, the benefits of having an inflatable head...). I do something similar when taking off my too-tight jeans. It's equally unattractive.

Note the wrinkly, as-of-yet unhardened wings of the emerged fly. Stretch those wings, little fly. You'll only have a short while before a mantis dines on you.

Jan 21, 2008

Appreciation for the Size

This photo gives you an appreciation for the size of the Giant Chinese Salamander. These massive amphibians predate the T Rex and are (surprise?) endangered.

I demand that a plush Giant Chinese Salamander toy be made, life-sized (sherbert-colored, but lead-free). My kids would love to romp around on one.

Photo source: (Nick Lindsay / ZSL / Handout / Reuters) via Yahoo! Photos

Jan 20, 2008

In Full Swing

My arachnophobia: back in full swing.

I've got a question for you spider experts. I know that spiders drain their insectoid meals dry, leaving only a husk wrapped up in webbing (typically). What happens when the spider feeds on a vertebrate? Do they similarly just drain the victim dry, leaving--in this case--only a scaley husk?

Do I want to know the answer?

Photo source: Knuttz.net

Jan 19, 2008

Guinea Foul

I'm no expert in guineafowl, but I think this is a Helmeted guineafowl. They are native to Africa, and busy themselves with eating bugs and seeds (some friends of mine own a ranch and they keep them to eat the snakes). They mate for life, typically. There are domesticated strains of them found throughout the world. Their young, called keets, are so tiny that 30 of them can easily fit into a box (cute little chicks...).

They are also, apparently (look into those red eyes) possessed by the devil.

UPDATE: I was wrong, this is a
vulturine guineafowl (Acryllium vulturinum). Thanks for the correction, Christopher Taylor and anonymous.

Photo source: Frank Wouters

Jan 18, 2008

Thorny Devil

This thorny devil (Moloch horridus) seems quite impressed with himself. But then, if I were covered with thorns and could endure the blistering desert sun and could change my coloring at will, I wouldn't have much of a lack of self confidence either.

Though these Australian reptiles are endangered, I'm going to try to get some for my house. They eat ants and termites. They are also very mild tempered. Could you ask for a better pet?

Thanks for the photo, Jade.

Jan 17, 2008

Debunker Needed STAT

No. No. No, no, no, no, no.

If ever I needed one of you to be a debunker, I need you now. TELL ME this isn't real. I can't live in a world that spawns crustaceans like these.

Ida, I can't thank you for this. You may have ruined my home planet for me.

Jan 16, 2008

Bad Omen

Kat sent me this article of an aye aye that was born in a zoo in Bristol, UK. This is a very rare occurrence, and is a happy event. These little lemurs have been hunted to near extinction on their native Madagascar. It seems the locals on that island see them as a bad omen.

Come on locals. Stop with the hunting. The only precautions you have to take are not to feed them after midnight, and never, ever get them wet.

Photo source: SF Gate

Jan 15, 2008

Exterior Decorator

Theodosia sent along this little crustacean. Behold the hard-to-behold decorator crab. I've encountered their ilk while scuba diving in Monterey Bay. They are really, really hard to spot (but I am incredibly observant).

I think of all the crustaceans, I am most like the decorator crab (sheesh, this blog has me doing some weird introspection). I would love to sneak around the office unnoticed, a monitor strapped to my back, 20lbs / 88 brightness paper and fax confirmations glued to my limbs, my head concealed by expired printer cartridges, paperclips, and highlighters.

But if that wish came true, there would probably be some office equivalent of the angler fish, camouflaged to look like a vending machine and dangling a pastry-shaped lure in its maw.

Photo source: Scuba Equipment USA

Jan 14, 2008


It never ceases to amaze me how things come together on this blog. No sooner had Jade forwarded me these photos, than Aubrey asks for some tarantula photos to undo the horror of the house centipede.

Well Aubrey, once again, Jade aims to please.

You'll recall a while back that I posted on his beloved Antillies Pink Toe tarantula. Here he is again, but this time with a perfect counter example of sexual dimorphism. Sexual dimorphism? (be sure not to say that out loud) That's when one sex of a species has different physical characteristics from the other. Think of the male peacock's tail feathers as compared to the drab female.

That same difference appears between the sexes of this particular spider (Avicularia versicolor). The first image is that of Jade's male. Note the pretty sheen and colors. The second shot is of his recently-matured female. Note the lack of color. (I'm sure she makes up for the disparity with a sweet spirit.)

Thanks for sharing, Jade. Thanks Aubrey, for proving that the cosmos are aligning in favor of the un-cute critters of the world.

Jan 13, 2008

Sinister Therapy

It seems from prior posts that many of you have had less than pleasant encounters with the house centipede. Perhaps it was out of a sinister impulse that Jade sent this photo along, to drive the blade a bit deeper. He likes this one because you can see the beast's eyes.

Or, perhaps Jade thought it would be therapeutic, that another safe encounter with this critter will lessen the fear, dull the pain, and expose those frightening experiences to the light of day.

Whatever the case is, thanks Jade.

Jan 12, 2008

Something in Common

Ever thought an octopus was cute? If not, be prepared.

Louis the octopus (living in Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay, Cornwall), was given a Mr. Potato Head for Christmas. Now, whenever the staff tries to remove the toy from his tank, Louis gets aggressive and protects it. Louis was even able to open up the back side and find the food inside. They're smart critters, folks. I imagine the staff members will let the situation be.

What endears this story so much to me is that that isn't just any Mr. Potato Head. That's Opti-Mash Prime. My son got one for Christmas, too. I never thought my fifteen-pound boy would have anything in common with a six-foot mollusk, but there you have it.

Thanks for the article, Ida.

Photo source: Metro.co.uk

Jan 11, 2008

Ink Blot

This baboon knows something I don't--I can see the arrogance in her eyes. It might be something as simple as knowing at whom she most recently threw her feces. But whatever it is, I must find out.

Maybe a primate's eyes are something of an ink blot test. What you see in them is indicative of yourself. I think I'll stop looking.

Photo source: Amy Miller

Jan 10, 2008

Take It Easy

This is the Northern Bald Ibis, or waldrapp (Geronticus eremita). When I first saw thatr featherless head, I assumed that they were carrion birds. But no, they feed on insects and small rodents. That's a good thing. Africa doesn't need another carrion eater.

There aren't many of them left anywhere, so if you meet any Turks or Egyptians or Ethiopians or Arabs, be sure to ask them to take it easy on these large birds. Let 'em be.

Photo source: Frank Wouters

Jan 9, 2008

A Quick Demise

If you hear chirps and squeaks just on the edge of your hearing, and they seem to be getting closer, followed by a whoosh of air and the buffeting of wings: duck.

I can only assume that Kermit met a quick demise. Though, looking into a bat face would be an awful final image.

Thanks for the photo, Jade. I'll be watching over my shoulder during the next few dusks.

Jan 8, 2008

Spider and Brood

I've still got a long way to go to be able to ID spiders with any accuracy (I can usually spot wolf spiders, daddy-long-legs, jumpers, and orb weavers, that's about it). But this blog has given me something of an education. What do you think, spider fans, is this a huntsman spider and brood?

One this is for sure: if I spotted this in my house, there would be a yellow spot on the carbpet beneath my comatose body.

Thanks for the photo, Christie!

Jan 7, 2008

Delve Too Deep

The dwarves of Moria delved too deep, and unearthed the Balrog. The scene below is what you get when you delve too deeply in a Japanese beetle-infested lawn. Not quite as scary, but definitely more grubby.

The last time I posted on these pests, booge recommended the use of grub impaling death sandals as a means of controlling them. I second that recommendation.

Photo source: stephentrepreneur

Jan 6, 2008

Chia Crab

I'm thinking, after some cursory, spotty, and incomplete research, that this is a portly spider crab.

These aren't big crabs (4 inches across the back). They inhabit estuarine waters from Nova Scotia all the way down the North American eastern seaboard, and into the Gulf of Mexico. They are known for growing a 'garden' of sponges and seaweeds on their carapace, something like a chia crab. It's the hairs on their back that attract such growth. I should warn my brother-in-law. He's furry enough to run the risk of having all sorts of denizens getting a free ride on his back.

Photo source: Antonio Guerra

Jan 5, 2008

Lucky Pig

This Meishan pig is one of a family of pigs, living in the Teirpark zoo, Berlin, presented as the good luck pig family for Germany for 2008 (the pig is a good luck symbol in Germany).

This Chinese pig doesn't know how lucky he is (never mind the Germans). These swine are bred because they taste extra good. But I doubt this pig family is due for the butcher's shop any time soon (in '08 at least).

Photo source: Yahoo! News

Jan 4, 2008

No Dignity

This post is brought to you by the good folks over at Zooillogix.

I've always found hedgehogs endearing, and when I come across a worthy wombat post (they are my namesake), I am compelled to share the love.

You're looking at a pair of oversized critters. The first is a hedgehog from England, weighing in at five pounds. That's a whole lot of spiney fatness. I doubt he felt very dignified being weighed next to one of his svelt companions (I'm reminded of The Biggest Loser weigh in...).

Next we have a chubby baby wombat caught in the act of rummaging through a garden near Sydney, Australia. He's stuck in a flowerpot--again, not so dignified. But by the looks of the flowerpot next to him, and the uprooted plants in front of him, it would seem that he has been a naughty wombat. He probably had this humiliation coming--a bit of poetic justice.

Thanks for the link, Rasmus. Thanks for the post, Bleiman Brothers.

Jan 3, 2008

No Pleasing Him

There are 45 species of frogfish in the world (in tropical and subtropical waters at least). They are distinguished from other anglerfish by their three extended dorsal spines, the first one of which functioning as a lure.

This is the face of one of them. He doesn't seem very happy, despite hanging around the reef all day, being able to avoid detection by predators, and having his meals come to him. You just can't please some people/fish.

Photo source: Jenny Huang

Jan 2, 2008

A Gift for You

I feel like it's Christmas all over again, and I get to give you this precious gift (well, at least I can pass this gift along).

This is one of my new favorite insects. It is known as Hymenopus coronatus, or the orchid mantis. They are native to the rain forests of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Sumatra, though this particular specimen is a pet.

You'll see the nymph in the bottom photos. They begin life looking like army ants, and slowly, with each new melt, take on the coloration of their surroundings. In the second photo you can see that the legs are camoflaged to look like flower petals.

When full grown they dine on the usual plate of insects, grubs, and small lizards. When they are threatened they flatten themselves to look like flowers. But if attacked, they respond in kind.

As with everytime I post on mantids, I have the uneasy feeling that this bug knows something I don't. It's something in the eyes and those folded arms.

Thanks for letting me use your photos, Jenn. You have talent (and pretty pets).

Jan 1, 2008

Poor Thing

This poor thing can never show her face in the sewers again. Hairless. In human captivity. Collared with a radar dish. She can't get no respect.

I don't see the stitches or the wound that the dish is keeping the rat's chompers from, but I can only assume it was human-induced (hopefully for its own good).

This brings back memories of my sister's rat back when we were kids. When the thing grew a tumor she took it to the vet and had it removed (the rat came home in a radar dish). I brought it (the tumor) in to show-and-tell the next day, floating in a vial of water. I was the talk of the classroom for a good day or two. That is my one claim to fame.

Photo source: LinkInn.com