May 31, 2008

Hairy Frogfish

Can anybody give me some clarity on what kind of frogfish this is? The photographer describes it as a hair frogfish from Lembeh, Indonesia, but other photos of hairy frogfish reveal fish that don't appear to be aflame (or sherbet flavored).

Photo source: CW Ye via Uglorable

May 30, 2008

Gynandromroph Moth

You're looking at an incredibly rare gynandromorph moth (great rock band name!). This Antheraea frithi moth has a female left half and a male right half, as shown in the pattern of its wings. This is so rare, that the Natural History Museum of London, where this moth is located, has only 200 such specimens among their 9 million butterflies and moths.

This moth isn't ugly at all. In fact, I
can think of several 70s rock and roll artists who are very jealous of this moth.

Thanks for the link, Asa.

Photo source: The Great Beyond

May 29, 2008

Clawed Frogs

Scientists have recently gained insight into the claws found on several species of Artholeptidae frogs of Central Africa. These claws are found on the toes of the hind feet, and are now known to be defensive claws.

But these claws are unique in the animal world.

Unlike most other claws, these claws are raw bone, meaning that they lack the usual keratin sheath. Next, these claws reside beneath the skin of the toe, with no opening for them. That means that when the claws are extended, they must cut their way through the skin.

It's unknown how these claws retract, how long it takes, or if the frog completely heals, though it is assumed that they do. It is also unknown whether or not Marvel Comics is going to sue the frogs for copyright infringement against Wolverine.

Thanks for the link, Mary.

Photo source: Not Exactly Rocket Science

May 28, 2008


Elizabeth sent me an article on 24 bizarre creatures of the deep. Here is but one photo from this cornucopia of ugly.

Behold the luminous eye of the Dana Octopus Squid (sounds either like some hybrid beast or a character on Spongebob Square Pants). These cephalopods are the fifth largest of the sea, and are known for the blinding flashes of light they emit as they attack their prey. These flashes of light are believed to cause confusion in the prey, and to illuminate them to facilitate the capture.

The flashes may also aid in courtship. All of you young bucks out there looking for romance may want to take a cue from this squid. Start flashing the ladies who catch your fancy.

May 27, 2008

I Don't Want to Grow Up

Since 1899 when these creatures were first discovered, the y-larvae has been a mystery. No one knew their adult form, or where they came from.

Scientists knew they were a crustacean, but not much more. So scientists collected a sample of more than 40 species of y-larvae (y for mystery, cue theme music). Next, they subjected this sample of y-larvae to a maturation hormone to see what they'd turn into. And guess what they found. No, not politicians:

The creatures metamorphosized into a juvenile form, dubbed "ypsigons," unexpectedly shedding their exoskeletons to become wriggling, eyeless, limbless creatures that resemble parasitic crustaceans . . . The fact that ypsigons are vastly different and far simpler than y-larvae might help explain why the adult versions of these creatures have escaped detection for so long. These are so simple compared with y-larvae that they even lack digestive tracts and nervous systems.
The working theory is that these ypsigons are essential components to any healthy reef, since they are found in every ocean from pole to pole. Though they have yet to figure out the adult form, knowing the juvenile form is a great start.

I can only imagine that y-larvae are loathe to grow up. You can't have much in the way of aspirations when you know that you'll become a wiggling, limbless, eyeless creature sans nervous and digestive systems. I see a Pixar movie in the making here: the tale of a y-larvae who wants to stay a kid.

Thanks for the article, Ida.

Photo source: Hoeg et al, BMC Biology via

May 26, 2008

2008 World's Ugliest Dog Contest

It's that time of year again. Time for the world famous World's Ugliest Dog Contest at the Sonoma-Marin Fair.

This fair has brought you the likes of Sam and Ellwood. This year brings you a whole new batch of ugly pooches. Here are just a few (picked at random). Be sure to vote!

Thanks for the article, Ida.





May 25, 2008

Quill Pig

Meet Pierce the African Crested Porcupine. He is yet another distinguished denizen of Mary's zoo.

There are many creatures in nature that go out of their way to warn would-be predators to stay away. But few do it so well as the porcupine (also known as the quill pig). Hystrix africaeaustralis is a large rodent, weighing it at 22-65 lbs, and grows to be upwards of 34 inches long. You wouldn't know it, but this porcupine is very social (a great host and entertainer) and they love licking each other.

The neck is covered with bristles and the tail with rattling quills, but the back is covered with both quills and spines. The quills can get to about a foot in length, and the spines almost two feet. When threatened, the porcupine turns around and charges backwards, thereby impaling whatever's threatening it.

I guess you can feel free to be social if you can pack that kind of heat.

May 24, 2008

Belly Slide

The gharial looks like a movie prop alligator someone tried to make and really messed up. Or else like a crocodile who grew up with a snout bind, like bound feet of yore.

The gharial is second only to the crocodile in terms of size (they've been known to reach more than 20 feet!). They are found in India and her immediate neighbors. They live in river waters and use that narrow snout to snatch passing fish.

Gharial legs aren't strong enough to lift their bodies off the ground when they walk, so the most they can accomplish is a belly slide. But don't feel bad little gharial, I'm forced to do the same thing when I leave the buffet line.

Photo source:

May 23, 2008

Growing Up

Mary the Zookeeper sent us some photos a couple weeks ago of a mother tailless whip scorpion and her babies.

Well, those babies are growing up, and mommy's so proud. Here's what one of them looks like after its first molt (click on the photo for a larger image). It looks much more tailless-whip-scorpiony and still has some amazing colors. But soon it will enter that nasty, rebellious talk-backy phase. It better harden its exoskeleton in preparation for the spankings (whippings?) its going to get.

Thanks, Mary.

May 22, 2008

Toys, Gifts and Jellies

Some postal workers in Philadelphia, US, were sorting through the mail when they came across a package labeled "toys, gifts and jellies." But something inside the package was making a noise (I see the beginning of a children's book here). The postmaster sent it off to customs where it was x-rayed and found to contain more than two dozen live giant beetles, some as large as a child's hand (5-6 inches across).

The beetles were a mix of Hercules, Rhinoceros, and Goliath beetles (I see a great jazz band name somewhere in there), all of which are known to be destructive pests.

Photo source: AP via Yahoo!

At least whoever shipped these (and they are now known to the authorities) gave the postal workers an exciting day. It isn't everyday you get to handle monster insects (and hey, free dollar bill!). I know some of you invert-lovers would be walking on Cloud 9 for weeks.

Thanks for the article, Ida.

May 21, 2008

Freshwater Fish in the Zeitgeist

Giant freshwater fish are in the zeitgeist, people.

Say hello to a new member of the Ugly Overload family. The Mekong Giant Catfish is the largest freshwater, scaleless fish on the planet. They reach 10 feet and up to an amazing 650 lbs. They can live for 60 years. They were once very common in Southeast Asia (the lower half of the Mekong river), but are now on the brink of extinction. Some experts (citation needed) believe that only a few hundred adults may remain in the wild.

This is the catfish you sometimes see being held by a group of fishermen or children. Thank you National Geographic for bringing us a photo of a rare living one.

Thanks for the link, Ida.

Photo source: Zeb Hogan via National Geographic

May 20, 2008

No Getting Around It

I love, love nudibranchs (this pair is Nembrotha kubaryana). They are the little gems I search for when perusing the tidal pools and sand bars of Northern California. Though their colors are quite striking, there's no getting around the fact that they are, in essence, slugs. And, they're toxic.

Thanks for the photo, Sherry.

Photo source: David Doubilet via National Geographic

May 19, 2008

Scary Spatula

Aurelialight reminded me that I've been remiss in not posting enough on one of North America's most notable fish. Behold the alligator gar. I never thought that that a creature with the species name of spatula could be frightening, but I was wrong. The alligator gar comes with several distinctive characteristics:

1) It is the largest of all gars, growing to 8 - 12 feet, with a record weight of over 300 lbs (the largest was caught in the Rio Grande River).
2) It is also the largest exclusively freshwater fish in North Americ, where it stalks the waters of the South Eastern US and Mexico.
3) It is able to breath air, and can survive 2 hours outside of water.
4) It is an aggressive carnivore and has been known to attack humans.

Photo source:

May 18, 2008


I can't call the Blue Ringed Octopus ugly, strictly speaking. But, it is a mollusk, and it is one of the most venomous creatures out there. To quote TutzTutz:

The painless bite from a Blue Ringed Octopus may seem innocuous, however the deadly neurotoxins in the animals saliva immediately begin working. Within a few minutes, a human will experience muscular weakness, numbness, followed by a cessation and breathing and ultimately death.

I believe this critter was featured in Michael Crichton's State of Fear.

Thanks for the link, Danielle.

Photo source:

May 17, 2008

A Living Sculpin

I've posted a couple times on the blob sculpin, but they've always been shots of ones recently snagged on the fishing line. This time, however, I am pleased to bring you an image of one that is still living.

Surprisingly, the blob sculpin's got something of an endearing spikey, thick-lipped charm to it. I see a plush toy in the future.

Thanks for the link, Ida.

Photo source: MBARI

May 16, 2008

Gratuitous Mantis Shots

I've stumbled across several caches of praying mantis macros. I must now share some of them, so enjoy.

May 15, 2008

Food of the (Olympic) Gods

Jade is feeling the Olympic spirit. He can't wait for the summer games to begin (the wrestling especially). In light of this spirit, he wants to make sure that those of you traveling to the Orient to see the games up close and in person are prepared for some of the cuisine.

I picked these photos out of a larger selection (some of the menu items aren't for our more delicate readers). Enjoy. The photos speak for themselv
es (literally).

May 14, 2008

Miscreant Youth

Imagine yourself working your fields, doing back breaking work day after day in the hot sun, trying to coax your beets to grow. Just as the sun reaches its zenith, you stand upright to stretch your aching back. You cock your head at the sound of approaching rain.


You look to the horizon and see what looks to be a fast approaching, swirling cloud of blackness that blots out the sky. But what you're looking at is a locust swarm--and the utter ruination of your beets.

A locust swarm can be comprised of billions of individuals and can eat tens of thousands of tons of vegetation each day. But why in the world do these normally herbivorous locusts seem to spontaneously swarm? It's because of their miscreant youths.

A new study posits that when times get tough, the tough become cannibals. This phenomenon seems to be isolated to the flightless youth, who turn on each other in a bid for locust flesh (oh, if only locusts could make zombie movies...). This cannibalism triggers fear and flight reflexes in the other youths, who then continue this pattern of fear-driven flight quite literally when they gain their wings (they earn their wings by doing a good deed). Thus is a swarm born. Thus we have the genesis of the swarm. Thus is the root of the swarm discovered. Thus...sorry.

It's comforting to know that most species of animalia have trouble with their teenagers. Except for bugs that go through a pupal phase--that's the way to do it.

Thanks for the link, Ida.

Photo source: AP via BBC News

May 13, 2008

Komodo Bites

You wouldn't know it to look at a komodo dragon, but these monitor lizards pack a pretty wimpy bite--if you're taking raw chomping power into consideration only. But have no fear. The world's largest lizard (10 feet long) has come up with a few ingenious ways to counterbalance this deficiency.

A new study reveals that though they may have a 'dainty bite', their skulls are very cleverly engineered, their neck muscles are beefy (beef cake!) and they have razor teeth. They've also got toxic drool, laser vision, lightning breath, and they can disapparate at will. That makes for a lethal combo.

Thanks for the article, Ida.

Photo source:

May 12, 2008

New Overlords

I've posted on dressed up anteaters before, but I didn't know that there was a whole theme going on.

Jonathan sent me this photo of an anteater pair, once again perched on a washer and dryer (is that five gallon bucket in the back filled with anteater feed? Shouldn't it be filled with ants?). This picture has inspired conspiracy-laden nightmares in poor Jonathan. In his own words:

It's as though the anteaters have evolved intelligence and formed a secret cabal bent on global domination, and this is a picture of their sincerest efforts to blend in with their human oppressors. I fully expect to wake up one night to see the one in blue stalking clumsily over to me, a length of piano wire stretched between its ungainly claws.

Your fears are well-founded, Jonathan. Be afraid. I am.

May 11, 2008

Wolf Spider Mom

On this Mothers Day I thought I would post on a dutiful mother from arachnida. Below is a sequence of shots of a mother wolf spider with her offspring.

This first shot shows mommy on the go--running errands, getting things done (GTD). You'll note the egg sac hanging from her abdomen.

Photo source: Curtis Morton

But that precious time between creating your egg sac and feeling your egg sac pulsate with hatching spiderlings is brief. Here she attacks the sac with her fangs to tear it open and release her little ones.

Aw, she stopped a posed for the camera (this mommy is a captive spider, though that didn't stop her from increasing the wolf spider population). She has cast aside the now empty egg sac, and her babies have climbed aboard the Mommy Express.

Here's a closer shot of Mother Wolf Spider filling the role of transportation as she shows off her domicile to her brood. I'm just glad this maternal drama didn't play itself out beneath my bed or on my pillow or in my box of cereal or beneath the toilet lid or in my car. . .

May 10, 2008


Booge sent me this photo of a dust mite. These creatures are microscopic (this shot was taken with a scanning electron microscope), allergenic (10% of Americans are allergic to them) and omnipresent (you probably have countless on you right now and millions on your pillow, you filthy, filthy animal).

What's particularly interesting about this image is the gear train in front of the creature. To give you a sense of proportion: each gear tooth is smaller than a human red blood cell. The gears are attached to a microscopic motor and function like a transmission. You're looking at nanotechnology.

It's obvious, isn't it? We need to train dust mites to be nanotechnicians and nanomechanics. They work for cheap--we have an abundance of excess human skin cells and hairs for them to feast upon--and we won't have to outsource the work the third world nations. Though, perhaps third world dust mites are easier to exploit...

Thanks, Booge.

Photo source: KQED via Flickr

May 9, 2008

Crab Comparison

Here's what a normal hermit crab looks like (I used to have these as pets as a wee lad). It's something you can pick up with your finger tips. It lives in a borrowed shell. It's claws might pinch you, but it doesn't hurt.

Here's what a coconut crab looks like. These monsters of the Indian and Pacific ocean islands have spurned the shells of their lesser cousins in favor of being able to roam and climb and kill at will. They get up to 4 kg in weight, have enormous legspans, live for 30 - 60 years, and are capable of splitting coconuts with their pinchers.

May 8, 2008

Baboon Mocking

I've been mocking baboons for more than two years now. I've pointed at their swollen red butts and laughed. I've cheered on lions in chase of fleeing baboons.

Photo source:

But it's a good thing to be reminded that I've got to have a healthy respect for those fangs. If someone were to set up a cage match between me and a baboon (I'm not sure why I'd sign up for that), the baboon would emerge the victor (assuming the baboon even saw my pasty self as a threat worthy of attacking in the first place).

I'll continue to mock baboons, but only with a CRT monitor, Cat-5 cabling, several servers, and temporal displacement between me and them.

May 7, 2008

Congo Fish

The Dark Continent is the home of many mysteries and has long held the world's imagination. Among its many wonders are its rivers, including the Nile, the Niger, and, of course, the Congo. Other wonders include the naked mole-rat, mummy curses, and an abundance of expatriated bankers and politicians who need my help in securing their millions of dollars.

The Congo is so large that it quite literally divides the biosphere in half. For instance: to the north live the chimps, to the south the bonobos. Not much cross-pollination of species happens across the Congo. And the fish below might be the reason.

The Congo is the watery home to an incredible array of scaly critters (I've posted a couple times on the tiger fish all ready). Feel free to click on the image below to get a better look at some of the Congo's denizens. Of particular note is the Skeletonfish in the middle of the photo, which hearkens back to those mummy curses I was talking about.

Thanks for the article, Ida.

Photo source:

May 6, 2008

Glass Lady

This frog isn't another miracle of science. It's naturally see-through. She's is an inch-long glass frog from Venezuela.

I'm not sure what advantage being see-through offers a South American frog, but it probably aids in protection, feeding, or mating. Perhaps the male glass frog becomes randy upon seeing his lady's spleen. Not something I would look forward to after a candlelit dinner, but hey, I'm not one to judge.

Thanks for the photo, Ida.

May 5, 2008

Pudgy Primates

No, these aren't pictures of me (I'm decidedly less hairy) and neither are they of my little brother (he is Gollum-like skinny and is a carnivore). Rather, these are monkeys. To quote:

About 50 Macaca mulatta monkeys at Ohama park in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture have been so overfed by tourists they are now massively overweight.
Some are so fat that they can hardly ambulate or even roll. I can only imagine what state I would be in if I were kept in a compound and visitors threw pizza and glazed donuts at me all day.

I would be happy, that's what I'd be.

Thanks for the article, Tyrel & Ida.

Photo source:

May 4, 2008

Whip Scorpion Babies

Here's another mother-whip-scorpion-with-babies installment from Mary the Zookeeper. For those of you who don't know yet, whip scorpions make for great mothers.

Some of you are going to see these photos and ooh and ahh as though seeing a new litter of fuzzy labrador puppies.

Others of you are going to cringe and start swatting at phantom tickles all over you body.

To both groups, I say "You're welcome."

Thanks, Mary.

May 3, 2008

The Makings of an Ugly Critter

It is 16-22 inches (40-55 centimeters) long from nose to tail and resembles a large brown rat with an extremely elongated snout and a long, naked, scaly tail.
That's the makings of one ugly critter.

The Cuban Solenodon (Solenodon cubanus - almost a redundant name), is unusual among mammals in that it has venomous saliva. It is unusual among mammals in that it was thought to be extinct until it was 'rediscovered. And lastly, it is unusual among mammals in that it's closest kin outside of other Solenodons is on the island of Madagascar.

It's most likely out of shame that this creature operates only at night and underground. Still, we would be seeing a lot more of it if not for the predation of non-native species.

Thanks for the photo, Ida.

Photo source: via Animal Pictures Archive

May 2, 2008

Turtle in Soft Shell, Albino Power

You're looking at a pure albino Chinese softshell turtle. I had a variety of reactions when I first saw this photo, ranging from a physical flinch to a visceral urge to get away.

Evidently, though, those who personally know this particular creature, which is housed in Mr. Wah's facilities in Malaysia, think very highly of it. If you can't judge a book by its cover, then you can't judge a softshell turtle by its pinkish pig flesh.

Thanks for the photo, Ida.

Photo source: Mr. Wah via

Watch Your Step

Brittney was on spring break at Fort Macon, NC, a few weeks ago and came across this carcass on the beach. I'm thinking some iteration of puffer fish, but can any of you ichthyologists ID it?

It blends in pretty well with the beach gravel and shell fragments. Better watch where you step, you North Carolinians. You might end up with some punctured soles.