Dec 31, 2008

One-eyed Willy the Rescued Dog

I don't get to contribute much in terms of my own photography to this site, so I thought I'd close out the year with a couple of shots of my own.

Say hello to Willy the One-eyed Chihuahua. My brother-in-law, Dave, and his wife, Kitty, are Willy's proud owners. He is a rescue dog, and he has two fellow rescued Chihuahuas for companions, though only Willy sports an empty eye socket.

No one knows how Willy lost his eye, since he came that way when he was adopted. Legends and tales abound, however. Dave made the mistake of telling our nieces that Willy misbehaved once, so Dave poked his eye out. Four-year-olds tend to believe that kind of stuff, and now most of the nieces and nephews look at Dave askance, despite our attempts to correct them.

Much like Willy's missing eye, the history of the breed is clouded in speculation and theory. There is no doubt that the proto-Chihuahua is from pre-Columbian Mexico, but beyond that all we have is educated guesses. It probably comes from the Techichi, contemporary to the ancient Toltecs, and was probably around before Mayan times. Their remains were found in a pyramid in Cholula. Christopher Columbus commented on the dog in one of his letters to the king of Spain. The Chihuahua's progenitors were larger then, but still small.

This is a plug for adopting rescue animals. There're lots out there. If you're looking for a good companion animal and can't decide where to go, start with a reputable shelter or rescue organization. Reputable, people. There are lots of animal hoarders out there.

Have a Happy New Year.

Dec 30, 2008

Strangest Invertebrate Ever (Maybe)

Both jynxcat and Jim sent this little guy in. Daniel, whose hand we see bearing the creature, finds them while digging beneath rocks in New South Wales, Australia. (Which would lead a lot of people to stop digging beneath rocks). There are lots of guesses as to what this might be, but I know several of you can pin down a relatively specific ID. Any takers?

For the rest of us who don't have the scientific detachment needed to compartmentalize our reaction, enjoy being ooged out.

(If the player is acting weird (Flickr's issue, not yours), just click around on the progress bar, and you'll get an idea of what it's doing).

Dec 29, 2008

Guess I'll Go Eat Worms

WARNING: This post is not for the faint of heart. If you're pregnant, post-partum, intestinal-fortitude-challenged, or just plain ol' squeamish, you may want to bypass this post and head straight for the baboons and birds below.

Now that you've been warned, let's hop aboard the Parasite Express and take a tour of the human body, as abused by the roundworm known as Ascaris lumbricoides.

Here are some tame photos of this parasite, brought to us by Amy. I don't suggest doing an image search for this creature. They aren't pretty.

Photo source:

They don't look so menacing when placed beside a ruler. But when placed inside your system, you get a whole different story. If I may quote Amy: after contracting them (by coming in contact with infected feces),

The eggs hatch in your intestine, penetrate the intestinal wall and travel in the blood stream to your liver. From the liver, they travel to the lungs, where you cough up the tiny larvae and re-swallow them. This is how they reach your intestines again, where they attach and mature to the adult stage. Adults grow up to 35 cm long and can shed up to 250,000 eggs a day, which are passed in the feces.

Photo source:

...nobody likes me, every body hates me, guess I'll go eat worms...

Oh, but that's not all. Amy has more to share:

One person may be host to hundreds of these worms, and when the worms are threatened by bodily defenses like fever, or by medications, they can begin to migrate. Migration can cause blockage of the intestines, where they bunch up, or they can try to exit the body from the anus or mouth/nose.

And don't think you North American readers are safe from this parasite, which seems like it should only dwell in the deepest regions of the tropics. No, they are prevalent in the Appalachian mountain region.

Now, go wash your hands.

On a lighter note, Amy has something far nicer to share. She's a terrific painter. Check out her portfolio.

Thanks Amy. How can one woman be such a harbinger of ick and beauty?

Dec 28, 2008

Long Live the King

The sacred ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) is found throughout Africa and has been introduced into Europe, Asia, and even North America. They are gregarious wading birds that use those prodigious beaks to forage through wetlands.

Photo source: Gerhard

Why sacred? You can blame that on the ancient Egyptians. They were worshiped as the god Thoth, who was called upon to protect the country from plagues and serpents. Talk about high expectations. They might help with the occasional serpent, but plagues? Didn't help so much with a certain set of ten plagues...

But being considered sacred among ancient Egyptians was a double-edged sword. As a sacred ibis, you might one day finding yourself safe from human predation, given your sacred status. The next you might find yourself killed and mummified to be buried with a deceased Pharaoh. Perhaps it's from such scenarios that the term 'long live the king' was born.

Dec 27, 2008

Respecting Our Elders

Seems like the elders get the respect in baboon society. This old man is the king of the lot at his zoo. His harem has the most ladies and offspring. The terms 'crusty,' 'curmudgeonly,' 'cranky,' and 'hoary' must be prominent desirable traits found in baboon personal ads and dating sites.

I hope to get even a fraction of respect this monkey gets when I reach his equivalent in human years. I may have to learn how to bite harder and throw my feces with more accuracy, but hey, a Jedi's gotta do what a Jedi's gotta do.

Photo source: Patricia van Casteren

Dec 26, 2008

Elephant Seal-Tipping

Are these two bull elephant seals having a brawl? Or a male and female (much more likely)? Maybe they're trying to decide who will be left with the Christmas leftovers?

Regardless, you've got to admire the elephant seal. I'm not sure if this pair is of the northern or southern variety, but either way you slice it, they have some very notable qualities. The bulls are equipped with the trademark trunk, which not only allows them to make amazing roaring noises, but also functions as a rebreather by absorbing moisture from the seal's exhalations to conserve body moisture.

Photo source:

They are massive. On average, a bull comes in at around 16 feet long and weighs 6,000 lbs. But the largest on record is a bull that weighed 11,000 lbs and measured in at 22.5 feet. They are the largest member of the order Carnivora.

They are amazing swimmers. They can hold their breath for up to 80 minutes, and have been known to dive a mile under water. No other non-cetacean mammal can beat that. Oh, but that's not all. They aren't too shabby on land. When crossing sand dunes they can out ambulate a human. No elephant seal-tipping here, people.

Dec 25, 2008

Squabbling Over Food

In my family, Christmas is second only to Thanksgiving when it comes to gorging one's self on food. We go to great lengths to ensure that we have plenty of food, so as to avoid squabbling.

The vultures below took no such precautions. First we have a pair of white-backed vultures (Gyps africanus) fighting over a fetid morsel. I imagine that the smell of rancid mystery meat is to a vulture what a slab of gravy-smothered turkey breast is to me. To each his own.

Photo source: Gerhard

This last photo is much more clear cut as to who is going to end up with the meal. The lappet-faced vulture (aka Nubian vulture or
Aegypius tracheliotus) is the largest and most aggressive vulture in Africa, and the party's over for lesser vultures when these guys alight at the feast.. The white-backed vulture no doubt let out a sigh of resignation as he watched the beast come in for a landing. Then he grabbed one last bite before squawking and scampering off.

Dec 24, 2008

Yawning Baboons

This is what a chacma baboon (Papio ursinus) looks like when it yawns. Imagine what it looks like when it's displeased? He can probably put those fangs, which are larger than a cheetah's, to good use.

Chacmas are the largest monkeys out there, weighing in at 59 - 97 lbs. They live in groups called troops, led by an alpha male and female. Their society is complicated, but basically revolves around becoming and staying dominant (much like middle school). When on the move (which is almost always), the alpha pair leads with the male in front, while the other males form a ring around the rest of the females and the young. Males will commonly become foster parents to little ones who have lost their mother.

Some more factoids: they can live up to 45 years, can run 35-40 miles an hour, and even their principal predator, the leopard, takes them on with great caution.

I recommend checking out more of Gerhard's. photos. He's a triple threat: he is a fantastic photographer, he actually lives next to a nature reserve in Africa, and he knows his zoology. That's a sure-fire recipe for great photos. I'll be bringing a few more of his photos to light shortly.

Dec 23, 2008

Something Sweet

Today Ugly Overload turns three years old. The blog has learned how to walk and speak in complete, if not coherent, sentences. Now it's busy bucking authority and throwing tantrums. Actually, three years is quite old in blog years, since most bloggers have more sense than to continue a blog for this long. (Un)fortunately for all of us, there doesn't seem to be any shortage of uglies out there. Here's to a few more years.


On this sweet occasion I wanted to serve something sweet? And that's just what these honey bees did when they served themselves by flying into this orb weaver's web. You all know how big a honey bee is. Now you know how big the spider is. I hope the bees met a quick end.

Photo source: Kenny P.

(P.S--Some of you complain about spider posts. Believe me, I understand your complaints. If you want less spiders, feel free to send some alternatives along)

Dec 22, 2008

May Your Village Always Be Safe

Sherry took my most recent rat post and plied her Christmas spirit to it. This is what she came up with. In the end, it's actually a good sentiment, and I thought I'd pass this Christmas card along.

Thanks, Sherry.

Dec 21, 2008

Isopods in the Flesh

Maybe it's a Christmas miracle.

For one of the first times ever, you'll get a chance to lay your computer-weary eyes on a giant woodlouse/rolly polly/pill bug/isopod in the flesh (well, carapace). Assuming you happen to be passing through Blackpool, England, anytime soon that is.

Photo source:

Giant isopods (the one above is about a foot long) live at great depths (more than a mile down), so it's rare that they end up in fishing nets. But that's just what happened recently. Nine of them were caught in lobster nets off the US coast of the north Atlantic and were shipped to Britain. The last time giant arthropods were passed between these two nations, the Beatles arrived in the US. I hope you Brits will give these pill bugs a similar welcome.

They are adjusting to their quarantine tank well and will soon be on display. If any of you happen to be able to see them, snap some photos (if you're allowed to, since they are in a low-light display), and forward them here.

Thanks for the article, Wendy.

Dec 20, 2008

Not to Be Outdone

The Golden Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana) was not to be outdone by the Gray Snub-nosed Monkey. He wants us to know that his jaw can unhinge so that he might better eat his human prey whole (bloggers and blog readers, in particular).

These natives of Sichuan, China, are just over two feet tall (height varies depending on subspecies). They are almost entirely arboreal, and their preferred means of locomotion, sadly, isn't brachiation. They like good ol' fashioned quadrupedal walking. Though they can brachiate, they prefer to leap (as monkeys are so often wont to do).

They are primarily herbivorous, and their favorite food is lichen. Yummy, delicious lichen.

They look a smidge better with their mouths closed, but then you're back to staring at that Skeletor nose and those jet-black eyes.

Thanks for the monkey, Dawn.

Photo source:

Dec 19, 2008

Snub-nosed Monkeys

I've posted on a lot of primates. Some with enormous fangs, some that could rend my arms off without breaking a sweat, and others with greater intelligence than many of my coworkers. But none of frighten me like the snarling visage of a gray snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus brelichi).

These monkeys are endemic to stretches of China, and are under threat due to development, pollution, and hunting.

Despite its plight, and the doughy eyes of the little one, the face of the mother is the stuff of my nightmares. It's that lipless grimace, the fetid fangs, the all-black eyes, and the nostrils that look like they belong on a human skull. I'm sure she's a sweetheart and a devoted mother, but I'd just as soon she stop staring at me like that.

Have a good weekend folks. I'm going to go read some Curious George books and pretend that all monkeys are nothing more than playful little primates.

Dec 18, 2008

Spiders of the Sea

How can crabs be the spiders of the sea, when there are actually sea spiders? I'm not talking about spider crabs, or even crab spiders. I mean actual arachnids roaming the oceanic depths.

Researchers exploring the Ross Sea of Antarctica dredged up this Giant Sea Spider. That's right, I said Giant Sea Spider. This particular specimen is about 10" in diameter (25 cm), and they can reach upwards of a foot on the larger specimens.

UPDATE: Christopher Taylor tells me that these aren't actual arachnids. National Geographic says that they are, but I'm inclined to defer to Christopher on this, given his expertise. He would also like us to know about the proboscis they use to ram into hapless cnidarian prey to suck out their innards. Lovely.

Marine arachnids are found in all oceans, but are the largest and most populous in Antarctica. This is another example of deep-sea gigantism. The theory is that the cold water, few predators, and high oxygen levels allow for super-sized organisms. Maybe this is why Santa Claus chose one of the poles for his abode.

(never thought I'd tie in Santa with a sea spider post)

Thanks for the article, Nervy.

Dec 17, 2008

Spiders, Bats, and Vipers Oh My

Here are a few more species recently discovered in Greater Mekong, as brought to you by Nerva, Sherry, and Laura. I've cherry picked the animals for the purposes of this site, so you may want to go to the original article to read up on a rare rabbit, a furry ROUS, a snake, and a few others.

Every cache of newly discovered creatures always includes the token spider. In this case we have two, both of the Heteropoda genus. I'm sure you arachnophiles will be happy to find yet another huntsman spider.

Here's Heteropoda maxima...

and Heteropoda dagmarae

And of course there are bats (can you explore new Laotian caves and not find them?) Both are wooly bats. First off, Kerivoula kachinensis...

and Kerivoula titania.

No survey of virgin jungle terrain can fail to turn up a new snake. Here's Grumprechts green pitviper (Trimeresurus grumprechti). He does look grumpy. I don't think he appreciates having been discovered.

Dec 16, 2008

Shocking Pink Dragon Millipede

Photo source: National Geographic
All sorts of species have been discovered in Greater Mekong (part of Thailand) of late, and I'm here to share some with you, thanks to multiple submissions by you, the readers.

First and foremost, we have the Shocking Pink Dragon Millipede (Desmoxytes purpurosea). Yes, that's it's real name. Here's your Word of the Day: aposematic. Etymologically speaking, it is derived from Latin: apo- away, and sematic sign/meaning. Aposematism is most common in the animal world, and consists of all sorts of vivid coloring and other signs designed to broadcast the fact that the colorful creature is in fact poisonous/toxic/dangerous/cantankerous.

Doesn't each of us practice some aposematism? Maybe it's a warning frown, a step-back gesture, a hand gun, body odor, you name it.

In the instance of the shocking pink dragon millipede, its hot pink coloring means stand back, because I can shoot cyanide. They even give off the tell-tale smell of almonds associated with cyanide. There are 23 species of dragon millipedes, but the shocking pink millipede is the largest of them (now it's just showing off).

The problem with being hot pink is that was is aposematic to one creature might be a lure to another. If one of my daughters spotted one of these crawling across the floor, she'd squeal with delight and try to pick it up. A few spine punctures and a dose of cyanide later, she might begin to associate anything pink with pain, much to Pavlov's and Skinner's delight.

Thanks for the article, Sherry, Nerva, Laura, Rebecca, and Kirsten.

Dec 15, 2008

Hostile Natives

The Komodo dragon is the world's heaviest lizard, weighing in at 200 lbs and reaching upwards of 8 feet in length. They are monitor lizards that are prodigious, opportunistic, and even cannibalistic eaters. They prefer carrion, but will devour anything they can get their jaws around (said jaws are filled with 60 teeth, most reminiscent of shark teeth).

About 10% of their diet is smaller dragons, and they've been known to eat pigs, deer, humans, and even adult wild buffalo. One eye witness watched a 100 lbs dragon consume a 90 lbs deer in 20 minutes. That's an appetite even the teenaged version of me couldn't compete with. And I wasn't equipped lethal drool (their saliva is a deadly cocktail of virulent bacteria--if the bite doesn't kill you, the infection will).

They live in a small cluster of islands off the Indonesian coast (males will oftend swim from island to island), most of which are now under the aegis of the Komodo National Park. According to the Honolulu Zoo (other sources cite different dates and means of discovery), the dragons were unknown to outsiders until the end of World War I, when a downed airplane pilot swam ashore and encountered them. Talk about hostile natives.

Photo source: Jenny Huang

Dec 14, 2008

Half Ton Hide

Hippos are vegetarian grazers. But those teeth aren't meant for grass.

Hippopotami live in loose groups of 15 or so individuals led by a bull, though the size fluctuates based on terrain, drought, etc. It's for rival bulls that those teeth are intended. Old dominant bulls bear scars and fresh wounds from hundreds of battles.

Though hippos don't have sweat glands, they do secrete a viscous red fluid that is believed to have healing properties. After all, how do hippos survive all that muddy water and swamp with gaping wounds and not have them fester?

Come on, science. Anyone interested in milking some bull hippos of their red viscous fluid?

I've just thrown this last photo in because...well, because sometimes I have evil thoughts (I root for tha animal). Random factoid: a hippo's hide can weigh a half a ton all by itself. That's a lot o' hide.

Dec 13, 2008


Use this day as an opportunity to contemplate just how important your tongue is, and how often and in what ways you use it. Do you use it to siphon nectar from blossoms? To harvest those hard-to-reach acacia leaves? To swab your nostrils? Or do you just let it dangle for all the world to see?

You may do all of these and more. Just be sure to take good care of it and use it wisely. And remember, it rarely hurts to hold ones tongue.

Dec 12, 2008

Eating in the Holiday Season

It seems like every time I walk by the office break room there's another plate full of Christmas goodies and generic sweets from our vendors. Fruit breads, pistachios, doughnuts, cupcakes, fudge, assorted chocolates, cookies, pie, etc. Almost every house I walk into has Christmas bowls out full of Christmas M&Ms, Snickers, et al, and platters of homemade peanut butter blossoms, chocolate chip cookies, haystacks, and much, much more.

As you wend your way through this holiday season, try to keep the following in mind:

At least try to appear to eat in moderation, and never put more in your mouth than you can chew

Just because it's there doesn't mean you have to eat it, because it might just bite you back

Okay, okay, this next one is just wishful thinking...

And always remember: you are what you eat.

Dec 11, 2008

Of Amplexus and Fiber Optics

Looking for an easy to keep and breed frog, one that will dazzle you with its amazing coloring and yet not keep you up at night with a loud call? Well, you need look no further than the Vietnamese Mossy Frog (Theloderma corticale). (I should be being paid for this post. Is there some sort of Vietnamese mossy frog association that wants to sponsor it?)


Ready for today's Word of the Day? Amplexus. That's Latin for 'embrace.' Among anurans (frogs, that is), amplexus refers to pseudocopulation, the process by which a male frog grips the female frog with his forelegs (typically) during the mating process. I only bring this up because amplexus is often an aquatic affair. But among Thelodermans (of which our mossy frog is a member), this often happens in the trees. I imagine arboreal pseudocopulation requires a bit more grip strength.

Speaking of which, don't those fingers and toes look like fiber optic bundles, ones that should glow and pulsate with soft LED lighting? Wow, I've spent way too much time around my daughters' faerie princess wands.

Thanks for the photo, Erik.

Photo source: The Kapok Tree

Dec 10, 2008

Sleepy Daddy

Two of my kids have bad colds, resulting in constant disturbances at night, and the baby also demands nocturnal attention. That makes for a sleepy daddy. These photos demonstrate exactly what I'm feeling right now.

Warthog photo courtesy: Kim Murrell

Dec 9, 2008

Human Fish

Can a cave-dwelling amphibian be anything other than a resident of Ugly Overload? I challenge you to find one that doesn't belong here (that's a largely rhetorical challenge).

I'm proud to introduce the Olm (Proteus anguinus). If Falkor the Luck Dragon were an amphibian, he'd be one of these. They are Europe's only cave-adapted vertebrate, a coveted title. They are sightless and live their entire existence under water and in the dark. Their senses of smell, taste, hearing, and electrosensitivity make them remarkable hunters.

But the remarking doesn't end there.

They are long-lived (more than 58 years) and can go 10 years without a meal. And last but not least, they are nicknamed the 'human fish' because their skin is reminiscent of human skin. Lovely. I guess that's better than having it the other way around: humans' skin texture causing us to be nick-named the 'salamander monkey'.

Photo source: 1, 2, 3 via

Dec 8, 2008

Pedal Luring

A recent study has revealed that at least eight families of toads engage in an amphibian variant of the 'come hither' motion. But instead of the seductive curled finger, these toads waggle or thump their toes in a bid for a meal. This is called pedal luring, a technique I hope to master.

Case in point: the cane toad (yet again). Researchers found that when young cane toads stumbled across an adult cane toad, the adult would waggle its large toes on its hind feet. The young toad(s) would approach to investigate, and would then be gobbled up by its cannibalistic elder. Pedal luring at its purest. One study of a captive colony of cane toads showed that a full 64% of the meals had by adult toads consisted of their younger counterparts. I guess cane toads aren't toxic to one another.

These fowler's toads (below) are not to be outdone. They actually thump their toes when they suspect insects and other invertebrates are near. Though nothing is conclusive, it appears that the rhythmic thumping causes the inverts to wriggle and scatter, allowing the toad to better snatch them up.

I'm going to go home and see if drumming my fingers on the dinner table causes the dinner to arrive earlier. I'll let you know how my wife responds to that.

Thanks for the article, Judy.

Dec 7, 2008

Spiders of the Ocean World

If you want to do some pleasure reading, I recommend visiting for a bit. Lots o' pictures of large crabs, especially of the famed coconut crab.

The photos below (courtesy, highlight a point that several of you have made in the past. Crabs and their crunchy kin (shrimp, lobsters, etc.) are the insects and spiders of the ocean world. I try to evade that notion, but it keeps coming back to me. I'm afraid that one of two things are going to happen:

1) That my arachnophobia will ruin my beloved crab and shrimp meals


2) Every time I see a sizable spider scamper across the floor or wall, my mouth will start watering and I'll reach for a dipping bowl of warm garlic butter.

Either way, my world will become something less than what it is right now.