Jun 30, 2009

Damsel in Distress

This damselfly was already having a bad day when it came to a spider-iffic end. And there's no Prince Charmingfly that'll come along and rescue it.

Steve, who took this photo, discovered that the poor damselfly was already infested with mite larval sacs, which are the pomegranate seed-like knobs at the base of its wing. I wonder what the spider will think of the sacs when he comes across them. Maybe a bit of dessert? Maybe a little bit of mite infestation for him?

Jun 29, 2009

New Batch of Ugly Dogs

The Sonoma-Marin Fair World's Ugliest Dog contest was held this weekend, and a new batch of ugly hounds was introduced. Allow me to present Miss Ellie, a fifteen-year-old blind Chinese Crested who one best in pedigree class.

Below is Pabst, who Boxer mix who took best in show. Being only four-years-old, we're bound to see more of Pabst.

Next year I should really try to insert myself as a guest blogger or wannabe correspondent.

Jun 28, 2009

Medicinal & Disciplinary Leeches

Steve was hiking the Beaver Trail just outside Ottawa, Canada, when he saw this leech swimming across open water. So he leaned out over the wooden bridge he had been crossing and snapped this shot.

There are over 600 identified species of leeches in the world, but only 15 are used in medicine. They've been used for such purposes since ancient times, and are still used very effectively to treat abscesses, painful joints, glaucoma, myasthenia, and to heal venous diseases and thrombosis, to name a few.

I intend to use them to discipline my children. Letting a few of these loose in the bath water might teach the kidlets to clear their plates after supper.

Thanks for the photo, Steve.

Jun 27, 2009

Aquatic Azrael

In seeing this matamata turtle's nose, I was reminded of one of my favorite cartoons as a boy: the Snorks. It was an underwater knock-off of the Smurfs. I don't recall if there was an Azrael and Gargamel villain team in the Snorks, but the matamata would have been a good aquatic Azrael. That is, if matamatas were saltwater ambush predators, and not freshwater. But then, we are dealing with aquatic smurfs, so we can suspend reality to a certain degree, can't we?

Photo by Joachim Muller

Jun 26, 2009

B & D

What do you think? First morning's yawn? Tooth ache? Good joke? Bridle soreness? Attack preparation?

Photo by janaboxer

We all know about the two great divisions in camels: the dromedaries (one hump Arabian camels - think of "D" on its back as a reminder) and the bactrians (two hump Asian camels, again, think of "B" on its back). Camels have been crossbred with other camelids (llamas, alpacas, etc.) to varying success. As it turns out, when you cross a bactrian with a dromedary you end up with a camel with a single large hump, and one that is larger than either of its parents.

It can also fly, predict the future by reading patterns found in its spit, and shoot lightning from turrets in its hump. It's an uber-camel.

Jun 25, 2009

Highland Tongue

Given this cow's red bangs, I assume that it can be none other than a kyloe, Scottish highland cattle. They're nice and shaggy so they can withstand the winds and rain that beset the highlands. That shaggy coat also results in leaner meat than most other beef cattle, who rely on subcutaneous fat for warmth. Mmm, subcutaneous fat. Time for another visit to Outback Steakhouse.

When I first saw this photo I was suitably disgusted by it having jammed its tongue up its nose. But then, in an attempt to be honest to myself, I realized that if I could jam my tongue up my nose, I would. I would do it a lot too. Much to the dismay of my wife, but to the delight of my children.

Photo by Christine

Jun 24, 2009

Of Gorillas, Fishbowls, and Moms

This is Bokito, a gorilla housed in the Rotterdam Zoo, who achieved international fame on May 18, 2007, for escaping his enclosure, attacking a woman, and then going on a smashing spree in a nearby restaurant. He was sedated with a tranquilizer gun and placed back in his enclosure, which is (has been?) to be upgraded to include one-way mirrors for visitor viewing, as opposed to the open windows that had him living in a fishbowl environment.

Photo by Edgar Thissen

The woman he attacked had been visiting him on average four times a week, and claimed a special bond with him. She is seen in the video below. As any primatologist will tell you, don't make eye contact with primates: it will see such behavior as a challenge and will make them angry (as seen in the video). It's no wonder that Bokito sought out this woman and savaged her, including a many-times-over fractured arm and over 100 bite marks.

Despite having been warned by zoo staff to stop antagonizing Bokito, she's now suing the zoo (or was, as of 2007). Though zoo visitors should be kept safe from the animals at all times, and clearly the enclosure wasn't sufficient to contain Bokito (who had escaped back in 2004 as well), it's impossible not to see a bit of poetic justice going on here.

My cousin once taunted a silverback at a zoo. I was still in a stroller at the time. My mom was trying to get him to stop, but my cousin was persistent. The gorilla responded by hurling feces at us. I was saved from being pelted with gorilla poo that day by my mom's quick reaction: she yanked my stroller back just as the poo splattered in the very spot where I had been innocently parked. Thanks, mom.

The Great Escape Of Gorilla Bokito - The funniest bloopers are right here

Jun 23, 2009

Under the Sea

One more reason not to live at depth in the sea: the spiders are bigger.

Photo by Ant Hidler

Jun 22, 2009

Here's My Web

I usually don't appreciate the efforts of spiders, save for when they rid my world of unwanted bugs. But I really do appreciate stabilimenta: the act, by some spiders, of weaving squiggles into their webs for the purpose of making the web's presence known to creatures who might accidentally pass through it. I wish the garden spiders currently placing veils of webs across every pathway in my yard would use it. I can't tell you how many mouthfulls of web I've had to contend with over the past week.

This yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia) has made her stabilimenta from silk. In fact, she looks to have gone overboard. One study has revealed that spiders who employ stabilimenta suffer a 34% reduction in the efficacy of their webs, though their webs are far less likely to get knocked down. It's a trade off, you see. It's kind of like how we humans will use orange safety cones or flares or reflective vests to alert drivers to the presence of humans in traffic lanes.

But not all stabilimenta are spun from silk. Other spiders (the use of stabilimenta is considered by some to have developed independantly among many different spider species) use egg sacs or even detritus to warn passersby of the presence of their webs. It's like how I use my body odor and constant barrage of not-so-funny jokes to alert my coworkers of my presence.

Photo by Ash

Jun 21, 2009

Scorpionling Guano

Photos by Vasiliy Loskutov
We've all heard that old adage that you shouldn't shop when you're hungry. Well, the same can be said about blogging. Don't do it when you're hungry.

When I saw the thumbnail of this image to the left, I thought it was a bowl of ramen or noodles. Imagine my surprise when I clicked on it and discovered that it was actually a pile of scorpion babies latched on to their mother's back.

Imagine my horror when I realized that my hunger was still intact, and that I was wondering what they'd taste like.

These are baby Serradigitalus scorpion babies, with the mommy shown more prominently below. What I don't understand is what those white splash marks are on the mother's back. Is that baby scorpion poo? Scorpionling guano? Has no one taught her proper diapering technique?

I've heard of mothers being dumped on by their kids. But this is just so...literal.

UPDATE: anon3 has reported that these splashes of white on the mom's back aren't scorpionling droppings. Rather, they are the residue of the baby scorpions' first molt. I wonder if the mommy will simply shake them off, or if she'll stash the hides in a box for a keepsake. I'm so glad my eight-month-old son doesn't molt. Cleaning diapers and the wreckage of what is left of his oat cereal is enough.

Jun 20, 2009

It's Good to be King Vulture

The King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa) is a large New World vulture, whose habitat includes lowland forests from southern Mexico to northern Argentina. They are often the first on the scene of a fresh carcass, and so are the ones to make that initial cut into the deceased's hide. The early bird gets the intestines.

They are one of the most commonly featured birds in the Mayan codices, distinguishable by the caruncle on the beak (that orange knob) and by the concentric rings that were drawn around the eyes. I can't find any mention, however, as to whether the neck was depicted as a Big Stick popsicle, or if the caruncle was depicted as a rotting orange peel. Regardless, they were thought by ancient Mayans to be the messengers between the humans and the gods.

So, next time you see one at a zoo, see if it'll pass a message along for you. Maybe to Acat if you want a particularly killer tattoo, or to find out if the world-girlding serpent god Hapikern is of any relation to Corpse Tearer.

Photo by Mike Raiford

Jun 19, 2009

Biologists Demand Answers

I have no idea if this fish was actually found in Utah or if biologists are actually trying to identify it. I don't know how large it is or how dessicated its corpse is. But I am curious to know what it is. Too often these images are floated about the web like so much flotsam, with no ID ever being arrived at. I know you'll do better.

Thanks for the photos, Jelo.

Jun 18, 2009

Huntswoman Spiderette

Tracy is a fellow arachnophobe, which makes her far braver than I am for having placed her hand so close to the object of her fear. That's a female huntsman spider (huntswoman spider, or huntsman spiderette?) with her wee spiderlings in tow. Perhaps they were out for a family outing, which is why Tracy had the wits to first close her bedroom window before grabbing the camera and placing her hand in mortal peril.

She said that this by no means the largest huntsman she has encountered. She's had one the size of a man's hand in her house. I assume she means that the spider was bigger than my own man's hand, which is currently curled up so I can suck my thumb to soothe myself as I write this post. One-handed typing is awkward.

Jun 17, 2009


I think I know why this monkey is so upset. It could be that it's got a tooth ache. But more likely it takes umbrage with its name: stump-tailed macaque (Macaca arctoides). Really, stump-tailed? Of all things you could have called it, why go with that? Why not wrath-faced macaque? Why not luxuriantly-coated macaque? Why focus on the one thing it is least proud of?

Personally, I would have named it the 'mulletted macaque', but that would have gotten me eaten. It's best for the safety of me and my family that I'm not in charge of anything taxonomically oriented, especially when it comes to fanged primates.

Thanks for the photo, Will.

Photo by Sebastian Niedlich

Jun 16, 2009

Snakehead: It's What's For Dinner

Jelo, of the Philippines, has been thinking of snakehead fish lately. Not because of the disputed appearance of this predatory and voracious hunter in England. No, it's because he just ate one.

I hope it was good eating, Jelo. Breaded? Grilled? Barbecued? ... raw...with the head on...staring at you?

Jun 15, 2009

Go Go Gadget Tongue

This fellow was photographed by Jorgen Vikstrom while at the Krasnoyarsk Zoo.

Did anyone out there know that brown bears (at least in Russia) had tongues this long? If so, why didn't you warn us?

I'm not sure which would be worse: staring into the gaping jaws of a bear in his wrath, or having a bear stalk up to me and slowly unfurl its tongue, inch by slimy inch, until it was long enough to strangle me with.

At least it comes in handy for reclaiming wayward biscuits.

Thanks for the photo, Edvard.

Jun 14, 2009

Beware the Teacup

If you've been reading my blog long enough, you know that I hold trendy animal breeding in complete contempt, be the product white tigers or the latest Hollywood or Japanese pocket dog. You therefore understand my anger at one of the latest trends: the breeding of teacup cats, like Melvin, seen below.

Melvin was sold as a teacup Himalayan. It was only after the purchase that Melvin's owner discovered that what Melvin suffered from was Primordial dwarfism, a condition bred into increasing numbers of cats to keep them small, under 3 lbs.

But Melvin's owner bought more than a dwarf cat. Melvin's owner bought a very sickly cat with a host of problems and attendant vet bills. What you're looking at are images of Melvin when he's entered one of his all-too-frequent catatonic states (that could almost be a funny pun, if the subject weren't so grim). While in a state of catatonia, Melvin has to be wrapped up and forced fed with a syringe.

Lovely. Melvin and his owner want future cat buyers to beware anything labeled 'teacup.' It's a sham and a fraud and it's evil.

Get your pets from adoption centers and animal shelters people (but stay away from the hoarders)!

UPDATE: Rone, Melvin's owner wasn't the original owner. The original owner bought Melvin not knowing the problems Melvin would have, then put him on Craigslist. It is Rone who deserves all the credit here. Also, and this is wonderful news, Melvin is much better now. The catatonic states are gone, and he's now a playful, if tiny, kitty. See the video below for proof. Thanks again, Rone. The world needs more people like you.

Jun 13, 2009

Stare Into The Abyss

Walks through sylvan glades and mountain meadows would be very different if you encountered things like this (monk fish) sitting on logs every so often. Kinda spoils the serenity.

Thanks for the video, Charles.

Jun 12, 2009

Creepy Crawly ID Needed

Any idea what this might be? Some possibilities include: caterpillar imitating a bat, a bat imitating a caterpillar, or something else. Other sites don't seem to be able to ID it properly. But I know you can.

Any ideas on how to avoid one would be nice too. I don't feel like waking up one night to find one undulating its way up my chest.

Thanks for the video, Carl.

UPDATE: KB and anon3 have identified this as most likely being a caterpillar of the Phobetron (isn't that a ride at the state fair? genus, possibly a monkey slug caterpillar. Camouflage is just amazing.

Jun 11, 2009

I Don't Want to Grow Up

Why is this adorable tribble tawny frogmouth chick squeezing its eyes shut? Because it knows it's about as cute as can be, but it just got a glimpse of what it will look like as an adult. This the avian equivalent of the I-don't-want-to-grow-up look.

Photo source SFGate.com

Now we know why this adult frogmouth looks so forlorn. It can only look back upon its early life like some classmates you may know who peaked in their youth, and adulthood for them has been nothing but a steady, inexorable coast downhill. As Audrey put it, it's the ugly duckling story in reverse.

Photo source Susinder
But need this be such a sad thing? Sure, I was a lot cuter when I was young, but did I have mediocre blogging skills back then? Of course not - the Internet didn't even exist! Life is better now, what with the being potty trained, being literate, and having a mortgage and stuff.

It'll be all right, Mr. Frogmouth. At least you'll no longer be fed regurgitated bug-gruel. No, you can pluck insects from the air mid-flight now and enjoy their crunchiness without that sour aftertaste of your mother's digestive juices.

Thanks, Audrey.

Jun 10, 2009

At The Root Of It

Photo by Dr. Kamarudin Mat-Salleh
I don't post enough on plants, so I thought I'd bring you a parasitic one. Say hello to Balanophora fungosa, a parasite that feeds on tree roots. But at least this plant tries to give back to the world by sprouting blossoms. Each flower stalk bears thousands of female flowers (which resemble grains of dust) but only a couple dozen male flowers.

B. fungosa is on several lists of unwanted plants. I can't find much about what they do to tree roots, but I imagine that they are the tree equivalent of toenail fungus. I'm glad toenail fungus doesn't send up flower stalks.

Jun 9, 2009

Cuke Swim

The only thing better than a sea cucumber is a swimming sea cucumber (Enypniastes eximia). These echinoderms have fins where their feet should be, and they use said fins to help them undulate and wobble across the sea bed in search of food.

The swimming sea cucumber might almost be dismissed as a balloon animal, were it not for the blood-filled viscera, that unsightly length of intestine running through it's middle.

Thanks for the swimming sea cucumber, Jelo.

Jun 8, 2009

Vulture Chick

Here are a few shots of a lappet-faced vulture chick taken from its nest in Etosha, Namibia, for the purposes of taking a blood sample and tagging.

Though the lappet-faced vulture is the largest of the Old World vultures, and is known for its aggression and belligerence, the chicks were remarkably docile. So much so that they didn't fight being extracted from their nest (last photo) and didn't even balk at having their blood drawn (middle photo). In fact, they just laid down through the whole ordeal (first photo), and didn't make any attempts to escape, despite not being restrained.

I've had two children who were particularly docile and easy-going in their infancy. Both have since become the two scrappiest spitfires of the brood. Maybe a child or vulture whisperer could weigh in on the psychology of that.

Photos by Carrie Cizauskas

Jun 7, 2009

Tools and Adaptation

Like the superhero inspired by this creature, this bat has a variety of tools at its disposal. It's got the ears, jaws, brain pan, and nasal array for transmitting and receiving echolocation signals, the wings for flapping about, claws, etc. It's also got another tool of which most bats can't boast: suction cups on their thumbs and hind feet. How handy (literally).

The suction cups (adhesive organs) with which the sucker-footed bat (Myzopoda aurita) is endowed allows it to perch on and scale up a wide variety of otherwise treacherous vertical surfaces. Though most of the endemic wildlife of Madagascar is under threat (with only 8% of its original forest left intact), this particular bat is of least concern, since it has adapted itself well to urban and suburban living.

Tools and adaptation at work, people. Batman would be so proud.

Thanks, Jelo.

Jun 6, 2009

Sibling Abuse

ZooBorns comes through for us again. Behold a silvery-cheeked hornbill chick. This particular bairn can be found at The Central Florida Zoo. It's being raised by the keepers since its older sibling was picking on it.

I had a similar experience with my twin daughters. For the first few months of their lives they shared a crib. But as they became more able and willing to flail their arms, they became a danger to one another, and we had to separate them into their own cribs. It seems that sibling abuse is no respecter of species.

Thanks, Jonathan.

Jun 5, 2009

Check Your Boots

Photo by Catherine Stevens
When backpacking I've learned always to check my boots before putting them on in the morning. But I realized just now that I've become complacent about inspecting my shoes when I'm home. Who's to say that a spider didn't take residence in them on any given night? My property is riddled with black widows, after all.

I need to be more vigilant. I'm talking Mad-Eye Moody vigilant.

Jun 4, 2009

Reaching Out and Touch Someone

Photo by irathemacdad
I'm telling you folks, you can't let spiders get access to your phones, not unless you have unlimited minutes and some sort of beefy data plan.

With those eight limbs they are avid texters. With their huge broods, they have lots of family to keep in touch with. And really, do you want to go scrolling through your downloads after a he-spider has been on it, only to find risque photos of black widows?

UPDATE: Jaden, our resident tarantula expert, is pretty sure this is an Aphonopelma hentzi, which is Latin for 'he who texts with impunity,' aka Oklahoma brown tarantula.

Jun 3, 2009

Dangling Apple Eater

Photo by David Fletcher
The fruit bat's face when combined with the wholesome image of nibbling on an apple borders on charming. But then you look at that wing, it's claw, and the claw holding the fruit, and it all changes.

I spent way too much time staring at this photo trying to sort it out. The bat's hands are its wings, so I was trying to figure out how in the world it has a free hand to grasp the apple. Then I thought, hey, it doesn't have any free hands, since it doesn't have hands at all! And this is where I get really brilliant (been sleep deprived lately)...then I thought, hey, that's its foot! An apple-clutching foot. The other foot must be bearing the weight of the bat on its own. Again, seeing it dangling by one foot while it ate an apple could be cute. But it's a bat.

Jun 2, 2009

Culinary Delights

I think I keep doing food posts as a means on curbing my own appetite. It would've helped today, but I've already had a double cheeseburger for lunch. No fries, though. Perhaps these grasshoppers, spotted in a Saudi Arabian market would have fulfilled my snack cravings, if properly salted.

Photo by Vit Hassan

As for these last two photos, both taken in Lang Sơn, Vietnam, I can justify eels, since I've had eel fillets (though never in a bucket of froth). But wasps? What happens to the stinger? Does the poison become inert after a time? Are they plucked out in advance of eating? Do you hold the wasp by the stinger, then munch on the rest, like when you hold onto a shrimp's tail? So much to learn!

Jun 1, 2009


This is called a Serra-Pau, which I believe is Portuguese for a variety of longhorn beetle. But don't quote me. Maybe a Brazilian etomologist can clear this up.

I've never thought to look a longhorn beetle in the mouth, but now that I have, I'm surprised. I've come to expect nasty mandibles and articulated parts in my insects. But the innards of this mouth almost look to be fleshy. Is that possible? I just assumed that it would be all chitin and hardness, but I guess insects are allowed to have soft spots too. That might almost be endearing, if it didn't involve a part that wanted to eat me.

UPDATE: Thanks to anonymous, this looks much more like a female dobsonfly than a longhorn beetle.

Photo by Caio Whitaker