Nov 30, 2009

How to Floresce

Mike Raiford has still more gems to share with us...

Why do scorpions floresce under UV light? No one knows. But we know how they floresce, though you'll slap your forehead when I tell you because it's so obvious. It's because of the Beta carboline and 7-hydroxy-4-methylcoumarin that emerges in the hardening cuticle of their exoskeletons of course.

Newly molted scorpions don't floresce, so the florescing compounds have to be either secreted by the scorpions or else somehow develop as part of the tanning process. We just don't know. Of course, I imagine scorpions are asking each other why the rest of us don't floresce. We must look so boring to them, what with our visible light band affinity.

Thanks for the photo, Mike.

Nov 29, 2009

A Green Spider?

Cindy needs some help in identifying this spider. They've been emerging from her bathtub drain for a few weeks now, and she suspects that they are young wolf spiders. She lives in Alberta, Canada. Any takers? I'm inclined to think she's right, since I think I see the characteristic two prominent eyes on the top of its head. Regardless, it looks to be recyclable (# 5). A green spider then.

Nov 28, 2009

Pink Malice

Albino alligators are rare in the wild. In fact, they've only been spotted in Louisiana, and an adult one has never been seen in the wild (the lack of pigment makes them easy prey for both predators and the sun). But there are about 50 albino alligators in captivity. Here's one them.

Mike Raiford took this photo at a zoo. Notice the albinism. Notice the evil in the eye. No, Mr. Alligator, the pink iris does nothing to mitigate the malice lurking in those depths.

Thanks for the photos, Mike.

Nov 27, 2009

Grateful Terrestrials

David has sent us a link to a Washington Post picture gallery of creatures recently surveyed in the Deep Sea. I bring you a few of them, just in case you weren't already grateful for being a terrestrial, sentient biped who doesn't have to share your personal space with these creatures. These photos are of a copepod, a cute dumbo octopus (Grimpoteuthis discoveryi), a new dumbo (Grimpoteuthis sp.), and a Neocyema (erythrosoma). Guess which two of them are known to feast on human souls.

Thanks for the link, David.

Nov 26, 2009

A New Friend

This is Nana's new friend. He's a rhinoceros beetle named Thorne's Party. The beetle spends most of his time buried in his cage. When he's out and on Nana's arm, he likes to try to burrow into her. She describes that as disconcerting. I describe that as a living nightmare. Still, I'd love to have one for a pet, and I'm jealous of Nana.

The rhinoceros beetle's primary importance to humans is its classification as a pest. The adult beetle isn't much of a problem (unless they manage to burrow into your skin). It's the wee ones, the larvae, that cause so much trouble. The massive maggots grubs like to dine on rotten wood, nectar, and tree sap, and are capable of taking down full grown palm and coconut trees.

So, enjoy your pet, Nana. Think not of what it once was (a huge, wriggling maggot grub), and don't worry about it burrowing into your flesh. Just enjoy its current iteration as a creature who likes to cling to you. Much like my toddling son.

Nov 25, 2009

Monkey See Monkey Doo

I've always thought that monkeys don't get enough attention for the creative hair doos (don'ts?) Take these shots, for instance (gelada, ebony leaf monkey, hamadryas baboon, cotton-top tamarin, and lion-tailed macaque). What LA hair dresser wouldn't be proud of these creations?

Photo source: Jean Yves et Francis

Photo source: Ian Thomas

Photo source: Marika Bell

Photo source: Eduardo Tavares

Photo source: Allard Schager

Nov 24, 2009

Spider Awards

What's cuter than a jumping spider? Why, a juvenile jumping spider.

Tracy sent this link to me, knowing full well that my daughters would ooh-and-ahh at it's cuteness. And she was correct. Wired Magazine has done a spread of photos for their spider awards, and this juvenile Phidippus audax took took the award for the world's cutest spider. Just look at it, dusted up with pollen. Can you picture it frolicking among the wild flowers?

Photo source: Opo Terser (of course) via Wired

But just in case you're feeling too cuddly towards our arachnid friends, let me leave you with this image of a Goliath Bird-eating Tarantula (the world's largest spider, who has evidently mugged someone and stolen their cash and trusty ruler). A friend of mine was walking through the jungle outside a village near Curitiba, Brazil, when one of these ran into his leg. He actually felt the collision. And like a true arachnophobe, he ran for his life...and was pursued for more than a dozen yards...

Thanks for the link, Tracy!

Photo source: snakecollector via Wired

Nov 23, 2009

Lizzy the Bald Emu

Michaela had raised her emu Lizzy from the moment she hatched. So when Lizzy began going bald at the tender age of one, it was a real mystery.

Lizzy lived in the same enclosure with a couple of kangaroos, and everything seemed to be normal, save for the loss of Lizzy's feathers. The poor bird was getting sunburnt during the day and cold at night. On top of that, the replacement feathers were growing back like painful in-grown hairs. (As an aside, look at that pathetic wing and see why these birds are flightless).

But then one day, Michaela saw her sweet and harmless kangaroo Leah pluck a feather from Lizzy's body and eat it. It was then that Michaela realized that despite all of the feathers lost, not a single one was on the ground. They were probably all in Leah the Kangaroo's belly. The feather stealing must have been happening at night.

But this tale of loss and woe ends well. Michaela separated the emu from the kangaroos, and she has since grown back all of her feathers. She now has free access to Michaela's 10,000 acre property.

Let this be a word to the wise: if your emu ever starts going bald, look to your kangaroos first.

Thanks for the photos, Michaela. I'm glad Lizzy is in full plumage once again.

Nov 22, 2009

Spider Collage

Feast upon it, my friends. These are the only spiders that have ever graced my desktop. It's a collage of jumping spiders, in large resolution.

Of course, such a masterpiece requires proper citation. Brad put it together using photos taken by: alukii, Amery Carlson, imarsman, SouthernBelladonna, Charles Lam, Lord V, Photo_Freak, kartoffel, and ScurvyMouse. All these folks can be found on Flickr.


Photo source: Brad

Nov 21, 2009

Fly Swatter

With about 5,000 species described and representing 13% of all known spider species, jumping spiders (Salticidae) comprise the only group of spiders that I like. Most are tiny, they don't spin webs (save for the tethers they use to jump with), and they eat pests in my house. Here's proof positive:

Photo source: ej

My property in the Sacramento Valley is blessed with an abundance of jumping spiders. Still, I'd gladly enlist more. I wonder just how many of the dead flies I find lining my window sills would reveal jumping spider bites if I put them under a magnifying glass...

Nov 20, 2009

Mandrill Wants to Eat You

Mandrill is the world's largest monkey. Mandrill lives in Africa. Mandrill's face becomes even more colorful when he's excited. Mandrill is shy and elusive. But Mandrill wants to eat you.

Don't let the goatee and the paint job fool you, folks. The mandrill is equipped with extremely long canines - and they know how to use them. They're also equipped with something that I wish I had: pouches in their cheeks for storing food for later consumption. Instead I have to carry around a fanny pack full of candy bars and salty snacks.

Photo source: Jean-Louis Albert

Nov 19, 2009

Soaking Up The Sun

This is almost the exact scene my wife will encounter one afternoon if this holiday season plays out the way I intend: I will be overfed and lounging on the floor, soaking up the sun.

Photo source: Nigel Fogden

Pot bellied pigs hail from Vietnam and come in 14 subspecies. A word to the wise: these pigs are smart, which makes them trainable. They're also affectionate, which makes them good companions. But they're also voracious eaters and can learn to open refrigerators, cabinets, and pantries, and might even get aggressive with kids who have food they want. Also, they can get to looking like this if their diet isn't regulated. There are many pig rescue facilities out there if you want one that's been abandoned. But be aware of what you're getting into before you get one (the same goes for any pet).

Nov 18, 2009


Anyone know what kind of grasshopper this is? Of course, I'm assuming it's a grasshopper, and not some stone effigy exhumed from an archeological dig. Or maybe a top-secret government robotic drone sent out to collect data on its citizens. Or maybe just a simple insect with an urge to bury its mandibles in my jugular.

UPDATE: Edward thinks this is a Pamphagid, and I'm inclined to believe him.

Photo source: Amihayb

Nov 17, 2009

The Kind of Predation for Me

I wish the first three spines of my anterior dorsal fin were modified into angling rods. I can just imagine myself lying camouflaged in my front yard and waving a lure to trick pizza delivery drivers close enough so I could attack...

Anglerfish, whether benthic, pelagic, living in the deep-sea, or on the continental shelf, have a good life. That's the kind of predation for me: I wave a spine, and my prey does the rest.

Nov 16, 2009

Floating Viscera

With a cap that is 200 cm across and tentacles that can reach more than three meters, the lion's mane jellyfish is among the largest jellies on the planet. Their eight bundles of upwards of 100 stinging tentacles each (which retain their sting even if broken off into fragments), also make this jelly a true nuisance.

Of course, for our purposes, it also looks like a floating clump of viscera. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if my omentum, or even most of my abdominal cavity, looks like a lion's mane jellyfish, sans stinging tentacles.

Photo source: Phil Hartell

Nov 15, 2009

Polar Predator Personality

I never get to post on leopard seals. And truth be told, this video doesn't belong on Ugly Overload. But I have no other outlet, so I'll abuse this one. Besides, anything that eats penguins is a little bit ugly, right? Though, if they taste anything like chicken...

Thanks for the video, Ida. It's an amazing story.

Nov 14, 2009

Wolf Spider Horrors

Follow this link to behold all sorts of wolf spider mother horrors. But to give you a taste, enjoy this video. It's gotta be hard to get mommy and all those pups still long enough for a photo.

Thanks for the link, Pete.

Nov 13, 2009

Junk Bug

Looking for a non-chemical remedy for the aphids in your garden? Look no further than the ant lion. These beasts are the larvae of green lacewings, and they are monsters when it comes to eating all sorts of garden pests, including aphids, spider mites, mealy-bugs, etc.

I imagine they cart around all that junk as camouflage. I've tried using a similar rationale to explain my own slovenly appearance, but my boss has never been sympathetic.

Photo source: Hannes Mitchell

Nov 12, 2009

When a Tree Falls

I posted recently on the importance of whale falls to deep sea environments. Wouldn't you know it (there's a pun in there, look for it...), but tree falls have recently been discovered to serve a similar function.

These two crustaceans (a galatheid crab to the left and a squat lobster below) are but two species of deep-sea dwellers who specialize in eating trees. When a tree falls (screaming?) into the ocean and is carried out to sink into the deep sea, it turns out that there are many specialized creatures ready to dine.

Researchers, who have always had a tough time being able to properly investigate these deep environs, came up with a very clever means of discovering exactly what eats these tree falls. They created a trap with wood bait that had holes just large enough to let larval mollusks and crustaceans in, but small enough to keep then in once they had matured. Then, voila, after a year they lifted the trap to the surface and took a look inside.

Among those found are 15 species of decapod, one species of isopod and one amphipod, including hermit crabs, shrimp and galatheid crabs of the genus Munidopsis and Munida.

The squat lobster is thought to bite off small splinters of wood which it then passes through a 'gastric-mill' of strong teeth used to grind the wood down.

Pretty ingenious, eh? If aliens ever wanted to pull off a similar experiment here, they could lower a pizza-filled trap in my back yard. Then within only a few weeks I'd be too large to escape... I hope aliens don't read blogs.

Thanks for the link, Andrew.

Nov 11, 2009

Caught Between Lemur and Monkey

Tarsiers have the distinction of being an intermediate form between lemurs and monkeys. Like lemurs, they have an excellent sense of smell and are nocturnal. Like monkeys, though, their nose is dry and hairy.

(I think my toddler son falls somewhere in this category, though probably closer to lemurs. Lately he's been way too nocturnal, and his nose is very moist from a cold he's had from the past day or two.)

Why are the tarsier's eyes so large? Most likely because, though they are nocturnal, they lack the reflective membrane that most nocturnal creatures have in their eyes. Why the long fingers? All the better to wring your neck with.

Nov 10, 2009

Babirusa at Rest

Aw, look at the little babirusa sleeping. How sweet is that? Look at the naked, wrinkled, porcine flesh as it naps in the shade. How about those elfin, bat-like ears? Oh, and those precious teeth, with the upper tusks thrusting through the flesh of the snout? Seriously, just like seeing a child who has been misbehaving all day fall asleep and you're reminded of how much you love them, so it is when you see this pig at rest.

Photo source: Marika Bell

Why do those teeth grow through the snout like that? If you talk to the natives of the small tropical Indonesian island of Sulawesi, it's because the pig likes to rest his head by hooking the tusks over low hanging tree branches (I could use tusks like that...).

Or perhaps the tusks curve back like that to protect the eyes and face from the lower, slashing tusks of rival males. Whatever the reason, take a moment and look at your own teeth in the mirror and take some consolation from the fact that no matter how gnarly they are, how much like baked beans or candy corn they may look like, not one of them has grown through your nose and is now protruding over your eye.

Nov 9, 2009

Simply Warthogs

This scene played out in Parc National de la Pendjari, Benin. The big warthog chased around the little one for quite some time.

My first thought was that the big guy's a real jerk. Pick on someone your own size, right? But then, being a big brother, I have many memories of chasing down my young siblings because they egged me on. There's a decent chance that the little guy has it coming.

Bully? Comeuppance? In the end, they're simply warthogs.

Photo source: Jonas Van de Voorde

Nov 8, 2009


Hamadryas baboons have a complicated social life, with the silvery male (see the brute below) having upwards of ten females in his family. A group of families forms a clan, a group of clans forms a band, and several bands form a troop. To further illustrate their complexity (from Big Zoo):

Males will forcefully steal females from other bands, but will not steal from their own family. Instead, they very gradually win over a juvenile female without confrontation. Young males inherit females from their father. Thus the father's social status is passed on to his sons. Females are much smaller than males, so they are not as forceful. However, if a female does not favor her male, she will have a much higher chance of being "stolen" from her male.

Photo source: Gary Heller

The males always look cranky, especially when in full bloom like this one. It's gotta be something in the way their fur is immaculately crimped, or how it looks like someone slammed a baseball bat square on the top of their head. Or maybe it's the tubular nostrils. Regardless, I'll be staying on this side of the fence, away from both his fangs and his feces.

Nov 7, 2009

Logan the Fly

I always thought that a fly's face looks like a baseball being pulled apart at the seams. In fact, I get so distractd by that split and those eyes and that mouth that I've failed to notice the fly's sideburns. Shame on me.

So Steve named this fly Logan (of Wolverine fame, for you non-nerds). Aptly named, though I don't Logan vomits on his food to soften it up before he slurps up the slurry. Though, if Wolverine were to combine his healing powers and adamantine skeleton with the additional mutant power of projectile acid vomiting, he'd be next to unstoppable. Though, the movies might draw a smaller crowd. That's a trade off Marvel might want to look into.

Photo source: Steve Begin

Nov 6, 2009

Rubbing Down Bears

Ever wonder what a bear looks like bald? Well, prepare to have your curiosity satisfied. The three female spectacled bears at the Leipzig Zoo are all in varying stages of baldness. No one's sure why these bears--which come from South America--and many other bears across Europe are losing their hair. They're also suffering from itchiness, so their keepers are rubbing them down with ointments to soothe their skin. How would you like that job? Rubbing down balding, cranky lady bears?

It's got to be something to do with climate or diet, and a task force of vets has been assembled to address the problem. I imagine the bear rubbers are looking forward to getting an answer and a solution sooner than later.

Thanks to Mary for the article, who got this submission past my rigorous screening process just like her little brothers, Joe and Luke. Additional thanks to Ida, Lee Ann, and Gail, all of whom sent in the same story. Great minds think alike.

Nov 5, 2009

Cuttlefish Looks

What I love about cuttlefish is that no two shots of them are ever the same--they're so mercurial. They're considered to be among the most intelligent of invertebrates, and the Romans used their ink as a pigment, calling it sepia (guess what color the ink is).

Perhaps you've heard of cuttlebones, especially if you give them to your birds as a calcium source. Those cuttlebones provide the internal structure for the cuttlefish. They're made of porous argonite, and the mollusks manipulate the gas-to-liquid ratio within the bone's chambers to control their buoyancy.

Ever wonder how they change their appearance so well? They've got 200 specialized pigment cells per square millimeter. Those cells are a marvel of biological engineering, as are their eyes, which are among the most advanced on the planet. And their blood isn't red, it's blue-green. So much to say about the cuttlefish, and yet they only live for about two years.

Nov 4, 2009

Mitey Ants

Brian's compost heap is the scene of much ant-based drama. Here we have an ant beset by a herd of mites. Whether the mites are just along for the ride (benign phoresy) or feeding off the ant, I don't know.

Photo source: Brian Valentine

But the ants know how to take care of themselves. Here we have a pair grooming and de-miting one another. I imagine the ants have to work fast; the mites probably hop right back on if you're not quick enough -- kind of like trying to peel a toddler off your lower legs when she's got it in her mind that you've got candy she wants. Peel and run.

Photo source: Brian Valentine

Nov 3, 2009

Shoe Bills

The shoebill is one of my favorite birds, though I've never seen one in person. They get very large, upwards of 115-150 cm (45-64 in) tall, with a wingspan of 230-260 cm (91-125 in).

I imagine that bill can do some damage, given that it's used to scoop up and devour small crocodiles. They're even reported to feed on young calves. They were known to ancient Arabs, who called them abu markub, meaning father with a shoe. They've even been spotted in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

That shoe bill, which is indeed the size of an adult human shoe, is not only used in devastating attacks, but can be filled with water, which the mother uses to dowse her young in the nest. I'm not sure why she'd do that. But then, if I could fill my mouth with a couple of pints of water, I'd probably dowse all sorts of people--the kids, my wife, coworkers, passersby... I wouldn't have many friends.

Nov 2, 2009

Nightmare Composed

Photo source: Afri

Scale me down to the size of one of the spider's pedipalps and insert me into this scene, and you've composed my worst nightmare (well, monster-oriented nightmare).

Thanks, Alan. You've ruined another night's sleep.

Nov 1, 2009


This is really great news for cockroaches in the French Polynesian islands. We finally have a cure for you zombie cockroaches! That's right, get the word out.

If you're a roach and you've been stung by a jewel wasp with the intent of zombifying you so she can drag you off to feed you live to her young, you're not necessarily finished. No, all you need is an injection of Libersat (a mimic of the neurotransmitter octopamine), and you can be revived.

Kind of like those of us humans who have to carry around an epinephrine injection to ward off anaphylaxis, I suggest you roaches start carting around Libersat. It just might save your life.

Thanks for the link, Moneca.