Dec 31, 2009

Lizards from Igor

I thought it high time I posted some photos from the magnificent Igor Siwanowicz. I always hesitate to post anything of his here, seeing as he can make something ugly and turn it into something you enjoy staring at.

Nevertheless, here are some of his photos of a chameleon (type?) and a crested gecko. You're welcome, lizard lovers.

Dec 30, 2009

Something in Common

Behold the wrathful countenance of the whip scorpion!

More specifically, this is a tailless whip scorpion, from which its scientific name of Amblypigid is derived. What does amblypigid mean? It's Latin for 'blunt rump.' Hmm. I never thought I'd have something in common with an arachnid before.

source: Andrew Snyder

Whip scorpions are also called whip spiders, which is actually a more appropriate name. See this here chart to see where they belong in the arachnid family.

UPDATE: I have been corrected. Again. This does not show the relationship of the various groups of arachnida. Rather, it simply lists them alphabetically. This is the danger when you blog in ignorance. I simply happened to guess right when I said that whip scorpions are more closely related to spiders than to true scorpions.

Dec 29, 2009

Strawberry Crab

A new crab has been discovered off Taiwan's coast. This creature may be pink enough to be worthy of my daughters' adoration, it may look like a scratch-and-sniff toy, but look at that mug. Its carapace may be only an inch across, but it looks mean. I'd have a chip on my shoulder too. Tiny, pink crustaceans have a hard time getting any respect.

Photo source: AP Photo/National Taiwan Ocean University via Yahoo! News

Dec 28, 2009

Frog Mantra

I know how you feel, little frog. The shadows have grown long, your belly is full, your eyelids are heavy. Sleep, little frog, sleep. Pay no attention to the cold linoleum beneath you, or the fact that your handler has left you out in the open, exposed to sun and predators.

Just sleep. It'll all go away.


That's similar to the mantra I hear in my head as my work day comes to a close and there are more things not done than got done.

Photo source: Jason Meinig

Dec 27, 2009

Daddy-long-legs of the Deep

Sander sent the arrow crab of Bay Islands, Honduras along, and reminded me of a dark memory I had while scuba diving years ago. We were in the Sea of Cortez diving a wrecked tug boat. It was gloomy and eerie and perfect until I looked into the corners and windowsills and saw that they were inhabited by crabs not unlike this crab: the daddy-long-legs of the ocean. Arachophobes such as I can never get a reprieve from our fears, even at 60 feet below (and this one has pincers).

Dec 26, 2009

Rosey Killer

Seriously, crab spider, you can't leave flowers alone? I can't safely sniff a rose without fear that you might be lurking within its petals? You'd turn a wonderful setting into a place of fear and death?

This would be like if I were walking up to a pizza place, a place of peace and tranquility and happiness for me, and the pizza sign spinner guy suddenly attacked, right when my guard was down.

Photo source: Marc Dezemery

Dec 25, 2009

Grubs in a Bowl

A bowl full of grubs. I can't get a sense of perspective: is this a large serving crystal bowl, or is it a small plastic piece? Are the grubs freshly dug up and on display as a curiosity, or do I see candied bits of food in the corner, indicating that the grubs might be served up as food?

Photo source: Tiffany Follett

Dec 24, 2009

Pig Faces

You are what you eat. I'm, therefore, a wooly, wallowing, be-pierced porcine creature.

Photo source: ...

Photo source: Christine Davis

Photo source: ifjruzsi

Dec 23, 2009

Plaintive Puppy

First of all, Happy Birthday to Ugly Overload. The blog turns four years old today. That's past middle-aged for a blog, especially given that I do at least one post for every day of the year. And as luck would have it, Blogger is showing me that this blog now has exactly 1,500 posts. That's a whole lotta ugly.

... a whole lotta hours ... with nary a cent to show for it ... I'm surprised my wife has been so accommodating.

Back to the uglies.

Laura captured this beastie in her home town of Redding, CA. She's wondering if its a barn spider or a wolf spider, or if maybe that's the same thing. Regardless, she let the poor thing go. Who could deny that plaintive look? It's actually pulling off a decent pupp-do-eyes face. It's now roaming the wilds of northern california -- a blessed couple of hours from me.

I'm thinking it's a wolfie, with those two forward eyes. Thanks for the photos, Laura.

Dec 22, 2009


Photo source: Nicole LaBarre
I was raised on stories of alligator snapping turtles with their snake-like, lightning-fast strikes. So how can this guy be so nonchalant in his handling of a reptile that can snap his hand off?

Were the childhood stories told to me wrong? This is like finding out about the tooth fairy, only in a good way: there's one less monster on the planet.

Or is it simply that this man is a lot more macho than I am? Being a lifelong suburbanite who spends all day basking in the fluorescent lighting of my accounting office, that's not at all hard to do. Still, this knocks me down the manliness ranking once again. I'll need to go handle some freshly printed paper roughly, to run the risk of a paper cut, thereby restoring my machismo.

Dec 21, 2009

Meet the Desman

I'm always happy when someone introduces a new ugly species to me. After nearly four years of daily blogging, it's good to know there's still more material out there.

Courtney introduced me to the Russian desman. They belong in the mole family, and like their cousins, they are functionally blind insectivores. However, these creatures come equipped with laterally-flattened tails and webbed feet. That's right; they're aquatic.

How do they find their prey? Like other moles, they come stock with Eimer's organs -- sensitive touch organs at the tip of their bi-lobed snouts. Like the good toucan says, they follow their nose.

Their wild populations have been on the decline for decades, but seem to be on the rebound recently, thanks to stricter enforcement of Russian laws protecting them. One thing you can do to help: don't buy desman fur coats. Or, if you do, buy them secondhand. No one will notice the cigarette and stale perfume smell from the old lady you bought it from.

Thanks for the desman, Courtney.

Dec 20, 2009

Why the Long Tongue?

The sun bear is called basindo nan tenggil in Malay, which means “he who likes to sit high." That's because, as the smallest of the world's eight bear species, the sun bear is able to clamber high into the trees, where it spends most of its nocturnal life.

Why the long tongue (and long face, for that matter)? That pink ribbon allows it to lap away at honey and insects deep inside trees that it has torn open, spots where those of us not so endowed aren't able to reach. Winnie the Pooh could have used a tongue like this. Though, that may have hampered the show's success.

Photo source: Vearl Brown

Dec 19, 2009

Devilfish Yellow Eyes

Cate lives in Hooper Bay, Alaska, which has afforded her many adventures that Southerners like me will likely never have (like carving up seal carcasses for dinner). One such adventure involved an arctic devilfish.

These fish are so spiny, that, as Cate puts it, even accidentally catching one can wound you for life (devilfish = aptly named). This particular specimen had been in the tidal mud for a while, yet still it lived, and its yellow eyes tracked Cate as she walked past it. An experience like that could wound a softy like me for life.

But Cate's tougher than that. I highly recommend visiting her blog: but only if you've got the stomach for life in Hooper Bay and among the Yup'ik.

Dec 18, 2009

Eighties Spider

Photo source: JETS Garden
What's worse than a massive spider as big as your hand that weaves webs at face level and masquerades about with the deceptively innocuous name of banana spider (Nephila clavipes)? The same spider, but with leg warmers.

I've looked this spider over, and I think I can just make out a Flock of Seagulls hair doo and pegged jeans. Maybe even a jean jacket. But it's hard to tell--spiders can be so good at camouflage.

Dec 17, 2009

Get Out of My Belly

Should you ever find yourself sprouting a massive saucer-like growth from your abdomen, refer back to this post for more details. You might be about to hatch an adult parasitoid wasp--one that's been pupating inside you as a little, wriggling larvae, and is now preparing for a dramatic exit from your belly.

That's what happened to this aphid. It suffered an Alien-like end to its life, only with the added flair of the saucer (making it even more extraterrestrial).

Photo source: Brian Valentine

Dec 16, 2009

Out on a Dinner Date

There's something so poetic about this picture: the dead tree and the gray clouds juxtaposed against the almost romantic pose of this pair of lappet-faced vultures. I can imagine them flying up to get a good view of the new carcass, giving each other a loving squawk, and then descending to bully their way to the front of the gathered carrion-eating crowd to tear at the hide of the dead beast.

Is that so different from when I take my wife out on a dinner date? Um, yes, I guess it is. Please, no one tell her I compared these two to the two of us.

Photo source: Vearl Brown

Dec 15, 2009

Rooting for the Mites

Photo source: Michael F. Bernard
I know every creature has its place in the ecosystem, even giant water bugs and mites. But water bugs bite me, and no ecosystem should have something like that. It doesn't help that this picture was taken less than an hour from my home.

So I'm rooting for the mites clinging to the back of this water bug. I'm hoping they aren't hanging on for a ride (phoresy), but that they're really drilling down into the meat of this predator and sucking its juices. I know they won't bring the beast down, but I admire their tenacity.

Dec 14, 2009

Caught in Glass

We've all caught bugs beneath a glass, either to catch it and remove it, or else just to stare at it. But I don't think any of us want to catch one that looks big enough to knock the glass over. And look at those beady, red eyes: she's got plans for whoever caught her.

Prepare for shattered glass, a flash of movement, fangs in the jugular, then the skittering of hairy, chitinous legs as it returns to the darkness from whence it came.

Photo source: corblimeys

Dec 13, 2009

Velvet Predator

Admit it. You want to pet it. How can you not, with that velvety coat?

The red velvet mite spends its larval stage as a parasite on arthropods. As nymphs and adults they descend to the forest floor to become hunters. But don't try to eat one yourself: they have no natural predators (even ants won't touch them).

But then, if you don't have any natural predators, that leaves you with only unnatural predators, and that can't be a good thing.

Photo source: rayofsunshine_15205

Dec 12, 2009

I Don't Think You're Ready for this Jelly

The nomura jellyfish gets over 6 feet in diameter and can reach a weight of over 600 lbs (sounds like an uncle of mine). They are nuisances to Japanese and Korean fisherman (see the last photo). But, most importantly for us, they look like pale bells trailing bundles of viscera.

Oh, and one pleasant little note: if hurt or killed they release countless sperm and eggs that settle onto any nearby surface. So be careful if you're scuba diving among them -- you don't want to be coated with jellyfish...jelly.

Thanks for the photo, Jelo.

Dec 11, 2009

Cautionary Tales

This tiger leech is a parasite after my own heart. I appreciate its audacity, daring, and appetite.

It was picked up by Michiel (yes, that's his thumb) while on a jungle trek on Borneo. Of all the wildlife to be seen, the ladies on the trip were the most adept at spotting leeches, since they had all been told lovely taking-a-shower-and-finding-these-blood-sucking-friends-in-your-pants stories. Um, yeah. Those stories would have gotten my attention as well.

Photo source: Michiel Souren

Dec 10, 2009

Yet Another Record

I know I just posted on the naked mole-rat, but my favorite animal has just made the news yet again, so it deserves another mention.

Recent research has shown that naked mole-rats have set yet another record (among many): they can go the longest of all mammals without oxygen. Their warrens are disgusting and stuffy--high in carbon dioxide and low in oxygen. But still they thrive. In fact, they can go six times longer in a hypoxic conditions than other rodents.

We mammals have all endured low oxygen environments: the womb. But somehow, the naked mole-rat, who is also immune to pain, is able to maintain an infant-like ability to go without oxygen. This has great significance for humans, as further research into this ability might be able to help those who have suffered damage from low-oxygen conditions, such as those caused by heart attacks and strokes.

Oh, and this rodent is one of the longest living of their kin: the pregnant female below is 15-years-old.

Thanks for the link, Ida.

Photo source: Rochelle Buffenstein/City College of New York via

Dec 9, 2009

Bitter Irony

Imagine yourself as a happy little toadstool, content in your place in the circle of life. You enjoy the shade and dampness, the tender warmth of decomposition. But then...

...WHAM, your assaulted by a parasitic fungus. A fungus preying upon a fungus! Oh, the bitter irony!

Specifically, these mushrooms have a bad case of bonnet mould. With the many dangers facing fungi, including ending up in my spaghetti sauce and the depredations of Italian plumbers looking for extra lives, fungi need to learn how to get along.

Photo source: Amadej Trnkoczy

Dec 8, 2009

Behold the Piglet Squid

The piglet squid is actually adorable, so it has no right to be here. But, it is a mollusk, and mollusks should always feel welcome at Ugly Overload.

Like so many squids, it's hard for me to find much information on the piglet. They get to be about 10 cm in mantle length (the cylindrical portion of their body), and they sport their legs above their eyes. That's right, they've broken the mold. They don't do the squid thing like anyone else, no, not the piglet. How's that for outside-the-box-thinking?

The next time my boss has an all-staff meeting to motivate us and encourage us toward innovation, I'll be sure to mention this guy.

Thanks for the new squid, Jelo.

Dec 7, 2009

Hairy Armadillo

A couple of observations about the hairy armadillo: 1) I love animals and I love babies, but it took me a couple of seconds to convince myself that a baby hairy armadillo isn't something less than cute. And even now I'm wavering. The longer I stare, the more convincing I need.

Photo source: Baz Ratner via Yahoo!

2) How have I never heard of these creatures? They're fantastic! These South American armored beasts don't get any better looking with age. It's amazing how you can take an otherwise cute-ish animal (the regular armadillo) and add some bristles and you've got something that would make you recoil if your flashlight beam encountered it in the dead of night.

Photo source:

Dec 6, 2009

Fecal Encased Beetle

Case-bearing leaf beetles are known for wearing a case made from excrement until they reach maturity. Mothers make the cases around the freshly-laid eggs:

"Specifically, they compress fragments of their feces into flat squarish plates using structures in their abdomen that are part of their genitalia," said researcher Daniel Funk, an evolutionary ecologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Isn't that a fantastic quote? When the beetle larvae hatch, they don't toss aside mommy's poo case. Rather, they wear it, and even add their own fecal material to it, enlarging it as they grow.

Photo source: CHristopher Brown via

What benefit does wearing a case made of poo offer the beetle larvae? Simple: it's armor.

Researchers offered up the larvae to three would-be predators: the spined soldier bug, the common cricket, and the lynx spider. In most instances, the predators simply ignored the larvae, assuming that no creature would choose to live in poo. Those that did notice the larvae usually hesitated, which gave the larvae a chance to scamper away to safety.

Among those who actually attacked the larvae, they were usually thwarted by the armor. Since the beetle excrement ultimately came from plant matter, it still contained much of the plant's protective juices (think chile heat). Some beetles even coated the armor in sycamore fibers, which is known to kill crickets.

I'll tell you what, nature never ceases to amaze me. I would never recommend wearing your own poo, but in the case of this beetle, it's hard to argue with survival.

And please, no one mention this to my toddler son. He's just learning how to take off his diaper, and he doesn't need any more convincing that wearing his own poo is a good idea.

Thanks for the link, Ida.

Dec 5, 2009

Floss Needed

I have coworkers like this, where it seems like every time you see them they've got something in their teeth. And it's not always some speck of pepper or broccoli from their lunch. No, the festering lump of food caught between their teeth looks to have been there for days. It's hard to look them in the face, or concentrate on the conversation, since you keep thinking of dental floss and tooth picks.

Thanks for the photo, Mike.

Of course, they don't have the excuse that naked mole-rats have. These rodents have their front teeth outside their lips, so that they can burrow with their mouth closed (such polite burrowing). I never thought of it before, but our lips also serve as squeegees for our teeth.

Dec 4, 2009

You've Come a Long Way

Photo source: REUTERS / Alexander Natruskin

The Eight Annual International Cats Exhibition was held in Moscow this December, and this Sphynx cat was one of the many participants.

Is it wearing makeup? How much can we do to this cat? We've bred away its hair, curled its ears, wrapped it in a coat, and painted it.

You've come a long way from your ancient, forest-dwelling ancestors, Mr. Sphynx. You now live in the lap of luxury, and that trajectory is something that most humans aspire to. But I'm not sure that's what you would have wished for.

Dec 3, 2009

Hats Off

Behold the drab glory of the top hat seastar. That's about it. Behold it and wonder what makes it remarkable.

Hold it then flip it over and gape into its bristling maw. Then see the similarities to the sarlacc pit monster from Return of the Jedi.

Thanks for the top hat seastar, Jelo. Would that more victims of this seastar had a Han Solo at hand to rescue them.

Dec 2, 2009

Blue and Red

I didn't believe it at first. Is the Mwanza Flat-headed Rock Agama (Agama Mwanzae) for real? Does Spiderman really have a reptilian cousin?

It seems that he does. This Sub-Saharan African lizard is becoming all the rage among pet owners. And even though I abominate fad pets (or rather, the fad itself), I must admit to feeling an urge to own one of these. Of course, it's only the male that sports such color. Show offs.

Thanks for the fad lizard, Ida.

Photo source: mpgoodey

Dec 1, 2009

Hippo Herd Crowd Surfing

Confrontations between hippos and crocodiles aren't a rare occurrence. Crocs want to eat young hippos, and the herd wants to stop that from happening.

In once such recent event in Tanzania, a crocodile was being faced down by the herd when they found him creeping up on their young ones. In a bid to escape the more aggressive members of the herd, he tried to scamper along the back of the hippos in his own real-world version of Hungry Hungry Hippos.

It didn't end so well for the crocodile.

Thanks for the link, Ida. I never thought it'd be a good idea to scramble across the backs of hippos. Now I know for sure.