Aug 31, 2010

Eyeball Licking

Why do geckos, such as the crested gecko below, lick their eyeballs? The easy answer is: because they can. (We humans would lick a whole lot more than just our lips if our tongues were longer. I shudder to think what my toddler son would do with his.)

An equally easy answer is it's because some species of gecko (again, like the crested gecko) don't have eyelids. Therefore, they use their tongues and saliva to keep their eyes moist and clean. Probably the gecko equivalent of a seductive eye wink would be a seductive eyeball licking. Tongues can be just as expressive as eyelids, so it probably works out for them. Though, if you're a thirsty gecko, it's got to suck when you, out of habit, lick your eyeball with your dry tongue. Stay hydrated, my reptilian friends.

Photos 1 & 2 courtesy Erin

Aug 30, 2010


Southern Elephant Seal on the Falklands Islands, thanks to The Guardian. With male elephant seals being from 14-16 feet long and weighing from 3000-5000 pounds, if this guy wants to sleep in on a Monday morning, I think no one better argue with him.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Aug 25, 2010

Featured Creature

There's a new blog in town that you need to check out. It's called The Featured Creature, and it's something you'll want to visit daily. Carly's idea for the blog is simple but brilliant -- feature a new creature every day. You'll find plenty of ugly, like the bat photos below, but fair warning: you'll also find some really pretty animals like peacock butterflies and pheasants.

The photos you see below belong to free-tail bats, aka mastiff bats. Free-tails (so named for their unusually long, rodent-like tails) are a large family bats, consisting of robust, large, incredibly nimble fliers who are also some of the fastest out there. Some live in small groups in the hollows of trees, while others live in cave complexes in colonies with millions of individuals. I can't imagine the enormous piles of guano that must accumulate in those caves, nor the cockroaches that must feast upon them. Neither do I want to consider my own death in said pile...but I just did.

Photo credit (1 -, 2 -

Aug 24, 2010

Ugdorable? Aye Aye, Sir!

Thanks to Zooborns for the news that a baby aye-aye has been born at the Philadelphia Zoo!

The aye-aye is a nocturnal prosimian (the same family as the much less ugly lemurs). Their keepers seem generally to have a sense of humor about them, which you see in the names they give their charges: this little guy is called Smeagol and his mom is Medusa.

For more info on the aye-aye and his relatives, check out the Duke Primate Center.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Aug 16, 2010

Ugly is more than skin deep

The naked mole rat has been the subject of a number of posts on this blog. (Here is one nice one.) This is only proper, since there's nothing about the critter that isn't ugly, from the tip of its gross hairless tail through its misshapen wrinkled body to its buck teeth that are visible even when its mouth is completely closed.

But if you think "poor naked mole rat, if it only had fur, it would be cute," you haven't met the Damaraland mole rat. This less well-known cousin of the naked guys is completely covered with fur, but as you can see, that doesn't make a bit of difference when you've still got tiny pinprick eyes, two holes for a nose, and those same horrible buck teeth.

What's more, it's got the ugliest attitude of just about any animal I've ever met. What you see in the photos above is a colony of Damaraland mole rats in captivity thirsting after the blood of their keeper. Naked mole rats are as weak and inoffensive as they come, but Damaraland mole rats bite first and they don't ask questions later, either. All they do is bite every chance they've got. HARD.

According to the IUCN, the Damaraland mole rat is not endangered, and conservationists don't see any imminent risk to it, so its status is "Least Concern." I can go along with that. Worry about some other species - this animal can obviously take care of itself!

With painful memories,
Wombat (No Relation)

Read more about both kinds of mole rats here. Or don't; it might just encourage them.

Aug 13, 2010

Resenting the Olm

The olm is another one of those uglies who's really got it all. This aquatic cave salamander is naked, blind, elongated, vaguely obscene, and keeps its juvenile feathery, bloody-looking gills for the whole of its remarkably long life.

The olm lives in caves in Slovenia and Croatia, and the Slovenians seem to appreciate their uglies: they've put this critter on a coin:

While small animals generally have shorter lifespans than big animals, the olm has been recorded as living to 70 years of age, and recently published research suggests that they can live past 100.

I can't say I'm actually happy about this fact. I get annoyed enough when an animal has more Facebook friends than I do. The last thing I want to hear about is more animals that live longer than I probably will. I have places to go, books to write, cookies to eat... is the olm really going to make better use of all that time?

Read more about the olm and the scientists who study it at the excellent blog Not Exactly Rocket Science.

Wombat (No Relation)

Aug 10, 2010

Just because you're little doesn't mean you don't have AWESOME teeth

This deep-sea dragonfish from the waters around Australia, one of the creatures surveyed as part of the Census of Marine Life, even has teeth on its tongue. As so neatly put by our friends at The Guardian, "It would be a terrifying animal if it was not the size of a banana."

Wombat (No Relation)

Aug 9, 2010

Satisfied Frog is Satisfied

I came across this picture in my RSS feed one morning. It was posted on Fork Party (some NSFW content).

I believe this is a white's dumpy frog, but I may be wrong. I'm an entomologist, not a frog expert. If I'm wrong, please correct me in the comments.

These frogs are all the proof I need for global warming. I mean, how else can a frog melt like this?

Aug 7, 2010

Mitey Spider

It's rare that I feel bad for a spider. But I've got a soft spot for jumping spiders.

You see, he isn't festooned with decorative orange bulbs. He's infested by mites. The ones on the side of his head and on his back might not be so bad (though they may bleed him dry). But that one between the eyes is just too much. I don't know much about mite ecology. Will they eventually drop off and let the spider be? Will they kill their host? Do they come in any other festive colors?

UPDATE: Hugh Yeman informs us that this spider, as evidenced by the lack of pedipalps is actually a female. Thanks, Hugh.

Photo source: liewwk

Aug 6, 2010

Now THAT'S an appetite!

My dad forwarded me this series of photos a while back. I think he was trying to tell me something about my own eating habits.

Does anyone know what species of snake this is?

Aug 5, 2010

Happy Hanzaki Matsuri!

Are you getting ready for the biggest ugly animal holiday anywhere? You might still have time to get a ticket to Japan in time for Sunday, when the village of Yubara Onsen holds its annual Giant Salamander Festival.

The festival is held every August 8 and begins with a parade led by the two GIANT giant salamander floats in the photos.

If you can't get there for the festival, they have an aquarium where you can view actual live giant salamanders year-round. And of course if it's closer, don't forget that you can celebrate the holiday with a trip to see the giant salamanders at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

With huge, slimy enthusiasm,
-Wombat (No Relation)

Photos by Flickr user world_waif and from the blog Alt Japan, where you can read more about the festival.

Aug 2, 2010

Your Monday ugdorable

A baby long-eared bat at a wildlife rescue in Somerset, England, thanks to our friends at the Telegraph's Pictures of the Day.

Selected for your amazement and wonder by Wombat (No Relation).