Mar 26, 2011

Revisiting an old favorite: the sphynx cat

What a heart-warming image of motherly love.

Photo source: The Weasel King

You can just feel the waves of joy, contentment, and pride emanating off her. I've not yet experienced motherhood myself, but I can only hope such delight is in store for me when the happy time comes.

This cat, however, just seems intent on showing us his privates:

Photo source: Wazaw

For more sphynx goodness, visit Sphynx Cat Pictures and the Sphynx Cat Blog.

Mar 24, 2011

Please consider breath mints

Few of us on a relaxing tropical vacation expect to be confronted by the leftover lunch, fat and shiny tongue, and ultra-hairy underlip of a towering pachyderm. While standing under this truly enormous animal, it was hard not to imagine that this gaping maw could be my last earthly sight. Luckily, this elephant was a friendly sort, perhaps because I was feeding her carrots. Elephants at the Taman Safari near Jakarta, Indonesia, are trained to accept food placed directly into their mouths, rather than picking it up with their trunks, for the entertainment and momentary shock of tourists.

As an elephant enthusiast and regular reader of elephant news, I had despaired of ever seeing these majestic creatures featured on this blog. It just goes to show that beauty is very hard to maintain from all angles.

Bonus: an aggressive zebra in the drive-through part of the safari demands carrots as well.

The Adorable Water Deer

No, I didn't mess up and post this on the wrong blog. The water deer, Hydropotes inermis, is quite deserving of a place here. It lives in China and Korea, in swampy regions and grasslands, where it follows a normal, deerish vegetarian lifestyle.

It also has three inch fangs.

Unfortunately for your nightmares, that is not a Photoshop, just a picture of a healthy male deer. Those giant teeth are used during mating season, when male deer fight each other for females' affections.

Now, try and imagine what Bambi would have been like with one of these starring.

Not trusting deer anymore,

Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia and (NSFW/18+)

Mar 18, 2011

Possibly the most horrible ants ever

Wombat normally handles the posts about animals that don't act right, but these are so horrible that I just have to post them. I'd recommend not reading this post before/during/after eating, because you might not for another week. If you still want to continue, I bear no responsibility for the consequences.
Today's ants come from the genus Adetomyrma, more commonly known as "dracula ants". The sort of fill the evolutionary gap between ants and wasps, but it's their dietary habits that make them so disturbing. While the name "dracula ant" makes you think they'd go for blood for dinner, it's not your blood they want. According to Myrmecos Blog,

...ants have a skinny little waist through which their digestive tract must pass. Solid food would lodge in the bottleneck and kill the ant, so the ants can’t eat solids. They can only drink.

Yet, in forgoing solid food ants miss out on all sorts of protein available in the environment. Ants must either give up protein or figure out how to convert solids into drinkable juice. That’s where the larvae come in.

Larvae are made to eat and can handle all manner of food. They consume the solids that the worker ants have brought back to the nest and, after a little digestion, pass the protein back as a liquid. Most ant species have a simple, elegant way to do this: they regurgitate for the adults when prompted. But this direct food-passing behavior only appears in the more recent ant lineages. The ancient subfamily Amblyoponinae- including Adetomyrma- diverged from the rest of the ants over 100 million years ago and couldn’t inherit this sensible way of doing things.

Natural selection is a blind process. Evolution often solves problems with unexpected, rube-goldberg solutions that any reasonable designer would never implement, and the Amblyoponines happened on one of those odd solutions. They found a more morbid way to get at all those larval proteins. The adult ants just chew a hole in the larval skin. The hemolymph oozes out, and the adults take a drink.

Yes, these ants cut open their own young and drink their blood. Fortunately, the young seem to have no long-term harm (besides scaring from having their abdomen chewed open), and grow up to continue the cycle.

Enjoy your lunch,

Pictures courtesy of Myrmecos Blog and (NSFW/18+)

Mar 16, 2011

Poof Go the Spores

Lie is hard for tropical carpenter ants. You've got to work in the heat (wet heat), with little fluctuation in the seasons. You've got no union protection, and your boss treats you like just another drone. But that's nothing compared to zombie fungus.

That's right, here's yet another tale of critters getting zombified by a parasitic something or other. In this case, it's a fungus that infects a tropical carpenter ant, coerces it to climb 25cm up a plant, face NNE, latch onto the plant with its mandibles, and then die. The fungus then sprouts the twiggish growth you see below, and *poof* go the spores (a great band name, if I do say so myself).

Thanks for the link, Kris. I'll be sure to skip the mushrooms on my pizza tonight. You can never be too sure.

Photo source: Pete Huele via CBC

Mar 14, 2011

Someone get these guys a makeover

One of my highly placed media sources suggested that we might be interested in this video, and I couldn't agree more. Poor things, who does their hair?

(Those are Zanzibar red colobus monkeys, and you can quit at about the one minute mark if all you care about is ugly animals.)

Not that I have any right to talk,
-Wombat (No Relation)

Mar 9, 2011

Race to save the ugly

In Vietnam, hundreds of people are racing to clean up a lake that's home to one of only four known specimens of a species of giant freshwater turtle.

Rafeteus swinhoei is revered, almost sacred to the Vietnamese, but sadly, this hasn't kept it from the brink of extinction.

Some even believe that the turtle currently living in Hoan Kiem lake is the same individual that helped a 15th-century king defeat an army with a weapon given to him by the gods. Unfortunately, this legendary status hasn't stopped people from throwing trash into the lake in Hanoi, which has become polluted and full of debris. Now, open wounds are visible when the turtle is spotted, as you can see on its neck in the photo above.

Would-be rescuers are cleaning the lake, pumping in fresh water, and hope to coax the turtle onto a small platform so they can treat its injuries.

Wishing them luck,
-Wombat (No Relation)

Mar 7, 2011

Your Monday ugdorable

It's another baby aardvark! Coming right at you! From the Detroit Zoo! Thanks again to Zooborns!

-Wombat (No Relation)

Mar 3, 2011

Giant Centipede Doesn't Respect Food Chain

The food chain, while informal, does tend to have a few rules. Chief among them is the general consensus that those of us with backbones get to eat the ones that don't (I am in favor of this being a rule, even if it isn't, owing to the fact that I, and most of you reading, have backbones). Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell the Giant Amazonian Centipede about this little rule. He tends to enjoy eating such things as mice and bats.

Yes, that mouse is in trouble. The Giant Centipede grows over a foot long (see first picture for scale - no that's not me, I'd be way to chicken), and is extremely venomous. Mice are easy, he just has to sneak up behind them. Bats are a bit tougher, seeing as the Giant Centipede isn't content to catch them on the ground. Instead, he nabs them in flight.

He does this by climbing onto cave ceilings and hanging down. Then, when a bat flies by, he grabs it and bites. His venom is so powerful that the bat is killed instantaneously. It takes him an hour or two to eat, but after that, I think he deserves it. Watch a video of him in action below.

Strangely, people have been adopting them as pets recently. If you decide to follow them, remember
extreme care must be taken while handling them due to the fact that the slightest trace of the venom can cause a reaction on the skin. Fortunately, the poison from the Scolopendra gigantea is insufficient to kill a healthy human adult. The alarmingly massive centipede can, however, cause symptoms such as local sharp pain, swelling, chills, fever, weakness, and uncontrollable running-away-and-screaming.
Pictures courtesy of and Damn Interesting.
Youtube video courtesy of user Twinkdizogg

Mar 2, 2011

Inside-Out Sea Life

We've seen the hagfish - also called the slime eel - before on this blog, and how could we not? It fits right in here, and not just for its gray, limp, featureless, basically gross appearance.

The names used for this species can be misleading. It's definitely not an eel, and it might not even be a fish, because it's got no spine and its skeleton is made entirely of cartilage. (Note to hagfish: if you want to be classfied as a type of vertebrate, you need to have vertebrae. Sorry.)

But the "slime" part is right on the mark, and this is their revolting glory: when disturbed or threatened, they ooze out unbelievable amounts of disgusting goop.

You can see a lovely video demonstration of this ability here, but actually, the inspiration for today's post is an entirely different ugly fact about the hagfish.

These guys have rather repulsive eating habits: they're scavengers, and they will swim inside a dead carcass and eat their way out. (Using the lovely mouthparts in the photo above, which you can see a enlarged version of here, if you're sure you want to.)

And now, a researcher has discovered that they don't do this just to get at the tasty inner parts first. They immerse themselves in their meal of rotting food because they eat through their skin. Seriously: their skin actually absorbs nutrients faster than their intestines.

Some animals have adaptations that we envy. Who wouldn't like to fly, or see in the dark, or - my favorite - sleep through the winter? But you know what, hagfish? That's ok - you can keep yours.

-Thanks anyway,
Wombat (No Relation)

Thanks to the award winning blog Not Exactly Rocket Science, perfect for all your science needs.