I visited some old zoo friends this past weekend and met a new species they've acquired: this is a black and rufous elephant shrew. I'd worked a bit with the short-eared elephant shrew, but as you can see, it is not nearly as elephantine:
I'd rather work with either than a real elephant though. Those guys can kill you. With these the worst risk is probably that'd you laugh yourself silly.
-Wombat (No Relation)
Photos from Wikimedia Commons.
May 31, 2011
May 26, 2011
May 22, 2011
Monday May 23rd is World Turtle Day, first declared in 2000 by American Tortoise Rescue. And for the occasion we've got someone who is obviously VERY happy with his ugly turtle.
Pictured is Japanese biologist Munetaka Nakagawa and the enormous soft-shelled turtle that he recently found in a river in Kyoto. It's thought to be over 50 years old and probably the largest of its species in Japan, at 38.5 centimeters long and a weight of 7.3 kg.
Not only is that guy smiling, apparently Japanese culture in general puts a more positive spin on this ugly animal than you might expect:
Soft-shelled turtles are traditionally associated with nourishment and strength. For that reason, Nakagawa suggested, "It may have appeared to send us a message, 'Cheer up, Japan!'"
And I'm sure it will cheer everyone up to see this excellent close-up profile shot of an Asian softshell (courtesy of Wikipedia):
Slow and steadily,
- Wombat (No Relation)
May 21, 2011
We've seen some psycho demon chihuahuas recently; let's see what kind of deviltry can come from cats.
This cat is rage personified:
And this cat is just pure evil. (Note: embedding is disabled on this video, but I highly recommend watching it on youtube.)
May 19, 2011
May 17, 2011
When Jaques Cousteau led an expedition to the lake, he found "thousands of millions" of these frogs cruising it's depths. He reported some weighing as much as two pounds and stretching out to nearly twenty inches. But local fishermen say the days of those behemoths are gone. They're smaller now, and harder to find.CITES has listed them as 'vulnerable.' And why? One of the main reasons is that geniuses in Lima, Peru, have decided that if you make a drink with some of this frog's juice it will act as an aphrodisiac.
Now, it's true that Telmatobius culeus means "aquatic scrotum" (not a recommended band name, at least in Latin) But take one look at the frog and you'll see why it received that charming moniker. Believe me, though I don't know from personal experience, drinking aquatic scrotum juice will do nothing for your own nether regions.
Photos via Ever So Strange
May 11, 2011
May 9, 2011
I thought I knew a lot about sloths. I used to work with two-toed sloths as a zookeeper. I know that the closest relatives of sloths are the apparently very different anteaters and armadillos, and that together they all make up an order called xenarthra. Hey, I even wrote a mystery with a sloth in the title, a sloth on the cover, and where important plot-related peril happens to sloths.
And yet somehow I only recently stumbled upon this species, the maned sloth. It's reportedly the rarest species, so I guess that's how I missed it.
Sloths are definitely not conventionally attractive, but I think they're the cutest things ever - especially the babies. I mean, if this doesn't prove that the world needs the word "ugdorable" I don't know what does:
That maned sloth, though...
But hey, maybe all it needs is a good makeover. It doesn't look too bad in this artist's rendering:
You can have some ugly animal craft fun by downloading that cutout-and-assemble maned sloth at the Yamaha website (I am not making that up).
You can also read more about this sloth and other xenarthans at - where else - xenarthrans.org, the website of the conservationists who specialize in them. And see more pictures, including some very clear views of that unfortunate hairstyle, at the website of photographer Kevin Schafer.
Wombat (No Relation)
Two-toed sloth baby by Flickr user justonlysteve.
May 6, 2011
Finally, someone to accurately portray how my eyes looked during operating systems class!
Photo by Toby Hudson
This obliging masked lapwing (shown below enjoying a juicy worm) has provided a prime depiction of the nictating membrane, or third eyelid, that provides eye moisture and protection to various animals while still maintaining visibility. The lapwing uses its nictating membrane to blink but closes the whole eyelid to sleep.
Photo by Toby Hudson
Shown here is a chicken blinking:
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons
A red-tailed hawklet winks for the camera:
Photo by flikr user ronmdon
And yes, this is the same nictating membrane you have seen up close and personal on your pets:
Photo source: Washington State University
Thanks to alert reader JIP for bringing this terrifying horizontal eyelid to our attention. Happy 25th birthday today!
May 4, 2011
Ah, the Pekingese.
Photo source: Petfinder.com
The ancient toy dog breed beloved of the Chinese Imperial court. Whence came its flat face and bow-legged gait, characteristics of the breed for over 2,000 years? According to legend,
A lion and a marmoset fell in love. But the lion was too large. The lion went to the Buddha and told him of his woes. The Buddha allowed the lion to shrink down to the size of the marmoset. And the Pekingese was the result.
Photos courtesy of My Opera and the Amazona Zoo
Photo source: Good Dog Care
A less common version of the story substitutes a butterfly for the marmoset, but I think the family resemblance is more obvious in the marmoset version.