Feb 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!

Another look at our old ugly friend the purple frog in honor of Leap Day.

Feb 27, 2012

Your Monday ugdorable

Because you can't have too many baby aardvarks. Born at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago in January and just introduced to the press last week.

Feb 23, 2012

Ugly devotion

Isn't that an endearing picture of motherly love? Even if it is so ugly that it makes you a little queasy?

You didn't know that worms take such good care of their offspring? Well, that's not a worm. It's a caecilian, which is a type of amphibian. Believe it or not, this animal is actually a limbless, burrowing cousin to frogs, toads and salamanders. And they not only look quite different their relatives, they have rather different reproductive strategies. About 75% of the species give birth to live young, and the rest, like this one, lay eggs that are guarded by the female till they hatch.

This particular caecilian is one of seven new species that scientists discovered recently in India, which are members of an entirely new family. You may love ugly animals, but I'm betting you can't beat these researchers: they spent a total of 1,000 man-hours digging to find these creatures. Now that's devotion.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Feb 16, 2012

Teeny chameleons

That's not just a very close close-up of that newly discovered chameleon. No matter your screen size, that photo is probably way larger than life-size, as you can judge from the next photo:

To be fair, that is apparently a juvenile, but even the adults are only a little bit more than an inch in total length. This is one of four new species of tiny chameleons discovered in Madagascar, described in a paper published this week.

As so often with these stories it's happy and sad at the same time - from "Cool animal!" to "Uh oh" in the space of a blog post - and for these guys, the discoverers even immortalized this in their names. The unique wildlife of Madagascar is under threat from habitat destruction, and with only a small range, these newly discovered reptiles are at special risk. The threat inspired the Latin names of two of the new species. One is called Brookesia tristis, derived from the word for "sad," and another is rather obvious: Brookesia desperata.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Feb 12, 2012

The ugly member of the family

Seals are up to some shenanigans lately over at my other blog, which reminded me that it's been way too long since we saw an elephant seal here.

When people think "seal," they think of adorable pups that need to be protected from cruel hunters, or playful trained performers at a zoo or aquarium. (They also are often actually picturing a sea lion, but that's another story.)

And even elephant seals can fool you when they are young and cute and making puppy-dog eyes:

But cute little boys will eventually grow into their ugly adult snout and their ugly adult behavior, which involves harassing the ladies and lots of between-male violence, like in this photo:

As the photographer describes it: "Here one male ambushed an older male opening those wounds on his neck - and then immediately fled the area." The shot nicely captures the sand kicked up by the action, as well as an angle on that lovely proboscis that we don't usually get to see.

So if you're the next one to find an adorable seal pup curled up on your sofa, think twice before you ask if you can keep it, because you might end up with this:

Even as a lover of ugly animals, that's way closer than I need to get.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Photos by Flickr users Mike Baird and especially check out more by Joe McKenna.

Feb 8, 2012

Gastropod dessert

I've often wondered why snails are a delicacy, but the idea of eating slugs is gross. Why isn't the banana slug sliming along the moss in that picture just as delicious as a plate of escargot drenched in garlic butter and herbs?

Well, actually, that particular banana slug IS edible. There's a hint in this shot:

Don't feel bad for that little guy because of the stick coming out of his far end. It's there because that's the new Banana Slug Sucker from our friends at Archie McPhee. Banana flavored, of course, and guaranteed not to produce any more slime than you usually get when licking a lollipop. I haven't tried one myself yet, but somehow I feel entirely confident that it is more delicious than this:

If you hurry up and order, maybe you can even have one for Valentine's Day instead of boring non-mollusk-shaped chocolate.

Your friend on the ugly animal/confectionery news beat,
-Wombat (No Relation)

Sugar- and stick-free banana slugs by Flickr user Such a Groke

Feb 4, 2012

Giant sea monster!

Scientists looking for a deep-sea fish had a thrill when they also brought up seven of these giant amphipods, discovered in 1899 but only observed a handful of times since then.

If this creature looks unreal to you, in fact it feels unreal as well, according to the scientist who led the expedition, who said "They actually don't feel real. They feel like plastic toys."

Giant is a relative term, of course: Amphipods are usually about a half-inch long, while the largest of these specimens was eleven inches. Still, for those of us who aren't accustomed to seeing amphipods of any size, it can be hard to appreciate how unusual this is. If you're not impressed enough, the researcher has a comparison that might convince you:

"It’s a bit like finding a foot long cockroach."

Uh, nice... I think.

-Wombat (No Relation)