Sep 30, 2007

Beware the Toothpick Fish!

No, seriously. Beware the toothpick fish. Better known as the candiru of the Amazon basin, this nasty little translucent parasite has a worse reputation than the piranha.

The candiru hunts down fish by following the scent of ammonia being exhaled by the fish's gills. Once the candiru has found the ammonia source, it latches on to the flesh and digs its way in until it hits an artery. Then it goes to town with its razor teeth. The host fish is unable to dislodge the candiru due to the umbrella-like array of spines it uses to lodge itself firmly in place. The attack lasts for several minutes before the candiru detaches and goes on its merry way. The host fish rarely survives the attack.

Well, guess what happens when a human pees in the water and there's a candiru lurking nearby? It's a case of horrific mistaken identity. The attack ensues just as outlined above, only the candiru has to dig further into the...nether regions...of the hapless victim to strike gold.

Sleep well tonight. The world can be a very ugly place.

Thanks for the nightmares, Martha. I now have one more reason not to go swimming in the Amazon River.

Photo source: Oregon Piranha Exotic Fish Exhibit

Sep 29, 2007

So Much Effort, So Little Time

The cicada is always good fodder for this blog, as is anything that metamorphoses from a nasty little monster into a winged monster.

Robert took these photos of an emergent cicada while in Louisiana, US. I didn't know that these bugs can live for years as larvae underground, only to emerge as glorious flying insects and then die four weeks later.

Can you imagine living most of your life as a hideous troll of a teenager, and then only having a few years left as an actual adult? Oh, wait. I know quite a few people like that. I'll go ask them.

Thanks for the photos, Robert.

Sep 28, 2007

Ethereal Ratfish

This story was sent to me by Julia, banno, and Ida. You're looking at an albino ratfish. Albinism is very rare to find in adult fish. They get gobbled up too quickly. This one was pulled out of the Puget Sound in Washington state, US. They occur one in about seven million. Those are some long odds.

I've posted on the ratfish before. But this one has such an ethereal quality to it. It's almost...almost pretty.

BTW, this fish was yanked out of the water with a net, but was whisked off to an aquarium, where she will no doubt live a long, fruitful life of being stared at by ichthyologists.

Thanks, Julia, banno, and Ida. You've got the Ugly Eye (a rare gift).

Photo source: Seattle Times

Sep 27, 2007

Snot Otter - Hellbender

This has been a few days in the making. I am so, so glad that they didn't simply name this monster the 'Giant American Salamander' or some such. No. Instead, it is known as the Hellbender or Snot Otter (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis). You really couldn't ask for better names. This amphibian should be very proud of itself. Not many newt cousins get that kind of respect.

These crayfish eaters are native to the Apalachian Mountains of the North American east. The longest one of record was 2 1/2 feet, and they've been known to live as long as 29 years. The Snot Otter is truly an epic creature.

I want one. I'm considering returning to my childhood dream of becoming a herpetologist, if for no other reason than to study them.

Photo source:

Sep 26, 2007

Rock Snot

Chris sent me this article on an algae plague that is running rampant across many parts of the globe. I know, I know, algae isn't an animal, but this is Ugly Overload and I am an equal opportunity purveyor in ugly beings.

This algae (Didymosphenia geminata), has been dubbed 'rock snot'. You can't ask for a better name for this invasive plant. It's posing a real threat to many aquatic ecosystems, since it smothers food supplies to insects, which in turn may endanger fish populations. The real kicker is that there is no real way to stop it. Algae is a single-celled, noxious organism that can be spread from pond to stream to lake with ease.

Rock snot. I think I used to call my brother that. I think I also used to call him a single-celled, noxious organism. Life comes around full circle some times.

Thanks for the link, Chris.

Photo source: MSNBC

Sep 25, 2007

Demon Eyes with an Extra Leg

Geoffrey took a trip from his native Germany to Australia. While there he encountered this lady at a zoo. This is the first time I've ever posted on a wallaby.

Geoffrey caught her at just the right moment: demon eyes, distractingly cute face and curled paws hinting at the evil within. But it's the second shot that seals the deal. That extra leg protruding from her belly would be more than a little disconcerting if I didn't know that she was a marsupial.

Thanks for the photos, Geoffrey.

Sep 24, 2007

Mixed Blessing

Most of us recall that scene in E.T. when Elliott frees all of the frogs slated for dissection in his biology class. As a lad I cheered that moment, though I later had to do the dirty deed in the eighth grade.

Well, those days are now over, or, at least, greatly reduced. Hiroshima scientists, as reported at Pink Tentacle, have developed a see-through frog. This new creature will allow scientists to study the progress of various illnesses and diseases in the hapless frog without having to kill and dissect it. Why cut it open when you can see the blood vessels and organs right before your eyes?

Talk about a mixed blessing. If I'm one of these frogs, I'm feeling releaved that I won't have to suck in some ether and end up under the scalpel. On the other hand, what's all this talk about illnesses and diseases? Elliot's job might not be over.

Thanks for the article, Arachnophile.

Photo source: Pink Tentacle

Sep 23, 2007

Purple Mark and Tons of Legs

I have never encountered one of these, for which I am very, very grateful. You're looking at a top view of the house centipede.

Poor Victorya has been besieged by a swarm of these monstrous pests in her Manhattan apartment. Though Victorya is happy to let spiders share her pad, she has no such inclination when it comes to the house centipede. As she put it, when you smash one it leaves a "purple mark and tons of legs stuck to the wall." Yummy.

Keep up the good fight, Victorya. We're all rooting for you. I hope purple matches your decorating scheme.

Thanks for the photo, Victorya.

Photo source: University of Nebraska

Sep 22, 2007

More Confused

Maybe someone can help me here. When is a mudpuppy not a larval tiger salamander or an axolotl (I'm sure most of you lie awake at night wrestling with this same problem)? I can't get anyone in the know to give me a straight answer. I believe the photo below is of a mudpuppy. Can someone verify that for me?

Thanks for the link, Rasmus. I'm more confused now then before.

Photo courtesy:

Sep 21, 2007

Check Your Can

I try to take my garbage cans to the curb during the daylight hours. That way I can see any spiders that might be lurking on the handles (and I've found quite a few, so my fears are warranted!).

But I would have to add a kevlar vest, a welder's shield, and butcher's gloves to my routine if I had to contend with the coconut crab. I can't get enough of these monsters. I wonder if they make for good guard crabs. I'm sure they need less attention than a dog.

Thanks for the photo, Tyrel.

UPDATE: I have spurned one of my readers, for which I must apologize. Frigga had linked to this image in a comment on my original coconut crab. I am sorry, Frigga--I hadn't seen that link. (This is me giving you the credit you deserve!).

Sep 20, 2007

Mocking Me

K mocked my fear of the garden spider by going macro-happy. Say hello to K's orb weaver. I had no idea they were this freaky, but what do you expect to see when you look this close at the underbelly of evil?

Thanks for the photos, K. Now I'm even more afraid.

Sep 19, 2007

National Security

I mentioned in my last post that I wouldn't be willing to hold a huge grub in my hand. I think the internet is conspiring against me. In a freakish moment of synchronicity, I stumbled across this photo.

Can this be? Can there be a grub that gets this large? What on earth would it metamorphose into? Do we need to warn the Japanese that there is another Gargantuan on the horizon? This might be a matter of national security.

Photo source:

Sep 18, 2007

Bug Warming

William and his girlfriend did their good deed for the day when they rescued this Sphinx Moth from a rain storm. Mothra, as the winged beast came to be known, was quite content to sit in William's hand while it warmed up and tried off.

According to WhatsThatBug (a fantastic site--thank you my readers), this looks to be a Striped Morning Sphinx Moth (
celerio lineata). Just be glad you didn't encounter this monster's larvae, William. They grow to be 3 1/2". I, myself, might have been less inclined to allow a huge grub to warm up in my hand than a moth. I'm so superficial.

Sep 17, 2007

Tell Me It's Not True

Please, someone tell me that this is photoshopped. I don't know if I can live in a world with crustaceans who eat the same chips as me. What are they? How did they get their...legs...on a bag of Doritos? Should we alert Frito-Lay that their inventory is under threat?

Thanks for the photo, bats. You've just ruined my appetite.

Sep 16, 2007

Always a Winner

Sphynx cats are always favorites at any cat show. But you'll always have a winner when you dress one up in a costume.

I hope that cats aren't really the masters of the Underworld. If that's the case, then this cat's owner is in for a pretty rough eternity.

Thanks for the link, Kristene.

Photo source:

Sep 15, 2007

Harbinger of Death

They've discovered a new fruit bat species on an island south of Manila. It's being called the Australian grey-headed flying fox (pteropus poliocephalus).

I guess Mother Nature decided we need another fruit bat out there. That's fine. But does something as innocuous as a fruit-eater have to look like a harbinger of death? Even your average vampire is ducking for cover.

Photo source: Yahoo!

Shameless Plug

Our frequent photo-donor and infamous invert expert, Jade, has begun a video blog of his own. I recommend you all support the good man and see what he has to offer.

Click this link for some Unique Vids.

The blogging world just got a bit more action.

Sep 14, 2007

Snapping Turtles Are More Exciting Than Weeds

Roderick encountered this snapping turtle in his driveway. I must admit that I am jealous. My driveway encounters are limited to trash from my neighbor's yard and some weeds I haven't sprayed yet. Snapping turtles are much more exciting than weeds.
I guess this scenario begs the question: what did you do next? Did you leave it be and wear work boots from then on? Did you haul it off to the nearest creek? Or, like I would have done, did you cower in a corner until it ambled off your property?
Thanks for documenting your run-in with this beast, Roderick.

Sep 13, 2007

World's Largest Terrestrial Crustacean

I may have discovered my new favorite crustacean. I am shocked that I have never heard of it before. Behold the coconut crab (birgus latro). It is derived from the hermit crab, and is the world's largest terrestrial crustacean (a title I had previously assigned to a curmudgeonly uncle of mine).

These monsters are indigenous to Indian and Pacific ocean islands. They are called coconut crabs because their pinchers are strong enough to crack coconuts, which they do to harvest the cocounut meat. They are also known as robber crabs and palm thieves, because of their propensity for stealing shiny objects and stashing them away in their hideouts. I think if my new Farberware pot was ever stolen by one of these, I'd just let it go. I don't think you can reason with them.

Photo source: K Singer via

Sep 12, 2007

Gazing Upon You

I have a deep and abiding love for the vampire squid (vampyrotheuthis infernalis). My affection for it has only grown with this set of photos.

First, feel what it means to have a vampire squid gazing upon you (and look at the reflection of the camera taking the shot).

Photo source: Pharyngula

Next, feel what it means to have the vampire squid wink at you. Check out the sphincter action. Batting one's eyes would be much less attractive if humans had to do it like this.

Thanks for the link, Alan. You've just made the cephalopod world a lot more interesting.

Sep 11, 2007

Candy Spider

I've got a spider here that looks like it belongs on the end of a lolly-pop stick. I'm guessing it's orange flavored. Any arachnophiles out there who can identify this one? Or should I contact some candy makers?

Thanks for the link, Jessica.

Sep 10, 2007

New Cereal

Ever seen a frosted toad that looks about to pop? Well, there's a first time for everything. I'm thinking that we have inspiration for a new kids cereal from this breviceps amphibian. Frosted Toad Pops. How 'bout it, Kellogs? Post? General Mills? Anyone?

Thanks for the link, Rasmus

Photo from:

Sep 9, 2007

Ankole Cattle

You're looking at a herd of ankole cattle, native to East and Central Africa. They are known for their gentleness, rich milk, and tasty meat...and of course, for becoming increasingly endangered due to human encroachment into their habitat. I'd be willing to take a few in to help preserve them. But I'm afraid of those horns. My fleeing bum wouldn't survive an encounter with them.

Photo source: Yahoo!

Sep 8, 2007

What Circumstances

I assume that this is the last photo ever taken with this camera. The anteater was caught mid-lunge as it attacked with its claws. What else can you expect when you dress one up like this?

Photo source:

Sep 7, 2007

Holy Leaping Crocs!

Crocodiles leaping from the water. Hey, I guess if dolphins and great whites can do it, why not crocs? They are, after all, the preeminent survivalists.

The next time I go to a Six Flags animal park I want to see trained crocodiles leaping from the water in concert, like a team of synchronized swimmers. I believe we've been underestimating their abilities.

Sep 6, 2007

How About It?

The aye-aye (daubentonia madagascariensis) has some very interesting qualities. But as far as looks go, they wouldn't be that horrific--until you look at those hands/paws. They look like something out of a werewolf flick. Or maybe a weremonkey movie. How about it, Hollywood?

Thanks for the link, Chris.

Photo source:

Sep 5, 2007

New Favorite

Below is the unmistakable mug of the star-nosed mole (condylura cristata). They are native to the cold environs of eastern Canada and the north-eastern US.

This creature might be my new favorite rodent (though I don't know if it can displace the naked mole-rat). Nothing seems to keep them down: they are active day and night, they are great swimmers and tunnelers, they don't bother hibernating and are even found digging in the snow and swimming in ice-covered streams.

But let's focus on those worm thingies radiating from its nose. There are 22 of them, and each one is mobile and packed with sensors that allow the mole to locate and identify food in a flash. In fact, one report says that they are the world's fastest eater: they can identify and consume individual food items in only 120 milliseconds. That puts my little brother to shame.

Thanks for the link, Karen. You have an eye for ugly.

Photo source:

Sep 4, 2007

Big Momma's Nest

Lisa sent me a great email detailing the adventures of a mommy spider that had made her home outside Lisa's window.

Lisa's first encounter with Big Momma involved a windy storm. The poor arachnid was being slammed against the window all night, so Lisa went out to check on her the next morning. The spider was fine, but she lost a leg in the process.

But the missing leg didn't deter Big Momma. No, she went on to make one heck of a nest. It must have been a taxing process, because Big Momma soon began to lose her strength and vitality. She slowly shriveled, and even lost another leg. But she never left the nest. That's one dedicated mother.

Some time later, Lisa checked on Big Momma. But the spider was gone, dead and gone. So Lisa assumed the vigil over the nest. Later she found another mommy spider having taken Big Momma's spot. She remained for over a week before she, too, made her way to the spider afterlife.

The nest survived the winter until one day, Lisa checked on it to find it having burst open and emptied. The baby spiders had scattered across all creation.
Lisa, I see in you the makings of the next E.B. White. Thanks for the photo and for the real-life drama.

Sep 3, 2007

Fear Come to Life

I've made a very grave mistake in letting my readers know about my arachnophobia. I'm getting deluged with photos and links of my nemesis--you are all so cruel. But, given my duties here, I must share them with you.

Jade sent me this
link. The photo below is of a massive web found in Wills Point, Texas. Experts are debating the facts, but it seems as though this web might be made and maintained by a community of spiders - a communal web. The end result? My ultimate fear come to life: spiders acting in concert to create a web big enough to catch me. Any desire I had to revisit the Lone Star State has just shriveled and died like the mosquitoes caught in this web.

Photo source:

Sep 2, 2007

Equal Opportunity

I've posted quite a few times on the elephant seal. But only recently have I noticed what a sexist I am. I have only posted on the male of this species.

So, here's my equal opportunity make-up post. Behold the female elephant seal. Still ugly, though not endowed with the same trunk. I think I'll stick with the males for the purposes of this blog.

Photo source:

Sep 1, 2007

Designer Model

I never knew that a snapping turtle's plastron was so minimal. I looks more like an after thought than an actual attempt at armor, kind of a designer model. I might get one myself.

Photo source: Knuttz