Aug 31, 2008

Stowaway Spider

I gave us all a slight reprieve from spider posts, but they're back. Spiders are ubiquitous folks, as all invert lovers are wont to point out.

Ari encountered this quarter-sized spider in his camera bag. The spider was good enough to oblige him and pause for a photo shoot. Any clues as to what kind of spider this is? Ari lives in Oregon, but he is a world traveler, so the spider could have stowed away anywhere between Oregon and Finland. The spider doesn't have his passport on his person, so a specific ID isn't likely.

Aug 30, 2008

Worm Ball

Time for more worms. It's been awfully wormilicious around here lately . Don't tell my wife. She can't even say the word 'worm.' She calls them gusanos (Spanish) instead, just to short-circuit her gag reflex.

When last I posted on Morgan's selection of nemertean worm photos, I focused on the prettier ones. Now I think you're primed and ready for the uglier batch (plus, Morgan called me on it). Remember, these creepy-crawlies aren't your average earthworm. These aquatic worms are meant for one purpose: hunt and consume (well, and procreate, but I don't want to consider that). So enjoy the nemertean tangles below. I don't think I'll ever look at a ball of tangled Christmas light strands the same way again.

Thanks, Morgan.

Photo source: Luke Miller

Photo source:

Aug 29, 2008

When Goblin Sharks Attack

Both Leland and Ida sent me this video. It's of the rarely seen goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni). Check out how those jaws extend Alien-style to snap at the diver's arm.

The goblin shark is so named because it is known to live in closets and under beds, where it lies in wait to scare small children. They are closely related to gremlin and gnome sharks, and are prone to causing mischief and mayhem. The green variety throws bombs and actively hunts the spider shark.

Actually, the goblin shark is a deep sea fish (growing to upwards of 3.8 meters) that hunts the oceans all over the world, though they are concentrated in the waters off the Japanese coastline. Though rarely spotted, they are not considered to be under threat. The same can't be said of the diver's arm.

Aug 28, 2008

Lester the Lion Kitty

If you want to do a frustrating exercise today, try researching the history of the Persian cat. You'll find a wonderful blend of contradictory information and outright falsehoods. Take this one, for instance: "The cats were introduced into Europe by the Phoenicians and Romans in the 1500s as highly valued items of trade." Wow, Romans and Phoenicians during the Renaissance? Wow. My history teachers had it all wrong.

Anyway, suffice it to say that the origins of this cat are shrouded in the depths of time (and beneath layers of shoddy research--mine own included). But all that does nothing to tarnish the reputation of this cat, for it remains the most popular breed on the planet.

Allow me to introduce Lester the Lion Kitty, Karen's pride and joy. This cat was a rescue kitty. He's the result of intense inbreeding, so he can't close his mouth, and he can't groom himself. But still, Karen loves her kitty. The sad thing with this breed, given its popularity, is that it is prone to breeding abuse (some would say that is the case with all pure breds). Thankfully, there are many worthy folks who operate persian rescue programs.

Enjoy Lester. He may be one of a kind, but his story isn't. Unfortunately.

Aug 27, 2008


No, that's not some sort of new woolly spider (perish the thought). That's yet another spidermum with her spiderlings. In this case, it's a wolf spider.

Danielle had a recent encounter with a wolf spidermum, and it wasn't a pleasant experience for anyone involved. She decided to share this image with us as a cathartic exercise.

Wolf spiders are unique in the spider world both for carrying around their eggsac wherever they go (even while hunting), and later for carrying around the spiderlings on their backs. That's dedication.

I can't find out exactly when the babies decide to leave their mother's back and strike out into the world on their own. I assume it's after they graduate from High School (though they're probably home schooled) and once they're gainfully employed.

Photo from The Herbs Place via Danielle

Aug 26, 2008

New Goliath

I've been a big fan of groupers ever since I got to interact with one while scuba diving down in Baja California, Mexico. They are big lumbering fish who seem not to have a care in the world (the fish I saw later left the sanctuary and got speared and eaten, so their laid back attitude may need some adjusting).

LiveScience is reporting the discovery of a new species of grouper. Or rather, they're reporting that the well known Goliath Grouper comes in two varieties, where only one was thought to exist. The Pacific and Atlantic Goliaths were assumed to be the same species since they are identical to the naked eye. But recent DNA testing has proven otherwise. See what happens when you assume, people?

BTW, this fish gets to be 1,000 lbs, and has five rows of teeth in it's lower jaw. If you see one while diving, you'd be wise to approach with a bit of caution, though they do seem to be peaceful. In the end, I just don't trust so-called peaceful sea creatures. Maybe I've read too much about ambush predators.

Thanks for the article, Ida.

Photo source: Rachel Graham via via MSNBC

Aug 25, 2008

Iguana Pet

Say hello to Niner, Rebecca's pet green iguana. Look at the size of that beast! Yes, green iguanas really do get that big. They get to be 40 feet long, can fly, and breathe fire...oh wait. That's dragons. Green iguanas can, however, reach seven feet in length (half of that is the whip-like tail), so keep that in mind.

In fact, you should always keep in mind the adult version of the cute little pet you're buying at the pet store. Green iguanas are usually sold when they're still juveniles. But take into consideration that they can live to be 20+ years, need lots of fresh fruit, and demand an enormous enclosure (look at Niner's digs as an example). And they need attention. I've also heard that about one in five iguanas can be a biter; the children might not enjoy that.

Be responsible pet owners, people, like Rebecca. Now, who lent me this soapbox? You can have it back.

Aug 24, 2008

Lightening the Mood

I've posted on a couple of worms lately which generated a fair amount of controversy and debate. Who would have thought? So, I thought I'd forward this photo from Peer in an effort to lighten the mood here.

I know, I know, this isn't an ugly creature. But this llama's got kind of a worm thing going on, right? Llama worm (legless, earless)? Llama roll? Those eyes are too much--they're cartoon caricatures. I demand a plush toy. For my children.

Thanks, Peer.

Aug 23, 2008


How many spider mothers die shortly after after the eggs hatch, a la Charlotte's Web? I know that some are expended in the process, while still others are able to produce many, many batches of eggs (like the accursed black widow). Still others are consumed by their offspring. If this latter example is the case with this spider, she might be feeling arachnophobia on an order that even I couldn't comprehend. I imagine she's not, since the spiderlings don't seem to be dining on her, but still, I like the irony.

Thanks for the photo, Annica.

Photo source: zero g

Aug 22, 2008

Kenny Rogers Is Dead

Kate emailed me to let me know that the white tiger I posted on some time ago has passed away.

His name was Kenny Rogers, and his was a sad tale. He was rescued from a private breeder who was breeding a brother and sister white tiger couple together to produce white tigers for sale (white tigers in captivity are nearly always the result of generations of in-breeding). Kenny Rogers had a twin, named Willie Nelson, who was also rescued, along with the parents.

It's believed that Kenny Rogers had a tiger version of Down Syndrome (again, possibly another result of horrid breeding practices). Thankfully, we have legitimate wildlife refuges like Turpentine Creek to care for these creatures. I'm telling you folks, don't ooh-and-ahh at the next white tiger you see. Think of the 29 others that either died or were too deformed for display (it's estimated that only 1 in 30 captive-bred white tiger cubs are able to be trotted out in public).

Thanks, Kate.

Photo source: Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

Aug 21, 2008

Printer Ants

Booge sent this video along. For any of you who've had ant problems (and most of you have), you'll enjoy it. I myself have had to wage a ceaseless, Balkan-style war against these pests.

There are upwards of 14,000 species of ants on the planet, whose colonies range from under one hundred individuals to millions. Unlike with bees, most ants are sterile female workers (I envision a fantastic sci-fi book that pits talking ants against talking bees as an exploration of gender relations, amidst a lot of explosions and carnage). Scientists estimate that ants make up 15-20% of the animal terrestrial biomass. That's a whole lot o' ants people. Be thankful that you only have to contend with a small portion of them. I still wonder why they haven't bothered to take over the world.

Thanks for the video, booge.

Aug 20, 2008

Fly On The Wall

Here's another bug ID challenge for you. I've never seen something so metallic and clockwork looking, but that's probably just from the glare of the flash. I'm thinking it's a variant on the robber fly. Or, it's possibly a secret government experiment that escaped from the lab, Project: Fly On The Wall (Surveillance Division). Which reminds me, has anyone seen the new X-Files movie?

Thanks for the photo, Alejandro.

UPDATE: Neil and Kyla have identified this as a
hippoboscid, to which the flat fly, louse fly, and feather fly belong). They're closely related to the dreaded tse tse fly. And good luck swatting them. Not only are they lightning-fast, but they're resistant to being squashed (a trait more bugs should do well to learn).

Aug 19, 2008

The Cat for You

I'm not up on my felinology, so I can't be sure exactly what breed of hairless cat this is. I'm guessing it's a Sphynx (please correct me if I'm wrong).

This breed is very new: the first recorded instance of the mutation (for the American and European breed's purposes) was found in Minnesota, US, in 1975. The second instance in Toronto, Canada, in 1978 (there must be something in the water at the American-Canadian border). Thus was the breed born (and soon to be bred).

If you are allergic to pet dander, this hairless cat might be the animal for you. If you like warm, oily skin, this cat might be the pet for you. If you like bathing cats and cleaning their ears out, this might be the beast for you. If you enjoy being pointed at by your neighbors, this might be just what you're looking for.

Thanks for the photo, Steve.

Photo source:

Aug 18, 2008

Swiss Army Proboscis

Like most people, I've focused on the lips of the rosy lipped batfish (Ogcocephalus nasutus). But I had never seen one in profile. Check out that proboscis. It's used both as a shovel and a lure for prey. My own proboscis is pretty dull; the only thing it's good for is smelling. But the rosy lipped batfish has a Swiss Army proboscis. I'm a little jealous.

Thanks for the link, Mary.

Photo source: David Doubilet, National Geographic via Deep Sea News

Aug 17, 2008

Pincer Beetle

We need another bug ID here, folks. This beetle was spotted by John in New York, US (near the town of Troy) in July. Anybody care to take a stab at it (or a can of Raid...)?

I never realized how many freaky insects live in the American Northeast. But between the dobson fly and cicadas and this creature, I think I'll stay put in Northern California. The worst I have to deal with is my human neighbors (new blog potential?).

Thanks, John.

UPDATE: We now know this to be a stag beetle. Thanks everyone.

Aug 16, 2008

Earthworm Hunter

Continuing with the worm theme, Joe sent me this lovely little creature. Say hello to the land planarian. Though I don't know the specific species of this colorful land planarian, it's guaranteed to dine on earthworms.

Photo source: The Peripatetic Pedaller

Most creatures have the decency of hunting, then eating, then digesting. Not so with the land planarian. No, this creature hunts, then digests, then eats. As the Peripatetic Pedaller describes: "They digest their prey outside their bodies, by secreting enzymes that will melt an earthworm into a digestible slurry. Yum."

To add insult to injury, the planarian's mouth is also its anus (I imagine they don't kiss very often). And, they travel on a slime trail like snails and slugs. But they can also use this slime to create a thread to dangle itself down to otherwise unreachable sections of the forest floor.

Who knew such a basic creature could provide us with so many I-just-threw-up-a-little-in-my-mouth moments?

Thanks, Joe.

Aug 15, 2008

New Nemertean

Morgan sent me these photos of a new species of nemertean worm (Monostilifera sp.) found in the Caribbean. Their coloring might disqualify them for this blog, but don't worry, I'm justified in posting on them.

Nemerteans are primitive even for worms. They are hunters, and kill by shooting their proboscis into their prey like a stun gun. And, AND, they produce more slime than the infamous hagfish. Morgan has witnessed firsthand a nemertean worm being placed in a petrie dish, the worm then filling the dish with slime, and thereby sealing itself in. How's that for ugly?

There, have I sold ya yet?

Thanks for the worms, Morgan.

Photo source:

Aug 14, 2008

Mantis vs. Mealworm

Some of you disputed my post on the ugly dolphin. Fair enough. So, I thought I'd cleanse the palate by falling back on some insects. Mantis versus mealworm, anyone?

Mealworms are the larvae of Tenebrio molitor, a species of darkling beetle. The adult form is actually shorter in length than the larval form. Mealworms are most used for feed for captive reptiles and birds, and, evidently, mantids. This mealworm doesn't seem to be aware of the danger looming over it. Ignorance is bliss.

Thanks for the photo, Igor Siwanowicz.

Aug 13, 2008

Ugly Dolphin

I prepared this post too early in the morning. Both Anja and Ida sent me links to articles that explained how for the first time ever, the world's ugliest dolphin, the "bulbous-headed snub fin dolphin (not a terribly endearing name), was caught on film. So, I watched the video and loved the idea of posting on a normally attractive species (I like those 'gotcha' moments).

Then, I went on to look for images of the dolphin, and all I could find were grainy screen shots of the dolphin. I got frustrated. Then, a dim light bulb flickered to life and I remembered that this was the first time they had ever been captured on film. Pure genius over here, folks.

Anyway, enjoy this video (sorry, I can't find one to embed). These dolphins are native to Australian waters, have bulbous heads, snub fins, are ugly, and were only discovered as a new species back in 2005.

Thanks Anja and Ida.

Aug 12, 2008

Sarcastic Fringehead

Wendy is a fan of odd names. So, when she discovered the sarcastic fringehead, she had to pass it along to us.

Neoclinus blanchardi is an ambush predator, described as both pugnacious and aggressive (pugnacious isn't used nearly enough in the English language). I've searched around, but I can't find why it's called the sarcastic fringhead, especially when it's nearest relatives are called blennies. Maybe it makes some snyde comment just before or after catching its fish? Can someone find out for me?

Thanks Wendy.

Photo source: Peter McGuinness via

Aug 11, 2008


You're looking at this insect and hoping it's a close up of some tiny little bug. But no. It's a giant water bug, complete with an array of eggs on her back.

I've had very painful encounters with water bugs (they pack a nasty bite). These predators (family: Belostomatidae), are also known as toe-biters, and can reach upwards of 12cm (well, some species at least). They are native to North America, South America, East Asia, and your own personal nightmare dreamscape.

Thanks for the photo, Hannah.

UPDATE: CJKlock has informed me that this is the male. The female oviposits the eggs on the male's back. My respect for the giant water bug has increased maybe a little. Oh, and they are a popular food in Thailand (I think everything's a popular food in Thailand...).

Photo source:

Aug 10, 2008

Spider ID

Auster needs some help identifying this spider. A friend of his encountered it in Florida, US. It is tiny, less than an inch across, and was found on a mailbox. When the friend approached, it brandished its legs, jumped on her, then scampered away to terrorize someone else.

Any arachnophiles out there care to label this little assailant? Some sort of jumping spider, by my taxonomic expertise ends there.

BTW, jumping spiders are the only arachnids I can tolerate. I can even pick them up (when they're willing). Aren't you proud of me? Of course, drop a daddy-long-legs in my lap, and I go comatose and start frothing at the mouth.

UPDATE: Denita, nonspecific, and Jade have identified the species as Salticidae, Hentzia palmarum. Thanks, you three. But Jack takes the prize for having identified this spider as Billy.

Aug 9, 2008

Spanish Greyhound

Sarah is very proud of Sorpresa, her Galgo Espanol (Spanish Greyhound for us English speakers). But even such an attractive dog can take bad photos. Here Sarah compares Sorpresa to Frank from Donnie Darko.

The Spanish Greyhound is believed to come from both Roman and Moorish stock. They are sight hounds that specialize in hares, though they also hunt foxes and wild boars. They are the gentlest of the sight hounds, and become very attached to their owners. They require gentle training (much like my youngest daughter--very sensitive, and an excellent hunter).

Thanks for Sorpresa, Sarah.

Aug 8, 2008

Dead Monster Washes Ashore

I've made it a point not to post on dead vertebrate animals of a higher order than fish, but every so often one comes along that could use a bit of attention (or debunking).

The case of the mystery monster washed ashore is one such instance.

This creature washed ashore near Plum Island, MA, US. No one seems to know what it is. Some people have guessed that it is a de-shelled turtle (absurd notion to me), or that it is a freakish result from a nearby animal testing facility (too science fictiony for me). But Meaghan and Paula have the best theory that I've seen: it's a dog that drowned at sea. It's hair fell out and part of its maw got nibbled on en route to the shore.

Your theories?

Thanks for the article, Kitty, Kristen, Meaghan, and Paula.

UPDATE: This has been identified as a racoon. Look at the comment thread for appropriate links. Thanks everyone.


Aug 7, 2008

Dee Dee the Giant Lobster

Some of you may have heard the story of Dee Dee, the giant lobster caught off the coast of New Brunswick.

He spent a week at a fish shop in Shediac, where the 100-year-old, 10 kg crustacean garnered a lot of attention--and competitive bids. Even though an Ontario group offered $5K for him to be served at a banquet, a Vancouver resident, Laura-Leah Shaw, offered $1K to save him. The store owner, Denis Breau, accepted the 'lesser' offer. Dee Dee has since been transferred to a conservation group's aquarium, where he'll live out the rest of his days in retirement from the rigors of the sea.

Denis and Dee Dee will soon be reunited when Denis is able to visit the aquarium. I imagine there'll be salty tears and chitinous embraces for all on that special day.

Thanks for the article, Ida.

Photo source:

Aug 6, 2008

Good News for Gorillas

I've only posted on gorillas a few times, mainly out of fear of retribution should they ever get on the web. But there is good news to report on the gorilla front. The Wildlife Conservation Society is pleased to report that a population of some 125,000 western lowland gorillas have been discovered in the Republic of Congo. This nearly triples the estimated wild population of lowland gorillas.

So, Snowflake and the rest of us have reason to celebrate. It would seem that conservation efforts by the Congoese government have worked. Of course, the next step is to keep this population safe from poachers and traditional medicine practitioners. As an interesting side note, these gorillas were discovered by hunters, who then led the authorities to the treasure trove.

Aug 5, 2008

More Hagfish

It's time for another hagfish post. How can you get too much of a deep water fish that can flourish in the shallows, eats their prey (dead or alive) from the inside out, can go for months between feedings, produces gobs of slime (which can be baked with in place of egg whites), and, of course, is called the hagfish?

You can get too much. And that's what you're here for: one more opportunity to lose your last meal (or at least not want to partake of your next).

Thanks for the photos, vaguegirl.

Aug 4, 2008

Centipede Dining

It's time for some more photos from the illustrious Igor Siwanowicz. Here are a few he took of Scolopendra cingulata, aka the Megarian Banded Centipede.

Though this species is one of the smaller of the otherwise oversized scolopendrids (this centipede gets to be 10-15 cm), and their venom isn't quite as toxic as that of their bigger brothers, they are still known to be very fast and aggressive.

Of course, being smaller and less toxic was of little consolation to the grasshopper.

The megarian banded centipede is native to the region surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. So, if you're a grasshopper or some other form of centipede prey (or a scaredy cat like me), you'll want to avoid dark, damp environments like beneath logs and in leaf piles. Thankfully, I tend to stay away from those places anyway.

Thanks for the photos, Igor.

Aug 3, 2008

Grunters and Singers

The midshipman fish and I have something in common: me both use excessive and ceaseless vocalization to court our mates (mine is in the form of whining to my wife).

This fish (Poricthys notatus), also like myself, is a native of the Pacific Coast of North America. Aside from also being vertebrates, we don't have much else in common. They are also known as "grunters," "grunts," and "singing fish," among other aliases. But come on, make up your mind! Which one is it? Grunting or singing? Maybe its something in the middle, like death metal or gangsta rap.

Thanks, Ida.

Photo source: National Geographic

Aug 2, 2008


The shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) is a large bird (4 feet tall, wingspan of 7.7 feet) that hails from tropical east Africa. It gets its name from having a shoe-shaped bill.

I've posted on this bird before, and even now I can't really see the shoe-shape of the bill. It's bill is very distintive, but I'm just not seeing it. That duck sure is getting an up-close look, though--someone should ask it.

I assume that since shoebills dine mainly on lungfish and other fish in their native swampland that the duck is going to be just fine (besides, that duck has an ankle tag, which leads me to think this image was captured at a zoo).

Thanks for the info, vaguegirl.

UPDATE: Anonymous discovered who originally took this photo (see link below). It was taken at the San Diego Wild Life Park. The shoebill wasn't trying to eat the duck, but simply trying to move the duck from its path.

Photo source: Mark Kay

Aug 1, 2008

Fractal Octopi

Mary sent me an article from PinkTentacle about instances of mutant octopi in Japan.

These creatures are rare, but every so often an octopus with extra tentacles is discovered. These octopi typically have the usual eight tentacles branching off their trunk. But then the tentacles branch out themselves, and continue to branch out, until you have something like the last specimen: an 84-limbed beast. You end up with a fractal octopus.

These creatures seem to hold their own in the wild. The first photo is of one that lived and even bred in captivity. Morgan has already disabused us of the notion of octopi being uber-intelligent. Rather, they use that abundance of neurons to control their many tentacles. I imagine those same neurons were working over time to coordinate all these extra limbs.

Thanks for the link, James, Mary, and Annica.

Photo source: