Dec 31, 2010

Time for me to move on

UPDATE: To those that are missing it, there are a few writers for this blog. Just because I'm leaving, doesn't mean the others are. Ugly Overload continues. You just won't have my posts on here anymore.


Hey there Ugly Overloadians. Sadly, I won't be able to update this blog anymore. My schooling is absorbing almost 100% of my time, now. That's not unexpected with the degree I'm working toward, though.

That said, I still maintain a Tumblr blog with neat photos of entomology as well as other little critters I find fascinating. Feel free to find me there, if you are so inclined.

Thank you to everyone that encouraged me to start contributing to this blog so long ago. I'm glad you all enjoyed my wonderful pet bugs :)

Also, to keep in theme with Ugly Overload (which is still one of my favorite blogs ever), I'll leave you with some of my newest bug photos:

The spider in these pictures was a gift from my wife. It's an adult female Avicularia versicolor (Antillies pinktoe tarantula). Versies are my favorite animal, hands down. Ironically, as sweet natured as they are, it's the only species of spider ever to bite me in my 14 years of working with bugs– and to top it off it was a baby that bit me.

When I got her, I told my better-half that I wanted a picture of her on my face. Being such a sweet spider, we didn't anticipate any difficulty with this idea. We sat down to do the photo, I put her on my face, and she quickly climbed onto the top of my head. The Mrs. snapped a quick photo before the spider jumped off and onto the floor. When I picked her up, she freaked out, locked her legs, and extended her fangs as if she was ready to bite. I calmly held my hand by her enclosure to let her walk off on her own. It was a ten minute stare down, where one slight move would have caused me to be bitten. Thanks to one of the photos taken, I got to see just how bad a spot I was in, as venom was dripping off her fangs (third photo). After around ten minutes passed, she calmly walked into her enclosure, and I stopped sweating.

After the fact, I had time to figure out what happened. I finally realized it was my shampoo. I'd just taken a shower a few minutes before we went to take the picture. Spiders taste through special receptors in their feet, which means that some chemical in my shampoo caused my little girl to freak out like none-other. Needless to say, I won't be attempting this right out of the shower ever again.


Dec 22, 2010

Growing up ugly

As I've mentioned before, birds just can't seem to get the hang of the concept that babies are supposed to be cute. Most of them start out horrendously ugly and gradually grow into those lovely, graceful creatures that so many people love.

This picture of three young Black Palm Cockatoos from the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore demonstrates the process - sort of. We've got a three week old baby in the middle with a two month old on the right and a three month old on the left.

But the black palm cockatoo is definitely a bird after our own hearts here at Ugly Overload because although it does get less ugly as it ages, it never entirely grows out of it:

Someone get that poor bird a hairdresser!

Wombat (No Relation)

Babies from the Globe and Mail/AFP and adult from Flickr user Puppies are Prozac.

Dec 18, 2010

No Dissection Needed

If, like me, you're a veteran of the US educational system, you've probably had the "educational" experience of dissecting a frog (for those of you that haven't, that's where you take a perfectly good frog, kill it, and cut it open to see what's inside). Well, today, I'd like to suggest an alteritive way for students to learn about frog innards (assuming you need to know about frog innards), the glass frog.

Glass frogs have little to no pigmentation in their skin, meaning you can frequently see the internal organs on a perfectly healthy frog. They're fairly small species of frogs, (the largest only grow to about three inches (7.5 cm)). Most species to have green pigment in most of their skin, leaving only the underbelly transparent.

Glass frogs are native to South and Central America, and are mostly arboreal. Several species lay their eggs out of water, on leaves hanging above a lake or stream. When it's time to hatch, the tadpoles just fall in.
Now just think, wouldn't this be a better replacement for dissection? No need to hurt the frog, just let it hop around. Let's you see the frog and see it in action. Let's see if we can get schools to keep tanks of these instead.

Pictures courtesy of Time,, and wikipedia

Dec 15, 2010


Oh hi. The part of my brain that constructs interesting sentences is temporarily out of commission, having been worn out by the push to meet a book deadline. But I decided that this creature was too wonderful to miss just because I have nothing to say about it. It's the Antsingy leaf chameleon of Madagascar, and I don't think we've seen it before.

You can learn more here.

Photos from Flickr user David d'O and thanks to @Speciesoftheday for introducing me to this critter.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Dec 9, 2010

Solar Powered Hornet

Our topic today is the Oriental hornet, Vespa Orentalis. For some time, scientists had know that the workers of this species were most active towards the middle of the day. It was only recently that they confirmed that they are capable of directly harvesting solar power. Under very close examination (on the nanometer scale), the brown segments of the hornet's abdomen are a series of reflective mirrors. They reflect the sun's energy onto structures on the yellow part of the abdomen, which contains a pigment with photoelectric properties, thus turning the light into electrical energy, which the hornets then use for their activities.

Story and picture courtesy of the BBC. Plenty more details, including microscope scans of the hornet's skin.

Dec 4, 2010

Killed by Behavior-modifying Parasite Fungus

There has been a rise in our fascination in zombie fiction and movies lately. I think such tales strike a deep chord in our psyche. But for much of the animal kingdom, such tales aren't fanciful. They're an everyday occurrence.

Take this poor yellow dung fly (Scathophagia stercoraria). It's been infected by a previously unknown (yet to be described) species of Entomophthora fungus. This parasite fungus causes its host to climb up a grass blade, stick it wings out, and position itself so that its abdomen is in the air, and then die. All of this is accomplished so the fungus' spores are better dispersed.

I'm assuming that zombification (a new word?) is more readily found in the insect kingdom because their nervous systems are more easily hijacked than those of higher order animals. Nevertheless, I've purchased a large supply of fungicide, and my wife has instructions to spray me down should she find me climbing up to the roof to stick my butt in the air.

Thanks for the fantastic photo, Dave. It's entomologists like you that show us how ugly and fascinating this world can be. I'm glad to be human.

Dec 3, 2010

The power of Ugly

Get the holiday season off to an ugly start by checking out this video of an electric eel that supplies the power for a Christmas tree at an aquarium in Japan.

Dec 2, 2010

Marine Life Census, Part 2

As promised, I've got another collection of creatures from the census of marine life for you. Let's start with the aptly-named Terrible Claw Lobster, Dinochelus ausubeli. It should be obvious where the name comes from

Next up, we have an as-yet unnamed snail, found on a submarine volcano off Japan.

We also have a jellyfish, Bathykorus bouilloni, that appears to have gotten his appearance from Star Wars, judging from his Vader-like shape.

Next, is the Bearded Fireworm. Those bristles are venomous, causing an "intense burning irritation". Don't touch.

And last up, here's another plankton-sized baby for you, this time for the Slipper Lobster. While he's transparent now, when he grows, he will have a full shell.

Pictures courtesy of National Geographic

Nov 25, 2010

Ugly Thanksgiving

Seriously, have you ever really looked at a turkey close up?

You can have a gander at their ugly behavior as well over at my other blog, but the short version is: If you happen to run into a turkey anywhere other than in the freezer, the oven, or on a platter, watch out.

-Holiday greetings from your friend Wombat (No Relation)

Crazed turkey eye by Friend of the Blog Misterqueue.

Nov 19, 2010

Echidna on the Edge

What's the Internet for, if not lists of things? But I am not sure this one should be announced with that cheerful exclamation point:

The new EDGE mammals list has arrived! Latest research reveals a staggering 49 new species on the EDGE of Existence.

The Zoological Society of London's EDGE program identifies the world’s most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered species, including "some of the weirdest and most wonderful species on the planet." Which is just up our alley on this blog, and the best one on this list has to be the Attenborough's long-beaked echidna.

Any echidna is a pretty rare creature, seeing as it's an egg-laying mammal. But this species is especially so. It was considered extinct until evidence of its existence was found on an expedition in 2007. Reports from that expedition were not 100% encouraging, however:

One of the world's rarest creatures, Attenborough's long-beaked echidna, appears to be alive and well, conservationists say. It is also reportedly quite delicious.

Thought to live on just one mountain peak in Indonesia, the locals say it's "very greasy and extremely tasty," and have a tradition of sharing one with enemies to restore peace. They didn't know it was unique to their area, and it's hoped that learning this will encourage them to conserve it.

It's hard not to have mixed feelings about this EDGE business. I love to be introduced to a weird animal I never knew existed but it sure would be nice if sometimes it was because of good news, you know?

-Wombat (No Relation)

Photo, of a different species of long-beaked echidna from Papau New Guinea, from the Guardian (The one on the list is so rare, no one's gotten a picture of it.)

Nov 17, 2010

The Marine Life Census

Earlier this year, scientists wrapped up a massive, ten-year survey of aquatic life. This survey revealed a large number of new species. As anyone who visits here regularly knows, quite a few of them are not on the attractive side. We start with one that confused the researchers so much on what to call it, that they finally settled on the simple squidworm:

Next up is Venus flytrap anemone. Unlike its counterparts on land, it has stinging tentacles which it uses to trap its prey.

Now, we have a jellyfish, Atolla wyvillei, which has an interesting way of defending from predators. When attacked, the jellyfish lights up to attract a larger creature to eat its attacker.

Today we also have a sea slug, Phyllidia ocellata. As you might guess from the coloration, this guy's poisonous, and probably not a good meal for anyone passing by.

To wrap up the day, here's a newly hatched anglerfish. At this stage in his life, all he can really do is drift around with the plankton.

That wraps up this todays installment from the census. There's plenty more where they came from, and I can probably stretch a few more posts out of it for you.

Pictures courtesy of National Geographic.

Nov 11, 2010

Fish that want to be left alone

This time, I think I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. I think the fishes' expressions say enough.

First off is the Oyster Toadfish. While he's strong enough to crush shells in his mouth, he's actually quite a good parent, watching over the nest until a few weeks after hatching.

Next up is the Reef Stonefish. I definitely think he wants left alone, and I think that's the best idea. His spines contain one of the most toxic fish venoms anywhere.

Last up is the Stargazer. A nice, lovely fish with the ability to produce 50 volt electric shocks. Oh, did I mention he's venomous too?

I definitely think that when someone looking like this wants left alone, the best choice is probably to let them.

Pictures courtesy of National Geographic

Nov 10, 2010

Self-Cloning Lizard

First off, a small apology. This gal isn't really that ugly. That said, it's interesting enough that I'm posting it anyway (plus it's a lizard, and it gets points for that, right?). Anyone who came looking for a new excursion into the depths of hideousness might want to look away.

What you see here is the newly discovered (to science) species Leiolepis ngovantrii. Newly discovered to science, not to the locals in its native Vietnam. What makes it so interesting is that the species consists entirely of females, and reproduces by parthenogenesis, a process where the females spontaneously ovulate and resulting eggs re-fuse, resulting in a healthy baby clone, which is genetically identical to the mother. This isn't actually that rare a reproductive strategy, as about 1% of all lizard species use it.

The sadder part of this story comes from how it was discovered. Like a lot of recently "discovered" species, it was well known in its native region. Unfortunately, that condition usually means that the newly discovered species can be found on the menu. That was the case here, it's been the case in the past, and I'm sure it will be in the future. All we can do is hope that we find these guys before they're all gone.

Picture and info courtesy of National Geographic

Nov 5, 2010

Muted by monkeys

I never expected to come across animals so ugly that they leave me at a loss for words, but these monkeys have done it.

This photo was taken at Emei Mountain Park, Sichuan Province, China, home to a Chinese species of macaque. I wondered if perhaps this information from Wikipedia explained why this mother and child are so terrifically unattractive:

Visitors to Mount Emei will likely see dozens of monkeys who can often be viewed taking food from tourists. Local merchants sell nuts for tourists to feed the monkeys. Some monkeys may be seen eating human food such as potato chips and even drinking soda from discarded bottles. While most of the monkeys look healthy, other monkeys appear out of shape from apparently being fed human food that is not native to the monkey's natural habitat.

But the entry also helpfully supplies a photo of another baby:

That little guy looks perfectly healthy.... and perfectly hideous. So apparently they do come by it naturally.

Almost speechlessly,
-Wombat (No Relation)

Thanks (I think) to the Telegraph's Pictures of the Day.

Nov 4, 2010

The Amazing Axolotl

The creature of the day is the Axolotl, a Mexican salamander. The Axolotl is native solely to lakes Chalco and Xochimilco in Mexico. As Chalco has been completely drained, and Xochimilco has been reduced to a series of canals, the Axolotl is running out of natural territory. As a result, they are currently classified as being critically endangered.

This is bad, not only because of the general 'extinction is bad' arguments, but because of the Axolotl's unique traits as well. Among these traits is a strong case of neoteny, where they can reach sexual maturity without undergoing the metamorphosis into an adult. As a result, they generally stay in their larval forms (above) their entire lives. Metamorphosis can be triggered, either through hormone injections, or through environmental conditions. (adult form below)

While that's interesting, it isn't what makes the Axolotl's status a true tragedy. What's really amazing about the Axolotl is its healing abilities. Rather than scarring around a wound, the cells revert back to a stem state, giving them incredible regenerative abilities. Regeneration of whole limbs is fully possible (some have even run into the problem of regenerating two limbs on one stump). In addition to limbs, they can also regenerate internal organs, up to and including non-vital portions of the brain. They also can take transplants from other Axolotls, with no rejection or loss of function.

Information and pictures from Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia of Life

Nov 2, 2010

RIP Paul, the Psychic Octopus

Today, I inform you of the passing of Paul, the Psychic Octopus. Paul is believed to have hatched in January 2008, and died last week, on October 26, 2010.

Paul was a common octopus residing in an aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany. For those of you who hadn't heard, Paul achieved international fame after correctly picking the winners of 8 games (out of 8 that he chose for, giving him a perfect record) in the 2010 World Cup. To get his predictions, the trainers placed a piece of food in each of two clear plastic boxes, each of which was marked with the flag of one of the teams in the match. Whichever box Paul opened first, and ate the contents of, was the predicted winner (as seen below, when he predicted Spain's win over Germany). The odds of successfully picking the winner 8 times straight is estimated at 256 to 1. At the conclusion of the World Cup, Paul went into retirement, although he did receive an ambassadorship from England for it's 2018 bid.

As a result of his success, Paul became the most famous octopus in... OK, I can't think of another famous octopus. Any ideas?

Images courtesy of Wikipedia

Oct 28, 2010

Happy-Face Spider Says High

Greetings. I'm tkrausse, occasional commenter and new poster here. To celebrate my joining the team, I decided that we need a cheerful post. Hence, the aptly-named Happy-Face Spider

This little guy, more formally known as Theridion grallator, is native to the Hawaiian islands. It grows to a length of about five millimeters. On The Island of Maui, the patterns tend to be hereditary, but on the other islands they appear to change based on the spider's diet. Given their small size, as well as their ability at hiding during the day, they aren't a major prey item on anyone's menu. The purpose of their coloring is still unknown.

Picture posted on Wikipedia commons by user Kahlzun

Oct 27, 2010

Monkey Halloween

Scientists have discovered another species of those tragic snub-nosed monkeys that look like victims of plastic surgery gone horribly wrong. And this one comes with such a sad story:

Many people assured us that this species was
particularly easy to find when it was raining. The
monkeys reportedly tend to get rainwater in their
upturned noses, to which they respond with audible
sneezes. To avoid getting rainwater in their noses,
the monkeys allegedly spend rainy days sitting with
their heads tucked face-down between their knees.

The new species is called Rhinopithecus strykeri, but that's not exactly a picture of it. Unfortunately, the scientists only got pictures of a dead one, so this image sent to the media is a related species, the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus bieti), given a Photoshop dye job to approximate the appearance in life of the new species. Here's the original:

So, basically, what you've got there is an old kind of monkey dressed up as a new kind of monkey. Someone ought to give it some candy bars as a Halloween reward, don't you think?

-Wombat (No Relation)

Photos from Live Science and the American Journal of Primatology.

Oct 23, 2010

Jeremy Wade Is More Manly Than Me

It's therapeutic for me to post on men who are much more manly than me. It shows that I'm at least big enough to be able to tout their accomplishments without feeling that they're overshadowing my own (which, of course, they are).

One such man is Jeremy Wade, a British biologist, TV host, and angler. He is one of the few men ever to haul in a goliath tigerfish (Hydrocynus goliath). To do so, he had to navigate uncharted stretches of the Congo river, wait patiently for eight days, and then snag the beast with a large catfish as bait and a 200lbs rod and line.

And what did he catch? The goliath tigerfish is one of the world's most dangerous fish. This specimen was five feet long. They come equipped stock with 32 teeth, each one razor sharp and about the size of great white shark teeth. They are amazingly aggressive (their reflex is to attack any sudden motion). They can remove human limbs with a single bite, are known to eat creatures the same size as them, and commonly take bites out of crocodiles.

And Jeremy Wade held a live one in his arms before releasing back in the wild.

I'm going to head upstairs now and sleep in my cozy bed in my cozy suburban neighborhood where the most dangerous thing I'll hold today is my two-year-old son who has a head cold.

Thanks for the link, Alan.

Oct 22, 2010

You can burrow but you can't hide

We've seen the purple frog of India a couple of times before (here and here). But I have to say, I looked at those pictures and thought, something has to be wrong. Frogs are usually cute, or even pretty. Even toads have a kind of lumpy aesthetic appeal. Surely the photographers caught those frogs at an awkward angle, or a bad moment.

But if there was ever a glamour shot of this species, this has to be it, and there is no denying its majestic hideousness. It is appalling in all its proportions. It even looks like it would feel nasty, and I'm speaking as someone who has picked up frogs hundreds of times in the course of a career.

This frog was only discovered by scientists in 2003. It was overlooked because your only chance to see it is two weeks of the year in the monsoon season. The rest of the time, it hides underground. Poor thing, now I understand why.

Wombat (No Relation)

(Picture from a rather odd slideshow of ugly animals at What's ugly about pygmy marmosets???)

Oct 17, 2010

Snappy fellow keeping his chin up

Came across this beauty while searching for a gruesome photo for my other blog and finding that searching for alligator and turtle naturally gets you a lot of photos of alligator snapping turtles.

We've seen this species before, of course, but not this particular interesting angle. Perhaps that's because this is normally not the smartest place to be with respect to a snapping turtle, but fortunately, this guy is safely behind glass at the National Zoo.

Not tapping on the glass, and advising that you do the same,
-Wombat (No Relation)

Photo by Brian Gratwicke on Flickr.

Oct 9, 2010

Tubenose, take 2

Here's another species of tube-nosed bat to apologize for the technical difficulties with the last one. I think commenting on that post is working now.

Eleryi's tube-nosed bat from the Daily Mail.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Oct 6, 2010

Nameless uglynose

This tube-nosed fruit bat was observed on an expedition to Papua New Guinea that discovered a number of new species. This guy has been seen before but hasn't been officially scientifically described, which means it doesn't have a name yet. Its genus is Nyctimene, so I say we call it Nyctimene ugdorable.

Thanks to Discover magazine's blog 80 Beats, where you can see the expedition's other newer but mostly less ugly species (although don't miss that spiny leg katydid).

- Wombat (No Relation)

Oct 4, 2010

Rodent hitting the snooze button

Normally, I wouldn't put a capybara on this blog, as I think they are the most beautiful of animals. But on a Monday, it's sort of reassuring for all of us mere mortals that even Caplin Rous, the World's Most Famous Capybara, doesn't look his best first thing in the morning.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Follow Caplin on Twitter, be his fan on Facebook, and read his blog at the link above.

Oct 1, 2010

Triple threat

Starting off October with three creatures so scary, you should make plans to dress up as them for Halloween. Look at those gaping maws like the mouth of hell, plumage like strips of rotting flesh, and cold, dead eyes! These must be zombie birds, right? Yet the Telegraph's Pictures of the Day claims they are perfectly innocent baby Malay night herons. I'm not sure what to believe.

-Locking the door and drawing the blinds,
Wombat (No Relation)

Sep 27, 2010

Beautiful Babirusa

I posted this picture over at my other blog this morning and someone looking over my shoulder said, "Aren't you posting that on the wrong site?"

Well, no, but it's certainly an animal that belongs here too. In fact, I was illustrating the following quote:

The Babirusa is one of the ugliest of the wild swine.

Really, what else do you need to know?

Babirusas by Flickr users cactusbeetroot and su-lin.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Sep 25, 2010

Fish with Teeth!

First fish with feet, now fish with human teeth! What's going on?

Nothing, actually, except that this fish was in a place that it shouldn't be. Caught by a man in South Carolina, this is a pacu, a relative of the piranha, and it's native to the Amazon. But they're sold in the pet trade, and when they get too big, irresponsible people let them go in local waters. Then, periodically, a fisherman catches one and there's a big kerfuffle of "baffled wildlife experts" - or at least baffled local journalists - until someone says, oh yeah, that's just another pacu.

Here's an even better picture of the teeth:

That's from National Geographic, and don't click on that link unless you want to see a picture of a fish with much scarier dentition. I'll take a fish with human teeth over a fish with two inch fangs any day.

Keeping my fingers out of the water either way,
-Wombat (No Relation)