Mar 31, 2010

Dewy Insects

Enjoy these dewy photos. Makes me thankful I've got a roof over my head. Also makes me thankful that we've got photographers like Miroslaw Swietek to capture such images.

Thanks for the arcticle, Ida.

Photo source: Miroslaw Swietek via

Mar 30, 2010

Camouflaged Spread

Jaden sent us this link from Enjoy this spread of camouflaged creatures, including a crab spider, a scorpion fish, a stone fish, and an orchid mantis. Thanks, Jaden.

Mar 29, 2010


Sydney funnel-web spiders are one of only two Australian funnel-web spiders known to have inflicted fatal bites on humans. Combine their toxicity with their aggression, and you've got a notorious spider.

They range in size from 1 to 3 inches, with the females being larger. The females spend their time in their silken, tubular burrow retreats, while the males spend the warmer months wandering about in search of a receptive female.

Back to their venom: it contains a substance known as atraxotoxin (good name for a rock band?), which is highly toxic to primates. We humans are therefore advised to steer clear of these spiders. The males seek out water, and are therefore often found floating in pools. But they have survive such conditions for 24-hours, and can still deliver a full envenomation bite if plucked from the water without care. Said the funnel-web spider to its bitten savior, "You knew what I was when you pulled me from the water."

Photo source: Tim Marshall

Mar 28, 2010

Lot O' Slug

You're not looking at some screenshots from a poor man's version of The Abyss. You're looking at photos taken by Rachel and her fiance while on vacation at Marco Island, FL.

Rachel's best guess, and mine too, is that this beast (there were two of them) is a sea hare (a type of marine slug). If this guess is right, then these creatures (or their kin) might have the potential of reaching upwards of 4.4 lbs and two and a half feet in length. That makes them arguably the world's largest slug (a title they've stolen from an uncle of mine). That's a lot o' slug.

Thanks Rachel and fiance.

Mar 27, 2010

Side-Neck Turtle

Enjoy this side-necked turtle sent to us from Pamela. Imagine it coming after your toes as you swim across a placid stream...

Mar 26, 2010

Those Eyes

Monkey face, monkey hair, monkey hands. But those eyes. So human. He looks so pensive, so contemplative. I wonder what he's thinking about. His captivity? How nice it is not to have to worry about being eaten by a jungle cat? Bananas? Throwing his feces?

I don't know. But those eyes...

Photo source: Mark

Mar 25, 2010

Content Croc

This crocodile looks exactly like I do after I've had more than my share of pizza--content and pleased with himself. Of course, he also looks like the rocks around him, so I don't know what that says about me.

Photo source: Riverbank Outdoor Store

Mar 24, 2010

Intrepid Caterpillars

Scientists have discovered at least 12 species of moths whose caterpillars spend weeks at a time underwater. And no one knows how they do it.

The caterpillars don't have gills, and they don't have anything to cover their tracheae to stop them from drowning. When placed in still water they do drown, so they must need the oxygen rich waters of their fast-running streams. And so they bob along in the water, tethered by strands of silk as they cruise around for algae.

I wonder who that caterpillar was who first saw that scrap of algae just out of reach beneath the water's surface and decided to go in after it. I want to shake his hand. I respect any creature who will go to such lengths for a good meal.

Thanks for the article, Ida.

Photo source: University of Hawaii via LA Times

Mar 23, 2010

Vampire Feeding

Katie took these amazing photos in the night enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. You get one guess as to what these vampires bats are drinking from the bowls.

There are three species of vampire bat, all of them native to the Americas. The average female can ingest 50% of her body weight in blood (1 ounce) in a 20-minute feeding. So, how do they talk off after gaining so much weight? They being urinating within 2-3 minutes of feeding (that's how quickly their kidneys work to process the blood). Then when it's time to actually take off, they've developed a crouch-and-fling method of launching themselves into the air.

Again, why do I post on my lunch break?

Mar 22, 2010

Uroplatus fimbriatus

Photo source: Nicolas Cegalerba
It's a stretch to call geckos, even these Uroplatus fimbriatus, flat-tailed geckos, ugly. But they are reptiles, and they do lick their own enormous eyeballs. That's a good start. Another test I run on any prospective ugly: would my daughters scream at seeing one clambering up their bedroom wall? Yes, they would.

Mar 21, 2010

Freshwater Fears

I've gone scuba diving in kelp forests, in the Red Triangle with 10-foot visibility and 5-foot surges, and in wrecks that were deep enough to give me nitrogen narcosis. But for some reason I freak out at the notion of getting into bodies of freshwater. Images like the one below don't help.

What we've got here is a Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox). As their name implies, they are turtle with soft shells that are native to Florida (and some nearby neighboring states). They're fast on land and on water, and prefer slow moving streams, lakes or ponds.

Once when I was diving in Monterey, California, I turned around and saw a seal watching me from five feet away. It made my year. But if I were in a lake and turned around to see this, it would ruin me. Why, again, I couldn't tell you. Maybe it goes back to when a softshell turtle ate my father.

Mar 20, 2010

Skinny and Baldwin

I'm always impressed by pet owners who submit their own pets to this blog. They understand what it's all about. We celebrate their ugliness, we revel in it, we offer them up as as a counterbalance to all the sugary cuteness you find out there. It doesn't take much effort to fall in love with a puppy or a kitten. It takes a bit more to love a hairless rodent.

Such is the case with Bianca from Holland. Enjoy her skinny and Baldwin guinea pigs. Enjoy her site. Thanks, Bianca.

Mar 19, 2010

Withered Skittle

A couple of people turned in images of this bug to WhatsThatBug, and I can understand why. It looks like something that fell out of my uncle's belly button. How do you possibly identify something like that?

It's actually a giant scaled insect. They spend most of their adulthood as sedentary sap suckers on herbacious plants (a lifestyle I'd aspire to if I were a bug). But then, can you expect more of something that has straws for mouth parts and looks like a withered Skittle?

Thanks for the link, Jaden.

Photo source: Kimberly via WhatsThatBug

Mar 18, 2010

Alligator Spear

My ancestors tell of young Gar who fell in love with grumpy Alligator. Gar was mischievous and never heeded her parents counsel. They forbade her from seeing Alligator anymore, but she snuck away one night into the bayou and ran away with Alligator. They were soon wed and had children. But they were mutant children.

That's a cautionary tale I've cooked up for my daughters.

The alligator gar has the distinction of being not only the world's largest gar, but also North America's largest exclusively freshwater fish. Adults measure between 8 - 10 feet and weigh at least 200 lbs. The largest alligator gar caught bowfishing was 365 lbs.

I love it when animals are aptly named. Alligator? That's obvious, especially in the second photo. Gar? That's Old English for 'spear.' So what you've got in this fish is a massive alligator spear. Thankfully, they are generally passive, non-aggressive, and solitary ambush hunters. The lower Mississippi River Valley and the Gulf Region would be different places if they were otherwise.

Thanks for the gar, Jelo.

Mar 17, 2010


Monkeys are severely underrated when it comes to hairdos. Take this critically endangered southern-bearded sakis monkey for instance. He comes equipped with two ends upon which to sit.

Much like some coworkers I've had in the past.

Thanks for the link, Susan.

Mar 16, 2010

Robberfly vs. Dragonfly

In an aerial maneuver any ace fighter pilot would be proud of, this robberfly (Triorla interrupta) took this male dragonfly (Common Whitetail) on the wing, midair, and bore him to the ground. After about a minute of buzzing and flailing and tumbling about, the robberfly ended up on top, and the dragonfly with his innards being sucked out.

Robberflies are able to take out prey quite a bit larger than them. Just goes to show: it's not the size of the fly in the fight, it's the size of the fight that's in the fly. Try saying that ten times fast.

Photo source: Thomas Shahan (opoterser)

Mar 15, 2010

Means and Propriety

I'm sure this silverback gorilla is just yawning. But you've got to give respect to a beast that is seven times your strength, with fangs that large, and with a jaw that can open that wide. Couple all that with the fact that that green stain on his upper lip just above his middle teeth is residue from some poo he was eating earlier, and you've got a beast with both the means and the lack of propriety needed to rend you apart.

Photo source: Hauke Steinberg

Mar 14, 2010

Plush Spider

The cephalothorax of this Argiope bruennichi (photographed in de Hekslootpolder in Haarlem --the Netherlands ) looks nice and fuzzy, like I'd expect it to. But that abdomen, it looks so soft, almost like a plush stuffed animal. I almost want to touch it.

But I know that's just what she wants of me, to lure me in so she can strike, wrap me up in a cocoon, and transform me into a living zombie so that her offspring can feast upon me when they hatch. Either that, or she'd skitter away if I got to close and hide in the shadows. One of the two.

Photo source: Ge van 't Hoff

Mar 13, 2010

A Stroll Through the Jungle

Imagine yourself on a leisurely stroll through the jungle of Nouragues, French Guiana, when you look up and see this sight. Well, I guess if you're the type to take a stroll at night through the jungles of French Guiana that this is exactly the sort of sight you're looking for. Little microbats, getting ready for an evening full of squeaks, fluttering, and bugs.

Photo courtesy: Sean McCann

Mar 12, 2010

The First Instar

I had no idea that Madagascar hissing cockroaches ... issued their young like this. They're just spilling out of her!

I learned a new word today: instar. Arthropods such as insects must moult to grow. The phase between each moult, but prior to sexual maturity, is called an instar. So, can one of your experts confirm this: these wee roach nymphs can be said to not even be of the first instar yet, since they have yet to moult?

Hissers must be of at least the fourth instar before they can beginning hissing. I'll bet roach nymphs can't wait till that fourth moult. Such a milestone...

UPDATE: Joe has informed me that a new nymph is considered to be in its first instar. Furthermore, the final instar prior to sexual maturity is called the Penultimate Instar (great name for a rock band). When the first of my own brood reaches that gangly stage of puberty I'll accuse them of being in their penultimate instar and see what they have to say about that. Thanks, Joe.

Photo source: Matt Reinbold