Jul 30, 2010

Have a devilishly ugly weekend

Our friend Uroplatus phantasticus hopes you're having a fantastic Friday. His friends know him as the Satanic leaf-tail gecko, and you can see a great photo of him doing his leaf-imitating thing here.

(That article says that the common name for this species comes from the tiny horn-shaped projections on the head, but you can't really see those on this specimen. Personally I think it's more about that look in his eye.)


Jul 29, 2010

Advice to the ugly

I almost hesitated to post this picture for two reasons. One is that the mission of this blog specifically excludes the "maimed," and apparently I am not the first to think that this animal looks like the victim of either a tragic accident or plastic surgery gone horribly wrong.

But this is the totally natural, unaltered appearance of the Tonkin Snub-Nosed Monkey, and I figured I better go ahead and post it because this animal may not be with us for much longer.

It's classified as critically endangered, one of the 25 most endangered primate species in the world, and only a couple of hundred individuals remain in five isolated locations in Vietnam. It's so rare that it was believed extinct until its rediscovery in the 1990s.

This monkey isn't one of those animals that's going extinct because no one is paying attention. The group Flora and Fauna International has been working on its preservation for years, and even discovered a new population in 2008. But they recently announced that it's on the brink of extinction in one district, down to 20-30 monkeys.

The species is threatened by habitat loss and also by hunting, even though it's reported to taste pretty ugly too, so it's not killed for food. But it seems like its worst problem is that it doesn't know who its enemies are. One researcher reports that unlike most animals that are threatened by hunting, these monkeys didn't flee when they encountered her.

So there's the second reason I hesitated to write about this guy: I don't want to be part of his problem. So let me be clear to any Tonkin Snub-Nosed Monkeys that are reading: There may be some of us who love you, but if you see a human, don't stick around to chat about whether they read Ugly Overload. Just RUN AWAY.

(See a bunch more pictures here and thanks to @SpeciesoftheDay for the inspiration.)

-Your ugly primate friend,
Wombat (No Relation)

Jul 24, 2010

An Ugly Welcome

This week the National Zoo in Washington, DC held a VIP reception to welcome representatives of a unique species from Asia. It was covered by TV and newspapers and attended by foreign dignitaries.

And no, it was not about pandas! For a change, the ugly got its turn in the spotlight.

The event was the official opening of the new exhibit and breeding facility for Japanese giant salamanders. Unlike the little hand-held critters that probably come to mind when you think of salamanders, these guys can grow to be five feet long and over fifty pounds. The Japanese have designated them “special natural treasures,” recognizing that just because you look like a pile of mud and pebbles at the bottom of a stream, that doesn't mean you're not precious.

The zoo hopes to be the first in the United States to breed the salamanders. In the wild, their courtship is itself rather ugly, since males can fight for mates so viciously that some die from their injuries. Fortunately there's no need for that at the zoo, so perhaps it will be more like the cartoon produced for the occasion:

See the rest of the comic here and more pictures here.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Jul 20, 2010

All kingdoms, phyla, classes and orders welcome

I woke up this morning hearing the ugly mammals calling: "What about us?"

I feel guilty for posting about sea creatures twice a row. It's just too easy. I could probably post a picture of some astonishingly ugly aquatic animal every day without breaking a sweat.

But that wouldn't be fair. The farther an animal gets from furry and cuddly, the easier it is for them to be ugly. It's probably an instinctive reaction - the more different things are from us, the more likely we are to find them ugly.

So fish and invertebrates have a big head start. Mammals have to work so much harder to be ugly, since they start with the disadvantage of being warm, four-limbed, and at least somewhat furry.

But when they make the effort, they really can pull out all the stops, like the saiga antelope above, and this lovely rhino:

Mammals tend to dominate my other blog with their bad behavior, but they equally deserve to be honored here for their bad looks - and just as often as our squishy, scaly, cold-blooded friends.

Thanks to the Guardian UK and their fantastic weekly photo galleries for helping us recognize the efforts of the rhino and saiga antelope.

In solidarity with the homeothermic ugly,
-Wombat (No Relation)

Jul 15, 2010

Deepwater Shark Diet Consists of - OMG LOOK at that thing!

The folks over at Discovery News headlined their story "Deepwater Shark Diet Includes Other Sharks." I clicked thinking this might be an item for my other blog, but it turns out that the real story is, have you ever SEEN such a thing?

Its creepy skin and having its eyes where its nostrils should be might be impressively ugly enough, if that weren't overshadowed by the fact that its eyes are totally the wrong size and in fact seem to come from some other animal entirely.

This amazing creature appears to be a kitefin shark. I determined this via the exhaustive research technique of Googling the species names mentioned and looking at the pictures, which definitely beats what the scientists in the article had to do: they collected the semi-digested stomach contents of sharks for DNA analysis.

Another scientist working in this ugly corner of science told Discovery News that this technique is an important breakthrough:

He hopes future DNA research might shed light on mysterious "lumps of blubber" that are "scooped from living cetaceans" by sharks, or "scavenged from dead ones."

Oh, yum!

-Your queasy friend,
Wombat (No Relation)

Jul 11, 2010

If the outsides of animals aren't ugly enough for you...

It's happened to all of us. You're looking at an animal, and sure, it's great, but somehow, something is missing. You think to yourself, wouldn't it be so much better if only I could see this animal's guts?

Well, here you go: meet Peniagone Diaphana:

Peniagone - let's call her (him? it?) Penny for short - is a holothurian from the benthic zone. Scientists snapped this glamour shot via remotely operated deep-sea vehicle on an expedition to the mid-Atlantic ridge as part of the Census of Marine Life.

Check out a slideshow of Penny and her more and less ugly pals at
The Guardian.

- Wombat, who has a weird craving for some nice raw shellfish right now...

Jul 8, 2010

Lift a glass to the ugly

Pull up a chair and welcome to my ugly beer party!

OK, actually those bottles are empty. They're part of my collection of beers with ugly animals on the label. I'm sorry to report that apparently you can no longer buy this wonderful homage to the elephant seal:

But despair not. We've got a warthog, and if you're not a drinker, you can buy a t-shirt of this one instead:

The very best, though, has to be this fantastic wolf eel:

(You can get a t-shirt of that one too, but it's a different, colorful version.)

Doing research for this post, I stumbled across another one that I don't have that I really need: Ugly Pug Black Lager! If anyone happens to see this in the Washington, DC area, please drop me a line.


Jul 7, 2010

Russian Mystery Animal ID Needed

We need a biologist, maybe even a bonafide cryptologist to weigh in on this one.

Olesja encountered this on a meadow path near a pond in Bashkiria, Russia. It was about 5 cm long, and had no discernible eyes, legs, or head. It moved in a jerky, almost caterpillar-like motion. She thought it might be a severed lizard tail, but it stopped moving when she touched it, and it resumed moving in the same direction about a minute later. The underside is smoother and darker than the topside.

Any clue as to what this might be? How afraid does Olesja need to be? How about the rest of us? Have we witnessed ground zero of an alien invasion? That tail, if larger, would make for good grappling, and all it would need then is a decent ovipositor, and viola, you've got human hosts.

Jul 4, 2010

Happy Ugly Fourth of July

Hope you're all enjoying some nice cold summer treats like this baboon at Hangzhou Wild Animal Zoo in China.

Selected for your enjoyment from the Telegraph's Animal Pictures of the Week by your friend Wombat (No Relation).

Jul 1, 2010

Ugly Stars

When I think about starfish, I imagine pretty little things. They even come in nice decorative colors:
(From Flickr user nugunslinger)

Not much fodder there for lovers of the ugly, you'd think. But as we've seen previously with the slime star, not all starfish are so disappointing. And I was pleased to discover that the situation is even better for their relatives the brittle stars. Check out these guys: spiny, mushy-looking, bumpy, stringy and not quite symmetrical, they've really got it all:

What's even more encouraging is that these species were only discovered a few years ago.

Imagine that: not only haven't we blogged about all the ugly in nature, there's probably still more out there that hasn't even been discovered yet! If that's not a thought to get you through till the weekend, I don't know what is.

Cheering you on,