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