Jan 25, 2011

Giant Crayfish Found in Tennessee

Recently, in Shoal Creek, Tennessee, researchers discovered a new, very large species of crayfish.

This crayfish, Barbicambasrus simmonsi, reaches a length of nearly five inches, is nearly twice the size of its local relatives, as you can see in this comparison shot.

The crayfish is also noted for its unusual "bearded" antennae, called 'setae.' These fancy antennae give this guy enhanced sensory abilities.

Pictures courtesy of National Geographic.

Jan 17, 2011

Ugly goes viral

Surely you've already heard about Heidi, the opossum in a German zoo who's become famous on the internet by being even uglier than a normal opossum. Maybe you read this article at the Christian Science Monitor, or Heidi's Wikipedia page, or this fan website that has sprung up to collect information on her. Or, you could go to her Facebook page or the website of the Leipzig Zoo, where Heidi resides. I can't think of much to add to that, but we couldn't let this phenomenon go without noting it here.

Jumping on the bandwagon,
-Wombat (No Relation)

Jan 14, 2011

Latrine Diving

Imagine hurrying over to the latrines to relieve yourself and looking down to see this face looking back at you. You might, if you lived in Peru.

Two-toed sloths in Peru have begun a recent trend of scampering (can sloths even scamper?) into latrines to eat human waste. Why, you ask? That's a good question, and surprisingly, there are several possible answers. Our feces (or at least, Peruvian feces) might have nutritional value. Maybe it's the insect larvae crawling around on the feces. Or maybe it's all the salt in the urine. Researcher don't know for sure.

(photos by M. Stojan-Dolar via Tetrapod Zoology)
Regardless of the reason, suffice it to say that were my latrines susceptible to sloth invasions, I'd probably develop a bad case of constipation. And yes, the sloth in the bottom picture is carting along a youngin' clinging to it's belly. Little sloths might want to develop the companion behavior to latrine diving of riding on mom's back.

I apologize if you happened upon this post while eating. Thanks for the article, Laura.

Jan 8, 2011

Frogs make desperate attempt to associate themselves with trendy bestsellers?

I know, that frog is lovely. You think there's no way it could belong on this blog. But hang on a minute.

This is a newly discovered species from Vietnam called the vampire flying frog. The "flying" part is because it can glide from tree to tree, using the unusual amount of webbing between its toes.

The other part of the name has nothing to do with the adorable adult in the picture above. It's based on a feature of the tadpoles that the original paper delicately calls "a pair of keratinized hooks on the lower labium that face away from the mouth." That is, this baby has FANGS:

Just so you know, normally, tadpoles do NOT have fangs. The scientists have no idea what function they serve. You'll be relieved to know that they don't suck blood, since tadpoles are vegetarians. Other than that, it's still a mystery. Maybe frogs are trying to stem the tide of extinction by hopping on the "Twilight" bandwagon?

But, seriously, this is freaky. In my last post we saw a mammal with scales. Now, we've got a tadpole with fangs. Don't these animals read the textbooks???

Wombat (No Relation)

Jan 5, 2011

Scaly baby ugly!

Is that a dinosaur? A walking pine cone? Some kind of lizard? No, that's a mom and baby pangolin at the Taipei Zoo.

Pangolins have got to be one of the best ugly mammals ever. If you're looking for any kind of conventional beauty, you won't find it here. They start at a pointy little heads, get much fatter in the middle, and end with a long scaly tail. Yes, they're completely covered with scales! No other mammal can boast of that. Here's a better view of one:

And here's an angle on this ground-dwelling, digging creature that you won't see often:

In fact, there's not much chance of seeing a pangolin from any angle - they're noctural and not kept in very many zoos. Pangolins are sometimes called scaly anteaters and used to be classified with my favorite order, the Xenarthra, which includes sloths, anteaters, and armadillos. They have some similarities, such as the long anteater-like tongue, but they're now considered to be in their own family.

The scales are made of keratin, same as your hair and nails. Fortunately for the mom, the baby's scales are soft to start and only harden after they are born.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Thanks for the baby tip to Zooborns, and for the other pictures to Flickr user shakingwave.

Jan 3, 2011

Cupid's slimy darts

There's an excellent slideshow at The Guardian of new species discovered in 2010, quite of a few of which are admirably ugly.

Here's one in particular that we definitely shouldn't have missed. Reports of this long-tailed slug from Borneo at first make it sound kind of cute. It supposedly likes to wrap its long tail around itself while resting. Don't you wish they had taken a picture of that? Doesn't it sound sort of adorable?

That's before you read on and discover that the mating behavior of this slug should probably be featured on my other blog. Courtship involves harpoon-like "love darts" made of calcium carbonate which are used to pierce a mate and inject a hormone. Nasty behavior indeed!

Your shocked and disgusted friend,
-Wombat (No Relation)