Dec 24, 2012

Gator Claus is on his way!

Sick of cute animals in holiday outfits? Here, have an alligator instead. More on Buzzfeed. Happy Holidays!

Dec 13, 2012


Have broken my wrist and am a bit handicapped for blogging, but couldn't miss this baby echidna. Check it out:  Perth puggles leading the breeding program for Perth Zoo.

Dec 4, 2012

New species of skinny, bug-eyed snake

Headline from Scientific American - how could you need to know more to be thrilled? But go ahead and click if you do. Don't miss the links to photos of its cool relatives, but maybe don't scroll down too far unless you want to know a little too much about the horror of snake sex organs.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Dec 1, 2012

Ugly animals in the mainstream media

Check out this article about the new vultures at the National Zoo in the Washington Post.

Nov 22, 2012

Tired of turkey?

Why not try some of these? It's Urechis unicinctus, a marine spoon worm also known as the fat innkeeper worm, or, if that doesn't sound delicious enough, the penis fish. And you don't even have to cook it! In China you might find them in a stir-fry, but in Korea, it's eaten raw. A little salt and sesame oil and you're good to go, a nice light meal after all that heavy holiday fare.

These guys have an interesting cuisine of their own. They secrete their own slime net to catch particles of food. And they're hospitable, hence the "innkeeper" name: they share the tunnels they dig with small fish and other marine animals, which also eat their leftovers.

All in all, a perfect symbolic animal for this holiday, right?

Happy Thanksgiving!
-Wombat (No Relation)

Nov 20, 2012

Ugly Cuisine and Conservation

Poster for the Tokyo Bug-eating Festival. Wish I was there (but just to watch).

Also relevant to our interests is this article at the BBC: Are these animals too ugly to be saved?

Nov 12, 2012

Your Monday.... ugdorable?

OK, even I am not sure about this one... That is a baby tentacled snake, resting on the hand of one of my sometime colleagues at the National Zoo.  Tentacled snakes are aquatic (see some pictures of them in the water here) and spend their time hanging on by their tails to a branch and lolling about underwater looking uncannily like a dead branch. This clever method of disguise makes it easy for them to catch unsuspecting prey that swims by. Convenient for them, but less convenient for the keeper who is wondering how she would know if that dead-looking snake was actually dead.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Oct 30, 2012

Ugdorable baby weathers the storm

A little bit of good news: The New York Aquarium in Coney Island was flooded during Hurricane Sandy, with the entire facility reported to be under water. But staff remained to care for the animals, including orphaned baby walrus Mitik. The baby has had some health problems because of his history (you can read more of Mitik's backstory and see more photos, if you didn't before, at Zooborns) and what's described as his "around-the-clock" care was not interrupted.

We salute the staff's dedication to their ugly charge.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Oct 20, 2012

Happy Second International Sloth Day!

According to Foundation Aiunau, anyway. At my house every day is sloth day. 

Oct 15, 2012

Your Monday ugdorable

Orphaned baby walrus. From, as is often the case, Zooborns. Go read about it there, if your brain hasn't turned completely to mush.
-Wombat (No Relation)

Oct 12, 2012

Time to Plan your Outfit

I am just barely in time for International Cephalopod Awareness Days (October 8-12) so I thought my post should look forward to another holiday. Via Archie McPhee's Geyser of Awesome, here's a photo that asks the question: What ugly animal are you going to dress as for Halloween?

-Wombat (No Relation)

Oct 8, 2012

Your Monday Ugdorable

I swear this blog isn't going to become Sirenian Overload, but just one more - this photo of an orphaned Amazonian manatee that I think is the same one written about here, but whoever it is, isn't it the cutest thing you ever saw?

Oct 4, 2012

What I did on my summer vacation, contd.

Photographic proof that I petted a dugong!

And if you haven't had enough of my trip to Japan, read the article I wrote for the Associated Press.

Oct 1, 2012

Your Monday ugdorable

That's a baby tamandua hanging onto a big teddy bear at Reid Park Zoo, via Zooborns.

Sep 27, 2012

On the trail of a strange small mammal

I have been waiting to find time to post on this at length and it's just not happening, so you should all go and read this excellent article from the BBC about the Pyrenean desman, a small aquatic mammal described by the reporter as looking like "a strange mish-mash of creatures - part rat, part mole, part platypus," and furthermore:
It has a huge nose - like a miniature version of an elephant's trunk - framed with long whiskers and beady little eyes. Its front paws are tiny, but its back feet are huge - and webbed. It's topped off by a thick, scaly tail.
Nice! Even a scientist studying the little-known animal says "It really is one of Europe's strangest creatures."

-Wombat (No Relation)

Sep 18, 2012

My ugly animal travels

I just came back from a trip to Japan where of course I sought out many animals which are not conventionally attractive. The most exciting was this dugong, one of only a few in captivity in the whole world. She lives at the aquarium in Toba, about three hours from Tokyo, and her name is Serena. (You know, I am sure, that the family that includes the dugong and manatee is Sirenians, named after the mythical Sirens, based on the fact that sailors allegedly thought that dugongs were mermaids.)

It was particulary exciting because when my friend told a staff member that I had come all the way from America to see the dugong, she took me into the exhibit and let me touch it.

(Unfortunately, those pictures are on my friend's camera and I don't have them yet, so you'll just have to believe me for now.)

So, enjoy this video of a feasting dugong, and there will be some more animal news from my trip this week on my other blog.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Aug 29, 2012

Still time to order an ugly cake

That's a photo from the official website of International Vulture Awareness Day, which is September 1st. How are you planning to celebrate?

Aug 24, 2012

Ugly animal fiction

If you're looking for some end-of-summer reading, my mystery The Sloth's Eye has finally appeared as an ebook for Kindle and Nook. Reasonably priced compared to the hardcover, and full of animals that are not conventionally attractive and the people who love them!

You can read more about it at my website.
Please support your friendly ugly animal writer!
-Wombat (No Relation)

Aug 21, 2012

Your belated ugdorable

It's a baby three banded armadillo at Busch Gardens Tampa via Zooborns. I could tell you some factual things about this animal, like that despite its scaly armor, it is a mammal. Or I could just leave it at this: This is the cutest kind of armadillo and one of my favorite animals. Enjoy!
-Wombat (No Relation)

Aug 20, 2012

Not your usual Monday ugly

I have been trying to start the week with cute-ugly animals when possible. I mean, Mondays are tough enough, right? Even ugly animal lovers need a dose of cute. But there has been a deluge of submissions (well, two) of this newly discovered cave spider, so here it is by popular demand.

If you read the article at Scientific American, you might find it hard to get past
The spider somewhat resembles the brown recluse, famed for its flesh-necrotizing venom—but at four centimeters is about twice as large
and the reference to "rapacious-looking talons," but you probably have nothing to worry about from this ugly animal. After all, you probably don't spend much time in caves. And also the scientist who discovered it says it is "not likely to be venomous to humans." Um, OK.... Oh wait: "is distinctly unaggressive and their main interest is escaping the light as quickly as possible." Yeah, that's better. What an interesting discovery, then!

Aug 13, 2012

Your Monday ugdorable

Meet Anzac and Peggy, an orphaned kangaroo and wombat who are reportedly best friends at a wildlife rescue in Victoria, Australia. Peggy, the wombat, is described by the Mail as "boisterous and cheeky," as if you couldn't tell from the photo.

 -Wombat (No Relation)

Aug 4, 2012

Ugly... and Not Safe For Work?

The LA Times put it best:

Biologists studying a drained river in Brazil have discovered a new species of amphibian that looks disconcertingly like a male organ.

Atretochoana eiselti is a caecilian. That's the family of amphibians that's jealous that frogs and salamanders get all the attention. The Times article concludes:

Tupan said the team believes the creature breathes through its skin and probably feeds on small fish and worms. They know nothing about its sex life.

Jul 30, 2012

Your Monday Ugdorable

Orphaned baby pangolin from The Amphibian Avenger. No, it's not an amphibian, nor a reptile either despite the scales - it's a scaly mammal!

Jul 23, 2012

Your Monday Ugdorable

It's the first baby Cuban crocodile born at the National Zoo in almost 25 years. I have met it and it is just as cute in person. See more pictures here.

Jul 16, 2012

Your Monday ugdorable

Baby hedgehog in a hammock, from the always interesting Nothing to do with Arbroath.

Jul 14, 2012

No comment

Struck speechless by this condor chick from Germany via Zooborns.

Jun 23, 2012

Welcome back!

Well, I guess it hadn't really gone anywhere, but... Good news on the ugly species front for a change: This toad isn't extinct anymore!

No, it's not Jurassic Park with amphibians, just careful field work. The Kandyan dwarf toad was discovered in 1872, but it hasn't been seen for over a century. But as announced in a just-published scientific paper, in 2009 it was rediscovered in a stream in Sri Lanka.

The researcher cautions that the toad is probably still highly endangered. They only saw four, and amphibians these days are all under pressure due to climate change and disease. On the bright side, they won't be bothered by people much, at least: one reason they haven't been seen because it's so hard to get to the site, with bad weather and harsh terrain. So they can probably enjoy their new celebrity in privacy.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Jun 21, 2012

Sometimes, I don't know...

why people think birds are beautiful.

Those are kingfisher chicks being fed a fish via The Telegraph. Usually, you can reassure a gawky adolescent that they're going to look better when they grow up, but with that tasteless color combination on the adult, I'm not so sure.

Jun 18, 2012

Your Monday ugdorable

That's a ten-day-old baby hedgehog, safe with rescuers after a narrow escape from a garden bonfire in England, from The Telegraph.

Jun 10, 2012

Don't let fashion make an ass of you

From The Telegraph, this is a Baudet du Poitou donkey, and apparently it's supposed to look that way.

That one is about to get its first trim in 17 years, because of the unusually hot weather in England, where there's a farm that raises this very rare French breed. Centuries of tradition have viewed the long dreadlocks as a sign of strength, but their owner told the BBC, "It's not very nice being sweaty when you are this hairy."

A sensible approach to fashion, indeed.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Jun 7, 2012

Vampire of the deep

Right now there's a post on my other blog about squid, which is something that doesn't happen very often. We don't know enough about their behavior to know the details of their character flaws, I guess.
But we do know a lot about what they look like: they're are wonderfully weird and it's been too long since we saw one here.

That picture is of one of the creepiest species, with a name to suit: the vampire squid. Though called a squid, it's actually a more primitive relative of both the squid and octopus. True to its name, it wears a cape -  its arms are connected by webbing that helps it fly batlike through the water. And while it can't suck your blood, it can pierce you: for defense, it turns that webbing inside out to cover its body and reveal the sharp spikes jutting out of its arms. Check it out:

Next time you eat calamari, hope you never meet one of its relatives looking for revenge.
-Wombat (No Relation)

May 21, 2012

Your late Monday ugdorable

Baby wart hog from Zoo Miami, via (no surprise) Zooborns.

May 20, 2012

The tapir, asserting its place

The tapir has been featured on this blog regularly. I feel this is justified because they are definitely not conventionally attractive, with their chunky outlines and odd snouts. But I also always feel slightly guilty, unsure whether they belong here because in truth I find them so adorable.

I did eventually get a chance to feature the tapir behaving extremely badly on my other blog, which I felt counted as a sort of penance. But even better, now I can give you the only picture of a tapir I have ever seen that even I find utterly unattractive.

Thanks (I think) to The Telegraph.
-Wombat (No Relation)

May 13, 2012

Happy Ugly Mother's Day!

On other websites, you're probably reading about all kinds of cute animal mothers today. I admit I've committed a bit of this sort of thing myself, but I included some ugly and badly behaved mothers as well. And here, we're going to take this day to honor the horseshoe crab, which is in the middle of its spawning season on Mother's Day. Because here's what's cool about horseshoe crabs: Most of those cute animals make their babies in private. But if you live on the east coast, you can look at this map and find out where and when to go to the beach to see their ancient spawing ritual.

Hey, if you live near the beach, it might not be too late to take Mom to see it. And it might not be too late to volunteer for the survey. It just so happens I'm going to be at the Delaware shore at the next full moon, which is one of the best times, so I'm definitely going to try to check it out.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Photo of horseshoe crabs getting it on en masse from the state of Maryland DNR.

May 10, 2012

Apologetic bloghead

I apologize that real life has been interfering with posting to this blog recently, but I am never too busy to read and steal from direct your attention again to Archie McPhee's Geyser of Awesome where you should really go and read their post on this amazing photo of a sarcastic fringehead.

If you check out the comments on our previous post about this fish, one commentor says that the strange name is explained by the fact that "sarcastic" is derived from a word that means "the tearing of flesh." I don't know if that is true, but as a story it is definitely what we call in the news business "too good to fact-check," so I'm going to leave it at that.

-Wombat (No Relation)

May 2, 2012

Alpaca fashion victims

These are some alpacas at a farm in Austria where reportedly "the annual shearing of Alpacas is done in the spring to make the animals more comfortable for the summer months." I get the urge to have exactly the same thing done to myself at this time of year, and maybe you do too. So let's take this as a warning.

Photo from The Telegraph, via our friends at Archie McPhee.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Apr 27, 2012

Happy World Tapir Day!

Did you forget that today is World Tapir Day? If so, that tapir is showing exactly what he thinks of you. Maybe he'll forgive you if you have a party this weekend instead. Do it!

-Wombat (No Relation)

Apr 23, 2012

So Helpful

In case an elephant seal on its own isn't gross enough for you, here's one with a bird picking its nose. According to The Telegraph,this Striated Caracara "explored the elephant seal's nose for three minutes, feeding on parasites." Lovely, yes?

 -Wombat (No Relation)

Apr 20, 2012

The ugliest baby bird in the world?

I'm familiar with the kea parrot for its bad behavior, but I've never before had the decidedly queasy pleasure of seeing a baby one.

Is it in fact the ugliest baby bird ever, as theorized by news sources from the The Independent to the Daily Mail? I don't know, but this is something I've been meaning to do research on, and it's definitely a start.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Apr 15, 2012

Your Monday ugdorable

I was writing a post about manatees for my other blog and I came over here to see if we had any good photos I could borrow. To my surprise I found that we have never posted about manatees here - we've only had a brief look at its relative the dugong. There's no doubt that this gray, globular, floppy-lipped, sunken-eyed, wrinkled sea mammal belongs on this blog, but just that closeup of its whiskery snout probably doesn't convince you that it falls in the "ugdorable" category, so check these out:

Come on: AWWWWW, right?

Thanks to Flickr users Andy Bernay-Roman, Pollen, windy, and Joseph A Ferris III and if you want to help conserve these very not-conventionally-attractive sea mammals, check out Save the Manatee.

- Wombat (No Relation)

Apr 9, 2012

Ugly Song and Dance

I've been saving this for a special occasion. I wasn't sure what that occasion would be, but now I know: it's to wipe from your mind the horrifying image of that wasp in the last post.

These are some Japanese children singing about the aye-aye. I'm not sure what they're saying other than some stuff about its long tail and round eyes, but I know that it's perfectly charming and innocent and there are no giant insects involved whatsoever.

You're welcome.
-Wombat (No Relation)

Apr 3, 2012

Komodo Dragon of Wasps

Joan brings us this beauty, via Dailymail. Behold this newly discovered species of wasp, found on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. 

This two-and-a-half inch monster has mandibles so large that when closed they wrap around its head. When opened, they are larger than its front legs. This specimen is a male warrior, which Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, describes as the komodo dragon of wasps.

What good are those mandibles for? Well, the obvious answer is that they would be good in defending the nest, as all good warrior wasps do. But they also aid in reproduction. Those mandibles wrap around a female wasp's thorax perfectly to hold her in place while they do their business.

How handy would it be if I, a self-styled warrior human (by virtue of the fact that I have a nest to defend and there are no other of-age males available to fulfill the role) came equipped with such mandibles? I wouldn't have need of my blunderbuss, moat, and hounds to ward off invaders. 

Alas, I don't think my wife would be impressed by the mandibles. 

Thanks, Joan!

Mar 30, 2012

Baby Aardvark Overload

I guess I should have posted this on Sunday and said that we were changing the name of the blog. I've posted enough baby aardvarks that you might have believed it for a second. But I couldn't wait.

Born on Monday at Busch Gardens, via Zooborns.

Mar 26, 2012

Your ugly animal shopping advice for the week

You all need to head straight over to Topatoco and buy this brilliant turkey vulture print by Bird and Moon.

Your Monday ugdorable

Baby Malayan tapir (that's the black and white kind) at the Belfast zoo via Zooborns, for those of you who were clamoring for relief from the horror of that last post. And you can't have too many snout-on photos of tapirs as far as I'm concerned.

At your service,
-Wombat (No Relation)

Mar 21, 2012


How is it possible that it's been over three years since the last appearance on this blog of TONGUE EATING ISOPODS!

Sorry to shout, but some things just call for ALL CAPS, and this is one of them. These crustaceans are parasites on certain fish. They doen't just eat the tongue, which would be bad enough. They basically attach themselves to the tongue and replace it, living in the fish's mouth and DRINKING ITS BLOOD.

We haven't seen these TONGUE EATING MONSTERS here since July 2008, and I wrote about them on my other blog only slightly more recently. I feel this is a dereliction of duty as a bad and ugly animal blogger, but today we've got a good reason to make up for it. Because it was recently discovered that due to human activity, there are even MORE of these nightmarish creatures than there used to be. Researchers studying the Ceratothoa italica species of isopod found that in areas affected by overfishing, the percentage of fish infected by this parasite was much higher.

The scientists seem to have mixed feelings as they often do: both bemoaning its effect when the balance of nature is disturbed, and yet giving the creature an affectionate nickname: they call it "Betty:"

Betty is quite gruesome and does remind you of the Alien films, but it’s a highly adapted and specialised animal which is very successful. Unfortunately, over-fishing upsets the balance of parasite and host and interferes with the whole eco-system.

Thanks for the tip - I think - to the blog of parasite expert Carl Zimmer, which you may -or may not - want to check out here.

-Wombat (No Relation)

Mar 14, 2012

A plague of spiderwebs

I am not an arachnophobe, but when a friend sent me a link to this photo and I clicked on it, the only possible reaction was "AAAAIIEEEEE!"

It turns out that the spiders probably feel the same way. This isn't normal behavior for the wolf spider (thank goodness). They're trying to escape flooding in Wagga Wagga, Australia. As a spider expert told an Australian newspaper:

In an attempt to escape rising waters, the spiders climb blades of grass and let out hundreds of metres of silk in the hope a gust of wind will catch the web and transport them to safety, he said.

''What you are seeing is the result of all their failed attempts to get away.''

To give an idea of the extent of these webs, here's a photo with a terrier for scale:

You can check out more photos, if you can stand it, at The Telegraph. There's one of an entire field covered in webs. Don't say I didn't warn you.

-Wombat (No Relation)