Thursday, April 30, 2009


These guys fall into the grand category of Australian (and Tasmanian) marsupials. Though often referred to, surprisingly not a lot of people know what they look like. So here the are.
Also, to give you a sense of size, they're typically about a meter long and usually between 40 and 80 pounds in weight.

Their defense is ridiculous -- when chased by dingos or Tasmanian devils, they dive into a tunnel. With just its butt sticking near the surface, predators have a hard time gripping them since their hide is tough and they don't have a significant tail to grab onto. If determined, it'll let the predator move its head over its back in the tunnel, and use its strong feet to push up and crush the skull of the predator between its back and the roof of the tunnel.

Also, their poop is very fibrous and is used to make eco-friendly paper these days. And finally, a group of them is called a "Wisdom."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jesus Christ Lizard.

Once you watch the video, you'll get the name.
You find them between Panama and Venezuela in thick forests.

Their ability to run on water is a unique defense technique. They have webbed feet (think frogs) allowing them to run on water if their momentum is high enough.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Leafy Sea Dragon.

The leafy sea dragon, as you can guess, is related to sea horses. They live off the coast of western Australia. And unlike my last post, these are abundant. So no worries here. They are leafy in look for camouflage not only in shape, but also in movement. The appendages floating around floats in the same way seaweed does, so often times you can't tell them apart. On top of that, depending on their diet and level of stress, they can change colors, too. Camo: CHECK.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Javan Rhinoceros.

This Rhino does not have great pictures that go along with it. Why? There are an estimated 50 left in the wild. Making it easily one of the rarest known animals. The related species is the Indian Rhino which is doing slightly better. There is known population in Mongolia and their threat, of course, is people. It's horn is often used for chinese medicine and its habitat, is of course, in decline.

Most of their behaviors are similar to their African counter-parts. The main difference is having 1 horn instead of two. It's less aggressive, and I guess lost the horn since it is costly to produce if it doesn't use it much.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Blue Poison Dart Frog.

Outsides of birds and fish, this is one of the few animals in the world that has blue coloration. As the name suggests, it is toxic -- although couldn't really do much damage to people.

They're found in Brazil & Suriname and have relatively unique mating patterns; the male sits on a rock, and calls when raining. The females find the male, and fight over the male. The 'winner' is taken to a secluded, quiet area for mating and laying eggs. Most of the time, the male watches over the eggs -- though there is a rotation. Unfortunately, they're a bit rare these days. Fortunately, they're on the upswing and zoos are successfully finding ways to reintroduce them into the wild.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Long-Tailed Widowbird.

The long-tailed widowbird is from Eastern and Southern Africa. They look strikingly similar to our "Red-winged" blackbird in the states, but aren't really related. Just convergent evolution. The big obvious difference: the long tail. Only the males have them -- supposedly its only functionality is to attract a mate. It makes it an easier target to prey, but also makes it that much more impressive if it can pull off escaping. Putting itself in harms way only to escape? Go big or go home*, they might say. And the females agree.


The top picture is of a female, followed by a non-breeding male, followed by two pictures of breeding males.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Striped Pipefish.

I've always liked pipefish. They're very closely related to sea horses. It may not resemble them at first, but it's essentially a flattened out version of it. You have to look at its snout and its fins to really see the similarities. Behaviorally, they share the same unique characteristics, too; the males carry the eggs, and their babies, when hatched, look like a miniature version of the adult. Not all are this colorful, and as you can imagine the more colorful ones are ones nearer coral reefs in the tropics.

Also, if you're in the Chesapeake Bay area, it's very easy to find them. Depending on where along the coast you are, just take out a seine net and you're likely to catch at least a few (note: they're solid brown / grey in the Chesapeake).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


These primates from the Philippines may look a bit alien-like, but I promise you they are real.
Each eye is the size of their brain, making them have perhaps some of the largest eyes proportional to their head of any animal. Being nocturnal, their eyes have an advantage of taking in more light at once. The top picture has a human hand in it to give you a sense of their size. Not very big at all.

What they eat? Crickets and other insects, largely (see below). However on a good catch, they'll jump from tree to tree and will occasionally catch small birds in flight. Impressive for such a small guy.

Here's a video of one eating:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tripod Fish.

The tripod fish is a deep-sea resident that sits on its tripod fins at almost all hours of the day (Although I guess when you're that deep, there is no "day"). They wait until small animals swim into their fins and go in for an attack. On occassion, they are known to walk along the sea floor with their tripod 'legs.'

That's about all that's known about them. Here's a video -- though it doesn't really show a lot that the picture doesn't.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Harp Seal.

People really don't like the fact that I haven't posted enough cute animals. I'm sorry this isn't the "Cute animal of the day" blog. But I suppose throwing in one occasionally wouldn't hurt. These precious creatures live, of course, in the Arctic. The pups are white to blend into the snow, but soon loose their coat after several weeks for mobility in the water, and look like the middle picture. When old, it's no hair.

Another fact: When the mothers leave after weaning, the pups look as though they are crying. They actually just have to keep their eyes wet, and with the mother not around to lick their eyes, they learn to do it themselves.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Greater Prarie Chicken.

These are ridiculous. Really. You find them in, well, praries. They have a very elaborate mating ritual. The males defend territory in Leks ( or "booming grounds"... see above) and display by "booming" (making loud, low-pitched sounds from air gathered into the orange air-sacs). Presumably, the more brightly colored and louder the boom, the better. Also, they stamp their feet and fly into each other for attention and more signs of the quality of male the female is mating with. There is also bowing that goes on.

Here's a video to drive the point home:

And to explain the lek idea more, as you can see the picture of a lek for a sage grouse above (though a different species, same concept), the placement serves as indicators of their status.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Short-beaked Echidna.

Echidnas hail from Australia and New Guinea. These, alongside the Platypus, are the only monotreme (egg-laying) mammals left in the world that we know of. For some reason, they were named for the Greek Mythology monster "Echidna" which, from what I remember, is a half nymph / half serpent beast. So it still doesn't explain how this one got its name. Maybe the spines remind people of snakes? Beats me.

Pop culture reference: For those who played "Sonic the Hedgehog" as a kid and followed it, apparently they introduced a red character, "Knuckles" who is an echidna. Of course, just how sonic doesn't look like a hedgehog, knuckles does not look like an echidna.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Happy Face Spider.

I know, I know. I shouldn't put spiders up because half of you will get creeped out. But you can deal with it.
These might be a LITTLE familiar as they are on the side of a u-haul truck. They live in Hawaii and are obviously distinctive because of their 'smiley face' pattern on their abdomens.

Also, between the islands, individuals have specific themes of patterns depending on its island of origin. Each individual, however, has a specific pattern distinctive from all others.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Nembrotha kubaryana.

These are part of the nudibranch family -- also known as "sea slugs." There are all sorts of cool designs and colors for different species, but I'll save those for another day. Most nudibranchs actually don't have a common name. There are few exceptions, but there are so many and are genearlly only referred to by scientists that they never really developed any other name. These live in the tropical Indo-Wcst Pacific. In the dark, their colors glow -- looking a lot like glowsticks in a black light. Their colors warn predators that they are poisonous -- a good defense considering this slug doesn't use shells for protection. Nudibranchs are known to have exceptional sense perceptions and their rhinophores (on the top of their head) are great for detecting odors. Their name "nudibranch" comes from latin loosely meaning "naked gills."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Coconut Crab.

These things are a bit ridiculous. As you can see from the bottom picture, they are huge. In fact, they are the largest land-living arthropod in the world. There are a lot of fun facts about them:
1. They eat coconuts, largely, hence their name.
2. They are sometimes called robber crabs because they are known to steal shiny objects from people's homes. Like pots and pans.
3. They can't breathe underwater, which is odd considering they are found on several islands spread over the Pacific (Bora Bora, Cook Islands, etc.)
4. They breath through a form of a lung -- a sign of something between a gill and a true lung.
5. In Tokyo, they are sold as pets.

Finally, their pinch supposedly terribly painful (not surprising) but since they scare easy, they don't release out of fear. So don't plan on getting pinched by one of these soon.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


The Olm is a totally aquatic amphibian (eats, sleeps, breeds, etc). It is endemic to the Dinaric Karst caves in S. Europe -- though restricted, it is a large cave system. It is known for two striking features: 1. Its external gills. Many salamanders have external gills in larval sm into adulthood. 2. Its eyes are essentially nonfunctional. Though they supposedly help vision a little bit, they have evolved to stay under-developed. It would be costtages, but this one retains thely to develop full vision in a cave that is pitch black.

So to you Intelligent-Designers who argue that the eye is too perfect to have just come about, explain this one. under-developed eyes? Not so perfect design, I would say.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine.

These porcupines are from S. America. As you can guess from the name, their tail is prehensile (meaning they can use it as a limb -- like monkeys hanging upside down on their tails). Though there are several species of porcupine, few lives solely in trees and even fewer with the ability to hang upside down. This is one of them.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Again, I am posting a family of animals, not an individual species. But collectively, these are equally fascinating. Sea Lillies, as they are often called, are not in fact lillies, but a type of sea star. Sure, they might look a little boring to some, but I assure you they are not. They come in all colors and sizes, and house shrimp and lobsters (seen above) that blend in almost perfectly depending on which color crinoid it lives in.

Other fun facts are they are like lizards in their defense: They can drop stalks to have predators attack a detached stalk rather than the living being (lizards can drop their tails so birds attack that instead of the lizard). In other news, they date back to about 350,000,000 years ago, and the largest fossil ever found had a stem of about 40 meters long (130 ft.)!

The best part about them: Their scurry. Generally, they stay in place and just creep along the bottom to avoid predators or attention. Occassionally, though, when particularly threatened, they will "sprint" to safety. They look like graceful spiders in a hurry:

Monday, April 6, 2009


Gharials of Southeast Asia (Mainly northern India) are, as you might guess, close cousins with the other crocodilian species. Unlike its counterparts, you might notice something a little different - its crazy snout!

The snout is narrow entirely based off its diet of fish that hide in crevasses. Think: Darwin's finches and adjusting beak shapes based on the types of seeds it needed to access. Though narrow in shape, it fits a lot down it. These guys are generally between 15 and 20 feet long and typically weigh about 680 pounds, making them among the biggest compared to other crocodiles.

Friday, April 3, 2009


Though fairly common, and many people know about these sea hawks, I'm in Williamsburg for today (well, for the weekend). So I thought I'd share some of my pictures from these birds around Williamsburg, since I spent so much time with them! The only fun fact I have about them is that when they catch fish, they line up the fish so it's facing front to back when flying to make them aerodynamic, as they can be quite heavy.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Irrawaddy Dolphins.

Some may have figured this out, but yesterday's penguin post is a joke. It was April Fool's. I got several emails saying "OMG FLYING PENGUINS REALLY?? NO WAY!" And you would've been right. No way.
I don't want to actually mislead you. So to you, fools, Happy April.

I was planning on posting a marine mammal of some sort today anyway, and happened to read an article about these this morning. Every now and again, we get good news about animals in the conservation world - instead of finding things are going endangered and more likely extinct. This is one of them. Until Tuesday, it was thought that there were no more than in the range of the low hundreds. But the Wildlife Conservation Society just found about 6,000 of them in the Bay of Bengal! WOO!

So still low in numbers, this is obviously very exciting that we underestimated things. It happened with Gorillas last fall, too. Shows you how little we know about our world, which is exciting.

In other news, about these guys. As far as it is known, they are just in the Bay of Bengal / Myanmar area. They are closely related to Orcas (Killer Whales). Another fun fact: They are known to apparently help fishermen in the area out -- since it's largely smalltime local fishermen, that might be good news. Since they travel in pods, they round up schools of fish and make it easier for fishermen to fish while the bait given by fishermen also attracts the dolphins to come eat there because of the higher density of fish to begin with. It's a win-win-lose, for the dolphins and the fishermen: win. At least for the time being. The fish: they lose.

My favorite part about this picture was the fact that it came with a caption that said:
"Not considered and acrobatic animal." At least it tries.
The only thing better than finding more of these is the fact that they are awkward. Nice.

This is the best photo I could find. Considering there aren't a lot of sightings of them, you'll have to deal with it.

Photo by Alice Rocco

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hushu's Chinstrap Flying Penguins.

For some reason, these guys get no coverage....
But I thought pictures won't do this one justice, so for today: a video.