Friday, 2 June 2017

Tube-building Amphipod


Looks like someone's got a leaky head. There're nightmares all over the place.

Look! There's a whole pile of them! They look like something mummy snails and daddy snails use to threaten their children: "Tidy your shell or the bogeysnail will get you!"

What they really are, are amphipods. And they're quite closely related to my very own beloved Skeleton Shrimp.

Image: Biodiversity Heritage Library
Like Skeleton Shrimp they have two pairs of large antennae and one pair of big claws. Unlike the Skellies, you seldom see those big claws because they're usually hidden away in their tube-home. It looks like they catch tiny crumbs of food with their enormous, hairy antennae.

And I'm not saying they use those massive claws to snatch naughty snails, crack open their shells and gobble them all up, I'm just saying that young snails are lazy enough as it is.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Horror At Arms

Uh oh. Do you have a couch handy to hide behind? A teddy bear to cuddle? One of those Men In Black flashy things that make you forget everything you've just seen?

You might want one or two of these.

Brittle Stars. They're the creepiest and crawliest of all the bottom feeders. While Sea Cucumbers are the quintessential bottom feeder—the bottom feeder to whom all other bottom feeders doth their flabby hat—Brittle Stars have carved out their own niche, writhing in the sea sludge, each one a whole collection of harmless, meandering centipedes.

Harmless. Right.

Squid. Possibly the exact opposite of Brittle Stars. Here's one, spry and bright-eyed, scooting over a desert of rock and mud strewn with bushels of hydroids and Brittle Stars. Don't get too close little squid! Brittle Stars may be completely harmless, but you don't want to snag your soft, supple flesh on one of those spiny arms.

And then it turns out that Brittle Stars aren't harmless at all. They don't, in fact, confine themselves to bottom feeding. Do you watch open-mouthed as our tiny, wide-eyed squid jets over a field of writhing Brittle limbs? Do you scream as spindly arms unfurl like fleshless backbones? Do you weep as our poor squid is captured and dragged down into the thrashing mass to be torn apart by hungry, bony jaws.

Or do you just cuddle your teddy, hide behind your couch, and hope it all goes away? I wouldn't blame you.

Friday, 5 May 2017

I Wrote A Science Fiction Novel!

Can you believe that? I can't. And I watched myself write it.

It's called A Twinkle on Mars and it's about the first manned mission to Mars and how it all goes wrong. Aliens are involved, and giant glowing mushrooms. You've GOT to have giant glowing mushrooms.

It features Captain Cambridge, possibly the most heroic figure in the entirety of his own mind. Professor Prestwold, a delightful chap who doesn't know a life-threatening situation when it tries to bite his head off. Mr Blunderberry, a very large and very angry man. And Dr Khatagi. Not much is known about him but he's probably an assassin or something.

As you can probably imagine, this is not one of those hard sci-fi things where the author can (and sometimes does) write an essay about how every bit of technology depicted is totally possible given the current state of scientific knowledge.

It is, of course, a comedy. And a funny one, I reckon. Some people polish their every sentence to a poetic shine, I tried to make 'em all funny.

I've been working on it for a while but what really helped was when I started reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels for the first time a little over a year ago. They were the first books I ever read where I thought not only this is really good, but also I could probably do something a bit like this. And so I... did? Tried to but failed?

If you'd like to be the judge of that then head on to Amazon and give it a read. You might even consider reporting your findings in the form of a review, I hear they help.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Twospot Turkeyfish

Image: Maupin Delphine
Dendrochirus biocellatus
It's a fish! It has two spots! And... turkey. Turkey is involved.

Makes perfect sense.

Image: Jacob Mojiwat
Well, I guess it does. Sort of. I presume it means that that those glorious pectoral fins are a bit like a turkey's tail (be it mushroom or bird). I get it. But Twospot Turkeyfish are also known as Ocellated or Twinspot Lionfish, and lions are approximately the opposite of turkeys, aren't they? And they also have another name - Fu Manchu Fish. You got to give that moustache some love!

Not that they want anyone to actually see their fins or their moustache.


Twospot Turkeyfish are widespread throughout the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans, from Mauritius to Japan and down to northern Australia.

They look fantastic! Those rich colours; those huge fins—the rounded ones striped and spotted, the spiky ones undulating like drumming fingers; that luscious, ginger moustache. People would pay a lot a bit of money for a collection of whiskers like that. Where's a catwalk (or turkeywalk) when you need one?

Unfortunately, Twospot Turkeyfish are almost entirely nocturnal. You might see one during the day if you're lucky, but you'd probably only watch it creep from a nook among the rocks to a cranny among the sponges.

Video: Oceanandlake

Twospot Turkeyfish belong to the subfamily Pteroinae, which is the same one those famous Lionfish belong to. That's why members of their genus, Dendrochirus, are also known as the Dwarf Lionfish.

They may be just 13 cm (5 in) long, which is about a third the size of the biggest Lionfish, but Twospot Turkeyfish are still aggressive predators who stalk small fish and shrimp before lunging at their prey with remarkable speed. Like a... turkey out of Hell.

Those poor food items...

Image: Mike Kalasnik
I know I'd be terrified.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Snot Living

Look at that beautiful house!

If you find yourself saying, "'s'not a house," then you're close. It's a snot house.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Lamb's Ear

Image: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT
Stachys byzantina
Did you ever hear of the mythical sheep-eating plant?

Well, it turns out there's one plant that's only in it for the ears...
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