Friday, 9 October 2015

Blind Octopus

Cirrothauma murrayi
Octopuses are famous for having eyes remarkably similar to those of humans but without the blind spot.

The Blind Octopus is different in that it has nothing BUT a blind spot!

Actually that's not quite true - they can at least see the difference between light and dark - but they certainly have some serious difficulties in the eyeball department.

For a start, they have no lens, which means they can't focus on anything. Second, they have a reduced retina, which is bad news if you want your eye to detect the shape of whatever it's pointing at.

Image: Michael Vecchione
Third, their eyes are completely embedded within the soft, gelatinous flesh that allows them to survive the punishing pressure at depths of up to 4,500 metres (14,800 feet).

And then, as if all that wasn't enough, it appears they like to go about with their transparent, elephant ear fins covering what little peeper-power they have left.

Perhaps they're protecting them from those freakishly spiky arms?

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Leaf-rolling Cricket

Image: Bernard DUPONT
Silk and anger!

Leaf-rolling Crickets, also known as Raspy Crickets, are more than 200 species belonging to the family Gryllacrididae. Most are found in the warmer parts of the southern hemisphere, particularly Australia, with a few in North America and Europe.

Image: Michael Jefferies
They range in size from a couple centimetres to a couple inches and may be slim and trim or beefy and bulbous.

Some are entirely wingless...

Image: Carlos De Soto Molinari
Others bear impressive wings significantly longer than their entire body. Which looks really weird on a cricket. It's as if they stole them from a grasshopper that actually had a body long enough for the wings to rest on.

Leaf-rolling Crickets are nocturnal and spend the night munching on whatever it is a particular species munches on. They can be herbivores, omnivores, scavengers or predators. Usually they're drab in colour, all the better to go unnoticed by predators.

Speaking of which, "Leaf-rolling" and "Raspy" describe pretty much all their dealings with the outside world.

Video: trangleflute

First, they do indeed roll leaves! Kind of. At the very least a whole bunch of species can create a plush, daytime shelter for themselves by tying living or dead leaves together. They hold the leaves together using strands of silk produced from their mouth parts. It sounds like a huge effort but I have to say, after all these years of bricks and mortar, a house made of leaves and silk sounds like a breath of fresh air. So... bio.

Not all Leaf-rollers go to the effort of making a leaf-house, and some would rather not live up in a tree. They can use their silk to line a burrow in the soil which they might even seal up with a stone on top. The laziest Leaf-rollers simply find a nice, ready-made nook or cranny and use their silk to construct a door to stop anyone else coming in.

Image: Bernard DUPONT
Leaf-rolling Crickets begin spinning silk within hours of hatching from the egg and most keep at it all their lives. This silk-spinning ability is not entirely unique among grasshoppers and crickets, but only a few related crickets are capable of it.

With all this effort put into making a home for themselves, Leaf-rollers are not keen on losing it. Individuals mark their home with a personal scent to ensure they can always find their way back after a night's foraging.

They also appear unconvinced that there exists leaf-houses in insect heaven. Thus, when predators come along, Leaf-rollers get Raspy.

Image: Malcolm Tattersall
When you interfere with a Leaf-roller and he can't escape to his shelter in time, he becomes FURIOUS. Utterly livid. He'll raise himself up on his thick, spiky legs, inflate his abdomen and spread out his wings. Now that he's made himself appear as big and imposing as possible, he'll rub his abdomen against his legs to produce a rasping sound, all the while gnashing his long, sharp mandibles. And if you get too close, he'll bite. Big Leaf-rollers can draw blood!

Weird how the same mouth parts that produce the silk that builds a home can also cut you up. It's like bricklayer hitting you with his trowel. Or something.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Gasflame Nudibranch

Image: Graeme Kruger
Bonisa nakaza
They have water-resistant gas fires, now? This opens up a whole new world of camping experiences for the more adventurous traveller!

Friday, 25 September 2015

Firebrick Starfish

Image: Richard Ling
Asterodiscides truncatus
Who knew bricks could look so pretty!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Tickle of the Crab's Claw

Getting tickled in the belly is bad enough as it is. The INDIGNITY!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Crested Chameleon

Image: Bernard DUPONT
As if chameleons weren't weird enough already, they go all Spinosaurus on us.
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