Monday, 31 October 2016

And the Number of the Hallowe'en Horrors is 666


Its Halloween! That time of year when we draw black waters from the well of cosmic truth with death, draw deep breaths of chill, grave-leaden mist with darkness, and draw white, chalk outlines around corpses in the alleyway with evil. Woo!

Behold Death. He's wearing his Loch Ness Monster costume this year. Basically it's a dark green robe, a dark green handle for his scythe and a kind of lizard mask on the blade. It looks great and boy is he committed to the role. We've been trying to get him out of the swimming pool for hours!

Here be Darkness. She's been trying to teach the zombies about the miraculous power of make-up. I don't think it's going too well. Lipstick is supposed to stick to lips, not the other way round. There's bits of face everywhere!

Yonder is Evil. He's dressed up in a long, white robe with a little cardboard halo fixed onto his head with a piece of wire. He does that every year but it's hilarious every time!

Come on, let's mingle!


Image: Steve Childs
Reticulidia halgerda
Reticulated Wart Slug
The only thing more Halloweenie than a wart and a slug is a slug with warts on. Or a witch with a wart on her nose and a slug on her list of ingredients.

That's great in theory, but... there's the slug, where's the warts? In truth, it seems that not a lot of people actually call this beauty a Reticulated Wart Slug, possibly because a name like 'even the worst origami can be salvaged with some good colouring-in' is too long.

Image: Steve Childs
But what colouring-in it is! These nudibranches only reach 7 cm (3 in) long and there certainly are a lot of colours and patterns to compete with them in their western Pacific home, but surely this kind of velvety black and almost golden orange has to catch the eye!

The network of white lines in particular really pops out. Not just because they're bright to the point of glowing, but also because, well, they really pop out! They're like little mountain paths winding over orange ridges rising from a sea of deepest black.

It's the prettiest crumpled up piece of paper, ever!


Gosh, this is a surprise. Room 101's come to visit! We'll need to move some tables out of the way but it's well worth it for ol' Room. She always knows exactly what to say to make us laugh!


Image: Sara Ruane, LSU
Madagascarophis lolo
Ghost Snake
As we all know, snakes are basically ghosts already, what with their spooky ability to glide over the floor without legs. And also people often scream and run away when they see them.

Ghost Snakes are even more ghostly than usual. They were recently discovered in the light and foreboding tsingy formations of western Madagascar, where lashing rains have spent aeons carving a field of limestone into a labyrinthine forest of razor sharp towers of lithic knives.

Ghost Snakes are as pale as the treacherous limestone that surrounds them, which means they're very difficult to spot. And given their habitat, it's downright dangerous to try and look for them, which might be why only one, solitary Ghost Snake has been found so far. Also, they share the vertical, cat-like pupils of other, related species known as the Malagasy Cat-eyed Snakes. Eyes like that are great for seeing in the dark, so it's probably nocturnal, too.

Yup. Snakes are basically ghosts.


Gross! I suppose it was bound to happen eventually. You can't have fizzy blood around without some dopey vampire shaking the can before he opens it. Blood all over the place!


Image: Hectonichus
Scolopendra hardwickei
Indian Tiger Centipede
Where would Halloween be without an over-abundance of legs?

Wherever you last saw it, that's where.

Because it can't move anywhere? Right? Keep up, keep up!

The Indian Tiger Centipede is basically a strip of Halloween bunting on legs. Very convenient! It can just hang out on the wall or on the ceiling and occasionally lunge at people for some of those sweet jump scares.

The main problem is getting them to keep still. Centipedes don't often put their feet up, there are simply too many of them. Theirs is to run around all the time, explore and kind of twitch ominously, like a not-wholly-sane Mafioso who's just barely keeping it together. And that's a little scary in a 16 cm (6 in) centipede. Hopefully a couple of crickets will help them settle down to a quiet dinner.


There's Giant Centipede! He's lying on the couch, the hallway, the stairs, one of the beds and dangling down into the gravegarden. Some of the skeletons are using him as a slide!


Image: J.M. Zaspel, V.S. Kononenko, and P.Z. Goldstein
Calyptra thalictri
Vampire Moth
People don't like mosquitoes, fleas, bedbugs and other such blood-sucking monsters. But did you ever stop to think just how tiny mosquitoes, fleas and bedbugs are? None of them are anything close to an inch long. Vampire Moths. Now they're something close to an inch long.

The thing is this: a lot of people don't realise that many butterflies and moths enjoy a fairly varied diet. They certainly have a sweet tooth, so they enjoy a nice sugar high from sweet, sugary nectar. But they also need salt and minerals. Some will get it from muddy puddles. Others aren't averse to sipping dung, pus or tears.

Where would Halloween be without dung, pus and tears?


Vampire Moths enjoy a varied diet, too. Nectar is cool. But dung? Pus-filled wounds? Salty tears? "That's disgusting!" says the Vampire Moth, "who would do such a thing?" So they drink blood instead. Like CIVILISED folk.

They're able to drive their proboscis into the skin of animals, including human. It might be a skill they acquired from chomping into fruit to drink the juice within. In stark contrast to mosquitoes, only male Vampire Moths drink blood. It's thought he might do it so that he can pass on those savoury minerals to the female during copulation, where they would go on to give those leaf-swilling caterpillars a good start in life.

Vampirism: it's for the children.


I just heard Brave New World is on the way. Yikes! I might need to tear down one of the walls to some room.


Diphylleia grayi

Skeleton Flower
Just because you have no bones, it doesn't mean you can't have a skeleton!

If you climb up the chilly, mountain woodlands of Japan, eastern China or Western North America, you might come across some big, round leaves. And you might look at them and think, 'so that's why they call it an Umbrella Plant.'

Oddly enough, the moment it starts to rain and you get to see those umbrella leaves in action, you probably won't be looking at them any more. You'll be watching the delicate, white flowers as they turn increasingly transparent with each plip and plop of rainwater.

Isn't that amazing? Tiny skeleton: just add water. Whatever will they think of next?


I hardly even recognised Werewolf. I thought it was someone in a diving costume at first. All that hair gel must have been mighty expensive.



Video: Eunjae Im
Platax batavianus
Zebra Batfish
Wow, what a beauty! When I look at this fish, I can't help but think that someone made a huge mistake. As in, someone wrote something down and then scribbled it out with black biro. And then they scribbled it out some more. And then they just got carried away.

The end result is an amazing little fish that resides in coral reefs from eastern Africa all the way around to New Zealand. They look lovely, with a delicate, ragged elegance about them, like hair blowing in the wind. And I bet they hang out in all the darkest, gloomiest parts of the coral reef. Maybe their bedrooms are painted black, too.

Unfortunately, they don't last long...

Image: Mark Rosenstein
Because they grow up. It's just a phase! Adult Zebra Batfish aren't Zebra Batfish, at all. They're 60 cm (2 feet) long Humpback Batfish.

Time. It is the true horror.


It's The Frankenstein's'! They've even brought Stitch along. Isn't he well-behaved? Stitch is a Labrador Retriever cross Border Collie cross Husky cross Doberman cross German Shepherd cross, er, some others. Like that one leg that's shorter than all the others, I'm pretty sure that's off a Dachshund. 


Image: eMammal
Echinosorex gymnura alba
Moonrat
A silvery speckle of moonlight in the darkness of a forest in Borneo. Do my eyes deceive? What manner of being is it that shuffles through the undergrowth like inverse shadow made flesh? Are unicorns so tiny? Do the fairies have pets? Or mayhap am I hasty in my considerations? For is it not said that a thousand and thousand more angels can dance on the head of pin? How many more on a leaf?

But the question remains. If truly this is some creature from above, bright with the substance of no mere earthly, material origin, then why does it look so much like a small, furry animal?


Oh.

Yeah, Moonrats look a lot more ratty up close. They're not actually rats, though. They're not even rodents. They're basically hedgehogs with white fur instead of spines. Their very closest relatives are called gymnures. Gymnures are basically shrewish or mousey-looking hedgehogs with brown fur instead of spines.

Moonrats are found in various parts of southeast Asia but only the ones in Borneo are almost completely white. Others have a white or greyish head and the rest is black. For now, they're still all considered part of the same species and they all reach some 40 cm (16 in) long with 30 cm (foot) long tail.

Wherever they are whatever the colour of their fur, Moonrats spend the night sniffing out worms and insects. They can eat snails, too, and they have no trouble swimming and diving for food if they need to. Days are spent in any convenient den they can find, whether it be a tree hollow, rock crevice or abandoned burrow. Their dens stink! The only thing that smells worse than a Moonrat's den is a Moonrat.

Moonrats have anal glands and they know how to use them! So much so they're also known as Night Stinkers. If you interfere with a Moonrat, expect to be hit with a pong reminiscent of ammonia or rotten garlic. Did you ever wonder why there haven't been many manned missions to the moon lately? Yeah. It probably would've smelled better if it was made of cheese.


There's Ancient Pagan God. Nice guy, really, but you know what it's like. They hit three or four thousand years old and suddenly they can't stop talking about how much better everything was in the auld days.


Pointy-nosed Blue Ratfish
Ah, Chimaeras. No-one knows what Chimaeras are. Well, they do. But also they don't. That's why they got called Chimaeras, after the Greek monster who was a lion with a goat sticking out of its back and a snake for a tail. Hey, at least it won't go hungry. Goats will eat anything.

The Chimaeras of the deep sea are also known as Ghost Sharks, Rat Fish and Rabbit Fish. This particular species belongs to the genus Hydrolagus, which means 'water hare'. So it seems to be some kind of shark, with some kind of rodent (ish) somewhere. Also its a ghost.

Ticking all the boxes, I see.

The Pointy-nosed Blue Ratfish belongs to the Chimaeridae family, also known as Shortnose Chimaeras. With its pointy nose, I guess it's one of the least Shortnose of the lot. I think a SCHNOZ ALERT is in order. And it has the blues!

This guy has it all!


The Ancient Vampire-mages of the Barony of Dread Citadel have come to visit! That's great, and all but... I mean, I'm as big a fan of special effects as anyone else but must they bring quite so much chill, grave-leaden mist of darkness with them? I can't see a thing!

Friday, 28 October 2016

Attack of the Giant Snip-snip


It was a close thing, but this jelly-legs just barely escaped from the enormous snipper of a giant snip-snip.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Webspinner

Image: Mike Quinn
Spiderman. He just doesn't make sense!

It's not the whole 'bitten by a radioactive spider and now he's a bit like a spider' thing. That's fine. That's great. That makes perfect sense. Well known fact, that is. The problem is the 'now he's a bit like a spider'.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Gnome Plant

Image: Tab Tannery
Hemitomes congestum
Gnomes are well-known for their love of mushrooms. They sit on them, play fiddle on them, fish in the lawn from them. And judging from those hippy beards and the fact they so often try to catch fish in the lawn, they probably eat some carefully selected ones, too.

So you know their special plant is going to be odd.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

A Whole Lot of Leg

Image: NOAA
You might think that the strange thing about this deep sea Hermit Crab is that it's walking around with a giant flower on its arse...

But that's because you haven't seen it walk yet!

Friday, 7 October 2016

Not Baskets With Stars On

Image: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
You'd think something called a 'Basket Star' might be a little gold sticker, or maybe a nice knitted affair to tie onto your wicker basket.
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