Tuesday 27 July 2010

Venus Fly Trap

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The Venus flytrap is probably the most famous example of a rather peculiar thing - a meat eating plant. While most plants are passive recipients of sunlight, water and the unwanted attention of herbivores, the Venus flytrap eats living things. And while many meat eating plants, such the pitcher plants, passively attract prey before passively capturing and passively digesting them, the Venus flytrap could be described as something more akin to an ambush predator. Strangely enough, Venus is the Roman goddess of love, so I guess someone was going through some difficult times when they named it.

Saturday 24 July 2010

Giant Isopod

The giant isopod is a deep sea crustacean, a relative of crabs, shrimp and most obviously, woodlice. It looks a lot like a woodlouse out for a swim. A ONE AND A HALF FOOT LONG woodlouse out for a swim. These things get BIG! The effect is strange, we just don't often see such massive compound eyes and chunks of exoskeleton of that size, especially when it looks so similar to something so small. It seems uniquely weird and otherworldly. This impression isn't helped by having 2 pairs of antennae and 4 sets of jaws.

Thursday 22 July 2010

Naked Mole Rat

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First thing's first, the naked mole rat is one ugly animal. So ugly in fact, it almost pulls off a full 180 to become quite cute! The rather unnerving appearance is perhaps understandable given its unforgiving lifestyle and habitat; the mole rat lives underground in the hotter, drier more uncomfortable parts of east African grassland. Almost totally hairless, almost totally blind and, being a rodent, in possession of huge, constantly growing teeth, the naked mole rat is perfectly adapted to a life of dark tunnels and tunneling in darkness. They can even walk backwards as quickly and confidently as they walk forwards. Their blood has a stronger than usual affinity to oxygen and it has a lower metabolic and respiratory rate than other small rodents, meaning that the mole rat needs less food and less oxygen than you'd expect. They are also unable to feel pain in their skin, this is believed to help them survive as all that carbon dioxide would cause a build up of acids in their body. You can't have the little blighters itching and getting cramp the whole time, can you?

Saturday 17 July 2010


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Aaaahh, the hagfish. A creature so wretchedly, dispicably, unapologetically, even proudly unattractive, it's almost inspiring. Lucky then, that its eyes are so primitive they can distinguish between light and dark, but little else. In fact, the hagfish is very primitive indeed; our beloved Planet Earth has been graced with the presence of the hag for some 300 million years! This... fish (sort of) was in the sea when metre long scorpions were bestriding the land and giant dragonflies ruled the air.