Sunday 29 August 2010

Giant Salamander

There are three species of Giant Salamander, all very similar to each other. The Hellbender from North America grows to about 75 cms long, the Japanese Giant Salamander, found in Japan of all places, grows to 1.5 metres long, while the Chinese Giant Salamander from Peru (wait... I've just checked my records and am reliably informed that it actually comes from a place known as "China". Let's continue, shall we?) and grows to a length of 1.8 metres. This makes them the biggest, second biggest and third biggest amphibians in the world, everyone's a winner! Yaaaay!

Sunday 22 August 2010


Bedbugs. Horrible, HORRIBLE little beasties that feast on human blood. Unlike many other parasites such as fleas, lice and mites, they don't live directly on their hosts; bedbugs make their homes in tiny crevices in, on, under and around the bed, emerging at night to feed. They're small and wingless (thank God for small mercies), reaching only about half a centimetre in length. They're a reddish brown in colour and remarkably flat, allowing them to squeeze into tiny crevices. There are actually several species of bedbug, some of which primarily infest bats or chickens, but the species Cimex lectularius specialises in the human habitat and pulls more than its own weight in horror in the home.

Sunday 15 August 2010

Frilled Shark

Image source
Wow! We have something of a mini Leviathan this time, folks! It's a shark, but with little in common with what we have thus far grown accustomed to be denoted by the term. Jim. Basically, they're a bit weird. With its snakey head and eely body, fins set far back on the body, it's no wonder that the frilled shark is believed to be at the root of sea serpent sightings, even though it only grows to around 2 metres long. I mean, it's hardly gonna sink ships, is it?

But what the frilled shark lacks in stature it makes up in mystery and eccentricity. It isn't just odd, its an ancient among the ancients, a living fossil amidst the long and diverse line of shark heritage. With this old age comes a host of peculiarities that some may see as primitive, but which seem to serve this psuedo serpent sssswimmingly! (I have a smile on my face now!)

Monday 9 August 2010

Marabou Stork

Image: Cacophony
Wherever you have human beings, you have rubbish. The more humans, the more rubbish. Where there's a lot of rubbish, a dump or landfill for instance, you tend to get animals gathering to find a morsel of food amongst the trash. A scrap from the scrap. Round my way the most obvious of these are gulls, horribly noisy, pooing all over the place and maybe even flying in to steal a chip from right out of your hand, they're seldom welcome. But at least they're only about a foot long, smaller than the all but the teeniest of tiniest human beings. Certainly adults, anyway. They also don't look too ghastly, even if they're foraging in filth. Spare a thought then for the people of sub-Saharan Africa, for there be Marabou Storks.

Monday 2 August 2010

In Your Face!: Squirters of the Animal Kingdom

From the cutsey-wutsey skunk to the strangely disconcerting velvet worm, many creatures spit, spray and squirt for their lives. Often it's a defense mechanism against certain death, often it takes so much energy that said creature is reluctant to do it, often the results are so appaling that it's best not to risk it. So if you want to avoid an awful stink or lizard blood all over your face, read on and tread carefully...