Sunday 27 February 2011


Image via Wikipedia
Copepods may be small, and with typical lengths of 1 or 2 millimetres (0.04-0.08 in) they certainly are that, but it doesn't stop them from being one of the most successful and important creatures on Earth. They are crustaceans that can be found inhabiting almost any patch of water: ponds, rivers, 10,000 metres down in the deep sea, 5,000 metres up in Himalayan lakes, freezing polar seas, boiling hot springs, swamps, bogs, damp moss, leaf litter, underground water systems and more. So far so Water Bear, but many of the estimated 14,000 species of copepod are parasitic, sucking blood, eating skin or absorbing nutrients. Their unwanted attentions are lavished not only on fish and mammals, but molluscs, corals, sponges and others as well.

Wednesday 23 February 2011


Image via Wikipedia
Hydra are Cnidarians, related to jellyfish but more akin to really tiny, freshwater sea anemones that have lost a lot of weight. They are just a few millimetres in length and look like a little stem with 1 to 12 tentacles waving around from the top. The name comes from the mythical Greek Hydra, which was a serpent creature with lots of heads and was eventually heroically killed by Heracles during his adventures of killing and capturing all sorts of baddies in order to be cleansed of the sin of killing all his children when he went mad one time.

Sunday 20 February 2011

What Do You Call a Fly With No Wings?: Rule Breakers

What do you call a fly with no wings?
A walk!


Either that or a Hippoboscid. That's right, there really are flies that can't fly, some of which have lost their wings entirely. We already looked at a lizard with no legs, so let's take the opportunity to find out about some more rebels who go out on a limb, break all the rules and live life for themselves.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

House Dust Mite

There are a few species of Dust Mite, each one about as horrid as the last. They can be found all over the world residing in human homes. Probably your home. Eating organic material such as shed skin cells. Probably your skin cells. They need a good amount of moisture and humidity to survive. Your moisture and humidity. No really, they reside in your bed and in your pillow and in your duvet, surviving on bits of your skin and sweat and saliva and your very breath. They wallow in your night-time activities. As you toss and turn, they are the grateful recipients of every drip and drop, every dribble and drizzle, and every gasp and sigh. Pretty sexy, huh?

Sunday 13 February 2011

Manta Ray

Image via Wikipedia
Oh wow! Look, there's a Manta Ray! Manta rays are exceptionally elegant and extremely large oceanic fish. They don't so much swim as glide gracefully through the sea looking all beautiful and wonderful and lovely. They're also known as Devilfish, which certainly seems like a reasonable description for a humongous fish with huge wings and a massively gaping mouth between two cephalic lobes. Especially if you didn't realise that they are basically harmless so long as you don't stand in their way and ask them to go around. Mantas are related to sharks, and like sharks they have a skeleton made of cartilage and lack a swim bladder, achieving buoyancy with a great, big, oily liver instead.

Wednesday 9 February 2011


Image via Wikipedia
Aliens and myths. I look at the Olm and I think of aliens and myths. Some people in the 17th century thought they were baby dragons. They only reach 50 cm (19.7 inches), so the "baby" bit is quite important. It's actually an amphibian, but it doesn't make me think of salamanders or newts or things that definitely exist. No, instead I think of things that are likely (definitely, in my opinion, but I'm gonna be charitable) works of imagination and the unknown. The Olm just doesn't look like something that really exists. It's too pale. It's too long and thin. Its legs are too small. Worse of all, the head is too... plain, too... vacant. It has no face. I guess, when you get down to it, that's the real problem. And yet, it exists still. Does quite well for itself, too.

Sunday 6 February 2011

Horseshoe Crab

Image: la-blue-eyez via Flickr
I have always found Horseshoe Crabs to be exceptionally strange and peculiar animals. Looking at them, it's really difficult to understand where all their body parts are and how it all fits together. It looks like a mystery wrapped in an enigma covered in a shell. Indeed, that all engulfing shell doesn't help matters. Neither does their lifestyle of ploughing through the mud and sand at the bottom of shallow seas. But things actually get weirder when you find out more. Good. Let's do that then.

Wednesday 2 February 2011

Slow Worm

Lizards have evolved limbless forms on a numbe...Image via Wikipedia
The slow worm is a legless reptile. Isn't that basically the very definition of a snake? Hmm... A closer look at the slow worm reveals that it looks sort of... wrong, for a snake. Sure they look kinda angry, but they lack that psychopathic, psychotic, all round psycho stare that snakes have. It's like snakes will kill you in a terrible way, whereas slow worms would be more friendly and just beat you up and break your nose or something.