Sunday 29 May 2011

Sea Krait

Image via Wikipedia
So we've seen the Kraits, now it's time to have a look at some of their close relatives, the Sea Kraits. As you will have guessed, Sea Kraits are aquatic and have many similarities to the usual land living Kraits. I have to be honest though, I don't actually know if Sea Kraits are really, really closely related to Kraits or only quite closely related. Still, they're definitely at least quite closely related!

Let's take a look at some of those similarities. For one, they are found in the same part of the world, just the more watery bits. Sea Kraits range from India to all those southeast Asian islands but also all the way across to Fiji and north to Japan. They also have the round pupils of elapid snakes and most have the black and light banded pattern of Kraits. Another similarity between Kraits and Sea Kraits is an interesting one - land.

Friday 27 May 2011

Violet Sea Snail

Image source
I'm very intrigued by these aquatic gastropods, I'm so accustomed to good, ol' garden snails that these underwater varieties are extremely fascinating to me. The fact that so many of them seem to be carnivorous just about turns my world upside down! I suppose there's far more slow moving prey for a slug or snail underwater than there is on land. As it turns out, the Violet Sea Snail turns my world upside down more than most, because it's upside down and, as it happens, only just barely underwater.

Wednesday 25 May 2011


Image via Wikipedia
On the face of it, the Shrike is entirely unsuitable for a blog that investigates the Monstrous and bizarre side of nature. It's a bird. It's a cute, fluffy, little bird, not unlike sparrows, blackbirds, thrushes and all sorts of other darling lovelies. Why on earth would I be concerned with what at first glance appears to be a complete sweetheart?

Sunday 22 May 2011


Image via Wikipedia
You have got to love scorpions, at least somehow, somewhere, sort of, in a sense. They look so unique and dignified, such elegance and grace; nothing else looks quite like the scorpion (not quite...). They appear ever prepared for only the most genteel of dances, the most dignified of entertainments. A night at an aristocratic ball with the best of society, perhaps. Or a lavish yet refined feast with only the most sophisticated of company, full of elevated discussion on the most cultivated of matters. Port and cigars at the gentlemen's club? What's that you say? Nocturnal walks in the countryside? That's nice! To poison and butcher wild animals so that you can suck out their insides?

That sounds... great.

Friday 20 May 2011

Turtle Frog

This is one weird looking frog. From some angles he looks like a sumo wrestler. From others he looks more like a young, carefree Jabba the Hutt. Very young, since they only reach about 5cm long (and, from the looks of it, 5 cm across, too). From above he looks a bit like a dead frog that got crushed to death and now he's dead. Not so carefree, that one.

Oh yeh, and a turtle. He looks a bit like a turtle.

Wednesday 18 May 2011


Image: © MBARI
I love this name! "Benthoctopus"... wonderful! Benthoctopus is actually a genus of deep sea octopus with about 25 members known so far. The "benth" part comes from a Greek word meaning "depths of the sea". Where plankton are those that drift around in water, the benthos is the community right at the bottom of lakes and oceans. They aren't necessarily at great depths, it just so happens that Benthoctopus are. Specifically, they are found at depths of 200 to 3,000 metres, apparently all over the world.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Dressed to Spill... Blood: Thorns and Spikes

Image via Wikipedia
Hedgehogs are lovely little animals made almightily famous by Beatrix Potter in her Mrs. Tiggy Winkle story. There are 17 different species found in Europe, Africa and Asia, where they can be seen shuffling along amiably on the look out for insects, snails, berries and all sorts of other things to eat. I don't know what it's like anywhere else, but here in the UK these creatures are loved by just about everyone. It might even be illegal to think they're just "alright". I think a reason for that, aside from Miss Potter, is probably how vulnerable they seem. They walk around so slowly with their sweet little legs and, of course, they hibernate in the winter. Weirdly, another reason could be the very means by which they defend themselves. Hedgehog spines certainly look quite unique and rolling up in a ball when you're scared is always adorable, although I should think it would get pretty annoying if someone's husband does it whenever they hear a strange noise downstairs at night. In any case, I really wonder what people would think of hedgehogs if they didn't have that particular means of defence?

Of course, spikes and spines aren't the sole preserve of hedgehogs. For one thing, being able to fight back without having to actually fight is not a bad deal at all. Let's take a look at some other animals who show us a whole new way of being a sharp dresser.

Friday 13 May 2011

Marine Hatchetfish

These ghostly creatures are Marine Hatchetfish. There are about 40 species ranging between 3 and 12 centimetres in length and they obviously get their name from their hatchet shape when seen in profile. You probably won't have these guys in your aquarium at home, although you might have the unrelated Freshwater Hatchetfish instead. The Marine variety can be found in all the major oceans in the warmth of tropical and subtropical waters. Kind of warm, anyway; the deep sea isn't all that conducive to the balmy or the clement. They don't seem to like it much do they? In fact, they appear decidedly agonised. It's not so bad though, it's all to do with how they make their living.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Lubber Grasshopper

Image via Wikipedia
Lubber Grasshoppers look absolutely fantastic! They can reach some 8 centimetres in length, which is eye-catching in itself, but look at those tremendous colours! Oranges, browns, yellows, reds, all sorts of black bands and borders. Clearly this insect is no shrinking violet. That usually means one of two things...

Sunday 8 May 2011

Comb Jelly

Image via Wikipedia
Comb Jellies are another of those peculiar presences that one can scarcely imagine being a real, proper animal, let alone a very hungry predator of the high seas. They look somewhat akin to jellyfish, but that's probably because near enough anything composed mostly of jelly can't help but look at least a bit like whatever the most famous jelly thing happens to be. Comb Jellies actually have an entire phylum all to themselves - Ctenophora, and under this banner they have conquered the world's oceans from pole to pole and surface to floor. There are only about 150 or so species and while they are nowhere near as diverse as Cnidaria in general, they are certainly more varied than jellyfish. So what ties all the Comb Jellies together?

Friday 6 May 2011

Pacific White Skate

Image via Wikipedia
This is a fabulously ghostly looking fish, I could almost imagine it sneaking up and saying "BOO!" I wouldn't hear it, though. The Pacific White Skate is amongst the deepest living of all skates, taking up residence on southeast Pacific continental slopes at depths of about 800 to 3,000 metres. If I ever go down there in a dark, claustrophobic submersible, I really hope they don't sneak up and say "BOO!" because it would be even more terrifying than usual.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Blue Button

Image via Wikipedia
Here we see yet another weird, colonial Cnidarian to go along with the Portuguese Man o' War, but this one is much more closely related to the By-the-Wind Sailor. It's actually very similar to the Sailor, the main difference being that it lacks the little sail. It still has the float though, and it's still hard, full of gas and essential in keeping the Blue Button up at the water's surface as it drifts around the warmer parts of the world's oceans. It's also about 1 inch across.

Sunday 1 May 2011


Image via Wikipedia
Kraits are horrifically venomous snakes that are found in India, Sri Lanka, parts of Pakistan and much of southeast Asia. They are elapids, which means they are closely related to other venomous terrors including some of the ones that get called cobras or adders. At least they have nice, round pupils rather than those mean, old slits so many other snakes have.