Sunday 24 July 2011

Monsters in Miniature

Image: Troy Bartlett, Nature Closeups
Antennae. Wings. Metamorphosis. Exoskeleton. Legs galore. Arthropods are incredibly, stupendously, ridiculously, even willfully weird.

Perhaps the weirdest thing of all is that somehow, we just get used to it. Somehow, we grow utterly accustomed to how furiously freaky these creatures really are.

The crazy critter above is a treehopper. We learnt before about just how astonishing these things can look and what that stuff coming out of their head actually is. This one reminds me of a good old fashioned executioner, from back in the old days when killing people with an axe was a real event and fun for all the family.

This one looks like he may be attending an after work party, what with that lovely splash of red adding a flourish to his usual garb. Either that or, erm... perhaps splashes of red is just an inevitable part of the job?

In any case, let's take a look at some more arthropods that can shake us out of our complacency and remind us of just how strange these mini beasts can get...

Image: Troy Bartlett, Nature Closeups
Demonic Earwig
Earwigs are usually fairly humdrum little insects. Those big pincers on their hind quarters are pretty strange, but you get used to it. But look at this one! It looks utterly malevolent! Those pincers are almost sickening, it's entire abdomen looks like a weapon of war. I could imagine the whole thing flying through the air and plucking people up from the ground below. People? OK, it's not actually that big, not like those pterodactyls you see in the movies. Still, though... if something like that crawled out of the eye socket of a human corpse, the human corpse would immediately become normal and the earwig would be the shocking thing.

Image: imarsman via Flickr
Grim Reaping Spider
Can you say "abomination"? I mean... you give a gazelle or whatever a big, long neck and you get a doe-eyed giraffe and everyone loves it. You give it to a dinosaur and you get a moving scene in Jurassic Park involving a Brachiosaurus. You give it to a spider and you just wish you hadn't. This isn't charming at all. It looks like the spider equivalent of the Grim Reaper. At least Mr. Death has the courtesy to wait. This here is an Assassin Spider. It eats spiders. Those horribly long jaws allow it to keep prey at a distance so that they can't bite back. Sometimes you just have to look at your arms and say "thank you".

Image: Troy Bartlett, Nature Closeups
Goofy Grasshopper
HAHAHAHAaahahaa!! Sorry, sorry, sorry.... Heh. Heh-heh hahahahahAHAHAHAAAAA! Nah, he's cool, he's cool. Heh. This is a Stick Grasshopper. It's a grasshopper that looks a bit like a stick, which means it looks a bit like a stick insect. The thing is, stick insects have a small head with all their eyes and jaws and stuff right there. This grasshopper has gone a different route. The head has stretched out, and their eyes seem to have left their mouthparts in the dust. It makes them look... strange. I'm sure there's a Muppet that looks just like this, and I don't mean Beaker.

Still, a while ago we took a look at the incredibly ostentatious Lubber Grasshopper. It's interesting how completely and totally different the Stick Grasshopper is. I guess a grasshopper's gotta do what a grasshopper's gotta do. It's just that a lot of them do very different things.

Image source
Spiky, Yellow Woodlouse
That's simply what it's called. It's the Spiky Yellow Woodlouse and it's a spiky, yellow woodlouse. We saw how woodlice made it from the beach to the desert, and how through judicious use of the word "UGH!" I was informed that Roly-Poly sounds much more pleasant than any kind of louse. Still, how on earth does a Wood Bug go yellow and spiky?

These little fellows are found only in a tiny part of Saint Helena, among the branches of tree ferns and other trees that are found only in Saint Helena, all on a tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, which is what Saint Helena is. Looks a bit like a hair roller.

Image source
Fluffy-wuffy Camel Spider
Camel Spiders come from hot places. North Africa, the Middle East, arid, desert, parched, uncomfortable, hot, that kind of thing. So what is this one doing clambering across sand and stone in a woolly jumper? And look at those despicable mouthparts! Camel Spiders always have rather obnoxious jaws, but this guy has incredibly long ones in a pale orange colour. It almost looks like it would pierce skin and drink up blood like a mosquito. Actually they crush and they mush and they turn stuff to slush, so it's good to keep that in mind.

Image: Troy Bartlett, Nature Closeups
Harvester of Souls
You look at this thing and you start to think: maybe all those claims about the End of the World being just around the corner are not as absurd as they seem. I can't help but feel that whenever the world does end, this arachnid will be intimately involved. It's a harvestman, sometimes called a Daddy Longlegs and probably Beelzebub, Shemyaza, Asteroth and whole load of other unholy names to boot.

If you check out a picture of the whole thing you can see the long, thin second pair of legs that are used as antennae and the long, spiked and utterly gruesome hind legs that are probably used in service of Evil. No doubt, during the Final War these creatures will grow to the size of houses and troll shamans will ride upon their back as they stride into battle. How will the uneasy alliance between Men, Elves and Dwarves hold up against the onslaught of the Dark Horde? I don't know, Planescape: Torment wasn't that kind of game.

Image: Wikipedia
Invisible Butterfly
I'm not wholly sure what to think of this one. Butterflies are usually all pretty and lovely, playfully fluttering around in the wind looking wonderful and inspirational. And who could blame them? Having come from such humble roots as little more than a worm eating plants (and sometimes flesh) like Oliver Twist chowing down on grey muck. They've made it now, and one can forgive a little regalia.

The Glasswinged Butterfly is different. It seems to take a more stealthy approach, with its wings appearing to be composed mostly of nothing at all. Of course, there's wing there, it's just that it looks a lot more like every single other insect wing in the world. Thus unadorned, one suddenly realises that butterflies have REALLY MASSIVE wings! I have a feeling that if their wings weren't so colourful, people would find them distinctly unappealing.

Image: Troy Bartlett, Nature Closeups
Curly-wurly Spider
Utterly absurd. This spider has a long, thin abdomen that can be curved and curled like a tail. It doesn't use it to swing from the trees or even its own webs, which is a real shame; they'd probably enjoy it if they were capable of innocent, childlike fun. No, it's a spider so it's much more likely to be used for killing, and not the family bonding, fishing kind of killing either.

Checking out the original post you will not only see more pictures, but you can also find out how this spider eats other spiders. It's possible that the ridiculous, curly-wurly half is used to tempt other spiders toward the mean old, bitey half. With this and the Assassin Spider it seems that catching and eating spiders is really, really hard, especially if you're a spider. You really have to think outside the box and be prepared to look like a freak.

"But you look so stupid!" said the spider, as venom coursed through his innards.
"How so?" asked the Curly-wurly Spider.
As usual, there was no response.
So she ate it.

There's at least one very important moral to this story...


TexWisGirl said...

you are in rare form today! who spiked your coffee or tea?! :)

i was definitely all creeped out along the way, but the invisible butterfly saved me from the brink of "Ewww!" (how's that instead of "Ugh!") :)

liked your human corpse vs. earwig 'normal' comparison. ha! and that daddy-long-legs is WAY creepier than the ones we have here...

Joseph JG said...

Heheheh! Thank you very much, I guess I'm kinda stretching my legs with this one. Glad you enjoyed it, and I'll add "Ewww!" to the collection!

And yes, I'm utterly amazed at how horrific those harvestmen can look. I didn't know they had it in 'em!

BK said...

I remember seeing that assassin spider picture and going "I need a diagram".

Joseph JG said...

Haha! They do indeed make approximately ZERO sense!