Sunday 30 December 2012

Escape of the Clam


Looks like someone can't wait for 2013 to begin.

Friday 28 December 2012

Is Faeces Brain Food?

He stood before the crowd with all the casual self-assurance and authority of a good-natured boss sharing a drink with his subordinates. In his hand was a small, brown ball.

"This is poo" he said as he playfully threw the brown ball into the air and caught it, a smile playing on his lips as the crowd chuckled in just the way he knew they would.

Holding the small, brown ball in his thumb and finger for all to see, he went on "and what I want to do today is share my passion for poo with you."

But for one member of the audience, it would never matter how interesting or amusing his talk would be...

"Passion?" said the Dung Beetle. "You call that passion?"

Wednesday 26 December 2012

It's Boxing Day

It's Boxing Day, so...

Sunday 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you have a wonderful day and Santa fills your stocking with so much cool stuff that you would feel guilty were you not having so much FUN!

Santa is looking particularly trim this year, don't you think?

Image: modified from PacificKlaus via Flickr
Hey, he's a Skeleton Shrimp! Hopefully he'll be able to squeeze through a few more chimneys this time!

Friday 21 December 2012

Christmas Cactus?

Image: Alfiero Brisotto
Alcyonium palmatum
It's a Christmas Cactus! I think... But what's it doing at the bottom of the sea?

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Joubin's Squid

Joubiniteuthis portieri
I don't think squid ever get more slim and dainty than this. We're looking at catwalk material here! I hope she doesn't stumble on all those arms.

Sunday 16 December 2012


Image: Daniel Stoupin
Sometimes, don't you just want to wrap yourself up in titanium-reinforced cotton wool and shut the whole wide world out for a little while? Maybe a long while? Let the Ostracod show you how it's done.

Friday 14 December 2012

Hydnora africana

It's Hydnora africana! A kind of "living dead" plant. Because sometimes you just don't know what's under the earth until it breaks out and stinks the place up.

Wednesday 12 December 2012


Image: Michel Vuijlsteke
We're going back to the old school! Let's go out to the garden, turn over a stone and learn about a tiny arthropod that deserves at least a little bit of attention.

Sunday 9 December 2012


Image: mentalblock_DMD via Flickr
Remora remora
Do you have a weird suction cup on your head? Wondering if you can get something out of it other than a lifetime of bullying and misery?

Well have no fear! The Remora is here to show you the opportunities granted to you by your horrific, cranial abnormality! Turn the cruelty of nature to your advantage!

Friday 7 December 2012

Alien Brain Starfish?

Image: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, Galapagos Rift Expedition 2011
I don't know anything about this lump of pink flesh. They claim it's a deep sea starfish... They don't expect us to believe that do they?

It's clearly a brain. A brain unleashed from the dark tedium of a cranium and enjoying its time in the slightly less dark and tedious deep sea. Can't you see it throbbing and pulsating in delight of all the new sensations? It's like a dog with its head out the car window. Especially the tongue. It looks a lot like the dog's tongue.

I wonder what it'll do with all those spinal columns?

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Jumping Jesus! It's the Pygmy Mole Cricket!

Image: Malcolm Burrows
Pygmy Mole Cricket
Actually a grasshopper.
Most insects don't like water. For them, falling into a pond is a desperate situation met with avid thrashing and probable death by drowning or getting eaten by something more au fait with the aquatic lifestyle.

So what's a Pygmy Mole Cricket to do? They can't walk on water. They can't swim through water. They can jump really well on land, but what about on water? They can't do that, can they?

Sunday 2 December 2012

Darwin's Frog

Image: Wikipedia
Rhinoderma darwinii
You know when people see a baby and say it's "so cute I could eat him/her/it aaaaaaalll up!" The important thing to remember is that they're not being literal. It's not a threat. They're simply pointing out how soft and tender, how defenceless and technically edible baby is. I guess it's some kind of sick joke. I should put it on my "How to Say Hello" list.

Friday 30 November 2012

White Coral

Ramariopsis kunzei
Wouldn't it be odd to stumble upon a glistening white coral as you wander through the woods? As if, just before you got there, the whole forest was a tropical reef and you discovered one of the stragglers left behind by the change.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Uropyia meticulodina. Best camouflage, ever.

Image: Bettaman via Flickr
Uropyia meticulodina
It's a moth called Uropyia meticulodina! But it has such incredibly incredible camouflage that even when you know its a moth, you still can't quite believe it's just a moth.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Flying Gurnard

Image: laszlo-photo via Flickr
The word "gurnard" comes from the Old French for "grunt". So I guess a Flying Gurnard is some sort of high level ventriloquism skill?

Friday 23 November 2012

Anchor Worm, Lernaeolophus

Image: Wikipedia
Lernaeolophus sultanus
Lines are 1 mm apart
Fantasia got it all wrong - THIS is what really happens when you mix a neuron with a mop! It won't wander around picking up dust either. I'm afraid it would rather drink your blood. There. I said it.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Cauliflower Jellyfish, Cephea

Image: Derek Keats via Flickr
Crazy looking jellyfish! Part cauliflower, part whole bunch of other stuff.

Sunday 18 November 2012

Sea Elephant

Image: Roger R. Seapy
Pterotrachea coronata
I don't know about you, but for me the only possible response here is "?!"

Friday 16 November 2012

The Leggy Blonde Is So Weird!

Image: Paul Marek et al.
Illacme plenipes
Do you remember Illacme plenipes, that tiny, 3 cm (1.2 in) long millipede that, with its 750 legs, was the leggiest animal in all the world? Well, turns out it's weird in more ways than 750!

Wednesday 14 November 2012

King Ragworm

Image: Alexander Semenov
Alitta virens / Nereis virens
King Ragworm! It sounds like one of Fagin's street-names but it really is a worm!

Sunday 11 November 2012


Image: Tim Evison
BOING! No, really.

Friday 9 November 2012

Prickly Dogfish

Image: New Zealand-American Submarine Ring of Fire 2005 Exploration, NOAA Vents Program
Oxynotus bruniensis
We usually think of sharks as streamlined killers, stalking the ocean in search of their next victim before racing toward them with immense speed and big, toothy jaws.

We don't normally think of them as triangles.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Harp Sponge

Image: MBARI
Chondrocladia lyra
Isn't it lovely? Among all the gnashing teeth and wobbling flab of the deep sea is a beautiful harp! A beautiful, meat-eating harp.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Marine Iguana

Image: lgooch via Flickr
Amblyrhynchus cristatus
Just imagine. There you are in warm, equatorial South America, munching on your luscious greens as you rest in the hot, moist air. A storm wanders by. It picks up the very branches on which you sit and casts them into the sea. You drift on your accidental raft for a long time, not knowing if you'll ever see land again.

Friday 2 November 2012

Cyclosa and the Bridge of the Dead

Cyclosa octotuberculata is a small, spiky spider with a nasty, nasty habit.

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Happy Halloween!

Wishing you all a chocolate covered day! And a rich, caramel filled night.

Or at least something better than dead fish in the dark.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Return of the Hallowe'en Horrors

It's Hallowe'en! That time of year when we play snakes 'n' ladders with death, peek-a-boo with darkness and rock, paper, Armageddon with evil. Fun!

Behold Death. He's stripped to the waist to show off his brand new array of internal organs. He looks great! At least 3 or 4,000 years younger! The surgeon says he can choose some skin in a few weeks, maybe even an eyeball!

Here be Darkness. Her flower arranging has really come on leaps and bounds this year. She's taken a very important step and decided not to paint all the flowers entirely black. We now have one crimson petal peeking out from the shadows. She says it's a revelation!

Yonder is Evil. He's dressed up in a long, white robe with a little cardboard halo fixed onto his head by a piece of wire. He does that every year but it's hilarious every time!

But some creatures don't need to dress up in a long, white robe to be scary. They don't need clothes at all. They're entirely NAKED! All the time! Let's go see!

Friday 26 October 2012


Three Wolbachia within an insect cell. They each have a white ring around them.
It ain't no halo.

Long before Count Dracula was stalking the night, knocking on the bedroom window and introducing young Victorians to the secret urges that emerge when you forget to take your hourly cold shower, there was Wolbachia.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Reaper Cuttlefish

Image: richard ling via Flickr
Sepia mestus
Not all reapers are grim!

Sunday 21 October 2012


Image: Ken Roblee/New York Department of Environmental Conservation
Cryptobranchus alleganiensis
Hellbender... very much NOT on the straight and narrow, then. This impression grows even clearer when you hear some of their other common names, like Devil Dog and Mud Devil. The real clincher, however, is Snot Otter. Snot Otter! This is a dark business, dear reader. Keep a tight grip on your soul. And bring a handkerchief.

Friday 19 October 2012

Melted Marshmallow Sponge

Image: neptunecanada via Flickr

Isn't it strange?

You go to the cold, dark depths of the sea
and it turns out you just missed a camp fire.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Veiled Lady

Image: Shashidhara halady
Well, now. At least one Stinkhorn is trying to preserve its dignity. Sort of.

Sunday 14 October 2012

How does a scorpion eat a lion?

With difficulty!

Oh, and by adding 'fish' at the end.

You know how it is. You're peacefully walking along a quiet road, minding your own business, the imaginary bodycount reaching apocalyptic proportions as you indulge in various fantasies... the usual thing. When you come across a gigantic rock in the street.

It barely registers as you blithely walk past. Who cares about a massive boulder in real life when you're flying around with laser eyes and that guy who stole your sweets when you were 10 years old is begging for his life in your imagination.

And then, just as your imaginary laser eyes are about to carefully remove yet another limb, the giant rock comes to life and eats you.

I have no idea how it deals with the Lionfish's poisonous spines!

"Strange", you say to yourself as you're swallowed whole. You realise that you should have paid a lot more attention to that peculiar rock in the road.

Since you are no longer able to in real life, your imaginary self slaps itself on the forehead and sighs heavily.

Friday 12 October 2012

Wrong again, Sea Cucumber

Image: neptunecanada via Flickr
Now, I love slugs, snails and puppy dog's tails as much as the next little boy, but, and I hope this doesn't sound terribly fascist, but I like my slugs to be slugs and my snails to be snails.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Alligator Snapping Turtle

Image: USFWS/Southeast via Flickr
Macrochelys temminckii
SNAP! But it's the wrong kind of SNAP!

Sunday 7 October 2012

Dung Beetle

Image: Arno & Louise Wildlife via Flickr

Friday 5 October 2012


Image: Simon Richards
Oh no! Don't tell me centipedes have made it into the sea as well?

Wednesday 3 October 2012

REVIEW: The Book of Barely Imagined Beings

"Death is not the end, it's just a case of being metabolically different."
                      Caspar Henderson

Fantastic! The Book of Barely Imagined Beings is A 21st Century Bestiary that uses an A to Z of animals to explore a whole range of scientific and human issues.

If nothing else, the book is a clear demonstration that its author, Caspar Henderson, is a right, ol' clever clogs. Each chapter brings together an array of quotes, history, art, science, mythology and story to bring the subject alive. It's amazing to see how our thoughts and ideas surrounding life on earth have changed over time, let alone how much life itself has changed over significantly more time.

Each chapter focuses on a single creature, including many of our old fiends like the Axolotl, the Sea Butterfly and even Venus' Girdle! A girdle so sexy and sheer that barely anyone knows it's even there!

Each animal teaches us something about earth, life and our place within it. Where we came from and what we should do now that we have all this ridiculous world-changing power. It seems to me that this really is a time for thought; our accidents and unintended consequences are not like your grandfather's. With power comes responsibility, and with responsibility comes having an idea of what the hell it is you're doing.

Each chapter is also introduced with a beautiful illustration by an Iranian artist called Golbanou Moghaddas. His earthy, organic art sums up the chapter in a way that raises quite a few questions. What on earth does the Crown of Thorns Starfish have to do with van Gogh's Sunflowers and the Pyramids of Giza? You'll have to read it to find out!

The Book of Barely Imagined Beings is out now in the UK

The rest of the world will get it a little later, so Americans can feel what it's like to have to wait for Hollywood movies.

Also check out Caspar's blog.

Sunday 30 September 2012

Sea Robin

Image: EricksonSmith via Flickr
Striped Sea Robin
Are those legs? They look like legs!
What do you get if you cross a fish with an insect?

Friday 28 September 2012

Unidentified Flying Jellyfish

Image: NEPTUNE Canada / CSSF
It's a jelly!

Thursday 27 September 2012

Vampire Squid Feeds on Filth!

Image: Richard E. Young
That's a mouth, that is
Turns out everyone's favourite blue-eyed beauty is a filth feeder!

The diet of this deep sea cephalopod has long been a mystery. Other squid, octopus and cuttlefish are predators of fish and crustaceans, but the Vampire Squid has always been perfectly comfortable being utterly unique.

They use their flabby body and slothful ways to survive in the incredibly low oxygen levels found at depths of 900 m (3,000 ft). Now, Henk-Jan Hoving and Bruce Robison from MBARI have discovered how they can eat without having to do all that tedious "moving" which we all find so exhausting.

Along with their 8 arms, Vampire Squid have a pair of thin, thread-like filaments that can be up to 8 times longer than their 30 cm (1 ft) body. Extending one of these out into the water, they allow it to get covered in the slowly descending precipitation of dead bodies, faeces and general muck known as marine snow.

Once covered in this unsavoury nastiness, the Vampire Squid draws the filament back in, uses mucus secreted by its suckers to bundle up the filth into a bite-sized morsel, and then eats it.

Basically, they're like Sea Cucumbers, except they don't eat it off the floor.

Finally! Now that you know their terrible defect and that they're not just a perfect bundle of gelatinous lovely, you can TRULY love them!

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Killing you softly. And slowly. And horribly.

So they got one of those tiny cameras that are making our lives a living, near-future nightmare, put it in a mussel and then had us all watch it watch itself get brutally consumed by a starfish.

Pretty darn sick. And a grim example of the horrors that lie beyond our limited scope. The horrors that are too slow, too fast or too small for us to grasp. Let alone the horrors we don't yet even recognise as horrors! 'Tis all horror! Horror all the way down!

Of course, we all know that some molluscs turn the tables on even the most vicious of starfish. Your death will be avenged! Slowly.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Water Flea

Image: Antonio Guillén
Water Fleas! Although I really want to call them Flying Belly Monsters.

Friday 21 September 2012

Sea Tulip

Image: richard ling via Flickr
Pyura spinifera
The Sea Tulip. Quite unlike actual tulips.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

The Horror of Friendly Spiders

Image: Spider Joe via Flickr
Not all spiders are arachnophobic!

Sunday 16 September 2012


Image: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, INDEX-SATAL 2010
More like Tadpolefish if you ask me. Who would've guessed that some of the deepest living fish in the world would look like a tadpole?

Friday 14 September 2012


Image: Wikipedia
Therea petiveriana
It may surprise you to learn that some cockroaches are quite handsome. They just aren't the ones who are attracted to that filthy pile of rotting debris you keep in your kitchen. That stinking hillock that had the police coming round after reports of a "suspicious smell". That putrefying mound that various wildlife agencies are trying to turn into a nature reserve because of its unique, endemic species and scientific interest. Some cockroaches just aren't into that sort of thing.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Sea Pen

Image: CW Ye via Flickr
The sea is terribly behind the times in some ways. Dictaphonefish, please.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Mushrooms From Hell: Stinkhorns

Image: eyeweed via Flickr
Aseroë rubra
We all know that Hell is piled high with fire, brimstone and solicitors, but who knew there were quite so many mushrooms down there?

Friday 7 September 2012

Breadcrumb Sponge

Image: WoRMS for SMEBD
Halichondria panicea
So popular they named it more than 50 times!

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Green Bomber

Image: Casey Dunn
Maybe it's all the unexploded bombs they keep finding round these parts. They come in with the tides, cause trouble at sea, or find a place in the household before someone eyes it suspiciously and says "wait a minute, that's no doorstop!"

Sunday 2 September 2012


Image: Nick Hobgood
Why'd you do it, Jimmy? Why'd you set fire to the orphanage and the puppy rescue centre and the soft-and-lovely-things factory? What are you? Some kind of pyromaniac?

No! I'm not a madman! I just... pyrosome.