Sunday 8 July 2012


Image: Wikipedia
Rhynchocyon petersi
Aaah! The glorious world of great, big schnozes!

No rhinoplasty here, please; these creatures are well adjusted and happy to be brimful of beak. They wouldn't have it any other way!

Some of them are even dependant on their super sniffer for survival, so I hope the surgeon takes a closer look before he starts drawing those weird perforation lines.

Oh. but don't get too close!

Some of these face lances could take an eye out.

Take the Black and Rufous Elephant Shrew for example. They come from a tiny part of east Africa and receive the first part of their name for their rather attractive black and rufous colour.

The second part comes from looking a little like a shrew with an elephant's nose. It took DNA analysis to discover where they really fit into the family tree. Turns out they belong to Afrotheria, a large group of mammals that contains many oddities like Tenrecs, Sea Cows and the Aardvark. Also elephants. Thus, the Elephant Shrew is more closely related to elephants, than to shrews.

In light of this, Elephant Shrews are now often called Sengis, a word derived from the Bantu language. The Black and Rufous Elephant Shrew is a kind of Giant Sengi, reaching almost 30 cm (a foot) in length. With their long legs and wide eyes, they look almost like a tiny deer. With their long, hairless tail, not so much.

The fantastic elephant nose of the Elephant Shrew is used to sniff out the pleasing scent of insects. It's hilariously mobile, moving up and down, left and right as if it's busily at work while the rest of the animal stands watch. That's probably not far from the truth.

Very few animals have quite so much control over their nasal passages. They don't always appear quite so useful, either. Still, a good quality schnoz is a good quality schnoz! Schnoz for the love of schnoz is fine by me. No need to get all utilitarian about it.

Image: Wikipedia
Nasalis larvatus
Proboscis Monkey
Madness. The Proboscis Monkey is in possession of one of the most ludicrous noses imaginable. It's flabby and floppy, hanging over the mouth like a big floppy thing. Faces just don't usually come equipped with big floppy things! I have enough trouble with biting my own tongue...

They are the only member of the Nasalis genus, because nothing looks quite like a Proboscis Monkey. They live in the forests of Borneo, eating leaves, seeds, fruit and the occasional animal. Perhaps to help digest all those leaves, they also have a big potbelly. It sounds like they ought to be sitting in an armchair in the corner of the room, but they actually live in trees and are expert swimmers.

Males are larger than females, about 75 cm (2.5 ft) body length compared to her 60 cm (2 ft). He's also the one with the ridiculous nose. Hers is fairly ridiculous, his is gravely comically and can reach over 10 cm (4 in) long. In fact, it can get to some 17.5 cm (7 in) in the older gents. I really hope they have an armchair by then.

But... WHY? No-one is quite sure! It probably has something to do with impressing the ladies. It may help to resonate their voice when they sing Barry White songs, or whatever male Proboscis Monkeys say to female Proboscis Monkeys.

Usually a single male will head up a a small group of females. If they can't do that they'll form bachelor groups. Can you imagine that? A whole troop of noses all a-dingle-dangle!

Image: Microecos via Flickr
Langaha madagascariensis, male
Northern Leafnose Snake
These arboreal snakes are found only in Madagascar. You'll have to keep a careful eye out, these guys are masters of camouflage and their peculiar snouts help them blend into their environment all the more.

The one above is male. He's brown with a yellow belly and has a nose like a twig.

Image: Wikipedia
Langaha madagascariensis, female
Females are grey and have a more leafy snout. They look very different from each other, but it's nice that they have an equally impressive His and Hers schnoz.

As you can imagine, these snakes remain stationary much of the time. That's usually how camouflage works, after all. However, from one video it looks as if males communicate their excitement to females by shaking like a branch in the wind. Things are so complicated when you're desperate to be seen by one person but don't want to be seen by anyone else.

Image: Tim Laman, National Geographic
Pinocchio Frog
This little cutie was accidentally discovered in the Foja Mountains of Indonesia in 2010. It was sitting on a bag of rice. That must surely rank as one of the most interesting bags of rice the world has ever known.

The guy who found it (also known as herpetologist Paul Oliver of the University of Adelaide, which was useful) looked around for more of them but found none. He came to the conclusion that they probably live up in the trees somewhere, so this individual must have been out discovering bags of rice to bring glory to the Frog Queen.

The thing about their nose is that it inflates and points upward when they croak and dangles down when they don't. No-one quite knows what it's for. I for one refuse to believe he lies every time he opens his mouth. Or is that what his great, big eyes want me to think?

image: Wikipedia
Laternaria candelaria
Lantern Fly
Not all Lantern Flies are as beautiful as Laternaria candelaria here. Neither do they all have snouts of quite such extraordinary proportion. The thing must be about as long as the rest of the body! And it's gloriously red like the worst cold in the world.

Lantern Flies are true bugs from tropical areas across the world. Like most true bugs, they have long, sharp mouthparts for piercing plants and sucking out the sap.

There's just one thing missing from this picture, and it looks like it will be missing for ever and ever and ever.

It happened when the naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian thought she saw a light. A light in that fantastical nose. In other words, she thought it was luminous at night, some sort of Fire(nose)fly. Alas, the next few hundred years of observation have failed to back her up. They remain adorned with names like "Lantern Fly" and "L. candelaria", though. It's just that they don't actually deserve them.

Bit of a shame, no? This nose is Christmassy, but it's not that Christmassy!

Callorhinchus sp.
Plough-nose Chimaera
Ouch! This looks like a Proboscis Monkey nose that got firmly and repeatedly stamped on. There may even have been a frying pan involved!

Chimaeras are pretty strange in the first place. They are cartilaginous fish, most closely related to sharks though they diverged from them hundreds of millions of years ago. Today, most of them live in the deep sea and have huge eyes and a long tail like the Grenadier.

The three species of Plough-nose Chimaera live at comparatively moderate depth in the southern hemisphere and are all a little more or a little less than a metre (3.3 ft) long.

That ridiculous schnoz of theirs is fleshy and flexible, used to find invertebrates and fish from the seafloor. Many Chimaeras have sensory organs in their snout and it wouldn't surprise me if the Plough-nose was one of them. Nose like a metal detector, basically.

Image: Wikipedia
Corystes cassivelaunus
Masked Crab
I know you have a weird, eight-legged Zorro running around in your head right now. Hanging from the chandeliers (they always do that eventually) with his pincers and writing Zs all over the place with his face. We'll do the movie version of your imagination later. I'm sure it'll be a hit!

For now, we'll look at the real Masked Crab. They come from European coasts around the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. The name actually comes from the face-like pattern on their carapace, which makes the crazy face ornament look like an even crazier hair style.

Speaking of which, that great spike is actually a pair of bristly antennae that are pressed together to form a kind of snorkel. It's obviously not our kind of snorkel! Not when we're talking about a crab with gills. No, Masked Crabs burrow into the sand in search of worms and molluscs. The breathing tube is used to get oxygen-rich water down.

Image: Santiago Ron via Flickr
Anolis proboscis, left: male, right: female
Proboscis Anole
This freaky faced blighter hadn't been seen in the wild since the 60s when, in 2005, a tourist took a picture of one. Scientists went to Ecuador to find out more but they are hard to find to this day. The lizard, I mean. Tourists are all over the place. I think that's the whole point.

The Proboscis Anole lives in forests halfway up mountains and are known only from a few scattered locations along dirt roads and in a town called Cunuco.

Only the male is furnished with that peculiar embellishment. One imagines it has something to do with courtship, it usually does. It wouldn't be useful in a fight, though; it's so soft that it wilts in the face of a leaf. Without bone or strong cartilage in there, it seems to be totally for show. Something of a dandy, perhaps.

Image: Robertson, D Ross
Naso annulatus
White-margin Unicornfish
This is just absurd.

Image: John E. Randall, WorldFish Center - FishBase
No. THIS is absurd! Where are the broomsticks? Unicorn? Goblin, surely?

There are some 17 Unicornfish in the Naso genus. Not all of them have such an impressive, spiky nose. Some of them have a modest bump, others a great big bulbous thing like they've been storing up an almighty sneeze for decades. Still others stick out like a sore thumb by looking completely normal.

The White-margin Unicornfish is one of the bigger ones at 1 metre (3.3 ft) in length and they can be found throughout the Indo-Pacific Oceans. Both males and females have the pointy protuberance but it seems that the male's is somewhat longer.

As far as I can make out, it appears that the head spike is used in courtship. Quite a lot of courtship seems to be about demonstrating how much energy you can afford to expend on useless junk.

Perhaps males assert their dominance over other males by having the mightiest head spike: "look how much of my head I can devote to useless junk!" It's kind of like nuclear weapons. As such, they're not actually used in battles. While mostly easy going, if fights do erupt, Unicornfish are much more likely to make use of the blades they have sticking out of their tail.

They may be funny looking and not have any actual arms, but these fish still come armed.


TexWisGirl said...

that shrew is absolutely adorable! such great colors, too! i liked all of these except that jimmy durante monkey and the weird cartilage fish. yikes! :)

Joseph JG said...

I love the Elephant Shrew's shiny eyes! The monkey's nose flopping over its mouth is a bit much and the less said about the Chimaera's gob the better!

Crunchy said...

The unicornfish just looks so... proper! It ought to have a tophat and a monocle!

Joseph JG said...

Haha! Now you're making me think of Penguin from Batman!

Unknown said...

" Quite a lot of courtship seems to be about demonstrating how much energy you can afford to expend on useless junk."
This is true for humans as well. Much too true.

Joseph JG said...

You don't have to convince me!