Sunday 19 January 2014

The Blues III

Image: JJ Harrison
It's the most mis'rable time of the year!
When your tears are upwelling
And everyone's telling you be of good cheer
It's the most mis'rable time of the year!

That's right! The dark, foreboding clouds of Blue Monday are upon us all over again. The festive season has withered away and hopefully you've already failed your New Year's Resolutions. Oh, the cogs and gears of time! They grind and they grind and they grind! Woe to us all, we pitiable mortals!

Image: Hiyashi Haka
Luscinia cyane
So how about a plump, little bird to take the edge off? This Siberian Blue Robin is a real charmer who can be found across much of east Asia. Their breeding grounds incorporate Japan, a bit of China and a huge chunk of eastern Russia, while they spend winter in the warmth of Thailand and Indonesia.

Secretive and cautious, the Siberian Blue Robin spends much of its time on the ground hiding among dense foliage as it seeks out insects to munch on. Birders are pleased to label this world-wariness as "skulking", but I think it's simply prudent when you're so gloriously blue.

Of course, it's the males who acquire this fine outfit during the breeding season. Females are an olive-brown colour and it's up to them to choose which males they think are up to snuff. Matters of the heart always were a rich source of the blues.

Image: Brian Gratwicke
Varanus macraei
Blue-spotted Tree Monitor
From a small bird on the ground to a big lizard in a tree. The Blue-spotted Tree Monitor is found only on a single, tiny, Indonesia island called Batanta. If you want to visit, the best way is to go to the city of Sorong in nearby West Papua and hitch a ride on a fishing boat. Once there, the local villagers might offer you a nice bungalow to stay in! Oh, and bring bring your own food.

The Blue-spotted Tree Monitor must have done all that a while ago but they ended up living in the trees. I'm sure the bungalow was lovely, but this lizard is made for the arboreal life. They have a long, sinewy body, long toes and an incredibly long, prehensile tail. The entire lizard is about a metre (3.3 feet) in length and two thirds of that is a tail. The head and body is little more than 30 cm (a foot) long!

Image: Luke Mackin
Xylocopa caerulea
Blue Carpenter Bee
This little beauty is a carpenter bee which can be found all around southeast Asia, India and parts of China. I say "little" but at some 2.3 cm (an inch) in length, this is a big bee!

There's not much information on this particular species to be had but it seems pretty clear that, like other carpenter bees, it chews its way through wood to create a nest within which to lay eggs. The nest is filled with all the pollen a growing grub needs.

Carpenter Bees are generally solitary, they don't go in for all the communal family stuff you see with honey bees. They're also extremely docile, especially females. You really have to work to get one to sting you. That's the thing with the blues. Sometimes you just can't be bothered...

Image: Bernard DUPONT
Rhinomuraena quaesita
Ribbon Eel
From coastal, Indo-Pacific waters comes the unusual Moray Eel known as the Ribbon Eel. This fellow gets its name for its remarkably flattened body that may reach 120 cm (4 feet) long. You'll seldom see it though, since they keep themselves tucked into rocky crevices and sandy burrows with just their head poking out.

And what a head! On the lower jaw are three, peculiar tentacles, while the snout ends in a tentacle, plus two nostrils that fan out and look rather like small fins. A lot of Morays have weird, tubular nostrils sticking out but few are so fish-faced with it! I presume they have a good sense of smell, and they use it to snatch up any shrimp or fish who wander too close.

Ribbon Eels can remain in the same lair for months or even years, but it's total mesmerism to watch them swimming out in the open. I imagine them repeatedly saying "you are feeling very sleepy" as they go.

The Ribbon Eel is the only member of its genus and the only Moray known to be a protandrous hermaphrodite, that is, they start out male and can become female later on. Females lose all that blue and become almost entirely yellow! Can fear of losing the blues be a source of the blues in the first place? Quite the paradox.

Terriswalkeris terraereginae
Giant Blue Earthworm
The Giant Blue Earthworm got its name for being a giant, blue earthworm, and it comes from a part of Australia in the far north of Queensland known as Far North Queensland. I consider this rather wonderful.

Of course, Australia is pretty much Big Worm Island and we already know that it contains the biggest of them all, the 3 metre (10 foot) long Giant Gippsland Worm. The Blue variety can reach 2 metres (6.5 feet) in length and is seldom seen because it digs so deep in the soil.

Also it glows in the dark! It produces bioluminescent mucus, which is yet another example of just how unimaginative and wasteful we are with regard to our own mucus. Imagine lighting up a room with a single sneeze! And if you're outside, a torch is just a nose-pick away!

Either that or we'd cower in the corner of a room like Howard Hughes, horrified at the layer of glowing mucus that covers almost everything we own. I have no idea how much that stuff spreads, DARE WE FIND OUT?

Video: Aditya Joshi
Hoplobatrachus tigerinus
Indus Valley Bullfrog
Hey! It's that famous crooner, ol' blue cheeks!

Nothing is quite so splendidly absurd as a male Indus Valley Bullfrog in the full regalia of the breeding season. At other times of the year they share the blotchy, brown and grey colours of the females but when its time to dress to impress, bright, BRIGHT, neon, glow-in-the-dark lemon zest yellow is the order of the day. A wonderful backdrop to a pair of bulging, dark blue vocal sacs, I'm sure you'll agree.

These frogs are usually solitary but they gather together for a kind of singles party during the monsoon season in India. Males leap onto females as they wander by and get into that sexy frog position known as amplexus. Other males nearby have no respect for sanctity and will immediately start pushing and pulling at them and fighting amongst themselves. So it's more like a singles night in a Wild West saloon than a swanky wine bar.

Indian Bullfrogs are no less aggressive outside of the breeding season. With a length of up to 17 cm (6.7 inches) they're not small and will gladly eat anything they can, from insects to small snakes, rodents, birds and other frogs. Most of this activity takes place on land but they don't travel far from water, and will quickly leap into water pools and submerge themselves at the first sign of trouble.

Hey, a blue's gotta do what a blue's gotta do.

Image: H. Krisp
Chlorociboria aeruginascens
Green Elfcup
BLUE-green if you please! Or aeruginous. I'm not fussy.

These mushrooms get their name for looking like little cups atop stalks. They are really minute, the cups being about 1 cm (0.2 in) across at most and often much smaller.

As with other mushrooms, these are the fruit bodies. They don't emerge often and when they do, they're quick to rot away. The real body of the mushroom is the mycelium, a mass of branching thread which look a bit like roots. In the case of the Green Elfcup, this stuff grows on wood all around Europe and North America. It particularly likes oak.

Image: Jason Hollinger
Green oak
In fact, this is one blue who likes to share the fun. Their mycelium has a blue-green pigment which stains the surrounding wood, creating something called green oak. You're much more likely to stumble across green oak than you are the mushroom. People have used it in woodwork designs since the 16th century!

Image: Chris Moody
Patella pellucida
Blue-rayed Limpet
Bright, sparkly stripes are usually something I'd expect to see on a superhero called Flash William or Zippy Gordon or some such. A guy who goes around the city over-reacting and telling us the moral of the story after he's humiliated a villain who's just trying to get on in life.

But here it is on a snail! A true limpet, in fact. They lack the craggy, weather-beaten appearance of some of their relatives but they still prefer fast-moving waters in the Atlantic, from Iceland and Norway down to Portugal.

These 2 cm (0.8 in) gastropods cling to certain kelps and seaweeds, digging out a depression as they feed on the surface beneath them. As they get older, they travel further and further down until they're munching on the holdfast, which is the part that keeps the seaweed attached to the ocean floor. They can end up causing the whole thing to become dislodged and washed ashore!

Image: Tarantuland
Haplopelma lividum
Cobalt Blue Tarantula
Hailing from Myanmar and Thailand comes the tremendous shades of the Cobalt Blue Tarantula. The cephalothorax is mostly grey, the abdomen is quite blue, but the legs! The legs have an iridescent blue sheen to make the heart melt! And being a spider with a legspan of up to 13 cm (5 in), there's a lot of leg!

Not surprising then that Cobalt Blues are noted for being rather aggressive and having potent venom. Blue like that has to be defended!

But can you believe they spend most of their time underground? People who keep them as pets give them around 30 cm (a foot) of substrate to dig into because that's how deep their burrows go. It's a cruel, cruel world when eight feet of beautiful blue have to be kept hidden beneath a foot of soil. It's enough to make a guy... blue.


TexWisGirl said...

some GREAT colors in there! i prefer the bird to some of the other critters, but still... gotta give 'em kudos for color!

Lear's Fool said...

I'll confess the Ribbon Eel hurt my brain a smidge.

Crunchy said...

The eel in that picture looks like he's giving a big friendly, "Oh hey!"

And the spider. Gaaahhhhh, freaking spiders.

Eleanor Eltoft said...

I love the gorgeous blue tarantula!!!

Joseph JG said...

@TexWisGirl: I know how much you love those birds!

@Lear's Fool: I can't blame you at all. Hypnotists make a lot of people feel queasy!

@Crunchy: Yeah! It certainly looks extremely excited about something!

@Eleanor Eltoft: It really is a magnificent shade of blue!

BK said...

The Singapore Blue tarantula is gorgeous as well. And this one lives in trees!

Joseph JG said...

Oooo! I'll definitely check them out!