Sunday 18 January 2015

The Blues IV

Image: Ted
Uh oh! It's that time of year again - Blue Monday! The worst Monday of them all.

Christmas is gone and the last vestiges of good cheer have finally been swallowed up by darkness and routine. You've already failed all your New Year's resolutions and worst of all, if something shiny catches your eye you will never have to wait longer before someone can get it for you for Christmas!

But don't hide your blues under a bushel. Unfurl that thing like a banner and show it to the world.

Video: Hugo Barbosa
"I AM BLUE" - Tragopan satyra

That's the spirit!

Tragopans are 5 species of pheasant all found in and around the Himalayas. They all look at least fairly extraordinary but two of them really take the biscuit with the bountiful blueness of their bibs. But only once they're unbridled.

Image: 上海科学技术出版社
Tragopan temminckii
These bibs are large, flattened wattles, like the thing you get on turkeys and chickens except they look like the result of an insane tailor rather than a terrible disease. Aided by a whole lot of head-thrashing, male tragopans unleash their exquisite neckwear to attract females. And of course the females are rather drab in comparison so they're like "I love what you did with your face! Where can I get mine done?"

But the sheer exuberance of their lusty colours is not the reason why tragopans are also known as "horny pheasants". No, that'll be the two, feathery horns atop their head. It's also why the name of their genus is Tragopan. It comes from tragus which means "goat", and Pan who was that Greek god who looks a bit like Satan.

Pan... now, he actually was a randy old goat.

Image: Joachim S. Müller
Petrosaurus thalassinus
Baja Blue Rock Lizard
These stunning lizards are found only in the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico, as well as a couple nearby islands. They look fantastic with those lovely stripes, and what about that pale blue head and orange around the eyes? It's like someone tanned themselves orange and then went nuts with the blusher. And it was blue. So 80's!

Baja Blue Rock Lizards reach some 45 cm (18 in) total length so you don't have to squint too much to appreciate them. Don't get too close though, or they'll scarper and disappear down a crevice in their dry, rocky habitat.

When the breeding season rolls in, the Baja Blue Rock Lizard's colours intensify. And it happens to both the males and the females, because they're virtually identical. It's equal opportunity Blues!

Image: Jerry Kirkhart
Nereis grubei
A simple worm with simple tastes. Except when it comes to colour, then it's "make me a star".

These polychaetes are found along the Pacific coast from Canada to Mexico, where they live among the mussels and algae. They eat pretty well anything that'll fit in their mouth and they look good doing it. The Blues will elevate even the humblest worm to the status of sex symbol.

Image: Thomas (Guatemala)
Callinectes sapidus
Atlantic Blue Crab
This crab belongs to the Portunidae family, the swimming crabs. As such, their last pair of legs are flattened paddles that let them swim through the sea. They don't have to do that, though. They're perfectly fine resting on the sea floor, or in brackish estuaries or even further up river into fresher waters. They like the shallows, but they can also migrate to deeper waters when it starts getting cold. Also they can feed on pretty well any meaty prey they can get their claws into.

This adaptability has enabled the Atlantic Blue Crab to spread all along the east Atlantic coast, from Canada through the Caribbean to Argentina. Their main problem is that they're so darn tasty! The generic name Callinectes means "beautiful swimmer". A charming compliment. Unfortunately, the specific name sapidus means "savoury". That's... a compliment, of sorts. It's one thing to say someone is so cute you could eat them all up. It's quite another to discuss their flavour.

Still, it looks like their flavoursome nature has helped them out in some ways. Atlantic Blue Crabs are now found in Japan and all around Europe, presumably introduced for culinary reasons.

Image: Spencer
It's not like they don't defend themselves. In fact, they're quite aggressive...

Image: Jerry Oldenettel
Downright furious, even.

Image: Scotto Bear
It's a good thing they're only 23 cm (9 in) across. Thank The Blues for small mercies.

Image: Jens Petersen
Taeniura lymma
Bluespotted Ribbontail Ray
Now there's a beauty tip for you. Paint your spots iridescent blue!

These stingrays have a huge range from South Africa to southeast Asia, but always near the coast. They spend a lot of their time hiding out in caves and coral reefs on their lonesome. When the tide comes in, they follow it, gathering in small groups to set about scouring the seabed for fish, crustaceans and anything else they can get their teeth into.

Bluespotted Ribbontails are quite small, only 35 cm (14 in) across, but their tail comes armed with one or two venomous spines that can inflict excruciating pain. Those bright blue spots alert predators of this painful fact. Don't say The Blues didn't warn you.

Image: Ed Bierman
Fauchea sp.
Blue Branching Seaweed
I scarcely believed it when I first saw this! I thought it was some crazy artist thing but nope, it's seaweed! This one belongs to the genus Fauchea. It could be the Blue Branching Seaweed (F. laciniata) itself or perhaps a relative.

Oddly enough, these seaweeds belong to a group called Rhodophyta, the red algae. Many red algae are in fact red, the reason being that they bear a pigment that reflects red light but absorbs blue. Since blue light penetrates deeper into the watery depths, this means they can photosynthesise at a greater dpeth than other seaweeds.

However, there are at least 5,000 species of red algae and some of them place more emphasis on other pigments such that they can appear green, brown or... blue! And just to drive The Blues home they also exhibit iridescence via structural colour. That means that the physical structure of the seaweed's surface is causing light to reflect at certain wavelengths, in this case the blue bit. So some red algae can have all the red pigments they want, yet the light that bounces off them and strikes the eye is still blue!

There are many paths to The Blues.

Image: JJ Harrison
Mycena interrupta
Pixie's Parasol
It must be tough to be a pixie in Australia. The giant, venomous spiders, the carnivorous plants, those weird Australian hats with all the corks dangling off them. Not to mention whichever Australian it was who had to drink bottle after bottle of wine to acquire all those corks. It's an absolute minefield.

But there's one thing they don't have to worry about, and that's the sun.

The Pixie's Parasol is a tiny mushroom which grows in small groups on rotting logs. It reaches a height of just 1 or 2 cm (0.4-0.8 in). It can be found not only in south-east Australia, but also New Zealand and Chile.

Pixies need to be careful with their parasols. The cap is sticky and kind of slimy so even if they're not superstitious at all, it's probably best they don't open one indoors. I wonder if they use Australian beer bottle caps as doors? Maybe they can use them for their bank vaults.

Image: Drägüs
Achrioptera fallax
Hailing from Madagascar, this stick insect is the proud purveyor of a particularly luscious shade of greenish blue. It could have been an aid to camouflage, except it looks even more luscious than most plants. It seems their biggest problem would come from herbivores attracted to that one, incredibly appetising twig over there.

Maybe that's where those spiky, orange bits on the legs come in. And if that doesn't work...

Video: TheInka67

The wings of A. fallax are too small to be of any use in flight but they're red enough to make predators think twice. Even though they look like pretty flower petals. Maybe predators suffer from hay fever. It appears A. fallax can also scrape the red hindwings against the yellow forewings to create a horrible rasping sound. It's like predatory claws on a blackboard.

That's the male, anyway. He's slim and reaches 13 cm (5 in) long. The female is about 5 cm (2 in) longer, thicker-bodied and while not unattractive, she doesn't have the male's luxuriant hues. Babies are worse, they're just greenish brown like a young twig. They'll have to wait until they're mature enough to behave responsibly with such sensational colours. The Blues are conscientious parents.

Image: Bernard DUPONT
Chlorocebus pygerythrus
Vervet Monkey
Ah. Speaking of mature... blue balls. Now this one really is male-only blues.

Vervet Monkeys live across much of eastern Africa, where they enjoy a varied diet of everything from roots, fruits and leaves to eggs, insects and lizards. They live in groups of up to 40 individuals and a noisy bunch they are, too.They have calls for particular predators, like "oh no, a leopard!" and "gracious me, an eagle!" (translated from the Monkeyish), to which the rest of the group will respond appropriately by running up trees, down trees or just looking around, terrified.

They can also identify each other from their calls and members of one group can even listen in on neighbouring groups and identify them, too. They're massive gossips, basically.

Image: Bernard DUPONT
I'm not sure how much communicating the males do with their genitals, aside for assuring everyone around them that they really are a male. Maybe they can point at things? I mean, this is technicolour genitalia. A vibrantly sanguine penis nestled on a bed of sky blue testicles. It's like they got into their mother's make-up box and decided to... experiment.

I know what those tragopans would say: put a bib on it.


TexWisGirl said...

the bird is a masked freak show! :) love the cute lizard. some pretty blues throughout. i'll save commenting on the last...

Porakiya said...

no comment on the monkey, but everything else is fabulous!

Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous group of creatures! I love the blue lizard who is so homely he is cute and the crab is fantastic. I'm not sure if a bright blue penis is the way to start my morning but I am sure that image will stick with me all day! Great post as always.

ColdFusion said...

I was like, 95 percent sure the last pair of legs on a crab like that were for digging, and that no crab was capable of swimming. You hear something new every day!

Joseph JG said...

@TexWisGirl: I love how proud of their freakishness those birds are!

@Porakiya Draekojin: That's fine. The monkey is otherwise occupied!

@Crunchy: OUCH! Now a whole other part looks kinda horrible. Worst nether regions ever!

@stregajewellry: Hahaha! First thing in the morning and last thing before bedtime are the worse for this kind of thing!

@ColdFusion: Yeah, some of them are surprisingly good at swimming!