Monday 25 January 2016

The Blues V

Image: Hiyashi Haka
Lamprotornis caudatus
It's time for the blues! Either that or I'm a week late... Oh dear. Failure upon failure! Blues upon blues! Well, I guess it makes sense, really. Blues are eternal, after all. Haven't you heard? It's blues all the way down! At least on this page...

Take a look at the Long-tailed Glossy Starling. Bursting with so much blues it's exploded into a tail that can reach over 30 cm (a foot) long! They end up looking like a miniature peacock. A much more reasonable kind of peacock, I might add. I've often thought the peacock's tail is a bit like a wedding dress: nice to wear once or twice, but if you leave it on for too many years it starts to look weird.

Video: mrdannyfu

Long-tailed Glossy Starlings come from tropical Africa, where they occupy a long strip of territory just south of the Saharan desert. They're omnivorous, feeding on insects and fruits.

Everyone knows that the blues love company, and Long-tailed Glossy Starlings are no different. They like to hang out together, males and females equally resplendent in shiny feathers and lovely, long tails. But the blues are also complex, what it gives with one pseudopod it takes with the other. Thus, Long-tailed Glossy Starlings are noisy birds who call to each other with harsh, grating calls that sound like a robot with fingers made of squeaky wheels trying to play the violin with a fork.

Image: Doug Beckers
Heleioporus australiacus
Giant Burrowing Frog
Quite the opposite of a glossy bird with a long tail, it's a podgy frog who spends much of his time underground! Giant Burrowing Frogs reach up to 10 cm (4 in) long and come from a small strip of land near the coast of south-east Australia.

They're quite variable in colour. Their back might be grey, brown or black and they have many, few or zero yellow spots on their sides over a pale or, best of all, blue background.

During the breeding season, males grow a whole bunch of black spines on their fingers and arms to help them grip onto the females when their making sweet, blazing hot, froggie love. You know that blue flames burn hotter than red ones, right?

Image: seascapeza
Iphimedia gibba
Hunchback Amphipod
Dear oh dear! Those beautiful blues and lovely, yellow stripes... and they focus on the fact that they're hunchbacked? I bet they give to charity, too, and write enlightening poetry who's insights whisper through the ages. But no. HUNCHBACK.

Hunchback Amphipods live off the coast of South Africa where they're often seen lounging on sponges and corals. And they really are seen, since they're quite conspicuous despite reaching no more than 5 mm (0.2 in) long. It's not just because of their lovely, eye-catching colours...

Image: Pbsouthwood
It's also because of their habit of gathering together in herds like some bizarre, alien bovine.

And yes, if you must know, they are sort of hunchbacked. The segment right behind their head is elongated so that their entire head constantly points down, sort of like an angry bull. That doesn't define them, though. They're more than a hunchback. They're also a blue.

Image: drcaesarphotography
Sitana ponticeriana
Fan-throated Lizard
All's blue in love and war! Or at least some's blue.

Take, for example, the Fan-throated Lizard. They come from the Indian subcontinent, where they like open areas to run around in without too many trees to get in the way. They're named after the incredibly huge dewlap which lies beneath their chin and extends halfway down their belly.

Some male Fan-throated Lizards are entirely drab, their back covered in shades of brown, their dewlap a pale off-white. Others, possibly separate subspecies, are a lot more colourful...

By which I mean blue! Also red, but... blue!

Their dewlap glistens with shades of iridescent blues and greens, separated from a shiny red belly by a band of black. Males use this thing to assist in their romantic endeavours. They clamber onto some high place, like a rock or twig. They sit on the heels of their back legs, supported by their tail. They rear up on the tippy-toes of their front legs and, head aloof, give the world an eyeful of shimmering, iridescent dewlap.

Who can resist? Lady lizards love the blues on the dews.

Image: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen
Dictyophorus spumans
Koppie Foam Grasshopper
All's blue in love and war! Or at least some's blue.

Take, for example, the Koppie Foam Grasshopper. It's a great, big grasshopper found all over Africa. They reach a good 8 cm (3 in) long and are not at all concerned with hiding themselves, running away or backing down from anything. In fact, with their startling colours that may incorporate blues, greens, reds and even wasp-like yellow and black stripes, they're hard to miss. And if you find one, they're easy to pick up because they're so slow and nonchalant.

You shouldn't pick one up though.

Image: JMK
The reason, of course, is that they're horribly poisonous! They feast on poisonous plants like nightshades and milkweed and sequester the poison into their own bodies, accumulating, storing and hoarding it for their own defence. Their even kind of shaped like a test tube!

If the colours aren't enough of a DON'T TOUCH sign on their own then the Koppie Foam Grasshopper will raise its wings and get all angry-looking.

If that doesn't work then they'll start squirting their own blood (haemolymph to be precise) through their thorax while blowing air into it. The effect is a bubbling mass of nasty-smelling foam pouring out of their body, like someone loosened the lid on a forbidden test tube. Didn't Dr. Jekyll tell you not to touch it?

And if that doesn't work? Well, they'll probably get eaten. That's OK, though, because whoever it is that ate them has a good chance of dying of poison.

So if the blues say DON'T TOUCH, don't touch. It may be the lesser of several evils.

Don't Know
It's a spider in blue knee-socks!

This beautiful spider hails from the Ecuadorian Amazon and appears quite at home in the trees. Not much is known about it, but it seems to be some kind of Huntsman Spider with an unusually flamboyant fashion sense.

Almost makes you wonder if it's packed full of horrible poison!

Image: Travis
Pisaster giganteus
Giant Sea Star
This gigantic starfish is found along the west coast of North America, where it sticks to shallow, rocky shores. They're huge, easily reaching more than 30 cm (a foot) across. 45 cm (1.5 ft) is not uncommon and true goliaths of their kind might get to 60 cm (2 feet)!

Their pale, sky blues come from lots and lots of small, white-tipped spines that cover their body. Beneath that is a background of brown. Beyond all that are their innards which feature, amongst other things, a stomach.

In time-honoured, starfish style, Giants are able to push their stomach out through their mouth and into tiny gaps in the shells of snails, bivalves, limpets and barnacles. Apparently they just adore shelled seafood!

It also shows you that sometimes it's best not to get past that prickly exterior. Who knows what horrors may lay beneath?

Image: Mark Rosenstein
Elysia crispata
Lettuce Sea Slug
Blue lettuce? Whatever will they think of next? Purple carrots? Black tomatoes? White chocolate? *chortle*

Actually, this little beauty can come in various colours, from white to numerous shades of green and, best of all, blue!

Oh, and it really is little!

Their 5 cm (2 in) long body is covered in a strange ruffle-kerfuffle of curly-wurlies that looks a lot like certain kinds of curly lettuce. But they don't just look like lettuce. In their sun-drenched home in shallow, Caribbean seas, Lettuce Sea Slugs feast on all sorts of algae. And then...

Well, you know all those nudibranches that eat stuff like coral and then steal the stingers for use in their own defence? Lettuce Sea Slugs do something similar, except with chloroplasts! They steal those photosynthesising organelles from the very cells of their meals and incorporate them into their own fleshy ruffles.

The chloroplasts survive for some 40 days, providing their new host with food derived from all that Caribbean sun. That way, our clever bit of lettuce can get through a, er, non-literal "rainy day" when they can't find enough algae around to feast on.

The blues always prepares for the future. Probably because it feels so certain that the future will be dreadful.

Image: Kevin Bryant
Scarus coeruleus
Blue Parrotfish
Blue! Blue blue blue! All BLUE!

Except the teeth.

Image: Kevin Bryant
These delightfully blue, blue, blue fish reach more than 30 cm (a foot) long and occasionally over 1 m (3 ft). They're quite widespread, from Brazil to Mexico, throughout the Caribbean to Florida and almost up to Canada!

They look quite sleek with their attractive tail fin and nice, big scales. But then you get to the head end. It looks as if they've repeatedly smacked their face into a stone and then there's that cheerful, nice-but-dim, grin.

Like other parrotfish, the Blue variety uses its powerful beak to scrape algae and tiny creatures from rocks and stony coral. Yet more teeth hidden in their throat crush the rocks into a fine sand so as to extract every bit of nutrition from each hard-earned mouthful.

These guys are tough! Hopefully they're as nice (but dim) as they look.


  1. some mighty cool (and bright!) blues!

  2. SO much blue! How can there still be more blue creatures left in the planet to blog about?

  3. @TexWisGirl: Yup, blues of every shade!

    @Esther: I know! There surely must be an end to it somewhere but I haven't found it yet!