Wednesday, 9 August 2017

March of the Firesocks

Firesocks! Sea Pickles! More to the point, Pyrosomes!

And a LOT of them.

Video: EVNautilus

From fang-tastic teeth to a frankly inappropriate ability to swim, there are many ways of doing the deep sea right. Here's the Pyrosome's offering. The name means "fire body" because they glow in the dark; they look like individual pickles but are actually colonies composed of thousands of tiny clones; last but not least, they're chordates! That means that while they might remind you of jellyfish or sea-faring corals, they're actually more closely related to humans and all the other things that have a backbone.


Pyrosome colonies are like squidgy socks. Each clone sucks in water, filters out bacteria to feed on, and pumps the water out into the shared, central space. And, as it turns out, there's such a thing as Pyrosome blooms, where lots and lots of them turn up and drift around together. Amassing in vast numbers is a way of life for other weird chordates like the salp, as well as a whole host of deep sea worms and crustaceans.

I'm just happy to know that all those socks that mysteriously disappear from my sock drawer go to a better place.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Divided Flatworm

Image: Zack
Pseudoceros dimidiatus
Is the Divided Flatworm really divided?

It's certainly indecisive...

Image: Bernard DUPONT

Image: Richard Ling
Mega-thick stripes?

Image: Mark Rosenstein
A few teardrops along the edge?

Image: Mark Rosenstein
More than a few?

Image: Thierry Cailleux
How about the tiger look?

Divided Flatworms can reach up to 8 cm (3 in) in length and are widespread in the Indian and West Pacific Oceans.

Underneath it all, they're black with an orange margin around the edge. On that they agree. But once the yellow-green stripes and patterns come into play it's every flatworm for him/herself.

Speaking of which, they're hermaphrodite. No decision made there! When two frisky Divided Flatworms meet they engage in a penis-fencing match to decide which one's going to be left carrying the eggs.

If that's how they make decisions maybe it's best they just don't?

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Bubble Gum Oasis

It's a Bubble Gum Coral!

Isn't it beautiful? Sort of? Underneath it all, maybe?

It's a real oasis, a splash of colour in the darkness of the deep sea, a point of knobbly interest in a desert of rock and mud. And so it's covered in... stuff—clambering crabs, squirming Snake Stars and a whole lot of mysterious, green tendril things.

Apparently, that green stuff is probably some kind of sponge or even algae that got caught in the branches after drifting on the current. That's why you must always dispose of bubble gum responsibly. Even in the deep sea, it has a tendency to attract random bits of fluff.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017


Think grasshopper. Grass. Hopper.

Surely, anything called a Sandgroper is the complete opposite of anything that hops about in the grass? Just look at this thing! It looks like a termite mixed with a beetle grub! And if you find yourself thinking that it looks like a Mole Cricket with all the edges rubbed off, then you're not alone. A lot of people used to think that, they just turned out to be wrong, is all.

You see, the insect order Orthoptera splits neatly into two groups: Caelifera (grasshoppers and stuff) and Ensifera (crickets and things). While Mole Crickets and Sandgropers bear certain similarities, they're not all that closely related. Mole Crickets are in Ensifera with all the other crickets, and Sandgropers are part of the grasshopper group.

Admittedly the Sandgroper's very closest relatives are known as Pygmy Mole Crickets, but they turned out to be weird, grasshopper types, too. Not as weird as the Sandgroper, though! It just goes to show, those life choices really matter. Especially if you choose to spend all your life underground...

There are sixteen known species of Sandgroper, almost all of them found digging through the sandy soils of Australia. One species is found in nearby New Guinea, while another lives all the way over in Argentina. All species belong to a family called Cylindrachetidae, which is split into three genera: Cylindracheta, Cylindraustralia and Cylindroryctes. As you may have guessed, Sandgropers are very, very cylindrical. And it's all because of the life subterranean. Every inch of a Sandgroper's body is adapted to living underground, and there are about three of them since they reach about 7 cm long.

It starts with the mole-hands (clearly they went to the same fancy dress shop as the Mole Crickets). These are the front legs, poised to claw at the soil and carve open a path to crawl through. Next, the smooth, rounded head easily slips through the burrow without friction. These front parts of the body are sclerotized, which means they're extra-tough and rigid and also gives them that orange-brown colour. The rest of the thorax is compressed, providing enough space for the other legs to move without getting in the way in those narrow burrows. Finally, a soft, pale abdomen trails behind.

Sandgropers spend the cooler, wetter months just below the surface, before delving into deeper, damper soil in the dry season. They seem to eat pretty much anything, from plant roots and fungi to small insects and spiders, although it's unclear whether they prey on those insects or scavenge on corpses they find.

In fact, a lot is unclear and unknown about Sandgropers. It's just another consequence of a life spent underground!

Sunday, 2 July 2017


Image: Artur Pedziwilk
Iguana iguana
There are Marine Iguanas, Desert Iguanas, Land Iguanas and Rock Iguanas, but if anything can be called, quite simply, The Iguana, then this is it.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Tube-building Amphipod


Looks like someone's got a leaky head. There're nightmares all over the place.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Horror At Arms

Uh oh. Do you have a couch handy to hide behind? A teddy bear to cuddle? One of those Men In Black flashy things that make you forget everything you've just seen?

You might want one or two of these.

Friday, 5 May 2017

I Wrote A Science Fiction Novel!

Can you believe that? I can't. And I watched myself write it.

It's called A Twinkle on Mars and it's about the first manned mission to Mars and how it all goes wrong. Aliens are involved, and giant glowing mushrooms. You've GOT to have giant glowing mushrooms.

It features Captain Cambridge, possibly the most heroic figure in the entirety of his own mind. Professor Prestwold, a delightful chap who doesn't know a life-threatening situation when it tries to bite his head off. Mr Blunderberry, a very large and very angry man. And Dr Khatagi. Not much is known about him but he's probably an assassin or something.

As you can probably imagine, this is not one of those hard sci-fi things where the author can (and sometimes does) write an essay about how every bit of technology depicted is totally possible given the current state of scientific knowledge.

It is, of course, a comedy. And a funny one, I reckon. Some people polish their every sentence to a poetic shine, I tried to make 'em all funny.

I've been working on it for a while but what really helped was when I started reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels for the first time a little over a year ago. They were the first books I ever read where I thought not only this is really good, but also I could probably do something a bit like this. And so I... did? Tried to but failed?

If you'd like to be the judge of that then head on to Amazon and give it a read. You might even consider reporting your findings in the form of a review, I hear they help.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Twospot Turkeyfish

Image: Maupin Delphine
Dendrochirus biocellatus
It's a fish! It has two spots! And... turkey. Turkey is involved.

Makes perfect sense.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Snot Living

Look at that beautiful house!

If you find yourself saying, "'s'not a house," then you're close. It's a snot house.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Lamb's Ear

Image: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT
Stachys byzantina
Did you ever hear of the mythical sheep-eating plant?

Well, it turns out there's one plant that's only in it for the ears...

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Fire Urchin

Image: Candace Pratt
Asthenosoma varium
The sea! The sea! The sea is on fire!

We don't need no water 'cos it evidently doesn't have the normally expected effect!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Eyelashes Onna Stick

Image: NOAA Photo Library
Actinoscyphia sp.
The Venus Flytrap Anemone is 100% pure eyelashes!

Monday, 3 April 2017

Mole Cricket

Image: Mark Yokoyama
You know how you shouldn't make a mountain out of a molehill?

Well, this might be your best opportunity to make a bonsai mountain that's even smaller than the average molehill! Just don't make a big mountain out of your little mountain.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Tangled Tubeworm

Image: John Turnbull
Filograna implexa
Worms. Lots and lots of worms. Uncountable hundreds and thousands of worms all hanging out together in a home of their own making.

What would that look like?

Wednesday, 15 March 2017


Image: NOAA
Chiroteuthis is MOSTLY tentacles. Glad to see they've got their priorities in order!

Monday, 13 March 2017

Knitting Shrimp

Image: Moorea Biocode
Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just settling down for some knitting?

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Big World

It's a very big world...

For a very small pillow.

This tiny (or normal) version of the Giant Red Velvet Mite is just 3 mm long!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Black Long-spined Sea Urchin

Image: Patrick Randall
It's the water hedgehog...


Thursday, 2 March 2017

Unidentified Floating Object 2.0

Wow! Such light, such colour, such glorious delicate tentacles...

The space aliens really need to up their game if they don't want to be outdone by the UFOs of the sea!

Monday, 27 February 2017

Satanic Devil Fish

I don't know what this actual demon from Hell thinks he's playing at...

But he's fooling no-one.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Doto varaderoensis

Image: Linda Ianniello
I'm sure this sea slug is meant to avoid predators by using camouflage...

But I can't help but think that it avoids predators by looking contagious.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Fingered Dragonet

Image: Nick Hobgood
Tiny dragons can do a lot with a finger or two!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Roughty-tufty Legs

Image: Aleksey Gnilenkov
Exoskeletons are pretty great; it's one of my favourite things about insects. Who can say no to your own custom-made suit of armour, precisely moulded to every contour of your body and available in a wide range of exciting colours to suit every taste?

Friday, 17 February 2017

Chinese Lantern

Image: Isfugl
The Chinese Lantern is a hardy perennial that will provide you with all the natural, biodegradable paper lanterns you could ever want!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Strawberry Squid

Histioteuthis heteropsis
You've seen werewolves versus vampires. You've marvelled at Alien versus Predator. You've wondered what on earth is going on at zombies versus Jane Austen. Now it's time to quake in your boots at the thought of...

Terminator versus Cthulhu!

Monday, 13 February 2017


Image: Bernard DUPONT
It's a leaf.

A perfectly honest, perfectly innocent leaf, shivering in the wind.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Fish-scale Gecko

Image: Arthur Anker
Look at those scales! It's not a mere suit of armour, it's a suit of shields!

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Warty Sea Star

Image: Ratha Grimes
Echinaster callosus
Oh, no! There's been a terrible accident in the biological waste bin.
The warts are alive. Repeat: the warts are alive!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Deep Sea Dragonfish

Image: Fran Martín de la Sierra
My name is Deep Sea Dragonfish, eater of worlds.
Look on my face, ye Mighty, and despair!

Friday, 3 February 2017


Image: David Iliff
Sarcodes sanguinea
In the months of spring, mysterious spikes of bloody flesh point to the sky.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Red-spotted Horseshoe

Image: Alfiero Brisotto
Protula tubularia
Surely, it's a peacock?

Monday, 30 January 2017

Australian Hornet

Image: James Niland
Abispa ephippium
I get that wasps use bright colours to warn predators of their painful sting. It's a great way to ward off attacks without having to physically do anything, and everyone loves not having to physically do anything...

But surely this is just showing off?

Friday, 27 January 2017

Shovel-nosed Salamander

Image: Todd Pierson
Desmognathus marmoratus

I think I would call it the People-eyed Salamander.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Striped Bubble Shell

Image: Sylke Rohrlach
Hydatina physis
What is a shell? Armour? Home? Laborious burden? How about fashion accessory?

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Edible Sea Urchin

Image: gordon.milligan
Echinus esculentus
It's the hedgehog of the sea!

Friday, 20 January 2017

Megaloremmius leo

Image: Brian Gratwicke
Megaloremmius leo
It's the world's smallest orangutan! But not, as it turns out, the world's smallest spider.

This beauty is a kind of Huntsman Spider from the rain forests of eastern Madagascar. It can reach something like 5 cm (2 in) long! And that doesn't include the legs. M. leo, like the orangutan, has a real talent for ludicrously long limbs.

Not much is known about M. leo. It's as mysterious as it is orange.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Crabs get the prettiest homes

Image: Nick Hobgood
We landlubbers really get the raw end of the deal when it comes to symbiosis. We got parasites, all right. You can hardly walk for the mites, lice and flatworms clinging to every nook and cranny.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Blues VI

Image: Bernard DUPONT
Corythaeola cristata
It's Blue Monday! Mathematically proven to be the most depressing day of the year by qualified PR professionals who believe the best way to defeat it is with a holiday package bought from their clients. But there's no defeating it. It looms. It impends. It soon comes to a dark night of the soul near YOU! And there are no holidays from one's own soul.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Lipstick Tree

Image: Joan Simon
Bixa orellana
Money doesn't grow on trees, you know. But free, all-natural lipstick does!

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Stick Grasshopper

Image: Andreas Kay
What do you get when you mix a grasshopper with a stick insect?

Sunday, 8 January 2017


Image: John Turnbull
It's already strange to see a fish who prefers to walk rather than swim...

But to walk on his hands, too? I don't even walk on my hands! And I'm supposed to have hands.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Carpet Sea Star

Image: Kris McCracken
Meridiastra calcar
Anyone want a carpet?

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Mangrove Cat Snake

Image: Rushen
Boiga dendrophila
It's an 8 foot wasp! Thank goodness it doesn't have wings.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Surgical Precision

Image: Kirkby
Crabs are extremely picky eaters.
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