Monday, July 1, 2013

Horror Frog

Latin Name: Trichobatrachus robustus

The Horror Frog, also known as the Hairy Frog because of the hair-like dermal papillae running sown its sides, is a species of frog found in western Africa. This frog is widely known for its unusual self-defense mechanism. When threatened by a predator, the Horror Frog will break its toe bones and forces these sharp bone fragments through its skin to create a set of "claws". After escaping its predator, the Horror Frog retracts its "claws" and the damage tissue regenerates.

Trichobatrachus robustus

What's also unique about these frogs is that they are carnivorous for their entire life. The tadpoles of these frogs are not only more muscular than other tadpoles, but they also possess a set of horned teeth, which they use to hunt down small prey.

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Glass Squid

Latin Family Name: Cranchiidae

The Glass Squid, also known as the Cockatoo Squid, can be found in oceans around the world from shallow waters to 2 kilometers below sea level. There actually about 60 known species of these squids with all of them varying in size (from 10 centimeters to 3 meters) and shape. The name "glass squid" is derived comes from the fact that most species of this squid are transparent. For these special squids, sunlight provides them the perfect camouflage. 

Above: Glass Squid

Many species of the Glass Squid are also bio-luminescent, which means they possess the ability to produce their own light. Not only that, Glass Squids fill themselves with ammonia solution to stay buoyant.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Predatory Hawaiian Caterpillar

Latin Name: Eupithecia orichloris

Another bizarre creature from the archipelago of Hawaii, the Predatory Hawaiian Caterpillar is one of the world's only meat-eating caterpillars discovered. Why did this insect evolve from a leaf-munching bug to a killer predator? Simply because Hawaii lacked enough predatory insects like the praying mantis, so this inchworm took the opportunity to adapt and go up in the food chain.

Eupithecia orichloris

The Predatory Hawaiian Caterpillar uses its long, thin appendages on its abdomen like sensory organs to catch prey. When an unsuspecting snail or fly touches one of these appendages, this caterpillar bends back and grabs its victim with its claws. From there, the snail or fly or whatever falls in the caterpillar's clutches is doomed to become snack food.


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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Update: Vampire Squid's Discovered Diet

According to National Geographic, the ghoulish "Vampire Squid" was discovered to have a diet of "marine snow", which are debris falling from the upper sea level like algae, dead plankton, and even fecal matter. The Vampire Squid uses its two long, hair-lined filaments to wrap the collected debris into mucus balls for the squid to eat. Not very frightning now, is it?


Vampire squid picture
Looks almost innocent

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Happy Face Spider

Latin Name: Theridion grallator

While most spiders aren't very colorful, this spider is a bit more a twisted sort of way. The Happy Face Spider is a species of spiders that actually has a smiley face on its abdomen. Located on only four islands of the Hawaiian archipelago, this spider is known for its unique markings. The markings on each spider is different, and some might have no markings at all. Scientists presume that the pattern was some sort of camoflouge, but other than that, there is nothing unique about this spider.

Theridion grallator

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Solar Powered Sea Slugs

Latin Name: Elysia chlorotica

This animal had caused quite a stir in the scientific community when it was discovered that it ran on solar energy. Known as the "Solar Powered Sea Slug", this creature inhabits the Atlantic seaboard of the United States and has a green, gelatinous, leaf-shaped body. Scientists have quentioned how this sea slug can run on solar energy, but finally, Mary Rumpho of the Univerity of Maine has discovered the answer. According to her, this sea slug obtain chloroplasts, the organelles in plant cells that are responsible for photosynthesis, from the algae that it feeds on and then stores those stolen chloroplasts in the cells that line its gut. However, the main question Rumpho is facing is "how?".

<I>Elysia chlorotica</I>, the solar-powered sea slug, is about 3 cm long (Image: PNAS)
Elysia chlorotica

There are several possibilities. Rumpho had later discovered that the Solar Powered Sea Slug had vital genes essential to algae photosynthesis in its DNA. A possibility is that when the sea slug feeds on the algae, not only does it takes the chloroplasts, but it also takes some of its genes and incorporate them into its own DNA. Then, those "stolen" genes would produce proteins that would continue the photosynthesis process of the "stolen" chloroplasts. Discoveries have been made that these "stolen" genes can be passed down to the next generation.

From all this, one can fantasize when animals or even humans can obtain the ability of photosynthesis. Discoveries were made that young Solar Power Sea Slugs can survive for the rest of their year-long lives after eating algae for two weeks. If humans could do the same and live off the energy of the sun, it could solve a lot of problems involving food shortages and environmental concerns. Unfortunately, scientists have agreed that there is no possible way for humans to do the same with their own digestive systems.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Asian Giant Hornets

Latin Name: Vespa mandarinia

There are probably more insects in the world than any other type of animal. Among the 8.7 million species of insects, the Asian Giant Hornet is probably one you would like to stay away from. First of all, they are currently recorded as the biggest hornets in the world. On average, these hornets are 2 inches long and have a wingspan of 3 inches; just hornets thatare bigger than your thumb. Of course, if the hornets are enormous, so are their stingers. However, not only is their stinger 1/4 inch long, it sprays a potent, flesh-dissolving venom that one human victim has described as having "a hot nail driven into my leg". The danger is that if a person is stung by one of these hornets and do not recieve proper medication, that person might die from the venom. About 40 people die each year from being stung by these hornets.

Vespa mandarinia japonica

While the Asian Giant Hornet has claimed the lives of people each year, they will only attack when they feel threatened, like any other hornet. Instead, they prey on other insects, especially honey bees. Just one of these hornets can kill 40 honey bees in a minute, and a group of just forty of these hornets can massacre 30,000 European bees in a few hours. The reason why the European honey bees fail to fight off these huge hornets is because their stingers are unable to penatrate their thick armor, and these hornets can easily rip apart the bees with their enormous mandibles. After the slaughter, the hornets take all the honey bee larvae to feed ther own larvae.

File:Picture Vespa.jpg
Vespa mandarinia

While European honey bees fall easy victims to these monsters, the Asian honeybees have found a way to defend themselves. As shown in one National Geographic documentary, Asian honey bees have found a way to kill the Giant Hornet without using their stingers. When a scout Giant Hornet has found their hive, they lure the hornet closer by opening the entrance of their hive. Before the scout can release a chemical substance called a pheromone to call other the other hornets, the Asian honey bees suddenly attack, completely covering the scout. After the hornet is engulfed in a ball by hundred of bees, they all begin to violently vibrate. This causes the space inside to reach incredibly high temperature, reaching all the way to 115 degrees Farenheit. In addition, the exertion of the honey bees raise the level of carbon dioxide in the ball. This literally cooks the scout hornet, and the hornet dies before summoning reinforcements that could wipe out the entire colony.

File:Honeybee thermal defence01.jpg
The Defensive Ball Strategy of the Asian Honey Bees

The Asian Giant Hornet can be found anywhere in Eastern Asia from the southern region of Russia to Japan and India. They also have numerous names. In Taiwan, they are known as the "Tiger Head Bee", and Koreans recognize them as the "Commander Bee". In Japan, there is a subspecies of Giant Hornets known as the Japanese Giant Hornets (Vespa mandarinia japonica) where they are known as the "Sparrow Bee".

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