Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Centipedes

The large ones have a dangerous bite...

Centipedes are insects that live in the ground or among dead leaves and other vegetable debris.  They are also found in the woods and forests and/or in sheltered spots which ensure them darkness and a sufficient amount of humidity.

Despite their hard cuticle, which forms a kind of armor around the body, centipedes are not at all resistant to dehydration, as they quickly die when deprived of dampness.  It is therefore remarkable to discover that the largest species of centipede live in desert areas and on tiny Ocean islands.  They are to be found on several of the Galapagos Islands, and what is even stranger, on Rodrigues Island - an island that is quite lost in the middle of the Indian ocean.  The presence of these centipedes on these volcanic islands is a mystery which is far from being solved, going by what I have read in the past.

Centipedes are carnivorous and eat other insects and small worms.  The large "giant centipedes" will attack scorpions, lizards and will even eat small animals and birds.  It is funny, though, because birds often eat the smaller versions of this insect; ha!

Their steel-sharp mandibles are lined with a canal joined up to poison glands.  The bite of the large centipedes is dangerous and a number of cases of fatal poisoning are known about in Brazil and other tropical countries.  If you'd like to read more about the big centipedes, I found a decent web page entitled "Giant Carnivorous Centipedes," here:  http://www.damninteresting.com/giant-carnivorous-centipedes/

Centipede reproduction does not involve copulation. Males deposit a spermatophore for the female to take up. In one clade, this spermatophore is deposited in a web, and the male undertakes a courtship dance to encourage the female to engulf his sperm. In other cases, the males just leave them for the females to find. In temperate areas egg laying occurs in spring and summer but in subtropical and tropical areas there appears to be little seasonality to centipede breeding.


Image Credit: Wikipedia

---End of Post "Centipedes"

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Poisonous 'Portuguese Man-of-War'

Like a tiny, poisonous bladder floating on the waves...

It is difficult to believe that this air-filled bubble, tinged with pale, iridescent blue, which drifts with ocean currents is in fact a horribly dangerous animal, but it is.  The Portuguese Man-of-War is one of the most poisonous marine animals there is, going by what I have read.  It is not like I have picked it up to find out or anything; ha!

The long tentacles which hang beneath the air-filled float bear thousands of stinging capsules which secrete a poison that is at least as potent and toxic as a cobra snake.  Yeah, I'd say that is very poisonous, wouldn't you?  There are many different species of the Portuguese Man-of-War, with the biggest one being equipped with tentacles up to 13 yards long!

These outlandish, freaky hydrozoans are found in warm and temperate waters.  It would be a mistake to assume that the Portuguese Man-of-War is at the mercy of the winds and currents.  In fact, during stormy weather it is able to deflate its bladder or pneumatophore, as it is called, by letting out the special gas which keeps it inflated.  Losing its buoyancy, it sinks down through the water, safe from the churning waves, until the sea is calm again.  It then reflates itself within a few minutes by producing gas from a special gland.  That's pretty neat, eh?

The Portuguese Man-of-War lives on a diet of fish and other marine organisms that happen to come within its reach and have the misfortune to be grazed by one of its murderous tentacles.  There is one small fish, however, that is totally immune to the poison of this marine creature, and that is the Nomeus gronovii (also known as the man-of-war fish), which feeds on the tender flesh without the slightest regard for its stinging tentacles.

If you'd like to read a more elaborate page about this bizarre, floating, poisonous marine creature, feel free to visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portuguese_Man_o%27_War


---End of Post "The Poisonous Portuguese Man-of-War"


Semi-related Post: Salpa Maggiore: See-through Sea Salps

Monday, August 19, 2013

What is the heaviest & longest snake in the world?

I would rather have this post entitled with the query "what is the largest snake in the world?" - but I can't, since there would be two separate answers to that question.  In this case, there is the heaviest snake and then there is the world's longest snake.  Well, of course this is on average because not all snakes grow the same.  In fact, if some of them live long enough, they may keep growing to sizes we haven't even reported yet.

Anyway, one answer involves a type of anaconda and the other is a type of python.  Sure, it would be simpler to just say that the anaconda is the largest and/or make wild claims that we often hear (like 30 to 40 foot anacondas that have never been proven to exist, yet) and be done with it, but that would be too easy; ha!  Personally, I'm not a fan of snakes by any means nor do I enjoy being around spiders, either.  However, since this is a nature blog, I'll just have to go forward regardless of my preferences.  Currently, I've only did one other post about snakes (Viperine Grass Snake) although I did mentioned 'em on my summary post about reptiles.  At any rate, when I hear the word anacondas, I usually think about the 2 popular anaconda movies I seen several years ago.  I enjoyed both of those movies, but it wasn't like I was anywhere near those freakish monsters while watching the flicks within the safety of my own home - which is a good thing!

Okay, now back to the main questions...

Q: What is the heaviest snake in the world?
A: The Green Anaconda (Eunectes murinus)

Although they average a weight of 66 to 150 lbs., the heaviest scientifically verified specimen was a female measuring 17.09 feet long and weighing 215 lbs.!



If you'd like to read more about this slithering beast, go here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eunectes_murinus

Q: What is the longest snake in the world?
A: The Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus)

Adults can grow up to 22.8 feet in length,, but normally grow to an average of 10 to 20 feet. They are the world's longest snakes and longest reptile, but they are not the most heavily built.


If you'd like to read more about this freak of nature, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reticulated_python

Well, I hope that answered your questions and I also hope that you never find either one of those snakes coiled around you!  Cheers!

---End of Post "What is the heaviest & longest snake in the world?"

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Cuttlefish

This strange mollusk possesses very well developed eyes...

The cuttlefish never ceases to astonish experts and scholars.  It is one of the most peculiar mollusks you'll see, as it is almost like an alien of the sea; ha!  It has two great big eyes and has the ability to change its color and adapt its appearance exactly to that of its surroundings.  The range of colors at its disposal is of incredible richness and it can change its appearance in a matter of a few seconds - which is even better than the well-known chameleon.  This camouflage is indispensable to the cuttlefish and gives it security in an undersea world filled with enemies.

It has an ingenious syphoning system which is operated by the cuttlefish breathing in and then expelling the water rapidly backwards.  When in fear of an enemy attack, it ejects a blue-black liquid, like ink, which quickly forms an impenetrable cloud around it, allowing it to flee unobserved or to bury itself at the bottom of some hole.  Its head has 2 tentacles and 8 arms by means of which its prey is seized and held.  Cuttlefish eat small mollusks, crabs, shrimp, fish, octopuses, worms, and other cuttlefish. Their predators include dolphins, seals, sharks, seabirds, fish (such as the John Dory Fish), and other cuttlefish. Going by what I read on Wikipedia, their life expectancy is about one to two years. Recent studies indicate cuttlefish are among the most intelligent invertebrates and they have complex brains.  I have also read that they have 3 hearts pumping their blue-green blood.  Sounds pretty freaky, eh? These bizarre-looking cuttlefish also have one of the largest brain-to-body size ratios of all invertebrates.

Instead of me rambling on about various tidbits concerning this creature, if you'd like to read more, feel free to visit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuttlefish


Image Credit: http://slyasafox.com/newsletters/TRIZ_Local_Quality.html [Link is no longer valid]

Due to a reader's request, I have added a YouTube video showing how fast the cuttlefish can change colors.  Check it out, below:




---End of Post "The Cuttlefish"

Monday, August 12, 2013

The 'Maned Wolf'

Like a fox on stilts...

The maned wolf is a very striking member of the dog family, with its richly colored coat, foxy muzzle and tail, and disproportionately long limbs.  Its long legs enable it to move unhindered through the high grass, and by rearing up on its hind legs, it is able to see a long way to catch sight of approaching enemies, etc.  The cheetah displays similar adaptive features; it too has exceedingly long legs, but whereas it chases its prey, the maned wolf does not, though it's a fast runner.  It hunts sort of like the African serval, which is another long-limbed feline; it stalks slowly through the grass, freezes when it hears a promising rustling, then pounces on its quarry from above before it's aware of its immediate peril.  The pampas support a number of small mammals, especially rodents, and these are the maned wolf's usual prey.

The maned wolf has large ears, with the external ear being exaggerated in order to catch the faintest sound which enables the animal to pinpoint its victims at night when its eyesight is of little practical use.  It is a nocturnal hunter and spends the day in the cover of a thicket.  A large amount of zoos have been successful at providing suitable conditions for the maned wolf - which is a very shy, difficult subject, to say the least.

The maned wolf specializes in small and medium-sized prey, including small mammals (typically rodents and hares), birds, and even fish.  A large fraction of its diet (over 50%, according to some studies) is vegetable matter, including sugarcane, tubers, and fruit (especially the wolf apple, Solanum lycocarpum, a tomato-like fruit).  Captive maned wolves were traditionally fed meat-heavy diets and developed bladder stones. Zoo diets now feature fruits and vegetables, as well as meat and dog chow.


Image source:  http://www.graywolfconservation.com/Information/world_wolves.htm

---End of Post "The Maned Wolf"

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tilapia - Food Fish

Tilapia were one of the three main types of fish caught in Biblical times from the Sea of Galilee. At that time they were called musht, or commonly now even "St. Peter's fish." The name "St. Peter's fish" comes from the story in the Gospel of Matthew about the apostle Peter catching a fish that carried a coin in its mouth, though the passage does not name the fish.

The tilapia is a large food fish of African origin which has gradually spread throughout the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, for man has taken a hand and introduced it into their diet within areas that were previously tilapia-free, so to speak.  In the beginning, this fish was a resident in tropical Africa, in the Nile basin and in Israel, Jordan, and Syria.  It lives in slow-flowing lakes and rivers, as well as in estuaries and saltwater lagoons.  It acclimatizes itself well to new habitats and its resistance is absolutely incredible.  For example, Graham's tilapia does well in the exceedingly alkaline waters of Lake Magadi in Kenya, where the temperature roughly reaches 80 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit.  There are many different species of tilapia...

Because of its ability to become very adapted to different habitats, and above all for its food value to populations lacking protein, the tilapia has been introduced into many areas, both voluntarily and involuntarily.  Thus it appeared unexpectedly in Java, in 1969, without anyone knowing how it travelled from East Africa to the East Indies.  It then proceeded to spread spontaneously throughout the Indonesian islands.  This beloved food fish known as the tilapia, has also colonized the waters of Texas and Florida - while sometimes becoming a serious menace to other native species of fish.

In 1951, the breeding of tilapia begun in Madagascar.  In several areas, tilapias are kept to clean the lakes and marshland from the dangerous mosquito larvae which infest them.  Even during the time of the Ancient Egyptians, this fish was very appreciated and it is certainly tilapias which are responsible for the biblical "miraculous draught of fishes."

Personally, I think it is a decent-tasting fish.  I usually either bread it and throw it in the deep fryer, or I lightly oil it and quickly pan-fry it.  I have also baked this particular fish.  I'd say that this food fish is relatively cheap when buying in the frozen food section of common grocery stores - especially when you compare it to other fishes like catfish.


Image Credit & Additional Resource Link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilapia

---End of Post "Tilapia - Food Fish"

Side Note:  Fish like the tilapia are high in Omega-3 fatty acids; cheers!

Viperine Grass Snake

Harmless, although it looks like a venomous adder snake...

The viperine grass snake is one of the least known species of snake in Europe.  If a hiker with a social conscience happens to come across one, he usually assumes it is an adder and kills it in the belief that he is ridding the countryside of a deadly menace.  if you are wondering what type of snakethat is:  Vipera berus, the common European adder or common European viper, is a venomous viper species that is extremely widespread and can be found throughout most of Western Europe and all the way to Far East Asia. Known by a host of common names including common adder and common viper, adders have been the subject of much folklore in Britain and other European countries.

Anyway, the viperine grass snake is shorter and less common than the ringed grass snake, and leads a very secluded life in boggy areas beside streams and lakes, especially in Southern Europe.  Grass snakes are good swimmers and divers and spend most of the day in the water, though they are difficult to spot because they sometimes spend long periods motionless at the bottom of the water without coming up for air.  In the morning they like to lie in the sun among the tufts of grass at the water's edge.  They are fairly gregarious as snakes go, and are occasionally found in groups and especially during their mating season in the spring.

Viperine grass snakes feed on cold-blooded animals, mostly frogs and small fish.  They lie in wait for a fish, then hurtle forward and seize it in their jaws which are studded with sharp, backward-slopping teeth.  They devour their prey just as well under water as on land.  Like the majority of European grass snakes, they are harmless and totally lack venom fangs.

Image Credit: http://www.herpsafari.nl/reptiles/snakes/ [URL is no longer valid]

---End of Post "Viperine Grass Snake"