Monthly Archive: August 2013

Aug 30

Bizarre Animal of the Week: Deep-Sea Anglerfish

The deep-sea anglerfish never looks happy. I can understand why. You’d be pretty cranky all the time, too, if you were that profoundly ugly and lived a few miles down in the lonely, completely lightless and desolate habitat that is the great ocean abyss. Life can’t get much bleaker. Or can it? Well, for a …

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Aug 30

A Cuckoo in the Nest

Being a parent is tough. All you have to look forward to is less sleep, less time to do your own things, and generally one or more hungry mouths to feed. Raising young is a very energetically demanding activity, so the cuckoo has done away with it altogether. It appears in the British Isles in …

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Aug 28

The Killer Brain Surgeon: Emerald Cockroach Wasp

From a piece of rotting wood in a forest in North America comes a cockroach. It’s an ancient yet typically loathsome insect that likes to invade our homes, eat our food and spread disease. Today, however, it’s minding its own business – it’s on the lookout for some food, preferably some decaying organic matter. As …

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Aug 26

Drunken Monkeys (and Other Intoxicated Animals)

The island of Saint Kitts, in the western Caribbean: a tiny speck of land some 18 miles long and 5 miles across. A great holiday destination if you’re into sand, sun, sea – and mischievous monkeys. But these monkeys are different from most: they like to indulge in a bit of hardcore boozing every now …

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Aug 24

Big Question: How Does Metamorphosis Work?

As children, we all learn stories about certain very hungry caterpillars that eat and eat and eat until, one day, they spin a cocoon and eventually emerge as a beautiful butterfly. Indeed, the transformation of a small, wriggling caterpillar into a graceful butterfly is a perfect metaphor for change. But the process has become such …

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Aug 24

The Panda Predicament

It was reported a couple of weeks ago that Tian Tian, the female giant panda currently housed at Edinburgh Zoo, might be pregnant. She was artificially inseminated in April of this year after failed mating attempts with the zoo’s resident male, Yang Guang, and is now apparently showing hormonal and behavioural indications of pregnancy. None …

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Aug 22

The African Unicorn: Mystery of the Okapi

Sir Harry Johnston was the very model of a late nineteenth-century African explorer. During the Scramble for Africa – the invasion, colonisation and annexation of African territory by European powers – Sir Harry became well-known as a linguist, botanist, mountain climber, animal collector and colonial administrator. During his time in Africa, Sir Harry came across …

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Aug 20

Animal Relationships: The Goby and the Shrimp

It has all the hallmarks of a successful sitcom: a busy, near-sighted, workaholic landlord and a lazy tenant who is forced to help out, often begrudgingly, to earn his keep. Except this sitcom takes place beneath the sea and involves animals instead of people – namely a type of small fish called a goby and …

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Aug 20

Animal Record Holders: Smartest Invertebrate

In 2008, staff at the Sea Star Aquarium in Coburg, Germany, were faced with a puzzling enigma. A lamp in the aquarium kept mysteriously going off, shorting the electricity supply in the entire building and threatening the lives of the other animals when water pumps stopped working. It took the staff three nights, sleeping on …

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Aug 18

Bizarre Animal of the Week: Hagfish

There are many foul and unpleasant animals in the ocean: starfish that voluntarily sick up their stomachs; sea cucumbers that release some of their internal organs through their anus to confuse predators; and parasitic barnacles that effectively castrate the crabs that they infest. But the creature that has been dubbed the ‘most disgusting of all …

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