September 2013 archive

Sep 27

Bizarre Animal of the Week: Immortal Jellyfish

The key to eternal life has, quite possibly, been found – by a tiny gelatinous jellyfish. A transparent brainless blob seems an unlikely candidate to have made such a revolutionary discovery, but it has an amazing ability: it can start its life anew. The immortal jellyfish, as it is called, can reboot its very existence …

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Sep 25

Realm of the Troglobites

Caves are very dark places. If you have never experienced the complete and utter blackness of a cave, it is somewhat difficult to appreciate just how black black can be. Sitting in your wardrobe with your hands over your eyes on the darkest night of the year doesn’t even come close. This total absence of …

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Sep 23

Animal Relationships: Drongo and Babblers

Meet the gangsters of the bird world – the drongo mafia. What is a drongo, you say? Well, it’s a small black fork-tailed bird from Africa, and whilst it doesn’t sound like much, it’s actually quite a sneaky little customer. That’s one in the picture underneath. The drongos have a relationship with another little bird, …

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Sep 21

Girls Will be Boys: Spotted Hyenas

According to Sigmund Freud, penis envy is when a girl, at some point during her psychosexual development, realises and reacts to the fact she does not have a penis. Supposedly, it’s a defining moment in a woman’s sexual identity. But one animal that certainly doesn’t have penis envy is the female spotted hyena – and …

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Sep 19

Bizarre Animal of the Week: Babirusa

If your teeth suddenly started growing out through your face, you would understandably become quite concerned. You’d probably very quickly see a specialist. For the male babirusa, however, this is a perfectly normal stage of growing up. Babirusa puberty, it seems, is a bit more extreme than our own. As you can see, the babirusa …

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Sep 17

The ‘Missing Link’: Archaeopteryx

I’ve spent the last week in Berlin for my birthday, and although the highlight was visiting the zoo (seeing, amongst many other things, my very first manatees), I also went to the Berlin Museum für Naturkunde (Natural History Museum). The museum is not only home to the largest mounted dinosaur skeleton in the world but also …

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Sep 13

‘Murderous Mary’, the Circus Elephant

Today (or at least when you read this) is September 13, which in addition to being my birthday is also the ninety-seventh anniversary of the death of ‘Murderous Mary’, a circus elephant that killed her trainer. It’s not a terribly uncommon event in itself; during the nineteenth century and early twentieth, many elephants were kept …

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Sep 10

Why are moths attracted to flames? (and other mini questions)

The natural world is full of small niggling questions. How do fish in the ocean drink? Why are zebras black and white? What came first, the chicken or the egg? We occasionally ponder these queries but then we quickly move on, perhaps thinking the answer will be either too complicated or too mundane. As it …

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Sep 10

Fowl Play: Mike the Headless Chicken

Exactly sixty-eight years ago to this day, in 1945, farmer Lloyd Olsen from Colorado, United States, had his mother-in-law round for supper. As per the request of his wife, Lloyd went into the backyard to kill one of their chickens to be cooked. Lloyd picked a young cockerel named Mike, took his axe and chopped …

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Sep 08

Bizarre Animal of the Week: Naked Mole Rat

It doesn’t matter how weird you think the naked mole rat is; it always turns out to be much weirder. Many animals have one main bizarre feature that is easy to focus on. The naked mole rat, on the other hand, is nothing but bizarre features. Maybe we could start with the fact that acid …

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