Jul 16

Pokemon That Are Based on Real Animals (Part I)

It’s the second most successful video game-based franchise in the world and has sold well over 200 million copies during its eighteen year existence: yes, it can only be the juggernaut that is Pokémon! Along with most people who grew up playing games in the 90s, I am a huge Pokémon fan, and my enjoyment …

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Jun 02

Animal Names and What They Mean

Behind each animal name, there is a story. Some names describe the animal fairly succinctly, such as the bee-eater bird, which eats bees. Others are named after the location in which they are found, or pay tribute to the naturalist that discovered them. And some animal names that appear basic and straightforward actually have a …

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May 17

Coelacanth: The Fish That Time Forgot

On 22 December 1938, Marjorie Courtney-Latimer, the museum curator of East London in South Africa, got an early Christmas present. She was friends with the captain of a local trawler, Hendrick Goosen, and on this particular day she found among his haul a most unusual and prehistoric-looking fish. Though she did not know what it …

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May 11

Inside the Honeybee Hive of Horror

In folklore, the honeybee has been used as an example of perfect social order, co-operation and hard work. But this is not an association of free insects who have agreed to work together out of self-interest. Apart from the queen, every member of the colony is effectively a slave, and their lives are terminated just …

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May 03

Bizarre Animal of the Week: Star-Nosed Mole

From certain angles, the star-nosed mole almost looks like any other mole. It’s small and black, with thick velvety fur and big, burrowing feet. But then you notice that outrageous nose. It looks like a cross between a group of wriggling maggots and a pink sea anemone. This nose is the most sensitive tactile instrument …

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Apr 30

Animal Record Holder: Longest Sperm

The male fruit fly has giant testes. They account for 11% of his body mass. And for good reason. In most animal species, the female produces relatively few eggs and the male produces vast quantities of sperm, but the fruit fly does it a little differently. The male fruit only makes a few sperm cells …

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Apr 26

Big Question: Why and How do Birds Migrate?

The swallow. A quintessential summer bird if ever there was one. It typically arrives in the UK around now (late April), spends the summer raising its young, and then leaves our shores again in September. The swallows travel back to sub-Saharan Africa and other warm regions to spend the winter. This periodic movement of animals …

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Apr 23

The Mighty Morphin’ Water Flea

There are many elaborate ways of defending yourself in nature. The skunk uses a horrific chemical weapon; one type of lizard can squirt blood from its own eyes; and some sea birds literally vomit on their foes. But for the tiny so-called water flea called Daphnia – actually a freshwater crustacean, not a flea – …

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Apr 20

Which Bird Lays the Largest Egg? (and other Easter-related mini questions)

For the third Mini Questions entry (see here and here for the two previous ones), Extraordinary Animals will once again be probing into a few animal mysteries – but this time with an added Easter theme. That means eggs, chicks and, of course, Easter bunnies… How do chicks break out of their eggs? All young …

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Apr 16

Extinct Animal: Dead as the Dodo

Literary critic and humourist Willy Cuppy once said, ‘The dodo never had a chance. He seems to have been invented for the sole purpose of becoming extinct and that was all he was good for.’ And, indeed, many people view the dodo as being an unfortunate evolutionary mistake. It was fat, flightless and painfully stupid. …

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