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Spiders are partial to a fish supper

Thursday, November 6, 2014

It’s news that’s likely to send arachnophobes running for the hills: spiders have been observed eating fish. Don’t fret, they’re not working their way up the food chain. Although spiders are typically thought of as predators of insects, a team at the University of Basel, Switzerland and University of Western Australia has catalogued five families of spider that hunt fish in the wild.

“The finding of such a large diversity of spiders engaging in fish predation is novel. Our evidence suggests that fish might be an occasional prey item of substantial nutritional importance,” says study co-author Martin Nyffeler.

“Fish meat is high quality in terms of protein content and caloric value,” adds Nyffeler. “Feeding on fish may be particularly advantageous during the mating period, when the elevated energy and protein requirements of pregnant female spiders require increased food intake, or at times of limited availability of invertebrate prey.”

These semi-aquatic, fish-eating spiders typically live around the edges of shallow freshwater streams, ponds or swamps. A number of them are also capable of swimming, diving or walking across the water surface itself. They use potent neurotoxins to disable the fish and have powerful enzymes that enable them to digest fish up to twice their own size. The feeding process usually lasts several hours, researchers say.

But fear not: although fish-eating spiders can be found on all continents save for Antarctica, they are most prevalent in north America, particularly in the wetlands of Florida. 

Evolution, You’re Drunk; top 5 Animals That Are a crazy Combinations of Other Animals

Friday, October 31, 2014

Remember the first time you saw a platypus (Platypus; the bird, reptile, mammal animal) as a kid and for a moment refused to believe that nature would really create an animal that looks like a duck had sex with a beaver? Well guess what, the world is actually full of bizarre mashup creatures like that, some of them hilarious and some of them terrifying, all of them looking like the result of a very drunken night of interspecies animal sex.

1-  Piglet Squid = Pig + Squid

Depending on the orientation of this picture when you look at it, this seems like either some cartoony pig without legs or a tiny squid with an inverted snout growing on its forehead. Either way, the creators of Pokemon have clearly run out of ideas by now.

The truth, of course, is that it's a type of squid, just a really freaking weird one. The piglet squid, as it's commonly known, is rarely photographed, since it prefers to lurk far below the surface, and as a result little is known of its behavior, other than its penchant for looking huggable.

 For reasons inexplicable its tentacles approximate a child's curly head of hair, and its skin patterns resemble an innocent smiling face, best seen on its semi-transparent younger form.

2- Colugo = Monkey + Bat

Holy shit, that Wizard of Oz reboot looks terrifying. This looks like a vampire monkey in mid-transformation, but it can't possibly be a real thing, can it? Maybe it's some sort of kite made out of monkey flesh, or an ape in a trench coat flashing us in free fall. Because otherwise, if this is a thing that exists and there's the remotest possibility of it ever swooping down on us, then we're never setting foot in a forest ever again.
Unfortunately for our peace of mind, it's real. It's called the colugo, also known as the flying lemur of Southeast Asia, which is an inaccurate name because its closest relative isn't the lemur, or even the bat -- it's YOU. That's right -- it has recently been established that flying lemurs are our closest non-primate relatives.

3- Saiga = Goat + Elephant  
Quick, somebody hustle this thing out of the cantina before Boba Fett shows up. Seriously, that's some sci-fi shit right there. Whichever concept artist came up with this elephant/goat fusion probably got paid in illegal mushrooms.
But no, this is a real animal known as a saiga that lives in the Mongolian and Russian steppes. Its pink-ribbed, waxy horns have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries, but not in the way the word "horn" suggests. A trunk similar to an elephant's takes in grass and leaves, and highlights another weird thing about it: The saiga can eat plants that are poisonous to other animals.

4- Honduran White Bat = Hamster + Pig

Look at these adorable hamster-like critters cuddling together in their leafy home. Have you ever seen a pig nose on a little fuzzy creature before? Don't you just wanna grab a bunch of them and hug them?

Actually, you'd better not, because that thing is a freaking bat, and it is riddled with diseases. The Ectophylla alba or Honduran white bat is a unique species of fruit-eating "tent" bat, which refers to its ability to cut the leaf off the bush it lives in and fold it over on top of itself, forming a tent, while it clings to the underside. That's right: Rather than just crashing into caves, they actually build their own homes.

5- Bilby = Rabbit + Kangaroo

If, for some reason, you decided to take the hippity-hop stylings of a kangaroo, the big floppy ears of a bunny and the face of a possum, then you'd get this thing -- and before you ask, yes, like so many of God's experiments gone awry, it's from Australia.
These giant mutant rats are called bilbies, and they're members of the bandicoot family. Their large, bunny-like ears allow them to hear when the other animals make fun of them and are also used for thermoregulation in their arid home. Also, like actual kangaroos, bilbies like hopping around and have a pouch where they stash their young'uns.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Imagine you’re an aquatic mammal, searching for prey buried in the mud of a stream. You close your eyes, ears and nose, dive underwater, swim down to the bottom, and then what? This is how the platypus hunts. Blind, deaf, and unable to smell anything, it pays attention to something else. Shrimp and other prey are moving around, and each bit of movement could give their position away. All muscle contractions involve electric pulses, and because water conducts electricity those pulses are broadcast out.

The secret weapon of the platypus is its beak, which is covered in mucus glands capable of  sensing electric fields. Each gland has nerves and the mucus transmits the electricity to the nerves. It’s a fearsome arsenal of sensors – each platypus has an estimated 40,000 electro-sensors. It’s also got 60,000 touch sensors on its beak, and it uses the two systems together to search for objects in the mud and then decide whether it might be suitable for dinner.

As the platypus swims along, it sweeps its bill from side to side, and it uses the changing signal from each sweep to work out the direction of the prey. Not only will they swim straight towards a shrimp, they’ll quickly home in on the DC voltage from a buried battery as well. This is highly effective hunting – a platypus finds half its body weight in prey every single night.


Satellite Earth

A new fleet of satellites will monitor Earth and protect it against threats.
693 km above Earth, you will find the Sentinel-1A satellite, which takes extremely detailed photos of our planet, using a 12-m-long radar antenna. At this point, the satellite has already captured melting glaciers and flooding.
The 2.3 tonne satellite was launched on 3 April 2014, and that is only the beginning of what ESA has named the most extensive observation programme ever focusing on the surface of the Earth.
Approaching 2020, a total of five Sentinel missions will be initiated. The satellites will monitor our planet and provide data and high-resolution radar images of anything from pollution, oceans, landscape changes, and flooding to earthquakes.
Image of a transect across the northern
 section of the Antarctic Peninsula
In 2016, the Sentinel-1A will be followed by a twin, the Sentinel-1B. Together, the two of them are capable of collecting data from anywhere on Earth within a period of six days. The special radar aerial of the satellites enables them to take photographs of Earth when it is cloudy or even dark.
These qualities come in handy in connection with emergencies such as flooding, when relief agencies need fast access to data. The future Sentinel satellites will all be assigned a set of unique tasks.

The Sentinel-1A has already sent the first detailed images of ice and mountains in Antarctica.

Source: Science Illustrated Australia

Will gold on your skin kill you?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

In the Bond film Goldfinger, actor Shirley Eaton’s character dies after getting covered in gold paint from head to foot by the baddies. We’re supposed to believe she suffocated, as her skin couldn’t breathe. But would this happen?
Shirley Eaton

The skin can absorb oxygen, but only for its own use. Humans do not breathe through their skin and consequently will not suffocate after having their skin covered in airtight paint. If a person were plastered with gold paint in real life and died, the cause of death would probably be something else. Gold paint may contain heavy metals,
organic solvents such as turpentine, or other toxins that have a damaging effect on body cells. These substances are readily absorbed through the skin, from where they are taken to all corners of the body by the blood system. A less likely cause of deathcould also be overheating, as the paint retains body heat.
How can body paint be lethal?
Most Likely
Heavy metals: The epidermis absorbs substances from the surroundings such as heavy metals and solvents, which could be lethal in large quantities.
Vitamin D deficiency: The skin's production of vitamin D depends on sunlight. Hence, gold pain could cause lethal vitamin D deficiency over time.
Overheating: Sweat glands and blood vessels control body temperature. Gold would prevent the body from sweating and shedding body heat - this could be lethal in warm weather.
Source: Science Illustrated

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