Tag Archives: Animals

The red-lipped batfish

I’m not saying I’d ever like to have an intimate relationship with a fish, but if I had to, like,  if it was a life-or-death situation, I’d probably choose to kiss a red-lipped batfish.

I’m sure you can see why this particular specimen would be my first choice. I’d smooch that, and give it an eskimo kiss on that big nose too.

Oh, except I wouldn’t, because that’s not actually a nose (DUH IT’S A FISH YOU IDIOT), it’s more of a fishing rod. A lure descends from this head extension in order to lure pray, akin to the  hunting methods of better-known ugly fish, the deep sea anglerfish. The way which the fish uses this lure (which could be mistaken for a dangling bogey if you did believe that head-horn to be a nose) is unclear, but it’s thought to attract pray right into the predator’s face. You can see the red-lipped batfish use its lure in the video below.

Like many creature anomalies, this strange fishy lives in the seas around the Galapagos islands. It’s not even a very good swimmer, and instead sort of walks around the seabed, making it an ever weirder fish which is looking less and less like a fish the more we learn about it.

So there we have it, the red-lipped batfish – the fish with bright red lips, who goes fishing for its dinner, and who walks rather than swims. I SALUTE YOU, WEIRDO.

(p.s. Call me x)

 

Reference:

aboutfishonline.com 

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Why the mantis shrimp should make you feel inferior.

The mantis shrimp is one of the coolest, most kick-ass animals of the sea, but don’t just take my word for it. Ask for evidence, and ye shall receive. Okay, here goes.

Firstly, these creatures are masters of disguise and illusion, for the mantis shrimp is neither a mantis, nor a shrimp. They are crustaceans, more closely related to lobsters and crabs than to either of their namesakes.

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[PEACOCK MANTIS SHRIMP – NEITHER A PEACOCK, A MANTIS NOR A SHRIMP]

So inaccurate humanoid-given names aside, one factor that immediately gives away the super-cool status of these guys is that the ~400 species of mantis shrimp can be broadly divided into two categories: Spearers and Smashers. SPEARERS. AND. SMASHERS. This name refers to what job the claws on their front appendages do best – namely, whether they have a spike on the end to STAB and SPEAR and IMPALE soft-bodied pray to death, or whether they are equipped with a club, better designed to SMASH and BASH and BLUDGEON hard-bodied neighbours up before chomping down on them for lunch.

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A spearer mantis shrimp in action. Source

Smasher mantis shrimps are particularly incredible – these guys can pack a harder punch than any other living thing, up to 50mph, and bear in mind that’s punching through the resistance of water. The punch of a basher mantis shrimp is often compared to being as powerful as the acceleration of a .22 calibre bullet. Oh, did I mention that the mantis shrimp’s punch is so quick that it causes the surrounding water to boil? THE MANTIS SHRIMP CAN BOIL WATER JUST BY PUNCHING IT.

Mantis shrimps are not only freakishly strong, bludgeoning hulk-crustaceans, they also boast one of the most complex visual systems known to science. To put this into perspective, let’s compare them to us: humans have three colour-receptive cones (red, blue and yellow), which allow us to perceive the world in the rainbow that we do. The mantis shrimp does not have three colour-receptive cones; it has sixteen. It can see colours that we can’t even imagine, including the ultra-violet spectrum. And just to add to their bad-ass image, scientists believe that it is possible that this incredible colour vision evolved in some species primarily for sex! We are not sure of the precise mechanisms by which mantis shrimps use colour for sexual signals, but it is thought that because no other species can see the vast spectrum of colour that certain mantis shrimps utilize, it acts as a secret channel of messaging within the species and therefore cannot be exploited by outsiders and cannot attract the attention of nearby predators. This does help to explain why these creatures are so majestically colourful.

So there you have it. The mantis shrimp is cooler than you are, and is not to be messed with. These colourful boxers and impalers of the sea are spectacular, and I suggest reading the links below to learn more about them. Oh, you probably won’t find many in captivity, though. Aquariums are often reluctant to house them since they destroy any species they are homed with and they have the ability to punch through the glass. TO PUNCH THROUGH THE GLASS. OH MY GOD. Go take a long, hard look in the mirror, puny human. And don’t even attempt to punch your way through it.

You should definitely check out this comic strip by the fantastic Oatmeal - it's way better than this post
http://theoatmeal.com/comics/mantis_shrimp

More info:
On Punching: 
http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2008/07/19/the-mantis-shrimp-has-the-worlds-fastest-punch/

On Vision: 
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080320120732.htm
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Happy Valentine’s day! Testicle size and mating systems

I really despise Valentine’s day because I do not appreciate society telling me when I should feel romantic and loved-up and when I should not. HOWEVER as a bit of fun, I thought I would write a post about love, romance and sex but most importantly SCIENCE!

And testes*.

Testicles are funny things, and almost all healthy male vertebrates boast two of them. In many mammals, including ourselves, they hang from the body in a scrotum because the valuable sperm they contain are mighty fussy, and mammalian body temperature tends to be just a little too hot for them. So natural selection kindly began dangling the sperm of males from two sacs between the rear legs, nice work evolution. But it turns out that we can tell a lot about a species’ mating system (i.e. how monogamous or promiscuous they are) just from looking at the size of the male testis. The diagram below is both hilarious and helpful:

Here you can see the gonad size of various primate species in relation to body size. The top row are the males – the big circle represents their body size, the arrow is the penis and the balls are, well, the balls. (No laughing at the gorilla and yes guys, your penis is quite large compared to our primate cousins). The bottom row shows the female sexual organs of the same species – I can’t help but giggle at the human female. MASSIVE BOOBIES!

So the size of the testes can tell us a lot of information about the mating system adopted by various species. We have to remember that although in our culture monogamy is often (rightly or wrongly) seen as the norm, this is far from the case in most other mammalian species. There are lots of different mating systems: monogamy (one male one female), polygyny (one male, several females), polyandry (one female, several males) and promiscuity (basically a free-for-all orgy where it is completely acceptable for anyone to have sex with anyone).

Males of species with promiscuous mating systems (such as chimpanzees) tend to have the largest testes, and this makes sense because of something called sperm competition. In a promiscuous mating system, lots of males are having sex with lots of females, and everyone wants a good shot at fathering the most offspring, because this means passing on your genetic material and is a big fat evolutionary WIN. So for this reason it is advantageous to have a lot of sperm, and big old testes to store the little guys in.

However, the males of species with polygynous mating systems (e.g. gorillas)  tend to have smaller testes, because a single male has almost guaranteed access to at least a couple of females. So there is no need to waste extra energy on producing lots and lots of sperm in giant testicles, because his chances of impregnating a female is pretty high and he has no competition to wane off.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Where do we fit in all of this? Well guys, I have to say, your testicles are classified as “moderate”. Bigger than a gorilla, but shy of a chimp. This actually fits well into the mating system hypothesis – although humans are often socially monogamous, they do participate in moderate levels of non-monogamy (SHOCK HORROR KLAXON)!!

So there you have it. The bigger the balls, the more promiscuous the sexy-times. But smaller testicles aren’t for losers – it just means they don’t have to try so hard! Quality over quantity perhaps? Maybe that just means more time and energy can be spend on post-coital cuddles or, you know, child-rearing.

So whether you have testes or ovaries, and regardless of their size, I wish you all a very happy and sexy V-day.

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A bonobo with large testicles chillin’ out.  Source

*I will leave it up to you to guess what type of mating system this squirrel may participate in.

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