Tag Archives: Weird science

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)




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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.



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.


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

More info:
On Punching: 

On Vision: 
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Science saved smooching from the anti-kissing league

At the start of the 20th Century, the people of the western world were becoming increasingly aware of what infectious diseases were and how they were spread. The public were understandably anxious about catching such an illness; among the top causes of death in 1900 were infections like influenza and tuberculosis. This anxiety led to some taking rather extreme measures to lower the risk of infection – including anti-kissing leagues.

Taken from a newspaper article from August 28th, 1905

If you can’t quite make out what the article says, it beautifully states that “members of the league take a solemn pledge not to kiss each other, in public or in private, their contention being that kissing is the means of conveying contagious diseases from one fair lip to another”. The Anti-Kissing Leagues of Paris and Vienna were totally against kissing in general and were seen as the most hardcore of all the anti-kissers, claiming “indiscriminate kissing is more dangerous than a motor smash”.

22nd November 1927

The French claimed that 40,000 germs were transferred in every kiss and so the solution seemed simple – tell people about this disgusting fact, and humanity shall smooch no more and we can wave goodbye to infectious disease. Believing that they had cottoned onto an idea stolen from the Japanese – all kissing scenes had to be cut from European and American films before they were shown in Japan – the French supposed that the reasoning behind this was because the Japanese did not wish to get ill and so would not promote such a vulgar practice as kissing.

But the Americans were having none of this anti-kissing nonsense, it would seem: They called on SCIENCE, and in 1927 a neat little experiment was published in the popular science magazine Science and Invention. Participants were invited to kiss a Petri dish containing a sterile culture medium. After their romantic encounter, the Petri dishes were incubated for 24 hours, allowing any germs that had been transferred from grotty human lips to the sterile culture to multiply into little visible colonies of bacteria. The scientists counted these bacteria, and concluded that far from the French estimate of 40,000, a mere 500 germs were transferred in a kiss – although women wearing lipstick passed on ~200 more.

So kissing does involve the transfer of bacteria, but not as much as we once thought. And if you really worry about these things, avoid kissing people who are wearing lipstick. But I think we should all say a big THANK YOU to science for allowing us to shneck, smooch and snog as much as we like.

I read about this experiment in The Mad Science Book by Reto U. Schneider which is awesome, you should check it out.

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