The aptly named Ping-pong tree sponge (Chondrocladia lampadiglobus) is a carnivorous sponge. At first glance, you may think “I want that mid-century modern lamp” or “that sponge is adorable”, but the Ping-pong tree sponge is a stone-cold carnivorous killer. Those ping-pong ball looking things are covered in tiny spicules which the sponge uses to catch tiny crustaceans.
Check out another sponge in the same genus-the harp sponge (Chondrocladia lyra).
The Texas Blind Salamander (Eurycea rathbuni) is a cave salamander that has adapted to life living in the dark. With extremely underdeveloped eyes, unpigmented skin, and the retention of its juvenile aquatic form, this salamander is perfectly suited to live in the underground cave streams. Found only in caves around San Marcos, Texas these salamanders are actually considered endangered on the State level. Because they live only in specific areas and rely on the Edwards aquifer, the Texas blind salamander is extremely susceptible to changes in water quality. Their size reaches between 3 and 5 inches and they eat a diet of most aquatic invertebrates.
Click here to read this story about a day in the life of the Texas Blind Salamander from the Tree of Life project.
Watch this video to see Eurycea rathbuni doing his thing at the Edwards aquifer:
Stay tuned to Nature Afield tomorrow for a follow-up on the interesting mating habits of the Texas Blind Salamander!!!
This post is a tribute to my new labmate Audrey, who has a battery of impressive animal power facts. Audrey mentioned the other day that Komodo dragon babies have to climb up into trees when they hatch or their mothers will eat them. They stay up in the trees until they grow too large for the branches to support them at which time they fall to the ground.
Upon further investigation I found this to be mostly true. When Komodo dragons hatch they are on average around 16 inches. Adult Komodo dragons are known to be cannibalistic and about 10% of their diet consists of juvenile dragons. As a result, young dragons take to the trees soon after hatching and remain there eating insects, small lizards, and even birds until they are a few years old. At this time, they leave the trees, although probably not by falling out of them. At this not-yet mature stage, they are still in danger of falling prey to adult Komodo dragons, but they are too large to remain in the trees. In order to protect themselves, subadult Komodo dragons are thought to roll in excrement and intestines before approaching a dead animal while a group of dragons is feeding. This is meant to keep adult dragons at bay and prevent cannibalism.
Here is a video of some young Komodo dragons from the Denver Zoo:
(video credit: National Geographic)
Please excuse my absence from Nature Afield, but I promise I have been quite busy. I have successfully defended my thesis, made my edits, and turned in the final copy. I’ve packed up my rental minivan, moved to Austin, Texas to start my postdoc, and even managed to attend the Science Online Conference in Raleigh.
Thank you for your patience! I am back to blogging now and would love to hear feedback or any ideas that you may have.
What kind of pieces would you like to see more often?
Enjoy the video below!
(Credit Seanna Cronin)
While totally sounding like a sci-fi planet, Solenodons are actually just insectivores. In the family Solenodontidae, there is only one genus-Solenodon and just two species. Yes, solenodons come in just two flavors the Hispaniolan (Solenodon paradoxus) and the Cuban (Solenodon cubanus). These shrew-like looking creatures have a venomous bite that emanates from a groove in their second incisors. Solenodons are reported to eat plants, insects, small invertebrates, but also reptile, amphibians, and rodents. They kill prey larger than themselves most likely after inflicting a fatal bite. The toxin blarina produces a peptide called bradykinin and this bite then leads to paralysis and convulsions.
These amazing creatures are usually solitary and are only thought to come together for mating. Reproduction is slow and females have only 1-2 litters per year each time only giving birth to a few offspring. This weirdo mammal just gets weirder as her elongated teats are positioned near her groin. Her maternal care knows no bounds as she drags along her one or two young on her rear.
Check out the video below to see a solenodon in action:
Both species of Solenodons are considered endangered according the the IUCN Redlist. The Hispaniolan solenodon faces extinction primarily because of habitat destruction, while the Cuban solenodon is endangered mostly as a result of introduced predators including feral cats and dogs.
Read more about the Cuban Solenodon here at the EDGE site
Read more about the Hispaniolan Solenodon here at the EDGE site
If you are interested in the conservation status of the Hispaniolan Solenodon check out this website http://www.thelastsurvivors.org/ where researchers raise awareness and update the research progress.