Terrestrial slugs aren't attractive creatures, but once you
dive beneath the waves, slugs get gorgeous, with vivid colours and waving
fronds. Phyllodesmium acanthorhinum [PDF], found in the waters around Okinawa, Japan, isn't just a
pretty face: it's a sea slug "missing link", falling between sea
slugs that feed on hydroids
and those that feed on coral.
The slug, which typically measures between 17
and 25 millimetres, also helped scientists gain a greater understanding of the evolution
Phyllodesmium acanthorhinum feed on coral. The slug becomes the new host for zooxanthellae, a kind of plankton that lives on the coral, which provides the slugs with additional nutrients through photosynthesis.
This Moroccan spider hightails away from danger using
acrobatics. Rather than scampering on its eight skittery legs, it cartwheels like a tumbleweed. First, it acts tough, rearing up and raising its forelegs in
the air in a typical spider threat pose. If that fails, the spider cheeses it.
Around half the time, its flight turns into a tumbling cartwheel that doubles
its speed, regardless of terrain.
Published:Caption:Michelle StarrPhoto:Professor Ingo Rechenberg, Technical University Berlin
Chicken from hell
The discovery of this egg-thief -- affectionately known
around the CNET traps as the Hellchook -- marked a great day for the study of
Caenagnathidae, a species of oviraptorosaur (aka egg-eating dinosaur).
Until the discovery of three 66-million-year-old
partial skeletons found in North Dakota and South Dakota, not much was known about it, because most of the remains found were scraps and fragments too small to glean
Thanks to the finds, the Hellchook, orAnzu wyliei, was discovered to measure 3.5 metres (over 10 feet) from nose to
tail-tip and weigh around 225 kilograms (496 pounds). It had a feathered body,
bone-crested head and wicked-sharp claws.
Published:Caption:Michelle StarrPhoto:Mark A. Klingler, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Newly discovered and just as newly endangered, Balanophora
coralliformis is a parasitic plant found in the Philippines. Deceptive in its
appearance, it looks, with its tuberous appendages, like a coral -- the only
known member of the Balanophoraceae
family that does.
Like other members of its family, it grows on
tree roots. Unable to produce its own chlorophyll, it needs to draw its
nutrients from another plant. It flowers directly from its stems.
Balanophora coralliformis is known to be found on fewer than 50
plants found in the misty forest areas around Mt. Mingan.
These peculiar little beasts are found on the seafloor at a
depth of 1,000 metres (3,200 feet) off the coast of Victoria, Australia.
like fungus, but it's not actually known what they are. The best guess is some
sort of relation to jellyfish, either the phylum Cnidaria or the phylum
However, it has none of the evolutionary quirks or characteristics of either. It could be an entirely new phylum.
Interestingly, they resemble fossils from the Precambrian time, around
541 million years ago, a time when the land seemed empty of plants and animals.
The "enigmatic" creature, which measures just 11 millimetres across
at its flat end, could be a living fossil.
This China-based wasp, also known as the "Bone-house
wasp," builds a home for her larvae in a unique way. She finds a hollow
stem and puts a single egg in each chamber, adding a dead spider in each cell
so that the hatching larva will have something to munch on. The final chamber
contains no egg, but a pile of dead ants.
The smell of these ants, researchers believe, could be used
to hide the eggs from predators that hunt by scent. Compared to wasps that
build similar nests, but with no ant-chamber, the theory seems sound.
You can see an example of the wasp's nest at the
bottom of the image to the left.
Most frogs and toads lay spawn -- a protective jelly encasing
the eggs in which tadpoles develop. The female lays the eggs, after which the male will fertilise them.
Not so the Limnonectes larvaepartus, a species of fanged
frog found in Indonesia. These frogs give birth
to live tadpoles in pools of water, with fertilisation taking place internally.
It is just one of about a dozen frog species of the 6,455 known frog species to
fertilise internally, and the only one to give birth to tadpoles -- the others
either lay fertilised eggs or give birth to tiny frogs.
This image shows the male on the left and the female on the
Phryganistria tamdaoensis is considerably smaller at 228 millimetres
(nine inches), but still big enough to be classified as a giant stick insect.
What makes it so unusual isn't just its size. What is truly unusual about Phryganistria
tamdaoensis is that it is very common in its natural habitat, the town of Tam
Dao in Vietnam (a popular haunt for entomologists) and yet no one officially found it
If you ask the locals of Sierra de Tepoztlan, Tlayacapan,
San Jose de los Laureles and Tepoztlan in Mexico about Tillandsia religiosa,
they know precisely what it is -- although maybe not by that name.
bromeliad grows on cliffs at altitudes between 1,800 and 2,100 metres (6,000
and 7,000 feet) and is frequently incorporated into nativity displays, or nacimientos,
at Christmas time.
The 1.5-metre tall plant flowers from December to March, forming long red petals from a central rosette.
Although it has been known to the locals for a long time, the plant was not known to science until last year, when it was named
Some species build elaborate nests for their young,
and this pretty pattern on the sea floor is one of them. It's the nest of a
newly discovered pufferfish off the coast of Amami-Oshima Island, Japan. He builds
this elaborate creation in the sand by wriggling his body in and under it to
attract a mate.
It's not just for show: The double edges, troughs
and grooves in the two-metre-wide nest minimise the ocean current at the nest's
centre, protecting the eggs from turbulence.
For 20 years, divers had not known the origin of these
mysterious, underwater "crop circles." The discovery of Torquigener
albomaculosus put that mystery to bed once and for all.