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Sticky: The Fascinating Story of How the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect was Saved from Extinction

Saturday, 29 September 2018


Can you bring a species back from extinction? Despite fictional accounts in books and movies like Jurassic Park the answer remains a very definite no – not in any complete way for sure.  Yet species on the edge of destruction can be saved even if they are dodging extinction in the most unlikely of places.

This is the story of the rediscovery of the Lord Howe Stick Insect (Dryococelus australis) which had also been known as the tree lobster due to its size and color at maturity.  It was thought to have been made extinct by 1920 – game over.  Yet Lord Howe Island has an islet – a sea stack – called Ball’s Pyramid.  It had been suggested that the insect may have survived there, although most thought that highly improbable.

However an Australian team of etymologists journeyed to the islet in 1981 and the rest as they say is history.  Instead of telling you the whole story here, however, watch this beautifully made animation by Jilli Rose which tells the whole story.  It is without words for the first few minutes but after that the oral history of the Lord Howe Stick Insect and how it was saved from almost inevitable stochastic extinction. 

Don’t be put off by its length either – this is entrancing viewing.

The Ribbon Seal: The Seal with Stripes

Sunday, 23 September 2018

What do you get if you cross a zebra with a seal?  There is no sensible answer to that question, of course, but there is a species of seal which lives in the Arctic and subarctic regions of the North Pacific Ocean which could (however unfeasibly) be the product of a chance romance between the two species.  It is the Ribbon Seal and it is remarkable for its stripes.

Like many seals, the ribbon seal (Histriophoca fasciata) has dark brown to black fur.  Yet what makes it standout is its remarkable and conspicuous coloration.  It has two white stripes and two circles which pattern its body in a particularly striking way.  Its genus – Histriophoca – has a single member: you’re looking at it.  The ribbon seal is one of a kind.

The Kangaroo that Went Back to the Trees

Saturday, 15 September 2018

When you hear the word kangaroo what you may well imagine is the large marsupial bounding with immense speed across the Australian landscape – and you would not be wrong.  However, at one point the ancestors of one particular family of kangaroos did something strange.  They returned to the trees whence they had come.  This is the tree-kangaroo and they are the marsupial equivalent of monkeys.

The Holy Rats of Karni Mata

Sunday, 9 September 2018

From the outside the Hindu temple of Karni Mata in the small town of Deshnoke in the Indian province of Rajasthan looks much like any other. Ornate and beautiful and with a steady stream of worshippers arriving it holds a surprise for the unsuspecting visitor.

The temple is inhabited by rats: thousands of them.

The Spectacular Nests of the Sociable Weaver

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Not all bird species build nests.  Some, like the razorbill, lay an egg on a rocky ledge and hope for the best. Others, like the king penguin, have no access to nesting materials so keep their egg warm by squatting directly over it, covering it with their feathers.  Then there is the cuckoo, a brood parasite that lays its eggs in the nest of others.

Yet most species of birds do indeed make nests and they come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps the most spectacular of all these is that created by a rather plain looking African bird, the sociable weaver (also known more simply as the social weaver).

Image Credit
They sociable weaver male is small – about 14cm (that’s 5.5 in) in length – and brown.  It is by no means unattractive – it has black barring on its back, a black chin and a nicely scalloped back.  As for the female… it’s identical.  They are not sexually dimorphic and to the naked eye the male and female are indistinguishable.  They may not stand out in a crowd, as it were, but as you can see their nests are another thing entirely.

Amung Feedjit