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Skeletorus! Amazing New Species of Peacock Spider Discovered

Saturday 18 April 2015

It is, of course, just a nickname.  In September 2013, American PhD student Madeline (Maddie) Girard from Berkeley in California and her Sydney friend Eddie Aloise King alighted upon five males of a hitherto unknown species of peacock spider in Wondul Range National Park in Queensland, Australia. They were not able to resist a nod to He-Man’s primary adversary in the Masters of the Universe franchise, Skeletor (left). The bold, skeleton-like aspect of the male spider demanded a designation both apposite and memorable.

Girard took one of the spiders to Dr Jürgen Otto, handing it over with the words approximating to “This is what I call Skeletorus. When you look at him you will know why.”  Although professionally an acarologist (he studies mites and ticks), Otto is fascinated by the peacock spider and is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on the genus.  He and David Hill, the American editor of the journal Peckhamia that specialises in the publication of articles on the jumping spider family, began studying this species in preparation for a scientific description.

The scientific name arrived at – its binomial nomenclature – is a little different to Girard’s creative nickname. This incredible new discovery has been named Maratus sceletus by Otto and Hill. Maratus is a genus of Salticidae which means that this is a peacock spider, one of the jumping spider family. Sceletus is Latin for (you probably know or have guessed this already) skeleton, which Otto and Hill thought it resembled more than the fictional character. Although Skeletorus was a strictly working name, it may, however, be the name that’s going to stick.

Monster Fish - In Search of the Last River Giants

Saturday 11 April 2015

Are there still enormous fish swimming in our lakes and rivers?

To find out the answer you will have to watch this short film animated by Daniel Gies.

It was made for the National Geographic Museum.

This is a beautifully made piece.  I am sure you will enjoy this.

Why Sharks Matter

Thursday 9 April 2015

It’s ironic that movies like Jaws present sharks as ravenous maneaters when the real villain of the piece is… you guessed it.  The human population of the planet eats hundreds of thousands of sharks each year – more specifically their fins.  Often what remains after the fin is removed – the bulk of the shark – is simply dumped back in to the ocean.

The shark has been the apex predator in the Earth’s oceans for 400 million years – the species has been around since before the dinosaurs.  Yet if we remove the shark from the oceans – and that seems likely if the demands from ravenous sharkeaters for shark fin soup persists – what will happen to the rest of the ecosystem?

Sign the pledge to ban the trade of shark fins in Texas, Rhode Island, Vermont and New Jersey:

Baby Elephant’s Bathtub is a Tight Squeeze

Kids are kids, whatever the species.  So when this baby elephant at the Elephantstay sanctuary in Thailand saw his bath being filled his first reaction is, like any sensible child, to make a run up to it and dive in head first. 

Unfortunately there comes a time when one outgrows the paddling pool and this pampered pachyderm hardly fits!
I never knew that elephants were capable of such contortions (but the older one in the background is doing its best been there done that air of nonchalence.

Lembeh Straits, A Macro Symphony

Monday 6 April 2015

The red ‘orang-utan’ crab that you can see in the picture on the left is so tiny that its home is a discarded Coca-Cola bottle top.  The shrimp that you will see after it is barely 4mm tall. 

Such is life in Malaysia’s Lembeh Straits and these two creatures along with all the others in this underwater macro short, filmed by Kay Burn Lim, make for fascinating viewing. To paraphrase a commenter, it makes one aware of the incredible diversity of life in our oceans and the paramount importance of preserving it.

Happiest Video EVER!

The folks at Edgar's Mission Farm Sanctuary in Australia have called this the Happiest Video Ever which is something of a claim.  However, I do believe that you will find the hyperbole warranted.  This video shows many of the inhabitants of the farm sanctuary which currently provides life-long love and care to over 250 rescued animals.  Watch it and I dare you not to go “aaaaw” at least five times!

Dolphins: The World's Best Surfers

You can find the world’s best surfers at Dolphin Cove near Esperance in West Australia but don’t expect to see any surf boards – the clue is in the name.

This remarkable footage captured by Jennene and Dave Riggs who have been wildlife filmmakers since 1998 shows a pod of dolphins simply enjoying themselves with what nature provides.  If we can’t have lives spent quite in the same pursuit of happiness then at least we can share the pleasure of watching our dolphin friends having fun.  Who was it who said we were the most intelligent species on the planet?

Quiz: Can You Name These 20 Common North American Backyard Birds?

Friday 3 April 2015

Can you name twenty of the most common North American birds?  Certainly if you live there you should be able to name a good number of these beautiful avian species.  You might see a few of them if you look out of your window right now – if you are lucky and it’s not the middle of the night.  Even if you don’t live in America you will be able to guess a number of these because they might just be found in your backyard too!

If the answer you choose goes GREEN, then you got it right.  If it goes RED then you got it wrong.  You will also see how many other people chose the different answers (in terms of a percentage).

Would you like to do another quiz?
Fifteen big cats and wild cats are to be found here - but can you guess the species? Click here or on the picture to do the quiz.

Image Credits
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ,6 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 20

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