Adorable Animals That Can Kill You

After spending time in a few blogs emphasizing how snakes are interesting creatures that should not be feared, I’m here to write about dangerous animals that can destroy you. Please note that all of these animals should be appreciated for their awesomeness and most of them will never attack you. Time to look at some cute animals that can be deadly!

Image result for poison dart frog arkive Image result for poison dart frog arkive

Poison Dart Frogs were the subject of one of my recent blogs.

Blue-ringed Octopuses . . . yes, ‘octopuses’ is preferred over ‘octopi’ . . . are small cephalopods that live around coral reefs in the Indian and Southern Pacific Oceans. They are commonly found near Australia and actually consist of several species. If these octopuses become agitated, the blue rings appear to glow due to the stimulation of chromatophores. Blue-ring Octopuses are about the size of a golf ball and may contain enough venom to kill over a dozen humans! That said, they rarely attack humans unless stepped on or handled. Blue-rings munch on crabs, shrimp, and occasionally small fish (think Goliath Grouper). They tend to hide among the sand, shells, and coral, preferring to ambush their prey. Their venom contains powerful neurotoxins which can cause respiratory problems, muscle weakness, and paralysis. Interestingly enough, these same toxins are found in a variety of other organisms, such as pufferfish, snails, and crabs. The key ingredient to producing the toxins appears to be the symbiotic bacteria associated with these creatures. This means if you want to become more deadly, you should develop a close relationship with toxin-producing bacteria.

Southern blue-ringed octopus swimming    Southern blue-ringed octopus, head detail

Next up is the Giant Anteater, which can grow to 7 feet long and weigh over 100 pounds! If you’re an ant, this could be the most terrifying creature you ever face! Even Antman would probably run for his life! Anteaters do not have teeth, but they do have a sticky tongue that may extend up to 2 feet and can rapidly lap up thousands of ants and termites.  They also have sharp claws for tearing into anthills and termite mounds. Though not naturally aggressive, Giant Anteaters are capable of fighting off large predators such as jaguars! They are extremely unlikely to attack humans, but if cornered, they could certainly maim a person! Giant Anteaters are primarily found in South America, but their range extends up to the southern portion of Mexico. As you might imagine, this species is important for controlling insect populations, especially considering some South American ants are quite dangerous in armies and can kill large animals and overrun villages! 

Giant anteater running  Giant anteater female and young

Now it’s time for an adorable creature that you will want to hug, but shouldn’t.

File:Deathstalker (Leiurus quinquestriatus) 7.jpg

Photo: Wikipedia user מינוזיג

What?! You don’t want to hug an adorable scorpion?! This is the Lifeignorer Scorpion. Just kidding. This is the Deathstalker Scorpion. Deathstalkers live in desert regions in Northern Africa and the Middle East. These scorpions have highly potent venom that can do a lot of damage. Interestingly enough, medical researchers have used toxins isolated from deathstalkers to develop methods of fighting cancer and regulating insulin! Check out a cool story about a venom-based paint that can identify brain tumors by clicking here!

I’ll finish off the blog with an array of cute but dangerous animals.

Image result for bear cubs

These cubs might not seem so cute when the mother is around.

Juvenile chimpanzees hanging in branches

Chimpanzees in the wild have been known to kill monkeys by bashing their heads with rocks! Adults are quite strong and capable of crushing a human in a wrestling match.

Image result for slow slender loris

Slender Loris bites, though extremely rare, have been known to cause swelling, irritated skin, and even anaphylactic shock!

Image result for puffer fish finding nemo

Many blowfish/pufferfish contain neurotoxins which can prove harmful for potential predators. Nevertheless, fugu (prepared pufferfish) is considered a delicacy in Japan and other countries! Chefs must undergo rigorous training to be qualified to prepare this dish.

Hopefully you’re starting to realize that looks can be deceiving! These are really cool creatures that should be appreciated. Remember that most of these animals won’t attack humans unless threatened or cornered. Please do not attempt to take animal selfies with a bison, bear, or wildcat, no matter how cute they look. I recently read a story about a bear that broke into a car and destroyed a lot of things. Feel free to let a deathstroke scorpi . . . sorry about that Green Arrow, DEATHSTALKER scorpion crawl on your face, because it most likely won’t sting you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to grow some bacteria on blue ring pops, spread the mixture on my arms, and terrorize some crabs.

Snake Week

Every summer, one week is devoted to celebrating sharks. Shark Week is designed to teach the public about the interesting world of sharks and encourage people to see these predators in a new light. My question is, why stop with sharks? How about having a snake week? Wouldn’t you like to learn more about venomous snakes and the good that they do? Wouldn’t you like to start conquering your fear of snakes? Wouldn’t you like to read some really bad snake puns? Today you will learn that you can have your snake and eat it too – just start with an easy-snake oven.

Image result for cobra arkive

Did somebody say Snake Week?!

The Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) is endemic to the eastern U.S. and can grow to over 6 feet long. They occupy a wide range of habitats, including forests, mountainous, and riverine areas. When temperatures are cool, rattlesnakes may group together in a den or cave to hibernate.  Like many Americans, Timber Rattlesnakes love to catch some sun rays and will often remain motionless while basking in the heat of day. They primarily hunt small mammals, such as mice, rats, voles, squirrels, and rabbits. They aid in regulating mammal populations within an ecosystem and can help reduce pest populations in agricultural systems. Unfortunately, like sharks, rattlesnakes are often seen as scary and dangerous creatures. Some people shoot them with shotguns, smash them with shovels, or even purposely run over them while driving. The truth is, rattlesnake attacks are rare, as rattlers will usually rattle to send a warning and will only strike if threatened or cornered. Because many venomous snakes try to save their venom of prey, they are unlikely to bite except as a last resort.  Try to find a way to let the snakes alone and they will help control pesky rodents! If one has taken up residence in your house, then call a local wildlife officer to capture and release it elsewhere. Also, don’t run around sticking your hands in brush piles and rock crevices!

Timber rattlesnake, close-up rattlesnake

The picture on the right was of a rattler I encountered in Indiana. Why did the snake cross the road? Probably because the heat emanating from the asphalt felt good.

The Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius) is beautiful creature that is generally found in scrubby woodlands and marshes in the southeastern U.S. Because they must chew on their victim to completely inject their venom, attacks on humans are rare. According to National Geographic, no human has died from an Eastern Coral Snake bite since the antivenin was developed in the 1967 (http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/eastern-coral-snake/). They spend much of their time underground and are not often seen, except during the breeding season. They can grow to lengths of 2-4 feet and will eat lizards and other snakes. Now for the interesting part. Other snakes, such as Scarlet Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis elapsoides) use mimicry to take advantage of the coral snake’s reputation! Let me explain. Predators, such as raptors and coyotes, learn to associate the color patterns of coral snakes with their dangerous venom and tend to avoid attacks. Kingsnakes have evolved to mimic the patterns of the coral snakes and so this means that predators will usually leave them alone! Now you might be wondering how you could tell the difference. The rule for distinguishing between these snakes (and I don’t know of any exceptions to this rule) is set to a rhyme. Red on black, friend of Jack. Red on yellow, dangerous fellow. In other words, look at the banding patterns. The coral snake has red touching yellow bands, while the kingsnake has red touching black bands.

Image result for eastern coral snake Image result for scarlet kingsnake

Left – venomous coral snake (photo: http://wildlifetrappersandrescue.com/nuisance-animals/snakes/snake-photos/easterncoral2/). Right – non-venomous scarlet kingsnake .

Got milksnake?

Image result for milk snake

Pick up a tasty milksnake at your local Steak and Snake. Note that this species has red on black, meaning it is not venomous.

Do you feel any tremors? Because here’s an earthsnake!

Image result for earth snake

Now it’s time to look at one of the deadliest snakes in the world, the Banded Sea Krait (Laticauda colubrina). These beautiful snakes are usually found in warm, tropical waters near coral reefs and mangrove swamps around Australia and southeast Asia. Though their neurotoxic venom is about 10 times more potent than rattlesnake venom, human bites are extremely rare due to the docile nature of BSKs. Many divers have swam with these snakes without fear of harm. BSKs are amphibious, and will spend a decent portion of their time on land, especially when breeding. They generally hunt in the water, preferring to prey on eels and small fish. Females are usually larger and may hunt larger-sized prey than males. Believe it or not, there is a Japanese soup made with smoked sea krait.

Banded sea krait swimming beneath large shoal of fish Banded sea krait underwater

Hopefully you’ve learned about some interesting venomous snakes and can appreciate their beauty. Some of these snakes play a vital role in controlling rodent populations. Remember that most snakes prefer to avoid conflict and will rarely bite humans. If you  enjoy the rush of feeling scard by snakes, then I encourage you to look up dangerous snakes in Australia. What’s a snake’s favorite dance? The Mamba. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to wear red on yellow and carry a baby rattle. FEAR ME!

Snake News

Did you know that snakes can be very colorful? Did you know that snakes are vital to controlling pests in many agricultural and woodland ecosystems? Though some people get nervous or anxious around snakes, most species are non-venomous and tend to shy away from confrontations . . . except for all of the vicious killer snakes in Australia. Time to face your fears and slither into the world of snakes!

Image result for indiana jones snakes

Indiana Jones is not happy with my blog topic.

First up is a species commonly found in gardens, yards, and woodlands. The Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) has several subspecies (with a variety of coloration!) that inhabit ranges throughout the United States. One of the characteristics of garter snakes is their longitudinal stripes. Garter snakes are not venomous and are usually docile, though some will act aggressively when threatened. They are decent swimmers and will sometimes hunt aquatic prey such as fish, amphibians, and crayfish. They also eat small mammals, earthworms, and occasionally birds. During the mating season, large numbers of garter snakes may converge into a giant breeding ball!

0606161249  california-red-sided-garter-snake

Left – Eastern Garter Snake I found while looking for birds. Right – California Red-sided Garter.

Next up are the racers (Coluber constrictor). As with the garter snakes, there are a few subspecies in the U.S. When I worked as an avian field technician in southern Indiana, I saw some black racers and blue racers, but not black-and-blue racers. As their name suggests, they are quite quick and agile, often zooming away before you can get close. If the Flash was bitten by a radioactive racer, he would probably become unstoppable. Racers are often found in woodland edges and near disturbed habitats such as areas that have been clear-cut. They eat a variety of prey, including many rodents, and are most active during the heat of the day. As with many other snake species, racers will seek cover such as logs, brush, or boards when temperatures are cooler. 

blue-racer-snake-bffsztku

Blue Racer (http://radiostudio111.com/archives/blue-racer-snake).

The largest snake in the world is the Green Anaconda (Eunectes murinus). Females are capable of growing close to 30 feet long and weighing over 550 pounds! These anacondas are primarily found in forests, swamps, and streams within the Amazon Rain Forest. As you might imagine, they move much slower than racers, and will often lay submerged in muddied water, waiting to ambush unsuspecting prey. Anacondas will eat wild pigs, capybaras, birds, small mammals, deer, turtles, and even caimans (small crocodilians) and jaguars! They are very loving, often cuddling their prey before crushing their bones. Though many species of snakes lay eggs, Green Anacondas are viviparous, meaning that they give birth to live young. The young are about 2 feet long and quickly become active after being born.

Green anaconda stifling white-tailed deer Green anaconda moving over sand

Yum, tasty deer steak.

Hmm . . . maybe showing pictures of giant anacondas that could crush you and eat you isn’t the best way to conquer your fear of snakes. How about some pictures of cute snakes to ease your mind?

Image result for albino snake Arabian horned viper, head detail

What?! You didn’t think those were cute?! Let me try again.

Image result for albino ball python

Albino Ball Python

Image result for snake arkive Image result for snake arkive

Snakes will not usually attack humans unless provoked. Even the venomous ones will usually hiss, raise their head threateningly, or flee rather than bite. In my next blog, I’ll take a look at some of the venomous snakes, snakes that mimic venomous snakes, and provide a few ridiculous puns. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to race around the block, dive into some muddy water, and attack a helpless victim before heading to the nearest Steak and Snake. 

All Frogs go to Heaven

What frog acts like a paratrooper? What frog has see-through skin? What will some frogs do to protect their eggs? What is a pacman frog? In my last blog, I wrote about giant frogs and tiny colorful frogs that could kill you. Now I’m on to some other interesting amphibians! 

Image result for cool frogs

Some Glass Frogs, which include species from the Centrolenidae family, have translucent skin, which allows one to see the interior organs! The eggs of pregnant females can also be seen as well!  Glass Frogs are quite small, with an average size of 1-3 inches. Members of the Centrolenidae family can be found near forested rivers and streams in Central and South America. They spend much of their time in the forest canopy, where they hunt for insects and other small arthropods. I’m thinking of writing a book on how to dissect these frogs and calling it “Through the Looking-Glass Frog”.

<i>Centrolene quindianum</i> on leaf see-through stomach

Whereas many species of frogs lay eggs directly into ponds, pools, or vegetation, frogs from the family Hemiphractidae have the ability to carry their eggs with them. Some of these species are equipped to transport eggs hidden in a dorsal pouch, which allows better protection of the eggs from predators and extreme conditions. Though many frog species have a larval stage (tadpoles), some species, such as the Horned Marsupial Frog (Gastrotheca cornuta), keep the eggs until they develop and hatch into live froglets!

Horned marsupial frog female with eggs Image result for flectonotus

Left – Horned Marsupial Frog. Right -Flectonotus fitzgeraldi.

The Surinam Horned Frog (Ceratophrys cornuta) can grow to 8 inches long and weigh over a pound. Because they have large mouths and a voracious appetite, eating almost anything that comes near them, they are sometimes called “pac-man frogs”. These frogs generally ambush their prey, camouflaging themselves in mud or leaf litter, and quickly striking and swallowing prey whole! Horned frogs have been known to devour prey such as crickets, centipedes, small mice, fish, other frogs, dots, and blue ghosts. Sometimes they try to swallow prey that is too large and are found dead with the intended prey sticking out of their mouths! This happened recently when a horned frog was fed Donald Trump’s ego. The purpose of the horn-like projections is unclear, though they may serve to aid in camouflage.

Related imageImage result for surinam horned frog eating

Finally we come to Wallace’s Flying Frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus). Though these frogs don’t technically fly, they can use their thickly-webbed feet and large toe pads to glide through the air for distances of over 15 meters! These frogs live an arboreal life in the tropical jungles of Borneo and Malaysia. They usually use their super gliding abilities when attempting to escape a predator or hunt prey. Flying frogs also have loose flaps of skin, which aids in their gliding. They often breed and lay their eggs in pools formed by rain or in pits made by wallowing animals such as rhinos. As their Latin name suggests, they have black coloring on their feet. Scientists are currently researching this species in an effort to apply the frog’s gliding capabilities to human soldiers and pizza deliveries.

wallace flying frogImage result for wallace's flying frog

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this little foray into the world of frogs! Frogs are pretty diverse and amazing creatures! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hide in a mud pit, cover myself with leaves, and snatch some unsuspecting prey.

 

 

 

Who Let the Frogs Out?

Did you know that there are over 4,700 species of frogs in the world? Did you know that the Goliath Frog can weigh up to 7 pounds? Did you know that there is a frog smaller than your thumb that carries enough poison to kill 10 people?! Did you know that Kermit the Frog is 62 years old? Did you know that the average person in France eats 124.37 pounds of frog legs a year? Did you know that fake numbers are more believable if they include decimals? Did you know that all frogs go to heaven? Time to hop into the world of frogs!

File:Red eyed tree frog edit2.jpgImage result for tree frog

Red-eyed Tree Frogs. Left photo by Cary James Balboa. Right photo by Nicolas Reusen.

The largest frog in the world is the endangered Goliath Frog (Conraua goliath). This monstrous amphibian can grow to over a foot in length and lives in equatorial rainforests along the western coast of Africa. Goliath Frogs are typically found near highly-oxygenated rivers or waterfalls, where they munch on crustaceans, fish, insects, and other frogs. Like most frog species, a female Goliath will lay hundreds of eggs which will hatch into tadpoles.  As you might imagine, life as an egg or tadpole is fraught with dangers from many predators. However, Goliath tadpoles are equipped with razor-sharp teeth which allows them to shred apart large fish and even baby hippos! Either that or they feed on plants. Anyway, the survival rate for eggs and tadpoles is not very high. Unfortunately, Goliath Frog populations have struggled due to trapping for food or the pet trade, and habitat loss. 

Goliath frog on rocks amongst shallow rapidsGoliath frog being held and compared to the tiny reed frog

Next up is a much smaller frog – the Golden Poison Dart Frog (Phyllobates terribilis). Though they grow to about an inch in length, they are actually one of the larger poison dart frogs! These tiny amphibians make their home in a small range of rainforests in Colombia. Despite their name, Golden Poison Dart Frogs sometimes come in shades of green or orange. Their diet consists of small invertebrates, such as ants, flies, and termites. As with other poison dart frogs, the bright colors provide warning of their poisonous nature to potential predators. Many scientists believe that these frogs acquire their toxicity from their prey, which ingest certain plant alkaloids. Does this mean that the Nintendo character Kirby is related to poison dart frogs? Natives have used the poison from these frogs for centuries to cover the tips of blow-darts and spears when hunting. Some researchers are studying the mechanisms and effects of frog poisons for medicinal uses such as painkillers! For more information about poison dart frogs, check out a cool article from BBC by clicking here.

Image result for golden poison dart frog

Photo by Thomas Marent, Minden Pictures/Corbis.

Even though I only covered two species, hopefully you’re starting to get a feel for the incredible diversity in the frog world. In my next blog I’ll look at more fascinating frogs, including a species that carries its young on its back, a species with see-through skin, and a species that can glide! Wherever you are, appreciate the beauty of nature and the awesomeness of frogs! I’ll leave you with some cool pictures of poison dart frogs! Frog on!

Image result for arkive frogImage result for arkive frog

Image result for arkive frogImage result for arkive poison dart frog

 

 

What Kind of Bird are You?

Do you like birds? Do you like personality tests? Do you ever find yourself listening for earthworms after a spring rain or longing to munch on sunflower seeds? Do you stay awake at night wondering what bird you most relate to? I am here to fulfill all your dreams with a bird personality test! Many people have probably taken multiple personality tests before. I came back positive once, but another part of me swears I didn’t. Anyway, I have created a list of ten questions to answer that will reveal what bird you most identify with. I know there are thousands of birds in the world, but I have chosen 5 specific birds for the sake of time and my sanity. Whichever bird you end up as, I guarantee it will possibly match some part of your personality and define the rest of your life. I recommend taking a pencil and paper, and recording which letter you choose for each question. Now on the quiz!

tawny-eagle

Max the Tawny Eagle had a playful personality.

 

Bird Personality Test

1. You get hungry for a quick snack in the afternoon. You

A. Look for something sugary

B. Grab some gummy worms

C. Munch on some goldfish

D. Eat something with lots of protein

E. Chow down on some popcorn chicken

2. You are sitting outside when your neighbor walks by. Your immediate response is to

A. Get in their face and make sure they stay off your property

B. Sing at them

C. Hide in the bushes

D. Ignore them

E. Invite them to join you

3. Which one of these movies is your favorite?

A. UP

B. The Hobbit

C. Finding Nemo

D. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

E. The Lion King

4. A light rain begins to fall in the late morning. You

A. Seek shelter

B. Play in the puddles

C. Spend time at a lake

D. Are sleeping soundly

E. Lazily sit outside

5. Which color is your favorite?

A. Red

B. Blue

C. Green

D. Silver

E. Black, I enjoy the absence of true colors and prefer something that is linked with death

6. How do you spend your free time?

A. I’m always hungry!

B. Sleeping

C. Playing games

D. Hanging out with a loved one

E. Tanning in the sun

7. Which of these fictional movies would you be most interested in watching?

A. The Macawshank Redemption

B. Lord of the Wings: Return of the Kinglet

C. Snakes on a Crane

D. Owl is Lost

E. Starling Wars: The Emperor Penguin Strikes Back

8. Your ideal dinner involves

A. CHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESE!

B. A mixture of proteins and grains

C. A seafood platter

D. Lots of meat.

E. Leftovers from the night before

9. What is your initial response upon encountering a snake?

A. Try to scare it away

B. Run away screaming

C. Nervously take a few steps back and look for a weapon

D. Grab it by the neck and bite hard

E. Calmly watch the snake move along the ground

10. Pick a book title

A. The Scarlet Feather

B. Tequila Mockingbird

C. War and Geese

D. Guardians of Ga’hoole

E. V is for Vulture

Now it’s time to add up your answers. Try not to scroll down until you’ve totaled your score. An “A” answer counts as one point, “B” is two, “C” is three, “D” is four, and “E” is five points. Once you know your score, check out your result below the picture of the Barn Owl.

barn-owl

What kind of bird are you?

10-18 = Ruby-throated Hummingbird. You are always on the go and expend a lot of energy every day. Food is a vital part of your life and you constantly snack throughout the day. You tend to be aggressive and confrontational with others who get in your way, though you do have a sweet side.

hummer

19-26 = Bluebird. Spending time with family is important to you. You enjoy singing songs and expressing your happiness. You occasionally get pushed around by others who are more strong-natured, but sometimes you find the courage to fight back.

bluebird

27-34 = Green Heron. You enjoy spending time alone in nature, especially around a body of water. You’re intelligent and enjoy fishing. You don’t talk much, but when you do, it’s usually something worth saying. You prefer small groups of friends when you’re not have alone time.

green

35-42 = Great Horned Owl. You are somewhat of a night owl and often take naps during the day. You have a strong and fierce personality, and are willing to fight for what you believe in. You tend to talk loudly but because of your great hearing, you can also be a good listener.

owl

43-50 = Turkey Vulture. You enjoy basking in the sun and gliding around town on your bike. You eat mostly meat and prefer to let others do the cooking, though you are great at cleaning up after others. Speaking in public is not clearly your strong suit, but you enjoy spending time with friends.

vulture

Catching Birds

Apparently 3 summers of chasing after birds in southern Indiana wasn’t enough for me, as I’m currently helping with a project studying Worm-eating Warblers and banding birds in areas where all the trees have been harvested (clearcuts). There are some really cool things about the clearcuts, such as a multitude of thorny shrubs, exposure to the hot sun, and venomous rattlesnakes which hide in the net lanes. The diversity of birds which forage or move through these habitats is surprisingly high. I’ll share some cool pictures and talk more about the birds in another blog. For now, I’m going to talk about Cerulean Warblers, which are beautiful birds that are listed as threatened in many states. These warblers tend to utilize portions of the upper canopy, making them difficult to see. Several of the friends I’ve made here are working on a project with these warblers and chasing after them in an effort to find nests and capture males. The captured males are then tagged with a geolocator that can track the movements of the males and provide information about the habitats used, including wintering grounds. Cerulean Warblers are challenging to study and capture, so in honor of a recent victory (3 birds captured in one day!), I wrote another song parody using the popular song “Titanium”.

 

Cerulean (To the tune of David Guetta’s Titanium)

Verse 1

I shout it out, and not a word you hear me say

I’m singing loud not saying much

Raise the noise, but all your playback ricochets

I’m chipping now, not saying much

Chorus

I’m in the trees, flitting around

Fly away fly away

Then you try, to track me down

Fly away fly away

You set the net, but I won’t come

I am Cerulean

You set the net, but I won’t come

I am Cerulean

Verse 2

Hear me zeet, but still you cannot find my nest

The canopy, has many leaves

You lift your eyes, but I just fly the other way

You hurt your neck just looking up

Chorus

I’m in the trees, flitting around

Fly away fly away

Then you try, to track me down

Fly away fly away

You set the net, but I won’t come

I am Cerulean

You set the net, but I won’t come

I am Cerulean

Bridge

Blue flash, quick zeet

Crane your neck and try to see

Blue flash, I keep flying pa-a-a-a-a-a-a-ast

Chorus + tag

You set the net, but I won’t come

I am Cerulean

You set the net, but I won’t come

I am Cerulean

You set the net, but I won’t come

I am Cerulean