Beaver

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They caused a war over hats, are much like a Camel and flavour cigarettes with their anus.

A welcome return to the shores of Great Blighty for the Beaver!

597px-American_Beaver

The Beaver is once again in Britain, and very welcome it is too for once was the time the Great British Empire curtailed a huge swath of the Americas for it, and chucked out the French (again) to boot.

The reason for kicking out the French (again) is quite simply mad as a Milliner – an epic war over headwear. In the 16th Century hats were quite the rage, and non were finer than those made from Beaver pelt. As the Beaver were virtually decimated for bonnets across Europe, the French found an almost limitless supply in Canada. Thankfully the good ol’ British army soon swooped in to claim it from Johnny French.

Just in case you were wondering the hats weren’t hairy, the Beaver fur presses down into a fine shiny felt like material like you would see on most top hats and bowlers.

Brief history & haberdashery lesson over, let’s talk about our amazing friend the Beaver.

First of all they are big buggers, about the size of a Labrador, and what these big buggers like to do is build.

Beavers are of course famous for felling trees. If the Beaver can’t find a home to his liking he makes one by damming a river to make a lake. In fact it’s often pointed out that, mankind aside, the Beaver is the animal that has the most effect on its immediate environment – felling trees willy-nilly and what not.

At the other end of the wood-felling teeth is of its rather famous tail, which has a number of purposes, the most obvious being to signal warnings. If a Beaver is spooked it will dive deep into it the nearest water, but not before giving the water a bally big slap with it’s tail. Less obvious is that the Beaver’s tail is much like the Camel’s hump, it uses it as a fat store from Spring to Autumn to lay down energy deposits for the Winter.

Perhaps what is most remarkable about the Beaver is that it’s been used as a wandering drugstore since the turn of time. Castoreum is a secretion of a Beaver’s anal gland mixed with urine. The Beaver uses this stinky stuff to mark its territory. The smelly smell has been used since the Greco-Roman period as a medicine for fevers, headaches and hysteria. All fine and dandy, but this Beaver bottom slime is used in a number of (French) perfumes such as Givenchy and Chanel … because you’re worth it.

Amazingly it’s even used in cigarettes to improve flavour and odour, though there are no known plans to move from trademarks such as ‘It’s Toasted!’ to ‘It’s Anally Secreted!’

Jerboa

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The Jerboa are a group of hopping rodents found throughout Asia and Africa, and include the rather marvellous Pygmy Jerboa, the World’s smallest rodent.

Jerboa

Jerboa

There is a train of thought that some animals have evolved to be cute, so we don’t kill and eat them, especially in their young stages, when they are all dew-eyed and big-pawed and just bally lovely and you just want to snuggle up to them. Then there are other learned types who say that it is just a coincidence that these animals look like our young, and that we are genetically programmed to love our big-eyed pot-bellied offspring as they vomit, poo, scream and generally just act all inconvenient through the first 10 years of their existence.

Either way the Pygmy Jerboa comes out tops on the patented Proceedings of the Ever so Strange Cuteometer;

The Jerboa, like a number of animals have taken to hopping as their favoured method of locomotion. At first glance this appears to be silly until you discover it is actually one of the most efficient methods of getting from around. Large elastic tendons allow the energy from one hop to be bounced into the other like jumping on springs. The Lesser Egyptian Jerboa for example is able to bounce a metre at a time, rather effective for dodging other desert folk who would like to gobble it up. However it is rather inelegant and it’s not a coincidence that hopping animals make dreadful waiters.

Jumping_Jerboa

Jerboa are finely tuned to living in the harsh desert. Those enormous feet are covered in hairs which act like a pair of show shoes to stop them from sinking in the desert sand. Many aestivate, which is a lot like hibernating… only this time to avoid the harsh Summer sun. Some Jerboa never ever drink, they get their water from any food they eat… which sounds like a dreadful existence if you ask me… still they’d probably just spill it.

The Olm

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This odd fellow lives in the Balkans where it dwells in the cave systems that criss-cross this south east corner of Europe. Many moons ago, when a particularly heavy rain broke they would spew forth from the caves. The locals thought that they were the young of enormous serpents living deep in the systems… baby dragons… but then again the locals were from the Balkans.

The Olm scuttles about these salubrious venues, its body adapted remarkably to the lightless surrounds. It has a pinkish appearance as it has very little need for colour in the black belly of the earth. The Olm has no eyes, as again why waste energy on growing eyes when there is no light to see by. Instead it is covered in sensors that pick up vibrations of anything that moves in the water. Incredibly the Olm is also covered in taste buds, like a great big autonomous tongue flopping and lolling around the cave trying to taste out prey. As if being able to taste and feel your prey isn’t enough, the Olm has developed electrical receptors, detecting the minute electrical pulses that living animals emit. So if anything does happen to plop into the dank darkness of an Olm’s cave, you can be assured that this chap will find it.

That is probably the whole point, as things rarely do plop into caves… in fact they do their damnedest not to plop into caves and get chomped on by baby dragons or indeed autonomous tongues. It has been noted by learned types that some Olms have even gone six years without a meal. So the Olm has become a master at energy conservation. As we have seen they don’t bother developing anything they don’t need to survive in the dark. They don’t even have the energy for a bit of bonking, no need for all that strenuous to-ing and fro-ing, egg producing and what not, no that would be silly. The Olm wait about 14 years before they even think of doing anything carnal, and they may even live for over a hundred years to make sure they do have a wee one.

So there we have it, a fantastic addition to the Proceedings of the Ever so Strange, it may not be a baby dragon, but it is just as bally well extraordinary.

Eye Lash Mite

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The Human body on average contains ten trillion cells (that’s 10,000,000,000,000 in case you were wondering … you weren’t … oh, alright then I’ll get on with it). In that ten trillion cells that you call you, there are seventy five trillion foreign cells. Yes that’s seven and a half times more cells of different creatures living in or on you right now. So how can you call yourself you? Answer me that … anyway I digress, I’ve been drinking at Dr Hendryks’ house again.

Anyway the Rt Hon Dr Hendryks has in his care a new device by the name of a ‘microscope’ and it is through this remarkable device we are able to meet our latest Proceeding of the Ever so Strange. Say good day to the Eye Lash Mite Demodex folliculorum isn’t he adorable? Guess where he lives? That’s right you’ve got them dilly-dallying all over your eyelids right now.

eyelashmite

Happily they are incredibly minute, between .3mm and .4mm long and if you want to see one then carefully remove an eyelash and pop it under a microscope.

They are obviously no bother and under normal circumstances cause us absolutely no harm, apart from giving us a slightly weird feeling that our eyelashes just aren’t quite as welcome as they once were. To be fair they are actually rather handy little things, hoovering up all the flotsam and jetsom that are at the bottom of each eyelash… like crabs on a beach… i rather like that… At the end of a hard day they like nothing better than a constitutional stroll and go for a promenade around your face while you snooze. Thankfully they are very polite guests, and as their digestive system is so efficient there isn’t any waste which means you don’t have to worry about them using your face as a lavatory.

Asian Giant Hornet

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You know hornets, like big wasps, scary things? The Asian giant hornet eats hornets. They eat forty in a minute.

They are huge evil buggers, about the size of a small bird if of course small birds were evil. What’s more they are fast, which is never a good thing in evil buggers, hitting top speeds of twenty five miles per hour.

what are you looking at?

what are you looking at?

I know dear reader, by now this is beginning to sound like it’s made up! I suppose you think I’m going to say something silly like it’s sting can dissolve human flesh. What … it can … really? That’s it I am never going to Asia.

So what actually bothers Asian giant hornets? Well you do forget that the big evil bugger lives in Japan, which rivals China in the ‘if it moves it must be food’ ethos, where the locals like to eat them deep fried or as sushi, sounds delightful. Not content with eating the wibbly insides of said hornet, there is a very fashionable drink with an extract of giant hornet saliva. Olympic gold winning marathon runner Naoko Takahashi swears by the stuff saying it improves both endurance and the speed of her running. Well if she thinks that drinking its spit makes her run fast she should try meeting one of the buggers.

Honey Badger (Ratel)

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This little gadabout really really likes to eat honey, a bit like Winnie the Pooh! The difference between this cutey and Winnie the Pooh of course is that Tigger’s best mate won’t attempt to bite off your tallywhacker.

If you ever see a honey badger on the loose run … run for all you bally well have. This chap, according to the Guinness Book of Records, is the World’s most fearless animal. What’s more, rumour has it, that its favoured method of attack is straight for the family jewels.

Another favoured snack is a cobra and other poisonous snakes. If it just so happens that it gets bitten by one of its deadly meals, and yes we are talking about the sort of slithery customer that could take down a rhino, the honey badger collapses on the spot, has a bit of a snooze and wakes up a couple of hours later, none worse for wear.

If a lion is daft enough to get a honey badger in its jaws, the badger can spin around inside it loose skin and start biting and tearing at the Lion’s face. Not surprisingly lions rarely attack honey badgers more than once.

Humans for the most part don’t fair too well either. African bushmen say if a honey badger moves in to your village… it’s time to move.

Sadly though other some rather unsporting practices of trapping then killing and also poisoning ratels is having a real impact on their population, which they find really annoying… and the last thing you want to do is annoy a honey badger.

White Faced Scops Owl

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An owl with a severe case of the heebie-jeebies!

The white faced scops owl is not playing the bally fool he’s actually displaying some rather clever defensive behaviour to get himself out of a spot of bother. When presented with a small owl up close the white faced scops owl makes itself looks as big as possible in a bid to scare away the intruder so there is no need for fisticuffs.

When presented with another owl further away it tries to hide by reducing his size and turning his darker coloured back to the other feathered foe in a bid to reduce the size of his silhouette. Clever chap!

Bullet Ant

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The bullet ant is so named as the power of its sting is said to be as painful as having a lump of searing hot lead travelling at a couple of hundred miles an hour puncture your buttocks, the scary thing is whoever was unlucky enough to name it is probably right. Local tribes also call the ant the ‘twenty four hour ant’ and the ‘AANJEEESSSSUSSFECCCKINGHHAITCHHHHFARRRRK’.

or you could just call me Stevesy?

In fact the bullet ant is said to have the most painful sting in the world according to the Schmidt Sting index. This Schmidt chap was a bally legend who circumnavigated the planet getting smarted by all the creepy crawlies he could. He described the pain of a bullet ant sting as ‘Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over charcoal with a three inch rusty nail in your heel’. Just in case you lovely readers have never had the pleasure of fire-walking-with-a-three-inch-rusty-nail-in-your-heel, Schmidt went on to describe pretty much every stinger you can imagine. He described a paperwasp sting as ‘Caustic and burning… like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut’. Wasp stings get a mention as ‘Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.’ Schmidt described being stung by a sweat bee as ‘light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.’ As you can imagine there was very little that was fruity about Schmidt chap, though he was rather odd.

It’s fair to say that the sting of the bullet ant really really hurts. Not only that, it can bite… hard. In fact it bites so hard that if it doesn’t break whatever it bites the force catapults the ant into the air.

The Satere-Mawe people of Brazil use these formidable buggers as an initiation into manhood. They take the ants, put them to sleep with a natural chloroform, then weave them into gloves, with the stinger facing inwards. Its fair to say that wearing the gloves really really hurts. Thankfully the hapless Satere-Mawe boys only have to go through the initiation twenty times. Explaining why, at least part way, Satere Mawe teenage boys are rather sullen and covered in red spots.

... sewing this chap into warm weather attire is not reccomended...

Jewel Beetle

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These smashing chaps really like the hot stuff. In fact they’ve evolved a magnificent array of senses to make sure they can fly right into a blazing inferno. That’s right they actually fly straight for forest fires.

This may all sound like some beetloid hara kiri and a rather swift move out of the gene pool, but this behaviour is not as downright daft as one would first think. The jewel beetles are heading to the forest fire as it’s somewhat of a blank canvas, the heat destroys all the enemies of this rather wonderful chap. All the birds and what not that think of the jewel beetle as a rather fine brunch, all the other beastly creatures that compete to be at the front of the dinner queue, even the little rapscallions and gadabouts that wouldn’t think twice at gobbling up the jewel beetle’s young. So what better than the scene of a recent toasting for a bit of rumpy-pumpy and given time to hear the pitter-patter of weeny beetle feet.

Remarkable footage of the splendid Jewel Beetle

What is truly splendid is the jewel beetle’s ability to find fire. Their senses must crackle and blaze more than the fire itself when there a forest is torched, they can smell the charring of the forest like a shark sniffs out miniscule amounts of blood, they have an eerie knack of hearing the crackling of wood of a flame on a twig, they even have an extra sense that spots the infra red what-nots emitted by a forest fire. Indeed the jewel beetle can spot a fire from fifty miles away. Rather smashing hot stuff isn’t he!

Naked Mole Rat

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This isn’t part of an old man, this is the naked mole rat! A sort of shaved rat, actually not so much shaved it does have a few whiskers, a sort of badly shaved rat. To be fair he’s not shaved at all, nor indeed is he a rat, he certainly looks like he’s lost his towel though…

Naked mole rat: not an old man's tallywhacker

These short-sighted rodents live underground and are radiciovores, meaning they survive by nibbling on the roots of plants. Though once in a while they turn coprophagic, you really don’t want to know what this means… oh ok, you want a clue, copro means poo – phage to eat … told you.

... a delightful brunch

Though it’s not just the good looks and poo-eating that get these chaps into the Proceedings of the Ever so Strange.

The naked mole rat is one of the only animals to feel absolutely no pain. What’s more they can run just as fast backwards as they can forwards. They are the world’s longest living rodent, and one of the only cold-blooded mammals. This is all terribly terribly bizarre stuff but it’s still not the strangest thing about this guinea pig in the buff.

What is oddest about this decidedly odd chaps is that they behave like ants. Like ants, the naked mole rat lives in a big nest who all work together as a community. What’s more at the centre of that community is a big fat blobby queen that has all the babies.