Texas Horned Lizard

This spiky fellow has evolved to become the most disgusting meal ever… at least since we had that Scotch chef fired… say how-do-you-do to the Texas horned lizard. The frightful chap is the biggest and most widespread horned lizard in the United States. There he eats lots and lots of ants, with a side of locusts… and perhaps a little beetle for afters if he feels he has been a good Texas horned lizard. He likes a drink too, don’t we all, and when a rainstorm comes in he shoves his bottom in the air and allows the water to drizzle down his back to the corner of his mouth… very refreshing.

... that's probably as close as you want to get old bean...

Though as we previously hit on it is his aversion to getting eaten that propels this chap into the Proceedings. Now as we have seen most animals have an inclination towards not being munched into tiny fleshy pieces by some beast that out-sizes you by ten to one. Quite naturally there has been some evolutionary advancements towards not getting into said creek. So if it does come to the crunch the Texas horned lizard stands stock still… not the best option one would think, at least you would think that until the lizard went for option number two. He stands stock still for a reason you see… rather good camouflage all those horny bits. Ah yes, option two, I always knew we’d get round to you. For option two he makes the rather unexpected move of shooting blood out of his eyes. Yes the Texas horned lizard is quite simply the rarest meal since that French chap, who was well known for his penchant for particularly rare steaks, went and broke his stove. This bloody lizard’s blood is said to taste fowl to coyotes and … not to mention it’s rather bloody startling too.

... I told you...

Now blood, as I am sure you’re aware, is not known for its shooty-out-of-your-eye-i-ness and so it is rather surprising to see this Ever so Strange behaviour. Though it is an undoubtedly smashing spectacle and it rather neatly demonstrates an important aspect of evolution. Evolution only has a set number of materials. The flipper that helped some forward-thinking fish out of the ocean has, over an excruciatingly long period of time, developed into all sorts of wonderful things; legs and claws, and hands and wings and sometimes back into flippers again. The tiny bones that make up our ears were once simple parts of the jaw. Something as wondrous as a ladies bosom was once little more than a jumped up sweat gland. All animals are made up of the same bits and bobs, as if the bits and bobs are made of rubber bands to stretch and pull in different directions… evolution has a blueprint… and so the Texas horned lizard has quite naturally evolved to shoot toxic blood out of his eyes if you try and make a meal out of him.

Advertisements
Published in: on October 1, 2010 at 12:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Gharial

The gharial is the strangest o’ the crocodilians, and let us face it they are a strange bunch… don’t believe me? Have some round for sherry… I assure you it will be an unforgettable evening.

Right… the gharial… smashing fellow… somehow these cads, along with the rest of the crocodiles, lived through the cataclysm that wiped the best part of the dinosaurs of the face of the earth. Which is smashing news as we still have this delightful chap around. Though we still don’t know how the dinosaurs were bundled off the face of the earth in the first place. Of course the most likely theory is that a huge lump of rock belted into the planet and indeed there is the evidence of a huge strike around Chixculub in Mexico… not to mention a load of asteroid gubbins found all round the planet in a layer at a certain point in time… so for sakes of argument we are sticking with this space rock chappy for now.

... i'd say!

This would make a lot of sense as to how we are lucky enough to have the rather smashing gharial with us these days. We do know that after said asteroid hit the planet virtually all plant life would have been put on hold as the Sun was blotted from the sky. This wouldn’t have boded too well for the herbivores either, who not surprisingly kicked the bucket. The predators would have been soon a goner after their vegetarian chums were wiped out. However animals that eat rotten and dead herbivores and predators would have thought it a rather smashing time to be an animal that eats rotten and dead stuff, they’d found it rather difficult to find a bistro to their tastin for a rather long time now… and so they all had a bit of a shindig. Similarly animals that live in streams and rivers wouldn’t have been as badly affected as they are more dependent on bits and bobs being washed downstream than anything else. Which two factors would have suited the crocodiles rather well, as they live in streams and would eat the scabs off a scabby donkey if they were even a trifle peckish.

Well most of them eat any old bobbins; the gharial has had plenty of time to evolve into something much more sophisticated since then. No he doesn’t have an impeccable knowledge of the wines of Bordeaux and he is said to be awful at the Charleston…. he has actually evolved into a remarkably sophisticated fish eater.

... i'll have the sauteed dover sole with the hollandaise sauce

Up to six and a half meters long, he is not a wee chap this most aquatic of the crocodilians… what’s more he is really rather suited to the wet stuff. Not surprising then he eats fish, too fast for most crocs, but not for the gharial. That is why he has this huge long thin snout, rammed full of razor sharp teeth. He lies in wait with these toothy swords ajar and when a fishy dishy pops by… snap! The gharial is much faster than his lunking great cousins too, helped by the thin snout which cuts through the water like an oar on its side. If his snappy trap isn’t working he’ll use his flat paddle like tail to slip through the streams, or to whack unsuspecting fish on to the riverbank to scrobble down on.

The male has a ‘pot’ or ‘ghara’ at the end of the snout which grows with maturity. It is used to make hissing noises and apparently is used to blow bubbles which the fillies find quite delightful.

one can even pop pipe tobacco in it...

Rather unusual I’m sure you’ll agree.

Published in: on February 3, 2010 at 1:42 pm  Comments (2)  

Komodo Dragon

This is the story of an island giant… no not that film about that big bugger off monkey… but huddle up dear reader as here is a tale every bit as incredible and a monster every bit as abominable…

komodo

In 1492 Martin Behaim covered a metal ball with a map and thought it rather splendid, he called it the ‘Erdapfel’ and though it lacked the Americas and even had a few made up countries for good measure, it was the first globe. The second oldest globe is of an unknown origin… the Hunt-Lenox globe. It is dated variously between 1503 and 1510 and is emblazoned with the really rather smashing description across Asia… HC SVNT DRACONES… HERE BE DRAGONS.

Remarkably it is the only time that such an inscription has appeared on any antiquated map… though dragons indeed here there be… it just took us a while to find them.

In 1908 a pioneering Dutch aviator crash landed into the shark-infested waters in a far flung arm of the East Indies. He thought himself the luckiest chap alive as he had managed to cheat a certain death… he quickly re-thought his position however when he found himself shacked up on an island with slobbering three-metre-long man-eating lizards. Somehow our Dutch friend escaped this devil of a pickle, and three months later upon his return he told everyone he knew about his incredible escapades on the island of the dragons. Unfortunately living in the Netherlands it was presumably commonplace for people to hallucinate fantastical creatures most days of the week and everyone thought him quite the silly sausage.

Dragon

Years after our hapless Dutch friend crashed, skins and bones of a Komodo made it to Java where a learned type wrote a paper about them. Though it wasn’t until 1926 that the world famed explorer W. Douglas Burden put forward an expedition to catch a glimpse of the magnificent beasts. Unfortunately it still being the Victorian period ‘catching a glimpse’ generally meant filling them with lead pellets. Thankfully some Komodo were a bit luckier and W. Douglas Burden took a couple of live ones back to civilization.

This massive lizard, like the rest of the monitor lizards, first evolved in Australia. Fifteen million years ago Australia rather clumsily bumped into Southeast Asia, though no one knows if it was because he’d been drinking again, sloshing some of its native monitor lizards into the islands of the Pacific ring of fire. It is because of this collision that we are fortunate enough to have this incredible abominable lizard. So how did this monstrous chap get so big? Well on the tiny island of Komodo it was subject to those tricksy laws of evolution, growing huge… an example of Island gigantism… yes much like that massive movie monkey … and gigantic they are… more than 3 metres long in some cases. What’s more they have a great big mouth full of nasty bugs that means if you are unlucky enough to get bitten by the sod then you slowly succumb to blood poisoning. Recently it has been found that Komodo dragons have venom glands in the lower jaw, this venom causes shock and general wooziness… as if shock and wooziness was needed when you have just been bitten by a 3-metre-long lizard.

komodoeat

Komodo dragons wouldn’t think twice about gobbling you up either as these sods are man-eaters; in fact they’ve killed 5 people since 1974. These devilish cads are even partial to a bit of cannibalism, 10% of their diet is young Komodos, who not surprisingly have decided to live in trees. While eating babies is frowned upon in most societies it’s necessary for Komodo as they have very few medium sized prey on the islands.

All big horrible cannibalistic man-eating lizards can have a sweet side though and it turns out these dragons are actually remarkably intelligent. Not a very lovable trait in an enormous venomous man-eating lizard you’d think… but they actually like to play. They even recognize their individual keepers and can even be taught to do tricks. Unlike a certain King Kong… which let’s not forget to mention… was a film that was originally inspired by the story of the discovery of a big bugger off lizard.

Published in: on September 8, 2009 at 9:12 pm  Comments (8)  

The Jesus Christ Lizard

The Jesus Christ Lizard is so named because whenever anyone sees its ability to run on water they quite simply have to point and yell ‘Jesus Christ what the blazes does he think he’s doing!’

Jesus of course was also famous for turning water into wine, which didn’t damage getting him a few followers back in the day I’d say! The Jesus Christ Lizard would of course be a lot more popular in civilized society if he could turn his hand to this particular miracle. Though I have to say I’m rather unimpressed as I’ve already turned the family fortunes, a country estate and a townhouse in Kensington into various types of booze.

These extraordinary Lizards are actually two species; the Common Basilisk and the Brown Basilisk a rather smashing group of little reptiles who are found from Central Mexico to Ecuador.

Common_basilisk

Basilisks have been appearing in bestiaries for centuries. Pliny the Elder described the Basilisk as a serpent that walks upright, with a breath so foul it kills the grass and breaks stones as it passes them. Leonardo da Vinci described it as being so utterly cruel that when it cannot kill animals by its baleful gaze it turns upon herbs and plants and withers them with a stare. Modern day erudite thinkers have described it as a bit like Lady Baroness Margaret Thatcher.

Old style Basilisk ... rubbish

Old style Basilisk ... rubbish

Obviously our smashing little chaps aren’t anything to do with whatever in God’s name those old beardy transvestites were yammering on about. The Jesus Christ Lizards are called a Basilisk (Latin: Little King) as it refers to the fold of skin on top of its head. Of course the most incredible thing about these wee fellows is that they can walk on water. The rainforest of the America’s is packed to the rafters with creatures that don’t care much for religious lizards of any denomination and will quite happily have them as brunch rather than be amused at their apparent miracle working. So the Basilisk has learned to run… faster than the French can retreat. They run solely on their back legs, and their feet splay out to reveal frog-like webbing that stops them from breaking the surface tension of the water, incredibly they stay can stay on top of the wet stuff for as far as twenty metres… remarkable stuff!

Basilisks can also cater rather-marvellously for up to 5000 punters, point out burning shrubbery and do a rather nifty line in cleansing lepers… but one thought that rather irrelevant.

Published in: on July 7, 2009 at 1:42 pm  Comments (1)