Lake Titicaca Frog

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High in the South American Andes sits an epic body of water, many years ago the local tribes saw that it was shaped like a puma pouncing on a rabbit and so named it Lake Titicaca. Years later, deep in its azure waters Victorian naturalists found a rather curious looking frog, they marvelled at this new species poked at its flaps of skin and scratched their learned chins, there was only one name for this froggy fellow Telmatobius coleus – the aquatic scrotum.

... the aquatic scrotum...

Lake Titicaca is an unforgiving place, at nearly 4,000 metres above sea level the Sun is punishing, oxygen is thin and freezing temperatures abound. It’s for this reason that the Lake Titicaca Frog has evolved into something that looks like it should be in a man’s pants, which is surprising as a man’s pants are rarely thought of as an extreme environment. It should also be noted that it being discovered in 1876 it was way before any sort of TV chef, hence the frog is not called Gordonus Ramsiius. Not that we at the proceedings think Gordon Ramsey looks like a nutsack … no …no… no… no… no. It seems the key to the frogs success is that it stays underwater at all times, and those folds and flaps of skin help with the uptake of oxygen from the lake.

... one will have you know that it is your scrotum that looks like a frog...

For years this fellow has been revered by the locals, who thought the frog could summon rain. They would take a frog, place him in a jar, and leave him at the top of a hill. Of course the frog would scream bally murder, it hadn’t evolved into a scrotum-like frog to sit in jars at the top of hills, he much preferred life at the bottom of a lake where people couldn’t constantly remark on how much he looked like a pair of knackers. Unfortunately the Frogish for ‘get me out of this jar you fools’ sounds a lot like the Quechuan for ‘oh do rain, it would be awfully nice’. Thankfully sometimes the rains would come, and as the jar filled with water the frog could slosh out and go back to the bottom of the lake where he felt much less self conscious.

... unhand me you buffoon!

In the 1970’s when Jacques Cousteau visited the lake he reported that the bottom was quite literally swimming with ‘thousands of millions’ of giant frogs, many up to 50cm long. Sadly the days of these behemoth have gone, there are few frogs left and those that are still there rarely get that big . One of the main reasons for their demise is the fad for ‘frog juice’ in nearby Lima. These cosmopolitan forward-thinking erudites think that they can produce an aphrodisiac by skinning a frog alive, mixing it with a bit of honey and some roots, and whizzing it up in a blender. Of course nothing gets me in the mood like watching a frog being skinned alive and blended. In fact I can think of no bigger turn off… apart from Gordon Ramsay… who looks like a nutsack.

Published in: on October 19, 2010 at 11:00 am  Comments (1)  

Tongue Eating Louse

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The tongue-eating louse is the only example of a parasite that lives by crawling into another animal and after dispatching with a body part lives as a rather awkward replacement. It does so with relatively little harm to the poor bloody fish, though it is said the poor bloody fish rarely gets a smooch these days.

tongue-eating-louse

say aaaaah

He’s an unwanted guest, like some insufferable bugger from college who comes around and stays far too bloody long, at least he would be if said guest came in ate your chaise longue and quickly proceeded to decimate your wine cellar and didn’t leave until the day they died. The tongue-eating louse is quite possibly the most repugnant thing on the planet, worse than the Major’s wife and even a sniper wouldn’t take her out.

cymothoa

just a quick kiss... no no don't mind him

This louse is quite simply a monster, albeit a little one. The crustacean crawls into the gills of a fish, scrambles up to the mouth and stabs its claws either side of the fishes tongue. Despite its name it doesn’t actually eat the tongue, the organ atrophies as the parasite slurps the blood taking with it all the oxygen and nutrients and what not. There the louse sits for the rest of its life, why the blazes they never evolved to eat the tasty morsels the poor bloody fish is eating is anyone’s guess. One also wonders how they find this living-in-a-fishy mouth lifestyle satisfying.

tongueeater

... well on tuesdays i do Spanish classes... and on Thursdays I do salsa

So do we at The Proceedings wish we’d never mentioned the horrible buggers? Quite the opposite we think they are really rather grand! An incredible example of a pinnacle of evolution…. you see parasites rather obviously live off another animal to the hosts detriment. It’s a rather lazy, but devilishly clever survival technique that has arisen again and again independently throughout the course of evolution. It’s safe to say almost every single animal of any size has at least one. The really really clever, or more to the point the really well-evolved parasites, tap the hosts resources all the while leaving the host to live quite normally and hence as long as possible…. so that the parasite can tap more and more resources, and make more and more horrible little offspring. And we at The Proceedings can think of no other parasite that does it quite so well.

Indeed the closest we could think of is our own offspring, living off the nutrients of the blood of its mother, before popping out being a bit of a pain until you can eventually pack them off to a cripplingly expensive boarding school at the age of four. Which is at least some good news for the parents as they get back to smooching, a smooch that contains millions of micro-organisms, some of which are parasites.

Published in: on October 18, 2010 at 1:21 pm  Comments (3)  

Goliath Tigerfish

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Don’t worry it’ll only attack you if you’re wet… meet the goliath tigerfish of the river Congo.

... and this is the eating end

... and this is the eating end

He’s a smasher isn’t he! One learned friend of The Proceedings described him as ‘…the fiercest fish that swims. Let others hold forth as advocates for the mako shark, the barracudas or the blue fish of the Atlantic. To them I say ‘Pish and Tush’’. Strong words I know, and I can only apologize that such offensive language has been used in front of lady folk, however I felt it prudent to establish just what a vicious brute he is.

A huge bollard of darting fishy muscle, the goliath tigerfish is quite simply an eating machine. Those teeth are set into a hard bony jaw so that when it snaps its unbelievable gob shut they interlock like a set of shears. If you happen to have rolled up your trousers for a paddle in the Congo it would be clever thinking to keep the noise down, as the goliath tigerfish’s sense of hearing is absolutely tip-top, a small bone connects its ear to its swim bladder which acts like an amplifier. The other rather brilliant news about this highly-astute uber-strong swimming set of gnashers is that they shoal… in huge numbers. Attacks on humans have been reported but not verified.

goliath tigerfish: not very cuddly

Though there has to be a bit more than ‘bitiness’ to get you into The Proceedings of the Ever So Strange. You see all around the world wildly different creatures look a bit similar. One reason for this is that there are only so many things in the world that make a sufficient supper. What’s more evolution only has what it’s given to work with… much like the Royal families’ portrait artist. The foot of an elephant contain the same bones as the foot of a mouse. The neck of a giraffe has exactly the same amount of vertebrae as that of Winston Churchill. Combine this fact with there are only so many meal tickets in the wild, you get animals that aren’t closely related who look remarkably similar… like the anteaters, the aardvarks and the pangolins for example. Evolution has come up with the same answer to the same question, just in a different place. Convergent evolution as learned types call it. Why all these musings I hear you cry, well put simply the goliath tigerfish is Africa’s version of the river Amazon’s renowned piranha… and indeed it is incredibly similar… just much much bigger.

Published in: on October 15, 2010 at 12:20 pm  Comments (4)  

Ocean Sunfish

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The largest bony fish in the world is the incredible ocean sunfish Mola mola, a bizarre circular fish that can reach more than 4M across, weighing up to 2,300 kg… about the same weight as an Asian bull elephant… which is a lot… but don’t tell him I told you so as that would be terrible manners.

snfish

This enormous bony fish gets its name from its behaviour of thermal recharging, basking his big flat body to catch the warmth of the sun’s rays, after deep dives into the depths of the chilly ocean. Lying flat like a mirror image of the sun. In fact it has a number of apt monickers, in many countries it is known as the moonfish, in Germany it’s “the swimming head”, in Poland the “head alone” and in China it’s the “toppled car” which makes absolutely no bloody sense whatsoever.

Mola_mola

Talking of talking sense, I’m a simple man who likes to keep things elementary; I call my dog “doggy”, Lady Gwendolene “darling” and a Frenchman a “stinking coward”. So I thought it pertinent to bring it to your attention that the very word ‘fish’ is probably misleading. There are 9 different classes of vertebrates; mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians are a familiar and really rather nicely defined four, incredibly the other five are all different classes of fish. The Agnatha; weird eel-like fish like the hagfish and lamprey. The Acanthodii and Placodermi, who didn’t do frightfully well and went extinct. Then there are the Chondricythes, with their cartilaginous skeletons, like the sharks and rays. Finally there are the more ‘fishy’ fish, the Osteicythes, the bony fish like the tuna, the cod and our smashing ocean sunfish.

sunfish

Thankfully the ocean sunfish doesn’t care what you call him as he’s bally stupid, the most stupid animal in the sea, after a Giraffe of course. His brain is quite literally the size of a peanut, weighing in at 4g. He doesn’t really need it of course, nature is like that… terribly efficient, he happily bimbles around the ocean, eating jellyfish and well having a bit of lie down, eating another blobby thing… and that’s it really. He eats the easiest of prey; starfish, sponges what not… anything that can’t get away from the slow moving oaf to be perfectly honest… it’s fair to say that the ocean sunfishes prey have about as much chance as a biscuit in a fat man’s bed. So how did he get so big? Well quite simply by eating lots and lots. All the really big animals around the planet have access to tonnes and tonnes of food. The elephant chows down on the grasses and brows of Africa and Asia. The blue whale, who incidentally has a tongue the same length as an elephant, slurps up tonnes and tonnes of krill. The ocean sunfish, the largest bony fish in the world, eats jellyfish and sponges… lots and lots of them.

Published in: on October 14, 2010 at 2:20 pm  Comments (4)  

Book of Faces

You like faces, right? Books too?

...rather!

You’re going to love our new Book of Faces!

Published in: on October 2, 2010 at 11:04 am  Leave a Comment  

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.

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

Amazonian Giant Centipede

If a snake had the propensity to beef himself up a tad, we would wager he’d get some legs to move faster, slip into some battle armour to become impervious to blows, and hell even stick a couple of poisonous sword-like pincers at the front. No doubt it would be the most terrifying snake in town, and would adopt the name “snakenator” or “snakeasaurus.” Unfortunately for the snake however someone got their first. Meet the Amazonian giant centipede. As long as a man’s forearm, strong as a snake, fast, armored, venomous, and what’s more doesn’t call himself silly names.

... but you can call me Stevesy...

Mammals love to eat arthropods. Bats can eat 100 mosquitoes in an hour, anteaters can slurp their way through 30,000 ants in a day, king of the crunchy-munchers aardwolves can have 200,000 termites licked in the same time. Even humans are pretty partial to them, with cultures around the world tucking into insects and other arthropods; whether by choice like on the continent, or by proxy, like you or I. Indeed It is estimated that in Blighty we get through about a kilo of state-allowed bugs a year, from the maximum allowable 340 bits of critters in a mug of hot chocolate, to the 12 allowable aphids in the hops in your pint of beer.

Not so the other way around, unless we’ve passed on and spent some time deep down in the ground, as we are generally just too bloody big for them you see. Sure we get nipped hither and thither, but in general our buggy chums generally lack the ambition to really tuck in to a mammal. All, that is, apart from the biggest. Step forward the Amazonian giant centipede, a lightning fast, toothy, armoured lump of annoyed. To be clear there are also rumors of the Galapagos centipede reaching 60cm (2ft) long, but that has never been confirmed… probably because it would only get the Amazonian giant centipede riled.

... a little on the rare side and perhaps a tad flappy, but otherwise satisfactory....

What you really have to admire in this sod is its ambition. Not content with nibbling away on vegetation or other small animals like most of the arthropod world … no, no, no … this devil wants to eat the big tasty stuff. He’s never happier than when he’s chowing down a mouse, and will happily take down a tarantula for even daring to pretend to be big and tough. Even more impressive is the way he catches bats for supper. One of his devilish ploys to get a bit of red meat is to climb to the top of a bat-infested cave and scramble up to the ceiling where he dangles his gnashers down into the bituminous abyss. Soon enough an unlucky bat will stray too close, and when it does it is grabbed and injected with enough venom to kill it in an instant. In no time the centipede will have gobbled the bat, down to the last mammalian morsel.

Published in: on September 9, 2010 at 8:53 am  Comments (2)  

Vampire Bat

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At first glance, many take a dislike to the vampire bat; flapping around, giving everyone the heeby jeebies, and getting a load of free drinks. But give him a chance dear reader; this flappy chappy actually always gets his round of drinks in …

anyone fancy a drinkypoos?

The vampire bat is of course impeccably adapted to drinking blood. He will fly in absolute darkness to slurp on mammals, while its two closest relatives prefer birds. He first detects its prey through the snuffling and snoring that we animals do when we sleep, and indeed the bit of its brain that deals with this information is rather pronounced—much like the bit in the Pilkington-Smythe’s bonce that locates booze.

To get to all that lovely red stuff unsurprisingly the vampire bats have big fangy teeth at the front, though it is not for the reason you would presume. First, if their prey is particularly hirsute, they use their teeth as a razor and shave the area they want to eat. Secondly they nick open the wound and lap at it with their tongue. A substance in their saliva called draculin stops the blood clotting and, like a quiet night in a Scottish pub, they proceed to drink up to half their body weight in blood. Of course, this is where going to the toilet rather sharply comes in handy, especially for a super-light flying mammal, a liquid lunch being frightfully heavy-going you see. It quickly gets the wet bit of the blood and bundles it out of the back door via the kidneys. In fact, a common vampire bat’s digestive system works so quickly it will begin wazzing within two minutes of starting to feed.

Most creatures don’t like being shaven in the night, especially if it leads to having your blood drunk and being wazzed all over. So it won’t be a surprise to discover that sometimes vampire bats don’t get a delicious bloody meal. Quite often, a vampire bat will go home empty-bellied. Not a problem though, as when they arrive back at the big spooky castle they live in … what … don’t they? How disappointing! Once they arrive back in the very dark tree stump they call home, the ones who haven’t got a meal will go and ask for one from the neighbor … yes, like borrowing a cup of sugar … as they may well die without getting a feed. All very well, if indeed your idea of vampires vomiting blood into each other’s mouths is all very well… as it would seem that these bats are rather kind, friendly, and neighborly after all. Some learned types decided to do an experiment to see if bats would always share their spoils, and it turns out that there is a catch. They will stop sharing with a bat if that bat stops sharing the blood they collect. So vampire bats will only shout you a drink if you shout them one back. The moral of the story: don’t be nice to anyone. Gad’s, that can’t be right—be nice to vampires … nope … always urinate when drinking half your body weight … closer … dammit, just be nice.

Published in: on July 29, 2010 at 1:42 pm  Comments (7)  

Blue Tailed Damselfly

The damselflies and the dragonflies are known as the odonata; the toothed jaws. Toothed in jaw they are for very good reason, for these are the birds of prey of the insect world… though in the case of the blue tailed damselfly the birds are too often preyed upon… making the chaps more like damsels.

'cooeee, anyone homo?'

Of course the Odonata could be considered birds of prey if raptors were a bit scarier, about one hundred times the size of their snacks, plucking tiny birds out of the sky, like iridescent and clanking clockwork toothy biplanes.

Which is all very well and good but why put these insect-botherers in The Proceedings? Well we are going to tell you… that is what we are here for… remember? It seems that the male blue-tailed damselfly exhibit some rather unusual behaviour if left to their own devices. If all fillies are removed from the chaps abode instead of retiring to the drawing room to talk cricket and affairs of state… they will start trying to court each other. Remarkably they will do little dances for the other chaps in a bid to see if they can find a potential suitor… though the rather short sighted researchers did not think to bob in miniature bits of furniture and haberdashery to see if they would start making the place look nice… nor did they investigate their hairdressing abilities.

'Quentin and Roger found the evening a rather gay affair'

Of course there is a sound biological reason for this same-sex behaviour, and it would be ridiculous to compare this ‘situational homosexuality’ in humans to said homo-erotic damselfly dances.

Thankfully we are rather ridiculous down here at the Proceedings and we try and act silly at the first available opportunity. What is more it doesn’t take a massive leap of imagination to realize that situational homosexuality is rather rife in institutions such as prison, boarding school, the navy, the continent etc.

'what, even in Her Majesty's Navy! Those seaman should be discharged!'

Even the toughest of tough guys have been taken in by this situational homosexuality. Don’t believe me?… well take the example of Colditz Castle in World War II. The infamous castle set atop a cliff in Saxony was perhaps the most famous prisoner of war camp that the Nazis put together… here the most remarkable Allied heroes were sent to prevent them from escaping; fighter pilot ace Sir Douglas Bader, founder of the SAS Sir David Stirling, Captain Charles Upham the only person to receive the Victoria Cross twice. The list could go on. The tales of derring-do and escape from Colditz are of course renowned though there is a short tale that is less oft told. To pass the time of day the inmates would stage plays and of course that required a dame. A young soldier who with respect will go unnamed was perfect for the role, a rather feminine young chap with a beautiful singing voice. More and more the beautiful young officer would sing, and slowly many of the inmates developed a crush on him. Soon they were showering him with gifts and people would hold open doors in corridors for him and doff their cap in a most gentlemanly fashion.

Back to the delightful blue tailed damselfly, and yes there is a genuine biological reason this same sex behaviour can be brought about by simple experimentation. The female damselflies come in a variety of colours and these fillies only need to mate once in their life. They are rather frigid as fillies go and will go to great lengths to avoid having to spend time humping, they only need to find one mate for their life, and they much prefer chomping on insects and what not… so to avoid too much unwanted attention, some of the fillies simply look a bit more like the male variants

So there we have it a male damselfly that can be made to act like a dame because the dame can act like a chap! Huzzah!

Published in: on June 16, 2010 at 11:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Pen-tailed tree shrew

Dear Buddha… I’m writing to you today to ask a favour… as you know… are you all knowing? As you might know I’m not a man for organized religion… but I can’t believe that if you supernatural types are keeping an eye on us that you wouldn’t awfully mind if we just got on with things and were just… well, nice to each other. Surely the possibility of an all powerful God who leaves his subjects to have a torrid time is about as possible as some sort of magical device you can carry around in your pocket that receives telegrams, can play gramophone records and be used like some sort of receptacle to speak to acquaintances to arrange soirees. I digress chubby chops… you see I was wondering if you aren’t too busy by the time I kick the bucket that you could possibly see to it that I could be reincarnated as a sort of animal… a pen-tailed tree shrew to be exact.

Yours reverentially,

Sir Pilkington-Smythe
X

The pen-tailed tree shrew is the biggest non-Scotch drinker on the planet. Of course the biggest boozer on the planet is the McPen-tailed tree shrew but that is another story. Incredible wee drunkard this fellow is too. He is about the size of a small rat and remarkably manages to hoof down the equivalent of twelve glasses of wine every single night. In fact that is all he ever ‘eats’, still he doesn’t seem to be too badly effected by going at it every night.

... I wouldn't stand there old boy I'm feeling rather queasy...

Upon ruminating on the concept one is sure you will be as aghast as one’s self in working out that it really can’t be that good an idea if you’re a teeny tiny tasty bite-sized beastie to get absolutely hammered every eve. Predators would have the time of their lives… who wouldn’t on the concept of self-marinating meals. Indeed one of the very few studies in alcohol intake in animals looked at boozing in fruit bats and whether they liked to eat fermenting fruit… they don’t… and although one finds it very hard to comprehend, they’re not silly buggers “a drunk bat is a dead bat” as one of the researchers pointed out.

The pen-tailed tree shrew on the other hand frequents a rather affable tree, the Bertram palm, whose buds harbour a type of yeast. In the bud the nectar and yeast ferments producing an alcoholic beverage. It is not just the pen-tailed tree shrew that has discovered this rainforest pub, in fact seven species of beastie make regular trips to the plant. It is just our little shrew friend who is always there, the animal equivalent of the Pilkington-Smythes and the local pub.

... you would not believe where I woke up this morning...

The tree isn’t daft of course, it doesn’t attract a gaggle of boozy animals to carouse around it and keep it awake all night for nothing, as these little lushes act as pollinators. The bertram palm and the pen-tailed tree shrew have been living this happy relationship for nigh on 55 million years… yes quite… the longest bender in history.

Of course man has long been boozing too, some of the earliest writings refer to the production and distribution of beer, such as the “Hymn to Ninkasi” a prayer to the goddess of beer… hmm might need a quick rethink on this organised religion thing… there is even evidence of the preparation of a brew from the Stone age, in the past it was a handy way to get some liquid and not drinking a load of horrible beasties, indeed most people would drink it all day. I even have it on good authority that Queen Victoria was partial to a pint or two of a morning.

One final note; the pen-tailed tree shrew is remarkably similar to the first primate… our earliest ancestor… so it may just well be that we are all in some way reincarnated from a rather smashing little boozer.

Cheers!

Published in: on March 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm  Comments (11)  
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