Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Strange and exotic endangered species

The bladder-chewing guppy not enough for you? Can’t stop thinking about exploding ants, boyfriend-devouring she-monsters of the sea and blood-spurting lizards? Don’t worry – terrifying oneself is a common ailment of the intertubes. Unfortunately, there is no cure…but there is more to learn! Reader, prepare thyself. Your eyeballs are about to be flooded with some of the strangest, creepiest, crawliest endangered creatures on the planet. Warning: content best consumed as far away from bedtime as possible.

Endangered species7 Strange and exotic endangered species
Glass Frog
The glass frog is endangered, as well. And absolutely stunning, so it would be a shame if we let it die out. Note the visible organs in this beautiful specimen. Unfortunately, with tropical rain forests in Central and South America threatened (in some places, the problem is actually worse than it was in previous decades), the glass frog may go extinct.

Endangered species1 Strange and exotic endangered species
Chinese Giant Salamander
Something tells us these giant salamanders were never called for in any witch’s recipe. Seriously, look at that thing! That lives under some people’s porches! The United States is also home to a giant salamander called the Hellbender, and it’s…well, the name fits. However, it is not as endangered as the shockingly strange-looking Chinese cousin. The Chinese giant salamander can grow to be nearly six feet long.

Endangered species2 Strange and exotic endangered species
Crinoid Snapping Shrimp
The tiny Crinoid snapping shrimp is the tiniest of all the snapping shrimp, and the only one that is endangered. The snapping shrimp is often called the pistol shrimp because it comes with its very own “gun” by which it makes a loud cracking, shooting noise. It really only shoots air, but the stun gun is enough to knock out prey foolish enough to swim past.

Endangered species3 Strange and exotic endangered species
Frigate Island Beetle
Put anything in a place where it’s hot and wet 99% of the time, and it will grow. Whether it’s a fern, a vine or a dear-Jesus-that’s-horrifying beetle, things just come bigger in the tropics. The seriously endangered and geographically unique Frigate Island Beetle is no exception. It’s the largest of the tenebrionid beetles and the most at risk. If you ever leave the internet long enough to visit Frigate Island and you pick up a beetle and it stains your hands and clothes with a “musky” scented purple ink, put that little guy somewhere safe! You’ve just happened upon a Frigate Island beetle.

Endangered species4 Strange and exotic endangered species
Giant Coconut Crab
This is not shopped. This is not a hoax. That is a giant crab on a garbage can. They’re native to Guam and other Pacific islands. Coconut crabs aren’t endangered, per se, but due to tropical habitat destruction they are at risk. In WWII, American soldiers stationed in the Pacific theater wrote home with tales about entire atolls being covered in the armor-plated giants. These crabs can crack a coconut in one swipe; but they’re generally too slow to be very dangerous to humans. Children pass lazy afternoons by picking the crabs off tree trunks and watching them crash to the ground; it’s reportedly great fun. And kind of messed up.

Endangered species5 Strange and exotic endangered species
Giant Palouse Earthworm
At lengths of up to one foot, the Giant Palouse is the largest earthworm on earth. It’s quite harmless, but unfortunately it’s endangered all the same. It lives in Eastern Washington State and Idaho and was thought to be extinct until 2005, when a student discovered a living specimen. Previous sightings hadn’t happened since the 1980s. Part of the reason it’s so hard to find the Giant Palouse? They burrow 15 feet into the ground.

Endangered species8 Strange and exotic endangered species
Goliath Bird Eating Spider
Only the biggest spider on earth, this plate-sized bird-gnawing beast actually prefers to feast on smaller fare, like bats, bugs, and annoying children. In other words, the bird-eating spider rarely eats birds. Sure. Anyway, like its tarantula cousin (the whistling spider) the Goliath or bird-eating spider is at risk due to its Amazonian habitat destruction. Though tarantulas are scary, they’re fairly harmless to humans.

Endangered species9 Strange and exotic endangered species
Hairy Nosed Wombat
Though it looks similar to the standard wombat, the hairy nosed wombat possesses some unique features. Among the rarest mammals in the world, it has a backwards-opening pouch and is the largest burrowing herbivorous mammal known to humans. The other oddity of the hairy nosed wombat is that its teeth continue to grow throughout its life – now that’s long in the tooth!

Endangered species10 Strange and exotic endangered species
Honduran Ghost Bat
The Honduran ghost bat is not officially endangered, but many American ecologists consider it to be threatened due to rain forest habitat destruction and climate change. It is unique, both for its tiny size (just a few centimeters) and its pale coloring.

Endangered species11 Strange and exotic endangered species
A rare New Zealand bird, not much is known about the enigmatic Kagu. It is flightless, though its wings are large; it is a forest-dweller, though its markings are oddly light in color. Very few remain and scientists know little about its preferences and habits. We do know that it possesses “nasal corns” unlike any other bird. For reasons unknown, the kagu also has one-third the red blood count of other birds. Scientists have had a difficult time classifying this rare and unusual bird.

Endangered species12 Strange and exotic endangered species
Komodo Dragon
Threatened by both volcanoes and humans, this fascinating prehistoric relic is endangered. At 10 feet and 330 pounds, it is the largest lizard in existence. They have poor hearing and cannot run very fast for very long, instead relying on their sharp eyesight and powers of stealth to hunt. It possesses serrated teeth and has nasty attack habits, preferring to jab at the feet or drag its prey along for a bit before finishing off the deed. If an animal is lucky enough to get away, it will soon die from massive infection thanks to the komodo’s specialized bacteria. Komodos will eat nearly anything, living or dead, including their own young. Unlike the great cats, they will also eat nearly all of their kill, even the intestines, although they do swing those around to expel the feces first as they really don’t like excrement. For this reason, baby komodos roll themselves in feces to avoid being eaten.

Endangered species13 Strange and exotic endangered species
Mallorcan Midwife Toad
The Mallorcan Midwife toad…is a dude. In a gender-bender twist that seems to occur a lot in the frog world, this toad swaps child-bearing and child-rearing duties. The father serves as a surrogate for the tots until they hatch, and even cares for them after. Mom, meanwhile, hunts and generally stays out partying every night. Females will even compete with each other for mating rights, much like males of other animal species.

Endangered species14 Strange and exotic endangered species
Mexican Walking Fish
The Mexican walking fish is on the verge of extinction. It’s a caecilian (more about that in a bit), and it lives in – where else? – the waters off Mexico. It’s also important because it will be the only cute animal in this entire post. Awww. It really is cute, isn’t it? It’s always nice to start things off gently. Digital foreplay, if you will.

Endangered species15 Strange and exotic endangered species
Quacking Frog
The quacking frog makes a sound that is just like a small duck. Go on, listen! Unfortunately, like many frogs, the quacking frog is endangered. Scientist are particularly concerned when frogs disappear or show signs of stress, because frogs are considered indicator species.

Endangered species16 Strange and exotic endangered species
Lord Howe Island Stick Insect
Delightfully crisp! Kidding, kidding. There are hundreds of stick insects, but the Lord Howe Island stick insect is by far the most critically endangered of all of them. It can grow to five inches in length; but don’t worry, it’s not poisonous. Just crunchy.

Endangered species17 Strange and exotic endangered species
Think of this cheery critter as you would a common mouse: not terribly enjoyable to have underfoot, but vital to the ecosystem all the same. The weta is native to New Zealand and while it’s something of an icon thanks to Peter Jackson, non-native species, pest eradication and general ugliness (which really can’t be helped now, can it?) have all contributed to the sad plight of the weta. There are actually over 70 species of weta, with 16 being endangered or at risk. The giant weta was thought to be extinct, but a new population was recently found. They aren’t the cutest bugs around, but they are harmless and besides, they put up with your mug, don’t they?

Endangered species18 Strange and exotic endangered species
Whistling Spider
Here, human human human human. Good human! The whistling spider is able to emit a distinctive whistle by rubbing its legs together. What, you thought spiders had lips? How else would they whistle! It’s a vital part of its native ecosystem and while it is not critically endangered, habitat destruction puts this important species at risk.

No comments: