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Russian Far East Region Experiences Particularly Bad “Mosquito Tornadoes”

Villages on the east coast of the Kamchatka peninsula, in the Russian Far-East are experiencing scenes that seem taken out of an Alfred Hitchkok movie. Only instead of birds invading their community, it’s billions of mosquitoes swirling into visible “tornadoes”.

Villages like Ust-Kamchatsk are used to being invaded by large number of mosquitoes every summer, it’s normal for this insects to swarm near bodies of water, but this year it’s much worse than usual. Because of an unusually hot summer, the number of mosquitoes is much larger, making them an even bigger nuisance than they usually are. Window and door nets do little to keep the pesky buzzers out of people’s homes, as they seem to get in through the smallest of cracks, and going outside means dealing with large swarms of mosquitoes that seem to reach the sky when seen from afar.

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Parasitic Wasp Turns Its Helpless Host Into a Bodyguard for Its Eggs

Thyrinteina leucocerae, the caterpillar of the geometer moth, is targeted as a host for a species of parasitoid wasp that can lay up to 80 eggs inside its body. The caterpillar’s reward is a job as bodyguard for the very parasites growing inside it and a slow, agonizing death.

The Glyptapanteles wasp is one of nature’s most fascinating and, at the same time, terrifying body-snatchers. Not only does its lay dozens of eggs into caterpillar hosts, but scientists claim that the insect can somehow change the behavior of the host, turning into a mindless bodyguard whose only mission is to protect the wasp’s eggs against predators. Once the wasp grubs hatch out of its body and begin to spin their pupae, the caterpillar stops moving, stops eating, gets on its hind legs and goes into statue mode. But at the slightest threat for the wasp “babies”, it starts swinging its head violently to drive predators away.

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The Heartbreaking Story of the World’s Loneliest Plant

The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, in the UK, are home to thousands of fascinating plants, but none as lonely as the Encephalartos woodii, an ancient cycad species and, most likely, the last one of its kind.

It was in 1895 that botanist John Medley Wood noticed this interesting-looking palm tree on a steep slope in Zululand, southern Africa. Intrigued by its multiple trunks and arched palm fronds, Dr. Wood — who made his living collecting rare plants – had some stems removed and sent to London in a box.It ended up in the Palm House at the Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew, where it has been waiting for a mate for over a century. Despite numerous efforts to find it a mate, the Encephalartos woodii at Kew remains alone, unable to produce an offspring and propagate its species. For this reason, many consider it the world’s loneliest plant.

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Misleading Photo of Creepy “Zombie” Toes Throws Twitter Into Overdrive

A photo of what looks like a creepy zombie foot peeking from under a log has been doing the rounds on Twitter this week, confusing a lot of people and blowing the minds of others.

Believe it or not, this picture shared online by Indian Forest Service officer Susanta Nanda isn’t taken out of a horror movie, nor is it showing the toes of an actual zombie or a real-life White Walker. Nanda actually challenged his followers to identify the animal, which was just as misleading as the photos, because what you’re looking at isn’t an animal but a fungus aptly named “Dad Man’s Fingers”.

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Experts Baffled by Lake That Changed Color From Green to Pink Literally Overnight

Lonar Lake, also known as Lonar crater, which formed after a meteor hit the Earth some 50,000 years ago, baffled experts in India after changing hues literally overnight.

Located around 500 km from Mumbai, in India’s Maharashtra state,  the Lonar lake has long fascinated scientists with its seasonal change in color. This natural phenomenon has been attributed to the salinity of the water and the presence of algae, but the change has never been as sudden or as glaring as this year. Plus, while the water of Lonar lake usually turned a reddish hue, this year it turned pink, baffling scientists and locals alike.

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These ‘Ice Cream’ Tulips Look Good Enough to Eat

I don’t normally think of food when looking at flowers, but these lovely ‘Ice Cream Tulips’ really get me thinking about a nice cold treat to cool me off on a hot summer day.

If you’re a flower enthusiast, you probably already know about the ice cream tulip variety, but for most people they are still somewhat of a novelty, especially just before their petals open, when they truly look like an ice-cream cone good enough to eat, or even as a whipped cream-topped treat. They are a relatively new tulip variety, and even though bulbs seem to be widely available for purchase online, they are rather expensive, so you probably won’t see them sold at most flower markets too often. Still, if you’re trying to make your garden stand out, or just make your neighbors constantly crave ice cream, they are worth the investment.

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Born to Fly – The Bird That Spends Up to 10 Months Without Landing

Scientists have long suspected that some species of birds can eat drink, mate and even sleep while flying, but even they were stunned when data showed that one such species could go up to 10 months without landing.

As its name suggests, the commons swift (Apus apus) is a common bird that lives all across Europe and much of Asia, but their flight time is anything but common. This medium-sized bird currently holds the record for the most time spent in the air per year, with data showing that some specimens can spend up to 10 months out of 12 without landing even once. They drink and eat in the air, feasting on any insects that they can capture in flight, they can mate in the air as well, and, like the much larger frigate birds, they can also sleep in the air by gliding on warm air currents known as “thermals”.

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This Lizard Shoots Blood Out of Its Eyes to Keep Predators at Bay

We’ve featured some interesting animal defense mechanisms in the past, from moths that camouflage as two flies feasting on bird poop, to caterpillars that mimic snakes, but this horned lizard’s secret weapon is on another level of weirdness.

The regal horned lizard is a small reptile native to Mexico and the southwestern United States. Their main habitat is  the Sonoran Desert Mountains, where they spend most of their time eating harvester ants and other small insects. They can eat up to twenty five hundred ants in one meal, but if you think that’s impressive, you’ll love its most unusual self-defense mechanism – squirting blood out of its eyes.

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The Tailor Bird Uses Its Beak as a Needle to Literally Stitch Up Its Nest

As children, we learn that birds build their nests out of twigs and dry grass, but the truth is that bird nest architecture varies greatly, as demonstrated by the tiny Tailor Bird, which uses as its beak as a needle to stitch a protective nest out of leaves.

Orthotomus sutorius, or the Common Tailor Bird, is a small, warbler-like songbird that lives in tropical Asia, but it’s not its singing that’s intriguing, it’s the bird’s nest building skills. It stitches one or two solid tree leaves together to create a cup that provides both a comfortable shelter and camouflage from predators. And when I say stitches, that is exactly what I mean. The female tailor bird uses its sharp beak as a needle to first pierce the leaves, then takes cobwebs or plant fibers and guides it through the holes as thread, until the pouch is nice and secure. It’s unclear how the tailor birds picked up this talent for sewing but it’s clear that it is passed on genetically.

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Australian Town Struggles to Cope with Bat Invasion of Biblical Proportions

The town of Ingham, in Northern Queesnland, has reached “crisis point” after hundreds of thousands of fruit bats invaded the place last month. Things have gotten so bad that kids are afraid to go to school anymore, and rescue helicopters can’t land at the local hospital.

Flying foxes, also known as fruit bats currently outnumber humans in Ingham by hundreds of thousands. And they’re not the only bat species that decided to make the Australian town their home over the last month. According to local sources, people here have been invaded by four different species of bats, each of which mates at different times, making it really hard for authorities to intervene. To make matters worse, the bats are protected by law, so locals can’t take matters into their own hands either.

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Sailing through Rock – Sailors Encounter Pumice Island the Size of Manhattan

An Australian couple sailing their catamaran towards Fiji, in the Pacific Ocean, encountered a 150-square-kilometer pumice raft drifting towards Australia.

Believed to have been produced by an underwater volcanic eruption near the island of Tonga, the pumice raft is over 20,000 football fields in size and several inches thick. Its existence was first reported on August 16, by a couple who encountered it while sailing towards Fiji. The vast expanse of floating volcanic rock slowed their catamaran to a speed of one knot and completely covered the ocean surface as far as the eye could see.

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The Immortal Jellyfish – The Only Creature Known to Be Able to Live Forever

Turritopsis dohrnii, a small species of jellyfish native to the Mediterranean, is commonly known as the “immortal jellyfish, and it literally lives up to its name. Possessing the ability to revert to its a sexually immature stage instead of succumbing to an inevitable death, this tiny creature holds the secret to true biological immortality.

Humans have fantasized about immortality since the beginning of time. We have countless myths and stories about it, but until the mid-1990s we had yet to find any proof that eternal life on this earth was possible. In 1996, researchers published a study about a small species of jellyfish capable of reverting from an adult, solitary individual to its juvenile colonial state, thus cheating death and achieving potential immortality. Just as long as it wasn’t consumed by predators and it could be sustained by its environment, the jellyfish could repeat this cycle indefinitely and live forever. To this day, the immortal jellyfish remains the only known immortal animal.

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The Himalayan Balsam – An Invasive Flower That Spreads by Explosion

Impatiens glandulifera, commonly known as the Himalayan Balsam, is an invasive plant with a very peculiar colonizing system – its seed pods literally explode when touched or otherwise disturbed, shooting the seeds up to 7 meters in every direction.

A native of India and Pakistan, the Himalayan Balsam has managed to invade 23 European countries, as well as the United States, Canada and even New Zealand. Its exploding seed pods allow the plant to rapidly spread into nearly impregnable thickets that reach over 3-meters-tall, smothering all other plant life to death. However, humans have played a pretty big part in its successful colonization of the world. You see, this isn’t just another invasive weed, it’s a very attractive one. The Balsam has these beautiful purple flowers that people love so much that they historically spread seeds in the wild just so they could see them on the sides of roads. Today, many communities around the world are struggling to keep the plant in check, organizing seasonal “bashing” sessions to clear large swathes of land. and protect other plant life.

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This Plant Has Flowers Shaped Like Hummingbirds

Crotalaria cunninghamii, a legume native to northern Australia, is known as the “green bird flower” for a very good reason – its green flowers look like tiny hummingbirds with their sharp beak attached to the plant’s stem.

A photo of two Crotalaria cunninghamii flowers recently went viral on Reddit, leaving many users scratching their heads and asking whether their uncanny resemblance to hummingbirds was an adaptive evolutionary development or a simple illusion. Apparently, the latter would be the most likely answer. There are no hummingbirds in northern Australia, and apart from humans, it is unlikely that any creature would mistake these flowers for real hummingbirds, so the shape does not result in any kind of benefit to the plant. Plus, the flowers only resemble hummingbirds when viewed from a certain side-angle. It’s purely a case of simulacrum, seeing shapes and forms that look like something that they’re clearly not. It’s still pretty cool, though.

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Living Jewelry – The Shiny Cocoons of This Exotic Butterfly Look Like Gold Jewels

Butterfly pupae are easy targets for predators in search of an easy protein-rich meal, and one would think that the flashier the cocoon, the higher the chances of being spotted and eaten , but the Mechanitis polymnia, aka the orange-spotted tiger clearwing and its shiny, gold-like pods are proof that the opposite is true.

The orange-spotted tiger clearwing butterfly lives in the jungles of Central and South America, from Mexico all the way to the Amazon rain-forests. It’s a colorful little thing, with a wingspan of 65 to 75 millimeters, but it’s not exactly the most eye-catching of butterflies. Its pupae however are pure gold, literally. Well, not really literally, but they look just like elaborate gold jewelry hanging on the back of plant leaves, and even on the walls of houses in rural areas. But unlike actual gold jewels, these shiny, metallic-looking chrysalises are not meant to draw attention, but distract predators and even discourage them from getting to close. It’s a natural defense mechanism, and a very effective one at that.

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