X

The Double Tree of Casorzo – A Tree Growing on Top of Another Tree

Located between the towns of Grana and Casorzo in Piemonte, Italy, is a very unique tree – well, they’re actually two trees, one growing on top of the other. Locally known as ‘Bialbero de Casorzo’ or the ‘double tree of Casorzo’, this natural oddity consists of a cherry tree growing on top of a mulberry tree.

No one really knows how the cherry tree managed to take root and survive in such a bizarre position. Locals believe that a bird might have dropped a cherry seed on top of the mulberry tree, which then grew its roots through the hollow trunk to reach the soil below.

bialbero-de-casorzo

Read More »

Artist Specializes in Sculpting Nature with a Chainsaw

Mark Tyoe is a talented chainsaw artist and the co-owner of Wintergreen Knoll Chainsaw sculptures in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York. He runs the business along with his wife Linda; together, they sell Mark’s unique chainsaw carvings that he’s been making since the 1990’s. Mark is really good at transforming a solid block of wood into a beautiful sculpture, using nothing but a chainsaw.

“Everything I do on my carvings is with a chainsaw,” he said. “I’m kind of a purist about using one tool.” A chainsaw is hardly the ideal tool for artists, so it’s really a wonder that Mark manages to use one to create such delicate details. He doesn’t grind or sand, and he doesn’t use screws, nails or paint.

Mark-Tyoe-sculpting

Read More »

Tiny Fish Can Pick Up 300 Times Its Own Body Weight

The northern clingfish is a species of salt-water fish that truly lives up to its name. The remarkably strong fish has such high suction powers that it can pick up and hold on to stuff that’s almost 300 times its own body weight. It can easily outperform all sorts of man-made suction cups. Scientists are now actively studying the fish so they can mimic its design and create a new class of suction devices.

There are currently around 160 known varieties of clingfish in the world, each with its own unique characteristics. There’s a tiny one that sticks itself to the individual spines of sea urchins, a deep-sea variety with not much of a sucker, and a giant one that’s about the size of your forearm. One of the most well-known varieties is the northern clingfish, thanks to studies conducted by biologist and researcher Adam Summers, from the University of Washington.

Native to the Pacific Coast of North America, the northern clingfish lives in rocky intertidal environments, where strong waves and currents can toss them out at any moment. In order to survive in its natural habitat, the clingfish has evolved an adhesion disc that covers about a quarter of its belly. Using this disc, it can stick on to almost any surfaces.

clingfish3

Read More »

Brown Moor Frogs Turn Blue During Mating Season

The moor frog certainly cannot turn into a prince with true love’s kiss. But this seemingly uninteresting amphibian is capable of something quite spectacular – it changes color from a boring brown to an azure blue, just to be able to distinguish between genders during mating season. The ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures are really quite unbelievable – it looks they’re two different frogs.

A fully grown adult male moor frog is up to seven centimeters long and reddish-brown in color. But every year, between March and June, the frog exhibits chameleon-like tendencies. During this period, the frogs emerge from their winter hibernation and are naturally in the mood to procreate. They populate the ponds in the lowlands of Central and Southern Europe, completely filling the air with their mating calls. The sounds they create are similar to the noise of air released from a bottle under water.

Blue-Moor-Frog

Read More »

Nature’s Wonders – Amazonian Butterflies Drinking Turtle Tears

Deep in the western Amazon rainforest, live butterflies that drink turtle tears. That sounds like a line straight out of a fantasy novel, but it’s one hundred percent real life! It’s an unusual sight – swarms of butterflies flocking at the eyes of yellow-spotted river turtles, trying to get a sip. The poor turtles keep ducking or swatting, but the butterflies persist until they’ve had their fill.

According to Phil Torres, a scientist at the Tambopata Research Center in Peru, the butterflies are attracted to turtle tears because the drops of liquid contain sodium, a mineral that is scarce in the western Amazon region. While turtles get plenty of sodium through their carnivorous diet, the herbivore butterflies need an extra mineral source.

Torres explained that the western Amazon rainforest is over 1,000 miles away from the Atlantic Ocean – a prime source of salt. The region is also cut off from the mineral particles blown towards the west from the Andes Mountains. Most of these windblown minerals are removed from the air by the rain before they have a chance to reach the western Amazon. These factors contribute to the extremely low levels of sodium. So the butterflies have to turn to the best source available to them, and that include turtle tears, animal urine, muddy river banks, puddles, and sweaty clothes.

turtle-tears

Read More »

This Collection of Bat-Eating Spiders Is Probably the Scariest Thing You’ll See Today

It’s hard to imagine a fragile spider killing and eating a full-grown bat. I mean there’s no way a tiny spider could have any sort of muscle power over a fully grown bat, right? Believe or not, there are eight-legged bugs out there that can pounce on bats and eventually devour them. And when they can’t, they rely on their superior web-spinning skills to get the job done.

One of the earliest sightings of bat-eating spiders occurred way back in 1941, when Indian scientist G.C. Bhattacharya (of the Bose Research Institute) walked into a cowshed in a village near the city of Calcutta. In a letter to an unknown publication, he wrote a detailed account of his experience: “Entering into the cowshed, I noticed a pipistrelle bat struggling to drag itself out of a crevice between two bamboo strips of a wall and a big house-spider was seen firmly gripping the former by the neck with its powerful mandibles.” No matter how much the little bat kicked, and screamed and flailed, the spider held on with a death-grip. “There was intermittent gasping and screaming of the bat,” Bhattacharya wrote.

Eventually, he focused a torch on the spot and as soon as the light fell on the pair, the bat screamed loudly and managed to drag itself through a certain distance on the matted shed wall. About 20 minutes later, the bat, thoroughly exhausted, stretched out its wing and gave in.   Bhattacharya then captured both victim and predator in a glass jar and took them home for closer observation. The next morning, he found the spider resting peacefully at the top of the jar, while the bat lay dead at the bottom, untouched. It had visible injuries to its neck and had died sometime during the night.

bat-eating-spider

Read More »

Hemeroplanes Triptolemus – The Creepy Snake That’s Actually a Harmless Caterpillar

Looking at a photo of Hemeroplanes triptolemus, nine out of ten people would swear it’s a snake. But look closer, and you’ll realize there’s something peculiar about it – the body is unusually short and ends abruptly with a large reptilian head. The truth is, it’s not a snake at all. The Hemeroplanes is actually a caterpillar pretending to be a snake. And it does a darn good impression of the deadly creature, often fooling curious travelers and predators alike.

Hemeroplanes are moths of to the Sphingidae family, found in many parts of South America, Africa and Central America. In the larval form, they are capable of expanding their anterior body segments to closely resemble a snake, complete with reptilian scales and scary eyes. To make their mimicking act even more believable, the harmless caterpillar will sometimes even snap at potential predators. Of course, they have no real fangs so they can’t really do any serious damage, but their appearance is convincing enough to scare even humans away,

snake-caterpillar

Read More »

Recycling Tokyo Crows Build Their Nests Out of Coat Hangers

Crows are known to be highly intelligent birds, and it looks like they can now teach us a thing or two about recycling and stealing. The Asian Jungle Crow, a large-billed crow, actually builds its nest out of coat hangers that it steals from people’s homes!

Crows make use of pretty much anything they find lying around to build their hardy nests. House Crows generally build crude structures, made of interlocking twigs gathered from surrounding trees and shrubs. They weave the twigs together with little pieces of metallic wire that strengthen the nest structure. In some nests, the clever crows incorporate knotted lengths of thick plastic instead.

But perhaps the most amazing crow nests are the ones built around Tokyo, Japan. Twigs and other natural materials are hard to come by in the busy metropolis, so the birds settle for the next best thing, and that seems to be coat hangers. You have got to see pictures to believe it! A blogger had posted some of these images way back in 2005, after solving the mystery of the missing hangers from her back yard. But it isn’t just the one nest – it seems that Japanese Jungle Crows are compulsive collectors of hangers!

3716193646_afe582dd34_b

Read More »

Flight of the Living Dead – The Tiny Fly That Turns Bees into Zombies

Human zombies might be a figment of the imagination, but ‘zombie bees’ actually exist. They are ‘created’ when regular honeybees get infested with a particular type of parasite. The bees begin to display highly erratic and bizarre behavior that’s very zombie-like. These infested bees were first discovered in 2008 in California by John Hafernik, a professor of biology at San Francisco State University.

Ever since the initial discovery, zombie bee-sightings have been reported in Oregon, Washington State, California and South Dakota. According to Professor Hafernik, “They fly around in a disoriented way, get attracted to light, and then fall down and wander around in a way that’s sort of reminiscent of zombies in the movies. Sometimes we’ve taken to calling it, when they leave their hives, ‘the flight of the living dead.’”

The culprit here is the Apocephalus borealis, a parasitic fly that is known to implant its eggs in ants. The fly larvae live off the ants’ brains, dissolve their connective tissues and eventually finish off the ants. Researchers now have reason to believe that the flies have found a new home for their eggs – European honeybees that are common in the United States. The flies lay their eggs in the bees that eventually hatch, wreaking havoc in their hosts’ bodies.

zombie-bees

Read More »

The Manchineel – World’s Most Dangerous Tree for Several Reasons

The Manchineel tree, native to the Western Hemisphere, is known as the most poisonous tree in the world. In places where it grows – Florida, the Caribbean and the Bahamas – the manchineel is often marked with a red band to warn passersby not to get too near it.

The tree is poisonous on so many levels that if you ever spot one, it is better you stay at least a few yards away from it. Its fruit resembles a small apple, but eating one could land you right in the emergency room. It was supposedly named ‘manzanita de la muerte’ (little apple of death) by Christopher Columbus. But it might just be the least dangerous part of the tree.

The manchineel’s milky white sap is incredibly caustic and poisonous as well – even a drop could cause skin blisters, dermatitis, swelling or burns. This happens a lot with unsuspecting travelers who use the tree for shelter from the rains. The sap is so caustic that even the rain drops coming from the branches can cause burns. The bark is poisonous too – burning it releases a smoke that causes temporary (and in some cases, permanent) blindness. Considering all the ways it can hurt you, it’s no wonder the manchineel currently holds the Guinness record for world’s most dangerous tree.

manchineel-tree

Read More »

Giant Gippsland – The World’s Largest and Most Extraordinary Earthworms

What’s 31 inches long, one inch thick, has no legs, and slithers through the ground? No, it’s not a snake, it’s an earthworm! The Giant Gippsland, found in Gippsland in south-eastern Australia, is the world’s largest species of earthworms. Fully stretched, it can measure up to two meters in length.

These slithering giants are surprisingly gentle creatures. They are quite hard to spot, spending most of their lives deep underground. Higher water content in the soil helps them breathe better. Their burrows can be as deep as 3 to 5 feet below the surface. Sometimes, heavy rainfall forces them to emerge out of the dirt. You might find also find their burrows in places where there’s been a landslip.

They are quite fragile – reckless handling can crush and kill them. Only a particular type of moist soil is suitable for their survival. If you happen to walk over their water-filled burrows, they will respond to the vibration of your footsteps. They start to crawl about and make squelchy noises that are quite easy to hear. So even though the Gippsland Giants are pretty rare, you’ll know when they are around.

Giant-Gippsland-earthworm

Read More »

The Mind-Boggling Bird Suicide Phenomenon of Jatinga

Jatinga is a small village located in Assam, a state in northeastern India. The village is lush green and scenic, surrounded by serene mountains. But that’s not what it’s famous for. In fact, Jatinga is well-known for an entirely different reason – its Bird Mystery.

The Bird Mystery is a unique phenomenon that occurs at Jatinga between September and November each year. During these late monsoon months, several migratory and local birds commit mass suicide at the village. Just after sunset, between 7 and 10 pm, hundreds of birds descend from the sky, plummeting to their deaths by crashing into buildings and trees. Since birds aren’t known to be suicidal, the phenomenon has baffled villagers, visitors and scientists alike. For many years, locals believed that evil spirits living in the skies were responsible for bringing down the birds .

Of course, this isn’t true. After several scientific studies and experiments, it has been concluded that the birds are generally disoriented by the monsoon fog. So they are attracted by the village lights and fly towards them, sometimes hitting walls and trees during the descent. Some of the birds die, while others are grievously injured, becoming easy prey for the villagers to capture. These birds are often dazed and disheveled, and do not put up any resistance when villagers attack them with catapults or bamboo sticks.

Jatinga-bird-mystery

Read More »

The Stunningly Beautiful Black Roses of Halfeti

Turkish Halfeti Roses are incredibly rare. They are shaped just like regular roses, but their color sets them apart. These roses so black, you’d think someone spray-painted them. But that’s actually their natural color.

These stunning black roses would make excellent props in a movie about witches and black magic, or in a heavy-metal video. There’s something extremely attractive about them, in an intense sort of way.

Although they appear perfectly black, they’re actually a very deep crimson color. These flowers are seasonal – they only grow during the summer in small number, and only in the tiny Turkish village of Halfeti. Thanks to the unique soil conditions of the region, and the pH levels of the groundwater (that seeps in from the river Euphrates), the roses take on a devilish hue. They bloom dark red during the spring and fade to black during the summer months.

Halfeti-black-roses

Read More »

Fascinating Orchid Mantis Mimics Flowers to Attract Unsuspecting Prey

The orchid mantis, named after the flower it strikingly resembles, fools prey and predators alike. Its imitation of orchids is so convincing that insects are more attracted to it than the real deal.

Camouflage isn’t a strange concept; many animals and insects adopt clever disguises to avoid predators. But orchid mantises are unique. They stand out instead of blending in, beating orchids at their own game.

Most people find insects gross and disturbing. I must confess, I’m one of them. But I caught myself admiring pictures of orchid mantises. They are such beautiful creatures with their petal-shaped legs and rich pink, white and purple bodies. These features create a “tantalizing lure” for insects, says James O’Hanlon from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.

orchid-mantis

Read More »

Unique Archerfish Spits Jets of Water to Shoot Down Its Prey

The water-pistol is a harmless toy for children, but apparently it can be a lethal weapon too. This particular species of fish makes use of water jets and the laws of physics to aim at and stun its prey.

The aptly named archerfish employs a unique process to hunt land based insects and small animals – it aims, spits, and stuns. It lurks under the surface of the water, waiting for unsuspecting insects to land nearby. Then, it spits out water jets at a great force, instantly killing the prey. The entire process takes just one-tenth of a second.

An archerfish can bring down insects as far as three meters above the water’s surface. Once it selects the prey, it rotates its eyes so that the prey’s image falls on a particular part of the eye. Then it presses its tongue against the groove on the roof of its mouth to form a narrow channel, and contracts its gill covers to issue a powerful jet of water through the channel. The power of this shot can be altered for prey of different sizes. The jet can be up to five meters long.

Archerfish

Read More »