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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

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Bugs the Size of Your Hand – The Titan Beetle

As its name suggests, the Titanus giganteus, or Titan Beetle, is a giant of the insect world. Adults can grow up to 6.5 inches (16.7 cm) long and have incredibly strong jaws that can snap wooden pencils in half, so just imagine what they could do to your fingers. Luckily, these scary-looking bugs are quite harmless to humans.

The Titan beetle is one of the most mysterious creatures on Earth. It lives unobtrusively deep in some of the South America’s  hottest tropical rain forests and only ventures out when seeking out mates. The larvae of this amazing insect have never been found, but judging by the large boreholes found in dead trees in their natural habitat, scientists believe Titan beetle grubs feed on decaying wood below ground for several years before reaching maturity. The size of these holes suggests the grubs are around two inches in diameter and up to a foot long. Just like the Atlas Moth, the Titan beetle doesn’t feed during its adult life cycle, using the reserves gathered in its pupa stage to fly around long enough to find a mate. Because they mostly sit around waiting for males to seek them out and fertilize their eggs, females have rarely been spotted.

Titan-Beetle

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Pyura chilensis – Nature’s Bizarre Living Rocks

Pyura chilensis doesn’t look like much from the outside. You could pass right by a colony without realizing they’re more than just simple beach rocks, but cut them open and you’ll think you’ve discovered a real bizarre-looking alien specimen.

Popularly known as the living rock, Pyura chilensis is actually a weird sea organism that lives on the rocky coast of Chile and Peru. It feeds by inhaling the sea water and filtering out edible microalgae through a pair of siphons. It has clear blood and can accumulate high quantities of a mysterious and rare element called vanadium. It’s been discovered that the blood of the Pyura chilensis contains 10 million times more vanadium than the surrounding sea water, although it’s role in the creature’s development is yet unknown. The alien-like organism is born a male but also grows female organs over time, and breeds by releasing both eggs and sperm that meet in a fertile cloud and form tiny tadpole-like offsprings that eventually settle on nearby rocks and grow into adult form. This is all very unique and fascinating, but there’s really nothing quite like seeing one of these bizarre creatures sliced in half. The Pyura chilensis is covered in a thick layer of tunicin that helps it blend in its surroundings, but underneath lies a bright red tissue-like mass that leaves first-time viewers flabbergasted.

Pyura-chilensis

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What the Quack? Australia’s Amazing Flying Duck Orchid

Just like the Monkey Orchid we posted about a few weeks ago gets its name from its remarkable resemblance to a smiling monkey, the Flying Duck Orchid got its name for looking like a tiny duck with its head and beak held high and wings swept back.

If you’ve never been to the Australian wilderness, chances are you’ve never seem a Caleana major , or Flying Duck Orchid before. That’s because despite numerous attempts to grow it anywhere else, this amazing-looking flower refuses to propagate in captivity. Apparently, that’s because its roots have a symbiotic relationship with the vegetative part of a fungus which can only be found in the wild country of eastern and southern Australia. The fungus protects the flower from infections, and without its presence, it never lasts for very long. But even if you travel to Australia to see the Flying Duck Orchid in its natural habitat, you have to look really carefully to spot it. At up to 50 centimeters in height, it’s definitely not the smallest flower in the world, but its red-and-purple coloring helps it blend so well in its wild surroundings that it becomes almost invisible.

Flying-Duck-Orchid

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The Amazing Orchid That Looks Like a Monkey’s Face

It’s not very hard to guess how the Monkey Orchid got its name, but ever since photos of it started circulating on the internet about a year ago, people have had a hard time believing such a flower actually exists.

As photoshoped as it may look, the Monkey Orchid actually exists, and yes, it really does match the grinning face of a very small monkey. The scientific name of this very rare flower is Dracula simia, with the first part hinting at the resemblance between its two long spurs to the fangs of Bram Stoker’s famous vampire count, and the second meaning “monkey” in Latin. It only grows in the mountainous regions of Ecuador, Colombia and Peru, at an elevation of between 1,000 and 2,000 meters above sea level, but there are a few lucky collectors who have managed to grow it in “captivity”. The Monkey orchid is not season specific, and in its natural habitat it can flower at any time. As if its striking resemblance to a monkey’s face wasn’t astounding enough, this flower actually smells a lot like a ripe orange, as well. Which is kind of ironic, because with a face like that you’d expect it to smell like bananas, right?

Monkey-orchid

 

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Hooker’s Lips – The World’s Most Kissable Plant

Here’s a dumb question: if (the young) Mick Jagger was a plant, what would he be? Probably Psychotria Elata, commonly known as Hooker Lips or the Hot Lips Plant for the shape of its bright red bracts that resemble two luscious lips.

This weird plant might look like the work of a photo editing software, but I can assure you those kissable lips are all natural. Found in the tropical rain forests of Central and South American countries like Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador, the Psychotria Elatra plant has apparently evolved into its current shape to attract pollinators including hummingbirds and butterflies. Affectionately known as Hooker’s Lips, this extraordinary flower has unfortunately become endangered due to uncontrolled deforestation in the above-mentioned countries. So if you’ve ever wanted to plant a kiss on Mother Nature, find yourself a Hot Lips plant and do it while you still can. The bracts are only kissable for a short while, before they spread open to reveal the plant’s flowers.

Psychotria-elata

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The Ocellated Ice Fish – World’s Only Vertebrate with Transparent Blood

Every animal with bones hemoglobin in its blood, which carries oxygen through its body and gives blood its red color. Every animal except one – the ocellated ice fish which has water-clear blood.

The ocean’s depth have revealed a series of odd life forms in recent years, from giant squid to translucent sea anemones, but scientists say the ocellated ice fish discovered in 2011 is among the most fascinating creatures the world over.  This unique fish lives in the ice-cold waters of Antarctica at depths of up to 3,300 feet (1 kilometer), and the only specimens in captivity can be found at Japan’s Tokyo Sea Life Park. Apart from the fact that it has transparent blood and no scales, the ocellated ice fish is not much different than most of the fish species living in Earth’s waters.  But its two special traits have researchers baffled. Because hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen through the body of vertebrates, it’s not yet clear how this species can survive without the metalloprotein which binds with oxygen. Several theories have been formulated on the subject, with some scientists speculating that the unusually large heart of the ocellated ice fish might help move oxygen using plasma instead of hemoglobin, and others saying that it may be able to absorb oxygen through its scale-free skin from the oxygen-rich waters of Antarctica. But the truth is very little is known about this fascinating creature and there are yet no facts to back up the claims.

Ocellated-Ice-Fish

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Insect Body Snatchers – How the Jewel Wasp Turns Cockroaches into Zombies

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, I don’t need to tell you what the Imperius curse is. For the rest of you, it’s a spel used to control people’s minds. Now, if you thought something like this was possible only in J.K. Rowling’s world, well here’s some news for you. Nature’s obviously one step ahead. The Jewel Wasp or ‘Emerald Cockroach Wasp’ is actually able to control the mind of its prey, the cockroach, by injecting venom directly into its brain.

The secret to the Jewel Wasp’s ‘captivating’ abilities lies in a neurotransmitter called octopamine in the cockroach’s brain that contols its movements. The wasp’s venom blocks the octopamine, literally converting the cockroach into a zombie. This ‘zombie’ cockroach is completely unable to fight back as it is pulled by the wasp into its underground lair. If you’re wondering why the wasp would go through all this trouble to just eat a cockroach, here’s the really weird part – the cockroach is meant to unwillingly play the part of surrogate mother. The wasp lays an egg into the cockroach’s abdomen, and the larva later hatches and eats the live cockroach from inside out. It takes 3 or 4 days for the larva to hatch, after which it slowly feeds on the roach’s internal organs, keeping it alive the whole time. This process takes about 7-8 days, during which the meat needs to be fresh for the larva. And because a dead cockroach rots within a day, the wasp prefers the ‘stun’ method. Once the roach is eaten up completely and it dies, the larva forms a cocoon inside it. A fully-grown wasp emerges from the cockroach carcass a month later.

jewel-wasp

 

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Talented Composer Makes Beautiful Music with Instruments Provided by Mother Nature

Meet Diego Stocco, the guy who can make music from anything, even raw nature. In celebration of Earth Day, he staged an innovative musical experiment in which he used all kinds of unusual but completely natural instruments.

Who knew tree bark or orange peel could sound so groovy, if orchestrated by the right person? In his new performance, “Music from Nature”, Diego Stocco uses professional microphones and a customized stethoscope to best capture the sounds of nature as made by several uncommon musical instruments, including trees, leaves, almonds and bees. The result is too cool to describe, you just have to listen for yourself.

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Touch-Me-Not – A Plant That Clearly Doesn’t Like to Be Touched

I first heard about the Touch-Me-Not plant from my mother’s stories of her childhood. There were plenty of these where she grew up, and she had fun playing with them. But no matter how much she described the plant to me, I never could quite imagine how the phenomenon worked. Now, thanks to the internet, I can see it for myself ,on video.

The Mimosa Pudica (derived from Latin for shy), commonly known as the Touch-Me-Not, is very true to its name. It obviously doesn’t like to be touched, because running a finger along the leaf simply causes it to fold inwards. I’m not sure if touch really bothers the plant, but the phenomenon is very beautiful to look at. The exact reason for this peculiar behavior of the Touch-Me-Not is also unknown, but it is believed the plant uses this feature to thwart predators. The closing leaves supposedly scare them away. Apart from the stimulus of human touch, the leaves also close during night time. The plant has its origins in South and Central America, but it is actually found all around the world.

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Man Spends a Year Living as a Turkey to Prove They’re Not Dumb

We’ve all heard the popular myth about turkeys being so stupid that they will look up at the rain and drown. Well, naturalist Joe Hutto’s year-long experiment living as a turkey proved it wrong, along with any other myths that suggest the stupidity of the bird. On the contrary, he says that turkeys are born with an “innate understanding of ecology” and have a complex vocabulary to communicate with each other.

Hutto, an ethologist who lives in Florida, has always been interested in the phenomenon of imprinting – in which young birds and animals identify the first moving object they encounter as a mother or a caregiver. So when a local farmer left a bowl-full of wild turkey eggs at Hutto’s doorstep, it was an opportunity he couldn’t refuse. He began his scientific experiment by choosing to imprint himself as the mother turkey. Hutto placed the eggs in an incubator and waited for them to hatch. When the cracks began to appear, he had to act fast, since imprinting occurs only in the first few moments after hatching. He placed his face close to the eggs and when the first poult came out, there was immediate eye-contact and the establishment of a bond. “Something very unambiguous happened in that moment,” he said

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Austrian Lake Is Also a Popular Hiking Spot

A rare natural phenomenon turns one of Austria’s most beautiful hiking trails into a 10 meter-deep lake, for half the year.

Located at the foot of the Hochschwab Mountains, in Tragoess, Styria, Green Lake is one of the most bizarre natural phenomena in the world. During the cold winter months, this place is almost completely dry, and used as a country park where hikers love to come and spend some time away from urban chaos. But as soon as temperatures rise, the snow and ice covering the mountaintops begin to melt, and the water pours down, filling the basin below with crystal-clear water.

Water levels go from one-two meters at most, to over 10 meters, in the early summer. The waters of Green Lake are highest in June, when this extraordinary place is invaded by divers, curious to see what a mountain park looks like underwater. Fish swimming over wooden benches, a grass-covered bottom, trees, roads, roads and even bridges create a surreal setting that feels like it belongs on dry ground. That’s because for half of the year, that’s exactly where it’s at.

Take a look at the amazing images of the Green Lake, shot during the summer season:

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The Turf-Covered Houses of Norway

Norway, like all Scandinavian countries, has always taken pride in trying to live in harmony with nature, instead of conquering it, and its old turf roofs are a perfect example.

Houses with their roofs looking like small meadows may seem a little strange in these modern times, but until the late 19th century, turf roofs were the most common type of roofs in rural Norway. Nowadays, inhabited turf-roof houses are very rare, as the Norwegians have turned most of them into museum exhibits.

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Seven Flora and Fauna that Can Only Be Found in the Everglades

The Everglades is home to many unique plant and animal species, mostly because it’s the farthest-north tropical environment in the world. It is the only true tropical forest in the northern hemisphere. The flora and fauna found in the Everglades are without peer.

Fauna

Florida Panther & Florida Black Bear – This entry gets two, since you’re not likely to see either of them. Both species are critically endangered, so count yourself lucky if you see the slight frame and tan fur of the Florida Panther, or hear the inquisitive snuffling of the Florida Black Bear. Well, count yourself lucky, back away slowly, and hope the animal isn’t hungry.

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Lonomia Obliqua – The World’s Deadliest Caterpillar

Lonomia obliqua is just as frail as any other caterpillars you might have seen, but that doesn’t stop it from causing severe serious internal hemorrhaging and even death, if you just touch it.

This terrible Lonomia caterpillars live in the rainforests of South America, and cause a few deaths every year, especially in southern Brazil, where they’re usually found on the bark of trees. Blending perfectly in their surrounding, Lonomia obliqua caterpillars often can’t be avoided, even if people watch out for them. Most incidents occur when travelers lean against a tree and unknowingly brush against one of more caterpillars, which release a very powerful anticoagulant venom.

Symptoms of Lonomia obliqua poisoning include severe internal bleeding, renal failure and hemolysis. If the skin comes into contact with several caterpillars, death is often the outcome. The lethal dose of the toxin secreted by this terrible creature is among the lowest of all known toxins.

But there is also a bright side to the Lonomia obliqua caterpillar. Its powerful anticoagulant could be used in the prevention of life-threatening blood-clots, but research is still being conducted in the hope of somehow isolating some pharmaceutically valuable chemicals. But until that happens, all you can do is refrain yourself from leaning on trees, the next time you’re in South America.

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