Monday, November 26, 2007

Animal of the Week -- November 26, 2007

So sorry about my absence last week,

I shouldn't let work get in the way of what's really important now, should I? So here it is to make up for my absence, a monster animal of the week, for this week's animal is Jaekelopterus rhenaniae.

You will no doubt have heard about the 45 cm claw of a sea scorpion discovered in Germany recently, its owner, at 2.5 m long and armoured with a broad carapace and jointed exoskelton would have dwarfed a human, had it ever met one. Fortunately for us, they've been extinct for more than 400 million years. Indeed, the whole group of sea scorpions are not something you need worry about bumping into on a day out in Bournemouth -- as you might a string jellyfish (Animal of the Week, November 12) or a bunch of chavs -- because they are all extinct, and although most of them did have a long spike at the end of their tails, this probably didn't have a sting in it. Sea scorpions, eurypterids, were possibly ancestors to all scorpions, spiders, and mites alive today.

Along with the 2.5 m millipede Arthropleura, Jaekelopterus rhenaniae is the largest arthropod (the group comprising crabs, insects, tardigrades, and spiders) ever to have lived. By comparison, the largest living arthropod is the Japanese king crab, which can have a leg-span of 3.5 m, but its body reaches only about 40 cm across and it weighs about 20 kg, its two largest relatives would have weighed a darn site more, even before they were fossilised, although the king crab is probably tastier, especially since they were fossilised. Insects and their ilk absorb oxygen through largely passive methods, Arthropleura and Jaekelopterus lived in times when the atmosphere and seas were far richer in oxygen than today, thus allowing the lazy blighters to grow to greater sizes than any modern creepy crawlies.

Anyway, there you go, the sea scorpion, extinct, huge.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Animal of the Week -- November 12, 2007

Hello Hello Hello one and all...

This week's animal of the week is Apolemia uvaria (pearl chain or string jellyfish). Although called "jellyfish", this ribbon of wobbly stuff is actually a colony of organisms, like a Portuguese man o' war. Each individual has a prescribed function -- some are occupied by food acquisition, some reproduction, and others locomotion. The component animals are each only a centimetre long, but the whole colony of a pearl chain jellyfish can be up to 30 metres long!

Typically, these great ribbons trail behind their gas-filled sails in deep open seas and oceans, but recently they have been spotted in British coastal waters. While being quite impressive to look at, they are cause for concern; like the Portuguese man o' war they have vicious stings. Several years ago a bloom of these animals caused serious damage to the Norwegian salmon-farming industry as many fish were killed by their sting. Unlikely to be fatal to people, caution is advised as the sting is likened to that of a wasp.

Selma Pollock, 34, and David Jones, 35, were scuba diving off the coast of Cornwall last week. They were having a marvellous time in the clear autumn waters when David spotted something strange, he went to investigate. Seeing the pretty string jellyfish but not knowing what it was he took a piece of driftwood in hand and used it to investigate the strange creature. Selma wondered what David was up to and went to investigate. Her curiosity as to what David was doing waving his wood around turned to horror when she got a little too close, she certainly was not impressed with the pearl-chain necklace David had given her.

Bye then!

Labels: , , ,

Monday, November 05, 2007

Animal of the Week -- November 5, 2007

Oooo.... ahhhh!

Gosh! Wow!



As the cordite-scented mists clear from Britain's green pastures and gardens tomorrow morning, anyone with an ounce of sense will be out sifting through the remains of the bonfires. Being careful not to burn yourself on still glowing embers, if you are lucky you may just find the odd baked remnant of this week's animal Erinaceus europaeus (western european hedgehog), which is delicious served with bubble and squeak and a little piccalilli. Yumski!

Large piles of kindling and tinder are oh so tempting to hedgehogs looking for somewhere to hibernate. So they are perfect traps with which to bag a few of these spiny delicacies. Alternatively, if you want not to contribute to the annual slaughter don't build your bonfire until late today or check any that you have built already carefully, rebuilding on a new site to ensure that there are no hedgehogs therein. Move any hedgehogs you find to a secluded place of safety and refuge away from any bonfires... the central reservations of motorways for example.

Q: Why did the hedgehog cross the road?

Answers on a postcard to

Bye my lovelies!

Labels: , ,