Sunday, 13 March 2011

Beluga whale, Delphinapterus leucas. Vancouver, BC, 2007.
What a splendid whale this is.

Koala, Phascolarctos cinereus. July 2010, Queensland, Australia.
Koalas smell like a craft store and are not as soft as they look, but I still want one. The mother koala in the top picture chomped the one behind her just after the picture was taken, because it was trying to walk over her on its way along the branch.

According to wikipedia, the brain in the ancestors of the modern koala once filled the whole cranial cavity, but has become drastically reduced in the present species, a degeneration scientists suspect is an adaptation to a diet low in energy. One of the smallest in marsupials with no more than 0.2% of its body weight, about 40% of the cranial cavity is filled with cerebrospinal fluid, while the brain's two cerebral hemispheres are like "a pair of shrivelled walnut halves on top of the brain stem, in contact neither with each other nor the bones of the skull. It is the only animal on Earth with such a strangely reduced brain."
Southern Cassowary, Casuarius casuarius. July 2010, Queensland, Australia.
Cassowaries are enormous like a velociraptor. This one made an amazing low-pitched boom that I liked very much. A workman came by with a pitchfork and it became very agitated and attacked the fence, also much like a velociraptor. Later on I fed it a little bit of mango.

According to wikipedia, the head crest is called a "casque" and is soft and spongy. One of the competing theories for its function is from article by Crome and Moore, which says that the birds lower their heads when they are running "full tilt through the vegetation, brushing saplings aside and occasionally careening into small trees. The casque would help protect the skull from such collisions."
Rhinoceros beetle, Xylotrupes gideon. July 2010, Cairns, Australia.
Eli found this beetle crawling around outside our hotel. It made a loud buzz whenever we annoyed it, but it seemed happy to crawl around on Eli for quite some time. We eventually put it on a tree across the street. These beetles are a popular pet in Japan.

Mudskipper, probably Periophthalmus argentilineatus, July 2010, Cairns, Australia.
We saw these mudskippers while walking along the esplanade in Cairns at low tide. They build little mud castles and look out of them.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Brazilian tapir

Tapirus terrestris. February 2011, Linton, UK.
The top of its snout was very soft, and the end of it was very slimy. This was the friendliest tapir I have ever seen, and it tricked us into picking some grass for it in contravention of the posted signs.