Wednesday, 15 February 2017

New Species of Polychaete Worm Discovered in Antarctica

Photo of two specimens of Flabegraviera Sp.
Flabegraviera fujiae (left), the new species described in the
in the new study, and Flabegraviera mundata (right).
(Scale bar: 1cm)
A few days ago, a team of Japanese scientists from the Hokkaido University announced the discovery a new species of polychaete, a type of marine annelid worm.

The discovery took place 9-meters deep underwater near Japan's Syowa Station in Antarctica and provides a good opportunity to study how animals adapt to extreme environments.

International efforts are currently underway in Antarctica to build long-term monitoring systems for land and coastal organisms from an ecological conservation standpoint. This is why the accumulation of continent-wide fauna information is essential, but Japan is lagging behind in gathering and analyzing such data around Syowa Station, particularly in regard to coastal marine life.

To address this issue, in 2015 a team of researchers, including Keiichi Kakui, a lecturer at Hokkaido University, and Megumu Tsujimoto, a postdoctoral researcher at Japan's National Institute of Polar Research, decided to do some digging in old marine specimens stored at the institute, as well as newly collected specimens. As a part of this process, they conducted microscopic analyses to examine two annelid worms that scuba divers collected 8-9 meters deep on January 16th, 1981, at Nishinoura near Syowa Station.

The new species was found 9 meters deep and turned out to be an un-described polychaete worm, a variety with a thick, gel-like coat and conspicuous, long notochaeta. The team named the worm as Flabegraviera fujiae, naming it after the icebreaker ship "Fuji" used in the expedition in 1981. The specimen collected 8 meters deep was recognized as Flabegraviera mundata, and was deemed to have been collected at the shallowest depth ever recorded for the Flabegraviera genus.

Prof. Kentaro Watanabe (in scuba diving gear) co-author of the study and Professor Eiji Takahashi
of Yamagata University pictured at Antarctica. (Photo by the National Institute of Polar Research)

"This study is a major step forward in understanding marine life in the coastal region near Syowa Station. The Flabegraviera genus, to which the three species belong, is unique to the Antarctic and considered a good example for studying how polychaetes adapt to extreme environments." said Dr. Keiichi Kakui,

Now that it has become clear that polychaetes inhabit depths reachable by scuba divers, the researchers hope to conduct experiments using live specimens to get a better insight of the new species and the rest of the local marine life as well.

The abstract from the corresponding recent paper reads:

"A new species of polychaete, Flabegraviera fujiae sp. nov., is described and the first report of F. mundata (Gravier, 1906) from the shallow water around Syowa Station, Antarctica, is presented. Flabegraviera fujiae sp. nov. resembles F. profunda Salazar-Vallejo, 2012 but is discriminated from the latter by having eyes and an exposed cephalic cage. The specimen of F. mundata was collected from a depth of 8 m, providing the shallowest record of this species to date."

- Jimi N, Tsujimoto M, Watanabe K, Kakui K, & Kajihara H (2017). A new species and the shallowest record of Flabegraviera Salazar-Vallejo, 2012 (Annelida: Flabelligeridae) from Antarctica. Zootaxa, 4221 (4) PMID: 28187651

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Amphioctopus Marginatus: The Octopus That Pretends to Be a Coconut

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Cephalopoda
Order: Octopoda
Family: Octopodidae
Genus: Amphioctopus
Species: Amphioctopus  marginatus
Conservation Status: Not yet assessed
Common Name: Coconut octopus, Veined octopus

Meet Amphioctopus marginatus a medium-sized octopus found in the tropical waters of the western Pacific Ocean The species is best known as the "coconut octopus" due to its unusual affinity guessed right...coconuts! Don't believe me? Check out for yourself:

Autobots, transform and roll out!

The species is also known as the veined octopus, due to the dark lines that run from head to tentacle.

Distribution & Habitat
Amphioctopus marginatus lives in the tropical western Pacific and coastal waters of the Indian Ocean on sandy bottoms in bays or lagoons at a depth range of 0 - 44 m. It frequently buries itself in the sand with only its eyes uncovered.

The main body of the coconut octupus is on average about 8 cm (3 in) long and including the arms, approximately 15 cm (6 in) long. The octopus displays a typical color pattern with dark ramified lines similar to veins, usually with a yellow siphon. The arms are usually dark in color, with contrasting white suckers. In many color displays, a lighter trapezoidal area can be seen immediately below the eye.

Their diet mainly consists shrimps, crabs, and clams.

Behavior and habitat
Young individuals (4-5 cm diameter) use coconut and clam shells as a shelter. In 2005, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered that the species uses bipedal locomotion. It is one of only two octopus species known to display such behavior, with the other one being Abdopus aculeatus.

This behavior was observed in an area off Sulawesi, Indonesia, where the sandy bottom was littered with coconut shells. The bipedal motion appears to mimic a floating coconut. Furthermore, researchers from the Melbourne Museum in Australia have also discovered that the species uses tools for concealment and defense by gathering available debris to create a defensive fortress. This behavior was observed in individuals in Bali and North Sulawesi in Indonesia. The researchers filmed the octopus collecting coconut half-shells discarded by humans from the sea floor. They were then carried up to 20 meters (66 ft) and arranged around the body of the octopus to form a spherical hiding place similar to a clam-shell.

- Finn JK, Tregenza T, Norman MD (2009). Defensive tool use in a coconut-carrying octopus. Curr. Biol, 19 (23) : 10.1016/j.cub.2009.10.052

Small coconut octopus using a nut shell and clam shell for shelter

Monday, 16 January 2017

Tiger cub playing with a house cat!

Here's a cute unlikely friendship that will make up your day:

Here's the caption of the video if you want to learn more about the story behind these two animals:

 "THIS IS NOT AT MY HOUSE AND I DO NOT OWN EITHER ANIMAL. THIS FOOTAGE WAS TAKEN AT AN ANIMAL RESERVE. NEITHER ANIMAL WAS HARMED. The tiger cub and house cat live together and from what I was told play together on a regular basis. Just so you know, the house cat can come and go as he pleases from the area where the tiger cub is kept. While I was there I saw that cat come and play with the cub several times, never at any time was the cat forced to play. The house cat has been around many tiger and lion cubs at the reserve throughout the years."

Friday, 13 January 2017

Phrynocephalus mystaceus: World's Weirdest Lizard?

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Iguania
Family: Agamidae
Genus: Phrynocephalus
Species: Phrynocephalus mystaceus
Conservation Status: Not yet assessed
Common Name: Secret Toad-headed Agama

This is definitely one of the weirdest looking lizards that have been featured on the site. At first, it looks pretty normal..And then it opens its mouth!

Scientifically described as Phrynocephalus mystaceus, this agamid lizard can be found in Iran, North Afghanistan, Eastern Caucasus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and possibly in south of Astrakhan Oblast. With the tail straightened, adults can reach a length of up to 9,44 inches (24 cm).

Commonly known as the secret toadhead agama, the species is best known for its secret red oral display frill that unfolds when the creature is frightened by predators(hence the name). The creature will also hiss and show its teeth to deter its enemies. Well, I would probably be disgusted and leave it alone but I guess it works the same :)

Here's a video of this amazing creature, jump to 0:19 if you are impatient!

Habitat of Phrynocephalus mystaceus (orange)

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Kitten Gets Into Owner's Mouth

Hey, what's there? Let me explore that cave in your mouth . Why won't you let me :( ! 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Man Punches Kangaroo To Save His Dog (Video)

Well, this man will have a great story to tell to his grandchildren about how he punched a kangaroo right in the face to save his dog:

No kangaroos were harmed in the making of this video

Here the backstory of the video, taken straight from the caption:

"A group of hunters got together to help a young cancer sufferer (terminal diagnosis) with his last wish of catching a 100 kg (220 pound) wild boar with his dogs. One day while hunting one of the highly trained dogs was chasing some pigs by scent and collided with a big buck kangaroo that then held and wrestled the dog by its protective gear (boars have tusks like knives), the owner was horrified that his dog or the kangaroo would get hurt and run in to save both parties. You can see the dog trying to escape, wanting nothing to do with the kangaroo. The big buck kangaroo releases the dog when the owner gets close but then moves in to try and attack the human. A kangaroo kick to the guts could easily disembowel the owner easily, so he backs off a couple of times giving the kangaroo some space but he eventually changes the roo's mind with a punch to the snout, as it kept coming forward. The punch stops the roo and makes him think about the situation, giving the owner and the dog time to disengage from the big wild animal and leaving it to hop off and I suppose wonder about what just happened. We laughed at the absurdity of the situation and at how unfortunate it was for the dog and kangaroo. Our 6 foot 7 inch friend felt no malice to the kangaroo but had to step in and fix a bad situation before it got worse. Young Kailem unfortunately lost his brave battle with cancer two days ago, so this hunt is part of the treasured memories his family and friends have. Having a dog get tangled up with a roo was never our aim or intention and we were happy no animals were hurt in the incident."

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Feathered Stars (Amazing Videos)

The amazing creature you are about to see is commonly known as "feathered starfish":

Feathered starfishes are not true starfishes. They are crinoids and are marine animals that make up the class Crinoidea of the echinoderms (phylum Echinodermata). Their name comes from the Greek word krinon, "a lily", and eidos, "form".These bizarre creatures live both in shallow water and in depths as great as 9,000 meters (30,000 ft). Some of those crinoids spend their adult life attached to the sea bottom by a stalk. These crinoids are called sea lilies.

The unstalked species (like the one in the video) are called feather starfishes or just feathered stars. Here's another video showing one:

Photo by Image by Jules Nene