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Wandering Ponies August: Puffin Census, Monster Pyrosomes, an Unfortunate Crab Moustache and more

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Gonatus onyx squid brooding eggs—vertical position

The squid Gonatus onyx carries her brood of eggs. Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

An important part of running a blog about weird/new animals is the part where you beat yourself up about all the great stories you miss. Whether it’s because I’m too slow, too busy, or just quietly decided to watch Pretty Little Liars and waste hours winning Shining Force battles in the bath instead, it all comes with healthy slab of guilt and the concession that, “At least I can tweet about it I guess”. Which is why, after three years on the shelf, Wandering Ponies is back! So now we can enjoy all the great animal stories, including those we missed several years ago, together, in the comfort of this blog. Let me know in the comments if there are any great stories I’ve missed and I’ll include them in the next one.

It’s Puffin Census Time, and you’re in up to your shoulders

Ever wondered what’s involved in carrying out a puffin census? Me neither, but I wish I had, because the payoff would have been terrific. Every five years, a team of rangers carry out a puffin census on the Farne Islands, off the northeast coast of England. And because these are burrowing sad-clown birds, in order to count every one, the rangers spend a good deal of the census up to their shoulders in burrows that plunge one or two metres into the ground. But everyone’s loling in these Big Picture images, so it mustn’t be all that bad.

The 30-metre-long gelatinous sea creature that you definitely should not try to swim inside of

Scientists in Tasmania have filmed an incredibly large and rare pyrosome – a jet-powered, filter-feeding tunicate otherwise known as the ‘unicorn of the sea’. While you might not want to risk getting stuck inside one, these gentle giants feel like “an exquisitely soft feather boa”, according to Deep Sea News.

Those sinkhole fish did not want to be found

Like a modern-day Pharaoh’s Curse, the discovery of a new species of Madagascan cave fish gave a bunch of researchers ‘sinkhole fever’, after they swam into the Grotte de Vitane sinkhole to collect a couple of specimens. Named Typhleotris mararybe, meaning “big sickness”, these brown, eyeless fish took four hours to capture, which is plenty of time for a fever to really sink in. Now, has anyone heard from Professor Hercules Tarragon? You guys, me neither…

Puffer fish ruin ‘mystery circles’ with facts

What do you call a mystery circle that’s not a mystery anymore? If I die, will my cat eat ONLY MY FACE? So many unanswerable questions, so little time, but at least we now know what’s behind the strange underwater crop circles that have been appearing off the coast of Japan for the past 20 years. It turns out that male pufferfish are behind them, trying to woo a mate by constructing great circular patterns and decorating them with shells and coral fragments. The centre acts as a nest, where a female will lay her eggs if she’s sufficiently impressed.

Deep-Sea Crab is not convinced that he made the right facial hair decision

A deep-sea crab attempts to ‘eat’ frozen methane bubbles in a video recently shot by Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) scientist, Peter Brewer, while he was exploring methane gas deposits off the coast of Vancouver Island. The bubbles instantly formed a solid hydrate when they made contact with the crab, spreading a frothy, white moustache across his mouthparts. If I know anything about crab emotions, I know that this guy runs the gamut in under 60 seconds. He’s so smug and then so confused, so frustrated and then so embarrassed. So, so humbled.

Don’t suffer in your jocks: testicle-eating fish aren’t that interested in your testicles

A recent story about Danish freshwater fish mistaking men’s testicles for literal nuts was not the nightmare we all thought it was (frowny face). So if you’re going to read one thing about pacus this month, make it this Nat Geo post. Plus you’ll find out whether or not pacus make good pets, which is important.

Black snub-nosed monkeys are now killing it (sort of)

The total population of the endangered Chinese black snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus bieti) has grown from less than 2,000 in 2006 to more than 3,000 today, according to the latest estimates from The Monkey King. They’ve managed to adapt to life in the fir-larch forests of China’s Baima Snow Mountain, which at its highest is 4,700 m above sea level, making this the highest elevation ever recorded for non-human primates.

Eels have feelings too

The touching story of a relationship between a diver and a huge, female eel that spans several years. Do eels like scritches? You bet they do.

In case you missed it (several years ago): Clawed armhook squids make great mums

In 2006 MBARI scientists discovered that rather than laying their eggs in clusters on the sea floor, female clawed armhook squids (Gonatus onyx) carry their eggs between their arms until they are ready to hatch (see top image). The team, led by biologist Brad Seibel, found tiny hooks on the squids’ arms, which help them to grasp onto a sack of up to 3,000 eggs. As the squid mums move through the ocean at depths of up to 2,500 m, they gently pump water through the egg mass, causing it to inflate. This is likely to ensure that the eggs have access to a constant supply of fresh water and oxygen.

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Order my book, Zombie tits, astronaut fish and other weird animals from Amazon.

Bec Crew About the Author: Bec Crew is a Sydney-based science writer and award-winning blogger. She is the author of 'Zombie Tits, Astronaut Fish and Other Weird Animals' (NewSouth Press). Follow on Twitter @BecCrew.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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