Credit (clockwise from top left): Jurgen Otto, Troy Waters, China News Service/Zhong Xin, Protasov AN/Shutterstock

With 2014 almost at an end, I’ve compiled the year's top 10 most popular Running Ponies posts. Read on for coordinated projectile vomit, headless tragedy in a Phoenix motel room, inflatable birds, monstrous swimming insects, and so much more animal insanity.

10. Meet the Ten Most Endangered and Distinctive Birds in the World

Back in April, the world’s 100 most endangered and unique birds were ranked in study by researchers from Yale University, Simon Fraser University, and the Zoological Society of London. The incredibly charismatic list included a corpse-eater with legendary skills of decapitation, a shameless self-inflator, and the world’s heftiest parrot. It’s essential that we keep putting a face to the name of the world’s most endangered species - only then can see exactly what the world will miss if continue to ignore their struggle.

9. The Great Emu War: In which some large, flightless birds unwittingly foiled the Australian Army

“If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world… They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks. They are like Zulus whom even dum-dum bullets could not stop.” - Major G.P.W. Meredith of the Seventh Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery, 1953.

In the years following World War I, the Australian Government struggled to find things for their veterans to do upon returning home. So they gave them farms on less-than-ideal plots of land overrun by mobs of emus that weren’t particularly interested in leaving.

What followed was a bizarre struggle between the Australian Army and our large, native birds that dragged on way longer than anyone could have predicted. As @Frodoshop remarked on Twitter, "Sounds like quite a birdin' to bear for the Aussie Army.”

8. New Species of Peacock Spider has Leopard Spots and Cat-like Moves

Seriously though, if only all spiders looked and acted like this. Discovered earlier this year in Western Australia, this new species of jumping spider, named Maratus pardus, is just 4.5 mm long, and belongs to the only genus of spiders in the world known to have flexible abdomen flaps that can be raised right up behind their heads.

In the males, these appendages are decorated with incredibly bright and varied colour patterns, which are unique to each species. They play a crucial role in the jumping spiders' elaborate courtship displays, which include the best dancing I’ve ever seen by an invertebrate.

Credit: Bernard Dupont (

Trilobite Beetles are Happy Being on Land, Alive in the Present Day

I know they look like they belong in the ocean 250 million years ago, but trilobite beetles are actually pretty happy existing in the present day. On land. They hate water, what are you doing? Don’t put them in there. You’ll kill them if you do that.

Found in lowland forests across Southeast Asia and India, trilobite beetles are an enigma wrapped in an armoured shell with the tiniest head and some nice orange highlights.

6. These tiny scorpions would like to perform an important inspection of your old book collection

Book scorpions are the best/worst thing to happen to books, because book scorpions! But also book scorpions…

Properly known as pseudoscorpions, these tiny creatures have a fondness for old books, because old books also happen to contain delicious booklice and dust mites. And they’re really not "book scorpions…" at all because they can’t hurt us, and they’ve basically been performing a free pest control service since humans started stacking excessive numbers of dusty, bound-together piles of paper along our walls and nightstands.

This arrangement works because old book-makers used to bind books using a starch-based glue that booklice and dust mites love, so without a healthy population of book scorpions patrolling your collection, those gross parasites are probably having a horrible, silent field-day chewing them all apart.

Oh and did I mention that they have really weird sex? Let’s just say it involves the male pushing the female down into his sac full of sperm on the ground. And when I say “ground”, I mean your books.

5. The Great Kentucky Meat Shower mystery unwound by projectile vulture vomit

On 3 March 1876, large hunks of flesh fell from the sky over Olympia Springs in Bath County, Kentucky. According to a New York Times article published the following week, the phenomenon occurred right nearby the house of one Allen Crouch, whose wife was outside making soap when it happened. “The meat, which looked like beef, fell all around her. The sky was perfectly clear at the time, and she said it fell like large snowflakes.”

WTF is going on here? No spoilers, but let’s just say no one’s really sure, but simultaneous bouts of aerial vomiting is our best guess.

4. First Footage of Deep-Sea Squid vs Owlfish Battle Features A+ Battling

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute have released more of the kind of footage they’re great at collecting – never before seen by humans. This one was of a black-eyed squid (Gonatus onyx) and an owlfish (Pseudobathylagus miller) locked in mortal combat in the deep sea.

You need to watch the footage because words can’t describe how badass this battle is, especially the end, where someone - no spoilers! - ends up with a gaping, red, meaty hole in its back.



3. Meet Miracle Mike, the Colorado Chicken who lived for 18 months without his head

The title pretty much says it all, but Mike the five-year-old cockerel became Mike the Headless Chicken on 10 September 1945, when Colorado farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita missed his jugular and most of his brainstem when beheading his chicken dinner. Much to everyone’s bewilderment, Mike didn’t die. And continued to not die for another 18 months. And boy, did he start raking in the cash for Famer Olsen. But all fame and fortune must come to an end… in a nondescript motel room in Phoenix.

2. Largest aquatic insect in the world found in China

Earlier this year, Images surfaced of a newly discovered insect reported to be the largest aquatic insect in the world. Found in the mountains of Chengdu in China’s Sichuan province, the specimen boasts a wingspan of 21 cm. Wait till you see it next to a chicken’s egg for scale. Everyone out of the water immediately.

1. This snake’s venom makes you bleed from every orifice until you die

Hey so snakes that inject venom into the bloodstream are pretty bad, how about a snake that injects venom into your bloodstream AND makes you bleed out from every orifice? Sound good?