The Bat-Eared Fox

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Odd Creatures is a recurring column about the World’s Weirdest Animals written by award-winning science writer and author Bec Crew, and illustrated by the super-talented Aiyana Udesen!
 
 
A paleontologist once told me there’s no way you can do his job without having a healthy sense of humor. You spend your life literally knee-deep in the bones of some of the strangest creatures to have ever walked the Earth – creatures that have also been dead for hundreds of millions of years – and meanwhile someone somewhere is performing a heart transplant on a nine-year-old girl. Not that paleontology isn’t important, of course it’s important, but you’re gonna have to be ready to laugh it off when someone asks you why you didn’t choose a more practical line of research.
 
People who research extant animals, with their boundless idiosyncrasies, weird body parts, and even weirder sex stuff, are often quick to admit that they’re working with some pretty funny material too. And sometimes the only way to get themselves in on the joke is through the naming rights, if they’re lucky enough to have discovered a new species.
 
Take Colon rectum, for instance. That’s the formally accepted scientific name of a little species of fungus beetle. First described in 1933 by University of Washington entomologist, Melville H. Hatch, C. rectum was soon joined by Colon forceps, Colon monstrosum, Colon grossum, and Colon horni in Hatch’s new Colon genus. Hatch was such a respected figure in the research community that even the most devout prudes had little option but to go with it.
 
Aha ha, Gelae donut and Kamera lens are all legit scientific animal names too.
 
Sometimes the joke is hidden in the translation. When you translate the Greek and Latin words that make up the name Osedax mucofloris – which is a tiny marine worm that feeds on whale carcasses – you get “snot-flower bone-eater”. Nice.
 
And that lovely looking fox-dog up there with the shady black eye mask? Its name is Otocyon megalotis, which means literally, “ear-dog large ears.”
 
So yeah, bat-eared fox from the African savannah has ridiculously large ears – they’re 13 cm long and its body is only 55 cm long. But the joke’s on us because while we have to work jobs and earn money to keep ourselves fed, all the bat-eared fox has to do is listen.
 
Imagine being able to pick up on the sound made by miniscule termites and beetle larvae as they move about under the ground. That’s what the bat-eared fox’s ears allow it to do. They can even locate a handful of termites based solely on the crunching noises they make as they feed. Around 80 to 90 percent of the bat-eared fox’s diet is made up of termites, and it will eat around 1.15 million of them every year.
 
Bat-eared foxes display extremely strong social bonds, and are usually found in extended family groups of around 15 individuals. More often than not, they mate for life, and when a litter of pups is born, the females will leave the den at night to find food while the males stay behind to guard the den and groom his progeny. When the pups are old enough to find mates of their own, they’ll run around their family’s territory and pee on a bunch of grass patches to advertise their scent. If a member of the opposite sex is interested, they’ll cover the scent mark up so their competition doesn’t get a whiff, and work on getting themselves acquainted.
 
 
—Bec Crew / @BecCrew

This Girl…

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Kendall Jones, a gloating, big game hunting 19-year-old cheerleader from Texas Tech University who’s looking to host a tv show in January 2015.

Notes From The Animal Kingdom

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Some French cats managed to lock an American woman in her bedroom. She live-tweeted the ordeal.

Pixel (above), the smallest cat in the world measuring five inches tall from shoulder to paw, would not have been able to do that (tweet or imprison).

On the other side of the world, Pablo Escobar’s hippos are having the time of their lives in the Colombian countryside

The same can’t be said for Emperor Penguins in Antarctica, where less ice, means less penguins.

There’s also one less guinea pig in the world, after a Kestrel flew through a window into a Czech Republic home tore apart the caged pet.

Lunchtime Laughter

Jim Breuer talks about Dave Chappelle’s Dog

Morning Dose of Feline Psychedelia

Lunchtime Laughter

Triumph takes on the World Cup for the second day in a row. We couldn’t be happier.

Morning Dose of Rufus the Hawk

The fiercest member of Wimbledon’s security team.

A great animal profile from Stella Artois and the Perfectionists.

Lunchtime Laughter

Triumph Watches The World Cup in Astoria, Queens

Meet Peanut, The World’s Ugliest Dog in 2014

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The two-year-old mutt from North Carolina was badly burned as a puppy and will now be used “as a poster child for what can happen to animals who are abused”

Lunchtime Laughter

Realistic Garfield

Printables

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The dolphin who loved me: the Nasa-funded project that went wrong by Christopher Riley

In the 1960s, Margaret Lovatt was part of a Nasa-funded project to communicate with dolphins. Soon she was living with ‘Peter’ 24 hours a day in a converted house

This Little Piggy Ran From Market

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And is now living in a Chinese police station

Picture of the Day

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Tim Barber

The Trackable Canine

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Not only does WhistleGPS track your pet’s whereabouts, it is also an activity monitor so you can see how lazy or crazy your dog is on the daily. Pre-order here for $49

[Read more]

The Texas Horned Lizard

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We’re very excited to announce the latest addition to TWBE, a weekly column about the World’s Weirdest Animals by award-winning science writer and author Bec Crew, illustrated by the super-talented Aiyana Udesen!
 
 
Glue-guns. Slime blankets. Mind-altering venom, flesh-rotting chemicals, and fountains of spit so powerful, they’ll knock you off your perch and into a pair of awaiting jaws. Better grab a raincoat, because nature is positively crawling with ingenious ways of dealing out death via some carefully aimed bodily fluids.
 
But it’s not all bad news, because those bodily fluids can also be incredibly helpful at keeping that head on your shoulders when you’ve got little else to defend yourself with than the art of camouflage. Someone who knows this all too well is the Texas horned lizard – a tough little reptile found all across the western United States, Canada and Mexico.
 
With a round face framed by a halo of large horns, and a stout, tank-like body covered in spines, the Texas horned lizard looks just like a tiny, armored dragon. And while this dragon doesn’t have any jets of red-hot fire to belch at its enemies, it does have something just as intimidating to launch in their direction: blood. Blood mixed with one of the most toxic substances found in nature that comes gushing out of its eye sockets, no less.
 
Expelled from the eye sockets thanks to a build-up of pressure in the Texas horned lizard’s head, each of these jets can travel for over a meter in the air and can contain up to 1.5 grams of blood. A particularly harassed individual can spurt more than 50 times out of a single eye and lose more than half of its total blood supply in the process.
 
Known as ‘autohaemorrhaging’, the practice of deliberately ejecting blood in response to a threat is very rarely encountered in nature. A handful of insects do it, plus three species of horned lizards and two species of snakes. The way the Texas horned lizard does it has been specifically designed to repel its least favorite guys ever – dogs. For a reason that’s still unclear to scientists, the blood that shoots out of the Texas horned lizard’s eye sockets elicits a particularly strong response from its canine predators, causing inflammation and gastric distress in foxes, coyotes and domestic dogs. Its non-canine predators, such as grasshopper mice and roadrunners, are spared the blood-jet treatment.
 
So what’s in this special blood-based dog repellent? Texas horned lizards have a very peculiar diet – they love harvester ants. But these ants happen to be incredibly venomous, with a sting that’s 20 times worse than a bee’s. In response, the Texas horned lizard has had to evolve a complex method for safely digesting these little ants, venom and all.
 
Scores of papillae – finger-like projections of flesh – line the backs of their tongues and run all the way down their throats. These papillae squeeze and bind the harvester ants in mucus strands as they’re swallowed, and once they reach the lizard’s oesophagus, the ants are met with more mucus-secreting skin folds that keep them incapacitated all the way down to the stomach. Scientists aren’t exactly sure how it works, but it’s been suggested that once the ant venom reaches the Texas horned lizard’s blood stream, defensive chemicals are added to ensure that the blood is ready for its journey to the head, through the eye sockets and into the face of the enemy.
 

“Steve-O denied any involvement with the prank and the CHP says he is not a suspect.”

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Someone in San Diego deserves a round of applause for this highway sign modification along Interstate 5. In regards to Steve-O, the Jackass star was pulled over close to an hour after the sign had been changed to read “Sea World SUCKS,” when he showed up on the scene with a camera crew in tow to shoot a video segment.

Bulls Win!

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Mess with a bull, sometimes you get the horns.

Three matadors were gored at a fight on Tuesday, during the month long ‘World Series of bullfighting’ in Madrid. With no one left to challenge the bulls, festivities were cancelled for the day. The first time that’s happened in 35 Years.

[Read more]

Faile Goes Cat Crazy

In their latest body of sold-out work, Faile add some new feline friends to their cast of characters.

No Thanks

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The Cebu City Zoo in the Philippines offers a snake massage featuring four giant Burmese pythons that slither across your body for 10 to 15 minutes. With strict instructions that include not being able to scream for help, these reptilian massage sessions are actually said to be “therapeutic and calming.” Yeah right.

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