Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Some Cool Creatures With Deadly Venom

Box Jellyfish
Gorgeous and extraordinarily
deadly box jellyfish
Photo is in the public domain
in the United States.
Venom is a toxin or combination of toxins that a creature injects through biting or stinging. There are countless animals on Earth that are capable of delivering venoms to humans that range from slightly irritating to deadly. Despite their deadly venom, many of these creatures do not pose a significant threat to humans because they are shy and reclusive. Others that possess deadly venom are made even more deadly for the fact that they are aggressive and are not intimidated by humans. Others still are deadly because humans happen upon them by chance and are envenomed before the creature or the human can make a choice to stay or go. Below are creatures of all these groups that have one thing in common. They possess extremely deadly venom.

Very Deadly Venom: Blue-Ringed Octopus

Blue-ringed octopi are so named because of the vivid blue rings that appear on their skin when they are threatened. Otherwise, they are typically brown in color. They are very small creatures (about the size of a golf ball when fully grown). Therefore, if you are walking in a Pacific tidal pool from Australia to Japan or a little west and you see a small brown blob or a golf-ball with blue rings, leave immediately. Stepping on one of these beautiful, but deadly, creatures can quickly lead to your death.

It is thought that blue-ringed octopi deliver their venom through a bite. It may also deliver through the skin, in which case it would be a poison rather than venom. Whatever the case, you do not want to be on the receiving end. Their venom contains maculotoxin and tetrodotoxin (think pufferfish) It causes paralysis, namely of the respiratory system. Unless someone begins breathing for you almost immediately, you will die. They also need to start massaging your heart soon after. If this is accomplished and continued for the next 24 hours, you will survive without any long-term complications. If you are alone or with someone who does not know to start CPR, a dose of this venom will get you a one-way ticket to a coffin. There is no antivenin.

Very Deadly Venom: Inland Taipan

The inland taipan is a 6-8 foot snake that lives in the dry plains of eastern and southern Australia. They change color with the seasons, being lightest (brown) in summer and black in winter. Their heads are often darker than the rest of their bodies. They are reclusive and do not often encounter humans. They would rather hide if they do. Nonetheless, they will still bite when provoked.

The inland taipain is often said to be the most venomous snake in the world. Its venom is the deadliest of all snakes found on land and it can deliver enough to kill you in roughly 45 minutes. Its venom contains powerful neurotoxins and procoagulants. This means it can paralyze you and affect the blood clotting process. Bleeding is a serious concern. Their bites can also cause renal failure. Thankfully, there is an antivenin, if you can get to it in time.

Very Deadly Venom: Australian Box Jellyfish

The Australian box jellyfish is an extremely feared sea creature and with good reason. Its body is box-shaped and it has up to 60 tentacles that can grow up to 10 feet long. Each tentacle contains 5,000 nematocysts (the things they sting you with). They are transparent light blue, making them nearly impossible to see, if you are not looking for them. You should be on the lookout for them off the northern coast of Australia and in the Indo-Pacific area.

The venom of Australian box jellyfish is cardiotoxic, neurotoxic and dermatonecrotic. That means it attacks your heart, rots tissue and attacks your nervous system. The sting of this creature is so painful that victims often go into shock instantly. A large sting (many stinging cells make contact) can cause a victim to go into cardiac arrest within minutes. Little stings are not as bad, but a big sting spells certain death if you are alone.

Necrosis sets in at the site of the sting, leaving telltale scars. The tentacles stick to the victim and need to be removed before the damage worsens. The only way to do this is by pouring vinegar on them and then removing them. (Do not handle with your bare hands)

These animals should be avoided at all times. Seeking them out or keeping them as pets (as people often do with blue-ringed octopi) is foolhardy. Just because you will not certainly die, does not mean you will not regret it if you are envenomed. Other animals that should be avoided because of their venom are the Brazilian wandering spider (bite causes priapism, which needs to be treated immediately) and the death stalker scorpion (aggressive animal), the bite and sting of these animals causes excruciating pain.


Blue-Ringed Octopus, retrieved 11/10/10,

Facts About Inland Taipan, retrieved 11/10/10,

Box Jellyfish, retrieved 11/10/10

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Elephants: Do They Have Human-Like Emotions?

Elephants drinking water
Courtesy of Bernard Dupont
Elephants are the largest land mammals on Earth. They are also credited with having relatively large brains, great memory and almost human characteristics, despite the obvious physical differences. Among elephants' human qualities is the ability to create art, made possible by their observation skills and dexterous trunks. This in itself is amazing. However, their ability to display emotions is even more so.

It is a common belief that only humans experience emotions like happiness, sorrow and compassion. This is a misconception, judging by the behavior of animals like dolphins and elephants. Every day, elephants prove that humans are not the only animals capable of caring for other individuals, despite the lack of personal gain. Their behavior proves that they can display, at the very least, happiness, grief and compassion.

Elephants Displaying Elation

Elephants have been observed countless times doing something that can only be described as celebrating a birth. When a calf is born, members of the herd are attentive of the new mother and calf, but what is interesting is the noisy party that follows. Elephants will trumpet and make all sorts of sounds after a healthy baby is born. Judging by the fact that these noises obviously are not for survival or necessary communication, it must be concluded that they are celebrating. Well, there can only be one reason to celebrate and that is happiness. Therefore, it is assumed by many that these birth celebrations are a sign that elephants experience happiness.

Another elephant behavior obviously speaks of happiness, or at least relief. It is known as an elephant "greeting ceremony." When an elephant family member or close individual is reunited with its acquaintances or relations, the previously absent elephant and its loved one(s) will start communicating from a distance. As the distance closes, the elephants begin running to greet each other. Once the distance has been gapped, a celebration of noise, holding trunks (something like holding hands) and ear flapping ensues. This celebration can involve up to 50 elephants and lasts up to five minutes. There is the possibility that this is some sort of important communication that humans have yet to decipher. However, it seems to be that the elephants are simply celebrating the return of a lost loved one. After all, what survival benefit is there to expending this much energy?

Elephants Displaying Grief

An elephant display of grief is a touching thing to behold. If you have never seen it, click here to watch a video of elephant grieving behavior. It shows clearly a behavior that must be brought on by emotions, because there is no need for it in the context of what we think of as animal behavior. In other words, it does nothing to feed them, keep them from being eaten or aid in mating.

Elephant expert Joyce Poole is one of the many who has witnessed and documented the grief of elephants. In her case, it was the death of an infant elephant and its mother's reaction to the stillbirth that made elephant grief obvious. Joyce wrote in her "Coming of Age with Elephants" that she watched elephant Tonie try to revive her dead baby for several days. The mother seemed dejected and unwilling to face the fact that her baby was dead.

Tonie's behavior is not the only example of elephant grief. Whole herds will return to the scene of an elephant death days later to stand over the remains of the dead elephant and touch it. If the remains are reduced to bones, the elephants will pick up, investigate and move the bones while keeping vigil over them.

Elephants Displaying Compassion/Empathy

Given the above behavior characteristics of elephants, it is easy to believe that elephants are also capable of compassion and empathy. They are known to assist sick or fallen members of the herd, orphaned elephants and even members of other species. This suggests that they know the animal is hurting and are aware of the implications. That is the essence of empathy. It takes awareness of illness and death to feel these feelings. Many other animals appear to lack this awareness. Apparently, elephants do not.

It is often said that people look for human behavior in animals so they can relate. There is some truth to this notion. Just look at people who dress their animals in human clothes or swear that it is not food, but love, that brings their cats home to them. Nevertheless, we cannot let this fact keep us from recognizing emotions in intelligent animals. After all, who are we to label these things as "human" behavior when they could very well be shared with other creatures?


MacKenzie, Paul, Grieving, retrieved 2/25/11,

Elephant Emotions, retrieved 2/25/11,

Greeting Ceremony, retrieved 2/25/11,

Sunday, December 27, 2015

List of the World's Biggest Animals

This Earth is literally filled with fascinating creatures, whether we bother to take the time to appreciate them or not. The average person is only aware of fraction of these wonderful animals. However, some are awfully hard to ignore, even those that live deep in the ocean. Why are these animals in particular so hard to ignore? Well, that is because they are huge. In every animal class on Earth there is one species that dwarves all other species in their class or even the world.

(Note: At least one class has been skipped because there is some debate over which species is actually the largest within those classes.)

Whale Shark photographed by
Zac Wolf
Biggest Fish in the Sea: The Whale Shark

Whale sharks are sharks, which makes them fish. Unlike most other sharks, they are not aggressive. Some say they are so calm that human divers can ride them underwater like dolphins. Despite being sharks, they are filter feeders, like whales. Whale sharks feed by sucking food and water into their mouths then pushing the excess water out through their gills. They are dark gray in color with light white and yellow stripes and dots.

Whale sharks are the largest known fish in the world. They can grow to be more than 40 feet in length and weigh more than 35 tons. That is relative to the weight of an 18-wheeler, give or take a few tons. Whale sharks can be found in all of the tropical oceans of the world.

Biggest Worm in Terms of Length: The Bootlace Worm

There are many types of worms in the world, earthworms, parasitic worms, etc. The bootlace worm is a type of ribbon worm that lives at the bottom of the ocean. These worms are carnivores with some interesting feeding habits. They attack their prey, wrap it up and then stab at it with a pointy nose appendage until the prey is dead. When touched (at least by humans), they secrete a thick, slippery mucus that is presumably a defense mechanism.

Bootlace worms are most often observed when they wash up on shore, at which time there true size is hard to discern. They tend to be curled up in knots instead of stretched out to their full potential, which is very impressive. The smallest of these animals is roughly 33 feet in length. Some specimens have been measured at roughly 180 feet. That makes this worm the longest creature on Earth.

African Bush Elephant
Biggest Land Mammal: The African Bush Elephant

Most elephants are relatively large creatures, but the African bush elephant is the largest. Weighing in at as much as 11 tons, these docile creatures are easily capable of crushing a human or predator. They can be as many as 24 ft. long and their lifespan is second only to that of humans, as far as mammals are concerned.

Keeping up such a massive body is not easy for African bush elephants, especially because they are herbivores. They must eat roughly 350 pounds of food daily. That is why habitat destruction is a major concern for these animals. African bush elephants need ample vegetation to support their herds. Herds of these animals can be found anywhere in Africa where the habitat still supports them.

African bush elephant herds are matriarchal. The oldest of the females looks over the females and calves. Male elephants live the lives of bachelors, only popping in every so often to impregnate females. Once impregnated, it takes the female nearly two years to give birth. This gestation period is longer than that of any other mammal.

Biggest Marine Mammal: The Blue Whale

The blue whale is the largest mammal and animal on land or sea. In fact, it may be the largest animal to have ever lived on Earth. The largest specimen ever measured was more than 100 feet long. Some weigh more than 100 tons, possibly as many as 150 tons. These animals somehow subsist on some of the smallest edible creatures in the sea - krill. They must eat roughly 4 tons of krill daily. That is why it is very important that human activity does not upset even the smallest life forms in the ocean.

Blue whales are found in every ocean on Earth. They live in cold waters when they are not mating and migrate to tropical waters when they are mating and birthing. These animals were once prime targets for the harpoons of whalers because one specimen could produce massive amounts of oil. They were hunted so much that it became necessary to ban all blue whale hunting across the globe to protect their populations.

Dead Giant Squid Specimen
Biggest Cephalopod on Earth: The Giant Squid and the Colossal Squid

Both the giant squid and the colossal squid often take number one for largest cephalopod on Earth. That is because giant squids are thought to be longer while colossal squids are thought to be heavier. However, these animals have not been studied extensively in the wild, so it is hard to say which would win as far as average weight and length go. Both species are carnivorous. Rumor has it that they can best small whales in a fight.

Colossal and giant squids live very deep in all of the world's oceans. Therefore, most studies on these creatures have been done on dead specimens that wash ashore or are caught. They have not even been filmed extensively in their natural habitat. As for the giant squid, it has been filmed a couple of times near the surface after being lured by fishermen. That is the extent of it for now.

A giant squid's body, not including tentacles, can be twenty feet long, possibly more. The eyes of both the giant squid and the colossal squid are the largest on Earth, as far as we know. Of course, there could be larger, even creepier, invertebrates lurking in the depths of the Earth's oceans.

Australian Saltwater Crocodile
Biggest Reptile on Earth: The Saltwater Crocodile

Saltwater crocodiles are found in the Pacific Ocean near Australia, India and Southeast Asia. They are known to be strong hunters and killers. They, like their crocodile and alligator cousins, are able to take down prey with careful hunting, strong jaws and deadly teeth. Out of all of these dangerous hunters, the saltwater crocodile is the most efficient and deadly. In fact, it has a reputation for killing humans that come too close to their waiting jaws.

Males are the larger sex when it comes to saltwater crocodiles. They are an average of 17 feet long and weigh roughly 1, 000 pounds. A human being does not have a chance against these large, strong killing machines.

Biggest Amphibian on Earth: The Chinese Giant Salamander

Chinese Giant Salamanders are not as large as some of the other animals on this list, but they sure are big for amphibians. The smaller specimens are roughly 1 foot long, while the largest can be up to five and a half feet long. They live in cold streams in China and eat frogs, fish, insects, crabs and shrimp.

Biggest Bird on Earth: The Ostrich

As far as this list goes, the closest things we have to living dinosaurs are the aforementioned saltwater crocodiles and the ostrich. These huge African birds are formidable, though flightless. They are capable of kicking a human to death with their strong legs. They can run as fast as 43 miles an hour, making bounds as great as 16 ft. with one stretch of the legs. The largest of these birds can weigh more than 300 pounds and stand as tall as 9 feet. If you ever get the urge to mess with one of these birds, try to remember that velociraptors were smaller than ostriches are.

As wonderful as having an insect on this list would be, unfortunately, there is still some debate over what should be considered the largest insect in the world. There are insects that are quite larger in their larval stage. There are also insects that have yet to be found. There are also insects that are quite long, but light, while others are heavy and short. Therefore, it will have to suffice to say that the largest insect in the world is most likely a beetle. Thankfully, not even the biggest insect in the world is as large as any other animal on this list. Try to imagine an insect as big as an elephant or a blue whale. On second thought, some things are better left unimagined.


Ostrich, retrieved 2/17/11,

Chinese Giant Salamander, retrieved 2/17/11,

African Bush Elephant, retrieved 2/17/11,

Whale Shark, retrieved 2/17/11,

Blue Whale, retrieved 2/17/11,

Giant Squid, retrieved 2/17/11,

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Green Treefrogs: Bright and Beautiful Denizens of North America

Green Treefrog
Green Treefrog
Courtesy of Clinton & Charles Robertson
There are currently more than one hundred species of frogs and toads in North America, among them is the very pretty Green Treefrog. These frogs are also known as cowbell frogs or rain frogs. The reason for the former is that their calls often sound like bells. The reason for the latter is that they have a habit of becoming noisy after it rains (during the active season).

Green Treefrogs are light green in color and the surface of their skin is very smooth. They may have white stripes with black borders running down their sides and the sides of their snouts. These frogs may also have yellow spots with black borders on their backs. They can grow to be between 1-1/4 and 2-1/2 inches in length as adults. Green Treefrogs are found mainly along the southeastern and Gulf coasts of the U.S. Their range goes north as far as Illinois.

Like many other frog species, Green Treefrogs are most noticeable when they are mating. The males of the species will congregate in specific breeding sites and start emitting an ‘advertising’ call in an attempt to attract mates. They are not very territorial. However, if another calling male gets too close to them at this time, they will emit a ‘warning’ call. Once a female chooses a male to mate with, she will often nudge him to get his attention. At this point, the male will clasp the female in what is called axillary amplexus. In other words, he will mount her and grip her from behind her forelimbs. He then fertilizes her eggs. If an unwitting male should attempt to mount another male or an unwilling female, the offended Green Treefrog will emit a ‘release’ call.

These frogs most often lay their eggs in lakes, ponds, swamps or standing water after a heavy rain. After the Green Treefrogs eggs hatch, it will take the tiny tadpoles a couple of weeks to a month to become frogs. During the tadpole stage, it will live off of aquatic plant life. Once the Green Treefrog reaches adulthood, it will live off of insects.

Green Treefrogs, and most other frogs, are more active at night than they are during the hotter daytime hours. They typically spend their days in burrows or hiding places that contain moisture. This is so that the frog’s skin will not dry out in the heat. However, they will also become inactive in cold weather, because they are cold-blooded. So, the best time to find a Green Treefrog is during mating season, which is usually from around March to around August. All you need to do is follow the sound of their mating calls.


Elliot, Lang, Gerhardt, Carl & Davidson, Carlos, The Frogs and Toads of North America, p. 44-47

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Chimpanzee Hunting Behavior

Courtesy of Aaron Logan
Chimpanzees are relatively large primates that are nearly covered in black hair. They have long arms, short legs and opposable thumbs and toes. They are known for their intelligence and their remarkable resemblance to humans. Like humans, chimpanzees are able to form a number of facial expressions, they are also able to make rudimentary tools. What is quite interesting is that they are omnivorous, like humans, which makes them and their close cousins the bonobos, the only other members of the great ape family that eat meat. Even more interesting is the way they hunt for it.

Chimpanzees live in tropical rainforest, savanna and grasslands in Africa, where they spend about six hours each day, hunting or foraging for food. They seek mostly fruits and vegetables because meat only makes up about 3% of their overall food intake. Until the 1960's when primatoligist Jane Goodall was studying chimpanzees, it was believed that these animals were strictly vegetarian. However, Goodall observed them actively hunting, killing and eating various prey and it became known that they were omnivorous.

Chimpanzees hunt alone or in groups of up to thirty-five individuals. The groups are typically made up of males, but females have been known to join the hunt and hunt on their own. They hunt prey both on the ground and in the trees, though they mostly hunt in the trees as red colobus monkeys are their favorite source of meat. The meat from the hunt is then shared among the chimps in the group’s community. Some experts believe that this sharing is part of the reason that chimps hunt when they could easily survive without the meat.

There are several theories that seem to explain why chimpanzees hunt. Some experts believe that it is a social behavior and that the sharing of the meat has a social significance. Others believe that they eat meat for nutrition purposes, though they seem to do okay without it. Whatever the reason is for the behavior, it is certainly proof that these creatures are very intelligent. Some chimps in the savanna have even been observed sharpening sticks with their teeth and using them to hunt bushbabies. Some scientists believe that this may even give us insight into the evolution of the human species.


Choi, Charles, Special to Live Science, 2/22/07, retrieved 9/18/09,

Gunn, Cha Mia & Lifflick, Melissa & Mathis, Jocelyn, Chimpanzees, retrieved 9/18/09,

Stanford, Dr. Craig B., The Predatory Behavior and Ecology of Wild Chimpanzees, retrieved 9/18/09,

Friday, December 18, 2015

Dolphins Are One of Few Creatures That Help Other Species

Military Dolphin
K-Dog (The dolphin above) helps
the military find mines.
Throughout history there have been documented cases and legends of dolphins rescuing members of different species. This is something of an anomaly in the animal kingdom because most animals do not show signs of compassion for other species. That is not to say that it is unheard of, though it is extremely rare. Dolphins, on the other hand, are frequently seen interacting with and assisting other species. They can often be seen playing with whales and humans, and, in many cases, rescuing them from certain danger.

Probably the most well known story of a dolphin helping humans is the legend of Hatteras Jack. It is said that sometime in the late 1700's sailors began seeing an albino dolphin in the treacherous waters of Cape Hatteras. The dolphin would appear before ships after they blew their foghorn for him. He would then guide them through the area to safety. It is said that Hatteras Jack could gauge the size of the ship he was guiding and would not see it through until the tide was high enough for the ship to pass. After the ships were out of danger, Hatteras Jack would show off for the sailors before leaving. Legend has it that Hatteras Jack never lost a ship.

More recent cases of dolphins assisting other species include that of the rescue of two disoriented whales in New Zealand. In March of 2008 witnesses reported that they saw a bottlenose dolphin, named Moko, rescue two stranded whales. The whales had been beaching themselves and were becoming very confused. Human rescuers had been attempting to guide the two whales to safety for hours when Moko turned up. Somehow the dolphin managed to coerce the whales into following a safer course.

Another interesting case is that of a man who was rescued by a pod of bottlenose dolphins. The man was surfing in Monterey Bay in California when he was attacked by a great white shark. The shark bit into the man’s back and one of his legs while the man tried desperately to fight it off. A pod of six dolphins appeared and began stirring up the water around the scene of the attack. Eventually the man was able to escape the shark’s jaws for a moment and the dolphins immediately formed a barricade between the man and the shark. Onlookers quickly brought the man to shore. He survived the attack, but just barely.

Another documented case of a pod of dolphins protecting humans occurred off of the coast of New Zealand. A man, his daughter and her two friends were going on a long swim in the ocean when a pod of dolphins began swimming agitatedly around them. The group initially believed that the dolphins were attacking them, because the dolphins were forcing them to crowd together. The man tried to break free, but two of the dolphins forced him back into the group. It was then that the man saw what was causing the dolphins to behave that way, a great white shark. The dolphins remained around the swimmers for forty minutes. When they had effectively scared off the shark, they simply swam away. The group made it safely to shore, only then did the man tell the young women what he had seen.

Dolphins are the subject of much fascination and wonder for the human race. They frequently display their intelligence and what seems to be compassion. Some people believe that they may even have intelligence to equal that of humans.


Dolphin Saves Swimmers from Great White Shark (November 23, 2004), retrieved 6/2/09

CDNN, Dolphin Rescues Stranded Whale, retrieved 6/2/09

Free, Cathy, Shark! How One Surfer Survived an Attack, retrieved 6/1/09

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Goanna Lizard: Venomous Reptile of Australia

Goanna lizard
Goanna Lizard
Courtesy of Pete Firminger
Goanna lizards are in fact Australian monitor Lizards. They have this name because early white settlers of Australia mistook the animals for the more familiar iguana lizards. There are more than twenty species of goanna lizards in Australia and they can be found nearly everywhere on the continent.

All species of goanna lizards are very similar in color, shape and appearance. They are dark grey, olive green or brown in color. Most of them also have grey, white or yellow patterns on their skin. They also have a large flap of skin on the neck that the animal has the ability to puff up when it feels threatened. One thing that varies greatly among the species of goanna lizards is size. The largest of the goanna are among some of the largest lizards in the world, but the smallest are very small compared to their counterparts. Goanna lizards range in size from less than a foot to 6.5 feet long.

Some goanna lizards live in trees, while others are terrestrial. However, even the terrestrial goannas have the ability to climb trees with ease. They can run bipedally or quadrupedally and are good runners over short distances. They are known to sometimes stand on their hind legs and, like other monitor lizards may fight each other this way. Some of these animals live near freshwater, where they can sometimes be seen swimming.

Goanna lizards mate at different times of the year, depending on the species. Northern Australian goanna lizards mate during the summer and southern Australian goanna mate during the winter. Eggs are laid in nests, burrows and even termite mounds. These lizards lay anywhere from three to eleven eggs at a time and the eggs incubate for 169 to 265 days before hatching.

Goanna lizards are carnivorous and will eat other lizards, small mammals, snakes, eggs, birds and insects. They actively hunt their prey and will dig large holes in the ground in search of food. They have hinged lower jaws, making it easy for them to swallow a meal whole. They also eat carrion, so they will sometimes be seen eating large animals by tearing chunks of flesh off of the carcass and swallowing them.

The bite of a goanna lizard does contain venom, though not in large amounts. Infections caused by their bite had been attributed to bacteria in the animals’ mouths, until it was discovered that they have venom glands in their mouths, much like a venomous snake does. However, bites from a goanna lizard could contain both bacteria and venom and they should be treated as such.


Smith, Deborah, The Sydney Morning Herald, November 18, 2005, retrieved, 9/13/09,

Australian Goannas, Our Monitor Lizards, retrieved 9/13/09,

Monday, December 14, 2015

Blue-Ringed Octopi: Tiny Venomous Denizens of the Ocean

Blue-Ringed Octopus
Blue-ringed octopus
Courtesy of Elias Levy
Blue-ringed octopi are small creatures found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They inhabit shallow seawater, particularly in southern Australia. Unfortunately, their size and choice of home make it possible for humans to unwittingly step on them. This is a highly unfavorable situation, as blue-ringed octopi possess some of the most dangerous venom on Earth.

Female blue-ringed octopi give birth to roughly 50 eggs after breeding in late fall. They carry these eggs around in their tentacles until it is time for them to hatch. This typically takes between three and six months. These octopi begin their lives at about a fraction of an inch. They are only about seven inches when they reach adulthood. They eat crabs and certain mollusks once they are large enough to feed.

When a blue-ringed octopus hunts, it envenomates its prey before eating. It has several mechanisms for doing so. It can simply release its venom into the water and wait while its prey becomes paralyzed. It can bite its prey before eating. It may even capture the animal, stick it in a bubble of its own body and release the venom into the bubble.

Blue-ringed octopi have brownish to yellowish background color with vivid blue rings over their entire bodies. These rings become brighter when the octopi are threatened. However, they are typically not aggressive, which means most bites happen when humans accidentally disturb them. In that split second it takes to step on a blue-ringed octopus and have it bite, it is unlikely those blue rings will brighten with enough time to warn the victim.

The venom of blue-ringed octopi is a neurotoxin. It creates a range of symptoms, such as paralysis, paleness, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, drooling, stomach pain and seizures. Untreated, it can lead to death through shutdown of body functions. The problem is that the bite itself is described as painless or nearly painless. This makes it difficult to tell there is a bite until the dire symptoms kick in. Therefore, if you are walking in the shallow pools of water in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and feel a slight pinch on your foot, look down, carefully. If you are leaving the beach and your lips start to tingle, let someone else drive and warn him that you may have been bitten.


MacConnell, Ashleigh, Hapalochlaena maculosa, retrieved 7/9/11,

Moore, Robert, The Biology of the Venom of Hapalochlaena Maculosa, retrieved 7/9/11

Friday, December 11, 2015

Endemic Species That Are Endangered Due to Deforestation in Madagascar

Illustration of a Diademed Sifaka
Deforestation is a global problem. In other words, there is hardly a single area on Earth that has not been affected by deforestation in some way. However, there are some places on Earth where deforestation in just that one area becomes a global problem. One of these places is the island of Madagascar off the coast of Africa. Roughly 90% of the reptiles on Madagascar are found nowhere else on Earth. Twenty-nine species of the world’s lemurs are endemic to the island. Additionally, 80% of the plant species on the island are endemic, including the rosy periwinkle, which is used in the treatment of leukemia. Rampant deforestation puts all of these species in danger.

Problem deforestation in Madagascar began more than 100 years ago. Economic woes forced the Malagasy to clear forests for agriculture. They used the slash and burn method to clear large areas of forests for the growing of crops like rice and coffee. Some estimates say that roughly 70% of Madagascar’s primary forests were clearcut between 1895 and 1925. Most of the deforestation that took place at this time was done illegally. Since that time, commercial logging and the use of wood for fuel have also contributed to the deforestation in Madagascar. Also since that time, we have seen what kind of impact that this is having on the local animal species. The following are just a few of the island’s endemic animals that are threatened due to habitat loss.

The Golden bamboo lemur is endangered primarily because of deforestation. They live in mid-altitude rainforests on the island. Their diet consists primarily of giant bamboo, which is also subject to being chopped down.

The Golden-crowned sifaka is an endangered lemur species. Their endangerment can be linked to both mining and deforestation. They dwell in the gallery, semi-evergreen and dry deciduous forests of Madagascar. Their diet consists primarily of fruit, seeds, leaves and flowers.

The Greater bamboo lemur is critically endangered due to food source and habitat destruction. They subsist almost entirely on giant bamboo. They dwell in the primary rainforests of the island.

The Greater big-footed mouse dwells in the dry deciduous forests of Madagascar. They are endangered due to habitat loss. They eat fruit, seeds, berries, roots and stems.

The Diademed sifaka is endangered primarily through deforestation. They live in both the primary and montane rainforests of the island. Their diet consists primarily of leaves, seeds, fruit, shoots and flowers.

The Indri is yet another lemur that is endangered because of deforestation. They dwell in the rainforests of central eastern and northeastern Madagascar. They dine on leaves, flowers and fruit.

The Malagasy giant rat lives in the coastal dry deciduous forests of the island. They are endangered due to deforestation and the introduction of invasive black rats. They subsist primarily on fruit, seeds, sapling bark, roots and tubers that they forage off of the forest floor.

You’ll notice that all of these animals rely on the forests, not only for shelter, but also for food. And these are only just a scant few of the endemic species on Madagascar that do so. If deforestation continues the way it has been, not just some, but all, of the endemic species will become endangered. It would become inevitable. Even marine life is threatened because of soil erosion, which is directly linked to deforestation. There is good news, however. Conservationists are working very hard to protect the habitat that is left. They have even seen some success, despite the fact that it is very hard to save anything when people can make money off of its destruction.


O’Connor, Alane, what are the historical causes of deforestation in Madagascar?, retrieved 2/12/10,