Friday, October 28, 2016

Superb Bird-Of-Paradise: A Master of Disguise

Superb bird-of-paradise

Birds of paradise are some of the most colorful and eye-catching exotic birds on the planet. Among them is the striking superb bird-of-paradise or Lophorina superba, which is native to the rainforests of New Guinea. These little creatures measure around 10 inches and are known mostly for the males' frankly hilarious mating display.

When at rest, the male superb bird-of-paradise is relatively normal in appearance. It does have bluish-green iridescent feathers at its chest and head, but that is all that is visible. However, this bird is hiding some special features that he uses to attract a mate. The pretty feathers at his chest are actually part of a shield. Some of the black feathers along his back are part of what is known as his cape. He can manipulate the colored feathers on his head and some black ones along his bill in conjunction with these other parts to masquerade for the ladies.

After meticulously cleaning an area on a branch, the male superb bird-of-paradise calls out to the honeys. When one approaches, he lifts his breast shield, cape, head and bill feathers until they line up to give him the appearance of a deep black elliptical creature with shining blue-green markings. Once he's got the right look, he hops about on his branch, making sure to keep his huge disguise facing his potential mate. While he hops, he snaps his tail feathers together, creating a sharp, repetitive clacking noise.

In contrast, the females and young of the species blend into their surroundings. They have reddish-brown uppers with brown chests and bellies. These ladies don't let their average looks stop them from being notoriously picky. There are more of them than there are of the flashy males, so they feel comfortable refusing up to 20 potential mates before finally settling in to make a family.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Beast of Bray Road: A Curious Cryptid

The Beast of Bray Road is a creature that witnesses claim to have seen in Racine, Walworth and Jefferson counties in Wisconsin. The first reported sightings of the creature happened on Bray Road near Elkhorn, Wisconsin. These sightings are what lent the beast its name. However, sightings do not only occur on Bray Rd. In fact, the beast has not been sighted there since the early 1990s.

No one knows what the Beast of Bray Road, also known as Manwolf, is. Some people believe it is a werewolf, others that it is a Bigfoot and, of course, there are people who believe that it is some heretofore-unknown species. There really is no way to know unless a specimen is found. There is also the possibility that they Beast of Bray Road is, in fact, some creature that we are well aware of that simply scared some people enough that they believed it was something bigger and scarier than it really is. Common theories as to what known animal the beast could be include wolves and bears.

The creature is described as around 6 ft. tall with grayish and brown fur. Its face is said to resemble a wolf, and its ears are pointed. It has three long claws on each hand/paw. It has shiny yellow eyes. Its body has been likened to that of a lean, muscular man that tends to sit back on its haunches or kneel.

The Beast of Bray Road can run and walk on all four of its legs or just its hind legs. It has been seen eating its prey or its scavenged carrion in its hands with its palms facing upward. It has never attacked anyone, but some witnesses claim that it has acted aggressively toward them. This aggressive behavior includes running at people and jumping on their vehicles. The creature’s diet is not known for sure, but it has been seen eating the carcasses of small road kill.

Sightings of the Beast of Bray Road may go back as far as the 1930s. However, it wasn’t sighted frequently or reported thoroughly until 1989 through 1992. Most of the sightings have occurred when one or more people stumbled upon or drove past the animal while it was eating or possibly hunting/scavenging. Sightings of the animal have tapered off since the 90s, but the creature can supposedly still be seen in the woods of the area.

Perhaps the Beast of Bray Road is some cousin of other cryptids in the United States. Alternatively, it could simply be an animal that has yet to be classified or captured, which would make it a true cryptid. It could also be a group of wild animals that has become so adjusted to human life that individuals feel comfortable approaching people and vehicles. It could also be that people are frightened enough to see more than what is really there. Whatever the Beast of Bray Road is or isn't, we will never know until one is captured or it is conclusively proven that the Beast of Bray Road is a case of mistaken identity, which would be difficult to do.


Creature History, Evidence and Happenings, retrieved 11/24/09

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Freshwater Sharks

Northern River Shark
CSIRO National Fish Collection

Most of the world’s shark species are found in the ocean, but there are some elusive and not so elusive sharks out there that live in freshwater. Granted, there are only two types and possibly only five or six species of freshwater sharks, but they do exist and at least one is quite dangerous.

Bull Shark

Bull sharks are typically found in rivers or near warm shores in tropical areas. However, these animals are not strictly fresh water dwellers. Some of them spend all of their time in fresh water, while others swim to salt water for mating and birthing. They are able to transition between the two because they have the ability to control the amount of urea and sodium in their bodies. They also urinate frequently to rid themselves of excess fresh water.

Bull sharks are medium-sized sharks that are grey on their top half and white on the bottom. They have short, blunt noses that they use to head butt their prey before attacking. They weigh between 200 and 500 pounds and can be up to eight feet long. On average, they live about 16 years. Their diet consists of just about any meat that swims near them, so humans should be weary in areas where bull sharks have been sighted. Bull sharks are one of the three most dangerous shark species in the world.

River Sharks

River sharks are some of the most elusive and rare fish species on Earth. We don't know much about them. For the most part, their diet, mating habits, populations, behavior, life expectancy, specific locations and size are all mysteries. It is believed that they eat fish, though not enough research has been done on them to know for sure. They are also believed to spend their entire lives in rivers, making them the only true fresh water sharks in the world. To date, there are only around five known species, two of which may actually be one and the same. Of the five known species of river sharks, the speartooth river shark and the New Guinea river shark may be the same. The other three species include the Ganges river shark, which is critically endangered, the Bizant river shark and the Borneo river shark.

So you see, there are freshwater sharks in the world. In the case of the bull shark, we can only marvel at its adaptations and avoid its aggressive behavior. In the case of river sharks, we can only hope that we will be able to obtain more information about these creatures in the future.