Natural History of Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fish, Marine Life, Insects ; By Jonstonus, Joannes, 1603-1675 Bayer, Frederick M., Burndy Library, Godman, Frederick Du Cane, 1834-1919 Jonstonus, Joannes, 1603-1675 on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Publication info Francofurti ad Moenum: Impensis haeredum Type: Meriani, MDCL-MDCLIII [1650-1653]
BHL Collections:
Smithsonian Libraries


A Strange Kind of Taxidermy

These techni-coloured cadavers are a weird combination of science and art, created by Iori Tomita, a Japanese artist and a lifelong fisherman. As an undergrad, he studied ichthyology—the branch of zoology devoted to the study of fish—where he first saw a fish turned transparent. Since then, he has combined classical preservation techniques with staining methods to create thousands of beautiful but eccentric shells of marine creatures, gradually mastering the nuances of refining form and colour. His process can take up to a year, but it produces a brilliant result. He begins by preserving creatures in formaldehyde, then removes the scales and skin and leaves the creature to soak in a mixture of blue stain, ethl alcohol, and clacial acetic acid. Next, he uses the digestive enzyme trypsin to break down the proteins and muscles—stopping the process before the creature loses its form, but just after it becomes transparent. The bones are then soaked in a mix of potassium hydropxide and red dye, and the creature is preserved in a jar of glycerin. Tomita calls the series “New World Transparent Specimens”.

Visit Tomita’s website



Frilled Shark: Chlamydoselachus anguineus

These are fairly uncommon sharks of the order Hexanchiformes, meaning that their closest living relatives are cow sharks (there’s currently speculation in the scientific community upon whether or not frilled sharks should be moved into their own separate order).

Frilled sharks are primitive. How primitive? Primitive as balls. Sensationalists refer to them as “living fossils”, but I prefer to think of them as having won the game of life for hundreds of millions of years. These motherfuckers were most likely alive before Tyrannosaurs ever walked the earth and they’re still fucking here. For some perspective, the earliest hominids arose about 4.5 million years ago. Frilled sharks have about 180 million years on us.

Their mouths are terminal, a really unusual characteristic in modern sharks—only a few other extant species share this trait. Frilled sharks are also thought to have a gestation period of 3.5 years; if true, this would be the longest known gestation period of all vertebrates.

These guys are thought by some to be the origin of the sea serpent myth—their specific epithet, anguineus, is derived from the Latin word for “snakelike”. 

Their teeth are the biological personification of that feeling you get when you stick your finger into the straw opening of a drink cup or the opening of a wet wipe dispenser and you realize you’ve fucked up worse than anyone else ever has. 

Sharks are so damn cool.

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The Goliath Tigerfish (Hydrocynus goliath) is a member of the African tetra family, Alestidae. Being the biggest member of this family, it can grow to reach around 1.4m long. A native of the Congo River basin, the Lualaba River, Lake Upemba and Lake Tanganyika in Africa, it’s the largest member of the tigerfish clan, a genus of fierce predators with protruding, daggerlike teeth. Locals say it’s the only fish that doesn’t fear the crocodile and that it actually eats smaller ones.


Scientists have identified more than 180 species of fishes that glow in a wide range of colors and patterns. The research shows that biofluorescence—a phenomenon by which organisms absorb light, transform it, and eject it as a different color—is common and variable among marine fish species, indicating its potential use in communication and mating. The report opens the door for the discovery of new fluorescent proteins that could be used in biomedical research.

Learn more.


Top left: Hippocampus sp. internal structure
Top right: Short-snouted seahorse - Hippocampus hippocampus
Center: 1. Syngnathus hippocampus [now Hippocampus hippocampus]
2. Pegasus draconis [now Eurypegasus draconis] - the Little Dragonfish (*unrelated to Syngnathidae family*)
3. Syngnathus pelagicus - the Sargassum pipefish
Bottom: Phyllopteryx taeniolatus -the Weedy Sea Dragon

Despite their remarkable appearance, seahorses are true ray-finned bony fishes (class Actinopterygii, infraclass Teleostei), along with bass, mullets, eels, salmon, and lanternfish.

Many people know of the male seahorse incubating the eggs and giving “birth” to 100-1000 offspring after they hatch, but reproduction is similar throughout the order Syngnathidae (including the seahorses, leafy and weedy sea dragons, and pipefish). There’s a persistent myth that seahorses are monogamous, but that’s not strictly true. The majority of species are serially monogamous, and remain together throughout the mating season (until the male births the babies).

Another remarkable thing about seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) is that they’re the only fish with prehensile tails - even their close relatives, the sea dragons and pipefish, don’t have this adaptation. However, since the seahorses are the only ones that swim upright, and they have the poorest locomotive skills, they need to be able to anchor themselves to the sea flora in order to not be swept away. The Guinness Book of World Records has named Hippocampus zosteraethe dwarf seahorse, the slowest fish in the world, moving less than 5 ft [150 cm] an hour.

Aside from the seahorses, the razorfish (Aeoliscus strigatus) is the only other fish to swim “upright”.

Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission, Vol 1. 1881.
Arcana; or, The Museum of Natural History. George Perry, 1811.

So the evolution of skeletal bone and teeth in vertebrates is super neat.

A lot of people are aware that shark scales are composed of the same material as teeth (pulp core surrounded by a hard enamel coating), but not many seem to know that it’s not just a weird evolutionary coincidence.

Modern fish are descended from placoderms, early jawed vertebrates which had heavy ossified plates covering their bodies. Sharks had bony placoid scales before they ever had teeth—the scales migrated forward and fused into three-pronged structures called odontodes which eventually modified to form true teeth. So teeth are actually scales, in the same way that the inner ear in tetrapods is a homologous feature to the branchial arch-derived spiracle found in most cartilaginous fishes. 




Weedy Scorpionfish, Rhinopias frondosa | ©Albert Kang  (Batangas, Philippines)

Commonly known as Weedy Scorpionfish, Popeyed Scorpionfish or the Purple Tassled Rhino Scorpionfish, Rhinopias frondosa (Scorpaenidae) is a spectacular fish, very rare, but once found, can be easily located again as they tend to stay at the same place unless disturbed.

The colors will vary but they’re generally in red, purple, orangish hues. The specimen shown is purple variation.


Flower Mantises

Flower mantises are a species of praying mantis that mimic the appearance of the flowers that they live and hide among. Like other mantises, flower mantises are carnivorous and have special adaptations for hunting – including spiked front legs designed for grabbing and holding on to prey, and the ability to swivel their heads 300 degrees to better scan their surroundings.

  • Spiny Flower Mantis - Native to Kenya, this lovely mantis has spines, which look especially plant-like, on its lower abdomen, hence its name. The spiny mantis is one of those species that has a unique, eye-like pattern on its wings, and it is also fairly small, reaching less than 4 cm in length.
  • Orchid Mantis - The gorgeous orchid mantis makes its home in the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia and Malaysia. It mimics the flowers of orchids found there, with its four walking legs looking remarkably like flower petals. Interestingly, it will prey on everything from butterflies and moths to bees and even lizards.
  • Nigerian Flower Mantis - This little cutie is a small West African species of flower mantis and it’s a particularly tiny specimen, because it’s a baby. The eyes of this species are unusual in that they are rounded and have a blue tint to them. This one is still snacking on a small-winged insect.

Remoras, also known as shark suckers, are a family of eight species of fish that have sucker disks positioned above their heads that let them attach to moving objects to hitch a ride. They attach to sharks, turtles, ships, divers, and just about anything they can latch onto. Scientists have now discovered that the sucker disks of remoras are actually highly modified dorsal fins that expands during their development.

(Photo © Dave Johnson)(Source)

Threespot Dascyllus - juvenile (Dascyllus trimaculatus) | ©jasdivr

Also known as Threespot Dascyllus or Domino Damsel, Dascyllus trimaculatus (Perciformes - Pomacentridae), is a damselfish, reef-associated and non-migratory fish.

This species can be found at Indo-Pacific: Red Sea and East Africa to the Line and Pitcairn islands, north to southern Japan, south to Sydney, Australia. Not found in the Hawaiian and Marquesan islands.
The picture shown was taken in Alona beach, Bohol, Philippines.

More information.

Thistledown Velvet Ant

Also known as a Cow Killer, this strange, fuzzy insect, pictured in the Mojave Desert in California, is not really an ant but a female wasp. The sting from one of these wasps is one of the most painful of any insect. The wingless females can make a squeaking, screaming noise when captured. Males of this species are winged and usually larger than the females.

(photo by Robert Jensen)