Otto-zur-Strassen

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Cicada emerging from its pupal form

Hearing a constant buzzing outdoors this time of year? If it’s not road construction, it’s probably the cicadas. They derive their name from the Latin cicada, meaning “tree cricket”, but their means of sound production - using a “tymbal” on their thorax, rather than the rasping hind legs that crickets use - means that when a number of males get together to call mates, they can reach over 100 decibels. That’s as loud as a low-speed chainsaw, a jet engine at 1000 feet, or a motorcycle you’re riding.

There are large populations of cicadas that emerge only every 13 or 17 years in the United States, but both the US and Europe, there are also sizable populations of annual cicadas that come out every summer, and buzz at us until it’s cold enough to wear sweaters.

Brehms Tierleben, Allgemeine Kunde des Tierreichs. Dr. Otto zur Strassen, 1915.

Big-Headed Turtle - Platysternon megacephalum

In one of the best cases of “well, that tracks” names, the Big-Headed Turtle is, er, big-headed. Even the adult form doesn’t seem quite to scale.

While it’s not well-studied, there are few enough of this turtle that it’s considered endangered or “data-deficient” in the lists available.

This species is found in the far south of China, Laos, and Cambodia. It’s also been spotted in Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand.

Unfortunately, it’s known to be eaten for a standard (non-medicinal) foodstuff in the areas spotted, too. I assume the “eaten” means they consume the adults - this juvenile looks like a bunch of bones and a beak to me.

Brehms Tierleben, Allgemeine Kunde des Tierreichs. Prof. Otto zur Strassen, 1910.

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“Life is short, but snakes are long” - David Quammen

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Reticulated Python - Python reticulatus

The reticulated python is the longest snake in the world, reaching up to 6 meters (~20 ft) long. Most reticulated pythons are shorter than this (around 5m), but on average, they are still the longest of any known species.

However, in the wild, they’re not the heaviest. That record is held by the green anaconda (Eunectes murinus). While a wild adult reticulated python can reach around 170 lbs, the adult green anaconda can weigh over 200 lbs. They’re much wider creatures, as they’re primarily aquatic (the reticulated is primarily terrestrial), and a 4.5m anaconda would likely weigh the equivalent of a 7.5m reticulated python.

Brehms Tierleben, Allgemeine Kunde des Tierreichs. Prof. Dr. Otto zur Strassen, 1913.

Collectie Tropenmuseum. Date unknown, pre-1916.

Atlantic Puffin - Fratercula arctica

Despite popular misconception, polar bears and penguins would never naturally interact. However, the Arctic does have puffins! These black-and-white seabirds have often been mistaken for penguins, but are a result of convergent evolution, not relation.

In adults, the brightly-colored beaks and “horns” on the eyes are part of their breeding plumage, and similarly to the antlers of moose and deer, are shed every year.

Puffins, like penguins, tend towards monogamy - but unlike penguins, their monogamy is largely due to fidelity towards their nesting site, not their mate. Generations of puffin families will nest in the same area, and if one gets “kicked out” or dies and another female chooses the area as a nest site, they will often find a different mate.

Brehms Tierleben, Allgemeine Kunde des Tierreichs. Prof. Otto zur Strassen, 1910.