Let me introduce you to three of my friends: hallucigenia, opabinia, and wiwaxia. They’re all from the Cambrian explosion, the period of time around 500 million years ago when life was just starting and was still trying to figure out questions like “how should a mouth work?” and “legs?”
Hallucigenia was about an inch long (most life back then was tiny, they were only a few eras removed from being single celled after all) and it had sixteen clawed legs, hard spines coming out of its back, and a wicked tentacle neckbeard.
Opabinia was between two to three inches long and it had thirty fins along the side of its body, along with five mushroom shaped eyes on top of its head. By far though, its most interesting feature was its strange proboscis. Like a Dr. Moreau style mashup of an elephant and a lobster, the long nose terminated in a large claw that it used to grab prey and bring it to its backward facing mouth.
Finally, this is wiwaxia. This danger-artichoke was a two inch long armored slug-like creature with no head. In fact, its actual body was largely just its one massive foot.
I find these animals interesting for three main reasons. First, it’s incredibly fascinating to see all of the potential paths that life on earth could have taken. Imagine an ocean filled with elephant lobsters! Second, whenever I feel like my life is going nowhere and all my choices are the wrong ones, I like to think that I’m in in my phase where I’m still developing hallucigenias and wiwaxias, and not yet making awesome things like
butterflies or velociraptors. Finally - it serves as a stark reminder that if we ever find alien life, there is a fantastic chance it will look like nothing we’ve ever seen before - it might look more like one of these creatures than a human being.
Emballonuridae is a family of bats commonly known as sheath-tailed or sac-winged bats. I’m surprised these bats aren’t better known, because they have very uniquely appealing little faces. I think it’s the perpetually upturned nose.
They also have a stunning variety of colors, from the pure-white northern ghost bat to the dark chocolate of the Hill’s sheath-tailed bat.
Among them are some excellent camoflaugers, such as the proboscis bat, which looks like a bit of lichen or damaged bark on a tree.
In fact, many species in Emballonuridae roost on the trunks and branches of trees, in broad daylight, depending on their camouflage to keep them safe. They like to do it in neat little lines.
Sometimes they also stack.
You may have noticed their short little tailed. They’re sometimes called sheath-tailed bats because these tails protrude out of the membrane between their back legs, which can be pulled up to “sheath” the tail. Here’s a video if you don’t quite understand what I mean.
As I mentioned earlier, they’re also called sac-winged bats. This is because they have special pouches near their wrists designed to release pheromones into the air when they flap their wings. Below is a close up of the pouch, closed and then opened.
For the most part these are very small bats, with weights as low as three to four grams- one of the smallest, the proboscis bat, can get caught in spiderwebs and eaten.
Aside from roosting in trees, these bats roost in caves, crevices, and occasionally, human-made structures like wells or stone tombs. Because of this, several species are known as tomb bats. They’re pretty adorable little harbingers of death if you ask me.
Main set (species in photo caption): Bat Conservation Intl / Jasmine Vink / University of KwaZulu-Natal / Merlin Tuttle / Michael Penney
Emedded in text: Bateleur Nature Reserve / ARKive / Riley Pearce / PSUNHM / Christian Ziegler
Cyclopia: A congenital abnormality (birth defect) in which there
is only one eye. That eye is centrally placed in the area normally
occupied by the root of the nose. There is a missing nose or a nose in
the form of a proboscis (a tubular appendage) located above the eye.
A hummingbird hawk moth has an extremely long proboscis it uses to extract nectar from flowers. Hovering and darting from one flower to the next, it’s no wonder this moth is often mistaken for a hummingbird.
“three pan-dimensional beings manifest themselves on earth as a boar, a proboscis monkey, and a baby tapir. they all get tumblr blogs and start selling random shit to people, and they sometimes get in arguments”
Apparently, Teddiursa is a very sticky pokémon. According to the pokédex, it is always soaked in honey. More than that, apparently Teddiursa is capable of making its own honey. Teddiursa is very clearly not a bee, so how does this happen?
If we want to understand how Teddiursa makes honey, we should first learn how bees make honey! The honey process starts at a flower: bees fly around and gather pollen and nectar, which are important resources for the hive (and, of course, they also aid in the flower’s reproduction). Flower nectar is essentially sugar water: It’s made of sucrose mixed with water. Bees “collect” the nectar by sucking it up with their tube like tongue called a proboscis (see Beautifly), and storing it in a second stomach especially for honey.
This is were the magic happens. Stomachs, ours included, are full of chemical compounds called enzymes which allows us to break down, digest, and get nutrients out of food. Bees have a special enzyme, called invertase, that they produce in their stomach. This enzyme takes the sucrose in nectar, and breaks it up into smaller sugars like fructose and glucose. Their stomachs will break down over 95% of the sucrose.
After the nectar has been digested this way, the bees do something kind of strange. They regurgitate the honey onto the walls of the hive. They do this so it can dry out, and the water can evaporate so it becomes the thick, sticky honey that we all know and love. Once the nectar contains less than 20% water, the bees will seal it in wax like a ziploc bag and store it away as a food source for the rest of the year. Making honey is a bee’s equivalent of canning food: to keep it fresh and preserve it for long periods of time.
The stereotype that bears love honey is actually true: they are attracted to beehives and raid them often. Most bears don’t go for the honey, though. Bees are a great source of protein and easy to eat. Bee larvae, in particular, is very high in fat and protein which is super nutritious for bears. The honey is just a sweet bonus.
Most “artificial” honey sold in stores is just sugary corn syrup with flavorings and added colors. It is fairly easy to synthesize real honey though, even if you’re not a bee. As long as you have access to the enzyme invertase, you can take nectar and break it down into fructose and glucose, and then evaporate the water out to form honey. The hardest part about the process is gathering the nectar. Individual bees carry about 40 milligrams of nectar at a time, and flowers don’t contain that much to begin with.
So is it feasible that Teddiursa can produce its own honey? Possibly. And the pokédex might tell us exactly how: Teddiursa, being a bear, is covered in fur. Like you see in many bees, a good fuzz is extra effective in picking up pollen and nectar from plants. So Teddiursa might somehow make the honey in its own pelt, by excreting invertase through its skin like sweat, so the pollen and nectar that gets collected on its fur can digest and be converted into honey. Perhaps it even gets the invertase from all the bees it eats! This also explains why Teddiursa is seemingly always covered in honey, even if you just gave it a bath. And if you see it rolling around in your garden, it’s just gathering up more pollen and nectar for its honey.
Teddiursa makes its own honey by collecting flowers’ nectar in its fur. It’s skin secretes the enzyme invertase, which digests the nectar, and once the water is evaporated out, turns it into honey.
Last thing worth mentioning– the first line of Teddiursa’s pokédex entry. It says that Teddiursa’s crescent pattern glows when it finds honey! We’ve done several entries about bioluminescence before (Watchog, Starmie, Lanturn), but I thought I would mention that bioluminescence in those animals is commonly used as a form of communication! So when a Teddiursa finds a delicious Combee hive, it lights up to say “hey friends, there’s honey over here!”
TFW you just have to clean your hairy suction tongue with your little bee hands. Lapping up nectar all day is a sloppy sloshy job but somebody’s got to do it. #bumblebee #proboscis #bombis #comfrey #slowmotion #pollination