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Ambon scorpionfish (Pteroidichthys amboinensis)

The Ambon scorpionfish, is a scorpionfish native to the Indian and Pacific oceans. The Ambon scorpionfish is shaggy, and can change its color for the ideal camouflage. The Ambon scorpionfish lives just offshore on the bottom of the ocean. The Ambon scorpionfish is an ambush predator. It will camouflage itself, wait for some prey to come close in front of itself, and then lunge forward and inhale the prey. They have poisonous spikes on their back that they raise when threatened. The spikes are on the back, head, and around the eyes. They can cause death.

photo credits: Jason Marks, Steve Childs, Steve Childs

eartharchives.org
Freaks and uniques: evolution's weirdest creatures
Our planet's huge range of environments has led some animals to evolve some bizarre but very useful features.

Whether it’s in response to extreme temperatures, or through competition for mates, some of the most unusual feats of evolution have to be seen to be believed. Here are some of the most eye-catching and impressive examples.

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This ghostlike octopod is almost certainly an undescribed species and may not belong to any described genus.  This species is particularly unusual because it lacks the pigment cells, called chromatophores, typical of most cephalopods, and it did not seem very muscular. It was found at 4,290 meters northeast of Necker Island (Mokumanamana) in the Hawaiian Archipelago

Gorgeous, Weird Jellyfish Found 12,000 feet Below the Surface Near Mariana Trench

The jellyfish in question was filmed earlier this week near the Mariana Trench during a submersible dive to explore an area called the Enigma Seamount. The jellyfish was spotted at a depth of over 12,139 feet. The NOAA researchers identified it as a kind of jellyfish called a hydromedusa, a part of the genus Crossota. Watch a video of it floating around.

Photography by  NOAA

Our planet’s diverse, thriving ecosystems may seem like permanent fixtures, but they’re actually vulnerable to collapse. Jungles can become deserts, and reefs can become lifeless rocks. What makes one ecosystem strong and another weak in the face of change? The answer, to a large extent, is biodiversity.

Happy Earth Week! 

From the TED-Ed lesson Why is biodiversity so important? - Kim Preshoff

Animation by TED-Ed

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Achrioptera fallax

Achrioptera fallax is a stick insect species found in Madagascar. The males are a bright electric blue (with greenish tints) and have two rows of reddish orange spines along the edges of the femur. There are also dark coloured spines going along the sides and underneath the thorax. Males are brachypterous (incapable of flight) and have small reduced wings. Females have a duller outlook. They are a light brown with red spines covering the entire thorax and the top of the head. The male grows up to 13 cm in length while the female is much bigger and can grow up to 18, 5 cm in length. Their diet in the wild is unknown but in captivity they mainly feed on bramble, raspberry, eucalyptus, and oak.

photo credits: thedancingrest, reptileforums

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Red Velvet Cupcakes. Or. Red Velvet Mites. You Choose…

Mites are among the oldest and most numerous organisms on the planet. They are diverse in form (30,000+ described species) and phylogeny (350 families) and extraordinarily abundant in a wide range of habitats, including your head. A couple of hectares or a few acres and you have the planets human population in mites. The group shown here are among the few that you might actually notice, unless you are an acarologist or obsessed with the little things. Pretty obvious why they are called red velvet mites, I reckon.

Sweet little things aren’t they? Just like cupcakes.

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NEW FAMILY OF STARFISH DISCOVERED IN ANTARCTIC HYDROTHERMAL VENTS

A new family of deep-sea starfish has been discovered living in the warm waters around a hydrothermal vent in the East Scotia Ridge in the Southern Ocean, Antarctica. This is the first new family of starfish to be identified since 2002
Unlike most starfish that have 5 arms, specimens from this family (known as Paulasterias tyleri) have six or even eight. This extraordinary starfish group is white to pinkish in colour, has particularly fleshy limbs, and is the first to be found in a hydrothermal vent ecosystem.
Hydrothermal vents are areas of the sea floor where water heated by volcanic activity under the seabed gushes out. The temperature of the water there is several degrees warmer than ambient ocean temperatures and is known to support a range of specially adapted marine life.
The discovery was made during deep sea scientific research cruises to study the unique habitats in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean. NERC’s remotely operated underwater vehicle Isis, deployed from RRS James Cook (operated by the National Oceanography Centre), located the starfish living between 1,400 and 2,600 metres beneath the surface. The starfish feed on barnacles and the remains of yeti crabs.

The amount of wildlife that fits in a cubic foot just might blow your mind.

That’s the subject of a new exhibition at our National Museum of Natural History, centering on the biocube—an actual 1-foot, green-framed cube that organisms can pass through. It’s a tool that researchers can place in environments anywhere in the world to study biodiversity over a 24-hour period. 

Pictured above are the creatures from Mo’orea, French Polynesia, found by counting one cubic foot from a reef off the coast of the Pacific island.

“Life in One Cubic Foot” pairs science and photography in a quest to learn about the diversity of life on the planet. 

Learn more from @smithsonianmag.

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So much diversity, so little time…

This is a new genus of Pseudachorutinae springtail (a subfamily of Collembola) known from several sites in southeastern Australia. It’s quite large for a springtail at about 3-4 mm long yet, like so many springtail species and genera, remains undescribed because it belongs to one of the (supposedly) less charismatic groups of organisms. For me, this little beast is oozing and dripping charisma. Just look at the little Dumbo-the-elephant-like face!

Once you discover invertebrate diversity it’s hard to go back to the vertocentric side!

IMPRESSIVE NEW FLASHER WRASSES SPECIES FOUND IN THE INDO-PACIFIC

The species in the genus Paracheilinus are appropriately called flasher wrasses (or simply flashers), and they are very closely related to fairy wrasses of the genus Cirrhilabrus. This common name is derived from their grandeur “flashing” behavior observed during courting or mating where the male will make quick, exaggerated lateral moves while intensifying his colors and erecting his fins to attract a mate.

               Paracheilinus xanthocirritus Currently known from the South China Sea at the Anambas Islands, Indonesia  In the picture, two nuptial male Paracheilinus xanthocirritus

                  Paracheilinus paineorum with a wide distribution throughout central Indonesia  in the picture a male courting female (left)

                    Paracheilinus alfiani is currently known only from the type locality on the northern coast of Lembata Island in the Lesser Sunda Group of Indonesia

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Toad Bugs…

This is a toad bug. Although predators, they don’t eat toads, at least not very often. Perhaps never. They’re actually named for their ‘toadish’ good looks.

Toad bugs belong the the true bug family Gelastocoridae with around 110 species (in three living genera) distributed across the much of the planet; they’re missing from the Palearctic (Europe and northern Asia). Two genera, Gelastocoris and Montandonius, are American, found in riparian habitats from Canada to Argentina, and the third genus, Nerthra, is more widely distributed with species in the Americas, Australia, southern Asia, Madagascar and Africa and a few islands between and about.

Gelastocorids belong to the true bug grouping called the Nepomorpha. The Nepomorpha is an ‘infraorder’, an ugly word, but one meaning a classification level lower than suborder but higher than superfamily; bet you didn’t learn that at school. The Nepomorpha are dominantly aquatic bugs and the Gelastocoridae represent a group that has likely, secondarily, become terrestrial. That is the ancestors were terrestrial, became aquatic, then some lineages returned to land. Weird. Make up your mind toad bugs.

Here in Australia there are about 25 species, all in the genus Nerthra, and found in mesic eastern and southwestern Australia. The images show one species from the Dandenong Ranges National Park, just outside Melbourne. In contrast to Gelastocoris, Australian Nerthra are commonly encountered in leaf litter distant from water bodies. They can be a significant component of forest leaf litter samples where they are dominantly represented by larval forms, rather than adults.

The adult, shown here, can be recognised by the hemelytra (like elytra in beetles) clearly visible in the second image as the leafy ‘wings’ which cover the abdomen. The fore limbs with their distinctive spike-like tibia and tarsus combination are clearly suited to ambush hunting with the prey impaled by their front legs. So I suppose they could eat toads, just little ones…

One of the Many Little Prey-Impaling Things!

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“It was a stunning scene—a 45-foot-long, 70-ton right whale hovering over the bottom just a few feet away from a diver standing on the bottom. … At some point I stopped and kneeled on the sand to catch my breath, and I was certain the whale would just keep swimming. Instead, the whale also stopped, turned, and hovered over me as it stared with that soulful eye. A few seconds later, I resumed swimming alongside the whale, making pictures, and savoring every second.”

- Brian Skerry, Diver & Photographer.

Check out Brian Skerry’s prints here.

(Nat geo)

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