"I’m on Lord Howe Island, a tiny speck of land 300 miles off the east coast of Australia. Humans beings only got here a little over 200 years ago, and it seems the birds that nest here are still quite curious to see what’s going on." (Life of Birds 1998)

This is it. This is my favourite Attenborough moment.


Earth has no shortage of animals that amaze, frighten, and perplex us. But what if we could combine species and create even more terrifying hybrids?

This compilation of imaginary critter combos we’d love to see in the wild (from a safe distance) was inspired by our readers, who seem to be very interested in everything we write about spiders or sharks. Thus, the spidershark. With the help of friends, colleagues, readers and followers, the list grew to include a horde of monstrosities ranging from strangely adorable to intensely scary.

But why sit around and argue about whether the spider shark would have eight fins or eight additional leggy appendages or eight eyes or all of the above? We needed artists to bring these hybrids to life, and we knew just where to find them.

The Science Illustration Program at CSU Monterey Bay is a training ground for artists who love science and nature. We enticed 11 alums and current students to take on our fictional creatures and make them look real. Their awesome talent and creativity resulted in the beautiful, awe-inspiring, and sometimes terrifying visual creations in this collection.



Grey-backed Storm Petrel (Garrodia nereis)

…a species of Oceanitine storm petrel (Subfamily: Oceanitinae) which occurs in waters off the coast of Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and other islands in-between. Like other storm petrel species Garrodia nereis is cheifly pelagic (occurring in the open ocean) coming only to land to breed. Grey-backed storm petrels acquire food in a typical storm petrel fashion, by pattering along the ocean’s surface and picking off small fish and crustaceans. 


Animalia-Chordata-Aves-Procellariiformes-Hydrobatidae-Oceanitinae-Garrodia-G. nereis

Image(s): JJ Harrison


What are the tubes on seabirds for?

function of the tubes on Procellariiformes

as you may or may not have noticed several species of seabirds like albatrosses, petrels, fulmars and shearwaters all have tubes on their bills called narnicorns. These tubes earned the order their name tubenoses but what function do they serve? It turns out that these tubes help the birds remove salt from their systems  by forming a saline solution which is either dripped or ejected through the nostril. Procellariiformes also have a tubular nasal passage which helps the birds smell prey in the open ocean.



Snow Petrel (Padogroma nivea)

…a species of fulmarine petrel which breeds exclusively in the Antarctica peninsula and various Antarctic islands. Like some other petrels snow petrels will bred in small or large colonies on cliffs near the sea. Nests usually consist of pebble-lined scrapes, and typically only one egg is laid between November and December. Adult snow petrels will feed out at sea on fish, cephalopods, krill, molluscs, and occasionally carrion. 


Animalia-Chordata-Aves-Procellariiformes-Procellariidae-Padogroma-P. nivea

Images: Samuel Blanc and Brocken Inaglory