Suction Cups, Fangs, and a Grab-Bag of Digestive Parts in an Inefficient Package.
Okay. Welcome to ‘why this weird thing is my favorite animal’ masterpost.
This is a Rock Hyrax.
Looks like a cute rodent, right? NOPE. They’re in their own Order with three other species of hyrax, and the closest non-extinct relatives they have after that are… *drumroll* … elephants and manatees. I’ll just leave you with that for a second. Back in the Eocene, there were proto-hyrax of all sizes. Bovids out-competed most of the them, but apparently some stayed tiny and others turned into sirenians and elephants. You can tell they’re related through a few similarly weird similar characteristics - they all have tusky incisors (yes, even that cute bub has them), no scrotum, and toenails instead of claws.
Rock Hyrax are one of the only terrestrial species to basically have suction cups on their bodies. Because they run around on top of rocks all the time, having things to help you grip better is kind of an important adaptation. So they’ve got this weird musculature in the bottoms of their paw pads that retracts the tissue after the paw has been placed, effectively creating a tiny little vacuum chamber. Their one of the only animals that actually sweats on their paws, because it helps keep them moist and make a better seal against the rocks.
Now we get to the fun part. Digestion! In case you don’t know how basic herbivore digestion works, here’s the breakdown. Ruminants have multi-chambered stomachs, where they pass food back and forth to digest it. Hindgut fermenters have pouches in their large intestine where they let bacteria chew on the food for them. Hyrax… do something that can only have made the first dude to dissect them very confused.
That is the digestive system of the hyrax, pulled from a studbook for them. I’ll break it down for you.
The stomach of a hyrax does very little actual digestion. It has two sections, one (1) that is unlined and is for storage - it’s basically anaglogus to the crop of a bird, which, wtf, does not belong in a mammal - and a lined bit that sorta kinda digests something, sorta (2). (3) is the small intestine, which is the only part of this that functions how you’d expect. The hindgut is where things get wonky. (4) is the caecum, which is normally where most hindgut fermenters have the digestion happen. It’s a big sac where digesta sits and buggies nom on it. For hyrax, it does some but not all of it - it circulates the digest around a bunch while it’s in there, for the most surface area of food getting chewed up by buggies. Next, you have two isolated segments of the large intestine (labeled as the connecting colon here) - one with a narrow diameter and thick, bulky walls (5) and one with a wide diameter and super thin walls (6) that is highly specialized in absorbing fatty acids, which are hopefully what some of the food has been broken down into by now. Then you hit the colon, which normally just absorbs a lot of water to produce compact stool, but in hyrax it actually allows for more fermentation. So of course you’ve got to have (7) which is a sac with more weird blind ends to let digesta sit in - unlike in the ceacum, the digesta moves very slowly around in here and doesn’t circulate. Then (8), the distal end of the colon, absorbs most of the newly processed nutrients and it passes through (9) and (10) on the way to the anus.
That was a lot of boring digestion, so have a cute photo of a hyrax. Yes, they do really have tusks, and that’s going to be important shortly.
Okay, so what does that actually all mean. It sounds like it takes forever!
Whelp, it does. About six days for food that goes in one end to come out as poop on the other. It’s incredibly inefficient, partially because of how they digest things, and partially because the forage they survive on is really tough and low in nutrients and has to be very thoroughly broken down for every last bit. That means they have a very low metabolic rate… which means they don’t produce a ton of heat.. which means they’re absolutely useless at thermoregulation and have to sun themselves or hide in the shade to control their internal temperature. What’s a hallmark of most mammals? warm-blood. Efficient thermoregulation. Not needing to behave like a bloody snake to get it right, yeesh. It does mean they often sleep in piles, though, which is cute.
Okay, look back up at those tusks. Do they look efficient for eating grass? Nope! Because nothing about these guys make sense, they never evolved front teeth for clipping grass like most grazing animals so they bite food off with their molars. They’re also born without the bacteria in their stomach they need to do all the boring, complicated digestion above, so the babies have to immediately eat poop in order to acquire it.
I just felt like showing you that photo. Um, what else about these guys is weird? They’re not kosher in the Old Testment, for one. They also have incredibly complex communication: they use trills, yips, grunts, wails, snorts, twitters, shrieks, growls, and whistles and the males sing very complex songs during mating with very distinctive syntax, combining the 21 different sounds they can make into syllables of wails, chucks, snorts, squeaks, and tweets.
So yeah. Weird, tusky, song-singing inefficient hindgut fermenters who also happen to have a crop who can’t stay warm, grow up to 2ft in length and run around in giant colonies on sheer rock faces. Rock Hyraxes!
New Research: Polar Bears May Survive the Ice Melt, With or Without Seals
As climate change accelerates ice melt in the Arctic, polar bears may find caribou and snow geese replacing seals as an important food source, according to a new study by Museum scientists Linda Gormezano and Robert Rockwell.
Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the research is based on new computations incorporating caloric energy from terrestrial food sources and indicates that the bears’ extended stays on land may not be as grim as previously suggested.
“Polar bears are opportunists and have been documented consuming various types and combinations of land-based food since the earliest natural history records,” said Rockwell, a research associate in the Museum’s Department of Ornithology who has been studying the Arctic ecology of the Western Hudson Bay for nearly 50 years. “Analysis of polar bear scats and first-hand observations have shown us that polar bears that haven’t reached adult size, family groups, and even some adult males are already eating plants and animals during the ice-free period.”
The global extent and distribution of forest trees is central to our
understanding of the terrestrial biosphere. We provide the first
spatially continuous map of forest tree density at a global scale. This
map reveals that the global number of trees is approximately 3.04
trillion, an order of magnitude higher than the previous estimate. Of
these trees, approximately 1.39 trillion exist in tropical and
subtropical forests, with 0.74 trillion in boreal regions and 0.61
trillion in temperate regions. Biome-level trends in tree density
demonstrate the importance of climate and topography in controlling
local tree densities at finer scales, as well as the overwhelming effect
of humans across most of the world. Based on our projected tree
densities, we estimate that over 15 billion trees are cut down each
year, and the global number of trees has fallen by approximately 46%
since the start of human civilization. - Nature
In recent years we have, tragically, been reminded that earthquakes couple to the oceans potentially causing devastating tsunamis. Less apparent has been coupling to the atmosphere. But as we approach the fifth anniversary of the great Tohoku earthquake and Sendai tsunami (NE of Tokyo, Japan, 11th March 2011), it has been revealed that data collected during that quake by the European Space Agency’s “GOCE” gravity-explorer satellite, allow the first application of “satellite seismometry”. Orbiting at 270 km above Earth’s surface, GOCE’s accelerometer detected the infrasonic boom from the quake. The sound waves of the earthquake were amplified in the thin upper atmosphere, and this provides a new way to directly detect earthquakes using low-orbit satellites like GOCE. Who knows? This might also open the way to extra-terrestrial seismology.
Image: artist’s impression of GOCE in orbit (credit: ESA)
NYARLATHOTEP - OR HOW YOU CAN ACHIEVE SO MANY TITLES
Zula: « Amano Maya, Suou Tatsuya. You know what this is.
這い寄る混沌 The Crawling Chaos”; “盲目にして無貌のもの The Blind, Faceless One”; “闇に棲むもの The Dweller in Darkness”; “千の顔を持つ神 The God of a Thousand Forms”… The avatar of that detestable, sneering god!”
Where you can find these titles:
“Nyarlathotep … the crawling chaos … I am the last … I will tell the audient void… .”
The Blind Faceless One and Dweller in Darkness:
“It is His wood-The Wood of N'gai, the terrestrial abode of the The Blind Faceless One, the Howler In the Night, the Dweller in Darkness, Nyarlathotep, who fears only Cthugha.”
-August Derleth, The Dweller In Darkness
Dweller in the Darkness is also used for Nyogtha (the Thing That Should Not Be) in Henry Kuttner’s The Salem Horror.
“Men knew him as the Dweller in Darkness, that brother of the Old Ones called Nyogtha, the Thing that should not be. He can be summoned to Earth’s surface through certain secret caverns and fissures, and sorcerers have seen him in Syria and below the black tower of Leng; from the Thang Grotto of Tartary he has come ravening to bring terror and destruction among the pavilions of the great Khan.” -Henry Kuttner, The Salem Horror
Mighty Messenger (強壮なる使者). This title for Nyarly also appears in Tatsuya’s scenario as well. It was also mentioned by Lovecraft once:
(BUZZING VOICE) … go out among men and find the ways thereof, that He in the Gulf may know. To Nyarlathotep, Mighty Messenger, must all things be told. And He shall put on the semblance of men, the waxen mask and the robe that hides, and come down from the world of Seven Suns to mock… .
-Lovecraft, The Whisperer in Darkness
and it was mentioned in the Faceless God by Robert Bloch:
“But the worst and by far the most hideous feature was the lack of a face upon the ghastly thing. It was a faceless god; Nyarlathotep, Mighty Messenger, Stalker among the Stars, and Lord of the Desert.” -“The Faceless God” by Robert Bloch
無貌の神 (The Faceless God):
It’s a reference to Lovecraft’s The Rats In the Walls.
“But I was not far behind, for there was no doubt after another second. It was the eldritch scurrying of those fiend-born rats, always questing for new horrors, and determined to lead me on even unto those grinning caverns of earth’s centre where Nyarlathotep, the mad faceless god, howls blindly to the piping of two amorphous idiot flute-players.” -H.P. Lovecraft, The Rats In the Walls
However I also have read a short story by Robert Bloch (writer of Psycho, he wrote some Nyarly short stories) called The Faceless God:
“Behind him strode the Faceless God, urging him onward with a staff of serpents.” -“The Faceless God” by Robert Bloch First published in the May 1936 issue of Weird Tales
The fun fact is that Lovecraft modeled a character after Bloch, called Robert Blake in The Haunter of the Dark which features the Shining Trapezohedron which was also included in Tatsuya’s scenario. Bloch kinda adopted Lovecraft’s Nyarlathotep for some stories.
Here’s the original photo that Mulder’s poster was based on. It was supposedly taken by Billy Meier - a Swiss “contactee” that has written several books over the years detailing his encounters with a number of extra-terrestrials. The original photos have never been confirmed as fake, and given that they were taken in the mid 1970s, are pre-computer manipulation.
It doesn’t mean it’s all a load of rubbish, but then it doesn’t mean any of it is true either…
It is time again for one of my favorite creepy critters - Predatory Land Planarians! Two years ago this specific species could be found on my property in abundance this time of year - dolichoplana striata. This is one of the first ones I’ve spotted in ages! They hunt & devour earthworms, slugs, insect larvae, and are cannibalistic. Interestingly odd fact is that their mouth also serves as their anus. Oh if only they could talk!
A planarian is one of many non-parasitic flatworms of the Turbellaria class. Common to many parts of the world, living in both saltwater and freshwater ponds and rivers. Some species are terrestrial and are found under logs, in or on the soil, and on plants in humid areas.
Some planarians exhibit an extraordinary ability to regenerate lost body parts. For example, a planarian split lengthwise or crosswise will regenerate into two separate individuals.
These animals shown here move on a film of mucus similar to a slug or snail. Some move by undulations of the whole body by the contractions of muscles built into the body membrane. I find them mostly on my sidewalk because either side is just saturated with their main food source, earthworms.
The Woolly Terrestrial Octopus (Octopus hirtus) is a land-dwelling carnivore that can grow up to four feet in length and weigh as much as seventy-five pounds. It is warm-blooded and lives in northern temperate forests, using its sharp beak to hunt for birds, squirrels, and other small rodents. It is a solitary creature that is most active at night.
The terrestrial octopus has a thick coat of fur and is able to climb trees and rocky outcrops using its strong arms, which are lined with mucus-secreting suction cups. Unlike its invertebrate marine counterpart, the terrestrial octopus has a skeleton, including a skull, rib cage, and vertebra-like columns of bones within each arm.
During mating season, the terrestrial octopus builds, in thickets of tall vegetation, distinctive conical grass-nests in which to lay its large, speckled eggs. It will lay three to five eggs, and the incubation period lasts for thirty-five to forty days.
the handwritten manuscript ‘La Sphere du Monde..’, 1549, by Oronce Fine.
Oronce Fine (or Orance Finé) (1494-1555) was a third generation physician from France. He was also a teacher and prolific author in the fields of mathematics, geography, cartography and astronomy and he held the chair in mathematics at the Collège Royal in Paris for more than twenty years.
Hey guys! This is the title page of a 6 page mini-comic for the awesome Amanda Scurti’s new fantasy Earth-themed anthology TERRESTRIAL. It’s loosely based off the Filipino mythological figure, Mariang Sinukuan. I’ve been wanting to do something with her for awhile, so I was really excited about the anthology’s theme. You can pre-order it here, before it debuts at SPX in September. Check out all the other wonderful contributors!! It’s a mind-blowing list. Thank you again Amanda for inviting me. :)
What: Meganeura is the largest dragonfly, with a wingspan of 2.5 feet (~75 cm) in some specimens. The largest living dragonfly is a comparatively weensy 7.5 inches (~19 cm) across at the wings. A scientific debate had centred upon why Meganeura was able to become so large. It has been suggested that it was only able to reach such a great size due to the relatively higher levels of oxygen in the Carboniferous air. This is based partly upon the way most modern insects respire, they do not truly breathe, but instead simply diffusion oxygen throughout their small bodies. However, more recent studies show that larger insects do breathe via compression and expansion of their trachea. Additionally insects much larger than those today have been found in later rocks which do not show evidence of elevated oxygen levels. More research needs to be done to determine the impact of oxygen levels upon the maximum size of insects.
Only a few fossils have been found of Meganeura, but despite this, almost every scene ever of a Carboniferous forest has one of these animals perched upon a giant club moss tree. I do not blame them, I could not resist either. Other animals in these dense forests with Meganeura were a gaggle of other gigantic insects and arthropods, a great variety of amphibians, and the first reptiles. This was the start of the true colonization of land by vertebrates; it has also been suggested it was the arrival of these predators which limited the size of insects such as Meganeura in later time periods.