Saturday, August 7, 2010

The most Rarest, Weirdest and Unique Birds in the World

Out of the 9000 or so recorded species of birds, these ones are identified to be the most weirdest and unique in the avian world  because of their unique features and characteristics. In more than a way, each of these bird-brains flaunt a subtle, exuberant personality that sheds light on their evolutionary journey. Many of these magnificent birds are on the verge of extinction, thanks to the mf'ing poachers, and are most likely to be found as stuffed bird-equins in natural history museums.

The Californian Condors  - Rarest bird of Prey

This majestic bird has witnessed a sharp decline throughout the 20th century with census numbers indicating a population of just 130 in the year 2006. The sharp decline was mostly due to habitat losses, poaching and lead poisoning. The conservation plan for this species has led to the capture of all the remaining birds and can now be found in San Diego Wild Animal Park. The condors can have a wingspan of up to 3 meters and is also one of the heaviest bird specie alive, together with one of the longest lifespans known for birds which is 50 years. These birds are known to care for their chicks for a up to a period of 12 months, one of the most extensive. Because of the long time and effort it takes to nurture offsprings, condors nest only once in two years. It is also one of the rarest bird of prey.

 Ruppell’s vulture - The highest flying bird

This monstrous bird is known to fly at altitudes over 37000 ft and reportedly collided with a commercial aircraft over Abidjan in 1973. These birds are found across central Africa and have a wingspan of 2.6 meters. They are also highly social and gather to feed in large groups. 
Special Features:  This bird has a special protein unit in its blood called the Haemoglobin alpha-D which binds with oxygen more efficient at high altitudes. This specie is now officially listed as a near-threatened.

The Blue-capped Ifrita - Most poisonous bird in the world

A small bird found in the new Guinea that feeds primarily on insects. 
Special features: the Ifrit secretes a toxin called
homobatrachotoxin on to its feathers and skin which causes tingling and numbness when handled. The toxicity of this bird is acquired through its diet consisting of the 'melyrid beetle', an insect which is also a common diet for the golden poison arrow frogs.

melyrid beetle

Apparently the toxin from the bird feathers was used by the cast of the original 'Aliens' for close ups of their faces when fighting off the 'aliens' for a more 'high on adrenaline' look during the shooting.

Aliens: high on crack!
Albatross - The largest flying birds in the World
The Albatross are the largest flying birds in the world and the great albatrosses have the largest wingspan of any bird species. The male wandering Albatross of the southern oceans had the largest wingspan of any living bird species measuring at 11 ft 11 inches.
Special features
: these birds are the most efficient flyers around and make use of techniques such as 'dynamic soaring'  and 'slope soaring' to cover huge distances with little effort. These birds are colonial and feed on squids, fish and krill. 19 out of the 21 species of Albatross are recognized to be near extinct by the IUCN

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pick Your Poison - The Most Lethal Plants in the World

They cannot run, swim, yell or launch a projectile but can yet kill as efficiently as Freddy the Springwood Slasher. Over the course of millions of years, these defenseless creatures came up with some nasty ways to fend off feeding herbivores and in the process developed deadly neurotoxins, powerful digestive enzymes and thorns that could pierce car tires. Surprisingly, most of these plants can be found hanging around in your street alleys, delivered fresh at doorstep by your florist or found keeping your backyard garden pest-free. Under constant attack from animals and the forces of natural selection, the Kingdom Plantae engineered their own Silent Assassins.
So lets meet the green hitmen of the plant world.

Known as the Common Bladderwort, it is the most gruesome aquatic carnivore. It has several bladder structures beneath the water surface which capture unsuspecting prey that brush past its bladders. The victims perish out of starvation and the decaying matter is absorbed by its cells on the bladder walls.

Nicknamed the Devil's Helmet, its your best bet to get rid off guests who have overstayed their welcome. Its vibrant color makes it a popular dweller of most backyard gardens but if ingested can cause severe cause asphyxiation. Its loaded with poisonous alkaloid aconite.

Another enticing slayer, the nightshade or the Devil's Cherry is toxic from root-tip to petals. Ingestion of its sweet fruit even in tiny amounts causes loss of voice, convulsions and respiratory problems thanks to the atropine it contains, a deadly alkaloid. Children are specially vulnerable due to its bright purple color and the sweet cherry fruit it produces.

The English Yew is a common feature in most European forests and is one of the most poisonous plants on the planet. All parts of the tree are poisonous except for the flesh of the cherries it produces. The primary toxin produced by the plant is taxine which can induce cardiac arrest, paralysis and convulsions even in minute amounts. Dried powder of its leaves was used as a method of birthcontrol by women in days before contraceptives were available, which often resulted in death.

The USDA describes the Water Hemlock as the most violently toxic plant found in North America. This plant contains the toxin cicutoxin which can destroy the central nervous system and cause grand mal seizures followed by a quick death if ingested. The great philosopher Socrates apparently drank this poison to death.

Enjoying a pest-free lifestyle in a neighborhood notorious for a rodent infestation, this carnivorous Giant Pitcher plant is likely benefactor. The 30 cm diameter of the plant is wide enough to trap rodents and the slippery surface of its walls makes it impossible for the prey to escape, though insects are its most common meals.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Real Life Monsters that Lurk in the Depth of Oceans

Millions of people throng to the sandy beaches to tan in the golden rays of the sun, listen to the waves crashing on to the shore and feel the wind gently blow across the bay, never for a minute giving a thought to the monsters that lurk beneath the deep blue horizon. These strange creatures can evoke your worst nightmares and seem like monster props right out of a horror flick. Most of these fiendish ogres can slay you with a milligram of their potent neurotoxic poison, cut clean through you with their razor-sharp snouts or squeeze you to to death with their over-reaching tentacles. The realm of the sea at its monstrous best.

These sperm whales had washed ashore when they wondered off too close to the shallow waters and died due to nitrogen decompression in their veins, a disease known to be prevalent in deep-living sperm whales. 

This female AnglerFish is easily one of the ugliest creatures in the world with a disproportionately large head, hairy body scales and numerous prickly teeth that adds to the ghastly specter that is the angler fish. The male on other hand are puny in comparison that ultimately end up being an after-mating juice-box for this alpha female.
If ugly anglers aren't your cup of tea, try the stone fish for a change. Oh, wait a minute, you can't, unless you've made up your mind to die with a heart attack. This creature is the master of disguise and currently holds the title of being one of the most venomous sea creature in the world. Its got 13 (talk about bad omen!) venomous spines on its back which release poison when pressed and can even pierce through your leather shoes. Its usually found in northern regions of Australia and the Indo-Pacific  ocean.

These decapods aren't really guilty of anything, except for its domineering size and scissor-like chelipeds. These things can grow up to 1.5 meters in size and weigh upto 12 kgs. Apparently these poor things are a delicacy in Omaha and sell at $59 for a crab steak!
This prehistoric monster is a slap to the faces marine-palaeontologists who thought it to be extinct for the last 65 million years. Dubbed the 'Dino fish', its rediscovery splashed headlines all over the world in 1938 for being the only living artifact that has seen the Jurassic age.
Don't be fooled by its tiny size, its got the will and the stuff to rip you to bones. This particular cannibal lurks in the oceans at depths greater than 5 kms and has diamond-sharp teeth to cut through steel thread.
This treacherous creature is known for its vengeful predatory tactics and is armed to the teeth, literally. More of a distant cousin to the piranha, it 'affectionately' called, 'La Sabina'
This snake like monster is the Oarfish, a greatly elongated Lampriform that currently hold the world record for being the longest bony fish alive. This creature is the oldest source of sea-serpent stories and can grow up to a length of 10 meters.
Don't push your luck around this slimy-Joe, it kills for less. The dark blue patterns on this blue-ringed-octopus is a stern warning to stay clear of its personal space. This monster is highly venomous and doesn't have any known anti-dote.