A Fishing Spider eat fish, after hunting it.
What is more frightening: the spider, or the commentator’s accent?
About The Fishing Spider
Dolomedes is a genus of large spiders of the family Pisauridae. They are also known as fishing spiders, raft spiders, dock spiders or wharf spiders. Almost all Dolomedes species are semi-aquatic, with the exception of the tree-dwelling D. albineus of the southwestern United States. Many species have a striking pale stripe down each side of the body (…)
(…) Rather than hunting on land or by waiting in a web, these spiders hunt on the water surface itself, preying on mayflies, other aquatic insects, and even small fish. For fishing spiders, the water surface serves the same function as a web does for other spiders. They extend their legs onto the surface, feeling for vibrations given off by prey. [Read More on Wikipedia]
OCTOPUSSY GETS CRABS VIDEO
A female tourist was quietly watching a crab on the beach in Yallingup, western Australia, this week, when suddenly … an octopus emerged out of the water to take away the crustacean under a rock.
The walker filmed the assault. She recalls her surprise on her Youtube account, where its video, shared on Reddit: “this is the best and most unexpected video I ever shot,” she wrote.
The few images that spread rapidly on the internet via social networks.
Abandoned by their owners, the fish run rampant and impact the environment
here’s nothing cuter than a goldfish—diminutive, bright and distinctly cheerful-looking, they’re a staple of fish tanks all around the world. But Australian scientists are not so enamored with the little darlings, reports Johnny Lieu for Mashable. Not only are they invading Australian rivers, but they’re growing to gargantuan sizes.
The huge goldfish of Western Australia are anything but adorable: Over the last 15 years, Lieu reports, they’ve taken to freshwater rivers in ever-greater number along with a host of other aquarium fish. In a new study published in the journal Ecology of Freshwater Fish, researchers reveal how the fish have spread throughout Australian waterways—and grown ever larger as they go.
The fish are not just big, the study found, they’re incredibly mobile. In just five days they can travel an average of one mile in the river. One intrepid fish went a whopping 3.35 miles in a mere 24 hours.
Over a year-long period, researchers tracked the movements of goldfish in the lower Vasse River, using acoustic testing and tagging to determine what fish were doing. The goldfish studied didn’t just swim around—they appear to have spawned in what ecologists call a “spawning migration,” a pattern in which fish breed in areas far away from their normal hangouts.
That’s bad news, Stephen Beatty, a senior research fellow at Murdoch University’s Centre for Fish & Fisheries Research who led the study, tells Smithsonian.com. “The fact that they’re so big is really symptomatic of the other impacts in the river,” says Beatty. The river, he explains, is warm and stagnant—perfect conditions for pet goldfish who make their way into waterways after being released by their owners. “The goldfish have really capitalized on that,” he says. Not only do the goldfish disturb the habitat and potentially consume invertebrates and fish eggs, his team suspects that they are also disease vectors.
Carassius auratus originated in Asia and are now kept as pets the world over. But when they’re released into the wild, the well-behaved fish tank friend becomes a foe to other wildlife. Not only do they grow without the constraints of a tank and commercial fish food, but their feeding frenzy causes mud and debris to rise from the bottom of the river. That in turn fuels the growth of aquatic plants, which can degrade the river even further. And while splashing around in the warm, nutrient-rich environment they love, they breed like crazy.
It’s become an issue throughout the world: a Boulder, Colorado lake teems with the fish and in Alberta, Canada, the problem has become so bad that officials pleaded with the public not to release them. For Beatty, all that press is a good thing: “They’re a bit of a flagship because they do get that media attention,” he concedes. But their star status has a downside—a misconception that if your goldfish is tiny, it won’t hurt to drop it in a lake or river. “Introduced species can have really unpredictable impacts, even cute and fuzzy ones,” he says. “Please don’t release anything into rivers or wetlands that are not native there.”
GIANT TIGER SHARK CAUGHT IN AUSTRALIA
A fisherman claims a four-metre tiger shark caught off the NSW coast last month ate a six-foot hammerhead shark moments before it was reeled onto his boat.
Pictures of the massive shark emerged on Facebook on Tuesday, with varying stories about how and where it was caught.
A gigantic, four-metre tiger shark, shown in Facebook photos, was reportedly caught off Nine Mile Beach, on the Tweed Coast, in the past few days. Photo: Facebook
Byron Bay-based conservation group Positive Change for Marine Life shared two images of the dead shark on its Facebook page on Tuesday, asking if anyone had more information.
Spokesman Karl Goodsell told Fairfax Media that several sources had told him the shark was caught off Nine Mile Beach, on the Tweed Coast, in the past few days.
However, a spokesman for the Department of Primary Industries said it could not confirm when or where the shark was caught.
A gigantic, four-metre tiger shark, shown in Facebook photos, was reportedly caught off Nine Mile Beach, on the Tweed Coast, in the past few days. Photo: Facebook
“DPI is not investigating this incident, as no illegal activity has occurred,” a spokesman said.
The fisherman, who contacted local paper the Northern Star and gave his name only as Matthew, said he caught the shark about three weeks ago, 22 kilometres off Tweed Heads.
He said he was trying to catch a six-foot hammerhead shark initially when the tiger shark swallowed it whole.
“I was fighting the hammerhead and he came up and swallowed it,” he told the paper. “You can’t turn around and go no, don’t touch, to something like that.”
He had lived in the area since he was 4, he said, and seen much larger sharks than this one – which he sold to the fish markets, keeping the jaws as a souvenir.
“I’ve dived with sharks bigger than that, it’s only a little one,” he said.
“I’ve seen tiger sharks 24-feet-long off Tweed.”
Commercial shark fishing is not illegal in large parts of the ocean off NSW and Queensland.
The frightening photos show the shark lying on what appears to be the deck of a commercial fishing vessel, with several cuts and blood seeping out of its massive jaw.
The DPI spokesman said the shark appeared to have been captured by a long-line and it looked to be about four metres long.
“This size is not unusual for a tiger shark,” he said.
The photo was initially posted by a Facebook user, Geoff Jones, who said he did not know its origins.
Another Facebook user, Nicholas X Morley, claimed he was given the image by “a mate that works in the fishing industry” who said it was caught three or four days ago, off Seven Mile Beach.
He said the fisherman handed its body to the CSIRO but a CSIRO spokesman said it had not been contacted about the shark.
Mr Goodsell said he had been able to positively identify the particular commercial fishing boat in the photos and confirm that it is a registered and licensed commercial shark fishing boat operating off northern NSW.
He said it was a legal catch, which highlighted the problem with commercial shark fishing in Australia.
“Fishermen between northern NSW and Cape York take around 78,000 to 100,000 sharks a year, some within the Great Barrier Reef and some of the species taken include … critically endangered scalloped hammerhead and the protected great white.”
“We don’t see any point in pursuing the fisherman; it’s not their fault for doing their jobs. The problem comes from the government who allow these fisheries to exist for protected and endangered species.”
Several sharks have been menacing surfers and swimmers off the NSW North Coast in recent months, causing the closure of several beaches.
At a community meeting on Monday night, almost 200 surfers voted for a partial cull of sharks following an unprecedented number of attacks and sightings.
In the lowland tropics of northern Colombia, 60 miles from the Caribbean coast, Cerrejón is an empty, forbidding, seemingly endless horizon of dusty outback, stripped of vegetation and crisscrossed with dirt roads that lead to enormous pits 15 miles in circumference. It is one of the world’s largest coal operations, covering an area larger than Washington, D.C. and employing some 10,000 workers. The multinational corporation that runs the mine, Carbones del Cerrejón Limited, extracted 31.5 million tons of coal last year alone.
Cerrejón also happens to be one of the world’s richest, most important fossil deposits, providing scientists with a unique snapshot of the geological moment when the dinosaurs had just disappeared and a new environment was emerging. “Cerrejón is the best, and probably the only, window on a complete ancient tropical ecosystem anywhere in the world,” said Carlos Jaramillo, a paleontologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. “The plants, the animals, everything. We have it all, and you can’t find it anywhere else in the tropics.”
Fifty-eight million years ago, a few million years after the fall of the dinosaurs, Cerrejón was an immense, swampy jungle where everything was hotter, wetter and bigger than it is today. The trees had wider leaves, indicating greater precipitation—more than 150 inches of rain per year, compared with 80 inches for the Amazon now. Mean temperatures may have hovered in the mid- to high-80s Fahrenheit or higher. Deep water from north-flowing rivers swirled around stands of palm trees, hardwoods, occasional hummocks of earth and decaying vegetation. Mud from the flood plain periodically coated, covered and compressed the dead leaves, branches and animal carcasses in steaming layers of decomposing muck dozens of feet thick.
The river basin held turtles with shells twice the size of manhole covers and crocodile kin—at least three different species—more than a dozen feet long. And there were seven-foot-long lungfish, two to three times the size of their modern Amazon cousins.
The lord of this jungle was a truly spectacular creature—a snake more than 40 feet long and weighing more than a ton. This giant serpent looked something like a modern-day boa constrictor, but behaved more like today’s water-dwelling anaconda. It was a swamp denizen and a fearsome predator, able to eat any animal that caught its eye. The thickest part of its body would be nearly as high as a man’s waist. Scientists call it Titanoboa cerrejonensis.
It was the largest snake ever, and if its astounding size alone wasn’t enough to dazzle the most sunburned fossil hunter, the fact of its existence may have implications for understanding the history of life on earth and possibly even for anticipating the future.
Titanoboa is now the star of “Titanoboa: Monster Snake,” premiering April 1 on the Smithsonian Channel. Research on the snake and its environment continues, and I caught up with the Titanoboa team during the 2011 field season.
Jonathan Bloch, a University of Florida paleontologist, and Jason Head, a paleontologist at the University of Nebraska, were crouched beneath a relentless tropical sun examining a set of Titanoboa remains with a Smithsonian Institution intern named Jorge Moreno-Bernal, who had discovered the fossil a few weeks earlier. All three were slathered with sunblock and carried heavy water bottles. They wore long-sleeved shirts and tramped around in heavy hiking boots on the shadeless moonscape whose ground cover was shaved away years ago by machinery.
“It’s probably an animal in the 30- to 35-foot range,” Bloch said of the new find, but size was not what he was thinking about. What had Bloch’s stomach aflutter on this brilliant Caribbean forenoon was lying in the shale five feet away.
“You just never find a snake skull, and we have one,” Bloch said. Snake skulls are made of several delicate bones that are not very well fused together. “When the animal dies, the skull falls apart,” Bloch explained. “The bones get lost.”
The snake skull embraced by the Cerrejón shale mudstone was a piece of Titanoboa that Bloch, Head and their colleagues had been hoping to find for years. “It offers a whole new set of characteristics,” Bloch said. The skull will enhance researchers’ ability to compare Titanoboa to other snakes and figure out where it sits on the evolutionary tree. It will provide further information about its size and what it ate.
Even better, added Head, gesturing at the skeleton lying at his feet, “our hypothesis is that the skull matches the skeleton. We think it’s one animal.”
Looking around the colossal mine, evidence of an ancient wilderness can be seen everywhere. Every time another feet-thick vein of coal is trucked away, an underlayer of mudstone is left behind, rich in the fossils of exotic leaves and plants and in the bones of fabulous creatures.
“When I find something good, it’s a biological reaction,” said Bloch. “It starts in my stomach.”
Amid an arid forest of cacti, Corythomantis greeningi frogs look pretty harmless. In contrast to the bright cautionary colors of poison dart frogs, these tree frogs sport drab brown and green hues. So when Carlos Jared of Brazil’s Butantan Institute ventured out to collect and study them, he didn’t think they posed much of a threat—until he felt pain in his palm.
Compared to the Brazilian pit viper, C. greeningi is two times as lethal
The two hylid frog species make their homes in desert forests called Caatingi in Brazil
“It took me a long time to realize that the pain had a relationship with the intense and careless collection of these animals hitting the palm of my hands,” recalls Jared. The biologist fell prey to a totally unique defense mechanism: The helmet-headed frogs use spikes along their lips to inject potent chemicals, giving aggressors a mix between a head butt and a toxic smooch. After careful study, Jared and his team found that C. greeningi and a related species of hylid frog, Aparasphenodon brunoi, are the only venomous frogs known to science.
A closeup of a C. greeningi frog’s skin reveals the spikes that line its lips and the front of its head. (Carlos Jared)
“This is very, very cool. Unprecedented would actually be an understatement,” says Bryan Fry, a molecular biologist at the University of Queensland who was not affiliated with the study. But if we already knew frogs could be poisonous, why is this discovery such a big deal? The answer lies in the often-misunderstood difference between poison and venom.
For years, scientists though that the Komodo dragon killed using bacteria that grow in its mouth. In reality, the lizards make their own venom in tiny mouth glands that no one had noticed before.
jab a predator with toxin.
The Iberian ribbed newt widens its ribs to push out spikes Wolverine-style and nick predators with the venomous tips. Though the newts’ toxins are less well studied, researchers think the animals may employ a similar venomous strategy to that of the hylid frogs.
Poisonous organisms take a more passive approach, often lining the skin or other surfaces with toxic chemicals. Poisons can either be brewed from scratch inside the animal or acquired through diet.
Cane toads naturally secrete poison they make in glands behind their ears.
Meanwhile, poison dart frogs generate a highly poisonous alkaloid skin coating they derive from munching on ants. Mama frogs pass the chemical on to tadpoles via egg sacs, so if you take a young poison dart frog out of its natural habitat, it will actually lose toxicity.
Having to digest unsavory foods to survive may be what drove some organisms to evolve poisons, which are primarily used to defend against predators. “If this provided some protection against predation, you can see how this could favor the evolution of systems to actually concentrate the toxins in the skin rather than dispose of them,” explains Kyle Summers, an evolutionary biologist at East Carolina University.
Venoms have popped up on roughly 30 separate occasions across the tree of life, estimates Fry. Most derive from perfectly normal enzymes. For example, spider venom originated from a harmless hormone—the spider version of insulin. One way that can happen is when the gene for a common protein in one organ gets duplicated. The copy mutates and eventually shows up somewhere it’s not supposed to be—like the salivary glands in snakes. When the creature then bites prey or defends itself against a predator, the tweaked protein might be slightly toxic to their opponent. Over time, evolution favors the venomous members of the species and the enzyme evolves in potency.
In the case of the venomous frogs, both species were discovered in the 1800s, but they had hopped under the radar until now because no one had previously taken an in-depth look at their biology.
“Even the most recent book on Brazilian frogs lists them as nontoxic,” says study co-author Edmund Brodie, a biologist at Utah State University. So after Jared’s incident in the field, he wanted to figure out what kind of toxic wizardry might be at play. The researchers carefully collected wild C. greeningi and A. brunoi for lab tests. They found that both frogs secrete a sticky white concoction of compounds that contains some of the same characteristics as venom.
The team then saw that glands supply the toxin to spikes in the frogs’ skin. When the frogs flex their helmet heads up and down or side-to-side, the spikes jab the skin of unsuspecting predators (or scientists) like biological syringes, injecting small doses of the toxin into the bloodstream, Jared and his colleagues report today in Current Biology. Modern hylid frogs have no known predators. However, somewhere down the line it must have given them an advantage over something trying to eat them.
Alternatively, like the male platypus, the frogs could be using their venom to take out mating competition.
Because the toxins get delivered in different ways, venoms tend to be larger compounds that must be injected to break through skin, while poisons are usually smaller chemicals that can be absorbed. So is one type of toxin fundamentally more potent than the other?
Golden poison arrow frogs can kill a human with as little as two micrograms of their alkaloid skin goo.
Meanwhile, a single drop of inland taipan snake venom can kill 100 people.
A. brunoi is 25 times as lethal. Roughly one gram of A. brunoi’s venom could kill 300,000 mice or 80 humans. That said, the hylid frogs probably produce and deliver their venom in much smaller doses.
A. brunoi frogs have similar head structures to those of C. greeningi, so researchers think they might serve similar purposes. (Carlos Jared)
“The toxicity of both poisons and venoms varies dramatically across species in nature,” says Summers, so it’s impossible to say that one type of chemical weapon is fundamentally more dangerous. The main takeaway is that both venom and poison can kill you in truly horrifying and painful ways. Field biologists, beware.
HERE A SCHOOL OF SHARKS HUNGRILY DEVOUR A SPERM WHALE CARCASS OFF THE COAST OF COFFS HARBOUR IN AUSTRALIA
JUMPING SHARKS IN SOUTH AFRICA IN BELOW FEEDING FRENZY VIDEO
THE incredible travels of a hefty great white shark named Pip are helping scientists rewrite the book on everything we thought we knew about the feared species.
In 15 months, Dr Malcolm Francis and his colleagues at Niwa and the Department of Conservation have tracked the 3.3m female from Stewart Island to the warmer waters of the Queensland coast, and back again.
She is now up to something just as unusual among the great whites that have been observed so far – roaming around the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands.
If she takes off to Australia again, Pip will become the first great white the team has tracked making more than one migration there using a special Spot tag attached to her dorsal fin.
The tag, which regularly transmits accurate fixes to a satellite, has allowed researchers to plot in detail her path across thousands of kilometres of open ocean since it was attached at Stewart Island in March last year.
The data could prove critical in solving some of the most enduring mysteries around the species, which are fully protected in New Zealand waters and globally considered a threatened species.
It is suspected Pip’s unusual trip to the Auckland Islands is because of food – namely New Zealand sea lions or Southern right whales.
“The information we have on the Auckland Islands is pretty limited, but there are quite a few observations of badly bitten sea lions,” Dr Francis said.
“So it’s almost certain they are feeding on them, but we don’t know about the whales.”
It remained unclear whether the windswept islands had their own population of great whites, or whether they were visiting from Stewart Island, a global hot spot for the predators.
But perhaps the more interesting question was whether Pip would later end up at the same spot off the Queensland coast where she was located in November.
“We know they are able to find their way back to Stewart Island each year, but so far we’ve only been able to track two sharks to the same place overseas, and that was done with a less accurate type of tag,” Dr Francis said.
“The more accurate Spot tag on Pip will tell us not only if she visits the same place, but also whether the route she takes is the same.”
Why she went to Queensland was another open question and, as with the Auckland Islands, a probable reason was prey.
“One of my colleagues is working on a stable isotope analysis that will give some idea about what they’ve been feeding on, but we are still waiting on some results for that.”
While there was still much to learn about great whites, Dr Francis said our understanding had grown immensely in the last decade.
“When we started our tagging programme in 2005 at the Chatham Islands, we thought we had a New Zealand-based population, or a possible New Zealand-Australia population, but we had no idea they went to the tropics – that was a total eye opener,” he said.
His team would keep tracking Pip until she eventually freed herself of her tag.
“It’s fascinating just watching and wondering what we are going to see next.”