Monday, January 22, 2018

Centipedes Eat Animals 15 Times Their Size Thanks To This Powerful Toxin, Study Finds


A bite from a venomous centipede can cause swelling and excruciating pain. And for a mouse - even one 15 times larger than a centipede - the bite can be deadly.
Most predators hunt smaller animals. Blue whales, the largest carnivores on earth, are an extreme example: Each day a whale swallows millions and millions of crustaceans called krill that are about the size of an aspirin tablet. Centipedes, though, do not abide by this rule.

Researchers in Venezuela have seen centipedes skitter up cave walls to eat much heavier bats. And scientists studying centipedes in China observed a golden head centipede, weighing three grams, as it defeated a 45-gram mouse. The centipede quickly subdued its much larger prey thanks to an unusual and potent venom.

"Comparison is difficult to establish among venomous animals because of their preying habit," said Shilong Yang, an expert in venom and toxins at the Kunming Institute of Zoology in China. But, to Yang's knowledge, the centipede holds a record by capturing prey 15 times its body weight within 30 seconds.

Yang and his co-authors, in a report published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, identified the toxin that gives centipedes this deadly ability. They isolated a molecule in centipede venom, a peptide, which they named Ssm Spooky Toxin. (The golden head centipede, also known as the Chinese red-headed centipede, has the scientific name Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans, hence Ssm.) The toxin blocks the movement of potassium into and out of mammal cells.

Healthy cells can push potassium ions through their membranes. Cells in airways, for instance, need this flow of potassium ions to control muscle contractions and keep a mouse breathing. Ssm Spooky Toxin halts this flow like an overzealous traffic cop.

Because potassium channels exist throughout the body, "centipedes' venom has evolved to simultaneously disrupt cardiovascular, respiratory, muscular and nervous systems," Yang said. "This molecular strategy has not been found in other venomous animals." The study authors hypothesize that the toxin halts blood flow to the heart, leading to heart failure and ultimately death.

This research suggests that a drug called retigabine might neutralize the centipede toxin, Yang said. Retigabine, an anticonvulsant used to treat epilepsy, opens the potassium channels that the centipede toxin blocks. (In June 2017, pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline announced it would discontinue the production of retigabine, citing low demand among patients with epilepsy.) In lab tests, retigabine inhibited the effects of centipede venom in monkeys; equivalent human data does not exist.

Human deaths from centipedes appear to be exceedingly rare. As of 2006, physicians reported in the Emergency Medicine Journal, there were only three recorded cases of people who had died of centipede venom.

The bites do not need to be fatal to be mightily unpleasant. In Hawaii, centipedes have been known to send victims to emergency clinics. Between 2007 and 2011, for Hawaiian emergency visits classified as having natural causes, centipedes were responsible for 1 in 10 cases, on a par with bee and wasp stings.
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Hidden cameras offer unique glimpse of animals in the wild


CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — How does a bighorn sheep say "cheese?"
This 2011 photo from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service motion-activated camera shows an elephant seal in the Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Southern California. Motion-detecting wildlife cameras devices are getting smaller, cheaper and more reliable, and scientists across the United State are using them to document elusive creatures like never before. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP)
Some charismatic critters caught by motion-detecting wildlife cameras seem to know how to strike a pose. But it's not just show business. As these devices get ever smaller, cheaper and more reliable, scientists across the U.S. are using them to document elusive creatures like never before.

"There's no doubt — it is an incredible tool to acquire data on wildlife," said Grant Harris, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Remote cameras have photographed everything from small desert cats called ocelots to snow-loving lynx high in the Northern Rockies.
 (This 2017 photo from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service motion-activated camera shows an osprey poses at the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. Motion-detecting wildlife cameras are yielding serious science as well as amusing photos. From ocelots in the desert to snow-loving lynx high in the Northern Rockies, remote cameras are exposing elusive creatures like never before. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP)
Harris cited photos of javelinas, pig-like desert mammals, and coatimundi, members of the raccoon family, taken at higher latitudes in recent years. That could mean global warming is expanding their range northward, he said.

Other scientists deploying remote cameras include researchers with the Wyoming Migration Initiative, who use global positioning to map the movements of elk, mule deer and antelope in and around Yellowstone National Park. They only have so many collars to track animals, meaning there's a limit to the GPS data they can gather, said Matthew Kauffman, a University of Wyoming associate professor and initiative director.
 (This 2014 photo from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service motion-activated camera shows a black-tailed prairie dog Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Motion-detecting wildlife cameras devices are getting smaller, cheaper and more reliable, and scientists across the United State are using them to document elusive creatures like never before. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP)
"You see one animal migrating, you don't know if it's migrating by itself, if it's migrating with a calf, or if it's migrating with 40 other animals," Kauffman said.

Remote cameras — which can be left in the backcountry for days, weeks or even months — help fill in blanks by showing how many animals are on the move over a given period, he said.

Where to position them requires careful forethought. Clustering several around a watering hole, for instance, might produce many images but not a thorough profile of a population. But a purely data-driven approach might not yield any useful photos.
 (In this 2017 photo from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service motion-activated camera, a vulture comes in for a landing at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Motion-detecting wildlife cameras are yielding serious science as well as amusing photos. From ocelots in the desert to snow-loving lynx high in the Northern Rockies, remote cameras are exposing elusive creatures like never before. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP)
"There's this tension between subjectivity in where you put your camera and where it's statistically sound," Harris said.

Sometimes smart-alecky humans turn up among the images. "I've seen people moon cameras, and that's always funny," he said.

Remote video can also reveal details about animal behavior, including the mewling sounds of migrating mule deer. And live-streaming cameras for everything from bison in Saskatchewan, Canada, to the underwater kelp forest off California's Channel Islands are always popular.

As with all human intrusion into nature, remote cameras have downsides. Animals such as wolverines and bears have been known to attack them, though whether out of curiosity or aggression is hard to say.

Also, remote cameras have become popular tools to help hunters scout for game, prompting a debate over fair-chase ethics. Then there's the whole subjective thing about going into nature to get away from it all, including surveillance cameras.

But to answer that original question: A bighorn sheep that looks like it's smiling probably isn't saying "cheese" but sniffing pheromones and other scents in what's called a flehmen response, said Harris.
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Monday, January 15, 2018

About the Red Panda


Red pandas, like giant pandas, are bamboo eaters native to Asia’s high forests. Despite these similarities and their shared name, the two species are not closely related. Red pandas are much smaller than giant pandas and are the only living member of their taxonomic family.
Red pandas are endangered and are legally protected in India, Bhutan, China, Nepal and Myanmar. Their primary threats are habitat loss and degradation, human interference and poaching.

Researchers believe that the total population of red pandas has declined by 50 percent over the past two decades. It is probable that this decline will continue in the coming years. Red pandas are present in some protected areas throughout their range, including parks in Myanmar, Bhutan, India, Nepal and China. Despite regulations, livestock grazing, hunting and logging still occur throughout many of these protected areas.
Habitat loss is primarily attributed to logging, grazing livestock, demand for firewood, human encroachment and farming. The decrease in suitable habitat for red pandas has coincided with the increase in human populations throughout Asia; with human encroachment comes livestock, agriculture and dogs, all of which produce different threats to this species.
Herds of livestock can compete with red pandas for available bamboo leaves and degrade their habitat. Clearing land to make way for crops reduces available food and shelter. And domestic dogs can hunt or transmit disease, such as canine distemper, to red pandas. Additionally, fragmentation resulting from habitat loss has resulted in inbreeding, as red panda populations become increasingly isolated.

Poaching and illegal trade of red pandas has reportedly been on the rise and has also contributed to their population decline. The presence of red panda pelts, meat and other items has increased in the trade of illegal products, as have instances of live red pandas trafficked into the pet trade.

These threats are compounded by increasing climate change and natural disasters, inadequate enforcement of laws and regulations, and limited investment in red panda conservation by local governments.

Red pandas have bred with some reliability in zoos throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As they decline in the wild, growing and maintaining self-sustaining populations in zoos is a high priority as a hedge against extinction and to learn more about species biology.

Part of the difficulty in conserving red pandas relates to their unique habitat. These animals require a specific set of circumstances to optimize survival, including proximity to water sources, appropriate forest cover and altitude, and sufficient bamboo. As human encroachment continues to grow, these ideal habitats become increasingly more difficult to find. Bamboo grows unreliably in degraded habitats, which adds additional stress to the situation.

The Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute has been at the forefront of red panda conservation, with more than 100 surviving cubs born since 1962.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has prioritized four major categories of action for conserving red pandas: protect against habitat loss, reduce habitat degradation, reduce deaths of red pandas (through poaching and removing man-made threats) and improve awareness.
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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Why Do Dogs and Cats Eat Grass?


Nobody is really quite sure why our furry friends eat grass.
If you're a dog owner like me, you're used to seeing your dog eat just about anything. My Loretta Lou is a chocolate Lab. Once, when she was 2, she ate an entire jar of cranberry pills — extra strength. How she got the top off is still a mystery. I rushed her to the vet, who gave her medicine to make her vomit. One dose. Two doses. Nothing. Little Lou never threw up, nor did she have diarrhea. All she wanted to do afterward was catch a Frisbee. My vet looked puzzled.

Loretta also eats grass every spring and summer, which is no surprise. Dogs often eat grass. But unlike her daycare buddies, Loretta never throws up. One grass blade. Two grass blades. Three or four. Nothing. Not even a hack or a cough. Loretta has a cast iron stomach.

I'm not sure why Loretta, and by extension most other dogs, eats grass. No one is. Most people believe dogs eat it because they are lacking something in their diets, or because they are ill. That simply isn't the case.

In 2008 researchers at the University of California at Davis tried to cut through the weeds and shed some light on the mystery. They sent out surveys to 25 veterinary dog-owning students. All reported their canines ate grass. None said they observed any signs of illness before their dogs chowed down. Eight percent said their dogs hurled afterward.

Those same researchers also surveyed 47 dog owners who took their pets to the university's teaching hospital for outpatient care. Seventy-nine percent said they saw their pets eating plants, mostly grass. Four dogs were ill beforehand. Only six dogs vomited afterward.

Scientists then opened the survey up to 3,000 people who answered a series of online questions (researchers ultimately pared the useable surveys down to 1,571). Sixty-eight percent saw their dogs eating plants (mostly grass) on a daily or weekly basis. Only 8 percent showed signs of sickness beforehand. Twenty-two percent watched as their dogs vomited afterward.

"Contrary to the common perception that grass eating is associated with observable signs of illness and vomiting, we found that grass eating is a common behavior in normal dogs unrelated to illness and that dogs do not regularly vomit afterward. Vomiting seems to be incidental to, rather than caused by, plant eating," writes Dr. Benjamin Hart, one of the authors of the study, which was published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science.

Dr. Cailin Heinze, a nutritionist at the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University, who was not involved in the study, shakes her head when asked to explain why dogs eat grass in general, and why some dogs vomit while others do not. "Lots of them do it, we don't know why," she said in an email. "Sometimes it is associated with nausea/vomiting, and sometimes it isn't. It doesn't seem to be associated with diet."

Perhaps Loretta and other dogs just like the taste of grass. Maybe they like the texture. Who can say for sure.

As for cats? Researchers in the same study found that grass-eating is also common in cats, and has nothing to do with upset stomachs or other illnesses. Most cats, like dogs, do not vomit afterward.

Whether they eat grass or not, my cats hurl all the time. Hairball? Hurl! Eat too much wet food? Hurl! Get chased by Loretta? Hurl some more! Find a mouse at night? Kill it, rat it and then hurl its mangled body on the carpet so I can step on it in the dark of morning.

Vomit on the carpet; vomit on the bed; vomit on the dining room table. Even in my sneaker.
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Thursday, January 11, 2018

People Are Sharing Pics Of Their Cats Acting Weird


Have you ever walked into a room, looked at your cat, and thought ‘this creature must be out of this world’? Yup, cats are major weirdos and their behavior is something the simple mind of a mortal human finds difficult to grasp.

Felines sleep in the most awkward positions one can imagine. They make the strangest facial expressions. Sometimes the kitties even decide to do things the way humans do, and that's when things get even more funny and bizarre.

So My Friends Cat Does This
For Some reason my Sister Cat Sits like this Everyday
This is How My Friend Found The Cat in the Bathroom
This is My Friends Cat Eating Dinner
She Saw the Kids Playing On it and Now She Meows Until you Rock Her
Just A Cat Sitting On Some Stairs
How Many Cats Does it take to Change a Light Bulb?
I know Cats Like to Sleep in Weird Positions, But this one is the Winner

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Russian Fisherman Reveals Terrifying Deep Sea Creatures


Murmansk-based Roman Fedortsov has shed light on the strange world of the deep sea through a series of creepy images.

Human beings have only explored 0.05 per cent of the deep sea, but in the depths are genuinely alien creatures with saucer-like eyes, human-like teeth and eight legs.

Mr Fedortsov works on a trawler and fishes in what has been dubbed the “twilight zone”, a shallow ocean which opens onto the Arctic Ocean.
It is what is known as the Mesopelagic zone, an area between 60 to 3,300 feet (200 to 1,000 metres) below the surface.

Below this is the bathyal zone, an area of total darkness spanning 2,200 to 13,000 feet (1,000 to 4,000 metres).

Mr Fedortsov has revealed one of the most rarely seen fish, the bearded sea devil in a photo shared on Twitter.

He has also tweeted images of a frilled shark, which is often called a living “relic” due to its primitive features and a longhorn cowfish, with long horns that protrude from the front of its head as well as a cookiecutter shark, part of the “sleeper shark” family.

There are also photos of the chimaera, a fish commonly known as the “ghost shark”.

Chimaera are known for their winged fins and long, whip-like tails.

It also has green eyes which glow, but only when exposed to light.

In the depths of the ocean, ghost sharks appear to have sunken, 'dead' eyes.

Mr Fedortsov began sharing his remarkable finds in 2016.





But, some of his discoveries have left him stumped.

One photo showing an alien-like creature with a massive jaw and sharp teeth, the Russian trawler-man said: “We're still arguing about this one. What is it?”

Some people on Twitter suggested it could be a deep-sea dragonfish from the genus Malacosteus.

But not all catches are fish as one picture reveals an orange “sea spider”.

Sea spiders are marine arthropods with long, spindly legs that are roughly the size of a human hand.

These sea “spiders” are a type of primitive marine arthropod called pycnogonids and they grow to massive sizes in a phenomenon known as polar gigantism.

Deep-sea creatures can look even more alien if they live more deeply within the ocean.

This is because pressure can affect the appearance of some when they are brought to surface.

Thousands of feet below they are under extreme pressures and while some can withstand dramatic vertical migrations, the lower pressure of the world are known to cause metabolic problems.

Some even alter their shape and the effect can be seen in the case of the blobfish, a creature voted the world’s ugliest animal.
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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

7 Ways to Help Keep Animals Safe During This Cold Stretch


1. Keep Animals Inside

Small or old animals and short-haired animals are particularly susceptible to the unforgiving elements – help keep your furry friends safe by putting a sweater or coat them, while they are kept warm inside a home.

2. Don’t Allow Your Animals to Roam Freely Outdoors
Cats and dogs (and other small animals) are notorious for hiding under the body or bonnet or cars, especially those with a warm engine – however, when the car is started, these animals get severely injured, or killed. Check your car before you get in and bang loudly on the hood, in case there is an animal hiding. When there is snow or ice on the ground, animals become disorientated and won’t be acting like themselves.

3. Increase Animals’ Food Rations in Cold Weather

Like humans, animals require more energy to maintain their body heat when they’re cold; burning more calories to keep warm. Please give your furry friends more food during colder weather and get them checked for internal parasites which rob them of essential nutrients. A vet can help further advise you on adequate portions of individual animals.

4. Keep Your Eyes Out For Strays
If you find a cat outside, please take them to a shelter, vet or your home until you can find their companion owners. On the other hand, if the animal is stray and cannot be approached, they need food, water, and shelter. Your local stray rescue organization can help trap the stray safely, to bring them indoors. If you can spread the word and help find a loving owner too – the furry friends will be forever grateful.

5. Clean off Animals’, Feet, and Stomachs After they Come in From the Snow

Animals clean themselves, but as many toxic chemicals and salt are used as a gripping agent for roads – which is very dangerous when animals ingest this through cleaning. Cleaning or giving the animals a bath before they can lick off substances themselves helps prevent illness.

6. Provide Dogs Found Outdoors with Proper Shelter
Wood is superior to metal for keeping animals warm, animal houses should be kept in a sunny location during cold weather, raised off the ground and have a flap over the door to keep cold drafts at bay. Materials such as blankets and rugs can get wet and freeze, which freezes animals in turn – straw is best for cold weather bedding.

7. Buy Nontoxic Antifreeze

Even small amounts of ethylene glycol (a toxic component of antifreeze) can kill animals – but propylene glycol is safer. Sierra and Prestone Lowtox are safe brands – other antifreeze with the bittering agent denatonium benzoate are also better. As antifreeze is sweet, animals are attracted to it – ensure spills are cleaned quickly for the health of furry friends.
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Sunday, January 7, 2018

Animals of 'Star Wars' and their real-life, Earthly counterparts


From the original “Star Wars” in 1977, the films have given moviegoers a rich tapestry of fully developed ecosystems, complete with an array of indigenous wildlife occupying all the niches in a galaxy far, far away. Many of the critters of that galaxy appear to have Earthly counterparts, if on a much enlarged, aggrandized and intensified scale.

Here’s a comparison of some of those Tatooine and Hoth dwellers with some real-life creatures right here on Earth.

 Acklay
In “Star Wars” lore, the acklay is a thick-skinned, Sharp-clawed carnivore native to the planet Vendaxa. It’s about 20 feet tall. It was first seen in “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” when it was killed in the Petranaki arena by Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The critter on Earth that could be the acklay’s much smaller cousin is the praying mantis, a fierce predator of insects. While there are several native species of mantids in North America, the introduced European and Chinese species are the mantids most commonly encountered in our backyards.

 Bantha


The bantha is a bulky, hairy pack animal native to the planet Tatooine. It’s an 8-10-foot-tall herbivore that travels in herds in the wild and is used as a beast of burden and a food source by the Tusken Raiders. Banthas were first seen in the original “Star Wars.”

Earth’s closest equivalent to the bantha is the domesticated yak, which is the descendent of the wild yak of the Himalaya region on Central Asia and north into Mongolia and Russia. The yak also is a bulky, hairy animal used by native peoples for transport and food. In place of the curved horns of the bantha, the yak carries a more cattle-like piece of headgear.

 Bantha II

The bantha’s massive, curved horns seem to be an enlarged version of the horns of the ram of the bighorn sheep in the American West. The body of the bantha, however, remains an enlarged version of the yak.

 Dewback

In the “Star Wars” reality, the dewback is a thick-skinned, desert-dwelling reptile on the planet Tatooine. It is the standard mount of the Empire’s sandtroopers, capable of short bursts of speed and long treks across the sand. It is about 6 feet tall and 10 feet long. “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” was the first outing for the creature.

The closest thing to the dewback on Earth might be the Komodo dragon, which is can grow as long as the dewback but never achieves the deep body of its Star Wars counterpart. The dragon is native to a few Indonesian islands, including Komodo.

Eopie

The eopie is a quadruped herbivore native to the planet Tatooine, where it is highly adapted to survival on and travel across vast deserts. Although bad-tempered and stubborn, eopies are domesticated as riding and cargo-bearing beasts. The species first appeared in “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.”

Most of the eopie’s attributes apply to Earth’s one-humped Dromedary camel of the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. The camel has been domesticated in the same way by native peoples of those regions.

Eopie II

While most of the eopie is camel-like, its elongated muzzle appears to be that of the saiga antelope, a critically endangered species of the Eurasian steppes. The outsized snout with the downward slanting nostrils helps to filter out dust kicked up by the herd, helps to cool the animal’s blood in summer and warms the air being breathed in winter.

Exogorth

The exogorth was that half-mile-long, slug-like, legless salamander that lived inside an asteroid belt in the Hoth system and made a grab for the Millennium Falcon in “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.”

Although the body of the exogorth was more than of a slug or snake, the head looked decidedly like that of the hellbender, which at a length of as much as 18 inches is the largest salamander in Pennsylvania. Although it is a species of special concern in the state, a movement has begun to designate the hellbender as the official amphibian of Pennsylvania.

Happabore

In the “Star Wars” universe, the happabore is a mostly hairless quadruped with a thick, wrinkled hide; a broad, flat snout; and upward curling, blunt tusks. It is a docile, obedient beast of burden, about 20 feet long and 8 feet tall. The animal was first seen in “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.”

Although the snout and the tusks of the happabore most closely resemble those of Earth’s wild boat, the rest of the creature is more like a monstrously oversized naked mole rat. The latter is a desert-dwelling, burrowing rodent of East Africa.

Nexu


The nexu is an agile predator with ferocious fangs, long claws and a spine of sharp quills. It is about 15 feet long and 3 feet tall. Star Wars fans were introduced to the nexu in “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” where it attacked Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala in the Petranaki arena on the planet Geonosis.

Earth really has nothing like the nexu, but it shares distinctive features with the hyena and porcupine, which occupy far-removed spots in the class Mammalia. The family Hyaenidae has just four species in it, all in Africa. A total of 29 species of porcupines occur nearly worldwide in the Hystricidae (Old World) and Erethizontidae (New World) families. The porcupine in Pennsylvania (Erethizon dorsatum) has been expanding its range southward throughout the state for several decades.

Ronto
The ronto is a dinosaurian, quadruped herbivore of the desert planet Tatooine. It is the size of an apatosaurus, but rather skittish and easily dominated as a pack animals capable of carrying incredible loads. Star Wars fans were introduced to the ronto in “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.”

The closest animals on Earth to the ronto disappeared with the Mesozoic Era 66 million years ago. Short of the dinosaurs, the African elephant most closely approximates the ronto. However, the face of the ronto looks more like that of the tapir or a rhinoceros without its horn.

Sarlacc

The sarlacc is a plant-like, omnivorous creature found on several planets in the “Star Wars” universe. Most of it is subterranean, but the jaws and some tentacles remain aboveground ready to snag and devour anything that passes. It was first seen in the Great Pit of Carkoon on Tatooine in “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.” Minons of Jabba the Hutt attempted unsuccessfully to feed Luke Skywalker to the beast.

On a miniaturized scale, Earth has the antlions, a group of about 2,000 species of insect nearly worldwide. The larva of the insect digs a pit with sides of loose dirt or sand that traps passing ants and other small insects and slides them into the powerful pincers of the antlion, which remains hidden underground until prey is detected.

Steelpecker

The steelpecker is a carrion bird on the planet Jakku that closely resembles the vultures of Earth. The steelpecker, however, feeds on discarded metal, which it rips into with its iron-tipped beak and talons. A flock of steelpeckers was first seen in “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.”

Tauntaun


After the ewoks, the tauntaun may be the cutest creature in the “Star Wars” menagerie. It’s a heavily furred, biped native to the snowy plains of the planet Hoth, where it travels in herds and is well adapted to the extremely low temperatures. Adults are about 8 feet tall. When the Rebel Alliance set up its secret base on Hoth, in “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back,” they domesticated several tauntauns as transport animals. It was a tauntaun that Luke Skywalker was riding when he was attacked by a wampa.

Earth’s equivalent to the tauntaun would seem to take the fur of a llama, wrap an oversized kangaroo in it and slap on the an upward-curving tusk on each side of the mouth.

Varactyl

The varactyl is a 50-foot-long reptile native to the planet Utapau. It also has some avian characteristics, notably a mane of blue and green feathers that continues back along the ridge of its back. It was domesticated as a fast-moving mount capable of climbing vertical surfaces. In “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” Obi-Wan Kenobi rode a varactyl named Boga.

In a much smaller version minus the feathers, Earth has iguanas, the largest of which can grow to 6 feet in length and cannot be developed into a rideable animal.

Wampa

The wampa, which attacked Luke Skywalker and his tauntaun mount on the planet Hoth in “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back,” is a 10-foot-tall, bipedal carnivore. It’s a heavily muscled, white-furred, ambush predator, well adapted to occupy the top of the food chain in its snow-covered environment.

Apart from some of the great apes, which are small and frail by comparison, Earth has nothing in the discovered universe like the wampa. Although the Hoth creature, with its jowl-framing tusks, is a more formidable version, Earth’s nearest approximation may be the yeti or abominable snowman.

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Photographer Captures Enchanting Photos of Finland’s Forest Animals in the Wild


Helsinki-based photographer and explorer Joachim Munter takes fairytale photos of forest animals in his native Finland. The picturesque landscapes of Finnish forests provide a home for many wild animals and birds, including foxes, red squirrels, reindeers, and even bears. Munter manages to capture up-close and intimate portraits of these forest creatures in their natural habitat, even though most of them are known to be incredibly timid when it comes to interacting with humans.
All of his subjects, be they curious foxes or scurrying squirrels, appear to look perfectly comfortable in front of his camera. In order to earn the animals’ trust, Munter explains, “The most important thing—in my opinion—is not to chase the animals. You just need time and patience; let the animal become comfortable around you.” With one particular fox, it took Munter two months to gain his trust, and reveals that he then “started giving him some nuts when taking pictures.”

Foxes stare curiously into the lens, squirrels happily munch on foraged nuts, and occasionally, woodland birds perch on Munter’s hand (with the promise of delicious seeds). In one case, the talented photographer even managed to capture an intimate moment between a mother and baby fox, framed by a red berry bush. Throughout Munter’s growing collection, the use of striking depth of field invites the viewer to focus on the beauty and charm of each animal. All of the images have their own enchanting quality, not only highlighting the personalities of these amazing animals, but they also showcase Finland’s fairytale landscape, in all its gorgeous forest hues.

Follow Munter on Instagram to see more of his charming wildlife photography. You can also purchase prints from his portfolio on Printler.

Helsinki-based photographer Joachim captures intimate photos of Finland’s fairytale forest animals in the wild.
















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