Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (Rosetta’s Comet) when compared to the city of Los Angeles (Picture Credit)
Sea Apple - Pseudocolochirus violaceus
It may not seem much an apple, nor a cucumber, but these are colorful sea cucumbers commonly known as Sea Apples belonging to the species Pseudocolochirus violaceus (Holothuroidea - Dendrochirotida - Cucumariidae), which occurs in the Indian Ocean and the western part of the Pacific Ocean.
Sea apples are about 18 cm long. They usually are purple, but also can be blue, red, white, and yellow. Three rows of tube feet run along the bottom side of the animal. The top side has two rows of tube feet as well as small scattered tube feet. The body is curved so that the mouth and anus point upward. They have ten tentacles which are bushy purple to red and have white tips. The pieces of the body wall skeleton are rounded, smooth plates with a few holes.
When relaxed, the normal shape is short and sausage-like as with most other sea cucumbers. When stressed, however, it may inflate itself into a large round ball.
Sea apples live partly hidden to fully exposed with tentacles expanded, even during the day. They feed continuously, capturing large food particles with outstretched branching tentacles that are lightly coated in mucus.
These beautiful sea cucumbers unfortunately are harvested for the aquarium trade. Ironically, they do not make good aquarium specimens as they are often toxic to their tank mates.
Snake Poop and The Adaptive Ballast Hypothesis
by Andrew Durso
Most people probably spend as little time as possible thinking about poop, especially snake poop. Some animals produce enormous amounts of poop, like dairy cows. Others make lots of little poops - up to 50 a day in small birds.
In contrast, snakes don’t poop much at all. In fact, because they eat so infrequently, snakes probably poop the least often of almost any animal. Anyone who has kept a snake as a pet can tell you that a few days after they’re fed, most snakes tend to poop once (often in their water bowls, for some annoying reason), and they might poop again within a few more days.
Like bird poop, snake poop is made up of two parts - the brown stuff (the fecal fragment, aka the actual poop) and the white stuff (the uric acid fragment, aka the pee, in a solid form). Also like birds, most reptiles use uric acid rather than urea to excrete their excess nitrogen, which helps them conserve water.
You wouldn’t think there would be much that’s interesting about snake poop, but to a snake biologist everything about snakes is interesting. In 2002, Harvey Lillywhite, Pierre de Delva, and Brice Noonan published a chapter in the book Biology of the Vipers that detailed their studies on snake poop.
Their most amazing finding was that some snakes can go for a really, really long time without pooping. As in, over a year. It’s not because they’re constipated though - these long fecal retention periods have actually evolved for a purpose in snakes.
Here’s what happens: most snakes eat very large meals, and they eat them all in one piece. That means that when a snake eats a meal, its body mass can more than double all at once, and it can only digest that meal from the outside in, because it hasn’t chewed or cut it up into small pieces to increase its surface area. Even for the insane digestive tract of a snake, this is an incredible feat…
(read more: Life is Short, Snakes Are Long)
photos: A. Durso, Pedro Rodriguez, and Cater News Agency
Xeno Crab (Xenocarcinus tuberculatus) - Malapascua Island, Philippines
Violet-backed Starling - Cinnyricinclus leucogaster
As you can see in these photos, in the African species Cinnyricinclus leucogaster (Passeriformes - Sturnidae) the sexual dimorphism is extreme in terms of coloration plumage. It means that both males and females are phenotypically different or have different appearance.
Males have head, neck, back and tail of brilliant purple. The underside is white. The female, however, is drab; the purple of the male is replaced by olive green feathers and the white underside is flecked with green dashes.
Spiny turtle (Heosemys spinosa)
The spiny turtle is known from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Sadly this species is highly endangered!
It inhabits lowland and hill rainforest, usually in the vicinity of small streams, mainly in hill areas up to 900 m above sea level.
Mating behaviour appears to be triggered by rain; in captivity, spraying males with water results in them chasing females and attempting to mount. Nothing is known of nesting behaviour in the wild.