Sunday, 31 January 2010

Cheering-up bird 21- Macaroni Penguin

Good morning and Happy Monday to you.

Today's cheering-up bird is the Macaroni Penguin, Eudyptes chrysolophus.

Adults of this species are around 70cm (28 inches)tall/long and males have a mass of around 3.3kg (7lbs) after incubating their egg to around 6.4kg (14lbs) before moulting (females are a little lighter). This dramatic weightloss shows the strain that incubating the egg (and being unable to feed during this time) puts on the birds. More detailed information on this species is available here-

This image, taken on Livingstone Island, off Antarctica is by Jerzy Sterzelecki and was taken from, where you can view the image licence (creative commons attribution 3.0 unported).

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Image of the day- Okapi

Image (c) Victoria Neblik, 2009. All rights reserved.

Today's image-of-the-day is one of my favourite animals. The okapi is really a "forest giraffe" of sorts. So shy that it eluded science and was considered a myth until 1920, the okapi is in the unhappy predicament of inhabiting war/conflict-torn parts of Central Africa- specifically,the rainforest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It would be lovely if reservations for it could be created, but it seems impossible in the current climate.

This image is one of many in the forthcoming book "Weirdbeautiful"- for advance notice of the book's release, e mail with "weirdbeautiful book" in the subject line.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Weird wildlife II- Weirdugly

I recently stumbled across this picture gallery and article showcasing 19 of the world's ugliest animals. It must have been something of a slow news day at The New York Daily News when this was published, but with gems like the "red-lipped batfish" and the fearsome looking Ayeaye, it is defintely one of their better articles-

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Quote of the Week- M.K. Gandhi

"To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves." - Mohandas, K. Gandhi

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Weird wildlife I- Extinction of "The Blobfish"?

.. it sounds (and, frankly, looks)like something from a science fiction film,
but the Blobfish- Psychrolutes marcidus-is very real. The weird but certainly not beuatiful deep water fish that lives off the coast of Australia and Tasmania is sadly now threatened with extinction, due to changes in fishing practices, as this news article explains-

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The Magnificence of Elephants

Image by Victoria Neblik, 2010, all rights reserved.

"If you ask the average person to describe the colour of an elephant, you will most likey be told that elephants are grey. Certainly, on gloomy, overcast days, they can appear to be grey: but I have noticed many different colours emanate from elephants. As the light bounces off them, they seem pink at sunset, blue at night, orange in the morning and brown under a coating of dust."- wildlife photographer Steve Bloom - quote from his book "Elephant"

Monday, 25 January 2010

Rock formation near Bondi Beach, New South Wales, Australia.
This picture is taken from an overhanging section of rock- the yellower rock is about 8-10feet lower than the greyer foreground. The rock that would be in the middle, having been eroded by the sea.
Image (c) V. Neblik, 2002, 2009 all rights reserved.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Cheering-up bird 20- California Quail

Good morning! Sunday greetings! Today's cheering up bird is the "state bird" of California- the California Quail, Callipepla californica. This is a male, photographed in Golden Gate park. The photographer is Mila Zinkova.

You can find the image source and licence (creative commons attribution share alike 3.0) here-

Friday, 22 January 2010

Image of the day- the natural world down a microscope

Links to two image-series today- both courtessy of The Sun newspaper. The first is a beautiful series of images of living organisms and natural phenomena (baby starfish, soap bubles, snail eggs, a fly larva and several others). You can find the article here-

most of the images are in a gallery linked from that article.

The second image series is an article and a further succession of 6 images of planet Mars-

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Rickets, Reptiles and Insect-echnology

Good Morning. Welcome to Weirdbeautiful.

This week, the news seems to be full of medical, rather than wildlife stories.
The latest one of interest (to me, at least) is this one about a dramatic rise in the rates of rickets in school children-
You can find links to other major science news/stories of the week further down this page.

The big wildlife story at the moment is still this one-

about "Reptiles and Amphibian Ecology International"'s study of wildlife in the western Ecuadoran cloud forest. The scientists found a host of new and unusual animals so it has been all over the news.

For my part, I did an interview yesterday with Prof. Jean-Pol Vigneron of the University of Namur (FUNDP)for Practical Reptile Keeping magazine. Prof. Vigneron has done a great many studies on colouration in various animals- especially insects and has been instrumental in developing a number of products- including coloured paper, paints and glass coatings- from his discoveries- so I had a long talk to him about that. The tortoise beetle above- Charidotella egregia changes colour from transparent to red when threatened and is one of the things that Prof. Vigneron has studied. Image copyright J-P.Vigneron, 2009, all rights reserved.

Quote of the Week - Rachel Carson (I)-the beauty of the earth

"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts."- Rachel Carson

Image- "The Blue Marble", taken by the crew of Apollo 17 on 7th December 1972. Image owned by NASA (no copyright).

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Thought for the day- Brains...

One of the great wonders of the natural world is the [human/dolphin/whale/dog/chimpanzee/etc] brain. Perhaps the greatest puzzle of all is the mystery of consciousness. One article with an unusual (and philosophical as much as neuroscientific)slant on this problem is this piece, recently published on New Scientist's website-

Science update-transparent frogs, knotted light, plastic bottles

Good morning.
Welcome to Weirdbeautiful.

The big wildlife news this week is that a scientific expedition to Western Equador has discovered some 30 new species of frog (including some with transparent chests), lungless salamanders, new stick insect species and a slug-eating snake-

-thanks to Dolev R. for bringing that to my attention.

This week's main medical story is the revelation that there have been more discoveries about health problems caused by Bisphenol A (BPA): a chemical widely used in plastic bottles, including drinks bottles-

Finally, yahoo news, has published a physics story this week about research on light that offers promise for more making laser measurement even more precise-,

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Link/Image of the Day- Lily Pads

Today's first link/image is this arresting image of lily pads on the National Geographic website-

It has been a while since I linked to anything by Eduardo Izquerido, but today's second image/link-of-the day is to this stunning picture from his flickr photostream-

(the other picture by Eduardo that was featured on weirdbeautiful was this picture of ice from the air- last September)

Monday, 18 January 2010

Cheering-up bird 19- Comb-duck (=knob-billed duck)

Greetings! Welcome to Weridbeautiful! Today's cheering up bird is the Comb duck (also known- for obivous reasons- as the knob billed duck), Sarkidiornis melanotos. It is a tropical speices found in parts of Africa, Asia and South America.
This image is by Bs Thurner Hof, the source is , where you can also see the licence (creative commons attribution share alike 3.0)

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Link of the day- giant green anaconda snake

Image by L.A.Dawson, 2006. reproduced here in accordance with licence (creative commons share alike 2.5). Image source and licence details=

Image of the day- Nature "red in tooth and claw"

Hello. Welcome to Weirdbeautiful. Today's image is a striking photo of tigers feeding in Northern China-

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Today's links are 3 wildlife images courtessy of
moss-covered tree-trunk:-

an unusual close-up on a common snail-

and a frozen waterfall-

Friday, 15 January 2010

Link of the day- Infra red photos

Hello. Happy Friday and thank you for visiting Weirdbeautiful.

During my doctorate, I spent some time investigating the Ultraviolet and Infra Red light reflected by living organisms- particularly jellyfish and related animals. I did quite a bit of photography related to this, as did a colleague of mine- Abigail Ingram. Abby was especially studying fish parasites at that point.

We used specialist film with a very wide spectral sensitivity for both UV and IR photos, aswell as a crystal lens (glass lenses block out too much UV) and various filters to take images of various animals. Our pictures were scientific, rather than aesthetic. Because the film was infrared sensitive, it absolutely had to be stored in the cool (a fridge) and this and its high sensitivity meant that it had to be loaded and unloaded into/from the camera in complete darkness (a photographer's darkroom). In this case, the article talks about infrared images (particularly landscapes) needing long exposure time, which was not particularly a problem we had with the kind of pictures we were taking.

Today I want to post this link-

-to a series of infrared photos and some information about how they were taken.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

"Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a function." - Joseph Wood Krutch

with thanks to
Image (c) V. Neblik, 2008, ferral cat, Armageddon ("Ha Megiddo"), Israel.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Martian "trees", urban Herons and freezing Florida- Science update

Today's big science news story is this article-

- recent photographs from Mars that appear to show, at first glance, rows of alien trees. The pictures actually show conifer-shaped trails of debris left behind as the planet's CO2 frost sublimes for the "summer", as the article explains

Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph’s big nature story of the day is this article-
on the effects of the cold weather on Britain’s birds. British wildlife is not alone in feeling the chill, according to this yahoo article about the problems the cold-snap is causing for tropical wildlife in Florida-

Sunday, 10 January 2010

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree."- Martin Luther (1483-1586)

(Image, Apple Blossom, (c) V Neblik, 2008, taken from the forthcoming book "Weirdbeautiful". All rights reserved). Quote with thanks to

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Image of the day-Fennec Foxes

Fennec Foxes, Vulpes zerda Photograph by Umberto Salvagnin.

You can see other images by Umberto Salvagnin on his flickr photostream, here-
The image above was taken from , where it has a Creative Commons 2.0 licence.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Link of the day- Loch Morlich

Image/link of the day today is this lovely photo of Lake Morlich in the Cairngorn Mountains, Scotland in the snow-

thanks to for bringing it to my attention.
The photographer is "freeskiing"- you can see the rest of his flickr photostream here-

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Science update- 7th Jan 2010

Good morning and welcome to Weirdbeautiful.

The big wildlife story this week is the statement by zoologist Lori Morino that dolphins are "too clever to be treated as animals" and should have status as "non-human" people. Prof Morino is biologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and has been using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to map the brains of dolphin species and compare them with those of primates.

A lot of scientists tend to roll their eyes at the mention of studies of animal intelligence. This is partly because it is such an emotive/subjective issue-so the media tends to get very excited and make exagerated claims based on pretty much any study in the subject. The other reason is that intelligence is a very difficult thing to measure- what do you mean by intelligence? Is a chimpanzee, who can communicate using pictures with his human keepers "brighter" than a dog, who cannot but who can read a human's emotions and follow his master's gaze to find food? Different types of intelligence have evolved in different animals, depending upon their needs and their lifestyles/ecological niches.

You can find more detail on Lori Morino's dolphin studies here-

A little while back (last March, in fact) The Daily Telegraph ran another interesting story on the science of intelligence- specifically the brain-power of the humble bumblebee, which is also an interesting read-

Monday, 4 January 2010

Image of the day- Cassia flowers

This beautiful image is of Cassia fistula, the "Golden shower tree" (also known as "the Indian Laburnum"). It grows in Southern Asia, including Southern Pakistan, India, Burma (Myanmar) and, notably, Thailand, where it is the National Tree. It is in the same family (Fabaceae) as the Laburnum tree, Wysteria and the common broom, but, then, it is a large family, having over 19,000 species in it.
The photographer is Challiyil Eswaramangalath Vipin and the picture was taken from , where it has a creative commons 2.0 licence.

You can find more of Challiyil Eswaramangalath Vipin's photographs on his impressive flickr photostream at-

Link of the day- the scale of things

This clever webpage graphic thing shows the relative sizes of coffee beans, salt grains, human eggs cells, sperm, certain viruses and some bacteria. A lot more interesting than it sounds-

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Cheering-up bird 17- Helmeted Guineafowl

Today's cheering-up bird is another guineafowl- this time, the Helmeted Guineafowl, Numida meleagris. This image is by "User Sb616" and the original file and licence (creative commons attribution share alike 3.0) can be found here -

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Angels and (Tasmanian) Devils

Hello. Welcome to Weirdbeautiful.

Today I want to share with you two links-
the first is to some angelic-looking baby pandas- courtesy of the tabloid newspapers. (In this case, an article in The Sun about how the stress of looking after panda cubs leaves their mothers too exhausted to breed).

One of the big problems with panda conservation programmes is that pandas are reluctant to breed. Koala bears are similarly difficult to persuade to reproduce, which is likewise hampering programmes to halt their decline.

The article and cute panda pictures can be found here-

The other link is to an article in the International Herald and Tribune on Tasmanian devils- one of Australia's odder creatures (although, admittedly, a lot of Australian wildlife is very weird...). The Tasmanian devil suffers from an unusual affliction- an infectious facial cancer.

Infectious cancers are rare- probably the best known other example is Kaposi's sarcoma in humans- a cancer of the cells lining blood vessels that occurs in a lot of AIDS patients. Kaposi's sarcoma is caused by Human Herpes Virus 8. This herpes virus is found in large numbers of people but usually only becomes problematic when AIDS suppresses someone's immune system to the extent that it can no longer keep on top of the virus.

(There are pictures of Kaposi's sarcoma here- - WARNING!- they are fairly GORY)

The situation in the Tasmanian devil is more complicated - the infectious cancer is apparently caused not by a virus but by a mutant form of some of the animal's normal cells that have evolved to behave like a parasitic organism. You can find more information in the IHT article here-

Friday, 1 January 2010

Bee in Flight

This lovely image of a bee in flight was one of Flikr's images of the year for 2009-