Jambo! Today our safari takes us to the foundation of your house, where we see spiders crawling on the walls. Almost everybody thinks they’re spiders, and knows them well as “daddy long-legs.” But they’re actually very different from spiders.
There are over 6,000 species of these critters, found all over the world. If you’ve ever turned over a rotten old board and found a thousand red daddy long-legs under it, don’t worry: these animals have no power to harm us in any way.
I find it fascinating that both the male and female daddy long-legs take care of their eggs and hatchlings.
On the whole, they’re rather nice. Be kind to them.
I’m glad I got some blog posts up this morning, because the sun is out again and I’ve got to write as much of The Witch Box as I can. No telling when it’ll get too cold to do that.
Today Helki the Rod has had an encounter with the creature depicted above. It’s called “Eryops,” a giant amphibian with huge jaws, lots and lots of teeth, and a third eye in the middle of its forehead–one of the first prehistoric animals I ever learned about, thanks to Bertha Morris Parker’s Golden Treasury of Natural History. You’re getting a better look at it than Helki got. He didn’t want to get too close. His Eryops lives in a cavern.
Well, I’d better get back outside now and try to tell some more of the story. See you in a bit.
If you’re wondering where I am today, and why I haven’t posted much–well, the sun is shining and I have to make hay. I’m outside working on my book, The Witch Box. I’m going to go back outside in a few minutes and write a bit more.
Meanwhile, enjoy this video clip of the largest land mammal ever, Baluchitherium. Here they call it an “Indricothere,” but I don’t bother with that.
If you’ve read The Thunder King, this is the great beast that King Ryons rode to the rescue of the city of Obann.
Technically they’re big cats, but you don’t have to be afraid of being attacked by a cheetah. That only happens, very rarely, in zoos–not in the wild.
So I have had to discard my theory that the cheetah makes this meowing noise to try to lure gullible humans to their deaths. You think you’re going to rescue some poor cat lost on the savannah, and uh-oh, it’s a cheetah! Run for it!
Jambo, Mr. Nature here! What was the world’s biggest-ever frog, and how big was it?
It’d take a big jug-o’-rum to fill this baby, Beelzebufo, a prehistoric frog from Madagascar. It was as big as a beach-ball, weighing in at ten pounds, with a body 16 inches long. It appears to be related to the South American horned frogs which occasionally turn up in pet stores–although why anyone would want one of those evil-tempered little cusses is beyond me.
Was Beelzebufo really the biggest frog ever, or are there bigger ones still waiting to be discovered?
The possibilities for a 1950s-style horror movie are intriguing.
(Yeah, I know, they call it a frog; but take my word for it, it’s a toad.)
This is a very wise cat: he knows there’s nothing to do here but back down. It looks like the toad is eating cat food, but I think he’s just snagging bugs attracted to the plate. Adopt a toad sometime and see how far you get, offering him cat food.
Toads defend themselves by excreting poison through their skin–enough to make a cat or a dog seriously ill. I once saw a dog named Lulu pick up a toad in her mouth. Bad move! She was sick all day, and lucky to recover.
Note: There’s another toad in the background. Reinforcements, just in case the cat gets rowdy?
Even if you’re not interested in lizards, stay with me for a minute or two–because this is a mystery of nature.
This lizard is an Australian bearded dragon. He thinks his reflection in the mirror is another lizard, so he goes into a head-bobbing display to warn the stranger off his territory. He even has some idea of going behind the mirror to see if the interloper might be hiding there.
Travel halfway around the globe to, say, Florida, and you’ll find little green anoles performing the same display for the same reasons (courtship and threat). These groups of lizards are not related, and thousands of miles of planet lie between them. Behavior doesn’t show up in any fossil record. Why do these very different, widely separated lizards do this same ritual?
God’s work is endlessly fascinating: you never get to the bottom of it.
Meanwhile, I’ve had many different kinds of lizards as pets and by rights some of them should have head-bobbed (also known as lizard pushups)… but none of them ever did. I did have an anole who went totally ballistic when he saw his reflection in a hand mirror; I had to take the mirror away before he did himself a mischief.
Then there are the two large families of lizards, one in the Old World, the other in the New, who look just about exactly like one another but aren’t related at all. But that’s another post for later sometime.
Jambo. You are about to see a little “pet store chameleon” (a green anole, actually: not a real chameleon) decide he’s in the mood for love. He’ll try to attract the female by showing his dewlap and doing a lot of head-bobbing.
These same gestures are also used to threaten rivals.
Head-bobbing intrigues me because so many unrelated lizards, thousands of miles apart geographically, do it–and for the same reasons: courtship, threat, defense of territory. This is an aspect of lizard life that has no way of being preserved in any fossil record. Which in turn is a reminder that we don’t know an awful lot about animals–especially prehistoric ones.
None of my lizards ever head-bobbed at me. I must be a nice guy.
Oddly enough, real chameleons don’t head-bob.
I know some of you have bearded dragons. Do they eventually give up head-bobbing–or do they always find some occasion for it?
Jambo! Mr. Nature here–and today our safari need take us no farther than my own back yard.
These little DeKay snakes used to be pretty common around here. I liked to catch them and handle them a bit, then let them go. They’re really tiny–the biggest one I ever caught, a real giant among DeKay snakes, was only about a foot and a half long. Most of them top out around six inches.
Uh… Was I supposed to blog some nooze today? Ah, never mind. God’s stuff is nicer.
The DeKay snake in this video has just had babies, live birth instead of eggs. You really wonder how she could have carried so many babies–but don’t ask me to count them.
These snakes eat bugs and slugs, so it’s good to have them in your garden. I wish we still did.