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.
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.
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.
In this video you will see more caecilians than you’ve ever seen in all your life. It’s likely you never even heard of them before. But who would make a fake video about legless blind amphibians?
I wish to draw attention to the pronunciation of “caecilians.” This video’s narrator says it like “Sicilians.” Who are we to disagree? But there weren’t any caecilians in any of the Godfather movies–then again, hardly anybody ever sees them anywhere else, either. There is a rumor that Al Pacino had a pet caecilian named “Alfredo,” but who knows how true that could be?
We are anticipating an invasion of Scurveyshire, England, by caecilians during Queen Victoria’s reign. Don’t believe anyone who says it’s easy to predict the past. There are things that went on back then that’d make your hair stand on end.
So I went outside to write in the heat, wanted to finish a chapter of The Witch Box, and when I’d had enough, I came back in to lie on the floor and cool off. I was just getting settled when Patty reported, with alarm, “What’s that on your back? Oh, it’s some awful kind of great big spider!”
“Well, are you going to just stand there looking at it? Get it off me!” I may be Mr. Nature, but I’d just as soon not have some great big spider crawl under my shirt.
“How? How do I get it off you?”
“I don’t know! Do something!”
She started to pull up my shirt. I wasn’t having that! “Oh! It’s got a long body like a grasshopper!” She was still messing about with my shirt when the big nasty spider suddenly “flew away.”
“What? A spider that can fly? Where did it go?”
“I don’t know! It just flew off!”
By and by I found the creature resting on a windowpane. Now that I could see it, I realized it was an assassin fly. I drew Patty’s attention to it. “Is this what you saw?”
“Yes, that’s it.”
“There’s no problem, then. It’s an assassin fly. It’s a predator. It has no interest in human beings.”
“Does it eat bugs? Will it eat flies?”
“Flies, and anything else it can catch.”
“Well, then, it can stay here and be welcome,” Patty said.
So it’s still there on the windowpane, waiting for a tasty fly to come along.
A certain businessman once said, “I didn’t get where I am today by messing about with earwigs!” But he was missing something.
Jambo, Mr. Nature here–with earwigs. The ones in the video are bigger than the ones we find in our gardens, but otherwise the same.
I’ve always wondered about those “pincers” on the south end of a northbound earwig. All the other bugs have their pincers up front, like politicians. So having them where a tail ought to be seems an odd procedure. But it works for them.
These “cerci,” as scientists call them, function just like real pincers. They might as well be real pincers: male earwigs fight with them. I never knew that–did you? So, yes, an earwig could pinch you if you picked it up in your hand; but the damage would be so minimal as to be hardly worth mentioning.
Don’t panic if you find some in your garden. They mind their own business and will not harm your fruits or flowers. They won’t harm you, either.
Fortunately for everybody’s peace of mind, Komodo dragons are rare and tend not to live in populated areas. Which is good, because this–the world’s largest living lizard–is one of the few land animals with the inclination and the ability to eat people.