Tag Archives: mr. nature

An Enormous Green Spider

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Linda was wondering about a spider she once encountered. Well, things do look bigger when we’re children, and maybe we don’t remember them with photographic accuracy. But Mr. Nature gave it a try, and he thinks he’s able to identify this big green hairy spider that surprised Linda when she was 12 years old.

Behold the Green Lynx Spider, the biggest green spider found in North America, inhabiting the southern U.S. It’s hairy, it roves around hunting its prey, and has a body a little over half an inch long–which is big for any spider that’s not a tarantula.

And you know how the mind works: if the average Green Lynx Spider’s body is .6 inches long, then there are probably bigger ones than that.

This reminds me of an even bigger bug–the Cecropia Moth. Now, sadly, growing rare.

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A moth in the hand is worth two in the bush

One pleasant summer day, my father left me in the car while he nipped into the store. As I sat there, suddenly something big came fluttering along to alight for a moment on the hood: a Cecropia Moth that looked to me, a 10-year-old, as big as a crow! It was the only one I’ve ever seen, but I’ll never forget it. It wasn’t really as big as a crow–it goes to show the limitations of eyewitness testimony.

Don’t Let This Critter Bite You

There’s always something to learn that will surprise you.

Hi, Mr. Nature here–and I was surprised yesterday when I learned that the solenodon–which looks like a kind of rat or possum, but isn’t–is poisonous. A bite from this baby could actually kill you. At the very least, it would make you very sick. This little furry mammal has a neurotoxic venom, as do many poisonous snakes but very few mammals indeed.

What they use the venom for, I dunno. They eat earthworms, insects, carrion, and the occasional frog. Larger mammals eat solenodons. Along with the poisonous bite, I read, goes a rather short fuse–although the one in this video seems amiable enough.

Solenodons are very rare, they live on the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola, and have more than once been thought to be extinct, only to turn up right after their extinction has been published somewhere. They don’t like to be seen and are quite good at avoiding it. Mammals imported from Europe, Asia, and Africa have pretty much wiped out most of the mammal fauna native to the Caribbean.

The Haitian solenodon has a ball-and-socket joint in its snout to make its nose more flexible. That’s helpful in sniffing out yummy worms and grubs. Solenodons don’t see well, but their acute sense of smell compensates for that. And they can run on tiptoe very fast.

You might say these animals are living fossils, left over from their salad days during the Age of Dinosaurs.

There’s no limit to God’s artistry, and we have yet to see it all.

The Very Strange ‘Shovel-Tusked’ Elephant

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Mr. Nature here, with an animal that I expect to turn up in Obann any day now: Platybelodon, aka the “Shovel-Tusked Elephant.”

We don’t have elephants like this anymore. Look at that elongated lower jaw. Scientists think it was used for stripping bark and branches from trees. They used to think it was used for scooping up water plants in swamps. Fossils of this critter were discovered in the Gobi Desert in the 1920s, by Roy Chapman Andrews’ expeditions for the American Museum of Natural History. I read all about it in All About Strange Beasts of the Past. It seems the desert used to be wetlands. In the absence of SUVs, air conditioners, and toilet paper, it’s hard to account for such radical climate change.

Platybelodon was smaller than a modern elephant, but still a pretty hefty beast. It looks like God was improvising on His elephant theme–like a jazz musician cutting loose with his saxophone. We only know these elephant variations from fossils, and from paintings made on the walls of caves by ancient human beings.

But I like to believe that someday we will know them better.

The White Moose

I thought you might enjoy this–a rare white moose (even the antlers are white!), filmed in the Swedish countryside, not far from Stockholm.

Although if you have read The Palace, you know that many similar marvels are encountered in Lintum Forest.

Oops! ‘Nebraska Man’ Was a Pig

Hi, Mr. Nature here, with a serious paleontological embarrassment.

Once upon a time somebody discovered a fossil tooth in Nebraska and sent it to the American Museum of Natural History, where some of America’s greatest paleontologists studied it. Leading the study was Dr. Henry Fairfield Osborn, the museum’s director, with help from two famous scientific heavyweights, Dr. William D. Matthew and Dr. William K. Gregory. Really, these were names to conjure with.

In 1922 the team published the fossil as Hesperopithecus haroldcookii (“Western ape” discovered by Harold Cook) and described it as an “anthropoid ape” on its way to evolving into a human being of some kind.

Meanwhile, work at the site continued and more fossils were found–leading, alas, to the inescapable conclusion that, far from being an ape, Hesperopithecus’ tooth belonged to an extinct species of peccary, a close relative of… the pig. So in 1927 Osborn and his team had to publish a retraction.

I’m not writing this to make fun of men who were great pioneers in their field, but only to show how extremely wrong scientists can be when they really put their minds to it. It wasn’t the first time or the last that Professor Osborn would be wrong. He faced up to his mistake and kept on working. At least he didn’t write a book on Nebraska Man and tour the country with it.

Today it’s a certainty that some of the things we’re being told by scientists are just as far out in left field as poor Nebraska Man ever was: Man-Made Climbit Change springs to mind. And we can only speculate as to how far astray Osborn & Co. were led by their evolutionary mind-set.

But gee, they even had a picture of it–!


‘God’s Stuff: Water Striders’ (2015)

There’s still snow on the ground, here in New Jersey, but any day now, we’ll be able to see these little guys skating on the water. In a few tiny micro-climates, they’re already at work.

Water striders don’t sink because they’re subtly balanced on the water’s surface tension. How cool is that?


Good Grief! The Giant Baboon

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You’ve got to admit a baboon as big as a grown man would be an alarming proposition.

Hi, Mr. Nature here, with Dinopithecus, the giant baboon. Granted, we only know this creature from bits of bone and fossil teeth, with nothing anywhere near a full skeleton; but if you’ve seen one set of baboon teeth, you’ve seen ’em all. At least that’s what I hear.

Dinopithecus teeth have been found in Ethiopia, but no living Dinopithecus has been found anywhere. I don’t care what they say about Capitol Hill in Washington.

God doesn’t make baboons in this size anymore; but I’m sure He’s kept the blueprints.

Shakespeare’s Tiger: Extinct

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Behold the Caspian tiger–known to Shakespeare as the Hyrcanian tiger (mentioned in Macbeth, Act 3, Sc. 4)–shown here in a European zoo, in the 19th century.

Once upon a time the Caspian tiger roamed Asia from Turkey to China. Its closest relative, the Siberian tiger, was only a little larger. This magnificent beast was wiped out just before the end of the 20th century–yet another example of how poorly communist countries served as stewards of the natural world. The Soviet Union finished them off.

Tigers in Turkey? Well, yeah. And a lot longer ago than that, the favorite sport of the kings of Assyria, in what is now Iraq, was lion-hunting. No more lions around there now, either.

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Seems a pity, doesn’t it?

This is Mr. Nature, waiting for God’s restoration and regeneration of the world.

‘Monarch Butterfly Crosses Atlantic Ocean’ (2015)

What could be more fragile than a butterfly? And yet, at least from time to time, a lone butterfly crosses the Atlantic Ocean.


Don’t you just absolutely, positively love it when something that cool happens?

God’s way of telling us we don’t know everything; but He does.

The Giant Hedgehog

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Hi, Mr. Nature here–this time with a giant hedgehog.

If scientists are reading the fossils right–they do try–Deinogalerix was about five times the size of today’s cute and cuddly hedgehogs (see illustration). It once lived in Italy. It doesn’t anymore. You’re not going to get me to walk into the “X millions of years ago” trap. I have learned not to have much confidence in prehistoric dating schemes.

It’s estimated the giant hedgehog weighed ten pounds and grew to two feet long. I don’t know whether it had the typical hedgehog spines: maybe those haven’t been preserved as fossils, or have yet to be discovered. A spineless hedgehog would be somewhat of a letdown.

We marvel at the many forms of God’s handiwork, and we do wish we could have seen some of these creatures from long ago (however long ago it was). And who says He hasn’t found another place for them?

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