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Bizzare & Odd

The 10 Weirdest Animal Discoveries of 2012

As the year comes to an end, it’s time to look back at the grossest, oddest and simply most fascinating animals to make the headlines in 2012. There were zombie worms and penis fish, not to mention turtles with a strange way of getting rid of urine. Read on for 2012’s most bizarre.

1. A ‘tulip’ with a digestive system

An ancient fossil found in Canada looks like a field of tulips frozen in stone. In fact, these plantlike creatures are animals unlike any seen before.

Siphusauctum gregarium, a 500-million-year-old filter feeder, was the length of a dinner knife with a bulbous “head” containing a feeding system and a bizarre gut. Instead of filtering water past its feeders externally, S. gregarium appears to have pumped water through its tuliplike head, capturing any food particles that passed through, study researcher Lorna O’Brien of the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada told LiveScience. Scientists aren’t sure where this unusual creature fits into the evolutionary tree.

2. A sea predator that makes T. rex look weak

Moving on to other ancient marine wildlife, here’s a sea creature much scarier than an animal that looks like a flower. “Predator X,” a giant marine reptile that was the top predator of the seas 150 million years ago, finally got its scientific name this year.

Pliosaurus funkei, as it is now properly known, was 40 feet (12 meters) long with a 6.5-foot (2 m)-long skull.

“They had teeth that would have made a T. rex whimper,” study researcher Patrick Druckenmiller, a paleontologist at the University of Alaska Museum, told LiveScience.

3. Cannibal lemurs roam the night

You don’t have to be 40-feet long to be scary. This year, researchers studying the adorable gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) in Madagascar came across a grisly scene: a male of the species feasting on the flesh of a dead female.

Although other primates (including humans) have been known to practice cannibalism, scientists had never before seen a gray mouse lemur so much as eat another mammal, according to ScienceNow, which reported the creepy meal. Scientists documented the case in the American Journal of Primatology.

4. A millipede with far too many legs

File this under “Things You Don’t Want to Step on With Bare Feet:” A white millipede that manages to cram 750 wiggly legs onto its 0.4- to 1.2-inch (1- to 3-centimeter)-long body.

Illacme plenipes is the world-record holder for “leggiest creature.” It’s found, bizarrely, in only a 1.7 square mile (4.5 square kilometer) area in northern California — doubly odd, because the creature’s closest living relative calls South Africa home. The millipedes may have spread out across the globe when most of the land on Earth was part of one supercontinent, Pangaea. When the supercontinent broke apart 200 million years ago, the relatives could have been separated, explaining the long-lost connection. [Image Gallery: The Leggiest Millipede]

5. A teeny-tiny creature trapped in an ancient cocoon

Bad luck for a trapped ancient animal, good luck for modern scientists: Some 200 million years ago, a leech secreted a slimy cocoon under water or on a wet leaf, and a tiny animal the width of just a few human hairs attached itself to the new cocoon.

This bizarre little creature clung on with its springlike tail, becoming rapidly trapped and engulfed by the cocoon. The unusual circumstances resulted in something almost unheard of: the complete preservation of a soft-bodied animal with no hard bones to fossilize.

Scientists say the microscopic creature looks like it might come from the genus Vorticella. Its secret talent is coiling and uncoiling its springy stalk at a speed of 3.1 inches (8 centimeters) per second, the equivalent of a human getting across three football fields in that amount of time.

6. 8 tentacled snakes born

How’s this for a bundle of joy? This October, eight snakes with tentacles were born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

It was not a Halloween prank. Zoo staff had been trying to breed the rare aquatic snake Erpeton tentaculatus for four years before success. These bizarre Southeast Asian serpents are the only snakes with two little tentacles on their snouts. These tentacles act like whiskers to help the snakes sense vibrations from swimming fish.

7. A new fish with a penis on its head

Speaking of fish, this one has an … odd anatomy. Researchers in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta reported the discovery of a fish with a penis on its head this August.

Yep, a penis. And it’s not just any penis — the organ includes a jagged hook for grabbing females during sex. (The female fish’s genitals are located on her throat.)

The species is named Phallostethus cuulong and is one of few fish that fertilizes eggs inside the female’s body rather than outside. The nasty-looking hook appendage seems to have evolved to ensure the male’s sperm get to the right place. [7 Sexy Facts About Sperm]

8. A beautiful, meat-eating sponge

It looks like a harp or a delicate candelabra, but beware to any crustacean that gets too close: The so-called “harp sponge” will snare and slowly digest you before you know it.

This truly bizarre creature had never been observed by human eyes before 2000, when a team from the Monterey Bay Research Aquarium Institute in California took a remotely operated submersible into 2-mile (3.5-km)-deep waters off the central California coast. They later captured two specimens of the animal, which is scientifically called Chondrocladia lyra, and took 10 more video observations, reporting their analysis of the new species in October in the journal Invertebrate Biology.

The sponges feed by clinging to muddy sediment on the ocean floor and letting ocean currents wash hapless tiny crustaceans into their harplike limbs. The candelabralike branches of the limbs may help maximize how many shrimplike critters these carnivorous sponges catch.

9. Zombie worms use acid to eat bones, have weird sex life

If you need even more proof of the horrors of the deep, consider the zombie worm, which feeds off the bones of whales and other scavenged sea creatures … despite not having a mouth. This July, researchers at the Society for Experimental Biology’s annual meeting announced that they’d figured out how this mouthless creature eats bone. It excretes acid.

The acids allow the worms to break down and absorb the bone, the researchers explained. But that’s just the tip of the weirdness iceberg for these amazingly adapted worms. The females grow about an inch (3 cm) long, but males never grow larger than 1/20th of an inch (1 millimeter). They seem to live in the gelatinous tubes covering the females, serving no purpose but to fertilize her eggs.

10. Turtles pee from their mouths

A sharp-snouted turtle found in China often submerges its head in puddles on dry land, a mystery given that these animals breathe air. Now, scientists say they’ve figured out why: The Chinese soft-shelled turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis) can essentially pee from its mouth.

The turtles excrete urea, the main component of urine, through the gills in their mouths, a talent previously seen only in fish, the scientists reported in October in the Journal of Experimental Biology. This may be an adaption to the turtles’ salty environment. Because they can’t get enough freshwater to wash urea out through their urine, they transport it through their gills and then rinse their urea-filled mouths out with saltwater. And you thought flossing was bad.

Bizzare & Odd

1947 film predicts smartphones and other modern technology

Inspired by Barjavel’s essay, a 70-year-old documentary offers the evolution of portable pocket television as well as a way people interact with objects. Today, parallels are drawn between the objects, like smartphones described in a short documentary.

Anne-Katrin Weber, television historian at Lausanne University, said:

People using miniature television devices in public places; professional meetings held by telephones with a picture; cars equipped with television screens; shops that advertise their products on television: these topics are from the 1947 short film Television: Oeil de Demain. Produced and directed by Raymond-Millet.

The film combines documentary and science fiction sequences, while also offering a television image in post-war France, as well as creative speculation about future developments.

While Raymond-Millet’s work is almost forgotten today, his film received a standing ovation for “predicting our present” and although the small portable devices used in the film have long retractable antennas that resemble the first cell phones, it shows that 70 years ago smartphones already existed. In fact, they mirror today’s smartphones that are in the pockets of almost every person.

At the end of the film, the audience is transferred to the bedroom, where the man is having trouble sleeping. He seems to be “invoking” the hologram of a dancing woman who appears on the bed and looks at her while his wife is sleeping.

The film outline about upcoming television shows, really look like a fairly accurate forecast of modern digital media in terms of flexibility and hybridity of media technologies and their various forms of consumption.

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Bizzare & Odd

The time when US wanted to detonate a nuclear bomb on the moon

In the United States during the Cold War, there was a plan to explode a nuclear bomb on the moon as a “demonstration of dominance” before the Soviet Union. New details of the secret mission are revealed in a recently published book.

Intimidate the Soviet Union: Americans wanted to detonate a nuclear bomb on the moonPhoto: nasa.gov

The secret mission, codenamed Project A119, was conceived at the dawn of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the US Air Force Division, located at the Kirtland Air Base in New Mexico.

A report written in June 1959, entitled A Study of Lunar Research Flights, outlines plans for an atomic bomb exploded on the Moon’s “terminator,” the region between the Sun-lit portion of the surface and the darker portion of our planet’s natural satellite.

The explosion would probably be visible to the naked eye from the Earth, because the military planned to add sodium to the bomb, which was supposed to glow during the explosion.

A nuclear explosion on the lunar surface was certainly “one of the stupidest things the government could do,” says John Greenwald, Jr., author of Secrets from the Vault.

According to the Daily Mail, a recently published book details some of the most surrealistic offers in history.

John Greenwald has been interested in the secrets of the US government since he was 15 and has filed more than 3,000 requests for freedom of information. He oversees The Black Vault’s online repository, which has collected about 2.1 million pages of previously classified documents related to UFOs, mysterious murders and other mysterious phenomena.

According to Greenwald, the US Air Force was developing a lunar project to “show US dominance in space over the Soviet Union and, ultimately, over the whole world.”

The plan, of course, has never been implemented – perhaps because of a potential “unprecedented scientific disaster,” as one declassified document says.

The existence of this scheme was first discovered in 1999 in the biography of the world famous astronomer Carl Sagan, who died in 1996. Sagan was hired to work with him in Chicago by Dr. Leonard Raiffel, a physicist who was studying the possibility of creating a lunar nuclear bomb.

Leonard Raiffel (he died in 2017 at the age of 89) in an interview in 2000 claimed that the bomb would be as big as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

“It was clear that the main purpose of the proposed detonation was a PR act and a demonstration of sole domination,” the scientist told The Observer. – The Air Force wanted the mushroom cloud to be so large that it could be seen on Earth. The United States lagged behind in the space race.”

Photo: nasa.gov

In 1958, Raiffel was approached by senior US Air Force officers who asked him to “expedite” a project to study the visibility and consequences of a nuclear explosion on the moon.

According to the scientist, he made it clear that as a result, the pristine lunar environment will be destroyed, and this will be a huge damage, “but the US Air Force was mainly concerned about how a nuclear explosion would be perceived on Earth.”

“If the project were made public, there would be protests,” Raiffel said.

Greenwald’s book also explores the 1959 Army project on building a military base on the moon, code-named Project Horizon. The aim of the project was to create a permanent lunar colony for 10-20 people by the end of 1966. To get equipment there, it was projected to require an average of 5.3 Saturn rocket launches per month from August 1964 to November 1966.

In the entire history of the American space program, only 19 Saturns were launched.

“Military power based on the moon will be a strong deterrent to war because of the extreme difficulty, from the enemy’s point of view, of eliminating our ability to strike back,” the project suggested.

In a 1959 memorandum, US Army Research and Development Head Lieutenant Arthur Trudeau argued that if the United States created a permanent base on the moon, the prestige and psychological advantage for the American nation would be invaluable in confronting the Soviets.

The report indicated that creating an outpost of 12 people and maintaining it in working condition over the course of the year would cost more than $ 6 billion (which is equivalent to more than $ 53 billion in modern money).

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Bizzare & Odd

The most unusual rains in human history

Science for a long time did not pay attention to this anomalous phenomenon, suggesting that it was nothing more than legends and fabrications. But then an explanation was found.

Exactly 80 years ago, something strange happened near the village of Meschera in the Gorky Region, which shocked local residents. Ancient coins fell on their heads right from the sky

Ominous sign filed by seaweed

On June 17, 1940, the inhabitants of the village of Meshchera with amazement rushed to collect silver coins of the 16th – 17th centuries. that fell from the sky. An unusual find was then handed over to the state – in total, about a thousand coins were counted.

According to the most common version, the weather became the cause of the money rain: first, the rain washed out of the  ground the treasure buried in the time of Ivan the Terrible, and then the hurricane lifted it into the air and scattered it around the neighborhood.

In July 2001, red rain poured in the Indian state of Kerala. With interruptions, it continued until the end of September, and the population was pretty frightened: in precipitation, similar to blood, people saw an ominous sign. Later, scientists reassured them: the rain became colored due to  spores of local algae.

In 2005, frogs fell from the sky near the Serbian village of Kaja Janovik. Its inhabitants were at a loss. Experts suggested that the blame for everything is the tornado, which dragged amphibians into its funnel from a nearby body of water.

Similar “precipitation” from frogs and toads was observed at different times in other countries. For example, in 1953 in Massachusetts, USA. Or in 2007 in  El Rebolledo, Spain.

Dinner fallen from the sky

Rain from animals is undoubtedly a rare occurrence, but not just mentioned in written sources. Such evidence is found among the ancient Greeks and Romans. The message about squirrels falling from the sky is contained in the Ipatiev Chronicle And in the XIX century, the press began to publish them. 

For example, the 1877 Scientific American magazine described snake rain reaching 18 inches (about 45 centimeters) in length that fell in Memphis. In June 1880, quail rained over Spanish Valencia, and in February 1861, Singaporeans saw thousands of fish fall from the sky along with a shower.

Fish rain in Singapore as described by the indigenous people

There have been reports of unusual precipitation from animals both in the last century and in the present.

 In 1969, in the city of St. Mary (USA), rain fell from dead canaries. In 1978, in New South Wales (Australia) – from shrimp. 

In 2007, residents of the Argentinean province of Salta watched spiders pouring from the sky, in 2011, earthworms began to fall on the students of one of the schools in Scotland (they had a physical education lesson in the stadium). 

The teacher was forced to interrupt the lesson and take the children away, and then he went out with them and collected these worms for a long time to give them for examination. Scientists suggested that the wind brought them, but the weather that day was sunny and calm.

For the city of Yoro, in Honduras, fish rain (in Spanish – aguacero de pescado) has become so commonplace that the local department holds the annual Fish Rain Festival, which attracts tourists.

 The action takes place in the time interval from May to July: a dark cloud appears in the sky, which is opened by a heavy rain, and after it hundreds of living fish remain on the ground. 

Both locals and visitors collect the prey and bring it to the kitchen, where they prepare a gala dinner. Fish rain is even mentioned in Honduran folklore.

Engraving depicting the “fish rain” (O. Magnus, 1555)

Can a frog spawn in the cloud?

Science for a long time did not pay attention to this anomalous phenomenon, suggesting that it was nothing more than a legend. 

Therefore, a version emerged that now looks like sheer absurdity. Namely: the creatures that fell from the sky themselves somehow originated in the clouds. In the 19th century, a near-scientific base was even brought up under this hypothesis: they say, along with water vapor, eggs of frogs rise into the atmosphere, where they grow and  live in clouds for some  time, and then fall to the ground with rain.

Nevertheless, the French physicist Andre Marie Ampère (the one whose name is used to name the unit of current strength) tried to explain the rains from frogs and toads with more rational arguments. Subsequently, they were accepted and developed by other scientists. 

Ampere suggested that strong winds are able to pick up large groups of toads, crawling out of the reservoirs on the grass, and carry them over distances of several kilometers. Actually, the scientific explanation of the phenomenon, which caused bewilderment and superstitious awe among our ancestors, boils down to abnormal weather phenomena – hurricanes and tornadoes.

Scientists have proven that they can raise fish and the same frogs from the surface of reservoirs, small animals from the ground, and intercept birds in flight. Unable to escape from the funnel of a tornado, animals soar higher and higher until the elements subside and its energy yields to Earth’s gravity.

There is another scientific explanation which denies the very existence of rains from animals. It is noticed that some species of fish are able to crawl along the grass, moving from one reservoir to another, like eels. 

If a person sees them immediately after the rain, he might think that they have fallen from a thundercloud. The same goes for frogs and toads. Even the ancient Greek philosopher Theofast suggested that amphibians do not fall from the sky with rain – this rain makes them crawl out of ponds and swamps into open areas.

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