Animal World

News of the Weird by Chuck Shepherd

By News of the Weird by Chuck Shepherd

Published August 12, 2015

Animal World

A June entry in Wired.com's "Absurd Creature of the Week" series warned of the Beaded Lacewing that preys on termites by first immobilizing them with a "vapor-phase toxicant" released from its anus. The silent-but-deadly gas is reportedly powerful enough to disable six ordinary termites for up to three hours (plenty of time for a sumptuous meal of termite) and weaken several more that might get caught in the backdraft. Wired.com also learned of the related species Chrysoperla comanche, whose anal weaponry is in solid form, wielded by "master contortionists" who lift their abdomens in order to directly contact their victims' head. [Wired.com, 6-24-2015]

Suspicion Confirmed: In June 2015 research, scientists from Britain's University of Exeter and Queen Mary University of London warned that owners of "domestic" cats seem not, on average, to appreciate what vicious killers their pets are and urge, for instance, that they be kept indoors more often lest they decimate the neighborhood's bird and small-mammal populations. Estimates of the yearly death toll generated by housecats are "in the magnitude of millions" in the United Kingdom and "billions" in the United States. [Ecology and Evolution, 6-19-2015]

The "parasitic ways" of the cuckoo bird were remarked upon "as far back as Aristotle," wrote a Wall Street Journal book reviewer in May, but some biologists may not have believed the behavior because it was so cold-blooded. The bird, according to Nick Davies' book "Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature," lays its eggs in other species' nests to trick those birds into incubating the cuckoos, who then hatch and kick the eggs of their host out of the nest. The mother cuckoo, it is said, times her mating schedule so that her eggs mature just before the victims' eggs would. Hence, according to Davies, she is "nature's most notorious cheat." [Wall Street Journal, 5-30-2015] erneath. (A Watchdog.org critic suggested a contest to design a superior one, but open only to kids age 12 and under, with the prize a $50 Amazon.com gift certificate.) [WSMV-TV (Nashville), 5-22-2015]

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