Category Archive: Animals

The fish with the head of a fish and the body of – a different fish?

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With the end of the year fast approaching, I thought it might be a good time to reflect upon my favourite science story of 2012 and, in true Unpopular Science style, it’s one that may well have passed you by. On a cloudy day in May, just north of Cambridge, an outlandish beast was dragged from the depths of Magpie Lake by fishing tackle expert, Mark Sawyer. Gazing upon his catch Sawyer, tackle editor of Angling Times, immediately found himself in awe of the curious creature before him. The fish was not one of the roach, bream or goldfish known to inhabit the lake, but instead seemed to be a bizarre chimaera of the three; with the head of a roach, the anal fin of a bream and the body and tail of a fan-tailed goldfish. The ‘Frankenfish’ as it was quickly dubbed did grab some media attention, with many experts commenting it was quite possibly the result of hybridisation (goldfish, …

Meet the neighbours

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London is inundated with life. At first glance most of us would deduce it’s only human city-slickers and scruffy pigeons scurrying about the capital but strangely, most of us would be mistaken. There is actually a vast array of other creatures stealthily going about their daily business, often hiding in plain sight. From armoured sex addicts to the fastest animal on the planet, meeting your real neighbours in London may be a startling experience. The first surprise comes in the form of the Peregrine Falcon, a predatory bird that makes a meal out of London’s plump pigeons ‒ usually after snatching them mid-flight. To do this, Peregrines rocket downwards from breathtaking heights, striking unsuspecting pigeons at speeds of up to 230mph. This easily makes them the fastest animal on the planet. In 2001 it was confirmed that Peregrine Falcons were breeding in London using tall buildings as nest sites in place of their more traditional cliff top sites out in …

Married horseshoe crabs produce less poo

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You wouldn’t think that the sex life of the horseshoe crab would be that complicated, but you’d be wrong. Like every red blooded guy out there, horseshoe crabs have to think long and hard about the best way to attract a mate (even though horseshoe crab blood is actually blue). While human males have many options to choose, from say writing a romantic poem, or buying a lovely bunch of flowers for their sweetheart, crabs are generally limited to two different options. In animal behaviour circles, these choices are called alternative reprodcutive tactics (ARTs). For horseshoe crab males, the first option is to attract a female out in the sea, attach together and make the long journey to the spawning beaches, where they can get freaky. This option is dependant on the male being attractive enough in the eyes of the female to be worth attaching to. The second option decidely third-wheel-ish. Instead of putting the effort into attracting a …

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