Japanese Spider CrabLife, in all its varied forms, can be described in many ways. Astounding, beautiful and majestic are just a fewof the words that spring to mind while looking at some of our planets living things. Yet watch a spider scuttleacross a desk and words like horrific and terrifying suddenly feel far more apt. But what about those timeswhen you come across a life form so strange-looking it seems to have come from a different planet altogether?Come with us on a whistle-stop tour of some of Mother Natures more out-there creations.
6. The Eagle RayThe sea has long held a fascination for us. Maybe this is because its vast, unfathomable depths mean we willnever be able to explore it all. Or perhaps it’s because every time enthusiasts do go underwater, there are somany things both strange and beautiful to be seen. Among these bizarre discoveries are some striking yet veryodd-looking rays.The ray family of fish glide through the water in the same way as a bird flies through the air. While rays normallymove along the bottom of the ocean, this particular specimen, the eagle ray, travels in schools in the openwater. These rays feed on other fish, octopi and clams, amongst other things, and, while they are usually shy,they are considered a potential threat to divers due to their venomous tail spines. They are beautiful, strangeand dangerous all at once.Written by darrenowen
5. The Harlequin ShrimpAnother underwater oddity, the coral reef-dwelling harlequin shrimp is a colourfuland dangerous predator. Unlike manyother creatures – whether on sea or land –when a male meets a female shrimp theywill become a monogamous pair for life.Although they are only small (reaching anaverage size of 2-5cm in length) they canbe very territorial and vicious.In the ultimate demonstration of Naturescruelty, a mated pair of harlequin shrimpwill co-operate when it comes to preyingon their favourite food, starfish. When astarfish is found the couple will worktogether to prize its arms from the rock itsanchored to, and turn it over. They willthen begin to feast, starting with itsdelicate feet and working inwards.Sometimes they will take it into a darknook or cranny and continue to feed on itfor days, or indeed keep it alivedeliberately in order to feed on it later.Written by darrenowen
4. The Potato BugThe potato bug, or, as it is also known, the Jerusalem cricket, is particularly disgusting looking. Ironically it isn’t actually acricket, doesn’t like potatoes and certainly doesn’t come from Jerusalem. It does love to feed on dead material though, orother insects. It is also not uncommon for these unpleasant critters to burrow underground to get to decaying roots either.Like crickets they do produce a unique song which is used to communicate during mating, made by the insect beating itsabdomen against the ground. If they are played with they can give you a nasty bite, but it is by no means fatal. The potatobug can also give off a foul-smelling scent – making it doubly disgusting.Written by darrenowen
3. The Passion Fruit FlowerIt’s not just fish and insects that can look a little alien. Plants, too, can sometimes seem like something from science fiction.Take the passion fruit flower. Most of us are familiar with passion fruit – these days its added to everything from fruit juicesto ice cream. Something we may not be so well acquainted with, however, is the plant it grows on.The plant itself is actually a vine, which grows vigorously and will cling to almost any surface with its small tendrils. Theflower is fairly small (5-7.5 cm wide) and is best pollinated by bees: because the pollen is quite thick and sticky, windpollination is ineffective. As well as its strange protrusions, strong blue and purple colours epitomise the flower, making it astriking plant to come across.Written by darrenowen
2. The Basket StinkhornA weird fungus that looks like it should begrowing on an alien planet somewhere.Originating in Europe, the basket stinkhorn cangrow up to 20 cm tall and, like other fungi,feeds on decaying woody plant material –which is why it can be found at the base oftrees. It gets its stinkhorn name from theamazingly horrible smell it produces to attractsflies. These flies then propagate the fungussspores, enabling it to spread.This fungus gets its weird, alien appearancefrom the way it grows. Once it is established,the basket stinkhorn grows a series of spongyarms that entwine in a completely randommanner to give it its unique look. Once fullygrown there are usually between 80 and 120holes in the mesh, allowing flies and otherinsects access to the fungi spores.Written by darrenowen
1. The Japanese Spider CrabCrabs can be just as frightening as spiders. While some are small and innocuous, and can be either ignored or thrown out,others seem more like nightmares from some alien subconscious. The Japanese spider crab falls into the latter category.Often content to lurk in the murky depths of the sea – adults can be found at a depth of 2,000 ft – the Japanese spider crabis the biggest known arthropod on Earth. With a leg span reaching up to 13 ft, this terrifying creature can also weigh up to41 pounds.Written by darrenowen
Living off a diet of animal carcasses or othershellfish, this crab can, in the right conditions,live for 100 years. Despite its size, it is thoughtto be a gentle crab, and yet injuries to peopleare not unheard of. Like other crabs it has beenknown to attach sponges and sea anemones toits shell to protect itself from predators –which brings to mind one question: whatpredators?As exploration of the planet continues withever more precise filming equipment, moreand more strange, beautiful and utterlybizarre-looking plants and animals will bethrown up. If we ever needed a reminder ofhow amazing our planet is, all we have to do islook at the plethora of life that has evolved on,or under, its surface. We may deem some ofthese species glorious and others terrifying,but ultimately its up to us to ensure thatfuture generations have the chance to makethe same judgements too.Written by darrenowen