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Aliens Among Us: Almost psychedelic microscopic photography of beetles, mites, spiders and moths

Jumping spider (Phidippus otiosus).
Igor Siwanowicz’s interest in the natural world came from poring over brightly colored photographs and illustrations in biology and zoology textbooks as a child. Born in Krakow, Poland in 1976, Siwanowicz is the son of two biologists who he claims reinforced and rewarded his early interest in biology.

Certain amount of the fascination in natural sciences might be encoded in the genes, and that was definitely passed on me from my parents, along with some artistic skills that just pop up in my family generation after generation.

Siwanowicz studied for a Masters in biotechnology at Krakow and then Aarhus, Denmark, before going on to complete a PhD in structural biochemistry in Germany.

His artistic talents came to the fore during a hiatus from post-doctoral studies when Siwanowicz traveled the world as a freelance nature photographer. He “conned some people into organizing” exhibitions of his work which led to the publication of two books of his photographs.

He then returned to his career in science as a “lowly technical assistant in behavioural genetics at the Max-Planck Institute for Neurobiology in Munich.” Today, Siwanowicz works as a neurobiologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus in Virginia.

Siwanowicz believes his photographic work keeps him “(relatively) sane.”’s a sort of occupational therapy, a way to cope with the blues. I think I am slightly bipolar (as in manic-depressive), far from raving mad but still having those seasonal swings of mood and warped self-perception. Taking photos, among other things, gives me satisfaction and keeps my mind off of obsessing too much. I use my accomplishments to re-build my self-esteem and move a small step towards self-actualisation.

Siwanowicz’s photographic work includes beautiful macro “mug shots” of insects:

They are foreign, otherworldly looking creatures – the closer you get to them, the stronger the effect. See, insects have those totally alien, Gigeresque forms that I find somehow fascinating.

His incredibly trippy psychedelic extreme close-up photographs of insects—beetles, spiders, moths, mites—are made with a confocal laser-scanning microscope, which captures these beautiful creatures in greater clarity and detail than other lens-based imaging.

See more of Igor Siwanowicz’s glorious microscopy.
Jumping spider.
Jumping spider eyes.
More of these stunning photographs, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Animal/human hybrid sculptures and other menacing ceramic characters
09:59 am


Cynthia Consentino

‘Wolf Girl III’ by sculptor and artist Cynthia Consentino, 2011.
Sculptor Cynthia Consentino hails from my state of birth Massachusetts, and is currently part of the Art Department staff at my mother’s alma mater of the University of Massachusetts. I hope Consentino’s students know how lucky they are to have such a talented (and rather wonderfully demented) mind at their disposal.

To help illuminate my point Consentino’s ceramic series called “Exquisite Corpse” borrowed its title and played upon the concept from a collaborative poetry game played by members of the Surrealist movement. It contains curious pieces that incorporate the bodies of animals and people with sinister and strangely captivating results. And while we’re on the topic of sinister ceramics Consentino’s portfolio is full of characters who fall into precisely that category, such as menacing looking human/wolf hybrids, angry children as well as toddlers armed with weapons.

According to an article on the artist from 2007, she was further inspired to mix-and-match her sculptures’ decidedly non-bianary gender compositions after reading a study that took on sexual stereotypes from the perspective of a five-year-old child. So instead of incorporating the heads (or bodies) of a predatory animal that one might associate with a “boy” Consentino sculpted a ferocious-looking wolf head onto the body of little girl wearing a pink dress. If you’d like to see Consentino’s work up close a few of her pieces are a part of four different current and upcoming exhibitions in New York, Pittsburgh, and Boston. Of course if you ever find yourself visiting the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in good-old Sheboygan, Wisconsin you’ll be able to get an eyeful of Consentino’s handiwork as her gorgeously odd creations adorn the walls and stalls of the entire ladies room.

Examples of Cynthia Consentino’s work follow—some might be considered NSFW.


‘Flower Girl I,’ 2004.
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
A bucket of replica shit
10:22 am



Well here’s something I didn’t know existed: A bucket filled with replica animal shit! Admittedly I laughed at first (because I’m juvenile) but I didn’t necessarily understand why someone would want to own a bucket filled with plastic animal shit, although several things rather unavoidably came to mind. I’m not proud of my imagination sometimes.

Truth be told, it’s actually quite useful! The “life form replica” Bucket of Scat is made by Nasco and it’s used for “nature studies and animal identification projects.” You can use it independently “or with animal tracks to better identify wildlife signs in nature.”

Each replica is a scat of a common North American animal. Includes 13 replica turds that kids can match with dookies found in the woods behind their homes. Collect ‘em all! Trade with your friends! Will not promote “pink eye.”

If you wanna a own a bucket of plastic animal scat—not judging—you can get it here for $49.53. Hand sanitizer sold separately.

via Nerdcore

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Slither sisters: Vintage images of female circus snake charmers and their reptilian friends
09:23 am


snake charmers

A vintage snake charmer and her friend.
The allure of the “snake charmer” as an attraction in circus sideshow or perhaps as a part of a freak show was as common as other circus staples like the really tall man, bearded ladies and sword swallowers. And like other roles in the circus there were lots of women who took on the snake charmer role and played it to the hilt.

Some of the images of female snake charmers in this post date back to the 1800s such as the image above of a woman billed as the “Mexican Rattle-Snake Queen” above. By the turn of the century female snake charmers were common attractions and perhaps two of the best known and most photographed of them all was a woman known as “Octavia” who performed with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show under the title of the “Yankee Snake Charmer,” and “Miss Uno” who in addition to her snakes was well known for her out of control hair best described as a wind-blown Afro not unlike that of another well-known snake charmer Zoe Zobedia. Though Zobedia was a snake charmer she was also a part of another popular early-19th century attraction in circuses called “Circassian Beauties” who were known for their exotic hair who would style their “Moss Hair” by teasing it into massive Afro-like hairdos. But I digress from the reptilian point of this post.

Unlike their male counterparts female snake handlers were usually sexualized and would often be dressed in attire that was considered incredibly risqué as women were still wearing bathing suits that looked like dresses to the beach at that time. That said, a few of the images in this post could be considered NSFW due to some partial nudity. Of course for those of you who suffer from ophidiophobia (a fear of snakes) or herpetophobia (a phobia of reptiles, lizards and other kind of vertebrates) you have my condolences as it’s safe to assume that this post is full of pictures of girls and snakes.

And since we’re talking about pretty girls and snakes, I’ve also included footage of the gorgeous Debra Paget as “Seetha” trying to charm a cobra from director Fritz Lang’s 1959 film Das indische Grabmal or The Indian Tomb (also known as Journey to the Lost City).

The ‘Mexican Rattle-Snake Queen,’ 1800s.

‘Miss Uno.’

‘Mademoiselle Dorita,’ 1930s.
More snakes and the women who charm them, after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Super-abusive ‘cute’ greeting cards (NSFW)
01:28 pm



Greeting cards are a dicey affair, either they’re sentimental or there’s a joke with a big—often unfunny—punchline. This is why I prefer my messages with a little black humor in them. You know the person giving you the card loves you, so it’s just fine if you give or get a little abuse in with the bargain. (Cards given in a semi-obligatory way in an office context don’t count.)

That said, a cuddly manatee avowing your overly pudgy status and an adorable panda testifying that nobody is proud of you?! That’s taking it too far!!

Anyway, I love these. The artist is named ​Phil Wall if you are wondering. He was doing some rough sketches and put them up on Facebook where they got a very enthusiastic response. As he points out, the phrasing is more British—it’s a lot more common for people to call each other “cunts” as a playful put-down in the U.K.!


Tons more of these devilishly amusing doodles after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Caiman spotted wearing a crown of butterflies
01:54 pm



Photographer Mark Cowan captured this wonderful image in the Amazon of a caiman wearing a crown of butterflies! As cool as this photograph is, apparently it’s not that uncommon to see butterflies near the heads and eyes of reptiles. The phenomenon you’re witnessing here are of butterflies drinking the caiman’s tears. The butterflies need the salt from the tears in order to survive.

I did not know this. You can read about it here at National Geographic.

The photo by Cowan “was a finalist for the 2016 Royal Society Publishing photography competition and received special commendation.”

via Bored Panda

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Spiders ‘tune’ their webs, just like guitar strings
12:56 pm


spider webs

A team of researchers from the United Kingdom and Spain has demonstrated that spiders are capable of tuning their webs for the purpose of receiving information about the local environment, including the presence of prey and potential mates.

Similar to the strings of a finely tuned instrument, every strand of spider silk conveys vibrations across a wide range of frequencies over the span of a web. Spiders require a system like this to detect the presence of prey and mates, as their visual acuity is very low.

The general phenomenon has been understood by scientists for some time; what wasn’t clear were the precise characteristics of these vibrations or (more to the point) whether spiders exercised control over the practice. Researchers from Oxford University and Universidad Carlos III de Madrid have released a study, available in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, that looks into the material properties of spider webs and the way that vibrations propagate through the silken strands. The team has shown that spiders do in fact tune their webs to transmit specific messages. The paper’s title is “Tuning the Instrument: Sonic Properties in the Spider’s Web.”

The researchers used lasers to measure the tiny vibrations, isolating three particular features that allow spiders to turn their webs into data transmitters: web tension, silk stiffness, and overall web architecture. It turns out that spiders are capable of manipulating all three of these characteristics.

Spiders “tune” the waves that emanate from the web by adjusting the web’s tension and the stiffness of the web’s outer rim and spokes, also known as the dragline. In fact, spider webs are so customizable, the researchers hypothesize that some properties of silk evolved for this very purpose. Quoting from the paper’s abstract:

[W]e propose that dragline silk supercontraction may have evolved as a control mechanism for these multifunctional fibres. The various degrees of active influence on web engineering reveals the extraordinary ability of spiders to shape the physical properties of their self-made materials and architectures to affect biological functionality, balancing trade-offs between structural and sensory functions.

Unsurprisingly, the cunning evolved knowledge that a spider uses to construct its web far exceeds a simple “hope for the best“ model. Spiders actually tweak their webs to ensure the propagation of specific vibrations. The primary purpose of a web is to trap prey, but the structure of the web is optimized to capture important information about the area. Spiders constructing and then fine-tune their webs to act as a multi-function device.
via Gizmodo

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Killer Caterpillar: Touch this insect and you will bleed to death
09:43 am



Killer Caterpillar
In her new book, Venomous: How Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry, scientist Dr. Christie Wilcox writes about a unique type of insect found primarily in Brazil, the Lonomia obliqua, a/k/a the “assassin caterpillar.” This moth-to-be is unlike most caterpillars, in that it doesn’t have a furry appearance, instead they’re covered with what looks like small trees. They’re actually pretty cool-looking, but don’t even think about picking one of them up, as inside the tip of each spiky “branch” is a deadly venom.
The Lonomia obliqua
Getting pricked by one of these caterpillars isn’t exactly ideal, but to make matters worse, they usually gather in bunches, so the unsuspecting who brush up against them are actually stung multiple times. Once that happens, the insects’ poison enters the bloodstream and causes over-clotting. What look like bruises will soon appear, the result of internal bleeding. Other symptoms include pain, swelling, headache and vomiting, but that ain’t the worst of it. After a day or so, all that over-clotting will cause the victim to run out of blood platelets, resulting in a death that is fucking horrifying.

Dr. Wilcox:

Without those platelets available to form clots when needed, the envenomated victim bleeds. Uncontrollable. Even there’s though there’s no wound to be seen. [The sufferer can experience] bleeding mucous membranes in the nose and eyes, bleeding from scars, and even internal bleeding into the brain.

Holy shit, right? Perhaps most upsetting of all is that if you are pricked by multiple caterpillars and end up experiencing this harrowing ordeal, you—and whoever you are with—will likely have no idea what is going on. Aside from the fact there won’t be any visible wounds, most people who are stung don’t feel it, so even though there is an antivenom available, the need might not be realized, if at all, until it’s too late.

More after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
Jack and cobra anyone? Whiskey & vodka infused with tarantulas, giant centipedes, snakes & toads

Vodka infused with a giant venomous tropical centipede by ‘Thailand Unique.’
I cannot tell a lie—I had a hard time blogging about these insect and amphibian-infused bottles of booze made by Thailand Unique as just looking at them made my lunch churn rather restlessly in my stomach. Never mind the thought of actually imbibing a bottle of vodka that had been infused with a giant venomous tropical centipede. Yikes.

These bug and arachnid-enhanced speciality alcohols are the products of Thailand Unique (based in Udon Thani, Thailand) a company that caters to the the world’s “growing numbers of “entomophagists” otherwise known as humans who enjoy consuming insects. They carry a large variety of infused vodka and whiskey that has been enhanced with everything from bugs to cobras and even toads. Some of these creatures, it is claimed, have healing and medicinal properties. The centipede whiskey is used in parts of Southeast Asia as an aphrodisiac and according to Thailand Unique could also help ease muscular and back pain. (Do not mistake this post for medical advice, okay?)

If you’re not a drinker (or just gave up drinking after reading all this, like I almost did—close call) Thailand Unique also offers various foodstuffs made from a variety of creepy-crawlers such as edible canned tarantula, earthworm jerky, pasta made from silkworms (it’s also gluten free!) and the “acquired taste” of these “seasoned to taste,” “roasted and dehydrated “dung beetles” which are harvested in northeast Thailand during the monsoon season. If you’re not an aspiring etymologist, the dung beetle feeds on “nutrient rich” Water Buffalo poop. Gaaa!

If you’re interested in obtaining any of Thailand Unique’s products—they sure live up to their name, don’t they?—it will take anywhere from two-weeks to two months depending on the shipping option you choose. Many of the infused vodkas and whiskeys are currently sold out, mostly due to the fact that many of the things made by the company take several months to prepare for market. Their “Armor Tail Scorpion” vodka (which was triple distilled and steeped for months allowing the scorpion to infuse the liquid with a “unique woody taste”) is in stock and can be yours for about $17.46 via registered airmail to the U.S.

Tarantula infused vodka.

Longhorn beetle-infused vodka.
More yucky things after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
The bizarre contents of a dead Ostrich’s stomach

An ostrich by A. Kniesel.
The ostrich is the world’s largest bird. The male of the species can reach over nine feet in height—the female around 5’ 7” to 6’ 7”.

The ostrich is a flightless bird. It has long powerful legs and can travel over forty miles an hour.

It also has the largest eye of any land vertebrate—a whopping great two inches in diameter. This helps it spot any would-be predators trying to sneak up on it—allowing the big bird time to hightail it.

The ostrich has a wingspan of over six-and-a-half feet. It has long legs and and a very long neck with a comparatively small head. It kinda looks like a turkey gone wrong, on steroids. It roams freely across the African savanna. It is farmed for its lean meat, eggs and feathers—which are used in making feather dusters.

They live in nomadic groups of up to 100 under the rule of the chief hen. The ostrich diet generally consists of seeds, shrubs, grass, fruit and flowers—from which they also obtain water—and some insects.

And that’s probably what you’d expect to find an ostrich’s stomach if you had to examine one after death.

Well not quite…
An ostrich cart at London Zoo, 1929.
Frederick William Bond was the assistant treasurer and photographer at the Zoological Society of London. He took photographs of the various prized animals kept in captivity at London Zoo.

Around 1930, one of the ostriches at the zoo died unexpectedly. A post mortem examination revealed a staggering array of objects in the big bird’s stomach. It was such a bizarre find that Bond felt compelled to photograph it.
On the back of the photograph Bond listed the contents:

Three odd cotton gloves
Three handkerchiefs
The wooden centre of a silk spool
A piece of lead pencil
Four halfpennies
One franc
One farthing
One coin too worn for identification
Part of a bicycle valve
Part of a metal comb
One piece of wood
Two yards of string
An alarm clock key
Several small metal washers and other pieces of metal
A four-inch nail

The most likely reason this omnivorous ostrich ingested such a bizarre gallimaufry of found objects is less to do with any “sad consequence of the bird’s urban existence” but mainly to do with the fact ostriches swallow their food whole.

Ostriches have no teeth. This together with the fact they have a proportionally small bill, means they have to ingest stones or pebbles to help masticate their food in the gizzard.

They swallow small hard objects like stones to act as “gastroliths” to grind their food. The ostrich fills its gullet with yummy goodies which forms a bolus. This is then ingested into the gizzard where the small stones break it down for digestion.

Most likely this ostrich ingested coins, gloves and alike to help digest its food. Unfortunately swallowing a four-inch nail proved fatal—as it caused its “death by perforation.”
John Lydon vs. the Ostriches, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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