Daily Archives: October 2, 2006


Monitor, originally uploaded by GeoWombats.

Australian (and to an extent Australasian) monitor lizards belonging to the Varanus genus are called Goannas. The name is presumed to be derived from iguana, as early European settlers likened them to the South American lizards. There are around 20 species of goanna, 15 of which are unique to Australia. They are a varied group of carnivorous reptiles that range greatly in size and fill several ecological niches. The Goanna features prominently in Aboriginal Mythology and Australian folklore.

Perentie, originally uploaded by AlexandraPhotos.

Being predatory lizards, goannas are often quite large, or at least bulky, with sharp teeth and claws. The largest is the Perentie (Varanus giganteus), which can grow over 2m in length. They prey on all manner of small animals; insects, lizards, snakes, mammals, birds, eggs. Meals are often eaten whole, and thus the size of their meals depends on the size of the animal itself. However, the Perentie has been observed killing a young kangaroo, and then biting out chunks of flesh like a dog. Goannas have even been blamed for the death of sheep by farmers, though most likely erroneously, as goannas are also eaters of carrion and are attracted to rotting meat.

Nyahhhhh!, originally uploaded by Ozone71.

Not all goannas are gargantuan. Pygmy goannas may be smaller than a man’s arm. The smallest of these, the short-tailed monitor (Varanus brevicuda) reaches only 20 cm in length. They survive on smaller prey such as insects and mice.

Most goannas are dark in coloration, whites, greys, blacks and greens featuring prominently. Many desert dwelling species also feature yellow-red tones. Camouflage ranges from bands and stripes to splotches, speckles and circles, and can change as the creature matures; juveniles sometimes being brighter than adults.

Like most lizards, goannas lay eggs. Most lay eggs in a nest or burrow, but some species lay their eggs inside termite mounds. This offers protection and incubation, additionally the termites may provide a meal for the young as they hatch. Unlike other species of lizards, goannas do not have the ability to regrow limbs or tails.

Goannas are found throughout most of Australia, except for Tasmania, and manage to persist in a variety of environments. Most species are terrestrial, or ground dwelling. Prominent among these is the Sand goanna (Varanus gouldii – also known as the ground goanna or Gould’s goanna), the most common of all goannas. They are often found in close proximity to a burrow or den, which may be a hollow log, or if in the plains a dug burrow which can be up to a metre (three feet) deep. They may even take over rabbit warrens. The far end of the burrow is often close to the surface, so if the entrance is blocked off (by a predator, or a collapse) the goanna just needs to break through a few centimetres/inches of soil to be free.

As well as sandy plains, some goannas live in rocky outcrops and cliffs, often having special adaptations that aid their survival. The spiny-tailed goanna (Varanus acantharus) of Northern Australia, has blunt spines on its tail that make it virtually immovable from the rockface if in danger.

While some terrestrial goannas may occasionally climb trees or outcrops, there are plenty of primarily arboreal species. The lace monitor (Varanus varius) is probably the best-known amongst these, but is not the most common. The lace monitor is the second largest of all goannas, reaching lengths of up to 2 metres. Other more common tree goannas, such as the Timor tree monitor (Varanus timorensis) and Mournful tree monitor (Varanus tristis) do not grow to quite such lengths, averaging only a few feet nose to tail.

I have a Sssssplit tongue!, originally uploaded by bocavermelhal.b..

Other goannas are adapted to swampy coastal environments such as the Mangrove goanna (Varanus semiremex). Further still, the Mertens’ water monitor (Water goanna – Varanus mertensi), found in lagoons and rivers across northern Australia, is streamlined for swimming, utilising its tail as a paddle. Most other goannas are good swimmers, but tend not to voluntarily venture into the water.

Like most native fauna, goannas are rather wary of human intrusions into their habitat, and will most likely run away (into the scrub, up a tree, or into the water, depending on the species). A goanna is a rather swift mover, and when pressed will sprint short distances on its hind legs.

Goannas also rear up when threatened, either chased or cornered, and also inflate flaps of skin around their throat and emit a harsh hissing noise. The larger goannas can reach around a man’s waist, so they can be quite a fearsome experience to the unwary. Goannas have been known to be worn as a “live belt” in some remote aboriginal communities.[citation needed]

Yawning Goanna – Sydney, originally uploaded by The Echo of Light.

Some goannas recover from their initial fear of humans, especially when food is involved (or food has been involved previously). This reinforces the wildlife authority’s mantra of not feeding animals while camping or erstwhile adventuring. This said, most authorities doubt that a goanna will actually direct an intentional attack on human unless said human attempts to attack it (or grasp at it) first. Aborigines who hunt goannas for food consider the Perentie as a high-risk (but tasty) prey.

Aside from a severe bite or scratch (which carries risk of tetanus), other dangers a goanna presents is from its hefty tail. It can swing this much like a crocodile if cornered. Small children and dogs have been knocked down by such attacks. Often victims in goanna attacks are bystanders, watching the person antagonising the goanna. Alarmed goannas can mistake standing humans for trees and attempt to climb off the ground to safety, which is understandably painful, as well distressing for both man and beast.

Casual theft, originally uploaded by petrichor.


Blue Morphos Butterfly

DSC_0057, originally uploaded by LJWhitmire.

A Morpho butterfly may be one of over 80 described species of the genus Morpho. They are neotropical butterflies found mostly in South America as well as Mexico and Central America. Morphos range in wingspan from the 7.5 cm (3 inch) M. rhodopteron to the imposing 20 cm (8 inch) Sunset Morpho, M. hecuba. The name Morpho derives from its use as an epithet of Venus.

Many Morpho butterflies are coloured in metallic, shimmering shades of blue and green. These colours are not a result of pigmentation but rather are an example of iridescence: the extremely fine lamellated scales covering the Morpho’s wings reflect incident light repeatedly at successive layers, leading to interference effects that depend on both wavelength and angle of incidence/observance. Thus the colours produced vary with viewing angle, however they are actually surprisingly uniform, perhaps due to the tetrahedral (diamond-like) structural arrangement of the scales or diffraction from overlying cell layers. This structure may be called a photonic crystal. The iridescent lamellae are present on the dorsal side of their wings only, leaving the ventral side a drab brown.



7th.to13th.Aug.2006.Vancouver Island & Back., originally uploaded by oscarromulus.

Morpho butterflies feed on the juices of fermenting fruit with which they may also be lured. The inebriated butterflies wobble in flight and are easy to catch. Morphos will also feed on the bodily fluids of dead animals and on fungi. Morpho butterflies may be important by their role in dispersing fungal spores.

The hairy brown caterpillars are nocturnal and feed on a variety of leguminous plants. In some species the caterpillars are also cannibalistic, a trait thought to be a population control mechanism. If disturbed, Blue Morpho caterpillars will secrete a fluid smelling of rancid butter. The tufts of hair decorating the caterpillars irritate human skin.

The entire life cycle of the Morpho butterfly, from egg to death, is approximately 115 days. The adults live for about a month. Their predators are few for the adults retain poisonous compounds accumulated by the feeding caterpillar – a process known scientifically as sequestering.



morphos, originally uploaded by moontrain.

Bindi Irwin’s Speech for her Dad

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Armadillo Dees, originally uploaded by jeffclow.


Proof that God has a sense of humour.

  • Because of the weight of its armor, an armadillo will sink in water unless it inflates its stomach with air, which often doubles its size.[2]
  • Glyptotherium texanum (extinct) was a close cousin of the armadillo, living in the tropical and subtropical regions of Florida, South Carolina, and Texas. It had a six-foot-long carapace and weighed in at approximately 2,000 pounds (1 ton).[4]
  • Armadillos are one of the few mammals that mate face-to-face.
  • Recorded to be the animal with the most dreams in sleep (that is, with the most observed REM sleep).
  • Armadillos are one of a small number of animals other than humans that can get leprosy.
  • Surprisingly, armadillos are very agile in the water and have been known to swim for up to two miles without rest.
  • Armadillo is Spanish for “little armored one.”



Texas State Mammal, originally uploaded by pixels.in.my.head.


Armadillos are small placental mammals of the family Dasypodidae, mostly known for having a bony armor shell. Their average size is about 75 centimeters (30 inches), including tail. All species are native to the Americas, where they inhabit a variety of environments. In the United States, the sole resident armadillo is the 9-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), which is most common in the central southern states, particularly Texas.

Dasypodidae is the only family in the order Cingulata. Until as recently as 1995, the family was placed in the order Xenarthra, along with the anteaters and sloths. There are several species of armadillo, some of which are distinguished by how many bands they have on their armor. The nine-banded form cannot roll itself into a ball. They mainly run away or burrow from predators.



Run away!, originally uploaded by Redwolf Journeys.


Armadillos are often used in the study of leprosy, since they, along with mangabey monkeys, rabbits, and mice (on their footpads), are among the few known non-human animal species that can contract the disease systemically. They are particularly susceptible due to their unusually low body temperature, which is hospitable to the leprosy bacterium.

The Nine-banded Armadillo also serves science through its unusual reproductive system, in which four identical quadruplets (all the same sex) are born in each clutch. Because they are always identical, the group of four young provides a good subject for scientific, behavioral, or medical tests that need consistent biological and genetic makeup in the test subjects. This phenomenon of multiple identical birth, called polyembryony, only manifests in the genus Dasypus and not in all armadillos, as is commonly believed.



, originally uploaded by marissa b..