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With its fearsome appearance, poisonous bite, and deadly hunting skill, this newly discovered creature lives up to its name: assassin spider.
The spiders stab their prey with their giant jaws, which are barbed at the ends with venomous fangs. To be able to lift their outsized jaws, the assassins evolved elongated necks, giving the spiders a unique ability to strike from a distance.
But arachnophobes can relax: Assassin spiders are a mere eighth of an inch (two millimeters) long and are harmless to humans.
Discovered by an international trio of scientists, the lobster, Dinochelus ausubeli, lives in the deep ocean water near the Phillipines. The lobster has movable, well-developed eyestalks and an inverted T-plate in front of its mouth. But its most striking feature is a mighty claw with a short, bulbous palm and extremely long, spiny fingers for capturing prey. Dinochelus is derived from the Greek words dino, meaning terrible and fearful, and chelus, meaning claw.
For most sharks, the front end is the dangerous bit. Thresher sharks are the exception. They’re deadly at both ends, because they’ve managed to weaponise their tails.
The top halves of their scythe-like tail fins are so huge that they can be as long as the rest of the shark. For around a century, people have been saying that the threshers lash out at their prey with these distended fins—hence the name. But no one had ever seen them do so in the wild.
In 2010, one team showed that they can lash out at tethered bait under controlled conditions. But Simon Oliver has done better. His team spent the summer of 2010 in the Philippines, watching and filming wild pelagic thresher sharks—the smallest of the three species—hunting large shoals of sardines. The videos are spectacular and unambiguous: threshers really do hunt with their tails.
The thresher accelerates towards a ball of fish and brakes sharply by twisting its large pectoral fins. It lowers its snout, pitches its whole body forward, and flexes the base of its tail. This slings the tail tip over its head like a trebuchet, with an average speed of 30 miles per hour. (The fastest shark managed to whip its tail at an astonishing top speed of 80 miles per hour.)
This June 26, 2013 photo provided by Gunnar Boettcher shows a rabbit that Boettcher dubbed "Frankenstein"
Boettcher thinks the rabbit might have a papilloma virus that's a form of cancer. A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources spokesperson says he suspects that is what it is, as it's not an uncommon ailment in rabbits, but he's not seen it on the top of the head.
The flatworms here are planarians, a nonparasitic genus. Their brains are incredibly simple, so simple in fact that they’re perhaps better described as ganglia, or bundles of nerves. That may help explain why, after their heads were removed and regrew, the flatworms could still remember the simple training researchers put them through before the “incident.” Planarian memories may reside not just in the brain, but elsewhere in the body.
July 24, 2013 — New research from the University of Exeter and King's College London has shown how a population of brown trout can survive in the contaminated waters of the River Hayle in Cornwall where metal concentrations are so high they would be lethal to fish from unpolluted sites.
The team believe this is due to changes in the expression of their genes.
The researchers compared the trout living in the River Hayle with a population living in a relatively clean site in the River Teign. The results showed that the accumulation of metals in the kidney and liver -- where metals are stored and detoxified -- were 19 and 34 times higher in the Hayle trout, respectively. In the gill, concentrations averaging 63 times higher were present in the Hayle fish, but there were no differences in metal content in the gut. This accumulation of metals in the Hayle fish highlights their extraordinary tolerance of the extreme metal concentrations in their environment.
In order to investigate how the Hayle brown trout are able to tolerate such high levels of metal exposure, and also look for potential signs of toxicity, advanced high throughput sequencing was conducted at the Exeter Sequencing Facility to sequence the genes and then measure changes in their expression between the two river sites. The gene encoding a protein, metallothionein, responsible for binding, storing and detoxifying a number of metals, was found to be highly expressed in the River Hayle trout, indicating its importance in their ability to tolerate metals in their environment. Evidence of the presence of other metal-binding and transporting proteins, particularly those responsible for handling iron, was also found.
Usually metals cause toxicity in fish by causing oxidative damage and disrupting the balance of ions in the body. The team found evidence that to counter this toxicity, Hayle fish showed changes in genes responsible for maintaining the balance of these ions in the body and a modest increase in anti-oxidants.
July 24, 2013 — Some males will go to great lengths to pursue a female and take extreme measures to hold on once they find one that interests them, even if that affection is unrequited. New research from evolutionary biologists at the University of Toronto shows that the male guppy grows claws on its genitals to make it more difficult for unreceptive females to get away during mating.
If you lived on an exotic island where unsafe sex was all too common, you'd find ways to ward off unwanted attention. On Tahiti, the females of two related insect species have had to move their genitals to different sides of their bodies and even impersonate the opposite sex — all to avoid getting pierced in the abdomen by the sexual organs of the wrong males, biologists report.
Small bugs of the rain forest have many things to worry about, assuming they are capable of anxiety. But surely some of their more feared predators are velvet worms, a group of ancient animals that spit an immobilizing, gluelike material onto prey before injecting them with saliva and chomping down.