Christmas Tree Worms

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Ok, I know it’s not Christmas yet, but I thought these guys were just too cute to wait. The Spirobranchus giganteus, or the Christmas tree worm, lives on coral reefs in tropical oceans throughout the world. They anchor themselves down into crevices they’ve burrowed into the coral.  They are very shy and will retract into their burrows at the slightest perceived threat. Even a passing shadow can spook them, but they will usually pop back up slowly after a few minutes to test the waters.

33_01XmasTreeWormThey have tubular bodies and Christmas-tree-shaped crowns which serve as mouth appendages. They use them to catch plankton and other tiny edibles floating in the water. The food particles are then passed down a “food path” moved along by a water current created by tiny hair-like extensions.

Unlike real Christmas trees, they come in a variety of colors including white, blue, orange, and yellow. They are quite pretty and can live well in home aquariums.

The Elephant Shark

Elephant Fish Mouth

This shark with the funny nose is called an Elephant Shark or an Australian Ghost Shark. Found off the coast of Southern Australia and New Zealand, it uses its snout and trunk-shaped appendage to forage on the muddy ocean floor for food. The end of its snout is covered in pores that can sense movement and weak electrical fields which help it find tasty mollusks and shellfish to eat.

It has a serrated spine that some people think is poisonous, but there haven’t been any reports of serious injury from contact with it even though it’s popular on commercial fishing circuits.

Growing up to a maximum of forty nine inches long, the Elephant Shark has a fifteen year life span.

It might be cool to see if you can catch one the next time you go fishing in Australian.

Foxfire Fungus

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 If you’re ever walking alone in the woods at night, and you see something that looks like fairy lights or will o’ the wisps, don’t get too excited. Unfortunately, you probably haven’t passed over into a fantasy world full of elves and adventure. Most likely, what you’re seeing is just regular ol’ foxfire fungus.

Even though it’s sometimes called fairy fire, it has nothing to do with tiny, beautiful, flying people. Foxfire fungus is the common name for many fungi that glow in the dark. It’s usually found on rotting wood and emits a blue-green glow using the same chemical reaction that occurs in lightning bugs (fireflies). Normally, it’s pretty dim, but if you’re really lucky, you might see some that’s bright enough to use as a natural reading light.

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There are from thirty to forty types of foxfire fungi in the world, and reference to them goes as far back as Aristotle in 382 B.C. They can also be seen in many books, movies, and TV shows from Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn to TV’s Psych.

Even though, seeing foxfire isn’t an indication that you’ve been transported to a mystical land, it can certainly make you feel like you have. Just don’t go too “Alice in Wonderland” and decide to eat some of it; it will make you very sick.

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The Bleeding Tooth Fungus

The Bleeding Tooth Fungus

OK, let’s be honest. If you saw this in a forest, what would be your first thought? Would you think, “This looks yummy. I’ve got to eat this?” Well, apparently, someone did at one point because this “Bleeding Tooth Fungus” is listed as inedible. Luckily for the person who tried it, it isn’t poisonous; it’s just incredibly bitter tasting. However, it does have anticoagulant and antibacterial properties. Maybe, you’re looking at the penicillin of the future.

Only the young fungi “bleed” (or secrete the red liquid). Once they grow up, they turn into normal, boring mushrooms. Also called “Strawberries and Cream” or “Devil’s Tooth,” they can be found in North America, Central Europe, Iran, and Korea.

A Fuzzy Chicken

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Introducing the Polish Frizzle Chicken, a beautiful chicken that is mostly seen in show rings or exhibition halls. They have beautiful and unusual feathers that curl out unlike most other chickens whose feathers lie flat. This gives the frizzle chicken a cute, fluffy appearance. These gentle, quiet chickens come in many colors, but the ones you will see most often are black, white, brown, and blue.

Aren’t they cute? I could just eat one up.

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Sea Pigs

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You’ve probably never before seen these strange slug-like creatures called sea pigs, but they are actually very abundant all over the world, especially in the northern Atlantic Ocean, eastern Pacific Ocean and in central and south America. These sea pigs, also called sea cucumbers or scotoplanes, live on the deep sea floor around 3.7 miles under the ocean surface. They tread water using their tube-like feet, of which they have from five to seven, and shove food into their mouths with their tentacles. They usually have around ten of these. Their name is most likely connected to their fat, gelatinous body.  

These unusual creatures travel in groups. The larger the group, the smaller the sea pigs, and the smaller the groups, the larger the sea pigs. A very sociable species, they make up the majority of the deep-sea population.

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A Truly Anti-Social Tree

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This is the Sandbox tree. Its trunk is covered in strong pointed spikes that come in varying degrees of size depending on the tree. It’s also sometimes called “Monkey-no-Climb” because, well, obviously, it would be inadvisable for a monkey to climb it. You might also hear it referred to as the Dynamite tree. This name is derived from the fact that its seeds are enclosed in pumpkin-like capsules (the fruit) that explode loudly shooting the seeds with enough force to injure anyone or anything foolish enough to be standing too close. (And by “too close” I mean less than 100 yards away.)

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While the fruit of this tree is reportedly tasty, its seeds, if eaten, will make you very sick. If all of that weren’t enough, this tree also comes with poisonous sap that is used by some natives of Central and South America, where this tree can be found, to incapacitate fish and even some mammals.    

I really don’t see how the Sandbox tree could be any clearer in its desire to be left alone. It seems to me that the wisest course of action would be to accede to its wishes and leave it be.