MIT scientists are attempting to create a robot cheetah. While nowhere near as fast as the real thing, their biomimetic approach has certainly resulted in one of the more realistic legged robots around.Biomimetics is a type of engineering that attempts to imitate biological systems.
It can trot at 8km per hour for up to 90 minutes, not even close to Boston Dynamics’ Cheetah which can reach an impressive 46km per hour, see below.
A two-headed snake has gone on display at a zoo in southern Ukraine. Zoo officials say the Albino California Kingsnake has two heads that think, react and eat separately, though one is more passive than the other.
The head of the zoo said that the two heads sometimes compete with each other for food. Because of that, zoo workers have to put a barrier between the heads when feeding the snake. The zoo said two-headed snakes are extremely rare, appearing once in every 50 years.
On Sunday July 22, freelance photographer Denise Ginley was walking along the greenway beneath the FDR in Manhattan with her boyfriend when she noticed a bizarre-looking animal carcass lying on a sandy strip of beach under the Brooklyn Bridge. “We were horrified by it and we took some camera phone pictures and then finally we decided to come back with my camera and I got up the courage to climb over the fence and get closer to it,” she told animalnewyork.com.
Ginley then sent those images to Gothamist who speculated whether it was a “bloated rat monster” or possibly a relative of the famed “Montauk Monster,” a fabled symbol of New York City summers past. This fresh East River Monster was ugly, weathered, and looked water-bloated, like his predecessor, possibly falling somewhere in between a rodent of unusual size and a part-human werewolf.
New York Parks Department shrug off this X-Files-style genetic miracle: “It was a pig left over from a cookout,” a spokesperson told Animal NY. “We disposed of it.” Was it really though? The absence of hooves or cloven feet is clear evidence that this is no Pig.
Shown above is some amazing footage shot in Tokyo Bay for a documentary film about the Goblin Shark.
The Goblin Shark, Mitsukurina owstoni, is a deep-sea shark with reported sightings numbering as low as 50 since it’s discovery in1897. The most distinctive characteristic of the goblin shark is the unusual shape of its head. It has a long, trowel-shaped, beak-like rostrum or snout, much longer than other sharks’ snouts. Some other distinguishing characteristics of the shark are the colour of its body, which is mostly pink, and its long, protrusible jaws.
When the jaws are retracted, the shark resembles a pink grey nurse shark, with an unusually long nose. The pink coloration, unique among sharks, is due to blood vessels underneath a semi-transparent skin (which bruises easily), thereby causing the colouring.
Found in the deep ocean, far below where the sun’s light can reach at depths greater than 200 m. They are found throughout the world, from Australia in the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico in the Atlantic Ocean. They are best known from the waters around Japan, where the species was first discovered.
For 20 years, field scientists working with Conversation International have been exploring some of the world’s most abundant, mysterious and threatened tropical ecosystems. To date, they have discovered more than 1,300 species new to science – although so far only 500 or so have been formally described by taxonomists, in terms of classification and naming. And now, to celebrate their 20 years of cataloguing, the group has released 20 of their favourite finds.
Here are some of the strange and fascinating creatures that have been discovered.
This giant spider pictured above is the Goliath bird eating spider (theraphosa blondi) and is the largest (by mass) spider in the world, reaching the weight of 170g and leg span of 30cm. It was observed by Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program scientists in Guyana in 2006, where it lives in burrows on the floor of lowland rainforests.
Despite the name, it feeds primarily on invertebrates – but have been observed eating small mammals, lizards and even venomous snakes.They have venom fangs, which are not deadly to humans, but their main line of defense are hairs that cover their entire body – when threatened their rub their legs agains the abdomen and send a cloud of microscopic barbs that lodge in the skin and mucus membranes of the attacker, causing pain and long-lasting irritation.
The emperor scorpion (pandinus imperator) has an eight-inches-long body, this is one of the largest scorpions in the world – a species from India is reputedly slightly longer. Despite their enormous size they feed primarily on termites and other small invertebrates, and its venom is not particularly harmful to humans.
The venom of this species contains compounds that are being tested as potential drugs to control arrhythmia (a heart disease) and the blue fluorescent betacarbolines that cover its body (visible only in ultraviolet light) are studied in order to understand degeneration of proteins in human eye lenses, which leads to cataract blindness.
My favourite of the Top 20 discoveries is Uroplatus phantasticus, or ‘the satanic leaf-tailed gecko’, observed in Madagascar in 1998 – the species was first described in 1888.
The gecko is the smallest of 12 species of bizarre looking Leaf-tailed geckos and are nocturnal, with extremely cryptic camouflage. They are only found in primary, undisturbed forests, so their populations are very sensitive to habitat destruction. Large uroplatus species have more teeth than any other living terrestrial vertebrate species.
The lizard can amazingly mimic a dead leaf, and it can coil its whole body to resemble a curled up leaf with its tail leaf shape. Its excellent camouflage skills mean it can ‘blend’ into its natural environment of the rainforests of Madagascar, an exotic island off the eastern coast of south Africa.
Satanic leaf geckos get their name because they look like they have ‘horns’ and some specimens have red eyes. The gecko’s colouration can be brown or grey and it can transform itself into amazing yellow, green, orange and pink hues.
Locals are afraid of them and refer to them as the devil. When disturbed, larger members of the species stand up open mouthed and let out a large hiss.
In 2004, WWF listed all of the uroplatus species on their ‘Top ten most wanted species list’ of animals threatened by illegal wildlife trade, because of it ‘being captured and sold at alarming rates for the international pet trade’.
The legends of mermaids have been around for thousands of years and have inspired many great writers and Hollywood films, but in a new documentary airing on Animal Planet “Mermaid: The Body Found” filmmaker Charlie Foley reveals some intersting new theroies.
Foley isn’t saying that mermaids exist, but finds it fascinating that the mythical sea creatures have been talked about for thousands of years and show up in the writings of numerous cultures — even among cultures that had no contact with each other.
There has never been a confirmed mermaid sighting, and some researchers speculate that people who’ve claimed to have seen one outside of a movie theatre actually saw creatures like manatees or dugongs.
However, some researchers have suggested the “Aquatic Ape Theory.” They claim that during a period of massive coastal flooding, some ancestors moved inland and others went into the ocean for food.
“There are cases of animals going from terrestrial to aquatic,” said Foley. “And when you look at what makes humans unique among other terrestrial animals, it raises some interesting questions on whether mermaids might be plausible.”
Some of the evidence that Foley said could conceivably suggest a missing mermaid link include webbing between fingers, something other primates don’t have and the loss of body hair (which would create drag in water).
Other evolutionary steps that suggest a sea creature cousin include the fact that humans are the only land animal with subcutaneous fat, which helps insulate whales, seals and dolphins from the cold, and breath control.
“Humans can hold their breath up to 20 minutes, longer than any other terrestrial animal,” Foley said. “In fact, we’re the only land animal with an instinctive ability to swim.”
Foley hopes the special gets people interested in the Aquatic Ape Theory, but also admits that his goal isn’t to win converts to the idea.
“This is meant for entertainment,” he laughed. “We didn’t submit this for peer review.”
Below is a trailer for the Animal Planet series Mermaid: The Body Found.
Source: The Huffington Post