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Animals Nature

The Harpy eagle looks like a human in a Halloween costume

The Harpy Eagle is one of the largest species of eagles in the world, even bigger than the Bald Eagle.

Named after the Greek mythology monsters, the extremely rare animal is found through Central America and South America rainforests, particularly Brazil, where it’s known as the Royal Hawk. The magical creature even inspired the design of Fawkes the Phoenix in the Harry Potter films.

The bird has a wingspan of over 7 feet and nearly the identical claw size of a grizzly bear. So massive, some people think it looks like a human in a costume.

But this powerful raptor is not your worst nightmare, even if the animal can snatch a sloth out of a tree for dinner (see video after the jump).

Categories
Animals Nature

The strange but fabulous Shoebill Stork

The Shoebill Stork is your new favorite bird.  

Amazingly huge, the Shoebill Stork (Balaeniceps rex) may be one of the most prehistoric dinosaur looking birds alive (note: the cassowary might be the other). 

An ambush predator with a height up to 5 feet, the bird stands for long periods before engaging in a vicious attack on pray. It is known to use its bulbous shoe-shaped bill to attack crocodiles when provoked. 

However, the big bird is docile with humans — it is quite common to get into staring contest with them. 

The bird is endangered, however, with only 5,000 – 8,000 left in the world in the swamps of East-Central Africa. 

Witness the bird in all its hugeness below.

The strange but fabulous Shoebill Stork
Photo: Twitter/shannonmstirone
The strange but fabulous Shoebill Stork
Photo: Twitter/DeathmatchJay
The strange but fabulous Shoebill Stork
Photo: Twitter/hollowknight
Categories
Nature

Slimy but spectacular, meet the glorious Parrot Waxcap Mushroom

The Parrot Waxcap Mushroom (Gliophorus psittacinus) is beautiful regardless of its name. 

What looks like glass, the mushroom gets its unique and intense green color palette as part of its oozy phase during the fruiting stage. 

The distinctive waxcap appears in small pockets across Britain and Ireland, particularly in undernourished grass fields during the summer and fall. 

While the fungi are edible, they are not part of the three species of waxcaps recommended for eating. If you’re lucky enough to spot these bright green slippery beauties, consider leaving them alone in their glistening glory and just photograph them instead.  

Slimy but spectacular, meet the glorious Parrot Waxcap Mushroom
Photo: Twitter/@samrujlok
Slimy but spectacular, meet the glorious Parrot Waxcap Mushroom
Photo: Twitter/@RachOPennington
Slimy but spectacular, meet the glorious Parrot Waxcap Mushroom
Photo: Twitter/Garymysnail
Slimy but spectacular, meet the glorious Parrot Waxcap Mushroom
Photo: Twitter/@konstructivizm
Categories
Animals Nature

The Tasmanian Giant Crab is the king of crabs

Add the Tasmanian Giant Crab (Pseudocarcinus gigas) to one of the animals you’ll want to see in person one day.

Weighing up to 39lbs with a shell length up to 18 inches, the Tasmanian Giant Crab is the fifth largest crab species. Its wild geometry makes it claws appear more massive than its body.

The Tasmanian Giant Crab is the king of crabs
Photo: Seal Life via Twitter/@StrangeAnimals

This monstrous “king” of crabs resides in the deep ocean of Southern Australia. Unfortunately, the crab is a prize catch among fishers where’s it’s been fished in Tasmanian waters since 1992.

Categories
Nature Space

Meet the first flower grown entirely in space, a zinnia flower

“The earth laughs in flowers,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in Nature and Selected Essays.

We humans spend our entire lives blistering through space on a giant rock we call Earth with flowers in abundance. It is fascinating to know that we too can pollinate the cosmos.

NASA astronaut and American engineer Scott Kelly captured the Orange Zinnia , enjoying the sunshine aboard the International Space Station in 2016.

The harvest was part of the VEG-01 experiment during Expedition 46. Nasa used the seeds from growing pillows — watered via injected syringes — delivered on ISS Cargo to foster the Zinnia flowers.

See more of Kelly’s beautiful pictures after the jump.

Meet the first flower grown entirely in space, a zinnia flower
Photo: NASA/Scott Kelly
Meet the first flower grown entirely in space, a zinnia flower
Photo: NASA/Scott Kelly
Meet the first flower grown entirely in space, a zinnia flower
Photo: NASA/Scott Kelly
Meet the first flower grown entirely in space, a zinnia flower
Photo: NASA/Scott Kelly
Categories
Animals Nature

Cosmic caterpillar of the Pacific fruit piercing moth

See the universe in the marvelous googly-eyed cosmic caterpillar of the Pacific fruite piercing moth, and you’ll never be the same. 

This dazzling caterpillar is the larva of the common Pacific fruit-piercing moth (Eudocima phalonia) from India. It is truly an alien among us.

The photographer, Arabinda Pal, captured the shot on his smartphone in West Bengal, India. “It is one of the major pests of fruits in Asia,” he said on Instagram. “It causes huge damage to fruit.”

Cosmic caterpillar of the Pacific fruit piercing moth
Photo: Instagram/Arabinda Pal

Amazingly, Pal also snapped a picture of the moth in its advanced larva stage.

Cosmic caterpillar of the Pacific fruit piercing moth
Photo: Instagram/Arabinda Pal

Here’s what the gorgeous little insect looks like as an adult moth. It can even do an incredible leaf mimic.

Fruit Piercing Moth (Eudocima cf. aurantia, Calpinae, Erebidae)
Photo: Flickr/itchydogimages

Categories
Travel

The True Size of Africa

Africa is a massive continent. But for whatever reason, map makers make it appear smaller than its “true true” size. As Polish-American scientist Alfred Korzybski reminds us, “the map is not the territory.” Lines are ultimately arbitrary.

Map design is deceptive. But computer-graphics designer Ka Kraise took it upon himself to ‘fight against rampant immappancy,’ in particular the popular Mercator projection originated by Gerardus Mercator in 1569 which tends to exaggerate the size of continents and countries more than others. Greenland, for instance, is 14 times larger than Africa.

As you can see above, Kraise illustrates the reality of Africa’s size, which is “larger than the USA, China, Japan, and all of Europe, combined!” The Economist revisualized Kraise’s map as well.

Kudos to Kraise for illuminating our ignorance about geographical knowledge, pointing the finger at Western and Asian students who tend to inflate the size of their countries when in actuality Africa makes everyone else look so small.

Read more in The Economist: ‘The true true size of Africa’

Categories
Nature

Behold a Rare Honeycomb Welo Opal

The things that Mother Nature produces will simply amaze.

This super rare Honeycomb Welo Opal from Welo province in northern Ethiopia looks like a dinosaur egg that’s about to hatch.

The splash of vibrant colors also makes it look like the opal contains a universe of some sort, especially the fiery bright color which gives the gem its due name.

According to Geology, a fire opal “is a variety of opal that has a bright yellow, bright orange or bright red background color…Precious Opal is a name given to any opal that exhibits “play-of-color”, a flashing display of spectral colors when the opal is “played” under a light source.

Check out the Honeycomb Welo Opal and more opal varieties from around the world after the jump.

Another Ethiopian welo opal (via RDianLove/tw)
Opal from Queensland, Australia (via Havenlust/tw)
Cantera opal from Sinaloa, Mexico
Cantera opal from Sinaloa, Mexico (via western_opals)
Ethiopian Opal Geode (tw/welcometonature)
Rainbow ContraLuz Ethiopian Welo Polished Opal (via opalactions/tw)
Categories
Animals Nature

The incredible (and slender) Ranzania Laevis is shaped like a Dorito

One of the more peculiar fish you’ll ever see, the slender sunfish (Ranzania laevis) looks like a fish that’s been cut in half.

Yes, this Dorito-shaped fish is in its complete form!

The Ranzania laevis is a species of mola mola and is primarily found in the world’s tropical waters. In fact, the fish was originally discovered off the coast of Adelaide, Australia, in 1944.

Interestingly, the slender sunfish can give off the impression of a shark from its side view which allows it to scare off would-be predators.

The incredible (and slender) Ranzania Laevis is shaped like a Dorito
Photo: Wikimedia/Escapemodule
The incredible (and slender) Ranzania Laevis is shaped like a Dorito
Photo: Wikimedia/NOAA Observer Program
The incredible (and slender) Ranzania Laevis is shaped like a Dorito
Close-up of a slender sunfish (Photo: Wikimedia/Escapemodule)
Categories
Nature

Rainbow Waterfall at Yosemite National Park

Said the “Father of the National Parks“ of America’s national parks John Muir, “Most people are on the world, not in it.” His advocacy helped protect the Yosemite Valley and ultimately led to the establishment of Yosemite National Park.

The video of the rainbow waterfall by landscape photographer Greg Harlow at Yosemite (scroll down to view) is just one of the many wonders in the 747,956 acres park. The California-based national park is one of the few places in the US where you can see a rainbow, or moonbow, at night.

Yosemite also played host to the recent documentary entitled Free Solo which filmed the super sensation seeker Alex Honnold climb El Capitan, the vertical granite rock formation located at Yosemite National Park.

PS. If you’re interested in learning the art of adventure photography and film, consider taking National Geographic photographer and the producer of Free Solo, Jimmy Chin’s course teaching adventure photography course on MasterClass.