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Animals Nature

The beautiful yet feisty Lilac-breasted roller bird, Africa’s most colorful bird

The rainbow of different colors on the lilac-breasted roller bird is gorgeous.

Native to sub-Saharan Africa and the national bird of both Botswana and Kenya, the bird is known to perch on treetops by the roadside so it can pounce on rodents and insects moving about on the ground.

Multicolored and aggressive — especially when intruders get too close to their nest — these birds are also renowned for the rolling flight pattern that sees them dip and dive from high in the sky in torpedo-like motion.

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Animals Nature Photography

Attenborough’s fan-throated lizard

Attenborough’s fan-throated lizard (Sitana attenboroughii) is a species of fan-throated lizards endemic to India, primarily found in the state of Tamil Nadu.

The males flaunt their colorful dewlaps — loose skin on their necks — to woo potential mates during mating season. They also flash the fan-structured throat to challenge a potential rival in a territory. Females, meanwhile, have smaller white colored dewlaps.

This superb lizard lives mostly on the ground in open ground patches and takes its name after natural historian, David Attenborough.

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Animals

Gorgeous eyelashes of the Secretary bird

The Secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius) is your new favorite bird.

Endemic to Africa and the national bird of Sudan, the Secretary bird looks like a combination of an eagle and a crane. It’s snake-stomping legs can deliver up to 43 pounds of force.

But what’s most recognizable about this 4-foot terrestrial bird of prey is its beautiful, elongated eyelashes and eyelash-like feathers.

Don’t be ashamed to admit if the Secretarybird has better eyelashes than you.

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Animals

Draco volans: The flying dragon lizard

Looking like the dragons out of a science fiction movie, Draco Volans are real-life flying lizards.

These mini flying creatures have developed the ability to glide up to 26 feet throughout thousands of years using their winglike extensions. So, they don’t actually fly, nor do they breathe fire.

But don’t get your hopes up about finding one as a pet. Located in Indonesia, the Draco Volan is nearly impossible to catch.

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Animals Nature

Mary River Turtle: Punk rock turtle who can breathe for 72 hours underwater

The Mary River Turtle is a remarkable creature for two main reasons.

It possesses specialized glands on its bottom that allow it to stay underwater for 72 hours—yes, it breathes through its genitals—two, the animal sports an algae-infused mohawk.

Named one of the world’s most vulnerable reptiles, the turtle lives in Mary River streams in southeastern Queensland, Australia. It uses the algae growing on its shell to camouflage itself from predators.

“We need to be a little bit more tortoise-y and a little less hare-ish,” best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell once said. While his message encourages people to slow down in this hyperspeed era, perhaps we need a little more punk in our lives too.

Rock on!

The Mary River Turtle
The Mary River Turtle
The Mary River Turtle
Photos: Chris Van Wyk

Of course, there’s always one band member who sports the bowl haircut (re Ringo of the Beatles). Here’s the Mary River turtle with algae strands on its body.

Photo: Chris Van Wyk
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Animals Nature

Pink sea urchins have self-sharpening teeth

Pink sea urchins house five teeth, each supported by a separate jaw in a circular arrangement at the center of their spiked spherical bodies.

But researchers at Northwestern have discovered that the teeth of pink sea urchins are specially equipped to self-sharpen themselves.

pink sea urchin teeth
Graphic: Cell.com

The enamel break bits off regularly to maintain sharpness, the same way a knife sharpens upon a blade.

“The material on the outer layer of the tooth exhibits a complex behavior of plasticity and damage that regulates ‘controlled’ chipping of the tooth to maintain its sharpness,” said Northwestern University Professor Horacio Espinosa.

The teeth continue to grow throughout life, helping the sea urchins ward off predators.

pink sea urchin teeth
pink sea urchin teeth
pink sea urchin teeth
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Animals Travel

Why Western Australia’s Quokka is always smiling

The quokka is a marsupial from the smaller islands (e.g., Bald Island) off the coast of Western Australia.

The animal looks like a baby kangaroo and appears to be smiling at all times — it possesses a natural and cheerful grin.

There’s even a book dedicated to the so-called “world’s happiest animal” called The Quokka’s Guide to Happiness by wildlife photographer Alex Cearns.

Just take a look at these cuties.

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Animals Nature

The African Dung Beetle navigates Earth using the stars

Not sure what’s more amazing about the African dung beetle, one that it rolls immaculate balls out of other animals dung or that it navigates from home to manure piles and back via celestial cues.

“These clever insects use the polarized light of the moon to navigate in a straight line,” writes Popular Mechanics. “Their eyes cannot see individual stars but a group of stars together, like the Milky Way, is dense enough to create a luminous line for them to follow.”

No stars, no problem! When the sun gets blocked or is directly overhead, the beetle uses its antennae to perceive wind signals. This way it can roll across the desert without getting lost.

But entomologist and photographer Piotr (Peter) Naskrecki of the Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory at Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique believes the Kheper subaeneus beetles are more interesting for what they do for mother Earth. 

Few animals are as important to the African savanna ecosystem as the dung beetles and without their thankless toil the entire ecosystem would soon collapse, covered in a thick layer of waste. 

Piotr Naskrecki

Keep in mind that the gathered feces, in which the beetle rolls into big balls, often weigh more than the beetle itself.

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Animals Architecture & Design Travel

Topiary sculpture of a sleeping baby bird

Here’s a bird you’ll never get tired of looking at.

Children’s author and illustrator Claude Ponti’s gigantic topiary named Poussin Endormi or Sleepy Chick resides in Jardin des Plantes’ botanical garden in Nantes, France.

The outdoor installation relaxes nearby Ponti’s zany other works, the sleeping koala. Who wouldn’t want these in their front yard?

Check out some of Ponti’s surrealistic books below. What a wild imagination!

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Animals Nature

Whose hoo: The Barred Owls of Central Park

The barrel owl isn’t known to travel outside the woods of the southeastern United States. But in 2020, anything seems possible.

Two owls, presumably boyfriend and girlfriend, have been discovered in New York’s Central Park. The star birds like to hide out in the hidden waters of The Loch.

Manhattan welcomes 270 plus bird species each year. But the rare arrival of the barred owl has brought birding fanatics out to photograph it. Check out some of the snaps.

Bonus note: Along with the ability to rotate turning their necks 270 degrees in each direction, these gorgeous raptures can also blend in with their environments.