You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘eating’ tag.

egg2

Today is World Egg Day! At first I had an image of the entire planet splitting open and some giant hatchling slithering out into the galaxy—WorldEgg Day–but a moment of reflection revealed that WED is instead a day for the entire world to celebrate eggs. Indeed the World Egg Day Website reassures us that, “World Egg Day is a unique opportunity to help raise awareness of the benefits of eggs and is celebrated in countries all around the world.”

Ogc3sEcThis website has been unflagging in its dedicated to oviparous creatures. Catfish, turkeys, the vast majority of snakes, all fowl, and even the amazing platypus and echidna are creatures which reproduce by means of eggs. They are all well worth celebrating! Hooray!

Yet somehow, I feel like the World Egg Day High Council (an arm of the even greater International Egg Commission) cares little about ovuliparity (external reproduction via egg). Instead they are concerned only with devouring eggs. They are in fact ovivores of the highest degree—to such an extent that they have built an international organization to promote the continuous eating of eggs to the exclusion of all else. We live in a strange world.

Dasypeltis scabra feeding on a fresh pigeon egg (from exotic-pets.co.uk)

Dasypeltis scabra feeding on a fresh pigeon egg

However, since I am an ovivore myself (although not exclusively) I support the council’s overarching plans—at least to a degree. In order to celebrate World Egg Day, allow me to propose a suitable mascot for the event—the egg-eating snake, Dasypeltis, a delightful genus of reptiles which lives up to the council’s ultimate utopian dreams of eating nothing but eggs. To quote exotic-pets.co.uk, “The Egg Eating Snake must be one of the nicest snakes we have ever come across. With no teeth, a calm nature, [the snake lives entirely] on eggs…no more defrosting rodents!”

 324l

There are 11 species of snake within the Dasypeltis genus and all have evolved to feed exclusively on eggs. These non-venomous snakes live throughout Africa, but prefer wooded areas with large numbers of birds. The snakes possess acute senses which allow them to determine whether an unbroken egg is rotten or too developed for them to eat. Not only are the snakes gifted at hiding and climbing trees, they also have specialized anatomical features for egg consumption including supremely flexible jaws, supple necks, expandable balloon-like throats, and internal vertebral knobs for bursting the egg once consumed. The snakes regularly consume eggs much larger than their own heads. After eating breakfast, the poor creature looks like a maraca! Once the unbroken egg is swallowed whole, the snake’s internal organs burst it open and leech all nutrients out of it. The indigestible shell is regurgitated. Virtually no nutrients are wasted.

Common egg-eater snake (Dasypeltis scabra). Photo by Mond76

Common egg-eater snake (Dasypeltis scabra). Photo by Mond76

Finally, and best of all, Dasypeltis fasciata not only lives entirely on eggs: the snake also reproduces by egg! It is an Oviparous ovivore. Females lay one or two clutches of 6-25 eggs each. The little eggs measure 36 mm x 18 mm (1.4 x 0.7 inches) and are sometimes eaten by rodents or lizards.

dscf0643-300x225You could write to the International Egg Council and explain why this snake would be the perfect mascot to help them popularize eggs. Undoubtedly the exalted high egg commissioners would quickly acknowledge that there can be no purer avatar of the incredible edible egg than this lovable snake. Happy World Egg Day!

The Life Cycle of Phengaris rebeli (image via http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.com)

The Life Cycle of Phengaris rebeli (image via http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.com)

It’s October—the month of costumes, masks…and monsters.  To start out this year’s Halloween season on an appropriately ghastly note, today’s post deals with a horrifying creature which relies upon disguise to feed itself: namely, the Mountain Alcon Blue butterfly (Phengaris rebeli).

Native to temperate grasslands of Central Europe, the Mountain Alcon Blue has silvery blue which are stippled in little black spots with delicate white edges. The butterfly flits harmlessly about in gentle meadows, finds a mate, and then the female lays her eggs on a pretty gentian flower.

Aww, it's on a pretty flower (Photo by Tristan Lafranchis)

Aww, it’s on a pretty flower (Photo by Tristan Lafranchis)

So why is this delicate alpine beauty a creature of nightmares? When the Mountain Alcon blue larva hatches, it eats the gentian until it reaches a certain size whereupon it falls to the ground and releases an allomone—a deceptive chemical which makes it seem identical to an ant larva. Foraging ants discover the caterpillar and tenderly carry it deep within the protection of the ant hive to the nursery room where the ant larvae are fed and cared for.  Then the caterpillar reveals another dark talent: it produces a sound which perfectly mimics the ant queen.  Subject to this all-powerful voice of authority, the ants care for the caterpillar as though it were the queen–even going so far as to attack the actual queen.  Obeying the dictates of the awful song, the ants feed the still living ant larvae to the caterpillar which devours the helpless young ants like so many little wiggling burritos (well, if juvenile butterflies ate burritos).

Caterpillar with slave ant (photo by Darlyne A. Murawski)

Caterpillar with slave ant (photo by Darlyne A. Murawski)

When the butterfly pupates into an adult, it loses its ability to mimic ant chemicals or produce the queen’s voice.  The ants recognize it as an invader and attack, but the butterfly’s scales are designed to resist their mandibles.  It flees the crippled and abused ant colony and begins the cycle over again.

Isn't nature beautiful? (photo by Guy Padfield)

Isn’t nature beautiful? (photo by Guy Padfield)

Yet monsters still must fear other monsters and there is an even more invidious predator which seeks out the Alcon larvae deep within ant hives. This is the parasitic wasp, Ichneumon eumerus, which infiltrates ant colonies which are being preyed on by Phengaris rebeli larvae.  The wasp locates the caterpillar and then releases an allomone which causes the ants to go insane and attack one another.  Then in the chaos that follows, the wasp injects its eggs into the living caterpillar.  When the eggs hatch they eat the interloper from inside and then burst out of its carcass.

The parasitic wasp Ichneumon eumerus preying on Phengaris caterpillar while an ant stands by waiting for doom. (Image: J.Thomas/Natural Visions)

The parasitic wasp Ichneumon eumerus preying on Phengaris caterpillar while an ant stands by waiting for doom. (Image: J.Thomas/Natural Visions)

One of the Aspredinidae (banjo catfish) species, Bunocephalus amaurus, from Guyana

Banjo catfish are a family (Aspredinidae) of tiny South American catfish which live in the major tropical river systems of the continent.  Most species of banjo catfish have round flat heads and long skinny tails—hence their distinctive name.  Although various sorts of banjo catfish live in many different river habitats (from quick flowing channels, to murky stagnant backwaters, to brackish tidal basins) they generally utilize the same strategy of keeping still and allowing their camouflage to protect them.  Although like all catfish, they lack scales, the Aspredinidae make up for this absence with rows of horny keratin tubercles which break up their profile and leave them well disguised.  Additionally they can shed their skins! As omnivores they hunt tiny invertebrates as well as feeding on whatever they can scavenge.  Members of the Amaralia genera of Banjo catfish are especially fond of the eggs of other species of catfish, which they actively seek out and vacuum up.

Another species of Banjo catfish (Bunocephalus coracoideus)

Perhaps because they are so partial to eating the eggs of other catfish, some banjo catfish have evolved special strategies to protect their own eggs.  Female catfish in the subfamily Aspredininae wait until their eggs are fertilized and then attach the developing eggs to their belly.  Three species of Aspredininae develop specialized fleshy stalks called cotylephores specifically for the purpose of exchanging nutrients and oxygen between the mother and the eggs.

More banjo catfish (Amaralia hypsiura)

Pfeffer’s Flamboyant Cuttlefish, Metasepia pfeffer (photo by Paz Santos)

In the waters of the Indo-Pacific swims an animal so profoundly fancy that it is difficult to find enough adjectives to summarize it—filigree, frilly, extravagant, surreal, frond-coated, Liberacci-esque?  Perhaps the name says it best: Pfeffer’s flamboyant cuttlefish (Metasepia pfeffer) is an adorable 2- 4 inch cuttlefish which lives in the tropical waters around Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia, and Vietnam.  Like leafy sea dragons, scorpionfish, and mighty wobbegongs, the little cuttlefish is a consummate master of disguise.  Unlike those other camouflaged sea creatures, Pfeffer’s flamboyant cuttlefish is capable of changing color and shape.  It is also capable of many different means of locomotion: it can walk along the sea floor on its tentacles, hover in the water using the fringe-like fin around its mantle, or it can zip through the sea via jet propulsion.

Pfeffer’s flamboyant cuttlefish hunts shrimp and tiny fish in the shallow sand and mud coasts of its habitat.  It utilizes complicated camouflage to hunt, but when roused it becomes a scintillating hot-mess of flashing red, white, magenta, yellow, and black in order to warn predators about its real self-defense. It turns out the list of endearing adjectives above is missing a few critical words: deadly, lethal, and poisonous. The flesh of these little cuttlefish contains a toxin as fatal to other animals as that of its famous neighbor, the blue-ringed octopus, a tiny but potent poisonous cephalopod of the Indo-Pacific responsible for many swimmer fatalities.

Pfeffer’s flamboyant cuttlefish is therefore as deadly as it is adorable, a combination which ought to make it a mainstay of action movies.  Speaking of movies you should click the following link to watch an amazing Youtube movie of Pfeffer’s Flamboyant Cuttlefish.  The happy little mollusk ambles along the ocean floor to jaunty music before zapping a shrimp with its horrifyingly alien feeding tentacles.  You should watch this all of the way: it is not a film to be missed.

Thus having successfully combined flamboyance, film, and horror, I am off to Tinseltown! I will try to blog from LA but I promise nothing.  Baby, let’s do lunch!

Ye Olde Ferrebeekeeper Archives

July 2020
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031