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Next time your kids ask you if monsters are real, you might have to fib a little if you say “no.” Some recent discoveries in the animal kingdom would be right at home in an H.P. Lovecraft story.
Over the summer, marine biologists found that giant jellyfish are becoming much more common in the world’s oceans. Sometimes the word “giant” is used to describe animals that are bigger than normal but still smaller than a human. As you can see from the picture, though, these monsters definitely deserve the title. Apparently they are taking over the ocean because overfishing has depleted many of their natural predators while warmer oceans have increased their food supply. At least one Japanese entrepreneur is bucking the fleeing-in-terror-from-giant-monsters movie stereotype by catching the jellyfish and turning them into a variety of consumer products.
Meanwhile, Austrian scientists have reported new findings on the Spanish ribbed newt. Apparently, this species uses its own ribs as a defense mechanism. When threatened, it rotates the ribs forward and forces the sharp ends out through its skin. The kicker is that the skin doesn’t have any special openings or sheaths like a cat’s claws. The bones simply cut through the chest wall and the skin, leaving a small hole, a strong immune system and regenerative abilities. Comparisons to a certain Canadian mammal immediately leap to mind.
Finally, fishermen off the northern coast of France have found a large parasitic isopod (a relative of the louse) that has evolved a rather hideous method for survival in its host: It gets into the fish’s mouth and then devours its tongue. It then attaches itself at the back of the fish’s throat where it presumably feeds of whatever the fish normally eats. The really bizarre part is that the fish doesn’t seem to suffer any ill effects other than the loss of its tongue.