Mating Bugs Etched in Stone for 165 Million Years
Sam Droege, Flickr
With Halloween still fresh in our minds, it makes sense to begin with a nice, creepy image. Flies might not get much love from humans (well, okay, they get none), but if they were our size and THIS is what we had to face, it might instead be: "Sir, yes, sir, Mr. Fly! Er, apologies for the classic horror movie and for that Jeff Goldblum remake." Note the compound eyes, which respond faster than anything in the animal world. They're watching you, and watching and watching.Death Munching Blow Flies
Keeping on with the creepies, this ancient spider from the Jurassic period was preserved in sediment and was found in rocks in China. Paul Seldon, of the Paleontological Institute at the University of Kansas, worked some magic with high-tech imagery to capture a close-up of the plectreurid spider.Golden Spider Silk Makes Rare Cloth: Photos
From the very small and old and stuck in stone, we go to a new, previously unknown species of humpback dolphin, which was recently identified off the coast of northern Australia.VIDEO: Dolphins Give Each Other Unique Names
Meet a blue-tongued skink, crossing red sand in the Northern Territory of Australia near Alice Springs. The skink is a type of lizard, one that isn't out to sell you car insurance. A new type of skink, gold-colored, was among three new vertebrate species recently discovered in Australia's Cape Melville mountain range.
Australia certainly seems to be a hotbed of animal discovery activity of late. Footprints made by a bird more than 100 million years ago have been found down under, and they've been deemed the oldest bird prints ever uncovered in Australia. Here, a drag mark made by the rear toe on one of the Cretaceous bird tracks indicates to scientists that it was the mark of a bird coming in for a landing.
Martin Zabala/Xinhua Press/Corbis
We interrupt our narrative flow for a penguin! (We don't really need a reason to show a penguin picture, do we?) This Magellanic penguin carries a branch to its nest in the Punta Tombo Reserve in Argentina. The reserve was created to protect the largest continental colony of Magellanic penguins.Found: Africa's Oldest Penguins
Jiang Fan/Xinhua Press/Corbis
Meanwhile, another reserve gained not a penguin but something a tad larger: a Sumatran tiger. Carteria, a two-and-a-half year old, is seen here in a cage during transport to the Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation, on the southern tip of Sumatra Island, on Oct. 26, 2013. Carteria was sent to the conservation site after it was rescued from poachers.Rare Sumatran Tiger Cubs Born at National Zoo
Jiang Fan/Xinhua Press/Corbis
This monkey, already making its living in the Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation, must not have been too thrilled to discover Carteria would be joining the neighborhood.
Here, there be dragons. And by here, of course, we mean the Prague Zoo. The zoo has been successful at breeding Komodo dragons, of which this 10-day-old baby Komodo is proof. The Komodo is the largest living species of lizard and it can grow up to be about 3 meters (almost 10 feet) long. (Just for comparison's sake, the blue-tongued skink we met earlier maxes out at about 45 centimeters, or 17 inches.) Check out the next slide to see what happens when cute little fellas like this one grow up.
They don't ALL end up attacking pumpkins at the London Zoo, but this Komodo dragon named Raja did. The giant creature is reminding us that Halloween is so OVER now. Raja might even be wondering why humans bother to hollow out, carve, and smash pumpkins when it's so much easier just to bite them. And that's not just the opinion of some random Komodo dragon with an attitude. Raja appeared as himself in the James Bond film "Skyfall." Perhaps here he is really just auditioning for the 743rd installment in the "Friday the 13th" series.Indonesian, 83, Survives Komodo Dragon Attack
A sexual act performed during the Middle Jurassic was frozen in time and is now visible to us, thanks to a fossil nicknamed “Forever Love.”
The fossil, described in the latest PLoS ONE, presents a pair of copulating froghoppers that lived 165 million years ago in what is now northeastern China. The fossil is the earliest record of copulating insects to date.
“We found these two very rare copulating froghoppers, which provide a glimpse of interesting insect behavior and important data to understand their mating position and genitalia orientation during the Middle Jurassic,” co-author Dong Ren of Capital Normal University in China, said in a press release.
Ren and his colleagues point out that our current knowledge of mating positions and genitalia orientation of prehistoric insects and animals is limited, to say the least.
In this fossil, no one doubts what was going on.
Froghoppers are tiny insects that hop from plant to plant in the way that small frogs hop around.
The insects also apparently slept around. The now-fossilized male (in the photo above, at left) inserted his reproductive organ into the female’s copulatory structure.
It’s unclear what happened after that, though. Somehow the two were entombed in this position.
What’s remarkable is that their belly-to-belly mating position, and their genital symmetry, have remained static in froghoppers over the millions of years. We humans are forever “upgrading” this and that gadget but, in nature, if it isn’t broken and the circumstances remain similar, it stays the same.
This isn’t the first instance where copulating prehistoric species perished during the act, later fossilizing. Last year, a paper described a pair of mating turtles dating to the Eocene — 34 to 56 million years ago.
Photo: Li S, Shih C, Wang C, Pang H, Ren D (2013) Forever Love: The Hitherto Earliest Record of Copulating Insects from the Middle Jurassic of China. PLoS ONE 8(11): e78188. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078188