Two New Venomous Jellyfish Species Found in Australia
James O'Hanlon, Macquarie University
Animals and insects that resemble flowers deceive in a unique and powerful way, since who could resist a beautiful flower?
In this case, the "orchid" is actually a predatory insect -- the orchid mantis. Researcher James O'Hanlon of Macquarie University and colleagues recently studied the unusual insects in Malaysia.
"Their bright floral colors and petal-shaped legs create a tantalizing lure for insects," O'Hanlon told Discovery News, adding that they attract flying insect pollinators more than actual flowers in the region do. "So it seems that orchid mantises not only look like flowers, but they may also even beat flowers at their own game as they deceptively attract their unsuspecting prey."
The star-nosed mole is in the record books for a few different reasons. First, it is the world's fastest eating mammal. Second, its nose looks like a coral-colored flower, allowing the mole to poke out of the ground as though it were a plant.
Finally, the flower or "star" on its nose has the highest density of nerve endings known in any mammalian skin, according to biologist Diana Bautista of the University of California at Berkeley and colleagues. By studying the nose, they are hoping to identify genes that may mediate touch and pain, leading to better treatments for chronic pain conditions.
Fred Hsu, Wikimedia Commons
Flower hat jellyfish, native to the West Pacific off the coast of southern Japan, sport translucent, pinstriped bells that make up this marine animal's "flower."
The tentacles below can sting, and are used to catch small fish. Humans who have the misfortune of encountering the flower hat jellyfish can also be stung, and often suffer a nasty rash as a result.
Raimond Spekking, Wikimedia Commons
The term anthozoa comes from the Greek words for flower and animals. These flower animals are so-called because their earliest stage of growth takes on a floral appearance.
Relatives of anthozoa were in existence possibly as early as 570 million years ago, putting those ancestors well ahead of the dinosaurs. They are among the oldest known types of animals on Earth.
Yuvalif, Wikimedia Commons
The devil's flower mantis has three distinct looks. It can, as this image shows, appear as its true insect self. Here, one was snapped marching on a car tire. But among plants, the other two looks become more evident.
Imagine this mantis sitting on a green leaf. It would seem to be an extension of that leaf, or just blend in with the green. When the insect lifts its forelegs, however, bright colors are revealed. In this pose, it resembles an orchid. To other devil's flower mantises, the pose signals a threat, making the aggressor look large and mean.
The High Fin Sperm Whale, Wikimedia Commons
"Lionfish" refers to an entire genus of venomous marine fish. They sometimes resemble floating tropical flowers, but the appendages are actually spiky and full of venom.
Flowers display colors, in part, to attract pollinators. Color for lionfish is meant to do just the opposite: repel others. Like a bright red stop sign, the color is meant to gain attention. The different colors tell would-be predators that the lionfish can be dangerous.
Darius Bau, Wikimedia Commons
When wrapped around a twig, the pale tussock caterpillar could easily be mistaken for an unusual bright yellow-hued flower. The coloration, as for the lionfish, warns others not to eat it.
The caterpillar's color and appearance also functions as a flower disguise. Once the caterpillar turns into a moth, all of that psychedelic color fades away, leaving behind beige and brown tones.
BerndH, Wikimedia Commons
Animals and insects aren't the only ones that fool others with their looks. Flowers also sometimes take on the appearance of animals.
The bird of paradise is a classic example. But nature seems to be teasing us with the monkey orchid. From a distance, this flower looks just like a lavender and white orchid. Up close, however, the flower resembles a monkey, complete with a head, long arms and a tail.
Orchi, Wikimedia Commons
With Halloween around the corner, special mention goes to the orchid Dracula gigas. While it may not look like Dracula, it does take on human-like features.
From above, as seen in this photo, it appears to have eyes, a nose, a mouth and quite a dramatic hairdo.
Two new species of jellyfish have been discovered off the coast of Western Australia. One is surprisingly large. The other is tiny. Both are extremely venomous.
These two newfound creatures are thought to pack painful stings that cause Irukandji syndrome, a constellation of symptoms that includes lower back pain, vomiting, difficulty breathing, cramps and spasms. Though Irukandji syndrome usually isn't life threatening, two people who were stung in the Great Barrier Reef in 2002 died from severe Irukandji-related hypertension.
Previously, only two jellyfish species from Western Australia were known to cause Irukandji syndrome. The discovery of the two new species brings the total number of Irukandji jellies worldwide to 16. [See Amazing Photos of Jellyfish Swarms]
Research scientist Lisa-ann Gershwin, who is director of the Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Services, described the new box jellyfish, or cubozoans, last month in the Records of the Western Australian Museum.
One of the newly identified creatures sports a clear, barrel-shaped body that is thick, warty and surprising large. Found in the Shark Bay and Ningaloo Reef regions, it's called Keesingia gigas. The name Keesingia for the new genus is a nod to the biologist John Keesing, who provided the first example of the creature, scooping up an immature specimen with a hand-held net in May 2012; gigas is Latin for "giant," referring to the animal's impressive size. While most Irukandji jellies are tiny and practically undetectable, adults of this species have a "bell" (the umbrella-shaped part of the body that doesn't include the tentacles) that measures 20 inches (50 centimeters) long.
There's one thing about this species that Gershwin said was "absolutely puzzling": So far, the jellyfish has only been photographed and collected without tentacles. Some jellyfish are tentacle-less and they've evolved other ways to catch food. But all known cubozoans have tentacles that they rely on to capture food, Gershwin said.
However strange it seems now, Gershwin thinks the answer to this riddle will probably turn out to be quite mundane.
"We still have so few photos and specimens at this point that it is still within the range of 'just coincidence'" that delicate tentacles have been broken off in all cases, Gershwin told Live Science in an email. Or, perhaps, the tentacles are so fine as to have been easily overlooked.
Two reported of encounters with K. gigas resulted in symptoms consistent with Irukandji syndrome, Gershwin wrote. Though this jellyfish is painful to the touch for humans, other creatures seem to be able to get cozy with K. gigas without any problems. Three small leatherjacket fish were found living inside the holotype jellyfish's umbrella.
The other new species belongs to the already-known Malo genus. Its name, Malo bella, is a tribute to the creature's bell-like shape, its beauty and the Montebello Islands in Western Australia, where the species was first found, Gershwin wrote.
Compared with K. gigas, this critter looks a lot more like the tiny Irukandji jellies that scientists have already described. Its bell is less than an inch long (19 millimeters). And though it has not yet been associated with any particular stings, its close relationship to the venomous Malo kingi and Malo maximus suggests it is highly toxic to humans.
Little is known about the ecology of these two species. Learning more about the jellyfish's life history and how they behave could help scientists manage their potential impacts on public safety, Gershwin wrote. Each year, an estimated 50 to 100 people are hospitalized for Irukandji syndrome in Australia. Though only two deaths have been reported (the cases from 2002), researchers suspect drowning or heart attacks may have masked several other deaths related to Irukandji symptoms.
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