Thanks for visiting my blog! MudBay World Wonders was created as an addendum to MudBay Musings as my personal way of celebrating God's magnificent creation by posting interesting stories and facts about our complex world.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Answer to last week's "What Am I?"

 Photo 1:  Hmmmm..... frog or lizard skin??? nope....

For the answer to last week's  "What Am I ?"  riddle,  first I'll add a few more images - that way, you'll be awestruck by the time you reach the answer!  Seriously, these beautiful images amazed me - I think you'll see the beauty in them as well.

Photo 2:  Perhaps the surface of a species of cactus?..... nope.

Photo 3:  A mole or freckle? A spot of rust ....... nope.  Spot on a leaf?.... nope.

Photo 4:  ANYthing derived from plant or animal? (Mold? Fridge left-overs?) ...nope.  
Well, that leaves mineral, doesn't it?  Think even Bigger...

Photo 5  looks a bit like slate...

Photo 6 resembles picture agate...

Photo 7  resembles an explosion of brownies.
However, ALL of these beautiful images are of scenes on Mars

Photo 1:  Translucent carbon dioxide ice formations dot the terrain of Mars' north polar region, as seen by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.  Sunlight can shine through the ice to warm the surface below, creating unusual shapes as the ice thaws.

Photo2:  In the Martian winter, a layer of carbon dioxide ice covers the sand dunes of the Red Planet's north polar region.  The ice dissipates in spring, and this image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows how streaks of dark sand have been carried below the ice layer to form fan-shaped deposits on top of the seasonal ice.

Photo 3:  "Pingos" are soil-covered mounds of ground ice.  Geologists suspect that pingos may exist in this polygonal terrain on Mars, imaged by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

  Photo 4:  An image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows how Mars' seasonal southern cap of carbon dioxide ice erodes during the Martian spring. Here, the radial troughs form a spidery starburst pattern.  The troughs are believed to be formed by gas flowing beneath the seasonal ice to openings where the gas escapes, carrying the dust from the surface below.  The dust falls to the surface of the ice in fan-shaped deposits.

Photo 5:  Different layers of rock stand out in this color-coded picture of the Martian region known as Arabia Terra; image taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.  Scientists think the picture may show how different beds of sediment were laid down during climatic cycles on Mars.

Photo 6:  Victoria Crater, seen here in an image acquired by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, was explored by NASA's Opportunity rover for more than two years.  In high-resolution versions of this oblique image, the rover's tracks can be seen along the left rim of the crater.  Sand dunes create the striking pattern on the crater's floor.

Photo 7:  A Martian rock named "Chocolate Hills" is a prominent feature in this enhanced-color image taken by NASA's robotic Opportunity rover.  The rock has a thick, dark-colored coating that is intriguing to scientists; many of the rocks in the surrounding area have the same mysterious dark substance.  The rover sampled the "chocolate" with the microscopic imager and spectrometer mounted on its robotic arm.

All above images copyrighted by NASA; information  provided by NASA and written/published by MSNBC.

Thanks for stopping by my blog and exploring the Universe with me!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What Am I ?

What Am I? 
Another brain-teaser!   Any guesses?

These images just might surprise you... will reveal the awesome answer next week!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rhinopias Scorpionfish

 Eschmeyer's scorpionfish (Rhinopias eschmeyeri)
Photograph by Jens Peterson, taken at Lembeh Straits, North Sulawesi, Indonesia
Licensed by Wikipedia Commons under GNU Free Documentation License

Beautiful and unusual Rhinopias scorpionfish, sometimes also known as popeyed scorpionfish, live in the Indian and Western Pacific oceans mostly on rubble, sand and small coral reefs.  They may vary considerably in color and design of appendages depending on their environment.  It is widely accepted that specimins found in rocky, algae rich waters are covered in weed-like appendages, and those found in deeper soft-bottomed waters containing soft corals and sponges are more smooth in appearance. 

Merlet's scorpionfish (Rhinopias aphanes)
 Photograph by David Doubilet, copyright National Geographic

Colors can range widely, including dark red, purple, lavender, pink, green, brown, yellow and black.  They have deep laterally compressed bodies with a distinctive head shape, high-set eyes and and upturned mouth.

Weedy scorpionfish (Rhinopias frondosa), yellow variant
copyright Teresa Zubi

Their specialized camouflage allows them to remain virtually undetected by both predators and prey, and mimicking swaying seaweed increases their ability to blend in with their environment.  They rarely swim as other fish do but instead crawl along the sea bottom on their pectoral and pelvic fins.  For added protection, the Rhinopias scorpionfish is armed with venomous spines.

Weedy scorpionfish (Rhinopias frondosa)
Photograph by Jens Peterson, taken at Lembeh Straits, North Sulawesi, Indonesia
Licensed by Wikipedia Commons under GNU Free Documentation License

There are 8 species of Rhinopias. The 3 most common species are:
  • Rhinopias aphanes - Lacy or Merlet's scorpionfish
  • Rhinopias frondosa - Weedy scorpionfish
  • Rhinopias eschmeyeri - Eschmeyer's scorpionfish

Lacy scorpionfish (Rhinopias aphanes)
copyright Dave Harasti

 Cool Rhinopias Scorpionfish Facts:
  • Found in warm waters along coral reefs in depths of 13-90 meters
  • Mostly nocturnal ambush hunters, using camouflage to their advantage
  • May remain in the same location for weeks or months at a time waiting to ambush prey
  • Feed on ghost shrimp, small fish, octopus and other small reef animals
  • Rarely swim, but instead move along the sea bottom propelling themselves with their fins
  • Reach a maximum size in length of spproximately 25cm 
  • Can live to be more than 20 years old

Weedy Scorpionfish (Rhinopias frondosa), purple variant
Photograph by K. Leonard, copyright Aquarium of the Pacific
Photographed at the Tropical Pacific Gallery

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Superb Lyrebird

photo of male Superb Lyrebird: copyright Hans and Judy Beste

Lyrebirds are ground-dwelling Australian birds, most noted for their ability to mimic natural and artificial sounds from their environment.  A lyrebird's call is a mixture of its own song and imitations of other songs and sounds. The bird's syrinx (vocal organ) is the most complexly-muscled of any songbird, giving the lyrebird the extraordinary ability to imitate almost any sound, including: various songbirds, flocks of birds, musical instruments, chainsaws, jackhammers, machinery of all kinds, car engines, car alarms, explosions, rifle-shots, fire alarms, camera shutters and motor drives, barking dogs, crying babies and the human voice. There are two species of lyrebird: the Superb Lyrebird and Albert's Lyrebird.

photo of male Superb Lyrebird: copyright Hans and Judy Beste

Cool Superb Lyrebird Facts:
  • The lyrebird is able to carry on two tunes at the same time
  • Males construct and maintain an open area mound in dense bush, on which they sing and dance in courtship
  • Females build an untidy nest close to the ground in a moist gully
  • Females lay a single egg and incubate the egg for over 50 days
  • When in danger, lyrebirds run rather than fly due to their awkwardness in flight
  • Lyrebirds have been seen to take refuge in wombat burrows, and firefighters taking shelter in mine shafts during bush fires have been joined by lyrebirds
  • A group of lyrebirds is called a musket
  • When in display, the male lyrebird's tail is carried up over his back as a shimmering fan, not in an upright lyre-shaped fashion
  • The female lyrebird lacks the elaborate plumes of highly modified tail feathers
photo of male Superb Lyrebird: Wikipedia Commons

Amazing Video Links:
For a video of "Chook" at the Adelaide Zoo imitating construction work, click here .
For a video of David Attenborough observing a lyrebird's repertoire in the wild, click here.

photo of male Superb Lyrebird: copyright by Ryan Wick, Creative Commons

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Answer to last week's "What Am I?"


In follow-up to last week's  "What Am I?"  post, congratulations to Dolores for correctly identifying the above image.  Stumped?  Below are a few more examples of these tiny objects' possible formations.  As you scroll down, I promise you'll be amazed! 

These incredible snowflake images were obtained by using a low temperature scanning electron microscope.

All of the above images were taken by and belong to the  "Electron and Confocal Microscopy Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture," located at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in the Electron Microscopy Unit, Bld. 465, Beltsville, Maryland 20705.

Visit their website here for a wealth of images, drawings and information.

Friday, May 7, 2010

An Unusual Partnership

Admittedly an arachnophobe, posting this story is a big stretch for me... but in the interest of art and science, sacrifices must be made.  What these artisans were able to achieve, in partnership with the unique abilities of more than a million spiders, is utterly astounding.

Have you ever wondered what could happen if... a textile manufacturer, a native artistic heritage sponsor, a researcher, dozens of spider wranglers, and weaving technicians and artisans all joined forces in Madagascar for four years... with more than a million spiders... all in order to create a unique textile?  Can you imagine even imagining such a feat?

Simon Peers and Nicholas Godlay and their dedicated team recently created such a textile.  After a bit of dreaming, more than a bit of research, and help and enthusiasm from friends and colleagues, Godley and Peers joined forces to begin the massive but painstaking mission of creating a unique textile, fabricated entirely from golden orb spider silk!

Collecting spider silk, as you might imagine, is a complicated task... requiring foremost the collection of.... (shudder!)... spiders!  Before dawn each morning, 70 to 80 brave spider wranglers gleaned the town and countryside, collecting up to 3,000 of the large spiders with the aid of long, bamboo poles.  The spiders were carefully boxed and transported to the spinning room, where they were gently restrained and milked in groups of 24 spiders at a time.  Each spider produced up to several hundred yards of saffron-hued silk during the five to ten minute milking session, after which she was returned to her box for same-day release back into the wild.

Immediately after milking each group of spiders, the 24 resultant strands were twisted together and wound onto a bobbin.  Four of the 24-strand fibers were later twisted together to create a single textile thread.  Collecting enough spider silk to begin weaving took nearly three years.

Golden Orb Spider Facts:
  • Only the female spider spins a web, and she only does so during the rainy season.
  • This species of spider is renowned for its huge, lustrous golden webs, which are often strung between telephone and electrical wires.
  • Unlike silkworms, the spiders cannot be raised in captivity due to their cannibalistic nature; and also unlike silkworms, they bite!
  • Female adult spiders can reach the size of a small adult human hand.
  • It takes about a week for the spider to regenerate her store of silk.

Amazing Project Numbers:
  • Only 24 spiders were milked at a time, each gently restrained individually in the antique "silker" machine replica.
  • Each strand of thread is composed of 96 individual filaments of spider silk.
  • 995,000 strands of silk were used in this textile.
  • It takes 14,000 spiders to produce one ounce of spider silk.
  • 1,063,000 spiders were individually milked for this project.
  • The unique textile measures  11 feet by 4 feet in size.
  • The textile took 4 years and hundreds of thousands of man-hours to produce, requiring daily efforts of 70 spider handlers and 12 milking technicians.

Tapestry Info:
  • The lustrous, golden color of the tapestry is the spider silk's natural color.
  • Spider silk is stronger than steel by weight, three times stronger than Kevlar, 80 times thinner than a human hair, and it's elasticity enables it to stretch up to 40 times its resting strength without breaking.
  • The thread never broke during the weaving process.
  • The tapestry is slightly sticky and as soft as cashmere.
  • The entire hand-woven textile weighs just over two and a half pounds.
  • The elaborate geometric, floral and bird brocade design is based on antique designs reserved for Madagascar royalty.
  • The taut threads during weaving sounded like the pinging of metallic guitar strings.
  • The tapestry is the only known example of a textile made entirely of spider silk.
The Spider's Unique Secret:
During silk production, an amazing transformation takes place within the spider's body - the silk begins as liquid protein produced by gland in the spider's abdomen, then through their spinnerets spiders apply a physical force to rearrange the protein's molecular structure and turn it into solid silk.  So far, the complete details of the process remain remain the spiders' alone, although scientists continue to attempt to replicate the spiders' unique creation.  (For information regarding current experiments to manufacture spider silk proteins, click here.)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What Am I ?

Here's a bit of a brain-teaser... this picture amazed me, and even now knowing what it is, it still amazes me!  Any ideas on what it could be?  I'll post the answer next week.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Vampyroteuthis infernalis

Hmmm....... a guessing game.  What am I? 
A carnivorous plant?
A newly discovered exotic from the rainforest?

Night-blooming cactus?  ????

Now, just imagine you are controlling an ROV, exploring the ocean depths.  Down, down, down it sinks, to depths of 2,000 or even 3,000 feet.  Suddenly, within view swims the most wondrous, Gothic-looking creature you have ever seen - Vampyroteuthis infernalis, which translated means "vampire squid from hell."

This diminutive marvel, reaching approximately 6 inches in length when full grown, is one of the ocean's most unique, well-adapted deep sea creatures.

Although commonly called the Vampire Squid, this cephalopod is neither a squid nor an octopus, although it shares common characteristics with both.  The vampire squid is an ancient species, and is the only surviving member of the order Vampyromorphida.

When threatened, the vampire squid can flip its webbing completely over its body to protect itself from predators.  This "pumpkin" or "pineapple" posture displays menacing-looking soft spines as well as protects and completely covers Vampyroteuthis' "real" eyes.

Light-emitting "decoy" eyes are also made visible to predators as a secondary defense mechanism.  Vampyroteuthis is able to regulate the diameter of these "lights"  - when closing them down, predators are left with the illusion that the intelligent creature has quickly fled to distances beyond their reach.  If that also fails, Vampyroteuthis also has the ability to release a confusing cloud of bio-luminescent particles.  These defenses, combined with its capability of swimming two of its body lengths per second, enable it to survive the deep ocean depths.

For amazing video footage of this rare and marvelous creature, click here.

Cool Creature Facts:
  • Live at depths of between 300 - 3,000 feet
  • Prefer temperatures between 35 - 43 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Live and breathe normally in the oxygen minimum layer of the ocean where virtually no light penetrates
  • Bodies are covered with light-producing organs called photophores
  • Able to modulate the size and intensity of the photophores to create complex patterns to disorient predators and attract prey
  • Large fins at the top of its body (resembling ears) are their primary means of propulsion
  • Can also use jet propulsion to move by expelling water through a siphon jet located under the mantle
  • Have a very gelatinous form resembling a jellyfish
  • Have the largest eyes relative to body size of any animal; although only six inches in size, they have globular eyeballs about the size of a large dog
  • Have eight arms which are connected with a webbing of skin
  • Each arm is lined with single row of suction cups and rows of soft, fleshy spines knows as cirri
  • Have one pair of retractable sensory filaments
  • Have two ivory white, powerful beak-like jaws
  • Color ranges from jet black to red
  • Have a very low metabolic rate, enabling them to go for long periods of time without feeding 
For more information about this fascinating cephalopod, visit Wikipedia.