You’ve probably heard of the Tasmanian devil. It’s a noisy, aggressive creature that is sometimes seen spinning around in cartoons. It also has the distinction of being the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial. But a century ago, the Tasmanian devil didn’t hold that title – it was beaten in size by another Tasmanian resident, the thylacine.
The dodo has the unenviable distinction of being a byword for something both dead and stupid. Many people view this big-beaked flightless fruit-eater as an unfortunate evolutionary mistake – a creature so fat, so painfully unintelligent, so useless, that it has no option but to die out. Perhaps because it was apparently so unfit for survival, its extinction seems somewhat acceptable to us, maybe even deserving.
If you happen to be in the ancient Caledonian pinewoods of the Scottish Highlands during April or May, you may hear a very unusual sound. It is often likened to a champagne cork popping and the liquid being poured, but in reverse – starting with the liquid gurgle and ending with the ‘pop’ (listen to it here). These bizarre noises are the spring display calls of the male capercaillie, one of our most impressive and dramatic birds.
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may know that for the past six months, we’ve been posting Freaky Frog articles every fortnight. During our journey through the weird and wonderful world of these amazing amphibians, we’ve looked at the delightfully named ‘scrotum frog’, we’ve examined the remarkable defensive mechanism of the ‘wolverine frog’, and we’ve marvelled at the cryogenic wood frog. There have been frogs that brood their young in their vocal sacs. Toads that brood their young inside pockets in their own skin. Frogs with moustaches. Frogs that practise ‘reproductive necrophilia’.
A while back, The Nature Nook looked at the so-called ‘African unicorn’, the okapi. Half-believed but never seen, surrounded by legend and mystique, this highly secretive relative of the giraffe was only officially described by science at the start of the 20th century, long after most other large animals had been discovered and catalogued. A hundred and twenty years later, the okapi remains rare and elusive, but it can at least be seen in several zoos around the world and we now know much more about it.