Friday, August 28, 2009

Carnivorous Plant Dines on Jungle Rats

Photo: Redfern Natural History via CNN
There's an old saying that if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door. Well it looks like mother nature has already made one. Meet Nepenthes attenboroughii the a species of Pitcher Plant, a carnivorous plant. This one eats rodents, namely jungle rats. As you can see in the photo below, they're called pitcher plants because of the vase-shaped vessel that makes up the bulk of the plant. This acts as mouth and stomach all-in-one.

Now, I'm sure all of you have at least seen a Venus Fly Trap at one point. Maybe at a conservatory or zoo, or even on TV. And we've all seen carnivorous plants in science fiction. Heck even Roadblock from G.I. Joe has had one run in too many with voracious flora.

But this isn't sci-fi, it's a real meat-eating plant! CNN takes us to the Philippines to where the plant was discovered:McPherson told CNN:
"Around the mouth of the pitcher are secretions of nectar which attracts insects and small animals. The rim has lots of waxy downward-pointing ridges which help prey fall directly into the pitcher.

"The pitchers are half full of a liquid consisting of acids and enzymes which help break down its prey."

The insectivorous, sometimes carnivorous diet is crucial for the plants' survival says McPherson.

"These plants grow in really harsh areas where soil quality is very poor -- often pure gravel or sand. Catching insects allows the plant to augment nutrients that it otherwise wouldn't have access to."

Still not grossed out? Here's a video of the plant feasting on a rat. And a slightly longer clip with narration explaining the deviousness of said plant. Enjoy!

The plant is named for famed broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough who although had nothing to do with it's discovery, was deemed an all-around, nice enough guy to name a deadly flesh eating plant after. Although he did do a segment on Venus Fly Traps, so that would seem to make sense.


Venician Vampire Grave Unveiled ...MUHAHAHAHA!

Photo: Matteo Borrini / AP via MSNBC
I need to do a little catching up on some older stories. This first one is about a suspected "vampire" grave discovered at a dig site outside of Venice, Italy. A woman's well-preserved skeleton was found with a brick in her mouth--which apparently is how you keep vampires from waking up and biting you (how come we never saw THAT in a movie?).

In addition to being a decidely old-school method of beating the devil, it was also decidely dumb because--anyone, anyone? That's right! There's no such thing as vampires!

But that doesn't mean there wasn't good reason to believe that the dead might raise. After all, there was this (very circumstantial) eye-witness evidence. MSNBC drives a stake through it:
During epidemics, mass graves were often reopened to bury fresh corpses and diggers would chance upon older bodies that were bloated, with blood seeping out of their mouth and with an inexplicable hole in the shroud used to cover their face.

"These characteristics are all tied to the decomposition of bodies," Borrini said. "But they saw a fat, dead person, full of blood and with a hole in the shroud, so they would say: 'This guy is alive, he's drinking blood and eating his shroud.'"

Thanks to modern science we know that the bloating occurs from gas building up in corpses (yuck!). In any case, why let science ruin it--she was obviously a bloodsucker who deserved a brick sandwich, right?



Friday, August 14, 2009

Zombie Ants Controlled by Fungal Overlord!

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Huh? This story is too weird for me to even attempt to summarize, so I'll just go straight to the MSNBC highlight:
In a bizarre parasitic death sentence, a fungus turns carpenter ants into the walking dead and gets them to die in a spot that's perfect for the fungus to grow and reproduce.
Once infected by the fungus, an ant is compelled to climb down from the canopy to the low leaves, where it clamps down with its mandibles just before it dies.

"The fungus accurately manipulates the infected ants into dying where the parasite prefers to be, by making the ants travel a long way during the last hours of their lives," said study leader David P. Hughes of Harvard University.

Yeah, just plain weird, right? Anyway, to learn more about the evil fungus and it's insectoid automatons, read on...

Now if only we could get the fungus to get rid of these bugs, I'd feel safer!

Cave Complex Discovered Under Giza Pyramids!

Image copyright Andrew Collins, 2009 via Discovery News
This is REALLY cool news--a British expolorer claims to have discovered a series of caves and tunnels under the pyramids at Giza! The place is crawling with venomous spiders and bats! It's like real-life dungeon crawl!

From Discovery News:
"There is untouched archaeology down there, as well as a delicate ecosystem that includes colonies of bats and a species of spider which we have tentatively identified as the white widow," British explorer Andrew Collins said.

Collins, who will detail his findings in the book "Beneath the Pyramids" to be published in September, tracked down the entrance to the mysterious underworld after reading the forgotten memoirs of a 19th century diplomat and explorer.

"In his memoirs, British consul general Henry Salt recounts how he investigated an underground system of 'catacombs' at Giza in 1817 in the company of Italian explorer Giovanni Caviglia," Collins said.

If true, this is seriously one of the more exciting archeological finds I've heard of--like a real life Indiana Jones adventure!

Image courtesy Wikipedia

More from Discovery News...