bone-eaters

lammergeiers, or bearded vultures, are the only birds in the world whose diet subsists mostly of bones. they’re enormous–with a wingspan between 7-9 feet (to compare, condors have the largest wingspan in the world, 10 feet). on top of all of it, they look kind of like dragons.

these metal birds can swallow bones whole, because their super-acidic stomach can digest whole bones in about 24 hours. for bones that are too large to eat whole, bearded vultures have developed the special tactic dropping bones from the sky, which conveniently breaks them into edible pieces.

bone-eating is such a useful adaption. lammergeiers usually live alongside other giant predators or scavengers, such as griffon vultures or golden eages, and eat the bones that the other top-level carnivores leave behind. additionally, they have no need to cache meat as some animals do; bones don’t rot, nor are they of value to other predators.


(skip to 3:00 or so if you’re impatient for lammergeier action)

to be fair, these vultures don’t eat only bones, but bone matter does make up about three-quarters of their diet. when they eat flesh, they generally go after tortoises, hares, hyraxen, etc. supposedly they’ve even carried off children, but that seems a bit sensational at best.

lammergeiers aren’t classified as a threatened species, but since there are something like 2.000-10,000 left in the wild (and their range is enormous, from northern europe to south africa, to china!), let’s pause for a moment and appreciate how beautiful & terrifying this giant bird is! they’re like dinosaurs, or the dancing headless things in the labyrinth, or skeksis…nightmare beauty bird indeed.

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loligo opalescens

the name ‘loligo opalescens’ has been stuck in my brain for weeks, ever since one of my friends texted it to me. it’s just such an appealing combination of syllables that it keeps rolling around. loligoopalescens loligoopalescens loligoopalescens loligoopalescens

like many squid, loligos have cromatophores in their skin, which allow them to change colours, for camouflage and communication (hence the second part of their latin name, opalescens, which in english reads ‘opalescent’).

loligo hatchling (or ‘paralarva’, if you want to sound smart)

this video shows cromatophores up close, and although this video is of a loligo opalescens cousin, loligo pealeii, they are so closely related that they can be misidentified as one another, so it’s suitable to show you the cromatophores functioning up close.

these squid are quite small–their mantle length is generally 12-19 cm in length, with total length rarely exceeding 30 cm.  they also have  peculiar habit when mating that makes them easy prey for fishermen: they gather in huge groups near the surface of the water.  during the night, fishermen shine lights at the water, which lures the squid right into their nets.  if you have ever eaten calamari,  you have eaten these guys (one of their common names is ‘california market squid’). seems like kind of a shame, because squids are pretty smart, as far as invertebrates go, and their skin-colour-shifts are s incredible!!  buuuut what do i know, i am just a vegan does not eat animals because she loves them…

this is how loligo gets doooown

anyway, more about sweet little loligo!  they have ink, just like other squid.  loligo also has VENOM with which it paralyzes its victims before killing them by removing their heads.  kiind of metal, right?

three gross facts:

– loligo opalescens egg clusters can take up acres of the sea floor, because females are more likely to deposit their eggs in spots where there are already eggs.  this is gross, because eggs. just, yuck.

– the eggs are placed in a sheath, which can be several metres long.  ‘sheath’ is one of those words, along with ‘moist’ and ‘clutch’ that i just don’t want to hear or read, ever.

– loligos are cannibalistic!  yes, this is common in the animal kingdom, and even occurs in humans, but god damn, it is still off-putting.