Image: Hans Hillewaert
Japanese Spider Crab
Life, in all its varied forms, can be described in many ways. ‘Astounding’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘majestic’ are just a few of the words that spring to mind while looking at some of our planet’s living things. Yet watch a spider scuttle across a desk and words like ‘horrific’ and ‘terrifying’ suddenly feel far more apt. But what about those times when you come across a life form so strange-looking it seems to have come from a different planet altogether? Come with us on a whistle-stop tour of some of Mother Nature’s more ‘out-there’ creations.
Image: Steve Jurvetson
6. The Eagle Ray
The sea has long held a fascination for us. Maybe this is because its vast, unfathomable depths mean we will never be able to explore it all. Or perhaps it’s because every time enthusiasts do go underwater, there are so many things both strange and beautiful to be seen. Among these bizarre discoveries are some striking yet very odd-looking rays.
The ray family of fish glide through the water in the same way as a bird flies through the air. While rays normally move along the bottom of the ocean, this particular specimen, the eagle ray, travels in schools in the open water. These rays feed on other fish, octopi and clams, amongst other things, and, while they are usually shy, they are considered a potential threat to divers due to their venomous tail spines. They are beautiful, strange and dangerous all at once.
5. The Harlequin Shrimp
Another underwater oddity, the coral reef-dwelling harlequin shrimp is a colourful and dangerous predator. Unlike many other creatures – whether on sea or land – when a male meets a female shrimp they will become a monogamous pair for life. Although they are only small (reaching an average size of 2-5cm in length) they can be very territorial and vicious.
In the ultimate demonstration of Nature’s cruelty, a mated pair of harlequin shrimp will co-operate when it comes to preying on their favourite food, starfish. When a starfish is found the couple will work together to prize its arms from the rock it’s anchored to, and turn it over. They will then begin to feast, starting with its delicate feet and working inwards. Sometimes they will take it into a dark nook or cranny and continue to feed on it for days, or indeed keep it alive deliberately in order to feed on it later.