Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Live Giant Squid Captured!


TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- A Japanese research team has succeeded in filming a giant squid live -- possibly for the first time -- and says the elusive creatures may be more plentiful than previously believed, a researcher said Friday.

The research team, led by Tsunemi Kubodera, videotaped the giant squid at the surface as they captured it off the Ogasawara Islands south of Tokyo earlier this month. The squid, which measured about 24-feet long, died while it was being caught.

"We believe this is the first time anyone has successfully filmed a giant squid that was alive," said Kubodera, a researcher with Japan's National Science Museum. "Now that we know where to find them, we think we can be more successful at studying them in the future." (Watch researchers pull in giant squid Video)

Giant squid, formally called Architeuthis, are the world's largest invertebrates. Because they live in the depths of the ocean, they have long been wrapped in mystery and embellished in the folklore of sea monsters, appearing in ancient Greek myths or attacking the submarine in Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

The captured squid was caught using a smaller type of squid as bait, and was pulled into a research vessel "after putting up quite a fight," Kubodera said.

"It took two people to pull it in, and they lost it once, which might have caused the injuries that killed it," he said.

The squid, a female, was not fully grown and was relatively small by giant squid standards. The longest one on record is 60 feet, he said.

Kubodera and his team had been conducting expeditions in the area for about three years before they succeeded in making their first contact two years ago. Last year, the team succeeded in taking a series of still photos of one of the animals in its natural habitat -- also believed to have been a first.

Until the team's successes, most scientific study of the creatures had to rely on partial specimens that had washed ashore dead or dying or had been found in the digestive systems of whales or very large sharks.

Kubodera said whales led his team to the squid. By finding an area where whales fed, he believed he could find the animals. He also said that, judging by the number of whales that feed on them, there may be many more giant squid than previously thought.

"Sperm whales need from 500 to 1,000 kilograms (1,100-2,200 pounds) of food every day," he said. "There are believed to be 200,000 or so of them, and that would suggest there are quite a few squid for them to be feeding on. I don't think they are in danger of extinction at all."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Komodo Dragon Christmas Miracle!

( A nativity story with a twist is playing out this Christmas in two zoos in the UK. At Chester Zoo, a Komodo dragon named Flora awaits the birth of eight babies, and another four dragons have already hatched at London Zoo — each and every one the product of a virgin conception.
The miraculous births, which are all males, could be a product of keeping this threatened species in captivity, say researchers, and could have implications for the continued health of zoo-bound populations. Parthenogenesis — reproduction without the need for fertilization by a male — is rare in vertebrates. Some animals, including several lizard species, are known to be capable of it. But Komodo dragons have never been seen to breed like this before. Yet in the space of 8 months, two of the three Komodo dragons in the UK have reproduced parthenogenetically. Zoo keepers knew something strange was happening because the female dragons had not been around any males within the period during which they must have become pregnant. To confirm the dragons' parentage, a team led by Phillip Watts at the University of Liverpool used genetic fingerprinting.
Their results, published in Nature this week, show that the dragon sons are not direct clones of their mothers, but that the babies' DNA contains half as much variation as is present in the mother's genes, indicating that it represents a doubling up of one set of mother's chromosomes. The results show that no other Komodo dragon could have been involved in their conception.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Multi Headed Reptile Fossil Found In China!


French and Chinese paleontologists have identified the fossil of a two-headed reptile from a species that lived in what is now China nearly 150 million years ago.

The specimen was recovered from the Yixian Formation, a treasure trove of fossils in northeastern China that has previously yielded the remains of early birds and feathered dinosaurs.

Only seven centimetres (3.5 inches) long, the tiny skeleton from the Early Cretaceous shows an embryonic or newborn reptile with two heads and two necks.

It was a species of long-necked aquatic lizard that was more than a metre (3.25 feet) when fully grown.

Axial bifurcation -- two-headedness -- is a well-known developmental flaw among reptile species today such as turtles and snakes.

The paper appears on Wednesday in Biology Letters, published by the Royal Society, which is Britain's de-facto academy of sciences.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Naked Crack Head Caught By Giant Alligator!

(Seattle Times) ORLANDO, Fla. — Carlos Mayid couldn't see Adrian Apgar being attacked by an alligator early Wednesday, but he could hear him.

With his cellphone in hand and a sheriff's operator on the line, Mayid left his home near Lake Parker, Fla., and walked down his street in the predawn darkness toward the screams of a man who was fighting for his life in the water.

In the recording of a dramatic 911 call released Thursday (HEAR THE 911 CALL!), Mayid is heard breathing heavily and walking through wet grass as Apgar's repeated cries grow louder. Finally, he got close enough to yell back.

"Hey. What's up? What do you need?" Mayid hollered.

"A gator's got me," Apgar replied, his voice faint in the background.

Mayid's call shortly after 4 a.m. sent four Polk County, Fla., deputies racing to the 2,150-acre lake just outside Lakeland, Fla., where they jumped into the water and wrenched Apgar's arm from the gator's mouth. The 45-year-old victim, who told authorities he'd passed out nude on the shore after smoking crack cocaine, was rushed to a hospital in critical condition.

Later Wednesday, state wildlife authorities trapped and killed a nearly 12-foot-long alligator thought to be the one that attacked Apgar.

Mayid's call was picked up by operator Josh Fulman.

"There's a guy screaming bloody murder over here, 'Help,' in front of the Moose Lodge," Mayid said. He could not be reached Thursday to elaborate on his experience.

"I can hear him from inside my house ... He's screaming, 'Help, help, help, help.' "

A dramatic back-and-forth followed, with Mayid serving as the middleman between victim and operator.

Fulman told Mayid that deputies were on the way, but there was little the two could do. Meanwhile, Apgar kept screaming.

Replying to a plea from Apgar that was inaudible on the tape, Mayid said, "I ain't going over there. I can't go in there anyway. ... I don't know how the hell they're going to get through."

Mayid ended up getting close enough to ask Apgar where the alligator had bitten him, yelling, "Help is on the way, help is on the way."

About five minutes into the nearly eight-minute call, the operator suggested Mayid tell Apgar to punch the alligator. "I don't know if it's true, but if you punch him in the nose ... it may let him go," Fulman said.

Mayid relayed the message and immediately came back with Apgar's response: "Too big."

Said Mayid, "He says he needs a gun."

Polk County deputies arrived about two minutes later and soon reached Apgar in the water. He was slumped over in the alligator's jaws in chest-deep water on the east side of Lake Parker.

After a tug-of-war with the gator, three deputies and their sergeant were able to rescue Apgar and carry him to shore. The rescue took about 20 minutes.

Apgar told the deputies he had been smoking crack cocaine and fell asleep on the shore when the alligator attacked him. The area includes a strip of land with a picnic table.

But local and state officials said Thursday they don't know if Apgar was on the land or already in the water when he was attacked.

Sheriff's officials have said Apgar, 45, suffered a broken right arm. His left arm was nearly severed, and he had bites to his buttocks and leg. He underwent surgery Wednesday afternoon at Lakeland Regional Medical Center.

A hospital spokeswoman said Apgar was alive Thursday, but a family member asked that his specific condition not be released and would not talk to reporters.

Gary Morse, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the 11-foot, 9-inch, 600-pound alligator trapped several hours after the attack had been euthanized, a necessary step to protect the public.

The alligator was "much larger" than average, Morse said.

Investigators aren't positive the captured alligator was the one that attacked Apgar, but they think it is the culprit because it is the only gator feeding in that area.

(the Fright Zone would like to thank Rick for the tip on this one)