Baloo, the baby killer?

sloth bear with cub

Baloo, the Baby Killer?

I recently chanced upon an article from the Asian Geographic magazine which suggested the possibility of the adult male of the sloth bear, Melursus ursinus, to be a threat to the cubs of its own species. (Baloo from the Jungle Book, 2010) Now this is surprising revelation, as anyone who has seen the classic Disney film animation, The Jungle Book, would know that Baloo, the sloth bear in the movie, is portrayed as the alternative “mentor” to Mowgli, the man-cub, teaching him how to lead a carefree “slacker” lifestyle by living off the jungle. (The Jungle Book [1967 film]) The incongruity of Disney choosing an animal that could possibly have infanticidal tendencies as Mowgli’s mentor was apparent to me. I was intrigued to find out why animals, in particular the sloth bear, would kill their offspring.

Research shows that infanticide is common in the animal kingdom, and there are varying explanations for its occurrence. One main explanation is that the individuals responsible for infanticide benefit by gaining fitness through several sources that include: “(1) exploitation of the infant as a resource, (2) elimination of a competitor for resources, (3) increased maternal survival or lifetime reproductive success for either mother or father by elimination of an ill-timed, handicapped, or supernumerary infant, and, finally, (4) increased access for individuals of one sex for reproductive investment by the other sex at the expense of same-sex competitors.” The last source of benefit mentioned is used to explain sexually-selected infanticide (SSI), which is a common practice with bears. (Hrdy, 1979) There is little research available on SSI occurring amongst sloth bears, although it is well documented amongst other species such as brown bears (Ursus arctos) and polar bears (Ursus maritimus). (Stirling and Derocher, 1990)

In the magazine article, the female sloth bear tending to her cubs that the writer observed became very nervous upon the appearance of a male (which is typically 50 percent heavier than a female). She proceeded by rushing towards the male accompanied by “impressive roars”, a typical mock-charge to deter potential aggression. Considering that the female would probably be severely injured in a confrontation with the male, her counterstrategy to SSI might not be the best. Females of other bear species have been observed to counter male SSI behaviour by becoming sexually promiscuous, effectively mating with every male they chance upon, which would allow the males to mate with the females in the hope that the cubs would be spared. (Bellemain, Swenson and Taberlet, 2006)


“Baloo from the Jungle Book” by Axel Gomille. Asian Geographic , Vol. 72, 3/2010, pp. 32-35.

“The Jungle Book (1967 film)” in Wikipedia. URL: (Accessed on: 09 Mar 2010)

Hrdy, Sarah Blaffer, 1979. Infanticide among animals: A review, classification, and examination of the implications for the reproductive strategies of females. Ethology and Sociobiology, Vol. 1, Issue 1 (October 1979), pp. 13-40.

Ian Stirling and Andrew E. Derocher, 1990. Factors Affecting the Evolution and Behavioral Ecology of the Modern Bears. Bears: Their Biology and Management, Vol. 8 (1990), pp. 189-204.

Eva Bellemain, Jon E. Swenson and Pierre Taberlet, 2006. Mating Strategies in Relation to Sexually Selected Infanticide in a Non-Social Carnivore: the Brown Bear. Ethology,  Vol . 112, No. 3 (2006), pp. 238-246.

Nature’s Very Own Suicide Bombers

No,  they are not terrorists.

Some insects in the animal kingdom have been known to self-destruct, as a form of altruism to save their colonies or brethren, when harassed or pursued by a predator.  Below are some examples of such self-exploding insects.

Camponotus saundersi

Taken from Sanpokai, from flickr

This species of ant, sometimes known as Exploding Ants or Kamikaze Ants, is found in South-east Asia, more commonly in Malaysia.  The ants contain the toxic substance in their heads and in 2 large glands on the sides of their bodies, called mandibular glands, which are filled with poison.  Under threat, they will explode their head to spew the poison or rupture their bodies by squeezing their abdomen.  This causes the glands to break and spray the sticky poison in all directions to engulf the predators, immobilising them.

This is a self-defensive mechanism called autothysis, when the organism ruptures an organ that explodes its body and kills itself in the process (Maschwitz and Maschwitz, 1974).  Another insect that uses this method is the Globitermes sulphureus.

Globitermes sulphureus

Taken from:

This species of termite is also found in South-east Asia, mostly in Vietnam and Malaysia.  The picture above shows a soldier termite with rather obvious mandibles or pincer-like hooks.  Under threat or when faced by a predator, the soldier termites first captures the predator by its mandibles.  It then squeezes its abdomen and this ruptures the glands that contain a stick yellow substance that hardens after exposure to the air.  The toxic substance, when explodes out of the termite’s body, covers not just the victim but the termite as well. And this is how the termites die together with their victims.  The substance also contains a pheromone that alerts other soldier termites to the danger.  A pretty nifty defensive mechanism!

Acyrthosiphon pisum

Taken from Aphidman on flickr

This is a pea aphid.  The pea aphid is an agricultural pest and natural predators like lady bugs are often introduced to control its population.  According to Thomas Joiner in an interview with Discovery News, these insects will explode themselves,and in the process saving their brethren by scaring off the predator.  The explosion may even kill the predator.  The pea aphid has also been known to explode after being consumed by its predator.  However, not many details are known about the actual physical mechanism that causes the explosion.  But this creature is no stranger to suicide.  Pea aphids are also parasitic hosts for wasps.  Wasps lay eggs aphids and and the young wasps will feed on its host before killing it when it emerges.  This parasitic behaviour poses a danger for a population of pea aphids, and thus in an act of self-sacrifice, the infected aphid will throw itself to the ground to be consumed by its predators (Joiner & Van Orden, 2008).

So you see, suicide bombers and suicide, is not just a human thing.



Camponotus saundersi

1. (accessed 8th April 2010)

2.  (accessed 8th April 2010)

Globitermes sulphureus

1. (accessed 8th April 2010)

2. C. Bordereau, A. Robert, V. Van Tuyen and A. Peppuy,1997.  Suicidal defensive behaviour by frontal gland dehiscence in Globitermes sulphureus Haviland soldiers (Isoptera) (Abstract).  Insectes Sociaux, 44: 289– 296.  URL: (accessed 9th April 2010)

Acyrthosiphon Pisum

1. “Animal Suicide Sheds Light on Human Behavior” by Larry O’Hanlon.  Discovery News, 10th March 2010. URL: (accessed 8th April 2010)

2. (accessed 8th April 2010)

3. Joiner, Jr., Thomas E. & Van Orden, Kimberly A., 2008. The Interpersonal–Psychological Theory of Suicidal Behavior Indicates Specific and Crucial Psychotherapeutic Targets. International Journal of Cognitive Therapy, 1(1): 84.  URL: (accessed 8th April 2010)

Barnacle Goose: You “jump”, I jump

Barnacle Goose, Branta leucopsis.

Barnacle Goose, Branta leucopsis.

What would you do in order to survive?

For the young of the Barnacle Goose, Branta leocopsis, survival means jumping off a cliff within two days of hatching, a drop of fifteen to thirty feet below (Jourdain, 1922) to the jagged rocks that lie in wait.

In a bid to avoid predators, Barnacle Geese and other seabirds such as guillemots and kittiwakes build their nest on mountain cliffs and rocky crags (Ducks Unlimited) that “can be as high as 160 feet above the seashore” (oeillade, 2009) and are not easily accessible. This unusual location keeps away Arctic Foxes and polar bears which are their main predators, thereby providing a safe breeding ground and nesting site.

However, Barnacle Geese are strict vegetarians, and “food supply is rarely in the same area as the nest” (Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, 2008). The adult geese have no problems flying to a tundra nearby where food is abundant, but for the young hatchlings which are still unable to fly, they have to face one of their toughest challenges in life. This is because, as with all geese, the parents are unable to convey food to them (Jourdain, 1922) and cannot carry them down from the high cliff ledge in their beaks or on their backs. Hence, in order to feed, they have no choice but to literally take a big leap of faith.

Their feathery down and light weight helps to reduce the impact from the great fall. However, it does not end there. In the event that they do survive the fall, they still have to “continue their death-defying migration to the river at the foot of the cliff” ( in order to reach their source of food, a journey that is made all the more treacherous by the presence of predators. Parent geese would call out in an attempt to divert the predator’s attention from their vulnerable young, but many helpless young geese still fall prey to their predators.

On the bright side, many goslings do survive against all odds, despite this seemingly impossible “rite” of life *smiles*. This amazing feat of theirs earned them the number one spot on Animal Planet’s Most Extreme Daredevil episode, defeating the eagle, pelican, click beetle and bharal. The following is a heartwarming documentary on the Barnacle Geese from the series Nature. Enjoy!




Jourdain, F.C.R., 1922. “The Breeding Habits of the Barnacle Goose”. The Auk, Vol. 39, No. 2, pp. 166-171

Barnacle Goose Facts, Figures, Description and Photo”, article from Ducks Unlimited. Retrieved from

The Barnacle Goose”, article by oeillade (2009). Retrieved from

“Barnacle Goose”, article from Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. Retrieved from

“Barnacle Goose”, article from Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (2008). Retrieved from

“The Best of Nature – 25 Years”, summary of an episode from NATURE series. Retrieved from

“NATURE ‘The Best of Nature – 25 Years'” preview summary. Retrieved from

“The Most Extreme: Daredevils episode recap” on Retrieved from;recap


Branta leocopsis“. Submitted by Linnea Samila. Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 (Generic). Retrieved from


“Kingdom of the Ice Bear: The Land of Beyond” (1986). Narrated by George Page. Nature. Thirteen/WNET New York. Posted as “The Geese From Sparta” by xerocool101. Retrieved from

Smarter Than You Think: Bubble Ring Play of Dolphins

Recent studies suggest that dolphins and porpoises (belonging to the mammalian order of Cetacea) are amongst one of the most intelligent animals around[1], possibly coming in just behind us humans. Lori Marino, one of the world’s leading dolphin experts observed MRI scans carried out on Dolphins recently and have found an impressive brain-to-body ratio. She also observed that the dolphins have an especially large neocortex – the part of the brain used for higher-order thinking and for processing emotional information.[2] This finding is not peculiar and supports existing scholarship that have found dolphins to exhibit human-like skills such as self-recognition, the use of dolphin language, manipulation of tools, etc.

Dolphin @ Play

Dolphin @ Play (via chris-lh)

Perhaps, one of the most fascinating would be the phenomenon of bubble ring play of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Recently, this behaviour has fascinated many around the world as they exhibit the intelligent, amazing and playful nature of dolphins. They would blow a round ring of air through their blowholes and then play with it by pushing it around and swimming through it.

“For long seconds the dolphin regards its creation, from varying aspects and angles, with its vision and sonar. Seemingly making a judgment, the dolphin then quickly pulls a small silver doughnut from the larger structure, which collapses into small bubbles. She then ‘pushes’ the doughnut, which stays just inches ahead of her rostrum, perhaps 20 feet over a period of up to 10 seconds. Then, stopping again, she regards the twisting ring for a last time and bites it–causing it to collapse into a thousand tiny bubbles which head–as they should–for the water’s surface. After a few moments of reflection, she creates another.” [3](Don White, Creator of Project Delphis)

Dolphin Bubbles: An Amazing Behaviour (via SeaWorld Orlando Dolphin Cove)

As seen in the video, the dolphins would observe one another  and subsequently imitate and even improvise their bubble rings. Young dolphins are also observed to have learnt this behaviour from their mothers.[4] Although social learning amongst animals is not uncommon, it appears that dolphins are especially observant animals and seem to catch on behaviour and playful antics quickly, especially when they appear to be entertaining. As suggested by another study, although bottlenose dolphins create and manipulate these underwater bubble rings for play, they actually intentionally monitor the quality of their bubble rings and anticipate their actions during bubble ring play.[5] Suffice to say, dolphins are pretty serious about their play.

This discovery further affirms the fact that dolphins are much more intelligent than we think and they are not indifferent to their surroundings and circumstances. It is important we recognize that as “the scientific evidence on dolphin sensitivities reveals that they are vulnerable to trauma and suffering when forced to live in the confined context of marine parks,” Marino said. However, the paradox of discovery is that it breeds fascination, hence creating a demand. This may potentially lead to more dolphins being captured and held captive. At this point, it is important to also emphasize the importance of protecting dolphins from further human harm.

[1] Into the brains of whales Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 100, Issues 1-2, October 2006, Pages 103-116 Mark Peter Simmonds

[2] Viegas, J. (2010, January 22). Dolphins: Second-Smartest Animals? Retrieved from (accessed on 9 Apr 2010)

[3] White, D. (n.d.). Mystery of the Silver Rings. Retrieved from (accessed on 9 Apr 2010)

[4] Mercado III, E., Murray, S.O., Uyeyama, R.K., Pack, A.A., Herman, L.M., 1998. Memory for recent actions in the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus): repetition of arbitrary behaviours using an abstract rule. Anim. Learn. Behav.26 (2), 210–218.

[5] Bubble ring play of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus): Implications for cognition. McCowan, Brenda; Marino, Lori; Vance, Erik; Walke, Leah; Reiss, Diana Journal of Comparative Psychology. Vol 114(1), Mar 2000, 98-106. doi: 10.1037/0735-7036.114.1.98

Husbands on demand – Histiostoma Murchiei

Histiostoma Murchiei

Histiostoma Murchiei

Maybe you have heard about sex-switching species – frogs, shrimps, even tropical fish such as coral reef fish. These species manage to switch their genders from either male to female, or female to male. Key motivation behind this behavior is obvious – to maximize breeding. For example, under a environmental condition that, among 10 african reed frogs, there is one male frog and the other nine are female, apparently a bigger reward will be given to one female frog who decides to switch her sex to male. In addition it is also seen as an action of balancing the gender ratio in a group.

However, one species on earth is not jealous of this “gift”, not because there is never a shortage of males, but because they, the females,  create husbands from scratch all by themselves.

Here we are, looking at the extreme haplodiploid case of Histiostoma murchiei – a mite parasitic in the cocoons of earthworms. A lone female lays a certain of eggs to produce few haploid males who will later mate with her “within 3 or 4 days of being laid as eggs” – then die-off.  After that, the female would be able to lay many more eggs which are exclusively diploid, producing around 500 long-lived females – sounds weird to human, but true, these new baby girls are fathered by their dead brothers.

Histiostoma Murchiei is powerful at reproduction as they do not even need to be fertilized to lay eggs – known as parthenogenesis. In fact, despite the “dramatic incest act” of Histiostoma Murchiei,   Parthenogenesis is a perfectly normal trait which is also seen to occur in some other invertebrates such as aphids(greenflies), Daphnia(water fleas) and rotifers. Driven by nature, nurture or both, species gained such ability to successfully reproduce even under harsh circumstances such as the lack of male.

“Cruel” examples, judged from human’s perspective, among species are not hard to notice: Lover-killer – Black WidowHusband-eater – Mantis, Second child-abandoner Giant Panda….. However, we need to try to understand from these species’ point of view, thus reproduction is the big picture, and sacrifices are, sometimes, very necessary.


  3. A MITE PARASITIC IN THE COCOONS OF EARTHWORMS by James H. Oliver, JR. Department of Entomology, University of kansas, lawrence
  4. Wikipedia
  5. 10 craziest Animal behavior,

Clever Fish, really?

Fish in the oceans are really fascinating!  When I went scuba diving with my friends last year, I was totally intrigued by what I saw in the video clip below and got my dive master, Halbert, to film it to share with my friends who do not scuba dive.

Watch: Fish met current

Are all fish born with the natural ability to, know how not to swim against currents so that they do not waste their energy; instead remaining stationary until the currents weakens or change course before they start swimming into the direction they planned?  These are however just my wild guesses.

Fish are naturally born with a wide range of responses to relative motions.  The fluid properties of air and water enable fishes to orientate to flows in the water and this behaviour in water is termed rheotaxis and responses are termed rheotropism.  Fish detect currents directly by flow over the body surface or indirectly by other stimuli. Indirect responses are more common and occur in response to visual, tactile and inertial stimuli resulting from displacement of the fish by the current. Reactions to displacement of visual images are called optomotor reactions.

Some of the reasons why and how fishes react to flows in water:

1)     Fish show a number of hydrodynamic adaptations to life in currents. Morphological modifications are greatest in fish from torrential streams i.e. fresh water bodies.  This show extreme dorsoventral (which means the axis that passes through the back of the body and the abdomen) flattening and have specialized adhesive organs.  Unfortunately only in some fishes such as Dasyatidae i.e Rays in the picture below, to maneuver comfortably in currents. Other fish, however select areas of low velocity to continue swimming or decrease their buoyancy to try to find courses in the water where currents may not be so strong. 


(Photo from Ichthyology- Florida Museum of natural History)

2)  In the case of ‘average looking’ fish, report of an experiment done by James Liao of Harvard University and his colleagues.  Fish slalom in between the vortices ie. against currents is fish were actually slaloming in between the vortices rather than intercepting the centers of each one which they do they are swimming through waters

The  slaloming  fish have to move side-to-side quite a bit in order to move forward just a little, but by doing so they can remain stationary, or “hold station,” against the moving current.  Fish only need to contract their body muscles near the head to change position among the eddies. They don’t use all their body muscles to propel themselves forwards, as they would in smooth currents.  Fsh probably hold station when they encounter turbulence and then resume normal swimming once they are out of the rough patch.  Clever fishes, really.


‘Rheotropism in Fishes’, by G. P. ARNOLD. Fisheries Laboratory, Lowestoft, Suffolk URL: (accessed on 8 April 2010)

‘Fish met current’ by Halbert Lim.  URL: (accessed on 8 April 2010)

‘The tao of fish swimming’, by Kathleen Wren. 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science, URL: (accessed on 8 April 2010)


Lion Heart: Reunion with Christian the Lion

Above: What a hug Christian the Lion gave his friends.

It all started in 1969 when two university friends, John Rendall and Ace Bourke, traveled to London from Australia to make their mark. Their visit to Harrods, a luxury department store which had a zoo department at that time, bought them a lion cub named Marcus (whom later they renamed Christian). To cut the long story short, Rendall and Bourke raised the lion and managed to get him back into the wild after they realised he was too big to be kept in London. With the help of the lion man, George Adamson, Christian was adapted back to the wild in Africa.

Videos of Christian on YouTube has caused a sensation soon after college student Lisa Williams posted it up. Her video garnered close to 5 million views, 2,960 comments and many other remakes of the video.

Lions, Panthera Leo, “are spectacularly sociable: they hunt together, raise their cubs in nursery groups and defend joint territories.” (University of Minnesota, 2010) There was a certain inclination which suggests that because the lion cub needed the care and attention which the two men readily provided, hence they were able to form a very intimate relationship with the lion. Christian treated the two men as his family from the beginning, as if they were part of his pride.

In the documentary “A Lion Called Christian“, shown on Animal Planet, a six-month-old Christian was shown playing a game of catch with Rendall and Bourke but Zoologist Prof Tim Coulson feels it was no ordinary play. “It’s all part of learning how to hunt,” he said.

According to the Lion Research Centre at the University of Minnesota, it is through play that cubs learn and imitate hunting/fighting techniques from the adults. “Much of their playing imitates behaviors shown by adults, including stalking and fighting.” (University of Minnesota, 2010)

However in the case of Christian, there were no adult lions for him to imitate. It seems that it was part of basic lion instinct that he took on predatory stance during play. It was also this basic lion instinct that got Christian well adapted back into the wild because a lion’s survival relied on his aggression for food and territory.

So would a lion’s aggressive behaviour be learned or by instinct?

In a journal article by W.H. Thorpe, instinct is part of the equation in animal behaviour and these “instinctive systems of behaviour involved in the play of higher animals are most usually (a) prey catching, (b) fighting and territory, (c) sex and reproduction, and (d) exploration.”

In a later part of the documentary, Christian was taken to Kenya, Africa where he became close friends with George Adamson’s lion named Boy. Boy was a full-grown male and was two times the size of Christian.

Initially, Boy saw Christian as a threat but after some fighting, Christian was accepted as part of the pride and since then, they have become inseparable. Boy acted like a father to Christian, teaching him survival in the wild which helped Christian to adapt successfully.

Most people think that captive animals will not be able to survive in the wild because they are too used to being domesticated. But Christian’s case prove all of it wrong. Although natural instinct played a role in helping Christian to adapt to the wild, Boy’s ‘coaching’ further brought out Christian’s lion personality. Rendall and Bourke couldn’t possibly have done so.

So intinctive behaviour and learned behaviour are both very important in helping Christian get back into the wild.

Although a tragedy ensued involving Boy later, Christian quickly became independent and was shown leading his own pride now.


“Evolution of Group Living,” by The University of Minnesota. Lion Research Centre, 02 Apr 2010.  URL: (accessed on 7 Apr 2010).

“Christian, The Lion at World’s End,” by Bill Travers. YouTube Channel, 30 Apr 2009. URL: (accessed on 7 Apr 2010).

“A Lion Called Christian,” by Animal Planet. YouTube Channel, 09 Oct 2009. URL: (accessed on 7 Apr 2010).

W. H. Thorpe, 1966. Ritualization in Ontogeny: I. Animal Play. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 251(772): 311-319.

Don’t eat me, Dad!

Be glad that you are alive and your parents love you, because some other parents don’t. They eat their babies instead. It seems like fathers in male pregnancies may be more inclined to eat their babies if their mothers are ugly. A case in point is the Gulf pipefish (Syngnathus scovelli).

Found in seagrass beds and other densely vegetated shallow grounds, the Gulf Pipefish is a freshwater fish that lives as long as three years, and is the only known species among 24 North American pipefish that enters freshwaters. Seahorse clings to pipefishCharacteristic of the pipefish is the slim body, a snout, and usually only dorsal fins for movement, making it look almost a swimming pencil that bends at the end. Male pregnancy amongst the Gulf pipefish means that fertilization only happens after the female deposits her eggs in the male’s brood pouch. The father then nurtures the embryos in his brood pouch until parturition.

It seems like female beauty in the eyes of Gulf pipefish is size. Smaller females (93-106mm) were consistently discriminated against in favor of larger ones (108-122mm) in a 2010 study by Texas A&M. The study suggests that bigger mothers transfer more eggs each copulation, and more of their babies are stronger and develop fully into parturition. Since males cannot alter their level of investment in a brood, eggs from larger mothers seem to be a more resource-efficient way of parenting.

The sex ratio amongst Gulf pipefish favors females in reproduction, so what happens when a male has already mated with a smaller, thus less attractive, female? He can reduce nutrient flow to the brood to mediate this energetically costly pregnancy, so that siblings compete for survival. This isolation is not so much passive as it is cannibalistic – Sagebakken et. al’s recent study in a similar species found that the father can absorb embryonic nutrients through the brood pouch to his liver and muscle tissue.

Infant-eating amongst animals remains much a controversy. This hypothesis that fathers kill in order to preserve his resources for the next pregnancy in hope of increasing net reproductivity has been criticized by Klug, Lindström, and Mary for being applicable to only some species. After all, it is possible that Daddy kills some babies to modulate their siblings’ competition for resources.


Klug, Hope, Kai L Lindström & Colette M. St. Mary, 2006. Parents Benefit from Eating Offspring: Density-dependent Egg Survivorship Compensates for Filial Cannibalism. Evolution 60(10): 2087-2095.

“Male Pregnancy: The Dark Side,” by Nature. Scientific American, March 17, 2010. URL: (accessed April 8, 2010).

Paczolt, Kimberley A. & Adam G. Jones. Post-copulatory sexual selection and sexual conflict in the evolution of male pregnancy. Nature 464: 401-404.

Sagebakkne, Gry, Ingrid Ahnesjö, Kenyon B. Mobley, Inês Braga Gonçalves & Charlotta Kvarnemo, 2010. Brooding fathers, not siblings, take up nutrients from embryos. Proc. R. Soc. B 277: 971-977.

Syngnathus scovelli.” Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce. URL: (accessed on April 9, 2010).

The “Hissed Off” Blue-Tongued Skink

Blue Tongue!

Blue Tongue!

The Blue-Tongued Skink is a fascinating lizard! By virtue of the fact, like its name suggests, the lizard has a blue tongue! These interesting lizards are a member of the Skink (Scincidae) family, and they carry the genus Tiliqua. There is a whole myriad of different blue-tongues and they each carry slightly different characteristics. One thing in common, of course, is their possession of a blue tongue. Most blue tongues also have an orange belly!

Although indigenous to Australia and Indonesia, these lizards have made their way to different parts of the world whereby they are highly prized as pets. Easily tamed and docile by nature, these blue tongues make good pets for the family, and are generally safe even when handled by children. They have quite a long life span, living till 20-25 years in captivity, and growing to about 40-50cm in length (depending on the species). Blue tongues in captivity are usually fed with vegetables, fruits, cat food, eggs, snails, earthworms.

A kid holding a blue-tongued skink

A kid holding a blue-tongued skink

The blue tongue serves a different purpose, and this is well-illustrated when the skink feels threatened. Because it has no proper defense or offense mechanism, the skink resorts to hissing and displaying its blue tongue when threatened. This sudden gesture, coupled with the hissing sound and the color of its tongue, helps to scare off threats. The skink also flattens its body to make it look larger. After these warning signs, the skink will not hesitate to bite (and it does deliver quite a powerful bite), so do not try to pick the skink up when it shows these signs!

Hissed off!

Hissed off!

Here is a video of a Shingleback blue-tongued skink (T. rugosa rugosa • Gray, 1825) putting up a demonstration!


Blue-Tongued Skinks: Welcome to Blue-Tongued!

URL: (accessed 09 April 2010)

The Australia Blue Tongue Lizards

URL: (accessed 09 April 2010)

Blue-Tongue Skinks

URL: (accessed 09 April 2010)

Panda (Porn)

Panda Lovin’ (Photo by Sam Knight)

The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda Melanoleuca) is a bear native to central-western and south-western China. Its distinctive black patches around its eyes are what coined the term ‘panda eyes’, for one’s dark eye rings, something us students have no problems in relating to.Despite the fact that pandas are carnivorous, the Giant Panda’s diet is 99% bamboo.

Pandas are notoriously reserved about sex, and repeated encouragements for them to mate (in captivity) have proved to be fertile futile. Giant Pandas have low to no sexual desires, especially so for those in captivity. In fact, more than 60% of adult male Giant Pandas in captivity lack any sexual desire, and only 10% of them are capable of natural mating, with only 30% of that latter producing ‘results’ (in the form of baby pandas of course). Giant Pandas reach sexual maturity between the ages of 4 and 8, and may be reproductive until they’re 20. Hence, when they’re around the age of 6, after a dash of inspiration from the people at the China Giant Panda Breeding and Research Centre in Wolong, the Pandas are shown a primetime movie to get their loins a’stirring – a video of 2 Giant Pandas mating. This’arouses the sexual instincts of giant pandas, enhances their natural mating ability, and raises their reproductive capacity’ – in other words, these films are, well, porn.

These films have proved to be successful, so far – after a long degree in how to impregnate a fellow panda, Ximeng in Wolong put his new found knowledge into good use and is now a father. Other Pandas who have been educated are also now showing signs of a higher libido and sexual desire.

This unorthodox method (in most cases, artificial insemination is used to impregnate various animals in captivity. For example, lions and polar bears in the Singapore Zoo) has proved to be successful thus far. After a long degree in how to impregnate a fellow panda, Ximeng in Wolong has put his new found knowledge to good use and is now a father.Other Pandas who have been educated this way are now also showing signs of a heightened libido and sexual desire. In 2006, it even sparked a baby boom of Pandas in Chang Mai, Thailand.

While for fellow human beings, where pornography is often frowned upon (for obvious reasons – being extremely disrespectful to the sexes and sometimes, even used as blackmail), Panda pornography has been effective in raising the productivity capability of these endangered species.

Go Pandas!


“Panda porn to cure bedtime blues”, 27 June 2002.

URL: (accessed on 5 April 2010)

“Porn sparks panda baby boom in China” by Denis D. Gray.  msnbc, 27 November 2006.

URL: (accessed on 5 April 2010)

“Giant Panda” by wikipedia.

URL: (accessed 0n 5 April 2010)

“Prim pandas probed by peeping satellites” by Sam Knight and agencies. Times online, 27 September 2005.

URL: (accessed on 5 April 2010)