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Baobab Tree — Adansonia Gregorii

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There are millions of types of trees all around the world; however none are like the deciduous trees of Madagascar and Australia. Only in these areas does such a unique tree grow.

Adansonia Gregorii, more commonly known as the Baobab tree, at least six out of the eight different species grow vastly in the luscious landscape of Madagascar. This tree is unlike any other. It has influenced myths and thousands of years of history, its appearance itself is unique, every part of this tree can be used.

Baobab Tree — Adansonia Gregorii

Baobab Tree — Adansonia Gregorii

Baobab trees look very differently than most trees. The trunks grow to be very thick or wide in diameter as well as grow upwards with a very large trunk. The branches expand in weird patterns in random bushy bunches. There is a legend that states that as they were planted they kept walking off so they had to be planted upside down. This is a great description in the sense that the typically do not have many branches off of them, and the branches extend almost straight up. With the bushels of leaves and fruit to look as if they are feet this old tale is quite humorous.

The most obvious use of this tree is the fruit that grow from it can be eaten. The Baobab tree dies out a little in the dry winter months then blossoms again in December through May. The native people use baobab fruit and leaves for multiple medical treatments. The fruit is said to be higher in vitamin C than a citrus fruit. The fruit of the Baobab tree is often marketed as the “super fruit”. The Baobab tree fruit is also high in antioxidants. The young sprouts of the true can be eaten like asparagus. The roots are said to be edible as well. The leaves of the Baobab Tree are used to treat asthma, diarrhea, fever, and even small pox. Wild life and livestock can feed off of the fallen flowers, leaves, and bark as well. The tree truly can provide food for all.

During dry spells the hallowed tree will serve as a water reservoir. This keeps many families provided with fresh water during the dryer seasons. The natives use glades of glass like straws to suck the reserved water from the trunk. There are also a couple famous prisoner trees. A Baobab tree hallowed out and used to hold prisoners while awaiting their sentencing. These trees can grow so large they can be used for houses or barns. They can be hallowed out and still continue to grow.

The bark of these large trees can be used in the construction of housing. Since the majority of the Madagascar population is very poor, access to these resourceful trees is a key in their survival. The natives use this tree in every way the possibly can to increase the quality of life. Right down to the seeds and the powder with in. The seeds from the tree are edible of course usually used as a coffee type drink, but the powder within them as been used as a way of painting. Sometimes the fruit themselves are carved for decoration.

The forests of Madagascar where the majority of the Baobab species grow are vast with these trees as well as animal and other plant life. A rain forest type setting with upside down trees to feed and house all that lives within it.

The Baobab tree is also a main attraction whether to Madagascar or Australia; thousands of visitors come every year to awe at the interesting view of these trees. To touch and taste the fruits it bears. The unique trees tall with bulbous trunks always have eyes gazing at them, adoring the beautiful white flowers that bloom from it. The Baobab tree is unique as the animals that live near it. Since Madagascar as lived in isolation for centuries a very high percentage of the wildlife is unique to only that area.

There is numerous reasons as to why this tree is called the magical baobab tree or the Tree of Life, for instance when this tree is cut all the way down or blown over in a storm it will simply re-sprout from the roots.

Baobab Tree — Adansonia Gregorii

During dry spells the hallowed tree will serve as a water reservoir

The fallen trees come with stories that they decompose quickly or spontaneously combust and completely burn up. This particular occurrence reassures many that this is a magical tree.

Magical or not this amazing species of tree has survived thousands of years and proves itself to be a vital resource for the native people, as well as an exquisite sight to see. Maybe the super fruit or the benefits of the Baobab leaves will work their way into modern medicine so we all can enjoy parts of the “Tree of Life”.

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World’s 5 Most Amazing Caves

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Caves are underground openings, large enough for a human to enter, they usually extend deep underground. The formation of caves is called speleogenesis. Caves are formed naturally or dug by humans. Natural Caves are formed because of number of natural factors like atmospheric influences, erosion from water, tectonic forces, microorganisms, chemical processes and pressure.

Caves are found all over the world. Many of them are yet to be discovered. For centuries caves have been used by human race as shelter and even religious sites. Today they are used for sightseeing and cave diving. Some of the caves are converted into tourist attractions where artificial lighting, floors, and food point are set for maximum enjoyment.
Here is our list of world’s 5 most amazing caves, one must visit.

Eisriesenwelt Cave
Eisriesenwelt is a German word which literally means “World of the Ice Giants”. Eisriesenwelt Cave is a natural cave made out of limestone. It is located in Werfen, Austria, about 40 km south of Salzburg. Eisriesenwelt Cave is the largest ice cave in the world. It extends more than 42 kilometers.

Eisriesenwelt cave is almost 100 million years old. Eisriesenwelt Cave was formed by River Salzach as it flowed through the mountain grinding down the passageways. The cracks and splits in the limestone developed, as the river eroded away the rocks over the passage of time. The deeper areas of the cave have very low temperature because of the cold air streaming into the cave from outside, in winters. The temperature is usually below freezing point. During spring season when the snow is melting, it trickles through the crevices in the rocks and as it reaches the low temperature area, it forms beautiful icicles.

The first kilometer of the cave is open for tourists and it is covered with ice, rest of the cave is formed of limestone. The first kilometer of the cave stays icy throughout the year. In winters, chilly winds from outside freezes the snow into ice and in summers, cold wind from the deeper and chilled part of the cave blows towards the entrance which keeps the ice from melting.

The cave was first discovered by Anton Posselt, it was then only known by locals. They used to think that it is a doorway to hell and that is why never explored it. Today Eisriesenwelt Cave is visited by over 200,000 tourists every year.

Eisriesenwelt Cave
Eisriesenwelt Cave

Reed Flute Cave
Reed Flute Cave also called ‘Ludi Yan’, is located in Northwest of Guilin in South of China. It is also referred as “the Palace of Natural Arts”. Reed flute cave is known for its artistic beauty. It is a gallery of natural sculptures made out of limestone. The cave got its name from the reeds that grew in front of it that are used to make flutes.

Reed flute cave is 240 meters long, with a different wonder of natural art at each step. It is city’s third most famous tourism spot. Tourists feast their eyes with different kind of splendid stalactites, stalagmites and stone pillars as they walk through u-shaped route of the cave. The beauty of the cave is enhanced by artificial lightings which make it look like an underground palace full of expensive art pieces.

Reed Flute Cave
Reed Flute Cave

Cave of the Giant Crystals
Cave of the Crystals is located in Mexico. It is known for its extraordinary crystals. It is located 1000 feet down the “Naica Mine”. The mine was discovered in 1794. The mine consists of lead, zinc and silver. Large amount of crystals has been found within the cave with sizes up to 4 feet in diameter and 50 feet in length. Another chamber of the Naica mine called “The cave of Swords” , located 400 feet under themine, consists of similar crystals.

From the discovery till 1900 the main interest was silver and gold. But as zinc and lead became more valuable, large scale mining began.

Cave of the Giant Crystals
Cave of the Giant Crystals

Puerto Princesa Underground River
Puerto Princesa Underground River is located near the city of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines. Puerto Princesa Underground River is the most noteworthy area of Philippines. It has spectacular limestone which comprises of Underground River that is 8.2 kilometers long. The river flows directly into the ocean and lower half of the river is salty and influenced by tide. Puerto Princesa Underground River is the largest navigable underground river in the world. It is very easy and convenient to experience.

It is also said to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Puerto Princesa Underground River
Puerto Princesa Underground River

Waitomo Caves
Waitomo Caves are located in North Island of New Zealand. The word Waitomo means “water passing through a hole”. These caves are nearly two million years old. The Waitomo caves are huge tourist attraction since 1900. The caves are known for their stalactite and stalagmite displays, and for the presence of glowworms. Glowworms are luminescent beetles.

Waitomo Caves
Waitomo Caves

These caves are not only wonderful but also mysterious in their own ways. One would miss a huge part of the world not visiting them.

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7 Amazing Species Of Flower Praying Mantises

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Flower mantises are species of flower praying mantis. They are called Praying mantises because of their ‘prayer-like’ posture. They mimic the appearance of the flowers that they hide in. Their legs, wings and other body parts often look like petals that helps them blending in the flower they live in.

Orchid Mantis (Hymenopus coronatus)

Orchid Mantis

Orchid Mantis

Orchid Mantis scientifically called Hymenopus coronatus, is a beautiful pink and white praying mantis. It has lobes on its legs that look like flower petals. Even though orchid mantis does not live on orchids, it does look extraordinarily like a flower. This species is very widely held because of its beautiful bright colors and amazing camouflage. In the wild Orchid Mantis is found in Malaysia.

This species has lobes on its legs that mimic flower petals. Its natural environment consists of white and pink flowers in wilds and small trees. In this way the mantis can remain unnoticed for predators such as birds and at the same time can catch pollinating insects that are attracted to the flowers. The orchid mantis is white with soft or bright pink accents. One mantis can change color in a matter of days, depending on their environment like humidity and light conditions.

Spiny flower mantis (Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii)

Spiny Flower Mantis

Spiny Flower Mantis

Spiny Flower Mantis has its brilliant colors and camouflaging adornments but this tiny flower like creature is a skillful predator with lightning-fast reflexes. Spiny Flower Mantis is a mostly inactive hunter, it prefers snatching food, pollinating insects, directly from the air rather than searching for the prey. It is only 3 to 5 cm long. Adults of the species have the golden spiral on their outermost wings which differentiates them from other species of flower mantises. When vulnerable, the Spiny Flower Mantis rears up and outspread these wings that give it a much more frightening creature with large golden eyes. Mating can be tricky for male mantises, they have to stay alert or they might end up becoming the female’s next meal. It is contradictory because researchers say that they aren’t averse to feasting on their own kind when hungry or overcrowded.

Giant devil’s flower mantis (Idolomantis diabolica)

Giant Devil's Flower Mantis

Giant Devil’s Flower Mantis

The Idolomantis Diabolica is also known as the “King of all mantises” for its scary looks. It is green and brown in color. It tops other flower praying mantises species because of its beauty and size. It is one of the largest species of praying mantis that mimics flowers.

It is mostly found in Tanzania. The giant devil’s flower mantis is one of the most bizarre looking of all the other species of mantises. It is the master of camouflage, which makes it easy for him to catch its prey passing by while he lies in wait.

Thistle Mantis (Blepharopsis mendica)

Thistle Mantis

Thistle Mantis

The Thistle Mantis scientifically called Blepharopsis mendica is a beautiful species of praying mantis. It is native from North Africa and South East Asia. This species is sometimes also referred as Lesser Devil’s Flower Mantis. Thistle mantis is 5 to 6cm long with a little variation depending upon what sex it is.

The thistle mantis is creamy-white to beige in color. Adults have light green stripes and light green veins on the wings. The front legs are orange from inside with blue and white spots on them. These colors are visible when it rears up to scare the predators. It keeps its forearms under a small pointed sheet on its back. The males’ wings reach a little bit over the end of the abdomen and they have feathered antennae. The females’ wings extend to just the end of the abdomen, making them bulkier. Females have thin antennae.

Nigerian flower mantis (Chloroharpax modesta)

Nigerian Flower Mantis

Nigerian Flower Mantis

Nigerian flower mantis is a small species of flower praying mantises. It is native from West Africa. This tiny West African mantis despite of its small size attacks a prey larger then itself and hunts it down.

Unlike most flower mantis, they have beautiful round eyes with blue shade. They are green in color. Adult female has yellow eye-like spots on the wings.

Indian flower mantis (Creobroter pictipennis)

Indian Flower Mantis

Indian Flower Mantis

The Indian Flower Mantis scientifically known as Creobroter pictipennis is another species in the flower mantis group. Jeweled flower mantis is very similar to Indian Flower Mantis, but the two species have different patterns on their wings.

The adult males are 3cm long and slender with wings longer than their abdomen. The adult females are 4cm long and broader and bulkier than males. Females’ wings are just a little bit shorter than their abdomen. Indian Flower Mantis has a creamy-white color. Its back has green and brown blots. Its legs are stripped brown and green. Adult mantises have green wings and yellow eye patch that helps scares off the predators.

Jeweled flower mantis (Creobroter gemmatus)

Jeweled Flower Mantis

Jeweled Flower Mantis

As mentioned above the jeweled flower mantis is similar to the Indian flower mantis, but the pattern on the wings is different. The jeweled flower mantis is an Asian species. It is known to be hanging upside down, waiting to attack its prey as it passes by.

Abdomen of the species is colored green and white. It is usually 4cm long. Females may be slightly larger in size. Their dull color helps them blend in the flora they live in.

20 praying mantis species are found in United States only. European and Chinese versions of them are also discovered. These mantises range in color and sizes according to the floras they inhabit. Praying mantises are one of the most interesting species of insects that master camouflage. Despite of their odd looks they are beautiful to watch even when they are doing nothing. If you catch sight of a praying mantis hunting its prey, it is a memorable one.

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5 Of the Most Amazing People with Disability

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Disability is not inability

Disability is not inability

The people discussed in this article are those brave and heroic people who have achieved a lot of success in their lives despite of all the hindrances they faced being physically disabled.

These valiant people have amazed the world with their courage, determination, strength and amazing will. These people have overcome all the obstacles they faced and never let their disabilities come in their path of glory. With their determination these extraordinary individuals have made a difference in the lives of a lot of people.

Some of such personalities who have touched the world with their remarkable stories and amazing talent are given below:

ALBERT EINSTEIN (MARCH 14, 1879 – APRIL 18, 1955)

Disability: Dyslexia

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

When talking about the famous disabled people the first name that comes to the mind is that of the great Albert Einstein. Albert Einstein who is the greatest scientist of the twentieth century and the greatest physicist of all time had a learning disability in the early parts of his life. Till the age of three he could not speak and was severely dyslexic and autistic.

As he grew older he started to focus on the only thing he was exceptional at and that was mathematics. Soon he fought his disability and entered into the world of theoretical physics where he changed the face of physics and science forever. His theory of relativity is said to be the most revolutionary theory of physics. He won a Nobel Prize for his photoelectric effect theory in 1921.

HELEN ADAM KELLER (JUNE 27, 1880 – JUNE 1, 1968)

Disability: Blind and Deaf

Helen Keller

H. A. Keller

Helen Adams Keller was an American author, political activist and lecturer. She was the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. The story of how Keller’s teacher, Annie Sullivan, broke through the isolation imposed by a near complete lack of language, allowing the girl to blossom as she learned to communicate, has become known worldwide through the dramatic depictions of the play and film The Miracle Worker. Sullivan taught Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand, beginning with d-o-l-l for the doll that she had brought her as a present.

A prolific author, Keller was well traveled and was outspoken in her opposition to war. She campaigned for women’s suffrage, workers’ rights, and socialism, as well as many other progressive causes. In 1920, she helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Keller and Sullivan traveled to over 39 countries, making several trips to Japan and becoming a favorite of the Japanese people. Keller met every US President from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson and was friends with many famous figures, including Alexander Graham Bell, Charlie Chaplin, and Mark Twain.

STEPHEN HAWKING (JANUARY 8, 1942)

Disability: Motor Neuron disease or a variant of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking is perhaps the world’s most famous living physicist. A specialist in cosmology and quantum gravity and a devotee of black holes, his work has probed the origins of the cosmos, the nature of time and the universe’s ultimate fate — earning him accolades including induction into the Order of the British Empire. To the public, he’s best known as an author of bestsellers such as The Universe in a Nutshell and A Brief History of Time, which have brought an appreciation of theoretical physics to millions.

Though the motor neuron disorder ALS has confined Hawking to a wheelchair, it hasn’t stopped him from lecturing widely, making appearances on television shows such as Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Simpsons — and planning a trip into orbit with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. (He recently experienced weightlessness aboard Zero Gravity Corporation’s “Vomit Comet.”) A true academic celebrity, he uses his public appearances to raise awareness about potential global disasters — such as global warming — and to speak out for the future of humanity: “Getting a portion of the human race permanently off the planet is imperative for our future as a species,” he says.

Hawking serves as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, where he continues to contribute to both high-level physics and the popular understanding of our universe.

“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.” — Stephen Hawking.

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (DECEMBER 16, 1770 – MARCH 26, 1827)

Disability: Deaf

Ludwig Van Beethoven

Ludwig Van Beethoven

Beethoven grew up in Bonn, Germany in a very unhappy home. He was forced to practice the piano by his father, an abusive alcoholic who would punish him mercilessly when he made mistakes. By the time he was twelve, he was earning a living for his family by playing organ and composing. He was eventually known as the greatest pianist of his time. One of Beethoven’s favorite foods was macaroni and cheese. He also loved strong coffee – exactly 60 coffee beans to one cup.

Beethoven never married even though he proposed to plenty of women who rejected him (he wasn’t very attractive and he had a rather nasty temper). Yet in spite of his unpleasant personality, Beethoven is best defined by his music.

His first two symphonies are very much in the same style and form as those of composers that came before him, most notably Franz Joseph Haydn, his teacher. But Beethoven’s writing–as seen in his third symphony–had developed beyond that of his teacher. Named Eroica, his Third Symphony was so different from the ones that had come before that it changed music forever. Its originality and innovation even inspired others to change the way that they composed. It was originally dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte. But when Beethoven heard that Napoleon had proclaimed himself Emperor, he went into a rage and destroyed the title page.

Although Beethoven gradually lost his hearing, he continued composing. He composed many of the most famous musical works of all time, such as his Ninth Symphony, after he had become totally deaf.

MARLA RUNYAN (JANUARY 4, 1969)

Disability: Blind

Marla Runyan

Marla Runyan

One of the women representing the Unites States in the 1500 meter track event at the 2000 Olympics was Marla Runyan. The American runner finished seventh in her preliminary heat and rose to sixth in the semifinals to qualify for the finals. During the final race, Marla lost track of the major competitors. She finished in eighth position, 3.20 seconds behind the gold medal winner. In 1996, Marla set several track and field records at the Paralympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Following that success, Marla wanted to compete in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney — even though she is legally blind. The 31-year-old runner has been diagnosed with Stargardt disease. This is a condition that leaves her with a limited ability to see what is in front of her. In Sydney, Marla became the first legally blind athlete to compete in an Olympics.

 

It is a great achievement for any man to perform extraordinary acts – but it is even more so when this is done despite a terrible disability.

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10 Amazing Transparent Animals

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There are ghosts currently wandering the planet, but they aren’t the undead apparitions of your imagination.

Transparent animals — creatures with transparent, glass-like skin — can be found lurking in abundance in ecosystems around the globe. These fascinating, verging-on-invisible organisms are the tangible ghosts of the real world. Here is our list of world’s most amazing transparent animals:

1. Ghost (Glass) Shrimp

The official common name for this species is the Grass Shrimp and its scientific name is Palaemonetes paludosus. It has many other names including Ghost Shrimp, Glass Shrimp, Freshwater River Shrimp and others. The semi-translucent shells of these minuscule crustaceans make them nearly as transparent as the glass aquariums in which they are sometimes kept. In the wild, different species can be found in rivers and lakes throughout the world. The animal is so clear in appearance that it only has color of the food it has eaten, which is typically plant-based and, therefore, usually green. Their feeding habit makes them great cleaners if kept in an aquarium. Remember that this is a natural food source in the wild so any predatory fish will definitely devour them fast.

Ghost (Glass) Shrimp

Ghost (Glass) Shrimp

Glasswing Butterfly

Glasswing Butterfly

2. Glasswing Butterfly
The common English name for this remarkable butterfly is glasswing, which in itself speaks volumes about the appearance of this small but unusual insect. However, it takes the romance languages to step in and give the butterfly the name which, for many, suits it best. The Spanish name for the glasswing is ‘espejitos’. Literally translated, this means little mirrors.

Adult glasswing butterflies will often migrate great distances and can travel more than 12 miles a day.

3. Tortoise Shell Beetle
This remarkable beetle is not completely transparent, but it does have a carapace that is nearly invisible. The tortoise shell beetle is a fraud. At least, that’s how it presents itself in the wild, where it boasts beautiful colors but ones laid just below a transparent shell. The beetle’s clear carapace aims to fool potential threats while revealing markings on its back that act as a warning to predators.

Tortoise beetles come in many different varieties, and the design under their clear shells can be distinct and beautiful.

Tortoise Shell Beetle

Tortoise Shell Beetle

Barreleye a.k.a Spook Fish

Barreleye a.k.a Spook Fish

4. Barreleye a.k.a Spook Fish
These deep-sea fishes are found in water as deep as 3330 ft (1015 m). The barreleye has a completely transparent head. The purpose of the transparent head is that its eyes, which are located inside the head, can look straight up as it swims, presumably so that it can detect the silhouettes of available prey. Its eyes can rotate within the socket so that the fish can look in multiple directions, which would be impossible if not for the transparent cranium.

5. Transparent Sea Cucumber
Census of Marine Life researchers discovered this unusual transparent sea cucumber (Enypniastes sp.) in the Gulf of Mexico. When encountered, this cucumber was creeping forward on its many tentacles at about 2 centimeters per minute while sweeping detritus-rich sediment into its mouth.

Transparent Sea Cucumber

Transparent Sea Cucumber

Salp

Salp

6. Salp
Many people have never heard of salps until they come across them when they are in one of many oceans around the world. A salp is an unusual looking creature that is a free floating tunicate and is barrel shaped. The creature is able to move by pumping water through its body, which is jelly like. When the salp pumps the water through its body it strains it and feeds on the phytoplankton that is in the water. These tunicates are quite interesting to look at because of the simple yet complex way that they move through the water and feed at the same time.

7. Glass Frog
The glass frog is one of those bizarre and fascinating creatures in this world. Upon looking down at this amphibian, the first thing you might notice is its soft lime-green color. But if you were to turn it over, a quick glance at its abdomen would catch your attention. The glass frog’s stomach is completely transparent! Close examination of this unique creature reveals a fully visible system of organs, including the heart, liver, and full intestinal tract. Scientists believe that earlier frogs of this species evolved to have this trait for camouflage; while perched on a leaf or branch, they are extremely difficult to spot from a distance.

Found in the jungles of Central and South America, these animals are mostly arboreal, meaning they live primarily in trees.

Glass Frog

Glass Frog

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

8. Jellyfish
Perhaps the most well-known types of transparent creatures are jellyfish. Many of the free-swimming members of the phylum Cnidaria are transparent, a trait that makes them occasionally hazardous because of their sometimes deadly stings, which can surprise swimmers.
Another fascinating fact about jellyfish is that they don’t have any brain, heart, or bones. Some jellyfish have ways of detecting obstacles that can be compared to sight but they don’t have real eyes. It is a mystery how they can process the information from their “sight” since they doesn’t have any brain. They react directly on food and danger stimuli via nerve impulses without having any brain to process the impulses. Another fact about jellyfish and their bodies is that the body consists of over 95% water. Their translucent bodies also make them among the most elegant and beautiful of the ocean’s creatures.

9. Glass Squid
It’s a barrel-shaped squid whose rough surface is covered with star-shaped protuberances. It has fourteen luminous spots around its large eyes, which are actually organs called photophores. Transparency keeps them hidden from predators, since they spend much of their lives in partially sunlit shallow waters. This species keeps a special fluid, lighter than salt water, in its rounded body to aid buoyancy. Since the digestive gland can still be seen through the transparent skin, it is typically held in a vertical position to reduce its visibility.

Glass Squid

Glass Squid

Crocodile Icefish

Crocodile Icefish

10. Crocodile Icefish
Found in the cold waters around Antarctica and southern South America, the crocodile icefish (Channichthyidae) feed on krill, copepods, and other fish. Their blood is transparent because they have no hemoglobin and/or only defunct erythrocytes. Their metabolism relies only on the oxygen dissolved in the liquid blood, which is believed to be absorbed directly through the skin from the water.

They survive without hemoglobin thanks to the subzero temperatures of the ocean where they live, since cold water has a much higher dissolved oxygen content than warmer water.

As we have seen, the vast majority of transparent creatures live in the sea – see-through butterflies, crayfish and frogs are much less common. Will scientists pursue the lines of experimentation that brought about transparent goldfish and frogs to their logical conclusion? Time will tell… and some day we may end up questioning the old maxim, “beauty is only skin deep”.

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Pink Dolphins — Extremely Rare Species of Dolphin

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When we talk about Pink dolphins, the name is actually used for two kinds of dolphins. The Chinese White Dolphin and Amazon River Dolphin, both of them are unique and rare. Let’s find out the difference between the two and also why they are found under the same category i.e. Pink Dolphin.

Chinese White Dolphin

Chinese White Dolphin

These dolphins are not actually pink, but are white in color and have pink spots on them

Don’t get confused by the name Chinese White Dolphins because they are not just found in China’s Pearl Delta River, in Southeast Asia but also stretch from South Africa to Australia. These dolphins are not actually pink, but are white in color and have pink spots on them. These dolphins change a variety of colors before turning white. The babies are born with black skin, after some time the black color changes to grey and pink spots start to appear. As they grow old, the grey color fades into white color. This is the reason why they are known as Chinese White Dolphins and the pink spots on their body puts them under the category of Pink Dolphins.

The scientific name for the Chinese white dolphin is Sousa chinensis chinensis and it is also known as Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin. Scientists say that it belongs to the humpback dolphin species out of the 80 species of cetaceans existing. Many people confuse this dolphin with albino dolphins, another rare species of dolphin.

When you look at this dolphin the pink spots might appear as pigmentation to you but actually it’s not, the pink color is due to the overdeveloped blood vessels for thermoregulation. The body size ranges from 6ft 7in to 11ft 6in or 2m to 3.5 m in adults whereas, the infant dolphins are usually 1 m or 3ft 3in long. Their weight varies from 150 to 230 kg i.e. equal to 330lb to 510 lb.
The ages of these dolphins can be analyzed by counting their teeth. Usually the life span of these dolphins is up to 40 years. There are two subspecies of this dolphin the one found in Southeast Asia are pinkish white in color and have larger dorsal fin, the breeds found in South Africa and Australia have a fatty hump and relatively smaller dorsal fin, which distinguish the two species. The specie found in South Africa and Australia is also known as Sousa chinensis plumbea.

These dolphins usually breathe for 20 to 30 seconds after rising to the water surface and then dive back deeper into the water. The baby dolphins however appear on the surface of the water twice as much as the adult dolphins. The adult dolphins can stay under water for 2 to 8 minutes whereas their calves can only stay for 1 to 3 minutes.

These dolphins live a sociable life and are found in groups of 3 to 4. The females reach maturity at the age of 10 years whereas males become mature at the age of 13 years. The mating seasons begins at the end of summer and lasts till autumn, total gestation period varies from 11 to 12 months and females can give birth after every 3 years. The parents of young calves look after them till they become mature enough to find food on their own.

If you are interested in Dolphin watching boat trips are available from Honk Kong to view the white dolphins living in the Lantau, Peng Chau and Soko Islands.

The Amazon River Dolphins

Amazon River Dolphins

Amazon River Dolphin, also known as boto, boto vermelho, boto cor-de-rosa, bouto, bufeo or pink dolphin

The Amazon river dolphins are also scientifically known as Inia geoffrensis and are found in the river systems of Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. IUCN has listed these dolphins to be vulnerable species because of the excessive boat traffic, overfishing, habitat loss and pollution. It is commonly known by many names such as boto, boto vermelho, boto cor-de-rosa, bouto, bufeo and pink dolphin. These dolphins are known to grow larger in size than humans and the length of their body ranges from 5ft to 7.9ft. The females are found to be larger than males and reach to a length of 8.2 ft whereas male dolphins reach to a length of 6.6ft. The females weigh up to 98.5kg whereas males weigh around 94kg.

They can turn their heads to 180 degrees; the reason is their flexible neck that enables them to move their neck in both the directions. Usually they have 24-34 molar teeth contained in their long beaks. There are 3 subspecies recognized currently, they are:

  • g. geoffrensis breeds in the Amazon and Araguaia or Tocantins basins
  • I. g. humboldtiana is found in the Orinoco basin
  • I. boliviensis is found in Bolivian sub-basin of the Amazon

The rivers, in which these dolphins live, usually flood the surrounding marshes and forests. This becomes an ideal situation for hunting, with their flexible necks and long snouts these dolphins extract their prey from hollow logs and other hiding places. These dolphins eat crustaceans, small turtles, catfish, shrimps, piranha, crabs and fishes.

The female dolphin gives birth to the calves after a gestation period of 9 to 12 months and usually in the months of July and September. At birth these dolphins are 32 inches long and weigh around 15 pounds. Two adult dolphins stick close to the calves, usually their parents.

There is a very interesting myth associated with these amazing dolphins. They say that at night these dolphins change themselves to beautiful humans and then seduce people by showing up at the parties and also give birth to illegitimate human babies (now that sound interesting!). This shape shifting quality of these dolphins is also called, “encantado”.

Both the dolphins, Chinese White Dolphins and Amazon River Dolphins are listed on the appendix II of the Convention on CMS (Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals) because its conservation status is unfavorable. The Bolivian President, Evo Morales introduced a law for the protection of these dolphins and declared it as a, “national treasure”, in September 2012.

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Two Mysterious Places to Visit: Lake Hillier & Socotra

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Alien Island — the Isle Socotra, the Republic of Yemen

Qlinsia, West of Socotra Island.

Qlinsia, West of Socotra Island.

Ready for an intergalactic trip to the Alien Island? Socotra is one of the alien islands where you won’t need a spaceship to reach; in fact it is one and the only island of its kind. Once you will enter this remote island you will feel that you have landed on some other planet.

So where is it? The Isle of Socotra is located in Yemen and is actually a small archipelago in Indian Ocean, consisting of 4 islands. Out of these islands the largest one is also named Socotra. It is situated 380 km from the south of Arabian Peninsula.  The island is 132 km in length and its width is 49.7km. The area is also surrounded by a variety of sandy beaches, limestone plateaus, caves and mountains reaching up to an altitude of 1525 meters.

The name is pronounced as soqotra and it has been derived from Sanscrit language meaning, “The Island of Bliss” and yes, the spectacular views of this island are truly blissful.

The island is believed to be isolated for about 6 to 7 million years. One third of the plant species that are found in this isolated island are not found in any other part of the world. The island boasts over 700 rare species of plant. People claim that it is “the most alien looking place” existing on the face of the earth and that’s how its name has been derived i.e. “Alien Island”.

The island is a home to one of the rarest plant species named, “Dragon’s Blood Tree”. There is a myth associated with this tree by some traders in the past who claim that the red colored sap of the tree is actually dragon’s blood and has medicinal properties.

Hawk cave in Hala, East of Socotra island. It is about 15 meters in diameter, 8 meter height, 500 to 1000 meter horizontally deep.

Hawk cave in Hala, East of Socotra island. It is about 15 meters in diameter, 8 meter height, 500 to 1000 meter horizontally deep

In July 2008, the island was recognized as the Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Another amazing fact is that though the climate of the island is extremely hot yet so many plants are found there.

Beside the unique vegetation found in that area there are some caves that are worth exploring, these caves are the result of monsoon rains that have cut through the limestone plateaus to form a chain of huge caves.

Socotra Island

unique vegetation found in Socotra Island

As Yemen is an Islamic country there are some restrictions placed on the foreign travelers. However the Yemeni authorities are now realizing the place’s potential to attract tourists and have started working on its developments. Here is what one of the tourism officials has to say, “Socotra is the safest island in Yemen. We have never had any security issues there. People think Yemen is dangerous, but hearing the news is not the same as seeing for yourself.”
If you have finally made up your mind to visit the place then 2 to 3 flights by Yemen Airways are available on weekly basis from Sana’a or Aden.

Lake Hillier, Australia

Lake Hillier pink lake in Australia

Lake Hillier, Cape Arid, Western Coast Australia

Another mysterious work of nature, Lake Hillier is situated in Cape Arid near the southern coast of Western Australia. Cape Arid is famous for its complex of islands that are almost 100 in number, all of these Islands combine together to form Recherche archipelago. This lake is located on one of these islands named Middle Island.

In 1802, a British explorer named Captain Mathew Flinders discovered the lake for the first time. The glittery pink colored lake was observed by him when he ascended one of the island’s highest peaks (named after him as Flinders’ peak), during his journey to Sydney. The ship’s master named, John Thistle was amazed to see the pink colored lake and collected some water that he later found out to be saline in nature.

Surrounding the lake are the lush green forests of eucalyptus trees and a narrow strip of sand dunes that divide it from the blue colored water of the Indian Ocean. It seems like a giant footprint marked in pink color, on a green carpet. This salty lake is 600m in diameter and is not very deep.

What’s fascinating about this lake is its never changing rosy pink color. Even if you draw it in some container the color will stay the same. Since 1950 scientists are making researches to draw a conclusion regarding its pink color. So far many assumptions have been made. Some researchers claim that it is because of the low level of nutrients whereas others say that the pink color is because of the algae and bacteria present in the water. There also some researchers who believe that the salt present in the lake’s water contains within its crust, red colored halophilic bacteria that gives a pink hue to the water.

In early 20th century a salt mining project started on this lake which was abandoned within 6 years. Now you must be thinking whether you can swim in this lake or not. The lake is shallow and you may take a swim in it, but as the lake is located in a remote area it is not advisable for swimming. This bubble gum colored lake is easily visible from the aircrafts that pass by Recherche Archipelago.

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Two Mysterious Places to Visit: Lake Hillier & Socotra

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Alien Island — the Isle Socotra, the Republic of Yemen

Qlinsia, West of Socotra Island.

Qlinsia, West of Socotra Island.

Ready for an intergalactic trip to the Alien Island? Socotra is one of the alien islands where you won’t need a spaceship to reach; in fact it is one and the only island of its kind. Once you will enter this remote island you will feel that you have landed on some other planet.

So where is it? The Isle of Socotra is located in Yemen and is actually a small archipelago in Indian Ocean, consisting of 4 islands. Out of these islands the largest one is also named Socotra. It is situated 380 km from the south of Arabian Peninsula.  The island is 132 km in length and its width is 49.7km. The area is also surrounded by a variety of sandy beaches, limestone plateaus, caves and mountains reaching up to an altitude of 1525 meters.

The name is pronounced as soqotra and it has been derived from Sanscrit language meaning, “The Island of Bliss” and yes, the spectacular views of this island are truly blissful.

The island is believed to be isolated for about 6 to 7 million years. One third of the plant species that are found in this isolated island are not found in any other part of the world. The island boasts over 700 rare species of plant. People claim that it is “the most alien looking place” existing on the face of the earth and that’s how its name has been derived i.e. “Alien Island”.

The island is a home to one of the rarest plant species named, “Dragon’s Blood Tree”. There is a myth associated with this tree by some traders in the past who claim that the red colored sap of the tree is actually dragon’s blood and has medicinal properties.

Hawk cave in Hala, East of Socotra island. It is about 15 meters in diameter, 8 meter height, 500 to 1000 meter horizontally deep.

Hawk cave in Hala, East of Socotra island. It is about 15 meters in diameter, 8 meter height, 500 to 1000 meter horizontally deep

In July 2008, the island was recognized as the Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Another amazing fact is that though the climate of the island is extremely hot yet so many plants are found there.

Beside the unique vegetation found in that area there are some caves that are worth exploring, these caves are the result of monsoon rains that have cut through the limestone plateaus to form a chain of huge caves.

Socotra Island

unique vegetation found in Socotra Island

As Yemen is an Islamic country there are some restrictions placed on the foreign travelers. However the Yemeni authorities are now realizing the place’s potential to attract tourists and have started working on its developments. Here is what one of the tourism officials has to say, “Socotra is the safest island in Yemen. We have never had any security issues there. People think Yemen is dangerous, but hearing the news is not the same as seeing for yourself.”
If you have finally made up your mind to visit the place then 2 to 3 flights by Yemen Airways are available on weekly basis from Sana’a or Aden.

Lake Hillier, Australia

Lake Hillier pink lake in Australia

Lake Hillier, Cape Arid, Western Coast Australia

Another mysterious work of nature, Lake Hillier is situated in Cape Arid near the southern coast of Western Australia. Cape Arid is famous for its complex of islands that are almost 100 in number, all of these Islands combine together to form Recherche archipelago. This lake is located on one of these islands named Middle Island.

In 1802, a British explorer named Captain Mathew Flinders discovered the lake for the first time. The glittery pink colored lake was observed by him when he ascended one of the island’s highest peaks (named after him as Flinders’ peak), during his journey to Sydney. The ship’s master named, John Thistle was amazed to see the pink colored lake and collected some water that he later found out to be saline in nature.

Surrounding the lake are the lush green forests of eucalyptus trees and a narrow strip of sand dunes that divide it from the blue colored water of the Indian Ocean. It seems like a giant footprint marked in pink color, on a green carpet. This salty lake is 600m in diameter and is not very deep.

What’s fascinating about this lake is its never changing rosy pink color. Even if you draw it in some container the color will stay the same. Since 1950 scientists are making researches to draw a conclusion regarding its pink color. So far many assumptions have been made. Some researchers claim that it is because of the low level of nutrients whereas others say that the pink color is because of the algae and bacteria present in the water. There also some researchers who believe that the salt present in the lake’s water contains within its crust, red colored halophilic bacteria that gives a pink hue to the water.

In early 20th century a salt mining project started on this lake which was abandoned within 6 years. Now you must be thinking whether you can swim in this lake or not. The lake is shallow and you may take a swim in it, but as the lake is located in a remote area it is not advisable for swimming. This bubble gum colored lake is easily visible from the aircrafts that pass by Recherche Archipelago.

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Bali’s Tanah Lot Sea temple

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Bali is one of the places that is a must see and should definitely be added to your list of places to be visited. It is one of the provinces of Indonesia that has been established by the merger of many small islands and also includes the isle of Bali. This island is home to the Hindu minority of Indonesia i.e. 92.29% of the island population is Hindu whereas the rest practice Islam.

Bali Tanah Lot Temple

Bali’s Tanah Lot Sea temple

It has been a tourist destination for decades and each year the number of tourists is increasing. Bali is famous for its breath taking attractions; the island is also renowned for its rich cultural heritage and rapid developments in the field of arts including activities such as painting, music, metal work, sculpture, leather and traditional dance.

Though it’s a small place and one day is enough to drive along the entire coast, but this one day would be worth remembering. You can enjoy spectacular views of the Virescent rice terraces or enjoy the ceremonies of the enchanting temples, you can enjoy surfing or climb the volcanoes and meet the Komodo dragons or you can just have some self indulging moments with a relaxing massage at a sybaritic spa. Bali has to offer something for everyone.

One of its most mesmerizing tourist spots is the famous temple of Tanah Lot. This enchanting temple is a work of nature and is a result of rock formation. It has great importance and serves as both tourist attraction and pilgrimage temple. Tanah lot is located 30km on the west of Denpasar town and almost 11km away from the south of Tabanan town. The entire rock, on which the temple is built, covers an area of 3 acres.

In Balinese language it is called Pura Tanah Lot (Tanah Lot Temple) means land in the sea and as the name suggests the temple resides on a big off shore rock that has been constantly shaped by the big tidal waves of the ocean.

Let’s have a peek at the history of this spectacular temple. In 15th Century a priest named Nirartha found the beautiful setting of the rocky island while traveling along the south coast and decided to rest there. The nearby fishermen saw him and brought gifts for him, he then spent the night on that island. In the morning he told the fishermen that he felt the big rock to be a holy place and a shrine should be built so that Balinese sea gods could be worshiped there.

Since that time the temple was built and secures a place in Balinese mythology. It is considered to be one of the seven sea temples surrounding the coast of Bali. All 7 temples are visible from each temple thus forming a chain along the coast in the south-west. It is believed that the temple is guarded by poisonous sea snakes from intruders and evil spirits; you can find them at the base of the island rocks. Some mythologists also believe that there is a giant snake created by Niratha’s scarf and its duty is to protect the temple.

As the temple is located on the shore it is prone to environmental damages, as large waves are constantly hitting it. In 1980 the face of the temple started to deteriorate and the area had to be sealed because of the potential danger. Funds were then provided by the Japanese government to Indonesian government to converse the temple and also to refurbish other significant buildings. So the Tanah Lot temple was renovated and was cleverly disguised by the artificial rocks.

Due to the development of tourism sector this area has been highly commercialized and you would need a ticket to enter this area. The path that leads to the temple is surrounded by Balinese market. This market is specially designed for tourists and provides them with souvenir that they can take back home for their friends and family. You will also find many restaurants nearby where you can eat while enjoying the magnificent views of the temple.

A sunset at Tanah Lot Sea temple, Bali

A sunset at Tanah Lot Sea temple, Bali

The best time to enjoy the spectacular views of this temple is at the time of sunset and often the temple is known as Sunset Temple. The other temples worth watching in that area are Batu Bolong Temple, Enjung Galuh Temple and Batumejan Temple.

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Clouded Leopard

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The beautifully patched, clouded leopard is one of the most mysterious species. So far the information that has been drawn about it is in captivity, as they are rarely seen in the wild. Though this specie is named clouded leopard but it is more closely related to lions and tigers. These species are rare and endangered and scientists have very little information regarding their population.

The scientific name given to the clouded leopard is Neofelis nebulosa, where Neo means new and felis means cat; these mammals belong to the family of Felidae. IUCN classified this specie as vulnerable in the year 2008. So far the total population size is known to be less than 10,000 mature leopards and this population trend is decreasing with not more than 1000 adults in a single population.

Clouded Leopard Image

Somewhere between the small cats and the big cats are the clouded leopards that make their home in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia

This unique Asian cat roams around from the Himalayan foothills of Nepal to the rain forests in Indonesia. You can find four of their species scattered from southern China to eastern Burma, and from Burma to Nepal. Sumatra, Myanmar, Malaysia, Java and Borneo are also having some of its species, in the past some species were found in Taiwan as well but now they are believed to be extinct. The clouded leopards found in Borneo are considered to be new cat species and also known as Sunda clouded leopard or Neofelis diardi.

We have noticed before how good the cats are at climbing but when we talk about clouded leopards they are best climbers ever seen. Their sharp claws and large paws can grip very tightly, so don’t be surprised if you see one hanging upside down from the branch of the tree. They have short but very powerful legs and ankles that are flexible enough to help them safely land from the trees to the ground in headfirst posture, just like squirrels. They are known to have very sharp eyesight that enables them to judge distances. Their long tails are used to maintain the balance of the body on narrow tree branches.

When clouded leopards hunt they attack their prey by leaping down on it from above. Scientists claim that these cats perform most of their hunting on the ground and their preys include pigs, deer, squirrels, birds and monkeys. These cats are also known for their sharp canines that are longer as compared to the size of their skull; also they are longest out of all the carnivorous wild cats existing. These sharp teeth help the clouded leopards to devour their prey.

Their social behavior is however unknown by the scientists and only a few assumptions have been made regarding their behavior. It is assumed that they choose to live solitarily. These animals are arboreal and spend most of the time in trees, and only come down on the ground for hunting.

The leopards are believed to communicate by various methods. Usually male clouded leopards spray their urine on various objects to mark their territories. On the other hand their cheeks have special sebaceous glands that help them to scent the markings made by other leopards, by rubbing their cheeks against the sprayed objects.

Clouded Leopard Image

The length of clouded leopard from head to body is 24 to 43 inches and the tail measures about 24 to 36 inches

Greeting calls are made with the help of high pitched chuffs and meows, location calls require loud meows and they can be heard over a distance of up to 100 meters. To threaten the other leopards and animals aggressive growling is a norm. These animals are also believed to communicate by making markings on the trees using their claws.

The length of clouded leopard from head to body is 24 to 43 inches and the tail measures about 24 to 36 inches. So in total its length can reach up to 6 feet that is relative to a size of a fully grown man. On average the females weigh around 25 to 35 pounds whereas male leopards may weigh up to 50 pounds.

There is a thick coating of fur that has cloud like patches on it, these patches are dusky-grey in color; the fur is found in dark grey, brown or pale yellow color. There are black spots found on the ears and head, and black stripes on the cheeks.

Clouded leopards reach maturity at the age of 26 months. Their gestation period varies from 85 to 93 days and there are 1 to 5 cubs born in a litter. Females give birth once a year. Right after their birth, the cubs are blind and helpless for 10 days. On average they weigh around 5 to 10 pounds. It takes 10 months for young leopards to start their lives independently. The life span of clouded leopards is unknown in the wild but in captivity they are known to live for 11 to 17 years.

Although the Rukai people of Taiwan considered these leopards to be sacred and believed them to be their spiritual ancestors but still they hunted them for their beautiful pelts. These leopards have become extinct in Taiwan because of this reason and also because of deforestation. They are also hunted illegally for their use in Chinese medicine.

Their only hope is the defenders of wildlife who have passed legislation in April, 2009 to protect 15 species of wild cats including the clouded leopards. The bill is yet to be approved by the US senator.