DISCLAIMER: You may have heard of some of these animals.
Egyptian Giant Solpugid
"But Shaddie, why is a critter that we've all heard of on this list??" Considering the amount of ridiculous urban legends surrounding it, I feel that people may as well have been hearing about Harry Potter's blast-ended skrewts all this time. In reality, the solpugid, or camel spider, is much less terrifying than soldiers would have you believe.
Arachnids? Yes. Spiders? No. Solpugids are more closely related to scorpions, but they are one apart, a separate order, consisting of over 1,000 species spread throughout every continent save Antarctica and Australia. Most are very small, a mere inch or so in length, with the largest ones rarely maxing out at 6 inches. They are solitary hunters, skirting through the desert under the cover of shadows cast by rocks, tents, or animals. Frightening myths that camel spiders "chase" people with ill intent is absurd, and originate from this creature's love for the shade. The literal translation of the camel spider's entire order, Solfugae, means "those that run from the sun" in Latin. In the desert, we cast long shadows, and the solpugids see this.
They have an ordinary diet, using their mandibles to subdue other arthropods or, less commonly, small vertebrates such as lizards. They are tough, like many creatures found in deserts worldwide, but they are not man killers, and pose no threat to us save one: the simple mechanical power of their jaws when provoked. Just like a parakeet, a hamster, or a dog, they have the potential to bite. Wounds should be cleaned, but not fretted over.
Camel spiders might seem disappointingly less interesting now that you know the facts, but false information is the mold of our society.
The emperor newt is a definitively colored amphibian from China, India, and surrounding areas. They are sometimes called Mandarin salamanders. What's the difference between newts and salamanders? Well that's a good question now isn't it?
The brightness of their colors is a warning to predators that they can release an unpleasant poison from the glands along their body. They are reportedly extremely toxic if ingested (enough to kill multiple mice, but it is unclear of the method in which these mice were poisoned), but in captivity they make excellent pets due to their nonaggresive behavior.
As with most amphibians, they suffer from habitat loss and pollution, though they have been managing fairly well compared to others. They are only listed as Near Threatened or Threatened depending on what country you ask.
Emerald Cockroach Wasp
This delicate flyer, which is sometimes called the jewel wasp, specializes in the predation of blattids. Classified as an entomophagous parasite, the jewel wasp relies on cockroaches in order to complete its reproductive cycle.
The female jewel wasp will seek out a cockroach and temporarily paralyze it with the venom from her stinger. Once subdued, she will sting it again in a specific location, rendering the cockroach into a droll slave which is then easily led by the antennae to the lady wasp's lair. Horror ensues.
The wasp will lay an egg on the cockroach before sectioning off the den with debris. She leaves it to survive, dumb and complacent, as her larva hatches and slowly eats it from the inside out. There is a methodical order in which the larva feasts, taking a week or more to eat away the roach's insides, consuming lesser organs first in order to keep the host alive for as long as possible. Once the larva emerges from the roach's corpse as an adult, it goes about its merry way, lookin' for love. How's that for the circle of life?
And just what are these little things? You may think that they are just some kind of mouse or, as their name would have you believe, a form of shrew. But you could not be more wrong! Elephant shrews are not shrews, and they certainly are not elephants (though they are somehow more closely related to elephants than shrews)! In Africa, where all 17 species reside, they are commonly called sengis.
Some are smaller than mice, some are as large as rabbits, but all of them rely on the speed of their stilt-like legs to bound away from danger. Unlike rodents, who are largely plantigrade, the elephant shrew has adapted a digitigrade locomotion. This means that they walk on their toes without their heels touching the ground. When they were first discovered in the 1800s, it was thought that they jumped around like a kangaroo, but nowadays we know that they actually have a gait more similar to a deer.
Sometimes confused with jackals, these sleek-bodied, red-furred inhabitants of Ethiopia are decidedly wolven in nature, despite their more delicate features. They are among the most endangered canids in the world, with less than 500 remaining in the wild. The encroachment of domestic dogs and their contagious diseases have helped reduce the Ethiopian wolf to a handful of remaining populations.
As with most wild dogs, they are family-oriented pack dwellers, but they differ from wolves in that they are solo hunters. They prefer the taste of rodents, specifically certain species of mole rat, and they pose little threat to nearby livestock despite public worry.
Due to their innocuous behavior and their aloofness throughout history, they were not regarded with much fear or revere by the natives. To this day, very few people are aware that they exist. Fortunately, the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme was made to see this rare species to recovery.
Other Hubs In This Series
p on May 20, 2016: