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Cordyceps, blobfish, tardigrades, oh my!

CBS faculty members Brian Gibbens and Michele Price share their picks for creatures with a high creepy-cool quotient. 

Minibiotus intermedius - Dr. William Miller

 

Tardigrades

Tardigrades, also known as water bears or moss piglets, tiny and unassuming, yes? Uh, no. These little critters are fierce! They are hard to kill and can handle almost any environment. And by any, we mean survive in space or at 300 degrees farenheit. Yes, they are tiny and just eat moss, but they are close to impossible to kill.

Megarhyssa macrurus female.jpg

 

Giant Ichneumon Wasp

That stinger is no joke. Yes folks, the giant ichneumon wasp's stinger can extend over five inches! FIVE! Says Dr. Michele Price (BTL), "This wasp searches for wood-boring larvae and will use its long ovipositor to drill into the wood and lay an egg in or near its host. The wasp larva then consumes their host throughout the winter, pupates, and emerges from the wood as an adult wasp. It's kind of like the movie Aliens."

Vampyroteuthis

Scary looking? Sure. Ominous creature? Yes! Vampyroteuthis literally translates to "vampire squid from hell." Commonly known as the vampire squid, this creature lurks toward the bottom of the ocean living in the dark corners of some of the lowest places on earth. Additionally, it can essentially glow in the dark in different parts of its body to confuse its predators.

 

Chlamydoselachus anguineus2.jpg

Frilled Shark

Most sharks scare people. But the frilled shark takes it to a whole new level. This serpent-looking creature lurks in the mid-levels of the ocean with a mouth full of sharp teeth. Oh yeah, it can also eat prey that is over half its body weight.

 

Cordyceps

Yes, this insect looks creepy. The reason? The cordyceps fungi infects insects, and slowly kills the organism. Once the insect is dead, the fungi continue to grow until the  body of the fungi grows out of the insects' head or body and releases more spores to attack other insects. Attack of the killer fungi!

 

jewel wasp

Emerald Jewel Wasp

Let's keep rolling with the zombie-like organisms, shall we? The emerald jewel wasp injects venom into the brains of cockroaches, which inhibit their motivation to walk away. Next up? "Unable to fight back, the 'zombie' cockroach can be pulled into the wasp's underground lair, where an egg is  laid in its abdomen. The larva later hatches and eats the still living but incapacitated cockroach from the inside out," says Price. 

 

Psychrolutes phrictus

Blobfish

The blobfish moves out of the realm of creepy and more  into the world of ugly. Although that face might elicit a few screams if it walked down the street. The blobfish lives off the coast of Australia thousands of feet below the surface. Why does it have such an odd look? Down that far below the surface, the blobfish actually looks more like an actual fish with the water pressure.

Anoplogaster cornuta 2012.jpg

Fangtooth

Speaking of creatures from the deep...the fangtooth! These fish not only live in some of the deepest water in the world, they also have the largest teeth compared to body size of any other organism in the ocean. Its teeth are so large, in fact, it cannot even close its mouth. It also can suck prey into its mouth before eating them.

 

Dragonfly nymphs

In addition to looking similar to little aliens, these future adult dragonflies have a both frightening and amazing way to eat food. Powered by water pressure drawn in by its anus, the dragonfly nymph can build up enough internal force to  launch its labium to snatch prey . So basically it has a super-long projectile mandible to capture prey. Be happy these little critters aren't human sized!

 


Image source from top to bottom: Tardigrade Flickr: EOL Images, Provided by scientist 32.27121, -111.20743; Giant Ichneumon Wasp "Megarhyssa macrurus female" by Bruce Marlin - Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons; Vampire Squid Monterey Bay Aquarium; Frilled Sharks "Chlamydoselachus anguineus2" by Citron / CC-BY-SA-3.0 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.; Cordyceps  H. Krisp (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons; Jewelled Wasp Wikimedia Commons; Blobfish Wikimedia Commons; Fangtooth "Anoplogaster cornuta 2012" by Citron / CC-BY-SA-3.0 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons; Dragonfly Nymph Bulanbek