Halloween celebrations have long used the 'creepy' and 'crawly' forms of life for decorations. Plastic spiders and bats are produced in their millions. Certainly these animals often evoke fear in many people (see our blog on arachnophobia) but in reality these creatures are not 'out to get you'. In this blog, I will describe some of the animals that can freak out even the hardiest of naturalists!
First up is a hitch hiker of bats. Bats themselves are extremely variable in appearance, the smaller insect feeding bats often have evolved unique flaps and folds of skin on their faces to aid in echo-location. Their much large cousins, the fruit bats, are nicer looking animals (check out the Mauritian fruit bat (Pteropus niger) pictured above) and almost as cute as a dog!
The animal I want to mention here is a parasite of bats called the bat fly! This nightmarish blood sucker looks very much like a face hugger from Alien and behaves in a similar way. These six-legged and wingless flies crawl onto a bats head, hold on tightly like a crash helmet and from there, it can jab its mouth into the bat and drink its blood at its leisure. Unusually, these flies don't produce thousands of eggs at a time, they have just a single maggot. All parasites are pretty gross but these guys are top-tier!
This next animal is so vile that I wasn't even sure it was real until I conducted more research. Coming from the forest swamps of South-East Asian, this creature is also a blood sucking parasite.
I doubt many people are fond of leeches, but what about a leech as big as a baseball bat? The buffalo leech is the second largest leech in the world!
If it did find you and bite you, you wouldn't feel anything; the anaesthetic from leeches saliva would prevent that. The worst part, its proboscis would travel 6 inches into your body to suck up the blood!
Here's another aquatic monstrosity. The candiru is a small fish in part of the catfish family, sometimes known as the toothpick fish its true nature is unveiled by its other name... the vampire fish.
This tiny fish feeds on the blood of other fish, attracted by the urea waste product that's expelled by fishes gills. The candiru swims into the gills of it's prey and slices them up using small spines on its head to feed on the blood.
The candiru has a particular reputation of feeding off humans. In a few cases a person has relieved themselves whilst swimming in the South American rivers, and the Candiru has swim up their urea. With its head spines the only way of removal is surgery or amputation!
Now although we don't have Halloween decorations of bat flies, leeches and fish - the sheer number of Halloween decorations is something scary itself. Halloween, is in fact, one of the most polluting holidays of all!
In the U.K, 83% of costumes are oil-based and non-recyclable. This is around 2000 tonnes of plastic waste produced - the same as 83 million plastic bottles from around 7 million costumes! What's worse, nearly half of all costumes are only worn once before being discarded which means that per trick or treater the average waste 0.5kg! This is the really scary stuff!
Enjoy the Halloween celebrations but please buy things with sustainability in mind.