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Natureman Talks Unusual Inverts

Who is Natureman?

Meet Nature Man – Chris Knowles. He has travelled to every continent (bar the poles!) in search for the world’s most incredible wildlife and habitats.

He’s been stalked by lions, survived malaria, swam with sharks, squeezed into a bat cave, sat on a scorpion and savaged by a lemur! You name an animal and there is a good chance he’s spotted it, photographed it and studied it in great detail!

Now over to Chris.

Let's talk unusual animals

I'm asked often about the most unusual animal I've ever seen. There have been many! From the mysteries of octopuses to the wonders of leaf insects, there have been a few animal encounters over the years that have stood out to me as being really unusual or have caught me by surprise.

Invertebrates will dominate this list, as they have the greatest diversity in the animal kingdom.

The first experience was deep in the Ugandan rainforest. After many hours of exploring, it was time for me to return back to my little hut. I had seen a few baboons, Colobus monkeys and an African Grey parrot. As I pushed my way through the leaves, I noticed sitting on a large leaf was a lovely green grasshopper.

Slowly my hands drew closer to it from underneath the leaf so not to startle it. I whipped my hands around the leaf, capturing it. The next thing I knew was a warm and wet feeling on my palms, white foam started squeezing between my fingers. I quickly opened my hands to find the grasshopper sucking air into its body and then producing large amounts of foam from its head! It was a truly bizarre defence mechanism that I've never heard of from this group of animals!

The next strange encounter is with an animal that I had only seen in books when I was age 6-7 - I'd assumed that it would probably always stay that way.

This utterly unusual animal surprised me one morning in Trinidad. It wasn't hard to spot having being attracted to a moth lamp that had been on overnight. I immediately recognised it from the books I had looked at 30 years previously.

It has many common names, including the 'peanut head' and 'alligator head', but, in fact, it is a type of lanternfly. What makes this animal so unusual is that most of its body is a false head - complete with false eyes and a wide toothy false mouth. This incredible defence would intimidate any bird or lizard looking to make a meal of the 'Alligator head bug'.

The last encounter for this blog is back in Africa and again deep in the rainforests of Uganda, where this tiny wonder found me.

Many insects are drawn to you in a jungle for various reasons - thankfully this one was after my sweat and not my blood. I always inspect any animal I find on my body as it could be vital information should I fall ill! What I saw on my hand looked like a tiny letter 'T'.

With a closer look I could see it was a tiny little fly. What made this fly so unusual were the eye stalks - having eyes on stalks is unusual for a fly but these were extraordinary. This was a 'hammerhead fly' and much like how stags use their antlers for fighting and proving dominance this fly has evolved its eyes to do the same thing. The wider the eyes, the more powerful a fly is.

Please enjoy the photos I managed to get of these unusual animals. I've seen many other bizarre parts of nature and no doubt I wills share some more stories in the future!

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