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1. Ghostly Cats
An elusive Saharan cheetah recently came into the spotlight in Niger, Africa, where a hidden camera snapped photos of the ghostly cat, whose pale coat and emaciated appearance distinguish it from other cheetahs. Its appearance, and how the Saharan cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus hecki) is genetically related to other cheetahs are open to question. The cat is so rare and elusive that scientists aren t even sure how many exist. Among the threats to the pale cat are scarcity of prey due to poaching and overuse, and conflicts with herders over stock harassment and killing of their animals, according to SCF. Apparently cheetah skins are prized as prayer rugs or used to make slippers.
2. Giant Jellyfish
Nemopilema nomurai, known as Nomura s jellyfish, can grow up to 6.6 feet (2 meters) in diameter. It is edible, though it hasn t caught on widely. WhenNomura s jellyfish bloomed in 2005, some Japanese coped by selling souvenir cookies flavored with jellyfish powder, according to the New York Times.
3. Glitzy Gala
As if attending an underwater gala, seadragons are adorned with gowns of flowing limbs. These graceful characters belong to a family of fish called Syngnathidae, which also includes seahorses and pipefish. Now, University of California, San Diego, marine biologists Greg Rouse and Nerida Wilson are using genetics to unlock some of the mysteries of this mystical animal. In popular dive spots off the coast of Australia, the duo took tiny snips of tissue from the appendages of seadragons for genetic testing, before releasing the creatures. While seadragons are generally grouped into three species, leafy (shown here), weedy and ribboned, the team s genetic analyses and examinations of body structure have shown the eastern and western populations of weedy seadragons could be divided into two species. They also found the mysterious ribboned seadragon is not related to the leafy and weedy seadragons.
4. Caught on Camera
A jaguar in Peru is captured on an automated camera set by Smithsonian researchers. Such cameras allow scientists to monitor wildlife in remote locations.
5. Ball of Color
This photomicrograph shows the ruby tailed wasp called Chrysis ignita, which is the most commonly observed of this species. The abdomen s is coloring ruby red and bronze ? give the wasp its name. The underside of the abdomen is also concave, which allows the wasp to roll itself into a protective ball if threatened. Ruby tailed wasps are parasitoids, meaning they eventually kill their hosts. Chrysis ignita parasitizes mason bees: The females lay their eggs in the same nest as mason bees, so when the ruby tailed wasp larvae hatch, they feed on the mason bee larvae. Ruby tailed wasps do have a sting but it is not functional and most species have no venom. The fantastical image snagged a spot on the Wellcome Image Awards 2011, which chooses the most striking and technically excellent images acquired by the Wellcome Images picture library in the prior 18 months.
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