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Tuesday, 30 April 2019

10 THINGS YOU WON’T BELIEVE CAN SPY ON YOU (BUT DO)


10 Things You Won’t Believe Can Spy On You (But Do)
By Oliver Taylor,
Listverse, 29 April 2019.

When we think of methods that governments and big corporations use to spy on us, we often think of computers, smartphones, and maybe surveillance cameras. As you are about to find out, these are hardly the only things that can be used to keep tabs on us.

Seemingly innocuous items like toothbrushes, headphones, and children’s toys can be turned into potent espionage devices. This really shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that every manufacturer wants to connect their products to the Internet these days. Big Brother (or at least big business) is watching...

10. Robot Vacuums


Robot vacuums can be quite convenient, but they can also spy on you. The Roomba iRobot i7+, for example, has been caught spying, and so has the Dongguan Diqee 360.

The iRobot i7+ is capable of making a map of your home when it cleans. Romba says the vacuum needs to create a map of your home so that it knows its way around. The map can also be useful if you want to order the vacuum to clean a specific room. However, Roomba revealed that the iRobot i7+ will also share the map of your home with other smart devices. Why does a vacuum need to share a map of your home?

Well, Roomba did not explain, but you can guess why, considering that the vacuum was jointly developed by Google, the king of spying. While Google insists the sharing is just to allow the robot to integrate with its digital Google Assistant, it’s hard not to imagine them making money off this somehow.

One robot vacuum that is clearly spying on us is the Chinese-made Dongguan Diqee 360. The vacuum has Wi-Fi and night vision-capable 360-degree cameras. Worse, hackers can hack the cameras of the Diqee 360 to spy on you, when Dongguan isn’t spying on you itself.

9. Cars


Our cars spy on us, and we’re not referring only to smart, self-driving models; we mean regular cars. They might not be smart, but they aren’t dumb, either.

Almost every vehicle produced today contains an event data recorder (EDR). The EDR records information about the vehicle, including its location, average speed, condition of the road, and the preferred route of its owner. This information is automatically sent back to the automaker.

Automakers say they use this data to study the behavior of their vehicles during accidents and offer improvement. This information is also shared with law enforcement to detect the cause of accidents. However, this does not mean automakers won’t use this information for other things.

For one, we don’t even know how much information carmakers gather from the cars. We don’t know who owns the information, either. Is it the car owner or the maker? Also, most car owners don’t even know they are being tracked. Automakers and salespeople aren’t very keen on revealing this information, either. So the spying continues.

8. Headphones


You might be wondering how headphones could spy on us. Well, they’re basically microphones. Headphones and microphones work the same way. It’s just that headphones convert electrical signals to sound, while microphones convert sound to electrical signals.

Interestingly, they can be easily converted to work the other way around. Headphones can be turned into microphones by just plugging them into the dedicated microphone jack of your computer or the the single jack shared by the headphone and microphone in phones and laptops. Talk into them, and they become microphones.

This technology can be exploited to turn headphones into spy microphones - if some corporation, law enforcement, or government spy agency isn’t doing so already. Security researchers at Ben Gurion University in Israel have even created malware that turns headphones into microphones to spy on people.

The malware, which they called Speake(a)r, works by converting the output jacks of the computer into input jacks. The headphones can be used to listen to a person’s conversation whenever they are plugged into the computer.

7. Toothbrushes


Toothbrushes are slowly moving from dumb plastic rods with soft bristles to gadgets. And as with every other gadget these days, they are being connected to the Internet to spy on us. In 2014, Oral B released a smart toothbrush that connects to specialized Android and iOS apps via Bluetooth.

The toothbrush records every brush stroke and presents it to the user at the end of every brushing session. The toothbrush offers suggestions about how the user could improve their brushing habits and can even send the information to their dentist. Speaking of dentists, they can also use the information to create brushing programs for their patients.

Kolibree also released a similar toothbrush around the same time. It claimed it helped users “outsmart their dentist.” It also added that users could share their brushing information with “dentists and family.” Why should we share our brushing information with our family? Also, there were concerns that the toothbrush could be used to send information to dental product advertisers.

6. Alexa


Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa, spies on you. You may not know this, but Amazon presently employs thousands of people to review voice commands users say to Alexa. The reviewers work nine hours a day, during which they analyze over 1,000 audio commands each.

These reviewers have listened to voice commands the users never thought Alexa or even another human could hear. They have listened to bank details, to private conversations that clearly weren’t directed at Alexa, and, at least once, to a woman singing in the shower.

Two reviewers once listened to what they believed was a sexual assault and reported it to Amazon. Higher-ups mentioned that it was not their responsibility to interfere. Some of these recordings happened when Alexa was switched off, indicating that Alexa either switched on by itself or when it heard something that sounded like an order to switch on. All of this has created privacy and spying concerns about Alexa.

However, Amazon does not call it spying. It says it only reviews voice commands to improve Alexa. Amazon explained, “We use your requests to Alexa to train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems.” However, the company never mentioned that humans - and not some sort of artificial intelligence - were involved in training Alexa.

While Amazon claims the commands are analyzed anonymously, we know this is not necessarily true. Reviewed recordings often contain the user’s first name, account number, and the product serial number, which could be enough to identify a person.

5. LED Lights

Photo credit: Famartin

Believe it or not, 171 LED lights at Terminal B of Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey provide more than just illumination. They are rigged with sensors and connected to eight video cameras to surveil people in and around the terminal.

The terminal is maintained by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It says the cameras are only used to recognize long airport lines, vehicle license plates, and suspicious activity. However, we all know the system could be used for more. The Port Authority stores any information gathered by the lights and could hand it over to the police on request.

4. Home Security Cameras


Security cameras are supposed to catch people trying to burgle our homes. However, we have discovered that they can - and do - spy on us, too. The fears of being watched by surveillance cameras have caused privacy concerns among owners and prospective owners of such devices. Users have become so paranoid about being watched by their security cameras that a startup even created one that turns around and faces the wall whenever you are home.

Concerns about spying were raised because security cameras can secretly take videos, pictures, and audio, which are all uploaded to the cloud. The audio capability is the most notorious because these cameras could record conversations that are supposed to be private and confidential.

There is also a flaw with the way the uploaded data is handled because a spouse can use it to spy on their significant other whenever they were away from home. Law enforcement could also order the cloud service provider to hand over the recordings without your consent.

For now, we have caught Ring, a security and doorbell camera maker and subsidiary of Amazon, spying on people with their cameras. Ring says it does not spy on users but only uses recorded videos to improve object recognition - the sort of thing Amazon said with Alexa. However, its reviewers have seen private videos of people kissing, stealing, and shooting guns.

3. Toys

Photo credit: Fisher-Price

Children often talk to their toys as if they were human and could reveal private information in the process. This is slowly becoming a problem with the advent of smart toys rigged with cameras and microphones. These cameras and microphones sometimes send information to servers operated by the toymaker.

Genesis, a Hong Kong/Los Angeles toymaker, was caught spying on children with its doll called My Friend Cayla. The doll transcribed conversation to text and sent it to third parties. Curiously, when children asked the toy, “Can you keep a secret?” it always replied, “I promise not to tell anyone; it’s just between you and me.”

Hackers can also hack these toys to spy on children, steal pictures, videos, and audio recordings, or identify GPS coordinates that could reveal the location of the child. The Smart Toy Bear by Fisher-Price (a subsidiary of Mattel) has also been discovered to be vulnerable to hackers after researchers at Indiana University found a security flaw that allowed them to access the camera.

2. Computer Mice


Everybody knows their computer spies on them, but most people seem to have ignored the spy capabilities of peripherals like keyboards and mice. Yes, that innocuous-looking mouse could be used to keep tabs on you. It has happened in Singapore.

In 2012, it was reported that Singapore employers were spying on their workers with different gadgets, including calculators, alarm clocks, and their computer mice. The spy mice looked and worked like regular mice, except that they were rigged with microphones and a built-in SIM card. The employer makes a phone call to the mouse, and it starts recording any conversation within 10 meters (33 ft).

1. Smartwatches And Fitness Trackers


Smartwatches, fitness trackers, and similar smart wearables are another category of spy gadgets that are slowly emerging. These gadgets are so smart that they can use several sources of information to identify the wearer. They can also determine if the wearer is walking, running, or just taking a car, train, or bus.

This isn’t surprising at all when you realize that these wearables can also monitor the wearer’s hand movements to determine if they are entering sensitive information like pin numbers or passwords. Wearables can correctly determine the pin number or pattern used to unlock a cell phone 64 percent of the time, the ATM pin 87 percent of the time, and computer passwords up to 96 percent of the time.

Top image: Smartwatch. Credit: fancycrave1/Pixabay.

[Source: Listverse. Top image added.]

Monday, 29 April 2019

10 FORBIDDEN PLACES YOU’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO VISIT


10 Forbidden Places You’ll Never Be Able to Visit
By Shannon Quinn,
Toptenz, 29 April 2019.

For a huge part of human history, there were plenty of places left that remained a mystery. But in modern times, it seems like every square inch of the planet is accessible for anyone who has the time, money, and desire to get there. However, there are still plenty of places that truly are forbidden to the general public.

10. The Lascaux Caves Contain Ancient Cave Paintings


Deep in the Dordogne Valley of Southern France, there is a cave that holds a number of ancient secrets. The Lascaux Caves were first found in the year 1940 by a group of 13-year-old boys and their dog. They contain some of the oldest drawings in the history of mankind, and after this discovery, tourists flocked to see the cave. Unfortunately, though, the caves also contain a rare fungus that is slowly destroying the ancient artwork. In 1963, a decision was made to close the caves off from the public, because the belief was that the more human beings visited the cave, the more heat and humidity would come off of their bodies, worsening the problem with the fungus and threatening the paintings. So now, there are security guards watching over the caves full-time to make sure no one goes inside, and they only patrol within for a few minutes just once a week.

In 2010, President Nicolas Sarkozy and eight people in his entourage toured the caves to see the 900 pieces of art, sparking controversy across France. This actually sparked a debate, because many people felt that there should be no exceptions to the rule, even if you’re the President.

9. Only a Few Select People Can Access the Vatican Secret Archives


Inside of Vatican City, there are the Secret Archives filled with classified documents that date back thousands of years. For most of modern history, the Pope was the one and only person who could access the archive. In 1881, the rules were changed to allow a few select Catholic scholars to examine the documents, so long as they go through background checks and a vetting process, which includes receiving permission from the Pope. Even then, the paperwork must be 75-years-old before they are accessible to the scholars, which guarantees that the people who are mentioned in the documents would most likely have passed away before their secrets are ever revealed. So, we’re sorry to say, but you’re not likely to be allowed into the archives any time soon.

Of course, when anywhere is this secret, conspiracy theories abound. And just like literally everything else in the world, some people believe that the Vatican is hiding evidence of aliens. And in 2010, when Dan Brown released his novel Angels and Demons, more and more people began to question what, exactly, the Vatican was trying to hide. So finally in 2012, they held an exhibit where they shared some of the most famous documents with journalists.

8. North Sentinel Island Has a Tribe Isolated From The Outside World


North Sentinel Island is off the coast of India, in the Bay of Bengal. Marco Polo mentioned the island in his book, claiming that the Sentinelese people were cannibals. In the 1800s, a ship crashed on the island, and almost all of the crew was killed by the natives. Its reputation has made this island off-limits from the outside world. As the years went on, only about 150 native Sentinelese people are believed to be left alive.

In the 1970s, National Geographic attempted to film a documentary on the island, but the director was impaled by a spear. Since then, access to the island has been strictly prohibited, and it has been well-known that no one should go there. But it didn’t seem to stop a missionary from going to the island in 2018 in an attempt to convert the native people to Christianity, and he was killed after illegally stepping foot on the island.

7. Surtsey Island Is An Active Volcano


In 1963, an underwater volcano erupted off the coast of Iceland, forming a small island that is just one mile wide. It was given the name Surtsey, after the Norse jotunn Surtr, who brings fire and brimstone upon the Earth and is a key player in Ragnarok. It has continued to remain active ever since. You may remember in 2010, the volcano on the island erupted and spread an ash cloud so large airplane traffic was suspended until it dissipated.

As of right now, the only people who have visited the island are scientists who have permission from the government of Iceland. It is important for them to study what naturally occurs on the island. They want to figure out which animals and vegetation make their way there naturally. Maybe some day tourists will be able to visit, but as of right now, the island is still off-limits to the general public.

6. The Pine Gap Facility in Australia Houses American Spies


Alice Springs, Australia is home to an American military based called the Joint Defense Facility Pine Gap. It was first built in 1966 as a space research laboratory. According to the US National Security Agency, the base is now used to control satellites that track nuclear weapons, locate airstrikes, and gather other types of information. Roughly 600 US citizens live in the base, and they integrate with the rest of Australian society. However, no one is allowed inside without the necessary security clearance.

However, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are some Australian citizens who aren’t too happy with the Americans coming in to use their land. The secret base has become a target for anti-war protestors who want it gone. Many Australians have actually tried to break into the base, claiming that they want to show the visiting Americans all about peace and love, only for them to be arrested. Anyone who tries to break into the facility face prison sentences up to seven years.

5. World Leaders Will Escape to Mount Weather At The End of the World


During the Cold War, the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center was built by the US government’s FEMA program as a place for world leaders to run to in case of a nuclear apocalypse. The 600,000 square foot underground facility sits safely nestled 48 miles away from Washington DC, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It has its own fire and police force, as well as its own laws, and plenty of supplies to restart society, just in case we ever end up in a Fallout situation. Of course, the nuclear apocalypse has been avoided (for now, at least), and all of those DIY fallout shelters from the 1960s have gone to waste.

But Mount Weather still exists today as the go-to-safe space for politicians. After the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001, some of the most important government officials in the country were rushed to Mount Weather. Average people are not allowed to visit the facility, though, so we’ll just have to leave it in our imaginations.

4. If You Step Foot on Queimada Grande Island, You Will Probably Die


The Isle of Queimada Grande is just off the coast of Sao Paulo, Brazil. It is also known as “Snake Island,” because it is mostly inhabited by - you guessed it - thousands upon thousands of snakes. The Golden Lancehead Viper, which only exists on that one island. Its venom is five times more powerful than any other snake, and if someone is bitten by one, they will be dead in less than an hour. It has been dubbed one of the most dangerous places in the world.

No one is even sure how the snakes got there in the first place. Rumors have spread that pirates buried a treasure on the island, and that they brought these snakes there to make sure no one could ever reach the gold. But that, of course, is just a legend. For years, no one lived there, except a lighthouse keeper and his daughter. However, they were both killed by the snakes. Now the Brazilian navy only visits the island once a year to make sure the fully automated lighthouse is still working. Vice News decided to film a documentary on the one day of the year that they could actually go together with the navy officials. So, they were able to get extremely rare footage of the island and, of course…the snakes.

3. You’ll Catch Your Death From Gruinard Island


Off the coast of the Scottish Highlands, Gruinard Island was bought by the British government to test deadly diseases. The first trials began by exploding bombs riddled with diseased powder over top of flocks of sheep, and scientists would later inspect the damage. In the wake of World War II, the Brits thought they may need to use Anthrax as a weapon of war. Since they had purchased the island for these life-threatening experiments, they had to make it clear to everyone not to travel there anymore.

There’s even a massive sign on the island that says: “This island is government property under experiment. The ground is contaminated with Anthrax and dangerous. Landing is prohibited.” In the 1980s, the government sent scientists to clean the island, and by 1990, they declared that it was safe to visit. However, even years after the experiments have been completed, many people believe that there are still plague spores in the ground, and that you would be foolish to ever go there.

2. Technological Secrets are Hiding Inside Area 51


Nearly everyone has heard of Area 51, which is a secret American military base in the middle of the Nevada desert. There are dozens of wild rumors and conspiracy theories about the base, mostly claiming that they hold evidence of UFOs and alien life, including the wreckage of the famous Roswell incident in 1947.

Technically, there are plenty of people who work there, so people come and go from the base all the time. But members of the public are not allowed inside. In fact, if you even get too close to the entrance, a white pickup truck will chase you down until you leave. The facility is heavily guarded, with security cameras and sensors. In reality, the base was established during the Cold War, and it is used to test experimental aircraft. Its high level of security is to ensure that no foreign nations can access new technology.

Even though the rational explanations have been published as to the history of Area 51’s existence again and again, people still want to believe it’s really all about hiding little green men. The surrounding area has become a tourist attraction for UFO enthusiasts.

1. Poveglia Island is Probably Haunted


Okay, so maybe you don’t believe in ghosts. But plenty of people believe that Italy’s Poveglia Island is actually haunted, due to its long, horrible history. It was once a hospital for people who were quarantined with the plague. Then, it was used as a hospital for the criminally insane. According to legend, a doctor was performing torturous experiments on the patients, which is why the souls of the suffering are still present on the island.

Scientific studies have shown that so many bodies were buried on the island, 50% of the soil is made of human ash. The Italian government wasn’t sure what to do with it, so they put it up for auction, and sold a 99-year lease to an Italian businessman named Luigi Brugnaro for €513,000. So, basically, Brugnaro gets to use it as his private property, and it will be decades before it returns to the custody of the Italian government.

Top image: Poveglia Island. Credit: Angelo Meneghini/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Toptenz. Top image added.]

Friday, 26 April 2019

7 SUPERLATIVE FLYING ANIMALS


7 superlative flying animals
By Noel Kirkpatrick,
Mother Nature Network, 24 April 2019.

Ah, flying. The ability many humans would love to have, but we have to settle for cramped seats in airplanes.

These animals, however, are natural fliers (or gliders in a few cases) and they're all special at it in their own ways. So from the high flying to the slow flying, are some superior soaring animals.

1. Heaviest flyer: Great bustard

Photo: Francesco Veronesi/Wikimedia Commons

Bustards are birds that come in a range of species, but the great bustard stands out among them because they're the heaviest of birds that can take flight. The great bustard, along with the kori bustard, can reach up to 40 pounds (18 kilograms) and still fly. Some birds, like the Andean condor, can get close to that weight, but not many do. Bustards are compact birds, too. Males only reach about 3.5 feet (1 meter) in height.

The great bustard, predominately found in Europe and Asia, is considered vulnerable as species due to habitat loss. A coalition of organizations attempted to reintroduce the species in England, but differences of opinion on that process led to the project shutting down in 2014.

2. Fastest while diving: Peregrine falcon

Photo: peterichman/Flickr

Ask people what the fastest animal in the world is, and many will guess the cheetah. Cheetahs can reach 75 miles per hour (mph), and that earns them the title of fastest animal on land. When it comes to the whole planet, however, the peregrine falcon has those big cats beat. In its hunting dive, the peregrine falcon is traveling at 240 mph.

So how do peregrine falcons reach such amazing speeds? Peregrines have exceptionally powerful flight muscles and pointed, unslotted feathers that give them a streamlined, slick look. This makes them more aerodynamic, which means they can dive faster. Peregrine falcons also have large hearts and efficient lungs - most birds wouldn't be able to breathe at these speeds.

All of that combines to make a these dive-bombers so fast that if you blink, you might miss 'em.

3. Fastest while flapping: Mexican free-tailed bat

Photo: Ann Froschauer/USFWS/Wikimedia Commons

Sure, a plummeting peregrine falcon is fast, but you may say that's just gravity at work. Maybe you'll be impressed by the Mexican free-tailed bat then.

These bats, also known as the Brazilian free-tailed bat, weigh 11 to 14 grams - about the weight of a AAA battery - and have a wingspan between 12 to 14 inches (30 to 35 centimeters). These bats have been clocked flapping 60 to 100 mph, which means they're faster than cheetahs, too.

They're among the most abundant mammals in North America, but habitat destruction may make it hard on them in the future. They roost only in a limited number of locations, albeit in large numbers.

4. Slowest: American woodcock

Photo: Peter Swaine/Flickr

Let's slow down the superlatives here for a moment. Really, really slow them down. Because here's the American woodcock. These small birds - they're 10 to 12 inches long and weigh 140 to 230 grams - fly in loose groups or by themselves. Flying together probably feels more sociable since they're very slow fliers. Their normal migration speed is around 16-28 mph, but they will also fly at a very leisurely 5 mph. Humans can run faster than the woodcock's top speed, let alone that slow-moving 5 mph.

5. Highest-flying: Birds migrating over the Himalayas

Photo: Wildmishra/Wikimedia Commons

While a 1974 report of a Rüppell's griffon vulture colliding with an airplane at 37,000 feet (11,278 meters) makes this vulture the highest of fliers, this sort of cruising height doesn't seem to occur often. More routinely, however, two birds make extreme height migrations: the bar-headed goose (Anser indicus) and the common crane (Grus grus).

The bar-headed goose is notable for its flying technique. Members of the species can reach up to 23,000 feet as they fly over the Himalayas. To reach these heights, the geese engage in a sort of roller-coaster approach to the flight, diving and rising to conserve energy. While this may seem counterintuitive, staying at extreme heights causes the birds' heart rates to spike, and that uses more energy than hugging the ground and then climbing back up. Also, the geese never stop flapping, which adds to the energy they expend.

6. Gliding: Flying fish

Photo: Mike Prince/Wikimedia Commons

Not all superlative fliers are of the avian persuasion. Enter the flying fish. These ray-finned fish don't actually fly. They can't propel themselves with their wings by flapping. Instead, they're able to leap out of the water and glide on their fins, often for long distances. The National Wildlife Federation says the flying fish's maximum distance is 650 feet. They do this to escape predators, but once they're in the air, they're easy pickings for birds, too. Win some, lose some.

Flying fish encompass over 60 different species, which means there could be a lot of fish jumping out of the ocean and soaring over the open seas.

7. Least likeliest to fly but still soar through the air: Snakes

Photo: Len Worthington/Flickr

Flying snakes are members of the genus Chrysopelea. These slithery reptiles will move vertically up a tree until it reaches an end of a branch. Then it propels itself off the tree and into the air, slithering all the while.

Horrifying.

These snakes soar by sucking in their abdomens and expanding their rib cages, and this combination creates a "pseudo concave wing" that allows them to soar, in some cases better than flying squirrels. The Department of Defense reportedly once looked into how these snakes operate to see what it could learn from the snake's dynamics.

Top image: Flying fish. Credit: Free-Photos/Pixabay.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Some images added.]

Thursday, 25 April 2019

TOP 10 SURREAL ANIMALS THAT REALLY EXIST


Top 10 Surreal Animals That Really Exist
By Jana Louise Smit,
Listverse, 24 April 2019.

Fantasy movies often conjure the most fantastic make-belief creatures. But one need not look to fiction to find creatures so surreal that they beggar belief. Earth’s natural world has a sense of humor - there are giant versions of normal species and spiders that look like rabbits.

In the darker corners, fish suddenly melt and large creepy crustaceans burrow into corpses. That aside, rainbow squirrels and ghostly tubes longer than a bus also prove that the world’s most surreal animals are also among the most glorious.

10. White Whale


When Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick in 1851, the story about the white whale became a classic. The pale cetaceans are not pure invention. For instance, Galon de Leche (“Milk Gallon”), an albino whale, is a local celebrity off the coast of Mexico.

There have been several sightings of a white whale in the area, but nobody knows if it is the same animal or different individuals. However, they are rare. In 2003, a pure-white calf was allegedly seen. Unfortunately, there exists no photographic evidence to back up the encounter.

Milk Gallon first received its name when researchers found the albino gray whale in 2008 and again in 2016, this time with a normal-colored calf by its side. The most recent sighting happened in 2019 when a whale-watching guide saw a white gray whale breach near the Baja California coast, Mexico.

Manuel Gonzalez was savvy enough to record footage of the animal. He did not repeat the mistake of the crew who possibly sighted Milk Gallon as a calf in 2003.

9. Stiletto Snakes

Photo credit: sciencealert.com

In 2019, researchers looked under rocks and plants in the forests of Guinea and Liberia. They were rewarded with a new species of snake. They found three of the unassuming brown creatures, which proved to be hairy foes.

The new guy turned out to be a member of a group known as stiletto snakes. Forget about picking them up the usual way. Grasping behind the head with one’s fingers could end with a snakebite. Stilettos have a unique ability: They can deliver a poisonous stab without opening their maws.

Special fangs grow from their mouth corners, allowing the snake to stab sideways. As the Guinea-Liberia scientists found out for themselves, the reptiles also lunge distances equal to their own body length.

Luckily, stilettos are not fatal. The bad news is that their venom is cytotoxic (a substance that destroys cells). The snakes pack a potent amount, and without the correct antivenom, a bitten hand risks losing a few fingers.

8. Melting Fish

Photo credit: Live Science

In 2018, a scientific expedition plunged 7.5 kilometers (4.7 mi) into the Atacama Trench. Located off the coast of Peru, it is one of the deepest places in the sea. Footage captured three new species of snailfish.

Despite the depth, there were plenty of invertebrates and the snailfish appeared to be the top, well-fed predator of the bunch. This was quite remarkable considering that the pressure down there would destroy a human. That is also what happened in reverse when scientists tried to bring the fish to the surface.

As it turned out, what people perceive as normal surface pressure was deadly to the creatures. To survive the depths, the snailfish evolved a squishy body with almost no structural pieces. The most substantial parts were their teeth and inner ear bones.

This soft fragility made the snailfish remarkably tough but only at a depth where they were kept together by the high pressures. When a few were caught and brought to the surface, they disintegrated so rapidly that it looked like they melted.

7. The Lagoon Blob

Photo credit: National Geographic

In 2017, something weird surfaced in British Columbia. It resembled a brain crossed with a bowl of jelly. Scientists removed it from a lagoon in Vancouver, but this was no wayward movie monster. The gelatinous goop was a group of microscopic creatures called zooids.

In scientific jargon, the brain-like colony is a bryozoan and the lagoon case was identified as Pectinatella magnifica. This type has never been seen in the area before. All known samples came from east of the Mississippi River.

This added fuel to the debate trying to settle whether the creatures are an invasive species. Their muddy color often makes the colony look like river rocks or turns them invisible in dark water. Indeed, the Vancouver bryozoan was only spotted because water levels dropped enough to make it visible.

They could have been overlooked all these years or recently invaded beyond their borders due to climate change, as some suggest. Either way, the wobbly balls are ancient survivors. The fossil record shows that zooid colonies go back 470 million years.

6. Football-Size Isopods

Photo credit: Live Science

Isopods belong to the crustacean clan, just like crabs and lobsters. In 2019, scientists caught the creatures on camera during an experiment. The team wanted to find out what scavengers trotted closer when a big piece of meat fell to the bottom of the sea. In this case, the piece was an entire alligator.

Once it hit the seafloor in the Gulf of Mexico, it did not take long for the isopods to emerge. Each was roughly the size of a football. They were a sickly pale color and resembled lobsters. The weird look was outclassed by their gory behavior. Within 24 hours, several had burrowed halfway into the alligator’s stomach to eat the reptile from the inside out.

The crustaceans’ slick ability to get through the alligator’s thick skin surprised the researchers. Then again, isopods are known for their strangeness. The nightmarish creatures can go for years without food.

Perhaps with that in mind, isopods gorge themselves whenever the opportunity presents. Case in point: When one tried swimming away from the alligator, it dropped to the seafloor like an anvil, too stuffed to move properly.

5. Blue Lobster

Photo credit: National Geographic

In all his years as a lobsterman, Robin Russell had never seen anything like it. When he checked his traps in 2017, there was a blue lobster between the usual brown ones. The creature also had areas with faded pink and periwinkle, giving it a mild rainbow look.

Called “Lucky,” the crustacean avoided the dinner plate and found a home at a science center. Lucky might be an eye-popping sight, but blue lobsters turn up every few years. In fact, lobster coloration is rather mercurial. A pigment called astaxanthin changes color depending on its amount, outside influences, or how astaxanthin contorts.

Usually, lobsters are brown. They only develop the bright red that fine diners know so well when boiling water messes with the pigment. Lucky and his blue brethren remain mysterious. Researchers think the reasons might include low levels of astaxanthin.

When completely removed from their diet, lobsters turn white. A genetic mutation might also be responsible. In the past, mutations produced some funky lobsters - brilliant yellows, a calico with dots, and lobsters with a two-toned split look.

4. An Enormous Bee

Photo credit: sciencealert.com

Alfred Russel Wallace found a giant bee. The serious-looking black creature was four times the size of a honeybee. This was in 1858, and for over a century, the so-called Wallace’s giant bee vanished.

Thought to be extinct, it made a comeback in 1981 when an entomologist found six nests scattered throughout the Bacan Islands. After this sighting, the enormous buzzers disappeared again.

In 2019, a team of scientists scoured Indonesian islands in search of the world’s largest bee. The expedition reached its final day when a local guide spotted the nest. It was already known that Wallace bees nested inside termite mounds, but none inspected by the team had yielded any of the creatures.

This mound was in a forest in North Maluku and contained a queen Wallace. The photos and video of her were the first taken of the species. Her wingspan measured 6 centimeters (2.5 in) long, and the creature had massive mandibles.

The bees may keep disappearing because the region is exceptionally remote.

3. Arachnid With Rabbit Head

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Scientist Andreas Kay browsed Ecuador’s Amazon rain forest in 2017. He encountered a tiny creature with a really odd look. The photographs showed something resembling a spider with a black bunny’s head. As bizarre and new as it looked, the species had been discovered in 1959.

About the size of a thumbnail, it was also not a spider but a harvestman. This type of arachnid is more popularly known as a “daddy longlegs.” Unfortunately, researchers don’t have much information about this particular species which is known as the bunny harvestman.

Little research has been done on the creature’s unique body shape, despite being known for decades. However, the rabbit look probably has an important purpose. The two false ears and false yellow eyes could be a way to deter predators.

Whatever the reason, harvestmen are exceptionally successful as a group. There are thousands of species, and they are older than the dinosaurs.

2. Rainbow Squirrel

Photo credit: thedodo.com

In 2019, an amateur photographer uploaded images of a squirrel to Instagram. They were a smash hit. This was no ordinary squirrel. The animal appeared to have been dyed in sections or perhaps digitally altered.

The good news is that the rainbow-colored rodent is 100 percent organic. Called Malabar giant squirrels, they hug trees in the Indian peninsula. This particular specimen was a beautiful example of their bright fur that could include orange, purple, and indigo.

Sadly, not every Malabar has a technicolor dreamcoat. It is more common to see animals with different shades of brown like beige, rust, and tan. Either way, both could play a role in camouflage and looking good for the opposite gender.

The creatures are also impressively large. Measuring about 1 meter (3 ft) long, they rarely leave the safety of high branches. When they feel like traveling to the next tree, they launch their bright bulk up to 6 meters (20 ft) through the air.

1. Pyrosoma Colony

Photo credit: Live Science

In 2018, divers filmed underwater scenes near White Island in New Zealand. Suddenly, they were surprised by a ghostly creature. The ribbonlike tube measured 8 meters (26 ft) long. It looked like a giant worm.

However, the floating feature was a colony of creatures called tunicates. These plankton-nibbling critters look like tiny rods but are complex organisms with spinal cords. Their ability to clone means that the “ribbon” can live forever.

A single colony is also known as a pyrosome and can grow as long as 18 meters (60 ft). This made the New Zealand case one of the smaller tunicate villages. The largest “cities” are often built by a species called Pyrosoma spinosum. Not only do they make the most breathtakingly long pyrosomes, but the bioluminescent variety of tunicates also turn the colony into a glowing wonderland.

Top image: Indian (or Malabar) giant squirrel (Ratufa indica). Credit: Rison Thumboor/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Listverse. Top image added.]