Yellow Blog, Up High in Banana Tree

I love the beautiful world at night.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Ptooey! Don't eat these frogs and birds.

M, Beanie, and I had a funny discussion tonight before bed about venomous creatures.

Beanie mentioned the poison arrow frog, so dangerous that merely touching one might kill a predator. We talked about how the frogs' bright colors are like a sign that reads "back off"!

Somewhere in the conversation, M asserted that there are no venomous birds. At first, I agreed, but then I felt something tickling my memory....a bird with a funny name....

Thank goodness for the Internets. Or the Webernet. Interwebs?

Anyway, I found the aptly-named Pitohui bird (yes, pronounced "ptooey"!) right away. Pitohuis' feathers and skin were found to be venomous as recently as 1987 by a hapless scientist in New Guinea (one Jack Dumbacher -- is somebody making ALL these names up?) who caught a struggling bird in a net, then put his finger in his mouth. (Don't know why he did that, but okay.) Mr. Dumbacher's tongue and lips went numb. First, he freaked out, then he realized he was onto something:

The article mentions a couple of weird overlaps between the pitohui and the poison dart frog:

"The poison of the pitohui was identified, and it turned out that the poison is a very special one, and had only been seen once before -- in dart poison frogs of the genus _Phyllobates_ in the family Dendrobatidae. The specific toxin isolated from the birds is homobatrachotoxin, a steroidal alkaloid, and is chemically identical to the homobatrachotoxin produced by _Phyllobates_."

Also: "Pitohuis and dart poison frogs are also somewhat similar in coloration. All three species of pitohui have red and black plumage - warning colors used by _Phyllobates_. Also, like the frogs, the less poisonous Brown Pitohui is the least strikingly colored being mostly brown, and the more toxic Hooded Pitohui is the most strikingly colored."

Here's a look at the hooded pitohui. He's like a construction zone sign:

"Bird at Work" or "Keep Back 50 Feet".

Nobody seems to know how these birds acquire or survive their own poison. Incredible.

On a totally unrelated note (to this post, anyway), the record for the largest eyeballs of all time goes to a specimen of giant squid that washed ashore in Newfoundland in 1978. Twenty frickin' inches in diameter! I dare you to find a yardstick and envision those terrible, wonderful eyes!

And here are some animals that are just plain fake, but look damn cool:

They induce gales of Beanie laughter! Hooray!


  • At 9:15 AM, Blogger Khavren said…

    the correct term is "internet" that covers the connection of all the somewhat independant networks. You can also use "web" to cover the (mostly) graphicly based connection.

  • At 10:39 AM, Blogger Kate said…


    You slay me.

    You honestly don't get my joke, do ya, Khavren?

    You didn't watch the presidential debates, I guess.
    The part where W said "internets"?


  • At 3:17 PM, Blogger Khavren said…

    Oh lordy no, seeing the poor education of the most powerful man in the world just makes me shudder. And look into buying a nice cabin in the woods with it's own windmill and well.


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