10 Fascinating Eggs

Bacteria and other tiny cells merely divide in two to reproduce, but more complex creatures need more complex means of reproduction. Animals use eggs in one form or other; however, most are not very similar to the familiar breakfast food many of us enjoy. Animal eggs are as different and varied in their structure as the animals who made them.

10 Shark Eggs

Most sharks and skates lay strangely shaped eggs sometimes called a ‘mermaid’s purse.’ These consist of an egg case in a thin capsule made of collagen. They often are square or rectangular with stringy or pointy corner horns, but can come in a variety of odd shapes. A few sharks, such as the Port Jackson shark, have helical egg cases which are secured into the sand like drill bits. Shark eggs can wash up on the beach and are often hand-sized, although the largest recorded was over 2m long. Female sharks lay fertilized eggs onto the sea floor where they stay until they hatch, not needing any more attention from their mother. Some shark eggs contain several baby sharks which cannibalize each other before hatching to ensure that only the strongest baby survives.

9 Octopus Eggs

Octopuses string their soft, translucent eggs up on overhangs of rock or coral. The females lay hundreds of thousands of eggs at a time and will stay to guard them against hungry predators until they hatch. This often takes so long that she begins to starve and some octopuses will eat their own arms to survive. Once her thousands of tiny offspring are hatched, they feed on microscopic organisms like plankton until they grow large enough to live on the sea floor as adults. The mother, often disabled, will generally be eaten by a predator once she leaves her lair because she has grown too weak to defend herself.

8 Fish Eggs

Unlike sharks and octopuses, most fish do not have sex. The female lays or releases unfertilized eggs and the male injects them with sperm. In some species, the male and female might never even meet each other. Although some fish, like the octopus, will stay to protect the eggs, most have nothing more to do with them and leave them to develop on their own. Millions of soft eggs are laid at once, so even hungry predators will not destroy all of them before they hatch. Some eggs are laid on secure surfaces like rocks whereas others drift freely in the water, sometimes for up to hundreds of kilometers. Free-floating eggs are called ichthyoplankton and some are able to swim even before they hatch.

7 Bird Eggs

Female birds and most reptiles lay internally fertilized eggs and most will protect them until they hatch, often in a specially-constructed nest. Even after hatching, the offspring are often helpless and require still more care. Bird egg shells are made from calcium carbonate, which is also the major component of sea shells and pearls. For camouflage, some egg shells are colored or patterned with various other chemicals. Eggs often are slightly pinched at one end due to compression they experience inside their mother. This is useful for many birds as it makes the eggs roll around in a circle rather than irretrievably away. Many birds keep their eggs warm by sitting on them. A few birds sneakily lay their eggs in other birds’ nests so that the egg’s unwitting foster parents will put in the work instead. Some birds, such as hens, will lay unfertilized eggs which are a large food source for humans.

6 Dinosaur Eggs

Dinosaur eggs sometimes contain fossilized baby dinosaurs inside, and offer a fantastic look into the past. Dinosaur eggs have many shapes. Some are elongated spheres, similar to many modern medical tablets. Others are teardrops, and still more are spherical. Some dinosaurs laid many eggs in a nest and protected them while others laid eggs indiscriminately before abandoning them. There are many types of dinosaur eggs, and only some have a similar shell to modern bird or reptile eggs. They can be much larger than the eggs of any extant animal, with the largest being over 60cm long and 20cm wide. Even this is much smaller than the full adult size of many dinosaurs, due to the nature of eggs limiting their size. Eggshells contain tiny pores to allow gases into the embryo inside. An egg that is too large needs a thicker shell to support its own weight, which prevents the pores from allowing the embryo to breathe.

5 Sponge and Jelly Eggs

Sponges, jellies, and corals produce eggs in a similar way to most fish. They do not have males and females. Instead, simple male and female organs both occur on a single creature, which release eggs and sperm into the water. Some reproduce asexually, without even the male and female organs, by simply releasing some of their cells to grow directly into new individuals without needing to be fertilized. Some sponges and jellies can reproduce if they are broken up into pieces, where each piece broken off them grows into a new individual. In some species of sponges, if you were to slice one up finely and spread out the fragments, they would merge back together and reform. If you spread them out far enough, each fragment would simply grow into a new sponge.

4 Insect Eggs

Female insects often store sperm from a single mating to use for every subsequent fertilization, so many males die after their only mating. Insects will lay many eggs at once, and sometimes construct extravagant nests or nurseries for them. The eggs themselves can be stunningly shaped or camouflaged. Some eggs are laid in water and the newborn insects are adapted to spending the first portion of their life aquatically before emerging into the air. Many insects will care for their eggs after they are laid, with some ants and termites even controlling the humidity and pH for them.

3 Amphibian Eggs

Most amphibians begin the first parts of their lives in water but as adults live on land. Their eggs are therefore often laid in water, surrounded by a gel to keep them all together. When they hatch, the offspring are called ‘tadpoles’ and have gills but no legs. They swim around like fish, although initially they also lack a mouth and live directly off the yolk left over from their egg by absorbing it through their skin. Eventually, tadpoles grow mouths, legs, lungs, lose their tail, and become fully adult. Some frogs carry their eggs about to protect them or if there is not enough water around. A small number of amphibians become tadpoles and grow into tiny adults before they even hatch, so they do not need to live in the water at all.

2 Monotreme Eggs

Monotremes are thought to have evolved from reptiles and were the ancestors of modern mammals. The only living monotremes today are platypuses and echidnas. They are warm-blooded, have hair, and produce milk, so they are mammals. However, not like other mammals, they lay eggs. Unlike most birds and reptiles, while the egg is still inside a mother monotreme, she supplies it with a small amount of nutrition from her own body, similar to other mammals. Monotreme eggs are small, white, and spherical. They are laid in small numbers and are fastidiously cared for by their mother in her burrow until 4 to 6 months after hatching. Platypuses keep their eggs warm by curling their tail over them whereas echidnas warm them by tucking them in a small fold of skin across their stomachs. Monotremes do not have nipples to produce milk from, so instead they sweat milk which their newly-hatched young drink.

1 Vivipary

Vivipary is giving birth to live young. Sometimes, true eggs are still created but are kept inside the mother’s body until they hatch and the infants emerge. This occurs in relatively few species of snakes, fish, cockroaches, scorpions, and various other animals. In seahorses, the eggs are transferred from the female to the male, and he carries them until they hatch. In mammals, the egg shells do not form at all, and the embryo is developed directly inside the mother, who provides it with nutrients from her body via a placenta except in marsupials, where the infant is born while still an embryo and nursed in a pouch. Vivipary requires much more energy from the mother than oviparity (egg-laying), but it allows longer and finer development which is restricted by eggs and so more complex offspring are possible. Vivipary leads naturally to parental involvement by teaching their offspring, allowing still more complex and specifically-adapted behavior to be learned. Oviparous animals are mostly born with all the knowledge and skills they need genetically wired into them, but a mammal can be taught. To varying extents, a mammal can therefore learn to live in a much greater range of environments than can a single species of oviparous animal.


1 in 8 chance of solar 'megastorm' 2014 could make Cities black out for up to a year.

There is a one in eight chance of a solar 'megastorm' before 2014, according to a Californian scientist - and other space weather experts agree that Earth is facing a burst of violent activity that will peak within two years. It's unknown what effects this could have on our planet - but scientists have analysed the worst recorded solar event in history, 1859's Carrington Event, and worked out what effects a similar event would have now.

In our connected, satellite-reliant electronic age, the effects would be devastating, they say, as it would disrupt global communications and take out power sources, and could cause up to $2 trillion of damage.

Scientists fear that the sun could be starting a 'hurricane season' of solar storms set to peak within the next two years

They fear the sun could now be entering a two year 'hurricane season' of solar storms, and the star flared violently on Valentine's Day this year. 'We live in a cyber cocoon enveloping the Earth. Imagine what the consequences might be,' Daniel Baker, of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics told National Geographic when asked about a potential 'megastorm'.

'Every time you purchase a gallon of gas with your credit card, that's a satellite transaction. 'Imagine large cities without power for a week, a month, or a year. The losses could be $1 to $2 trillion, and the effects could be felt for years.' The sun has a storm cycle of around 12 years, known as a solar maximum, and as this period draws to a close it generally peaks with a series of intense storms. The sun's last solar maximum was in 2000 so it should happen in the next year or two.

It could be these storms rival the infamous Carrington Event of more than 150 years ago, when telegraph stations caught fire and their networks suffered massive black-outs.

'The sun has an activity cycle, much like hurricane season. It's been hibernating for four or five years, not doing much of anything,' said Tom Bogdan, director of the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.

'Now the sun is waking up. The individual events could be very powerful.' During the Carrington Event the northern lights were seen as far south as the Caribbean, while in America you could read a newspaper just from the light of the aurora.

Sun storms can have beautiful results, such as this aurora over Norway, but a gigantic flare could wreak havoc with our electrical systems

Pete Riley, a senior scientist at Predictive Science in San Diego, California, says there 12 per cent chance of being struck by a solar megaflare.

'Even if it's off by a factor of two, that's a much larger number than I thought,' he told Gizmodo after publishing his estimate in Space Weather on February 23.

Low-intensity solar flares are quite common and can be readily seen in the form of auroras, light displays caused by the collision of charged particles with the Earth's atmosphere.

But the cost of a Carrington Event-type storm striking the planet could range anywhere from $1 trillion and $2 trillion in the first year alone, according to a 2008 report from the National Research Council.

'A longer-term outage would likely include, for example, disruption of the transportation, communication, banking, and finance systems, and government services,' the NRC report said, it was reported on Gizmodo.

'It could also cause the breakdown of the distribution of water owing to pump failure; and the loss of perishable foods and medications because of lack of refrigeration.'



Earth’s Bulls-Eye, the Eye of Africa

Since the beginning of space missions, the Earth’s bulls-eye caught the interest of astronauts in the otherwise featureless Sahara Desert. Over the years, it has become a landmark for astronauts. At first, the circular pattern was thought to have been a meteorite impact, but now the 31 mile wide bulls-eye, called the Richat Structure, is believed to be uplifted rock, a circular anticline, laid bare by erosion. Some people call this bulls-eye in the Sahara the “Eye of Africa.”

This prominent circular feature, known as the Richat Structure, in the Sahara desert of Mauritania is often noted by astronauts because it forms a conspicuous 50-kilometer-wide (30-mile-wide) bull’s-eye on the otherwise rather featureless expanse of the desert. Initially mistaken for a possible impact crater, it is now known to be an eroded circular anticline (structural dome) of layered sedimentary rocks.

NASA explained, “The Richat Structure in the Sahara Desert of Mauritania is easily visible from space because it is nearly 50 kilometers across. Once thought to be an impact crater, the Richat Structure’s flat middle and lack of shock-altered rock indicates otherwise. The possibility that the Richat Structure was formed by a volcanic eruption also seems improbable because of the lack of a dome of igneous or volcanic rock. Rather, the layered sedimentary rock of the Richat structure is now thought by many to have been caused by uplifted rock sculpted by erosion. The above image was captured last year by the orbiting Landsat 7 satellite. Why the Richat Structure is nearly circular remains a mystery.

NASA wrote, “This prominent circular feature in the Sahara desert of Mauritania has attracted attention since the earliest space missions because it forms a conspicuous bull’s-eye in the otherwise rather featureless expanse of the desert. Described by some as looking like an outsized ammonite in the desert, the structure [which has a diameter of almost 50 kilometers (30 miles)] has become a landmark for shuttle crews. Initially interpreted as a meteorite impact structure because of its high degree of circularity, it is now thought to be merely a symmetrical uplift (circular anticline) that has been laid bare by erosion.”

Mauritania – Sahara Desert in Africa – the Earth’s Bulls-eye

Do you have 3D glasses handy? You need 3D glasses to really appreciate this Anaglyph Landsat Image shot of Richat Structure, Mauritania.

NASA described, “To the right of the International Space Station, the circular feature in the Mauritanian desert is Richat dome. The 24-mile- (39-km)-wide structure was formed by intrusion of molten rock at depth, which domed the overlying rock layers upward. Rock layers of differing compositions weather away at different rates, so that concentric ridges have developed within the structure.ISS and Richat Dome, Mauritania.

There are some people who try to attribute the Richat Structure in Oudane, Mauritania, as being lasered into the Earth by aliens.

The Eye of Africa as seen from Google maps – starting out far and moving closer to the Richat Structure, Oudane, Mauritania.

From Google maps, drawing closer to the Eye of Africa.

Zooming in closer to observe the Earth’s bulls-eye – Richat Structure, Oudane, Mauritania.

Geologically, this anticline is a fold in the Earth, rock layers exposed by hot desert winds. The oldest rock beds at at its center core, with younger rocks in the outward circular form.

The rings that form the Earth’s bulls-eye, the Richat Structure, are made of 200 – 500 million-years-old Paleozoic quartzite.

Not being an astronaut and all, I had no idea that the Earth had a bulls-eye or that Africa had an eye in the desert that can be seen from space.

Whether you prefer the term Richat Structure, Earth’s bulls-eye, or Eye of Africa, it’s interesting and it looks pretty cool from above the Sahara Desert.



Top 10 Most Amazing Balanced Stones

Earth may be one of the most geologically active planets in the solar system, but don’t tell that to these 10 brazenly oblivious balanced stones. Poised between inertial stability and the relentless force of gravity, these rock-steady rocks maintain a precarious balance between soil and sky.

Balanced Rock, Colorado, USA

The huge balanced rock known as, er, Balanced Rock can be found in the Garden of the Gods, a Registered National Natural Landmark located near Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The rock looms over a paved access road that provides an excellent view – hopefully, not the last view an unlucky driver ever sees.

The photo above highlights the layers of sandstone that make up Balanced Rock while accentuating the narrow base that has weathered away over the eons, partially freeing the boulder of harder red sandstone from its imprisoning matrix of softer stone.

Balancing Rock, Digby, Nova Scotia, Canada

Balancing Rock in Digby, Nova Scotia, is a 30-odd foot high spire of columnar basalt that has gradually eroded out from the cliff face over countless years. The town of Digby has lately built an infrastructure of railings and walkways so that access to this striking phenomenon of nature is now much safer – both for tourists and for the rock itself.

According to Wally Hayes, a first-time visitor to Balancing Rock, “I was even more awestruck when I approached for a closer view and could look under the rock through a narrow horizontal crack and see the ocean beyond. The rock column didn’t appear to have much attachment to base rock on which it stood. Not only that, part of the base protruded out from the supporting rock. It looked like a pencil standing upright, half on and half off the edge of a table top. But this was not pencil, rather many tons of solid rock.”

Idol Rock, Brimham Moor, North Yorkshire, UK

A number of oddly shaped and curiously balanced rocks dot a 50-acre expanse of Brimham Moor in North Yorkshire, England. One of the most outstanding – from a balanced rock point of view – is the so-called Idol Rock. Estimated to weight around 200 tons, Idol Rock balances its enormous weight atop a comparatively tiny, pyramidal stone upon which frighteningly high pressures are being expended.

Idol Rock and its companion Brimham Rocks, which include The Sphinx, The Watchdog, The Camel, The Turtle, and The Dancing Bear, can be viewed at the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The UK’s National Trust oversees the area and admittance is free.

El Torcal de Antequera, Andalucia, Spain

El Torcal Nature Reserve, situated in the mountains south of Antequera, Spain, features a plethora of karst limestone rock formations that typically feature tall, tapering spires of rock combined with horizontal weathering patterns. The result of this combination is often expressed in huge “flapjack stacks” that are actually more stable than they appear.

The karst stone towers of El Torcal de Antequera have evolved terraces of limestone over which tourists can ascend like stairs in order to get up close & personal with the rocks. Climbing further is NOT recommended, however – Darwin has provided enough examples in the reserve without your becoming another one!

Kjeragbolten, Norway

Kjeragbolten is a 5 square meter (roughly 15 sq ft) rock that his wedged itself in a crevasse between two gigantic rocks on Kjerag mountain, Norway. It’s not your typical, top-heavy balanced rock by any means but that’s not to say that Kjeragbolten is at perfect rest – just ask Aron Ralston, whose arm was trapped by a similarly wedged boulder in Utah’s Blue John Canyon, requiring him to take desperate measures to free himself.

Unlike Ralston’s nemesis in an underground canyon, Kjeragbolten is lodged high up on Kjerag. How high? Those who are brave enough to walk across the boulder (and yes, this is allowed) can easily view the valley floor about 1,000 meters (over 3,000 feet) below. For sheepish hikers especially, the admonition “don’t look down” was never so appropriate.

Peyro Clabado, Sidobre, France

Peyro Clabado (Nailed Rock) is perhaps the most famous of the many enormous, eroded granite boulders and rock formations that make up the Sidobre in Languedoc, France. The rocks are all that remain of a 300 million year old mountain range that loomed over what was to become western Europe. Today, isolated outcrops loom over intrepid visitors who have hopefully updated their wills before visiting.

As hard and dense as granite may be, given enough time even the hardest specimens will be reduced to sand and sediment. Peyro Clabado is on its way to that fate, but for a brief moment in geological time we’re privileged to observe this 780-ton rock perform an exquisitely delicate balancing act.

Mushroom Rocks, Kansas, USA

Mushroom Rock State Park, located in the Smoky Hills region of Kansas, may only be 5 acres in size but it holds some of the oddest balancing rocks on Earth… and yes, a couple of them do indeed resemble mushrooms. Very, very large mushrooms – one might expect to see the hookah-smoking caterpillar from Alice In Wonderland relaxing on top of one.

The Kansas Mushroom Rocks are a work in progress, and unfortunately the end of the job means the end of the rock formation. Although weathering by wind and water is a slow process, it’s remarkably effective over long stretches of time. In the Mushroom Rocks, one can easily see how the harder, darker Dakota Sandstone cap rock protects (to some degree) the softer, lighter colored stone that forms its pedestal. Even more remarkable is the fact that the narrow pedestal was once part of a distinct layer of rock, the vast majority of which has eroded away.

Chiremba Balancing Rocks, Epworth, Zimbabwe

The Chiremba Balancing Rocks are little known outside of Zimbabwe but the locals certainly appreciate their majesty: one impressive grouping is featured on the country’s banknotes. Like the balancing rocks of the Sidobre in France, these weathered boulders are made of ancient granite and it’s taken millions of years for them to settle into their outwardly precarious positions.

Epworth is located a few miles southeast of Zimbabwe’s capitol, Harare, and the Chiremba Balancing Rocks are just a short taxi ride away. They were declared a national monument in 1994 and admission to the park is approximately 3 dollars.

Mexican Hat Rock, Utah, USA

Mexican Hat Rock is located just outside Monument Valley in south-central San Juan County, Utah. The 60-foot (18 m) wide by 12-foot (3.7 m) thick red sandstone rock outcropping is the only one of its kind in the area and can be seen for miles around.

There are two designated climbing routes laid out for those who wish to make the strenuous hike to the base of Mexican Hat Rock’s sombrero-shaped cap. Though not a “balanced rock” in the pure sense of the term, the cap rock is attached to its base by a very narrow neck which will inevitably snap sooner or later… keep that in mind, hikers.

The Steady Hand Of Man

The frozen tranquility of natural balanced rocks has inspired artists to try and replicate their beauty – not an easy proposition considering naturally balanced rocks have settled into their positions while creating such a tableau means working backwards, so to speak. Even so, the art of balancing rocks has gained a surprisingly large and talented following.

Daliel Leite is one of these artists and his creations approach – and on occasion even match – the suspended splendor of nature’s best balanced rocks. The precisely oriented chunk of petrified wood above is one of Leite’s best known efforts. Is the rock still standing on its minuscule base, or did it tumble seconds after being photographed? Leite isn’t saying – and thanks to the marvel of photography, it really doesn’t matter.



Stunning Glowing Cloud in the Skies Over Russia

Not so long ago, an enormous fiery cloud in the skies above Russia could only mean one thing: The beginning of something very very bad indeed. At the height of the Cold War, a vision like this would set off screams of terror and mass panic, rather than the soft gasps of wonder and awe-struck conversation that can be heard in the YouTube clip of this spectacular phenomenon. But it's not the end of the world, nor is it the beginning of a fine friendship with alien neighbours.

Duck and cover: Footage of the towering glowing cloud over an unidentified city in Russia has hit YouTube. It is a brilliantly back-lit version of lenticular cloud, often known as a UFO cloud... for obvious reasons

Footage of the glowing circular formation - which hit YouTube yesterday - is one of the most stunning examples of a 'lenticular cloud'.

For obvious reasons, these rare cloud formations are also known as 'UFO clouds' - because of their spooky resemblance to the space ships we are all expecting to imminently arrive in the skies above us.

Sci-fi films as far back as Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977) - and more recently Independence Day (1996) - have depicted aliens camouflaging their craft in boiling cloud formations.

Natural beauty: Captured at just the right time, when the sun is striking the bottom of the cloud and the 'halo' above it is created by refracted light, the cloud takes on an eerie appearance

Ribbon of light: A close-up detail of the cloud shows the various shades of light shining through the formation. Lenticular clouds are formed when moist air rises and falls over a mountain or mountain range

But this is little more than the wonder of nature creating an amazing sight.

The footage was taken in an unidentified city in Russia, and voices can be heard marveling at the awesome sight. You don't need to speak Russian to get the gist of the conversation.

What sets this footage apart from other examples of lenticular formations is the amazing glowing nature of the cloud.

Sci-Fi films like Independence Day (1996) like to show aliens disguising their spacecraft as boiling cloud formations

French nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean produced similar glowing clouds

Captured just at the right moment, when the sun is directly striking the bottom of the cloud - and light is refracted through the top of the cloud - it gives an amazing two-tone effect.

Lenticular clouds are usually formed by moist air rising over a mountain or range of mountains, forming standing waves of clouds as the air descends again.

The clouds are usually formed perpendicular to the direction of the airflow, and are usually avoided by aircraft pilots because of the turbulence associated with them.

UFO in the UK: This lenticular cloud caused a stir when it was spotted above Farsley in West Yorkshire last year

Glider pilots, on the other hand, find lenticular clouds a welcome sight, because wave lift can produce high altitudes and long distances.

The clouds are formed by stable but moist air which has travelled across the Pennines, causing a standing wave to become established.

Lenticular clouds are said to be the single biggest explanation for UFO sightings across the world.

Bright colors (called Irisation) are sometimes seen along the edge of lenticular clouds.

These clouds have also been known to form in cases where a mountain does not exist, but rather as the result of shear winds created by a front.

Hovering 'UFO': The cloud spotted in Farsley in West Yorkshire, are most commonly sighted in the Himalayas, Andes and Rocky Mountains, but are very rare in the UK

Unrivalled beauty: Multiple lenticular clouds make for an awesome sight. Their appearance in an otherwise clear sky have been behind many reported UFO sightings