The puss caterpillar is cute, cuddly, and coming to ruin your day.
USA Todayreports that the highly venomous creature, also known as the southern flannel moth caterpillar, or asp, has recently been spotted in Florida, Texas, and South Carolina. Underneath its furry coat are tiny, potent spines that break off and attach themselves to your skin, causing excruciating pain and creating a hematoma, a bruise-like wound under your skin where blood has leaked from blood vessels.
According to University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner, the caterpillar is dangerous partly because the sting of those spines becomes more painful over time. “It builds for a long time in a frightening way. No one expects stings to gain in impact or discomfort, and these will,” he told USA Today. “It packs quite a wallop.”
For one victim in Dade City, Florida, even medically administered morphine didn’t alleviate her agony. “It felt like someone was drilling into my bones,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I cried and pleaded with God for hours to make it stop.”
If one does happen to inch its way onto you, curb the instinct to flail about or swat at random—trying to brush off the adorable nightmare just increases the possibility of those sinister spines sticking to your skin. Instead, have someone carefully and calmly remove the insect with a twig or a 39-and-a-half-foot pole. Then, take a shower and wash your clothes to minimize further exposure to leftover spines.
As traumatizing as the experience sounds, your chances of meeting one of these fun-sized villains are hearteningly slim. Wagner explains that they’re particularly scarce above the Mason-Dixon line, and not even very common in southern states, where they’re usually spotted.
In short, this is just another scientific reason why you should stick to petting dogs.
Unicorns may not be real (sorry), but we know there's at least one puppy in the world with a tail growing out of its head. As Buzzfeed News reports, Narwhal (short for “Narwhal the Little Magical Furry Unicorn”) was born with an extra tail where a unicorn's horn would be.
Rochelle Steffen, founder of the Jackson, Missouri, animal rescue Mac's Mission, noticed the one-of-a-kind dog in a Facebook post. The puppy had been abandoned and was in need of a new home. Mac's Mission takes in a lot of animals with histories of abuse, injuries, or physical abnormalities that make them harder to adopt. When Steffen saw the unicorn dog, she knew that he was a perfect candidate for her rescue.
Narhwal's "tusk" is about a third of the size of his regular tail, and according to his veterinarian, it causes him no pain or medical issues. He can't wag the bonus tail, but it does wave back and forth when he plays.
Mac's Mission shared a picture of Narwhal on Facebook, and it soon became clear that they would have no trouble finding him a forever home. The original post has been shared nearly 2000 times. While many people have expressed interest in adopting him, the rescue plans to care for him a little longer and make sure he's healthy and adjusted before placing him with a family.
With a round body, spindly legs, and long fangs, this odd creature gives the platypus a run for its money. Also known as the mouse deer, chevrotains are shy and mysterious, and not much is known about them. But here's what we do know.
1. Chevrotains are not mice, nor are they deer.
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At first glance, these animals look like a weird mash-up of a deer, a mouse, and a pig. Mouse deer share a suborder with deer (Ruminantia) but are not considered “true deer.” They have their own family, Tragulidae.
2. Chevrotain species vary by weight.
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These creatures are way smaller than any deer. Depending on the species, a chevrotain can weigh anywhere from 4 to 33 pounds. The smallest species is the lesser Malay, while the largest is the water chevrotain. No species gets any larger than a small dog.
3. There are a lot of different kinds of chevrotains.
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This tiny animal comes in many variations. The family has been classified into two genera: true chevrotains (Hyemoschus) and the mouse deer (Tragulus). The spotted mouse deer are still very mysterious, so scientists have placed them in their own genus called Moschiola. Despite being categorized in different genera, they all share a similar look.
4. Chevrotain fangs are fiercer than Dracula's.
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Open up a chevrotain’s mouth and you’ll find two long fangs. They're especially elongated in males, which use the needle-like canines to stab each other. Thanks to an extra thick coat and robust muscles around the neck and rump, these adorable fighters are protected from bites during combat.
Chevrotains are the most primitive of ruminants. Like deer and similar hoofed animals, they have even-toed hooves and a multi-chambered stomach. But unlike deer, chevrotains have a three-chambered stomach instead of four, and they lack horns or antlers. They haven't changed or evolved much during their time on Earth. Scientists see them as an evolutionary link between ruminants and non-ruminants.
6. Taking a dip is the water chevrotain's best defense.
The water chevrotain is known for its ability to dive underwater when it senses a predator nearby. The miniature swimmers scrunch up and walk on the bottom of rivers and streams to prevent being picked up by the current. If there are any reeds or plants around, the animals will grab them to stay tethered. Chevrotains are able to hold their breath for about four minutes.
While hiding from hungry predators, the water chevrotain can reemerge to get some air before diving back down. Still, the animal tires easily, and can only swim for short periods of time.
7. Childbirth is an expedited experience for chevrotains.
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After getting pregnant, a female chevrotain will carry the offspring for five to nine months, depending on the species. The baby can usually stand on its own within one hour of being born. Mothers will visit their young periodically for feedings and stand on three legs while nursing.
Chevrotains are known for their ability to be almost continuously pregnant—greater and lesser Malay mouse deer can mate again only a few hours after giving birth.
8. Chevrotains are shy wallflowers.
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Due to their small size, chevrotains are preyed upon by many different animals. Lacking antlers or horns for protection, the tiny animals are forced to lead secluded lives. Some species are nocturnal and very rarely seen. Chevrotains are very shy and often graze alone, only coming together to mate. They communicate with a series of smells and noises; this timid behavior makes it difficult for scientists to study them.
9. Chevrotain hooves make a lot of noise.
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Although normally peaceful, a male will angrily beat his hooves when agitated—they can stomp around four to seven times a second. This “drum roll” technique wards off predators and warns other chevrotains in the area that there’s danger.
Additional sources: "Water Chevrotain," Amazing Animals of the World; "Chevrotains (Tragulidae)," Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia; Mammals IV, Gale Virtual Reference Library