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Title: A special Crackedy treat JUST FOR YOU


scythemantis - March 10, 2012 11:52 PM (GMT)
My latest Cracked article went up yesterday, and as usual, their final edited version deviates at many points from what I wrote up and submitted to them. We're not really supposed to post them to our own websites as they're technically Cracked property, but just this once, I thought I'd show you guys what one of my articles look like before they edit it. Contrast and compare - there's a lot of jokes I love that they cut out, but a lot of jokes I love that they added as well.

Here is my original submission, "Six Terrifyingly Brutal Insect Predators," as written 100% by me:


The Frog-Eating Epomis Beetle

Many predator/prey relationships are pretty clear cut: cats eat rodents, wolves eat caribou, Teddy Roosevelt ate all of the dinosaurs and cute little froggies eat bugs with their silly little slingshot tongues. That's why we love them. They're our googly-eyed, soggy, hopping pals who complain in cartoons that there aren't enough flies in their soup. Maybe a bug manages to eat a frog now and then when a poor little baby pollywog stumbles into the next of some slavering tarantula, or something, right? Right?

user posted image
Oh no. You ruin EVERYTHING, nature

Beetle grubs of the genus Epomis have broken two terrifying insect records in one: they're the very first known example of what scientists are calling "obligatory predator-prey role-reversal," meaning that these insects have evolved to eat absolutely nothing else but animals that used to eat them, and as those happen to be frogs and toads, Epomis larvae are also the very first discovered insects to live exclusively on the flesh of vertebrates....and those are OUR guys!

user posted image
"It's actually a living goddamn hell being green!"

Biologist Gil Wizen spent more than five years studying how these insects have adapted to avenge their buggy brethren; while other beetles in the same family regularly fall prey to amphibians, Epomis knows exactly how to exploit Kermit's physical and psychological flaws. The closer a frog gets, the more the larval Epomis will wiggle its little antennae, beckoning its victim like one of those ghostly hands that floated out of carrots in Bugs Bunny cartoons. While the hungry hopper's tongue can slurp up a snack in the blink of an eye, this particular snack is just fast enough to dodge out of harms way and swing THESE into the paper-thin skin of the frog's underbelly, making it impossible for the croaker to dislodge while the bug eats its way into their throat, fatal even to frogs many times the larva's size.

Wizen and his colleagues witnessed several hundred encounters between these beetles and various amphibians, every one of which ended in the insect's favor. Even in one case where a frog managed to swallow a beetle grub, the bug was regurgitated hours later, got back up and attacked the frog again. (video link)

VIDEO: adult beetle wrestles with frog, cuts to beetle eating frog as it still struggles

Like all insect larvae, Epomis grubs eventually undergo metamorphosis into a very different insect, but their dinner preferences remain as horrifying as ever. No longer content to lure victims to them, the sleek, speedy mature beetles simply circle around and sink their jaws into a frog's back, severing vital muscles that would allow them to escape. And that, readers, is why you boil the fuck out of a lobster before it hits the dinner table.

For editorial: Gil Wizen sent me the photos shown here with permission to use them on my site and future articles as long as he's credited, which is why I added his name to the photos myself. Preferably the link to his research paper should be kept somewhere.

MANTIDFLIES

user posted image
http://www.flickr.com/photos/myriorama/185113707/

What looks like the head and claws of a preying mantis stitched onto the body of a wasp is actually a wasp-mimicking mantispid or Mantidfly, which, as it says on the tin, combines the raptorial forelegs and appetites of a mantis with a more aerial hunting technique. It's almost exactly the insect equivalent of a real live griffin, if griffins also flew around, like, assaulting dragons with coat hangers. We swear that's a good analogy, bear with us.

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While strictly hunters as adults, mantidflies begin their lives as "brood parasitoids" of spiders, which as we've explained before is exactly as metal as it sounds. As a hairy, wingless grub, the young mantispid will find itself a female spider and latch onto her body where her fangs can't reach, sucking just enough blood to keep both of them alive. The spider herself, however, is just a stepping stone in the mantispid's twisted life cycle; its true goal is to get its slimy claws on some succulent spider eggs, and it will wait as long as it needs for its host to settle down and start a family.

user posted image
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dhobern/2994052114/
Don't you give us that look, mantidfly. You're sick.

Mama spider will wrap her precious babies in a thick cocoon of silk in an attempt to keep them safe, but ironically wrap up the parasite with them. Once inside, the mantidfly larva sheds its skin and takes on another, completely different larval form, a legless and immobile blob adapted to suck unborn arachnids from their protective shells. When it's eaten its fill, it undergoes one final transformation into a scythe-armed terror of the skies.

We're really not sure if a literal, flying abortion is better than more spiders. We do know that we're never stepping outside again.

http://arthurevans.wordpress.com/2010/03/1...-up-on-spiders/

TRAP ANTS

Ants hunting big game by superior numbers is nothing new to science, but only recently have we discovered ants which turn themselves into elaborate traps, allowing them to catch a wider range of even larger insects than they could on foot.

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Allomerus decemarticulatus live in close symbiosis with a single species of tree and a single species of fungus; the tree is covered in slick hairs which most insects find difficult to walk on without slipping, but the ants employ the fungus to form large, hollow platforms that big, cumbersome bugs can easily climb. The surface of these chambers are dotted with tiny holes, and hiding inside each is the ant version of a bear trap, which is actually just an ant. It's an elegant system.

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What whac-a-mole looks like in hell.

A big bug only needs to step into a single ant-hole to seal its fate, its foot instantly seized and dragged inside by the pernicious little monster within. Even insects that manage to escape often do so at the cost of a limb or two, while others aren't so lucky; as the victim struggles, its other appendages inevitably find their way into more waiting jaws, its body pulled taught in opposite directions as more and more mandibles dig into its underbelly. Held in place like velcro, the victim is helpless to defend itself as more ants pour from within the trap, stinging it to death because oh yeah, these things also sting, and quickly carve their captive into more manageable chunks.


CORPSE-WEARING BAGWORMS

One day, Mother Nature realized that she was really into Silence of the Lambs, but being even more into animals and also criminally insane, she decided the whole movie might have been better if it were a bug, and Perisceptic carnivora was born.

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/normtownsend/4733781015/

Some of you may already be familiar with a particular category of caterpillar known as a bagworm, which builds itself a camouflaged coat from things like pine needles, flower petals, moss and tree bark; the sort of adorable things you expect a caterpillar to consider fashionable. Perisceptis, however, probably doesn't go to adorable little caterpillar fashion shows, except maybe to take blurry camera photos while it beats off in the bushes. Perisceptis, you see, is one of the few known caterpillars to be strictly carnivorous, and spends its larval stage wrapped up in a covering of decomposing limbs and hollowed-out heads, woven together with its silk.

user posted image
the only high-res photo online is free for use
"<i>Do these eviscerated cockroaches make me look fat?</i>

Perisceptis further differs from other caterpillars by rarely actually moving. Anchoring its little house in place, it wallows day and night in its festering bag of chewed body parts (we're pretty sure some of you can relate), waiting patiently to spring out at suicidally stupid insects whose mutilated eyes might be the "in thing" this season. Flies, beetles, wasps and even spiders may be added to the psychopillar's far too literal bodysuit, possibly lured by the ever growing stench itself in a horrifying cycle <i>very nearly</i> as sinister as the Burger King dollar menu.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/...80729133614.htm
http://www.huliq.com/65295/new-species-pre...tropical-forest
http://www.mendeley.com/research/biology-n...ed-setal-cases/




ULOBORID SPIDERS


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http://www.flickr.com/photos/robertwhyte/4321302883/

Large or small, hairy or scary, virtually all spiders known to man possess venom-injecting fangs to paralyze their insect victims before wrapping them in silk. Among the only exceptions to this rule are the Uloborid spiders, who possess no venom and no ability to bite. If you think this sounds like a less frightening spider, you've probably been skim-reading our nature posts. Scientists had noticed for some time that these venomless spiders wrapped their prey in an excessive amount of silk - up to 28,000 wrapping motions and 140 metres of the stuff to encase just a single insect caught in its web. It seemed like they might be overcompensating for their lack of poison, hoping all the cooler spiders just wouldn't notice. In reality, Uloborids lack venomous fangs because they're too hardcore for them.


When biologist William Eberhard decided to perform tiny insect autopsies on Uloborid victims, he found broken legs and caved-in faces. Though the spider weighed just 14 milligrams, its prey had been compacted into small balls by several hundred milligrams of pressure - every layer of silk adding a little more tension to a suffocating bondage death-cocoon. Eberhard mentions that some prey is "even killed outright" by the process. <i>Some. Some are "even" killed. That is one of the worst things we have ever heard.</i>

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Like this, only spiders.

But if Uloborids don't bite their prey, how do they even eat? Don't spiders normally need to inject their prey with digestive juices? Lucky for you, reader, the Uloborids aren't finished being worse than every spider ever. Rather than squirt acid into their victim and slurp out the guts, they simply soak the whole cocoon in powerful corrosive slobber, melting down the entire insect and even some of the silk into a protein shake from hell. Scientists believe that the whole "crushing to death" tactic isn't even meant to subdue and kill the prey, just compact them so they're easier to drench in its burning death-vomit. It's like a trash compactor, if it compacted living things into cracked, bleeding wads and then doused them in acid.

http://albert-burchsted.suite101.com/spide...-glands-a163913

TIGER BEETLES

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/insectman/

The Tiger beetles are exactly as bad-ass as they look, using their huge eyes, incredible speed and razor sharp jaws to massacre other bugs like, well, the kind of thing you call a tiger beetle. They even include the largest of all carnivorous beetles, the terrifying Manticora, which wikipedia tells us is the equivalent to the grim reaper in some African folklore. Whether or not that's even true, we're sure most bugs would agree anyway.

Tiger beetles actually chase after prey at such blinding speeds that they're literally blinded by the speed, moving too fast for their eyes to gather photons until they slow down. You might think this would put them at a disadvantage, but they need only one good visual lock on prey before launching straight for them like a meat-eating bullet.

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http://bugguide.net/node/view/180580/bgimage

As larvae, tiger beetles are almost the polar opposite in mobility, but that doesn't stop them from being at least as terrifying as their parents, essentially forming whole minefields of miniature sarlaccs:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9Aoe3DiFdA&feature=related

Nestled in their vertical burrows, tiger beetle grubs keep their armored, saucer shaped faces inconspicuously flush with the ground, their upturned eyes and sensitive hairs alerting them to the approach of other insects. Once prey gets within reach, the real-world graboid erupts from the sand like a Jack-in-the-Box for disturbed children, dragging even far bigger insects below ground to be devoured. It's basically a living, meat eating manhole cover that eventually grows up into The Flash if he had bones on the outside and chewed people's heads off.

Jesus lizard - March 11, 2012 12:09 AM (GMT)
As usual, yours is much better in parts.

The Outsider - March 11, 2012 12:52 AM (GMT)
What's that one picture from? The one that appears to be a rubber mold?

OuthouseInferno - March 11, 2012 12:56 AM (GMT)
Right away I am utterly surprised that they cut a Teddy Roosevelt joke.

scythemantis - March 11, 2012 01:20 AM (GMT)
QUOTE (The Outsider @ Mar 11 2012, 12:52 AM)
What's that one picture from?  The one that appears to be a rubber mold?

It's someone in a latex vacuum bed Outsider. It's a bondage sex toy.

It does look like it could be a scene out of some cool sci-fi movie.

The Outsider - March 11, 2012 04:15 AM (GMT)
QUOTE (scythemantis @ Mar 10 2012, 08:20 PM)
It's someone in a latex vacuum bed Outsider. It's a bondage sex toy.

It does look like it could be a scene out of some cool sci-fi movie.

It looked 3D, I thought it might have been from some movie, maybe the mold used to make the outside of an android.

BeetleBob - March 13, 2012 02:57 AM (GMT)
Loved it.
Swell stuff, as always. I always wonder where you get such good material. I've been slowly thumbing my way through interesting literature, but you seem to have years and years on my "badass bugs" story-telling abilities.

ScutigeraColeoptrata - March 13, 2012 03:24 AM (GMT)
Incredibly enjoyable, as always. I recall seeing a documentary on tiger beetles when I was very little, which demonstrated, in full nature documentary horror, how terrifying those animals were. The documentary so impressed their larger than life ferocity upon me, that I always imagined them as being quite large and dangerous, despite being insects.

Some time later, I saw a group of tiger beetles prowling around in the driveway of my uncle's farm, and marveled at our difference in size. That was the first time I realized that life can live in very different worlds, and that all terrors are relative. As the great hunters went about their daily business, I could only watch, detached, and be grateful that I was not an insect.

Now I look at their grinning faces, and they seem to say, "Do you believe in reincarnation?"

scythemantis - March 13, 2012 03:41 AM (GMT)
I was surprised by the tininess of tiger beetles, yeah, I thought they would be at least an inch or something.

And then I found out about the genus Manticora.

ScutigeraColeoptrata - March 13, 2012 04:05 AM (GMT)




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