Raining Frogs and Fish

By Anupum Pant

Raining cats and dogs is a bit unlikely, but there is nothing wrong about saying, “it is raining frogs and fish”. It happens more often than you think. So, don’t be alarmed if one day you wake up and find fish on your terrace.

When we talk about rain, the one place in India which stands out is Kerala. As we’ve seen in a previous post that Kerala has seen red rains, it has also seen raining fish. This isn’t a joke. On February 12, 2008, people actually saw fish falling down from the sky.

Not just that. I’ve seen reports of water birds, tomatoes, coal, and even a boats falling from the sky.

Raining Animals

After a few moments of awe, when you look at the occurrence of raining animals with the science microscope, you’ll find that it is not something very extraordinary. In fact, there is a whole Wikipedia page on raining animals. It turns out, several places around the world have experienced raining frogs, fish, spiders, worms etc. And as always, science has an explanation for it.

How does it happen?

Water Sprouts: When tornadoes move on land, they can pick up trucks, houses, trees and what not. They suck up several things from the ground and cause total destruction along the path they travel. But, when such storms travel on water, they suck up water, fish and of course, frogs.

This experiment proves how a low pressure can pick up things. – [Experiment]

These things can stay up with the storm for a long time. And eventually when the storm comes on land and weakens the animals may drop down with rain. As a result, we see fish and frogs raining from the heavens.

Sharks Are Not So Bad After All

By Anupum Pant

Sharks have been on earth for millions of years more than we have been here. Also, they haven’t changed much since a long time. The kind of sharks we see today, were the same sharks that existed 350 million years ago.

That means, modern sharks have lived happily for millions of years without eating humans. Even today, they aren’t very keen on killing us for food. They simply aren’t designed (or haven’t evolved) to do that. Humans were never a part of their normal diet. Instead, they normally feed on small fish. While a few other species of sharks may eat seals, sea lions and other mammals too. In fact, they can go on for months without food.

Funny as it may sound, sharks are scared of humans. When a shark sees a human in water, it gets confused and scared. It goes near to check,  and this usually results in an accidental bite. They don’t kill humans out of aggression. With 15 rows of razor sharp teeth on each jaw, even their gentle bites may kill a person. About only 20 out of 300 species of sharks are reported to have been involved in accidents with human beings.  About 100 such accidents occur every year.

Not being insensitive about human deaths: Can you estimate how many people do sharks kill every year? The answer is 10. Ten people, on an average are killed by shark bites every year. That is about 1/15 th of number of people killed by coconuts every year*
*Note: “150 people are killed by coconuts every year”, is a popular urban legend. The coconut death figure is a crude estimate or just a figure pulled out of thin air.

Nevertheless, the number of people killed by sharks every year is very very less (again, even a single human death isn’t really ‘less’). I’d rather not use statistics to prove my point. [image]

Why are sharks scared of us? … Why shouldn’t they be?
We kill about 100 million sharks every year. That is such a huge number when compared to number of people sharks kill every year. Again, statistics could be deceiving here. But we do get an idea. There is a massive difference in the number.
Why? Humans catch sharks for their meat, internal organs and skin,  to make products such as shark fin soup, lubricants, and leather etc. Some times, fins are cut and live sharks are thrown back into the sea, crippled. This eventually kills them due to excessive bleeding or other obvious reasons.

It is ironically that we move into their natural habitat and in turn blame sharks for destroying our boats, surf boards. Moreover, we are shocked to hear about reports of shark attacks on humans. Shouldn’t it be the other way round? We should stop looking at sharks as if they are the monsters; we are. At the same time, that doesn’t mean you should risk your life by going in shark waters to give it a high-five.

Random Science Fact:  

Only 14% of the Earth’s species are known to us. 75% of all the species on Earth will be gone within the next 300 years. Think about those species which will go extinct while we are here, and we’ll never know about them.

Axolotl – A Walking Fish That can Regenerate Limbs

By Anupum Pant

If you are looking at an Axolotl for the first time, it will confuse you. With an oddly shaped body that resembles both a catfish and a salamander, you’ll wonder if it lives in water or on land. [Image]

What is it?

A fish? Axolotl, commonly known as the Mexican Walking Fish, isn’t actually a fish. It is an amphibian, which means it has both lungs and gills. They almost never come out of water, hold their breath and take in oxygen using their gills (those three pairs of parts coming out at the back of its head are the gills). They can hold their breath for a year, beat that Mr. David Blaine.

Or Salamanders? They are closely related to salamanders and interestingly the adult Axolotls look like baby Salamanders. They have long abandoned the usual amphibian-transformation from a larva stage to an adult. Unlike Salamanders, they don’t transform into adults that can live outside water. They stay in water and walk around on the water-bed.

However, strange species of Axolotl was once delivered to a zoologist Auguste Duméril, which had somehow transformed like salamanders and would happily come out of water. But this transformation (metamorphosis) shortened their life span. Later it was found that this process can be artificially triggered by injecting iodine. (Do NOT try this at home)

As pets: Today, these animals are fairly common and are used as exotic pets all around the world. Especially in Japan, people love to have them in their aquariums.

Side note: Like several other Pokémon based on real animals, Whooper and Mudkip were actually based on Axolotls.

Regenerative Powers

Besides having the ability to walk underwater and its unusual appearance, there is something that is much more interesting about them. Unlike, almost any other vertebrate, they have the power to regenerate various cells. Not just cells, Axolotls can regenerate complete body parts – limbs, gills, eyes, kidneys, even large portions of its liver and its heart muscle. Even portions of its spine and brain can be regenerated. They are able to grow back a severed limb in span of few months. This is the reason scientists love these creatures and conduct a number of studies on them every year.