Erden Eruç (Turkey) is the first oarsman to conquer three different oceans: the Atlantic east to west from Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands to Guadeloupe in 95 days 22 hr between 29 January and 5 May 2006; the Pacific east to west from Bodega Bay, California, USA, to New Guinea in 312 days between 10 July 2007 and 17 May 2008; and the Indian Ocean east to west from Carnarvon, Australia, to Madagascar in 136 days 12 hr between 13 July and 26 November Continue reading →
The largest bird that ever lived is the elephant bird or vouron patra (Aepyornis maximus) which became extinct about 1,000 years ago (although sightings were reported as late as 1658). This flightless bird from the island of Madagascar grew to around 3-3.3 m (10-11 ft) tall and weighed about 1,100 pounds. Only the Moas from New Zealand were taller than the Elephant bird (some reached thirteen feet) but they were not so massively built. The Elephant bird’s eggs were larger than those of any dinosaur, and Continue reading →
The world’s largest cobwebs, measuring up to 2.8 square metres (30 ft² 20 in²), are woven by a newly-discovered species of Madagascan spider known as Darwin’s bark spider (Caerostris darwini). It weaves them over flowing rivers by a mechanism as yet undocumented, so that they stretch from one bank to the opposite bank, and some of these are also the world’s longest known cobwebs, spanning 25 m (82 ft 0.25 in).
Discovered accidentally by a picnicking family in a remote hilly wooded area of northwestern Madagascar in 2006, but only recognised to be a dramatically new species and genus following DNA analysis a year later, the Tahina palm tree (Tahina spectabilis) was not officially named and described until January 2008. What makes this species’ belated scientific discovery so surprising is its huge size, standing over 18 m (58 ft 6 in) tall, with fan-like leaves 5 m (16 ft) across, and its bizarre, suicidal life cycle. Continue reading →
The world’s most recently discovered mongoose is a semi-aquatic Madagascan species called Durrell’s vontsira (Salanoia durrelli). The size of a cat and said to resemble ‘a scruffy little ferret’, it first came to scientific attention in 2004 when a single specimen was unexpectedly encountered swimming in a remote lake, but it was not formally recognized as a new, separate species until 2010, when it was named in honour of celebrated conservationist and author Gerald Durrell.
The newly-discovered species of Madagascan spider known as Darwin’s bark spider (Caerostris darwini) weaves the strongest known spider silk with a tensile strength of up to 520 MJ/m3 (megajoules per cubic metre) – twice as tough as any previously described silk.