Critter corner: Horse-y animals that are not horses

They say it’s the race that stops a nation, but let’s face it: The Melbourne Cup isn’t for everyone.

If you aren’t a cup fan, you’re not a bad sport. You’re not “un-Australian” and it’s probably not that you don’t like horses in general. From Black Beauty to Mister Ed to Daenerys Targaryen’s ride Silver, there are lots of nice horses that have nothing to do with horse racing. There are also lots of other “horse” animals named for their equine appearance.

If you’re not a racing or sports fan, this special edition of Critter Corner brings you some horse-y animals to enjoy. You could even come back and read this at 3:00pm when your colleagues are busy watching race horses run around a track.

The Horse Fly

A horse fly from the Family Tabanidae.

A horse fly from the Family Tabanidae.

Note the biting mouth parts. Horse flies will be familiar to anyone who has been walking through wet habitats during the warmer months and felt the sharp, piercing bite of these annoying insects. It’s the female flies that feed on the blood of mammals, including humans. Although many consider them a pest, horse flies are quite important pollinators of plants. They act like hummingbirds during the day, drinking nectar from their favourite varieties of grevillea, tea trees and eucalypts.

Scientific name: Scaptia beyonceae. This species of horse fly has a glamorous golden lower abdomen and was named by CSIRO researchers in honour of American pop diva, Beyoncé.

Scientific name: Scaptia beyonceae. This species of horse fly has a glamorous golden lower abdomen and was named by CSIRO researchers in honour of American pop diva, Beyoncé.

The Pipehorse

Common name: Ribboned Pipehorse. Scientific name: Haliichthys taeniophorus. Family: Syngnathidae.

Common name: Ribboned Pipehorse. Scientific name: Haliichthys taeniophorus. Family: Syngnathidae.

Pipehorses differ from the Seahorses as their heads are positioned at a less acute angle to their body. Due to their straight shape, pipehorses can’t extend their snouts as far as the curvaceous seahorse. Quite sad for those times when you need to stretch a few more millimetres to reach your dinner.

The Seahorse

Common name: Eastern Spiny Seahorse. Scientific name: Hippocampus hendriki. Family: Syngnathidae.

Common name: Eastern Spiny Seahorse. Scientific name: Hippocampus hendriki. Family: Syngnathidae.

Seahorses are really the curvy pin-up fish of the sea. But why are they so curvaceous? Seahorse evolved from straight-bodied swimmers like pipefish—their curved trunk, bent head and long snout help them catch their dinner. Nature wrap it all up in this video on YouTube.

The horseshoe bat

The eastern horseshoe bat. They roost in warm, humid caves and occasionally under buildings. Up to 50 bats roost together, hanging from the ceiling. Image: Australian Museum/GB Baker.

According to the Australian Museum, eastern horseshoe bats are distinguished by the horseshoe-shaped fleshy area around their nose. They hunt flying and non-flying insects and spiders, and hibernate over winter in southern Australia. A few months ago we posted how the blobfish was named the world’s ugliest animal… We may just have a contender for the 2014 title.


One Comment on “Critter corner: Horse-y animals that are not horses”

  1. Tom says:

    I can’t think of a more appropriate act of revenge than driving a pin through a horsefly. Happy Melbourne Cup Carol and Nessy.


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