My boyfriend draws his favourite odd organisms

Here at Odd Organisms I’m lucky enough to have a big friendly giant/boyfriend called James, who’ll read all my posts before I post them to do grammar/spelling checks and who’ll then click and comment on many of my posts to give me extra page views and an inflated sense of accomplishment (thanks James).

And because that’s not already enough of task, and because he’s got heaps of free time between working and studying a masters, I thought I’d also ask him to pick 5 of his favourite odd organisms and draw them for me here (thanks James).

Why drawing? It all began with his depiction of a cassowary (see below) which he jokingly drew for me one day and which made me laugh so much that it’s still stuck up in my room. So I thought, why not embarrass him further and get him to draw me more stuff? Thanks James!

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Looks like James really wanted to feature the spectacular neck of the cassowary here. Photo: Flickr/NH53, drawing: James!

#1 The Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)
Distribution: The wet tropics of Northern Queensland, Australia.
Conservation status: Vulnerable

Cassowaries are modern day dinosaurs. It’s widely accepted that all birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs, but cassowaries are especially closely related because they’re members of one of the most ancient groups of modern birds, the ratites (which also includes emus and ostriches amongst others).

Anna: What do you like about cassowaries James?

James: They can jump up and kick people… And they save the rainforest and stuff.

True that. Cassowary dung can contain up to a kilo of seeds and fruit fragments and help disperse and germinate over 70 different plant species, making them invaluable to the health of the rainforest.

Cassowaries can also inflict serious injury to people through their powerful kicks, jumps and head butts. This behaviour is rare though and most of the time it’s because these cassowaries have previously been fed by humans – which seems to change their behaviour, making them bolder and more aggressive. So don’t feed them, okay?

James Draws Odd Organisms.001
Umm, wow. I think we can agree a large improvement in proportions when compared to the cassowary drawing. On ya James. Photo & drawing by James (what can’t he do?).

#2 Christmas spider (or jewel spider) (Austracantha minax)
Distribution: Throughout Australia (and some surrounding islands)
Conservation status: no data

Their spiky appearance and bright, bold colours may make christmas spiders look a bit gnarly, but actually they pose no threat to people. They’re tiny! Smaller than 1cm, their bite causes only mild irritation.

Anna: So what do you find odd about Christmas spiders?

James: Well, they come out at Christmas… and they look cool.

You do start to find christmas spiders towards the end of the year (hence their name), and while you begin decorating your tree – they begin decorating their web. Christmas spiders will add little silken tufts to their webs, possibly for shade, structural support or even to advertise to larger animals so they don’t walk into it.

James Draws Odd Organisms.002
I love the expression on James’s orca – a small, knowing smile. It’s actually how he looks a lot of the time. All up, another great effort. Love your work James. Photo: Flickr/Robin Agarwal, drawing: James!

#3 Killer whale (or Orca) Orcinus orca
Distribution: Populations throughout the world’s oceans
Conservation status: Data deficient

James: They’re smarties, their dorsal fins are really big and they kill great whites. Not that I don’t like great whites… but it’s impressive.

Agreed. Killer whales appear to be highly intelligent and skilful hunters. In South Australia a group of cage divers were lucky enough to witness a pod of killer whales take on and kill a great white. The pod appeared to be teaching the young to ’round up’ the shark in order to attack.

In southern Australian waters, killer whales have also been reported to hunt and kill whales – including humpbacks and toothed whales. Clearly size isn’t an issue when your teamwork is this tops.

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Ahhhmazing. Little bit ghost bat. Little bit Michael Jackson. Photo: Flickr/Liz Lawley, drawing: James!

#4 Ghost bat (Macroderma gigas)
Distribution: Northern Australia
Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Like James, I love bats! Did you know, bats have huge hearts – at least twice the size of other similarly sized mammals. These hearts beat fast too, with some flying bats clocking a heart rate of up to 800 beats a minute. A running human heart reaches around 200 beats max.

Ghost bats are Australia’s largest micro-bats – kind of like the tallest person in the front row for school photos. Their latin name Macroderma means ‘big skin’, alluding to their giant, mostly naked ears which actually join and sit right on top their heads (James has captured this detail nicely).

My favourite thing about the ghost bat though, is their leaf-nose. These incredibly odd, ornate noses are thought to be an advantage for echolocating bats, helping them more precisely target prey with their calls.

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Clearly saving the best for last. I’m really enjoying James’s depiction of this little fluffball, it looks like a tiny yeti! Photo: FreeUsePhotos, drawing: James!

#5 Pygmy marmoset (Cebuella pygmaea)
Distribution: Much of the western Amazon rainforest, South America
Conservation status: Least concern

These tiny primates weigh on average, just 120g – so less than my phone, which is 150g! They’re monogamous, live in small cooperative groups and love a chat.

The small size of pygmy marmosets and the dense forests they inhabit could make it easy for their groups to become separated – so to avoid this they ensure they always keep in vocal range.

They’ll frequently call to each other as they forage, producing a wide range of sounds which follow a conversational-like rule system. When one marmoset calls, the others will answer back and no one should call again until everyone has had something to say.

James: I just like them ’cause they’re cute.

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Well there you go! Five of James’s favourite odd organisms DRAWN BY HIM. I’m very impressed with both his choices and his art work. But what do you think? Let me (and James!) know your favourite in the comments below.

And if anyone else out there likes drawing or painting (… or sculpting??) odd organisms, let me know down below too. I’d love to see your work!


Chiappe, L. M., & Dyke, G. J. (2006). The early evolutionary history of birds. Journal-Paleontological Society Of Korea, 22(1), 133.

de la Torre, S., & Snowdon, C. T. (2002). Environmental correlates of vocal communication of wild pygmy marmosets, Cebuella pygmaea. Animal Behaviour, 63(5), 847-856.

Kofron, C. (1999). Attacks to humans and domestic animals by the southern cassowary ( Casuarius casuarius johnsonii ) in Queensland, Australia. Journal of Zoology, 249(4). doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1999.tb01206.x

Richards, G., Hall, L., & Parish, S. (2012). A natural history of Australian Bats.

Snowdon, C. T., & Cleveland, J. (1984). “Conversations” among pygmy marmosets. American Journal of Primatology, 7(1), 15-20.

Tulppo, M. P., Makikallio, T. H., Takala, T. E., Seppanen, T. H. H. V., & Huikuri, H. V. (1996). Quantitative beat-to-beat analysis of heart rate dynamics during exercise. American journal of physiology-heart and circulatory physiology, 271(1), H244-H252.

Wellard, R., Lightbody, K., Fouda, L., Blewitt, M., Riggs, D., & Erbe, C. (2016). Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) Predation on Beaked Whales (Mesoplodon spp.) in the Bremer Sub-Basin, Western Australia. PloS one, 11(12), e0166670.


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