Life and Style Merry Christmas! Here's a snake in a hat.

Snakes in hats has become the latest pet trend to take online forums by storm, take a look at some of the most stylish here

Speedo scenes make a splash in 'Amphibians'

When the young theatre director Cressida Brown suggested I write a play that responded to her research into the careers of Olympic swimmers, my impulse was to pass. I'm a lifelong sport-phobe – the Olympics wash in and out my awareness, I can't string two words together about football, and nod off over cricket. Yet as I watched her with Olympian swimmers, retired and otherwise – Cassie Patten, Adrian Turner, Georgina Lee, Mike Fibbens and Mel Marshall – I found their stories compelling.

Pet of the week: The Frog Beetle

Beetles are quite fascinating members of the insect world. There are more than 350,000 different types of beetle, more than any other species on the planet, and they are crucial to the life cycle of their natural habitats. They may be small, but they have a huge impact on life on earth.

Full moon: Ill met by moonlight

It makes wolves howl, toads frisky and cats crazy. The full moon also gets the blame for all manner of human bad behaviour. But are these just old wives' tales – or is there a rational explanation? By Roger Dobson

Ranavirus: It's a frog's life

As a new virus cuts a swathe through their numbers, Gillian Orr discovers that we are only starting to unlock the secrets of these alluring amphibians

New virus causing mass deaths of frogs

Common frog populations around the UK have declined by more than four-fifths because of a virus which causes their internal organs to haemorrhage.

Pea-sized frogs found in Borneo carnivorous plants

One of the world's tiniest frogs — barely larger than a pea — has been found living in and around carnivorous plants on Borneo island, one of the scientists who made the accidental discovery said today.

Leading article: Up close

No one who saw it will ever forget the sequence in David Attenborough's The Trials Of Life where a killer whale, a terrifying six-tonne monster, bursts out of the sea on to a beach in Patagonia to grab a lounging, unsuspecting sea-lion pup. If that pup was shocked, so were we. A killer whale! On dry land! It was an image to stamp indelibly on our minds the wonder of the natural world.

Come on in, the wildlife's lovely

As the Million Ponds Project gains plaudits from the Environment Agency after just 18 months, Gillian Orr dips a toe into the nature sanctuary at the bottom of the garden

DVD: The Princess and the Frog (U)

"You can do anything you set your heart to," Tiana's papa tells her when she's a little girl. So, years later, Tiana sets about fulfilling her late father's dream of running a restaurant in New Orleans.

Leading article: Vile charge

It's not not that Britain's friendly little water vole has been proved not to be a vegetarian after all that is so shocking, but that it should have a French taste for frogs legs. Voles, as we all know from ratty in Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, are furry, eccentric, maddening but definitely not carnivorous creatures. It's bad enough that the round-nosed swimmers are being gradually wiped out by imported American minks. But to have this charge laid against the door of their burrows must be the last straw.

Tadpoles scream when threatened by cannibals

Some might think it's up there with the flying pig and the killer rabbit, in the list of improbable animals – the screaming tadpole. But it's real.

Extreme safari: Rhino, wildebeest, whistling frogs – there's a new species to discover around every corner at the Phinda game reserve

The adrenalin coursing through my body takes me back to the feeling I had jumping out of a plane – only this time I'm not at 14,000ft but firmly on terra firma, sat in the back of a car. The hairs on the back of my neck are on end, my pupils dilated and my heart thumping over the rustle of the breeze.

Ratty returns to canals

A waterways wildlife survey today revealed a huge increase in sightings of the elusive water vole.

Red alert: scientists identify 17,000 endangered species

Conservation groups warn of 'alarming' loss of biodiversity as thousands of animals face imminent extinction
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Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?