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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Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there