Monday, September 9, 2013

Frogs: Mantella of Madagascar

The most beautiful of all frogs...

Insects and birds do not have the monopoly over vivid and beautiful colors in the animal world; there are multitudes of fish which rival them in splendor, but not many people know that the dim, dark world of frogs and toads can also produce a few highly colored members which deserve to join the 'beautiful species' club.

The mantella of Madagascar is one of these brilliantly colored creatures. These are small frogs typically reaching 0.79–1.2 inches, with iridescent colors with combinations of black, blue, orange, yellow, and green - which reflect the toxic nature of their skins. Several species in the genus are threatened because of habitat loss and over-collection for the international pet trade.  Anyway, this small frog, which is only naturally found in Madagascar, is one of the most attractive species of frogs in the world. 

There used to be a lot of gaps in our knowledge concerning the mantella's habits and way of life, especially when reproduction is concerned.  Many years ago, I read how some zoologist brought back a mantilla in a box with a wet sponge inside to keep the air damp enough for the small animal.  Upon opening the box he found to his surprise that there were eggs stuck to the sponge.  He kept the eggs carefully; they hatched and duly turned into tiny tadpoles which eventually changed into adult mantellas.  Since there was no male in the box at the time the eggs were laid, he concluded that this particular species copulated, and that fertilization was internal, in contrast to that of other frogs.


Image Credit: http://inky.50megs.com/gallery.html

---End of Post "Frogs: Mantella of Madagascar"

Additional Link: Are all amphibians poisonous to some degree?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Capybara - Giant Rodent

The giant of the rodents...

The capybara looks more like a wild pig than a rodent, but it is in fact the largest representative of this important order, to which almost half the mammals belong.  The capybara is not a threatened species, though it is hunted for its meat and hide and also for a grease from its thick fatty skin which is used in the pharmaceutical trade.  They are very abundant in South America.

Capybaras, which are more like monster guinea pigs in appearance, depend on water since they are amphibious, aquatic-like animals and live on steep banks of major watercourses in tropical latitudes.  Like other rodents they are vegetarians, and feed on water plants and woody plants - gnawing their trunks in the same way as a beaver.  They are perfectly adapted to their aquatic life, as they swim and dive freely and can stay submerged quite a long time.  If disturbed, they invariably seek refuge by diving into the water, where they hide with their body completely submerged.

They are not nocturnal animals in the true sense, but because they are hunted fairly often, they have learned to be wary of humans (I can understand that) and only come out at dawn and dusk to browse.  By day they keep to their hideouts, which may be as elaborate as a deep burrow in a steep riverbank or as rudimentary as a hollow in an impenetrable thicket.  There is keen demand for this giant rodent's meat, which is tender and tasty - going by what I have read; I've never tried it nor wanted to eat it.  Outside of man, the jaguars and crocodiles are their primary enemies via nature.


Image Credit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capybara

---End of Post "Capybara - Giant Rodent"

Related Link: http://exotic-life-creatures.blogspot.com/2013/06/aardvark-earth-pig.html

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Centipedes

The large ones have a dangerous bite...

Centipedes are insects that live in the ground or among dead leaves and other vegetable debris.  They are also found in the woods and forests and/or in sheltered spots which ensure them darkness and a sufficient amount of humidity.

Despite their hard cuticle, which forms a kind of armor around the body, centipedes are not at all resistant to dehydration, as they quickly die when deprived of dampness.  It is therefore remarkable to discover that the largest species of centipede live in desert areas and on tiny Ocean islands.  They are to be found on several of the Galapagos Islands, and what is even stranger, on Rodrigues Island - an island that is quite lost in the middle of the Indian ocean.  The presence of these centipedes on these volcanic islands is a mystery which is far from being solved, going by what I have read in the past.

Centipedes are carnivorous and eat other insects and small worms.  The large "giant centipedes" will attack scorpions, lizards and will even eat small animals and birds.  It is funny, though, because birds often eat the smaller versions of this insect; ha!

Their steel-sharp mandibles are lined with a canal joined up to poison glands.  The bite of the large centipedes is dangerous and a number of cases of fatal poisoning are known about in Brazil and other tropical countries.  If you'd like to read more about the big centipedes, I found a decent web page entitled "Giant Carnivorous Centipedes," here:  http://www.damninteresting.com/giant-carnivorous-centipedes/

Centipede reproduction does not involve copulation. Males deposit a spermatophore for the female to take up. In one clade, this spermatophore is deposited in a web, and the male undertakes a courtship dance to encourage the female to engulf his sperm. In other cases, the males just leave them for the females to find. In temperate areas egg laying occurs in spring and summer but in subtropical and tropical areas there appears to be little seasonality to centipede breeding.


Image Credit: Wikipedia

---End of Post "Centipedes"

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Poisonous 'Portuguese Man-of-War'

Like a tiny, poisonous bladder floating on the waves...

It is difficult to believe that this air-filled bubble, tinged with pale, iridescent blue, which drifts with ocean currents is in fact a horribly dangerous animal, but it is.  The Portuguese Man-of-War is one of the most poisonous marine animals there is, going by what I have read.  It is not like I have picked it up to find out or anything; ha!

The long tentacles which hang beneath the air-filled float bear thousands of stinging capsules which secrete a poison that is at least as potent and toxic as a cobra snake.  Yeah, I'd say that is very poisonous, wouldn't you?  There are many different species of the Portuguese Man-of-War, with the biggest one being equipped with tentacles up to 13 yards long!

These outlandish, freaky hydrozoans are found in warm and temperate waters.  It would be a mistake to assume that the Portuguese Man-of-War is at the mercy of the winds and currents.  In fact, during stormy weather it is able to deflate its bladder or pneumatophore, as it is called, by letting out the special gas which keeps it inflated.  Losing its buoyancy, it sinks down through the water, safe from the churning waves, until the sea is calm again.  It then reflates itself within a few minutes by producing gas from a special gland.  That's pretty neat, eh?

The Portuguese Man-of-War lives on a diet of fish and other marine organisms that happen to come within its reach and have the misfortune to be grazed by one of its murderous tentacles.  There is one small fish, however, that is totally immune to the poison of this marine creature, and that is the Nomeus gronovii (also known as the man-of-war fish), which feeds on the tender flesh without the slightest regard for its stinging tentacles.

If you'd like to read a more elaborate page about this bizarre, floating, poisonous marine creature, feel free to visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portuguese_Man_o%27_War


---End of Post "The Poisonous Portuguese Man-of-War"


Semi-related Post: Salpa Maggiore: See-through Sea Salps

Monday, August 19, 2013

What is the heaviest & longest snake in the world?

I would rather have this post entitled with the query "what is the largest snake in the world?" - but I can't, since there would be two separate answers to that question.  In this case, there is the heaviest snake and then there is the world's longest snake.  Well, of course this is on average because not all snakes grow the same.  In fact, if some of them live long enough, they may keep growing to sizes we haven't even reported yet.

Anyway, one answer involves a type of anaconda and the other is a type of python.  Sure, it would be simpler to just say that the anaconda is the largest and/or make wild claims that we often hear (like 30 to 40 foot anacondas that have never been proven to exist, yet) and be done with it, but that would be too easy; ha!  Personally, I'm not a fan of snakes by any means nor do I enjoy being around spiders, either.  However, since this is a nature blog, I'll just have to go forward regardless of my preferences.  Currently, I've only did one other post about snakes (Viperine Grass Snake) although I did mentioned 'em on my summary post about reptiles.  At any rate, when I hear the word anacondas, I usually think about the 2 popular anaconda movies I seen several years ago.  I enjoyed both of those movies, but it wasn't like I was anywhere near those freakish monsters while watching the flicks within the safety of my own home - which is a good thing!

Okay, now back to the main questions...

Q: What is the heaviest snake in the world?
A: The Green Anaconda (Eunectes murinus)

Although they average a weight of 66 to 150 lbs., the heaviest scientifically verified specimen was a female measuring 17.09 feet long and weighing 215 lbs.!



If you'd like to read more about this slithering beast, go here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eunectes_murinus

Q: What is the longest snake in the world?
A: The Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus)

Adults can grow up to 22.8 feet in length,, but normally grow to an average of 10 to 20 feet. They are the world's longest snakes and longest reptile, but they are not the most heavily built.


If you'd like to read more about this freak of nature, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reticulated_python

Well, I hope that answered your questions and I also hope that you never find either one of those snakes coiled around you!  Cheers!

---End of Post "What is the heaviest & longest snake in the world?"

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Cuttlefish

This strange mollusk possesses very well developed eyes...

The cuttlefish never ceases to astonish experts and scholars.  It is one of the most peculiar mollusks you'll see, as it is almost like an alien of the sea; ha!  It has two great big eyes and has the ability to change its color and adapt its appearance exactly to that of its surroundings.  The range of colors at its disposal is of incredible richness and it can change its appearance in a matter of a few seconds - which is even better than the well-known chameleon.  This camouflage is indispensable to the cuttlefish and gives it security in an undersea world filled with enemies.

It has an ingenious syphoning system which is operated by the cuttlefish breathing in and then expelling the water rapidly backwards.  When in fear of an enemy attack, it ejects a blue-black liquid, like ink, which quickly forms an impenetrable cloud around it, allowing it to flee unobserved or to bury itself at the bottom of some hole.  Its head has 2 tentacles and 8 arms by means of which its prey is seized and held.  Cuttlefish eat small mollusks, crabs, shrimp, fish, octopuses, worms, and other cuttlefish. Their predators include dolphins, seals, sharks, seabirds, fish (such as the John Dory Fish), and other cuttlefish. Going by what I read on Wikipedia, their life expectancy is about one to two years. Recent studies indicate cuttlefish are among the most intelligent invertebrates and they have complex brains.  I have also read that they have 3 hearts pumping their blue-green blood.  Sounds pretty freaky, eh? These bizarre-looking cuttlefish also have one of the largest brain-to-body size ratios of all invertebrates.

Instead of me rambling on about various tidbits concerning this creature, if you'd like to read more, feel free to visit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuttlefish


Image Credit: http://slyasafox.com/newsletters/TRIZ_Local_Quality.html [Link is no longer valid]

Due to a reader's request, I have added a YouTube video showing how fast the cuttlefish can change colors.  Check it out, below:




---End of Post "The Cuttlefish"

Monday, August 12, 2013

The 'Maned Wolf'

Like a fox on stilts...

The maned wolf is a very striking member of the dog family, with its richly colored coat, foxy muzzle and tail, and disproportionately long limbs.  Its long legs enable it to move unhindered through the high grass, and by rearing up on its hind legs, it is able to see a long way to catch sight of approaching enemies, etc.  The cheetah displays similar adaptive features; it too has exceedingly long legs, but whereas it chases its prey, the maned wolf does not, though it's a fast runner.  It hunts sort of like the African serval, which is another long-limbed feline; it stalks slowly through the grass, freezes when it hears a promising rustling, then pounces on its quarry from above before it's aware of its immediate peril.  The pampas support a number of small mammals, especially rodents, and these are the maned wolf's usual prey.

The maned wolf has large ears, with the external ear being exaggerated in order to catch the faintest sound which enables the animal to pinpoint its victims at night when its eyesight is of little practical use.  It is a nocturnal hunter and spends the day in the cover of a thicket.  A large amount of zoos have been successful at providing suitable conditions for the maned wolf - which is a very shy, difficult subject, to say the least.

The maned wolf specializes in small and medium-sized prey, including small mammals (typically rodents and hares), birds, and even fish.  A large fraction of its diet (over 50%, according to some studies) is vegetable matter, including sugarcane, tubers, and fruit (especially the wolf apple, Solanum lycocarpum, a tomato-like fruit).  Captive maned wolves were traditionally fed meat-heavy diets and developed bladder stones. Zoo diets now feature fruits and vegetables, as well as meat and dog chow.


Image source:  http://www.graywolfconservation.com/Information/world_wolves.htm

---End of Post "The Maned Wolf"

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tilapia - Food Fish

Tilapia were one of the three main types of fish caught in Biblical times from the Sea of Galilee. At that time they were called musht, or commonly now even "St. Peter's fish." The name "St. Peter's fish" comes from the story in the Gospel of Matthew about the apostle Peter catching a fish that carried a coin in its mouth, though the passage does not name the fish.

The tilapia is a large food fish of African origin which has gradually spread throughout the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, for man has taken a hand and introduced it into their diet within areas that were previously tilapia-free, so to speak.  In the beginning, this fish was a resident in tropical Africa, in the Nile basin and in Israel, Jordan, and Syria.  It lives in slow-flowing lakes and rivers, as well as in estuaries and saltwater lagoons.  It acclimatizes itself well to new habitats and its resistance is absolutely incredible.  For example, Graham's tilapia does well in the exceedingly alkaline waters of Lake Magadi in Kenya, where the temperature roughly reaches 80 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit.  There are many different species of tilapia...

Because of its ability to become very adapted to different habitats, and above all for its food value to populations lacking protein, the tilapia has been introduced into many areas, both voluntarily and involuntarily.  Thus it appeared unexpectedly in Java, in 1969, without anyone knowing how it travelled from East Africa to the East Indies.  It then proceeded to spread spontaneously throughout the Indonesian islands.  This beloved food fish known as the tilapia, has also colonized the waters of Texas and Florida - while sometimes becoming a serious menace to other native species of fish.

In 1951, the breeding of tilapia begun in Madagascar.  In several areas, tilapias are kept to clean the lakes and marshland from the dangerous mosquito larvae which infest them.  Even during the time of the Ancient Egyptians, this fish was very appreciated and it is certainly tilapias which are responsible for the biblical "miraculous draught of fishes."

Personally, I think it is a decent-tasting fish.  I usually either bread it and throw it in the deep fryer, or I lightly oil it and quickly pan-fry it.  I have also baked this particular fish.  I'd say that this food fish is relatively cheap when buying in the frozen food section of common grocery stores - especially when you compare it to other fishes like catfish.


Image Credit & Additional Resource Link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilapia

---End of Post "Tilapia - Food Fish"

Side Note:  Fish like the tilapia are high in Omega-3 fatty acids; cheers!

Viperine Grass Snake

Harmless, although it looks like a venomous adder snake...

The viperine grass snake is one of the least known species of snake in Europe.  If a hiker with a social conscience happens to come across one, he usually assumes it is an adder and kills it in the belief that he is ridding the countryside of a deadly menace.  if you are wondering what type of snakethat is:  Vipera berus, the common European adder or common European viper, is a venomous viper species that is extremely widespread and can be found throughout most of Western Europe and all the way to Far East Asia. Known by a host of common names including common adder and common viper, adders have been the subject of much folklore in Britain and other European countries.

Anyway, the viperine grass snake is shorter and less common than the ringed grass snake, and leads a very secluded life in boggy areas beside streams and lakes, especially in Southern Europe.  Grass snakes are good swimmers and divers and spend most of the day in the water, though they are difficult to spot because they sometimes spend long periods motionless at the bottom of the water without coming up for air.  In the morning they like to lie in the sun among the tufts of grass at the water's edge.  They are fairly gregarious as snakes go, and are occasionally found in groups and especially during their mating season in the spring.

Viperine grass snakes feed on cold-blooded animals, mostly frogs and small fish.  They lie in wait for a fish, then hurtle forward and seize it in their jaws which are studded with sharp, backward-slopping teeth.  They devour their prey just as well under water as on land.  Like the majority of European grass snakes, they are harmless and totally lack venom fangs.

Image Credit: http://www.herpsafari.nl/reptiles/snakes/ [URL is no longer valid]

---End of Post "Viperine Grass Snake"

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Amphisbaenia - Worm Lizards

Heads or tails?

Originally, I was going to start the title of this page with Amphisbaena instead of Amphisbaenia, but after checking for a few references online, I realized that the Amphisbaena doesn't represent these worm lizards quite the same way, as it is a mythical creature instead of the real-life ones depicted below.  At any rate, if you're curious, the Amphisbaena is a mythological serpent with a head at each end. According to Greek mythology, the amphisbaena was spawned from the blood that dripped from the Gorgon Medusa's head as Perseus flew over the Libyan Desert with it in his hand. Cato's army then encountered it along with other serpents on the march. The Amphisbaena fed off of the corpses left behind.  If you'd like to read more about the mythical version of this creature, since this isn't a blog about myths, legends, & folklore, you can go here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amphisbaena

Okay, now back to the worm lizards...
It was long thought that the amphisbaenia had a head at each end of its body.  As a matter of fact, it is hard to see the difference between one end and the other.  The nose is flattened and rounded; the tiny eyes are hidden behind scales and the ears are similarly protected.  So as you can see, the head can easily be mistaken for the tail.  Before I say anymore, I'll drop down an image of one of these "worm lizards," as they are commonly called:


© 2007 Diogo B. Provete
The one shown above, is called the Red Worm Lizard.  There are well over a hundred species (I've read anywhere between 120 to 180) within the Amphisbaenidae family.  The amphisbaenia is perfectly adapted to its underground life.  It has completely lost its legs, except for one type of worm lizard, the bipes, which has two small legs.  Below, I'll provide an image of one of the bipes, which is the Mexican Mole Lizard:


Image Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/28867468@N08/5631784686

The worm lizards' elongated, cylindrical body is covered with scales arranged in regular rings.  It basically looks like a large earthworm, albeit this little creature is more or less in between a snake and a lizard.  Ah, the study of reptiles is at hand... Anyway, this lizard lives in tunnels that it digs about a foot below the surface of the ground, usually close to a supply of water.  They are mostly found in the tropical forests of South America, and in Africa - south of the Sahara, but some also dwell in certain parts of North America, Europe and the Caribbean.  It feeds mostly on ants, termites, and insect larva.  It often lives in the nests of ants and termites, where its eggs can be kept warm.  Because of this, natives of South America call the amphisbaenia the "king of the ants."  It leaves its underground tunnels at night.  On the surface it moves, unlike other reptiles, by up-and-down undulations.

---End of Post "Amphisbaenia - Worm Lizards"

Related Blog Post:  "Silky 'Dwarf' Anteater"

Monday, July 22, 2013

Gilt-head Bream - Mediterranean Fish

A carnivorous fish from the Mediterranean...

It seems that I have did several blog posts lately about some of the beloved fish of the sea.  Although I usually try to spread my posts out somewhat evenly between mammals, birds, aquatic life, insects, etc., sometimes I get stuck on certain niches.  But hey, nature is so diverse anyway, so who cares what order I go in, right?  Anyway, the main reason I'm writing about this particular fish, is because I have recently wrote an article on some article-submit site that related to this.  It was entitled "Bogus Study says Omega-3 & Fish Oil Supplements increases risk of Prostate Cancer."  Yeah, I wasn't pleased with a recent baloney study that was released to the public, nor was a lot of people.  Anyway, one of my points on that article was about Omega-3 fatty acids and how the Mediterranean Diet, which is high in such, doesn't have increased cancer risks and, if anything, they have a much lower rate.  So, why not pick a popular fish from their area, and post it on this Various Forms of Life blog...

The gilt-head bream is especially well known by gourmets who live in the area of the Mediterranean, for it's a fish localized in the temperate waters of this sea.  It is also found around those coasts of the British Isles which benefit from the Gulf Stream, as well as the Canaries and in several other regions of the subtropical Atlantic.  The particular fish is generally considered the best-tasting of the breams.

The gilt-head bream lives in shallow coastal areas and penetrates into bays and inlets where the water temperature reaches fairly high levels.  This fish avoids cold and migrates seasonally in order to maintain its surroundings at temperatures which enable it to thrive.  In autumn it leaves the coast for deeper waters where it can find a constant temperature and not be subjected to the fluctuations which occur near the shore.  It is fished during the summer, when above a level of coastal areas and in saltwater estuaries.

It is a fairly gregarious species which forms large shoals in places where it is not troubled, although isolated individuals are often found.  The young fish live in the immediate proximity of the coast and are abundant in water no deeper than a few feet.  It is a carnivorous fish, particularly fond of mollusks and crustaceans.  Oyster farmers consider the gilt-head bream to be a great enemy of oysters and mussels; in fact, it does consume large quantities of them, easily breaking their shells between its powerful teeth.  The gilt-head bream survives well in captivity and prospers in large aquaria.



Image Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilt-head_bream

---End of Post "Gilt-head Bream - Mediterranean Fish"

Related Link:  Tilapia - Food Fish

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Axolotl - Mexican Salamander

This "baby" lays eggs...

Normal vertebrate amphibians, such as frogs, emerge from the water as adults.  However, the axolotl (also know as the Mexican Salamander) spends its whole life underwater, like a four-legged fish.  In addition to that, it remains in its larval or "baby" stage.  This does not, however, prevent reproduction of young larvae.  One may ask, how can this be?  The Mexican Salamander revealed its secret a long while back, when it was raised at the Paris Zoo.  With the change in environment some of the axolotls lost their eggs, changed color, and became salamanders - adults at last!  Everything was clear...  The axolotl is, in fact, a salamander that never reaches its adult form, at least in outward appearance.  Its internal organs, however, including those concerned with reproduction, develop normally.  The case of the Mexican Axolotl is not unique.  In other species of salamander, the same situation applies.

A sexually mature adult axolotl, at age 18–24 months, ranges in length from 6 to 18 inches, although a size close to 9 inches is the most common and any length greater than 12 inches is rare.  These swimming creatures are very interesting to look at, to say the least.  I'll provide an image in a moment, from Wikipedia.  If you would like to see more of this little four-legged fish, simply perform an 'image search' using your favorite search engine by using either one or both of its name variations.

The natural habitat of axolotls is confined to lakes near Mexico City.  The young feed on plankton, then on daphnia (small water fleas).  As adults, they prey on worms, small crustaceans, and even injured fish.  At the time of reproduction, the male does a sort of nuptial dance to attract the female.  The male Mexican Salamander then deposits his sperm in a small sac at the bottom of the lake, and the female takes it up.  A week later she lays 200 to 600 eggs, which hatch two or three weeks after that.

As of 2010, wild axolotls are near extinction due to urbanization in Mexico City and polluted waters. Non-native fish, such as the African tilapia and Asian carp, have also recently been introduced to the waters. These new fish have been eating the axolotls' young, as well as its primary source of food.  The axolotl is currently on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's annual Red List of threatened species.


Image Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axolotl

---End of Post "Axolotl - Mexican Salamander"

Related Blog Post:  "Anglerfish - A fish that fishes..."

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hyaena - Wild Hyena

Its sinister laugh strikes fear into many animals...

Hyena or hyaena are the animals of the family Hyaenidae of suborder feliforms of the Carnivora. It is the fourth-smallest biological family in the Carnivora (consisting of four species), and one of the smallest in the Mammalia.  Despite their low diversity, these wild hyenas are unique and vital components to most African and some Asian ecosystems.  I stress the word 'wild' because down through the years I have heard several folks refer to certain people as such.  For example, "Dang, boy, have some table manners; you eat like a wild hyaena."  Or another phrase I've heard:  "She was so freakin' excited, that woman entered the room screaming and sounding like some wild hyena." Ha-ha!

The hyaena is one of the strangest and most misunderstood of all African animals.  One popular belief is that hyenas are repulsive cowards and feed on the remains of other animals' kills.  I'll show a video of that, in a moment, albeit on that particular occasion it didn't work out very well for 'em.  At any rate, the hyena does not deserve this reputation, as they also hunt and make their own kills in a very effective fashion.

In the past, there were 3 different types of hyaena, the brown hyena, spotted hyena, and the striped hyena.  All are carnivores, with front claws longer than those on their hind paws.  All 3 of those are endowed with extraordinary strength and the structure of their teeth is unique among mammals.  A hyena is capable of breaking the femur of a horse with one snap of its jaws.

However, now they say there are 4 types of hyenas, with the latest addition being the aardwolf.  The aardwolf is usually classified with the Hyaenidae, though it was formerly placed into the family Protelidae.  Unlike its relatives, the carnivora, the aardwolf does not hunt large animals, or even eat meat on a regular basis; instead it eats insects, mainly termites - one aardwolf can eat about 200,000 termites during a single night by using its long, sticky tongue to capture them.  I can see why, after reading about this 4th addition to the hyaena family, it was not previously considered a hyena.

Anyway, despite their unattractive appearance, wild hyenas are not as horrible as they seem, and in captivity they tame rather easily.  Although they live in groups, each animal establishes its quarters in a separate area.  They occupy the dens of warthogs and the burrows of aardvarks - often chasing away the rightful inhabitants.  Yeah, that really sounds fair, eh?

At nightfall, hyenas become active; their call is a kind of laugh, a sinister cackling which they indulge in prior to beginning to hunt their quarry of zebra or antelope, for example.  Contrary to what is commonly believed, they feed normally on prey which they themselves have killed while hunting and killing in a group.  On occasions they will eat an animal which is already dead, but many zoologists have established the fact that the lion actually does this more often and/or is a greater eater of carrion than the hyaena.
At dawn these night-time phantoms return to their dens to shelter from the heat of the day and await the freshening effect of dusk to stimulate them into pursuit of some new quarry.

Below, is a video showing a not-so-friendly encounter between lions and hyenas:
[Video is no longer available]

Depicted below, is the 4 types of wild hyenas:


Image Credit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyena

---End of Post "Hyaena - Wild Hyena"

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fiddler Crab

Waves its long claw like a flag...

There are a number of species (approximately 100) of fiddler crab, also known as calling crab.  All of them are air-breathing, being equipped with enlarged gill chambers, and are therefore found along sandy beaches and on mudflats.  Many species are brightly colored.  The claws of the male crab are out of proportion to each other; one is normal in size while the other is two to four times as long, very swollen and often contrasting in color with the rest of the body - as it acts as a resonance box.

Male fiddler crabs are extremely sensitive to sound vibrations and use their monster claw to draw the attention of neighbors and rivals to themselves and their puny territory.  They wave the claw in the air, occasionally snapping the pincers together.  This dry snapping sound, when performed by swarms of them stationed on the same sandflat, is quite distinctive.  The hen crabs, however, are very ordinary looking.

Each crab digs and occupies its own hole.  The solitary tenants of these holes emerge at low tide but rarely stray far from them except to teach a nosy neighbor a lesson or woo a passing female.  At the slightest disturbance they scramble back into their holes and stay there for some time.  Fiddler crabs, like all species of shore crab, have many enemies - mammals as well as birds - who wait until the tide goes out to move in and feed.  As the tide comes in, each fiddler crab contrives to carry a small disk of mud under its body, and as it descends into its hole, the disk neatly plugs the entrance to the hole, trapping a supply of air inside.  From that point, all the crab has to do is wait patiently for the tide to go out again.

Fiddler crabs live rather brief lives of no more than two years (up to three years in captivity).  Many folks also keep them as pets.  During courtship, the males wave their oversized claws high in the air and tap them on the ground in an effort to attract females. Fights between males will also occur, which are possibly meant to impress the females; if a male loses his larger claw, the smaller one will begin to grow larger and the lost claw will regenerate into a new (small) claw. For at least some species of fiddler crabs, however, the small claw remains small, while the larger claw regenerates over a period of several molts, being about half its former size after the first molt. The female fiddler carries her eggs in a mass on the underside of her body. She remains in her burrow during a two week gestation period, after which she ventures out to release her eggs into the receding tide.


---End of Post "Fiddler Crab"

The 'John Dory' Fish

Has a large black spot on its side to deter its enemies...

The John Dory is a very odd-looking fish for any angler to come across - definitely the oddest fish any angler in Southern England is likely to encounter.  This fish is relatively common, though, and has an oval body, strongly flattened laterally, with trailing, spiny fins.  It is almost completely rigid - which is rare in non-bottom-dwelling fish. The John Dory grows to a maximum size of 2 feet in length and 7 pounds in weight.

The John Dory's lack of flexibility makes it ill-equipped to give chase to its prey.  It adopts a slow, cautious approach instead; it drifts unnoticed towards its intended victim, with scarcely perceptible movements of the fins and tail, until it's in grabbing range.  From this point, out shoots the huge funnel-shaped mouth and the unsuspecting creature is sucked in as if by a vacuum cleaner.  Despite this enormous, protruding mouth, the John Dory has no teeth.  While this fish goes about its leisure stalking activities, its body can be seen to quiver all over and also change color, mottling alternately dark and light - which makes its movements difficult to follow.  This fish is also practically invisible when meeting head on because of its high and very narrow body.

The John Dory eats a variety of fish, especially schooling fish, such as sardines. Occasionally they eat squid and cuttlefish. Their predators are sharks, like the dusky shark, and large bony fish. The John Dory is a mid-water species, living at depths of 300 feet or so on average.  Due to its relative abundance, they often get caught accidentally in many trawls (they say it is a good food fish with firm, sweet flesh).

Per Wikipedia:  "John Dory are coastal fish, found on the coasts of Africa, South East Asia, New Zealand, Australia, the coasts of Japan, and on the coasts of Europe. They live near the seabed, living in depths from 15 feet to 1200 feet. They are normally solitary.
Reproduction and lifespan: After they are 3 or 4 years of age they are usually ready to reproduce. This happens around the end of winter. They are substrate scatterers, which means that they release sperm and eggs into the water to fertilize. Typical lifespan is about 12 years in the wild."


Image Source/Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dory

---End of Post "The 'John Dory' Fish"

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Screamer Birds

Its wings are equipped with horny spurs...

The screamer is one of several very odd birds.  It is distantly related to ducks and geese, but lacks webbed toes.  Its heavy, squat body reminds one of a duck.  The screamer's special feature is the pair of hard, horny spurs, rather like a cock's spurs, growing on the bend of the wings; these are used in combat with rival birds.  The crested screamer bird is the best known species, depicted below.  This bird also goes by the name Southern Screamer.  It averages 32 to 37 inches long and weighs anywhere between 6.6 to 11 pounds, on average. They are the heaviest, although not necessarily the longest, of the three screamers.  Their wingspan is roughly around 67 inches.  It is an inhabitant of the swampy wastes of the Matto Grosso and Paraguay, and leads a very secluded life in the thick of the swamp, among the exuberant papyrus grass and water plants.  It occasionally shows itself, perched on the trees which emerge from the swamp. Its low, resonant two-note call is reiterated several times in a row.

Screamer birds live in pairs, though they are sometimes seen in considerable numbers, especially at mating time.  Their diet is vegetarian, consisting of grasses and various marshland plants.  They frequently enter the water and swim, but since their plumage does not remain dry like a goose or duck, they are obligated to allow their feathers to dry off in the sun by standing with wings outstretched.  Screamers are certainly not good-tempered birds; in fact, they are prickly and pugnacious by temperament.  The inevitable outcome of an encounter between two males is a vicious fight, from which the loser retires seriously injured by his opponent's spurs.  Screamer birds have a peculiar respiratory aid, additional to their lungs, in the form of hundreds of air bubbles or auxiliary air sacs beneath the skin.


Image Source:  Southern Screamer - http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-southern-screamer.html

Quick YouTube Video featuring Crazy Screamers:
[Video is no longer available]


---End of Post "Screamer Birds"

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Woolly 'Mountain Tapir'

One of the rarest and most mysterious of Andean animals...

The mountain tapir, also known as the woolly tapir, looks like other tapirs, but has very thick, woolly fur to protect it from the damp cold of the special environment where it lives.  Its habitat is not the plains but the lofty cordilleras of the Andes.  The mountain tapir lives in the equatorial Andes and in Columbia, but its chosen environment is so limited that it only occurs in certain easterly ranges of the Andes.  In fact, its geographical distribution is more restricted than that of any other South American mammal.  Mountaineers have found traces of this tapir as high as 15,500 feet - in the snows of the Sangay Volcano on the Equator.

The wooly mountain tapirs live in areas of bamboo forest for preference, where the vegetation grows thick like a jungle.  They can make their way about in this impenetrable bamboo sanctuary by forging tunnels through it to form a maze of tracks which affords them complete security.  Woolly tapirs are vegetarians and live on bamboo shoots (hey, I've had those in stir-fry; ha!) and other juicy plant stems.  They are essentially nocturnal animals and rest during the day in bamboo thickets.  They live in pairs or small groups.

Despite their bulky, weighty appearance, they are extremely lively animals and are capable of scaling very steep rock faces with the aid of their powerful claws.  If frightened, they plunge away in a straight line through the bushes and take refuge in a mountain stream.  When speaking about the size of these animals, the adults are usually around 5.9 feet in length and 2.5 to 3.3 feet in height at the shoulder. They typically weigh between 330 and 500 pounds, and while the sexes are of similar size, females tend to be around 55 to 220 pounds heavier than the males. 

Andean tribesmen hunt them for their tasty meat.  As the local farmers push higher and higher into the mountains, their habitat shrinks and is replaced by pastures for grazing.  Now, their only places of refuge are a few high valleys.  Per Wikipedia:  "The mountain tapir is the most threatened of the four Tapirus species, classified as "Endangered" by the IUCN in 1996. Due to the fragmentation of its surviving range, populations may already have fallen below the level required to sustain genetic diversity, and the IUCN has predicted a 20% chance the species could be extinct as early as 2014.
Historically, the woolly mountain tapirs have been hunted for their meat and hides, while the toes, proboscises, and intestines are used in local folk medicines and as aphrodisiacs (dang, don't they have other things to use nowadays, for aphrodisiacs?). Since they will eat crops when available, they are also sometimes killed by farmers protecting their produce. Deforestation for agriculture and mining along with poaching, are the main threats to the species."  It sounds like we better start getting more of them to breed in the Zoos, if ya ask me...


Image Credit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mountain_Tapir2.jpg

---End of Post "The Woolly Mountain Tapir"

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Kiwi Bird

Finds its way around with the aid of its beak...

The kiwi, also known by the name apteryx, is without a doubt one of the most interesting, curious birds in existence.  It lives only in New Zealand, where five species are found.  Out of those 5 species of the Kiwi Bird, two are currently vulnerable, one is endangered, and one is critically endangered.  All species have been adversely affected by historic deforestation, but currently large areas of their forest habitat are well protected in reserves and national parks. At present, the greatest threat to their survival is predation by invasive mammalian predators. The kiwi is a national symbol of New Zealand, and the association is so strong that the term Kiwi is used all over the world as the colloquial demonym for New Zealanders.

About the size of a chicken, this bird, which hardly merits being called "winged" since its wings are quite tiny and inadequate for flying, is covered with a kind of long and hairy plumage.  The base of the beak is circled by a thick moustache of tactile hairs.  Its eyes are very small and are of not much use, though it is a bird of nocturnal habits.  The feet are extremely robust and appear too large for a body of this size.  The kiwi bird is a remarkable runner and has long claws on its solidly built toes.
Its beak is probably the kiwi's strangest possession.  The beak is very long, slightly curved, and flexible; it is covered with a cutaneous membrane which is supplied with nerves.  The nostrils are placed near the end - unlike other birds where they are found at the base of the beak and seem to have an olfactory function which is unique in the feathered realm.

The kiwi emerges from its hiding place at night and begins to search the surface of the ground for the larvae of the insects which are its staple diet.  It scrabbles among the humus and the dead leaves beneath the trees and traces its prey by smell.  The extremely secretive life led by the kiwi bird in depths of the forest is still imperfectly understood.  The kiwi nests in a hollow trunk or between two large roots of a tree.  It lays only one egg, which is large when compared to the size of the hen kiwi and is the same size as a cassowary egg - enormous for a bird no bigger than a chicken.


*For additional information about this bird, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiwi
*For interesting facts about kiwi birds, visit: http://www.kiwibird.org/interesting-facts-about-kiwi-birds-2.html

---End of Post "Kiwi Bird"

Jaguarundi Cat

The strangest of the New World cats...

The jaguarundi is like no other species of the Cat family.  It has short legs and, with its long thin body, resembles a weasel rather than a cat.  Its coat is thin and smooth, the hairs being light grey at the base and dark brown at the tips.  When angered it bristles and its coat takes on a greyish color.  Its coat carries no markings or variation in tone, of any kind.  Even when very young, its coloration is uniform.  Oddly enough, there seems to be two distinct types of jaguarundi, called "color phases" by zoologists.  One is a more or less dark grey, sometimes even black; the other is a bright red.

For a long time it was believed that two separate species existed, but ever since young have been found in the same litter demonstrating each of these color phases, it has been realized that the two color phases belong to one and the same species.  The jaguarundi cat lives in pairs, except when the female is bringing up her young.  It lives in the most varied kinds of habitat and can be found in grasslands, in abandoned plantations and even in forests.  Below, is a map that shows their natural range of habitat:

It hunts small mammals and catches a number of grain-eating birds which flutter about while they are plundering the seeds of grasses.  It was once mistakenly thought that the jaguarundi was partially a tree-dweller, but this is incorrect due to the fact that it lives on the ground and sleeps beneath a covering of grass.  This particular cat does not fear water.

It can easily be tamed and becomes as docile as a domesticated cat, albeit its instinct to hunt never leaves it.  Because of its dull coloring, it is seldom hunted and as a result, it has escaped the massacres which other felines have suffered.

The jaguarundi breed all year round.  After a gestation period of 70 to 75 days, the female gives birth to a litter of one to four kittens in a den constructed in a dense thicket, hollow tree, or similar cover.  The young are capable of taking solid food at around six weeks, although they begin to play with their mother's food as early as three weeks. Jaguarundi cats become sexually mature at about two years of age, and have lived for up to 10 years in captivity.

Image Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Puma_yaguarondi.jpg

---End of Post "Jaguarundi Cat"

Monday, July 1, 2013

Pygmy Marmoset - Dwarf Monkey

The tiniest of all the anthropoid apes...

The pygmy marmoset, also known as the dwarf monkey, is a little known inhabitant of the Upper Amazon basin.  This tiny creature is the smallest monkey in the world.  It is generally quite difficult to find or see 'em amongst the foliage of the tall jungle trees; discovering its whereabouts is a matter of purest chance, which partly explains why it is not a regular exhibit in zoos.  Not only are healthy specimens difficult to capture, they are also difficult to keep alive for longer than a few months and/or to keep healthy in a zoo for an extended amount of time.  This is not because they are naturally short-lived and unhealthy, but because attempts to artificially reconstruct their natural environment and provide exactly the right type of diet for them, usually fail.

In the trees, marmosets move more like squirrels than primates.  In some respects they present more primitive features than most primates.  For example, they have claws rather than nails on their fingers, they have a non-prehensile tail, and they produce litters of more than two.  Their diet is thought to consist of insects and very ripe fruit, though the larger marmosets probably eat buds and flowers as well.  Per Wikipedia, "This monkey has a specialized diet of tree gum.  It gnaws holes in the bark of appropriate trees and vines with its specialized dentition to elicit the production of gum. When the sap puddles up in the hole, it laps it up with its tongues. The dwarf monkey also lies in wait for insects, especially butterflies, which are attracted to the sap holes. It supplements its diet with nectar and fruit."

Pygmy marmosets are active during the day and sleep at night in a hole in a tree.  They live in pairs or in family units consisting of the parents and their offspring from several litters.  The feature which distinguishes the pygmy marmoset from other marmosets, is the absence of tufts of hair on the ears.  Its ears seem to disappear almost completely in its thick, silky fur, leaving its round eyes as the most prominent facial feature.  Its movements are somewhat jerky and disjointed, consisting of short, forward jumps as well as backward bounds.  Its call is a repetitious, short, shrill whoop.

Physical Description:  The pygmy marmoset/dwarf monkey is the smallest monkey on Earth, with a head-body length ranging from 4.6 to 6.0 inches and a tail of 6.8 to 9 inches. The average adult body weight is just over 3.5 ounces, with females generally a little heavier.  The fur color is a mixture of brownish-gold, grey, and black on its back and head and yellow, orange, and tawny on its underparts. Its tail has black rings and its face has flecks of white on its cheeks and a white vertical line between its eyes.

Image Source:  http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/PhotoGallery/Primates/7.cfm

---End of Post "Pygmy Marmoset - Dwarf Monkey"

Remora - Marine Suckerfish

It uses its sucker to hitch a ride throughout the ocean...

The diversity of the fish world is almost beyond belief, and among the many bizarre creatures in the sea, there lies a marine hitchhiker called the remora.  Nature has endowed this particular fish with a most useful device, a sucker.  This adhesive organ, located on its head, enables it to stick to larger fish such as sharks, whales, rays, etc., and even the hulls of ships, as this allows itself to be carried thousands of miles without the slightest effort - hence the marine hitchhiker and/or suckerfish title.

Since remoras lead a mysterious existence within the dim depths of the sea, we know very little about their biology.  We do know that they are not parasites because if they were, the sucker wouldn't be merely used for the attachment to a host for travel reasons.  In fact, remoras are perfectly capable of swimming and moving about under their own steam, and do so most of the time.  Who knows, maybe they just get lazy at times; ha!  Some ichthyologists think that the sucking disc, which develops rapidly in the young fish, enables it to migrate in safety - well protected from its enemies as long as it remains attached to the body of some large predator (makes sense to me).

Young remoras sometimes attach themselves to the inside of the mouth or gills of manta rays, eagle rays, swordfish and some sharks (a dangerous creature to choose, if ya ask me).  While being attached to these types of marine life, these suckerfish, uh, totally depend on their sucker.

Remoras are sometimes used to catch sea turtles; a line is attached to their tail and when released near a turtle, they immediately batten onto its carapace.  From here, all the fisherman has to do is haul in the line, land the turtle, free the remora and start again.

Because of the shape of the jaws, appearance of the sucker, and coloration of the remora, it sometimes appears to be swimming upside down. This probably led to the older common name reversus, although this might also derive from the fact that the remora frequently attaches itself to the tops of manta rays or other fish, so that the remora is upside down while attached.


---End of Post "Remora - Marine Suckerfish"

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Anglerfish

A fish that fishes!

The anglerfish has no distinct shape.  It looks like a tattered shopping bag, with a skin like an old rag.  It has no particular color, but many colors arranged in irregular patches.  It is, in fact, hard to distinguish when it rests on the sea bottom.  As it is disguised, it gently raises a long spine from its dorsal fin.  On the end of the spine is a bit of skin - a true fishing line, complete with bait!
When a little fish comes to see if this might be something good to eat, in a split second it is gobbled up, sucked in by the great current of water created when the anglerfish opens its huge mouth.  This happens so quickly that the jaws seem to not move at all.

Some anglerfish, like those of the Ceratioid group (Ceratiidae, or sea devils), employ an unusual mating method. Because individuals are presumably locally rare and encounters at least doubly so, finding a mate is problematic. When scientists first started capturing ceratioid anglerfish, they noticed that all of the specimens were female. These individuals were a few centimetres in size and almost all of them had what appeared to be parasites attached to them. It turned out that these "parasites" were highly reduced male ceratioids. The presence of multiple males breeding with a single female makes this a good example of polyandry. At birth, male ceratioids are already equipped with extremely well-developed olfactory organs that detect scents in the water. The male ceratioid lives solely to find and mate with a female. Yeah, that sounds like a simple life, eh?

There are, in all the seas of the world, hundreds of different types of anglerfish.  I once read that there are over 350 types, but who knows, by now there may be even more that have been discovered since then.  The best known is the fishing anglerfish, or turbot, much sought after as a food fish.  Only the tail is eaten, which is fortunate, because the head is so ugly (large and flat with a toothy, protruding lower jaw) that it would take away anyone's appetite upon first sight; ha!
The head and jaw make up a third of the length and most of the weight of this fish.
Anglerfish live on the sea bottom at depths that vary from species to species.  They move by making little jumps on their short, stubby fins.  They hunt without moving, attracting little fish with their "fishing lines," so to speak.

Image Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Representatives_of_ceratioid_families.jpg

Related Blog Post:  The 'John Dory' Fish

---End of Post "Anglerfish"

Beluga Whale

Thousand-pound canaries!

No, that's not a joke.  Although belugas don't fly like birds, their whistles are a bit like those of pretty birds.  Fishermen often call them "canaries of the sea."  Like canaries, the beluga whale sometimes find themselves in a cage.  They usually live in the Arctic seas, at the edge of the ice pack.  Freezing temperatures sometimes turn the surface of the water suddenly to ice and, at times, the ice can be so thick that these large cetaceans are unable to break it with their padded forehead.  When that happens, they die from a lack of air.  During severe winters, beluga whales go south.  Several long-distance migrators have been found as far from the Arctic as Japan.

The adult beluga is rarely mistaken for any other species, because it is completely white or whitish-grey in color.  The white coloration of the skin is an adaptation to life in the Arctic that allows the beluga whale to camouflage themselves in the polar ice caps as protection against their main predators, polar bears and killer whales.  Unlike the other cetaceans, the belugas seasonally shed their skin.  During the winter, the epidermis thickens and the skin can become yellowish, mainly on the back and fins. When they migrate to the estuaries during the summer, they rub themselves on the gravel of the riverbeds to remove the cutaneous covering.

Belugas usually live in schools of about a dozen.  Sometimes, though, these schools include thousands of animals.  They fish for their own food in shallow water.  Belugas have formidable enemies, principally the killer whale, an enormous cetacean known as one of the fiercest of creatures.  Human fisherman also hunt beluga whales for their fat and their skin.  The skin makes a very tough leather.
When the baby beluga has developed for a year inside of its mother, it is born tail-first.  As soon as her baby is born, the mother mates again.  Every 5th year she takes off from childbearing.  Dang, that is one busy mother!

If you'd like to read a more elaborate page about the beluga whales, visit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beluga_whale



---End of Post "Beluga Whale"

Additional Blog Link:  "Lake Vostok - Mystery @ the Center of Antarctica"

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Angwantibo

A specialized hunter...

The angwantibo is not very quick, but it is fond of insects.  This little creature specializes in hunting caterpillars.  Having a very keen sense of smell, it finds them by their odor.  Some caterpillars are covered with stinging hairs, but that doesn't bother the angwantibo.  It scrapes them, stretches them out, and skins 'em before swallowing them.  It makes no sound except for groaning or hissing when frightened.  It holds to branches so tightly that it is very hard to make it loosen its grip.  Observations of the angwantibo in captivity have shown that its hands will grasp the bars of a cage with a reflex motion like that of a bird's claws.

Angwantibos grow to a size of 22 to 30 cm, and have almost no tail at all. They only weigh up to 0.5 kg. Their fur is yellow brown to golden in color. Their snout is more pointed than that of the other lorids and this, along with their round ears, gives it the bear-like appearance that lends them their name in German: Bärenmaki "bear lemur." Solitary, nocturnal and arboreal, they prefer the underbrush and the lower layers of the forests. They spend the day hidden in the leaves. Like all lorisids, they are characterized by slow movements.

This small, tailless primate is very sensitive to noise.  It moves about at night, very quietly, in the brushwood and forests of equatorial Africa.  It can even, when in danger, move with motions so slow as to be imperceptible.  In this way it escapes its carnivorous enemies that find monkeys by watching for the disturbance of leaves in the trees.  Each angwantibo lives apart from its fellows and, in spite of its small size, has a large territory (several acres).
With its close relative the potto, also African, it resembles the loris of Asia.  These three animals form the family of lorisidae.


---End of Post "Angwantibo"

Monday, June 24, 2013

Silky 'Dwarf' Anteater

Hiding in the treetops...
The anteater depicted below, is the dwarf and/or silky anteater, which is one of several South American species.  This little critter is hard to find.  ...No larger than a squirrel, it lives in remote tropical forests.  It spends its days sleeping, curled up high in the trees.  It moves only at night, and even then, it doesn't move around a whole heck of a lot.  In general, the dwarf anteater never comes to the ground.

Although this little creature is a tree-dweller, it has no thumb.  Each hand has only two fingers, but it also has strong, curving claws that make grasping easy.  In addition, the silky anteater is helped to be at home in the trees by a strong, prehensile tail - longer than its body.  This tail supports it when it moves from one branch to another.  The tail also steadies the dwarf, silky anteater when it uses its claws for defense or to dig out ant and termite nests, as that is its only source of food.   Its mouth is larger and its snout is shorter than those of other anteaters.

Quick description:  Silky anteaters are the smallest living anteaters, and also have a proportionately shorter face and larger cranium than other species. Adults have a total length ranging from 14 to 18 inches, including a tail that averages 6.7 to 9.4 inches long, and weigh anything from 6.2 to 14 ounces. They have dense and soft fur, which ranges from grey to yellowish in color, and has a silvery sheen. Many subspecies have darker, often brownish, streaks, and paler underparts or limbs. The eyes are black, and the soles of the feet are red.

The silky anteater lives alone except during mating season.  The single baby is cared for by both parents.  It is fed first on milk, then on an insect broth regurgitated by the parents.  I know, it sounds a little gross when I mention regurgitation being used for feed, but hey, that's the way they roll.  Oh, the young anteater also rides on its parents' back (how cute).  Anyway, check out this little devil below:


---End of Post "Silky 'Dwarf' Anteater"

Aardvark - Earth Pig

Here is one of the most curious animals from Africa...
The name comes from earlier Afrikaans (erdvark) and means "earth pig" or "ground pig" (aarde earth/ground, vark pig), because of its burrowing habits. The aardvark is not closely related to the pig; rather, it is the sole recent representative of the obscure mammalian order Tubulidentata, in which it is usually considered to form one variable species of the genus Orycteropus, the sole surviving genus in the family Orycteropodidae. The aardvark is not closely related to the South American anteater, despite sharing some characteristics and a superficial resemblance.

The aardvark has the snout of a pig, the body of a kangaroo, the ears of a mule, and it digs underground like a mole!

Aardvarks are found in non-forested areas of central and southern Africa, preferable where there is sandy or clay soil.  This solitary, nocturnal animal sleeps during the day in its burrow.  At nightfall it goes out to hunt for food.  It cannot run quickly and is, therefore, cautious and fearful.  If it senses the slightest danger, it stops, supports itself on its strong tail, and quickly digs a shelter in which to hide.  It is so strong that it can dig such a shelter in a few minutes, escaping in this way from most of its enemies.  Its hearing and sense of smell are well developed, which is a good thing since it can't run very fast, etc.

Termites and ants are the aardvark's preferred food.  It destroys their nests with the long, sharp claws of its forefeet and then collects the insects with its sticky tongue.  It swallows them by the hundreds until it is satisfied (Are you starting to understand why it is called "earth pig"?).  If it does not return to its own burrow, the aardvark will dig a new one, where it will spend the day.
Each year, in October or November, the female gives birth to a hairless baby.  The young stays in the burrow for two weeks, after which it goes out with its mother.  At the age of six months, it is strong enough to dig its own shelter.

In African folklore, the aardvark is much admired because of its diligent quest for food and its fearless response to soldier ants. Hausa magicians make a charm from the heart, skin, forehead, and nails of the aardvark, which they then proceed to pound together with the root of a certain tree.  Also, some tribes will use their teeth to make bracelets that are regarded as good luck charms.

[Image Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Porc_formiguer.JPG]

---End of Post "Aardvark - Earth Pig"

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Strangest Animals on Earth - Resource Links

...Just to change it up a bit, instead of doing the usual blog post about a certain creature and whatnot, I'm going to provide a post with resource links and a video that features what many label as being the "Strangest Animals on Earth."  This particular search query popped into my head a few moments ago, and I thought it would be neat to provide some links to some of the search results that came up.

Many of the animals found on these pages (the ones I'm about to link to) are the same, but if you browse through 'em all, you'll see a good variety of strange life forms via Earth.  If you're in a hurry and not in a pictorial searching/saving mood, the video I provide should shoot out 100 bizarre animals in just under 13 minutes.  But first, I'll list the resource links below:

* Strangest and Rarest Animals in the World - http://buzzinn.net/strangest-and-rarest-animals-in-world/

* 9 Strangest Animals on Earth - http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2009/02/03/the-9-strangest-animals-on-earth/

* The 25 Weirdest Animals on Earth - http://list25.com/the-25-weirdest-animals-on-earth/

* The weirdest animals on Planet Earth - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthpicturegalleries/5966251/The-weirdest-animals-on-Planet-Earth.html [Copy & Paste URL]

Now, for the video link 100 Most Weirdest and Rarest Animals in the World:



This nature blog is fairly new, so I haven't had a chance to do a lot of blog posts yet, but I did notice that one of the animals I featured on here, showed up in some of those resource links, which was the Aye-Aye.  Anyway, I hope you enjoyed checking out all those freaky creatures...

Random Image:


Depicted above is the Yeti Crab.  Yeah, that thing looks crazy, eh?  If you're more into the Yeti Legend instead of the Crab, then visit:  Abominable Snowman - Yeti Monster

---End of Post "Strangest Animals on Earth - Resource Links"

Friday, June 21, 2013

Intelligent Bottlenose Dolphin

...As intelligent as man?

It is clearly quite unnecessary to offer an introduction to the popular dolphin for it has conquered the hearts of many, throughout the world.  This extraordinary legless sea mammal has held the high esteem of fishermen for centuries - who give it their respect as a consequence of its friendly attitude towards man.  Hell, I have though many times that dolphins may actually be on a higher level of existence than us in a spiritual sense, but regardless of such matters, they often seem more intelligent than the majority of humans on this planet, at least by what I have seen.  Anyway...

The bottlenose dolphin moves in the water with an ease which makes it the envy of all others - the fish which are its prey, in particular.  This creature has a huge appetite and spends a considerable amount of time hunting beneath the surface in order to satisfy its needs.  The bottlenose dolphin is a very sociable animal and lives in groups, usually between 10 and 20 dolphins on average.

As many of us know, with it being blessed with a happy disposition, the dolphin plays a lot and nothing is more exciting for an aquatic life lover than to watch its antics as it leaps and twists and turns and dives and races along.  The special texture of a dolphin's skin enables it to swim at incredible speed since it offers minimum resistance to the water.  It propels itself by vertical movements of the tail which is itself merely a modification of the mammalian tail.

The bottlenose dolphin is one of the most loquacious animals in the ocean:  the members of a group speak to each other ceaselessly by means of a complicated language of cries and whistles.  The dolphin also navigates by sonar - emitting very high-pitched cries which echo back when they strike an obstruction, also known as "echolocation."  Per Wikipedia:  "Echolocation, also called bio sonar, is the biological sonar used by several kinds of animals. Echolocating animals emit calls out to the environment and listen to the echoes of those calls that return from various objects near them. They use these echoes to locate and identify the objects. Echolocation is used for navigation and for foraging (or hunting) in various environments."
It is thought that the special bump located on the front of its head is a receptor organ.

Many people, including experts, consider that with its enormous brain, the dolphin is probably the most intelligent of all mammals, after man.  Like I said before, it seems to me that they have more intelligence than the majority of mankind albeit there are different types of intelligence, so it is hard to put a set model out there to use in comparison.  Basically, what I'm trying to say, is that a person could be really slow and dumb in most things, but be a genius in certain things.  With the diversity of life on this planet within this grand cosmos, there is no IQ test out there that can accurately measure the limits of intelligent beings, no matter how ya slice it!  But, I'll wait until they can upload our consciousness into a computer before I can say for sure; ha!

I could type so much about this friendly mammal, but I guess I'll stop right here.  There are so many stories about how dolphins have saved the lives of humans, killed mean sharks, etc., that it would take a long while just to talk about that.  Anyway, praise be the dolphins!


Related Links:
* Bottlenose Dolphin Facts and Pictures -- National Geographic Kids
* Bottlenose dolphin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Semi-Related Blog Link:  "We need to keep the Shark Population thriving..."

--->Shopping Link via Amazon for Dolphin-Related Products, Posters, etc.<---

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hermit Crab

Lives in a portable home...

If you go out to the rocks exposed at low tide and look into one of the pools you may see something puzzling:  a shell apparently scuttling along the bottom under its on steam!   On closer inspection you will see that the shell has long, jointed legs.  It is in fact a crab with a shell on its back - a hermit crab.

Hermit Crabs have soft abdomens, unprotected by a carapace.  The shells they live in, which may be straight or coiled, are an excellent substitute for this tough covering.  The right pincer claw is always larger than the left and is used not only for capturing food but also for blocking the entrance to the shell.  There are a great number of different species of hermit crab, the biggest being the famous coconut or robber crab (really a hermit crab which has given up living inside shells because it cannot find any big enough; ha!) that has developed an extra tough carapace to compensate for the lack of shell.

Hermit crabs start searching for a shell of suitable size very early in life.  Once inside, no amount of prodding will induce a hermit crab to come out against its will.  Growth takes place in a series of molts and the bigger crab must look for a roomier shell.  Hermit crabs depend for their survival on the gastropod mollusks - whose shells they appropriate.

A hermit crab changes shells very quickly, so that it is exposed and defenseless for only a very short amount of time (yeah, I'd be in a hurry, too!).  It finds a new shell before leaving the old one, of course, as that would be really risky to just drop your shell and wander around aimlessly, wouldn't ya say?  After carefully inspecting a potential new shell with its pincers to make sure it is acceptable, it sidles smartly into the new shelter/shell.

As pets, several marine species of hermit crabs are common in the marine aquarium trade. Personally, I prefer the decorative, scenic hobby of freshwater aquariums, but anyway... Of the approximately 15 terrestrial species in the world, the following are commonly kept as pets: Caribbean hermit crab, Australian land hermit crab, and the Ecuadorian hermit crab. Other species are less common but growing in availability & popularity as pets. These omnivorous or herbivorous species can be useful in the household aquarium as scavengers, because they eat algae and debris. Hermit crabs are often seen as a "throwaway pet" that would live only a few months, but species such as the Caribbean hermit crab (Purple Pincher or PP) have a 23-year lifespan if properly treated, and some have lived longer than 32 years.


Image Credit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Calliactis_and_Dardanus_001.JPG

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