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.<---

---End of Post "Intelligent Bottlenose Dolphin"

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

---End of Post "Hermit Crab"

Roller Bird

Its brilliant plumage brings an exotic note to the countryside...

The rollers are an Old World family, Coraciidae, of near passerine birds. The group gets its name from the aerial acrobatics some of these birds perform during courtship or territorial flights. Roller birds resemble crows in size and build, and share the colorful appearance of kingfishers and bee-eaters - blues and pinkish or cinnamon browns predominating. The two inner front toes are connected, but not the outer one.

The roller is a very beautiful bird, which some ornithologists claim is the most beautiful of all European birds.  It is a solitary bird, quite difficult to observe since it is not very common.  Despite its brightly colored feathers, it can easily hide itself among the foliage and its discreet way of life enables it to remain largely unseen.  It is also a migratory bird.

The roller bird provides our fauna with an exotic element and its coloring will give any nature lover a distinct shock when first seen.  To see it perched, with its rather angular appearance, it is hard to believe that it is a real acrobat in the air.  It can climb vertically and then drop like a stone with wings closed until it is close to the ground.  The rare spectacle of a pair of roller birds in mating display is unforgettable.  Sometimes, several couples gather to parade together but this phenomenon hardly ever occurs in Northern countries, where the bird is rare and exists only in isolated specimens.

The roller's diet is varied but consists principally of all kinds of insects, which it snatches in flight with the adroitness of a bee-eater.  Its nest is at the bottom of a hole in a tree.  Below, is an example of one the specimens from the roller family:


Image Credit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lilac-breasted_roller.jpg

---End of Post "Roller Bird"

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Green Basilisk

Unworthy king...

Provided with a crest that looks like a crown, the basilisk owes its name to a Greek word (basiliskos) meaning "little king." In European bestiaries and legends, a basilisk is a legendary reptile reputed to be king of serpents and said to have the power to cause death with a single glance.
...But the green basilisk does not deserve the majesty of kingship, since it is one of the most timid of creatures.  When this iguana lizard is frightened by an intruder, it becomes a thunderbolt and plunges into the water or, amazingly, runs across the surface, as its great agility and speed make it possible for the basilisk to do this without sinking - which is why you will sometimes hear it referred to as the Jesus Christ lizard, you know, "walk on water;" ha-ha!

Speaking of the bible, it is mentioned in there a few times.  One example is in Isaiah 14:29 in the prophet's exhortation to the Philistines reading, "Do not rejoice, whole country of Philistia, because the rod that beat you has broken, since the serpent's stock can still produce a basilisk, and the offspring of that will be a flying dragon." The King James version of the Bible states "out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent."

Anyway, there are several species of basilisk, all of which live in tropical America as its natural range covers a swath from Mexico to Ecuador.  They are distinguished by the color of their scales and the more or less rounded shape of the crest.  A daytime animal, the basilisk always lives in waterside shrubs and trees.  It has a habit of curling its tail when at rest, for whatever reason.  Green basilisks are omnivorous and eat insects, small mammals, smaller types of lizards, fruits and flowers. Their predators include birds of prey, snakes and opossums.

After mating, the female digs a hole about 3 inches deep, at the bottom of which the eggs (about 10 to 20 on average) are laid.  The hole is then covered.  The young hatch and come to the surface about 2.5 to 3 months later.  The males are very territorial when it comes to females and mating, but this is nothing new.

Depicted below, is a green basilisk:

---Image Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Plumedbasiliskcele4_edit.jpg

These lizards grow to 2 feet long on average, but can reach lengths of 3 feet, albeit most of the length is due to the long tail.

---End of Post "Green Basilisk"

Ring-tailed Lemur

Always walks with its tail in the air...

The ring-tailed lemur (more exotically known as "maki catta") is one of the most fascinating lemurs on the island of Madagascar.  Unlike its fellow lemurs, the ring-tailed lemur has partially abandoned a tree-dwelling existence for a terrestrial one - preferring to stay on the ground and walk around with its long tail permanently held erect like a staff.  These attractive creatures are diurnal and love to bask in the sun whenever possible.

A group of ring-tailed lemurs, with their wonderful black & white tails, is not a sight one quickly forgets.  They are sociable animals, living in groups of 15 to 20 individuals on average, and are very energetic - rarely still during the day.  They are very inquisitive, as well, and examine everything they encounter during their travels (sounds about as curious as a cat).

Being primarily vegetarians, they eat the fruit, flowers, buds and leaves of certain trees, though they also catch lizards and insects when they can, and eat 'em while sitting on their rumps with their tails vertical against their backs.  This little critter is also very skillful with its hands, like most monkeys.  They are just as agile in the trees as on the ground, jumping gaps several yards wide between one branch to another while moving with such speed that it's difficult to keep pace with them in the forest undergrowth.
As one of the most vocal primates, the ring-tailed lemur uses numerous vocalizations including group cohesion and alarm calls. Experiments have shown that the ring-tailed lemur, despite the lack of a large brain, can organize sequences, understand basic arithmetic operations and preferentially select tools based on functional qualities.

The ring-tailed lemur, being very timid, scares easily.  When frightened, they immediately dash up a tree for safety, and watch the object of their fear from high up in the tree.  Unfortunately, though, many folks think they make for great eating and are therefore intensively hunted by the natives of Madagascar.  These little creative monkeys typically live 16 to 19 years in the wild and up to 27 years in captivity.  Check out the image below:

---------Image Credit:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Lemuridae

Related Link:  "Images of the freaky Lemur - Aye-Aye"

---End of Post "Ring-tailed Lemur"

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fat-tailed Gecko

A nocturnal lizard that barks and bites...

Geckos are small-like lizards.  The majority of these little creatures are nocturnal, albeit some of the most beautiful of all the geckos are the Phelsumas, also known as day geckos.  In contrast to most other gecko species, day geckos are active mainly during the day. Other diurnal geckos include species of the genera Lygodactylus and Gonatodes. Day geckos have rounded pupils and a clear, fixed plate covering their eyes which they clean with their tongue. Day geckos do not have eyelids. Many species have bright green, red and blue colors which make them popular terrarium or vivarium pets.

In fact, many of these geckos are kept as pets, including the fat-tailed gecko.  Geckos have a transparent, protective scale over their eyes and eyelids which do not close.  The shape of their feet varies enormously, as some species have hooked flaps of skin on the pads of the toes which enable them to run upside down across ceilings or up panes of glass.  With the exception of the day geckos, which also eat raw fruit, geckos are insectivorous by nature.  I'm sure the diet is slightly different among the ones that are kept as pets, but out in the wild, insects are normally the food of choice.

There is some debate on which is the largest species of Gecko, with many folks saying the Tokay is the largest, although Wikipedia says it is the 2nd largest, and many other resources say the New Caledonian Giant Gecko is the largest on average.  The fat-tailed gecko is a medium-sized gecko.  Oh, speaking of a Tokay, they can grow well past 14 inches and they have what many would call "a nasty temper," and is probably not a good first pet for beginners, going by what I have heard.  Tokays can inflict a vicious bite and can let out a series of sharp barks, sort of like a small dog, which would be very confusing for someone that has never seen or heard one before.

Depicted below is an African Fat-tailed Gecko:


The Fat-tailed gecko is found in West Africa, from Senegal to Cameroon. Their habitat is dry and arid, although they will spend most of their time in a dark, humid hiding place. In captivity, it is important to provide these geckos with a source of humidity that mimics these conditions. The Fat-tailed gecko will grow to be 6 to 10 inches.  The females are generally a couple of inches shorter than the males.  They will live 15 to 18 years, on average. ['Click here' for a blog post about the average life expectancy for common pets.] The normal coloring is brown and tan stripes, with the under belly being a pale pink or off-white.

When searching online for additional info about the fat-tailed gecko, I noticed that most entries just speak about the one from Africa.  I find that odd, since I have read in the past about fat-tailed geckos dwelling in Pakistan, Iran and also neighboring Russia.  Anyway, its puffy tail contains fat reserves which are thought to enable it to survive long periods of drought, when insects are scarce, without dehydrating.   At any rate, if you have much experience keeping any type of gecko for a pet, feel free to share your experience in the comment field below.

---End of Post "Fat-tailed Gecko"