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"