Friday, January 31, 2014

Common Seahorse

Meet the Common Seahorse, a fish that has a range extending throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans. However, even with a range that size these Seahorses are in trouble. Their population is on the decline due to habitat degradation and high levels of overfishing. They are one of the most popular Seahorses used for traditional medicines, and are captured in high amounts. As a result, the Common Seahorse is becoming rather uncommon, and they are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.

In the wild, the Common Seahorse lives at relatively shallow depths, often attaching their tails to coral or seaweed in order to keep to one place. They are also popular in aquariums, and many are now being captive bred to keep the wild populations sustainable.

Common Seahorses have a really interesting reproductive process. After courting, the mail and female move very close together so that the female can lay her eggs in the male's brood pouch. After all the eggs have been deposited the female leaves and it is all up to dad to incubate their offspring. After about a month it is time for the young Seahorses to hatch, and the father wiggles back and forth to get his young children out into the world. What an interesting process!

IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : Indian and Pacific Oceans
Size : Length up to 14cm
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Actinopterygii -- Order : Syngnathiformes
Family : Syngnathidae -- Genus : Hippocampus -- Species : H. kuda
Image : Nhobgood

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Texas Longhorn

The Texas Longhorn is a cattle breed known for its impressively large horns-- some bulls have spreads of close to 7ft!

Texas Longhorn
The origins of the breed actually date back to Christopher Columbus. Early trips to "the New World" introduced Spanish Cattle to the continent. Many of these Cattle turned feral in Texas and other eventual southern states for a few hundred years, and were re-domesticated in the early 19th century. Those cattle were interbred with English stock from the East Coast, and the Texas Longhorn breed was born.

Thanks to the mixed Spanish and English ancestry, the Texas Longhorn comes in many, many different color varieties. You'll find them in grey, brown, red, black, and white. Some are solidly colored, others have patches, while others have speckles. Quite the color palette! They also range in size, and can weigh anywhere from 700 to 1500lbs!

Texas Longhorns are primarily bred for their meat, though they are occasionally used for dairy purposes as well.

Status : Domesticated
Location : North America
Size : Varies, maximum weight around 1,500lbs (680kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Artiodactyla
Family : Bovidae -- Genus : Bos -- Species : B. primigenius
Image : Tomballpi, Myrna Spurrier

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pygmy Mouse Lemur

Microcebus myoxinus
Amazingly, at only 5in long and a weight of less than 2oz, the Pygmy Mouse Lemur is NOT the smallest Lemur. Nope, just number two! (The true honor goes to Madame Berthe's Lemur). But hey, second place isn't bad!

The Pygmy Mouse Lemur (as with all Lemurs) lives in Madagascar. They have been found in only two small localized areas, and they actually remained almost completely unseen for close to a century due to their tiny size and nocturnal nature.

The two areas that the Pygmy Mouse Lemurs have been found in contain dry forests. They feed mostly on fruits, but will also consume insects and flowers as well. They themselves are preyed upon by several predators, including Eagles who are able to spot the Lemurs in their daytime nests while they sleep.

We don't have an exact conservation listing for the Pygmy Mouse Lemurs because they are so tough to locate and study. They have been listed as Endangered in the past but the truth is that we just don't know enough-- hence the Data Deficient tag.

IUCN Status : Data Deficient
Location : Madagascar
Size : Body Length up to 5in (13cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Primates
Family : Cheirogaleidae -- Genus : Microcebus -- Species : M. myoxinus
Image : Bikeadventure

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Limax maximus

Limax maximus
Meet Limax maximus, also known as the Leopard Slug. These Gastropods are some of the largets Slugs int he world, and can grow up to 8in long.

It is pretty easy to see where these Slugs got their feline-inspired common name. They have brown bodies that are covered with darker, leopard-like spots. There are actually several different color types, ranging from very pale, to red, to dark, but all have the spots.

Limax maximus originally hailed from Europe and possibly western Africa. However, they have spread very far from home and are now common in North America, South America, and even New Zealand.

You'll find these slugs near humans-- they like to eat trash and other decaying matter, and they normally feed at night. Unfortunately, they also like to feast on young living plants as well, which is why they are considered an invasive pest in the United States, where they feed on crops.

Like all slugs, Limax maximus individuals are hermaphrodites. When they mate, two slugs will circle each other (sometimes for hours and hours) and then eventually climb a tree. The pair will then dangle from the tree by a thick strand a mucus, and it is then that they trade sperm with each other. Each slug will then go on to lay its own eggs.

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : Europe
Size : Body Length up to 8in (20cm)
Classification : Phylum : Mollusca -- Class : Gastropoda -- Superfamily : Limacoidea
Family : Limacidae -- Genus : Limax -- Species : L. maximus
Image : max0rz

Monday, January 27, 2014

Caribbean Roughshark

Oxynotus caribbaeus
The Caribbean Roughshark is a small species of shark that grows to a maximum length of about 1.5ft. Proof that not all sharks are gigantic terrifying man-eaters for
sure!

Caribbean Roughsharks hail from the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, and they tend to live at depths of between 1400 and 1600 feet-- so no where near the surface! They have blunt noses, two dorsal fins, and no anal fin. They also have really unusual coloration-- darker grey or brown over most of their body, but light grey on the fins and head, with dark blotches.

Because they live at those depths, they aren't studied a whole lot. We do know that they are slow moving predators, and they feed on small invertebrates and fish.

These Sharks are most commonly seen when they get caught up in fighting nets. They show up occasionally as bycatch for bottom trawls.

IUCN Status : Data Deficient
Location : Caribbean
Size : Body Length up to 20in (50cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Chondrichthyes -- Order : Squaliformes
Family : Oxynotidae -- Genus : Oxynotus -- Species : O. caribbaeus
Image : http://perso.wanadoo.es/escualostk/clas_escuali.htm

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sun Parakeet

Aratinga solstitialis
Sun Parakeets, also known as Sun Conures, are popular birds in the pet trade, but are actually Endangered in the wild. In fact, capture for aviculture is one of the threats against the wild population.

Wild Sun Parakeets are found in northeast South America, and have only a very small range that extends through parts of Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and Brazil. They live in small groups of no more than 20-30 individuals, and they feed on fruits and nuts.

Sun Parakeets have very beautiful coloration-- one of the reasons why they are popular pets. Their feathers are predominantly yellow, but with bursts of red and orange. Wings and tails are blue and green, making the bird quite a rainbow of colors!

As stated earlier, unsustainable trapping led to a drastic decline in these birds. Though many of the captive birds are now captive bred, trapping still continues and more effective measures must be put into place to keep the wild populations stable.

IUCN Status : Endangered
Location : South America
Size : Body Length up to ft (30cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Psittaciformes
Family : Psittacidae -- Genus : Aratinga -- Species : A. solstitialis
Image : Public Domain

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Dyeing Dart Frog

Dendrobates tinctorius
Meet one of the largest species of Dart Frog, the Dyeing Dart. These guys can grow 2in long, which is pretty big for a member of their family.

Dyeing Darts come in many, many colors. Yellow is depicted in this entry, but you'll also see them in blues and greens as well.

In the wild, these Frogs are found in the rainforests of South America. Like all members of the Dart Frog group, they are toxic... though only mildly so. They secrete toxins through their skin which cause pain and stiffness, and the strength of the toxin can depend on the specific color morph.

One really bizarre fact is that members of indigenous tribes will capture young parrots and rub there frogs on the parrot's skin. When feather grow at that point they will be a different color than feathers elsewhere!

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : South America
Size : Body Length up to 2in (6cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Amphibia -- Order : Anura
Family : Dendrobatidae -- Genus : Dendrobates -- Species : D. tinctorius
Image : Olei

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Giant Armadillo

Priodontes maximus
Meet the largest member of the Armadillo family, the appropriately named Giant Armadillo. These odd looking animals cab grow over 3ft long (not including the tail) and weigh over 70lbs-- some have even tipped the scales at over 100! You'll find these solitary, nocturnal mammals in South America.

Like all Armadillos, the Giant has a really strange body. They have a layer of bony plates underneath their skin, and the number of hinged bands ranges from 11 to 13 depending on the individual. Because of their massive size they are unable to roll up into a ball. Instead, they have to burrow to escape predators.

To dig those burrows the Giant Armadillos use their massive front claws. Those same claws also help them to rip apart termite mounds. Termites are their primary prey, but they will eat other insects and invertebrates as well. Speaking of eating, did you know that an adult Giant Armadillo can have as many as 100 teeth? That is more teeth than any other mammal!

Unfortunately there isn't much else to say about the Giant Armadillos. They haven't been extensively studied, and we know almost nothing about their reproductive habits. They are listed as Vulnerable because of deforestation and hunting.

IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : South America
Size : Body Length up to 3.3ft (1m), Weight up to 70lbs (32kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Cingulata
Family : Dasypodidae -- Genus : Priodontes -- Species : P. maximus
Image : Diertje Van de Dag

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Charonosaurus

Charonosaurus is one many different Hadrosaur, or "Duck-Billed" species. It was discovered relatively recently, with the first fossils uncovered in 2000.

Charonosaurus is named for Charon of Greek Myth, the ferryman who carried souls across the river Styx. The Fossils were found on the banks of a river, inspiring the name. They lived between 67 and 65 million years ago, going extinct during the event at the end of the Cretaceous.

Only a few bones have been found of this Dinosaur-- most notably a partial skull. Though we don't have a full skeleton, we can use ratios found in relative Hardosaurs and determine Charonosaurus's size. They were one of the largest members of their family, and could grow as long as 33, possibly 40 feet!

Status : Extinct, Lived 67-65 million years ago
Location : China and Russia
Size : Length up to 33ft (10m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Clade : Dinosauria -- Order : †Ornithischia
Family : †Hadrosauridae -- Genus : †Charonosaurus -- Species : † C. jiayinensis
Image : Carnivora Forum

Friday, January 17, 2014

Pacific Cleaner Shrimp

Lysmata amboinensis
The Pacific Cleaner Shrimp is a Crustacean of many, many names. Their list of alias includes the Skunk, Scarlet, and Northern Cleaner Shrimp (because of their location and identification).

The "Cleaner" part comes from the fact that these small, 2in long Shrimp feed on dead tissue, debris, and parasites of much larger aquatic species. In fact, larger fish are known to seek out the reefs that the Pacific Cleaner Shrimp live on, just so the shrimp can help to  get rid of trobulesome parasites! They will even go inside of a fishes' mouth!

Pacific Cleaner Shrimp are found in the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They live relatively close to the surface, hanging out in the coral reefs.

Amazingly, every single Pacific Cleaner Shrimp is born male. As they age they go through metamorphosis and molt, and eventually becoming hermaphrodites.

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : Tropical Indo-Pacific Waters
Size : Length up to 2in (6cm)
Classification : Phylum : Arthropoda -- Class : Malacostraca -- Order : Decapoda
Family : Hippolytidae -- Genus : Lysmata -- Species : L. amboinensis
Image : Chris Moody

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo

Today's animal is the Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, a bird that calls the arid and semi-arid reaches of the Australian Outback home. They are given their common name in honor of Major Sir Thomas Mitchell, a Scottish surveyor and explorer who did a great deal of work in Australia.

When it comes to their scientific name, there is some debate over what genus the species belongs in. Some give it its very own, Lophochroa, while others place it with the Sulfur-crested Cockatoo and others over in Cacatua. The issue rages on!

Major Mitchell's Cockatoos can be identified by their bright pink crest feather (when erect) and their light pink coloring overall. Males and females can be told apart by their coloration-- females have red eyes and a thick yellow band on the crest feathers.

Major Mitchell's Cockatoos live a nomadic lifestyle, travelling where they need to in order to obtain food and suitable breeding conditions. They follow the rains (what little there is). At about five or six years of age they reach sexual maturity and find a mate-- they will stay together for life and raise offspring together. These Cockatoos do not form flocks like other members of their family, in part due to the scarcity of food and nesting sites. It is easier for two birds to find a nest in the Outback than it would be for dozens of them.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Australia
Size : Length up to 14in (36cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Psittaciformes
Family : Cacatuidae -- Genus : Lophochroa -- Species : L. leadbeateri
Image : Christopher Watson

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Black Wallaroo

Macropus bernardus
The Black Wallaroo is the smallest of the Wallaroo species, and one of the smallest Kangaroo family members overal. They grow to a maximum height of only 1m, and weigh less than 50lbs.

They are also the Wallaroo with the most limited range-- these Marsupials are found only in a tiny part of Australia's Northern Territory. In that small range though, they live in an assortment of habitats. These include both dense forests and open grasslands.

The name of the species is a little misleading. You see, only male Black Wallaroos are actually black. The females are a brownish-grey. Males and females live solitary lives most of the time, and only come together to breed. Breeding season does run year round, and females can actually support two joeys of different ages at a single time. Her actual gestation period is only about a month, and the newborns are just a few centimeters long. It will take six months for them to emerge from mom's pouch.

Black Wallaroos are listed as Near Threatened because of their tiny range. It is important to protect their small habitat, or else they could be in some serious trouble.

IUCN Status : Near Threatened
Location : Australia
Size : Height up to 3.3ft (1m) ,Weight up to 50lbs (22kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Infraclass : Marsupialia
Order : Diprotodontia -- Family : Macropodidae -- Genus : Macropus -- Species : M. bernardus
Image : TrekNature

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Great Horned Owl

Bubo virginianus
The Great Horned Owl is a truly great bird-- they are the second largest Owls in the Americas! (Second to the Snowy Owl). These big birds of prey have a body length of over 2ft, and sport two long feather tufts that give them the "horned" name. Males are slightly smaller than females (common in birds of prey), though they do have louder, deeper voices.

Great Horned Owls live in both North and South America, and are found in a variety of different open habitats-- including deserts! Their diverse habitat preference also means that they have a very diverse diet. The Owls will eat rodents, rabbits, insects, reptiles, fish, and even other birds of prey like Peregrine Falcons!

Male and female Great Horned Owls form monogamous pair bonds, often for life. They occupy territories that they defend vigorously, and they will readily kill to protect their offspring-- even members of their own species.

The Owls produce a single brood of offspring each yeah, laying between 1 and 4 eggs. The eggs incubate for close to 40 days, and hatch in the early Spring. While incubating, the female Owl will rarely leave the nest-- her mate will protect the territory and bring her food. After the offspring hatch, he will feed them for a few weeks as well. Young Owls start to fly at about 7 weeks, and will leave their parents in the late Fall or early Winter, when it is time for a new breeding cycle to begin.

Because of their massive range and their relatively stable population, the Great Horned Owls are listed as being of Least Concern.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : North and South America
Size : Body length up to 2in (.6m), Wingspan up to 5ft (1.5m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Strigiformes
Family : Strigidae -- Genus : Bubo -- Species : B. virginianus
Image :  Shudrburg

Monday, January 13, 2014

Bigeye Tuna

The Bigeye Tuna is a commercially captured fish that also happens to be the most threatened of all the Tuna species. They are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN and appear on several "do not eat" red lists, including the one put out by Greenpeace.

Bigeye Tuna are found in the tropical and temperate oceans of the world. They are large fish, able to grow as long as 6ft and weighing several hundred pounds.

These particular fish are named for their unusually large eyes (compared to other Tuna). They also have deeper bodies than their closest relative, the Yellowtail. Interestingly, but the Bigeye and Yellowtail are referred to as "Ahi."

Overfishing is the biggest threat to the Bigeye Tuna. And lower Tuna numbers affect more than just the fishermen hunting them. Because these fish are so large, they serve as powerful predators in the food chain, and without them the natural balance is thrown off.


IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : Tropical and Temperate Oceans
Size : Length up to 6.6ft (2m), Weight up to 400lbs (180kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Actinopterygii -- Order : Perciformes
Family : Scombridae -- Genus : Thunnus -- Species : T. obesus
Image :  Robbie Cada

Friday, January 10, 2014

Northern Tamandua

Tamandua mexicana
Today's animal is the Northern Tamandua, a small Anteater that lives in Central America, as well as in some of the northern areas of South America.

Tropical forests are where these mammals call home, and they have bodies that are well adapted to tree climbing. They have tough footpads and a large central claw that helps them to maintain a good grip while climbing, along with a prehensile tail.

Climbing adaptations aren't the only physical features that stand out on the Northern Tamandua. Like all Anteaters, they have no teeth. Instead, they have a very long long that is coated in a sticky substance that is perfect for picking up insects in large quantities. Ants and Termites are their preferred bugs, and they can eat close to 10,000 in a single day!

Northern Tamanduas do their hunting at night, sniffing out prey with their noses. They are solitary animals, and only come together when it is time to breed. There is no specific mating seasons for these creatures, and females give birth year round.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Central and South America
Size : Length up to 50in (1.3m), Weight up to 12lbs (5.4kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Pilosa
Family : Myrmecophagidae -- Genus : Tamandua -- Species : T. mexicana
Image :  Jacob Barnett

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Desert Cottontail

Sylvilagus audubonii
Also known as the Audubon's Cottontail, the Desert Cottontail is a rabbit that lives in the dry, desert-like habitats of western North American (though they can also be found in some pine forests as well!)

Desert Cottontails typically live in small groups, foraging together for grasses, vegetables, and even cacti. They drink very little water, if any, as they can get all they need from the plants that they eat.

Interestingly, the Desert Cottontail is one of those unusual mammals where the females are larger than the males... if only just barely. Like most rabbits, these guys breed several times a year, though have fewer litters, and fewer offspring per litter, than many of their cousins. A female will normally breed 5 times a year, each time having a gestation period of about 4 weeks. 3 young are usually born at once, and they grow quickly, leaving the nest at 2 weeks and being fully independent at 5 (leaving mom to breed again!)

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Western North America
Size : Length up to 17in (43cm), Weight up to 3.3lbs (1.5kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Lagomorpha
Family : Leporidae -- Genus : Sylvilagus -- Species : S. audubonii
Image :  Howcheng

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Great White Pelican

Pelecanus onocrotalus
When we think about birds with massive wingspans, the Albatross comes to mind. But did you know that Pelicans can be just as gigantic? Even though it is the second in average size to the Dalmatian Pelican, the Great White is able to sport a larger wingspan-- close to 12ft!

Great White Pelicans live near shallow bodies of freshwater, and most of the birds are migratory. During the summers they live in slightly cooler parts of Europe and Asia, and during the winter they move to northern Africa, the Middle East, and south Asia. There are a few resident populations as well, and those are found in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Great White Pelican lives its entire life in a large group. They feed, breed, and migrate in colonies. Unsurprisingly with a bill that large, these birds are excellent fishermen, which is good because each birds needs to eat about 3lbs of fish every day. They actually spend very little time hunting every day, and are normally finished by late morning. The Pelicans spend most of their time bathing, preening, and monitoring their territory.

Though the Great White Pelicans are currently listed as being of Least Concern, some populations are declining and Europe. Also, the birds are being forced to move farther and farther away to do their hunting, as human overfishing is affecting their stocks. Humans also hunt the Pelicans themselves-- their pouches are used for tobacco bags, and their skin and meat is also valued.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Europe, Africa, and Asia
Size : Wingspan up to 11.5ft (3.5m), Weight up to 33lbs (15kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Pelecaniformes
Family : Pelecanidae -- Genus : Pelecanus -- Species : P. onocrotalus
Image :  Andrew Massyn

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Boa Constrictor

Boa constrictor
There are many Boas, and many snakes that are of the constricting variety, but today's animal is the Boa Constrictor. In fact, it is one of those rare living animals that have the exact same English-language common name as their scientific name. Yes, its official name is Boa constrictor!

These snakes are found in Central and South America, where they live in a variety of different habitats. While rainforests are the preferred hang-out spot, they can also be found in more open, semi-arid locations as well.

Boa Constrictors are large snakes, able to grow 13ft in length and weigh upwards of 60lbs! Their coloration varies by location, and there are several different subspecies that can be identified by their shades and patterns.

In general, Boa Constrictors are solitary-- only meeting up to mate. Fertilization happens internally and the females give birth to live young.

Did you know that one of the Boa Constrictor's favorite meals is Bat? They will snap the flying mammals right out of the air and kill them with constriction. Other common prey? Rodents, lizards, birds, and opossums. They locate their meals using heat pits in their heads, and can swallow animals much larger than their heads by unhinging their jaws.

Some subspecies and local Boa Constrictor populations are threatened. They are hunted for their skins and meat, and are taken for the exotic pet industry.

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : South and Central America
Size : Length up to 13ft (4m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Reptilia -- Order : Squamata
Family : Boidae -- Genus : Boa -- Species : B. constrictor
Image :  Belizian

Monday, January 6, 2014

Emperor Penguin

It's pretty chilly outside right now (-14F!), but that is nothing compared to the cold temperatures that today's animals endure all the time!

The Emperor Penguin is the largest of all the Penguins, standing up to 4ft tall and weighing nearly 100lbs. It lives only in Antarctica, and regularly experiences wind chills of over worse than -75! These flightless birds actually spend their winters in frigid, windy, open areas, and even breed on the freezing, exposed ice plains. Why? Because they are safe there. Dangers lurk near the water for juveniles, so the Emperor Penguins march as far as 50 miles inland in order to be the only lifeforms around.

The male and female Penguins meet up each breeding season (usually April-May) and pair off. They are monogamous each season, and some pairs return to each other year after year, but only a small percentage. After laying her egg, the female carefully transfers it to her mate, who warms it on top of his feet. She then makes her way back to the sea for two months in order to fill up on food for herself and her offspring.

While the females are gone, the males incubate their eggs for 64 days, and keep warm by walking in a large circular huddle. They take turns warming up on the inside of the huddle and marching on its blisteringly cold fringes. If the egg is exposed during this time (or during transfer from the mother to father), the chick will almost always die, as it cannot withstand cold exposure for long.

The chicks hatch shortly before the females return, and the fathers feed them with a substance that they create in their esophagi. When mom gets home, she calls out for her mate and child, finding them in a crowd of hundreds or thousands by their voice alone. She then takes over parenting duties while the father leaves to feed. This parent-swapping cycle happens a few times before the ice starts to break up and the chicks fledge in summer. The adults and the juveniles then spend their "warm" summer months hunting fish, crustaceans, and squid-- they can even dive down as far as 1,800ft to do so!

Emperor Penguins were recently placed as "Near Threatened" on the IUCN Red List, due to climate change affecting their food supply and habitat. The population appears to be stable at around 550,000 individuals.

IUCN Status : Near Threatened
Location : Antarctica
Size : Height up to 4ft (48in), Weight up to 100lbs (45kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Sphenisciformes
Family : Spheniscidae -- Genus : Aptenodytes -- Species : A. forsteri
Image :  Hannes Grobe
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