Monday, April 28, 2014

Four!

For anyone who was counting, yesterday was our birthday-- four years! Four years filled with animals from A to Z, more than 1,100 of them! I can't thank my readers enough, it's been wonderful!

And in celebration of that milestone... I'm taking a break. Hopefully not forever, but for a little bit at least. In the mean time I plan on getting a new layout out, along with some updates to some of the older articles.

I'll post updates here and on the Facebook page, I'm also brainstorming some new animal-related projects, so keep an eye out!

Thanks again for four awesome years!


Friday, April 25, 2014

Bornean Orangutan

The Bornean Orangutan is one of two extant Orangutan species in the world. It is the third largest primate (after Gorillas) and is the largest primarily tree-dwelling animal in the world. Males are substantially larger than females, and average at around 165lbs.

Bornean Orangutans are largely solitary. A handful might live within a small range but they will seldom interact with one another. Males and females only meet up to breed, which happens only once every several years. A young Orangutan will stay with it's mother for about five years, and the females tend to go about eight years between births. That is the longest interim period of any animal!

Sadly, the Bornean Orangutans are in a lot of trouble. They need large forests in order to thrive, and deforestation and habitat degradation has left many homeless. They are also hunted for meat and for traditional medicines. Conservation areas are being established to help these guys in the wild, and it is believed that there are around 50,000 left in the wild.

IUCN Status : Endangered
Location : Indonesia
Size : Weight up to 165lbs (75kg) for males, 85lbs (38kg) for females
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Primates
Family : Hominidae -- Genus : Pongo -- Species : P. pygmaeus
Image :  Nehrams2020

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Indian Star Tortoise

Geochelone elegans
It doesn't require a huge imagination to figure out where the name "Star Tortoise" comes from. These reptiles have carapaces that are predominantly dark with a lighter, starburst-type pattern.

You'll find these fancy Turtles in the drier regions of India, including scrub forests, semi-deserts, and arid grasslands. They are most active during the early morning and late afternoon hours, when they spend time foraging for flowers, grasses, and leaves.

During mating season, which coincides with the rainy season, males will fight one another for mates. During these matches they will shove back and forth and attempt to flip their rival over on to his back. The last one literally standing wins. After mating, the females will dig a hole and lay her eggs-- each season she can produce up to 10 clutches of up to a dozen eggs each. Those eggs can take anywhere from 1.5 to 6 months to hatch (depends on the weather conditions) and the young Tortoises are totally on their own from the start.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : India
Size : Length around 10in (25cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Sauropsida -- Order : Testudines
Family : Testudinidae -- Genus : Geochelone -- Species : G. elegans
Image :  CBurnett

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Le Conte's Thrasher

Toxostoma lecontei
Le Conte's Thrasher is a bird named for John Lawrence Le Conte, an American entomologist. Though he was a renowed Beetle expert, he discovered this particular bird while on a Beetle-finding trip to Arizona. Le Conte ended up collecting many different birds on his Beetle trips, sending them back to the Smithsonian.

But lets learn more about this bird! The Le Conte's Thrasher is a very pale colored bird found in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. It lives in very dry, desert areas that have little vegetation. They live in some of the most desolate parts of North America!

Their habitat is so dry that standing water is only present for a few days a year. Luckily these birds are able to get all the water they need from the insects that they eat. Invertebrates are their main prey, but they will eat fruits and seeds as well when they can find them.

These birds are currently listed as being of Least Concern, though they have become rare in some parts of their range. They need a Desert environment to survive, so areas in their former range that have been irrigated and developed are no longer suitable for them.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : North America
Size : Length around 11in (28cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Passeriformes
Family : Mimidae -- Genus : Toxostoma -- Species : T. lecontei
Image :  CPNM

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hairy Scorpion

Hadrurus arizonensis
Meet the largest Scorpion in North America-- the Hairy Scorpion. These arachnids can grow over 5in long, and their large size makes them quite the predator within their desert habitat. They feed on smaller invertebrates (including other Scorpions) and will even hunt snakes, lizards, and small vertebrates as well.

Hairy Scorpions are named for the dark brown hairs that cover the backs of their otherwise yellow-ish bodies. Their coloration helps them to blend in with the dry environment that they live in. You'll find these Scorpions in the Mojave and Sonora Deserts.

The large pincers on these arachnids are used for more than just grasping at food. These guys are excellent burrowers, and can dig tunnels that are more than 2m in length. They hang out in them during the daytime, emerging at night to hunt.

Even though they are large in size, the Hairy Scorpions shouldn't frighten you. Their sting is venomous, but tends to be no worse than a beesting for the average person.

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : North America
Size : Length around 5.5in (14cm)
Classification : Phylum : Arthropoda -- Class : Arachnida -- Order : Scorpiones
Family : Caraboctonidae -- Genus : Hadrurus -- Species : H. arizonensis
Image :  Fritz Geller Grimm

Monday, April 21, 2014

Brown Hyena

Hyaena brunnea
Today's animal is the Brown Hyena, the rarest of the different Hyena species. These interesting carnivores live only in southern Africa, and they make dry desert and semi-desert areas their home.

Brown Hyenas live in small social groups that are led by an alpha pair, very similar to wolves. These packs have a specific hierarchy that is enforced through aggressive and submissive displays. Typically only the dominant female will breed, though not always with the dominant male!

Scavenging is the name of the game with the Brown Hyenas. Their packs will consume animals killed by other predators, and sometimes they will even drive that exact predator off in order to get to the meal. They aren't very good at hunting their own food though, and because they never know when a carcass will be available they often hide extra food to come back to later.

Brown Hyenas are considered Vulnerable because they tend to come within close range of human settlements. Their aggressive behavior causes problems, and many residents attempt to poison or shoot them. They do live within a few protected areas, but they continue to be killed outside of those borders.

IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : Southern Africa
Size : Shoulder height around 30in (76cm), Weight up to 120lbs (54kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Carnivora
Family : Hyaenidae -- Genus : Hyaena -- Species : H. brunnea
Image :  Pistoleros

Friday, April 18, 2014

Australian Pelican

Pelicanus conspicillatus
Despite its name, the Austrlian Pelican is found in more places than Australia. Fiji, New Guinea, and Indonesia are also countires that this bird calls home. Some have even made their way over to New Zealand!

These birds prefer habitats that have a lot of open water. Lakes, reservoirs, lagoons, and rivers are just some of the different bodies of water the Pelicans will live near. But really, any body of water that has enough food to sustain them will do.

Australian Pelicans are large birds, but are medium-size when compared to only other Pelicans. Tehy do, however, have the largest bill in the world-- the longest recorded was 20in long!

The Pelicans use those bills in order collect and store prey. They hunt together, working in groups to drive small fish and aquatic animals to shallower areas. Once that is accomplished they use their bills to snatch up prey. Fish is their primary food source-- but they have been observed killing other waterbirds to. Because they lack sharp claws or a tearing beak, they have to kill them by drowning them.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Australia
Size : Wingspan up to 8.5ft (2.6m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Pelecaniformes
Family : Pelecanidae -- Genus : Pelecanus -- Species : P. conspicillatus
Image :  Quartl

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Banggai Cardinalfish

Pterapogon kauderni
The Banggai Cardinalfish is a small tropical fish that is becoming very rare in the wild, even though it has been successfully bred in captivity.

You will only find these small, 3in long fish around the Banggai Islands of Indonesia. They are the only members of their genus, and you can tell them apart from other Cardinalfish by their three-striped bodies, tasseled first dorsal fin, long second dorsal, and their deep-forked tail fins.

Banggai Cardinalfish are diurnal and live in small groups of about a dozen members. They are opportunistic feeders who dine on whatever smaller plants and animals they can find.

Courtship and mating is pretty interesting for these guys-- females are the ones who initiate. They isolate a male and the pair will perform various courtship rituals before spawning. The Cardinalfish are mouthbrooders, which means that the males take the fertilized eggs (up to 90 of them) into their mouths and incubate them for up to 30 days. During that time they do not feed. The female will stay near the male and defend the territory for the first few days, but she eventually leaves.

Banggai Cardinalfish are very popular in the aquarium industry. They breed in captivity, but more than half a million fish are still captured from the wild each year. The small range and high rate of collection has led the species to an "Endangered" listing.

IUCN Status : Endangered
Location : Indonesia
Size : Length around3in (8cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Actinopterygii -- Order : Perciformes
Family : Apogonidae -- Genus : Pterapogon -- Species : P. kauderni
Image : Jens Petersen

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Black Noddy

Anous minutus
The Black, or White-capped Noddy is a seabird that is found in tropical areas all around the globe. These members of the Tern family are named for the nodding motion that both sexes display during courtship!

The two possible common names both describe this bird pretty well. On one hand, they are almost completely black in coloration. On the other, that black is broken up only by a white cap of feathers on the head. No matter which name you chose, it would still identify Anous minutus.

Black Noddies live pretty close to shore. They hunt for fish and squid during the daytime but return to various coasts and islands at night in order to roost in large colonies. When it comes to breeding, pairs will choose each other thanks to flight displays and the aforementioned nodding dances, and will often form lifelong bonds. Only one egg is laid with each clutch, and depending on the location these birds will produce between 1 and 3 clutches each year. Many pairs will actually reuse the same nest over and over again each season.

The Black Noddy is listed as being of Least Concern, and their worldwide population estimate is between 1 and 1.5 million birds.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Tropics Worldwide
Size : Length around 15in (39cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Charadriiformes
Family : Sternidae -- Genus : Anous -- Species : A. minutus
Image : Sirrob01

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Irrawaddy Dolphin

Orcaella brevirostris
The Irrawaddy Dolphin is a rare species of Dolphin that is found only in the coastal waters near Australia and Southeast Asia. They are sometimes called Irrawaddy River Dolphins, even though they are not true River Dolphins. This is because they often inhabit estuaries and river mouths, and because some sub-populations have even made their homes in freshwater rivers like the Mekong and Irrawaddy.

Unfortunately, many of those sub-populations are not doing too well, and are considered to be Critically Endangered. In the Mekong, for example, there are less than 100 Dolphins. The populations in India and Bangladesh appear to be more stable, and actually account for most of the worldwide count. They are listed as Vulnerable overall because of those groups.

Irrawaddy Dolphins look a bit like small Belugas, though they are actually closer relatives to Killer Whales. They aren't especially large, maxing out around 7ft and 300lbs. They live in very small groups, and are very slow moving, passive Dolphins who feed on a large variety of fish, cephalopods, and other marine invertebrates.

The major threats to the Irrawaddy Dolphins are fishing and habitat degradation. Because they live in rivers and so close to shore they are often accidentally captured by fishing nets. They are also affected by damming and mining run off, and they have also been captured for the performance aquarium industry. They are protected by CITES, but the conservation efforts vary country to country.

IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : Indian and Pacific Ocean
Size : Length up to 7.5ft (2.3m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Cetacea
Family : Delphinidae -- Genus : Orcaella -- Species : O. brevirostris
Image : Stefan Brending

Monday, April 14, 2014

Coral Trout

Plectropomus leopardus
Meet the Coral Trout, also known as the Leopard Coral Grouper. These colorful fish make the western Pacific Ocean their home, and they can be found near the coral reefs that give them their name.

Coral Trout can be identified by their red and yellow bodies and their blue spots that have darker rings around them. They grow to a maximum of 2ft in length.

One amazing fact about these fish is that they are all born as females. No one really knows what triggers a female to male change, but they are usually well over a year old when it happens. The average length at change is around 1.5ft!

The spawning rituals of these fish are also pretty interesting. Males establish territories and they do dancing displays to attract females-- fanning out their fins and shaking from side to side. If a female likes what she sees, the two will spawn around sunset. This practice involves the pair swimming very quickly towards the surface and releasing the eggs and sperm into the water. The fertilized eggs float near the surface, and the larval fish will emerge after only a few days.

IUCN Status : Near Threatened
Location : Pacific Ocean
Size : Length up to 2ft (60cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Actinopterygii -- Order : Perciformes
Family : Serranidae -- Genus : Plectropomus -- Species : P. leopardus
Image :  Leonard Low

Friday, April 11, 2014

Boreal Chorus Frog

Pseudacris maculata
Today's animal is an itty bitty little Frog that is more often heard rather than seen. They are called Boreal Chorus Frogs, and they are one of the first Amphibians to emerge after the winter season, making lots of sounds as they do so!

Boreal Chorus Frogs only grow to about 3cm in length. They are typically brown in color, though some trend towards green. The darkness also varies. They all have dark facial stripes though, one of each side of the head that runs from the nose across the eye.

Boreal Chorus Frogs are found in North America, primarily in the middle-northern parts of the Continent, though they are also found in a few places of the American Southwest. They live in grasses near permanent bodies of water.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : North America
Size : Length around 3cm
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Amphibia -- Order : Anura
Family : Hylidae -- Genus : Pseudacris -- Species : P. maculata
Image :  USEMC

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Northern Goshawk

Accipiter gentilis
Today's animal is the Northern Goshawk-- a bird that is found in North America, Europe, and Asia. It also happens to be one of the largest Hawks in North America, and is the largest of its genus in that range.

The Northern Goshawk has a dark back and wings, but an underside of light-colored feathered covered in dark lines. They also have white eye stripes and long tails. The exact chest coloration does vary by location-- some individuals in Siberia are almost completely white!

These raptors are incredibly powerful and persistent predators. They have been observed chasing after prey for close to an hour! They, like many birds of prey, are opportunistic feeders, and will go after rodents, hares, small birds, geese, and even larger mammals like foxes and raccoon!

Spring is the breeding season for these birds, and during that time they will perform undulating flight displays in order to entice a mate. Once mates are chosen the birds often pair for life. 2-4 eggs are laid at a time, and the male will do most of the hunting and feeding while the female incubates. Young Goshawks will hang around in their parents' territory for about a year before reaching sexual maturity and finding and mate and range of their own.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : North America, Europe, Asia
Size : Length around 27in (70cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Falconiformes
Family : Accipitridae -- Genus : Accipiter -- Species : A. gentilis
Image :  Doctor Rukinogi

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mule Deer

Odocoileus hemionus
The Mule Deer is a species that has a large range spanning across the western half of North America.They are named for their large, Mule-like ears and can be further identified by their black-tipped tails.

Mule Deer are an incredibly adaptable species. They live in grasslands forests, and even deserts, and are able to consume whatever vegetation is available in those areas in order to satisfy their nutritional needs.

Food supply dictates the movements of these Deer, but so does the rut season. Each fall males will fight each other for the breeding rights of females within a territory. They move from place to place breeding with as many females as they can (and if they do not get pregnant the female will mate with more than one male). At the end of the season the males lose their antlers and begin to grow a new pair that will be ready for battle next rut season.

Female Mule Deer typically give birth to twins, but a new mother may have only one fawn. Fawns are born in spring and will stay with their mothers through summer, leaving when the fall rut begins again.

Mule Deer are very widespread and have a large overall population. They are listed as being of least Concern.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : North America
Size : Shoulder height around 40in (1m), Weight between 200-350lbs (90-158kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Artiodactyla
Family : Cervidae -- Genus : Odocoileus -- Species : O. hemionus
Image :  Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dusky Grouse

Dendragapus obscurus
Meet the Dusky Grouse, one of the largest Grouses in North America. Fun fact #1? Until recently it was thought to be a subspecies of the Blue Grouse. But the Blue Grouse is actually no more. DNA analysis split it up into two full-fledged species-- the Dusky Grouse and the Sooty Grouse.

These birds can be found in the Rocky Mountains of North America, and their habitat depends on the time of years. During the winter they live near-exclusively in the coniferous forests, but during the summer breeding season they will live in grasslands and low, dry mountain forests.

The Dusky Grouse has a really curious anatomical feature. Most bird species have about 10 tail feathers, and that number is the same bird to bird. The Dusky Grouse has anywhere from 15 to 22 tail feathers-- a huge variance!

Male and female Dusky Grouses are different in appearance. Females are grey-brown ans speckled, while males are darker brown and have a bare purple throat sack ringed with white feathers. They also have an eye-wattle that varies from yellow to red.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Western North America
Size : Length up to 18in (45cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Galliformes
Family : Phasianidae -- Genus : Dendragapus -- Species : D. obscurus
Image :  National Park Service

Monday, April 7, 2014

Greenback Cutthroat Trout

Oncorhynchus clarki stomias
We are bouncing all over the world now-- from India, to Antarctica, and now to the Rocky Mountains of the United States!

Today's animal is a subspecies of fish that is found only in those particular mountains-- the Greenback Cutthroat Trout. These freshwater fish once had a massive range that extended over the Rockies and the American West. Today they are limited to only 1% of that, and are found only in the state of Colorado (where it is the state fish).

The Greenback Cuttroat Trout grows to lengths of around 1.5ft, and weighs up to 10lbs. They have brilliant green and red coloration, complete with spots, and become even more vibrant during spawning.

The reason for the decline of this fish is threefold-- they were over-fished, they dealt with industrialization and toxic runoff from mining, and they had to compete with introduced fish species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been undertaking recovery efforts for the past few decades. Unfortunately, inter-breeding and the persistence of threats have kept these fish to just a 4 mile stretch of the Bear River.

IUCN Status : Not listed, but Endangered by USA Endangered Species Act
Location : North America
Size : Length up to 18in (45cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Actinopterygii -- Order : Salmoniformes
Family : Salmonidae -- Genus : Oncorhynchus -- Species : O. clarki -- Subspecies : O. c. stomias
Image :  Joel Sartore

Friday, April 4, 2014

Wilson's Storm Petrel

Oceanites oceanicus
We finally arrive at our last animal of this Antarctic theme-- a bird that is not confined just to the southernmost continent. Wilson's Storm Petrel is a common bird that is one of the most abundant species in the entire world with a population of over 100 million!

These particular birds breed on Antarctica's coasts during the summertime, and during the rest of the year they travel the seas of the Southern Hemisphere. They can fly thousands of miles in a single year, but they are often difficult to spot because they spend nearly all of that time over open ocean.

Wilson's Storm Petrels are small birds. They only measure about 6-7in in length. In fact, they are the smallest warm-blooded creatures to nest in Antarctica! They are so small that they live a mostly nocturnal lifestyle while nesting. This strategy keeps them safe from the larger birds that will either feed on them or try and steal the food that they capture. Krill, small fish, and various aquatic invertebrates make up the Petrels' diet.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Southern Hemisphere
Size : Length up to 7in (18cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Procellariiformes
Family : Hydrobatidae -- Genus : Oceanites -- Species : O. oceanicus
Image :  Patrick Coin

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Macaroni Penguin

Eudyptes chrysolophus
What would an Antarctica Theme be without a Penguin? Today we have a seriously awesome looking species-- the Macaroni Penguin. What a wonderful hairdo!

Of course, that isn't really hair, just long feathers forming a vibrant crest. But it is that crest that gives the species its common name. Macaroni was an 18th and early 19th century term for a flamboyant fashion style that used excessive amounts of ornamentation. British soldiers traveling in the Falkland Islands (where these guys live, in addition to Antarctica) coined the common name.

Macaroni Penguins are, like most Penguins, very social birds. They forage (almost exclusively for Krill) and nest together, and have developed a large number of communication displays because of the large population size. These birds take on specific poses and mannerisms depending on the situation-- aggression, submission, courtship, etc-- and they also have a large repertoire of cries and brays.

Most Macaroni Penguins are monogamous and stay with the same partner season to season. Weirdly, these birds lay two eggs each season, and the first of which is usually smaller and underdeveloped. It is believed that the parents abandon the first egg once the second, stronger egg is laid.

Macaroni Penguins are listed as Vulnerable even though it is estimated that there are around 18 million birds. Why the designation? Rapid population decline. Groups in certain areas have decreased in number by 50% since the 1970s-- a drop that is very concerning. It is believed that climate changes and a decrease in Krill are to blame.

IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : Antarctica, South America
Size : Length up to 28in (.7m), Weight up to 12lbs (5.5kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Sphenisciformes
Family : Spheniscidae -- Genus : Eudyptes -- Species : E. chrysolophus
Image :  Liam Quinn

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ross Seal

Omnatophoca rossii
The Ross Seal is one of the least studied Seal species native to the pack ice of Antarctica. They are less common overall than the Weddell and Leopard Seals, and because they tend to live alone they have a very low population density.

Ross Seals are also smaller in size than many other their cousins. They rarely grow larger than 2m in length, which is as much as 5ft shorter than the Leopard Seals. They do, however, have incredibly large eyes. In fact, their genus name, Omnatophoca roughly translates to "Eye Seal," because they can grow up to 7cm in diameter!

Another interesting anatomical feature of the Ross Seal is its voice. They can create some really interesting siren-type noises, both on land and underwater. Because these noises carry for long distances, scientists believe that the Seals use them to either locate other Seals, or to warm them away from their territory.

Ross Seals are listed as being of Least Concern, but because they are uncommon and not well studied we don't really know much about their population size or its trends. Estimates suggest anywhere from 100,000-250,000 individuals.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Antarctica
Size : Length up to 6.6ft (2m), Weight up to 450lbs (204kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Carnivora
Family : Phocidae -- Genus : Ommatophoca -- Species : O. rossii
Image :  Dave Buller

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Strap-toothed Whale

Mesoplodon layardii
The Strap-toothed Whale, also known as Layard's Whale, is a little-studied Cetacean found in the cold waters of the Southern Oceans. They have beaked faces and grow to lengths of around 20ft, with the males being slightly smaller than the females. Males also have the curious distinction of having long front teeth that just upwards from their jaw. These teeth can grow to nearly a foot in length, and are probably used for mating and communication purposes, as scarring is common in males.

We don't known much about their reproductive habits, their lifespan, or their social behaviors. They are shy creatures who don't often come near boats, which is one of the reasons why studying them has proven difficult.

Most of what we know about the Strap-toothed Whales comes from their remains. The facial scars on the males lead us to believe that they fight one another, for example. Their stomach contents have also been looked at, which is how we know that Squid is their favorite prey-- over two dozen different deep sea squid species have been identified in their stomachs!

IUCN Status : Data Deficient
Location : Antarctica, Southern Oceans
Size : Length up to 20ft (6m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Cetacea
Family : Ziphidae -- Genus : Mesoplodon -- Species : M. layardii
Image :  Marinebio
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