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Showing posts from January, 2011

Greater Flamingo

( Image Source ) Phylum : Chordata Class : Aves Order : Phoenicopteriformes Family : Phoenicopteridae Genus : Phoenicopterus Species : roseus Height : 43-60in (110-150cm) Weight : 4.5-9lbs (2-4kg) IUCN Status : Least Concern The Greater Flamingo is both the largest, and the most widespread of all the Flamingo species. They are found in wetland parts of Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, living in large colonies that can number as many as 200,000 birds. These colonies can be so large that breeding pairs develop special calls just so they can locate each other. ( Image Source ) Because they are taller than other flamingo species, Greater Flamingos are able to move into deeper water in search of food. They wade about, stirring up the water with their feet before collecting it into their beaks and siphoning it through filters in their mouth. Greater Flamingos feed on small invertebrates, as well as vegetation. Greater Flamingo nests are pretty weird looking. T

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading , is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list. Regrettably I wasn't able to finish  Witness to Extinction   this week as planned. Grad classes starting again killed a bunch of my free time. Hopefully that should be completed this week, along with a review. It's great so far, but really sad and makes you think a lot about the way different countries view wildlife conservation, and just how incredibly difficult the process can be from multiple angles. I ordered a few more library books, most notably  Feathered Dinosaurs: The Origin of Birds  by John Long and Peter Schouten. I've browsed around a bit and so far I'm really liking it. The illustrations are absolutely fantastic! As a child of the Jurassic Park  era, I grew up with a pretty specific concept of what dinos

American Pika

( Image Source ) Phylum : Chordata Class : Mammalia Order : Lagomorpha Family : Ochotonidae Genus : Ochotona Species : princeps Length : 6-8in (15-20cm) Weight : 6oz (170g) IUCN Status : Least Concern Pikas are small, round little members of the Lagomorph order. There are around two dozen different species of Pika which can be found in mountainous habitats around the world. The American Pika, and its name might suggest, is found in the mountains of Western Canada, the United States, and Mexico. In the northern part of their range they can sometimes be found at sea level, but the species is not very tolerant of warm weather. In the south they are rarely found at elevations lower than 2,500m. ( Image Source ) American Pikas are extremely vocal little guys. In fact, Pikas are sometimes referred to as whistling hares. They make calls to warn each other about potential predators and intruders, to establish territories, and also as a part of their mating behavior. Pikas

What's Smaller Than a Pygmy Shrew?

By Robert E. Wells Paperback : 32 Pages January 1, 1995 A companion book of sorts to Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is? , What's Smaller Than a Pygmy Shrew? looks at the very very small. Starting with the minutly sized, 3inch long Pygmy Shrew, it works its way down to tiny bugs, single celled organisms, and even the cells and their individual components. Once again intended for children around age 4-8, the book attempts to explain difficult terms and concepts in a cutely illustrated format, with examples and comparisons. I never before would have thought to teach five-year-olds about quarks, but this book certainly tries hard to make these microscopic particles and parts understandable and accessible to those of a young age. Overall it is a fun and informative book that I would recommend to anyone with a child interested in science, or just to anyone in general. It's been a few years since I've taken a microbiology class, and this actually worked pretty we

Laughing Kookaburra

( Image Source ) Phylum : Chordata Class : Aves Order : Coraciiformes Family : Halcyonidae Genus : Dacelo Species : novaeguineae Length : 18in (45cm) Weight : 1lb (.5kg) IUCN Status : Least Concern The Laughing Kookaburra is one of the most iconic animals in Australia, and is native to the eastern side of the continent, though they have been introduced elsewhere. They are most commonly found in open woodlands where breeding pairs establish a year-round territory. Laughing Kookaburras get their name from their interesting laugh-like call . This call is most often heard at dawn and dusk, and is used to announce territories. This timed laughing behavior has earned them the nickname of "Bushman's Clock." Laughing Kookaburras also produce other sounds for situations like courtship and aggression. Juvenile Kookaburra The Laughing Kookaburra is actually the largest member of the Kingfisher family, though they don't really eat all that much fish.  They

Camera Critters : Snuggie For Dogs

Maybe Snuggie for dogs works for some dogs.. but not my family's dogs. My favorite thing about this product is that they advertise the "large" size with a picture of a Collie. Because you know, Collies really need more fluffy covering. Anyway, we tried one of these suckers out on Wicket and Loki, and they were none too pleased. Most of the short lived experiment involved them trying to rip it off each other.

Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is?

By Robert E. Wells Paperback : 32 Pages January 1, 1993 Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is is an adorable book written with 4-8 year olds in mind. While it doesn’t exclusively cover animals, I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to add it in my bibliography anyway. Hey, it’s science! Anyway, this book asks the titular question, and then, with use of charming illustrations and examples, explains how there are things much larger than the Blue Whale, and even much larger than our own planet and sun. Wells tackles the concept of size by using ingenious comparisons between objects. For example, if you pretended our sun was an orange, and put it in a crate with 99 other “oranges,” you could neatly place that crate on the Supergiant Star Antares.. multiple times! Wells uses similar examples to move between increasingly larger and larger things. I really enjoyed this book, and I feel it handled its topic very well. I’d image explaining the vast, expansive size of the universe


( Image Source ) Phylum : Chordata Class : Aves Subclass : Neornithes Order : Caprimulgiformes Family : Caprimulgidae Subfamily : Caprimulginae Genus : Caprimulgus Species : vociferus Length : 9-10in (23-25cm) Wingspan : 16-20in (40.5-51cm) IUCN Status : Least Concern The Whip-poor-will is a migratory Nightjar that spends its summers in the Eastern United States and it's winters further south into Mexico and Central America. Their name is an onomatopoeia that reflects that type of sound that they make. In their range they are typically heard but not seen ; Whip-poor-wills have grayish-brown mottled feathers that serves as excellent camouflage. Whip-poor-wills are nocturnal predators, and feed off of flying insects. They hunt by waiting at a perch and then swooping down on their prey, they also sometimes chase after the insects for sustained flights. Whip-poor-wills have some pretty interesting nesting habits. First off, they don't build nests at all, they

Zebra Mussel

( Image Source ) Phylum : Mollusca Class : Bivalvia Subclass : Heterodonta Order : Veneroida Family : Dreissenidae Genus : Dreissena Species : polymorpha Length : .25-2in (.6-5cm) IUCN Status : Not listed Zebra Mussels were originally located in Southwest and Central Asia, in the Black and Caspian Sea regions. By the 1800s however, these little guys were invading waterways throughout Europe, making it as far as England and Ireland. In 1988, they were first discovered in the American Great Lakes, and are now considered an invasive species. Zebra Mussels aren't particularly large, as a adults they rarely grow above two inches. They have a "D" shaped shell with an opening. Out of this opening comes a threadlike external organ called a Byssus, which allows them to attach to just about anything. They even attach themselves to other living organisms. Zebra Mussels are filter feeders; they go through about a quart of water each day and consume algae and phytop

Pere David's Deer

( Image Source ) Phylum : Chordata Class : Mammalia Order : Artiodactyla Family : Cervidae Subfamily : Cervinae Genus : Elaphurus Species : davidianus Height : 4ft (1.2m) weight : 290lbs (135kg) IUCN Status : Extinct in the Wild The Pere David's Deer is named after French Missionary Pere (Father) Armand David, who first publicized the species to the outside world in 1865. They are also sometimes referred to as Milu. The deer had become more or less extinct in their native China, but the emperor had kept a large herd within his Imperial Hunting Park . David worked tirelessly to export some of these deer to Europe, and it was lucky that he did, because a terrible flood killed most of the park's herd not long after. All remaining deer in China were killed and consumed by soldiers during the Boxer Rebellion. With all the deer in China gone, the European specimens were all the world had left. The Duke of Bedford collected 18 individuals from different zoos and bro

Secretary Bird

( Image Source ) Phylum : Chordata Class : Aves Order : Accipitriformes Family : Sagittariidae Genus : Sagittarius Species : serpentarius Height : 4ft (1.3m) Wingspan : 6.9ft (2.1m) Weight : 5-9lbs (2.3-4kg) IUCN Status : Least Concern Secretary Birds can be found in the grass plains of Africa, and they are the longest legged of all the raptors. They can indeed fly, but they prefer to stroll through the grass in search of prey. Secretary Birds and Caracas are the only terrestrial birds of prey. What is the story behind the name? Back in the 19th century, male secretaries wore dark tail coats, short trousers, and carried quills behind their ears. The Secretary Bird mimics that visual with their feathered heads, tail, and dark legs. Their scientific name, Sagittarius sepentarius also has a story. It means "the archer of snakes" because these birds are so exceptional at hunting down both venomous and nonvenomous snake species. ( Image Source ) Aside fr


Male Impala Kingdom : Animalia Phylum : Chordata Class : Mammalia Order : Artiodactyla Family : Bovidae Subfamily : Aepycerotinae Genus : Aepyceros Species : melampus Height : 29-36in (73-92cm) Weight : 99-132lbs (45-60kg) IUCN Status : Least Concern, but Aepyceros melampus petersi  (Black Faced Impala) is listed as vulnerable Impalas are found in Eastern Africa in light woodland and grassland areas. The species exhibits sexual dimorphism, with the males growing slightly larger than the females. Males are also the only sex to have horns, which grow in a S-shape to a size of up to 35in (90cm). Impalas have a really interesting social structure , living in specific group types during different parts of the year. During the wet season young males whoa re non-territorial will form bachelor herds, and females and juveniles form herds that can number over 100 individuals. They will enter territories that are controlled by breeding-age males, and will remain in that terri

Dogs: Their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History

By Xiaoming Wang and Richard H. Tedford Illustrations by Mauricio Anton Hardcover : 232 Pages July 14, 2008 You know, I had never thought about dentition before reading Dogs: Their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History . Probably not something that most people think about, but it sure opened my eyes! Just learning about why the teeth of dogs are the way they are, why cats are so different from dogs, and how every single piece of their anatomy evolved over millions of years to serve such specific purposes was absolutely fascinating. The illustrations are also amazing, and cover the extensive history of dog evolution over time. Not the most accessible book for all general readers, but worth it for anyone with a real interest in canine evolution, or of mammalian biology in general.

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading , is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list. I finished up The Search for the Giant Squid  last week, as evidence by my review post. And since then I've picked up Witness to Extinction  by Samuel Turvey. It's a book about the Baiji , or Yangtze River Dolphin, which was driven to functional extinction in the last century. Turvey was actually the lead author of the report that declared that probable extinction back in 2006. I'm only about 30 pages in to the book, but so far its been a really fascinating read. It's hard to use positive adjectives to describe a situation that is so sad, but the book is in teresting and well written, and tells the tale of an amazing animal with a tragic history. On a happier, lighter note, I'm also looking at  I s a Blue Whale

Common Snapping Turtle

( Image Source ) Phylum : Chordata Class : Reptilia Order : Testudines Family : Chelydridae Genus : Chelydra  Species : serpentina Length : 10-20in (25-50cm) Weight : 10-40lbs (4.5-18kg) IUCN Status : Not Listed The Common Snapping Turtle has a pretty extensive range that covers a great deal of Eastern North America. They are found in fresh water, preferring habitats that have muddy bottoms, which make it easier for them to hide. They are among the largest freshwater turtles in North America. There are four recognized subspecies, each with their own range. They all possess long tails, clawed feet, and powerful beak-like jaws . They use those jaws to catch and consume just about anything they can fit inside of them. Common Snapping Turtles are omnivores, and eat fish, invertebrates, birds, mammals, plant matter, and carrion. They even consume other turtles , who they kill by decapitation. They sometimes hunt by burying themselves in the muddy water-bottoms, and then am

Viceroy Butterfly

( Image Source ) Phylum : Arthropoda Class : Insecta Order : Lepidoptera Superfamily : Papilionoidea Family : Nymphalidae Subfamily : Limenitidinae Genus : Limenitis  Species:  archippus  Length : 2.5-3.5in (6.5-9cm) wingspan IUCN Status : Not listed I mentioned mimicry briefly in my Butterfly photo post, so I figured I would expand upon it a little more with today's animal. There are actually two ways that butterflies mimic other butterfly species. The first of these is known as Batesian mimicry, and this is when a non-toxic species looks like a toxic species in order to stay safe. The second type, Muellerian mimicry, is when two equally toxic species mimic each other, benefiting one another. The Viceroy Butterfly is a Muellerian mimic, and if you couldn't already tell, their partner in crime is the Monarch Butterfly . Viceroys and Monarchs looks incredibly similar, with the small difference being a black bar that runs horizontally across the Viceroy&

Camera Critters : Butterflies All Around

A few weeks back I made my way over to the Milwaukee Public Museum, where they have a butterfly wing that you can stroll through. There are a handful of species, but I unfortunately neglected to figure out what was what, so now I have a whole mess of random butterfly pictures. I might try and sort them at some point, but one of the big things they emphasized at the exhibit was that many butterfly species mimic other species as a defense mechanism, so I might just be out of luck! Gave me an excuse to use some close-up settings on the camera though!

The Search for the Giant Squid: The Biology and Mythology of the World's Most Elusive Sea Creature

By Richard Ellis Paperback : 336 Pages October 1, 1999 Richard Ellis is one of the foremost painters of Marine Natural History art in the United States, and is an accomplished writer on the subject to boot. He’s published roughly 80 magazine and journal articles, and over a dozen books. The Search for the Giant Squid , published in 1999, tells the fantastic tale of genus Architeuthis , the largest animals in the world to have never been seen alive (at time of publication, see blow). Ellis recounts our history with the Squid, and the mythology that it inspired. Tales of sea serpents and the formidable Kraken were no doubt misinterpretations of Squid sightings, and these sightings continued to baffle sailors well into the modern era. Even today there is so little known about the Giant Squid. Ellis details our fascination with Architeuthis , and how we’ve struggled to hunt down and understand these giants among animals. Aside from covering the Squids biology and natural history, cha