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Showing posts from February, 2011

Speckled Padloper Tortoise

Speckled Padloper Tortoise Phylum : Chordata Class : Sauropsida Order : Testudines Family : Testudinidae Genus : Homopus Species: signatus Length : 4in (11cm) IUCN Status: Near Threatened The Speckled Padloper Tortoise is the smallest tortoise in the entire world! Found in South Africa, this tiny guy has a speckled shell whose carapace rarely grows longer than a third of a foot! Their speckles help to keep them camouflaged in rocky areas, where they spend a great deal of their time hiding. Not much is known about their behavior in the wild, other than that females lay only one egg  at a time and that the species is herbivorous. Speckled Padloper Tortoises have several threats working against them. These include loss of habitat, introduction of highways, poaching for the pet trade, and the introduction of new predatory species. Their low birth rate has also made it difficult for this tiny species to survive through so many changes.

Scarlet Ibis

Scarlet Ibis Phylum : Chordata Class : Aves Order : Ciconiiformes Family : Threskiornithidae Genus : Eudocimus Species : ruber Body Length : 24in (61cm) IUCN Status : Least Concern My family is pretty into the Oscars and all of the film awards shows that lead up to them. Tonight is the big event, and I wanted to write about a red animal to celebrate the red carpet. And what animal is more red than the striking Scarlet Ibis? Scarlet Ibises are found in South America, and are the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago (which is quite impressive, considering the number of species there.) Male Scarlet Ibis Like Flamingos, Scarlet Ibises get their striking coloration from the food that they eat. They gain pigmentation from various small crustaceans and grow more and more red with age. Their long beaks and long legs allow them to wade through water and locate their prey. Female Scarlet Ibises lay 2-3 eggs, which hatch after about 3 weeks. Both parents incubate the e

Giant Huntsman Spider

Giant Huntsman Spider Phylum : Arthropoda Class : Arachnida Order : Araneae Family : Sparassidae Genus : Heteropoda Species : maxima Legspan : 12in (30cm) Body Size : 2in (4.7cm) IUCN Status : Not Listed The Giant Huntsman Spider is a newly identified species that was first discovered in the Mekong region in 2001 . It has the largest legspan of any spider species yet uncovered (though since 2001 we've found over 1,000 new species in the Mekong alone, so who knows!) Despite its scary huge size, the Giant Huntsman Spider is not dangerous to humans. They get their name from the fact that they stalk and hunt down their prey (insects, small vertebrates); they are also quite fast on their long, gangly legs. Giant Huntsman Spiders are not venomous, and a bite from them will just give you a regular old spider bite.

Chinese Giant Salamander

Chinese Giant Salamander Phylum : Chordata Class : Amphibia Order : Caudata Family : Cryptobranchidae Genus : Andrias Species : davidianus Length : 40in (1m) Weight : 25lb (11kg) IUCN Status : Critically Endangered The Chinese Giant Salamander is the largest Salamander species in the entire world. Individuals measuring 6ft (1.8m) have been recorded, though most specemins today around only around 3ft (.9m). Chinese Giant Salamanders are found in the mountain streams of China, but due to habitat loss , harvesting for food and the pet trade, and the introduction of pesticides, these gigantic amphibians are fragmented in their population and are near extinction. They have been bred in captivity , but very few are actually kept in zoos around the world. Chinese Giant Salamanders are most active during the night time, when they come out to hunt and feed on fish, small vertebrates, and various types of invertebrate species. They hunt primarily by smell and touch. During


By Douglas Florian Hardcover : 56 Pages March 10, 2009 Dinothesaurus: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings is a short, illustrated work that features the poems and paintings of Douglas Florian. All of the material relates to Dinosaurs or other prehistoric reptiles (since Plesiosaurs and Pterosaurs are not technically Dinosaurs.) The book includes short poems, typically only a few lines long, that highlight a specific species or type. The poems are accompanied by a painting (often in collage style) of that animal, which also reflects the text in the poem. The poem on Deinonychus for example, mentions that they could ruin your whole day. The painting includes illustrations of Deinonychus with a background of newspaper clippings of days of the week. Florian covers all sorts of species, some that I've never even heard of, like Minmi and Troodon. The drawings are rather interesting, and poems are cute and highlight an important feature of the species. Each poems also inc

Brontomerus mcintoshi

Brontomerus fights off an attacker! Genus : Brontomerus Species : mcintoshi Length : 46ft (14m) Weight : 13,500lbs (6,100kg) Status : Extinct since the Early Cretaceous, approximately 110 million years ago This animal came across my news radar this morning and I just had to cover it.This new species was actually first discovered in Utah in 1994, but wasn't fully evaluated until 2007. When scientists finally got a good look at it, the realized that this species had a really interesting feature . Brontomerus mcintoshi has a bony plate that projects from the hip bone. This plate serves as an anchor for the dinosaur's leg muscles. It is between 31% and 55% longer than bone plates in other sauropods. This means that this new dinosaur had substantially powerful hind legs, the most muscular legs of any Sauropod! These legs were so powerful, in fact, that scientists gave it the name Brontomerus , which means "Thunder Thighs." (The species name, mcintoshi , is


Kinkajou Phylum : Chordata Class : Mammalia Order : Carnivora Family : Procyonidae Genus : Potos Species : flavus Length : Up to 44in (112cm) including tail Weight : 3-7lbs (1-3kg) IUCN Status : Least Concern The Kinkajou looks an awful lot like a Primate, or maybe some sort of weird Weasel. But they are, in fact, members of the same family that contains Raccoons and Coatis. Kinkajous are found in South and Central America, where they reside in tropical forest habitats. Kinkajous are nocturnal, and have large eyes that help them to see at night. They sport prehensile tails which are fantastic for getting around in the canopy, and feet that they can turn backwards. They are the only members of their family with prehensile tails, and their feet allow them to climb about easier and move up and down treetrunks quickly. Kinkajous are actually pretty social. They live in groups and are are more often heard than seen, due to their loud and frequent vocalizations. They ar

Orchard Oriole

Male Orchard Oriole Phylum : Chordata Class : Aves Order : Passeriformes Family : Icteridae Genus : Icterus Species : spurius Length : 7in (18cm) Wingspan : 10in (25cm) IUCN Status : Least Concern Sometimes I randomly ask my acquaintances to "name an animal that isn't a mammal." I get some strange responses sometimes (Antlion for example), and usually I've already written about many of the suggestions. Yesterday though, response number one was "Oriole," a songbird that I haven't yet written about! Imagine my excitement! ...But I had no idea that there were around 30 species of Oriole, so I just had to pick one. When faced with such a decision I tend to go toward extremes, so today we have the smallest Oriole species in North America; the Orchard Oriole. Female Orchard Oriole The Orchard Oriole can be found throughout Eastern North America and Central America, depending on the time of year. One interesting tidbit about them is that

Zebra Duiker

Zebra Duiker Phylum : Chordata Class : Mammalia Order : Artiodactyla Family : Bovidae Genus : Cephalophus Species : zebra Height : 18in (45cm) Weight : 45lbs (20kg) IUCN Status : Vulnerable Did you know that US President Calvin Coolidge had a wide assortment of strange pets? On top of nine dogs, four cats, and about half a dozen birds he also had a raccoon, two lions, a pygmy hippopotamus, and a bear. Coolidge also had a Duiker, a small African antelope that is todays featured animal! I have been unable to figure out what specific type of Duiker he had, so I selected one that I thought looked pretty cool, the Zebra Duiker. These little guys are found in the Ivory Coast, Seirra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. They inhabit forested areas. Zebra Duikers are solitary animals that eat various types of fruit and foliage. They have a very distinctive striped pattern that helps them to blend in with their environment and protect them from predators. Even though they spend mo

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. It's been quite the busy week between work, school, and work #2, so my pages read this week has been pretty low. I just finished Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants , which is a work of historical fiction that deals with a circus in the 1930s. The main characters all dealt directly with the animals, so I suppose that makes it relevant to post about here. There has been a lot of controversy (especially in recent years) regarding Circuses and their treatment of animals. Whatever your stance on the issue, the book was pretty good and gave an interesting look at Circus life and culture during the Great Depression. I also went through a few more books by Robert E. Wells,  What's Older Than a Giant Tortoise? ,  Did a Dinosaur Drink

Last Chance to See

By Douglas Adams, Mark Carwardine Paperback : 256 Pages October 13, 1992 In 1988, writer Douglas Adams teamed up with zoologist Mark Carwardine to travel the word and see some of its rarest and most spectacular animals. Their journey was made into BBC radio series, as well as a book that Adams penned. In Last Chance to See , we follow these two as they search for the Aye-aye, the Kakapo, the Northern White Rhino, the Baiji, the Komodo Dragon, Mountain Gorilla, and the Rodrigues Fruit Bat. These are all species that were down to scarily low numbers. Fact : The Kakapo is the cutest bird. While the material is now dated*,  the book was a delight to read. I'm a big fan of Adams and his Hitchhiker's Guide  series, and the book reads with his same voice and sense of humor. It's amazingly entertaining, on top of being an informative work on some of the most critically endangered species of the time. Not too long ago, Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine went back and rev


Iguanodon Phylum : Chordata Class : Reptilia Superorder : Dinosauria Order : †Ornithischia Family : †Iguanodontidae Genus : † Iguanodon Length : 33ft (10m) Weight : 10,000lbs (4,500kg) Status : Extinct for around 110 million years "Iguanodon" refers to several different discovered species within the genus Iguanodon . Theses Dinosaurs are notable because they were actually discovered before the word Dinosaur even existed! Around 1820 English geologist Gideon Mantell  discovered a tooth of one of these guys in Sussex, England. He thought the tooth looked like a large Iguana tooth and the name stuck. Mantell continued to do research on Iguanodons and other fossilized species until his death in 1852. Mantell's Iguanodon  Teeth Illustration Iguanodons were herbivores that lived in what is now Europe, Asia, and North America. The various species lived in the early Cretaceous, around 140-110 million years ago. They had three fingers on each hand, along w

The Greatest Show on Earth

By Richard Dawkins Hardcover : 480 Pages September 22, 2009 Written by the famed (and perhaps infamous) evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins,   The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution explains the Theory of Evolution in wonderful detail, providing information from expeditions, experiments, and from the observation of nature itself. Like the man or not, he really knows and loves this material, and that devotion to the science shines through. Though there are copies in audiobook form read by the author, as well as black and white eBook editions, I would recommend the print version which is chock full of color diagrams, illustrations and plates that back up and enhance the arguments, and help to bring better understanding to the examples.


Adult Euroleon nostras Phylum : Arthropoda Class : Insecta Order : Neuroptra Family : Myrmeleontidae Wingspan : 1-6in (2.5-15cm), varies by species If we want to get technical, the term "Antlion" most commonly refers to the larvae of the family Myrmeleontidae, but it has come to be a collective term for the 2,000 different species as well. Antlions can be found in sandy and arid habitats worldwide. Antlion Larvae In North America these insects are also referred to as Doodlebugs, due to the the tracings that they leave in the sand when building their pit traps . Larvae build pit traps by creating spiraled funnel in loose soil. They then sit at the bottom of the trap with only their head exposed, waiting for prey to fall in. The Antlion name comes from the fact that their larval form primarily hunts and consumes ants. Antlions spend a majority of their life in larval form, sometimes up to three years ! Once they cocoon and become winged adults they live only


Hippopotamus Phylum : Chordata Class : Mammalia Order : Artiodactyla Family : Hippopotamidae Genus : Hippopotamus Species : amphibius Length : 10-16ft (3-5m) Weight : Males 3,500-10,000lbs (1,600 to 4,5035 kgs); Females 3,000lbs (1,400 kgs) IUCN Status : Vulnerable The Hippopotamus is the third heaviest of all land animals, behind the Elephant and White Rhino. A large males can weight as much at 10,000lbs (4,535kg)! Even at birth they are huge; a newborn weighs around 100lbs (45kg). Hippopotamuses are one of the most dangerous land mammals in Africa. Males are especially territorial and use their long tusks for fighting over land and harems of females. Threatened Hippos can attack and kill humans, and are able to run at speeds of up to 14mph (30kph). Hippopotamus Teeth Hippopotamuses have skin that needs to constantly stay moist. In order to accomplish this they remain in water for as long as possible, sometimes up to 16 hours a day. Adults can hold their breat

King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise

Male King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise Phylum : Chordata Class : Aves Order : Passeriformes Family : Paradisaeidae Genus : Pteridophora Species : alberti Body Length : 8.5in (22cm) Plume Length : 20in (50cm) IUCN Status : Least Concern The King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise is a little bird with a HUGE name... and some pretty long feathers to match. Females are brownish-gray and plain, which helps to camouflage them, but males of the species are colorful and have some incredible headgear- long plumes that appear to stick out from their ears! These scalloped, iridescent feathers can stick up at will, and are used in their mating displays.They are so strange looking that when the first specimens were brought back to Europe, many believed them to be fake! Males are territorial. They call and sing songs to lure in potential females, and wow them with their plume movements . After mating, the female leaves and the male works to attract more females. Females lay one egg, which

Long Nosed Bandicoot

Long Nosed Bandicoot Phylum : Chordata Class : Mammalia Infraclass : Marsupialia Order : Peramelemorphia Family : Peramelidae Genus : Perameles Species: nasuta Length : 12-18in (30-46cm) Weight : 2.2lbs (1kg) IUCN Status : Least Concern I'm going to be honest. Yesterday's animal (the Melon Aphid) grossed me out a bit. Tiny virus spreading insects that lives in massive swarms are just a wee bit unnerving to me, so today I need to turn it around and do something a little less frightening... like Bandicoots. Which I suppose could be a bit creepy if encountered after dark, (which is when they are most active) but better than Aphids at least... There are actually about twenty different species of Bandicoot, which are marsupials found in Australia. This species in particular is found along the eastern edge of the continent. The Long Nosed Bandicoot is the largest member of its genus, and it has an exceptionally long snout (hence the name.) They are a bit plain in c

Melon Aphid

Melon Aphids Phylum : Arthropoda Class : Insecta Order : Hemiptera Superfamily : Aphidoidea Family : Aphididae Genus : Aphis Species : gossypii Length : 2-3mm The Melon Aphid also goes by the name Cotton Aphid, and is found in tropical and temperate regions around the world. They are one of literally thousands of Aphid species, tiny sap-sucking insects that can cause huge amounts of crop damage. Melon Aphids have some strange reproductive habits . During the spring, winged females in certain areas fly over to suitable host plants and give birth to live young through parthenogenesis (development without fertilization). In other areas, females lay eggs after mating. Regardless of their conception, the nymphs take between 4 and 10 days to mature, depending on the overall temperature. Most adults will not grow wings. However, if there is overcrowding or a limited food supply, some Aphids will grow wings in order to fly to newer, more favorable locations. Melon Aphids can


Peach Faced Lovebird Phylum : Chordata Class : Aves Order : Psittaciformes Family : Psittacidae Genus : Agapornis Length : 5-7in (12.5-18cm) IUCN Status : The Black-Cheeked Lovebird is listed as Vulnerable. Lillian's and Fischer's Lovebirds are Near Threatened. All other species are of Least Concern. Happy Valentines Day! What better animal to talk about then one that has the word love right there in its name? There are nine different species of Lovebird, all of whom are found natively in Africa, though they are now very popular in captivity. There are now also several feral populations in the United States. Fischer's Lovebird Lovebirds are small parrots, but don't let their size fool you! They can be just as intelligent and active as their large family members. Lovebirds can  mimic human voices, but it is not a common practice. In the wild, each species of Lovebird has its own distinct markings. Captive breeding has brought out even more color poss

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 read  Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams last week, and I absolutely tore through that thing. That's probably the fastest I've read in a long while. Last Chance to See  was a project put together by Adams and zoologist Mark Carwardine, they go around the world looking for rare animals, and the project was finally assembled as a book and BBC radio show. It is a really funny, entertaining, and informative, and I'll be getting the review for that up soon. I also need to hunt down the updated documentary version with Carwardine and Stephen Fry. Just watch this video! This week I'm not sure what type of animal joy I'll look at. I just got a Nook this past weekend so now I have even more options! While I sort out wh

Sea Lamprey

Sea Lamprey Mouth Phylum : Chordata Class : Cephalaspidomorphi Order : Petromyzontiformes Family : Petromyzontidae Genus : Petromyzon Species : marinus Length : 20in (50cm) IUCN Status : Least Concern Despite the name, the Sea Lamprey can be found in freshwater areas as well as the sea. They are a parasitic species located in and around the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the American Great Lakes. Some Sea Lampreys spawn in freshwater, but some have made the Great Lakes their home, moving in permanently as  invasive species . Sea Lamprey attached to Lake Trout The Sea Lamprey is a primitive, cartilaginous fish with an eel-like body. They have circular mouths filled with sharp teeth that they use to latch on to their hosts bodies. The Lamprey saliva also possesses and anticoagulant that makes it very difficult for their host's wound to heal. They allows the Lamprey to feed for much longer. If the host doesn't die first, the Lamprey can stay attach

Atlantic Puffin

Atlantic Puffins Phylum : Chordata Class : Aves Order : Charadriiformes Family : Alcidae Genus : Fratercula Species : arctica Height : 10in(25cm) Weight : 18oz (500g) Wingspan : 25in (63cm) IUCN Status : Least Concern Atlantic Puffins spend their entire lives in and around the water, but unlike penguins, they can actually fly! In fact, they are even pretty quick on the wing, and can reach speeds of up to 55mph (88kph). At the name suggests, Atlantic Puffins live in areas around the North Atlantic Ocean, including New England, Greenland, and many areas in Northern Europe. Iceland is especially full of Puffins during the breeding season; it is estimated that 60% of all Puffins congregate there each spring and summer. Puffin carrying food for its young Atlantic Puffins are amazing swimmers as well at flyers. They hunt their fishy prey by swimming over open water and diving in for the catch. They can dive down as far as 200ft (61m), using their wings to swim

Big Skate

Big Skate Phylum : Chordata Class : Chondrichthyes Superorder : Batoidea Order : Rajiformes Family : Rajidae Genus : Raja Species : binoculata Length : 6ft (1.8m) Weight : 200lbs (81kg) IUCN Status : Near Threatened The appropriately named Big Skate is the largest of the North American skates, cartilaginous fish that belong to the superorder that also contains Rays. They can be found off the Pacific coast running from Alaska to California, at depths of up to 400ft (120m). The Big Skate is very flat and pointy looking, with its nose and pectoral fins all coming to a tip. They also possess a thin tail that is just about as long as the body. They have two large patches on their back that resemble eyes and which are most likely used to confuse predators. The Big Skate's actual eyes on placed on top, but its mouth and gills are found on its underside, which is the perfect position for swimming around and sucking up fish and marine invertebrates. Big Skates are egg

Pink Pigeon

Pink Pigeon Phylum : Chordata Class : Aves Order : Columbiformes Family : Columbidae Genus : Nesoenas Species : mayeri Length : 13in (32cm) Weight : 12oz (350g) IUCN Status : Endangered The Pink Pigeon is another one of those species that was on the brink of extinction only a few years ago. Without the tireless efforts of dedicated conservationists, this species, found only on Mauritius, would've been gone forever. In 1990 the population was down to only 10 wild birds . There are now around 300. Like many other island bird species, the Pink Pigeon saw its number cut due to the introduction of non-native animals like rats . One of the conservation measures is to reduce the number of these damaging predators. Other steps include captive breeding, reintroduction, restoration of habitat, and supplementary feeding. Pink Pigeons look quite a bit like the common Rock Pigeons that many of us see every day.... except that they are pink! They live in small flocks that f

Giraffe Weevil

Male Giraffe Weevil Phylum : Arthropoda Class : Insecta Order : Coleoptera Family : Attelabidae Genus : Trachelophorus Species : giraffa Body Length : 1in (2.5cm) I chose today's animal based entirely on its looks , as it is otherwise a relatively unremarkable creature. Giraffe Weevils can be found on the Island of Madagascar, inhabiting forested areas.The are one of the longest Weevil species. Giraffe Weevils are sexually dimorphic. Though both males and females have the striking red body coloration, the males have much, much longer necks than the females. Male use these long necks to fight over females when it comes time to breed, they also use them to create rolled up leaf nests, which the females lay only a single egg in. The leaf then serves as a meal for the larvae upon hatching.

Witness to Extinction: How We Failed to Save the Yangtze River Dolphin

By Samuel Turvey Paperback : 256 Pages October 15, 2009 Witness to Extinction: How We Failed to Save the Yangtze River Dolphin  is without a doubt, one of the saddest books I’ve ever read. It is the true life account of the final Yangzte River Survey to locate any remaining Baiji, and the story of the Baiji and Chinese conservation in general. Turvey, who was the lead author on the paper that announced the probable extinction of the species back in 2006, cares deeply for this subject, and pours out his frustration with the international conservation community. I had never realized the amount of bureaucracy involved, it gets really infuriating just reading it. The book details all of the failed efforts over time, juxtaposing them with the successes and failures of other species around the world. QiQi, the only successful captive Baiji I’m really glad I read this book. It gave me new insight into wildlife conservation and all of the steps and measures required to save a speci