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Showing posts from October, 2011

Common Vampire Bat

Desmodus rotundus Happy Halloween! Could there be any better day to talk about the Vampire Bat? Bats are the only mammals able to truly fly, and Vampire Bats are the only mammals who feed entirely on the blood of other animals . They feed only at night, using heat sensors to find the best spot to feed from (Horses and Cows are common prey). Because they only consume blood, their teeth are used only to pierce skin, and they are actually so thin and sharp that the prey doesn't always know they've been bitten! After making the bite, the Vampire Bat will lick up the blood for around 30 minutes. They don't take enough blood to cause harm to the prey, though infections can occur . Vampire Bats are very social, and live in colonies of up to 150 members. They are remarkably altruistic ; if one Bat hasn't gotten enough to eat, other Bats will regurgitate blood for them to feed on. Gross, but incredibly nice, as a Bat can die if it doesn't feed for three days! The r

Guinea Turaco

Tauraco persa The Guinea Turaco is a brightly colored bird with a large head crest found in Central and Western Africa. They are a member of the Turaco family, which contains many other brightly colored species. They feed on flowers, fruits, and buds. There are some really cool facts about Turacos! For example, did you know that they are the only birds to have true red and green pigmentation ? They actually have copper in their feather pigments, which cannot be found in any other animals! Guinea Turacos form monogamous breeding pairs during the rainy season, and build nests in trees. Two eggs are laid at a time, and both parents care for the young until they mature and leave at around 15 weeks. IUCN Status :  Least Concern Location :   West and Central Africa Size :  Length 17in (43cm) Classification :  Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order: Cuculiformes Family :

Oriental Fire-bellied Toad

Bombina orientalis Oriental Fire-bellied Toads are aquatic amphibians that cane be found in China, Korea, Japan, and parts of southern Russia. They are referred to as Toads not because they belong to the Toad family, but because they have warty, toad-like skin . Isn't animal naming confusing sometimes? On any normal viewing, the Fire-bellied Toad will appear green with a black mottle pattern. However, once they are threatened they will rise on their hind legs and present their smooth,  bright red and black underside to the predator, sometimes doing a near back-flip in the process! The red color warns against the dangerous toxin that the Toad secretes from its skin. Oriental Fire-bellied Toads are very common throughout most of their range, and they are also kept as pets in captivity. They are very hardy, require only a 10 gallon aquarium, are considered to be suitable for beginning Frog keepers , and can live ten years or more! IUCN Status :  Least Concern


Puma yagouaroundi The Jaguarundi is a small, strange looking feline with an elongated body and short legs. One of their alternate common names is " Otter Cat ," and it's not much of a stretch to see why. They are also sometimes confused with Tayras ! Jaguarundis have a range that spans from Texas all the way to Argentina, and are most commonly found in open areas. They are solitary cats, and are primarily diurnal, though they sometimes hunt through dawn and dusk as well. Jaguarundis spend most of their time on the ground, though they are able to both climb and swim quite well. Small mammals, birds, and fish make up the Jaguarundi's diet. They typically hunt by stalking and pouncing, and mothers teach their cubs how to hunt during their first year of life. Finally, can you guess who the closest relative to the Jaguarundi is? It's not any of the other small cats, nor is it the Jaguar. Despite their massive size difference, Cougars and Jaguarundis are the


B. africanus There are two species of Oxpecker, the appropriately named Red-Billed ( B. erythrorhynchus ) and Yellow-Billed ( B. africanus ). Both are found throughout the open habitats of Sub-Saharan Africa, though the Red-Billed tends to live more on the eastern half of the Continent. Oxpeckers are named after their primary activity- pecking parasites and dead skin off of various hoofed mammals . Buffalo, Rhinos, Impalas, Giraffes, and an several other species are living buffets for these colorful beaked birds. Domesticated livestock also benefit from the relationship. B. erythrorhynchus on a Giraffe Oxpeckers are astounding because they can eat as many as 400 adult ticks in a single day, and up to 150,000 in a year! They can also consume tens of thousands of larvae over the course of the day as well! Their large beaks allow them to eat bigger parasites, and to curb the spread of parasite-borne illnesses. The birds are even being reintroduced to areas where they were onc


Banteng Cow and Calf Banteng are wild cattle that can be found in South and Southeast Asia. They have even been domesticated in some parts of their range, and it is estimated that there are around 1.5million domesticated individuals in the world, as compared to only a few thousand of their wild counterpart. In their domestic form, they are often referred to as Bali Cattle. Banteng Bull Though there are many Banteng in captivity, their wild populations are dwindling, and the species is considered to be Endangered . Hunting, habitat loss, and interbreeding with Cattle have caused the population to decline, and they are becoming regionally extinct. One neat little tidbit about the Banteng involves their coat coloration . Males and females are sexually dimorphic; though they are both born with reddish coats, over time the females will stay red and develop white stockings, while the males' coats will darken to an almost black color. Another even more amazing fact is that

Redtail Shark

Epalzeorhynchos bicolor Do not let the name fool you! The Redtail Shark is not a shark at all, it is a member of the Carp family! The Shark moniker actually comes from the tall dorsal fin, not from any close relational status. Redtail Sharks are popular pets due to their vibrant coloration. But did you know that they are critically endangered in the wild? The species is endemic to freshwater rivers in Thailand, and over the last 40 years dams and other man-made obstructions have caused the population to drastically decline. Most Redtails in aquariums are now  captive bred  in Thailand, and then exported. Redtail Sharks are omnivorous scavengers that feed on smaller creatures and plant material. In captivity it is advised to keep only one per tank , as they can be aggressive and territorial towards other members of their species. Don't be shocked if they chase or harass other fish as well, and make sure to keep a lid on the tank, they can jump out! IUCN Status :  Critical

Spotted Cuscus

Spilocuscus maculatus The Spotted Cuscus is a very shy, nocturnal, arboreal marsupial that can be found in parts of Australia and New Guinea. They are very difficult to spot, but that is due to their elusive shyness, and not to the fact that they are rare or uncommon. These Cuscuses are hunted in their range, but their population is stable . The Spotted Cuscus lives in lowland tropical rainforests, and they feed primarily on leaves and fruits, though they have been observed consuming small animals and eggs as well. Mating happens year round, and like most of their other actions, takes place in trees. The female will be pregnant for about a week, before giving birth to offspring that weigh only a gram! Though she is capable of raising three babies at a time in her forward opening pouch, there is usually only one . The offspring will stay in the pouch for 6-7 months, and will reach sexual maturity after a year. IUCN Status :  Least Concern Lo


Anthropornis If you though the Emperor Penguin was the largest of all the Penguins, you'd be correct... sort of. While they dominate the size charts for all living species, they would have been dwarfed back in the Eocene. Today's animal, Anthropornis, is an extinct Penguin that stood six feet tall! There are two identified species within the genus Anthropornis , A. nordenskjoldi  and  A. grandis.  Their genus name translates to "Man Bird," and fossils have been found in New Zealand and on Seymour Island off of Antarctica. They lived between 45 and 37 million years ago. Anthropornis lived an aquatic lifestyle as modern penguins do, but they had bent wings . This is a trait that they carried over from their flying relatives. Fun fact about Anthropornis: they were indirectly mentioned in the H.P. Lovecraft novel At the Mountains of Madness . Six foot tall albino cave penguins! Status :  Extinct for 37 million years Locatio

Fire Ant

Fire Ants The name "Fire Ant" applies to nearly 300 different worldwide species of Ant all found within the genus Solenopsis . They are named for their coppery-red color, and possibly for the itchy, awful irritation that their stings can cause. Fun! Fire Ants live in large colonies and are comprised of individuals that have one of three different roles. The queen is the only Ant that reproduces. She will lay several thousand eggs in a single day, and is the only ant that will actually live more than a few weeks! Queens can live for several years, while the other females, the workers, only make it a month or so. Drones are the only males in the colony. Their sole purpose is to mate with the female... and then they die after a lifespan of only four days. Fire Ants use their stings to attack and kill their prey. While they do often eat grasses and leaves, they will also hunt larger insects like Crickets, as well as the occasional larger critter. If you get stung by a

African Wild Ass

Today we're going to learn all about the ancestor to the modern Donkey: the African Wild Ass. These members of the Equus  genus were domesticated 6,000 years ago, and while Donkeys can now be found worldwide, their wild relatives have drastically dwindled in number. Somali Wild Ass mare and foal in captivity Though they were once found throughout the northern parts of the continent, African Wild Asses are now found only in scattered parts of Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, and Djibouti. They are regionally extinct elsewhere. The climate in these areas is rocky and arid, and the Asses have evolved to survive in dry climates. They can live through water loss that amounts to 30%  of their overall body weight , and can rapidly gain those fluids back when water is available. African Wild Asses are most active during dawn and dusk, and they remain in the shade during the hottest parts of the day. The Asses live in very loose herds that can number up to 50 individuals. The only strong


So have you ever wondered where the fish in your sandwiches comes from? Would you be surprised to find out that one of the most popular commercially served species is a weird looking, skinny fish that lives at depths of around 3,300ft (1000m)? Macruronus novaezelandiae Meet the Hoki (or Blue Grenadier), the fish responsible for the McDonalds Filet O' Fish . Found around Australia and New Zealand, this slender, relatively deep sea dweller is considered by many to be a model of sustainable fishing . However, in 2009 a New York Times article questioned the Hoki fishing practices in New Zealand. While the country disputed the article, they did end up lowering the yearly quota by 2/3. Around 11 million pounds of Hokia re used by just McDonalds every year. Hoki are actually related to Cod , which makes the food popularity less surprising. They live in schools and feed on other deep-ish sea creatures. They are also relatively longed lived for a fish, and have a lifespan of up t