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Showing posts from February, 2013

Mountain Gorilla

Gorilla beringei beringei There are two distinct Gorilla species in the world, and each one has two subspecies of its own. The Mountain Gorilla is one of the Eastern Gorilla subspecies, and is found only in a handful of Central African Countries. As indicated by the name, these Primates live at higher elevations-- they inhabit mountainous cloud forests that have altitude of up to 14,000ft. Mountain Gorillas are the second largest of the Gorillas (behind only the Eastern Lowland). They have longer hair to help with the colder climate, and shorter arms than many of their lowland cousins. Despite their huge size and sometimes ferocious look, these primates are primarily herbivores, and feed on over 100 different plant species. Like all Gorillas, they live in very structured social groups. These troops, which can have as many as 40 individuals, are led by a dominant male called a "Silverback" (named for the grey hairs that grow on their backs with age). The Silverback de

Archer's Lark

Heteromirafra archeri The Archer's Lark is a very rare bird found only in a very small range within the country of Somalia. It is estimated that there are less than 250 adults left, but they are so elusive that no one really knows for sure, and no accurate population studies have been done. The last time it was even officially sighted was back in 1955 , and no sound recordings have been made either. They are difficult to locate because they stick to covered spaces, rarely fly, and hide well in grasses. Unfortunately, there are no real conservation measure for the Archer's Lark, because no one has been able to effectively locate and study them. Habitat loss is the cause for their decline, and they very well may go extinct, if they haven't done so already. IUCN Status :  Critically Endangered Location :   Somalia Size :  Length up to 14cm Classification :  Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Passeriformes Family : Alaudidae -- Genus : Heteromirafra --

Lesser Diving Beetle

Acilius sulcatus In its Western European range, Acilius sulcatus  is reffered to as the Lesser Diving Beetle. These Water Beetles grow to around 20mm in length, and range in color from yellow, to brown, to black. You will find these little Beetles, unsurprisingly  in bodies of water. They have the ability to fly, so they are not confined to a single source, and they prefer locations that are low in predatory fish. Because why live where you're going to get eaten? If there are predators around, the Lesser Diving Beetles have a defensive mechanism. They are able to secrete a toxin that drugs their attacker and puts them to sleep! They are also very fast, and are one of the quickest of all the Water Beetles. Lesser Diving Beetles have one brood each year, either in the spring or in the autumn. Adults in cold climates are able to survive the winter by hanging out in bodies of water that do not freeze. IUCN Status :  Not Listed Location :   Europe Size :  Length up to 20mm

Duke of Burgundy

Hamearis lucina The Duke of Burgundy is a small Butterfly that has a checkered orange-brown pattern on its wings. They belong to a subfamily known as the "Metalmarks," due to the metallic sheen found on their wings. Interestingly though, the Duke of Burgundy is the only member of that group to be found in Europe. These Butterflies have a range that spreads from Spain to the Balkans, and they are also found in Great Britain. They live in both grasslands and in forested areas. Though they look very much alike, you can distinguish between the males and females of this species by their behavior. Males are incredibly territorial, and will lash out at other males that enter their small range. Females are more relaxed, and do not stick to a set home area. They will often wander, which is how colonies are able to pop up far from existing ones. As Caterpillars, these insects feed on Oxslip, Cowslip, and Primrose-- plants that their eggs are laid on. They remain in that phas


Europasaurus holgeri Europasaurus is a recently discovered (2006) Dinosaur that also happens to be an example of insular dwarfism. You see, this creature is a sauropod, related to such giants as the Brachiosaurus. However, Europasaurus was quite small for a member of its family-- it grew to only about 10ft in length. The reasoning for the small size is most likely isolation. The Europasaurus was found in the Saxony Basin, and most likely evolved in a region that had very limited resources. Because feeding and sustaining massive Sauropods was no feasible in the area of the world, these Dinosaurs grew smaller in size. Europasaurus is also different because it had a very slow growth rate. Where other Sauropods reached titanic sizes very quickly, the Europasaurus grew at a much, much slower speed. It is possible that very old individuals reached sizes of more than 10ft, but they still would've been dwarfed by their Brachiosaur family members. Status :  Extinct for 150 millio

Atlantic Spadefish

Chaetodipterus faber The Atlantic Spadefish looks a lot like the Angelfish you see in aquariums... only they can grow up to 3ft long! They are found only within the Atlantic Ocean, off the eastern coast of North America and in the Caribbean. They live in shallow waters, and school in groups of up to 500 members. Atlantic Spadefish have large, compressed, disc-like bodies that are covered in silvery scales and black vertical lines. They have trailing lobes on their dorsal and anal fins, which give that that Angelfish look. These fish feed on all sorts of underwater invertebrates, including crustaceans and mollusks. They themselves are popular game fish for humans, as they have good meat and can be challenging to catch. Right now they are not under any major conservation threats, and fishing levels are sustainable. IUCN Status :  Not Listed Location :   Atlantic Ocean Size : Length up to 3ft (.9m) Classification :  Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Actinopterygii -- Order : Per

Tody Motmot

Hylomanes momotula The Tody Motmot is a small, colorful bird found in Central America. They have a very large range that spans across several different countries, and are quite common throughout it. Tody Motmots live tropical and subtropical lowland forests, where it can be identified by its round green body, red crest, large beak, and dark black eye stripe. They feed on fruits and small animals like lizards and insects. This particular species of Motmot is unique in its family because it does not posses the strange, long, tennis-racket shaped tail feathers that the other Motmots have . They are also the smallest members of the group. IUCN Status :  Least Concern Location :   Central America Classification :  Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Coraciiformes Family : Momotidae -- Genus : Hylomanes -- Species : H. momotula Image :  dominic sherony


Hybodus fraasi  (one of the many Hybodontiformes) The Hybodontiformes  Order is a sister group to the one that contains all of our modern Sharks, Rays, and Skates. It was first identified back in 1846, and since then species from five different Families have been uncovered. These prehistoric sharks were successful for a very, very long time-- they lasted nearly 200 million years and went extinct at the same time as the Dinosaurs-- 65 million years ago. There have been numerous species discovered within this order, and fossils have been found in places like China and Brazil. Interestingly, these animals lives in both saltwater and  freshwater. Unfortunately, that freshwater adaptation didn't save them from going extinct, and they began their decline during the cretaceous period. Status :  Extinct for 65 million years Location :   Worldwide Classification :  Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Chondrichthyes -- Subclass : Elasmobranchii Order : †Hybodontiformes Image :  Haplo

Crab-Eating Raccoon

Procyon cancrivorus The Crab-Eating Raccoon is a lesser-known relative to the popular and iconic Common Raccoon. This particular species lives in Central and South America, inhabiting marshy, forested areas. The name is a bit misleading, as the Crab-Eating Raccoon does not exclusively eat Crabs. It is also not the only Raccoon to eat Crustaceans-- the Common variety does as well. In addition to their name-sake meals, these Raccoons also eat amphibians, fruits, eggs, fish, and insects. They are very dexterous creatures, having the ability to manipulate food and other objects with their hands. Crab-Eating Raccoons are nocturnal and solitary. They look slimmer and sleeker than their northern cousins, but that is only because their hair is shorter due to a lack of undercoat (they don't need it since they live in tropical climates). IUCN Status :  Least Concern Location :   Central and South America Size : Body length up to 30in (80cm) Classification :  Phylum : Chordata

Gunnison Grouse

Centrocercus minimus The Gunnison Sage Grouse is the first new species of bird described in the United States since the 1800s. Interestingly, it wasn't classified until 2000, because it bore such a resemblance to the more common Sage Grouse and was overlooked. Gunnison Sage Grouses are smaller than Sage Grouses, and are significantly more rare. So rare, in fact, that they are listed as Endangered by the IUCN. They live only in a few parts of Colorado and Utah, and are being heavily affected by habitat loss and fragmentation. Hunting has been banned, and efforts to improve the habitat are underway. However, further restoration and research will be needed to get the population on an upward swing. Right now it is estimated that there are only 2,500 birds. One interesting tidbit about this bird is that the males take part in a Lek breeding system. They stake out areas that they can use as stages. These are usually open patches of ground near sages. The males then strut around

Sunda Clouded Leopard

Neofelis diardi The Sunda Clouded Leopard has only been a designated species since 2006. before that, it was considered to be a subspecies of the Clouded Leopard which lives on the Asian continent. The Sunda (or Borneo) Clouded Leopard is only found on Borneo and Sumatra. They are the largest felines on those islands, and can be identified by the irregularly shaped cloud-like ovals on their coats. Not much is known about the behavior of these cats. They have low population densities and are very secretive. They are most likely solitary animals that hunt from the ground but use trees for shelter and protection. The species is listed at Vulnerable, and the population is on a decline. Habitat loss is a major concern, as is hunting for pelts. They live in a few protected areas, but there is more conservation work and research to be done. IUCN Status :  Vulnerable Location :   Borneo and Sumatra Size :  Weight up to 55lbs (25kg) Classification :  Phylum : Chordata -- Class

Common Comet Star

Linckia guildingii The Common Comet Star is a Sea Star found in the warm, tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They grow 4-7 arms that can reach about 8in in length each, and are generally grey in color, though reds, purples, and oranges are also found. These Starfish are especially interesting because of their regenerating arms. Most Starfish can regenerate a broken limb, but the Common Comet Star can regenerate an entire new animal! If an arm breaks off, it is called a "Comet." Comets can move about on their own, and can slowly grow more arms until a whole new Starfish is generated. The process can take up to six months to complete! The Common Comet Stars are also able to reproduce sexually, with males and females releasing sperm and eggs in order to spawn. When it comes to feeding, the Common Comet Stars are actually able to exvert their stomachs. This means that instead of eating their food and having the digestive juices break it down i

Tiny Hawk

Accipiter superciliosus The Tiny hawk is very appropriately named-- females are only around 10in long, and the males are even smaller. This makes them one of the smallest Raptors in the entire world. Tiny Hawks live in Central and South America , having a very patchy throughout a handful of countries. They live in wet, lowland forests. You'll identify them by their small size, and by their greyish-brown upper feathers with buff, barred undersides. When it comes to hunting, the Tiny Hawks seek out a high perch and scan their surroundings for prey. They hunt other birds, especially Hummingbirds, and will snatch them either in mid-flight, or while they are themselves resting on perches. Currently the Tiny Hawks are listed as being of Least Concern. They have a very large range, and appear to be common throughout it. IUCN Status :  Least Concern Location :   South and Central America Size :  Length up to 8in (20cm) Classification :  Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves --

Rhinoceros Hornbill

Buceros rhinoceros The Rhinoceros Hornbill can be found in several countries through Southeast Asia, and are the state birds of the Malaysian state of Sarawak. They live in rainforests at altitudes below 1,400m, and you'll probably hear them before you see them. Their large, rounded wings make flying very noisy and difficult, and they are able to blast out very loud calls to one another thanks to their sound-resonating headgear. One of the largest Hornbill species, these birds can grow nearly 4ft in length. They are predominantly black with white feathers, and both males and females have those distinctive yellowish-orange casques on their heads. One easy way to tell the difference between sexes is by looking at their eyes-- males have red irises, while females have white. Rhinoceros Hornbills form very strong pair bonds, and may keep those bonds for many years (in captivity they can live 30 years or more) The female needs to have exceptional trust in her partner, because


Dromaius novaehollandiae The Emu is the second largest bird in the world, behind only the Ostrich. These Ratites can stand over 4ft tall at the shoulder, and with their long necks can reach over 6ft. They also have incredibly long legs that give them a stride distance of nearly 3m. These legs also pack a literal punch-- Emus can seriously injure attackers, and have been known to kick down fences! And what about those weird feathers? Because they don't need specialized flying feathers, they grow a shaggy covering that keeps them cool and insulated from direct sunlight. And did you know that they do actually have tiny wings under there? They can flap them, but they are too small to really do anything with. You'll find the three Emu subspecies in Australia, where they live in just about every type of environment. (Not-so-fun-fact: There were once two other Emu species. Both went extinct after the arrival of Humans). They tend to live either alone or in pairs, though they

African Lion

In the past we've learned about the now-extinct Barbary Lions, and the near-extinct Asiatic Lions. Today we're going to cover the African Lions -- a term that encompasses several different subspecies, including the two aforementioned types. Overall there are 6 extant African subspecies, and they can be found throughout the continent. Lions are actually the only big cats in the world that live in groups-- the rest are solitary. These groups, called "prides" contain several related females, a handful of males, and their offspring. Young females will usually stay with their mother for life, while young males will eventually leave and try to take over their own pride. The sexes have their roles within the prides-- females are the primary hunters, while males guard the territory thanks to their large size and intimidating appearance. (The males also serve as babysitters while the females are hunting). The females hunt cooperatively, working together to take down prey

Giant Pacific Octopus

Enteroctopus dofleini The Giant Pacific Octopus is regarded as being the largest of all the Octopus species. Some specimens have weighed in at 150lbs! They have arms that can reach six feet in length, and the females are generally larger than the males. As with many Octopus species, they have special pigment cells in their skin that allow them to change color to match their surroundings. As the name denotes, this Cephalopod lives in the Pacific Ocean-- specifically in the North Pacific. You'll find these Octopuses at a wide range of depths, from the shallow coasts to waters as deep as 1,500ft. They feed on Mollusks and Crustaceans, breaking shells with their strong beaks. For the extra tough prey, they have a organ called the Salivary Papilla. They can use this to bore into shells, and secrete saliva that can corrode the tough layers. Giant Pacific Octopuses have a surprisingly short life-span. Five years tends to be their maximum life expectancy, and most live even fewer y

Quillback Rockfish

Sebastes maliger There are over 120 different species within the Sebastidae family, including the Quillback Rockfish. These spiny saltwater fish live along the Pacific coast of North America, hanging out near rocks and reefs where they are best camouflaged. They are rarely found in open water. These fish feed during the day, living on a diet of Crustaceans and small fish. Quillback Rockfish are solitary, though they are not territorial. Individuals can be found near each other, coexisting in the same reef area without incident. They do come together during spawning, which takes place from March to July. Interestingly, they are an ovoviviparous species. It can take several years for the Quillback Rockfish to mature, and they can live longer than 30 years. This particular fish gets its name from the long, venomous quills that grow from its back. These quills keep the Rockfish safe from predators. The toxin isn't deadly the humans, but can still cause pain. IUCN Status :  N

Grey Francolin

Francolinus pondicerianus The Grey Francolin is a species found with the Pheasant family, and there are three different location-based subspecies. They were once referred to as Grey Partridges, but that was a bit of a confusing common name, as there are also grey Partridges in Europe. Grey Francolins can be found in South Asia, as well as in introduced populations in the Pacific, and in Hawaii and Nevada. They live in grassland and scrubland areas, and they do their nesting either in scrapes on the ground, or in small rocky walls. They aren't very good fliers, so they rely on grasses and shrubs to hide. These birds are omnivores, eating seeds, insects, and even small reptiles. Interestingly, Grey Francolins have been domesticated in India and Pakistan for quite some time, though their purpose is a rather sad one-- the birds are kept for fighting. The birds are very common outside of captivity, and are one of the most populous game birds in their range. IUCN Status :  Lea

Lemur Leaf Frog

Hylomantis lemur The Lemur Leaf Frog is a Critically Endangered Amphibian that lives in a very fragmented range that crosses parts of Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama. Lemur Leaf Frogs can actually change color, and do so based upon how active they are. During the day, when they tend to be resting, they are a bright green. However, at night, when they are feeding and hopping about, they turn brown or grey to stay camouflaged in the dark. Another interesting fact is that these Frogs are able to bask in the sun for long periods of time without drying out. The theory is that a pigment in their skins allows heat to bounce right off, keeping them moist. This same pigment may be why the Lemur leaf Frogs are less susceptible to chytridiomycosis,a  devastating fungal infection that is affecting Frogs worldwide. Though they are impacted by the fungal disease less than other frogs, the population has still been damaged by the affliction. Deforestation has also been a major threat to

Spotted Palm Thrush

Cichladusa guttata The Spotted Palm Thrush is one of three Palm Thrush species. These birds, related to the Old World Flycatchers (rather than the True Thrushes) are found only in Africa. Spotted Palm Thrushes are named for the brown speckles that adorn their otherwise buff-colored chests. They also sport darker brownish-red wings, and thin beaks that are used for snatching insects. You'll find this specific Palm Thrush in Western Africa. There, they live in both forest areas as well as in grasslands and scrublands. The species is listed as being of Least Concern, and is very common throughout their range, with a currently stable population. IUCN Status :  Least Concern Location :   West   Africa Size :  Length up to 7in (17cm) Classification :  Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Passeriformes Family : Muscicapidae -- Genus : Cichladusa -- Species : C. guttata


Dendrolagus scottae The Tenlike, also known as Scott's Tree Kangaroo, is an extremely rare Macropod found only in the Torricelli Mountain Range of Papua New Guinea. They have dark fur, long tails,feed on a diet of vines and leaves, and are one of the most endangered Mammals on the planet. The Tenlike was described by science for the first time in 1989, and even then they were very, very rare. In 2000 it was believed that less than 100 remained. Not long after that the Tenlike Conservation Alliance was formed in order to protect the Tree Kangaroos from extinction. It is believed that the total range of these Marsupials is less than  125 square kilometers. Hunting is a major threat, and the TCA is working with villages to both stop the practice, and to create a safe, protected zone in the mountains where the Tenlike live. There are still many surveys that need to be done, as well as a lot of footwork. The group has been successful though, as it is believed that numbers are n

Heterixalus alboguttatus

Heterixalus alboguttatus H. alboguttatus is a species of Frog native to the island of Madagascar. It lives at lower altitudes, and is most often found in grassland and savanna areas. This odd looking frog can be identified by its dark body with bright orange spots (and smaller, white flecks). This coloration distinguishes them from all the other species within the genus. They don't grow especially large, reaching only a few cm in length Unfortunately, not much else is known about this frog. Reproductive information is scarce-- nothing is reported about the tadpole phase, though we do know (from dissected individuals) that a female can lay up to 500 eggs at once. Currently they are listed as being of Least concern , and they seem to be quite adaptable and not majorly affected by habitat change or the pet trade. IUCN Status :  Least Concern Location :   Madagascar Size :  Length up to 33mm Classification :  Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Amphibia -- Order : Anura Fami

Masked Crab

Corystes cassivelaunus The Masked Crab gets its name from patterns that sometimes appear on its elongated carapace-- they can look like faces! Aside from those designs, the Masked Crabs are yellowish to reddish brown in color, have very long antennae, and long pincers that can be twice the length of the body... well, for males at least. A females pincers are only about the same length as the carapace. Overall they are small crabs, only growing carapaces of a few cm. This species is the only one listed within the genus Corystes  and it is found in the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic. They are burrowers-- the dig backwards into the sand in order to hunt after the invertebrates that live in the substrate. While underground, the Masked Crabs stick their antennae into the water above, fusing them together to form a breathing tube. IUCN Status :  Not Listed Location :   North Atlantic Size :  Carapace length up to 1.6in (4cm) Classification :  Phylum : Arthropoda -- Subp

Diana Monkey

Cercopithecus diana The Diana Monkey is a Vulnerable species that is only found in Sierra Leone and Ghana, in West Africa. They live high up in the trees where they feeds on fruits, leaves, and invertebrates. Diana Monkeys live in social groups that number between 5 and 50 individuals, and these groups tend to contain only one breeding male (who will most likely not stay with that group for his entire life; the males move around). Within these groups they have a polygynous mating system, meaning that the one male will breed with multiple females. The females typically only have one infant at a time, though the sex determines what the young Monkey will do when it grows up. Females stay with their mothers for their entire lives, but males will leave the group and attempt to start their own families. Sadly, hunting and deforestation has caused a drop in the Diana Monkey population. They live in a few protected areas, and are found in captivity, but more must be done to keep th

Hooded Merganser

Lophodytes cucullatus (male) The Hooded Merganser is a small species of duck that can be found in North America, living in wetlands that are near forested areas. They are migratory, moving north in order to breed (with large population around the Great Lakes) and south in order to avoid the cold winters. You can easily identify the Hooded Mergansers, as "hood" barely describe the extravagance of their head feathers. Males have very large crests that are a stark black and white pattern. Females also have these crowns, though theirs are a cinnamon brown. Hooded Mergansers are particularly interesting when it comes to their breeding and child-rearing habits. Some females will actually lay their eggs int he nests of other females. Though brood parasitism like this is seen in other species, the Mergansers are notable because they only lay their eggs in the nests of their own kind. A single female will lay around a dozen eggs, but some clutches will number over 40! The


Marmota monax Today is, of course, Groundhog Day. And where I'm at, they did not see their shadow - Spring is coming! (Or so goes the story). The Groundhog goes by many names, including the Woodchuck (yes, they are the same!) and my favorite, the Whistle-pig. They are members of the Squirrel family, and are actually the largest Squirrels within their range. They can be found throughout the northern parts of the North American continent, living in lowland forests and open plains. Though they may not look as agile as their arboreal squirrel cousins, they too can climb trees quite well. They are also great swimmers despite their lumpy appearance. Groundhogs build extensive burrows that they live in year round. During the summer they retreat to these hideaways to sleep and to raise their young. In winter they use them for hibernation, and they are only of the few mammals that enters a real  true hibernation state. In the warm months the Groundhogs spend their time gorging

Greater Kudu

Tragelaphus strepsiceros The Greater Kudu is one of the largest Antelope species out there, which the largest males standing over 5ft tall at the shoulder and weighing over 600lbs. They sport horns that equally as impressive in size-- the record is 72in. You'll find the Greater Kudus in southern and eastern Africa, where they inhabit scrub woodlands. Their brown coloration and white stripes allow them to remain camouflaged within these woody surroundings. The Kudus are most active at dawn and dusk, and spend the daytime hours hidden in these forested areas. However, their stripes are not their only defensive mechanism; they also sport very large ears that allow them to hear approaching danger. When alerted, the Antelope can try and bound away to safety. Female Greater Kudus tend to live in moderately sized groups with other females and offspring. Most mature males are solitary, and will only join up with these herds during the breeding period that corresponds with the end