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Showing posts from September, 2013

Black Squirrel Monkey

Saimiri vanzolinii The Black Squirrel Monkey has the smallest geographic range of all the South American primates. They are found exclusively in a patch of Northern Brazil, near the convergence of the Japura and Amazon rivers. Altogether, this range only covers about 200 square miles! Black Squirrel Monkeys have yellowish-brown undersides, with black backs and white rings around their eyes. They additionally sport long tails that can reach 3.5ft in length-- a contrast to their 2.5ft body sizes. Black Squirrel Monkeys live in mixed-sex groups, and when it comes time to breed the males will fight each other over breeding rights (though a female may actually mate with multiple males each season). Only one infant is born at a time, and the females do all of the childrearing. It should come as no surprise that these Monkeys are listed as Vulnerable. Having such a small geographic range puts them in danger of extinction. Luckily, they are easy to raise in captivity, and are found i

Purple-striped Jelly

Chrysaora colorata The Purple-striped Jelly is a large Jellyfish that is named for the violet radial strip es that cover its bell. They can be found off of the coast of California, primarily in the Monterey Bay area. These Jellies can grow to a pretty good size-- their bell diameter can measure upwards of two feet! As adults they have the aforementioned Bell Stripes, but as juveniles they have a more subdued coloration, with very dark tentacles. As the Jelly ages, the bell stripes appear but the tentacles lighten in color. And did you know that Purple-striped Jellies often have hitchhikers-- certain species of Cancer  crab will hitch rides in the bell! These critters are popular in Aquariums, but they never really reach the large sizes that are found in the wild. IUCN Status :  Not Listed Location :   Coastal California Size : Bell up to 2.3ft (.7m) in diameter Classification :  Phylum : Cnidaria -- Class : Scyphozoa Order : Semaeostomeae Family : Pelagiidae -- Genus :


Ammodorcas clarkei The Dibatag is sometimes called "Clarke's Gazelle," though that name is misleading as they are not true Gazelles at all. They actually belong to their own genus entirely. You've probably never heard of this Antelope (I know I hadn't until researching this) because they hail from an unstable and arid part of the planet, and because there are no captive populations whatsoever. If you wished to seek them out you would have to travel to the dry grasslands of Somalia and Ethiopia where they tend to be solitary or live in very small groups-- their mating system is unknown. Their name comes from the Somali for "erect tail," because they lift their relatively long (up to 1ft) black tails when fleeing danger. They also have white facial stripes and dark horns, giving them markings that are similar to a true Gazelles.  The Dibatag is listed as Vulnerable because human settlement and conflict has reduced their population to only a few t


Paramylodon harlani See that skeletal reconstruction? That nearly 10foot tall, monstrously sized creature? That's a sloth. An extinct Ground Sloth to be exact. Meet Paramylodon, a distant cousin to the slow tree dwellers we know today. (And by distant... I mean really  distant. Their last common ancestor lived about 30 million years ago!) Paramylodon lived between 5 million and 11,000 years ago, and it's fossils have been found in the United States,  Canada, Mexico, and in Central America. Notable fossils have been found in the La Brea Tar Pits, and many (including those in the image) are on display at the Page Museum there. One rather interesting fact about Paramylodon is that is had dermal ossicles. This means that they had bony growths under their skin that gave them some extra defense against predators. While there are a few other Ground Sloth species to have that characteristic, it is not common. Status :  Extinct for 11,000 years Location :   North America

Grey Junglefowl

Gallus sonneratii The Grey Junglefowl is a wild chicken that is closely related to the Red Junglefowl-- the bird from which domesticated chickens descend from. Like its cousin, the Grey Junglefowl lives in southern Asia, specifically in India, where is is endemic. They live in both dense and open areas, and are also found near human settlements. Because of their ability to adapt to human-shaped environments, the Grey Junglefowl aren't in any major conservation trouble. You can identify these birds by the mottled brown and black feathers that give them a greyish appearance. Males also sport sleek black tails and a red crest-- though the crest and wattle aren't as large as those found in their relatives. Grey Junglefowl feed on all sorts of things, including insects, berries, grains, and seeds. They breed once a year, usually sometimes between February and May, and produce up to 7 offspring per clutch. Grey Junglefowl can be kept in captivity, and will often breed and


Eurypterus sp. The world of the Silurian period was very different from the world of today. Most noticeably, there were no land animals. All of the living animals could be found underwater, populating the oceans that covered many of our present continents. In these oceans you could find all sorts of primitive life. Bony fish were just starting to make their appearance on the evolutionary timeline, for example. You could also find a massive array of invertebrates, including the members of the genus we'll be learning about today-- Eurypterus . Eurypterus includes 15 different species of Sea Scorpion, all of whom lived between 432 and 418 million years ago. Their fossils have been uncovered in what is now eastern North America and Europe, and interestingly the first fossils dug up were confused for Catfish bones! When we think about Scorpions today, we imagine small arachnids that are about the size of your hand. Eurypterus was much, MUCH larger. On average, the different sp

Royal Starfish

Astropecten articulatus Today's animal is the Royal Starfish, an Echinoderm that gets its name from it's royal purple coloration. These five armed creatures sport bright orange marginal plates, with a deep blue or purple interior. Quite the color combination! The eastern coast of the United States is where the Royal Starfish calls home. Their normal habitat is the continental shelf, typically between 0 and 30 meters down. It can be hard to imagine such a sedentary creature being a predator, but the Royal Starfish certainly is! They snatch up mollusks with their arms, and then guide the prey to the mouth cavity, where the prey is swallowed whole! IUCN Status :  Not listed Location :   East coast of the United States Size :  Arm length up to 4in (9cm) Classification :  Phylum : Echinodermata -- - Class : Asteroidea -- Order : Paxillosida Family : Astropectinidae -- Genus : Astropecten -- Species : A. articulatus Image :   Project Noah

European Badger

Every year on September 19th, we learn about a Badger. We've talked about the American Badger, Honey Badger, and Japanese Badger-- so now comes time for the iconic European Badger. Meles meles This critter lives everywhere  in Europe. Its range covers nearly the entire continent, plus parts of the Middle East as well. With a span that large it's no wonder that there are eight different subspecies, the most populous of those being the creatively named "Common Badger," Meles meles meles. European Badgers can measure up to 3ft in length and weigh between 20 and 35lbs, depending on the time of year (they bulk up in the fall.) They have those distinctive white faces with black lines running from ear to mouth. This Badger species is one of the least carnivorous of all the members of the Carnivora Order. They will track down rabbits and other prey using their fantastic sense of smell, but they also eat a huge amount of vegetation as well, including fruits, fungi, a


Carnotaurus sastrei The Carnotaurus is a popular Dinosaur due to its large size (up to 30ft long) and interesting appearance. They had very straight, muscular bodies that allowed them to run quickly, as well as distinctive horns over their eyes. And yes, that painting is correct-- Carnotarus had tiny  arms. Absolutely, minuscule! They make a T. Rex's look huge by comparison! These itty bitty arms were probably function-less, having the same reduced nerve fibers found in the tiny useless wings of flightless birds like Emus. Carnotaurus lived before the T. Rex, about 72-70 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous. Their fossils have been found in Argentina, and were only discovered back in 1984. Interestingly, Carnotaurus was the very first Theropod Dinosaur to give us fossilized skin impressions. We know that they were covered in scales, as well as knobby bumps that ran down the back. They were also absent of feathers. There is some disagreement over what Carnotaurus

Papuan Eagle

Harpyopsis novaeguineae Meet the Papuan Eagle, a large bird of prey that happens to be the only member of its genus, Harpyopsis . They do actually belong to a subfamily that contains three other birds, including the South American Hapry Eagle, and the Papuan Eagle is also sometimes referred to as the Papuan Harpy Eagle because of that close relationship. You could probably guess that the Papuan Eagle lives in Papua New Guinea. They are endemic to the island of New Guinea, and are one of its top predators. They feed primarily on Phalangers, which are a type of tree-dwelling Marsupial. The Eagles fly above the canopy, spot the Phalangers, and then swoop in and take them right from the trees. Papuan Eagles are listed as Vulnerable because they only live in one location on the entire planet, because that location is undergoing habitat loss, and because the Eagles are hunted for their feathers, reducing their population size. IUCN Status : Vulnerable Location : New Guinea Size

Goliath Birdeater

Theraphosa blondi If spiders make you squeamish, you might not want to read much further (though I hope you do!). This spider is... well... really, really big. Like, the size of your hand big. Goliath Birdeaters have legspans that can reach nearly a foot across, so the Goliath name is well earned. However, despite the name and gigantic size they normally consume insects, and birds are only consumed on rare occasions! You can find these monster Spiders living in the northern rainforests of South America. They live on the ground, and build burrows for themselves that can go deep into the ground. It will take them several years to reach full maturity, and males have MUCH shorter lifespans than females (who can live up to 25 years!) Part of that probably has to do with the fact that females are known to kill their mates after breeding-- yikes! Happily, though the Goliath Birdeaters are venomous, their venom is not particularly dangerous to humans. Also, even if they do bite you (


Meet the Chartreux, an old and rare cat breed from France that has popped up in writings and art for the last 500 years. As with many breeds, its origins are mysterious. We know they were in France by the 16th century, but before that it is unknown. Some say that are descended from cats owned by the Carthusian Monks who settled near Grenoble in the 11th century. Others say the cats originally came from the Middle East, and were brought to France by returning Crusaders. Either way, the cats were recognized as a breed by the 18th century. During World War I, however, the cats were almost completely wiped out, and it took a handful of very dedicated breeders to bring them back and sustain them through WWII. Today, all French pedigreed Chartreux cats are named in a specific way. Their official names must all begin with a letter that corresponds to their year of birth. For example, 2013 is the "I" year, so all registered names must start with that letter. K, Q, W, X, Y, and Z


There are six identified species within the Tylosaurus genus, but  T. proriger  was the largest. In fact, it's the largest of all the Mosasaurs, and one of the largest marine predators of the Cretaceous period. These massive sea creatures could grow up to 50ft in length, and sported two rows of teeth in their monstrous jaws. They had incredibly strong tails that allowed them to hunt their prey by ambushing them with sudden bursts of speed. Once caught, the prey was often swallowed whole! Tylosaurus ate just about everything. Fish, birds, sharks, and other marine reptiles have all been found in their stomachs. Their fossils have been found in Kansas, which was actually completely covered by an ocean 65 million years ago. And though Tylosaurus itself wasn't an actual Dinosaur, they did go extinct at about the same time, around 65 million years ago. Status : Extinct for 65 million years Location : North America Size : Length up to 50ft (15m) Classification :  Phylum :

17 Year Cicada

Magicicada septendecim There are a handful of Cicacads known as "periodicals," and the 17 Year is the largest and most northern living of the group. These insects get their name from their long and unusual life cycle. For seventeen years you will never see them. The entire population will live underground as Juveniles, and then all at once they emerge as adults to breed and start the cycle over. And interestingly, though they live nearly two decades as juveniles, their adult life lasts only a few weeks-- just long enough to breed and lay eggs. The timing of the cycle depends on the specific population. For example, one brood near by home state appeared way back in 2002, while another was more recent in 2007. One of the New England broods is even scheduled for 2013. People in North America have been tracking these Cicadas since 1715! Unfortunately, their long reproductive cycle puts them in conservation trouble. If something were to happen to a brood it could be tota

Palm-nut Vulture

Meet the Palm-nut Vulture, an interesting creature that is both like its Vulture relatives, and quite different at the same time! There aren't many Birds-of-Prey that consume vegetation on a regular basis, but the Palm-nut Vulture does! More than half of their adult diet consists of palm leaves and fruits, and as juveniles it is almost the entire thing! The remain adult diet is make up of fish and invertebrates, though they are also rarely found at the large animal carcasses that other Vultures are known to scavenge at. Palm-nut Vultures can be found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, and are identified by their white feathered heads and shoulders, black wings, and red skin patches around the eyes and beak. As with many Birds-of-Prey, the Palm-nut Vultures are monogamous, and each breeding pair will raise a single chick together during the breeding season. IUCN Status : Least Concern Location : Sub-Saharan Africa Size : Length up to 2ft (60cm), Wingspan up to 60in (1.5m)


Lophius piscatorius So today's animal goes by many names -- the Angler, the Sea-devil, the Frog-fish. All of these monikers refer to Lophius piscatorius , a deep sea fish native to the north Atlantic and Mediterranean. The Angler has a very large head, but a flat body that is absent of scales. As with most Anglerfish species, the females are much much larger than the males-- they can grow over 6ft long, while the males will only grow to a few inches. These fish live on the sea floor, hiding out near the very bottom and attracting smaller fish to them using a lure. When the prey gets close they suck them in whole. Amazingly, the Angler has a very expandable stomach-- they can consume fish that are nearly as large as they are! Despite their ugly appearance, Anglers are commercially fished. However, they are listed on the Greenpeace Red List. This is because the trawling method used to fish them up is very damaging to the sea floor. Additionally, these fish have very long li


Dusicyon australis We've read here many times about all of the different island bird species that went extinct after modern humans settled in their homelands. But did you know that many mammals were affected as well? The Dusicyon, also known as the Warrah, is one of those mammals. Dusicyon australis  was at one point the only mammal species on the Falkland Islands. These dogs fed on the birds that lived there, and there is some controversy on how they managed to be the only mammals on the islands. They may have reached the islands several thousand years ago along with the first human inhabitants, but they may have also crossed over during the last Ice Age when freezing way have created an ice bridge. Either way, they are are distinct from any other living canine-- their closest living relatives are the Maned Wolves, but they diverged some 6 million years ago! Also known as the Falkland Islands Wolf, these small canines were described by Charles Darwin in 1833. He predicted

Siberian Blue Robin

The Siberian Blue Robins (unsurprisingly) live in Siberia... though they call other east and southeast Asian locations home as well, including islands in Japan and Indonesia. They are found in forested areas and tend to breed near rivers or woodland edges. These birds are very blue. Well... at least the males are. In their breeding plumage they have bright white undersides and shiny blue feathers. Females are a drab brown with lighter undersides, which helps to camouflage them while nesting. Siberian Blue Robins have a very large range and a population size in the hundreds of thousands, but their numbers are on the decline due to fragmentation and habitat destruction. They are currently listed at Least Concern, though as with many species, that could change in the coming years if their habitats continue to disappear. IUCN Status : Least Concern Location : Eastern Asia Size : Body Length up to 6in (14cm) Classification :  Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Passe

Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise

Male members of the Bird-of-paradise family are known for having strange plumage and delightful courtship displays. Today's bird is no exception. Found in New Guinea and Indonesia, the Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise is a sexually dimorphic species where the female is a reddish brown with dark bars, and where the male possesses some goofy feathers in which to attract a mate. Males have dark feathers on the back and chest, complete with green tips. Their tail plumage is bright yellow and fluffy, and has a dozen thin, wire-like feathers that curl outward from it (giving the species its common name). When the breeding season rolls around, the male wants to attract as many ladies as possible. He finds a perch, and from there will poke at prospective mates. He'll show them his bright feathers, and will hop from foot to foot while swiping the females with his wire-feathers. If the female is impressed, they mate, and she goes off to build her nest and incubate her chicks alone. Br

Eurasian Lynx

Lynx lynx There are four species of Lynx in the world,  and the Eurasian Lynx is the most widely distributed. In fact, it has one of the largest ranges of any cat on the planet! These felines are found from Western Europe, to the steppes of Central Asia, all the way to the far reaches of Siberia-- and their historical range was even larger than that! After Brown Bears and Wolves, Eurasian Lynxes are the largest predators through most of their range. Though only 45lbs, they are able to stalk and take down much larger prey, including Caribou and Elk. They more commonly feed on smaller ungulates like musk Deer, Roe Deer, and Chamois, and they will also eat the occasional rodent, bird, or rabbit. Eurasian Lynxes are solitary, with the exception of a mother raising her cubs. She will have as many as four kittens at a time, and they are born blind and helpless. They'll open their eyes after 10-14 days, and will start eating solid food four to six weeks after that. All in all, the