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Showing posts from October, 2013

White-winged Vampire Bat

Happy Halloween everyone! I figured that, in the spirit of the holiday, we would learn about one of the iconic animals associated with it-- the Vampire Bat! Now, there are actually three different species of Vampire Bat, all of which below to their own genus, but the same subfamily, Desmodontinae. The White-winged Vampire Bat is one of the three, which can be found in both the wet and dry forests of South and Central America. White-winged Vampire Bats have not been studied very closely, so the exact extent of their range is still a bit of  a mystery. We also know very little about their reproductive habits, but since their two cousins are polygynous and give birth to just one offspring at a time, they probably do too. We do know about their eating habits-- like all Vampire Bats, this species feeds nocturnally on the blood of other animals. Their favorite prey are birds, interestingly enough. They sneak up on roosting birds and bite into their feet with their razor-sharp teeth. Th

Glaucous Macaw

Anodorhynchus glaucus Today's animal is one of those creatures that is probably extinct... but we don't 100% know for sure. It is the Glaucous Macaw, a tropical Parrot related to both the Hyacinth and Lear's Macaws. It hasn't been reliably sighted since the 1960s, so even though it is listed as Critically Endangered, there is a good chance it is already gone for good. These birds once lived in the forests of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Their habitat was remote, and they were typically seen near bodies of water. The blue-feathered Macaws declined in number due to hunting, collection, and habitat loss. Their decline started back in the late 19th century, and continued on until the mid 20th, when official reports ceased all together. A few searches have been undertaken, but none have turn up evidence of the birds. It seems like they may be gone for good, especially since no elderly locals can even remember seeing them in their lifetimes. But of cour

Yellow-backed Duiker

Cephalophus silvicultor Today we'll learn about the largest, and the most widespread of the Duiker species-- the Yellow-backed Duiker. Identifiable from the patch of yellow fur on their otherwise brown backs, these Antelope can weigh over 100lbs-- ten times that of their tiniest cousin. You'll find the Yellow-backed Duikers in Central and Western Africa. They live in dense forests, forming monogamous breeding pairs and marking off small territories by using scent marks and vocalizations. Each year one or two uniformly brown calves are born, and their parents hide them in the vegetation for the first 1-2 weeks of life. After that they grow quickly, and are weaned by 6 weeks. It will take about seven months for their yellow back stripe to appear. Yellow-backed Duikers have an interesting diet. They eat mostly fruit (about 75% of their diet), but they will also forage on leaves, nuts, bark, and even other animals! They have been observed eating birds and lizards in the wil

Northern Hawk-owl

Surnia ulula The Northern Hawk-Owl has a range that spreads across North America, Europe, and Asia, yet they are one of the least studied birds-of-prey out there. They live only in the far north, in remote areas, and a single bird can live quite far away from its nearest neighbor. So even though their three subspecies circle the Arctic, we are unsure of what their actual population size is! What we do know about these birds is that, like many Owls, the females are slightly larger than the males. They are also, interestingly, diurnal. This of course breaks the stereotype of Owls hunting only at night! When it comes to their meals, the Northern Hawk-Owls feed primarily on rodents and rabbits. Because the small mammal populations spike every couple of years, the Owl populations fluctuate as well. Years with fewer rabbits, for example, mean that the Owls have less to eat and both produce less offspring, and decrease from starvation. At present, the Northern Hawk-Owl is listed as

New Zealand Sea Lion

New Zealand Sea Lions, also sometimes called Hooker's Sea Lions, are the rarest and most vulnerable Sea Lions in the world. It is estimated that only 10,000 still remain, no thanks to decades of human hunting, being scooped up as bycatch for the commercial fishing industry, and bad-luck natural disasters. Phocarctos hookeri As the name states, these Sea Lions are found in New Zealand, specifically near the southern, aubantarctic islands. In fact, nearly the entire populations breeds at three colony sites on the Aukland Islands. Breeding takes place from November to February. The males come ashore first to stake out spots, with the largest, strongest males claiming the most territory and the most number of mates. (Males can grow twice as large as females, if not bigger) Females (who are usually pregnant) arrive soon after. They give birth to a pup, and then breed again 1-2 weeks after. One standout fact is that during this entire breeding season, the males do not feed. F

Indo-Pacific Humpbacked Dolphin

Sousa chinensis Indo-Pacific Humpbacked Dolphins have a large range that stretches along the coasts of the Indian Ocean, as well as around Australia and the Western Pacific. They prefer shallow waters, usually sticking around depths of 60ft. These Dolphins are named for the fatty humps on their backs, that rest just below their dorsal fin.  They are typically grey in color, but can also be white or even pink! In fact, a sub population near Hong Kong bay is famous for its pinkness! Indo-Pacific Humpbacked Dolphins live in small groups, usually of around a half dozen members. They feed on all kinds of different reef fishes, and can stay underwater for as long as 8 minutes. These Dolphins are pretty slow moving, especially when compared to other members of their family. They move along at around 3mph, which is similar to a leisurely human walking speed. The fastest Dolphins can swim nearly ten times that pace! Interestingly though, the Humpbacked Dolphins can perform different a

Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur

Cheirogaleus medius The Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur is an amazingly fascinating Primate. Despite living in the tropics, it actually hibernates, and is the only primate, and only tropical-dwelling mammal to do so! As with all Lemurs, these little guys are found in Madagascar. They live a nocturnal lifestyle, coming out at night to hunt insects and forage off of fruits and nuts. Socially, they live in small family groups led by a breeding pair and their offspring. Children from the previous 1-2 years often tend to stick around as well. The name "Fat-tailed" comes from the fact that they store up fat in their tails, which they then live off of while in hibernation. Unlike temperate and arctic dwelling animals, the Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemurs do not hibernation when it gets cold out. Rather, they hibernate when it gets dry and when fun runs scarce. Their hibernation period can last half of the year! IUCN Status :  Least Concern Location :   Madagascar Size :  Body Length up to

Magnificent Riflebird

The Magnificent Riflebird is actually a Bird-of-Paradise, and belongs to the family Paradisaeidae. Like all members of that family, it lives in New Guinea and parts of northern Australia. It inhabits the lowland rainforests that are found there. Like other Birds-of-Paradise, the Magnificent Riflebird is sexually dimorphic. Males are a smooth, velvety black, with shiny blue-green crowns and breasts. Females are brown and buff all over. Males use their shiny feathers and smooth moves to attract females. When the breeding season arrives, he will select a perch and call out to nearby ladies. When one arrives, he will raise up his wings, puff out his chest, and dance around her while bobbing his head back and forth to show off the blue-feathers. If the female enjoys the dance, the male will surround her with his wings while they briefly mate. After mating, the females goes on her way while the male continues to try and impress additional mates. But my words do this dance no justice--

Common Collared Lizard

Common Collared Lizards are colorful reptiles that are found in the western United States. Their name comes from the black stripe that circles their neck, giving them a collar and (in males) dividing up their body colors. Only the males of the species boast the brilliant blue and green scales. Females are brown-ish all around. These Lizards grow to just over a foot long, tail included. One amazing fact about the Common Collared Lizard is that is has the ability to run on just its hind legs! Like the more famous Basilisk Lizard, this Reptile stands up on just its back legs and sprints very quickly with long stride lengths. They use their tails for balance. Common Collared Lizards can only perform such feats for short time periods though-- they still spend most of their time on all fours. IUCN Status :  Least Concern Location : Western United States Size :  Length up to 14in (36cm) Classification :  Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Reptilia -- Order : Squamata Family : Crotap

Madagascar Tree Boa

Sanzinia madagascarensis Madagascar Tree Boas are snakes that are endemic to the African island that gives them their name. They actually come in two different color variations, based on their location. In the east, the snakes are grey and green, while in the western parts they are yellow and brown. Two colors, but the same species! Though the word "tree" also appears in their common name, these snakes are only arboreal while they are hunting. They do so at night, seeking out prey int he pitch black thanks to hit sensitives pits in their mouths. Once they find and capture their prey, they constrict it with their powerful body muscles, leading to a restricted blood flow, heart failure, then death. All Boas are constrictors, and are non venomous. Another trait that this Snake shares with it's family members? It gives birth to live young. After a six month pregnancy the female snakes give birth to around a dozen foot-long offspring. Currently the Madagascar Tree Bo

Australasian Gannet

Morus serrator Meet the Autralasian Gannet, a large white, black, and yellow seabird that lives around Australia, New Zealand, and a handful of other nearby islands. They breed in massive coastal colonies, with the largest groups forming in New Zealand. Groups of more than 10,000 pairs can be found at three different locations! Australasian Gannets form pair bonds that can last for several breeding seasons, and sometimes they last for life. These birds perform elaborate displays to attract mates, including dancing, head bobby, and presenting seaweed to one another. Once a mate is found, the birds with continue to perform, often through bill tapping, in order to greet their mate and strengthen pair bonds. Females guard the nesting site while the males go out for building materials. Seaweed is a major component. Only one egg will be laid at a time, and both parents help to incubate it for 6 weeks until the helpless chick is hatched. Gannets are pretty long-lived for a seabird. Th

Hawaiian Butterflyfish

Today's animal goes by two different names, depending on who you ask. Either it is the Hawaiian Butterflyfish (named for its location), or it is Tinker's Butterflyfish (named for the man who discovered it). So choose which one you like! Speaking of likeable things, these colorful fish are very sought after in captive aquariums. They are said to be hardy and adapt well to new environments, but they usually sell for extremely high prices. As with all captive fish, they should only be purchased from responsible providers! In the wild, Hawaiian Butterfly fish like to live near steep slopes and the coral reefs that are found on them. They can be found as far down as 450ft. And though 'Hawaii' is in their name, they are also found in the nearby Marshall Islands as well. The Butteflyfish feed on a variety of of different planktons, and when it comes to breeding they will actually pair off, and can be seen swimming together. IUCN Status : Not Listed Location : Pacific O


80 different Dinosaurs were discovered by Othniel Charles Marsh during the "Bone Wars" and Barosaurus was one of them. This relative to the more famous Diplodocus lived during the Upper Jurassic, between 155 and 145 millions years go. Its fossils were first uncovered by Marsh in 1889, and parts have been found in various western American states. Barosaurus was a very long Dinosaur-- adults could reach more than 80 feet from head to tail, and weight upwards of 40,000lbs. Their necks alone stretched to 30ft! That's almost two giraffes! The neck of a Barasaurus raises some questions about how this Dinosaur's circulatory system worked . If they held their neck straight up it would require an abnormally massive heart to pump blood all the way to the brain. There are theories that Barosaurus either had secondary heart-like structures in its neck, to help move the blood upwards, or they kept their necks parallel to the ground. However, it is difficult to prove either

Golden Jackal

Canis aureus Meet the Golden Jackal, one of the most widespread dog species on the planet! Jackals are usually associated with the Continent of Africa, but did you know they live in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia as well?  There are a dozen different subspecies of this canine, which is a closer relative to Grey Wolves than it is to the Black-backed and Side-striped Jackals. Golden Jackals are amazing at adapting to their surroundings. They can live in just about any habitat (except exceptionally snowy areas) and they eat a wide variety of foods. Carrion, fruits, birds, reptiles, antelope, and insects are just a few of the different things that these dogs will consume, depending on their location and the time of year. Their social structure also varies as much as their location and diet. Some live in only small pair groups, while others have more extended families. The territory that they keep depends on location as well. Some groups have a very small range, while others

Northern Bat

Eptesicus nilssonii Today's animal, the Northern Bat, has a tremendous range. These winged mammals are found throughout northern Europe and Asia, stretching from England all the way over to Japan! Since they come from cold northern climates, these bats have furry bodies with short ears. They hibernate during the very coldest months, roosting either alone or in very small groups. In fact, these bats aren't super-social at all, unlike many bat species that can be found in massive colonies. Males are almost always solitary during the summer, while females form little colonies that number a few dozen at the most. Northern Bats are carnivores, and they hunt insects while in flight. They use echolocation-- sending out sound pulses to locate and identify prey. They hunt primarily at night, though some daylight hunts will occur when the days are especially long in the most northern regions. IUCN Status : Least Concern Location : Europe and Asia Size :  Body length around

Banana Slug

Ariolimax spp. There are three different species that are known as Banana Slugs, and all belong to the genus Ariolimax . All three also happen to live near the Pacific Coast of North America, inhabiting the rainy coniferous forests that run from Alaska to California. Banana Slugs get their name from their bright yellow color, though yellow is not the only color they come in. Some are green, others are brown, and some even have dark spots (sounds like the various stages of a ripening banana to me!) One of the species, the Pacific Banana Slug, is the second largest slug in the world, and can grow as long as 10 inches. These slugs live on the forest floors, moving slowly as slugs do. In a minute they can cover almost half a foot of distance! They consume all kinds of detritus and decomposing matter, and by doing so help to fertilize their environment. Banana Slugs aren't just important contributors to their environment-- they are a college mascot too! In 1986 the University

Bawean Deer

Hyelaphus kuhlii Today's animal is the Bawean Deer, which is also sometimes referred to as the Bawean Hog Deer or Kuhl's Deer. These ungulates are found on only one small Indoneasian island, Bawean, and are at a very high conservation risk. Hunting by both humans and predators have historically keep the Deer population low, but now habitat loss and climate change have been added to the list of dangers and the Deer are considered to be Critically Endangered. The Bawean Deer are small and brown, with their fawns having a spotted pattern. Males also posses antlers that come in handing when fighting for mates or territory. The Deer usually live alone or in very small groups, and they use a series of barks and squeaks to communicate. These vocalizations serve many purposes, like reuniting a mother and her fawn, or as a challenge call between males. Interestingly though, they don't seem to have an alarm sound for danger-- they just quietly run away. There are around 250


Jeholornis Today's animal has been in the news lately, due to a recent discovery relating to its fossils. But mor eon that in a bit. Jeholornis is one of the most ancient birds that we known off-- it lived more than 120 million years ago. Its fossils have been found in China, and were only discovered for the first time back in 2006. (Fun fact: the area where this bird was found is also home to the fossils of many of feathered creatures, including feathered Dinosaurs!) Jeholornis does not seem to be a direct ancestor of mordern birds-- they come from different lines. However, because of how old this bird is, it can tell us a lot about the early members of the Aves class, and about the evolution of wings and feathers. Recently, fossils have popped up that suggest Jeholornis had two tails . It was always known that they had a long train of feather, but now there are fossils that show a second tail-- a set of plumage that sticks up from the bird's back. Scientists can onl

Iago Sparrow

Passer iagoensis The Iago Sparrow is a small bird that is endemic to the Cape Verde islands, which are located in the Atlantic Ocean off of the western coast of Africa. They live in many different habitats, including urban areas and farms, as well as cliffs and plains. The birds are sexually dimorphic when it comes to their plumage. Males have a black crown and vibrant reddish-brown feathers on the sides of their head. Females are more drab, and lack the crowns and bright cinnamon feathers. Iago Sparrows are very social birds, and live in colonies year round. These groups are smaller during the breeding season, but can grow very large outside of it. It is believed that the birds have similar mating habits to House Sparrows, in that they build grass and feather lined nests, and produce up to 5 chicks per clutch. Though they are endemic to only a few islands, these birds are very abundant. They are listed as being of least concern. IUCN Status :  Least Concern Location :   C


Ammonite Model Ammonite Fossil Today we are going to talk about an entire Subclass of animals known as Ammonites. These shelled sea creatures lived for millions of years before going extinct along with the Dinosaurs during the late Cretaceous. Between 240 and 65 million years ago, Ammonites could be found throughout the Oceans of the World. They ranged in size, depending on species, with the largest having shells that could grow as large as 1m in diameter. Ammonite fossils are more abundant than those of just about any other creature, since they lived for so many years and in so many places. Ammonites lived in schools and hunted smaller sea creatures. They consumed their prey through a beak-like mouth hidden among its tentacles. Ammonites most likely moved around by shooting water from spouts in their bodies. Their actual lifestyle is pretty speculative though, because unlike other prehistoric invertebrates (like Nautelids), the Ammonites have no living relatives. A fin


Bajaichthys elegans Bajaichthys elegans is known only from a single juvenile fossil that was discovered back in 1987. But the fossil is enough to tell us that this interesting looking creature is a relative to the modern-day Oarfish. Monte Bolca, near Venice Italy, is the site where the fossil was found. This site is an important trove of fossils from the Eocene, especially the Lutetian Epoch. That time period lasted between roughly 47 and 41 million ago, and it was the same timet hat our buddy Bajaichthys lived. This creature has quite an interesting look to it-- it has an anal fin that runs the entire length of the tail, a vary tall dorsal fin, and two little wing-like pelvic fins. Because of its anatomy, it could belong to one of two different Lamprid families, which is why is currently does not belong to a family at all! We won't know more until additional, adult forms are uncovered-- which may not happen for a very long time, if at all! Status : Extinct 41 million y

White-throated Toucan

It isn't tough to figure out how this bird got it's common name-- just look at this picture! These birds, native to the Amazon, have sleek black bodies feathers, blue skin around the eyes, large colorful beaks, and brilliant white throats. Once upon a time the two subspecies (called Cuvier's and Red-billed Toucans) were considered to be two totally different species. But now we know that they are all the same, and the two subspecies will even mate and hybridize with each other. When it comes time to breed, a pair of Toucans will take over an abandoned nest, or find a cavity high up in the trees (they do not build their own nests). Both parents will help with incubation, and with feeding their young chicks who are born helpless. The young Toucans grow fast though! They flegde after about 6 weeks. White-throated Toucans generally live in pairs, or in very small groups. They feed on fruits as well as on insects and small reptiles. And though they can  fly, they do so ver

Ciscaucasian Hamster

Mesocricetus raddei The Ciscaucasian Hamster is also known as the Georgian Hamster, as it is only found in the country of Georgia, and in parts of Russia. These Hamsters are not your average pet Hamsters! They can grow to nearly 1ft in length! The individuals that live at higher elevations tend to be larger than those who live down on the plains. Regardless of altitude, these rodents live in burrows that they construct underground. These burrows can be amazingly extensive, and they are where the Hamsters flee to safety, where they hibernate each winter, and where they store food for use in the springtime when they come out of hibernation. Ciscaucasian Hamsters can have massive litters that number up to 20 offspring at a time! Once again, there is a difference between the mountain and the plains populations, as the mountain Hamsters will produce only one or two litters each year, while the plains can have three or more! IUCN Status : Least Concern Location : Georgia, Russi