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Showing posts from March, 2014

Rakery Beaconlamp

Lampanyctus macdonaldi Previoulsy we learned about a very large fish found in the Antartic Waters. Today, we'll learn what we can about a very small one -- Lampanyctus macdonaldi , also known as the Rakery Beaconlamp. This deep sea fish can actually be found in the Arctic as well-- it's a creature that really enjoys polar seas. Like most fish in cold waters, these guys are small, maxing out around 6in in length. They feed on creatures that are even smaller still, like tiny shrimp and other crustaceans. Rakery Beaconlamps undergo small migrations every single day, moving up and down to different depths depending on the time. During the day they travel as far as 1,000m down. During the night they move upwards, hunting between 150 and 250m. IUCN Status :  Not Evaluated Location :   Antarctica Size :  Length up to 6in (16cm) Classification :  Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Actinopterygii -- Order : Myctophiformes Family : Myctophidae -- Genus : Lampanyctus -- Species

Antarctic Toothfish

Dissostichus mawsoni Today's animal is a pretty cool creature-- it is one of the top predators in Antarctica's Ross Sea, dominating over other species of fish that barely reach 1/3 its size! The Antarctic Toothfish can grow up to 2m long, making it a giant in cold waters where the fish tend to stay half a meter or less. They are also important because they serve as prey to the large Mammals that feed in those waters-- one group of Orcas actually feeds almost exclusively on them! The life habits of the Antartic Toothfish haven't been extensively studied, but we do know that they can live as long as 50 years, and don't reach maturity until 16 or 17. Scientists believe that they migrate in order to breed, but that hypothesis hasn't been confirmed because no eggs have ever been found! Another weird fact is that these fish are able to produce proteins in their body that act like anti-freeze. Those proteins are incredibly efficient at keeping the Toothfish's

Snowy Sheathbill

Chionis albus Meet the Snowy Sheathbill-- the only bird species in Antarctica that is primarily land dwelling and widespread. They are endemic to the continent and the nearby southern Islands, though very rare vagrants sometimes make it to South America and Africa. Snowy Sheathbills are named for their cone-shaped bills that have a sheath made of a horn-like keratin covering their nostrils. They also have small, fleshy wattles, naked skin around the eyes, and bodies covered in white feathers. These birds are scavengers, and will eat anything they can find. They live near the coasts, and seals are one of their favorite food sources-- they will pick as seal scabs and dried blood, eat placenta and umbilical chords, and will even eat seal feces. Yum.... The Sheathbills eat insects and seaweed as well. Snowy Sheathbills have a large population and are widespread. They don't have any major conservation threats at present, and are listed as being of Least Concern. IUCN Status

Belgica antarctica

Belgica antarctica Did you know that insects do  live on Antarctica? You may have assumed that the cold weather would scare the tiny invertebrates away from the continent, but you would've assumed wrong! Today's animal is one of a handful of little Arthropods that make our southernmost landmass home year round. Belgica antarctica  has the important distinction of being the largest terrestrial-only inhabitant of Antarctica-- at a whopping 6mm in length! These insects have some seriously amazing adaptations that allow them to survive in the hard environment-- they can go without oxygen for several weeks, they can survive their bodily fluids freezing, and they are able to produce specific compounds that keep that freezing to a minimum. Warm temperatures are actually harmful to B. antarctica . They need to stay close to freezing in order to thrive. If it gets too cold though, they are in trouble. Luckily, they spend nearly all of their time just under the surface of the sno

Weddell Seal

Leptonychotes weddellii For the last week or so we've been learning about animals that live in mountain rainforests. This week let's totally mix it up and move to a completely different ecosystem and location entirely-- Antarctica.Our southernmost continent doesn't harbor a ton of year-round terrestrial life, but it is the migratory home of several different birds, and it is surrounded by waters that are teeming with life of all types. The Weddell Seal is one of those marine animals that makes Antarctica its home. These large, docile mammals live further south than any other Seal, and they tend to stick close to home-- most never move more than a few miles from where they were born. Weddell Seals take advantage of the rich waters surrounding Antarctica. They hunt Cod, Silverfish, Octopus, Crab, and many other sea creatures. While searching for food they can dive as far as 2,000ft, and stay under for 45 minutes. An adult Weddell Seals eats anywhere from 20-110lbs of

Sun Catfish

Horabagrus brachysoma Finally we get to our last animal of the Western Ghats series (for now...), the Sun Catfish. It goes by a whole mess of other names-- Guther's Catfish, Yellow Catfish, Bullseye Catfish, etc. Thankfully we have scientific names to sort out the confusion! Sun Catfish make their homes in the high-vegetation-filled, slow-moving rivers and streams pf western India. Because they live in waters of varying depths and salinity levels, they aren't especially picky when it comes to diet. These adaptable fish will eat anything and everything they can swallow, and since they can grow up to 18in in length that gives them lots of options! Sun Catfish have been captured for the pet trade, and for food. They are currently listed as "Vulnerable" due to over-exploitation and because of habitat degradation in the nearby areas. IUCN Status : Vulnerable Location : India Size : Length up to 18in (45cm) Classification :  Phylum : Chordata -- Class :

Indrella ampulla

Indrella ampulla Today we meet yet another creature endemic to the Western Ghats-- Indrella ampulla . It is the only species within its genus, but it comes in all sorts of different colors and varieties. Yellow is a very common body color, but it can be bright red, black and white as well. The shell is dark in color, normally contains three whorls, and typically meaures no more than 2in in diameter. Indrella ampulla lives in mountainous rainforests. There, they feed on different Fungi varieties, using their radula that contain more than 100 rows of tiny teeth! IUCN Status : Not Listed Location : India Size : Shell width up to 2in (6cm) Classification :  Phylum : Mollusca -- Class : Gastropoda Family : Ariophantidae -- Genus : Indrella -- Species : I. ampulla Image :  NHM

Denison's Barb

Sahyadria denisonii Finally we move to a cold-blooded inhabitant of the Western Ghats-- the Denison's Barb. This small fish makes it home in the fast moving rivers and streams of that particular range. Like the other creatures this week, the Denison's Bard is Endangered. Unlike those animals, it's number one threat isn't habitat loss. Primary issue for the Barb? Overfishing for the Aquarium Trade. While these animals are becoming rare in the wild, they are growing in popularity in captivity. Which is really unfortunately, because they don't breed well in captivity, which means even more are taken from the wild as a result. Denison's Barbs grow to around 6in in length, are can be identified by the lateral black and red lines on their bodies. They live in small schools, and forage for just about anything they can find. Algae, Crustaceans, Insects, and plant detritus are all commonly consumed. IUCN Status : Endangered Location : India Size : Body Le

Malabar Large-spotted Civet

Viverra civettina The Malabar Large-spotted Civet is yet another creature endemic to the Western Ghats of India. It is also the rarest of the ones we have learned about so far. It is estimated that there are less than 250 of these guys left alive, and because the population is fragmented, no single group numbers more than 50. Worse still is that the decline is ongoing, which means the population could be extinct very soon. They were actually thought to be extinct until the early 1990s, when a few were spotted in the wild again. But in the last 20 years sightings have been very few and far between. Unsurprisingly, we know very little about these Mammals. Their biology and behavior has not been extensively studied. What we do know is that they live a nocturnal lifestyle, and prefer lowland forests in their range. In the past, the Civets were hunted for their oil, and to keep them away from chickens and other domesticated poultry. Today habitat loss and a fragmented population a

Black-chinned Laughingthrush

Continuing with our "Animals of the Western Ghats" theme-- today we have the Black-Chinned Laughingthrush, an Endanered bird that lives above elevations of 4,000ft. This bird has a a confusing taxonomic past, and you will sometimes see it referred to as the Nilgiri or Rufus-Breasted Laughingthrush. It has also gone through 3 different genera before ending up in Trochalopteron ! Today, we know it as T. cachinnans , though it does have a few different subspecies. You can tell those apart based on their coloration and location. Different subspecies have varying amounts of grey and red on their breasts. All of the subspecies exhibit similar behavior. They live at higher elevations hear forest edges. They forage for berries and insects either alone or in small groups. And they nest between February and June, building nests in low bushes near the ground. Two blue eggs are laid at a time, and the chicks are fully fledged after 3 weeks. Interestingly, the parents will completely

Nilgiri Wood Pigeon

Columba elphinstonii Like our previous entry, the Lion-tailed Macaque, the Nilgiri Wood Pigeon is also an animal found only in the western Ghats of India. It is also, unsurprisingly, a rare and Vulnerable creature. Nilgiri Wood Pigeons are best identified by the black and white checkerboard pattern that appears on the back of their neck. Aside from that pattern they are brown and grey, with a purple sheen that is more prominent on the males. These Pigeons are most active during the daytime, and are most commonly seen alone or in pairs. They feed on fruits and seeds, but are not averse to snacking on the occasional insect or snail! In the past these birds where hunted for sport, which led to a population decline. Today their major nemesis is habitat destruction. These birds rely on forests to live, and those forests are being chopped down for agriculture and human settlement. IUCN Status : Vulnerable Location : India Size :  Length up to 16in (42cm) Classification :  P

Lion-tailed Macaque

Macaca silenus The Lion-tailed Macaque is a Monkey found only in the western Ghat Mountains of India. The inhabit the moist evergreen forests of that range, and live in groups of between 10 and 20 members. The Macaques are diurnal, and spend most of their time up in the trees. They travel all day, foraging as they go and stuffing food (Fruits, seeds, and small animal) into their cheeks for storage. When they reach a nightly resting point, they rub their cheeks to get the stored food out. Lion-tailed Macaques get their name from their long tails that sport lion-like tufts at the end. They also have grey manes that contrast with their dark black-furred bodies. The dark coloration makes it difficult to see them up in the trees. Sadly, these Monkeys are Endangered. They are found only in one specific part of India, and human settlements have been taking over their precious home range. They have also been captured for the pet trade, and for use in traditional medicines. IUCN St

Rhinoceros Auklet

Cerorhinca monocerata Meet the Rhinoceros Auklet, a seabird that is a close relative to the more well-known Puffins. Like Puffins, they live in cold arctic areas-- specifically the northern Pacific Ocean. One curious feature of these birds is the horn on their beaks. Both males and females have it, but no one really knows what its purpose is! Decoration? Protection? Attracting a mate? Either way, it has given them their Rhinoceros name! Another cool fact about these birds is that they can dive down quite far in search of food. Dives of 150-180 feet have been observed! They catch fish, krill, and squid, but always wait until nightfall to take food back to their nests. The reason for this is that other, larger seabirds will try and steal their prey. Flying home with food at night helps them keep more of their hard-earned food. IUCN Status :  Least Concern Location : North Pacific Size :  Length up to 11in (27cm) Classification :  Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order


The Maltese is a dog breed with ancient and confusing origins. It was bestowed that name "Maltese" during the 19th century, but it actually dates back much farther-- possibly to Greek and Roman times! Maltese Dogs have always been small. Today they weigh less than 10lbs and stand less than a foot tall. It is believed that their small size came from either Spitz breeds that were bred to be tinier than normal, or from Tibetan Terriers. Either way, by around 500BC there were depictions of Maltese-looking dogs in northern Italy. These dogs were mentioned by writers like Pliny and Strabo, and were said to come from a Mediterranean Island (of which Malta is one). By the 1800s these dogs were very popular with the upper class, though years of crossing with other breeds led to nearly a dozen different varieties. An official breed club was established, and they were recognized by the AKC in 1888. Official standards came along with the formal recognition, and today all Maltese Dog

Sumatran Striped Rabbit

Nesolagus netscheri Today we'll be learning about another animal that is found in only a very tiny range-- the Sumatran Striped Rabbit. These Lagomorphs are endemic to the mountain rainforests of Sumatras Barisan Range. Sumatran Striped Rabbits are actually one of the few Rabbit species to live in rainforest environments, and they also have the distinction of being one of the rarest Rabbits in the world. Because of their remote, dense habitat and their nocturnal behavior they are rarely ever seen, and haven't been well studied. In fact, they were not seen at all between 1972 and 2000, and have only been reported 3 times since! There are about half a dozen museum specimens around the world, but most were collected over 100 years ago, before many of the current conservation threats ramped up. Their rarity makes their "Vulnerable" listing unsurprising, and they continue to be in trouble due to habitat loss. IUCN Status : Vulnerable Location : Sumatra, Indon

Long-whiskered Owlet

Xenoglaux loweryi The Long-whiskered Owlet is a tiny little bird of prey that is found only in the Cloud Forests of a very small section of Peru. It is estimated that there are as few as 250 remaining in the wild, giving the bird an "Endangered" status. Long-whiskered Owlets are some of the smallest Owls in the world-- they are only about 4-6 inches in total body length, and weigh less than 2 ounces! They are best identified by their long facial feathers that jut outwards, giving them the name-sake whiskered look. Not much is known about these birds habits and behaviors. They have only been known to science since 1976, and captured a handful of times. Needless to say, they have not been well studied. Their tiny, remote range and small size make them especially difficult to track down, and it actually made news when one was spotted back in 2007. IUCN Status : Endangered Location : South America Size : Length up to 6in (15cm) Classification :  Phylum : Chordata


Today's animal has some pretty amazing headgear-- just look at it! The Ankole-Watusi breed of Cattle is known for it's massive horns that can grow more than 8ft from tip to tip. Those horns are used both for defense, and for helping to keep the animal cool in the warm climate it originates from. This particular breed originated in Africa, and pictures of its ancestors (Sanga Cattle) go back to the days of the Pyramids. The reason for the hyphenated name is because groups in Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi have different names for the same animal. Hyphenating was the easiest naming option! Traditionally, Ankole-Watusi cattle were used mostly for their milk. That is because in many places they held more value to their owners alive than dead. Today, there is a registry for the breed in the United Sates, and its purpose is being expanded on. The Registry hopes to promote this breed, and to keep it from extinction. IUCN Status : Domesticated Location : Africa Size : Weight aro

Rhim Gazelle

Gazella leptoceros Rhim Gazelles are also known as Slender-horned Gazelle, because of the two thin horns that both males and females posses. In males, these horns can reach around 16in in length, while females top out around 1ft. Rhim Gazelles are also the palest of the different Gazelle species. They have light colored backs, a thin band of darker brown, and pale undersides. Their coloration helps them to blend in with their Sahara Desert surroundings, where they live a nomadic lifestyle in search for food. This species was once abundant through their African range, but now it is estimated that only a few thousand remain in the wild, with less than 200 in captivity worldwide. They are most abundant in the countries of the northern Sahara, but their population is on the decline due to habitat loss, warfare, and hunting. IUCN Status : Endangered Location : Sahara Desert Size : Shoulder height up to 2ft (64cm), Weight up to 66lbs (30kg) Classification :  Phylum : Chordata

Craspedacusta sowerbii

Craspedacusta sowerbii Did you know that there are Jellyfish that don't  live in the ocean? Now you do! Today's species is Craspedacusta sowerbii , and it is found in calm freshwater bodies of water, like lakes, reservoirs, and slow moving rivers and streams. These Jellyfish have actually have a distribution that spans the entire globe. They have been located on nearly every continent (sorry Antarctica) and in almost every single U.S. State. However, you won't see them constantly-- they pop up randomly, sometimes in bodies of water where they have never been seen before! Craspedacusta sowerbii is able to move from place to place because during colder months their polyps contract and become podocysts. These Podocysts attach to other plants and animals that carry the Jellyfish to new places. And because they reproduce asexually, they are able to massively expand their populations very quickly. IUCN Status : Not Listed Location : North and South America, Asia, Eu

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Accipiter striatus The Sharp-shinned Hawk is the smallest hawks in all of North America, and one of the smallest in the entire world. Their bodies measure between 9 and 13 inches, and their short wings give them a span that tops out at only 22in! As with most birds of prey, the females are larger than the males-- in this case up to 1.3 larger! These little birds of prey are found primarily in North and Central America, though some make their way down to South America as well. Many are year-round residents, while others migrate between the north and south. They are found primarily in forested areas. The prey of a Sharp-shinned Hawk depends on the size of the Hawk itself. A 4in difference in body length is a pretty big deal! Songbirds make up most of their diet, but larger Hawks will go after Quails, Pigeons, and even small Falcons! One particularly interesting fact about these birds is that they will continue to feed their offspring for quite a while after they have fledged. A

Sumatran Rhinoceros

Today let's learn about the Sumatran Rhinoceros, a very unusual mammal that is also in grave danger of extinction. Sumatran Rhinos are the smallest Rhino species. They are also the only Rhinos to be covered in bristly hairs from head to toe. The hair helps them out in their muggy, insect-filled rainforest habitats-- mud sticks to the hair, and the caked on dirt keeps bug bites away! Dicerorhinus sumatrensis Sumatran Rhinos also have very small horns, especially when compared to those of their African cousins. Sadly, the small size is not enough to keep poachers away-- these Rhinos have been ruthlessly hunted to the point of near extinction. Today, there are less than 400 Sumatran Rhinos in the entire world, including thsoe kept in captivity. They don't breed well in captivity either, which makes repopulating the species an uphill climb. A calf born at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2001 was the first captive birth in 100 years! Poaching isn't the only threat to the spec