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Moose

The largest member of the deer family, the moose lives in forests, bogs and marshlands where, for the most part of the year, it feeds on...

Monday, December 19, 2016

Guppy


Photo Credit: Marrabbio2

The guppy, also known as millionfish and rainbow fish, is one of the world's most widely distributed tropical fish, and one of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish species. It is a member of the Poeciliidae family and, like almost all American members of the family, is live-bearing. Guppies, whose natural range is in northeast South America, were introduced to many habitats and are now found all over the world. They are highly adaptable and thrive in many different environmental and ecological conditions. Male guppies, which are smaller than females, have ornamental caudal and dorsal fins, while females are duller in color. Wild guppies generally feed on a variety of food sources, including benthic algae and aquatic insect larvae. Guppies are used as a model organism in the field of ecology, evolution, and behavioral studies.

Guppies are native to Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Brazil, Guyana, Jamaica, the Netherlands Antilles, Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Venezuela. However, guppies have been introduced to many different countries on every continent except Antarctica. Sometimes this has occurred accidentally, but most often as a means of mosquito control. The guppies were expected to eat the mosquito larvae and help slow the spread of malaria, but in many cases, these guppies have had a negative impact on native fish populations. Field studies reveal that guppies have colonized almost every freshwater body accessible to them in their natural ranges, especially in the streams located near the coastal fringes of mainland South America. Although not typically found there, guppies also have tolerance to brackish water and have colonized some brackish habitats. They tend to be more abundant in smaller streams and pools than in large, deep, or fast-flowing rivers.

Did you know?
Wild guppies feed on algal remains, diatoms, invertebrates, plant fragments, mineral particles, aquatic insect larvae, and other sources.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo


Photo Credit: Duncan Rawlinson

The sulphur-crested cockatoo's range extends throughout the northern and eastern mainland, and Tasmania. A small population has become established around Perth, Western Australia. The species also occurs in New Guinea and the Aru Islands, and has been introduced into New Zealand and Indonesia. They are found in a variety of timbered habitats and are common around human settlements. The birds stay in the same area all year round.

The sulphur-crested cockatoo is a large white parrot. It has a dark grey-black bill, a distinctive sulphur-yellow crest and a yellow wash on the underside of the wings. Sexes are similar, although the female can be separated at close range by its red-brown eye (darker brown in the male). This is a noisy and conspicuous cockatoo, both at rest and in flight. Young Sulphur-crested Cockatoos resemble the adults.

The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo's normal diet consists of berries, seeds, nuts and roots. It also takes handouts from humans. Feeding normally takes place in small to large groups, with one or more members of the group watching for danger from a nearby perch. When not feeding, birds will bite off smaller branches and leaves from trees. These items are not eaten, however. The activity may help to keep the bill trimmed and from growing too large.

Did you know?
The eggs of sulphur-crested cocdatoos are laid in a suitable tree hollow, which is prepared by both sexes. Both birds also incubate and care for the chicks. The chicks remain with the parents all year round and family groups will stay together indefinitely.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Plains Leopard Frog


Photo Credit: Don Becker

The Plains leopard frog, sometimes referred to as Blair's leopard frog, named after the noted zoologist and University of Texas professor, Dr. W. Frank Blair.

The Plains leopard drog is a medium sized frog, typically ranging from 2-3.5 inches (50-90 mm). Coloration is brown or gray on top with round brown or black spots on the back and sides. A dark spot is usually present on the snout. The upper jaw has a distinct line along the upper jaw. The tympanum typically has a light spot. Toes have well developed webbing. The dorsolateral stripe is broken posteriorly. Underparts are white with pale yellow near the groin and inner thighs.

They live in grassland areas of the Midwest (from southern South Dakota in the north to central Texas in the south and from New Mexico in the west to western Indian in the east). These frogs can be found floodplains, ditches, farm ponds, small streams, marshes.

The Plains leopard frogs' diet consists of a wide variety of invertebrates (worms, aquatic insects, small minnows).

Did you know?
This species breeds from mid-April to early June. Females may produce between 4,000 and 6,500 eggs. Eggs hatch in 2 to 3 weeks. Tadpoles are herbivorous but may feed on dead animal matter. This species disperses between ponds on rainy nights. During the winter, adults or tadpoles hibernate in the leaves and mud at the bottom of ponds and streams.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Squid

Photo Credit: https://www.montereybayaquarium.org

Squid are cephalopods, which comprises around 304 species. Like all other cephalopods, squid have a distinct head, bilateral symmetry, a mantle, and arms. Squid, like cuttlefish, have eight arms arranged in pairs and two, usually longer, tentacles. Squid are strong swimmers and certain species can "fly" for short distances out of the water.

The main body mass is enclosed in the mantle, which has a swimming fin along each side. These fins, unlike in other marine organisms, are not the main source of locomotion in most species.

The skin is covered in chromatophores, which enable the squid to change color to suit its surroundings, making it practically invisible. The underside is also almost always lighter than the topside, to provide camouflage from both prey and predator.

Like all cephalopods, squid have complex digestive systems. The muscular stomach is found roughly in the midpoint of the visceral mass. From there, the bolus moves into the caecum for digestion. The caecum, a long, white organ, is found next to the ovary or testis. In mature squid, more priority is given to reproduction such that the stomach and caecum often shrivel up during the later life stages. Finally, food goes to the liver (or digestive gland), found at the siphon end, for absorption. Solid waste is passed out of the rectum. Beside the rectum is the ink sac, which allows a squid to rapidly discharge black ink into the mantle cavity.

Did you know?
All squid are carnivores and eat mainly fish, shrimp, crabs and even other squid. They are ambush predators, often relying on stealth to sneak up on prey and capture it before it can escape.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Vampire Bat

Photo Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org

The vampire bat ranges from northern Mexico through Central and South America to central Chile in the west and Uruguay in the east. They can be found in arid and humid parts of the tropics and subtropics, the common vampire bat occupies rainforests as well as deserts, making its home in caves, mines, tree hollows and occasionally abandoned buildings.

While most people would assume the vampire bat is one that is very harsh or even evil, it is quite the opposite. They are very caring and social creatures that are interesting to observe. The young will be well cared for by their mothers. Should she fail to return to the roost other mothers will care for the orphans so that they don’t die. They also share food with each other, and that is something no other species of bats have been seen taking part in.

Legends have led many to believe that this bat sucks blood from its prey. This isn’t how it really plays out though. Instead, they use their teeth to make a puncture wound. Then they use their tongue to lick up any of the blood that comes out of that opening. The Vampire Bat looks for creatures that are sleeping that they can bite without any problems.

Did you know?
The vampire bat has several predators. This includes eagles and hawks that can also be active at night. These bats are very small so those birds can consume them even while in flight without it being much of a challenge. The hawk is very intelligent, and has often been seen waiting patiently outside of cave entrances. They will attack Vampire Bats that are either flying into or out of the cave.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Common House Spider

Photo Credit: Patrick O. Moran
Common House spiders are found worldwide and are common throughout the United States and Canada. They dwell inside structures, house spiders are most likely to be found in upper corners, under furniture, and inside closets, basements, garages and crawl spaces. Outside, they are often found spinning webs around windows and under eaves, especially near light sources that attract prey.

Common house spiders are often yellowish-brown in color with an elongated abdomen. Female common house spiders measure 5 to 8 mm in length, while males measure only 4 mm. Common house spiders are typically brown or gray in color, with darker chevron markings along their bodies.

A common house spider’s body is divided into the cephalothorax and the abdomen. Like scorpions, mites and ticks, house spiders are wingless. They are classified as arachnids rather than insects and have eight, single-lens eyes.

Did you know?
Common house spiders rarely bite unless they feel threatened. However, they may defend themselves when crushed in shoes or clothing being put on by a human.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Muskellunge

Photo Credit: Engbretson, Eric / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  
Muskellunges are located in the Northern to Northeast part of the United States and up into Canada. They are one of the more uncommon freshwater fish in the United States. Muskies live in lakes and large rivers. They prefer shallow water with a rocky bottom and heavy cover. They like thick weeds to hide in when they hunt for other fish.

Muskellunges have an elongated body and a flat head, with light colored with dark bars running down the sides of their body. Their underside is plain white in color. The biggest difference between male and female muskie is size. Both genders continually grow with age. The male fish tend to measure between 22-39 inches long, while females are slightly larger, measuring 22-50 inches long. Males weigh normally 3-20 pounds, while females normally weigh 3-40 pounds.

Muskellunges spawn in late spring when the water temperature is in the mid-50s. It usually happens in late April to early May. The male first claims territory and then the female arrives. The spawn lasts 5-10 days and the eggs are laid on a rock or sand bottom. The male and female then leave the eggs, which will hatch within two weeks. The majority of the juveniles do not make it, but those that do feed on zooplankton. Within 6 months of age, the juveniles will measure close to a foot long.

Did you know?
Muskellunges have needle-like teeth.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Kingfisher

Photo Credit: Dreams of Animals
Kingfishers are a group of small to medium-sized, brightly colored birds. All kingfishers have large heads, long, sharp, pointed bills, short legs, and stubby tails. Most species have bright plumage with few differences between the sexes. Most species are tropical in distribution, and a slight majority are found only in forests.

They consume a wide range of prey, as well as fish, usually caught by swooping down from a perch. While kingfishers are usually thought to live near rivers and eat fish, most species live away from water and eat small invertebrates. Like other members of their order, they nest in cavities, usually tunnels dug into the natural or artificial banks in the ground. A quarter of all kingfishers nest in disused termite nests. A few species, principally insular forms, are threatened with extinction. In Britain, the word "kingfisher" normally refers to the common kingfisher.

Kingfishers feed on a wide variety of prey. They are most famous for hunting and eating fish, and some species do specialize in catching fish, but other species take crustaceans, frogs and other amphibians, annelid worms, mollusks, insects, spiders, centipedes, reptiles (including snakes), and even birds and mammals. Individual species may specialize in a few items or take a wide variety of prey, and for species with large global distributions, different populations may have different diets.

Did you know?
Kingfishers are territorial, some species defending their territories vigorously. They are generally monogamous, although cooperative breeding has been observed in some species and is quite common in others, for example the laughing kookaburra, where helpers aid the dominant breeding pair in raising the young.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Box Turtle

Photo Credit: BackWaterReptiles
Box turtles are found throughout the eastern United States. They are found in a variety of habitats but are most common in open hardwood forest in the Piedmont. They are often found along field or wetland edges. Highly terrestrial but will occasionally be found soaking in puddles or streams.

Box Turtles are mid-sized, terrestrial turtles – 4.5-6 inches – with a high, rounded shell that is dark with many yellow or orange splotches. The carapace pattern is variable and becomes less prominent with age. There are four toes on each hind foot. Males have a concave plastron and often have red eyes. The plastron (bottom of the shell) is hinged, allowing the box turtle to completely close it shell.

Box turtles are omnivores and in will eat earthworms, snails, grubs, beetles, caterpillars, carrion, grasses, fallen fruit, berries, mushrooms and flowers. They will take a bite of anything that smells edible.

Did you know?
Box turtles hide in the mud, under decaying logs or in the abandoned burrows of mammals during the hottest part of a day.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sea Cucumber

Photo Credit: TheSenualFoodie
Sea cucumbers are found in virtually all marine environments throughout the world. Some sea cucumbers live on the ocean floor and others are planktonic, meaning that they float in the ocean with the currents.

The sea cucumber's body shape is similar to a cucumber, but they have small tentacle-like tube feet that are used for locomotion and feeding. One way that sea cucumbers can confuse or harm predators is by propelling their own toxic internal organs from their anus in the direction of attack. The organs grow back, and it may save them from being eaten!

Sea cucumbers are scavengers that feed on small food items in the benthic zone (seafloor). Algae, aquatic invertebrates, and waste particles make up their diet. They eat with tube feet surrounding their mouths.

Did you know?
When disturbed, sea cucumbers can expose skeletal, hook-like structures that would make them harder for predators to eat.

Monday, September 5, 2016

European Mole

Photo Credit: Wildlife Wanderer
Although it is seldom seen, the velvety-coated mole is one of the best-known small mammals. Living almost entirely underground, surface molehills are the only tell-tale signs of its presence.

Most common in grassland and pastures, European moles are found at sea level and at high altitudes in almost every type of soil, but t hey avoid areas where the soil is very rocky, waterlogged, or acidic. They are well adapted for their underground life.

Moles are active during the day and night, digging their tunnels and searching for food. Most tunnels very in depth from just below the surface to 28 inches beneath the ground. When moles dig close to the surface, they make piles of dirt called molehills.

Earthworms are the mole's staple food, although it also eats large quantities of insect larva and slugs. It locates food by traveling along its tunnels and feeding on whatever worms or insect is finds.

Did you know?
Moles will avoid very wet grounds when possible, yet they are strong swimmers. They can also climb.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Bullet Ant

Photo Credit: Hans Hillewaert
The bullet ant has the reputation of delivering the most painful sting in the insect world. Some even believe that a bullet ant sting might be the most painful sting, period. Amazingly, there's an indigenous tribe in South America that requires young men to endure these stings for 10 minutes at a time — as many as 20 times consecutively — as a rite of passage ritual. Despite the pain, the stings are not fatal and cause no permanent damage, except maybe to the psyche.

The bullet ant is active all over the forest, from the floor to the treetops. It is usually found on lianas and tree trunks close to the ground. This hunting ant eats insects, plant exudates, and sap.

Did you know? 
When provoked, bullet ants emit a warning screech and stand their ground. Their thick exoskeletons protect them from even birds and lizards.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Common Carp

Photo Credit: Type 17
The common carp is a large omnivorous fish. They have large scales, a long dorsal fin base, and two pairs of long barbels (whiskers) in its upper jaw. Native to Europe and Asia, it was intentionally introduced into Midwest waters as a game fish in the 1880s. They live in lakes, rivers, and wetlands and are often seen in spring when they spawn in shallow waters.

They feed on aquatic crustaceans, insects, worms, aquatic plants, algae and seeds.

In temperate waters, spawning take place during the summer in patches of weeds. A number of males pursue spawning females in the race to fertilize the eggs as they are shed into the water. The sticky yellowish colored eggs attach to vegetation, and are not guarded by the parents. A typical female can lay over a million eggs in one breeding season.

Did you know?
Besides fish eggs, carp eat algae, other water plants, insects, earthworms, aquatic worms, snails, mussels, crayfish, and rotifers. They also eat old dead plant parts from the bottom.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Red-breasted Toucan

Photo Credit: Jairmore Irafotografia
The red-breasted toucan or green-billed toucan is a South American toucan that occurs naturally throughout central, southern and eastern Brazil, eastern Paraguay and far north-eastern Argentina. It inhabits Atlantic forests.

The Red-breasted Toucan's name is derived from the large area of red feathers found on its belly, while its chest is orangy-yellow with yellow sides.

The bill is mostly pale green and this toucan is, therefore, sometimes referred to as the Green-billed Toucan.

Like all of their other activities, nesting happens high up in hollow areas in trees. The bill is not effective for digging or any other type of extensive excavation work and so they must rely on holes already formed by other means. The nests are not lined, but the two to four shiny white eggs that are laid each year rest on a few wood chips created while enlarging the opening or on various kinds of regurgitated seeds collected for this purpose. Parents share equally in incubation duties, but rarely sit on the nest for more than an hour at a time and the eggs are often left uncovered. Both parents share in feeding fruit to the babies for up to 8 weeks.

Did you know?
Babies have pads on their elbows that protect their feet by keeping them elevated until they fledge.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Pacific Giant Salamander

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Marsten
The Pacific giant salamander is the largest terrestrial salamander in North America. Although it lives in a limited area of British Columbia’s southwest, the Chilliwack River watershed, this species ranges along the U.S. Pacific coast from Washington to northern California, where it may be known as the Coastal Giant Salamander. Known for its “bark” and its bite if attacked, this amphibian has two phases of life: the larval state in an aquatic environment; and the metamorphosed adult state, in either an aquatic or terrestrial environment.

The smooth skin of an adult often has a light tan, copper, gold or grey marbling against a dark brown or black ground color. In British Columbia, the marbling effect is absent from the throat and underside of the limbs. It has four legs and a strong, distinct head with large eyes; it has teeth in both jaws. The tail is not round, but flattened laterally, like an eel, which aids in swimming.

Did you know?
The adult Pacific giant salamander leads a sedentary life, but can move a distance of 10.8–54 yards at a time in a short period of activity. Active at night, during the warm rainy season, the salamander can move across the forest floor, occasionally climb a short distance up the bark of trees, and burrow to a depth of 20 feet.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Earthworm

Photo Credit: commons.wikimedia.org
An earthworm is a tube-shaped, segmented worm.arthworms are commonly found living in soil, feeding on live and dead organic matter. An earthworm's digestive system runs through the length of its body. It conducts respiration through its skin. It has a double transport system composed of coelomic fluid that moves within the fluid-filled coelom and a simple, closed blood circulatory system. It has a central and a peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system consists of two ganglia above the mouth, one on either side, connected to a nerve cord running back along its length to motor neurons and sensory cells in each segment. Large numbers of chemoreceptors are concentrated near its mouth. Circumferential and longitudinal muscles on the periphery of each segment enable the worm to move. Similar sets of muscles line the gut, and their actions move the digesting food toward the worm's anus.

Did you know?
Earthworms are hermaphrodites—each individual carries both male and female sex organs. They lack either an internal skeleton or exoskeleton, but maintain their structure with fluid-filled coelom chambers that function as a hydrostatic skeleton.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Nine-banded Armadillo

Photo Credit: Hans Stieglitz
The solitary and nocturnal armadillo has an armored skin composed of hard, bony plates. Its head, legs, and tail are similarly protected with bony scales.

The nine-banded armadillo is the most widespread of all armadillo species. It inhabits the open grasslands and tropical forests of North and South America. Still, it is unable to survive in arid regions, such as deserts, or in areas that are very cold.

Armadillos generally spend the day sleeping in the safety of their burrows. They may have as many as 12 burrows located throughout their ranges, which they dig with their strong front claws, kicking away the excavated dirt with their hind legs.

Nine-banded armadillos will share their burrows only with members of the same sex. Each animal has its own territory, but those of males will often overlap. Territories are marked with scent.

At night, the armadillo emerges from its burrow to look for food: insects small animals, birds' eggs, fungi, roots, fruit, and carrion (rotting animal flesh). It uses its strong sense of smell to detect food. The armadillo's long snout has particularly sensitive nostrils.

Did you know?
  • The nine-banded armadillo is the only armadillo species that can swim. It does this by inflating its stomach and intestines with air to keep it buoyant. It can cross a small river or stream by walking on the bottom while holding its breath.
  • Using its long, sticky tongue, the armadillo can eat more than 40,000 ants in one feeding.
  • When digging for prey, the armadillo avoids getting dust up its nose by holding its breath for up to six minutes.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Jumping Spider

Photo Credit: Karthik Easvur
The jumping spider is found throughout the northern hemisphere. It has acute vision and can look 360 degrees around its body without moving its head.

The jumping spider gets its name from the way it leaps toward its prey with great speed, rather than trapping it in a web. Some of the most colorful spiders are contained in this group. It has distinctive white bands across its black abdomen.

The jumping spider is active during the day, mainly in warm, sunny weather. It lives in houses and gardens, but mountain climbers report sightings as high as 23,000 feet above sea level in the Himalayas. This spider finds a safe hiding place and spins itself into a silk cell for the nigh, emerging when temperatures rise the next day. During cold weather, the spider stays in its silk cell until conditions improve.

The carnivorous (meat-eating) jumping spider eats flies, tiny moths, ants, and beetles. Most other spiders wait for prey to become entangled in their webs, but the jumping spider uses its keen eyesight to stalk its prey.

Did you know?
  • Male jumping spiders will perform their mating displays to their own mirror reflections.
  • The jumping spider cleans dirt from its eyes by rubbing them carefully with its palps.
  • The majority of the 4,000 members of the jumping spider family around the world live in the tropics, but a few live in temperate cold climates including the arctic.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Common Sturgeon

Photo Credit: Cacophony
The common sturgeon has changed very little since the age of the dinosaurs. At that time, its ancestors were among the most abundant fish in the sea.

The common sturgeon is one of the biggest fish to use rivers and lakes for breeding grounds. Some sturgeons grow to several yards in length and may outlive humans.

The common sturgeon is a bottom-dwelling fish, spending much of its time inshore, where the seabed is 50 to 150 feet deep. It is the only European sturgeon that can live in full salt water as well as in the brackish (mixed salt and fresh) water of estuaries. After spawning in fresh water, some adult sturgeon remain near rivers, while others travel more than 600 miles throughout the sea of their range.

The sturgeon forages for food on the seabed, using its long, shovel-shaped snout to root around in the mud and sand. For sensitive barbels (feelers) under its snout feel for edible morsels.

For its size, the common sturgeon feeds on a fairly small prey, mainly invertebrates, such as mollusks, worms, and shrimp. A larger adult will also eat small fish, such as gobies and sand eels. During its spawning trips up rivers, the sturgeon does not eat at all.

The fry (young fish) developing in the rivers feed on freshwater prey, such as insects larvae and aquatic worms.

Did you know?
  • Sturgeons were once so plentiful in North America that dishes of caviar were provided free in bars.
  • In the Black and Caspian seas, the beluga have been known to reach 16 feet in length.
  • More than 12,000 tons of sturgeon are caught every year in the Black and Caspian seas.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Blue-footed Booby

Photo Credit: Benjamint444
The blue-footed booby is a goose-sized tropical seabird that breeds on islands off the Pacific coast. It catches fish in spectacular plunging dives beneath the surface of the waves.

The blue-footed booby is one of the world's most comical-looking seabirds. It has dazzling blue webbed feet, a cigar-shaped body, and long pointed wings and tail. Its tapering, pointed bill, with serrated edges is ideal for grasping the slippery fish that are its prey.

The blue-footed booby has brown and white plumage that greatly contrasts with its bright blue feet and greenish-gray bill. Its head is pale brown and streaked with whitish feathers.

The blue-footed booby spends much of its time gliding purposefully over the water, bill angled downward, watching the surface for signs of fish. It can dive from heights of up to 80 feet. Streaking downward at great speed, with wings angled close to its body, it hits water with barely a splash and resurfaces several yards away with its catch. Sometimes it will catch flying fish in midair.

Did you know?
  • The name "booby" comes from the Spanish word bobo which means "stupid fellow." The blue-footed booby is so called because its lack of fear and its clumsiness on land have made it easy prey for man.
  • The pupils in the female's eyes appear larger than the male's. This is an illusion, the female has rings of dark pigment around her pupils that make them look bigger.
  • The blue-footed booby likes plenty of space around its nest, but its relative, the gannet may pack as many as seven nests in a square yard at its breeding colony.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Nile Crocodile

Photo Credit: Leigh Bedford
The Nile crocodile survives wherever there is water, rivers, waterholes, lakes, reservoirs, even ditches. It lives in many parts of Africa, including the island of Madagascar. In periods of drought, it may travel up to 15 miles in search of water, it will die without it.

The crocodile also inhabits estuaries and can survive for a short period of time in saltwater, some regularly swim the channel between the mainland of Madagascar. During the wet seasons, young crocodiles often live in rain puddles, moving to larger pools as they grow.

Unlike mammals and birds, most reptiles can't regulated their body temperature internally. The crocodile must take other steps to warm up or cool down. It spends the morning basking in the sun to warm itself. As the day progresses and the temperature rises, the crocodile holds it mouth open to stop itself from overheating. It also looks for shade or climbs into he water. In colder periods, the crocodile moves to deep water, where the temperature stays constant. Here, it remains inactive and can survive up to a year without eating.

Did you know?
  • The Nile crocodile is the largest reptile in Africa, growing up to 20 feet from snout to tail and weighing over 1,980 pounds.
  • The Nile crocodile is able to remain submerged for more than an hour as it waits to ambush prey.
  • The Nile crocodile is massively powerful, it can drag a fully grown zebra under water in just a few seconds. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

European Starfish

Photo Credit: https://cornishrockpools.com
The European starfish is a brownish-orange color and have five tapering limbs that give it its star shape. It is a common seashore sight along the coastline of western Europe.

The European starfish, which is all legs and has no real head, seems a strange creature. It uses it suction feet to crawl along the seabed and to grasp its prey. With these suction feet, it can even pry open mussel and clam shells.

The bodies of starfish are very different from those of most other animals. The European starfish has five identical arms radiating from a flat central area, and other starfish have as many as 50 arms. The central area contains a mouth (on the bottom), and the anus (on top), and a main stomach organs in between.

Bony plates in the starfish's body give it support. All over the surface there are tiny pincers that snap shut to defend against creatures that try to settle on the starfish.

Some starfish filter nutritious particles from the water, but most, including the European starfish, are predators. They eat sponges, corals, worms, mollusks, crustaceans, other starfish, and small fish. They use their tube feet to detect prey from chemical signals in the water and to ensnare their victims.

Did you know?
  • Adult starfish consume three times their weight in food every day. Young starfish may eat 10 times their body weight. 
  • Although they are named "starfish", they are not related to fish at all. Starfish belong to the group of marine invertebrates which also include sea cucumber, sea urchin and sand dollar.
  • Typical predators of the starfish are sea otters, rays, sharks, seagulls and different types of fish.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Bactrian Camel

Photo Credit: J. Patrick Fischer
The Bactrian camel is the only truly wild, two-humped camel in the world. In the Gobi desert, and, like the one-humped camel, it can go for long periods without water.

The Bactrian camel is named after the part of the region it inhabits, Bactrian, on the border of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan (former Soviet Union).

Once found over a vast range of Asia, Bactrian camels now inhabit only Mongolia's remote Gobi desert. They are specially adapted to cope with the extreme climate found in this region. They form small groups of six to twenty animals that are led by a mature male. You males spend most of their time wondering alone.

Like most domestic cows, camels are ruminants, meaning they feed and then regurgitate the food and chew it again. This is also called chewing the cud. Able to survive on extremely sparse vegetation, they eat the tough grass, herbs, thin branches, and foliage of the shrubs that grow in their arid environment. They search for food in the morning and evening and chew cud in the afternoon.

Did you know?
  • A Bactrian camel can drink quantities equaling up to 30 percent of its body weight at one time.
  • In the desert without water, a camel can survive up to 10 times as long as a human and four times as long as a donkey. 
  • Males, female, and young camels are known respectively as stallions, mares, and calves.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Grasshopper

Photo Credit: Fir0002
The grasshopper is often hard to see because it blends in with its surroundings. Some are striped or spotted, and tropical species are often bright colored.

There are 10,000 different species of grasshopper throughout the world. Often confused with their close relatives, the crickets, grasshoppers can be identified by their thick antennae which are always shorter than their bodies.

Grasshoppers are found throughout the vegetated areas of the world. But they are not restricted to grasslands as their name would suggest. Some grasshopper species live in desert habitats, but the most attractive and brightly colored species are found in tropical rainforests.

Grasshoppers feed on the leaves and flowers of plants. They chew them with their powerful jaws, called mandibles, which move side-to-side. A relatively few species feed mainly or solely on grass, but most grasshoppers feed on an enormous variety of herbs, shrubs, and trees. Some even feed on dung.

Did you know?
  • The song of every species of grasshopper is different, and females can recognize the sound of males of their own species. It is also possible for people to identify different species in this way. 
  • Some species of grasshopper can cover up to twenty times their body length in a single leap. 
  • Grasshoppers are commonly eaten in African, Central and South American countries, the insect is a very good source of protein.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Lionfish


Photo Credit: Alex Vasenin
With its vivid coloration and poisonous spines, this scorpionfish species effectively deters predators and, consequently, can swim freely without fear of attack.

Its beautiful fins conceal an array of poisonous spines capable of inflicting severe pain. Like many scorpionfish, it does not have many predators, since few animals will dare to attack it.

The lionfish lives in shallow water among the rocks and coral reefs of warm and temperate seas.

Its feather-like fins and bristling spines are not merely decorative but, rather, serve as camouflage that helps protect the fish among the seaweed and coral on the seabed. The lionfish spends most of its time lurking or resting among the rocks on the bottom of the seabed. It is rarely detected unless it moves. This behavior is typical of most scorpionfish.

The lionfish eats any fish and crustaceans it can catch.

Did you know?
  • Lionfish are found in the South Pacific Ocean. 
  • Lionfish have been known to be aggressive toward humans. 
  • Female lionfish lay several thousand eggs. The eggs hatch in a few days and the babies, called fry, live near the surface until they are big enough to swim down to the reef area.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Barn Owl

Photo Credit: Magnus Manske
The barn owl is a silent nocturnal hunter. It has such an acute sense of hearing that it can pinpoint the exact location of its prey even on the darkest night.

A change of climate in the northern regions of the barn Owl's habitat is causing snow to last for longer periods in winter. Bad weather plays a significant part in reducing the numbers of this attractive nocturnal bird.

Barn owls prefer a warm climate with mild winters. They don't, like many other birds, store extra fat in their tissues to help them survive harsh winter weather, so many die during freezing weather or are too exhausted in the spring to breed.

Although barn owls mate for life, they hunt alone. The barn owl's eyes are specially adapted to detect movement in grassland; they have extra light-sensitive rods and cones in the retinas, and their cylindrical shape produces accurate telescopic vision. In the dark the barn owl relies almost totally on its acute hearing.

Mice, voles, and shrews are the owl's staples, but it will also catch other small rodents, sparrows, and bats. When other food is scarce, barn owls will eat frogs and large insects.

Did you know?
  • Barn owls don't "hoot" like other owls. They make a hoarse "khurrew" noise. 
  • In Malaysia, where barn owls were introduced to control plagues of rats, each barn owl family killed about 1,300 rats a year. 
  • Adult owls swallow prey whole and head first. To feed their young, they grip the prey with their feed and tear it into small pieces that the owlets can swallow.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Red and Blue Poison Arrow Frog

Photo Credit: National Geographic Kids
The red and blue poison arrow frog's jewel-like color stands out from the rich rainforest vegetation as a warning that it is one of the most poisonous animals on earth.

For centuries, the poison arrow frog has provided South American Indians with poison for the tips of arrows and blowpipe darts. For predators, swallowing a frog means certain death, and even licking one can prove fatal.

Like all amphibians, poison arrow freogs must stay moist to survive. The red and blue species lives in Costa Rican rainforest. The constantly steamy, wet environment reduces the frog's need for streams and pools.

Some frogs protect themselves from larger predators such as snakes and hawks by secreting mild poisons from the skin to make themselves taste foul.

Did you know?
  • Only one natural predator may hunt the poison arrow frog; the snake Leimadophis espinephelus seems to be immune to the toxins. 
  • This family includes some of the smallest frogs in the world: Dendrobates minutus grows to only a half inch. 
  • Scientists discover new species of poison arrow continually in their tropical forest explorations. Still, their habitat may be destroyed before scientists can account for them.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Oyster

Photo Credit: NIWA
The oyster is a remarkable animal. It changes its sex each year, can spawn in its male and female form, and is able to release up to one million eggs at a time.

Oyster larvae will settle on any solid object beneath the water's surface and cement themselves in place. They then start growing, adding layer upon layer to their shells to accommodate the expanding body inside.

The oyster feeds by filtering tiny food particles from the water. By beating the tiny hairs, or cilia, of its gills, it forces water through its partly opened shell at the rate of 2 to 4 gallons an hour. Any food particles sucked in stick to mucous strings that are attached to the cilia. The food is then forced into its mouth. Inside its stomach, the oyster has a rod-shaped mass of digestive enzymes, rotated by the current of water, which pulls in the food.

Did you know?
  • During the 18th and 19th centuries, oysters were so plentiful and inexpensive that they were considered a poor man's food. 
  • It takes from five months to seven years for an oyster to produce a cultured pearl. 
  • Oysters are invertebrate sea creatures, which means they don't have a backbone.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Greater Indian Rhinoceros

Photo Credit: Yathin sk
The greater Indian rhinoceros is a descendant of an old species of rhinoceros. Despite its fearsome appearance, it is a generally peaceful animal.

Measuring more than 12 feet long, and weighing up to 2 tons, the greater Indian rhinoceros is bigger and heavier than a car. It may appear to be ponderous and slow, but it can suddenly charge at frightening speed to drive off rivals or enemies who stray too close.

The greater Indian rhinoceros lives in dense growths of tall elephant grass in swampy areas near rivers. Her it wallows in the shallow water and mud to keep cool during the day. It may also head for higher ground to search for food.

The greater Indian rhino is principally a grazing animal. It moves around constantly to take advantage of fresh plant growth. Adaptable in its feeding methods, the rhino a a widely varied diet. It eats new plant growth as well as bamboo shoots, water hyacinths, and a variety of crops, which can make the rhino a nuisance to farmers.

Did you know?
  • Greater Indian rhinoceroses are vulnerable to sunburn. By wallowing in the mud, they protect their skin from the sun. 
  • In the first weeks of giving birth, mother rhinos produce 5 to 7 gallons of milk a day. 
  •  Relative to their large body size, rhinoceros have small brains.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Black Widow Spider

Photo Credit: Bloomingdedalus
The black widow spider is not as dangerous as its reputation implies. It has caused only 55 human deaths during a 217-year period.

Black widow spiders are found throughout the warm parts of the world. The most familiar species are in North America. They are known for their powerful venom, which is deadly to prey but rarely fatal to humans. In other countries, black widows may be known by different names, such as hourglass, redback, jockey, or button spider.

The black widow spider lives in various types of wild habitat and cultivated farmland, but it is best known for populating human residencies. It likes dark, secluded places, such as cellars, sheds, and underneath houses. this spider spins its messy web beneath floorboards or in piles of rubbish and wood.

The black widow spider eats flies, moths, and other flying insects, as well as ants and even some spiders. It spins a tangled, three-dimensional webs. The male black widow's webs is much small than the female's.

Did you know? 
  • The myth that the female black widow always eats the male after mating is untrue. Only when the male becomes weak and near death after several matings does the female eat him. 
  • The male black widow is much smaller than the female. Because it produces only a tiny amount of venom and has fangs too small to penetrate skin, the male black widow is harmless to humans. 
  • Young, growing spiders are capable of regenerating missing legs.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Stingray

Photo Credit: LinĂ©1
Varying in shape from almost rectangular to circular, with spotted or mottled markings, stingrays are found in all of the world's tropical and temperate seas.

There are more than 100 species of stingray, ranging in size from 1 to 15 feet across and weighing between 1 and 750 pounds. All are able to inflict a severe wound with their long tails and poisonous, sword-like spines.

Stingrays prefer to live in shallow water and like to spend their time buried in soft sand or mud. They are strong, active swimmers, moving rapidly through the water with their large, wing-like finds.

Some scientist believe that, with the onset of winter, stingrays make long migrations to warmer waters. Others believe, however, that the fish dig themselves into the soft seabed and spend the winter in hibernation. Nevertheless, stingrays are usually found in colder waters only during the summer months.

Stingrays feed mainly on worms, mollusks, and crustaceans that they dig out of the seabed. Larger stingrays may also eat dead fish and squid.

Did you know?
  • Stingray spines have been used to make spear tips, daggers, needles, and awls. 
  • When stingrays are caught in commercial fishing nets, the fishermen often cut off their spines before throwing them back in the sea. 
  • In Mexican waters, hundreds of stingrays gather into seabed depressions known as ray pits.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Atlantic Puffin

Photo Credit: Richard Bartz
Looking like a relative of a penguin, or a marine version of the parrot, the squat Atlantic puffin is, in fact, related to neither family, it is a species of auk.

The puffin's best-known feature, it's colorful beak, is used to attract mates. After breeding season ends, it changes to a dull gray color and becomes smaller in size. The puffin is also known as the sea parrot, and, although it looks awkward on land, it is perfectly adapted to its environment.

Atlantic puffins live in the cold waters of the Arctic, often hundreds of miles from land. They are most often seen singly or in pairs.

In spring, they come ashore and gather in huge groups to breed. Although they prefer to dig their burrows in steep, grassy slopes, they may tunnel under boulder debris at the foot of steep cliffs.

During the summer, there is a constant stream of puffins flying back and forth between their burrows on the cliffs and their fishing grounds. Breeding success may depend on how far the puffins have to fly to find food for themselves and their hungry chicks.

The puffin's favorite food is the sand eel, which it catches by diving down into the water at great speeds. Its wings enable the puffin to swim to great depths.

Did you know?
  • The puffin can swim and fly very quickly, but because its legs are positioned so far back on its body, it often crashes while landing in strong winds. 
  • At it preens, the puffin take oil from a gland near its tail and applies it to its feathers to keep them waterproof. 
  • The puffin makes soft growling or purring noises.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Gecko

Photo Credit: Thierry Caro
The gecko family of lizards include hundreds of species found in rainforests, mountains, and even deserts. Many have unusual markings, and some give distinctive calls.

Geckos have small, plump bodies with large heads and eyes. Many species are vividly colored, and some even change color. Because of geckos' unusual appearance, some people think they are dangerous. But these reptiles do not hurt humans.

Geckos live in a wide range of habitats including tropical rainforests, parched deserts, and icy mountain peaks. They are not afraid of humans, and some species have expanded their range by stowing away on ships. For example, the common gecko originated in north Africa and was carried unknowingly by humans to southern France, the Canary Islands, and even islands in the South Pacific.

Most geckos hunt at night. The common gecko eats beetles, butterflies, millipedes, crickets, and cockroaches. Many larger species, such as the Caledonian gecko, pursue young lizards, mice, and small birds. They track their prey before pouncing. Then they take it in their mouth and strike it against the ground.

Did you know?
  • The gecko is only one and a half inches long. It is the world's smallest reptile. 
  • The tokay gecko gets its name from one of its calls: "to-kay, to-kay." 
  • Sometimes a gecko's tail heals instead of breaking off completely. A new one also grows in, leaving the animal with two or even three tails.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Armored Millipede

Photo Credit: scitechdaily
Armored millipedes vary in size, with some species reaching almost a foot in length. Despite their shell-like armor, many rely on poison glands to deter enemies from attacking.

Armored millipedes rest during the day. At night, they forage for rotting vegetation among the dead leaves on the tropical forest floor. The wave-like pulse of their short legs gives them considerable power when burrowing.

Armored millipedes push their way through soil and decaying vegetation with ease. Under piles of leaf mold or in damp crevices, millipedes can be found resting by day or feeding at night. There are also some species that climb tress to feed on vegetable matter caught in the branches.

Unlike centipedes, with which they are often confused, armored millipedes do not hunt living creatures. Instead, they eat the leaves and other matter that fall from trees and decay on the ground in their tropical forest habitat.

Did you know?
  • The name millipede means "1,000 legs." But millipedes rarely have more than 200 or 300 legs. 
  • One species of millipede was once ground up and used to poison arrow tips. 
  • Some millipedes spit a fluid that can cause blindness in humans.

Friday, June 3, 2016

American Bison

Photo Credit: High Contrast
The American bison is usually referred to by its more common name, buffalo. It is not only found on the open prairies, there is also a subspecies, the wood bison, which lives in the woods and mountains of North America.

Bison live in small herds of approximately 50 animals. The herd provides defense against predators, such as wolves and coyotes. Although the bison's senses of smell and hearing are sharp, its vision is poor. Since bison often do not recognize danger until it is too late to flee, the females will surround their young and the bulls will in turn surround females, shielding them from their attackers.

Bison spend most of the day grazing in small groups. But where the grazing is particularly good, and during the two annual migrations, hundreds of bison may gather together to feed. They also take frequent mud or dust baths to keep clean.

The bison feeds mainly on grass and other succulent vegetation. Methodical grazers, a herd can cover up to two miles a day in search of fresh grass. Food is chewed and swallowed, then regurgitated and chewed again. This method of digestion is known as rumination, but it is commonly known as chewing cud.

Did you know?
  • Some North American Indian tribes relied almost entirely on bison for their food and clothing. 
  • In the United States, the bison is more often called the buffalo, although it is not closely related to the true buffalo of Africa. Zoologists prefer the term bison. 
  • The only place in the United States where the bison has never been driven out of its range is Yellowstone National Park.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Mosquito

Photo Credit: Alvesgaspar
The mosquito is known all over the world for its bloodsucking bite. But is is only the female that feeds on blood, the male drinks plant juices and is quite harmless.

The mosquito is probably one of the most unpopular creatures in the world. For centuries people have swatted at or poisoned it, but it continues to flourish, feasting on the blood of humans and animals. With global warming, some species that are disease carriers may even spread.

The mosquito is a small, two-winged fly, a slender relative of the house fly and blow fly. It has four wings arranged in two pairs and, like most flies, uses its short, club-shaped hind wings for balance. Known as halteres, these wings vibrate with the front wings and sense changes in direction, helping the mosquito fly in a straight line.

The male mosquito drinks nectar, only the female drinks blood, which provides nourishment for her eggs. She usually seeks out a victim just before laying, although she can lay her eggs without feeding on blood.

Did you know?
  • Roughly half the world's population is at risk from the diseases carried by some mosquito species. 
  • The female's wings beat 500 times per second. The male's vibrate even faster and whine at a higher pitch. When a male emerges from the pupa, his wings beat at the same rate as a female's, confusing other males. 
  • Mosquitoes lay eggs in unlikely places such as birdbaths. Most die if a pool dries up, but the eggs of some desert species survive years of drought.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Sea Horse

Photo Credit: Stevenj
The sea horse is a member of the pipe-fish family. Swimming upright, and looking a little like a chess piece, it is a graceful inhabitant of the warmer seas.

Sea horses avoid predators by mimicking the colors of underwater plants. There are 35 species living along the coasts of Australia, Africa, Europe, and North America. They range in size from the tiny pygmy variety to the giant eastern Pacific sea horse.

Sea horses are usually found in warm, shallow water among beds of sea grass. They situate themselves near deep, fast-moving channels that provide them with plankton, the microscopic marine life on which they feed.

Sea horses feed constantly on plankton and other small fish. A sea horse can use each eye independently from the other, which allows it to search for prey without moving its body. When prey comes near, the sea horse can snap it up from as close as as inch and a half away.

Did you know? 
  • Except for crabs, few predators eat sea horses, they are too bony. 
  • Male pregnancy lets the female produce more eggs quickly without nurturing the last batch.
  • Female sea horses compete with each other for male mating partners.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Blue Titmouse

Photo Credit: Baresi Franco
Known for their acrobatic skills, blue titmouse are tough, inquisitive, and highly successful inhabitants of the temperate woodlands.

The blue titmouse's characteristics plumage of bright blue and yellow, and its habit of visiting backyards to feed on juts and scraps, make it one of the most endearing and best-known birds in all of Europe.

Blue titmouse are found in most of the broad-leaved woodlands throughout a large area of Europe. They are far less common in coniferous forests.

During the summer, blue titmouse live mainly on insects picked from foliage. The abundant caterpillar population, which appears on oak trees in late spring and summer, is the usual diet for chicks. People who feed birds in winter should stop at this time so that the birds will search for natural supplies.

Did you know? 
  • In a single winter day, more than 200 blue titmouse may feed at a nut bag hung in a backyard.
  • Females and their young are in danger from weasels, which can squeeze through holes measuring only an inch across. 
  • In winter, blue titmouse will roost in street lights to keep warm.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

American Bullfrog

Photo Credit: Tigershrike
The bullfrog gets its name from its powerful call, which sounds more like the bellow of a bull than the croak of a frog. The bullfrog's strong hind legs enable it to jump long distances.

Originally found only east of the Rocky Mountains, this large frog has spread west and is used in California to supply the local demand for frog's legs. It has also been introduced as a source of protein in Jamaica and Cuba.

The bullfrog often stays submerged with just its nostrils and bulging eyes showing. This position allows the frog to spot danger easily. Movable lids protect the eyes from dust and grit, and a special gland keeps them moist.

The bullfrog has a strong sense of hearing. Its ears are located under the skin, but the eardrums can be seen as rings behind the eyes. A male's rings are twice the size of the female's.

The bullfrog has a blind spot in front of its nostrils so it must turn its head slightly to one side to see its prey.

Bullfrogs like to eat underwater. They often submerge themselves in the water before eating prey caught on a stream or pond ban,

The bullfrog's large size allows it to eat more types of prey than most smaller frogs. It eats small fish, insects, and even frogs of its own species. It also preys on small mammals, such as mice, snakes, and young alligators.

Did you know?
  • American bullfrogs can catch and eat bats. One American bullfrog found in a snake cage in the Pretoria Zoo ate 16 young cobras. 
  • Most frogs leave hatching eggs and tadpoles to fend for themselves, but the male bullfrog may defend its tadpoles from predators. 
  • Each frog species has a distinct call that only the female of the same species responds to. It two species live in the same area, the calls become even more distinct so that the frogs can not become confused.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Octopus

Photo Credit: Albert kok 
The well armed octopus has a secret weapon. Concealed in the folds of its body lies a sackful of ink, which the octopus secretes to ward off or confuse its enemies.

The strange-looking octopus has a bulbous body and eight arms. Its bag-shaped body, called a mantel, houses a remarkable well developed brain and nervous system, making the octopus surprisingly intelligent.

A bottom-dwelling animal, the octopus makes its home in a hole or rock crevice in shallow water. Sometimes it digs a gravel nest or forms a protective area with a pile of rocks.

By day, the octopus spends most of its time hidden in its lair. When it hunts, it propels itself up by swimming or crawling along on its tentacles. It large, lidded eyes are adapted to focus in dim underwater light.

The octopus does most of its hunting at night. It emerges from its rocky lair to seek crabs, crayfish, and mollusks, which are its favorite foods.

Did you know?
  • The first writing ink was made from pigment found in the octopus's ink sac. 
  • The octopus is messy. It is easy to identify its lair by the pile of discarded shells outside the entrance. 
  • If an octopus damages one of its vital arms, it can grow a new one.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Arctic Wolf

Photo Credit: DocTaxon~commonswiki
The majestic arctic wolf lives in the silent vastness of the barren polar region, where darkness cloaks the land for up to five months of the year. Here, it hunts almost every other living animal.

Able to tolerate years of sub-zero temperatures, months of darkness, and weeks without food, the arctic wolf lives in one of a few places on earth where it is safe from the greatest threat of all, man.

Arctic wolves inhabit some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world. In April, the air temperature rarely rises above -22 degrees F, and the ground is frozen year-round. The arctic wolf is one of the few mammals that can tolerate these conditions.

The wolf preys on lemmings and arctic hare, but its most substantial source of food is the musk ox and caribou. Because of the scarcity of grazing plants, animals must roam a large area in order to find food to survive.

Full-grown caribou and musk oxen are far too powerful for a single wolf to attack alone, so wolves must always work together as a pack when hunting large prey.

Did you know?
  • Wolves will often go days without food, but can then eat up to 10 pounds of meat at one time. 
  • Food is so scarce in the Arctic that no part of a wolf's prey is wasted; a wolf will eat every part of an arctic hare, including the skin, fur, and bones. 
  • Several of the younger pack members will "babysit" the cubs while the mother wolf is hunting.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Arizona Bark Scorpion

Photo Credit: Musides (talk)
The Arizona bark scorpion occurs from southern California through southern Arizona into western New Mexico; and in adjacent Mexico (Baja California, Sonora, and Chihuahua).

They can be found in many places due to its ability to climb. It can be found not only under rocks or in rock crevices, but also in trees or high on rock walls. They also can be found inside of peoples dwellings trapped in sinks or bathtubs, climbing walls, or in a dark closet.

They are predators. They consume all types of insects, spiders, centipedes, and even other scorpions.

Arizona bark scorpions prefer cool and moist areas and can be found in crevices, under pieces of bark, under rocks, under bricks and in houses. They live at least 2-6 years although many live much longer, especially in the wild.

The Arizona bark scorpions body has two parts, a cephalothorax and abdomen. The tail is actually a part of the abdomen. It has five segments each longer than the last; at the tip is the stinger (not considered a segment). They have 8 jointed legs and a pair of pedipalps that are use for grasping prey and sensing.

Did you know? 
  • Scorpions have "hairs" on their legs and other body parts that are sensitive to vibrations in the air. 
  • Bark scorpions will glow a green color (fluoresce) under ultraviolet light. 
  • Scorpions give birth to live young during the summer months. The babies will crawl up their mother's pincers and legs to get on her back. They will ride around on her back until they molt in 7-21 days.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Piranha

Photo Credit: Greg5030
The relatively small piranha is one of the most feared of all river fish. It will attack prey many times larger than itself, but its reputation as a man-eater is questionable.

Unspectacular in appearance except for its over-sized moth and prominent teeth, the piranha varies in color from species to species. Most have olive-green or blue-black backs with dark to silvery-gray sides and bellies.

Piranhas live in enormous packs, or shoals. They spend most of their time hunting for food. Rivers are their primary habitat, although as a result of massive flooding they may occasionally find their way into lakes. But is is thought that they are unable to breed outside of rivers.

The piranha hunts with speed and by surprise. The typical way in which piranhas attack is by swimming directly into a shoal of prey fish. The attacked shoal scatters in all directions and the piranhas quickly overpower individual fish. Small fish are swallowed whole. Larger prey have chunks ripped out to them which the piranha swallows instantly so it can immediately take another bite.

Did you know?
  • The teeth of the piranha are so sharp they can slice through bone. 
  • Piranhas can consume animals the size of pigs within minutes. 
  • It is believed that piranhas tend to attack fish that are more than four times as long as they are wide.

Friday, May 13, 2016

African Fish Eagle

Photo Credit: Arturo de Frias Marques
Sharply eyeing the water from its overhead perch, the predatory African fish eagle will swoop down to the surface to catch a fish that may weigh as much as the eagle itself.

Its distinctive black, brown, and white plumage and loud, ringing call make the fish eagle one of Africa's most recognizable birds. Experts think that the birds pair for life and maintain their close bond by calling to each other constantly in a variety of high and low notes.

African fish eagles are always found near lakes, reservoirs, or rivers. They also hunt along the coast, particularly in river mouths and lagoons where the water surface is sheltered.

Where food is abundant and there are plenty of large trees suitable for nesting, fish eagles may be found every few hundred yards along the shoreline.

Fish are the eagle's main prey, and it hunts from a perch overlooking the water. It make make short foraging flights, but it rarely travels more than 50 yards form the shore.

Fish eagles will eat waterfowl, terrapins, and baby crocodiles. They will also eat carrion, and will force other fish eating birds, such as herons, to give up their food.

Did you know?
  • Where breeding territories are crowded, adult fish eagles may spend so much time defending their patch that they often have no time for breeding. 
  • One fish eagle nest is known to have been used regularly for 21 years. 
  • Once they have found a good hunting area, fish eagles often do not have to hunt for any more than 15 minutes a day.
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