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African Elephant

Photo Credit: Gary M. Stolz Although the African elephant is the largest and most powerful of all living land mammals, it is also amo...

Monday, May 29, 2017

West African Lungfish

Photo Credit: GÅ‘tehal.jpg: Mathae
The West African lungfish is found in a wide range of freshwater habitats in West and Middle Africa, as well as the northern half of Southern Africa. Like other African lungfish, the West African lungfish is an obligate air breather and a freshwater-dwelling fish. It is demersal, meaning that it lives primarily buried within riverbeds. Due to the dry season frequently drying the rivers and floodplains in which it lives, the West African lungfish can aestivate for up to a year; however the West African lungfish generally only estivates between wet seasons.

They have a prominent snout and small eyes. Its body is long and eel-like, some 9–15 times the length of the head. It has two pairs of long, filamentous fins. The pectoral fins have a basal fringe and are about three times the head length, while its pelvic fins are about twice the head length. In general, three external gills are inserted posterior to the gill slits and above the pectoral fins.

West African lungfish have some fascinating adaptations. They have two lungs, and can breathe air. This is a vital feature, since they live in flood plains in waterways that often dry up. To manage this life-threatening situation, the lungfish secretes a thin layer of mucus around itself that dries into a cocoon. It can live out of water in this cocoon for up to a year, breathing through its lungs until rains refill its waterway.

West African lungfish have elongated bodies like an eel with soft scales. They have narrow thread-like pelvic and pectoral fins which help them to swim and crawl on land. Prehistoric African lungfish had two dorsal fins, a caudal fin and a tail fin all independent of each other. In the present day fish, the three types of fins are fused to form a single fin-like structure. They have a flexible rod-like structure called notochord that acts as a support for their body. Lungfish retain their notochords throughout their lives. These fish can weigh almost around 25 pounds.

Did you know?
The West African lungfish has a diet not unlike other lungfish, consisting of various mollusks, crabs, prawn, and small fish within its distribution.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Falcon

Photo Credit: jjron
Falcons are medium sized birds of prey found all across the world although falcons tend to prefer the more temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Falcons are best known for their ruthlessness and their incredible flying abilities.

Falcons have tapered wings that allow the falcon to change direction extremely quickly especially when compared to other birds. Falcons have been recorded diving at speeds of up to 200mph, meaning they are the fastest creatures on the planet!

There are more than 40 different species of falcon that can be found all around the world such as the peregrine falcon and the black falcon. Falcons vary in size from 25cm tall to more than 60cm tall, but the height of the falcon depends on the species. The peregrine falcon is the most common bird of prey in the world and is found on every continent besides Antarctica.

Falcons are birds of prey and are therefore known for their incredible hunting skills and being a ruthless, dominant predator within their environment. Falcons hunt their prey from the skies above and swoop down through the air to catch it once they have spotted a meal with their incredible eyesight. Falcons hunt all kinds of small animals like mice, frogs, fish and falcons will even catch small birds in the air.

Falcons are generally solitary birds and only really come together to mate. Although falcons are known to stay in the same place, many species of falcon are migratory birds and have been known to travel more than 15,000 miles per year.

Did you know? 
Due to the large size, speed and alertness of the falcon, the falcon has few natural predators and even fewer that are actually airborne

Monday, May 8, 2017

Alligator Newt

Photo Credit: https://www.stlzoo.org
The alligator newt can be found in the Southern islands of Japan. They inhabit forests, grasslands, croplands, swamps; breeds in ponds and pools.

A newt is a salamander that spends much of its adult life on land but returns to the water each spring for a long breeding season.

The alligator newt is so-called because of its rough appearance, thanks to knobby glands located on the sides of the body. The glands are often tinted orange, as are the underside of the tail and the soles of the feet; otherwise, this critter is dark brown or black. It grows up to six or so inches in total length.

The day-to-day habits of the alligator newt remain rather mysterious because this little creature is well-hidden in its terrestrial (land) habitat. We do know that it eats a variety of small invertebrates, including earthworms, spiders, and insects.

Did you know?
Like many salamanders, the alligator newt has toxic skin secretions. But the alligator newt has a special way of passing its poison to a would-be predator. When grabbed, the salamander's sharp rib tips poke through the glands on the sides of its body, and the toxin is injected straight into the attacker. Now that hurts!

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