Thursday, September 30, 2010

Diamondback terrapin

The diamondback terrapin(Malacemys terrapin) or which can be simply called terrapin belongs to the genus Malacemys.  It is found to the brackish coastal swamps of  southern and eastern United States.
Its name came from an Algonquian word torope.  In British English, any semi-aquatic turtle like red eared slider is called a terrapin.

Physical Features                                                      Diamondback terrapin
Females are normally bigger than males.  Males can grow up to 5 inches and the bigger females can grow up to 7.5 inches.  Females are capable of growing bigger as seen with a specimen measuring 9 inches.  Diamondback terrapins get there name from the diamond pattern on top of the shell.  The overall pattern and color can vary depending upon the species.  Their shell can be brown or gray and their body color can be gray, brown, yellow or white.  They have an unusual pattern of spots and black markings on their head.  Normally, the terrapins which are found in the warmer areas are larger than the ones found in the cooler areas.

Life Cycle
Diamondback terrapins mate in the starting of spring.  In summer they 8 to 12 eggs in sand dunes.  Males reach maturity when they are 2 or 3 years old and reach a length of 4.5 inches.  Females take longer time to mature.  They mature at the age of 6 or 7 years old.  The females will reach a length of up to 6.75 inches.  The eggs will hatch in the starting of the fall or in the or at the ending of summer.

The diamondback terrapin has a wide range in  the eastern and southern United states.  Its range starts from far north, crossing Massachusetts and to far south to Florida.

Encounters of  Diamondback terrapin and People
On the 8th of  July, 2009, in the J.F Kennedy airport in New York, the flights were cancelled as about78 diamondback terrapins invaded the runway.  The flights were delayed for over one and a half hours.  The turtles were removed and released back to the wild.  The airport authorities believed that the terrapins had invaded the runway in search of a place to mate.  But it was revealed that they had come to the runway to deposit their eggs.

This terrapin is the state reptile of Maryland, USA.  It was once highly preferred for its taste due to which it was almost hunted to extinction.  As a result, it is listed as endangered in Rhode island and is a "species of concern" in Georgia, Delaware, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia and Louisiana.  Its holds no federal status but its population is still stable due to breeding  programs.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fiji banded iguana

The Fiji banded iguana(Brachylophus fasciatus) is a lizard native to the Fijian islands.  It is also found in Tonga as it was introduced there by humans.  It is an arboreal species of iguana.  Geographically, it is the most isolated member of the family iguanidae.  Its numbers have been declining in the recent past due to habitat destruction and because of the introduced feral populations of  mongooses and cats.

They are considered as a national treasure to the government and the people show their love by putting these shy creatures pictures on stamps, currency and phone books.

This species was found by French zoologist Alexandre Brongniart in 1800.  Brachylophos is the name of the genus.  This name(the genus) came from two Greek words: brachys which means "short" and lophus meaning "plume" because of the short spiny crests on its back.  Fasciatus(the specific name) means "banded" in Latin.
It is closely related to the Fiji crested iguana and the Fiji iguana.

Habitat and Distribution
The Fiji banded iguana is native to the Fiji island and is found on the islands Wayaka, Vatulele, Ono, Dravuni, Vanua, Balavu, Moturiki Beqa, Nggamea, Avea , Lakeba, Vatu, Aiwa, Oneata, Vanua Levu, Totoya and Kabra and Fulaga.  It has been introduced to Tonga islands, Iles Wallis and New Hebrides about 300 years ago.  Feral populations have been introduced to some places like Vanuatu in the 1960's.  There numbers are dwindling with a population of roughly 10,000. They live in unruffled forests from low lying coastal swamps to high cloud forests.

Fiji banded iguanas are herbivores.  Even though some of the captive hatchlings eat insect, adults usually don't.  They normally eat fruits and flowers especially the hibiscus flower from the Vau tree.  They eat fruits like bananas and papayas.

Physical Features
Male with stripes
Males normally have two to three pale blue or white 2 centimeters bands which is wide crossing their green like emerald background color having a pattern as spots and stripes on their neck region. Females are dark green in color and sometimes have spots and partial bands.   Fiji banded iguanas measure up to 60 centimeters when measured from snout to tail.  Both genders are yellow on the underside.  Their skin is sensitive and they can change their color to match the background in about 30 seconds.Their body weight is about 200g and they very small crests growing up to 0.5 centimeters.  The appearance can vary depending upon the insular population.  In Tonga, they are smaller and leaner.  Because of this they used to be considered as another species until recently they were classified as the same species                                               
                                                                      Female Fiji banded Iguana
The breeding season starts at the month of  November. The female have a long period of incubation which is about 160 to 170 days.  They are oviparous.  The female normally guards its nest which is unusual for an six iguana.  They have clutches of three to six eggs.

The biggest threats these iguana are facing are forest fires, agriculture, loss of habitat, storms and competition from feral goats.  Another threat are the rat, mongooses and cats that are introduced to their habitat.

Since 1982, the Fijian government has made a rule that none of these iguanas can be taken to captivity without the permission of the government.  This rule became strict when the American zoos had taken 50 to 100 of these iguanas without the permission of the government.  The Fiji banded iguanas on the San Diego Zoo has the best breeding colony of Fiji banded iguanas in the world.

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Source of picture 3:                                                                        

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wolf Spider

The wolf spiders are from the family Lycosidae.This agile hunter's gets its name from a Greek word which means "wolf".  They are robust hunters with good eyesight.  Wolf spiders live a solitary life hunting by themselves.
Some species pounce on their pray or they will even chase their pray for short distances.  Few of them even wait for their prey to pass their burrow and then attack.  They resemble the Nursery web spiders except for the fact that they attach their egg sac to the spinnerets to carry them.

Physical Features

 There are many types of wolf spiders ranging from sizes of  1 to 30 millimeters
(0.04 to 1.8inches).  Wolf spiders have eight eyes: four inconspicuous eyes in the bottom row, two massive eyes in the middle row and finally two medium sized eyes in the top row.These features distinguish them from the Nursery web spiders.  They depend upon their eyesight for hunting.  They also have a very accurate sense of touch.

Wolf spiders have a very interesting way of carrying their eggs.  They attach their egg sac to their spinneret at the end of their abdomen.  The mother has to keep her abdomen at a raised position to prevent the egg sac from touching the ground.  Even under this burden,the mother is able to catch pray easily.  Another unique fact is the way the mother takes care of the infants.  After the infants are born, they immediately crowd around the mother's legs for protection. 

As defense, the wolf spider bites and releases toxin.

Distribution and Habitat

Wolf spiders have a wide range.  They are found in all continents except Antarctica and other cold regions.  They are found in shrub lands, woodlands, wet coastal forests, alpine meadows and suburban gardens.  Some build burrows which have doors or even trapdoors.The arid zone species construct turrets or plug their holes with pebbles and leaves during rainy season to protect themselves from flood water.