Thursday, April 28, 2011

Maned Wolf

The maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) is in South America.  It is locally known as "guará guazú" which means 'large fox.'  It is rated as Near Threatened by the IUCN.

Physical Features
Being the largest South American canid ( family of foxes, wolves, etc.), an adult stands 67 to 107 cm at shoulder height and weighs 20 to 245 kilograms.  The maned wolf referred to as 'The Red Fox on Stilts' as the color of its fur resembles to that of a red fox, though the maned wolf is larger.  They have very long and black legs.  Their fur may be reddish brown to golden orange on the sides.  As the name suggests, they have a black mane.  They have a white mark beneath their throat which is called 'bib'.  The maned wolf is also called the Skunk Wolf as its has a distinctive odor.

Distribution and Habitat
The maned wolf is found in the southern and central parts of Brazil.  They are even found in Paraguay, northern Argentina, Bolivia, eastern and northern parts of Andes and in south-eastern Peru.  They are very rare in Uruguay.  Maned wolves live in semi-open and open habitats such as grasslands, scattered bushes and trees.

The maned wolf is specialized in capturing medium and small sized prey mainly rodents, birds and other small mammals.  It is said that over 50% of their diet is vegetable matter such as tuber, sugarcane, etc.  In zoos, they are currently fed meat and dog chow as well as different fruits and vegetables.  Unlike other canids, such as gray wolves and African hunting dogs, the maned wolf does not hunt in packs.

The maned wolf is not a fox, wolf, coyote,  jackal or a dog but it is a canid which makes it a very interesting animal.  It closest living relative is the bush dog.  They do not have any other closely related canid.  In 2009, the extinct Falkland Islands Wolf was the closest relative of the maned wolf in historical time, over 6 million years ago.

Source of pic 1    

Saturday, April 23, 2011


The axolotl ( Ambystoma mexicanum) is a species of amphibian.  It is also known as the water monster or the Mexican walking fish.  It is critically endangered  due to urbanization and polluted waters in Mexico.  Axolotl is even eaten by many locals.

Physical Features
A leucistic axolotl 
A mature male axolotl can measure 15 to 45 cm long but many specimens can be 24 cm which is quite common.  As they are salamanders, they share many features with them like having external gills and a caudal fin that starts at the head and ends at the vent.  Males differ from females as the have a swollen cloaca.  Females look different from males they have wide bodies that are filled with eggs.  Axolotls have underdeveloped limbs that have thin and long digits.  They have a very wide head that contains lidless eyes.  There are three pairs of gill stalks present behind their head.  Below these gills, there are four pairs of gill slits.  They are often mistaken for mudpuppies, tiger salamanders and waterdogs.

Being a carnivorous, axolotls eat small prey such as worms, small fish and different insects.  They detect their food with the help of smell and will 'snap', any potential food.  It will suck its pray to its stomach with vacuum force.

Distribution and Habitat
Axolotls live in a high altitude body of water that is surrounded by terrestrial surface which can by risky.  They are found in Mexico which is in North America.  Axolotl are only native to  Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco which is present in central Mexico.

Conservation Status
The axolotl is rated as critically endangered by the IUCN.  The Mexican tiger salamanders breeds and lives in the same place as axolotls, which is a threat for them.  They no more exist in Lake Chaclo as the lake itself was artificially drained to avoid periodic floods.  Now, Lake Xochimilco is a diminished glimpse of its former self and has mainly canals present in it.  Axolotls were in the diet of many locals, but now, fewer locals eat them.

Source of pic 1 and pic 2 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Western Hognose Snake

The Western Hognose Snake (Heterodon nasicus) is a species of snake found in North America.  It is a colubrid and therefore is not very venomous. 

Physical Features
The nose of a Western Hognose Snake.
The Western Hognose Snake measures 45cm to 90cm.  Their body color is normally brown but can appear to be yellowish due to the blotches on its back.  They have an inky black, yellow or white checker pattern on their belly.  While shedding their skin, they act more aggressive as they cannot see while shedding.  Their snout is pointed and turned upwards.  They have a stocky body and their scales are heavily keeled.  Their necks are quite thick.  Western Hognose snakes are rear fanged and their venom does not pose any threat to humans.  The Eastern Hognose snake has a less upturned snout and more squarer blotches and therefore are different from Western Hognose snakes.

Distribution and Habitat
The Western Hognose snake is found in North America.  They are found in the central states of America.  They are even found in the southern part of Canada and northern part of Mexico.  Western Hognose snakes can be found in human surroundings, drained short-grass prarie, rocky semi-deserts and deserts, wood edges and fields and chaparrals.

Western Hognose snakes are mainly carnivores.  They eat different amphibians like toads and frogs.  They even eat reptile eggs, lizards, snakes and birds.

Life Cycle
Western Hognose snakes are oviparous and can lay 4 to 23 eggs between the months of June and August.  The hatchlings reach maturity after two years.  The eggs take 60 days to hatch.

Conservation Status
The Western Hognose snake is rated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  This means that they are not endangered and are high in numbers.  However, the are considered as endangered in the state of Iowa and are threatened in the states of South Dakota and Illinois.

Source of pic 1 and pic 2

Monday, April 11, 2011

Leafy Sea Dragon

The leafy sea dragon (Phycodurus eques) is a species of marine fish from the same family of sea horses.  They are good at camouflaging.  The are rated as ''Near Threatened'' by the IUCN.  It is also known as the Glauerts sea dragon.

Physical Features
The leafy sea dragon is not large, but it is larger compared to other sea horses, growing about 20 to 25 cm.  They get their name from the mythological creature, the dragon.  The leafy sea dragon has leaf like protrusions all over the body.  These protrusions are used to camouflage.
Leafy sea dragon camouflaging
Leafy sea dragons move with the help of a dorsal fin, which is close to the tail end and the pectoral fin which is located on the ridge of the neck.  The leaf like protrusions help to camouflage even while moving and therefore, they look like a piece of floating sea weed.  Leafy sea dragons can even color blend but it depends on diet, age, location and stress level.

Leafy sea dragons mainly feed on plankton and different types of crustaceans with a long, pipe like snout.  Their diet even consists of shrimps and small fish.  They do not have any teeth which is very rare among all animals which eat small fish or shrimps.  This creature catches its prey with the help of camouflaging.

Leafy sea dragons have many threats.  These threats are humans or natural predators and even different natural calamities.  As leafy sea dragons are very slow swimmers, it is difficult for them to escape from predators.  They sometimes caught by fishermen.  Unlike sea horses, sea dragons cannot curl their tail around grasses and therefore are washed to sore by storms.  They are even affected by increasing pollution in water.

Distribution and Habitat
The leafy sea dragon is found only in the waters of Kangaroo Islands, Australia on the Southern shoreline of the Jurien Bay.  They were once thought to have a very limited range but scientists have found out that they may travel several hundred meters from their original habitat and then will return to the same spot.  Leafy sea dragons are commonly spotted by scuba divers in Adelaide.  They are found around clumps of sand, hiding behind rocks and sea weeds at a depth of 50 meters.

Source of pic 1 and pic 2

Friday, April 8, 2011

Yeti Crab

The yeti crab (Kiwa hirsuta) is a species of crab discovered in 2005.  It is a crustacean that was found in the South Pacific Ocean.  This decapod is also called the yeti lobster.

Physical Features
Yeti crabs have very small eyes that have very less pigment.  This crustacean is about 15 cm long (5.9 inches).  The yeti crab is unique for the quantity of silky, blond setae (which is like fur) on its thoracic legs.  They are believed to be blind.  The pincers of yeti crabs have hair which contain filamentous bacteria.  They use these bacteria to detoxify the poisonous minerals in the water.  These crabs eat bacteria, even though they are thought to be carnivores.  Yeti crabs are referred to as furry lobsters but are more closely related to hermit crabs.

In 2005,  Robert Vrijenhoek of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Monterey, California organized a group along with Michel Segonzac of Ifremer.  Together, this group found the yeti crab, using submarine DVS Alvin.  The discovery of the yeti crab was announced on the 7th March of 2006.  It was found along the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge which is 1500 kilometers (900 miles) south of the Eater Island, which is near the islands of Polynesia, near New Zealand.  It was found at a depth of 7200 feet, living on  hydrothermal vents.

The genus name, Kiwa, is named after the goddess of shellfish on Polynesian mythology.  Whereas, in Maori, the mythology of New Zealand, Kiwa means the male guardian of the sea.  In Latin Hirusta means hairy.

Source of pic 1