Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Common Hippopotamus

The common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibus) is a species of even toed hoofed mammals endemic to Africa.  Though it is classified as a even toed hoofed mammal, it is thought to be more closely related to whales.  They are rated as 'Vulnerable' by the IUCN.

Physical Features
The hippopotamus is the third largest land animal by weight.  Males can weigh anywhere between 1.4 to 3 tonnes with females being smaller.  The largest hippopotamus was a male that weighed 4500 kilograms(4.5 tonnes).  Their bone density is slightly greater than that of water.  This allows it to gently sink in water.  However, if it inflates its lungs while on the surface of the water, it can remain afloat without much effort.  Hippopotamuses can grow about 9 to 15 feet long and have tails that can grow up to 1.5 feet.  Despite being so bulky, they can swim and walk underwater.  They can reach speeds of about 30 km/hr on land using their short, insubstantial looking legs.  Hippopotamuses feature very large jaws and can open their mouths at angle of 150 degrees.  Their body varies from a gray to blue-black upper body.  The lower part of their body has a slight pinkish tinge.  They have an expanded muzzle with the nose
The large canines and incisors of a hippopotamus
covered with sensitive bristles.  The hippopotamus has two layers of skin.  The first layer, known as the epidermis, is very sensitive and dries out fast.  The inner layer is extremely thick (about 3.5 cm thick).  Their eyes, ears and nostrils are all located on the top of the head as that is the part that mostly remains above water during their swim.  Other adaptations include webbed toes and nostrils with the ability to close.  Hippos can remain submerged underwater for over 5 minutes. Hippopotamuses are also known for their wide mouth.  They have incisors that can reach lengths of a foot and canines that can reach length of 1.5 feet.

The hippopotamus is mainly herbivorous, though some have been observed eating small animals.  The main constituent of its diet is savanna grass.  They generally graze at nights and are led to their food by a dung trail left by them.  They also eat commercial crops like rice present in agricultural regions.  A hippopotamus may eat about 40 kilograms of grass every day.  

Distribution and Habitat 
The hippopotamus is found in western, central, southern and eastern parts of Africa.  They generally inhabit short grasslands, muddy wallows, rivers and lakes.

The hippopotamus is mainly nocturnal.  It rests in water during day time and grazes during nights.  They make noises like squeals, bellows and rumbles.  They sometimes make noises characterized with a loud 'ho-ho-ho'.

Life Cycle
Females generally give birth to one calf in water after a gestation period of about 240 days. Females mature between the ages of seven and fifteen while males mature at the ages of six to 13.  Hippopotamuses can live for about 48 years in captivity.  In wild, they can live for about 45 years.  

Source of pic 1 and pic 2

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Recently Discovered Animals

The world is always happening.  As we speak, unknown species may become extinct or discovered.  Here is a list of recently discovered animals.

The Olinguito

The olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) is a species of carnivore discovered on 15th August,2013. It is the first carnivore in the western hemisphere to have been discovered in the last three decades. It was found in the mountane forests of the Andes of western Columbia and Ecuador. The olinguito was discovered Kristofer Helgen. The olinguito resembles a teddy bear. They weigh only about 0.5 to 1 kilograms, making them the smallest member of the raccoon family. Though they feed primarily on fruits and plants, they are part of the taxonomic order Carnivora. They are mainly nocturnal, making it difficult to spot and they have brown-orange fur.

The Yeti Crab

The yeti crab is placed under its own family known as Kiwa. There are two species that have been described: Kiwa Hirsuta and Kiwa Puravida. These species were discovered in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Kiwa Hirsuta was discovered along the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge about 1500 kilometers south of Easter Islands by a group set up by Robert Vrijenhoek. Kiwa Puravida was discovered in 2006 and described in 2011. It was found in a deep sea bottom off the coast of Costa Rica by Andrew Thurber, Kareen Schnabel and William J. Jones. For more details about this animal click here. This contains information about Kiwa Hirsuta.

The Boki Mekot Rat
An illustration of the new spiny rat species. Illustration courtesy Jon Fjeldsaa

The Boki Mekot rat (Halmaheramys bokimekot) is a species of rat that was discovered in the mountain forests of Halmahera, Indonesia. It is the newest member of the rodent family and was discovered by a group of researchers lead by Pierre-Henri Fabre. This rat has spiny brown fur and a stubby, white tipped tail. It was discovered in 2013 and also involved Kristofer Helgen, who had discovered the olinguito.

The Cambodian Tailor Bird

The Cambodian tailorbird (Orthotomus chaktomuk) is a species of bird first discovered in the busy city of Phnom Pehn, Cambodia. Despite living among the 1.5 million residents of this city, it was discovered only on 25th June, 2013. This bird has a black feathered throat and gray or olive colored wings. It has an unmistakable red or orange cap. It is found in the lowland scrubs of the city and is abundant in construction sites. It was not thought to be a new species until scientific analysis proved it to be distinct.

A. stebbinsi

A.stebbinsi is a species of legless lizard that was discovered at the end of the airport runway of the Los Angeles International Airport. They were named after the famous herpetologist Robert C.Stebbins. They are yellow bellied legless lizards. They are found towards the west of the aiport. They were discovered in the year 2013.

Louisiana Pancake Batfish

The Louisiana Pancake batfish (Halieutichthys intermedius) is a species of fish discovered in the year 2010 under the Deepwater Horizon oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico. This fish is disc shaped and has fin like structures which helps it 'walk' along the ocean floor. This 'walking' resembles the walk of a bat and hence is known as a batfish. The population of this fish is not known.

The Goliath Birdeater

The goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi) is a species of tarantula discovered in 2006 in Guyana. It is the largest spider by mass and the second largest by leg span. They eat invertebrates and are also known to eat rodents, lizards and venomous snakes. A Victorian researcher has claimed to see this spider consuming a hummingbird. These spiders are harmless to human and their venom only causes mild swelling. 

Source of pic 1, pic 2, pic 3, pic 4, pic 5, pic 6, pic 7

Komodo Dragon

The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is a species of lizard found on few Indonesian islands.  They are rated as 'Vulnerable' by the IUCN.

Physical Features
The komodo dragon is known for being the largest lizard alive.  They weigh an average of 70 kilograms.  Females are smaller and weigh about 65-75 kilograms while males can weigh anywhere between 80 kilograms to 100 kilograms.  The largest specimen was about 10.3 feet and weighed a massive 166 kilograms(including undigested food).  The komodo dragon has very sharp teeth.  Their tails are very strong and they have sharp claws which they use for digging.  They are stockily built. The color of their body can be brown to grayish-red.  Juveniles are green with black and yellow bands.  These colors fade away as they mature.  They have thick skin with rough scales.  Ear openings are visible.  Its skin has small bones known as osteoderms.  Their saliva is ideal for the development of bacteria, making it infectious.  They have a good sense of smell, detecting decaying remains of an animal about 5 miles away. They have a bad sense of hearing and can see within ranges of 980 feet.

Komodo dragons are diurnal (active during the day) due to their poor night vision although there are few cases of them being nocturnal.  Juveniles spend most of their time on trees.  They spend most of their time foraging for food.  They build burrows to retreat during nights or hot weathers.  Juveniles use their sharp claws and strong limbs to climb trees.  Komodo dragons are generally solitary except during breeding.  These lizards are quite aggressive.  They are good swimmers and can run at speeds of 18 km/hr.  Komodo dragons are mainly ambush predators.  Even if the prey escapes the lizard, it dies within sometime due to its infectious bite. Once it is dead, the komodo dragon picks up its scent and starts eating the animal.  It even consumes the bones of the animal. 

Komodo dragons are carnivores.  Adult komodo dragons eat large animals like water buffaloes, deer, wild pigs, goats and other reptiles.  Juveniles eat smaller animals like snakes, other lizards, insects and rodents.  There are chances of cannibalism.  This is why juveniles spend most of their time on trees.  Komodo dragons use their sharp claws as a weapon for killing prey.  In one meal, they consume half of their own body weight. Though they have teeth, they do not chew the food.  They tear off pieces of the meat and swallow them.

Distribution and Habitat
The range of the komodo dragon is restricted to the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Padar and Western Flores.  They prefer dry areas like savannas, arid forests, dry riverbeds and scrubby areas.

Life Cycle
The komodo dragon matures at an age of 5 years.  Males among each other for mates, using their tails as props.  After mating, females dig burrows and lay about 25-30 eggs (depending upon the size of the female).  The eggs hatch after 8-9 months.  The young can be a subject to cannibalism.  The maximum lifespan of these lizards are 40 years.

Conservation Status
The komodo dragon are rated as 'Vulnerable' by the IUCN.  The estimated population ranges from 3000 to 5000 individuals.  The main reasons for the decline of their population are volcanic activity, tourism, loss of prey due to poaching, loss of habitat, earthquakes and illegal hunting.  Now, they are a popular tourist attraction which is the main incentive for the increasing conservation of these animals.  

Monday, September 30, 2013

Most Endangered Animals

Many animals are endangered today but there are a few animals that are on the brink of extinction and without our awareness, will be wiped off the face of this planet.
Few such animals are:

                                                      The Ivory Billed Woodpecker
Artists depiction of an ivory billed woodpecker
The ivory billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) is one of the largest species of woodpecker. This is also considered to be one of the most rare bird. It is thought to be extinct though some people claim to have sighted it but there is no evidence. This bird inhabited most parts of North America. They prefer thick hardwood swamps and pine forests which were abundant before the American Civil War. Due to heavy poaching and logging, these birds were almost driven to extinction. They were thought to be extinct for a long time. In 2006, a group of researchers claim to have spotted 14 individuals in the Florida panhandle. But this information was not conclusive enough to declare that this species is still surviving.

The South China Tiger

The South China Tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis) is a subspecies of tiger that is found only in China. They are thought to be extinct in the wild but they exist in captivity. In the early 1950's, these animals were officially hunted as a pest. That time, their estimated population was 4000. In the next 30 years, about 3000 individuals were killed leaving only about 80-100 individuals in the wild. In 1979, the hunting of this animal was banned. In 1995, they considered the survival of this tiger a conservation priority. In 2002, they started a rewilding project. They started breeding them in South Africa as South Africa had the expertise, land and game to look after these tigers. This project was very successful as 14 cubs were born out of which 11 survived. They learnt how to hunt and live independently. The researchers are hoping that the second generation of tigers will be able to live without their interference. If this happens, they can be released back into the wild.

The Northern White Rhinoceros

The northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) is a subspecies of the white rhinoceros. This rhino is critically endangered or possibly extinct in the wild. This rhinoceros was once abundant throughout the eastern and central parts of Africa. In 1960, the population was estimated to be more than 2000 individuals. In 1984, the population was affected due to poaching and the population declined to 15 individuals. All the 15 individuals were present in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 1993, the population rose to 30 individuals. Now only four of these rhinos are found in wild (Garamba National Park). These four individuals have not been spotted in recent years and may have been killed. If so, these animals would be extinct in wild apart from the efforts of Ol Pejeta Conservancy to introduce these animals back to the wild. In 2009, two Russian pilots claim that they spotted a few northern white rhinos in southern Sudan. A few individuals are present in zoos and sanctuaries around the world.

The Northern Sportive Lemur

The northern sportive lemur (Lepilemur septentrionalis) is one of the most rarest species of primate. This small lemur, the smallest of its family (lepilemur) is restricted to the northern tip of the island Madagascar. The estimated number is said to be below 100 individuals with none in wild. These lemurs are nocturnal. They are affected by deforestation due to charcoal production and hunting. The northern sportive lemurs inhabit dry, deciduous forests. In the early 21st century, there were a few thousands of these individuals and was rated as Vulnerable by the IUCN. Now, they are rated as 'Critically Endangered' by the IUCN.

Source of pic 1, pic 2, pic 3, pic 4

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Giant River Otter

The giant river otter (Pteronura brasilienssis), also known as the South American otter, is a species of otter found only in South America. It is rated as 'Endangered' by the IUCN.

Physical Features
The giant river otter is the longest member of the weasel family (Mustelidae).  Their body length ranges from 5 feet to 6 feet.  They can weigh about 25 kg to 34 kg making them one of the largest of the weasel family, second only to the sea otter.  Females are smaller than males.  They swim with the help of their strong tail and flexible bodies.  Giant river otters can close their ears and nostrils when underwater.  Their water repellent fur keeps them warm and dry while their webbed feet help them to swim.  They have brown and glossy fur which appears to be black when wet.  These otters can have a white or creamy throat and nose.

Giant river otter feeding
The main constituent element of a giant river otter's diet is fish.  These otters eat about three to four kilograms of food each day.  They either hunt alone or in groups.  Giant river otters even eat crustaceans, snakes and other river creatures.  When they hunt in groups, they have to make sure that sufficient amount of prey is caught in order to meet the requirements of each individual.

Distribution and Habitat
The giant river otter used to be distributed over most of tropical South America till the south of Argentina, but now is restricted to some rivers and creeks of Rio de la Plata, Amazon and Orinoco river systems.  They may even live in swamps, especially in forested areas.

The giant river otter lives in family groups mostly in the water.  They are very vocal animals, making either whistling noises or barks.  They are diurnal

Females come ashore to give birth.  They retreat into dens and have litters of 1 to 5 young ones each year after a gestation period of 65 to 70 days.  The young ones live in the den for a month or so and grow very fast.  Within nine to ten months, it is not easy to differentiate between the mother and the child.  These otters mature at the age of 2 years and live for more than 14 years in captivity.  Their life expectancy in wild is almost the same.

Conservation Status
The giant river otter once was widespread throughout the tropical freshwater areas of South America but now has decreased greatly.  There are only a few thousand of these river otters remaining in wild.  They are the rarest species of otter.  Their numbers have decreased due to hunting and destruction of habitat.

Pic 1 was taken by my sister
Source of pic 2

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Squirrel Monkey

The squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus) is a species of New World monkey found in South America.  It is a lesser primate.

Physical Features
The squirrel monkey is very small, growing about 12 inches to 15 inches (29 cm to 38 cm) excluding the tail ( about 42 cm).  It weighs about 550 g to 1300 g.  They have golden or orange hands and olive green fur.  Their face is white colour while their muzzle is black.  Squirrel monkeys have white ears and throats while their mouth is black.

Distribution and Habitat
The squirrel monkey lives in the tropical forests of South America.  They sometimes live on elevations of 6500 feet (2000 m).

Squirrel monkeys are diunrnal, they are active during mornings.  They are not solitary; they travel in groups of about 30 to 40 individuals.  Squirrel monkeys make chirping, squeaking or purring noises.

Life Cycle and Diet
Squirrel monkeys reproduce about 1 young every year after a 170 day gestation period.  A squirrel monkey may live for 30 years in captivity.  Females mature at the age of 3 years while males mature at the age of 5 years.  They mainly feed on fruits, nuts and insects.  

Squirrel monkeys are very abundant and are found in large numbers.  They were previously threatened by pet trade but are now protected.  They may be threatened by habitat destruction in the near future.

This pic was taken by my sister.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Coast Horned Lizard

The coast horned lizard ( Phrynosoma coronatum) is a species of horned lizard found in the eastern part of North America. 

Physical Features
The coast horned lizard measures up to 10 cm ( 4 inches) excluding its tail, making it relatively larger than some of the other horned lizards.  These lizards have a flat, oval shaped body that has sharp spines around the edges.  These lizards are less rounded than other horned lizards.  Spiny scales are also present over its back.  The skin of these lizards appear to be rough but are actually smooth in most of the places.  The coast horned lizard has a crown of horns or a coronet on its head.  The central two spines, referred to as the horns, are the longest.  The color of a coast horned lizard can vary from yellow to beige which helps it to camouflage with the surrounding.

Distribution and Habitat
The coast horned lizard is found in the western parts of North America.  They have a very small range.  They are found in Baja California and California's Scaramento Valley.  The coast horned lizard can be found in forest clearings and scrub land.

The coast horned lizard mainly feeds on small insects and other invertebrates.  The main constituents of their diet are ants.

The coast horned lizard is diurnal; they are active during the morningThey spend all their time on land.

The coast horned lizard is common but can be easily overlooked.

Source of pic 1  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Red Fan Parrot

 The red fan parrot (Deroptyus accipitrinus) is a species of New World parrot found in South America (the term New World is given to animals which are located in the Americas).  This parrot is rated as 'Least Concern' by the IUCN.

Physical Features
The ruffed feathers of a red fan parrot
The red fan parrot is known for its dark red feathers which is located around its head.  These feathers have a lining blue on the edges.  The red fan parrot is 14 inches (35 cm) long including the tail.  It weighs only about 225g.  Both males and female have similar plumage.  This parrot is also known as the hawk headed parrot as it resembles a hawk when perched on a tree.  This resemblance is due to its eyes.  When the red fan parrot is alarmed or excited, it raises its feathers to display its magnificent fan.  Adults have yellow eyes and a gray beak as well as gray legs.  Juveniles have brown eyes and a lighter colored beak.

Distribution and Habitat
This bird is found in the northern part of South America.  Most of the population is found in the Amazonian Rainforest.  It is specifically found in Guiana and Brazil.  It lives in rainforests, grasslands and woodlands.

The red fan parrot feeds on the fruits found in the canopy of a rainforest.

The red fan parrot reveals its beautiful feathers when it is alarmed.  It is seen in pairs or groups which rarely exceed 20 individuals.  This parrot is often seen swaying side to side and while making a whining noise. 

The red fan parrot normally breeds in December or January.  After mating, they occupy abandoned nests.  The eggs require an incubation period of  25 days.  The males protect the females during incubation.  The females lay about 3 eggs every year.  The average life expectancy of a red fan parrot is 40 years. 

The population of this parrot is decreasing due to trading purposes.  It is kept as a pet by many people.  It is not yet threatened but will soon be threatened if it is not conserved. 

Source of pic 1 and pic 2