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.