Saturday, September 6, 2014

Gaboon Viper

The gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica) is a species of viper found in Africa.  It is renowned for its long fangs.  It is quite common in its range.

Physical Features
The gaboon viper is the world's largest viperid, weighing about 8 kilograms.  It has the longest fangs of any snake, which can measure up to 5 cm.  It is the longest African viper, ranging from lengths of 1 to 2 meters(3 to 6.6 feet).  The gaboon viper has a flat, triangular head with two small, hornlike structures on its snout.  It has a stout body with distinguishing geometric shapes like triangles, diamonds and rectangles.  It has brownish skin with buffs of purple and pink.  Its head is thick due to the large venom glands present behind its eyes.  Its coloration allows it to blend with dried leaves which helps it ambush its prey.

The diet of a gaboon viper mainly consists of small mammals and birds.  It can even consume full grown rabbits, porcupines and monkeys.  There are even reports of it eating royal antelopes. 

Habitat and Distribution
The gaboon viper lives in tropical forests and open woodlands.  It lives on the forest floor where it camouflages among the leaf litters.  The gaboon viper is only present in Africa.  It is mainly in central, eastern and south eastern Africa with few isolated population in western Africa.  Some countries in its range are Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, Guinea, Mozambique, Ghana and Zimbabwe.

Behavior and Venom
The fangs of a gaboon viper.
Gaboon vipers are considered to be very sluggish and slow moving but they strike with alarming speed.  It ambushes its prey by camouflaging with the surrounding.  It is a very tolerant snake and only bites when severely provoked.  When threatened, it gives a low, deep hiss.  Their venom is not very toxic but it is delivered in large amounts; the most by any snake.  It stores large amounts of venom in glands behind its eyes.  Gaboon vipers rarely display anger even when handled.  They are nocturnal and live on forest floors.

Life Cycle
Gaboon vipers are ovoviviparous (when the embryo develops in an egg and hatches inside the female itself) and give birth to litters of 60 young every 2 to 3 years.  They have gestation periods of 3 to 4 months.

Conservation Status
Gaboon vipers are very common in their range.   

Source of pic 1, pic 2       

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is perhaps one of the most popular of the marsupials other than the kangaroo.  It is endemic to Australia.  It is rated as 'Near Threatened' by the IUCN and was previously hunted in large numbers for its fur.

Physical Features
The koala is a small marsupial that measures about 2 to 3 feet in length.  They have a very small tail that measures about 2 cm.  Males are larger than females.  Their weight ranges from 5 kg to 15 kg.  The koala is stockily built with teddy bear like features with woolly grayish brown fur and fluffy ears.  The fur on the ventral side is paler.  Koalas have one of the most insulating fur (dorsal side) of any marsupial while the ventral fur reflects solar radiation.  Males have more curved noses than females.  Koalas have short, powerful limbs with sharp claws that enable it to climb and cling on to eucalyptus trees on which it spends most of its life.  Koalas in the southern regions are found to be 50% larger than those in the north.  Koalas have the smallest brain in proportion to body weight of any animal.
A koala feeding.

Koalas are herbivorous.  The main constituent of their diet is eucalyptus leaves.  They may be found eating leaves from Acacia and Leptospermum.  They eat for about 4 hours in the night eating and may eat about 500 grams of leaves.  They eat leaves from about 30 species of eucalyptus trees out of the 600 species present.  They show more preference toward eucalyptus leaves with higher protein and lignin (polymer that is present in cell walls of plant cells).  They may descend to the ground for eating soil and gravel that helps in digestion.  The droppings of the mother is one of the first solid food eaten by young koalas as it carries disease fighting microbes.

Distribution and Habitat
Koalas are found in eastern Australia and inhabit eucalyptus forests.  They spend most of their time on eucalyptus trees.

A koala sleeping
After a gestation period of 25 to 35 days, a single young is born during summer.  Twins are occasionally born.  They are suckled for 6 months in the mother's pouch.  After that period, they cling onto the mother's back.  

Koalas are considered as one of the most laziest animals.  They are nocturnal and spend 4 hours in the night for feeding.  For the remaining 20 hours, they sleep.  They are arboreal and occasionally come to the ground either for eating soil or for crossing open spaces.  They normally lead a solitary life.

Conservation Status
The koalas are rated as 'Near Threatened' by the IUCN.  Koalas have few natural predators other than large birds of prey.  Sometimes, while crossing land, feral dogs attack and kill it.  A bacteria known as Chlamydia has caused a disease that affects koalas.  In the early 20th century, koalas were extensively killed for their fur.  Koalas are also affected by habitat destruction.  Now their numbers are slowly increasing due to the efforts of conservationists.  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Transparent Animals

It is a little hard to believe that their are some animals in this world which are transparent. This transparency is caused either by the lack of pigmentation in a particular part of the body.  Here is a list of some of them:

Barreleye Fish

The barreleye fish (Macropinna microstoma) is a fish from the barreleye family.  Found at depths of about 700 meters, it is known for its transparent head.  It was first found in 1939 but the transparent head was not known as when it comes out of water, the head loses its transparency.  Its head is filled with a transparent liquid.  The two dots above the nose is often mistaken for eyes.  It is actually its nose.  The two spherical structures in the head is the eyes. The eyes are capable of rotating 360˚. It was first photographed with the transparent head in 2004.

Glass Frog

Glass frogs form the family Centrolenidae.  They are found in the Amazon rainforests.  Most of their body is green, except for the ventral part which is translucent, allowing you the see the heart, liver and the gastrointestinal tract.  They can reach lengths of 7 cm and are known to eat their own young.  Some species of frogs from this family have such a delicate skin that they can get killed even if a raindrop fall on their body from the sky.

Crocodile Icefish

Crocodile icefish (also known as white blooded fish) form the family of Channichthyidae, a family of perciform fish.  They are found in the Antarctic ocean.  They are transparent due to their blood which lacks the red pigment known as hemoglobin.  Hemoglobin is used to transport oxygen through the blood.  It is one of the only known vertebrates which lack hemoglobin.  It lives in waters which are about -1.9°C, which is the freezing point of seawater.  Due to the higher concentration of oxygen in such cold waters, it is able to survive.

Golden Tortoise Beetle

The golden tortoise beetle (Charidotella sexpunctata) is a species of beetle.  Its color ranges from gold to orange, earning it a name of 'goldbug'.  Its external margins are transparent due to the lack of pigmentation.  It changes color seasonally and also changes color when threatened.

Blue-bellied night wanderer

The blue bellied night wanderer (Cyanogaster noctivaga) is a species of fish found in the Amazon river.  It is known for its bright blue belly.  Most of its body is transparent, revealing its vertebral column.  It was discovered in 2011.  It immediately dies and loses its color after being removed from the water, making it difficult to examine.  It is mostly active in the night.

Glass Squid

The glass squids form the family Cranchiidae.  Their bodies are transparent.  Juveniles live in shallow waters as their transparency camouflages them when light passes through.  Adults descend to deeper waters and can be found at depths of 2 km below sea level.

Many jellyfish are also transparent like the moon jelly.

Source of pic 1, pic 2, pic 3, pic 5, pic 6.
Picture 4 was taken by Nita, a follower of this blog.