Feb 29
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Guest Blog: Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project

The real purpose of a leap year may be to keep the calendar aligned with the seasons, but at the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project, we’d like to believe the day is designed to honor our favorite leapers. To celebrate, we’ve put together some fun facts about frog leaping.

Silverstoneia flotator, leaping

Silverstoneia flotator, leaping

  • Male frogs of the genus Pipa are known to defend their territory by jumping at and then wrestling other males.
  • The New Guineabush frog (Asterophrys turpicola) takes jump attacks one step further: before it jumps at a strange frog, it inflates itself and shows off its blue tongue.
  • Stumpffia tridactyla are normally slow-moving critters, but when they’re startled they can abruptly jump up to 8 inches. That doesn’t sound very far, but these little guys are less than half an inch long!
  • The Fujitree frog (Platymantis vitiensis) may be the leaping stuntman of the frog world. Each time it leaps, it twists in the air – sometimes even 180 degrees – to throw predators off its trail.
Desert rain frog image

Desert rain frog walking

  • The Larut torrent frog (Amolops larutensis) gets its name from a nifty leaping trick: it can jump into a fast-moving stream and back to its usual perch, the underside of a rock, without being affected by the current.
  • The parachuting red-eyed leaf frog (Agalychnis saltator) gets its name from its habit of racing to its mating grounds by jumping from trees with finger-and toe-webbing spread wide.
  • The record for the longest jump by an American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) recorded in a scientific paper is a little over 1.2 metres. But scientists who went to the Calaveras County Fair, which Mark Twain’s short story made famous for frog jumping, found that more than half the competitors bested that record – and one jumped more than 2.1 metres in one leap!
  • The Guinness Book of World Records doesn’t include any frogs for their leaping ability. But it does track human performance in frog jumping (jumping while holding one’s toes). There are records listed for the longest frog jump and the fastest frog jumping over 10 and 100 meters.

 

In honor of leap day celebrations being coordinated globally by Amphibian Ark, the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project made this video for a frog song written by Alex Culbreth.

 

 

Meghan Bartels, Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project

Feb 29
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ARKive’s Top Ten Leap Year Leapers

Today only comes around once every four years, so I hope that you are making the most of this leap day! To celebrate the leap year, we have sprung into action and hopped around the ARKive collection to find ARKive’s Top Ten Leapers!

California jumping gall wasp  (Neuroterus saltatorius)

The California jumping gall wasp may look like an unpromising contender for the top ten leaping list, however these tiny galls will jump for three days – as shown in this video. The tiny wasp larvae inside the gall flip themselves, although exactly why is not known.

California jumping gall wasp image

Lesser florican  (Sypheotides indicus)

The male lesser florican can leap up to two metres into the air in order to attract females. Helped by an energetic flurry of wing beats, this species may repeat this seductive aerial routine up to 500 times a day!

Male lesser florican display jumping during breeding season

Eastern grey kangaroo  (Macropus giganteus)

Perhaps the most famous of leapers, we couldn’t possibly have left the kangaroo off this top ten list. The eastern grey kangaroo is able to travel at great speeds, using its powerful, enlarged hindquarters for leaping, aided by the long tail, which acts as a balance and rudder.

Male eastern grey kangaroo jumping image

Verreaux’s sifaka  (Propithecus verreauxi)

Verreaux’s sifaka is aptly designed for leaping between tree trunks. When crossing open spaces, this species will descend to the ground and bound along on its hind legs with its arms held out rather like a graceful dancer!

Verreaux's sifaka 'dancing' photo

Brown hare  (Lepus europaeus)

During its famous boxing matches, the ‘mad March hare’ can leap to pretty impressive heights. Boxing bouts between hares occur between an unreceptive female and an overenthusiastic male during the mating season.

Pair of brown hares boxing in spring image

Blackbuck  (Antilope cervicapra)

It can be quite hazardous being a blackbuck, as they are preyed upon a number of species such as wolves and leopards. Luckily, this species has speed on its side and can leap extraordinarily high into the air on seeing a potential predator, before galloping away at up to 80 kilometres an hour.

Female blackbuck leaping image

Common tree frog  (Hyla arborea)

The common tree frog has mastered the ability to eat fast food. It can make long leaps in order to catch fast flying insects, as demonstrated in this multiflash sequence image.

Common tree frog, multiflash jumping sequence

Common field grasshopper  (Chorthippus brunneus)

Ever tried to catch a grasshopper? It’s quite difficult! Grasshoppers, like this common field grasshopper, have a special muscle system in the hind legs which store energy like a catapult. When the grasshopper is disturbed it releases the energy allowing the grasshopper to jump long distances!

Female common field grasshopper image

Himalayan jumping spider  (Euophrys omnisuperstes)

As its name suggests, the Himalayan jumping spider lives high in the Himalayas, and with legs working like pistons it is able to jump up to 30 times its own body length.

Himalayan jumping spider, front view

Smoothtail devil ray  (Mobula thurstoni)

Exceptionally graceful swimmers, rays appear to fly through the water on their large wings. Rays, like the smoothtail devil ray, are also able to leap entirely out of the water, possibly in a form of communication or play.

Smoothtail devil ray leaping out of the water image

 

Lauren Pascoe, ARKive Media Researcher

Feb 28
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In the News: Call for massive Antarctic marine reserve

A coalition of international environmental organisations is launching a proposal for the world’s largest nature reserve in the seas around the Antarctic.

Photo of small icebergs in Esperanza Bay, Antarctica

The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) has called for the protection of 3.6 million square kilometres of ocean, which would include a large proportion of the Ross Sea and create a reserve comparable in size to Australia.

The reserve would be protected from fishing and development, and would form part of a network of 19 protected areas in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, helping to preserve the region’s unique wildlife.

Emperor penguin profile

Emperor penguin

Pristine environment

The oceans around Antarctica are some of the most pristine in the world, and are still relatively untouched by human activities. In particular, the Ross Sea remains the most intact marine ecosystem on the planet.

The waters around Antarctica are home to almost 10,000 species, many of them found nowhere else. The Ross Sea still retains large populations of all its top predators, and supports many of Antarctica’s most charismatic species, including emperor penguins, Antarctic minke whales, Weddell seals and Antarctic petrels.

However, Antarctica’s unique environment faces a range of threats, including overfishing and the effects of climate change.

Photo of a Weddell seal pup close up

Weddell seal pup

Broader approach needed

Both New Zealand and the United States have already proposed reserves for the Ross Sea. However, the AOA claim that a much larger protected area is needed.

The Ross Sea is one of the most amazing and relatively untouched marine environments on Earth,” said Chuck Fox of the AOA. “While there are two proposals on the table to protect some of it, our report shows that we need a much broader and ecosystems-focused approach if we are to ensure this environment remains healthy and stable.”

Photo of a large group of Antarctic krill swimming under ice

Antarctic krill, a vital component of the Antarctic marine food chain

The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which was established in 1982 to conserve the marine life of the Antarctic, has agreed to create a network of marine protected areas around Antarctica. However, the AOA say that public awareness and attention are needed during this process to help achieve more than just the minimum level of protection.

Now is the time to protect this amazing environment but we’ll need the global public involved to make that happen,” said AOA Campaign Director Steve Campbell.

Find out more about the proposed marine reserve at the Antarctic Ocean Alliance.

Read more about the Antarctic on ARKive’s Antarctic eco-region pages.

View photos and videos of species from the Antarctic on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

Feb 28
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Spotlight on: TED

We can all appreciate a good idea when we hear one. But what about those great ideas that really make a difference, that help make the world a better place? TED, a nonprofit founded in 1984, is devoted to spreading the word about great ideas. Every year TED grants a $100,000 prize to an individual with “One Wish to Save The World” and ARKive patrons E.O. Wilson and Dr. Sylvia Earle have both been recipients in the past.

The 2012 TED prize will be awarded at the end of this month, and what better time to share some of the greatest ideas that were inspired by nature and are helping to change the world, even if just a little bit.

Temp-savvy termites

Magnetic termite photo

Magnetic termite mounds

When those warmer months come around, it’s easy for us to turn on a fan or the air conditioner and escape the heat. However, some people have taken a cue from the termite and its method for staying cool in the hot African sun that doesn’t use energy at all. By opening and closing different vents in the mound, termites keep internal temperatures at a tolerable and constant 87°F. Designers of a residential building in Zimbabwe caught on to the termite’s bright idea and incorporated this vent system into their construction plan, saving 90% of the traditional energy costs of a building similar in size.

Tremendous trunk

African elephant photo

Africa elephant showing trunk

When you think of an elephant, one of the first things that comes to mind is undoubtedly its trunk. A handy adaptation, the African elephant uses its trunk and two prehensile finger-like lips to feed from the ground and trees, breaking off branches and picking leaves and fruit. Recognizing how helpful an elephant trunk can be, many robotic arms used in assembly line production and even medical equipment have been designed using the trunk for inspiration.

Breakneck beak

Kingfisher photo

Kingfisher showcasing its aerodynamic design

Looking at this picture of the kingfisher, it’s not hard to see how scientists used its sleek, aerodynamic design when conceptualising Japan’s ultrafast bullet train. Kingfishers have been reported to dive into water with barely a splash in search of fish. Borrowing from the bird’s design, the bullet train uses 20% less fuel than the traditional train.

Sleek shark

Great white shark photo

Great white shark breaching

You might notice swimmers wearing interesting ensembles at the upcoming Olympics in London this year. Athletes have increasingly been sporting swimsuits inspired by sharks and their skin. The specially designed suits reduce drag by up to 4% and feature a texture similar to small “teeth” that direct the flow of water around the swimmer.

We’ve explored some fascinating ideas, inspired by species, that have helped change the world. Do you know of any other great ideas inspired by nature? Why not share them in the comments below!

Liana Vitali, ARKive Science, Education and Outreach Officer, Wildscreen USA

Feb 28
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ARKive Geographic: India

Today marks the 26th anniversary of National Science Day in India. With lectures, debates and activities held across the country on all things science, it’s the perfect time to take a virtual trip to this species-rich country on the ARKive blog. Let’s see if you knew all these species were found in India!

Probing proboscis

Green sawfish photoGreen sawfish swimming

Check out the nose on this guy! Very few fish are as easily spotted as the green sawfish. With its 23-27 pairs of teeth, the sawfish ambushes its prey by sitting upon the ocean floor and swiping at slow-moving fish as they swim by.

Turtle titan

Batagur photo

Close up of a batagur

Keeping with the theme of critters with unusual noses, the batagur is one of Asia’s largest freshwater turtles. Sadly, nearly 90% of the population has been lost in the last century to egg harvesting and the demand for turtle meat. If you ever see turtle on the menu, give this species a helping hand and order something else.

Fast feline

Caracal photo

Caracal cub

Don’t let it fool you, the caracal may not be the biggest of cats, but it’s capable of taking down prey three times its size. Another interesting fact? The caracal is so efficient with water that it hardly ever needs to drink and obtains most of its fluids from its food.

Fancy fowl

Indian peafowl photo

Male Indian peafowl displaying impressive tail feathers

Did you know that the Indian peafowl, otherwise known as the peacock, is the national bird of India. Interestingly, peacocks are among the few bird species that do not migrate and tend to stay in the same location for life. Talk about a homebody!

Hefty heifer

Asian buffalo photo

Female Asian buffalo wallowing in muddy pool

You might recognize this face from photographs of India. The Asian buffalo is widely domesticated for use in farming but what you might not know is that it can weigh over a ton. Additionally, Asian buffalos have the longest gestation period of any other bovine species - lasting nearly a whole year!

Who knew that India was home to such diverse species? Do you have a favorite species from India that we haven’t featured? Better yet, have you been to India and seen one of these with your own eyes? We’d love to hear about it!

Liana Vitali, ARKive Science, Education and Outreach Officer, Wildscreen USA

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