May 23

The 23rd of May is World Turtle Day – a whole 24 hours dedicated to highlighting the plight of the 300 or more turtle species around the world. Here at ARKive we thought we would celebrate by sharing our top turtle facts.

Did you know…

  • Turtles are found on every continent, except for Antarctica
  • The age of most juvenile turtles can be determined by the upper shell, which grows each year from a central point
  • Turtles are thought to have lived on earth for over 200 million years
  • The sex of most turtle hatchlings is dependent on the temperature which they are incubated at, with males hatching at low temperatures and females hatching when the temperature is higher

Lovely loggerheads

Loggerhead turtle image

Loggerhead turtles are regularly caught as bycatch along their migration routes

  • The loggerhead turtle has powerful jaws that can make easy work of its hard-shelled prey.
  • It is highly migratory and is known to cross oceans.

Not a jack in a box

Ornate box turtle hatchling image

Ornate box turtles are popular pets in in Europe and the United States

  • Box turtles gain their common name from their hinged shell which enables them to completely close their shell to protect themselves.
  • The male ornate box turtle has enlarged claws on its hindfeet to grip onto the female while mating.

Vast vertebrate

Leatherback turtle image

The greatest threat to the leatherback turtle is thought to be the effects of climate change

  • The leatherback turtle is the world’s largest turtle, with the average carapace (the shell covering the back) reaching around 160 centimetres and the largest recorded individual weighing up to 916 kilograms.
  • Uniquely, the leatherback turtle is able to maintain an elevated body temperature, giving it the ability to dive to depths of up to 1,000 metres in pursuit of prey.

Snappy by name, snappy by nature

Alligator snapping turtle image

The alligator snapping turtle is used as an ingredient in the delicacy 'turtle soup'

  • The alligator snapping turtle is nicknamed the ‘dinosaur of the turtle world’ due to its prehistoric, alligator-like appearance, from which it gains its common name.
  • The tongue of the alligator snapping turtle has a small, worm-like projection, which is wiggled to attract prey.

What is being done to help?

  • Shrimp fisheries are now using Turtle Excluder Devices, which only allow shrimp-sized objects to enter the nets, preventing turtles from being caught as bycatch.
  • Many species are now listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that international trade is strictly monitored and controlled. This should hopefully prevent some collection of wild turtles for the international pet trade.
  • Some nesting sites are protected during the nesting season to ensure that eggs cannot be collected and subsequently sold.
  • The protection of areas which are known to support turtle populations, as well as captive breeding programmes, could ensure the long term survival of these magnificent and fascinating reptiles.
  • Global warming poses a major threat, as populations have begun to show skewed sex ratios, with higher temperatures meaning more females than males. Although global warming is unlikely to be reversed, reducing greenhouse gas emissions may limit some damage.

Find out more about World Turtle Day American Tortoise Rescue website and for more information on reptile conservation see the International Reptile Conservation Foundation.

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Species Text Author Intern

May 22

On May 22nd 2012, countries from around the world will celebrate International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB), an annual event aimed at increasing our understanding and awareness of the world’s biodiversity.

A Marine Theme

This year’s theme – ‘Marine Biodiversity’ – provides a fantastic opportunity to raise global awareness of the many issues facing the world’s marine ecosystems, and to encourage practical action to protect and conserve them.

From tropical oceans and coral reefs, to deep-sea vents and the ice-strewn waters of the Arctic and Antarctic, marine ecosystems are hugely diverse. Current estimates of the total number of known marine species range from 250,000 to at least a million, with some scientists believing that the actual figure could be twice as high.

With life in the oceans so incredibly diverse, picking out even a handful of our favourite marine images poses a tough challenge, but we’ve dipped into our ocean imagery to share some of our biggest catches…

Whale shark

Photo of whale shark filter feeding surrounded by other smaller fish

The whale shark is the world’s largest fish, growing up to a staggering 12 metres long and weighing around 12,500 kilograms. Despite their huge size, whale sharks feed almost entirely by filter-feeding on plankton and small fish.

Loggerhead turtle

Photo of loggerhead turtle swimming with a shoal of pilot fish

One of the most widespread of all the marine turtles, the loggerhead turtle is also the most highly migratory, with some individuals having been known to cross the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.


Photo of nautilus swimming

Nautiluses are often considered “living fossils”, having survived relatively unchanged for millions of years. They are found only in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, where they inhabit the deep slopes of coral reefs.

Blue rice coral

Blue rice coral in shallow reef

The blue rice coral is endemic to Hawaii. Like many other reef-building corals, the blue rice coral is threatened by factors such as bleaching caused by rising sea temperatures, as well as by disease, destructive fishing methods and invasive species.

Sea Otter

Photo of Alaskan sea otter pup eating shellfish

The smallest marine mammal in the world, the adorable sea otter relies on its fur to keep warm in the water. The sea otter’s coat is the densest of any mammal, consisting of around 100,000 hairs per cm²!

Find out more about the International Day for Biodiversity and discover what’s being done to celebrate IDB 2012 in your country.

Explore more marine species on ARKive.

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author

May 21

Here at ARKive, we love a conservation success story, and we were delighted when ARKive media donor Dr. Milada Řeháková-Petrů got in touch to share with us the latest news on the Tarsius Project – a research and conservation organisation centred around the Philippine tarsier.

For those of you unfamiliar with this extraordinary looking animal, the Philippine tarsier is a nocturnal primate endemic to the Philippines. It is perhaps most notable for its enormous eyes (tarsiers have the biggest eyes relative to their body weight of any mammal), and its ability to rotate its head nearly 360°. Philippine tarsiers are agile acrobats of the forest, making vertical leaps from tree to tree with ease, spending their days sleeping amongst dense vegetation and setting out to hunt for their insect prey as the sun goes down.

Philippine tarsier photo

Sadly, as a result of its cute, pixie like appearance, Milada explained that the Philippine tarsier is a common victim of the illegal pet trade, and that it is also often kept as a tourist attraction in very poor conditions. After conducting a survey of all the captive tarsier facilities on the main tourist route on Bohol Island, Milada tells us that the results were shocking. Kept in cramped conditions, many of the tarsiers were sick and dying, and being a nocturnal creature on display during the day, all were permanently stressed.

Philippine tarsier photo

Even more worryingly, when the captive tarsiers died, their numbers were being replenished by individuals captured from the wild, and the growing demand saw tarsiers slowly disappearing from neighbouring forests. Fortunately Milada and her team were able to document what was occurring, and highlighted the tarsier’s plight by presenting their results to the Minister of the Environment Ramon Paje, the Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Demetrio Ignacio,Bohol governor Edgar Chatto, DENR officials and other authorities.

Milada Řeháková

Fortunately, the authorities recognized the seriousness of the whole situation and it was decided that all the tarsiers from the facilities along the main tourist road would be transferred to more suitable conditions. Recently, a new naturally planted enclosure was opened in Loboc to provide the tarsiers with more space, and a less stressful environment. Most importantly, this step will hopefully decrease the demand for tarsiers poached from the wild.

Philippine tarsier photo

You can find information about the Tarsius Project and the work that Milada and her team do by checking out the Tarsius Project website, and the recent video documentary they have created.

Make sure to take a look at ARKive’s Philippine tarsier photos and videos too, many kindly provided by Milada and the Tarsius Project.

Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher

May 20

After a week of online celebrations, we are thrilled to announce that our 9th birthday is finally here! ARKive would like to say a huge thank you to all of our fans and followers who have been sharing our wild number 9 facts on Twitter this week, helping us unwrap our presents on Facebook and generally spreading the birthday cheer!

ARKive's gifts

While it has been an exciting week here in the office, our real highlight has been reading all the lovely birthday messages you sent us, and as promised, here are some of our favourites:


 erikanoelia7: i learn sth new everyday with @ARKive! info is concise, yet thrilling and engaging. pics are simply delightful. cheers guys! #HBARKive :)♥



ThatBlokeMyk: @ARKive Happy Birthday, here’s the best birthday caique available for you…



saunieindiego: Happy 9th Birthday to @ARKive. Thanks for bringing so many plants and animals into my life every day.#wildlife #endangered #photography



MrsAltham: Happy 9th birthday #Arkive! We’re hoping your party is a black tie affair.


Emperor penguin photo


We would also like to say a special thank you to Crest Star for our birthday card!


crest_star: Happy 9th Birthday @ARKive – so glad you are in our world!


ARKive Birthday Card

We hope you have enjoyed the celebrations as much as we have. If you have a birthday message for ARKive please post it using the comment form below, we would love to hear from you!

The ARKive Team

May 18

Endangered Species Day, which was started by the United States Senate, is a chance to raise awareness about the plight of the thousands of animals and plants around the world threatened with extinction. People across the USA are taking part in events to support the day and promote conservation. However, it shouldn’t stop there, wherever you are in the world you can do your bit to support this day too.

In honour of this day, the ARKive team have had a good dig around in the collection to showcase some of the slightly less famous, but no less important, endangered species from the USA.

Soaking up the rays

Photo of the Alabama red-bellied turtle

The striking Alabama red-bellied turtle is endemic to the states of Alabama and Mississippi and is now listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. You might often spot this critter basking in sunshine on fallen logs. Sadly, one of the main threats to this species is the destruction to nesting habitats and the collection of eggs by humans as a food source.

Clever little beetle

American burying beetle photo

The vibrant American burying beetle is currently Critically Endangered and is the largest carrion beetle in North America. At night, beetle pairs will locate a suitable carcass and then cooperate to bury it in the soil, thus protecting their find from competition with other species. One of the major causes of this species’ decline is the fragmentation of available habitat, a global threat to many species.

Curious creatures

Photo of a group of black-footed ferrets at burrow

Once classified as Extinct in the Wild, the black-footed ferret is one of the world’s rarest mammals and the only ferret native to North America. Today, following concerted conservation efforts, reintroduced black-footed ferret populations exist in eight western states and Chihuahua. While this is a fantastic conservation success story, wild ferret populations remain small, and conservation will need to continue if this species’ future is to be secured.

Happy chappy

Photo of a California tiger salamander

Due to the low numbers of this species in the wild and its nocturnal habits, the California tiger salamander is a rarely seen amphibian. This species prefers to spend most of its life underground, often in the burrows of California ground squirrels. With its range now reduced to less than 50 percent of its original historical extent, conservation action is necessary to ensure the future of this Vulnerable species.

Tallest on Earth

Coast redwood photo

Coast redwood forests once stretched along the coast from Santa Cruz to Oregon in the USA. Around 90 to 95 percent of old growth forest has since been logged due to its extensive use in construction, and the remainder is now almost entirely in parks and reserves. This Vulnerable species is one of tallest trees on Earth, reaching up to 379 feet (115.5 m) in height.

Colourful desert-dweller

Photo of gila monster bathing in sun

The Near Threatened Gila monster is the largest lizard in the United States, and one of the few species of venomous lizard in the world. With their venomous bite and elusive nature, these lizards have inspired many myths over the centuries. However, much of the bushland of the Gila monster’s habitat has been cleared for agriculture and remaining populations are isolated in habitat fragments.

Critically Endangered crayfish

Delaware County Cave crayfish photo

The Delaware County cave crayfish is known from just three caves which occur in a very small area of Delaware County, within the Neosho River watershed. Its biggest threat is the disposal of untreated animal wastes from surrounding hog farms and poultry houses which are seeping into the groundwater. Measures have been put in place in an attempt to reduce the impact of groundwater pollution, however nothing has been done to improve the water quality of the Neshos river. More conservation work needs to be done in order to save this species from extinction.

Aquatic predator

Giant garter snake photo

The giant garter snake lives a highly aquatic lifestyle, rarely being found away from water, where it is an active hunter, foraging mainly for fish and amphibians. Unfortunately this species has been lost from much of its former range as a result of the loss, fragmentation and degradation of its wetland habitats. The total population of the giant garter snake is currently unknown, but its declining range makes the species increasingly vulnerable to extinction.

Butter wouldn’t melt

Giant kangaroo rat photo

This adorable giant kangaroo rat is endemic to the San Joaquin Valley in California. Population numbers have plummeted during the 20th Century, mainly as a result of habitat loss as desert areas were converted to agriculture. Luckily, a Recovery Plan has been developed in an effort to secure the future survival of this species, and populations are protected within the Carrizo Plan Natural Heritage Reserve.

From another time

Alligator snapping turtle photo

One of the largest freshwater turtles in the world, the alligator snapping turtle is a prehistoric-looking species with a reputation as the ‘dinosaur of the turtle world’. It is another endemic species to the USA and there has been a major decline in numbers as a result of over-collection by a major soup manufacturing company and over-harvesting for their meat in many states.

Get involved

These are just a few examples of the endangered species on our planet. If you can spread the word and show your support through facebook or twitter or just speak to your friends about it – every little bit helps to raise awareness. If you are in the USA, take a look at the Stop Extinction website to get more ideas of what you can do and what events are running near you.

Rebecca Sennett, ARKive Media Researcher


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