Jun 16
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ARKive’s Top Ten Dads

All across the UK, USA and Canada today, families will be celebrating Father’s Day in honour of all those awesome dads out there. Fathers are fantastic folk for all sorts of reasons, so we thought we’d delve into the ARKive collection to find some extra-special dads of the wild variety.

1. Male pregnancy?!

Spiny seahorse image

We’ll start with a classic example of the unusual lengths some dads will go to for their young: the seahorse! Like other species of its kind, the male spiny seahorse is the one that becomes ‘pregnant’. It will carry the fertilised eggs in a pouch in its tail, and will actually go through labour at the end of the pregnancy, actively forcing the young out!

2. Looking after the ankle-biters…

Betic midwife toad image

All midwife toad species have a somewhat unusual parental care system, and this Betic midwife toad is no exception. The male straps clutches of fertilised eggs to its hind legs and carries them around for about a month, constantly ensuring that they are kept moist. When the eggs are ready to hatch, the male deposits them in a suitable area of water.

3. Housekeeping dad

Malleefowl image

A very attentive and industrious bird, the male malleefowl is in charge of digging a large nest, up to five metres wide and one metre deep. This is filled with twigs and leaves which eventually turn to compost. Even after the female has laid her eggs in the heat-producing nest, the male’s job is not over. The feathered father carefully covers the eggs up, and throughout the incubation period it uses its beak to test the temperature of the nest, either adding or removing nesting material in order to maintain a constant temperature of 34°C for its developing brood.

4. Fearsome father

Wolverine image

The largest member of the weasel family, the wolverine has a reputation for being an aggressive creature. Yet it turns out that males of this species actually make rather caring dads! A male wolverine mates with two or three females in a season, and it roams across hundreds of miles of terrain every month to visit its young. These fearsome fathers are also known to teach their older offspring how to fend for themselves in their rugged environment.

5. Honey, I swallowed the kids…

Spotfin betta image

Thankfully, this fishy father does not actually swallow its offspring, but it does incubate its eggs and brood the young in its mouth for several weeks! This parental tactic is known as mouthbrooding, and is thought to protect the eggs and young from predation as well as from potentially hazardous water currents. Nice work from the spotfin betta!

6. Dedicated dad

Bristle-thighed curlew image

After hatching, bristle-thighed curlew chicks are initially looked after by both parents. Yet even before the chicks have fledged, the female bristle-thighed curlew abandons her young, leaving the male to take care of them all alone. The dedicated dad aggressively defends its offspring either by performing distraction displays when a threat approaches or attacking potential predators.

7. Primate papa

Grey-legged night monkey image

Male parental care is relatively rare in mammals, yet this grey-legged night monkey is a particularly paternal primate. And a good job, too, given that the female will only accept contact with its offspring when the infant needs to suckle! If the attention-seeking youngster should try and climb on the female’s back, the latter will actively pull the infant off itself and even bite it if it tries to cling on! The male carries around its young, defends it, and is responsible for the infant’s upbringing, including teaching it how to survive in the wild (and possibly how to deal with its cranky mother!).

8. Caring clownfish

Common clownfish image

Whereas many parents only have to keep an eye on one or two youngsters at a time, which is tough in itself, the male clownfish has a much bigger task…it has to guard and protect anywhere between 100 and 1,000 eggs! Quite a feat! Luckily, although the male is in charge of defence, the female also plays a role in tending to the eggs, assisting the male in removing litter or dead eggs from the clutch.

9. Attentive avian

Southern cassowary image

The southern cassowary definitely deserves a Feathered Father of the Year Award; once the female has laid a clutch of eggs, the male is left to take sole responsibility for their care. This attentive avian incubates the eggs for about 50 days, and only leaves the nest in order to have a drink. Even after hatching, this dad’s dedication never falters, as the male southern cassowary continues to care for its offspring for up to 16 months.

10. Furry father

Red fox image

One might expect a sly male fox to slink away once its young have been born and avoid all responsibility for their upbringing, but this is not the case. This furry father is actually an extremely diligent dad, and heads out several times a day to hunt and bring back food to feed its entire family. Male foxes have also been observed playing with their offspring and showing them around their territory.

All of the dads above demonstrate a great deal of dedication to their youngsters, but which one do you think deserves to win ARKive’s Father of the Year Award? Let us know in a comment below!

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

Jun 15
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Endangered Species of the Week: Hector’s dolphin

Photo of Hector's dolphin pod

Hector’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori)

Species: Hector’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: Hector’s dolphin produces high-frequency clicks, but unlike many other dolphins it does not whistle.

Found only in New Zealand, Hector’s dolphin is one of the smallest and rarest of all marine dolphins. This species is generally light grey with darker stripes, and has a black tail, flippers and rounded dorsal fin. Females tend to be slightly larger than males. Hector’s dolphin usually occurs in small groups of up to ten individuals, but these may sometimes join together into larger aggregations. This small dolphin is found in shallow coastal waters where it feeds on fish and squid. It has one of the most restricted distributions of any cetacean, occurring mostly around the South Island of New Zealand, with a subspecies, Maui’s dolphin, found only off the west coast of the North Island.

The major threat to Hector’s dolphin comes from accidental capture in gillnets. Its coastal habitat also makes it vulnerable to other human impacts, including pollution, boat strikes and habitat modification. The South Island population of Hector’s dolphin numbers just over 7,000 individuals, but Maui’s dolphin is down to only around 55 adults, and is classified as Critically Endangered. The New Zealand government has created two protected areas for Hector’s dolphin, where the use of nets is restricted, and a management plan is in place which outlines measures to reduce the threats to this tiny cetacean.

 

Find out more about Hector’s dolphin at the New Zealand Department of Conservation, WWF New Zealand and the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust.

See images and videos of Hector’s dolphin on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Jun 15
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ARKive’s Top 10 Most Viewed Wildlife Photos

If you had to take a guess at how many wildlife photos are in the ARKive collection at this moment, what would you guess? 1000? 10,000? Actually, the ARKive collection has put a face to 15,500+ species from around the world with over 94,000 images!

Today is Nature Photography Day so we thought it was the perfect time to share the top 10 most viewed wildlife photos on ARKive starting with …

#10

Photo of green anaconda

This picture of a 12 foot long green anaconda has brought loads of visitors to ARKive. Since the species holds the title for largest snake in the world, we’re thinking that might have something to do with its popularity.

#9

Photo of bald eagle

We’re not surprised to see this national emblem of the United States in the top 10 rankings. An interesting fact about the species you may not know is that bald eagles are thought to be monogamous meaning they pair for life.

#8

Photo of giant panda

While the bald eagle is synonymous with the USA, the giant panda is certainly synonymous with China. Perhaps this picture is so popular because it depicts the species doing what it does best … eating loads of bamboo. How much does it eat exactly? Up to 18 kg or 40 lbs of bamboo a day!

#7

Photo of lion

We think we see a theme emerging here with some of the world’s largest species dominating the list! One of the largest big cats in the world, lions can take down prey many times bigger than themselves. This particular lion is using a termite mound as a prime vantage point for a future meal.

#6

Photo of tiger

Coming in a very close 2nd in our World’s Favorite Species campaign last month, the tiger is arguably one of the most popular cat species in the world and also the only cat with stripes. Their stripes are so unique that each tiger has its own set of stripes that identifies them much like a fingerprint!

#5

Photo of cheetah

Are you surprised to see yet another cat species on the list? We’re not! Cheetahs are always crowd favorites and an action shot like this gives a glimpse into how powerful this species can be.

#4

Photo of king cobra

The longest of the world’s snakes, the king cobra is also highly venomous and, instead of hissing when danger approaches, it will emit a low, distinctive growl. It’s encouraging that this picture is so popular since this snake is being rescued from a coffee plantation where it would have otherwise been destroyed by plantation workers.

#3

Photo of polar bear

The largest living land carnivore, the polar bear is one of the best known species in the world and another top species in our World’s Favorite Species campaign. When standing on its two rear legs, the males of the species would tower nearly any living human at up to 2.6 meters or 8.5 ft in height!

#2

Photo of orca

We’re finally diving into the ocean on this list with the most widespread mammal in the world (after humans), the orca. This shot of an orca surfacing shows off the signature dorsal, or top, fin of the species beautifully.

And now, for the most viewed wildlife image on ARKive …

#1

Photo of great white shark

This shot of the tremendous great white shark tops our list of most viewed wildlife images on ARKive. As such a fascinating species in so many ways, it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly makes this species so popular. Its powerful, stream-lined body, ability to sense electric fields with its snout, unique capability to give birth to live young and dominating status as the top predator of the marine food chain may all be factors in making this image the most popular.

What do you think? Would this picture be your #1 most-viewed choice? If you had to pick one favorite picture out of all 94,000 on ARKive, could you? Have a look through ARKive and share your favorites in the comments below!

Liana Vitali, ARKive Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

Jun 14
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ARKive’s Top Ten Seabirds

As their name suggests, seabirds are birds which live in a marine environment. They come in all shapes and sizes, but all show a range of adaptations to their ocean-going lifestyle.

To celebrate World Oceans Day, which took place on 8th June, we thought we would take a closer look at some of the fascinating birds which make the oceans their home.

Colourful clowns

Photo of puffin pair greeting

Like many seabirds, the colourful puffin spends most of its life at sea, only returning to land once a year to breed. This much-loved, rather comical bird only develops the distinctive colours on its beak during the breeding season. It typically nests in large colonies on offshore islands or on inaccessible cliffs with grass slopes, excavating a burrow into which it lays a single egg.

Masters of the air

Photo of male great frigatebird displaying

With the largest wing area to body mass ratio of any bird, the great frigatebird is wonderfully adapted to an aerial lifestyle, and is able to soar almost effortlessly above the ocean for long periods. This species lacks waterproof plumage and doesn’t spend time on water, instead taking food from just above or on the surface of the sea, or pirating it from other birds in the air. The male great frigatebird has a distinctive appearance, with a conspicuous red pouch on the throat which is inflated like a balloon during courtship.

Supreme opportunists

Photo of herring gull yawning whilst standing on cliff edge

The quintessential ‘seagull’, the herring gull is one of the most familiar seabirds in the northern hemisphere. Like many gulls, this species is a supreme opportunist and scavenger, able to take advantage of almost any available food source. While at sea, herring gulls quickly gather at areas of high food abundance, including around boats. This versatile species can also live inland, and even commonly nests on buildings in cities.

Dramatic divers

Photo of gannet preening partner

With a wingspan of nearly two metres, the gannet is the largest seabird in the North Atlantic. This species is known for its breathtaking dives, in which it plunges into the ocean, often from considerable heights, before catching its fish prey underwater. The gannet shows a number of adaptations that allow it to survive hitting the water at speed, including nostrils which open inside the mouth to prevent water entering them, and air sacs in the face and chest to cushion the impact.

Ocean wanderers

Photo of wandering albatross display

The wandering albatross has the largest recorded wingspan of any living bird, reaching a massive 3.5 metres across. These impressive wings allow it to glide effortlessly across the ocean, and the wandering albatross spends most of its life in flight, often travelling huge distances around the southern oceans. This long-lived species does not start breeding until it reaches 9 to 11 years old, and pairs mate for life.

Terrific tubenoses

Photo of European storm-petrel feeding

A tiny seabird barely larger than a sparrow, the European storm-petrel is superbly adapted to life at sea. Like other storm-petrels, it belongs to a group of seabirds known as ‘tubenoses’ due to their conspicuous, tubular nasal passages, which give them an excellent sense of smell and help them to find patchily distributed prey at sea. Its small, hooked beak enables it to grasp its slippery prey, while a gland in the nose is used to expel excess salt from drinking seawater. The European storm-petrel mainly hunts on the wing, dipping its beak into the water while pattering its feet along the surface.

Cliff-nesting auks

Photo of guillemots at nest on rocky ledge with egg

The guillemot is a member of the auk family, a group of seabirds which have been described as the northern hemisphere equivalent of penguins. Unlike penguins, these birds can fly, as well as being excellent swimmers and divers. The guillemot nests on cliff ledges, and its eggs are conical in shape to prevent them rolling off. When the young guillemot leaves the nest it has to take a risky plunge into the sea below, accompanied by the adult male, who will then continue to care for it at sea.

Icons of the Antarctic

Photo of Adélie penguins diving off iceberg

Penguins are among the most popular of all seabirds. Found only in the southern hemisphere, these flightless birds are often associated with the Antarctic, although some species actually live as far north as the equator. With wings developed into flippers and legs set far back on the body, penguins are excellent swimmers, and their waterproof, scale-like feathers help to keep them warm and dry. A true Antarctic species, the Adélie penguin is found around the Antarctic continent year-round, and is capable of deep dives to find the krill and fish on which it feeds.

Dancing fools

Photo of blue-footed booby pair in courtship display

A large, comical-looking seabird, the blue-footed booby is instantly recognisable thanks to its bright blue feet. The name ‘booby’ comes from the Spanish word for ‘fool’ or ‘dunce’, referring to the clumsiness of these birds on land. The blue-footed booby usually nests in large colonies and mates for life, with pairs performing an elaborate courtship display which involves alternately lifting each blue foot, pointing the head and beak skywards and spreading the wings.

Super seaducks

Photo of male common eider swimming

Perhaps surprisingly, some duck species spend most of their lives at sea. The largest duck in the northern hemisphere, the common eider breeds on offshore islands, rocky coasts, or pools in tundra, but outside of the breeding season it is found in shallow marine habitats. Traditionally, the down feathers of this species have been used to fill pillows and quilts. The common eider dives underwater to catch crustaceans and molluscs, particularly mussels, which it swallows whole, crushing the shells in its gizzard.

 

Read more about World Oceans Day on the ARKive World Oceans Day blog, and have a go at our virtual scavenger hunt!

View more photos and videos of seabirds on ARKive.

Do you have a favourite seabird? Let us know!

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

 

Jun 12
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ARKive’s Top Ten Whales and Dolphins

Last weekend marked World Oceans Day, a day dedicated to celebrating the beauty and bounty that our oceans provide, and raising awareness of the importance of protecting them. Here at ARKive, we’ve been inspired by the watery realm, and thought we’d honour our fellow mammals by submerging ourselves in the wonderful world of whales and dolphins.

Winged whale

Humpback whale image

An instantly recognisable species, the humpback whale is named for the distinctive ‘hump’ formed by its back as it prepares to dive. Its long flippers, another characteristic feature, can grow up to five metres in length, and contribute to this vocal cetacean’s scientific name, Megaptera novaeangliae, which means ‘big-winged New Englander’.

Marine misnomer

Orca image

Orcas are easily distinguishable by their striking black and white markings and their imposing, triangular dorsal fin. Interestingly, these fascinating marine mammals have a rather misleading alternative name – killer whales. While they are certainly efficient predators, they are not whales and are, in fact, the largest members of the dolphin family. Orcas usually hunt in pods, although individuals from some populations are known to deliberately beach themselves in order to snatch sea lions resting on the beach before wriggling back to sea with their prey.

Social cetacean

Dusky dolphin image

The charismatic dusky dolphin is a highly social species, sometimes being found in pods of over 1,000 individuals and frequently associating with other cetacean species. This beautiful marine mammal is said to be one of the most acrobatic of all dolphins, often making energetic leaps out of the water and performing impressive tumbles in the air.

Underwater unicorn

Narwhal image

There’s no mistaking the unique narwhal, a species famed for the hugely elongated tooth or ‘tusk’ which protrudes from its upper lip. The longest of these incredible appendages was recorded at over 2.5 metres in length, and the males use these bodily weapons in jousting bouts. The narwhal is found throughout the waters of the Arctic, as well as in the northern Atlantic Ocean, and it tends to stay close to pack ice.

Cerebral cetaceans

Bottlenose dolphin image

Quite possibly the most famous of all cetaceans, the bottlenose dolphin is much-loved by many. This extremely intelligent species is highly social, and uses a wide range of clicks and whistles to communicate with other members of its pod. Like some other species of cetacean, the bottlenose dolphin seeks out prey using echolocation, and individuals in a pod will work together as a team to round up schools of fish into tight balls upon which the dolphins can feed. When not chasing prey or performing impressive leaps, dolphins are able to rest one side of their brain at a time. This allows them to sleep while remaining conscious enough to surface and breathe.

Moby Dick

Sperm whale image

The strange-looking sperm whale can be forgiven for having such a bulbous head, given that it has the largest and heaviest brain of any living animal! And its record-breaking statistics don’t stop there – capable of diving for up to two hours at a time, the sperm whale can dive to depths of 3,000 metres, making it the deepest-diving mammal. The largest of the toothed whales, the sperm whale is famed in literature as Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, but sadly it is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, primarily as a result of historic and present-day hunting.

Sea scars

Risso's dolphin image

A somewhat unusual-looking mammal, Risso’s dolphin can be identified by its long, pointed flippers, bulbous, beakless head, and the conspicuous scars present all over its body. These markings are thought to be caused by bites from other individuals of its kind during playing or fighting, but some scars could be the result of squid bites.

White whale

Beluga whale image

Although it is also known as the white whale, the beluga whale is actually born with dark grey to bluish- or brownish-grey colouration, only achieving the striking white hue as it matures. It is one of just a few cetaceans with a flexible neck, and it is capable of pursing its lips to suck up prey. The beluga whale is sometimes referred to as the sea canary because of the high-pitched twittering noises it produces.

On the brink

Baiji image

The baiji, or Yangtze River dolphin, is a very shy and graceful freshwater dolphin species with a very long, narrow, slightly upturned beak and small eyes placed high on the face. Sadly, it is thought that the Critically Endangered baiji could actually now be extinct. In 1999, only four individuals of its kind were observed, and an intensive search of its range in 2006 resulted in none being seen. The major threats to the baiji are considered to be illegal fishing using electricity, and being caught as bycatch in fishing nets.

Ocean giant

Blue whale image

We couldn’t possibly finish this round-up of ten incredible cetaceans without including the biggest of them all – the blue whale! The biggest animal to have ever lived, the blue whale has a heart the size of a small car and is capable of eating more than 4 tonnes of krill per day during the summer months. Whereas some cetacean species communicate using a series of high-pitched clicks and whistles, the blue whale produces a variety of low-frequency sounds, which may also serve the purpose of sensing the environment and detecting prey.

Is your favourite whale or dolphin not featured here? Then why not comment below to let us know what it is and why you love it!

If you’re looking for a fun challenge, check out ARKive’s ocean-themed scavenger hunt – there may well be a few cetaceans hidden in there!

Find out more about whale and dolphin conservation:

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author

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