Mar 26

On Saturday 29th March at 8:30 pm, millions of people across the world will take part in WWF’s Earth Hour by turning off their lights for one hour. Held annually, WWF’s Earth Hour is a unique phenomenon that encourages individuals, communities and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour as a symbol of their commitment to the planet.

Now in its eighth year, the Earth Hour event was first held in Sydney in 2007. For Earth Hour 2013, over 7,000 cities and towns across more than 150 countries and territories participated.

This year has seen the launch of Earth Hour Blue, an all-new digital crowdfunding and crowdsourcing platform for the planet. This new platform gives individuals from around the world the chance to help fund or add their voice to environmental and social projects which are important to them.

Here at ARKive, to get ready for Earth Hour we have been thinking about species which are at home in the dark.

Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur

Believed to be the world’s smallest living primate, Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur is a nocturnal primate endemic to Madagascar. This lemur is well adapted to its nocturnal lifestyle as it has extremely large forward-facing eyes with a shiny layer behind the retina that reflects light back through the eye, significantly improving night vision.

Cave salamander

This unusual-looking animal is the rare cave salamander,  an amphibian which lives in dark, subterranean caves in central Europe. As this cave-dwelling animal spends its entire life in darkness, its eyes are so poorly developed that it is actually blind. 

Lion’s mane jellyfish

One of the largest jellyfish in the world, the lion’s mane jellyfish gains its common name from the long, thin, hair-like tentacles found hanging from the underside of its bell-shaped body. As well as being one of the largest jellyfish, the lion’s mane jellyfish is also often bioluminescent, meaning it produces its own light, making it glow in dark waters.

Night-flowering orchid

As its common name suggests, the night-flowering orchid is the only known orchid species which opens its flowers at night. Described as recently as 2011, it is not yet known for certain why this orchid opens its flowers at night, but it is likely that the flies which pollinate this species are nocturnal.

Devil’s worm

Thought to be the world’s deepest-living animal, the Devil’s worm is definitely a creature at home in the dark. Found at a depth of more than one kilometre into the Earth’s crust, the Devil’s worm demonstrates a high temperature tolerance and is thought to be able to survive in conditions of up to 41 degrees Celsius!

If you want to find out more about how to get involved in Earth Hour, visit  WWF’s Earth Hour website.

And don’t forget, Earth Hour is on Saturday 29th March at 8:30 pm local time, so join the ARKive team and millions of other people worldwide and switch off those lights!

Mar 23
Juvenile Philippine crocodile

Juvenile Philippine crocodile

Species: Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The Philippine crocodile is one of the most endangered freshwater crocodile species in the world.

More information:

The Philippine crocodile is a relatively small species of freshwater crocodile, with a broad snout, and thick bony plates on its back. Until recently, it was considered a subspecies of the very similar New Guinea crocodile.

Philippine crocodiles are thought to feed mainly on fish, invertebrates, small amphibians and reptiles, but very little else is known about the natural history or ecology of wild populations. In captivity, females build mound-nests at the end of the dry season from leaf litter and mud, upon which they lay a relatively small clutch of 7 to 14 eggs. Only the females show parental care of both the eggs and the hatchlings.

Previously found throughout the Philippines but now reduced to a small and highly fragmented population on a number of small islands, the Philippine crocodile favours freshwater marshes, the tributaries of large rivers and small lakes and ponds.

The massive population decline of the Philippine crocodile was originally caused by over-exploitation for commercial use. Today, habitat destruction is the most pressing threat to the species’ survival, with rainforests being cleared throughout the region to make way for rice fields. The fearsome reputation of the saltwater crocodile undoubtedly contributes to local intolerance of any crocodile species. The word for crocodile in the Filipino language is a vile insult, and crocodiles are often killed when encountered.

The Philippine crocodile is considered to be the second most endangered crocodilian in the world, with possibly fewer than 100 individuals in the wild. International trade of this species is prohibited, but there is only one officially protected area within the Philippines and its protection is poorly enforced. At present, captive breeding of the Philippine crocodile takes place in a small programme run by the Silliman University and at the government-run Crocodile Farming Institute.

 

Find out more about the Philippine crocodile at the Mabuwaya Foundation.

See images of the Philippine crocodile on ARKive.

Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author

Mar 22

Water is essential to life on Earth. However, our insatiable demand is putting water, one of our most precious natural resources, at risk.

The enormous growth in the human population over recent decades is placing an enormous strain on the world’s freshwater reserves, with our global consumption of water for food production, energy, industrial and domestic uses beginning to reach what are thought to be unsustainable levels. Similarly, rapid urbanisation, pollution and climate change are all exacerbating the problem, further threatening one of the world’s most vital resources.

World Water Day 2014

To draw attention to the importance of freshwater and the need for sustainable management of the world’s freshwater resources, the United Nations (UN) has designated 22 March ‘World Water Day’.

Held annually, World Water Day gives people all around the globe the opportunity to take action to raise awareness of water issues and improve the management of the world’s water resources. In 2014, World Water Day is focusing on the connection between water and energy.

Nicknamed ‘the leaper’, the Atlantic salmon has the spectacular ability to clear seemingly impossible obstacles. When journeying back to its birthplace in order to spawn, the Atlantic salmon is able to leap vertical distances of up to an incredible four metres!

Though not a water-dwelling species, the plumed basilisk, a lizard from Central America, has the amazing ability to run on water! When threatened, it can drop down onto water and sprint, upright, over the surface of the water. It is able to achieve this due to its long toes, which considerably increase the surface area of its back feet.

Find out more about World Water Day and discover events happening near you.

Mar 14

It’s time to dip our toes into the wild, watery world of Illinois with our friends at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago -  the world’s largest indoor aquarium housing more than 8,000 aquatic animals. Did you know they care for five Illinois threatened or endangered species at the Aquarium and share their important story with their guests everyday? Read on to submerge yourself in Shedd’s incredible conservation efforts!

“Everyone should know and care about the endangered animals in their own backyard”

If you live in Illinois, your neighbors include 484 endangered or threatened species. These at-risk plants and animals include blue herons, ground squirrels, wood orchids, river chub and mudpuppies– species that we all know and love. Yet, human activity threatens their existence and the health of our local ecosystems.

As a leader in conservation, Shedd Aquarium is fortunate to care for five endangered or threatened Illinois species in our At Home on the Great Lakes exhibit. Though they may be lesser-known, these aquatic animals are amazingly unique and vital to the Great Lakes  – which is why we’re so excited by ARKive’s new Illinois species page. Everyone should know and care about the endangered animals in their own backyard.

ARKive's Illinois feature page

Burden Falls, an aquatic habitat featured on ARKive’s Illinois feature page. Species like the alligator snapping turtle may be found in deep river water.

“We care for endangered Illinois species both big and small”

At Shedd, we care for endangered Illinois species both big and small, including the alligator snapping turtle, lake sturgeon, hellbender, redspotted sunfish and Iowa darter. By far the heaviest endangered animal we have is Guinness, the alligator snapping turtle. At more than 100 pounds, he’s a good representative of the largest freshwater turtle species in North America. As part of his care, Guinness has been trained to come to a target to get his food, just like our dolphins and whales do. He looks positively prehistoric with his dinosaur-like beak and thick scales, but he surprised trainers with how quickly he can learn.

Alligator Snapping Turtle

Shedd Aquarium cares for many species such as this prehistoric-looking snapping turtle, Guinness!

The lake sturgeon, which has been around since the days of the dinosaurs, is another big endangered animal at Shedd. Reaching lengths of 3 to 9 feet, the lake sturgeon is the largest fish in the Great Lakes basin. Its vacuum-like mouth sucks up anything from lake or river bottoms. At Shedd, guests can touch a sturgeon and feel the protective bony plates under the skin of this bottom-dwelling fish.

ARKive's lake sturgeon photo

Picture of lake sturgeon taken at the Shedd Aquarium

The hellbender, the largest salamander species in North America, is surprisingly hard to find in the wild – especially now that it’s endangered in Illinois. The presence of hellbenders is often an indicator of good water quality, so the species’ endangered status points to greater problems in our aquatic ecosystems. Shedd’s hellbender was rescued from an illegal shipment at O’Hare International Airport; on exhibit, he keeps a low profile among the habitat’s rocks.

ARKive's hellbender photo

Guests can come face-to-face with a hellbender at the Shedd Aquarium. Can you spot the sneaky hellbender well-camouflaged in the above image taken in the wild?

The endangered redspotted sunfish and threatened Iowa darter are smaller though no less important than any other Great Lakes fish. The redspotted sunfish lives in marshes and streams – such as the Illinois River – and is largely threatened by invasive species. The Iowa darter, often mistaken for a minnow, is Shedd’s smallest threatened species. This fish is unique because it lacks a swim bladder to keep it afloat, which means it stays at the bottom of rivers and lakes.

You can spot a redspotted sunfish at Shedd Aquarium, too!

You can spot a redspotted sunfish at Shedd Aquarium, too!

ARKive's Iowa darter photo

The small but spectacularly-colored Iowa darter

“We hope that greater awareness and stronger regulations … will soon restore these endangered animals’ wild populations”

Through the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act, we hope that greater awareness and stronger regulations on overhunting, over-collecting, habitat destruction and toxic contamination will soon restore these endangered animals’ wild populations. In the meantime, Shedd Aquarium will continue to care for these five Great Lakes animals and 41 other endangered or threatened animals from around world.

Nadia Hlebowitsh, Online Communications, Shedd Aquarium 

From turtles to fish to salamanders, Shedd Aquarium has hardly left a river stone unturned in their aquatic species conservation efforts. Thank you for celebrating WILD Illinois with us and sharing stories from the Shedd Aquarium! Looking to surf more species and habitats in Illinois? Take a dip in our new Illinois feature page to explore 100+ species that call The Prairie State home!

Mar 12

Our friends at the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve were anxious to share their Illinois wildlife story as part of ARKive’s Going WILD in Illinois guest blog mini-series and, of course, we were happy to oblige! Read on to see how the Preserve is creating citizen science opportunities to make a real difference in northern Illinois.

The Openlands Lakeshore Preserve is a 77-acre Illinois Nature Preserve, located in Highland Park on what was once the historic Fort Sheridan military base. The Preserve offers a beautiful network of walking and biking paths and an innovative, art-based interpretive plan that tells the unique story of this unusual landscape. The site is owned and operated by Openlands, a regional conservation organization.

Visitors to the Preserve often first notice the sweeping views presented by the bluffs. But it is the site’s rare natural communities – three ravines and a mile of bluff and lakeshore – that make the Preserve such a special place to protect. Lakefront ravines are only found on a short stretch of Illinois’ coastline and today, and most are in poor ecological health.

Butterfly at Openlands Lakeshore Preserve

Butterfly at Openlands Lakeshore Preserve

Recognizing the importance of the site’s rare ecosystems, Openlands has been carefully restoring the Preserve’s natural communities by removing invasive plants, replanting oak woodland and savanna, and repairing storm water damage. While restoration is an ongoing process, the reestablishment of viable natural communities is well underway. Today, the Preserve is a stopover for thousands of migratory songbirds and waterfowl and is home to seven plant species on the state endangered and threatened list.

ARKive's common merganser photo

Common merganser, a type of waterfowl that may visit the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve on occasion

In 2010, Openlands began partnering with the Plants of Concern (POC) program at the Chicago Botanic Garden to collect data on birds, plants, spiders, and other aspects of the Preserve’s ecology. Our volunteer “citizen scientists” work with POC and Openlands staff in the field to conduct biological monitoring. This includes searching for new populations, mapping, and recording data. As a result of monitoring, Openlands can track critical trends in population size, area, and condition, allowing us to adapt our management accordingly. Our monitoring program is now entering year five, and we are excited to start this spring!

Citizen science efforts at Openlands Lakeshore Preserve

Citizen science efforts at Openlands Lakeshore Preserve

Are you interested in becoming a citizen scientist for the Preserve? Learn how to get involved at www.plantsofconcern.org.

Aimee Collins, Site Manager, Openlands Lakeshore Preserve

Thanks so much for sharing your opportunities for Illinois citizens to take an active part in protecting and restoring the WILD of Illinois! If you haven’t already, be sure to take a stroll through the brand new Illinois feature page on ARKive. 

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