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Here at Arkive, we provide the ultimate multimedia guide to endangered species, and through our blog we’ll keep you up to date with news from the world of wildlife videos, photography and conservation, alongside the latest on our quest to locate imagery of the planet’s most wanted plants and animals.
Aug 8

August 8th is International Cat Day, but before you open up the catnip for your domestic moggy why not take a look at their wild relatives? There are 41 cat species in the Felidae family and while the more famous members steal most of the limelight, there are probably quite a few species that you haven’t even heard of who are equally astounding. Here’s 10 that we thought deserved a bit of recognition this International Cat Day…

1) Rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus)

The rusty-spotted cat is the world’s smallest cat, with the some adults weighing just 0.8kg. This nocturnal hunter is found across India as well as Sri Lanka and Nepal, where it lives in dry deciduous forest, scrub and grassland and feeds on some of the classic cat favourites: rodents, birds and domestic poultry.

2) Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus)

The Iberian lynx is the world’s rarest cat; only 400 individuals remain and until recently there were only two known strongholds for this species. This cat is threatened by a dwindling food supply; their diet largely consists of rabbits which have declined due to epidemic outbreaks of myxamatosis. However may not be lost, as individuals have been translocated and reintroduced into three conservation areas across Spain and Portugal, which has led to a subsequent increase in the population.

3) Pallas’s cat (Otocolobus manul)

Pallas’s cat is an elusive and solitary cat whose range stretches across Central Asia. Far from the top of the food chain, Pallas’s cat is often predated by raptors, wolves, red foxes and, more recently, domestic and feral dogs.

4) Wildcat (Felis silvestris)

The wildcat is of huge importance to the human population, as without this species there would be no domestic cats. We’ve fed, groomed and generally been ruled by our cats for 9,500 years and it’s thought that wildcats were originally lured towards human settlements due to rodents that lived in their grain stores. The friendliest individuals domesticated themselves by taking advantage of human protection and leftovers, and this affinity with humans due to easy access to food is something has never shown any signs of stopping!

5) Flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps)

It’s commonly thought that cats hate water, but this is a misconception. It certainly isn’t the case for this brave felid, which lives a semi-aquatic life due to its love for feeding on fish, frogs and crustaceans. It has specialised adaptations for aquatic hunting, including webbed feet and backward pointing teeth. The flat-headed cat is not the only cat species that is regularly seen in water – check out this video of a tiger swimming across a river.

6) Caracal (Caracal caracal)

Arguably the most striking of all of the cat species, the caracal (or rooikat) is a fierce predator. Hunting in tropical savannas across Africa and Asia, the caracal can take prey items up to three times its size, including small antelope.

7) Borneo bay cat (Pardofelis badia)

The Borneo bay cat, endemic to the island of Borneo, is the most under-studied cat in the world, and only 25 individuals have ever been recorded. The first bay cat was collected by the famous biologist Alfred Russell Wallace in 1855, although this individual was dead and it wasn’t until 1992 that a live bay cat was caught and recorded. The Asiatic golden cat is a close relative of this species, although the population of their common ancestor is thought to have been split in two around 4.9 to 5.3 million years ago, triggering the evolution of these separate but genetically similar species.

8) Jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi)

Found in the New World, the jaguarundi is an unusual looking cat. Its slender build and small head gives it a weasel-like appearance. It also differs from other New World cats in its behaviour, as it is active in the day, has a large home range and is spends much more time on the forest floor than in the trees. Amazingly, individuals of this species have been seen jumping up to two metres off the ground when attempting to catch birds.

9) Guigna (Leopardus guigna)

Due to of its secretive nature and tiny size, very few people have seen a guigna and it is definitely not a cat that many people have heard of…until now! This arboreal species is found in Chile and Argentina, where it is known as the ‘kodkod’. The guigna is one of the smallest cat species in the Southern Hemisphere and I think we can probably all agree that it is extremely cute.

10) Lion (Panthera leo)

We imagine you’ve heard of this one, but did you know that lions were once common in Greece? There was once a European lion (Panthera leo europaea), which is often featured in Ancient Greek mythology, writings and pottery. Due to their geographical proximity these lions were captured and used in Roman arenas where they fought the ‘bestiarii’ (men who fought animals). In one festival in 240 AD, 70 Lions were slaughtered for entertainment. This was a main factor for extinction for both the Barbary lion and the European lion.

 

Want to find out more about wild cat conservation? Check out these amazing conservation organisations…

IUCN Cat Specialist Group
Felidae Conservation Fund
Wildlife Conservation Society – Big Cats
International Society for Endangered Cats Canada
Panthera

Ted Savile, Arkive Guest Blogger

Aug 5

With the Rio 2016 Olympics in full swing, we thought we would look to the animal kingdom for its offering of world class sporting prowess.

Faster, higher, stronger is a motto engrained in the minds of Olympic athletes the world over. Yet even Usain Bolt, Allyson Felix and Michael Phelps would struggle to match the athletic abilities of some of the world’s most remarkable animals.

Here are our Top Ten Animal Athletes that would clean up on the medal podium!

1. Cheetah

The cheetah is the fastest land mammal on the planet, reaching speeds of up to 87 kilometres per hour. Even the fastest human on Earth, Usain Bolt, only peaks at a top speed of 28 miles per hour! Blink and you’ll miss it!

Cheetah

 2. Froghopper

The high jump has been around since Ancient Greece. The current world record is currently 2.45 metres, set by Javier Sotomayor of Cuba in 1993 – the longest standing record in the history of the men’s high jump. The natural world is full of huge jumpers but the froghopper is leaps ahead. The undisputed high jump champion of the world, this 6 millimetre tall insect is able to jump an astounding 70 times its own body height!

Froghopper

3. Rhinoceros beetle

Move over World Deadlift Champion and world record holder Eddie Hall! The rhinoceros beetle is capable of lifting objects up to 850 times its own body weight. If Eddie had the same relative strength, he would be able to lift a 65 ton object – that’s the same as an armoured tank!

Rhinoceros beetle

4. Arctic tern

The marathon is one of the toughest endurance events in the Olympics. Dennis Kimetto of Kenya currently holds the world record of completing a course in 2 hours, 2 minutes and 57 seconds. The animal kingdom is full of endurance record holders, but the artic tern leads the flock. It holds the record for the longest annual migration recorded by animal, covering 40,000 miles a year!

Arctic tern

 

5. Desert locust

Ancient Olympians considered the long jump as one of the most challenging events. Some spring-loaded members of the natural world make the long jump seem like a total breeze. The desert locust can leap over a metre from a standing position. It needs no run up to jump around 20 times its own body length. If this jumping ability was scaled up in proportion to body size, this would mean humans would be able to do a standing long jump of over 40 metres.

Desert locust

6. Indo-Pacific sailfish

The natural world is stream-lined with underwater speed demons. From dolphins to Dory, there are some incredible swimmers lurking beneath the surface that would leave even Michael Phelps in their wake. But the Indo-Pacific sailfish is probably the fastest – capable of tremendous bursts of speed over short-distances it can reach speeds of up to 111 kilometres per hour!

Indo Pacific sailfish

7. Namaqua chameleon

Archery made its debut at the 1900 Summer Olympics, but the natural world has had the perfect aim for over 80 million years. Chameleons don’t need a bow and arrow to hit their target, just a super long tongue! With a bulbous sticky tip, which it shoots out to capture its prey, the tongue of the Namaqua chamelton may be up to twice the length of the body. Who needs a gold medal when you get the reward of a tasty insect treat?

 

Namaqua chameleon

8. Klipspringer

It’s not just the froghopper that reaches dizzy heights, in terms of absolute height reached, it’s this small African antelope that is leaps and bounds ahead. With a name meaning ‘rock jumper’ in Afrikaans, the klipspringer is able to jump up to 7.68 metres! That’s over three times the world record!

Klipspringer

9. Mountain gorilla

Wrestling with its primal hand-to-hand combat and complex tactics has featured in the Olympics since 1896 but has been around as a sport since Ancient Greece. With its characteristically heavy and robust body, broad chest and long arms, the heavyweight title surely has to go to the gorilla. The largest of the living apes, it would floor even the most fierce of Olympic opponents.

Mountain gorillas wrestling

10. Spinner dolphin

A women-only discipline, synchronised swimming is renowned for its grace and rhythm. This aquatic ballet first featured in the 1984 Olympics but like archery, the natural world has been perfecting this sport for millions of years. Like the Olympians, spinner dolphins move about the oceans in groups, ranging from just a few performers up to a thousand and as their name suggests, they love to perform at the surface. The reason behind the energetic spinning behaviour is unknown, but it is thought that it could be to help with communication, to dislodge hitch-hiking parasites or simply just part of play!

Spinner dolphin

Can you think of any animal athletes? Share them with us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Aug 1

Clare James is a wildlife photographer and conservation photojournalist. Here Clare discusses her time at the Sibuya Game Reserve, home to the Sibuya Rhino Foundation.

A lone Rhino in the early morning mist on the river plains is a special sight. The dawn brings new light and hope into the world.

A lone rhino in the early morning mist on the river plains is a special sight

Whilst teaching wildlife photography out in South Africa, I became aware of the enormity of the poaching issue, affecting numerous species of flora and fauna. South Africa is still teeming with wildlife compared to many other regions on this planet. This will soon change if poaching continues at the current rate.

DSC_4190-2

Clare photographing rhinos in Sibuya Game Reserve

Last year, I spent six months out in the bush filming and photographing wildlife away from the clutches of civilization, spending a few months at Sibuya Game Reserve. Spending time out in the bush filming, getting to know the men on the Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) who work long hours in order to protect these beautiful prehistoric creatures was extremely special. White rhino are now the main target of criminal organisations, who stop at nothing to get their hands on the horn, rhino horn is currently one of the most lucrative commodities in the world, it is used as a status symbol in Vietnam and an aphrodisiac in China, alongside providing funding for certain terrorist groups.

Whilst filming I was delighted to meet a young rhino affectionately known as Binky, who had been born a week earlier and over the months watched her grow into a fine young rhino, under the protective eye of her beautiful parents. I got to know some of their unique personality traits and habits. Inevitably I became extremely close and attached to this beautiful family. Seeing Bingo, Binky’s father, protect his family was very touching.

DSC_4175

Binky’s family

 

Bingo’s protection turned out to not be enough, as less than a year later, poaching had claimed their lives. Poachers had infiltrated the reserve and using chainsaws cut away the base plate of three rhinos including Bingo and the two female mothers. Bingo survived the initial attack, fighting for the first few days then also went on to a more peaceful place, leaving little Binky orphaned. Having both mother and father ripped away, Binky and another newborn rhino, Courage, whose mother’s life was also taken that day are left alone in this world.

Through human brutality they have been torn apart. We have to continue fighting this war for the rhino’s sake. The rate of poaching can be slowed and stopped if more people stand together. My heart bleeds with the memories of the happy family which I spent so much time with a year ago.

Binky in Sibuya Game Reserve

Binky in Sibuya Game Reserve

Please share this story to support Sibuya Rhino Foundation in their mission to protect their remaining rhinos so that the little ones have their chance to reproduce and keep this special species alive for future generations.

Save our rhinos!

Save our rhinos!

Visit the Sibuya Rhino Foundation website to find out more about the amazing work that they do

Find out more about rhinos on Arkive

See more of Clare’s beautiful images on her Clare James website

Jul 5

Most pollinator-plant relationships follow the same trend – animal lands on plant, gets covered in pollen which it then transfers onto another plant of the same species – but there are many plants that go against the norm, and have a weird and wonderful method of ensuring that their pollen gets to where it needs to be.

A honey bee may be the first thing that springs to your mind when you think of pollination – be prepared for this to change!

Aroids

Plants in the Araceae family, also known as ‘aroids’, act as a kind-of bed and breakfast for insects. These plants attract a wide range of insect pollinators by producing scents which vary between rotting flesh and sweet fruit, and many produce heat to help with the dispersal of their aroma. Most aroid species will trap any insect that comes into contact with its leaves inside a dungeon-like structure which it is unable to escape from. While the insect is trapped, the plant produces nectar to feed it and keep it alive and after 24 hours the male flowers mature and cover the insect with pollen. The dungeon then collapses and allows the pollen-covered insect to escape and find another aroid to pollinate, starting the process again!

The flower of titan arum, the plant that produces the world’s largest inflorescence

Orchids

Orchids are an extremely diverse plant group and their methods of attracting pollinators are variable between species. Most orchids just have one or two dedicated pollinators which can be bees, wasps, flies, ants or butterflies, and this means that if becomes extinct, the other will likely share the same fate.

Ophrys species have a very sneaky way of attracting male bees to their flowers. They have evolved their scent over time to mimic the pheromones released by a female bee and even have a similar appearance, which led to the designation of their common name – ‘bee orchids’. When a male picks up the scent, it lands on the flower of the bee orchid and repeatedly attempts copulation, all the while being covered in the plant’s pollen. Another type of orchid that encourages bee romance are bucket orchids, which produce a cologne for male bees that is irresistible to females.

Another orchid, Oncidium planilabre, has a less romantic approach to attracting male bees, and mimics a male rather than a female, which encourages attacks from male bees. When the male bee attacks the orchid, it is covered in pollen which is then transferred to the next bee-like flower that it takes a dislike to.

The bumble bee orchid, an Ophrys species

Another orchid with a strange pollination method is Holcoglossum amesianum. This amazing plant has the capacity to move its flowers 360 degrees to transfer pollen onto its stigma and does not rely on any external forces whatsoever.

Fig wasps and figs

Fig wasps and figs have a completely dependent symbiotic relationship. The fascinating pollination cycle of the fig tree begins when a female wasp enters one of the fruits through an extremely small opening, often losing its wings and antennae on its way in. Once inside, the female lays her eggs and dies shortly after. When the eggs have hatched, the male and female offspring have very different functions. The wingless males explore the inside of the fig, trying to find a female to mate with and once they have mated, they bore exit pathways to the outside of the fig then also die. The female offspring, once they have mated, collect pollen from the male flowers inside the fig and then use the pathways created by the males to escape. The females then search for a new fig fruit to pollinate and the whole cycle begins again.

The fruit of Ficus carica, a species of fig

Axinaea species

Plants in the Axinaea genus have large, bulb-like structures on their stamens which entice passing birds. As the bird touches the structure with its bill, it explodes and covers the bird’s face with pollen. As the bird continues to forage, the pollen is transferred onto other plants.

Axinaea sessilifolia

Giant Amazon water lily

At the beginning of its pollination cycle, the giant Amazon water lily produces female flowers which have white petals and emit a strong fruity scent that attracts beetles. The flower itself is around 10 degrees Celsius warmer than the ambient temperature – another factor that makes it irresistible to beetles. When the beetles arrive and begin to feed on the nectar, the flower slowly closes and traps the beetles inside. Throughout the day the petals of the flower turn pink and it undergoes a sex change, turning into a male and covering the beetles in pollen. When the flower eventually reopens, it releases the pollen-covered beetles who are then free to continue their search for nectar.

 

Find out more about pollination and the slightly more ‘normal’ approach that most plants have on our new topic page.

Jun 29

As it’s #SharkWeek we thought we’d have a browse through Arkive and select our top 10 shark images and share them with you!

1) Say cheese!

What shark list would be complete without the magnificent great white shark? Here pictured giving the photographer Ralf Kiekner a nice, big, cheesy grin.

2) Gentle giant

Despite being the largest fish in the world, the whale shark survives solely on a diet of plankton and small fish. You can’t see them in this photo but the mouth of the whale shark actually contains 300 tiny teeth, the function of which is unknown.

3) Extreme close-up

This beautiful close-up of a tawny nurse shark by Juergen Freud shows the beautiful pattern of its skin and mesmerising eyes.

4) You got a little something….

Now as all good friends know, if your buddy has something stuck in their teeth you should always tell them. Shame on the guy in the back of this photo!

5) Don’t try this at home!

Many scientists believe that sharks have a blind spot directly in front of them because of the position of their eyes, so Masa Ushoida was likely to have been completely hidden from this very photogenic tiger shark!

6) Weird and wonderful

This frilled shark portrait shows how seriously strange-looking this primitive creature is.

7) What’s lurking beneath the surface?

The second largest fish in the sea, the basking shark, grows to lengths of at least 10 metres. This half-and-half image by Alex Mustard shows the basking shark’s feeding behaviour which mostly includes swimming at the water’s surface with its huge mouth open, filtering plankton from the water that passes over its gills.

8) My, what big teeth you have!

Now, we’re big believers that every member of the animal kingdom is beautiful in its own special way. We also think in the case of the sand tiger shark, its beauty may lay within.

 

9) Sharks aplenty

Our patron Sylvia Earle, also known as ‘her deepness’, once said ‘Sharks are beautiful animals, and if you’re lucky enough to see lots of them, that means that you’re in a healthy ocean. You should be afraid if you are in the ocean and don’t see sharks’. This bit of ocean must be very healthy!

10) Freedom at last

This poor juvenile blacktip reef shark was unfortunate enough to get caught on a longline hook. Fortunately, unlike many sharks, a diver was there at the right moment to set it free.

 

Are there any shark images on Arkive that we’ve missed out of our top 10 that you think should be in there? Let us know!

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