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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.
Apr 25

Cephalopods are arguably the weirdest of all marine invertebrates. The name cephalopod literally translates to ‘head-footed’ in Greek, indicating just how strange members of this taxonomic class are, but nothing in their name indicates how incredibly intelligent they are. Their alien-like features are truly fascinating and cephalopods are commonly regarded as the most advanced of all invertebrates!

The weirdest one – nautilus (Nautilus pompilius)

Kicking off our list is the bizarre-looking nautilus, whose appearance resembles a cross between a snail and a shrimp. They are the only species of cephalopod to have retained their external shell, which means they cannot alter their appearance as well as their counterparts.

The invisible one – common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis)

The common cuttlefish is a master of disguise, possessing the ability to transform its appearance to suit its surroundings in an instant. Check out this amazing talent in this video!

The deadly one – southern blue-ringed octopus (Hapalochlaena maculosa)

This species has one of the most potent venoms on the planet, 1000 times more powerful than cyanide, and there is no known antidote. The blue rings after which this species is named will only appear when an individual is disturbed and serve as a warning before it attacks. The helpless crab in this video finds this out the hard way!

The strangely familiar one – opalescent squid (Loligo opalescens)

You may have come into contact with this cephalopod more than any other – the opalescent squid is more commonly known to us as ‘calamari’. These small squids live in extremely large shoals and hunt by striking their prey with their tentacles.

The one-size-fits-all one – curled octopus (Eledone cirrhosa)

The ability of the curled octopus to transform and camouflage its body is truly fascinating – there is no gap too small or seaweed too colourful for this species! The curled octopus is also equipped with an ink jet they can utilise as a distraction when a predator is nearby. On top of all that, it also has an extremely toxic venom that it uses to paralyse its prey!

The colourful one – Carribean reef squid (Sepioteuthis sepioidea)

Commonly found in shallow reef waters, this intriguing species has enormous eyes and is known to have the largest eye-to-body ratio of the whole animal kingdom! Carribean reef squid communicate with each other by changing the colour of their skin.

The huge one – giant Australian cuttlefish (Sepia apama)

The giant Australian cuttlefish is largest cuttlefish species, reaching lengths of up to a metre.  Despite its large size, this species it is a master of disguise and can easily blend in with its  surroundings due to special pigment cells called chromatophores which allow it to change colour in an instant.

The even huger one – Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas)

A close relative of the giant squid, this species, also known as the ‘jumbo squid’, is a monster capable of growing up to 2 metres long and weighing over 50 kilograms! They can move at considerable speeds (up to 24km/h) and have been known to propel themselves out of the water and soar through the air to evade their predators which include whales, sharks, seals and swordfish.

The bright one – firefly squid (Watasenia scintillans)

This bioluminescent species is definitely deserving of a top 10 spot as it is responsible for one of the most spectacular light shows on the planet! Between March and June millions of firefly squid gather off of the coast of Japan, as well as hundreds of tourists, producing a natural spectacle like no other. The firefly squid also uses its bioluminescence to attract prey and select mates.

The strong one – North Pacific giant octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini)

Reaching lengths of up to 5 metres and weighing in at up to 50 kilograms, this monster octopus had to make the top 10! The photograph below is not photoshopped, this species does eat sharks! Its raw strength makes it capable of ripping apart shells and flesh with its tentacles or using its powerful ‘beak’ to make easy work of its prey. This, in tandem with its camouflaging talent, makes it a truly ferocious predator.

Have we missed out your favourite cephalopod? Let us know!

Discover more cephalopods on the Arkive website

Will Powell, Arkive guest blogger

Apr 18

Arkive and Wildscreen Exchange photographer James Warwick recently visited the Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh, which is located in the Central Indian Highlands. This name may not mean much to you but it is, in fact, the setting for Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’ and is home to the tigers, sloth bears and Indian leopards that are featured in the story.

We asked James to tell us about the places he’d been to in India and share his fantastic images with us – and you!

James: To date, I’ve worked in four National Parks in India; Ranthambhore, Bandhavgarh, Kanha and Kaziranga all of which are all classed as Tiger Reserves by the Indian government’s Project Tiger. As well as providing vital habitat for the surviving Bengal tiger, they are also home to a vast array of other mammals and birds some of which are shown in this selection.

Ruddy mongoose (Herpestes smithii) on rock, Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India

Ruddy mongoose, Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India

Ranthambhore National Park in south western Rajasthan is famous for its wild tiger population and was once a private hunting ground for the Maharajas of Jaipur. Its name comes from the vast fort that stands in the middle of the forest which is thought to date back to 1110. At 392 km2, Ranthambhore is one of the smallest 47 Project Tiger reserves in India.

Bengal tigress (Panthera tigris tigris) swimming across Lake Rajbagh, Ranthambhore National Park, Rajasthan, India

Bengal tigress swimming across Lake Rajbagh, Ranthambhore National Park, Rajasthan, India

Bandhavgarh National Park, situated in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, is one of India’s most popular wildlife reserves and at 438 km2 covers a similar area to Ranthambhore. Bandhavgarh’s tiger population density is one of the highest in India but it is also rich in other wildlife including large populations of Indian leopards and sloth bears.

Sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) resting in sal forest (Shorea robusta), Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India

Sloth bear resting in sal forest, Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India

Kanha National Park also lies in Madhya Pradesh in the Central Indian Highlands about 160 km southeast of Jabalpur. The reserve consists of a core area of 940 km2 which is surrounded by a buffer zone of 1,005 km2. In the 1890s, this region was the setting for Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’ stories.

Tiger sleeping on rock in forest (Panthera tigris tigris), Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India

Bengal tiger sleeping on rock in forest, Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India

Finally, Kaziranga National Park lies in the floodplain of the mighty Brahmaputra River in the north-eastern state of Assam and is home to around 75% (1800) of the remaining world population of the Indian or great one-horned rhinoceros. There is also a healthy population of Bengal tigers (around 100) but their shy nature and the region‘s tall ‘elephant‘ grasses make them very difficult to see.

Indian rhinoceros wallowing (Rhinoceros unicornis), Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India

Indian rhinoceros wallowing, Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India

The Bengal tiger is found primarily in India with smaller populations in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar. It is the most numerous of all tiger subspecies but there are fewer than 2,500 left in the wild with poaching to fuel the illegal trade in body parts in Asia being the largest immediate threat to their remaining population.

Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) cub, Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India

Bengal tiger cub, Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India

Find out about the work that the Wildlife Protection Society of India are doing with tigers on their website

Visit James’s website to see more of his wonderful images

If you are from a conservation organisation, James has very kindly made these images and many others from around the world available to you. If you’d like to get access to the images, join the Wildscreen Exchange, or email us at exchange.info@wildscreen.org.uk for more information.

Apr 17

Did you know that April 17th is observed annually as Bat Appreciation Day? Love them or hate them, there are over 1,200 bat species around the world and they play a huge role in the health of our ecosystems. Although scary to some and shrouded in many superstitions, the worlds’ only flying mammals are extremely valuable seed dispensers and pollinators. Without long-nosed bats pollinating the agave plant, tequila would not exist – imagine that! Specialised features such as echolocation and vampire bat saliva are studied regularly by scientists to look for advances in human development.

As a nod to these misunderstood and mysterious creatures, we thought we’d take a look at some of the top bat species on Arkive.

Grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)

Recently winning the number 1 spot in our world’s favourite underappreciated species poll, the grey-headed flying fox is one of the largest bats in Australia and has a wingspan exceeding 1.5 metres! This species can be distinguished from other flying foxes – named after their fox-like facial features – as its pelage extends down to its ankles rather than ending at the top of the legs. Feeding mainly on ripe fruit, nectar and pollen, this species is known to travel up to 50 kilometres in pursuit of the best foraging spots.

You looking at me?

Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat (Nyctimene rabori)

The Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat is a very unique species, as it is one of the only striped bat species in the world, and has unusual yellow spots covering its back, ears and wings. Despite its odd colouration and patterning, it is the bizarre tubular nostrils that stick out above the mouth which this species is named after.  The islands on which the Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat lives have been heavily logged, resulting in this species’ population drastically declining.

I’m like, totally camouflaged right now

Banana bat (Musonycteris harrisoni)

The extremely unusual and elongated snout of the banana bat got it a place in our top ten! Endemic to tropical forest habitats in Mexico, this species’ specialised nose and extremely long tongue is perfect for feeding on pollen from long-tubed flowers. The pollen sticks to tiny hairs around the banana bats face and is transferred from flower to flower, making this species one of the most important pollinators within its range.

Check out my snout!

Canut’s horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus canuti)

Named after the horseshoe-shaped fold of skin that forms part of the nose, Canut’s horseshoe bat is endemic to two small Indonesian islands. Using echolocation to hunt for insects at night, its elaborate noseleaf helps it to focus on ultrasonic pulses while its large ears detect any sounds made by its prey.

I’ll grow into my nose eventually, right?

Common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus)

Portrayed as creepy, blood-sucking killers in many horror movies, the common vampire bat has long had a bad reputation! This species uses heat sensors on its nose to locate veins close to the skin of its prey, before making tiny incisions with its sharp teeth. The common vampire bat has a special enzyme in its saliva which stops blood from clotting, allowing it to acquire a larger meal from its prey. Yum!

I only want a little bite!

Griffin’s leaf-nosed bat (Hipposideros griffini)

Only discovered in 2012, Griffin’s leaf-nosed bat has an elaborate noseleaf structure which, unlike other bats who emit calls through their mouths, aids echolocation and helps it to focus calls. Males can be distinguished from females by the presence of a ‘sexual sac’ behind the noseleaf which is enlarged during the breeding season and secretes a waxy substance to attract a partner.

My mom said I’m handsome!

Kitti’s hog-nosed bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai)

Kitti’s hog-nosed bat not only holds the record for the smallest bat in the world, but it is in fact also the smallest mammal in existence weighing in at just under two grams. This teeny tiny size is the reason for its alternative name – the bumblebee bat. Small populations exist in Myanmar and Thailand but are under threat from tourism and habitat destruction.

Stop calling me small – you’re just really big!

Muscat mouse-tailed bat (Rhinopoma muscatellum)

The common name of the Muscat mouse-tailed bat was given due to its long slender tail which can be as long as the head and body combined. The unusual gliding and fluttering flight pattern of this species gives the impression that it is rising and falling, making it look like a small bird when in flight. The Muscat mouse-tailed bat can be found across the southeastern Arabian Peninsula and south-west Asia.

A rodent? Me? Never!

 

Honduran white bat (Ectophylla alba)

The beautiful white pelage of the Honduran white bat and the bright orange areas on its ears, nose and parts of its legs and wings make this species extremely recognisable. The roosting habits of the Honduran white bat are also particularly intriguing – individuals construct an upside down V-shaped ‘tent’ from the leaves of Heliconia plants to protect themselves from adverse weather and predators. Rarely staying in their tent homes for longer than a day at a time, members of this species are the nomads of the bat world!

Hello my pretties!

Fish eating myotis (Myotis vivesi)

With long narrow wings and large, powerful feet, the fish-eating myotis is easily adapted to take fish and small aquatic creatures from near the waters’ surface. Specialised features such as huge hooked claws mean this species is able to catch around 30 fish each night, even eating them whilst in flight!

My, what big claws you have!

Sadly, 25% of all bat species are threatened with extinction due to climate change, habitat loss, hunting and disease. Hopefully this blog hasn’t made you go batty and if you want to learn more about how you can help save these winged wonders take a look at these interesting websites below:

Discover more bat species on Arkive

Leone Elliott – Arkive Intern

Apr 12

Jamie Unwin is a conservation photographer, Wildscreen Exchange contributor and zoology student at the University of Exeter. After creating a highly successful film on elephant poaching in Malawi, Jamie enlisted the help of coursemate Hannah Pollock to create their own conservation organisation, Stand Up for Nature (SUN). SUN’s aim is to use education to bring about cultural evolution to conserve wildlife. Their first mission was to use a bicycle-powered cinema designed and constructed by Jamie to take this film to communities that had not yet seen the film.

The pair have just finished their first and very successful bicycle powered cinema project in Malawi, and over 6 weeks they reached over 14,000 people with the film and took 336 children into 6 protected areas to see their country’s wildlife for the very first time.

Malawian children watching poaching education video

Malawian children watching poaching education video

Jamie and Hannah have now returned to England and were keen to share their amazing experience with us.

Jamie – what was it like to return to Malawi?

J – Meeting all those people that I had spent many memorable moments with a year ago was special for me, last year was an eye opening experience and it provided me with an introduction as to what was really happening to Africa’s elephants. Tears of joy as well as moments of great sadness were shared with some incredibly inspirational people.

Hannah – what was it like seeing an elephant in the wild for the first time?

H – Having never seen an elephant in the wild before I was somewhat on a similar playing field to the children that we brought into the parks. Unfortunately, my first experience with a wild elephant was under the worst of circumstances, on Christmas day we received word that a poached elephant had been found and so we joined the ranger patrol as they went off to find it and establish a cause of death. As I witnessed my first wild elephant dead at the hands of a poacher it simply reinforced in my mind how important the project was and the true severity of the problem.

Jamie's last visit to Malawi alerted him to the extreme poaching problem in the country

Jamie’s last visit to Malawi alerted him to the extreme poaching problem in the country

Thankfully I had further encounters which were incredible, the most memorable was when we were observing a herd of elephants playing in a lake. As we sat watching, 3 males decided to come and investigate us, we remained quiet and still as they approached so that they wouldn’t be startled. Deciding that we posed no threat and also that in fact we weren’t that interesting they went about stripping the nearby trees of their leaves and had lunch right in front of us.

Jamie – how did you feel when you joined the rangers during a night raid to catch a poacher?

J – No one will ever understand the real brutality of the situation in Africa unless you have worked with one of the rangers. They put their lives at risk day in and day out, to keep Africa’s wildlife safe.

Late one night we had a call from an informer that a poacher had been seen carving up bush meet. The land cruiser was quickly assembled with 10 rangers in full camouflage, I was placed in the back and told to make sure I had nothing that would omit light. I set to work duct taping all parts of my camera to make sure none of the dials or the screen would give any light signal which would alert the poacher of our position. We were dropped a couple miles from the poacher’s location, this is where our back up stayed in case we encountered trouble. We walked quickly and silently with nothing but moonlight guiding the way until Richard, the head ranger, signalled that we were nearly there, he discussed a quick plan with the rest of the men. I joined Richard’s group and we proceeded to walk quickly towards the suspect’s location (a small mud hut with a grass roof), one ranger had unclipped hand cuffs from his belt and held them open and ready.

Sat by a fire was a man cooking the legs of a bush pig, before anyone had time to react and with no exchange of words, the handcuffs were placed on the individual and he was lifted onto his feet and walked back the way we came. The rangers had already called for backup and as we reached the main track the land cruiser arrived and we swiftly piled into the back, poacher and evidence included. We then drove back to camp the interrogation began the following morning.

Hannah – due to the time constraints incurred by running the project over your Christmas holidays, was it fun to have a 19hour working day? Describe what an average day would involve?

H – We certainly worked long hours out in Malawi but this was essential as there was a lot to get done. A typical day would involve us waking up around 5am so that we arose with the sun ready to start the day. Daily activities included visiting schools to show the film and leading discussions, meetings and interviews with a variety of organisation representatives and figureheads, bringing the children into the parks, shadowing individuals and learning what work was being done by those at the forefront of wildlife protection and of course lots and lots of driving as we covered an extraordinary distance, most of which was off-road.

Evening film showing in Malawian village

Evening film showing in Malawian village

Most of our evenings over the six weeks were spent showing the film to communities – we would arrive around 6pm as the sun was setting and set up the bicycle powered projector then begin as soon as it became dark. The community showings tended to last longer as more people got involved and we kept them going for as long as there were questions/comments. By the time we returned to wherever we were staying that night and had cooked and eaten dinner it was usually nearing midnight.

From the second we arrived in Malawi we had every moment scheduled, we had one afternoon scheduled off in Mzuzu for travelling but upon being asked by a school student to show the film at his youth club we couldn’t say no. Seeing the response we got, the smiles on the children’s faces as they saw the wildlife and experiencing first-hand the warmth of the Malawian people was incredible. Malawi truly is the ‘warm heart of Africa’. I can safely say we all slept very well on the aeroplane home!

Malawian school children during trip to national park to see local wildlife

Malawian school children during trip to national park to see local wildlife

Hannah and Jamie – it’s sad to see so many conservation projects end once the project leaders have left the country, was this the case with yours?

H & J – The last thing we wanted was to just turn up in Malawi, stay for six weeks and then just disappear again with no long term plan in place, that wouldn’t have helped anything. In order to avoid this, we worked with local educators throughout Malawi, giving the communities a lasting figure head once we had gone. A wildlife guardian network was established, a proportion of which is being managed by ‘Children in the Wilderness’ and various ‘Wildlife Clubs’ of the Department of Parks. The story book ‘The Elephant and the Mountain’ was also given out to children to remind them of the wildlife they had seen. Most importantly the project has now been handed over to Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, the British High Commission have funded a similar bicycle powered cinema to stay in Malawi and the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust will be continuing to visit communities and schools to show the film alongside their outreach work. We hope to return in the future to see the project flourishing.

So what’s next?

H – Kenya! Jamie is already in Kenya filming for the next project and we aim to run the bicycle powered cinema across Kenya in August 2016!

Jamie and Hannah - founders of Stand Up for NatureJamie and Hannah - founders of Stand Up for Nature

Jamie and Hannah – founders of Stand Up for Nature

The film can be viewed here.

Find out more about Stand Up for Nature on their website.

Mar 21

Photographs on the Arkive website  have helped two naturalists who had never met and work around 200 miles (310 kms) apart to identify two previously unrecorded species of one of Earth’s oldest flowering plants: the magnolia.

In 2010, Roberto Pedraza Ruiz gave Arkive a series of animal and plant photos he had taken in a life-rich cloud forest within eastern Mexico’s Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve. One of the photos he donated was identified as being the magnolia, Magnolia dealbata, classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

But the image raised questions for Dr José Antonio Vázquez, a botanist at the University of Guadalajara, when he came across it during a search of Arkive’s 16,000 free-to-view online flora and fauna fact-files.

Magnolia rzedowskiana flower

It was this image that first raised questions. It is now identified as a Magnolia rzedowskiana flower.

As Roberto explains: “For Dr Vázquez, the specimen in the photo seemed unusual and he requested that I sent him more pictures. So I made several more trips to the cloud forest, documenting the flowers and fruits of the trees until finally receiving confirmation that I had photographed not only one but two completely new species of magnolias.”

Two new species of magnolia discovered

The first of the finds, originally identified on Arkive, has already been documented and has been given the name Magnolia rzedowskiana, after Dr Jerzy Rzedoswski, Mexico’s most eminent botanist who has collected and documented over 50,000 species and celebrating his 90th birthday this year.  A description of the second specimen is about to published and will be named Magnolia pedrazae, after Roberto.

He says: “This is without doubt the highest honour that a conservationist and nature photographer can receive. It means that this incredibly special tree – an endemic of the Sierra Gorda and product of an evolutionary process that spans millennia – has become part of the family.”

Magnolia rzedowskiana

Magnolia rzedowskiana

Lucie Muir, Director of Wildscreen, added: “We were absolutely thrilled when Roberto told us that a new species of magnolia had been identified because of botanist looking through the images on the Arkive website. It’s amazing that new species are still being discovered and that on this occasion Arkive was part of the discovery story.”

Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda

The use of the Pedraza name is especially apt as it was Roberto’s parents who started the grassroots movement which led to the creation of the Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda (GESG) to look after a section of the eastern Sierra Madre where the high peaks, rain shadow, remoteness and latitude mean biodiversity is especially rich.

Roberto Pedraza Ruiz

Roberto Pedraza Ruiz

Roberto grew up in the region and soon turned to photography as a way of documenting and sharing the area’s biological wealth and GESG’s work to protect it.  It was during one of his GESG expeditions in 1996 that Roberto found loggers at work in the cloud forest where the new species of magnolia grow.   After he raised the alarm, 40 friends clubbed together to buy the land and halt the operation – so saving a habitat where ancient oaks and cypress reach heights of 130 feet (40 metres), their limbs draped in dense mats of moss, ferns, orchids and bromeliads; and a place where he has photographed many rare or previously unrecorded life-forms, including jaguars, pumas and margays and a new family of molluscs.

Roberto says: “These discoveries highlight the importance of protecting sites with high biological value, giving ecosystems and species refuges from human activity, spaces where they are protected from humans’ ever-increasing demands for land and ecosystem services. If steps had not been taken to protect them, these species and others may have disappeared before we even learned of their existence.”

More information

Roberto has been donating his images to Arkive since 2010. View all of his images here and view the new species profile for Magnolia rzedowskiana here.

Find out more about the work of  Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda here.

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