Apr 1
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Happy April Fool’s Day from ARKive

Today is April Fool’s Day, a 12-hour window where everybody needs to be on their guard as friends, relatives and colleagues do their best to fool and out-smart them. If you are plotting a prank, remember to carry it out before midday, otherwise the joke is on you!

While we keep an eye out in the office for any sign of trickery, we thought we’d gather together a few examples of sneaky species for which it is April Fool’s Day every day of the year!

Mucous mask

Did you know that parrotfish are the masters of mucous?! Before settling down for the night, species such as this daisy parrotfish may spend up to an hour making their own ‘mucous bubble’ in which to sleep. It may sound pretty gross to us, but this slimy sleeping bag is thought to serve a very important function, potentially disguising the scent of the sleeping fish and preventing it from being picked up by sharp-nosed nocturnal predators. What a great trick!

While reef fish are kept free of parasites during the day by hard-working cleaner fish, they receive no such protection at night, and studies have shown that the mucous mask may also act as a bubbly barrier against blood-sucking crustaceans known as gnathiid isopods.

Crying wolf

The tufted capuchin monkey, a subspecies of the black-capped capuchin, could certainly be referred to as a cheeky monkey, as it is known to fool and deceive all in the name of a quick snack! Within groups of these monkeys there is a strict social hierarchy, with the dominant individuals gaining better access to rich food sources. Lower ranked individuals have been observed to produce false alarm calls to trick the dominant monkeys into thinking they are in danger, causing them to scurry for cover, leaving the delicious food available for the lower-ranking individuals to get their hands on!

Cunning cuttlefish

Cuttlefish, such as this common cuttlefish, are related to octopuses and squid, and are rather crafty creatures! These intelligent invertebrates are able to change colour to match their surroundings, and the males are willing to employ some deceptive measures to make sure they get some quality time with the ladies. Male cuttlefish put on rather spectacular displays to attract females, flashing bands of colour along their bodies. To ensure their wooing attempts are not disturbed by potentially more dominant males, some male cuttlefish may ‘flash’ their bright colours only on the side nearest to the female, while maintaining female-looking colouration on the other side. Any potential rivals surveying the scene would then simply see two ‘female’ cuttlefish hanging out, and would not attempt to attack the sneaky male.

 

What are your favourite animal tricksters? Comment below to share with us!

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

Apr 2
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ARKive April Fool!

It seems that, in many countries, spring has not yet properly sprung, but we hope that our little April Fools’ joke helped cheer you up! The ARKive team had fun coming up with the ‘squabbit’, which was created in the hope that it would raise some awareness of the many incredible (and real!) species that are constantly being discovered around the world. To find out more about these fascinating newly discovered species, including the psychedelic frogfish, the ‘ninja slug’, and the David Bowie spider, visit our informative newly discovered species page.

Grey squirrel image

Original image of the grey squirrel used to create the loveable ‘squabbit’ © E. Shaw

Apr 1
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In the News: Potential new mammal species discovered in England

Photographic evidence has ended speculation regarding the validity of reported recent sightings of a squirrel-like rabbit in the Forest of Dean, England.

Photograph of a squabbit in the Forest of Dean

Currently the only known photograph of the potentially new mammal species nicknamed the ‘squabbit’ © E. Walsh

Scientists have confirmed the existence of an unidentified but potentially new mammal species in the Forest of Dean, England. Reported sightings of a strange-looking grey squirrel over the past three months have raised nothing more than eyebrows. However, recent photographic evidence and further sightings have put an end to speculation, confirming the existence of a small rodent-like mammal that indeed somewhat resembles both the grey squirrel and the European rabbit.

Affectionately dubbed the ‘squabbit’, this new zoological discovery is stumping scientists as to which species it is more closely related; the grey squirrel is a rodent, whereas the European rabbit is a lagomorph. Its bizarre appearance has led the scientists to believe that it may well be a type of arboreal rabbit. The discovery of a new mammal species in the UK is extremely rare, and the case is being treated with extreme caution. However, should the squabbit be formally described as a new species, this would be one of the most significant scientific discoveries for Britain this century.

Squabbit scat sample

Scat sample of the potential new species collected for DNA analysis © E. Cureuil

Slightly larger than the grey squirrel, the squabbit has predominantly grey fur which is a lighter reddish-brown between the ears and at the back of the neck. It has the long, bushy tail characteristic of the grey squirrel, thought to aide its balance when climbing trees, but larger, rounded paws more similar to those of a rabbit. Indeed, the paws of this species are presenting somewhat of a mystery, as the shape would lead scientists to assume that it is a ground-dwelling rather than tree-dwelling species. Surprisingly, however, the majority of reports of the squabbit have described its nimble climbing behaviour and ease of movement among the treetops. The most unusual feature setting this species apart from grey squirrels is its long, rabbit-like ears that are held upright above its head.

Edouard Cureuil, Professor of Rodent Evolution and Ecology at the Université Thierry Lodé, Paris, commented, “Although there is a possibility of genetic mutation within the grey squirrel population, the morphological differences appear too great to attribute to mutation…initial thoughts are that it represents an entirely new species that has somehow, until now, evaded the human eye.”

Grey squirrel with hazelnut in mouth

The squabbit is believed to have a similar diet to the grey squirrel, feeding on acorns, nuts and seeds, among other things.

The fact that the squabbit has so far avoided detection leads scientists to speculate that the species is predominantly nocturnal, and that Britain’s currently unpredictable climate may have disrupted its behaviour. It is thought to have a diet similar to that of the grey squirrel, feeding primarily on acorns, nuts and seeds, although it has also been observed grazing on grass at the foot of trees. Further studies should confirm whether this species builds burrows underground or nests in trees.

Several theories on the arboreal tendencies of the squabbit have been discussed, the most popular being an adaptation response to predation risks from wild boar and the many birds of prey present in the Forest of Dean. Camera traps have been deployed throughout the small area in which the squabbit occurs, and it is hoped that they will enable scientists to gain further insight into the behaviour of this bizarre new species. Scat samples have also been collected for DNA analysis which should shed some light on the unclear ancestry of the squabbit.

If confirmed as a new species, the squabbit will be a major new addition to Britain’s otherwise well-known fauna, and an exciting step for the world of species discovery.

Explore more newly discovered species on ARKive’s newly discovered species topic page.

Kaz Armour, ARKive Text Author

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