Jan 1

It’s that time of year again, the turkey supply has been exhausted, the sales have been ransacked and the festive celebrations are nearly over! But fear not, we are here to inspire some New Year cheer and get you in the mood to tackle 2012 head on, starting with planning those New Year’s resolutions!

Photo of American black bear scratching head

In need of some help with your New Year's resolutions?

 

Work on that waistline

After all the overindulgence of the festive period, one of the most popular resolutions has got to be to lose a little weight. This can be hard to master on cold winter nights, so we suggest you look to the dedicated emperor penguin for a little guidance. Emperor penguins are the only bird species to brave the bitter Antarctic winter, with males enduring the constant darkness of the winter months in order to incubate their egg.

Photo of emperor penguin adult and chick walking along ice

Emperor penguin males lose up to 50% of their body weight while incubating their egg

This often results in the males losing as much as half of their body weight – more through necessity than choice, but still a stunning example of how hard work and endurance pay off!

Get fighting fit

If dieting is not your thing, why not knock lethargy on its head this New Year and get fit. Take a leaf out of the spinner dolphin’s book, this acrobatic mammal can be seen leaping from the water and spinning through the air in tropical seas worldwide. If spinning isn’t your idea of a good time, why not try your hand at some of the other activities enjoyed by our animal assembly including sprinting, long distance running, diving or boxing?

Photo of spinner dolphin leaping and spinning

Spinner dolphins are certainly not lacking in energy!

 

Break down your language barrier

¿Por qué no aprender un nuevo idioma? Or for those not familiar with Spanish – why not learn a new language? This is a resolution that I think would be endorsed by the Albert’s lyrebird, who has a spectacular array of sounds in its arsenal, developed due to the awesome ability to accurately mimic other species.

Photo of Albert's lyrebird male displaying and calling

Why not learn a new language?

 

Looking for love?

If the festive spirit has left you feeling romantic then why not look for love in 2012, but do spare a thought for the animals that put their life on the line to do the same. Male ladybird spiders have to tread carefully when approaching the burrow of a prospective female in order to correctly pluck the trip wires surrounding the burrow entrance. One wrong move and the female may mistake him for her next meal!

Photo of male and female ladybird spiders with egg sac

The male ladybird spider (right) has to be careful not to end up as dinner!

 

Give a helping hand

As social beings we tend to gain satisfaction from helping others, whether by volunteering our time or donating our resources. In biological terms this is known as a mutualistic relationship and there are plenty of examples of this in nature. The fanged pitcher plant has a mutualistic relationship with a particular species of ant which forms nests in the hollow tendrils of the plant. The ant is able to traverse the inner walls of the pitcher plant without falling in and being digested by the plant and is even able to safely hunt in the pitcher fluid.

Close up photo of a pitcher of the fanged pitcher plant

The fanged pitcher plant happily houses ants in return for a favour

In return the ant removes large prey items from the pitcher fluid. If left they would begin to decay before they were digested, which could be detrimental to the pitcher plant – win win I’d say!

Out with the old and in with the new!

What better time of year to embark on a spring clean; delve through those drawers and finally get to the back of that wardrobe. Everyone feels better after a good tidy up and it seems that this is not restricted to just us humans, the Vogelkop bowerbird also likes to maintain a tidy living space. The males pay meticulous attention to the position of each of the decorations within their conical bower, as after all, no self-respecting female bowerbird is going to choose a male with an unkempt bower.

Photo of male Vogelkop bowerbird in bower arranging ornaments

The male Vogelkop bowerbird likes to keep his bower neat and tidy

 

Got itchy feet?

The world is a fascinating place with scores of spectacular sights to see, meaning travel is an increasingly popular aspiration. There are many epic journeys occurring in the animal kingdom annually, and it’s not only birds and mammals that migrate. The monarch butterfly makes one of the largest invertebrate migrations, covering distances as great as 3,000 miles to their wintering grounds.

Photo of large numbers of monarch butterflies in flight

Monarch butterflies undertake massive annual migrations - where will you go?

This doesn’t mean you have to travel hundreds of miles to discover something new of course. Why not uncover some hidden treasures closer to home, see what can be found near you using Search by Geography.

 

Good luck with any resolutions made, from all here at ARKive we wish you a very Happy New Year!

Laura Sutherland, ARKive Education Officer

Dec 28

This weeks A-Z blog has been inspired by a couple of recent school visits where the classes were looking specifically at endangered species and the responsibilities humans have to the environment. As the aim of ARKive is to raise awareness of threatened species worldwide it seems particularly fitting for the ‘E’ edition of A-Z to be endangered-themed, so please join me on my exploration of the endangered species of ARKive.

Photo of southern bluefin tuna swimming next to fish farm net

Southern bluefin tuna are endangered due to overfishing

Life on the EDGE

We work closely with lots of other global conservation organisations including our friends at the EDGE of Existence programme, who are working to promote and conserve the most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered species. They are the only global conservation initiative to focus specifically on threatened species that represent a significant amount of unique evolutionary history, including weird and wonderful creatures such as the purple frog, the platypus and the shoebill.

Photo of Shoebill showing detail of head

The shoebill is a potential EDGE species

See where the golden-rumped sengi, pygmy three-toed sloth and Chinese giant salamander come on the blog of ARKive’s Top 10 EDGE species.

Extinction

The word that strikes fear into the hearts of all conservationists, which is hardly surprising considering that at present it is believed that 1/4 of all mammals and 1/3 of amphibians are at risk of extinction. It might sound rather odd but there are actually varying degrees of ‘extinct’ according to the IUCN Red List. Species can either be Extinct in the Wild (EW), which means the only remaining populations are captive, such as the scimitar-horned oryx, or Extinct (EX), such as the golden toad which was last seen alive in 1989.

Photo of a male golden toad

The golden toad is classed as Extinct (EX)

 

Ethiopian wolf

Living high in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia this wolf is the most threatened canid in the world. Human encroachment on their habitat and its subsequent conversion to agricultural land is reducing their available habitat. With humans come their dogs, which carry diseases such as rabies and canine distemper to which the Ethiopian wolves have no resistance.

Photo of the Ethiopian wolf hunting

The Ethiopian wolf is the most endangered canid in the world

 

Ecuador

The South American country of Ecuador, nestled between Colombia, Peru and the Pacific Ocean, is host to a huge variety of species including the giant otter, the boto and the giant antpitta many of which are endangered. The Galapagos Islands are also part of Ecuador which means much of the Ecuadorian biodiversity is endemic. Species from the Galapagos, such as the Galapagos marine iguana, face a plethora of threats including the introduction of domestic pets, marine pollution and the effects of environmental fluctuations such as El Nino.

Photo of a male Galapagos marine iguana

The Galapagos marine iguana faces a number of threats

 

Watch out for our new Endangered Species education module and activity coming soon to our education pages. For more information why not check out our Endangered Species page.

What is your favourite ARKive E?  Perhaps you’re a fan of elephants or the echidna, how about the eastern sandfish or the earthworm? Let us know…

Laura Sutherland, ARKive Education Officer

Dec 7

Picture of the Eye on Earth Summit logoNext week, the United Arab Emirates and ARKive’s principal sponsor, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) will welcome global leaders, innovators and decision-makers from across the world to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), where they will address the issue of providing greater access to environmental and social data to all of those who need it.

What is Eye on Earth?

A global meeting held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, the Eye on Earth Summit and Exhibition will act to draw attention to the gap that exists between the need for better information about the environment and the efforts that are being made to address this issue.

Ensuring effective access to environmental and societal data is critical in making informed environmental decisions; however, much of this data is currently absent, inaccessible or hidden. This is particularly evident in developing countries that do not have the means to acquire or generate data to make informed decisions.

Delegates at the Summit will therefore ‘convene, converge and collaborate’ to strengthen existing efforts and inspire a search for unified, global solutions to the issues that are preventing this important data from being readily accessible.

Who will be attending?

The Summit will host approximately 750 invited delegates ranging from current and former heads of state to international academic organisations and scientists. A dynamic blend of prominent speakers from the worlds of business, government and environmental protection will be present, including Dr. Sylvia A. Earle, Dr. Jane Goodall DBE, Julia Marton-Lefèvre and President Bill Clinton.

Photo of Arabian oryx males fighting

Abu Dhabi hosts between 450 and 500 terrestrial plant species and close to half the world’s Arabian Oryx population

Running alongside the Summit will be the Eye on Earth Exhibition, which is open to the general public and will showcase the very best from around the world in the field of data access and analysis. Wildscreen’s ARKive project will be among the multi-media mix of informational and educational products on show at the Exhibition.

The Abu Dhabi Pavilion at the Eye on Earth Abu Dhabi 2011 Exhibition will showcase themes such as the Capital’s progress towards sustainable urban development

The Abu Dhabi Pavilion at the Eye on Earth Abu Dhabi 2011 Exhibition will showcase themes such as the Capital’s progress towards sustainable urban development

What will be the outcome of the Summit?

A key outcome of the Summit will be the adoption of the Eye on Earth Summit Declaration, which will provide input to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012 (Rio+20). Through this Declaration, attending ministers, representatives of government and other participants will commit to facilitate the work required to make quality data and information available to those who need it, especially in emerging economies. The public is invited to sign the declaration at the Exhibition.

The Eye on Earth Summit and Exhibition is taking place in Abu Dhabi, 12th – 15th December 2011.

The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) is supporting ARKive to audio-visually profile the great diversity of UAE wildlife, as well as the world’s most endangered species. We look forward to working with them next week at the Eye on Earth Summit and Exhibition.

Oct 27

Breathtaking scenery, beautiful coastline, a subtropical climate and cultural diversity attract around 246 million tourists to the Mediterranean region every year.

The beauty of the Mediterranean Basin is world famous, but how much do you know about the animals and plants found there? As part of our Mediterranean Basin eco-region pages, profiled with support from the MAVA Foundation, we have created a quiz to test your knowledge about the animals and plants living in the region.

Some of the species featured in our Mediterranean Basin quiz include:

The magnificent Spanish imperial eagle 

Spanish imperial eagle image

Spanish imperial eagle

 

The Critically Endangered Mediterranean monk seal

Mediterranean monk seal image

Mediterranean monk seal

 

The charismatic loggerhead turtle

Loggerhead turtle image

Loggerhead turtle

 
Want to challenge your friends and find out more about animals and plants living in the Mediterranean?
 

Play the Mediterranean Basin quiz now!

Rebecca Goatman, ARKive Media Researcher
 
Oct 21

With the spectacular new BBC series Frozen Planet beginning next week in the UK, ARKive is giving you the chance to explore the dramatic landscapes and fascinating wildlife at the extremes of our planet with our new eco-region pages.

The new Arctic and Antarctic pages showcase the habitats and species at the extreme north and south of the planet, and also demonstrate how different the two poles can be. While the Antarctic is a rocky continent surrounded by the Southern Ocean, the Arctic is not a continent but a region at the extreme north of the planet, largely consisting of the frozen Arctic Ocean and the tops of the countries surrounding it.

Arctic image

Frozen Arctic Ocean

Antarctic image

Aerial view of the mountains in the Antarctic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poles apart

Due to the tilt of the planet, parts of both poles share the characteristic of having a period of 24 hour daylight during the summer months and perpetual darkness for a period during the winter. However, although both of these regions share an icy reputation, their climates can be quite different.

The Antarctic holds the record for the lowest temperature ever recorded on the Earth’s surface, at -89.2 degrees Celsius, with summer temperatures barely rising above freezing. While winter temperatures in the Arctic region can drop to around -60 degrees Celsius, summer temperatures are generally warmer than in the Antarctic, sometimes reaching up to 20 degrees Celsius.

Antarctic Peninsula image

Iceberg and mountains on the Antarctic Peninsula

Arctic tundra image

Arctic tundra in the Russian Arctic

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Animals at the extremes

In spite of popular misconception, polar bears do not hunt penguins. They live at opposite poles, with polar bears hunting on the frozen sea ice of the Arctic, and penguins only being found in the southern hemisphere. All animals that inhabit the polar regions, however, are superbly adapted to survive the extreme conditions with insulating layers of fat and dense fur or feathers.

Polar bear image

Polar bears in the north.......

Emperor penguin image

…….penguins in the south!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Arctic mammals

Other land mammals that occur in the Arctic region include the Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus), Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus), muskox (Ovibos moschatus) and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus). The Arctic is also home to a number of marine-dwelling mammal species, including the main prey of the polar bear, the ringed seal (Pusa hispida), as well as the walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) with its enormous tusks, the mysterious narwhal (Monodon monoceros) and the snow-white beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas).

Arctic fox image

Arctic fox on tundra

Muskox image

Muskox on Arctic tundra

 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ringed seal pup image

Ringed seal pup

Beluga whale image

Adult beluga whale

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Antarctic mammals

There are no naturally occurring land mammals in the Antarctic, but the surrounding oceans are home to a rich diversity of marine mammals, including ice habitat specialists, the leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx), Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) and crabeater seal (Lobodon carcinophaga).

The Southern Ocean around Antarctica is also home to many species of cetacean, including the Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis), sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), and the largest animal in the world, the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus).

Crabeater seal image

Crabeater seal group on ice

Antarctic fur seal image

Antarctic fur seals swimming underwater

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Antarctic minke whale image

Antarctic minke whale surfacing amongst ice

Orca image

Orca female hunting king penguins

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Extraordinary birds

Both the Arctic and Antarctic provide important breeding habitat for birds, with the brent goose (Branta bernicla) and the ivory gull (Pagophila eburnea) breeding exclusively in the Arctic, and species such as the wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) and black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys) occurring in the Antarctic. 

Brent goose image

Brent goose in the Arctic

Adélie penguin image

Adélie penguins in the Antarctic

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Polar plants

The Arctic region is home to some 3,000 species of flowering plant, which bloom during the brief Arctic summer. The Arctic tundra also supports small shrubs and trees, such as the Arctic willow (Salix arctica).

Due to the extreme conditions, the Antarctic mainland is relatively poor in plant life, with no species of tree or shrub, and only two flowering plant species, the Antarctic hair grass (Deschampsia antarctica) and the Antarctic pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis). 

Arctic poppy image

Arctic poppy

Antarctic hair grass image

Antarctic hair grass

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The future of the poles

Perhaps the greatest current threat to both the Arctic and Antarctic is climate change. Although the impact that changes in the global climate will have on the two poles is largely unknown, large scale melting of ice is a likely scenario. The future of these unique ecosystems, and the species that live in them, is very much reliant on international cooperation if they are to be conserved.
 
Learn more about the fascinating Arctic and Antarctic in our new eco-region pages.
 
Find out more about the new BBC series Frozen Planet.
 
Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

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