Jun 5

Today, the world will celebrate the 40th anniversary of World Environment Day. This annual event, hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme, is the most widely celebrated day for global environmental action. The theme for this year is Green Economy: Does it include you?

To celebrate, rather than focus on one country, we decided to expand ARKive Geographic and selected a species from each continent that practices eco-friendly behaviour.

Africa


Caracal photo

First on our list is the caracal, a cat species from Africa that can teach us all a thing or two about cooling efficiency and water conservation. This cat is truly adapted to its desert habitat, with large ears that serve as a built in air-conditioner by expelling heat. Amazingly, caracals also require little water, obtaining most of it from their food supply.

Antarctica


Weddell seal photo

Our representative from Antarctica is the Weddell seal, chosen for its excellent energy conservation skills. Unlike the caracal, this ice dweller is built to keep the heat trapped in, with shorter extremities, a large body and blubber that acts as insulation. This type of energy storage is also helpful when diving in the icy Antarctic waters, sometimes for over 20 minutes!

Asia


Myna photo

The common myna has Asian mass transit techniques down to a fine art!  As you can see, these birds are often found riding on the backs of rhinos, cattle or other large creatures, but they aren’t just your average hitchhiker.  Mynas repay the favour by removing ticks and other parasites during their ride.

Australia


Common clownfish photo

The common clownfish from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has earned the badge of community conservation and sustainable development, forming a symbiotic relationship with its partner, the sea anemone. The clownfish improves water circulation for the anemone by fanning its fins, as well as scaring away predators, while the anemone provides parasites and debris for the clownfish to feed on. Now that’s teamwork!

Europe

Black kite photo

Our European candidate is the black kite, and is perhaps one of the “greenest” birds around. This raptor is a known recycler, frequently reusing plastics and rags for their nests, and scavenging through garbage heaps for food. They are also efficient birds of prey, able to glide and soar on thermal wind currents as they search for food.

North America


Giant sequoia photo

The giant sequoia, found in North America on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, is not only the world’s largest living organism, but also a great contributor in reducing our carbon footprint. These majestic trees absorb as much as 10kg of CO2 in a just one day!

South America


Mantled howler monkey photo

Last but not least on our list of nature’s environmental stewards is the mantled howler monkey. Notorious for the cacophony it creates in the forest, this primate is also a fantastic gardener, feeding on fruit and helping to spread the seeds through the forest so that new trees can grow.

Do you have a favourite species that has a penchant for environmentalism? Get in touch with ARKive on Facebook or Twitter, or leave a comment below and let us know!

Maggie Graham, ARKive Program Assistant, Wildscreen USA

May 5

Break out the tacos and sombreros because Cinco de Mayo, a popular holiday in Mexico celebrating the nation’s culture and heritage, is right around the corner! There will be plenty of colorful festivities occurring on the day, so in honour of this celebration, we’d like to highlight some of Mexico’s most brilliant wildlife.

Amphibian with a headdress

The axolotl is a remarkable salamander that lives its whole life in the larval stage. It is easily distinguished by the characteristic pink feather-like gills that branch out from its neck. This incredible amphibian is also able to regrow missing tissue, and even whole limbs, when it is wounded.

Axolotl photo

Portrait showing feather-like gills of axolotl

The “New World” king  of the jungle

The jungles of Mexico are prime jaguar habitat. This striking cat was once widespread throughout the Americas, but with human activities threatening its survival, its range has become highly fragmented. Jaguars are opportunistic hunters, and relative to their size, they have the most powerful bite of all the big cats.

Jaguar photo

Jaguar resting in tree

Fiesta fish

The coney is a fish in the grouper family with an interesting quirk. Although all individuals begin life as females, they later change gender and become males. This interesting species also exhibits aggressive mimicry, where juveniles join groups of the similar looking brown chromis, allowing them to stealthily approach unsuspecting prey.

Coney photo

Coney

Desert dweller

Endemic to the southwestern United States and Mexico, the desert tortoise grazes on desert grasses, obtaining nearly all the water it requires from its food. The ambient temperature of the nest determines the sex of the hatchlings, with females produced at higher temperatures than males.

Desert tortoise photo

Desert tortoise feeding on flowers

Bird of brilliance

The scarlet macaw is an iconic and charismatic bird with bright plumage and loud vocalisations. It flys in flocks of up to 30 and frequently visits ‘clay licks’ on river banks to eat soil. Although it might seem like a strange habit, scientists believe the soil may protect the macaw against toxic compounds that it might have ingested.

Scarlet macaw photo

Scarlet macaw in flight

A flowering find

Although it looks strikingly similar to its namesake, the artichoke cactus is actually a small cactus found only within the Valley of Jaumave in eastern Mexico. Just the very tip of the cactus emerges from the soil, but with all the spirals and whorls, this is likely the most spectacular part.

Artichoke cactus photo

Artichoke cactus

These species are just a sample of the myriad of beautiful wildlife that Mexico has to offer. If you’ve got some time, why not explore some of the other species found in Mexico on ARKive and share your favorites in the comments!

Maggie Graham, Program Assistant, Wildscreen USA

Mar 5

What in the world is a tarsier? Have you ever seen a southern giant clam? Do you ever wonder what fascinating creatures inhabit the 7,107 beautiful islands of the Philippines? Why not join ARKive on a virtual tour of this tropical paradise and discover some of the incredible species found there.

Colossal crustacean

Coconut crab photo

A coconut crab on a palm trunk

Described by Charles Darwin as “monstrous”, the coconut crab is one of the largest arthropods in the world, and can span a meter from leg tip to leg tip. The coconut crab gets its name from its amazing ability to crack open coconuts and eat the flesh, and it is so strong that it can carry objects weighing up to 28 kilograms in its claws!

Beautiful bivalve

Southern giant clam photo

Southern giant clam

The impressive southern giant clam is one of the largest of the giant clams, growing up to 60cm in length. It is characterized by its relatively smooth shell and radiant mantle, which can have various colors and patterns. Sadly the southern giant clam is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, as it has been hunted extensively, both for food and the aquarium trade.

Hard-to-find hawksbill

Hawksbill turtle photo

Hawksbill turtle swimming over reef

If you are lucky enough to go diving in the Philippines, you might be fortunate enough to spot a hawksbill turtle. Named for its strongly hooked beak, this ocean beauty takes decades to mature, first breeding at 20 to 40 years of age. Sadly, having been exploited for thousands of years for its shell, it is now considered Critically Endangered.

Teeny tiny tarsier

Philippine tarsier photo

Close up of a Philippine tarsier

Heading into the forest, you might be surprised to see what is hanging out in the trees. Known for its enormous eyes, the Philippine tarsier belongs to a genus that have the biggest eyes relative to body weight of any mammal. Standing at only 5cm tall, this diminutive primate is a spring-loaded athlete, leaping from branch to branch with ease. It can rotate its head nearly 360°, providing an excellent field of vision, and often grabs bugs in mid-air to feast on!

Eagle eye

Philippine eagle photo

Close-up of a captive Philippine eagle

The Philippine eagle is the world’s largest eagle, with an impressive wingspan of two meters. It’s no wonder it is commonly known as the “monkey-eating” eagle, feeding mainly on flying lemurs, palm civets and monkeys. Found on the islands of Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao, the Philippine eagle was once widespread throughout its range, but now the population could number fewer than 250 mature individuals.

Hopefully you have enjoyed our virtual photo safari to the Philippines. Interested in seeing more? Make sure you check out our explore by geography feature, allowing you to search for species in every country, including the Philippines. See you soon for the next ARKive Geographic journey!

Maggie Graham, Program Assistant, Wildscreen USA

Feb 28

Today marks the 26th anniversary of National Science Day in India. With lectures, debates and activities held across the country on all things science, it’s the perfect time to take a virtual trip to this species-rich country on the ARKive blog. Let’s see if you knew all these species were found in India!

Probing proboscis

Green sawfish photoGreen sawfish swimming

Check out the nose on this guy! Very few fish are as easily spotted as the green sawfish. With its 23-27 pairs of teeth, the sawfish ambushes its prey by sitting upon the ocean floor and swiping at slow-moving fish as they swim by.

Turtle titan

Batagur photo

Close up of a batagur

Keeping with the theme of critters with unusual noses, the batagur is one of Asia’s largest freshwater turtles. Sadly, nearly 90% of the population has been lost in the last century to egg harvesting and the demand for turtle meat. If you ever see turtle on the menu, give this species a helping hand and order something else.

Fast feline

Caracal photo

Caracal cub

Don’t let it fool you, the caracal may not be the biggest of cats, but it’s capable of taking down prey three times its size. Another interesting fact? The caracal is so efficient with water that it hardly ever needs to drink and obtains most of its fluids from its food.

Fancy fowl

Indian peafowl photo

Male Indian peafowl displaying impressive tail feathers

Did you know that the Indian peafowl, otherwise known as the peacock, is the national bird of India. Interestingly, peacocks are among the few bird species that do not migrate and tend to stay in the same location for life. Talk about a homebody!

Hefty heifer

Asian buffalo photo

Female Asian buffalo wallowing in muddy pool

You might recognize this face from photographs of India. The Asian buffalo is widely domesticated for use in farming but what you might not know is that it can weigh over a ton. Additionally, Asian buffalos have the longest gestation period of any other bovine species - lasting nearly a whole year!

Who knew that India was home to such diverse species? Do you have a favorite species from India that we haven’t featured? Better yet, have you been to India and seen one of these with your own eyes? We’d love to hear about it!

Liana Vitali, ARKive Science, Education and Outreach Officer, Wildscreen USA

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