Apr 26

You might not have it scheduled in your calendar, but today in in fact Alien Day! That’s right, a celebration of the films in which Sigourney Weaver, aka Ripley, battles some frankly terrifying extra-terrestrial creatures.

So we at Arkive had to jump at the chance to share with you our five favourite alien-like critters! These out-of-this-world species live right here among us, so there’s no need to blast off into space and cryo-freeze yourself for an encounter!

 Saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica)

These bizarre-looking antelope look like they’ve fallen straight off the set of Star Wars, but in actual fact can be found in the steppe grasslands of central Asia.

Despite their common name, these ungulates are actually thought to be intermediates between antelope and sheep. They prefer open areas free from dense vegetation where they run quickly (up to 80 miles per hour) to avoid predators such as wolves and humans

Large groups of saiga migrate southwards in winter, covering up to 72 miles in a day. The rut begins in late November and males gather groups of around 30 females in ‘harems’, which they aggressively defend.

During the rut, males’ noses swell up and the hair tufts below the eyes are covered in a sticky secretion. Males do not feed much during the rutting season, when they take part in violent fights that often end in death. The male mortality rate can reach 90 percent during this time, due to exhaustion.

Tail-less whip scorpion (Phrynichus jayakari)

The tail-less whip scorpion is spider-like in appearance and, as its common name suggests, it lacks a tail.

Tail-less whip scorpions differ from other arachnids (a group containing spiders and scorpions) in that they use only six of their limbs to walk, rather than eight, as the front pair are adapted to act as very long sensory organs. They may look like a bit creepy, but they are actually completely harmless and do not possess venom glands or a sting.

Tail-less whip scorpions are primarily nocturnal and emerge at night in search of food or a mate. They generally occur in tropical and sub-tropical regions, where they live under stones, leaves, bark or in rock crevices and caves.

Hairy angler (Caulophryne polynema)

The hairy angler is a deep-sea predator that looks like it is could have had a starring role in the nightmares of many pretty little reef fish whose parents warned them of the dangers of straying from the safety of their coral home.

The female is about the size of a football and its body is covered in long antennae, used to detect the movements of any nearby prey. The male is about a tenth of the size of the female, roughly the size of a ping pong ball. When a male encounters a female, it latches on and, over time, begins sharing the female’s blood supply, providing her with unlimited semen in response.

While we noted at the start that no spaceship was required for these sightseeing trips, the hairy angler lives at depths of over 1,000 metres, in the dark zone (we think it chose this for added dramatic effect), so you would probably need a very expensive submarine to pay it a visit.

Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)

The axolotl is an unusual species of salamander which retains its larval features, such as gills, and remains aquatic throughout its life. They definitely look like a slightly more friendly alien creature who’d be more likely to sit down and play a board game with you than our previous guest creature, phew.

This real-life Pokémon mostly fails to undergo metamorphosis, but if its habitat dries up then this species can metamorphose into its adult form – magic!

Another out-of-this-world power the axolotl has is regeneration – X-men style! Instead of forming scar tissue when wounded, the axolotl can regenerate tissue at the wound site and even re-grow missing limbs.

The axolotl is native to the ancient water channel system of Mexico City, preferring deep brackish water with plenty of vegetation, but has been lost from most of its range and is currently listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Coral

The tiny organisms that live inside corals, polyps, can live on their own but are mostly associated with the spectacularly diverse limestone communities, or reefs, they construct.

Coral polyps are tiny, translucent animals. These soft-bodied organisms are related to sea anemones and jellyfish. At their base is a hard, protective limestone skeleton called a calicle, which forms the structure of coral reefs.

They have to be on this list as they are so bizarre and unlike any other creature on the planet, many people don’t know they’re even an animal, or even sentient, mistaking the reefs they build for rock.

Corals eat by catching tiny floating animals called zooplankton. At night, coral polyps come out of their elaborate exoskeletons to feed, stretching their long, stinging tentacles to capture critters that are floating by. Prey are pulled into the polyps’ mouths and digested in their stomachs.

The majority of a polyp’s energy actually comes from tiny algae called zooxanthellae. The algae live within the coral polyps, using sunlight to make sugar for energy. This energy is transferred to the polyp, providing much-needed nourishment. In turn, coral polyps provide the algae with carbon dioxide and a protective home.

Don’t get us started on how they breed, or wage war on one another, as we could go on for hours on their otherworldly behaviour! But if you want to learn more about these amazing and highly endangered species, please check out our coral conservation topic page.

 

HAPPY ALIEN DAY!

Apr 28

Merove favoured genetic familiarity last week, but will this week’s team member choose a close relative or opt for something more obscure?

Ben Roberts – ARKive In-House Designer

Favourite species? Tiger

Why? I’ve always loved tigers since I was little. They seem mysterious, powerful and graceful all at the same time. Plus, they just look cool! I used to draw them, paint them, make lego tigers, and do etchings of them. All that’s left art-wise is to photograph them – maybe one day! I did used to think all Siberian tigers were white though, for camouflage in the snow!

Tiger image

The tiger is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List. Tiger parts are used in many traditional Oriental medicines as an anti-inflammatory, even though it is listed on the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and trade is therefore banned. The market for tiger fur is also increasing. Habitat loss and the consequential decrease in prey populations have led to tigers taking domestic livestock and coming into conflict with local farmers. Habitat loss has also isolated certain populations, which remain in one area and eventually die out.

See more photos and videos of the tiger on ARKive.

Apr 21

Last week lion-loving Maggie showed her support for her favourite species, but will this weeks team member be wild for whiskers or think scales are superior?

Merove Heifetz – Chief Operating Officer, Wildscreen USA

Favourite species? Bonobo

Why? It’s my favorite species because they are a very peaceful and intelligent species that are so incredibly human-like in their appearance and in their expressions.

Bonobo image

The bonobo is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List. The bonobo is threatened due to land conversion for agriculture throughout Congo, where it is endemic. The rising demand for bushmeat is also compromising the future of this human-like primate.

See more photos and videos of the bonobo on ARKive.

Apr 14

This week we’ve crossed The Atlantic once more to find out if, like Ellie, the Wildscreen USA team think sea life is supreme or if their loyalties lay with life on land.

Maggie Graham – Program Assistant, Wildscreen USA

Favourite species? Lion

Why? They are a symbol of raw courage, beauty and freedom to me.

Favourite image on ARKive:

Lion image

The lion is classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Conflicts with farmers are not uncommon as much of the lion’s original range has been converted into agricultural land, reducing the amount of available prey and habitat and providing new, easily accessible prey in the form of cattle. In certain areas, lions are viewed as pest species and are often shot or poisoned.

See more photos and videos of the lion on ARKive.

Mar 22

Last time Liana proved her passion for plant-life, but will this week’s ARKive team member believe botany is best or animals are awesome?

Ellie Dart – Online Outreach Manager

Favourite species? Dusky dolphin

Why? The dusky dolphin stole my heart when I was in New Zealand eight years ago. I love the dusky dolphin’s playful character, its social nature and its ability to put on an impromptu acrobatics show.

It was a cold snowy morning when a group of 100 or more dolphins started swimming alongside our boat. I’d never seen so many dolphins at one time. Wetsuits on, we jumped into the sea with them. I think my heart actually skipped a couple of beats – perhaps it was the shock of the ice cold water, or perhaps it was their power that took my breath away.

They were bigger up close than they looked from the boat, and the speed at which they moved was to begin with, verging on terrifying, as they rocketed towards us, before playfully curving around. But within seconds, I felt at home with them, splashing around in the water (though my movements were significantly less graceful than theirs). Everywhere I looked there were dolphins – twirling to the side of me, diving underneath me and shooting out of the water and over my head. These dolphins know how to have fun and showed me a truly unforgettable morning.

Favourite dusky dolphin image(s) on ARKive:

Dusky dolphin imageDusky dolphin image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dusky dolphin is classified as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List. Threats to this species are thought to include entanglement in gillnets and illegal harpooning for meat.

See more photos and videos of the dusky dolphin.

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