Aug 8

August 8th is International Cat Day, but before you open up the catnip for your domestic moggy why not take a look at their wild relatives? There are 41 cat species in the Felidae family and while the more famous members steal most of the limelight, there are probably quite a few species that you haven’t even heard of who are equally astounding. Here’s 10 that we thought deserved a bit of recognition this International Cat Day…

1) Rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus)

The rusty-spotted cat is the world’s smallest cat, with the some adults weighing just 0.8kg. This nocturnal hunter is found across India as well as Sri Lanka and Nepal, where it lives in dry deciduous forest, scrub and grassland and feeds on some of the classic cat favourites: rodents, birds and domestic poultry.

2) Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus)

The Iberian lynx is the world’s rarest cat; only 400 individuals remain and until recently there were only two known strongholds for this species. This cat is threatened by a dwindling food supply; their diet largely consists of rabbits which have declined due to epidemic outbreaks of myxamatosis. However may not be lost, as individuals have been translocated and reintroduced into three conservation areas across Spain and Portugal, which has led to a subsequent increase in the population.

3) Pallas’s cat (Otocolobus manul)

Pallas’s cat is an elusive and solitary cat whose range stretches across Central Asia. Far from the top of the food chain, Pallas’s cat is often predated by raptors, wolves, red foxes and, more recently, domestic and feral dogs.

4) Wildcat (Felis silvestris)

The wildcat is of huge importance to the human population, as without this species there would be no domestic cats. We’ve fed, groomed and generally been ruled by our cats for 9,500 years and it’s thought that wildcats were originally lured towards human settlements due to rodents that lived in their grain stores. The friendliest individuals domesticated themselves by taking advantage of human protection and leftovers, and this affinity with humans due to easy access to food is something has never shown any signs of stopping!

5) Flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps)

It’s commonly thought that cats hate water, but this is a misconception. It certainly isn’t the case for this brave felid, which lives a semi-aquatic life due to its love for feeding on fish, frogs and crustaceans. It has specialised adaptations for aquatic hunting, including webbed feet and backward pointing teeth. The flat-headed cat is not the only cat species that is regularly seen in water – check out this video of a tiger swimming across a river.

6) Caracal (Caracal caracal)

Arguably the most striking of all of the cat species, the caracal (or rooikat) is a fierce predator. Hunting in tropical savannas across Africa and Asia, the caracal can take prey items up to three times its size, including small antelope.

7) Borneo bay cat (Pardofelis badia)

The Borneo bay cat, endemic to the island of Borneo, is the most under-studied cat in the world, and only 25 individuals have ever been recorded. The first bay cat was collected by the famous biologist Alfred Russell Wallace in 1855, although this individual was dead and it wasn’t until 1992 that a live bay cat was caught and recorded. The Asiatic golden cat is a close relative of this species, although the population of their common ancestor is thought to have been split in two around 4.9 to 5.3 million years ago, triggering the evolution of these separate but genetically similar species.

8) Jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi)

Found in the New World, the jaguarundi is an unusual looking cat. Its slender build and small head gives it a weasel-like appearance. It also differs from other New World cats in its behaviour, as it is active in the day, has a large home range and is spends much more time on the forest floor than in the trees. Amazingly, individuals of this species have been seen jumping up to two metres off the ground when attempting to catch birds.

9) Guigna (Leopardus guigna)

Due to of its secretive nature and tiny size, very few people have seen a guigna and it is definitely not a cat that many people have heard of…until now! This arboreal species is found in Chile and Argentina, where it is known as the ‘kodkod’. The guigna is one of the smallest cat species in the Southern Hemisphere and I think we can probably all agree that it is extremely cute.

10) Lion (Panthera leo)

We imagine you’ve heard of this one, but did you know that lions were once common in Greece? There was once a European lion (Panthera leo europaea), which is often featured in Ancient Greek mythology, writings and pottery. Due to their geographical proximity these lions were captured and used in Roman arenas where they fought the ‘bestiarii’ (men who fought animals). In one festival in 240 AD, 70 Lions were slaughtered for entertainment. This was a main factor for extinction for both the Barbary lion and the European lion.

 

Want to find out more about wild cat conservation? Check out these amazing conservation organisations…

IUCN Cat Specialist Group
Felidae Conservation Fund
Wildlife Conservation Society – Big Cats
International Society for Endangered Cats Canada
Panthera

Ted Savile, Arkive Guest Blogger

Aug 5

With the Rio 2016 Olympics in full swing, we thought we would look to the animal kingdom for its offering of world class sporting prowess.

Faster, higher, stronger is a motto engrained in the minds of Olympic athletes the world over. Yet even Usain Bolt, Allyson Felix and Michael Phelps would struggle to match the athletic abilities of some of the world’s most remarkable animals.

Here are our Top Ten Animal Athletes that would clean up on the medal podium!

1. Cheetah

The cheetah is the fastest land mammal on the planet, reaching speeds of up to 87 kilometres per hour. Even the fastest human on Earth, Usain Bolt, only peaks at a top speed of 28 miles per hour! Blink and you’ll miss it!

Cheetah

 2. Froghopper

The high jump has been around since Ancient Greece. The current world record is currently 2.45 metres, set by Javier Sotomayor of Cuba in 1993 – the longest standing record in the history of the men’s high jump. The natural world is full of huge jumpers but the froghopper is leaps ahead. The undisputed high jump champion of the world, this 6 millimetre tall insect is able to jump an astounding 70 times its own body height!

Froghopper

3. Rhinoceros beetle

Move over World Deadlift Champion and world record holder Eddie Hall! The rhinoceros beetle is capable of lifting objects up to 850 times its own body weight. If Eddie had the same relative strength, he would be able to lift a 65 ton object – that’s the same as an armoured tank!

Rhinoceros beetle

4. Arctic tern

The marathon is one of the toughest endurance events in the Olympics. Dennis Kimetto of Kenya currently holds the world record of completing a course in 2 hours, 2 minutes and 57 seconds. The animal kingdom is full of endurance record holders, but the artic tern leads the flock. It holds the record for the longest annual migration recorded by animal, covering 40,000 miles a year!

Arctic tern

 

5. Desert locust

Ancient Olympians considered the long jump as one of the most challenging events. Some spring-loaded members of the natural world make the long jump seem like a total breeze. The desert locust can leap over a metre from a standing position. It needs no run up to jump around 20 times its own body length. If this jumping ability was scaled up in proportion to body size, this would mean humans would be able to do a standing long jump of over 40 metres.

Desert locust

6. Indo-Pacific sailfish

The natural world is stream-lined with underwater speed demons. From dolphins to Dory, there are some incredible swimmers lurking beneath the surface that would leave even Michael Phelps in their wake. But the Indo-Pacific sailfish is probably the fastest – capable of tremendous bursts of speed over short-distances it can reach speeds of up to 111 kilometres per hour!

Indo Pacific sailfish

7. Namaqua chameleon

Archery made its debut at the 1900 Summer Olympics, but the natural world has had the perfect aim for over 80 million years. Chameleons don’t need a bow and arrow to hit their target, just a super long tongue! With a bulbous sticky tip, which it shoots out to capture its prey, the tongue of the Namaqua chamelton may be up to twice the length of the body. Who needs a gold medal when you get the reward of a tasty insect treat?

 

Namaqua chameleon

8. Klipspringer

It’s not just the froghopper that reaches dizzy heights, in terms of absolute height reached, it’s this small African antelope that is leaps and bounds ahead. With a name meaning ‘rock jumper’ in Afrikaans, the klipspringer is able to jump up to 7.68 metres! That’s over three times the world record!

Klipspringer

9. Mountain gorilla

Wrestling with its primal hand-to-hand combat and complex tactics has featured in the Olympics since 1896 but has been around as a sport since Ancient Greece. With its characteristically heavy and robust body, broad chest and long arms, the heavyweight title surely has to go to the gorilla. The largest of the living apes, it would floor even the most fierce of Olympic opponents.

Mountain gorillas wrestling

10. Spinner dolphin

A women-only discipline, synchronised swimming is renowned for its grace and rhythm. This aquatic ballet first featured in the 1984 Olympics but like archery, the natural world has been perfecting this sport for millions of years. Like the Olympians, spinner dolphins move about the oceans in groups, ranging from just a few performers up to a thousand and as their name suggests, they love to perform at the surface. The reason behind the energetic spinning behaviour is unknown, but it is thought that it could be to help with communication, to dislodge hitch-hiking parasites or simply just part of play!

Spinner dolphin

Can you think of any animal athletes? Share them with us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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 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

Mar 4

In honour of Mother’s day today in the U.K., we have come up with ten of the most loving mums in the animal kingdom.

‘Darling would you stop pressing your paw so hard into my back…’

Photo of polar bear swimming with cubs

Although this lucky polar bear mummy gets to sleep through birth, it’s not all smooth sailing. She has to nurse and care for her cubs for 2.5 years, during which she has to provide food and teach them how to swim. As you can see, she gives them a helping hand every now and then.

‘Please stop fidgeting sweetie’

Great crested grebe with chick

This great crested grebe mother gets help from her partner in incubating and rearing her young, and she only has to look after them for less than 3 months. You may think she has an easy ride, but she is a very attentive mother and carries her stripy chicks around on her back. No need for a buggy here!

‘Wait your turn, you have to learn to share’

Female cheetah with suckling cubs

Cheetah mums have a lot on their mind. Until the cubs are 8 weeks old, they have to leave them alone in a lair while they go hunting. This is a necessary trip but the risk from the many predators around means the death rate of young cheetahs is very high. Thank goodness we can just go to the supermarkets!

‘I do wish you’d cleaned your feet’

Newly hatched Nile crocodile gently held in adult's jaws

This may be a big surprise to you, but the female Nile crocodile is a very attentive parent and after laying around 60 eggs will cover the nest with sand and guard it for around 90 days. Amazingly, her powerful jaws can be used incredibly gently, and she gathers the hatchlings in her mouth and transports them to water. There’s certainly no padding in this pram!

‘Try and keep up little one’

Female blue whale with calf

You won’t be jealous of the blue whale mum. She has to be pregnant for 10-11 months, and has to feed the calf 100 gallons of her fat rich milk during the nursing period! This is one demanding kid

‘In an hour I can drop you at the crèche, I’ve got to get my feathers done’

Sandwich tern with chick

We are not the only ones to come up with child daycare, as the sandwich tern has also had this idea. Once hatched, the young may gather together in a group, called a ‘crèche’, which is attended by one or several adults. Smart mothers!

‘Lunch time is over now honey, time to go and play’

Africam elephant suckling

If you thought the blue whale pregnancy was long, the African elephant definitely beats it! This poor mum has to be pregnant for nearly 2 years, and has to keep looking after the young for several years after that. Luckily other females in the group help out, known as ‘allomothers’. Every mum needs a break once in a while!

‘Don’t spike your sister!’

Hedgehog with young

Hedgehog mothers are truly single parents, as they are left alone to care for 4 to 5 spiky babies! Luckily they are born with a coat of soft spines to protect the mother during birth. They don’t stay baby soft for long though, as a second coat of dark spines emerges after about 36 hours.

‘You are getting so big now my dear!’

Giant panda female suckling infant

For such a large mummy, it is rather shocking to find out that the giant panda gives birth to a baby that is only 0.001 percent of her own weight! This caring mother will remain with her baby until it is about two years old or sometimes even older. But how could a mother resist when her baby is this cute!

‘Hang on tight my little orange!’

Bornean orang-utan female with infant

The Bornean orang-utan mother is probably one of the fittest around. She will carry her baby constantly for the first two to three years of their life and will take care of it for at least another three years! This mother definitely is a ‘supermum’!

Let us know if you can think of any other caring animal mums!

Happy Mothers Day to all the mums out there!

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