Jun 15

If you had to take a guess at how many wildlife photos are in the ARKive collection at this moment, what would you guess? 1000? 10,000? Actually, the ARKive collection has put a face to 15,500+ species from around the world with over 94,000 images!

Today is Nature Photography Day so we thought it was the perfect time to share the top 10 most viewed wildlife photos on ARKive starting with …

#10

Photo of green anaconda

This picture of a 12 foot long green anaconda has brought loads of visitors to ARKive. Since the species holds the title for largest snake in the world, we’re thinking that might have something to do with its popularity.

#9

Photo of bald eagle

We’re not surprised to see this national emblem of the United States in the top 10 rankings. An interesting fact about the species you may not know is that bald eagles are thought to be monogamous meaning they pair for life.

#8

Photo of giant panda

While the bald eagle is synonymous with the USA, the giant panda is certainly synonymous with China. Perhaps this picture is so popular because it depicts the species doing what it does best … eating loads of bamboo. How much does it eat exactly? Up to 18 kg or 40 lbs of bamboo a day!

#7

Photo of lion

We think we see a theme emerging here with some of the world’s largest species dominating the list! One of the largest big cats in the world, lions can take down prey many times bigger than themselves. This particular lion is using a termite mound as a prime vantage point for a future meal.

#6

Photo of tiger

Coming in a very close 2nd in our World’s Favorite Species campaign last month, the tiger is arguably one of the most popular cat species in the world and also the only cat with stripes. Their stripes are so unique that each tiger has its own set of stripes that identifies them much like a fingerprint!

#5

Photo of cheetah

Are you surprised to see yet another cat species on the list? We’re not! Cheetahs are always crowd favorites and an action shot like this gives a glimpse into how powerful this species can be.

#4

Photo of king cobra

The longest of the world’s snakes, the king cobra is also highly venomous and, instead of hissing when danger approaches, it will emit a low, distinctive growl. It’s encouraging that this picture is so popular since this snake is being rescued from a coffee plantation where it would have otherwise been destroyed by plantation workers.

#3

Photo of polar bear

The largest living land carnivore, the polar bear is one of the best known species in the world and another top species in our World’s Favorite Species campaign. When standing on its two rear legs, the males of the species would tower nearly any living human at up to 2.6 meters or 8.5 ft in height!

#2

Photo of orca

We’re finally diving into the ocean on this list with the most widespread mammal in the world (after humans), the orca. This shot of an orca surfacing shows off the signature dorsal, or top, fin of the species beautifully.

And now, for the most viewed wildlife image on ARKive …

#1

Photo of great white shark

This shot of the tremendous great white shark tops our list of most viewed wildlife images on ARKive. As such a fascinating species in so many ways, it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly makes this species so popular. Its powerful, stream-lined body, ability to sense electric fields with its snout, unique capability to give birth to live young and dominating status as the top predator of the marine food chain may all be factors in making this image the most popular.

What do you think? Would this picture be your #1 most-viewed choice? If you had to pick one favorite picture out of all 94,000 on ARKive, could you? Have a look through ARKive and share your favorites in the comments below!

Liana Vitali, ARKive Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

Jun 14

As their name suggests, seabirds are birds which live in a marine environment. They come in all shapes and sizes, but all show a range of adaptations to their ocean-going lifestyle.

To celebrate World Oceans Day, which took place on 8th June, we thought we would take a closer look at some of the fascinating birds which make the oceans their home.

Colourful clowns

Photo of puffin pair greeting

Like many seabirds, the colourful puffin spends most of its life at sea, only returning to land once a year to breed. This much-loved, rather comical bird only develops the distinctive colours on its beak during the breeding season. It typically nests in large colonies on offshore islands or on inaccessible cliffs with grass slopes, excavating a burrow into which it lays a single egg.

Masters of the air

Photo of male great frigatebird displaying

With the largest wing area to body mass ratio of any bird, the great frigatebird is wonderfully adapted to an aerial lifestyle, and is able to soar almost effortlessly above the ocean for long periods. This species lacks waterproof plumage and doesn’t spend time on water, instead taking food from just above or on the surface of the sea, or pirating it from other birds in the air. The male great frigatebird has a distinctive appearance, with a conspicuous red pouch on the throat which is inflated like a balloon during courtship.

Supreme opportunists

Photo of herring gull yawning whilst standing on cliff edge

The quintessential ‘seagull’, the herring gull is one of the most familiar seabirds in the northern hemisphere. Like many gulls, this species is a supreme opportunist and scavenger, able to take advantage of almost any available food source. While at sea, herring gulls quickly gather at areas of high food abundance, including around boats. This versatile species can also live inland, and even commonly nests on buildings in cities.

Dramatic divers

Photo of gannet preening partner

With a wingspan of nearly two metres, the gannet is the largest seabird in the North Atlantic. This species is known for its breathtaking dives, in which it plunges into the ocean, often from considerable heights, before catching its fish prey underwater. The gannet shows a number of adaptations that allow it to survive hitting the water at speed, including nostrils which open inside the mouth to prevent water entering them, and air sacs in the face and chest to cushion the impact.

Ocean wanderers

Photo of wandering albatross display

The wandering albatross has the largest recorded wingspan of any living bird, reaching a massive 3.5 metres across. These impressive wings allow it to glide effortlessly across the ocean, and the wandering albatross spends most of its life in flight, often travelling huge distances around the southern oceans. This long-lived species does not start breeding until it reaches 9 to 11 years old, and pairs mate for life.

Terrific tubenoses

Photo of European storm-petrel feeding

A tiny seabird barely larger than a sparrow, the European storm-petrel is superbly adapted to life at sea. Like other storm-petrels, it belongs to a group of seabirds known as ‘tubenoses’ due to their conspicuous, tubular nasal passages, which give them an excellent sense of smell and help them to find patchily distributed prey at sea. Its small, hooked beak enables it to grasp its slippery prey, while a gland in the nose is used to expel excess salt from drinking seawater. The European storm-petrel mainly hunts on the wing, dipping its beak into the water while pattering its feet along the surface.

Cliff-nesting auks

Photo of guillemots at nest on rocky ledge with egg

The guillemot is a member of the auk family, a group of seabirds which have been described as the northern hemisphere equivalent of penguins. Unlike penguins, these birds can fly, as well as being excellent swimmers and divers. The guillemot nests on cliff ledges, and its eggs are conical in shape to prevent them rolling off. When the young guillemot leaves the nest it has to take a risky plunge into the sea below, accompanied by the adult male, who will then continue to care for it at sea.

Icons of the Antarctic

Photo of Adélie penguins diving off iceberg

Penguins are among the most popular of all seabirds. Found only in the southern hemisphere, these flightless birds are often associated with the Antarctic, although some species actually live as far north as the equator. With wings developed into flippers and legs set far back on the body, penguins are excellent swimmers, and their waterproof, scale-like feathers help to keep them warm and dry. A true Antarctic species, the Adélie penguin is found around the Antarctic continent year-round, and is capable of deep dives to find the krill and fish on which it feeds.

Dancing fools

Photo of blue-footed booby pair in courtship display

A large, comical-looking seabird, the blue-footed booby is instantly recognisable thanks to its bright blue feet. The name ‘booby’ comes from the Spanish word for ‘fool’ or ‘dunce’, referring to the clumsiness of these birds on land. The blue-footed booby usually nests in large colonies and mates for life, with pairs performing an elaborate courtship display which involves alternately lifting each blue foot, pointing the head and beak skywards and spreading the wings.

Super seaducks

Photo of male common eider swimming

Perhaps surprisingly, some duck species spend most of their lives at sea. The largest duck in the northern hemisphere, the common eider breeds on offshore islands, rocky coasts, or pools in tundra, but outside of the breeding season it is found in shallow marine habitats. Traditionally, the down feathers of this species have been used to fill pillows and quilts. The common eider dives underwater to catch crustaceans and molluscs, particularly mussels, which it swallows whole, crushing the shells in its gizzard.

 

Read more about World Oceans Day on the ARKive World Oceans Day blog, and have a go at our virtual scavenger hunt!

View more photos and videos of seabirds on ARKive.

Do you have a favourite seabird? Let us know!

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

 

Jun 12

Last weekend marked World Oceans Day, a day dedicated to celebrating the beauty and bounty that our oceans provide, and raising awareness of the importance of protecting them. Here at ARKive, we’ve been inspired by the watery realm, and thought we’d honour our fellow mammals by submerging ourselves in the wonderful world of whales and dolphins.

Winged whale

Humpback whale image

An instantly recognisable species, the humpback whale is named for the distinctive ‘hump’ formed by its back as it prepares to dive. Its long flippers, another characteristic feature, can grow up to five metres in length, and contribute to this vocal cetacean’s scientific name, Megaptera novaeangliae, which means ‘big-winged New Englander’.

Marine misnomer

Orca image

Orcas are easily distinguishable by their striking black and white markings and their imposing, triangular dorsal fin. Interestingly, these fascinating marine mammals have a rather misleading alternative name – killer whales. While they are certainly efficient predators, they are not whales and are, in fact, the largest members of the dolphin family. Orcas usually hunt in pods, although individuals from some populations are known to deliberately beach themselves in order to snatch sea lions resting on the beach before wriggling back to sea with their prey.

Social cetacean

Dusky dolphin image

The charismatic dusky dolphin is a highly social species, sometimes being found in pods of over 1,000 individuals and frequently associating with other cetacean species. This beautiful marine mammal is said to be one of the most acrobatic of all dolphins, often making energetic leaps out of the water and performing impressive tumbles in the air.

Underwater unicorn

Narwhal image

There’s no mistaking the unique narwhal, a species famed for the hugely elongated tooth or ‘tusk’ which protrudes from its upper lip. The longest of these incredible appendages was recorded at over 2.5 metres in length, and the males use these bodily weapons in jousting bouts. The narwhal is found throughout the waters of the Arctic, as well as in the northern Atlantic Ocean, and it tends to stay close to pack ice.

Cerebral cetaceans

Bottlenose dolphin image

Quite possibly the most famous of all cetaceans, the bottlenose dolphin is much-loved by many. This extremely intelligent species is highly social, and uses a wide range of clicks and whistles to communicate with other members of its pod. Like some other species of cetacean, the bottlenose dolphin seeks out prey using echolocation, and individuals in a pod will work together as a team to round up schools of fish into tight balls upon which the dolphins can feed. When not chasing prey or performing impressive leaps, dolphins are able to rest one side of their brain at a time. This allows them to sleep while remaining conscious enough to surface and breathe.

Moby Dick

Sperm whale image

The strange-looking sperm whale can be forgiven for having such a bulbous head, given that it has the largest and heaviest brain of any living animal! And its record-breaking statistics don’t stop there – capable of diving for up to two hours at a time, the sperm whale can dive to depths of 3,000 metres, making it the deepest-diving mammal. The largest of the toothed whales, the sperm whale is famed in literature as Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, but sadly it is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, primarily as a result of historic and present-day hunting.

Sea scars

Risso's dolphin image

A somewhat unusual-looking mammal, Risso’s dolphin can be identified by its long, pointed flippers, bulbous, beakless head, and the conspicuous scars present all over its body. These markings are thought to be caused by bites from other individuals of its kind during playing or fighting, but some scars could be the result of squid bites.

White whale

Beluga whale image

Although it is also known as the white whale, the beluga whale is actually born with dark grey to bluish- or brownish-grey colouration, only achieving the striking white hue as it matures. It is one of just a few cetaceans with a flexible neck, and it is capable of pursing its lips to suck up prey. The beluga whale is sometimes referred to as the sea canary because of the high-pitched twittering noises it produces.

On the brink

Baiji image

The baiji, or Yangtze River dolphin, is a very shy and graceful freshwater dolphin species with a very long, narrow, slightly upturned beak and small eyes placed high on the face. Sadly, it is thought that the Critically Endangered baiji could actually now be extinct. In 1999, only four individuals of its kind were observed, and an intensive search of its range in 2006 resulted in none being seen. The major threats to the baiji are considered to be illegal fishing using electricity, and being caught as bycatch in fishing nets.

Ocean giant

Blue whale image

We couldn’t possibly finish this round-up of ten incredible cetaceans without including the biggest of them all – the blue whale! The biggest animal to have ever lived, the blue whale has a heart the size of a small car and is capable of eating more than 4 tonnes of krill per day during the summer months. Whereas some cetacean species communicate using a series of high-pitched clicks and whistles, the blue whale produces a variety of low-frequency sounds, which may also serve the purpose of sensing the environment and detecting prey.

Is your favourite whale or dolphin not featured here? Then why not comment below to let us know what it is and why you love it!

If you’re looking for a fun challenge, check out ARKive’s ocean-themed scavenger hunt – there may well be a few cetaceans hidden in there!

Find out more about whale and dolphin conservation:

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author

May 24

Many of you will have been as excited as we were to see Discovery’s latest series – ‘North America’ – burst onto our screens last week in a dazzling spectacle starring the world’s most accomplished performer: nature. The incredible footage of captivating landscapes and an impressive array of wildlife inspired us to delve further into North America’s natural history, so we’re bringing you a collection of some of the fascinating species that live in one of the continent’s most iconic ecosystems – the Great Plains.

With the Interior Lowland to the east and the Rocky Mountains to the west, the Great Plains stretch across ten US states, including Colorado, Wyoming and Oklahoma, and up into parts of Canada, covering an area of approximately 2.9 million square kilometres. Roughly equivalent to a third of the United States, this broad expanse of flat land encompasses grassland, steppe and prairie habitats which were once covered with grasses and beautiful wild flowers. The Great Plains have undergone a big transformation over the years, with settlers bringing agriculture to the area, but they are still home to some interesting wildlife.

American bison

American bison image

North America’s largest mammal, and one of the continent’s most iconic species, the American bison once helped shape the Great Plains, influencing grass composition and the availability of habitat for a multitude of other species as it roamed across the grasslands in vast herds. However, while it historically had the widest natural range of any North American herbivore, the American bison is now restricted to small wildlife refuges and a few national parks, free-roaming over less than one percent of its original range. As a result of changes in land use, this tough species, with its characteristic towering shoulder hump and short, up-curving horns, is now no longer migratory, although it does still move in response to the availability of food.

Black-tailed prairie dog

Black-tailed prairie dog image

The highly social black-tailed prairie dog is actually not a dog at all but is, in fact, a species of stout, ground-dwelling squirrel. It is named for the dog-like ‘yip’ that it uses to communicate with other members of its extensive colony. Black-tailed prairie dog colonies, known as ‘towns’, have a complex structure and can contain from hundreds to millions of individuals which share an elaborate network of burrows; the largest recorded colony covered an area of 65,000 square kilometres! These huge underground tunnel systems are useful to the ecosystem in which they are found, as they aerate the soil and enable water to reach several feet below the surface of the plains.

Western diamond-backed rattlesnake

Western diamond-backed rattlesnake image

A species frequently associated with the arid southern United States, the western diamond-backed rattlesnake can be found on the grassy plains, as well as in woodland and deserts. As implied by its name, this species has a striking skin pattern, but its most distinctive feature is the tail rattle. This is formed of loosely connected segments of dead keratin, which produce a rattling sound as they knock together when the tail is vibrated. The western diamond-backed rattlesnake is highly venomous, dispatching its prey within seconds, and the toxic venom also plays a part in digesting its victims.

Coyote

Coyote image

The coyote, one of North America’s most resourceful and adaptable predators, is known for its piercing nocturnal howl, which can be heard across the plains at night. Understandably, given its appearance, this canine species is often confused with the red wolf and the grey wolf, as well as the domestic dog. Interestingly, coyotes have been recorded to form unlikely hunting partnerships with American badgers, with the coyote locating rodents with its acute sense of smell and the badger excavating the burrow to flush out the prey.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly image

The striking monarch butterfly is perhaps one of the best-known butterfly species, and is renowned for its spectacular, long-distance annual migrations. This species is well suited to its environment, with the bright orange, black and white colouration on the upper parts of the wing serving as a warning to predators that it is poisonous, and the duller orange undersurface enabling the monarch butterfly to camouflage itself against tree bark when at rest.

Burrowing owl

Burrowing owl image

The burrowing owl is unique among owls in that it nests underground. This unusual owl species usually inhabits holes made by mammals such as prairie dogs, but will occasionally excavate its own nesting site. Another intriguing aspect of the burrowing owl is its method of finding prey; it deposits mammal dung around its burrow, which acts as attractive bait for the beetles it feeds on.

Black-footed ferret

Black-footed ferret image

The black-footed ferret is the only ferret native to North America, and has a fascinating conservation story. Once common throughout the Great Plains, this species was believed to be extinct in the 1970s, until a small wild population was discovered in 1981. The last remaining 18 black-footed ferrets were taken into captivity for captive breeding purposes in the mid-1980s, and by 1987 it was considered to be extinct in the wild. However, although still one of the world’s rarest mammals, thanks to conservation efforts the black-footed ferret now exists in populations in eight western states of the USA, as well as in Chihuahua, Mexico.

Lesser prairie-chicken

Lesser prairie-chicken image

Perhaps a less well-known species of the Great Plains, the lesser prairie-chicken is actually a medium-sized grouse, despite its name. Male lesser prairie-chickens have rather conspicuous bright yellow eye combs above the eye, and dull red ‘air sacs’ on the side of the neck which are inflated during their elaborate courtship displays. This species has what is known as a ‘lekking’ system, where the male performs a display in an area called a ‘lek’ and the female selects a mate. Lesser prairie-chickens can look rather comical during courtship displays, as they erect a tuft of elongated feathers on each side of the neck and make short jumps into the air.

Ornate box turtle

Ornate box turtle image

The ornate box turtle gets its name from its patterned shell, the two parts of which can be completely closed thanks to a special hinge, enabling the turtle to completely withdraw its head and feet into a protective ‘box’. There are two subspecies of the ornate box turtle, with one inhabiting plains and gently rolling open grasslands and the other tending to prefer more arid habitats including semi-desert and desert. Male and female ornate box turtles can be distinguished by the colour of their eyes; male ornate box turtles have red eyes, and females have yellowish-brown eyes.

Pronghorn

Pronghorn image

Although it looks much like an antelope, the pronghorn actually belongs to its own unique family, and is endemic to North America. The distinctive horns for which this species is named are interesting in that they consist of a keratin sheath on a bony core, like those seen in bovids, but are forked and have an outer layer which is shed annually, as in deer species. The pronghorn also has the distinction of being the fastest terrestrial mammal in the Americas, renowned for reaching top speeds of up to 86 kilometres per hour.

Find out more about the North American Plains:

Find out about Discovery’s new series – North America:

Find out more about North American species:

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author

May 13

Narrated by American actor Tom Selleck, the Discovery Channel’s captivating new series ‘North America’ is due to air on May 19th, promising spectacular, never-before-seen footage of one of the world’s most diverse landscapes. To show our excitement, we’ve put together a list of our top ten North American species.

1.      Wood frog

Photo of wood frog

Wood frogs are able to freeze and thaw with their surroundings as a way of coping with cold temperatures

This widely distributed frog has a range that extends further north than any other North American amphibian. Often identified by a black mask that extends from the nostrils across each cheek and through each eye, this species is an explosive breeder, laying all its eggs in a matter of days. The wood frog is often found in or around damp woodland.

2.      Brown bear

Photo of brown bear

Brown bears can dive head first to depths of six metres

Just one of North America’s most iconic species, the brown bear is also one of the largest carnivores on Earth. The largest subspecies of this bear is known as the Kodiak bear, and it can weigh up to 780 kilograms! During hibernation, the brown bear can survive for over half a year without eating, drinking, urinating or defecating.

3.      Grey wolf

Photo of grey wolf howling

Grey wolves can track their prey for many miles

The grey wolf has a wide variety of coat colours, ranging from grey, red, brown and black to practically pure white. Its long legs and sensitive ears and nose make it a highly efficient and deadly predator, able to pursue its prey for extremely long distances. The grey wolf is a highly social and intelligent animal, hunting cooperatively to bring down prey that is ten times its size.

4.      Bighorn sheep

Photo of male bighorn sheep

During a fight, male bighorn sheep can launch themselves at each other at 32 kilometres per hour

The spiralling horns of a male bighorn sheep can grow to over a metre long and weigh up to 14 kilograms. Unlike that of most sheep, this species’ coat is made up of fur rather than wool. The nimble-footed bighorn sheep is able to bound between rocks, and up or down almost vertical rock faces, a skill that often enables it to escape predators. Its mating period is known as a rut, during which time males will take part in impressive battles for dominance and the chance to mate with females.

5.      Mountain lion

Photo of female puma with juveniles

Mountain lions are the only big cats able to purr

Also known as the puma, panther or cougar, the mountain lion has the largest range of any terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. Active at dawn and dusk, but rarely during the day, this agile species feeds mainly on hoofed mammals such as elk and domestic cattle. Although adult mountain lions are the same colour all over, kittens are born with a spotted coat and blue eyes.

6.      Wolverine

Photo of wolverine

The wolverine’s fur is thick and oily, making it resistant to frost

Despite belonging to the weasel family, the wolverine has an almost bear-like appearance. With a reputation for being a particularly aggressive animal, this species is powerfully built and well adapted to survive in wintery conditions. The wolverine’s coat has two types of fur: soft, dense underhair that helps to insulate its body against the cold, and coarse, long, protective guard hair.

7.      Giant sequoia

Photo of a giant sequoia

The bark of the giant sequoia can be up to 60 centimetres thick

Believed to be the largest living thing on the planet, the giant sequoia tree does not reach maturity and produce any cones for around 20 years. This tree generally benefits from wildfires, which remove competitors and ensure that the soil is rich enough for seed germination. The heat from the fires also causes the tree’s cones to open by drying them out, allowing the seeds to fall and germinate. The giant sequoia is more or less indestructible due to its size and thick bark, which conducts fire poorly.

8.      Moose

Photo of a moose feeding

There is debate as to whether or not the moose and the Eurasian elk are the same species

Growing antlers that can span over 1.8 metres, the moose is the largest of all deer species. Only males grow antlers, which are shed during the winter and are re-grown over the summer. Due to its impressive height (1.5 to 2 metres), this species has difficulty feeding from the ground, instead browsing on higher grasses and shrubs. The shape of its hooves enables this large, heavy animal to walk on soft snow and muddy ground, much like snowshoes work for humans.

9.      California condor

Photo of California condor in flight

A California condor may range over 200 kilometres in a day

With a huge wingspan of almost three metres, the California condor was worryingly declared Extinct in the Wild in 1987 when the last eight birds were taken into captivity. Following an intensive captive breeding programme, the first condors were released into the wild in 1992. Conservation of the California condor is ongoing and the population is continuing to increase, with the success of the programme being an inspiration to many.

10.      Bald eagle

Photo of a bald eagle

A bald eagle can carry up to 2.3 kilograms when in flight

As the national emblem of the United States, the majestic bald eagle is instantly recognisable. Believed to pair for life, mating pairs reinforce their bond by taking part in magnificent acrobatic displays in the air. When juvenile bald eagles, or eaglets, are about four months old, they often appear to be larger than their parents because their wing feathers are longer at this age. These flight feathers act as stabilisers when a juvenile bird is learning to fly.

Kaz Armour, ARKive Text Author

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