Apr 21
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ARKive’s Top Ten Endurance species

This weekend, a mixture of world class runners and 36,000 fundraisers will descend upon London to take part in this year’s London Marathon. To be able to run the 26.2 mile course a lot of training and endurance is required. To celebrate, here in the ARKive office we have put together a list of the top ten endurance animals:

The king of long distance

The monarch butterfly is renowned for its spectacular, long-distance migrations. It is the eastern North American populations which show the most remarkable migratory behaviour. The final summer generation undertake a mass southward migration from the summer breeding ground in North America to Mexico for the winter; covering distances of 3,000 miles at speeds of up to 80 miles per day! This incredible butterfly species has made the top 50 in the World’s favourite species competition. Visit the page to cast your vote for the monarch butterfly.

Athletic albatross

Albatrosses are renowned for being some of the most far-roaming seabirds in the world, with the Campbell albatross being particularly well known for making single, non-stop flights for up to 19 hours! When foraging, Campbell albatross may travel up to 2,000 kilometres away from the colony to find food, with trips lasting between 3 and 12 days.

Not leap frog but leap fish?

Outside of the breeding season Atlantic salmon are found at sea, roaming vast distances to search for food. After one or more years, Atlantic salmon return to their birthplace, in freshwater streams, to spawn. During this journey the Atlantic salmon can leap vertical distance of up to an amazing 12 feet, resulting in it gaining the nickname the king of fish!

Outstanding ostrich

The ostrich, the fastest runner of any birds, can reach up to 70 kilometres per hour in short sprints with strides of 3 to 5 metres in length! Not only does the ostrich have speed it also has high stamina being able to run at up to 50 kilometres per hour for 30 minutes or more! This would make the ostrich a real contender in any marathon!

I am turtley not getting lost

When green turtles reach sexual maturity they will migrate back to the beach where they hatched, to breed. This is not only a tremendous feat of navigation but also involves travelling very long distances. For some population of green turtles in Brazil this means travelling 2,250km to return back to the Ascension Islands to breed!

There is no terning back

The Arctic tern probably undertakes the longest migration of any bird, breeding in the Arctic and travelling to Antarctica for winter. This means that the Arctic tern sees more sunlight each year than any other animal, as they experience a ‘second summer’ by travelling south in winter. It makes all the hard work seem worth it!

A whaley long way to go

Humpback whales undertake yearly migrations of thousands of kilometres, from summer feeding grounds in polar regions to winter breeding grounds near the tropics. Humpback whales which feed south of Cape Horn undertake the longest known migration of any mammal, with their journey taking them all the way to the warm waters off Columbia and Costa Rica to breed. If this is not incredible enough, humpback whales do not feed during their whole migration or during their time at the breeding grounds. Does this impress you enough to make the humpback whale your favourite species? If so, cast your vote for the humpback whale here and check out its contenders!

Freeze a jolly good fellow

Breeding in Antarctica’s harsh winter, when temperatures drop to as low as minus 60ºC, and wind speeds reach up to 200 kilometres per hour requires some serious endurance! Each year Emperor penguins undertake this challenge to ensure that their chicks fledge in the late summer season. Adult penguins journey for upto 120 kilometres to reach their breeding colonies, in these harsh conditions. After six weeks the female will then return to feed whereas the male has to endure the rest of the winter incubating the egg. The emperor penguin has also successfully made it to the top 50, make it number one by voting for it today!

We will make it come rein or shine..

The reindeer, known as caribou in North America, undertakes the longest migration of any land mammal. Most reindeer populations will undertake seasonal migrations with the annual distance covered by some individuals being at least 5,000 kilometres. This migration also often includes swimming across rivers and fjords.

Size doesn’t matter

The ruby throated hummingbird is a migratory species which breeds in eastern North America and winter in Central America. Despite being only 9 centimetres in length the ruby throated hummingbird can make this migration across the Gulf of Mexico non-stop, a round trip of more than 1,600 kilometres!

If you can think of any other endurance species not on the list then do let us know!

Jemma Pealing, Media Researcher

Mar 28
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ARKive’s Top Ten Eggs

With Easter just a hop, skip and a jump away, we thought we’d crack into the ARKive coll-egg-tion and have a scramble around to eggs-tract some egg-citing eggs to eggs-hibit in our blog. Along the way, we’ve also learned about the eggs-istence of some rather eggs-centric egg-laying and guarding habits, and we hope you’re as eggs-tatic about our finds as we are!

Gooseberry fool?

Peacock butterfly egg image

Peacock butterfly eggs look a lot like gooseberries!

While you might be forgiven for being fooled into thinking that these green globules are plump and juicy gooseberries, they are, in fact, peacock butterfly eggs. The eggs of this species are laid in groups under nettles, usually in May, and hatch two weeks later.

Sunny-side up? Over-easy? Well-done?

Emu egg image

Emu eggs come in various shades of greenish-black

However you like your eggs, there’s no denying that these ones look as though they’ve been char-grilled in their shells! But fear not, these emu eggs are supposed to look like this; they come in various shades of greenish-black and are the size of a small grapefruit. The male emu is an eggs-traordinary guardian, taking sole responsibility for incubating the eggs over the course of two months while the female wanders off to potentially find another mate, and protecting the chicks against predators for several months once they’ve hatched.

100 kids and counting…

Green turtle egg image

Green turtles can lay an impressive number of eggs per nesting season

In the UK, having more than about four siblings would constitute being part of a pretty large and impressive family, but in the world of marine turtles, this is a mere drop in the ocean. Female green turtles produce between 100 and 150 ping-pong-ball-like eggs per clutch, and can lay up to nine separate clutches per breeding season. While this may seem rather a lot, marine turtles don’t guard their nests or look after their young, and with the threat of land- and ocean-dwelling predators, the survival rate of hatchlings is very low.

High-flying hunger games…

Bald eagle egg image

Bald eagle nests are some of the largest of any bird species

Bald eagle nests, made with sticks and lined with moss, grass, seaweed and other vegetation, are some of the largest of any bird species, sometimes reaching several metres in width. These enormous nests presumably provide a comfy and snug environment for the eggs during the 35-day incubation period, yet things can soon turn ugly. By being bigger and louder, the first-born chick is often afforded more parental attention and food, and will even occasionally kill its younger siblings.

Treasures of the deep

California horn shark egg image

Shark eggs, such as this California horn shark egg, are often referred to as ‘mermaid’s purses’

A mermaid’s purse might well sound like something a sea-dwelling siren would keep her money and credit cards in, but a pilfering pickpocket could get a nasty surprise if they were to try to purloin this particular purse as it is actually a shark egg-case! Mermaid’s purses vary greatly in shape, size and colour, depending on the shark species in question.

Eggs-panding eggs

 

Common frog egg image

Common frog eggs are coated in a jelly-like substance

Frog egg masses, often referred to as frogspawn, tend to look rather like a gruesome collection of eyeballs. The female common frog releases between 1,000 and 2,000 eggs at a time, which are covered in a jelly-like coating. This coating expands when it comes into contact with water, providing protection for the tadpoles growing within.

Egg pasta

 

Sea lemon egg image

Pasta del mar – sea lemons produce somewhat pasta-like egg masses

What may look like a delectable strand of abandoned tagliatelle cast into the depths of the ocean is, in actual fact, a mass of sea lemon eggs. A common sea slug around Britain’s shores, the sea lemon produces thousands of eggs at a time which form a long, coiled, ribbon-like mass. These egg masses are produced in the spring and are attached to rocks, so if you take an Easter weekend dip in the sea and find such a structure, we would advise leaving it well alone and not adding it to your carbonara!

Ha-bee Easter!

 

Honey bee egg image

Honey bee egg

A supplier of sugary goodness and a harbinger of spring to many, the honey bee lays its eggs from March to October. Honey bee colonies have a complex structure, formed of the queen, workers and drones, all of which serve different functions. Worker bees have a variety of roles within the colony, with some being tasked with feeding the developing larvae which emerge from the eggs around three days after they are laid.

Eggshellent parenting

 

King penguin egg image

King penguins incubate their egg on their feet

King penguins appear to take parenting very seriously, with each pair keeping a close eye on their precious egg. Incubation is shared by the male and female and is split into two- or three-week cycles, and parental duties remain shared once the chick has hatched. It’s a good job that king penguins don’t let their eggs out of their sight, otherwise they may not believe the chick belonged to them…the chick looks so different to the adult that they were first described as two completely different species!

Eggs-treme monotreme

Short-beaked echidna egg

A short-beaked echidna egg

While the majority of mammals give birth to live young, there are some eggs-treme mammalian species that lay eggs! These eggs-tra special critters are known as monotremes, and the short-beaked echidna is one of them. The echidna’s leathery egg is laid into a pouch on the female’s abdomen, where it is incubated for about ten days before it hatches. The young echidna, or ‘puggle’, remains there until it is 45 to 55 days old.

We hope you’ve enjoyed these eggs-amples of awesome eggs, and that you all have a wonderful Easter weekend!

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author

Mar 26
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Spring is in the Air

Spring is in the air – daffodils are starting to grow in the hedgerows, birds are beginning to build their nests and frogs are filling up ponds with frogspawn. Unfortunately there is just one thing lacking this spring – the end of the cold, winter weather and the arrival of some sunshine!

Despite the weather’s best attempt, here in the UK ARKive office we have still been thinking about spring – a time often associated with new beginnings and baby animals. To celebrate the arrival of spring (and to cheer ourselves up about the weather) we have put together a list of our top 10 favourite baby animal photos.

Quokka

Quokka joeys suckle for a further 8-10 weeks after leaving the female’s pouch

The ever smiling quokka is a small marsupial found in Western Australia. Unusually for a marsupial, it has strongly developed hind legs which enable it to climb trees. Quokkas have a short pregnancy of just 4 weeks before the female will give birth to a single joey, which suckles in her pouch for up to 30 weeks.

Asiatic black bear

Asiatic black bear image

An infant Asiatic black bear playing

Female Asiatic black bears, also called ‘moon bears’ due to the cream, crescent shaped marking on the chest, normally give birth to a litter of 2 cubs. Born within the safety of the winter den, normally within a tree hollow, cubs usually stay with their mother for 1 to 1.5 years.

Sea otter

Sea otter image

Californina sea otter pup resting on its mother

Sea otters are not only the smallest marine mammal, but their coat is also the densest of any mammal, consisting of around 100,000 hairs per cm². Female sea otters normally give birth to 1 pup, which they carry round on their chest grooming meticulously to ensure their fur remains buoyant and insulated. Sea otter pups will stay with their mother for around 3 to 6 months.

American oystercatcher

American oystercatcher image

An American oystercatcher chick showing of its hide and seek skills

American oystercatcher chicks are quick learners! Within 24 hours of hatching, the chicks are capable of running and leave the nest only 1 or 2 days later. Within 5 weeks they learn to fly and begin accompanying their parents to learn basic feeding techniques, becoming fully independent several months later.

Arctic fox

Arctic fox image

It is hard work being this cute!

The size of an Arctic fox litter varies depending on the abundance of food available; normally ranging from 5 to 10, litter sizes can reach 19 with high food availability. Both parents help rear the young, the female will stay in the den providing milk whilst the male goes out to hunt for food.

Giant anteater

Giant anteater image

Giant anteaters can carry their young until they are nine months old – the world’s longest piggy back!

The giant anteater, the largest of the extant anteater species, can eat up to 30,000 ants in one day! Female giant anteaters carry their young on their back, where they are aligned with the female’s white stripe so they are camouflaged. Despite being weaned after two months, the young may continue to be carried until they are nine months old.

Mountain chicken

Mountain chicken image

A female mountain chicken and a young froglet emerging from burrow

Despite its name, the mountain chicken is not a bird but is actually a critically endangered frog. Unusually, mountain chickens breed in underground burrows as opposed to breeding in water like most amphibians. After the larvae hatch, mothers will lay upto as many as 25,000 unfertilised eggs, upon which the larvae feed.

The mountain chicken features in ARKive’s latest game – Team WILD.  To find out more and to see if you have what it takes to join this team of elite, science superheroes click here.

Giant panda

Giant panda image

It is not hard to see why pandas are so popular

Giant panda cubs are born at a very immature stage of development meaning they are very helpless at birth. It is not until the cubs are five to six moths old that they even start to move about independently! Giant panda cubs will remain dependent on their mothers until they are at least 18 months old.

Harp seal

Harp seal image

A 2 day old harp seal pup showing of its warm, white coat

Harp seal pups are also known as ‘whitecoats’ due to their thick, white and very insulating fur. Weighing around 11 to 12 kilograms when they are born, harp seal pups will gain 2.2 kilograms in weight per day whilst nursing on their mother’s fatty milk.

White-tailed tropicbird

White-tailed tropicbird image

This chick looks like it has an attitude problem!

Though not as cute as some of the other babies featured in this blog, this photo of the white-tailed tropic bird is one of my favourites. This chick may not look vulnerable, but once hatched white-tailed tropicbird chicks are left alone in the nest frequently, leaving them open to attack from other parents looking for nesting sites. No wonder this chick is trying to look tough!

Hopefully these images have brightened up your day! Let us know which baby animal photos on ARKive are your favourites and don’t forget to nominate them for the title of the World’s Favourite Species!

Jemma Pealing, Media Researcher

Mar 18
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ARKive’s Top Ten Insects

They may not be cute or fluffy, but insects are definitely some of the most fascinating animals on the planet. These tiny creatures make up nearly half of all known species and are vital to the world’s ecosystems.

All insects have a hard, chitinous ‘exoskeleton’, six pairs of legs and a body divided into three sections. However, they are extremely diverse and show an incredible range of adaptations.

Join us as we delve into a miniature world and explore ten of ARKive’s most fascinating insects and their adaptations!

Brilliant beetles

Photo of male elephant beetle, anterior view

A giant of the insect world, the male elephant beetle has a long, rhinoceros-like horn on its head which it uses to fight other males. The larvae of this species grow to an even more impressive size than the adults, measuring up to 22 centimetres in length! Beetles are characterised by their tough pair of modified forewings, or ‘elytra’, and are the most successful group of animals on the planet, making up around 40% of insect species and 1 in 5 of all animals.

Flying beauty

Photo of monarch butterfly in flight

The monarch butterfly is best known for its spectacular long-distance migrations, with some populations travelling as far as 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometres) south to their wintering grounds in Mexico. Millions of individuals congregate in small areas of forest over winter, blanketing the trees on which they roost. Insects are the only invertebrates to have evolved the ability to fly, and this has played a key role in their success.

Powerful predator

Photo of dragonhunter

The dragonhunter is an aptly named species, as it specialises in hunting other dragonflies as well as other large insects. It is a large and distinctive species with long, powerful legs and wings, and like other dragonflies it is a voracious predator. Adult dragonflies have acute eyesight and superb flying abilities, and are able to catch prey in the air. Dragonfly larvae live in water and are also formidable predators, shooting out their modified mouthparts to catch prey.

Dramatic transformation

Photo of large white caterpillar hatching from egg

A common and widespread butterfly, the large white lays batches of eggs on its food plant, and the eggs hatch into caterpillars a week or two later. The caterpillars feed, grow and moult, and eventually turn into pupae. Some pupae hatch into adults in just two weeks, but later ones remain as pupae over winter, hatching into adults the following spring. This process of metamorphosis occurs in many insects, and means the adult stage has the primary purpose of dispersing and reproducing, while the main function of the larva is to feed and grow.

Super senses

Photo of house fly

Although unpopular, the house fly plays a vital role in decomposition and the recycling of nutrients. To feed, this species spits onto food before sucking it up with its sponge-like mouthparts. As in other flies, its second pair of wings is modified into small appendages which help with balance, and claws and pads on its feet help the house fly to grip any surface. This species has surprisingly keen senses, with acute vision and an amazing ability to taste with its feet!

Now you see it…

Photo of Lompoc grasshopper side profile showing legs

Like many insects, the Lompoc grasshopper uses camouflage to avoid predators. Other species go to the opposite extreme, displaying bright colours that advertise to predators that they are toxic or taste bad. Grasshoppers differ from crickets in their shorter antennae and they produce sound by rubbing their hind legs against their wings, rather than by rubbing their wings together. Intriguingly, grasshoppers have ears on their abdomen, and crickets have them on their front legs.

Sociable species

Photo of leaf-cutter ants carrying leaves back to the nest

Like other ant species, the leaf-cutter ant has a fascinating and complex social system. Its colonies contain millions of individuals, divided into different types or ‘castes’, each of which does a different job. Only the queen reproduces, laying thousands of eggs each day, while large soldiers protect the colony and other workers cut leaves to bring back to the huge underground nest. Leaf-cutter ants don’t actually eat leaves, instead using them to cultivate a fungus on which they feed.

Bouncing bugs

Photo of common froghopper

The common froghopper is capable of leaping 70 centimetres into the air – the equivalent of a human jumping over a tower block – and its jump is so powerful that it creates G-forces of over 400 gravities, compared to the 5 gravities experienced by astronauts blasting into space! Although many insects are referred to as bugs, the ‘true’ bugs are species in the order Hemiptera, which include the common froghopper. All bugs have specialised piercing and sucking mouthparts, which in the froghopper are used for feeding on plant sap.

Important insect

Photo of honey bee worker feeding

Honey bees live in hives consisting of wax ‘honeycombs’, which are made up of cells used to store food and rear the young. Only the queen honey bee reproduces, while the sterile workers collect nectar and pollen and store the nectar as honey. The honey bee plays a vital role in pollinating flowering plants, including crops, and has been domesticated by humans for at least 5,000 years. However, this important species is under threat from habitat loss, the use of insecticides and the spread of a parasitic mite.

Under threat

Photo of Lord Howe Island stick-insect

The large, heavy-bodied Lord Howe Island stick-insect was thought to have become extinct around 1920 after rats were introduced to Lord Howe Island, the only place it was known to exist. Fortunately, the species was rediscovered on a small rocky outcrop 23 kilometres away in 2001. This unusual insect, sometimes known as the ‘tree lobster’, is now being bred in captivity with the hope of reintroducing it into the wild.

 

Insects are not always the most popular or well-loved of animals, and are often overlooked in favour of furrier, cuddlier and cuter species. However, they are vitally important to the planet and are captivating creatures in their own right.

The insect world is currently being celebrated in the new ‘Alien Nation Season’ showing on BBC Four in the UK, and you can also find out more these fascinating creatures at BBC Nature – Insects.

You can also view more photos and videos of insects on ARKive.

With over a million species of insect described so far it’s tricky to pick a favourite, but if there’s one you think we should be celebrating we would love to hear about it!

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Mar 17
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ARKive’s Green Species

Today marks Saint Patrick’s Day, a day that traditionally involves the wearing of green. To celebrate, we thought we’d have a look at species on ARKive that are already dressed for the occasion!

Join us as we delve into the animal kingdom and explore the world of all things green…

Stunning macaw

Photo of a pair of great green macaws allopreening

This large, stunning macaw is certainly dressed to impress! The great green macaw has particularly vibrant plumage, with a green body and wings, a scarlet red patch on the forehead, blue patches on the wings, and an orange and blue tail. It lives in rainforests in Central and northern South America, where it is an important ‘flagship’ species for the conservation of its habitat.

Terrific turtle

Photo of green turtle, side profile

One of the largest and most widespread of all marine turtles, the green turtle is actually named for the green colour of its fat and connective tissue, rather than its outward appearance. This large reptile takes up to 40 years to reach maturity, and some individuals migrate over 2,000 kilometres to reach their breeding grounds.

Fearsome tiger

Photo of green tiger beetle

Like all tiger beetles, the green tiger beetle has long legs and is a fast runner. This species is named for its beautiful iridescent green body, and is also patterned with yellowish spots on its wing cases. The adult green tiger beetle is a fearsome predator of other invertebrates, and its larvae are also predatory, digging pits in the ground to trap unwary prey.

Migrating dragonfly

Photo of common green darner

The beautiful common green darner is one of North America’s most common and widespread dragonflies, and is one of very few dragonfly species known to migrate. A large insect, it has a green head and thorax, and a distinctive ‘bull’s-eye’ mark on its forehead. The name ‘darner’ is thought to come from the long, narrow abdomen of these dragonflies, which somewhat resembles a darning needle in shape.

Spot the iguana!

Photo of juvenile green iguanas basking

A popular reptile in captivity, the green iguana is, as its name suggests, usually a shade of green, although bright orange individuals also occur. This large lizard has an impressive spiny crest along its back and tail, and typically lives in trees, where it feeds on leaves and flowers. However, the green iguana is also a capable swimmer, and may dive into water to escape predators.

Brilliant bird

Photo of male green broadbill

A small, chunky bird with a short, stumpy tail, the green broadbill occurs in parts of Asia and feeds mainly on fruit. As its name suggests, it has a particularly wide beak and mouth. The brilliant green plumage of this species provides it with excellent camouflage in its forest home.

Fabulous frog

Photo of green and golden bell frog on vegetation

The green and golden bell frog is a large, robust frog with pale green upperparts which are blotched with metallic golden or brassy-brown markings. Despite being a member of the tree frog family, this species spends most of its time on the ground or in water. The call of the green and golden bell frog has been likened to the sound of a motorbike changing gears!

Aquatic giant

Photo of green anaconda resting on tree trunk

Although not the world’s longest snake, the green anaconda is certainly the largest when its large girth is also taken into account. Growing up to nine metres in length, this semi-aquatic giant has olive-green upperparts marked with dark spots, giving great camouflage. It can take prey up to the size of deer, capybaras and even fully grown caimans, killing its prey by constricting it in its coils before swallowing it whole.

Prehistoric fish

Photo of green sturgeon

The green sturgeon is one of the largest and longest-lived freshwater fish, with a lifespan of around 70 years. This unusual species has remained almost unchanged for over 200 million years, and its rows of bony plates give it a prehistoric appearance. Its body is usually olive to dark green, with olive-green stripes, and although it breeds in freshwater it spends most of its life in the ocean.

Marvellous monkey

Photo of green monkey at rest

Although perhaps not the most obviously green-looking species, the green monkey is nonetheless named for the greenish tinge to its golden fur. This West African monkey is highly social and usually occurs in large groups, spending its time both in the trees and on the ground. Although native to Africa, the green monkey has been introduced to some Caribbean islands.

 

These species give just a taster of the many shades of green worn by animals on ARKive. Of course, plants have a natural advantage when it comes to dressing up in this popular colour!

Why not join the Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations and check out some more of ARKive’s green species for yourself? Let us know if you have a favourite!

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

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