Apr 23

Organised by UNESCO, World Book and Copyright Day is held yearly on the 23rd of April, a date which also marks the birth and death of William Shakespeare, and aims to promote reading, publishing and copyright. To celebrate and help people rediscover the pleasure of reading, we’ve gathered together some of our favourite animals featured in famous and much-loved works of literature. How many of these books have you read?!

Life of Pi – Richard Parker

Bengal tiger image

Bengal tiger

Winner of four Oscars, the popular 2012 film Life of Pi was based on Yann Martel’s intriguing novel of the same name, and tells the story of Pi, a young boy from Pondicherry, India, who ends up on a remarkable journey. When the ship taking him to North America sinks, Pi is left stranded on a lifeboat for 227 days with only Richard Parker for company. Trouble is, Richard Parker is a Bengal tiger

Harry Potter – Hedwig

Snowy owl image

Snowy owl

Adored by children and adults alike, the Harry Potter books have sold more than 450 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling series in history. Each novel in the seven-book series envelops readers in a wonderful world of magic and mayhem, and is filled with charismatic characters and fantastical creatures. Among these is Harry Potter’s loyal feathery friend Hedwig the snowy owl, a large, powerful owl species with piercing golden-yellow eyes.

Moby Dick – Moby Dick

Sperm whale image

Sperm whale

He tasks me! That whale, he tasks me!

It doesn’t end at all well for Captain Ahab when he tries to take on Moby Dick, the gigantic white sperm whale that had bitten off the sea-farer’s leg on his last whaling voyage. In the story, Captain Ahab, a vengeful whale-hunter, is determined to track down the great whale and kill it, but the tables are turned when the harpoon rope becomes entangled around his neck, and he is dragged to the ocean’s depths by the very animal he was trying to kill.

Esio Trot – Alfie

Egyptian tortoise image

Egyptian tortoise

ESIO TROT, ESIO TROT, TEG REGGIB REGGIB!”

The star of Roald Dahl’s 1990 children’s novel Esio Trot is none other than Alfie, a little tortoise who, his owner believes, would be much happier if he were a little bigger. We can’t be sure exactly what species Alfie is supposed to be, but one fellow carapaced creature that knows all about being diminutive is the Egyptian tortoise. This runty reptile has a high-domed shell which grows no longer than about 14 centimetres at full size!

The Ancient Mariner – the albatross

Wandering albatross image

Wandering albatross

Being followed by an albatross is often considered to be a good omen for sea-farers, and in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, an albatross appears at a most opportune moment, leading the ship and its crew out of the bitterly cold Antarctic. However, much to the anger of the other sailors, the Mariner shoots the bird, an action which causes bad fortune to befall him and his ship mates. The albatross in the poem could well have been a wandering albatross, which has the largest wingspan of any bird, reaching up to an impressive 3.5 metres across.

The Jungle Book – Baloo

Sloth bear image

Sloth bear

Much-loved by many, Baloo the bear in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is described as being ‘the sleepy brown bear’. However, this law-teaching character is actually thought to be a sloth bear, which is found in the Seoni area of India where the novel takes place. Sloth bears are unique amongst bears in that the majority of their diet is composed of insects, particularly termites and ants…this might explain Baloo’s choice of snack as he sings ‘Bear Necessities’ in the animated Disney film adaptation!

White Fang – White Fang

Grey wolf image

Grey wolf

Published in 1906, Jack London’s novel White Fang is set during the Klondike Gold Rush in Canada’s Yukon Territory at the end of the 19th century. It tells the story of the trials and tribulations faced by White Fang, part dog and part grey wolf, as he grows from a feisty pup into a majestic canine. Grey wolves are highly social and intelligent animals which hunt efficiently in packs. Once wide ranging in the northern hemisphere, the grey wolf now has a more restricted distribution, being extinct in parts of Western Europe, Mexico and the USA.

Jaws – the great white shark

Great white shark image

Great white shark

A 1974 novel by Peter Benchley, Jaws tells the story of the residents of a fictional seaside town terrorised by a man-eating great white shark, and the efforts of three men to rid the small resort of the fearsome beast. While the film of the same name became a Hollywood blockbuster, it can’t have done much good for the reputation of some of the ocean’s most incredible predators! Despite media frenzy surrounding the topic, only an average of 30 to 50 shark attacks are reported each year, and of these just 5 to 10 prove to be fatal. If you consider that, in the coastal states of the USA alone, lightning strikes and kills more than 41 people each year, it’s really not that high a statistic!

The Wind in the Willows – Mr Toad

Common toad image

Common toad

Mr Toad, an impulsive motor car enthusiast and the owner of Toad Hall, is one of the central characters in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. Described as resourceful and intelligent, Mr Toad is a self-centred yet loveable rogue, and finds himself in several scrapes throughout the book. While not known for its penchant for tweed suits, the common toad is believed to be the inspiration behind the wealthy occupant of Toad Hall.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – the caterpillar

Swallowtail caterpillar image

Swallowtail caterpillar

We couldn’t finish off this blog without mentioning a wonderful childhood favourite which documents a fascinating biological process…The Very Hungry Caterpillar! Young and old are enthralled by this picture book following the journey of a caterpillar as it chomps its way through various food items before pupating and emerging as a beautiful butterfly!

We hope you’ve enjoyed reuniting with some of the most famous (and infamous!) creatures in literature! Was your favourite animal character featured here? If not, comment below to tell us who your top choice is!

Four of our Top Ten Animals in Literature have made it onto the shortlist of the world’s Top 50 Favourite Species…so why not check out what else has been nominated and cast your vote!

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author

Apr 21

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 26

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

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

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

About

RSS feedArkive.org is the place for films, photos and facts about endangered species. Subscribe to our blog today to keep up to date!

Email updates

Sign up to receive a regular email digest of Arkive blog posts.
Preferred frequency:

Arkive twitter