Jun 29

The recipe

Take one large dollop of Kevin Bacon flavoured Six Degrees of Separation; add a dash of the Wikipedia game. Simmer over a low heat for several hours. Pour in an assortment of endangered animals, then sprinkle liberally with endangered plants. Dish up, and serve to an eager audience…

Understand? No, I didn’t think you would so let me explain. This instalment of Six Degrees plays on the Wikipedia game where you are challenged, for example, to get from Wikipedia’s page on custard to the page on Mount Everest by clicking only on the internal links on each page (I managed custard to Mount Everest in 4 links).

So, by clicking only on the thumbnail images in the ‘Related Species’ section of ARKive, is it possible to get from a shark to a gorilla in six steps? And don’t forget, the only rule is that you CANNOT press the back button once you have clicked on a link! Here goes…

Basking shark

Basking shark photo

The basking shark has the same conservation status as the goitered gazelle.

Goitered gazelle

Goitered gazelle photo

The goitered gazelle is in the same group (family Bovidae) as Thomson’s gazelle.

Thomson’s gazelle

Thomson's gazelle photo

Thomson’s gazelle has the same geographic range and conservation status as the African golden cat.

African golden cat

African golden cat photo

The African golden cat has the same geographic range as the African elephant.

African elephant

African elephant photo

The African elephant has the same conservation status as the sun-tailed monkey.

Sun-tailed monkey

Sun-tailed monkey photo

The sun-tailed monkey lives in a similar habitat to the western gorilla.

Western gorilla

Western gorilla photo

Done! And in only 5 steps! Now you have the recipe and you know the rules, fancy a go yourself? I challenge you to get from:

1. a crocodile to a crow

2. a pitcher plant to a pigeon

3. a salamander to a sloth

Let us know how you did!

Bonnie Metherell, ARKive Media Researcher

Mar 31

Spring has definitely sprung here in the northern hemisphere, and what better way to celebrate than with a bit of spring-themed wildlife linkage. First, let me start by saying a big congrats to Mitchell for his brilliant Madagascan solution to my last challenge – you really nailed those sifakas!

Spring in your step?

Tender new shoots are starting to poke their heads out, wobbly little lambs are beginning to take their first steps and frogs are busy making frogspawn. If you’re as pleased to say goodbye to winter as I am, then this springtime game is definitely for you.  For this challenge I want you to finish at frogspawn, but where do I want you to start? I think with the aptly named springbok! Here’s my attempt at a six-step spring-themed chain…


Photo of a springbok pronking

I know they’re not the quintessential springtime species, but surely you can’t get better than a springing springbok? Another even-toed ungulate (member of the order Artiodactyla) is the red deer. Famous for their rutting and roaring behaviour, red deer have their calves from spring to early summer.

Red deer

Photo of a red deer calf

Whilst red deer might be good at roaring, the blackbird is another pretty vocal species. For many people, the blackbird’s beautiful mellow song is a sure sign that spring is on its way.


Photo of a blackbird singing

Blackbirds might be the animal harbinger of spring, but snowdrops are definitely the floral harbingers!


Photo of snowdrops

Snowdrops are pollinated by bees. Now I know what you’re thinking, bees are not exactly a species you would immediately associate with spring, but bear with me…..

Honey bee

Photo of honey bee comb with honey storage cells

….honey bees produce honey (of course) and honey is very very sweet. Do you know what else is sweet? Ducklings, which are definitely associated with spring.

Mallard duckling

Photo of a mallard duckling

A cute little duckling such as this is very likely to be found swimming around in a pond and is also very likely to bump into lots and lots of……..frogspawn!



I hope you all feel fully prepared for spring now. Warmer weather, longer days and plenty of baby animals – what’s not to like?

Why not spring into action and see if you can get from the springbok to frogspawn in six sunny steps? Post your chains as comments on this blog and then watch this space for a winner to be announced!

Bonnie Metherell, ARKive Media Researcher

Feb 15

Bored at work? Looking for a distraction? Look no further as it’s time to play ARKive’s Six Degrees of Separation. Let me start by congratulating our winner from last time – Catherine Hayward! Well done! Any chain that involves Darwin immediately gets my seal of approval, especially as it’s Darwin’s 202nd birthday this month.

A Madagascan twist

In honour of the BBC’s fantastic Madagascar series that’s showing in the UK at the moment, I thought my next challenge should involve only those species that occur on this fantastically bizarre island. Nick Garbutt’s recent ARKive blog highlights the bleak future that Madagascar’s wildlife currently faces, with only 7-8% of the island’s forests remaining. I thought I’d take the opportunity to showcase some of the many weird and wonderful Malagasy species by getting from the ferocious fossa to the stupendous silky sifaka in just six steps. Here’s my attempt….


Fossa photo

Being the largest carnivore on Madagascar the fossa can pretty much have its pick of animals to eat. One particular delicacy is the common tenrec. Spikey but tasty apparently!

Common tenrec

Common tenrec photo

The common tenrec is also known as the tailess tenrec. In contrast, one Malagasy species that is famed for its striking tail is the ring-tailed lemur.

Ring-tailed lemur

Ring-tailed lemur photo

Ring-tailed lemurs spend about two-thirds of their time up in the trees. One tree you certainly won’t find them hanging out in is Grandidier’s baobab – the trunk of this tree is too smooth for them to be able to climb it!

Grandidier’s baobab

Grandidier's baobab photo

Grandidier’s baobab is named after Alfred Grandidier, a 19th century French naturalist and explorer who studied the wildlife of Madagascar. He is also responsible for the scientific name of the giant-striped mongoose, Galidictis grandidieri.

Giant striped mongoose

Giant striped mongoose photo

Deforestation means that much of Madagascar’s wildlife has become isolated in pockets of remaining forest. The giant-striped mongoose is only found in a very small area in the southwest of the island, which is also where the blue-legged mantella is found.

Blue-legged mantella

Blue-legged mantella photo

It’s fairly obvious where the blue-legged mantella gets its name, and the same is true of the silky sifaka – often called the ‘angel of the forest’!

Silky sifaka

Silky sifaka photo

Over 80% of Madagascar’s wildlife is found nowhere else in the world, so you’ve got plenty of bizarre and brilliant species to choose from! My fossa → silky sifaka chain is a bit mammal-heavy I think, so I challenge you to use less furry and more feathery or scaly species in yours!

If you need some inspiration then don’t forget to watch Madagascar on the BBC, and use ARKive’s ‘Explore by Geography’ to discover the wildlife of this wonderful island.

Bonnie Metherell, ARKive Media Researcher

Jan 13

Welcome to the first instalment of ‘ARKive’s Six Degrees of Separation’ for 2011. Hopefully you’re all feeling suitably rested and relaxed from your holidays and are ready for a challenge with a bit of twist!

But first, let’s get the formalities out of the way. The winning trophy (if I had one to give away) for successfully navigating from the graceful manta ray to the comedic secretary bird in the last instalment goes to…….Dovie E!  Well done!

Although I was also impressed with the way Ben managed to work Spiderman and a jam sandwich into his solution! I have failed to include any superheroes or wheat-based snacks in my solution…

Manta ray

Manta ray photo

Manta rays feed on plankton and so do the weird but wonderful peacock worms. Yummy.

Peacock worm

Peacock worm photo

Ok ok so it’s a pretty obvious link, but the peacock worm is named after the…


Indian peafowl photo

Just as the peacock is renowned for its beautiful feathers, the extravagant plumes of birds of paradise are highly prized and often used in dresses and rituals in Papua New Guinea.

Raggiana bird of paradise

Raggiana bird of paradise photo

Whilst male Raggiana birds of paradise impress the ladies with their ornate feathers, male hooded seals have opted for a slightly less attractive option – a large pink membranous balloon…

Hooded seal

Hooded seal photo

Hooded seals are migratory and follow the movement of pack-ice. What does everyone think of when they hear the word migration? Wildebeests!

Blue wildebeest

Blue wildebeest photo

As “herds of wildebeest sweep majestically across the plains”, they may well bump into the odd…


Secretarybird photo

Now for the next challenge, and this time around I thought I’d change the rules a bit. Social networking now means that most of us are connected by only three degrees of separation, according to recent research. So, to make things a bit harder I challenge you all to get from the coconut crab to the Galapagos marine iguana in just three steps. I’ve chosen nice ‘beachy’ species as I thought everyone could do with a dose of sun, sea and sand to combat those January blues.

I’m sure you all know the drill by now, but just to make sure – post your chains as comments on this blog and I’ll get back to you with a winner next time.

Ready, set, go!

Bonnie Metherell, ARKive Media Researcher

Dec 15

In case you missed the last instalment, the ARKive team have been having some fun putting a wildlife twist on the popular ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon’ game, in which you link actors through their films to Kevin Bacon in just six steps.

Last week I challenged everyone to get from the narwal to the pika in six wildlife-themed steps, using only those species that are on ARKive. Well, the chains we received were pretty varied, with steps involving Ricky Gervais, David Attenborough, and the faeces-eating behaviour of young elephants – lovely!

After much debate we have decided that the winner is….cue drum roll….Mike T! Congratulations Mike, it was the cunning use of the magpie’s Latin name that swung it. Although I have to disagree on one point – pikas are much cuter than chinchillas! Obviously there’s no right or wrong answer, but here’s the solution that I came up with:



Due to their long single tusk, narwhals have long been associated with unicorns and in fact, part of their Latin name (Monodon monoceros) actually means unicorn in Greek. The stuff of legends also, dugongs are thought to be the origin for many mermaid tales.



Dugongs are the only entirely marine mammal to feed exclusively on plants, a trait that means they are sometimes referred to as ‘sea cows’. Another cow-named species is the….

Cow parsley

Cow parsley

Cow parsley is insect-pollinated and is often favoured by hoverflies, who have small mouths and therefore like the small flowers of the cow parsley.

Wasp hoverfly

Wasp hoverfly

The aptly named wasp hoverfly, thanks to its body shape and black and yellow markings, is a wasp mimic. Wasps are social insects (of the order Hymenoptera), and so is the…

Australian ant

Australian ant

This ant of ancient lineage is sometimes called the ‘dinosaur ant’. Also known for its dinosaur-like qualities and prehistoric look is the alligator snapping turtle.

Alligator snapping turtle

The alligator snapping turtle is endemic to the south-eastern region of the USA. The adorably cute and fluffy American pika is also found in…..can you guess? Yes indeed, the USA.

American pika 

American pika

Getting the hang of it now? This weeks challenge is to hop, step and jump from the spectacular manta ray to the comedic secretary bird in six furry, scaly, or feathery steps. Again, post your chains as comments on this blog and we’ll decide the winner.

Bonnie Metherell, ARKive Media Researcher


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