Dec 2

New to the world of selfies? Unsure how to get the perfect shot? Don’t worry, ARKive and the animal kingdom are here to help with our guide on how to take the selfie world by storm:

1. Always make sure the camera is in focus

Brown bear image

2. Make sure you have your whole face in the shot

Badger image

3. Remember to accentuate your best features

Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross

4. Don’t be afraid to smile…

Guadalupe fur seal image

…or pout…

Sumatran orangutan image

…or pull a funny face!

Namaqua chameleon image

5. Use a selfie to make a fashion statement

Northern rockhopper image

6. Or to show off a new hairdo

Sooty albatross image

7. Use selfies to let the world know how you are feeling

Hippopotamus image

8. Try using your environment to make your selfies more creative

Crested black macaque image

9. Use the sun to get a more flattering light

Southern plains gray langur image

10. Remember, never get too close to the camera

South American squirrel monkey image

11. Watch out for photobombers…

Crested black macaque

…there could be a lot of them

Southern rockhopper penguin image

12. And finally, always remember to face the right way!

Black-backed jackal image

 Do you have a favourite animal selfie? If so share it with us on Facebook or Twitter, we would love to see them!

Jemma Pealing, ARKive Content Officer

Nov 14

Nature, as the great poet Tennyson reminded us, is “red in tooth and claw”. Animals face a constant battle to survive, and many species are under persistent risk from predators. One of the mechanisms animals use to avoid a bloody end is camouflage – blending in with the background – to avoid being eaten.

But what makes for good camouflage? How do factors such as colour and patterning work to fool the senses of wily attackers? At present, although we know a lot about the different types of camouflage that might exist, we know very little about the value of camouflage and how it works in the natural world.

Pygmy seahorse image

Pygmy seahorse camouflaged against fan coral

This short video is a brief introduction to the ongoing work of Dr Martin Stevens at the University of Exeter, and Dr Claire Spottiswoode at the University of Cambridge, who are examining egg predation and camouflage in habitats in South Africa and Zambia. Their colleagues, Dr Jolyon Troscianko and Jared Wilson-Aggarwal, also at Exeter, have set up hidden cameras to record egg predation events in different bird species.

The project aims to increase our understanding of camouflage in the wild and its relationship with survival. To do this, the team study the camouflage of ground nesting birds, and their eggs and chicks in the natural environment. They are using specialist cameras to photograph the birds, and camera traps to identify their main predators and to monitor nest survival.

Wrybill image

Wrybill eggs on nest, showing camouflage

Back in the UK they then use the images to simulate the relevant predator visual systems, which often see the world very differently to us, including different colours. Using a range of image analysis techniques, the team are comparing the properties of the eggs, chicks and adults to the environment to study their camouflage and how it affected their risk of predation.

Avoiding your eggs being eaten is a matter of life and death to many animals, but the research also helps improve our fundamental understanding of vision and could have wide-ranging applications, from bioscience to security and defence. Animal camouflage has also influenced human behaviour and culture, including art, fashion and the military.

A full in-depth feature on the project will appear on the BBSRC website and YouTube channel when the fieldwork is completed in the coming months.

Useful LinksCamouflage banner1_crop

Dr Martin Stevens, Sensory Ecology & Evolution group
http://sensoryecology.com/people/martin-stevens.html

Project nightjar, University of Exeter
http://nightjar.exeter.ac.uk/
African Cuckoos
http://www2.zoo.cam.ac.uk/africancuckoos/home.html

 

Feb 20

For the first time, scientists have caught a glimpse of the breeding behaviour of the rare giant armadillo in the wild.

Giant armadillo walking

Armadillos are one of the oldest groups of mammals

Burrowing rarity

Found throughout the Amazon rainforest and Brazil’s Pantanal region, the giant armadillo is the largest species of armadillo in the world. Classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, this species’ nocturnal and burrowing habits make it particularly hard to study and, so far, relatively little is known about its breeding behaviour.

However, a new study, led by scientists in Brazil, has used modern technology to help answer questions regarding the poorly known mating behaviour of the giant armadillo. Camera traps are a particularly effective non-intrusive method of gaining insight into the lives of shy, lesser-known mammal species, and their use in this study has been highly valuable.

Giant armadillo emerging from burrow

Armadillos have a quirky appearance

Baby giant

Scientists from the Pantanal Giant Armadillo Project have monitored a female giant armadillo since November 2011  using the remote camera traps and, in January 2012, the presence of a male giant armadillo around the female’s burrows raised hopes that a romance might blossom. While aware of the possibility of wishful thinking, the scientists were optimistic, particularly when, after six months, the two armadillos shared a burrow for several days, after which the male disappeared.

Five months afterwards, suspicions were raised when the female began to use only one burrow, an unusual behaviour for this species which frequently moves between burrows. Three weeks later, the nose of a newborn giant armadillo was finally caught on camera, confirming what the scientists had hoped to find. Further photographs of the infant were captured as it emerged from the burrow, its age estimated to be around four weeks old.

Arnaud Desbiez, Project Coordinator says, “Documenting the birth of a giant armadillo is an exciting step forward to helping us better understand the biology and reproduction of this cryptic species and ultimately help us conserve it.

Although there are many questions still to be answered, the scientists have found evidence that suggests giant armadillos only have one offspring at a time.

photo of giant armadillo and infant

Camera traps snapped the approximately four week old baby giant armadillo leaving the burrow with its mother

Conserving rare species

This long-term study of a giant armadillo has provided essential information on its behaviour that can be used to help conserve this rare species, which has never bred in captivity. The information will help provide an understanding of the species’ population dynamics, which can be used to influence future conservation plans.

The secretive nature and rarity of the giant armadillo means that its local extinction can easily go unnoticed, and to lose such a species before we know anything about its ecology and behaviour would be devastating. Long-term studies such as this one are fundamental to understanding the ecological role played by rare and endangered species.

Hunter with dead giant armadillo

Hunter with dead giant armadillo

The giant armadillo is particularly vulnerable to habitat loss and hunting, due to the large amount of meat its body supplies, and estimates suggest its population may have declined by at least 30 percent over the last 25 years. Without intervention, coupled with knowledge of the species’ behaviour and ecology, this trend is likely to continue. The giant armadillo is sadly the least studied species of the Dasypodidae family, a problem that the Pantanal Giant Armadillo Project is working hard to solve.

 

Read more on this story at Mongabay – Scientists document baby giant armadillo for first time (photos)

View photos and videos of the giant armadillo on ARKive.

 

Kaz Armour, ARKive Text Author

Oct 25

ARKive has recently received a collection of intriguing images from the Smithsonian Institutions WILD project, showcasing an incredible diversity of species in their natural habitats via camera trap images. The use of motion-triggered camera traps are a useful research tool for scientists, providing insight into species’ natural behaviours and are being used across the globe to help learn more about particular species, the habitats in which they live and to help design and implement conservation action.

Dr William McShea, a research ecologist for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, and one of the incredible scientists behind this project, told ARKive, “Putting these images together from different Smithsonian projects has been a lot of fun and a valuable conservation activity. I am always amazed at the seeming poses that we catch animals in as they are going through their lives and the newer video clips give many insights into behaviour and ‘attitude’.  The site is intended as a searchable collection of what animals were present at a specific site and time, and to supplement the museum specimens that have proved so valuable in conservation.”

We have highlighted some of our favourite Smithsonian WILD camera trap images below.

Stunning images

Jaguar camera trap image

This image of the majestic jaguar walking through the forest is one of the most stunning images found in the Smithsonian WILD collection. As the largest cat in the Americas, the jaguar is a ferocious predator. Sadly, however, it is being threatened by human activities such as hunting for pelts.

 Asiatic black bear walking, caught on camera trap

Little is known about the natural behaviour of the elusive Asiatic black bear, something which the Smithsonian WILD project aims to improve. This species of bear has a crescent shaped marking on the chest, which has led to it being called the ‘moon bear’ in some areas.

Interesting behaviours

Ocelot stalking armadillo; camera trap image

The collection features images showing interesting behaviours, such as this ocelot caught sneaking up an armadillo. The ocelot is most active at night, and has a wide ranging diet, from small mammals, birds, and reptiles, to larger animals such as agoutis, deer, and, of course, armadillos.

Caught on Camera

White-lipped peccaries mating; camera trap image

Another behaviour caught on camera, was the mating behaviour of the white-lipped peccary. This species is known to live in groups of as many as 200 individuals, and is a wide-ranging species that requires large areas for survival. This was obviously a well placed camera trap!

African giants

African elephants walking; camera trap image

This incredible black and white image captured the moment a line of African elephants walked past a well-placed camera trap. As the largest living terrestrial animal, this gigantic species has a highly complex social structure centred around family units of females and their calves. Groups of elephants will spend the day wondering their home range in search of food and water, just like the animals in this picture.

 Giraffe caught on camera trap

The giraffe in this image almost seems to be looking into the camera. You can see what Dr McShea meant about these images conveying ‘attitude’, as this picture portrays real character. Giraffes are fascinating creatures that start life with a two metre drop, as they give birth standing up! This doesn’t seem to affect the calf too much, as it is able to stand within 20 minutes of being born, and can grow over 2 metres in its first year.

Beautiful bird scenery

Blue rock-thrush in habitat; camera trap image

This wonderful image shows the beautiful scenery in the blue rock-thrush’s habitat. This image was captured in China but this species has a large range as it is also present in Europe, Africa, as well as large parts of Asia. This small bird must see a lot of amazing scenery!

This just shows a snippet of the Smithsonian WILD camera trap images you can find on ARKive. And this isn’t the end for the project, says Dr McShea, “The projects and photos presented are the start of a bigger project where we hope in the next year to expand the number of Smithsonian projects and to recruit citizen scientists to add their own photos with sufficient data to be useful to conservation science.”

To find out more about the project and to see all of the camera trap images, visit the Smithsonian WILD website.

Rebecca Taylor, ARKive Media Researcher

Mar 3

Camera trapping – photographing animals in the wild using automated digital cameras which are triggered by infrared motion sensors – has become an increasingly useful tool in wildlife conservation.

Camera-trap photo of a Persian leopard in the wild

Camera-trap photo of a Persian leopard in the wild

Revolutionary techniques

Allowing researchers and conservationists extraordinary insights into the behaviour of rare, enigmatic and often endangered species, the use of the camera trap has revolutionised the way in which scientists are able conduct their research in challenging and remote study locations.

The cameras are attached to posts or trees, often along forest trails or next to potential watering sites. When the camera’s sensor registers movement, or a change in temperature from an animal’s body heat, a photograph is taken.

Male Diard's clouded leopard caught on camera trap

Male Diard's clouded leopard caught on camera trap

A rare glimpse

Because camera traps can be left unattended in remote areas for lengthy periods of time, the photographs they produce enable scientists to build up long-term pictures of the biodiversity in an area, and aid them in monitoring population trends.

Despite often coming back with spectacular and captivating snapshots of animals in the wild, in general, the photographs that the cameras produce rarely reach the public eye.

Arabian tahr photographed by camera trap

Arabian tahr photographed by camera trap

Helping the public uncover the secrets of the animal world

However, a new website, SmithsonianWILD, is set to provide the public with a chance to view a huge collection of camera trap imagery and videos. The Smithsonian, which supports research around the world, has been working to compile more than 202,000 camera trap images from over seven of its projects, gathering them together to form an online searchable database.

William McShea, research wildlife biologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, says that the SmithsonianWILD website will “provide the public a glimpse of what the scientist sees when surveying remote places”.

Taken in some of the world’s most isolated regions, the photographs currently document more than 200 species found in a great variety of habitats, ranging from the jungles and plains of South America and Africa to the Giant Panda Reserves in China.

Not every photo is beautiful but every photo provides information that can be used to conserve wild animals. It is addictive to scroll through the photos at a single site and see the diversity that walks by a single camera in the forest” explains McShea.

Small-eared zorro photographed on camera trap

Small-eared zorro photographed on camera trap

All of the photos are untouched and appear exactly as they did when they were taken from the cameras. The site also provides links to social media platforms such as Flickr, Twitter and Facebook to encourage the public to share and comment on the photos.

Like ARKive, the SmithsonianWILD website will provide a valuable tool for scientists and the public, helping to raise awareness of some of the world’s most threatened species and highlighting the incredible diversity of life on Earth.

Visit the SmithsonianWILD website.

Explore camera trap images on ARKive

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author

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