Apr 26

You might not have it scheduled in your calendar, but today in in fact Alien Day! That’s right, a celebration of the films in which Sigourney Weaver, aka Ripley, battles some frankly terrifying extra-terrestrial creatures.

So we at Arkive had to jump at the chance to share with you our five favourite alien-like critters! These out-of-this-world species live right here among us, so there’s no need to blast off into space and cryo-freeze yourself for an encounter!

 Saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica)

These bizarre-looking antelope look like they’ve fallen straight off the set of Star Wars, but in actual fact can be found in the steppe grasslands of central Asia.

Despite their common name, these ungulates are actually thought to be intermediates between antelope and sheep. They prefer open areas free from dense vegetation where they run quickly (up to 80 miles per hour) to avoid predators such as wolves and humans

Large groups of saiga migrate southwards in winter, covering up to 72 miles in a day. The rut begins in late November and males gather groups of around 30 females in ‘harems’, which they aggressively defend.

During the rut, males’ noses swell up and the hair tufts below the eyes are covered in a sticky secretion. Males do not feed much during the rutting season, when they take part in violent fights that often end in death. The male mortality rate can reach 90 percent during this time, due to exhaustion.

Tail-less whip scorpion (Phrynichus jayakari)

The tail-less whip scorpion is spider-like in appearance and, as its common name suggests, it lacks a tail.

Tail-less whip scorpions differ from other arachnids (a group containing spiders and scorpions) in that they use only six of their limbs to walk, rather than eight, as the front pair are adapted to act as very long sensory organs. They may look like a bit creepy, but they are actually completely harmless and do not possess venom glands or a sting.

Tail-less whip scorpions are primarily nocturnal and emerge at night in search of food or a mate. They generally occur in tropical and sub-tropical regions, where they live under stones, leaves, bark or in rock crevices and caves.

Hairy angler (Caulophryne polynema)

The hairy angler is a deep-sea predator that looks like it is could have had a starring role in the nightmares of many pretty little reef fish whose parents warned them of the dangers of straying from the safety of their coral home.

The female is about the size of a football and its body is covered in long antennae, used to detect the movements of any nearby prey. The male is about a tenth of the size of the female, roughly the size of a ping pong ball. When a male encounters a female, it latches on and, over time, begins sharing the female’s blood supply, providing her with unlimited semen in response.

While we noted at the start that no spaceship was required for these sightseeing trips, the hairy angler lives at depths of over 1,000 metres, in the dark zone (we think it chose this for added dramatic effect), so you would probably need a very expensive submarine to pay it a visit.

Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)

The axolotl is an unusual species of salamander which retains its larval features, such as gills, and remains aquatic throughout its life. They definitely look like a slightly more friendly alien creature who’d be more likely to sit down and play a board game with you than our previous guest creature, phew.

This real-life Pokémon mostly fails to undergo metamorphosis, but if its habitat dries up then this species can metamorphose into its adult form – magic!

Another out-of-this-world power the axolotl has is regeneration – X-men style! Instead of forming scar tissue when wounded, the axolotl can regenerate tissue at the wound site and even re-grow missing limbs.

The axolotl is native to the ancient water channel system of Mexico City, preferring deep brackish water with plenty of vegetation, but has been lost from most of its range and is currently listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Coral

The tiny organisms that live inside corals, polyps, can live on their own but are mostly associated with the spectacularly diverse limestone communities, or reefs, they construct.

Coral polyps are tiny, translucent animals. These soft-bodied organisms are related to sea anemones and jellyfish. At their base is a hard, protective limestone skeleton called a calicle, which forms the structure of coral reefs.

They have to be on this list as they are so bizarre and unlike any other creature on the planet, many people don’t know they’re even an animal, or even sentient, mistaking the reefs they build for rock.

Corals eat by catching tiny floating animals called zooplankton. At night, coral polyps come out of their elaborate exoskeletons to feed, stretching their long, stinging tentacles to capture critters that are floating by. Prey are pulled into the polyps’ mouths and digested in their stomachs.

The majority of a polyp’s energy actually comes from tiny algae called zooxanthellae. The algae live within the coral polyps, using sunlight to make sugar for energy. This energy is transferred to the polyp, providing much-needed nourishment. In turn, coral polyps provide the algae with carbon dioxide and a protective home.

Don’t get us started on how they breed, or wage war on one another, as we could go on for hours on their otherworldly behaviour! But if you want to learn more about these amazing and highly endangered species, please check out our coral conservation topic page.

 

HAPPY ALIEN DAY!

Jul 3

Arkive’s Week in Review — Wildlife News

ICYMI: Arkive has compiled some of the biggest and most interesting headlines from this week.

Article originally published on Friday, Jun 26, 2015

More endangered pygmy sloths discovered in Panama than previously estimated

Pygmy-three-toed-sloth

Pygmy three-toed sloth

Researchers estimate that there are between 500 – 1500 pygmy sloths residing on the Isla Escudo de Veraguas. At this time, the sloth’s island habitat is only partially protected.

View original article

Article originally published on Saturday, Jun 27, 2015

First lions to return to Rwanda after two decades

Asiatic-lion-and-lioness

Asiatic lion and lioness

Seven lions, two males and five females, are being transported to Rwanda’s Akagera National Park from South Africa. The lions were chosen based on their future reproductive potential and ability to contribute to social cohesion.

View original article

Article originally published on Sunday, Jun 28, 2015

Will animals of the future only be safe in captivity?

Indri-infant-clinging-to-branch

Indri infant clinging to branch

In the future, perhaps lemurs, rhinos, and tigers will only survive with constant surveillance and protection. While it may seem excessive, it has already happened for the last remaining northern white rhinos. However, it may not work for all animals, like the indri that has a complex diet of leaves eaten at different times.

View original article

Southern-white-rhinoceros-getting-up-off-ground

Southern white rhinoceros getting up off ground

Article originally published on Monday, Jun 29, 2015

The truth about tarantulas: not too big, not too scary

Curlyhair-tarantula

Curlyhair tarantula

Tarantulas are often erroneously believed to be big, deadly and prone to attacking humans. In actuality, the original tarantula (Lycosa tarantula) is actually a small, innocuous wolf spider. The spiders mistakenly called tarantulas belong to the family Theraphosidae.

View original article

Article originally published on Tuesday, Jun 30, 2015

Meet Hades, the centipede from hell

Amazonian-giant-centipede-on-branch

Amazonian giant centipede on branch

A newly discovered centipede has been named Geophilus hadesi, after the mythological god of the underworld. The centipede spends it entire life in its dark, underground environment. One specimen was collected from a depth of 3,609 feet.

View original article

Article originally published on Wednesday, Jul 1, 2015

Australia commits to saving the Great Barrier Reef – but still plans to mine more coal

Catalaphyllia-jardinei-colony

Catalaphyllia jardinei colony

Australia has made a 35 year agreement with the United Nations to restore the Great Barrier Reef. Corals have diminished by 50 percent in the last three decades. Despite the agreement, Australia is still attempting to become the world’s leading producer and exporter of coal, which has led to the reef’s decline.

View original article

Article originally published on Thursday, Jul 2, 2015

Climate change: Lizards switch sex

dwarf-bearded-dragon

Dwarf bearded dragon

It appears that increasing temperatures have led male central bearded dragons to change their gender and become females. These new females can produce twice as many eggs as standard females. These lizards belong to the genus Pogona that includes the dwarf bearded dragon.

View original article

Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

 

Mar 2
Photo of Ctenella chagius in coral reef habitat

Ctenella coral (Ctenella chagius)

Species: Ctenella coral (Ctenella chagius)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: Ctenella chagius is the only coral species in the Meandrinidae family to occur in the Indian Ocean rather than in the Caribbean Sea.

Ctenella chagius forms hemispherical colonies which are green, cream or light brown and have wavy ridges across their surface. As in other corals, the colonies of this species are composed of numerous small, anemone-like animals known as polyps. The polyps secrete a hard skeleton which over many generations helps to form a coral reef. Ctenella chagius is found only in the Chagos Archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, where it lives on reef slopes and in lagoons at depths of up to 45 metres.

Like other corals, Ctenella chagius is threatened by climate change, which is likely to cause increased sea temperatures and more frequent, damaging storms. Rising carbon dioxide levels are also making the ocean more acidic, making it harder for corals to produce their hard skeleton, while other threats to corals include human development, overfishing, pollution and invasive species. Fortunately, much of the range of Ctenella chagius is now protected in the world’s largest marine reserve, the Chagos Archipelago Marine Protected Area. This area now needs to be effectively enforced, and further research is needed into Ctenella chagius and the threats it faces.

Find out more about conservation in the Chagos Archipelago at the Chagos Conservation Trust.

Find out more about coral conservation at Reef Check and The Coral Reef Alliance.

See images of Ctenella chagius on ARKive.

Corals feature in ARKive’s new online game – play Team Wild here!

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

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