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!

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 13

It’s ARKive’s 10th birthday this year and we want you to join our celebrations by helping us find the World’s Favourite Species.

We think all the world’s species are amazing but which is your favourite? Which animal, plant or fungi is so special that it deserves to be crowned the World’s Favourite Species?

Nominate today!

Nominations are now open and it couldn’t be simpler to vote  – simply find your favourite species on ARKive and click the ‘Nominate Today!’ button.

You have until 3rd April to suggest your favourites (and yes, you can choose more than one species!), after which we’ll draw up the shortlist and put it to the public vote. This shortlist will be whittled down to determine the Top Ten World’s Favourite Species – as chosen by you.

We can’t do it without your input – please spare a few moments to make your nomination TODAY!

Need some inspiration?

There are over 15,000 species on ARKive to nominate, so here are a few suggestions to start you off…

Will you nominate the polar bear – our most visited species so far this month?

Photo of polar bear with cubs

What about a newly discovered species? Is the Louisiana pancake batfish your favourite?

Louisiana pancake batfish

The osprey features as our no.1 video, but will it be no. 1 species?

Photo of osprey in flight carrying fish

Vote now, and share your nominations on Facebook and Twitter!

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