Oct 31

Happy Halloween! Here at Arkive, we’re definitely fans of the creepier species that put us in the mood for a spooky Halloween like the vampire bat or the brain coral. But this year, we decided to share our favorite “mask-wearing” animals. These are animals that, with a little help from nature, look like they are wearing a mask all year round. Who knows, maybe some of these animals will inspire your get-up for Halloween tonight!

Bulwer’s pheasant

Bulwer's pheasant photo

One look at the Bulwer’s pheasant and we bet you’d be hard-pressed to find a stranger mask-wearing species on Arkive!

Spectacled bear

Spectacled bear photo

Don’t let this calm face fool you. This bear is ready to scare up the crowd for some midnight Halloween snacks!

Horned grebe

Horned grebe photo

Who’s ready for the masquerade ball? The horned grebe appears ready any day of the year!

Emperor moth

Emperor moth photo

While not a mask in the traditional sense, the “eyes” have it when it comes to the Emperor moth!

Andean cock-of-the-rock

Andean cock-of-the-rock photo

Some may consider the Andean cock-of-the-rock’s head piece a little … outlandish but we think it fits right in on Halloween and every other day of the year!

And finally, because even Halloween can be a time for cuteness as well as spookiness, we present arguably one of the cutest mask-wearers in the wild world …

Giant panda

Giant panda photo

Just one look at that face and we’re ready to hand over our entire bag of Halloween goodies!

Find yourself inspired to wear an animal mask for Halloween tonight after seeing all these incredible “mask-wearers” in nature? We’ve got 8 different animal art masks ready and waiting to be printed and colored by little goblins or ghouls – or big goblins or ghouls, too, for that matter!

No matter how you choose to celebrate, the Arkive team wishes everyone a fun, festive and safe Halloween!

Ari Pineda, Program Coordinator, Wildscreen USA

Oct 31

Happy Halloween!

Humans are not the only tricksters in the animal kingdom. Other species have developed some very clever and sophisticated tricks to get what they want. To celebrate Halloween we have put together a selection of some of the best tricks the natural world has to offer.

False Alarms

Within groups of black-capped capuchin monkeys there is a strict social hierarchy with dominant individuals gaining better access to rich food sources. It has been observed that when highly prized foods are available, the lower ranked individuals  produce fake alarm calls to trick the dominants into thinking they are in danger so run into hiding, allowing the lower ranking individuals to get their hands on the food!

Black-capped capuchin photo

A Deadly Trap

The margay, a small cat found throughout Central and South America, has been documented imitating the calls of some of its prey species. Margays have been recorded imitating the calls of baby pied tamarins. This attracts the attention of the adult tamarins causing them to investigate the sound, but as a result they just move closer to the predator! This could improve the chances of the margay capturing its prey.

Margay photo

Do it like a lady

Young male Broadley’s flat lizards have developed the ultimate disguise – better than any Halloween costume! They imitate being females so they can get a chance at mating. Male flat lizards have a high level of sexual dimorphism – the males are brightly coloured whereas the females are plain brown (see image below). Some young males only develop the bright colours on their stomach, so they are hidden away, with the rest of their body being the same brown colour as the females. If the young males developed bright colours all over their body, the larger males would chase them away from the females. As they appear to be females, it allows them to get close enough to the actual females so they have a chance to mate.

Broadley's flat lizard photo

Toxic Assassins

Assassin bugs have a whole bag of tricks depending on their prey target. The spider eating assassin bug taps a spider’s web mimicking the vibrations caused by prey trapped in the web. This gives the spider a real fright when it approaches expecting to find a tasty meal but ends up becoming dinner itself! The feather legged assassin bug uses another trick. It lures its ant prey by producing an irresistible secretion from its trichome, a hair like structure found on its abdomen, which ants find irresistible. This clever secretion also paralyses the ants allowing the assassin bug to then inject the ant with a toxin which kills it!

Feather-legged assassin bug photo

Feathery Fisherman

A small percentage of green herons have been observed using bait to catch fish. They drop small pieces of bait, which can include insects, bread and other treats, into the water and wait for fish to approach the bait. The fish get tricked into thinking they are going to get a nice meal but end up being grabbed by the heron and becoming food themselves. Some have even been witnessed catching smaller fish to use as bait to catch larger fish.  

Green heron photo

A bloody treat!

It is not only tricks you find in the natural world – some animals choose to treat.  Female vampire bats tend to live in small groups where individuals all know each other. Vampire bats are at high risk of dying from starvation if they go a couple of nights without blood. If one member of the group has not managed to feed, other bats in the group will regurgitate some of the blood they obtained from their feeding to increase the likelihood of survival of the other individual.

Common vampire bat photo

However the reason for this behaviour is not thought to be due to the bats just being nice to each other, but is due to reciprocal altruism. Reciprocal altruism is defined as; when an animal acts in a way that is costly to itself but benefits another, as they expect the individual they are helping to act in the same way if the roles are reversed. If a bat tries to trick the others and avoid giving any blood back when the roles are reversed, they will not be helped next time they need some blood – so it does not always pay to be a trickster!

We would love to hear if you have any other examples, tricks or treats, please either leave a comment below or get in touch via Twitter or Facebook.

And don’t forget to check out our free Halloween activities  for monstrous masks, spooky quizzes and gory games!

Jemma Pealing, ARKive Researcher

Oct 29

What will you be dressing up as this Halloween? A cat? A bat? A giant wolf spider? For those of us who celebrate this unique holiday, creating our costume is more than half the fun and it got us thinking, where do our Halloween traditions stem from?

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, held at the end of October. This day marked the end of the summer harvest and the beginning of winter. To celebrate, people would dress in animal costumes and tell each other’s fortunes. When the Roman Empire moved north from the Mediterranean Basin and conquered Celtic territory (including northwestern Spain, France, southern Germany, and up through the United Kingdom), they brought with them the festival of Pomona which honored the Roman goddess of fruit and trees, invoking the tradition of trick-or-treating.

This month, ARKive would like to highlight species from the European countries that inspired this spooky holiday, and perhaps offer up some great ideas for your Halloween costume!

Gliding Gladiator

Lammergeier photo

Perhaps you would like to dominate the skies this Halloween night as a commanding bird of prey. The lammergeier, or bearded vulture, is a majestic bird with a wingspan commonly reaching over 2.5 meters. This skilled glider rarely needs to flap its wings in flight, and specializes in feeding on bones. They are known for their technique of picking up large bones and dropping them onto rocks in order to extract marrow out of the shattered pieces. Lammergeiers prefer high-altitude mountainous regions of southern Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Africa.

Celestial Swimmer

Mediterranean monk seal photo

If underwater wonders are more your thing, you could consider posing as a Mediterranean monk seal. Currently one of the most endangered mammals in the world, this pinniped was once abundant across the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, and northern coast of Africa. It was so popular it was the emblem for one of the first Greek coins made around 500 BC, shortly before the Roman Empire spread into Greece. Deliberate killing and habitat encroachment are largely responsible for their decline, with likely less than 500 individuals remaining.

Stunning Serpent

Meadow viper photo

Consider a costume guaranteed to grant you respect! The meadow viper is a small, attractive venomous snake, displaying a beautiful and intricate zigzag pattern marking the length of its back. Feasting primarily on crickets and grasshoppers, this reptile is found in Italy, France and a few other eastern European countries. Habitat destruction and over-collection account are current threats to this vulnerable species.

Vermillion vixen

Red fox photo

Who can resist a fabulous fox? The red fox is an attractive member of the family Canidae, and is widely distributed in the northern hemisphere. They are unique in that they can produce 28 different vocalizations, and are the largest species of true fox. In ancient Celtic tradition, the red fox was honored for its wisdom.

Frequent Flyer

Black pennant photo

If bugs with big eyes are calling you, you could consider transforming into a black pennant. This dragonfly is slick and smart, predating on smaller insects, it is also capable of posturing its body to cool down in hotter temperatures. This little insect is found throughout several Mediterranean countries, as well as central Asia and northern Africa.

Finned Funnyman

Arno goby photo

If you want to feel like a rare find, go trick-or-treating as an Arno gobi. This vulnerable freshwater fish is endemic to Italy, and is only found in six river basins and two lakes in the Tyrrhenian catchment of Central Italy, a region which played a significant role in Roman culture. With a large head, elongated body and oversized mouth, this species is known for its active acoustic communication.

Haunting Hooter

Long-eared owl photo

The long-eared owl no doubt had a presence in early Halloween festivals, as the subspecies Asio otus otus was found throughout both Celtic and Roman territories. Owls have long been considered ethereal species, and their calls can be eerie and haunting . Not only does this bird of prey possess special feathers to remain silent during its stealth hunting missions, it can also swallow prey whole!

Why not share your favourite wildlife Halloween costume ideas with ARKive, and post them on our Twitter or Facebook page?

And don’t forget, if you’re looking for something to entertain your little monsters this halloween, ARKive has a whole host of free, fun-filled Halloween activities.  From monstorous masks to spooky games and quizes, there is something for everyone, so be sure to check it out!

Maggie Graham, ARKive Program Assistant

Oct 27
Photo of Ben Garrod

© Ben Garrod www.bensbones.co.uk

My name is Ben Garrod and I am an evolutionary biologist. I work with animal skeletons (mainly primates) to see what they can tell us about a species’ evolutionary history.

Looking at skeletons has taken me around the world; from beluga whale skeletons in the Arctic to chimpanzee skeletons in Uganda. I’ve looked for lost species in the Caribbean and have even discovered which animals were buried with emperors in ancient tombs!

Apart from being the main guest at any cool Halloween party, skeletons and especially skulls can tell us a lot about an animal’s diet, behaviour, lifestyle and even its environment.

To find out more about my skeletons you can visit my website, follow my BensBones page on Facebook or find me on Twitter.


Spooky Skull Quiz!

For Halloween, ARKive has asked me to design a spooky skull quiz (cue scary laugh – mwa ha ha ha ha ha)! Look at the pictures and use the creepy clues to guess which species the skulls belong to. They may look scary and ghoulish but they all come from amazing creatures. So test your ‘skull’ and let us know how many you get right!



Skull photo © Ben Garrod, www.bensbones.co.uk

© Ben Garrod, www.bensbones.co.uk

Clue 1: This scary looking beast is more of a rare ocean wanderer than a monster from the deep!

Clue 2: This deep-diving ocean mammal sounds like it has a birds ‘nose’.

Clue 3: A mirror might help solve this anagram to find this mysterious animals’ name ELAHW DEKAEB S’YBREWOS.



Skull photo © Bjorn Vancampfort, bjornvancampfort@hotmail.com

© Bjorn Vancampfort, bjornvancampfort@hotmail.com

Clue 1: This big fish hangs round in big schools.

Clue 2: At more than 4m in length, this animal sounds like a cross between a DIY tool and a scary fish.

Clue 3: The head is actually used to pick up tiny electrical signals released by prey buried beneath the sand.



Skull photo © Ben Garrod www.bensbones.co.uk

© Ben Garrod, www.bensbones.co.uk

Clue 1: These demonic-looking ovids  are kept by rare breed collectors but are expensive – not a baaaar-gain, by any means.

Clue 2: Not named after the famous ghost that hounded Scrooge but they do share the same names.

Clue 3: If you’re having issues with the name, it does have another name;  what  might you call a sheep with many horns?



Skull photo © Ben Garrod www.bensbones.co.uk

© Ben Garrod, www.bensbones.co.uk

Clue 1: This beaked beast really is a ‘living dinosaur’.

Clue 2: These big flightless birds pack an awesome kick.

Clue 3: The casque… no-one really knows! Maybe a sound amplifier, a weapon or to attract a mate.



Skull photo © Jake McGowan-Lowe www.jakes-bones.co.uk

© Jake McGowan-Lowe, www.jakes-bones.com

Clue 1: This ocean predator sounds as though it enjoys a spot of fishing.

Clue 2: Its other name implies this species likes easy ‘pray’.

 Clue 3: This fish is just angling for some attention!


Don’t be ‘afraid’ to let us know how you got on, I’m sure there will be ‘stiff’ competition for the skull crown!

Ben Garrod, Conservation Biologist and bone expert.

Happy Halloween!

Have a frightfully scary time this Halloween with ARKive’s spooky Halloween activities. We’ve created a wild Halloween package of critter crafts, creepy crawlie computer games, bizarre blog posts and monstrous movie clips to take you and your Addams family on a spooky adventure through the natural world.


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