Apr 17

Did you know that April 17th is observed annually as Bat Appreciation Day? Love them or hate them, there are over 1,200 bat species around the world and they play a huge role in the health of our ecosystems. Although scary to some and shrouded in many superstitions, the worlds’ only flying mammals are extremely valuable seed dispensers and pollinators. Without long-nosed bats pollinating the agave plant, tequila would not exist – imagine that! Specialised features such as echolocation and vampire bat saliva are studied regularly by scientists to look for advances in human development.

As a nod to these misunderstood and mysterious creatures, we thought we’d take a look at some of the top bat species on Arkive.

Grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)

Recently winning the number 1 spot in our world’s favourite underappreciated species poll, the grey-headed flying fox is one of the largest bats in Australia and has a wingspan exceeding 1.5 metres! This species can be distinguished from other flying foxes – named after their fox-like facial features – as its pelage extends down to its ankles rather than ending at the top of the legs. Feeding mainly on ripe fruit, nectar and pollen, this species is known to travel up to 50 kilometres in pursuit of the best foraging spots.

You looking at me?

Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat (Nyctimene rabori)

The Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat is a very unique species, as it is one of the only striped bat species in the world, and has unusual yellow spots covering its back, ears and wings. Despite its odd colouration and patterning, it is the bizarre tubular nostrils that stick out above the mouth which this species is named after.  The islands on which the Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat lives have been heavily logged, resulting in this species’ population drastically declining.

I’m like, totally camouflaged right now

Banana bat (Musonycteris harrisoni)

The extremely unusual and elongated snout of the banana bat got it a place in our top ten! Endemic to tropical forest habitats in Mexico, this species’ specialised nose and extremely long tongue is perfect for feeding on pollen from long-tubed flowers. The pollen sticks to tiny hairs around the banana bats face and is transferred from flower to flower, making this species one of the most important pollinators within its range.

Check out my snout!

Canut’s horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus canuti)

Named after the horseshoe-shaped fold of skin that forms part of the nose, Canut’s horseshoe bat is endemic to two small Indonesian islands. Using echolocation to hunt for insects at night, its elaborate noseleaf helps it to focus on ultrasonic pulses while its large ears detect any sounds made by its prey.

I’ll grow into my nose eventually, right?

Common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus)

Portrayed as creepy, blood-sucking killers in many horror movies, the common vampire bat has long had a bad reputation! This species uses heat sensors on its nose to locate veins close to the skin of its prey, before making tiny incisions with its sharp teeth. The common vampire bat has a special enzyme in its saliva which stops blood from clotting, allowing it to acquire a larger meal from its prey. Yum!

I only want a little bite!

Griffin’s leaf-nosed bat (Hipposideros griffini)

Only discovered in 2012, Griffin’s leaf-nosed bat has an elaborate noseleaf structure which, unlike other bats who emit calls through their mouths, aids echolocation and helps it to focus calls. Males can be distinguished from females by the presence of a ‘sexual sac’ behind the noseleaf which is enlarged during the breeding season and secretes a waxy substance to attract a partner.

My mom said I’m handsome!

Kitti’s hog-nosed bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai)

Kitti’s hog-nosed bat not only holds the record for the smallest bat in the world, but it is in fact also the smallest mammal in existence weighing in at just under two grams. This teeny tiny size is the reason for its alternative name – the bumblebee bat. Small populations exist in Myanmar and Thailand but are under threat from tourism and habitat destruction.

Stop calling me small – you’re just really big!

Muscat mouse-tailed bat (Rhinopoma muscatellum)

The common name of the Muscat mouse-tailed bat was given due to its long slender tail which can be as long as the head and body combined. The unusual gliding and fluttering flight pattern of this species gives the impression that it is rising and falling, making it look like a small bird when in flight. The Muscat mouse-tailed bat can be found across the southeastern Arabian Peninsula and south-west Asia.

A rodent? Me? Never!


Honduran white bat (Ectophylla alba)

The beautiful white pelage of the Honduran white bat and the bright orange areas on its ears, nose and parts of its legs and wings make this species extremely recognisable. The roosting habits of the Honduran white bat are also particularly intriguing – individuals construct an upside down V-shaped ‘tent’ from the leaves of Heliconia plants to protect themselves from adverse weather and predators. Rarely staying in their tent homes for longer than a day at a time, members of this species are the nomads of the bat world!

Hello my pretties!

Fish eating myotis (Myotis vivesi)

With long narrow wings and large, powerful feet, the fish-eating myotis is easily adapted to take fish and small aquatic creatures from near the waters’ surface. Specialised features such as huge hooked claws mean this species is able to catch around 30 fish each night, even eating them whilst in flight!

My, what big claws you have!

Sadly, 25% of all bat species are threatened with extinction due to climate change, habitat loss, hunting and disease. Hopefully this blog hasn’t made you go batty and if you want to learn more about how you can help save these winged wonders take a look at these interesting websites below:

Discover more bat species on Arkive

Leone Elliott – Arkive Intern

Jan 25

January 25th marks the Birthday of Robert Burns (1759-1796), an iconic Scottish figure and one of the world’s most famous poets. Admired for his poems, love songs and cheeky character, Robert Burns created works which are still well known today, such as Auld Lang Syne, one of the most popular songs in the English language. Since Burns’ early death over 200 years ago, people have gathered together every year to commemorate his life and work. Burns Night is one of the most celebrated events in Scottish culture, and the occasion is recognised all over the world. Typically, a supper is held on or around January 25th, which includes a traditional Scottish meal, Scotch whisky, music, speeches and recitation of Robert Burns’ work. In memory of Robert Burns, we thought we’d delve into the ARKive collection and celebrate all things Scottish!

Spear thistle

Spear thistle image

Spear thistle in flower

Legend has it the Scottish army were alerted to the onset of Viking intruders after one of them stood on a thistle barefooted and cried out in pain. The thistle has been the national emblem of Scotland for centuries, and the earliest record of it being used as a royal symbol is on coins issued by James III in 1470. Although the actual species of thistle is disputed, some believe that the spear thistle is most likely to be the true ‘Scotch thistle’, as it is abundant and native to Scotland.

Red deer

Red deer image

Red deer stag roaring during rut

Britain’s largest land mammal, the red deer is widespread throughout Scotland, with an estimated population of 300,000. In winter, the red deer tend to move from the hills and remote glens to lower areas with shelter and a more abundant food supply. In winter the coat is brown or grey, but it changes to a reddish-brown in the summer.


Puffin image


In April, puffins begin arriving around the Scottish coast to breed. Almost one million puffins choose to breed in Scotland, and most are concentrated in just a few colonies in the north and west. Puffins nest in burrows or in rocky crevices, and normally lay a single egg in May. The best time to see puffins in Scotland is in mid-July, when the adults are busy collecting sand eels to feed the pufflings.

Scottish wildcat

Scottish wildcat image

Scottish wildcat resting in woodland

It is thought that fewer than 400 ‘genetically pure’ wildcats remain in Scotland today. This is because wildcats breed with domestic cats, creating hybrids which are diluting the population. The wildcat is solitary and usually hunts at night. It catches rabbits, hares, voles and mice, but it may also feed on small birds, frogs and even insects.


Osprey image

Osprey carrying a fish

Ospreys arrive in Scotland to breed in late April to early May after an amazing journey from western Africa, which takes about 20 flying days. There are around 200 breeding osprey pairs in Scotland, and the best places to see them include Loch Garten and Loch of the Lowes. Ospreys return to their wintering grounds in West Africa in late August to mid-September. If you can’t make it to Scotland this summer, why not watch this fantastic osprey video – it’s the most popular one on ARKive!

Scots pine

Scots pine image

Scots pine forest

The Scots pine is native to Scotland and is a dominant tree in the Caledonian Forest, which is also made up of birch, aspen, rowan, oak and juniper. Although pinewood forests were once spread over most of the Highlands, only 1% of the original forest remains, split into smaller, fragmented pockets. The oldest scientifically dated Scots pine in Scotland is Glen Loyne, which was estimated to be 550 years old in the late 1990s.

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin image

Bottlenose dolphins breaching

Bottlenose dolphins inhabit the waters around the Scottish coast throughout the year, but they are easiest to spot during the spring and summer. The Moray Firth is home to the most northerly resident bottlenose dolphin population in the world, and is one of the best places to watch dolphins in Scotland. Compared to bottlenose dolphins in warmer climates, such as Florida, the Moray Firth dolphins are larger and fatter to insulate them from the colder water.

Eurasian beaver

Eurasian beaver image

Eurasian beaver feeding

Between May 2009 and September 2010, 16 Eurasian beavers were released into the wild in Knapdale Forest, Mid-Argyll, as part of a monitored trial. The first beaver kit (named Barney) was born in spring 2010, making him the first to be born in the wild in Scotland for over 400 years! At the end of the trial, decisions will be made about the future of beavers in Knapdale Forest and other possible reintroduction sites in Scotland. You can see some videos of the introduced beavers on the Scottish Beaver Trial blog.

Let us know if your favourite Scottish species is missing from our blog! How are you planning to celebrate Burns Night?

Jul 17

Plans for a new opencast mine near South Africa’s Hluhluwe-Imfolozi reserve may increase pollution and poaching in the area, which would lead to further reductions in the size of the local southern white rhinoceros population. 

Among the most charismatic and recognisable of Africa’s mega-fauna, the white rhinoceros is the largest of the five rhinoceros species and one of the world’s biggest land animals, second only to the African and Asian elephant in size. A subspecies of white rhinoceros, the southern white rhinoceros, is currently the most numerous of all the world’s rhinos, and 93 percent of the total population is thought to occur in South Africa. This subspecies was rescued from near extinction a century ago, and represents a real conservation success story. In 1895, only around 50 individuals remained but careful conservation has increased this number to the 20,000 individuals that exist today. However, threats to the southern white rhinoceros are on the increase, and news of a proposed mining operation in close proximity to one of the most important nature reserve for this, and many other, species may spell disaster for this iconic animal.

The Near Threatened southern white rhinoceros is currently the most populous of the world’s rhinoceros species

The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa is the oldest nature reserve in Africa and was established in 1895, largely to protect the remaining population of the southern white rhinoceros. Situated at the confluence of the Black and White Umfolozi Rivers, this natural reserve is home to Africa’s ‘big five’, as well as innumerable other iconic species and over 340 bird species. There are fears that opencast coal mining in close proximity to the park may pollute the air and rivers, displace local communities, and threaten the southern white rhinoceros. Local communities’ fears are founded in experience, they say that drilling and blasting at the Somkhele coal mine, six miles away, already creates pollution and affects livestock. There are concerns that not only will the toxic dust from the new mine affect the local wildlife, but the influx of people is also likely to increase the accessibility of the park to poachers.

The African leopard is also found in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park

Poaching is an increasing threat to all rhinoceros species. Just 13 rhinoceros were killed in 2007, while recent figures show that over 500 have been killed so far in 2014, indicating the highest level of poaching since records began. The growing demand for rhinoceros horn is thought to be due to economic growth and increased disposable income in Southeast Asia and China, where the horn is used for traditional medicine and as a sign of prestige among the business elite. The price of rhinoceros horn is greater than that of gold, and poachers are becoming increasingly organised, and there have been many reports of helicopters and high-tech gadgetry being used in poaching attempts. It is thought that the mine could help to facilitate poaching, and increase the difficulty of policing the park. The response to the plans from local communities and conservationists worldwide has been one of concern and consternation.

The horn of the white rhinoceros is becoming a more valuable target for poachers due to increasing demand from Asia

Find out more about the white rhinoceros on Arkive.

Discover more South African species on Arkive.

Read more on this story at The Guardian – Mining poses new threat to world’s greatest rhino sanctuary.

Ben Hogan, Wildscreen ARKive PIPS Intern

May 8

A recent study has found that Australian marsupials such as tree possums, bandicoots and quolls are suffering a sudden decline, placing them at risk of extinction in Australia.

Northern quoll image

The northern quoll is the smallest of the four Australian quoll species

Dramatic decline

Several of Australia’s unusual marsupials, including bandicoots and phascogales, are currently experiencing a dramatic decline in the north of the country, according to recent research. Small mammal species across the continent have been known to be at risk of extinction for some time, but Chris Johnson, a wildlife conservation professor from the University of Tasmania, noted a marked and worrying change in the northern regions of Australia.

There’s a pretty clear picture and it shows that lots of species have declined dramatically,” he said. “Where we can infer the timing of decline, it’s been fairly recent and there are now large areas where small mammals are either very rare or don’t exist but the habitat looks like it should support small mammals.”

Northern brush-tailed phascogale image

The northern brush-tailed phascogale is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List

Worrying changes

The recent changes have been described by scientists as being a ‘new wave of decline’, but Johnson says that it is not clear how sudden these changes were. The most noticeable declines began in the early 1990s, and were particularly evident in conservation areas such as Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. In recent decades, around 20 small native mammal species have disappeared from Kakadu, including bandicoots, northern quolls, tree possums and northern brush-tailed phascogales, and a similar pattern has been seen in other parts of the country.

Western barred bandicoot image

The western barred bandicoot is one marsupial which has already been lost from most of its former range in southern and western Australia

Feline culprits

Scientists analysed information from a database of current mammal populations, comparing the current wave of extinction across different species with past extinction patterns. The researchers reported their findings to a meeting of experts in Canberra this week, revealing that some common factors had emerged.

First, the extinctions are occurring mainly in ground-dwelling animals of small body size which live in open, dry habitat. This points the finger of suspicion strongly at an introduced predator – the cat,” said Johnson. “We have seen similar extinction patterns driven by predators like foxes in southern Australia – so the big question was: ‘Is history repeating itself, or is it something new?’”

Johnson explained that the declines were being seen in species typically eaten by cats, and that, tellingly, no such declines were seen in cat-free regions. However, cats are thought to have been introduced with the settlement of Europeans in the late 1700s, while the noticeable marsupial declines were far more recent, prompting Johnson and his colleagues to ask: what had changed to make cats such a damaging predator?

Dingo image

Professor Johnson suggests boosting local biodiversity through the reintroduction of native predators such as the dingo

Unanswered questions

Typical factors in species decline include the outbreak of disease and habitat loss through land clearance, but neither of these was evident in northern Australia. However, it is thought that the use of fire by cattle ranchers may be having an effect on native marsupial populations.

It is probably no one thing,” said Johnson, “but the data points to a combination of several effects – all of which tend to favour the hunting style adopted by cats which places small ground-dwelling animals at greater risk.”

The creation of sanctuaries in the bush or on offshore islands is one method currently being used to help protect a variety of marsupial species and boost their falling numbers. However, Professor Johnson is also championing a method which involves boosting local biodiversity by allowing the breeding and reintroduction of predators such as dingos to ecosystems where they have been eradicated by humans. It is hoped that, as the native predators replace feral predators or at least reduce their numbers, native prey species will be given the opportunity to rebound and thrive.

Read more on this story at The Telegraph – Australian marsupials such as possums in sudden decline.

View images and videos of Australian species on ARKive.


Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

May 2

Recently, the saiga, an odd-looking Critically Endangered antelope of the Mongolian steppes, was highlighted in the media due to a sharp-eyed Star Wars fan noticing its striking resemblance to some of the characters from the series. This discovery led to a surge of interest in the species and the various threats to its survival.

The 'Star Wars-like' saiga antelope

The saiga is not the only animal with more than a passing resemblance to creatures from the Star Wars galaxy. To celebrate Star Wars Day on May 4th, we attempted to seek out even more lookalikes from the natural world. Can you guess which Star Wars characters we think these species resemble?

Hint 1: You don’t want to owe him a debt

Arabian toad-headed agama image

Hint 2: Always seen with the previous character

Sri Lankan frogmouth image

Hint 3: It’s a carp!

Common carp image

Hint 4: Much larger in Star Wars

Wingless mantis image

Hint 5: Natives of Endor

Brown howling monkey image

Hint 6: They hope it isn’t a cold night

Thinhorn sheep image

Hint 7: Aggrrttaaggrrttaaggrrttaaggrr!

Sumatran orangutan image

Hint 8: With you the fourth May be!

Horsfields tarsier image

These resemblances are more than just a coincidence, with the inspiration for Wookies coming from orangutans, lemurs and dogs.

These amazing creatures highlight the many unique gifts that the biodiversity of Earth gives us. The vast array of morphologies and lifestyles on Earth has influenced human creativity throughout history, from ancient mythology through to science fiction. Whether we realise it or not, all of us draw inspiration from the creatures around us and the world would be a much drabber place without these weird and wonderful animals. Why not see if you can find any other lookalikes, and leave a comment below.

Answers: 1. Jabba the Hutt, 2. Salacious B. Crumb, 3. Admiral Ackbar, 4. The Acklay, 5. Ewok, 6. Tauntaun, 7. Wookie, 8. Yoda

Ben Hogan, Wildscreen ARKive PIPS Intern


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