Dec 16

Our natural world is full of mystery and wonder and one of the most mysterious natural phenomenon of all is bioluminescence. We’ve just created a new topic page to celebrate and explore this amazing adaptation that some animals possess.

Bioluminescence is the process by which living organisms produce their own light. Some organisms have organs that contain all of the necessary ingredients for light production, whereas others form symbiotic relationships with bioluminescent bacteria which they keep captive within a specially adapted appendage.

Most bioluminescent organisms are found in the deep sea below depths of 1,000 metres. Beyond depths of 1,000 there is absolutely no light from the sun and it is completely dark, therefore animals living at this depth have evolved to be able to produce light. There are a small amount of land-living organisms that produce light too, but this ability is much rarer outside of the deep-sea.

Check out these amazing bioluminescent species:

1) Murray’s abyssal anglerfish

Huge, blade-like teeth? Check. Unforgiving, angry expression? Check. Heading straight for you? It certainly seems that way! Anglerfish are arguably some of the world’s ugliest and most ferocious-looking animals. The females have a rod-like appendage on the top of their head, the tip of which contains bioluminescent bacteria. This is used as a lure to attract prey towards it, before it opens its huge mouth and engulfs its prey.

2) Ghost fungus

Until very recently, scientists were unsure as to why certain fungi species had the ability to produce light. It has recently been proven that it is a way to help them spread their spores as insects are attracted to the light, and when they pass by the gills of the fungus they are covered in spores. They then continue their journey through the forest, spreading the fungus’s spores as they go – how clever!

3) Flashlight fish

With this species, the clue for why it produces light is in its name. Underneath its eyes, the flashlight fish has organs containing bioluminescent bacteria, which glow and help the fish to see in the dark and also attract intrigued prey towards them – a classic example of curiosity killed the cat!

4) Glow worm

Despite being called a worm, glow worms are actually beetles belonging to the Coleoptera order. Female glow worms use their bioluminescence to attract males that are passing by and let them know that they are receptive to mating.

5) Ostracods

Ostracods are small crustaceans thought to exist in practically all aquatic environments on Earth and there are known to be over 33,000 species. Those living in the deep-sea possess the ability to produce light and use it to avoid being eaten. When a fish eats an ostracod it will produce a bioluminescent fluid which causes the fish to spit it straight back out again. This then alerts the whereabouts of the fish to larger predators, which could cause its eventual demise!

 

Want to know more about bioluminescence? Check out our shiny new bioluminescence topic page.

Browse the new bioluminescent species on Arkive and marvel at their amazing light-producing skills.

Sep 30

Wildscreen recently worked with world-renowned street artist Louis Masai to create two beautiful murals in our hometown of Bristol, UK to mark the beginning of the Wildscreen Festival and raise awareness of two little-known endangered species. This painting event was part of Wildscreen’s Witness the Wild programme, a series of free-to-attend events from 21/09 – 28/10 in Bristol, celebrating wildlife art, photography and film.

Louis’ work mainly focusses on endangered species and he has painted everything from lovebirds to rhinos all over the world. As well as painting beautiful, realistic murals of animals, Louis has a trademark patchwork style which is the current focus of most of his work. Louis has a deep passion for the natural world that he expresses through his amazing artworks.

Pangolin

The first mural was painted on Stapleton Road in Easton, Bristol. As all of us in the Wildscreen office are extremely fond of pangolins, they seemed like the perfect choice for the first mural.

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The main threat to pangolins is the illegal wildlife trade. Their scales are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, based on the false assumption that they are a cure for numerous diseases and ailments, despite the fact that they are made out of keratin, the same material as human nails and hair, and rhino horn. Pangolins are also eaten as a delicacy in Vietnam and China, and their habitat is quickly declining due to unsustainable logging, mining and human development.

It turned out that the timing of this pangolin mural was impeccable as just a few days later, there was good news for pangolins everywhere as every species was upgraded to CITES Appendix I, effectively banning all international trade. This new legal framework should help to protect wild pangolin populations, but you can help further by sharing your pangolin knowledge and telling people what they are. Unfortunately, not very many people know about pangolins so read up on them on our new pangolin topic page and watch our pangolin film, made in conjunction with Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, and tell the world what you know!

Green turtle

Our second mural was painted on Mina Road in St Werburghs, Bristol. This mural featured a green turtle. Sea turtles are one of the most ancient animals in the world and are believed to have existed on our planet for over 100 million years.

Turtle

Sea turtles are extremely unfortunate in that they are threatened by pretty much everything. Climate change is one of the main threats to sea turtles – the increased carbon dioxide level in the Earth’s atmosphere is causing ocean acidification which is altering the sea’s ecosystems and food web and, as with most reptiles, increased incubation temperatures lead to more females being born, which is skewing the sex ratio and leading to less successful mating. Plastic pollution is a major threat to sea turtles as they frequently mistake plastic litter for food which can cause major health issues, and they are also negatively affected by chemical pollution and oil spills. Sea turtles are often hit by boat traffic when they surface to breathe, and their coastal nesting habitats are threatened by development. Sea turtles are unsustainably hunted in many parts of the world and their eggs are taken from their nests.

Read up on ocean acidification and marine plastics on our topic pages to see what you can do to help sea turtles and other marine species.

If you live in Bristol please go and visit the murals and share your pictures using #wildscreenfest.

Come to our free bicycle-powered film screenings and open air wildlife photography exhibition in Bristol – check out the programme.

Follow us on Instagram to see what we’re up to

Share this blog to tell your friends and family about the plight of these endangered species.

Check out Louis’ website to see more of his amazing work.

 

Hannah Mulvany, Wildscreen Exchange Executive

Jun 29

As it’s #SharkWeek we thought we’d have a browse through Arkive and select our top 10 shark images and share them with you!

1) Say cheese!

What shark list would be complete without the magnificent great white shark? Here pictured giving the photographer Ralf Kiekner a nice, big, cheesy grin.

2) Gentle giant

Despite being the largest fish in the world, the whale shark survives solely on a diet of plankton and small fish. You can’t see them in this photo but the mouth of the whale shark actually contains 300 tiny teeth, the function of which is unknown.

3) Extreme close-up

This beautiful close-up of a tawny nurse shark by Juergen Freud shows the beautiful pattern of its skin and mesmerising eyes.

4) You got a little something….

Now as all good friends know, if your buddy has something stuck in their teeth you should always tell them. Shame on the guy in the back of this photo!

5) Don’t try this at home!

Many scientists believe that sharks have a blind spot directly in front of them because of the position of their eyes, so Masa Ushoida was likely to have been completely hidden from this very photogenic tiger shark!

6) Weird and wonderful

This frilled shark portrait shows how seriously strange-looking this primitive creature is.

7) What’s lurking beneath the surface?

The second largest fish in the sea, the basking shark, grows to lengths of at least 10 metres. This half-and-half image by Alex Mustard shows the basking shark’s feeding behaviour which mostly includes swimming at the water’s surface with its huge mouth open, filtering plankton from the water that passes over its gills.

8) My, what big teeth you have!

Now, we’re big believers that every member of the animal kingdom is beautiful in its own special way. We also think in the case of the sand tiger shark, its beauty may lay within.

 

9) Sharks aplenty

Our patron Sylvia Earle, also known as ‘her deepness’, once said ‘Sharks are beautiful animals, and if you’re lucky enough to see lots of them, that means that you’re in a healthy ocean. You should be afraid if you are in the ocean and don’t see sharks’. This bit of ocean must be very healthy!

10) Freedom at last

This poor juvenile blacktip reef shark was unfortunate enough to get caught on a longline hook. Fortunately, unlike many sharks, a diver was there at the right moment to set it free.

 

Are there any shark images on Arkive that we’ve missed out of our top 10 that you think should be in there? Let us know!

Apr 25

Well done to everyone who took part in our #GuessThePenguin quiz for World Penguin Day. You all have great identification skills when it comes to these very handsome creatures!

We can now reveal the answers to the mystery penguins we posted on social media, but we didn’t want to ruin it for those who didn’t see it and still wanted to play the quiz, so we’ve revealed the answers at the bottom of this blog. Can you guess the penguin species just from looking at a photo?

1) CLUE: I live in a very surprising place where you may not know that penguins exist

2) CLUE: this penguin is named after the wife of the explorer who discovered it

3) CLUE: this penguin is named after a distinctive characteristic below its bill

4) CLUE: this is the largest penguin species in the world, reaching heights of over 1m and weighing up to 40kgs

5) CLUE: this amazing penguin can dive to depths of over 170 metres and is the fastest known diving bird, reaching speeds of up to 36 kilometers an hour in the water

6) CLUE: this is the smallest penguin in the world, weighing a maximum of 1kg and only growing up to 40cm tall

7) CLUE: this penguin was discovered during an expedition that took place in 1519

8) CLUE: this penguin is not named after a type of pasta, although it is commonly mistaken for the penguin that sounds like it is!

9) CLUE: look into the eyes of this penguin and you might just guess its name!

…and the answers are:

1) African

2) Adelie

3) Chinstrap

4) Emperor

5) Gentoo

6) Little

7) Magellanic

8) Royal

9) Yellow-eyed

How many did you guess correctly?

Discover more penguin species on Arkive

If you work for a conservation organisation that works with penguins or any other species, you can access hundreds of images by joining the Wildscreen Exchange

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram to get your daily dose of the natural world

Apr 25

Cephalopods are arguably the weirdest of all marine invertebrates. The name cephalopod literally translates to ‘head-footed’ in Greek, indicating just how strange members of this taxonomic class are, but nothing in their name indicates how incredibly intelligent they are. Their alien-like features are truly fascinating and cephalopods are commonly regarded as the most advanced of all invertebrates!

The weirdest one – nautilus (Nautilus pompilius)

Kicking off our list is the bizarre-looking nautilus, whose appearance resembles a cross between a snail and a shrimp. They are the only species of cephalopod to have retained their external shell, which means they cannot alter their appearance as well as their counterparts.

The invisible one – common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis)

The common cuttlefish is a master of disguise, possessing the ability to transform its appearance to suit its surroundings in an instant. Check out this amazing talent in this video!

The deadly one – southern blue-ringed octopus (Hapalochlaena maculosa)

This species has one of the most potent venoms on the planet, 1000 times more powerful than cyanide, and there is no known antidote. The blue rings after which this species is named will only appear when an individual is disturbed and serve as a warning before it attacks. The helpless crab in this video finds this out the hard way!

The strangely familiar one – opalescent squid (Loligo opalescens)

You may have come into contact with this cephalopod more than any other – the opalescent squid is more commonly known to us as ‘calamari’. These small squids live in extremely large shoals and hunt by striking their prey with their tentacles.

The one-size-fits-all one – curled octopus (Eledone cirrhosa)

The ability of the curled octopus to transform and camouflage its body is truly fascinating – there is no gap too small or seaweed too colourful for this species! The curled octopus is also equipped with an ink jet they can utilise as a distraction when a predator is nearby. On top of all that, it also has an extremely toxic venom that it uses to paralyse its prey!

The colourful one – Carribean reef squid (Sepioteuthis sepioidea)

Commonly found in shallow reef waters, this intriguing species has enormous eyes and is known to have the largest eye-to-body ratio of the whole animal kingdom! Carribean reef squid communicate with each other by changing the colour of their skin.

The huge one – giant Australian cuttlefish (Sepia apama)

The giant Australian cuttlefish is largest cuttlefish species, reaching lengths of up to a metre.  Despite its large size, this species it is a master of disguise and can easily blend in with its  surroundings due to special pigment cells called chromatophores which allow it to change colour in an instant.

The even huger one – Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas)

A close relative of the giant squid, this species, also known as the ‘jumbo squid’, is a monster capable of growing up to 2 metres long and weighing over 50 kilograms! They can move at considerable speeds (up to 24km/h) and have been known to propel themselves out of the water and soar through the air to evade their predators which include whales, sharks, seals and swordfish.

The bright one – firefly squid (Watasenia scintillans)

This bioluminescent species is definitely deserving of a top 10 spot as it is responsible for one of the most spectacular light shows on the planet! Between March and June millions of firefly squid gather off of the coast of Japan, as well as hundreds of tourists, producing a natural spectacle like no other. The firefly squid also uses its bioluminescence to attract prey and select mates.

The strong one – North Pacific giant octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini)

Reaching lengths of up to 5 metres and weighing in at up to 50 kilograms, this monster octopus had to make the top 10! The photograph below is not photoshopped, this species does eat sharks! Its raw strength makes it capable of ripping apart shells and flesh with its tentacles or using its powerful ‘beak’ to make easy work of its prey. This, in tandem with its camouflaging talent, makes it a truly ferocious predator.

Have we missed out your favourite cephalopod? Let us know!

Discover more cephalopods on the Arkive website

Will Powell, Arkive guest blogger

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