Apr 1

The natural world is full of trickery, with many species proving to be masters of deception, not just on April Fools’ Day, but every day.

Amphibious antics

This master of disguise has got the leaf-look down to a tee, with its twisted body, veined skin and tail which appears to have been nibbled by insects or decayed amongst leaf litter. If its name and physical appearance doesn’t deter predators, the satanic leaf-tailed gecko can also flatten its body to reduce shadow, shed its tail and open its mouth to reveal a shocking red mouth. It seems this critter has plenty of tricks up sleeves!

Satanic leaf-tailed gecko image

Nature’s stink bomb

The Palawan stink badger lives up to its name by its method of defence. When attacked, a putrid-smelling yellow fluid is squirted from its anal glands, which will linger on the unfortunate victim for quite some time. Sometimes this species even ‘plays dead’ before ejecting the stinking secretion over the unsuspecting intruder.

Palawan stink badger image

Comical coney

Juvenile coneys are known to adopt a rather sneaky hunting technique known as ‘agressive mimicry’. By joining a group of similarly-sized and coloured brown chromis (Chromis multilineata), they are able to sneek up on prey unnoticed.

Coney image

Swindling snake

The juvenile Mexican cantil has a cunning method of attaining its next meal. By wiggling the tip of its yellow tail, it tricks other snakes and lizards into thinking it is an invertebrate. What comes next is definitely not a pleasant surprise!

Mexican cantil image

Is it a bird, a plane or a car alarm?

An expert impersonator, the African grey parrot is known to repeat everything from car alarms and human speech to calls of mammals and other birds. This species is considered to be one of the smartest animal species in the world and is thought to have the same intelligence level as a five year old human!


African grey parrot image

The plants are doing it too!

In certain populations, the peacock moraea flowers bear a striking resemblance to two different pollinating beetles, the glittering monkey beetle and the P. rufotibialis beetle. The plant is thought to have developed this remarkable mimicry to attract male beetles to the flower, enabling the plant to spread its pollen. This trickery must be rather disappointing for any would-be suitors.

Peacock moraea image

Can you think of anymore mischievous mammals, roguish reptiles, badly behaved birds, playful plants or impulsive insects? Let us know!

We wish you a happy and incident-free April Fools’ Day!

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Species Text Author Intern

Mar 17

Hanging upside down is a challenge for the majority of human beings, mostly problematic due to poor grip, fear of heights and consequential dizziness. The amazing adaptations of many species enable them to use different parts of their bodies to hang for hours at a time, whether hanging out alone, with friends or to feed.

Super strength

The mobile shoulder joints and long arms and fingers of the chimpanzee enable it to move easily through the trees and hang out with other members of their community.

Chimpanzee image

Double digits

The forelimbs of the koala are unusually long when compared with their hindlimbs. The paws are padded and help when gripping and climbing. It also has large claws, except for on the first digit of the hind paw. The first and second digits of the hind paws are opposed like thumbs to help grip branches.

Koala image

Prehensile perfection

The northern muriqui has a long, prehensile tail which acts as an extra limb. This species uses this specialist adaptation to hang from the trees, while using its other limbs to grab food from the surrounding area. That’s what you call multi-tasking!

Northern muriqui image

Feeding frenzy

The Diadem roundleaf bat uses its hanging abilities to scope out prey. The predicatable flight paths of its insect prey means this species can hang out of a tree, and on detecting an insect, drop from its perch at great speed and catch its victim.

Diadem roundleaf bat image

Scaley specialist

Geckos are well-known for their ability to climb almost anything. In the Musandam leaf-toed gecko, the toes have a pair of specialised scales known as ‘scansors’, which are covered in thousands of tiny microscopic hairs, giving the species a remarkable grip and enabling it to hang upside down even on the smoothest surfaces.

Musandam leaf-toed gecko image

Plants can hang out too!

Pitcher plants, such as Nepenthes macfarlanei (left) and Nepenthes lowii (right), have large, pitcher shaped leaves hanging from coiled tendrils. These are filled with concentrated fluid, which is used to digest their insect prey.

Pitcher plant image

Pitcher plant image













Google +

So, to be an expert hanger, you can develop hairy hands, grow an extra (preferably prehensile) limb, make your arms longer, or just practice really hard until you bulk up enough to join the best of the hangers. Alternatively, you could just hang out with your friends on Google +.

Google + is a fairly new kid on the social media block but with over 90 million users, it’s growing fast. On this network, you +1 things you like and share with your friends who are grouped in circles.  We love sharing endangered species photos, videos and facts with our Google circles. You can also create ‘hangouts’ where you can video chat with up to 9 of your friends.  Why not add ARKive to your circle?

What’s the most social species on ARKive?

Join our search to find the most social species on ARKive. Visit the species you think is the most social and press Google +. The species with the most new Google +1s will win the title of the ‘No.1 Social Species’ in the Social Species contest. Who will win? +1 to ensure your favourite is a contender!

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Species Text Author Intern

Mar 10

Sloths. Who knew these peculiar-looking creatures would capture the hearts of so many people around the world? Slow, sleepy and somewhat strange, sloths may not seem like strong candidates for becoming internet superstars, but it appears that their on-screen snoozing has caused an international sensation!

Meet the sloths

Lucy Cooke – a zoologist and filmmaker with a passion for odd animals – has caused something of a stir with her short video “Meet the Sloths”, which went viral within days of its unveiling on YouTube and Vimeo. Showcasing the charismatic inhabitants of a sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica, Meet the Sloths has been viewed by over seven million people online, and has even gathered a cohort of famous fans, including Ashton Kutcher, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Fry. The sleepy sloths proved such a hit that a full length documentary about these captivating creatures recently aired on US and UK television.

Here at ARKive we decided it was about time we embraced the celebrity status of these endearing animals and shared a few of our favourite facts – let’s meet the sloths!

Photo of brown-throated three-toed sloth

Brown-throated three-toed sloth


Feeling sleepy?

Named after one of the seven deadly sins, sloths have gained a reputation as one of the laziest animals on the planet, and perhaps rightly so – sloths are known to spend between 15 and 20 hours a day fast asleep! Indeed, because these creatures stay so remarkably still, scientists had to attach electrodes to their heads to work out when they were sleeping.

Slowly does it

Sloths are able to remain completely motionless for hours. In fact, these statuesque species are so good at staying still that algae flourishes in their fur, often giving sloths a distinctive greenish tinge. The green algae help to camouflage the sloths in trees, making them less visible to predators such as eagles.

Photo of maned three-toed sloth

Maned three-toed sloth


Just hanging around

All sloths have three toes on their back feet, but the different species can be distinguished by the number of long, curving claws on their front feet: two-toed species have two claws, while three-toed species have three. These tenacious talons are extremely powerful, and are ideally shaped to hook around tree branches. Sloths do almost everything in the trees, including feeding, mating and sleeping, only descending to the ground once a week when nature calls!

Shady behaviour

These unusual animals have around half the body muscle of most other mammals, and are unable to keep warm by shivering. Instead, sloths regulate their body temperature by moving in and out of the shade in their treetop retreats. The body temperature of the two-toed sloth is one of the most variable of any mammal, fluctuating between 24 to 33°C depending on the weather and the time of day.

Photo of pale-throated three-toed sloth

Pale-throated three-toed sloth


Strange relations

You’d be forgiven for thinking that sloths are related to primates given their arboreal antics, but sloths are actually more closely related to anteaters and armadillos. They all belong to the order Xenarthra, which means ‘strange joints’. Sloths are clearly no exception – they have an extra flexible neck due to additional vertebrae, meaning that they are able to rotate their head an astounding 270 degrees!

Climb, crawl, swim…

Although sloths are fantastic climbers, they have remarkably weak hind legs and can’t stand up straight when they move around on the ground. Instead, sloths use their front claws to dig into the ground and pull themselves along on their stomachs with their strong arms. Despite their poor adaptations to moving around on land, sloths are actually surprisingly good swimmers!

Photo of pygmy three-toed sloth

Pygmy three-toed sloth


Love sloths?

Explore more sloth videos on ARKive! And why not share your thoughts, favourite sloth images and most amusing sloth videos on twitter and Facebook, or leave a comment showing your love for sloths on the ARKive blog.

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author

Feb 22

Many of the world’s weird and wonderful species names have been determined by taxonomists but the reasons behind the names vary greatly. Some species names honour a great naturalist or explorer, others are in recognition of a particular individual dedicated to the conservation of a particular species, and some are purley named after someone the taxonomist was rather fond of!

-i’, ‘-ae’ and ‘-orum’

In taxonomy, when a species’ scientific name comes from the name of a person, the suffix ‘-i’ is attached for a male, ‘-ae’ for a female and ‘-orum’ for a couple.

Adélie penguin image

The Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) was named by Jules Dumont d'Urville after his wife Adéle

Weddell seal image

The Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) is named after British sealing captain James Weddell










Pere David’s deer

Father (‘Pere’ in French) David, was a Catholic missionary, zoologist and botanist who travelled to China and collected natural history specimens. On his travels he discovered, among many other species, the giant panda and Pere David’s deer, which were previously unknown in Europe. Pere David’s deer was presumably already extinct in the wild; however, Pere David observed the last remaining herd and inspired an unfortunately unsuccessful drive to bring them back from the brink of extinction.

Pere David's stag image

Pere David's deer is classified as Extinct in the Wild

Thomas Bewick

Thomas Bewick was an English wood engraver who had an insatiable interest in ornithology. He created masterpieces detailing birds, which were carved onto wood, and then went on to write and illustrate the History of British Birds which was published in the early 1800’s. Bewick’s swan was named after him just after this death in 1828.

Bewick's swan image

Bewick's swan preening

De Brazza

De Brazza was a French explorer who was an early coloniser of the Republic of the Congo. He is remembered by both the species de Brazza’s monkey and the capital city of Congo, Brazzaville, the name of which remains today as well as a monument in his honour.

De Brazza's monkey image

De Brazza's monkey

Owl-faced guenon

The scientific name of the owl-faced guenon (Cercopithecus hamlyni) is derived from the eccentric animal dealer John. D. Hamlyn who first brought this species to London Zoo.

Owl-faced guenon image

Owl-faced guenon

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin lends his name to many species of animal and plant, including Darwin’s orchid, Chile Darwin’s frog, Darwin’s fox and Darwin’s finches. Darwin’s finches are a group of around 14 different finches all endemic to the Galapagos Islands, except for the Cocos finch, which lives on a small island 600 kilometres northeast called Cocos. These closely related birds show how natural selection can lead to the evolution of many different species from a single lineage. Darwin’s finches include the mangrove finch, large ground finch, warbler finch, vegetarian finch, sharp-beaked ground finch and many more.

Darwin's orchid image

This beautiful orchid is endemic to Madagascar


Carl Linné, or Linnaeus, is often called the ‘father of modern taxonomy’ due to his invention of the modern system of identifying all species of plant, animal, fungus, single and simple multi-celled organisms and bacteria. This system of two words makes up the name of a species, or three for a subspecies, of which the first word usually describes a biological aspect of the species from a word derived from Latin or Greek. Many reptiles are named after Linnaeus as well as Linné’s two-toed sloth.

Linne's two-toed sloth image

Linne's two-toed sloth, otherwise known as the southern two-toed sloth

Spiders from Mars

Was it the bright yellow hair that prompted the naming of the David Bowie spider (Heteropoda davidbowie)?

David Bowie spider image

Aside from the yellow hair, are there any other physical characteristics linking David Bowie with his arachnid namesake?

Lemurs from Madagascar

The Bemahara woolly lemur (Avahi cleesei) is named after famous English actor John Cleese, due to his fondness for lemurs and efforts towards promoting their conservation.

Bemaraha woolly lemur image

Bemaraha woolly lemur, also known as Cleese's woolly lemur with young

What about me?

This proves there are many ways to have a species named after you, even without trekking through the deepest Indian rainforest to find one yourself!

Western Ghats, India image

Unidentified species, where are you?

With new species being found every day who will be honoured next? mulvanyae has a nice ring to it!

Let us know in the comments below if you can think of any good potential species names or people who deserve to have an animal or plant named after them.

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Species Text Author Intern

Feb 22

Viewers in the UK are set for a wintery treat tonight, as the team behind Autumnwatch and Springwatch return to our screens for a one off special, celebrating our winter wildlife and taking a look at how our resident plants and animals cope with the changing conditions of the season. If you just can’t wait for tonight, we thought we would give you a little sneak preview of what to expect…

Otter photo

Otters are a big favourite here in the ARKive office, and we’ve heard that ARKive media donor Charlie Hamilton James will be heading out to discover why otter cubs are around at this time of year, as well as finding them in a rather unusual place – we are intrigued!

Dipper photo

The team will also be heading out to look for dippers, small aquatic birds that have evolved amazing methods of hunting. They can swim underwater using their wings, walk along the bottom of the river, and swim on the surface, making dives into the water – impressive stuff!

Ptarmigan photo

The Scottish race of the ptarmigan is found only in Scotland, and is the only bird in Britain to turn white during winter. Roosting occurs on the ground in flocks during winter, and if it has snowed, individuals huddle for warmth. Tonight the team will reveal why it could be the UK’s toughest bird!

Tawny owl photo

Winter is a hard time for owls as they can sometimes struggle to find sufficient prey, but it is also a great opportunity to spot them. Tawny owls pair up in the winter and can often be heard hooting and calling as their courtship takes place. Tune in tonight to find out about a surprising influx of owls.

Barn swallow photo

Of course, some species manage to avoid winter altogether, heading south for warmer climes and returning again when it is time to breed. For a bird of such small size, the barn swallow undertakes hugely impressive, long-distance migrations. Tonight Michaela Strachan reports from South Africa, where millions of swallows have arrived from the UK and beyond.

Have you seen any spectacular winter wildlife? Do you have a favourite wintery photo on ARKive? Get in touch using the form below and let us know!

Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher


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