Oct 5

Happy World Smile Day! Did you know that today is dedicated to smiles and kind acts throughout the world? Smiling is a universal sign of affection instinctive to us all. But have you ever wondered where our grins come from?

Cheeky monkey

Smiling may have originated from the bared teeth expression made by monkeys when frightened. But in higher primates, teeth bearing is often a sign of submission and non-hostility from a subordinate member of a group towards a dominant member.

Picture of Grey-footed chacma baboon showing submissive behaviour

Grey-footed chacma baboon showing submissive behaviour

From signalling non-hostility and appeasement, teeth bearing is thought to have developed into showing affection and affiliation between equals.

Adult chimpanzee baring teeth

Adult chimpanzee baring teeth

Laughter is the best medicine

It’s also likely that our laughter evolved from another primate expression: the ‘play face’. This facial expression can be seen during playful encounters. For instance, a flash of teeth reassures a gorilla’s playmate that they do not intend to harm them. This appears to be a foundation of human laughter

Young chimpanzee showing prototypical 'play face'

Young chimpanzee showing prototypical 'play face'

It’s easy to imagine that all animals smile and show happiness just like us. Today, they can! For when you’re smiling, the whole (natural) world smiles with you…

Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta)

Belize crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii)

Snake-eyed lizard (Ophisops elegans)  

Photo of bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy World Smile Day!

Aug 30

Have you ever wondered what the smallest creatures roaming our planet are? Let’s meet some very cute, extrordinary miniature creatures with ARKive’s favourite smallest species.

What is this on my finger? 

Photo of minute leaf chameleon

This charming minute leaf chameleon is one of the smallest reptiles in the world. As expected for its tiny size, it consumes minute prey, including small fruit flies, white flies and springtails. If threatened by a predator, this clever little creature will drop to the ground like a piece of dead wood and feign death until the danger has passed. How does a predator even spot such a tiny thing!

This is the perfect little hideout for me!

Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur

Awww now this one is a real cutie! Described as a new species in 2000, the tiny Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur is believed to be the world’s smallest living primate! This nocturnal forager has extremely large, forward-facing eyes dramatically improving its night-vision. Weirdly, during the dry winter months, it undergoes a daily period of torpor, lowering its metabolic rate for a few hours. This causes its body temperature to drop, thereby conserving water and energy. Not just a pretty face that mouse lemur!

Where are you little mites, I’m coming to get you…!

Edmond’s ground beetle photo

Edmond’s ground beetle is just 2mm in length – can you imagine? I challenge anyone to find this beetle, which lives within wet moss on the edge of bogs! It is one of the smallest ground beetles in the UK and believe it or not, it is actually a predator, feeding on mites and springtails. You certainly won’t feel the need to run away from this mini-beast.

I’m not sure if this whole hiding thing is working out for me.

 Denise’s pygmy seahorse photo

This delicate little critter known as Denise’s pygmy seahorse is one of the smallest of all seahorse species, typically measuring less than 2cm in height! It is a master of camouflage, with its yellow colouration exactly matching the stems of its gorgonian sea fan ‘home’. What a dinky sea creature!

Oh no, I’m too high up…my legs are starting to feel like jelly.

Savi’s pygmy shrew photo

The adorable Savi’s pygmy shrew is the smallest land mammal in the world, growing to a maximum size of just 8cm! It has an exceptional metabolism, with a heartbeat of over a thousand beats per minute which means it cannot survive for more than a few hours without food. To satisfy its high energy requirements, this velvety, miniature shrew can consume as much as 1.3 times its body weight in a single day. If only we could eat that much and stay that small!

Put me down…

Hooked thread snake photo

One of the smallest snakes in the world, the hooked thread snake is rarely seen due to the fact that it lives underground and grows to a maximum of 24cm. Owing to its miniature size, extremely slender body, and pink skin; it is often mistaken for an earthworm. I’d rather come across this tiny snake than a king cobra, that’s for sure!

Up a bit, down a bit, left a bit….

Bee humingbird photo

The diminutive bee hummingbird has the incredible accolade of being the smallest living bird in the world, measuring just 6cm in height. Despite its tiny size, it is capable of beating its wings around 80 times a second in a figure-of-eight pattern, giving it the ability to hover and move with amazing agility. Even more astonishingly, the female lays a clutch of 2 tiny eggs, no bigger than 6mm in length. It’s a miracle they don’t get squished beneath her!

Ok this wing stretch exercise is really starting to ache now…

Kitti's hog-nosed bat photo

Kitti’s hog-nosed bat is not only the smallest bat in the world, but also the smallest mammal in existence! Its extinction would not only be the loss of an incredibly unique species, but an entire branch of the evolutionary tree would vanish from our planet. The body of this miniscule bat reaches just 33mm in length. How this researcher managed to catch this little thing is a mystery!

I’m definitely worth more than a pound, even if it doesn’t look like it!

Partula faba photo

This little critter is joint smallest of our top ten smallest species with Edmond’s ground beetle! The 2mm long Partula faba is one of the most endangered of all the tree snails and is currently on the edge of survival. It is Extinct in the Wild due to the introduction of invasive snails in the French Polynesian islands in the 1970s. The last remaining population of these snails can only be found at Bristol Zoo Gardens. Let’s hope they manage to reintroduce these adorable tiny snails into the wild!

Any minute now, I am going to jump right outta here!

Gardiner's tree frog photo

Check out this tiny frog, it’s smaller than a fingernail! The Gardiner’s tree frog is one of the smallest frogs in the world, growing to only 11mm in length! Unlike most frogs, the young do not hatch as tadpoles, but as fully formed small adult frogs. So the babies are even smaller versions of this little guy – how is that even possible?

Can you find any other tiny species on ARKive? Let us know.

Rebecca Sennett, ARKive Researcher

Jul 16

The lemurs of Madagascar are far more threatened than previously thought, according to a new assessment for the IUCN.

Photo of ring-tailed lemur with young on back

Ring-tailed lemur

The assessment, being carried out by scientists from the Primate Specialist Group, aims to decide how lemurs should be classified on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It has found that over 90% of lemur species should be placed in the Red List threatened categories.

Most threatened mammal group

The previous IUCN lemur assessment, published in 2008, classified 8 lemur species as Critically Endangered, 18 as Endangered and 14 as Vulnerable. However, the new assessment shows a worrying increase in threat levels, with 23 lemurs qualifying as Critically Endangered, 52 as Endangered and 19 as Vulnerable.

That means that 91% of all lemurs are assessed as being in one of the Red List threatened categories, which is far and away the largest proportion of any group of mammals,” said Dr Russ Mittermeier, Chairman of the Primate Specialist Group and President of Conservation International.

Photo of Madame Berthe's mouse lemur resting on a branch

Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur

The scientists have also confirmed that there are more lemur species than previously thought. Detailed study and genetic testing have revealed a number of cases where lemurs have been presumed to be from the same species, but in fact are from different ones. The 103rd species, a new type of mouse lemur, was identified during this assessment but has yet to be named.

Lack of law enforcement

The main threats to lemurs come from widespread deforestation and hunting. Since a coup in Madagascar in 2009, repeated evidence of illegal logging has been found, while hunting of lemurs has emerged as a new and increasing threat. A decline in traditional taboos is also likely to be contributing to hunting of lemurs for bushmeat.

Photo of silky sifaka pair in tree

Silky sifakas

Although elections have been promised in the country, several scheduled election dates have already passed, and a lack of law enforcement is only exacerbating the threats to Madagascar’s wildlife.

Several national parks have been invaded, but of greater concern is the breakdown in control and enforcement,” said Dr Mittermeier. “There’s just no government enforcement capacity, so forests are being invaded for timber, and inevitably that brings hunting as well.”

Photo of Alaotran gentle lemur with young on back

Alaotran gentle lemur

Around 90% of Madagascar’s original forests have already been lost, and lemurs and other endemic species are becoming increasingly threatened within the remaining forest fragments.

The latest assessments of the conservation status of lemurs will be reviewed and confirmed by other experts before forming part of the IUCN’s next global Red List update.

Read more on this story at BBC News – Lemurs sliding towards extinction.

View photos and videos of lemurs on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

May 21

Here at ARKive, we love a conservation success story, and we were delighted when ARKive media donor Dr. Milada Řeháková-Petrů got in touch to share with us the latest news on the Tarsius Project – a research and conservation organisation centred around the Philippine tarsier.

For those of you unfamiliar with this extraordinary looking animal, the Philippine tarsier is a nocturnal primate endemic to the Philippines. It is perhaps most notable for its enormous eyes (tarsiers have the biggest eyes relative to their body weight of any mammal), and its ability to rotate its head nearly 360°. Philippine tarsiers are agile acrobats of the forest, making vertical leaps from tree to tree with ease, spending their days sleeping amongst dense vegetation and setting out to hunt for their insect prey as the sun goes down.

Philippine tarsier photo

Sadly, as a result of its cute, pixie like appearance, Milada explained that the Philippine tarsier is a common victim of the illegal pet trade, and that it is also often kept as a tourist attraction in very poor conditions. After conducting a survey of all the captive tarsier facilities on the main tourist route on Bohol Island, Milada tells us that the results were shocking. Kept in cramped conditions, many of the tarsiers were sick and dying, and being a nocturnal creature on display during the day, all were permanently stressed.

Philippine tarsier photo

Even more worryingly, when the captive tarsiers died, their numbers were being replenished by individuals captured from the wild, and the growing demand saw tarsiers slowly disappearing from neighbouring forests. Fortunately Milada and her team were able to document what was occurring, and highlighted the tarsier’s plight by presenting their results to the Minister of the Environment Ramon Paje, the Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Demetrio Ignacio,Bohol governor Edgar Chatto, DENR officials and other authorities.

Milada Řeháková

Fortunately, the authorities recognized the seriousness of the whole situation and it was decided that all the tarsiers from the facilities along the main tourist road would be transferred to more suitable conditions. Recently, a new naturally planted enclosure was opened in Loboc to provide the tarsiers with more space, and a less stressful environment. Most importantly, this step will hopefully decrease the demand for tarsiers poached from the wild.

Philippine tarsier photo

You can find information about the Tarsius Project and the work that Milada and her team do by checking out the Tarsius Project website, and the recent video documentary they have created.

Make sure to take a look at ARKive’s Philippine tarsier photos and videos too, many kindly provided by Milada and the Tarsius Project.

Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher

May 3

For a bit of #WildlifeWednesday fun, we asked you to send us examples of bands or singers with animals in their names, and we got some great responses! We received a fabulous selection of actual band names as well as creative puns, from the Black Eyed Bees to Blenny Rogers, so we’ve put together a blog to showcase our favourites!

The Eagles

Philippine eagle image

The Philippine eagle is also known as the monkey-eating eagle

The Eagles are famous for the song ‘Hotel California’, but our ARKive eagle of choice hails from the other side of the world: the Philippines. The Philippine eagle is the world’s largest eagle, and is sadly one of the most threatened birds of prey.

Arctic Monkeys

Yunnan snub-nosed monkey image

The diet of the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey is composed primarily of lichens

This monkey may not be from the Arctic, but he certainly looks a little chilly! The Yunnan snub-nosed monkey is a rather elusive, Endangered primate from south-western China.

And now we’ll move on to some of the fabulous puns you all sent in!

Nine Inch Snails

Trachycystis haygarthi image

Trachycystis haygarthi is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List

We’re not sure the shape of this snail’s shell could be classed as ‘The Downward Spiral’ like the title of the 1994 album by Nine Inch Nails, but it’s certainly a spiral of some sort! This particular snail species, Trachycystis haygarthi, is endemic to South Africa, and so is found nowhere else in the world.

Gulls Aloud

Herring gull image

The herring gull is a supreme opportunist and scavenger

In 2005, Girls Aloud released the single ‘Wake Me Up’, and it seems that herring gulls across the UK took this message to heart, and appear to have made it their mission to squawk as loudly as possible in the early hours of the morning, waking up many a sleepy person!

Llama del Ray

Guanaco image

The guanaco can live at high elevations, as its blood can carry more oxygen than that of other mammals

A relative of the domestic llama, this guanaco appears to be singing along to the latest Lana del Rey song! We’re not sure this species is particularly tuneful, though…!

Fleetwood Macaque

Sunda pig-tailed macaque image

The Sunda pig-tailed macaque is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List

‘The Chain’ is a Fleetwood Mac classic, and this Sunda pig-tailed macaque appears to be joining in the song at full voice. Yet one type of chain this species would not be celebrating is the chainsaw. One of the main threats to this primate is habitat destruction as a result of tree felling in its forest home.

Dire Kraits

Banded sea krait image

The banded sea krait is highly venomous, but is rather docile

The Dire Straits song title ‘Down to the Waterline’ suits this amphibious reptile rather well! The banded sea krait leads a semi-aquatic lifestyle, and comes ashore to lay its eggs.

Mötley Shrew

Savi's pygmy shrew image

Savi's pygmy shrew is the smallest land mammal in the world

Mötley Crüe’s drummer Tommy Lee could certainly rock out on percussion at pretty mean speeds, yet as far as rapid beats go, even he would be no match for Savi’s pygmy shrew! This species has a heart rate of over a thousand beats per minute!

Def Leopard

Leopard image

Leopards can be individually identified by their spot patterns

Def Leppard’s fourth album included the hit single ‘Animal’, a rather appropriate song title for this blog!

The leopard certainly is a beautiful animal, with its gorgeous coat pattern of rosettes which enable it to remain camouflaged when hunting. Conservation efforts are vital to ensuring a future for this species, so that it is not left ‘High ‘n’ Dry’.

Moose Springsteen

Moose image

Along with the Eurasian elk, the moose is the largest living deer species

Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the U.S.A’ is potentially a rather fitting anthem for this large species, as the moose’s range does include parts of the United States, as well as Canada, Russia, northern Mongolia and northern China.

Thanks to everyone who sent in ideas, you certainly are a creative bunch!

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

About

RSS feedArkive.org is the place for films, photos and facts about endangered species. Subscribe to our blog today to keep up to date!

Email updates

Sign up to receive a regular email digest of Arkive blog posts.
Preferred frequency:

Arkive twitter

Twitter: ARKive