Apr 26

You might not have it scheduled in your calendar, but today in in fact Alien Day! That’s right, a celebration of the films in which Sigourney Weaver, aka Ripley, battles some frankly terrifying extra-terrestrial creatures.

So we at Arkive had to jump at the chance to share with you our five favourite alien-like critters! These out-of-this-world species live right here among us, so there’s no need to blast off into space and cryo-freeze yourself for an encounter!

 Saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica)

These bizarre-looking antelope look like they’ve fallen straight off the set of Star Wars, but in actual fact can be found in the steppe grasslands of central Asia.

Despite their common name, these ungulates are actually thought to be intermediates between antelope and sheep. They prefer open areas free from dense vegetation where they run quickly (up to 80 miles per hour) to avoid predators such as wolves and humans

Large groups of saiga migrate southwards in winter, covering up to 72 miles in a day. The rut begins in late November and males gather groups of around 30 females in ‘harems’, which they aggressively defend.

During the rut, males’ noses swell up and the hair tufts below the eyes are covered in a sticky secretion. Males do not feed much during the rutting season, when they take part in violent fights that often end in death. The male mortality rate can reach 90 percent during this time, due to exhaustion.

Tail-less whip scorpion (Phrynichus jayakari)

The tail-less whip scorpion is spider-like in appearance and, as its common name suggests, it lacks a tail.

Tail-less whip scorpions differ from other arachnids (a group containing spiders and scorpions) in that they use only six of their limbs to walk, rather than eight, as the front pair are adapted to act as very long sensory organs. They may look like a bit creepy, but they are actually completely harmless and do not possess venom glands or a sting.

Tail-less whip scorpions are primarily nocturnal and emerge at night in search of food or a mate. They generally occur in tropical and sub-tropical regions, where they live under stones, leaves, bark or in rock crevices and caves.

Hairy angler (Caulophryne polynema)

The hairy angler is a deep-sea predator that looks like it is could have had a starring role in the nightmares of many pretty little reef fish whose parents warned them of the dangers of straying from the safety of their coral home.

The female is about the size of a football and its body is covered in long antennae, used to detect the movements of any nearby prey. The male is about a tenth of the size of the female, roughly the size of a ping pong ball. When a male encounters a female, it latches on and, over time, begins sharing the female’s blood supply, providing her with unlimited semen in response.

While we noted at the start that no spaceship was required for these sightseeing trips, the hairy angler lives at depths of over 1,000 metres, in the dark zone (we think it chose this for added dramatic effect), so you would probably need a very expensive submarine to pay it a visit.

Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)

The axolotl is an unusual species of salamander which retains its larval features, such as gills, and remains aquatic throughout its life. They definitely look like a slightly more friendly alien creature who’d be more likely to sit down and play a board game with you than our previous guest creature, phew.

This real-life Pokémon mostly fails to undergo metamorphosis, but if its habitat dries up then this species can metamorphose into its adult form – magic!

Another out-of-this-world power the axolotl has is regeneration – X-men style! Instead of forming scar tissue when wounded, the axolotl can regenerate tissue at the wound site and even re-grow missing limbs.

The axolotl is native to the ancient water channel system of Mexico City, preferring deep brackish water with plenty of vegetation, but has been lost from most of its range and is currently listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Coral

The tiny organisms that live inside corals, polyps, can live on their own but are mostly associated with the spectacularly diverse limestone communities, or reefs, they construct.

Coral polyps are tiny, translucent animals. These soft-bodied organisms are related to sea anemones and jellyfish. At their base is a hard, protective limestone skeleton called a calicle, which forms the structure of coral reefs.

They have to be on this list as they are so bizarre and unlike any other creature on the planet, many people don’t know they’re even an animal, or even sentient, mistaking the reefs they build for rock.

Corals eat by catching tiny floating animals called zooplankton. At night, coral polyps come out of their elaborate exoskeletons to feed, stretching their long, stinging tentacles to capture critters that are floating by. Prey are pulled into the polyps’ mouths and digested in their stomachs.

The majority of a polyp’s energy actually comes from tiny algae called zooxanthellae. The algae live within the coral polyps, using sunlight to make sugar for energy. This energy is transferred to the polyp, providing much-needed nourishment. In turn, coral polyps provide the algae with carbon dioxide and a protective home.

Don’t get us started on how they breed, or wage war on one another, as we could go on for hours on their otherworldly behaviour! But if you want to learn more about these amazing and highly endangered species, please check out our coral conservation topic page.

 

HAPPY ALIEN DAY!

Mar 13

Arkive’s Week in Review — Wildlife News ICYMI: Arkive has compiled some of the biggest and most interesting headlines from this week. Article originally published on Friday, Mar 6, 2015

As forests burn, conservationists launch global wildlife rescue

Scarlet-macaw-landing

Scarlet macaw landing

Extreme events and long-term warming caused by climate change compound the existing threats to wildlife like habitat loss and degradation. Using small aircraft to detect and map threats like forest fires and illegal clearing can significantly reduce the incidence of severely damaging forest fires. One of many affected forests is that of Guatemala, which is home to the scarlet macaw and the ocellated turkey.

View original article

Ocellated-turkey-side-view

Ocellated turkey side view

Article originally published on Saturday, Mar 7, 2015

Four large species of snake added to restricted import list

Reticulated-python-juvenile-coiled-around-sapling

Reticulated python juvenile coiled around sapling

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared that the Beni anaconda, green anaconda, DeSchaunsee’s anaconda, and the reticulated python are “injurious” under the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act prohibits the export, import, buying, selling or acquisition of wildlife and plant species named on the list.

View original article

Green anaconda close up

Article originally published on Sunday, Mar 8, 2015

Back from the brink of extinction: hunting for the world’s rarest frog

Corroboree-frog-crawling-on-moss

Corroboree frog crawling on moss

A research team found only four coroboree frogs within the southern part of New South Wales, its entire range. Recently, experts from Melbourne Zoo and Taronga Zoo along with NSW wildlife officials released 80 frogs into a fungus-free area of New South Wales within Kosciuszko National Park.

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Article originally published on Monday, Mar 9, 2015

Amphibians, already threatened, face increased susceptibility to disease from stress, research shows

Plethodon-shermani--on-leaves

Red-legged salamander on leaves

Researchers treated red-legged salamanders with either corticosterone, a stress hormone, or oil. They then exposed them to the chytrid fungus. Researchers found that “stressed” salamanders had a greater abundance of the chytrid fungus.

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Article originally published on Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015

The truth about giant pandas

Infant-giant-panda-portrait

Infant giant panda portrait

Thinking of the giant panda as cute and cuddly is only half the truth. In reality, the giant panda is a formidable species  who delivers one of the highest bite forces of any carnivore.

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Article originally published on Wednesday, Mar 11, 2015

If apes go extinct, so could entire forests

Male-bonobo-lying-down

Male bonobo lying down

Many tree and plant species in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are purely dependent upon the bonobo for seed dispersal. If the bonobos disappeared it could create a cascading extinction cycle.

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Article originally published on Thursday, Mar 12, 2015

World’s whaling slaughter tallied at 3 million

Blue-whale-underwater

Blue whale underwater

In the last century, nearly 3 million cetaceans were wiped out. Some estimate that blue whales have been depleted by up to 90%. The North Atlantic right whale also hovers on the brink of extinction.

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North-Atlantic-right-whale-swimming

North Atlantic right whale swimming

Enjoy your weekend! William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

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