Dec 14

As a general rule the animals on ARKive don’t wear jumpers, but to mark the launch of Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day today, we thought we would highlight a few species that could perhaps do with one.! We’ve also unearthed a plant that surprisingly seems to take part in Christmas Jumper Day all year round…

Hairless babies

Dormouse photo

Hang on in there dormouse, not long until you can hibernate!

As a small mammal living in a temperate climate, one of the main challenges the common dormouse faces in life is maintaining its body temperature. An adult dormouse has to hibernate for up to seven months of the year to survive the colder months so it can’t be too much fun for a hairless newborn. Fortunately a cosy nest will protect the baby dormice which spend the first ten weeks of their life with their mother.

Photo of common dormice
I hope that nest can keep them warm…

Hairless adults

If there was a competition for the animal most in need of a new wardrobe, the award would probably go to the naked mole rat every time. The naked mole rat controls its body temperature by moving to different parts of its burrow according to the temperature, with the tunnels closer to the surface being warmer. It is just as well as it may take more than a Christmas jumper for this tunnel dweller to be considered ‘cute’.

Naked mole rat photo

I don't know if red and green are your colours...

Cold and wet

In addition to being entirely absent of hair, the wood frog also has to make do with moist skin on top of that. Yet the wood frog can be found as far north as Alaska, so it must be doing something right when faced with cold conditions. Amazingly the wood frog can survive being partially frozen many times over the winter due to the special chemicals in its blood. Even so I reckon a nice warm jumper would not go a miss.

Photo of a wood frog

Personally I find it easier just to put another layer...

Early (feather) baldness

Feathers are an essential insulator  for the many bird species living in cold climates. Magellanic penguin chicks are left unattended for days while the adults go off to forage and so depend on their first layer of feathers to keep out the cold. Sadly the Wildlife Conservation Society recently reported large numbers of chick have succumbed to a feather-loss disorder, resulting in these bald babies gaining weight at a slower rate than their feathered fellows.

Magellanic penguin chick

Fortunately this chick has a nice thick layer of feathers

An exception – the plant with a pre-made jumper

Woolly willow

Woolly willow on a cold day

It’s not just the name of the woolly willow that’s in line with the idea of a nice warm Christmas jumper, the coat of hairs on each leaf also add a furry touch to this shrubby willow.

George Bradford, ARKive Researcher

Dec 7

Christmas is the season to be jolly but it can also be a season of excess. Here are a few simple tips to help you reduce your Christmas carbon footprint this year, so that you can enjoy a more eco-friendly and sustainable holiday season.

Keep it Real

The unmistakable smell of fresh pine trees always conjures up images of festive cheer. Real Christmas trees are more eco-friendly than artificial ones, providing you take into account where they come from. For example, in Britain many Christmas tree growers are registered with the British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association, which means their trees are grown according to strict regulations. When it comes to buying your tree, local and organic is generally best. It’s also important to make sure it is a native fir – for the UK this would be a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).

Another tip is to buy trees with roots – that way the tree can be replanted and even reused next year. If this is not possible then try to recycle your tree. Many local councils run Christmas tree recycling schemes – check out ones in your area.

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris)


Snuggle Up

Before turning up the thermostat try wearing an extra layer, or curling up with a blanket. Keeping the curtains closed also keeps the heat in and saves energy. Take a tip from the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) which tucks its nose under its tail to keep warm.

Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)


Shop Local, Shop Organic

Buying your Christmas food locally not only saves you time and money, it also helps the environment. Buying locally reduces your carbon footprint and saves on the costs of packaging and transport. An organic turkey will have been reared in more humane conditions and be chemical-free.

Wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)


Natural decor

Instead of artificial Christmas decorations, take a walk in a nearby forest and look for fallen pine cones and sprigs of holly, ivy and evergreen branches. All these natural decorations will biodegrade, so when you’re finished with them pop them on the compost. Not to mention you’ll have all that free storage space that Christmas decorations usually fill! Common holly (Ilex aquifolium) is widespread throughout Britain.

Common holly (Ilex aquifolium)


Comfort Shopping

It’s getting cold out there and Christmas traffic can be a nightmare: if you do have to leave the warmth of your home, taking public transport is one way you can be a little bit greener whilst avoiding the jams.

American bison (Bison bison)


Eco gifts

Giving gifts at Christmas is a way to bond with loved ones. Buying thoughtful gifts made from recycled materials like rubber and plastic bags shows you are also thinking about the environment. This belted kingfisher (Megaceryl alcyon) knows exactly what gift to give.

Belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)


Have a very merry eco-friendly Christmas!

Kaz Armour, ARKive Text Author

Nov 28

Organic horticulturist, Andy Dean, shares his views with us on Christmas trees and how to have a green Christmas…

In 1841, Queen Victoria’s new husband Albert, introduced a German Christmas tradition into the British royal household. From that point on the popularity of the Christmas tree has been on the up in the UK, Western Europe, America and most other parts of the world.

The custom of putting up a decorated fir tree in your home at Christmas began in Germany in the 17th century.

Unlike in England, the fir tree is native to Germany, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, being part of the natural biodiversity and offering habitat for native wildlife. Even in its native Germany, the fir tree has been through periods of threat, with legislation being passed to protect it from harvesting due to the popularity of having a cut tree indoors during the festive holiday season.

Photo of American red squirrel searching for fir cones at top of Douglas fir tree

Fir trees are important to wildlife: American red squirrel searching for fir cones at the top of a Douglas fir tree

I am in no way a ‘bah humbug’ person about Christmas and love the celebrations, but it breaks my heart to see the cut trees that are discarded after two weeks, laying outside almost every household, browning on their sides.

It strikes me as evidence of our detachment to source and, in our innocent excitement for the season, we forget that it is not just the one tree that we have cut, but many trees – almost one for each household. In fact, it is reported that 7 million real fir trees were sold in England last year alone.

With the approaching festivities, I would like to set a challenge to everyone. Instead of spending good money on a cut tree that will be tossed aside once the festivities are all over – putting a strain on both the environment and local amenities – why not gather up your family and take a walk in the countryside to pick a couple of sprigs of holly or ivy and perhaps a broken branch that could be decorated.

Common holly photo

Common holly

So long as this is done sympathetically, without greed and with good common sense, there is no reason why this should hamper the environment at all. In fact a gentle prune will help promote growth of the plant, and in gathering it ourselves we have both filled our lungs with fresh air and stretched our legs.

If you do want a real tree and have the outside space to accommodate it, why not grow one in a pot and enjoy it all year round, bringing it indoors for the holiday season?

With the money saved every year, you could even plant a native tree – either on your own land or even by making a donation to charities like the Woodland Trust  who strive to plant, proliferate and protect our native broadleaved woodlands. These are the very woodlands that add beauty to our landscapes and support our native wildlife.

Photo of a  subalpine fir forest

The beauty of a subalpine fir forest

And if you’re looking for something a little different this year, have a look at my post on alternatives to the cut tree .

Andy Dean, NOCN, is an organic horticulturist and owner of landscape & garden design company, Blue Sky Landscapes .

Dec 28

With the end of 12fast approaching there will soon be celebrations taking place all around the world to see in the New Year. Here at ARKive we have been taking some inspiration from the animal kingdom in order to come up with five vital tips to ensure that you have a happy and enjoyable New Years Eve.

Go Easy on the Booze

Many of us will be indulging in a tipple or two over the holiday season. Obviously it is a good idea to stay within your limits and not to take a leaf (or bamboo shoot!) out of the Eastern gorilla’s book. Photographer Andy Rouse captured this picture of two merry Eastern gorillas in the mountains of Rwanda. It was found that they had been drinking the alcoholic sap from bamboo shoots. When the photographer retuned the next day the Gorillas were supposedly looking worse for wear with what we can only suspect was a primate hangover – what a pair of party animals!

Photo of silverback and blackback mountain gorillas playing, drunk on bamboo shoots

This pair of eastern gorillas have had a bit too much festive cheer...


Break out with dancing fever

New Years Eve is a chance to relax, let your hair down and strut your stuff on the dance floor. The courtship dance of the Antipodean albatross is a visual spectacle and involves classic moves like bowing, bill touching and head shaking. Despite busting out all these moves the male may have to perform this dance for several seasons before succeeding in finding a mate.

Photo of antipodean albatross pair performing courtship dance

Will these dance moves be enough to impress the female Antipodean albatross?


Be Careful with Fireworks

There is nothing like a few fireworks to get your New Years Eve kicking off with a bang. It may not be quite the display of lights and sounds that traditional fireworks are but the bombardier beetle has a defence similar to fireworks, at least in the sense that it is also an extreme exothermic reaction. When threatened, the bombardier beetle squirts a mixture of two chemicals from glands in the abdomen which react violently with each other and raise the temperature of the mixture to nearly 100 degrees Celsius. Enough to give any potential attacker a burn they will remember!

Photo of a bombardier beetle

It may look harmless now, but when threatened the fireworks start!


Remember your party trick

Grab yourself some attention and become the talk of the town by performing an interesting party trick for your fellow New Years Eve revellers. The male superb lyrebird’s party bit is impersonations. It has been know to imitate up to twenty other local birds such as the laughing kookaburra in order to make it’s song as complex as possible in the hope a female will be impressed enough to seek him out. Chainsaws and camera shutter imitations have also been incorporated into the songs of birds closer to the activities of humans.

Photo of superb lyrebird vocalising

Superb lyrebird vocalising


And finally – bring your best food dish

Bringing some homemade delights to a New Years Eve party is a sure way to start some conversations. The European bee-eater’s choice of party food may not be to all tastes however, unless you’re partial to dragonfly that is. Like many other birds male European bee-eaters will often offer the female caught prey items as a courtship gift to persuade her to mate.

Photo of a european bee-eater offering prey as a courtship gift
A european bee-eater offering prey as a courtship gift to the female

To all our supporters, contributors and users, the ARKive Team wishes you very Happy New Year!

George Bradford, ARKive Researcher

Dec 26

You may have heard of the famous festive tune ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. We’ve taken a look at the ARKive collection to find the perfect alternative gifts.

So, here’s a roundup, altogether now!

“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me. . .

♪ Twelve drummers drumming

After locating a suitable nesting site, the male palm cockatoo uses a stick to rhythmically drum on a hollow log to attract a potential mate. He may even try out a few drum sticks before picking his favourite!

Palm cockatoo photo

Male palm cockatoo


♪ Eleven pipers piping

Named after its characteristic whistling song, the piping plover is the perfect substitute!

Piping plover photo

Piping plover in winter plumage


♪ Ten lords a-leaping

This antelope definitely loves to leap! The springbok performs repeated stiff-legged jumps called ‘pronking’ or ‘stotting’ and can reach up to two metres high.

Springbok photo

Springbok pronking


♪ Nine ladies dancing

Verreaux’s sifaka is famous for its outstanding dance moves. Although very well adapted to moving through the trees, this comes as a disadvantage when travelling on the ground and it resorts to hopping on its strong hind legs. Females continue to boogie even with an infant on board – hold tight!

Verreaux's sifaka photo

Verreaux's sifaka leaping with infant


♪ Eight maids a-milking

It may appear harmless but the giant milkweed oozes a milky white sap when it is cut or broken, which is toxic to mammals!

Giant milkweed photo

Giant milkweed in flower


♪ Seven swans a-swimming

In perfect formation, a female mute swan and 6 cygnets. Young leave the nest soon after hatching and are often cared for by both the male and female until the following breeding season.

Mute swan photo

Female mute swan with cygnets


♪ Six geese a-laying

The beautiful kelp goose lays 4 to 7 eggs in a grass nest lined with feathers. The male guards the female for about a month during the incubation period.

Kelp goose photo

Female kelp goose sitting on nest


♪ Five golden rings

The exotic male golden pheasant has an impressive orange and black cape, which it can spread like a fan during displays.

Golden pheasant photo

Male golden pheasant


♪ Four colly birds

Although now commonly known as ‘four calling birds’, the original line describes four colly birds, referring to the blackbird.

Blackbird photo

Male and female blackbird


♪ Three French hens

The capercaillie is distributed across Eurasia, and in France it can be found in forests in mountainous areas, particularly in the Pyrénées. This bird became extinct in Britain in the 18th century but it was reintroduced to Scotland from a population in Sweden in the 19th century.

Capercaillie photo

Female capercaillie


♪ Two turtle doves

The turtle dove is named after its gentle ‘turr turr‘ call, and is often recognised as a symbol of love and peace.

Turtle dove photo

Turtle dove pair


♪ And a partridge in a pear tree!”

Sporting a spectacular maroon mohican is the male crested partridge. Found in the Sundaic lowlands of Indonesia and Malaysia, it feeds and nests on the ground and roosts in trees at night.

Crested partridge photo

Male crested partridge


Can you link any of the twelve gifts with other species on ARKive? Let us know!

Rebecca Goatman, ARKive Media Researcher


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