Oct 26
Photo of Florida perforate reindeer lichen on sand

Florida perforate reindeer lichen (Cladonia perforata)

Species: Florida perforate reindeer lichen (Cladonia perforata)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The Florida perforate reindeer lichen is not known to reproduce sexually, instead spreading vegetatively when broken-off pieces of the lichen re-grow.

More information:

As its name suggests, the Florida perforate reindeer lichen is found only in Florida in the United States, where it occurs in three separate regions, each with a number of highly fragmented populations. Like other lichens, this species consists of two different organisms, a fungus and an alga, living in a close symbiotic relationship. The Florida perforate reindeer lichen grows in a complex branching pattern, with each branch measuring around four to six centimetres in length. The branches are smooth and yellowish- or greyish-green, and have conspicuous holes at the base. This species grows slowly, only branching once a year. The Florida perforate reindeer lichen grows on high sand dune ridges among Florida rosemary scrub, where it typically occurs in open patches of sand between the shrubs.

One of the main threats to the Florida perforate reindeer lichen is habitat loss due to development and land conversion. This species is also vulnerable to disturbances caused by fires and hurricanes, and can be trampled by people and by vehicles using sand dunes for recreation. In 1993, the Florida perforate reindeer lichen became the first lichen species to be placed on the U.S. Endangered Species List, meaning that all federal landowners with populations of this species are responsible for protecting and conserving it. In addition, Florida has an active conservation programme which monitors and conserves species such as this by acquiring and managing land. Several of this lichen’s populations are protected, and the species has been reintroduced to some locations. Further measures are needed to ensure that the Florida perforate reindeer lichen and its habitat are protected from trampling and unsuitable fire regimes.


Find out more about conservation in Florida at The Nature Conservancy – Florida and the Conservation Trust for Florida.

See more images of the Florida perforate reindeer lichen on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Oct 19
Photo of Louisiana pine snake

Louisiana pine snake (Pituophis ruthveni)

Species: Louisiana pine snake (Pituophis ruthveni)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The Louisiana pine snake is non-venomous, instead using its body to crush its prey.

More information:

One of the rarest and least understood snakes in the United States, the Louisiana pine snake occurs in longleaf pine forests in parts of Louisiana and eastern Texas. This large snake relies on pocket gophers for food, hunting them in their underground burrows and pinning them to the side of the burrow to kill them. It also eats some other small mammals, as well as birds, bird and turtle eggs, and lizards. The Louisiana pine snake spends most of its time underground, usually relying on pocket gopher burrows for shelter and for hibernation sites. This snake has the smallest clutch size of any North American snake, at just three to five eggs. However, its eggs are larger than those of other North American species.

The Louisiana pine snake’s longleaf pine habitat is one of the most threatened ecosystems in the United States, with only 3% of the original forest now remaining. Much has been logged or degraded by urbanisation, agriculture and the cultivation of other pine species. Changed fire regimes have also altered the structure of the habitat, making it less suitable for the snake and its prey. The Louisiana pine snake is often killed on roads and may be threatened by collection for the pet trade. Recommended conservation measures for this snake include protecting its remaining populations, maintaining and restoring its habitat, and undertaking more research into its populations and behaviour. The Louisiana pine snake is a candidate species for potential listing on the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and is legally protected in Texas. A reintroduction project is underway for this rare and elusive species.


Find out more about the Louisiana pine snake at the National Wildlife Federation and see Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation for more information on reptile conservation.

See fact file and images of the Louisiana pine snake on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

May 24

Amphibian species in the United States are declining at an alarming rate, according to a new study published this week.

Photo of pickerel frog

Even common amphibians such as the pickerel frog are undergoing declines

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, gives the first estimate of how rapidly frogs, toads and salamanders in the U.S. are disappearing. Carried out by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), under the auspices of the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, the research was undertaken over 9 years and looked at 48 amphibian species.

Worryingly, the results showed that amphibian populations across the country are affected, and even species that were thought to be stable and widespread are showing declines. Even more alarmingly, these declines are also occurring in protected areas such as national parks and wildlife refuges.

Significant concern

On average, the populations of the amphibians studied were disappearing at a rate of 3.7% a year. If this continues, these species would disappear from half of their current habitat in the next 20 years.

Photo of Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog in habitat

The Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog is listed as Endangered by the IUCN

Even though these declines seem small on the surface, they are not,” said Michael Adams, the lead author of the study. “Small numbers build up to dramatic declines with time. We knew there was a big problem with amphibians, but these numbers are both surprising and of significant concern.”

The outlook is even worse for species already listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List, which are vanishing at a rate of 11.6% each year. At this rate, these species could disappear from half the habitats they currently occupy in just six years.

Amphibians have been a constant presence in our planet’s ponds, streams, lakes and rivers for 350 million years or so, surviving countless changes that caused many other groups of animals to go extinct,” said Suzette Kimball, USGS Director. “This is why the findings of this study are so noteworthy; they demonstrate that the pressures amphibians now face exceed the ability of many of these survivors to cope.”

Photo of Flatwoods salamander on sand

The Flatwoods salamander is under threat from the loss and degradation of its habitat

Causes of amphibian declines

The study did not look at the causes of the amphibian declines, but amphibians worldwide are known to be facing a wide range of threats, including habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and disease, particularly the deadly fungal disease chytridiomycosis.

The surprise finding that amphibians are declining even in areas managed for conservation, such as national parks, suggests that the factors affecting these species are widespread.

The declines of amphibians in these protected areas are particularly worrisome because they suggest that some stressors – such as diseases, contaminants and drought – transcend landscapes,” said Michael Adams. “The fact that amphibian declines are occurring in our most protected areas adds weight to the hypothesis that this is a global phenomenon with implications for managers of all kinds of landscapes, even protected ones.”

Photo of Arroyo toad, close up

The Arroyo toad, another Endangered U.S. amphibian

Amphibians are important components of healthy ecosystems, providing food for other animals and helping to control pests. They also provide a source of medicines for humans, and are beautiful and fascinating creatures in their own right.

According to Brian Gratwicke of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, “[These findings are] very bad news for amphibians. Now, more than ever, we need to confront amphibian declines in the U.S. and take actions to conserve our incredible frog and salamander biodiversity.”


Read more on this story at the U.S. Geological Survey press release and Scientific American blog.

Find out more about amphibian conservation at ARKive’s amphibian conservation page and at the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative.

View photos and videos of amphibians from the United States on ARKive.

You can also have a go at becoming a conservation superhero and helping save amphibians on ARKive’s online game, Team WILD!

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Feb 16
Photo of male golden-cheeked warbler perched on tree

Golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia)

Species: Golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The golden-cheeked warbler is the only bird species whose breeding range occurs entirely within the state of Texas, USA.

A small, attractively marked bird, the golden-cheeked warbler is named for the male’s bright yellow face. The female is similar to the male in appearance, but has less distinctive markings. This colourful species feeds on insects and spiders, and builds its nest from strips of juniper bark, which it weaves together with spider silk and insect cocoons. The nest is then lined with grass, hair or down. The golden-cheeked warbler breeds only in central Texas, but migrates south to spend the winter in Mexico and other parts of Central America.

The main threat to the golden-cheeked warbler is the clearance of its forest habitat, due for example to agriculture, development, logging and mineral extraction. Both its breeding and wintering habitats are under threat, but this species’ rather restricted breeding range makes it particularly vulnerable to habitat loss. The golden-cheeked warbler is listed as ‘Endangered’ on the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and a number of conservation measures are in place to protect it, including habitat restoration. Further research needs to be done into this species’ biology and populations, and landowners need to be provided with incentives to maintain and protect the habitat of this beautiful small bird.

Find out more about the conservation of North American birds at Audubon and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

See more images of the golden-cheeked warbler on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Feb 3

In the United States, the National Football League’s Super Bowl Championship game is the most watched sporting event of the year. Commonly referred to as Super Bowl Sunday, this informal holiday is an occasion for people to gather, eat a lot of food, and root for their favorite team. This year, the Baltimore Ravens will take on the San Francisco 49ers to fight for the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy on February 3, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Some of the NFL team mascots are inspired by the animal kingdom.  In honor of this, we thought we would highlight some of the animals which display true athleticism, whilst  their human counterparts flash down the football field this Superbowl Sunday.

Shot Caller 

Raven photo

Perhaps the most influential position on the football field is that of the quarterback. This is a role of leadership, strategy and fitness – they call the offensive plays and must attempt to execute them. In the wild, the raven is known for its intelligence and athleticism. They are also playful birds, frequently performing mid-air acrobatics and passing objects to each other. These are all characteristics of a true quarterback! They have a variety of vocalizations, but instead of yelling “hut, hut – hike!” on the football field, they are more likely to caw “krack-krack-krack!”. The Baltimore Ravens have secured their seat in the Super Bowl, and could not have done it without their quarterback, Joe Flacco, a human raven!

Catcher on the Fly

Photo of bottlenose dolphin

The Miami Dolphins are a popular football team based in Florida, with the bottlenose dolphin as an appropriate representative. Another offensive position is that of the wide receiver, an athlete that must be able to catch a ball in mid-air while running at top speeds. Dolphins definitely have this maneuver down, with a keen ability to swim at high speeds and leap out of the water to catch fish. They are also highly intelligent and social animals, living in groups of up to 100 individuals. Another important trait on the football field is strong communication, so I think Miami has found the perfect mascot!

Charging Challenger

bighorn sheep photo

In order to get the football down the field, you need a strong offensive tackle to block and take down the opponent in front of you. The St. Louis Rams have an excellent mascot for this position. Bighorn sheep males, known as rams, are anything but lamb-like with their massive horns weighing up to 14 kilograms, and ability to leap over rocks and verticals with ease – like a footballer jumping lineman! Rams often engage in dominance battles by pushing and shoving one another before rearing up on the hind legs and lunging forwards and down, bringing the horns together with tremendous force. This species ranges from south-west Canada, through western and central USA into northern Mexico.

Brawny Blocker

photo of brown bear
The Chicago Bears from Illinois sport a brown bear mascot, an excellent representation of the linebacker on the field. The undeniably large defensemen use their sheer mass to keep the opposing team from getting a first down. Similarly, brown bears have the stature of a linebacker, with the largest subspecies of brown bears, the Kodiak bear weighing up to a hefty 780 kilograms. They are also opportunistic feeders, and move in response to food aggregations. Few creatures will get by a bear of this size without its permission!

Swift Scorer

Peregrine falcon photo

The peregrine falcon is the muse for the Atlanta Falcons from the state of Georgia, another high achieving team that made it to the playoffs this year. Renowned for record speed as the fastest animal on the planet and sheer grace in the sky, these birds of prey are capable of speeds up to 250 kilometres per hour diving for prey. Similar to a runningback on the football field who must show swiftness and finesse with the ball in order to score for their team, a peregrine falcon has the prey handling skills while at top speeds to be a successful sky predator. 

Talented Tackler

Jaguar photo

The Jacksonville Jaguars have an ideal mascot for demonstrating the important role of defensive tackle. This position requires strength, mass, and agility to rundown and seize the opposing ball carrier. The jaguar is the largest cat in the Americas, with its power displayed through its impressive muscling, deep chest, large head and strong jaw. Its common name comes from the native Indian name ‘yaguara’, meaning ‘a beast that kills its prey with one bound. Once ranging farther across the United States, the jaguar is now only known to be photographed in Arizona, otherwise existing only in Central and South America.

Which team will you root for this Super Bowl? Let us know on ARKive’s Facebook and Twitter pages!

Maggie Graham, ARKive Program Assistant, Wildscreen USA


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