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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bird of Paradise


There are more than three-dozen species in the family Paradisaeidae, more commonly known as the birds of paradise. Most are distinguished by striking colors and bright plumage of yellow, blue, scarlet, and green. These colors distinguish them as some of the world's most dramatic and attractive birds. Males often sport vibrant feathered ruffs or amazingly elongated feathers, which are known as wires or streamers. Some species have enormous head plumes or other distinctive ornaments, such as breast shields or head fans.

Domestic Cat


Domestic Cat

Domestic cats, no matter their breed, are all members of one species. Felis catus has had a very long relationship with humans. Ancient Egyptians may have first domesticated cats as early as 4,000 years ago. Plentiful rodents probably drew wild felines to human communities. The cats' skill in killing them may have first earned the affectionate attention of humans. Early Egyptians worshipped a cat goddess and even mummified their beloved pets for their journey to the next world—accompanied by mummified mice! Cultures around the world later adopted cats as their own companions.

African Wild Dog

The African wild dog, also called Cape hunting dog or painted dog, typically roams the open plains and sparse woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa.These long-legged canines have only four toes per foot, unlike other dogs, which have five toes on their forefeet. The dog's Latin name means "painted wolf," referring to the animal's irregular, mottled coat, which features patches of red, black, brown, white, and yellow fur. Each animal has its own unique coat pattern, and all have big, rounded ears.African wild dogs live in packs that are usually dominated by a monogamous breeding pair. The female has a litter of 2 to 20 pups, which are cared for by the entire pack. These dogs are very social, and packs have been known to share food and to assist weak or ill members. Social interactions are common, and the dogs communicate by touch, actions, and vocalizations.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

King Cobra


It seems unfairly menacing that a snake that can literally "stand up" and look a full-grown person in the eye would also be among the most venomous on the planet, but that describes the famous king cobra.King cobras can reach 18 feet (5.5 meters) in length, making them the longest of all venomous snakes. When confronted, they can raise up to one-third of their bodies straight off the ground and still move forward to attack. They will also flare out their iconic hoods and emit a bone-chilling hiss that sounds almost like a growling dog.Their venom is not the most potent among venomous snakes, but the amount of neurotoxin they can deliver in a single bite—up to two-tenths of a fluid ounce (seven milliliters)—is enough to kill 20 people, or even an elephant. Fortunately, king cobras are shy and will avoid humans whenever possible, but they are fiercely aggressive when cornered.King cobras live mainly in the rain forests and plains of India, southern China, and Southeast Asia, and their coloring can vary greatly from region to region. They are comfortable in the trees, on land, and in water, feeding mainly on other snakes, venomous and nonvenomous. They will also eat lizards, eggs, and small mammals.They are the only snakes in the world that build nests for their eggs, which they guard ferociously until the hatchlings emerge.King cobras may be best known as the species of choice for the snake charmers of South Asia. Although cobras can hear, they are actually deaf to ambient noises, sensing ground vibrations instead. The charmer's flute entices the cobra by its shape and movement, not by the music it emits.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lowland Gorilla


Lowland gorillas are endangered, but they remain far more common than their relatives, the mountain gorillas. They live in heavy rain forests, and it is difficult for scientists to accurately estimate how many survive in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.Lowland gorillas tend to be a bit smaller than their mountain cousins. They also have shorter hair and longer arms.Gorillas can climb trees, but are usually found on the ground in communities of up to 30 individuals. These troops are organized according to fascinating social structures. Troops are led by one dominant, older adult male, often called a silverback because of the swath of silver hair that adorns his otherwise dark fur. Troops also include several other young males, some females, and their offspring.

The leader organizes troop activities like eating, nesting in leaves, and moving about the group's three-quarter- to 16-square-mile (2- to 40-square-kilometer) home range.Those who challenge this alpha male are apt to be cowed by impressive shows of physical power. He may stand upright, throw things, make aggressive charges, and pound his huge chest while barking out powerful hoots or unleashing a frightening roar. Despite these displays and the animals' obvious physical power, gorillas are generally calm and nonaggressive unless they are disturbed.In the thick forests of central and west Africa, troops find plentiful food for their vegetarian diet. They eat roots, shoots, fruit, wild celery, and tree bark and pulp.Female gorillas give birth to one infant after a pregnancy of nearly nine months. Unlike their powerful parents, newborns are tiny—weighing four pounds (two kilograms)—and able only to cling to their mothers' fur. These infants ride on their mothers' backs from the age of four months through the first two or three years of their lives.Young gorillas, from three to six years old, remind human observers of children. Much of their day is spent in play, climbing trees, chasing one another, and swinging from branches.In captivity, gorillas have displayed significant intelligence and have even learned simple human sign language.In the wild, these primates are under siege. Forest loss is a twofold threat; it destroys gorilla habitat and brings hungry people who hunt gorillas for bushmeat. Farming, grazing, and expanding human settlements are also shrinking the lowland gorilla's space.

Hippopotamus


Hippopotamuses love water, which is why the Greeks named them the "river horse." Hippos spend up to 16 hours a day submerged in rivers and lakes to keep their massive bodies cool under the hot African sun. Hippos are graceful in water, good swimmers, and can hold their breath underwater for up to five minutes. However, they are often large enough to simply walk or stand on the lake floor, or lie in the shallows. Their eyes and nostrils are located high on their heads, which allows them to see and breathe while mostly submerged.Hippos also bask on the shoreline and secrete an oily red substance, which gave rise to the myth that they sweat blood. The liquid is actually a skin moistener and sunblock that may also provide protection against germs.

At sunset, hippopotamuses leave the water and travel overland to graze. They may travel 6 miles (10 kilometers) in a night, along single-file pathways, to consume some 80 pounds (35 kilograms) of grass. Considering their enormous size, a hippo's food intake is relatively low. If threatened on land hippos may run for the water—they can match a human's speed for short distances.Hippo calves weigh nearly 100 pounds (45 kilograms) at birth and can suckle on land or underwater by closing their ears and nostrils. Each female has only one calf every two years. Soon after birth, mother and young join schools that provide some protection against crocodiles, lions, and hyenas.Hippos once had a broader distribution but now live in eastern central and southern sub-Saharan Africa, where their populations are in decline

Monday, May 19, 2008

Brown Bear


Fast Facts


Type: Mammal
Diet: Omnivore
Average lifespan in the wild: 25 years
Size: 5 to 8 ft (1.5 to 2.5 m)
Weight: 700 lbs (318 kg)
Group name: Sloth or sleuth
Size relative to a 6ft (2m) man:

Flying Snake


The image of airborne snakes may seem like the stuff of nightmares (or a certain Hollywood movie), but in the jungles of South and Southeast Asia it is reality.Flying snake is a misnomer, since, barring a strong updraft, these animals can’t actually gain altitude. They’re gliders, using the speed of free fall and contortions of their bodies to catch the air and generate lift.

Once thought to be more parachuters than gliders, recent scientific studies have revealed intricate details about how these limbless, tube-shaped creatures turn plummeting into piloting. To prepare for take-off, a flying snake will slither to the end of a branch, and dangle in a J shape. It propels itself from the branch with the lower half of its body, forms quickly into an S, and flattens to about twice its normal width, giving its normally round body a concave C shape which can trap air. By undulating back and forth, the snake can actually make turns. Flying snakes are technically better gliders than their more popular mammalian equivalents, the flying squirrels.There are five recognized species of flying snake, found from western India to the Indonesian archipelago. Knowledge of their behavior in the wild is limited, but they are thought to be highly arboreal, rarely descending from the canopy. The smallest species reach about 2 feet (61 centimeters) in length and the largest grow to 4 feet (1.2 meters).Their diets are variable depending on their range, but they are known to eat rodents, lizards, frogs, birds, and bats. They are mildly venomous snakes, but their tiny, fixed rear fangs make them harmless to humans.Scientists don’t know how often or exactly why flying snakes fly, but it’s likely they use their aerobatics to escape predators, to move from tree to tree without having to descend to the forest floor, and possibly even to hunt prey.

Arabian (Dromedary) Camel


Fast Facts

Type: Mammal
Diet: Herbivore
Size: Over 7 ft (2.1 m) tall at the hump
Weight: Up to 1,600 lbs (726 kg)
Group name: Flock or Caravan
Did you know? Unlike many other animals, camels move both legs on one side of the body at the same time.
Size relative to a 6ft (2m) man:

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ant


Fast Facts


Type: Bug
Diet: Omnivore
Average lifespan in the wild: Several weeks to several years
Size: 0.08 to 1 in (2 to 25 mm)
Group name: Army or colony
Did you know? Ants can lift and carry more than three times their own weight.
Size relative to a paper clip:

Baboon .......Fast Facts




Type: Mammal
Diet: Omnivore
Average lifespan in the wild: 30 years
Size: Head and body, 20 to 34 in (60 to 86 cm); Tail, 16 to 23 in (41 to 58 cm)
Weight: 33 to 82 lbs (22 to 37 kg)
Group name: Troop
Did you know? Baboons use at least ten different and unique vocalizations to communicate with other members of the troop.
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

bottlenose dolphins


The bottlenose dolphin is recognizable by its large curved dorsal fin and gray body with muted color patterns. Males sometimes exceed 12 feet and 1,200 pounds, living 40-45 years in the wild. Females are smaller and longer lived. Widely distributed, the dolphin inhabits tropical and temperate latitudes around the world, residing both offshore and in estuaries, bays and the lower reaches of rivers. A playful animal, bottlenoses are often spotted bow-riding, wake-riding and body-surfing across the surface.
Inshore bottlenose dolphins differ markedly from the offshore variety, which tend to be darker with larger bodies and smaller flippers. They also typically gather in larger social groups, sometimes numbering more than a hundred, than inshore dolphins. Bay residents gather in groups as small as 2-15. Both varieties prey on fish, inshore individuals supplementing their diet with marine invertebrates. Often they are attracted to commercial fishing operations, feeding off discards or escapees. Their more unusual hunting practices include chasing fish out of the water and then partially beaching themselves to feed.
Though worldwide populations remain vibrant and widely-distributed, some regional populations are endangered by hunting, degradation of habitat and conflicts with commercial fishing. The Black Sea population is in particularly narrow straits, decimated by severely degraded water quality and killings that continued well into the 1980s and 1990s. Pollution, gill net entanglement and the collapse of fish populations threaten Mediterranean populations.