Impurest's Guide to Animals #76 - Leaproach and Spoonwing

Wow it’s hot, and as someone who has been broiled for the last few days while hunting for amphibians you can believe…er well that it’s hot. That said a little heat wouldn't have bothered Leach’s Giant Gecko and its sticky relatives. This week’s animals also come from a tropical climate so chances are they would be thriving in the mini British heat wave. Hope you guys enjoy (and stay cool in the heat)…

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Issue #76 - Leaproach

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Arthropoda

Class – Insecta

Order – Blattodea

Family – Blattelidae

Genus – Saltoblattella

Species –montistabularis

Related Species - The Leaproach (also called the Roach Hopper) is one of the wood cockroaches, a large family that includes the pest species that occasionally invade human residences (1)

Range - At current the Leaproach is only found on Table Mountain in South Africa

Leaproach Springs into Action #1

The leaproach is a small cockroach that reaches a length of only a centimetre, and is a dull brown colour. While most cockroaches are flattened to aid in slipping through the leaf litter, the leaproach has a radically different body plan, with enlarged hind limbs, narrower body and enlarged eyes, giving the species an appearance more in common with grasshoppers and crickets. Even the antennae are engineered to aid in streamlining, with a joint midway along their length allowing the leaproach to flatten them against its body. The hind legs are so large in fact, that they account for ten percent of the insects weight, and allow the insect to cover up to a foot in a single leap (2).

[2]

All the power for the leap comes from the knee joint, which when at rest stores energy under tension ready for release in an explosive leap, one that sends the leaproach through 23G at a speed of 22mph. This leaping skill is used, not only for travelling from grass steam to grass steam but also in defence. Predators include lizards, preying mantises and jumping spiders not to mention the predatory Gladiator Crickets which also only live on Table Mountain. While it remains unknown from what the modern leaproach evolved from, similar species have been found in rocks dating back 150 million years, although it’s unlikely the extant species is directly related to these fossilised species (3).

And just as you were ready to hop off to another topic I bring you the second animals of this week’s issue…

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Issue #76 - Spoonwing

[3]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Arthropoda

Class – Insecta

Order – Neuroptera

Family – Nemoptidae

Genus – Nemoptera

Species – bipennis

Related Species - The Spoonwing is one of three species found in the genus Nemoptera (1)

Range - Spoonwings are found throughout Southern France, Spain and Portugal in calcareous meadows

A touch of elegance…

The Spoonwing, also called Duende (which translates to Wood Fairy) across Spain, is a slow flying insect with mottled fore wings and a trailing pair of vestigial hind wings. Such structures are used by the males to attract females, although both genders possess long hind wings. The adults are nectavores, and are often seen flitting from flower to flower in their short adult lifespan. Like a lot of insects the Spoonwing spends most of its life as a larva.

[4]

In sharp contrast to the adults, the larvas have bulky bodies a large pair of recurved jaws, to aid them in their carnivorous diet. Like their relatives the Ant Lions, the larval spoonwing feeds on ants, but it doesn’t make a pit to aid in capturing prey. There is even some hypothesis that suggests larval spoonwings are kleptoparasites, with the adult laying the eggs on the ground, where the ants carry them back to their nests (4). Once there the larvae feed on ant grubs until they metamorphosis and emerge as adults.

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2011/12/06/leaproach-leaps-is-roach/#.VZlCXRtVhBc

3 - http://news.discovery.com/animals/jumping-cockroach-111206.htm

4 - http://gilwizen.com/spoonwings/

Picture References

1 - http://static.ddmcdn.com/gif/blogs/6a00d8341bf67c53ef0162fd72ed33970d-640wi.jpg

2 - http://i.ytimg.com/vi/nnuExrjOjfM/hqdefault.jpg

3 - https://c4.staticflickr.com/8/7275/7428243056_11cfd5e345_b.jpg

4 - http://cienciaes.com/images/641.jpg

Huh, well hopefully these two cool insects have lowered the heat ready for next weeks bubbly episode. But until then critic, comment and suggest future issues as well as making sure you check past issues in Impurest’s Bestiary

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

27 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #75 - Leach's Giant Gecko

What animal makes a perfect familiar for an ecologist/wiccan, well if this week has taught me anything, it’s that baby hares are adorable. Last week’s animal, while not cute, the Noble Sea Pen, was impressive, as was the range of endangered molluscs covered in the same issue. This week’s issue is an island giant, and a creature of some conversation on the Fan-Fic board. Hope you guys enjoy.

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Issue #75 – Leach’s Giant Gecko

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class – Reptilia

Order – Squamatra

Family – Diplodactylidae

GenusRhacodactylus

Speciesleachianus

Related Species – Leach’s Giant Gecko is one of five species in the genus Rhacodactylus (1)

Range

[2]

Devil in the Trees

At a length of just over a foot and a weight of 400 grams, Leach’s Giant Gecko, also known as the New Caledonian Giant Gecko, it the largest extant gecko in the world. The gecko’s mottled skin is relatively soft, and has a baggy appearance, with many loose folds running down its flanks and short tail. Like many geckos, the Leach’s Giant Gecko is arboreal, although it lacks the adhesive pads that most species possesses, save for a sticky strip at the end of the tail and instead climbs using long claws on its toes.

Leach’s Giant Geckos are nocturnal, and are omnivorous, with the diet varying throughout the year. In summer the species consists almost predominantly of nectar, fruit and flower buds, whilst in winter the geckos become obligate carnivores, eating insects, rodents, sleeping birds and smaller geckos. Despite its size, these giant geckos are prey to diurnal birds and reptiles such as the New Caledonian Crow (Corvus moneduloides) and the Terror Skink (Phoboscincus bocourti). As such, to reduce predation, the Leach’s Giant Gecko is rarely seen during the day, often spending this time resting in tree cavities (2).

[3]

The species worst enemy however, is other members of its species, Leach’s Giant Geckos are highly territorial outside the mating season, with fights accompanied with barking and hissing, earning the species the nickname ‘the devil in the trees, often resulting in death of one or both the competitors. Breeding occurs several times a year, with the female depositing two eggs on a branch or in a hollow, before abandoning them to hatch without any assistance from her.

Five Groovy Geckos

The name Gecko comes from the Malay word gekoq, but even in that language the word has no meaning. It’s suspected that it simply is an imitation of the mating call of the Tokay Gecko (Gecko gecko) (3)

The Parachute Gecko (Ptychozoon lionoturn) is one of a number of unrelated species that has evolved flaps for gliding. This species can glide up to 60m in a single jump.

The Spiny Tailed Geckos (Strophurus sp), in addition to being expert climbers, and fair marksmen too, with the entire genus using a harmless foul smelling liquid spray, as a defence against predators

Recent footage suggests that the Gold Dust Day-Gecko (Phelsuma laticauda) may form a mutualistic relationship with a plant hopper. In return for protecting the insect from insect and reptile predators, the gecko is rewarded with a sip of honeydew, produced by the plant hopper(4)

[4]

The well-known Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius) is one of the few species of gecko that can actually blink, most just wash their eyes with their tongues

References

1. www.arkive.org

2. http://leapinleachies.com/articles.htm?article=5

3. Partridge, Eric; Dalzell, Tom; Victor, Terry (2008). The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. Routledge. p. 275

4. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7247472.stm

Picture References

1. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-hsSwtiDKa_s/VH-B5Dk_xdI/AAAAAAAAFRM/dL4v-uq6xvU/s1600/25844-Newfoldernew-caledonia-giant-gecko2-af47b7ea.jpeg

2. http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/islands_oceans_poles/newcaledonia.jpg

3. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/bf/10/19/bf1019855bddb4e906c74d003acddb2c.jpg

4. https://c1.staticflickr.com/7/6081/6070493869_dccae6bcc4_z.jpg

And there we have it, Leach’s Giant Gecko, okay maybe it’s not a Godzilla sized monster but it sure does dwarf all other gecko species. Next week we spring into action with a pair of rare and/or unusual insects. But until then critic, comment and discuss future species to cover as well as checking out past issues in Impurest’s Bestiary.

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

53 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #74 - Noble Sea Pen

Back and forth, back and forth, this ecologist must drive back and forth from Norfolk to Exeter. Last week the grotesque Goblin Shark was in the spotlight, rounding off a series of requests. This week’s issue is an amazing creature, which was once one of the most sought after animals in the world. Hope you guys enjoy.

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Issue #74 – Noble Sea Pen

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum - Mollusca

Class – Bivalva

Order – Pterioida

Family – Pinnidae

GenusPinna

Speciesnobilis

Related Species – The Noble Sea Pen is one of two extant species remaining in the Genus Pinna (1)

Range – The Noble Sea Pen is found in the shallow water of the Mediterranean Sea

Sea Silk

The Noble Sea Pen is a large fan mussel that grows to an average height of 30cm, although large specimens can grow up to over a meter in length and several kilograms in weight. The species is often found half buried in the sea-floor, usually on soft sediment such as sand, silt and even anoxic mud. The shell anchors itself to the floor using hairs known as the byssus, which are long and silk like. It is this material that made the animal so valuable to numerous ancient civilisations such as the Phoenicians and the Romans (2). Byssus cloth, also known as Sea Silk, was even used to embalm some of the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt.

[2]

Like most bivalves, the Noble Sea Pen filters plankton out of the water, across the gills and down into the stomach. The species is said to be able to pump over six litres of water through the gills just in the pursuit of food. As an adult the Noble Sea Pen has no natural predators, although the planktonic larvae are preyed upon by a large number of marine predators. If however, the Noble Sea Pen can survive it’s larval state, the shell can live over twenty five years, assuming it isn’t disturbed by human action.

Documentation from the fossil record shows shells from the genus Pinna dating back four-hundred million years ago, making the genus one of the oldest on the planet. Despite the genus enduring for eon, the overharvesting of shells for sea-silk, means the Noble Sea Pen is scarce across the entirety of their range. The species is therefore protected by European Environmental Legislation, meaning it is illegal to kill or deliberately disturb the species in the wild. Recently, due to environmental legislation, around two hundred Noble Sea Pens were moved after the Costa Concordia Disaster in 2012, to protect them from leaking diesel escaping from the ship wreck (3).

A pair of gloves made from Sea Silk [3]

Five To Save - #7 Molluscs

Molluscs, like most other invertebrates are not the first animals that come to mind when you mention endangered species, what with slugs and snails being major agricultural pests, and the squid having such high turnovers. That said, like many animal groups, the molluscs have numerous species that are in danger of extinction thanks to human actions.

Chambered Nautilus (Nautilus pompilius) – Endangered

Threats: Over Harvesting – The Chambered Nautilus is well known for its ornate shell, one that has sought the eyes of collectors from all ages and all over the world. Unlike other cephalopods such as squid and cuttlefish, the Chambered Nautilus has such a slow growth limit, that it is unable to replace the amount of animals taken from the wild, with new individuals.

O’ahu Tree Snail (Achatinella lila) – Critically Endangered

Threats: Invasive Species – At one point there were over forty species of Tree Snail in Hawaii, before the introduction of the Rosy Wolf Snail (Euglandia rosea) in order to control another introduced species, the African Land Snail (Achatina fulica). Unfortunately the Wolf Snail preferred the local species, and as of 2014, there were only nine extant species, each with about a hundred individuals remaining.

Snake Skin Hunter Slug (Chlamydephorus dimidius) – Vulnerable

Threats: Pesticides – Despite being carnivorous, and not a threat to crop plants, the Snake Skin Hunter Slug is effected by the same chemicals used to kill their plant eating brethren. Coupled with the reduction of their food source, as well as the conversion of their habitat into residential and agricultural land, the species numbers are declining.

[4]

Spengler’s Freshwater Mussel (Margaritifera auricularia) – Critically Endangered

Threats: Infrastructure Projects – Often called the most endangered invertebrates in the world, the Spengler’s Freshwater Mussel faces a large number of threats, ranging from poaching to water pollution. It is the damming of rivers that affect its larval host, the European Sturgeon (Acipenser sturio) preventing them from reaching their spawning grounds, and thus depriving the mussel of its host.

Trumpet Mouthed Hunter Snail (Gulella salphinx) – Critically Endangered

Threats: Mining – The Trumpet Mouthed Hunter Snail is found on two marble deposits in South Africa, which are currently heavily mined. That said, the two companies who own these sites have offered to conduct surveys to look for, and secure, any populations on their land.

References

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - Zavodnik, D., Hrs-Brenko, M., & Legac, M. (1991). Synopsis of the fan shell P. nobilis L. in the eastern Adriatic Sea. In the C. F. Boudouresque, M. Avon, & V. Gravez (Eds.), Les Especes Marines a Proteger en Mediterranee (pp. 169–178).

3 - http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/09/1300919-costa-concordia-seagrass-italy-environment/

Picture References

1. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-GXDZx7yJvb4/UyLV7gYD4XI/AAAAAAAALNo/lvnttSJqzS0/s1600/noble_sea_pen.jpg

2. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-da9bRL5x_5s/UyLaDbGXqOI/AAAAAAAALOI/-FtsEibCXqI/s1600/sea_pen.jpg

3. https://ferrebeekeeper.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/mediterranean-noble-pen-shell-and-products_34364_1.jpg

4. http://cdn1.arkive.org/media/5D/5D1FF4BB-E6C7-4086-A2A4-7015F00AEB5A/Presentation.Large/Snake-skin-hunter-slug.jpg

Noble indeed, the mighty Sea Pen and its endangered cohorts slither out of the spotlight to make room for next week’s issue, which answers the question of giant geckos a certain person on the Fan-Fic board mentioned a few weeks ago (you know who you are). But until then critic, comment and discuss future species to cover as well as checking out past issues in Impurest’s Bestiary.

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

43 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #73 - Goblin Shark

After a long week of catching Common Toads (Bufo bufo), it’s time to relax and write up a new Impurest’s Guide to Animals. Last week we looked at the mysterious Ghost Bat and the deadly white nose fungus that’s destroying entire populations. This week’s issue is a deep sea request from @ironspiderchan45. Hope you guys enjoy.

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Issue #73 – Goblin Shark

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class – Chondricthyes

Order – Lamnifrormes

Family – Mitskurinidae

GenusMitskurina

Speciesowstoni

Related Species – The Goblin Shark is the only extant member of the Mitskurinidae family (1)

Range – Goblin Sharks have been found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, often at water depths between 270 - 950m deep/

Deep Sea Stalker

The Goblin Shark is a deep sea shark, with an average length of just under four meters in length, although one specimen was recorded of having a length of six meters. Unlike many other shark species weight doesn’t correlate with length, and potentially varies on how well the shark had been feeding. The most distinctive feature of the Goblin Shark, is the elongated snout, which decreases in length as the shark grows, and contains rows of electro-receptive sensors which are used in navigation. When alive, the skin of the Goblin Shark is pink due to the blood vessels positioned just under the skin (2), although the colouration gets darker as the fish ages, eventually turning grey or brown after death.

Despite being distantly related to fast moving species such as the Mako Sharks (Isurus sp), the Goblin Shark is a slow moving predator, with a poorly developed muscle-structure, instead relying on ambush tactics to catch prey such as teslot fish and squid. When in range, the shark relaxes the tension on the jaw muscles, causing the mouth to catapult open, using the change in water pressure to suck prey into the mouth. While fairly large, the Goblin Shark is occasionally preyed on (at least in part of its range) by the Blue Shark (Prionace glauca).

[2]

Little is known about Goblin Shark reproduction, although all its relatives are viviparous, giving birth to a small litter of pups. Young appear to be quite large, with an apparent new born being over two foot in length. Young sharks appear to live in shallower water, of around 100 to 350m in depth (3), possibly to avoid being cannibalised by the larger adults, and to find enough food to reach sexual maturity.

Five Fun Goblin Shark Facts

The name Goblin Shark comes from the translation of the Japanese name, Tenguzame, for this species. This name, in-turn comes from the word Tengu, a goblin like creature with a long snout and red face found in Japanese folklore (4).

Fossil species from the genus Mitskurina have been found in rocks dating back 40 million years, making it one of the oldest extant shark genus

[3]

Because of this, as well as several primitive physiological features, the Goblin Shark is often referred to as a living fossil

Despite its lethargic nature, the Goblin Shark can be aggressive, as evidence by a tooth embedded in a deep sea cable

The Goblin Shark isn’t the only cartilaginous fish with a weird snout. The Elephant Shark (Callorinchus milli) uses its hoe shaped snout to find prey on the sea-floor

[4]

References

1. www.arkive.org

2. Last, P.R.; Stevens, J.D. (2009). Sharks and Rays of Australia (second ed.). Harvard University Press.

3. Duffy, C.A.J.; Ebert, D.A.; Stenberg, C. (2004). "Mitsukurina owstoni". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature

4. Castro, J.H. (2011). The Sharks of North America. Oxford University Press. pp. 202–205

Picture References

1. http://www.hodderscape.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/goblin-shark-2.jpg

2. http://otlibrary.com/wp-content/gallery/goblin-shark/11.jpg

3. http://www.fossilguy.com/gallery/vert/fish-shark/goblin/800px-Scapanorhynchus.jpg

4. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a5/Elephant_shark_melb_aquarium.jpg

And with that, the Goblin Shark descends into the depths, and into what will probably be an upcoming B-Movie. Next week find out which noble animal proves that the pen is mightier than the sword, but until then critic, comment and discuss future species to cover as well as checking out past issues in Impurest’s Bestiary.

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

67 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #72 - Ghost Bat

Back to work after an enjoyable week of cars, women and long, long phase 1 write-ups. Still at least I wasn’t tongue tied over last week’s issue on the Tongue Eating Louse. This week’s issue is a haunting achieved issue from @laflux. Hope you guys enjoy.

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Issue #72 – Ghost Bat

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class – Mammalia

Order – Chiroptera

Family – Megadermaitdae

GenusMacroderma

Speciesgigas

Related Species – Ghost Bats are the only species in the genus Macroderma (1)

Range

[2]

Vampire or Ghost?

With a wingspan of over half a meter, and a body length of twelve centimetres, the Ghost Bat (also known as the False Vampire Bat across some of its range) is one of the largest micro-bats, even dwarfing some of the fruit bat species, which are classified as mega-bats. One of the most distinguishing features of this species, is the pale white fur that covers the bat’s body, and the slightly jutting lower jaw. While some bat species are crepuscular, being active around dusk and dawn, the Ghost Bat is truly nocturnal, often emerging from its roost hours after midnight.

[3]

Ghost Bats are highly carnivorous, feeding on small mammals (including other bats), birds, reptiles and large insects. Like most predatory bats, echolocation is used to pinpoint prey, along with fairly well developed vision and a keen sense of smell. Prey is usually subdued by being pinned to the ground with the bat’s enlarged thumb claws, and then swiftly dispatched with a bite to the neck (2). The bats themselves are predated on by owls.

Reproduction occurs once every two years in the Australian spring, between October and November, with a single pup being born per female. The mother then carries the pup on her chest for a month, before depositing it in the maternity roost, where she continues to feed it for another two months until the young bat is weaned and can look after itself in the wild.

Ecology 101: A Guide to Environmental Mechanics - #8 White Nose Syndrome and its effect on Bats

Two weeks ago @ms-lola asked the follow question; Anything on bats? I just discovered we're having a huge problem with their populations decreasing on the east coast of Canada due to something called "white nose" syndrome, or something like that. It would be great to hear about them

White nose syndrome is spread by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which grows naturally in caves in Europe, and has an invasive range that includes five provinces in Canada, and twenty four states in the USA. The fungus is an extremophile, where its optimal growing temperatures are between four and twenty degrees Celsius. In addition, the species can also survive in both acidic and alkaline soil conditions, allowing it to thrive in areas with different geologies.

[4]

P.destructans is an opportunistic parasite on torpid bats, and can live its entire lifespan on guano, rotting plant matter and organic detritus. The fungus is spread by contact, so in order to become infected a bat must physically touch a fungal colony within its natural environment. The fungus grows slowly, and can be seen forming white colonies around the bat’s face and on its wings. As the fungus leeches energy from the wing tissue, the bat’s body starts burning energy faster causing increased levels of carbon dioxide to be produced, until the blood eventually becomes acidic (4).

The increased acidity of the blood, causes the bat to awaken from torpor prematurely, often in cold conditions. Such behavioural abnormalities such as a bat flying in winter, is often a last ditch effort by the host to boost it’s now depleted fat reserves in order to survive winter hibernation.

At current the fungal infection is still able to be targeted by some anti-fungal agents, although a few do little to inhibit further growth due to an evolved immunity to those chemicals, as well as temperatures over twenty five degrees Celsius. That said, the wide spread nature of the disease makes it hard to combat, as does the migratory nature of their host species coupled with the funguses ability to lay dormant in warm weather, in the form of spores.

References

1. www.arkive.org

2. Hudson W.S., Wilson D.E (1986). "Macroderma gigas" (PDF). Mammalian Species 260 (260): 1–4

3. http://i1-news.softpedia-static.com/images/news2/Top-10-Ghost-Animals-2.jpg

4. Michelle L Verant, Carol U Meteyer, John R Speakman, Paul M Cryan, Jeffrey M Lorch, David S Blehert (9 December 2014). "White-nose syndrome initiates a cascade of physiologic disturbances in the hibernating bat host". BMC Physiology 14 (10)

Picture References

1. http://www.koryoswrites.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/4943537942_7db10e5fbb_z.jpg

2. http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/displaydistmap.pl?type=species;id=66889

3. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/ea/3b/20/ea3b20aefc6bdeadc2b45339e5fcf109.jpg

4. http://www.bats.org.uk/data/images/threats/white_nose_al_hicks_nydeccrop.jpg

Hmm bad news bats, as we continue to battle White Nose Syndrome, if the continued spread of this disease continues a lot more bats might be nothing more then ghosts. Next week we have a deep sea request from @ironspiderchan45 but until then critic, comment and discuss future species to cover as well as checking out past issues in Impurest’s Bestiary.

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

54 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #71 - Tongue Eating Louse

After a very successful week, both at work and online, we roll out of May and into June. Following on from last week’s issue on the Pel’s Fishing Owl, we take a fishy request from @cgoodness. Just remember to hold onto your tongues and enjoy this week’s issue.

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Issue #71 – Tongue Eating Louse

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum - Arthropoda

Class – Malacostrata

Order – Isopoda

Family – Cymothoidae

GenusCymotha

Speciesexigua

Related Species – The Tongue Eating Louse is one of over 40 species found in the genus Cymotha (1)

Range The general range of the Tongue Eating Louse is restricted to the west coast of the United States, however records of this species are found in numerous other places, due to their hosts mobility

Tongue Tied

The Tongue Eating Louse, is a pale shelled isopod, which when fully grown reach a length of 15mm (for the males to 29mm in length (for the females). The species is found at depths of 2 to 60m in depth, and spends most of its life on the gills or mouth of one of eight species, that it parasitizes on. Like most isopods the species is covered in armour plating, with multiple jointed legs, but unlike most species, the front legs are enlarged to aid in feeding.

The louse uses the enlarged claws to drain blood from the tongue of its host, until it wastes away. After the tongue has completely wasted away, the louse attaches itself to the base of the mouth, and can be used by its host to grab prey as a replacement organ (2). Interestingly it is only the female that parasitizes the fish's tongue, the males never leave the host’s gills

[4]

Both genders start their lives on their future host’s gills, feeding off the mucus produced by respiration. When sexually mature, the lice mate, with the female migrating up to the mouth, using its host’s blood to obtain the energy required for her eggs to develop. If there are no females available however, males can change gender, taking on the feeding and reproductive aspects of a fully grown female. Tongue Eating Lice are, despite recent media claims, unable to feed on mammalian hosts, and are harmless if cooked inadvertently alongside their fishy host.

Ecology 101: A Guide to Environmental Mechanics - #7 A Basic Guide to Parasites

Parasites, and parasitism, cover a wide variety of life-forms and behaviours, but all follow the same species to species dynamic, where one species (the parasite) benefits at the expense of the other (the host). Parasites can be split into two groups; facultative parasites, which can survive without parasitizing a host, and obligate parasites whose survival is dependent on finding a host species (3).

Parasites rarely kill their host, relying on them for their own survival, while parasitoids aim to kill their hosts, often to access their true host, or to become a sexually mature adult. The most common interaction, is one where the parasite feeds on the host’s blood or stomach contents, either as an exoparasite or as an endoparasite. Well known examples of species using this life strategy include Mosquitos (Family - Cluicidae), vampire bats (Desmodus sp) and tapeworms (Class - Cestoda).

[3]

In addition to this standard parasite lifestyle; there are also social-parasites and kleptoparasites, which utilize the work of their host species, for their own benefit. Species in these groups, either convince their hosts to spend resources on them, or actively steal them. Some kleptoparasites take this behaviour one step further, and become brood parasites using other species to raise their young for them. In general parasites have short life spans, and a high reproductive rate, meaning that the host rarely develops additional defences and strategies to fend off such an attack.

The Large Blue Butterfly Caterpillar: a social parasite of ants [4]

That said parasites don’t get things all their own way, some species of parasites are defined as ‘hyper parasites’, a term that relates to their obligate lifestyle on other parasites (4). Very often these species are also parasitoids, killing their own host, in the process of maturing into their fully grown forms.

References

1. www.arkive.org

2. A. Ruiz-L. & J. Madrid-V. (1992). "Studies on the biology of the parasitic isopod Cymothoa exigua and its relationship with the snapper Lutjanus peru (Pisces: Lutjanidae), from commercial catch in Michoacan". Ciencias Marinas 18 (1): 19–34

3. Balashov, Yu.S. (2011) Parasitism and Ecological Parasitology. Entomological Review 91 (9): 1216-1223

4. Kathirithamby, Jeyaraney; Ross, Larry D.; Johnston, J. Spencer (2003). "Masquerading as Self? Endoparasitic Strepsiptera (Insecta) Enclose Themselves in Host-Derived Epidermal Bag". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 100 (13): 7655–7659

Picture References

1. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_a9EZy9wqOdI/Sqcy0dmGnsI/AAAAAAAAAnw/ke6kWIhAdLQ/s320/The+Tongue+Eating+Louse1.jpg

2. http://cdn.list25.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/18-tongue-eating-louse_tn.jpg

3. http://www.nerdygaga.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Tiger-mosquito.jpg

4. http://cdn1.arkive.org/media/71/71B4BBAF-6BD9-4352-8F78-C876D7FAE625/Presentation.Large/Large-blue-caterpillar-being-carried-to-ant-nest-where-it-will-spend-the-winter.jpg

And with that disturbing image, we leave the Tongue Eating Louse, and its parasite brethren behind. Next week we have a ghostly achieved request from @laflux as well as a question from @ms-lola but until then critic, comment and discuss future species to cover as well as checking out past issues in Impurest’s Bestiary.

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

39 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #70 - Pel's Fishing Owl

Success, the peacock has finally been captured and all it took was some seed, bird lime and excessive moaning to finally bring the bird under control. Speaking of controlling things, we looked at invasive species last week, focusing on the flatworm Bipallium kewensei. This week’s animal was requested by @ccraft who wanted to learn more about the birds that fly at night…

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Issue #70 - Pel’s Fishing Owl

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class – Aves

Order – Strigiforms

Family – Strigidae

GenusScotopelia

Speciespeli

Related Species – Pel’s Fishing Owl is one of three species in the genus Scotopelia, the others being the Rufous Fishing Owl (Scitopelia ussheri) and the Vermiculated Fishing Owl (Scotopelia bouvieri) (1)

Range

[2]

Wings over Dark Water

Pel’s Fishing Owl is one of the largest species of owls, with a wingspan of one and a half meters and an average weight of 2kg. The species lacks the facial disc found in most owl species, which is used to amplify sounds in the wider environment. While most owls have soft feathers, the quills of the Pel’s Fishing Owl are stiff, increasing flight speed at the expense of the sound that the wings make. When communicating, the males utter a deep horn like booming, while the females call is a more standard hoot (2).

As there name suggests, Pel’s Fishing Owls feed primarily on fish, using modified scales on the talons to grip struggling fish. Hunting usually takes place from a perch overlooking the river, and while predominantly fish eaters, the species will hunt frogs, crabs and young nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloctus) among other small aquatic animals. While the species has no predators as an adult, the species competes for resources and nesting spaces with the African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer), and will even attack them during the breeding season.

[3]

Fishing Owls nest and breed during the dry season, when water levels are lowest and aquatic prey is at its easiest to capture. Two eggs are often laid, but like most owls and raptors, only the oldest and strongest chick usually reaches adulthood (3). The young generally fledge within two months of hatching and will remain in their parents territory for up to nine months before being chased away to claim their own fishing spots.

Five Fun Pel’s Fishing Owl Facts

The Pel’s Fishing Owl is the largest owl outside the genus Bubo, and the fourth largest in the world

The call of a male Pel’s Fishing Owl can be heard up to 3km away

[4]

Pel’s Fishing Owls are monogamous, forming long lasting breeding pairs

Despite being fish-eaters, the species can occasionally be found hunting in areas far away from permanent water courses

While still relatively common, Pel’s Fishing Owl population is under-threat from habitat destruction, not just from human action but an increase of African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) population due to the damage they cause to trees (4)

References

1. www.arkive.org

2. Del Hoyo, J; Elliot, A; Sargatal, J (1996). Handbook of the Birds of the World 3, Barcelona Lynx Issues

3. König, Claus; Weick, Friedhelm (2008). Owls of the World (2nd ed.). London: Christopher Helm

4. Simmons, R.E. and Brown, C.J. (2006) Birds to Watch in Namibia: Red, Rare and Endemic Species. National Biodiversity Programme, Windhoek, Namibia.

Picture Referances

1. http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/99/e9/37/99e9375a23a46b945bf6696ec81dbb5f.jpg

2. http://www.owlpages.com/pictures/range_maps/range-Scotopelia-peli.jpg

3. http://cdn1.arkive.org/media/30/306F747C-F0F3-4567-8771-FEB7E599B65D/Presentation.Large/Pels-fishing-owl-with-tilapia-prey.jpg

4. http://www.thewildernessociety.com/uploads_media/Pels_fishing_owl_media_1247228261.jpg

And with a hoot, the Pel’s Fishing Owl flies off into the night. Next week we have a tounge-tastic request from @cgoodness but until then critic, comment and discuss future species to cover as well as checking out past issues in Impurest’s Bestiary.

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

105 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #69 - Bipallium kewense

Another week in May, another issue of Impurest’s Guide to Animals and another missed opportunity to capture my nemesis, the feral Peacock, when it was drinking from my pond. Speaking of tricky creatures, we saw the Arboreal Salamander sneaking around the blog, as it eats its fellow salamanders. Anyway onto this weeks issue…

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Issue #69 - Bipalium kewense

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Platyhelminthes

Class – Turbellaria

Order – Tricladida

Family – Geoplanidae

Genus – Bipalium

Species – kewense

Related Species - Bipalium kewense is one of a multitude of carnivorous flatworms found across the globe (1)

Range - Considered invasive across it’s range in the United Stated, India, Europe and much of sub-Saharan Africa, it is at current unknown where Bipalium kewense originates from, although recent evidence suggests it might be somewhere in Southeast Asia

Invasion of the Hammerhead Slug

With an average length of 40cm, Bipalium kewense is a dark yellow colour, with a brown or black line running down the length of its body. The most distinctive feature however, is the anchor shaped head, earning the nickname of ‘the Hammerhead Slug’. The species moves, using a ‘creeping sole’ on its vernal side, in the same way a snail uses its muscular foot (2), although despite its more common name Bipalium kewense is a flatworm and not a mollusc. As well as the ‘creeping sole’ the vernal side also houses the ‘mouth’, which in addition to feeding, is also used in defecation to remove waste-products such as faeces.

All flatworms in the genus Bipalium are carnivorous, and specialize in feeding on earthworms. Prey is generally taken after rainfall, when it is most active, and tracked using chemical trails left in the worms wake. Prey is pinned to the ground by the flatworm, and covered in digestive enzymes that liquefy prey, before it is sucked up by the mouth. When attacked Bipalium kewense secretes a deadly neurotoxin called Tetrodotoxin, which often kills the predator, despite the amount of damage done to the flatworm.

[2]

After an attack, if cut or broken in two, members of the genus Bipalium can regenerate into two separate worms. While this method of a-sexual reproduction is often used (3), mostly because Bipalium kewense readily feed on members of their own species, the worm can reproduce sexually and is a hermaphrodite, meaning after each sexual encounter each individual involved can lay a clutch of eggs.

Nature's Most Wanted: #1 - Brown Tree Snake

[3]

The Brown Tree Snake (Boiga irregularis) (1) is a 2m long snake native to Australia, and is invasive to the island of Guam. While it is venomous, it is not the direct threat to people that lists this snake as an invasive species, rather its insatiable appetite for the native wildlife. Since its arrival in the mid 1950s the snake has hastened the extinction of two thirds of Guam’s native mammal species, half of the native reptile species and almost three quarters of native birds. Where there was once biodiversity rich forest only half a century ago, there is now only woodland literally crawling with snakes (4).

In addition to its destruction of the native wildlife, the Brown Tree Snake interferes with economic growth, often taking poultry from farms and damage to infrastructure, when it climbs telegraph poles and wraps around power-lines causing blackouts across entire electrical grids. It is estimated that, between damage to infrastructure, loss of livelihood and increased bio-security at both airports and docks, that the Brown Tree Snake costs the government close to 500 million US dollars a year.

The threat isn't contained just to Guam however; Brown Tree Snakes are inquisitive species, with little fear of predation and readily investigate dark spaces, even going as far as climbing on ships docked at port. So far strict bio-security has prevented the species from leaving Guam, although it is readily feared that the species will escape to other islands such as the Cocos or Hawaii. So far there has been little attempt to eradicate the population of snakes on Guam, although antibiotic laden mice are being used on US Naval ships, to catch any serpents that evade port security.

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - Ducey, P. K.; West, L. J.; Shaw, G.; De Lisle, J. (2005). "Reproductive ecology and evolution in the invasive terrestrial planarian Bipalium adventitium across North America". Pedobiologia 49 (4): 367

3 - Winsor, L. 1983. A revision of the cosmopolitan land planarian Bipalium kewense Moseley, 1878 (Turbellaria: Tricladida: Terricola). Zool. J. of the Linnean Soc. 79: 61-100.

4 - http://ftp.ma.utexas.edu/users/davis/375/LECTURES/L24/snake3.pdf

Picture References

1 - http://pics.davesgarden.com/pics/2008/07/27/fleurone/805a40.jpg

2 - http://edge.liveleak.com/80281E/u/u/thumbs/2013/Mar/25/9d62ae90612f_sf_3.jpg

3 - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c9/Brown_tree_snake_Boiga_irregularis_2_USGS_Photograph.jpg

Wow toxic worms, and devil may care snakes, this actually turned out to be a fun issue to write. Speaking of fun we have two requests over the next fortnight from @ccraft and @cgoodness. But until then critic, comment and suggest future issues as well as making sure you check past issues in Impurest’s Bestiary

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

39 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #68 - Arboreal Salamander

Hi guys, and welcome to another merry May time issue of Impurest’s Guide to Animals. At least that would be what I would be saying if I wasn’t locked in a stalemate with the male Indian Peafowl that’s invaded my garden. Well it could be worse I suppose it could be a swarm of Trap-Jaw Ants

Enjoy this issue, while I look up some recipes for peacock...

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Issue #68 – Arboreal Salamander

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Chordata

Class – Amphibia

Order – Caudata

Family – Plethedontia

GenusAnedies

Species - lugubris

Related Species – The Arboreal Salamander is one of the six ‘Climbing Salamanders’ found predominantly in California (1)

Range

The species is also found in Baja California, Mexico [2]

Terror in the Tree-Tops

Arboreal Salamanders are medium sized lungless salamanders, with a maximum length of ten centimeters, with dark purple skin, with golden spots running along the back and flanks. As their name suggests, Arboreal Salamanders are tree dwellers, living in cavities in the bark of oak and birch trees, often only venturing out at night to forage. Males can be recognized from females, by their broad, almost triangular heads as well as their protruding front teeth.

[3]

These teeth, in both adults and juveniles, are used when hunting, to rip apart a wide range of invertebrate prey. In addition the species bites in defence, as well as uttering a squeaking sound, an unusual feat since the majority of salamanders and newts are mute (2). If these defences fail, the species will even resort to leaping off the branch, although the risk associated with a fall makes this a risky defensive strategy.

Mating in Arboreal Salamanders takes place on land, with the eggs being fertilised internally, with the male hanging onto the female using his enlarged teeth. Sometime later the eggs are laid in a damp tree cavity, and the female will then defend her brood until they hatch three months later. Unlike traditional amphibians, the young hatch as miniature versions of the adults, completely cutting out the aquatic larval or tadpole stage (3).

Five Fun Arboreal Salamander Facts

Arboreal Salamanders can be found at heights of 18m or more in mature oak trees

To aid in locomotion the tail of the Arboreal Salamander is prehensile, allowing it to grasp crevices and branches in areas where it is at risk of falling

[4]

Despite being classed as insectivores, the arboreal salamander will occasionally feed on other salamander species, particularly the Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus)

This aggressive behaviour extends to members of its own species, when kept together arboreal salamanders will attack each other, often biting each other legs and tails off

Even the species own predators have to be wary of tackling this salamander, scaring on the bodies of terrestrial garter snakes (Thamnophis elegans) match the teeth shape and size of Arboreal Salamanders (4)

Bibliography

1. www.arkive.org

2. Robert C. Stebbins & Nathan W. Cohen (1997) A Natural History of Amphibians

3. Hairston, N.G., Sr. 1987. Community ecology and salamander guilds. Cambridge University Press.

4. http://www.amphibiaweb.org/cgi-bin/amphib_query?query_src=aw_lists_genera_&table=amphib&where-genus=Aneides&where-species=lugubris

Picture Credits

1. http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5162/5344666834_7681b6d31e_z.jpg

2. http://www.californiaherps.com/salamanders/maps/alugubrismap.jpg

3. http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7160/6803505357_d07a44de35_z.jpg

4. https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5003/5308151243_fd61299492_z.jpg

Jinkies! Who knew something so cute looking could be so evil? Speaking of evil I’m legally contracted by my focus group to warn you that next issue, the worms are back and more disgusting then ever. But until then critic, comment and suggest a species you want to see as well as check out Impurest’s Bestiary of Past Issues.

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

52 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #67 - Trapjaw Ant

It’s a Trap!! Okay so I missed Star Wars Day, but that doesn't mean I can't quote some classic Ackbar. And that quote is so fitting for this week’s animal. Yes I could mention last weeks animal Balaur bondoc, oh I just did, oh well I hope you enjoy this issue. ___________________________________________________________________

Issue #67 - Trapjaw Ant

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Arthropoda

Class – Insecta

Order – Hymanoptera

Family – Formicidae

Genus – Odontomachus

Species – bauri

Related Species - The Trap-jaw Ant is one of 69 species of carnivorous ants in the genus Odontomachus (1)

Range

[2]

Trapped!!

The Trap-Jaw Ant, is a large (about 3cm in length) black ant, with a large head supporting a pair of mandibles with a width of about 6mm. These jaws are held in place by a latch called the clyperus. Held like this, the jaws store potential energy that when released, closes the jaws at a speed of 230-kmph, with the jaws taking less than 300 milliseconds to fully close (2). By angling their jaws downwards, the trap-jaw ant can catapult itself backwards, to a distance of up to 40cm, to escape predation.

These jaws are used to deadly effect while hunting, with the worker ants hunting a range of small invertebrates. While most prey was soft bodied, the remains of termites that use chemical defences have been found in trap-jaw ant nests, suggesting that the species is immune to the acid produced by their prey. In defence the Trap-jaw ant stings and sprays formic acid, with the effects of the venom lasting for up to a week in humans (3).

[3]

Like most ant species, the trap-jaw ant has a single member of the breeding caste, the Queen, serviced by an army of workers. While only around two hundred individuals are found per nest, there may be several related colonies in the area all of whom will co-operate in defence of the area. Individuals from related colonies can be recognised by a chemical called dichloromethane, which will differ between animals from different colonies.

Five Fun Trap-jaw Ant Facts

While the genus Odontomachus may be the most well known group of ants with large hair-trigger jaws, but at least three other ant genus have this feature.

Trap-jaw Ants are so well defended, that the Jumping Spider Enoplomischus mimics members from the genus Odontomachus

When closing its jaws, the Trap-jaw Ant exerts pressure of 300 times its own weight

As large as the jaws of Odontomachus is the male Warrior Wasp (Megalara garuda) has a jaw span longer than its legs. These jaws are used to defend the females nest in return for breeding rights (4)

[4]

As deadly as the Trap-jaw Ant is, another ant species Allomerus decemarticulatus creates a network of pits in tree bark, which are used to trap the legs of prey, allowing the ants to swarm their trapped prey.

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - Patek SN, Baio JE, Fisher BL, Suarez AV (22 August 2006). "Multifunctionality and mechanical origins: Ballistic jaw propulsion in trap-jaw ants". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103 (34): 12787–12792

3 - Rodriquez-Acosta, A.; Reyes-Lugo, M. (2002). "Severe human urticaria produced by ant (Odontomachus bauri, Emery 1892) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) venom". International Journal of Dermatology: 801–8803

4 - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2029913/Warrior-wasp-discovered-jungle-jaws-longer-legs.html

Picture References

1 - http://m0.i.pbase.com/o6/44/660044/1/144565200.MJcfJpc6._MG_9682Edit.jpg

2 - http://www.discoverlife.org/nh/maps/Insecta/Hymenoptera/Formicidae/Odontomachus/map_of_Odontomachus_bauri.jpg

3 - http://krungkuene.org/imgant/pic/odonttwo.jpg

4 - http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/08/25/article-2029913-0D90688E00000578-1_634x381.jpg

And there we have it, a trap in more ways then one. And while the trap-jaw ant doesn't try to hide the fact it’s a monstrosity, unlike next weeks animal, a deadly predator that hides behind its adorable exterior. But until then critic, comment and suggest future issues as well as making sure you check past issues in Impurest’s Bestiary

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

73 Comments