Impurest's Guide to Animals #36 - Vaquita

Well after a weeks absence Impurest’s Guide to Animals returns to Comic Vine. Two weeks ago the jolly little Zebra Jumping Spider hopped into the spotlight. This week we have the ‘little cow’ from the Sea of Cortez. Hope you enjoy.

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Issue #36 Vaquita

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Chordata

Class – Mammalia

Order – Cetartiodactyla

Family – Phocenidae

Genus – Phocena

Species – sinus

Related Species - The Vaquita is one of the four species in the genus Phocena, the others being the Harbour Porpoise (Phocenea phocenea), Burmeister’s Porpoise (Phocenea dioptrica) and the Spectacle Porpoise (Phocenea spinipinnis) (1)

Range

[2]

The Little Cow

The Vaquita (Spanish for Little Cow) is the smallest member of the cetacean family, with a length of only 130cm and an average weight of 30kg. The Vaquita can be easily recognised by the large black markings running down the beak and up to the eyes as well as a larger dorsal fin then the other porpoise species. The Vaquita is only found in small groups and unlike their dolphin cousins never gather in large numbers (2). Like most other cetaceans the Vaquita navigates and communicates primarily using echolocation, which in the muddy coastal region the porpoise lives in, is more reliable then their eyesight.

[2]

Vaquita are not fussy eaters, and will take a wide range of small to medium sized fish, cephalopods and other invertebrates. The porpoise has few natural predators other then man, although the species is sometimes attacked by Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncates) which will go as far to kill the porpoises for as of yet unknown reasons (3). Despite these attacks the main threat to the Vaquita isn’t a dolphin or a shark but rather Man’s expansion into the sea.

Illegal Gill Nets used in the Sea of Cortez create a deadly maze of weave and robe, that’s virtually invisible to dolphin and porpoise echolocation. It’s estimated that just under a hundred animals remain in the wild population, and that through interbreeding the species is at risk of genetic homogenisation. At current the Mexican government is desperately trying to ban gill nets in Vaquita territory, and due to the small number of animals remaining, it is likely that the Vaquita will become extinct within the decade.

[4]

Five to Save #3 - Marine Mammals

Marine Mammals have long been the poster animals for the blight of endangered species everywhere. While the traditional threats may now be gone throughout most of their range, these noble creatures now run a new gauntlet as deadly and as terrifying as any harpoon fired from a whaling vessel. The good news for the majority of species is that numbers are either increasing or are stable, although recently a few species, seem to be heading back towards extinction.

Fin Whale (Balaneoptera physalus) Endangered

Threats: Historic Whaling - The Fin Whale, being one of the largest and fastest of all the baleen whales was among the last to be hunted commercially. It was estimated that between 1935 and 1965 around 30,000 individuals were killed a year. While hunting is now mostly banned the species, unlike other baleen whales, doesn’t seem to be recovering, possibly due to slow reproduction rate, although it’s feared the population will never truly recover.

Hector’s Dolphin (Chephaloryncus hectori) Endangered

Threats: Bycatch - Many of the smaller dolphin and porpoise species regularly suffer from accidental catching by gill nets. In addition the species preference to shallow water habitat makes it very vulnerable to industrial pollution and collision with boats, despite the New Zealand Government’s strict law about harming the species and comprehensive marine reserves set up for the species.

Marine Otter (Lontra felina) Endangered

Threats: Mining - While industrial pollution is a big problem for most coastal animals, the Marine Otter lives on the shores of one of the biggest mining zones in the world. Found only off the coast of Argentina, Chile and Peru, the species suffers from pesticides, toxins and silt running down into the ocean. In addition, despite strict government penalties the species is still hunted for its fur.

Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus) Critically Endangered

Threats: Competition for Resources - While pesticides and water pollution have caused a decline in the population it’s the development of tourist attractions and beaches around the Mediterranean that have caused the Monk Seal problems. While the species historically gave birth and rested on remote island beaches, competition with tourists, real estate agents and big business has pushed the species to live in marine caves, a potentially risky gambit considering the geological instability of the entire region.

Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) Endangered

Threats : Broken Ecological Dynamic - While fur hunting was the route cause of Sea Otter endangerment, their numbers have increased after a ban on hunting in the 1900s. Most recently accidental pollution such as the destruction of the Exon Valdez Tanker is the most prevalent danger. Because of the oil spill the ecological balance shifted with large numbers of seals and sea lions leaving the area or simply dying. Because of this the local Orca (Orcinus orca) has shifted their diet from seals to otters, and have caused a decline of 90% in local populations in certain areas.

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - Barlow, J. (2014). "Vaquita (Phocoena sinus)".EDGE of Existence programme. Zoological Society of London.

3 - Evidence Puts Dolphins in New Light, as Killers". Luna.pos.to. July 6, 1999.

Picture References

1 - http://www.cms.int/reports/small_cetaceans/data/P_sinus/P%20sinus_wurtz.jpg

2 - http://worldsaquarium.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/vaquita_map.jpg

3 - http://cdn2.arkive.org/media/B9/B9BAFA06-7026-4304-A672-2F8C35E07304/Presentation.Large/Vaquita-calf-at-the-surface.jpg

4 - http://cdn2.arkive.org/media/D2/D2373991-E7E2-4C88-9F37-9DBCB31FDA4F/Presentation.Large/Four-dead-vaquitas-on-beach.jpg

And with that we bid adios, maybe forever, to the Vaquita and its endangered marine mammal associates. Next week we have a disgusting worm issue. Enough said I think. Until then comment, critic and request odd and amazing creatures or just check out past issues in the Bestiary of Past Issues.

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

33 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #35 - Zebra Jumping Spider

As October marches on towards November on its eight stubby legs here comes Issue 35 of Impurest’s Guide to Animals. Last week the incredibly tiny Nosy Be Chameleon emerged from the leaf litter. This week we have an even smaller animal that is just as cute as the little lizard in the Spotlight. Hope you enjoy.

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Issue #35 Zebra Jumping Spider

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Arthropoda

Class – Arachnida

Order – Araneae

Family – Salticidae

Genus – Salticus

Species – senicus

Related Species - Zebra Jumping Spiders are one of around 5000 species spread across 500 genus in the family Salticidae (1)

Range - The Zebra Jumping Spider can be found on stone walls and scrub land across the United States and Europe including the United Kingdom

Leap into the Unknown

Zebra Jumping Spiders are very small spiders (with an average body length of five to nine mm) with the females growing larger then the males. The abdomen of the spider is lined with black and white stripes, with those of the males being broader than the females. The most prominent feature of the Zebra Jumping Spider is the large eyes at the front of the cephalothorax, and the surrounding secondary eyes arranged around the front of the animals body. Despite effectively having stereoscopic vision the Jumping Spider uses image defocus to gauge distance, by using different wavelengths of light to build up a 3D image.

This imaging system is put to good use when hunting, the Zebra Jumping Spider doesn’t build webs, relying instead on actively hunting for its prey. When a food item, usually a small fly or mosquito, the spider will gauge the distance it has to cover and spin a silk safety line. From there the spider will launch itself, by altering the pressure of its body fluids (2), towards the prey item. If successful the spider will inject a mild venom and consume the prey in situ even if the target is twice the size of the predator.

[2]

Like all spiders the Zebra Jumping Spider is a cannibal and the male has to be cautious when he approaches the female. In order to signal his attentions the male will wave his front legs up and down and vibrate his abdomen when he meets a female. If she accepts the two will mate before the female leaves to lay her eggs in a silken sack. When the young hatch the female will protect the spiderlings until their second moult, where the young spiders will leave to fend for themselves.

Five Fun Zebra Jumping Spider Facts

Because their vision requires large amounts of light Jumping Spiders are mostly diurnal, often weaving purse shaped tents on the undersides of leaves to sleep in.

Red Light causes problems for Jumping Spiders, whose vision is geared towards the UV end of the spectrum, effectively blinding them.

The Himalayan Jumping Spider (Euophrys omnisuperstes) holds the title of the highest permanent animal resident on Earth, having been recorded at heights of 6700 meters above sea level (3)

[3]

Another Jumping Spider Bagheera kiplingi is the only spider species to feed predominantly on plant matter although most other species in the genus Salticidae will drink plant nectar (4)

Zebra Jumping Spiders use silk lines while traversing a vertical surface, effectively abseiling down jump after jump

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - Foelix, Rainer F. (1996). Biology of Spiders. Oxford University Press

3 - Wanless, F. R. (1975). "Spiders of the family Salticidae from the upper slopes of Everest and Makalu". Bulletin of the British Arachnological Society 3 (5): 132–136.

4 - Meehan, Christopher J.; Olson, Eric J.; Reudink, Matthew W.; Kyser, T. Kurt; Curry, Robert L. (2009): "Herbivory in a spider through exploitation of an ant-plant mutualism." Current Biology 1

Picture References

1 - http://cdn.c.photoshelter.com/img-get/I0000bjODVfaEhvI/s/900/900/022-045.jpg

2 - http://www.domyownpestcontrol.com/images/content/zebra_spider_killing_fly_picture.jpg

3 - http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/naturelibrary/images/ic/credit/640x395/e/eu/euophrys_omnisuperstes/euophrys_omnisuperstes_1.jpg

And with that the Zebra Jumping Spider leaps away from the spotlight to get one last meal before sundown. Due to me be excessively busy last weeks issue came forward to this week, and the next, featuring the ‘Little Cow’ of the Sea of Cortez will be posted in a fortnights time. Until then comment, critic and request odd and amazing creatures or just check out past issues in the Bestiary of Past Issues.

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

39 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #34 - Nosy Be Leaf Chameleon

What’s up my many beloved readers it’s time for Issue 34 of Impurest’s Guide to Animals. Last week the oddity known as the Olm briefly ventured into the light before retreating into the darkness. This week we have a reptile so tiny in the spotlight that it gets eaten by ants. Hope you enjoy.

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Issue #34 Nosy Be Leaf Chameleon

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Chordata

Class – Reptillia

Order – Squamatra

Family – Chameleonidae

Genus – Brookesia

Species – minima

Related Species - The genus Brookesia contains 30 species of tiny chameleons all of whom are native to the island of Madagascar (1)

Range

[2]

Life in Miniature

The Nosy Be Lead Chameleon is a miniscule (as the species part of its name suggests) brown lizard that reaches a maximum length of only 3.5cm in length. Unlike the majority of Chameleons, save for the other members of the genus Brookesia, the Nosy Be Leaf Chameleon is mostly terrestrial, spending much of it’s life on the forest floor rather then the trees , only leaving the ground to sleep at night. Because they spend so much time on the ground the native Malagasy people have a mistrust of the leaf chameleon, associating it with deceit and fickleness (2).

[3]

Due to its small size the Nosy Be Leaf Chameleon only eats small insects such as fruit flies. Like the rest of its kin, the Leaf Chameleon is an ambush predator, catching prey with its extendable tongue before dragging it back to the mouth. Nosy Be Leaf Chameleons are food themselves, for a wide range of species including insects, toads and ground dwelling mammals. As a defence the Nosy Be Chameleon will freeze and mimic a piece of rotten wood, in the hopes that any foraging animals will overlook its hiding place.

When breeding the male gauges the females state of readiness by watching her sway as she moves. If she is indeed fertile the male will follow his potential mate all day, aggressively defending her from other suitors with loud hisses and if need by physical combat. If mating is successful the female will lay two eggs on the forest floor and leave them to their fate, with the hatchlings emerging three months later.

Five Fun Nosy Be Leaf Chameleon Facts

While considered the smallest Chameleon, the Nosy Be Leaf Chameleon is actually larger then another member of the genus Brookesia, the Leaf Chameleon (Brookesia micra) which only grows to 2.6 cm in length

[4]

Nosy Be is the home for tiny vertebrates. One of the world’s smallest frogs the Andoany Stump-toed Frog (Stumpffia pygmia) (1)

The name Nosy Be comes from the Malagasy for ‘Big Island’

British Anatomist Joseph Brooks lends his name to the genus, in honour of the work he did in advancing the understanding of animal anatomy (3)

Recent changes in the quota of wild caught animals allowed to be taken from the wild has been reduced to zero, in an effort by the Madagascan Government to conserve the Nosy Be Chameleon (4)

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - http://www.chrismattison.co.uk/wildlife-photography/chameleons/

3 - Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M. 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University

4 - Carpenter, A.I. and Robson, O. (2005) A review of the endemic chameleon genus Brookesia from Madagascar, and the rationale for its listing on CITES Appendix II. Oryx, 39(4): 345-380.

Picture References

1 - http://cdn2.arkive.org/media/DA/DA56E306-E26E-4F07-8084-BF18B5FD0326/Presentation.Large/Minute-leaf-chameleon-on-a-finger.jpg

2 - http://www.earthtimes.org/newsimage/miniature-chameleon-discovered-madagascar_2_15212.jpg

3 - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f4/Antongil_Leaf_Chameleon%2C_Nosy_Mangabe%2C_Madagascar_%283899499361%29_%282%29.jpg

4 - http://www.toptenz.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Brookesia-micra.jpg

And with that the Nosy Be Chameleon slips back into the undergrowth, fearfully hoping that it doesn’t get eaten by a bunch of ants. Next week we meet the arachnid that could possibly banish even the strongest case of arachnophobia. Until then comment, critique and check out the Bestiary of Past Issues.

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

37 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #33 - Olm

Reclaimed from the Recycle Bin, that’s what Issue #33 of this guide is about. Last week the beautiful, if a bit sinister Sea Swallow was in the spotlight before being thrown at some young Australian. This week a pale skinned, skinny waif of a thing boldly stumbles into the daylight from its underground home. Hope you enjoy.

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Issue #33 Olm

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Chordata

Class – Amphibia

Order – Caudata

Family – Proteidae

Genus – Proteus

Species – anguinus

Related Species - The genus Proteus is one (of two) found in the family Proteidae, the other is the genus Necturus which contains the five species of Mudpuppy (1)

Range

Caves marked in red are areas where the Olm has been introduced for study [2]

A Baby Cave Dragon

The Olm is a pale, almost translucent, skinned cave salamander whose eel like body grows to a length of 40cm. Unusually the Olm stays in a neonatal or tadpole like stage, retaining juvenile features such as exposed gills and a lateral line. Olms have feathery red gills that are used in respiration alongside rudimentary lungs, although the majority of gas exchange takes place in water. While the Olm has eyes, they are covered by the skin and can only detect changes in light level. For navigation the species relies of its sense of smell, vibrations in the water and faint electrical currents in the water (2).

[3]

Like all amphibians the Olm is a carnivore, with insects and small crustaceans it’s preferred prey. Due to its slow metabolism however, the Olm rarely has to eat, with individuals going up to six years without food. While it has no predators within the caves it lives in, when flushed out by flash floods the Olm is fed upon by a wide range of animals including toads, water snakes, herons and large fish.

Olms are solitary throughout their entire lives except when they come together to breed. Fertilisation is assumed to be internal with eggs later being laid under stones on the cave floor. Juvenile Olms are similar to the adults save for functioning eyes and no legs, both features they gain at an age of four months. Despite being adults, the young Olms won’t be ready to breed until they are at least 14 years old due to the species slow metabolism, with an average lifespan of over 65 years.

Five Fun Olm Facts

The Genus Proteus is ancient with remains of Olm like animals dating back at least 30 million years

As recently as the 1600s, local people used to believe that Olms washed out of caves by flash floods were baby dragons

Even famed naturalist Charles Darwin had time to marvel at the Olms oddness. In his book the Origin of Species he describes the salamander thusly, “Far from feeling surprise that some of the cave-animals should be very anomalous...as is the case with blind Proteus with reference to the reptiles of Europe, I am only surprised that more wrecks of ancient life have not been preserved, owing to the less severe competition to which the scanty inhabitants of these dark abodes will have been exposed.” (3)

Very recently a race of dark skinned Olms, descendents of salamanders washed to the cave mouths perhaps, have appeared. These ‘Black Proteus’ have dark skin, working eyes and reduced limbs as adaptations to life in the light. (4)

Dark Proteus - Note the differences in the legs and head [4]

The Olm is considered the poster species of cave biology and after 300 years of research still attracts much excitement from scientists. In Slovenia in particular, the species is popular with Proteus appearing on the 10 tolar coin and lending its name to the countries leading popular science magazine

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - Schegel P. & Bulog B. (1997). Population-specific behavioral electrosensitivity of the European blind cave salamander, Proteus anguinus. Journal of Physiology (Paris)91: 75–79

3 - Darwin C. (1859). On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.

4 - Sket B. & Arntzen J.W. (1994). A black, non-troglomorphic amphibian from the karst of Slovenia: Proteus anguinus parkelj n. ssp (Urodela: Proteidae). Bijdragen tot de Dierkunde 64:33–53.

Picture References

1 - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f0/Proteus_anguinus_Postojnska_Jama_Slovenija.jpg

2 - http://www.showcaves.com/maps/Big/Proteus.png

3 - http://whitleyaward.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Jana-Species_Proteus.jpg

4 - http://img.xcitefun.net/users/2011/03/233461,xcitefun-human-fish-1.jpg

And with that we bid adieu to the oddity known at the Olm as it slithers out of the spotlight. Next week we head to a ‘big island’ to look at a ‘small lizard’ who strikes fear into the locals. Until then comment, critique and check out the Bestiary of Past Issues.

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

64 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #32 - Sea Swallow

Wow, who knew 12 hour days in a 12 day week would be so hard. Well really I should because I’ve done them before so…anyway we have Issue 32 of Impurest’s Guide to Animals. Last week the Neon Cuckoo Bee showed nature’s malicious and underhanded side. Continuing the trend of beautiful with a side of sinister is the animal chosen by @knightsofdarkness2. Hope you enjoy.

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Issue #32 Sea Swallow

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Mollusca

Class – Gastropoda

[Clade*] – Neudibranchia

Family – Glaucidae

Genus – Glacus

Species – atlanticus

* At the moment the Class Gastropoda is going through a taxanomic shake-up with no easily defined Orders. As such the Sea Swallow could be in the following orders; Aeolidia, Cladobranchia, Dexiarchia, Euthyneura, Hetrobrancha, Neudibranchia or Neudipleura

Related Species - There is one other member of the genus Glacus, a dwarf Neudibranch known as Galcus marginatus (1)

Range - Sea Swallows are found throught the worlds Temperate and Tropical Oceans

The Wings that Sting

The Sea Swallow is a miniscule neudibranch, with an adult size of only 3cm when it’s ‘wings’ are fully outstretched. Unlike it’s (mostly) sea bed or benthic dwelling cousins the Sea Swallow is a free floating animal that uses a gas sac on it’s belly to keep it afloat on the surface of the ocean. Because of this arrangement the animal actually floats upside down. As such the counter shading on the Sea Swallow is reversed when compare to other marine animals, with the darker colours on the belly rather than the surface.

[2]

Unlike most terrestrial molluscs all nudibranch are carnivorous and the Sea Swallow is no exception to the rule. Its prey consist of other free floating animals such as the ‘By the Wind Sailor’ (Vellea vellea) and Violet Sea Snail (Janthina janthina), which is rips apart using its toothed radula (2). The Sea Swallow will even take on much larger prey such as the Portuguese Man of War (Physialla physilis)) thanks to it’s immunity to its preys venom. In fact after ripping off the Man O War’s tentacles, the Sea Swallow will store and then super concentrate, the venom in the wing like cereta that run down the flanks, using it as a defensive weapon.

[3]

Sea Swallows are hermaphrodites like other gastropods but are unable to self fertilize, thus requiring a partner to mate with. Both animals will lay strings of eggs in the carcass of their prey until they hatch. Larval Sea Swallows have tiny shells which they outgrow when their gas bladders finally develop (3).

Five Fun Sea Swallow Facts

Despite being labelled as ‘Sea Slugs’ the Nudibranchs are their own separate family, completely unrelated to Marine or Terrestrial Slugs

The name Nudibranch comes from the Latin words Nudus (Naked) and the Greek word Brankhia (Gill) referring to the groups exposed respiratory apparatus

The Sea Swallow’s penis is particularly strange as it features a hook on the end. This has probably evolved to bypass the venomous rows of cereta along its partner’s flanks

Misidentification has followed the Sea Swallow since its discovery. For a long time it was thought to be a marine insect and then the larval form of the Angel Shark (Squatina sp)

Despite being un-aggressive the number of stings from Sea Swallows is on the increase due to the popularity of ‘Bluebottle Fights’ in Australia, where the ‘combatants’ throw stranded Sea Swallows at each other, only to receive a painful (potentially life threatening sting) (4)

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - Thompson, T. E.; McFarlane, I. D. (2008). "Observations on a collection of Glaucus from the Gulf of Aden with a critical review of published records of Glaucidae (Gastropoda, Opisthobranchia)". Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London 178 (2): 107–123

3 - http://www.thecephalopodpage.org/MarineInvertebrateZoology/Glaucusatlanticus.html

4 - http://www.seaslugforum.net/showall/glauatla

Picture References

1 - http://bogleech.com/nature/gastro-glaucus.jpg

2 - http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-5DcdeDlDTS0/TiQrzZ4x7qI/AAAAAAAAAdE/8Okr_g4bBl0/s1600/glaucus_eating_velella1.jpg

3 - http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5165/5345314049_bb030bd173.jpg

And that’s the Sinister Sea Swallow, not to mention its stinging wings of pain. Next week we get back to scheduled issues staring with something slippery down in the dark waters of Slovenia. Until then comment, critique and check out the Bestiary of Past Issues.

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

68 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #31 - Neon Cuckoo Bee

Well this week has been a stressful one. Between funerals, rocks thrown at my head and the removal of the abscess on my leg there has been little time for writing. Still at least I had time for this, last week the pure power of the pugilistic Peacock Mantis Shrimp was on display. The animal this week was selected by @dboyrules2011 and continues the theme of shiny happy creatures with dark sides…

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Issue #31 Neon Cuckoo Bee

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Arthropoda

Class – Insecta

Order – Hymenoptera

Family – Apidae

Genus – Thyreus

Species – nitidulus

Related Species - The Neon Cuckoo Bee is one of 64 species in the genus Thyreus and are known colloquially as Cloak and Dagger Bees (1)

Range - The Neon Cuckoo Bee is native to the coastal areas of North and Eastern Australia as well as Papa New Guinea

Spec Ops Bee

Neon Cuckoo Bees are medium sized solitary bees that are easily recognisable by their metallic blue bodies and purple wings. Crossing the relatively stocky body is a number of black bands that run up to the insect’s bulky thorax (2). Like most bees the imago (or adult) navigates using a mixture of scent and vision, as well as using the fine hairs on the face to sense textural differences when close to an object.

[2]

While herbivorous throughout their entire life, nectar feeders as adults and pollen eaters as grubs, there is a predatory aspect to the Neon Cuckoo Bee. After mating the female will shadow workers of the Blue Banded Bee (Amegilla cingulata) back to their nest, before following her inside while the hive’s guard is momentarily down. Once inside the Neon Cuckoo Bee will find a partially constructed brood cell and lay her own egg inside before leaving to find more hives to support her offspring (3).

Upon hatching the larval Cuckoo Bee wastes no time in gaining an advantage over the host’s larvae, quickly consuming all the stockpiled pollen and honey inside its cell. By the time the Banded Bee grub hatches the majority of the food is consumed and the Cuckoo Bee larvae ready to pupate. As such the host larvae dies of malnutrition and some time later the adult Cuckoo Bee bulldozes it’s way out of the hive before the host bees realise that they were raising a parasite within their midst.

Ecology 101 - A Brief Guide to Environmental Mechanics #3

Brood Parasitism is a very common practice in the animal kingdom: with birds, bees and fish all practicing this behaviour. The actual process is initially similar to predation, with the biological mother invading the host’s nest, but is actually a form of kleptoparasitism with the resulting parasite offspring stealing food from the host’s own young. Perhaps the most well studied example of brood parasitism is the Common or European Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus).

While initially similar to the behaviour of other avian nest parasites, what makes the Common Cuckoo unique is that, unlike all other known brood parasites, it utilises a wide range of host species, matching the appearance of its eggs as closely as it can to the hosts. The Cuckoo will make sure to remove an egg first, to further sell the deception to its hosts. After that it remains close to the nest in order to make sure the host has taken the bait. Some hosts, such as the European Magpie (Pica pica) will remove parasite eggs resulting in ‘mafia behaviour’ from the Cuckoo, with the entire nest destroyed and any eggs or chicks consumed by the adult, in order to get the magpies to breed again (4)

[3]

When the parasite offspring hatches, be it a bee, bird or fish, it quickly outstrips the host offspring of resources by growing rapidly, and in most cases will destroy it’s siblings before they can catch up. Often the host species is oblivious to the fact they are raising an impostor until it leaves the nest or hive. While cuckoos and cuckoo bees are well suited for the child free lifestyle, one group of parasites has reversed the trend for its own nefarious purposes.

The Slave Making Ants (also called Pirate Ants) will raise its own young that consist solely of soldier and breeding adults, but rarely produce any worker caste offspring. To rectify this, the soldiers leave the hive and raid nearby ant nests of their pupated young and larvae and drag them back to their own nest. Their the ‘slave larvae’ are washed in the Pirate Ant pheromones as they mature, and upon adulthood hatch thinking that they are part of the colony. These ‘slave workers’ will care for the slave maker’s larvae, take part in colony defence and even participate in raids (sometimes against their old colony) with unflinching loyalty to their masters.

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - http://animalworld.tumblr.com/post/6037913789/neon-cuckoo-bee-thyreus-nitidulus-c-erica-siegel

3 - http://www.brisbaneinsects.com/brisbane_bees/NeonCuckooBee.htm

4 - Payne, R. B. 1997. Avian brood parasitism. In D. H. Clayton and J. Moore (eds.), Host-parasite evolution: General principles and avian models, 338–369. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Picture References

1 - http://38.media.tumblr.com/31dd87020d6716549a782b1b10dc1e78/tumblr_n4faqtcWgc1sq1114o1_1280.jpg

2 - https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2894/11402471003_02c92ea8ca_m.jpg

3 - http://cdn1.arkive.org/media/21/212DF60A-C670-4825-8166-16D1B00B0C59/Presentation.Large/Reed-warbler-feeds-cuckoo-chick-in-nest.jpg

And as seen that is the nefarious Neon Cuckoo Bee and its cloak and dagger skill. Next issue we have @knightsofdarkness2 selection of species, but until then remember to comment, drop a suggestion of a creature to cover and check out the Bestiary of Past Issues

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

58 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #30 - Peacock Mantis Shrimp

“There comes a moment in every ecologist’s life when we see what they are made of, to see how they perform under literal fire” - Me, like twenty seconds ago when looking for a way to open this.

Turns out as sure as this is Issue #30, that when shot at I cowardly drive away, oh the shame. Maybe last weeks animal, the Yellow Tailed Scorpion would have done the same but this weeks animal, chosen by @darthaznable has a bullet infused punch and a pugnacious attitude to match

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Issue #30 Peacock Mantis Shrimp

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Arthropoda

Class – Malacastraca

Order – Stomatopoda

Family – Odontodactylidae

Genus – Odontodactylus

Species – scyllarus

Related Species - Despite being known as a ‘shrimp’ the Peacock Mantis Shrimp is part of an unrelated family known as the Stomatopods(1)

Range - The Peacock Mantis Shrimp can be found from off the coast of Indonesia and Guam to the Eastern shores of tropical and subtropical Africa.

Eyes of a Rainbow, Fist of a Bullet

[2]

The Peacock Mantis Shrimp is one of the larger stomatopods, growing from 3 to 18cm in length and possessing a bright green carapace decorated with black leopard like spots along the flanks, and orange legs. The most obvious feature of any stomatopods is the eyes, which are some of the most advanced in the animal kingdom. Mounted on turrets, the eye is split into two large hemispheres with a thin strip down the meridian, giving the mantis shrimp ‘trinocular’ vision to aid in hunting. Along the eye are six strips of photoreceptors which allow it to see polarised light, as well as filter different wave lengths of light, across the UV and Visual range of the electromagnetic spectrum (2).

Its good eyesight helps the Peacock Mantis Shrimp when hunting, especially when it targets fast moving prey. Once locked on the Peacock Mantis Shrimp lashes out with a pair of barbed club like appendages at lightning fast speeds (23m/s from a standing start with an acceleration of over 10,000g) and hits the prey with a force of around 1000 newtons. If for some reason the Mantis Shrimp misses it needn’t punch tight, the acceleration of its strike creates a super-cavitation bubble of air that explodes when released, often stunning or even killing the prey (3).

The Peacock Mantis Shrimp, like other stomatopods, is highly territorial and will defend its home burrow from intruders. When meeting a rival mantis shrimp, the owner of the burrow fluoresces in attempt to deter the intruder, but if evenly matched will engage in ritualised fighting. Stomatopods who regularly engage each other will remember their neighbours from their scent and visual signs when they meet.

[3]

Five Fun Peacock Mantis Shrimp Facts

If one type of Mantis Shrimp wasn’t bad enough, a second type, with a spear like raptorial limb exists. Like their club clawed relatives they also create a super cavitation bubble when striking.

While all stomatopods have good vision the Peacock Mantis Shrimp takes it even further. It is one (of two) species that can see circular polarised light, that aids in targeting.

The bubble created by the strike can become so hot on detonation that is produces sonoluminescence. The unrelated Pistol Shrimps (Family - Alpheidae) also creates this effect when snapping its claws

The combination of good eyesight and deadly strikes make the Peacock Mantis Shrimp unsuitable for keeping in aquariums. The species regularly attacks its reflection and can crack glass with a single strike.

Despite the ferocity of their attacks the clubs of the Peacock Mantis Shrimp never shatter thanks to an organic ceramic called Hydroxyapatite. Scientists are currently trying to create a synthetic version to create stronger mining equipment and vehicle armour(4)

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - David Cowles, Jaclyn R. Van Dolson, Lisa R. Hainey & Dallas M. Dick (2006). "The use of different eye regions in the mantis shrimp Hemisquilla californiensis Stephenson, 1967 (Crustacea: Stomatopoda) for detecting objects". Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 330 (2): 528–534

3 - S. N. Patek & R. L. Caldwell (2005). "Extreme impact and cavitation forces of a biological hammer: strike forces of the peacock mantis shrimp". Journal of Experimental Biology 208(19): 3655–3664

4 - Sarah Everts (2012). "How a peacock shrimp packs a punch: layered structure is behind animal's resilient club". Chemical & Engineering News 90

Picture References

1 - http://4.bp.blogspot.com/--CO9FUnTquE/T7nvf52gH7I/AAAAAAAACHI/XI70HwdxIFc/s1600/ishot-1205202343421.jpg

2 - http://www.chicagonow.com/greenamajigger/files/2013/04/tumblr_l8rt66nw331qzs4d0o1_500.jpg

3 - http://pix.avaxnews.com/avaxnews/f2/b1/0000b1f2_medium.jpeg

And that is the pure power behind the Peacock Mantis Shrimp. Next issue we get all abuzz about the selection of @dboyrules2011, but until then remember to comment, drop a suggestion of a creature to cover and check out the Bestiary of Past Issues

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

49 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #29 - Yellow Tailed Scorpion

What Issue #29, time sure does fly you're a) having fun or b) relegated to using public transport. Last week the prancing Patas Monkey was in the spotlight. This week we have a request from @scorpion2501, the clue to this issue is in the name, need I say more.

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Issue #29 - Yellow Tailed Scorpion

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Arthropoda

Class – Arachnida

Order – Scorpiones

Family – Euscorpidae

Genus – Euscorpius

Species – flavicus

Related Species - The Yellow Tailed Scorpion is one of 19 species within the genus Euscorpius (1)

Range - Yellow Tailed Scorpions are naturally found in Southern Europe and North Africa. In addition introduced populations can be found in countries as far apart as Uruguay and the United Kingdom

Friendly Neighbourhood Scorpion

Yellow Tailed Scorpions are small black scorpions that reach a length of four centimetres and can be distinguished by its yellow stinger tip. Like other members of the genus Euscorpius, the Yellow Tailed Scorpion is described as a fossorial species, meaning that it prefers to live in burrows or under stones rather than out in the open (2). Like other scorpions it has poor vision, relying instead on vibrations detected through its feet and sensory hairs on the claws to navigate.

Common Wall Lizard (Podacius murallis) feeding on Yellow Tailed Scorpion [2]

Largely insectivorous, the Yellow Tailed Scorpion will hunt and consume any prey item it can overpower with its large claws or the venom pumped from the stinger on its tail. Despite being a skilled predator Yellow Tailed Scorpions are prey for larger animals such as lizards, rodents and amphibians as well as larger scorpions. The venom itself is designed to immobilise insects and has little effect on larger mammals, with the effects being described as being akin to a bee sting. After factoring in the species placid nature and reluctance to sting in defence, the species is not considered a major health risk within its range.

Scorpion reproduction is a complex affair; first the male will catch a prey item and present it to the female. If she accepts he will sting her while she eats, with the venom making her placid and easier to manipulate. With claws locked the male ‘waltzes’ her over to a packet of sperm deposited earlier by the male until she is fertilized. After that he leaves, with the female giving birth to around thirty live young over a year later (3). The female will protect the young and even carry them on her back until their first moult, upon which time the juveniles instinctively leave to find territories of their own.

Five Fun Yellow Tailed Scorpion Facts

Like all Scorpions, when exposed to UV light the Yellow Tailed Scorpion glows green

[3]

While still relatively unknown, the British population of Yellow Tailed Scorpions is thought to have arrived from Italy around 200 years ago

Despite being an alien species, the Yellow Tailed Scorpion is not considered invasive outside its natural range, with calls by some in the UK to protect them (4)

On average the Yellow Tailed Scorpion will eat five meals a year due to its slow metabolism

In general Scorpions with larger pincers and thin tails are generally less venomous then those with smaller pincers and fat tails. Despite this it is not advised to pick up any scorpions you find.

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - http://www.amentsoc.org/insects/glossary/terms/fossorial

3 - Benton, T.G. (1993). Courtship behaviour of the scorpion, Euscorpius flavicaudis. Bull. Br. arachnol. Soc., vol. 9 (5), pp. 137-141

4 - http://animalwrites.hubpages.com/hub/UK-Invasive-Species-Spiders-Scorpions-and-Slugs

Picture References

1 - http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Ph2Pa8yAGxA/TxWPoM_JksI/AAAAAAAABzE/I-XYfBqi0qg/s1600/Scorpion.jpg

2 - http://cdn1.arkive.org/media/0A/0A85D270-529C-42DA-87F5-DA26BA082D90/Presentation.Large/Common-wall-lizard-feeding-on-a-yellow-tailed-scorpion-Euscorpius-flavicaudis.jpg

3 - https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5175/5418365026_28c9c101db.jpg

Thanks for reading guys; I hope you enjoyed the exploration into the Yellow Tailed Scorpion. Next week the request of @darthaznable is addressed with the ever patient @dboyrules2011 animal the week after. As usual drop off some comments and check out past issues in Impurest’s Bestiary.

50 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #28 - Patas Monkey

Well it’s Issue 28 and we've finally got to the requests once again. Last week the Red Legged Seriema AKA Nemesis Bird to Laflux stalked into the spotlight. This week we have a request from said @laflux as we head to the African Savannah for the first time in Impurest’s Guide to Animals

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Issue #28 - Patas Monkey

[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Chordata

Class – Mammalia

Order – Primates

Family – Cercopithecidae

Genus – Erythocebus

Species – patas

Related Species - The Patas Monkey is the only member of the genus Erythocebus although recent genetic studies suggest it might be closely related to the Vervet Monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) (1)

Range

[2]

The Military Monkey

Patas Monkeys are red furred large ground dwelling monkeys that live in large single sex groups (except during the breeding season) of up to sixty individuals. Throughout their range the Patas Monkey’s inhabits open territory such as mountain steppe and wooded savannah, and as such have evolved for a life on the ground. This is evident when the species runs, with males reaching a top recorded speed of 35mph, making them the fastest running primate species in the world.

[3]

Despite their size Patas Monkey’s feed primarily on seeds, tubers, fruit and tree gum although they will eat insects and small vertebrates as well (2). Due to group structure, adult males often spot danger first and act as decoys to confuse predators while the females and infants escape. Natural enemies include Leopards (Panthera paradus), both the Crowned (Stephanoaetus coronatus) and Martial Eagles (Polemaetus bellicosus) and Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) although all three groups have more preferred, easier to catch prey species. Against smaller predators the Males band together and will chase or even kill the attacker if it is unable to escape them.

During the breeding season Female Patas Monkey tribes invite males temporarily into the group. Once breeding is complete the males reform their bachelor groups on the edge of the larger female tribe but have little contact with their mates after that. The facial markings of the female Patas Monkey changes when she is pregnant, loosing the dark marks and becoming much paler. Young males leave the maternal group at the age of four, although unlike other primates this isn't associated with an increase of aggressive behaviour (3).

[4]

Five Fun Patas Monkey Facts

The word Patas means Animal Leg in Spannish, with the name referring to the long legs of this particular species of monkey

Patas Monkeys are known as Military Monkeys due to their similar appearance to Colonial British Redcoat Soldiers

Patas Monkeys have a range of different alarm calls to warn members of their tribe of different predators

When excited the Patas Monkey jumps up and down earning it the nickname ‘the Jumping Monkey’

Patas Monkey’s will never sleep in the same place twice, the females are nomadic with the matriarch leading her tribe of females and infants around and a screen of defensive males following them as protection

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - Isbell, L.A. (1998). "Diet for a small primate: insectivory and gummivory in the (large) patas monkey (Erythrocebus patas)". American Journal of Primatology 45 (4): 381–98

3 - Hall, K. R. L. (July 8, 1965). "Behaviour and ecology of the wild Patas monkey, Erythrocebus patas, in Uganda". Journal of Zoology (The Zoological Society of London) 148 (1):

Picture References

1 - https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5238/5831967496_fa81db8c60_z.jpg

2 - http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/fs/sheets/maps/erythrocebus_patas_range_large.gif

3 - http://cdn1.arkive.org/media/4B/4BB75A3B-6C05-4EE8-A76F-1F4485785BC3/Presentation.Large/Patas-monkey-feeding-on-acacia-seeds.jpg

4 - http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/fs/sheets/images/390med.jpg

Thanks for reading guys; I hope you enjoyed the exploration into the perplexing Patas Monkey. Next week we have a request from @scorpion2501 with those of @darthaznable and @dboyrules2011 in the following fortnight. As usual drop off some comments and check out past issues in Impurest’s Bestiary.

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

44 Comments

Impurest's Guide to Animals #27 - Red Legged Seriema

Well it's that time of the week again, that time being the release of Issue #27 of Impurest's Guide to Animals. Last week the Daggernose Shark darted into the spotlight and showcased the threats to endangered sharks and rays. This week we 'monkey around' with @laflux and his inner psyche.

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Issue #27 - Red Legged Seriema

[1]

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Cordata

Class - Aves

Order - Cariamae

Family - Cariamidae

Genus - Cariama

Species - cristata

Related Species - The Red Legged Seriema is one of two extant species found in the Order Cariamidae, the other being the Black Legged Seriema (Chunga burmeistri) (1)

Range

The Raptor's Revenge

The Red Legged Seriema is a large bird, standing just under a meter in height and around a kilo in weight, covered in light brown feathers and standing on long red scaled legs. On the head is a forward facing crest of feathers, used by males in sexual displays. While able to fly, the Seriema prefers to move on the ground, and when running can reach speeds of up to 25mph (2). The species nests in trees, with the adults preferring to leap from branch to branch to reach their roost

Seriemas are small game predators hunting small mammals, birds, reptiles and large invertebrates. Prey is run down on foot and ripped apart with the bird's retractable sickle claw on the second toe. Seriemas are particularly fond of snakes and kill them by slamming them against a hard surface until their bones shatter. In addition to catching prey the sickle claw is used in brutal interspecies combat over territory.

[3]

Adult Seriema live in pairs and will loudly defend their territory with a crescendo of loud barking calls (2). On average female Seriemas lay three eggs and incubate them for a month before they hatch. The young stay with the adults for four months before leaving to establish their own home ranges.

[4]

Five Fun Red Legged Seriema Facts

The word Seriema comes from the Tupi word for 'Crested', in reference to the comb of feathers on the males head

The family has much older ancestry however, Seriemas are the closest living relatives of the Phorusrachidae, a group of extinct fast running predatory birds (3)

Seriemas are devout sunbathers, often lying on their sides. The reason why they do this is unknown

In their native Brazil some farmers keep the birds next to domestic chickens. The loud call of the bird and it's aggressive nature make them excellent guard beasts against foxes

Seriemas are one of the few birds to have eyelashes (4)

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - Redford, Kent H. & Peters, Gustav (1986). "Notes on the biology and song of the Red-legged Seriema (Cariama cristata)". Journal of Field Ornithology 57 (4): 261–269.

3 - Naish, Darren (2006-10-27). "Terror birds". Darren Naish: Tetrapod Zoology.

4 - http://www.woburnsafari.co.uk/discover/meet-the-animals/birds/red-legged-seriema/

Picture References

1 - http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-1AksgogYjPQ/UeFAlOpnw3I/AAAAAAAAGuI/etwbK3nUkdA/s1600/DSC_0298.JPG

2 - http://www.birdphotos.com/infonaturamaps/cariama_cristata.gif

3 - http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-qGtyEfMIRW8/UVtv6xkwm2I/AAAAAAAAASU/59EB8frjSUM/s1600/seriamanail.jpg

4 - http://www.woburnsafari.co.uk/media/160993/kevin-the-seriema_2-1.jpg?width=920&height=460&mode=crop

And that is it. I hope you enjoyed this issue of Impurest's Guide to Animals and the snake killing Seriema. Next week we get on to the requests starting with @laflux (for reals) and moving on to @scorpion2501, @darthaznable amd @dboyrules201n. And remember to check out past Issues with Impurest's Bestiary.

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

29 Comments