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Monday 30 July 2012 Long-tailed field mouse - Comic of the Forest

Long-tailed field mouseThe long-tailed field mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) is commonly found in the woods, hedgerows and scrub throughout the countryside in Britain and Ireland. It also ranges to Scandinavia to the north, to Ukraine to the east and to the south in north western Africa and on many Mediterranean islands.

It is the cousin to the yellow-necked mouse, but the long-tailed field mouse is smaller and darker. Cats, weasels, stoats, foxes, owls and moles will make a meal of the mouse if they can, but the long-tailed field mouse is a great jumper and climber and not easy to catch. If it is caught by the tip of its tail, it will immediately shed the end of its tail and make its escape. The shed tip may never grow back. On the IUCN Red List of threatened Species it is classified LC (least concern).

Also called the wood mouse, it is mainly nocturnal and will eat a varied omnivorous diet including seeds and nuts when they are plentiful and small insects, snails, spiders and larvae mainly in the spring along with roots, berries and other fruit. It lives underground in burrow systems and has chambers for nesting and storing food. Its nests consist of balls of dry grass, leaves and moss. Sometimes it uses vacated bird’s nests to store food. It lives mainly outdoors in grassland and cultivated fields, but it will live inside a building during an especially harsh winter.

It has a breeding season from February to October which consists of a free-for-all competition between males and females. This results in multiple paternity litters. After 25 or 26 days the litters are born and usually contain five young. They are independent at three weeks and sexually active at two months.

The long-tailed field mouse is larger than a common house mouse measuring 8.1 cm (3.9 inches) to 10.3 cm (4 inches) nose to tail. The tail is 7.1 cm (2.8 inches) to 9. 3 cm (3.6 inches) long. They weigh between 13 grams (.46 ounces) and 27 grams (.95 ounces).

The long tailed field mouse does not hibernate, but it does greatly reduce its physiological activity during sever winter seasons. At night when they are most active they sometimes mark their food hiding places with conspicuous objects such as a bright leaf or large twig. They use these signs as landmarks while they are foraging for food. Basically, they are organized food gatherers, but have scramble competition for copulation.

Picture of the long-tailed field mouse by Rasbak, licensed under GNU Free Documentation License. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Thursday 26 July 2012 The Golden-Bellied Water Rat -Australia's Resilient Rodent

Golden-Bellied Water RatThe Golden-bellied water rat (Hydromys chrysogaster) is another one of the many hidden gems within Australia's wildlife; commonly mistaken for the famed platypus due the fact that they inhabit many of the same waterways and bear a resemblance from a distance, golden-bellied water rats are just as unique and intriguing. Native to Australia, New Guinea, and their surrounding islands, the golden-bellied water rat is a crucial part of the ecosystem with roles as both predator and prey.

The golden-bellied water rat is typically found along the shorelines of ponds, rivers, and lakes in burrows where a mother and pups will live or a single water rat will live alone. The mother weans her young quickly and within about 35 days the pups are fully independent. Golden-bellied water rat burrows are often found along coastlines as well, but they usually stay withing range of a fresh water source; the water rat's burrows commonly have multiple chambers and entrances, and seeking cover in the burrow is its only real defense mechanism against predators like birds of prey and snakes.

The golden-bellied water rat is brown to gray in color with a lighter brown or tan underbelly and a very distinctive broad-based tail that is tipped white. They typically grow to be around 24 inches (60cm) long and can weigh 30 ounces (850g) or more. Water rats live on the land but get all of their food from the water; prey items include aquatic insects, crustaceans, mollusks, frogs, toads, and fish. The golden-bellied water rat has also been known to feed on one of the most toxic amphibians in the world, the ominous cane toad.

The golden-bellied water rat is perfectly suited to its environment with webbed toes on both feet, a long and slender snout, and a strong tail for agility in the water; these animals are said to resemble an otter when swimming and hunting more than a rat. The golden-bellied water rat also has the curious ability to tolerate polluted, clouded, and brackish waterways, giving them an advantage in habitat competition. The water rat is warm-blooded and therefore must contend with potentially dangerous cold spells, and they are also susceptible to hypothermia; another of their adaptations in the form of a layer of special insulating fat helps them combat the winter temperatures when they must still hunt in the frigid water.

The golden-bellied water rat is abundant and thriving and is considered a low risk as far as endangered species watch lists are concerned. Outside of being a great example of animal diversity and a key element in the food chain and ecosystem as a whole, the golden-bellied water rat may also hold potential breakthroughs in medical research due to its tolerance of toxins ingested internally, as with the cane toad, and toxins in the environment like polluted waters.

Picture of the Golden-bellied water rat by Mikeybear, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Tuesday 24 July 2012 Pacific Sleeper Shark - the Silent Killer

Pacific sleeper sharkThe Pacific sleeper shark (Somniosus pacificus), a quiet but deadly predator, lives in deep water, 2000m (6600 ft.), and on the continental shelves in temperate water. It lives in the North Pacific from Japan along the Siberian coast and the Bering Sea. Also, off the coast of southern California, Baja California and Mexico. In the Atlantic they are found off the coast of Uruguay. In Australasia they live from south Tasmania to eastern New Zealand. Usually just lying on the bottom of the sea, they were named sleeper sharks, but they can be very aggressive and never stop moving. This is proven by the content of the stomach of some captured specimens. They eat salmon and sea lions which are fast moving animals.

Pacific sleeper sharks are bottom feeders and prey mainly on fish, Giant Octopus and squid as well as flounders, rockfishes, pollocks, shrimps, hermit crabs and soles. Their diet depends on how big they are. Normally, the males grow to 4.4 meters (14 ft.) and females a bit less but have been seen at 7 meters (23 ft) and weigh from 700 to 800 pounds.

Pacific sleeper sharks swallow their prey whole and usually alive, if they can, and break any pieces too large to swallow with their unusual teeth. The upper teeth are like spikes and the lower teeth are oblique cusps. A 12 ft. female was found with an intact Southern Rightwhale dolphin in her stomach. When food is hard to find they are also scavengers and feed on carrion.

For reproduction, the eggs are retained within the body (ovoviviparous) in a brood chamber in the female until the embryos develop. The embryos are nourished from a yolk sac inside the egg and when they break out of the egg, still inside the mother, they are born soon afterwards. Called pups, there is sometimes 300 in one litter.

Pacific sleeper sharks will not prey on humans and humans cannot eat pacific sleeper sharks without months of preparing the meat. They have a toxin in their flesh that causes the symptoms of drunken behavior in humans. Their liver is also different from other sharks. Because they are deep water fish, the squalene in shark’s liver oil would solidify in the cold depths and make them too heavy to rise. They have compounds in their liver that are low-density and maintain liquidity at very low temperatures. Staying in the dark depths during the day, they come closer to the surface at night.

The IUCN Red List Status DD (data deficient). Other than man, who kills them for poaching on their fishing lines, only other sharks can successfully attack them. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Friday 20 July 2012 Rhim Gazelle - The Desert Nomad

Rhim gazelleThe Rhim gazelle (Gazella leptoceros) has become the species of gazelle that is most adapted to the desert environment. Found throughout the Sahara desert, these gazelle roam around looking for spots of vegetation in order to survive. Throughout the years, they have adapted to live in the harsh desert environment. Their pale coats reflect the rays of the sun to prevent overheating, and their hooves enable them to walk on sand. The Rhim gazelle is often found in the countries of Egypt, Algeria, Chad, Libya, Niger, and Tunisia. They are known for their distinct horns, which in males are very large (30-41 cm / 1-1.3 feet long) and S-shaped. In females, the horns are much smaller, only about 20-38 cm, or 8-15.2 inches in length. These horns have given them the nickname "slender-horned gazelle."

Other key physical characteristics of the Rhim gazelle include its pale color. It is the palest of all of the gazelle species, and it usually has a cream colored or yellow-white coat. This helps to reflect the harsh rays of the desert sun. They also have a faint flank stripe and faint markings on the face. The Rhim gazelle also has reddish stripes that run from the eyes to the nose. Typically, their body length is between 100-110 cm (3.3-3.6 ft) and they weight roughly 20-30 kg (44-66 lb.) by adulthood.

Groups of these gazelles can be found throughout the desert, and are typically composed of two to twenty animals at a time. The Rhim gazelle travels as a nomad, mainly feeding during the early morning or late at night to get the dew off of vegetation. Their diet consists mainly of leaves, grass, and other vegetation that can be found in the desert. They are highly adapted to desert life, and hardly ever need to drink water. Most of their water comes from dew found on grass and leaves in the early morning.

Right now, the Rhim gazelle is considered an endangered species. Their primary natural predators include the cheetah, hyena, lion, leopard, and the Cape hunting dog. The Rhim gazelle has also suffered from a loss of habitat and hunting in recent years. Efforts are being made in national parks to continue the species in a confined habitat until they can be released into their natural environment.

Picture of the rhim gazelle by FisherQueen at the Cincinnati Zoo, licensed under GFDL You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Monday 16 July 2012 The Stonefish-Nature's Quick Change Artist

Stone fishThe Stonefish, (Leptosynanceia asteroblepa) can go from appearing to be a simple, harmless rock lying on the ocean’s floor to a stone-cold killer in a flash, making it one of nature’s most amazing quick-change artists.
Known for being the most venomous fish in the world, the stonefish makes its home in the shallow water among the coral reefs of the Indian and Pacific Oceans off Africa and the Red Sea to Northern Australia. There are an estimated twenty species of stonefish in the family of scorpion fishes, known for their razor-sharp dorsal fin spines which come factory-equipped with a venom so lethal it can kill any human being unfortunate enough to accidentally step on them. The fish has no scales, appears to be a rough stone with a rounded fish body and huge bug-like eyes. It weighs about 5 pounds, or 2400 grams, and can grow to about a foot long, or 30 to 35 cm. It feeds upon other fishes gliding above what they think is nothing but a harmless rock. Many a small fish or shrimp has become a meal for a fish so quick it snaps up its prey in less than a 15th of a second. It gets its name from the mottled grey, reddish-brown and white coloring that makes it look like a rock, another defense mechanism of the stonefish.

Human victims of the stonefish’s venom can’t do much to save themselves with the possible exception of applying heat. The application of heat to the stonefish’s venom renders the toxin somewhat ineffective. But in cases where a simple application of heat won’t save the day, anti-venom is available. Fishermen and others not careful about where they walk will feel the deadly sting of this remarkable animal, and some may not live to tell the tale.

The stonefish is prey to bottom-feeding scavengers like sharks. However, its defense, the row of 13 spines along its back, is quite effective against any fish that may attempt to put its jaws around the stonefish. The venom causes severe pain, paralysis and shock, and, once discharged, takes a few weeks to regenerate itself. During this time. the stonefish is not necessarily rendered helpless, the spines are still painfully sharp and surgically incisive.

The stonefish is not threatened or endangered in any way. Picture of the stonefish above licensed under GFDL

See this animal video how a stone fish catches its prey, did you see the stonefish?

You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Friday 13 July 2012 The Malayan Tapir - One of Nature's Most Primitive Large Mammals

Malayan tapirThe Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus) most closely related to rhinoceroses and horses, lives primarily in parts of Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. It has also been found to inhabit Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Of the four species of tapirs, it is the largest. Its habitat consists of swamps, lowlands, rainforests and hill forests near bodies of water. The diet of Malayan tapirs consists of grass, leaves, twigs, aquatic plants and fruits from low-lying shrubs, with a preference for green shoots.

Malayan tapirs grow 6-8 feet long (1.8 to 2.4 m), are 3-3.5 feet in height (90 to 107 cm) and weigh 550-700 pounds (250 to 320 kg). Females are often larger than males. They are known for their markings, which includes a mostly black body with a large area of white that resembles a saddle. The tips of their ears are also white. These markings help protect the tapir from predators, such as tigers, leopards and humans, as they mistake the tapir for a rock instead of prey. They also have short stubby tails and long noses. Their feet are unique in that the front feet each have four toes, while the back ones each have three. Their eyesight is poor, but they compensate by being able to hear and smell very well.

The Malayan tapir breeding season occurs from April-June. The gestation period is 13 months, with females giving birth to one calf every two years on average. Baby tapirs are born with brown hair and white stripes and spots, which aids in their camouflage. They can live up to 30 years and mature between 3-4 years of age, although they are fully grown by 8 months of age.

Malayan tapirs are primarily, but not always, nocturnal. They often use the same paths to travel in search of food. They are good climbers, often traversing steep slopes and mountains during the rainy season. They are good swimmers. Similar to pigs, they like to bathe and wallow. They are seldom in packs, but are commonly found solitary, except in cases of a mother with its young.

Malayan tapirs were endangered in the 1980s up until 1994. It is now considered vulnerable. The population is decreasing due to overhunting and animal trade. More and more forests are clearing to make room for more agriculture, which results in many Malayan tapirs losing their habitat and dying.

Picture of the Malayan tapir by Sasha Kopf, licensed under GFDL You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Wednesday 11 July 2012 The Snowshoe Hare - Prolific Breeder

Snowshoe hareThe Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus), an exclusively North American Lagomorph, has three to four litters in the breeding season. She can conceive again while she is already pregnant with young because of two uteri. Gestation periods average 37 days; anywhere between two and seven offspring are born. They live under brush at least one meter tall to keep themselves safe from terrestrial threat. In other areas where birds are prevalent they will seek shelter in three-meter forest understory. Fifteen meters of horizontal foliage is required for cover and warmth. Here, the young are nested in a shallow depression called a form, rather than underground. The leverets are born ready to take care of themselves in this precarious environment. They grow 17 to 25 cm in size and approximately .9 to 2 kg in weight. The underbrush also serves as a place for a "Snowshoe" to groom and to feed its young. Their habitat is generally located in the higher latitudes of the continent but if the lower latitudes such as those in Virginia and the Carolinas have the same environmental conditions at the higher elevations, the hares will live there. Preferring coniferous undergrowth in winter and deciduous in the summer, their diet consists of a variety of greenery, buds, twigs, bark and berries.

The lifespan of the Snowshoe Hare living in the wild is one year. About 15 percent of the population survives five years. Every decade or so the population undergoes a dramatic change in number. Factors such as food, cover, disease and predators dictate their number. In lean times, the hares will roam up to eight kilometers in search of food. They will even eat dead mice and their own feces in an effort to obtain sufficient nutrients. The Snowshoe Hare is by no means a threatened species, despite the vast numbers of animals that prey upon it, such as owls and hawks, red and ground squirrels, coyotes and bobcats, just to name a few. When danger is present they will thump a hind foot to alert others. Their ability to leap three meters in a single hop and change direction mid-air can confuse a fox in hot pursuit. Two distinctive coats that serve as camouflage depending on the season, are due to two sets of hair follicles. Still, they must take care to forage only at dusk, just before daybreak, at night and cloudy days. Venturing out on moonlit nights, however is risky. Lepus Americanus is a marvelous example of Nature's careful monitoring of a species, in that the best compensations for its survival are in-born. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Tuesday 10 July 2012 The Sitatunga, Nature's Snorkel Diver

SitatungaThe sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekii) is an antelope native to the swamps of Central Africa. The animal's habitat is mainly in southern Sudan, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but also extends into parts of Botswana, Kenya, Zambia, Uganda, Gabon and Tanzania. Body length is about 115 to 170 centimeters (3.5 to 5 feet) with a shoulder height of 75 to 125 centimeters (2.2 to 4.1 ft.). The animal's tail length is about 30 to 35 centimeters (12 to 14 inches). Weight ranges from about 40 to 120 kilograms (90 to 260 lb.) Males tend to be larger than females.

While there is some variation in coloring, the sitatunga is usually brown with males tending to be darker and females taking more of a reddish hue. Both sexes have white markings on the body and face. Males have a mane and twisted horns which can reach almost a meter in length. The sitatunga has long, splayed hooves which are ideally suited to its habitat, allowing it to walk in swampy conditions without sinking into the mud.

The sitatunga is unusual among antelope species in that it is quite at home in water. In its native habitat the animal is often seen taking to the water to avoid predators, and individuals have been known to sleep underwater with only their nostrils showing above the surface. This type of "snorkel" behavior is an adaptation to the hostile environment in which the sitatunga lives, since water often provides the only refuge from leopards and wild dogs.

The swamp is an abundant source of food, so sitatungas need only small home ranges. They often make feeding pathways through the water plants, eating reeds, bullrushes and sedges. They will also venture out of the swamps and eat grasses, fruits and tree bark in the adjacent forests. They are sometimes active during full day or on moonlit nights, but their time of greatest activity is in twilight (dawn or dusk).

Sitatungas are social to some extent. Females are sometimes seen forming herds, but males often have a solitary lifestyle except at mating season.

Their greatest threat is human activity. In parts of Africa the animal is a vital source of protein to indigenous peoples, but there is also much sport hunting for trophies. The sitatunga's habitat is being constantly reduced as growing human populations convert more of the swamp into agricultural land. Other predators that threaten the sitatunga are pythons, crocodiles, leopards and lions.

Picture of the sitatunga by Ivanhoe, Boekarest Zoo, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Monday 09 July 2012 The Large-Spotted Civet - One of India's Rarest Mammals

Large spotted civetThe large-spotted civet (Viverra megaspila) actually resembles a dog, unlike other civets, which resemble cats with spots and long noses. They are known as one of the rarest animals in the world. The large-spotted civet weighs 18-20 lbs. (8-9 kg) and is 30-33.5 inches (76-85 cms) in length. It has a dull grayish white coat with black spots and vertical stripes. The tail has five white rings, black bands and a black tip.

The large-spotted civet's original habitat was the evergreen rain forests below the Western Ghats and the wooded plains and hill slopes of southwest India, specifically Malabar and Travancore. Many occurrences of large-spotted civets in the past 30 years have been in valleys and cashew plantations. Cashew plantations provide important cover. They are not weeded and are densely populated with grasses and shrubs. It is believed that large-spotted civets are dependent on shallow waters for survival.

Not much is known about the reproduction and behavior of large-spotted civets. Female large-spotted civets average 2-3 babies per litter. They are often found alone, since they are known for being aggressive toward each other. They are nocturnal, hiding in dense cover during the day and foraging for food at night. They have never been seen in trees and seem to forage exclusively on the ground. Their diet consists of small animals, fish, reptiles, eggs and vegetables. Their only known predators are humans, who capture large-spotted civets to obtain musk for use in perfumes. They are also occasionally killed by hunting dogs.

Once very common in southwest India, large-spotted civets are now nearing extinction. There is said to be less than 250 large-spotted civets in existence. They have been considered critically endangered since 1979, but very few efforts have been made to preserve them. In a 1990 study involving India residents living near the habitats of the civets, only 10 percent were aware of its existence, with most of those trappers, hunters and civet breeders. Extensive deforestation in favor of planting rubber trees has contributed to the extinction of civets. Plus, they are known for preying on poultry, so many farmers kill them when they come into contact with them. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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Thursday 05 July 2012 Red-Fronted Gazelle - Beautifully Painted

Red-fronted gazelleThe Red-fronted gazelle (Gazella rufifrons) is a type of gazelle typically found throughout Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia. Their primary habitat is in open areas that include brush and vegetation south of the Sahara. They live in a banded area that begins just south of the Sahara and stretches down to Togo. The Red-fronted gazelle is known for living in open habitats, and can sometimes be found near areas cultivated by humans. Since the Red-fronted gazelle requires more water than most species of gazelle, they must migrate seasonally each year in search of water supplies. During the wet season of the desert, the gazelle migrate north for water. When the dry season begins, they head south to avoid the drought.

The physical features of the Red-fronted gazelle are what make the animal unique. As the name implies, this species of gazelle has a red forehead with distinct cream-colored lines that run from the eyes to the nose. They also possess a white ring around their eyes. These features make the gazelle instantly recognizable. Typically, the Red-fronted gazelle has a body length of 105-120 cm (3.5-4 ft) and a weight of 20-35 kg (44-77 lb).

The diet of the Red-fronted gazelle usually consists of grasses, vegetation, and leaves. For this reason, they can often be found in grasslands and savannas just below the Sahara desert line. They usually live in small groups of two to six gazelle, with numbers rarely reaching higher than fifteen. Reproduction occurs throughout the year, and young animals are kept hidden in order to avoid predators. Males often mark their breeding grounds with dung or scents in order to keep other males away from their territory. Calves are born one at a time after a gestation period of roughly six months.

Unfortunately, the Red-fronted gazelle population is declining. The most common natural predators of the Red-fronted gazelle include the cheetah, the Cape hunting dog, lions, pythons, and hyenas. At the moment, the Red-fronted gazelle is considered to be a vulnerable species, and may already be extinct in some African countries. However, it is not so close to extinction that it is of serious concern. The population of the Red-fronted gazelle is being monitored in order to see if the population will increase or decline in the coming years.

Picture of the Red-fronted gazelle by Andrzej Barabasz, licensed under GFDL. You can help spreading the word about this animal by liking it on facebook

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