…a medium-sized species of hobby (subgenus Hypotriorchis) which breeds from northeastern Africa to the southern Persian Gulf and winters in east Africa and Madagascar. Like other falcons sooty falcons specialize in chasing down and eating small birds, but will take large insects like dragonflies as well.
Vetulicolians were a group of small marine animals best described as “problematic”, known from the Early Cambrian (~518-507 mya) of China, Greenland, Canada, and Australia. They had bulbous but streamlined bodies with a mouth opening at the front, no eyes, a thick exoskeleton-like cuticle, and a segmented swimming tail. Most also had five pairs of openings which may have been gill slits.
Their evolutionary affinities have been uncertain for a long time, and at different points they’ve been classified as arthropods, chordates, kinorhynchs, basal deuterostomes, or even given their own unique phylum. A genus named in 2014, Nesonektris, has been interpreted as having a possible notochord – making vetulicolians chordates, and potentially placing them close to the tunicates – but their exact relationships are still unresolved.
(Skeemella also complicates matters, having some features considered more arthropod-like than other vetulicolians. But since it’s only known from a single specimen, more fossil material is needed to figure out what’s going on with it.)
…a species of seashore (Sygnathidae) which is endemic to the Mediterranean Sea and parts of the North Atlantic, particularly around Italy and the Canary Islands. Recently Colonies of H. hippocampus have been uncovered in the River Thames around London and Southend-on-Sea. Snort-snouted seahorses are typically encountered in shallow muddy waters, estuaries or seagrass beds.
Agnathans are a group of jawless fishes that include Myxini (hagfish) and Petromyzontidae (lampreys). Pictured above are Petromyzontidae, also known as lampreys.
The name “lamprey” is derived from Latin meaning “stone licker.” The most well known lamprey species are a parasitic and feed by boring into the flesh of other fish to suck their blood. However there are a some species of lamprey that non-parasitic.
Status: Critically Endangered; there are 153 as of 2016
Names: Night parrot, owl parrot, tarapo, tarepo
(wild): 23 – 25 in, 58 – 64 cm
(wild): 2 – 9 lb, 0.95 – 4 kg
58 years, but have potential to live into their 90s. Their exact
lifespan is unknown. Researchers in the recovery program will know
when the kakapo hatched in the recovery effort die of old age, which
could be decades from now.
(Above: Historic range; Below: Current range)
Used to live from the far north of the North Island to the south of
the South Island. Now they are only found on offshore islands that
are protected areas without introduced predators. It is not believed
that there are any left on the main land of New Zealand, when the
recovery program began they were all captured from the Fiordland
National Park and brought to protected zones. They currently live on
Codfish Island (Whenua Hau), Little Barrier Island (Hauturu ao Toi),
and Anchor Island.
Formally from sea level to near tops of mountains. They are ground
dwellers who live in forest substrate and scrubland.
They are solitary, gathering only to breed
They do not breed every year, as they will only breed when there is
enough rimu fruit.
starts around December and lasts until April
They engage in
“lek” breeding, which is when the males compete for female
attention. They are the only parrot species and New Zealand bird
species to do this.
inflates like a balloon, and then emits a low boom which can be
heard from up to 5 km away. This lets any females in the area know
that he is ready to mate
After 20 -30
booms, the male emits a high-pitched ‘ching’, which pinpoints his
position, allowing females to find him
and chinging can last for 8 hours nonstop every night for 2-3 months
during breeding season
(Above: Booming Sketch)
female lays 1-4 eggs. They are similar in size to chicken eggs and
will hatch after 30 days. The female raises them by herself, and has
to leave the nest at night to search for food. After 10 weeks, the
fledglings leave the nest, but may still be fed by their mother for
up to 6 months.
The berries of the Rimu plant (see picture) are their favorite food.
They also eat parts of other native plants, including the fruits,
seeds, bark, bulbs, leaves, stems, mosses, ferns, fungi, and roots.
Species include pink pine, stinkwood, Hall’s totara, and mountain
flax. When food species that are important to their diet become
abundant, they feed exclusively on it.
are also fed pellets, freeze-dried and frozen fruit, walnuts, and
pine conelets by the recovery effort.
Dimorphic: Yes, the males are larger
(wild): The upper side of their body is green with random black,
brown, and yellow barring and mottling. Their underparts are a
yellow-green and have irregular yellow and brown barring. The face is
yellow-brown and the beak is grey and smaller in females. The primary
wing feathers are tipped with yellow in males and green and brown in
females. The tail is green and brown with yellow and black barring
They are nocturnal and solitary and roost on the ground or in trees
during the day. When disturbed, they freeze, trying to blend in with
Concerns: They are not equipped
to deal with human intrusion and introduced predators, which caused
their numbers to decline rapidly. By 1970, there were only 18 males
left in Fiordland. In 1977, a small population of both males and
females were found.
Recently there has been an increase in cases of “crusty butt”,
which is a viral infection that causes the cloaca to become inflamed,
and presents like severe dermatitis.
It is still unknown what is
causing the virus and if it is infectious. There has been one death
due to this infection, and treatment, a topical cream, seems to only
help some individuals.
As of now, it is only found on Codfish Island,
and has been since 2002.
It is being taken very seriously and is
being closely monitored, with research being done to learn more about
Captivity: Some young chicks are raised in captivity as part of a
Conservation attempt to save the species. Conservation and recovery
of this species has been going one since 1977, when a population of
both females and males were found on Stewart Island.
They are the largest parrot species in the world (by weight) and
possibly the oldest living bird!
Sirocco, a male
kakapo born March 23, 1997, was raised in captivity due to a illness
that required he be hand raised and quarantined from other kakapo. He
now thinks he’s human and is a conservation ambassador for the kakapo.
proved that kakapo can swim, after deciding to join one of the
rangers’ family who were swimming in the ocean. He jumped off the jetty and paddled around for a bit before going back to shore, completely nonchalant.
He is also the kakapo who made
his species famous after “shagging” Mark Cawardine on the BBC
series “Last Chance to See”.
…the sole member of the family Rhinophrynidae, the Mexican burrowing toad is a species of frog that occurs from south Texas through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. As evidenced by its common name R. dorsalis is fossorial in nature (adapted for digging), spending most of its time underground. After long periods of rain it will emerge from the soil and attempt to lay eggs in a suitable water source. Mexican burrowing toads are primarily insectivorous, feeding mainly on ants, termites, and other insects.
Mola Mola, more commonly known as the ocean sunfish, is the heaviest known bony fish in the world with an average adult weight of 2,200 pounds. Their diet consists mainly of jellyfish. The females produce more eggs than any other known vertebrate and can produce up to 300,000,000 at one time.
…a very small species of elanid kite (Elaninae) which breeds from Panama, Colombia and Venezuela south to Bolivia and northern Argentina, with an isolated population occurring in Nicaragua as well. Its currently expanding its range and was proved to breed in Trinidad 1970, and is now becoming more common along the Pacific slope. Like other small kites, pearl likes feed mainly on lizards, birds, and insects which are usually caught on the ground.
Saw it with the parent so I took the picture from a distance. The parent flew away so I left immediately. They need to come back and take care of the chick. With random people dumping cats in our neighborhood, it’s not safe for this little one. I also just learned that mourning doves are closely related to the extinct passenger pigeon.
Update (May 9, 2017): Okay, now I’m questioning myself. I bought a bird identification book today (well, three) and now I’m not sure if this little gal/guy is a mourning dove or a Eurasian collared dove squab.
Other than the plated scales, tough leathery skin, frilled head, horned skull anatomy and sinuous tail, mythological and folkloric dragons have very little in common anatomically with actual reptiles. They have MORE in common with the Felidae genus (cat family) and the Aves Phylum Chordata (bird classification).
Like a cat’s eye, a dragon’s eye has a comparatively large iris with a vertical pupil. This arrangement allows the pupil to open extremely wide and receive more light than that of a human eye.
A dragon’s legs are also decidedly nonreptilian, despite the scaly coverings. A dragon’s legs are positioned more or less directly under its body, in the manner of mammals. (Most reptiles’ legs tend to splay out to the sides, offering much less support and mobility than a mammal).
Lasly, a dragon’s four feet very closely resemble those of a great bird. Each foot has three or four clawed toes facing forward (the number varies, even among dragons of the same kind), plus an additional toe, also with a claw, set farther back on the foot and facing slightly inward toward the dragon’s body, like a human’s thumb.
A dragon’s resemblance to a reptile is literally only skin deep So the next time someone you know refers to mythical dragons as giant lizards, you’ll have the know-what to save a life.