The naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber) is a rodent, known for its burrowing and is indigenous to East Africa. The mole rat possesses a number of characteristics which allow it to survive in underground and harsh environments. The average naked mole rat is between 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 centimeters) in length and weighs between 1.1 and 1.2 ounces (30 to 35 grams). They have small eyes, poor sight, and have legs that are quite short and thin. They are also able to move backward and forward at the same quick pace and have large teeth that allow them to dip. The term "naked" comes from the fact that they have very little hair and gray-pink skin. The species is highly adapted to situations in which oxygen is limited within tunnels of their habitat. The lungs are small and their blood is greatly able to bond oxygen. They have very low metabolic and respiration rates. During periods of drought and hunger, the metabolic can decrease further to about 25% of its normal level. The naked mole rat lives predominantly in the dry tropical grasslands in East Africa with large concentrations being concentrated in Somalia, Kenya, and southern Ethiopia. Groups of around 80 individual mole rats (although it can be as few as 20 and as many as 200) live within a complex burrowing system within the African desert. These tunnel systems can be quite long, between two to three miles in length. There is a complex hierarchical structure where one queen and between 1 and 3 males reproduce, the other naked mole rats are workers and sterile. Dimorphism exists between the males, two forms of workers (tunnel digging/gathering and soldiers), and the breeding males. The breeding males and the queen can keep up their relationship for several years. The queens can live for a period of between 13 and 18 years and are quite hostile towards other females. Upon the death of the queen, another female will become queen in her place. The naked mole rat mostly eats large tubers that they find underground during their mining exhibitions. However, they are also known for eating their own fecal matter. One tuber, depending upon its size, can feed a colony for several months or years as they only eat the inside of the tuber. They leave the outer parts so that the tuber is able to regenerate. Naked mole rats are currently not a threatened species. Although their living conditions are tough, they are a widespread species. Naked mole rats help in cancer research, because they never get cancer (read here).
The Northern Pudu (Pudu mephistophiles) is the world's smallest deer. This little inhabitant of the Andes Mountains weighs in at only 3 to 6 kg, or 7 to 13 pounds. The Northern Pudu lives and plays across Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru. They prefer to stay in the higher elevations of the Andes Mountain range. Most of them live at least 2000 meters above sea level. The climate here is a temperate rainforest, with a wet winter and arid summer. What Do They Look Like? These little deer have a stocky body and slim legs. They average 32 - 35 cm, or 13 - 14 inches tall. They are approximately 85 cm or 33 inches long. They are slightly larger than a small house dog or a large cat. They have a Southern branch of the family that lives in Chili and Argentina. This species is slightly larger. Their fur is thick, stiff and lays close to the body. They range in color from a reddish brown to a darker brown. The males sport backward curving antlers that do not split. How Do They Survive? The Pudu is a solitary animal interacting socially only to mate. They are nocturnal by nature and thrive on leaves, shrubs, sprouts, blossoms and bark. They do not eat meat. They are adept at climbing, jumping and sprinting which helps them evade predators. They tend to move slowly and purposefully through the lush climate, utilizing dense vegetation to hide. Predators include owls, foxes, and large wild cats. How Many Young Do They Have? Mating season is short, lasting from April to May each year. Once done they return to their solitary existence. The female Pudu carries her young six to seven months. Most mothers have only one baby, but twins do occur with some regularity. Pudu young will stay with their Mommas for between 8 - 12 months before heading out on their own. Most of them have an average lifespan of 8 - 10 years. Why Are They Endangered? The Pudu is listed as vulnerable on the ICUN red list. The main causes of death are disease, loss of habitat, and over hunting. The Pudu is prone to become infected with various types of worms such as the round worm and heart worms. The worms multiply rapidly overcoming their small bodies. Loss of habitat has lead to a decline in mating and death from road accidents. Adding to the problem are hunters. The Pudu is eagerly sought due to the skill needed to track and kill them. Conservationist are working to restore and preserve the habitat for these precious little deer.
The endangered Guatemalan Black Howler (Alouatta pigra) (sometimes called the Yucatan Howler or Yucatan Black Howler) is one of many species of howler monkey, which is what is known as a ‘New World’ monkey. Its range is throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, and includes the areas of Mexico, Belize, and of course Guatemala. The Guatemalan Black Howler prefers to live in very lush areas, mostly sticking to all types of rain forests such as the semi-deciduous, lowland and evergreen. Of its cousins and relatives, the Guatemalan Black Howler is the largest, and is also one of the largest ‘New World’ monkeys (which include marmosets, owl monkeys, sakis, spider, and woolly monkeys). It weighs in at 25 lbs on average in males (11-12 kg) and 14 lbs for the females (6-7 kg). Their fur is usually black and their tails are very long, and prehensile (meaning it can grab and be used to hang from branches with). They also have specialized teeth for their diet of mostly leaves, along with the males possessing a larger hyoid bone located near the vocal chords, which enables their loud calls. The Guatemalan Black is a diurnal howler, which means it is active during the day and it sleeps at night, as well as being arboreal, meaning it dwells in the trees most of its life. They are a social species that lives in groups up to ten members strong, which helps in alerting, foraging, and general upkeep through grooming. Some groups can be as large as sixteen, while larger groups are plausible, however at these sizes it is unlikely to function as well as a smaller group. Their diets consist of mostly leaves, and fruits, however they will snack on a flower here and there and their favorite tree of all is the breadnut, which provides most food during some seasons. Not a particularly active species, the Guatemalan Black Howler would rather lounge about during the day; eating takes up a quarter of the day while moving locations for eating consists of only about a tenth of their daily activity. The rest of the day is devoted to socializing and grooming, with some other random antics. Females are old enough to have offspring by four years of age, while males may take up to eight years to reach maturity, and their total life-spans are an average of twenty years. The Guatemalan Black Howler’s binomial name (its species and genus) is Alouatta pigra, the Alouatta’s as a genus make up most of the Howler Monkeys, which are the largest of the New World Monkeys with but a few possible exceptions. Alouatta is home to all of the howler monkeys (ten species and ten subspecies), and belongs to the subfamily Alouattinae. Alouattinae belongs to the family Atelidae which is one of the four families of New World Monkeys; this includes the howler monkeys, along with spider monkeys, woolly monkeys, wooly spider monkeys, and Yellow-tailed Woolly Monkeys. Atelidae belongs to the Parvorder Platyrrhini, which contains all New World Monkeys, and includes Marmosets and Muriquis. Platyrrhini belongs to the infraorder Simiiformes, or ‘higher primates’, and this includes all New World and Old World monkeys from South America and Africa, and includes gibbons, great apes, and the family Hominidae of which we are members. Simiiformes belongs to the Suborder Haplorrhini, otherwise called dry-nosed primates; this includes all of the higher primates as well as Tarsiers. Haplorrhini belongs to the Order Primates, which is all related apes, monkeys, lorids, galagos, lemurs and human ancestors. Primates are in the class of Mammalia of the phylum Chordata in the Kingdom of Animalia. Fact The Guatemalan Black Howler is sympatric with another species, the Mantled Howler. Sympatric means that they share the same niche and territory, and encounter each other in the wild, they are also closely related. Warning The Guatemalan Black Howler is an Endangered Species, and is close to being classified as Critically Endangered if nothing is done to curb the loss of the species. In the next 30 years the IUCN expects to see a population loss of over 60%, making this species on the more endangered alive today. Major threats are habitat loss, poaching, and capture for use as ‘pets’.
The brown capuchin (Cebus apella) is a clever, little monkey whose range includes a number of South American countries, including Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela, Suriname, Argentina, Guyana, Paraguay and French Guiana, Guyana. Brown capuchins adapt well to a variety of habitats and can be found in the understory and the middle and lower canopy of savannah forests, subtropical and tropical rainforests, as well as mangroves. The brown capuchin monkey, which is also known as the black-capped capuchin and tufted capuchin, has a distinctive cap of black or dark brown fur on top of its head. It also typically has dark sideburns, black tufts of fur above its ears, and dark-colored feet and hands. The monkey's main coloring is a light brown to black, while its stomach and shoulders are a lighter color that the rest of its body. It has a long, dark prehensile tail, which it carries in a tight coil. The monkey's dark cap is said to resemble the cowls worn by the Capuchin monks for whom it is reportedly named. Brown capuchins are small monkeys, typically weighing about 2.64 kg or a little under 6 pounds. Its total body and head length is about 444 mm or about 17.5 inches. Female brown capuchins are usually smaller in size. The tail is about the same length as its body. These little primates are omnivores, which means that they will devour a large variety of items, including fruits, nuts, vegetation, insects, eggs, as well as small vertebrates such as frogs and small mammals. Brown capuchins that live near the water will also eat shells and crabs, and they have been observed using tools such as stones to crack apart these hard-to-open items. Brown capuchins are arboreal, meaning they live, hunt and sleep primarily in trees. This primate is a territorial animal that live in groups of approximately 18 animals that is led by a dominant male. Juvenile males can stay with their troop until they reach sexual maturity, at which time, they will leave to find a new group in which to live. Female brown capuchins normally stay with their family group. Cebus apella does not appear to have a set breeding season and are also polygamous, with females at times mating with more than one male. Brown capuchin females usually give birth to one baby, although they do occasionally have twins. The main predators of brown capuchins are large birds of prey. Humans, however, are an even bigger threat to the monkey, as they not only hunt it for food, but also capture large numbers to sell as pets. In addition, because brown capuchins are very smart, they are often trained for use in movies and television shows. The monkey in the popular "Night at the Museum" movies was a brown capuchin. Habitat degradation and loss is another threat to the brown capuchin’s population Luckily, the brown capuchin is still quite common and widespread in the wild, and it is currently listed as a species of Least Concern on the IUCN’s Red List. Picture of the brown capuchin by Frans de Waal, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.
In the unforgiving, wind-swept Andes Mountains of South America, a fur coat so thick that it repels water is a blessing. Long-tailed chinchillas (Chinchilla lanigera) are blessed with such a plush coat. But that same coat is the cause of their critically endangered status in the wild. They have been hunted so ruthlessly for their fur that they are nearly extinct in the wild. Fortunately, they survive well in captivity and make excellent pets. General Appearance Long-tailed chinchillas, also called Chilean chinchillas or “chins” by pet owners, are rodents more closely related to guinea pigs than to mice. Their foot long (30.48 cm) bodies are very round with comparatively tiny feet and a long, silky tail an additional 5 to 6 inches (12.7 to 15.2 cm) long. Their heads are more rabbit-like than guinea pig-like with pleasantly prominent ears that are rounded at the tips. Despite their chubby appearance, the largest chins only weigh 2 pounds (0.91 kg.) Wild chinchillas sport the same color of fur – a silver grey with pale bellies. But domesticated chinchillas come in a variety of colors, including albino, white (with dark eyes) beige, shades of black and a brown-grey shade called lavender. Chinchillas must bathe in dust because the coat takes such a long time to dry that the animal could catch pneumonia. In the Andes Mountains, rain is rare and so the animals evolved to not rely on it. Behavior In the wild, chinchillas live in small colonies and eat grass, lichens, seeds and occasionally dead insects. Like any other rodent, chinchilla’s front teeth grow continuously throughout their lives in order to accommodate for their hard diet. In captivity, chinchillas need to eat hard foods and be given chew toys so their teeth do not grow too long. After a gestation of around 112 days, chinchilla babies are born fully furred with their eyes open and their teeth grown in. They can soon walk after birth and follow after their parents. Both parents help in their care, but the mother winds up doing most of the work. Babies are weaned when they are two months old. They become sexually mature by the time they are eight months old. Living in small colonies means that there are many eyes working together to look out for predators. The chinchilla’s main form of defense is their speed. Despite their comical appearances, chinchillas can sprint in amazingly quick bursts of speed. They rarely run in a straight line but zig-zag and leap to out-maneuver natural predators such as birds of prey. The Chinchilla Today Long-tailed chinchillas are one of the rarest mammals to be found in the Andean mountains. Hunting them became outlawed by 1918, although poaching does occur. In the early 1900s, 12 chinchillas, nine males and three females, were brought to the United States by an ex-miner named Matthias F. Chapman. All pet chinchillas in North America are descended from 11 of these 12. One chinchilla turned out to be too old to breed. There are chinchilla farms in many countries of the world where these gentle, friendly animals are killed for their pelts. Chinchillas are remarkably long-lived for rodents. Those in captivity have lived as long as 20 years, although the world record holder lived a whopping 26 years. In the wild, their lifespans are considerably shorter but animals living to 15 have been recorded.
The tradition of the Easter bunny originates from West-european cultures, where it is a hare (Lepus europaeus) rather than a rabbit... German protestants had an abundance of eggs because of fasting. "German Protestants wanted to retain the Catholic custom of eating colored eggs for Easter, but did not want to introduce their children to the Catholic rite of fasting. Eggs were forbidden to Catholics during the fast of Lent, which was the reason for the abundance of eggs at Easter time." (source) The Easter bunny / hare would leave eggs for good children. The egg and its symbolism comes from the Romans: "The Romans believed that all life proceeded from an egg, so the egg came to symbolize birth and rebirth. Christians regarded eggs as the seeds of life and attributed them with the symbol of Jesus' resurrection." (source) Hares can run up to 70 kilometers per hour. Around spring, hares change their behavior and can be seen fighting each other, this can be either intermale competition or a female testing a male or rejecting him. Unlike the young of rabbits, the young of hares are born with fur and eyes open and are able to defend themselves quickly Photo by de:User:Fmickan, licensed under GFDL
The Pacific white-sided dolphin or “lag” (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) is a familiar sight to boaters from California to Korea. They regularly leap out of the water and ride the slipstream of boats. Sometimes they leap high and then flop on the water on their sides, as if purposefully making the largest possible splash that they can. Their intense curiosity about boats makes it difficult for scientists to get an accurate number about how many are left in the wild. Pacific white-sided dolphins tend to and from the same boat. Keeping track of which individual dolphin has already investigated a boat is difficult, since the dolphins look alike. Most Pacific white-sided dolphins migrate to colder Artic waters off of Russia, Canada and Alaska in the summer and then heads to tropical waters such as Japan or Korea for the winter. But some pods or family groups stay in one area year-round, off the coast of Baja, California and do not seem to mind the winter migrants. There may also be a permanent population in Japan. These Japanese dolphins are much lighter in color than the migrants. General Appearance Pacific white-sided dolphins are considered small, averaging a mere 7 to 8 feet (2.1 to 2.4 meters) long and weighing in around 300 pounds (150 kg.) Newborn calves average 31 to 37 inches (80 to 95 cm.) They have a much shorter and more bulbous head than the more familiar bottlenose dolphin. They are spectacularly colored with swirls of black, dark grey and silvery grey. Darker swirls are on the back, around the eyes and on the tip of the beak or nose. The dorsal fin is mostly pale grey but edged in a sharply contrasting black or charcoal-grey. Dolphins often rest at the surface of the water where some of their back may be seen. The Pacific white-sided dolphin has a bright horizontal stripe on both sides of its dark body. The belly and underside of the tail and flippers are white. Behavior Pacific white-sided dolphins seem to delight in each other’s company. Pods of 100 animals are more have been reported, even in the twenty-first century. They also seem curious about other species of dolphins and are friendly with the northern right-whale dolphin (Lagenorhynchus borealis.) Small groups of friends of family members may split off to hunt, but these small groups soon reassemble into huge pods. All dolphins are carnivorous. They have rarely been observed feeding, leading some scientists to believe they feed at night and spend the daylight hours socializing, playing and snoozing. They eat squid, salmon, herring, sardines, hake, cod and shrimp. They are thought to be prey for large sharks and killer whales but their main predators are humans. Although many countries ban whaling, Pacific white-sided dolphins are killed by the thousands by both Japanese fisherman and accidentally in nets intended for other species such as cod and squid. Future Speculation With luck, wild Pacific white-sided dolphins can live up to 46. This species has done well in captivity, but needs a huge aquarium in order to remain healthy. Just how many remain in the wild is unknown, although they are currently not listed as an endangered species. However, dolphin meat keeps appearing in black markets, especially in Asia where it is considered a delicacy. But water pollution is an even bigger threat to the Pacific white-sided dolphin than fisherman. Tests done on beached dolphins on California showed that their bodies contained abnormally high levels of the pesticide DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used in coolants for machines.
The long-nosed potoroo (Potorous tridactylus) is a small marsupial that performs a big job for the Australian environment. This small, peculiar-looking marsupial constantly digs at the ground looking for food. In this way, it acts as an earthworm to help till the soil. Australia does not have any earthworms but does have termites and the long-nosed potoroo, which is a lot more physically attractive than a termite. There are four different species of potoroo in Australia. The name is similar to “kangaroo” and the two types of “roos” share many similarities. They both grow their babies or joeys in pouches rather than in a womb. They both hop. But unlike the kangaroo species, potoroos are all in danger of extinction because of habitat loss and falling prey for cats and foxes. These formidable predators were introduced to Australia with the first European colonists. Long-nosed potoroos need areas of thick undergrowth to grow the food they need. These areas are rapidly disappearing. Physical Description The long-nosed potoroo looks like a cross between an elephant shrew and a kangaroo. It has wide forehead that tapers to a long, pointed nose. The tip of the nose is hairless and pink. The body is covered in short fur colored in shades of brown and gray. The forelegs are much shorter than the hind legs but are muscular enough for digging. The long, slim tail is mostly furred. Males and females are hard to tell apart. Males and females grow to a similar size and weight. Adults weigh up to 2.86 pounds (1.3 kilograms.) From nose to rump, adult long-nosed potoroos grow to a length of 14.17 inches (36 centimeters.) This is about as large as a rabbit. The long tail can grow up to 9.05 inches (23 centimeters.) Long-nosed potoroos can use the tail to help balance when they sit up to use their forelegs for eating, digging or hopping. Life Cycle and Behavior Long-nosed potoroos are mostly active at night, although sometimes they come out from their burrows during the day. They prefer to move under cover of long grasses or plants. They create escape routes to underground burrows in these grasses, meticulously removing any debris from these paths that may trip them up as they race away from predators. They feed mostly on fungus, but also on bulbs, roots, seeds and occasionally insects. Males become sexually mature when they about 11 months old. Females need to be between one and 2 years old. They breed year round. After a 38 day gestation, the female gives birth to one or two embryos, which crawl into her pouch, find a teat and remain there for the next four months. Mom turns them out of the pouch when they are 6 months old. In captivity, long-nosed potoroos live up to 7 years. Picture of the long-nosed potoroo by Peripitus, licensed under GFDL and the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
The Hairy-eared Dwarf Lemur (Allocebus trichotis) is a nocturnal primate, the only member of the genus Allocebus of the family Cheirogaleidae. This species is endemic to Madagascar. Hairy-eared Dwarf lemur has been found at the nature reserves of Mananara, Zahamena, and Vohidrazana in Madagascar. This species lives originally in the primary lowland rainforests. The hairy-eared dwarf lemur is one of the smallest primates with a weight of only 80 to 100 g (3 -3.6 oz) and a length of 30 cm. It has a galago-like ear. This could mean that it is, together with other cheirogalieds, more closely related to the galagos and lorises than to the lemurs. This species has a relatively longer tongue than the Microcebus and Cheirogaleus specie. The overall pelage color for Hairy-eared Dwarf lemur is gray. It has a brown tail and a face with a white stripe running from the rostrum or nose to between the eyes as well as dark rings surrounding its eyes. Its ears have tufts of brown while its teeth structure and claws are sharp. It was observed in captivity that males and females tend to groom each other by removing dead skin and parasites before leaving their nest at night. The hairy-eared dwarf lemur leaps frequently among branches of trees, they have been observed to leap more often than members of the genera Cheirogaleus and Microcebus. Although they typically forage and feed alone at night, these lemurs live in social networks with overlapping ranges, and they have occasional contacts mainly based on vocalizations and scent marking during the night. Due to small body size, most vocalizations are relatively high-pitched small-contact, alarm, threat, and range defense. Interestingly, the hairy-eared dwarf lemur is one of the world's rarest mammals. This species was assumed to be extinct because no specimen had been seen from 1875 until 1966. It was rediscovered in 1966 on the east coast of Madagascar near Mananara. In 1989, two live members were found in the same vicinity, south of the Mananara River. As of 1997, it was still known only from eastern Madagascar near Mananara. The status has been changed from Critically Endangered to Endangered in 1996 due to the discovery of new subpopulations. The hairy-eared dwarf lemur is trapped and eaten by local inhabitants. Deforestation of its habitat for agriculture and logging is also another reason why it has decreased in population.
The Island fox (Urocyon littoralis) is also known as the Coast Fox, Channel Island Fox, Insular Gray Fox and Dwarf Fox. About 18,000 years back, the last ice age occurred and the sea level was lower than it is now so that certain animals could traverse the Santa Barbara Channel. A cousin of the grey fox was among these creatures, and when that Ice Age was through, the ice melted, the sea level went up. These foxes got isolated over time, the mainland no longer accessible to them. At present, the Island Fox can be found in some of the biggest islands of the Channel Islands. One thing that is impressive, the Insular Gray Foxes are flexible, they could adapt to various habitats. The Channel Islands holds many kinds of environments: valleys, grasslands, sand dunes, scrub areas, coastal forests, marshlands...you name it. Island Foxes are capable of surviving in all of these mentioned habitats. It is less known than their cousins. Compared to their cousins, they are really smaller. The head/body length is on the average, 50 centimeters, while its tail could reach a maximum of 30 centimeters. Compared to the mainland cousin, the Island Fox's tail holds 2 less vertebrae. Its lips, nose, chin and the eye areas are all set in dark, the neck and some parts of the legs are cinnamon-colored. The young foxes have a lighter and thicker coat. These foxes attain sexual maturity at around ten months, give or take. They would start breeding when they hit the first year, and can become 4 to 6 years, but there have been records of a few reaching fifteen years in captivity. This fox is diurnal and solitary, and it hunts mostly in daytime, but they can also be up and about at nighttime. They are capable of subsisting on both animals and plants. Their diet consists of snails, lizards, mice, prickly pear, saltbush, toyon, and manzanitas. The decrease in their numbers is nothing short of alarming. In 2000, a 95% decrease was recorded in the populace number at 3 Channel Islands, in just a 4-year period. Interesting fact: The Island fox is the second smallest fox in the world, after the fennec