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Please Help Keep Ark in Space Online!

Saturday, 21 July 2018

You may or may not know this but Ark in Space is curated by just one person – and that person would be me! There are a number of expenses that the site incurs each month and so, with my cap in my hand, I’m going to beg a favor.

If you enjoy Ark in Space, please consider helping out with the cost of running the site.  As you can guess, it takes a lot of time and effort, too!

Below this post you will see a button which will enable you to make a contribution safely and securely. You can give as little or as much as you like – I’m not going to limit your choices! Anything will be gratefully received and will help to ensure that I can carry on bringing you all the great features, photographs and videos about the natural world that makes the site what it is.

So, if you read or watch something that you have really enjoyed, please think about sending us a small donation. Thanks!

Best regards

Robert-John


PS: The donation page is set to US dollars as that is where we get most of our traffic from. So, if you are outside the USA please remember to calculate the amount from your currency first!

Image Credit

The Mermaid’s Necklace: The Amazing Shell Cases of the Whelk

In centuries gone by beachcombers would come across this strange sight – a paper-thin chain of circular capsules – seemingly abandoned on the shore.  The chances are that they knew exactly what they were but we can imagine that one fisherman, perhaps to entrance the girl he was courting, hit on a romantic name for this definitively non-ovate leftover; the mermaid’s necklace.  The name stuck – of course it would, it allows a wonderful jump of the imagination. We can only guess how many stories were woven around them and told to starry-eyed children. Did they know that they were looking at the egg cases of the very creature they had enjoyed for dinner on numerous occasions?

Image Credit Wikimedia

Land of the Strays


There are around two million dogs living on the streets of Costa Rica.  By any standards that is something of an issue but what to do in the face of such overwhelming numbers?  Lya Battle decided that she would start to look after some strays and soon there were too many to fit in her suburban home.  Fortunately her grandfather had left her a farm which she then turned in to a sanctuary.  Now over 1,000 dogs call it their own. As you can imagine, feeding time is probably the most complicated part of looking after so many dogs! Land of the Strays is a wonderful, warm-hearted short documentary directed and produced by Adrian Cicerone.

Fix and Release: Helping Canada’s Freshwater Turtles

Thursday, 19 July 2018


For two hundred million years they did their own thing.  Then we came along. Dr Sue Cartsairs runs a small turtle trauma center in Ontario.  Often the turtles have been run over by vehicles and it is the job of her center to try and even the odds for survival for the turtles in this day and age.  In other words, to fix and release them.  As Dr Carstairs points out many of these turtles are over a hundred years old and as such deserve the chance to get back to the water and continue living their long, long lives. As well as a great insight in to practical not to mention pragmatic conservation, Fix and Release (by Scott Dobson) is visually very beautiful.

For me the most amazing part of the film was seeing the eggs being taken out of a turtle which had not survived its injuries.  Once extracted the eggs were placed very carefully in a box and then left to incubate and hatch.  Then they are released in to the wild (turtles are born independent). Amazing. If you would like to find out more about how to help Ontario’s fresh turtles then click here.

Blood Island: The Freed Chimps of Liberia

Sunday, 15 July 2018


In the 1970s the New York Blood Center conducted experiments on chimps in Liberia.  Many were infected with diseases like hepatitis and so when the experiments ended the chimps could not be released back in to captivity.  Instead they were taken to a group of inland islands to live out their lives there.  Yet the money was cut off, leaving the chimps to starve.

Blood Island is the story of how this dreadful situation was turned around – although as you will see the solution does not extend to the length of life a chimpanzee might enjoy.  At the center of this story of the chimps, however, is one of redemption for one of their former captors.   Produced, edited and filmed by Lindsey Parietti, Blood Island is testimony to both our inhumanity to our fellow creatures and also our resolve to help them.

Birds of Oostvaardersplassen


Are you in need of a few moments of relaxation? Then look no further. Oostvaardersplassen in the Netherlands covers about 56 square kilometers and, surprisingly, did not exist until the polder was created in 1968.  Amazingly it is now internationally important as a waterfowl habitat.  Benfilm visited this amazing place in May of 2018 and this beautiful, peaceful and relaxing video footage is the result.  Go and get a cup of something to sip while you reflect on the beauty we still have in this world…

Why Cats Like Boxes So Much

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Cats like to hide.  That is because they employ something called crypsis to keep themselves safe and sound.  A cryptic animal, like a cat, uses its anatomy and behavior to hide from anything which might predate them. It is different from camouflage as this can also be employed by predators and is used by many animals, including big cats, to more effectively attack prey.  A house cat uses its natural flexibility to hide in places a predator might not consider. A box is just that. Inside it, a cat feels invisible, and that is exactly how he likes to feel.

Perhaps these exceptions don't quite prove the rule, but let's go with it.

The Dead Leaf Butterfly - Camouflage King of the Asian Tropics

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Although the title of this article has already given the game away, take a close look at the ‘leaf’ above.  Dead and withered, its dark veins still stretch across the parchment thin remains of its once emerald resplendence. Yet a closer look reveals a head, eyes and legs.  This isn’t at all what it appears to be – and that is exactly how nature intended.

Image Credit Wikimedia
This incredible butterfly can be found – if you look hard enough – from India to Japan; anywhere in the Asian tropics.  Its taxonomic name is Kallima inachus but it is also known as the orange oakleaf or Indian oakleaf. Unsurprisingly, its most common name is the dead leaf butterfly.  This disguise (mimesis) is intended to confound predators – you can’t eat what you can’t see. Yet just wait and see what appears once it opens its wings…

The Incredible Glasswing Butterfly

Sunday, 17 June 2018

A butterfly with transparent wings? Surely not. Yet there is a species that exhibits this trait. Take a close look at the incredible Glasswing, an enchanting species that confounds science.

Alien Nations: Up Close and Impersonal with Insects and Spiders

Sunday, 10 June 2018

It is little wonder that many movie monster makers look to the alien world of insects for their inspiration. Here, with the aid of some amazing macrophotography, get up close and impersonal with some strange species that might not look too out of place in a sci-fi movie.

There are around ninety species of beetle backed flies – and this is one of them. Native to Asia and Africa they do are small sized insects but with macrophotography they do not look quite so small. The reason for its swollen appearance is not because it is about to lay eggs (or has just ingested something larger than itself which is enough to start off a gag reflex, possibly). Rather it has an enlarged scutellum. This is the triangular plate behind its pronotum, which is one of the three parts that makes up its thorax. Its wings are behind the scutellum.

The Poitou - The Donkey with Dreadlocks

Sunday, 3 June 2018

A look at the Poitou donkey from South West France. 

Only thirty years ago, less than thirty of these beautiful and friendly animals were left. 

Now, thanks to a conservation programme, it looks as if the dreadlocked donkey is set to stay awhile on Planet Earth.

The Bat-Eared Fox – Did You Ever See a Fox Fly?

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Around 800,000 years ago a species developed on the African Savannah, a canid but quite unlike any other. It was small – with a head and body length of only around 55 cm, tawny furred and with black ears. It is the ears which really make this mostly nocturnal animal stand out.  On average they are a staggering 14 centimeters in length.  Proportionally they may not be as large as Dumbo’s but this is no fictional appendage. These ears are for real.

The Frog that Turns Blue

Saturday, 19 May 2018

The Moor Frog is a small and rather unprepossessing amphibian. They grow up to seven centimeters in length and are a reddish-brown color. However, all that changes once a year between March and June. It is then that the male of the species turns blue.

Here you can see the ‘before’ and ‘after’ colors of the male.

The Spiders That Decorate Their Own Webs

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Spider webs – possibly the most beautiful and intricate animal structures of the natural world. However, some spiders are not content with a simple web. They go one step further.

Some spiders decorate their own webs with even more elaborate and complex patterns than are necessary.  Could they be the best exterior designers on the planet?  Certainly from the look of these examples, they would be in the competition but the verdict is still out as to why they produce these extra web configurations.  Some scientists argue that it is nothing more than ’spidey’ aesthetics.  Take a look at some of these arachnid designs and come to your own conclusions.

Pink Dolphins on Parade

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Dumbo famously featured pink elephants, but did you know that there was a pink dolphin? In their wild habitat of the Amazon River they are quite happy to meet and greet those willing to forego a few fish for the pleasure of their company.

Also known as the Amazon River Dolphin this friendly and gregarious species is found not only in the river from which it gets one of its names.

It can also be seen in the Orinoco and the Araguaia Rivers – in fact its range covers six South American countries.

The Story of the Mountain Pine Beetle

Sunday, 29 April 2018


This is the story of a tiny insect smaller than a grain of rice – in a way it’s the circle of life writ very, very small. A native of North America, the species has recently been having something of a feast and the mountain pine beetle has reproduced to plague proportions. They have now killed most of the mature pine trees in an area the size of Wyoming.  The people at the Ruckelshaus Institute guide us through the story and the possible future of the mountain pine beetle.

You Don't Bring Me Flowers Anymore

Saturday, 28 April 2018

This alligator in Florida was captured on camera by Flickr user Marc Barrison.  While we should really - at all costs - avoid anthropomorphism, when you see a picture of an alligator with flowers on its head its is really hard to resist the temptation.  It might be hard to take an apex predator seriously with such a pretty bonnet but I would imagine that if it chose to lunge - flowers or no - we might not be the ones having the last laugh!

The Sand Cat – Desert Cat Extraordinaire

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Don’t be fooled by the off the scale cuteness quotient. This is the Sand Cat – or Felis margarita, a little known species of desert cat. In the wild it lives in areas that are too hot and dry for any other cat- the deserts of Africa and Asia, including the Sahara. It is the only desert species of cat known to us. As such, this cat is one tough cookie.

It also lives in the Arabian desert and those of Iran and Pakistan, yet despite being so widespread it was not described by a European until 1858. That happened to be one Victor Loche, a French soldier and naturalist who explored the Northern Sahara and found the sand cat waiting patiently there for his descriptive skills.

The Hellbender: Giant Salamander of the United States

Friday, 6 April 2018

When you think about where giant salamanders come from, most people would normally associate them with China and Japan.  Yet while it is true that almost all members of the giant salamander family, the Cryptobranchidae, originate in Asia there is one species which calls the eastern United States its home.  It is Cryptobranchus alleganiensis, known otherwise and popularly as the hellbender.

Why this giant salamander, which can grow up to 30 inches in length, acquired this name is lost to history.  Some say it is because of its strange looks which bewildered early European settlers who imagined that it was a creature from the underworld, bent on returning there.  While this is hardly fair, it is not its only unflattering moniker: it also goes by the names mud-devil, devil-dog and more recently, the snotty otter.  The first name, as we shall see is the most inaccurate: the hellbender doesn’t like mud one little bit.

The Desert Rain Frog: The Frog That Squeaks

Saturday, 10 March 2018


Meanwhile, over in Africa, a critically endangered species of frog has caught the world’s attention.  Endemic to just a 10 kilometer stretch between the countries of South Africa and Namibia, this small amphibian does not croak or rivvit – it squeaks.  Play the video above to see for yourself.  It sounds just like one of those squeaky toys you might give a dog to play with.

Squeaking aside for the moment, the Latin name for the desert rain frog is Berviceps macrops and it lives on a narrow strip of sandy shore between the sea and the dunes.  It lives mostly under the ground but when the fog drifts in from the ocean it takes to the surface and emits its war cry.  This may be enough to frighten off others of its species but it has become a long-lived meme on the internet.


Fortunately, it’s unlikely that many will venture to its sandy habitat to steal specimens.  Yet its environment is threatened both by industry and encroaching human populations.  It is difficult to find as it is nocturnal – even though it leaves behind it very distinctive ‘foot’ prints. These are usually discovered around heaps of animal dung – the frog is thought to live off the small insects which congregate around this matter.

It seems it is the misty air which keeps the frog’s skin moist – the areas where it is found get over 100 foggy days each year.  There are no pools for tadpoles, however; the young are laid under the ground and emerge at the surface as fully-formed if tiny desert rain frogs.  When they are seen above ground, they often have sand stuck to their skin.

Perhaps that’s why they get so angry.  It isn’t known really whether this is a warning, a mating song or something else.  One can only hope that the desert rain frog continues to squeak its way through the millennia despite our best efforts to destroy its habitat.

Amung Feedjit