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The Amazing Gecko: 20 Interesting Facts about the World’s Most Species-Rich Lizard

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The gecko is an extraordinary lizard, a triumph of both adaptation and diversity.  Out of the 5,600 species of lizard on the planet, over 1,500 belong to the gecko infraorder called Gekkota.  So, what is so interesting about a line of lizards which is, apparently, so ubiquitous?  Here are 20 interesting facts about the gecko, as well as some amazing pictures of species that you may not have come across before.

Geckos can vary greatly in length.  The smallest (Jaragua sphaero) is tiny, just under two centimeters in length.  However, some species can grow up to 60 centimeters.  The largest ever discovered, the Kawekaweau from New Zealand, is sadly now extinct.

Above
1. Gold Dust Day Gecko - Phelsuma laticauda laticauda
2. Common Leopard Gecko - Eublepharis macularius

The Horniman Museum Butterfly House

Saturday, 2 September 2017

I have always loved London’s Horniman Museum since my first visit there over twenty years ago.  It’s quirky and I mean that as a compliment. The museum has just opened a charming new addition, building on its reputation for small but wonderful exhibits.  The new permanent Butterfly House, which will be open 362 days per year, is a pleasure to visit and complements the museum’s other features (exhibitions, events and gardens) perfectly.

video
On entry to the exhibit, the member of staff on duty takes care to explain a few simple rules to follow once inside – such as be careful where you walk as butterflies land wherever their fancy takes them and are oblivious to the potential squishing they might get at the hands of careless feet (if you see what I mean!). Moreover, we were gently told that touching the butterflies (and the plants, some of which may cause irritation) was not to happen.  The same rule does not apply to the butterflies, however – during our time in the house there were several landings on heads, shoulders, legs and various other parts of the body. However, if they don’t fly off within a reasonable period of time, a friendly member of staff is always there to give the butterfly some gentle encouragement.

The Mystery of the Orangutan Flange

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Much is known about orangutan physiology and behavior. Yet there is one thing that is still unsolved – the exact reason why some male orangutans develop a flange while others do not. These large cheek pads certainly have their advantages as we shall see - it’s most certainly about dominance and mating with as many females as possible – so why do they only develop in some males and not others?

First things first – the flange is not a physical signal that a male has reached sexual maturity as was once thought – they already have quite a while back. Even though orangutans are among the slowest mammals to reach reproductive age, between 7 and 10 years of age for the male, they are capable of producing offspring at this age. However, it is rare for the male to mate before the age of 15. Females mature at about 5 years of age but like many great apes undergo a period of infertility in their adolescent years which preclude offspring for between 2 and 4 years and will not produce offspring until they too are well in to their teens.

10 Amazing Recently Discovered Facts about Spiders

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Spiders have been studied for centuries.  In Middle English the name for spider was coppe and they built coppewebs, a word still retained in the language as cobweb. Yet despite our familiarity with these enigmatic air-breathing arthropods, scientists are still discovering new facts about them – and not necessarily about newly discovered species either.  Here are ten amazing recently discovered facts about spiders.

10. Electrostatic Webs that Suck in Prey
Image Credit
In 2013 students at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered that the web of the garden spider (or common cross spider) is attracted to charged objects. When a charged object is held next to a garden spider web, its threads arc towards each other. Many insects produce a charge when flying – the honeybee, for example, can generate a charge of up to 200 volts as it moves its wings.  So, if one gets close to a web, the threads arc, effectively sucking the hapless creature in to the web.

Red Squirrels on the Move

Friday, 18 August 2017


Scotland is a stronghold for the red squirrel: its numbers in the UK were decimated by the introduction, around a century ago, of grey squirrels from North America.  Larger and more aggressive, the Americans soon took over most of the red squirrels’ habitat.  Yet in some parts of Scotland there are no squirrels at all – a result of land clearance – squirrels do not travel well when there is no tree cover.  So, Trees for Life have started the process of populating ten sites in the Scottish highlands with red squirrels using members of existing populations and moving them to their new home.  This fascinating short film by the Wild Media Foundation follows the journey of four red squirrels as they become pioneers for their species in a new habitat.

The Bald Eagle Next Door


It may be the national bird, but many Americans go through their entire lives without seeing one.  Not so the residents of Unalaska (in, unsurprisingly enough, Alaska).  It is one of the biggest fishing ports in the world and when the fishing boats return, bald eagles are waiting for them – in their droves.  Great Big Story takes a look at this fascinating bird which is about as opportunistic a feeder as you can get (that means it’s not desperately fussy!).

The Ant With a Door for a Head

Friday, 11 August 2017

Cephalotes is a broad genus of ants.  They are heavily armoured – it makes you wonder just how formidalble they would look if we were the same size. The amazing thing about many of them is the head – used to plug a gap as it were.  Above is an ant of the species Cephalotes varians.

The ants live in trees in the forest areas of the new world tropics and the subtropics.  Some Cephalotes species can even glide back to the tree if they are knocked from it.   Most of them are what is known as polymorphic which means that they have various castes that have a specific use and purpose in the colony. Above is another example of Cephalotes varians, also known as the turtle ant.  We are afraid we cannot tell you for sure why this one has wings - perhaps when a new colony is being formed?

The Trogon: Beautiful Nibblers of the Forest

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Trogon – it sounds like a species of alien out of Star Trek or Doctor Who. However, this family of somewhat overlooked birds has its roots very firmly on planet Earth. If asked to list bird families, where would the Trogonidae be on your list? Chances are, way down or not at all. However, these exquisite birds are well worth a look. Here are ten of the thirty nine species.

The Frogs that Carry Their Tadpoles on Their Backs

Saturday, 5 August 2017

You are probably well aware of the life cycle of most frogs. They lay their eggs in water and when the tadpoles hatch they are on their own with no parental intervention. The lucky few will develop through this larval stage in to frogs. Yet there are a few South American species, such as the Mimic poison frog (above) which do things a little differently. They carry their tadpoles about on their backs.

Happy Baby Pygmy Goats

Friday, 4 August 2017


There is nothing better than having a good feed when you are hungry - and when you are a baby pygmy goat you tend to be hungry most of the time! These six little goats not so gruff indicate their pleasure with a furious wagging of their tales.

What is more the pygmy goat is a friendly little beast even when it is not being fed - and a whole heap of fun in to the bargain. Although they may not immediately spring to mind as the perfect suburban pet as long as you have a mid-sized garden at the back of your house they can make engaging pets.

Unlike their cousin the standard goat, pygmies are kept simply for the fun of having them around and of course, the goat gets to have a lot of fun at the same time. They are not what is known as a utility animal in as much as they are never kept for their milk. Really, how much milk are you going to get out of one of these mini goats anyway? As for their meat – no way! This is the goat that is kept purely as a pet.

Eye to Eye with a Manta Ray

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

The manta ray has fascinated people for centuries. Yet we usually encounter them as they glide magnificently through the oceans.  A luck few will get to see them break the surface and leap in to the air.  For many people, however, the only time they will encounter a manta ray is in an aquarium.  It is then that the inquisitive rays will show their faces, as it were.  The result is quite extraordinary.

However, the physiology of the manta ray (rays in general in fact) has led to some confusion – often people think that they are being ‘eye-balled’ by a ray.  The youngster in the picture above quite possibly believes that the ray in the pool is exchanging glances with him.  Yet if you look at the first picture again you will see that the eyes are above these openings. These things that look like eyes are in fact something else altogether.

Dolphins in the Wild - Photo Special

Monday, 24 July 2017

Dolphins – those special marine mammals – are the subject of this photo special.  All the pictures here are of wild dolphins, some of the almost forty species that are found worldwide.  They are a recent evolutionary adaptation, having first appeared on this ark in space around ten million years ago.  Intelligent, curious and fearless, they embody many of the qualities that we admire and to which we aspire. Welcome to the world of the dolphin - free, physical and wild.

What is Symbiosis?


Did you know that symbiosis is one of the most important words in the English language?  Why? Because without symbiosis it is possible that most life on earth (ourselves included) would not live. This is the first in a series of short films exploring the amazing science of symbiosis, a mutually beneficial relationship between two or more species. In this episode - Symbiotic Super Powers – we get to learn what symbiosis is, discover why it’s so important for life on Earth, and meet some of the scientists who are working hard to understand it.  This very cool short was created by Day’s Edge Productions.

The Story of the Dinosaurs

Saturday, 22 July 2017


Most people know that the age of the diniosaurs ended with the impact of a huge meteor that ravaged the earth and was responsible for the extinction of 90% of the species around then.  What fewer know is that the age of the dinosaurs also stared with a mass extinction.  This wonderful animation, designed and directed by The Brothers McLeod.for the BBC tells is the whole story, spanning many millions of years and covering the three period of the Mesozoic, the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous.

Watch a Cat Watching a Horror Movie

Thursday, 20 July 2017


There’s nothing quite like a horror movie if you fancy having the wits scared out of you.  Quite what is going through a cat’s mind if they decide to sit back and watch too is beyond me.  After all, they surely cannot grasp the concept of television – do they think that what they see is really going on in front of them? Who can say but this particular cat seems to be joining in the spirit of things more than adequately.

From what I can make out from the soundtrack the horror movie that the cat is watching is “Psycho” (there is a mention of Mrs Bates and I suspect it is the moment that Lila discovers her corpse in the fruit cellar).  Whatever the case, this moggy decides that enough is enough as soon as the screaming starts!  Yet before that the slowly widening eyes as the cat realises the, well, horror of the situation, is a sight to behold…

Togepi is a 9-month-old Tabby-Bengal Mix.  Now she's truly mixed (up!).

The Sea's Strangest Square Mile

Monday, 17 July 2017


The straits of Lembeh in Indonesia have become known as the sea’s strangest square mile and you will see why once you have watched this remarkable short by Shark Bay Films. Amid this alien landscape you will find the hairy frog fish, the bobbit worm and the flamboyant cuttlefish to name but a few.  The frenzy of hunting and feeding that goes on here makes The Circle of Life as depicted in The Lion King seem downright leisurely.

The Amazing Pygmy Seahorse: Now You See Me…

Saturday, 8 July 2017

The seahorse has been known to us for thousands of years: the ancient Romans created beautiful mosaics celebrating their shape and grace. Yet a number of species escaped our attention until the 1970s – and then it took till the twenty first century to name six of the seven previously hidden kinds. Why did they elude us for so long? Firstly their size – they are tiny. Yet it is their amazing camouflage which really allowed them to remain concealed for so long.

Peacocks in Flight: It’s Quite the Sight

Sunday, 25 June 2017

You may have been lucky enough to have encountered a peacock or two in your time.  If you are like me then these beautiful, iridescent birds stop will stop you in your tracks.  Yet few people have seen one take to the air – and many assume that the three species are flightless.  Although the sheer mass of feathers precludes any avian marathon, they can and do take flight, normally to get to their chosen spot for the evening.  It may be a roof or a tree, but somewhere safe from most predators.

Wings of Life - Monarch Butterflies


Watch thousands of monarch butterflies as they migrate to Mexico. From Disneynature, the studio that brought you Earth, Oceans, African Cats and Chimpanzee, comes Wings Of Life -- a stunning adventure full of intrigue, drama and mesmerizing beauty. Narrated by Meryl Streep, this intimate and unprecedented look at butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, bats and flowers is a celebration of life, as a third of the world's food supply depends on these incredible -- and increasingly threatened -- creatures. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg, Wings of Life utilizes riveting high-speed, closer-than-close filmmaking techniques to showcase in spectacular detail these unsung heroes of our planet.

When Caimans Collide


About 10 million individual yacare caimans exist within the Brazilian pantanal, representing what is quite possibly the largest single crocodilian population on Earth.  Every year as the summer progresses aggregate in small bays that get smaller day after day. It is a very difficult period and there are many fights over territory. When the water runs out, the caimans reduce they metabolism and remain buried under the mud, waiting for the upcoming rains. Those who survive, begin the mating season, where males perform a real water dance, vibrating their bodies to attract females, and enjoy the abundance of fish brought by the waters returning to flood the Pantanal.  The Director of Photography of this exquisite look at a little known species of caiman was Cristian Dimitrius.

Amung Feedjit