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The Bobcat – Resilient Predator of North America

Sunday, 9 December 2018

While many wild cat species around the world have suffered dramatically through loss of territory and a lot have become endangered species, there is at least some good news. The Bobcat, a wild cat synonymous of America has proved a resilient survivor. With a stable population this whiskered warrior persists and thrives in much of its original terrain.

The Astonishing Eggs of Alien Nations

Sunday, 25 November 2018

They may look like they come straight out of a science fiction film, but these eggs are real - they come from the stink bug. It’s life, but most certainly not as we know it. Take a look at the astonishing eggs of the alien nations all around us.

Image Credit
Lacewing eggs are attached to a leaf or a stalk by a slender piece of silk to place them, hopefully, out of harm’s way.  What hatches, however, is the stuff of nightmares.  The larvae immediately molt and then go on something approaching a feeding frenzy.  As their senses (except that of touch) are not well developed they will essentially attack anything living that they touch in the hope that it is food.  Once they are attached to their prey they will inject it with a digestive fluid – the insides of an aphid can be liquefied by a lacewing larva in an astonishing 90 seconds.

The Caterpillar with Penguins on Its Back

Sunday, 18 November 2018

If you look at the caterpillar of the forest tent caterpillar moth (Malacosoma disstria) with a little imagination you can see something remarkable. Found throughout North America, along the top of this caterpillar is ranged a set of what looks like dancing penguins. It looks as if his grandma knitted him a sweater for Christmas but decided that one motif simply wasn’t enough.

Image Credit MattyBravo

In praise of the Mutt

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Many people buy a dog as a status symbol and so go for a certain breed to mirror their own lifestyle. Still more have a particular attachment to the specific look and behavior of pure breeds. However, for personality, joie de vivre, unadulterated love and many other positive traits, can anything beat a good old fashioned mutt?

The Strange Life Cycle of the Ladybug

Saturday, 3 November 2018

The Ladybug has something of a strange life cycle and one that surprises many people. From egg to fully grown ladybug, join us on a journey of a lifetime - literally!

The ladybug will always try and mate as close to a colony of aphids as possible. The ladybug loves aphids and will eat many of them each day.

Welcome to the Bee Hotel

Sunday, 28 October 2018

This remarkable structure can be found in Place des Jardins  in Paris and is known as a bee hotel. You may be wondering what bees need a hotel for, when they make their own hives. The truth is that many species of bees are solitary – the do not live in hives but instead construct their own nest. The main reason for this is because in these species every female is fertile and this would not make for comfortable communal living in a hive.

Bee hotels are necessary for a number of different reasons. To begin with bee populations have been on a decline in recent years. Part of the problem is that their natural habitats have been cleared to make way for intensive agriculture. Pesticides have also been instrumental in their decline. 

Magpies: Not only Black and White

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

The Eurasian magpie (left) is one of the few species of birds which can recognise itself in a mirror test.  As they stand out so much with their black and white plumage you might imagine that this is something which is relatively easy to do.  After all, when we think of magpies we think in black and white too!  Yet magpies are not only black and white.  There are other species which belie the general belief that all magpies are: here are some exceptions that prove the rule.

The Common Green Magpie
Image Credit Jasonbkk
Around the size of a Eurasian jay this magpie is a vivid green with a thick black stripe from the bill to the nape which crosses the eyes, giving it a vaguely superhero-in-disguise look (although this bird is probably more villain than hero).  To see one in the wild you would have to go to the Himalayas, central Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra and Broneo.  The common green magpie (Cissa chinensis) makes its home in evergreen forest and is hunts small mammals and reptiles.  It will often raid the nests of other birds and carry away young birds or, if they are not yet hatched, will devour the eggs before making their getaway.

Cats In Sinks

Saturday, 13 October 2018

The old proverb is true. In a cat's eye, everything belongs to cats. That includes, well, everything - including your sink. What has a certain use for us may be interpreted as useful in an altogether different way by our feline friends.  So it is with that useful household item, the sink.  Cats love them - but for very different reasons to us.  Prepared to be bemused and amused at the same time.  The words are related - we need no better excuse. So, because they can so can we - welcome to the world of cats in sinks.

They may always be quite certain what they are doing there themselves, as Phoebe the gorgeous Persian here seems to be indicating with that rather sullen but perplexed look on her face.  Perhaps that old Moroccan saying is true, after all - you cannot teach an old cat to dance.

Sticky: The Fascinating Story of How the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect was Saved from Extinction

Saturday, 29 September 2018


Can you bring a species back from extinction? Despite fictional accounts in books and movies like Jurassic Park the answer remains a very definite no – not in any complete way for sure.  Yet species on the edge of destruction can be saved even if they are dodging extinction in the most unlikely of places.

This is the story of the rediscovery of the Lord Howe Stick Insect (Dryococelus australis) which had also been known as the tree lobster due to its size and color at maturity.  It was thought to have been made extinct by 1920 – game over.  Yet Lord Howe Island has an islet – a sea stack – called Ball’s Pyramid.  It had been suggested that the insect may have survived there, although most thought that highly improbable.

However an Australian team of etymologists journeyed to the islet in 1981 and the rest as they say is history.  Instead of telling you the whole story here, however, watch this beautifully made animation by Jilli Rose which tells the whole story.  It is without words for the first few minutes but after that the oral history of the Lord Howe Stick Insect and how it was saved from almost inevitable stochastic extinction. 

Don’t be put off by its length either – this is entrancing viewing.

The Ribbon Seal: The Seal with Stripes

Sunday, 23 September 2018

What do you get if you cross a zebra with a seal?  There is no sensible answer to that question, of course, but there is a species of seal which lives in the Arctic and subarctic regions of the North Pacific Ocean which could (however unfeasibly) be the product of a chance romance between the two species.  It is the Ribbon Seal and it is remarkable for its stripes.

Like many seals, the ribbon seal (Histriophoca fasciata) has dark brown to black fur.  Yet what makes it standout is its remarkable and conspicuous coloration.  It has two white stripes and two circles which pattern its body in a particularly striking way.  Its genus – Histriophoca – has a single member: you’re looking at it.  The ribbon seal is one of a kind.

The Kangaroo that Went Back to the Trees

Saturday, 15 September 2018

When you hear the word kangaroo what you may well imagine is the large marsupial bounding with immense speed across the Australian landscape – and you would not be wrong.  However, at one point the ancestors of one particular family of kangaroos did something strange.  They returned to the trees whence they had come.  This is the tree-kangaroo and they are the marsupial equivalent of monkeys.

The Holy Rats of Karni Mata

Sunday, 9 September 2018

From the outside the Hindu temple of Karni Mata in the small town of Deshnoke in the Indian province of Rajasthan looks much like any other. Ornate and beautiful and with a steady stream of worshippers arriving it holds a surprise for the unsuspecting visitor.

The temple is inhabited by rats: thousands of them.

The Spectacular Nests of the Sociable Weaver

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Not all bird species build nests.  Some, like the razorbill, lay an egg on a rocky ledge and hope for the best. Others, like the king penguin, have no access to nesting materials so keep their egg warm by squatting directly over it, covering it with their feathers.  Then there is the cuckoo, a brood parasite that lays its eggs in the nest of others.

Yet most species of birds do indeed make nests and they come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps the most spectacular of all these is that created by a rather plain looking African bird, the sociable weaver (also known more simply as the social weaver).

Image Credit
They sociable weaver male is small – about 14cm (that’s 5.5 in) in length – and brown.  It is by no means unattractive – it has black barring on its back, a black chin and a nicely scalloped back.  As for the female… it’s identical.  They are not sexually dimorphic and to the naked eye the male and female are indistinguishable.  They may not stand out in a crowd, as it were, but as you can see their nests are another thing entirely.

The Tarantula Hawk Wasp - Ruthless ‘Raptor’ of the Insect World

Sunday, 26 August 2018

They are among the largest species of wasp and their name is taken from both its prey and a ruthlessly efficient killing machine, the raptor known as a hawk.  Yet the Tarantula Hawk Wasp gains its fearful name and reputation from the simple urge to care for and nourish its young.

Growing up to two inches (5cm) in length the sight of a tarantula hawk would send the average entomophobic in to a state of palpitations.  So, perhaps if you are already frowning squeamishly, your knuckles rapidly whitening, then you should not read on.

King Penguin Crèche - The Biggest Day Care Facility on the Planet

Sunday, 19 August 2018

If you have children you will no doubt have experienced the heart stopping moment when you realize the little one has wandered off and you cannot see them anywhere. You might imagine, then, how the average King Penguin parent might feel when they return to feed their chick. Yet it is all part of the King Penguin’s master plan for the survival of the next generation.

Dragonfly Delight: A Life Cycle in Superb Macrophotography

Monday, 23 July 2018

The sight of a dragonfly on the wing is one of the more remarkable that nature has to offer. Here, with the help of some astounding macrophotography, we take a look at the life cycle of the dragonfly as well as its remarkable and unusual physiology.

The gorgeous colors of a dragonfly – these majestic insects of the air, have been a source of inspiration – and fear – to people for thousands of years. The order to which they belong is called Odonata. Many people regularly go ‘oding’ just as others go birding or butterfly collecting. Their life is cycle as unusual as their looks are striking.

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 Egg 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.


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