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The Bizarre Nest of the Central American Paper Wasp

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Take a look at the photograph above.  Is it some strange kind of blooming plant?  Is it a fungal growth attached to a tree?  It is something else entirely.  This is the bizarre nest of the Central American Paper Wasp (Apoica pallens).  It is notable for one thing – an apparent lack of nest altogether.  Those pale yellow cigar-shaped objects? They are the wasps, huddled together in neat order, waiting for the evening to come.

Image Credit
The species is native to the lowlands of central and northern South America, so unless you live there you are not going to stumble across something like this in the forest – although whether that is a shame or a relief entirely depends on you.  However, these wasps have developed a kind of night vision which means that they swarm and forage only after the sun goes down.  Until then, they adopt this position under the comb face of their nest – and it is entirely defensive.

Swimming with Leopard Seals


You don’t do this alone!  Amos Nachoum went diving with some friends in Antarctica and came home with this remarkable footage.  Leopard seals are large – they can grow up to a length of 11.5 feet and weigh in at over 1,000 pounds.  Although they will eat birds and other mammals they have teeth which also serve to sift krill, supplementing their diets.  However, they are fearsome hunters, however playful they might appear. This video is aimed to create better awareness and understanding of the Leopard seal...watch, enjoy, learn and have an adventure.

The Disappearing World of the Asian Elephant


The plight of the Asian Elephant is often overlooked.  However, when one considers the fall in its numbers in less than a century – from almost half a million to only three thousand, then the urgency of the issue begins to sink in.

Here, ProFilm looks at the plight of the Asian Elephant, with some history of its relationship with us and questions how things might be resolved for this most majestic of animals.

The Banana Slug – Nature’s Giant Recycler

Friday, 15 July 2016

Perhaps it is the mucus, perhaps the snake-like appearance or the habit of many species of slug to regard your garden and the carefully cultivated plants within as dinner – but the slug generally has a pretty bad press.

So, if you just groaned in horror at the picture above, you are in good company. A lot of people don’t like slugs. The sight of them in a garden has been known to turn even the most mild mannered in to mad mollusk murderers. Yet the giant Banana Slug, the second largest in the world (after the European Limax), has more than just its size and resemblance to a certain yellow fruit as a claim to fame. This is one of the unsung champions of the forest, for the banana slug only eats dead organic material which they then turn in to soil.

The Sublime Swallowtail Butterfly

Saturday, 2 July 2016

You may be familiar with the Common Yellow and the Western Tiger, but the Swallowtail family of butterflies is much larger and diverse than you may imagine. Take a look at some of the less familiar species, such as the Pipevine above, along with some stunning photographs, and revisit one or two you have perhaps seen before.

The Old World Swallowtail
Although not restricted to the Old World, Papilio machaon occurs throughout Europe, Asia and North America. However, the alternative name, the Common Yellow, although more accurate, has less of the natural glamor that the insect itself exhibits. The black vein markings give the butterfly a striking appearance. The name of the insect is, of course taken from the swallow like tails which protrude from the hind wings.

The Not So Silent World


This undersea footage is unusual because the makers, Seasick Productions, have decided to add sound effects to it.  The result is startling – we are so used to hearing, well, nothing in particular, when it comes to underwater filming that this gives the realm beneath the waves a new dimension.  So, turn up your speakers, full screen this video and enjoy!

One Step at a Time: The First Elephant Prosthetics


When Mosha, an elephant, was two years old, she lost her leg in a landmine injury along the Thai-Burmese border.

Luckily, an orthopedic surgeon was able to fit her with the first prosthetic leg ever designed for an elephant. As she’s grown, she’s needed to be fitted for new ones. However, she has never forgotten the wonderful doctor who changed her life.

Reel Spinner Online Pokie for Australian Gambling Fans

Friday, 1 July 2016


Microgaming the leader in online gaming technology has recently launched a fun new fishing game just in time for the summer. The new game called Reel Spinner is a 5 reel 15 payline video slot that offers some cool bonus rounds and features surely to keep players entertained. Each month Microgaming releases new games and this fishing themed game happens to be their latest release for the month of July 2016.

Players who play Reel Spinner will have the opportunity to win up to 112,500 coins while playing this feature full game. The graphics, animations, win-frequency and high jackpot prizes make this game highly attractive to anyone looking to play online pokies. Australian fans interested in learning more about this game should read the review featured here at AustralianCasinoSites.com who also offer reviews of most other recent Microgaming pokies / slots games releases.

If you're interested in getting started and playing at Australian online casinos a good option would be to visit the homepage of AUOnlineCasino.com a guide that focuses exclusively on the Australian market and providing players with great choices on where to play. Otherwise we suggest the first site which will allow you to play the new Microgaming Reel Fishing game.

Please Help Keep Ark in Space Online!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

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!

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7 Questions Kids Always Ask About Animals

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Kids and animals – they go together so well!  However, kids are curious about all sorts of concepts and animals are no exception! Children will never stop bothering us with their thought-provoking and annoying questions. Here are eight of them about animals, and how to answer them - starting with two of the more frequently asked and then some of the lesser (but still amusing) answers. Oh and don't worry about the little girl above - she does not have cruel and irresponsible parents. It's a statue.

The Pink Robin: The Gloriously Pink-breasted Bird

Sunday, 19 June 2016

The robin, both European and American is famous for its red breast.  The subject of nursery rhymes and Christmas cards the male of the species is resplendent in red. Australia, too, has a robin.  One might, of course, expect this particular country to produce something a little different: it has form, after all.  So, step forward the pink robin, Australia’s passerine of pulchritudinous pinkness.


Just in case you think this is some kind of practical joke, here's a rare and short video of the pink robin.

Which Birds Can You See by the River?

Friday, 10 June 2016


OK, this is meant for kids but like many clever and entertaining things created specifically with younglings in mind this is just as much of a treat for us olduns too. Animator Will Rose has created this charming animation to educate us about five species of birds which congregate around British rivers. In the space of just under two minutes you will learn to recognise swallows, blackbirds, swifts, kingfishers and goldfinches. Lovely!

The Giant Ichneumon Wasp – Stump Stabber Extraordinaire

Friday, 3 June 2016

What is the fastest, tallest, heaviest, lightest? We love to compare members of the animal kingdom in these terms.  One word you may hear too is longest but when it appears in a question it is normally asked in terms of total length.  In that case, the Giant Ichnuemon Wasp (Megarhyssa macrurus), found in the USA, is nothing much to write home about being just two inches long.  However, if the question was “which insect has the longest ovipositor known to science?” then the female of this species would be the answer. And holy egg laying organs, it’s some length.

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So, yes.  That long thing extending from the wasp, twice the length of its body, is not a stinger or a rear antenna (which might be unusual and interesting).  It’s the wasp’s ovipositor, and is used to lay its eggs: but that’s not all.  It’s also a drill.

Ivory Burn


Look at the picture to the left – it looks like a huddle of huts or some kind of haystacks: whichever way, the structures are certainly man-made.  Yet when you realize that these structures are made from the tusks of elephants slain for their ivory the true horror of what you are seeing finally sinks in.  That’s no bad thing as it’s difficult to get a grip on the sheer scale of the ivory poaching problem in countries like Kenya.  These are the last remains of over 7,000 elephants. This April the Kenyan authorities burned these tusks, worth up to US$100 million to send a message – that the only value of ivory is the tusks on a live elephant.  Ivory Burn was created by filmmaker Austin Peck.

Crabspawn 2016


If birds had festivals then one of the highlights of their calendar would be Crabspawn.  As it is, it may not be organised but it is certainly chaotic.  This remarkable film was taken by Murray N Hadley at Fortescue Bay, New Jersey. 

When the horseshoe crabs spawn they fill the sea with their eggs.  Why the numbers is not a mystery for long as shorebirds go in to a feeding frenzy and gobble up as many as their bellies will take while the opportunity is there.

So by laying so many, the crabs assure that at least some of the eggs will go on to hatch. Yet for birds such as the red knot this is a feast and they will often double their weight during this stopover on their way to their arctic breeding grounds.  You can almost imagine them mulling over the excitement later on in the year. “Did you go to Crabspawn 2016?”  “Yeah, man. It was awesome.”  But we don't anthropomorphize on this site...

Stinging Caterpillars of the United States

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Caterpillars – the shapes and sizes that they come in and for many the urge to touch, pick up and hold is almost irresistible. Yet although most butterfly and moth larvae are quite harmless, preferring to curl up in a ball when threatened, some will make it quite plain that they do not like to be touched. They will sting: here is a selection of the stinging caterpillars of the United States.

The saddleback moth caterpillar, Sibine stimuli, pictured above has a 'face' that scares off many a potential predator. Yet it will also send you a definite message that it is unhappy with your sticky fingers on it. In a purely defensive tactic it will give you a sting that will dissuade you from picking up another. You can see the ‘horns’ that the caterpillar has on each end of its body – these are barbed spines which are also known as urticating setae.

The Indian Giant Squirrel – Secret Supersize Squirrel on Steroids

Sunday, 29 May 2016

If you are not a particular fan of squirrels then perhaps you had better leave the page right now.  Whoever gave the Indian Giant Squirrel its name was not joking.  It makes the European and North American squirrel look like dormice in comparison.  This is no ordinary squirrel – secretive and shy, it is indeed a giant among its kind.

Before you start to lock your windows and gaze worriedly at the canopy as you pass beneath, be assured that you may only come across one of these if you live in Peninsular India or you happen to be visiting a zoo.

They live in the evergreen and mixed deciduous forests there as far north as Madhya Pradesh in isolated ranges.

The Sea Turtle Hospital


The population of American sea turtles is dwindling. So, it is more important than ever that injured and sick turtles get the treatment that they deserve so they can be rehabilitated and set free, back in to the wild.  This short documentary showcases the work of the Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys.  The work that the medical staff there does is exemplary – such a shame that most of the problems they encounter are down to humans.

Wild Galápagos


The Galápagos Islands are home to some of the most unusual creatures on earth, explored here in this 3-minute ambient destination video from Galaxiid.  Your job?  Just sit back and take it all in! Discover a treasure trove of endemic species, natural wonders and unique wildlife. Darwin's studies of the plants and animals there played a pivotal role in the development of his theory of natural selection.

Deep Dance


A world without light, a world dominated by darkness and threatening silence: the deep sea. Driven by their instincts, we pursue two contradictory characters and witness a struggle for life and death. We become victims of the illusion of light. Deep Dance is an animated short set in the deep sea. It's a story about survival created by Marco Erbrich. This film was part of the diploma at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg.

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