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Why Galapagos Iguanas Take a Huge Gamble

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Life, it is said, is something of a gamble.  If that is indeed the case, then the high risk takers are probably the Galapagos iguanas.  Survival is the name of the game – this is not like stargames or any of the online games we can enjoy without the threat of our imminent demise.  This is something altogether different.

When the hatchling iguanas emerge they are small but identical in every other way to adults.  Their eggs are laid away from the sea to avoid them being washed away.  This comes at a price, however.  As soon as the hatchlings try to make a move they attract the attention of a very unwanted predator!

This remarkable footage shot for the Life on Earth II series by the BBC shows the iguanas’ enemy, the racer snake, forever on the lookout for a meal.  When a hatchling is spotted the snakes make a dash from their retreats to try and secure a meal.  What is even more astonishing is that the snakes look like they are working together as they pursue the new-borns.

However, they are not.  The racer snakes, too, are taking something of a gamble.  If an iguana is caught the snakes do not share the meal, as lions would do in the wilds of Africa.  The iguana is eaten whole and that means that only one snake can have the meal.  This means that even if ten snakes pursue a baby iguana only one will be able to partake of the feast!

It’s almost enough to make you feel a little sorry for the snakes – but not quite, I suspect.  Life on the Galapagos islands can be short and harsh but the gamble that these incredible iguanas take usually pays off and, as you can see in the video above, many get to join their parents by the sea-shore.


Saturday, 10 December 2016

Sometimes it is simply play, at others it is in deadly earnest.  Yet when animals fight there is something that draws us to watch despite the potential fatal outcome.  Perhaps it appears to something visceral and basic in our instincts - or perhaps we just like to watch a good old fashioned tooth and claw fight.

Image Credit Flickr User Tambako the Jaguar
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Mohandas Gandhi  
The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights. Muhammad Ali 

Sea Lebrities: The Sea Lions of Pier 39

Sunday, 23 October 2016

We often read about people taking over the natural habitat of other species but it is rare to come across a case where the animals come back and reclaim their territory from us.  Yet this is exactly what has happened in San Francisco.  Local Californian Sea Lions have always been present in the city’s bay but had been pushed out to Seal Rocks, a small formation at the north end of the Ocean Beach.  Pier 39’s K-Dock was developed and opened in 1978.  Little did we know that the sea lions also had their eyes on this particular piece of seaside real estate.

They bided their time but their opportunity to move in (or back, if you argue that their presence along the Californian coastline predates human occupation by tens of thousands of years) came just over a decade later in 1989.  It was then that it was decided that the docks needed refurbishment.  In order to facilitate this all the boats had to be removed from Pier 39.  This left large open spaces inside the Bay.  A small number of sea lions saw their opportunity.  They metaphorically weighed anchor from the stony slopes of Seal Rocks and began to arrive at Pier 39.

Are These the Cutest Kittens on the Internet?

Sunday, 2 October 2016

We thought we would take a break here at the Ark in Space. A break from rare species, unusual bugs and dangerous beasties. We thought we would take time out to bring you a real cutefest – something which, as you can see by the title of this post, still raises a question or two. Why bring you this glorious gallery of the cutest kittens on the net? No real reason. Except because we can! Prepare to say aaaw a lot - enjoy!

OK, now we know that this has been done before - however, these are not pictures ripped (and ripped off) from a quick search. As ever, here, all the pictures are licensed through Creative Commons. We would like to thank the photographers for their huge generosity in allowing us to share their photographs with you. You can visit their photostreams on Flickr by clicking each picture!

The Gharial – Good News for the Critically Endangered Indian Crocodile?

Saturday, 24 September 2016

This strange looking creature, with its immensely long and delicate snout is the gharial (Gavialis gangeticus). Until very recently it thrived throughout the Indian sub-continent but now it numbers less than a few hundred in the wild. It seems destined for extinction, like so many other species. Will it be just another victim of what may be seen in the future as the sixth mass extinction event in the history of our planet? Is there a future for the gharial on earth, our ark in space?

The answer is only a tentative maybe. Once it flourished and could be found in all of the major rivers of India and Pakistan. The Indus, which has its source in Tibet and flows through Pakistan and Northern India had gharials along almost its entire length. Now, in this vast river not a single one may be found.

The Red Elephants of Kenya

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Ask anyone what color an elephant should be and you may get a raised eyebrow (or two) but the answer will normally be grey or greyish – perhaps even black or brown. The more observant might say there is pinkness around some parts of the body such as the ears and trunk. Red would almost certainly not be the answer even though some would swear they had witnessed pink elephants on parade. Yet in the Kenyan National Park of Tsavo East you will find red elephants aplenty.

Why Does a Dog Lick Its Nose?

Saturday, 10 September 2016

When dogs are in their training stage a question that comes up a great deal is why do dogs lick their noses?  While it is tempting to simply go with the old chestnut of an answer – because they can – there are a number of reasons why a dog might lick its own nose. One thing is for certain sure, however: while they are doing it they often bring a smile to the faces of their human companions. As you can see from this spread of pictures, it is sometimes difficult to resist this particular canine photo opportunity.

The Honduran White Bat

Sunday, 28 August 2016

You may just have done something of a double take. Yet these small creatures huddled together are indeed bats.  They are Honduran White Bats (Ectophylla alba) and they do not easily fall in to a number of bat stereotypes: they do not live in caves and they do not suck blood. Additionally their fur, as you can see, is snow white.

It is found only in a few Central American countries. If you are very, very lucky you might be able to find it in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and, of course, the country from which it gets its name, Honduras.

Yet it is extremely rare and, moreover, it is tiny – the largest examined have never exceeded 5cm in length. Not only that, but its white fur has evolved for a reason: camouflage. (Note: the above was caught by using mist nets in Costa Rica and was later released).

Synchronized Swimming in the Animal Kingdom

Sunday, 21 August 2016

With the Olympics coming up in 2012 one of the buzz words is participation. Certainly, the British Olympic Committee who are organising the upcoming games are very keen to get ordinary people in to participating in sporting activities. It seems the message is getting across – and in the animal world too. Yet while some sports are popular in the human world it seems that it is synchronized swimming which is really taking off among the animal population...

The Amazing Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

It hovers, it hums – but it is not a hummingbird. Take a look at one of, if not the most amazing, certainly the coolest insects on the planet - The Hummingbird Hawk Moth.

The Duck Squad

Do you have a pest problem? Then perhaps you should consider calling in the Duck Squad!  This team of over 1000 ducks have a serious job – to keep down the number of snails and other pests on the South African winery they call home.  Created by Great Big Story, this is a charming portrait of how animals can be used rather than pesticides to keep the grapes growing.  The sight of over 1000 ducks ambling through the countryside in formation is quite something!

Cat on the Menu

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Sometimes you should take things a little more literally!  This charming picture was taken outside of the Dolphin Restaurant in Sultanahmet, Istanbul.  We would not dream of giving places which would serve up cat for lunch or dinner a molecule of the oxygen of publicity! Yet, for at least one day there really was cat on the menu at the Dolphin Restaurant!

The Silver Fox: Vivacious Variant of Vulpes vulpes

Friday, 12 August 2016

If you came to this page looking for a feature on George Clooney, Harrison Ford or Sean Connery then sorry to disappoint you – this is the wrong place!  This particular silver fox has been around a good deal longer than the movies though its story could be easily made in to a film without a doubt.  You could also be under the impression that the silver fox is a species related to the red fox. There, too, you would be mistaken.  They are the same species.

The Bobbit Worm Catches its Prey

If you are of a nervous disposition then you may not want to press play.  Otherwise, steel yourself for the remarkable site of a bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois) catching its prey.  The worm lives on the ocean floor, burying it body which can grow up to three meters in length in the seabed.  It waits and when one of its five antennae is stimulated by an approaching sea creature it attacks.  This is done with such speed that it has been seen to slice its prey in half.

You might wonder what the bobbit worm does when the prey is larger than it is.  Although it quite often kills its quarry on the first strike the bobbit worm injects a fatal toxin in to the prey animal.  This incredible video was shot by Khaled Sultani, filmed with Light & Motion Bluefin pro housing / CX550 with Sola lights.

Island of the Ladies

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

This is a collection of clips captured near Isla Mujeres Island, Mexico. The whale sharks and manta rays in this video gather at Isle Mujeres each year to feed on tuna and snapper spawn.   

Sit back and enjoy the wonderful images captured by natural history filmmakers Howard and Michele Hall whose work you may well have seen on Nature and Secrets of the Ocean Realm.  It is all quite stunning.

Gibbon Versus Dog

This is a video of my B Leon’s dog Dam, fighting with the neighborhood Gibbon in Thailand near the Mayanmar (Burma) border.

The gibbons's name is Chani (gibbon, Thai), and the dogs name is Dam (black, Thai).  Mr Leon did not name the dog, but it is a traditional Thai name for a black dog or cat. He found the majority of pets names in Thailand corresponded to their colors. He did name the gibbon though.

Chani was extremely friendly to B Leon during his stay in Thailand; she would sit on his shoulder and groom his hair, and loved to be swung by her arms or legs. Her strength is phenomenal; yet don't be fooled by how gentle and playful she is with Dam.  She was seen to grab birds on the fly with lightening fast reflexes and snap their necks all in a split second. Chani has always been gentle kind and playful and motherly around pets, friends and children.  Feeding animals especially monkeys in Thailand is believed to bring a blessing in Thai Buddhism.

The Tortoise Beetle - Amazing Metallic Arthropods

Monday, 8 August 2016

They look almost manufactured.   Many tortoise beetles have transparent cuticles, the tough but flexible outer covering which gives the insect family its name protects the delicate creature within.  The living tissue is often metallic in color and can in some species even change color.  The combination is as diverse as it is extraordinary – many look like tiny robots assembled to infiltrate, the ultimate bug. Take a look in at the amazing variations of tortoise beetle our world holds.

Wildebeest Cross the Mara – Amazing Time-lapse Footage

Do you want to see something completely jaw-dropping? You may well have seen the annual wildebeest migration on the TV or, if you are very luck for real. Each year these large beasts take part in what is known as the Great Migration – it is one of the most iconic events in Africa. As the wildebeest migrate they must cross over the mighty Mara River.

Yet have you ever seen it done as a time-lapse? This just made my jaw drop – the wonderful footage captures the sheer scale of the migration in a way that I have not seen before. This amazing film was created by Will and Matt Burrard-Lucas a team of brothers from the UK who specialize in wildlife photography.

Here, through a combination of telephoto video clips and wide-angle time-lapse sequences, they aimed to illustrate the scale and drama of this incredible spectacle. They had never before seen a wildebeest river crossing recorded in this way and as far as they know, this could be the first time that time-lapse has been used to reveal the dynamics of a wildebeest river crossing.

It is, I hope you will agree a simply stunning piece of work.

Spider Mom

This is one of the most remarkable pieces of film I have seen for a long time. Sure, we are all used to macro photography these days, showing all aspects of insect and arachnid life close up. Yet while that sort of photography needs time and bags of patience this must have been a labor of love indeed.

Funnily enough labor is quite an appropriate word here. This remarkable piece of film shows a spider laying its eggs. Scientifically speaking I should have said a spider ovispositing its egg sac but now you have that you know what it means in everyday speak!

The detail here is stunning – quite remarkable – you can see the eggs inside the spider before their sack is oviposited.  Not only that it shows the care that the spider gives its young before they are born and even takes us to the birth itself.

This outstanding footage was taken by Alvaro Mendoza Productions, otherwise known as Amprods, a Spanish production company specializing in nature documentaries and, more specifically, in filming animal behavior.

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper – Last Ditch Attempt to Save the Species

Saturday, 6 August 2016

You are looking at pictures of an incredibly rare bird.  This is the Spoon-billed Sandpiper.  It is thought that less than one hundred and fifty breeding pairs are alive today.  In the next fifteen years this amazingly adapted bird may well slip quietly on to the ever increasing list of species whose extinction has been caused by humans.  

Yet if a group of bird experts succeed the spoon-billed sandpiper may pull back from the brink.

Virgin Mothers – The Aphid and the Food Chain

Aphids may be the bottom of the food chain but if they were to suddenly disappear so, quite likely, would a host of other species.  One of the more unusual aspects of the life of the aphid is that (apart from a handful of species) are all female. This means that reproduction is parthenogenetic and viviparous. That means that growth and development of the embryo happens without fertilization. It also means that the embryo develops inside the body – in fact the females are born with them.

You can see this happening in the above video, an amazing piece of work by John Dunstan.  You will also get to see some of the aphid’s many enemies as well as its sometime caretaker, the ant.  The camera work here is worthy of a BBC documentary – I was particularly struck by the shots of the insects struggling with single drops of water. Who would have thought that something that is wet to us could be downright sticky to our much smaller neighbors?

Dogs in Shades

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Let’s face it – dogs are cool. Yet every so often even our canine friends need a little more protection for their eyes. So, out comes the sun and on go the sunglasses. Your average dog suddenly becomes super cool. Let’s take a look at a bunch of dogs in shades. Why? Because we are just as daft as they and their human companions are, probably!

Potty Training at the Sloth Orphanage

That must be one of the weirdest post titles ever but it does exactly what it says on the bottle as it were.  This is part of a documentary being made by Lucy Cooke about a sloth sanctuary and orphanage in Aviarios del Caribe in Costa Rica.  It does extremely important and serious work but there are lighthearted moments to be had.  One of them is ensuring that baby sloths learn how to poo (as the lady puts it in the film!) properly.

One of the funniest things I have heard for a long time is the sound of the baby sloth crying on this video - even tho that does sound a little cruel of me.  The main subject of the clip brings a smile to the face as the whole process of sloth bowel evacuation is one that seems to end in something close to orgasm for the animal - the blissful look on their faces make them look like teenage stoners after the munchies have been satisfied.

Absolutely Cuckoo Cats

One cat can be a handful, but three altogether?

Here are Lelo, Nega, Cinzy who are just about to show the world exactly how cuckoo cats can actually be.

With a more than appropriate soundtrack to go with it, if you are a cat lover you will love this two minute look in to the lives of three head shaking mischief makers!

It is great to see a bunch of cats just getting on with being cats!

The Love Bugs

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The diversity of insects on this planet is astonishing and should be a source of continual wonder for us all. It can only be hope that these incredible creatures can be left to survive and continue their species for many millennia to come. Of course they do everything we do - sometimes with much more aplomb! You may think this is Mother Nature at is rawest and you would be right, but ready or not - here we go!

Cheetahs On The Edge

The votes were in a long time ago when it came to voting the cheetah one of the most magnificent animals on the planet.

However, you are about to see them in a way which has never been done before. This short film by Gregory Wilson is a combination of the resources of National Geographic and Cincinnati Zoo – using a Phantom camera they caught Cheetahs running at 1200 per second.

Not only that but they did it while driving at speed beside and in front of the cheetahs.  In this way they captured every shade and degree of the big cat’s movement even when it was moving at its top speed of sixty miles per hour.  The vast amount of frames per second then allowed the filmmakers to create one of the most breath-taking pieces of slow motion footage you are ever likely to see of a cheetah.

If you are interested about learning more about cheetah conservation, please visit Cause An Uproar.

The Pink Underwing Moth: Skull-Faced Caterpillar of Australia’s Rainforest

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Nature never ceases to astonish.  This is the larva of the Pink Underwing Moth, an endangered species which lives in the subtropical rainforest below about 600m elevation in the Australian states of New South Wales and Queensland. It has evolved a remarkable set of patterns to ward off potential predators.

A giant set of eyes would, you might think, be enough to warn off a bird looking for an easy lunch. Yet this caterpillar goes one step further.  It appears to have a set of teeth which could rip any possible attacker to shreds. Why, then, is it so rare? You might think that with this sort of natural protection the species would be thriving everywhere.

The Snail - Pest, Pet or Treat? Some Interesting Facts

Love them or hate them, there is more to the snail than meets the eye. Here, with some amazing photography, is a look at the humble snail in all its mucus covered glory. Whether regarded as pet, pest or tasty treat, they are everywhere.

Image Credit
Snails that live on land have been around for quite a while, around six hundred million years which puts our species a little to shame. Although there are many more species of snails that live in water, it is the land snail that most people know well. Many shudder at the thought of the sliminess of the creature, others have nightmares about them. However, there are many aspects of snail life that will surprise. Seen up close, too, the shells of these gastropods are often things of exquisite beauty.

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.

Amung Feedjit