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The Wildlife of Madagascar

Sunday 26 November 2017

Madagascar is an amazing place and here Lance Featherstone has captured its wildlife wonderfully. I don’t know about you but sometimes music can enhance a video about the natural world but most of the time I find it a distraction.  However, what Lance has decided to do here is to keep the natural sound of the rainforest as the backdrop to his film.  It works beautifully and one is left with a sense of the peace of the place.

Dragonfly: Award Winning Documentary

If you have ever gawped at the sight of a dragonfly whizzing past you in all its colorful aerodynamic glory, then you will enjoy this film immensely. It has some of the best macrophotography of the dragonfly in all its stages that I have ever seen. Plus it answers all the questions you might have about the life cycle of this ancient creature which has survived virtually unchanged for millions of years.

However, the part that I found most fascinating was the part of the film which describes how dragonflies live most of their lives as nymphs and that a number of different species can live side by side during this stage (even though they don’t mind the off foray in to cannibalism).

One thing I certainly did not know is that during this period of their lives they have a lower jaw which they can extend suddenly and swiftly, like a hydraulic ramp, to catch prey that would otherwise be just out of their reach. It is quite a sight.

The amazing facts about dragonflies do not stop there and after they come in to their brief adult phase each species seems to have its own interesting variation on the mating game. The documentary takes us throughout the year to the inevitable demise of the adults. However, below the placid waters of British ponds a vicious fight for survival continues.

Created by Andy Holt of Wild Life Lens, Dragonfly has been awarded Best Documentary at the BIAFF (British International Amateur Film Festival) 2014 Film Festival.

Extreme Crest Feathers: 10 Reasons Why Crest is Best

Sunday 12 November 2017

Many species of birds possess crest feathers and this feature dates back to the age of the dinosaur: the fossil record indicates that a number of species had feathers on their heads.  You might think that they are for display purposes – and you would not be wrong although their function is sometimes more complex than that.  However, some birds take this avian attribute to the extreme. The results are striking and beautiful.  We present the Ark in Space’s Top Ten Crest Feathered Birds.

10 - The White-Crested Helmetshrike
Over to Africa where we find the White-crested helmetshrike – the name says it all really.  What makes this bird even more striking is the vivid yellow periophthalmic ring (the protective circle of bare skin) around its eye.  It is a very sociable bird and moves around in small social groups.  You can always tell when you are close to a party of WCHs – they chat to each other very noisily.

Okunoshima: Island of Bunnies and Poison

There are a number of theories why there are so many rabbits on the Japanese island of Okunoshima but the fact remains that the place is pretty much overrun with them.  Here, Krzysztof Gonciarz and Kasia Mecinski, take a look at the island and the dichotomy of having these Cunicular bundles of fun right next to an old poison gas production plant. If you like rabbits this place must be on your bucket list.

Medieval Monsters of the New Forest

Sunday 15 October 2017

The New Forest of England is an ancient world full of medieval monsters - duelling dragonflies, acid-firing ants and jousting stag beetles. Filmmaker Oliver Mueller combined macro, slow-motion and time-lapse techniques were combined with custom-built equipment to reveal these astonishing lives. The film was the result of 30 days shooting on location during the summer of 2015, plus months of research, planning and post-production

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.

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.

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.

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 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?

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.

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.

Wings of Life - Monarch Butterflies

Sunday 25 June 2017

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.

An Alphabet of Animals

Sunday 18 June 2017

We thought we would have a little fun and create a list of what we think are the best and most unusual collective nouns for animals. Of course, in the tradition of Ark in Space we are including the best images we could find to illustrate them. You can go check them out on the internet we did not make these up! So, here they are - an A-Z of collective nouns, a veritable alphabet of animals.

A byke of ants
We are not sure what it means, however.  Yet it was still more interesting than the word we would normally use - swarm

A cauldron of bats

Our Planet: Supercut of BBC Natural History Programming

The BBC make some of the best natural history documentaries in the world and this supercut by Art of the Film does something extraordinary – it takes the highlights of twelve series of BBC programming and boils them down to 20 minutes of stupendous, jaw-dropping footage. As well as leaving one in awe of the splendour of our planet it serves as a reminder that our Ark in Space is a fragile thing and needs to be protected at all costs.  Go and grab a drink - you're going to be in front of this screen for the next 20.

Animal Anomalies: The Dewlap

The most intriguing physical attribute of an anole (ubiquitous, tree-dwelling lizards of the New World tropics) is its dewlap.  Used to communicate to potential mates (and to identify members of its own species).  Award winning production company Day’s Edge have created this marvellous short documentary about the dewlap, focusing on the work of Dr Manuel Leal, a biologist at the University of Missouri.  He poses a question - if two species of anoles have the same dewlap (at least to our eyes) then how do they tell each other apart? The answer is an eye-opener to say the least.

A Leap of Faith: 10 Ducklings Jump!

Saturday 10 June 2017

High rise living has its advantages when you are a duckling but once you’re hatched you have to join the world on the ground at some point and that’s sooner rather than later.  In this video by Tara Tanaka, 10 one-day old Black-bellied Whistling Ducks take the leap of faith to join their parents below.  They all manage it – although the slow motion dives we see here might make you wonder: grace, it seems, come later in life to these ducklings!

The Nictitating Membrane: The Third Eyelid

Monday 29 May 2017

From these photographs you could easily imagine that the animal kingdom had suddenly been enveloped in its own zombie apocalypse.  Yet these pictures do not feature the Squawking Dead. Thanks to high speed photography, these pictures capture the nictitating membrane in action. It is also known as the third eyelid, haw and the inner eyelid. It is drawn across the eye to protect and moisturize it while retaining visibility.

Surf City Surf Dogs Catch the Waves

Sunday 14 May 2017

Dogs are like people in some respects.  Many are homebodies and prefer their creature comforts.  Others prefer to be a little more adventurous. Although not a species renowned for its participation in extreme sports there is a cross section of the canine community which likes nothing better than to take to the waves – on surf boards.

Now in its fifth year the Surf City Surf Dog event, held in Huntington Beach, California brings together over forty surf fans together with their human companions who are there to ensure that all the fun is safe for the surfer dogs.  This fund-raising event helps to raise awareness of various dog related causes, including animal rescue and medical care.

Barn Owls: The Secret Saviors of Napa Valley’s Vineyards

Did you know that there are hundreds of owl boxes dotted around the vineyards of the Napa Valley in California?  This video takes a visit there, thanks to biologist Carrie Wendt and Great Big Story.  Amazingly, without the owls the rodent population around the vineyards would explode and that would mean less wine for us!  So, next time you’re sipping a wine from the Napa Valley, spare a thought for the barn owls that helped it get to your table!

The Southern Cassowary - The Most Dangerous Bird on Earth

Saturday 29 April 2017

Ask a ten year old what the largest bird in the world is and the chances are you will get the right answer – the ostrich. Asked about the second largest and the odds are still very good that they will be able to name the Emu. Go for third place in the size league and you may well start to get blank looks from all but the keenest young ornithologist. The answer is the Cassowary – and not only is it endangered but is also classified as the world’s most dangerous bird.

Colors I

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Alessandro Carillo started shooting this short film in March when the parks are relatively free of people and the first signs of spring begin to appear in London. Here you can experience the first flowers, the first hungry insects and just the general joy of spring through his wonderful photography.

The parks of London have never looked so beautiful as here and the film is infused with marvelous colors and moving bokeh which lends a certain romanticism to it – you would hardly think it was shot in one of the busiest cities in the world.

The Ducklings of Spring

There is an old saying that no matter how long the winter lasts the spring is sure to follow.  With the spring comes new life – a new generation takes its first tentative steps in to the world.  Although people associate spring with many animals there is surely something about the sight of ducklings which lifts the heart and puts a hopeful smile on the face. So here they come, the ducklings of spring! And yes, perhaps it is just a reason for a cute fest!

Spring is nature's way of saying, Let's party!  ~Robin Williams 

Galapagos Sea Life

When people think of the Galapagos their mind almost certainly picture the strange and unusual animals of the islands – the ones which live on them rather than in the sea around them.   

Here, however, Darek Sepiolo has put together some remarkable footage of the animal life in the sea around the Galapagos islands.

It is, quite simply, a work of art.   I was utterly mesemerised by this video.

You can completely lose yourself looking at these amazing example of sea life, including rays, sharks, turtles, sea lions, penguins, and even a whale shark.  Very cool.

Sea Lion Ballet

Sunday 19 March 2017

Watch the underwater ballet of playful sea lions on Anacapa Island in Southern California. These graceful creatures twist, turn, glide, dive and contort their bodies in all sorts of positions. Just as curious of us as we are of them, these sea lions love to approach divers - locking in eye contact, blowing out bubbles, and also barking - a very odd sound to hear underwater!

Part of the Channel Islands National Park, Anacapa is located eleven miles off the coast of Southern California. This trip was operated by EcoDivers on the Spectre dive boat - and this very cool video was created by Scott McFarlane.

Breaking the Rules: Pollen Thieves!

This is a pretty amazing animation which shows that nature was many millions of years ahead of us when it comes to some traits that we consider human.  In this case, it is theft.  Some plants have evolved so that a particular insect can take its pollen from it flowers and so further the species.  However, there are a number of species out there who pay little or no attention to the ‘wishes’ of the flower.  They sense pollen and they want it!

What do they do? They grab hold of the flower and rip it open, so gaining access to the corolla tube and then they access the precious nectar from there. However, sometimes their act of desecration will still result in pollination, as this amazing video shows.  Breaking the Rules was created by Divulagare.

The Pygmy Goat - Not So Gruff

Who is the gruff looking buck above? There is something familiar about him but this is no standard goat, no sir. This is the pygmy version and as is a cousin of the variety we generally picture when the animal comes up in conversation. Welcome to the world of the pygmy goat.

The Kermode Bear: Spirit Bear of British Columbia

Saturday 11 March 2017

This is not a polar bear which has decided to migrate to warmer climes.

This is a remarkable sub-species of the North American Black Bear. It is the Kermode Bearr - also known as the spirit bear.

Living along the shorelines and central interior of British Columbia on the west coast of Canada, around ten percent of Kermode bears have white or creamy coats. They are revered among the native peoples of the province.

Pronounced kerr-MOH-dee, the lighter Kermode bears are not albinos. They appear much brighter than most of the population because of recessive alleles.

This rare genetic trait doesn’t hold them back either – the paler bears are better fishers than their brown counterparts. It is thought this is because the fish cannot perceive the threat from above due to their coloring. A brown bear might stand out more against the clouds – that much is true.

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