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Why do Alpacas Spit?

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Most people know that alpacas are capable of spitting huge gobs of greeny fluid. Yet why do they do it? It certainly isn’t to simply clear their airways, but the answer is not as straightforward as you might think. Alpacas spit for two main reasons, and both are ways to communicate something essential. If they could talk there would probably be a simple, polite request from an alpaca. As they cannot, spitting is about the only way that they can get a point across quickly and decidedly. It’s also a message easily understood by the recipient of the gooey salivary mess that is ejected from their mouths.

Alpaca Alpacas are not inveterate spitters. They are mostly a peaceful species and like nothing more than quietly grazing minding their own business and most definitely not sharing. This brings us to the first reason that alpacas spit – when they perceive that their own food is being taken from them by another then they tend to get a little agitated and the spitting will commence.

Why is food so important? A major part of any alpaca day is eating – they spend most of their waking hours munching away. Most of this is done peacefully and happily but woe betide any alpaca that is perceived to be making incursions on the food of another! The ears retract backwards and the lips slacken. At the same time the alpaca will emit a little noise – it’s hard to call it an alpaca “growl” even though that is effectively what it is – but this sounds like it’s an “eeeek”. These warning signs usually work- alpacas are bright and social animals. However, if the hint isn’t taken then the perceived food stealer will get a face full of green gob – basically saliva and regurgitated grass mixed with digestive fluid. Splat!

Andean Women and Alpacas 
The reason why so many people get spat upon by alpacas is that they do not recognise these signs. They are almost certainly not guilty of the crime of stealing the alpaca’s breakfast, lunch or dinner – but the alpaca, although bright, is driven by instinct. If an alpaca feels that its food is about to be stolen its expectoration time… bur this really is a last resort. The alpaca doesn’t feel smug or victorious after a well-aimed mouthful of spittle hits their “opponent” firmly in the face. The whole thing tastes horrible, and they avoid spitting as often as possible.

Animals of Peru 
 The spit smells revolting, and it can remain a pungent reminder of your close encounter with an alpaca for hours, especially if it gets on to your clothes or glasses.

So, what’s the other reason an alpaca might spit? Unsurprisingly, its when a female is pregnant. If a male makes advances towards her and isn’t giving up, then she will deliver a gob full of spit to his fluffy visage. That certainly ensures he gets the very clear message, and he will beat a hasty retreat!

Alpacas, Waitati New Zealand 
 This counts for humans too – and the alpaca will not be gender-specific. 

If you get too close to a pregnant alpaca – when you see and hear the warning signs, back away quickly. If not, you will receive the whole malodorous package and as there is not elite club for those who have been hit by alpaca hoick then our advice is to always err on the side of caution around this hyper salivatory camelid mammal.

Ecdysis: When Growing Up is More than Skin Deep

Sunday, 12 June 2022

Many invertebrates go through a process called ecdysis.  Taken from the ancient Greek the word means, literally, to strip off.  It leaves behind an exuviae (often spelled with the final e omitted), the remains of the exoskeleton which has been shed, often with related structures still attached. For some invertebrates it can be a regular occurrence to facilitate growth.  For others it can be part of a series of instars which culminate in the emergence of the finished, adult form.  It is a fascinating process where beauty can be found in the grotesque. For these animals, however, the process of growing up is far more than simply skin deep.

Essentially, ecdysis is the molting of the cuticle, the tough multi-layered cover outside the epidermis that provides protection as an exoskeleton. The exoskeleton must be shed as it constrains growth. First, the cuticle separates from the epidermis – yet the arthropod remains inside for now - this is called apolysis. Next, a hormone called ecdysone is secreted from the epidermis. It fills the gap between the old cuticle and the epidermis which is known as the exuvial space. The enzymes in the hormone are not activated until a new epicuticle (the outermost waxy layer of the arthropod exoskeleton) is formed. Once this is done they kick in and the lower regions of the old cuticle are digested. Finally the process of molting can start.

Heterochromia – The Eyes Have It

Monday, 30 May 2022

There are a number of reasons why animals can have one eye of one color and the second of another, but the term for the most likely cause is heterochromia.  It is more often than not to do with melanin. This is a pigment that is found almost everywhere in nature (spiders being a notable exception) and it dictates such things are skin and eye color.

Buying a Puppy From a Breeder is Adoption Too!

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Adopting a puppy is always a good thing, whether you do it from a shelter or from a breeder, but buying a puppy from a breeder has recently been frowned on by those who believe there are so many dogs up for adoption from shelters that no one should have to purchase a dog. While it is true that shelters are full of loveable dogs, there are still reasons why some people want or need to buy from a breeder such as those that use an adoption site like The thing is, buying from a breeder really isn’t much different from getting a dog from a shelter. You’re adopting a new pet either way.

Special Needs

Not everyone can just go into a shelter and adopt the first dog that they connect with. Some people who really want to become dog owners have to have a specific type of dog for one reason or another. For instance, people who suffer from allergies usually can’t adopt a dog that sheds because they’re allergic to their dander. They need a dog that has a hypoallergenic coat and these dogs don’t come up for adoption through shelters very often, or if they do, they are adopted right away, especially if they are on the younger side.

Other people may need to adopt a specific breed of dog to train as a service dog. Not every breed is well-suited for this purpose and those that are don’t often find their way to shelters. Plus, it’s harder to train an older dog to become a service animal even if they have the temperament to learn how to be one. You might be able to find an already-trained dog at a breed-specific shelter, but there’s usually a reason why a dog is at a shelter in the first place, and that reason may not make it suitable for the important work that a service dog has to do.


When you get a dog at a shelter, you probably aren’t going to know its health history, which can be important if you don’t have the financial means to take care of a dog with a lot of medical problems. While you don’t know for certain that any dog that you adopt won’t have health issues, you can better understand what you’re facing if you get a dog from a reputable breeder. You can choose to adopt a pet with medical needs knowing you’ll be able to afford the medical care. But with a shelter dog, you may not know that a dog has a hereditary medical problem that will arise as it ages. 

Certainly, every shelter dog is carefully examined by a veterinarian, but they can only tell you if the animal is currently healthy or not. They can’t really clue you in on a condition that is going to develop in the future. Whereas a breeder will know this information and be able to provide you with tips to keep the condition at bay or what to do when it does arise. Knowing the puppy’s parents is also a benefit that you’ll get from a breeder. If the parents are both healthy, you’ll feel better knowing your puppy is likely to be healthy too.


Don’t let shelter activists deter you from buying a puppy from a breeder if that’s what you want or need to do. Only you know what’s best for your family and after all, you’re still adopting a dog whether you do it through a shelter or a breeder. Just make sure you choose an experienced breeder with a good reputation to ensure your puppy is as healthy as possible.

Image Credit

Two Main Rules for the Dog Park

If you’ve recently adopted a puppy from a shelter or a site like, you’re probably excited about taking it to a dog park. You might want to show off your new cute, furry friend or just want to ensure your puppy gets lots of exposure to strangers and other dogs. Whatever your reason is for taking your dog to a dog park, you’ll need to understand two main rules for any dog park. This will make sure the visit is enjoyable for you, your puppy, and everyone else who’s there at the same time.

Pick Up After Your Dog

This should go without saying, but when your dog does its business inside the dog park enclosure, be a good pet owner and pick it up. Most dog parks provide supplies for picking up your dog’s poop and disposing of it in a trash can. But you’d be surprised at the number of dog owners who conveniently “don’t see” their dog when they go number two in on the grounds. Perhaps they’re too engrossed in their phone or they’re busy talking to another dog owner, but whatever the excuse, there really is no excuse for not picking up after your dog.

The dog park is meant for everyone, so it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep it clean and poop-free. You would want other owners to pick up after their pets, so don’t be that owner who thinks the rules only apply to other people. If the dog park you go to doesn’t provide doggy doo bags, be sure to bring your own so that you can take responsibility for your dog’s mess.

Keep Your Dog in the Right Area

Most dog parks will have a written rule not to let dogs in or out of the enclosure so that owners can feel comfortable letting their dogs off leash inside the dog park. But one of the unwritten rules is to keep your dog in the right area for its size. You’ll usually find that dog parks have a separate area designed just for small dogs that keeps them away from the more energetic larger dogs. Even if you really think your dog would love to play on or with one of the structures in the small dog area, don’t bring your large breed dog into that section if small dogs are present.

The purpose of a dog park is to allow dogs of all sizes the opportunity to enjoy a yard-like environment without being on a leash and without the risk of other dogs hurting them. Although a large dog might not intend to hurt a smaller canine, it can happen accidentally, which is why most parks separate the two. If your large breed dog takes a while to warm up to other dogs, you might be able to use the small dog area to get it used to the idea of playing with other dogs, but be sure to ask any small dog owners first.


These rules are usually universal for all dog parks, but you should always check the specific regulations for any dog park you’re visiting before you bring your dog to the area. This will help you and your dog have a good experience at the park and other owners will welcome your return.

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How to Know If It’s the Right Time For You to Get a Puppy

You’ve been looking at all the cute puppies available on Uptown Puppies and you’re really leaning toward adopting one. But is it the right time? There certainly are better times than others to add a four-legged friend to your family, but when are those times? Here’s a short guide that can help you decide whether or not a new puppy is in your future.

 Can You Provide What a Puppy Needs?

This is by far the number one thing you must consider before getting a puppy. Are you able to provide food, shelter, exercise, company, and medical attention for a dog? If the answer is no or maybe, it’s not the right time for you to adopt a dog. You have to be in a financial situation that allows you to pay for the things your dog will need to survive. Obviously, they have to eat and they need a place to live that’s safe and comfortable. But the less obvious needs such as exercise and company are just as important.

If you live in a small apartment that doesn’t have an easily accessible yard, you should not get a dog or at least a large dog that requires a lot of exercise and outdoor activity. If you work 12-hour days and the dog is going to be left alone for that time, you’re not ready to adopt a dog. Puppies are very social animals and need to be around their human owners often for them to have a happy life. If you can’t dedicate a large portion of your day to their well-being, it’s better not to have a dog for now.

Medical attention is another requirement for dogs, but especially puppies. You’ll need to pay for a wellness exam, vaccinations, and tests to make sure your pet is healthy and stays that way. Plus, if your puppy gets into something it shouldn’t, you may have unexpected veterinarian bills as well. Be sure you can afford these services because your dog is depending on you to take care of it.

Do You Have Time to Train a Puppy?

Adopting a puppy means you’re getting a dog that is basically a clean slate. While this is an opportunity for you to raise it the right way, it also means that you’re going to have to dedicate a significant chunk of time training it. If you work a lot or have upcoming travel plans, it might be better to wait to get a puppy until you’re going to be home for a while so you can help your puppy develop good habits.

Are Your Kids Old Enough?

We’ve all seen the darling photos of a toddler cuddling a puppy, but having a young child and a young dog at the same time isn’t always a good idea. Children need to be old enough to understand how to treat and handle the dog and you might also want them to be old enough to be able to take some responsibility for the dog. You don’t want to create a dangerous situation for either your children or the puppy.


If you can answer “yes” to all of these questions, then you’re probably ready to get a puppy. Make sure you research the different breeds so you’re sure to get the dog that fits perfectly into your lifestyle and if you’re not 100% sure you want a dog, wait until you are.

Image Credit

Doggles – Dogs in Sunglasses

Saturday, 12 March 2022

How do I look in these?  That age old question about sunglasses is now not only restricted to our own species.  Now the dogs are getting in on the act too.  A surprise hit, it has been described as one of those money making ideas that should never have worked but in fact makes millions.

The Green Lantern of the Animal Kingdom – The Paradise Tanager

It is said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.  So, perhaps when a certain Alan Scott came in to possession of a magic lantern after a rail crash in 1940, which bestowed upon him certain powers, he was at a loss about how he should dress when in action. 

Perhaps he remembered a stunning, exotic bird he had seen in books in his youth.  

When he became the Green Lantern could it be he had the Paradise Tanager in mind?

Very probably not, but it must be said that the mask worn by the brilliantly colored Paradise Tanger is more than a little reminiscent of the entire Green Lantern Corps.  This medium sized songbird is more than just a mask, however.  It has sky blue underparts and its upper body is a glossy black.  As for the tail – it can be either yellow and red or all red, depending on the species.

The bird is found in the Amazon Basin in South America, in over half a dozen countries there.  Such is the brilliance of the bird’s plumage that it is known locally as siete colores, which means seven colors.  There is no sexual dimorphism which means that the female, so often a dowdy color in other species, has the same magnificent plumage as the male.

As such it can be quite difficult to tell the genders apart.  The only thing which differentiates is that the male calls out more often than the female (whether or not you agree that that is extended to other species is entirely a matter of opinion).  Fortunately, the future of this species seems, for the moment, secure.  Although their exact number is not known, they are described as common throughout their extensive range.

The Paradise Tanager is a clean freak.  Each morning when the mist descends they awake before many other species of bird and ruffle and preen their feathers in order to keep them in tip top condition. Once a male has found a mate the pair elopes to the canopy of the rainforest.  This is because the higher they nest it becomes less likely that their eggs will be eaten by predators.  They chose a nesting spot and then the majority of each day is spent searching for nesting material, finding fruit to eat and hunting insects on the wing.

The species rarely lays more than two eggs at a time and another reason they nest in the canopy is because it puts them at a height where the humidity is just right for the eggs to develop.  After about two weeks the eggs will hatch.

A startlingly beautiful species, the Green Lantern may not, after all, have used them as an inspiration for his mask.  The Paradise Tanager is, however, a super bird in its own right.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park, in southwest South Dakota, United States preserves 242,756 acres (98,240 ha) of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires blended with the largest protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. Bizarre and beautiful formations jut out of the fractured prairie in various shades of pink, red and yellow. Bison and bighorn sheep are a few of the parks multiple inhabitants.

Sit back and take in this glorious landscape with its wildlife through this short film created by Matt Brass.  The music is The Temperature of the Air on the Bow of the Kaleetan" by Chris Zabriskie.

The Hyrax – The Elephant’s Cousin

Thursday, 17 February 2022

The Hyrax may look like a guinea pig to the casual observer but looks can be very deceptive.  It has even been called the rock rabbit but its family tree is much stranger than you might expect. Its nearest living relatives are the elephant and, bizarrely, the sea cow.

Peacocks in Flight: It’s Quite the Sight

Sunday, 9 January 2022

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.

Hummingbirds in Flight

Saturday, 1 January 2022

Nothing can quite prepare you for the exquisite sight of a hummingbird on the wing. Nature has truly spoiled us with this astonishing spectacle. Take a look as ten different species take flight in their search for food and marvel at the aerodynamics of one of the world's truly astonishing species.

Image Credit Flickr User Ingrid Taylor
This beautiful specimen is known as an Anna’s Hummingbird and was named after Anna Messina, the Duchess of Rivoli. It is found along the Pacific Coast from British Columbia to Arizona. Males perform remarkable display dives during the courtship season. The male, when his territory is threatened, rises up around a hundred feet before diving on to his rival. The dive is so fast it produces an “explosive squeak” as the wind rushes through the tail feathers.

Amung Feedjit