The Monthly Species: December

Hello! So this is my penultimate post of the year, it’s been a crazy and fantastic year for ThatBiologist but I shall save that for my business meeting post. Today I’m going with everyone’s favorite parasite as my final species of the month. It’s European Mistletoe!

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Core eudicots
Order: Santalales
Family: Santalaceae(Viscaceae)
Genus: Viscum
Species: V. album

Size: Mistletoe grows in a shrub high up in trees. It has stems that are approximately 30-100cm with dichotomous branches with opposite leaves!

Diet: Mistletoe is a hemiparasite. This means it grows on trees and uses the trees for water and nutrients. However being a plant it does photosynthesise producing sugars for the plant to use. It is most commonly found on broad-leaved trees such as apple, lime, hawthorn and poplar.

Uses: Mistletoe has been used as the base flavor for a liqueur. It has also been used as an alternative medicine!

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species:

There are lots of myths, legends and traditions surrounding Mistletoe. The most common tradition is that you must kiss if under some mistletoe at Christmas time.

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The Monthly Species: November

If you weren’t aware although I am a botanist by trade I absolutely adore sharks! I ever dedicated a whole week to them last year which you can find here. I therefore had to include one on my Monthly Species list! So today we’re talking about the Bull Shark!

Image result for bull shark

Bull sharks get their name from their short, blunt snout, as well as their pugnacious disposition and a tendency to head-butt their prey before attacking. They are medium-size sharks, with thick, stout bodies and long pectoral fins. They are gray on top and white below, and the fins have dark tips, particularly on young bull sharks.

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Order: Carcharhiniformes
Family: Carcharhinidae
Genus: Carcharhinus
Species: C. leucas

Size: 7 to 11.5 ft long with the largest verified shark being 12 foot long and they weigh between 200 to 500 lbs.

Diet: Given their fast and agile nature, Bull sharks will eat almost anything they can catch. This includes fish, dolphins and other sharks. They do not go after humans specifically however bull sharks are often in turbid waters of bays where humans are common. This combination leads to some human attacks.

Life Expectancy: 16 years in the wild
Reproduction: 
They have a gestational period of 10 to 11 months and pups are born alive. Bull sharks do not raise there young but instead will bear them in protected costal regions commonly referred to as nurseries.

Conservation: According to the IUCN Bull sharks are classed as Near Threatened on the red list. This is mainly due to the sharks being hunted for their meat and for their fins. 

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species: There are a lot of cool things about bull sharks. They have been seen leaping up river rapids, salmon-like, to reach inland lakes. This can mean they can be found up to 2500 miles in land!! Secondly Bull sharks are among a few sharks that can survive in both saltwater as well as freshwater. They can do this because they’ve developed “super kidneys” that can remove large amounts of a salty compound called urea from the bloodstream.

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The Monthly Species – October

I thought it was high time to include another bird on this years Monthly Species list. Today I wanted to introduce you to a very small owl species and it is very aptly name. This month’s monthly species is the Little Owl!

Image result for Athene noctua

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Athene
Species: A. noctua

Size: The little owl is usually 22 centimetres (8.7 in) in length with a wingspan of 56 centimetres (22 in) for both sexes, and weighs about 180 grams (6.3 oz).

Diet: They can eat small mammals (like mice), beetles and worms.

Life Expectancy: Sixteen years

Mochuelo Común ( Athene noctua )(1).jpgReproduction: Pairs will breed annually with a clutch of usually 3 to 5 eggs. Males will bring food to female birds who incubate the eggs. The young leave the nest at about seven weeks, and can fly a week or two later. Usually there is a single brood but when food is abundant, there may be two. Pairs can bond for many years and even until one of the pair die. The pairs will often remain together all year round.

Conservation: Breeding Bird Survey data suggest that Little owl numbers are declining, with the UK population estimated to be down by 24 per cent between 1995 and 2008. They are currently listed as a Least Concern species on the IUCN red list.

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species: The little owl is closely associated with the Greek goddess Athena and the Roman goddess Minerva, and hence represents wisdom and knowledge.

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The Monthly Species – September

For this month’s ever so slightly late species I’m going to indulge myself by presenting to my favourite rodent! It’s the largest rodent species in the world and just so happens to be the cutest! It is of course the Capybara!

Group of Capybara on a river bank in Pantanal Brazil

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Caviidae
Genus: Hydrochoerus
Species: H. hydrochaeris

Size: Capybaras are big rodents! They can grow up to 134cm in length and stand up to 62cm. Their average weight is 48.9 kg.

Diet: They are an omnivorous species that will feed predominantly on grasses, fruits and tree bark. They are selective feeders which means that they will feed on the leaves of one species disregarding other species surrounding it. Their teeth never stop growing to account for all the eating that they do!

Life Expectancy: Individuals kept in captivity have a life expectancy of 8-10 years. However, most individuals that live in the wild will only live for four years as they are the favourite food source of many top predators including jaguars and pumas.


Reproduction: 
Capybaras can live alone but will often live in a group of 10-20 individuals. Their gestational period is between 130 and 150 days and they have a litter of around 4 babies!

Conservation: 

San Diego Zoo put it perfectly by saying “The capybara is not currently classified as an endangered species, although it is threatened by deforestation, habitat destruction, and illegal poaching. It was in trouble not too long ago, though, due to hunting. Local people have used this animal as a food source for centuries and have been seen wearing capybara teeth as ornaments.

Now, capybaras are being farmed for their meat as part of a mammal management plan in Venezuela and Colombia. This helps to protect the capybaras left in the wild and their wild habitat, which, in turn, helps all of the plants and animals that call that habitat home.”

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species:

They are fantastic swimmers! They have webbed feet, making them great swimmers, and their eyes, ears and nostrils are located at the top of their heads, enabling them to keep most of their bodies below water like hippos. Capybaras can also press their ears against their heads to keep water out, and they can completely submerge themselves for up to five minutes, allowing them to hide from predators.

A bird perches on a capybara's head.

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The Monthly Species – August

So it is time for another species to get into the spotlight! This particular species we’re discussing today has the longest migration of its kind. It is also rather beautiful in my opinion! Today the species in the spotlight is the Globe Skimmer Dragonfly!

Pantala Flavescens - Wandering Glider

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Odonata
Infraorder: Anisoptera
Family: Libellulidae
Genus: Pantala
Species: P. flavescens

 

Size: This dragonfly is about 4.5cm in length and has a wingspan of 7.2cm and 8.4cm.

Diet: As with all dragonflies the globe skimmer is predatory and has a diet of all aquatic invertebrates and their larvae.

Life Expectancy: Their life expectancy isn’t actually known because of their vast migration (more on that later).


Reproduction: 
There isn’t much courtship with this species. But when mating does occur each clutch can contain between 500 to 2000 eggs. The eggs are laid in waters and the larval stage lasts between 38 to 65 days.

Conservation: It is currently listed in the IUCN red list as the least concern. However, the globe skimmer is a key species that supports the population of many migratory birds!

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species: This dragonfly has the longest migration of any insect, it travels with the monsoon season from India to Southern and the East of Africa. That comes to around 14,000 kilometers! It is also known to be the highest flying insect having been seen at 6,200m above sea level in the Himalayas.

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The Monthly Species: July

Hello everyone I know its not exactly near the end of the month yet but I will be taking next week away from all things internet so it’s time for the species of this month! It’s something that has been keeping me going this month and one little specimen of this species sits on my desk every single day it is of course!

Arabica Coffee

Image result for arabica coffee plant

Scientific Classification:

Scientific Name : Coffea arabica

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Rubiaceae
Subfamily: Ixoroideae
Tribe: Coffeeae
Genus: Coffea

Size: Wild plants can grow between 9 and 12 metres tall with open branching systems. In coffee plantations the growth is often more formalized.

Habitat: This species is endemic to the Yemen and Ethiopia. However now there are coffee plantations in Africa, Latin America, South east Asia and China.

Use’s: This wonderful plant accounts for 70% of the world’s coffee production! The coffee we know and love comes from roasting the seeds which are found in coffee berries. The berries are often picked by hand to make sure they’re ripe enough or the plants are shaken so that only ripe berries fall off and on to mats that are placed at the base of the bush.

Conservation: Coffee plantations have been the reason why forest habitats have been destroyed reducing habitats for many species. However, climate change affecting rising temperatures, longer droughts and excessive rainfall has affected the sustainability of coffee plantations.

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species:

Coffee was the first food to ever be freeze dried!

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The Monthly Species: June

Hello friends! So it is the end of June, once again I’m astounded that we are now half way through the year. But! Today we are talking about a mushroom. Fungi aren’t my favourite topic of conversation but I couldn’t resist because this one is so so cool. It’s sometimes referred to as Lion’s mane or bear’s head tooth fungus. It is Hericium americanum! 

Image result

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Russulales
Family: Hericiaceae
Genus: Hericium
Species: H. americanum

Size: The fruiting body (the fleshy bit) can grow from about 15-30cm big. That in the range of mushrooms is big!

Diet: It lives off of decaying broad-leaved trees. It is thought that this may be init ally a parasitic fungus.

Distribution: It is found as the name might suggest in america. Specifically in North East america.
Hericium americanum, picture by Josh DotyReproduction: Fungus reproduce with spores which can be many different colours. This fungus has a white spore print.

Conservation: These fungi are quite common in the states however they are a prized find. They are an edible fungi and can be quite expensive because of how big they are!

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species:

The shape of the fruiting body is simply stunning. The ice crystal shapes when combined with many fruiting bodies can look like a frozen waterfall!

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The Monthly Species: May

It’s the end of May already! This months species has been in the news for reintroduction in Denmark. This is of course the grey wolf.

Canis lupis

VHawAWe

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Caniformia
Family: Canidae
Genus: Canis
Species: C. lupus

Size:

Grey wolves can measure up to 160cm in length and 85cm from shoulder height, however these sizes vary globally.

Diet:

As wolves are known globally diets do vary dependent on which continent they are found. That being said wolves generally feed on herbivorous mammals for example deer, goats and even bison. Wolves have been known to supplement this diet with berries and vegetable matter. This can include things like blueberries and melons but again varies on the location.

Life Expectancy:

Generally 7-8 years in the wild but wolves have been known to live up to 12 years or longer in remote locations and in protected areas.


Reproduction:

Breeding season occurs once a year late January through March. Pups are born blind and defenseless and there can be between 4 and 7 pups per litter. The pack cares for the pups until they fully mature at about 10 months of age when they can hunt on their own. Once grown, young wolves may disperse. Dispersing wolves have been known to travel 50 to 500 miles.

Conservation: 

Wolf populations worldwide decreased in the 19th century mainly through hunting. The populations are threatened from habitat loss and continued conflict with humans. On the other side populations have began to increase through an increase in protected areas and wolf populations have began to grow in places which were recently extinct from wolves.

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species:

Wolves have unique howls, like fingerprints, that scientists (and other pack members) can use to tell them apart.

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The Monthly Species: April

Hello and welcome to Day 24 of BEDA, the end is in sight! Today I’m bringing you one of my favorite plants in the whole world. Fun fact when I go to Kew I always make a trip to the carnivorous plants room because they are just that cool! It is of course the Venus Fly Trap.

Dionaea muscipula

Venus_Flytrap_showing_trigger_hairs

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Droseraceae
Genus: Dionaea
Species: D. muscipula

Size: Plants are built with a rosette of four to seven leaves. Each stem reaches a maximum size of about three to ten centimeters. The longer leaves with robust traps are usually formed after flowering. Flytraps that have more than seven leaves are colonies formed by rosettes that have divided beneath the ground.

Habitat: Bogs and wet savannah, or areas are nutrient poor. Its actually only native to North and South Carolina in the US. However it has been transplanted to several locations across the world.

Conservation: The species are currently classed as vulnerable in the IUCN red list. In North Carolina there is a law stating that the removal of naturally growing venus fly traps are is a felony.

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species:

The coolest thing about venus fly traps is of course there carnivorous capabilities. The venus fly trap is adapted to living in poor nutrient soils because it gains nutrients from the insects. The leaves have very sensitive adapted trigger hairs that when they feel pressure the movement is activated. This then closes the two leaves together and the poor insect is trapped. Digestive enzymes are then released which then turns the insect into a kind of mush and the plant can then obtain the nutrients. It’s a bit gory but I find it so cool! I’m sure that says alot about me in some way!

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The Monthly Species: February

Another month has flown by, as they always do! I’m really excited for spring to finally roll around. So to celebrate that my species of the month is actually a genus! Commonly known as the snowdrop! This genus actually has 20 species and have been cultivated to produce giant snowdrops and even yellow ones! The traditional snowdrop as we know it has the scientific name of Galanthus nivalis.

Galanthus nivalis.jpg

Scientific Classification:

Genus: Galanthus

Size: 7-15cm tall. Natural snowdrops only have one flowerhead growing on one stem.

Habitat: Woodland areas and damp areas

Conservation: 

Some species of snowdrop are under threat in there natural habitats due to habitat destruction, illegal collecting and climate change. Some species have regulation in their trade under CITES.

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species:

The snowdrop is often considered to be a wildflower in the UK but they weren’t recorded as growing wild until the 1770s and the snowdrop plant may be said to look like three drops of milk hanging from a stem. This accounts for the Latin name Galanthus which means “milk-white flowers”.

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