Top 10 UK Mammals

Top 10s

Mammals are often the main driver for conservation campaigns. You always see things like lions, tigers, pandas and elephants as the poster animals for organisations like the WWF. Well, if you didn’t know the UK has some pretty incredible mammals of its own. Here are ten of my favourites that are all native to the UK!

1 – Grey Seal – Halichoerus grypus

Grey seals are found all over the UK. They feed on all kinds of fish and live in large colonies. In the past the seals were once hunted almost to the point of extinction, particularly in the US. However now in the UK grey seals are protected under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 however this does not apply in Northern Ireland. The picture below is of the seals in Stiffkey in Norfolk which I got to see as part of my masters degree!

Photo by Duncan Harris

2 – Greater Horseshoe Bat – Rhinolophus ferrumequinum

This fantastic bat species can be found across the UK. They can often be seen foraging in woodlands and pastureland and nest in underground caves. The best time to see most bats is in the summer around dusk. These bats have been in decline due to fragmentation of their habitats but there has been a massive effort to conserve the species and populations have been stabilizing in the UK.

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Photo by Prof. emeritus Hans Schneider

3 – European Otter – Lutra lutra

One of the most adorable mammals in the UK is the otter. They are found around many different kinds of aquatic habitat and feed on mostly fish, eels and crayfish. They were once only found in Scotland but with conservation of water systems signs of otters have been found throughout the UK.

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Photo by Bernard Landgraf

4 – European Badger – Meles meles

This fantastic mammal is instantly recognisable. Badgers are found across the UK in countryside and woodlands. They are a nocturnal species that feed on a wide range of animal and plant matter but their favourite is earthworms. They live in family groups of four to seven individuals and live in setts underground. They are fully protected by the law but recently periodic culls have been allowed in the aim to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

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Photo from Pixabay

5 – Wood Mouse – Apodemus sylvaticus

Otherwise known as the long-tailed field mouse or common field mouse, these guys are undeniably adorable. They live in woodlands and farmland. They have the perfect teeth to dig into all kinds of different seeds. Their upper front teeth have a smooth inner surface which distinguishes them from the house mouse.

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Photo by Hans Hillewaert

6 – Hazel Dormouse  – Muscardinus avellanarius

Now although all the mammals on this list are great I think this little mouse is my ultimate favourite! The Hazel Dormouse is the only species in this genus and is found in the south of England. It is also the only dormouse that is native to the UK. Dormice live predominantly in the trees and is found in hedgerows, deciduous woodland and farmland. It feeds on flowers, insects, seeds and fruits.

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Photo by Haruta Ovidiu

7 – European Hedgehog – Erinaceus europaeus

This mammal is distinctive feature of the UK countryside. It has been shown that hedgehogs thrive in many man-made habitats such as gardens, orchards and farmland. These prickly guests love it if you leave a section of your garden to grow a bit wild!

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Photo by Nicolas Zea P.

8 – Common Pipistrelle Bat – Pipistrellus pipistrellus

This bat is found all over the world but does make it’s home in the UK. They live in colonies of around 20-50 individuals in the summer and in the winter they go it alone or in small groups. It forages in a variety of habitats including open woodland and woodland edges, Mediterranean shrubland, semi-desert, farmland, rural gardens and urban areas. It feeds on small moths and flies.

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Photo by Evgeniy Yakhontov

9 – Eurasian Water Vole – Neomys fodiens

This water vole is quite large growing up to 10cm long. This species is semi-aquatic with water repelling fur. It occurs in a wide variety of wetland habitats, both freshwater and coastal, including lakes, rivers, streams, marshes, bogs, damp grasslands, humid woodlands, sea shores and intertidal wetlands. It is the most aquatic of all European shrews. It hunts on land and in water for invertebrates, including crustaceans, and occasionally takes small fish and amphibians.

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10 – Eurasian Beaver – Castor fiber

The beaver was once a UK mammal species but in the 20th Century it was hunted to extinction. However there have been several projects to reintroduce the Beaver! Beavers are adapted for a semi-aquatic life, using a variety of freshwater systems, including rivers, streams, irrigation ditches, lakes, and swamps. They generally prefer freshwater habitats surrounded by woodland, but may occur in agricultural land.

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Photo by Tomasz Chmielewski

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little list, there are so many mammals that didn’t make the list so there might be a part two! Send me a cheeky tweet or a comment with your favourite mammal!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Top 10 UK Trees

Top 10s

Hello! I’m back with another top 10 list, so far I’ve done top 10 Hedgerow plants and top 10 UK birds! For this list all of the trees are UK native species!

  1. Alder (Alnus glutinosa) – Alder is actually a pioneer species as it increases the fertility of the soil. Alder has a symbiotic relationship with with a nitrogen-fixing bacterium called Frankia alni. Fond in the root nodules, the bacterium absorbs nitrogen from the air and makes it available to the tree. Alder, in turn, provides the bacterium with sugars, which it produces through photosynthesis.Image result for Alnus glutinosa
  2. Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris) – I have my own crab apple tree that was given to my parents when I was born which is very special to me! These trees are unique in that they will often grow alone without any other crab apple trees close by! Image result for crab apple tree
  3. Elder (Sambucus nigra) – This tree is fantastic for wildlife. The flowers provide nectar for a variety of insects and the berries are eaten by birds and mammals. Small mammals such as dormice and bank voles eat both the berries and the flowers and many moth caterpillars feed on the foliage.Image result for elder tree
  4. Oak (Quercus robur) – One of my absolute favourite trees so much so I could write this whole post about just Oak! The trees are fantastic for biodiversity when solitary but also as part of forests. They provide fantastic hard wood which is used for all sorts of things and parts of the tree were even used in traditional medicine! Image result for oak tree
  5. White Willow (Salix alba) – All willow trees were seen as trees of celebration in biblical times but over time they are now often used as symbols of mourning. You see this a lot in poetry and literature, for example in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia dies by drowning near a willow tree. Image result for white willow
  6. Yew (Taxus baccata) – I have written about Yew before which goes into more of it’s poisonous nature. Another fact about Yew trees is that given their dense nature they provide fantastic nesting opportunities for many of our smaller uk bird species, particularly the goldcrest and firecrest.Image result for yew tree
  7. Bay Willow (Salix pentandra) – This willow tree has leaves that look like Bay trees hense the name! All willow trees have a history with medicine as Salicilin is found in the bark of the tree. Asprin is derived from this compound but in olden times you could chew on the bark of willow trees to relieve pain!Image result for bay willow
  8. Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) – Scot’s pine is the national tree for Scotland and is vital to the unique Caledonian Forest that is a habitat for other rare species such as the red squirrel.Image result for scots pine caledonian forest
  9. Wild Cherry (Prunus avium) – Cherry trees are completely stunning and this species is native to the UK! There blossom is fantastic for nature as it’s early source of pollen and nectar. These trees are often used as ornamental plants but the wood is also very pretty and used to make ornamental pieces.Image result for wild cherry tree prunus avium
  10. Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) – This species of tree was planted as protection against witches because this tree has red berries and the colour red was considered the best colour for fighting evil. This species grows well in high altitudes and the wood is strong and hard which makes it great for making furniture.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick romp through some UK trees! The woodland trust has lots of fantastic information on different tree species and where to find them if you are looking for more!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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What makes something native?

Miscellaneous

In conservation and biology in general there is a lot of talk over whether a species is native. This can often be quite a divisive issue because when species are not native they can often be removed or not be a part of policy making. This then means that when conservation plans are put into place a decision must be made as to whether a species is native or not.

So how do you decide whether something is in fact native?

A seemingly easy way of doing this is whether a species has been living in a location for a long time. However due to the wonderful nature of the world trying to pick a starting point in time and figure out what was living there can be a tricky task. For example certain plant species have always been in the UK such as Oak trees. They are therefore classed as native. Other plant species have been brought into the UK. This can happen for lots of different reasons whether its because the plant has a medical property that humans can use or it could be that they are just pretty. Many of these species have a specific few years when they were brought in. One example of this is Rhododendron ponticum which was brought in as an ornamental plant from Spain in 1763. Its since become an invasive species and out competes a lot of native species and such its regarded as a non-native species. However some research suggests that this species was growing in the UK before the last ice age. Obviously this was a long time ago but this does then pose the question of is it a native species as it once was many years a go.

It is a complicated question that I couldn’t answer in a simple blog post. However, most native species are defined as species that originated in their location naturally and without the involvement of human activity or intervention. This definition works for the majority of cases but should be called into question every once in a while!

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