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: 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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The Monthly Species: January

Hello! Welcome to this brand new series! Its the Monthly Species. That’s right every month I’ll be giving you a profile for a new species! Alternating predominantly between the animal kingdom and the plant kingdom! This month it’s….

Southern Royal Albatross

375px-diomedea_epomophora_-_se_tasmania

Scientific Classification:

Scientific Name : Diomedea epomophora

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Procellariiformes

Family: Diomedeidae

Genus: Diomedea

Size: Albatross are huge. Gigantic in fact! They have an average length of 112 cm and an average weight of 8.5 kg. Males are slightly heavier than females. There wingspan is around 3 metres! Thats around 10ft.

Diet: Just like many sea dwelling birds, these birds have a diet based around squid, fish and other crustaceans. They eat within a 1250km radius of their breeding site.

Life Expectancy: They can live into their 40s!

royal-albatross3-223Reproduction: Pairs of albatross nest on grasslands and then both parents will incubate the egg. They breed in New Zealand and raise a chick every other year. The chick hatches in February to March and will then take flight for the first time in October to early December. The fledgling process is helped by the strong winds New Zealand experiences at that time.

Conservation: Currently these birds are classed as vulnerable according to the IUCN red list. This is because the population is still recovering after it was predated on heavily by humans in the 1930s. Other threats to these birds include farming on breeding grounds and animals like pigs and cats taking their eggs. Another threat to the albatross is being caught as bycatch in fisheries which could amount to the death of thousands of birds every year. However the population is currently stable and there are efforts to protect their breeding grounds.

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species: The albatross are migratory birds and some have been reported to cover 190,000km a year! One migration of a bird was calculated to cover 13,000km in just two weeks!

I guess to summarise these birds are big and beautiful. They deserve protecting and are an important part of terrestrial and marine ecology. Thats why they had to be the species of the month!

southenroyal_tcm9-198821

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Meeting Pickle

Hello! Today I want to tell you about a very special day I had in August, the day that I met Pickle.

Pickle is a Humboldt penguin that lives at Newquay Zoo. I got to meet him as part of the

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Me and Pickle (BFF’s)

penguin feeding experience there alongside my other half. Pickle is quite a special penguin in that he was raised by humans and has since struggled to fully ascertain that he is in fact a penguin and not a human. He falls in love with humans when he meets them and sings to them like penguins sing to their penguin partners. When I sat down next to him he let me stroke his feathers and snuggled into me, it was truly an amazing experience to see a penguin so close and to see them all so happy. Aside from meeting pickle I got to meet all the other penguins living there, who did not care for humans without fish and I learnt a lot about these penguins and other species of penguin from the keeper. One thing I thought that was really interesting was most penguins live in warm climates, Humboldt penguins are native to Chile and Peru. They also have salt glands to get rid of salt from the ocean which they sneeze out (Penguin sneezes are the cutest thing). Feeding them was so much fun and it was great to learn that at Newquay zoo they have a fantastic breeding programme. Either way I thought I had to let you guys know all about Humboldt penguins so below is there profile! Enjoy!

Humboldt Penguin

Image result for humboldt penguin

Scientific Classification:

 

Order: Sphenisciformes

Family: Spheniscidae

Genus: Spheniscus

Species: humboldti

Scientific Name: Spheniscus humboldti

Size:

They are medium-sized penguins, growing to 56–70 cm long and a weight of 3.6-5.9 kg. Baring in mind the biggest penguin (the emperor penguin) grow to about 122cm tall and have a weight of up to 45kg.

Diet:

They eat fish, mainly anchovies, krill and squid.

Life expectancy:

On average they live around 20 years in the wild however at Newquay zoo they have a penguin called Mother who is 28 years old!

Reproduction:

Humboldt penguins make nests in between cracks and crevices in rocks, at the zoo they had ones made from fibreglass for them. Females lay one or two eggs. When chicks hatch after a 40 day incubation period, both parents take in turns to care for them. After about two months, the chick is left alone during the day while both parents hunt for food. Most of the time it is one male and one female taking care of the chicks however in Germany two adult male Humboldt penguins adopted an egg that had been abandoned by its biological parents. After the egg hatched, the two male penguins raised, protected, cared for, and fed the chick in the same manner that regular penguin couples raise their own biological offspring.

Conservation Status:

It is currently under the IUCN red list classed as vulnerable. The population of Humboldt penguins is declining, caused partly by over-fishing, climate change, and ocean acidification. The main reason for their decline is due to habitat destruction, and in the over collecting of guano (that’s the accumulated excrement of seabirds, seals, or cave-dwelling bats which is used as a fertiliser) by humans. Removal of guano means that penguins cannot build there nests up adequately to protect their chicks, leaving them exposed to predators and severe weather conditions. However in August 2010 penguins in Peru and Chile were granted protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

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Great White Shark

Today we’re looking at the head honcho of the ocean. Here’s my profile of the Great White Shark.

gty_Great_white_shark_mm_150616_12x5_1600

Scientific Classification:

Order: Lamniformes

Family: Lamnidae

Genus: Carcharodon

Species: carcharias

Scientific Name: Carcharodon carcharias

Size:

An interesting fact about Great Whites is that the females are often bigger than the males. Most range from about 4 to 5 metres. They can weigh over 3000kg and grow up to 6 metres long.

Diet:

Great White sharks typically eat fish, other sharks, sea lions, seals, sea-birds, small whales, turtles, porpoises and carrion. The occasional human perhaps? I joke obviously! When a great white goes for a human it is typically because it has mistaken it for something else. This is why there are so many cases of people being bitten and then the shark swimming away.

Life expectancy:

Hard to say exactly because they remain to be mysterious creatures. Through various studies we can say they could live up to 30 to 40 years however given their size they could be living longer.

Reproduction:

The Great White Shark is ovoviviparous, meaning the eggs develop and hatch in the females uterus. When born the offspring are about 1.5m long and perfectly capable predators. A female Great White Shark will give typically give birth to 8 or 9 pups.

Conservation Status:

It is currently under the IUCN red list classed as vulnerable.

Hope you’ve enjoyed todays profile and dip into the Shark Tank. Who knows maybe one day there will be some more profiles of other animals!

More articles from the Shark Tank

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The Monthly Scientist: Mr May

This month I’ve been binge watching blue planet, one of my favourite environment documentary’s so of course this months scientist goes to none other than:

Sir David Frederick Attenborough

David-Attenborough-and-the-Giant-Egg-4-900x506

Born: 8 May 1926 (age 90) in Isleworth, London.

Noted for: Being a broadcaster and naturalist. Also for having one of the best voices of all human kind.

Why scientist of the month?

Aside from being one of my biggest inspirations to become a scientist, he also got so many people around the world taking an interest about what’s going on outside his front door. He has received so many awards that his current full title is Sir David Attenborough OM CH CVO CBE FRS FSA. He also has 32 honorary degrees from British Universities. I can only aspire to have that many letters after my name!

He first became the voice of nature documentary’s in 1952 with the three part series Animal Patterns, he then went on to present a show called Zoo Quest which featured the animals at London Zoo. Perhaps his biggest credit is the Life series, an entire collection of the stories of Life across earth. The series started with “Life On Earth” in 1979 and finished (well so far, although Attenborough has said the series has concluded) with “Life in Cold Blood” in 2008. Although his series Blue Planet in 2001 remains to be my favourite closely followed by the Hunt in 2015.

He has been a huge influence on the general public by showing them the wonders of the natural world. As well as being a huge advocate for things that can’t speak for themselves so let me finish with his closing message from State of the Planet in 2002.

“The future of life on earth depends on our ability to take action. Many individuals are doing what they can, but real success can only come if there’s a change in our societies and our economics and in our politics. I’ve been lucky in my lifetime to see some of the greatest spectacles that the natural world has to offer. Surely we have a responsibility to leave for future generations a planet that is healthy, inhabitable by all species.”

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*NOTE* Well done for reading this far if you have! Just to let you know that I’m off on holiday for the next two weeks, so I’ll be back writing on the 14th of June. Happy Biologying!