October 9, 2014

Wildlife Wednesday: The Beauty of Nature: Strange and Exotic Animals That Call This World Home

We have all been there, you are surfing the web until a picture catches your eye and makes you do a double take.  You have spotted a rare and unusual animal that you never knew existed.  For a moment you are certain this is the work of a Photoshop master that is until you Wikipedia it. Do not adjust your screen settings the pictures you are about to see are real. These beautiful and exotic animals live among us.

The Bush Viper, scientifically known as Atheris squamiger comes from the family Viperidae. It is a venomous, rough-scaled, arboreal snake. The male bush viper can grow to be 16 to 22 inches in length, smaller than the female who can grow 20 to 28 inches in length. The bush viper can be found in the forests from Nigeria to western Kenya, as well as from northwestern Tanzania southward to northwestern Angola. The bush viper is most often found in rainforests, but can also be found in open woodlands, along water courses and in the vegetation bordering trails. The bush viper can live anywhere from 12 to 20 years. The bush viper can move quickly when needed, but it is generally inactive to the point of lethargy. They will find a quiet elevated perch in their terrarium, coil, and may remain, barely moving, for several days. But, if disturbed, they can and will bite.

Their name derives from the uncanny resemblance to a panda in its markings. The name while seemingly fitting is actually all wrong.  Obviously it is not a panda and believe it or not, it isn’t an ant either. The Panda Ant is actually a variety of wingless wasp! They were first discovered in 1938. They are only known to exist of the coast of Chile. Their sting is exceptionally powerful for their size. They have been seen to bring down animals as large as cows with only a few dozen stings. The Panda Ant displays extreme sexual dimorphism. The difference in both appearance and behavior is so pronounced, the two sexes are often mistaken for entirely separate species! The male is several times larger than the female. He can grow to a length of approximately 0.3 in (mm). The males are winged, and the females are wingless. The males are nocturnal, while the females are active during the day. The Panda Ant lives off of nectar. After mating, the female seeks the nest of a ground dwelling insect, such as a bee or wasp. There she deposits her eggs. When they hatch, they will feed upon the larva present.

The Sea Robin scientifically known as a Gurnard or scorpaeniform fish comes from the family Triglidae. They get their name from their large pectoral fins, which, when swimming, open and close like a bird's wings in flight. They can grow to be a foot or two in length. They live in the ocean at depths to 200 m (660 ft). They have a solid skull, and many species possess armored plates on their bodies. Another distinctive feature is the presence of a drumming muscle that makes sounds by beating against the swim bladder. When caught, they make a croaking noise similar to a frog. Sea robins have six spiny flexible legs that were once part of the pectoral fin. Over time, the spines separated themselves from the rest of the fin, developing into feeler-like forelegs. The pectoral fins have been thought to let the fish walk on the bottom, but are really used to stir up food.]The animals float upside down at the surface of the sea, keeping afloat by swallowing air which is stored in their stomachs. Their diet is mainly made up of hydrozoans including the Portuguese Man o’ War - they even eat the stings. As well as getting nourishment from the stings, they use them for their own defense.

Zoe is one of the rarest zebras in existence. She is what is called a Golden Zebra, although some refer to her as a “white” zebra. Zoe is the only Golden Zebra known to be in captivity at this time. Zoe was born on the Island of Molokai, Hawaii in 1998 and shortly after her and her mother, Oreo, was moved to the Three Ring Ranch, which is an animal sanctuary on the Big Island of Hawaii. Her unusual color is due to her having "amelanosis". She is not an albino. She has striking gold stripes and blue eyes. In horses, there is a similar condition called "Lethal White Foal Syndrome" which is associated with the occurrence of other serious birth defects. Although this color variation occasionally occurs in wild herds, the animals would likely survive only a few days at best. This is probably because zebras use their stripes as camouflage to blend in with the rest of herd. This then allows the herd, to confuse predators with the changing patterns formed by the movement of a large group. Animals that stand out from the herd are easy targets for predators. In nature, having a color variation that makes you stand out is not a good thing! As of now, the only health problems they are aware of is the fact that she has poor night vision. As she ages she may incur some complications due to the amelanism such has kidney problems. There have only been reports of two other Golden Zebra’s in captivity. The first was in Germany approximately 100 years ago! The second was in a zoo in Tokyo in the 1970’s. Zoe is the only Golden Zebra known to exist in captivity today.

Camel spiders became the talk of the internet during the Iraq war of 2003, when rumors spread online about their bloodthirsty nature. For many years, Middle Eastern rumors have painted camel spiders as large, venomous predators, as fast as a running human, with a voracious appetite for large mammals. None of this is true, these creatures do not actually eat camels' stomachs or sleeping soldiers, and they are not gigantic. The camel spider's history of misinformation begins with a misidentification. Camel spiders are not even spiders. Like spiders, they are members of the class Arachnida, but they are actually solpugids. Camel spiders, also called wind scorpions and Egyptian giant solpugids (SAHL-pyoo-jids), are only about 6 inches (15 centimeters) long. True, they are fast, but only compared to other arachnids. Their top speed is estimated at 10 miles (16 kilometers) per hour. Camel spiders are not deadly to humans (though their bite is painful), but they are vicious predators that can visit death upon insects, rodents, lizards, and small birds. They have powerful jaws that are one-third of their body length and used to seize their victims and turn them to pulp with a chopping or sawing motion. Camel spiders are not venomous, but they do utilize digestive fluids to liquefy their victims' flesh, making it easy to suck the remains into their stomachs.

 Aye-ayes are rare animals who are actually related to chimpanzees, apes, and humans, that can only be found on the island of Madagascar. The aye-aye’s head and body length can reach up to 440 mm and their tail length up to 600 mm. The aye-aye typically weighs around 2-3 kg. The highly distinctive aye-aye is the world’s largest nocturnal primate. It has a thick coat of coarse black or brown hair flecked with white from longer guard hairs, and a long bushy tail which more than doubles the length of the body. The species has a number of extreme morphological adaptations to its unusual feeding habits, making it one of the most bizarre-looking animals on the planet. It has huge, leathery bat-like ears and prominent yellowish-orange eyes. The fingers are long and narrow and tipped with curved claw-like nails. The third finger on each hand is skeletal in appearance. It is extremely long and thin, and is primarily used for extracting insect larvae from holes in trees. The aye-aye is nocturnal and spends its days sleeping in a nest of twigs and leaves. The nest can take up to 24 hours to build and are often located high up in the crowns of tall trees. As they move from place to place individuals either build new nests or make use of those constructed by other aye-ayes. Male aye-ayes have large overlapping ranges of around 100 to 200 ha, which usually contain several females. The home ranges of females are smaller and do not overlap. Individuals mark their ranges with urine and scent from glands in their necks, cheeks and rumps. Breeding is thought to occur throughout the year, with females advertising their readiness to mate through distinctive calls. They are thought to give birth to a single young every two to three years. Although regarded as a generally solitary species, males and female aye-ayes have been observed foraging together outside of breeding periods.
Aye-ayes fill the niche occupied by woodpeckers and squirrels in other parts of the world (neither of these occur in Madagascar). They can locate grubs living in cavities under tree-bark by tapping their thin middle fingers on the branch and listening to the reverberations through the wood. Once a promising cavity has been found the aye-aye cocks forward its large ears and listens for the sound of grubs burrowing beneath the bark. If a grub is heard the aye-aye will rip open the cavity with its teeth and hook out the grub with its middle finger. Aye-ayes also eat fruit, nuts, nectar, seeds and fungi.
Many people native to Madagascar consider the aye-aye to be bad luck. For this reason they were once killed on sight, leading to this animal becoming critically endangered. Luckily, today they are protected by law.

Discovered in the early 21st century (2005), the peculiar looking crustacean known as the yeti crab gets its name from the layer of "furry" setae that covers most of its body. Given the scientific name "Kiwa hirsuta" and sometimes called a “furry lobster”, the yeti crab was originally discovered in the Pacific Ocean near the Antarctic Ridge about 900 miles off the coast of Easter Island. Since then another species has been discovered and named “Kiwa puravida”. Yeti crabs live on  the ocean floor and stay near hydrothermal vents, and due to their entire lives being spent on the ocean floor, they never develop the ability to see. They are large creatures with an average length of around 6 inches (15 centimeters), and are found at depths as deep as 7200 feet (2200 meters). The arms are actually covered in bacteria, which lives in the setae and is most likely a food source for the crab. Yeti crabs are also believed to feed off mussels, shrimp or algae. Their hair is possibly a means of sensing their surroundings. Not much else is known about the yeti crab, but it is believed to be a distant relative of the common hermit crab.

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All Pictures courtesy of Google Images

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