Saturday, January 30, 2016

Rhinopithecus Strykeri: The Monkey That Sneezes When it Rains

With all of the animal species on this planet that have been documented, it is sometimes hard to imagine that there are species out there that have yet to be studied, but there are. A group of biologists and primatologists has recently documented such a species. They published their findings in the American Journal of Primatology on October 26, 2010. The "new" species is a snub-nosed monkey they dubbed Rhinopithecus strykeri. This particular species has an interesting trait. The locals in Myanmar who are familiar with the monkey say it sneezes when it rains because the drops fall into its upturned nostrils. Unfortunately, this very trait makes the species easy to hunt.

Snub-nosed monkeys are typically found in China and Tibet. There are a handful of species, all with flat noses and wide faces. They have very prominent lips as well. All snub-nosed monkeys, including Rhinopithecus strykeri, are endangered species according to IUCN. Rhinopithecus strykeri is classified as critically endangered by the IUCN. This means that the population of these monkeys is at risk of reducing drastically within a mere three generations. Chances are they will become extinct without intervention.

Rhinopithecus strykeri is up to two feet tall, is almost covered in black fur and has a tail that is nearly one and a half times the length of its body. The skin around its nose and eyes is devoid of fur, revealing the pink skin underneath. The nose is virtually non-existent. There are simply two upturned nostrils. There is a white patch of fur beneath the lower lip, which is very thick. There are also white tufts of hair on the animal's ears and rump. This sneezing monkey's face is reminiscent of the Ewoks in Star Wars Episode VI.

The group of biologists and primatologists learned of the sneezing snub-nosed monkey when they were surveying gibbons in the Himalayas in northeastern Kachin State in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar in early 2010. Locals who hunt the animals showed them skulls and hides from the monkeys and told them of their interesting sneezing affliction. Intrigued by the information, they sought the animals and found them. Unfortunately, they also found that there are only an estimated 260-330 of these monkeys left. They are threatened by loggers, construction and hunters.


Live Science, Scientists discover monkey that sneezes when it rains, retrieved 10/29/10,

Viegas, Jennifer, Snub-Nosed Monkey Sneezes When it Rains, retrieved 10/29/10,

Gray, Louise, New species of monkey sneezes when it rains, retrieved 10/29/10,

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Marine Iguanas: The Lizards of the Ocean

Marine iguana
Marine Iguana
Photo by Brian Gratwicke
Marine Iguanas can be found on the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands are a volcanic island chain off of the northwest coast of South America. These islands are home to some of the rarest and most unique endemic species on the planet. One of these endemic species is the Marine Iguana. These creatures are the only iguanas on Earth that have adapted to living on the shores of, and feeding in, the ocean.

They have several features that distinguish them from land iguanas. They have short, snubbed noses and flat tails. They have longer and sharper claws than other iguanas.  Larger Maine Iguanas (mostly males), have the ability to dive and stay underwater for more than 30 minutes. They are able to dive in the cold water, despite being cold blooded, because these iguanas have the ability to slow down their heart rate and restrict blood flow in order to preserve heat. The smaller Marine Iguanas are unable to do this because they are not able to retain heat as well as the larger ones.

All of these unique features serve an important purpose for the Marine Iguana. The long, sharp claws are great for clinging to the lava rocks that line the shores of the Galapagos islands. If Marine Iguanas didn’t have these, they could be knocked off of the rocks by waves. Their snubbed noses help them scrape the algae that they eat off of the lava rocks. Their long flat tails  make it easier for the Marine Iguanas to swim. Lastly the larger ones’ ability to dive and stay under water for long periods is allowing them to eat for longer times before basking and it allows them to search for food further from shore.

Unlike many endemic species of the Galapagos, Marine Iguanas can be found on every island of the Galapagos archipelago. All of these iguanas are of the same species, but they do differ from island to island. One example of these differences is coloration. All baby Marine Iguanas are black, as are many of the adults. However, on some of these islands there are examples of bright red or green Marine Iguanas. Variations in the size of these iguanas from island to island have been noted as well.

Marine Iguanas live peacefully together for around ten months out of the year. The other two months they are breeding. While the males are trying to find mates they display territorial behavior and will fight with one another for hours. Once the males have found mates and it is time for the females to nest, it becomes the female’s turn to become aggressive with each another.

Interesting Facts About Marine Iguanas

-Marine Iguanas can shrink. When there are major food shortages these animals can and do shrink. What is interesting about this fact is that they not only get thinner, but they also lose a significant amount of length. 

-Marine Iguanas crowd together in large groups on the shores of the Galapagos at night to keep warm.

-Marine Iguanas sneeze salt. Special glands collect the salt when the animal takes in seawater while feeding. Every so often they get rid of the built up salt by sneezing. These salt bogeys often land right back on the iguanas head, where they dry up and turn the iguanas head white.

-They are the only iguanas on Earth that can feed in the ocean and depend on it for food.

These iguanas are not endangered, but they are vulnerable to changes in the ocean’s temperature. Also, animals that have been introduced to the islands, such as cats and dogs can and do feed on these iguanas. If these introduced species are kept under control and the currents in the area do not change, these interesting creatures may be around for a while yet. 


Marine Iguanas, retrieved 6/15/09,

Galapagos Marine Iguanas, 2002, retrieved 6/15/09,

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cadborosaurus: North America's Loch Ness Monster

Alleged Cadborosaurus carcass
In the northern waters of the Pacific, on the western coast of North America, there have been sightings of a creature that is similar to the Loch Ness Monster for more than a thousand years. This creature has reportedly been sighted off of the coast of Canada frequently and has even been reported in Alaskan waters and as far south as Monterey Bay in California. This creature is known as the Cadborosaurus and it is presumably a sea serpent. The only evidence of the existence of the Cadborosaurus are reported sightings, so the creatures very existence is a mystery. However, like many other sea serpent sightings in other parts of the globe and throughout history, it is hard to ignore due to the number of these sightings.

The Cadborosaurus is known by several monikers in many different places. Its other names include, Caddy, Pal-Rai-Yuk, Klematosaurus, Sarah the Sea Hag, Saya-Ustih, Hiyitlik, Tzarta-saurus, Sisiutl, Penda, Amy, Kaegyhil-Depgu’esk and Say Noth-Kai. Despite the many names that this creature is known by, descriptions of the animal by witnesses are very similar. Of course, there are subtle differences, but researchers believe that there may be subspecies of Cadborosaurus or that its appearance changes throughout its life.

The Cadborosaurus is described as roughly ten feet and more in length. It is said to have the slender, elongated body of a serpent. Its head is said to look like that of a camel (of all things). It does have fins, but the number of fins, location and description of the fins differ. Some people claim to have seen the animal feeding. The creature has been spotted hunting schools of fish and it has also been seen eating waterfowl, which it is said to have swallowed whole.

In 1937 a Cadborosaurus was said to have been found in the stomach of a whale near the Queen Charlotte Islands. Photos of the find were taken and samples were sent out to experts. One of the tissue samples was lost and the other was found to be from a fetal baleen whale. However, eyewitnesses say that there is no way that it could have been a fetal baleen whale and the pictures of the creature back up this claim. Of course, pictures are hardly scientific evidence. There are also people who claim to have caught Cadborosaurus specimens and have had to release them for one reason or another. Reported sightings and interactions with these animals are very numerous, but the fact remains that not one carcass, skeleton or live specimen has been found and identified as a sea serpent.

Throughout recorded maritime history stories of serpentine creatures being spotted in the ocean and in other deep waters have been fairly common. The sheer number of these supposed sea serpent sightings and the number of places that these sightings have occurred makes it hard to dismiss the existence of sea serpents easily. There is also the fact that the waters of the Earth are largely unexplored and we certainly haven’t been able to identify and classify every creature in their depths. So until we know for sure that we have identified everything in the Earth’s waters or we find a specimen and are able to study it thoroughly, the existence of these creatures will remain a mystery and people will continue to search for the elusive Cadborosaurus.


Cadborosaurus, retrieved 10/20/09,

The Cadbrosaurus Watch, retrieved 10/20/09,

Monday, January 25, 2016

Creatures With Long Life Spans

It is hard to prove which animals on Earth are the longest lived. It is nearly impossible for humans to track an animal for hundreds of years in the wild. It has certainly never been done. However, scientists have come up with some fairly accurate ways of determining the age of some wild animals. Here are just a few of the supposed longest-lived animals on Earth. The ages of these animals have either been assessed by researchers or are known to be fact.

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein-
Happens to be human, so imma put his picture here
Longest-lived animal #5: Humans

The average lifespan of humans has increased gradually over many centuries. Today the average person can expect to live around seventy-seven years. This is actually not too bad when compared to other mammals. There are even some people who live well beyond seventy-seven years. The longest-lived person ever recorded was a woman named Jeanne Calment. Jeanne Calment was born in France in 1875 and lived until 1997. She was a whopping 122 years old when she died.

Giant tortoise
Check out this stud.
Photo by Katie Chan
Longest-lived animal #4: Giant Tortoises

All tortoise species are known to live relatively long lives. This is doubly true for giant tortoises. In fact, a Galapagos tortoise by the name of Harriet was reportedly 176 years old when she died in 2006. Many people believe that Harriet was one of the specimens that Charles Darwin brought back with him from the Galapagos. Whether or not she was one of Darwin’s specimens, she was certainly very old. DNA tests confirmed her age. There have even been reports of giant tortoises living even longer than Harriet.

Cold seep tube worms
Photo by Charles Fisher
Longest-lived animal #3: Cold Seep Tube Worms

Cold seep tube worms are found in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. These animals can live for more than 200 years.  Scientists have been able to calculate their age by measuring their lengths. When doing this, they take the animals growth rate through different stages of their lives into account.

Bowhead whale
Bowhead whale breaching
Photo by Olga Shpak
Longest-lived animal #2: Bowhead Whales

It has been speculated that bowhead whales are the longest-lived mammals on Earth. This idea came about when whale hunters began turning up harpoon points in their kill from the turn of the last century. Another study on the age of these whales was done by examining the aspartic acid in the deceased whales’ eyeballs. The oldest bowhead ever examined was estimated to be 211 years old.

Longest-lived animal #1: Quahog Clam

Quahog clams have been known to live very long lives. The ones found off of the coast of Iceland are apparently the longest-lived of them all.  Bangor University researchers found a quahog clam off of the coast of Iceland that was 405 years old. Scientists are able to pinpoint the age of the clam by counting growth rings on their shells.

So there you have them, five animals that are thought to be among the longest-lived on the Earth. In reality there is no way of knowing if there are animals out there who live even longer lives than those listed here. There are simply too many creatures that mankind has not been able to thoroughly research, though lobsters may be sort of immortal. For now we will just have to be amazed by the long-lived animals that we are aware of.


Oldest Person in the World Turned 122 on February 21, 1997, retrieved 7/10/09,

Klatell, James, Darwin Tortoise Dies after 176 Years, retrieved 7/10/09,

Roach, Joan, 405-Year-Old Clam Called Longest-Lived Animal, National Geographic News October 29, 2007, retrieved 7/10/09,

Hourdez, Stephanie & Fisher, Chuck, Cold Seep Tubeworms, retrieved 7/10/09,

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Leafy Sea Dragons: Colorful Plant-Like Creatures

Leafy Sea Dragon
Leafy Sea Dragon
Photo by dro!d
Leafy Sea Dragons are some of the most interesting looking creatures that can be found in the ocean. They live among kelp forests and kelp beds off of the southern and southwestern coast of Australia. Their movements, appearance and adaptations make them fascinating creatures to see and learn about.

Leafy Sea Dragons have appendages growing off of their bodies that look remarkably like seaweed. Their bodies are typically yellow, brown or reddish in color, with greenish appendages and they are approximately 18 inches long as adults. They have minuscule pectoral fins on their heads and dorsal fins along their backs. They also have rows of spines on their backs that they sometimes use to scare off predators by curling up and presenting them.

These creatures appear to glide through the water with no effort on their part, when in fact that are using their tiny fins to aid in their movement. Leafy Sea Dragons blend in nearly perfectly with their surroundings which aids in the determent of predators, so they are not preyed upon often. However, their bodies are supposed to be very delicate, so handling them is not advisable and any rough contact in the water could damage them. They are very solitary creatures, with the exception of mating.

Male Leafy Sea Dragons carry the young. During mating the female delivers 100-250 eggs into the males “brood patch,” which is located on the underside of his tail. The male then incubates the eggs for roughly 6-8 weeks before “birthing” or more accurately, releasing them. Once the young have left the father, they are completely on their own and go on to learn the ropes of survival.

When Leafy Sea Dragon offspring are old enough, they will eat mostly amphipods and fish larvae. They eat by sucking the food through their mouths, which is located on a very long, thin snout. They will reach full maturity at roughly two years of age and can be expected to live for five or ten years. However, only an estimated 5% of Leafy Sea Dragon offspring will survive to adulthood.

At this time, the Leafy Sea Dragon is not an endangered species. However, they are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They may not be endangered, but their survival depends on their surroundings very much. These fish would be extremely vulnerable in open water and are indigenous to their region of the Australian waters. If anything catastrophic were to happen to their habitat, the Leafy Sea Dragon would not survive.


Phycodurus Eques Leafy Sea Dragon, retrieved 9/16/09,

Leafy Sea Dragon, retrieved 9/16/09,

Gomer. Gregor Fenton, 1999, The Biogeopgraphy of the Leafy Sea Dragon, retrieved 9/16/09,

Friday, January 22, 2016

Lazarus Species: When Extinct Species Really Aren't Extinct

New species are discovered all the time. Sadly, species seem to go extinct just as often. However, it is uncommon for a species that was once thought to be extinct to be “rediscovered,” but it does happen. This can be very exciting for the scientific community, especially when one of these “rediscovered” species, also known as Lazarus species, has been thought to have gone extinct millions of years ago. The following are five Lazarus species. Some have only been “missing” for a few decades, others for millions of years. All of them are endangered.

Pygmy Tarsier habitat
Pygmy Tarsier Habitat
Courtesy of IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Lazarus Species: Pygmy Tarsier

Pygmy Tarsiers are adorable little primates that look like a cross between Gizmo and the gremlins from the movie Gremlins. They weigh roughly two ounces and are covered in thick fur. They have large, wide eyes that they don’t move because they can move their heads 180 degrees in both directions. They have very long legs in relation to their body size and long, thin fingers that end in claws.

Until recently, Pygmy Tarsiers were thought to be extinct. The last time that these creatures had been seen was in 1921. They were found again in 2000. Scientists were trapping rats on Mt. Rore Katimbo in Indonesia when they accidentally killed one with a trap. The scientists reported the discovery and accidental killing of the creature. This prompted a professor, her student and a group of local Indonesians to search for a live specimen.

Three live Tarsier Pygmies have been found, two males and one female. The research team equipped them with radio collars, so they could track their movement and possibly find more. Unfortunately, a hawk ate the female. At this time, it is unknown just how rare these creatures are. However, it is almost certain that they are critically endangered.

Lazarus Species: Laotian Rock Rats

Laotian Rock Rats are small rodents that resemble something of a mix between a rat and a squirrel. They have beady eyes, long whiskers and are covered in a dark gray fur. Their tails are more like that of a squirrel than that of a rat. However, they are less fluffy. They do not walk like either a rat or a squirrel. Their walk has been likened to the waddle of a duck. Because their natural habitats are limestone outcroppings in central Laos, they have had no need to adapt to life in trees.

The Laotian Rock Rat was found again in a market in Laos. Unfortunately, the creature was dead and was being sold for its meat. The incident was reported in Science Magazine in 2005. Another specimen (this one alive) was recently discovered by a research team, led by a retired professor from Florida State University. The animal has since been photographed, videotaped and released back into its natural habitat. How many more of them there are, if any, is uncertain.

Coelacanth up close
Photo by Pascalou Petit
Lazarus Species: Coelacanth

The Coelacanth is a large and impressive fish. There are two known species of them. One dwells in the waters off of the Comoros Islands in Africa; the other can be found in the ocean near Sulawesi, Indonesia. They live in depths of up to 2,300 feet.

Coelacanths can grow to be up to six and a half feet in length and weigh up to 198 pounds. They possess two fins that stick out from their bodies. These fins work in an alternating pattern like legs. It is thought that these fish may be a link in the evolutionary chain.

Coelacanths were previously thought to have gone extinct right around the same time as the dinosaurs-65 million years ago.  A live specimen was discovered in 1938 by a museum curator on a fishing boat. Since then, these fish have been well documented in the wild. 

Arakan Forest Turtle
Arakan Forest Turtle
Lazarus Species: Arakan Forest Turtle

Arakan Forest Turtles are small turtles. They grow up to 11 inches in length and can weigh 7-10 pounds. They are primarily dormant when they are not eating or foraging. They are omnivorous. Their diet consists of fish, fruit, crustaceans and insects, among other things. They can be found in the rivers and streams in Arakan, Burma.

Arakan Forest Turtles were thought to be extinct until a dead specimen was discovered in a Burmese market. It was being sold for meat. It is very common for people in the area to kill turtles for food and medicine and so the Arakan Forest Turtle’s future may be very precarious. Captive breeding conservation efforts are currently underway.

Lazarus Species: Worcester’s Buttonquail

Not much is known about the rare, if not now extinct, Worcester’s Buttonquail. This bird was previously only known through dead museum specimens and drawings of them. One was found on Luzon Island in the Philippines in 2009. A picture was taken of the animal. However, it was killed and eaten shortly after the photo was taken.


Dell ‘Amore, Christine, 2/18/09, retrieved 2/3/10,

Coelacanth, retrieved 2/2/10,

Arakan Forest Turtle, retrieved 2/2/10,

Laotian rock rat rediscovered after 11 million years, retrieved 2/2/10,

Bryner, Jeanna, 11/19/08, Tiny Primates Found Alive Again in Indonesian Rainforest, retrieved 2/2/10,,2933,454664,00.html