Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Reindeer may be famous for being Santa Claus’ magical Christmas Eve helpers, but they are amazing even outside of children’s stories. These majestic creatures are capable of surviving in largely uninhabitable areas that would kill some species. Reindeer are skillful foragers, great swimmers and are even kept by humans for milk and labor.

Reindeer are hooved, herbivorous mammals with large antlers atop their heads. Caribou and Reindeer are the only deer species in which both male (buck) and female (doe) specimens have antlers, though the male’s antlers are noticeably larger than the females. Reindeer can grow to be up to four feet tall at the shoulder and can weigh around 550 pounds. They have long fur, which is a brownish color in the Summer and a whitish color in the Winter.

Reindeer live in some of the coldest places on Earth. They are found in Greenland, Russia, Scandinavia, Canada, Alaska and even the Arctic Tundra. There are two types of Reindeer. There are the Tundra Reindeer and the Forest Reindeer. The difference between the two is really described by their names. There are other subtle differences, but location and the size of migratory herds are the most noticeable. Forest Reindeer migrate in smaller herds than Tundra Reindeer.

The Reindeer mating ritual happens in October. Forest Reindeer bucks will fight each other for a doe’s affection by locking antlers until one of them defers. Tundra Reindeer also display this behavior, but not as often as the Forest Reindeer. Pregnant Reindeer females gestate through the Winter and usually give birth to one calf in May or June.

Reindeer eat leaves, shoots, moss and grass during the Summer. They also eat mushrooms, when they are available, in the late Summer and in the Fall. During the Winter, Reindeer have to work hard for their food by digging deep in the snow to get to the Reindeer Moss that is their primary source of food at this time. Reindeer are ruminating mammals, meaning they chew very slowly and repeatedly, much like cows.

Reindeer live mostly in small herds, especially the does. During migration they form much larger herds. In Autumn, these animals migrate south and in the Spring they migrate north again. Migratory herds of Tundra Reindeer can have up to 500,000 individuals in them. Reindeer spend a lot of their lives moving around.  Reindeer can  rarely stay in one place for very long.


Reindeer, retrieved 6/17/09, brittanica.com/EBchecked/topic/496558/reindeer

Reindeer, retrieved 6/17/09, encyclopedia.com/topic/reindeer.aspx

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A List of Unusual Animals

Star-nosed mole
Star-nosed mole
Compiled here is a short list of some of the strangest animals on the planet. Some of them are cute, some of them are ugly and some of them are downright scary looking. All of these creatures have one thing in common. They are unique.

The Star-Nosed Mole (condylura cristata)

The Star-Nosed Mole is a small creature that is found in parts of Canada and in the Northeastern United States. They are covered in blackish-brown fur and grow to be between 5.9 to 7.8 inches in length. They weigh less than two ounces. They live in low wetland areas and forage for their food in tunnels that they dig near streams and ponds.

The Star-Nosed Mole is a very minuscule mammal with one very strange feature. This animal has twenty-two fleshy pink tentacles that protrude from its snout. Because the Star-Nosed Mole is functionally blind, scientists believe that the creepy pink tentacles are used for finding food. How they work is not currently known.

Photo by Orizatriz
The Mexican Walking Fish (axolotl)

The Mexican Walking Fish is actually not a fish at all but a salamander that is closely related to the Tiger Salamander. These creatures, when healthy, are bright pink or orange in color. They grow to be around 9 inches long and can only be found in Lake Xochimilco in Mexico or in captivity. They are listed as critically endangered.

These salamanders very rarely leave the water and spend most of their time walking on four legs at the bottom of the lake. This is probably the reason for the misnomer. Three sets of gill stalks jut out from the back of this creatures head, giving the Mexican Walking Fish a very odd appearance. They also have very long thin digits on their feet which add to the effect. Though all in all Mexican Walking Fish, are actually very cute.

Leafy sea dragon
Photo by dro!d
The Leafy Sea Dragon (phycodurus eques)

The Leafy Sea Dragon is a cousin of the sea horse. They can be found in the waters around Southern and Western Australia. They grow to be about 11.5 inches long and they feed on smaller fish and plankton.

Leafy Sea Dragons have the same general body shape as that of the seahorse. Like the seahorse they have long snouts and no teeth. The resemblance ends there. This ocean creature has fleshy appendages that grow out of its entire body. These appendages have the shape, color and appearance of seaweed. Although once you realize that they are not clumps of seaweed they are actually quite beautiful.

Red Panda
Photo by ltshears
The Red Panda (ailurus fulgens)

The Red Panda is an omnivorous mammal found in mountainous regions in certain parts of Asia. They eat mostly bamboo and spend most of their time up in trees. They live in mountains at altitudes between 5,905 feet and 15,748 feet.
Red Pandas bodies are around 19 inches in length and they have long tails that are between one and two feet long. They weigh around 11 pounds.

Red Pandas are covered in long, soft, red and black fur. The fur on their feet and stomachs is black while the fur on their back, head and tail is red. They have unique white and light brown markings on their faces and their tails have six rings that are a lighter shade of red than the rest of their bodies.

These animals are very cute and really not that odd-looking. What makes the Red Panda unique is that they are not actually pandas, they look like red raccoons but they are not. They are actually the only living example of the Ailuridae family on Earth.

Aye Aye
Photo by Dr. Mirko Junge
The Aye-Aye (daubentonia madagascariensis)

The Aye-aye is a smallish primate that lives in the deciduous forests and rainforests in eastern Madagascar. The length of their body and head can grow to be about 13 inches in length and their tails can grow to be around 17 inches in length. An adult Aye-Aye only weighs around 5.5 pounds.

Aye-ayes are a combination of creepy and comical in appearance. In adulthood they are covered in black or brown fur and they possess very rodent-like features. Their eyes are bright yellow and quite round. Their overly large ears have a shape that is reminiscent of the ears of a cat.

The strangest feature of the Aye-aye is its middle finger, which can grow to be three times longer than its other digits. Natives of Madagascar believe that if an Aye-aye points its middle finger at a person then that person is doomed to die soon. Supposedly the only way to counteract its evil is to kill the offending primate.

Evolution of the Anglerfish
Photo by Masaki Miya
The Female Humpbacked Anglerfish (melanocetus johnsonii)

The Humpbacked Anglerfish is a deep-sea Anglerfish that dwells in moderate to tropical ocean waters at a depth of about 6,600 feet. The female Humpbacked Anglerfish grows to about 20 inches in length and has a rather formidable appearance. Her male counterpart only grows to be about an inch long.

Female Humpbacked Anglerfish are some of the scariest looking creatures on Earth. Their jaws are huge in relation to their bodies and are filled with sharp needle-like teeth. These teeth can fold back into her mouth when she swallows prey. The strangest feature of the female Humpbacked Anglerfish is a long finger-like fin that protrudes from her head and dangles near her mouth. This fin is used to lure in her prey.

These are only some of the strange creatures to be found here on Earth. There are many more out there that are truly amazing. Some are still waiting to be discovered.


Wikipedia, Red Panda, retrieved 5/27/09,wikipedia.com/wiki/red_panda

Wikipedia, Star-Nosed Mole, retrieved 5/27/09, wikipedia.com/wiki/star_nosed_mole

Wikipedia, Axolotl, retrieved 5/27/09, wikipedia.org/wiki/axolotl

Wikipedia, Leafy Sea Dragon, retrieved 5/27/09,wikipedia.org/wiki/Leafy_sea_dragonretrieved 5/27/09,www.wikipedia.org/wiki/aye-aye

Wikipedia, Aye-Aye, retrieved 5/27/09, wikipedia.org/wiki/Aye-aye

Wikipedia, Humpbacked Anglerfish, retrieved 5/27/09, wikipedia.com/wiki/humpbacked_anglerfish

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wholphins: Hybrid Cross Between a False Killer Whale and a Bottlenose Dolphin

Wholphin photo
Photo by Mark Interrante
Dolphins and other marine mammals are among the most beloved creatures of the sea. It could be because we, as humans, are mammals, so we feel a special kinship to these oxygen dependant, thinking/feeling and magnificent animals. We are most familiar with the large whales, killer whales and bottlenose dolphins because they dominate marine conservation efforts and sea life shows around the world. What many of us are likely not familiar with is possibly the most rare hybrid marine mammal in the world–the wholphin. This creature, as you may have guessed from its name, is a cross between a false killer whale and a dolphin.

The only known full wholphin specimen is a cross between a male false killer whale and a female Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. The wholphin is a fertile female named Keikaimalu born in 1985. She lives at Sea Life Park in Oahu. Examples of differences from her parent species that she possesses are her coloring and her teeth. She is darker than her mother is. Keikaimalu also has fewer teeth than her mother does and more teeth than her father does - 66 to be exact. It is uncertain if this would be the case for all 50/50 (50% dolphin and 50% false killer whale) wholphins, as there has not been enough study on this hybrid species.

Keikaimalu has successfully reproduced three times in her lifetime - which can reach between 40 and 60 years, if she is anything like her parent species in that regard. Her first calf only lived a few days. Her second calf lived nine years. While nine years is better than a few days, this wholphin's lifetime was much shorter than that of her mother, the average bottlenose dolphin and the average false killer whale. It is unclear if these two calves' hybrid parentage had anything to do with their abnormally short lives. The third time Keikaimalu birthed a calf was in 2005. This wholphin is a female whose father is a bottlenose dolphin. Her name is Kawili'Kai. As of 2010, she is still alive and well at Sea Life Park.

Kawili'Kai is not a 50/50 wholphin like her mother, as she is only 50% wholphin or 25% false killer whale and 75% bottlenose dolphin. Kawili'Kai's most false killer whale trait is her size. She weighs more than an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. She is also dark like her mother.

It is believed that there are wholphins in the wild, though none of them have had their DNA tested, which is the only true way to say if a creature is a wholphin. They are not dissimilar enough in appearance to be conclusively proved a wholphin by a picture or sighting. Nonetheless, their two parent species are capable of breeding and have the same range and habitat. Therefore, it is certainly possible. Keikaimalu may be the only 50/50 wholphin specimen in the world and her daughter may be the only offspring of a wholphin, but there is no way to be sure. For now, we must assume that she is one of a kind. At least, she is exceedingly rare.


Wholphin Pictures, retrieved 1/7/11, seapics.com/feature-subject/dolphin-and-porpoise/wholphin-pictures.html

Wholphin Store, retrieved 1/7/11, sealifeparkhawaii.com

Monday, February 1, 2016

Red Panda: More Like a Racoon

Red Panda
Red Panda snacking
Photo by Brunswyk
Ailurus fulgens or the Red Panda is not, in fact, a panda at all. It is actually the only living member of the Ailuridae family. They are red black and white and strongly resemble racoons. They have long tails that are bushy and striped. Their bodies are red and their faces are white with red markings. They have long pointy ears. Their fur covers their entire body, including the bottoms of their feet.

Red Panda Habitat, Range and Territories

Red Pandas are found in mountainous regions in the Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces of China. They are also found in Myanmar, Nepal, India and Bhutan. They live in deciduous and coniferous forests in temperate climates. Their primary source of food is bamboo leaves, so they live in the small areas of these forests where bamboo is available.

Adult Red Pandas are mainly solitary creatures. They maintain territories that are between one and two square miles in area. They mark these territories with their urine, anal gland secretions and secretions from glands in the soles of their feet. Their territories may overlap, but there is very little interaction between the animals.

Red Panda Mating and Life Cycle

The mating season for the Red Panda occurs in the early months of winter. During this time the mating males and females will form short relationships. The female will gestate for roughly 134 days. During the gestation period, she will build a nest made of leaves and twigs in a crevice or hollow tree. Female Red Pandas always give birth between 4:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. and they will give birth to between one and four cubs.

Red Panda cubs will remain in the nest for roughly three months. They will stay with their mother until the start of the following mating season. They will be full grown in about one year and sexually mature within a year and a half. Adult Red Pandas weigh between seven and fourteen pounds and have an average length of 42 inches from their heads to the tips of their tails. They can be expected to live an average of eight to ten years in the wild.

Red Panda Diet

Red Pandas are oddly classified as carnivores, when, in fact, they are decidedly omnivorous. They subsist mainly on the leaves of small bamboo trees, but they also eat bird eggs, the leaves off of other plants and berries.

Red Panda Status and Conservation

Red Pandas are on the IUCN endangered species list. Their main threat is the deforestation of their natural habitat. They are left with very little options for habitats, as it is. Despite the fact that they are well spread out in their region, they are confined to small patches of woods, where bamboo grows. There is currently an estimated 2,500 adult Red Pandas in the wild. However, there are hundreds of them kept in captivity, where they seem to thrive. Hopefully, a little awareness and a lot of careful breeding and habitat conservation will save these animals from extinction.


Red Panda, retrieved 12/20/09, redpandanetwork.org/redpanda.php

Heath, Terrell & Platnick, Josh, Ailurus fulgens, retrieved 12/20/09, animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/sile/accounts/information/Ailurus_fulgens.html