Sunday, 24 May 2015

World's Strangest Bird Fight

Two wieners watchin a cockfight:

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Opah (Lampris Guttatus): First Fully Warm-Blooded Fish

Nick wegner (biologist) holds an Opah
Biologist Nick Wegner holds an opah caught
during a research survey off the California Coast.
Credit: NOAA Fisheries
New research by NOAA Fisheries* has revealed the opah (Lampris Guttatus) to be the first fully warm-blooded fish. Also known as moonfish, it circulates heated blood throughout its body much like mammals and birds do, giving it a competitive advantage in the cold ocean depths.

With a maximum length of 2 m (roughly the size of a large tire), the fish is known from oceans around the world, dwelling hundreds of feet beneath the surface in cold, dimly lit waters. It swims by rapidly flapping its large, red pectoral fins like wings through the water.

Most fish that inhabit deep and cold waters are slow and sluggish, conserving energy by ambushing prey instead of chasing it. However, the opah's constant flapping of its fins heats its body, speeding its metabolism, movement and reaction times, and helps it maintain the entire body core above ambient temperature.

This warm-blooded advantage turns the opah into a high-performance predator that swims and reacts faster according to biologist Nicholas Wegner of NOAA Fisheries' Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif., leading author of the new paper:

"Before this discovery I was under the impression this was a slow-moving fish, like most other fish in cold environments. But because it can warm its body, it turns out to be a very active predator that chases down agile prey like squid and can migrate long distances." said Wegner.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Pink fairy armadillo: World's Smallest and Cutest Armadillo

Pink Fairy Armadillo
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Cingulata
Family: Dasypodidae
Subfamily: Euphractinae or Chlamyphorinae
Genus: Chlamyphorus
Species: Chlamyphorus truncatus
Conservation Status: Uncertain due to insufficient data, possibly endagered
Common Names: Pink fairy armadillo, Pichiciego

Meet the pink fairy armadillo, the world's smallest and probably cutest species of armadillo!

Where do they live?
This strange animal is endemic to the warm sandy plains of central Argentina, occurring south of Mendoza province as well as north of Rio Negro and south of Buenos Aires.

The species prefers to burrow in very dry soil. However,  they will leave their burrows if they get moistened by rainfall. The burrows are often located near anthills, so that they are close to their main food source.

Map showing the range of the Pink fairy armadillo in Argentina
Pink Fairy Armadillo Distribution

The pink fairy armadillo is the smallest member of the armadillo family, measuring only 9 to 11,5 cm (3.5-4.5 in) long, with an average weight of 120 g (4.2 oz). It is also the only armadillo that has a dorsal shell which is almost separated from the body. The flexible shell is solely attached to its body by a thin dorsal membrane.

Pink fairy armadillos have small eyes, silky yellowish white fur, and a spatula-shaped tail that protrudes from a vertical plate at the blunt rear of the shell.

What is their average life span?
Very little is known about the longevity of the species, but one specimen lived 4.3 years in captivity. The maximum lifespan may be much longer, though. More research is needed before giving a definitive answer to this question.

a mounted specimen
Mounted Pink Fairy Armadillo

What do they eat?
The diet of the pink fairy armadillo is omnivorous, mainly consisting of ants. However, they will have an occasional snack of insects, worms, snails, and various plant and root materials.

Behavior & Reproduction
Pink fairy armadillos are solitary animals that stay in their burrows during the day and feed at night. As mentioned before, they are forced to leave the burrows when heavy storms roll in due to the threat of drowning and the risk of the fur getting wet. If the fur get's wet, there is a good chance that the armadillo will die because it can't properly thermoregulate and hypothermia may set it during night hours.

Pink fairy armadillos will usually approach each other only for mating purposes. They are believed to be polygamous with the female giving birth to one young. Baby armadillos look like miniatures of their parents, however the shells do not completely harden until they are full grown.

Video showing a pink fairy armadillo

Is the pink fairy armadillo threatened?
As of 2015, this cute little creature is listed by the IUCN as Data Deficient because there is little information about the population status of this species, and its biology and ecology are poorly known.

However, the populations appear to be declining as sighting become rarer and rarer each passing year.

This decline is mainly attributed to farming activities and introduced predators including domestic dogs and cats.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Video: Greatest Animal Escape Artist

Animals can sometimes baffle us with their intelligence! But what this honey badger was caught on camera doing will completely amaze you. Enjoy:

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Chilesaurus diegosuarezi, T-rex’s Vegetarian Cousin

Artistic interpretation of Chilesaurus diegosuareziis
Chilesaurus diegosuarezi
Artistic interpretation
Credit: Gabriel Lío
Researchers announced yesterday the discovery of a new dinosaur that although closely related to the carnivorous T-Rex it preferred to feed on plant material. The new lineage of dinosaur was discovered in Chile and has proven to be an evolutionary jigsaw puzzle.

Paleontologists are referring to the newly described species (Chilesaurus diegosuarezi) as the platypus-version of dinosaurs, due to the bizarre combination of traits from many different dinosaur groups. For instance, C. diegosuarezi boasted a proportionally small skull, hands with two fingers like T-rex and feet more akin to primitive long-neck dinosaurs.

The species is placed within the theropod group of dinosaurs, a group of popupar meat eaters like the Velociraptor, Carnotaurus and Tyrannosaurus, the same group from which today's birds evolved. The presence of herbivorous theropods was up until now only known in close relatives of birds, but Chilesaurus apparently managed to become a meat-free theropod much earlier than thought.

The species was named after the country where it was collected (Chilesaurus) and in honor of Diego Suárez (diegosuarezi), the seven year old boy who discovered the first bones. The boy found the fossil remains at the Toqui Formation in Aysén, south of Chilean Patagonia, in rocks deposited at the end of the Jurassic Period, approximately 145 million years ago.

The Discovery
In 2004, Diego was in the area with his parents, Chilean geologists Manuel Suarez and Rita de la Cruz, who were studying rocks in the Chilean Patagonia, with the aim to better understand the formation of the Andes mountain range. Diego came across the fossils while him and his sister, Macarena, were looking for decorative stones.

Due to bizarre combination of characters, it was initially believed that Diego had discovered several species. However, since Diego's find, researchers have excavated more than a dozen Chilesaurus specimens, including four complete skeletons, a first for the Jurassic Period in Chile. These specimens demonstrate that the dinosaur combined a variety of unique anatomical traits.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Parasite-Infected Bumblebees Seek out Flowers with Nicotine

 buff-tailed bumblebee eating nectar
 A buff-tailed bumblebee
Buff-tailed bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) that have been infected by parasites seek out flowers with nicotine in their nectar, according to a new study by researchers at the Royal Holloway University of London and Queen Mary University of London, UK.

Apparently, the nicotine in the flowers slows the progression of disease in infected bees but has harmful effects when consumed by healthy bees.

In their experiments, the scientists gave infected bumblebees two options, a sugar solution with nicotine and one without. The bees infected with Crithidia bombi  (the most well documented bumblebee parasite) were more likely to go for the nicotine-rich nectar than the healthy ones.

The scientists reported that the nicotine delayed the progress of the infection for a few days, with the bumblebees showing lower levels of parasites than the ones that had not consumed the nicotine nectar. However, their average life expectancy remained the same, meaning that the direct benefits of nicotine for the bee colony are still unknown.

An interesting side effect was that nicotine consumption suppressed the appetite of the infected bees much like smoking does in humans. Healthy individuals that consumed nicotine also showed shorter lifespans than those that did not consume any.

Bumblebees are not the only organism known to use nicotine to fight parasites. Another example is the house sparrow, which uses cigarette butts in its nest to protect it from mites.

"While it's clear that there is some benefit to nicotine consumption for parasite-infected bees, a key challenge now is to discover exactly how such natural medication limits the impact of the disease on the bees' society. Given the stresses placed on worldwide bee populations by disease, understanding how the bees themselves fight infection is key." said Dr David Baracchi, from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at QMUL and co-author of the study.

- Baracchi, D., Brown, M., & Chittka, L. (2015). Weak and contradictory effects of self-medication with nectar nicotine by parasitized bumblebees F1000Research DOI: 10.12688/f1000research.6262.1

Friday, 24 April 2015

Funny Video: Iguana Farts In The Bathroom

Title is self-explanatory. Enjoy:

And if you are wondering what happened next, here's the full video: