It’s that time again!
The last 26 animals in one shot, with the parts I missed.
The southern Aardwolf saves.
Rather than switching supplier, it makes an 18% winter energy saving just by dropping its temperature. It’s so good at saving, in fact, that its first, er, “deposit” of a night can be 10% of its body weight.
The venomous black mamba can hold its head high…
…not only because it’s too gentlemanly to bite a love rival, but because it can lift a third of its body off the ground while chasing the unfortunate person who stepped on it.
A Cape fox prince never becomes a king.
Unusually for a canid, it’s the female Cape fox who dominates a territory, so if she dies, her mate will wander in search of pastures new, leaving their young pups to their fate. There’s one word we could put “king” in front of, I suppose.
The Dobhar-chú fancied emigrating too.
The US has Great Lakes (see what I did there), and it’s thought Eerie’s “Bessie” is another Dobhar-chú. It apparently killed three people in 1992 and terrorised Canada’s Port Dover about 10 years ago, but none of my sources could name the victims or survivors. Unless…it got to them too?!
The first Eohippus remains were almost lost to the sands of time. Twice.
Eohippus originally vanished about 45 million years ago, but in 1838, one of its teeth was nearly slung out by a brickmason sifting away sand. Instead, it took a ride in his pocket, and eventually ended up in the hands of Owen and with the more boring of its two names, Hyracotherium.
It’s not only the firefly squid’s flashes that fluctuate.
Females have been found carrying a couple of hundred to 20,000 eggs, and in Japan’s Toyama Bay, fishermen can haul between 500 and 4,000 squid each season. This, coupled with a specific spawning window, meant one poor researcher took 20 years to study it, because he could only examine them for 3-4 months in a given year.
The gemsbok’s just doing it to confuse you.
While a dominant female leads herds both small and massive, she can switch with another without warning. The sexes look alike too, possibly so the dominant male will let young rivals in thinking they’re potential dates, and in Germany, “gemsbok” actually refers to the goat-like chamois.
The hummingbird hawk-moth surpasses its name!
Your average hummingbird beats its wings 50 times a second, but this moth joyfully mocks it with 80. It also has more photoreceptors in the centre of its hawk-like eyes, so unlike some other moths, it can focus more easily on plants bobbing in the wind.
The Icelandic gyrfalcon used to be thrown at cranes. No, not that kind.
I don’t think we had the engineering skills in the 12th or 13th centuries, but Frederick II championed hurling the birds at cranes mid-flight, purely because they struck their prey with greater force and speed, and “after they have struck, they rise up high, so the flight is more beautiful”.
The Juan Fernández fur seal sees a lot of strandings.
For instance, new mums can disappear for up to 25 days at a time for the food shop, one of the longest periods a baby mammal is left unattended. Not only that, but a sailor named Selkirk, who fell out with his captain, was deserted on one of the islands for four years before rescue, spawning the legend of Robinson Crusoe.
The red-legged kittiwake isn’t afraid of the dark.
Good job too, because pretty much the entire population breeds on the Barents Sea north of Scandinavia, where the water’s black and the winter’s blacker. Then again it has bigger eyes and better eyesight for feeding at night, and with the odd ship lights or bioluminescent fish, it can get by.
The Lake Urmia newt’s other nemesis? Bureaucracy!
In her final report on the Lake Urmia newt project, Najafi-Majd explained how, in exchange for their support, West-Azerbaijan province’s Department of Environment requested their logo be displayed on all project materials. Although this was duly done, the department never actually stepped up to help. Sigh.
We used to think Megalodon went out with a bang!
Until we prodded our fossil records more closely, we assumed this massive shark, along with 36% of marine species, was wiped out by severe climate change 2.3 million years ago. What apparently triggered it? A supernova, 150 light years away. Luckily(?) Megalodon had already left the building by then.
The New Guinea singing dog isn’t always a harmony hound.
While it does perform an escalating and abruptly cut off “chorus howl” with its pack, it’s suspicious of strangers, and even snaps at same-sex children when breeding season rears its head.
Some Orinoco crocodiles are hot-headed.
The Orinoco croc’s incubation temperature determines its sex, with the ladies hotter and the chaps more chilled. And if you think a pod of teeny croc babies sounds bitey, you’d be right: if just one of them attacks nearby prey, the rest will usually explode in a feeding frenzy.
Pakhet was sensibly praised in death as well as life.
Just to remind the lion goddess that Seti I also renovated her shrine, she is depicted in his burial chamber with a serpent, spitting fire. You don’t want to annoy a fierce desert warrior and guardian of the dead, after all.
Is the queen coris head of state or household?
Unusually for the wrasse, the female is the more brightly coloured, hence the royal name, but the “coris” part comes from the Greek for “pupil” or “maid”, so either mixed or sarcastic signals there.
The red-bellied lemur saves its screams for actual danger.
It’s easier to keep your voice down when your companions are right in front of you, so communication by touch, scent, and body language are more important in a close-knit group. Unless you hear the alarm call of the sentinel, which can either mean “flee”, “hide”, or “freeze for 15 minutes”. Or as I would call it, “red-bellied roulette”.
The Steller’s sea cow’s grave discovery.
In 2017, an apparently man-made fence on Russia’s Commander Islands turned out to be the most complete Steller’s sea cow skeleton we have. What’s more, it may have been “the” Steller’s sea cow carcass that Georg Steller had to leave behind on his return home. Mind you that’s not narrowing it down much.
The tortoiseshell cat hasn’t forgotten its roots.
Physically, like other domestic cats, tortoiseshells are almost identical to wild cats except for their coat colour and behaviour. We also think they got their claws into us before ancient Egypt: some feline remains were found amongst a 9,500 year-old agricultural settlement in Cyprus!
Got a chuckle out of the name “unstreaked tit-tyrant?”
Well if Machu Picchu’s discovery in the early 1900s hadn’t inspired a load of nearby birding expeditions, we’d have one less species to titter at.
The Visayan spotted deer hates politics.
Due to the weak enforcement of its legal protection, the Visayan spotted deer is also captured as a favoured pet of local politicians.
Everything about the whale shark is massive!
Lifespan? Up to 150 years. Daily mileage? 24–28 km (15-17 miles). Oh, and it filters out 6,000 litres of water every hour, or roughly 35 bathtubs.
Does this xeme like sour grapes to you?
Yes, the discoverer of “Sabine’s gull” was the same Captain Sabine who beat polar explorer Captain James Ross with an academic stick over Amarok.
Its diet’s not clear, but the Yaqui black-headed snake is definitely eaten.
It took a while for us to figure out its own food, but we did find a Yaqui black-headed snake in the belly of a smaller Tarahumara frog (Lithobates tarahumarae). That must have been embarrassing. Then again the frog’s a Vulnerable species, so it clearly needed the meal.
The zebra duiker isn’t all it seems.
Its skin has been accidentally sold as “Tasmanian tiger” pelt, the females are bigger than the males – possibly due to their long pregnancy – and it doesn’t get on with everyone. At Los Angeles Zoo, while the ruffed lemurs were tolerated, after 3 months the Talapoin monkeys became aggressive and had to be moved.
Did they know something we don’t?
Featured image credit: “Glass of heart” by Rahim Packir Saibo