Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Day!

Happy May Day everyone!

You know what that means?  The end of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge!  And boy was it challenging!  It was definitely rough at times, trying to get a post out every day.  Some of the advice on the Blogging site recommends that people have a list of their topics and perhaps even begin their posts prior to when the challenge starts.  Personally I don't think that's very challenging.  I did have a list of animals I'd like to do, but I honestly ended up changing it half the time.

The real challenge this time around was writing up posts between completing assignments, group projects, job applications, work, volunteering, crafts, and club activities!  Plus there were the times where I had to write multiple posts a day when I had weekend plans away from the computer.  It's all worth it though as I am graduating from college in two weeks!  I will have a Bachelor of Science in Conservation and Wildlife Management.  I am so ready.

I hope you all have enjoyed reading my animal posts.  I enjoyed introducing people to animals they've never heard before and I hope you enjoyed learning!  There are thousands of fun and unique animals in this world.  Sadly many of them are only just being discovered as they are disappearing off the face of the earth.  Conservation is extremely important for the future survival of this planet: animals, environments, oceans, marine animals, insects, everything is connected.  Maybe that will be my next project- ways to help the planet.  We'll see.  I have to get through finals first!  Happy A to Z Blogging everyone!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for Zorilla

The zorilla (Ictonyx striatus) is a small carnivorous mammal that looks just like a skunk.  It is a weasel from Africa and also has the name of striped polecat.  Like skunks it has anal sacs that can excrete some pretty stinky fluid which they use to protect themselves from predators.  Some people believe they smell worse than North American skunks and call it the worst smelling animal on earth.

The zorilla is carnivorous and feeds on invertebrates, small rodents, birds, reptiles, and eggs.  It is primarily a solitary animal and is usually only seen together when mating.  After 36 days, mom will give birth to 1-4 young which she raises in a burrow for approximately 18 weeks.  Sexual maturity is reached at 20-30 weeks, almost a full year.  

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Yellowfin Tuna

The Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) is a large predatory fish found worldwide in tropical and subtropical waters, minus the Mediterranean. Just like Dori from Finding Nemo, the yellowfin tuna is built for speeeed.  Also, endurance.  

The yellowfin gets it's name from the yellow tiny fins (finlets) that run down the top and bottom of the fish.  Yellowfin are schooling fish, however they prefer to school with fish of the same size, rather and fish of the same species.  They are often found schooling with skipjack tuna and bigeye tuna and even porpoises and dolphins.  

Like other tuna species across the globe, yellowfin are facing decline. Recent reductions in catch numbers have led to their reclassification by the IUCN as Near Threatened.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for Xenopus

Had to go backwards for this one.  X is for Xenophus laevis, the African Clawed Frog. They are native to southern Africa though they can now be found across the continent and have been introduced to parts of the United States, Chile, and the United Kingdom.  As you can guess by their name, they possess a unique feature on their front feet- claws.  This is not found in any other frog species.  They use these claws while hunting- they are carnivorous.  Once they catch their prey they use their claws to shove the prey into their mouths.

The frog has developed to be a bottom-dweller.  This provides them more protection from predators since they are not at the surface all the time.  In fact, they very rarely come to the surface.  It can swim surprisingly fast, up, down, left, right, front, back.  If you can think of a direction- it can swim it.

Like all other amphibians the African clawed frog has external fertilization, meaning both sexes expel their gametes out into the water and with a hope and a prayer they meet and fertilize.  Females can produce up to 2,000 eggs at a time.  Their tadpoles live a life just like any other tadpole- eating and avoiding predators.  They reach maturity at 10-12 months and can live up to 15 years in the wild.  Very impressive for a small amphibian.

African clawed frogs are of least concern on the IUCN Red List.  Really the only threat facing them are predators, a natural threat.  They are a very adaptable species and are invasive in many areas they now reside in.  They do, however, have a possible threat to other amphibian species around the world- Chytridiomycosis or Chytrid fungus.  This is a fungus that affects amphibians, causing population declines around the globe.  It was detected in museum specimens of this species way back in 1938.  So, it is possible that the trade in these frogs led to the spread of the disease around the globe.  And, of course, they do not seem to be affected by it either.

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Whale Shark

Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus)!  Our second aquatic animal on the list!  You may be wondering, is it a whale or a shark?  It is a shark.  But what makes it similar to a whale is 1) it's massive size and 2) it's fondness for plankton.

The whale shark is the largest fish in the world at 9-12m (18-36ft) and weighing up to 12,500kg (27,500 lbs or almost 14 tons).  Whale sharks are typically solitary though they have been seen feeding in large groups.  They are highly migratory animals, traveling thousands of miles.  The reasons behind this travel is unknown, though it is likely due to a search for food.  They generally remain in tropical waters, ranging from 30° to 40° latitude.

Whale sharks are generally quite docile and, as mentioned before, feed on plankton and other small fish by suction filter-feeding.  Females are ovoviviparous, meaning they carry their fertilized eggs until the young hatch inside them and then give birth to live young.  One shark was reported to have 300 fetuses.  Whoah baby!

Not much else is known about these gentle giants, simply because of their habitat and extreme migratory patterns.  What is known, however, is the threat they face from Asian markets.  The recent rise in demand of shark-fin soup could be extremely detrimental to this species.  Based on their size they are likely to be long-lived and slow reproducing animals which could face a rapid extinction if their populations are not cared for.  Luckily some countries have instituted anti-hunting laws and many more have tourism interests that help protect the whale sharks.