Tag Archives: wildlife

If These Photos of Dogs Underwater Don’t Make You Smile, Nothing Will (Photo Gallery)

Seth Casteel is a photographer based out of Chicago and Los Angeles who specializes in taking pictures of animals.

Though he photographs all types of animals, dogs are one of his favorite subjects. A few years back, he shot a series of photos of dogs playing underwater. Check out the pictures below (click an image to enlarge):

The success of the photos landed him a book deal, and the photo-book “Underwater Dogs” was released in October of 2012.

Casteel’s photography company, Little Friend’s Photography, specializes in lifestyle pet photography. Casteel describes this art form as,

“embracing the at-ease mentality of pets on location in the natural surroundings.”

You can check out more of Casteel’s work on Little Friend’s Photography’s website here.

(h/t CBS News)

What Happened When Two Chimps Watched the New Planet of the Apes Movie? (Video)

The two chimps above, Vali and Sugriva, attended the premier of the new Dawn of the Planet of the Apes film along with a thousand other movie-goers in the BigD Auditorium at Carmike Cinema, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The two chimps are highly intelligent, and often watch other movies, like Lord of the Rings, on televisions at Myrtle Beach Safari, where they live. They even paid for their own food and drinks!

Vali and Sugriva getting some snacks for the movie. Click to enlarge

Check out the video below to learn more about their trip to the movies:

Vali and Sugriva were escorted by the safari’s director, Bhagavan Antle. He points out that the chimps are able to identify the good guys and the bad guys by their facial expressions. In fact, their reactions to the movie weren’t all that different from our own.

Although some people were somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of watching Planet of the Apes with two chimps, Antle dismissed the notion that the film could somehow make Vali and Sugriva turn into the chimps from the movie.

Plus, they clapped for the good guys and jeered the bad guys, so I don’t think we have anything to worry about.

(h/t Daily Mail)

How These All-Female Lizards Are Able to Reproduce and Thrive Without the Help of Any Males

As far back as the 1960s, scientists were aware that a number of whiptail lizards in Mexico and the southwestern United States were made up entirely of females.

The most notable of these species, the New Mexico whiptail lizard, is able to reproduce healthy, well-bred offspring without the aid of male fertilization.

Whiptails aren’t the only species that reproduce asexually. In fact, there are 70 other vertebrate species that can do it. But the New Mexico whiptail may have unlocked the secret as to how it’s possible for a species that produces exclusively asexually to thrive.

Komodo dragons are among the vertebrate species that are able to reproduce asexually

Peter Baumann works at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Missouri. He co-authored a study on the lizards that was published in the journal Nature back in 2010.

Baumann explains that parthenogenteic species (species that reproduce without fertilization), are genetically isolated because they only inherit the DNA of one parent.

This means that any genetic weaknesses, like susceptibility to a disease or physical mutation, can’t be “overridden” by healthy genes from a second parent. The shallower the gene pool, the more likely it is to produce sick or mutated offspring.

To deal with this issue, the all-female whiptail lizard species have evolved to start the reproductive process with twice as many chromosomes as their sexually-producing lizard relatives.

New Mexico whiptail lizards were actually the result of two different species of lizard (the western whiptail and little striped whiptail) interbreeding to form a hybrid species. Because of this, these all-female lizards are equipped with a very diverse gene pool.

Left: little striped whiptail. Middle: New Mexico whiptail. Right: tiger whiptail. Click to enlarge

Instead of combining homologous chromosomes (like sexual species do, getting one set from each parent), the lizards pair recombined sister chromosomes instead. This maintains heterozygosity in the offspring.

Here’s a more simple way to think about it. Every one one us has DNA from generations and generations of our ancestors. When we reproduce, we combine our DNA with our partner’s- the resulting offspring’s genetic codes contains parts of both parents’ DNA.

But since we have such vast genetic diversity from all of our ancestors, the exact coding of the genes we pass along when we reproduce isn’t always the same, which is why brothers and sisters don’t all look the same.

A basic way to visualize how genetic information is passed on in sexual reproduction. Note that the “marbles” passed on by each individual parent are different for the two children. Click to enlarge

So, rather than combining its genetic code with that of a male, the whiptail lizard combines two different versions of its own DNA code, ensuring that each pairing of sister chromosomes will have multiple alleles (different forms of a gene), which gives the offspring the genetic diversity it needs to be healthy.

This discovery means that,

“these lizards have a way of distinguishing sister from homologous chromosomes,”

says Baumann. How do they do this? The researchers aren’t sure yet, but it’s the next question they will be investigating, along with the question of how they evolved to start reproduction with double the normal amount of chromosomes.

Female whiptail lizards perform courtship rituals with one another to stimulate ovulation. The top lizard will lay smaller eggs while the one on the bottom will lay larger eggs. They switch spots every mating season. Click to enlarge

Though it may seem like asexual reproduction would eventually hurt a species in the long run, Baumann also pointed that,

“You’re greatly increasing the chances of populating a new habitat if it only takes one individual.”

It seems to be working pretty well for these lizard ladies.

Read the original story from the Scientific American here.

San Men of the Kalahari Show What A “Fair Chase” Hunt REALLY Looks Like (Video)

Earlier today, I discussed the controversy surrounding Kendall Jones, a 19-year-old Texas Tech leader who hunts big game in Africa and posts the pictures to Facebook.

In the caption of a picture of her with an African leopard, Kendall described the hunt as a “fair chase”. I feel the need to disambiguate that term.

Let me present the San people of the Kalahari desert in Africa. This traditional hunter-gatherer society inhabits the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. San men go on marathons across the desert to track down the Kudu antelope which provide key protein for their families:

The San people lived as hunter-gatherers for countless generations until government modernization programs, lasting from the 1950s until the 1990s, mandated that many of the San switch to farming.

They are one of our fourteen surviving “ancestral population clusters” from which all modern humans today descend from. Studies of the San have provided a wealth of information in the fields of anthropology and genetics.

So let’s be clear: hunting  with high-powered rifles and motorized vehicles is as far from a “fair chase” as it gets.

The First Ever Chimp Fashion Trend: Sticking Blades of Grass In the Ear

A group of chimps at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust sanctuary in Zambia have a new fashion statement: sticking a blade of grass in one ear.

Chimps are highly intelligent and are known to use grass to fish for termites, but after extensive study, scientists have concluded that there is no discernible purpose for what they’re calling the “grass-in-ear behavior”.

It all started back in 2010 when an older female named Julie started sporting a long blade of grass from her ear. Julie was a sort of role model for the other 11 chimps in her group, and they paid close attention to her strange new behavior.

Julie, the chimp who started the fad. Click to enlarge

After repeatedly observing the behavior for a while, other chimps in the group began to join. Although Julie has since passed away, seven of the 11 chimps from her group still sport blades of grass from their ears today.

Edward van Leeuwen is a primate expert at the Max Planck Institute in the Netherlands who led a study to examine the odd behavior. Him and his colleagues spent a year observing four groups of chimps at the Chimfunshi orphanage.

Despite the fact that all four groups lived in the same grassy environment, only Julie’s group exhibited the “grass-in-ear behavior”. After extensive observation, van Leeuwen concluded that there were no genetic or ecological purposes for the behavior- it had simply become part of the group’s culture.

Other chimps from the group adjusting the blades of grass in their ears. Click to enlarge

“The chimps would pick a piece of grass, sometimes fiddle around with it as to make the piece more to their liking, and not until then try and stick it in their ear with one hand… Most of the time, the chimps let the grass hanging out of their ear during subsequent behavior like grooming and playing, sometimes for quite prolonged times. As you can imagine, this looks pretty funny,”

says van Leeuwen. He also pointed out that the behavior isn’t much different then the fads that emerge amongst humans, comparing it to, “wearing earrings or certain kinds of hats.”

Read the original story from The Dodo here.

Time Lapse Photography Reveals the Amazing Secret Life of Corals (Video)

You may have heard of or even seen coral reefs before. The corals that make up these reefs may look like strange rock formations or odd plants, but in actuality, corals are animals.

These marine invertebrates live in large colonies of genetically identical polyps: tiny, spineless creatures which are typically vase-shaped. A colony of these polyps is known as a coral “head”.

Star coral polyps. Click to enlarge

Corals don’t do anything very fast, which is why many people mistake them for rocks or plants. But when you get long term footage of these strange creatures and speed it up, you immediately realize that they are very much alive.

Check out this awesome time lapse video of corals in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, captured by Pim Bongaerts from the University of Queensland:

Coral also use the calcium and carbonate in the water to create a hard, calcified exoskeleton for protection (which is why some mistake them for rocks). When a polyp is physically stressed, it recedes behind this tough outer layer.

Coral are also equipped with stinging tentacles, which they typically use to capture plankton and small fish. They also use them when competing for space with other corals.

You can check out more of Bongaerts’s work on his website coraltimelapse.com.

How Stoats Hypnotize Their Prey When Hunting (Video)

You may have never heard of stoats before. These cute little creatures are closely related to ferrets, which are becoming an increasingly popular house pet these days.

But don’t let their innocent appearance fool you- stoats are ferocious hunters. And when their speed and agility isn’t enough, they have a strange but fascinating secret weapon: hypnotism.

Check out a stoat using this amazing ability to snare a rabbit in the video below:

Stoats are very hardy creatures, and are able to live in all kinds of environments from the Siberian Arctic, to the mountains of Japan to the Great Plains of the United States. They can be found in Europe, North America, Asia and New Zealand.

A large portion of a stoat’s development centers around play fighting, which builds up their strength and stamina and hones their agility. These fine-tuned skills allow them to take down some surprisingly challenging prey.

The video below shows some of this play fighting, and also shows a stoat taking down a rabbit 10 times its size, using the hunting skills it perfected as an adolescent.

Australia’s Famous Albino Humpback Whale Makes A Rare Appearance (Video)

More than 160 years ago, in 1851, Herman Melville published one of the most famous books in American literature history. Moby Dick tells the story of a massive white whale and a ship captain (Ahab) bent on getting revenge for a leg he lost trying to battle the beast.

The story of Australia’s famous albino humbpack whale is quite different. Migaloo (which means “white fella” in one of Australia’s aboriginal languages), was first discovered back in 1991. It’s estimated he was between 3-5 years old at that time.

Migaloo the albino humpback (Image Courtesy of Jenny Dean)

Every winter, more than 12,000 humpbacks migrate up Australia’s east coast to reach warmer waters. While most humpbacks stay in deep waters well of the coast, some of them, like Migaloo, prefer to travel closer to shore, where humans can see them.

Every year, countless people flock to Australian waters hoping to catch a glimpse. Although he is not the only white humpback in the world, Migaloo’s tendency to swim in waters close to shore has made him probably the most famous. He has his own twitter account and you can even buy his songs on iTunes.

This past January, Migaloo made a rare appearance with a few of his buddies, putting on quite the show for anyone lucky enough to catch it. You can watch some of the footage below.

Why is he white? Questions were initially raised as to whether Migaloo was actually albino after it was discovered that his eyes were actually brown (most albinos have red or white eyes).

However, a study of Migaloo’s DNA revealed that he had a genetic mutation which truncated the protein that produces melanin, the substance which gives our skin its color. This finding proved Migaloo was a true albino.

(h/t IFL Science)

The World’s Fastest Animals, In Super Slow Motion (Video)

When you think of the fastest animals in the world, you probably don’t think of salamanders or crabs. Surprisingly however, these two unassuming creatures top the list of the world’s fastest animals.

Both share the ability to make lightning-fast movements with different parts of their body. The hydromantes salamander takes the top spot with the animals kingdom’s fastest tongue, and the mantis crab comes in second with a hammer claw that moves so fast it actually creates a compression wave that boils water in front of it.

Check out the video below to see these two amazing creatures in action:

For everyone who came here to see a cheetah in super slow-motion, don’t worry, I got you- watching cheetah videos has been a favorite activity of mine since I was a kid.

Cheetahs, the fastest land animals on our planet, are capable of reaching speeds up to 75 mph. When chasing prey at these extremely high speeds, cheetahs use their tails as a rudder to help steer:

The peregrine falcon is the world’s fastest bird, and the fastest animal if we’re talking about moving the whole body.

These fighter-pilot like falcons assault their prey (almost exclusively other birds) from above, reaching a terminal velocity of 200 mph as they dive-bomb from sky (terminal velocity is the point at which air resistance stops an object from accelerating during free fall).

The falcons strike with a clenched fist which either stuns or kills their prey. The falcon then twists in midair to snare the other bird.

The Indonesian Mimic Octopus Is the Animal Kingdom’s Master of Disguise (Video)

In open water, most octopus species are extremely vulnerable to predators. Because of this, they tend to avoid open areas, preferring to hide amongst rocks and corals along the ocean floor.

But the Indonesian Mimic Octopus isn’t your average tentacled invertebrate. These creatures have extremely well-developed systems of camouflage and mimicry.

One minute, the octopus is a flounder, the next it’s a lion fish, and just moments later, it’s a sea snake!

Check out some of these amazing adaptations in the video below:

These adaptations allow this unique species to move freely in areas where other octopi would never even dream of going.

Mimic octopuses typically forage for small crustaceans and fish in the sand along the ocean floor, but they are also known to stalk their prey from time to time.

You can learn more about these amazing creatures courtesy of Dive the World here.