Monday, June 30, 2008

National Bird: The Bald Eagle

Believe it or not, the Fourth of July is this Friday! This week at The Jungle Store blog we will be learning about the national emblem and the official U.S. state animals.

Let's start with the best-known patriotic animal, our national emblem, the bald eagle. In 1782 the bald eagle found itself in this position thanks to its long life, great strength and majestic looks, and also back then it was believed to only exist on this continent.

It is said the eagle was used as a national emblem because, at one of the first battles of the Revolution, the noise of the struggle awoke the sleeping eagles on the heights and they flew from their nests and circled about over the heads of the fighting men, all the while giving vent to their raucous cries. "They are shrieking for Freedom," said the patriots.

The Great Seal (adopted in 1782) shows a wide-spread eagle, faced front, having on his breast a shield with thirteen perpendicular red and white stripes, and a blue field with the same number of stars.

To learn more about the national emblem, visit Bald Eagle Info.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Top Ten New Species of 2007 Named: Number Nine and Ten

Number Nine: Rhinoceros Beetle
A new beetle found in Peru has a hornlike structure on its head that had never been seen before - at least, not in real life. Dim, a character in the Disney/Pixar animated film A Bug's Life. The male beetles use their horns to fight other males during mating battles. Rhinoceros beetles are the strongest animals on the planet, proportionally, being able to lift 850 times their weight.

Number Ten: Michelin Man Plant
This interesting plant is the final number ten on the list of Top New Species of 2007 Named. It was found in western Australia during an environmental impact study for a mining company. If you look closely, you will see that it resembles the Michelin Man, after whom the plant is named. The Michelin Man plant is just one of the 298 new plant species named last year in western Australia alone.

To see a slideshow of the top ten new species of 2007 named, visit National Geographic.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Top Ten New Species of 2007 Named: Number Seven and Eight

7. New Mushroom

This new species of fungus was discovered on the campus of Imperial College, London. This is probably the least exciting new species that was named, but I wanted you to see all ten. :)

8. Lethal Jellyfish (Malo kingi)

This jellyfish was named after American tourist Robert King, who died after apparently being stung by the species off northern Queensland in Australia in 2002. The new jelly is the second known species of the dangerous Malo box jellyfish genus.

To see a slideshow of the top ten new species of 2007 named, visit National Geographic.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Top Ten New Species of 2007 Named: Number Five and Six

Number Five: Central Ranges Taipan

This snake is one of the most venomous in the world. It was discovered in an arid region of Australia in 2007. It made the Top Ten New Species list because accurate identification of snake species can help with proper treatment of bites.

Number Six: Mindoro Stripe-Faced Fruit Bat

Found only on the Phillippine island of Mindoro, this large and charismatic fruit bat has helped advance research on endemic species of the area. It is nicknamed the "flying fox" for its foxlike face. While no population studies have been conducted on the species, it has been suggested that the Mindoro stripe-faced fruit bat may be threatened by hunting and habitat loss due to the general deforestation of forests on Mindoro. The bat is also hunted by the locals for use as food.

To see a slideshow of the top ten new species of 2007 named, visit National Geographic.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Top Ten New Species of 2007 Named: Number Three and Four

Number Three: Pink Dragon Millipede

This newly discovered millipede originates in Thailand. The bright color of the millipede’s body warns predators that this critter is packing poison in its spines, and it is not a sweet treat. Knowing this, it should be no surprise that this millipede has a habit of sitting in plain sight during the daytime. What does he have to fear?!

Number Four: Sri Lankan Shrub Frog

This frog has been bottled up for over 150 years, but was declared a new species when it was rediscovered last year. The refining of taxonomy in the 18th century has allowed for the discovery of 1.8 billion species, and scientists estimate that there are still over ten million species that have yet to be discovered.

To see a slideshow of the top ten new species of 2007 named, visit National Geographic.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Top Ten New Species of 2007 Named: Numbers One and Two

Hot-pink millipedes, "Michelin Man" plants, and lethal jellyfish are among the surprising top 10 new species of 2007. Each day this week I will introduce you to two of these fascinating new species, named in May 2008 by the IISE (International Institute for Species Exploration). The IISE, at Arizona State University, will release this ranking every year to draw attention to the importance of taxonomy and species exploration. The winners, who were chosen from a pool of thousands, were based on peculiar names and unique and surprising attributes, among other criteria.

Number One: Ornate Sleeper Ray (Elecrolux addisoni)
This ray is a species of electric ray that has powerful suction capabilities. In fact, this quirky ray is named after the Electrolux vacuum cleaner company. It is the largest known member of the electric ray family, and it has light-shedding electrogenic properties.

Number Two: Giant Duck-Dilled Dinosaur (Gryposaurus monumentensis)
The above fossil, discovered by high school students in southern Utah in 2002, dates back 75 million years. Gryposaurus means "hook-beaked lizard" and monumentensis refers to the monument where the fossils were found. Scientists believe that the duck-billed dinosaur was approximately 30 feet long, weighed over several tons, had over 800 teeth, and his lower jaws measured two feet. While this dinosaur's diet remains a mystery, it is believed that he fed on large forest plants.

Come back tomorrow for the next two top new species of 2007. You won't want to miss out on these interesting critters!

To see a slideshow of the top ten new species of 2007 named, visit National Geographic.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Animals of Kung Fu Panda

If you haven't seen Kung Fu Panda, go see it this weekend! It's a hilarious film, and the animals are so cute. I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at each of the main characters in the film and learn more about the animal species.

Of course, first there's Po the panda, who works in his father's noodle shop and turns out to be a kung fu warrior. I won't go into detail here about pandas since I've covered them thoroughly, so if you'd like to read more on pandas, see my previous posts and The Jungle Store's Panda Fact Page.

Check out this clip of Po showing off his moves with Master Shifu:

Shifu is a red panda. The red panda is slightly larger than a domestic cat and is a mostly herbivorous animal, specializing in feeding on bamboo. It is an excellent tree climber and spends most of its time in trees when not foraging. Red pandas are endangered, due to poaching and fragmentation of their habitat due to deforestation.
Then there are the Furious Five: Tigress, Monkey, Mantis, Viper, and Crane. The Furious Five is a group of highly-skilled martial artists trained by Shifu. I have already covered tigers and monkeys in previous posts and fact pages, so I will skip over them.

Mantis is a preying mantis . Mantises are notable for their hunting abilities. Their diet consists of living insects, and sometimes, small animals. Most mantises are ambush predators, waiting for their prey to come too close before snatching them up.

Viper is a viper snake, a very colorful and robust animal. The viper snake lives in wet places and also in mountains in small caves. The viper's bright colors help it survive on the floor of the rain forest. This snake can hang by its tail from a branch and catch its prey, which includes birds, amphibians, lizards, small mammals, and nestling. It kills its prey by injecting poisonous venom from its fangs. The viper snake is endangered because its beautiful, smooth skin is in high demand in the fashion industry.

Crane is most likely a red-crowned crane, a species of bird that is very large and is the second rarest kind of crane in the world. In east Asia, the red-crowned crane is a symbol of luck and fidelity. It eats small amphibians, aquatic invertebrates, insects, and marshy plants. Sadly, the red-crested crane is one of the most endangered species of birds in the world.

Tai Lung is the evil snow leopard who escapes from prison and seeks to destroy the Valley of Peace. The snow leopard is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central Asia. It is a rare and secretive animal, and because of this, the exact number that remains in the wild is unknown. Snow leopards live solitary lives, except when females are raising cubs. The leopard eats mostly sheep and goats, as well as small prey including marmots, hares and larger birds. They are opportunistic predators, meaning if there is livestock near, snow leopards will attack them. Want to learn more about snow leopards? Check out Zoobooks "Little Cats" softcover.

Have you seen Kung Fu Panda? What did you think of the movie? Who was your favorite character? I'd have to say mine was Po - he was just too funny! My favorite Po quote: "I just ate... so my kung fu may not be as good as later on."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Animal News: President Bush Designates New Marine Sanctuary in Hawaii

Today, President Bush extended the stronger federal protections to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to guard its endangered monk seals, nesting green sea turtles and other rare species that live in the area.

This new national monument covers an archipelago (chain of islands) that spans 1,400 miles long and 100 miles wide in the Pacific Ocean. This region is home to more than 7,000 species, one fourth of which cannot be found anywhere else. It is the largest no-take marine conservation area in the world, covering 140,000 square miles of largely uninhabited islands, atolls, coral reef colonies and underwater peaks (seamounts).

If you're looking to help protect marine animals, you can buy any of these animal themed card sets. A part of each purchase is donated to help with global conservation,promoting worldwide conservation, and protecting the survival of animals in captivity. The cards are made using soy-based inks and recycled paper.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Animals on the NC Beach: Laughing Gull

During my vacation to North Carolina last week, I took pictures of the animals I saw along the beach. Here is one animal I saw a lot of: the laughing gull.

Laughing gulls are omnivorous and will scavenge as well as hunt suitable small prey. Being highly vocal, their name comes from their call, which sounds like a series of laughing notes.

Laughing gulls have a white body and dark grey back and wings and a black head. Its wings are much darker than other gulls its size, and they have a long, red bill. In the wintertime, the black head mostly disappears.

This gull takes three years to reach adult plumage. Immature birds are darker and first-year birds are greyer below and have paler heads.

Laughing gulls breed in coastal marshes and ponds in large colonies. The large nest, made mostly of grass, is built on the ground. The male and female gull usually build their nest together. If a male cannot find a mate, he may start building a nest platform and then use it to attract a female. The female gull lays three to four greenish eggs, which are incubated for about three weeks.

The adult laughing gull removes the eggshells from the nest after the eggs hatch. If the shells are not removed, a piece can become lodged on top of the slightly smaller unhatched third egg and prevent it from hatching.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pandas in Peril: China's Bamboo Dwindling

Bamboo, the staple diet of pandas, is reportedly dwindling after last month's earthquake in China's Sichuan province. On May 12, an earthquake of magnitude 7.9 struck Sichuan. It was the most devastating earthquake in China in more than three decades. The earthquake sparked aftershocks and landslides. The landslides covered the bamboo area, and there is only 3-5 months' supply left for pandas to eat.

Some animals at an area zoo had to be evacuated and nursed back to health after the path to the zoo was blocked by a landslide. The animals were suffering from malnutrition. View National Geographic's video coverage of this story here: China Pandas' Bamboo Dwindling

For more information on pandas, visit our Panda Fact Page!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Rare Sea Dragon Father "Pregnant"

Today I learned from National Geographic that this weedy sea dragon at the Georgia Aquarium is "pregnant"! If you look at his tail, you'll see that he is carrying about 70 fertilized eggs.Sea dragons, seahorses and pipefish are the only species where the male carries the eggs. During mating, the female sea dragons lay dozens of eggs and then transfer the eggs to the male's tail. In the wild, eggs have a slim chance of survival, but in captivity the life expectancy is increased to 60 percent.

This is only the third time that this rare creature has been observed being "pregnant" in captivity in the United States. These "pregnancies" are rare because researchers don't know what prompts them to mate, and so they have been unable to optimize conditions for courtship.

The Georgia Aquarium must have done something right when they recently changed the lighting and thinned out the plants to give the sea dragons more room to court each other.

This sea dragon's due date is sometime in July.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Good Fathers - Frogs

We're only human. When it comes to toting our offspring we have to use our large brain and opposable thumb and create things like a nifty baby backpack.

Or this adorable stroller.

Or even a simple sling.

But it is not so for the Assa Darlingtoni, or, to use his more common name, the Hip Pocket Frog.

Hip Pocket Frogs live in Australia and, as with other animals from Down Under, they tend to do the whole baby thing a little differently. The hip pocket frog does not need water to breed or lay its eggs in. The female actually lays her eggs directly on the ground in a large gelatinous mass, about 3 cm square. Both she and her mate will guard the eggs from predators. A few days later the eggs will hatch. At this time, the male frog will wade into the jelly mass and smear it on his body. The little tadpoles will be able to wriggle along their dad's body until they drop into one of two pouches located on the dad's hips. The male hip pocket can carry about 6 tadpoles in each of his pouches. Here the tadpoles will stay, feeding of their leftover yolk sacs. When they become fully developed frogs, they will leap from their dad's "hip pockets" and go off without a backward glance.

Kids. Gotta love 'em.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Good Fathers - Sand Grouses

It happens every night. "Can I have a drink of water?" After the bath and the book and the lullaby. "Can I have a drink of water?" Just as I've finished the daily chores and collapsed on the sofa to watch a little baseball. "Can I have a drink of water?" The children are thirsty. Knowing that, at this time of the day, my desire to do any more waiting on them is at low ebb, they call to their father. "Daddy, can I have a drink of water?" My husband, wonderful dad that he is, always complies. So do Sand Grouse fathers.

The Burchell's Sand Grouse lives in and around the Kalahari Desert in Africa. Once thought to be members of the pigeon family they have been genetically linked to wading birds even though they are strictly a land bird. Living in and around a desert makes foraging time consuming and finding water an odyssey. The sand grouse will fly long distances in groups of 100 or more to bath and drink. During mating season the monogamous sand grouse pair will find an indentation in the desert soil in which to lay the eggs. Nesting duties are shared, with the male spending just as much time incubating the eggs as the female. When the chicks hatch they are fairly self-sufficient except when it comes to finding water. Unable to fly, it is up to dad to make sure the brood gets a drink. The male sand grouse has specially adapted belly feathers that can store water. Flying as far as 100 miles each way, the father sand grouse soaks himself, storing close to 20 ml of water. Returning to his chicks, they cluster about him, drinking directly from his feathers.

I'm grateful that my husband is willing to take the 3 sippy cups down the hall and up the stairs for the kiddos. I'm just not sure he'd be as willing if the "Can I have a drink of water?" chore involved gassing up the Volvo for a 3-hour drive.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Good Fathers - Seahorses

The Seahorse is probably the most well-known "Good Dad." They come as close to being pregnant as it is possible for a male to be. Actually, technically, the male seahorse does become pregnant.

Male and Female seahorses form a monogamous pair during the breeding season. They strengthen their bond by daily greetings, promenades and pirouettes. During mating, the female deposits her eggs in the male's brood pouch. There they are fertilized and then embedded in the pouches walls. The brood pouch acts like a womb although it looks more like a honeycomb structure. The fertilized eggs will receive nutrients, oxygen and protection for the next 2 – 4 weeks, depending on species of seahorse. The fluid inside the male's brood pouch will slowly change from an amniotic-like substance to fluid more closely resembling seawater. This will lessen the shock to the offspring when they are born. The male seahorse does go into labor and does deliver his children in the classic sense. The birth generally happens at night so the male seahorse will be ready for a new batch of eggs from his mate when they meet in the morning.

Most fish species abandon their eggs once they are laid and fertilized. Thanks to the care given by the male seahorse, mortality rates among their newborns are lower. That is a committed dad.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Good Fathers - Marmosets

Does having children make men smarter? I know that's not the way it's played out on TV sitcoms, but there is some pretty solid evidence that becoming a dad increases brain power and learning among Marmosets.

Marmosets are small primates found in the jungles of South America. They live in stable, family groups consisting of a monogamously mated pair, offspring and extended family members. When babies are born, it is almost always fraternal twins. The father helps the mother through delivery; he cleans the infants and carries them on his back for their first months of life. When the infants need nursing, he will return them to their mother, and both parents partake in the socially important ritual of grooming their young. When the babies are weaned to solid food, it is the father who feeds them and teaches them where to find a meal.

Scientists were conducting experiments on marmosets to test male testosterone levels when introduced to the scent of ovulating females. In most other primates, male testosterone levels shot up, making them more aggressive and anxious to mate. Not so among marmoset dads. Their testosterone levels remained the same, perhaps because they need to remain available to their mate and committed to the rearing of their children. A subsequent study comparing marmoset fathers with marmosets who had no off-spring found that the dads had better connected neurons and more activity in the prefrontal cortex of their brain. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that allows higher, more complex planning and the ability to handle tasks. According to the scientists, it was not the simple act of fathering a child that caused the increased brain connectivity, but the process of parenting. Marmoset fathers are responsible for over 70% of their offspring's care. Nice to know they've got the brain power to handle it.

Carmen Busko provided our photograph.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Good Fathers - Catfish

Catfish are bottom feeders. Catfish are wily, whiskery, mud-dwelling river fish. Catfish, done Cajun-style, are dinner. Catfish are . . . wonderful fathers. Believe it or not, it is the male Hardhead Catfish that is responsible for the safety of the next generation.

Studies are not quite definitive on where the female hardhead deposits her fertilized eggs. She may lay them in a shallow depression in the sea or river bed, or she may deposit them directly into the male catfish's mouth. Either way, that is where the eggs end up - in the male's mouth. The entire clutch is not large, perhaps 2 - 3 dozen, but they are big, each one about the size of a golf ball. For the next 2 months the male will "mouthbrood", allowing the eggs to develop into frys, aka baby fish. Once the eggs have hatched and the young are free-swimming, the male will open his mouth and let his children out.

During this period of time the male catfish can not eat. He will need time to regain body weight and energy before mating again. This form of reproduction may seem a little hard on the catfish, but, even though fewer eggs are laid, it gives the hardhead babies a greater success rate for reaching maturity. Way to go, dad!

Friday, June 6, 2008

"J" if for Jennet

The Jennet was a Spanish horse from the Middle Ages. More a type or style of horse than a breed, the jennet was known for its even temperament, moderate build and flamboyant coloring. The jennet had a smooth, ambling gait and was considered an ideal riding horse. During the Middle Ages they were extremely popular and the jennet quickly spread across Europe. The nobility in particular, prized the horse's varied coat color and the more exotic the patterning, the more valuable the horse.

Spanish explorers brought the jennet with them as they conquered new territories. Christopher Columbus chose 25 of the horses to accompany him on his second trip to the New World. Cortez is said to have brought horses "with a wide variety of colors and markings," when he moved to conquer the Aztec empire. The jennet's natural athleticism and good temperament would make them an ideal mount.

The jennet no longer exists as it did in the Middle Ages. As stated, the jennet was not truly a breed of horse. However, this style of horse—athletic, smooth-gaited, and multi-hued—is considered the foundation bloodstock for a number of American horse breeds, including the mustang. A group called the Spanish Jennet Horse Society has dedicated themselves to "re-creating the rare and exclusive horses that courageously glided through the reclamation of Spain and the discovery and exploration of the New World." I certainly hope they will be able to recover this lost treasure from our past.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

"J" is for Jellyfish

I've told you before; I grew up on the coast. My summers (and springs and falls and fine winter days) were usually spent on the beach. The entertainment value of waves, breakwater, sand and tidal pools can not be over-rated. I've no idea how many miles of beach I've walked looking for the perfect shell or the most interesting bit of driftwood. More often than not, I would also find little translucent blobs dotting the tide line. They looked like someone had dribbled color free gelatin all over the beach. My friends and I would scoop them up with bits of shell, filling our buckets so we could dutifully take them back to the blanket-full of adults and find out what they were and if we could use them in our sandcastles.

They were jellyfish, of course. There are around 2,000 species of jellyfish inhabiting all the waters of the world. They come in many shapes, sizes, colors and toxicity. Did I say toxicity? You bet I did. Jellyfish have no brain, no spine and no bones, but they do have a nasty sting. When anything brushes against the jellyfish's tentacles, the tentacles react, firing harpoons of poison into the victim. Since the jellyfish has no brain to direct assaults, the tentacles react independently, to touch stimuli. They are part of a "nerve net." This means even if the tentacles are no longer attached to the major body mass, or bell, of the jellyfish, they can still sting. Also, seeing a jellyfish washed up on the shore is no security against being stung. If the tentacles are wet they still may be able to inject you with poison. Although only a few jellyfish species can kill humans, most will sting, and the pain can last for hours. Best practice is to avoid touching jellyfish with your bare skin.

The jellies we gathered on the beach in Rhode Island were not harmful to humans. Still, even as children, we had been taught not to handle anything until we knew what it was. Sound advice. In July of 2006, Rhode Island beaches got a "jolt" when Portuguese Man-of-Wars invaded the coast. Although not technically a jellyfish (they are siphonophores, a colony of organisms that live and hunt together), the Man-of-War can be lethal to humans, and attacks with a powerfully painful sting even after it's washed ashore. So, when it comes to oddities on the beach, remember, no touchy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

"J" is for Jack Russell

The Jack Russell Terrier is also known as the Parson Jack Russell Terrier. This feisty little dog was bred in the 1800s by (can you guess) Parson Jack Russell. A man of the cloth, but also an avid fox hunter, Parson Russell wanted a hunting dog that could match the energy, intelligence and versatility of the fox. He found it in a female terrier named Trump.

Trump was purchased on the road from a milkman that Russell happened to be passing. Perhaps sparking to her looks, since he'd had no opportunity to see her hunt, Parson Russell took her back to Oxford and bred her with a white Devon hunt terrier. The Jack Russell was established.

According to the breed standard, Jack Russell Terriers are supposed to be:
"Lively, active and alert in appearance. Fearless and happy in disposition. They should never appear nervous, cowardly or over-aggressive. They should always be confident."

I've owned terriers in my life (Scotties and Airedales) and I must admit to favoritism for the group. Their independence, intelligence and wit keeps me challenged. Their stout-heartedness and loyalty keeps me devoted. I've never owned a Jack, they may be a bit more terrier than I am willing to take on, but I do admire them. Always happy, full of energy, they are not a breed to be ignored. Just watch the clip below if you don't believe me.

One more thing and it may sound like preaching, but, please, research any dog before you adopt or buy. Puppies grow up to be dogs. Small dogs still need to be trained. Large dogs still need to be cuddled. Dogs require food and water and exercise and quality time and vet care. Nowhere in a dog's care instructions does it say: "Chain it in the backyard and yell at it." Sermon over.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

"J" is for Jackal

Historically, Jackals have been given a bad rap. Europeans once believed that jackals hunted prey for lions, obsequiously giving the "lion's share" to the big cats before slinking in to feed on the scraps. Patently ridiculous. Jackals are small canids that live in pairs or small family packs. They may have the cunning, but have no where near the power needed to bring down the zebras and buffalos that lions traditionally feed on. Regardless, the term "Jackal" is defined in the dictionary as "a dishonest person who performs menial or degrading tasks for another." Hardly praise.

Egyptians had more reverence for the Jackal. Their ancient god of the dead, Anubis, is pictured as a man with a jackal's head. Anubis held sway over mummification and guiding the dead to the afterlife and is prolifically depicted on the walls of tombs and pyramids.

Jackals mate for life and will form small family packs, decreasing the mortality rate of new litters by letting the last litter help to rear the pups. All members of the family take part in defending territory, protecting each other and hunting. Yes, jackals do hunt, and are listed as carnivores. More appropriately they should be considered opportunistic omnivores as they will feed on carrion, garbage and have a penchant for corn and fruit. A jackal makes no attempt to hide the finding of food but lets the rest of the family know with loud yips and screams. Jackals are extremely vocal. The origin of their name—the Sanskrit word srgala—literally means "the howler."

Monday, June 2, 2008

"J" is for Junebug

Ah, June. Glorious time of year. The days are getting longer and warmer; the soft twilight is full of insect song and the perfume of flowers. I love to sit on my porch and watch the day change to darkness. The swallows grab a last beak full of bugs and head for their roosts in the rock wall. The owls start a chorus of questions from the stand of trees across the road and the bats flit about after the moths and mosquitoes. *contented sigh* All is right with the world.

Until the beetles come out.

Junebugs, aka May Beetles, aka Green June Beetles (real creative naming going on with these guys) are indigenous to North America. They start life as underground larvae and stay underground, rising each spring to the root system of your lawn or crops where they will feed. Come the fall they burrow deeper into the earth and over-winter. This is a 3-year cycle. When the larvae reach their third spring, they will have pupated into the beetles we recognize. The beetle is a bit shorter than 1 inch in length and encased in a hard brown, black, or dark green shell. It is a true beetle and capable of flight. Although nocturnal, the male junebugs in particular are drawn to light. They swarm my porch lights, ricocheting from the ceiling, falling on my head, on my book, in my drink. *ick* As adults, Junebugs do not cause near the damage to plants that they cause in the larval stage. As adults, they are merely annoying. This stage of their life will be brief as they have only emerged from the ground to feed, and mate and die.

Maybe if I keep my porch lights off, they can get on with their evening activities and I can get on with mine.

Junebug photograph provided by Jim Occi

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Symbiosis - Badgers and Birds

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Jungle Jane. Do mutually beneficial symbiotic relationships always involve cleaning?" And I answer, "No." We have been looking at symbiotic relationships that are considered mutualistic—each species benefiting from the other. A lot of these happen to be of the "cleaning" variety, especially among fish. The type of symbiosis we'll look at today is called Commensalism, meaning, "at table together."

My favorite example of this symbiotic relationship is the cooperation found between the Honeyguide bird, a small, dull-colored bird, and the Ratel, also known as the Honey Badger. I'm sure you've caught the similar word in their names and yes, the sweet stuff happens to be their treat of choice. Both the honeyguide and the ratel prefer honey, combs, bees and larvae to just about anything else. Problem is, alone neither is really up to the task of procuring it. The honeyguide can find a bee hive, but hasn't the size or strength to take on the multitudes within. The ratel is like other badgers, tough and strong with sharp, raking claws. The ratel can certainly break into a hive; it just can't find one easily. Once a honeyguide finds a hive, it starts looking for a honey badger. Making a clattering fuss, the bird gets the badger's attention and starts a slow, flitting process back towards the hive, making sure the badger is following. There is not doubt, that the honeybird is leading the ratel. Once there, the ratel decimates the hive, tearing it to pieces and feasting on the goodies within. The honeyguide bird usually waits until the badger's frenzy is done before helping itself to the left-over wax, honey and larvae.