Friday, 9 March 2012

Fastest predatory appendages.

Image: Luisa Mota via Flickr
From the tropics and subtropics.

Trapjaw Ants (Odontomachus sp.) have the fastest moving predatory appendages of any animal.

You probably realise that the appendages in question are those huge mandibles. They can move at speeds up to 230 kilometres per hour (140 mph), snapping shut with incredible force to kill and maim prey.

When the shoe is on the other foot they can bite the ground to propel themselves backwards and escape predators. Interesting that their jaws are such fearsome weapons, they can be used as an ejector seat to run away!

More on Trapjaw Ants.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Smallest tortoise in the northern hemisphere.

Image: Wikipedia
Image: Wikipedia
From Libya.

Kleinmann's Tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni) is the smallest tortoise in the northern hemisphere. They reach a length of about 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches).

This little trooper lives in the arid heat of deserts and other dry areas. They were once found in Egypt but habitat destruction has just about wiped them out there.

I hope this critically endangered little tortoise makes it, they make the desert just that little bit more friendly!

More on Kleinmann's Tortoise.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Only North American marsupial.

Image: Jay Dugger via Flickr
Image: Wikimedia
From North and Central America.

The Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is the only American marsupial that can be found north of Mexico.

They're one of those animals that do really well in the urban environment, like rats, pigeons, raccoons and foxes. Isn't it interesting, the strange diversity of successful, city wildlife?

More on the Virginia Opossum.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Biggest eared seal.

Image: Wikimedia
Image: Wikimedia
From the northern Pacific.

Eared seals are the sea lions and fur seals of the family Otariidae. The biggest of them is the Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus).

A big male can be 3.25 m (10.7 ft) long and weigh up to 1,120 kg (2,500 lb), but the average weight is about half that. Females are only a little shorter but weigh a lot less.

They feed on all sorts of fish and squid. I guess the male just eats a lot more of them to support that expansive waistline!

More on the Steller Sea Lion.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Biggest land animal in Europe.

Image: psteenhoff via Flickr
Image: Wikimedia
From a few parts of eastern Europe.

Europe's biggest land animal is the Wisent, also known as the European Bison (Bison bonasus).

They can reach up to 3.1 m (10 ft) long and 2 m (7 ft) tall. A really big male might weigh 1,000 kg (2,200 lb).

The Wisent was finally hunted to extinction in the wild in 1927, leaving only a few dozen individuals in zoos. There has since been an ongoing process of reintroduction and they're now doing quite well.

It's always nice to have a massive animal running around making the earth shake!

More on the Wisent.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Biggest snail.

From northern Australia and adjacent areas like eastern Indonesia, Papua New Guinea,etc.

The world's biggest snail is the Australian Trumpet (Syrinx aruanus), which can reach 91 cm (36 in) ilong and weigh up to 18 kg (40 lb).

It's a seasnail which lives in shallow waters and eats worms.

That's about all that's known about it!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Only land mammal native to Hawaii.

From Hawaii.

Before humans came along, the Hawaiian Hoary Bat (Lasiurus cinereus semotus) was the only land mammal on the island.

And it has wings and it flies! That's what happens when you're a bunch of islands miles away from anywhere!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Biggest hornbill.

Image: Wikimedia
Image: Wikimedia

From southern Africa.

The world's biggest hornbill is the Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri). A large male can be up to 129 cm (51 in) long and weigh 6.2 kg (13.6 lbs).

They use their size to catch insects, lizards, mammals as large as hares and any other meaty thing they can get their beak around.

Just like Velociraptors! Only more scary because they're black and red.

More on the Southern Ground Hornbill.
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