Let’s Explore!

Santa’s Little Helpers

Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas! I know, I know, I’m early, but seeing as I won’t be making a new post until the new year, I thought I should do my Xmas special now. To keep things festive, this post will be all about the most famous Christmas animal, the reindeer, and how they became so involved with the holiday.

So, what is a reindeer?

The reindeer, also known as caribou in North America, is a species of deer with circumpolar distribution. They can be found in Northern Europe, Siberia and North America. In addition, reindeer are the only species of deer in which both males and females grow antlers.

Reindeer are built for the cold, as is evident by two layered pelt which is designed to insulate them, as well as their unique hooves which are large and padded in the winter to deal with the snow and small and hard in the summer.

Reindeer are herbivores and primarily feed on lichen. They are the main source of prey for grey wolves as well as being hunted by grizzly and polar bears. Calves are hunted foremost by golden eagles and they are also hunted by wolverines. It is not uncommon for a wolf pack to follow a single heard for years as their main source of food.

Why are they deemed Christmas animals?

It all stems from a traditional festive legend of them pulling Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve as I’m sure you all know, but what is the origin of this tale?

The first reference of reindeer pulling the jolly fat man’s sleigh can be found in Old Santeclaus with Much Delight, an illustrated children’s poem that was published in New York in 1821. The names of the author and illustrator are unknown.

But the famous eight are first seen in the 1823 poem A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement C. Moore. The relevant part of the poem reads:

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,
with a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:
“Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer, and Vixen!
“On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Dunder and Blixem!

“To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
“Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, 

In case you were curious, Dunder and Blixem are the Dutch words for thunder and lightning. Their names were changed to the German version of thunder and lightning (Donder and Blitzen) when Edmund Clarence Stedman reprint the poem to include the 1844 spellings.

Rudolph would not be seen until 1939 whn his story was originally written in verse by Robert L. May for the Montgomery Ward chain of department stores, and published as a book to be given to children in the store at the festive season. According to this story, Rudolph’s famous glowing red nose made him a social outcast among the other reindeer. One year, Santa Claus’s worldwide flight was doomed by severe fog. Visiting Rudolph’s house to deliver his presents, Santa noticed Rudolph’s glowing red nose in the darkened bedroom and decided to use him as a makeshift lamp to guide his sleigh. Rudolph, of course, accepted St. Nick’s request to lead the sleigh for the rest of the night, and he returned home a hero for having helped Santa Claus.

So, there you have it guys, the Christmas miracle that is reindeer. I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please feel free to comment on this post or any of my others and if you have a request for a future post, please let me know. You won’t hear from me until the new year so….

Willy Is Still Free!

Hey guys! At the request of a friend of mine, I am doing this post all about one of the ocean’s top predators, the orca.

The orca, or killer whale as it is also called, is an apex predator and the largest member of the Delphinidae family (oceanic dolphins). It is highly intelligent, adaptable and able to communicate and coordinate hunting tactics, which gives it the capability to hunt a large variety of prey from seals to sting rays.

There is one thing I would like to address that I’m sure you’re curious about; why are they called killer whales if they are a type of dolphin? Well, first of all, dolphins and whales are closely related. Orcas were given the name ‘killer whale’ when ancient sailors observed groups of orcas hunting larger whale species, earning them the name ‘asesina ballenas’ or ‘whale killers’. The term was evantually flipped around to be ‘killer whale’. In addition, their Latin name, Orcinus orca, reflects the observation of killer whales killing whales. Orcinus translates to ‘of the kingdom of the dead’ and orca refers to a kind of whale.

Orcas are not typically a migratory species and ‘migrations’ are usually a response to the abundance of favoured prey and can sometimes be long, an example being between Alaska and California. Depending on the type of social group and location, killer whales will hunt fish, squid, seals, sea lions, seabirds, stingrays and even whales much larger than themselves. There has never been a documented orca attack on a human in the wild, and there are even some stories of orcas actually protecting humans at sea from sharks as sharks are just as easy for them to kill as any seal. Watch the clip below to really see what I mean.

https://youtu.be/XbQ5qCJEEwc

Known as the wolves of the sea, killer whale pods are usually made of about 40 individuals that work together as a team to execute brilliant hunting techniques to take down their large variety of prey. One such example of an extraordinary technique the orcas have come up with can be seen below.

https://youtu.be/pEP0sMO-nUQ

Orcas are highly protective of their young, and other adolescent females often assist the mother in caring for them (this is similar to other close family groups in the animal kingdom, such as herds of elephants). Mothers usually give birth every three to ten years, after a 17-month pregnancy.

Orcas are immediately recognisable by their distinctive black and white colouring, and are the intelligent, trainable stars of many aquarium shows. It is also important to note that orcas have never been extensively hunted by humans. In fact, they are often featured throughout the art, history, spirituality and religions of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast. The Haida, for example, regarded killer whales as the most powerful creatures in the ocean, and their mythology tells of orcas living in houses and towns under the waves. According to these myths, killer whales take on the forms of humans when submerged, and humans who drowned went to live with them. In other mythology, such as that of the Nuu-chah-nulth and the Kwakwaka’wakw, killer whales may embody the souls of deceased chiefs.

To find out more about these fantastic animals, go to the WDC’s website.

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it, if you have any questions about killer whales or any other posts I have written, or even if you have a request for a post I should write in future. Please don’t hesitate to contact me (details can be found on my contacts page).

Are You Harpy To See Me?

Hey guys! Once again I have chosen a horrible pun to title my post, but I really encourage you to get over my poor taste in humour and read what I have to say about a truly fantastic bird; the harpy eagle.

The harpy eagle is a truly incredible bird and is one of the largest species of eagle on Earth. Early South American explorers were so terrified of these legendary birds that they named them after harpies. Harpies, from Greek and Roman mythology, are horrific monsters that are half bird and half woman and are truly vicious. The harpy eagle is also the national bird of Panama.

Like most eagle species, the female harpy eagle is almost twice the size of the male. This eagle’s legs can be as thick as a small child’s wrist, and its curved, back talons are huge! Take a look at them compared to other birds of prey.

Now here’s where it gets really terrifying. See the size comparison of the harpy eagle talon and a grizzly bear claw.

That’s right, harpy eagle talons match up to grizzly bear claws! Their talons are as long as 3-4 inches, which I think is very impressive.

The harpy eagle’s range spreads from Mexico to northern Argentina and they live in forested areas. Their wingspan can reach up to 6.5 ft across. Despite this fact, harpies fly through their forest homes with great agility and ease. For nesting purposes, harpy eagles favour silk-cotton trees (kapok trees) and usually build their nest 90-140 ft above the ground. Harpies use large sticks to create the nest’s huge frame and then they line it with softer greens, seed pods and even animal fur to make it nice and warm and comfortable. A harpy nest usually measures about 4 ft thick and 5 ft across, which is large enough for a person to lie down in! Once built, an eagle pair may constantly reuse and remodel the same nest for many years. Here is an example of such a nest.

https://youtu.be/ttcF2UvfGF4

The powerful harpy eagle, when it hunts, flies below the forest canopy and uses its massive talons to snatch up monkeys and sloths that can weigh up to 17 Ibs! As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the harpy is also capable, in a serious chase, of reaching speeds up to 50 mph. It dives down onto its prey and snatches it with outstretched feet, where it then uses its deadly talons, which can exert several hundred Ibs of pressure (over 50 kg), crushing the bones of the prey and instantly killing its victim. Harpy eagles have a ranged diet and feeds on not just monkeys and sloths, but also on opossums, porcupines, young deer, snakes and iguanas. Heavier prey, since it can’t be be lifted up to the nest due to its weight, is taken to a stump or low branch where it is partially eaten, after which it will be carried up to the nest for young harpies to munch on.

This bird is what opticians strive for. It can see something less than 1 inch in size from 200 m away!

These birds are ranked as ‘Near Threatened’ by the ICUN Red List of threatened species. I know what you are thinking, how can these things possibly be under any threat at all? Simple really, each harpy eagle pair needs several square miles of undisturbed forest to truly thrive and since these eagles are nonmigratory, they hunt their established range continuously. However, years of logging, destruction of nesting sites and poaching have eliminated this bird species from much of its former range and it is now rare in many areas. Unbelievably, their most current threat comes from hunters actually choosing to shoot them for sport! Makes me feel sick! It also doesn’t help that Harpy parents raise, at most, a single eaglet every two years. This means that once the number of harpy eagles in a particular area has been reduced, it is very hard for the population to recover.

For many years, the San Diego Zoo was the only Zoo in the USA to breed this rare species of eagle, but now Miami Zoo has reared a chick from parents that came from San Diego Zoo. Fifteen chicks have hatched at San Diego Zoo since 1992, and in 1998, two offspring were released into their native habitat of Panama. This is all made possible by The Peregrine Fund. The Peregrine Fund launched the Harpy Eagle Release Project in 1989, which aims to help harpy eagles in the wild and keep them well out of the red area.

Personally, I hope that this scheme will work as not is this magnificent eagle a true natural wonder, but as an apex predator, it plays a key role in the ecosystem of Central and South America and it must be protected.

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have any questions about this amazing eagle, I suggest you visit the San Diego Zoo’s website, which tells you all about harpy eagles in extraordinary detail. Please feel free to comment on this post or any of my other posts!

Are Fish Really Friends?

https://youtu.be/kD8dHDpXVcI

We all know this famous scene in Disney Pixar’s masterpiece, Finding Nemo. However, I believe that the idea of fish being friends may not be quite right as there are many a monster in the fish world. In this post I will my top ten most dangerous fish in the World.

Ten: the pufferfish

The puffer, also known as blowfish, is any member of a group of about 90 species that makes up the family Tetraodonitae. This family is noted for their ability to inflate themselves when they feel threatened. Puffers can be found in any warm or temperate waters and. They have tough, usually prickly skins and fused teeth that create beak-like structures. The largest can grow to about 90 cm, but most are considerably smaller. What makes this fish so dangerous though is that it is poisonous and has a high concentration of tetradontoxin in its internal organs. That said, it is considered food in some parts of the World!

Nine: the red lionfish

The red lionfish is a native of South Pacific reef ecosystems. The venom of the red lionfish, which is delivered via an array of up to 18 needle-like dorsal fins, is for defensive purposes only. This predator relies on camouflage and lightning-fast reflexes to capture its prey, which mainly consists of fish and shrimp. A sting from a lionfish is extremely painful to us humans and can cause nausea and make it difficult to breath, but is rarely fatal.

Eight: the candiru

A species of parasitic freshwater catfish in the family Trichomycteridae, the candiru is native to the Amazon Basin and is found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. These fish are the very definition of how size isn’t everything as they only grow to a length of about 1 inch. The candiru feeds on blood and is commonly found in the gill cavities of other fishes. It is sometimes known to enter the urethras of bathers and swimming animals, which is how it is earns its reputation. Once inside its host, it erects its short spines on its gill covers and this may cause inflammation, haemorrhage and maybe even death to the victim.

Seven: the great white shark

I bet this entry doesn’t surprise you, right? It is a worthy inclusion to this list as it is the second largest shark on Earth (after the docile whale shark). Great whites are truly ferocious hunters and masters of ambushing unsuspecting prey. The thing is though, their prey isn’t humans, but seals and seal lions. These sharks normally only attack humans out of curiosity or confusing us for their natural prey. They may also attack humans if their regular prey is scarce. However, it is easy to see why humans fear these sharks so much when you see them in action.

https://youtu.be/Qzxy3GtSzt0

Six: the moray eel family

Moray eels are a family of about 200 species of eels worldwide. The smallest moray eel is probably Snyder’s moray, which attains a maximum length of 4.5 inches, while the longest species, the slender giant moray reaches up to 13 ft. The largest though, in terms of total mass, is the giant moray eel, which can reach 9.8 ft in length and 66 Ibs in weight. Though not our predators, moray eels are capable of delivering a very painful and strong bite. What makes moray eels particularly dangerous to humans, particularly the giant moray and yellow-edged moray, are how they are known to accumulate high levels of ciguatoxins. Ciguatera poisoning is characterised by neurological, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular problems. In morays, the toxins are most concentrated in the liver and, in an especially remarkable instance, 57 people in the Northern Marina Islands were poisoned after eating just the head and half of a cooked yellow edged moray. In short… DON’T EAT THESE EELS!!!

Five: the giant devil catfish

This catfish, otherwise known as the goonch, reaches up to 6.6 ft in length and weighs over 200 pounds. It may be largest species of the Bagarius genus. It is found in South Asia and was made famous by Jeremy Wade of River Monsters who discussed the Kali River goonch attacks, which were a series of fatal attacks on humans supposedly perpetrated by man-eating goonches in three villages along the banks of the River Kali between 1998 and 2007.

Four: the bluespotted stingray

Stingrays are one of the most common groups of fish responsible for human envenomations. This is largely because many species of ray bury themselves on the sea floor where people accidentally step on them. Stingray venom is generally cardiotoxic. The bluespotted stingray, which is native to the Indo-Pacific Ocean, is one of the most venomous species of stingray. Its venom contain serotonin, 5′ nucleotidase and phosphodiesterase. As a form of warning, the bluespotted stingray, like many other venom potent animals (see poison dart frogs), is vibrantly coloured. The ray has a very long tail that accommodates two venomous spines on the base of the tail. Its tail is about twice as long as its body and the ray has a barb that is approximately 12 inches long.

Three: the great barracuda

Found in subtropical oceans around the world, the great barracuda is what would the result if a torpedo and a piranha had a child. Its mouth is filled with wicked-looking 3-inch teeth and these monstrous fish can reach up to 6 feet in length and weigh over 100 Ibs. A barracuda attack could sever tendons, rip off horrifyingly large amounts of flesh and kill you in a matter of seconds. Deaths have in fact been confirmed in the Eastern United States, which sets this fish apart from many other carnivorous fish who are only suspected of killing people. The Great Barracuda is a living torpedo, studded with wicked-looking 3-inch teeth. These fish may reach up to 6 feet in length, and weigh over 100 pounds. Great barracudas are attracted to shiny metal objects, and will attack vulnerable creatures or sources of agitation. You have probably been terrified of this true sea monster for years and never quite known why. Let me show you why.

https://youtu.be/HaVm1aDopvo

That’s right, this beast killed Nemo’s mum! A barracuda attack could sever tendons, rip off horrifyingly large amounts of flesh and kill you in a matter of seconds. Deaths have in fact been confirmed in the Eastern United States, which sets this monster apart from many other carnivorous fish as most are only suspected to have caused human deaths.

Two: the bull shark

Meet the real deadliest shark on Earth, the bull shark. The bull shark can be found in warm waters worldwide. Though the great white shark is bigger and has a reputation for being vicious and powerful hunters, the bull shark is more deadly for two reasons. Firstly, these sharks are extremely aggressive in nature and is easily provoked, making it more dangerous than any other kind of shark. Secondly, these sharks can survive in saltwater and freshwater meaning that there is literally no escaping them. One or several bull sharks may have been responsible for the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916, which were the very thing that inspired Peter Benchley to write the novel, Jaws. The speculation of bull sharks possibly being responsible is based on two fatal bites occurring in brackish and freshwater. The bull shark is also responsible for biting swimmers around the Sydney Harbour inlets. The vast majority of these bites were previously credited to great white sharks. In India, bull sharks swim up the Ganges and have bitten bathers. Many of these bite incidents were attributed to the Ganges shark (a critically endangered river shark species), although the sand tiger shark was also blamed during the 1960s and 1970s.

One: the reef stonefish

This carnivorous fish can be found primarily above the Tropic of Capricorn. It is the most widespread species of stonefish and can be found from the shallow, tropical waters in the Pacific and Indian Oceans from the Red Sea to the Great Barrier Reef. It is the most venomous fish on the planet and, due to its remarkable camouflage, the most dangerous fish to humans as it is not uncommon for a poor sole to step on these fish and get a dose of lethal venom injected into them.

So there you have it, my top ten most dangerous fish. I will say though that there are a lot of fish that deserve honourable mentions and I thoroughly suggest you look them up. They are:

  • The pacu
  • The giant sawfish
  • The payara
  • The goliath grouper
  • The wels catfish
  • The giant freshwater stingray
  • The electric eel
  • The alligator gar

I hope you guys enjoyed this post and please feel free to challenge any of the additions to this list or to just comment on this post or any of my other posts.

Eye Of The Tiger

Hi guys! My last post was at the request of my Mum, this one is at the request of my Dad. My Dad has asked me to do a post all about tigers, an animal I have very much been looking forward to discussing. In this post, I will discuss these incredible animals, a famous hybrid made using these animals and their ancient ancestors.

Tigers are the largest cats on Earth and are in the genus Panthera. It is an apex predator, primarily preying on deer and bovids (buffalo, antelope, sheep, goats, etc). It is a territorial animal and generally a solitary but social predator. There are several sub species, the most well known being the Bengal tiger (pictured above), but others include the Sumatran tiger, the Siberian tiger and the Malayan tiger. Due to its large size it requires a large amount of food, this means that tigers have very large territories to accommodate this. As a result of this, and the the fact they inhabit some of the most densely populated areas on the globe, tigers have often gotten into conflict with humans.

Tigers are well adapted for life as a predator. They have muscular bodies and powerful forelimbs, as well as sharp, long claws. This makes them strong hunters capable of overpowering their prey as well as chasing them down if need be and pinning them down once they have caught their prey. They have large heads to accommodate powerful jaws and large teeth, as well as tail that is about half the length of its body which allows it to balance. They have exceptional eye sight and hearing which only adds to their prowess as a predator and also makes them effective at all times of day. Their striped coat, for which they are most well known, was an adaptation as a result of the tall grasses that thick undergrowth that makes up most of its habitat, allowing tigers to blend achieve better camouflage and be a more effective stealth predator than if they weren’t striped. Tigers, unlike most cats, love water. They are powerful swimmers as a result of their strong forelimbs, but the video below explains why they are so fond of swimming far better than I ever could.

https://youtu.be/sMnK63ppBXU

Tigers are amongst the most recognisable and popular of the World’s charismatic megafauna. Charismatic megafauna are large animal species with symbolic value, widespread popular appeal and are often used by environmental activists to achieve their goals for conservation and protection. Other examples include the humpback whale, giant panda, African elephant, polar bear and the Western lowland gorilla.

Tigers are featured often in mythology and folklore and continues to be featured in literature and modern films, as well as appearing on many flags, coats of arms and as mascots for sporting teams (an example being the Cincinnati Bengals). The tiger is the national animal of India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and South Korea.

Another interesting fact I believe worth mentioning is that the tigers closest living relatives are not lions, jaguars or even leopards, but are in fact, snow leopards. Scientific research indicates that about 2.88 million years ago, the tiger and snow leopard lineages diverged from the other Panthera species. This would make tigers and snow leopards more closely related to each other than to other big cats.

The real king of the beasts!

Ligers are the largest big cats on Earth and do not exist outside of captivity. They are made from the mating of a male lion and a tigress. Unlike the other possible hybrid made from tigers and lions, tigons, ligers are much larger than both parent animals. The largest liger in existence is Hercules (pictured above). Hercules is more than 900 Ibs (922 Ibs as of 2013) and has gained this weight since he was 4 years old. Moreover, this weight of more than 900 Ibs allows Hercules to be heavier than the both of his parents’ weight combined! Hercules is a true record holder as he is not only the largest liger, but is also the largest carnivorous mammal in the World as well! Hercules resides at Myrtle Beach Safari, South Carolina, USA and it is possible to see this incredible cat up close and personal!

Don’t be such a fossil!

Contrary to what the name may suggest, sabre tooth tigers (otherwise known as smilodons) are not actually closely related to tigers or any other modern cat. So if these aren’t the true ancestors of tigers, what is?

Well we might as well start at the beginning of this vast family tree. I’d like to introduce the ancient ancestor of every modern predator, the miacid.

Miacids are extinct primitive carnivoramorphans within the family Miacidae that lived during the Paleocene and Eocene epochs millions of years ago. Miacids were inhabitants of our world for a period of about 29 million years.

Miacids are thought to have evolved into the modern carnivorous mammals with the order Carnivora. They were small carnivores, marten-like or civet-like with long, little bodies and long tails. Some species were aboral, whilst others lived at ground level. They most likely fed on invertebrates, birds, lizards and smaller mammals. Their skulls and teeth show that miacids were less developed than modern carnivores.

So what is the ancestor of the modern tiger then?

The answer to that question is quite fascinating. See below a picture of the ancestor of all modern tigers, the Longdan tiger.

Fossil remains of this intriguing tiger were found in the Gansu province of Northwestern China. This creature was around at the beginning of the Pleistocene (also colloquially known as the Ice Age) about 2 million years ago and is considered to be closely related to the modern tiger. It was about the size of a modern day jaguar and most likely did not possess the stripes that modern tigers are so well known for.

Despite being considered ‘primitive’, the Longdan tiger was functionally and possibly ecologically similar to modern day tigers. As it lived in Northwestern China, that is probably where the tiger lineage originated and tigers most likely grew in size as a response to the adaptive radiations of deer and bovids, which may have occurred in Southeast China during the early Pleistocene.

So there you have it, the natural wonder that is tigers. I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I did writing it. Please feel free to like and comment on this post as well as any of my other posts.

The Butterfly Effect

Hi guys! At the request of my Mum I have been asked to do a post all about one of her favourite animals, butterflies. Now when I say butterfly effect I don’t mean the chaos theory of how small things can have a huge impact on a bigger picture, e.g. a butterflies wing beat resulting in the creation of a tornado (impossible I know, but that is the example for the official concept). No, when I say the butterfly effect, I mean the effect these extraordinary insects have on us with their beautiful colours and patterns. In this post I will give a brief summary of the butterfly and will discuss my personal top ten most stunningly beautiful butterflies.

So, what is a butterfly really?

EBE7086A-60A0-4A51-A669-AAB51B8417A6

Butterflies are one of most diverse and, of course, beautiful, insects in the world. Butterflies are part of the macrolepidopteran clade, Rhopalocera from the order Lepidoptera, which also includes moths. Adult butterflies tend to have very short life spans ranging from a week to nearly a year. There are more than 250,000 species of butterfly, from the smallest, the Western pygmy blue to the largest, the Queen Alexandria’s bird wing. Butterflies appear in a wide varieties of colors and patterns.

Now then, time for you to see some of the World’s most incredible examples of these insects.

Ten: the dead leaf butterfly

1D3520CD-9EB3-4BBC-9251-3A547375375C

Though this butterfly may not be what you think of when I say beautiful examples of butterfly, it is truly incredible. It is an outstanding example of camouflage with the irregular patterns and veins on the wings making it look just like a dead leaf. Unlike the underpart of the wing, the upper part is appears in a number of vibrant colours including blue, brown, white and orange. They are also known as Indian leaf butterflies and are native to tropical Asian forests from India to Japan.

Nine: the monarch butterfly

EF9F9D0E-1C7B-46B3-860B-7BF5C1DF057E

This was probably the first butterfly that popped into your head when I said this post would be about butterflies, right? Native to North America, the monarch butterfly is recognisable world wide with its orange, black and white colour scheme. It is considered an iconic pollinator species and is the state insect for Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia. The only reason it is ranked ninth on this list is because I have found some truly beautiful examples of these insects.

Eight: the forest giant owl butterfly

F26F4A5D-8664-4004-8403-A9D4E591BA62

These fascinating insects are well known for their wing patterns which look like owl eyes. This is another incredible adaptation in the butterfly kingdom, which is designed to frighten potential predators with the eyes of their predators (bare in mind that butterflies are chiefly preyed on by small birds). They are native to South and Central America and have a wingspan of 13-16 cm. They mainly feed on fruits and have a lifespan between 125 days and 150 days.

Seven: the blue morpho

59EFFEE3-72B8-4B8C-AFAD-74C1AF8A24E7.jpeg

Stunning isn’t it? The blue morpho is one of the largest butterflies with a wingspan of 5-6 inches. They are mainly found in the Amazon Rainforest, but have been found in Central America as well. They are easily recognised due their vibrant shade of blue, making them a firm favourite for butterfly lovers. Male blue morpho appear brighter and more beautiful than the females. Like many other butterflies, the morpho can camouflage itself from potential predators by folding up their wings, showing a pattern of brown with a number of eyespots.

Six: the sylphina angel

371CD188-B605-405E-B219-38CDEE931602

These pretty butterflies are distributed across Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. They spend most of their time beneath the leaves of plants and only take flight during full sunlight when their transparent wings act as camouflage as it makes them practically invisible under the full beam of the Sun. The sylphina angel likes to fly and search for food alone, but on clear days they are also found in groups of tens to hundreds of butterflies. They can migrate to a distance up to 320 km during Spring to find nectar rich flowers.

Five: the eighty eight butterfly

BD38D7D7-D5F0-4970-A787-E7E376CB2759

This stunning butterfly is native to South and Central America and are obviously known as this due to the distinctive pattern on their wings. They have a wingspan of 35-40 mm and mainly feed on rotten fruit. The numbering on these butterflies can be found in 12 different species of diaethria butterfly, but the colouring and pattern slightly differs across each of the species.

Four: the crowned hairstreak

114DC5AA-F998-4101-86F9-BCD8FBE207B7

This rare butterfly is a gorgeous native of the are between Southern Mexico and Ecuador and is also known by an equally flashy name, Evenus coronata. It can also come in a green colour. The wingspan can range up to 60 mm in males. Other than that, not much is known about this butterfly. I personally look forward to more discoveries being made about this rare species and I think, that you’ve seen it, you may be as well.

Three: the kaiser-i-hind

06EB1985-81AC-4685-931C-9E3B3734E64D

Sharing its name with that of an Indian medal for public service awarded by the Emperor/ Empress of India between 1900 and 1947, this butterfly is highly sought after by butterfly collectors for its beautiful green iridescent wings. This swallowtail butterfly found in Nepal, India and Vietnam. The name literally translates to “emperor of India” and it really is. It is very fast and strong in flight, flying at tree-top level until it chooses to descend. The kaiser-i-hind is subject to much research due to their rarity and beauty and is a keystone species for conservation of high-altitude forest. In my personal opinion, this butterfly is even more stunning than the medal it shares its name with.

Two: the island marble butterfly

8B7BA899-7367-4953-B0C5-012636F5051A

A subspecies of butterfly found only in the San Juan Islands in Washington, USA, the island marble is truly phenomenal in beauty. In 1908, it was thought that this incredible butterfly had gone extinct, but in 1998, it was discovered during a prairie butterfly survey in San Juan Island National Historical Park. This butterfly is extremely rare and, though it is not yet listed as endangered, it is noted on the Washington State Species of Concern List.

One: the amber phantom butterfly

B964A0AF-398F-4752-B8B8-95D7382853E3

Behold the amber phantom! This stunning species of butterfly truly takes the biscuit in my opinion. This species can be found in the Guianas, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela. These unique butterflies have transparent wings and are often found close to bamboo. They inhabit deeply shaded rainforests. The amber phantom butterfly is crepuscular, meaning that it is active in twilight and is rarely seen in full sunlight.

 

There you have guys! My top ten most stunningly beautiful butterflies, feel free to comment on my post if you felt that I was missing a really gorgeous species of butterfly, just bare in mind that I could only choose ten and I spent a long time debating my choices. To see more extraordinarily beautiful examples of butterflies, I firmly suggest you check out https://blog.allmyfaves.com/animals/top-10-most-beautiful-butterflies-of-the-world/

Slow But Steady Wins The Race

Hi guys! I have been asked if I wouldn’t mind doing a post about a certain animal and so I shall. Today’s post is all about tortoises.

BE087C1A-87AA-49E2-8283-7A0971C8E191

Before I begin, tortoises are not to be confused with turtles. Whilst both are reptiles and members of the order Testudines, tortoises are primarily different in that they live on land and turtles live most of their lives in water.

Tortoises are truly extraordinary animals and the longest living land creatures on Earth with the oldest currently being a Seychelles giant tortoise named Jonathan who was hatched in 1832, making him about 186 years old (give or take a couple of months).

Most species of tortoise are herbivores and have adapted to defend themselves from predators through the growth of strong shells that act as a kind of exo skeleton that they can hide in.

Tortoise predators are anything that can break open their shells. Young tortoises can be lifted into the air by birds and dropped, thus cracking them open and through some dedicated chewing, species of canine like coyotes and foxes can get them out that way. There is, however, one species of tortoise that has no predators and is my personal favourite species of tortoise as well as the longest living species on average, the Galápagos tortoise.

The Galápagos tortoise:

F13C0382-1406-45F0-AF63-D3FB0D925A5A

Galápagos tortoises are native to 7 of the Galápagos Islands and are not only the longest living of all tortoises and vertebrates in general, but are also the largest species of tortoise.

The word ‘Galápagos’ actually derives from the Spanish word ‘galápago’, which means tortoise.

Some examples of this remarkable reptile can reach 5 ft in length and can weigh 550 Ibs.

They are truly fantastic animals that I can’t do justice to and I strongly recommend looking at what National Geographic has to say about them. To see these tortoises in action, please look below.

So there you all have it, a brief summary about tortoises and more specifically the Galápagos tortoise. I hope you enjoyed reading this post and I also suggest that you read Josh Hewitt’s travel blog post all about Galápagos tortoises.