Impalas cry wolf, so say zebras!

We all have that friend – the drama queen who goes off at the drop of a hat, and seems to live in a world crowded with danger and stress. Aside from the entertainment value, we tend, after a while, to ignore their theatrics – right?

Well it turns out that impalas are the drama queens of the African bushveld, and other species know it, and don’t take their predator alarm calls too seriously.

Life in the bushveld is indeed tough – full of dangerous predators like lions, leopards and cheetahs that would make a meal of you if they had the chance. Prey species such as impalas, zebras and wildebeest are constantly on the lookout for predators, and will sound the alarm when they see, smell or hear one. And all prey species in the area will recognise and react to the alarm calls – but to various degrees, depending on the species sounding the alarm.

Researchers have published a report in the journal Animal Behaviour, which suggests that all alarm calls do not carry the same degree of credibility. Their study focused on zebras, wildebeests and impalas.

When they played recordings of zebra alarm calls (high-pitched whinnying) all three species went on high alert, whereas when impala (loud snort) and wildebeest (sneeze-like snorts) alarm calls were played, zebras were not so concerned.

“They know what the calls mean, that there’s a predator around,” says Meredith Palmer, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. “But they also know to temper the degree to which they respond to these calls based on how much of a threat this call is actually signalling to them.”

She and her colleague Abby Gross collected alarm call recordings of the three species by showing them a life-sized photograph of a stalking lion mounted on plywood, and taping the resultant vocalisations. They then played the alarm calls to grazing herds of each species and observed how long each species spent on alert, scanning their surroundings for predators, and how swiftly they sounded the alarm and fled.

For every species, zebra alarm calls provoked strong reactions. But zebras either ignored impala or wildebeest alarm calls, or stayed vigilant for only a brief time. This may be because adult zebras weigh in at about 450kg/1,000 pounds and have a lethal kick, and would not be too concerned with smaller predators (such as cheetahs and leopards) that could easily kill impalas that weight up to 75kg/165 pounds.

Impalas, on the other hand, reacted to every animal’s distress call. Interestingly, they also reacted more to alarm calls from zebras and wildebeest than they did to those from other impalas!

“If you’re an impala and you know that other impala are probably responding to a predator but there’s also a 25 percent chance that they are alarm calling at some waving grass, maybe you would give more weight to an alarm call from something like a zebra which perhaps is a little more discriminatory,” Palmer says.

So it seems that even alarm calls are not all equal, and impalas are seen by other species as the drama queens of the bushveld.

Full report: ScienceDirect – Meredith S. Palmer, Abby Gross: Eavesdropping in an African large mammal community: antipredator responses vary according to signaller reliability

A Skull with no Vertebral: The Hag fish

Hagfish are eel-shaped, slime-producing marine fish. They are the only known living animals that have a skull but no vertebral column, although hagfish do have rudimentary vertebrae. Along with lampreys, hagfish are jawless.

The classification of hagfish had been controversial. The issue was whether the hagfish was a degenerate type of vertebrate-fish that through evolution had lost its vertebrae (the Original scheme) and was most closely related to lampreys, or whether hagfish represent a stage that precedes the evolution of the vertebral column (the alternative scheme) as is the case with lancelets. Although DNA evidence has supported the original scheme.

Hagfish are typically about 0.5 m (19.7 in) in length. The largest known species is Eptatretus goliath, with a specimen recorded at 127 cm (4 ft 2 in), while Myxine kuoi and Myxine pequenoi seem to reach no more than 18 cm (7.1 in) (some have been seen as small as 4 cm (1.6 in)). They have cartilaginous skulls and tooth-like structures composed of keratin.

Hagfish generally respire by taking in water through their pharynx, past the velar chamber and bringing the water through the internal gill pouches, which can vary in number from 5 to 16 pairs, depending on species. The gill pouches open individually, but in Myxine the openings have coalesced, with canals running backwards from each opening under the skin, uniting to form a common aperture on the ventral side known as the branchial opening. The esophagus is also connected to the left branchial opening, which is therefore larger than the right one, through a pharyngocutaneous duct (esophageocutaneous duct), which has no respiratory tissue. This pharyngocutaneous duct is used to clear large particles from the pharynx, a function also partly taking place through the nasopharyngeal canal. In other species the coalescence of the gill openings is less complete, and in Bdellostoma each pouch opens separately to the outside like in lampreys. The unidirectional water flow passing the gills is produced by rolling and unrolling velar folds located inside a chamber developed from the naso-hypophyseal tract, and is operated by a complex set of muscles inserting into cartilages of the neurocranium, assisted by peristaltic contractions of the gill pouches and their ducts. Hagfish also have a well-developed dermal capillary network that supplies the skin with oxygen when the animal is buried in anoxic mud, as well as a high tolerance for both hypoxia and anoxia, with a well developed anaerobic metabolism. It has also been suggested that the skin is capable of cutaneous respiration.

Very little is known about hagfish reproduction. Embryos are difficult to obtain for study, although laboratory breeding of the Far Eastern inshore hagfish, Eptatretus burgeri, has succeeded. In some species, sex ratio has been reported to be as high as 100:1 in favor of females. Some hagfish species are thought to be hermaphroditic, having both an ovary and a testicle (there is only one gamete production organ in both females and males). In some cases, the ovary is thought to remain nonfunctional until the individual has reached a particular age or encounters a particular environmental stress. These two factors in combination suggest the survival rate of hagfish is quite high.

Depending on species, females lay from one to thirty tough, yolky eggs. These tend to aggregate due to having Velcro-like tufts at either end. Hagfish are sometimes seen curled around small clutches of eggs. It is not certain if this constitutes actual breeding behavior.

Hagfish do not have a larval stage, in contrast to lampreys, which have a long one.

Hagfish have a mesonephric kidney and are often neotenic of their pronephric kidney. The kidney(s) are drained via mesonephric/archinephric duct. Unlike many other vertebrates, this duct is separate from the reproductive tract. Unlike all other vertebrates, the proximal tubule of the nephron is also connected with the coelom, provided lubrication.

The single testicle or ovary has no transportation duct. Instead, the gametes are released into the coelom until they find their way to the posterior end of the caudal region, whereby they find an opening in the digestive system.

Find out ten fun fact about the hag fish here

The Shoebill

The shoebill also known as whalehead, is a very large stork-like bird. It derives its name from its massive shoe-shaped bill. It has a somewhat stork-like overall form and has previously been classified with the storks in the order Ciconiiformes based on this morphology. However, genetic evidence places it with the Pelecaniformes. The adult is mainly grey while the juveniles are browner. It lives in tropical east Africa in large swamps from Sudan to Zambia.

The shoebill is a tall bird, with a typical height range of 110 to 140 cm (43 to 55 in) and some specimens reaching as much as 152 cm (60 in). Length from tail to beak can range from 100 to 140 cm (39 to 55 in) and wingspan is 230 to 260 cm (7 ft 7 in to 8 ft 6 in). Weight has reportedly ranged from 4 to 7 kg (8.8 to 15.4 lb). A male will weigh on average around 5.6 kg (12 lb) and is larger than a typical female of 4.9 kg (11 lb). The signature feature of the species is its huge, bulbous bill, which is straw-coloured with erratic greyish markings.

The shoebill is noted for its slow movements and tendency to remain still for long periods, resulting in repeated descriptions of the species as "statue-like". They are quite sensitive to human disturbance and may abandon their nests if flushed by humans. However, while foraging, if dense vegetation stands between it and humans, this wader can be fairly tame. The shoebill is attracted to poorly oxygenated waters where fish frequently surface to breathe. Exceptionally for a bird this large, the shoebill often stands and perches on floating vegetation, making them appear somewhat like a giant jacana, although the similarly-sized and occasionally sympatric Goliath heron (Ardea goliath) is also known to stand on aquatic vegetation. Shoebills typically feed in muddy waters and, being solitary birds, forage at a minimum distance of 20 m (66 ft) from one another even where relatively densely populated.

The population is estimated at between 5,000 and 8,000 individuals, the majority of which live in swamps in Sudan, Uganda, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zambia. There is also a viable population in the Malagarasi wetlands in Tanzania. BirdLife International has classified it as Vulnerable with the main threats being habitat destruction, disturbance and hunting.

Check Out Seven Reasons to love the shoebilled here

5 Reasons Why Biodiversity is as Important as Carbon Dioxide

We have noticed a marked rise in the attitude that consists in declaring “it’s too late anyway, let’s get some popcorn and watch the world end”. We’re not exactly sure whether that came from electing a reality TV president, or from Hollywood creating too many catastrophic movies, but it’s an approach that has been doing great damage to the sustainable transition, as well as leave huge space for people who benefit from this destruction to act freely.

To these resigned people we want to say a) you’re wrong to think the game is over b) you don’t really believe that or you would be crying in a corner hugging your knees in your arms, and c) nice try, lazy guy.

At the forefront of the climate crisis, biodiversity seems to have passed what scientists call a threshold. And while people are deeply attached to animals as a whole, this aspect of conservation sometimes fail to explain beyond cuteness and tourism what the actual emergency is, and what is actually at stake.

Plan A believes in the link between all these events. We are tackling a large, multi-faceted issue, and our approach digests the problem into a series of smaller issues that people and organisations can tackle if we all put our minds to it. Visit www.PlanA.Earth to discover our monthly climate action campaign.

Cutting to the chase, we created a top 5 reasons why biodiversity is as important as the cleaning of our oceans, or the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. And to get a bit of courage back in you. Because we always need some courage.

1. Ecosystem balance
An ecosystem is literally made up of all the life forms that compose it. Without a healthy biodiversity, an ecosystem cannot protect itself from the variety of attacks it can suffer. From invasive species to disease to harsh weather, each life form has its importance in the regulating and maintaining of the ecosystem it belongs to. In other words, wildlife is nature’s caretakers and housekeepers. Just like a game of Jenga, remove one block too much, and the entire tower can fall. And as in the board game, once the tower falls, well the game is over. #GameNotOver

2. Giant and self-renewing R&D Department
Biodiversity evolves to adapt to their settings and the attached dangers. Thus, we can make the hypothesis that biodiversity itself will at the very least contribute to figure out solutions to the Anthropocene’s many challenges. From waste management being taken care of by micro-organisms (or crows in the Netherlands), to innovations in textile (“sharkskin” wetsuits, zipper, Velcro… how did we close any coat back in the days?), we get most our inspiration from nature. Sorry (not), we’re not that brilliant and we will always need their innovations. #JustUseIt

3. Keeping you healthy since – 200,000 years
Life occupies all available niches and finds parries to the numerous attacks it faces. This changes wildlife into a gold mine of information. Get this: best estimates believe we have recorded about 1% of the world’s biodiversity, but about 25% of our medicine comes from natural resources. The study of living organisms adapting to conditions seemingly unfit for life has already overturned our scientific understanding of life as we know it. As we discover more and more niches of life, our basic concepts of how life works, where it can happen, and how it can be saved grows. Even lemurs tell us something about us. #BiodiversitySolvesMysteries

4. Philosophical value
In the lifelong journey of understanding what is what in life, wilderness is a large part of the answer. The wild informs us on our emotions and the way we feel. Trees tell us something about the time that passes, and goats keep pushing the limits of randomness.

Thoreau once wrote “In wildness the preservation of the world”. Biodiversity is more than the sum of its parts. When all is said and done, the game of life will continue, with or without philosophers. Wildlife is our insurance policy against the extinction of life. What is wild may survive our downfall. For domestic goldfish, it will be a bit more complicated. #ToBeeOrNotToBe

5. The Gaia hypothesis
The Gaia hypothesis states that organic matter (living things) interact with mineral resources (air, water, even rocks) to create a synergistic and self-regulating system that perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet. By that rationale, not one element works without the other.

It is actually living organisms that turned this carbonated rock into an oxygen-rich, atmosphere-protected and not-too-warm-not-too-cold environment for life to thrive. Earth without life would simply not be Earth. It would be a something between Venus and Mars. #RockOfLife

This article was originally published on the Plan A Academy. To read more, visit

Irrawaddy dolphin numbers increase for the first time in 20 years

Following decades of seemingly irreversible decline, the Irrawaddy River dolphin population in the Mekong region is rebounding. According to a recent census released by WWF and the Government of Cambodia, the number of dolphins in the region has risen from 80 to 92 in the past two years—the first increase since scientists began keeping records more than twenty years ago.

This historic population increase can be attributed to several factors, including more effective patrolling by river guards and an increase in the confiscation of illegal gillnets, which can trap and drown dolphins. Over the past two years, guards have confiscated more than 200 miles of illegal gillnets—almost double the length of the dolphins’ remaining home range—from core dolphin habitat.

“Thanks to the combined efforts of the government, WWF, the tourism industry, and local communities, we finally have reason to believe that these iconic dolphins can be protected against extinction,” said Seng Teak, Country Director of WWF Cambodia. “The tour boat operators are the secret ingredient of this success story—they work closely with law enforcement to report poaching and help confiscate illegal gillnets.”

The first official census in 1997 estimated that there were 200 Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong, a figure that fell steadily due to bycatch and habitat loss. By 2015, only 80 dolphins remained.

Now, growing numbers are an encouraging sign for the long-term survival of the species. More dolphins are surviving into adulthood, and there’s been a significant drop in overall deaths. Nine calves were born this year, raising the number of dolphins born in the past three years to 32.

The census also has positive implications for the Greater Mekong region, where countless communities and species rely on healthy river systems and the natural resources they provide.

 “River dolphins are indicators of the health of the Mekong River, and their recovery is a hopeful sign for the river and the millions of people who depend on it,” added Teak. “We celebrate this good news, but we need to re-double our efforts to protect the dolphins—for their future, for the river, and for the communities that live alongside it.”

Free-flowing rivers bring life to Alaska’s Bristol Bay

For salmon, Bristol Bay is like a warm reception hall. Every summer, after years of navigating the wild waters of the Pacific Ocean, tens of millions of salmon arrive, seeking entry to the freshwater rivers that flow into the Bay. The fish surge upstream, instinctively navigating the clear waters of the intricate network of streams and lakes where water flows freely for miles and miles. In this pursuit to spawn, salmon also form a cornerstone to  a natural cycle that supports whales, birds, brown bears—and people.

Of the five salmon species fished in Bristol Bay, the sockeye fishery alone is worth $1.5 billion each year. In fact, nearly 20,000 jobs throughout the United States annually depend on the health of this run. Beyond the economic benefits, some 4,000 Bristol Bay locals, including many native Yup’ik and Dena’ina, depend on these fish, along with other subsistence foods  for 80% of their protein.

These fish form an integral part of the food chain for wildlife, from the offshore ecosystem of Bristol Bay all the way up to the headwaters. While belugas and orcas hunt offshore, brown bears and eagles in the tundra and hills above fish for their next meal. Even in a lake hidden hundreds of miles away in the bay’s headwaters, one of the planet’s only population of freshwater seals feast on the salmon.

These fish are the red blood cells that bring life to this region, the rivers the arteries that carry them. When those arteries become poisoned, then the system starts to break down. Now a proposal for a large, open-pit copper and gold mine risks ruining the natural resources that people and wildlife have relied on for centuries.

The Pebble Mine would extend one-mile-wide and a quarter-mile deep, destroying over 3,000 acres of wetlands and more than 21 miles of salmon streams. The infrastructure required to construct this mammoth mine would also disrupt this intact, free-flowing network of rivers that brings the entire watershed to life. For example, the current project calls for a road more than 80-miles long crossing more than 200 streams with a port facility at the end of it and a two-mile long dock into a shore of Bristol Bay that’s known habitat for an endangered population of Beluga whales.

In addition to the calamitous infrastructure, the tons of acid mine waste generated from this temporary extractive enterprise would pose a direct risk to the health of the bay and its headwaters, as well as the globally important fishery that swims in them. Disruptions to the hydrology and ecosystem health would harm the local economy and people with global ripple effects.

The US government is attempting to fast track the permitting process for Pebble Mine, a development that the US Environmental Protection Agency warns would cause irreparable, damaging impacts on both people and nature. In fact, the EPA found in a scientific study that, even without a mine disaster, construction of the Pebble deposit would destroy 94 miles of salmon streams and 5,350 acres of wetlands, lakes and ponds.

To protect the health of the ecosystems, wildlife and communities dependent on these connected waterways, WWF is educating the US government about the importance of the bay to Alaska and the rest of the U.S. We are also partnering with in-region organizations to amplify the voices of local communities and Native voices as well as promoting  support for a sustainable economy that lasts well into the future.

People from around the world are vocalizing their opposition to the project, citing the unparalleled ecological value of this region.

News Source: Worldwildlife

Should Facebook block “Illegal Wildlife Trafficking” advertisements?

While Mark Zuckerberg was testifying before Congress about Facebook providing user information to Cambridge Analytica, additional disturbing news about his company was making headlines.

Facebook has been making a profit by selling ads on pages that are operated by illegal wildlife traffickers. The pages sell the body parts of endangered animals, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

That’s right, Facebook has allegedly been making money off of the sellers of items like elephant ivory, rhino horns and tiger teeth — in fact, an Associated Press article included a screen grab of a Facebookgroup page displaying buckets full of the teeth.

According to the complaint, Facebook is violating its responsibilities as a publicly-traded company by knowingly profiting from the criminal trafficking of endangered species. The anonymous whistleblower complaint was filed in August 2017 by the law firm of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto.

As for just how much Facebook is profiting from these ads, the company has never disclosed in its regulatory findings the revenue it may be earning from illegal traffickers, the AP reports.

Hopefully the complaint will launch an SEC investigation into exactly how much of the company’s annual $41 billion revenue is from the sale of endangered animal parts.

Ironically, Facebook was one of 21 technology companies, including Google and Microsoft, that joined the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online just one month ago. The coalition’s goal is to reduce online wildlife trafficking by 80 percent over the next two years.

“Extinctions are forever, so it is an urgent necessity to stop the trafficking on Facebook of critically endangered species immediately and forever,”said the law firm’s Stephen M. Kohn in a statement April 10. “Part of the SEC’s responsibility is to ensure that Facebook investors aren’t unwittingly involved with the criminal trafficking of endangered species.”

That same day, Facebook released its own statement saying it doesn’t permit the sale of wildlife, endangered species or their parts, and that it removes groups that have been identified as engaging in illegal conduct.

But according to the statement from Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto, a months-long investigation of various social media platforms by the law firm’s undercover team found “rampant wildlife activity in two places: Facebook and Instagram.”

(Instagram – surprise! — is owned by Facebook.) The statement described the amount of wildlife parts being sold in closed and private Facebook groups as “horrifying.”

“At a time when the world is losing 30,000 elephants a year to poachers, the amount of ivory sold on Facebook is particularly shocking,” the law firm stated.

Its undercover team identified more than a dozen wildlife trafficking networks operating on Facebook and traveled to Vietnam and Laos to meet with ivory traders to confirm they were actively marketing their products on the social media platform.

The word “horrifying” was also used by Gretchen Peters, executive director of the Center on Illicit Networks and Transnational Organized Crime, a nonprofit dedicated to helping governments and communities more efficiently counter these groups.

“I have looked at thousands of posts containing ivory, and I am convinced that Facebook is literally facilitating the extinction of the elephant species,” Peters told the AP.

Instead of helping to decimate what’s left of endangered species, Facebook could do a lot to save them by turning over the information it has about wildlife traffickers to authorities – just like it turned over information about users to Cambridge Analytica.

Doing so could help lead to the largest wildlife law enforcement operation ever, the law firm of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto said in its statement.

Facebook is already losing users, along with billions of dollars in shareholder wealth, over its mishandling of their private information. Even more users and shareholder wealth could (and should) be lost over the very troubling news that Facebook is apparently enabling the illegal trafficking of endangered wildlife.

Please sign this petition urging Facebook to stop advertising on the pages of illegal wildlife traffickers, remove the pages and report these criminals to authorities.

This article was first published by on 12 Apr 2018.

For a new relationship with Wilderness

There was a time, not-so-very-distant-at-all, when wilderness management corresponded to “the art of producing sustained populations of wild vertebrates for man’s convenience, pleasure, and use” (Alexander, 1962). Wildlife conservation so far has indeed been more about human satisfaction than natural balance.

A healthy wildlife population is one of the pillars of humanity and nature as we understand it. From termite to tiger, each link of the chain of life matters, and it matters that they remain wild. Let us explain why wild animals make your life possible.

The simplification of life

But first, we must understand what makes an animal wild or tamed, and how we came to this distinction.

Animal domestication appeared before agriculture did. Over the course of generations, humans have selected and favorised the breeds, the genes and the attitudes they prefered for their use. This led to specific traits such as aggressivity, physical aspect or diet to progressively fade or become more prominent. This effectively created a genetic difference between wild and domesticated animals.

Wild animals evolve in much more complex environments. Nature opposes challenges that teach animals to think on their feet and to stay on their toes (they don’t learn to walk though). But they are to a certain degree and in many respects more astute than “our” domestic animals.

Wilderness also has a way of regulating itself that civilisation simply hasn’t been able to match nor imitate. The natural system leaves no waste aside. The variety of ecological niches allows for individual species to develop, evolve and naturally move in different directions. This in turn creates more biodiversity, and adds complexity to what can be considered the most intertwined network of all, life.

On the contrary, domestication tends to simplify and deconstruct this biodiversity. Take tomato for example, which is not wildlife but has been domesticated too. There were dozens of tomato species, from Atacama desert tomato to the Andean mountain tomato. They were reduced to a few strands that only thrive with the help of human irrigation to fit the customer’s criteria of beauty and size, mostly.

This situation is similar for cows, fowls, chicken, salad and virtually all other forms of domestication, which voluntarily direct a species in a specific direction, rather than let the genomes evolve freely.

The age of man

So have we overturned the natural selection process? By systematically killing all forms of life posing a potential threat to humans, the most established apex predators are down to their last members, and evidence of animals evolving according to human realities is piling up.

Elephants now hide their tusks from the sight of men (we know this thanks to the monthly documentary screening series organised by Plan A, monkeys have figured out how to make the most of cities and even bacteria is learning to digest plastics. This shows how much humans have shaped their environment, and how deeply it is influencing life on this planet.

Clothing, food, shelter, rodent patrol, hunting and herding aides, pollination, transportation and mechanical labour… Animals – wild or tamed – are still at the heart of human activity. Today, it may not seem so obvious, thanks to the advent of mechanisation and synthetic materials, but wildlife and pristine nature still control the very air and water we intake, and act as enabler for any subsequent development. It’s quite simple actually: no nature, no life.

The anthropocene is a reality that affects not only the atmosphere and inorganic aspects of the planet’s mechanics, but also the living parts of this equilibrium. Preserving and protecting wildlife is essential because that they may well be the most fragile part of this superb machinery.

The age of symbiosis

Despite what we may believe, humans rely more on wildlife than the contrary. We would be crazy to believe that your dog waiting at the apartment door for your return speaks for all the living creatures. After all, it was living organisms – microscopic plankton, and then mighty trees – that made this planet habitable for oxygen-breathing species like hoomans (and cats, and lemur, and fish, and 99.9% of the fauna on Earth).

What is more, our race with our arch-enemy, disease, is still raging. Wildlife provides a world-sized incubator for research and development of cures that already exist in nature, in the forest or in the sea. Or maybe both.

The way we come out of the anthropocene will determine the name of what comes next. Hopefully we can make it a more interspecies kind of moment? More favourable to other life forms? Symbiocene is a proposed term. The era in which man and nature share the Earth equitably, for the benefit of all parties.

Did someone say parties?

Full article available on PlanA.Earth/academy

The Heaviest bony fish in the world

The ocean sunfish  (Mola mola) is the heaviest known bony fish in the world.The ocean sunfish  (Mola mola) is the heaviest known bony fish in the world. Adults typically weighs between 247 and 1,000 kg. The species is native to tropical and temperate waters around the globe. It resembles a fish head with a tail, and its main body is flattened laterally. Sunfish can be as tall as they are long when their dorsal and ventral fins are extended.

Sunfish live on a diet consisting mainly of sea jellies, but because this diet is nutritionally poor, they consume large amounts to develop and maintain their great bulk. Females of the species can produce more eggs than any other known vertebrate, up to 300,000,000 at a time. Sunfish fry resemble miniature pufferfish, with large pectoral fins, a tail fin, and body spines uncharacteristic of adult sunfish.

The ocean sunfish, mola mola is the heaviest known bony fish in the world.
Photo Credit:

Adult sunfish are vulnerable to few natural predators, but sea lions, killer whales, and sharks will consume them. Among humans, sunfish are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, including Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. In the EU, regulations ban the sale of fish and fishery products derived from the family Molidae. Sunfish are frequently caught in gillnets.

IUCN Conservation status: The ocean sunfish

The red-lipped batfish

The red-lipped batfish or Galapagos batfish is a fish found around the Galapagos Islands and off Peru at depths of 10 to 249 ft. Red-lipped batfish are closely related to rosy-lipped batfish, which are found near Cocos Island off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This fish is traditionally known for its bright red lips, yeah, really red. Batfish are bad swimmers; they use their pectoral fins to "walk" on the ocean floor. When the batfish reaches maturity, its dorsal fin becomes a single spine-like projection. Like other anglerfish, the red-lipped batfish has a structure on its head known as illicium. This structure is employed for attracting prey.

The batfish feeds on other small fish and small crustaceans like shrimps and mollusks.

The body color of the red-lipped batfish is light brown and a greyish colour on its back, with a white stomach. On the top side of the batfish there is usually a dark brown stripe starting at the head and going all the way down the back to the tail. The snout and horn of the red-lipped batfish is a brownish color. As the name of the fish states, the batfish has bright, almost fluorescent, red lips. The color of the squamation of the red-lipped batfish is shagreen-like with a relatively smooth texture. The bucklers are concealed by a layer of fine spinules.  The red-lipped batfish reaches up to 8.0 in in length.

Check its IUCN Conservation status: The red-lipped batfish

A Dutch court has sentenced a Chinese man to a year in jail for smuggling rhino horns

A Dutch court has sentenced a Chinese man to a year in jail for smuggling five rhino horns and four other horn objects worth about €500,000 ($613,000) in his luggage.

The man was caught by customs officials at Schiphol airport in December as he traveled through Amsterdam on his way from South Africa to the Chinese city of Shanghai.

It recalled that trading in endangered species is banned under the CITES convention prohibiting sales of protected animals and plants.

South Africa is battling a scourge of rhino poaching fuelled by insatiable demand for their horn in Asia. The country’s ministry of environmental affairs said earlier this year that 1,028 rhinos were slaughtered in 2017.

In the last eight years alone, roughly a quarter of the world population of rhinos has been killed in South Africa, home to 80% of the remaining animals.

Most of the demand comes from China and Vietnam, where the horn is coveted as a traditional medicine, an aphrodisiac or as a status symbol.

The Bloated Nostril Saiga Antelope

The saiga antelope, according to the records on the IUCN redlist is a critically endangered antelope.

The saiga stands 24–32 in, at the shoulder, and weighs 57–152 lb. The head-and-body length is typically between 39 and 55 in. They have a very prominent feauture which obviously sets them apart, "the pair of closely spaced, bloated nostrils directed downward". They have dark markings on the cheeks and the nose, with a 2.8–4.7 in long ears. During summer migrations the saiga's nose helps filter out dust kicked up by the herd and cools the animal's blood. In the winter it heats up the frigid air before it is taken to the lungs.  Only the male saigas possess horns. These horns that are thick and slightly translucent, are wax-coloured and show 12 to 20 pronounced rings.

Saiga has been hunted since prehistoric ages, when hunting was an essential means to acquire food. Saiga's horns, meat and skin have commercial value and are exported from  Saiga's horn, traditionally were of medicinal value to the chinese.

Wildlife Without Borders -Russia and East Asia in 2011 awarded an $80,000 grant to the Saiga Conservation Alliance. This funding will support on-the-ground conservation action in Russia and Mongolia, enforcement efforts in China, and a dialogue between authorities in Mongolia and China to address illegal trade.

The Scary Looking Deep sea Fangtooth

The Fangtooth is a horrorful looking deep sea creature with teeth as long and scary like that of a vampire in a movie, obviously that's where it got its name, fangtooth. it belongs to the family of Anoplogastridae, with a circumglobal distribution in tropical and cold-temperate waters.

While understandably named for their disproportionately large, fang-like teeth and unapproachable visage, fangtooths are actually quite small and harmless to humans: the larger of the two species, the common fangtooth, reaches a maximum length of just 16 cm (6.3 in); the shorthorn fangtooth is less than half this size though currently known only from juvenile specimens.

The head is small with a large jaw and appears haggard, riddled with mucous cavities delineated by serrated edges and covered by a thin skin. The eyes are relatively small, set high on the head; the entire head is a dark brown to black and is strongly compressed laterally, deep anteriorly and progressively more slender towards the tail. The fins are small, simple, and spineless; the scales are embedded in the skin and take the form of thin plates. As compensation for reduced eyes, the lateral line is well-developed and appears as an open groove along the flanks.

The Fangtooth, like most ocean monsters, lives in the deep water and are unable to survive at shallow depths. They are found as deep as 5 kilometres/3.5 miles deep. At this depth, there is no light. Any light found is generated from other fish. The water in their habitat is between 36°F to 32°F/ 2°C to 0°C.
The Fangtooth uses contact chemoreception to locate its prey. Contact chemoreception is a means in which a fish is able to detect chemical signatures in the water. Chemical signatures of other fish. This, along with radar, is the only option for locating food in the deep ocean where it is sparse.
Most of the time, Fangtooth are found between 600 to 6,500 feet/200 to 2,000 meters down. Even at these depths, light is not visible and the world is dark and cold.

Fangtooths have planktonic larvae and are assumed to not be egg guarders; spawning frequency and time are not certain, but some activity has been reported from June–August. The juveniles of common fangtooths begin to assume adult form from about 8 cm (3.1 in) in length, at which time they begin to descend into deeper water. Onset of maturity is not known, but common fangtooths are known to be mature at 16 cm (6.3 in). They are probably slow-growing, as are most deep-sea fish.

The Weird Blobfish of the deep sea

The Blobfish is a weird looking deep sea fish. It inhabits the deep waters off the coasts of mainland Australia and Tasmania, as well as the waters of New Zealand. They live at depths between 600 and 1,200m, where the pressure is 60 to 120 times as great as at sea level, which would likely make gas bladders inefficient for maintaining buoyancy. Their diet consists of small crustaceans like crabs, sea urchins, and shellfish. These goodies are sucked into the blobfish’s mouth as it floats along.

Lacking both bones and teeth, they do not actively hunt. In fact, their extremely low muscle mass doesn’t allow for much movement at all. Besides eating, conserving energy is the blobfish’s main job.

The female lays thousands of small pink eggs on the seafloor. Either the female or male blobfish will sit on the eggs to protect them from predators.

The world’s rarest big cat grows in number

New camera trap images reveal an increase in Amur leopards
Inside Russia’s Land of the Leopard National Park, more than 400 cameras are positioned to capture images of wildlife, specifically the critically endangered Amur Leopard. These cameras are the main source of monitoring data for the Amur leopard and their latest reveal is one to celebrate.

Recent images documented 84 adult cats and 19 cubs inside the park. This is a significant increase since a 2000 census recorded just 30 cats, and a 2015 survey numbered only 70.

The Land of the Leopard National Park is the core area for the rare wild cat. Formally established in 2012, the park is home to the majority of the Amur leopard’s known territory and provides the cat sufficient prey and protection from poachers. It is also home to a population of Amur tigers and other wildlife.

Camera trap monitoring is the main research method used to study Amur leopards in the wild, and individuals are identified by their unique spot patterns. With around 400 cameras monitoring wildlife in the park, it is the largest camera trap network in Russia. Scientists processed the collected data over several months before announcing the new population numbers. WWF, along with partners WCS and the Far Eastern Leopard Centre, helped the park with camera trap monitoring and data processing.

"Our forecasts were optimistic, and since the establishment of the Land of the Leopard National Park in 2012, the number of the rarest large cat has increased significantly,” said Sergey Donskoy, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Russia.

Experts believe more leopards may inhabit the territory outside the national park and are now working to collect more data from places like China where camera traps are already in place.

“Considering the Amur leopard is one of the most endangered large mammals in the world, this increase is such welcome news and reflects the importance of regular species monitoring to assess their health in the ecosystem,” said Nilanga Jayasinghe, Senior Program Officer, Asian Species

News Source: World Wild Life

The goblin shark

The goblin shark is a rare species of deep-sea shark. Sometimes called a "living fossil", it is the only extant representative of the family Mitsukurinidae, a lineage some 125 million years old. This pink-skinned animal has a distinctive profile with an elongated, flattened snout, and highly protrusible jaws containing prominent nail-like teeth. It is usually between 3 and 4 m (10 and 13 ft) long when mature, though it can grow considerably larger. Goblin sharks inhabit upper continental slopes, submarine canyons, and seamounts throughout the world at depths greater than 100 m (330 ft), with adults found deeper than juveniles.

The goblin shark has a distinctively long and flat snout, resembling a sword blade. The proportional length of the snout decreases with age. The eyes are small and lack protective nictitating membranes; behind the eyes are spiracles. The large mouth is parabolic in shape. The jaws are highly protrusible and can be extended almost to the end of the snout, though normally they are held flush against the underside of the head. It has 35–53 upper and 31–62 lower tooth rows. The teeth in the main part of the jaws are long and narrow, particularly those near the symphysis (jaw midpoint), and are finely grooved lengthwise. The rear teeth near the corners of the jaw are small and have a flattened shape for crushing. Much individual variation in tooth length and width occurs, in whether the teeth have a smaller cusplet on each side of the main cusp, and in the presence of toothless gaps at the symphysis or between the main and rear teeth. The five pairs of gill slits are short, with the gill filaments inside partly exposed; the fifth pair is above the origin of the pectoral fins.

The body is fairly slender and flabby. The two dorsal fins are similar in size and shape, both being small and rounded. The pectoral fins are also rather small and rounded. The pelvic and anal fins have long bases and are larger than the dorsal fins. The caudal peduncle is flattened from side-to-side and lacks keels or notches. The asymmetric caudal fin has a long upper lobe with a shallow ventral notch near the tip, and an indistinct lower lobe. The soft, semitranslucent skin has a rough texture from a covering of dermal denticles, each shaped like a short upright spine with lengthwise ridges. In life, this species is pink or tan due to visible blood vessels beneath the skin; the color deepens with age, and young sharks may be almost white. The fins' margins are translucent gray or blue, and the eyes are black with bluish streaks in the iris. After death, the coloration quickly fades to dull gray or brown. Adult sharks usually measure between 3 and 4 m (9.8 and 13.1 ft) long. However, the capture of an enormous female estimated at 5.4–6.2 m (18–20 ft) long in 2000 showed this species can grow far larger than previously suspected. The maximum weight on record is 210 kg (460 lb) for a 3.8-m-long shark.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed it as Least Concern, despite its rarity, citing its wide distribution and low incidence of capture.

The dumbo octopus

Grimpoteuthis is a genus of pelagic umbrella octopuses known as the dumbo octopuses. The name "dumbo" originates from their resemblance to the title character of Disney's 1941 film Dumbo, having a prominent ear-like fin which extends from the mantle above each eye. There are 13 species recognized in the genus.

The genus has a distinct habit of swimming. They flap their ear-like fins to propel themselves. Movement of the arms can be used to help the animal move in any direction. The arms permit the animal to crawl along the seafloor, to capture prey, lay eggs, explore, etc. Dumbos hover above the sea floor, searching for polychaete worms, pelagic copepods, isopods, amphipods, and other crustaceans for food. Prey is captured by pouncing on the target, which then is swallowed whole.

Females have no distinct period for breeding. Females carry multiple eggs in various stages of maturation, suggesting that they have no optimal breeding period. Male octopuses have a separate protuberance on one of their arms that carries an encapsulated sperm packet to the female. It is hypothesized that the female can then distribute this sperm to the eggs at any given time based on environmental conditions. The females lay the eggs under small rocks or on shells in the deep ocean or can even carry them on her arms, by tucking the eggs behind the wide webbing, until she finds a safe place that would provide them with the best fitness. As with other octopuses, females do not invest any further time in the young after they hatch because once they are born they are able to defend themselves.

The Dumbo Octopus: An Underwater Dance

 This short video takes you two hundred miles off the coast of Oregon and some 6,600 feet below the water's surface to observe the Dumbo octopus (Grimpoteuthis bathynectes). Little is known about this deep-sea creature, but if this footage doesn't inspire a whole cadre of budding teuthologists, we don't know what will.

Red pandas, climate change, and the fight to save forests

Every year the northeastern state of Sikkim hosts the Red Panda Festival. The winter event features parades, live music and draws tourists and locals alike. It’s a joyful celebration named for Sikkim’s iconic state animal.

While residents of Sikkim honor the endangered red panda, they also understand the species is under a growing threat. Climate change is impacting species across the globe and red pandas—with less than 10,000 left in the wild—are not immune.

Average temperatures in Sikkim are rising. Within its forests, the red panda occupies habitat within a very narrow temperature range. As temperatures rise, the red panda will need to move to higher elevations to adapt to the changing climate.

This is a troubling scenario, as nearly 70% of suitable red panda habitat in Sikkim is located outside of designated protected areas. How much habitat will be available to accommodate potential range shifts is unknown. Human activities are taking a toll on local forests. And unless these forests are secured, red pandas may have an uncertain future in a changing climate.

WWF is helping communities in Sikkim protect forests and ensure that, even with rising temperatures, the red panda has a secure place to call home. Specifically, WWF and its Wildlife Adaptation Innovation Fund are working to decrease human impacts on Sikkim’s forests through use of improved cookstoves, sustainable harvesting of forest products, and reducing the risk of forest fires.

In communities bordering red panda habitat, most households rely on firewood from the forest as their primary source of cooking fuel. To combat the loss of trees, project staff have now trained 23 families in the manufacture and installation of new cookstoves that require less fuel. Residents have noticed a change: the new cookstoves reduce fuelwood use by up to 35% per household, cut cooking times in half, and significantly lower indoor air pollution.

Sikkim’s forests are also home to medicinal plants harvested by communities and often overexploited and traded illegally. WWF helped develop a nine-point action plan in collaboration with the village of Sindrabong to regulate use of forest resources and harvest plants more sustainably.

The changing climate in Sikkim also means changing rainfall patterns, which can lead to an increased risk of forest fires. To prepare for this, project staff conducted a study of current fire risk and mitigation efforts. As a result, they developed new recommendations for improved fire prevention and management

News Source: World Wild Life

The Amazing Pangolin

Pangolins, often called “scaly anteaters,” are covered in tough, overlapping scales. These burrowing mammals eat ants and termites using an extraordinarily long, sticky tongue, and are able to quickly roll themselves up into a tight ball when threatened. Eight different pangolin species can be found across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Poaching for illegal wildlife trade and habitat loss have made these incredible creatures one of the most endangered groups of mammals in the world.

Pangolin species vary in size from about 1.6kg (~3.5 lbs) to a maximum of about 33kg (~73 lbs). They vary in color from light to yellowish brown through olive to dark brown. Protective, overlapping scales cover most of their bodies. These scales are made from keratin — the same protein that forms human hair and finger nails. Overlapping like artichoke leaves, the scales grow throughout the life of a pangolin just like hair; scale edges are constantly filed down as pangolins dig burrows and tunnel through the soil in search of termites and ants. Pangolin undersides do not have scales, and are covered with sparse fur. Unlike African pangolins, Asian pangolins also have thick bristles that emerge from between their scales.

With small conical heads and jaws lacking teeth, pangolins have amazingly long, muscular, and sticky tongues that are perfect for reaching and lapping up ants and termites in deep cavities. Pangolins have poor vision, so they locate termite and ant nests with their strong sense of smell. A pangolin’s tongue is attached near its pelvis and last pair of ribs, and when fully extended is longer than the animal’s head and body. At rest a pangolin’s tongue retracts into a sheath in its chest cavity. A pangolin’s stomach is muscular and has keratinous spines projecting into its interior. Usually containing small stones, the stomach mashes and grinds prey in much the same manner as a bird’s gizzard.

Pangolin limbs are stout and well adapted for digging. Each paw has five toes, and their forefeet have three long, curved, claws used to demolish the nests of termites and ants and to dig nesting and sleeping burrows. Pangolins shuffle on all four limbs, balancing on the outer edges of their forefeet and tucking their foreclaws underneath as they walk. They can run surprisingly fast, and will often rise on their hind limbs to sniff the air. Pangolins are also capable swimmers, and while some pangolin species such as the African ground pangolin (Manis temmincki) are completely terrestrial, others, such as the African tree pangolin (Manis tricuspis), are adept climbers, using their claws and semi-prehensile tails to grip bark and scale trees.

Pangolins are solitary and meet only to mate. Males are larger than females, weighing up to 40% more. While mating season is defined, they typically mate once each year, usually during the summer or autumn. Rather than the males seeking out the females, males mark their location with urine or feces and the females will find them. If there is competition over a female, the males will use their tails as clubs to fight for the opportunity to mate with her.

Gestation periods differ by species, ranging from roughly 70 to 140 days. African pangolin females usually give birth to a single offspring at a time, but the Asiatic species may give birth from one to three. Weight at birth is 80 to 450 g (2.8 to 15.9 oz) and the average length is 150 mm (5.9 in). At the time of birth, the scales are soft and white. After several days, they harden and darken to resemble those of an adult pangolin. During the vulnerable stage, the mother stays with her offspring in the burrow, nursing it, and wraps her body around it if she senses danger. The young cling to the mother's tail as she moves about, although in burrowing species, they remain in the burrow for the first two to four weeks of life. At one month, they first leave the burrow riding on the mother's back. Weaning takes place around three months of age, at which stage the young begin to eat insects in addition to nursing. At two years of age, the offspring are sexually mature and are abandoned by the mother.

The Meerkat

The meerkat or suricate is a small carnivoran belonging to the mongoose family. Meerkats live in all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, in much of the Namib Desert in Namibia and southwestern Angola, and in South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a "mob", "gang" or "clan". A meerkat clan often contains about 20 meerkats, but some super-families have 50 or more members. In captivity, meerkats have an average life span of 12–14 years, and about half this in the wild.

Meerkats are primarily insectivores, but also eat other animals (lizards, snakes, scorpions, spiders, eggs, small mammals, millipedes, centipedes and, more rarely, small birds), plants and fungi (the desert truffle Kalaharituber pfeilii). Meerkats are immune to certain types of venom, including the very strong venom of the scorpions of the Kalahari Desert.

Baby meerkats do not start foraging for food until they are about 1 month old, and do so by following an older member of the group who acts as the pup's tutor. Meerkats forage in a group with one "sentry" on guard watching for predators while the others search for food. Sentry duty is usually approximately an hour long. The meerkat standing guard makes peeping sounds when all is well.

A meerkat has the ability to dig through a quantity of sand equal to its own weight in just seconds. Digging is done to create burrows, to get food and also to create dust clouds to distract predators.

Meerkats become sexually mature at about two years of age and can have one to four pups in a litter, with three pups being the most common litter size. Meerkats are iteroparous and can reproduce any time of the year. The pups are allowed to leave the burrow at two to three weeks old.

There is no precopulatory display; the male may fight with the female until she submits to him and copulation begins. Gestation lasts approximately 11 weeks and the young are born within the underground burrow and are altricial (undeveloped). The young's ears open at about 10 days of age, and their eyes at 10–14 days. They are weaned around 49 to 63 days.

Usually, the alpha pair reserves the right to mate and normally kills any young not its own, to ensure that its offspring have the best chance of survival. The dominant couple may also evict, or kick out the mothers of the offending offspring. New meerkat groups are often formed by evicted females joining a group of males.

Females appear to be able to discriminate the odour of their kin from the odour of their non-kin. Kin recognition is a useful ability that facilitates cooperation among relatives and the avoidance of inbreeding. When mating does occur between meerkat relatives, it often results in negative fitness consequences or inbreeding depression. Inbreeding depression was evident for a variety of traits: pup mass at emergence from the natal burrow, hind-foot length, growth until independence and juvenile survival. These negative effects are likely due to the increased homozygosity that arises from inbreeding and the consequent expression of deleterious recessive mutations. The avoidance of inbreeding and the promotion of out-crossing allow the masking of deleterious recessive mutations.

The Beautiful Oribi

The oribi  is a small antelope found in eastern, southern and western Africa. This antelope features a slightly raised back, and long neck and limbs. The glossy, yellowish to rufous brown coat contrasts with the white chin, throat, underparts and rump. Only males possess horns; the thin, straight horns, 8–18 centimetres (3.1–7.1 in) long, are smooth at the tips and ringed at the base.

The oribi occurs in a variety of habitats – from savannahs, floodplains and tropical grasslands with 10–100 centimetres (3.9–39.4 in) tall grasses to montane grasslands at low altitudes, up to 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) above the sea level. This antelope is highly sporadic in distribution, ranging from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia and Eritrea in the east and southward to Angola and the Eastern Cape (South Africa). The oribi has been classified as Least Concern by the IUCN; numbers have declined due to agricultural expansion and competition from livestock.

Primarily a grazer, which occasionally browse on forbs. Although it occurs on flood plains, it is not dependant on free surface water.

Both sexes become sexually mature at 10 to 14 months. A seasonal breeder, the time when mating occurs varies geographically. Mating may peak in the rainy season (August to September). When a female enters oestrus (which lasts for four to six days), it seeks the company of males. During courtship, the male will pursue the female, test her urine to check if she is in oestrus and lick her rump and flanks. Gestation lasts for six to seven months, following which a single calf is born; births peak from November to December in southern Africa. The newborn is kept in concealment for nearly a month; the mother pays regular visits to her calf to suckle it for nearly half an hour. Males may guard their offspring from predators and keep away other males. Weaning takes place at four to five months. The oribi lives for 8 to 12 years in the wild, and for 12 to 14 years in captivity.

The dugong

The dugong is the only entirely marine mammal to feed exclusively on plants, a trait that leads to its other common name of 'sea cow'. These large, rotund animals have short, paddle-like front flippers and a fluke-like tail, with a straight or concave edge, that is used for propulsion. The thick skin is a brownish-grey colour and there are short, coarse hairs sparsely distributed over the body but concentrated as bristles on the muzzle. All dugongs grow tusks but these only break the skin, and therefore become visible, in mature males. The large, rounded snout ends in a cleft, muscular upper lip that hangs over the down-turned mouth.

A dugong reaches sexual maturity between the ages of eight and eighteen, older than in most other mammals. The way that females know how a male has reached sexual maturity is by the eruption of tusks in the male since tusks erupt in males when testosterone levels reach a high enough level. The age when a female first gives birth is disputed, with some studies placing the age between ten and seventeen years, while others place it as early as six years. There is evidence that male dugongs lose fertility at older ages. Despite the longevity of the dugong, which may live for 50 years or more, females give birth only a few times during their life, and invest considerable parental care in their young. The time between births is unclear, with estimates ranging from 2.4 to 7 years.

Mating behaviour varies between populations located in different areas. In some populations, males will establish a territory which females in heat will visit. In these areas a male will try to impress the females while defending the area from other males, a practice known as lekking. In other areas many males will attempt to mate with the same female, sometimes inflicting injuries to the female or each other. During this the female will have copulated with multiple males, who will have fought to mount her from below. This greatly increases the chances of conception.

Females give birth after a 13–15 month gestation, usually to just one calf. Birth occurs in very shallow water, with occasions known where the mothers were almost on the shore. As soon as the young is born the mother pushes it to the surface to take a breath. Newborns are already 1.2 metres (4 ft) long and weigh around 30 kilograms (66 lb). Once born, they stay close to their mothers, possibly to make swimming easier. The calf nurses for 14–18 months, although it begins to eat seagrasses soon after birth. A calf will only leave its mother once it has matured.

The Beautiful Humming Bird

Hummingbirds are small, colorful birds with iridescent feathers. Their name comes from the fact that they flap their wings so fast (about 80 times per second) that they make a humming noise. Hummingbirds can fly right, left, up, down, backwards, and even upside down. They are also able to hover by flapping their wings in a figure-8 pattern. They have a specialized long and tapered bill that is used to obtain nectar from the center of long, tubular flowers. The hummingbird’s feet are used for perching only, and are not used for hopping or walking.

The size of these Hummingbirds does vary though based on the species. To give you a good idea of their overall dimensions the smallest species is about 2.2 grams and the largest is about 20 grams. The smallest is the Bee Hummingbird and it is also noted to be the smallest bird in the world.

During the colder times of the year the Hummingbirds migrate up to 500 miles. They are able to cover a great deal of distance every day. The Gulf of Mexico is one of the common areas where they are seen during the migration period. This has become a very common place for bird watchers to gather and to take in the exciting sight.

The Fastest Reptile in the World, Leather-back Sea Turtle

This turtle , Leather-back Sea Turtle, species can move at the speed of 21.92 mph in the water. That is interesting, considering that the leather backs spend their entire life in the water, and only come on the land to lay eggs. A turtle being the fastest reptile may sound a bit unconvincing, but one has to take a note of the fact that this species is also the largest of all living sea turtles measuring somewhere between 6-7 ft in terms of total length.

It is not really difficult for a creature of this size to clock a speed of 20 mph - at least not when it has a hydrodynamic body equipped with powerful paddle-like fins.

The Fastest Animal in the Air

It might come as a surprise for many people, but the fastest bird on the planet is actually a bird - the Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) with its amazing ability to clock a speed of 200 mph in air. That makes it nearly three times faster than the cheetah - the fastest land animal with a speed of 70 mph. In level flight, the peregrine, with an average speed of 40 mph, is not even quick enough to catch a pigeon.

The amazing speed that we talk about is only achieved in course of mid-air hunting, wherein the Peregrine goes high in the air, and dives onto its prey at speeds in excess of 200 mph. In fact, the fastest recorded dive of a peregrine falcon clocked an unbelievable 242 mph, a feat achieved by Washington based falconer Ken Franklin's pet peregrine, named 'Frightful', in 2005.

So the Peregrine falcon uses its tremendous speed as a weapon to hunt flying birds, but how does a bird measuring 16 inches pull of this feat? The physical and behavioral adaptations of this falcon species have an important role to play in its high-speed dive. The Peregrine ascends to an altitude in excess of 3 miles, spots the prey and dives on it - beak first. In course of its dive, this bird tucks its wings and feet inside, folds its tail and streamlines its body, in such a manner that it gets into a perfect aerodynamic shape. The nostrils of a peregrine falcon are especially adapted to help it breathe when diving at high speed. Diving at such high speed when hunting has its own drawbacks though, and a success rate of mere 20 percent does hint at this very fact.

The peregrine falcon is also one of the most widespread bird of prey in the world, with its natural habitat spanning the entire planet - except for a few regions such as the polar areas and the tropical rainforests. The species usually prefers open areas as hunting in such areas is much more convenient. Such is the reputation of the Peregrine falcons that they are specially trained and used to scare away the birds around airports and other places where birds create nuisance.

The Fastest Fish in The World

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the fastest fish in the world is the sailfish species with the ability to clock a speed of 68 mph - just short of the cheetah at 70 mph. The species, measuring 1.7 to 3.4 meters and weighing between 120 to 220 lbs, is found in the warm tropical waters of the world.

There exist two subspecies of the sailfish - the Atlantic sailfish (Istiophorus albicans) found in the Atlantic Ocean and the Indo-Pacific sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus) found in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. With a spectacularly big dorsal fin, which gives it the name sailfish, considerably long bill and a crescent-shaped tail, the sailfish has a hydrodynamic streamlined body - which helps it clock amazing speeds and makes it the fastest species of fish in the world.

There do exist reports about the sailfish species clocking a speed of 70 mph which brings them at par with the fastest land animal, though the authenticity of these reports is still under the scanner. The second fastest fish in the world, the black marlin with an average speed of 50 mph belongs to the same billfish family. Our knowledge of the marine biome is limited due to some obvious reasons, and that makes it a bit difficult to figure out which the fastest marine species in the world are. In such circumstances, the chances of there being some marine creature that can be faster than the cheetah cannot be ruled out.

The Bird Called Emu

The emu is the second-largest living bird by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. It is endemic to Australia where it is the largest native bird and the only extant member of the genus Dromaius. The emu's range covers most of mainland Australia, but the Tasmanian emu and King Island emu subspecies became extinct after the European settlement of Australia in 1788. The bird is sufficiently common for it to be rated as a least-concern species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Emus are soft-feathered, brown, flightless birds with long necks and legs, and can reach up to 1.9 metres (6.2 ft) in height. Emus can travel great distances, and when necessary can sprint at 50 km/h (31 mph); they forage for a variety of plants and insects, but have been known to go for weeks without eating. They drink infrequently, but take in copious amounts of water when the opportunity arises.

Breeding takes place in May and June, and fighting among females for a mate is common. Females can mate several times and lay several clutches of eggs in one season. The male does the incubation; during this process he hardly eats or drinks and loses a significant amount of weight. The eggs hatch after around eight weeks, and the young are nurtured by their fathers. They reach full size after around six months, but can remain as a family unit until the next breeding season. The emu is an important cultural icon of Australia, appearing on the coat of arms and various coins. The bird features prominently in Indigenous Australian mythology.