Saturday, September 20, 2014

Creature Feature #336: Iguana

The Iguana is a large lizard, inhabiting the forests of Central and South America. He leads an arboreal lifestyle, usually living near water. His diet is predominantly herbivorous, favouring fruit, foliage and flowers. One of his characteristic features is the highly-developed dewlap. This is used to help him regulate his body temperature, and plays a role in courtship and territorial displays. He is also equipped with a white photosensory organ - a parietal eye - on his forehead. This is sensitive to changes in light and dark, and could be used to help locate predators lurking above him. If he senses a threat he will flee, or dive into the water. However, the scream of a raptor will cause him to freeze, relying on his camouflage for protection.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Creature Feature #335: Ifrita

The small, insectivorous Ifrita in widespread across the rainforests of New Guinea. He is one of the few birds known to be poisonous, contact with his feathers and skin causes numbness and tingling and acts as a deterrent against predators such as snakes. This toxin is a batrachotoxin acquired through his diet of melyrid beetles. He forages for these beetles, and other insect prey, by scurrying up and down the trunks and branches of trees and probing in crevices with his bill.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Creature Feature #334: Ichneumon Wasp

The Ichneumon are a Superfamily of wasps, containing over 80,000 species. These insects are solitary and quite large. Many are parasitic. Females are characterised by their extremely long ovipositors. When she is ready to lay her eggs, she will seek out the larvae of a different species: caterpillars, beetle larvae, maggots. This ovipositor is then used to deliver her eggs either directly into the host or near the intended host. When her larvae hatch, they consume the host from the inside. Some Ichneumon prey on ants, entering the nest and depositing her eggs by releasing a chemical that confuses the ants and causes them to fight amongst themselves, rather than target her. Many also infect the host with a virus that suppresses its immune system.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Creature Feature #333: Icefish

The Icefish are a Suborder of fish that occur in the coldest regions of the Earth - the cold continental shelf surrounding Antarctica. There are currently 122 species known to wikipedia science. To enable survival in such harsh conditions, the Icefish must have special adaptations. Her blood and body fluids contain an antifreeze glycoprotein. She is also the only vertebrate to be completely lacking red blood cells - she has no hemoglobin -  which makes her blood thinner and allows it to circulate more easily about her body. This also means that her blood is colourless. Her heart is very large in proportion to her body size, and consumes 22% of her body's available energy (comapred to the 5% of temperate fish species).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Creature Feature #332: Ibisbill

The Ibisbill is a wading bird closely related to the avocet. He generally leads a solitary life across southern Central Asia, living near slow-moving rivers. Here he uses his slender bill to probe amongst rocks and shingle in search of insects and their larvae. During the breeding season he forms a monogamous partnership and eggs are laid in a shallow scrape, sometimes lined with pebbles. Both parents share incubation duties and it has been reported that offspring from previous years may assist in the task. Ibisbill prefer to swim across rivers rather than flying.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Creature Feature #331: Ibex

The Ibex is a species of wild goat, found in the European Alps. Both male and female bear curving, ridged horns, although the male's are considerably longer and he is larger in size. He is an excellent climber, ascending above the snowline during the summer to feed on the alpine meadows and descending during the winter months. He has even been observed standing on the sheer wall of dams, licking the stonework for the mineral salts. Social in nature, groups are frequently segregated by gender and age throughout the year, with mixed gender groups most frequent during the breeding season. Male Ibex compete with one another to secure mates, sometimes just strutting and posturing, other times head-butting or bucking one another.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Creature Feature #330: Hydra

Hydra are tiny freshwater predators of the Phylum Cnidaria. They can be found in unpolluted freshwater in temperate and tropical regions. Hydra appear to be biologically immortal, they do not age. They are also capable of asexual reproduction. If conditions are right, a bud grows in the body wall, developing into a miniature of the adult and eventually breaking away. Sexual reproduction via free-swimming gametes occurs when conditions are less ideal. The Hydra feeds on small aquatic invertebrates. First they extend their body, then the tentacles - which can stretch to 5 times the body length - and wait for prey to swim into their clutches. The prey is then stung, subdued and drawn back to the mouth aperture to be consumed.