Thursday, October 23, 2014

Creature Feature #369: Katipo

The Katipo is endemic to New Zealand. She is the only poisonous spider to occur here naturally. Her closest relatives are the Australian redback and the American black widow spiders. She spins her rather haphazard web near the sea shore, among the sand dunes. Her venom induces severe pain, hypertension, seizure and even coma. An antivenom exists and there have been no recorded deaths from Katipo bite since the 19th century. The male is considerably smaller - about 1/5th her size - with a white abdomen and brown carapace.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Creature Feature #368: Kakarratul

The Kakarratul is one of two species of marsupial mole, the other almost identical in appearance. Blind and with a torpedo-shaped body, she is designed for a subterranean lifestyle. She swims through the sand, using her large, flat claws to burrow ahead. Her smaller hindfeet push the soil back, closing the tunnel behind her. Her pouch faces backwards, which prevents it from filling with sand. She has two teats, and can bear up to two offspring at a time. Very little is known about this secretive creature, as she only occasionally comes to the surface, usually after rain, in pursuit of her invertebrate prey.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Creature Feature #367: Kangaroo Rat

The Kangaroo Rat of North America is named for his method of locomotion. His long legs resemble those of a kangaroo, and help to propel him through his desert home. He is capable of leaps of over 2 metres, quickly changing direction between jumps. He is primarily a seed eater, caching the excess for leaner times. During the day he resides in his burrow, even plugging the entrance with dirt against the heat and to maintain humidity.   These burrows are complex, with chambers for sleeping, living and food storage. He lives alone, coming into contact with others for feeding and breeding.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Creature Feature #366: Kangaroo

Kangaroo are various marsupials from the Macropod (meaning "big foot") Family. They are the only large animal to use leaping as a means of locomotion. This is enabled by the large, elastic tendons in their hind-legs, in which they store energy. Due to their dry environment, Kangaroo must be capable of traveling great distances to forage. Like all marsupials, the newborn joey is born tiny and underdeveloped, yet it crawls across the mother's belly to her pouch. Here it will remain for around 235 days, leaving the pouch for the first time at 190 days, but returning regularly.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Creature Feature #365: Kakapo

The Kakapo is a flightless parrot, found only in New Zealand. He is classified as Critically Endangered with a population of less than 130 and a dedicated consevation program in place. Kakapo are long-lived and slow-breedings, only reproducing when the rimu trees mast-seed, about every 3-5 years. The male digs himself a shallow bowl and crouches in it, inflating himself up like a balloon and emitting a low booming call, that can be heard up to 5 kms away. Once mated, the female lays her eggs in a burrow - which makes her vulnerable to predators such as stoats and feral cats. It takes 9-10 years for these chicks to reach sexual maturity. Once Kakapo were common throughout the country, but a combination of this slow breeding system, habitat destruction and hunting by humans and introduced mammal led to its very-near extinction, with only 51 birds left in 1995.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Creature Feature #364: Kagu

The Kagu is an odd bird, found only in New Caledonia. He is considered to be most closely related to the sunbittern of South America. Almost flightless, his days are spent roaming the forest floor hunting for insects and other invertebrate prey. His wings are used for territorial displays and balance as he runs through the forest, but lack the musculature for flight, rendering him only capable of short, downward glides.  He and his mate form a long-term monogamous bond, raising a single chick each year. Older offspring may remain in their territory, helping protect it from rivals. Being flightless and a ground nester, the Kagu has suffered at the teeth and claws of introduced predators such as rats, cats and pigs.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Creature Feature #363: Junglefowl


There are four species of Junglefowl, characterised by the male's wattles, his bright feathery cape and arching tail feathers. The females are considerably duller in colouration and smaller in size, which helps them remain camouflaged while incubating their eggs. The Red Junglefowl, is considered the ancestor of the domestic chicken. Wild species are found through the southern reaches of Asia, with feral populations occuring in Hawaii. Outside of breeding season, mixed-gender flocks are formed with a distinct pecking order. As spring approaches, the stronger males split off, maintaining territory with a harem of 3-5 hens. Fights between rival roosters are vicious, using the sharp spurs on their lower legs to wound his opponent.