Friday, October 31, 2014

Creature Feature #377: Killifish

There are over 1,200 species of Killifish, occupying waterways across the world, from Argentina to Ontario, Canada and across Eurasia and Africa. Most species occur in permanent streams, with a few species occupying ephemereal pools. These "annuals" have a lifespan no longer than nine months and have been used in studies on aging. Other species live between two-three years. The diet of most species consists of aquatic arthropods and they are good for controlling mosquito populations. Due to their colourful nature, Killifish have become popular in the pet industry. Their eggs can survive periods of partial dessication, and thus can be transported via the postal services.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Creature Feature #376: Killdeer

The Killdeer is a species of plover widespread across the Western Hemisphere, migrating to the northern reaches in summer and spending his winters in Central America. Although technically a shorebird, he can live far inland (we saw one in Yellowstone, on the Mammoth hot springs). He forages on mudflats and fields, feeding on worms and other invertebrates. Chicks are precocial and resemble their parents in colouration. If danger threatens, the adult birds will feign injury: dragging their wing, flapping and peeping in distress as they attempt to draw the predator away. As soon as the predator is safely away from the chicks, the bird will make a sudden recovery.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Creature Feature #375: Kiang

The Kiang is the largest wild ass. She resides in the montane and alpine grasslands of the Tibetan Plateau. Herds can number up to several hundred individuals, but are not permanent groupings and are generally gatherings of young males, females and their foals. Older males lead a solitary existence, defending a territory. During breeding season he rounds up the females in his territory. Kiang are hunted by humans, and also by wolves. Members of the herd will form a defensive circle and kick and bite at any approaching canine predators. As such, wolves generally target lone animals.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Creature Feature #374: Kestrel

Kestrel are several species of falcon, spread across four lineages. Only one species, the American Kestrel, is found in the Americans. All species are characterised by their tendency to hover, facing into a headwind. From this height, she scans the open countryside below for prey - generally a rodent or a reptile, before dropping into a killing dive. Like all raptors, the female is larger than the male. She does not build her own nest, using one abandoned by another species (such as a crow) or locating a natural crevice. She hatches the eggs, whilst the male provides food. She has adapted well to human encroachment on her habitat, and has even been known to nest around buildings.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Creature Feature #373: Kelpfish

There are several species of Kelpfish, a term generally given to members of the Chironemus Genus and found in Australia and New Zealand. There is also a not-particularly-closely related species from America, known as the Giant Kelpfish. This is the species I have inadvariantly drawn here, showing I should really check my facts before I get started. Anyway, the Giant Kelpfish is a clinid. He stays close to the coasts, inhabiting kelp beds, from California down to southern Baja California. His diet consists mainly of invertebrates such as crustaceans and molluscs, as well as other fish. He can grow up to 61 cm in length.

I guess I need to either draw a different fish (perhaps this out of focus NZ species - http://www.nationalaquarium.co.nz/kelp-fish.asp) or find another critter that starts with K. Or maybe not, since about the only information I can find about them is that they are fish.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Creature Feature #372: Kea

Another New Zealand parrot, the Kea is also something of an oddity. He is the only parrot to live in an alpine environment. This harsh environment has led to some rather interesting adaptions - the Kea is one of the most intelligent birds in the world. He is intensely curious, using his long beak to rip aside anything in search of food - or for fun. Kea were once maligned for the rather unfortunate behaviour of tearing flesh from sheep, seeking the protein it provided, and large numbers were shot. In more recent times this curiosity and powerful bill has led to them stripping rubber from cars, and also to chewing on nails. Lead poisoning from these nails is a big problem, combined with being killed by cars or attacked on the nest by stoats. This charming alpine clown is now considered vulnerable to extinction.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Creature Feature #371: Kabutomushi

The Kabutomushi is a Japanese rhinocerous beetle. It is readily available in the pet trade - there are even entire stores dedicated to them and other large beetles. The large male using his distinctive horn to fight with other males, and this trait has been exploited in gambling dens. Two males are placed on a log, and the first to push the other off is deemed the winner. For all his popularity, these beetles are short-lived, spending the majority of their life in larval form and only surviving in their adult stage for around four months. His diet is vegetarian, particularly fruit, and he is capable of flight.

Kabuto translates as "helmet" and Mushi as "bug".