Thursday, August 21, 2014

Creature Feature #306: Hawksbill Turtle

The Hawksbill Turtle is a critically endangered reptile. She favours tropical coral reefs. Her main diet consists of sea sponges, although she also eats jellyfish, algae and sea anemones.  Every two years, she comes ashore in secluded lagoons to mate. After mating, she hauls herself ashore under cover of darkness, digs a nesting hole with her rear flippers and lays her eggs. This can take many hours, during which she buries them again and returns to the sea. The baby turtles hatch two months later, during the night, and begin the perilous journey to the sea. Any that remain out during daylight are preyed upon by birds and other predators. It takes decades for these youngsters to attain maturity.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Creature Feature #305: Harrier-Hawk

The African Harrier-Hawk is a medium sized raptor. She makes her home in woodlands, tree plantations and urban areas. Her diet is omnivorous and includes the fruit of the oil palm, as well as small vertebrates. She is a skilled climber, using her wings as well as her feet and beak. Her knees are double jointed, which allow her to reach into these otherwise inaccesible holes and crevices. In this manner, she raids the nests of cavity-breeding birds. Her own nest is a large structure of sticks, built in a tree or on a cliff ledge. She broods up to three eggs but, like most raptors, siblicide is common and often only one chick will survive to fledging.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Creature Feature #304: Hartebeast

The Hartebeast is a species of antelope who makes her home in the African grasslands. She is social in nature and can live in herds numbering into the hundreds. Within the herds, separate groups form with males being separate from females, and with a frequently contested social hierarchy. Whilst the herd grazes, several individuals keep an eye out for danger. Hartebeast will only migrate in times of great need - such as after a natural calamity or during a drought. She consumes less water than her relatives, and has a lower metabolic rate. Reproduction is year-round, although most prevalent when food is available in sufficient quantity.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Creature Feature #303: Harpy Eagle

The mighy Harpy Eagle makes her home in the lowland rainforests of Central and South America. She is among the largest of eagle species, with some females weighing up to 10kg. Her wings are relatively short, allowing her greater manoeuvrability through the trees. She hunts the upper canopy, preying on monkeys and sloths. These she snatches up with her wicked talons - larger than those of any other extant eagle species - which are capable of exerting enormous pressure. Harpy Eagles are monogamous and form life-long partnerships, raising one chick every few years. Although she is found over a wide range, her habitat is fast disappearing and the species has become extirpated in some regions and is threatened in others.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Creature Feature #302: Hare

Hares are swift, long legged leporids, capable of dashes up to 56 km/hr. Unlike his rabbit relatives, he leads a mostly solitary existence. Most of the year he is relatively shy and nocturnal, but in breeding season, he becomes somewhat rowdy and active during the day. This may explain the idion, "Mad as a March hare." Does are receptive for only a few hours a day, and competition is fierce. Males chase one another in order to assert their dominance and boxing matches are common, as does attempt to fend off unwanted advances or to determine the fittest male. Youngsters are birthed in a shallow scrape known as a "form". These leverets are precocial - born fully furred with their eyes open.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Creature Feature #301: Happy Face Spider

The tiny Happy Face Spider lives only on the Hawaiian islands. She is named for her characteristic abdomen which, in some individuals, resembles a happy face. In others it can be frowning, or somewhat more abstract. This patterning varies across the islands. Measuring a mere 5 mm, her life is mostly spend beneath the foliage in the rainforests. Here she builds a somewhat reduced web than other spiders, feeding on small insects. Unlike most spider species, she exhibits strong maternal care. Not only does she guard her egg sac, but when the spiderlings hatch she will catch insects for them to feed upon.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Creature Feature #300: Hamster

The Hamsters are a group of small rodents characterised by their short tails and elongated cheek pouches. Their behaviour is crepuscular - they remain underground during the day and venture out in the evenings and mornings to forage for seeds, fruit, vegetation and insects. Food is stored in their cheek pouches, which can double, or triple, in size and hoarded in underground food chambers. Hamsters lead a solitary lifestyle, although some species will live in pairs. Hamsters, particularly the Syrian Hamster, have become popular in the pet industry, and have been bred with unusual colourations and longer fur. They do not tolerate colony living and are most active at night.