Saturday, November 29, 2014

Animal-a-Day has moved!

Yes folks, in lieu of the game's pending release and the fact that I wanted a dedicated Animal-a-Day blog (without the other stuff), I have started a specialised blog for it:

That's not to say that this blog will be abandoned, however. I shall still be cross-posting my entries here, but possibly on a weekly rather than a daily basis.

If you wish to, you can still follow me on 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Creature Feature#405: Lamprey

Despite his reputation, not all species of Lamprey are blood-sucking parasites. This one, the Sea Lamprey however, is. Lamprey are primitive, jawless fish, who instead of a mouth are equipped with a tooth-rimmed suction-cup and a sharp tongue. Once he locates an appropriate host, he latches on and begins to scrape away at the skin with his tongue and teeth. He secretes a substance that prevents the host's blood from clotting and it will eventually succumb to infection, if it doesn't die of blood-loss first. This fish spends his early days in freshwater, moving into lakes or a marine environment to feed parasitically for a year, before returning to the river to spawn and die.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Creature Feature #404: Lammergeier

The Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture, is found in the high country across southern Europe, Africa and India. She typically is found above the tree line. Her diet is carrion, although she favours bone marrow over flesh - the only bird species specialised for this diet. Her digestive system quickly digests the bone and she can crush pieces up to the size of a lamb's femur. Larger pieces are carried up into the air, then dropped onto the rocks until they splinter and crack open, allowing her access to the somewhat juicier interior. This is a learned behaviour, and it can take her seven years to master it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Creature Feature #403: Ladybird

There numerous species of Ladybird - over 5000 -  found all over the world. Most are characterised by their colourful elytron (wing covers) which in many species are spotted. Some species are vegetarian, and have become something of a pest in agriculture, but most species favour a carnivorous diet with a particular fondness for destructive insects such as aphids.  As such, they are generally regarded as the gardener's friend. Although, introduced Harlequin Ladybirds are currently engaged in a full-on invasion of the United Kingdom, where they are spreading at a rapid rate and out-competing their native species.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Creature Feature #402: Lacewing

Lacewings are small insects named for their delicate wings, which are cross-veined and resemble lace. She is nocturnal or crepscular in nature and feeds on pollen, nectar and honeydew, as well as the occasional tiny arthropod. When handled, some species will release a vile stench from their prothoracal glands. This has earned her the name "stinkfly". The spiny nature of the larvae attracts grime and sand, providing the juvenile with an element of camouflage.  Larvae are voracious predators, attacking any arthropod of appropriate size and even biting humans. To feed, she injects her prey with venom, liquifying its insides and allowing them to be sucked out.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Creature Feature #401: Feral Cat

Today's critter is more-or-less by popular request, and also because I needed an "invasive pest" to introduce into the forest portion of my TCG. Hence why we are dropping out of the alphabet, temporarily.

A Feral Cat is not just a domestic cat that is living wild, and it is not a stray - when a cat truly "goes feral" she is like an actual wild animal. She has never been socialised with humans. This probably means that her ancestors were strays. Feral Cats can be found in urban environments, as well as woodlands, temperate forests and open countries - anywhere there is relevant prey. Whilst in urban areas and some suburban, she can do little harm, it is isolated habitats that suffer the most impact from her introduction. Many islands are home to birds and small mammals, but may lack in mammalian predators, and for these the addition of this feline - an apex predator - spelled disaster. The extinction of six New Zealand bird species can be attributed to cats. The most well known of which is the Stephen Islands Wren. A tiny bird, almost flightless, and the entire population lived on one small island. There are tales that suggest one cat was responsible, but it is more likely that it was a plague of feral cats, some related to the lighthouse keeper's cat who was probably not called Tibbles) or otherwise dumped on the island. Within a few months the birds were gone.

Domestic cats are interesting in that they are one of the few sociable cat species. Unlike their ancestors, the European wild cat, they will share territory, although unneutered males will fight for dominance. A colony of cats is called a clowder. In some countries, like New Zealand and Australia (where the felines have had a detrimental impact on native mammals) there is talk of banning cats, and hunting ferals is encouraged. However, many people adore our feline companions, even the ones that utterly shun human contact, and the idea of killing cats is anathema. Some countries, including New Zealand, run a trap-neuter-release program, in which ferals are captured, neutered and then returned to their initial habitat. This means that the cat can no longer breed, but can still kill millions of birds, reptiles and bats before eventually sucuumbing to disease, injury or death-by-auto. Sometimes feeding stations are set up in which volunteers feed the half-starved felines. Needless to say, there is a lot of controversy surrounding such projects.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Creature Feature #400: Kusimanse

Today is the 400th "Animal a Day"! How exciting is that? It is also the last of the Ks. Tomorrow we have a special random entry and then on tuesday the 25th, one month from Christmas, the Ls shall begin.

Meanwhile, here's a dwarf mongoose:

This is the Kusimanse, one of several Dwarf Mongoose species. He is a diurnal forager and an excellent digger, hunting for insects, rodents, crustaceans and other small prey.  Groups consist of related Kusimanse and follow a strict hierarchal structure. Only the primary members are permitted to breed. If subordinates produce offspring, these will be killed and eaten.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Creature Feature #399: Kultarr

Keeping up the trend of adorable mammals with long hindlegs, I present the third (or fourth if you count "kangaroo") that begins with K.

The Kultarr is a tiny marsupial, related - but not closely - to the Kowari of two days ago. She makes her home in the arid interior deserts of Australia, inhabiting gibber plains and sandy deserts. Here she hunts alone, at night, for insects and other tasty invertebrates. During the day she hides away in soil cracks or burrows made by other creatures. Her long hind-legs enable her to move in hops and give her a superficial resemblance to jerboas and hopping mice.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Creature Feature #398: Kudu

The Kudu are two species of large woodland antelopes. The Greater Kudu can be found in eastern and southern Africa. Here the females form herds with their calves, whereas the bulls lead a more solitary existence. Only the male sports the long, curling horns and these are used for disputes over mating privileges. Generally the two males will lock horns and wrestle until one surrenders but on occasion they will become trapped together. If this happens they will either starve to death or be killed by a hyena or other large predator.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Creature Feature #397: Krill

Krill are tiny crustceans occuring in every ocean, worldwide. They play a critical role in the ecosystem. Krill feed on phytoplankton, and occasionally zooplankton. In turn they are preyed  upon by fish, mammals, birds, cephalopods and other arthropods. During the night they migrate towards the surface, sinking deeper into the depths during the day. More than half the population is predated each year, requiring a fast and fecund life-cycle. Climate change poses a threat to Krill populations, as can other disturbances.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Creature Feature #396: Kowari

Although it somewhat resembles the Kangaroo Rat from several weeks ago, the Kowari is not related to it (although it is related to the Kultarr I will be uploading within the next week). She is a marsupial from central Australia, where she makes her home in grasslands and deserts.  She is a voracious predator, devouring mostly insects and spiders, but also birds, rodents and reptiles.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Creature Feature #395: Kouprey

The Kouprey is a species of wild cattle, once found throughout Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Alas, uncontrolled hunting led the population into sharp decline and the last living specimens were seen in 1988. It is classified as critically endangered, possibly extinct. There is no captive population. In the wild, his natural habitat is forested areas. The cows form herds, led by a dominant female, and the bulls join them during the dry season.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Creature Feature #394: Kookaburra

The Kookaburra of Australia and New Guinea is one of the world's largest Kingfishers. He is noted for his raucous laughing call, which rings out with frenzied excitement as he marks the boundaries of his territory. Families tend to stay together, the young from previous broods helping to defend their home range from intruders. His habitat is versatile, and he is as likely to be found in forest, arid grasslands or urban parks. He follows a carnivorous diet, and will eat almost anything he can gobble up - from lizards, rodents, baby birds, and he is may steal koi fish from zoos and ornamental pools.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Creature Feature #393: Komodo Dragon

Reptiles are hard to draw - I always struggle with lizards, and thus I knew this fellow was going to prove to be a challenge. I wanted to do one in perspective, however, have him coming out of the page, and thus I embraced the challenge.

And succeeded, more-or-less.

Komodo Dragons are extremely large lizards, found only on a small number of Indonesian islands, including Komodo. Males can grow more than 3 m long, with females being slightly smaller. He uses his tongue to detect, taste and smell stimuli and can sense carrion from nearly 10 km away. Carrion is his preferred diet, although he is also capable of stalking and ambushing prey. It can take him some time to swallow an entire animal, and to stop him suffocating, he breathes through a small tube under his tongue.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Creature Feature #392: Kokopu

Today was mostly spent getting the dummies designed and printed for the traading card game. It's going to be a thing! How exciting! If you wish to know more, put in pre-orders or what-not, please drop me an email. Playtesting will begin next weekend if all goes well.

Consequently, today's critter almost didn't get drawn. But, here he is in his speckled brown glory - another of the New Zealand fish Galaxias tribe, the third Galaxid I've drawn.

The largest of the NZ Galaxids, this Giant Kokopu spends the majority of his life living off the coast, although some populations have become locked into freshwater streams. He is the only native fish able to withstand the trout intrusion, but even so, his numbers are declining. When the time comes to spawn, the fish swim a little-ways up the river, find themselves a nice shady bank to shelter under and do the deed. The young fry swim out to sea as part of the whitebait run. An opportunistic feeder, he dines upon invertebrate prey - both larval and terrestrial - and will take the occasional other fish, especially if he is "land-locked".

Friday, November 14, 2014

Creature Feature #391: Kodkod

The Kodkod is the smallest feline of South America, with the smallest distribution. She is only found in central and southern Chile, occasionally crossing the border into Argentina. She favours evergreen temperate forest but will venture close to settled and cultivated land. During the day, she remains under the cover of the trees hunting for birds and rodents. Whilst an excellent climber, she tends to hunt on the ground. At night she may venture out into more open areas and has been known to raid chicken coops.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Creature Feature #390: Koala

The Koala is a arboreal maruspial. His diet consists predominantly of eucalyptus leaves. These leaves have a high water content, meaning he does not have to drink often. They are not, however, provide much energy and the Koala spends up to 20 hours of his day asleep with short periods of active feeding spread throughout. He does not travel far, and will often stay in the same tree for an entire day. Asocial in nature, he does not willingly interract with others outside of the mating season. Mating is noisy and often brutal, with the female fighting off her potential suitors and the males fighting amongst themselves. She will eventually sucuumb to the most dominant.

So that's it folks, this cute and cuddly animal is in fact lethargic, viciously antisocial and prone to forcing copulation - sometimes with females who aren't even in oestrus. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Creature Feature #389: Knocking Sand Frog

I was going to draw a Koi, then realised I had more-or-less covered them with "Carp". So here, instead, is my amphibian for K.

The Knocking Sand Frog of Africa, was first discovered in 1973. Following a period of heavy rainfall, large numbers appear in the Kruger National Park. He is named for his distinctive call, which one must conclude from his name, sounds rather like someone knocking. He favours sandy soils, and inhabits disturbed areas. He breeds in temporary waterbodies, presumerably after the floods. Information seems to be pretty skint, mostly the same wikipedia article (which doesn't indicate if his discovery is linked to the heavy rainfall mentioned above), but I shall delve further into detail tomorrow, if possible.

I have started designing trading cards with these creatures, and have the vaguest idea for a game, but no real concept of the game plan as of yet. It is tremendously fun to create them though!

Here's my favourite so far, the kingfisher:

The yellow logos indicate his diet - fish and insects, with the green one indicating his "type" (small bird).
I suppose I should add amphibians to that diet chart, and reptiles... Hrm, some of the omnivores will likely fit anywhere! For simplicities sake, we'll stick with fish and insects for now. Of course, this means that the frogs might end up not being eaten by _anything_.

Perhaps there should be bonus points for players that create the longest food chain!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Creature Feature #388: Klipspringer

The Klipspringer is a diminutive antelope from South Africa. He makes his home in the rocky koppies of the woodland and savannah, where he leaps agily from rock to rock. He balances on the very tips of his hooves and can fit all four on a piece of rock the size of a coin. He forms a lifetime partnership with his mate, and the two of them forage together, sometimes with their young offspring. When one is grazing, the other will keep watch, whistling to alert the others of danger. His main diet is vegetation and he gets all the moisture he requires from consuming succulents  - he never needs to drink water.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Creature Feature #387: Kiwi

The Kiwi is a rather unusual bird, found only in New Zealand. As this isolated island had no land-dwelling mammals, the kiwi evolved to fill a similar niche to that of the badger. Her body temperature is lower than most birds, closer to that of a mammal. She is flightless, her wings little more than a hook of bone. To compensate, she has sturdy legs. During the day she sleeps in hollows or burrows, venturing out at night to forage. Her long bill probes in the leaf litter and she is the only bird in the world to have nostrils at the tip. These help her sniff out tasty invertebrates.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Creature Feature #386: Kit Fox

The Kit Fox is a small fox living in North America. Here he occupies the arid areas in the south-west: from central Oregon down to southeastern California and across as far as southwest Colorado. Distinctive subspecies occur in San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. He leads a nocturnal lifestyle, coming out at night to hunt for kangaroo rats and other small prey. When prey is scarce, he has been known to eat tomatoes and cactus fruits. Towards the end of the year he forms a monogamous partnership.  Cubs are born around March and grow fast, within 5-6 months they are independent, and at 10 months they are ready to breed.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Creature Feature #385: Kite

The name "Kite" refers to a number of predatory birds, belonging to the Family Accipitridae, the same Family as hawks and buzzards. There are numerous species, spread across thirteen Genera and split into two Subfamilies, colloquially referred to as "large Kites" and "small Kites". This Brahminy Kite is one from the "large" grouping. Typically, Kites are characterised by their light build, small head, long, narrow wings and along tail. In some species it is forked. Her flight is characterised by the angled wings, with which she can hover for lengthy periods of time. Her diet typically consists of insects, small vertebrate prey and carrion. She has been knowing to engage in mobbing attacks on her larger relatives, sometimes with fatal results.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Creature Feature #384: Kiskadee

The Kiskadee is one of the largest Tyrant Flycatchers. He inhabits America, southwards from Texas and down through into central Argentina. Bold and brash, he is a common sight and has happily colonised urban areas. An opportunistic omnivore, he will pounce on rodents and insects, as well as  plucking fruit from the branches. To protect his territory, he aggresively mobs any raptors that might pass over, calling loudly in the process and thus alerting any potential prey to the presence of the predator.

(I'm not sure who wrote the wikipedia article for this bird, but they have a slightly pretentious edge to their tone, which makes it rather a delight to read).

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Creature Feature #383: Kinkajou

The Kinkajou is a small, arboreal mammal that makes her home in the rainforests of Central and South America. Although she falls in the the Order Carnivora, she favours a frugivorous diet and particularly enjoys figs. When eating fruit, she holds it in her paws, scooping out the pulp with her 12 cm long tongue. She uses her prehensile tail to assist her in climbing and will occasionally hang from it. During the day she sleeps in tree hollows, coming out at night to scramble through the trees, and thus does not compete directly with (most) monkey species for food.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Creature Feature #382: King Vulture

The King Vulture makes his home in Central and South America. He favours lowland forest and is usually seen near swamps or waterways. Like most vultures, he feeds predominantly on carrion, although may take the occasional newborn or injured animal. His bill is powerful, used to rip into the thick hide of a carcass, which also enables the smaller vultures to also gain access. His naked head and neck are an adaptation to his diet, feathers would become soiled with blood and this could lead to infection. He lacks a voice box, and is capable only of emitting wheezing grunts, croaking and clacking his bill.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Creature Feature #381: Kingsnake

There are five species, and numerous subspecies, of Kingsnake, all of which are found in North America. Although they resemble the highly venomous coral snake, Kingsnakes kill by constricting, not poison. This is a Scarlet Kingsnake. Kingsnake feed on lizards, rodents, birds and eggs, but are also noted for preying on other snakes - including their venomous relatives. She is immune to the venom of a rattlesnake.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Creature Feature #380: Kinglet

Kinglets are tiny passerines, ranging from 8-11 cm (only slightly larger than my image) in length. Due to their small size and high metabolism, Kinglets must eat constantly. If prevented from eating, he can starve to death very quickly. His diet consists of insects and other invertebrates, which are gleaned from branches. Nests are small neat cups, almost spherical, hanging from the high tip end of a conifer. They are tightly woven, lined with feathers, and act as insulation against the outside temperature. In this nest she will lay up to twelve eggs, piling them on top of one another and pushing her warm legs down amongst them to help with the incubation. The chicks suffer similar issues, hatching at different ratios and with the birds at the top receiving food but being cold, settling down at the bottom once they are full. Sort of like a pulsating pile of nestlings.  They fledge within 24 days of hatching, and are short-lived, with a maximum lifespan of around 6 years.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Creature Feature #379: Kingfisher

There are numerous species of Kingfisher, characterised by their colourful plumage, dagger-like bills, short tails and quick darting flight. He is a sit-and-wait predator, perching, watching and waiting for prey. His eyesight is excellent, but he has limited movement in the socket and frequently turns his head. His eyes also possess a nictitating membrane to cover them underwater, allowing him to keep them open. He is excellent at determining position underwater, compensating for refraction. Although they do eat fish, Kingfishers also feed on insects, small mammals. Many species of Kingfisher live some distance from water. Nests are a short tunnel, dug into a clay banks. Some pairs excavate their own, others use natural crevices, including termite mounds.

Do you know what the biggest kingfisher is? Well, you'll get to meet him within the next week or two.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Creature Feature #378: Kingbird

Kingbirds are ten different species from the flycatcher Family, Tyrannus. This is an Eastern Kingbird. He hunts by "hawking" - snatching his insect prey on the wing. He and his mate construct a cup-shaped nest in a tree or atop a pole. Despite being relatively small in size, the Kingbird is noted for being rather aggressive, especially towards predatory birds such as crows. This has earned his alternate name, "tyrant flycatcher". They have also been shown to recognise the eggs of the cowbird - a brood parasite - and remove these from their nests.