The Pallas Long-tongued bat from @HoustonZoo is the star of this #pollinatormonday and can be found from Northern Mexico all the way to Paraguay and Argentina. This little bat is thought to have the fastest metabolism of all mammals, similar to that of the hummingbird. In a single day, this bat can use up to 50% of its stored fat! The Pallas long-tongued bat earned its name for one reason: it has a specially evolved tongue that makes collecting nectar a breeze. When the bat extends its tongue, blood rushes into the area and expands special hair-like barbs on the bat's tongue, causing these barbs to stand upright. The barbs function like a mop and allow the bat to pull a great amount of nectar into its mouth in a very short amount of time, making it a highly efficient snacker. Indeed, it lives almost entirely off of nectar and pollen but is known to eat pieces of fruit and insects as well. Its quest for nectar results in the transport of a great amount of pollen from one flower to the next on its fur and snout, allowing it to pollinate as many as 34 different species of fruits and flowers. Many plant species also rely on this bat for seed dispersal when they pass through the droppings, allowing reseeding that's automatically fertilized in the process.
The endangered Przewalski’s horse, or P-horse for short, is the only truly wild horse left in existence-- all others in the wild are feral. These stocky, muscular horses are considered holy animals in Mongolia and are never ridden, stabled or tamed in their culture. In fact, the Mongolian name for this horse, takhi, means ‘spirit’ or ‘worthy of worship’. Sadly, in the 1960’s this horse was driven to the edge of extinction, mainly due to inbreeding with domesticated horses after most were hunted or captured and sold into the exotic pet trade by foreign merchants. Eventually, these horses became extinct in the wild and only 31 remained alive in captivity. However, thanks to dedicated captive breeding programs, the species’ population has grown to over 1,500 individuals. In Mongolia and China, reintroduction programs have begun, and today more than 50 mature individuals are free-living in the wild. Future reintroduction is in the works for Kazakhstan and Russia.
This horse was photographed at @gladysporterzoo.
Bat stars like these photographed at @theomahazoo can be found resting on rocks, sand bottoms and among surf grass along the Pacific coast from Alaska all the way down to Mexico. They come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, all of which have five short, webbed arms that give them the appearance of bat wings. Though they may seem docile, when two of these sea stars cross paths, a slow-motion brawl will occur. They fight by gently pushing and placing their arms on top of the one another. If one of them is turned upside down, they use their tube feet to slowly, gracefully somersault back onto their ventral side. As a defense against predators, bat stars are capable of releasing a potent chemical which incites quick escape responses in other animals.
This least bittern arrived as a chick at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota (@wrcmn) after being found huddled up next to a house with no parents in sight. It had clearly been alone for a long time and showed signs of hypothermia. The bird weighed less than an AA battery and needed medical attention, so the center admitted it for care. Shortly after it’s admittance, this bird developed pneumonia and was placed on antibiotics and pain medication. Slowly but surely it regained its health and was eventually well enough to be released back into the wild to fly free.
The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota is one of the nation's oldest and most active wildlife hospitals. This year alone, the center is expects to treat more than 13,000 animals, most of which are brought in by concerned citizens in the area. The center runs solely on donations and is able to keep these creatures alive and well through the generosity of those who support it.
To see a video of this least bittern extending its neck, check out @natgeo.
The Amargosa vole is one of the most endangered vertebrates in North America, found in the wild only near a single town in the Mojave Desert. The species has highly specific marsh habitat requirements and has faced diminished habitat quality and reduced water availability associated with water use and climate change. At one point, the total population size was thought to be less than 200 Amargosa voles in the world, and now they are estimated at about 500-- 100 of which are in a breeding colony at the @UCDavisVetMed school.
In the wild, these voles typically only live 3-4 months because they succumb to predation, but in the colony, some voles have lived more than 2 years. The ad hoc Amargosa vole team with membership and support from CDFW, @mypubliclands, and @usfws rears this species in captivity to learn more about them, provide an insurance colony against extinction in the wild, and to serve as a source for reintroduction.
In September, 2017, a lightning strike initiated a fire that wiped out two marshes and the voles within them. Although other nearby marshes still support voles, this incident highlights how precarious their situation is in nature.
This female Amargosa vole named Vole-ociraptor was born in captivity and has had three litters of pups. She serves a vital role in reintroduction efforts for this endangered species.
Check out @natgeo for a video of some adorable voles.
Swipe to see this Southern puffer fish expand its extremely elastic stomach with water. This defense mechanism helps compensate for the puffer’s slow, clumsy movement. Most pufferfish have spiny bodies as well as toxins within their organs that make them unpalatable at best and deadly at worst to most predators. Because just one of these fish contains enough poison to kill 30 humans, we generally do not hunt or eat them. However, due to pollution, some species of puffers are listed as vulnerable on the #IUCN Red List.
This fish was photographed at @GulfSpecimen Marine Lab in Florida where an ongoing education program has been running for years, teaching thousands of schoolchildren each year about the wonders of marine creatures from the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.
This endangered Guatemalan spiny tail iguana named Rocko was photographed at the @sacramentozoo where he was surrendered by his private owner many years ago. Reptiles like this iguana play a critical role in the conservation of biodiversity, but are often overlooked. They fill an important spot in the food chain as both predator and prey, and have also been known to pollinate many different plants within their habitats. When any species is eliminated from an ecosystem, dramatic and sometimes devastating changes occur in the environment as well as the populations of other species.
The non-profit Sacramento Zoo is home to more than 500 rare and endangered species. Over half a million guests visit the zoo in California’s capitol every year to learn about these animals. They're committed to animal conservation and playing a part in local and global efforts to preserve species in wild places.
Check out @natgeo for a video of Rocko!
This #pollinatormonday features the master of pollinator self-defense: the thistledown velvet ant. Though appearing cute and soft, this pollinator is packing some major heat. The velvet ant is actually a wasp with very painful bristles that feel nothing at all like velvet to its attackers. It isn't just pokey, either: its sting is so painful that it is often referred to as the “cow killer”, though that's an exaggeration. It also releases a very alarming squeak when threatened that’s created by moving sections of its abdomen in and out very quickly and scraping its body with a tooth-like projection. This sound is not only unpleasant to hear, but also feels like a mini-jackhammer in the mouth of any unfortunate predator that decides the velvet ant looks like a tasty snack. In addition to its sharp spines and unpleasant noises, the velvet ant has one final defense mechanism: odor. This insect can release special chemicals called ketones that work to deter predators and can even trigger alarm behavior in other predatory ants, causing them to scatter in fear and retreat from the velvet ant. Though parasitic in nature and feeding primarily on larvae of the sand fly and other wasps, adult velvet ants drink nectar and pollinate many species of flowers. Now that’s a well-adapted pollinator!
Because of their unusually blotchy markings and three stripes along their spine, king cheetahs like this one at @zoomiami were once believed to be a completely separate subspecies. However, it’s now known that these markings are simply the result of a genetic mutation. This rare variety of cheetah has only been spotted in the wild six times.
Cheetahs are known for their incredible speed (60-70 mph/113 kph), but that’s not the only thing that makes them one of Africa’s most formidable hunters. Cheetahs have excellent eyesight and are born with the spotted fur necessary to blend in with the tall, golden grasses of the plains where they hunt. After silently stalking their prey, the cheetah will sprint after it and trip it before delivering a fatal bite to the neck. These chases last less than one minute and are successful about 50% of the time.
Wild cheetahs are steadily inching closer to extinction as humans continue to destroy their natural habitats. .
The Mexican gray wolf once ruled the American Southwest, but as the arrival of humans and livestock increased, they began to be viewed as pests. By 1973, trapping, poison and rifles had completely eliminated the wild Mexican gray wolf populations in the U.S., leaving only a handful alive in captivity.
To save this keystone species, an unprecedented breeding program was put in place and, in 1998, eleven Mexican gray wolves were eventually released back into the wilds of Arizona. Today about 100 survive on their own, a better number for sure, but the wolf still remains one of the rarest land animals on Earth.
So what to do? Allowing the wolves to establish territories in many suitable habitats in remote locations will help prevent inbreeding. Biologists hope to target areas with abundant wild prey and few roads such as the vast forested areas around the Grand Canyon, up into Utah, over to New Mexico and into parts of Colorado. A minimum population of 750 wolves in the wild would help ensure that the species will stay genetically distinct enough to survive well into the future.
Check out @natgeo for another image of this beautiful wolf.
You’re looking into the violet eye of a male satin bowerbird photographed at @ZoosVictoria in Australia. With a greenish-brown plumage, females of this species look vastly different from their almost metallic black male counterparts. However, both sexes share the same striking eye color.
One of the most notable behaviors of the satin bowerbird is their elaborate courtship display. Males build distinctive stick structures called ‘bowers’ on the forest floor which they go on to decorate with colorful and shiny objects like berries, flowers, glass or plastic. As they mature, males’ color discrimination develops and they begin to adorn their bowers with as much blue as possible. As mating season approaches, females will make multiple trips to these bowers before deciding which male will be allowed to breed with her. During these visits, males will perform dances wherein they spread their wings and make themselves appear larger. Some younger females interpret these dances as threat displays and therefore take the males’ decorating skills into much more consideration when making their decision. But, as they grow older, females become more receptive to the dancing and choose a mate who proves to them that he can bust a move.
Roan antelope are the second largest antelope species and males can weigh up to 300 kg (660 lbs). They are found in savanna woodlands and grasslands from south Sahara to Botswana, where they live in small herds that will fight aggressively when threatened. This species has been eliminated from large parts of its former range because of poaching and loss of habitat due to the expansion of human settlement and agriculture.
This antelope was photographed at @ParcoNaturaViva in Italy. Big thank you to the @greenteenteam, an organization dedicated to getting young people involved with the release of wild animals in order to promote conservation.