Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Paradoxical Parrotfish

Parrotfish are a subfamily of wrasses, marine fish known for their bright colors and diversity, and can be found on coral reefs, rocky coasts, and seagrass beds.  There are about 90 species of parrotfish named because of their numerous teeth that are tightly packed so their mouth resembles a parrot's beak.  They use these teeth to get algae off coral and other underwater rocky surfaces.  Some species actually eat coral polyps and while the goal with other species is to eat the algae which helps keep it from taking over the coral, they destroy some coral in the process.  The parrotfish uses special teeth in the arch of their throat to grind up the coral and rock they inadvertently ingest and excrete it as sand.  So even though parrotfish contribute to bioerosion, they also help create the fine white sand found in many Caribbean and Indo-Pacific islands as well as creating the islands themselves by producing 200 pounds of sand a year.  Another unusual trait is that some parrotfish create a mucus cocoon which may help disguise its scent from would-be predators. Parrotfish vary in size from one to over four feet long and are found in shallow tropical or subtropical waters around the world.  Other oddities - most parrotfish start as females (initial phase) and then become males (terminal phase) and their color changes as well.  Juveniles usually are differently colored than the adults and some can change their color to mimic other species.  Here are some pictures of these unusual fish.

Queen parrotfish   Source:  Wikipedia

Female stoplight parrotfish   Source: Wikipedia

Male stoplight parrotfish   Source: Wikipedia

Female Mediterranean parrotfish   Source: Wikipedia

Male bicolor parrotfish   Source:  Wikipedia

Juvenile bicolor parrotfish   Source: Wikipedia

Species not identified  Source: Wikipedia

Scarus frenatus    Source: Wikipedia

Photo by:  Tim Laman   Source:  National Geographic

These strange-looking fish help create entirely new ecosystems.

To see a video, click here.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Minxy Manx

The most distinguishing characteristic of the Manx cat is actually a lack of one - tail that is.  Although some Manx have a stub of a tail (referred to as a stumpy), the majority have no tail at all (referred to as a rumpy).  The cat with no tail is a natural mutation originating in the Isle of Man, a British Dependency in the Irish Sea.  With the isolation of an island and small gene pool, the dominant gene mutation eventually became the norm.  Manx are particularly known as good hunters and were often the cat of choice to join sailors on their journeys across the seas.  (The tradition of cats aboard ships possibly began with the Egyptians not long after cats were domesticated some 9500 years ago. As good rat and mouse catchers, they helped protect the ropes and woodwork, as well as the ship's cargo.)  Manx were also used by farmers with extreme rodent problems.  The Manx is short-haired, but there is a long-haired version that is sometimes seen as a separate breed, the Cymric.  Manx come in just about every color and coat pattern, although not all colors and patterns may be 'proper' for breeding or cat shows, and black may be the most common while all white are extremely rare.

The reason for this post is because my cousin in California has a Manx cat.  In fact, he has had several Manx cats, but the one he has now he calls Purd.  Purd enjoys a nice warm fire on a cold night as much as my cousin.

Photo by Jeff Parker

He also thinks stopping to enjoy the view is important, even if the view is from the bathroom sink.

Photo by Jeff Parker

Purd is a very talented cat.  He's a fetcher!  Showing off his hunting prowess, click here for a video of Purd fetching.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Flashy Feathered Friends

Here are a few dramatic looking birds you may not be familiar with because they don't live in the U.S.  But they are certainly worthy of a mention.

This dramatic looking little thing is the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher which is actually larger than it looks in this photo.  It's about 5 inches long, lives in southeast Asia and India, and builds a horizontal tunnel nest near small streams in dense forests.  As small as it appears, it feeds its young skinks, crabs, geckos, frogs and dragonflies as opposed to fish as its name implies.

Source:  Wikipedia

The next adorable little guy is a Tody Motmot which lives in Mexico, Central and South American tropical forests. He's not as colorful as the Dwarf Kingfisher, but he has a certain appeal!  And he is related to the kingfisher family.

Source:  Wikipedia

His cousin, the Rufous Motmot, is larger and more of a show stopper.  An inhabitant of the South American rainforest, it has a diet much like the kingfisher.

Source:  Wikipedia

The Flamecrest is another cutie from the mountains of Taiwan and a member of the kinglet family.  It is also the smallest bird endemic to Taiwan and mainly is an insect eater.  The male is pretty funky looking with his orange Mohawk.

Male  Photo by:  Kun Chin Chung  Source:  The Internet Bird Collection

Another tiny bird with a red crest is the male tufted coquette, a hummingbird only found in northern South America.  As a hummingbird, its main diet is nectar and a few insects.

Source:  Wikipedia

The Crimson-breasted Shrike lives in southern Africa.  Unlike some brightly colored birds, both the male and female look exactly alike.  It builds a nest of strips of bark and mostly eats insects and small fruit.

Source:  Wikipedia

In the case of the Blue Dacnis of South America, the female is actually green...

Female Blue Dacnis  Source:  Wikipedia

but the male lives up to its name.  They also mainly eat insects and fruit.

Male Blue Dacnis   Source: Wikipedia

And last, but not least, the hoopoe, the most flamboyant of them all.  It is found across Europe, Africa and Asia.  It is also related to the kingfishers, but looks nothing like our first little bird.  It eats mainly insects including many species that are considered pests.

Source:  Wikipedia

Hope you enjoyed this mini bird watching tour!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Nasty Nemo

Nemo has done its worst - the winds have died down, the snow is almost done (still could get another inch today), and we're seeing peeks of sun every once in a while.  The sound of snow falling off the roof and windows startle the cats every once in a while.  Here in Rhode Island there are over 180,000 people without power, but I am very thankful I'm not one of them.

After getting dressed and feeding the kitties, I heard voices outside and went to see what and who was braving the elements.  The guy who has a truck with a blade on it and lives in the park is our usual snow plower.  (He also happens to be the son-in-law of the woman who owns the park,)   He was plowing right in front of my house and had gotten stuck.  They were trying to shovel out with my neighbors' help, but were shoveling the snow right on top of my car!  They seemed to have no other place to put it, but that doesn't help me much when I have to get my car out.

I guess you can see why they got stuck.  The drift in front of my car and on my sidewalk was up to my waist!  Where they were throwing the snow to get the truck out, it's up to my chest!

Have been out to shovel twice and now can at least get out to the street, but my car is still buried.  There is a travel ban in RI right now and only emergency personnel and other approved people are supposed to be out on the roads, plus I really have no place to go, so it may be tomorrow before my car gets shoveled out.  Besides the street through the mobile home park is still not very well plowed.

The truck finally got unstuck, went a few yards and got stuck again.

It was really wet sticky snow.  I can't see out of some of the windows because the snow stuck to the screens.  Here's what my bathroom window looks like.

Here are some pictures of my next door neighbor's house.

You can see how the snow even stuck to the siding.

Otherwise, it is pretty if you don't have to go anywhere.

Although the birdfeeder definitely needs to be kept full.  The juncos are out in full force...

but don't have too many places to land!  Still getting occasional blasts of wind.  Sun and temperatures above freezing tomorrow.  It will probably take that long to get dug out!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Shivering Simians

The Japanese macaque is also known as the snow monkey (you can read more about them in my Masterful Macaques post), but it is not the only snow dweller among nonhuman primates.  The golden snub-nosed monkey lives in central and southeast China in mountainous forests where the snow also flies part of the year.  It can withstand the coldest temperatures of any nonhuman primate and doesn't have the luxury of hot springs to keep it warm.  The golden snub-nose is also known as the Sichuan golden hair monkey and it has adapted to its territory by having a long luxurious coat.  You've heard the phrase 'blue with cold'?  Maybe that explains the bluish tint to its unusual face.

Source:  Wikipedia

Because of seasonal changes, their diet varies from buds, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds and the occasional nsect in warmer temperatures, to lichens and bark in the winter.  These special monkeys live in groups of 5 to 10 individuals consisting of one male, several females and their young.  But then these 'families' are often joined by many other families, and groups of up to 600 individuals are not uncommon, providing safety in numbers from predators, and many eyes on the lookout for danger.  When a threat does occur, the youngsters are protected in the center of the group and the larger males on the outside.  Females and youngsters often sleep together too offering warmth by snuggling together.

The males are larger than the females and easily recognized by a 'wart-like' marking at the corners of their mouth.  The amount of orange in their coats increases as they get older.

Source:  Wikipedia

Snub-nosed monkeys are endangered due to habitat loss and fragmentation.  Unfortunately, they are also sometimes hunted for their meat and luxurious fur.  Their bones are considered by some to have medicinal properties.

To see a video, click here and here.