Monday, December 8, 2014

It's a bird! It's a beaver! No, it's the duck billed platypus!

The Duck Billed Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)

  •  The duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is one of the most mixed up, interesting animals in the world. It has the head of a duck, the body of an otter, the tail of a beaver, and poisonous spurs to boot! Other than the echidna, it is one of the five living species of Monotremes, which are egg-laying mammals. 
Range and Habitat
  • Platypuses are native to Australia and are found on the east coast of Australia in Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, and New South Wales. There is also a small population of platypuses on Kangaroo Island, which is just south of Australia. Their range is limited to the north due to predation by crocodiles and severe flooding. They live in freshwater rivers, streams, farm dams, lagoons and lakes. Platypuses prefer bodies of water that have earthen banks with overhanging plants, tree roots, reeds and logs. The females make their dens in the sides of banks high enough so that they will not flood. They make two burrows, one for sharing with a male and one to have offspring in. 

Physical Description 
  • Platypuses fit into a niche similar to that of a muskrat in so much that they are preyed upon by snakes, water rats, monitor lizards, crocodiles, and birds of prey. However platypuses do not eat as much water vegetation like muskrats and instead eat small invertebrates living at the bottom of bodies of water. 
Evolutionary History
  • Platypuses represent a key point in the evolution of mammals. According to a genomic analysis, they are the earliest offshoot of the mammalian tree. They split from other mammals about 166 million years ago and their genes represent a key transitional point in the evolution from reptiles to mammals. Platypuses lay eggs like reptiles do, but they also produce milk like mammals. 
  • One of the platypus’ most distinctive futures is its bill. The platypus bill is actually a highly specialized sensory structure the platypus uses to find benthic prey while swimming around with its eyes closed. It has a large amount of nerve endings in its bill that detect not only physical touch extremely well, but also the small electrical charges produced by muscles of its prey. Platypuses store food they find in cheek pouches and chew it when they surface. The platypus does not have teeth, but rather has grinding pads and uses gravel it picks up from the bottom of streams, ponds, and lakes to grind its food. The nostrils of platypuses are located on the top of the bill so that they can breath while most of their body is submerged. Another interesting part of the platypus anatomy is the poisonous spur. The spurs are located on the ankles of the hind legs. They are hollow and connected to venom glands via a duct. The venom is not lethal to humans, but is extremely painful and has been known to kill dogs. Platypuses lay around 1-4 eggs and they take only 10-14 days to hatch.

  • Platypuses are mostly nocturnal or crepuscular creatures. They come out around dawn and then feed through part of the night. They dive to feed for 20-30 second intervals, coming up for breath in between. They tend to live solitary lifestyles when not breeding and males give each other a wide berth because of their poisonous spurs. Platypuses make a few noises, which include a puppy-like growl and a noise that sounds similar to a brooding hen.
Conservation Status
  • Although rarely seen, platypuses are not considered to be in danger of going extinct. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists them as “least concern.” However, there is evidence that suggests population sizes have decreased due to lack of suitable surface water for platypuses to live in. Some things that contribute to the decline in platypus populations include channel sedimentation, habitat loss, droughts, fishing nets, and man-made water control. 
  1. Australian Platypus Conservancy | Platypus Fact File - - Distribution and Status. (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2014, from
  2. Duck-Billed Platypus: The Animal Files. (2014, January 1). Retrieved December 7, 2014, from
  3. Monotremata: Life History & Ecology. (1994, January 1). Retrieved December 7, 2014, from
  4. Monotremes. (1994, January 1). Retrieved December 7, 2014, from

  5. New Page 1. (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2014, from
  6. Nowak. (1999, January 1). Ornithorhynchus anatinus (platypus): Distribution and Ecology. Retrieved December 7, 2014, from

  7. Ornithorhynchus anatinus. (2013, November 15). Retrieved December 7, 2014, from
  8. Platypus Facts - Interesting Facts About Platypus - Habitat, Diet & MOre. (2014, January 1). Retrieved December 7, 2014, from
  9. Platypus Genome Reveals Secrets of Mammal Evolution. (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2014, from
  10. Platypuses, Platypus Pictures, Platypus Facts - National Geographic. (2014, January 1). Retrieved December 5, 2014, from

    Sunday, December 7, 2014

    Albert's Lyrebird by Paige Martin

    Albert's Lyrebird

    Species Common, Scientific Name, and Classification
    The Menura alberti is a small ground dwelling bird that is rare and only lives in Australia. It is known by three common names Albert's Lyrebird, Prince Albert, and the Northern Lyrebird. The taxonomic classification of this bird is as follows Menuridae: Passeriformes: Aves: Chordata: Animalia. 

    Range and Habitat
    This bird is not threatened but is listed as rare and vulnerable by the Australian Government Department of the Environment. It has one of the smallest distribution ranges of any bird in Australia. It resides only in a small section around the border of far south-east Queensland and far north-east NSW. It does not ever leave this area because it does not migrate to breed.  Within these ranges it is not evenly distributed. For example, Small groups of birds will live in one area of the overall range and other groups will isolate themselves in random other parts of the range. This random distribution means that there is not expected to be much gene flow between the small populations. Because of this and the small range that they live in a threating environmental event could be enough to completely wipe out entire populations or the species. The population of this bird has been decreasing since European settlement. Most of its habitat was cleared in the 19th century, but there has been continued development of its habitat and the bird is being forced to move to higher altitude forests. Therefore, most of its habitat today is only in nature reserves. As long as these areas are maintained the Menura ablerti’s populations numbers are not expected to drop dramatically. (
    These birds like to live in a very wet environment. As a result, They live in the wettest rainforests wet sclerophyll forests with a wet understory. They prefer these rainforests to have a eucalypts canopy and in the sclerophyll forests they like large amounts of leaf litter. (

    Physical Description and Image
    The females are approximately 75 cm in long  and males 90 cm long. They are chestnut-brown in color and have a brownish-red on the bottom of their tail, hindquarters, and throat. A tail display is used to attract females. The male flips and spreads its tail over its body and head. Not only does the male use the positioning of the tail to win over females the colorations and types of feathers on the tail also play a role in this. The male has two outer feathers that are black and broad; they have bushy filamentaries which are black and silvery, and two long slim ribbons. All this aids in attracting the females. For females the tail is not important for mating therefore its not several colors and is not as long as the males.(


    The Albert's Lyrebird is a shy bird. They are not commonly seen by people but they are often heard by the males. This is due to the males mating call and their mimicking of other birds call. The territories usually contain 5 to 15 birds but it is typical to only fine one or two together at a time. Because they like to be alone for the most part they don’t move location much through the year. They build domed nests either 2 to 5 meters up in a tree or up on rock ridges. The egg has an incubation period of 42 days.

    Conservation Status
    The Species is listed as near threatened. It is not a top priority on the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection list. The bird is not a big priority because the species has been stable. There are actions being taken to further protect the species. Even though the numbers are stable the general population is so small that one natural disaster could be detrimental to the species and it could possibly not recover.
    The conservations actions that are currently in effect are a study of the habitat distribution and population density, the Whian Whian State Forest and the Eucalyptus plantations are now protected, state forests are being turned into national parks, and finding actions to enhance the quality and level of the habitat.
    Albert's Lyrebird live in wet forests above 300m with thick understories. They like poorer soil qualities because  they look for food in the deep leaf litter on the forest floor.
    They eat invertebrates that live in this soil and deep leaf-litter. They particularly feed on insects and their larvae.

    Sources Used:

    The Red River Hog

     Red river hogs don’t actually live in a red river like their name suggests, although they are particular to moist areas and areas that are close to bodies of water. Red river hogs actually get their name because of their distinctive reddish brown fur. The red river hog’s scientific name is Potamochoerus porcus, but they are commonly known as “bush pigs.” These bush pigs are considered even toed ungulates, so they are part of the vertebrate order artiodactyla. Since they are so particular to water, they are considerably good swimmers that can swim both above and below the water. Red river hogs are native to Africa and can live up to fifteen years in the wild.

    Range and Habitat
    Red river hogs are widely distributed through both the West and Central African rainforest belt, from Senegal in the west throughout the Guinea-Congo forest and to the west of the Albertine Rift. (1) They are typically found in rain forests, gallery forests, and moist savanna wetlands. They also inhabit thickets and swamps. The hogs prefer areas near slow waterways and where dense vegetation occurs. (4) They will also congregate around human villages. Although they prefer moist areas, the habitat varies. Red river hogs are highly adaptable and can benefit from the opening of former forested areas by creating secondary habitats, provision of cultivated foods, and the reductions in numbers of their predators. (3)

    Physical Description
    On average the red river hog is the smallest of the wild African pigs. It is easily recognizable by its bright red wiry fur, which gives it its name. It has a stocky body with strong shoulders and a large, wedged shape head used to uproot tough vegetation. They have long pointed ears with white tufts and there is a distinctive white ring around each eye. Researchers actually believe that the ears are used in territorial or dominance displays. The red river hog also has a prominent white mane that runs down 
    the midline of its back along with long white whiskers. The canine teeth form tusks, like in all other wild pigs. Tusks not only occur on the males but also on the females. (2) The distinctive features that males have to distinguish them from females are the warts found above the eyes. These warts protrude about four centimeters from the head, but they are not easily seen due to the amount of facial hair surrounding them. (1) There are thirteen recognized subspecies, so the physical characteristics vary across the hogs’ range.  The West-African bush pig is the one described above with reddish fur and a white dorsal stripe. In the eastern and southern parts of their range, the pigs vary from different shades of red to brown to black. (2) They can also become darker with age.

    Red river hogs are very social animals. They form small family groups of about four to six members that are led by the dominant male (boar). Although larger groups of about fifty hogs have been seen congregating, these groups usually avoid each other and can become aggressive when their groups come into contact with one another. (1) They are known to mark their paths using two unique techniques. The first is leaving their scent that is secreted from facial glands, like from the neck and preorbital gland, and they also have glands in their feet that are easily used to mark their paths. (2) The other technique they use is scraping the trees with their canines (tusks). (2) The sound that the red river hog makes is easily comparable to those of other wild pigs. When they feel threatened or are fighting however they will make a low squealing sound that develops into a roar-like sound. They are most active during the night and are known to retreat to burrows with dense vegetation during the day. They are capable of covering long distances in search of food. In the wild the breeding season for these hogs begins in September and goes until April. The peak season is in the wetter months of November through February. Females are sexually mature at the age of three. (2) Their gestation period is roughly four months and the litter size can consist of one to six piglets. The average litters contain four piglets. (2) The female will make her own nest, which is large and hidden deep in the grasses and lined with vegetation. (4) The female is also the primary caregiver, but the piglets do receive attention from the dominant male as well. The piglets are allowed to leave the nest after only a couple days, and the female and her piglets will then rejoin the group. (4) Young males are able to make their own small "bachelor herds" while they wait for their chance to become the dominant male of a group. (4) The young females usually remain in their natal group. Once the adult female is able to reproduce again, the younger offspring are pushed aside. 

    Here is a video of the red river hogs at the Sand Diego Zoo with their babies!

    Conservation Status
    Red river hogs are not considered to be an endangered species. According to the ADW, their numbers are on the rise due to their top predator, the leopard, being hunted by humans and also because of the increase in agriculture. (2) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists the bush pigs as a "least concern." This is due to the species being relatively widespread and common. (3) There are also no major threats that seem to be resulting in a significant population decline. There are several positive and negative economic issues for humans concerning the red river hog. The red river hog can be a food source for humans, and it is also said that it's possible to domesticate these pigs. (2) Because their population numbers are on the rise, red river hogs can be very destructive. In large groups the red river hogs can destroy crops and can eat livestock. (2) They are also known to carry diseases, like the African Swine Fever, that does not affect the hogs but can affect domesticated livestock. (2) Although there have been decent increases in red river hog populations, some areas have noticed drastic declines, like southern Gabon due to hunting. The hogs have also become a problem for farmers who shoot the pigs when they see them in hopes of exterminating them. (4) The red river hog can be found in various protected areas throughout its range. Organizations like the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force are working to help prevent the harvest of African wildlife for the commercial bushmeat trade. (1)

    (1) "Red River Hog (Potamochoerus Porcus)." Red River Hog Videos, Photos and Facts. Wildscreen Arkive. Web. Dec. 2014. <>
    (2) "Potamochoerus Porcus (red River Hog)." Animal Diversity WebNational ScienceFoundation (NSF) & University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Web. Dec. 2014. <>.
    (3) Querouil, S. & Leus, K. 2008. Potamochoerus porcus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. 
    (4) "Red River Hog Potamochoerus Porcus." The Sacramento Zoological Society. Web. Dec. 2014. <>.
    (5) "Emergency Prevention System for Animal Health (EMPRES-AH)." Emergency PreventionSystem for Animal Health (EMPRES-AH). Animal Production and Health Division. Web. Dec. 2014. <>.
    (6) "Home | Bushmeat Crisis Task Force." Home | Bushmeat Crisis Task ForceWeb. Dec. 2014. <>.