Liguus Snail (genus Liguus)

Okay, I’ll admit it — I picked this week’s animal solely because it looked super fun to draw. When I think of brightly coloured, beautiful animals, snails don’t usually come to mind. But there’s a certain genus of snails, known as Liguus, that are well-known for their amazingly vivid shells.

There are currently five species of Liguus snail, though there are many subspecies classified under each species of Liguus. Originally some of the subspecies were thought to be completely different species because their shells were very different in colour, but it turns out these snails just have a lot of intraspecific variety in their shells. Liguus fasciatus alone is known to have more than 120 different colour varieties.

LiguusFasciatusFLSubsp.jpg

Amazingly, all these shells are from the same species, Liguus fasciatus. Image credit: Henry A. Pilsbry via Wikipedia

Liguus snails are found in a relatively small range, with most species restricted to Cuba and Hispaniola. One species, Liguus fasciatus, is also found in southern Florida. Liguus snails are terrestrial, and spend most of their time in trees, and prefer trees that have smooth bark. I guess if you have to slime your way across a surface, you wouldn’t want it to be super rough.

Do you know what snails eat? I had never actually thought about it. Liguus snails feed on a tasty and nutritious diet of moss, fungi and algae. They forage for their meals on the trees they live on, scraping these lovely morsels off the bark. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?

Liguus snails are fairly big for snails, with their average size being about four centimeters in length, though they can get up to six centimetres long. As I mentioned before, these snails are known for their magnificently coloured shells. One species, Liguus virgineus, is commonly known as the candy cane snail because its striped shell looks a lot like a a candy cane (in snail form). Though I’m not quite sure what flavour candy cane it would be…

0_4d9a7f_644aaa5a_xl

A candy cane snail, also known as Liguus virgineus. Image source

There is certainly a downside to having such colourful shells: people think they are pretty, so they collect them. Over-harvesting of Liguus snails have led to a decline in the species, and habitat destruction isn’t helping the problem. It is now illegal to collect Liguus shells, so hopefully that helps keep these guys around for a while.

And I must end on a bit of a shameful note: after picking these animals to write about so I could draw one, I have not been able to complete the piece in time for this post. Rather than put a substandard and rushed picture on here, I’ll leave you with this, and I promise to get the real picture up in the next few days!

sorry-snail

Update: Finished my art for the blog! I’m going to leave the Sorry Snail in there because he’s pretty cute, but here’s my finished candy cane snail:

candy-cane-snail

Madagascar Day Gecko (Phelsuma madagascariensis)

I saw this little guy on the cover of one of my favourite animal websites, and he was so bright and pretty that I was immediately interested in writing about him. I will admit that I was also influenced by the fact that I knew I had to draw him. I love using fun colours so that made the Madagascar day gecko a perfect blog candidate.

Madagascar day geckos belong to the family Phelsuma, which contains about seventy species and subspecies. These are commonly known as ‘day geckos,’ as these species are active in the daytime, unlike most other gecko species. The Madagascar day gecko lives in Madagascar (unsurprisingly), along the east coast of the island. There are also introduced populations in Florida. These lizards are arboreal, and are most at home in tropical rainforests.

madagascariensis2

Aren’t they cute?

I called them little, but that isn’t very fair. Madagascar day geckos are actually one of the largest species of geckos, reaching lengths of up to 25 cm. As I mentioned, this species is brightly coloured, with the geckos being being bright green or bluish green in colour. They have a rusty-red stripe running from their nose to their eyes, and have various red or brown stripes and spots on their bodies.

Day geckos possess flat toe pads equipped with adhesive scales, which allow them to climb and stick to smooth surfaces. This is no doubt very helpful to a species that spends most of its time hanging around in trees. Day geckos like to relax in their tree perches, soaking up the sun when they’re not looking for food.

Madagascar geckos aren’t exceptionally picky eaters; they feed on a wide variety of invertebrates, as well as fruit and nectar. They get almost all their water from that which collects on leaves, meaning they don’t have to head to the ground to drink. So very convenient.

day-gecko

My drawing of a day gecko – I had fun with this one though the scales were quite tedious. Still working on getting good scan quality for my pencil crayon drawings, so apologies for that! 

Mating in Madagascar day geckos takes place between November and April. Males attempt to court females by approaching them with their heads moving back and forth. If he is feeling good about his courtship, the male with then grasp the female’s neck with his teeth. After this, the male’s colour darkens, and rests his throat on her head while emitting a soft noise, presumably to comfort her after the trauma of having her head bitten.

Females lay clutches of two eggs, and can lay more than one clutch in a year. The eggs hatch after an incubation period of 47 to 82 days, at which point they are on their own. Like many reptiles, the gender of the young is influenced by temperature; eggs incubated at high temperatures produce males, while lower temperatures produce females. Young geckos are pretty much just tiny versions of the adults, though they are slightly different in colour. They become sexually mature after one or two years of age.

As is so often the case with brightly coloured lizards, Madagascar day geckos are popular as pets. You have to be careful with these guys though — they are very territorial and will act aggressively towards each other if kept in the same tank. Despite their popularity, day geckos are still doing just fine in the wild, which is great news.

Cover image source: Tambako the Jaguar via https://www.jigsawexplorer.com/puzzles/madagascar-day-gecko-jigsaw-puzzle/

Tarsier (family Tarsiidae)

In general, the bigger an animal’s eyes are, the cuter they are. Just think of kittens, who have huge eyes and are freaking adorable. But there are certainly exceptions to this rule, and tarsiers are one of them. Their eyes are so big that these guys just look creepy.

Tarsiers are primates, and make up the family Tarsiidae. The exact number of tarsier species is up for debate, as well as what genera they are placed in. All extant species can be found in southeast Asia, in places such as Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi and the Philippines, though tarsier fossil records have been found in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

800px-tarsier-gg

A Philippine tarsier. Image credit: Jasper Greek Golangco via Wikipedia 

Tarsiers are built for living in trees, and all species are arboreal. They like very dense, tropical forests, though different species can be found at different altitudes. Tarsiers roost in hollow trees or clusters of vines, so availability of roost sites is important for tarsier habitats.

Tarsiers are very small primates, with their bodies only being ten to fifteen centimetres long. Tarsiers have soft, floofy fur, which is dark brown or greyish, to blend in with dead leaves or bark. They have very long hind legs, which can be twice as long as the body. These are specialized for clinging and leaping among the trees.

The length of tarsiers’ hind legs is due to the elongation of the tarsal bones in their feet, hence the name ‘tarsier’. In most animals with long hind legs, this lengthening is due to an elongation of the metatarsals, not the tarsals. Tarsiers are unique in this respect, and the elongation of the tarsals means that they can have long limbs without losing any dexterity in their toes.

Of course, the most notable feature of tarsiers is their absolutely ridiculously huge eyes. They are each about 16 mm in diameter, and each weighs almost as much as a tarsiers brain. These giant eyes help tarsiers track their prey at night, though they also have extremely acute hearing which helps them detect any tasty meals that flutter by.

bohol_tarsier

Look how freaking creepy their eyes are! Image credit: mtoz via Wikipeida

You see, tarsiers have a very odd diet — in fact, they are the only truly carnivorous primates. They feed mainly on insects, including moths, butterflies, ants and beetles. Tarsiers will also feed on larger prey, such as birds, snakes and lizards.

Tarsiers give birth to one offspring, after a gestation of around six months. The young are large, weighing 25 to 30% of their mothers’ body weights – the largest birth weight relative to maternal mass of any mammal. They can climb the day they are born, and reach sexual maturity within two years. Though some tarsier species are solitary, others live and roost in family groups.

spectral-mother-baby

Okay, baby tarsiers are kind of cute. Image source

Tarsiers rely very heavily on the habitats that house them; as such they are very vulnerable to habitat destruction. The key to protecting this very unique family of animals is to protect the forests they live in. Hopefully we can preserve the forests and preserve these super cool (if very ugly) primates!

Satanic Leaf Gecko (Uroplatus phantasticus)

There are a few criteria I use to pick animals for this blog. If they’re strange looking, they are eligible for a post. If they have a really bizarre name, that works too. Of course, if they’re just a very odd, crazy animal, they definitely deserve a post. But the lovely thing about today’s animal is that it hits all three categories.

Satanic leaf geckos are members of the genus Uroplatus, which contains 14 species of leaf-tailed geckos. Satanic leaf geckos certainly have the best name of the bunch, though. All leaf-tailed geckos are found in Madagascar and surrounding islands, and the satanic gecko is limited to the northern and central forests of the island. They spend most of their time in trees, for reasons that will soon become very clear.

uroplatus_phantasticus_distribution

The tiny spot in Madagascar where satanic geckos are found. Image source: Wikipedia

Satanic leaf geckos are one of the smallest species of leaf gecko, only reaching lengths (including the tail) of 6.6 to 15.2 centimetres. Leaf-tailed geckos rely on disguise to keep them safe, and they are extremely good leaf impersonators. Satanic geckos’ tails are flattened and shaped like a leaf; some specimens even have chunks missing from their tails to mimic the appearance of a decaying leaf. Satanic leaf geckos are usually brown, though they can also be purple, orange, and yellow.

tumblr_ldux4dtmyn1qeeqk5o1_1280

Look how cool these guys are! Image source

These amazing reptiles are nocturnal, preferring to spend the day pretending to be leaves. This is a great strategy to avoid predators, but it isn’t the only one satanic leaf geckos use. When threatened, they will flatten themselves against other leaves, hiding their shadows to better blend into the foliage. If pressed, they will open their mouths wide to reveal bright red mouths, and when things get really bad these guys simple shed their tails to distract and confuse predators.

As you might expect for such a distinct-looking animal, these guys are very popular in the pet trade. Though they are currently a species of least concern, harvesting for the pet trade and habitat destruction are very real threats to this species. So as always, if you want one as a pet, make sure you can source it to captive breeders.

uroplatus-phantasticus

Some leaf geckos look cooler than others, but presumably they don’t blend in as well… Image source

There is one unfortunate fact about satanic leaf geckos. Though they have an incredible name, they don’t possess the moniker ‘satanic’ for any biological trait. In fact, the name was coined in 1990 to help market these guys to the pet trade. But their crazy looks more than make up for it, these are certainly some awesome lizards.

Spiny Bush Viper (Atheris hispida)

I think all snakes are quite beautiful, though I know many people might disagree. That being said, some snakes are more attractive than others, and today’s animal is definitely one of the more flashy ones.

Spiny bush vipers are found in central Africa, in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and the DRC. Within this range, bush vipers are found in isolated populations. They are nocturnal, and mainly found in forests, as they are highly arboreal species. Spiny vipers can be seen basking on top of flowers and leaves, soaking up the sun from their leafy vantage points.

Spiny bush vipers are medium sized snakes, growing to be 58-73 cm long, with males being longer and thinner than females. As their name suggests, spiny bush vipers have highly keeled scales, which give the snakes a spiny or bristly appearance. Members of the genus Atheris, known as bush vipers, are known for being very colourful snakes, with much variety in the genus and within species. Spiny bush vipers are no exception, and these beautiful reptiles come in a variety of colours.

atheris_hispida

A nice picture showing off how pretty these snakes are. Image credit: Bree Mc via Wikipedia

These snakes are venomous, though not a whole lot is known about their venom. The venom is neurotoxic, and can vary in strength depending on the snake, its locality, and even weather and altitude. Bites can be fatal to people, causing hemorrhaging of internal organs, and there is no specific antivenin for Atheris species. Fortunately bites from this species are rare, thanks to their isolated location and nocturnal nature.

76df0e6607a4eee8018759d72ff4ce84

Don’t the scales look a bit like miniature leaves? Helpful when you live in a forest! Image source

Bush vipers use their venom to hunt, typically hanging from trees until they can ambush prey. Once the victims are killed by the snakes’ venom, they are swallowed whole. Spiny bush vipers eat a variety of small animals, including mammals, frogs, and lizards.

While I might not want to meet a spiny bush viper in the wild, I can’t deny that they are unique, beautiful animals. I wonder what those spiny scales feel like? It’s probably not a good idea to get close enough to find out.

Dormouse (family Gliridae)

Anyone who’s read or watched Alice in Wonderland will have heard of the dormouse. But do you actually know what a dormouse is? I always assumed it was just a mouse that was also a doorkeeper. Turns out I was quite wrong.

There are currently 29 species of dormouse in the family Gliridae. They are found in a wide range, including sub-saharan Africa, Europe, China and Japan, though most species are found in Europe. They live in a variety of habitats, such as forest, shrubland, savannah, and desert. Almost all species are at least semi-arboreal, and there is only one that is exclusively ground-dwelling.

Disney_Dormouse

The dormouse from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. Not quite the same as real-world dormice. Image source: Wikipedia

Dormice are rodents, though they resemble squirrels more than mice. Most species have large, bushy tails, short limbs and broad feet. They have evolved to be excellent climbers, with arboreal species having toe pads that help them grip branches. Dormice reach lengths of 6 to 19 cm, and usually don’t reach weights over 180 g.

Dormice are known for their incredible ability to sleep. Species living in temperate zones hibernate during cold weather, sometimes sleeping for the majority of the year (one species has been observed to hibernate from August until May!). Dormice actually get their common name from their penchant for sleep; the word dormeus means ‘sleepy one’, and has since been altered into the recognizable form it has today.

Dormice mate shortly after waking from hibernation. Mating rituals differ between species; in one males follow females around while making a variety of noises, in another females whistle to get the attention of males. Once females are ready to give birth, they retreat into nests. These are generally built in trees, and are globular in shape. In some captive species, male dormice have been observed to stay and help with the pups, but this behaviour has not been seen in the wild.

glisglis

The edible or fat dormouse, considered a delicacy by the ancient Romans. Image source

As small rodents, dormice are quite susceptible to predation. They deal with this in a number of ways. They are nocturnal, so there are fewer predators around when dormice are active. When threatened, dormice will bite, hiss and spit at their assailants. Some species can also detach their tails and regrow them if necessary. These strategies don’t completely solve predation, and owls remain the most common predator of dormice.

Although the thought of eating rodents might seem a little odd to us, dormice were (and still are, in some places) considered a delicacy. The Romans in particular liked to eat the fat dormouse, and fattened them up in special enclosures called glirariums (presumably from which the family name is derived). I don’t know if I’d want to eat a dormouse, but who knows, they might be delicious.

Cover image credit: H. Osadnik via Wikipedia